Thanksgiving Edition

November 26, 2014

Hi all! Again, my apologies for the delay between posts! Cape Town was wonderful, and it did my heart so much good to be reunited with my lab friends for a week! Here are a few pics from the trip for you non-Facebook friends ;).

Hout Bay, Cape Town, SA
Birds of Paradise, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
View from the top of Table Mountain
: ) Dinner with some of my closest (lab) friends
My poster at the HIV Research for Prevention Conference (Yes, it was cloth. And yes, it can be used as an informative cape now!)
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens (so beautiful!)

To be honest, work life following the conference has been really stressful and busy, but not necessarily because of power problems or the heat. Admittedly, both of those issues are still posing problems on a regular basis in the lab, but somehow I’ve gotten used to them. I’m just trying to do my best with improving the circumstances where I can and dealing with them where I can’t. I’ve really been maximizing my workload on the days/weeks when we do appear to have manageable heat and steady power. It’s been working out pretty well, all things considered. What was really the source of my stress is that I have been fighting the double work day (working both 10–12-hour days here in our time zone, and then also fielding work emails and such from back home during their work day as well). It was really burning me out, and I had no energy left to write.

After a lot of completely stressed out consecutive days (imagine Einstein hair type thing, haha, at least that’s what it felt like ;)) and some encouragement from family and friends, I finally created some ground rules about working after work hours. Some of the general rules included: not checking my email (of any kind) after 7PM my time, having at least one completely lab-less weekend day, and generally just managing expectations better for what I can/will do (it’s generally always my way to say “yes” to everything even when I have no more “yes” to give, haha, so I’m working on that while still being involved and happy to be involved in things). Although it’s still a work in progress, I think it’s actually really helped in managing my stress.

Some other things that have made really me smile since my last post are:

  1. Playing with Diego (our resident dog/scoundrel ;) here)

2. Discovering more fun eccentricities of life here in Zambia like the amusing Harvey Tiles Roofing advertisements throughout the city

A fellow intern, Annie, even generated a tumblr account of all the photos that we had collected (not fully updated yet, but check it out and follow us if you’re interested in staying amused with the Harvey Tiles saga! ☺).

3. And really enjoying the company of my coworkers and friends here

Amazing picture of Moses, my truly wonderful lab manager here, imitating a penguin

In anticipation of Thanksgiving, which unfortunately here is just Thursday Nov. 27, I just wanted to thank you all for your support, friendship and love throughout this journey. It’s far from over, but it’s definitely been an experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’d especially like to thank everyone who has reached out to me, shared tidbits of life back home and made the homesickness less obvious so I can appreciate and feel like I’m still an active part of life in both worlds.

There is a huge laundry list of things I’m acutely aware of and grateful for after having lived here for 3 months (e.g. clean drinking water, steady power source, etc.), but, to be honest, despite all the daily challenges, there are so many factors of life here that I’m truly grateful to be a part of (e.g. the fact that every co-worker here will sincerely and enthusiastically greet you every single morning, how eager people are to actually learn and expand their skill sets not only for their own professional development but for strengthening the country’s future, etc.). This is a really beautiful country with a lot of national traditions that I’ve truly enjoyed soaking in.

At the same time, being away from home on the holidays and missing holiday traditions I think has a powerful effect on people; it somehow reminds you that you are more patriotic than you maybe even appreciated. I’ve got no plans for dinner tomorrow night here since it’s a workday, but I hopefully will be participating in a belated Thanksgiving potluck this weekend, so I’ll be sure to take some pictures there! Without the Thanksgiving buffer here, we are in full-on Christmas mode (Zambia is also a really religious country, majority Christian, so not surprising). I’m really excited to be coming home in just under a month. While there is a lot to be done while home, it’ll be a great time to recharge my energy, eat some horribly fattening/delicious foods (☺), spend some quality time with people I love, and re-focus on my goals for finishing up the study. Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!!

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