Monday, June 9, 2014

Ndiyo, nyuma Afrika!

Hello there old friend! It has been awhile since you’ve visited. I apologize for my absence, but it turns out that graduate school is an all-consuming event leaving me little time and energy to update this blog. But I’m back and ready to tell you about my life happenings.

My first year of graduate school has been a whirlwind. I’ve been challenged in my courses and have pushed myself to self-reflect on my interests and passion as I continue to navigate my life path. Some highlights from the past year have been:

1. Living and loving Tucson, a place full of character and characters
2. Ringing in another new year with family and friends back home
3. Visitors! My brothers and high schools friends were feeling the west coast vibes
4. Acclimating to desert life and taking advantage of my geography to learn more about the US/Mexico border
5. Being a part of a team of students who traveled to the Mexico/Guatemala border to learn about migration in Latin America
6. Discussing and writing, with an academic lens, about some of my experiences in Sierra Leone and relating them to my coursework
7. Bouncing over to Chicago to dance with my Peace Corps padi dem

Now that you’ve been officially updated, I want to share my (new) news with you – I’m escaping the unforgiving Arizonan summer to venture to Kisumu, Kenya for my Master of Public Health Internship. 

Yes, back to Africa (as this blog titles informed you)! Back to the warmth and comfort of the African sun – to a place I still call home. I feel fortunate that my path has brought me to East Africa again, but this time is different than the first. Once a wide-eyed and naïve girl, I have now grown into the woman who I will be for the rest of my life. I’ve gained confidence and self-awareness and am ready to continue to learn and grow through this new experience.

The last couple of days I have been reflecting on how this trip to Kenya will affect me emotionally. Will the guilt that I felt leaving Sierra Leone resurface? Will I meet Kenyans and see the faces of my friends and be reminded of my homesickness for Sweet Salone? Am I even ready to open my heart and my mind to embrace a new land?

Welp! I’m on the plane on the way to Nairobi, so we’ll find out the answers to those questions sooner than you think. Stay tuned!

You may be wondering about this internship business. In November of last year, one of my professors sent out an email to our school announcing an internship funded by her current research study with malaria in Kenya. I jumped at the opportunity to go back to Africa and to work with malaria again. I feel so privileged to have been awarded this position and am eager to work towards achieving my professional goals.

(Wow, I sound like I’m writing for a school application. Sorry-o! I’ll add in the spunk you all love when I’m blogging about my Kenyan tales.)

The project that my professor is working on involves the effects of climate change on mosquito populations in a mountainous setting and how malaria is becoming an emerging infectious disease in the area. Sounds pretty cool, right? I will be working on one aspect of the project that I’ve had sparks of interest in since Sierra Leone. The title of my project is “Using the Positive Deviance Model to Identify Community-Based Malaria Control Strategies in Western Kenya.” Positive Deviance (PD) explores the notion that in communities where there is a prevalent issue, may it be obesity, female genital mutilation, malnutrition, or what have you, there are individuals and families in that community, who despite similar obstacles as their neighbors, are able to overcome that particular problem. I will specifically be observing families who use bednets and other malaria-preventative strategies and try to better understand why these people chose to do so and what are the underlying forces that help sustain the health of their family. My exploration will be channeled through observing, interviewing and digital storytelling. I’m ecstatic about this opportunity to wear the hat of a researcher!

Well, my friends, I’m off again, but I only leave so that I can come back again. J Wish me luck! Please keep me in your positive thoughts and prayers. Can’t wait for all things Africa. Keep you posted.


p.s. I haven’t forgotten about my niche. Here you go…“Communities and countries and ultimately the world are only as strong as the health of their women.” — Michelle Obama

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