September 4, 2012, Byumba, Rwanda
Well, here goes for those of you who want to hear about my first two days of work. BTW, for those of you interested, I am part of the Rwanda HRH program. Even though the Clintons and others supplied the bulk of the money for this project, the money was actually given to the government of Rwanda to run the program. If you are interested in finding out about HRH go to <http://rwandahrhprogram.wikispaces.com/Home>
My work hours are 8A to 5P. At noon I get an hour break whereupon I walk across the yard for lunch at home, then return at 1P for the remainder of the day. There will be times when I go off site for observations or teaching, but the majority of my work will be right here and in our district hospital which is within a short walk from the school. Twice, one of my favorite people on the staff at the school (Jacqueline) has brought me a tea service and set me up for a little tea respite. I suggest we hire such a person for the UIC CON!
Yesterday seemed to be filled with meetings. Jerome wanted to introduce me to the faculty at a morning meeting. That was lovely. I made a little extemporaneous speech and got lots of positive feedback. This was followed by a small meeting of me, Jerome, and one faculty person, a very sharp Nigerian man. Oh, what I forgot to tell you about the faculty group is that the men handily outweigh the women in numbers. It seemed so strange to look out upon a sea of men's faces, with just a smattering of female faculty.
The main interesting activity of that meeting was Jerome's presentation about a large general fund in Rwanda to which all must contribute. The faculty discussed for a long time and finally decided that they would each contribute one month's salary to the fund. Can you imagine the Dean asking us to do that? Jerome and I had quite a discussion about it, how an employer in the U.S. cannot demand that employees contribute to anything. Jerome is prevailed upon from higher up the food chain to get support from every faculty member and to raise a certain amount of money.
In the afternoon, I sat in upon a meeting from 2-5P+. Both big meetings were difficult for me. Even though Jerome would start the meeting off in English, fairly quickly they would all be speaking French or Kinyarwanda. I understand that is the language in which most people still think and speak on an everyday basis, so when they wish to discuss, it is probably appropriate. However, there I was trying to figure out what was going on when all I could do was read body language! And another culture's body language at that! By 5PM I was completely worn out.
Today I was able to work more in my office. I was creating objectives and an agenda for a small workshop to take place on Friday AM this week. I had learned yesterday that the "e-learning" group of students was on campus from Mon-Wed. I asked if I could attend the class in the afternoon. All permissions were granted and Jerome took me to introduce me to the class. This is a group of 42 A-2 nurses who the government selected for this new e-learning section. These are all practicing nurses based on classes they took in high school. The gov't has prioritized the re-education of these nurses so they will ultimately have the education of three year, A-1 nurses. The teacher was good and the students are enthusiastic. It was really nice to see. Tomorrow I will meet privately with the teacher for a few moments to find out how he arrived at his teaching methods. He has to do a very delicate balancing act between acknowledging the experience these nurses have while also introducing very specific material to make sure they have exposure to the whole curriculum. After tomorrow, they will go off campus again, using their computers to meet in groups and with the teacher. I do not know how frequently they re-gather here. But when they come they are housed in one of our dormitories and special cooks are hired to feed them. The cooks prepare the food over outdoor wood burning stoves.
So, my work has begun. For a while I will be doing a lot of observing both at the school and in the clinical areas at the hospital. I am really interested in everything that goes on here. I know there are some big budget issues which Jerome will share with me.
Rani Kahn, a nurse midwife, finally flew in from the U.S. on Sunday and will be coming to inhabit the other house up here tomorrow. She will be a mentor for the midwifery students. I look forward to having another native English-speaker here, as well as a near neighbor!