Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Long time, no blog-post!

I've realised it's been quite a long time since I've written anything on this blog. We're still enjoying our time in Mbarara, and feel like we've really settled in.

You'll be pleased to know that Jason has now fully recovered from his accident on the boda-boda - it was just a few cuts and grazes - but it was enough to put us off using that particular mode of transport for a few weeks (until we finally gave in yesterday).

All the exams are over at the university now, but I have actually been pretty busy. I had to go to a curriculum development workshop last week for a few days in a nearby town called Kabale. It didn't exactly get off to a great start, as we set off 2 hours late - I was not impressed as I had got up extra early because we were meant to be setting off in the bus at 7, but they had to get a different bus due to faulty brakes so we didn't leave til 9. Then the roads going to Kabale were terrible - it felt like being on a rickety rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure beach or something.

When we got to Kabale, we were 3 hours behind schedule and didn't even have time for our evening meal after all the lengthy presentations in the afternoon. The hotel we were staying in was pretty good, but the shower wasn't powerful enough to wake me up properly the following morning, so I wasn't in the best of moods again. Then we had to sit through more hours of discussions about the entire Faculty of Medicine's curriculum, before we split into groups to discuss possible changes. I don't know why the groups were split up like they were, but Pharmacy was put with Nursing, and it's not like they're even similar courses! Who am I to give advice on what the nursing course should contain?! After a particularly unproductive morning, I was feeling really annoyed and didn't think we would achieve anything from the workshop. However, after lunch, the Pharmacy Department decided to discuss its curriculum on its own, which was a lot more productive. Our main issue is that Pharmacy is part of the Faculty of Medicine, and for the first 2 years our students study more or less the same things as the medical students - ie a lot of anatomy and pathology, including disection of cadavres, which is not (in my opinion) necessary knowledge you need to become a good pharmacist.

We want to introduce more pharmacy-specific modules into our BPharm course, and have decided to add a Pharmacy Practice element into each year of the course (currently this is covered in one semester out of 4 years!). We are trying to negotiate with the other departments about cutting the amount of 'medical subjects' our students do, or at least tailoring them to be more useful to future pharmacists, but it's a case of 'watch this space'. We're looking into getting some funding from the British Council so we can develop the curriculum properly, and hopefully we will be able to form some partnerships with Higher Education Institutions overseas to help us do this.

When I got back to Mbarara I was relieved to see that Jason had survived without me. One of my (male) colleagues was very concerned about how Jason would manage to cook for 3 days all by himself, despite my assurances that Jason is probably a better cook than I am.

We had a farewell dinner on Sunday for Unni, who has been working in Mbarara as a VSO neonatologist for the past year. He did a lot of good work here, I just hope that it will be continued by the colleagues he's left behind. We were sad to say goodbye to him - in the few months that we've been in Mbarara, he has been a good friend. He lived on the same compound on us, and we'd often have dinner together - he is a fantastic chef. I never thought I liked Indian food, but he has well and truly converted me.

Yesterday was another Public Holiday (Heroes Day), so we headed up to the Lakeview Hotel with our fellow volunteer Shivaun for a swim in the pool and's a hard life! The weather was hot and sunny, but quite breezy -I managed to catch the sun a bit, but will have reverted back to being fluorescent white again by tomorrow. I am at a loss to understand how, after nearly 4 months of living in Africa, I am still the same shade of white that I was when I arrived! I have a few more freckles, which brings me onto another point...

People in this country are shocked by freckles - I think they think I have a disease or something. People will touch my arms in the street and in shops, and people have asked me why I have these 'spots'. I try to explain that it's caused by the sun and is not painful or anything like that. Then their next question is whether the spots will go when I return to England. When I tell them that freckles are permanent, they start saying they're really sorry - like they're giving me condolensces or freaked me out a bit at first, but now I am used to it.

I have also been asked if Jason is my brother, as apparently we look exactly the same (!). When I probed this statement further, apparently we look like we're related because we are the same size - I don't think it was meant to be offensive!

We're coming back to England on the 19th June, and I can't wait to see everyone again. Just to travel on smooth roads again will be very nice....