Monday, September 17, 2007

Raise your glasses...

...and toast to the fact that I am now entering my 4th year in remission.

It was three years ago that I got the good news that there was no more Lymphoma in my system. That first year post-treatment was pretty scary. The second year I got nervous every time a test was due. Now, three years on, I'm starting to feel pretty confident that I kicked that whole cancer thing in the patookis. It deserved much worse, let me tell you.

Anyway, I was looking for a graph that would show how my chances of getting sick again decrease over time. Instead I found this:

Basically, what this means is that the chance that the Lymphoma will come back drops very low by the time I make it to about 7 years - but I'm already past the most common recurrence period.

The bad news is that 40% of people who get Lymphoma kick it within 25 years, usually due to secondary cancers caused by the initial cancer treatment (ironic, no?). This is why health insurance policies want 3,000 dollars a month to cover me, and why life insurance providers refuse to even give me a quote (I have tried). From their point of view, I am a ticking time bomb, ready to blow up in a blaze of medical bills and abandoned dependents.

But let's keep this all in perspective, shall we? After all, this study was done on people who got sick in the 60s. For all I know, they were injecting patients with rocket fuel back then.

For what it's worth, I feel like one of the lucky ones.

IN OTHER NEWS, tomorrow Jorge and I fly back to the U.S. for two weeks! We have a whirlwind trip planned to New York, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, and New Orleans, where we will see numerous friends and relatives, but have too little time to actually hold a conversation with them. We'll just whizz by and yell "Hey, you look great! Love the hair! Gotta go now!"

Look at me, I have so many pretty hats to wear now!

So, I counted today.

These are all the jobs I am currently filling:
  • Program Advisor (my "real" job)
  • Program Manager (He's moving to the U.K. to study. So now I advise myself! How handy is that? Do I even need to say that I take ALL my advice?)
  • Monitoring and Evaluation Officer (she's on maternity leave)
  • Information Officer (He got laid off)
  • HIV Focal Person (I was "volunteered" for this job in addition to my regular duties)
And coming soon:
  • Project Officer (he resigned today)
So count 'em folks. I do the work of 6 people. But I only get paid as one. Are you impressed now?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hee hee. Busted again.

So, three hours after I posted that last post, I went home for lunch. And guess what happened?

The police stopped me again!

What, do I look like some sort of menace to society? I mean, I understand why they pull over Jorge all the time - he looks like an angry mujahedeen. But sweet little perky blue-eyed me? I tell you, it's profiling.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

They're trying to catch me riding dirty.

I got pulled over by the cops today. Again.

You see, I recently moved to a new office, and my new commute takes me right past the police station. At least once a week, a handful of police officers stand on the road outside the station and stop as many passing cars as they can. Inevitably, mine is one of them. Apparently they never remember that they only just stopped me the day before.

Usually, it's a fairly routine stop - they check the car's tags to make sure that insurance and taxes are up to date, and they check that the driver has a valid license. Today the officer decided to hassle me for driving on a U.S. license. Theoretically, if you are in Malawi longer than 3 months, you are supposed to get a Malawi license. However, Jorge went and checked up on this one day (he's buddies with the police captain now, after his many encounters with the traffic police) who said that since we travel out of the country so often, we don't really need to bother. I told this to the cop who stopped me today, which probably wasn't wise, but he let me go anyway.

But you have to feel sorry for the police here, to be honest. They are underpaid, poorly appreciated, and overworked. There are few police vehicles in the country, and they seem to be reserved for the important task of taking higher-ranking officers to the "Steers" fast-food burger place for lunch. Most of the remaining police pile into the back of a truck each morning, where they are then dropped several miles away to stop passing cars in the sun and the heat all day. They often have to find their own way home. If they do find an offender, they actually have to ask the person they are arresting to give the officers a ride to the police station!

A friend recently told me a funny story. A few months ago, the Malawi police were given a few breathalyzer testing machines, no doubt by some big international donor. My friend's friend, let's call him "Bill," got stopped one evening on the way home from a party. The police did not know how to use the breathalyzer, so Bill obligingly demonstrated - and was found to be over the legal limit. Since the police had no car, they all piled into Bill's car and made him drive, drunk of course, to the police station so he could be booked! So much for ensuring road safety.

Friday, September 7, 2007

You’re not the boss of me now

Today is my bosses last day. That makes me the boss, until his replacement starts at the beginning of November.

You might think I would be heady with the power of it all, but nah, not so much. I have been the boss before. I would say I was actually pretty good at it. But it’s not something I’m very keen to go back to. My current position is as the “Advisor”. That means I get to tell people what I think they should do, but don’t actually have to take responsibility for doing it. And if it all goes wrong, I can just say “well, that’s not how I told you to do it.”

Now my life is human resources, budgets, transport plans, proposals, hobnobbing with the government….AND all of the work I’m supposed to be doing normally (training and mentoring, writing, designing programs and activities, monitoring and evaluation of our work, managing research…)

So it’s going to be hectic to say the least. And no, it’s not going to be like “9 to 5” where they lock the boss up and institute all sorts of liberal woman-friendly workplace policies. I’m thinking “keeping my head above water” will be the theme of the next two months, not “regime change”.

Anyway, I’ll quit my grousing and instead with my boss Stanley all the best in his life ahead. He’s off to do a Master of Public Health degree at the prestigious London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (but heck, it’s no Tulane). It’s a great opportunity, and it always makes me happy to see talented African professionals moving ahead – especially when they want to use their education and skills to come back to Africa to work.

Of course, all this development means someday I’ll be redundant out here. But that will be a good thing. And I’m sure I can always find a sucker to pay me to “advise” them.