Chapter Four: ‘To be over the moon’.

Here I am again! This time it will be shorter, I promise (never do this…sometimes it’s impossible). As always you can check the Spanish /English version in https://pablocastanedaghana.wordpress.com/  (You can also find something different in the staff’s blog, this is a suggestion of my Mentor, thank you Simon for your help.)

There is only one week left to Christmas break… It is amazing how fast time goes by. I still remember the day that I was going to take my first flight to Accra, feeling not very good, and also asking myself why I need to do that, is it necessary?  But now, I am in the equator of my stay in Ghana, and with all of you, we are able to ‘cross bridges’ and to discover a different meaning for the expression ‘This is Africa’; I am getting the hang of it with your support and also, I am starting to enjoy sharing all my experiences here with you. That’s why I am over the moon… maybe it is too much but I feel very close to that. Like the children that you can see around here, everywhere, with not too much, but enough to be happy playing and smiling, like the one in the first picture with only one bottle…or also this other one playing in the beach…they are over the moon without too much, isn´t it?

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But maybe you are wondering why I am over the moon specifically. I suppose that with the last posts you can understand the way I’m feeling here, although sometime the live here is not easy, I have several reasons to be over the moon.

First of all, remember my new plan to get more samples in our lab (Tropical laboratory Initiative), we have worked basically on two pillars, organization (Schedule for sample collection and phlebotomies) and communication to increase the commitment of the clinics. It sounds really basic, but after our first analysis of results it is going pretty good, in one month we have increased about 50% the number of samples in comparison to the last months in the different clinics.

But I am over the moon, not only for the results, I recognize that these helped me a lot to feel myself in this way, but the most important thing is that I am happy because of the response of the whole team working here together. We have a meeting every 15 days to analyse and discuss the results and share potential improvements in the plan. And also they give me the opportunity to be part of them, a part of the TLI team:

But not only the team, also in the clinics, at the end you can find amazing people that want to help you every time if you communicate with them in the proper way… and this response makes you feel you are over the moon.

At this moment, you are thinking that my reaction is too much. But I can include one think more, last week Yanis and TLI invited me to join them in a very good conference in South Africa (Cape Town), could you believe how I feel after that? It was amazing, this is a conference about African Society of Laboratory Medicines ( ASLM 2016):

It has been a very useful experience not only for TLI itself because of the experiences we have shared and because we got to know more about other similar initiatives; but also for my own development because it was a conference about something different from my usual work (research), also because it was a way to increase my network. My mind is more open now and it could be a good starting point to share with you some ideas that I have had after the conference (the subject for other posts.)

And, of course, I had a great time there. Cape town is an amazing city, very different form Kumasi, as you can see in the pictures.

 I really enjoyed my time there with the TLI team (Yanis and Francis) and also with an old friend from GSK that help me to know the city better, thank you Roselle for your time there and for being with me all the time, I have spent a very good time with you (I will come back for sure, it is an awesome country and a wonderful city that I need to know in more detail.)  

As I mentioned in my last post, the small things (maybe not so small) like communicating with the people and the everyday life all give you the opportunity to get the hang of it, but also the opportunity to be over the moon. Although some other parts still go very slowly, like getting in contact with the government, for example  (we might an answer in the next three months!) But at least we are trying to go all the way (great, it could be the theme for my next post, last news are really good…I will work on that, maybe I could also include some details about the trial centre for malaria vaccine  that I will visit in the first week of january! and  during this week I will be involved in the meeting for the next malaria vaccine trial… sounds good)

Apart from my work, there are two other reasons why I have been over the moon during this last month. Right now, I guess I’m pretty sure what you may be thinking: my social live, going out, etc. Yeah, you may be right, at least a little bit, but that’s not all, I’ll keep the suspense with the second one, please keep reading…

It is true that for me it is very important to meet new people, going out and doing different things, but I suppose that after three months here I am NOT over the moon because of that…

I am over the moon because during this time I have discovered that these are not the only important things, I have realized that it is important to have time for yourself and learn more about you. In your regular live, everything goes very fast and you don´t have time to think about you. Perhaps, this journey not only gives you the opportunity to know new people and a new environment, but it also gives you the opportunity to get to know yourself better and sometimes teaches you how to manage your time and your expectations in live. (Maybe this is too much…and too personal, TMI…). I will describe it better with my second reason, some Gospel music could help…(one concert two weeks ago):

You are still here because you want to know the second one, don’t you? Ok… Maybe you will be disappointed, I mean being in contact with this natural environment, the wild life and animals, something that here is very easy. During the last month I have showed you very amazing places, one example more is the Kakum natural park:

But at some point of this journey something has changed (maybe it can help you to understand more about the personal part…). During my first month, even in my second month, I was looking at all the things and people with a mixture of fear and expectation (remember my first and second post) and didn’t feel as a part of those. But I figure out that something is changing when you are able to walk down the streets without thinking that you could be attacked, or when you can talk to the people on the street, or at the different places of work, or in the market, or in the countryside where you notice the animals, the birds, etc. Now you could be thinking, “this guy has definitely lost his mind”…but not, at least not much more than I was before coming here….I mean…during my first days, even weeks here, everything was new for me, everything was amazing, the people, the landscape, this terrific wild life… but I wasn’t able to see anything…only a general view, a picture. I remember when my cousin Jesus asked me: “What birds or animals have you seen today?”  I have to say that when we were young we usually went to see birds and animals in the countryside.  And I could not answer because I was not able to identify any. Then, when I finally saw and distinguished the birds, the animals, even new insects, I knew that something had changed… That meant that I was feeling more comfortable staying here, I was beginning to form part of this people, this place, this country…

Are these reasons enough to be over the moon or not? You know that I am not very good with words and expressing my feelings but I hope that everyone could understand what I mean….now a need to identify each one…Now I am part of the picture.

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Maybe you were expecting something different, but you must understand that in only one week I’ll be back for Christmas with my family and friends in Spain…. Although I have a mixture of feelings because I am over the moon here in Ghana, and also that helps me to feel in this way, seeing my family and my friends that will always be there, I will be over the moon. But don’t you forget I will come back after that (I hope with less poetry… less cheesy and shorter).

Enjoy these days with your family and friends and I’ll see you soon… Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Maybe, this break will be longer for the blog but I’ll be waiting for you and I hope you will be waiting for the next post.

Me Da Se and speak soon

Pablo