November 20

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Back from vacation

Hello from dry Abuja!

This is just a quick update on what happened since my last post.

I went to Bulgaria during October and returned back in end of the month for the final run. It was a good time for relax and contemplation what happened during my stay so far. Already a month after I returned to Nigeria I could say the first half was much more difficult than second one. Now the life here seems familiar and not so surprising.

On my return Abuja welcomed me with the typical change in the weather for this time of the year – the Harmattan. This is a wind which blows from end of October until the early months of the year, brings lot of sand/dust from Sahara Desert and toss it off sub Saharan countries. Sometimes the wind is very strong and you can feel the dust between your teeth. Sun becomes obscured most of the time and the windows cover with thin layer of dust. Locals say it gets even dustier in December.

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This is a panorama photo I took from our balcony to illustrate how it looks – see the shroud in distance?

First week of my return was full of events. First, Robert’s assignment in Abuja elapsed and we had a farewell party before sent him to London where he will continue working for his NGO. Below is a picture from the last evening we spent together (Juergen was traveling at that time and we added him “manually” 🙂 ).

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Left to right – me, Manish, Caroline, Robert, Ian, Gatit, Girish, Imran. Juergen is at the bottom 🙂

Then Juergen and I were invited to a Sunday service by Tolu, one of our colleagues in the office, in her church. For an orthodox christian the visiting local churches in Abuja was completely new experience.  In churches in Bulgaria the atmosphere is quiet which aids you to make your inner connection with God. People enter, light candles, make a prayer and go. In contrary the Sunday service in a church in Abuja is well organized event with a program planned ahead, music band, songs, dances and songs lyrics displayed on a video wall. When we went there by chance we attended the church’s anniversary and the service took about 3-4 hours. It was burst of colors, music and emotions and really exciting to see the energy people around you devoted to make that day as bright as possible. It’s difficult to describe the feeling there but I certainly can say I looked like a brick around the dancing people :-).

This is how Holyhill church looks inside and outside
The band, the singers and the priest addressing the public. You can see how the song lyrics are displayed on English and Igbo languages.
With Juergen, Tolu and Tolu’ son on the way back to our house

Apart from these events I continue to work on my Labs projects. We expect to have the USSD results delivery system running on one of the major mobile network provider – MTN. We already managed with one of the IT partners to resolve the problem with correctly displaying the VL blood results and now we work with the team to rectify and provide clear definition on all indicators used on the National Dashboard page. I had to dig into the system code and collated a document with all SQL queries, then addressed some discrepancies between what is expected to be provided as indicator and what actually the queries fetch to the software developer. Another interesting experience was to participate in generating and creating an idea to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for further upgrade of current USSD results system. My part was to advise if the concept is technically feasible and draw the flow chart for the proposal. We submitted it in beginning of November and expect to receive answer mid next year if it will be funded. Cross your fingers to have it funded, it will make the life in the facilities easier to track their blood samples by seeing the status at which they are at the moment – received, in-process, tested (getting the result). Currently they don’t have that possibility.

I am also preparing to deliver a presentation for our Brown Bag session on December 1st. These sessions are actually a meeting with the whole CHAI staff where you present your work. As our assignments are going to elapse soon most of us will have such chance to present their contribution.