1) Yummy yummy bunny chow:
Ok so you may not know this but South Africa (Durban in particular) boasts the largest population of Indian people outside of India itself. This population is largely descended from indentured workers who were brought to South Africa in the late 1800s and early 1900s to work on sugar cane plantations. Most of them never returned to India and over generations their families settled and became South African to some extent. As a result (of this messy history), Durban has some of the most delicious Indian food I have ever tasted. There is one particular specialty that Durban is known for called Bunny Chow.
After weeks and weeks of being in Durban, we FINALLY ate some bunny chow this past week and it was quite yummy. Bunny chow is a curry (usually very spicy) that is placed inside a hollowed out bread loaf. Sort of like a bread bowl, but not. You can order bunnies of all sizes (1/3 bunny, 1/2 bunny, full bunny--depending on how many people are sharing and how hungry you are) and bunnies of all flavors (mutton bunny, chicken bunny, veg bunny, bean bunny). This is a very spicy 1/3 mutton bunny. I needed extra extra water but man it was good.
2) Sharks v Bulls:
On Friday we went to our first rugby game: Sharks (Durban) v Bulls (Pretoria). These two happen to be rivals so we were in luck. Rubgy is pretty cool and pretty vicious and the guys are very tough. It moves a lot faster than football which was good for me. The South African version of tailgating takes place AFTER the game in the parking lots. Thankfully, the Sharks delivered a killer game. Who doesn't love a little victory?
3) Am I working in Durban or WHAT?
So you may have noticed I have sort of avoided the topic of work and I seem to be having a lot of (maybe too much) fun in Durban. Work has been a challenge. I DO have a job, as an intern to the research cluster at the RHRU (Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit). My initial intentions were to come to Durban and spend half my time doing research on my thesis and the other half interning at the RHRU. However, the personal research never really came into fruition due to many unconnected, and unfortunate events and so I have spent 100% of my time working as a research assistant to the RHRU.
I am currently helping on two projects. The first is the Female Condom Study, which is a qualitative project that deals with perceptions of the female condom both before and after use amongst University students in KwaZulu-Natal. Very cool study, but unfortunately the interactive parts of the study were done and the data was collected by the time I got here. In research, after interviews are transcribed and before they are analyzed, there is the long and tedious project of cleaning the transcripts (editing the transcripts and making them as accurate as possible.) Although an essential step, it is not the most thrilling of jobs and involves sitting at a desk, listening to a tape, and continuously pressing rewind, play, rewind, play, rewind, rewind, play. This has consumed a lot of my time in Durban. As a result, I know a WHOLE LOT about the female condom. Seriously if you have any questions let me know.
The other project I am working on is the Integration Study. This is a little bit more of a complicated project so I'll try not to delve into too much of the nitty gritty. Basically, the RHRU is doing a quantitative survey with various clients and providers throughout Durban on their thoughts on integrating HIV care with sexual & reproductive health care (SRH). Integration means (for example) that if a patient went to the clinic and needed family planning, but also needed STI treatment and needed to be enrolled in an ARV program they could be seen and treated by one provider for all those services in one visit. In the current public health setting in SA some clinics are already sort of doing this but most provide the three services on three different days. For example, Monday is the day to come for STIs, Tuesday is the day for family planning, and Fridays is ARVs. This makes life quite complicated for people that have to work or can barely afford to make it to the clinic once a week. It also leads to greater issues of noncompliance on ARVs, limited HIV testing, disjunction between the various services, etc. The RHRU is currently in the phase of interviewing the providers, which I have been helping with. As a result, I have been getting out the office and seeing a lot more of KwaZulu-Natal, I get to see the different clinics, and I get to actually talk to people instead of listening to a tape of other people talking to people.
In conclusion: I'm not exactly interested in very much of this research. It is very very interesting but it is very separate from my personal interests in public health. I have tried to put this aside because I have gained a lot of important research experience since I have been here and I am sure I will use many of the basic skills learned here in the future.
If you made it through all that I guess you really do love me and care about what I'm doing. Gold stars all around.
4) Interracial Couples
I had no idea that I was so conditioned to think multi-racially/ multi-culturally based on time spent in the states/at Brown. After what seemed like weeks of not seeing ANY interracial couples, I actually started counting the number of interracial couples spotted in Durban (count as of today: 7). I am like a freak, ogling the interracial couples but I can't help it. 7 interracal couples!? Come on! They are such a rarity here. It certainly makes me appreciate the openness and acceptance of interracial relationships at home.
dreaming (of tonight's dinner at the only Mexican restaurant in Durban--Taco Zulu, no I am not kidding),