Today (written May 17) was my first day at WHO and I was so anxious that even after going to bed about 12:30-1am I was wide awake by 4am! I tried to go back to sleep, but eventually started reading since sleep wasn’t coming. Now it’s about 8:30pm and I am SO ready to crash! I can hardly even type, but I desperately need to make it another hour or so…
My supervisor Dr. P is out of town and will be back on Friday, so I was supervised and shown around by Dr. K. All the people I am working directly with are pediatricians. An interesting thing to note here is that people here do not care about titles – I call all of them by their first names and even when K introduced me to other people in the department who are also Drs, they all introduced themselves by their first names and one man even said I can call him anything I want (first, middle, or last name), but I absolutely cannot use the title Dr. It’s kind of a neat way of thinking. I also met the woman who is the Regional Director, Dr. T, and even she has requested I use her first name and drop by if I have any questions, or want to chat. (You definitely don’t see that type of attitude by people that high up in the USA.) I had about half a dozen other people say they want to chat with me sometime and ask where my office is. Additionally I met two people who work on smoking and when I mentioned that I had been asked to teach a tobacco cessation class in the USA when I get back, they offered to give me resources, tips, etc, and asked if I’d like to put the curriculm together while I’m here, so they can look it over and offer suggestions. I just continued to be shocked! There is also a huge sense of family. At work, you do not call people mama and papa like day-to-day life, but there is still that sense of family and I was even told by two people including the Regional Director “welcome to the family.” They all seem quite serious about including in me in this family of theirs. I was also told by K that they are a small of team of only four. I had only met three people and asked who the fourth was and she looked surprised and said “you!” Then she and another woman started chuckling. Later, K treated me to lunch and we sat with two other women I had met that morning. As we got chatting they were talking about their kids and how I must think they are “rocks” (so old) since two of them have kids my age and older and K’s oldest is 19. First of all, I have to admit, they age SO well – I never would have guessed! Then the other woman on the team I’ll be working with said, you get three mamas while you’re here. I thanked them and said my mom would appreciate that and they said “of course!” As we left lunch P called K to see if he could talk to me since he felt bad missing my first day. She handed me the phone and he asked how I was, how Brazzaville was this far, if I had everything I needed or if he could be of assistance, he apologized for not being there today, and then asked if I was ok with the assignment change (which I’ll get to in a second). It is amazing to be so included in things from day one! I guess we’ll see if they’re serious, but so far they seem very sincere and I think it’s going to be a nice place to work.
So assignment change – I’m a bit disappointed, but it might stretch me a bit out of my comfort level… at least that’s how I’m going to try and look at it. Originally I was supposed to do country reports on neonatal, infant, and under 5 child mortality. I was told I would create reports for 39 countries, but found out today that we are actually in charge of 46 countries (by the way, that’s just under a ¼ of the world’s total countries). However, they are needing help with adolescent mortality instead. I am studying Maternal and Child Health (MCH) and while adolescent health is included in this, that has never been my focus… I have friends in my cohort that focus on that, so I am very unfamiliar with things. While I am currently just assigned to read all the material necessary to catch me up over the past 10 years, I was pleased to see that there are MCH factors I’ll be working on – STIs, HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, under 18 marriage, sex trafficking, etc. I still have no idea what they’re expecting in terms of deliverables, but I’m hoping to get that hammered out tomorrow or Monday when P is back.
So, other work stuff, Jenny and I drove to work together today with Jean and I filmed the commute, but of course that video won’t upload, but at least I can show people when I get back. Now I want to film from WHO to home since that even looks a bit different, but I’ve got time. I just know that eventually all these things are going to become “norm” to me and I’ll forget. Jenny introduced me to the front desk and then the waiting began. Eventually I was put in what will be my office for the week and I caught up on lots of emails since K was on a conference call. This ended up being a huge blessing! After this week, I will also be in a private office, but it’s just not as nice.
Jenny and I took the 4:30pm bus back into town today. Then we have to hop off and grab a taxi to take us home. We came back and Mama Valerie had the house clean, our beds made, our clean laundry laying on them, and our dinner of fish, rice, and vegetables made. It was delicious! While we waited for dinner to finish, Jenny and I walked through the neighborhood to get her some beer and me some soda for our special dinner. Sometime I need to take the video camera on that walk… I’m also catching onto more French and realizing that people, specifically men, are being a bit more friendly than I originally noticed, including the ones in our neighborhood haha We get hit on 24/7! I was laughing at Jenny earlier because these guys pulled up next to our window while we were on the bus and started hitting on her, or so I thought, but the part I missed was that the used the plural females word. Also, instead of whistling like they do in the USA, these men make kissing noises – it’s quite funny. We both know it’s simply because we’re white haha
Right before dinner Bishop K (a leader in my church here) called to come over and meet me. He came right after dinner and we had a nice chat. He is over the seminaries and institutes here, in the DRC, and in Cameroon, so he’s traveling frequently. I won’t actually be in his ward unfortunately and instead I’m going to be in a branch, but he thinks I’ll like it. He is going to set me up with a LDS taxi driver who is from South Africa, so he speaks English. Bishop Kelounou has also asked if I’d like to be shown around and I said of course, so I think we’re going to do that on Sunday after Jenny and I go to a 6:30am community fitness class (should be interesting). Bishop Kelounou also may be able to set me up with some LDS women who are midwives here so I can follow them around. I am amazed at the attitude here – I feel like I don’t have much to offer the people do to my lack of French skills, but he was super nice and kept saying how they were so blessed to get me and how much help I’ll be. In all honesty, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to help if I can’t speak the language, but I guess we’ll see… After our conversation, he said Pres. J (the mission president over my country and 4 others I believe) had asked him to call after we met, so that Pres. J could speak to me as well. He was really nice too!
Now I’m sitting here in my favorite chair typing out everything I need to send to Jason and my family tomorrow since there’s not enough time at work and the keyboards there drive me nuts since letters are in other places. I’m grateful work has finally started as I think it’ll let the time pass faster.
Oh the other thing to note about work is that I’ve already been asked to extend my stay. (I guess they were impressed with my work on first day, even though I feel like I don’t know what’s going on.) I kindly declined, despite being asked by a few people, but it was flattering none the less. They said they’ll continue trying, but when I explained I was getting married and my fiancé wouldn’t appreciate that very much, they understood and said “ok, well we’ll just have to bring you back another time then.” Hey, working for WHO in the Congo for a couple or few weeks would be great – but I’m bringing my husband with me then! haha