What I Do All Day Part 2: Packing Pills

On those days that things aren’t going, and I need to kill a couple of hours and it is too hot to walk around, I will find refuge by sitting in the pharmacist’s air conditioned office, helping him pack pills.

Monday through Thursday, the pharmacist dispenses ARVs (Antiretroviral) tablets for patients with HIV.

Here is a very brief lesson on ARVs: ARVs is the general name given for the medication that suppresses HIV in a person’s system. WIth ARVs most people can live a happy, healthy life. Botswana was the first country to offer free ARV treatment for its citizens and has worked hard to make sure that there is country-wide accessibility to this treatment. But ARV adherence requires a strict regime, taking large pills twice a day on a strict time schedule. If patients default, if they skip their pills for a couple of days or continue to forget, they can become resistant to the first line of HIV drugs.  The first line is the most common in Botswana, also the cheapest.  There are second-line and occasionally third-line available in Botswana, but it’s risky.  When a person starts to resist to medication, they become sick and the period between the resistance and the start of the second medication is risky.

antriretroviral drugs

So on these days, I will sit with the pharmacist, and I will help pack the pills.  I sit in as he consults individuals on how to take pills and he questions about their adherence, their diet, and other things.

This isn’t necessarily capacity building.  I am mindlessly counting pills and labeling bottles.  But I know of no better way to get an education on the complexity and difficulty of living with HIV.  Almost every patient has a story. Some always have a new barrier to taking pills on time and consistently.  There are those that come in, knowing the names of their pills, taking care of their kids.  And I feel such relief, knowing that, yes, this person has got it together.  While there are others that come, without knowing what ARV stands for, not understanding the importance of taking their pills on time.  And its worse when the kids come in with a parent/guardian or distant relative that seems to not care. I would say majority have their act together and it’s those few who don’t, that we worry about.  Do they need more education? Do need they more support? Do they just need new parents?  Crappy parents are in every country and in every society, but they really bug me in this particular context.

Of course, this education is very important when figuring out interventions for people living with HIV.  And I hope to be able to use to what I know, to build the capacity of a potential organization or group of individuals. It is my second year, after all, and the tides are changing.

What I Do All Day Part 1: The Art of Visiting

What I Do All Day Part 1: The Art of Visiting

Somedays, I cannot wait for the time when I will have a job with a structured schedule and a clear job description.  One with supervisors and report forms and time cards.  I dream about my office job with a list of things to do and tasks to accomplish. I relish the thought of having my own office phone with voicemail and making call backs.  Fortunately, I’m don’t get lost in these thoughts too often, as I turn to the job I had right before I left, and remember the constant state of boredom I was in.

But I do miss structure and I miss being busy.

It will happen during some pockets of the day, I’ll have finished what I had to do for the day by 9 AM and then I don’t have anything scheduled until 2:30 PM.  That’s five hours of time to kill or time to be useful, somehow.  At the beginning of the my service, I didn’t know what to do, so I would sit at the clinic or I would go home and read.  But more recently, I find myself visiting various friends or strangers for hours at a time.  We call it ‘just sitting’.

I found myself just sitting yesterday in front of a shop, talking to the shop owner’s son.  Before I realized it, two hours had passed and all I had done was sit and chat.  But I felt proud of myself.  Visiting is a really strong and important part of the Botswana culture.  And it’s a great way to get to know people and learn how they live. But the thing is, during my time here, no one has invited me over to come and chat.  Invitations… it’s very American.  So I’ve had to get over some of my insecurities and Americanisms and walk into people’s home and work places and sit.

It’s part of the job.  A simple task, like faxing a letter, can take me two hours.  On my way to the police station, where the village fax is housed, I stop to make small chat with every third person I see.  When i’m in the police station, I sit and tell all the officer about my weekend and they let me walk around the station like I were actually a cop.   Actually, I have a case of nail polish that I bring once a week to the police station, and me and the female police officers paint our fingernails.

just sitting, painting nails

And to be perfectly honest, these visits, take most of my week and while I am doing work- like following up, talking to interested community members, sharing idea, organizing a meeting- we are mostly just sitting.

What Is It That You Do?

On the phone, my brother told me,

It sounds like your always on vacation

Ok.  Fair enough.  I had just finished telling him about my birthday weekend extravaganza.  I celebrated with a trip to the sal pans and a birthday braii (bbq) with some peace corps friends and lots of local friends.

But then I was looking through my blog just now, and i noticed that I fill my posts with adventures, pictures and good times and I hardly talk about what I do from day to day. everyday.

This is one of the hardest questions to answer:

‘What do you do everyday?’

It is a difficult question to answer because it’s made up of a lot of little things, but I would like to try to answer the question.   I’m going to introduce a series to my blog (have you noticed how series are all the rage on the blogospere?  And I am a sucker for blog trends).  It’s going to be called What I Do All Day.

So stay tuned for What I Do All Day Part 1: The Art of Visiting