A day in the field

Tomorrow at 9 AM i have a doctors appointment. 20 kilometers up in the mountain, in a hidden house with a women who claims to have discovered the cure for AIDS. She has promised to cure my asthma with a drink she’s preparing tonight. I said yes, because of course you have to “taste the field”. Perhaps she’s right, who knows.

After realizing how knowledgable the pokot (the tribe in this area) are about herbal medicine, we have been looking for a cure with bearable side effects. We found one yesterday, but the cure included vomiting every morning for a month when taking the medicine.

Right now I’m sad that tomorrow is the last day here, we had a very productive and fun day. We started at 8 and came back 18, traveling to three different villages. In the first village we participated in a church service, talked to a women with fistula, talked to the pastor about what the bible says about FGM/child marriages and danced a bit.

In the second village, where i was expecting to do many interviews and a focus group discussion, we had to rejected many girls because they were not married or to old (not in the target group). Finally we found one, but it later turned out that the dowery (bride price) had been payed back to her husband, and she even had a child with another man. Joseph the interpreter was delaying, as for the last two days, and everything seemed quite impossible. Suddenly, Joseph showed up and five girls were ready for a group discussion about health care, and it turned out to be very good. The rain was threatening us, but we finished and found chikomando, the food that the army eat: chapati and beans.

It was in the third village we found this fascinating woman with the medication. I have been there two times before, and its always an adventure. First of all, its steep and there is no proper road, the means of transportation is motorcycle, its far and i am impressed every time the drivers manages to transport us. I always think about the girls, who in a critical stage of labour travel to the health center down the steep hill. Its thought to be good for progress of the labour because the trip is bumpy…and i can imagine very painful!

The day ended with a focus group discussion with young girls, the age of the 5 girls ranged from 13 to 17 years old, 4 of them with a child in their arms, the fifth one in the final stages of pregnancy. When the topic turned to family planning one of the girls said: “The baby has just started crawling, and my husband is demanding another child. What do i do about that? He would never accept family planning, pokot men want many children in return for the dowery”.

Thats when you feel powerless, and don’t have any idea for what to answer and reply: “perhaps you could bring your husband to the clinic after explaining your issues to the midwife there” well aware that the chances for that happening is close to zero. Luckily Joseph is a part of a Action Male group, who addresses issues of FGM and early marriages in the villages, he rescued me with a suggestion about sensitization among village men about family planning. I hope that Joseph will carry out the sensitization before all the four girls are pregnant for the second time.

An uninvited roommate and a growing sample size

Once again I am back at my little sanctuary in the village Sobru, by Okhaldhunga community hospital. I have just finished cleaning my room thoroughly. I have these rats on my tarpaulin and wood ceiling and I thought we had an agreement, I live down here and they live up there and we stay out of each other’s businesses. I was wrong… In her defense, she may have thought my room was permanently vacated. Anyway, when I came back last night, exhausted as usual and anticipating a good night’s sleep in my own (sort of…) bed, a rat had made my bed her new home. She had taken the liberty of pulling stuffing out of my cover and created a nice fluffy den under the covers. She had also made a brand new entrance to the room, though it is a bit on the small side for me.

It seems neither of us are too keen on having a roommate, the rat has stayed away all day and I have been guarding my territory, only leaving to eat. I have also closed off her new entrance. Not that there aren’t several alternative ways in. I am hoping she dislikes the smell of Dettol. I do, but prefer it to having rats in my bed. We shall see who wins the battle over the room.

My assistant and I have now completed interviewing in our third area. Unfortunately for me, though not for the children in that area, the prevalence of malnutrition was low. Very low compared to the other two areas and compared to Nepali data from the whole district. As my sample size is based on the prevalence of malnutrition this means I have to increase my sample size. Something I don’t really have time for as my visa expires on December 1st. Though I will come back in January, when I can get a new visa, if I have to. This has been way too much hard work to not see it through and get the data I need. I didn’t climb all these hills to end up with an underpowered study! No way.

There are so many new impressions when you see new ways of living and meet so many people. I must say I am deeply appreciative of all the choices I have been able to make in my life and will be able to make in the future. So many of us here in this world, especially women, have so few choices to make, so few options. If I were to pick one thing in my life I am grateful for it is the freedom to choose. I met this 20-year-old mother of two in an abusive relationship. Divorce is not an option as she would have nowhere to go, death is not an option as she does not want to leave her daughters behind. So this is pretty much it, this is her life. She is so young and yet her life is so settled, a life she did not choose. A hard life where she is beaten and mistreated. Her story is not unique.

Now two days of rest and then off again climbing more hills and meeting more families.