Colds, Coughs and Cappuccinos

(Ryan, Mike, Assaf, Hitesh and Amy)

Considering the fact that I’ve been sick for almost three weeks straight, this past month has been rather uneventful. Granted, the cold and flu-like symptoms are slowly abating yet this vicious cough still lingers…In fact, I just returned from WHO’s Health Metrics Networks -Technical Support Partnership’s (HMN-TSP) Health Information Systems (HIS) Strategic Planning Guidance Workshop (what a mouthful) in Pretoria where I think I made quite a few persons nervous as I hacked up a storm in their presence. Participants kindly (and politely) asked whether or not I’d had a TB test – hoping that I wasn’t spewing Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria into the air. Fortunately, my PPD skin test came back negative.

(Playing on the rugby field after the match)

Over the course of the week, the facilitators jokingly referred to me as black-lung Amy. Despite my health, I had an incredible time with my colleagues, sharing lessons learned and experiences as they pertain to Health Information Systems across African nations, and examining the new HMN-TSP guidance ‘tool’ that will assist each country with their strategic HIS plan.

(I hate to say it, but this photo was taken in front of McDonalds! Egg McMuffin’s all around)

And I must say, I’m realizing just how much I miss modern conveniences! South Africa is AMAZING!!! Our hotel was virtually on the University of Pretoria’s campus. As such, the streets were alive with outdoor cafes, street performers, nice restaurants, bars, shopping centers, movie theaters and the like. It almost felt Disneyland-esque as we walked up and down the streets absorbing the scenes. Sights once so familiar and ‘normal’ now feel foreign by comparison to my life in Malawi.

(Fitti and Amy)

My CDC counterpart in Uganda, Fitti, and I went out for sushi, roamed thru vast Shopping Malls, watched real movies at the cinema (Revolutionary Road and Seven Pounds), and relished in the vibrancy all around. We both kept commenting, “This doesn’t feel like Africa”.

(Mom and Steve in Pretoria)

As an added bonus, I managed to surprise my parents who happened to be in Pretoria for the day. My mom and Steve are visiting me in Malawi in two week’s time after their mini-tour around South Africa (primarily to Kruger National Park). Fortunately, my mom plans her itinerary down to the minute, so I knew exactly where they would be on Friday afternoon.

(the famous ‘blue crane’)

So during the lunch break, I snuck over to the Blue Crane Restaurant (which couples as a bird sanctuary) and found them with binoculars in hand! They were delighted to say the least.

(Assaf in the stands)

And I had the pleasure of seeing my friend, Heidi’s, new baby girl Asara! What a gorgeous baby! And at two weeks, she was so tiny! Heidi was also kind enough to forward the name of a fabulous Thai Massage Salon. For $17, I had the best massage ever! Thanks Heidi!

(Friends at the Rugby match)

Finally, on Saturday night I witnessed my first Rugby game. Talk about a cultural experience – this happened to be one of the biggest rugby games in South Africa (South African Bulls vs New Zealand Blues). Spectators informed me that this match was the equivalent to the final playoff games in the Superbowl.


This morning’s headlines read, “Rugby-Bulls whip Blues in 85-point thriller!”
Now I know nothing about the sport but the energy of the crowd was electrifying.

(Bulls Fan)

Finally, a few weeks ago I spent the day with friends at Lake Malawi.
(Amy and Sara at Senga Bay)

Please continue to keep in touch. I’m starting to feel quite nostalgic for my friends and family back home.

ladies on the beach
(The ladies celebrating Valentine’s Day on the beach)

Sending much love,

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