1. So what exactly are you doing?
Setting up a research study to see if certain HIV medications prevent malaria better than others.
2. What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
At the moment, run around trying to find an adequate electrical outlet and adapter for my laptop. Once I find that, I sit and create documents that are only referred to in acronyms: CRFs, SOPs, IRBs, INDs. Then we have meetings in which we talk mainly in acronyms.
3. How do the documents tie into the larger purpose?
We are at the initiation stages of the study, so we are basically deciding and documenting how every little detail of the study is going to run. This is like that science "experiment" they make you do in elementary school, where they tell you to write down how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So you thing "Wow, easy homework!" and you write down "Take 2 pieces of bread, put peanut butter and jelly on them, and put them together." and then you go off to watch G.I. Joe. The next day, you get to science class to find that you have the crappiest answer, and the annoying know-it-all has written "Take a knife out of the drawer. Unscrew the peanut butter cap. Take a scoop of peanut butter with the knife, and spread it on the bread..." and so on, and you feel like an idiot.
Well, it turns out that the experiment has value (beyond that of learning to accept your own mediocrity). The scientific process requires a ridiculous level of detail.
Luckily, I am no longer that seething little kid in the back of the class, terrified that I will be called on to read my crappy common-sense peanut-butter-and-jelly instructions. I am embracing the process.
4. What is the hospital like?
It's similar to other hospitals in this region, with freestanding one-story well-ventilated (ie. windows) cement buildings (wards) connected by covered walkways. Tororo District Hospital looks quite nice compared with most, because of the money for renovations provided by the CDC and the Japanese government. The labor ward was quite nice, with clean new delivery beds, whitewashed walls and a preeclampsia management protocol posted on the wall. The nurses I met were all extremely friendly and welcoming. The other wards weren't quite as nice-looking as L&D, but I did notice that each patient had a bednet, and none were on the floor (patients, that is).
5. What is the town like?
It's small, although bigger than I had thought. There are 2 parallel streets that make for good shopping, and one traffic circle that has several banks, including Stanbic and Barclay's. The shops are haphazard, all selling small amounts of things, and no single store's stock is comprehensive (ie. the stationary store may or may not have pens or paper). There are many stores selling the same type of thing, and in order to find something specific, you really have to hunt it town in each corner of the town. There are multiple stores known as "grocery stores" or "super markets" but neither name is accurate, since they don't really sell groceries, and they are far from super.
There is a marketplace, which is a large number of adjacent wooden shacks. There is a vegetable section, a "stuff" section (where all things are plastic and cheap), a hardware section (locks, tools), a rubber section (where they sell flip-flops made out of old tires, which they make right there in the shop), and a section that sells some sort of powdery substance that might be flour.
6. Is it hot?
Not as much as I expected. During the day it gets up to a peak of probably 85, maybe it hit 90 a couple of times, but at night it goes down to 70 or cooler. I often need a light sweater at night. It is humid, but no more so than New York in the summer. Which is pretty humid, I guess.
Supposedly it will get hotter than this, though.