With the school not approving Summer travels, I knew it was highly improbable for me to travel to Lusaka, Zambia, for my practicum. Nevertheless, I had the tiniest hope that things would work out just in time to make the journey possible. I felt like I deserved the trip after a semester-long love-hate affair with virtual meetings and zoom (zoom fatigue). Somehow, my “tiniest hope” yielded nothing, as I am still here in the triangle, collaborating with the research team in Zambia via zoom. I call it Zooming to Zambia!
To cope with the disappointment, I decided to make a mental visit to Zambia. In my mind, I arrived in Lusaka (Zambia) on May 17, 2021, to commence my practicum, and since then, I wake up each day saying Zikomo kwambiri, a phrase in Zambia that means “thank you very much.” I say this phrase for a couple of reasons. First, it helps me stay focused on my practicum work. Waking up to this phrase gives me a mindset of rolling up my sleeves and working on my daily goals. Second, to express my gratitude for the opportunity to work on a project I am passionate about. I did not come about this latter reason arbitrarily. Having a heart of gratitude has defined my existence over the past year, and it has seen me through the endless days of zoom fatigue and feelings of isolation.
My practicum is qualitative research to assess the feasibility and acceptability of engaging family members to support HIV-positive mothers to practice recommended infant care and feeding practices, and adherence to antiretroviral therapy. We are using a formative research technique- the Trial of Improved Practices (TIPs) for this study. So far, the work has been gratifying and deeply rewarding. On weekdays, I have a regular work schedule. In addition, I have virtual meetings with my preceptor, Dr. Stephanie Martin, to assess the progress of the study, and I also meet with the research team to review the data and troubleshoot the various challenges and hurdles experienced by the data collectors. Through the research, I look forward to gaining a thorough understanding of the role of partners and other support systems in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
To rejuvenate and recharge, I ensure my Saturdays are work-free. I use this time off to hike with international friends and pursue other interests. I recently took a hike at the Raven Rock State Park (see the goofy pictures). Upcoming hikes will be all-day hikes at the Hanging Rock and Appalachian Trail.
For now, even though I am stuck with zoom and virtual meetings, I could not have asked for a better practicum, preceptor, and research team. So I am grateful for the opportunity, and the tech that make virtual collaborations possible. For these reasons, I say Zikomo Kwambiri.
Zikomo Kwambiri is from the Nyanja language, which is spoken widely in Lusaka.