I have never worked this much or this hard in my life. I made the mistake of taking 5 minutes to think about it earlier today and realized that I've not had more than a few hours off in 5 weeks. And that pace is not likely to change any time soon. Burnout city, here I come!
So let's take a step back. I'm going to try to get through at least half of what's happened since my last post.
Firstofallly: I did manage to steal one of those couple-hour patches of down-time the day after my last post- the Sunday before the start of the enumerator training. After 2 weeks of varying amounts of sleep deprivation as I prepared for the training, I finally felt that everything was as set as it could be for the beginning of the training. I grabbed a book, walked 5 minutes to the end of my block, and let my buddy Michael whip me up a little somethin'-somethin' at the new restaurant he's opened.
That's right! Remember my excitement of a few posts back about somebody finally opening up that restaurant at the end of my block? That somebody turned out to be my good buddy and culinarily-inclined neighbor, Michael! Stoked! A beer, a few pages of Shantaram (terrifically entertaining read) and some rice&chicken later, I was feeling refreshed and optimistically sleepy. I had the my weekly phone-call with the family and even made the (horrendously misguided) claim that I couldn't imagine that there would be many more sleepless nights since I'd set everything up so smoothly!
Weeeellll. I was wrong. Massively.
Monday, the first day of training, went well enough. Actually, it went terrifically. I was pretty nervous - yes I'd been eating, drinking, sleeping and breathing this damn thing for weeks (months), but I really wasn't sure I was prepared to stand in front of a room of 65 (potential) enumerators, enumerator team leaders, field auditors and colleagues. Well I learned two things:
1. I really did know the project (as) well (as could have been expected before it actually began)
2. I'm pretty dang good at leading a training!
Everyone seemed pretty enthusiastic and on-point that first day. And I even made it home in time to actually go for a run! Woo!
Tues and Wed were a bit less... exciting. Everyone started settling in to the routine of going through the survey question-by-question. Despite how much time, blood, sweat and energy I'd poured into the survey, I understand that it's not the most riveting topic to spend a couple days straight discussing.
Thursday, things started getting... hectic. We spent a half-day working through translations. Uganda has ~35 distinct languages. Since we're working in 4 different regions, languages quickly become a bit complicated. We settled on 5 languages: English (duh), Luganda (for Mukono and some Mbale), Lugisu (Mbale), Runyankole (Mbarara) and Lugbara (Arua). A few days before the training, I had passed the English survey off to translators for translation. However, during the training (as always happens), we kept finding little errors, in content and formatting, on the English survey as we walked through it.
And thus I entered the 10th circle of hell, which I will simply call "versioning".
Thurs morning, the enumerators and team leaders began reviewing the translations based on the original English. Thursday night our new intern (I have an intern! HAH! And he's kicking ass!) and I made all of the latest formatting changes to the original translations, and tried to make note of anywhere that English-language content had changed. Several late-night cups of coffee ensued, and we managed to trudge our way through all 4 translations.
Friday, the teams finished reviewing and tweaking the original translations - some were working on paper and others on electronic copies, and passed it off to us. Somewhere in there... everything got screwed up. We were working off too many different copies of different versions of different languages. It was, in a word, a mess (Mom, you can insert your favorite term in place of "mess" (hint: it begins with "cluster")).
To top it off, I, finally, managed to work myself to the point of exhaustion of becoming physically ill. Though I made it to the training location (which was fortunately a hotel) on Friday, I spent most of the day in bed in a room, alternately trying to and trying not to throw up. Not a good day. I blame my absence for the ensuing versioning mess.
Sooooo, Saturday was spent, all day, in the office reviewing/fixing/redoing translations. We were supposed to pass the finished surveys off to the printer by noon in order to have them printed by 9am Sunday morning so we could get rolling. We got the last one off to the printer at 7pm. Bad news bears.
Intern Justin demonstrating how we roll in Kampala:
Charity (field manager, aka Ms. Moneybags McGee) getting money squared away in preparation for rolling out to the field the next day:
The joy that is translation-work:Note the peanut M&Ms that Justin brought from the States in order to bribe his way to quick acceptance among the team.
Sunday morning, after (again) not enough sleep (and after a transformer exploded into a delightful electrical fire at the end of my block Saturday night), the teams rallied at Lugogo to hop in their chariots (matatus) and hit the road:
We were all supposed to leave when the printed surveys arrived at 9. We were also supposed to deliver said surveys to the printer on Saturday, 7 hours earlier than we actually did. Sooo we waited. And waited. And waited... and waited. 5 hours after arriving at Lugogo (at 7:45am), we finally got the last shipment of surveys and hit the road for an uneventful, but beautiful, five-hour drive to Mbale.
Local Member of Parliament elections were coming in Mukono (on the way to Mbale) - we passed a parade for one candidate.
The idea had been to get in early and have a half-day to keep practicing. The 5 hour delay, however, meant that we only had a couple hours to review. Again, bad news bears. I got through a couple rounds of practice, crossed my fingers, and sent everyone off for the night. The matatu dropped Katamba, Tony (team leaders) and me off at our guest house, and promptly left before I could retrieve my bag. No change of clothes, tooth brush or, well, much of anything else for me. Regardless, I dropped in bed exhausted and slept like a rock, albeit for not enough time (theme...) until 6:45.
Monday morning, the team rallies, and I happily reunite with my toothbrush, deoderant and clean underpants.
Monday morning, I started off with Katamba's team, planning to switchover to Tony's at some point during the day. The clubs we were to meet were located about an hour from Mbale town, in Kapchorwa district, home of Sipi Falls.
In the past months, there have been a number of landslides in nearby Bududya district. The government has offered to relocate Bududyans (?) to this area, just North from Kapchorwa:
But Bududyans have resoundingly refused to move. Why? Karamajong cattle raiders! CATTLE RAIDERS. Yes, they still exist. The Karamajong are the people of Northeastern Uganda, very similar in culture to the Masai of Kenya. They are nomadic cattle-raising and cattle-raiding folks who manage to terrorize and terrify the hell out of their neighbors. Apparently this area just north of Kapchorwa butts up close enough to the Karamajong region that people are afraid to move there. Cattle raiders! (cowboys&Indians racing through my mind)
I also learned that "Kapchorwa" translates in the local language to "place of friends". Awwwwwwe.
Also, apparently most of Uganda's most serious athletes are from Kapchorwa, since it's location on a gigantic plateau, and resultant 6500 feet of elevation, make for excellent low-oxygen-trained-since-birth athletes. We actually saw a dude hauling ass down the plateau in full running regalia as we ascended.
We arrived at our first club, at a local secondary school. Upon entering the room, I was immediately intimidated. I haven't seen this kind of gibberish in 6 years:
As soon as we were sure we had the correct 12 respondents for this youth club, the team got to preparing:
The surroundings were uuuunnnbelievably beautiful. Green. Everywhere. I'm going to stick a link to the Picasa photo album at the bottom of the page. Look through for more green than you can stand.
For some reason, schools in Uganda all tend to have these little motivational or informational signs all over the place. Just so, you know, you were wondering or uncertain:
Funfortunately, I only had a few minutes to appreciate the scenery before everything started exploding.
The goal (well... "requirement" would be more accurate) for this baseline survey exercise is for each team to survey 10 clubs per week, with 12 (randomly) selected members of each club serving as respondents. The team leaders had already been working for over a week to begin scheduling their meetings with clubs and informing them of the 12 respondents needed, so we were feeling pretty confident. Furthermore, based on pretesting of the survey by myself and the team leaders, I knew the survey to take between 45 and (MAX) 1:30 to complete. With 12 respondents in 3 waves of 4, that meant teams should be able to cover 1 club in 4:30 max.
Welllll things didn't go quite so smoothly as we'd expected/hoped/planned for. To be honest, I think just about everything went wrong. And guess who was the go-to person for dealing with all issues as they arose, from seven teams in four districts in all distant corners of the country? This guy. Everything went wrong. E-ver-y-thing. Respondents not showing up. Enumerators taking THREE DAMN HOURS to survey one respondent. MORE mistakes on my baby questionnaire still being found (including mistakes I could SWEAR I remember fixing... versioning is my newest demon). Respondents impersonating other respondents 'cause they think there will be handouts associated with the research. Matatus breaking down. Matatus getting stuck in mud and needing to be pushed. Matatus getting stuck in mud and requiring hiring of local kids to help push out of mud. Rainstorms. More rainstorms. Lack of cell signal. Murphy, go eff yourself. I hate you and your law.
Allow me to summarize the day with this: some of you may remember my post lauding my Nokia Katorchy (sp?) phone. One of the features I most appreciate is the battery, which tends to last me a solid 5 days.
I burned through the ENTIRE battery on that Monday - so much was I on the phone, trying my damndest to put out fires.
Halfway through the day I decided I should check on Tony's club. I got directions from Tony, found myself a boda, and hopped on for the ~20 minute ride. Naturally, since I'm in Equatorial Africa and all, I didn't have a raincoat. Or a jacket of any sort. And so, also naturally, the rain started pretty much the moment I hopped on the back of the boda. Much though I tried to hunker down behind the (jacketed) boda-boda man, I was pretty well soaked, and freezing cold, by the time I reached Tony's club. Seeking shelter as quickly as possible, I made my way to the church they were interviewing in at as close to a dead sprint as my desire to not look like an unprofessional doofus would allow. Aaaaand, as I made the sharp turn to enter the doorway, I made sure to firmly plant my pivoting foot on the squishiest spot of loose mud I can find. And down I went. Straight into the mud.
Soaked, frigid, exhausted, stressed out of my damn mind, and now muddied down my entire right side, I entered the disaster that was Tony's club. By 3:30, they were 2/3 through their first club. They'd scheduled their second club for 2:00. I spent the next few hours alternately huddled in the matatu for warmth, standing in patches of sunlight (when I could find them) for warmth, physically attached to my cell phone (not for warmth), pacing/frantically hand-wringing (a little bit of warmth there), reviewing horrendously-completed surveys, and finding corners in which to try to hide from my massive and growing panic. I was watching/hearing everything (okay, technically, billably, "half" of everything) I'd worked for for 8 months collapsing. Not a good feeling. To quote myself, to Sarah (colleague, overseeing the team in Mukono for the first couple days), I had a "knot the size of a Maribou Stork in my stomach" (see previous post with photograph of big, ugly, jurassic-looking bird).
Fortunately, I had at least kept my camera near at hand.
8 hours after they began (EIGHT HOURS?!?), Tony's enumerators finished. Tony had been on the phone with the patron of the club they were supposed to meet that afternoon about every 20 minutes for the last few hours. She was not happy. I suggested he go stop by to make amends. He informed me that I was coming with him. I conceded. We visited. She was NOT happy. Her club members had waited for 3 hours before finally giving us (and her) the proverbial finger, and going their separate ways. I groveled, supplicated, bloviated, and everything-ated I could think of. I even gave her a business card (big deal, considering we pay 200 shillings per, and that's comparatively a lot of money... and because it means she can now call and harass me at whim). I still haven't heard if Tony's successfully rescheduled with them.
Katamba's team didn't fair much better. And nor did four of the other five teams. At the end of the day, we had only ONE team which had successfully covered its two clubs for the day.
Exhausted, stressed beyond all reason, and depressed to boot, I passed out hard for (say it with me now) not enough time. And Tuesday was almost not as bad.
Fortunately I at least went to sleep with the image of children playing with blown-up condoms as balloons in my mind:
Okay, that's enough for tonight. Tune in next time (tomorrow? Wednesday? Is tomorrow Wednesday? I can't keep track anymore) for more of Daniel's Adventures in Flipping the Hell Out and Predicting Massive Failure!
For more photos, take a look-see (but dooooon't peak ahead!):
Time to go get (alll together now!) noooot enoooooough sleep!