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Back in the World

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Back in the world
Back in the world
Back in the world
Back in the world
Crawlin’ through the trees
Stuck in mud up to the knees

There’s a Curtis Mayfield song, Back to the World (YouTube link below) a movingly soulful tale of a soldier’s troubles reconnecting with life back in the USA after serving in Vietnam. While a few weeks’ impersonal hotel living with weak internet signal cannot compare it’s the tune in my head now that I’m back at David & Sue’s in Pretoria. The further north I stayed, the weaker my internet connection and the greater my disconnection from you all. It’s a salutary reminder that some of the things that I take for granted at home are less widely available – or not available to all – in South Africa. This weekend’s M&G reports that in the provinces I’ve visited, the percentage of the population who have flush or chemical toilets or ventilated pit latrines is: Gauteng 88.9%, Mpumalnga 57.3% and Limpopo 37.9%. Be careful what you grumble about, blogger.

Bungeni Clinic cabin Thangwe Clinic with Donald Frazer Team (3)

Bungeni Clinic cabin, delivering HIV care to 913 clients including 70 children; FPD bakkie with Donald Fraser Hospital roving team.
Many who know me will know that I dislike driving. Today I’ve driven 466km, the equivalent of motoring from Eastbourne to Folkestone, through the Chunnel and south beyond Paris. After five weeks and 2290 km I’ve returned the Figo to Avis. Ms TomTom twice Ms-directed me into on-coming traffic on a motorway slip road and ordered impossible right turns across solid barriers on dual carriageways but was an otherwise reliable companion. And some days the only person to speak to me.
Added to the Figo’s kilometrage, in the roving teams’ bakkies I’ve (pace Mr Superfly) been crawlin’ through the bush, stuck in mud up to the knees… as we daily traversed the lumpy, bumpy, at times close to impassable gravel roads to the backends of Nkangala, Capricorn and Vhembe. Here’s a suggestion for a simple infrastructure improvement from a mentor: the Government should build a tar road to every primary health clinic. FPD bakkies spend several hours a day crawling long distances in first & second gear; add in every delivery, laboratory courier – hours of staff time spent in vehicles – and it would pay for itself in no time. Out of an eight hour working day, four may be spent in transit. That’s sixteen hours a-day if you multiply for the doctor, nurse & health information system mentors and the data capturer.

Tshiungani Clinic Operational Manager Jones & Jones

The final interview at Tshiungani Clinic; Jones C & M Jones (Jones is a Zimbabwean waiter at Ambiance Restaurant, Polokwane, Martin is your blogger.
After one hundred and fourteen interviews in sixty-six primary health clinics I feel that this part of my research has reached saturation point. And I don’t just mean the torrential tropical downpours that can turn gravel roads to rivers in minutes; I’ve stopped hearing new things from NIMART nurses and their clinic managers. My next tasks are enriching the data by involving some of the more senior players and analysing it. I’ve a comparator week with a roving team from a different NGO in the Graaff-Reinet area: back in the world that I vacated in December 2011. It will be fascinating to see how those once familiar clinics have developed and delightful to hook up with Ria & her staff, MieMie, Rachel & Sylvia at Aa’Qtansisi Guesthouse; Maryna, Marlene, Nthabiseng & Vicky from the original mentoring team, the ‘Pioneers girls’ including Almarie & Rolien and hopefully others from the cast of three year old blogs.
Highlights of the far north? My final two days in the field with Sister K who changed a month of solitary dining, providing friendly company over fast food in Spur Steakhouse where Bafana Bafana 0 Brazil 5 was on the big screen and for a balmy evening on the lawns of an Italian restaurant where baboabs were dotted around a pool and fountains tinkled. In Vhembe’s furthest reaches and after hours driving past bush, we concluded our clinic visits close to The Big Tree, a 1500-3500 year-old baobab.

Big Tree, Limpopo (6) Big Tree, Limpopo (1)

Big Tree, Limpopo with Guide & Sister K The Guesthouse B&B, Musina (3)

The Big Tree; Lord Greystoke; Guide and Sister K; baobab at The Guesthouse B&B, Musina.
The Big Tree guide took us slowly around its contorted trunk pointing out innumerable protrusions said – by him – to resemble a multitude of animals, not to mention – actually he couldn’t stop himself – genitals, breasts & buttocks a-plenty. His twenty minute tour included more sex talk than witnessed in six weeks in sixty-six primary health clinics delivering HIV care… I learned from a fellow B&B-er at Musina that as they age, male baobabs remain shapely and upstanding, while female trees droop, gnarl and the trunk expands – on International Women’s Day I have no more to blog on that subject.
The other thing I missed after Polokwane was exercise. I couldn’t work out if Thohoyandou and Musina felt entirely safe for walks and the ‘well-equipped gym’ in the former was inaccurately advertised. As Curtis reminds:

In these city streets everywhere
You gotta be careful where you move your feet…

I didn’t want to end up lamenting a leg stretch:

I been beaten up and robbed…

So it’s been work, telly and reading. Proteas v South Africa was a three-match test series that demanded five, two wonderfully compelling climaxes in the sporting world’s greatest format and a perfect hotel time filler. Then, just as I was beginning to believe that I might be becoming unhinged by Unchained Melody on a flautist’s compilation every breakfast time, I’ve returned from South Africa’s most northerly town, fast-forwarded through the Verwoerd Tunnels, up and down the spectacular passes of the Soutpansberg, dodged baboons on the motorway, re-crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, stopped for a reviving americano in familiar Polokwane before cautiously negotiating sluicing rain with extremely poor visibility in northern Gauteng. Now, after a pleasant evening’s brisk walking in Faerie Glen’s hilly streets I’m…

Back in the world
Back in the world
Back in the world
Back in the world…


Written by martinjones183

March 9, 2014 at 6:58 am

4 Responses

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  1. One hundred and fourteen interviews in sixty-six primary health clinics I feel that this part of my research has reached saturation point – that is amazing under such difficult conditions. You are obviously thoroughly enjoying yourself again though.


    March 9, 2014 at 7:20 am

  2. Another great blog Martin. So impressed by how much you have done in so little time. How that time seems to fly by. So many clinics to visit,so many miles to cover, pleased to hear you travelled in comfort! Glad you got to see some sport. Keep up the good work. Enjoy.


    March 12, 2014 at 10:36 pm

  3. Glad you got back to getting a good internet connection You have done so many interviews and the Sat Nav sounds horrendous Hope you are having a better time now We are beginning to look very smart in the clinic rooms, ready for your return to the fold Take Care

    Jill Merritt

    March 13, 2014 at 4:32 pm

  4. Great blogging ,as usual Martin.
    That tree is amazing…. Do you remember the one in Barbados? Xxx


    March 14, 2014 at 7:13 am

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