Continuing the App

August 24, 2015

It has been quite the summer. It is difficult for me to believe that it is almost time to begin another semester, yet alone the first semester of senior year. I have helped my younger sister move to college and my parents have transitioned to new jobs. It has been difficult balancing family, friends, and work, but somehow it was manageable. It has been a summer of transition and adjustment, but it has all been for the best. Progress on the wheelchair user fitness application has not happened as I planned. Unfortunately, Professor Laskin (the Physical Therapy professor for whom my partner and I are making the app) has been preoccupied with other obligations that took precedence, so our communication with him has been minimal. I have corresponded with him recently, and we will plan to take up the project again when the semester begins and will discuss a new progress plan.

If anything, this project has taught me about the importance of flexibility and reinforced independent learning. Even though I thought I knew exactly how it would work out, I had to accept the fact that external situations do take precedence sometimes. Even though I did not accomplish what I had “hoped”, we were able to do almost an entire layout of the app with almost all of the screens. There is baseline functionality to navigate through the screens and interact with the controls, like the text inputs and buttons. This project has reminded me a great deal of my highschool experience because I was homeschooled during highschool. I have had to acquire resources for myself and teach myself how to create this app in the Android programming environment. Fortunately, I had a solid programming base in multiple languages which helped, but the learning curve was still steep. Every little thing I learned how to do was a tremendous victory. I spent days trying to get a “spinner control” also known as a drop down list to work. That right there was a huge accomplishment. Also, you cannot approximate color; you must enter specific RBG color values to make sure it is consistent on different devices. Just a word to the wise, what looks like deep burgundy on one device, looks like a brownish-pink on another. Those colors are totally not the same….save yourself time and enter specific values, do not pick random colors on the color wheel.

This coming fall semester, I plan to continue to modify it aesthetically, continue working on the fitness calculator, and create the integrated database within the app. I am excited to continue working on this project with the goal of having the first generation app ready to download in spring of 2016. Hopefully, we will be able to present it at the UM Undergraduate Research Day and at the American College of Sports Medicine Research Conference in Tacoma next year. I am looking forward to beginning a new semester, and I am motivated to finish building this app.

Lisa H. Morgan

Healthcare in Ecuador

In 2008, the new constitution of Ecuador declared healthcare must be accessible by all residents. Since this new mandate, Ecuador has invested heavily into public health which has resulted an in increase of the budget of Social Security health care services. There has been significant improvements in healthcare and public health in the last 5 years with this increased budget.  New technology is being purchased in large facilities, increase in staff and changes in age restrictions and individuals with preexisting medical conditions who may now join “voluntary”. More people have been paying into social security with strengthening confidence in healthcare. Full and free medical coverage is being provided under this new health system. Overall, by allowing residents to pay into this new Social security health care program for a monthly fee of approximately $70, accessibility and quality of public health have only grown. I was fortunate to witness many of the positive impacts and obstacles of this new healthcare plan Ecuadorians are paying into.

Volunteering at several different clinical settings in Quito, Ecuador I was able to see many benefits of the new healthcare system. One of the ingenious benefits of this new health care system is that healthcare is completely free for children under the age of 5. This includes the cost of vaccinating children. Immunizations such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, mumps, hepatitis B, etc. are free of charge. By providing these vaccines, Ecuador is able to prevent the resulting life threatening diseases in these children as well as avoiding the issue of parents refusing to vaccinate their children and compromise herd immunity, the overall immunity of the general population, as seen in Disneyworld.

Although immunizations are provided free of charge for children under the age of 5, the parents or the current guardians of the child do not always have the correct paperwork in place, thus the child cannot receive the immunizations. This is very troublesome because not only are parents not taking advantage of a free service being provided to their children, but they are putting others at risk as well.

Another service that is provided free is prenatal care. By increasing prenatal visits there is a corresponding decrease in poor perinatal outcomes.  This is wonderful service as it is probably the most cost effective way in reducing prior and during pregnancy. However, as you move from urban to rural Ecuador, the utilization of this service declines. One of the Doctors I was following explained that this might be due to some rural people’s current mistrust of modern medicine.

There is a higher percentage of individuals in rural Ecuador than urban Ecuador that still practice traditional medicine.  These individuals usually have little understanding of modern medicine and how it works as well as mistrust in the people who administer this type of medicine.  Typically in rural Ecuador, when a pregnant woman, or her family, with these beliefs is giving birth often the birth occurs without complications; however, when the birth does not, usually the family waits until the woman has been in labor for a very long time and complications have become exacerbated. By the time the family brings the woman into the clinic it is almost always too late. The family feels that it is the Doctors or clinics fault for not saving the child and or mother. Thus, continuing the mistrust of certain individuals in modern medicine and the new Social Security health care program and the amenities it has to offer. Although there are great benefits being provided in the new health care program in Ecuador there are still obstacles to be addressed and overcome.


Hospital San Francisco is a new public Hospital built only 4 years ago.

Africa In My Blood – What I learned

I wanted to make a post especially for summarizing what I learned while I was in Africa. I want to share these things because I think they are important, but they are also my most cherished souvenir. I learned practical things but also some things about myself. If I was to break it up I would have to say that the first two weeks I learned a lot of important things about Africa that I had misconceptions about before. But over the second two weeks I learned more about myself.

I learned a lot about conservation in Africa while I was in Masebe. Issues there are all pretty complicated because of a couple of reasons; both the humans and the wildlife demand a lot of space and don’t necessarily get along very well and a lot of the world has opinions about what should be done regardless of whether the information they have is correct.


A lioness which was in the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center, one of the places that will come in and remove problem animals from areas where human/wildlife conflicts arise.

Many of the communities that have to deal with the wildlife on a daily basis are very poor and many of them need livestock or land to make a living and feed their families. Conflict arises when the wildlife in the area start interfering with their ability to make a living through those means. For example, if there is a leopard in the area and it has started to kill their livestock, in order to keep their family from starving these people have no choice but to trap or hunt that leopard, whether or not it’s legal. One way they can fix this issue is by putting up fences. In my experience with fences in Montana they are mostly a problem because it creates barriers in migration routes. In Africa this is a problem as well, but there are other benefits to the fences that may outweigh the negatives. Fences in this environment serve many purposes and in most people’s eyes they see them as a good thing. Fences keep the wildlife out of communities, and with all the dangerous wildlife this is a pretty important function, they also help keep people out of wildlife spaces, especially in the case of poachers. The fences are also quite fortified compared to fences I was used to and it’s because they are meant to be more permanent barriers than the fences we have in Montana.


A bull elephant we saw in Kruger National Park

Although the fences can fix issues for communities, such as elephants eating all their crops or lions eating their livestock, they also create issues for a lot of wildlife in the process. How many elephants do you think there are in Kruger right now? 1000? 100? Too few? There are over 20,000 elephants in Kruger National Park today, which is triple the carrying capacity, or how many elephants Kruger can sustainably hold. ( I was shocked to find this out, I was pretty confident that African elephants were having a hard time. The media has falsely advertised the problem of African elephants, there aren’t too few, there are way too many. The real problem is what to do with these animals. Part of the reason that they are so over populated is because they are confined to one space thanks to fences. There are many advocates of tearing down fences to connect national parks all over Africa. There are other projects in place to help control their population like the implementation of contraceptives for female elephants. Then of course there’s the thing no one wants to talk about, culling. The fact of the matter is that culling may be the only way to bide enough time right now to come up with a better solution before the environment is totally altered by the over population, but officials are afraid to make that decision because the media would explode with negativity if they did. People would be irate – how could they kill these animals in cold blood?

Each solution comes with severe pros and cons. I saw the effects of these animals first hand while I was in Kruger. Elephants are destructive, the eat by knocking down trees to get to the fruit and leaves at the top. We drove through some spaces that were nothing but pushed over trees. The trunks were torn and the tree was dead. I don’t envy the person who is in the position to have to make this decision right now. If you take down fences you risk poaching and conflict with people, if you choose contraceptives you are going to have to spend a lot of time and money as it isn’t easy to administer a drug to a four ton animal, and if you choose culling you will have to face an onslaught of angry people who don’t really understand the issue. I don’t know what the right answer is, but it’s something I know I will be thinking about for a long time.

* * *

“Africa In My Blood” is actually the title of a book I read a few years ago. It was an autobiography written in letters about Jane Goodall, one of my biggest idols. In one of the first letters she wrote home after she arrive in Africa for the beginning of her incredible work with chimpanzees she wrote, “…on the whole I am living in the Africa I have always longed for, always felt stirring in my blood.” This quote resonated in me when I read the book, but it held a whole new and deeper meaning for me while I was in Africa myself. I felt a strong calling there that I haven’t felt before, and I am certain I will be back one day. I also learned that I actually do love to travel, given this was my first trip out of the country I wasn’t sure how I would take to it. I learned that I love the sky from caving and I also love the ground from scuba diving (seasickness). I learned that I can be adventurous and I can do lots of amazing things if I just go for it. I also learned how to travel responsibly and that it’s important to look into the organizations you travel with if you want to make a positive impact in a new place. I inadvertently made a good decision with ISV, they are very environmentally conscious and all of the activities we did, especially those that involved interacting with animals, were done with the utmost respect for the culture and the environment.

This trip was just incredibly enriching and it both filled and fueled a need to see the world and do good in every aspect of my life. I can’t wait to go on my next trip where ever that may be and I know I will carry the lessons I learned from this trip with me for the rest of my life.

Africa In My Blood – The School and Adventure

As part of the volunteer work we had the opportunity to visit a local school and help with environmental education there. We taught the kids about different animals, the circle of life, water, pollution, poaching and the food chain overIMG_2506 the course of six days. The kids were kind of shy at first but by the end they were more comfortable with us and they seemed really excited to see us when we came. The lesson would be in two parts with a snack break in the middle when we could play games with them and take photos (they loved to have their picture taken). By the time of the last lesson they waited for us outside the classroom to give us hugs while we straightened up the classroom. It felt really good to have a direct impact on these kids, and even if they forget all of the details of the lessons at the very least most of them will have a positive memory associated with the themes. Norman (the leader of this part of the project) seemed really happy with how the lessons went and had a positive outlook that we made a difference in at least a few of their lives. This work was admittedly the work I looked forward to the least, but in a lot of ways it was the most rewarding and I enjoyed it a lot.

That was the first two weeks. We left Masebe emotionally having made pretty IMG_3100-EDITclose relationships with the people who had been mentoring us for the last two weeks to head on out adventure tour which was the second part of the month long trip with ISV. The adventure tour promised to be incredible, and it definitely lived up to that promise. We first went to a place called Glen Afric which was a great starting point. We got to meet some of their resident animals including leopards, lions, a hyena, zebra, ostrich, hippos, tigers and cheetahs. Then the next day we got to meet three of the elephants that live in the area; there was a mother named Three, and two teenagers named Hannah and Margie, one of which she adopted. We got to touch them and hug them. It was such a powerful experience I can’t really put it into words. That day we also got to visit a market and a cultural village where I tried ostrich and crocodile. Glen Afric was also a really neat place in part because at night you could hear their lions and hyena while you were in bed. Overall it was a pretty magical start to our tour.

IMG_3622-EDIT-FBThe next place we went to was just outside of Kruger National Park. Kruger is one of the biggest national parks in Africa with 7,500 square miles of area. We spent a whole day in Kruger and saw a ton of wildlife. I felt like we were pretty lucky too, we saw four of the big five (lions, water buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros, but not leopard), four individual cheetahs, one of the rarest birds a southern ground hornbill, a carcass frenzy and a ton more. This was one of the parts of the trip that I was looking forward to the most and it totally lived up to my expectations. It was a really incredible day.

After Kruger we went to the base of the Magaliesburg mountains in the
Drakensburg escarpment. There we got to try out kloofing (the South African name for cliff jumping). This was a ton of fun and such an adrenaline rush. Fortunately I don’t have a fear of heights, but this was one of the more challenging activities for those who did have a fear of heights. We had to climb up some loose rocks, stand on top of waterfalls (and under some) and navigate some pretty rickety ladders. The highest jump we did was 11 meters which turns out to be about 36 feet. It was a long, long way to fall. Long enough that you could contemplate just when you would actually hit the water. It was a blast though and we all had a lot of fun. There we also visited a wildlife rehabilitation center called Moholoholo. We got to touch a baby honey badger and feed vultures there. We also learned about how important it is that the people have some kind of relationship with their environment.

Our penultimate stop was in Swaziland (new country!). We visited a candle making factory where we got to see some beautiful candles made by hand. We also got to go horseback riding, mountain bike riding, visit and orphanage and go caving. The orphanage was also next to a cultural village and we got to meet the chief (who was a woman). We got to do a little bit of Swazi cultural dance and singing before we went over to hand out food we donated to the orphans. It was a really humbling experience. These kids were so happy but they were so excited to have apples, oranges and bananas. We all left there feeling like we could all do with a whole lot less and give a whole lot more. Caving was one of the harder activities for me. It was really fun and I felt really proud of myself for doing it all even though it was a challenge. I also got to hold a spider that only lives in that one cave in the whole world. As hard as it was it was a lot of fun and we all made it through by encouraging one another and keeping a positive attitude.

Our last stop was in Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique, and we could not ask for a more perfect ending to a perfect trip. As soon as we got to the border between South Africa and Mozambique we switched vehicles from our gigantic bus to smaller cars that would navigate the sand roads that we took to Ponta do Ouro, a tiny little beach town right on the coast. All of the roads were just sand in the area of Mozambique that we were in. In Ponta do Ouro (tip of gold) we left our shoes in the room and spent the whole time on the beach doing things like learning to surf, swimming with wild dolphins, and scuba diving. Our group had one of the most incredible dolphin encounters of the year if not in the history of ISV. We were within arm’s reach of three dolphins, one of which was a baby, and they were amid a foraging lesson with a struggling little puffer fish (which was alive for most of the time we were there). We got to be with them for almost an hour, and at some point another dolphin showed up and we even saw a black tip shark (which was probably not 5 meters away from me). Of all of the activities caving and scuba diving were the most difficult for me. Scuba diving was hard mentally because I was really worried I was going to get water in my mask and just breathing underwater was hard to get used to. I had to keep telling myself that I was okay and I could breath. It was really beautiful though and I was really glad that I stuck it out. The whole trip was really special and Mozambique was an exceptional end to our trip.

Africa In My Blood – Arrival and Volunteering

I left Missoula in the afternoon, which gave me a whole day to feel anxious as I began the biggest adventure of my life. The first striking thing I experienced was the feeling of being totally alone in a new place. I felt empowered by this when I arrived in Salt Lake City. My first flight was short and there weren’t many people on it, but my second flight from Salt Lake to New York was much more crowded and uncomfortable. Once I got to New York I met most of the group that I would be spending the next month with while we waited for the really long flight across the Atlantic. While I was sitting there starting to get to know everyone I felt even more excited as I was just one more flight away from a place I had dreamed of my whole life; Africa!

Once we arrived in Johannesburg we found the rest of our group and our project leader, Leti. Leti was from International Student Volunteers (ISV, the organization I travelled with) and was there to guide us through our service project portion of our trip. (ISV was fantastic, I highly recommend them for an educational, culturally rich, and safe way to travel and make a positive impact in another country. Here’s a link to their website: After a somewhat lengthy bus ride (however it was much more comfortable than the plane) we arrived to our accommodations, Telekishi Cultural Village, where we stayed for the duration of our volunteer project. We had a tour of camp and learned about what was expected of us for the next two weeks (cooking, cleaning, and stuff of that sort).

An African Hoepoe, a bird we heard and saw on the reserve while doing bird point counts.

This is the leave of a thorny tree called sickle bush or Dichrostachys cinerea, we had to measure these for the habitat assessments.

The first day was an orientation which involved some bush survival and a run down on the type of data we would be collecting as our volunteer work. We were working with a group called Wilderness and Ecological Investments (WEI) and we would be doing bird point counts and habitat assessments in the Masebe Nature Reserve. The purpose of these projects was to assess the health of different areas in the reserve to help make management decisions with regard to where they keep the wildlife. The bird point counts help by giving an idea about what species are living where in the reserve and how many birds there are. Birds are great bio-indicators of the health of an ecosystem so this helps with determining if the space is being over used. It’s also useful in finding out migratory habits of some of the birds that use the reserve during the year. The habitat assessments were basically a measure of how much vegetation there was. If those measurements are compared from year to year it is possible to find out how much the area is being used by the wildlife.

I really enjoyed the work we were doing in Masebe. I was so pleased that we got to do that project because it is really what I want to do with my life and I can relate it directly to experience I have gained at home in Montana. For instance, earlier this summer I was working on a different bird project concerning Lewis’s woodpeckers, so it was a lot of fun for me to learn some new birds while I was on project. I also learned a ton of  tree species. I found the application of the information we were collecting to be interesting as well. Although it was cold in the morning (I know, I went to Africa and was cold, how about that?) I thought it was well worth it because we saw a lot of wildlife (zebra, wildebeest, impala, baboons, monkeys, even giraffe). We also helped with some other projects, like community outreach and invasive removal. It felt great to make such a positive impact in such a short amount of time. I will cherish every moment of this part of the trip for the rest of my life. I gained valuable experience that will be useful later on in my career as well.

In addition to data collection we helped out with some other project around the reserve as well including invasive species removal, thinning of other problem plants, and game drives. We specifically pulled an invasive called lantana which had originally overtaken a little marshy area. Thanks to removal efforts though it is much more under control now and the area is regaining its health. The other problem plant we thinned was the sickle bush (pictured above). It has some really long thorns and when it grows on the sides of roads it can pop tires, so we just cut some of the tree away from the road. There was also a community outreach aspect which I will talk about in another post.

Papa San Francisco in La Paz, Bolivia

The 8 of July 2015 was declared a national holiday in anticipation for the arrival of the Pope to La Paz, Bolivia. That about 80% of Bolivia’s population is Catholic, hospitals, schools and many businesses were closed so employees would have the opportunity of seeing the Papa, the Spanish word for Pope. Papa San Francisco was flying into to La Paz where he would spend four hours before leaving for Santa Cruz, the next city in his tour in South America. After arriving from Guayaquil, Ecuador it was planned that the Papa would be given a welcoming ceremony, later give a short sermon and then make his way down Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz, a main street that runs through the city of La Paz. This is the same street that I would see the Papa for a whole three seconds after waiting for over 5 hours, just like many others surrounding me and pushing their way closer towards the street to have a better view.

Prior to the arrival of the Papa many billboards and posters strewn throughout the city greeted the Papa saying: Beinvenidos (welcome) Papa San Francisco, with a picture of the Papa smiling and waving beneath. The Papa himself is from Argentina, the first Pope that was elected from Latin America. As this was his first return trip to South America, and Bolivia one of three countries he would visit, the people of Bolivia were fervent for his appearance.

My roommate, Sara and I left our home stay after lunch and made our way down to the Plaza, ironically named Plaza San Francisco, where we waited among thousands of others for the arrival of the Papa. Shortly after leaving the house we became engrossed in swarms of people waiting for the Papa. People set out chairs claiming their space just like people in America might for Fourth of July parades. I have never been in such massive numbers before. No matter what side street we turned down or where we walked, there were people everywhere.

Many people were selling food, umbrellas Papa memorbelia such as flags and pins. I bought a pin with the Papa smiling on the front for one Boliviano, equivalent to about 15 cents. The Papa was supposed to arrive to the plaza around 4pm, but the sun began to set as we waited for the Papa in our little spot. The Papa was already 2 hours behind schedule. There was a news reporter not far from us saying the Papa was experiencing problems with the altitude. Many tourists before traveling to La Paz will read that the city is at an elevation of about 12,000 feet. When traveling to a high altitude such as La Paz many people experience symptoms as a result of altitude sickness. People around us began to wonder if we would even see the Papa because he only had one lung which would only seem to exacerbate the effects of the altitude, before he had to disembark to his next stop, Santa Cruz a city at much lower elevation in Bolivia.

My legs were killing me, we had left our homestay at about 2pm and now the sun was setting. I’m not sure how other people’s legs felt standing on cement for hours, but I was amazed by people’s desire to see the Papa. Little children, elderly women, people with casts or in wheelchairs all waited. Despite individual’s physical state it seemed all of La Paz, all 1 million inhabitants had flocked to this very street to see the Papa. When seven o’clock rolled around we heard word that the Papa was feeling better and he was making his way down Avienda and would be passing by shortly.

When the Papa drove by he was standing in the back of the car with a big oval shaped glass structure encompassing him (referred to as the popemobile). He smiled. He waved. Just like the posters we saw in town. We saw the Papa for about three seconds before he zoomed by. People were cheering, some crying. Many people holding electronic devices up trying to record the moment in which he would pass. People were joyful but also slightly surprised how quickly he passed.

The following day at work and classes, the only question that seemed to be asked was, “Did you see the Papa?” People talked about how crowded it was, how quickly it all happened, more interestingly was how people started calling him the “the Pope of the Poor.” How he had touched the head of women’s child and healed the infant. How the Papa promoted this and talked about that in his sermon, particularly about the “steps” Bolivia had taken to include the poor in the political and economic life of the country.




Cuy as Medicine

Traditional medicine is still commonly practiced by many people in rural Ecuador. Traditional medicine is administered by a shaman, typically a woman who has been taught the skills by her mother and her mother before her. Each passing the skills on through the generations. Patients do not have money, they can pay in many other forms such as food products, labor, or other gifts.

During the third week of June, two other students from my program Emily and Cody joined me in a visit to Jambi Huasi, a traditional medicine clinic in Otavalo, Ecuador. We only spent one day in the traditional clinic as our other days were spent in nontraditional medicine settings.  Although I did not understand what was said during the visits with patients because the shaman spoke in Quechua, the indigenous language to this area, I was able to witness a very unique and special ceremony which a large percentage of local people deem meaningful in their history, culture, and still in modern day.

The morning we arrived to Jambi Huasi we were introduced to the shaman that would be working there for the day. There was already a father with his son outside the room waiting to be seen. He was brought into the room and explained that his son had been sick for a little over a week and was displaying symptoms such as a body aches, coughing, and was sleeping more than usual.

After the father finished explaining his son’s symptoms, he handed the shaman two eggs. The shaman placed the uncracked eggs in a bowl and picked several rocks from a lovely collection of rocks she had on the table in the corner. She leaned over the bowl and spoke words in way that appeared as if she was blessing them. She then put oil on the rocks and eggs and the boys head and began rubbing first the rocks then the eggs on the boys head, arms, legs, and torso to absorb the bad energy. She then placed the bowl on the floor and held the boy over the bowl and was shaking the boy as if she was trying to shake the bad spirits out of him, all the while chanting at the same time.

After she finished with the eggs she cracked them in the bowl. The way in which the yolk cracked would be interpreted by the shaman. She would then know the sickness the individual had and if the eggs and rocks had worked at absorbing the bad energy. During this whole process the shaman is speaking in Quechua, rending the body of bad spirits and or energy.

After the boy and his father left we were excused for lunch and told that after we returned we would be able to see a Cuy ceremony. Cuy is the Spanish word for Guinea pig, an important and sacred animal to indigenous people of Ecuador and many other South American countries.

Returning after lunch, we were led into a different room this time, but similar to the first. The shaman already had Guinea pig selected. We were told that the Guinea pig had to be of the same sex as the patient being seen. The patient that afternoon was a young woman who told us prior to the ceremony she was in the middle of treatment for parasites.

The shaman first began by saying a few words in Quechua. Then proceeded to take the live Guinea pig and rub it over the woman’s body, arms, legs and torso. The shaman continued this process until the Cuy was no longer moving and squealing. The shaman than sat down over a bowl she had prepared earlier. With experienced hands she made one vertical and two horizontal incisions on the anterior side of the Cuy.

She quickly skinned the Cuy and began examining organs such as the liver, kidneys, heart, intestines and stomach. If there was anything wrong with the organs of the Cuy that would indicate the problem of the individual. After the Shaman finished examining the Cuy. We all noticed the intestines of Cuy moving in the bowl beneath. This Cuy had parasites.  The Shaman had inferred that because this Cuy had parasites the woman in the room with us must also have parasites, which in this case she did.


Maternity Ward

After the first few days of getting a feel for the hospital operations, I decided to spend most of my time in maternity because of the high number of births that happen every day. One of the nurses estimated that the hospital saw between 3 and 7 births every day–and that, of course, does not count the births that happen at home with Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs). With so many pregnant women and new mothers, the maternity ward was overflowing.

My main duties were giving treatment to new moms. They all got antibiotics for seven days after they gave birth and many also needed malaria medication to reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy, delivery, and breast feeding. I helped mix the medicine, drew it up into syringes, and administered it through cannula ports that were inserted by the trained nurses. (I am definitely not qualified to put in an IV.) I also helped clean wounds after women had to get C-sections, weigh and clean babies after they were born, and bring the newborns and their mothers back to their beds in the ward. I loved seeing the little newborn babies–they looked like aliens, but really adorable aliens.

Birth in Uganda is very different than birth in the US. There are no epidurals and doctors very rarely, if ever, assist in births. That task is left up to the nurses and nursing students. The mothers have to provide their own waterproof sheet to lay on during the delivery as well as all of the bedding for her hospital bed, all of the towels to clean the baby and all of the blankets to swaddle it. Additionally, mothers have to bring sterile gloves and a sterile razor blade for the nurses to use during the delivery. The nurses use the bottom of the gloves to tie the umbilical cord and then use the razor blade to “cut” the cord (its more of a sawing motion rather than a cutting motion).

The mothers are rarely accompanied by anyone and certainly not a husband. There were never any men (besides the male nurses and doctors) anywhere near the labor suites. The women were mostly quiet, occasionally moaning with the contractions, but there were never any screeches or screams that Americans would usually associate with childbirth. The women in the ward ranged from teenagers having their first child to women in their late thirties or even older having their fifth, sixth, or seventh child. In Uganda, the total fertility rate is 6.7 meaning that, in her lifetime, an average woman will have about seven children.

The women I met in the maternity ward were so hardy and strong and inspiring. They cook all of the food for their family, they fetch the water, they clean the house, and they give birth with little help from friends, family, or modern medicine. Like the rest of the hospital, the maternity ward has not changed since the 60s and could really use a face-lift.

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These are the rooms that the women give birth in.

Globalization Correlations

The world is getting smaller. At least that’s what some people say. When an airplane can get you from Missoula, MT to Amsterdam, Beijing, Tokyo, Prague, and beyond in less time than it takes to drive to the East Coast, when email and phones make contact and communication instantaneous anywhere in the world, there is truth in that.

Times have changed. It used to take weeks to sail up and down the East Coast of North America, let alone to make the voyage across the Atlantic or the Pacific. Of course that was long ago, before cars were invented. But even when our parents were taking their turns at studying abroad, phone calls were rare and the internet was in its infancy.

How does that relate to my study abroad experience? It relates in the way that globalization (the big ‘it’ word that the GLI is built around) is directly correlated to those developments in transportation and communication. In Ireland, the American influence is a bit more noticeable than in places like Bulgaria or the Czech Republic. However, Irish culture, Bulgarian culture, and Czech culture still are fundamentally unique, with traditions and beliefs that will never fade.

As well they should not. Its hard to put into perspective how much cultures differ until you’re living in one that’s not your own. I know this sounds like a ‘Duh!’ moment, but from someone that has never been outside the United States (excluding Canada), it was a profound revelation.

Thinking about my GLI topic that I chose freshman year, I’ve come to realize that obviously I need to rethink so things. It had something to do with how the arts (specifically theatre) are transmitted and passed from culture to culture, and while that is an interesting and relevant topic for an anthropologist, there are other, more modern, more pressing topics that have to deal with issues in the world right now. Or at least, I can tweak my topic to reflect a more mature understanding of the way the world works.

Has anyone else wanted to change their topic after their Beyond the Classroom experience? I imagine so. These experiences (at least Studying Abroad from my perspective) are profoundly momentous. I don’t know if I’ve referenced this quote before on this blog but Mark Twain’s quote is a good way to finish this my entries in this blog.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Balancing Coding with Summer

Going into this project of building the Android Physical Therapy fitness app, I did not know how difficult it would be to balance an independently driven project with the hectic nature of summer. The progress has undeniably been slow but yet steady. Not only am I learning about Android programming, but I am learning more about myself. Previously, I have struggled with working on coding projects and assignments in a structured and sensible way. I struggle with procrastination and then as the deadline approached, I would finally feel the surge of motivation. At that time, I can be extremely productive in a short amount of time. Previously, working on coding in a compressed fashion, helped me generate the most cohesive program.

Making this app has made it clear to me that that is not the best way to complete a project in a job setting. With this research/internship, I have had to set my own deadlines and goals throughout the summer. At first my sights were too high and I had to moderate my expectations of myself. In a very real sense, I am learning as I progress throughout the project. Working as a programmer is incredibly different from doing programming assignments. Several days a week, I set aside time to work on the app throughout the day. I have had to allot time and give equal share to research, learning through informative videos and reading, and correspondence with the client in addition to actually coding the app. I still have so much to learn about the Android programming environment, and every time I use it, I learn new shortcuts and ways to improve style and accessibility. There has been a much steeper learning curve than I anticipated, and I am incredibly grateful for my Java programming background and experience with XML.

I am pleased with the current progress on the app. Even though I have to learn how to implement new aspects or to use computer jargon-“methods and controls”, you only have to learn how to do it once and then can reuse that knowledge over and over again. Hopefully, as the semester begins, I will be able to meet with the Physical Therapy professor who is the client more regularly. The summer has been a difficult time for coordinated communication, but I am sure that will be remedied in September. I believe we are on track for the prototype presentation in the spring of 2016.

Lisa H. Morgan