Sunday, 8 November 2009


Wednesday 4th November: Morning back in the TTC to have a brief look at the initial questionnaire responses. The only issue is that the women interviewed are much less forthcoming, even in anonymity, about their sexual practice than the men and many of the more personal questions have been left blank. Tfac has only been three three weeks and we question whether, even with consent forms and confidentiality statements, that's long enough for the trainees to build the trust needed to have confidence in this part of the process. Of course no responses also reveal something of use for a baseline survey, particularly if the questions are answered at endline in a few months, but it's difficult to gauge whether the reticence is a cultural measure or an indicator that, signatures aside, we've not gained genuine consent to conduct the work yet.

Gheneli is also worried that the questionnaire was handed out at 4pm and this didn't give participants enough time to answer everything thoughtfully before the mad rush for dinner in the canteen began at 5.30pm. She decides before reading on to collect another sample of respondents this afternoon.

Unfortunately I need to begin the long journey home and so bid a fond farewell to the future President and her team. The ever joyful Patrick drives me to the bus depot, offers his greetings and best wishes to all my family and friends and helps me negotiate a ticket for the first leg of my journey, the two hundred miles South to Mzuzu.

It's slow progress as we pull into every village and hamlet en route. Children crowd round, bang on he windows and reach up to offer nuclear orange coloured Fanta, bananas, bags of water, corn on the cob and fried chicken pieces to the travellers. At one point a group of monkeys appear by the side of the road and the driver slows up so we can throw them some food and watch them squabble. There's clearly no hurry to arrive.
I snooze, read and watch the glorious scenery as we climb up away from the lake and into the cooler air of the mountains. Five hours later and we dusk drawing in we pull into town.

I find the Flaming Tree guest house - it's a calm haven; a few rooms doted around a communal courtyard. A library of second hand books donated by the backpackers who've previously come through stands in the reception area and the owner serves a seemingly never ending round of tea, toast and sweet homemade mango jam as tired guests relax into the evening. It could almost be late August in Sussex, but for the lizards still and blinking on the bedroom wall.

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