27 06 2011

By: Aubrey Frazzitta

Candidate for B.S. in Biology, B.A. in Visual Arts, minor in Chemistry

Salut from Lomé! I have now arrived in Togo and am thoroughly enjoying my first few days in the city. The vibrant colors of the traditional pagné clothing and the sharp contrast of rose-emblazoned sand with periwinkle sky make the city almost as welcoming as the people. Whether in a health clinic, one of the numerous markets, or a side street off the ocean, a greeting of “Yovo, bon soir!” with a warm smile always reaches me.


One of the first things I have realized about conducting research in this region though is the need for patience and flexibility; plans very carefully laid out in the United States can easily change. Due to a cancelled flight for bad weather, my meticulously organized travel plans from Portland to Chicago to Washington D.C. to Addis Ababa to Lomé (leaving Thursday and arriving Saturday) became a flight to Dallas to New York City to Dakar to Lomé (leaving Saturday and arriving Sunday). Upon arrival in Togo, I also learned that all the health clinics were “en grieve” or on strike; I am unsure of the ramifications this will have for the service work I hope to do in the various units of l’Hôpital du Bé, a hospital in the city. Furthermore, I experienced my first of many power outages in the city during dinner on my second night. Recently, a cord was severed off the coast of Benin that has dramatically altered the power and internet situations in the country. As I will be using refrigerators and freezers to preserve clinical samples, this could provide additional challenges.

Changes in plans can also lead to unexpected triumphs though! Though I originally thought I would be prohibited from carrying onto the plane BSL (Biological Safety Level) II sterile media and plates due to size and safety restrictions, I was quite delighted to learn they were within my carry on and personal item rights. Any microbiologist can understand the fear I had of placing my isolation media of YPD Yeast Growth Media Niger Seed + Antibiotic agar plates in the hostile conditions (dry, not upright, and filled to the brim with contaminants) of the checked luggage compartment! My swabs, plates, and media arrived safely.

While these changes certainly may alter the trajectory of my research and what I am able to accomplish while here, they will make the final conclusions all the more unknown and exciting. I am looking forward this week to moving in with my host family, starting work in the hospital, and learning more about the people of this charming country!



One response

6 07 2011
Frank Frazzitta

Can you tell us more about the specimens that you have collected so far?

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