Making Connections

7 06 2012

by Berhan Hagos

It has been over a week since my last blog post so this update is long overdue. Although I had intended to write one last Friday afternoon, the day ended and then a few more passed. The fight with time is a losing battle and that is a lesson that has been reiterated to me during the past few weeks. Regardless of how many tasks I accomplish during the day or week, it doesn’t seem to be enough for how much time has passed. I was honestly stunned when one of my colleagues reminded me that it had been a month since I had arrived. Even though I still have over three weeks left I already find myself wishing I had more time.

Since the middle of last week I have been absorbed in conducting interviews. The first site where I began to recruit and interview participants is an area called Burayu. Although Burayu is still within the city limits ofAddis Ababa, it is near the edge of the city parameters. The journey to Burayu, on average, is an hour and a half bus ride from Arat Kilo (where I live). The duration of the trip is depends heavily on the time of day, which in turn dictates the availability of buses and how much space of their will be inside. This pocket of time, both in the morning and late afternoon, has become a period of reflection for me. It allows me time to just sit and mull over the interviews I had done that day or just stare out the window as the bus slips through and between all the different neighborhoods. After the last few days, stopping points along the journey have become so familiar that I can anticipate when we will pass different landmarks I have noticed.

Over the last three days I have been able to do 20 interviews averaging around six or seven a day. These interviews have been with caregivers, children and community leaders in the Burayu area. After doing my first few interviews last Thursday and Friday, I went to the Blue Nile Children Organization (BNCO) on Saturday as usual. On that day, one of my tasks was to read and edit the mini biographies that had been written about the children at BNCO. In reading their stories and beginning to understand more of their past experiences, I became aware of how I was looking at the two faces of one issue. To better clarify, my project is looking to understand how HIV/AIDS related stigma is perceived in Addis. From the interviews I am looking to better understand the presence and impact of stigma in these communities. Therefore during interviews thus far I have recorded responses that have both hinted at the existence of stigma and others that have dispelled it. During my time at BNCO, most of my interactions are with those that are most vulnerable to HIV related stigma. The intensive interactions I have with both of these groups has further reassured me of the potential relevance of this project for the communities that I am working with. I did not expect to have the opportunity to interact with both those that observe or participate in the behavior and those that are affected.

These last few weeks, although they have passed with unbelievable speed, have been so informative and formative in the progression of my project. Until next time!

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