Now that we’ve gotten into the swing of things, here is a typical day: We wake up at or just before 8 o’clock, take care of morning duties, and eat breakfast which usually consists of any (or a combination) of the following: yogurt, bananas, granola, bagels, eggs, cereal, or leftovers from the previous night. The first few hours of the day are spent with faculty lectures and usually a lot of discussion. I never thought there was so much to say about health and health care or health policy, but we usually find ourselves talking about these subjects for hours. It’s nice to hear about things like “social determinants of health” and “multidisciplinary approaches” for a change, instead of tRNAs, and protein synthesis. Some days after lecture, we have site visits, which usually last most of the day. The end of our days don’t usually come until about 5 or 6 o’clock. It’s tiring but fun and I’m constantly learning about something or somebody.
Although it’s been busy, the past week has been an interesting one. We visited a very well known NGO (which I now know stands for non-governmental organization), the Brookings Institution. Apparently, it is the #1 think tank in the world. Think tanks conduct research and advocate in all kinds of areas like social policy, health policy, political strategies, etc. After conducting research, think tanks analyze these results and make recommendations via the journal articles, books, newspaper, blogs, and other means of advocacy. The ultimate goal is to influence those who are in the position to create new policies and/or modify those that exist. Ms. Nadeau, who happens to be an IHP alum is a senior research assistant at Brookings, who conducts research on underserved communities and those living in poverty as a part of Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program. It was so interesting to learn about the processes by which these policies are implemented. Im sure most of the poli sci majors in my group were bored to tears, having heard this thousands of times. I think one or two actually nodded off a few times.
We also visited U Street, which in DC, is known for its historical, African American, jazzy feel. It was originally developed during the Civil War Era and was home to a lot of African Americans during that time. Since then, the historic aspects have been preserved, but a lot of gentrification has taken place, which is a common theme in DC. Nonetheless, it’s still known for a lot of its symbols of African American culture. Ben’s Chili Bowl, a famous DC eatery is a staple of U street, where you can pretty much get chili anything. I got the chili half smoke: half pork, half beef smoked sausage with chili poured on top, all placed in a bun. I also ordered fries and a shake to top it off like a true American. The walls of Ben’s Chili Bowl were plastered with photos of all the celebrities that had come through over the years, among them, Barack Obama, Bill Cosby, Chris Tucker, and Bono. It had a nice all around vibe. Everyone was happy to be there, including those behind the counter.
The past few weeks, we’ve also got to know each other a lot better. We literally wake up, eat, spend all day, and sleep with each other. Shower time is becoming a beautiful thing because it is literally one of the few times for absolute privacy. A lot of people are starting to get homesick. I don’t think that has kicked in for me yet. What I will miss most is my mom’s cooking, but I’m excited for the food in all the countries we’re going to. From what I hear, Indian food will give my stomach a hard time at first, and that food in Changsha is extremely spicy. I’m curious about South African food and wonder if it is in any way similar to Nigerian. My feelings right now are just excitement and trying to grasp the fact that I’ll be in India in two days. Sidenote: Today we found that Lufthansa Airlines will be on strike on Friday, one of the days we are to fly to Chennai, India. Just a small bump in the road…no big deal. We will all just hope for the best :) Will update you all once we get to India!!