Sunday, August 18, 2013

Thurs, Aug 15: Official Orientation

Today after we dropped the kids at school we headed to the embassy for a Fulbright orientation. A security officer talked to us about crime and staying safe – mostly stuff we knew, but a good reminder that where there is a lot of poverty there is a lot of crime. He reminded us to keep doors locked and windows at least partly closed while driving through the city, be watchful for pickpockets, etc. We're pretty sure this little country house with its poorly-fitting wooden doors wouldn't meet his security standards. Then we had a health briefing from a PA on the embassy clinic staff. Again, in general stuff we knew but we were glad for some specific information about medications for schistosomiasis and malaria. We also found out which pharmacies to trust – while you don't seem to need prescriptions anywhere, you do have to be careful of fake pharmaceuticals. We're pretty sure our house wouldn't meet the PA's standards either – nearly two weeks, and still not a screen in sight. We do sleep under mosquito nets, although it doesn't appear to be a very mosquitoey time of year.

We also found that we can write a check to the cashier at the embassy, drawing money from our account in the US that is issued to us as kwacha. It's a much better rate than at the ATM, and no transaction fee. Nice. The public relations officer also offered to set up some briefings for us on agriculture and environmental issues, which would be helpful.

As Fulbrighters, we seem to be in some sort of gray area – we have some privileges at the embassy, like using the cashier, the library, and the diplomatic pouch (mail service), but we don't have the full privileges of real embassy staff. We can't use the clinic there, and can only get first-class envelopes - not packages - in the diplomatic pouch. (Email us if you want that address.)

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