Wife Surveillance

There’s a programmer on our team who recently graduated from York University. While his peers are enjoying their first jobs building websites for grocery stores, this fellow is writing code for the health information system of the whole country of Guyana. Similarly, I’m only 6 years out of my PhD. Based on my publications and experiences, I figure I’m a mid-level epidemiologist. But by virtue of the world of international consulting, I find myself strategizing the TB surveillance of an entire nation, a task in a Western nation that would have been relegated to a team of the most senior people available. It’s a glorious opportunity and the odds are stacked against us.

Before you think that this is a big ego boost to me, I should point out two things: my absolute terror that I will screw up and fail these people; and every meeting’s tendency to table the topic of how to find me a wife. Yes, it’s a senior level agenda topic.

Today I unveiled our surveillance strategy to those who must implement it. We anticipated some resistance, but things went better than predicted. So to celebrate, and to purge myself of the lingering effects of the previous night’s Russian vodka, I indulged in a two hour massage.

At the same time, another of our team was the victim of a robbery. She lost her camera, 15000 Guyanese dollars and sheafs of notes. Yes, Guyana has become noticeably safer in the past 2 years. But crime is still rampant, and it’s a wonder it took this long for one of us to be victimized. Still, this presented me with the opportunity to see the inside of a Georgetown police station. I now understand why crime is such a problem here.

I should point out that Guyana is one of several Caribbean nations hosting the World Cup of cricket in just a few short weeks. In preparation, Guyana has built a new national cricket stadium, an enormous new hotel, is upgrading its roads and mobile phone networks, and is finally allowing us foreigners to access our money through ATM machines. The question remains, though: are they ready for World Cup? Will the power grid survive a doubling of the population? Will the roads survive? Will crime escalate? I don’t think I want to be around to find out.

This Friday is Mashramani, which is essentially Guyana’s independence day. It’s a huge national carnival-style party, complete with a parade. And guess who’s a marshall for this year’s parade? Yep. I pick up my costume tomorrow morning!