A Travellerspoint blog


sunny 26 °C

Today was a relatively uneventful day. Jemina picked me up from the hotel and we headed to one of the laboratories - Lancet in Richmond, SA. There are 3 main commercial, private laboratories which provide cytology services throughout the country: Lancet, Ampath, and Pathnet. Lancet is the 3rd of 3 laboratories involved in a "market evaluation" of ThinPrep in South Africa. We met with the asst. cytology manager and one of the pathologists. They are very excited to be attending morphology training on Thursday and Friday next week and have drafted a physician letter to a group of their physicians to be involved in their trial. Jemina and I will call on the clients next week to train them on specimen collection.

This particular laboratory has 9 cytologists and they are in the process of renovating their laboratory. One thing we found which is very common is that space is at a premium. A lab can never have enough!
Jemina at the Perryhill laboratory

After our visit at Lancet, we returned to the Perryhill office. Jemina and I reviewed the process of doing a stain assessment at a laboratory and then she walked we through a stain implementation to reinforce her training. We ended our day by reviewing the calendar for my remaining time here, scheduling morning and afternoon appointments for tomorrow and next week.

We left the office shortly after 5pm and got stuck in the freeway in bumper to bumper traffic. It took us over 1 1/2 hours to travel what normally takes 20 minutes with medium traffic! There was one car which was disabled but stuck in the middle of the road. This one car held up THOUSANDS of cars!

I had time to quickly change and give Stuart MacRorie a quick call to catch up on the activities thus far in South Africa and then joined Herman for dinner at the same restaurant we went to last night! He and his wife eat there 4-5 nights/week - he calls it his second home! Tonight I tried Spring Buck - it was very tasty - somewhat similar to venison but with more flavor. We enjoyed a nice Irish coffee and called it a relatively early night.

Posted by mquick70 12:47 Archived in South Africa Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

South Africa Human Rights Day


Today was a national holiday: South Africa Human Right's Day. The office was closed so one of my hosts, Herman, the Clinical Engineer (Field Service Engineer) took me around town to see some of the sights. We travelled throughout Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. Herman was a fantastic guide!

We had a bit of excitement right off when we were traveling to our first destination. We were on a main highway with very little traffic when things came to a dead stop. Herman realized it was a road block. The police set these up to check for auto registrations, weapons, or outstanding fines. He told me we would be fine as long as they weren't checking for outstanding fines - he happened to have over 10,000 rand in outstanding fines (approx. $1300US). When we got up to the roadblock, they asked him to pull over. Herman phoned his wife and told her to be ready to come and pick me up in case they arrest him and to bring her checkbook!) After checking his license, they miraculously came back and returned his license and sent us on our way! Phew - that was a close one!!

Our first stop was at a local market or bazaar with all kinds of hand made crafts: wooden figures, tapestries, statues. Most things were too big to carry back on the plane! If one vendor didn't have what you wanted, he would ask you to wait, and travel through the rest of the shops trying to find you were looking for, purchase it, and then sell it to you for a small profit - very inventive!
The area we were in was where a dam has created a large lake and an economy is developing around the lake. There are shops, hotels, golf courses, and homes. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant there. They have a restaurant concept called a Brai - similar to our BBQ. Guests will choose their uncooked meat and the restaurant prepares a charcoal grill at your table and you can cook your own meat. The smell was incredible. I couldn't wait to eat! Unfortunately, the service was not exactly quick... we waited for 1/2 hour and still had nobody wait on us after requesting twice. Herman decided we would go someplace else.
While we were waiting to cross the dam (a one lane bridge) all sorts of street vendors approached our car selling their wares. Herman got us our breakfast here which was a pastry, deep fried, and then soaked in a sweet syrup. It was very tasty but very sweet!

From the dam area, we worked our way around Pretoria and ended up near the Menlyn Park Mall. We had lunch at a nice cafe. The mall area was packed since it was a holiday.
Herman then took me to a high point in the city. He was able to point out many of the key buildings in the area and I could appreciate the size much better from up here. There are lots of trees in the area, otherwise, the climate and terrain is somewhat similar to Arizona.
One of the most striking things I noticed today was the differences between the classes of people living in South Africa. There is a huge gap between the haves and the haves-not. I saw 10,000+ square feet homes and hundreds of homes made up corrugated metal packed into 10,000 square feet. Where we had lunch, you would think you were in Scottsdale, AZ. To get there, people are always approaching your car either asking for money or selling papers or AC adapters, etc.

I really gained an appreciation for the history of South Africa today. I learned about apartheid - what it meant to both the black and white population... How things have changed - both for the better and the worse.

After my tour of the city, Herman brought me back to hotel for a few hours in the afternoon. I was able to get caught up on email and do some planning for the rest of my visit. During the evening, Herman picked me up to take me to dinner with his wife and some of his friends. We met around 7 and were at the restaurant until after midnight! It's taken a couple of days to adjust but I really enjoy the slower pace and really recognize how rushed my life is back home. I don't think I've ever spent 5 hours in a restaurant for dinner but it was great!

Two of our dinner guests had just returned this afternoon from a 5 day trip to Botswana. They had great photos and videos to share from their trip - Lions, Elephants, Cheetah, Vultures, Rhinos, Boabab trees measuring 18 feet around. It was great to see - this was their camping trip!

It was a long day but very enjoyable. Tomorrow it's back to work. Jemina will be picking me up at the hotel at 8am so I better be getting to sleep soon...

Posted by mquick70 14:34 Archived in South Africa Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

A Day in the Office

sunny 26 °C

The jet lag has finally caught up to me today. I don't feel tired but my body keeps telling me that I am by yawning throughout the day! Belinda picked me up at the hotel this morning and we headed over to the office. The traffic was much lighter than yesterday - Belinda said this is common - the same time on different days can be very different. It's always best to expect the worst!

At the office I met with Belinda and Jemina, the Cytology Applications Specialist for South Africa. My goal was to understand where they were in the process of conducting market evaluations with liquid based cytology for each site, develop a plan to best help them while I'm here, and schedule items not included in their original plan (Review Scope training). We had a very productive morning and early afternoon in the office.

Mid afternoon Jemina and I went to visit one of the labs conducting their trial. The lab is very similar to some laboratories I've seen in the US. They are tight on space but very organized. The most striking difference is all the conventional Pap smears! We met with the CT manager and one of the pathologists. They have been very pleased with the results of their pilot. The CT manager shared that a doctor had a patient with a previous abnormal so he collected 2 conventional smears and 1 LBC vial. The conventional smears were both negative but the ThinPrep was abnormal! They should finish their evaluation tomorrow and then compile their data.
After our lab visit, Jemina and I had a late lunch in Pretoria at the Menlyn Park Mall. Jemina thought this was one of the largest malls in the Southern Hemisphere. It was very large. The names of the shops are all different but most carry the same types of things as in the US. We had lunch in the Mall. I had a "tropical" pizza with bananas and bacon. It was tasty but I'm not sure that I would order it again...

There are 2 big news stories here today. A giant wave hit the south eastern coastal city of Durban - measuring 26 feet high! They say it's because of the astrological alignment on the sun, moon, and Earth. The only affect where I am is that it was unusually cold here last night. The other news is that South Africa is continuing in the Cricket World Cup - it's on several channels on every TV I've seen!

Posted by mquick70 12:56 Archived in South Africa Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

A New Adventure... In South Africa

My first day working in South Africa

sunny 27 °C

It was 14 years ago today that our lives changed forever. Hannah was born in Burlington, Vermont that day. I can't help but think that today is the start of a new adventure as well. While it can't possibly compare with that day, I am looking forward to what the future may hold for our family!
It was a beautiful day in South Africa this morning. The weather is in the mid 80's (F) and partly cloudy. I heard a chance of afternoon thunderstorms but they never materialized. There was all sorts of activity at my hotel this morning. The South African Minister of Transport was arriving today and the place was mobbed with security cards, black sedans, even metal detectors! I enjoyed my breakfast out on the restaurant deck and then Belinda picked me up to go the the Perryhill office. The drive was about 20 minutes with heavy traffic (like Phoenix, not LA).
The office is very nice. Belinda showed me around their laboratory. They have a T2, T3, Imager, 3 Remote Review Scopes, and a Leica stainer. They also have 6 single headed microscopes and a 7 headed microscope to use for training. I was supposed to work with Jemina, the CAS for South Africa today but she couldn't make it in today. Belinda and I discussed their schedule for their market evaluations with 3 laboratories. We are going to review everything with Jemina tomorrow morning and develop a plan for the rest of my time here.

Tonight I arranged a car to take me to the local mall. It was much larger than I expected - both indoor and outdoor. I found an adapter for my camera so I could download photos to my computer. The currency in South Africa is the Rand (ZAR). The exchange is around $1 = R7. I know it shouldn't be that hard but it's a mental adjustment - everything seems so expensive but it's really not!
I had dinner back at the hotel and reviewed information Belinda gave me so we can discuss tomorrow. The sunset was beautiful tonight.

Posted by mquick70 13:03 Archived in South Africa Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Off to Africa

Los Angeles to Johannesburg, South Africa


March 17 2007

St. Patrick's Day. Travel day 1. It was a dark and foggy morning... Really! I woke up at 4:45am PST to begin my journey. After a quick shower and making a final check of my bags (and ticket and passport) I made my way down to the lobby and met my driver to take me to Los Angeles International Airport. After spending the past two days with 30 of our closest friends, seeing all the sites in LA, the ride to the airport was very quiet! My travels today will take me to Washington, DC and then continuing to Johannesburg, South Africa.

My flight from Los Angeles to Washington, DC was uneventful. When I arrived in I took a bus from the terminal to the main terminal – then a bus from the main terminal to the International terminal. At the gate for my flight, people were walking through the doorway but there was no plane! I followed suit only to get on another bus! This one took us out onto the runway where they boarded the plane – odd! I was afraid it was going to be a very long bus ride to South Africa...

This was my first flight in business class and I have to say it is nice… Champagne on boarding – a seat that turns into a bed (sort of…). I left Washington around dinner time, local time – so I ate, watched a movie (Happy Feet) and then fell asleep. I set my watch to South African time when I fell asleep and then woke up at 6am South African time to adjust.

March 18 2007

After waking up, I watched another movie (Deja Vu with Denzel Washington), did some work on my laptop, had some breakfast, and arrived in Johannesburg around 3pm local time. The flight from Washington was 15 ½ hours but seemed to go by rather quickly. On our descent, my first impression was that it looked somewhat similar to Phoenix or inland California – high desert – brown areas with some concentrations of green – not much water. I made my way through the passport check, collected my luggage, and went through customs. I was greeted my host, Belinda van de Merwe and her 15 year old daughter. We loaded my luggage into her car and then I went to get into the wrong side (driver is on the left!). My hotel was a short 20 minute ride. I am staying at the Irene Country Lodge. My room is on the first floor overlooking a nice lawn and a lake / bird reserve. The birds here are beautiful and exotic looking. I also have cows outside my room! The lodge is next to a working dairy farm. After a quick dinner in the hotel restaurant, listening to America 1980’s music, I headed to bed. The time change doesn’t seem to have hit me – yet!

Posted by mquick70 12:45 Archived in South Africa Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

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