Some random photos

I still need to get used to the new camera - it has nearly as many settings as my PC.  But here are some photos.

This is Walter Sisulu University, previously University of the Transkei (Unitra), by day and by night:

Walter Sisuli University by day
Walter Sisuli University by night

The hills seen from the townhouse I stay in:

The hills of Umtata

Umtata Dam after the rain, seen from where I stay:

Umtata dam

The driveway and garages in the place where my townhouse is:

Indalo View Flats

From my balcony looking onto the nearby nature reserve in a misty day:

Indalo View Flats

The Anglican Cathedral, which looks very much like a Catholic one from the outside.  I must still find the Catholic Cathedral here.

Anglican Cathedral, Umtata

Welcome to Umtata!

Chersina angulata

That is Skillie's other name.  She's now eating well, and her health has improved a lot.

You can read all about Skillie and her relatives here:

Angulate tortoise
Angulate tortoise care

Okay ... this blog isn't only about Skillie and elevators lifts ... so I'll put a post on with some photos of the Eastern Cape and Umtata.

My boss

This is a photo of Jeevamoney Govender (Jeevs), the currently acting business manager of the Umtata NHLS laboratory - NMTL, or Nelson Mandela Tertiary Laboratory.  There's always a cup of coffee waiting in her office for you ... except during power failures.

This is Jeevs with her secretary, Mardi Nolands.

They're in Jeevs' office.

Lifts vs stairs

The laboratory is connected to the academic hospital, and is partly on the 2nd floor (level with the ground) and partly on the 3rd floor (one up from the 2nd floor.)  The lift has buttons for floors 2, 3, and 4.  The first thing I thought odd was that there were no stairs near the lifts.  If you want to go up or down, the lifts are the only option.  If you really need to take the stairs, you can go to the other side of the building, which isn't far, and on that side there are no lifts.

I feel quite silly going up one floor in a lift instead of taking the stairs, and even worse going down one floor, but everyone does it.  Eventually I'll have my bearings better and know instinctively which way the stairs are - most things I need downstairs are on the side of the building with the stairs.

The highly unusual thing about these lifts is that, due to their distance from the stairs, they remain functional.  I've only been here for two weeks now, but they have always worked, they stop on all floors, and their buttons don't turn on and off by themselves.

At the Tygerberg Medical Campus of Stellenbosch University one of the places I worked before, the lifts are controlled very ingeniously by a team of experts whose job it is to provide a new puzzle every day for lift users.  On some days, certain buttons remain on all day (that had nothing to do with infection control during the Namibian polio outbreak, which was first identified by my old lab at the top of these lifts); sometimes you cannot call the lift from certain floors; sometimes the experts want people to guess which floor they need to run to in order to catch the lift ... and they are sneaky!  When you reach that floor, sensors detect that you're approaching, and the lift closes and goes up to another floor (usually the 4th), waits there a while, and then comes down slowly, opening on each level for the invisible person who didn't press any buttons.

At that place still fresh in my memory, the same experts are training people for the special olympics - they have a special electric door for people in wheelchairs, and the door is specially fitted with a device that senses when someone is in the doorway, and then it closes on them.  Only the fastest get through in time.  My advice: if you're already injured, in a wheelchair, blind, or use a walking stick, climb over the turnstiles and go up the stairs - it's safer!

None of that excitement at my new lab.  Here there are only 2 relevant floors for the lab staff - they wouldn't get away with it even if they wanted to.

These are the lifts from the outside:

And from the inside:

These are the stairs, looking up from the ground (i.e. 2nd) floor:

These are the stairs from the outside of the building:

I suppose not many blogs have an entire post dedicated to a discussion of the lifts the blog writers use.  I promise to have more virology in future posts, but this is also about my new life, and therefore functioning rural elevators are topical.  In the places I've worked in, functioning elevators are topical, rural or not.

Maybe in a future post I'll go into the fascinating aspects of the buttons in these lifts ...

Key word for the day:

English: lift; plural lifts
Americanese translation: elevator; plural elevators

Welcome to Mthatha

I arrived in Umtata on the evening of 27 January, and my belongings arrived the following day.

This is a photo of Umtata at night, taken from the Garden Court hotel along the N2 highway as it passes through Umtata, where it is known as Nelson Mandela Drive.  A larger picture will load if you click on it.

Umtata at night

Some scenic photos of the area later ... but after doing some of my unpacking, I started work on 1 February.  At first I felt a bit lost, and although the lab is in somewhat of a rectangle with passages going right around, it was a bit confusing in the beginning.  I still have to think about which way the lifts are, and which way the stairs are - they're on opposite ends of the lab.

I am the new pathologist for the diagnostic virology laboratory.  At the moment they do HIV DNA PCRs on blood and dried blood spots, and HIV viral loads.  Serology for HIV, Hepatitides A, B, and C, Rubella, and Cytomegalovirus get done in the Chemical Pathology laboratory, and don't fall under the Virology section, which is dedicated to supporting the antiretroviral rollout in the Eastern Cape.  We have place to expand, and the section will eventually do a lot of other viral diagnostics, and incorporate the serology as well.

These are the people working in the Virology laboratory:

Tobeka Gibson (Toto) is the laboratory manager.  Here you can see her preparing samples for HIV PCRs.


Nandipha Tinzi (Nandi) is sorting specimens that will get viral load testing later.


Nokwanda Busakwe (Skwash) is preparing plasma samples for RNA extraction prior to viral load testing.


Masixole Nkanyuza (Masi) is the youngest; he's preparing the reagents for the detection step of the viral load assay.


More soon.

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