The following is a blog written by Thilini Weerakkody.

Some people may regard spending their days collecting rectal samples and working in a lab disgusting and tedious, but I think it’s fabulous.

Every morning, I get on the crowded Karapitya-Galle bus to make my way over to Mahamodara Hospitals. After a quick hello to all the guards at the gate, who I became acquainted when I was hopelessly lost with a dead phone, I walk over to Ward 5 to begin sample collection.

To be honest, sample collection is a rather monotonous and repetitive affair. I do a lot of sitting around, organizing and writing, but I don’t mind—it’s relaxing and an opportune time to ponder the deep complexities of life while listening to Taylor Swift songs. I don’t just laze around in chairs stacking documents though, a considerable amount of my time is spent weaving through the ward helping collect the rectal swabs of new born babies. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day because the mothers are usually very sweet and whenever I grin at them they return it with a warm, crinkly-eyed smile which makes me feel like we’re friends.  Also, the image of the new-born babies, all wrapped in their pastel-colored clothes and using their tiny, little human hands to softly clutch at the nearby fabric, is so adorable that I can’t help but smile in their presence.

Nishadi and I, sub-culturing bacteria.

Nishadi and I, sub-culturing bacteria.

After sample collection, Nishadi, my boss, and I grab another overfilled bus back to the Karapitya Medical Faculty to process and store the samples. Once we get to the lab I put the plates in the warmer, vortex the samples, label the plates, swab them and put them into the incubator. It’s all very riveting. Somedays, we take old plates that have grown bacteria out to isolate them more which releases a disgusting smell that is nauseating, but I think it’s very cool to see the weird, sometimes bumpy, oddly patterned bacteria that grew from the clear liquid I swabbed on the agar just days before.

When the lab work is done, I wave good-bye to Nishadi and walk to the Duke-Ruhana office. In the office, I help with what I can in the dengue project or other activities, but a lot of the time I just sit around, doodle and chat with Charmaine, my coworker and another Sri Lankan girl from the US.

Charmaine, Nishadi and I (L-R)

Charmaine, Nishadi and I (L-R)

Somedays, all the office women—me, Charmaine, Thamali, and Ruvini Miss—eat food together and discuss the current lab gossip. You may scoff, but it’s important to keep up with lab gossip lest not to be oblivious if everyone is gossiping about you. Last week, Charmaine broke a lid and it’s still a hot topic amongst the lab technicians and even some supervisors even after it was replaced, but she didn’t think anyone knew.

Life here is not particularly exciting, but I like it. I am not living on the edge, testing my limits as a human being through intense, radical situations, but I am learning, smiling, exposing myself to new situations and interacting with different kinds of people. I feel good and I look forward to my next month in Galle.