Summer 2020. By the time I am writing this, most of you may be sitting on a comfortable chair, having a coffee by your side, eyeing the clock and again back to your computer screen, getting ready for another boring online meeting. Whether you say or not, most of these online meetings are too boring and we are fed-up with this ‘new normal’ working environment of not meeting people in-person, not giving a warm hug to welcome them, patting on shoulders to comfort during work stress, sitting close to each other to discuss on success and failures. Yet, if you feel that they’ll be there till everything comes back to normal, waiting eagerly to meet you, hug you and have a nice chat with you, you’ll feel much better. Can such kind of warm feeling be generated through an online meeting?
Yes, it can! Indeed if you have a great team, a group of people who feel like your second family, it is not boring anymore. The ECLIPSE team is a family of that kind. ECLIPSE brings together healthcare professionals from different medical disciplines (public health, community medicine, primary care, infectious disease, dermatology), researchers with a range of disciplinary backgrounds (including anthropology, sociology, health promotion, economics, parasitology, communication studies) and artists from 4 different countries: Brazil, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom. Wow, such a diverse team, from 4 different continents, getting ready to go for our ECLIPSE journey, with the expectation of giving their contribution to improve global health.
As an essential networking and collaborating step we use the ECLIPSE Intranet (hosted on MS Teams). We had several chats threads in which we talked about topics, introduced by Lisa Dikomitis, in which we shared information about the meaning of our names, the languages we speak and what is going on in our countries during the COVID-19 pandemic and so on. So, before we meet in-person someday, we got to know each other better through this fantastic e-platform. The great thing is with ECLIPSE18 MS Team is that it was the venue where we were warmly welcomed to this huge ECLIPSE family with lots of love.
The first online meeting, introducing the newly recruited researchers: PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, research assistants and Co-Investigators. Lisa Dikomitis took the lead in welcoming all the members to the session and the next was the best thing from the whole. She had asked all of use to prepare a short speech about an object or an artefact which means a lot to us personally. In the meeting, she asked us to show that object when we speak about it. Furthermore, she asked us to present an interesting fact about our region. Actually, from the time I saw this message, I was continuously thinking, ‘what is the meaning of such kind of task?’ Finally, I could select one object which I fell in love during this pandemic period: a table-clock which was gifted by one of my family relative about 15 years ago. Oh, such a relief. I got something to show! Then, I was thinking ‘what will others show?’ You can guess. Believe me, it’s not what you thought. Ethiopian team members talked about books, facemasks, paintings, clay containers while team members from Brazil talked about most of the things relevant to music including musical instruments. Such an entertaining meeting and for the first time in my life, during a meeting I could listen to a beautiful song. Felipe Rocha, from the Brazil team, sang a song when it was his turn to present his object. Fantastic!!! Apart from my clock (I forgot to tell you that I’m from Sri Lanka), Laura Wilders’ books, mobile phones, lotus leaves, oil lamps, ancient Sri Lankan medical instrument (herb canoe), and religious monuments from Sri Lanka came into presence. From the UK, it was about a cup of tea, a box of pencils, a key chain and a blanket made by a loving grandmother.
So, it was a totally different experience for me to be in a meeting and listening to a beautiful song, background music from Brazilian musical instruments, sipping a cup of tea, imagining how wonderful one’s childhood was and breathing freely without a facemask hanging down from my ears. So, I came to the conclusion, that online meetings are not boring anymore. But it has to be a meeting like this! Finally, I could understand why Lisa gave us such a task. Because it allowed us to bond with each other in a more lovely way even without meeting in-person. When it comes to the interesting fact about the ECLIPSE countries, we continued to sharing pictures and stories in the chat over the next weeks. I learned about sugar-cane plantations, guarana (a fruit) in Bahia, Jam no mam (3 hours of jazz jam sessions), cherry trees in Keele, Ashenda (a religious festival in Ethiopia), how an ancient kingdom was built and fallen down in Sri Lanka and so on. In my mind, I travelled to all the places team members described. I hope this beautiful beginning will lead us to a fabulous and never-ending ECLIPSE journey.