Friday, June 3, 2011

Post Paradise

Back on the mainland, we were forced back into reality and the no worry attitude of the island seem to fade away just as quickly as we had adopted it. Jordan’s rare lung condition started to act up the night we got back to Dar Es Salam. We were up all night just trying to get her comfortable and debating whether to go to the hospital in Dar or wait until we got back to Moshi.

Thanks to Philipo, we were able to catch a ride with one of his friends back to Moshi and avoided taking the cramped bus with no shocks back home. We said our final goodbyes to Rachel who’s eyelids were only half open still and was wearing nothing but a toga made from her sheet. It was easier to say goodbye knowing that we would see her again this summer.

The ride back home was much more enjoyable than the one down, for me at least. Poor Jordan cringed at every speed bump and I felt helpless knowing there was nothing I could do to ease the pain.

Our journey came to a pause only a couple hours in due to a car wreck where a bus was completely engulfed in flames. Every driver and their passengers from the cars stopped seemed to think that their presence in the middle of all the action was needed. Mass amounts of people, literally in the hundreds, crowded the street trying to get a better look. Looking up the road behind us, it looked like a marathon or some Walk for the Cure event as more and more people got out of their cars to join the group.

After a while, we were able to drive through the crowd and around the still burning bus. As we passed the metal shell, Jordan and I gave each other the same shocked look. The name “Dar Express” could still be read on the side. That should have been our bus if we hadn’t gotten a ride. I guess some things do happen for a reason.

When we finally reached Moshi, we spent the remainder of the day rushing to different four or five different clinics and hospitals getting medication, x-rays and running other tests trying to figure out what was going on with Jordan’s pain. We didn’t discover much but they treated her for several different conditions and by the next morning, thanks to Tremedol (a relaxation drug) she was feeling much more…relaxed. I would be in the middle of telling her something and turn around to find her passed out, mouth open and everything.

As Jordan’s condition seemed to progress, mine began to digress. The next day we were back at the hospital getting tests run. Both our blood tests came back negative for malaria but one of mine came back positive for an amoeba. Carl was back.

The remainder of the week was spent in bed, watching movies and working out issues with coordinators and worried parents back home.

On Thursday, we were rejoined by Jasen right before we said goodbye to Barbara and Lynn. The next night we went out to Glacier to celebrate. Still on antibiotics and not feeling the greatest I stole Philipo’s keys and fell asleep in the back of his car. It wasn’t until we were back home that I woke up and zombie walked into home base where I then collapsed on my bed.

All day Saturday, Jordan and I spent packing up all of the crap I came with plus the extra crap I have collected since I’ve been here and moved it up to my new home up at KCMC. My room sits under a perfect view of Mount Kilimanjaro next to a cornfield and an above grave. After walking through a red gate, you see eight doors, four on the left and four on the right facing each other. In the center two clothes lines run the length of the building and end down near the shared kitchen. Having my own bathroom, queen size bed with no bug net, a sound system and a mini fridge is definitely an upgrade.

I met my neighbors and made the mistake of assuming because they were black they were from Tanzania and spoke Swahili with each one. All of them are either doctors, nurses, or studying to become one or the other. Though all from Africa, they are from all over including Rwanda, Zambia, Uganda and South Africa.
On Monday, Jordan and I met two of the four new volunteers who had apparently arrived that weekend. The trauma room became very crowded so we all split up to spread things out. I followed Kishe on ward rounds taking temperatures, blood pressure, pulse rates, wrote out prescriptions, and changed dressings.

One of the patients was a quadriplegic and had a wound about 10 inches in diameter on his lower back and buttocks from lying in his own fecal matter. The wound was so deep you could see and touch his spinal cord. The doctors said there was nothing we could do at this point seeing as it was impossible to keep to wound clean for more than two hours. They shrugged and said he would be dead by the end of the week. He died two days later.

Friday night, Jordan and I went to the doctors’ house to cook them homemade macaroni and cheese. However, on the way over I lost my wallet on the daladala. Of course, it was only after I cancelled my card and filed a police report that I got a call that someone had found it. Everything was there except 25,000 TSH and then an extra 15,000 TSH that Philipo gave to the person who turned it in. It’s been over a month now that I’ve gone without a card and I just found out that they didn’t even send the new card to Africa…it’s sitting useless at my address in America.

The following day, Junior told convinced us to go with him to Rombo, a very rural town at the base of Kilimanjaro, for “an exciting day that [would] be lots of fun.” The day did not go that way at all. To start off, Jordan didn’t go so I was left to have the exciting adventure without my partner in crime. Next, I spent an hour and a half waiting at the bus station trying to ignore all the conductors trying to convince me to go on their bus while street hustlers were grabbing my arm trying to get me to follow them to their store or to buy their peanuts and cigarettes.

When we finally got to Rombo, an hour and forty-five minutes later, and arrived at Juniors home via pikipiki, he told me what we really were going to be doing all day: moving water from one well on his property to another well across town.

After spending a half hour trying to get the truck to start we drove over to the other property to get the barrels. The guy who had the keys to the storage room with the barrels wasn’t there of course so we found a ladder, climbed up to the roof, slipped in between the rafters and the top of the walls and handed the barrels over that way.

We took turns driving the beaten up truck, which took some getting used to seeing as it was a manual with the driver side set on the right side.

It was then back to the first property to first fill up each barrel by using a smaller bucket and a rope to draw water from the well before lugging the barrel to the bed of the truck and driving back to the second property to empty the barrels.

We did this all day.

If it wasn’t for his sweet, little grandma who made a delicious Chagga meal and put me in a better, I probably would have murdered him right then and there and buried him somewhere in the corn field.

By the time we had finished, we had missed the last bus back to Moshi. We ended up grabbing a ride with some random couple who happen to be heading to town and had an obsession with the song “Natural Mystic” by Bob Marley. The song was on repeat the entire hour and forty-five minute ride home. It was right around the thirteenth time we were hearing the song that I was glad I didn’t have any sharp objects with me, or blunt for that matter because I’m sure things wouldn’t have ended nicely for that man and I would have ended up in a Tanzanian jail cell.

When we finally got out of the car it was into a tightly packed daladala and then a trek through muddy roads back home where I couldn’t have been more excited to pass out, sleep in and wake up to a brand new day.


7:30 AM. All packed and ready to begin our vacation to Zanzibar with a fresh cup of Kilimanjaro coffee in hand, Jordan, Brian, Rachel and I sat on our bags waiting for the Dar Express bus to show up at the office. Our departure time was 8:00 AM but we were all aware that we probably wouldn’t be leaving until 8:30 anyway. When the bus finally arrived at 8:15 AM, the bags were loaded and we all rushed to find our perfect seat before the eight hour ride to Dar es Salam. Our rush seemed somewhat pointless seeing as we were forced to sit and wait for an additional forty-five minutes while they tried to fix an issue with the engine which is always an encouraging start to a journey that sees only a limited amount of towns and gas stations along the way.

Around 9-9:15, we were finally on our way. Jordan immediately regretted sitting up front and so did I seeing as I had bruises on my arms from where she would grab me every time we escaped a possible head-on collision. After less than an hour, we stopped at a gas station only to learn that the bus would not be continuing on due to a complication that was beyond their ability to fix. We looked around and all you could see in either direction were grass fields with scattered brachystegia trees up to the brick red dirt that dusted over onto the poorly constructed highway. This is Africa.

We waited around for a couple more hours as random buses would come by and the mass of passengers from our bus would rush the door pushing and shoving to hopefully find that one seat that wasn’t filled. After three or four came and went, there were less of us and we decided to take our chances at jumping on the next bus. The bags were given to Brian whose job was to attack the bag storage on the side of the bus, while Jordan, Rachel and I tag teamed the crowd. Whoever got on first had to save seats for the rest. We succeeded and couldn’t help but stick our noses up a bit as we laughed at the others who didn’t make it on.
Now, at around noon, we were on our way for the second time.

Nine or so horribly long hours later we arrived in Dar. When we got off the bus we hit a wall of hot, sticky humidity, along with taxi drivers pulling on our arms begging us to go with them. We arrived a short while later at the Jambo Hotel located in the edge of downtown Dar. As we waited at the counter to check in, I watched as a rat the size of my foot scurried around sniffing at corners by the entrance to the connected restaurant. It look me a good fifteen seconds before it registered that I should not be okay with the fact that there was a rat in the hotel but I was too tired to think any more of it. I just wanted a bed.

The next morning we were on the ferry and pulling out of the harbor just in front of a huge storm that was about to engulf the city. We found out later that it had caused a severe amount of flooding and several deaths. It was weird being in the sun but seeing the clouds roll in and begin to open up but not being affected by it.

Our first sight of the archipelago, our jaws dropped. It was like stepping into a screensaver. The water was unbelievably clear and a magnificent turquoise. The Stonetown skyline slid into view where small fish boats and sailboats lined the shores. We pulled into the harbor where a mix of grime, touts, dockyard workers and ships covered the scenery.

We got into a taxi which drove us to our first destination on the east coast, Pongwe. The streets were busy with women in bui-bui (the traditional Islamic dress) shopping, children playing ball, wagons pulled by donkeys or cattle next to the cars, boys climbing palm trees to reach the coconuts, huge canopy trucks with people stuffed into the back, and men in kanzu taking their shoes off to attend prayer in the masques.

The driver took a left onto a side road made of coral and white sand. We pulled into the Santa Maria Resort and didn’t need to look any further to decide where we wanted to stay. Beams of sunlight pierced their way through the palm trees and shone in patches along the snow white sand. The four of us split up two and two to share a stone and thatch bungalow on stilts. The grounds were filled with shell strung garlands and hammocks hung between two coconut trees softly swaying in the ocean breeze.

Our shoes were off, bathing suits on and feet in the water before our bags even hit the floor. We were the only ones on the beach besides a few fishermen bringing in their nets and a couple of boys kicking a beaten soccer ball back and forth.

A local invited us for dinner with his family in his humble home off the coast. He served us fresh fish he had caught that morning with a calamari potato sauce and steaming rice. For being someone who hates seafood I rather enjoyed it, but then again I didn’t try the fish.

After dinner, we spent time with our toes in the sand listening to the waves gently crashing on the shore while the almost full moon glistened off the water. While we were enjoying the peacefulness, a long black object came slowly slithering in front of us. The snake was about four feet long and the size of my thigh. One of the bar tenders came running out with a thick stick and started beating on its head like a house wife who was on steroids beating dirt out of a rug. We just watched in somewhat disbelief until he finished.

“Was it poisonous?“ another guest asked.

He looked up at us with a chubby grin, “Oh no no no,” his cheeks jiggled as he shook his head with short brisk movements. He then continued to dispose of the lifeless body by dragging it through the sand to somewhere between the palm trees. We all just looked at each other not really knowing what to think.
Jordan and I awoke right around sunrise and watched as the orange played off the ripples in the water. We were each served a plate of fresh mangos, watermelon, oranges, bananas, passion fruit, pineapple and guava while we waited for our Spanish omelets and crepes.

We spent the majority of the day walking the beach and watching the locals gathering seaweed from the low tide to take to the market where it would be dried and then sold to be turned into makeup. Women and children were also busy carrying baskets of fish and seafood in from the fishing boats that were anchored at a waist high depth. When we returned we continued to lay in the sun or swim.

For dinner we were joined by three bush babies which came next to our table and ate sugar bananas out of our hands. Not too long after dinner, my stomach started churning and I decided to go to bed early hoping to sleep it off.

I’m not sure who had a worse night that night, Jordan or me. Thank god the showers and the toilets are together in the bathroom with a drain because I’m not sure which end I would have chosen to aim in the toilet.

The next morning I could barely sit up straight without feeling the need to rush to the bathroom again. It was unfortunate timing as well because we were switching resorts to Sele’s Bungalows a little further north up the coast. I spent the rest of the day in bed.

The next morning I was feeling much better and decided to join everyone else and go snorkeling. We were out on a small, wooden motorboat before sunrise in order to beat the tide. With heavy eyelids we watched the fishermen prepare their sailboats and nets. About a half hour out into the ride, a pod of dolphins began swimming along side our boats. I think all of us including Brian squealed like little girls on Christmas morning.
“Do you want to swim with them?” our captain asked.
Before I think any of us could answer Jordan and I were already making our way to the bow putting our flippers on as we mostly fell into the water rather than jumping in.

They were so beautiful. They would swim up along side us right before coming up to the surface and then plunging back down. They teased us as they swam around in circles smiling as they passed. Some of them would even show off by jumping into the sky a good seven to ten feet and attempt to flip.

I could have swam with them all day if it wasn’t for the mini jellyfish-like creatures that were stinging us. When we got back to the boat, we had literally hundreds of red bumps all over us from swimming into big clouds of whatever they were.

We continued on to the reef where we snorkeled for a couple hours. There were puffer fish, angle fish, wolf eels, red, orange, blue and pink star fish, huge fish almost the size of us, clown fish, jelly fish, and millions of others. I’ve never seen so many colors or such a mass population of fish all at once. Some would come right up to our masks and stare us in the eyes like we were the ugliest thing they had ever seen, then they would blink and bolt in the opposite direction.

The rest of our stay was spent in Paje, on the southern coast at a very nice guest home called Kilima Kidogo (Little Hill). Every time, we thought that there couldn’t possibly be a nicer place to stay but each one outdid the last. The guest home was run by twin sisters from South Africa who had to be one of the most eccentric yet sweetest characters I’ve met in at least five years. They made our stay more than relaxing with hot fudgy brownies, full body massages on the beach and air conditioned rooms.

Again, we didn’t do much besides read, lay in the sun, and eat. The final night we were there it was a full moon and the locals had a Hakuna Kulala (no sleep) party to celebrate. The house staff, a couple from South Africa and I went and did our best to out dance the locals around the bonfire on the beach. I’m pretty sure we lost at that battle. We came home early, chasing the white crabs on the beach as we went.

Our last day it rained. People ran with banana leaves overhead trying to get to the closest dry spot. By the time we reached Stone Town, it had quit and people were already back to their busy lives. For the first time in seven days I put my shoes on as we got out of the cab and stepped onto the cobblestone road.

Small canopy booths lined the streets and alleyways while a mixed aroma of spices and fresh fruit danced in the air. We made our way through the tight streets bargaining for different spices until we made it to the edge of the island looking out into the Indian Ocean. We walked along the beach past old cathedrals, palaces and military forts to a restaurant out on the beach where we quickly rushed our meal to make it back to the ferry on time.

We made it in time to the ferry and the wait in the downpour. As the ferry pulled out, we watched as Zanzibar slowly faded in the distance and was replaced by a view of blue.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gray Days

It’s so easy to fall into Swahili time where you have a list of things to get done, simply shrug at the fact they exist and then move on ignoring them until later. It’s been over a month since I have even written anything done about for my blog and I find myself slipping into more of a resident here instead of just a visitor. I have stopped taking pictures, I don’t carry around a purse or backpack, I eat with my hands, when asked where I’m from I say originally Rau but now KCMC, I poop in squat toilets, and I can’t seem to cook anything without using oil.

It rains almost every day and not just drizzling. The sky seems to open up and dump buckets of water down just like the massive one in the water park at Silverwood. If you’re caught outside by the time it starts, you might as well just stay there because by the time you take five steps to the nearest covering, you will already be soaked through every layer you have.

Because most of the side roads are all made of dirt, they have now become a massive Slip n’ Slide of mud. There’s no use trying to prevent the mud from engulfing your freshly washed shoes, the only concerning is staying vertical and not end up face first in a mixture of mud, cow, goat, chicken, dog and possibly human shit. Once you reach your destination, including the post office, grocery stores, schools etc…, many times you have to just remove your shoes and walk around barefoot or in socks. One day Rachel and Jordan returned home covered teeth to toes in mud. Apparently they had both fallen and from there it progressed into a mud fight which ended on our front porch where I took the liberty to document it seeing as I had just taken my weekly shower.

The following weekend, Tine and Lisa came down from Marangu to visit us seeing as there isn’t much to do up there. We all dressed up somewhat and headed over to our favorite pre-game bar, Kool Bar. I had eaten some “bad shish kabobs” and not too long after was bent over a squat toilet blowing chunks. Rachel, being the mother hen that she is, was there a few moments later forcing me to drink a liter and a half of water. Jordan was close behind her with the moral support cheering me on every chug and then every manly heaving sound that followed.

In the process of leaning over to encourage me, my phone, which what we thought was strategically placed in Rachel’s bra, fell out, bounced on the edge of the toilet, where it then shattered right before plunging into the dark depths of the hole in the floor. I paused my present puking long enough to look at her with a very straight face and inform her I was no longer her friend before continuing hunching over the porcelain hole. Tine, who was also sick, accompanied me home while the rest of the girls continued on to La Liga.

We finished off our weekend by dancing in the kitchen to Enrique Iglesias while making American chocolate chip cookies with Junior. We ended up having to make four batches because the dough was having troubles making it to the cookie sheets and the ones that did make it through the whole baking process were quickly devoured by anyone passing through the kitchen, as well as the cooks.

The cookies were meant to be our contribution to the feast that the doctors, Philipo, Kishe and Andrew, had prepared for us the following night at their house. Rachel, Jordan and I took thirds and fourths on the meat and avocado dishes then sat back and loosened our belts a bit while we let our growing African bellies breath a little. The cookies never made it passed the table for the movie part of the evening like we had planned.

New volunteers were at the table the next morning. Christoph, an 18 year old Belgium, Lynn, an old southerner, and Barbara a mid-thirties Italian. Quite the mix to say the least. The two women went to the orphanage while Christoph accompanied the rest of us to the hospital. The women have both already left, which was a sigh I think for most seeing as they were quite a handful between the complaining and the accents and the talking as if everyone around them was wearing broken hearing aids.

The three of us girls did the night shifts most of the week. Around five or six we would pack our bags full of snacks and bug spray, make a fresh thermos of coffee and grab a couple bites of dinner on the way out.
The night shifts are slow usually with a lot of births and a few accidents usually involving a fight, pikipiki or panga accident. When there were no more women ready to squeeze one out and the minor theatre was empty, we would try to sneak in a few hours of sleep in the private rooms by pediatrics. Usually thirty minutes to an hour later we would be awoken by another procedure going on. By the time morning came around I was usually pretty out of it. Depending on how much sleep we got the night before would determine if we would stay to continue work the next day or leave early around lunch time.

The entire week was filled with babies. If it wasn’t live birth we were rushing into surgery for a cesarean. Quite a few didn’t make it from either being a miscarriage or complication during or post birth. The mothers always appear emotionless no matter if they give birth to a live or dead child. That’s something I still don’t understand but just have to accept that it’s a cultural thing.

Rachel’s boyfriend, Brian, arrived Friday morning. He became our instant hero when he greeted us with Jolly Ranchers and Hershey’s chocolate. We took him out to La Liga where he busted out his moves just like he was born a black child with Tanzanian blood. I’m not sure who received more stares though, us girls or him, the 6’ 5”, linebacker built, bald white guy.

On our way back home, our cab ran out of petrol in the middle of the road. We laughed and welcomed him to Africa as we paid the cab a little less and just walked the rest of the way home, only to find that the gate was once again locked and it was going to be a climbing night.

Rachel, Brian and Ashley left for Safari the following morning leaving Jordan and I at the hospital alone. We did the night shift the first night and stayed up late talking and eating cookies with Philipo and a mother-to-be staying at the hospital who was perfectly healthy. The next morning we were eating breakfast in the cafeteria and saw them wheeling away a gurney with a sheet covering a body with a large stomach. For some unknown reason, the woman from the night before had passed out and then died. The autopsy came back with an unknown cause of death. The week was off to an unsettling start and unfortunately only took a turn for the worst the next two days.

On Tuesday, a baby that we had performed a c-section on passed away once her and her mother were transferred to KCMC. We were never informed of the cause of death. Wednesday started off just like everyday. Gathering supplies, changing the sheets, cleaning up from night shift and seeing the inpatients for their daily dressings. Pastol, the patient with the elephantiasis leg which had been doing much better since January when he was first omitted, came in just like he did everyday with a huge smile on his face and offering out a friendly handshake. Like everyday he replied to our greeting with, “bombambya” which means more than fantastic.

This day though, his leg had taken a drastic turn for the worse since the day before. Skin was falling off and his open wounds wouldn’t stop bleeding. The doctors examined him and just said to dress him like normal. By that day his deterioration had progressed passed his knee and up his thigh where there was no issue previously.

His ever present smile had vanished and look of fear had replaced his once joyful eyes as he literally crawled into the minor theatre were he collapsed on the floor. Everything went silent it seemed as time moved in slow motion. A pool of blood began to form around him as doctors rushed in with canulars and IV drips. Before the first IV was even opened, Pastol’s brown eyes calmed as his eye lids slowly shut and his head hit the cold, gray, cement floor.

He was pronounced dead moments later.

Everything was just left exactly how it was except for the red pool. His blue slippers were still leaning against the medicine cabinet waiting for their owner. His walking cane with the smooth handle from months of use lie under the operating bed. The IV line which never made it into a pulsing vein was still hung on the lonely drip stand.

It was eerie being in the room and Jordan and I didn’t speak as we slowly began to pick up the room. It was a good thing that the next day we were headed to Zanzibar because a break was well needed after just that short week.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Jordan came with us to the hospital Monday morning to find out why she was still not getting better. She got lost in a mess of African malaria patients who were waiting for results just like her, only she had an amoeba. We named him Carl. It was Ashley’s first week at the hospital and Naiomi’s last week.

It’s such a rewarding feeling to see patients who have come in with the no hope in their eyes and unpromising wounds coming in now with smiles stretching from ear to ear, giving us high-fives and their wounds making miraculous recoveries.

The week was pleasantly uneventful and we spent most of our nights singing to our favorite Enrique Iglesia song, working out in our hot spandexes, witnessing Rachel attempt to pole dance on Jordan’s bed post then ripping her skirt, giggling at How I Met Your Mother in Jordan’s bed then tickling each other’s backs until we fall asleep. Completely normal behavior.

Friday Rachel and I spent the latter part of the day in the labor ward with Philipo, where we witnessed our second fetal death. The mother and baby had been completely fine a few days before then the mother had felt ill and instead of going to the hospital went to the Duka la Dawa and took malaria medication causing the baby to become hypertensive. The next day she gave birth to a dead child who would have survived if she had just gone to the hospital. I was in charge of cleaning and wrapping the baby up.

We shadowed Philipo in the rest of the check ups and examinations of the women who were already in labor. We took the heart rates of the babies, checked to see how dilated the mothers were and listened to Philipo’s mini medical lectures.

After work Jordan and I went to the roof of Haria Hotel to say our last goodbye to Juli and Pari, the girls from our safari. We then continued on to meet the rest of our group at Deli Chez for Ami, Naiomi and Grace’s goodbye dinner. It’s a bizarre feeling knowing that it may be the last time I’ll ever see these people again.

Saturday morning..ish Jordan, Rachel and I headed up to Marangu to meet up with Craig and the two Dutch girls we had met a while back. Going to Marangu always has it’s share of challenges. After we finally caught a daladala, we were once again hassled into paying four times the amount we should to get there, then squished next to some sort of drug addict who wouldn’t stop touching us while other random body parts were pushing against us from all sides. When we arrived in the pouring rain we were swarmed by the locals trying to convince us to take their taxi.

We made it up to the girl’s house though, and like always, were speechless at the sheer beauty of Mishiri’s rainforest. We enjoyed coffee grown and roasted by their neighbors and freshly roasted peanuts while we waited for the heavy rain to slow enough so we could hike to our campsite.

With our sleeping bags in plastic bags, we set out in the rain. We stopped at random houses, churches, and coverings along the way to rest and avoid the heavier downpour. We reached the campsite drenched and looking like wet rats, where we met up with Craig, Nelson, Nick, Bryson, Kath and Hue. We all had dinner together and laughed as we shared embarrassing stories about Tine (one of the Dutch girls) since it was her birthday. The night also consisted of cake, laughing, dancing, music, laughing, fire, laughing and ended with Jordan, Rachel and I snuggling in our warm dry tent.

The next morning we packed up and then spent an hour hiking all around the mountain trying to find somewhere that was open that had eggs and onions for breakfast. After forty minutes of searching and an additional three hours of cooking without power, we managed to make pancakes, eggs and coffee. It was worth the wait.

Before heading back to Moshi, we stopped at a waterfall. We all just basked in its beauty in silence.
When we got home we all crashed some of us sick and some just tired. Jordan and I have stayed home two days in a row now with fever, aches, amoebas, ring worms, headaches, stomach pains, running noses etc… Hopefully tomorrow we’ll make it to work. If not…it’s more How I Met Your Mother.


The rainy season has officially begun. Unfortunately, there is no break from the heat. The rain clouds are only acting as an incubator in which to make us sweat at an even greater rate.

Last night, we got another volunteer from Boston. Ashley was thrown into our room where she was faced with the three of us, all of who haven’t showered the entire weekend or left the room for that matter, huddled around a bag of Raisin Brand that I had just discovered in the fridge from a previous volunteer. We all paused, mid stuffing the next handful into our mouths to give an awkward smile and slip out the word “Hi” without spitting out any of the cereal that was crammed in our mouth. I’m not sure what she thinks of us but I know what I would think if I was her.

Monday morning Jordan and I headed up to KCMC to sit in on a class at the University. We jumped on the first daladala that we saw, which just so happened to be fifteen people past it’s maximum capacity. We were forced to feel our way through a mess of hips, legs, heads, arms and hands to find a pole inside to hold onto while the rest of our body hung outside the small van. Shutting the door wasn’t even an option seeing as there were two other people besides us hanging out with us. We received a handful of cheers from people on the street as well as others shouting at the driver for making us hang on instead of sitting inside. We were somewhat skeptical about the likelihood that we would be able to sit-in on a class but even after thorough persuasion from Junior and Nathan that there would actually be a class today, we arrived only to be informed that the teacher was in fact not showing up until Thursday.

So, instead we found a table under a tree and decided to attempt to learn Swahili. After about an hour, they claimed we were horrible students while we stick to the story that they are horrible teachers and we decided to just eat lunch instead.

KCMC is about fifteen minutes away from Upendo Orphanage, where the rest of the volunteers in our house work. Since there was nothing more to do, Nate, Junior, Jordan and I thought we would spend the remainder of the day there. Thanks to our wonderful guides, we somehow made the fifteen minute journey into an hour journey at the hottest part of the day. When we made it there, we met up with Ami and Francisca who were playing with the kids outside. Despite how cute they might be, I discovered that the getting peed on, boogers wiped on, dirt thrown in the face, hair pulled and endless crying was not the right match for me.

I was happy to be back at the hospital the next day with the blood and puss. Nothing huge happened throughout the week. Lots of stitches, babies, abscesses, broken bones and dressings. One man who has elephantitis of the scrotum finally was operated on. When he came in a few months ago, his….boys, were honestly the size of two small watermelons. He couldn’t fit into any pants and he would walk around holding one in each hand. After his operation, they were reduced to the size of two large mangos. I was the lucky one chosen to dress him with another nurse. It was a long process seeing as he had drainage tubes, catheter changes, stitches the entire length of his stomach and then the actual scrotum area itself. The doctor said he was progressing well but the next morning when we came to work, Kische, another head doctor, said he had died in the night and wasn’t sure why.

That night, Jordan and I headed back up to KCMC to watch a football (soccer) game with the medical students. Little did we know that the game didn’t start until around 10pm and got over around midnight. Before half time even rolled around we were already struggling to keep our necks from going limp and our burning eyes even half way open. I’m not even sure if our team won or not.

Poor Jordan has been sick for almost a week now. She will be fine one day and then horrible the next. Friday was a bad day for her and I was also feeling pretty awful. We spent the day fixing our clogged sink with a coat hanger, Listerine, a toothbrush, an injection needle, a bucket, a rag, a flashlight and duct tape. Our sink now drains perfectly, smells minty fresh and doesn’t leak at all. The remainder of the day was spent curled up on Jordan’s bed watching episodes from our new found obsession, How I Met Your Mother.

Saturday night Rachel, Jordan, Ashley and I went with Philipo to a random, private club in the middle of nowhere. We stopped at a twelve foot gate which was open by a guard. We got out of the car and walked down a kerosene lantern lighted path to a covered outside balcony. The whole place was poorly lit with eerie, fluorescent green bulbs which were hazed over from the cigar smoke of greasy, unshaven European men who made you shiver when they glared at you. Their hard eyes all followed us as we sat down at a nearby table and ordered sodas. I felt like I had committed some sort of crime just being there. Philipo explained to us that The Watering Hole is owned by a German-American who started a hunting business here in Tanzania. Tourists from all over come here to this club/lodge to relax before going on a safari to fulfill their urge to express their masculinity by killing the exotic animals of the Serengeti purely for sport. A tag for a lion alone is $30,000.

I couldn’t handle staying there much longer so we went to La Liga to dance away our troubles. Jordan sadly had to go home before we even made it there because she still wasn’t feeling well. I fell lost without my dancing partner and vowed that night to never go out without her again.

The next morning was Sumaia’s birthday. She had a couple of friends over and we celebrated with dry cake and Colgate flavored ice cream. She was all dressed up in an orange and white dress that she couldn’t stop twirling in and a smile that couldn’t be wiped from her face. In the middle of bringing the lit cake to her and singing the “Happy Birthday Song” she blew out all five candles. We all stopped mid-song not knowing if we should finish or just start cutting the cake. After we stopped laughing we decided to relight them and try again.

Zawaidi left us this weekend to go to her new home in Marangu with Craig. We just couldn’t handle her and he could provide a much better home for her. We’ll get to see her next weekend though when we head up for a camping trip in Mishiri. I don’t think I’m going to miss her.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wooden Spoons and Presents

While we were gone, the Kilimanjaro Marathon took place here in Moshi. People from all over, including Kenya, Uganda etc… come to run it. Rachel ran the 5 k while our other friends Junior and Nathan ran the half marathon. I’m bummed I missed it and heard it was amazing.

Jasen was gone when we got back, but we got a new addition to our family. Zawaidi (meaning gift/present). Our neighbor’s dog had puppies so Rachel and I went to town and found flea shampoo along with a flea collar then we washed her and brought her home. She is this Chihuahua/rat dog looking thing with Rotteweiler coloring. She takes turns sleeping curled up next to us. She was cute the first week, but then after she chewed through two of my earphones, pooped in Jordan’s shoe along with everywhere else, peed on my shirt, and refuses to learn, I am at the point where I may just drop-kick her the next time I have to clean up after her. She leaves us more “gifts” then she is herself. After we all leave, she will be living with Craig, who absolutely adores her and all her evil.

The week was somewhat slower, which was nice for a change. It was Anna’s (the Austrian girl from the hospital) last week so we made sure to spend a lot of time with her. Rachel and I toured pediatrics and followed Philipo on rounds. It was very slow pace and it seems all the kids either had malaria or pneumonia or both.

After work on Tuesday we walked to Memorial, which is a huge, outside, second hand market with basically all the clothes that America didn’t want and we dumped in Africa. Some of the tags still say Goodwill and Value Village on them.

Fatuma, left for Arusha early that week to visit her mom who was sick. Her cousin, Frida, came to take her place. She is the cutest and sweetest African I think I have ever met. I got a call later that week while I was in the middle of stitching someone up that Fatuma’s mom had died that day. I didn’t even know what to say. How can you comfort someone who has just experienced that kind of loss and you have no way of relating to.

Besides Zawaidi’s constant accidents, and trying to situate our bug nets, our biggest struggle was Jordan’s bed. One night when we sat on it, the corner gave in and snapped. We looked under it and discovered it was being held together with a huge wooden spoon. We tried to jimmy-rig it every night to keep her from falling, but she eventually had to move to the top bunk.

This weekend was another slow one. We took Anna out as a final goodbye, lounged out at the coffee shop for a few hours, bought fabric to make dresses for only $4, and then cooled off in the pool at the YMCA. When we started to do actual swim strokes, all the Africans got so excited and were shouted, “Look! They’re swimming.” They then proceeded to attempt to imitate us. I guess some stereotypes are true.

Sunday, Jordan and I said goodbye to Rachel as she started her six day mountain climb up Kilimanjaro. We spent the day doing laundry, putting wraps in our hair, reading, tearing down the broken bunk bed and setting up the new bunk bed. That was an adventure and what should have taken about 20 minutes ended up taking more than two and a half hours. The bolts didn’t match up with half the holes because there were three new bunk beds and it was a gamble if we got the right pieces or not. In addition, the only tool we had was a pair of pliers. Even after three missing bolts and some shady tightening, the bed is sturdier than mine, so it should work…at least for now.

Three more volunteers showed up on Sunday and Monday as well. A 20 year old named Kali, from California, and then a couple Naiomi and Ami from New York or Canada or something. Kali and Naiomi went to the hospital with me and Ami with Jordan to the orphanage. I didn’t see much of either of them as Naiomi is a pediatrician and Kali is a nurse’s assistant.

I was left alone for the most part in minor theatre this week. The doctors would come in and ask if I was okay, and I would reply yes but I’m all alone. They would just smile and say okay well I’m around if you need me, and then leave before I could answer. We had more thieves come in with handfuls of lacerations, one of them had his ear cut in half. We also had three amputations and two c sections.

Friday we went to a reggae concert with a huge group. The band was actually the same one we had met in Arusha a few weeks back and that work with an orphanage there teaching kids how to play instruments. The next day was Kali’s last day and we went to town where an unexpected flash flood had us all dancing in the rain while the locals looked at us like we were on crack.

I have literally spent the entire day today reading, writing blogs, eating and occasionally peeing. It’s been awesome. Hopefully we’ll have internet tomorrow and I can finally post them all.


I am doing my best not to freak out at the idea of Jasen leaving this week. Both him and Sophie have been that constant since I’ve been here and have not only helped me settle in but have been true friends to me. Now that Sophie is gone, it’s just us two from the original group. He is like my big brother away from my big brother and I am not sure what I am going to do without him there especially at the hospital. He is the one who has taught me everything to the point where the nurses come and find me to perform a procedure they don’t feel comfortable doing.

My week was shortened to only three days, because Jordan, Kristina and I left Thursday morning for a safari. Monday was busy as normal, with everyone who decides not to come in during the weekend, plus inpatients, plus new patients all showing up in need of care. That night, Rachel and I decided we should get our noses pierced. She had bought two rings in Arusha and we brought home two suture needles from the hospital so we were good to go. Jordan was in charge of taping the procedure, Fatuma was in charge of holding the light, Jasen was the piercer, and Junior was in charge of being freaked out. He began by putting on gloves and swiping down our noses with alcohol pads. Before I even really made a connection that he was ready to pierce me, the needle was already through and he was holding the hole open with the attached string.

For the proceeding six minutes, he struggled trying to get the bent ring through. All the while, Jordan sat in front of me lying saying it was almost through and there was no blood. Poor Rachel had to watch the whole thing. After though she still made the decision to get hers done as well. Luckily hers only took about a third of the time.

Nothing major happened Tuesday or Wednesday until Wednesday just before we were about to leave. A man came in with a broken femur and several cut wounds from a pikipiki accident. As we began cutting his clothes off we found that he was wearing, a down jacket, then a long sleeved shirt, then a short sleeve shirt followed by a jersey. Each a little more drenched in sweat than the last. After I cut through his jeans, he had on sweats and then shorts. In order to continue the pattern, he was also wearing two pairs of socks underneath his hiking boots. Since our x-ray machine is broken we had to just suture what we could, splint his legs together and refer him to KCMC (the major hospital here).

That night we went out to dinner at Deli Chez for Jasen’s goodbye dinner and then a few of us went to watch a soccer game which didn’t get done until 3am. When we got home we were faced with the infamous gate, and once again were locked out having to climb over the wall onto the guard tower and back down the other side.

Jordan and I were up at 5 am to pack for our four day safari. Of course, the electricity was out and we were forced to pack in the dark, holding flashlights in our mouths. We were so proud of ourselves for being on time and ready to leave by 6...but then our taxi driver never showed up. We had to call another one and walk part of the way into town before we actually caught one. Thankfully our group was understanding and didn’t leave without us.

After four hours of driving, or four hours of sleeping for me, we pulled into Twiga Campground at our first stop by Lake Manyara (which comes from a Masai word that is a specific name of a tree) in a town called Mto kwa Mbu (Mosquito River). We ate boxed lunches while the guides started to set up camp. It was a lot different than I had pictured it. The main road was a stones throw away from our tent and white girls in bikinis splashed in a pool while more white people played Frisbee in shorts. Jordan, Kristina and I decided to go on a biking safari. A guide took us through the outskirts of town, through a jungle-like trail where there were monkeys and birds everywhere. We came out in the savannah where we rode to a herd of wildebeests.
It was at this time that Jordan realized she had popped her tire by riding over a two inch thorn. The guide said he called someone to meet us with another bike but we should all continue on via foot until they came. We ended up walking for another hour in the middle of the savannah, supposedly in the direction of the lake. The guide finally stopped and said that because the rainy season is so late this year, the lake had receded and was still another 2 hours walk away.

Since we were suppose to be back in thirty minutes for the game drive that night. The guide gave Jordan his bike and took ours, telling us to go ahead and he would walk. We hadn’t even gotten half way when she realized that she had run over another thorn. We did an awkward jog back to the camp as fast as we could while pushing our bikes. We got back dehydrated, sweaty and as red as a baboon’s butt. They hurriedly threw us in the safari car and we were off.

Lake Manyara was beautiful and we got to see almost every animal the first day. David, our safari guide, who has been doing safaris for six years said he only saw the lions in the trees two other times. Besides that we saw elephants (which were close enough to touch), giraffes, hippos, dikdiks, flamingos, all kinds of birds, zebras, warthogs, wildebeests, all kinds of monkeys and baboons, ostriches, impalas, other weird deer things, jackals, and more. We went to bed shortly after the sun did and the next morning were early to rise after it.

We passed through Ngorongoro on the way to Serengeti. The mountains were full of animals everywhere. The Masai were herding their cattle right next to giraffes. We made it to our campsite around 4, quickly set up our tents (Jordan and I were the first to set up and had to show the others how it’s done…no big deal) and then waited around for the tire on our car to be changed. While we waited, Jordan and I hiked up a nearby hill/pile of rocks. The whole time apparently the Africans were yelling at us to get down because a pride of lions lived there as well as poisonous snakes, but we didn’t hear them until we were at the top. I fairly certain that if we were to actually encounter a lion, Jordan would try to pet him. At least it would have distracted him while I ran.

When David returned with the car, we headed out for the game drive. We were lucky again and got to see a leopard fairly close as well as three cheetahs that ran right across the road then sat and watched the sunset right in front of us. We were also the only car there which was awesome.

That night I heard twigs snapping outside of our tent, followed by something hitting the side. Our screens were open, and I opened my eyes enough to see a giraffe walk past our tent. I wasn’t awake enough to connect that there was actually a real elephant there and returned to bed just thinking it was a dream or I was imagining him.

In the morning, which was actually still night because we were up an hour before the sun, the rest of our group confirmed that there was a giraffe as well as jackals. We climbed into the safari car half asleep, and drove out to the savannah. We were by a heard of elephants with their babies when the sun rose. Shortly after, a mama elephant and her baby charged us.

Serengeti translates as “never ending”, which fits it well because it just kept going and going. We saw 4 of the 5, Big Five (black rhino, lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard). Our last day in Serengeti we saw 2 prides of lions, which was a relief seeing as Jordan was set on seeing lions. Every time she would fall asleep and we would wake her for something she would jolt up, frantically look around and question, “Simba?!” And each time we would reply, “No, Jordan, bathroom break”.

The end of the third day we arrived at our campsite in Ngorongoro. We almost the first ones there and set up camp with the best view. Our site was at the top edge of the crater with the most spectacular view. While we were setting up, an elephant walked right into our camp, through the safari cars parked and over by the kitchen to wear the water supply was, and just started drinking out of the supply. Everyone was running around trying to get pictures with him. He finally had had enough and just as I was walking by to get something out of the safari car, he started flapping his ears and began to charge. Pari, a girl in our group calmly shouted, “Bree, you might want to run”. I turned around right as he outstretched his trunk and nicked me in the butt. I quickly darted behind the cook house and avoided being trampled. A few Masai warriors were standing by observing, probably thinking, “Those stupid wazungu.”

Jordan and I helped cook dinner in the big cook house with all the African guides. They were so excited we were in there helping and weren’t shy at laughing at us anytime they said something we didn’t understand or were slow at cutting up vegetables. After dinner we offered to help our cook wash dishes, and somehow got suckered into doing the entire camp’s dishes. Every time we returned with a new stack of pots and pans, we were greeted with all the cooks cheering and whistling right before they handed us another dirty stack.

The next morning, Jordan and I had learned from the previous morning and brought along our sleeping bags as well as just stayed in our pajamas. As we began our descent into The Crater (Ngorongoro) the sun was just starting to rise. We watched it while zebras, wildebeests, ostriches, hyenas, flamingos and elephants all ran around us. The view was breathtaking. Our last day was relaxing and we didn’t see anything new besides rhinos, which completed the Big 5. It was amazing though to see all the animals together in one place.

Everyone slept the whole way home. It took about 40 minutes to wash all the dirt off my body, since I decided not to shower the whole time after witnessing the suffering Jordan went through when she took one. It’s good to be home though.