Last weekend was really nice. We went to Moshi on Saturday (which is smaller, cheaper, calmer, and cleaner than Arusha) and met our friends Daria and Stephanie (working at Machame Hospital). We explored the city for a while, and at the end of the day Daria and Stephanie came home with us for the night. We all made dinner together and then played cards for a while before going to bed.
On Sunday, six other students working in the Moshi area joined our house for a trip to the waterfalls. They were beautiful of course, and many of us went swimming although the water was absolutely freezing. It was really fun getting to see so much of the group again after a few days apart. After the waterfalls we went to lunch (which took over an hour to reach the table after we ordered it), and then people had to leave to allow for transit time.
Yesterday marked the end of our first full work week at the hospital. So far, we've been able to successfully troubleshoot all but one piece of equipment that we have been given (there is a centrifuge that is giving us particular trouble... the pair of students at Marangu Hospital last year worked on itas well). Most of the equipment has already been returned to the medical floor, but a good portion of it requires parts that we either have to make or find (which is not easily done... you try finding a surgical lamp bulb in Moshi).
Most of the equipment we work with requires very simple fixes... also most of it is very very old (the other day we worked on a blood pressure cuff that was labeled as manufactured in West-Germany... that's right, it predates the destruction of the Berlin Wall).
We have worked on several blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, oxygen concentrators, lamps, a hotplate, an autoclave, an autoscope, a filling mixer from the dental ward, a stethoscope, a suction machine, and the dreaded centrifuge. I'm surprised by the amount of equipment that simply needs batteries. It hardly feels right to call them "fixes". For example, a doctor brought us one of the blood pressure machines saying, "I don't know what the problem is... it just won't turn on." We opened the battery hatch to find that there weren't any batteries in the machine at all. So we put batteries in it and now it works fine.
That being said... there have been some more complicated fixes that have come our way. I received one of the pulse oximeters with the complaint that it was "kaput". It was a small, portable oximeter, and I noticed that it had a lanyard strung about a length of wire that connected the two halves of the probe (when it should have been strung through a hole in one of the halves that was placed for this exact purpose). Thinking that this had probably placed an extreme amount of strain on the connections inside, I opened the oximeter to find that all of the connections were in fact very weak... the thing practically fell apart in my hands. I spent that night finding new lengths of wire and rebuilding all of the connections inside the oximeter (which was actually pretty difficult and tedious, given the device's tiny size), and now it works! It was very satisfying to see it turn on and provide accurate readings after my work. I returned it to the doctor the next day. Also, I strung the lanyard correctly.
I really enjoy working with the equipment... each device is a new puzzle that we have to take apart and solve, and I think it's really fun!
There are three local nutrition students working at Marangu for the summer while Benita and I are there. One of the students, Titus, actually grew up in Marangu, and he is hosting the others at his house for the duration of their work. On Thursday, they invited us to join them on a trip to the market and then over to their house. The house that they live in belongs to Titus's grandparents, and they have a small farm with goats, pigs, chickens, coffee plants, and banana trees. They were very welcoming, and after we sat for some tea and avocado, Titus led Benita and I and the other nutrition students on a walk through neighboring banana fields. Marangu is an absolutely beautiful area. There are countless species of exotic trees and flowers all over the place, and all of the land that isn't occupied by roads is either covered in agricultural fields or natural forest. During our walk, Titus seemed to know literally every person we passed. It was really nice to be shown around by someone who actually knows the area and grew up with it. I look forward to spending some time with all of them again.
For this weekend, Benita and I left work early on Friday to spend the night at KCMC Hospital in Moshi with a big group of students in the program. This morning we all woke up early to make it to Arusha by 10:30 for an interactive tour of a local coffee farm. We got to participate in every step of the coffee preparation process (which is rather lengthy) from the picking to the shelling to the drying to the husking to the roasting to the grinding to the pouring. The coffee that resulted was amazing. They were arabica beans and they were very strong and aromatic. I could honestly eat handfuls of the roasted beans just before grinding. At the end of the tour, the farmer made coffee with the beans that we had prepared so that we could all have a cup... I took two. It was delicious.
Tonight I'm staying in Arusha and I'm not yet sure what we'll be doing tomorrow. Perhaps exploring Arusha or maybe heading back to Moshi for the day... I'm sure I'll enjoy it no matter what. Every day is like a new adventure here!