Karibu! Follow my adventures this summer with Duke Engage and the EWH Summer Institute in Tanzania!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I can't believe that I'm already a week into August... these two months are flying by!

Today Benita and I are in Moshi and on the internet for the first time in what feels like forever.

We spent all of this past weekend in Moshi with our friends at KCMC. On Saturday, Benita and I had a day to ourselves in the city and we got to do some wandering and shopping. I'm definitely going to have to clear some room in my luggage for the trip home...
On Sunday, most of our group went to Machame to participate in the "Hash", which is a walk through cornfields and coffee farms in the area that ends with a meal for all participants. It was really fun, but because it ended in the evening, Benita and I ended up spending Sunday night in Moshi as well... which meant that on Monday morning we had to wake up bright and early to make the 1.5-hour-long trek to Marangu for work. When we got to the hospital, the administrator commented that we looked very tired and was shocked that we were going to spend the day working rather than resting at home.

Today, Benita and I went to work in the morning and left around noon to come to Moshi and take care of some errands. We have a good number of spare parts to purchase and are looking to recharge a battery... hopefully we can get it all done because our little workshop is feeling rather cluttered with broken stuff.

Since my last post, two other students have come to work at Marangu Hospital. They are medical students from Germany, and they live in a guest house next to mine. Last night we had dinner together, and they shared stories of some of the operations that they have observed...certainly not for the faint of heart. They said that most of the procedures are actually carried out in much the same way as in western hospitals, but huge differences arise when cleanliness and sedation are considered. The patients just walk into the operating theatre in their street clothes and lay on the table. And while they are sometimes given anaesthetic agents, the surgeon often doesn't wait long enough for it to take affect or the amount administered is too little to dull the pain of the operation. The room in which Benita and I work is just one room down from the operating theatre, so we often hear the pained screams and moans of patients. It can be very unpleasant.

I'm down to just over a week and a half left and I can't believe it. I honestly feel like I just got here. My internet time's running out, so I've gotta go for now but I'll update you all again if I can!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wiki Kwanza Hospitalini

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!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sasa ninakaa Marangu

On Thursday, Benita and I said goodbye to our host family and packed up all our stuff to move to Marangu, where we will be living and working for the next month.
We are living in one of Marangu Hospital's guest houses and it is very nice; we have 3 bedrooms, one bathroom (with a western shower and water heater... YAY!), a living room, and a kitchen with appliances. It's really nice to have some space to ourselves after sharing one small room last month. Also, the area in which we live is very beautiful; we basically take a nature hike to and from the hospital every day. It's about 15 minutes of walking through forests and by crop fields and over a river and by a waterfall. Pretty nice.
Yesterday was our first day of working at the hospital, and it started with a 7:45 am church service (which we must attend every day). During the service, Benita and I were asked to stand and introduce ourselves (it was much easier for me than the first time I had to introduce myself to a congregation now that I have just a bit of familiarity with Swahili).
After church, we were given a tour of the hospital. Overall, it looks very small and very well-kept. Everything except the wards and offices is outdoors (it reminds me of an outdoor school that has only the classrooms inside while all of the hallways are open). Benita and I have been given the ultrasound room as our office (because the hospital has a working ultrasound machine but no technician who knows how to use it... so this room is currently unused) and we spent some of yesterday getting moved in and arranging our tools. We also spent some time talking with the hospital's senior and junior doctors to gain some names and familiarity. So far, I feel like a very welcomed addition to the hospital, and I'm looking forward to my stay here. Also, it sounds as though our work hours and days are somewhat flexible, so Benita and I may be able to take a long weekend or two if we would like.
Internet access here seems to be pretty hard to find; Benita and I have come to Moshi for the day and found an internet cafe close to the main daladala stand. The ride here took about and hour and 1500 Tsh, so I'm hoping that I can find a place to gain access somewhere closer to home. But hey, I've only been here for a couple days so I think I'm doing pretty well so far.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nilipanda Mlima Meru!

Hey everybody! I climbed Mt. Meru this past weekend!
It was incredible... but I think that our whole group (12 people; 8 girls, 4 boys) is extremely sore and tired today.
My uncle here happens to be a tour guide who organizes climbs, so we planned the whole trip through him (so I ended up being the group planning leader... previously completely uncharted territory for me). All in all, we had a team of a ranger, guide, 10 porters, and a cook to help us all make it to the summit.

The whole adventure took 3 days:

Day 1
We met at 7 in the morning at our language school and then a couple of our teachers drove us and all of our equipment and crew to the park. After arriving and getting all of our fees paid, we started climbing around 11 . We stopped to rest a few times and ate lunch by a waterfall on the way, and after 5 hours of climbing we made it to Miriakamba Hut, where we were given 3 rooms with 4 bunks each. We set our bags down and then discovered how thankful we were to have a cook... there was hot tea and popcorn waiting for us in the eating hall. Such a lifesaver. Also, when dinner time came, we were all very impressed by the food. It was delicious and there was more than enough for everyone to have several servings. After dinner we all layered-up and went to bed.

Day 2
We woke up at 6 am for breakfast and started the next leg of our climb around 8. It was a very steep climb and we all tired quickly. There were wooden stairs set along the path to help us, but the spacing between them was awkward so I had to take really small steps to make sure that I didn't step up with the same leg each time... because that got really painful really fast. After a couple hours, we broke through the cloud layer and got to see views that I've only ever seen from an airplane. Being above the clouds while on foot is incredible.We all had to stop several times and take it all in. We climbed for about 4 hours total before reaching the next stop, Saddle Hut, around noon. We were pleasantly surprised that it was very warm and sunny at the hut and took the opportunity to rest and sunbathe for a while. Around 3:30 we all went to climb Little Meru, which is a peak very near the hut and not quite as tall as Socialist Peak. From the top we got an amazing view of the peak of Kilimanjaro above the clouds and everything all around us. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay for too long because the guide told me that the next morning we would have to wake up at 12 am to begin our climb to the summit. Yep you read correctly...midnight.

Day 3
Easily one of the longest days of my life. But absolutely incredible. As I said we all woke up at 12 and then we started climbing at about 1 o'clock. It was pitch black and we couldn't see anything but the stars (which were amazing) and what was illuminated by our headlamps. We spend the next 5 hours trudging up hills and over ridges with sheer drops on either side and scrambling horizontally across rockfaces (they didn't exactly mention all of those things in the pamphlet... I now see why they say that Meru is a very "technical" climb). It was actually pretty scary at times. As we got closer to the top, the climb got more and more difficult because there was no vegetation, meaning that there was nothing to hold the hillsides in place. Many people got sick due to elevation (I actually never felt any of the effects, for which I am very thankful because they looked miserable). I would say that the most difficult part of the climb was the last 15 minutes just before the peak because there was no path and I just had to do whatever I could to scramble over rocks straight up to the top. I was already so exhausted that I needed a break almost every time I lifted myself up another step. But when I finally made it... it. was. so. worth. it. (Also, I was the first girl in our group to make it to the summit... Awwww yeahhh!) I made it just in time to see the sunrise over Kilimanjaro. I can't even describe how incredible it was... that image will forever be preserved in my memory. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.

...I had made it to the top, but the day was literally just beginning. Our descent lasted from around 7 am to 6 pm... and today we have all come to class with aching knees and feet and shoulders and hips and pretty much everything else... also we're extremely tired. Good thing I've got a couple days of recovery time before moving to Marangu to do my hospital work. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Swahili Lesson: Telling Time

Today at school we learned how to tell time in Swahili... it's super confusing. The clock starts at sunrise which is considered to be 6, making 6-7 the first hour of the day.
So... 7 is 1, 8 is 2, 9 is 3, and so on. Basically you read the clock as the opposite of what it says...
I can't explain this...
Maybe this video will help: Telling time in Swahili


Last Friday we went to work at Mt. Meru Hospital again, and had another productive day... though I would think not as productive as the first thanks to a pair of very cute little kittens who continually pounced on us and tried to play with the equipment while we worked.
I worked with Ray and Oriane on a centrifuge that the staff had told us would display time and speed values but would not spin. We inspected the machine and after taking it all apart and examining the circuitry and motor, we determined that the problem was simply with the lid latch (centrifuges will not operate if the lid is open for safety reasons). The latch had become completely detached and was laying loose inside the centrifuge (in fact, it fell out of the machine when we took it apart and we didn't even know what it was at first). We found a couple screws that would fit, returned the latch to its rightful position, hooked the centrifuge up to power, and crossed our fingers. It worked! We returned the machine to the lab and they were very thankful for our work.
Here we are with our functional centrifuge!

On Saturday, Benita and I went to the Meserani Snake Park with some other EWHers, and Brenda (our 13-year-old sister) came with us. We got to see lots of exotic snakes, and there was one which we were allowed to hold. I was really excited and was the first one to hold it. I watched it slither around my arms for a couple minutes and then the handler took it out of my hands and put it around my neck. It adventured around through my hair and hissed in my ears (which tickled a bit), and everyone else in my group was somewhat shocked to see that I wasn't bothered by it. Benita and Brenda were both rather hesitant, but we eventually encouraged Brenda enough to hold just the snake's tail.

After the snake park, we all went for camel rides provided by the Maasai village nearby. While the camels were walking, it wasn't so different from riding a horse, but the standing up and laying down were pretty rough. You've got to hang on while the camel's back jerks back and forth to get its long legs placed correctly beneath.

On Sunday, Benita and I went shopping in Arusha. I bought a kitenge that I plan on getting made into a skirt and perhaps another garment if there is material left over. Also, Benita and I bought another one to have hospital scrubs made. We are going to be one stylish pair. They're supposed to be finished today, and I'm really excited to see how they look!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Swahili Lesson: Siku za Wiki

Jumamosi (Joo-mah-mos-ee) -- Saturday
Jumapili (Joo-mah-pee-lee) -- Sunday
Jumatatu (Joo-mah-tah-too) -- Monday
Jumanne (Joo-mah-nnn-ay) -- Tuesday
Jumatano (Joo-mah-tah-no) -- Wednesday
Alhamisi (Al-ham-ee-see) -- Thursday
Ijumaa (Ee-joo-mah) -- Friday

Our teacher told us that Swahili uses an Islamic format for naming the days, and this is why Thursday and Friday break the pattern of the others; these days are significant in Islam