This was a rather uneventful week at work as I waited for all of the samples to be collected before starting the tests. In terms of people, this week was one of the best and worst. So many people were leaving this week (8 in total by Monday), but this meant lots of goodbye parties and memories. Tuesday night it was at Lauren’s where I helped her to cook burgers. She was quite a cook and even more so because of the 1950s kitchen in each home. Time passed so quickly as Lauren and I goofed off in the kitchen making what seemed like millions of burgers and when we went out to eat, grabbed a glass of wine, and finally joined the party. It was quite a feast and everyone (volunteers) was there enjoying themselves either by the bonfire outside or dancing in the kitchen. It was sad to think that Lauren, Crystal, and Betsy were all leaving the next day and I knew I would be feeling rather lonely. Two British boys had just arrived and the best way to describe them would be as US frat boys because they popped their collars, wore board shorts, and had bottle openers in their flip flops. Crystal and Betsy finally showed up at 10 after spending a lengthy amount of time with Turid, the medical director’s wife, and they were quite exhausted. They had been working like maniacs since the beginning but the last week they had warned me would be insane (they were right). I always asked why they worked so hard because I could tell they didn’t always enjoy it but they would say that this is their last visit due to funding so it has to be finished…. period. There is a different sense of urgency when a timeline starts to run out on a project that’s a thousand miles away. Anyways back to the party, they finally ate and started to finally relax because the long hours were over. People started to peter out, some med students came in to sing Lauren a song, which was very cute, and she made me promise that I’d be the last to leave (and I agreed obviously). The only silver lining to people leaving is being able to take stuff they’re leaving behind so I was able to inherit various random items I needed, but wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere in Haydom or maybe even Arusha (for example hand sanitizer, a cord for the computer, and many movies off of her hard drive). I said a goodbye, but I was driving to the airstrip with them tomorrow morning so I could have a proper one.

Marion and Lauren walkin' it out at Lauren's goodbye party

Of course I went to bed at 2 in the morning so waking up at 6 was a bit of a struggle, but I threw on clothes and loaded into the cruiser with my America buddies. At the airport I held back tears as I hugged them goodbye with the Norwegian pilot hurrying us along in the background. Nina, a med student from Denmark, loaded into the cruiser with her family, who had just arrived, to go on safari together. I went on with my day, headed to the lab, and came home to a very empty house. Work was good, but it was slowly sinking in that I would be leaving next Thursday and I wasn’t ready to go. I was ready to do more than just my research and help the girls with their testing or follow doctors but there was little time left. In the afternoon I went with Katka, Jaap, Eljakim, and Marion to the Armada, which is a twice-monthly traveling market that comes to Haydom. We went in search of congas (fabric for a wrap skirt) and Maasai blankets (they’re wrapped around their shoulders most often). The market was colorful, loud, and full of the most unusual and random items. My best analogy is that it is similar to a traveling Walmart. Jaap and I split two beautiful fabrics; one a bold turquoise geometric pattern and the other a black and tan zebra pattern piece with zebras along the bottom. Eljakim and Jaap found vibrant Maasai blankets and I am so glad Katka was there with us to help haggle brilliantly in Swahili (she’s been there for 6 months). Time after time we would ask for the price and it would be 2 times the amount it normally is just because we were wazunugu (white people) and they assumed we didn’t know the real price or what the local people paid. It is quite customary for the bartering transaction to occur in various shops and in due time I would get my chance as well. We headed to a place to get all of our pieces split and hemmed for about one dollar. While we waited we headed to Two Sisters (the place to shop for the volunteers) and had a soda to relax.

This week zoomed by due to another illness I got Thursday morning that was bad enough that I had to take Cipro. I hoped this would be the last sickness of the trip because I wanted to be healthy before starting to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I unfortunately missed the going away party/bonfire for Jaap, Eljakim, Katka, and Kajsa. Saturday I was feeling much better.

In the evening I surfaced again for dinner and everyone was wondering how I was doing after another update of my bad luck from Christian. I greeted Verena who had just arrived today and was beat from all of the traveling I headed to Kajsa’s place for another bonfire with Johanna, Liselot (a new Dutch med student who arrived Thursday, and some of the male nursing students. I finally got to experience the making of breadsticks over a bonfire, a common activity in Scandinavian countries. It was a lot of fun and time flew by as we talked, ate, and enjoyed each other’s company. Eli, Tuamnini, Sam, and Danny were the local guys who joined us. They seemed to enjoy watching us get so into the breadstick making and all loved the bread except Danny. Danny was actually a field worker for the MAL-ED project and part of the Dotoga tribe. Most local people I met that were from a village far away from Haydom town didn’t like bread (we made the mistake of making a ton for the people helping Crystal and Betsy with research in the house for lunches).  We repeated this on Sunday as well, but this time the British boys, Alex, and Katka joined us after arriving back from the snake farm. Again it was a beautiful evening and Verena was finally rested enough to join us too. We listened to Celine Dion (Tumanini’s favorite) and many current songs that kept us all awake for hours.

Johanna and Danny cooking breadsticks around the fire

Monday I was in the lab early and started testing as soon as possible. I finally understood the pressures of finishing ones’ research before you leave. I had three days to finish it all and write it up because the hard copy of my data had to be left behind. I was swamped with performing hundreds of qualitative tests and about a hundred quantitative tests (each taking about 15 minutes). I strategically overlapped them so as to save time and by the end I was a factory of weighing out a sample, adding reagents, letting it sit, and then titrating it. I figured the amount of time between each sample needed to optimize efficiency. I also brought my camera and snapped a few photos of the girls as they worked. In the evenings I started packing, but also was hanging out with the 4 med students that were left (Liselot, Verena, Marc, and Ben). We watched Forrest Gump, played cards, and got to know each other quite quickly. Tuesday I followed Christian around the old ward, which is the more general ward with a variety of types of patients. I got to see several patients with distended abdomens with no cause known (unknown bacteria/virus/parasite). Christian also let me more of a med student and gave me a stethoscope so I could listen to patients’ lungs and hearts. I listened to an arrhythmic heart, lungs of someone with pneumonia, and various other patients. Christian would ask me questions and I felt like I was actually learning and experiencing basic aspects of medicine. In the evening it was soccer, dinner, and then a bonfire at Case’s and Elona’s. I sat with everyone and just listened to them talk across the fire. I felt removed from the situation as if I was already looking back on a memory. Conversation blurred as I just stared at their faces and once again tried to embed these images into my head forever.

The main street in Haydom on my final day

I hustled to type in the massive amount of data into my computer, dropped everything back in the lab on Wednesday morning and spent the last day in town with Norbert and the four medical students. We went to the market, paid for my land cruiser ticket, ran errands, and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in town. As they got their groceries and items I no longer needed I observed the town streets. I watched as people passed and tried to take as many mental photos as possible. I had already contemplated asking my parents if I could stay for the rest of the summer, but I knew it wouldn’t work out. I said goodbye to my friends and the people I worked with, but I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to this place. My goodbyes were more of a see you in a bit type of thing because I will be back and hopefully sooner than the end of medical school. Monday evening all of the volunteers went out to dinner at Greenview, even Norbert, who informed me that this was his first time eating in town. We had chips and skewers of meat (clearly a common thing we had) and Eli joined us as well. Caroline and Upendo called me and I met them outside where we said our goodbyes and I began to cry a little. After dinner we headed home where I finished packing with the medical students watch a movie, went to bed, and woke up to catch the 5:30 am land cruiser to Arusha.


Disclaimer: This post is very long and more for my records than the usual life update. Also this is almost a month late and I have 3 more weeks to write about. I have had zero time with class and moving in, but I am working hard to finish up my journey for those who have been reading this.

Early Friday the Clement, our driver and the tech guy at the hospital, and the five of us hopped into the car and we began our journey to the Serengeti. Our first stop was Mbulu 2 hours later for a pit stop and then we stopped for a snack on top of a small hill at the cell tower. It was quite beautiful and in the distance we could see Ngorongoro Conservation Area so we knew we were getting close. A few hours later we were in Karatu where we had lunch and some of us visited the atm. Contrary to my preconceived notions of a car trip on less than ideal roads the trip so far had gone so fast because of all of the interesting conversations we were having in the car. The group I was with was absolutely amazing and we had no problems what so ever. In Karatu I saw signs of tourism I had yet seen since the airport. There were nice bungalow designed hotels and so many children trying to sell jewelry and things on the street. Here we picked up Freddie and our food and headed to safari area. To get to the Serengeti you must go through Ngorongoro as well. At the Ngorongoro gate there were tons of baboons running around and quite tame. We were informed to close all of the windows because they would climb into the car. After looking at the layout of the conservation area we headed back to the car but first I had to take pictures of monkeys (obviously!!). Clement rolled down his window while waiting for us and it only took moments until a young baboon was trying to crawl in. I almost cried from laughter because it was such a strange sight to see. Biological anthropology came in handy when we witnessed some interesting power dynamics between a female and a very young male baboon.

Baboons just chilling in the parking lot at the front gate

A baby baboon and its mother getting preened

Inside Ngorongoro was amazing; there was jungle to fields to plains. Ngorongoro is a conservation area instead of a national park because the Maasai are the only tribe allowed to live on the land as well. This tribe is how most people would typically think of local people in Africa with the beaded necklaces covering their entire neck, colorful clothing, and more jewelry adorning wrists, ankles and heads. Maasai men have many wives and he lives with them in a community. Each traditional community contains a man with his many wives and children. Seeing two elephants next to a herd of cattle was something I wasn’t ever expecting to see in my life. Ngorongoro is best known for the large crater there because it created a fish bowl type atmosphere with the animals living in it. Long ago there was a volcano there that was the tallest mountain in Africa but it erupted and collapsed to form this crater. It is 20km by 18km and has trapped the animals living in it because of its steep walls. This is a favorite for tourists because you’re guaranteed to see a lot because they have nowhere to go. It is also the only place you will see rhinos in Tanzania. We went to the rim of the crater and it was such an amazing view. We continued through Ngorongoro passing Maasai homes, gazelle, zebras, and hit the plains. At the rim we put the roof up so we could stand while driving. The force of the wind and the breath-taking scenery made it simple for me to get lost in my own head just looking out and admiring nature.

The Ngorongoro Crater. by Jaap and his wide-view camera

Before we knew it, we were at Serengeti gate and having a soda. Many animals and birds have set up shop here I’m guessing because of the amount of food tourists let dribble onto the ground. I joked earlier when we were looking at the animal checklist that we needed to find all of the animals under the rat, mice, and mongoose category. Ironically I think we managed to cover them all just at locations where lots of people gather. The US equivalent of rats and pigeons here are amazingly beautiful creatures. The starling is iridescent blue and orange and the hyrax are the size of small dogs and the closest relative of elephants.

The most stunning part of the trip

We started driving through the park and the first thing we saw was tons of deer type creatures; Thompson gazelles, Grant gazelles, Topi, impallas, etc. Jaap and Johanna were singing the Lion King soundtrack, setting the mood perfectly. The sun is starting to set when we get to these large rocks that are straight out of a scene from Lion King. Of course what do we find on them other than lions!! There were 7 on the first set of rocks with cubs about 20-30 feet from our car. Marion had a telephoto lens so her pictures were amazing and we had the gift of perfect light. I just gazed at them in total amazement and we all couldn’t believe how lucky this was. We went to turn around and came up to another set of rocks with 4 more lions sunning themselves there. We made our way to the hostel where we only had electricity from 7-10 pm each night but we arrived a little bit before sunset so we ran up the nearest hill and watched from the top. It was redder than anything I had seen before and we stupidly walked through a lot of tall grass to get to the top (that’s where spitting cobras and other deadly animals would be hiding). That was one of a couple times where Clement said we were going somewhere too dangerous. The cook made us amazing food and exhausted, I passed out nicely so as to be able to wake up at 5.

Sunrise as we head towards the migration

We were on the road in darkness where I enjoyed the darkness of the Acacia trees against the pastel background of the sunrise. We left early to make it to the migration of Wildebeest in the Northwest corridor before lunch. On the way we had Clement stop the car so many times for various wildlife; jackals, dick-dicks, ibis, storks, zebras, giraffes, and VERVET MONKEYS (they have pastel blue balls its hilarious). Sad to say the baboons didn’t take to my monkey call and the vervet monkeys just looked in my direction with little reaction. I’m guessing I must be a monkey from a different region. Wildebeest, buffalo, and zebra were spotted along the open fields signaling to us that we were getting closer to the migration. Clement informed us that zebras were there to help lead the migration because the Wildebeest had such terrible eye sight. We stopped at a dried up portion of the Grumeti river where we hopped out of the car to take photos, have coffee, and look for crocodiles. We drove a bit more seeing Ibis, large lizards, and more crocodiles. There was a place that we again unloaded and Clement led us to a suspension bridge of part of the river. The boys and I ran across this quickly to the other side where we proceeded to play around and swing around on vines. It didn’t take long for Clement to yell across to us that poisonous snakes, crocodiles, and lions roamed this area. We got back onto the bridge quickly, took a few photos, and were off for the migration again.

Shennanigans at its finest

Wildebeest unkowingly getting a drink of water 2 feet from the jaws of a crocodile that appears to be a rock

As we drove towards the parts of the river that had yet to be dried up the spots turned in to lines of Wildebeest along the horizon and suddenly the vast openness was cluttered with hundreds of animals. The amount of Wildebeest against this iconic Africa background was breath taking. We stopped at a watering hole in hopes to see some action of crocodiles eating Wildebeest. It was slow and we thought nothing was going to happen until splashing commenced and all we could see was a victorious crocodile as the other Wildebeest hurried to get out of the water. As we looked above the car at this crocodile with beast in mouth, Clement was getting news of lions mating close by. This was something very interesting to see and we learned it involved a lot of dedication. A pair goes off from the group and for one week they mate every 45 minutes (15 seconds of action and then a lot of sleeping).

Zebras hang out resting on each other's backs to help swat flies off a friend's face

We stopped at the airstrip for lunch, which was delicious (or so I thought). The journey continued as we saw more giraffes, birds, and finally elephants. They were so graceful as they snapped trees in half and the youngest was running between everyone’s legs. Next to these elephants was a hippo pool where each bulge above the water was another hippo sleeping. Needless to say we didn’t stay too long at this location because of the smell (they live in their own filth and it gets bad enough that there is no longer any oxygen left in the water). We headed towards the hostel stopping on the way to see a family of hyenas and allow me to get ill. I got food poisoning from the lunch and eventually we found out the Clement had gotten it as well. It is something that’s very understandable when we eat meat after a day of not having any fridge to store it in. There was no time for me to feel sick and when we saw animals I was just as excited to see them. All was worth it when we neared the visitor’s center and saw a million cars all together. We sped over there and 60 feet away from the road was a cheetah sleeping in the grass. It felt very zoo like as every car that was in the park today was there at that cheetah it seemed like, but nonetheless I enjoyed every second of watching it sleep. We headed to the visitor’s center because Clement was finally getting hit with the food poisoning. It was fun in its own right because there were hyrax, who are the closest relative to the elephant yet is the size of bunny, and mongoose, a squirrel type looking creature. They quite tamely sat on the brick wall as I got 2 feet away from them like a college campus squirrel. I was getting worse and it was getting too hard to enjoy the sights and it was 5 so we headed home after a long eventful day.

On top of shifting sands (Johanna, Marion, Eljakim, me, Freddie, Clement, and Jaap)

I spent most of night vomiting and sleeping but in the morning I was feeling much better. I made the mistake of being too brave and tried to eat breakfast. We loaded up the car and headed towards the gate. On the way we stopped to see a Serval cat, which is the size of a medium-sized dog. It was so cute and very rare to see in daylight because all cats except the cheetah are nocturnal. We left Serengeti and headed back into Ngorongoro where we stopped at Olduvai (where many hominid and Australopithecine fossils have been found) for lunch. We saw shifting sands, which is a dune that moves slowly across the plains each year. We then headed back to Karatu, dropped off Freddie, and continued on home after stopping in Mbulu for chips and skewers of meat. I was home and excited to see Betsy, Crystal, Christian, and Norbert in the living room, but it wasn’t long before I was sleeping soundly in my bed.

Saturday I sat around all day while Betsy and Crystal were at a village meeting. I got to catch up on my blog (though clearly its taking awhile to post them) and do some reading. In the evening I started planning with some friends for a trip to Serengeti next weekend. Once Betsy and Crystal were home we headed to Lauren’s for Betsy’s birthday dinner type thing. The food was once again great, absolutely amazing food especially for here (eggplant parmesan, alfredo, sausage, soup, and it goes on). I am amazed when people cook because the kitchens are completely old school and it must literally take hours. I got to meet Case and Elona for the first time and they were great. They’ve been living here with their children for two years now. The plan from Thursday was for everyone to go to the disco in town (even Norbert and my parents). The medical students have been telling us how fun it is and we are all shocked there is such a place here. Of course all of the people over 30 ended up not going to the disco but Lauren and I didn’t either.  After dinner we just hung out and chatted for awhile.

Sunday was another lazy day but after a group got back from the snake farm. (I opted out of that for obvious reasons in regards to my relationship with animals here). But when they came back I went with them to do a sunset climb of Harar. It was very slippery but the view at the top was amazing. We sat on a cliff and could hear baboons below us but unfortunately we couldn’t see them. From the top you could see the entire area surrounding Haydom and all of the massive open land. After a relaxing and very amusing sit at the top we headed back down quickly so we wouldn’t be hiking down in the dark. Lauren, Jaap, and I had the hardest time with the little rocks on the way down. We were slipping everywhere and Jaap was woohoo-ing (very mariokart style) every time he slipped. He did end up falling, which was very entertaining but to be fair he had a hurt ankle from a week ago. The drive there and back was very bumpy and the last 5 minutes involved making your own road.

The view from the cliffs on Mt Harar

Monday was Betsy’s birthday and instead of a song she got Kahsa and Alexander to gargle water to the tune of happy birthday. Kahsa managed to spit the water out of her mouth a couple of times and Betsy said it was the best birthday song ever. I have started helping Caroline and Upendo fill out paper work. There are thousands of samples that are all being PCRed so each one needs a form. I managed to complete the 2100 forms in 3 days. On Wednesday I got to help with plating the Elisa test.

Today (I finally have caught up!!) I played soccer and managed not to get hurt. After seeing the other injuries Crystal and Betsy were pretty sure I would get hurt playing but I survived and it was a lot of fun. We had the usual dinner at Christian’s but a much smaller group because some went into town to eat. Tomorrow I head off to Serengeti with Marion, Jaap, Eljakim, and Johanna. I’m very excited and hope to see lots of monkeys and leopards!!!

So this is the food paragraph. If food has really sucked at the guest house we go to the canteen which is the cafeteria for the hospital. We get rice, beans, and chinese cabbage for about 66 cents. Delicious and it gives us no stomach issues. We get fresh mangoes and avocados from town for about 20 cents. We also get guavas in two varieties and of course BANANAS. Food in the guest house sucked but we got new management and the food has been looking better. They now serve vegetables at meals!!!  I mainly eat beans and rice like at home so not very eventful meals, except the local meat and vegetable dishes at meals. Marion had a great line the other day when we were asking about medical service and she said “Compared to the food it is much better” but now we may think the food has surpassed the service. At breakfast there are now the cutest bananas ever. They’re half the size of our typical banana and the inside looks slightly different. Today was the greatest; one banana was so small and cute I couldn’t even eat it. The samosas and the flat bread here are by far my favorite local foods. Ugali was weird at first consistency wise but now I really enjoy it and eating with it is quite an art. Its corn based with the consistency of a hot dough. You roll a little portion into a ball and then use it as the utensil to grab meat or veggies. It is a similar concept as naan or something but the doughyness of it makes it very messy. Beef is the staple meat here. Eating at friend’s house on the complex has really saved me because of the repetitiveness of lunch and dinner. Needless to say I’m very excited for my parents to pick me up at the airport to go eat amazing food in SF or even to get to Arusha where there are restaurants.

Eye Opening

June 9, 2011

Today I got to follow a doctor around, Marion Brown. She is from Wisconsin but practiced in Pennsylvia for 35 years in OB-GYN. She was 1 woman of the 60 in medical school. She retired because the last 10 years she did purely Medicare and Medicaid and could no longer afford malpractice insurance in Penn. So I went with her at 830 to the xray meeting where they go over all of the x-rays from the day before. There were so many and very unclear from supposedly an ancient machine. The man who analyzes them is quite amazing according to the wazungu doctors. Just to give you a hint of the theme of third world hospitals…. there is an x-ray of a chest and the doctor reading the description gets confused (a Tanzanian) and gives it to Christian (a doctor from Austria) who proceeds to say that this isn’t what was supposed to be xrayed and at the top it says “XR HIP.” There was also a woman who got xrayed instead of an ultrasound. So that was an interesting 30 minutes and we moved to the maternity ward.  First we went into the premi room where Marion made sure they were using the Kangaroo technique with the babies. That room smelled so terrible and foul I couldn’t describe. Next we met up with Jaap (pronounced yab) who is a 4th year med student from Holland to do rounds in ante natal. There were 10 beds in the room but it was pretty spacious. Most woman come in that are almost due and scared when they get a contraction. There were some others that had fetal demise and Marion got very angry that they were in this room because it is quite damaging psychologically. We went into another room where we gave these women a drug (I can’t remember the name) to induce contractions and dilation. Then they got called into labor because there was a woman who was struggling with labor. It was her first baby and eventually I got to witness that birth and a episiotomy.  It was close to lunch so that made me very light headed like when I was visiting my Grandpa when he got hospitalized with pneumonia. The area was very hot, no air circulation, and smelly. It made me rethink my doctor ambitions. However when I went running with Lauren (a second year Duke medical student) she said you need to drink lots of water so I think my dehydration played a big role in it. Duke has a cool medical school where they fit the first 2 years of teaching into the first year and the second they do some kind of research.  Continuing with the maternity ward there was a woman who was leaking amniotic fluid and a little blood. I got to see a cervical exam and see 2 cervices. After that it was lunch and then the lab.  I started running with two women to get into Kili shape and the altitude here is 5,000+ ft so it was quite hard to breathe haha.

Stung by scorpion Tuesday. Night before talked Crystal told me about shaking out clothes and shoes. I put on my pants and it was there, BUT when we tried to shake it out afterwards it was stuck so shaking it out would’ve done nothing. We had to pick him off with a ruler! This sent Crystal cursing like a sailor and almost fired me as her binti (child) but took that back because if a bug is going to bite its going to bite me. I’ve been the perfect insect repellent for everyone. It hurt a little bit but not too bad. I was ordered by our personal doctor (Christian) to keep it elevated. Christian has enjoyed the pleasure of being our doctor with every ailment we’ve had from bowels to my bugs. This time he got a great call at 7 am. Crystal has decided she can’t talk about bad things in relation to animals because if she says it happens the next day. It was also her birthday so we had cake, some really great songs by Jaap and Alexander, and then a relaxing evening hanging out with Christian and Lauren.

After the singing and cake

Worked in the lab transferring information to my excel files so Wednesday was rather boring, but I hadn’t been to the lab in almost a week. The salt samples have been taking longer to be gathered so I haven’t had much to do. I helped fill out a mass number of forms. I found it yesterday was also Upendo’s birthday so I invited her and Caroline for cake after work. After I finished everything I headed to the “tennis court” to do a version of P90X with Lauren and Beatrice. After thoroughly dying in the heat and with all of the jumping I came home to find the girls waiting for me. We had a delicious banana vanilla cake (delicious for here, man have my cake standards dropped since leaving Rachel Lo’s baking perimeter). I will get to learn more about working in a microbiology lab tomorrow so I am excited about that. Again we gathered at Christian’s for dinner on Thursday and it was absolutely amazing. Four types of salads… with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mango, basil, apples. You name a delicious salad ingredient and it was probably in one of them. I was so shocked that they could find it. There was also curried beef and a marinated beef dish. Everyone agreed all the fresh vegetables and fruit were worth any possible diarrhea we may get tomorrow.

Friday I spent the morning helping Caroline with identifying different cultured specimens with this web database (Api I believe). After that it was lunch, chatting with the doctors, and then retreating my clothes with bug repellent. Then I went for a run with Beatrice and we had a bonfire in our backyard. All of the medical students came and it was a lot of fun with stories, jokes, guitar.  Everyone was out there except for my parents because they’re so tired because they’re working almost every waking hour (kind of sounds like my real parents, or at least my mom).

Week two

June 9, 2011

Monday was my last day out in the field for a while and I headed out with Rosie and Joe. The first house they had to get the baby’s measurements and the mama proceeded to make us chai, rice and beans. The two girls there came up to play with my hair and we all thought it was pretty funny. We visited several more houses and then I joined Eppi and Ester to continue on. The children in these households were more fascinated with my hair than the other villages. It was weird because every village reacted to me differently, but all enjoyed my effort of learning Iraqw. My eye was still a little swollen from the sting, but no nearly as bad as what was to follow. On Tuesday I woke up with little vision in my right eye and proceeded to look in the mirror where I discovered the swelling was around my entire eye and not just the lower part. I took more Benadryl, slept most of the day, and did nothing.

Wednesday  was the first day where I jumped into lab work. I performed the qualitative test on all 91 samples and finally got it to work correctly because the instructions failed to warn me how sensitive the potassium iodide solution was to light. So after that all the ones that were positive I also tested quantitatively via titration. Caroline, Upendo, and I listened to music and the day seemed to zoom past. They invited me to come over to their apartments so I packed some things (movies and my laptop) and headed with them. The live about 15 minutes away, 5 minutes from town, and 5 from Eliwaza’s home. We watched Mean Girls, which they thought was absolutely hilarious and then Superbad, which they didn’t get all of the very crude, American jokes. The both live in one room places but are very nice in comparison to other homes I have seen; probably some of the nicest apartments in Haydom. Upendo proceeded to cook us dinner of rice, beans, and an omlette. I was completely stuffed because they gave me the most food, which I was quick to catch onto though they tried to deny it. I had lovely spiced chai again and they had many vegetables (this was before the management change at the guest house so I was very excited haha). We went to bed, I got bitten by a few mosquitoes, and woke up at 6:30 to get ready for work. We ate eggs, avocado, sausage, and toast for breakfast. It was a very fun adventure

Mother-in-law tongue is the large plant on the right

The field workers didn’t collect samples on Wednesday nor today so there is nothing for me to do in the lab so I help out with some paper work and then head back to the house for the afternoon. I do some data entry for Crystal and Betsy and spend most of the day lounging around. I also came to the realization that I need to read my biochemistry more and decide in the next two weeks if I can actually take that class while missing the first two weeks of instruction. The deadlines to drop the class are while I’m here in Africa so I can’t even get a feel for the class before I decide. On Thursday Christian invites a bunch of expats to hang out for food, drinks, and relaxing. There is something here called Amarulla, which is liquor from fruit in South Africa, but it tastes a lot like Baileys. Elephants eat these fruits and get drunk off them!!  Christian is the Austrian version of my brother with his sarcasm and intolerance for stupidity. He is very funny and Crystal and Betsy say he is a lot less crabby. I also got to meet several more people, Lauren (Duke med student), Heidi and Erlan (Norwegians doing cognitive psychology for MAL-ED), Norbert (American doctor) and Kenny (a South African construction worker). I had a chance to not only meet people my age, but also unwind and hear about the politics through out the complex. I also managed to be eaten alive by mosquitoes at his place, but the good news is that the elevation is too high for malarial mosquitoes to really thrive. Betsy and I also went into town to search for Amarulla (Christian sends all guests out on the hunt) and gather some fruits and veggies. Mangoes and avocados both are about 300 Tsh (Tanzanian shillings), which equals about 20 cents. They are so delicious and the guavas are also amazing.

Saturday I woke up with a ton more bug bites so we think it may be fleas or bed bugs. Crystal and Betsy had a meeting with their research assistants so I again did little and played a new iphone game I’m obsessed with; iassociate. In the evening Crystal was rather frazzled and frustrated so we headed to Christians for beer and looked at his photos from the week long trip he took with family and friends to several different national parks and even an active volcano. Of course he climbed it at night to be at the top for sunrise so on the way down they saw all of the lava flows they had walked a foot away from. We then headed over to Lauren’s because she was a little delayed in joining us. Crystal initiated the taking of shots, which I was quite impressed with. Again we were just relaxing and hanging out. Lauren also had Pringles and guacamole so I finally got a taste of home and a little bit of what I was used to. Most of the food has been rice, beans, and avocados, which I eat most days at home, but the meat and vegetable dishes have been a little new to me.

One of my favorites. She loved taking pictures

Sunday Crystal Betsy and I went for a walk and went to the Cultural Center where they have a great outdoor auditorium and examples of traditional homes for each tribe. The tribes are the Dotoga, Iraqw, Masai (one of the last hunter/gatherers), and Rangi. We were going to climb the mountain there but Betsy and I have had some stomach issues so we headed home. On the way home a boy helped us get a new kind of local fruit, which tasted like candy. We then were followed by two boys playing, another two who wanted water and a picture, and lastly a little girl who wanted her picture taken as well. I also taught her how to use my camera (don’t worry dad my hands never left it) and she had a blast, snapping about 20 photos. After that we had lunch and I proceeded to take a nap for 4 hours and went to bed early as well. I have had diarrhea pretty much everyday, which has been very draining. Crystal strongly believes it was giardia so I took a shot of salt in water and it seems much better. I will have to see if there are any improvements.


May 31, 2011

This is a very delayed post, but the internet has been a unique experience. The hospital’s internet has trouble loading and my Vodafone wireless dies every 20 minutes. So this post is in regards to last week.

Without fail I wake up by 8 am even on the weekends. Sunday Veron invited us to her parents house in Endanachan so a large group of us drove out in the land cruiser. We picked up mama Julie and some of the kids there and were on our way. We had several break downs and the 15 year old boys would hop out of the back at reattach the fuel pump. After about an hour of this driving and making sure Betsy wasn’t getting car sick we arrived at Veron’s home. It was 3 small house; one with bedrooms, one for cooking and the animal, and one for the living room and main bedrooms. We hung out for a little bit and we ate delicious honey that they had collected the day before. Veron, her younger brother, the children, my surrogate parents, and I all loaded into the car and headed to the water pump.

Once we arrived we all jumped out looked around and began climbing the nearby hill. We thought we lost Veron and Crystal when we started heading down the back but they eventually caught up. On the way down however we passed the hive where they had taken the honey the day before and let’s just say the bees were still very pissed. I was the first to get stung on my back and then my finger. Betsy is very allergic and we left the Epipen in the car so our first concern was protecting her. We all gathered and thought it was over but then saw them zooming around Betsy. Crystal screamed at her to run, the adults scooped up the children and in this time a bee landed on me and stung me in the eye. I let out a scream and almost knocked over Ibraham. Crystal came back up grabbed my hand and pulled me down the trail where we all gathered outside a strangers home. The brother pulled the stinger out of my lower eye and Betsy gave me one of her precious Benadryls. Ibraham and another boy got stung as well on the back of the head and the nose. I was a little rattled but overall fine so we headed back to Veron’s for some lunch. I ate a delicious meal of ugali, rice, beef, and Chinese greens. They warned me that I would be very tired and a little bit after lunch I was passing out so they tucked me into a bed for a nap. I hadn’t seen a bed in the villages yet, but they’re usually made out of sticks, but this one also had a piece of foam on top of that. I was out for about 2 hours until the chicken that had been laying eggs under the bed startled me awake. Luckily it was just in time and we went for a walk to document some of the local fruits because that is Crystal’s job for MAL-ED. The kids brought us Muslaur, which are sweet fruits. Most fruits here cause you to salivate and are either sour or subtly sweet. Veron’s parents and bibi (grandmother) gave us hollowed out gourds as gifts, which can be cut in half to be used as bowls or for decoration.  We finally headed home with Ibraham on my lap, had some spicy chai (tea) at Julie’s, and made it back to the hospital where I proceeded to eat and then past out.

Finding my footing

May 21, 2011

Since arriving in Haydom I’ve been working from 7:30 to 7 most days. I’ve been planning like crazy, running pilots, and finally made it out to the field on Thursday.  I had yet to venture outside of the hospital gates and spent most of my time going from my house to the lab. I am currently living with two anthropologists from UIC who have become my parents here. Crystal and Betsy make sure I’m taking my Malarone, keeping me safe, and helping me get comfortable here. They have been coming here since 2008 looking at women in the villages and their reasons for why they give birth at home or at the hospital. A lot of the visiting doctors and med students are working in the maternity ward. They are from all over; Norway, the Netherlands, the UK, the US, and Austria. The houses are nice and the food is more flavorful than what I was warned about (and still a step up from most college food).

The field was great and it was cool to look into the ways in which this huge project operates; its a very well oiled machine. I was very timid at first since I didn’t know much of Swahili or Iraqw but the field workers persisted with questions and eventually I felt very comfortable. They also started to teach me Iraqw so I can greet the mothers in the homes we visited to collect data. Their plan for me is to be fluent in Iraqw when I leave, but I’m not so sure my language abilities are that speedy!! They also introduced me to the tastiest local fruits called Mahhayhhay (ma-ha-ha, this is an Iraqw word) that have two varieties, sweet and very sour. I was so grateful they kept teaching me despite how much I butchered the words and I was more than happy to answer the many questions they had for me about the US and myself (my favorite was if I was married). The first day going out into the field I wore hiking pants, which lead many households to ask if I was male or my favorite from a little girl telling a field worker “I was really pretty but why was I wearing trousers.” Friday I was better and borrowed a skirt from Betsy. I keep missing lunch while out in the field so I am very glad I have packed power bars and granola (my housemates also have a life times supply of beef jerky). Jean and Esto both left Friday, which has made me nervous, but Jean continues to remind me that they’re just an email away. I will be spending my time in the lab with Caroline and Upendo, who are my age and already seem like we’ll get along great.

During the week everyone is so busy I hadn’t really had a chance to hang out with anyone except my new mothers at meals and at night while we did crosswords, but last night we played Phase 10 in the guest house with a bunch of the medical students. Also we went into town so I could register my sims for the internet and my phone. I also inherited another mother, Veron, while getting the sims, who is a friend helping with their (their almost always refers to Crystal and Betsy) study. I sent a text to my brother and dad; of course their immediate reaction was that something was terribly wrong. I talked to Steve which was nice and found out he got into medical school, which I wish I was there for in Virginia.

Today has been the best so far, mainly because I got to sleep in until 7:45, but also because I went out into the area to visit friends of mama mikah (mee-kah) (Crystal) and mama eli  (ellie) (Betsy). I got to take some photos and meet a great family with sweet adorable kids. Everyone I have met so far has amazing English, making the majority of people here fluent in three languages. Hopefully I will upload some photos if the Internet is fast enough. I have enjoyed every minute so far and I can’t wait to learn more Swahili and Iraq and meet more people.

So it has been one week since arriving in Tanzania and I’ve barely had time to eat let alone go into town to set up electronics. After spending hours on a plane with less than two thirds of my seat available and an equally long but roomier flight to Kilimanjaro I arrived at 8pm in Tanzania (10 hrs different for the west coast, 7 for east). The first words I learned were “Mambo?” and “poa” (What’s up? And I’m cool), besides the word my dad taught me, kaka which means brother. A very nice man named Carol was there to great me and drive me to Jean’s house in Moshi. He was so interesting and the complete opposite of what I expected. He informed me that I will get to see elephants while climbing the back route on Kili. He was a porter for several months, carrying 30 kilos up to the top every trip!!

In Moshi, Jean and I headed to the lab to make some acid solutions and it gave me some time to google Swahili words, such as asante (thank you), karibu (welcome), etc. We grabbed breakfast of beef samosas and flat breads at a little shop on the hospital complex for a total of 2 dollars, including waters (so delicious). For lunch I ate a mango and a banana, which were both heavenly and only 25 cents. We had to wake up on Monday at 4am to drive two hours to Arusha where we boarded a 12-seater plane. The pilot assigned our seats according to the weight. It was a short flight and we weren’t very high up, allowing us to see amazing views of Tanzania. I flew with Jean, Betsy, Crystal, Caroline, and Upendo (all people I will work/live with).

Landing in a grassy field was a a little bumpy, but not as bad as I imagined. We hoped into a land cruiser and were on our way to the Hospital in Haydom. All the other wazungu (white foreigners) are pretty fluent in Swahili so I missed a bit conversation wise but I’m excited to learn more. I’m having trouble with the internet so I can’t put my entire week in one post.

I made it!!

May 14, 2011

After what seemed to be an endless amount of time on airplanes I have made it to Tanzania. The nicest man, Carol, picked me up from the airport and drove me to Moshi where I’m staying with Jean. It was very dark and cloudy but I could see Mt Kili looming in the background. I’ve been up for almost 2 days so this one is short and mainly to let everyone know I made it safely. The only anecdote I will add is that the plane from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro was quite a smelly adventure.

and it begins…

May 13, 2011

After hours of packing and several curse words from my dad I am now sitting in the airport about to start my 24 hour flight to Tanzania. This is the start of my two month stay in Africa where I will be conducting research in a hospital and then climbing Mt Kilimanjaro with my grandma and aunt. I managed to get both of my checked bags under the weight limit (a main reason for the cursing) and filled up on food I will not get. As Allie, Vanessa, Rachel, and I sat in the back of a van like abducted children I realized how much I will miss TIGA, but I’m ready for new adventure. My dad continues to talk about the wildebeest migration and that is the first thing on my agenda of things to see. It has been a family tradition since I was little that every Sunday brunch we all would make wildebeests with our hands before eating (our version of prayer I guess). They would proceed to kiss each other and run around on the table (sometimes even using the restroom over our parents’ coffee, Steve’s favorite activity) so seeing the real version of my family antics would be great. I’m not sure of the internet I will have in Haydom so this could be the first and last blog haha but I hope not. Also to everyone who reads Rachel Lo’s blog this won’t be nearly as good or as tastey! It is time to board and catch up on the sleep I haven’t gotten during finals.