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.