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.