From Jeff [3/27]:
Church was more subdued this year as we are in Lent. No dancing and the choir was much smaller, but they sang wonderfully. Rosie made it through the offering without dropping the basket! We were invited to sing during church again this year. We did a much better job with the song selection: “This Little Light of Mine.”
Starehe Children’s Home
We spent our second day at Starehe. Starehe Children’s Home is a Canadian run orphanage in Mwanza. The orphanage is well funded and the children are incredibly well cared for. There are about 130 children at the home. All the children attend private school and the older kids are at boarding school or vocational school but return home for holidays. The children come to the home by various routes, parents that have died, abandonment, parents that can no longer care for their children, or due to special needs. Sometimes families come back for the children when they can; others grow up at the home in their new family. They are divided up into group homes based on age. Groups have 8-12 kids per “mama” that lives with them. They live together, wash clothes together, and cook together. Their living quarters are sparse by US standards, but wonderful by Tanzania standards. Our translators were shocked by how nice their living quarters were. The kids at Starehe all help out with other age kids. A four year old was teaching a two year old how to kick a soccer ball. He would set the ball in front of the two year old, back up, allow the younger to kick the ball (often took several attempts), kick it back, then set it up again. This went on for 15-30 minutes. The teenage kids played with the younger kids and helped with the babies. I got the privilege to see several kids that I saw last year. Last year I examined twin boys that had just arrived at the children’s home. They were about six weeks old. This year they were thriving 14 month olds walking all over the place. There were more babies this year than previously. Two children had just arrived at the home within the last week or so. Without known birthdates we guessed their age based on exam. One of these little boys did not want to go back with the older boy helper and just wanted to snuggle in my arms. Don’t worry; he is not coming home in my suitcase. Tanzania law requires a 3 year stay for potential adoptive parents; adoptions are rare. It was also fun to talk with the older kids about their hopes and dreams. The goal of the home is to transition the children back to the community after school and vocational training.
Thank you for all the updates about Kathy’s brother. She really appreciates them.
Two 4th year medical students from Iowa State arrived today for a four week rotation.
I am now doing breast exams and pap smears on the staff at the clinic. None of them have ever had a pap smear before!
One of our translators is sick with malaria. I hope we are all remembering our meds. I know I have more bites than I can count on my arms and legs.
I am at Lucy’s house, sitting in the narrow hallway. I am seated in a white plastic lawn chair (which also serves as a dining room chair) with a laptop computer perched on Lucy’s ironing board. Every item seems to serve at least two purposes. It is pretty cozy here, Sue is about 8 feet from me at the hallway bathroom sink, Keith is about ten feet in the other direction and I can hear him snoring (although he has denied that he snores). Kristy just had to move my chair so she could get to the shower. Lucy is about 15 feet away, watching TV. Kristy and I, Keith and Sue have called Lucy’s house “home” for the past week. We live in close quarters and know each other’s personal habits quite well! It is good, very good.
People are waiting for the computer, so I must be brief, but I must share my favorite Swahili word, “kizungusungu,” which means “dizzy.” If you say it out loud, it almost makes you feel dizzy.
For now, lala salama—good night.
I’ll start by saying that it may be difficult to concentrate on writing at the moment, as I am still reeling from the fact that Jeff and I somehow just lost two games of euchre to Rosie and Cheryl. But I’ll try to regain the focus that was obviously lacking while the cards were being played. I still think that Rosie put something in those “lightly salted” almonds.
How does one begin to summarize and capture a week of working and living at Nyakato in Mwanza, Tanzania? Hmmm…Ummm…Well, it can’t be done. Good bye.
Then again, I’ll try to touch on just some of the many highlights.
First of all, I must start by commenting on the work of the team that we have. I cannot adequately recognize all of the efforts and contributions of every member. For one thing, there would not be enough time to do that. Also, because I have spent almost all of my work days blissfully isolated in the surgical ward, I am simply unaware of the things that I know that others are doing around the facilities here. As such, I will restrict my comments to things of which I have first hand knowledge. For the sake of brevity, I will restrict my comments to the OR team. Otherwise, I’ll never finish this post!!
While they both worked very hard to lower my expectations of them prior to the trip, Rosie and Kathy have exceeded my highest expectations as a nursing team in the operating room. While we all had some learning to do the first day in the OR, I soon began to feel as spoiled as I do back home. They have the room set up while I am seeing patients between cases. They have the needed equipment for the upcoming case (even if I didn’t think of it). Sponge counts, needle counts…you name it, they have it covered. Thank you Rosie and Kathy!
Sue takes incredibly good care of the patients from the head of the table. I don’t think that I have ever underestimated the importance of good anesthesia care in surgery, but I don’t think that I have ever appreciated it more. Thank you Sue!
And thank you to everyone else. And I do mean everyone!
One of the more memorable events of the trip for me so far was a morning walk that I took while Sandy and Hannah were out for a run (I would have gone running with them but for a bad wheel, you know). I ran into a young Masai man named Paolo. I had met him several times before and I knew that he did not speak much English and he knew that I did not speak much Swahili. Nonetheless, we walked for about a half an hour while Sandy and Hannah passed by us several times on their run. Paolo and I made a conversation simply out of naming things to each other, alternating “Kiigereza” (English) and “Kiswahili”(Swahili)—“goat”/”mbuzi”, “school”/”shule”, “road”/”bara bara,”…Well, I think you get it. We were able to actually converse beyond that, as well, in my (very) limited Swahili. It made for a very pleasant start to the day.
But Paolo is just one example of the innumerable people that we have met who have made us feel welcome here. Some are people that we see every day. But many are people that we pass on the street who simply want to greet us (“Jambo”) or shake our hands—I don’t think I could have shaken more hands in a week if I were running for public office! It would be difficult to imagine a more welcoming people.
Driving around Nyakato and Mwanza, one is struck by many things. There is obvious poverty. But there is also incredible activity. The streets and roads are filled with people—walking, talking, some carrying baskets or loads of grasses on their heads, biking, some with loads of sugar cane to sell at the market. And then there are the dala dalas, vans PACKED with people. There are cattle, goats, and chickens immediately on the sides of the roads. There are boys bathing in streams. The landscape around Mwanza cannot be described. It truly is deserving of its nickname “Rock City” (Apologies to KISS and Detroit, MI).
Other daily highlights include breakfast at Paula and Denny’s and dinner at Lucy’s. We are VERY well fed. The walk past “Menards” and down the street to the local watering hole at the end of the work day is another highlight. On one of said walks, a local metal worker wanted to show me how to weld parts on a door or window. While I do think that his offer was genuine and well-intentioned, one look at his welding tool (made up of what looked like a worn jumper cable and a metal rod) activated my well developed sense of self preservation and I politely declined his offer (“Hapana asante”).
Other random thoughts from the week include seeing my daughter, Hannah, go from nearly passing out at the sight of a skin incision to watching major abdominal surgery without difficulty. Now she wants to know if she has seen more surgeries than her older brother. Also, I must mention our interpreters, James and Peter. As none of us speak Swahili, and many of our patients speak very little English, these two young men make our job doable by bridging that communication gap. They are both very bright, engaging, and motivated, both wanting to pursue a university education. It is my hope for them that they can realize their goals. Thank you James and Peter!
I could go on (and on), but time is limited.
Tua nane baadaye (See you soon)!