June 16, 2009

Kagera Regional Hospital Surgery

Today Thuy, Betty and I went to the Kagera Regional Hospital to observe surgeries. The surgery department was one of the cleanest departments that I observed at the hospital. There were 3 surgeries scheduled for Tuesday. The first two were hernias and the third was an appendectomy. This was the first surgery that I observed after coming to Tanzania. While in United States I had watched numerous surgeries, however, the surgery in Tanzania was different from what I expected.

As we entered the department, we checked in with the head nurse. She gave each of us a pair of scrubs, a surgical mask and a surgical cap. We noticed that many of the scrubs were donated from hospitals in the United States. The surgical masks were made of cloth and were washed after every use.
When we entered the operating theatre, we found that the anesthesiologist used ether as an anesthesia. We felt like we were back in o-chem lab. The theatre was cleaner than I expected it to be. The surgery was not performed using laproscopy but was done using incisions. The first two surgeries went as scheduled but the third scheduled surgery was cancelled because the patient had high blood pressure and had not been taking her medications before the operation.

At around 12:00, the staff offered us food and drinks. We had chai and matoke. Matoke are roasted plantains, a very common snack in Tanzania. At the end of the day at the hospital, we took some pictures with the surgical staff. During our stay in Tanzania, we found that everyone likes to have their picture taken. When we get back to America, we plan to print the photos and then mail them to the staff at Kagera Regional Hospital.

I still can't believe that this is our last week in Bukoba. It seemed like only yesterday that we boarded our plane in Minneapolis. Time goes fast in Tanzania. All of us wish to stay here for few more weeks.

June 14, 2009

Fresh Chicken

Today the girls that we have been working on the garden with came to our house to spend the afternoon with us. The ten of us and about twenty of the girls hung out on the steps in front of our house talking. We then moved out to the beach and the girls taught us some African games. One game was a song a dance about making new friends which was really fitting. The other game was kind of like musical chairs but instead of fighting for a chair we were birds fighting for nests. We returned the favor and taught the girls the hokey pokey and duck duck goose/grey duck. They really seemed to enjoy these games. When the games were done we took a walk done the beach to treat the girls to sodas. We had a great time with the girls and shared a lot of laughs. It will be sad to say goodbye to all of our new friends in just a few days.

To end the weekend we went out for dinner at a restaurant on the beach. Just like every other restaurant here in Tanzania, it took a few hours to get our food after ordering. In the U.S. if you wait that long for your food you might joke that they had to go out back to kill the chicken. Here that isn't a joke; you literally have to wait for them to kill the chicken and probably to go out and catch the fish too. It was well worth the wait though because the food was delicious!

June 11, 2009

Mungeza Orphanage

Today we went to the Mungeza Orphanage/school. At this orphanage there are disabled children, children without parents, and albino child (many of which are disabled as well). The orphanage also has children who attend to go to school. Mr. Raza has a 15 year plan for these children’s schooling. He plans for them to attend primary school, secondary school, and eventually a university. He does this in hope that these kids will not be poor and/or homeless for their entire lives. The orphanage is occupied by over 120 children and only two adults to supervise them.

Our purpose of going to the orphanage was to clean several of the dormitories where the children sleep. There was one for the girls, one for the boys, and a third for the older boys. We cleaned these dorms with rain water collected in water tanks. We mixed in a disinfectant and a bug killer/repellant into the water. We washed the floors with rags and scrubbed the walls, bed frames, windows, and doors with bristled brushes.

Most of the mattresses were worn down and didn’t have much padding left in them. Brian (a Canadian volunteer; a helper of Mr. Raza) evaluated the mattresses and decided they could use 19 more/ new ones. We had a nice time at the orphanage and spent some time with the children after we had finished cleaning. We took lots of pictures and have decided that we would like to return there next year to do the same thing. We had plans to go back on Saturday, however these plans fell through due to a religious holiday the children would need to attend. (We had planned on going back to play with the kids and answer any questions they might have.)

We don’t have much time left here in Bukoba. It went by so fast! I don’t think any of us are ready to come home yet (with a few exceptions such eating a burger and….. seeing friends and family of course. Haha!)

June 6, 2009

Miss Kagera Pageant

Hi everyone! It’s Jenna, and on behalf of our group – hamjambo!

Way back, on our first day in Bukoba, our Tanzanian friend, William, asked us if anyone would be interested in judging the Miss Kagera pageant. I jokingly agreed to do it, thinking that they would reject the idea of having an American judge the contest. After not receiving any form of confirmation or talking about it for a week, William showed up at our doorstep on Saturday morning (the day of the pageant) telling me I was selected to be Bukoba’s representative judge! I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I figured it would be an adventure.

A few hours later, Mr. Supa (William’s driver) came to our house and said I was to meet the other two judges who were in a small car. I yelled for James to get ready because I would need him to translate for me, however when I got to the car there was only room for one person and they all spoke English, so I thought I would be OK on my own.

Since they pretty much told me 8 hours before the pageant that I was selected as a judge I didn’t receive an itinerary or anything. I thought that I was just meeting the other judges and then would go home to get into nicer clothes before the real deal. As we kept driving I realized that we weren’t going to the place that the contest was being held, but rather a small hotel up in the hills. It was interesting how they told me they knew English, but no one spoke a word of it the entire time in the car.

Apparently half of the competition was held at this hotel at 3PM… didn’t know this…!! The two categories we judged on were “face, body structure, and catwalk” and “IQ and smile”. I sat down at a table outside, they handed me a score sheet (without any instruction on what to do), and the girls started coming out. Each of the 12 girls gave a catwalk to the table from their hotel room and we asked them questions … well, I shouldn’t say WE because I certainly wasn’t asking any!! Two girls spoke in English (I’m not sure if that was to try to score some brownie points with me), but they were girls who were in University. One contestant was studying computer engineering in Dar es Salaam, and her dream was to spread the love of science to younger girls who are typically discouraged from focusing on engineering or medicine. I gave her a ten in the IQ category, but the other female judge only gave her a 4. I asked her why such a low score, and she commented on how that girl had a slightly bigger tummy than the rest. Needless to say, I was shocked and a bit angry, but I was informed that this was a beauty pageant not a “scholarship contest” – news to me! Anyways, my IQ scores were usually way off because I didn’t have any translation and was pretty much judging on smile, chattiness, and mannerisms. I don’t think there were too many cliché responses (“I want world peace,” etc.), not that I knew what they were saying or anything. After the initial screening, or so they called it, we tallied the scores and chose the top five girls.

Later that evening, the rest of the group and I got ready to go to the pageant. James and I were in VIP seating by the stage and the rest of the group was up in the rafters by the lights, aka all the bugs… haha! The pageant was 95% dancing and singing, some of which were traditional and really cool, but the entire pageant took about 5 hours. We judged three more categories: dress design, beach wear, and evening gown. However, the only instructions I received were to only score the top 5 we had selected earlier. Weird! It seemed unfair to be only scoring those girls and drawing flowers for the others.

The pageant itself was so different than the Miss America pageant, besides some of the outfits and Beyonce. At one point a contestant forgot her words, another pulled a Janet Jackson, and two African boys taught us that the hip joint is actually a ball-and-socket (take it as you will). By the end of the pageant, the other two judges were speaking across me in Swahili and I was either scanning the crowd or falling asleep.

The winner of the pageant will now go on to the Miss Lake Zone pageant, and then Miss Tanzania. The Miss Kagera contest was actually kind of a big deal. The Tanzanian minister to the East African Community Parliament was there, as well as many well-dressed and important people in the community.

So, while here I’ve driven clear across the country of Tanzania, watched a delivery, spread manure for a community garden, exchanged over 2 million Tanzanian shillings, and judged a beauty contest. It has been a great trip so far!!!

June 5, 2009

“Hello baby"

Hello, it’s Whitney. Jenna asked me to write about my experience at the hospital on Friday. Me, Laura, and Jenna ventured to the maternity ward: there were a lot of pregnant women there! There were about fifteen beds and they had to put mattresses on the floor: if I had to make an estimate I would say there were about twenty one women in the ward in the process of increasing the population of the Kagera region. At times the nurse would tell a woman in a bed to move to a mattress because another woman was closer to giving birth. One woman had to move to the sterilizing room. With this may women there were only three nurses. They were quite busy and were glad to have us assist them.

With this many women in only a few rooms one would think it would be quite noisy, However, the women were significantly quieter than women in the U.S. when giving birth (or at least when they are depicted on TV). They only groaned slightly when experiencing contractions. If they were too loud they were asked by the nurses to be a little quieter. Another notable difference from the birthing experience in the U.S.: men were not present. The ward was definitely too small to have many bystanders.

We began our volunteering in the crowded ward with cleaning: we scrubbed the floors, bed dividers, and shelves. One of the nurses told me to clean the bottom of the beds while the patients were still in them. A few of the women hardly noticed I was cleaning underneath them but one smiled at me: clearly excited to give birth. We also helped some of the women move their belongings when they were relocated. We halted our cleaning when the nurse said one of the women was very close to giving birth. The nurse coached the woman and we watched as quite a bit of blood came out. Before I knew it I saw a baby’s head-and then a body. In a matter of seconds a beautiful baby girl was on the table. As the baby cried and the woman rejoiced the nurse demonstrated how to cut the umbilical cord. Once the cord was cut the baby was weighed and placed under a lamp. I walked over the small bundle and said “hello baby, karibu (Swahili for welcome)” The nurse than began the afterbirth process: I helped her retrieve medical supplies from the cabinet and put on her glasses for her: her hands were quite bloody. After the nurse was finished we had to move the woman to the recovery room. I got to hold the baby-it was so cute and had a full head of hair. It was then-about twenty five minutes after the baby was born-that the mother was first able to hold the baby. She gingerly picked up the baby-her first child-and I watched as a her facial expression changed from uncertainty to elation. Later I went to visit the mother and baby: I smiled at the mother as she visited with her friend. Seeing a delivery was one of the most incredible things I have experienced. I look forward to volunteering again at the Kagera regional hospital.

June 4, 2009

Things are starting to pick up!

Greetings from Bukoba, Tanzania! Things are really starting to get moving now. On Tuesday I had my first day of shadowing and volunteering at Kagera Regional Hospital. After attending the morning staff meeting, Jenna, Laura and I went on a tour of the hospital. Tuesday is the day that the hospital holds its weekly Diabetes clinic, so Laura and I had the opportunity to visit with patients and staff in the clinic during the morning hours. Afterwards all three of us went to visit the gynecology and maternity wards, where we saw a baby born as we were speaking with the doctor! The hospital is very different from those we are used to in the United States. It is only one story and it is made up of many separate buildings interconnected by covered walkways. Since it is a government hospital funds can be scarce and the doctors and nurses are stretched to their limits.

I have enjoyed adapting to the African pace of life. In Bukoba, there are two walking speeds, African and mzungu (people of European descent). The village is fifteen minutes from our `house at an mzungu pace, and twenty-five at an African pace. We are living right on Lake Victoria, and the wind off the lake has made living one degree south of the equator quite pleasant temperature-wise.

Today Mr. Raza brought us dinner. Next week we plan to work on some of his projects: adding a floor to the house we built last year and cleaning up an orphanage. Albino children also live at the orphanage. We found out that the albino children have been placed there for their safety: there is a voodoo belief that a bone or a tooth from an albino person can make a person rich. Many albino people have been maimed due to this belief. When we heard about this we became very concerned and remorseful. We look forward to working with them and helping to distribute long sleeve t-shirts, sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to the albino children.

Our time here has been very meaningful so far.

June 3, 2009

Played with cow poop today!

We were hooked up with the Bukoba girls’ school by Valerie, a dietician from the U.K, and we have been helping them with their garden. By starting the garden the girls intended to add something new in the diet, which consists mainly of ugali and beans. So to prepare the garden we had to till the land and put manure on the several plots. What most of the guys didn’t anticipate was that the manure would be raw poop, being African I had an inkling this would happen but it was fun watching the faces of the guys when they realized this. Sarah, our in-house farm girl, was in her element working with cow poop….makes one wonder how many times she has done it before; have to say that of all of the group members she has surprised me the most by just how much she has opened up and relaxed throughout the trip.

By helping them plant this garden, we hope, so do they, to improve nutrition for the girls; having grown up eating the same food in the various boarding schools I went to I can honestly say that the food these girls eat is one that is not appetizing in any way shape or taste. The girls are awesome though, they are enthusiastic about their futures; like typical African school going kids they see a ray of hope amidst all the hardship that surrounds at school and at home, they dare to dream. All are bright students, and wish to go on to university to become doctors and engineers to help build Tanzania and this potion of our world, a world unbeknownst to most in the west but one that is rich in opportunities for those who dare, dream and work hard at achieving their goals; I pray as many of them as possible realize their dreams. The rest of the members have learned a lot from the girls just as much from as the girls have from us, and I am glad we are working with them.

Wahutu j. Siguru

May 30, 2009

Day Ten—Bukoba (5/30)

This morning was heralded in by another storm, which was nice, because it made it a bit cooler out. We went into town to buy meat (nyama) and onions (kitunuguu) at the market. The meat is sold hanging from hooks with no protection from flies landing on it, with nothing to keep it cool – we were pretty grossed out, actually. We purposely bought our nyama in the morning so that we could get it home while it was still fresh, and promptly put it in the freezer until we were ready to cook with it. James and Jenna made it into a delicious stew which we’ll eat for dinner tomorrow!

We also went watch shopping for Laura (she doesn’t have a phone here and didn’t come with a watch, and not knowing what time it was was driving her crazy!). After going to four different shops, we finally found one that sold watches. Some of us went to the internet café again today. We also sat out on the beach and relaxed, which resulted in some crazy sunburns! We’ll be smarter about the sunscreen next time.

For dinner we went out to a famous restaurant located near the hospital for chips mayai, a delicious Tanzanian dish, essentially an omelet with french fries inside. We plan on making chips mayai for ourselves sometime!

May 29, 2009

Day Nine—Bukoba (5/29)

We woke up this morning to an awesome storm, with wind and rain and fantastic lightning. We managed to collect some rainwater, which we later filtered and boiled. Alas, we still had no running water, but continued to make do. We filled buckets with lake water and used them to fill the toilet tanks so that we had useable toilets inside the house! We also did laundry with the lake water today. A few of us were sitting outside on the back porch just reading and relaxing when a resounding cry emanated from inside the house – “Water! We have water!” I’d never realized just how nice it is to be able to have water flow freely from a faucet! We ended today by having a beach bonfire in front of the bandas, which was very nice.

May 28, 2009

Day Eight—Bukoba (5/28)

Today was supposed to be our day to really get things done in preparation for our time in Bukoba, but we’re all growing accustomed to African time and learning that things don’t always actually happen on the schedule we’d like! We had a meeting with Hussein, the president of the Bukoba Lions Club and a man that BWB had met in previous trips to Bukoba. We discussed our future plans for diabetes screenings with him. Some of us also got to go to the internet café today and get in touch with the USA. Other than that, some of us got to do laundry, which awesome, because most of us were starting to run out of clean clothes!

Around noon, our water shut off. We thought that maybe we had a water ration and were only allowed a certain amount of water per day, and that maybe we had already reached the limit for today. After talking to William, the man from whom we were renting the house and bandas, we learned that the entire city of Bukoba was having a water problem, and that nobody had water. He assured us the water problem would be fixed… but couldn’t tell us when that would be! We weren’t too worried at first, but the implications grew as we realized that no water meant no showers, no cooking, no drinking water, no washing dishes (which meant ants), no cleaning anything, no flushing the toilets, etc. We spent quite a bit of money buying bottled water, but it was more appetizing than the thought of filtering and boiling the water from Lake Victoria! We went to bed very dirty, but it was okay.

May 27, 2009

Final destination: Bukoba, Tanzania

This is interesting….left Dar at 3a.m. and have to say it was a shifty a business as shifty business gets. But it was fun, got to watch the sun rise and see Tanzania come to life. Nothing interesting happened today since we just drove but we did get to pass through some villages and beautiful scenery. We spent the night at a town called Kahama as we had been told that traveling at night in a van full of Wazungu was probably not an intelligent thing to do. We checked into our hotel at 8 p.m. had dinner and promptly went to sleep, guess everyone was tired today after traveling for 17 hours. We started our journey to Bukoba at 8 this morning. However, at this rate some of us are wondering if this Bukoba business isn’t just a concoction by Andy and Jenna………we have been traveling for almost a whole week now and still haven’t gotten to our final destination, is there a final destination? Well Andy and Jenna are the only ones who seem to think so. The scenery has been beautiful so far with rolling hills and dirt roads in bountiful. Interestingly enough a police officer rode with us for an hour or two, we seem to be attracting a lot of police officers on our trip, but its all fun and plus it makes for an interesting journal entry for Mitch.

Well what do you know….. after close to 50 hours of traveling, we got into Bukoba at 4 p.m. Everyone is excited to finally get here but at the same time after spending that amount of time en route, it feels weird not to be leaving the next day!

Our house is right on the beach of Lake Victoria! It is very charming and our living room is decked out in animal print! However, the bandas are a group favorite… they’re little tiki huts with grass floors in them. We’ve been doing all of the cooking and eating inside the house, so the bandas are mostly just for sleeping. The bandas and the house are right next door to each other, and have a restaurant and bonfire pit between them, which are owned by the Kiroyera tour company (who we are renting from). They also are letting us use their charcoal grills, so we hope to take advantage of that and the bonfire pit soon!

We went on our first tour of Bukoba town this evening, and picked up some food and supplies. Thankfully, the market was about to close so we didn’t have to deal with a large crowd. It started to get dark so we headed back to our house and started dinner. Our first meal was very good! We boiled and mashed potatoes and topped them with butter and sautéed vegetables. It was about a $2 meal for all ten of us!

After dinner, the UEFA soccer championship was on TV. A fundi (repairman/handyman) came to fix our cable so we could watch the game on our TV instead of going out.

May 25, 2009

Mzungu = White person

Today was interesting! We had to pay for the trip to Bukoba thus had to change $2000. If you think that’s a lot, it was worth 3.2 million Tanzanian Shillings! So for one brief instant Mitch, in who’s name we had to change the money in by virtue of him being the one a passport at the time of exchange, was a millionaire!! ( He was worth 3.6 million, way to go Mitch). The other group that had gone shopping at shoprite got lost and took two and a half hours to and from when they should have taken just 30 minutes, way to be Mzungus. Had grilled goat meat and chicken for dinner today, but that took two and a half to get ready, apparently they make the food when you order it and boy is it fresh and tasty. Thuy, however, being hungry chickened out and ordered buffet before going to bed at 6 p.m. whitney on the other hand decided to have rice and vegetable curry instead of the grilled food we were having; why anyone would have vegetable curry on a trip to Africa buffled the whole group! Couldn’t sleep tonight since we leave at 3 this morning so played some apples to apples then decided to make our own version of it; with our names and catch phrases from the trip. We left for our trip at 3 a.m. this morning………..

May 24, 2009

Day 4—Safari Day Two (5/24)

We left for the safari at 6am but this time we had two open jeeps/range rovers. We drove around the park and saw pretty much the same animals as the first day. Our drivers tried looking for lions but with no luck. We definitely saw a lot more animals the first day than the second day. But we did see a beautiful sunrise over the park. We came back at around 10am and had breakfast (banana, watermelon, papaya, eggs, hot dog, baked beans, toast, tomato, and some juice). We then left for Dar Es Salaam at around 12pm and as we were passing the national park, we saw a bunch of baboons hanging out on the side of the road. We had lunch/snack halfway through the trip at the same hotel restaurant that we stopped at the first time. There were really tall hills on the way there and back, with some as high as the clouds. There were also a lot of small villages off the side of the road. The car’s brake disc broke and so we had to stop at a gas station to get it fixed which only took about 15-20 minutes (really fast!). On the ride back, the van picked up a police officer and gave him a ride a couple of miles down the road. That was definitely interesting.

May 23, 2009

Day 3—Safari Day One (5/23)

We left the hotel at 7am for the safari at Mikumi National Park, which was about 3-4 hours away from Dar Es Salaam. We stopped for breakfast at a hotel about halfway there and had chapattis, chicken, and juice. There were random speed bumps along the way in order for people to not drive really fast seeing as there are no stop lights or stop signs here. As we got closer to the motel, we saw giraffes, elephants, and baboons. We stayed at Genesis Motel which was also a snake park. At the snake park, some of us were brave enough to hold a snake. At 3pm, we left for the safari. Some of us were in a van and the rest sat in an open jeep/range rover. We drove around the park and saw a lot of cool animals such as giraffes, elephants, elands, impalas, hippos, zebras, and a crocodile. We actually got close to some of the animals. We went around the park for a couple of hours, until it got dark. The sunset was amazing! We drove back to the motel and had dinner. Some of us tried grilled goat meat with ugali, rice, or chapatti. Afterwards, we played Apples to Apples and then went to sleep.

May 22, 2009

Day 2—Dar Es Salaam (5/22)

We took the dala-dala (which people had to push to get started) and then walked to Coco Beach. There was a lot of students there hanging out and swimming. We stayed there for a few hours and then started walking back to the bus stop. On the way to the bus stop, we stopped at Thai Village for refreshments. We then stopped at Noah’s Ark Pizza for some pizza and apparently there are two different menus, one for white people (where the prices are more expensive) and one for the locals (cheaper). James asked the waiter about it and he said that we should just order the pizzas now. The bus ride back to the hotel was crowded and some of us had to stand. When it was time to get off, some of us got off of the bus while others stayed on because they didn’t realize that it was our stop until they saw some of us on the street as the bus drove off. But the bus stopped a couple of feet away, so it wasn’t too bad. That night, we dropped off our luggage at Cathy’s (James’s friend) house since we were going on the safari for two days. For dinner, we ate at this amazing restaurant (Angel House) on the beach. It was a clear and beautiful night. Most of us ordered fish which was actually a whole fish (head, tail, and guts) and it was served with fries and a salad. They also have soda here which was nice.

We then went back to the hotel.