WOW. WOW. WOW.
How do I explain the experience I have had so far with words. I am in love with the culture and people here. I can’t believe it has already been almost two weeks since I arrived! I will try to start from the beginning! I loved all of the people that I met on the flights. When I landed in Istanbul I was very nervous just with everything that I have heard going on in Turkey. However, I was greeted at the gate by two fellas that were both from Dar. Just seeing their bright, warm smiles put me at ease. The one thing that was so shocking to me was when I was flying over Africa. It was night time and it was pitch black outside. It looked as if we were flying over the ocean. No lights anywhere. Every now and then I would see a twinkle of light down below but the only light that really showed was the moon. Once I landed in Africa it was 2:30AM. All of my flights ended up getting messed up so I was about 5 hours late getting in. However, I was as excited and energetic as ever! I was a bit nervous with getting my Visa and Business Permit but it all worked out great. As I walked outside to meet the people picking me up from the organization no one was there. It was almost 4AM at this point and there were people everywhere. Taxi drivers were trying to get me to go with them. People dressed in hijabs and everyone was speaking a different language. I backed up against a wall just so I was aware of my surroundings. After traveling over 24 hours and hardly sleeping on the plane all I wanted was a person that I knew to come pick me up. I was a little frightened with being in a foreign country at 4AM. I made a few phone calls and they were there in about 30 minutes. I was so happy to get to the house and take a shower. I was so excited to see what was in store for next few days!
This first picture really represents how it’s been in Tanzania so far.
Half way walking blinded because of the unknown but loving every step.
The people in Tanzania are absolutely amazing and so loving. My admiration and love for these people is abounding. Every day I am more and more astounded. The people here are so hardworking and gentle hearted. They reach out to you with open arms. These photos are from last week. A nurse that I had just worked with for 2 DAYS simply said to me,
“You’re coming home with me today, okay? I get off at 12:30PM.”
And buh-bam, she drove me all the way to her home from Dar. She has 3 beautiful daughters and 1 handsome baby boy who is the youngest. Just like my family. Her husband is a pastor and they welcomed me into their home.
I had dinner with them and got to play with their children!
and they took me to their church. They are Lutheran and that church service was absolutely unbelievable. I have never had to place myself in a situation where I was the minority and didn’t understand a language being spoken around me. Although I could not understand the words of the songs at church I was so touched. Everyone was so happy and dancing to the songs. I could understand what they were saying even though I didn’t know the words.
Then she drove me all the way home. Simply just because.
The nurses and doctors I have worked with over these last few days have been the ultimate kindest healthcare professionals I have ever worked with. On my first day one of the guys took the bus with me and walked me home because all of the other interns had left and I was worried about going home by myself. It was about an hour and a half of his time and he did it just because. A nurse bought me a Pepsi on my first day as well simply because I looked tired. There have been multiple times where people share their food with me during lunch. This was my first official meal in Africa:
and this is actually what I had for dinner this evening!
I have been very adventurous with the food and I try to eat everything I am offered!
Everyone has been so helpful with teaching my Swahili. The nurses love teaching you new words. I also have a Swahili teacher at the Work the World the House. His name is Jacob
One of the main words I hear ALL the time is:
This means white, foreign person. Everyone says it and will call you that. It is kind of funny. People will be talking in Swahili and all of a sudden you will hear “muzungu” and you know they are talking about you even if you don’t know what else they are saying. Whenever I walk by everyone stares. The children love playing with my hair. I am definitely the minority here and it is a very interesting perspective to be the minority. People will try to raise prices if you’re a muzungu. Whether at the market or on the tuk tuk which is a type of transportation kind of like Uber but very different at the same time. They call it the “Muzungu Price.” You have to bargain the prices so they don’t rip you off, haha. Another type of transportation that I take every day to and from the hospital is the Dala Dala which is kind of like the local bus. My first time walking to the bus stop (which is about a 10/15 minute walk) I had tears that just filled my eyes. There were people sitting next to garbage. So many of my senses were being affected: visual, sound, and smell. I was so glad I had sunglasses on because my eyes were very watery. However, I have gotten used to it now.
This is the bust stop I get on in the mornings and off in the afternoon. It is called Mocho. In order to get off the bus you say,
This is a picture of us heading to the Dala Dala in the morning. At the hospitals they ask us to change into our scrubs once we get there and change back into our street clothes before we leave to limit the spread of germs.
Typically in the morning you will get a seat. However, in the afternoon after the hospital you have to stand. They cram everyone onto the bus and you literally feel like a can of sardens. I like to look at it like Dala Dala yoga. What pose can you get into? Sometimes I will have a persons face right next to mine or a mans armpit or three children right beside my face. It costs 400 shillings for each ride. Tanzanian money is very cool. For every 10,000 Tanzanian Shillings it is a little less than $5.00 US dollars
This is my favorite bill because it has an elephant on it.
I have learned a lot of street smarts here. For instance, you should never have your phone in your hand or even be talking on it while you’re on the bus. Someone will just reach into the window and take your phone. Even when at work you want to keep your phone and money on you at all times. Also, you never want to carry around a purse. If you do, then someone will come up behind you and cut off the string and run with it. I’ve also learned how to wash my own clothes by hand!
The last thing I will be talking about is my clinical experience over the last two weeks and a couple of places I have been to on the weekends when I am not in the hospital. I have been in Ward 36 the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and Ward 33 which is Antepartum and Postpartum. It is very fascinating to see what the babies here have compared to back home. A lot of babies are born with congenital defects as in hydrocephaly and encephaly. The other day I saw twins that were conjoined together because the mother didn’t get enough folic acid at the beginning of her pregnancy. A lot of the Mom’s suffer from pre-eclampsia. Most of the times it is caused from Malaria. All women are supposed to get a prophylaxis during their third trimester whether or not they have malaria just as a precautionary measure. However, not all mother’s get it. In addition, you hardly ever see father’s with the babies. Every three hours the mother’s come and breast feed the babies. It is very different compared to the US. The Mom’s will literally walk into the unit with their tanga’s down (which is a type of fabric they where) and they breasts just hanging out. At first it was a shock. I walked onto the unit and saw 100 + women half naked. And they breast feed right beside one another. During birth the father’s are not allowed to be in the room. It is just the mom and the nurse/midwife/doctor. Also, the Mom’s take full care of the baby. For instance, one day when I was helping weigh the babies I noticed that a diaper was soiled. I asked where a diaper was so I could change it and the nurse looked at me like I was crazy. He said that the mother takes care of it. And that she will be back in a while to do that. Very different compared to the US. If a mother came to the hospital where her baby was and found it in a soiled diaper that would not go over very well. More over, in the NICU, the babies are so close together. Sometimes there will be 6 babies in one bassinette. Germs and infection is so crucial to be aware of in the NICU. It is very different compared to the US. Also! They have no IV pumps in the hospital! I hung a bag of blood that was being transfused but there was no IV pump to set it up with. You just have to estimate how fast you want it to drip. Moreover, there are quite a bit of orphan babies from their mother’s dying at child birth. The hospital is allowed to keep them for 3 months. During that time they wait for a family member to come and claim them. At first I thought that was CRAZY. Why wouldn’t the Dad come that instant to come and get their baby? However, the Dad has to work and would not be able to take care of the child. If he doesn’t work then the rest of the family will starve. Therefore, sometimes the Dad has to save up money over those three months so they can pay to have the baby taken care of in an orphanage. So, so sad. Lastly, it is very interesting being in a country where it is 1/2 Christian and 1/2 Muslim. Going into work on one side there is a mosque and on the other there is a temple.
Overall, I have had good nurses/mentors during my OB/GYN clinical rotation. The next two weeks I will be in Mental Health! I am very interested to see what I will learn there. Although I’ve seen such heartbreaking things with babies dying and seeing people suffering, my eyes have been opened up so much. It makes me so upset when I hear people call people from Africa “poor” or “unfortunate.” The people here are living life to the fullest and are so rich in culture and tradition. Yes, they may have poverty and tragedy, but the people here are so kind hearted. What happened last week in Tanzania with the nurse inviting me to her home would have never happened back in America. We can learn a lot from the people in Africa. I feel that people back home have heard so many negative things and have a picture painted of what it’s like in Africa, but you simply need to see it with an open heart and mind. People are most scared of the unknown. Which is why I feel people in other parts of the world can become so frightened of places they have never been to.
I’ll write again sometime soon!