Tanzania, Africa travel journal – day 7

categories: Travel

I woke up at 5:30am again but that gave me an hour before breakfast to finish my internet time at the Equator ($3/hour).

We ate breakfast at 7am and got on a bus for the Selian Lutheran Hospital which is just outside Arusha. The road to the hospital was through some of the poor neighborhoods and was unpaved. It was a rough ride and we learned on our tour that they had just fixed up the road so it was worse before. We arrived while the staff was in their daily chapel. We got there in time to hear the end of a sermon (in Swahili) and sing one hymn. We did not understand anything from the sermon and only a little from the hymn. The first like was “ninakwenda” something which means “I am going” somewhere. But we did not find out where. (I learned later that we were going to heaven in the hymn which was good news) I hope it is someplace nice. After the hymn they introduced us and then had the daily meeting while we listened where they went over the deaths (3, all influenced by AIDS) yesterday, the new admissions, etc. They had admitted 7 people with broken femurs which seemed very high but they have an orthopedic surgeon while the local government hospital does not. There had been a horrendous bus accident recently which killed 48 immediately and left many in the government hospital. They could only put them in traction to set the bones but the Dr at Selian had gone over and identified 7 who would do better with surgery who had been transferred the day before. They had set 4 of the bones surgically which was a record in an operating day that goes from 9am – 3:30pm (the staff bus takes them home at 3:30pm). After we heard the daily meeting we met Sarah who is an occupational therapist from Melbourne Australia (and more recently New Zealand) who would act as our tour guide. Sarah is a very charismatic person who the patients greeted with large grins (who I would love to introduce to my single Aussie cousin).

One charming man that we met invited us in, wondering why we were just standing out in the hall. He was disappointed we would leave before he was discharged so that he could not have us over to his home. I got a glimpse through him of the warmth and hospitality of the Tanzanians that I had heard about before we came.

We met one girl who was in training to be a medical case officer (3 year program) and perhaps someday an MD. She had been one of the girls from the Masai Girls’ School which we will visit later in the week and had

known the Hansens very well. Our tour guide was also a friend of the Hansens and in touch with them still as she had also worked at that school on her last rotation at a rehabilitation center they have there.

Some of the unusual problems they treat at the hospital include a large number of burns from the fire that burns in the middle of the Masai hut. Children especially are prone to falling into the fire. Then they often get bundled up instead of letting the burn heal with it open causing the scar tissue to knot their hand. Selian has a plastic surgeon who can fix this problem. Sarah said they also had more respiratory problems than usual because of the smoke in the huts in the boma. They also mentioned a large number of kids with curved legs. It turns out that the local water can have too much fluoride from the Volcanic soil. The fluoride combines with the calcium in the bones to form calcium fluoride instead of calcium carbonate which is weaker and develops a series of micro-fractures as the child is learning to walk. They also fix problems with young girls who have had the radical female circumcision practiced by the traditional Masai. This combined with girls giving birth at age 14 can cause the vagina to tear to the urethra or anus, leaving the girl as a social outcast. They also treat Malaria (very treatable) and AIDS.

Sarah was amazed how much more AIDS they see now after back from a 18 month break at home. She said in a Northern mining town infection rates are 80% for the men. In a recent study 25% of the child-bearing women in the area were infected.

After our tour we hit the local market for a more enjoyable shopping experience than downtown. I bought 12-18” of sugar cane for us to try for 100Sh (8 cents). I did not have another coin for more cane for the rest of the group. I said we would share but the vendor just gave us some instead. He said we should try it because then we would be “tasting Africa”. The prices were very affordable and the people more pleasant. The most common thing sold was corn for the ugali.

We stopped at the bank for more funds and ate at a wonderful Chinese restaurant. It was not as cheap as some of our meals but was good, if unlike our Chinese food. A particular surprise at dessert time was how long it seemed to make the apple fritter that Rick and I ordered. Then they brought out chopsticks, a plate and a bowl of water, to our confusion. When it arrived it turned out that the fritter was battered apples fried and dipped in caramel and served hot over a candle flame. The water was for dipping in pieces of the apple to cool before eating. It was wonderful.

We bought blankets and school exercise books downtown after lunch while being assailed again by vendors. One persistent vendor charmed me with Swahili language lessons but still did not convince me to buy his batik. Jack continues to buy from everyone. Some of the ladies wanted to shop for fabric so we went to the main market which was more enjoyable. As in the neighborhood in the morning we were not hassled and the prices were good. Rick bought some sandals to replace the ones in his still absent suitcase for 3,000Sh (<$3). We returned to the hotel and split in smaller groups with some shopping and about half of us went to the coffee shop across the street. It turned out to be an interesting restaurant and plans were made to return for dinner. They also had crafts to buy, stuffed animals and handbags. When people went to order cappuccino they were told they could not because they had no power. What we had taken to be romantic lighting was just a power outage. Just as soon as we changed those to other drinks that could still be made, the power came back on and we were able to revert to the original plan. I tried the tea masala which was a spiced tea with what tasted like clove. It actually had a bit of a kick to it. It really tasted spicy.

We went back to our coffee place for dinner but had a less than successful experience. The food did not come for a very long time (with no explanation given). When it finally came we discovered we were one person short as there was confusion with the ordering. Our food arrived cold, but some of the food still tasted good. Lois found the chicken to be inedible and the rice that came with it to have small pebbles or sand.

by Chris Christensen

I am the creator of AmateurTraveler.com, a popular travel blog / podcast. I am also a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast, The Bible Study Podcast and the Passport Marketing and PR Podcast. I am the owner of BloggerBridge.com and a software consultant.

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