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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 14 Apr 2009

Location: Kahama, Tanzania

MapI’m writing my third entry on my computer since being in Kahama and haven’t been able to post it. It is so frustrating for us and I know a lot of you’ve been wondering what’s going on. When you’re this far from home, communicating with your friends and family becomes such an important part of your day and when it’s not possible for this long, it really gets you down.

We had an early start to our day today and had our formal welcome to Kahama at 7:30. It was with Theresia and the seven department heads. Following that, we headed to the hospital where Dr. Subi had gathered about 40 of his staff to meet us. Pretty impressive, with all of their schedules I don’t know who was left in the hospital. Our tour followed, which was thorough and informative. While the hospital has a long way to go, it was wonderful to see the improvements they’ve made since I was there last year. Dr Subi is a dynamic, energetic, dedicated man with the passion and vision to really change things here. I don’t know how he’ll keep up the pace without burning out though. The district of Kahama has grown to a population of 1,000,000 and Dr Subi is the ONLY actual Doctor here at the moment as his colleague is away at school. They do have medical officers here who, I think, have five years of training, (a lot of it practical) and do some of the things that our Doctor’s in Canada would be doing. The challenges that they must face here with the lack of equipment, medications, staff and resources and on top of it, all of the health issues that they’re dealing with…it’s just very overwhelming. I wish more health-care workers from our country could see first-hand the obstacles that others in their profession face in different parts of the world. In fact, one of the things we talked to Dr Subi about was the possibility of having healthcare professionals from our area come and work for short periods here in Kahama. If we had surgeons willing to come, the staff here could especially benefit by learning surgical procedures through the experience. For our part, we will be coming back to Canada with the wish-list from the hospital and hopefully we can fulfill some of their requests.

When we were finished at the hospital we headed back to the council office to meet with the Ward Heads for introductions and a bit of a question period. This went fairly quickly, (anything faster than an hour here is quick to us now.) and then we headed over to change money.

If I said, “What a gong show!” that be an understatement. We were told by Theresia that she had called the bank manager and that he would give us a special rate of exchange and to ask for him when we got there. We looked in the door and it was more crowded than Walmart on Boxing Day. After repeated requests, we were finally taken down a room that was off the manger’s glassed office. The only things that made the next two hours bearable were, we had walked through a furnace to get to the room but were now in a beautifully air-conditioned room and we also had a table to sit at. I won’t go into the details but any of you who have ever exchanged foreign currency can imagine. The amount we were exchanging was quite substantial (USD$6000) and their highest bill was equivalent to USD$10. An hour after we got there, we were finally delivered our giant stacks of cash to count over 15 times until we got it right. Then John, our WV friend, said that it was getting late and we since we wouldn’t have time to spend it all, we should deposit it the bike and goat money Nesphory’s account. I suggested taking back to the Resthouse and locking it in my room. I reminded him how safe it was since I was staying in the suite with the highest man, politically, in North-western Tanzania. We even have our own personal guard, plus there’s one at the gate. He pointed out that we do stand out in this town, everyone knows where we’re staying and if someone wants to rob us, a bodyguard wouldn’t stop them. (Ours has a rifle so I would’ve thought that that would be enough.) This huge crowd of people had watched us in this windowed room exchanging large stacks of money. Now, we had to call Nesphory to come and then 2/3 of the money would be recounted and deposited and then have to be counted upon w/d the next day.

By the time we headed to shop, it was getting so late, we wondered how we could do it. Well, with Sophie’s (our cook) help, us six girls, John and our driver, we bought 200kg rice, 100kg of beans, a sack of sugar, salt, cases of oil, cases of soap, pans , washtubs, etc and 24 bikes…all from different places. It was amazing!

By now we were all getting anxious to find an Internet. Many of us still hadn’t had any contact with home since we left Kigali and I hadn’t been able to post PR. Three of the girls got dropped off at the marine ‘Hotel’ while three of us went to pick up two more of the sacks of rice we’d purchased.

There was a problem with an identity of one of the children we are supposed to visit so John wanted to sort it out before he dropped us off. I tried to discourage it, as I knew that meant I would not be able to join the others and possibly get on the computer. Next thing I knew, we were heading over to pick up the WV worker Beatrice to go over the last details of the visits. This visit is the biggest in the history of World Vision Canada and it has to be coordinated in a country that hasn’t developed the organizational skills that we, in our busy professions and personal lives, have had to. As we dropped off the two others with me, I was SOOOOOO disappointed that I was going to miss out on sending some emails. It was 6:35 and I asked the girl manning the computer if she would stay open late, but she flatly said “No.” We headed back to the Resthouse had our meeting and then John, hearing my disappointment thought he would go get the attachment for his computer so I could get on the internet from here. Things were looking up!!! He quickly returned, I logged on and…….I saw there was a message from Beki and Peter…..clicked once…and that was it. No more Internet. It was so upsetting!

John was getting ready to leave and suggested we get picked up at 7am to begin the next day of child visits. I looked outside at giant pile of food that had to be bagged, sorted, organized and thought….this long day still isn’t over. Beatrice, bless her, decided she would stay and help me until the girls got home. They ended up having another ‘gong show’ at the restaurant and ended up taking three hours to have their dinner! (that’s another story) Together, we had the 200 kg of rice bagged before they returned and then the five of them pitched in and like a finely tuned machine, we had everything bagged, sorted, stacked and cleaned up by 10pm. I grabbed a sandwich for supper and had my first glass of wine since coming to Africa! (I didn’t have long to finish this but have to run so can’ check it, hopefully there’s not too many mistakes…)