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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 17 Feb 2013

Location: Kahama, Tanzania

MapDays up until Sunday, February 16th
Well 1/2 way through this adventure and can't believe how fast time has flown. I'm enjoying the group of people who are volunteering here (five from Penticton Area), and having lots of great experiences, but enjoy working with the hospital staff/patients the most. Won't get too much into the medical side of things but, it's challenging, interesting, frustrating, inspirational, frustrating, joyful, frustrating.
"Grand Rounds" involves all medical staff/nurses, and occurs at 7.30 a.m., lasting one hour. It discusses past 24 hours of surgeries, deaths, new cases - sometimes there is a mini educational "in-service", while everyone is in attendance.
Between staff’s cell-phones constantly ringing, there is discussion over each case, and diplomatic critiquing of each case, without blame. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn, and every short=coming leads to an "educational moment". Some of the stats are incredible......... 25-35 births/day....... many of them C-sections, which the Dr. makes a "call" on the decision, usually based on fetal heart rate (listened to via a trumpet, and ear to the abdomen), he makes a judgment whether "baby can pass" via a pelvic measurement in r'ship to his fist.......the women labour very stoically and by themselves - no one in attendance...... they make their own bed out of Kangas (sarong-type pieces of beautiful cloth) - deliver, with very little apparent distress, then clean up their bed, and dress themselves and walk off to the postpartum ward, where they'll be discharged within 4 hours....... these are the UNcomplicated deliveries...... won't discuss the complicated deliveries here. EVERY child breast feeds......there is NO substitution......for every 16 women on post-partum ward; there are 4 who don't have their babies (died) - very sad.
Pediatrics is mainly malaria/anaemic children, with cerebral (severe) malaria...... a parent is ALWAYS in attendance with their child..... the only way ANY patient gets food is if relatives bring it.......the children’s wards are full of very sick children and usually their mothers - there is a separate room for any father who brings in their child (i.e. if the mum is home with other children). they all share the bed, sometimes 4 people to a bed....could ramble forever on the medical side of things - SO interesting, but days "off" are fun too......

On Sunday we wandered over to a nearby Lutheran church, in the scrubland......a huge cement-block building, covered in corrugated aluminium roof........snaking electrical extension wires covered the floors, leading to several microphones, perched near the tiny plywood-covered alter....the priest, wearing a brown kaftan-type outfit, and a dog-collar, led the congregation in a few (Swahili) prayers, then suddenly 1/2 dozen braided women, clothed in satin -e bridesmaid-type dresses of decades gone by, wandered up the microphones, and started swaying/gyrating to this fantastic music, singing loudly with tremendous spirit and enthusiasm......reminded me of Diana Ross and the Supremes...... THEN 5 young guys (20-30s) came sauntering out onto the concrete sacristy and did a much faster version of gyrating, kicking, twisting and moving to the music - dancing in unison - kind of like Elvis on speed........ they were wearing their soccer shirts, mismatched tight trousers..........absolutely brilliant- passionate- visceral.....the music/colour/emotion evoked uplifting spirits, and though the congregation on stage was almost manic in rhythm and rapture, the congregation seated on the plastic garden-type chairs were reserved and solemn, continuing to breast feed their babies, or following the music, reading their bibles......the children sat at the front by themselves and were SO quiet and respectful, mesmerized by the performance AND the prayers/solemn psalm reading etc.
After the crazy, wonderful electrified music/dance, the service switched to older women singing in their normal clothes, of wrapped Kangas. Traditional music, aCapella style......absolutely breath-taking......the 2 hour long service was vastly musical, but then came the imagine a man (not the priest) dressed like chuck Berry complete with shiny shirt and tight pants, DRAMATICALLY yelling fire and brimstone via mic, ‘til your ears hurt....their sermon went on....and on....and on.... – every time you thought he was winding down....he'd rev up again - very comical by our standards, but the congregation and even little children, were enraptured the entire time. Though the 2 hour service started with only about 40 people, sitting near the front, I hadn't noticed that during the 2 hours, a couple of hundred more people had come - the church was brimming. When people lined up to pay their "offering" It was a mosaic of coloured Kanga clad women, their babies strapped to their back - wearing the brightest designed fabrics of fantastic Traditional printed cloth, who were lining the aisles.....after the women’s turn, the men lined up to do the same - their clothes more sedate, but very obviously their (over and undersized) "Sunday Best". We mzungus (white people) were herded to the front at one point, and in Swahili, asked to introduce ourselves and say what we were doing there (kindly, and with curiosity) - into the microphone. Applauded and laughed at - it was a good "vibe".
The afternoon was even better.....we were invited out to the village of one of the hotel waiters, to meet his family.....we took a little mini bus van built for 14 (though by the time we'd picked up people all along the way, we totaled 24) for an hour along a good road, then the five of us piled onto dirt motor bikes - 3 to a bike along single track of red clay, through a passage of thorned bushes for 45 minutes. Three on a motor bike is an accomplishment......the only things missing were a goat, a child, and of course........the helmets! :)
What a much fun!!!! Apart from dodging various bicycles, lone walkers, balancing wares on their heads, nearly being impaled by the long horns of oxen, pulling loaded carts......we survived. Arriving in the little village of Josephs family (yes - most have a biblical name) we were laughed at......firstly we were mzungus, AND because we all wore sunglasses (never worn here), the red dust of the clay had covered our faces, where upon removing our glasses, to greet the people with dignity, our cover was blown by the resemblance we shared with the mongoose.......white eyes, red faces!
What a fantastic village though.....the children followed us like the Pied Piper - giggling, shying away, hiding behind skirts, curiosity mixed with confusion. We were told the only other white people who'd ever visited the village was the group leader, Brenda, who'd come 6 months earlier.
We went into Josephs parent’s!! and 8 x 10 room of mud/clay "bricks", thatched roof - Josephs mother is a very beautiful woman of about 50- her perfect white teeth appearing out of the darkness of the room (no electricty), framed by such a serene, wise face.... her husband Sampson, such a gracious man. They'd birthed and raised 7 children in this tiny village, and if Joseph was any example.....had done a wonderful job of raising their family.
Super day...... running out of time....want to work more on the wards....heading out to the country again tomorrow to do some remote clinic work...... internet/power shaky.