It took well over 30 hours of travel but I made it to Tanzania! After leaving Nashville at 3pm on Wednesday I stepped off the plane at Kilimanjaro international airport at 9am on Monday. Flying through Qatar was neat as I’m a pretty big soccer fan and was able to see a couple of the World Cup stadiums from the plane when departing. After several movies and meals and only 3 layovers I was picked up at the airport by the volunteer coordinator. After about an hour drive we arrived in Arusha and I met my host family and had breakfast before a long awaited shower and change of clothes.
Then the logistics of exchanging money, getting internet, and learning the public transportation options on a brief town tour had to be taken care of. By the time I got back to the house I got to meet the other volunteers staying with the Chilala family as well as the hosts’ daughters. The night we went to dinner with more volunteers and I was given some great advice over burgers between conversations about our home countries and comparing projects. Finally I got to crawl into a bed for the first time since Friday night.
Day one was more logistics and paperwork before I met my mentor at the hospital she is an incredibly intelligent occupational therapist who fortunately for me speaks three languages one of which being English! The physiotherapy ward is also being shared by the pediatric post-operation unit while the remodel of the hospital is taking place. This means its a constant bustle of kids and nurses as well as outpatients coming in for physical and occupational therapy appointments, there is never a dull moment.
While my Swahili is rudimentary at best I am now incredibly familiar with the word “Karibu” the word or phrase means welcome, you are welcome, or welcome in. This is spoken to me on an hourly basis sometimes in response to me saying thank you but mostly by the kind doctors, nurses, and therapists who want me to feel comfortable in the unit. It’s also said by people on the street and everyone in my host family and its working because I do feel very welcome and excited for the next three months!