This week led me to a few new experiences and several new locations. I started the week at Selian Lutheran Hospital just like last week. Seeing several occupational therapy patients ranging from post-op orthopedic breaks in external fixtures to children showing developmental delays and weakness in one hand. After two days in the hospital, I experienced my first medical outreach day with all the other projects abroad volunteers. We visited a juvenile detention center and taught a basic first aid and CPR class emphasizing burn care and treatment. Due to most Tanzanians cooking on open coals or flames, burns are the number one cause of admittance to the pediatric ICU at the hospital I’m in. We also brought basic hygiene kits and discussed proper hygiene and STD prevention with the group ranging from ages 13-to 17. After the other volunteers and I got a chance to check out Shanga marketplace and hotel, a craft center run by adults with disabilities, specifically deaf and paralyzed artists creating blankets, bracelets, blowing gas, and other creations. On Thursday and Friday, I started at a new placement. I will split my time along with the hospital and the Destiny Foundation. Thursday in place of social dinner, which is once a week l with the other volunteers where everyone from all projects and different host families gets together to talk and compare home countries and work sights over dinner. It’s also a chance to plan weekend trips and for the organization staff to make announcements and check in on all the volunteers. This week instead of just dinner at a local restaurant, we took a Swahili class. A fun fact I learned about the language is that every word in Swahili ends in a vowel, all the commonly used words that don’t are Arabic words adopted into the Tanzanian dialect, for example; “Salaam,” which means peace. We also attempted a Cooking class, learning how to make samosas and soup with one of the host families. After social dinner, all the volunteers go out to a karaoke bar and say goodbye to those leaving that week. It’s also a popular place for volunteers from other organizations and the only place so far I’ve run into any other Americans.
This weekend some of the volunteers went camping at a spot that has more stars then I’ve ever seen with mount a telescope and a great view overlooking Arusha City it also sits under Mt. Meru, the major peak that’s shorter than Kilimanjaro and closer to Arusha. There was a campfire and live music with a barbecue, and it was an enjoyable way to relax after another busy week. Also, as the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, it was nice to sleep in a sweatshirt and under a blanket in the tent; being cold in Africa is a rarity that I’ve come to love.
For a new experiences and a bit of culture, I want to discuss the transportation options here in Tanzania but specifically in Arusha… There are five modes of transportation for those without private cars, and they are walking, Taxi, Dala Dala, Tuk Tuk, or Boda Boda; no one has been able to tell me why we say each of the last three twice. Walking is the most economical option, and it is practically impossible to go anywhere without a quick ten-minute walk to the main road wear most transportation passes and waits. A Dala Dala is the second most common transportation, and they are large vans that travel along set routes; they have a conductor that opens the door and ushers you in and handles payment while the driver stays seated upfront. The vans may follow established routes but if you want to stop before the end of the line, you have to notify the driver or conductor by hitting the top of the van or yelling stop in Swahili over the music. A tuk-tuk is similar to a golf cart but with 3 wheels and is street legal but rather slow. It’s a great choice if you’re with a group and not going too far. A Boda Boda is a motorcycle taxi for one person to hope on the back off (or two if you’re a local, but I don’t see myself ever being that brace), and while you’ll get where you want to go very fast, it’s also the most dangerous way to travel with no helmets and high speeds on dirt roads and major highways. They are, however, the only transportation that will allow you almost door-to-door service without having to walk and are much cheaper than a taxi. All are intimidating the first few times and require a guide the first couple of attempts, but two weeks in, I’m starting to get the hang of it, thankfully though most mornings, I have the luxury of riding on the hospital’s staff bus as it stops near my neighborhood at 7am.
Universal; creativity is fed by necessity. This week I started at the Destiny Foundation, a school and residential care facility for children with disabilities. The most common diagnoses are Cerebral Palsy and Autism, and the children range in age from 4 to 17. While the sleep rooms are clean and adequate, and the classroom has chairs, desks, and posters, the occupational therapy room is barren. This means to perform assessments and treatments, I head to the playground and observe mostly. On Friday, I drew a hopscotch course in the dirt to assess motor movement and imitation in some of the older students and drew circles to have the student move rocks around to watch fine motor skills and problem-solving skills. I have always thought it’s essential to not rely on just toys and machines but to have other contingencies in place for comprehensive care; however, the level of resourcefulness I need here is a whole new level. Luckily I’ve never shied away from a challenge and have great classmates, professors, and coworkers back home to bounce ideas off and send me articles that might be helpful.
This week starts my new schedule of three days at the hospital and two at the foundation, with maybe a few home visits mixed in. The routine will be nice, but I wouldn’t be surprised. If plans change and that is alright because it is just a part of the adventure.