Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Settling into Our Home

I'm at home doped up on medicine and really loopy*. So, naturally, I figured it was a good time to do a blog post to catch up.

Things have been trucking right along here. We've been in our house a little over a week but it feels much longer. We spent the first week getting the basics together-water filter, curtains, mosquito net up, kitchen set up, etc. And this past week we've been able to do things that aren't maybe necessities, but sure do make it easier to live in a home-hang mirrors, buy a rug, etc. Maryknoll Lay Missioners gives us a small budget to buy big items, such as a couch and loveseat, stove and fridge, and kitchen counters. All the furniture was handmade so it took a while to get everything, which is another thing that slowed us down in moving. We wanted to be sure at least a good majority of our furniture was in place. By the time we got into the house we were only waiting on couch cushion covers and our kitchen counter.

Here are a just a few shots of our living room and kitchen.
 Living room

Our kitchen

And, now that we have a functional kitchen I've really been enjoying experimenting with the amazing, fresh ingredients here. The other day I made homemade enchiladas. By homemade I mean I made the tortillas, the enchilada sauce, an Africanized refried beans, and salsa. It was so good!

 Homemade enchiladas!

On a sad note, after this first time of using this silicone baking pan that I brought from home I burned it up in the oven (I won't tell you how) and it's useless. Dang!

Now that things are settling in at home I can start concentrating on my job. You know, the reason I'm actually here. Things have been very slow-going on that front. I won't really go into the details but let's just say I've not had much to do at the office and have been working less than 3 hours a day. In order to facilitate my language learning and to give me more work to do I've started to visit other organizations in the area to check out what kinds of work they are doing.

This past weekend I went up into the hills around Mwanza with a Maryknoll Brother, Mark, who does public health work in his parish. It was really neat to get out and see a new area of town (where we walked up and up and up a meandering, rocky footpath to the top of a hill and there are no roads). Members of Brother Mark's parish health committee organized a skit to teach the community about ways to overcome common marital problems. They decided that marriage and divorce were the biggest  health issues in their community and they wanted to do something about it. This skit focused on a family whose father is an alcoholic and spent all of their money for food and schooling on alcohol. The mother doesn't know what to do, so she seeks advice from other family members and the community leadership. They all join together to confront the father about his problem. In Tanzanian culture (as well as my own) families often keep their issues private, which can cause a host of other issues to emerge. So, this skit was trying to encourage families to break the silence on a very common issue so that the marriage can be saved, the family can afford food, and the kids can attend school.

A Public Health Forum on Marriage
In this picture, the "mother" stands with her head held low because she is shammed they can't afford food and schooling. The "father" sits on a stool nearby.**

A Public Health Forum on Marriage
The "babu/grandfather" gives a lecture to the alcoholic father, while the rest of the family is gathered. "I want peace in the family," he says over and over again. You can also see that the attendees of the skit are gathered round intently watching the play unfold.

A Public Health Forum on Marriage
At the end of the skit, they distributed pamphlets on marriage and how to prevent violence in the home.  The brochure emphasized equality, love, trust, and communication.

A Public Health Forum on Marriage
One of the things that really amazed me about the program was how many community members came to watch the presentation and how intently they listened. Some people laughed when the family problems got resolved so easily because they recognize that in real life it's not that simple. But I truly feel that just talking about these issues in a public forum is an important step.

And, in case you were concerned, while I was away from home that day at the community health forum, rest assured that our home was protected and safe by our ferocious guard dog.

"Let me know if you see anything suspicious at the gate," says Smokey.

*I'm still battling the rash I had 2 weeks ago and THE amoeba (as my mom calls it). I went back to the clinic yesterday and the Hungarian Doctor gave me 1 dose of 2 big horse pills to take for the amoeba. I've been zonked ever since. I've also got a cream for the rash and another 10 doses of meds for the itching. Sheesh.
**The man who played the father in the skit was missing a leg due to a snake bite!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Good Food Day

Chocolate chip cookies and caper pasta in the same day! Life is good.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cultural Experience, the Regional Hospital

Earlier this week I made my first visit to the regional hospital. Note that, not the local hospital or a small clinic. The regional hospital here in Mwanza.

Don't worry, there was nothing horribly wrong with me. I mentioned last week that I had a rash on my wrist and fingers? Well, that rash is still here and has spread and is itchy, filled with pus and is showing no signs of going away. We tried to see a private doctor but he referred us to the dermatologist at the regional hospital.

Now, I'd heard bad things about this hospital, so at least I was able to prepare myself a little. And it's not like I am in a war-zone or anything. There were no bloody, screaming people laying around. But, it truly was just a sad state of affairs. There were people everywhere. Standing in lines that meandered here and there. Sitting around in endless waiting areas. Hunched over to talk through glass windows to receptionists/nurses in dimly lit offices. It reminded me of the DVM. You go to one place, wait in line. Well, that's not even true. First you have to figure out which is the line and which is just a collection of people sitting and waiting. It's very hard to tell the difference. Then, you talk to someone. They tell you to wait. You wait. They tell you to go to another window. You go there. They tell you it's the wrong place and go back. We did this for about 2+ hours. And we were advocating for ourselves! Meaning, if we felt we were waiting a long time or had a suspicion we were in the wrong place, we'd ask a nurse. Imagine what it would've been like if we just sat and waited quietly.

We paid the fee (about $10 US which is minimal to me but astronomical to many Tanzanians) before seeing the doctor. You have to pay this to get your medical chart set up. Then, we waited some more. When things seemed fishy and we didn't feel like we were getting anywhere we asked another nurse. She tells us that the dermatologist doesn't work on Tuesdays and Thursdays and we should come back tomorrow!

Luckily, I have information and resources at my disposal. Instead of coming back the next day we opted to go to a medical clinic where we knew a general practitioner who was good. Within 15 minutes, we'd been seen and I was given an ointment to put on my rash for a few days. What saddens me, though, is to think of what the locals go through. They have to be pretty desperate to travel all the way here to this hospital. Many of them have spent money they don't have to get here. One woman waiting in line told the receptionist that her lungs continue to fill with fluid and that her village clinic referred her here. The people are put through the ringer with lines and endless waiting only to find out that the doctor is out for the day. Or, the lab is 2/3rds not operational. Or the X-ray machine isn't working that day. These are all stories that I've heard here.

To be fair, I've also heard stories of good doctors who are attentive and care about their patience at this hospital. But think about how hard it would be just to see the doctor, even then. I know that Kenya has good medical care. Why can't Tanzania do better for their people?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012

In the House!

Just a quick post because it's late and I'm tired. But I thought I'd share that we're in the house! Last night was our first night. Guess what we did?

Chris chilling on our first night in the house!

What we always do.

Also, check out the newest addition to our family!

Check out the newest addition to our African family!

Her name's Smokey and she's the sweetest thing in the world! Not much of a guard dog, but we love her just the same.

More pictures at Flickr.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

File Under: Strange Things In my Life in Africa 2, Points 1 through 5

Point 1: Yesterday I waited out a storm for an hour in a foam cushion shop after purchasing 12 cushions that we later discovered were too big for our couches. This, despite the fact that we fact-checked the dimensions with the couch builder to verify that they'd work. So now we've got the choice to look for new cushions or cut them to fit. To which, we then have to notify the guy who's sewing the covers so he can adjust accordingly.

Point 2: While waiting in the cushion shop for the rain to stop I told my Regional Coordinator about some stomach issues I'd been having and we think I have amoeba.

Point 3: On my way to work today I discovered I have a rash on my wrists and fingers.

Point 4: On my way to work today the dalladalla (public mini-bus) I was riding was delayed due to excess bananas that fell out of the cargo space in the back and spilled out into the traffic behind us.

Point 5: I got to work, purposely bringing my internet modem so I could do research, only to discover that it doesn't work on any computer in the office. So I turned around and went home to do the research there instead.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lillian Grace

Lillie Grace, AKA "The Bug", my newest niece, made a surprise appearance yesterday.

Lillie Grace 5-12-12

Born at 5:12 on 5/12/12. 5lb 5 oz.

She was born while her older sister celebrated her 16th birthday party. Way to make an entrance.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

File Under: Strange Things in my Life in Africa

Today we bought a bow and arrow and a rain jacket for our guard at our house. Necessities for work, I guess. Oh, that and sugar. Lots of sugar for his tea.

Friday, May 11, 2012


I just ate a piece of passion fruit that I picked from our yard. In Africa. Nice!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

9 Years Addendum

Here's a picture of me and the hubby on our anniversary on Thursday. We were on our way out to eat.

Me & the hubby on our 9th wedding anniversary