Work Hard, Play Harder

So I think we have found a place where we can get internet without getting harassed about our skin color. After our first week, things are starting to look up. We have been having issues with some strange people in the town of Marangu; we get harassed every day we go down by people looking to sell you something (though some of them have noticed that we are the prototypical tourist and are starting to lay off). This past weekend was also a plethora of strange experiences with messed-up locals. Friday, we had Farah, Ashley, and Lora come spend the night at our house. After finishing some shopping for dinner in the main town (Mtoni as the locals refer to it), some drunken guy tried hitting on the girls. We walked faster, he walked faster, we started a light jog, he started singing, we began running up the hill, and his stupid drunkenness couldn’t keep up. Sober people for the win! The girls proceeded to cook an amazing dinner for us, with guacamole, stir fry, and caramelized bananas as the highlights.

Sunday, after having explored Moshi for the weekend, Nabil and I went to a local pub to grab some dinner. While waiting for our French Fries Omelets (which was delicious), some random drunk guy walked through the bar, stopped at our table, and started yelling at us in Kiswahili. We had no idea what he was saying, so it was pretty easy to ignore him, but some of the local men got angry and chased him out. On his way out, he drunkenly pointed to his skin, pointed at us, and made an angry face. Universal sign of racism. This trip to Africa has been absolutely incredible so far, but to say it was without scary moments and challenges would be an absolute lie. But it all comes with the trip, and really makes meeting the nice people so much more…nice.

On the hospital side of things, we have been progressing fairly slowly; things like no power, lazy doctors, and a very laid-back environment have made getting equipment to work on a very slow and almost painful process. However, we have had the good fortune of returning nearly every piece of equipment we have touched. Since the last post (which was technically yesterday, but count it for last week), we fixed and tested an oxygen concentrator (remind me to show you a video of that, very cool results from our test), figured out the wiring on the intercom system, repaired more microscopes and sphygmomanometers, and even looked at a few computers (though most of them were dead, nothing to do).

My favorite project to work on has been the suction pump, used to suck away flowing blood and other bodily fluids during surgery. When the doctor gave it to us, it was dirty and rusty, from having sat in the corner of a closet for what seems like years. After replacing the plug, we got it to turn on, but no pressure was being generated. Nabil and I went right into the machine, removing all sorts of screws and plates and looking for the answer. Turns out it was nothing internal, but a broken jar they were using for it. Imagine a large clear cookie jar, about 1.5 feet tall, 6 inches in diameter, with a special plastic lid that provides the gateways for the tubing. Now add about 4 large cracks around the jar from someone dropping it, and the 3 pieces of glass being held together by surgical tape.

Nabil and I were able to pry the plastic housing off the jar, and have retrofitted it against a plastic cookie jar we found in Moshi over the weekend. Normally in the US, doctors would accidently drop the jar and order another one, but the special jar with its specific height and diameter would cost several hundred dollars. In Tanzania, it would be nearly impossible to find that jar because the equipment was donated, and so production of its components stopped years ago. We could have called some guy in Dar Es Salaam to make a new jar, but the costs would have been too high, and the town is nearly 9 hours away by bus. So, we cut a hole in the top of the cookie jar with our soldering iron (we don’t have any saws, and the box cutter wasn’t cutting it), and epoxied the plastic top of the jar into the lid of the cookie jar. After waiting a day for it to dry, we are testing today to see if it works. A cheap solution; a little messy, but effective.

We were going to test it yesterday, but it was Saba Saba, or 7/7; a Tanzanian public holiday. That meant most of the doctors didn’t show up to the hospital, and the doctor-in-charge told us to go home. Disappointed (yes, we were actually disappointed from having been sent home from work), we took the time to explore the waterfalls in the area. Nabil and I basically have the most gorgeous hike to work, a 20 minute walk through a forest, where we pass some streams and a large waterfall, before being dropped off in front of the hospital. There had always been some other paths that deviated from it, but we never had the chance or time to explore them until yesterday. We spent a few hours just taking random turns at forks, making our own paths, climbing rocks and falling into water, just to find some spectacular views of the water that runs through the town. I felt like an 8 year old, with absolute freedom to go anywhere and no schedule of any kind for the day. We found some great hiking trails, and plan on inviting some friends over this weekend from the other hospitals and taking them on the same hiking paths we found.

But now its time for breakfast and morning prep before work. We are testing our ‘Frankenstein’ jar for the suction machine today and doing some inventory; which will give us a better idea of the hospitals resources, and maybe find some more projects on the way. All in all, life is good.

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