Hitting our Groove

Sorry for the lack of updates, but as I stated last time, life has been moving fairly slow here in Tanzania, once the initial shock of living by ourselves was over. Days have become fairly routine, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t accomplished much. Over the past week or so, we have been able to repair:

Furnace: There was a tiny furnace in the dental lab, which they told us was used to melt metals. When we got it, it wouldn’t turn it on, so Nabil and I took it apart, couldn’t find anything wrong, and put it back together. Tada! Working furnace. Then we sat around for an hour watching it get up to 900 degrees Celsius (!), just to make sure it wouldn’t blow up or anything. I appreciate the fact that sometimes, all the thing needs is a little maintenance, which most of the time means tightening a few screws and readjusting a wire here and there. No big deal.

Curtains: There were some curtains in the general wards that had broken wheels. Among the two that we found, both had separate, but irreplaceable issues. So we used the parts for one and were able to the other. One working curtain is better than two dead ones.

Suction Machine: During Inventory, we found another suction machine in the major operating theater. Turns out the knob for the vacuum power needed to be tightened. The sad thing is, they didn’t want to touch it; so while it was a simple fix (and we taught them what to do if it happened again), we were needed for that one.

Mercury Sphygmomanometer: It was missing the little bulb used to pump air into the cuff. Found another bulb in storage. Good to go.

Just a couple of the things that we did. Notice, none of these took incredible engineering skills. Just a screwdriver, some patience, and the courage to take something apart you have never seen. It makes me realize a bit about why technicians are so difficult to find here. The stuff that we do isn’t high skilled labor, but there aren’t people who want to do that for a living. Anyone who does learn the technical aspect of it will probably continue their education and either work in a bigger hospital (I hear KCMC, the biggest hospital in the region, has a team of 20 technicians), or will be intelligent enough to find their way into administrative jobs where they get paid more. The current technician at our hospital is just a electrician, who used to be a driver, but somehow got the job of electrician. Puzzles me as well.

On the more technical side, we were able to come up with a solution to the intercom problem the hospital gave us. To those I haven’t mentioned it to, last year’s group installed 6 telephones in order to help different hospital departments communicate with each other. Unfortunately, when they pressed the ringer for one, the entire hospital would start ringing, so they wanted us to install something which would signal only one other person. We came up with a pretty simple solution, but we needed 30 switches and about 250 meters of speaker wire. We were basically going to run a separate wire on each phone and some switches. I’ll put up a diagram sometime this weekend.

Anywho, we had a huge problem finding these simple switches; with no DIY culture here, things like Radioshack (or I think they have changed their name to ‘The Shack’) don’t exist, and the normal hardware/electronic stores here have the standard wall switches and what not. We had already spent a day in our town of Marangu looking for them with no luck; and had wasted a day last week fruitlessly looking. Yesterday we went to this one store we had become friends with, owned by a Mr. Shah. Mr. Shah (his parents were Gujurati -or Indian-, but he we brought up in Tanzania) was a pretty nice guy with a lot of good stuff in his store for us, and yesterday he basically closed down his shop and walked with us around town, taking us to the shops of all his friends to find us the switches we need. After about an hour, we found 17, which should work for now.

That’s one of the things I will miss about Tanzania in the US, is that when you can’t find something in one person’s store, they will gladly walk you over to someone else’s store to help you find it. Whether they end up getting a little commission on it, I don’t know, but it still has been extremely helpful, especially when we aren’t adept at the language. Sometimes, they end up leeching onto you and won’t let go of your hand (guys feel comfortable holding each other’s hands while walking down the street, one part of the culture that hasn’t grown on me), but for the most part, people here want to help you.

Today we are going to finish up a couple fixes with the supplies we bought yesterday, and hopefully start figuring out how we are going to get this intercom system set up. Only 2 weeks left in this country, so I gotta make it count!

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