Post Arusha

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My time in Arusha has made me appreciate my background and my home a lot more. It has given me a new understanding of the world and its vastness. The differentiation from one country to another is significant. To witness a society that differs so much from our own is an amazing experience and an incredibly knowledgeable one. I learned a lot more about myself during this trip but I also learned a lot about the community of Arusha and their struggles, lacks and needs.

I have come to realize that their medical process is flawed but I have also realized that there are things within our own system that could improve. A lot of problems that I witnessed I could also relate to the U.S. Sure these issues might not be at as great of severity in the United States but I believe many occur within our own medical system. It makes me wonder how much better we can be and how  we can help other communities. How can these communities, our communities, help each other?

The quality of life in both societies are lacking. Our pressured and quick paced system allows for more successful results but also for stress and mistreatment. In Arusha the professionals take their time and are very relaxed. This can lead to disappointing to outcomes in some situations. It also leads to a calmer lifestyle and people that are all trying to do the best that they can to keep themselves and each other healthy. Of course there are exceptions to these groups of people. Neither group is perfect.

I am grateful for the experiences I was fortunate enough to have, the people I was able to meet and the lessons I learned. I hope to look into other healthcare systems and continue to compare and contrast them to our own. I believe that it could be extremely helpful to discover the balances of beneficial and proper medical care. Throughout my education and future career, I would like to discover these balances and find a way for the medicinal globe to communicate and share amongst itself.

In the Heart of Arusha

Working in the hospitals in Arusha was a daily challenge but an enjoyable one. Each and every day we faced a new obstacle with the language barrier but soon learned enough Swahili to be able to get a message across to a patient or their loved ones. This came about most in the vaccination clinics; we were helping to administer vitamins, aiding with vaccinations and immunizations and helping to register new babies into a government system. It was difficult to ask the mothers questions and even more difficult to properly record their answers in Swahili but the more practice I had with it, the easier it started to be. Short phrases came more and more easily with time and I slowly began to comprehend more throughout the trip.

Sanitation was a factor that was hard to cope with within the hospitals and the life style in general. Cleaning of patient beds was often done with dingy soap water and the sterilization of medical tools and supplies was not up to the standards of the U.S. When talking to fellow volunteers and the professionals that we worked with and followed, we were all aware that a lot of the sanitation problems were due to a lack of supply. What could be altered without the requirement of additional supplies, the doctors and nurses were glad to learn from us. They were eager to learn whatever they could in order to help their patients.

Another factor that was hard to adjust to was the slow pace of Africa. “Pole pole,” is a very common term in Tanzania and it means, slowly slowly. The lifestyle is very relaxed and coming from the United States, where we are constantly planning, cramming and in a rush, it was difficult to adjust to something that is the exact opposite of what we know. Eventually, I was able to understand the beauty of the slower paced life. Citizens were happy and relaxed. It was only in the hospitals that I continued to struggle with the slow pace and relaxation. In these settings it still seemed more appropriate, to me, to have a sense of urgency. When it came to patients health and well-being, I thought it necessary to try and complete a task as soon as possible. Especially when some came from miles away to be treated or receive medication.

Transportation was another complication with the treatment of patients. There were multiple patients every day that had traveled for hours to arrive at the hospital. Some came by car or bus but many came by foot and had to walk for hours. This is a problem because it makes visiting a health center far more complicated for families. When filling out newborns registration cards, one question that we asked was where was the baby born, at home, in a hospital or on the way? Even if public transportation is available to some, many are still not able to afford the rates.

However, all of these factors and situations were a part of the society, a part of their culture and there is no way to say that it is wrong. It is different and it is simple. There is beauty in simplicity. Parts of this differing culture could benefit our own process, as ours could theirs.

Arusha at First Glance

My first week in Arusha, Tanzania was a blur. Zooming cars, screaming citizens, a foreign language, completely losing myself within the city and the culture. It was chaos, crazy but thrilling and absolutely wonderful. The city of Arusha is far larger than I expected and is relatively diverse, filled with people of all classes, religion and color. There are some individuals that are welcoming and eager to question and there are some that prefer to observe you from afar. Overall it is a bustling city that is full of life.

I arrived in Tanzania on a Sunday morning after approximately fifty hours of traveling; it was warm, humid and beautiful. I was exhausted but this didn’t cease me from taking in the beautiful green wilderness around me, trees, flowers, grasses and blue skies. After making it through customs, attaining a visa and my baggage and reporting the missing baggage that had somehow lost its way among the several airports I walked outside to find Christopher, my guide and driver that would take me to the volunteer house.

From the airport, heading into Arusha, there was an evident change. The site from the window started as vast brown and green farmland with children roaming along the side of the roads herding goats and cattle, houses were few and far between, mostly constructed of dirt and sticks, others with concrete. Getting closer to the city houses became more frequent and the number of people increased. The roads were incredibly bumpy and the traffic was horrific at first. Eventually I grew used to the constant swerving and honking, the passing of other cars regardless of oncoming traffic and the occasional pedestrian standing in the middle of the street among the traffic.

Arriving at the house, I met fellow volunteers that were from Denmark, Georgia, Greece, France and Spain, all of which were volunteering within some program throughout the city; some were volunteering with the farming community, some orphanages, schools and some were fellow medical volunteers. They told me of their own studies and experiences.

The next day I participated in an orientation and was shown around to a lot of necessary locations throughout the city such as a bank, a grocery store, the market and the hospitals. After the first day, our group walked to the hospitals together. We met the doctors and nurses that we would be working with and began following them. Throughout the next few days we learned the procedures and protocol of the hospitals.

Our mode of transportation in Arusha was our feet. Walking several miles a day allowed us to see more and more of the city we were in. It also allowed us to experience more of the culture. The streets were always crowded with both people and vehicles. It was loud and chaotic. Crossing the street was nearly impossible. Cars were always driving quickly, ignoring the few traffic signs and passing other vehicles at any time. The sidewalks were filled with children walking to school, the homeless with their belongings, women selling corn and peanuts and others walking to and from stores or the hospitals at which we volunteered.

The hospitals we volunteered at were far different from those of the states. Sanitation was extremely lacking compared to the US standards and there was less supplies to work with. Considering the conditions, the nurses and physicians did do a great job with what they were given. Sanitation was something that we tried to address within our group, showing the faculty the few things that we saw they could improve with the supplies that they had. The faculty were very accepting and taught anything that related to the patients and conditions that we observed and aided with. There were many conditions and situations that were difficult to comprehend and accept but I will dive into those in my next blog.