I’m writing this post from the relative safety of my mosquito net, my home-fort in Tanzania, trying to decide what I’m supposed to say in my first blog post ever. I am three days into my time in Tanzania, and I’m not even entirely sure how to start writing. I’ve tried to begin a few times, but I don’t know how to describe the small details of my daily life and the little challenges of learning how to live in Laganda that have a lot more importance to me than I can put down in words. The amplitudes of life for me here are much greater than in the United States, and every moment seems unique and important. For now, I will explain why I’m in Tanzania in the first place and describe a little about some of the things that have stood out to me the most. Things like my life with my home-stay family, the small rewards of learning Swahili “polepole sana” (very slowly…), and being able to talk more and more everyday with the people living here.
Why Am I Here?
The purpose of this trip is for me and other engineering students to live in hospitals and fix donated medical equipment from the United States and other countries. That equipment ends up breaking or running out of consumables necessary for it to run and it is our job to try to get it working again. I am very excited to learn as much as I can in Tanzania and to work on such a meaningful project, that I hope will help people here immediately and for years down the road. During my first month here, I will be studying Swahili and the specific engineering involved in repairing different types of equipment like ventilators, incubators, electrocardiographs, fluid pumps, etc. My day starts with a thirty-minute walk to TCDC, a campus where we are taking our classes. We do four hours of Swahili lessons in the morning and 4 hours of biomedical engineering lessons in the afternoon, Monday-Thursday. On Fridays, our program will travel to local hospitals to work on equipment with the direction of our engineering professor: Dr. Fryda. And we get weekends of to travel and work on other projects… Yes! After the first month, myself and another student will move into a hospital residence on our own and start fixing as much equipment as possible.
Here is a video of the founder of EWH, Dr. Malkin, explaining a little bit about the situation:
My Home-Stay Family
This is the first time I’ve lived with a home-stay and I am very happy that I am able to do so in Laganda. My host dad “baba” is Nuru and mom “mama” is Monica. They have a nice little nyomba “house” where my roommate Faiaz and I get to live and eat breakfast and dinner every day cooked by Monica. The great thing about the home-stay is that it is putting us out into the community where we can become more immersed in the culture than if we were all living together in a dorm. I learn a lot every night just asking my parents questions at dinner and I can meet a lot of new people every day who mostly find it hilarious to listen to me stumble through Swahili greetings and conversation.
Me and My Family:
Faiaz in Our Room:
Right now we are learning the basics of Swahili and it is going pretty slowly. The language is built from 65% Bantu, 25% Arabic, and 10% a bunch of other languages. While stepping through the grammar of a new language is usually pretty boring, our teacher, Joyce, always finds a way to keep the class interesting. While some words like tafadhali “please” are really hard for me to finally memorize, others like bia “beer,” kuku “chicken,” and chipsi “fried” are easy and still make me smile whenever I hear them. Right now the language class is my favorite part of the day. The goal is that by the end of my month in Laganda, I will have become proficient enough to communicate with the staff of the hospital I will be staying in. This is really important for the work I will be doing because the communication is really important to find the problems with the medical equipment that could be affecting somebody’s life and to fix it the right way. I believe that this will be a challenge but one that is definitely attainable.
Mwalimu Joyce Teaching Our Class:
Every day in class, our professor Dr. Fryda starts and ends with a funny Youtube video. You would think that this would be the most interesting part of his lessons but it is not. He is really fun for the whole lecture while still teaching us the important things we need to know, and I can already tell that he is a very inventive person. In the second day of class, we discussed how we would test if an oxygen concentrator were working correctly. Short of bringing complicated meters to test the air, the abbreviated version of the method Dr. Fryda suggested was filling a water bottle with regular room air and timing how long a candle will burn on the oxygen inside. To then test the oxygen concentrator we would put the bottle underwater and use a tube to allow the concentrated oxygen to displace the water and fill up the bottle. We then repeat the test and we should see a proportional increase in the amount of time the candle burns to the amount of oxygen in the concentrated air. This simple test is the sort of ingenuity we are hoping to come up with to test any equipment before and after we work on it.
Betsy Helping with Making Our Own Extension Cords in Lab 1:
I haven’t even gone to a national park yet and I am seeing lots of cool animals and I feel compelled to take pictures so here you go… Apparently the monkeys that I have only seen from a distance will sometimes come into our classroom while we are studying so hopefully that will happen while I am here!
Cost 25 cents. That is all…
Basically just getting used to life in Tanzania and working with EWH. I know I have left out a lot in this post that I will hopefully be able to cover later. I want to post at least once a week (with video if the Internet will let me upload them) for the first month, and again if I have Internet during the second.
Thanks for reading my first post! Kwaheri!
Morning Dala Dala Ride:
Walk to School:
Selfie with Mount Meru:
Anglican Church Next Door to My House: