Sunday, 13 November 2011

Elective 27. An accidental wedding invitation

As this is a weekend, nothing seems to happen at the hospital. However, I do spend Some time talking to the lab tech Choc, learning about the immoral methods of many private labs, I hold a  limbo competition for the village kids, and attend a second wedding by accident. I also do my washing, then read in one of my medical books that in certain south African countries (though the book is cruel enough not to say which), clothes should always be ironed after being left out to dry, as there is a fly (Putzi fly) which lays eggs in the wet material, quickly hatching into larvae which will burrow into your skin when the clothing is worn. They then feed until they burst out of the skin as a fly. It sounds like a bad Steven King novel,. It is really not the sort of thing that I want to rad whilst my clothes are outside in the sun (mostly on the floor, due to the lack of clothes pegs and windy day) but what can you do...

While most people in the village are lovely, the pregnant ladies can be weird, and come up to the house and just stare through our windows at us for hours... Perhaps there is nothing better to do, after all, there is no TV here...

When Choc the lab tec comes to visit, as he regularly does, he loves to chat about anything he can, as long as it is in English. His English is very good, likely because of all the English films he watches. Today, among other topics, we talked about malaria testing (because we are all geeks at heart). Malaria testing here is done by a blood smear, looked at under the microscope by the lab tech (i.e. Choc) for the presence of any malaria parasites in the blood. It is not 100% effective, as the malaria can be 'hiding' in the liver when the blood is taken, and so not show up. Because of this, even when negative, the doctors here still give anti-malarial treatment if there is any chance it might be malaria (so pretty much all of the time). I wanted to know why we even bothered doing this test, if we were going to treat anyway.

There were no definite answers here, but a few sensible guesses, and the topic moved onto private labs in Tanzania. It turns out that patients here don't like leaving without a diagnosis (much like in the UK or anywhere) and tend to prefer going to labs which seem to be "better" at diagnosis. This means that labs want to 'diagnose' people so they and their friends will come again. Choc tells us (me and Smartie, who is still around) that some of the labs he has worked in do not even use real stains to stain the blood. Instead they use coloured ink. After all, whats the point wasting money on expensive chemicals when you are just going to tell everyone that their blood is positive for malaria (thus securing their return next time they feel ill). Out of curiosity, Choc has gone to our other nearest two hospitals (the only other hospitals in this section of Tanzania), whilst well, and complained of malaria symptoms. Both labs told him his blood tested  positive for malaria, though he knew he didn't have malaria (no symptoms and he could test his own blood). I Suppose this makes  "economical sense", pleasing your customers and ensuring their return and positive reviews to their friends. Lets hope the continuing privatisation of the NHS does not result in this sort of "competition' between hospitals. Competition is definitely not always a good thing.

Anyway, I digress into politics. Not something this blog was intended for (though none the less an important issue). Somehow I accidentally signed up for two weddings whilst here. I was Invited to Dr Bike's brother's wedding, and said I would attend, which I attended a week or two ago. Straight after my invitation to this wedding, a couple of weeks ago, someone else asked me if I was going to 'the wedding' at the weekend. I assumed it was Dr Bike's Brother's, and said yes. It now turns out that I have a stranger's wedding to go to. Tanzanian weddings include a donation (about 4 pounds here) to support the wedding. The reverend who lives nearby (who fast forwarded when we were watching Last King of Scotland weeks ago in the sex scene) was also going and explained the more people who go, the less the wedding costs the bride and groom's families. This made me feel less guilty about my mistake. I was being a good Samaritain now, caring about strangers weddings, and less of a wedding crashing crazy mzungu. I hope! We were taken to the wedding in the car of a proper ''del boy" village resident. Owning the only private car in the village (An old Toyota people carrier, which squeaks and shakes as though it is about to fall apart), there are usually some dodgy deals Being mediated by this character. This deal involved taking 13 large Tanzanian men and one Skinny white kid to town and back, for which we needed to give him 10L of diesel and 4 crates of soda. Fortunately I didn't need to work out this trade, and just chipped in some cash. After a cramped car ride, noticing how despite the fact we were on one of the main roads through the country (equivalent of the UK M1) there was no traffic other than occasional goods lorries, walkers and goat herds. Very few people this far into the country own means of transport... Once at the wedding, I was warmly welcomed by everyone. I do not expect anything else now, Tanzanians are all so friendly. The ceremonies were the same as those at the last wedding I attended, cakes given to each of the bride and groom's families by the wedded couple, though the groom has always been standing and the bride kneeling. Is this Sexist or tradition? Perhaps sometimes they are the same. The woman and man did look very young. Again. But I suppose that is just a cultural difference  Needless to say, I was the only non-Tanzanian there, and this was somewhat obvious by the colour of my skin. The grooms father did say that he felt that my presence there was a special sign and added to the wedding, which made me feel more justified at being at a wedding where I had never even heard of the bride or groom before.

A (poor) photo showing the wedding guests and the crazy MC/compere who couldn't stop dancing me around

I spent the first half of the wedding (held in the same location as the last one) lurking at the back sitting down. The Tanzanians love lots of dancing at their weddings, and at one of these dance interludes, where more than haIf the room was dancing around the bride and groom, I decided to go and join in, Excusing myself from a friendly person at the village who had been patiently attempting to translate parts of the ceremony into English for me. I wander up to the front (no-one in Tanzania moves with strides or any apparent purpose -  they all walk with what we call the 'Tanzanian Shuffle'), and before I can even slip into the dancing crowd and start start dancing, I am grabbed from behind. The guy directing the wedding with a microphone (The MC or compere), who is wearing a smart red blazer has grabbed me, and starts shouting "mzungu mzungu mzungu" into the microphone and dancing crazily with me, hands locked with mine. Don't get me wrong. I can be "a bit" of an exhibitionist (though are exibitionists ever a bit of anything?) but this was a bit much, even for me. I couldn't escape so pranced with the compere at the front with everyone watching and laughing until he stopped shouting then quickly slid to the back of the dancing crowd, keeping my dancing tame and hiding 'til the next part of the ceremony. Despite my embarrassment, the guests seemed to love the 'mzungu parade', with plenty of laughing and the "lalala" call Tanzanian women use to celebrate, high pitched. After I have made it back to my seat, I think I am safe, but the embarrassment is not over. The compere gets me to lead the procession to go and cheers the new couple, then the procession to give donations. Each time dancing me like a marionette. No complaints, this accurately matches my own dancing style (perhaps) and was good fun. In the end I left happy that everyone had wanted to dance with me and talk with me, rather than assuming I was trying to steal the show, and I felt more part of the Tanzanian family.

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