Saturday, 24 December 2011

Elective 45. Home time.

I leave for home today, travelling by bus to Dar es Salaam and meeting a very helpful taxi driver who is a friend of the hospitals. One in Dar, there is a huge quest for pizza, and the taxi driver refuses to take me to sleep in the airport, so I get a shower and a sit down toilet for my last night.  An unexpected luxury! There are many mzungu in Dar, and I am actually finding having all these white people around strange. How odd!

Early this morning, there was a snake in Choc's house which spat venom at him. Thankfully he was unharmed, but as I left this morning (as the sun was starting to rise), people from the village were already starting to take apart his roof, in an attempt to find the snake. Dolittle and Kiwi kept me informed by text, and no snake was found, though a nearby hollow tree was smoked out as it contained some kind of snake nest. All the fun happens as soon as I leave!

On my way to the bus, I see a London bag being sold from the village shop. I wonder where they got it!

Dolittle and Kiwi are kind enough to walk with me to the bus, and on the way Tim comes out of his house to walk with me as well. Once I am at the bus stop, Chief joins us on his motorbike. The bus is hours late (no surprise), but they all stay with me, chatting away. I am very touched, Tanzanians really are friendly, and I have been made to feel part of their hospital family. Dr Bike has used his extensive bus connections to get me the best seat on the bus, behind the driver, with plenty of leg room and amazing views out of the wind screen of the rugged, untouched terrain we drive through.

My view from the bus - wonderful to watch the scenery go past.

On the journey a number of films are shown. Dr Bike's wonderful connections have gotten me a lovely bus with a TV and sweeties given out during the journey. Luxury! Of the films, there is Forrest Gump with Mandarin Sub titles (not sure how useful this is for Tanzanians, with their poor knowledge of English and worse knowledge of Mandarin, and being the only foreigner on the bus, I feel almost guilty). The next film is a Tanzanian film about a devil child who seems to explode people. During this (fortunately subtitled) film, the audience is told the devil has made three main advances in the 21st century, 1) in homosexuality 2) in contraception 3) in womens rights. Just the sort of film to show to a country struggling to fight sexism and HIV transmission. Following this absurd and offensive film is one called Uncle JJ where  womers rights are seen as good. I think. Its more than a little confusing. As we get closer to Dar, there are very heavy rains flooding the roads, and the area we are travelling through gets much greener. The rain missing back at the hospital and causing all the problems seems to be falling here.

Here is the trailer for the Uncle JJ film. I think it was pro-woman's rights - but it might have been against them. It definitely carried a message regarding woman's rights!

One at Dar, and off the bus, I see a number of holidaying mzungu floating around at the bus station. They look so our of  place and odd that I catch myself staring at them. This is weird, perhaps I have turned into a Tanzanian? I check the colour of my skin, and I am still white... I am  picked up at the bus station by a taxi driver who is a friend of the hospitals. He is very helpful in finding somewhere for me to change my remaining money back, but will not take me to the airport where I planned to sleep the night to save money, as he tells me it is too dangerous. I protest that I have done this many times before at the end of holidays, in order to save money, but he still refuses and instead offers to have me sleep at his house, or to pay for my hotel himself. I finally give in and accept to go to a CHEAP hotel, which I am not going to let him pay for!

The back wheels of my coach. One of the most important pieces of advice I got whilst in Tanzania was to only get on buses or coaches with doubled up back wheels, as otherwise they can be prone to rolling on the bumpy roads, or punctures can cause them to flip. I heard of two people dying whilst I was in the village from accidents with buses with only single back wheels, so I was always careful to only get into doubled up transport!

When asked what I would like to eat before we go to the hotel, I ask for something different to all my hospital meals, such as a pizza. This idea is taken and he runs with it. He spends ages driving around, looking for a cheap hotel with pizza nearby. This proves very hard, as all cheap hotels are in the less touristy regions, serving Tanzanian people who have come to Dar, and hence don't tend to serve western foods. I don't want to waste his time, and finally persuade him to let me find my own way around. l am dropped of in a nice clean hotel, with a very nice room for the 8 pounds I am paying. The taxi drier wrangles the price down to the Tanzanian price, rather than the western price, for me, then leaves, promising to be back tomorrow morning. With his hospital connections I believe him, and am not too worried, as he wouldn't want to lose all his business from the hospital by missing picking me up. His parting warning to me is to "Be careful with the prostitutes...". He is being serious! I must come across as seriously desperate!

I am famished after that long journey, so start off looking for food. This is the sot of adventure that wise people would advise taking a map for, but I am for too hungry to try and find one. Anyway, where would I get one from? The hotel is near a main looking street, covered with market vendors selling all items of second hand Clothes and Swahili food such as kebabs, Ugali and chips. All items I had whilst in the village. No-one seems to be doing something different such as pizza. This pizza idea has started to turn into a little bit of an obsession, and I do not think this food is what I want, so I turn right (must remember my directions!) and start my search. This is a very poor local area (hence the cheap hotel) so I will have to go some way for my western food.

An hour later, I still haven't found any food places serving pizza, or even anything un-Tanzanian, but have now made about a dozen turnings which I am trying to remember. I was going to use my camera to take pictures to help me, but am still the only white person around and don't want to draw too  much attention to myself. I am pretty sure I have already gone so far I will not be able to find my way back, so I turn back, resigning myself to another night of 'Chipsi' (i cannot remember if I talked earler about the Tanzanian love of putting the letter 'i' on the end of most western words to make them 'Tanzanian' It is already getting dark, and I find myself in a road I definitely didn't come down. Now I am lost, but this is not all bad news, I as l can also see a hotel restaurant at the end of the road with mzungu outside!!!

They don't serve pizza but, almost as good, they do serve curry! I had a fantastic meal, but I have never eaten out or a restaurant by myself before. (why would I have?) I find out that its pretty boring. I snack down my curry quickly (it tastes nothing like any curry I have ever tasted before, but a different flavour to the last four weeks really is wonderful) so I can get back before it is completely dark.

The curry I was given in the restaurant. A very... unusual... taste, but still delicious! 

I am too slow, and so have to make my way home on the dark streets, which have no street lights. Being in the City has a very different feeling feel to rural Tanzania, as you are not greeting everyone, but it also has a very different feel to the more developed Indian cities I have been to this year as well. There is no pushy selling, and I am not asked for money once, despite the fact I am obviously a foreigner. This must be because there are far fewer tourists, and those who do come probably go off towards Kilimanjaro or to Safari, rather than hanging around in Dar es Salaam. Despite this, and feeling pretty safe, it was quite dark, and I know some areas can be dangers (Unfortunately I don't know which ones, not that it matters, as I have no idea where I am). I find my hotel pretty easily, by backtracking to where I went wrong, and once I am on the last street back, I celebrate by buying some chopped up sugar cane to munch on, the bag was prepared in front of me for 2 pence. A very Tanzanian snack, but only tasty for the first three chews really...

One in my hotel room, I take my time to enjoy the wonderful facilities, including a Shower and a sit down toilet without a bat (I hope!). There seem to be an inordinate number of cockroaches and other assorted insects in my room, but with all these other luxuries, I am beyond caring. Perhaps all the insects means there are no rats to eat them!

As I cuddle up in bed and check my texts (I didn't want to get my Nokia 3310 out for fear of having it stolen while in town) I find a marriage proposal from a nurse at the hospital, and a text saying she had sent me some money on my phone, as she had assumed my lack of reply was as I had run out of credit. Feeling guilty that I had been taking money from a poor Tanzanian, I tried to be nice in my subsequent text conversation with her, while trying to explain why I cannot marry her. I am not used to turning down marriage proposals, so am not too sure what to say. The truth is that I just don't really want to marry her!

Part of the text I got from the nurse asking me to marry her. Again, I wish it was my good looks and charm that attracted her, but I assume it was my skin colour and nationality which was the main attraction... :(

All in all, this was an exciting last day in Tanzania, much more exciting than I expected for a journey day. I fly tomorrow, so this is the last blog post about my elective. I have loved my stay here, most of all the community and fitting in as part of the village. The parts I found hardest were the language barriers (obviously) and trying to persuade the doctors that the medical care they gave was on occasion awful, and trying to get them to change their practice (or watching people die because they wouldn't change what they did). Despite this, I know that I will really miss the village and the country, and I plan to return when I have got some real skills to offer.


  1. Excellent blogs, please don't stop with them after this elective! Tanzania seems like it was an amazing adventure. Your stories have definitely encouraged me to do some similar volunteering abroad while I'm in med school!

  2. Thank you Anonymous, I will continue if people are still interested!

    Tanzania was amazing, and its part of the 'elective' - so everyone gets the chance to go - it just depends where!