Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Field

We woke up early and met with a member of the ministry of health before riding into the field to see our clinics.  We will be implementing in 10 clinics.  These clinics are primarily womens clinics which treat HIV.  We will be helping to reduce the mother to child transmission of HIV by introducing mobile phones.

At the clinics, women sat in circles, waiting for hours to be seen by a nurse.  Our interviewer was a genius with them.  He made them laugh and teased them.  It was the most relaxed and successful focus group discussion I have ever seen.  The mothers were very young.  Most in their teens with a few in their early twenties.  Their babies fed openly or crawled on the dirt floor.  They were colorful.

When I get older and have a baby, I want to swaddle it so hard that you only see it’s face and then I want to tie it on my back like a little baby hunchback.

There was one clinic that really clung.  We made friends with a baby girl who is HIV positive.  She was liberal with her love and plopped on any and everyone’s lap.  She took a sledgehammer to my heart.  The clinic was run by the fiercest nurse.  No games, she started to yell at us as soon as we came explaining that she did not have enough medicine to distribute.  When we explained that we were not doctors (Oi ma, I know, I know), she stopped yelling.  She told us that she didn’t want to tell mothers they were HIV positive if she didn’t have the medicine to treat them.

She didn’t want to tell mothers they were HIV positive if she didn’t have the medicine to treat them. 

The rest of the trip went by, but those words I brought back with me and hung up in my mind next to my concept notes and grant agreements.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013


We woke up disgustingly early and packed our bodies into a cramped little airport.  I started to have a panic attack, drank Sprite out of a satisfying glass bottle, watched The Sopranos on my laptop, and all was well.
We boarded this stupid small propeller plane and flew for two hours to Mwanza.  Mwanza, also known as “Rock City,” has jutting inselbergs that balance like Stonehenge.   It’s a view worth smushing your nose against the airplane glass for.

We land, and five of us press ourselves into a car for the 3 hour drive deep into rural Tanzania.  A red cloud dust picks up behind us.   I can’t see anything out of the back window.  Swahili loops around the car and I look out the window.

Our hotel is down a long dusty path.   The red dirt is cleansed by shocks of red and purple flowers.  Our rooms were bright.  A bed, a mosquito net, a desk and a toilet.  Sparse enough for me to lay under the floating net and pretend I was in Africa. Birds flew into my window with a bang.  They were stupid birds. 
I prepped for my day by writing up a few checklists and an interview guide for our trip to the clinics.  The hotel owner brought my fresh papaya juice she had squeezed.  We had to ask for dinner 2 hours in advance because she first had to catch the chicken and pluck it before she could begin cooking dinner over an open fire.

Gabriel, Peter and I went for a walk into the village and skirted around the edge of a town hall meeting.  The pastor rang a loud bell and all the families came to sit under the tree to listen.  A few children chased us down the street.

We went back to the hotel and sat waiting for our dinner, listening to African pop, feeding our skin to the mosquitos, and talking about philosophy and politics.  The “P” topics are always the most satisfying when sitting outside at night.  Dinner was Ugali (maize and water mixed into a dense ball) beef in a red tomato stew, white sweet potatoes and green with onions.  You use the ugali to leverage the soppy stew into your mouth.  It’s amazing.

I slept heartily.