Saturday, June 30, 2007

What to do...

June 28, 2007- Rest for the Weary

Last night I really thought I was starting to feel better. My friend Joseph had come over to check on me because he had heard that I was sick, and after hearing that I hadn’t really eaten much all day he promptly took me out to get some dinner. We ordered “take away” to bring back to the guesthouse and stopped at the Duka La Dawa (pharmacy) to get some medicine for my stomach, which was starting to feel worse again. When we unloaded our feast we found that we didn’t have any utensils, so Joseph used my Swiss army knife to cut spoons for us out of the cardboard lid that the food had come in. I still couldn’t eat much, and unfortunately I started feeling quite sick again.

Joseph bought me some ginger ale, which apparently is a universal beverage for those with sick tummies. Who knew! I decided that maybe I could just sleep off whatever I had but Joseph convinced me that we should go and find a doctor. At this point it was nearing midnight, as our trip into town to get dinner had taken us on quite a tour, introducing me to about half a dozen of Joseph’s friends!

After trying two hospitals that were closed for the night, we arrived at the Arusha Medical Centre, which despite the padlocked chain around the gate, was open. The nurse at the desk promptly called the doctor who had presumably gone home for the night, and I waited patiently, looking around to be sure that this was a good, clean place to be. It appeared very nice and modern and Joseph confided that this was where he would come if he was sick.

The doctor was a very nice older gentleman with perfect English who swiftly drew my blood, ran a few other tests, and sent me back out to the waiting room. The waiting was the worst part. I’m sure I didn’t wait long but it felt like forever, and apparently I turned a concerning color of red. The doctor emerged, delivered a sheet of paper to the nurse, and retreated back into his office. Okay I’ll cut to the chase and fill you in. The nurse was happy to report that my blood came back clean, and I did not have malaria nor typhoid. Phew! I did however have some bacterial infection of some sort, for which she gave me an antibiotic and her phone number, incase I should have any problem. The doctor and nurse were really fantastic and I would recommend their hospital to any other visitors to Arusha.

My stomach pain has been coming in waves today. Sometimes I feel alright and other times I really need to lie down. Today I spoke to a doctor from the SOS International System—an emergency system for travelers that the Public Service Center signed us up for, thank you!!—and she confirmed that the medication I was given was ideal and that within 2-3 days the pain should be relieved. So, more rest! The staff at the guesthouse have all been really great, checking up to make sure that I’m doing okay. As much fun as it is to be at the workshop, I’d be pretty useless right now, so I just have to suck it up and wait until I get better, which should hopefully be soon!

June 27, 2007- Taking it Easy

Normally when I’m sick at home (which isn’t all that often) I curl up on one of the plush leather couches in my family room and watch old shows on TiVo while my mom heats up some soup. Well, there is no microwave, no plush leather couch, and the only tv is a tiny one in the front of the guesthouse playing odd shows in a language I can’t follow. I slept late today, getting up when a few construction guys resumed work on what can only be the roof directly above my room.

I made a short trip to the internet cafĂ© to post some pictures--which I hope you are enjoying—but the power went out about halfway through my time there so I gave up and went to get something to eat. I went to my favorite place across the street from my guesthouse and ordered chipsi mayai, which is basically like a potato omelette. My stomach could only handle about half the dish, but I didn’t want to offend the cook by not finishing. Hmmm… what to do…. I found a couple napkins in my bag and wrapped up my leftovers while nobody was looking so I could smuggle them out, making my plate appear empty. When I got back to my room to unload my lunch I found that some of the potatoes had leaked out to the bottom. I hope I got them all out!

I slept a bit more and then spent what remained of the afternoon revising an old questionnaire and reading up on some other disability-related organizations in the area. Certainly takes “working from home” to a whole new level!

June 26, 2007- Trouble in Paradise?

I’ve been here for almost a month so it’s pretty much a miracle that I haven’t gotten sick until now. I wasn’t feeling so hot when I woke up this morning but I figured whatever it was would pass after I had some breakfast. I worked in the office, sorting through information I’ve gathered from interviews with wheelchair users. I take lots of notes in my notebook during these interviews, but usually I try to write down so much that it comes out a bit messy! Agnes loves helping me learn Swahili, so while I was in the office (which is also our kitchen and dining room) she would pick various things up and ask me to name them. Cup- kikombe, banana- ndizi. Now if only somebody could explain the subject-prefixes and verb tense markers to me!

By lunch I was still feeling pretty sick. I knew it was bad when I could only eat a few spoonfuls of Agnes’ wali, which I usually love. I decided to call it an early day and headed home to rest. I’m giving my body 24 hours to get better, and if I still don’t feel well then I’ll have somebody take me to the doctor. But it’s really amazing that I haven’t gotten sick before now!

I was supposed to go to Moshi tomorrow but the user who we were going to give the chair to was just admitted to the hospital for pressure sores. So I’ll have to try again next week. Perhaps it’s a sign that I too need to rest, as the last few days have been pretty crazy.

June 25, 2007- Lots to Do

Sometimes it’s so quiet at my guesthouse that you can hear a pin drop, and other times it sounds as though hundreds of desperate shoppers are storming into Wal-Mart on the day after Thanksgiving. Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I think you get my point. Unfortunately last night was one of those shopping stampede days, so I was pretty tired today, but I had lots of fun things on my agenda so it didn’t matter how sleepy I was!

After I got off the daladala I stopped to buy bread from a tiny stand across the street. At one point the woman selling me the bread said to her friends in Swahili something to the extent of “ah this girl understands a lot of Swahili, more than she can speak,” which ironically Daniel had to translate for me! Still, I think I’ve come a long way!

On the walk from the bus stop to Mobility Care I passed a man who was clearly training for a marathon. I always read about the amazing athletes from East Africa who sweep the marathons, so it was very surreal to be passing one in the middle of his training on his home turf. If I see him again I’ll have to get his name…. perhaps I saw him at the Boston Marathon and didn’t know it!

It turns out that Agnes is a big fan of American hip-hop, so we made a big playlist of 50 Cent, Tupac, Akon, etc and played it off my computer while the two of us were working in the office. At one point we were both singing along to “In the Club” which was really quite cute.

I spent the rest of the morning riding around in my prototype, basically putting it through as much stress as I could to be sure that it was strong enough. I rode it around Mobility Care for awhile, going up and down steep ramps, small steps, and even slamming it into the wall on purpose sometimes. Later I went out onto the road outside and had a lot of fun aiming for as many potholes as I could. The other people passing on the road all had a good chuckle watching the crazy mzungu bounce around in her wheelchair!

We had arranged to give the chair to Zacaria, our test user, this afternoon, so I wanted to get as much time in the chair myself before then. Once I was satisfied Daniel and I packed up and headed out to catch the daladala. The conductor had no problem taking the wheelchair onboard and even helped me to fold it, but I later found out that he was a friend of Daniel’s which might explain why. Zacaria works for Money Maker Pumps, making a simple irrigation system produced by the Kickstart company. I’m pretty sure it was one of the showcased items in the Cooper-Hewitt Museum’s ‘Design for the Other 90%’ exhibit. He was very excited to be testing our chair and went for a quick spin around the block as soon as he sat down!

Once he came back, he wanted to give me a tour which I certainly didn’t object to. Packed into this small, two-story building were about 30 guys cutting, welding, grinding, and painting these pumps. Let’s just say I got a pretty warm welcome! I’ll be back on Friday to pick up the chair and gather Zacaria’s feedback which I’m really looking forward to.

I didn’t get enough Bongo Flavor when I bought the CD from town last week, so Daniel took me to visit another one of his friends (basically everybody is a friend!) who burns music off his computer. We all had a lot of fun picking out the songs, and I’m currently rocking out to my new CD as I type this!

The CD guy was really close to where Daniel lives, so I decided to stop by with him to visit his wife and son. I picked up some bananas on the way and meandered up a winding road behind Daniel, where I’m fairly sure no other visitors have gone. All the children love to shout out “how are you” when I pass by, but they usually don’t understand when I answer. Nevertheless it’s really cute.

Daniel’s wife, Emily, is such a sweetheart. She doesn’t speak any English but just seeing her smile is enough. She insisted that I have some wali and beef before I go and you really can’t refuse food if it’s offered to you, not that I would ever turn down wali! She’s really an excellent cook, especially considering she does everything without electricity. Daniel’s son, affectionately known as little Joseph (so as not to be confused with big Joseph), was even cuter than the last time I saw him if it’s possible. He absolutely loves cell phones and even though he can’t talk yet, he has figured out how to put the phone reasonably close to his ear and let out a little noise that sounds like “hey.” I promise I’ll photograph this next time!

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