Monday, March 19, 2012

Lobosoit--here we come

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Day Three

After a sound night's sleep in our luxury suite at The African Tulip in Arusha, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast complete with made-to-order omelets, and our choice of cereal, fruit, yogurt, cake and coffee. Then we gathered around the pool where we were introduced to a couple of missionaries who were stationed there.

They talked about some of the ongoing initiatives they have launched including a glass bottle recycling program they are developing to help raise funds--cutting and grinding down bottles and converting them into glasses and serving pieces. Monetary donations simply cannot keep up with the need. I was glad to learn that they are already talking about sustainability to recycle goods and cut down on waste...while, of course, asking for financial backing to support these projects.

We reviewed the plan for the day and soon we were loading everything into the vans that would transport us to our camp in Lobosoit, another two-hour drive away.

The day was sunny and warm although we were warned that the rains had already arrived this year. So...even though we were in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, we never got to see it. It was either shrouded in clouds or obscured by haze the entire time...meaning I'll just have to go back again at some point. I still want to see that mountain!
This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at // under the creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0 license.
Our trip took us through miles of barren countryside, through clouds of dust, the result of overgrazing by the herds of cattle and goats that the Masai keep as symbols of stature and wealth. Then we headed into the bush, bouncing along dirt roads that were rutted and deep with mud from the recent rains. The landscape turned green and lush, punctuated by mighty Baobab trees, flowering bushes, and stunted Acacia trees. Finally we pulled into camp and our new luxury accomodations!

Thankfully, our suites were all set up for us. The facilities also included a couple of portable showers and the dreaded "cho"--the Tanzanian version of a port-a-potty, a hole in the ground. In the traditional cho, you just squat...but our hosts were gracious enough to provide us with commode seats, an unexpected and welcome convenience! The crew that cooked for us worked out of tents over a wood fire and meals were served in a large meal tent.

"The Iron Chef" a la Tanzania
Gourmet dining at its finest.

After unpacking, we spent several hours sorting and organizing the medications we would take with us to the clinic the next day. Supper consisted of zuccini soup, bread, a vegetable stew, rice, cabbage, and fresh fruit. Now, I have cooked for large groups at retreats before, in fully equipped kitchens with refrigeration, running water, and electricity...and even so, it wasn't easy. But these men put together three meals a day for us without any of that, to my utter amazement! I'll have more to say about the delicacies they served later.

the original mystery meat

After supper the night air turned chilly so we gathered around a bonfire for warmth before heading to our tents to sleep...except that sleep never came. Lightning had been threatening us from a distance all evening...and then, at midnight, THE STORM hit! The wind came up, rain poured down, lightning flashed, and thunder rolled across the savannah until it reached the mountains and then rumbled back over us again until it faded away...all night long. The wind took up the flap on my side of the tent and rained poured in until I could dash outside, and zip it down. By then I was cold and wet and I stayed that way...all night long. We abandonned any hope of sleep and were up before dawn, excited about setting up the clinic and getting down to work.

Except for the fact that we were tired and chilled, my tent mate and I both thoroughly enjoyed the storm! As it turned out, we had more than that in common. It just so happened that Diane was a nurse in the Emergency Room when I was on rotation there during my Family Practice residency, over thirty years ago! What are the chances of that?? She actually remembered me (in a good way), probably because there were so few women in the residency back then. And she served as a rich source of information for me as she has made numerous trips to Africa on other medical missions. Oh, the wishful thinking we did! The virtual plans we made! It's a wonder we got any sleep!

"Throughout the years of your life you will face many challenges.
Remember that you can climb the highest mountain,
 drive through the roughest storm,
soar across the bluest sky,
or even sail across the roughest waters.
It is only destined by your attitude
where you will end up in life.
The most important thing is:
don't let yourself get lost in the crowd.”
In my next post, I'll introduce you to the Masai and show you the clinic.
Be still,


  1. I love thunderstorms but I've never spent one in a tent. Can't wait to read your next post.

    1. We became experts in camping in stormy weather when our children were young. It never failed.