A Travellerspoint blog

I Move to a New Garden Apartment

A Reflection on Living Conditions

semi-overcast 82 °F


A pictorial tour of my new Garden Apartment...

I had to change apartments and I did not like the one available where I had been living, so I looked at some new locations. For just $30 more per month than my first "garden apartment" (I say 'just', but $1 a day is the approximate average household income in Tanzania), I am closer to good transportation, shopping (food) and the Clock Tower (the central market and shops)...and I now have a living room, a nicer kitchen, a larger bedroom and lots of natural light in every room! It really feels like home for me, but to many it's a palace...keep reading and you'll know why.






It's not very 'African' except for a few pieces of local art...

I am paying the same daily rate as I would be if I were staying in an 'economy' hotel --or a lot less if you use the Lonely Planet definition of an economy price! But even at less than $25/day, my apartment is well above the living standards of the majority of Tanzanians. To start with, I have clean running water and a flush toilet in my home. In the city of Dar Es Salaam only 8% of have water connections in their house and only 10% have flush toilets. I'm lucky to be in Arusha which is one of only three towns in Tanzania that has a continuous water supply; water is only available about 9 hours a day in Dar Es Salaam, the largest city which is located on the Indian Ocean. Here are some other facts:

The total population for Tanzania is 45 million. Less than about 21.6 million Tanzanians (or nearly half the population) do not have access to clean water and over 40 million do not have access to adequate sanitation. Only 12% have access to toilets [statistics from Water Aid Global]. These statistics are not unusual when you know that nearly a billion people (or 1 in 8) in the world don't have access to clean and safe water and that 37% of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa [per the United Nations Water Project]. These statistics are only referring to "access". In other words, if there is a hygienic water pump at the other side of your village, you have access. If you have to walk over two hours a day to carry your water back home and you are female-- it may not be safe even if the water is clean, so it is not necessarily accessible. If you are able to use a neighbor's pit toilet, you have 'access'.

In Tanzania, "water-borne illnesses, such as malaria and cholera 'account for over half the the diseases affecting the population' because people don't have access to sanitary options." 10,000 children die every year from diarrhea due to unsafe water and poor sanitation [WaterAid]. According to the United Nations, less than 10% of the schools have functioning hand-washing facilities and some schools have over 200 students per 'drop hole'. And, in spite of all the efforts by the government of Tanzania with support from the United Nations and dozens of NGO's-- the stats are getting worse as the improvements can't keep up with the increase in population.

That's just my advantage of water and sanitation; I also have a solid roof, a floor, a locking door, glass on my windows, and more than one room...and it is all mine. I don't share it with an average Tanzanian household comprised of seven or more people. My rent also includes a daily cleaning service and they provide clean sheets and towels, toilet paper and soap; there's also a cheap, convenient laundry service. Then there are the real luxuries: electric lights, a 4-burner stove/oven, a microwave, a toaster, an 'instant' hot water shower and a flat screen TV with cable. All these electrical gadgets are backed up by a generator as the electricity is prone to go out for awhile on a regular basis. In comparison, my best friend in Arusha has a house with a solid (tin) roof and a door with a padlock.

Nope. I am definitely not living like a local...

It's easy to forget how people really live when you are a tourist and even your "simple economy lodging" is far superior to the average local residence. Tanzanians are very friendly, You will make a lot of friends while traveling here. Many will be the hotel receptionist, your safari guide/driver or a waiter in a restaurant. Often it may just be someone on the street who starts up a friendly conversation. They will most likely be neatly dressed in Western clothes in the latest styles like you. Their English will be good and sprinkled with colloquial expressions; most will be tri-lingual (Kiswahili, English, and a tribal language such as Kichagga or Kimasai) and some will speak additional languages such as German, French or Spanish. They will appear educated and international. You will enjoy your brief friendship and feel comfortable with them-- bonding over some commonalities in conversation. But most likely, you will not visit their home or meet their family.

That hotel receptionist who chats in your language and directs you to a good restaurant may not have more than a 9th or 10th grade education-- that's if they are lucky. They have probably never eaten at the restaurant they have recommended to you. The Western clothes and shoes they are wearing were likely bought used in the market or even on the street; they are hand-washed and air-dried on a regular basis and if you stay long-- you will see the same outfit worn often. Sometimes, the clothes or shoes may be a gift from a tourist who no longer wanted them and left them behind, but which are now prized possessions.

The parents of this receptionist may not read or write in Kiswahili or any other language and they may be more verbally comfortable in their own tribal language. If the receptionist is not married, they will still be living with their extended family of five, six, seven or more people. Their home may be on the edge of town in one of the 'villages' where the streets are unpaved and not much more than a pathway which is quite muddy during the rainy season. They may or not have running water or a bathroom in their home. Chances are they share a bathroom (a squatter, pit toilet or even just a drop-hole) outside of their home with other families; or they may just use the ground near their house. Their shower will be a bucket of water; if they are lucky it has been heated on a stove indoors or perhaps just an open fire in their outdoor kitchen. Their dinner will be ugali (corn meal mush) with cabbage, rice pilau or stewed ndizi (starchy banana) most likely cooked over the same open fire that heated their bathwater.

But as you have friendly conversations with your new friends, you will not know any of this and most likely cannot even imagine such a life...after all, they dress like you, talk like you and know all the places where an international traveler likes to go for food and entertainment. They have a cell phone and send you text messages; you exchange Facebook addresses with them. While you may assume the Masai in traditional dress that you see around town live in a traditional round mud and thatch house, it is likely your 'modern' friend is living in similar circumstances...but you would never guess and most likely they won't tell you.

Tanzanians know tourists take certain things for granted and expect them, so on my low budget safari -- even my two-person tent had a hot water shower and flush toilet. But any accommodation with a shower and a flush toilet puts you in the top percentage of luxury living in Tanzania. Something to think about the next time you are tempted to complain to the receptionist that your shower water wasn't hot that morning.

Posted by jaytravels 20.05.2014 07:57 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania arusha sanitation clean_water Comments (0)

The Adventure of Haircuts on the Road

A Surprising Source of an Adrenaline Rush!

semi-overcast 86 °F


Hanging out in front of a barbershop in the
Kariacoo market area of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania

The following is an e-mail postcard sent April 2014 from Arusha.

Dear Family and Friends,

Here is my latest cheap haircut negotiated without a common language (well, he did know the word "sistah"). I asked for it to be taken off my neck-- with a trim around the ears and a little off the top...then closed my eyes!

Actually, I kept my eyes open...open in horror as I watched him take experimental swipes with an electric clipper. He must have changed the clipper size 8 times in the next 20 minutes. He also tried putting oil on the clippers since my hair just slipped off. He had obviously never cut a muzungu's hair before. I was there about an hour and all the clients (male) came in to have their heads shaved or clipped to less than a tiny fraction of a quarter inch. No women came in, but a large number of women in Africa also keep their hair equally short.

At some point, he seemed done, but I showed him that one side was about 1/2 inch and the opposite side was about 2 1/2 inches. Eeeek! He looked like he was just going to even it out when suddenly he must have been inspired. That's when he buzzed off almost everything except for the top which he hadn't touched yet. After asking if he should cut the top (using gestures), he used the clippers like a comb on the top. Then he combed it forward...I looked like Napoleon! Aurgh...I jokingly gestured to the two other guys there that if I didn't like the cut I'd get my hair completely clipped next to the scalp like them.

Then the barber/hairstylist/butcher dug around in a drawer full of plastic ends for the clippers and came up with some scissors. Unfortunately, they were as dull as the ones in grade school...they made no impression on my fine hair, so he made stabbing, hacking attacks at my head in an attempt to actually get them to cut anything. OMG!!!! I tried to stay calm, but my face was stretching like silly putty in order to not say anything. My eyes were still wide in horror and in awe that he was still finding anything to cut and that I was still at his mercy sitting in that chair! I had to trust that he had a plan by now...

But he didn't. He just whipped out a brush with powder and whisked it around my eyes, ears and neck. I looked like a freshly plucked chicken! As I stood up, he started beating me with a towel to remove the fine tenacious short hairs all over the back of my sweater. Trying not to look in the mirror, I thought I could finally escape.

BUT NO. There was more! I was to get a shampoo! I was directed through a door to a small room where three people laughing and raucously enjoying themselves went completely quiet when the muzungu came in looking a bit crazed. I turned down an upgrade to a facial scrub, but as the shampooer rubbed shampoo around my head she continued onto my face until my whole head was covered in suds. Please let this be over soon!!!!

The shampooer was further disappointed that after moving me to a stylist's chair, I turned down each of her inspired offerings-- bright pink gel, olive oil and mystery spray in a can. Shrugging and throwing her hands up (this girl doesn't want anything!), I was sent back outside to pay.

What a deal...an hour of horror for only $3 US (5,000 TZ schillings). I slunk out the door and kept my head down as I headed to my hotel. No one was calling out greetings as usual (they all know me by now), so I imagined they were just as appalled. I thought I would hide in my room while I figured out just how bad it was. I hadn't been given a mirror to see the back-- just had to feel what had been done. I could barely pinch it between my fingers it is so short over most my head.

Costa said I looked like a policeman. Elia said it's 'not bad'. Dyness said it was 'nice' (she just got hers done in gorgeous braids). Joyce and Grace who both wear their hair shaved closed to the scalp weren't there to comment, but I'm sure I'll get an honest response from them at breakfast albeit in Kiswahili that I can't understand followed by hilarious laughter.

It's been a few hours now and I can live with it and will probably really like it in a few days. At least I won't need another cut for awhile (until Nepal?).

So here it is for your viewing pleasure. And you all thought the Palestinian haircut was extreme...

Arusha, Tanzania


My older brother Michael responds:
Dear Mzungu,
By now, after your barbering experience, you have wisely learned to say "just a little short," "just a smidgen more," "stop!," "cease and desist," "I'm placing you under citizen's arrest," "let me see your certificate from Arusha State Barber College," (wait, learn that phrase first!) in Kiswahili. You may need to go to the U. S. Embassy in Dar-Es-Salaam and get a new passport photo so you can exit Tanzania.


The scene of the crime in Arusha...I had to go to a men's barbershop to get a 'cut'.
Women's "Beauty Saloons" are for weaving and braiding; they don't cut hair.

Unfortunately, I didn't take my brother's advice and recently got a second haircut in Arusha. I did look up a few Kiswahili phrases and even practiced them with my Kiswahili teacher. I jokingly practiced saying "Nyoa zote!" (Shave it all off!), but I was confident that the person cutting/trimming my hair could just copy the cut I had which --once it grown out a bit-- I really liked. So when I walked down the road looking for a men's saloon (the local version of salon or barbershop), I was confident that I had the phrases I needed: Nataka kukata nywele (I'd like a haircut) and Schilingi ngapi (How much?). Alas, I should have listened to my older brother. Mtale was a nice young man with braids past his shoulders (any hair on a man is a rarity here!) who spoke decent English, but apparently not enough. I told him to give me the same-- a close clip on the sides and back, but leaving a little length on the top. Sigh. I now have a haircut that is the closest it can be to a shave without being a shaved head! I have been asked if I am a Catholic nun because I don't have a husband or children (this has happened three times now!), but now I look like a Buddhist nun! Take a look at this one:


Here's a pic of Mtale at work and his tiny shop (viewed from the road and not to be confused with the women's salon next door that does braiding). I was his very first mzungu (white person) and his first customer of the day (it was 4pm...Hmmm...should that have been a hint?) though it seems my business might have spurred some interest as two customers lined up as he finished my shave...er...cut! While he proclaimed my being a customer was good luck, he admitted he was nervous doing his first mzungu. BTW- This was my cheapest cut yet at 2,000TZ or US$1.33.


Past haircuts on my RTW:

Abancay, Peru- A one-chair salon in a woman's home. I speak Spanish so I only had the usual 'I hate haircut jitters'. The priest had more hair than the other female client and myself, but he paid less...religion has its perks.

Villa de Leyva, Boyaca, Colombia - My friendly hotel manager (where I was the only guest) walked me to a friend's upstairs salon where I arranged to have a cut and a pedicure (in preparation for trading boots for sandals as I headed to the coast for hot weather and beaches). It was small and had just one chair, but there were a few friends to dish the gossip and her toddler kept us entertained. Kind of a fun 'girls get together' feel and fairly non-threatening. My deep red painted toes looked great!


Portland, Oregon, USA - I went with my youngest brother Ken and we got 'his and her' cuts from his regular barber.


Marrakesh, Morocco - Once again, the hotel manager helped me out. I was in a Muslim country, so had scouted out a salon for women near the hammam I used. But Hakim insisted he knew a better place...a man that did women's hair and was just around the corner. Once again, I was escorted there. Hakim negotiated the fee and then left me in the stylist's hands. He had some English and I had some Arabic/French so we did okay...though he pushed hard for a substantial 'tip' on top of the agreed upon price. When Hakim found out, I got the feeling there would be some words exchanged.

Berat, Albania - Here, I was really on my own! No common language and I couldn't seem to find a salon. And...I was surrounded by women with long, dark, flowing or bushy locks. Then I wandered into the fringes a bit and found a local street market. There was a woman selling vegetables that was blonde! AND...she not only had very short hair but it was a nice cut! I followed the customary local greetings with sign langugage to communicate I liked her hair and I needed a haircut. She called out to another vendor that she needed her to watch her stall and then took my hand and walked me down the street. The place was closed, but I returned the next day and got quite a good cut for about $2.16 dollars, Once again, no common language-- she spoke not a word of English. The walls of her tiny on-chair salon were covered with pictures of clients being prepared for weddings and special occasions- all had long hair like her. Here are the 'BEFORE' and 'AFTER' pics:


Bethlehem of Galilee, The Palestine Territories (Israel) - I had some Arabic, but none related to haircuts and the guy's English was even more limited. The thing is...Palestinian women don't get their hair cut. They come in just for the tiniest of trims to their long hair. So this guy had never really cut a woman's hair...styled or short, that is. But he did his best and it was okay...had a bit of a quirky punk thing going on. Later, as I walked down the street it suddenly dawned on me-- I looked like all the young men I was passing on the street. He essentially gave me a man's haircut, but didn't shave the sides of my head. It made me laugh that I had the hip haircut of the Palestinian boys! Here's my Palestinian punk look:



Lonely Planet's Kiswhahili Phrasebook offers this line-- Nilikosa hata uliponikaribia!
I should never have let you near me!

Posted by jaytravels 17.05.2014 08:17 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Fruit Outside My Window

Postcard #2-- A series about living in Tanzania

sunny 87 °F

Dear family and friends,

Well my older brother Michael made fun of my attempt to make lemonade out of lemons...claims I am perhaps a bit pampered. He asked if the fruit fell into my hand if I just reached out the window...I'm afraid I would break the other arm if I tried such a thing. I imagine these bananas weigh quite a bit....

I had talked about the durian fruit in Malaysia, so Elia was quite excited when he saw this fruit and arranged to have some of it picked and delivered to me. It was very good, but it is not durian.
This is jackfruit. They are the size of my head and another potential arm breaker should I try to catch it with one hand. They do have some similarity to durian in appearance, but have a pleasant fruity aroma unlike the odiferous (SP) durian. [Jackfruit is the largest tree-born fruit and can weigh up to 80 pounds or 36 kilos.]

The apartment I am in now is temporary until a smaller studio becomes available in a few weeks. I haven't seen the studio...I hope I am not disappointed after my 'deluxe' one bedroom. I imagine the studio is minuscule since my current place is quite 'cozy'. They are letting me have this place at the price of the studio until the studio is available.

I'm still adjusting to my new living situation and having the use of only one arm. I have a kitchen and a set of knives but can't cut anything! Africa is "do it yourself" and has little in the line of prepared or quick food. I made a shopping list without really thinking how I would cut the cabbage, potatoes, kale, carrots, etc. I may have to make a deal with Rebecca the woman who does the daily cleaning service.

Luckily I had a jar of peanut butter that I'd been carrying as 'emergency' food. It was the only one I had been able to find that was natural and happily supports the women's cooperative that produces it. That and a small can of sardines for an exorbitant price were about the only items I had found for emergency supplies as I was traveling.. Not much around that doesn't need cooking or is ready to eat. Snacks exist only due to the Eastern Indian population. They have 'home industries' that produce traditional chaats like roasted garbanzo beans, nuts, and crunchy things made from lentil flour. So still figuring out how I'll eat well until I have two arms again.

Yesterday was my first outing since returning to Arusha. I had been invited to an Easter service, but had a bad night and slept late. In fact, I ended up sleeping most the day and after a short walk around the immediate grounds and the small fruit grove and then making dinner-- went to bed at 8:30!

Today I hope to walk out of the compound and see what's around me...and hopefully find a nearby store. Maybe I'll also take a peek at where my studio will be...and if has a garden and fruit too!

Whatever I find will be my world for awhile. I can't take a daladala or a pikipiki for quite some time. Even a taxi ride is painful-- I feel every bump and African roads have many!

Sorry I'm behind in responding to emails. Everything takes much longer than you can imagine and today I need to take care of insurance business. They are not thrilled that I have returned to Tanzania...seems they would have preferred spending thousands of dollars for two seats (to provide extra space for my arm) on a plane to the US!!!!!

Thanks for all the supportive emails!

Arusha, Tanzania

A Tour of My Garden Apartment: kitchen, bathroom, sunroom and bedroom

Posted by jaytravels 21.04.2014 23:29 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

My Garden Apartment in Tanzania

Postcard #1-- A series about living in Tanzania

semi-overcast 86 °F

Dear family and friends,

Phew! Left the hospital in Nairobi, Kenya...No cast, just a sling and wrap to immobilize my broken arm/shoulder...and drugs to get me past the painful stage.

Flew back to Arusha, Tanzania. Erickson, the driver who had delivered me to the hospital over a week ago came to pick me up and gave me a discount. Anthony the airport staff who had assisted me and checked on me daily via calls and text messages while in the hospital swung by to see me off.

After my one hour flight. I was picked up on the other end by friend Emmanuel since the Kilimanjaro airport is an hour out of Arusha and every bump or touch on my right is painful...even taxi rides are horribly painful...His newish 4-wheel drive car has a smooth ride. Emmanuel delivered me to the apartment that Elia had arranged for me. For about $10 US a day, it's a cute and cozy gem though it's a bit of a commute for many of my friends (and for me since I can't take daladala vans or pikipiki motorcycle taxis for awhile !).

The attached picture is the view from my porch. The rent includes daily cleaning, clean sheets every 3 days, new towels everyday, WiFi, cable (and a TV), optional laundry service (or a clothes line for DIY), a small restaurant for residents open all day (though my little kitchen is quite nice), all utilities, etc. Quiet, a garden court yard, good security... and I'm told it is a mix of people staying short and long term. So far everyone I've seen seems to be African (you know I don't want to live in a mzungu place!).

So my drugs are kicking in and I'm going to take a nap in my 4-poster canopy bed with 4 pillows... Still need to sleep sitting up even though the tissue damage on my left side is almost healed.

Immigration at the airport extended my visa for 3 months without charging me a fee. I feel like I'm living a charmed life right now in spite of my injury (still counting my blessings that I didn't require surgery after all!).

My groceries won't arrive until later, but I had passion fruit and croissants left over (my Nairobi hotel packed me a breakfast due to my 5am pick up) and I had a ripe oozy Camembert cheese that I smuggled across the border (cheese is almost nonexistent in TZ)... Yep, life is pretty good and I'm just in time for the Easter activities...

So I'm kicking back and recovering in Arusha for the next six weeks. Should speak decent Kiswahili by the time I can hoist my pack again!

Hope all is well with you!

Arusha, Tanzania



Posted by jaytravels 18.04.2014 03:25 Archived in Tanzania Tagged rtw arusha_tanzania Comments (1)

I Win A Free Trip to Nairobi, Kenya!

Lucky or Unlucky?

sunny 84 °F



===The Giraffe Center outside of Nairobi===

Kenya was not even on the list, so why was I on a plane to Nairobi? Was I lucky or what? I had seats for two on Precision Air and was being served a large packet of golden brown cashews (mmmm...my favorite!) and a choice of exotic tropical fruit drinks. And all the arrangements had been made for me; I just needed to show up at the check-in desk and show my passport. A guy named Anton met me on the runway when we landed in Nairobi and whisked me off to get critical things -- my luggage, Kenyan schillings from an ATM and a Kenyan SIM for my smart phone-- before delivering me to the car and driver that would take me across town where I would stay in a private suite with 24/7 service. This was totally unexpected!

As I said, Kenya was not even on the list. I had planned to spend up to a month in Tanzania and maybe two or three more weeks to see the small countries of Rwanda and Uganda. As usual it was a flexible plan; however, I had already spent time on Zanzibar, almost two weeks in Dar (I'd really felt at home in the Kariakoo market area) and after my safaris in Tarangire and Ngorongoro I had made friends in Arusha and found it hard to leave. But my time was running out. My TZ visa was good for multiple entries allowing me to go to Rwanda and Uganda and then come back if I did it within the allowed 3-month period. I had already used up over half my time.

Finally, late one night I had a minor epiphany, counted the days left on my visa and made a decision and acted. First thing the next morning, i bought a bus ticket, traded in the two Kiswahili books I had bought for a small, lighter phrasebook, scoured the pharmacies with my list of medications and found a few portable snacks for the trip. However, it seemed that everywhere I went, someone was telling me Elia was looking for me; a few offered their cell phones to call him. I didn't have time right now. I wanted to go back to the market area for a crisp, cool blue and white kanga I'd seen and I needed to do some major organizing and packing to prepare for my 6am bus.

I never got that kanga and somehow Elia had found me and invited himself along. My friend Kathy who believes in fate had emailed me and asked why I was in such a hurry to go to Uganda. She observed that I was enjoying Arusha and had some unfinished business. She suggested I stay in Arusha and see what was meant to be. She pointed out once again that I sounded happier and more relaxed than I had been for my whole RTW-- why not go with it? Well, I was stubborn and had already bought my ticket. Besides, now the unfinished business had a ticket and was going with me!

The bus was a teeth-rattling, chiropractor's nightmare (or dream since it generated business); it threw us several feet up in the air and snapped our necks as it rode roughshod over the dirt road, doubtful detours and seemingly endless construction without benefit of a single shock absorber or an empathetic driver. After over 12 hours, Mwanza and the vastness of Lake Victoria were a welcome sight.


In Mwanza, we ate our fill of fresh fish, spent a few nights out of the city on a stretch of quiet lake, visited a friendly fruit vendor on a regular basis, took a ferry to some small villages, and generally walked a lot. On our last day, we went to church in the morning and then headed out for one last dinner together. Elia was carrying my larger pack and I carried my small shoulder bag with my electronics and a few things to make my night on the Victoria -- the huge ship that would take me to Bukoba-- a little more comfortable. I had a mid-priced ticket with a bed in a cabin for six.


We were both anticipating a good dinner at a place we'd eaten at before. From there we'd go straight to the dock where after saying our goodbyes, I'd board the Victoria. Elia would head back to Arusha early the next morning...around the same time I would be arriving in Bukoba. I didn't know if I would return to Arusha. After Rwanda and Uganda if my TZ visa was about to expire, I might have to head straight to Dar for a flight...or maybe I'd fly straight from Uganda. I didn't even know my next destination since I still didn't have a visa for India. And who knew what would happen in Rwanda-- this was an exciting time. The news was filled with reports from Rwanda as they commemorated the not so long ago genocide with programs and special events to educate the world in hopes that the horrific events would not be repeated elsewhere.

With these thoughts, we walked in silence to dinner. To my left, as usual, Elia was a little ahead of me. I think it's a Masai thing, but it's also sometimes impossible to walk side-by-side with erratic sidewalks or sometimes the lack of them. So I don't know what actually happened; I assume I tripped on the rough, uneven 'sidewalk'. Suddenly, I was propelled forward and waving my arms in the air to catch my balance. I had been thrown off to the right toward a half meter deep cement ditch. I successfully avoided falling in, but failed to regain my balance. In fact, avoiding the ditch had put me even more precariously off-balance. I was in a bit of shock and desperately trying to regain my balance as everything surrealistically occurred in slow motion-- yeah, just like in the movies...and I was probably sporting the same terrified face and mouthing 'noooooo...!' as I continued to flail around hoping to avoid a fall.

This wasn't a nice grass soccer field where I could relax, fall and roll with it to avoid injury. This was mixed terrain and I continued to be propelled forward over the rough, erratic surfaces. But I didn't fall. Instead, I stopped when I slammed downward, shoulder first on my right side into a cement wall. Then I fell.

I hit the wall hard and still off-balance, bounced off, thrown backwards and landed on my left side-- my lower half in the dirt hole by the wall and my upper half balanced on the 6-8 inch rough cement embankment that I had landed on under my ribs. My small shoulder bag with my netbook and equipment was also partially underneath me and the corner of netbook was digging painfully into my side. The physical/mental shock lasted only a few seconds. I had barely wondered if my netbook was damaged when I was hit by overwhelming pain. I could barely say Elia's name and I couldn't get up or off the pack which was one source of the pain. Then someone grabbed my right arm to pull me up. I think I screamed. I think I even blacked out from the pain for a few seconds before I found myself laying on a cement surface still unable to sit up on my own.

I briefly registered that I was surrounded by men who had witnessed my fall. There were a lot of them and I didn't see Elia. I was begging them to stop pulling on me, but in English--not their Kiswahili-- so no one understood me. The pain was now intense and I could barely speak. Then I briefly saw Elia's face. I pleaded with him to tell everyone to stop pulling on me. [Elia had been unaware of my floundering fall until he heard me cry out-- he turned around and saw people already crowding around me.]

The pulling stopped, but I lost sight of Elia again. The crowd had moved in closer and I looked up again to see a sea of black faces-- all well-meaning male strangers who wanted to help. Then the pulling started again...they seemed to think if I could stand up, I'd be okay. but it had me screaming again. I remember trying not to scream as I knew it was considered rude...but tears were streaming down my face and I just needed a minute to figure out what was wrong. I called out to Elia to tell them I needed space and not to touch me as it was painful. He set about reassuring the crowd and telling them he would take care of me. Once they were dispersed, with my instructions he assisted me to a sitting position gripping my left "good" side. It was incredibly painful, but it was clear that it was my right side that was the most damaged and generating the most pain. I began my inventory.

My left side hurt...either cracked ribs or severe bruising. There was some pain with a deep breathe, but I couldn't use my right hand to explore the damage and my left hand was cradling my right arm. I couldn't lift or move my right arm-- it refused to respond. My first thought was it was dislocated. Carefully, I tried wriggling my fingers. I could move the three middle ones slightly, but not much...I could not move my hand or anything above the wrist. There was a scraped knee and arm evident from the stinging under my pant leg and sleeve, but the real damage was concentrated in my right arm and to my left side. With great effort and pain, I let Elia bundle me into the waiting taxi and we headed for an emergency room.

Holy Crap! Each stop or bump or turn had me wracked with additional pain. I cradled my arm as tightly as possible, swallowing my sobs as waves of pain took over. I was relieved when we arrived at the hospital. However, when getting me out of the taxi's back seat proved difficult due to excessive pain , the hospital attendant who came to the taxi with a wheelchair refused to take me. Based on my level of pain and immobility, she said they wouldn't be able to help me. We were referred to a larger facility which meant another painful stretch on bad roads.

After arriving at Bugando Medical Centre's emergency entrance, it wasn't over yet...just suffice it to say I had six hours in a bare bones emergency room eventually to be sent away still cradling my own arm. The only treatment I had received was a pain shot in the butt that proved to be insufficient. The two x-rays that had been taken by incredibly antiquated equipment-- one of my left ribs and one of my right shoulder-- were proclaimed unreadable later on. The one of the arm/shoulder was blurry and the single angle didn't reveal the fracture. The doctor on duty was in surgery until my last hour in the stark emergency room. When he arrived, he ordered additional pain killers and after diagnosing a dislocated shoulder did some painful manipulations. He released me with the recommendation that I get an MRI as soon as possible. He told me that the only place in Tanzania to get an MRI was in Dar Es Salaam-- a 24 hour bus ride across the country. He recommended that I fly rather than be jostled on a bus.


===The Victoria - The ship that sailed without me to Bukoba===

Still cradling my arm, I went back to the hotel where I discovered that climbing the stairs was as bad as a taxi ride. It was impossible to lay down, but luckily there was a big, soft, over-sized, fake leather armchair in my room. With a pillow and a pain pill, I was actually able to get some sleep. I had already called my travel insurance agent and had been reassured that they would fly me to a place for appropriate treatment. I could be on a flight by mid-day tomorrow. I just needed to complete and return some forms and submit the report from the hospital in Mwanza.

Ha! Did I say 'just? TIA...This is Africa (as a Tanzanian friend likes to say). We woke to a power outage. Only a few places with generators had any electricity. I sat in the back of a taxi, holding my arm and grimacing with each bump as we went from pharmacy to pharmacy looking for the recommended immobilizer for my arm. After six pharmacies, Elia parked me in the lobby of a hotel with a generator while he continued the search. He had the cafe serve me a bottle of water so that no one would object to my being there over time. The cyber cafe was across the street so that we could print and sign forms as soon as the power came back. But six hours later the power was still out and Elia had exhausted the possibilities of a pharmacy with a immobilizer. We backtracked to four different pharmacies to locate a simple arm sling so that I could stop holding my own arm.

Back at the hotel to rest while Elia went to get something to eat, I heard the AC come on. Yep, the electricity came back on, but the internet was still down. In the end, my insurance contact presented my situation to the panel and they pre-approved my flight contingent on the documentation being submitted and meeting approval. I would continue trying to send the docs; it took me the rest of the day. I went to four different internet places encountering problems of various sorts at each one. I finally gave up and went back to my hotel where, the server had just been fixed so that I was finally able to print off the forms. I completed the forms and then used my phone to take pictures of them and email them...I finished sending them about 2am. After a few calls and emails, I had a flight for that afternoon.

The accident occurred on Sunday evening. On Tuesday, Elia took me to the airport. I presented my passport and was escorted away without hardly a goodbye to Elia who was to take his own flight to Arusha an hour later thanks to one of his business contacts. That evening, after a 3-hour car ride in one of the infamous Nairobi traffic jams from the airport, I checked into the emergency room at Aga Khan in Nairobi, Kenya.

I had new x-rays taken from multiple angles by two different technologically up-to-date systems and was diagnosed with a fractured humorous. The fracture was where the humorous (upper arm) fits into the shoulder cuff. I was told that it would require surgery so I wasn't given food or water the next day. I was put into the CCU (Critical Care Unit), but not knowing that I 'innocently' asked if I was in the mzungu (white) ward as all the staff were black, but all the patients were white (that included the one Indian patient). Later, I was told by a doctor that they had thought I'd be more comfortable there. After two nights in my private room with my own nurse and assistant, I was moved into the surgical ward where I had a small curtained cubicle in one of the two four-bed groups where I was the only mzungu in the women's wing throughout my stay.


Thankfully, I never had surgery. An MRI confirmed all my ligaments were still attached, so I just needed 6 weeks for the fracture to heal. No cast for a fracture in that location. Someone from physical therapy came and fitted me with an immobilizer which turned out to be a fancy sling with a wide strap that velcroed my arm into place against my chest. I found it interesting that the box said it was manufactured in Seattle, Washington.

The following days were challenging and much of it was spent drugged on strong narcotics. I asked them to give me something a little lighter. Every time my insurance company called, I was too dopey to talk. I was not able to get in and out of bed by myself since my arm was useless and my other side had massive tissue damage that made most movement painful. But little by little, I was showing some improvement. The insurance company wanted to know when I would be ready to fly home. What?!?!

I started to review my choices: stay in Nairobi to access medical care while I healed for approximately six weeks; return to the US without finishing the last six months of my RTW (India, Nepal, SE Asia, Indonesia and Australia) and where I technically had no residence; or return to Arusha and hope my friends at the Flamingo could provide sufficient support until I could hoist my pack and continue on my journey. I was leaning toward the latter when I got a call the next day.

"I'm coming to get you."

It was Elia. I told him he was crazy. He pointed out that I couldn't do anything for myself and I needed someone to care for me . I told him he had his hands full with the program he was enrolled in and making up the classes he had already missed because of me. He said that he would get a temporary passport first thing on Monday morning and catch the 4-hour Arusha to Nairobi shuttle that same day or Tuesday at the latest. He pointed out that I needed help with the hospital and insurance paperwork as it was too much for me to do in my condition and that he could care for me 24/7. I told him that he had his classes and wouldn't be available to do that and that he didn't know what he was getting into. I would need help getting dressed, tying my shoes, cooking my meals, getting in and out of bed... and he couldn't do all that... and certainly not for six weeks. I was sure we'd kill each other by the end of the first week.

Elia arrived in Nairobi on Monday with the assistance of his huge intricate circle of friends and contacts (how else do you get a passport within a few hours?). I have never known someone with such a strong support system...and now I was to be supported by it too. Somehow, my RTW was going off track, but it seemed okay.

Anton-- the airport staff who met me with a wheelchair, claimed my luggage, took me to an ATM, helped me get a Kenyan SIM for my phone and then connected me with a great car service. That was his job, but he called me that night to ensure I was getting medical care and continued to call or text me each day to find out how I was doing and reassure me I was in his prayers. He was there to see me off when I returned to Arusha. All above and beyond his job.
Erickson-- my driver in Nairobi whose thoughtfulness and driving skills protected me from excessive pain and who made a stop to get me food and then parked and came into the emergency room to ensure I was being helped before he left me. All that after a gruesome 3-hour cross-town drive in traffic that should have taken 30 minutes if Nairobi would address their worsening traffic issues.
Sylvia-- the hospital aid who felt more like a friend than an assistant and who made sure I had a lovely shower and fresh cotton pajamas and robes each day...it made such a difference!
My sister Becky-- for being my confident and contact until I knew what was wrong and could tell my mother, other family members and friends without them worrying during the long period before I was diagnosed and had a confirmed treatment plan.
Kathy and Juan-- the two friends I also confided in who both offered their assistance in spite of being far away in Seattle and Mexico D.F.
Dyness, Grace, Mamuya, Joyce, and Costa at the Flamingo (my home/family during my original stay in Arusha)-- for the continued support and friendship.
Elia-- Asante sana mchumba...

Posted by jaytravels 17.04.2014 10:59 Archived in Kenya Tagged kenya rtw lake_victoria nairobi mwanza_tanzania Comments (0)

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