Jambo from Arusha! It has been an incredibly fast and wonderful month since I last wrote. I had the opportunity to climb Mt. Meru (14,977ft), the idyllic volcano that keeps watch over the city of Arusha. As one approaches the summit, Kiliminjaro looming in the distance seems to grow taller and mightier. We were blessed with a beautiful snow at the top and the sun revealed an epic coating of snow on Kili reflected on the horizon. I also traveled with Flying Medical Service for preventative care clinics, which they hold in remote Maasai villages in Northern Tanzania. We travelled to Simanjiro region loaded up with preventative medicines and vaccines, mostly going to pregnant women and children of the villages. The whole experience was simply incredible and I greatly admire the mission of Flying Medical Service to reach the rural inhabitants of Tanzania, who suffer from drastic disparities in health care. Work on the internal medicine ward at Selian was busy and extremely fun, with some new interns moving over from ALMC. We had a breath of fresh air with 2 visitors from Minnesota, Ron and Colleen Johannsen (a cardiologist at Hennepin County Medical Center and an experienced cardiac ICU nurse, respectively) who came to teach cardiology, particularly echocardiography and EKG. They gave us some fascinating perspectives on rheumatic heart disease, their major project of interest, and plan to return for regular teaching in diagnostic skills, which are so greatly needed in Tanzania.
For this weeks Swahili lesson, I chose a phrase that is slightly interesting, but mostly selected for it’s timeliness. Nitakumisi, as some might be able to guess, simply means, “I will miss you”. It is not a particularly deep phrase, it can be used lightly, such as when you miss a day of work and you are welcomed back the next day. But like all sentimental phrases, it is only as deep as the relationship it represents. If it is used casually with a casual acquaintance, it will, of course, have little meaning. But when the roots run deep into the soil of common experiences and shared goals, it stirs a myriad of emotions. In the past month, after a whirlwind of busyness at the hospital and fun social events about town, I found myself suddenly at the end of my time in Arusha. I had known that the end would come eventually, but I had no idea what it was going to feel like or even that it was coming so soon. Saying goodbye is never easy, especially at the end of a defining chapter of life. But I have been imagining for a while: what am I going to miss most about Tanzania? I know for sure that I will miss my friends and colleagues, who have so graciously welcomed me into their homes, lives, and work. I will miss the beautiful children that I pass by every day on my way to and from work, even when they shout “good morning teacha” at all hours of the day or sound the “mzungu” alarm (shouting mzungu with the volume and frequency of a car alarm). I will miss the Maasai families in their red and blue shukas, adorned with beads, who would move heaven and earth to care for their sick loved ones. I will miss the serene landscape and epic mountains of Northern Tanzania. I will miss participating in the amazing efforts that others have poured their lives into: Selian, ALMC, Plaster House, Flying Medical Service and others. I will miss the pace of life, walking to my destinations, and greeting everyone I pass.
I am comforted when I think about the beautiful memories that I have, especially looking through the pictures that capture a piece of the experience that I had. I am filled with joy when I think about the successes that I shared with my colleagues: patients who recovered, families who were grateful for our service, and colleagues receiving new opportunities and dreaming big for the future of their country. I am reminded that Tanzania is a land which is not as far from my own as I once imagined. As I think about the phrase, nitakumisi, I see the blending of Swahili and English words and grammar. It combines east and west, uniting the influences of Bantu origins of Africa and “Swahili-fied” English. I see in it that our lands are not so distant that they cannot exist together, that our cultures so different that they cannot be understood one by the other. I will hold Tanzania in my heart as I return home. When I will return, only God knows. But until then, I will miss you.