Monday, January 17, 2011


All this excitement was exhausting, but totally worth it. The combination of the heat, extreme humidity, lack of sleep, and busy schedule had us all a bit rundown. But of course, I was the first one to get sick. I had a very high fever. At one point it reached 103.6, so I decided to seek medical attention here in Zanzibar. I also had a sore throat, and it was painful to eat and drink... not that I had an appetite anyway. So Samuel walked me to a clinic run by one of the nuns who also happens to be a nurse. Everyone I have met so far speaks Swahili, and most speak a good amount of English. Unfortunately, my nurse spoke very little English, so I was using bogus sign language and Sam as a translator to get my symptoms across to her. After cleaning off a thermometer, she handed it to me. I instinctively started putting it under my tongue and the nurse flipped out. She must've thought I was crazy because she then directed me to slide it under my arm. Oops! She came to the conclusion that I have tonsilitis. She prescribed two medications, and insisted I drink plenty of hot liquids and gargle with salt water. If my fever didn't begin to go down in the next two days, she said I probably have malaria, and must get another treatment. I had my fingers crossed for tonsilitis!
The clinic was very clean and simple. Outside there were six people sprawled across benches, waiting to see the nurse. I was told that this is one of the best facilities in the area. People will travel many extra miles, passing several clinics along the way, because they know they will get the best treatment here. After the nurse handed me a small post-it with my symptoms and prescriptions on it, I walked about 30 feet down the way to a man who gave me the actual medicine. They had a very nice system in place. I enjoyed speaking with the nurse—even if the conversation was mostly in a language I couldn't comprehend. It was very relaxed and I never felt rushed. It was certainly a different experience than I've ever had with doctors in the US.
The next day everyone had a bit of a scare when my temperature exceeded 104 degrees for several hours. They insisted I go to another doctor on the island, or they would fly me to the mainland for a hospital. This facility in Zanzibar had five doctors who rotate shifts. I met with Ahmed, who looked in my mouth and immediately diagnosed tonsillitis. He also said the meds that I have been taking aren't nearly strong enough, so he prescribed better ones. He reaffirmed that I could not drink any cold liquids for the next five days. Do these doctors realize that it's 90 degrees outside?? I must admit, this guy knew what he was talking about, because I was back to full health in just a few days.
I'm glad that scare is over. I didn't want to be a burden, but I was too weak to go on excursions outside the mission. Everyone was so helpful! While the other students were out exploring the island, the nuns and their staff checked on me constantly. They would bring me fruit and tea every couple hours. I look forward to visiting these nuns again and maybe even helping out with their school.

The nuns run an incredible program in Machui. In addition to the clinic, they run a secondary school for students who have been unable to obtain their education. Many of the students were removed from other schools due to a lack of money or other obligations. The Sisters in Machui give all these students a second chance. As long as they show a desire to learn, they will be admitted to the school.
We were able to interview some of the students as part of a Kiswahili lesson one morning. We would generate a bit of smalltalk, and then ask why they wanted to be admitted to this school and where they ultimately would like to end up. A large number of students said they want to work in hotels as a front desk attendant or chef. Most of them want to remain in Tanzania for the rest of their lives. It was interesting to learn about their ambitions. This was the biggest “changamoto” (challenge) we have had so far in our Swahili practice but it was really helpful to speak with the students.

Did I mention how beautiful the mission is? The buildings are not extravagant, but the foliage certainly is. 

There are gorgeous flowers and fruit trees everywhere you look. Almost all the food came directly from the garden.

This was the house I stayed in with the ladies studying abroad from Fairfield.

There were four bedrooms, two showers (only one worked), and two toilets (one of which was just a hole in the ground). It was a great introduction to living simply in Africa... especially when the power went out. The humidity is very intense here, so it seems that your body is in a constant state of sweat. This makes a cold shower feel like the best time of day. Unfortunately, when the power goes out for a while, so does the running water. Who would pass up the opportunity for a nice bucket shower?? That's right. One bucket of water and another little cup to pour the water with. You'd be amazed at what a small amount of water you really need to get clean.  


  1. Christina, glad you're feeling better. A bucket shower?? I guess in those temps and amount of humidity it was great!! I'm tossed whether you are better off than being here with all this snow?? The pictures are nice to see. Take care and be well, Mike

  2. I still have the option of taking bucket showers everyday in the house I'm staying... fortunately there's also a shower with running water outside. both have cockroaches--but i'm a champ!

  3. What kind of medication are you taking for Malaria? It seems kinda pointless if you could potentially catch it that easily doesn't it? Regardless glad to hear you have access to a good health clinic. Could have been alot worse if you didn't...

  4. I'm taking Malarone. but it's only a preventative medication. It doesn't guarantee immunity because they haven't come out with an immunization yet. I don't think it will be a problem. I also use bug spray and have a mosquito net when I sleep. These mosquitoes will have to work pretty hard to give me malaria

  5. poor christina! And I had to laugh when I was reading about the clinic- not because you were sick (hope you're feeling better!) but because the nurse said it could be tonsillitis or malaria. What wonderful options.
    And I know just what you mean about the power and running water- my family's house in Greece will have the water and power shut off randomly a couple times a week, sometimes daily, and it was such a pain when you'd have the water turn off on you when you were in the shower... with shampoo still in your hair. It's great. Though you've gone a step beyond me and taken bucket showers.
    Love the blog!

  6. Thanks Sof!! I had another bucket shower tonight. We haven't had power all day. I was pretty impressed with myself because I didn't even use half the water in the bucket! And I managed to shampoo and condition these lovely locks. Shocking, right? I'll be a pro in no time.