Our first month of the EWH Summer Institute is over, and now begins month two where we begin most of the real work for this summer. We finished up our Swahili and Medical instrumentation classes, and I packed up and said goodbye to my homestay dad Nuru and the house I’d been living in for the past month.
To finish it off, I also documented my daily trip to TCDC from my house.
Finally, we said our goodbyes to the rest of the group as we all headed our separate ways. The area I would be living in, Tengeru, was only 20 minutes away by daladala, but groups would be heading out as far west as Karatu and as far east as Moshi, Marangu, and Hiruma near the Kenyan border, almost 200 miles away!
This second month, we would be living independently, cooking our own means, doing our own laundry, and going to work in the hospital every day. Some were staying in hospital doctor’s compounds, some in apartments, and some in houses in the area – for Tengeru hospital, my partner Kasper and I would be staying in a guest house on the grounds of the property of a man named Steven Ndosi, who is retired after working at TCDC for 25 years. Kasper is a student at the University of Aalborg in Denmark, and is also working on his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering after coming back to school from two tours in Afghanistan as a medic in the Danish Army. Steven picked us up in his own car, and immediately took us to the Tengeru market where we would be buying some of our food and introduced us to some of the shopkeepers and the market vendors, also telling us about the best places to get certain items. He even took us to a compound nearby geared towards tourists that had a swimming pool, restaurant, and (most importantly), wifi, and introduced us to its owner as well.
After this tour, and the car ride home, I soon figured out that Steven wasn’t your average Tanzanian; he was essentially famous in the area. Almost everyone we met around Tengeru and Nkoanrua lit up as soon as we mentioned we were staying with Bwana Ndosi (Mr. Ndosi). Another unique part about him was his passion for Tanzania and improving the lives of its citizens – barely an hour after meeting him for the first time he started talking about the problems with the weak coffee farmer’s cooperatives, the issues with infrastructure and the problems with the under-utilized natural resources in the country. While we were eating lunch, I happened to ask him what he thought about corruption in Tanzania and its government, and he stopped me and said he had too much to say on the topic for lunch, and we would talk when we got home; we ended up talking for over an hour about that topic when we got there. To top it off, when my partner Kasper mentioned that he was Danish, Steven immediately started having a conversation with him in Danish – apparently he has been to Copenhagen several times through the TCDC school we were studying at last month. TCDC is much more than just a language school, I learned, offering classes in business, politics, and science and hosting students from all over Africa and the world. He even had dreams of building a school on some of the land he owned in the area.
After taking us around the Tengeru area, he took us to his home in another town called Nkoanrua, which is near Tengeru and around 800 feet or so further up the slopes of Mt. Meru. This area was fairly rural, and is dominated by the Meru tribe. The Meru people are traditionally farmers, growing bananas, coffee, yams, and other vegetables, unlike the lowland Maasai people I talked about before mostly raised cattle and goats.
Steven himself has been a coffee farmer for almost his entire life, and when we got to his home, he took us on a tour of his coffee fields, explaining that others in the village thought he was crazy since coffee takes so long to develop and it wasn’t very profitable. One of the major issues he was telling us about earlier was the weak coffee unions. Many coffee farmers had stopped growing coffee in recent years since they couldn’t support themselves anymore, partially because of a lack of encouragement from the Tanzanian government and partially because of exploitation by coffee sellers. These sellers only offered them rock bottom prices and took advantage of the farmers’ lack of education and ignorance of the high coffee prices in western countries. This barrier is something Steven has overcome with his education (a Master’s degree) which he says is one of the most valuable things he owns, allowing him to find his own sellers and bypass the coffee middlemen.
After the coffee tour, he showed us his family compound, which included a main house for him and his family and a guest house where we would be staying. Spread thoughout the compound were tables for drying and processing coffee, as well as trees growing avocados, papayas, oranges, and more coffee. The guest house was nice and homey, with a small kitchen, a bathroom, and two bedrooms for me and Kasper. We didn’t even have to cook the first night, because he and his wife Magdalena (the head chef at TCDC) invited us over for dinner. We had some fresh coffee grown in his farm, and he informed us he would bring us some coffee and avocados over to our house all grown on his property. Kasper and I were blown away by his generosity, and we felt very good about our living situation for the next month.
More about our first day at the hospital and the things we’re working on there coming soon!