July 17-21, 2012

Since returning from Mt. Meru, our team has gotten straight back to work. The dental students set up their community clinic this week, where letters are sent to over 20 rural communities around Nkoaranga, advertising free dental care. Thus, the dents returned to Nkoaranga, with the medical and nursing students coming up daily to help them run the clinic. I’ll let them blog about, but in 3 days, they saw almost 170 patients. Absolutely incredible work, guys. 🙂

As for the rest of us, when we weren’t taking turns helping the dents, this week was sectioned off for school teachings. We organized sessions at a number of secondary schools, both in Arusha and in the surrounding rural areas. We prepared talks on nutrition, healthy living and diabetes (a growing problem here in Africa), drugs and substance abuse, and sexual health.

The schools here look similar to everything else- low single story buildings, each containing a classroom or offices, all separated from one another and connected by paths through the grass. The first day, over 50 Form 4 students packed into one of these rooms to hear Cindy and I discuss healthy living. Unsure of their knowledge base, we quickly learned that these students were incredibly bright. I’m somewhat ashamed of how simply we had started, but we quickly turned the talk into a pretty in depth discussion about diabetes, its prevention and management. Some of the questions were very astute. Needless to say, I was impressed. After the lecture, we asked if we could take a photo and the students went wild. They all wanted a picture taken and my camera was soon taken from me and later returned, filled with pictures of the students in different poses. 🙂

After tea break, we separated the girls and boys for lectures on sexual health. I won’t lie- this was challenging. Even in Canada, trying to talk to teenage girls about sexuality would have been difficult. We again had to adapt our set lesson plan and instead, allowed the students to write down questions anonymously and spent the majority of the lesson addressing their questions. It was difficult to receive feedback, but  I hope the young women heard our main message of equality and of girls having a right to understand and control their own bodies.

The school teachings have certainly been a different from the clinic work we have been doing up til now, but are nonetheless another important aspect of our time here.

On the way back, we were in the area of the SDA Dental Clinic where the dents normally work so we stopped at the lunch complex they usually go to. The complex is in a posh part of town and consists of a pretty outdoor patio surrounded by various restaurants, a cinema and even a gym (the first we’ve seen!). Somewhat bizarrely, it seems that no one and everyone has the right to serve you when you sit down at a table on the patio, so the instant we sat down, menus for about 5 different restaurants were thrown in front of us. The table was literally covered. What’s pretty cool about this is you can actually order from any of them, or even a combo of both. Cindy got an appetizer from one restaurant and a main course from the other. I got my first hamburger of the trip. Mmmm. After weeks of rice and fruit salad and soup, this was a tasty change!

This posh complex also contained the best grocery store we have found to date. Stepping into it was almost like stepping into a small store back home. Cereal, chocolate, candy of brands we recognized, oh my! And then, the CHEESE aisle. My eyes went wide. I had been craving cheese so much, and it’s practically impossible to find decent cheese in most of the shops around us. But here was a whole aisle full, containing brie and mozzarella and gouda and goat cheese. Cindy and I bought a loaf of fresh crusty bread, still warm and covered with seeds and grains (again, you can mostly just find white bread), a brick of old cheddar and salami (also the first we had seen!). Picked up some tomatoes from a street vendor on the way home and we had the makings of a pretty great dinner, fulfilling some cravings we had been feeling for a while. Most of the time, the food isn’t that bad, in fact, I enjoy it, but certainly, we’ve all been imagining that first meal of what we’d like when we get back home. At least this little store will help tide us over for a while. 🙂

Best to everyone back home enjoying cheese and all the things I miss!



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