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"Tour de Fame"

Let me start my “tour de FAME” by showing you around the place that became my home in Tanzania. The two cottages for short-term volunteers are located on the hospital site, which really gives the feeling of being a student living on campus. I really love working in the medical field, so for me, living on-site added to my excitement. If your work is your calling, it doesn’t really feel like a job, but rather like a place where you love to be and serve.

In the first week of my stay, I was the only volunteer around, so I was on my own in getting familiar with the environment. Which wasn’t a big deal to me. In no time, I had picked up a routine and made myself at ease with the place and the local people. By night, I loved to make my own “round” around the hospital, to have a chat with those on night duty and to pass by the ward to see how the patients were doing. The other advantage of staying on the hospital site is the many opportunities it offers to enjoy its gorgeous rural location. It allows for many meditative moments in the silence of pure nature, for beautiful sunset or sunrise walks, jogging sessions or moments of gazing at the stars.

The first nights, I was so thrilled by the cricket concerts and all the new night life sounds, that I could barely sleep. When I heard the sound of a hyena nearby, I fully realized how close we actually were to the real wildlife. In the course of my stay, I would hear stories about encounters with water buffalo’s, elephants and the like, right down the road near the hospital site. After all that local information, I became a bit less reckless in my nightly and early morning explorations of the area…

One night, just after new volunteers had moved into “my” house, a new sound freaked me out. It was about 5 AM when an icy scream, which sounded as if someone was being killed, woke me up. I was about to jump out of bed if it hadn’t been for my mosquito net delaying me in finding the way out. I was considering what object to grab as a weapon, when the screaming stopped as sudden as it had started. That morning, breakfast was served with a confession about having nightmares by one in our midst, and loads of laughter about the commotion it gave, not just in our cottage, but also in the neighbors’.

Volunteers can order basic groceries for breakfast and for the weekend, when they have to arrange their own meals. During the working week, lunch is served for all the staff, volunteers included, in the hospital canteen. The menu is the same every week, a variation of meals composed of beans, greens, rice and some beef. Not the fanciest food, and for some westerners it might be hard to adjust to, but it carries you through a long day’s work, so it definitely serves its purpose. From me, you won’t hear complaints about it, as I found it to be pretty fine and my stomach somehow greatly preferred Tanzanian food over Western food. The canteen’s cook also prepares diner for the volunteers. It is also a weekly menu, but more western inspired. The food is brought to the volunteer house. After a long working day, I really felt spoiled to come home, take a shower and find some nice food there waiting to be eaten. Coming home to a well kept house, with even your shoes being cleaned for you, is another luxury I am not used to, but which turned out to be part of the serving and welcoming local culture and the volunteering life.

The vegetables used in the hospital kitchen are grown in the garden on the hospital site, which is a concept I really love. Besides, rainwater is being collected and stored, and all tap water on the hospital site is potable. There is a deep well borehole and the water quality is good and is checked regularly. This is probably one of the biggest assets of the hospital site. Especially for us volunteers, as it saves us the hassle of carrying water boxes.

Stick around, the "tour de Fame" will continue soon...

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