Letters Matter

Colors are different in Tanzania. Located close to the equator, the light hits the earth under a different angle than I am used to. Colors are brighter, contrasts bigger. In both, the traditional fabric and artworks, colors are used in a different way. I really love it. The colors make you feel happy and alive.

At FAME, all buildings feature artworks made by local artists. In the labour ward, for instance, you will find a work of art made by Athumani Katongo. He is currently an artist in residence at Gibbs Farm in Karatu. Decorating the wards makes the patients feel more at ease and at home. Don’t we all know that sickmaking feeling of entering a western hospital, with its typical medical smell, its long white hallways, it's sterile, lifeless look… I don’t know about you, but somehow it always tends to suck the life out of me. At FAME however, you definitely don’t get that feeling.

I really must give a compliment to the cleaning staff at FAME. They are probably among the hardest workers. It isn’t peanuts to keep everything clean with so many people walking in and out wearing dirty shoes. Especially on hot days, it is seriously hard, physical labour, but they always have a smile on their face. Those sweet angels even cleaned my shoes when I took them off to slip into my medical clogs. They all did it in a modest, serving silence. Doing the things that nobody notices, but make a big difference in the functioning of the hospital, really is a work of love.

During my stay, there was never a dull moment. Every morning and evening, we passed by the construction site on our way back and forth from the volunteer house to the hospital. I loved to watch the inventive local building methods, which differ so much from what you see at our construction sites. While I was more of the technique, one of the other volunteers was more into socializing with the workers. The first days of her stay, she really tried her best to greet the construction workers every morning and evening in what she thought was good Swahili. She waved enthusiastically at them and shouted “Jamba”. It generated quite some laughter. Apparently, that didn’t raise her suspicion, until a kind FAME staff member asked her why she was greeting them with a fart (jamba) instead of a hello (jambo). When we heard the story, it really cracked our ribs. Always remember: in any language, one letter can make a world of difference...


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Keep watching this place for more stories on life in Tanzania!


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