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Mvua kubwa

Posted by on June 23, 2011

I was startled awake early Wednesday morning by the heaviest rain I had ever heard. It sounded like the roof was going to cave in with the force of the rain. Mvua kubwa—big rain! It rained really hard for several hours and only lessened around 7 am. I was worried that we would have to cancel our mapping trip but it finally stopped around 8 am.
After being in the office on Tuesday and all of last week I was really looking forward to going out into the field for a change so I asked Jaclyn and Tanya if they had a preference. Tanya wanted to stay in the office because she’s been having some GI issues and Jaclyn didn’t care so I volunteered to go.

Makame picked us up at 8:30 am and we dropped Jaclyn and Tanya at the office on our way to the southern part of the island, to a region called Tunguu.

We stopped at the health facility and picked up the Sheha who would be assisting us and we were off! We drove down the road for a ways, until we were in a different area. This area doesn’t have its own health facility so everyone who lives there travels quite a way to be seen by a doctor.

Since we had given the Sheha the list of names on Monday, he had already located where everyone lived and we were able to map the 6 cases very quickly. We were on a roll!

We got rained on a bit, but it didn’t dampen our spirits because we were doing so well. Once those cases were done, we dropped that Sheha off and picked up a different person who knows an adjacent area well. We had a long list of people—26 cases to find. Luckily our lady had done her homework and she took us straight to a lot of houses.

It had rained a lot and the roads were really wet so in some places we had to park the car and walk around because the truck would have gotten stuck. It took a bit longer, but we were making good progress.

Around 1 pm I really started to get hungry and I thought we would stop soon so Makame and the driver, Juma, could pray. Makame said we would just find 2-3 more cases first then stop for the day.

At the next village we came to Makame said that one of the malaria cases was his cousin. I thought that he just had the wrong English word, but then he introduced me to his uncle and his grandmother! Makame grew up near Stone Town but his extended family lives in one of the rural villages we were mapping. He visits nearly every weekend so he knew the entire village. It was interesting to see him interact on a more personal level. I tried to tell his family that he’s doing a great job.

5 cases later Makame stopped by the side of the road and bought a large bunch of bananas and started eating them. I had a few glucose crackers to tide me over for a while and we continued on.

At 3:30 I realized that we weren’t going to stop until every case had been mapped so I quickly ate my lunch in the car driving between houses. I was really glad that I did because we didn’t finish until nearly 5 pm! And we still had to drive back to town. On a high note, we mapped 32 cases in one day, doubling our previous record!

On the drive back we encountered road construction and had to take a detour along some dirt roads. We drove through some large puddles and through some potholes that were more like ditches and finally came to another road block. Makame pointed to the driver and indicated that he should take a hard right. I looked to see where he was pointing and saw a loose pile of dirt at a very steep angle with a single set of truck tracks going through it, next to a pile of garbage. The driver leaned out the window and took a good look at the “road”. I shook my head and cringed.

Juma decided to not take that route and I was very glad for it. We turned around and went back through the ditch then took a sharp right. In front of us we saw a very large lake where the road should have been and a school bus stuck in the middle of the lake. All of the students were standing along the edge of the water and they all started yelling and cheering at us as we approached the lake. Juma took a long look at how deep the water was then gunned the engine and started through. For a brief moment the wheels started spinning and I thought we would get stuck, but we found traction again and made it through safe and sound.

The road we came out to was the main road next to the office and we only had to drive a few hundred meters to our turn off. Juma decided to not bother getting in the correct lane of traffic and drove the wrong direction down the road into oncoming cars and trucks! My heart skipped a beat as a truck bared down on us without slowing down but Juma pulled off at the last moment and we were safe.

The ride home was much less eventful thankfully, but it was nearly 6 pm by the time we got back. After such a long and dirty day all I wanted to do was to take a nice shower and relax. None of us had the energy to make dinner and we were already late for the movies showing in town so we rode our bikes down the street to Mbweni café and I had a tasty penne pasta dish in cream sauce with shrimp and zucchini.

The power went out just as we got home so I spent an hour reading in the dark then didn’t even realize that the power had come back on for a while because we forgot to turn on a light or the fans. Finally I noticed that the refrigerator was running and I figured it out.

I talked to Jacob on Skype for a few minutes then went to bed quite exhausted after a long but very productive day.

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