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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Work, work, work.

It's been a busy few days; much of our time has been spent creating our final report to our host organization (TPSF, the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation). We met with our hosts again on Tuesday in Dar es Salaam until late into the evening, then spent much of Wednesday driving back to Tanga.

Thursday and Friday were spent working on the report. Even with varying experience writing in English, each member of the team is producing well-written, ready-to-include material. We're up around 55 pages so far, we're going to do an "organizational checkpoint" on the paper this afternoon to see what we need to move around for better flow.

We plan to have our final version done on Tuesday ... we'll send it to a colleague in Dar who will print the reports for us ... and then we need to convert the information in the report to a set of charts for a presentation on Thursday. (Wednesday, we drive back to Dar es Salaam.) Friday we'll have a debriefing with the local IBM team, our friends from Digital Opportunity Trust, and then have a dinner with all the subteams and all the host organizations (and will have about 10 minutes to present highlights of our work).

Yesterday, we spent the day at the Casa della Gioia orphanage here in Tanga as our "service day" while on assignment. Members of our team helped prepare lunch, clean, do laundry, shine shoes, and lots of other tasks, mostly working side-by-side with the kids. After lunch, the kids put on a singing & dancing show, we talked & asked & answered questions (for example: this orphanage takes kids no matter their religious affiliation; the local Muslim orphanages take only Muslim children), and we gave them some things they had requested for the orphanage. What a great day. We provided the funds for lunch, and they opened their home and their hearts to us.

A 14-year-old girl (great singing voice, fluent in both Swahili and English) said in closing, "As you have given to us today, may God give to you." You can't ask for a better benediction than that.

Here are a few pictures that I was particularly happy with from the day:

Garland and Sister Sofia before lunch.

Sister Sofia and two of the 36 kids there (ranging from age 21 days to 21 years). Plenty of love & hugs for everyone.

Garland and a sleepy friend.

Beautiful singing & speaking voice, 14 years old. And great at slicing tomatoes.

Radka succeeding in wearing out one of the kids playing, then became a makeshift pillow.

Ying Ying and Marta communicating in the universal language of "tickling".

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I think malaria would have been easier.

Sorry for the relative quiet over the past week ... all will become clear.

On Sunday, we explored the Amboni caves and the sulphur springs near Tanga.

This is the crocodile we knew about in the sulphur springs. I'd bet he (or she) had friends.
Look! Someone dropped a handbag in the sulphur springs!

On Monday morning (the 22nd), while we were meeting with a company that takes plastic and turns it into bags, tarps, etc. I started feeling bad ... feverish, achy, chills. I texted our host and said, "I need to see the doctor."

Before we go any further, I'm finally feeling better. I rejoined the team on Sunday night when they returned to Dar es Salaam, and I look forward to closing out the remaining time with them at full strength.

Getting from where I was on Monday to where I am today, both physically and health-wise, has been a bit of a journey.

The doctor did some blood work on the 22nd and told me that, without a doubt, I had a mild case of malaria, from the Plasmodium falciparium parasite (there are a few different parasites; this is the least desirable). He said that the lab work also showed a bacterial infection. He put me on an anti-parasitic, a combination of two antibiotics, and something for the fever (and nightly sweating sessions ... I actually squeezed water out of the bed linens).

Tuesday morning, I get a sore throat, and swollen glands. After starting the antibiotic. Still sweating. Still achy. And these strange sores start coming up on my right hand and my left foot.

Tuesday afternoon, more sores, and the aching is getting worse. Local Tanga doctor thinks it could be a reaction to the medicine, but isn't sure. Wants me to continue with both. I feel really awful.

Wednesday, no improvement. So in the evening, I consult with my family doctor (of 28 years), a friend who's an MD, and I decide it's time to get checked out in a larger city. IBM has a service that arranges for me to be seen in Dar es Salaam (where we were returning on Sunday anyway, I just got here Thursday evening). Nairobi was the other option, but it presented even greater travel, logistical, and visa challenges. Much thanks to our host, Phil, for making a special trip to Dar to drop me off, and to Theo for meeting us at the clinic on Thursday evening in case he could help.

I show up and they do a battery of blood tests. Two doctors come in and say, "You don't have malaria, and you've never had it. What you have is ... (wait for it) ... "hand, foot, and mouth disease". Ewww.

Before we go still further: this is completely unrelated to "hoof & mouth disease" (animals only, not zoonotic), nor is it "foot-IN-mouth" disease. I am expecting a sudden, subsequent outbreak of the highly contagious WD, Wise-ass Disease - often spread through social media - to afflict many of my friends, particularly fellow Wabash men and fraternity brothers (it seems to be partial to y chromosomes). WD is recurrent and there is no known cure.

The doctors say, "We can give you something for the sore throat & the discomfort, but this has to run its course. You should start feeling better on Sunday and be completely cured - and immune to this virus - a few days after that."

Apparently this is a relatively common disease for children. It is significantly less common for adults, not common in the US, and tends to hit adults a little harder.

I will spare you any photos of my hands, feet, or throat. Suffice it to say: not pretty.

I spent the rest of Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in my hotel room, sleeping, trying to stay hydrated, and eating things from room service that I think my throat can handle. Fortunately, I've had no "stomach trouble" (as it were). It's not a diet plan I'd recommend, but the pounds have just flown off. Seriously.

Finally, though, the body aches are retreating. I'm sweating less when I get the sweats. My hands and feet are less sore (and still not pretty). I went to meetings yesterday and today.

I appreciate the wonderful support of the team - here and back home - making sure I've had what I need to get better.

I'm ready to get back in the game. Lots to do.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A "small world" story here in Tanzania.

Last weekend, each person on the team got a local cellphone and SIM card, graciously provided by our hosts. We had gone to the local Airtel shop (IBM customer and cellphone provider) and activated our phones; the activation process apparently hit a couple of snags.

I called the customer service number, spoke with a man named Julius, and was having trouble communicating that we had, indeed, activated our numbers - with all our passport information - at the shop the day before. I asked if I could hand my phone to one of our hosts (Mr. Mlaki) and maybe he could explain more clearly (and understand & communicate back to me) what the problem was - and let me know if there was any additional action I needed to take.

They spoke for a few moments in Swahili, and I heard him say, "Mondari? I know that name. Julius? Is that you?" It was his nephew.

Of all the customer service agents at Airtel, I got my host's nephew. Small world, indeed.