Living Among Legends
This month started by sending our team into a sprint for the Tanzania finish line as we will be leaving for India on March 20th. But before we started packing up or saying good-bye, we set out for one last big African adventure! Our team split into three groups and set out in different directions, one stayed on base, one went to Kenya and one went to Zanzibar. I was with team Zanzibar!
After a little boat ride across the sea we arrived to meet some lovely new faces of a missionary couple, Ron and Carol. After a crazy list of events we were finally meeting these amazing people who were now able to connect us with a group of TBA's (Traditional Birth Attendants). After a nice chat over the first slice of pizza I have had since leaving America, we went back to our rooms located in the building that was the world’s last open slave market. Too tired to bother showering in the hotels shared bathroom we turned on the fan and crashed underneath our holy mosquito nets onto the lumpy pillows and fell fast asleep.
We started the next morning bright and early. The hotel served us one egg and two pieces of toast along with some fresh mango juice and then we piled into a van with closed windows and no AC, and after a few short pit stops we were on our way! For the next while we passed by the sights of the ocean, forbidden islands and then into the jungle where the road was lined with thatched huts and endless trees of every kind. We arrived at a small school where we found a group of beautiful women waiting for us.
There were almost forty women who came, many walked, some cam on bikes, but most of them traveled for many miles to come, but all seemed to be just as excited to be there as we were. We gathered in a classroom that consisted of nothing more than tables, chairs, a chalkboard, and bars on the windows. They were all provided with some paper and a pen for taking notes, but most were illiterate. Before we started our teachings, we wanted to know how much they already knew, so each women took a turn standing up and stated their name along with their age (if they knew it) and how long they had been a midwife along with where they were trained. Out of 38 women maybe only five had had some kind of training at a clinic, but most had learned from their mothers, grandmothers or just on their own. They ranged from 20 years old to 80+ and from one year of experience to over forty. After hearing this we wished that we could sit down and let them teach us!
We only had the day and a lot to teach, so we got started right away. We taught on the changes in pregnancy, ten danger signs in pregnancy, how to deliver the placenta and stop bleeding and what changes after the baby is born. We used water balloons, coloring pages, cut outs we made and videos on our computers. We acted a lot and taught as much as we could in the little Swahili we knew although we thankfully had a wonderful translator. We took a brake to pray after the first teaching as every woman there was Muslim, and later stopped to enjoy a lunch of beef and rice with them as we all sat on rocks in the shade together. At we sat there enjoying the company of these women Beth summed up just what we were feeling, “Ladies I believe we are living among legends right now.”
When we got back to teaching in the afternoon it was obvious that no amount of our acting could fight the sleepiness the class was beginning to feel after a good lunch and the heat of the sun. So as soon as someone was caught dozing the whole group was summed to stand up, and then someone would start a song and they would all follow out in singing and dancing!
The day was certainly one to never forget, but everyday ends someday and so after they each reported to the missionary couple we were with, they were restocked with new birth kits consisting of two pieces of string, a razor blade, a plastic mat, a pair of gloves and a little sheet of pictures showing them how to use everything and dispose of it properly.
After an evening of more adventures and laughter, we headed back to bed and prepared to leave for Tanzania again in the morning thus bringing us to the end of our time teaching in Zanzibar!
I initially started this blog while working overseas to keep my supporters updated, then I did it a time as a required assignment during my midwifery school, but now I write but because I want to. So now I share my current journeys, in hopes that others can learn from them, or at the least have a good laugh.