When you are at the mercy of strangers, it’s good when the strangers are merciful.
I left Amsterdam June 1 for Kilimanjaro Airport, where I had a connecting flight to Mwanza 3 days later (the original next day departure was randomly 2 days delayed). Fortunately I got seated next to a friendly man on the plane (referred to as Hero Adam from now on). We got chatting, and when he heard what I do for a living, it turned out that he has chronic low back pain but that he’d never been to a chiropractor. I promised him to take a look in Arusha (the third-largest city in Tanzania), so we exchanged numbers.
Victor, the International Cat of Mystery, did super well flying with KLM and went through customs in Tanzania “hakuna matata”. I got picked up by the good man Hanta (my tour operator from last year’s climb of Mount Kilimanjaro whom I’ve kept in touch with) and off we go into the balmy (=hot+humid) night for a 24 km drive, easy peasy.
Except. The accommodation I’d booked turned out to be closed as they didn’t have any water and they didn’t think to alert me. At this point it was close to 10 pm, it was long dark, I was tired, Victor had been locked up for 14 hours. Born out of desperation I sent my Hero Adam a text asking for good suggestions, and miraculously he called me back immediately. Looooong story short, after 2,5 hours of driving around with Hanta and his buddy, them calling lodges they knew of to no avail, Hero Adam hooked me up with a room with the best feature possible: a door you can lock. Victor was good at exploring the room, drinking, eating and going to his bathroom.
In the light of day, however, the room was not only basic but would not pass any health inspection. Hero Adam rescued me to a different place where I spent the next two nights, called Pamoja. This chance meeting on the crappiest seats on the plane (the last two up against the wall next to the bathroom) turned out to be very serendipitous. I guess that when you are truly and honestly in need, the universe conspires in your favour and conjures up the most helpful (almost) strangers.
On to the next leg of the journey: the connecting flight to Mwanza! It got delayed from 1550 to 1910. I got there a little early in case there were issues with transporting the cat – it was mostly fine getting him on board in the hold.
Except. The plane didn’t come. No announcements were made. I got increasingly worried about Victor sitting somewhere on the tarmac without food and water. I got increasingly worried about Sarah from the organisation picking me up at the other end as well as my landlady Helen who’d be waiting up for me. The plane finally took off at 0115 the next morning; we got into Mwanza at 230 am, and I was in bed by 330am! Sleep was a little hard to come by as Victor kept getting entangled in the mosquito net; by our late/early arrival we upset the rooster and he in turn upset all the neighbour roosters; the dogs outside got a bit manic as well. In short, a veritable cacophony of animal sounds, which later in the morning got mixed with very loud prayers!
What lies ahead
Sarah who picked me up from the airport is a young but seasoned Tanzania volunteer and world traveller. She has been excellent in showing me the ropes of the city: I can find the post office (I think), I can find the supermarket called U-Turn and maybe I can find the market-market where we bought “small” avocados at 20 eurocent/piece (they are massive!). She has shown me the places to get good coffee, a good hair cut and introduced me to her Tanzanian Mama. Walking on the streets with Sarah I’ve already seen a number of people where I believe I could be of assistance if only they knew that such a thing as chiropractic existed. I’ve met with the director of my organisation, Brian, and tomorrow we will visit one of the hospitals I’ll be working in, seeing patients yes but mostly teaching, evaluating and supervising the local medical staff and clinical kinesiology students in (differential) diagnosis, physical exam, rehab and manual therapies. While Brian is here, we’ll see about me getting into different clinic/hospital locations closer by (walking distance) as to make the best use of my time. Mwanza is the second largest city in the country, with a current metro area population of 1,311,000, a 5.3% increase from 2022. It doesn’t make sense for me to be tucked away in a room seeing patients all day long, as I only have two hands and so many hours in the day. Also, that kind of model is not sustainable long term as when volunteers leave, knowledge leaves with them. What I deeply appreciate about Global Peace Network is their commitment to make long-term sustainable changes and on my part I’ll be building on the education program for the local medical staff they already have in place. Back and neck pain, or any musculoskeletal issue, rarely is deadly but it can be incapacitating, which is detrimental to the physical labour the majority of Mwanzanians are doing, whether it be in the household (where I’m staying they have a help who washes clothes by hand) or on the farm or fishing, etc. I’m super excited to reach a wider group of people this way and hopefully make a lasting impact.
Needless to say, this Canadian-based non-government organisation accepts donations, big or small, all is welcome if you want to support this important work 😊 https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/70168?v2=true
Tutaonana from Mwanza!