Many of our readers are aware that, in spite of my OA challenges, I'm continuing to live and work in Tanzania, E. Africa for a few more months. When I return to the U.S. this Spring, 2010, I will probably need to be having total replacements of both knees - continuing my quest to become totally robotic. Although in the U.S. I seldom wear any shoes other than good quality athletic shoes or hiking boots, neither of these are practical much of the time in Africa. At present here, it is incredibly hot 24 hours a day - quite often above 100 degrees! We are also in the midst of the "light rainy season." Natives traditionally wear rubber flip-flops outside due to the incredible gooey mud after rains and the utter lack of anything paved! To go inside a house, one slips off the muddy shoes outside the door and slips into different ones inside (if you can afford them) or you go barefoot. This even happened one day while I was still teaching here, and I'll admit I've never taught without shoes on!
Because of the numerous surgeries I've had on both feet (thanks, OA), I'm unable to wear traditional flip-flops - I can't have anything between my toes. I've found the CROCS I bought in the U.S. to be very comfortable and a great substitute. Many bathrooms and showers in lodges, inns, etc. have incredibly slippery floors, and I've found the croc-type shoes make me feel much more secure. Another safety measure I've found is to put a wet bathtowel in the base of the shower or tub to prevent slipping.
In the U.S., although I always keep a stick (cane) in my vehicle, I seldom need to use it. Because few roads and no paths are paved in Africa, but are simply dirt, rock and are heavily rutted, I must rely on taxis AND my stick to go anywhere in our village or surrounding areas.
With the heat now, I've found that if I want to accomplish anything, I must have it finished before 7 or 8 in the morning. The rest of the day is spent reading, resting, and writing, and of course sweating buckets. Our constant daytime temperatures make it almost impossible to achieve much other than to take another shower, and, yet again, change clothes! No wonder this part of Africa is so laid-back and slow-paced.
Today is January 8th, and I FINALLY was able to pick up my much-needed prescription refill package! My friends in America did an incredibly wonderful job of contacting my doctors, pharmacist, etc. and making arrangements to have DHL (the only "reliable" company around) get these to me. After having to pay $175 to have this shipped to me, it became an incredible nightmare of red-tape in Customs in Dar es Salaam, the Tanzanian Food and Drug Administration and others as the package sat eight hours away for over two weeks. I suppose the up-side of this is that I DID receive two marriage proposals during this time from the head of the shipping company!
Looking back on this situation, there's really nothing neither I nor any of my friends could have done to make this situation less frustrating. In the U.S., I was only able to get my insurance coverage and prescriptions filled for 3 months at a time (I'm here for over 5 months). Many of my African friends suggested a variety of alternatives including having reputable pharmacists they know provide me with a generic version of my prescriptions. In America, I would have immediately agreed - in Africa, the lack of consistency in medication formulas was a major concern for me! It was also recommended I go to another African doctor friend and get totally new prescriptions; again, a very scary alternative! Oh, I will soon be visiting a Maasai friend's home tribe to become more familiar with their arthritis treatments. I'm excited to learn more about the natural healing medicine that is successful in this area.
So, I continue to live and work in Tanzania. I've found I really can walk (limp?) through most challenges even though they may take a great deal of time. I guess that my stubbornness may be an asset after all. I still love Africa - in spite of the heat, the frustrations and the challenges.
We have pollution-free and glorious apricot sunsets. I've found incredibly wonderful new life-time friends not only from Africa, but also from Denmark, Finland, Israel, Scotland, Germany and a myriad of other countries. I've been truly given a gift to use my skills as a photographer and a writer. I love what I do and love where I am. I know that somehow I'm making a positive difference in someone's life.
Published On: January 27, 2010