Travel with OA: Mangos, Christmas Trees and Healers

Pattye Snyder Health Guide
  • It is about 110 degrees in the shade this morning, no breeze, and not a cloud in the sky. It's hard to realize that it is about two weeks away from Christmas. Christmas is definitely not the same celebration in Tanzania as it is in North America and in many other parts of the world. Many local people will return to their native villages to visit with family for that time. Gifts are not a part of the day, but church ceremonies often are. I discovered last year, while living here, that New Year's is a far more lengthy celebration with a few days of parties, and sometimes even gifts; last year I received a live goat from a friend to wish me a healthy and happy New Year!

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    Our mango trees are heavily laden with fruit ready to pick, and our fresh pineapple is in mid-season. Many of our trees along the roads are in full blossom making everything bright and colorful. The Christmas trees I mentioned in the heading are NOT the traditional evergreens; they are called Christmas Trees because they are covered with huge red blossoms, making our village almost glow in spite of our frequent electrical outages. There are many other varieties of trees in glorious blossom right now. One of my favorites has three different colors of blue/purple flowers which almost look artificial. Another showy specimen has both yellow and white large blossoms!

    In spite of the challenging walking in this area - I've mentioned our dirt, rocky, and heavily rutted paths and roads - I'm gradually venturing out more and more by foot (the primary form of transport here). Much of the time, it's necessary for me to take a cab, but of course that gets expensive.


    Two years ago, many of my native friends here suggested I visit the healer up in the mountains due to my osteoarthritis. I was obviously very leery - I wasn't sure if this would be another experience like that with the curandero in Peru, or the witch doctors I'd visited in two other African countries (interesting, great photo-opportunities, but medically a waste of time).


    Last year, I was again living in Tanzania, with my OA pain rearing its ugly head more than usual. This time, my native friends didn't suggest I see their healer - they informed they were taking me to him in the mountains. I was very nervous, but realized I was facing an early return to America for a total knee replacement.  I was in incredible pain and was willing to try anything to help! My housemate who was in medical school at the time also went with me. Our nine-hour appointment involved primarily being introduced to many healing plants as well as lengthy discussions from the healer on each of our personal medical needs. In part, he told me that he was aware that I was in a great deal of pain much of the time and also had a great need for heat and bright light - he mentioned many other things that showed an awareness of me. To summarize, he told me that my personal healing channels would work far more effectively if I no longer ate any foods with hot spices! Out of desperation, I changed my diet that day because it was an easy change. To my surgeon's amazement, four weeks after this intensive surgery, my incision was completely healed! When I shared my story with my doctor, he agreed that there had to be some effect.


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    Monday, I will again be visiting the healer in the mountains, both to show him my knee (I'm sure he won't be surprised) and talk with him about some balance problems that are probably due to my OA and my numerous orthopaedic surgeries. I'm SURE he won't cure my OA, but it will also be very interesting to see if he has more suggestions (I figure that it can't hurt)!

    So, I hope you have a restful and happy holiday season. I will be continuing my volunteer teaching with adults in Tanzania as well as becoming more involved with the Girl Guides in this area. Luckily, one of my granddaughter's Girl Scout troops in Kentucky has begun bridging the sisterhood between these two continents by making kerchiefs for my African Guide friends. We are all very excited to be sharing our friendships in such a unique way!

    Asante Sana
    Mama P (my Swahili name)



Published On: December 14, 2010