Finding Creative Ways to Manage Osteoarthritis: Managing the Rainy Season in Tanzania
There are many unique challenges and experiences with living in or around the African Bush. The other day, we were driving back to our hostel (a one hour drive each way over treacherous. rocky, and rutted dirt roads), where we had to drive through a large cattle herd "sharing" our road, but moving in the opposite direction. At times, a cow would press his or her nose close to my window. I knew they probably wouldn't harm me, but I finally rolled up my window to lessen the chances of a gooey shoulder.
A sense of humor as well as creativity and a watch me attitude are definitely requirements for living here!
Right now, I am teaching English and business courses to some of the Mamas in the Bush. Our school meetings are much different than any I've ever experienced, although I taught well over 25 years in the US. There's always at least one woman nursing her baby, small children running around playing tag, two chickens strutting about (hunting for food?), a dog or two choosing the cool floor for a nap, and (of course) a few goats standing in the doorway waiting for the latest news!
At times, I still marvel at our daily street scenes as men and women balance unbelievable loads on their heads and shoulders - everything from multiple pairs of trousers to bricks and furniture! Peddlers roam most streets in the village with large flat baskets selling a vast assortment of things, ranging from single cigarettes to newspapers to fresh fruits and vegetables. Many men push incredibly cumbersome wooden carts up and down the streets, quite often carrying building materials and furniture.
Traffic is truly an experience that I think I could do without. There don't seem to be any rules and regulations for anyone. Pedestrians walk wherever they wish as long as they don't get hit. Bicyclists, piki-piki drivers (motor bikes) cars and even large trucks seem to dart in and out of traffic with few accidents. At night, traffic in our village truly becomes a lesson in creativity. The "highways" are an even bigger nightmare with no traffic control signs (or rules), bicyclists (with no lights, of course) driving on the sides of narrow roads and pedestrians playing traffic roulette. I seldom go out after dark unless it's a major necessity!
Although I'm frustrated by the need for taxis to get anywhere (thanks OA and RA), I find the high heat and usually very low humidity seem to be an asset for my pain levels. In addition to English, I'm also teaching the Mamas from the Bush arthritis exercises to help them manage their pain from arthritis, which has become a major blessing, not only for these ladies, but also for me!
On my calendar is a notation that the short rainy season begins here in November. On November 1, almost as if it was required by law, the rainy season began. Although it normally rains only at night, we had rain 24 hours a day for almost three days in a row! At first, I was glad because my huge vegetable gardens loved the moisture. This "gift" rapidly overstayed its welcome, as all the dirt roads and paths became impassable messes. For obvious reasons, shoes are seldom worn during this time inside any building including private homes and even schools.
It is over an hour's drive to the village where I'm teaching. Yesterday, we had an additional challenge since we got stuck in the very deep mud two times for over half an hour each time. We were finally rescued by several villagers willing to "man" shovels and dig us out!
Yes, life here is frustrating and challenging, but I know I'm where I need to be to truly make a difference in the lives of others!