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Tales from Tanzania

Tagged as: mostly sordid stories.

Written by trinay on November 1, 2012
Hey everyone! I was delighted when I got back from Tanzania to see a Nass blog (omg <3) but that was on the 21st. Let me be the first blog of November then! I was going to blog yesterday and comment on the cute little Halloween witch next to the VuTales sign, but we'll get onto that later.


Possibly the best week of my life so far. I won't go into the gory details but surgery-wise, I saw a leg and foot amputation, assisted with the amputation of the two fingers of a crook, watched a prostate removal and removal of an abnormally swollen thyroid gland, plus the circumcision of a 14 days old baby. I also saw far too many burnt children. So the hospital was really educational! I have so many horrific pictures that I won't share with you for the sake of keeping this blog PG. Pictures were allowed to be taken- all we had to do was ask the surgeon or doctor. Patient consent was strictly disregarded, which gives you a bit of an idea about how Tanzanian hospitals are generally run. At one point the surgeon whipped out his phone and took a picture of the circumcision. What a fun picture to send to the family! ...

It's unbelievable how easy it is to become best friends with people when you spend time with people all of the time. And if you aren't insta-besties, then you're only there for a week so why not push to be friends anyway. At first I was a bit nervous since we were the new people and the others had been there for weeks. My fears were happily unfounded- we meshed extremely well, with only minor hiccups but mostly pleasant sailing (through the vast waters of friendship! ahaha oh my head hurts)

One such hiccup was last Thursday night. You'd be surprised at how much drinking hopeful medical applicants do. If you ever go to Africa, you must try Konyagi, the spirit of the nation. It was 35% alcohol and our Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday nights revolved around it. Now that I come to think about it, I think we got drunk on Monday too and Friday was pretty wild since three people were leaving on Saturday. Basically, we drunk a lot. To tell the truth, I've only been slightly tipsy once before I went on this trip, and mostly my mixers were 10% Konyagi and 90% Sprite since we had hospital the next morning, and afternoon activities like volunteering at the orphanage and the Masai market. On Thursday however, this all changed.

Thursday was an amazing day. We had surgery that morning, where the doctors rolled up about two hours late and we had the emergency amputation above-knee and of the foot. The lady had been involved in a motorcycle accident and we all almost threw up when we saw how mangled her leg was. She went into shock so she didn't know the extent of her injuries, but we knew she would wake up to the horrifying news of no longer being mobile. And how likely do you think it is that she would receive any prosthetic, when the surgeon was excited by the prospect of using newly-donated screws on fractured legs? What they were using before were iron nails. You could see them quite clearly in the X-Rays and it looked more like an accident than being surgically placed there. We had to leave before they started amputating the right foot, since the smell was overbearing and two people had already left. Lunch at Neema's, shopping in the Masai market, then it was night.

Thursday night had always been a bit of a myth; we were mildly tipsy on Tuesday when someone ambled over to me and told me: "Wait until Thursday night, that's when the fun really starts". Then he drank Konyagi straight from the bottle. What it actually turned out to be was that at around 10:30, we spilled into several reputable taxis and were delivered to Club V.I.P, where we paid 2000 Tanzanian Shillings (~$1.25, £0.78) to get in. I've never been to a nightclub before, being 17 and looking a fair bit younger. The music was seriously loud and there were crazy lights everywhere. It was either drink or have an epileptic fit. I looked helplessly on at everyone who rushed the counter and started knocking back the Konyagi packets.

Me: "What do I get?"

Friend: "Let's get Smirnoff's!"

Me: "...What is that?"

Smirnoff's turned out to be quite sweet, quite weak and at first I took it to be lemonade. After quite a while of awkward dancing, I went back to the drinks counter with some other friends, where they bought me one of the Konyagi packets. That was when one of my major headaches of the night started. I was waiting for my friends when a man sidled next to me, and whispered in my ear one of the most profoundly creepy things I have ever heard: "My name is David, you are mine for the night." It's sort of funny when I think back to it now, and I did laugh it off back then. People say a lot of odd things when they're drunk.
Then I don't really remember anything after that, until it was 2:37 a.m on Friday. and one of the housekeepers who had come with us for our security got in a fight, so we got kicked out. I found out later it was because some other guy kept trying to drag me away somewhere and George stepped in, so he got a mouthful of abuse and a punch in the face for it. I was told that I kept telling everyone (including the taxi driver) that I loved them, and told everyone that they were really nice. A happy drunk is better than a sad drunk I suppose, but I think I would have preferred to be more sober.

So, for my first experience with alcohol I would give it a hungover/10.

Since it was Eid last Friday, we didn't go to the hospital. I woke up at about 6 a.m still feeling drunk, but I went off to the orphanage with my friends. I've never picked up so many children in my life! They were really really cute and I wanted to bring one home with me. Lots of them had colds and the toys they had were little stones or flowers from the Poinciana tree. They ate the little budding flowers off the tree. I asked the lady there if the children were adopted, and she replied that there were never any adoptions.The kids grew up and where moved into the other division of the orphanage for teenagers, and when they turned 18 they had to begin work. That sounds incredibly awful, and I felt so so bad for them. We brought toys- little soft teddy bears and small books, and that made them so excited and happy I wanted to cry.

Right after volunteering at the orphanage we went on the Safari jeep and saw a bunch of animals. Yay for a pride of lions eating a freshly-killed zebra! Then we had to do a quick runner from the rangers since we were off the track. I'll put a few pictures up later.

All in all, Tanzania was brilliant. The most difficult parts of my stay were the beginning and the end:
Getting through the Tanzanian passport control was difficult enough, without being stopped at Customs. I strolled happily through the Nothing to Declare section, when one of the airport guards hauled me over. I was terrified since unpacking everything meant I had to repack, in a ghastly airport. The conversation, as best as I can remember, went something like this:

Guard: Hello, where are you from? What is the reason for your visit?
I didn't really want to say volunteering, since my work permit wasn't arranged yet, so I just said I was a tourist.
Guard: So you're visiting friends?
That was sort of true, and I didn't want to be disappeared, so I said yes.
Guard: You're visiting a husband? A boyfriend? Yes?
Me: Um.
By this point his entire face was grinning a lot. I was too tired and traumatised from having my passport snatched off me at the visa desk that I was humorless and just sort of smiled and left.

Leaving all of my newly minted best friends for life was hard enough emotionally already, but being pulled aside at the Departure entrance because there was apparently a 'serious problem with my visa' took the cake! The two security guards demanded $100 or things would 'be really bad for you'. They also kept claiming 'we're trying to help you'. I called one of the program managers and told him about the situation, then he wanted to talk to the security guard. After several more nerve-wracking calls and an inspired bout of helpless tears on my part, I think we were starting to attract lots of unwanted attention and they let me go in eventually. Not the best way to end a trip, and what made everything even more tragic was the giant red 'NO BRIBES ARE ALLOWED' sign hung right above these two guards.

18th birthday party

Being the highly sensible and mature individual that will hopefully prompt universities to give me an offer (HINT) I decided to attend a friend's party at a night club in London on the day of my return. My second experience at a night club ended with a slightly more disastrous affair than the first. I got off my flight at about 9, and arrived at Bromley South at 11 to pick up a gift with my cousin for my friend. We had our hair blown-dry curly and we arrived home with less than three hours to get ready. Disaster! Quick shower, massive mistake with fake eyelashes (NEVER AGAIN) and hurried application of nail polish later, we hopped onto the coach.

Lots of people were breaking out the pre-drinks but I didn't really want to get drunk on a bus. Being really experienced with the club 'scene' (one crappy Tanzanian night club, check), I asked this girl I knew from the bus what to get, and she suggested a Jagerbomb. I still have no idea what that is, but it tasted like red bull. The lady at the counter asked me for ID, which was sort of awkward since my friend told me they wouldn't. Girl from the bus bought one for me though, which was really nice. Then a friend from school gave me a strawberry something in a tiny shot glass. It burned my throat going down and wasn't the best idea.

About an hour later, I started dancing with this guy whose name I can't even remember. He bought me a drink and we started making out heavily while random people were dancing around us. I remember my friend pulling me away later, whispering "oh my god, I heard you pulled!" which is odd since I thought that term was used more by guys than girls. I feel a little guilty about it, but I can barely remember his face. This might sound strange but I feel more absolved when I'm typing this all out to absolute strangers, rather than throw myself upon the judgement of my friends. Fingers crossed that no one has taken pictures!

I was hungover all of yesterday, which is a terrible way to spend Halloween. I didn't even go to my best friend's party. How shameful! I'm not going to do this again until I turn 18 next year.


I woke up today at 4 a.m, thankfully feeling much more refreshed. I checked my email, which I neglected in Tanzania because the wifi on my Blackberry was terrible. And this is the first thing I saw:

I think I wet myself in excitement and dismay. Because this is it- the first offer/rejection! I'm one of those fairly silly people who believe the first thing to happen in any given situation sets the tone for the rest of the experience, so I was really, really nervous, I know it definitely wasn't a medicine offers, those tend to roll around towards March, but I applied for biochemistry and molecular medicine at Nottingham.

I got a conditional offer!

I'm fairly sure I'll meet the grades for it, but this was sadly a safety choice. What I really, really want to do is medicine, and on the Tanzania trip I met lots of people who also want to apply for medicine and have taken a gap year to reapply. Some people managed to get two offers but didn't meet the grade requirements. I can't let that happen.

I'm very happy right now.

-- I'm curious, is anyone going to do Movember? A lot of people seem to be doing it. Even Big Ben is growing one:
How sweet!

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November 1, 2012
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Thu Nov 01, 2012 03:57 PM +

I probably will. I can't really grow much facial hair though...

Still, the longest I've gone without shaving my upper lip is like a week.

When I applied, my college only sent my application off in early January and I got my first offer in late February. That was such a horrible wait. :c

Thu Nov 01, 2012 09:25 PM +

2000 Tanzanian Shillings (~$1.25, £0.78)


Sat Nov 03, 2012 01:27 AM +

Yeah I can barely grow a stache lol
and I have minimal chin hair. :(

Sat Nov 03, 2012 01:50 AM +

Seems like you really had a Nassty time.

I'm older than ya, and I've never touched the bottled lightning. (Food is a different story, low proof nevertheless.) I tremble to fathom the madness I would cause in my drunken stupor.

All in all, seems like a nice (albeit gory) trip. Good luck with your apps!

Sat Nov 03, 2012 11:20 AM +

Vusys said: I probably will. I can't really grow much facial hair though...

Still, the longest I've gone without shaving my upper lip is like a week.

When I applied, my college only sent my application off in early January and I got my first offer in late February. That was such a horrible wait. :c

Watching people trying to grow a moustache has always been hilarious. You should document it! :D February?! That must have been really nerve wracking, right in the middle of exam prep too. That's mostly when the interviews/offers/rejections will come for me :{ I'm terrified.

greenelf said:
2000 Tanzanian Shillings (~$1.25, £0.78)


Someone got their pay cheque halfway through the trip and checked her account balance (there's a Barclays branch with two gun-wielding guards outside) while we were there. She was a millionaire. *0*

Nass said: Yeah I can barely grow a stache lol
and I have minimal chin hair. :(

Bum fluff! haha that's sweet you must save a lot on shaving cream.

darkness said: Seems like you really had a Nassty time.

I'm older than ya, and I've never touched the bottled lightning. (Food is a different story, low proof nevertheless.) I tremble to fathom the madness I would cause in my drunken stupor.

All in all, seems like a nice (albeit gory) trip. Good luck with your apps!

A pun straight off the bat with Nass in it? You're officially my favourite person. You're a far more sensible person than me for not getting completely smashed, but there was only so much awkward arm flailing I could stand before I had to try and knock myself into a coma where everyone behaved like professional dancers. It's pretty awkward being the sober person in the nightclub/party I agree, it was a frighteningly gory trip at first but by the end of it we were talking about c-sections at the dinner table, with horrified couples on Safari shooting us are-they-serial-killers looks. Brilliant! Thank you- I'm guessing you went through all of this agonising application nonsense too?


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