Taylor Calloway (Class of 2018) was one of twenty-one students who participated in the new Rx One Health Course based in Tanzania and Rwanda during June 2017. This is Taylor’s personal narrative aiming to illustrate her daily experiences, a deeper understanding of the One Health approach in a real-world setting, and the big question of “why is this course important.”
Taylor’s journey Part II
Habari azobuhi (Good morning)!! Starting at seven am with the understanding that three lectures were to come after was not something everyone looks forward to and I certainly did not. Yet, the lectures morphed into deep discussions. There were “big picture” talks on the One Health approach used in Tanzania including the country’s infectious diseases and human-animal conflicts. This made my mind race with ideas on projects yet to begin. I am definitely where I should be to find my niche in veterinary medicine so I can include the One Health approach in life.
We had lunch after touring the place we were gathering for lectures called Neema Crafts. Neema= Grace in Swahili. They are a non-profit organization that employs the local disabled people of Iranga and teaches them trades like weaving, ceramics, metalworking, screen-printing, glass bead making and woodcarving. These are then sold to tourists and some locals for the continuation of the organization.
There was a story that stood out to me. One of the first deaf men employed was found under a basket, hidden away from the world by a family that believed they were cursed. He was given a sign name of hunchback (this is pointing to your back). He worked extremely hard and was promoted to teaching new members the different crafts. After some time, his colleagues did change his name. Now when people ask about him, his sign is two fists pounding downwards. This means I am capable.
In the afternoon we toured the local markets. People were able to practice their Swahili, bargain for gifts and learn more about the Tanzanian culture. There was a little girl who ran up to me and smiled. I smiled back and said, “mambo” (hello to a friend). “Shikamoo” her little voice responding to me (a respectful hello). The clothes and personalities of everyone we saw and talked with were very unique. There was one man in a bright orange suit, a woman covered from head to toe in a brown cape and another woman with a fur sweatshirt. I am learning that the more I see, the less I know.
The evening became a lesson in communication and leadership skills. The whole group discovered our unique styles from a communication and leadership exercise. Without giving too much away, we had to be able to work together to “zoom” in and out of a story. Confusing right? Well we thought so, but in the end we did pull through and find a solution. The exercise reminded us that we all have our own set of skills to bring to the table and by communicating properly, we can help each other figure out a finished product. By the end of it, we were all very proud and tired. Dinner was served and a lecture, led by Dr. Mazet, on soft leadership skills (communication) finished our day around 8:30 pm.
Swahili Words of the Day: Bafum, Shower; Choo, toilet
Yes they don’t sound fun but they are helpful. Even though I did all the research required before this trip, I still end up with a million questions after each speaker. Along with all of my questions, my peers come up with even more inquisitive questions to add. Again, these lectures turned into deep group discussions.
The day took a 180-degree turn when we traveled out to Mtera dam to speak with the fisherman leaders of the community. As soon as we jumped out of our vehicles, a thick tension fell upon us all. Most of us have seen poorer communities that have one room homes made of sticks and blue tarp on top of mud floors, food animals running in and out of the houses, and the smell of stagnant water and animal feces. Instantly I felt like I knew their world and all of their problems. I was sure that they were suffering from sickness from zoonotic diseases, had a lack of nutrition/healthcare, issues with water sanitation, and fishing drought issues that are plaguing the nation from climate change. However, as Bill Nye the Science Guy says, “everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t”. And Bill Nye is always right.
As soon as the leaders met with our huge group of almost thirty people (which is way too big for a community project like this one), a crowd of the fishing community formed around us. We soon learned that the biggest concern they faced was death and injury from wild animals like hippos and crocodiles. Of course all of our minds instantly run to solutions for these people, but every solution has many more complex problems. We could spend the entire month discussing them.
As soon as one fisherman asked if our group was there “to help us or just to learn”, I realized how unwanted I felt there. We explained that we were there to learn (which, we discovered later, our group had also helped the leaders by providing some money for their time), the fisherman crowd surrounding us turned and left. With a heavy chest and some asante sanas (thank yous) to the leaders, we loaded up and also left.
I hope we discuss this tomorrow.
Swahili Word of the Day: Wazimu, Crazy (June’s nickname. Don’t worry, she likes it, or at least lies and says she does.)
Maybe the instructors figured out that all our lectures are discussions because today they decided to begin our day with small group gatherings conversing over our experience with the fishermen yesterday. We debriefed and learned that yesterday did not go as planned. But when does life go as planned? That’s when adaptability is learned. This skill has helped me through many things in life. You can only control yourself, not your surrounding world, so why fret about what you cannot change?
My personal opinions aside, we noted that Alphonce Msigwa, or as we call him Mafalmi meaning king, visited the leaders previously to talk about gathering with us to teach. This was warmly accepted. Maybe it was not given to the community or was simply not communicated to the fisherman of the village. Either way, it was slightly uncomfortable but also real life. We also discussed how we would approach writing a grant and beginning a project. The morning was very productive.
The afternoon was at a free ranging kuku farm. I bet you can figure out what kuku means, chicken. The farmer also had ducks, goats and pigs running around with a view of the mountains. It was actually a beautiful place and for a moment I considered poultry medicine as a career. We practiced blood draws and swabs for HPAI testing, and vaccinating for New Castle disease. Dr. Goodluck Paul was extremely helpful in showing us the ins and outs of small poultry farming.
On the drive back to our site we learned some new words:
(Potty) Tanzanian Words of the Day:
Short call: Needing to go number one
Long call: Needing to go number two
Missed call: I doubt I need to explain
Currently I am bouncing around in a Land Rover continuing for five hours to a campsite called Chogela. All I can think about is how very ready I am to sleep in a tent and work in the field capturing bats and rodents. The veterinary student part of me is jumping around like a little kid preparing myself to do real fieldwork.
Our group set up at the campsite. We were in tents but my tent did have a bed with posts on it. I am laughing because it seemed crazy to me. I was set up with Maria Ertner, a veterinarian from Demark, in the adjoining tent next to mine. Then we were all off to set up and capture bats and set rodent traps.
So it did take a while to capture the insectivorous bats and set traps and by the time we were finished it was dark and past our bedtimes. Though, it was hard to care. After donning PPE, a net was set up around a church tower where the bats stayed. Soon we were yelling, screaming and banging on things to get the bats to come out. It did take about ten tries but we finally succeeded. After the capture the bats were placed in cloth bags to wait their turn for the process. We were able to sample the bats so we could draw blood and take measurements for identification purposed.
Towards the end of our late night I started to feel a bit nauseous. I hope its just from the hectic day and dehydration. We then went back to the campsite late and had a quick dinner before falling asleep in our extremely nice tents.
Swahili Word of the Day: Nakupenda, Love you
What is hot and cold and vomiting all over? Me! So that nausea was not a liar. I was woken up by an instant need to vomit around 2 am, then 4 am, then 6 and 7 am. I finally took an anti-emetic that Alassandra lent me. That was a lifesaver. I did end up missing the first part of the day to sickness and sleep deprivation. But I was not going to miss the afternoon.
My awesome team went to find the rodent traps we set up the night before during the bat sampling. Unfortunately, being wildlife field medicine, there was only one live rodent found to sample out of thirty traps. Sadly, there was another rodent found in a state that can only be described as eaten alive by huge Tanzanian ants. That apparently has never happened before and hopefully will never happen again. I am told it was a horrific and depressing scene.
Everyone was very kind to me. Mwokozi Mwanzalila from HALI Project Tanzania, Eulade and Ian Trupin, from UC Davis, came to check on me. My friend Marie Bosch, A veterinary student form Georgia, brought me toast and electrolytes. Then, Nathan Brown grabbed me some extra water, and my roommate Maria gave me some bananas, electrolytes, and checked up on me multiple times. The group leaders like Dr. Jona Mazet and Amanda also checked in on me and offered to help in any way. I must say, I really appreciate everyone that was kind enough to help me while I was sick. When I showed up for lunch, after a cold refreshing shower, everyone even clapped. So I must say, this group is a good one. Asanti Sana rafiki wangu (thank you very much my friends)!!
I was not 100% by the afternoon but I wasn’t going to miss out on our cultural visit with the Maasai, Tanzanian native pastoralist, people. We were able to see traditional dancing and even asked to join in! That was a lot of jumping from my stomach so I am happy we were asked to join towards the end of the dance. There was a tour of the head of the tribe’s home. The home consisted of areas for livestock and a small two room hut with a kitchen like area that housed a fire pit and a hole for the smoke, and a bedroom that had a cow hide on a lifted set of sticks as the bed. I did end up purchasing beaded jewelry from some mama Massi women, for gifts of course. I just have to decide which ones I am willing to part with.
Later we had a traditional bonfire with the Maasi and Wahehe people. The Hehe tribe are the original people of Tanzania, located in the south of the country, while the Maasi are nomadic pastoralists from Kenya who migrated into the northern part of Tanzania. With bells hanging around our ankles, whistles in our mouths and a hand drum being played we were taught the traditional Wahehe dance. I will be putting our craziness in a later video.
Finally, the adults went to bed, so the rest of us stayed up until midnight to celebrate June’s birthday. We danced, sang and drank (well they all drank, I was nursing my stomach still) until midnight to the musical excellence of Justin Biber, picked out by Eulade and other Rwandans. It was interesting to say the least.
Swahili Words of the Day: Punda, Donkey; Punda Milia, Striped Donkey (Zebra).
Ok, so prepare yourself to be jealous… I just heard a lion outside my room at Ruaha National Park, Tanzania. I also just took a warm (not hot, but even more amazing) shower for the first time this week. Thus my mood is along the lines of ecstatic.
Earlier today, we had a whirlwind of learning and hands on activities. First, we spoke with the Ruaha Carnivore Project at one of the Maasai households that we met yesterday. We discussed how this family is welcoming in advice from the Ruaha Carnivore Project leaders to help reduce the risk of livestock-wildlife conflict. The two work together to build safe areas called bomas, or as we say corrals, to house the livestock during non-grazing hours and use trained dogs to help with the more nomadic Maasai. This was very important for Mama Rosie Mgemaa, a widowed woman who has learned to fend for herself and her family by using the ideas mentioned to keep her food animals alive.
We then went straight to a local farmer’s fields to talk with Wildlife Connection’s Adam Stein about the use of beehives to deter elephants from farms. Seeing this surprised me as I had previously been exposed to elephant crop raiding while working in Sri Lanka. There were many differences; one being, Sri Lankan farmers would build tree huts to watch over their crop while in Tanzania the farmers stayed on the ground. Yet, there was a commonality of needing to find a way to stop not only elephant crop raiding but also the other culprit, birds.
After both of those visits we ran over to help Dr. Goodluck Paul with the HALI project to draw blood, milk and check health status of cattle, goats and sheep from a local pastoralist Maasi household. These samples were tested for Brucellosis and stored for later testing of Rift Valley fever.
Following all of these activities, which, by the way, took place before noon, we had lunch and said goodbye to Chogela. There was a quick game drive to Ruaha National Park and two lectures introducing us to the park and diseases found there, like a new Giraffe skin disease being studied as we speak, by Dr. Epaphras Alex of the park. Finally dinner came, a campfire dinner. Yes, I know you are smiling but with envy. Afterwards, a lecture was given by Dr. Annettee Roug of the HALI team to understand research in Tuberculosis testing in free-ranging wild buffalo in the park.
Now I am sitting here still typing out of pure excitement. Tomorrow is going to be extremely early to sample non-human primates and I already told the Park Rangers no to some beer (Tusker is their go to choice… a Lager yuck. But I will take what I can get), so I am headed off to bed. Lala Salam (peaceful sleep).
Swahili Word of the Day: Duma, my favorite animal and one I hope we see tomorrow, cheetah.
So 6:30 in the morning we started our day twenty meters from a Baobob tree, mbuyu in Swahili, with a family of vervit monkeys. We were attempting to get noninvasive samples by placing oral swabs in pieces of banana. After about thirty minutes the monkeys decided to participate. They ate the bananas, dropped the peels and swabs on the ground and we searched for the swabs in the ground for storage. My favorite part was using the vehicle as a generator for the centrifuge. That is true wildlife fieldwork.
After a couple hours we ate breakfast and were sent on our ways for more field research. This time we were documenting giraffe, twiga in Swahili, specifically looking for giraffe skin disease and Cape Buffalo heard health status. This was a nine-hour day in a Range Rover… probably some of the best nine hours of my life. I can’t possibly describe how excited I was and still am. The experience is something I want to keep in my life and use as part of my own niche in the One Health approach to problem solving.
Although we did not see any Cape Buffalo in my vehicle, the giraffe sightings and other animals made the trip amazing. We did get really lucky, and were able to see twiga in close proximity to the car for long spouts of time. So recording information was easy and informative. We also spotted two simba (lions), warthogs, mamba (crocodile), kiboko (hippo), swalla (impala), digidig (dik dik), many tembos (elephants), and more animals. There was the most beautiful sunset. The vast plains to the mountains stretched for miles. Colors from the sun looked as though they were dancing with the clouds and landing delicately on the mountain peaks. However, the sounds of the plains were the most enticing. There is a feeling of pure peace that comes over you when the grasses move with the wind, creating a slight whistling sound. As if an imaginary brush was being passed over the plains, they moved in sync with one another and began an acoustic performance.
The fact that the sun was falling behind the mountains, stars were beginning to show themselves, and there were no other noises than that of the grasses was breath taking. Yet, on the other side, there are wild carnivores probably hiding quietly in the plains. I can only describe it as being at the ocean. It is beautiful, but nothing to be trifled with.
That night was a campfire night under the bright stars. Which shine brighter than those in Davis, as there is almost no light pollution. It was all like an expensive movie scene. And as cheesy as this is going to read, it was a once in a lifetime experience. One which I will try over and over to recreate.
Swahili Word of the Day: Embe, Mango.