Awakening to the incredible landscape of East Africa with its unique smells and sounds has to be one of the most pleasant experiences and is a highlight of our time here. With the darkness of night coming on just after six and our typical bedtime of 9 to 10 pm, we are up at sunrise or often earlier, some to exercise, some to walk and others to just take it all in. With the rising of the sun, flocks of small birds travel overhead for their daily commute up and down the valley and we are constantly reminded of the rich and diverse wildlife that the region has to offer.
Breakfast on the veranda as the sun’s rays continue to strengthen and it is soon time to take the short walk to the clinic for morning report or an educational meeting or perhaps to log in to the internet and see what’s happening in the world. Life here is at a different pace and despite the growing lines at registration with a crowd by 9 am, it will all get done one way or another and in it’s time. Of course, there are always occasional emergencies that will always take precedence and the staff response to them is immediate, but the pace will always settle back to that which we come to expect day in and day out regardless of the work. It is a very unique experience here and there is always a tremendous sense of fulfillment and reward in what we are doing, far beyond that which I’ve experienced in any other setting during my career. It is what draws us to return.
Driving through Karatu with its rich and colorful, as well as very dusty orange clay, the town is abuzz with activity. Safari vehicles picking up supplies and their clients en route or returning from Ngorongoro Crater or The Serengeti, local townspeople going about their daily business on the street, and others just walking from here to there as they do every day. These are cultures born in tradition, each with their different language, many here for millennia and others more recently, who form the tapestry of what is Tanzania and what we have come to know here in our travels.
Driving down the Great Rift and into it’s massive valley with Lake Manyara, through the village of Mto wa Mbu (Mosquito River) and on to our turn at Makyiuni we take in the varied and open landscape until we see the rising form of Mt. Meru looming ahead signaling our arrival to Arusha. These are the sights that I’ve come to know so well and have cherished the fact I am able to share these with my colleagues who accompany me on each trip.
Walking through the Amsterdam airport between gates during our return and discussing everyone’s thoughts about their experience at FAME I am reminded of the tremendous opportunity it has been not only for those who have accompanied me, but also for me. It was so amazingly rewarding for the several years that I traveled there on my own, but those rewards have grown exponentially now that I have been able to expose others and will continue to do so into the future. I am forever grateful for the continued support that I’ve received from Penn, from FAME and from generous donors who continue to make this possible. We have not only touched the lives of those Tanzanians who we’ve treated and taught, but also of those who have traveled across the globe with me to have given their time and often money and have been changed forever and certainly for the better. It is not often that we can say with such certainty that we’ve made a difference in this world.