Saturday, March 14, 2020 – A wellness day at Gibb’s Farm….

Standard

Our morning was bright with a reasonably clear sky as we walked to morning report for Angela to say goodbye to everyone. As I had mentioned, I’m pretty certain that her experience had been remarkable for her in having been able to work here at FAME for the two weeks with us. But even more so, I believe, she had also enriched everyone else’s experience by her being here, not only those of us on the neuro team, but also the entire medical staff of FAME, for she brought with her the perspective of having been educated and practiced in West Africa and in a medical system that is more robust than here, though still African and thereby giving hope to everyone that it is possible to develop this with the boundaries of this continent. After report, I brought Angela back to the house to meet her shuttle to the airport and to say goodbye to very remarkable individual who I know will continue on with her passion for pediatric neurology and continue to make the world a better place for her patients. I felt her anxiety about the uncertainty of her travels home with the pandemic now emerging, as we knew it would, in sub-Saharan Africa, and that fact that she had several flights and layovers with the situation changing now on almost an hourly basis.

A view from the veranda

For us, though, it was back to work, but for only the morning as I had scheduled a wellness day this afternoon as mandated by the Graduate Medical Education office for all residents, whether they are working in paradise or not. We had all decided to travel back to Gibb’s Farm for their wonderful buffet lunch which is almost a legend among the residents who have come on this rotation. The morning, though, was a steady pace of patients and we were a bit late getting out of clinic, mostly due to the fact that a number of patients needed physical therapy and especially our last patient who had a stroke about a month earlier and was significantly weak on the one side, but improving. Having Frances here to see our patients has really been a God-send and there is clearly a need in the future to have a physical therapist here with us during our month given the number of patients that we’ve referred to her and she has had the opportunity to work with. She took her time with the patient and his family, instructing them on exercises that would not only hasten his recovery, but would also prevent contractures that, if they occurred, would limit the movement of his limbs permanently.

A view from the veranda

I had an errand to run downtown on our way to Gibb’s and certainly was not planning to again take the shortcut I usually do as I had discovered that road to have transected by a new river with all of the recent rain. I had needed to stop at the bank here to put some money in a friend’s account so that she could help us with a booking, but the bank closed at 1pm and we arrived a few minutes after. I would not have another opportunity to make it to the bank given our mobile clinic schedule next week, so this was a pretty serious problem for us. I walked up to the bank door where someone was helping customers to leave, and he must have seen the desperation in my face as he invited me inside to make my deposit.

A view from Gibb’s Farm

Dan bird watching and on the phone

There were only two tellers still there and behind each of them was a single customer, each who appeared to be from a local business and each with a bag or backpack loaded with Tanzanian shillings. I don’t know whether I’d mentioned this before or not, but the Tanzania shilling comes in bills no larger than 10,000, or about $4.50, which can make for a very interesting cash financial transaction that would practically require the assistance of a wheelbarrow in very many cases. The two customers kept unloading bundle after bundle of their bills and handing them over to each teller who, in turn, loaded them on top of a bill counter that would quite rapidly sort through all the bills and come up with the total for each stack. This went on for what seemed like forever while they were creating what appeared to be replicas for the base of the great pyramids on top of the counters. I finally reached one of the windows and was able to deposit the necessary money into my friend’s account and we were back on our way to Gibb’s Farm, much to everyone’s joy.

The fanciest bathroom you’ll ever find. Gibb’s Farm

The fanciest bathroom you’ll ever find. Gibb’s Farm

At Gibb’s, the weather was a bit questionable, so they had a nice large table set for us inside the dining room and looking out at the incredibly remarkable view down into the valley below in the direction of FAME. Their food is almost all grown or made on the farm including and there are dozens of different things to choose from, all equally delicious. There were homemade cheeses, salads, sliced meats, quiche, soup, bread, chicken wings, every type of chutney that one could ever imagine, and then the main courses – rice, osso buco, chicken ala king, pork belly, lentil stew and others. The most difficult decision we had was just what to put on your plate as you couldn’t fit everything, but, thankfully, you could go back for seconds. Then there was the dessert table that had several local cakes, a passionfruit mousse and a chocolate mousse. Finally, there was the locally grown coffee that is the best in the world. All in all, it was probably as good of a wellness day as anyone could possibly have imagined.

A zoomed out view of bird’s “killing fields.” The African paradise flycatcher is a small orange spec in the middle of the photo

A male African paradise flycatcher in full dress

A male African paradise flycatcher in full dress

A male African paradise flycatcher in full dress

After lunch, while out on the veranda waiting for everyone to regroup and head to our vehicle, we were witness to a very remarkable sight that was occurring just beyond the lawn and both in and over the coffee plants nearby. Dozens of birds of multiple species were swooping through the air in incredible feats of acrobatics as if they were the most adept fighter pilots in search of their prey, the innumerous insects that were fluttering about the shrubs and were seemingly easy targets for these guided missiles that had one thing on their mind. They would suddenly fly up from below, high into the air and change direction in an instant to follow the defenseless insects which appeared to be mayflies. The one bird that caught our attention, though, was the African paradise flycatcher as it had a long streamer of a tail that was bright orange and flowed behind its body of blue-black with bright orange wings. We watched this flycatcher float through the air catching bugs at will along with the other birds that paled in comparison for showmanship. It was an incredible sight to see this continuous feeding going on right in front of us and essentially non-stop.

A male African paradise flycatcher in full dress

A male African paradise flycatcher in flight

A male African paradise flycatcher in full dress

I took shot after shot of the flycatcher in the hope of capturing that one in a million photo. None of them were too that level, but some of the shots capturing the birds in flight were quite revealing with a sense of fluidity and skill that were remarkable. It was really a sight to be seen and everyone was thrilled to have experienced it, though I will have to admit that Dan and I could have stayed there forever watching the birds, while the others became a bit impatient, wanting to leave so that we would have some time for shopping at the African Galleria before it closed that evening. We left Gibb’s Farm and tackled the road out, which was better than our trip up on in regard to the fact that it was downhill and we were following our momentum. The roads this month have simply been atrocious and by far the worse that I have seen during my many Marchs spent in Tanzania. Next week, we would be tackling the mobile clinics and that will be a very interesting time.

Fighting over mayflies

Fighting over mayflies

Fighting over mayflies

The African Galleria is a wonderful store that has become an institution and sits on the highway connecting Arusha with the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. Every safari vehicle visiting these locations must pass by their gallery and they carry every type of souvenir and art that one could ever imagine bringing home from Tanzania. There is certainly no reason why one wouldn’t prefer to buy directly from the maker, but in the Maasai villages, it is often difficult to tell where things came from. Similar with the ebony Makonde carvings that you see at the roadside and in the shops. They are carved by the Makonde in southern Tanzania, but difficult to purchase specifically from the carver that made them and they are most often not made in the roadside kiosks where you typically see them, even though there are carvers working on them in clear sight. Either way, it is certainly convenient to be able to shop for everything under one roof. The African Galleria has been a supporter of FAME for many years, having donated items in the past for silent auctions, and they also support a nearby school. I have been visiting their shop since I’ve been coming to Karatu in 2010, and have enjoyed watching as it has continued to develop into its own destination.

A male African paradise flycatcher in full dress

In flight

A male African paradise flycatcher in flight

We had intended for a short stop to the African Galleria, but it ended up being much longer as everyone found the shopping to be more fun than I had thought they would. Even with my gentle “herding” towards the end, it was obvious they were on a mission and weren’t paying attention to me, so Dan and I stepped out front into the open evening air and waited for everyone to finish. There were a few things that were purchased that needed attending to by the shop, so they treated us to some drinks before we left which was just a little added extra. Our drive home was into the setting sun and a gorgeous sky. We stopped at a little market at the junction of the FAME road to pick up some groceries for tomorrow as some of us (me, Carrie, Amisha, Alice, Molly and Frances) were heading to Tarangire on safari and would need to make sandwiches. Dan and Marin, who had been to Tarangire earlier in the month would be on another adventure, to Empakai Crater, north of Ngorongoro Crater. It is drive through some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen anywhere as you travel through a high valley on your way to Empakai where there are Maasai boma in every direction you look.

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