I had mentioned in yesterday’s blog that what happens at the Sparrow, stays at the Sparrow and this was no more true than on Friday morning as everyone awakened, in some shape or form from the evening before. What you didn’t see in the photo, as it was just the neuro crew other than Isdori in the back with his victory sign, was that we had also managed to get Elissa, the new peds ID specialist who will spending the next year at FAME, and Leslie, the family practice NP volunteering for her first time at FAME, both out with us for the festivities. Since they weren’t incriminated by the photo, I wanted to also make sure everyone realized that we are an equal opportunity service and will include all who are will to associate with us.
My sleep was a fitful last night and, though I was hoping to get an extra hour or so of sleep in as I didn’t have anything scheduled until around 9:45 am with some meetings and there wasn’t any morning report this morning due to the fact that it was Nyerere Day, my phone began chiming off the hook around 6 am as my son, Daniel, and his wonderful and lovely fiancée, Chloe, decided to send out their wedding “save the date” this morning. My family message group was abound with congratulations from everyone, except me, of course, as I was, shall we say, still hoping for those few extra “z’s” to recover. Once I realized what was going on, though, it was inevitable that I would join in the excitement. Daniel and Chloe live in Boulder, and have planned their wedding in the mountains, which is not at all surprising given their love of the outdoors, near Buena Vista and is one of the Collegiate Peaks. To say we are looking forward to this would be the understatement of the year.
Having recovered from the excitement of the morning with Daniel and Chloe, I was awake now and getting things done prior to my meeting when I received a text from Kitashu that there was a 7-year-old child at the OPD for neurology as we had originally been scheduled to see patients today. While trying to figure out how to see the patient and still catch my ride with Frank and Susan to a meeting, I was hoping that one of the residents would finally emerge from their slumber and poor Ankita was the unlucky one who opened her door first. When I told her the situation, she volunteered immediately to go see the patient without any prompting or bribery, though that may have been helped somewhat by the fact that Kitashu told me they were happy to wait a bit which would allow Ankita to have her morning coffee before heading up to see the patient. I was able to make my meeting at the Lilac downtown, which was an executive committee meeting for FAME Tanzania, which I am not a member of necessarily, but as the board chair for FAME US, I had asked to attend and was allowed to do so. The child Ankita saw was for starring spells and possible seizures, but it didn’t seem consistent at all and there was no need to institute medications so she didn’t have to bother me.
I had mentioned earlier that the reason we had no clinic today was because of the fact that it was Julius Nyerere Day and in memory of the father of the country who died on this day in 1999. He was an amazing man who cobbled together a country from literally nothing and, at times, had to make very difficult decisions that were not always popular, but were important to move the country forward and eventually recognized as being necessary. Several years ago, while preparing for one of our visits to Tanzania which, at the time, required that I FedEx everyone’s passport to the Tanzanian embassy in Washington, D.C., so that our visas could be placed inside the documents. I had apparently forgotten to sign something, or may have even forgotten to enclose the check, but it required that I contact them to straighten things out. I ended up speaking with a very nice and incredibly helpful young woman at the embassy who helped straighten things out and make sure that we received our passports back in time for our upcoming trip. When I was initially speaking with her and was going to need to call back, she told me her name was Julia, but not wanting to have difficulty reaching her, I asked her for her last name upon which she replied, “Nyerere.” I was pretty much speechless and there was a very long pause from me at which point, after finally gathering my senses, I said, “Are you any relation?” She replied, “yes, he was my grandfather.” OK, so this would be the equivalent of reaching George Washington’s granddaughter on the phone if our country were any younger than it is (Tanzania’s independence from Britain occurred in 1961 and its union with Zanzibar was in 1964) and, not wanting to just end the conversation, I told her how incredibly honored I was to be speaking with her at which point we had a short conversation about FAME and what I was doing in Tanzania. I was pretty blown away, to say the least, after the call and am still in awe today that I had a chance to speak with her.
The Lilac Café at FAME was created when the hospital was opened and it became clear that someone would need to feed the patients as well as the families of the patients when they came to visit, which often entails spending days there and sleeping with friends nearby. The food services were contracted out to Nickson Mariki, who had previously run one of the local pubs in town, and he has continued to run the Lilac Café as well as its sister site downtown and also now has one of the newer “high rises” in Karatu, which are no more than 4 stories. Nickson is also on the FAME Tanzania NGO Board of directors. One of his employees, Denis Mcha, is also a wonderful artist who has sold many paintings that he displays at both of the Lilac restaurants and over the years I have also brought him art supplies such as canvas, drawing pencils, a staple gun and similar items for which he has always been incredibly appreciative. For my 60th birthday, Susan commissioned him to do a portrait of me as a surprise and this painting hangs in my home in Philly.
Once finished with our executive meeting at the Lilac downtown, I made my way back to FAME to pick up the others for we had decided to run down to the African Galleria to pick up some things that everyone had picked out earlier and were being prepared for them. I had strongly considered having my last rice and beans for lunch, but it was an otherwise unanimous decision by the others that we go to the Gallery for lunch as everyone was dreaming of the cheese samosas and I certainly was not about to turn away their scrumptious pumpkin soup. We got to the Galleria, sat down and let Nish know that we were there which the others went inside to pick out their things while the food was being prepared. I will have to say, and I think all of my residents who have been there have also agreed, that the Ol’ Mesera restaurant has the best food in Northern Tanzania by far.
By the time we left the Galleria and made it home, it was now time to go up to Gibb’s Farm for drinks and a later dinner. We had invited Anne, Elisa and Leslie to come with us as well as Dr. Joyce, a fellow long-term volunteer and the person responsible for setting up all of the laboratory services at FAME. Until the pandemic, Joyce had been spending 9 months a year at FAME, though this was obviously interrupted by the difficulties with traveling and the risk of remaining in Tanzania even though she had gotten stuck over there in March 2020, spending about 4 months in seclusion at her volunteer house so as not to risk any exposures to the virus. When it comes to pure beauty and ambience, there is little that can compare to Gibb’s Farm – its gardens are impeccable and the birds on site are absolutely amazing. With their new infinity pool that is not at all overdone and serves as a wonderful location for events like the Tloma Village Choir that we listened to a week or so ago, it has the complete package and serves as a luxurious, yet tasteful representation of Tanzania for those of us from FAME and they are happy to have us come to visit for dinner or lunch given the work we are doing for the community. I have been coming to Gibb’s Farm since 2009 and, even though it has gone through changes, its character has remained unchanged and it continues to be my number one choice of a place to go to relax and to forget all your troubles.
Our dinner was, of course, delicious and the service delightful. They have had much of the same staff for the entire time that I’ve been visiting and having them greet me on arrival is always such a pleasure. We had worked hard over the last weeks and everyone certainly deserved this downtime and a bit of luxury.