While I grew to love my time in Dar es Salaam, I am very welcome of this change of pace and place in Dodoma. I’m an intuitive lover of nature; so being out of the big city and in a slightly cooler climate has been fantastic. I love the lack of touristy areas and the more authentic East African vibe here. Even after just one day in my assigned community for the next two weeks, Mkonze, my eyes have been opened to how different of a picture healthcare is in a rural setting.
I was most surprised to learn that Mkonze is not technically a village, it’s a community made up of eight different villages, a population of 6,456 people in total. To my knowledge thus far, there is only one health centre that services this community, and only three doctors at the centre. That’s a ratio of one doctor for every 2,152 people! This makes me grateful for my primary care physician at home and the relationship I’ve been able to grow with him over the course of my lifetime. Every time I need a doctor, I know exactly who I’m going to and that there likely won’t be much of a wait to see him. In the event that I need a doctor outside of Pittsburgh, I know that there are Urgent Cares everywhere for my convenience. Members of the Mkonze community do not have this same flexibility or privilege: crowded, long waits are the norm (by the looks of the day today) and people may be seen by a different doctor every time who may not fully understand the patient’s past medical history. I’ve realized that I take consistent, timely, and personal healthcare for granted in the United States.
I was also surprised to learn that people in Mkonze speak Gogo, not Swahili. Thus, I’ve embarked on the fun journey of learning another language this summer! This may make asking questions to community members a little harder, as I’ll have to ask them in simple English to the nursing students, who will translate it into Swahili for the village community health worker Selina, who will translate it into Gogo for the community member, and right back up the train the answer must go. I know that a few things will get lost in translation along the way, but for now I’m looking forward to practicing my communication skills and bridging cultural gaps through language.