Tanzania November 2010


  Saturday 6 November 2010

Kiaran and Liz wanted to be at Heathrow early and so they set off by train as I was unable to take them because of the eye operation I had on Wednesday. Poor Liz felt awful about leaving me but we had discussed this and I am sure that I will be fine, with lots of support from people at church, neighbours, friends, etc. Unfortunately, the other news was that Su had to pull out yesterday as her son is really very unwell and she cannot leave him alone at the moment.

Unfortunately they discovered that the Piccadilly Line was finishing at Northfields today and so they had to go round to Paddington and take the Heathrow Express. The team gathered together in Terminal 5 and soon discovered that:

  • the passport of one of the dentists was due to to expire whilst they are out there; and
  • another of the dentists had brought his wife's passport instead of his own.

No comment here from me, as Liz and I once arrived at Heathrow to find that I had brought Luke's passport instead of Adam's. So easily done !

Liz 'phoned me to say that the dentist had managed to get her passport renewed and had made it back to the airport but that the dentist's wife, who had gone back to get his passport, had got stuck in traffic on the M4 and he therefore will have to get a flight via Nairobi and join them later. Apparently he is the deputy leader of the other team!

Liz managed to send me this photo from Heathrow. From the left, Judy, Tracey, Kiaran and Liz.

British Airways Flight BA 047 took off at 19.09 (24 mins late), bound for the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam. For the geographically-challenged they will NOT be going anywhere near Mount Merapi which is currently erupting.

  Sunday 7 November 2010

For new readers of this blog, Tanzania is three hours ahead of the UK. The flight landed early at Dar at 06.59 (03.59 GMT). LIz always says that Dar is like a sauna, hot and steamy.

I looked at my mobile, which was charging, and found a text from Liz to say that they had arrived in Mwanza, two hours late but fine. The phone reception is lousy but I did manage to get through. As always, they are staying in the Vizano Hotel (see right); not the height of luxury as the water is currently off! Liz had tried to have a shower with what was left in the pipes and gave the bucket of water a miss!

She confirmed that the dentist did make it onto the plane with her new passport but that Stewart, the dentist who brought his wife's passport, will not be joining them until Wednesday. Apparently his wife is off on holiday whilst he is in Tanzania and both passports were left out on the kitchen table and he picked up the wrong one. Needless to say, he is gutted about not being able to travel with them.

The team are meeting up at the Tilapia restaurant (www.hoteltilapia.com). I'm not quite sure why they don't stay there; it looks much nicer.


She heard from one of the local dentists that the village witch doctors have an interesting little routine. They stay in a hut in a remote village and peddle their trade for a few days and then go back to live in in a nice house in Mwanza for a few weeks. When the reappear in the village they explain that they had been taken away to the 'spirit world'. Perhaps Liz could use that line to patients in Knebworth when we go off on holiday. "The Village Dental Practice is currently closed as the team are visiting the spirit world".

  Monday 8 November 2010

Today they flew from Mwanza to the airstrip at Tulawaka Mine (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulawaka_Gold_Mine ) which will be their base for the next 2 weeks. The location of the mine is displayed on the map which shows it in relatlion to Mwanza and Lake Victoria.

Liz texted me when they had arrived at the mine, which is huge as it is open-cast with a lake at the bottom, rather like a caldera in a volcano. This morning they had their orientation session in Mwanza. On the way over they flew over the Geita mine which was also massive. She had to put her camera away, though, as photography is banned on site for security reasons. They are billeted in miners' housing and, from the size of his boots, the guy who normally has LIz's room must be enormous.

To get on site they had to have a test for malaria which she has never had before. They are all on Malarone anyway but the mine clearly wants to make sure that nobody arrives with malaria already in their blood.

Tomorrow they go out for the first time to the clinic in a village in the area. Apparently it has been raining and the soil is very red and heavy so the trip out there could be interesting.

I was delighted to receive evidence that people are reading this blog. One friend has rung up to say that the BA flight from Heathrow was not late as it had pushed back on time from the gate.

  Tuesday 9 November 2010

At the orientation session local Bridge2Aid staff presented some statistics about the patients seen during the Dental Volunteer Programme sessions. Apparently the average period that people have been in pain when they turn up at one of the clinics is 2 years ! ......  A word of advice to any of Liz's patients; do not complain about being unable to see her over a Bank Holiday Weekend.

Shown on the right is one of the buildings from last year, set up to receive the influx of patients; note that each chair is positioned by a window to catch the light !

Spoke to Liz at about 17.30 GMT. The six trainees (all of them turned up this year!) are really good this time as the District Dental Officer (Dr Nelson) has done a great job in training them in the theory. It is a new district where Bridge2Aid have not run the programme before and I imagine that he is keen to impress so that he gets a repeat visit from the team.

They saw 60 patients today in a building that is similar to all of the other clinics - no running water or electricity.



There are 700 staff at the mine, which is smaller than the one last year but the food is good, which is great. The call was a bit truncated as the credit on her phone was running out, which means that I will have to top it up from this end.

Apparently the blog is being read today in a new country - Croatia - as a member of our church is currently on business in Zagreb. Dobrodošli David !

  Wednesday 10 November 2010

Today Liz supervised Alfred, whom she described as 'traditionally built' (using a phrsae from the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series). He has arthritis himself and so was finding standing around leaning over the patients a bit tiring. The team have their packed lunch sitting under the trees to get out of the sun, whilst the local trainees walk off to the local village for a rice meal. One of the trainees is based about 200 km away and has come to the area for the training. This shows how the Bridge2Aid influence is spreading across a large area of the North of Tanzania.

On the way out this morning there were two locals in handcuffs who had obviously been caught trying to break into the compound, which is patrolled by Alsatians. As Liz said, the contrast between the wealth of the gold and the poverty of the surrounding area could not be more marked.

Tomorrow will be their last day at the first clinic; the second one is much nearer. They drive for 30 mins along a road with red dust everywhere and then onto a tarmac road; the second clinic is at the junction.

She had just had a swim (!) in the pool but had to get back into the room once it got dark for fear of being bitten by mozzies. As always in equatorial zones it takes only about 10 minutes to get pitch black. One thing reminded her of our honeymoon in The Gambia, namely the red-cheeked cordon bleus (a type of finch), drinking from the puddles around the base (see picture left). I was able to give her greetings from Su, whom I spoke to yesterday; her son seems to be much better. Liz had not heard from the other B2A team (based at another mine) and so is not aware as to whether the missing dentist (the one who left his passport behind!) has now arrived.

  Thursday 11 November 2010

They had a bit of a shock today as they arrived at the clinic to find about 300 people there. Apparently there was a mother and baby clinic under a huge mango tree just outside the clinic. They had hooked up a set of scales onto one of the branches of the tree and were weighing the babies, which was cute. The crowds meant that they were busy as the mothers took the opportunity of getting their teeth checked out. Liz was treating one woman whose jaw dislocated during the procedure! Apparently it happens to her quite often but she had not bothered to tell the dentists. In total they treated 103 patients today, with loads of mothers watching on, which meant they were all pretty knackered at the end.

It had not rained overnight and so the 25 km dirt road (built for and by the gold mine) was particularly dusty. Even though the vehicle is closed they all ended up looking like pandas by the time they got there. One of the dentists is a blonde Scandinavian and he looked like a redhead.

Liz was supervising a trainee called Robert today; he is based at the clinic where they will be moving to tomorrow. Tracey has been in charge of the nurses (having been out 3 times before) and is doing a great job.

On the wildlife front they saw a did-dik and a jackal in the compound and Liz saw some huge moths - about 6 inches across. She also saw a goliath heron in a field and a bird which I will have to look up for her.

Some interesting factoids today:

  • A lump of gold the size of a match-box can be rolled out to form a sheet of gold the size of a tennis court

  • The purest gold ever mined was found in Scotland

  • Bats flying out of a cave always turn left

For those who are into Facebook, you can sign up to the Bridge2Aid page and see photos of the team taken on the trip so far.

  Friday 12 November 2010

Today they moved to the next clinic, where they saw 62 patients. The clinic was more cramped than the last, although they think they may get the use of another room next week. They then flew back from the gold mine to Mwanza. Liz realised that the mine she had thought was Geita, was actually an exhausted mine because this time they did fly over Geita which is, apparently, ginormous, with huge trucks going down a spiral road into a large pit.

In Mwanza they met up with the other B2A team that had been based at another mine. Apparently one patient had turned up at their clinic and, when asked what his problem was, it transpired he had a prolapsed rectum. Whilst dentists can turn their hands to most things (excuse the dreadful pun!), this was beyond even their powers of treatment (please don't even think about how useful a dental mirror would be !).

One of the dentists from that group said that, whilst her family had not wanted her to go to Tanzania, this was one of the most rewarding things she has ever done.

Apparently Tulawaka mine, where has Liz has been based, is at 4,000 feet; she wondered why her ankles were swollen!

They split up at Mwanza and ten of them drove off on the long journey to the Serengeti, for a weekend safari, whilst the others have decided that they have done that before and just want a rest. They are staying at a very nice hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria (see above) called Ryan's Bay (see http://www.ryansbay.com/index.html ). Whilst Liz was on the phone I could hear the chorus of frogs outside her room; she hopes to do some birdwatching and photography over the weekend but generally intends to get a rest and prepare for the second week.

  Saturday 13 November 2010

Liz and a group of others have been out for a walk today to Capri Point and, on the way there, saw Mwanza Rock (right) the symbol of the town. She has seen loads of different types of birds, including four species of kingfisher, sunbirds and a cinnamon-chested bee-eater, as well as loads of herons and egrets.

They had a swim this afternoon but had to come in as the heavens opened in a classic tropical storm. Those of you who have been to the tropics will know that it is hard to believe the intensity of the rain; it actually hurts!. Yesterday evening one of the team showed his prowess on the piano and had them all singing Elton John and Billy Joel songs; even one of the businessmen and his hooker joined in ! The other team are based at a clinic near the main road to Burundi and, with the large number of truckers passing through, the incidence of HIV is even higher than it is generally in Tanzania.

Tomorrow they fly back to the gold mine in the afternoon. For those of you who are interested, last week the clinic was in Nyantakara and next week they will be based in Nyakanazi.

I understand that this blog is being read in the Canary Islands and, tomorrow, Liz hopes to read it herself. I hope that I have not mis-represented her reports.

  Sunday 14 November 2010

They spent the day lazing around the Ryan's Bay Hotel. Liz watched an African fish eagle, working the shoreline, looking for fish (see the photo left that I took of one on holiday  - me, not the eagle!),

In the afternoon they met up with those who had been to the Serengeti. They had seen a lion with cubs, cheetah and leopard and generally had a great time. They then split up again and the other team set off by plane back to the gold mine where they are based. Apparently security is much tighter at that mine and it takes them about an hour to get through the checks and into the compound.

Unfortunately, things did not go quite so well for Liz's team. I don't know if they made it to the airport but another tropical storm swept in (or was forecast) and they have not been able to travel today. The result is a double-whammy in that they are now back at the less-than-glamorous Vizano Hotel (where the tap water seems to have given up totally!) and they have to be at Mwanza airport at 05.30 tomorrow for the flight to the gold mine, grab hold of their scrubs, etc., and drive out along the dirt road to the clinic. Ian Wilson, the guy who founded Bridge2Aid and who is based in Mwanza, will be joining them on the plane.

I imagine that, when I speak to her tomorrow, Liz will be pretty shattered.

  Monday 15 November 2010

Browsing through the internet yesterday evening (as you do, when your wife's away), I found the following link which includes an interview with Liz's nurse, Tracey. Liz has never mentioned this and so I don't know if even they know about it!


I asked Liz about this and each of them had been asked to do a 'piece to camera'. Hers had been dreadful and so they had not used it. One of the other dentists had used the word 'holiday' (oops!) and so that was not used either !

Private Flights, Private Air Charter, Mwanza International Airport, Tanzania, East Africa.

They got up at 04.45 this morning and were at the airport (see above) for the flight which took off as soon as the sun was up at 06.00. Liz said the light was fabulous as they flew across the bush. Ian and Tara drove to the gold mine, taking four hours for the journey, including a ferry across part of Lake Victoria. It is the first time that they have used this mine for billeting the team and so Ian wanted to meet with the head of the mine to see how things have gone.

The team grabbed their stuff from their room and then drove to the clinic, where they saw 82 patients. Liz was supervising Domatina, the lady who had travelled 200 miles to attend the course.

On Saturday night they accompanied John Simba (Kiswahili for 'lion') to meet some of the social outcasts who beg around the market area. This is another focus of Bridge2Aid. Apparently John goes there every day and, on Sundays, often organises a small service for them. A great guy and, what's more (see previous blogs) a Manchester United fan !

On the way to the mine today Liz saw what sounds like a spotted eagle owl in a tree - about one foot tall (the owl, not the tree!).

I was able to update her on the really important news, namely that Ann Widdecombe is still in Strictly !

  Tuesday 16 November 2010


Today was the last day of the course and they only saw patients (60 of them) up until midday. The rural Clinical Officers then sat a written examination, following which each was presented with their certificate (see photo from previous year). As usual they all then had tea and cakes (very colonial British!) and the Regional Dental Officer made a very moving speech, thanking the team for coming out and giving their time and expertise. Liz said it was real 'lump in throat' time. Some of the nurses from the clinic also spoke and each member of the team was asked to say a bit about themselves.

They then flew back to Mwanza and are back at the Vizano, wher Liz was 'enjoying' a shower when there was one of two power-cuts today. I had a laugh at the image of her trying to wash off soap-suds and then towel herself down in the dark. One of the other dentists had locked herself into her room and had to crawl around in the dark, looking for the key, before she could get out of her room.

Some of the team are going to Bukumbi tomorrow (the sheltered village for lepers and albinos run by B2A) but Liz intends to sleep in and then buy yet more batik. I can't think where we are going to hang the next one but she did take an order over the phone from the friends who were visiting me when she called !

  Wednesday 17 November 2010

Well, Liz often wonders whether anybody actually reads the blog and I am delighted to report that, yesterday evening, I received an email asking whether I was OK, because I had not yet published the daily instalment. The feedback this time has been very positive.

Today they went to Tunza Lodge (left), a hotel on the lake and Liz bought the batik for our friend (see yesterday's entry). The guy recognised her from two years ago which implies that:

  1.   a) he has a good memory; or

  2.   b) he has not sold anything since then !

It was a Moslem holiday today (Mwanza is predominently Moslem) and so there were lots of people bathing in the lake.

The good news is that all of Liz's group passed the written exam with an average of 80%. One of the trainees from the other group had failed, which was a shame but it shows that the whole thing is not just a rubber-stamp exercise. In total the two teams treated 770 patients in the 6 days they ran the clinics..

Liz had just got back from the Tilapia restaurant (see http://www.hoteltilapia.com/ ) and they were all off for a good sleep as they have to be up at an early hour to catch the flight back to the steamy capital, Dar, on the coast.

  Thursday 18 November 2010

They set off early from the hotel and got to the airport to find that another flight had been cancelled and so it was a bit of a bun-fight for seats. Fortunately Ian Wilson, the founder of B2A, is well-known around the area and managed to arrange for them to have seats with no hassle. They have now arrived in Dar, where Liz has been out shopping with two of the nurses. Quite where we are going to put yet more wooden bowls is beyond me but, hey, they are very well made and attractive.

They are staying at the Southern Sun Hotel (see right) which looks rather nice, although Liz said she would much rather that the room did not smell of cigarettes.

Three of the team are Irish and, over the last few days, have been receiving news about the dire state of the economy. It sounds like there have been a few joke texts winging their way to Tanzania, suggesting that the eceonomy out there may be stronger than in Ireland.

Strange to think that, this time tomorrow, they will be home.

  Friday 19  November 2010

Flight BA 0046 departed at 08.38 local time (05.38 GMT) bound for London, where it is scheduled to land at 15.37. I bet that Liz and the team can't wait to enjoy an evening of Children in Need ! I may wear my eye-patch to greet them at the airport.


Hi there, readers ! The flight landed early at 15.35 and we are now home after a full day of travel. Odd to think that I woke up this morning in Dar.

Many thanks for all of  your support and for looking after Colin, whilst I have been away.