Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Appendecto-Me na Chapati

Last Friday I scrubbed in and assisted with an appendectomy. I stood on the patients left side. To my right was Dr. Rita - a clinician at the hospital who is training to do surgery and this was her fourth time to operate. Directly across from me was Fatima - the lovely scrub nurse who could probably do this operation in her sleep. To Fatima's left was Dr. Karim - the chief surgeon in charge of the procedure. I held retractors and blotted up blood and had to ask the circulating nurse to adjust my mask because it was falling off of my face. It was a great experience and the best view of a surgery I have ever had. That was great but I think last Saturday may have been better.

I told "mama Lucy", one of the nurses, that I wanted to learn to cook chapatis. So she said to come to her house at mid day on saturday and arranged from some guy named Mrombo that works at the hospital to take me because the route was kind of confusing (she lived much further away than I thought). So 12:00 rolls around and Mrombo is a no show. Not concerned, I pull out my patented Swahili phrase "namtafuta Mrombo" ( I am looking for Mrombo). And pretty soon I have someone helping me find him...except we don't. They tell me he has gone to the shamba (farm) and will not be back today and I start thinking that I might not learn to cook chapatis.

Phase 2 of my spontaneous plan is to ask for Mama lucy's phone number and try to contact her. 30 minutes later, I finally find an older nun who doesn't speak English that knows the number. I dial, and it doesn't go through. I try several times and finally get her and convince her that I can find it myself if she gives me directions. The next 2 hours are transit in which I went to Moshi town on a daladala and then got on a bus (I wasn't expecting this) to a place called Umbwe. Th bus started toward Arusha on the main road and then after a while turned right and started heading up the mountain on a dirt road through woods and farmland. I knew just enough swahili to get them to drop me off at Sambarai church (which I thought was samurai and was expecting to fight ninjas).

Once there I called mama L and she said she was on her way. After about 20 minutes she shows up and then leads me on a 20 minute hike through the biggest cornfield I have ever walked through. Actually it was half sunflower, half corn, planted together. And then we get to her house which is in the middle of the cornfield. It is nice with power and indoor plumbing but we cooked over coals outside to save electricity.

Chapati ingredients : flour, water, salt, sugar, oil ....mixed to a play-dough consistency then rolled out like pizza crust and cooked in a frying pan - they look like tortillas. I have had hundreds in the past 5 weeks and love them. As i rolled them out she told me to keep adding dry flour to prevent sticking like they add hydrocortizone cream to a wound dressing at the hospital to prevent sticking (i wasn't sure of this metaphor but afterward she kept calling the flour hydrocortizone and cracked me up. I will never be able to call flour anything else...this may cause my future wife confusion....). We cooked chapatis for a couple of hours and then I was invited in for supper and had rice and beef and chapati, it was very good.

As I was sitting at the dinner table I looked out the window and realized that Mama Lucy's backyard was as close to the mountain as I have yet been. Mama Lucy's backyard view is breathtaking. AS i was finishing my meal her husband came home (I think his name is Wilfred). He is a doctor at a hospital near the Kenya border and is gone during the week. I talked with them for a while and had a great time. Finally, at dusk, the dr. said "We had better escort youback to the bus before it gets too dark and someone sees you and thinks that you have a lot of money." and I said, "yeah, they would be disappointed". So they walked me back to the Sambarai church and put me on a bus (they offered to pay the fare but I refused to let them).

I like venturing out on my own and this was a good warmup for the next day...as well as my solosafari across Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Kenya that I set out on this Friday...


  1. Trent, can't wait to try some chapati once you get back. Really pumped for your solo safari also...I know it's not New Year's Eve, but Zanzibar has got to be amazing. Pick me up a tiny magnet for the refrigerator if you can, I'm so jealous!!! God speed.

  2. Done and Done. weel not yet, but "bado"

  3. I meant to say well, not yet.