This post is part of a series documenting a trip undertaken by a team of volunteers with World Vets who traveled to Arusha, Tanzania in June 2012 to provide veterinary care for the under (or should be say un-) served donkey population. For the full series of posts covering World Vets, please click here.
By now, we had reached the halfway point in our punda project and the team was functioning as a well oiled machine. Which was a good thing, because we were about to be thrown what was thankfully a minor wrench.
Every morning, I would rise around 6:30 and head out to the common area to get online and check email and Facebook and the like. It was the only time we were almost assured of getting online; once 7:30 or so hit and the rest of the town got up, the access declined significantly. As such, this was my quiet time to go and say hi to the kids and make sure Brody hadn’t eaten a bee, that sort of thing. Teri was the other internet junkie on the trip, so we ran into each other a lot in those quiet morning hours.
On this third morning, she told me that she was a bit concerned because she had to go to the dentist. I don’t know why these sorts of things always seem to hit when you’re in a third world country, but there you have it. It couldn’t wait. But I assured her that she should go, that the team could figure it out, no worries, we were good to go.
“Great,” she said. “And we need a leader in my absence in case there are any questions.” She looked around, and as choices were slim right around then, her eyes came back to me and she said, “You’re the leader today.” Not who I would have chosen, personally, but I decided to respect her wishes and go with this dubious leader pro tem. Our friends from Donkey Sanctuary had headed back to Nairobi, so for today, it was Livingstone, the World Vets, and one nervous blond with a big camera at the helm.
With Teri nervously waving goodbye from the back of a cab, the team loaded up and departed for Kikatiti, a village on the outskirts of Arusha where we would be doing our day’s work. We were new to Kikatiti, and Livingstone had arranged our work at the Tuesday market with the help of the village leader, Albert Noah.
When we arrived, things were still very quiet. We pulled off into a vast open space off the main road, bordered by vibrant fields of sunflowers and soccer goalposts.
Strangely, the edges of the dusty market square were lined with run down brick buildings that were meant at one point to be stores. But they were vacant, lidless orange barnacles clutching the road. Everyone just set up on the ground in the middle of the market area instead.
This market was much more spread out than the one we had attended on the first day. Given this fact and the fact that most of the people there did not know we were coming, it was decided we would be a mobile clinic, stuffing pockets with supplies and wandering around on foot taking care of the donkeys. So we popped the back of the truck at base camp, and started to get organized.
There was a bit more variety of animals here in Kikatiti. Rachel spotted this pup early on, found the owner, and got them to agree to a flea treatment.
It didn’t take long to find some donkeys to treat, so the team jumped on in.
Kikatiti was easily the most picturesque of the places we visited, a visual feast of verdant shrubbery, vibrant sunflowers, and ochre brick.
Soon we were joined by Albert Noah himself, the village elder who had invited us to Kikatiti. He stayed with us for the day, walking through the village with us, introducing the team to the people at the market, and telling us some of the history of the village.
We saw some of the more interesting chapeaus here.
With Albert’s guidance and our pockets full of medicine, needles, and sprays, we set out from the outskirts into the interior of the market, which was beginning to pick up.
Kyle, by now used to being loaded down, was our roving pharmacy stand/ supply cart.
Short one set of hands, Albert was more than happy to step in and help hold donkeys. A true man of his people.
About an hour into the clinic, Teri called to make sure we were doing ok. “We’re great!” I said. “How are you?”
“Still waiting to see the dentist,” she said. “Do you need me to come down after?”
“So far so good,” I said. “No disasters yet.”
While we were walking the market, Albert told us about Kikatiti, a village of 9,000. He explained that we had come on a Tuesday, a relatively quiet day for the market. The weekend, when children were out of school, was much busier and there would be many more donkeys to treat.
“Next time,” he said, “Come on a Saturday.” And I was thrilled he wanted a next time, because you never know.
We saw some deep branding on the donkeys here; for those that had angry looking marks we treated them and sent home Vetericyn.
As always, Kyle managed to make the kids giggle, this time by asking them if they wanted to be spray painted.
The donkeys here were very heavily loaded, but we actually saw less of the types of skin lesions than we did at Nando Soito. Perhaps they didn’t need to walk as far. This was also the only place I saw people putting blankets on the donkeys to pad their skin from the abrasion of the rope.
It was a colorful place.
Some people had mentioned that the donkeys I have posted overall seemed to be in good body condition. This was true in Kikatiti as well, though we did see several who appeared ill. Clearly this little guy is malnourished:
We did what we could; in the field we were limited in terms of diagnostics and treatments we had to offer. We all wished we could do more. Fortunately these cases were rare.
I also saw more inquisitive goats here in Kikatiti than I did in any other market.
Fortunately for me the team was so efficient it didn’t require a leader to keep things on track, because I kept forgetting that this person was supposed to be me. They had it under control. I was, you know, supervising. In Teri’s absence, Janet, who had assimilated her habit of writing important Swahili vocabulary words on her forearm, could coherently tell people we were offering dewormings, vaccines, and medicine in Swahili. Dr. Mushi had taught everyone well.
By the time we had completed our circuit around the market, I was regretting not bringing some of the water bottles with us, and decided to head back to the car through the center of the market since keeping the team from collapsing of dehydration seemed like something a good leader might want to do. Getting to see the market up close was a treat. I really loved the colorful textiles the women all wore.
As I had learned, getting children to pose was rarely a problem. In fact, it was hard to get them to stop posing half the time. I ran out of memory on my cards every day I was there.
Towards the end of the day, Albert asked if we could stop by his office and sign his visitor register. Signing visitor registers is a huge deal in Tanzania. From schools to city offices to stores, everyone wants you to sign their register. This is just what you do.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Let me ask.”
Rudy elbowed me. “Who do you have to ask? You’re the leader, remember?” which I didn’t, of course.
“Oh, right,” I said. “In that case, yes, that would be great.”
And that is how Rachel and Kyle, who are both vegan, ended up in a roadside restaurant with a bowl of ribs and meat piled up in front of them, a ritual to which their fearless leader had unwittingly signed them up for. Which I will get to tomorrow.