Perhaps the most striking thing about working at FAME was the rhythm of the day. I woke up with the sun to the serenade of birds and other morning sounds. After a leisurely breakfast with my volunteer bungalow roommates, we walked around the hospital construction, through the red clay, to the clinic, arriving as the staff pulled in. Working side by side with Tanzanian providers, nurses, lab technicians and interpreters, I helped to take care of a range of patients with a multitude of problems in an efficient, cost-effective manner relying a great deal on clinical skills. It really did feel like the way medicine is meant to be practiced, unfettered by appointment schedules to follow, e-mails to return, insurance issues to deal with, prescriptions to refill. By the end of each clinic day, there was an unmistakable feeling of collective accomplishment, perhaps most profound during the busy days in the bush. Nights were short. After enjoying a prepared dinner, I crawled into bed, reading by flashlight so as not to use electricity, before falling asleep to the nighttime sounds of Africa.
It is hard to come up with a single word to describe the experience. It covered a range of emotions from inspiring, beautiful, and amazing to sad, upsetting, and desperate. I feel this reflects Tanzania, and the contrasts its tribal and western cultures hold. Returning to California has been jarring. We are so spoiled with lives made busy by self-imposed schedules and possessions. We have lost the rhythm of the day, rising and retiring with the sun. It is my hope that I will be able to hold onto a piece of this experience each day, to simplify, and to focus on what is truly important.