I choose to do my elective in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with one week’s Village Experience.
Prior to doing my village experience I had previously explored Zanzibar, however this was very limited to the touristy side of things so all I knew very well of Zanzibar were the beautiful beaches, local shops and crafts. Little did I know that I was yet to uncover the ‘real Zanzibar’!
My village experienced complemented my elective very well. Although in a completely new country and cultural environment, most of my time in Dar was spent socialising with other fellow English people that lived in the house . It was almost like a microcosm of the UK - our spoken language, English snacks and shared culture.
When in the village I was completely surrounded by a very different culture. Most of my interaction was with local people, which meant I had to put myself outside of my comfort zone and not rely on communicating in English. I think I utilised every single Swahili word I had learnt (referring back to my notes from Swahili lessons to jog my memory)!
Eating local food was a great experience. Although Rehema cooks a selection of Tanzanian and western food, much of the local food I had not had the opportunity of trying before. While eating out in Dar I had chosen mainly western places too, which had not given me the opportunity to try lots of new exciting and delicious foods, exciting flavours of tea and local snacks for when I got a bit peckish in between meals.
Living with a local family, the Juma’s, has given me so much insight into the culture and tradition of the average local family in Zanzibar. Going back to basics has taught me that I probably rely far too much on my gadgets back in the UK and that it is possible to have a good time by playing simple games, engaging in conversation and getting to know one another.
The living facilities were quite basic. We sat on the floor during meal times and ate with our hands. We also had very "unique" toilets and showers to say the least. But hey I survived! I was really taken back most of all by the host family’s hospitality. They always went out of their way to prepare delicious meals for us and would often say that we are free to do as we wish in their house ‘’Be free…like oyster bay’’ is what Mr Juma would often say to us!
By the end of the trip because I had spent so much time with my host family I had made a deep connection and real bond with them. I found it quite emotional to leave as I felt as if I had become an extra member of the family.
Working at a smaller rural hospital allowed me to have access into community hospital care. I encountered a range of conditions and very different patients to what I had previously seen in Dar es Salaam. Working in a smaller environment allowed me to have a go at trying to diagnose patients and helping doctors to make decisions as to whether patients should be discharged or admitted. I really felt part of the team, more so then when I had been working in larger hospitals in Dar es Salaam.
Despite being in such a rural environment, there was never a dull moment. The location was perfect and provided us with lots of excursions to do after work. From going to the aquarium, to spice farms and sailing. I took great pride in going fishing and catching nine fish of which I took back to give to my host family which we then ate for dinner the following night. Overall I had a great time and would recommend doing the village experience to everyone.
Written by Naomi Oliver, medical student at the University of Edinburgh