From Finland to Tanzania

A nursing adventure

Category Archives: Departure and arrival

The long goodbye

After more than 4 months in Tanzania, it really is time to go home. The last month has been full of mixed experiences.

I had a bit of a problem with my operating theatre practice. There weren’t operations everyday and there were similar operations most days.  The main problem was the scrubbing and circulating nursing, largely due to the language barrier. During the anaesthesia nursing, I had many good opportunities assisting and working with the anaesthetist. So it was disappointing that I didn’t get to learn as much as I was hoping for the scrubbing and circulating part.  The theatres are VERY basic compared to ones in Finland.  The only electrical equipment was a diathermy machine and suction.  The drugs and gases are the same to anaesthetize the patient and the care is the same.  It seems that most surgeries are caesareans, gynaecological operations and smaller procedures such as tonsillectomies.  Seeing as this was a small hospital with only a handful of surgeons, I think that more complicated surgeries were done in the national hospital in the city centre.

My last day at the hospital was a really tough day.  I was in the delivery room helping out and the doctor realized there was something wrong with the baby.  We all listened to the heartbeat (with the old-fashioned listening device, there is no electrical monitoring equipment) and the heartbeat was weakening.  When the baby was delivered, it had the cord around its neck, was blue and wasn’t breathing.  The midwives took the baby to be resuscitated and everyone left the room.  I stayed in the delivery room with the mother.  She was bleeding heavily and she was obviously very worried about the baby. She was asking me where is baby and if he is ok. It was difficult for me to know what to say.  I tried to reassure her that the midwives were doing everything they could.  When I went to the resuscitation room, the baby was dead.  It was quite confusing because it seemed like it took a long time for the doctor to tell her that her baby had died.  I hope I made things a bit easier for her, even though I was just holding her hand and trying to calm her.  The matron weighed and wrapped up the baby in a kanga (traditional cloth) and we both cried a little.

To add to my sadness, it came time to say goodbye to many good friends I had made over the last few months.  I have met people from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, America, UK, and of course Tanzania!

On a happy note, I spent christmas day on my favourite beach with my friends. Mahaba beach is a short piki piki ride from Bahari beach.  We spent the day sunbathing, drinking and having fun 🙂

Some of us had more ‘fun’ than others, pole sana Aleksi!

All in all, it was a fun, happy day with my Bahari Beach family 🙂






Cultural differences

No exchange blog would be complete without saying something about the cultural differences between Finland and Tanzania.

I’ve been here long enough now to get over the culture shock and go with the flow.  If you come to Tanzania, you will realize a few things:

1. Everything is ‘pole pole’ (slowly slowly) – Time management goes out of the window somehow.  If you arrange a meeting at 9am, it won’t actually be 9am.  You might get there before lunch, though.  So, I have spent a looot of time waiting for things to happen.  Then everything else is late for the rest of the day. Even small things like going to the atm or taking a bus to  work seems to take five times longer than at home.

In the beginning, it bothered me so much as in Finland, we are very punctual and it is a big no-no to be late for work or to anywhere, actually.  Now, I quite enjoy knowing that wherever I go, i will get there…..eventually 🙂 You never know where you’ll end up or when!

Also, when someone says ”I’m coming’, they’re not actually coming.  They mean that they might just be leaving their house and they might stop by somewhere then come.  It means between 20 minutes and 1 hour 🙂  On rare occasions, I get into trouble when someone actually turns up on time as I just assume I still have maybe half an hour!

2. Everything is ‘pole pole’, except for traffic (in Dar)

Maybe I have mentioned this before, but the traffic is crazy, dangerous and and fast.  There are traffic jams all the time and people drive as fast as they can and will do just about anything to get a bit ahead in the queue.

Also, sadly, drink driving is quite normal here and I have seen accidents on the roads and patients in the hospitals so many times. The police are not good at enforcing the rules (I don’t even know what the rules are)

3. People are so inviting, friendly and warm…….

In the beginning, this confused me a lot!  Living in Finland, people can be distant and not so inviting to strangers.  Here in Tanzania, everyone will say hello, shake your hands (for a very long time), share their food with you and offer drinks.

4. ……But be prepared to be called ‘mzungu'(white person/foreigner). All the time.

No matter where you are, at work, in a bar, at the beach or just walking down the street, people of all ages will shout ‘mzungu’ at you.  In the beginning, it was a bit unnerving and annoying and it didn’t feel so good.  But it is  almost always people being friendly and just distinguishing you from all the Tanzanians around 🙂

5. There is so much inequality

Everywhere you look there is inequality in wealth and in terms of health.  Tanzania has a lot of positive things about it, tourism etc but it feels like the money doesn’t get to normal people. There can be a large expensive hotel with beautiful beaches and expensive food and next door to it is a village where people literally have nothing.  Being in Bahari Beach which is located outside the city centre and not in any real tourist areas really gives you the chance to see how people live.  I think that tourists are sheltered from how life is really like here when they spend their time in nice hotels, being on safari or in Zanzibar and don’t meet many Tanzanian people.








Karibu! Welcome

I left Finland early morning and arrived safely in Dar es Salaam.

I arrived at about 3am to the airport and getting the visa was easy, as long as you don’t expect an orderly queue like in Finland 🙂

I waited at the airport for a while probably looking bemused and tired.  Then my AIT ride came and we drove about 45 minutes from the airport to Bahari Beach – my accomodation.   The roads are quite bumpy and in a bad state and the road users seem to make up their own rules, but we got there 🙂


I finally arrived. The accomodation is basic but nice

There is a small bar where you can buy beer and water


There are also small classrooms where children come to learn English

The first morning I had an orientation around Bahari beach, the local market and wood carver’s market.  We also went to the mall and travelled by minibus and tuc tuc.  The traffic is almost always busy and there are always traffic jams.  The best ways to travel are by tuc tuc and minibus, but the fastest way is by motorbike taxi, if you have the nerves!