Thursday, August 5, 2010

The People of Envirovet 2010

August 5, 2010
Where does the time go? I am sitting in my hotel room (which I have to myself!!) in Morogoro, knowing that tomorrow we will leave the mainland for Zanzibar. While I am excited to see this beautiful island, I know it means my journey will soon be coming to an end. Tonight we celebrated our milestone with a dinner out at a nice restaurant that served pizza! It was such a treat! While it tasted a little different from the pizza I am used to in the U.S., it was still delicious and a welcome change of pace from the rice and greens that are served everyday both at lunch and dinner.

My favorite African food has been andazi, a donut-like treat that is served at breakfast and during tea. It is great with a little mixed fruit jam and chai. After our pizza dinner a group of us jumped out of our seats and began dancing to the African beats. Before long we had quite the dance party, and I was happy to be burning off the calories I had just consumed. While I was dancing I had the realization that I love these people I have been traveling with for the past 7 weeks! We get along so well and have so much in common, yet we each bring something unique to the group. I laugh with them like we are family and make jokes that only we understand. We have nicknames and handshakes, and we tease each other like siblings. I will miss them terribly when we part ways in 5 days, but I know our paths will cross again. Thinking back to our first introductions in White Oak seems like such a distant memory, and it is hard to imagine these people as strangers. I hope I will always remember their mannerisms that brought me so much joy.

Like Sukuman, one of my “daughters.” This sub-5 foot Thai veterinarian that is so smart yet humble and has a smile that lights up a whole room. She is the cutest dancer and seeing her instantly makes me happy. Favorite expressions: “I’m a party girl in a party world” “Uh oh” and “Yesss”

Sukuman teaching "peace" to the Tanzanian children
Jocelyn, the American vet student that is made for international work. She and I get along so well, and I feel like we can read each other’s minds at times. She has the sweetest demeanor and, like me, has made friends with all of the Envirovet students from developing countries. We joke that we are really Nigerian, Indonesian, or Canadian.

Jocelyn enjoying the best juice ever
Tricia, the vet student from PEI, Canada who is strong-willed and firm on her beliefs of conservation and population control. She definitely has a career in policy waiting for her as she easily expresses her own opinion and isn’t concerned with others’ opinions of her. She was my running buddy and we tried to keep each other healthy, both physically and mentally while on this adventure.

Tricia at the Sanje Falls, Udzungwa National Park
Amelie, the French Canadian vet student from Montreal who was my dedicated roomie for the first 4 weeks of Envirovet. We spent many a night staying up way too late comparing countries, vet schools, boyfriends, and languages. She is never in a bad mood and always laughing. She has a great sense of humor and a gentle spirit.

Amelie in the home of a Maasai mother
Lia and Nia, the two Indonesian veterinarians who are inseparable because throughout Envirovet they have been…inseparable! Lia is another one of my “daughters” and is extremely bright and dedicated to conservation. She works as a wildlife vet for WCS in Indonesia, and I know her life will make a difference. She is humble and sweet, yet says the most unexpected things. Nia is another one of the “chosen” ones (aka, my husband’s other wife). She is feminine and soft-spoken, brilliant and determined. She works for rhino conservation in Indonesia and is an amazing field veterinarian. I trust the rhino’s future in Nia’s capable hands.

Lia and Nia on the flight from Dar es Salaam to Dubai
Asabe, my Nigerian sister and truly one of my favorite people. She is a faculty member at a University in northern Nigeria with a DVM and Ph.D. studying rabies. She has the best giggle and is so easy to talk to. She is a wonderful listener and offers great advice. She has been honest, humble, and constant. She is optimistic and extremely bright. I will visit her in Nigeria someday soon.

Asabe with a Tanzanian girl in the Ruaha Primary School
Today our training involved a laboratory on avian influenza that included chicken handling, venipuncture, cloacal/oropharyngeal swabs, and necropsy. This was followed by a lab on ecotoxicology and a former Envirovet alum led us in the necropsy and sample collection from catfish. He is studying catfish as a biomarker for environmental pollution (i.e., heavy metals, agricultural pesticides, and synthetic hormones). I was so inspired by him as a researcher because he truly is self-made. He found an empty room at SUA that was being used for storage, and he convinced the Dean to let him move in. By doing valuable research, he captured the attention of granting agencies and he has received a little money to make important upgrades to his lab which have allowed him to continue his research which was extremely fascinating and very valuable to the world of ecotoxicology and environmental pollution. I left his lesson feeling extremely empowered, thinking that it didn’t take much to make important contributions to the field. Also, hard work and innovative thinking will get noticed, regardless of how “squeaky the wheel.”

Performing a necropsy on a catfish

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