Below and Beyond Expectation

Below and beyond expectation

I’m coming to the end of a rather interesting weekend away. A time of refreshment and relaxation. There was a moment where I didn’t think it was going to be relaxing though.

Friday was the final day of theory, teaching the midwives about essential newborn care, resuscitation and responding to maternal obstetric emergencies. A day jammed packed to the full. To be honest, by the end of the day I felt a bit ambivalent because I was starting to see that the ‘we know this stuff’ was actually, ‘we have heard it before but we don’t put it into practise’. It was the end of a full week for the midwives and I was feeling hot and tired too, but I really felt sad because I had a sense that a few of them really didn’t care about the quality of the care they gave. They were in the minority, but I felt it that day. There were definitely some midwives who were motivated and keen and really wanted to make a difference for women in their care, but there were also others who were not. It’s the same all over the world though and so I had to remind myself that if one midwife changes one thing about the way she practices as a midwife and that improves the outcome for one woman, then I have done my job.

This feeling was compounded when at the end of the day our amazing GHAWA in country team leader, took Mary and I to a very nice club for a cocktail to celebrate the end of the week. So far we had only seen dusty, dirty, busy, crazy Dar and the inside of our hotel room or the classroom. She took us to the beautiful Cape Town Fish Market, a rather ritzy place set alongside the ocean with magnificent views over the bay, yacht club and towards masasani peninsula where we had a clear view of the new GHAWA apartments (we should be in them by tomorrow). With jazzy sounds in the background we sipped cocktails and reflected on the week that was. She had shared with us the traumatic premature birth of her baby daughter, at 29 weeks gestation, and how staff had treated her badly. She told of hearing a midwife not showing kindness to a woman whose baby had died, but no one bothered to tell her or explain what had happened. She said that many times she has witnessed unkind care from midwives and nurses and it made her angry. There still seemed such a long way to go in terms of educating midwives about the important role they had to play in providing quality kind care to women in the most vulnerable time of their lives.

As the cocktail took effect I felt myself begin to relax. Looking out over the water my shoulders softened and my mind shifted from all the obstacles, to all the possibilities again. Stick to your plan Sara, keep promoting kind care until the cows come home. We can all do with some reminders about the need to care for women better…

Soon a man looking like the duty manager came our way. He said, “welcome to Tanzania Global Health Alliance. You are very welcome here. Same name different faces. You are doing lots of good here in my country and to thank you for this, the next round of drinks is on me!” So we had another drink and some delicious fresh calamari before heading back to our hotel with lighter heads and hearts.

Saturday morning we actually had a sleepin. What a pleasure to not race off anywhere. After a leisurely breakfast we excitedly headed off to the Jangwani Beach Resort for some R&R where we were expecting a rather nice beach , comfy beach loungers and great hotel service. After a hairy 40 min drive we arrived. Our faces dropped – it looked so old and rundown and the rooms were not facing the beach as expected, but rather on one side of a busy road. As we were led to our room I was starting to feel very disappointed. The glistening pool in the brochure was green. The place looked tired and empty. Thumping music played in the background. We were led up some steps where we had a view of a guy doing the laundry and an area of land that looked a bit like a rubbish tip. The woman opened the door to the rooms and let us in. Our faces dropped. The room was tiny, dark and had nothing in it. One old terry towelling freeing gown, one pair of beach thongs. No kettle, no water or cups, no nothing. we tried to settle in by sorting out the safe, but it was soon apparent that it did not work. All our valuables were locked in the safe but we couldn’t get them out! I found the manager. I also asked if there were any better rooms. There were, but they only had a large double bed in them. Mary & I decided it was worth sharing a big bed for the sake of our sanity!!

After unpacking and again having trouble with the safe, we were taken on a tour of the resort. Across the road was the Xanadu Club, a water park that had obviously had it’s hey day in the 70s. It all looked awful. We then wandered to the beach front. Tired old beach loungers were scattered around the area with the sound of music thumping in the background. It was a windy day, so as we moved closer to the ocean, the music faded away into the distance. There were a few groups of young local people playing beach volleyball and swimming. We decided to have a drink and try to relax. It was hot and very bright. The soda drinks were very welcoming and even came with ice. Starting to relax.

We then ordered lunch and had a lovely grilled fish with mashed potato. It was delicious. Time for a walk along the beach … The sand was covered with litter. Plastic, bottles, shoes, syringes, empty packets of tablets, balls, a soft teddy bear, condom packets, bags. It really was horrible. The rubbish was so thick that we had to wear shoes for safety. We walked for about 2 km. it was great to feel the wind in our hair and breathe in the fresh sea air. On returning to the hotel we even dared have a swim in the green pool!

Later that evening, while Mary had a Skype call, I went for a wander to the Xanadu club again to see the sunset. Well, the place was heaving. It was obviously the place to be seen. The music was incredibly loud and very sexy. There were wet bodies everywhere gyrating to the music – just like from a scene from the music videos on “rave” on Saturday mornings in Perth. There was a wet dancing platform where people were dancing under sprays of overhead water. Alcohol was flowing fast. I started to feel a bit uncomfortable, so took a few shots of the sunset and then hightailed it back to the room!

We had a rather hot and spicy curry for dinner and then crashed for the night.

This morning we woke up deciding to be adventurous and get a boat out to mbudya island, about 20 minutes away. Things started looking up when we were given complimentary towels and were led to the right boat. Up until now the customer service had been terrible. We had asked for a bottle of water which never came. We asked for a cup of tea, but ended up making it ourselves.

Anyway, off to the Island we went. It was magnificent. When we arrived there were a handful of people. We decided to go for a walk along the beach, this time there was very little rubbish. The tide was out and so there were small pools in the coral reef that were full of interesting creatures, tiny spindly star fish, bright red thick starfish, sea cucumbers. It was delightful exploring the coast.

A swim followed by lounging around under the Banda for shade. After a long wait some lunch appeared, freshly caught fish cooked on an open fire, with salt, lime and hand cut chips. Absolutely delicious . Another unexpected surprise for the day.

At 2pm, just as requested, our boat skipper came to pick us up. It was a wet ride back to the mainland but we felt exhilarated and refreshed after such a relaxing time on the island. Plenty of fresh air and sea water…

And so now were back in the Holiday Inn in the city. Washed, relaxed and ready for sleep. Tomorrow is a big day. I wonder if it will be below or beyond my expectations..


One thought on “Below and Beyond Expectation

  1. I feel sad to the point of tears about what you wrote in the first few paragraphs. I remember that when I gave birth to Nicola, one of the biggest surprises and joys (aside from the beautiful baby) was the way the midwives treated me. I felt like I experienced a level of support and love that could only come from God. The women cared for me like I was their sister, or their dearest friend. I felt bonded to them through the birth and care of my newborn. I wish this was the experience of women world wide.

    You will be encouraging those women who really want to do a good job, but feel the pressure to be like those who don’t care. Be strong- the Lord your God is with you where ever you go. x

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