Back to Africa

So we’re off again. To deepest darkest Africa (of course not, that’s not really a thing) to work on little kids’ hearts. Except this one is the same, same but different version. Tanzania, not Rwanda. Less of us, more of the local team. Via Doha, not Jo’burg.

And so it starts with the glamour. The airline food.


Stop. It's too much.

Stop. It’s too much.

I have this memory of an interview with Sir David Attenborough, the man whose voice must accompany all nature documentaries. (That is a serious statement. All future documentaries should come with an Attenborough special voiceover feature.)

I’m pretty sure it was with an Australian interviewer, and he asked the great speaker of breathy wonderments for a top travel tip. His number one? “Treat food as fuel.”

And so it is.

He then demonstrated the value of this motto. With a tale of a dish of honour prepared in a village utilising fish innards, grandmother’s spit and the encouragement of three days of high, hot sun.

Maybe airline food is easy.

So while I digest, what are the preparation steps this time around?


Step 1: Get the Aim Right

Rwanda is a trip to provide a whole service. Tanzania is a trip to support a new service. We return to support a team aiming to develop their own paediatric cardiac surgery service. However long that takes.


So less pace. More time making sure the local guys who don’t get to do this regularly run the show as much as possible. The aim, even more than the last trip, is maximum support and education where we can help.


Step 2: Get the Gear

The team travelling to Tanzania last time left some gear. We still need gear. So those of us setting out from Sydney are carrying stuff. It is quite important not to forget the stuff. It also means I have a limit on packing for myself. Particularly if you like to take at least two torches, a bit of medical kit and drum sticks. Because you never know when drumming will be necessary.

Probably a different type of peanut

Probably a different type of peanut


Step 3: Go to the Dentist

Seriously. I didn’t want to be stuck in Tanzania with a dental annoyance. So I went on this day of the flight. I am very pleased. I also included a haircut in essential preparation steps. It’s in the “beggars can’t be choosers” style book, but still.


Step 4: Learn About the Place

I have a whole lot of flight time and I don’t know that much about the destination apart from the nasty burrowing bugs in the still waters (no schistosomiasis thanks), how to name the thing mauling you in Swahili if it’s a lion and that the mainland bit used to go by Tanganyika before hitching up with Zanzibar.


I actually travelled there in 1998 so I remember a few things. Mostly the bit where the guy on the boat told my then girlfriend (now wife) he’d be an open door if my portal became less appealing. Not cool dhow guy.


Step 5: Fly like a Researcher

That’s right I’m supposed to be doing a PhD and stuff. Every time I see a researcher online talking about plane travel they mention the many hours of uninterrupted work that stretches across the ocean in front of them.


I will endeavour to copy them. Until I check the movies then all bets are off.


And so onward. It’s only 30 hours of travel before I get to fall asleep in the team meeting.


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