2015 – The Penultimate Lap

January 2015
Abasi started his next set of rotations, this time in Paediatrics. This is the area he hopes to specialise in later, so hopefully this will be a good experience.
The medical book that I acquired for Abasi finally arrived. I think that took about 4-6 weeks which isn’t too bad, all things considered. Abasi said the book is very good so it was worth the wait.
The year has certainly started off as a year of renewal. Abasi needed a new laptop and new tyres for his car. But the car is becoming an essential item. He hosted half a dozen visiting overseas medical students and was able to show off some of Tanzania to them. He was particularly proud to show them one or two parts of Tanzania that were not on the tourist trail
It’s nice to be able to do that…

February 2015
Not such a good month for Abasi I’m sorry to say. He had unfortunate things happen. Firstly he had a tough assessment with a very unfriendly external examiner and is expecting a poor grade. He also had his car damaged at traffic lights, so had to spend out on repairs which he can ill afford. Finally his father was made redundant. In Tanzania there is no such thing as social security, so the family have to rally round and help. Unfortunately Abasi is the only one with any income, so this is not good news.
On top of that it’s time for more university exams. But holidays are coming soon so that will be a break, though Abasi will have to work to get more money for his family.
It’s certainly tough being African…

March 2015
I’ve not been in contact with Abasi much this month, partly due to us both being busy and partly because I’ve been a bit slack. However just before Easter I got an email from him to tell me he had given a parcel to one of this years contingent of Tanzanian student visitors to my daughters ex-school. It was presents for my family and I.

There were items in the parcel that reminded us of the time we first met Abasi, so it was a little emotional. Tanzanian tea and cashew nuts were particularly pleasant, and Carole loved the Kikoi although we spent a bit of time on the net trying to find out how it is worn. We’re still not sure…

However the highlight for me was the African shirt. Naturally bright in colour and pattern, it doesn’t go well with my work suit! However we have dress down days at work so I’m waiting for the opportunity. It makes me look like a colonial settler from the days of the empire.

No, I’m not old enough to remember them…

April 2015
Unfortunately this month’s communication has all been about the effect of Abasis’ fathers redundancy and Abasi overcommitting his income. Abasi has been paying for his sister and brothers to go to better schools. The state schools are apparently not very good and Abasi doesn’t want his siblings to have the same issues at school that he had. This is all very commendable of course.

However there is no social security in Tanzania, so Abasis’ parents have no money for food. The jobs that Abasi has been doing in Dar have also pretty much dried up. So now Abasi is trying to support his whole family on not much more that the allowance I send him. So his budget is severely trimmed and he is apparently not eating properly. All this with barely a year to go to graduation.

Options are limited. He could sell his car, but that may not bring in much. He could quit university, but that would be a terrible waste of time and money. He could pull his siblings out of the better schools, but I suspect that will be a non-starter. I could offer him a loan, but would he ever be able to pay it back? Or I could increase the allowance I send him. But this means I am supporting his whole family which is something I said in the beginning I wouldn’t do.

This situation is one I had hoped would not occur…

May 2015
Well I think Abasi is rubbing along financially, though it is difficult to fully grasp his financial situation. I’m helping where I can. Not a lot more communication this month as Abasi has exams and yet more rotations. He did do a presentation recently and that was well received. They don’t actually get a summer break until late August. My daughter is doing engineering at Uni and has finished for the summer already!

Medicine is a tough degree to chase…

June 2015
Things seem to be going well for Abasi and his family this month. His parents are getting some good crops harvested and his brothers and sister are doing well at school. For Abasi it is yet more rotations, but he seems to be enjoying this current batch. I think he is enjoying getting some real-world experience and is putting some of his skills to use. He is also being given real responsibility in handling things like minor procedures and patient stabilization on his own.

He has been able to watch a number of surgical procedures in the theatre and has been on numerous ward rounds, where he has been asked to contribute his opinion which pleased him immensely. All-in-all it is going very well and the goal is looking very achievable.

I think Abasi is beginning to see himself as a proper doctor…

July 2015
Not a great deal of communication this month, as Abasi is still heavily involved in rotations. He’s now on gynaecology which is apparently very interesting though very time consuming. He’s also doing something called Biometric Voters Registration whatever that is. Still he seems very happy with all the stuff he’s learning.

I expect he’s also very happy that the end is in sight…

August 2015

There is no let-up in the testing that Abasi has to go through. He had to do a presentation of one of the patients in Maternal ICU and scored 85% which is brilliant. Then there was a practical clinical exam, with a theory exam to follow later.

We’ll soon be getting into the conference season with the upcoming TAMSA 8 International scientific conference at the end of September and the IFMSA-African Regional Meeting in Rwanda just before Christmas which Abasi is hoping to attend.

Still it was Abasi’s birthday this month. He celebrated by revising for his next exam…

September 2015

A tough month for Abasi. The exams have been very stressful and Abasi slept for 24 hours after one session, but was still exhausted. He sounded extremely tired and slightly depressed at the beginning of the month. His last exam was Orthopaedics in the middle of the month, and he was a bit happier after that was over.
He was able to get his sister into a good school which cheered him up. We then had the annual budget discussions and looked at the possibility of him attending the IFMSA conference in Rwanda in December, which is probably a good idea. Then the exam result came out, all B’s and Abasi was second in the class. A phenomenal achievement against many students who had a much better start in life.

The rotations for next semester were announced and they include a months rotation to a place without mains electricity or tarmac roads. I wonder if they have the internet…

October 2015

Abasi had a break at last and went home to his family in southern Tanzania. This time he didn’t volunteer in his local hospital, sensibly deciding he needed a rest. However both his grandparents were taken ill and had to go to hospital some distance away. Of course Abasi help treating them and other patients while he was there! Then a neighbour died so they had to go to the funeral also some distance away, so not a complete rest.

His sister is doing well at the new school and he was able to get his younger brother a bike, so he seems happy. However he did say that it was cold in southern Tanzania as it’s dropping to 14-17 degrees at night.

Abasi, that’s t-shirt and shorts weather in the UK…!

November 2015

More rotations for Abasi. This time he’s been at the only Psychiatric Hospital in Tanzania and because of this it has students from all over the country. Lectures are from 06:30 to 17:00, so the studying continues to be tough, though Abasi says that it is also interesting. I don’t think that leaves a lot of time for anything else but sleeping.

We had one slight glitch with money, as the bank Abasi uses doesn’t have a branch where he is at the moment. So there was a need for money to pay hostel fees and so on. However Western Union is common in Tanzania and this came to the rescue.

Another crisis thwarted….

December 2015

Abasi was off to his medical students conference and generally travelling about, so not much in the way of communication this month. However he did send me a link to more than 800 photos he had taken on his travels by plane, boat, coach and car. As he is smiling in all of them I assume he enjoyed his break!

I’m not sure what he is doing in the new year, but it will probably be difficult as we are in the last push to becoming a doctor.

It’s hard to believe there are only a few months left…