Thursday, February 23, 2012

Change of plans..just got back..

My plans changed! I just got back from my travels. I decided to stay longer in India because my grandma is sick and I don't know when I will have this much vacation once I obtain a job. I plan on attending the RPCV Conference next week..until then much love! I have truly enjoyed my experiences and would recommend Peace Corps to anyone..if you have any questions please contact me. Kwa heri!

Now to look for jobs! :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Short term plans...

I have been so busy with many interesting things happening! In about two months I will be leaving this's weird to know that this is the same feeling I felt last year at this time. I will be back dating my blog to tell you about my interesting life here on ZBar..I have learned alot and the culture here is different than on the mainland but for now I just want to let y'all know my short term plans.

I leave Tanzania December 8th of this year. I am going to Ethiopia for 2 weeks. My plans are to visit the Simiens (via Gondar), Lailebela, and Addis. After that I am going to India for a month to see my relatives so I will stick mainly in the South and of course Mumbai. :) I am excited as I will be there during Pongal which is a Tamil holiday similar to Thanksgiving in the States where they celebrate the harvest. Apparently buying a ticket on Ethiopian gives me a free stopover in Addis for as long as I wanted so I get to go to Ethiopia (I have always wanted to go) for no additional cost in the flight. :) I will be back in the States on January 22nd for good (at least for now).

Kwa heri..I wish you all love! :)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Busy like a bee..

It's been a month and it has gone by fast! I now live in Zanzibar and I am a 30 minute walk from the beach near Mbweni Ruins. Living in Zanzibar has been an adjustment as I realize how expensive it is here compared to Mbeya! But at the same time it has much better mangos and other fruit. You have to try the mangos and pineapples here if you ever end up coming! The second thing to adjust to is the amount of tourists that come in. It is night and day between where I live and when I go into the Stonetown tourist area- but it's only a 20 min dala ride away. I feel like I escaped into an alternate reality when going into the tourist area sometimes when I go into it with so many people calling out for me to join their tours or to buy souveniers..luckily most of the time I can get away with being a local especially when I put on a salwar kamis. The other things that are different are that I wear my Indian clothes (finally getting a use out of everything that was sitting in my closet back home), I go to work Mon-Fri 8-3:30 pm, I hear the call of prayer instead of songs about Yesu, I eat lunch when I get home at 3:30 instead of during the day, and I live far from work (15 mins by car)- work is in Stonetown close to the Ministry of Health. I am learning alot about development work in the other countries, international relations, and logistics when it comes to drugs.

My first week here I had one day to literally get myself together before starting work the next day- they literally picked me up from the port, introduced me to some people , bought me some food for lunch (which lasted into dinner), drove me to my house, and just left me there. I was a little nervous about my house since I had nothing to cook on, didn’t know how often the water came on, and I had no idea how the electricity payment system worked (it’s a voucher system). To get over my nervousness I visited my neighbors. One neighbor explained to me the electric voucher system and told me water comes on once a day for an hour starting at 7:30 am so it’s good to have buckets to store water in, the other told me which market to go to, and in general I had information on what stove to get. I ended up deciding on a gas stove (which I bought two days later) since power cuts are frequent here and gas is usually cheaper than electricity. I also found out who was living in my building- my building has 3 floors with 2 on a floor. It turned out my next door neighbor was a guy living on his own who was some sort of fundi, the neighbors in the middle was a family with both parents working for the ministry and a TZ guy who was part of the UNDP program, and the neighbors upstairs was a woman who works in animal health and who just had a kid and the other was a VSO volunteer who is a retired educator from Ireland who works with the ministry of Education. Visiting the neighbors was great and it totally calmed me down as I now had info on how my place worked. Luckily I live near the dala stop (not like the 15 min walk of my previous site) so that also made me feel better.

The next day I started work and had an interesting week as a consultant from South Africa came and we toured the warehouse to evaluate the use of the space and I learned a lot about planning for the construction and usability of a warehouse and what to look for. Some things to look for when building a warehouse is accessibility to utilities, backup generators for cold storage, ventilation that doesn’t let rodents in, accessibility to roads and to the people you are servicing (you want to build centrally), the aisle and ceiling height, if the floor plan tapers, and some other things. We also visited the site where they had a plot of land allocated to build the warehouse and looked to see the above mentioned things as well as land specific things such as if it was flat or not flat- if it is a hill you have to think that laying foundation will be expensive because you first need to level the site. Also space of a warehouse also depends on the system of supply chain and how much stock the central warehouse is going to keep. You don’t want to keep too much stock because of expiry dates, budget, and space, but you don’t want to keep too little stock because there might be a stockout of a certain drug at the supplier so you want to still be able to provide for your customer. And Zanzibar used to have a kit system where they asked MSD in Dar would already supply drugs packed into kits. Now Zanzibar is going to pack their own drugs as they plan to change from a vertical push system to an integrated pull one. A vertical system has each type of health program request drugs individually but an integrated system lets all the health programs to request from the same system. This helps with streamlining but in some cases vertical is better and in other integration is better- it depends on the amount of health programs you have and how complex your system. A push system is one in which the higher level gives drugs to the lower level and a pull system is one in which the lower level requests drugs from the higher level. Each system has its own pluses and minuses- for example, if there is not enough drugs available is better or in cases of crisis, a push system is better. For now the ZILS (Zanzibar Integrated Logistics System) is piloting only with essential drugs (WHO has a list of essential medicines like aspirin, ciproflaxin, etc.). During the week I discovered Lukman’s which is a pretty good place to eat for Zanzibarian food (rice and beans are about 2200 TSH in Zanzibar but in Mbeya you can get for 1000 TSH), found out where the other PCV lived, met an awesome co-worker/friend, met the VSO volunteer in my building and found out where the stuff I had place when I came to Zanzibar last time was placed, and found out I can get the Forodhani type food and sugar cane juice near me for cheaper. Another place to eat which is near the port is Passing Show hotel..I have been there before but I think Lukman’s has more variety but Passing Show has excellent vegetable biriyani. I also explored Darajani with the PCV and we found where to buy things; went to the safi dukas with the VSO volunteer (one is a 30 min walk from me); and by myself I went to the market near me (a 15 min walk)- Mwanakwerekwe, which has lettuce, basil, and cilantro among other mzungu veggies!

The second week at site was the start of Sauti za Busara which is a East African music festival which is pretty well known throughout Africa. It was awesome and met lots of other volunteers while enjoying free music (free to residents before 6 PM). I also discovered that the last dala leaves Stonetown at 10 PM- a plus in that I can eat dinner and attend concerts without having to take a taxi in comparison in Mbeya the last dala left at 8 PM or earlier from town so I could never hang out to eat dinner at night. The highlights for me were seeing Bibi Kidude and seeing a Senegalese kora performance by Sousou&Maher Cissoko. The kora is a beautiful string instrument that is a worn around the body. I wanted to go to the Twanga Pepeta (they are TZ more dance hall type music similar to Congolese) concert but it was too late (midnight or even later) so decided not to go. The second week work wise I started to learn a lot about MSupply which is an LMIS (Logistics Management Information System) and enter data into it along with another person who works at the stores. The LMIS helps manage how much stock we have, expiry dates, shelf locations etc.- it is similar to JDE/ERP systems used in manufacturing except drugs have different types of needs (like cold chain) than some electronic parts. There are other simple types of LMIS used in the warehouse as well like bin cards and inventory sheets- so you don’t need a computer database to do everything but a database simplifies things especially if you want to do forecasting for procurement! I found a lot of people at work wanted to learn computers so it has inspired me to start a class in Excel as they use it for doing various calculations and of course MSupply as they will use it as a LMIS in the future. I also finally bought an internet modem, I settled on Zantel because it is the fastest here because I wanted to be able to Gchat (free to call phones in the States) with my family and friends. They used to have a highlife program that was real cheap but they recently changed it so it is not that good a deal anymore. But you can call the States and India for 3 TSH a second on it. The Zantel network uses CDMA as opposed to GSM for it’s internet modem so you can’t unlock the modem and use it on other networks. Plus the coverage within TZ isn’t the best except in bigger cities but it has a max speed of 3.1 Mbps. On the weekend I explored Mbweni Café with some of the VSO volunteers where we had pretty good pizza for 7000 TSH. The Café is a 30 min walk from me which is pretty close. I also find out the two western Supermarkets by me the Diplomatic and the Supermarket which both sell cheese!

The third week work wise we went around some health facilities and mentor them fill out R&R forms (forms where you request medicine). I got to see Bwejuu, Paje and Makunduchi-that part of Zanzibar- as well as see the different types of health facilities here: PHCU (primary health care unit), PHCU+, and Cottage Hospitals. There is only one hospital on Zanzibar (which is Mnazi Moja in Stonetown), but there are over a million people living on the island. Luckily most of the population is centered around the urban areas and it’s not that far of a drive to anywhere in Zanzibar (about 2 hrs- similar to living in CT) but still some of the people will have to go to town for major emergencies. Luckily at some levels of health facilities (PHCU+ and Cottage Hospitals), there are maternity wards so women don’t have to go far for delivery. At the basic level health facilities they do primary care such as sutures, diagnoses of colds/flus, etc. For each level of facility they are only allowed to request certain types of supplies as some of the items such as scalpels aren’t applicable to lower level facilities as there are no surgery wards. The drugs are all purchased by donor agencies- essential medicines purchased by DANIDA, ARVs by CHAI, and others (malaria and family planning) by USAID. So it’s important to do make sure drugs get to facilities, that the stock levels are adequate, and that they order on time so that we can procure them from donors on time (and request the appropriate funding). The reason for the mentorship is because Zanzibar is trying to change from a push system (one where the higher level gives drugs to the lower level) to a pull system (where the lower level requests drugs from the higher level) through ZILS. So now that the facilities need to request their own medicine they need to be taught how and we, at the central level, need to make sure we properly forecast the medicine so we have enough medicine to supply them with. Right now they are piloting ZILS for 6 months and after that will assess how it performs. There are 3 groups (based on geographic locations in Unguja and Pemba) and each group will order in 6 months quantities for 3 months each cycle- a total of 2 cycles for the pilot in a max quantity ordering scheme (to ensure that budget is adequate). The reason for a 6 month supply is to ensure stockouts don’t happen- a 3 month supply+1 month lead time+ 2 month buffer in case the central facility doesn’t have stock. This requires facilities to give adequate data to the central level to ensure that forecasting to procure drugs happens on time which is why filling of the R&R forms is crucial. Another thing we saw during this trip is the need for a logistic assessment/supervisory visit for facilities in terms of how they are keeping inventory/ordering supplies and to see if our max scheme results in stockouts. On a non-work level, I visited Mbweni Ruins and the nearby hotel- I have an awesome beach that is a 30 minute walk from me! The joys of living on a tropical island. :)

The last week of the month, I went to Dar for a JSI training on Pipeline at the Holiday Inn in Dar. I learned about the homegrown software that helps in creating charts that will help with the quantifying of commodities. They were doing this training because they were going through the process in quantifying drugs in the mainland as well as some medicines on Zanzibar. I got to learn about a new system and learn about drug quantification as well as what JSI’s role in strengthening the health supply chain on Zanzibar. I learned more about ZILS and the monitoring plans/training they did there last year, which has been helpful as I wasn’t sure what role all the donors played. I also met some JSI staff from the States, it was good to hear about what was going on there as I am out of touch with that part of the world. Holiday Inn was a pretty nice venue and it was good to have a salad every day. :) My Swahili has suffered I think as I have been using English at work, but oh well, at least I can still omba maji (request for water- in other words survive).

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Training was pretty interesting. It covered inventory management, designing a supply chain system, and other stuff which related to health supply systems. I am excited to start work! Today I leave for Zanzibar. Hope all goes well.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Back to TZed. I am currently in Dar waiting to start training relating to my extension. What I will be doing is alot different than teaching was. I think I will enjoy it though! :) I do miss Mbeya but hope to return soon to say hi to everyone.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


It's been great being home but now I am in last continent! For more info see my other blog:

At home I saw my parents, friends, and even saw pictures from my sister's wedding in India. I hope to attend her wedding in the States in May. I can't believe this trip is almost over but I am ready to get back to TZ..that sounds odd right? :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Home Leave..

Had a great Thanksgiving and then after that some training in Morogoro. But now I am on home leave! This is typically given to extending volunteers for one month. I am in Michigan right now and it is cold but nice to see the snow! I will be going to Australia for a short trip, it will be my last (7th) continent- a treat for my 30th bday! I am happy to be home but can't wait to start my new assignment on Zanzibar.