My name is Claire Casey. I am a senior at Providence Day School and a long time Ambush player. I recently went on a three week long trip with my family to Tanzania to hike Mt.Kilimanjaro, work in a hospital, and take a safari in the Serengeti.
The first portion of my trip, hiking Mt.Kiliminjaro, was my favorite part with the hospital experience coming in a close second. The hike took a total of eight days with seven days going up and only one going down. While there were only four of us, we were accompanied by 2 guides and 18 porters. The porters carried all of our equipment like our duffle bags, tents, cooking supplies, food, and even a portable potty.. So when I say camping, I really mean glamping. Every single day, we would arrive at our next campsite with the tents already up and food ready to be eaten. When we weren’t hiking we were eating, playing cards, journaling, or sleeping. Everyday consisted of being woken up by Dixon (one of my favorite porters) with hot tea delivered to our tents around 6:00 am, eating breakfast around 7:00 am, and being on our way by 8:00 am. The hikes differed day to day, but the majority lasted around 3-5 hours with plenty of snack breaks. Thanks to field hockey conditioning, my body was prepared for extreme amounts of exercise. The only challenging portion of the hike was summit day. Our guides had prepared us for the lack of oxygen and exhaustion but it still tested my mental strength and endurance. To set the scene, the summit hike is around 7 hours long and straight uphill with only the last home stretch being relatively flat. We left camp at midnight in order to reach the summit by 7:00 am. The hike felt never ending. Everytime I looked up and thought we were near the end, more uphill awaited. It took a lot to keep a positive mindset but my brother, Turner, helped me keep the family in high spirits. With about an hour left in the hike, I got a bloody nose because of the high altitude, and it would not stop. I spent the rest of the hike holding toilet paper on my face until it finally stopped. Once we finally reached the top, my parents cried with joy and relief while my brother and I laughed at them crying. With low oxygen levels and temperatures at five degrees below zero, our guides made us descend after a photo.
After the hike we took one day to relax and shower. We hadn’t been able to shower for almost ten days and that shower never felt better. The next morning, my dad and brother left to go back to the states while my mom and I stayed for our next adventure.
I had the opportunity to shadow my mother and her colleagues teaching pediatric orthopedics to the resident doctors at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center. My first day at KCMC was hard on an emotional level. Patients were overflowing into the hallways as the rooms did not have enough space for them. A single room had around twelve patients with translucent curtains providing the only privacy. The normal sterile smell in hospitals in the United States was unrecognizable here. Instead, body odor and sweat filled the air. Fortunately, the work took my mind away from focusing on the misfortune. I was busy helping hold airways, entertaining children while my mom saw their sibling, and documenting the experience for the whole group, all while soaking up as much knowledge as I could. I was fortunate enough to be able to be present in the operating room. I learned how to function as a circulating nurse as they do not have those in Tanzania. I opened the suture, tied gowns, and prepared the plaster for casting. I also took on the role of DJ and photographer. This was a truly eye opening experience as I had never been in a functioning operating room before, and it solidified my decision to become a sur
After two weeks of low sleep and difficult living conditions, it was a special treat to end our trip with a safari and some much needed R&R. We saw the Big Five as well as many other animals with my favorite being the elephant. It was the last day of the safari and we still hadn’t seen an elephant but our guide, Msangi, made it his mission to find us one. It was really fun tracking the elephant by looking at footprints, poop, and smelling him downwind.
All in all, I not only learned about Africa but about myself.