CHAPTER 09: Bush Doctor, Tanzania 1961- 63
Once again it was “back to Africa” time. Because of my background with the Maasai, AMREF seconded me to the Tanzania Govt. to be District Medical Officer, Monduli (Maasai) District. I was in charge of a fifty-bed hospital and sixteen dispensaries serving the pastoral Maasai inhabiting an area roughly 200 miles (N-S) by 100 miles (E-W). This was early “Winds of Change” time. The colonial medical service was a very intact system, so it adapted fairly smoothly to independence. I helped run the “Uhuru” (Independencer) celebrations at Monduli in 1961. During this era our kids attended British boarding schools. In 1962 we welcomed our sixth child, Virginia. Sometimes I was able to bring a kid or two, or occasionally the whole family, on my official safaris. We enjoyed geographic features such as Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Oldonyo Lengai, the Rift and the Serengeti.
- Starting in Monduli
- Uhuru, TZ.
- Gini’s birth
- STARTING IN MONDULI
This was a 50 bed, rural hospital, serving mainly the pastoral Maasai. We were not set up for surgery since Arusha Hospital was near (20 mi.). But we did see some interesting cases.
A man came in with his back lacerated by the claws of a lion he had tangled with. After a few days the wounds were healing well. His family arrived, and I proudly peeled back the sheet to show them the healing. Their reaction was typical Maasai. This was to spit gently, slightly but directly on the wound and invoke God’s blessing. The healing continued unabated!
A 2-3year old child came with a head wound. In the night she had wandered out of her hut and been bitten by a hyena. That bite removed a 3×4 inch piece of her skull, exposing the brain covering. Under simple antiseptic care the wound settled down. As I recall we sent her to Arusha for plastic surgery on the scalp.
“Blood on the Saddle”
I had a call to bring in a pregnant woman with questionable bleeding. Bouncing on a rough patch descending towards Monduli I glanced back and to my horror noted a lot of blood on the floor of the Landrover. I stopped, prepared for the worst. Then the escort laughingly explained things. The Maasai have great faith in the therapeutic value of cow’s blood. They had brought with them a small gourd of cow’s blood. In the bouncing this had spilled. The patient herself was fine.
Our kids attended Arusha School as boarders, coming home for weekends. This was a traditionally British school in curriculum, sports and discipline. Our kids’ fond memories far exceed the negative ones. Arusha School is featured in the memoirs of David Read in his book “Beating about the Bush”. From Arusha school Dan went on for a year to St Michaels and St. Georges Secondary School in Iringa. This school was innovative for the time, being multi-racial.
I took regular safaris to visit dispensaries scattered in the 200 mile north-to-south district. Monduli was central, so I would alternate trips north and south. I traveled in the Govt. short wheelbase Land Rover (LR), so space was limited. Nevertheless at times I took along one or two of our kids. One time I unwisely allowed a roving American photojournalist, Tom to come along. He took up much space and was of minimal help. One evening we got stuck in Ngorongoro Crater. The reason was this. The main tracks/ruts were created by big tourist LRs with higher clearance. So my small LR with less clearance got hung up on the middle. Then it turned out that my small screw jack had a stripped gear, so was of minimal use. So I had to do a lot of digging. By this time night had fallen, and I had no flashlight. Furthermore, the hippo in the nearby swamp were bellowing. Tom, a New Yorker, sat terrified in the car, not once offering to help outside. The kids were appropriately disdainful of him.
On my supervisory safaris I always enjoyed visits with mission groups in more remote areas. These organizations included the Holy Ghost Fathers (US), Sisters of The Precious Blood (Austrian), and Lutherans (US). Their locations were remote enough (from “bishops”) that they could feel free to fraternize across denominational lines. I enjoyed medical collaboration with Sister Guida (nurse of the Sisters of the Precious Blood). Even with her hood and robes she could be a dashing figure out in the kraals. She was very caring and friendly. She and our daughter Carolyn got along well. Once at Loliondo we found an American lady visiting the Catholic mission convent. She was said to be “a relative” of one of the priests. This priest was liberal in outlook and seemed not too content to be there in Loliondo. But he helped much with the Mann Cardiac research project there (see a photo of him tuning a radio). Well it came as no great surprise to me, later, in Albany, NY., to read a news headline “Priest Weds”. Yes. this was our Loliondo helper/friend/discontented priest!
On the northern leg of my safaris. enroute to Loliondo, I traversed Ngorongoro Crater and at its northern base the Olduvai Gorge. There I had a chance to visit the Leakey’s research archaeology “dig”. I have a photo of daughter Betsy sitting on a cement pedestal which affirms the discovery there of evidence of “homo habilis”.
Chloroquin in the salt study
I facilitated a Ministry of Health research study of community-based malaria prophylaxis. The theory was that by adding chloroquin to the salt, sold from the dukas (shops) there would be some population protection against malaria. The site of the study was Mto Wa Mbu (“mosquito river”) on the edge of Lake Manyara.. The main beneficiaries would have been the population of the town who were mainly non-Masai. The Maasai, living away from the town and the lake were not users of duka salt. Of course the medical system at that time (pre-computer) did not lend itself to large demographic studies of changed incidence or prevalence that might have resulted. Nevertheless the research project did produce sound scientific evidence that there was some protection of the population.
Monduli was a small township. The main employer was the Gov. hospital. There were, maybe a dozen trading shops (dukas). Nearby were two expatriate-owned coffee farms. “Rasharasha” to the south was owned by Jack Wright. To the north was the Bennett Coffee Estate. Before we arrived Mr Bennett had suffered a stroke and thus could not communicate. But he did seem to get pleasure from visits by little Betsy. His second wife (recent) Antoinette was Swiss. She was very assertive in managing his affairs. This led to the departure of his grown son ____ who settled in Perth, Australia. But before that son’s departure I enjoyed a good friendship with him. He joined “Steve” Stevenson (DC Monduli) and me in an ascent of Kili from the Kenya side.
Monduli town was sited on the southern slope of the Monduli Mountain. The mountain was largely covered with forest and harbored elephant and other wildlife. We enjoyed some hikes following the stream up into the mountain. In the 1970s Monduli mountain got media attention when a diamond-smuggling airplane crashed near the top.There were numerous small volcanic cones in the area. One was alleged to contain the semi-precious gem peridot. We hiked the cone as a family but never found any peridot. In 1960 we were not aware of the discovery of Tanzanite nearby, near Kilimanjaro International Airport. Since then ladies in our family have acquired tanzanite jewelry at very favorable local prices. Since there is only one source in the world, and that source is being exhausted, the gem will only increase in value. Our grandson Caleb has competed in a motocross event held on the premises of the Tanzanite mining corporation.
Other government departments at Monduli “Boma” were Admin., Vet. and Police. The District Commissioner was “Steve” Stevenson. We had been schoolmates at RVA, so got along well.
I occasionally sat in on his barazas with the Maasai and cross-checked what was being translated to him (from Maa). But Steve had spent his whole life in Africa and was a canny guy. So very little got past him, regardless of language. He supervised the cattle auctions and was quick to sense when the trader/buyers were colluding to lower prices bid. He would threaten to close the market if they did not give the sellers a fair deal. In later years Steve played an important role in the evolution of the Tanzania National Park Services. He was good at local management.
The Veterinary Officer, Paddy Jolly was very Irish. He formed a Monduli Rugby team. The main players were the 3-4 white govt. officers who knew the game. The District Officer was an ex-All Black from New Zealand. The Police Officer was from South Africa. These were augmented by a variety of local Tanzanians and myself (mainly because I could help with transport). One of the locals was a tall young member of the Iraqw tribe who could run like an Impala. For some of the locals their enthusiasm may have been fueled by a chance to “thump” a white man – legally! When we played against Arusha or Moshi Paddy would “spook” the opposition by marching around the field playing his bagpipe. At one game we were playing against a Moshi team which included a US Peace Corps member who was said to be a grandson of Teddy Roosevelt. Recall that ancestor, Teddy had laid the cornerstone of RVA my first school. My career in the game of rugby ended when I sustained a fractured rib.
In later years the Tanzania Army became dominant in the area. Their training headquarters was built on the Southwest edge of Monduli town. A very large training complex was developed on the south side of the Arusha-Babati highway.
Tarangire National Park
While we were at Monduli some wildlife research was being carried out in the area south of Lake Manyara. The researcher was Hugh Lamprey. Partly as a result of his research that area became designated as Tarangire National Park. A tourist lodge (TSL for Tarangire Safari Lodge) was created at an unusually attractive site on a bluff overlooking a river. But in the politically/touristicaly difficult ‘70’s the lodge did not do well. Eventually it was bought by Dave Simonson and other co-investors. As politics improved, the Lodge situation improved. It is now run by the three Simonson boys Steve, Nathan and Jonathan.
Peace Corps Volunteers
During our time in Monduli there were a number of Peace Corps volunteers in Tanzania., though none in Masai District per se. We had a few brief acquaintances among them. Some of them played rugby.
- “UHURU” – Independence for Tanganyika 1962.
This important occasion (Dec. 9,1961), was regarded in different perspectives by different people. The Brits were wistful, the Maasai puzzled, the westernized/politicized Tanzanians were ecstatic and the Asian merchant class wary. “Steve” Stevenson (my former schoolmate) was the District Commissioner (DC) and thus master of ceremonies for the celebration. He did not have a colonial mentality, but he knew how to orchestrate a public affair. He dug out his official colonial ornate garb and made sure the right people were recognized. There was no electricity in Monduli so no floodlights or loudspeakers. But at midnight I dismounted my Landrover headlight and used it to illuminate the Union Jack down and the Tanzanian flag up the flagpole. One day soon thereafter my office clerk came in excitedly waving an envelope and pointing to its (independent) Tanzanian stamp. A poignant example of the importance of symbolism in nationalism. Another day, far out in the bush a Maasai elder remarked to me “I hear that the new ‘governor’ (i.e. President Nyerere) is an African”. So much for trickle-down nationalism. Within two years a fellow-Maasai, a protégé of Nyerere would be Prime Minister of Tanzania. This was Edward Sokoine (see below).
In 1964 there was an attempt to change the Tanganyika government. In connection with that attempt and subsequent reorganization, the island of Zanzibar was incorporated with Tanganyika, together forming “The United Republic of Tanzania” with Julius Nyerere continuing as President.
Edward as a youth was averse to schooling. But he was bright. Father Hillman of the Sacristans Order noticed him and persuaded him to stay in school. He did well and finally became an administrator in Monduli, thus my “boss”. He was selected with a few other Maasai young men to go on a USAID-sponsored trip to USA to study ranching. They were given the then-amazing allowance of $20 per day. Edwards colleagues used it to buy cowboy hats and boots etc. What did Edward buy? Books on economics! Not surprisingly he moved up through the political ranks eventually being named Prime Minister. Tragically Edward died in a road accident. There were many rumors surrounding his death. In his public posture he was a proponent of what we now call “transparency”. It was suggested that others in the party (TANU) felt threatened by this openness and wished Edward out of the way. He was a diabetic and one rumor was that his insulin had been tampered with in a way to cause overdose and fatal hypoglycemia. His death was a great loss to Tanzania paralleling Kenya’s premature loss of Tom Mboya.
Henry Fosbrooke was a Colonial Civil Servant who had training in Sociology or Anthropology. He wrote numerous articles in academic journals about tribes in Tanganyika. He was appointed Director of the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority. Its purpose was to harmonize several different interests: wildlife, Maasai, ecosystem,local governance and archaeology (Olduvai). He was a strong personality and earned the sobriquet “King Henry”. I only met him once or twice. Marilyn and Steve rented a small house from him on the rim of Lake Duluti.
- Gini’s birth and Simonsons
Gini arrived a bit prematurely because of a placental problem requiring a C-section. This was a done by the Arusha District Medical Officer. Betty needed a transfusion and was not too perky for a day or so. All this coincided with the start of a major research exercise in the field by Prof. Mann. I was quite involved in that, so there was some juggling to do. The expedition started on ahead into the field without me. When I left a few days later to catch up with the expedition the Chief Matron of the hospital was very put out with me for leaving. Fortunately, we enjoyed the great moral and practical support of Eunice Simonson (see below). She took great care of Betty and baby Gini throughout the recovery. Dan and David were off at boarding school and Carolyn and Betsy were in the care of missionary friends at Babati.
Heritage in East Africa
Among the Lutherans were Dave and Eunice Simonson. My mother Ruth Shaffer had in Florida done a bit of coaching of Dave in the Maa language. So when they came to Tanzania we became acquainted. Eventually our daughter Marilyn married their oldest son Steve. Steve and Marilyn live in Arusha where they have raised a family. Thus the Shaffer heritage in East Africa, starting in 1923 has amounted to now five generations. A book has been written about Dave and Eunice Simonson. The title is “The Cross under the Acacia Tree”. The author is Jim Klobuchar, father of the senior senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar. My mother Ruth Shaffer’s autobiography is titled “Road to Kilimanjaro” (see the cover of this memoir).
- Mann Research
Mann Masai project
In association with that posting we also helped organize some serious research on why the Maasai do not have heart disease, despite a diet high in cholesterol. Competing with those research professors for attention was Gini, our #6 who arrived the starting day of the research expedition! This research expedition was the child of Prof. George Mann, a researcher on cardiac disease, then at Vanderbilt U. He had been one of the founders of the famous Framingham Study. We were to facilitate his Masai research in two further expeditions in Tanzania. In later years this cooperation with Prof. Mann was furthered by Dr Anne Spoerry of Flying Docs. She spent decades providing primary care in Kenya’s vast Northern Frontier and the eastern coast of Kenya. Her interesting autobiography is titled Mama Daktari.