Murakoze, Rwanda!

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The Tech Connect team and their fearless leader Maddy enjoying a weekend at Lake Kivu in Kibuye. From left to right: Phani, Brittany, Katie, Maddy, Doran, Arman.

After spending three weeks in Rwanda, the Tech Connect team was sad to say goodbye to its beautiful hills and friendly people. Hopefully we’ll be back soon to conduct further testing and implementation of our app. Tech Connect wanted to thank Maddy for all her help in organizing our hospital visits and weekend adventures. Without her, we would never have met so many amazing people and likely would have stayed cooped up in our hotel for most of the trip.

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Costica and the team (minus Katie) celebrating reaching the top of Mount Bisoke, a volcano in the Musanze district. From left to right: Phani, Doran, Brittany, Costica, Arman.

Costica was also incredibly helpful and generous with his time. We still can’t believe we got to climb a volcano with the top BMET in Rwanda!

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The Tech Connect team visited all five districts of Rwanda and spoke with technicians from across the country. Pictured are some of our favorite photos from King Faisal Hospital (top left), Kibuye Hospital (top right), Kibagabaga Hospital (middle right), Rwamagana Hospital (bottom right), and with a technician from Bushenge District Hospital (bottom left).

Our sincere thanks also go out to all of the BMETs who took the time to talk with us during our time in Rwanda. Their insights were crucial to the continuation and improvement of Tech Connect.

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Last Week In Rwanda

Kabgayi

Kabgayi Hospital, about an hours drive from Kigali, is a district level hospital. There, we had the opportunity to talk to 3 technicians. Their feedback was similar to other technicians. We learned a bit more about the elusive MEMMS, an inventory application.

King Faisal

King Faisal was the first and only private hospital we visited in Rwanda. It’s also one of the first hospitals to receive accreditation. IMG-20160823-WA0000

Here, the processes for technicians were much more rigidly defined. They also explained that they had very little issues with spare parts, which was surprising.

Medical Technology & Infrastructure Division (MTI)

We had the opportunity to meet with members of MTI briefly to give a presentation on our project. Overall, feedback was positive and although we ran out of time, they expressed interest in staying involved over the next few months.

Technologies Transfer Rwanda

TTR is a distributor for GE in Rwanda. We spoke with the managing director who was fantastic at explaining the process a technician has to do to repair a piece of equipment. In this process, it takes a minimum of 12 weeks to go from calling them to having a repaired piece of equipment! He also gave us a very in-depth situation report on medical equipment in Rwanda commissioned by the ministry of health. It should serve as great reading for the flight home.

They also had this awesome bird.

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Adventures in Ruhengeri

 

After a brief visit in Kigali on Wednesday, the team hit the road again. This time to the North Rwandan city of Ruhengeri (also known as Musanze). We spent Thursday through Sunday here. It is the second largest city in Rwanda and is a popular spot for tourists. The nearby Volcanoes National Park is known around the world as one of the few remaining places in the world where mountain gorillas can be found in the wild. Our mission: complete a couple of interviews at the Ruhengeri Hospital, sync up with our mentor Costica to hike up Mt. Bisoke on Saturday, then recover on Sunday.

On Thursday, we met with the director of the hospital, William. He was a very enthusiastic guy and was excited to hear about our project. The first insight we learned from him was that the hospitals in Rwanda would likely be the first customer of our technology. The Ministry of Health allocates funds to the hospitals to spend as they choose instead of making the purchases directly themselves. In addition, he believes that a pilot study is necessary before charging for our service because hospitals are stretched thin on funding and must make educated decisions on new investments. On both Thursday and Friday, we interviewed two BMETs Boaz and Jean Claude. We received great feedback from them on the app. This feedback echoed many of the improvements we’ve heard throughout the trip so far. One point of emphasis was the difficulty of acquiring spare parts. The process can take months and means broken equipment will simply sit in storage. This is a complex problem which we are going to explore further back in Kigali. Friday night, Costica arrived in town. Much to our excitement, he was planning on joining us on our hike the next day. After a late night meal at a local bar (ill-advised before our hike), we went to sleep to prepare for the journey the next day.

The crew heading on the hike (Brittany, Doran, Arman, and Phani) got out the door at 6:30 to meet our driver James, the same guy that took us to Akagera. After picking up Costica, we were off to the park supplied with 1.5 L of water each, and about a cup of trail mix each. After some logistics, we followed our hike leader Edward to a small village at the base of Bisoke in our car. There, we each got a hiking stick then began hiking. Our view of Bisoke from here is at the right. I immediately said to myself “What the heck did I sign up for?!” The peak was about a kilometer higher in elevation from where we stood, and I only had a cup of trail mix to make IMG_1937.jpgit.

Luckily, everything turned out great! The hike was an amazing experience. It took us about 3 hours to reach the top, including breaks along the way. We also met interesting people from around the world. There were folks from South Africa, Holland, Scotland, and Australia just to name a few. The trail was full of tree roots, rocks, and patches of mud, but we were rewarded with beautiful views along the way and an incredible view from the top.

 

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The volcano had a crater lake within, and we could look out across the surrounding countryside. What was very interesting to me is that the volcano lies on the border of the Congo (In the lake pic below, the opposite side was the Congo). Thus, we could only stay in a certain area at the top!

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Phani, Doran, Brittany, Costica, and Arman

After taking taking a well-deserved break, we hiked down the mountain. This was tougher than the climb up because we had to be more careful on the steep descent. 3 hours and a couple falls later, we were at the base of the volcano and exhausted. After stuffing our faces at a local buffet, we moved all of our stuff out of our rental house and into a hotel that Costica’s friend was developing outside of town. The hot showers were much appreciated as were the nice large beds. We were so thankful that Costica and his friend were so generous to us!

We took a lazy Sunday in Ruhengeri to relax at the hotel, then returned to Kigali in the evening. This is our last 5 days in Rwanda. It has been an incredible experience, and we’re hoping to get as much as we can out of these last couple of days. We’ll be visiting a couple of hospitals, a spare parts businessman, a surgeon, and a couple other folks in Kigali and the surrounding towns.

Thanks for keeping up with our journey!

Doran and the Team

 

 

Rwandan Folk Tales

Over the past weekend our team spent a lot of time with Welcome, a Rwandan BMET who came along with us to Kibuye Hospital and Lake Kivu. He explained a few Rwandan legends to us which I thought were pretty cool.

On our first night at the hostel on Lake Kivu, there was a thunderstorm. We sat listening to the storm while Welcome told us about how he grew up believing that thunder was caused by a huge rooster in the sky flapping its wings. He said that the legend is mostly for children, but some adults still believe it and when Welcome first became a technician, he installed a lightning rod at his hospital and some people thought its purpose was to catch the giant rooster.

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The following day after interviewing Normand at Kibuye Hospital, we ate lunch at a restaurant next to a building with a thatched roof. Apparently lizards love thatched rooves, because we saw a bunch of them crawling over it. One type of lizard was called “icyugu” and was bright blue with a yellow tail. The one we saw (above) looked like a small iguana, maybe six inches from head to the tip of tail. According to Welcome, it is bad luck to stand under trees with icyugu in them during thunderstorms because the lightning will strike that tree. He also said that parents scare their children away from touching the icyugu by saying that if you touch them the only cure is to have your auntie come to your house and dance naked.

Welcome told us of another legend about a man who tried to cheat death. Death came to his house in the form of a cow (in Rwanda, it is common to personify death as a cow with branches and leaves in its horns). Instead of trying to run from Death, the man treated Death as an honored guest and gave him food and much to drink. Death became drunk, and while Death wasn’t looking, the man took Death’s list of names and moved his from first on the list to last. The next morning, when Death had sobered up, he thanked the man for his hospitality and said that in appreciation he would start from the bottom of the list and work his way back so that the man would have more time to live. Although a bit morbid, we all shared a good laugh over this story. It was interesting to see that the theme of not being able to cheat death was carried across cultures.

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We had a great time with Welcome and his friends and are sad to part ways today. He also was an expert at posing for photos and was kind enough to teach me his secret knee-bending technique.

Greetings from Kibuye!

Brittany & Team

Week #1 Recap

Our first week in Rwanda was both informative and fun. We met many great people and learned a lot about the direction for Tech Connect in Rwandan BMET culture.

Our first visit with Bosco at Kibagabaga was our first interview and gave us a very unique perspective. More about that visit can be found in the previous blog post.

We then visited Rwamagana, another District Hospital, on Wednesday where we met Cyprien.

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Thursday we visited the teaching hospital in Kigali, CHUK. We met Abdoul and Innocent there who were both helpful in how to implement Tech Connect at their more advanced training level while also helping us think about who could potentially pay for this product. They were a fun group and we all have some new Facebook friends and Twitter followers!

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They were very busy at the teaching hospital, so we spent the afternoon translating some notes in the hotel room before Brittany, Phani, and I walked to Caplaki Vilage, the craft market close to town. I was able to pick up a painting for my mom, which is a tradition of ours for every place my brother or I have visited. When we came back, the 5 of us played some games from Egyptian Rat Screw to Fish Bowl. It was a fun night to kick off a fun weekend.

SAFARI FRIDAY! Originally, we were going to meet up with some IPRC students, but as it was their last day of exams, had to be postponed. That meant that Tech Connect could take some time to also have a little fun and so we visited Akegara National Park. We were able to spend the afternoon searching the landscape for zebras, hippos, and water (fancy) buffalos with our guide James. It was an incredible experience, minus the horse flies that kept biting us. We wanted to come back to the hotel to watch The Lion King, but ended up passing out before that could take place.

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Saturday was spent with more fun on the agenda as we started the day with laundry. More specifically, everyone else did laundry while I watch the Olympics recap. Phani and Brittany, however, were the ones who injured themselves doing laundry – getting some blood on their clothes they then had to wash even more. Needless to say, they probably aren’t doing laundry again any time soon.

Saturday afternoon we went to the Genocide Memorial, which was by far the most emotional moment of our trip thus far. We were able to learn so much about Rwanda’s history – a history that happened a little over 20 years ago and within our lifetime. There were two moments during the walk through that are etched into my mind. One of the instigating moments for the genocide was the shooting down of the President’s plane on April 6th, 1994. That was the day after I was born. It was shocking to see that during my first few days in the world, something so tragic and extreme was happening half a world away. The second portion of the tour that struck me was the Children’s Room. This was a memorial for just some of the young children that were lost in this terrible period. What shocked me was the photos that were followed by some information about the child within – such as their favorite food, favorite song, favorite drink, characteristics, and lastly, how they died. To see a photo of 6 year old whose favorite song was a church hymn and learn their last memory was of their mother being killed before being killed themselves by a machete was the most emotional moment for me. Knowing such a young life was taken way too soon by a horror I can’t even imagine is nearly debilitating.

Saturday night we went out to dinner with Costica, who has been so helpful during our time here. We went to a place called Pili Pili that had the best pizza and great drinks. The music was the highlight as they played mostly American songs with a DJ twist. Arman was in love and got the DJ’s number so he can get the music later on.

Sunday we travelled to Kibuye, the gorgeous area located by Lake Kivu 3 hours away from Kigali, and checked in to Home Saint Jean and awaited the arrival of Welcome, a BMET from Bushenge. He is going to be attending school in India for his PhD and while waiting for the program to start, came to stay with us. Once he arrived, we went down to a hotel by the shore for some drinks with him and his friend Oliver.

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Monday we interviewed Welcome and headed to Kibuye Hospital, the Referral Hospital in town where we also interviewed Normand. When walking in, a little boy walked up to Arman and Welcome to hold their hands and I was able to capture the adorable moment.

However, it was Assumption for the Rwandan Catholic Church and thus we kept the day short to give Normand time at home with his family. We went to lunch to a local place in town where we learned for a second night in a row that a 1.5 hour wait for food is common, which also meant that Arman was dying. After what turned into a late lunch, we headed back to change into a swim suits – it was time to hit the lake! We took a boat to an island, one we deemed “Lonely Cow Island” because rumor has it that one sole cow lives on the island, which was evident by the manure Phani, Brittany, and Maddy found on their island exploration. I took the time to read and relax as the storm began to roll in. Unfortunately, our time was cut short due to the lightening and we headed back to the mainland. The ride back gave great views of the lightening. After dinner at the hotel, we stayed watching the lightning storm where I was able to capture a really cool video of 3 consecutive lightning strikes including this still below:

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That brings us to right now: Tuesday. Doran and Arman are shadowing Normand for the day while Brittany, Phani, and I are catching up on blog posts, notes transcriptions, and contact compilation. We’ll keep you updated on the good, bad, and the ugly as we continue our adventure here in Rwanda for the next two weeks!

Akagera Adventuring

Turns out the misery of exams transcends borders, so the IPRC BMET students were unable to meet today. Instead, we decided to research another important group of stakeholders – the wildlife of Akagera National Park.

After waking up at 4 A.M and a 2.5 hour drive, we reached the southern part of the park. Dry season meant that most of the animals were in the northern region, another 3 hours away. Enough text, here are the amateur photographs!

 

A list of some of what we saw:

  • Topi Antelope
  • Impala “McDonalds” Antelope
  • Waterbuck Antelope
  • Baboons with gnarly butts
  • Monkeys
  • Horseflies. So many Horseflies.
  • Hippos
  • Crazy Elephant
  • A lot of running Warthogs
  • Zebras, including an angsty teen zebra who had redish stripes
  • Something something chicken
  • Water Buffalo
  • Other random birds