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Susan Pelley’s Blog

International Nursing in Tanzania – Nursing Shoes in Tanzania

I get people. I do. I understand them. I empathize. I communicate. It's what I do. So what do I do when I don’t know the language? What do I do when even the body language doesn’t tell me anything that I can understand? When I’m so very obviously a foreigner that communication doors that are usually open to me, seem to be closed. I walked along side these Tanzanian strangers for a couple of days before I realized that the doors were not closed, that they just weren’t where I expected them to be. I discovered that it was my effort that they were waiting for. That they were shy, and they were timid and that if I made the first move and initiated communication on whatever level, they would reciprocate and then some. My reaching out created the connection I was looking for and that connection opened the lines of broken but amiable communication.  

That connection, however, has not negated the fact that for the first time in my life, I am a minority. I am different. I am stared at wherever I go. I draw attention just by walking down the road. And that is an eye-opener for me. A life-changing experience. And I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am to discover this self awareness. Because I always thought I understood. But I have never had to walk even an inch in these shoes. And these shoes do hurt your feet sometimes.  

The shoes I’ve mostly been wearing though, have been comfortable nursing shoes. And those shoes have never walked on these roads before either. I have been fortunate enough to be on a maternity ward, which, for those who know me, is a dream come true. I have witnessed babies being born, mothers in labour and Caesarian sections. And I see these women. They’re pregnant. They’re labouring. And I get that. I did that. But these women are alone. Quiet. Composed. No one holds their hand. No nurse sits with them around the clock. No nurse sits with them at all. And they don’t want them to. But my caring, empathizing, comforting inner nurse is yearning, aching, not understanding. I mean, I need to help them right? That’s my job. My calling. But here, in Tanzania, I have to bridle that urge, that instinct to comfort and coddle. I must give them what they want and need. And that is to be left alone, with only the briefest moments of comfort. A quick squeeze of the hand, or comforting look. I have no words for them, but that doesn’t seem to matter. They take what they need from me and go back to the job at hand. They are strong. And so am I, as I walk away knowing that I have the resilience and adaptability to respond to situations that were beyond my imagination, just one week ago.


Susan Pelley

Practical Nursing Student

NSCC Waterfront Campus

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