February 14, 2011
It rained yesterday, a relief from the unrelenting sun, and this morning we said goodbye to our fourth team member, Anna, who left for a five-day safari on the Serengeti and then home to Pennsylvania. We will truly miss her laugh, and as we made Valentine’s Day cards for the Kili Kids, we felt like school children, giggling at silly things and sharing the kind of group activity most adults don’t engage in much any more.
This trip has been a bit different for me this time around: new guest house, four of the girls now in secondary school and boarding, and further exploration of the regional hospital here and also of an orphanage for babies and toddlers.
The guest house is very comfortable, and as long as we have electricity and water, all is well. Because the hot season is ending, the electricity has been off much more than usual, and water, too, has been minimal and often turned off. We boil water for our drinking and can also buy water, so there is no severity for us, and I am quite content to have a cool shower, but we find we get tired a bit more easily under these conditions. We have a beautiful young cook, Pina, who not only makes us local dishes like Ugali (a corn porridge that is a lot like polenta) and banana stew (delicious…tastes like potato stew) but also gives us bowls of fresh vegetables, good mangoes and avocados and occasional treats like lemon grass chicken on skewers. We are well taken care of by Theresa and her staff and friends. Last night we treated ourselves to a Chinese dinner out, one of the best Chinese meals I have ever tasted!
Seeing the four much-more –grown-up girls in their boarding school setting is one of the highlights of my journey. They are doing well, getting good grades, and adjusting to this stage of life which I foresee as a much more positive one than the one they would have been able to experience had they stayed alone or with aged relatives in their home villages. They were affectionate to me and appreciative of the gifts and thought of our friends and families.
Visiting the hospital, which has an affiliation with both Duke and Harvard, was a reminder of how very privileged we are to have the medical care and facilities available to us in the US. Indescribable… probably not a place most of us would want to be sent. The message we felt was that more training of Tanzanian medical personnel would help a great deal, as the doctors from the States often spend a short time, and what is needed is long range commitment. We were led on a tour and had a long discussion with a young man who works to educate fellow African men about AIDS, a huge problem here. Malaria is also prevalent, and there is a new medication which may help immensely but is difficult to introduce. Many other illnesses are misdiagnosed as malaria. In short, we learned a lot, partially because Barbara, one of our team from Idaho, is a registered nurse and already had much information at hand and an abundance of good questions.
What can one say about a baby orphanage? Nothing that suffices.