This was my first trip to the orphanage. I had heard so much about the kids and the work MAD was doing in Tanzania having met Teresa a few times over the last few years so I was really looking forward to it.
We arrived late on Saturday, July 2nd after a few days on safari so we were already acclimated to the time zone and settled in quickly. We had so many great experiences during our short, four-day visit, but one day stands out.
On Sunday we took all the kids on a day trip to Lake Chala. When we woke up Nema was not feeling well so before going to the orphanage we stopped by the clinic. As you know or will soon find out, everything goes “pole pole” (slow) in Tanzania. After a couple of hours to get everything squared away we were off to the orphanage to pick up the kids. When we arrived the kids were ready, way ready. Screams and giggles erupted from the orphanage when we arrived as their wait was finally over.
The kids gave us big hugs and were super excited to be going on a day trip. None had ever been to Lake Chala and for most this was their first day trip in over a year. As we drove to the Lake I got to sit next to Christina, an energetic girl with a big smile. I was surprised by how easy it was relate to her. The honesty and sincerity was apparent and I felt myself relax and enjoy the moment.
After lunch at the Lake Chala campgrounds we hiked our way down to the lake. It was a rather long walk down a rocky, steep path. The kids didn’t seem to mind a bit — they were ready to swim!! However, we soon discovered that the term “swimming” was for some rather optimistic as the first swimmer quickly sank to the bottom. We adjusted our plan and let the kids “swim” by the shore where they could easily stand while I took some of the more courageous ones for their first swim. I’d hold them up horizontally in the waist deep water so that they were floating on the water. With squeals of delight they would kick their feet and splash with their arms. I was moved by the trust they put in me as they tested their courage and tried to swim for real. It was pure joy for them. And for me!!
No camp out is deemed a success unless you have smores. And so the kids were introduced to marshmallows and the fine art of roasting them over the fire. Of course there were the crash and burns where the marshmallow caught fire leaving just a black charred morsel. But soon we had the melted marshmallows on a graham cracker with dark chocolate and we were off to sugar heaven. One of the newly converted smore fans loved them so much she stashed one in each pocket while eating the third. Ahhhh, the ear to ear grin of a sugar coma soon set in for all of us.
But it was starting to get dark so we had to load up the bus again for our ride back. And as great as the day had been the night was sure to be entertaining too. On the drive back a very energetic bunny hopped on the road ahead of the bus for at least a mile. Darting back and forth this bunny had all the kids mesmerized. For most of the ride back we sang songs on the bus and thanked god for such a wonderful day. It had been a special day and we all felt great. Peter was sitting next to me with his arm on my shoulder. And so we rode on with big smiles on our faces. This was a special day and I felt happy, blessed and fulfilled.
Hopefully you will find your way to Tanzania to have an experience of your own. I’m sure it will transform your life like it has mine.