Kilema to the Coast

January 27/09

Well let’s try this this again. The power just failed in this sweltering Cepac internet office in Muheza and the worst part (almost) was the loss of the ceiling fan! My online luck is famously poor here and I’m always able to bring on power outages just by logging on! Almost as bad as during Obama inaugural speech when upscale Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort lost power three quarters the way through….resounding groans all around and much rushing to find generator keys!( Obama mania here with lots of enthusiasm posters and printed kanga fabric!)

Have just passed through the town of Muheza on foot, slowed by the heat and humidity which has been building since morning, on the way to this internet office where the heat is magnified and the computers equally slow. We came down from Kilema a few days ago to these coastal lowlands near Tanga to visit with Leah Norgrove and Ambrose Marsh and their wonderful young sons, Griffin and Simon, who have been here since September working/living at this regional hospital providing palliative care services. Walked through the small but busy town with Griff, where he first dropped off his bike at the local fundi (worker) for fixing, navigated the cluster of bikes and rudimentary tools under the sack cloth awning and indicated his needs with confidence. He then lead me on to the chaotic bus station to help sort out our return to Moshi on Thursday and all the while I am thinking, ” what an impressive boy!”.  He  like his brother, Simon, has embraced the fascinating ways of life here. The different logic, the faulty infrastructure, the orange seller, the water transporters carrying large yellow drums on the back of bicycles, the blend of frustration and humour when things don’t work, the thousands of fruit bats that hang upside down in the trees around their house and the great hugs from African Mamas. When I ask him if he’s going to miss it all he says, ” Yes.”

“What are you going to miss the most?” I ask.

“Everything,” he says.

He and Simon remind me of my own Sasha and Lockie who equally seemed to ‘get’ all the subtlety and richness of the place. To see the enthusiasm of Leah and Ambrose and their energetic immersion in hospital life, I am reminded of my own family here last year and am thrilled to see the Norgrove/ Marsh family thriving in similar ways.

We left dear Rita in Moshi just a few days ago and as we sat on the beach just north of the Pangani River yesterday we marveled at being an Indian Ocean apart now, she and family just arrived in India. Kilema kept her busy with researching funding angles and matching grant opportunities for Sister Clarissa at Kilema Hospital. Rainer had her doing editing work as well and I think she may have left with more followup work than she bargained for, articles included. We miss Anjali and Rita and wish them well on the next leg of their adventure.

Fiona has continued to giggle quietly at all the marvelous chaos and unusualness of life here. She had great days in the hospital on rounds with Dr. Mushi and in CTC with Anna Nyaki, who by the way still has her wonderful laugh and is always thinking of ways to move forward. It is wonderful to see Leah and Fiona reunited here in Muheza, this amazing steamy town full of bustle. Hailey has had her eyes wide open and her radar on full. Bus and dalla dalla rides have been challenging for her and she’s been squished along with everyone else, nose in someone or others armpit. Her dreams, like Fiona’s, are becoming legendary and give us a great start to the day.

Our work at Kilema Hospital took us down to the wire with school visits, school shoes and supply purchases and banking fees down in Moshi town. Last week we all hitched a ride on a dump truck up to Ifati and Rukima Schools, two government schools north of Kilema where on behalf of Canadians we are funding over 30 students. All six of us paid a visit to meet these students, tour the school, receive exam standings and grade averages. Just last week Fiona , Rita and I had counted out stacks of bills at the Nelson Mandela Bank in Moshi to pay for all 30 plus school fees, giggling at the 10,000 shilling notes piling up, counting and recounting and avoiding the clucking of tongues behind us in the lineup! Having done our part there, we now received a brief summary of each student. Also received 2 packets of letters from the students , responses to letters we had brought from 2 classes at Margaret Jenkins School! Beautiful penmanship and while the headmasters were shy about the level of English we were amazed at the elegance of it. After taking numerous photographs surrounded by students and many greetings and handshakes we left with two of the students, Idda and Andrea, to visit their homes. Idda lives with father and mother( though my previous information was that she had one parent- this is why you do home visits!). Illness with both parents has made income generating difficult and Idda the youngest of seven children is the only child to go to secondary school due to our school support. Eva , Anjali andHailey had a good look at her bed and eroded mattress and the termite work on the sides of her board house. Andrea lives with his elderly grandmother who is clearly fragile and declared she wasn’t sure she would be around to greet us next year if we came! He sleeps in a simple board house while Bibi sleeps in a poor room next to the animals, a cow and two goats. A mattress in pieces and a shamble of a structure. As Fiona says , it is an honour to meet these people,enter homes and see lives. All in all we have covered school fees for over 50 students and before we fly on Friday back to Canada I will have a last run up to Kilema to pick up remaining receipts and say final goodbyes.

Our health is good and hopefully will remain so even after our last bus ride up country. There is a certain barreling down the highway that unnerves one. We have been delighting in it all, enjoying every minute and feel satisfied at having completed what we set out to do here.

Love to everyone there with special hugs to grandmas and grandpas, husbands, sons, and daughter( Solana).XXX. All friends too! Will send now before its too late!!!

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