Tanzy Back to School Report

Of course 10 days ago our arrival to Kili International, with that sensation of warm air infusing the cabin of the plane, seems a long time ago now. Sasha and I both noted how dark the landscape was as we circled and on landing looked out the window opposite of the terminal to the vast African darkness. Amsterdam had been lit up like a cake and that difference is what makes working here so endlessly fascinating…how to advance objectives in the face of failing or no infrastructure. The days  in Tanzania are full and each one organized to get as much done in the short time we have. I learned again how to operate my cell phone, a critical work tool here which allowed me to communicate and plan ahead people while stuck in the back of the jeep. The mind is kept nimble thinking of ways to problem solve using the cell and I cant imagine how impossible it must have been before. The locals helped retrieve my chip with all my contacts from the bottom of a garbage pail, fortunately.
Swahili too is coming back slowly and thanks to the prescribed ping pong of greetings I am able to practice again and again once familiar phrases. Everyday more comes back to me though Emelianna the cook says Sasha cannot speak at all as if I have failed as a mother. But more patient and jovial people would be hard to find and they coax us along like children. It is wonderful to be back into the fold of community and friend and colleagues at Kilema hospital.
At my first morning report the shy nurses recite a summary of the night shift as usual. Sister asks if there was any problem in the night and the shy nurses say as they say every morning that “there were no problem in the night” and there is a pregnant pause for “admissions, suggestions, clarifications” where everyone, doctors and nurses, remain mute. But at the end of morning report I have a chance to say greetings to everyone and see some great smiles in the group. When its all over everyone relaxes and the real greetings begin… truly heart warming. Everyone asking after Dr. Chris, Lockie and Eva, Fiona, Rita and the girls who were here last year. They remember everybody. So Mama Nyaki is fine as is Mama Kessy and Sr. Mary Krista who has a great laugh. Dr. Mbando is on call and so tired one night he sleeps through the church music playing beside his bed all night. Of course sound travels.   The church bells still ring off at 5:30 then again at 6. Dr Julius is looking crisp and smart as usual……
The short rains have come so the landscape is green and quite lush, different from the deep dust this time last year. Up at Kilema the temperature is cooler and the breeze starts up at about 5pm causing all the shutters to bang on our house. Trees sway and birds dart and if this convinces anyone that they might like to visit Tanzania, maybe teach English or set up computers it is always immediately clear that that would be a good thing. Especially English.

Jolly Rotarians are here finishing a classroom building project at Kilema Primary school and their contribution to the infrastructure in this district is truly remarkable when you count all the contributions. Their aim this year is to nurture the community in prioritizing their own projects and future plans and amazingly 20 people from the larger community have banded together to start a new Rotary group at Kilema,  which will open up connections with other groups globally. There is much discussion, sharing of information, filling in the blanks and together we create a composite of whats happened and what are the issues at Kilema since the last visit 11 months ago. The Rotarians have added so much to my experience here and even Sasha says” Boy , are they funny!” And they like their Safari beer baridi cold!

My work arranging school fees and supplies for 55 children started with a bang this past Monday largely due to Sunday advertising my arrival. I called or met with nearly every contact and many students themselves and began planning for the school year ahead. It is hard to describe how central schooling is to children… absolutely all encompassing. I’m working with Ireni and Sunday in the OVC( orphan and vulnerable children) office and they are fabulous; listening, counseling, receiving a seeming endless line of children in need. They admit they are stressed because there are few resources but here they will let children speak to  needs though they have little help to offer. Ireni and Sunday oversee 210 children in the program and I carry another 55 and while that is significant and welcome it still seems a drop in the bucket. Dilemma after dilemma but these two can still burst into laughter and tease often. By day two I am saying” no ” to new requests quite flatly trying not to feel overwhelmed.  But the community here is grateful and the children registered to us show much less stress. I am so grateful to all my donors of money and materials, bags, shirts, shoes and dresses who have allowed us to offer so much to children here. There is great pleasure on this side when shoes fit. All the small dictionaries have been given out to Margareth, Deo and few others. The bags are a hit. Dresses might be given out discretely at Easter so as not to cause a riot- difficult to distribute at times. They talk and 50 more will come! Thank you everyone though, for all your warm feelings and generosity!
Sasha has been intrepid and after an initial adjustment period has fallen into the greetings and reunions with old friends in a familiar way. He wiped out on the soccer pitch and has a abrasion filled with red clay currently trying to heal on his back. He has compared muscle mass with friend Godfrey and has lead Rotarians out of nearby Mkyashi village in the dark! Sorry Grandma! Sunday has been wonderful to Sasha and I’m trying to get a photo of the two fellows weightlifting at Sunday’s house. The Rotarians are trying inspire Sasha to write a book,’ Travels with my Mother’.  And I think Emeliana is beginning to forgive him for forgetting his Swahili. He is a fine fellow and I’m very proud of him.
Will report more next week. Internet is hopeless at Kilema but I relish the texts from Chris and family and the call this morning from my book club friends. Thank you.

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