We are humbled to learn that there of parts of the world that are challenged to have electricity. In Usa River, a “suburb” of Arusha, we have not had electricity for 85% of the time. On October 25, 2015, Tanzania is having an election, and the theory is that the opposition party is sabotaging the electricity in order to blame the ruling party in order to make people want to unseat them. The lack of electricity has made us laugh – when it comes back on we cheer!
Friday was also an amazing day in Tanzania. We started out the day attending chapel at Usa River Rehabilitation Center, which is a center for children who need physical rehabilitation that is owned and operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania’s Diocese of Meru. The service was conducted in Swahili, but we sang along to the best of our ability. It was fabulous to hear the children’s choir accompanied by the drums. Afterwards, we had breakfast at the Tanz-Hands café, and then shopped in the Tanz-hands gift shop, of course it was a sacrifice for us to shop, but we had to support ELCT and the rehabilitation center (yes, we again purchased new merchandise for our traveling “Duka” – store). While we were there Edward, the driver picked up the diabetic patient from his home in the ambulance purchased with funds from a local foundation and Rotary Club and he was admitted to the hospital.
Then our friends from Nkoaranga picked us up, and we went to visit patients.
The first patient was a man who had stomach cancer and extremely poor living conditions – their is only a bedroom and a small sitting area. They had chickens and farmed to eke out a living. He was full of fluid and in a lot of pain. It was clear that he needed hospitalization. In Tanzania the family is responsible for being with the patient when they are in the hospital in order to do personal care and feeding, so while they were making plans we went off to visit the cousin of Tumaini Mbise, our colleague who is responsible for the Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s Program. This took us over an hour over unbelievable roads, crossing streams in the 4-wheel drive ambulance and driving through cornfields.
This woman, named Faustina, is just 32 years old with young children. She fell several years ago, fracturing her skull. As a result she has a large lesion the size of a grapefruit on her head. She delayed seeking treatment and now the lesion is inoperable. They are monitoring her for infection and providing pain medication and are considering medications to avoid seizures. Her neighbor greeted us – he reports to be 120 years old, and states “I like women!” He was adorably handsome with his grizzled features, beautiful teeth and jaunty baseball cap.
From there we were invited for lunch with the Bishop of the Diocese of Meru, the General Secretary and 6 pastors. They expressed their gratitude for all that Gilchrist, GBMC and donors have done for Nkoaranga, and they presented us each with a lovely batik of animals native to Tanzania, as well as a gift for Gilchrist, which we will hang on the wall in Hunt Valley.
Next, Sharmean, Becky and Marian were taken home to rest, and Robin went on to Arusha to meet with our friend and colleague, Dr. Paul Z. Mbando, the Director of the Palliative Care Program for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, as well as Nosim, the social worker for the program, Anna Mahenge, the Assistant Director, Mette Kristensen and the accountant. We spoke at length about Goodluck, the young man with the horrible bed wounds who has been in the hospital for months. We also chatted about our ongoing relationship with Nkoaranga and how all US hospices should partner with hospices in Africa. Surprisingly some of the partners in the US have never traveled to visit their African colleagues!
Then we were off to Mama Sarah Swai’s house for dinner, who came to the US in 2013 to visit Gilchrist. She has retired from her position as the Palliative Care Coordinator and now has a small “duka” meaning “store” which is a pharmacy. Mama Swai cooked us a wonderful dinner – beef mchuse, rice, spinach from her garden, French Fries, watermelon, oranges and sliced cucumbers. It was wonderful to see her. We presented her with an engraved crystal heart from Things Remembered which says “To Sarah – enjoy your retirement – from your friends at Gilchrist Hospice Care” and other gifts from friends. She loved it, as well as the bracelet we made for her from beautiful pearls donated by the daughter of a patient for whom we provided care on the Baltimore West team.
We left happy, full, and contented, and drove over amazingly bad roads (there is absolutely no way to describe them!) with no street lights, but a full moon, and packed for our next adventure.
It is now Saturday, and we are paying for a vacation for ourselves. We have saved up our money over the past year to go on a safari throughout Northern Tanzania. We will be visiting Lake Manyara, Ngorogo Crater, and the Serengetti.
If you were to ask us what has been the favorite part of our trip, the time at Nkoaranga or the safari, I think we would choose visiting patients. It has been an eye-opening privilege. But saving money for the safari was definitely worth it – today we saw baboons with their babies on their bellies, giraffes grazing on trees next to the safari vehicle, seas of pink flamingos, wildebeest and zebras. Oh yes, and elephants with huge tusks walking a hair’s distance from the safari vehicle.
We feel so blessed to have spent time with our friends and colleagues in Tanzania and to have experienced Tanzania in a more personal way than just being a tourist.
We are going to “go off radar” and enjoy our vacation, but we will write again on Thursday when we return. We are grateful that we will spend all next Friday with Nkoaranga, then dinner with Nkoaranga and ELCT friends, then shopping (yay!) on Saturday with our friends before catching the plane to come home. We will miss them terribly.
Robin, Sharmean, Becky and Marian