Notes from Jeff this morning (3/25 in TZ):
Everyone loves getting the blog updates and news from home – keep the comments coming! Lots of rain last night but sunny this AM. We’re off to church shortly. Cinnamon rolls from Paula! Everyone is amazed how well fed they are! We are afraid we will gain weight instead of losing weight.
Hello again everyone. Yes it’s your ole mountain climbing pal Kevin back at the keyboard once again. Well first off, I’m pretty much all healed up from that climb other than black and blue toes. Perhaps sometime they will get better too. And I’m now at 1400 on my camera and counting.
So what did I do today… another first for me as Dr. Brekke invited me in to the operating room to observe the two surgeries they did, both hernias. Yes I promise, I’ll try not to get to graphic here. Much to my surprise, I easily got through the initial stages of the cutting and smells. However, after about 30 minutes or so, I started getting a little clammy and sweaty so I went out for a bit but made it back towards the end. The second surgery went much smoother for me as I actually made it through the whole thing. Perhaps this will be the start of a new career in the operating room… well… now that I think about that for a minute, perhaps not. Anyway, it was quite an experience and if the chance arises again I’ll probably watch more.
That was the first half of the day. The second half of the day the group went to an orphanage in Mwanza run by a Canadian church, Starehe Children’s Home. It is home to about 130 children. This is a beautiful campus with grass (very few places have grass here), lots of playground space, and very nice offices and living accommodations for the kids complete with lots of bright cheery colors and beautiful pictures and most importantly, a terrific staff. They are currently in the process of changing from a dormitory style of living to more of a “home” style of living with each home having about 10 kids and headed by a “mom.” The stories and backgrounds of these kids are not unlike the orphanage I visited while in Moshi. Some were abandoned, others have parents that couldn’t or can’t take of them and still others have parents that are no longer alive. An alarming number of mothers die during childbirth here. Today, and tomorrow too, our task is to give the children physicals and do any lab work that may be needed. My piece of this was helping with eye exams. Hannah and I partnered up at one station while Keith and Sue worked the other. Over the course of a couple of hours we got through many of them and will finish the rest tomorrow. The real fun began however once the work was over. We got to play with many of the kids and hold some of the youngest. There are so many individual stories to tell that they’re too numerous to all mention here. Many of the kids don’t want to be put down once they get in your arms. Most seem to understand or at least have some idea of what we are doing and are so appreciative of the help we give them. You can see it in those big bright smiles they all have. And over my nearly four weeks in Tanzania I’ve found that to be a recurring theme with all the people that call this beautiful country home.
Before I came here I’d read about how poor this country is and indeed, by our standards, as measured in dollars and cents or GDP perhaps they are poor, but those are only numbers. Look a little further, you won’t have to look far, and you’ll find great deal of wealth. The wealth here though is not something tangible as we may consider. The wealth I speak of is in the people and their spirit, a people that are both incredibly friendly and so so proud of their country. Here are just a few examples of this wealth I’ve encountered in my time here.
When I asked my daytrip guide, Victor, on a very hot day in Moshi, if he wanted a Coke he said sure. We then proceeded to pass by numerous “shops” that had Coke advertisements painted on the outside walls of their small buildings. When I asked why we hadn’t stopped he replied that he wanted to find a place that sold cans. Every place we had passed by was selling bottles. When I asked what difference it made he said it wasn’t safe for me to drink from bottles as they aren’t always cleaned the best and then said how he considered us to be brothers and as brothers he wanted to look out for my best interests. He would demonstrate this repeatedly over the three days I was with him.
Then there was my mountain guide, Wilbart. After the nightly meals had been finished he would always stop by my tent to give me the next days briefing. Every night, he’d give me the same three words with a big smile before zipping up my tent, “lala salama rafiki,” sleep safe my friend.
When I commented to my safari guide, Swai, on how nice the Arusha highway was and how it was as good or better than many of the two lane highways in the U.S. are he couldn’t stop smiling and then told me of many things he is quite proud of here.
There was the story you heard the other day from Sue. One of our patients we had operated on said she asked God if he would claim her that day. When told our post-op nurse told her God wanted to keep her here for now she replied that she had seen God that day… she saw Him through us.
Then there’s Wilson, one of the maintenance staff here. Every morning he calls me out by name, gives me a big hug and handshake, and then tries to teach me a few words of Swahili.
And I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been greeted with a big smile and the words of habari (hello) or karibu (welcome).
As we drove through Mwanza, a city of two-million, on the way back to our temporary home tonight, I couldn’t help but think about some of those things while looking out the bus window seeing the thousands of people walking the streets throughout the city. Looking at the “structures” they call home mixed amongst the giant boulders that line the hills here. Looking at and feeling the roads, some so boulder-laden and with gullies from the rain runoff that probably measure a foot deep or more in places, they were barely passable. Seeing people rummage through garbage piles looking for what? we can only imagine. Driving past the blocks and blocks of stands lining both sides of the road, most consisting of nothing more than a small table or blanket in the dirt selling many things but most often fruit(s), each stand lit by a single candle on this night. The choking smell of exhaust from the many large trucks that are so prevalent here. I could go on but you get the picture.
Yes, from our perspective, maybe they really don’t have much but yet it’s all they know. I’ve found in my time here not only are they able to work with what little they have, they thrive doing it and through it all are able to maintain those bright smiles, cheerful attitudes and most importantly, their dignity. I must say, it is quite striking to see a country with so little yet one that is so rich.
Perhaps that is a lesson we can all draw from.
So to all of our Tanzanian friends and to all reading our blog… Lala salama rafikis, lala salama!