Saturday, August 1, 2009

in 5 hours

i'll be getting on a plane that will take me through amsterdam, and onto seattle. that's right, i'm coming! crazy. nuts. weird. i haven't really been very excited as of yet - not because i don't want to see people or do things i love at home, but because i feel like i could stay here longer. But alas, that is not meant to happen at the moment and i think it's good to go home while i still have a little bit of money. Regroup, hang out, work, save, get some direction, and then plan my next adventure! I'm sad to be leaving so much that i love and i'm not very excited for a lot of what constitutes life in America...but there are some things about home that are coming within grasp that i am pretty stoked about. here are a few:

-dad and brother
-amber and her daughter
-dinner with miki
-shrimp salad (the way my dad makes it, mmm...)
-laying on the grass
-hiking somewhere that isn't in dodoma
-seattle, portland, the city
-wearing all the pantalones and shorts my little heart desires
-a bed all to MYSELF! :)

ahhh the more i think about those things, the more i am getting excited to get home! i think it's gonna be pretty great. i hope. i'm plenty nervous for all the cultural, emotional, and spiritual side effects that i'll be dealing with - but god is good and i trust that he'll get me through just fine.

so yes, here i come america! whoohooo!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

a moment like this (think kelly clarkson...)

Yesterday morning I took Josh’s dog, Buddy, out for a walk. He’s a huge dog; half German shepherd and half Rhodesian ridgeback. He has a thunderous bark, but is totally a scaredy-cat. I’ve been house sitting for Josh, while he’s been in Arusha, for the past 5 days. It’s been great having more space, making my own food, watching House DVD’s, and hanging out with his dog and cat. While I totally miss the kids in my host family and am excited to go back there today, I really enjoy the area of Dodoma that Josh’s house is in. It’s a little quieter than Area C (where I live) and the houses are more spread out. Buddy and I walked up a road that leaves town, towards a hill covered in cell phone towers. We cut over a bit and ended up passing a woman’s house in the Home Based Care program at the church. Her name is Tatu Ally and I’ve been to her house a few times. Her story is in a previous post if you wish to read. She wasn’t home, but her youngest daughter was playing out front. She recognized me and was excited to see me.

None of this is particularly significant, except what happened after. Nothing happened, actually. It was just a moment. I had a moment. I’m not totally sure how to describe it, but it was one of those times where you just feel totally happy. Like, where you are so glad to be in exactly that place, at exactly that time, doing exactly what you are doing. For me, it was wearing my comfy linen pants and hoodie. It was taking a morning walk with a sweet, friendly dog. It was the coffee cup in hand, the early sun shining on me, the vibrant purple flowers nearby, the adorable toddler waving and smiling at me in the distance. I just felt good; at peace. It is moments like these that make me so sad to be leaving Tanzania in less than two weeks. I don’t feel ready to go. I don’t want to. But I can’t honestly justify staying longer…to do what? It would be totally selfish, I wouldn’t be staying to do anything or contribute in any sort of way besides the fact of just being here, which is what I want to do.

That moment yesterday morning, along with others, have begun to make me realize just how much I’ve grown to love this country, these people, this land. It’s not without its challenges…that’s for damn sure. But I think the challenges, the struggles, and the difficulties are part of what makes it so worth it to be here. All this has really had me thinking about working overseas in the future. I think it’s something I really want to do. I think, first, I need to pick a field, get educated, experienced, and skilled in it. And then take the show on the road with something of value to offer. The big question is whether or not psychology/counselling/social work will allow me to do that. I don’t know how all that stuff works cross-culturally or across language barriers. That’s something I need to really consider, and if that’s not a line of work that can be useful abroad, then a change in direction may be in order. I feel like that’s a little too much to be thinking of at the moment, but it’ll definitely be on my mind when I get home. Which is soon. Crazy! Just in closing, I hope those of you who are reading this know that I, of course, will be ecstatic and overjoyed to see you and hug you and be near you again. While I may not want to leave this place yet, I will be very happy to be with good friends again, sharing life with you.

Friday, July 17, 2009


CRDB finally got their act together and transfered the money i was waiting for. only took 5 weeks lol...but i'm not complaining, just glad not to be in debt! I'm super thankful to those of you who prayed the money would make it to my account, and also to those who let me borrow money in the promises i would write them a check when i get back home. thanks everyone! i'm back in business...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

so many pictures, not enough internet...

mama, me, and baby Junior

chips! made by Rasta, mmmm..

safari crew + pilot and plane

safari shirt(courtesy bridg's grandma), on safari!!

home visiting

just a few...this takes foreverrr :/

outside church

picture taken by: kibiro

the nursery school kids...i can't get enough of them!!

at the cape point

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


was sweet!!! Didn't end up going to the Serengeti because we wanted to catch the wildebeest migration and we just missed it by a couple weeks. bummer, but it worked out pretty great still. Me, Brandon, Emily, Sam, and an old german lady decided to go to Ruwaha (a pretty big park south of Dodoma) for the day. We chartered a MAF (missionary aviation fellowship) flight out to the park which was pretty awesome. Fun to ride in a tiny little plane from your backyard, right into the game park...and landing on a dirt air strip with giraffes next to it was also cool. Spent the day riding around a huge open air cruiser searching for animals. I was pretty horrible at spotting them lol. Got to see lots of animals: hippo, giraffe, zebra, lion, elephant, warthog, gazelle, baboon, crocodile, and lots of cool birds. Didn't get to see any cheetah, leopard, or hyena's which was a bummer, but we only had one day so that's okay. We ate lunch in the lodge in the park which was suuuper nice. Got to sip coffee and eat desert overlooking a river with bathing elephants and hippo's. Pretty good day!

Friday, July 10, 2009

just wanted to share...

Going on home visits has provided me with some of my favorite experiences in Tanzania so far. It’s really at the heart of why I came here. To be able to see what life is really like for most people around the world. Coming from a country with such wealth and where extreme poverty is so far removed from our everyday lives, I felt the desire for truth, understanding, and reality. In my quest to understand and experience these things, I have come to Tanzania. To meet these people, to see where they live, where they sleep, what they eat, what their struggles are, etc. It has truly been an honor to be able to sit in their homes, play with their kids, sing their songs, and drink their tea. The people we visit are clients in the Home Based Care (HBC) program at the church or children in the Lahash sponsorship program. The HBC clients are typically women who are HIV+ and many of the sponsorship kids are HIV+ as well.

Here are some of their stories…*

I’ve been to visit Lucy two times. She was actually the first home visit I went on. She lives in a tiny, 2 roomed, 10x15 ft house made of clay bricks with sheets of corrugated metal for a roof. Her rent is just under $3 a month. She has a daughter, named Shida (in the Lahash program) who (I would guess) is 11 years old. Lucy is HIV+ and recently became very sick with Tuberculosis. The HBC program contacted her mother and advised her to come and take care of Lucy and Shida until she recovered. One of the big struggles many people face is providing the seriously ill with proper nutrition so their bodies can recover from illnesses. In particular, Lucy struggled because the TB medicine needed to be coupled with milk and adequate nutrition, which she could not provide for herself. The HBC program was able to provide her with milk, but only for a short time. Lucy, Shida, and Bibi (grandmother) were sleeping on empty rice bags on the floor, because they could not afford a mattress. There was no father around, and I’m not sure as to what source of income Lucy has, if any. Since that first visit, she has recovered from TB, her mother has gone back home because of Lucy’s revived health, and I bought a mattress for them so they don’t have to sleep on the floor anymore. I hope to visit Lucy and Shida again soon to see how they are doing.

I went to visit Rose two times. Upon entering her home, it is obvious that she has at least a little bit of money. You can tell because her home has a large sitting room, there is furniture for guests, a bed in the bedroom, and she has electricity (when it works). I learned that she used to be a “salonist”, owning her own shop where she braided hair. Upon meeting Rose, I was instantly fighting back tears. Her body was completely emaciated…literally skin and bones. I realized that I’ve never actually seen someone in real life like that. So skinny, I mean. The closest thing has been tv shows, documentaries, or textbooks about girls who struggle with eating disorders. It was a struggle for her to prop herself up so she just laid on the bed during the visit. Her voice was weak and frail, barely audible. Rose’s condition was due to advanced cervical cancer (which is apparently very common in Tz). I’m not sure exactly how many children she has, at least a few, one of which is sponsored by Compassion Int’l. I know she has a teenage daughter who dropped out of school after becoming pregnant. As in Lucy’s case, Rose’s mother has taken on the burden of caring for her and the children. And again, there is no father or husband around to help out. I went back to visit Rose a week later with Dr. Christopher (from the U.S.). The HBC providers didn’t think she’d live to see the doctor. But she did. I was confused during the visit when the Bibi was praising the Lord for Rose’s recovery. But Dr. Chris informed me that when Tanzanians say this, they don’t mean a physical recovery. Rose’s situation is obviously dire and irreversible (even after receiving 2 or 3 cancer treatments from a center in Dar), but what they mean is that she has recovered hope. Not hope that she will get better, but hope knowing that there are people who care enough to visit, who are concerned for her and her family, and who are praying for her…she is not alone. Rose died shortly after that visit. I am glad to have met her and to have been witness to her story.

Tatu Ally
Tatu Ally is a lovely woman. I feel an uncommon surge of joy in my heart when I see her…I think it’s in her smile. She lives in a clay brick house, similar to Lucy’s, but in a less populated area. She has three children, two toddlers and a teenager, all girls. She is HIV+ and very thin. She has a husband, but he is not around much, which is a good thing because he is abusive. He is employed as a guard but doesn’t use any of the money to support his wife or children. Tatu has a small shamba (farm) where she grows and sells okra. The two oldest children are in sponsorship programs, the middle one of which is also HIV+. During the visit, Elizabeth Omari popped in to say hello. She is another woman in the program, who has a daughter the same age as Tatu’s middle child and is also in the Lahash sponsorship program. The two women are neighbors and became friends after realizing that they both were walking to the Mennonite church at the same times, for the same events. It was so encouraging to listen to them talk about the community and fellowship they’ve found within each other and with the other HBC clients. It really is a support system for people who are so marginalized and stigmatized. It was also a blessing to hear them speak about how their lives are different since being involved in the program. The hope they’ve found that someone would take notice of them, stand by them in their suffering, try to ease their pain, and will look after their children should they die. I’ve only been back to Tatu Ally’s once – to deliver some chickens lol, but I see her and her daughters at the center often. I hope to visit her home again before I leave.

Kristina is not a client in the HBC program as of yet. While we were out home visiting a few clients the other day, one of them directed us to Kristina’s house, knowing that she needed some help and maybe we could do something for her. Upon meeting Kristina, we realized she had lost the ability to speak. We sat down in her home with her mother and two children and inquired about her situation. What we learned was very sad and discouraging. Kristina’s mother has been “taking care” of her and the children since she’s been sick. She had previously been on ARV therapy, but the Bibi has failed to go back to the hospital to receive more ARV medication in the last year and a half.

Anti-retro viral medication is free to all HIV+ patients in Tanzania. It can have extremely uncomfortable and displeasing side effects, but it saves lives. Obviously it does not cure AIDS, but it makes people able to function on a somewhat normal level for a time, before the disease progresses too much. Maintaining ARV therapy is critical for HIV+ patients, especially if they have children (and they always do) so that they are able to provide for their children until they are old enough to provide for themselves. Kristina hasn’t been to a doctor since Feb. 2008…and she is supposed to have a check up every month or two. The medication she does have in the home is expired, and the Bibi hasn’t renewed her ARV medication in the last year. It is in this absence of treatment that Kristina has lost the ability to speak. The Bibi has been “hiding” Kristina in a sense, locking her up when she leaves the home and saying she’s not there when people come calling for her. We obviously were shocked and disappointed in the Bibi and questioned why she hasn’t been getting the proper care for her daughter. Her response was that, “Kristina is already dead”. This was a huge insight into the stigma and ignorance that the HBC program is fighting.

Often, people with HIV are considered less than human and are treated as a plague. Ignorance is so rampant amongst the average Tanzanian that people do not understand why people get AIDS nor do they realize that with proper care, they can live full lives. Grace and Healing Minsitry struggle to get this message across to their clients, but it is a difficult fight. One child in the Lahash sponsorship program lives with her aunt because her parents are dead. The aunt forces her to sleep on the floor in the living room while the rest sleep in the bed, because she is HIV+. Another family in the HBC program had their house burnt down by their neighbors because they found out they were HIV+. Others can’t make money through small businesses because when people find out they’re HIV+, they stop buying from them. How discouraging...but the ministry at the church is truly breaking barriers and it is encouraging to see the work they do. Kristina and her mother came to the center today for the fellowship group, which is when all the clients come together to eat, worship, and learn about HIV/AIDS. The topic was "Breaking the Silence" appropriate that Kristina's mother was there to hear it. Hope the message got through.

*my disclaimer is that often things get lost in translation so I really only get bits and pieces of stories, and often what I glean is not 100% accurate… just FYI