It’s been such a busy six weeks (six weeks?!) since we arrived back in Tanzania. As you’ve seen from my previous several blog posts, most of what I was doing during February was catching up with Mama Maisha. The last part of that month was spent with a team from Asheville, NC: my co-founder Dr. Reta Graham (in pink at left), medical resident Dr. Bre Bolivar (sitting on my left) and nurse Deb Bentley (standing behind me). With my ever-present rock star team of Ellen Kawira (sitting on my right) and Grace Weaver (taking the photo), we spent ten days visiting and training all our Maternal Health Advocates, doing education about prenatal care and contraception for over 200 women in the villages, and even making a field assessment about whether or not to transport a woman in labor to Shirati Hospital or send her home to deliver with a Traditional Birth Attendant. (We sent her home on a motorbike with some supplies for a hygienic birth and she delivered a healthy baby boy that evening at the local TBA.)
In addition to the boost that Reta, Bre and Deb provided to the Mama Maisha program, they also poured a lot of balm into my tired heart and soul. I always come back from America exhausted from working so hard and a little sad to have left family and friends behind. Reta has been an incredibly important person in my life from the moment we met. When I met Bre Bolivar, the first words addressed to her directly were mildly insulting, but she totally rolled with it, and thus we recognized in each other a “kindred spirit”. It will be a long, long time before I forget the look on Deb’s face as we shared some adult time over beers and chips (french fries); she was talking about her husband and suddenly interrupted herself to say emphatically and delightedly “I just LOVE my husband so much!” All three of these women showed me in a hundred ways how much they love their husbands, and it’s pretty rare to be with women who’ve been married for between 5 and 15 years who are still so infatuated with their husbands. It was lovely to be around.
When they left Shirati to head back to Nairobi to fly home, they invited me to go with them. They had big plans for their one day as tourists, and I was having so much fun with them, how could I say no? We went to a place that makes and paints their own beads, providing a really great income for women. Then we went to the Giraffe Park, where Bre kissed the giraffe. Then we went to lunch, and I ate an insane amount of food. The shopping was Reta’s thing, the giraffes were Bre’s thing, lunch was my thing! They left that evening, and I went home by bus to spend a week on my neglected Lahash duties. (I’m doing an assessment of all the major projects that Lahash has been a part of in the last ten years. It’s sometimes tedious and sometimes fascinating. I’ll post more about it next week.)
Fred picked up Innocent from school and took him to Nairobi for an appearance in Children’s Court. The Court wanted to be assured that he had not been trafficked abroad. Inno really impressed the magistrate who interviewed him, and the magistrate recommended that we go forward with adoption soon. On Friday, as Fred and Inno returned from Nairobi, the rest of us drove up to meet them for Parents Day at his new school, Our Lady of Orore. (It’s Catholic, in case you couldn’t tell.) Wesley and Gretchen were soooo happy to see Inno, who is the top boy in his class, even after starting school a month late! He got a special award from the school, gave us a tour around, and we met his teacher. She recommended that we sign him up for tutorial on the weekends, so that “he wouldn’t have too much time to play and could improve in things like English.” After that meeting I asked Fred if she was really talking about Innocent; actually she’s just trying to sell tutoring to any and all students, because that’s ten bucks a term in her pocket. Didn’t score any points with us, though, since Inno’s English is better than hers and he was only four points (out of 500 possible) behind the top girl in his class. Thank you to the kind friends who sponsored Innocent’s entire year of school!
After that visit to the school, we went to Fred’s home village for the weekend for a long overdue visit with his grandmother . She made sure that we went over to look at the land she had given us (below), which is being farmed until the day we decide to build there. Isn’t it beautiful? It has a reasonable view of Lake Victoria from the opposite angle. The first step is to build a fence around it, then we’ll start building bit by bit.
The day we left America we spoke at C3 Church in Newberg, and they took a love offering for us that was an incredible blessing to us. One of the things it has allowed us to do was replace Fred’s grandmother’s twenty-five-year-old living room furniture. She was always embarrassed to have guests over because her furniture was falling apart. We drove to a nearby town and picked out this sofa, loveseat and two armchair set for her, all funded by C3 Newberg. She was so touched, as were her daughter and granddaughter, who are sitting with her on the couch.
While we were in Sindo, Wesley turned three years old! We didn’t celebrate, since birthdays aren’t really celebrated in the villages, but when we got home I made him a yellow cake with coconut fudge icing and marshmallows. He also got to open the birthday present that Great Grandma Adams had sent with us. It was a quiet evening after so much travel, but we really enjoyed celebrating our social, emotional, creative little guy!
Whew! What a long update! That’s what I get for leaving it so long, but thank you all for the way you continue to be present in our lives!