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Entries in Global Volunteers (8)

Thursday
Jun132013

Tanzania Mission, Day zzz...

It's been a week and we’re all so tired. Happy, but tired.

I worked in the CDC clinic today with Leesha, Madi, Haley, and Kassie. We pulled client records, refilled them, logged records, and measured, counted, and dispensed meds which we tucked into folded pieces of notebook paper in lieu of pill bottles. Lots of patients (100+) and then shelved and recorded all the meds we brought.

We also went with Edward to pay a visit to the widow of the young woman who died this week. It’s customary for everyone in the village to visit over many days, bringing small gifts of money, food, or firewood.

As far as work, everyone has his or her class assignments, plus Taylor is teaching music, Leesha is teaching the local med staff on the new med equipment we brought, and Madi was invited and visited the homes of four of the little girls she’s been playing with, which is a bit of an honor.

To end the day we met Edward at a “pub”…a cozy place in the heart of the village that serves beer, soda, and home brew, which we’ve been told to avoid. There are actually two pubs: the Quiet Pub for the old folks and the Noisy Pub for everyone else. A few of the kids tried light beer (called women’s beer) and watched DVDs of Muslim “coastal dance music” and Rhianna. On the way back Justin Bieber was playing on a battery-operated radio here in the heart of bush Tanzania proving that THERE IS NO ESCAPE!

Wednesday
Jun122013

Tanzania Mission, Day 4: Tears in the morning

Woke up early and saw an elderly woman passing by with a cane, she seemed to be crying. I shortly found out that there had been a death in the village the previous night and word had spread and that everything would be a bit subdued today as everyone prepared for the burial.

That set the tone for a sobering day.

We spend most of the morning with Dr. Elton, the resident clinician who is a dentist by training but does everything from pulling teeth to delivering babies to treating malaria, managing AIDS cases, and overseeing various forms or birth control and family planning. The morning was overwhelming—just to see it. The medicine on-hand was probably less than you have in your bathroom medicine cabinet (and this is a clinic that treats 4,000 patients from five villages). Heartbreaking doesn’t begin to describe it. When I think about more developed areas of the world spending money on frivolous medical procedures and I wanted to cry. Karissa did. All morning.

The whole thing was confounded by a gorgeous modern clinic within walking distance that had been built by the Roman Catholic Church but had no doctor and sat empty because of a political situation regarding obtaining a license. And they can't coordinate with the Lutheran clinic which promotes birth control. Ah, religion, you somehow get in the way of God and Man.

But lest you harp on organized (or in this case disorganized) religion, the Lutheran mission here offers free medical service to anyone without regard to faith and without this clinic the mortality rate in the villages would be far worse than it already is.

So if you’re a proud atheist or agnostic who thinks organized religions have caused more harm than good in the world, look around. I don’t see any atheist missions caring for the poor and dying.

The rest of the day was filled with Swahili lessons, visits to the school, meeting with Haran, the headmaster, running into a group of Italian and Polish aid-workers, visiting the Catholic orphanage, meeting with a Spanish monk, and walking back beneath power lines that could provide electricity to the village but the nearest power station is hundreds of miles away. Frustrating to look up and see electricity running from hydroelectric dams and yet no way to access it.

Dinner. Assignments and planning for tomorrow. Leesha will head to the clinic and the rest of us will head to the schools. I’ll be teaching Math. God help us all!

Tuesday
Jun112013

Tanzania Mission, Day 3: It’s full of stars

Busy day.

Met with the Secretary General of the mission, who talked about his visits to the US and how everyone has everything and is so terribly unhappy. Reminded me of a Lewis CK bit. Too true.

We shopped in the Iringa market (where we ran into the Lutheran Bishop of the mission, as well as Mama Toni who runs the mission house).

We visited an Anglican mission from the UK that employees locals with physical handicaps to create arts and crafts, weave, make prints, clothing, and enjoy a life of opportunity instead of begging. The Anglican mission also ran a lovely espresso bar where the everyone (including a few expats) hang out on the veranda checking email.

Then it was a 55km, two-hour journey to Pommern. We made it just in time for a pick-up football game with some seven-year-old boys who are better at soccer than I’ll ever be, and caught our first Pommern sunset. We also wandered over to the mother/baby clinic and another clinic where the residents were happy but were shy to talk. We later realized that was the AIDs clinic.

Dinner. Meetings. Bed. Then Lucas woke up, throwing up at 3 AM. Bedroom shuffle, clean up, disinfect, pass out probiotics, and then I caught the sub-Saharan night sky, 500 miles away from the nearest light pollution. The sky was so bright I thought it was a full moon, but that was just the glow from the “milk” in the Milky Way. Even saw three shooting stars.

Now warming up next to the fire. As soon as I’m warm enough, back to sleep.

Pax.

Saturday
Jun082013

Tanzania Mission, Day 1: Leaving the tourist behind

A gorgeous afternoon in Dar. Haley tried the shellfish, Kassie tried the goat. Lucas tried...everything.We're been in Dar es Salaam for 24 hours, practicing Swahili, buying elephant-print kangas in the market, eating cones of tiramisu-flavored gelato, and watching fishermen tend their nets along the pier. But haunting us all day has been the reality that we are currently dwelling in a sanitized, monetized, seaside villa version of Africa and that the real trip begins tomorrow.

Actually it began tonight when we had dinner with Edward Mgeni, the amazing Country Manager for Global Volunteers who is also our team leader. Dinner was everything from curried vegetables and banana soup, to french fries and pizza. And conversation ranged from the number of students enrolled in the three Pomerini schools (Edward knew the exact count, by day), the role of women in the village (they do a LOT, traveling many kilometers for firewood) to the number of cars (two in a community of 4,000).

We talked about how we'd be put to use in the village, but more importantly, Edward encouraged us to spread out in all directions after our orientation—to get to know people, to feel the community.

If the pleasure of Edward's company is any indication, we feel it already.

Okay, time for bed. We hit the road at 6:30 AM for a ten-hour journey that will include a fifty-mile short-cut across Mikumi National Park. We're not allowed to stop without a permit, though if there are safari animals roaming about we're allowed to drive really slow to snap a few photos. Or really fast if a bull elephant is charging.

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