Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A recharge weekend

February has flown by.  We have been in Tanzania for almost four months now.  Looking at the calendar last weekend we realized that Thursday was our wedding anniversary.  We decided that maybe we were due for a little break.  Because of our internet problems, we had planned to drive to Tanga during the week anyway.  We were given a recommendation to visit Pangani on the Indian Ocean by our friend Amanda from the states and also by some Peace Corps Volunteers who serve near Lushoto.  So, after a few phone calls and a trip to the bank for money from our savings, our plans were set.  We would leave on Thursday, travel to Tanga to buy a new modem stick, and then continue on to Pangani.
Thursday, a group of visitors arrived from the United States, so we delayed our start until after noon.  By the time we reached Tanga, it was too late to make the drive to Pangani.  So, Friday morning we continued on to Pangani.  The place we chose to stay was Mkoma Bay Tented Camping Resort.  A friend from the Peace Corps and our guide book recommended it and told that they serve “Western food”.  That was all we needed to know.  Upon arrival, we changed into bathing suits and went to the pool.  We ordered Cheeseburgers with french fries and Coke with ice.  It was wonderful!
The resort is owned and operated by an American/Danish couple.  Lisa is originally from California and met Orek when she was serving with the Peace Corps and he was with Lutheran World Relief.  They are very warm and welcoming.  They have a wonderful staff.  The accommodations were fantastic and the food was out of this world.  
Pangani is a small town where the Pangani River flows into the Indian Ocean.  Sadly, its  history goes back to the days when it served as a slave trading port.  There are some old buildings dating back to that time.  There are beach resorts north and south of the town.  Mkoma Bay Tented Camping Resort is certainly unlike any camp ground we have seen in the US.  The tents are huge and decorated with antique furniture.  They are on raised platforms with parquet flooring, thatched roofs above,  and full bathrooms attached.  Think high end “Out of Africa” tents.  
Our time there was been great.  It took a full day to finally relax.  We spent Saturday walking on the beach and swimming in the pool.  Since February is considered low season, there were only a handful of guests.  We met a couple from England and another from Denmark.  On Sunday, they had an “all you can eat” pizza lunch and many “ex-pat” people living locally came.  There were people from Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the UK, and the US.
We thank God for the opportunity to travel, relax, and meet new friends.  During the last week when we were without internet, we learned of the death of four friends.  Please pray for the families of Mike Gallo, Chuck Myers, Florence Bentzel and Dot Norris.  
God bless,
Tom and Susan

Friday, February 17, 2012

Irente Flurries

Greetings and blessings to you from Irente Children’s Home.  We are enjoying summer here, while the Philadelphia area has so far been spared too cold a winter.  We heard that there was a bit of snow on Saturday.  We had some amazing flurries here too, but they were butterflies, not snow.  The air for the past few days has been filled with clouds of small white butterflies.  They are all moving southwards, as if some big migration is going on.  Close examination shows that they are white with pale tan lines on the top of their wings.  Very beautiful!
These past two weeks have been a bit tough for us.  Besides dealing with Tom’s knee problem, we have also suffered from a dead Airtel stick, the modem that connects us to the internet.  Until we drove into Lushoto on Saturday, we did not know who had won the Super Bowl. We had not heard any news from any of our family or friends.  We were stranded here on the mountain.  It has been a big challenge to our spirits.  Our daily life continued as before.  We enjoyed playing with the children, English classes continued, our routine was the same.  Without the connection to home, it was very difficult.  We are so fortunate to have each other and our friends here, but we were lonely for our family and friends at home.
Since our last blog entry, two more boys have gone home.  Ramadan “Rama” went home with his baba (father) and auntie.  He had been here since he was a baby, but his family is now ready to care for him on their own.  We had met his father before on one of his visits to see Rama.  Rama is around 18 months old.  
The other boy was Baraka, who left last Friday morning.  He was adopted by a very nice couple from the area.  Baraka is somewhere between two and three years old.  He was an orphan and had been here his whole life.  He is a very handsome and smart boy.  He loves to sing “If you’re happy and you know it”.  Last week when Tom was at home and Baraka saw me arrive without him, he said, “Babu analala?”  Is Babu sleeping?  We miss them both, but especially Baraka.  Please keep these children and their families in your prayers.
We also received a new baby, a newborn girl named Rukia.  Her mother died in childbirth.  Please pray for her as well.
The big news of the week is that I drove down to town last Saturday!  The big word in that sentence is “down”.  We are talking 20 to 30 minutes of dirt road with 50 to 60% grade in some areas.  I must say I did okay.  So did Tom.  He seemed pretty calm for the most part.  Of course, there were a couple of times when he put his head out the passenger window to tell me how close I was to the edge.  The funny thing was that when Tom drives, many people walking give him the signal for a lift.  When they saw that I was one wanted a ride.  We parked at Tumaini Hostel as usual and when it was time to go home, Tom got us out of the parking lot and through the crowd of the main street.  At the Diocese office, we switched places.  Again, no one wanted a ride, which was fine with me.  The return trip means that the car is on the outside lane.  There are no guard rails here and the drop in some places could be ten stories high.  We arrived home safe, sound, and still married.  By the way, I was the hero of the girls at the home.  Not many women drive here.  
We hope to have the internet problem resolved this week.  If the stick cannot be fixed, we will need to drive to Tanga to buy a new one.  We are posting this from SEKUCo University.  Mama Munga has kindly allowed us to use their internet connection whenever we need it.  This morning we met Frank Martin of SEKUCo in Lushoto.  He rode here with us and got us set up.  Then someone brought us tea, samosas (fried meat-filled pastries) and maandani (think Dunkin Donuts munchies) for a snack.  What hospitality!

God bless.  Please keep us in your prayers as you are in ours.
Tom and Susan

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Surrounded by God's Love

Last Monday, Tom was supervising the removal of a very large tree at the home.  It was quite tall and half dead.  The living part had beautiful pink feather-like flowers.  Unfortunately, if it fell it would cause a lot of damage, so it had to go.  Four men doing the actual work with a bow saw and ropes to lower the cut branches to the ground.  Eric, the young man who made our front gate, was high in the tree in his sox cutting the branches.  Tom went up the ladder for a look and when he came down, twisted his left knee pretty badly.  He limped around for a while, trying to walk it off.  In no time at all, Mama Mdemu had arranged the driver, car and Mama Marianna to accompany Tom to Lushoto Hospital to have his knee examined.  
At the hospital, Tom filled out the registration card which asked for all of his information including his “Tribe”.  In the ER a woman asked many questions regarding the accident and gave him Paracetamol and sent him on his way.  (Take two aspirin and stay off it).
It was very painful for Tom.  After he returned, I called Dr Mark Jacobson, ELCA missionary who has worked in Arusha for 27 years.  I asked him about giving Tom some pain medication I brought with me in case of back problems.  He suggested that  we come the next day to Arusha.  There was a Orthopedic surgeon there until the next night, when he would return to Minnesota.  
After a phone call to Pr Kibanga at the Diocese office and a visit from Mama Mdemu, a driver was quickly arranged for the next morning to take us to Arusha Lutheran Medical Center.  Pastor Kibanga also traveled the half hour up the mountain to visit with us and see how Tom was in person.  Pastor Kangele, our neighbor came to pray with us and about an hour later, her husband Daniel visited and also prayed with us for Tom’s recovery.
The six hour drive was uncomfortable, but our driver Zachariah was wonderful.  He tried to avoid potholes and speed bumps as best he could.  When we arrived in Arusha, none of us knew the way to the hospital.  Arusha is a large and busy place.  We saw two policemen on the side of the road.  Zachariah stopped and I got out of the car to ask for directions.  I spoke with the younger of the policemen, who spoke in Kiswahili to the older one with a clip board.  He walked me back to the car, opened the front door and helped me in......and then he got in next to me!!  He directed Zachariah through the busy streets to the gate of the hospital.  We had always been told that if you ask directions here in Tanzania, the person you ask may take you to your destination.  We never expected to have a policeman accompany us.
From Reception, we were escorted by a very kind woman to the surgical waiting area.  Dr Mark had made all of the arrangements for us.  The doctor from Minnesota examined Tom’s knee and diagnosed a torn ligament, but one that would heal itself, given time and rest.  Since there is no MRI, we were told to return if the symptoms got worse, or if his knee did not improve over the next four to six weeks.  We returned home the next day.
In email, someone asked how we were managing in this situation, since we are here on our own.  Our reply was that we are far from being on our own.  The first evening when we returned we were visited first by ten of the students from the home, who filled our sofas, chair and tables with their loving presence.  Then Mama Mdemu, Mama Marianna, and little Nema came to visit.  Before they left, five more of the girls arrived and were joined shortly by three more.  Later that evening, our neighbor Pastor Kangele and her family stopped by.  Each of these groups of people offered prayer with us before they left.  We also have received phone calls from Pastor Kibanga checking on Tom.
Today was the first Sunday here that we have missed church.  It is too far to walk under the circumstances.  We have an English/Kiswahili Bible and the lectionary to find the day’s readings.  We also listened to Elvis sing Gospel and had our own devotions.  After the first service, the girls from the home who sing in the choir at church arrived, singing one of the songs they had sung in the service.  
We are surrounded by God’s love through our brothers and sisters here and at home.  We are thankful for all of this love that we receive every day.  

To view some pictures of Irente Children's Home please go to: