David, the Wildlife Management Authority guide assigned to take today’s eight permit holders to the Rushegara family of Gorillas looked over the sweating panting group of humans and calmly said, “ I am happy to announce that we are very near the gorillas.” Two hours of steep hiking had brought us to the top of a thickly forested mountain, about 7000 ft., in the Ugandan national park, Bwindi National Forest.  If anyone had any breath left, there would have been a cheer. “Please have any water you need now,  put down your walking sticks and backpacks, the porters will bring them later.”  David goes on to remind us that there was to be no loud talking, no quick movements, no flash photography. “ If you must cough or sneeze, do so into your sleeve.  If an animal charges, look down, be meek and do not run.  Stay in a tight group,  do not approach the gorillas,  the closest you are to come to them is 21 feet.  You will have exactly one hour to observe the gorillas,  after that time you will follow me out of the area.”  No nonsense here.    We gather together and follow David closely.  Behind us is a tracker with an AK47.  The forest is filled with green, it is as if the whole world is green, in every shade and hue of the spectrum.  There are vines and low plants underfoot, bushes growing from there left. A juvenile male gorilla has been munching leaves 8 feet from our group, assessing today’s group of people as he enjoyed his morning feeding.  Cameras are raised, David is stopped and the viewing begins.  Soon, the juvenile gets up and ambles with-in two feet of my legs and walking casually on all fours into the brush to the sliverback leader of the family of twenty. There is no doubt that this is the family leader.  He is big, majestic and the others come to him with respect.   Suddenly, the forest floor is alive with gorillas, babies, mothers, juveniles, both male and female, a black back male.  David is trying to keep the tourist group together for taking photos and observing this family as they move through the forest in search of food.  Each day the gorillas will consume tens of kilos of leaves, stems and roots to maintain their body weight and health.  They pick through an area and then move on to another area, always looking for the best supply, young and tender leaves and branches.  We watch as another juvenile rapidly picks and chews through the vegetation within his reach while the silverback is more discerning, picking and eating with some care.  A young gorilla is wandering from plant to plant, jumping and playing, eating a little here and there.  A female grooms the young one and hands some leaves to him.  He lopes off towards the silverback who watches him for a bit and then the silverback gets up and begins to move.  As he passes the young one in the grass he reaches out and the youngster is riding his back.  David says this is a good father!! Cameras are clicking away.  As the gorillas make their way through their eating they are moving from the crest of the mountain down the otherside from where we ascended.  Little by little we follow them down,  watching with fascination as they interact, care for one another in a way that is known to them but not the new observer.  They are unfazed by us.  As long as we keep our distance and are quiet,  they accept us.  We are the visitors, coming into their home and daily routine.  The black back sits up and looks at us pensively, Buddha like.  He finds us fairly uninteresting so he ambles off.  Walking on all fours is oddly graceful on this steep slope. It makes me think I should try it when we go down to the valley.  We move from one small group interaction to another.  It seems like moments before David announces that we have only 5 minutes until our observation time is finished.

The fascination is that we see much of our basic selves mirrored in these animals.  David tells us that we have seen the entire Rushegara group.  We are fortunate not only to have seen them all but to have seen them active,  eating, moving, playing.  Later in the day they rest and are more difficult to see.  On a scale of 1-10,  this has been a 10!  The Mountain Gorillas must live in the mountains,  they are very susceptible to stress. Because of their need for particular vegetation and space to roam, they have not survived in captivity.  Their biggest threats are loss of habitat and human disease.  In this preserve they are increasing in number and yet, the entire known count of this species of mountain gorillas is less than 800.  Our money for permits and controlled viewing have allowed for their protection and given relative economic vitality to the people of the area.   As difficult as it has been to get here, we marvel at the amazing affinity we feel.  We observe care for the young,  respect for elders, the easy relationship of extended family groupings, the need for daily bread and habitat.  Just as we are only getting a brief look, it is too easy to anthropomorphize the experience.  Yet, somehow, the experience is powerful and elemental.  We leave with regret, yet knowing that we have been privileged to observe something amazing.

The hike down is challenging as well, but our guides and porters are relaxed and share some of their life stories.  The village has also become accustomed to these trekkers each day.  We are greeted by women in colorful katanga’s  with mats spread on the ground,  multi-color baskets and carved gorillas are for sale.  We can visit the local banana brewing site,  the primary or secondary schools,  the local herbalist, medicine man,  the Batwa pygmy village and more.  But first’,we go back to the WMA headquarters where we all receive certificates of having visited the Rushegara.  We are urged to post these in our homes and offices so others will make this journey and the protection can continue.  It has truly been a once in a life time experience.

Advertisements

We have been having meetings with all the partner parish committees district by district.  This means driving to all the district offices.  Today we traveled to Ngarenanyuki again,  this time to visit parishes.  We go the long way to avoid the $50 per person fee for the non-residents.  Tareto Nasari is our guide and he greets most people along the road.  It is well over an hour from the tarmac road to this Masai outpost.  As we travel Tareto reflects on the drought and famine.  As headmaster of a church sponsored secondary school,  it is a double whammy for him.  Since most children rely on the sale of a few cash crops for school fees and the crops have failed yet again,  enrollment is down.  With the opening of the term he has a parade of people telling him the story of why they cannot pay fees.  It is always some version of the same story,  no crops, no money.  For those who have managed to get their fees together,  they will be fed at school.  Kikatiti has both boarding and day students.  Tareto knows that for some day students,  the porridge they receive at school is the only food they get.  He tells of kids coming to school on Monday, very weak.  They tell him they have not eaten since the last meal at school,  so now they have porridge on Sat. even for day students.

Kikatiti uses 6 bags of ground maize a day to feed students.  In 2 years, the cost of maize has more than doubled.  School fees do not cover the increased cost.  The revenues will not meet the expenses.  When I ask what he will do,  he points to a stick thin woman walking along the road with her donkeys.  The donkeys have 5 gallon plastic buckets tied to their sides.  “Do you see that skinny woman?”  he asks. ” She has walked 6 kmto and will walk 6 km fro.  to get some water for her family.  These skinny people,  they have maybe 1000TSH, about 70 cents, to buy food, buy medicine or pay school fees”, he continues.  The answer to what will he do at the school is that there is no good answer.  The big picture is that there needs to be some infrastructure built and some development that makes this rural place less dependent on subsistence farming but as we bump along the road,  these skinny people have no good options.

I do not know what it is to live with daily  threats to survival.  These skinny people do.  There is no wisdom here only pondering, what are we doing here?

As I type this,  the power is going in and out so I am signing off for now,  pray for rain for Meru.  Watch for a new posting in a week!

 

There was a doctor volunteering at Nkoaranga hospital who developed a problem and needed surgery.  He arranged to travel to the States to get treated.  Within two days he was home and the surgery was scheduled.  A woman in Ngarenanyuki delivers a child and develops profuse bleeding, a serious but treatable complication in most places. This woman is taken to the Dispensary which cannot treat her. The untrained nurse attendant on duty assesses that patient must be taken to Nkoaranga Hospital. This new, bleeding mother waits for transport to the Hospital. The clinical officer on duty locates a vehicle, then a driver and sends it the rutted rock strewn roads to the dispensary.  Several hours pass and the patient is growing weaker.  Nkoaranga does not have an ambulance and the only vehicle that can safely travel the rocky dirt roads to this outpost of the Masai is a Land Rover.  Finally, the woman arrives at the hospital.  She is assessed and they are not able to treat her. She needs a transfusion and perhaps a D and C.  Nkoaranga can hydrate her but she must now be transferred to KCMC the nearest hospital that can do these procedures. She dies on her way to KCMC.  Dr. Mollel who is telling this story, shakes his head and asks,  how can this be that my colleague whose condition is serious and cannot be treated in Tanzania receives treatment while the woman who is treatable but poor and living remotely dies?  What good does training do if it is undeliverable?

We are on a crash course of the issues of delivering health care in the harsh and unforgiving environment.  In three days we visit the far Northern dispensary at Ngarenanyuki,  the far Southern dispensary at Velasko,and those at Leguruki, and Kikatiti.  We also visit Maangashiny Dispensary which is closed.  Each dispensary is located some distance from the hospital in underserved areas.  They are intended to provide first line treatment of malaria, typhoid and diarrheal disease ,first aid for injuries.  They also have limited nurse midwife capabilities and provide mother child clinics. HIV testing, diabetes and hypertension screenings are also available.  Each dispensary has some major issue in fulfilling these fairly simple functions.  Chief among these issues is qualified staff.  Because these areas are remote and the salaries are low, not many people are eager to serve.  In addition, only a few have any staff housing which is essential to recruiting qualified staff. Competition for trained staff is high in more desirable locations.  Much like rural U.S.  but more so.  In addition, the government has begun to inspect the facilities, particularly the laboratory test areas that test for HIV, typhoid and malaria.  Not one of the Diocese supported dispensary laboratories meets standards.  To the dismay of the people, some have been closed and others are operating without meeting standards.

We ask Dr. Mollel why we are going to Maangashiny if the dispensary is closed?  He laughs and says we will understand the challenges better if we go there.  It is around 8 kilometers from the tarmac road on a rutted path to the dispensary, shorter if you walk cross country.  We bounce along raising clouds of dust. You can count the ribs of the cattle that we see, goats are not quite so scrawny.  We pass only one green patch the entire way.  We drive past the partner parish of First United Sheboygan,  up a hill to a relatively solid looking building of painted brick and mortar, unlike the mud and stick huts that serve as homes in this area. When we park outside the clinic, a group of children magically appear.  Dr Mollel has a cheerful conversation.  He is clearly a compassionate caregiver who clearly enjoys people.  Then we turn to the hard realities of running a dispensary here.  The minimum requirements are a water supply, electricity, food for staff and housing for staff.  The nearest water is several miles away and must be hauled by buckets on donkeys.  The nearest fresh vegetable market is equally as far away.  Electricity would be possible only with a generator, (very expensive to maintain) or solar power(expensive to install), as Tanesco does not reach this far. Since schools are few and far between and fees have become almost impossible to pay due to the drought and famine, qualified staff must be recruited to live and work here from somewhere else.  This makes staff housing essential. It has become clear to us that these are interrelated issues that are not easily resolved.  Yet, there are people here who need health care.  No easy answers here.  Dr. Julius clearly is troubled by this dilemma.

The afternoon is spent at the hospital which has its own set of complexities.  We meet the management team,  the Hospital Secretary who serves as the chief administrative worker, the Treasurer (who must track expenses but also revenues from the patients, the government, from NGO’s and from church related partners such as us), and the Director of Nursing.  Patient revenue is its own story, as there seems to be very little that is charged for and no health insurance system to provide payment. To be seen by a doctor in the Outpatient clinic is 2000 TSh for the first visit and 500 for subsequent visits.  There is a one- time charge of 5000 TSH for linens if you are admitted.  Many procedures are free by government or sponsor mandate. The more questions we ask the more overwhelming it becomes.  Yet, these are dedicated people, they persevere even as they know that they are not meeting any kind of business plan or many basic standards.  On our tour, we see renovated and new facilities, an important component in recruiting and retaining qualified staff.  Dr. Mollel is Chief Medical Officer, the chief clinician,  the only MD to supervise clinical officers( a kind of physicians assistant), and runs both inpatient and outpatient medical care. He is the only MD on staff and has new contracted MD for back-up.  Because he is required to go to Dodoma for some meetings, he has been living at the hospital and on-call for 4 days.

As we tour, I ask Neema, the director of nursing what the most common reasons for admission are.  She responds that by far, malaria is the most common.  An average stay of 3-4 days is the normal stay for treatment to work. Others are typhus and minor injuries.  Pregnant mothers can deliver at the hospital without charge so for those who live near the hospital it is sometimes a good option. The government supports this option with the hope that some basic neo-natal care can be given and that the mothers receive some recommendations for nutrition and infant care at home.  All children under 5 are also to be treated without charge.  What the government pays the hospital for these services does not cover the costs but they are provided as best they can.  In talking with a nurse-midwife,  I learn that a big issue related to the drought are the number of malnourished children who are underweight at birth and fail to thrive due to the malnutrition of the mother.

There is a family atmosphere at the hospital. Patients must bring their own clothing and food.  Family members accompany them to provide this so in one room there is a small group having afternoon tea.  Outside the new pediatric unit, there is a laundry area where women are vigorously doing laundry.  When I ask about the posted visiting hours, I am told that they are only enforced for local people as some people have come some distance to be treated and it is not practical for them to leave and come back.

The tour is completed and our heads are about to explode with all the sights and sounds and information we have experienced in 3 days.  We agree to return for a follow-up visit and to tour the orphanage which is also administered by the Hospital.  After saying her farewells to us,  Neema sprints over to the orphanage to check on something.  The treasurer retreats to his office where he keeps manual records because his computer is so old it cannot take the programs needed.  The hospital secretary Jeremiah makes an impassioned plea that we tell their story well in Milwaukee and Dr. Mollel escorts us back to the Guest House before buying his bus ticket for the 12 hour trip to Dodoma.

The spirit of these workers is humbling.  They keep on going even though they know it could be so much better trusting that little by little they will be able to fulfill their calling.  The gap is wide between what could be and what is,  but the spirit is strong.  Mind the Gap!

Many posts to follow but this is what is possible with power and network problems,  Thanks for reading!!

Leaves of Grass, Church and State

The Member of Parliament has died and we are to attend his funeral.  From the clan of Sumari and the Akeri Parish,  the MP was something of a founding father in the early years of independence.  It is the tradition to have the funeral at home.  For 4 straight days arrangements have been made.  Since President Kikweti, President of the Republic of Tanzania will attend, even the dirt road from the tarmac road to the family compound has been repaired.  It is a spectacle of religious pageantry,  crowds of village people,  political maneuvering and tradition.  We have been warned that the funeral will be many hours and that there will be as many people as leaves of grass. Just a week ago, we attended a District commissioner’s wife’s funeral,  a smaller version of what is to come.

We leave Nkoaranga Hospital at 10:00 am for the relatively short ride to Akeri Parish.  The open field across from the Akeri Parish has been transformed into a ceremonial area.  On one end of the field is a tent with a raised stage and an altar,  tents on either side are lined up with seating on the ever present plastic lawn chair.  A large tent for the family, next to that a large tent for CCM party officials, another tent for ward counselors,  another for District Commissioners, another for invited representatives of the CDRB,  the TZ stock exchange, and other businesses the MP was influential in.  Opposite the altar, 50 yards away or so, there is a large tent with wooden chairs for the elected officials.  There is seating for 100 or so in there.  Opposite the family and others are tents for the pastors, the sound crew and other invitees.  In the center of the field is a smaller tent with the white open casket on a red carpet, flanked by uniformed people who are not explained to us.  The time to pay respects is 9:00-11:00 am.  We join a long and continuous line outside the perimeter of the tents.  The line moves rapidly as there is no one greeting the mourners.  We simply file by the flower laden casket.  We leave the line and are greeted at the pastors tent.  As guests of the Diocese,  we are seated with the pastors, about two rows back.  Dr. Mollel is Diocese staff so we are all together.  We have a good view of all the pageantry.  Dr. Mollel identifies dignitaries as they arrive.  The General Secretary, the former Prime Minister, some MPs,  other ministers of the government.  There is a stir when the Speaker of Parliament, a woman, arrives.  She is seated in the front row center of the dignitaries. The Prime Minister arrives with a retinue of uniformed security police in flak jackets and red berets.  Now all the legislative leaders of the country are here as well as many of the former leaders.  Only the President has not arrived.  There is music over the PA and the Akeri choir sings, and sings and sings. A huge sound truck has a generator and speakers running outside the defined area.  The CCM ruling party dressed in green and yellow is ushering and doing crowd control.  There is an emcee who makes occasional remarks.  The line of people from the village, from different areas continue to file by the casket with no breaks.  By 11:30 all the seating is full.  People continue to file by in their katangas, dress shirts of all colors and materials, in suits in this blistering heat.  The area behind the tents and up the hill-sides are filling with people and still they come.  Just before noon,  the line is stopped and the governmental dignitaries file pay their respects, single file as a group.  Then the Bishops enter.  With all the attention to governmental dignitaries and the heavy presence of CCM party members, the church is still in charge of the funeral.  Bishop Akyoo is joined by two other ELCT Bishops and other men who we learn later are the Anglican Bishop and the Pentecostal Bishop.  Leading the processional are the Pastor from Akeri parish, Pr. Amani,  the District Pastor, Pr. Nasari and the Assistant to the Bishop, Paulo Orio.  The ELCT Bishops all wear the cape and mitre of Bishops.  Bishop Akyoo carries the Bishop’s staff.  They process to the altar area and the funeral begins.  There is a hymn and the amazing acapella harmonies ring up the mountain side.  People continue to gather, the crowd grows denser.  The temperature is well in the 90’s and the wind gusts from time to time, lifting clouds of dust.  The elaborate order of speakers begins with representatives from CDRB,Community Development Rural Banks, of which MP Samari was a founder.  These speakers are followed by people from the TZ Stock Exchange, followed by party leaders.  The microphones are erratic.  Even high level funerals are not immune to power outages.  By the time the member of Parliament speaks, the problem seems to be resolved with a long cord, knotted in the middle which is strung across the field from the sound board to the truck with the generator.  Then the MP’s oldest son speaks and does a short bio.  The Speaker of Parliament follows.  Finally, the Prime Minister brings his greetings and those of the President. It is unclear if he will come. It is now going on 2:00pm and the liturgy finally continues.  There are hymns and readings,  Bishop Akyoo introduces his fellow Bishops.  The Anglican Bishop speaks first.  Then the Pentecostal Bishop.  Bishop Schau from the Northern District begins his sermon when there is a stir.  President Kikweti has arrived.  He enters and is seated quietly.  As a Muslim, he respects and politically needs Christians,  many of the government are Christian, yet his place in the ceremony is awkward.  Bishop Schau continues his sermon.  There is another hymn and the family gathers at the casket for its closing.  Other Members of Parliament are  pall bearers.  The internment is immediate and on the family grounds.  MP Sumari is buried next to his mother in a family plot.

The entire assemblage, led by the casket, the President and followed by Bishops and invited guests processes down a dirt road to the burial plot.  The ¼ mile walk is lined the entire way with people looking for people of importance, saying farewell to their MP,  part of the clan or village.  Walt and I feel very out of place as the only visible white people there.  What a privilege to be part of such an important day in the life of the community and the region. At the grave-site a smaller seating area has been arranged.  Security people seem to know who is allowed and who is not.  We stay close to our Diocese escorts as we would not be able to negotiate these crowds independently.   Bishop Akyoo continues the liturgy at the grave-site.  The President says some brief words and greets the family.  He departs. The casket is lowered, the grave filled, flowers laid, hymns sung.  Bishop Akyoo leads a final prayer and benediction.  A few people greet the family, somehow Walt and I are in that group and then it is time to walk back up the dusty path.  It is traditional to have food for everyone.  Everyone will not be fed. We are led to the family home where the caterers are prepared and waiting with a traditional buffet,  two kinds of rice, vegetable stew, spaghetti, chicken, meat, potatoes, banana stew and fruit.  The surreal sensation of being in the midst of an event that I might see in the news or a documentary continues.  Loti Nnko, Dr. Julius, Walt and I are early among the diners.  By 5:00 we are ready to leave, seven hours since we arrived. Clouds of dust are raised as we walk up the path to cross the road to Akeri parish where Diocese vehicles were parked.  As we pass the ceremonial field we see trucks filled with huge pans, being accosted by people.  Dr. J tells us that there is a competition for the food since not enough has been provided.  Mr. Nnko tells us the crowd is estimated at 10,000, most of whom have come by foot at least from the tarmac road.

During these long hours I reflect on what a young country Tanzania is.  It is remarkable the infrastructure, the agencies, governmental progress they have made.  It is their own unique mix of tradition, current practices, and new developments.  The dignity and authentic ownership is humbling. We are privileged to have been included, part of their expansive hospitality.  Asante sana.

More tomorrow

Today we begin to see and meet with the education secretary,  Mr. Tareto Nasari.  We will visit two Diocese Secondary Schools and lunch at Kikatiti to go over discussion paper.  Yesterday we met with 5 partnership parish committees at the District Office and discussed support, communication, exchange of visits and general partnership issues.  We are honored that so many took time to talk with us from U’loonga, Singisi, Ndoombo, Akeri, and Sela.  The visitors to Akeri, David and Andy, left last evening. Their visit assisted an important plan between partners.  We also met with the ELCA representative to EAst Africa, Barbara Hinderlie.  Yesterday, the Member of Parliament who represents Meru died.  He is an important member of Akeri parish and the funeral will be a state event as well as a very big clan and Meru event.  Bishop Akyoo will preside and many from the Diocese will be involved.  We will learn more about how that effects our visit as the plans are announced today.  This is a quick more factual update as the Internet has been very erratic,  Please keep us in your prayers as we keep you in ours,  Aleta and Walt

Living Large

On the one hand, we have not had a busy schedule so far, on the other, we have had amazing experiences, filled with people, color, and life.  We are connecting with people in new ways from daily life and from events.  A key cultural difference from cold, gray and snowy Milwaukee is that life here is lived outdoors.  Buildings are for sleeping, getting out of the sun and maybe business meetings.

Sunday there is the inauguration and fund-raising of a choir DVD at Usa River.  We have been told that it will be long, the Bishop will preach but few other details.  We do not ask enough questions and are not really prepared for the 4 hours we spend in worship.  When we walk over to the church, there are tents set up.  We look around for someone we know.  Soon an elder realizes that we are here and escorts us to the tea table and then to sit next to Bishop Akyoo.  We know now that it is an event!!

It is a worship service to which people of means, non-members, have received a special invitation to come and donate to the inauguration of a choir CD.  The church is filled, as is an overflow tent.  After tea, we are seated as honored guests in front pew.  We are introduced to the District Commissioner for the AruMeru district, Mercy.  She is a member of the congregation and her presence in the front row is a show of the importance of the day and her support of the choir.

The choir sings and dances its heart out.  The worship is lively, full of greetings and ritual.  The Bishop begins preaching about an hour after the service began.  After the sermon and the pledge offering and the thank offering,  the choir celebration, inauguration of its DVD begins. The Hosanna choir leaves and a choir from Mulala provides an anthem. When they are finished the Hosanna choir reenters in new outfits.  The women have a silk like turquoise blue skirt with a flowered top and the men have the turquoise tops with black trousers.  They dance up the aisle singing.  After another song they take seats so the auction can begin.  Tables are brought out on either side of the altar.  People to collect and record  the donations and boxes of DVDs are situated on the table.  Beautiful banana grass baskets and reed baskets are used for the cash.

The choir director is also the emcee.  He asks the Bishop to auction the first DVD.  The bidding quickly goes to 100,000 T schillings for a DVD.  The district commissioner who is sitting next to me began the bidding at 60,000.    She explains to me it is something of a game or party to see how high the bidding will go.  That is why people with means, who actually have cash, have been invited to attend.  After the first DVD there is a carefully orchestrated order to who is asked to contribute.  The DC, Mercy, explains to me that those with special invitations have probably determined their donation already and will be called on later.  The early donors are choir members and others related to them that have smaller donations, many at 30,000 TSH, around $20 U.S.  It is quite a spectacle to have people so cheerfully announcing to everyone his or her contribution.  The choir sings and cheers as each donation is secured.  A child has a 5000TSH donation which is increased to 260,000TSH through auction and song.

At 1:30 when we have been in the pew, 3 ½ hours,  the Bishop sends a message that we may leave as it is getting a little long.  They have not yet made it to the major donors.  The program for the day called for a 2:00 pm close but they are not near the end.  We say we would like to make a donation for a DVD before we leave.  We are properly acknowledged and get our DVD.  We leave the sanctuary but are taken to an office for the food that has been prepared for the 500 guests.  As we talk with our host/translator,  while we eat,  we reflect on how fundraising in the United States is a much more private event.  I cannot think of a church where people would be pleased to have their major giving celebrated with song and dance.  Our host reflects that there much of what is raised will be used to feed the crowd,  yet it is a joyful, community building event.  It is after 3 before we are finished, 5 hours after church began.  The Holy Spirit surely moved among that community and enriched our spirits that day.  Bwana Asifiwe!

 

 

 

A Walk through Usa River

Usa River is a town in the Meru district of Tanzania,  East Africa.  It is a growing place with lots of new building.  It is also the homMe of the offices of the Diocese of Meru of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania.  Walt and I arrived here Wed. night.  Yesterday passed with some brief official visits and a trip to Arusha to exchange money and check out what Shop-Rite has to offer European and American shoppers.

Today,  I feel we are truly beginning our stay.  Walt is off to a coffee auction with Emil Nanyaro in Moshi.  I chose to stay behind,  nurse my cold and get acclimated.  Our hostess,  Mama  Kyara,  had been prepared for my request.  I wanted to take a walk.  We knew from previous trips that it was not recommended for us to walk around by ourselves.  Because we are staying for six weeks on this trip, we had requested someone to accompany us on a daily walk.  Joseph the security guard, was assigned to this duty.  Joseph is a small man who seems to spend a lot of time in a hut near the gate to the guest house.  But he was very gracious about taking this aging American woman for a walk.  We set out on the dirt path/road that towns and villages are defined by.  Generally, there is one paved road in Tanzania that connects cities and important commerce routes.  In the villages and towns, the dirt paths  have been widened to accommodate  cars, trucks, motor-bikes,   Honda motorcycles,  push-carts and pedestrians.  There has been just enough rain here to harden the ruts into deep ridges.  Even our hosts say it is a hot time of year.  By 9:30 in the morning it was already over 90 degrees so it was time for me to get this walk in. Joseph and I set off, attempting to talk with his few words of English and my even fewer  words of Kiswahili.  The dust swirled around us.  I walked carefully, over rocks and into ruts.  Joseph seemed pleased with the change in his routine.  I was pleased to be out and to walk after 3 days of traveling.  The flowers are in bloom here and I wish I knew more names.  Bougainvilea,  bird of paradise,  a yellow flower that is quite common all border the dusty road.   The heat,  the lush greens and colorful flowers,  the roosters crowing and the barking dogs define tropical for me.

We had been walking about 5 minutes when it became apparent how exotic it is to take a walk for the exercise.  Everyone we passed had a very specific purpose for being on the road.  In past visits,  we have visited homes that are also small farms (less than ¼ acre),  but here in town,  everyone has animals,  is growing food and may have a small shop open too.  There are open channels that disburse the water of Usa River throughout the village.  Unfortunately,  the garbage also finds it’s way to the channels .  One discouraging mark of “development”  are the plastic bags littering the roadsides.  A cow grazes in amongst the garbage.    We passed some primary schools but our limited language didn’t allow for more information.  There are some signs, mostly hand lettered to identify places of business but not at one place that Joseph says is a school but it is walled and gated.  A private school I imagine.  Most people are outside.  Finding what shade they can.  Many are working the fields,  a few are in the shops. We pass a young man walking uphill pushing the roughhewn wooden carts that are common for transporting heavy loads.  This cart is filled with several 5 gallon buckets filled with water.  He passes us when his heavy load pulls him downhill.    In another yard a woman is collecting eggs.  Soon we have come to fish farms and rice paddies. This may be the edge of town where there are actual small fields but there are new houses under construction here too.     Something is going on in the fields but I am not a farmer.  Does anyone know if they are harvesting or planting?  The fields are flooded.

Many people greet Joseph.  I am certainly a curiosity but they are smiling and friendly  Mzungu, mzungu pepper their greetings.   What I have seen is a people who must work very hard to live.  They must grow their own food,  carry water,  get their children to school and find a way to earn some cash.  They do all this without what we consider necessity,  indoor plumbing, clean running water,  reliable inexpensive electricity,  easy transportation.    We sometimes are irritated by the pace of getting things done here but I am humbled by this glimpse of how industrious people are in tending to the necessities of life.  Asante sana Joseph!!