Saturday, April 27, 2013

We're in!

We'll, we successfully moved all of our crap from one house to another. It's amazing how much stuff two people can amass even when living in Africa.

Everything went without a hitch, though, and we look forward to settling in. It was a tiring day for all of us, but this little guy was stressed out! He's happy to know we aren't going anywhere without him.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Decade

Our wedding April 2003

10 years ago today Chris and I were married in a small mission chapel in a town on the coast of New Jersey. When we created the ceremony one of the songs we chose was kind of an odd choice for a wedding. While most people choose songs for their weddings that are about love, devotion to each other or togetherness, Chris and I chose “Pescador de Hombres” or “Lord, You Have Come,” which talks about following God to far away places in search of the lost. I have always loved this song and we both felt like it had a certain message for us both as individuals and as a couple. Now 10 years later, this song has even more meaning for our lives than it ever has.  

Lord, you have come to the seashore,
neither searching for the rich nor the wise,
desiring only that I should follow.

O, Lord, with your eyes set upon me,
gently smiling, you have spoken my name;
all I longed for I have found by the water,
at your side, I will seek other shores.

Lord, see my goods, my possessions;
in my boat you find no power, no wealth.
Will you accept, then, my nets and labor?

Lord, take my hands and direct them.
Help me spend myself in seeking the lost,
returning love for the love you gave me.

Lord, as I drift on the waters,
be the resting place of my restless heart,
my life's companion, my friend and refuge.

As a couple, we are not only following and finding refuge in God but we are also supporting each other on this journey. There have been times over the past 10 years when one of us has had to figuratively take the hands of the other and direct them, to reminded the other of the larger picture or to help them to remember who they are at the core. We have had to be the resting place, companion and refuge for each other when one of us has become the lost.

Thank you, Chris (aka Scoobs, Scoobie, Squnch, Squeebs, Bud, Buddy, DB, Dude, Duder), for being my partner, my companion, my guide, my best friend, my client, my patron, my teacher, my student and so many more for over the past 10 years. I love you.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Why is Infrastructure Important?

Last weekend a water pipe broke at the top of the hill from our new house, which also happens to be right outside the grounds of the local Catholic church/MK parish. The water caused the ground to sink and when 2 daladalas (minibuses) and a car where overtop of it, a hole developed and the three cars all fell in. 

Mabatini "sink hole"
Here is the hole with the pipe fixed and the dirt 1/2 filled in.

We first heard about the pipe breaking when on Friday we went to the new house to bring a load of stuff and start cleaning the house. There were about 20 kids and young women in the road outside our house collecting water from the stream. It’s not unusual for people to collect water from the stream, but it seemed strange that there were so many of them. That is when we found out that the water in the neighborhood had been out for several days because of the problem at the top of the hill. It’s bad enough that the neighborhood homes and businesses were out of water for days, but to make matters worse, I soon learned that the hospital at the top of the hill was also affected by the situation. This main (huge) regional hospital (with services found nowhere else in the area) was without water for the week! Can you imagine!??

Plus, the road that leads from the church to our house is completely destroyed. In all honesty, the road was not that good to begin with. It has not been passable by cars for the past 9 months, but at least motorcycles and bicycles could pass, as well as pedestrians. Now, it’s barely passable for people even on foot.

Mabatini "sink hole"
A year ago we drove down this road.

Mabatini "sink hole"
These ditches are about 3' deep.

As we were walking up the road to church on Sunday, a Bibi (grandmother) stopped to greet us and, shake my hand she said in Swahili “This road is very bad!” Uh, yeah, I’d say so!

This really highlights one of the major problems that holds Tanzania (and other developing countries) back. Access to safe roads and clean water should be a “given.” Yes, every country will experience water valve breaks and other unforeseen accidents, but for these incidents to cause so much damage is unforgivable. Mwanza is built on many hills. There is no drainage system, so, when it rains (or when water pipes break) the water runs down the hills, washing all the dirt paths and roads with it. The destruction each year is insurmountable and because development in this area increases every day, the destruction keeps getting bigger and bigger.

I just wonder what happened in the hospital when the water went out. What system do they have in place to provide sanitation in the hospital's bathrooms, scrub rooms, and wards? I cringe at the thought of how many infections happened because of this. How will this road ever be fixed? Answer: it probably won't, unless citizens in the neighborhood decide to come out with pickaxes and sandbags. But even then, when the rains come again the road will surely deteriorate again. What about the business owner who might rely on water for their hotel, restaurant or other place of business? How much money did they lose when the water was out?

These are complex problems with no easy solution but I wanted to share because to show some of the daily problems (or inconveniences, as the Tanzanians see them) that they encounter every day. Problems like these would be inconceivable in the developed world but here they are commonplace.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In rememberence

It was a very strange, sad and unexpected turn of events that I found myself driving to JFK airport yesterday with the NY skyline and the new World Trade Center in front of us while listening to the tragedy at the Boston Marathon unfold in the news. It's like we take one step forward and then take another step back. My heart goes out to those affected by this attack and to those who will relive their memories of tragedies in the past.

As I type this I'm sitting in an airport in the Middle East and watching the faces of our diverse world pass me by. I remind myself that these tragedies are not a true depiction of our world. We are better than this, more complex than the thought that we can't exist in harmony. And I know we will transcend any force that tries to tell us otherwise.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

An Admission

I have a confession to make. I've made a visit to the US and am typing this blog post from the couch in my parents' house. On my birthday*, April 1, I loaded a plane from Mwanza, flew to Dar es Salaam, and then to Qatar, and then to JFK in NY. It was a last-minute decision by me and the hubby that I should go home for some R&R after the last round of illnesses at the end of March. Up until that point I had been sick most of 2013 and I have been bouncing around on medications for the past 9 months. It was starting to do its toll on me both physically and emotionally and we thought a change of scenery and some rest and relaxation would do me some good. Unfortunately, Chris wasn't able to join me because it's a really busy time for us and for the MKLM community in Mwanza. So I'm sad that he had to stay back and hold down the fort at home. As great as this visit has been, I really miss him and wish he could've been here.

This is my first time back in the states since moving to Mwanza 15 months ago. I'm still processing what it means to be here again and to understand how I see my home country differently. It's been great to be here, great for my mental health, for sure. It's such a relief to easily go anywhere and pretty much understand the systems and know the language to get across anything I need to say. I've loved stopping into a gas station and buying whatever treat I want.

God bless America, and American gas stations
God bless America and gas stations.

The scenery has been beautiful and I've been able to do some jogging without being gawked at.

Spring in bloom

Flowers in Mom's yard
Spring is beginning to show its blossoms.

There are magic machines that eat your laundry and spit them out clean and dry!

What is this machine?

But most of all, it's been so wonderful to be able to see some family and friends. Even though I haven't seen nearly everyone I'd love to* it's been a wonderful thing to see those that I have.

The grandparents in GA
 My grandparents in their little house in Georgia.

Walking the dog to the beach
My friend Melissa and her daughters walking to the beach in NJ.

Hanging with Maddie on the beach
Me and my niece Maddie on the beach.

The family
My sister and 2 of my nieces playing on the couch.

I've got more stories to tell and more pictures to share. But this is good for now. It's been an amazing trip that has revived my spirits and helped me to gain some strength and perspective again. I head back to TZ on Monday so hopefully I can keep this energy to propel me to continue in TZ and keep keeping on.

*Thanks so much for all the birthday wishes! I didn't write anything on my actual birthday because I was in transition.

**I didn't tell most people that I was coming home because I only was here for 2 weeks and I needed to spend some time catching up on rest. Sorry! I'll hopefully see more people when we return for a longer visit, hopefully sometime early in 2014.