When I returned to Tanzania, I brought along my laptop and will soon have another battery for it. I purchased a second while still in the U. S.. My “special” friend, Mike Moriarty is sending it since I forgot to pack it.
So, sometimes I will write as the events occur, like today, from my home. No electricity but two batteries for the computer will help.
This morning I paid respect to two homes that are about 30 yards apart in a sub-village of Uhekule called Ipobwe. (Uhekule has six sub-villages.) I choose only to show respect and not stay for the funeral as they are very long and sad. Both deaths were due to AIDS.
The first house the head schoolmaster and I walked to was about ½ mile from where I live, the home of a deceased mama. I arrived as they were placing her in a homemade casket. The two mamas that washed her were wearing gloves, thank God, and carefully placed her in the casket with many kongas wrapped around her. Here there is no embalming so the dead must be buried within 24 hours.
There were many villagers there. The mamas and girls are always together around the house and inside it. The fathers and other men are never near the mamas (women and girls) for the custom here is separation. So the men were across the dirt road sitting or standing together. The deceased woman was probably 25 years or more leaving behind two small children. Again, two more orphans as the father is deceased. The deceased mama lived with her grandfather and grandmother, who were absolutely stricken with grief.
Then Gabriel, the head schoolmaster, and I walked next door where a 5 year old was in her tiny casket and the Evangelist was leading song in this small room. I stood just outside and listened to the beautiful singing. It was so very sad. After greeting all the mamas in Kibena, their tribal language, who were sitting around or standing in the dusty, dirty courtyard, I was asked if I would like to greet the father who was sleeping inside another room. Of course, I said yes (ndiyo). So I went into this dark and dirty room where a handsome young man tried so hard to raise himself off the bed. He is in late stages of AIDS and had just returned from Ikonda Hospital the day before. He will only live a short time now. His wife, the mother of the deceased 5 year old, died of AIDS last year.
What I do is give a card with 5,000/= Tz. shillings to the family which is about $4.00 USD and I write Dear Rafiki (friend). Pole sana. (very sorry) and sign it Bibi Kay. That’s all. To them, that is a wonderful gift. To me, it seems little for the loss they suffer.
So that was part of my morning after rising at 6:00 a.m. , preparing my breakfast of bread that a neighbor baked for me and oatmeal that I brought from the U.S. besides fresh coffee that I blended in my new coffee press given to me before I left by Helen Porter (bless you, it is wonderful).
Then my house daughter, Laida, arrived and we washed clothes in buckets in the courtyard. This afternoon I teach English to grade 6, 7 and some returning students from Secondary School (high school).
Tomorrow I “drive” to Njombe, 30 km., and send this newsletter off at the Internet Café and also visit an orphanage there besides have the new pickup ya’ll bought checked over by a mechanic at the Lutheran Diocese. It is Sunday, but he told me he would take a look under the hood. Fred Mbilinyi and I are not very good “stick shift” drivers, so we have had a little trouble at times with the 1st and 2nd gears.
Nowa is not his real name, as I want to keep his real name anonymous. Nowa was one of my favorite students. This year he was in Form 4 (11th grade) at a secondary school about 7 k. from Uhekule. His father lives in Uhekule, and so did he when not in school. His father is HIV positive and came to me last year while I was still in Peace Corps. He asked me why his son at 17 years was so short. Well, I liked Nowa so much, such a sweet and polite young man, that I asked his father for permission to take him to Njombe for HIV testing. He said it was OK, so the next week I took Nowa to the testing center in Njombe. He tested positive and was in stage 4 of AIDS. Evidently, he was born with AIDS and when I showed the doctor his legs, I was told he had cancer (sarcoma) on his legs. He immediately started the anti-retro viral medications and continued his studies at the secondary school.
This year on October 20th, I received a letter from him asking for help. He explained his problem, and it was a very personal, physical problem that I will not write about. His last words on the letter were “please, please Bibi Kay, help me!”
Well, if you have read my newsletters, you would know I spent a long time trying to buy a vehicle for the orphanage in Dar. So, I did not respond to Nowa’s letter. Then on the 10th of Nov. (this month) , Nowa walked from his secondary school 7k. to Uhekule to see me. My pastor was visiting me at my house when Nowa arrived. We had a good discussion about his problem, and we decided since I now had a truck, I would take him to Njombe to see Dr. Haule at the private hospital rather than the government hospital (there are only 2 doctors in the whole town, one at each hospital) . So, we decided to go on Tuesday, the 18th. I asked Nowa if he was in pain, and he said no, but the problem was frustrating him. What a sweet and polite boy also very intelligent.
On Monday, the 17th, I was informed he had died. Can you believe how I felt; the guilt and sadness was devastating and still haunts me. I still can feel pain when I think about him. He was in school when he became ill. A teacher called someone here in Uhekule to contact his father. They took him to the government hospital in Njombe, which is like nothing you have ever seen, and he died within 3 hours. Just the next day I had planned to take him to see Dr. Haule.
Since January 1st there have been 29 deaths due to AIDS in my village, Uhekule, possibly more since sometimes the death is not diagnosed.
Today, on my walk home from the death homes, I spoke with Yasinta, who is currently working at Ikonda Hospital and is in nurses training. She is one of my favorite people. We spoke in Swahili. She said Ukimwi is very high in this area, many AIDS patients at the hospital where she works which is about 70k. from our village in the opposite direction of Njombe. So, I asked her if she thought having ANGAZA come to Uhekule to give free testing and counseling would help. Yes, she said.
You know I came back here to build an orphanage that all of you have funded, but I struggle with all these deaths. Something has to be done, and I feel so helpless.
The name of the orphanage is “Sunrise Children Home of Uhekule Village”. This past week I have been so very busy meeting with many people here in Uhekule and Njombe. I want the truck registered under the Lutheran Church in a village about 6k. from here called Ng’anda. That way, all expenses will be tax exempt. Also, the Lutheran Church will oversee the orphanage if I kufa (die). I want it to be sustainable.
On Wed., the 19th, I had a very productive meeting with ten strong people, most from Uhekule, three from Njombe who are business men originally from Uhekule with strong ties here. We talked about the orphanage. I have asked them to “take over” and get things going. So, yesterday there was a village government meeting and tomorrow will be a whole village meeting. The original committee I met with on Wednesday will generate the energy from the sub-village leaders to start the process of gathering rocks for the foundation. The villagers have already made thousands of bricks, not enough for the whole project but enough to get started.
Unfortunately, the rainy season starts in a couple weeks, so progress on the orphanage will go very pole, pole (slowly). When the rains come, it is everyday, so this project may take 2 or more years. That is the Tanzanian way, pole, pole. I keep telling them “time is money” but Bibi Kay cannot change a culture of hundreds of years. So, donors, bear with me.
If any of you know of people wanting to give away some money tax free before January 1st, please send to Pracavemus Foundation in California. Inflation has hit over here, too. In fact, everything has gone up in price including food. Building supplies like sand, cement and labor are so much higher than when we built the library with your donations.
Even though I am half-way around the world from all of you, I realize we are facing a “world financial crisis”, but most of you will have a nice dinner tonight in spite of it. Here, people are dying. So, if you have a few extra dollars you wish to give “tax free”, please think of those less fortunate that I am trying to help with your tax free dollars.
Peace and love to all of you,
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