Here is my story since arriving in Tanzania 23 days ago.
After a long flight all in one day from Memphis to Houston and then a 15 hour flight from Houston to Dubai, we were fortunate to be given very nice hotel rooms near the airport by Emirates Airlines. The next day we took the 5 hour flight from Dubai to Dar es Salaam to be greeted at the airport by 8 men, six of them business men from Dar and originally from Uhekule Village. Salmini Mbonde, a tour driver and friend plus Akiba, a young man that just finished Tandala Teachers College and wishes to teach in Uhekule and help me with the orphanage, were waiting. Salmini took Fred Mbilinyi, a carpenter/builder who came to the U.S. to visit and lives in Njombe and will be the supervisor of the orphanage construction, and me to the Econolodge. The next day we took the Sea Bus over to the island of Zanzibar to look for used cars. I need a vehicle now, and it will be given for the orphanage use when completed. We had no luck looking in four used car lots. I was told we could find a better deal in Zanzibar. All I got was sick. Many mosquitoes in our rooms at the Anglican Church hostel where we stayed. So I believe I had a slight case of malaria. I started taking the malaria prophylaxis before I left the states….good thing. So for the next two weeks, I really felt lousy.
After Zanzibar, back to Dar, and I made many visits to the Ministries for various reasons. Finally, after three days, Fred, Akiba and I received a free ride to Njombe with Darry, the District Commissioner of Njombe. She has the highest political position in Njombe, a good friend, and happened to be in Dar on business. So she and her driver took the three of us to Njombe, a long ten hour car ride (and a 12 hour bus ride). I spent a couple days visiting with friends in Njombe, seeing the DMO (Divisional Medical Officer) asking for a medical assistant to reside in Uhekule Village as we only have two midwives at the dispensary, the building that many of you helped with funding while I was in Peace Corps.
Then on Friday, the 10th, two business men in Njombe, good friends, told me they and other businessmen in Njombe wanted to pay for my hotel room ($10 a night), buy the needed food for my home and personally take me to Uhekule Village. So, I made out my market list, did a little e-mail work and by 10:30 a.m. we were ready to leave; a truck carrying my charcoal, groceries and many suitcases/trunks and a car carrying Fred Mbilinyi and me.
After a long, dusty ride, we turned down the road to Uhekule. I was just amazed at the following events. When we arrived near the dispensary, there were several hundred people waiting to greet me. It was an unbelievable experience. They were lined along the road singing and dancing. Some were singing a song about Karibu Bibi Kay which means welcome. I did get some pictures.
We stopped the car by the dispensary. There were even people coming on foot from the village lining the road . The village chairman greeted me and then some speeches were given. I was totally overwhelmed. I guess the villagers never thought I would return. Even the head school master said the nicest words to me. He said “I believe this must be a dream that you are really here.” How wonderful to feel so welcomed and loved.
I gave a brief greeting and short speech in Kiswahili, that is what I could remember. And then ½ hour later we are off to the village, about ½ km. There near my home were several hundred of the elementary school children waving Hekia branches they had cut and it created quite a dust storm as everything has layers of dirt due to no rain and lots of wind and dust. So, I told one of the teachers I cannot take a picture because of the waving of Hekia branches full of dust/dirt. The children kept singing and greeting me. Finally, I got the message across “stop waving those dirty branches so I can take a picture.” It was quite an event and experience.
Next about ten people/children helped unload the car and truck with my very dusty luggage and food. After many greetings with villagers and children, we had everything carried into my house. I was then told a banquet of food had been prepared by the village women and the village government and I was to go to the library (another project you all funded) to eat and have a meeting. After eating, Fred and I began to explain about the orphanage. They were very impressed with the orphanage architectural drawings that Larry Brocaw, architect in Hot Springs Village, graciously did for me just days before I left the states. Then discussions arose and great excitement by the members of the village government. So, things are on hold now due to a political situation. The village government and the Njombe District Government must meet first to discuss some issues. I will stay completely out of this part.
THE INVASION OF RATS:
Different village government people slept in my sitting room for the 10 months I was in the States keeping watch so that nothing would be stolen. Actually, the only rooms open were the sitting room and the choo (pit latrine). I had locked all my valuables in my bedroom and locked the spare room and little kitchen. What I did not consider before leaving is that my three cats went to different homes and the rats took over. I know rats are one of God’s creatures, but I have a very strong dislike of them. I could handle the sweet ants that invaded my kitchen and the many spiders do not bother me. But the rats and their droppings were EVERYWHERE. My neighbors and I cleaned out what seemed like tons of rat manure to my garden. Then the cleaning began…..it took five days of continuous work by many of us to make my home half way livable. Those d— rats ate my mosquito net which I had washed and stashed into a large plastic bag. They also ate the lining of my bike helmet and all small plastic containers in my bedroom. What makes matters worse is that at night they come into my house and run the trusses as I have NO ceiling board. I wake up and shine my flashlight and see them scurrying around. Then I could hear one eating something in my bedroom. The next day Fred and two mama friends moved all my furniture around in my bedroom trying to kill the rat. It kept running from them. Finally, I got out of there and left the job to the three of them. One hour later they come out with the rat! Dead! They finally found him and beat him with a broom handle. That is just one of my many rat stories.
By Sunday I was nearly in tears. I had never had rats before in my house because I had my wonderful three cats. Snickerdoodle was somewhat wild and simply disappeared after I left. I gave Molly and Squeak to two friends in Njombe to keep for me. They both ran away. Oh, how I miss those cats. So I am feeling sick from malaria and near tears on Sunday morning having had little sleep because of the rats. My good teacher friend, Jackson, came over to visit and I was telling him about all the rats living with me in my house. He got on his little dirt bike that his brother in America bought for him and came back about two hours later with a little 7 week old darling kitten. I just love her but the rats are as big as she. So, I must wait a couple months until she can do her hunting work.
The house had a ¼ inch layer of dust (dirt) on everything. So lots of cleaning, washing walls, clothes and nearly everything I own. Thank goodness my teacher friend found me a good house daughter. Her name is Laida , 18 years old and orphaned since she was 12. A family in Uhekule took her in. I like her and she picks up fast on my fastidious ways and rules. She will work about 4 to 6 hours a day and will have only Sundays off. I have rambled on long enough. So much more to report, but I will save it until the next newsletter. I go to Dar tomorrow to bid on a Land Cruiser on Saturday that belonged to Peace Corps and has been given to an auctioneer to sell. So, hopefully, I will return with a 4×4 Sunday or Monday. If the bidding goes too high, I will then take a bus to Arusha to buy a vehicle there….very tiring.
Life is hard here but I love it, all except for the rats. I asked God to help me understand way they exist especially in my house. I am now feeling less fear of them attacking me while I try to sleep. This, too, shall pass.
Peace and love,
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