Friday, April 25, 2014

Day 22: The END!!

 Day 22: April 25, 2014

This is it!  I'm here at the Dar Airport waitig for my check-in time for my flight.  This should be a short entry, though others should have been as well, and we all know how that turned out.


I woke up this morning with the first of my three alarms (which came from my phone plugged in far enough away to necessitate me actually waking up to turn it off) and snoozed it a couple times.  All I had to do was get dressed and be ready by 7, and it was only 6.  At 6:20, I decided it was finally time to get up for real.  I walked to the bathroom and brushed my teeth, then headed back into the room to grab the clothes I had laid out for myself for the day.  Everything else (most of it dirty) was in one suitcase, with the other containing clean clothes and souvenirs.  Both were stuff to pretty much the max.  I was at least able to change at put my sleep clothes and bedsheet into the suitcase, but the pillow I brought was NOT going to fit.  It therefore quickly became my "personal item"...I just hoped that people on the plane wouldn't freak out about the CD-sized bloodstain on it from when I was getting IV fluids.  


Once everything was wheeled out to the front door, I took my Malarone and ate just about the last bit of peanut butter in my jar.  Amelia offered me a cup of coffee, and about two sips in and right after I asked what time the shuttle to the airport was coming, a loud motor and an accompanying horn were heard at the gate.  This threw everything into high gear, as we moved briskly to get my suitcases, my backpack, and my pillow to the shuttle.  I chugged a couple more sips of coffee on the way out the door, said goodbye and I was off!  It happened so fast that I was glad I had packed ahead and was ready to go at the drop of a hat.  It still didn't keep me from triple-checking to be sure my passport, wallet, and backpack were with me.


The shuttle ride to the airport was rather interesting.  We started by heading out east, and about two minutes into the ride the shuttle driver stopped, shouted out the window, and a young boy in a uniform jumped on board.  I imagine the driver had said, "Hey, I'll give you a ride to school."  I found it pretty funny and random, and after picking up one or two more passengers the boy was dropped off at his school, saving him a good 1-2 km walk.  


We proceeded to make our way out toward Manjelwa and a little beyond, and as I watched the sun-soaked countryside out the window as Mbeya became smaller I didn't even realize that we weren't going in the direction of the airport.  We picked up one or two more passengers, and then the driver turned around and started going in the opposite direction heading east.  I guess I had been one of the first passengers on their route.  


In any case, I was happy to drive by Mbeya one more time, if only from a distance.  We proceeded out west in the direction of Ifisi, Utengule (the coffee plantation) and then kept going.  Again I was blessed with beautiful views of the countryside and a panoramic view of Mount Loleza, Mount Mbeya, and the rest of the chain in the area.  We proceeded over the river I recognized, the old airport we had passed a couple times before on previous journeys, and then the countryside became more familiar in a more distant fashion.  I recognized the views from the shuttle as those I had seen three weeks prior on my first ride into Mbeya.  It made me think about how far I'd come, how much time had actually gone by, and how I had NO idea what my trip would be like...typical American thinking, "Oh yeah, I've been to Africa, I've got this figured out."  Now, that wasn't quite my mindset, at least not consciously.  But I guess I figured my previous experience abroad would make things easier...and maybe it would have if it hadn't been for the short stay and the dysentery.  In any case, I had had to learn a lot again, and I thought about my previous self heading in a cab in the opposite direction, about to get a lesson in humility courtesy of a new part of a continent too large for me to comprehend even now.  


We arrived at the airport, and to nobody's suprise, all of the passengers were standing outside as the Precision Air employees had yet to show up. It was after 8, and the flight was at 9:30.  Despite being told to arrive 2 hours ahead, no workers were present, and we didn't even actually start checking in until about 8:20.  After going through security, I arrived at the check-in desk and was asked for my ticket.


I didn't have my ticket.  It was an E-ticket.  I had attempted to check in online on their website the previous day, which was greeted with a "Site Under Construction" page.  I figured I was good to go with my intinerary on my phone.  Apparently not.  They were confused by my itinerary, puzzled by my confirmation number, and asked for my ticket number. THAT'S WHAT I AM CHECKING IN FOR! I didn't get it.  They had my passport.  They had my confirmation number.  They certainly must have had a list of passengers, right? RIGHT?  Why couldn't they just check me in.  They held onto my passport and asked me to step to the side for a moment, and then proceeded to check other people in.  They guy that had disappeared with my passport reappeared 10 minutes later and then proceeded to start checking other passengers in as well.  I stood there rather nervously for about the next 15 minutes searching frantically on my slow internet for some semblance of something they would recognize.  I found my eticket number.  I loaded their own website that had my itinerary on it...surely this will work, I thought.  I started praying...Please God, don't let this happen.  I do not want to have to go back and miss this one flight of the day, delay and have to fly out again tomorrow.  I WANT TO GO HOME!


By now it was about 9.  I was starting to tap my foot impatiently and semi-consciously, wondering when they were gonna help me out.  Finally one of the workers walked over, I showed him everything I could on my phone (I had about 5 different pages loaded by now, and he looked at maybe one.  Then he said, "Okay, let me go print out and I will get for you."  He disappeared for about five minutes and then came back and started filling out my boarding pass and luggage tags (yes, by hand).  He handed me my ticket, and I was about as happy and relieved as I had been all trip long.  I WAS GOING TO GET TO GO HOME.


I celebrated with a Diet Pepsi in the waiting area (trust me, there were stronger options, and I thought about them).  Just as I was sitting down to charge my phone, i started to see passengers out on the tarmac.  We were boarding...and nobody happened to mention that we were via announcement.  Luckily I caught them early and I wasn't the only one, so I joined them out on the tarmac, taking a couple more pictures of the mountains, the airport, etc before stepping onto the plane.  


Fortunately the flight wasn't full, and I ended up with a row all my own on the small two-propeller jet.  After a few minutes time, the propellers were spinning, we were set, and I got one last look at the mountains as we zoomed by on the runway.  In seconds we were above the placed that I had called home for the last 3 weeks, and I got just a little sad.  I excitedly took some pictures from above as we headed towards Dar, and as soon as Mbeya was behind us the sadness was pretty much gone and the excitement of getting home was growing more and more!  


I spent the flight praying a Rosary and then getting back to my book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week by my good friend PEB16 (Pope Emeritus Benny the 16th).  I enjoyed some ORANGE FANTA (which having been subjected to only Passion Fanta being passed off as orange for the past few days, I tastes so much better outside of the States, I promise!  And it's just Fanta...I don't see much difference with Coke) and some cashews on the short trip, and in almost no time we were landing in Dar.  


Once the plane had landed and I knew we were safely on the ground, I was relieved and happy.  If something happens to the flights to Amsterdam or Houston, I was certain the media would cover it and I wouldn't die some anonymous death that nobody would ever hear about on a tiny airline nobody would ever care about.  Not that I want to be famous or something when I die...I just had this irrational fear of crashing in a tiny plane and nobody ever really finding out what happened to me or the others on the plane.  Which makes you think about how many tiny plane/car/bus accidents we never hear about because they are deemed irrelevant due to their size and location.  It's very sad.


Now that that piece is said, I move on.


Then began my marathon.  My layover was/is 11 HOURS, and as I knew nothing about Dar and cared about nothing but getting home, my plan was simple.  Grab my bags, walk up to the Flamingo Restaurant with my bags, and park there for 8 hours until I could check in.  See, at Julius Nyerere (I remembered how to spell it because it's like Bill Nye, then add to RE's) International Airport, you can't check in until at most three hours prior to departure, maybe two (guess I'm about to find out here soon).  


I walked into the airport, immediately was at baggage claim, grabbed my bags before someone else could, and walked outside.  I declined the offers from the taxi drivers and proceeded quickly to the stairs I knew led to the restaurant.  A man who saw me told me how there were safe places to keep my bags, with receipts, very safe, here at the airport while I was in the restaurant.  He looked official (badge, airport lanyard, etc), but I had already set myself up to be stern.  "No, I'll take my bags into the restaurant, I will carry, no, thank you though.  I will carry."  Up about 30 stairs with 2 suitcases later, I was ready to park.  I grabbed a seat in the small cafeteria area and set my bags next to them.  


Initially, I sat at a table in the middle of the area, with wood chairs, not too comfortable, and far from an outlet.  A man nearby sat next to the TV at a table wiht chairs with arms, cushions, and in close proximity to the outlet.  I wanted his table.  So, I watched him.  I started killing time as best I could...I ordered a drink, then some food, then read my book then did some crosswords, but I watched him.  I think it took until about 2:30 or 3, an a couple exciting moments where "Oh, he's closing his computer!", "Nope, he's still working on that beer."  "Oh, he put the computer in his bag."  "Dang, another beer."  "Wait, he's putting his phone charger in the bag."  "Nope, he's just done charging it." Finally he got up, grabbed his bag, and left, and I pounced, moving my stuff in three short trips the 15 feet over.  I had my home base for the next five hours.  


After acquiring my spot (complete with fan right next to the was rather hot!), I killed time by reading my book, then doing some crosswords (which at about 20 minutes a piece became a great way to kill an hour), then more book, then crossword, then running to the bathroom as fast as possible and arranging my bags in a way so that I'd be certain if anyone even touched them...and 67 seconds and an empty bladder later, no, nobody had touched them.  


Then I finished my book, and now I am journaling LIVE!  You are hearing it as it happens.  so here it is.  It's 8 PM.  I have been in this airport restaurant for 8 HOURS.  I am sick of it.  It's time to check in.  So long Africa, you're pretty awesome and all, but...


I AM GOING HOME!!!  I love you Ali!  I love you John-Paul!  I love you Jude!! I love you Mary-Teresa!  Foooooo-mah and I'll see you all in 24 hours!  This trip and this part of the blog is OVER!


I AM GOING HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 21: Turn out the lights...

Day 21: April 24, 2014


Welp, turn out the lights, folks...this party is OVER!  Fortunately the one at home, though more familiar, is much more fun:-).


The day started with my attempting to make myself miss daily Mass at the Cathedral for the last possible time I could attend.  I hit the snooze on my phone semi-consciously, at best.  The second time around I was kind of aware of it and fought off sleep to get to Mass.  Again, by the time I had everything ready, including myself, it was about 5 minutes until 6:45.  I did my best to hoof it over to the Cathedral, ignoring any concern that I might become the sweatest and smelliest person in the Cathedral. I made pretty good time, i thought, but the fact that I had left the house the latest that I had all week couldn't be undone.  I walked up the side aisle of the Cathedral to what had become my usual spot as the "Gloria" was being said.  Using the now beneficial fact that Swahili takes almost twice as long as English, typically, I put down my backpack, made the Sign of the Cross, and started going through what I had missed (The opening prayer, the Confiteor, the Gloria).  By the time the sister at the ambo was halfway through the first reading from Acts, I was caught up.  Gotta love Swahili (when it's not leading to a 3 hour Good Friday service, at least).


I'm not sure why, but Mass today was much more solemn and what I'd expect out of a daily Mass in the States.  The parts of the Mass that were sung were done so very simply in tunes known to the congregation and not just a select few or, heaven forbid, the cantor only. The Sanctus was very simple and short, the Agnus Dei was in Latin and to the tune that I'm sure most would recognize, and the Great Amen was actually just an "Amen."


When the time just before communion came, it became apparent that the priest was doing something a bit different than normal as it was taking him minutes and not just moments to prepare.  He was fiddling around with something on the altar, and then finally began to carry one of the Consecrated Hosts over to the tabernacle.  Now, I'm not sure if I've mentioned this, but I'm fairly certain that the front/facade of the tabernacle is removable and doubles as a monstrance...if you look at the pictures I've posted before you can kinda see that. When the priest went over to collect the previously Consecrated Hosts, he placed the one he carried over from the altar into the monstrance without actually removing the monstrance.  So essentially we had a tabernacle with Jesus's Body there for all to see as if for Eucharistic Adoration or Benediction...I kind of like to think of it as Jesus kinda peeking out the window and saying "Howdy."


Anyhoo, after this, the remainder of Mass proceeded as you would expect.  Following the final blessing (yes, really the final one for me!), the priest processed out just as he would for any normal Mass, leaving the Blessed Sacrament exposed at the side altar in the tabernacle/monstrance hybrid.  I imagine that the nuns who attend daily Mass regularly were keeping watch until Adoration ended (as they were still there after I stopped for a few moments to say hello again and to ask for the blessing of a safe trip home).  After my short prayers, I knelt down on the ground and threw any germ-minded caution to the wind, bending forward with my knees on the ground and my forearms on the ground as well (as I would leave adoration typically in the States).  I told Jesus I'd see Him on the other side, and then headed out of the Cathedral for the last time.  


On my way over to clinic, of course I made my usual quick pit stop for a Fanta, and then through the yellow gate leading onto the hospital grounds, past the Wardi's and to Baylor COE Mbeya for the last time.  We had  our usual Thursday morning meeting, and then I checked up on my flights, checked some emails, read through my last HIV lectures for the month, and threw up a couple journal entries before the first patients were finally ready to be seen (which, as triage really didn't start until 9 AM today, meant about 9:30 or so...Tanzanians are seldom if ever rushed).


The morning was a good one, and I was able to see more patients before lunch than any previous day.  Granted, the fact that about three of them were HIV exposed infants (who don't require that much time typically) helped move that total up, but still.  There were some uneventful follow-up patients, a couple sick kiddos who probably had a viral illness but of course got a course of amoxicillin, and then my exposed babies, all of whom are negative thsu far (thank God).  Really kinda before I knew it it was time for lunch...which I figured out when my tranlators couldn't be found (rather than hearing from them that they were breaking for lunch).


I had to return to Vic's to get my Chips Mayai fix, of course...I love that stuff! I mean, it's eggs, it's potatoes, it's salsa, and it's meat.  If only they had some cheese it'd be just about perfect...though come to think of it, until now I never really noticed not having cheese.  As I didn't stock my wallet this morning, I only had about TZS 4000, so I figured that I'd pass on the meat today to be sure I could pay for what I ordered.  Very kindly, though, one of the clinic workers there told me I could order a smaller amount of meat for less, and that sounded pretty great to me.  About ten minutes later, after watching the nice cook prepare the food, i was off back to the COE to eat lunch while checking some emails and house-related things.  The meat was actually much less tough and connective tissue-y today, and the fact that I actually had something to drink to go with my salty food made it even better.  I finished my meal quite contently, and then headed back downstairs for a short second half of the day.


When I arrived at the reception desk, the pile of files was rather low, so I grabbed a file.  There was a second one stuck inside it, so I corrected the mistake (or so I thought), and headed back to the room.  We called the patient and to my surprise, two patients and an adult walked back.  It turned out that the mama and daughter came for their scheduled appointment and brought their niece/cousin to be tested for HIV.  She unfortunately turned out to be positive.  So, what I figured would be my last patient, nice and simple, turned into TWO patients: one with somewhat poor adherence and feeling sick, and the other with one month of fever, boils on her scalp, recurrent ear infections, exposure to TB that had been treated and was currently being treated in her cousin and auntie (respectively, and a new diagnosis of HIV.  


It turned out to be a rather appropriate final encounter.  First, it allowed me to see an established patient who was having problems and attempt to correct them.  Second, it allowed me to interact with a family in the setting of a new diagnosis (though fortunately, ina  sense, this was easier on me than it would have been as mama already knew the drill from treating her daughter).    Last, it made me realize that there was still a lot for me to learn, which was good as I was feeling like I was getting into the swing of things.  It was both humbling and motivating, reminding me that no matter how comfortable I get seeing things I think I know, I always have room to learn more and more.  


Fortunately, I had the guidance of Jason, who was willing to help me out with a situation I had not yet encountered.  I wanted to 1) Treat this kid with antibiotics for her infections, 2) Test her for TB, 3) get her started on treatment asap, and 4) do it all now!  Jason talked me through her case and through the fact that though she had a lot of exposures and potential risk factors, that she actually didn't appear terribly sick.  With his help, with decided to treat her current skin and ear infections (which would also cover any potential pneumonia), start her on prophylaxis for TB and other HIV associated infections, get some baseline labs, and see her in a week for likely initiation of treatment for HIV.  When he put it all together, it all made sense, and the adage "Practice makes perfect" rang true.  I still had a long way to go.


Oh, and to make the month complete, as it never is until you see it, mom dropped an "Oh by the way," as we were finishing up: turned out she had an itchy rash that within 5 seconds of seeing it (and NOT touching it) cause Jason and I to both say "Scabies."  My month was thus appropriate, I thought.


After finally finishing, the stack was empty, as was the waiting room, and the day was over.  It was after four, and I called home for the FINAL time from Mbeya.  Everything was going well, and Ali and the kiddos were getting ready to go to Ali's Bible study.  After getting to say hello to all of the kiddos, and getting to look up Jude's nose and at the ceiling as he tried to hold the phone to talk to me, it was time for them to go, and I told them I would actually SEE them on Saturday.  We were all so excited that we did our silly dances! (Okay, maybe it was just me and the kiddos just watched and laughed, but still).  


I finished posting all of the journal days I could before wrapping things up for good.  I turned in my office key, my books, and my evaluation forms.  I took a picture of the office, turned off the light, and told Jason thank you and goodbye.


Jason and Liane went above and beyond to help take care of me while I was sick, and I told him how much I appreciated it.  When you start to get sick in a country that you've never been to, your mind starts to wonder and worry, and you begin thinking about how the last place you'd ever want to be is in a hospital in a smaller city in a third world country.  I had taken myself to that place in my mind when my horrible chiils wouldn't stop and I felt like I'd never get better...and he and Liane helped immensely by doing what they could to keep me well.  Now, was I really near needing the hospital?? I'm pretty sure Jason and Liane would tell you not.  However, in my mind, I was already there, and I was terrified.  Their help was priceless.


I took a few pictures of the clinic as I walked out, then a few outside in front of the sign, and then headed back to the house.  I passed the Cathedral for the last time, stopped at the small grotto with the statue of Mary, and then proceeded down the main road, passed the roundabout and up the hill that would eventually turn down and into Mbeya Hotel.  I passed the four or five ATMs that wouldn't take my American Express card a couple weeks prior, I passed the rows of locals set up on the ground on the side of the road selling clothing, shoes, dishes, fruits that they set out each morning and packed up each evening.  I passed the stalls of small shops that flanked the soccer stadium and the DSTV store where a large crowd had gathered to watch a soccer match on their one small TV.  Finally, I came to Mbeya Hotel, where I had arrived three weeks before and couldn't find Jason and Liane (mostly because I hadn't looked well enough), leading to my walking up the hill with two suitcases to check my email on the free wifi at the Hillview Hotel to be sure I was in the right place.  Before heading home, I checked to ensure there were no volleyball players on the court, and after confirming as such stopped one last time at the ATM to get myself a load of shillings to pay my rent and buy some souvenirs.  Then it was one last walk down the road the house was on, with the mountain I had climbed transitioning from golden to silhouetted in the setting Rift Valley sunlight.  As I reached the house, rain of course started to fall, and I rushed inside before a rather heavy shower set in a bit later.  


At the house, I set to finishing up with souvenirs and settling up wth rent.  Then the siblings who had hosted me for three weeks headed off to their weekly Bible study, while I stayed home strategizing how to fit everything into my suitcases.  It took a while, but I got all of the clean clothes and souvenirs into one suitcase, and all the dirty/smelly clothes and my shoes into another.  It was really a small miracle.  After finishing up packing (for the most part), I sat on the veranda in the dark and Yuppy kept me company as I prayed Vespers aloud (the benefits of being alone in the house) and enjoyed the dark, quite Valley whose presence in the distance was only revealed by a relatively small number of twinkling city lights.  Then I set to getting some food, eating my samll amount of remaining nutella and peanut butter and cautiously eating one of the leftover pieces of pizza that Carmelle left behind from last Thursday...only a week, it's still good?? Right?? Right??


 And essentially, that's all she wrote folks.  I'm journaling now, and between now and when I leave all that will occur will be some sleeping, some showering, and some final that I added a couple more things to my souvenir list I have a small challenge to fit the new things worries...I've adapted to changes and challenges over the past few weeks, and I'm sure my suitcases can do the same.

Day 20: Just when I was starting to get into the swing of things...

Day 20: April 23, 2014

Still having issues with the spell check...

Somehow, this morning I woke up a little bit easier and earlier than the day before...yet somehow I still managed to be running just as behind by the time I left for daily Mass.  It's just one of those things I guess I do...fill the time that I'm given, and always overfill it as well.  In any case, this morning was threatening rain, so I took carried my umbrella, my poncho, and walked to the Cathedral dry as ever.  Silly weather.

I arrived at the Cathedral during the now usual "mini-homily" that apparently is given just after the Sign of the Cross but before anything else and that takes the place of the actual homily (which doesn't occur at daily Mass).  I was in the same pew before Father finished, and was all set.  Mass was essentially the same as the previous day, but with a different, shorter Sanctus (no marathon Hosannah's today) and the Agnus Dei was actually sung in Latin!  And of course, the readings were different as well.  I've really enjoyed actually being able to go to daily Mass while here, even if it did take me a couple weeks to get there....I just wish it didn't require waking up before the sun is out!

After Mass, I ran to the small "market" next door to the Cathedral and Kissa pharmacy and bought by wonderful breakfast of...snickers and Fanta!  Now, I know, that's terrible...but after the gorging of myself the previous day I needed something of some substance to eat for lunch, and that looked to be about the safest, non-straight up carb thing at the stand.  I grabbed my sugar and my sugar and headed over to start my day working as a doctor...oh, the irony.

Before clinic started, I went through a couple of lectures that visiting residents are supposed to be given or read on their own.  As it appeared that there were no more scheduled lectures in the next 2 days, I set to making sure I could tick off those boxes myself.  After about 3 sets of powerpoints slides, I couldn't take any more so I let myself work on a post or two before the first clinic patients were triaged at about 9. 

Clinic today actually went quite well.  Since I'm the only person around who doesn't speak Swahili, the two translators didn't mind me so much, especially since they could swap out when one needed to do something else (read: was tired of translating for me).  I saw a good chunk of patients in the morning, limited really by their complexity and the time that it took to check them out and get them squared away.  The patients ranged from young kids who recently started ARV (HIV treatment), to a kiddo who was supposed to start the month before but hadn't because mom was still confused about what to give when, to a teenager whose pill counts just didn't add up but was insisten that she was taking her medications "every day."  It was rather pleasant, and I was finally starting to feel like I was getting into a rhythm in clinic...right before I'm about to leave!

Hey cool, a crappy picture of me in the clinic!

After working straight through until pretty much 1:45, my translator wanted lunch (and apparently so did the other, who was nowhere to be found), and therefore so did I, I guessed.  Today, wanting not to waste too much time and to be ready when the translators returned, I ran just across the street to Vic's.  I asked for the chips maiai with nyama (eggs and potatoes with meat) to go and asked how much.  Since I had eaten there last week accompanied by one of the local clinic workers, I was sure he was overcharging me, but when it's a difference between essentially 2 or 3 dollars for lunch, then a) I don't really care and b) almost feel like I deserve to pay a bit more.  After about 10 minutes, I had my food in my carry out bag and was off back to the clinic to eat lunch in my office. 

Black-bagging it...and the place where I got the food (above)

It was upon arriving at the clinic that I realized there was no filtered water to be found in the building, and I was plum out.  I also realized that rather than the restaurant putting some meat in my eggs, they gave me the usual chips maiai and then added quite a large amount of meat on top of it....which made me think maybe I had just ordered funny and therefore asked for more than I intended.  Both of these facts my eating lunch interesting, as I downed the food without any water, and it was rather thirst-inducing food.   Somehow I managed to eat everything without fluids, which was quite an ordeal when you also consider that the meat was pretty tough and required much R lower tooth is still hurting a bit from a piece of that meat that got rather stuck (does anyone have any floss???? seriously, I would pay top dollar for some right now).

Once my food was gone, I headed back downstairs and worked in the clinic for about another hour before walking back to the front of the building to see an empty triage/to be seen tray.  That was another clinic day in the books, and it was one of the more satisfying and less frustrating of the day.  Having adjusted doses, switched up some regimens, and provided some good adherence counseling, I was happy with the work I had done.

After clinic I did a little journaling, ever trying to catch up after the delay induced by my gastric woes.  Then it was time to call home.  It was again great to see everyone, and Ali is being amazing yet again getting all the nuances of selling a home cared for...including having to exterminate a hive of bees that have recenty taken up residence in your attic!  We could have left them for the buyers and they could have just had free honey!  Heck, we could have charged extra! 

As 5 PM approached I said goodbye and packed up my things.  Though the morning had been rainy, the afternoon was rather sunny, and that meant volleyball at Mbeya Hotel.  I walked home, changed clothes quickly, and then headed back down and joined the others on the court.  It was just as much fun as a couple days prior, even though our team of five was getting owned by the four people on the other side of the net.  However, after blowing late leads in the first three games, we finally held on to win the final one.  Those of us who had played stayed and talked for a few minutes after, and then it was time to head back to the house as the sunlight was wearing out.  Before heading back, I grabbed some cash at the ATM across the street and then walked home with a wallet that couldn't fold closed (you try doing that with 50 bills in it...why they give out cash in such small increments I'll never know).

Above, the mountain viewed from the street the house is on
Below, a pretty picture of the street.

On arriving at the house, I switched on my water heater for a shower and killed some time doing a few crossword puzzles (yes, you have to decide you want your shower ahead of least 30 minutes...AT LEAST).  After about 45-50 minutes, I was sure I had waited long enough, and of course got a lukewarm shower.  For tomorrow, that sucker is getting turned on as soon as I get home from work and is not turning off until I get HOT water.

The rest of the evening was fairly uneventful, finishing up my leftover cold pizza from yesterday for dinner, and then trying to decide on some souvenirs before the rush tomorrow night to pack and get ready.  I have less than 36 hours left in Mbeya, and will be on a flight out of Africa in just under 48 hours from now.  It's flown by, and I hope tomorrow is a positively memorable experience as well!


Day 19: April 22, 2014

Forgive any spelling errors...I frankly don't have time to write AND read all this over again...and the spellchecker is broken...

I really pushed it this morning.  My alarm went off at 6 AM, and I convinced myself that I could hit the snooze button.  Then I did it again, and then it was 6:20 and I was just getting out of bed, trying to decide whether or not to attempt to get dressed and to the Cathedral by 6:45.  After going back and forth, I started getting ready as fast as possible.  I was dressed, hair combed, teeth brushed, whatever things I thought I needed for the day in my pockets, and hopping over the gate at about 6:40 (they really gotta get visitors a key to the small side gate). 

Along the way, I started my trip's daily Rosary, and walked through the gate of the Cathedral just after 6:50.  In my mind, I had a built in cushion, as I figured if I was late I could at the very worst read over the readings while a brief Swahili homily was being given.  Fortunately enough for me, Tanzanians are seldom on time, and so I walked through the front doors of the Cathedral as the priest was making the Sign of the Cross.  I made my way up the left aisle so as to discreetly find a seat toward the front where I could see the tabernacle and the altar (at least, as discreetly as the only melanin-challenged person in a Cathedral full of native Tanzanians can).

I took my seat as Father gave what sounded like a miniature homily right after the Sign of the Cross.  There were a lot of words, and a lot of "Jesu Christo"s in there, and after a couple minutes he proceeded with the Mass.  I really love whenever the penitential rite includes the Confiteor, and this morning it did.  And during the Rite, people here kneel...and I like that! Following the opening prayer, we sat and I followed along with the readings just as soon as my phone could download them.  iBreviary is a wonderful thing.  Today's Gospel was from John and in it the Risen Christ is recognized by Mary Magdalene just after He calls her by name....I've really loved this Gospel ever since talking about it on a retreat back in 2008 with Father Brian McMaster from St. Mary's.

After feeling nostalgic for a moment, the Gospel was over and I realized that Father was proceeding directly passed the homily and to the Preparation of the Gifts (so much for my built in cushion).  As he did, a smaller version of the collection box was brought out for any of the dozens of people present who wanted to give an offering.  Then we quickly proceeded through the remainder of the Mass, and we were all receiving Jesus by about 7:20.  I must comment, though, about the Sanctus.  This version, in Swahili, must have taken 2 minutes...and I say this because the Hosannah was soooooo long.  They must have repeated singing the word about 50 times each time it came up, and I know that each round of Hosannah's was about 40 seconds long (it was so remarkable the first time around that I made an effort to time it the second time). 

After Holy Communion, the priest gave us our final blessing and dismissed the faithful.  I stayed a few minutes after for what seemed to be a short community prayer and then to take some pictures of the Church decorated all pretty for Easter (I didn't feel like sticking around after the 4 hour Vigil).  Then I walked out of the Church and sought out some food.  

 The inside of the Cathedral all pretty-fied
 Any UCLA alum would approve of these Easter docorations
 Choir per usual, not used by the choir.
From the back of the Cathedral.

I was thinking about getting chapati again (can't get those darn things off the mind), but after stopping at the pharmacy to try to pick up some hand sanitizer and buying an orange Fanta, it was about quarter till, and we had a guest coming to the clinic to give a lecture at 8.  I abandoned my search for breakfast and made my mind up to get lunch later and make up for it then.

At the clinic, I waited a couple minutes before the site director, Bertha, arrived and unlocked the building.  It turns out she is the person that people kept trying to refer me to with questions about the Cathedral.  She attends daily Mass, and she said she had seen me at church over the weekend and this morning.  Somehow we missed each other on the first day I was at the clinic when I met about a billion people.  We talked for a few moments about the Vigil, about how I followed along with the Mass in English on my phone (to which Bertha said, "Oh! That's clever!"), and how the Cathedral is working on an English Mass.  Per Bertha, usually all the English speakers just go to the Anglican Church while in town as they don't speak Swahili.  "Oh, but it's not the same," I said, to which she replied, "No, it's not."


After a few minutes checking emails, it was time for our lecture from one of the oncologists at the BIPAI clinic in Gaborone, Botswana.   Before his talk started, I was able to ask him how Gabs was, and found out that it's been growing.  Apparently there are 2 or three new malls since I left, the city is further expanding, and as Dr. Slone put it, "It's really a suburb of Jo-burg."  It sounds like it is a FAR cry from Mbeya, where a supermarket is one that is about 400 square feet instead of under 200.  Dr. Slone gave his first of a few lectures on pediatric cancers and diagnosis, but then it was time for rounds in the wards at Mbeya Referral Hospital. 

Jason and I left the others to sit in their comfortable chairs and learn more from Dr. Slone, while we headed to the malnutrition ward.  Rounds went rather smoothly today, with only 18 patients in the ward.  There were a fair number of new faces, some of whom were having some pretty significant respiratory distress and who are kind of iffy, but the rest of the kiddos seemed to be doing well.  Seven of our 8 appetite test patients had passed on Thursday!  In addition, we sent 5 more for the test today, and one of them was Winfrida!  She looked amazing...and I almost would not have believed that she was the same child.  She still wouldn't smile at me, but it was because she was playing (I saw her play with Mom while my back was turned).  As she was one of the kiddos I remembered most from my first day rounding in the wards, it was great to come full circle and see her have the chance to go home.  I'm not sure if she passed the test (which essentially consists of going to the clinic and having the nutritionist watch you eat or not eat a determined amount of Plumpy-Nut nutritional supplement), but I am going to assume that she did as it makes for better closure.  Plus if she didn't, she looks amazing and I imagine will be home by the time I am!

After finishing rounds, I said goodbye and thanks to Dr. Rajeb, the intern who had been working with us for the time I was here, and then we headed back over to the Clinic.  The doctors had been in a session from 10-12 with Dr. Slone, so it appeared that not much had happened while we were gone.  I was under the impression that the clinic was only open for urgent appointments and a small amount of scheduled follow-ups, but somehow we still got up to about 70 patients for the day.  When we got back, the stack was at about #30ish.  Needless to say, there was work to do. 

I grabbed an empty room and started seeing patients, trying to get through a couple hours and caving to my growing hunger.  I saw a few patients with one of the translators, who then disappeared off somewhere.  Fortunately, as I'm really the only one who was totally clueless with regard to Swahili in the clinic, another of the translators was available.  A few patients later, though, she was breaking for lunch.  As it was about 2 PM, I decided so was I.  There were still patients in the stack and in the triage pile as well, but I had to eat.

And so I DID.  I took the decent walk down to Deluxe (yes, I knew I had sworn it off, but I was going to dine in, and I wanted to eat somewhere where I could have a spoon and some chips).  I had set my mind on eating.  I ordered my normal Pilau Nyama, and then asked for some Chips Maya, remembering how much I liked them at Vic's a few days before.  After I said what I wanted, the waitress asked, "Both??" kind of incredulously.  I confirmed twice that I wanted both.  I thought I could eat it...I was famished.

In a few short minutes, I had my Pilau Nyama, and I started tearing into it, trying to save some of the meat for my chips.  About a third of the way through, the man outside who was making dishes with chips brought in my dish of Chips Mayai, and on seeing me said,
"Oh take-away?"
"No, for here."
"No no, for here, it's fine."
"For here?"

 Anybody remember that SNL skit with Chris Farley dressed up as a woman on a supposed diet?

At least the view on the walk back was nice?

The enormity of my meal dawned on me about halfway through.  It was doable, but probably with some discomfort if I ate EVERYTHING.  I added some salt to my chips dish, and went to town, dipping it in some of the chili sauce and beans to mix things all up.  I decided I didn't need to eat absolutely everything when I wasn't positively sure that the scrambled eggs were cooked all the way (it could have just been grease, but I needed an excuse to pick out some of the food and not eat it all anyway).  When all was said and done, I had eaten probably 80% of the chips dish and all of the pilau nyama.  Washed down with a diet pepsi, I had stuffed myself for just under $4.  I felt a little guilty...but my stomach was very happy.

I headed back to the clinic much heavier than I came, and there were still a few charts left in the stack.  I grabbed the next one and a translator and saw who ended up being my last of the day, as he was a kiddo with poor adherence to medications, potential TB, and who had just restarted anti-TB therapy.  In addition, his chart was kind of a mess due to some less than optimal documentation and some back and forth in the past few visits on when/if he was going to be treated for TB or not. Regardless, we got him taken care of, but it took me a while. 

By this time, it was 3:45 or so, and the clinic day was over for me.  I read over one of the lectures that we are supposed to either hear or read on our own while we are hear, and then headed upstairs to call home.  I was so happy to see my two babies, Ali and Mary-Teresa, on the call home.  The boys were still staying with Pawpaw in Sour Lake until later this morning, so it was just the three of us.  Mary-Teresa is becoming much more animated and talkative (though her words are certainly not comprehensible), and growing so fast.  I told Ali how maybe the worst part of a trip is when you are just ready to go home but have just a couple days left.  That's where I am, and though I want to make the most of my last couple days at the clinic, I want to be at home more and more each day.

Also, we have BEES.  Apparently during the inspection of our home a large hive of bees was discovered in our attic, and so Ali told me how she had arranged for a terminator to come out and handle the situation. I was just glad that the bees weren't in the house, and that the inspection went well otherwise.  It sounds like our buyers really like the house.

After we hung  up, I caught up on putting some of my journal days on the internet for the first time in about a week.  The past week has been crazy, with being sick, climbing a mountain, and the Triduum.  Journaling took a bit of a hit priority-wise.  Then about 5:30, it was time to head home, and I made my way through the light rain back to the house, noting how it was one of the last times I'll look out over the valley on the walk back from work.

I dropped some stuff off at home and dressed a little more comfortably before finishing up a crossword from earlier. Then after sitting on the front steps looking at the cloud-covered valley, I finally decided to go grab food for dinner at Metro.  I threw my shoes on and headed out, not wanting to make it any later than my indecision had already made it. 

I walked down our road and hopped across the main road, through the shops and down the stadium road to the now familiar location.  I walked upstairs and grabbed a table, debated between a few different things, and then settled on a margerita pizza.  I ordered the large with plans to save half for lunch the next day.  That almost exactly worked out, as I at one extra piece of the plate-sized pizza and saved the remaining 37.5%.  (Actually, as I type right now, I'm having to restrain myself from grabbing a piece out of the fridge right now!) Grabbed my leftovers wrapped in foil and headed out.  It was drizzling, and I had not brought my umbrella, so I made my way quickly through the street and into and out of the shops leading to the main road.  I thought the area was a bit intimidating at dark, but it's a bit worse even when it's dark AND raining.

Yes, another picture of food.

I made it back to the house relatively unscathed and only mildly moist.  I put down my things and was working on another crossword when Amelia asked if I wanted to play Bananagrams again.  I obliged, and proceeded to play two LONG games.  I was getting TERRIBLE letters, X's and J's and Z's and Q's....I was wondering where all the good letters were.  I lost both games, but essentially finished my puzzle at the same time as Amelia the second time around, and given the letters I had, I pretty much considered it a win-win.

After that, it was bedtime-ish.  I grabbed a hot shower and put on some freshly laundered night clothes, and now it's journal time before finishing up the day with Evening Prayer.  It's really hard to believe that in only 3 days I'll be on a plane to Amsterdam and well on my way home.  I am ready to see my family, but certainly will miss the beautiful scenery and kind people here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 18: Not quite a safari...

Day 18: April 21, 2014

I was proud of myself this morning.  Despite being tired, despite being dark in my room, and despite only snoozing twice, I woke up in time for 6:45 AM Mass.  I got dressed and headed down the road, which was quiet even for a Monday, as it was a public holiday.  In retrospect, I noticed that the were no nuns along the way to the Cathedral, but it was daily Mass and I hadn't yet made it out so perhaps that was normal.

I was frustrated with myself this morning.  I arrived to a Cathedral with locked doors and an empty parking lot. I walked around and found a posted schedule. Today was a feast day, and the Mass schedule clearly read "0300 Asubuhi".  Now, another lesson in Swahili time.  There is no 24 hour clock.  There is no AM/PM.  You simply add 6 hours and then follow with "in the morning" or "in the afternoon" or whatever time of day it is BEFORE YOU ADD THE HOURS.  So in our example, 0300 Asubuhi translates to 9 in the morning.  Yes, it's ridiculous.  9 AM, plus 6 hours, equals 0300 "in the morning".  In the very same vein, 9 at night/evening is the EXACT same number time but followed by "jioni" which means in the evening.  I realize that this had no impact on why I was there too early for Church.  I didn't read the schedule, but reading it again brought to mind how silly the time lingo is to a silly uzungu like me (I'm sure it makes sense to locals...or at least I hope it does, cuz there better be some reason to use it!)

I decided to take some time to take some pictures of the Church and courtyard as well as the mountain set behind it.  I looked up and saw the cross and FAR above it the power station to which we climbed, and I almost couldn't believe we had gone up that high. 

 The Cathedral grounds all pretty-fied

Shot farther out, then up close.  You see that tiny white cross on toward the right size of the screen on the mountain?  Yes, that's the cross.. Then if you look at the very topmost portion of the mountain toward the leftish side /left third you can imagine a little building...yeah, that's the power station.  And this doesn't even quite do it justice.:-P

Then I read some sad news.  On checking my phone, I read a message to BCM alumni asking for letters for Dr. Frank Kretzer, our histology and ophthalmology lecturer from the first 18 months of medical school.  He is an AMAZING teacher.  He is loud, he is blunt, and sometimes he is downright DIRTY when he teaches, but he is GREAT at it.  He loves the students, loves the teaching, and the way he teaches is, as he would say, "Positively elegant."

Dr. Kretzer recent found out that he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer with no meaningful medical or surgical options.  In short, he has been given 3-6 months to live...a death sentence.  Instead of quitting his job straight away, he is making certain he finishes up his lecture duties for the year, hiring TA's for the classes for the fall, and essentially giving his PRECIOUS time to his students before he takes whatever time he has left after exclusively for his family.  This just shows the dedication to his students and to his vocation as a teacher, and I honestly know that I could NOT do it.  It is tragic, and he is being as "positively elegant" as ever, doing all he can with what time he has left.

I stopped in front of the statue of Mary near the entrance to the Cathedral grounds.  I knelt and prayed the rest of my Rosary for a Jewish man he'd probably get a kick out of hearing that.  I asked God to heal him if possible, and for our Lady to watch over and pray for him...above all asking of course for God's Will to be done and for Him to be glorified in whatever happens.  I prayed for peace for Frank and his just didn't seem real or right.  If you're reading this, please join me in prayers for Frank, and for God to bless him and fill his life with grace until whenever he decides to call Frank out of this world.

After finishing, I got up and headed back towards the house, trying to think as positively as possible or at least put the sad thoughts out of my mind.  I turned off the road to the one that parallels the stadium, hoping to find some chapati for breakfast.  It turns out I was even too early for that, as one sole seller was JUST setting up and getting the fire started.  Even worse, I couldn't even find someone open to sell me a Fanta!

 Too early for even the market to be open.

Thus, it was another peanut butter breakfast.  I washed it down with some water and set to journaling, knowing that we were supposedly going to go "do something" (as yet had not been decided) at about noon.  I journaled and journaled as the siblings directed a worker who came to help set up their garden and chicken coop areas.  Time went by quickly as I had a lot of journaling to catch up on.  By the time everyone was actually ready to go at about 12:30 or so, I had caught up to the end of Holy Saturday at least (which took FOREVER). 

Hey, I am so meta right now...

Proceeding right along from that tangent, we hopped in the truck in search of food before heading out to our planned destination of the hot springs in Ifizi (spelling?).  We first headed to Deluxe, which was clearly closed as we pulled up.  From there we proceeded to Vic's, where the lack of variety of food caused us to finally arrive at Hope Sister's where i had a heaping plate of pilau (seasoned rice) with beans, nyama (meat) and some homemade chili sauce.  We all sat down and ate, some having the kuku (chicken) and others the fish.  My food was good as always, though the meat was a little connective-tissue-ish.  The rice and beans were great, and the chile was nice on everything, spicy but not killer. I washed my down with a Coke, being careful to drink as safely as possible from the glass bottle, which I've been told are okay so long as you pour or use the area that has been covered by the cap...otherwise all bets are off. 

We paid our bill and headed out, and as my change I got one of the dirtiest 1000 TZS bills I've seen.  I washed my hands after handling it, and then decided easily to use it to buy a Diet Pepsi from the store next door.  I paid with the change I had just received, handling it with as few fingers and as few cells on those fingers as possible.

Where we ate lunch and the market where I dumped my dirty 1000 TZS

Then we were off!   It was another drive through the city and country in the back of that great old truck.  We headed out west toward Utengule direction with the mountain range to our right.  In between the sites of the city and the farmland, I couldn't help but stare at the mountain with the cross and the power station even farther above.  I still couldn't believe how far up the power station was from the cross.  I guess it didn't seem like it because the clouds surrounded me and kept me from seeing the actual height and distance...which now seemed awesome.  As I took in my accomplishment, I was quickly humbled as just to the west of where we climbed was Mount Mbeya, even higher up and obscured in view by some REALLY high clouds.  I was still proud of my climb, though.

Some pics of Mount Loleza...yeah, Mbeya is at the very bottom of that just off the far right edge of the picture.

Eventually after about 20 km, we turned off the main highway and parked outside what appeared to be a zoo.  I asked where we were, and Amelia said it was a zoo but the hot springs were inside as well.  After signing in an paying our TZS 2000 ($1.25) to get in, we were told this was not the hot springs area and that it was somewhere else.  Regardless, we decided to walk around and see what we could see.
 This sign says "Hey, really inexpensive zoo!"
 You'll poke your eye out!
 Me with Pumba and his friend. 
 Close enough.
 Too close...this ostrich is up to no good.
There's a hyena back there, I promise...and the gate to their area HAD NO LOCK.

The animal variety included two pelicans (who scared us all by opening their beaks and essentially biting at us, though pretty harmlessly behind the chain-linked fence), vultures, a caged area where lions "will be" (very exciting to know), warthogs, two types of monkeys, ostriches, hyenas, and porcupines, among some other birds and reptiles  and such (a black python, ick). 

There was also an observation deck about 20 feet up that provided a sweeping view of the Valley and the mountain range.  In the distance someone pointed out some antelope and zebras running between trees and in a clearing.  They were so far off I could hardly recognize them as such, but they were certainly there.  As we stood on the deck, a Precision Air jet flew above, reminding me of my first views of this valley and the mountains as I stepped off the plane, as well as of the diminishing amount of time I have left here.

 So pretty
 There are zebras out there!  I couldn't even tell they were zebras, that's how far off they were...and apparently antelope, too

Top: What happens when you try to take a picture with the timer and the phone is aimed too high
Bottom: What happens when you try to balance your phone and the phone flips over and falls to the deck one second before the timer goes off.

While there, Josh and Amelia had the idea to approach the owner about taking guests out on horse rides in the open area and doing horseback tours.  Wouldn't ya know it, the owner arrived just as we were getting ready to leave.  Josh walked right up to him, and soon he, Amelia, and the owner were sitting having a 20 minute or so conversation about a variety of things, I guess. 

While they met off a ways, we watched the zoo's turtles slowly explore their world, and I kept rooting for one to drink some water.  I soon became obsessed with this, and really wanted to see a turtle drink...did they every drink, I started to wonder.  Then as I was distracted by something else, Cherise called out and pointed to a large turtle taking very big gulps from the small water area.  His mouth constantly on the water, every few seconds you could clearly see his neck muscles work to swallow what must have been a huge gulp.  I imagine he was filling up his mouth as much as possible, swallowing in as many gulps as needed, and then proceeding.  He was going to town!  I was very happy.

I'll be honest, I became a little too obsessed with seeing a turtle drink some water...I had to kill the time somehow...See how happy I am?!

After this, I made my way to the observation deck and attempted to use the timer and my phone holster to take some nice selfies from a distance.  After finally getting it set up and delicately balanced, I hit the button, assured balance remained, and moved into position.  As the final beeps of the timer went off, the camera tumbled forward and landed face down on the deck.  A few skipped beats later, the phone was confirmed to be fine.  I had a nice shot of blurry sky from the flipping phone as it shot what could have been it's final moment.  After a little more tinkering, I found a way to prop up the phone that I think was actually INTENTIONALLY designed in.  I took a few photos in different directions and then realized the meeting was over.  Everyone was ready to go, as was I. 

Long-distance selfie success!  I just wish it had focused a bit better. 

As it was already 4:30 and rain seemed to be threatening around us, we decided to head back home and miss the springs.  On the way home, we stopped to feed the horses, and while Amelia tended to them Cherisse taught me about guava fruit as a few trees were nearby.  She nonchalantly grabbed a few of them, some soft skin, some harder, and I had my first ever guava (yes, first ever).  After a few more, I decided they were pretty tasty, but potentially very messy, as one of the fruits was very filled with runny pink juice. 

 Trying to look contemplative, but really just looking old and balding.

 I actually really love this picture, so I made it huge.
 Gosh, there's that mountain we climbed again.

First guava!  Mom, dust off and bust out the baby book...

We arrived at the house again at 5:00, only to leave again shortly for volleyball at Mbeya hotel. Between rain and illness, this was the first time I went and actually played.  We had a good crowd, with 6 people on each side of the net and eventually having to rotate out to let everyone play.  It was really fun, but kind of serious as well. It was healthy competition, shall we say?  I wasn't the worst out there, but I certainly was not the best and could use some more practice.  It was good to play with everyone and get a decent sweat going while having fun.  After about 5 or 6 games, the light was fading, as were we, and we headed to the house.

After arriving at the house again, I wasn't sure going out to the Hillview Hotel to call home was a great idea.  It was raining, I needed laundry to finish, and it was kinda late.  However, I decided to take a lukewarm shower, grab some almost dry clothes, and head out with my poncho AND umbrella in hand.  If only for a few minutes, I knew it would be appreciated if I could call home.

The combo of poncho and umbrella worked great, and I sat down at the bar area at the hotel dry as could be.  After ordering a Tusker, I set to getting online.  The very strong "Hillview Hotel 3" network from the previous day was nowhere to be seen, and as I cycled through #2 and #5 (the only ones in range), it became clear they were not strong enough. I oddly walked around the small bar, rescanning to see if any areas were stronger and might work.  George, my waiter who recognized the tall white dude as having been there the day before, recommended I try network #3...I rescanned, i walked outside, nothing.  I asked George if they could check to see if #3 was on as I couldn't pick it up.  He called someone and checked, it seemed like the networks were reset, but still nothing.  "It's not working today" was the only explanation I ever got.  So now I was in a silly bar in Tanzania drinking a crummy East African "beer" for no reason.  I was finally resigned to just forcing myself to finish my drink and heading home...after all, I was never even offered a menu, and though I had plans to eat dinner there, I wasn't about to wait an hour in that dim bar with no internet.  The beer, which never tastes amazing, tasted even worse with no interent, and it actually took a fair amount of time for me to finish it.

This is East African "Beer"...somehow it tasted much better the day before...and seriously??? It won an award?? For what?!

Even as I left and walked around the hotel grounds, I found no area where I could have picked up the wifi.  Frustrated, I headed out the gate and down the hill.  At least it wasn't raining anymore, I thought.  I arrived at the house dry, hungry, and a bit disappointed.  Peanut butter and nutella straight out of the jar for a dessert-resembling dinner that allowed me to take my final dose of cipro.  I got some water, told the hosts goodnight, and headed to bed to journal and head to sleep.  Tomorrow begins the last short work week I have here!

Day 17: Easter Sunday: Let us rejoice and be fat...

Day 17: Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday.  I had a jump start on it from the Vigil the night before, and slept like a baby after one of the longer days in my memory.  I slept solid until just before 9 AM, when my alarm was set to go off.  The sun shining through the windows behind my bed and to the right towards the mountain helped ease me awake. 

I woke up and read Lauds (morning prayer) and then kinda lazied around in the room for a few minutes.  By the time I actually made it out to the living room, Amelia, Josh, and Cherise had already left for their church service.  I was all by myself in the house.  I threw on some clothes from the night before and followed through on my decision from earlier last night to get some breakfast at Mbeya Hotel.  I was hungry when I got home from the Vigil, so I wasn't about to wait until 1 PM to eat again. 

Getting out of the yard presented a challenge, as though I had finally inherited my own set of door keys when Carmelle left, I had not key to the front gate.  Therefore, I placed my computer on the top of one of the columns framing the gate, climbed up and over, then jumped to grab my computer. Then it was off to breakfast.

I perused the menu at the mostly empty dining area at the Hotel restaurant, and settled for a "Spanish Omelette", and "Beef Sausage" (they were out of chicken), and coffee with milk.  They were only 3000, 1500, and 2000 TZS (about $2, $1, and $1.25) each, so I thought I was getting a deal.  What I found out was that I was getting what I was paying for.  I was given the most pathetic excuse for a "two egg omelette" ever, which was essentially a thin layer of what looked to be only egg whites that probably just barely covered the bottom of the pan they were cooked in, with some bell pepper sprinkled in.  Then the pan of thin egg substance was folded into four to make an "omelette".  No cheese, no egg yolks apparently, no other vegetables.  It was SAD.  In addition, the "beef sausage" essentially resembled a just-thicker-than-a-pencil hot dog, and tasted about the same.  The coffee consisted of some hot water in a small pitcher and a packet of instant coffee.  I'm guessing the sugar and milk were real, but that could not be confirmed.  Needless to say I finished my food in about 5 minutes and then sat and sipped on my coffee.  I was hoping to make a morning out of it as I brought my computer along to do some journaling, but I just got a bit done as I had little interest in sticking around for a long time.  I was afraid my still hungry stomach would make me order something else in which I would be sorely disappointed.  It was truly the antithesis of the glorious chicken sizzler from the night before...maybe i should have asked if I could order that!

When I arrived home at about 11:30, everyone else was home as well.  I journaled a bit more in the living room, then got fully dressed (ie put on the clothes from the Vigil the night before rather than just a t-shirt) and then waited out on the veranda for Liane and Jason, who picked me up just after 1 PM.  When I got into the car, I was greeted by smiling faces from Jason, Liane, Pat, and Tom, the sight of some deviled eggs, and the GLORIOUS smell of some roasted kuku (chicken).  The ride over was rather enjoyable given the present company, the fantastic smell, and the views of Mbeya as we drove a ways into town to the house at which lunch was being hosted.

After some redirection over the phone, we backtracked a bit and finally found ourselves at a beautiful house with a maroon (now we're talkin!) roof and a beige gate.  The owner, Steve, greeted us at the gate and walked us in, where we met his wife (whose name escapes me, I feel terrible) who was so warm and welcoming.  The house was very pretty, all finished up nicely and modern looking with what appeared to be bamboo ceilings (covered by a tile roof) and a few African highlights among their pictures of their kids and grandkids back in the States. 

Not the best pictures of the house and garden, but you get the idea.

As we arrived at about 1:30, most people had already been thru and plated up some food, so I felt better about dishing up at a lunch to which I was told to bring NOTHING.  Still, I waited at least until Pat and Tom dug in, which was fortunately just a few minutes as they were famished as well.

The food was abundant and it was a smorgasbord.  I was starving, so as I made my way around the table I got pretty much a bit of almost everything.  Two types of green beans, three types of au gratin potatoes, potato salad, ham, dinner salad, citrus glazed/candied carrots, spinach and cheese dip (an encore from the previous weeks dinner at Liane's), two versions of deviled eggs, and I'm certain a couple things I am leaving out.  Oh, the ROLLS...with BUTTER.  The rolls seemed to be home-made and were just about as close to those Hawaiian rolls as I've had in quite some time.  Along with the butter, they tasted amazing.  As many people had taken up seats outside, I sat down next to Pat and Tom in a little corner of the living room where some other people were and started devouring...blessing first, of course.  I went around my plate enjoying everything and definitely making plans for seconds of certain things.  Favorites were one type of the potatoes (shredded like hashed browns and sooooo good), spinach dip, and the ROLLS.  After eating everything else, I used my glorious butter filled roll to sop up everything on the plate, and then sat there about as content and gastronomically satisfied as I had been in quite some time.  I almost, almost felt like I was at a dinner back in the States.  For about five minutes I sat and just enjoyed the content feeling, talking with Pat & Tom as well as Mark's wife Michael about how good the food was and how pacing was key.  Another minute or two and I was back at the table, getting small servings of the spinach dip, another roll, and more potatoes au hash, as I call them.  The content cycle repeated, with a stronger "full" component this time around and maybe a hint of "stuffed".

Food!  Like, real American-ish food!

Then it was time for dessert.  I grabbed a smaller plate next to the table of sweets and filled it with a cookie, some orange glazed bundt cake, a small scoop of some chocolate-ish dessert cake, and a small scoop of chocolate/vanilla ice cream.  It, of course, was glorious, and when I sopped up as much melted ice cream as I could with my last bite of bundt cake, I was STUFFED...comfortably and happily a teddy that's squishable but not busting at the seams.

Throughout the afternoon, I talked a bit to people here and there, but mostly I sat and ate.  After I ate, I sat and was happy there in my corner seat.  I was, however, brought out of my shell by a talkative little girl named Naomi...probably about ten or so.  She started asking me questions about: Who are you, where do you work, do you know Dr. Carmelle, I met Dr. Carmelle, I met Dr. Carmelle at Amelia's house when she babysat for my Mom, do you know Amelia, I got to see some baby rabbits at her house that time, do you know one of the rabbits didn't have an ear so his ear must be inside his head, (and I quote) "Boy that must really tickle his brain."  This kid was a RIOT.  I listened intently while trying not to laugh (and succeeded) as she told me about her family, her coming baby sibling, going back to the States, and how her younger brother Elijah didn't remember grandma and grandpa in the states because the family had been there for 8 years and three years without visiting home.  Shortly after that she turned her attention to someone else, and I met her dad, who had taken the seat next to her. 

After a bit more relaxing and digesting, and meeting a couple other visitors, it was time to leave.  As my ridemates were packing up some things, I watched the kids outside (and some of the adults) setting up a game of croquet despite the ongoing drizzle of rain.  I grabbed one last roll with butter and ate it easily before everything was ready, and then after some profuse thanks to our guests, we were out the door.  It was over in just a couple hours, but I was happy to have a short time in a nice, warm home that felt almost like I wasn't a world away from my own. 

Gettin' ready to play "Par-kay"

We arrived home earlier than expected.  As I thought we'd be gone until 5 or so, I told Ali not to expect me to call home until later after they went to Mass (which would start at 10:45 their time and 6:45 local time).  As it was only 5, I grabbed my headphones and my phone and headed up the hill to Hillview Hotel to try out their wifi at their bar. 

As I crossed the threshold to the Hotel grounds, I walked by the guard station like I knew what I was doing and went straight to the bar, where I found a seat very similar to the one I had taken about two weeks prior.  I remembered that the wifi would not connect for me two weeks prior, so I had low expectations.  I was out of options, though, with the coffee shop letting me down the night before. 

Much to my surprise, my phone connected with no problem and soon I was G-chatting with Ali and the kids!  I was so excited!  Everyone was very happy as there was candy and goodies to satisfy each of the three kiddos, and John-Paul showed me how all of the family's "sacrifice beans" from Lent were traded out for Easter egg candies as a symbol of how God uses our sacrifices to bring us good.  He was very excited, almost moreso than with stocking candy on Christmas.  Everyone was doing great, and Ali let me know that our buyers had accepted our counter offer and we were proceeding with the long process of selling the house!  All great news!

My little wifi hotspot.

As we chatted, I sipped on a large Tusker lager (another East African version of beer).  Once we finished chatting, I finished the beer and asked for an was Easter, after all, and I wanted to celebrate.  The waitress asked what size, so i went with her suggestion of "medium" as i figured that was maybe a double.  A few minutes later, she brought a bottle about 250 ml or so in size to the table with a snifter glass.  Thankfully, the bottle was unopened, so I told her I misunderstood and that I just wanted one drink.  Apparently this was not an least not one that I could convey clearly.  I asked her to swap out the bottle for a small Serengeti beer I really didn't feel like I needed 5-8 drinks worth of Amarula, nor the 10,000TZS price that came with the bottle.

As I sipped on the beer, i caught up on uploading some pictures to Facebook, taking full advantage of the well-working Wifi.  After a few minutes, though, I had finished and really had no desire to use the Wifi for anything else.  I forced the Serengeti down (really, all the beers taste the same here, and after one, it's kind of a chore to push more carbonation into your stomach) and paid my tab, walking back out the door and down the hill to the house.

After arriving home, I finished up a crossword or two and then set to journaling, as I was still FAR behind.  I got somewhat caught up when Amelia asked if I wanted to play Mancala...I won't spend the time explaining the rules here, but I had never played, and now can.  It was fun, and after getting some guidance on the first game, I split a few games against Amelia and Josh (okay, so I won one of like four games).  I'll be honest: the game was more fun than i expected it to be.  By then it was past 10, and certainly time for bed.  I made a few notes for journaling so as to not forget some of the details, and then was off to bed after a bit of prayer and thanks for a wonderful weekend.

The puppies gettin' bigger!