Family Stories, Tanzania

Goodbye, For Now

April 12, 2015

I opened a book this morning that Sarah gave to me a couple of mornings ago, Journey to the Heart, by Melody Beattie. Sarah told me to open the book to any page and read and discover a little something about me, my day, a deeper look into the present. Today’s title, “See How Each Soul Has Touched You.” The section talks about the significance of a relationship unnoticed until later. It talks about such a relationship as a dance, quiet interactions, themes barely noticed. Appropriate for today?

Sarah left for Nairobi yesterday to be with her Mum and Dad. Her Mum, who is 75, found two lumps in her breast last week and this past weekend had a mastectomy. The surgery went well and we are hopeful that she will be released Tuesday or Wednesday. Sarah will help her get settled at the “the club” in Nairobi and return home on Wednesday.

Sister, Denise, is here. Close by. Planting the farm along with the farm workers. Getting the beans, barley and grass seeds safely into the ground. The rains have arrived and the farm is alive with growth, tractors and farm workers, mostly women dressed in traditional colorful, multi-patterned clothing. I am teary-eyed knowing that we will be saying goodbye to our friends in less than two weeks.

It’s not difficult to “see how each soul” here has touched us. Sarah, Denise, Di and Chris. First friends, now family who took us in, provided us with a real home, flowers in the vase at the center of the table, birthday party for Layla, surprise birthday cake in the fridge for me, welcoming, warm invitations to dinner at their houses, much, much needed challenging conversation about pretty much everything under the African sun.

By staying here and settling in with this family who has lived in Tanzania since before independence, we have experienced Tanzania as we would not have other wise. Some things as simple as the truly hidden away restaurants — turn left off top road, head past the rock quarry (where the most extreme poor sit and crack rock upon rock) and you will find Damascus restaurant, an oasis with a swimming pool and an unrivaled view of Mt. Meru. Head further up the “road” to Zanzibar-style homes owned by some of the wealthiest of Arusha. And, don’t forget about Abyssinian, also off top road. The best Ethiopian food prepared by your Ethiopian hosts. And, of course, Khan’s chicken-on-the-bonnet, I described in an earlier post. All places most expats have never been too.

But there are more serious conversations that have taken place here too: the hard, hard, hardships of doing business in a developing country in Africa where new taxes are levied regularly and applied retroactively; the cycle of poverty of the citizens of Tanzania – where the average worker’s pay does not allow for saving even a penny for something as necessary as a child’s education in a non-government school where teaching English is THE priority; the convoluted politics of the upcoming election in November, including the new anti-foreign worker law; the fact that women must get their husband’s permission to get birth control or choose to be sterilized and hence family planning in this overpopulated country is non-existent; that most of the well-meaning NGO’s of the last four decades have created a culture of dependency where hand outs have become the norm and the newest concept of macrocredits continues to fail because most of the population has never had to repay a “handout.”

We have come and now we will leave — with a much better understanding of Tanzania. What will each of us do with this new knowledge? We will have to wait and see. But, what we will do, feel, and think of our new family, I hope is not a mystery. I write this now as a promise to myself to never lose Sarah, Denise, Di and Chris. Wherever you are, we are with you.

The sun is just starting to peak through the clouds on Mt. Meru. Another African sunrise. I hear a safari vehicle headed down the farm road. Probably coming to pick up the Israeli family staying in House One for the last couple of nights. That’s going to be us in just twelve days. My heart aches. So much ahead and leaving so, so much behind.

New story in Travel Shorts about our visit with the Bushmen (fun and funny!) and photos in the Gallery.

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