Mary, Esther and opportunities of Tumaini(hope)

Yesterday (until the skies opened and we “swam” down Mount Meru) was a productive but “mixed” day emotionally . . . Katy, Raymond and Lohai arranged for the children to attend mass in our absence and Grace, Oddo, Dr. Pat, Mary, Ester and I jumped into the Tumaini gari (car) and Peter drove us up the mountain!  Our first visit was to Bibi Mary’s house (we brought rice, sugar, beans and a pineapple as gifts) where we offloaded and then made the climb (straight up through coffee plants!) the side of the mountain to Bibi’s house!  Pat had no trouble whatsoever, but Oddo lost his balance and arrived at the top wiping dust from his trousers!  It’s a steep climb!
Bibi was very happy to see us, as was Mama Ndogo (Mary’s young Aunt).  Bibi had taken a fall and injured her shoulder and so Pat checked her out, assessed that nothing was indeed broken but that muscles in her neck indicated that she had most likely strained herself during the fall.  We asked for a kanga and fashioned a sling out of it, but Mary’s Bibi is a busy woman and was loathe to allow her arm to “rest” in the sling . . . she kept flailing it about using it for expression in conversation!  Her neck may remain sore for awhile!  Grace was the translator and we had the bishop from the Christian Revival Church in Ndoombo present also, as we explained, as strongly as possible, how Mary’s ARV’s have failed her and that she is now on the only other option available for her . . . AND, that there are no other options!  We told them HOW ARV’s fail, at which point Mama Ndogo (little Mama, or Mary’s Aunt, who loves her very much and has attempted to substitute for her real mother whom Mary lost years ago), began to cry.  She confessed that, in ignorance, many, many times Mary would be given her medications only at night because she was up early to school and “they just didn’t know” how important adherence was/is.  Grace will return for a seminar for all positive children in order to explain clearly . . .
We stopped in to greet Ndelio, a young man damaged by polio and living with his sister.  I try to help him out monthly but he really does need sponsorship.
(It’s 5:15 a.m. here and I just heard a noise outside . . . opened the door and wandered out.  It has been HOT, but it rained last night . . . do I have a RAIN story for you while we were up the mountain!!  In any event the house is silent and dark; one rooster crows far off in the distance and there is the rustle of a loose sheet of metal somewhere near because a beautiful breeze is blowing . . . I can hear the leaves on the trees but other than that, nothing . . . soon the children will stir and Lohai will begin his day with the chickens but for now . . . oh wait, and some crickets in the background . . . Pat falls asleep to the sound of the crickets outside our windows – her room twins mine, and says she loves the soothing effect . . . I did not discover the source of the noise but met Lawrence, our security guard and he is firing up some hot water so I can buy him a coffee!  For those of you who know me, you will recall how very much I love coffee, but here, in the heart of coffee plantations we have nothing but instant and it’s not so good, so I’ve become quite a tea drinker . . . my tin of instant coffee powder is the only in the house and sometimes, some of the family NEEDS a caffeine kick and so they dive in!  BTW-Yesterday, I caught Neema putting black pepper in her chai/tea and thought she had lost her mind until she instructed me to taste it . . . tam!  Delicious!  Not so crazy after all!)
Following our visit to Mary’s family home and greeting Ndelio we ascended (and did we ascend!) up the mountain to a crest (imagine panoramic views of quilt work patches of gardens of different colours, breathtaking vistas of plateau which runs from Usa to Moshi and then far, far off in the distance, the climb of a smaller mountain range.  Everything up the mountain is lush and green; banana trees abound and are interplanted with coffee or other perennial fruits/vegetables.  The climb at times is precarious and Peter dropped us not only into four wheel drive but LOW range four wheel drive more than once – thank you once again Master Mechanic and UAP for parts which keep our gari going!
We were not expecting Babu Ester but he was there, having just returned from the burial of a brother-in-law and of course Bibi was there to warmly greet us with some freshly boiled milk for chai.  Ester as you know has a brother and a sister but we had an additional surprise yesterday . . . Ester’s mother!  You will see in the photo how beautiful she is but unfortunately is mentally damaged.  After Ester was born as she was, her mother struggled, probably, with post partum depression which would have been exacerbated by her fears of stigmatization both for herself and her daughter, she came undone emotionally/psychologically, and has never recovered . . . she has the mind of a child and is the equivalent of a street person one would meet at home, filthy dirty and scrounging for food as she wanders around Tengeru and Arusha . . . but sometimes she wanders home and she was hiding outside while we visited.  From a distance she made a call to her father, which, I think, Ester heard and recognized.  I had been doling out lollies for Ester’s family and had given one to Ester for her Bibi but Ester held back, not releasing it.  After a minute or so, Ester’s Babu wandered out and we followed, with Ester in the lead.  Ester’s mother was far off at the end of the garden but some welcoming words brought her nearer to meet us (that or the promise of a lolly).  In any event Ester was able to greet her mother, and we were able to meet her.
She appears simple, watching us with a fixed smile on her face she isn’t aware of.  She did greet us (we were very welcoming in order dispel any hesitancy she may have had and of course Ester was happy to bring her two families together, but I was reminded of the life Ester had lived in that house, with that mother abandoning her, with her physical challenges and the stigma her family attempted to protect her from.  As wonderful as it was to meet Ester’s mother, it was a cruel reminder of how a physical deformity combined with an unaccepting culture can break a family apart . . .
Following chai we wandered outside to see the grey, swirling fog of a storm brewing AND coming our way.  The family at Tumaini laughed at our soggy return home later, as they had seen and heard the storm coming from up the mountain!  They knew we would be hammered by it and were we! It was time to get moving!  Now, the gari (truck) has a tiny “jump” seat behind the driver and passenger seats and Pat and Mary and Ester sat there with Oddo in the front passenger.  That left Grace and I in the back of the truck with 40 lbs. of sugar we had purchased and the cushions we had snagged from the sofa at Tumaini!  Peter did his best to outrun the rain, but the roads are . . . well, dirt paths really with outcroppings of rock and dips of riverbeds crossing and so “run” is not really the word . . . Pat, jokingly passed us out first one, and then a second umbrella and Grace and I did okay for most of the ride. Only once did ask for sabuni (soap for our shower)!
We had one final stop on our way down Meru, to the home of a little, seven year old girl named Pendo, whom Dream (the HIV clinic in Usa) had asked us to visit.  Our discovery was heartbreaking.  Pendo, who is positive, her twelve year old sister Zawadi and their Bibi share a bed, if you can call it that, (the photos are difficult to look at so be warned), without a net, in a large shed they share with some goats which they keep near at night because they do not have $2.00 for a new lock in order to keep them secure, Bibi is old and thus the goats are welcome targets for thieves.  Pendo is covered, head to foot, in a rash of some sort (we are bringing her to Dream today for a complete medical).  They obviously need some beds, blankets, sheets and nets and the girls have almost no clothing.
An alcoholic grandfather refuses to allow the Bibi to harvest any of the fruit from the trees on their property for food . . . rather he sells them for piwa (a local alcoholic brew) and the children and Bibi go hungry.  You can see the problems with the house (water entering from two directions), but Pat’s brother Dan has generously sent us a donation and instructed Pat to do with it as she fits and she sees fit here . . . we will help with the water and get Pendo on the mend. . . Dream sponsors her for school already and older sister Zawadi simply needs a uniform.  We cannot change Babu but we can provide some sheltered protection for Bibi and the children and send a heartfelt Asante to kaka (brother) Dan for helping us help these little ones!  Dr. Pat fears a raging infection after having inspected Pendo’s lymph glands and the rash is terrible, but she’s a happy little girl and her CD4 is 808 and so from that perspective she is doing very well!  By the way, the Bibi has “borrowed” the goats in order to provide her grandchild with milk and THAT is going a long way to helping Pendo stay as strong as she has and about the Babu (grandfather) . . . empathy for this entire family is called for because the girls’ mother died of AIDS, and the children’s father is not known . . . that is fodder for gossip and abuse and he has broken down and given in to the temporary relief of alcohol, but at what a cost . . .
You will see in the photos how the deluge began . . . after accepting that the storm would not stop any time soon, we decided to head out . . . but how?  Oddo waded out into the 4” “river” soaking his shoes.  He found some stones and began making a walkway but why?  Look at the rain!  We were saturated by the time a) I raced around to the far side of the car and climbed in behind Mary, Ester and the now safely protected bag of sugar . . . Pat came in from the other side of the truck and please remember – it is quite a “heft”, up and into the back seat and she is a mature woman, although you wouldn’t know it by watching her race around here and play with the children.  Combine the rain, the heft AND the fact that her foot was suctioned, under 5” of flowing rain into a couple inches of soggy mud and you can understand her struggle to haul herself into the vehicle!  Peter tried to push but the foot wouldn’t release initially!  This was a funny recollection over dinner later . . . Grace and a now sopping wet Oddo piled in and we were off!
I’ve been up Mount Meru several times now and I’ve always marveled at how the mountain “takes” such a volume of rain as falls during the long rains coming (hopefully) in the next three months.  Having witnessed yesterday’s deluge, I still wonder!!  The road dissolved below our tires as the torrent flowed downhill.  We would have shot some photos but were so cold from the rain and so busy wiping the fog from the inside of the windows that no one bothered to reach for a camera!  We are not certain but will let you know if Oddo’s phone survived . . .
In any event we made it down the mountain . . . and we arrived safely and soggily home, much to the titters of the family here . . . not a drop of rain had fallen here.  Pat dug her mud encrusted foot out of her sneaker and we all headed for hot showers!  Thank God the electricity was on!  Sending well wishes to all at home and happy Valentine’s Day . . . Gerehad has just climbed up onto my lap for cuddles before school . . . another wonderful day beginning at Tumaini!
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