This is the first blog post in a while. A lot of that is because we have been crazy busy. I will get to that in a bit, but the other part is that our computer power cord has gone bad twice in one month and finding another one has proven to be very difficult. We have solved the source of the problem by purchasing a voltage stabilizer, and Matt has endeavored to make one working cord from the two broken ones, but with no success. So he is hunting through Arusha trying to find the right power cord for our dead computer. I am currently typing this on the Neema House computer, which seems like an obvious solution to my blogging problems. The problem is when I am at Neema House, I am never sitting long enough to formulate a complete thought, much less write a blog. So about our power situations, an interesting story… It is election time, and apparently a group of high up elected officials stole a LOT of money from whatever funds they were supposed to be using to do public work. The opposing party has been making many broadcast about the corruption of the current party, so what does the current party do to combat these allegations? They cut the power to the entire city of over one million people for four straight days, so that no one would be able to hear the incriminating broadcast. Because nothing says re-elect me like grotesque misuse of power and blatant cover up. TIA – this is Africa.
Things have been very busy here, which is no surprise given the nature of our work. We have received several new babies, bringing our number up to 35, the most in Neema history. One little girl of about four months was abandoned at a guest house front desk. She was healthy, well fed, and happy, although she had a very difficult transition to Neema House. She had only been breastfed and thought that the bottle was an assault against her very soul. The other little girl has a much rougher story. Careen was abandoned last April in one of the outlying areas of Arusha. Social welfare placed this little girl under the care of the family who had found her along the roadside. She stayed with this family from April until we picked her up two weeks ago. We think she is about 18 months old. It was obvious when she came to us that she had had a rough existence. She was very malnourished with protruding belly, wispy, dry, orange colored hair. She had a few small and large burn marks and hundreds of infected bug bites. But the most alarming problem was a swelling above the right elbow joint. She came in on Thursday evening and I had her into the doctor the following morning. She and I spent hours waiting on appointments and x-rays. I had brought a good stock of food, knowing that she had been hungry for months. I tried the whole day to get her to smile and never even got a wisp of upturned lip. She gladly took and devoured every morsel of food. She also leaned into soft touch and gentle scratching of her battered skin. At the end of several rounds of appointments, we discovered that sweet Careen had two fractures to her right humerus, the largest bone of the arm, and a fracture to the right femur, the largest bone of the leg. The doctor said with certainty that neither break could be an accident, given her condition and how difficult it is to break the largest bones in the supple body of a toddler. Poor, sweet, abandoned, broken girl. Our staff at Neema is so fantastic. They handled her with such soft touch. Although we think she is about 18 months old, Careen is not walking, crawling or pulling to stand. The break in the arm is estimated to be four weeks old and the leg about two months. By Monday, only four days following her arrival, Careen had already started to brighten. Her skin is healing, she is slowly smiling and laughing and she is hungry for gentle touch and being held. When she gets nervous or scared, she starts to bite her fingers or scratch at her many bug bites, but we are seeing less of this behavior. The orthopedic specialist, who we saw on Monday, is not concerned about her healing, and thinks she will recover completely. I will admit that I have shed tears over this sweet girl; over her sad eyes and sadder story. Things will be better now, her story is going to change, by the Neema of God, we are able to be for her a safe place.
Last week Elisha started having trouble breathing. He has always struggled a little. We took him to the doctor and then the ER and then the doctor again, and every time they said his lungs and heart sounded fine. I left the ER the night we took him, completely frustrated because I thought he needed to be admitted, but the doctor insisted he was fine. Two days later he started running a low fever, by mid-afternoon the fever had elevated to 103.1 F and he was breathing rapidly and not eating. We rushed him back to the hospital, and our fantastic pediatrician, who had not seen him yet, immediately sprang into action when he laid eyes on Elisha’s state. We got blood work and a chest x-ray and realized that he had severe pneumonia and a mass in his chest. He was admitted to the pediatric ward, where he spent one week. They realized that in addition to bacterial pneumonia, he also had a severe fungal infection, which they think he had carried since birth. The mass in his chest is a large thymus gland. After antibiotic and antifungal treatment, Elisha is actually looking better than he has ever looked. And he is STARVING! Always before his hospitalization, he slept all the time, having to be woken to eat, and having a poor appetite. Now that his heart and lungs are not working overtime, he has energy, is laughing and talking and eating every two hours. His twin sister, Therasia is at least three pounds heavier than he, so he has some work to do to catch up.
We have been making plans for kids to go home with their families, home with new families and to other facilities. We had our first child turn three years old. We have visited the Masaai villages we do ministry, brought food and milk. We have visited orphanages, done home visits, gone to the hospital, met with social welfare, contractors, other NGO workers, and volunteers. I think, for Matt and I, this last month has been one of the most trying we have experienced, just from the sheer relentlessness of the needs. We are still trying to hammer out more and better protocols, to empower those who need to be empowered at Neema and to make things run with more automation and less need for direct and constant assistance. There are days when we feel that we are making great progress, and days when we wonder if we have made any change at all. Recently I have been trying to meet and work with the lead nannies about their job. Matt and I realized that what we thought their job was, and their understanding of their position, are not at all the same. I have been asking them the simple question; “What is your job?” and the responses have been surprising to me. Where I see the lead nannies as an extension of management, someone who is supposed to oversee and communicate with Matt and me, they see themselves as the one who picks up the slack in cleaning or child care. I so wish we would have sat down with them months ago and identified what we expected. You can never assume that management to one culture means the same thing to another. It is live and learn every day, for us and for them.
I realize that most of this is Neema news, very little of it is our thoughts or feelings about this crazy, uh, different life. Sometimes we feel and think so much it feels like our heads and hearts may burst from the strain. And sometimes, it is nothing. No feeling, it is just part of the job. The trick is, you never know what the triggers are going to be. What you may feel as culture or stories may break your heart or may build you up. I keep thinking of all I have learned and how I have changed over the last year of living in Tanzania. I have so much to write and say. My next post will be on the one year mark (hard as it may be to believe) of our coming to Tanzania.