I had stayed the extra day to spend time with the Temba children as well as Leonard and Pendo, but it was odd not having Kelley and Laurita with me. We had spent the last month together, every moment of every day, and it was truly a pleasure to have been able to introduce them not only to the world of global health here in East Africa, but also to the Tanzania culture that I have so come to love over the last seven years. The diversity, the resilience, their love of life and their respect for each other is something to be treasured and learned from. In a country whose independence came a mere 55 years ago with 121 different tribes, some still at war until only 30 years ago and one of the poorest countries in the world until only recently, they have achieved great things in such a short time. There were only 11 Tanzanian college graduates in 1961, when they gained their independence and they now have many universities and colleges. As with any highly populated African country there is still much more to do, especially in the health care arena. That will take time, but hopefully we are making a small impact in sharing our expertise with them while learning so much more from them.
Lenox had asked if I had any movies that I could share with him last evening and when I went to look for my external hard drive that I carry with me (I bring no computer, only an iPad on which to blog) I couldn’t find it. The last I knew of it was when Kelley and Laurita were using it to transfer Puerto Rican and Tanzanian music to and from a thumb drive for Sokoine in the back seat of the Land Cruiser as we traveled to Arusha on Friday. I searched all my bags and the Land Cruiser, but Leonard had taken it to get cleaned early Saturday and it wasn’t there. I reached Kelley by email and replying from Doha she told me that she was 99% sure she had put it in the pocket behind the driver’s seat when she was done with it. All of our photos from the trip were on it which would have been a huge loss. As a last ditch effort, Leonard called the owner of the car wash where he had left the vehicle that day to see if they had it. He was still at church, but would call us back when he got to work. Thankfully, he called later in the morning to tell us that it was there and we could come pick it up. Disaster averted!
Leonard used to be a very good football player (soccer, of course) and still plays every Sunday morning with the Arusha All-Star Alumni team. He hadn’t planned to play today since I was still there, but since my flight didn’t leave until 5:30 pm, I thought we had time to go for a bit. I had gone several years ago and had a great visit taking photos of all the players and sending them to Leonard. Besides, both Lenox and Lee were coming so it was a way to spend time with them as well. These players were, in their prime, the best of Northern Tanzania and many of them were probably of Olympic quality. They now play on a community field that is mostly dirt with enough vegetation only to keep it from blowing away. It is rather high on the slopes of Mt. Meru, in the village of Ilburo, and many children come to watch these games which are often against neighboring clubs.
Today, they played amongst themselves, but you wouldn’t have known it based on how hard and, at times, rough they played each other at position. Before playing, they go through a long warm up, running up and down the field doing variously maneuvers to loosen up and prevent injury. I enjoyed taking photos of the players and waited for half-time as we would have to leave early to get me back home and then to the airport. We also had to pick up my hard drive. The game went on as they had decided to play through half time so when I told Leonard the time we prepared to leave. They stopped the game, though, and everyone came to sideline as Leonard wanted me to say something to them since I was again the only mzungu there so presence hadn’t gone unnoticed. The club president introduced me and said a few words after which I thanked them for allowing me to be there and share in their love of football. I donated some money to the club as did Leonard for them to continue and they thanked me profusely. In March on my return, I hope to bring them some supplies that are nearly unobtainable in Tanzania, like good football socks and shin guards. As in everywhere in Tanzania, they make do with what they have which is often not very much.
We drove home and loaded my luggage as I was mostly packed. We had a quick lunch of meat with vegetables and spaghetti and then left for the drive to the airport. Saying goodbye to the boys and Gabriella is always tough as they will be six months older next time I see them. Gabby is growing like a beanpole and will be talking by then. On our way to the airport we made a stop in USA river to see Leonard’s friend who had had the stroke several months ago. They had obtained his CT scan from KCMC for me to review and it demonstrated a very large hypertensive hemorrhage in the left basal ganglia with intraventricular spread. He was still hemiplegic and mute with good understanding of speech and it is questionable how much of that will return over time. We stayed for only a short time as it was getting late and I needed to check in at the airport. Not counting my driving others to the airport, this is my 14th time flying out of here and the small upgrades are actually noticeable. They now have a small cafe in the waiting area which is a huge addition to what was previously an almost unbearably hot and desolate place with barely a bathroom to speak of. A small bit of progress is everywhere here, some good, and some, like the traffic in Arusha, not so good. Still, it is always tough for me to leave, as I believe it is for everyone who visits this often simple and sometimes complex country that has so very much to offer in so many ways. The people are beautiful and always giving while the land is amazing and often harsh. I look forward to returning in six months time and will be counting down the days.