© 2015 Kilimanjaro Children's Fund. All rights reserved.
LILAC DAYS AND FRAGILE FLAMES - 16 February 2018
On the road from the airport, I realized that I was being looked at by a Lilac Breasted Roller from a power line as we drove into Arusha. That was when it finally dawned on me that I was truly back in Africa. I love the Rollers! They seem so gaudy, yet in a subdued way with their spectacular, but not bright coloring. We had flown in from Doha after an overnight stay, but I was still somewhat jet lagged so the transit through customs happened in something of a fog. The entry has been streamlined and made much more efficient since my last visit in 2016. Shannon effortlessly negotiated our cab fare from the usually stated 100 USD to 70,000 shillings (about 32 dollars) once the driver comprehended that she had been here before and knew her way around. The only thing that seemed strange to me was turning left at the airport intersection rather than right to go to Moshi as I have done so many times before. We had a good night in an inexpensive hotel in Arusha before we rallied to make the journey to Moshi the next day.
The next morning we made the trip to Moshi. We were going to struggle with the bus (with all of our luggage), but lucked out and found a taxi driver who took as all that way for under forty dollars. That is still an expensive outlay for me since I am so frugal by nature, but with my myasthenia I have had to allow myself some luxuries like this to avoid having my muscle strength and vision crash and burn. What a surprise when we got there. The kids had found out we were coming so all of those who were not in school had converged on our house in Mabogini and it turned into a reunion party. It was so sweet and moving. I could not help crying. And one of the best gifts was seeing Neema again as she had just gotten freed from the control of the old KOC management. Her relatives took her out of there for Christmas and then refused to bring her back. We worked with them and placed her into a boarding school.
The next day I got to travel with nine of the kids as they drove them to their various schools. It was a long day on the road, but I got to spend personal time with Jeni One and Two, Winnie, Victor, Edward, Abu, Esther, Glory and Glorianna. They have grown in leaps and bounds and now have become young ladies and gentlemen. The travel to the three schools took all day, but it was well worth the effort. However I paid dearly for the time since the next two days escaped me since I spent most of them in bed dealing with profound weakness, dizziness and nausea. That is the problem with myasthenia - once it gets a grip on me it is worsened substantially by heat. However, on the plus side - I was much recovered within 48 hours rather than the 7 to 10 days it used to take me to feel well enough again.
We next headed for Kenya. We went in a single car which helped me much as I was able to lie down. I do not think that on that day I could have ridden sitting upright. We crossed the border and put up at a hotel run by the school master where 18 of our children have just started school. The school's name is Reto which is a Masai term for ''working together''' . It has a good academic reputation although it is not physically a wealthy school. Living arrangements are quite basic so there are few distractions from studying which is what we wish to have the kids focus on anyways. It was wonderful to see Marcel, Goodluck, Innocent, Richard, Gift, Brighty, Maureen, Zainabu, Rebecca, Mwasu, Grace, Mwana, Vicent, Izaak, Julius, Benson, Jenipher 4 and Fatuma. We visited them multiple times while there and spent days at the local markets getting all of the things they needed for school. My best reunion though was at Kilimanjaro Girl's Senior School where Happy, Ever, Viola and Mwantum flew into my arms when they saw me. These four girls have become some of our best students and we are really proud of them.
We ended up having to practice some medicine while in Kenya. Daniel's sister, Mary, had an infection in her left hand. She had gone to the doctor the day we arrived and they had placed her on an antibiotic. Unfortunately she had an infection that clearly needed surgical draining. The challenge was to find a doctor whom we trusted capable of doing the procedure. We succeeded in finding that doctor in the city of Kimana and attended while he did the surgery. Shannon was actually his first assistant! His technique was not quite what we would have desired, but the procedure was done cleanly and was successful so I was happy to not dispute details. We augmented his surgery with some basic things like soaks and wound elevation. These are basic things these, but usually overlooked by the local doctors.
My health was not ideal while visiting, but I count myself incredibly blessed for having had a chance to see all of these kids again. And hopefully we have learned some tricks that will help me when I make future visits which I am determined to do. With the help of all of our wonderful sponsors and supporters, we have placed all of the kids back into good schools and training programs. I shamelessly used my illness as a tool to urge them all to study and work hard even when they do not feel like it. I will have to admit that I held back a chuckle or two as I played the part of the ailing elder. When I am with these kids, I do not feel so old or ill.
After the success of this trip I have high hopes of visiting again later this year. We have some plans to create a group journey during summer break where we can combine all of the kids in a trip that they can all share together. And of course we were reminded by some of the younger kids who are now of age that their turn to climb Kilimanjaro is coming to pass. That well might happen in 2019 as there are plans afoot now for such a venture. God willing - I will get to be part of all of these things.