Well, it would seem given i missed a month, the my once weekly blogged that i changed into monthly blog, should just be called “blog when i have chance too”… However here I am, feeling compelled to write, after yet another person asked me… “what happened to your blog!?”… : It has been over 7 weeks since i last wrote one, and much as gone on as ever! Again much that I am elated to have lived and experience and witnessed, but much that I would also quite happily have not had to witness, and carry with me as my journey here in Uchira continues….
So the reason I have chance to write this blog, is I am resting today, as yesterday i underwent a medical procedure at the hospital as iv been a little unwell the last few weeks. Well actually, I’v been unwell since last year on and off! So for those of you who don’t know about i shall start by filling the blanks about my being ill, before i get to the comedy sketch that was my day at the hospital yesterday!
Last year a simple mistake was made by someone I was staying with in the village. We had a system where as this lady would boil water for me (to kill the nasties that live in the tap water here) and I would then drink it of course! Where i was staying at the time was an area in Uchira that had mains electricity, which meant we had the rare luxury of a fridge! After a long day in the sun looking for some children we had been told about who needed some help out in the bush, I returned home and downed a 1.5 litre bottle of water in one go! A few hours later my stomach began to make the most peculiar of noises……. and hour after that the Mama who does the water came in looking a little sheepish……. “Johnee, I think you have drank dirty water today…” “No” i said, “it was in the fridge” to which she replied, “yes but i think i put it there before i boiled it”…. I shrugged it off and said never mind, lets see how i get on……. Oh my did i have no idea what was in store!!
This is where my bad luck began regarding this! 2 days later i was bed ridden with a different problem altogether, a mosquito carrying the malaria parasite had bitten me, and I for the 2nd time! had caught malaria!! Malaria is a dreadful experience, but one that can be controlled if you have the sense to listen to your body. I learned from the first time to rest a lot, and to not take anything that is hard to digest (a natural hygeine principal, and one we should all adhere to when sick in anyway actually) So i drank my fruit juices with no solid foods for 4 or 5 days, and by then the anti malarials had killed the parasite and my symptoms were subsiding quickly… when i say symptoms, i mean the all over pain that it causes! I don’t want to play malaria down as it is surely a manifestation of pure evil! Any life form that’s sole purpose is to end the life of the host it enters can not be called anything but… Thankfully being in good health to begin with, and having the £1.50 needed for the meds too of course! I did not become just another malaria statistic, as over 1 million people every year, tragically 70% of which are children under the age of 5; become here….
As i was in recovery from malaria, I kept getting bouts of fever and chills, naturally i thought it was just the parasites dying off in my blood stream and making me feel icky as they do… but after 3 weeks the Dr having checked my blood many times for the malaria parasite, told me he was lost as to why my body was still reacting…. Then one day as the fever got worse for me, A dear friend of mine here called Emmanuel who helps me with the children, almost demanded that i go to another Dr… being a Tanzanian he know that something was a miss…. That afternoon i was diagnosed with and advanced stage typhoid, and with in days i became more sick than i had ever been in my life! I had caught it from the water… I still recall one night, i lay in bed alone in an empty house, so sick i could not even get up to get a drink of water…. I had a strange habit (which iv stopped now!) of not storing the numbers in my phone of people like my parents of brother etc as i know those numbers so just dial them if i need them…. but that night I mention, i was so sick i grabbed my phone and stored “Mum, Dad and Brother…. I did that out of fear, just in case I died and no one knew who to ring… Looking back i laugh! But that action alone reminds me of how serious typhoid is, even today when i meet children with suspected typhoid, having gone through it, you learn to act fast… At the time my father and brother knew how ill i was, but after scaring my little mum half to death with 2 bouts of malaria we decided not to tell her! In comical fashion I later forgot that!!! and mentioned it in a video!!! So mum found out in the end anyways!! ….sorry mum! ha
Anyways!!! I never died obviously…. and thankfully!! ha but after i fended off typhoid, my stomach was still a mess and i was getting fevers… AGAIN! This then turned out to be a parasite called Amoebiasis, something i battled for months on and off… its a hard thing to kill, especially when Tanzania doesn’t have the 2 drugs required to do so! So you only part kill it, get relief for 4 weeks then it comes back with a vengeance!
Right! So now hopefully iv set the scene a little….something to know is typhoid and amoebas can do some serious damage to your digestive tract, and still now I have issues, i still can’t digest fat properly, to let you know what those issues are, I also get pains and fevers still, but i can go weeks without either, so its all very confusing! So yesterday! I finally agreed to have an endoscopy, to find out what exactly was going on inside me… Never again will i undergo such a thing whilst conscious, and never again will refuse pain relief too!!!
So off i went to KCMC hospital (Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center)….. this is where it becomes amusing! I think by now the universe or God (what ever you want to call it) and I have a good relationship of give and take…. So i believe that knowing my nervousness about heading for this procedure in an ill equipped hospital, the universe had a watchful, and humorous eye on me!!
I arrived with Emmanuel my friend i mentioned above, one of the best friends i have here, or have had in life i dare say… I often ask for help, and he always replies with “just tell me what to do, don’t ask if its okay”…
So we get there and its early morning, so we beat the nurses to work……. they arrive 10 minutes later, they open the door to the endoscopy room where i will have my procedure……. and a cat comes running out…… yes a cat….. in a hospital clean room….. Only in Tanzania!!! ha They have a saying here T.I.A… this is Africa…. it came to mind as i saw this kitty run off up the corridor between the legs of the sick patients and their carers… It made me laugh, and i uttered to god in my mind,….. “very funny…” but there was more to come!!
Sorry to paint such a picture here! but they then gave me a drink to clear out my insides, and told me to stay near my own personal toilet after i drank it…… So i waited and off i went to the toilet, with a little urgency too of course…. BUT! when i got to the toilet there was someone else there, that someone was a giant millipede, a blue one…. the venomous kind!!! So here i am (really rather needing to use this toilet) but there is a giant millipede running around it…… I speak with the universe again…. “now this is taking it to far” i say actually giggling heavily at the unfurling Mr Bean sketch i am apparently in this day! After some careful consideration, i decided to flush the millipede down the toilet ( the vegan in me screaming at me not too) but iv seen them swim, so it probably came out of there to begin with….. so finally i get to use the toilet, but of course you would think it was a heated seat as every few seconds i would be convinced the millipede had come back and so i had to check!!! All the while this drama was making me laugh of course, and keeping me well distracted from the looming procedure! Eventually the time came to do what needed to be done, an old nurse told me in broken english to undress and put on “this robe”… so off i went, undressed and opened up the “robe”….. now a robe in the west, is a robe……. a robe here apparently is a square piece of material that is ripped and tattered… i am sure it was an old cubicle curtain in fact! I wont go into the details of the rest…. but it wasn’t my favorite thing iv endured in life shall we say… After wards i was a little ill and slept all afternoon after leaving the hospital! Results come back Friday….. so finally we will know what is ailing me intermittently! (I’l keep you posted)… So that’s why today I am resting still, and have found myself with the time to write a blog entry finally! I think its good to share the whole tale too, if only to help people understand how a simple mistake here can be truly costly for a persons health. I also think it shows something, i know many people have romantic idea’s about living simply in a tropical environment… which is great, me too! BUT! Please always be grateful when you turn your tap in the UK, or eat your salad knowing it is not potentially laced with amoebas!
So what else has gone on…. Well I suffered more inner conflict and loss from my 4 legged family with the animal rescue work….
I had a litter of puppies, getting on for 12weeks old, and we had all started to become very attached to them with it…. We hold off doing so, Iv watched so many die now…. we are careful not to name them, or love them too deeply when they first arrive, as i fear our hearts wouldn’t take all the loss if we didn’t guard ourselves in this way. So these 4, “Fatty, Kali, Rumple and Scaredy” had begun to win a place in our hearts, Scaredy I had decided to keep as one my dogs actually… but it wasn’t to be… I brought 5 other puppies home one day, so young they needed milk or were going to die, so i used the mother of Scaredy and Fatty and their siblings to feed them….. This is where the inner conflict begins… Had i not done that, the 5 would of surely died, but because i did, they passed on Parvo to my 4 existing pups. I watched as Fatty gave up first, and it hurt terribly as i knew my decision to mix them had ended his life…… Kali then left us not long after…… This left Scaredy fighting for his life.. The vet had him and said he might make it, but late one night they called and said he is too weak, its not looking good. I drove for an hour late that night to go and say good bye to Scaredy… he was as his name would suggest very scared of everything, so spent much of his time on my lap or in my arms… I told him to let go, and prayed that who evers job it was to take him to the other side, they come soon for him……. it seemed that night no one was listening, including Scaredy… I left him laid alone under a heat lamp late that night…. sure he would let go soon as the faint whistle from his little nose was happening less and less frequently…. Little Scaredy tried to hang on though, in the morning he was still with us but was in so much pain, and was beyond recovery…. so I gave the vet the go ahead to help him with his pain, Scaredy left with the angels shortly after.
I was close to this litter of pups, I had plans to use them as our therapy litter for disabled children, they were also due to start work that week… in the new animals welfare project idea i borrowed from my friend in Arusha; where we teach small children to read by having them read books to puppies… Even now I’m full remembering them…. Sleep well little ones… I’m sorry. There brother remains with us though “Rumple”… he breaks my heart when ever i see him jumping around, no idea how lucky he was…. I think he will be with us forever Rumple, and he will still fill the role his siblings never got too….
I am slowly getting more used to death dare i say… we all must loose loved ones of course, and we all lose pets too….. but I mean iv lost count of how many puppies have died on my chest here….literally lost count….
The thing is, iv friends who work with children, sick children just as it seems i will be doing so more and more, as the universe brings me more and more…… My friend who has been here 15 years for example, told me of heart wrenching stories, one of how a child came to be in the care of her childrens home, only for her to wake up the very next day, with a lifeless child in the bed next to her… When i heard these stories I wondered how she coped….
Now as time progresses, of course i don’t want to compare a child to a puppy, but the feeling of loss is surely similar….. and of course as with everyone, i don’t want to think of children dying, i want to remain positive… but it is a reality of caring for the sick i guess, that the sick get more sick at times….
Even the last two weeks Dominic has been very ill with a bad cough, everyone became concerned as it gradually got worse, Dominic included. We had to go through the nerve racking motions of ruling out the HIV chance infections that claim the lives of so many HIV positive people, such as Tuberculosis and pneumonia etc… Thankfully they are saying it is just a viral infection due to the colder weather, but even as I type this is can hear him coughing in bed… so lets hope what it ever it is clears soon… I guess what I am realizing is life is a little more fragile here maybe, and getting used to that is an important lesson if I am to spend my life here… as i suspect i will, as 100 lifetimes would still not see every child living a quality of life we would deem as merely acceptable in the west.
With that realization a phrase comes to mind that a very wise and godly lady once shared with me….. “God does not chose the qualified, but qualifies the chosen….”
I feel a little sad now for writing that, but better to share it I feel….. we live in a reality of light and dark, love and hate, hot and cold… All with need…… you can’t truly appreciate the light, until you’ve sat in the dark after all…
So let me move to some more positive and beautifying news… That is the disabled children the universe keeps bringing to me, or I to them! Iv had Anna who sits in the mud each day as happy and as loving as can be ( I will do a video on the outcome of Anna soon), i had as anyone who is following the facebook page will know Mohammed, who we now help with his medical care to reduce his seizures… I also have Esther now, who i am about to speak of, as she will be living here at the childrens home; but with her mother. There is also a girl everyone is yet to meet called Glory… Glory has a few disabilities, and for all i have not yet added her to the “Chances to share project” she will be this week, as I have already agreed to pay for an operation she desperately needs. Glory drools 24/7 as her mouth is not fully connected inside, a simple operation will end this for her… She is 9 now and for all physically disabled, mentally she is a normal 9 year old girl, so is finding it all the more difficult due to that… You will hear more on Glory in the coming week though…
So onto Esther, beautiful innocent always smiling! Esther… A child who has helped give birth to an idea that is the first of its kind in East Africa i believe..
One evening I drove past a lady who was walking away from the Children’s home with a child strapped to her back, she stared at me with a smile of relief that utterly confused me at the time, i smiled back and carried on bouncing around on the dirt road in my little creaking, groaning and moaning Nissan Micra! A car the locals call Vumalia, which means not to express anguish or pain or complain about it.. Its a very apt name! … Anyways! I arrived at the children’s home with the fresh fruits and veg from town for Dominic’s nutritional regime, and no sooner did I, this lady I had seen smiling appeared at the gate. She had been and left as i wasn’t there, but having saw me driving by, walked back up the hill to see me…. I hadn’t realized on the bumpy drive past Mama Esther that the child tied to her back was a cerebral palsy child, Esther, a little lady who has no doubt changed my life and the course of the childrens home forever…
Esther is completely incapable, and always will be…. she responds to sounds, smiles at her name, and laughs at nothing.. but she also like other persons with her condition seems to experience pains and frustration from with in her limited body and mind. I smiled as Dominic took Esther from her mother and sat playing with her, he is a tender and gentle soul, who understands vulnerability when he see’s it… until this day I had only seen that in him with the pups and dogs, and an injured eagle he found too! Esther is a handful too i should say, she beat him around the head several times! with quite some force too! But he smiled, and gently took her hand and moved it to her side, from where she swung again and struck his face with a smile that could melt the hardest of hearts. I had to focus as i found the Dom and Esther interaction very distracting, but I was drawn away from the beauty of it, into the gut wrenching reality of Esthers short life. I listened as her mother told me she had Esther 3 years ago, and that her husband ran off when he saw she was disabled, leaving his wife and child to fend for themselves……. With in no time, the pair became homeless sadly.
Homeless, with a cerebral palsy baby… can you even begin to imagine a world were that happens, if you can’t…. the sad truth is there is no need to use your imagination, just look around you, and use your eyes instead… So universally i have a belief people are moved to help the most vulnerable among us, and as such the charity and sharing of people with in most part close to nothing to give or share, is what got Mama Esther and her baby through those 3 years….
More recently a family took pity on Mama Esther and offered her a room and some work… it is not yet apparent to me if this was pity though…. we heard, and saw for ourselves when we went to visit Esther at home; that this arrangement seems to be putting a lot of workload and pressure on Mama Esther. When ever we went to visit Esther lay alone in a room in the house on the floor, and her mother had to be called or found in among the now tall maize and sunflower fields that surround the house.
Mama Esther begged me to get her a house, and to help her look after Esther somehow so she could work…. She is a fiercely independent young mother, but i knew she just can’t work… not without a carer for the child, and why pay for a carer when you could support the mother to be with her child… It was a mess, there was no solution it seemed… as i looked. around the limited avenues for disabled children in Tanzania, i saw nothing for single parents,other than to separate the child from their parent…. Which i wont do or offer to do, not when I see the parent is living for the love of their little one and nothing else… (for those of you who follow the facebook page, Anna is still with her family) So how do i give her her independence, and ensure she is caring for the child at the same time….. I was at a loss.
I went home that night knowing that I had to act soon, and fast with it… Esther should not be left laid on the floor alone all day whilst her mum reluctantly worked in the fields to provide her daughter with that isolated life in that room, and 3 meals a day…. That night I had a vivid dream, I dreamed i was building houses…. but with a friend of mine Mama Lynn, who has Light in Africa that cares for disabled children who have no one else to care for them. Now it had crossed my mind that Light in Africa was a perfect place for Esther, but that would mean she can’t be with her mum, and i believe staying with her mother, is an even more perfect place for Esther. That day i couldn’t focus, this dream meant something, and I know to listen to such things, it is following such deep gut feelings that lead me to where i am… With work like mine, logic has no place. If i were to use logic, i wouldn’t of moved to a country id never been to before based on a feeling i had and some dreams and signs i had followed… In the afternoon it was as if my mind began downloading an idea from somewhere…. I began to see a community of disabled children and their parents. I began to see the benefits of this were so plentiful i could not believe no one had done it already!
In a country with no welfare or benefits, no free schools or care, what do you do? If your child needs round the clock care and you are a single parent, or even 2 parents… how do you cope?
If your a single parent, you might need to work one day… so who do you leave your child with? People are scared to care for children like Esther, as they are so different, and of course are hard work with it! So it takes a special person to care for such children, someone with experience perhaps, someone with patience and love and understanding for such children….and I thought, who is better qualified than someone who already cares for a child like that! Whether it be for the day, or a few hours whilst you go shopping, or just 20 minutes whilst you bathe or cook…..
Then there is the child themselves, most never socialize, they never meet children like themselves, they never get chance too……. so what if there carer had a child like that, what if every day they lived right next to other children and their parents who are just like they are….
What about the parents, who feel cut off in their communities… especially the single parents with no one to relate too, who better to share your concerns with than a friend and neighbor with exactly the same concerns as you…
Then if perhaps there was a communal building close to that community, somewhere where the children could go and be with others like them, whilst their parents are out working, then those who were watching the children that day, can then go to work the day after, knowing the parent of the child they cared for the day prior is now caring for their child in return….. By sharing the workload, life becomes livable, and independence becomes possible… but more of a group independence rather than an individual one that is..
Having disabled children and their parents living in a small community together, solves nearly every problem such children and their parents face… sure its not a perfect life, it will still be difficult…. but it will be a difficulty shared with friends in the same position, and one supported by myself and the staff at the childrens home which is right next to them….
Thanks to a coffee morning in the UK, I built the first house of just such a community last week…. The toilet will be finished next week, and Mama Esther and her daughter will move in the week after…
I said this in my facebook post about this, but i must say it again… Iv not the money to build a communal building, iv not the money to build another house even…. I’m not even sure we have the money to pay the upcoming medical bills for such children…. but what i do have is faith. Faith that it is meant to happen, faith that God does not give me empty dreams and signs, as following them thus far has been the greatest, and perhaps only worthwhile achievement in my 30 years of life here on earth.
A great many miraculous things have happened in my life the last few years, and each time I have adhered to a few rules that life taught to me…. One is that “what” is our business, and “how” is not…. that part is up to the universe…. so in this instance the what is this community for children like Esther and their parents……. how… well, I will have to wait and see to write that part… The next is an idea, and way to live life…. a saying i know very much sums this up….
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step…”
With this in mind, and in my heart…. I have taken the first step toward what…….. and I shall await for the how’s to arrange themselves as they wish,or will….
Again Iv no idea what the staircase looks like, Iv no idea if steps are missing, if it will be lit all the way… and how often i will stumble, trip or fall… But what i do know, is when i do trip, when i do stumble and when i do fall…. That as always, someone or something will be there to catch me, to pick me up, dust me off and to lovingly whisper to me…. take another step, and try again…. The same someone who carefully placed that dream of building houses in my mind a few weeks ago, to shine a light on the next step of the staircase…
Love, light and many blessings from Uchira everyone x