Twice in one week I broke the golden rule and left the house without toilet paper...and this time it cost me. After a quick breakfast at the coffee shop in town, Jasen and I went with Marianne to the bus to send her off. Her time here is up and she is headed back to Norway. Of course, nature strikes when you least expect it here and not only did I have to find a bathroom, but I had to stop to buy toilet paper somewhere, too. Let it be known, the two are NEVER in the same place. I had about 20 minutes before the bus was scheduled to leave, so off I ran. Well, for the first time in the history of buses in Africa, this bus left, not only on time, but a few minutes early. While I was fishing around for my phone (which I dropped) in the dark back corner closet "bathroom" (aka - hole in the ground), Marianne was pleading with the driver to wait for me. We hadn't even said goodbye. She also tried to call me, but of course, when I dropped my phone it broke open and I couldn't receive any calls. The way I see it, my stop to buy toilet paper cost me my chance to say goodbye to Marianne - and I have no one to blame, but myself. So, a quick shout out to my friend: "Marianne, I love you and miss you and I'm so, so, so sorry I didn't get to hug you goodbye. Now you must come back! Safe travels, my dear."
A quick update on little Abu, who I mentioned in an earlier post: He is doing much, much, much better. Thank you to everyone for your prayers and for asking others to prayer. After 3 years of pain, lethargy, and uncertainty, the doctors believe the problem was a peptic ulcer. The medication is helping tremendously and Abu is doing great. His family is truly appreciative and so thankful to have their precious little boy healthy again. I can't begin to imagine how frustrating it was to go three years with no real guidance or medical support for the local doctors. Please don't misunderstand me, there are some great doctors here, but often hospitals are short-staffed and trained physicians are hard to come by. Many times patients are treated without even seeing the actual doctor. After such a long time, I know Abu and his family were extremely discouraged. Thank you everyone, for lifting them up! We are so happy he is doing better!
I'll be heading back to Arusha the second half of this week and, while I have a lot of work to get done for the safari company, I also hope to have some time to meet with Mama Jane again. She and her husband were so warm and encouraging. In between, locating an office for the safari company, buying camping equipment and visiting hotels to develop partnerships in the area, I hope to sit down with Jane again and hear more about her goals for the future. Many of you have heard me talk in the past about the importance of education here in Tanzania - in all of Africa for that matter. Without it, many children have little hope for a stable job or income in the future. While public education is "free", families still have to buy uniforms, books and school supplies for the children. On a salary often less than $1 a day, these costs are enormous - and many times impossible to incur. With few exceptions, even families who can afford to send kids to school here have to choose which of their children they can send. It is often a decision based solely upon gender and birth order.
In addition to rising school costs, East Africa is currently experiencing one of the longest and most devastating droughts it has seen in over 60 years. Almost 10 million people are severely affected by food shortages and in desperate need of food aid. Food costs at the market are literally rising daily. Tanzania has not been hit as hard as Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti, but the food shortages in neighboring states are affecting life here. Smugglers are taking truckloads of food over the borders to Kenya and Uganda in hopes of receiving a higher price for the food. In turn, Tanzania is beginning to experience food shortages and prices are rising here, as well. Our power outages last about 12 hours a day now, forcing prices up, as well. Everyone I speak with is worried about the future. Even though Fatuma has a stable job and room and board, she too, is worried, stockpiling as much food as she can store for the future.
I read a great opinion article earlier today. It was written by an African who was looking for other Africans to write stories of hope and promise in their local newspapers. Stories that told of the progress being made on the continent. He argued that much of what Westerners hear is about the devastation, corruption and desolation on this continent. Africa is still behind much of the rest of the world, but it is also moving forward. Yesterday, the people of South Sudan celebrated their independence as a state and freedom from the dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir. We cannot even begin to imagine the horrific occurrences these people have nearly all witnessed firsthand. Though they have a long journey ahead of them, South Sudan is free and moving toward a better tomorrow. Every day literally thousands and thousands of organizations in every country on this continent are working, step by step, to improve the lives of those in their communities. At the same time, many organizations back home in the States are doing the same thing for the people here - and it is helping.
I try not to stand on my soap box too often, but if you have a moment, check out some of the links I have posted to the right. I will do my best to list them by location. These are just a few of the organizations doing small things that make a big difference in Africa. Many are just looking for a little bit of your time. If you have a free Saturday or a few hours in the evening, maybe you will find an organization that you could get involved in. Or you could host an event of your own. Maybe it's just enough to get your wheels turning right now. Even if what you find simply tells the stories of progress, instead of tragedy, in Africa, it is enough.