Monday, July 30, 2018

Last Week What a Week

Sunset in Vilas, NC


A Week—Makes Me Think

A week ago last Friday night my daughter was bitten by a copperhead and her sister and husband (who is mortally afraid of snakes) arrived from New York City to enjoy their Durham wedding reception held at our house in their honor.  Saturday two dear college friends arrived from Florida and Virginia respectively and stayed with my other college friend.  They had offered (and I eagerly agreed) to help with the reception.  Everyone in the group above had decided as two separate groups (young and old) to spend Saturday night touring the new downtown Durham with its new galleries, bars, restaurants and just unusual places.  But, sadly, my snake bitten daughter spent two nights in the hospital, while I totally sleepless for over 24 hours joined my friends and the newly weds in Durham tours and dinner. 
 
Jacob & Katrina with my besties college buddies
So, there are sidelines in each of the stories of course.  First, the snakebite.  My daughter and I were so proud that we had gotten through the week, not only intact but made progress in a number of things that pertained to reception and to child care.  We had purchased most of the food for the reception, and only had a few things left to do, and to top it off we had learned quickly how to change a very wet and “poopy” baby boy’s diaper.

I would put a word in for 3-month-old babies.  Perhaps they are not as cute as my grandson, but they still are fairly helpless in terms of their own autonomy.  My grandson is adorable.  He loves his own reflection and talks to it constantly while wiggling and banging his foot on the baby mat.  He becomes quickly angry if he does not get his bottle when he wants it but oh so grateful when he does.  He loves making bodily noises and functions.  He is a boy so of course you have to be quick on the diaper changes, even while he would much rather have no clothes on at all. He is talkative and cooing and then drops off to a sleep so deep that he is completely limp. 
 
Chrissy, snake bite leg up, Alex & Chui

Grandpa & Alex

What a triumphant week. We had fallen in love with a baby, gotten all ready for the reception, and then my daughter decides to go to the garden to pick basil for bruschetta and the the baby copperhead bites her ankle. Most people know that the babies’ bites are much worse than an adult’s because they do not know how to control their venom and let it all go into the first bite. Somehow I forgot that my back really hurt and flew to the phone to dial 911.  It never occurred to me to try to help my daughter into the car and drive her to the emergency room myself.  It might have saved money, but I would probably have died from anxiety and then missed my other daughter and son-in-law’s reception and the tour of Durham with my old college buddies. I wouldn’t have experienced the frantic feeling of “what do I need to do,” the watching of the fire department and the EMT’s working over her, the night in the hospital as I meet so many very caring people who hung anti-venom and pain medicines and fluids all night and the next day and the next, even while I would have gladly had my lower half amputated because the chairs were so incredibly uncomfortable and that the restroom seemed oh so far away. I wouldn’t have known that my neighbor saw the fire trucks and thoughtfully checked the front door, of course to find that I never thought about it in my dash to pick up purse (not clean underwear or a change of clothes for the daughter).  That I wouldn’t have seen the kindness of the valet parking agent who let me come and go and park with him for free when that is totally against all rules. (I did give him tips). I wouldn’t have been able to experience with my daughter the high anxiety about the cost of anti-venom and my daughter’s health insurance, if I had died.  I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the kindness of the friends who had picked up the other daughter and son-in-law at the airport and taken them to their home, fed my daughter brandy and bourbon until she fell asleep as she wept over her sister’s snake bite and her own anxiety that she might lose her sister (never thinking that if her mother had driven that daughter to the emergency department, she, her own mother would have been dead from anxiety).


If I had died of anxiety, I would not have gotten or known about the amazing group of friends of mine and my snake bitten daughter all around the world reaching out to my family, even offering to start a “Go Fund Me” kickstarter to help with the payments of the anti-venom ($10,000/vial—she got 6 with only 70% paid for by her insurance).  I wouldn’t have enjoyed the reception so much, a reception that was reel of old friends and acquaintances and friends of my daughter’s who came and seemed to enjoy themselves.  (At this point the snake bit daughter was upstairs sadly feeling very uncomfortable and having too many visits from well meaning friends and acquaintances!)
 
My buddies & I (now I have my own apron)

Katrina wants to steal Alex

Scott Hill together with some of the her students from DSA

But, I am alive, and the week continued with more well-wishers, and dramatic improvement.  Now, I am so grateful that my daughter got the anti-venom as her swelling and overall improvement have been seemingly better than those who do not receive it.  We have made huge progress in calling old contacts who are “fundis”, (kiswahiili for “fix-it” people), and finding that all are willing to visit our house and appraise the needs of “this old 69 year old house.” I also talked at length to my friend who hosted my daughter and son-in-law and came to a realization that fears of snakes can honestly create “haunts (pronounced ha-aintes)” that might follow you.  And, I appreciate even more that my wonderful husband came home from the mountains a day early to make sure that my daughter got good care in the hospital (she did).  Emotionally, his coming certainly helped me. 

Last weekend, we were even able to go to the mountain cabin and garden, weed, look at the beauty around us and get all the things that we need for the upcoming family beach trip.  I had a break through (I hope) in recorder playing with one of my fippling friends, (hope it holds) and even limped my way through some new guitar melodies.  We attended our super wonderful church St. Luke’s in Boone, and as usual listened to an incredibly thoughtful sermon from our Priest, and sang old faithful hymns that you practically know by heart if you were born and raised Episcopalian. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgYg7DDveM0
(this is an amazing sermon....if you watch it you will understand why we love this church)
To top it off, the organ postlude was one of my all time favorites sadly lacking the trumpet, but set for organ by itself was just wonderful.
(not our St. Luke’s but just as wonderful and with the brass)
 
My favorite picture of Lonetree
One of my favorite daylilies Dreamcatcher  perfect for the week. 


Lots of Wooly Mullen on our mountain, but this one always makes me happy

 Sunset again on the mountain in Vilas....from our deck.


So, despite anxieties about money, back pain, foot pain, and our country, there is so much good in this world we each live in.  And for me this past week, the good was right around the corner all week long. I named no names because the list would have been too long, but everyone knows who they are. Thanks all!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Another Marathon, Strange Weather, and Kenny Comes Back


It seems unbelievable that we have been in Moshi  for 11 Kilimanjaro marathons, and that John has a lovely set of medals hanging from his mirror.  He will add another when we return home, though this one was a bit harder.  The past 2 weeks have been filled with some wonderful, stressful experiences of course, but the Kilimanjaro Marathon certainly stands out.  It is one of those times when nearly everyone in Moshi comes out to cheer people on. 

 I would like to go back to an unusual occurrence  before discussing the marathon!  First is Kenny.... Do you remember Kenny?  The tortoise that we had two years ago or so and has come back again.  Found in exactly the same place he was previously found by our gardener Pauli.  It is very illegal to keep these tortoises or "Kobe", because they are considered "Wild Animals" but they are loved by some people for food, and so are at risk , and they have a often killed by cars and motocycles because they no longer have the open fields and space that once was around Moshi.  So, with mixed feelings, I found our old Kenny sequestered behind the chicken coop because Pauli didn't want him to be killed.  I don't know much about tortoises but our Kenny seems to want to be into the chicken coop very badly and works every day to find his way into there.  Now, Pauli has put enough rocks up to keep Kenny's escape from happening; however, I feel badly because he doesn't have enough access to food. Now he does get food, and lots of it because he has me! and I buy him melon, mango, beans, cabbage and hamburger.  None of our staff can afford that much food, and of course I will be leaving. But, the scariest experience I witnessed today was that Kenny had tried so hard to get into the chicken coup that he wound up on his back and he could not turn over.  I immediately turned him and talked to Pauli about watching for him to do it again.  (turtles do not have big brains, and Kenny is old) Fortunately Pauli is a good man and has promised to check on Kenny several times every days.  (I will also give him money to feed Kenny.)  I do hope that Pauli can find Kenny a better home before we return.

After Kenny came back we saw amazing things that could not be captured on camera.  One day a lady walked past our house with an entire tree on her head.  My friend John Schmitt (I am sending this blog to him) promised to send me her picture, but has not done it.  She did not look in distress and she balanced the whole thing right there on her head!  Hope to send a picture sometime.

Also, our new askari added variety to their weapons to protect us.  This past week, I saw an askari pass with a bow and arrow.  And he looked like he knew exactly what to do with it.  It was amazing.  His partner had a huge club.  I thought, ok well, maybe Jean's Jack Fruit will be safe!.  And then right in front of them was an askari with a gun.  As much as I want to be safe, this all seems a bit of overkill, but hopefully if the thieves are within the compound they are shaking in their shoes.  (and we definitely think most of the thieves are inside.)  I like this group and just hope that the company will  not move them away.  (which is what happened with the last security system.)

Another change  to our system has been the relentless police who stop us at the bottom of our hill.  In the last 2 weeks we were stopped when I had hired my lovable and smart project driver Carol and they did not like his lights.  I'm not sure how to describe the events that occurred, but they very typical Tanzanian.  Apparently now, you can be arrested for having a dirty car, a car that has ripped seats or (as ours has) foam coming out of the seats.  Ultimately Carol was able to leave and we were able to continue our trip to Marangu to see our carver Lawi who is amazing.   
This is a crown bird being made by Lawi Mushi for his new 'garden" where he has life size giraffe and other animals.

 I am stopped every day by these same police but they are actually really nice to me and just say, "Tuenda" (go)

Thank heavens, I was stopped by the police before the marathon and after the "Tuenda" I asked what time our road would be closed.  I was told saa Mbili (8 o'clock am). On Sunday, the day of the marathon, I left promptly for church at 7:45 and arrived two  1/2 hours early.  It was perfect.  I chatted with our priest for  a 45 minutes and then took pictures of John and our friend Bob coming down to the last 2 K of the race.  They were pretty exhausted but they did it. The contrast of the exhausted half marathoners and the Kenyan full marathon runners was also pretty incredible.  The Kenyans did not look at all exhausted and with their long legs and tiny thin bodies, they soared ahead of this group of half marathoners.
Blurry John and Heiko

Heiko and John

Mostly Heiko
 Heiko is our one of our eye doctors at KCMC.  He and his wife have been in Moshi for 6 (I think) years.  They have been very helpful to us. They are positive, pleasant and as an old lady, I love being around their children  their energy and competence.  John was proud to finish one minute behind Heiko who is probably 20 years younger than he.
Bob, 15 minutes ahead
Bob, our dear friend, finished 15 minutes ahead of John all credit goes to fitness, living up high in Machame and having an extra month here to run in the weather.
John coming in to stadium

John pushing
The marathon brings out mostly happy days for most people. The marathoners are comparing time (John 2:29, his slowest time but also least time for prep and muddiest marathon) And others who are just having a good time.
Here are three happy old men!

I can only put a few pictures on this blog because we have a new confidentiality agreement for pictures of our youth group,but here are a few that were taken. by one of our group leaders.
Beginning of the 42 Km marathon just at dawn
Marathon Sign

view of massive marathon stadium
One of our wonderful Study Coordinators Dr. Peter Karoli (life savior)

We had 41 runners with our Community Advisory Board and Youth Group.  I hope I can continue to post throughout the week.

The weather has been  unusual because it rained all week. Though it used to be common, I have not experienced this early in March.  It was almost impossible to see the mountain, but occasionally we would see a piece or two.  I have not yet seen it for the last two weeks.My friend says that she feels a little "unhitched" if she doesn't see it everyday, and I understand what she is saying.  So you will see the best that we had this week.
If you look carefully you will see Kili

Not great but the snow is even heavier now.
Bob brought us a bottle of "delicious" gin.  (this is in response to our terrific grades on gin testing (we all failed to identify any of the gins.)
So happy happy march.  This gin cost the equivalent of $7.99 And by the end of the evening I could have sworn it was Bombay Sapphire.

Our last few days are always hectic and I hate that they are over.  Of course we are excited as our new grandchild is coming and we have a wonderful wedding in store, but how I love my home in Africa and our friends.  My Dadas ( we had lunch but no one got a picture) and my baby Patricia who at 4 months is weighing in at 9KG, and smiling all he time  when she is not screaming.  It is also planting time here so the tractor should be coming any day. 

We went to dinner with our friend Oneko who is in the OB/GYN department.  I thought it would be just an ordinary 10 to 10 dinner but this beautiful (obviously well accepted) cat strolled though.  I had never seen a cat with swirly markings, so I spent some minutes getting her picture.

John just showed me a movie that some medical students made about him in the marathon.  It reminded me of all that has come about since we started this journey in Moshi.




Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Am I Really Retired



Kilimanjaro behind KCMC Hospital
After the past week, I do not feel retired and I'm ready to go back to being retired!  It was wonderful but incredibly busy and filled with new information, dinners, visits to our wonderful carver, a concert, a graduation for our Moshi Youth CAB members who have reached aged 26 and above and finally the 15th year of hashing in Moshi.  It was exhausting.

The week began with the arrival of Scott who is the nephew of old friends in Durham.  He is doing a project in Iringa (many hours away) but wanted to see Moshi, and to attend the workshop.  It was wonderful to have him and his friendliness and energy made everyone comment about him.
Trish is the short one
The Socio-Behavioral Health Symposium was very interesting.  I do not think that in two days I saw a bad presentation.  So much information is being researched and so many new ideas are coming from young investigators who are linking HIV and mental health, behavior changes, medical adherence, etc.  I was so proud of our Community Advisory Board who attended the conference and had many questions.  They care about their community and about the general health of it and have many ideas about how to change things, and how they might be able to implement some of the research that was presented.

Same picture, two views.  If you are ever asked to take a big group shot for your own sanity's sake, say "no"!  I have done the photography for this symposium for years and I have never gotten everyone in the picture.  You say, "turn to the camera" they turn the other way, you say "short people in front"  and so many believe that they are not short!  You say, "squeeze together" and more and more add themselves to the edges.  Next year the picture venue has to change, and someone else has to be the dictator.  I'll just snap the photo.  Even trying to get everyone to come join in the picture was impossible, but then later, they say, "aren't we going to have another group shot?"  ARGH!
As I said, lots of new information was presented and our Moshi Health CAB were no different.  This time they were talking about the pros and cons of monthly ARV injections.  Just how they would feel as young people if they were to take any shot once a month (and it had to be on time).  They were terrific and the speakers spoke with passion and their interpreters were supportive and wonderful.



Here are pictures of the MEPI Team (Medical Education Partnership Initiative)  who are out for a night of nyama choma (grilled meat) at our favorite restaurant, Mkulima (Farmer Restaurant).  The group was congratulating themselves for living through a week of Charles (that actually is not true).  They love to get together and everyone loves the mbuzi (goat) kuku (chicken) ndizi (grilled banana) and salad there. It was also a relief as they work towards a new grant that helps all of them and the University.
This truck was parked right in front of the restaurant.  I think everyone felt as if they were carrying an abnormal load after eating huge amounts of food at Mkulima.
I am a lucky member of a new Moshi Community Choir, and no, this is not the Moshi choir, it is a choir from Mwika (a small community farther up the mountain) who joins with the Moshi Community Choir.  I forgot to give my husband my camera so only this group is featured.  We are not a big group, but enthusiastic and we have a lot of fun.  Miss Mary, is not a Miss, but she (not featured here) is an incredible musician a tireless smiler, and a really accomplished cellist.  Though it started typically late, it was fun and we had a huge crowd.  Blow me over!
A crown crane in its infant stages.  It will be painted!

A rough piece of ebony.  If you look just in the middle, you will see where he carved just the top wood off and where the black wood lies underneath-very dense wood

A fountain lady and a cheetah (I think)  all built from concrete and metal coils

Rough outline of a woodpecker (just started work on it)
My friends Lisa, Terrie, Carol and I took an afternoon to go to see my favorite carver Lawi Mushi.  I have shown pictures of him in the past and here is one of him and John.
Lawi is in my opinion a creative genius who carves from his soul, much more than from what is ordered.  We have ordered many things from Lawi, and they have been fantastic, but we love to visit his humble surroundings.  He is currently building a little garden by his house, just for his and his family's enjoyment.  The trip began because Lawi called me completely out of the blue just to see if I were still around!  I couldn't believe it, as I think that it has been about 3 or 4 years since we visited.  I was so excited and rounded up the friends to go to his house.  I promise not to wait 3 or 4 years again.  I want to see his garden all finished, and of course I might have to have him carve me a very small ngiri (warthog) just for the occasion.

We also visited the Marangu Hotel, a place that is my peaceful home away from home.
Beers taste much better at Marangu Hotel
As much as it seems that the week should be over, there was still the graduation of the Moshi Health Youth CAB members who had reached the grand old age of 26.  We have about 25 younger and 26 older so we decided that the issues and discussions were becoming more difficult because of the age differences.  And, the younger kids saw that graduation was a really fun thing.  We had some good discussions, and Dr. Peter gave out candy for members telling one thing that they had learned in Youth CAB.  Pictures were shared and certificates given.  And one of the graduating members made delicious bites!  So proud of her for coming up with a little income generating business and saving us the headache of ordering bites from somewhere else.  Wonderful Stella.
My love and respect lie with this project, but Sister Bona and I have been together since I first came to Moshi.  She does a fantastic job in outreach and gives so much additional time for the Community Advisory Boards that she deserves a special place in heaven.  Tragically our picture together makes me look like an escapee from a mental institution, but Bona looks exactly like Bona.
Sister Bona and me!
The other person without whom the project would not work is Ema.  Lots of my friends know Ema and the entire board of Global Connections for Change has met and talked to Ema.  He is tireless in his job with SIMAMA as an NGO that helps mothers find ways to care for their children in more healthy ways and helps them to start businesses that can stabilize the family, and he is tireless with the Moshi Health Youth CAB.  He has been the Youth representative to IMPAACT (an NIAID National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) for a number of years and is eager to bring knowledge back to his our two groups.  Ema will graduate, but be a leader and continue coordinating.  He gives courage to the young members (13+) and communicates on a regular basis with their caregivers to let them know that they are in safe hands with our group.
Ema and Trish with Dr. Peter
But wait! The weekend was not over.  We still had a hash (this is a group who are described as drinkers who have a running problem) on Sunday.  The Kilimanjaro Hash House Harriers was founded by Greg Emmanuel 15 years ago and he has nearly single handedly  kept it going. Hashes as I have explained previously, are where a "hare" finds a location that would be fun to run/walk for about 5 kilometers, and sets a trail with flour.  There are giant X's where the trail ends for a while and you have to locate the start of the flour again.  There can also be false trails which hares love to set and runners/walkers hate to see.  For our group (with young and old, various states of fitness) it can be really grueling.  This last weeks was one for the books. I guess it is appropriate that it was  the 15th year.  (personally I think the lost hasher until midnight, my unfortunate crash with a boy on a bicycle, and a broken femur were pretty significant ones as well)  There were river crossings, Acacia Trees everywhere, and quite a few very lost souls.  (full disclosure-John met me after the Acacia attack and said that I could not do the second water crossing which was a very wise decision on his part).  But it was lots of fun as always to get together and this was the first that I had attempted in two years so I feel that I have made progress even as I age.
beautiful old baobaob tree

Lawyer Ralph greeting John. (Ralph did lock his keys in his car and it was quite a job to jiggle the lock undone. Thanks Bob!)
The 15th year t-shirts are introduced
Greg showing off son's 5th year T-shirt.  (Nikoli would have been 6 then)


These were the last folks to make the first water crossing (and you always realize that if you cross once, you have to cross again--on this hash there were two (or 4 depending on the way you looked at it.)  The river was just past my knees so it was tough.

This was only part of my body with Acacia spikes in it.  Every time you got one out the branch would grab another, but the best were the ones in my rear end that our priest had to get out.  I teased him about taking selfies of this procedure but it was all a joke.  The nice thing is that they heal quickly and I have just one bruised upper arm today.(they hurt like hell when you get them).
Bob and John

Aat and John
When everyone was accounted for, we heaved a sigh of relief for all of the group got lost in one way or another, except Nikoli and two of his friends who ran with one of the young men who had helped to set the trail.
On our way home we saw several of the evil Acacia Trees (sorry for the dirty windshield)  And I just imagined it about 5-6 feet shorter hugging my rear end.
Wonderful Baobaob with out many leaves

some heron or ibis blocking the road home
We arrived safely, and now the week has started again!  Moshi is a place that is unique, and perhaps some people do not like it, but this is not true of the Bartletts!