“Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty look, repeats his words,
Remembers me of his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form”
William Shakespeare, King John
It was grief that brought six women together on our most recent journey. Each “Mama” was grieving the death of a son or daughter. And each was willing to travel half way around the world to honor her child, and to connect with Tanzania’s most vulnerable population. We are grateful for their trust, and for the compassion, open hearts, and generosity they shared with each other, and with the children.
“Karibu, you are welcome. “
We heard this phrase time and time again during our ten days in Arusha, Tanzania. While it may have been the end of their rainy season, we awoke to torrential downpours on most mornings. Perhaps the skies were welcoming us, too, along with exotic birds and other unfamiliar creatures.
We joined forces with The Foundation for Tomorrow, an organization that supports Tanzania’s orphaned and vulnerable children. Our days were spent working and playing with the children at The Matonyok Parents’ Trust. Three of us had made the same journey two years ago and were thrilled to see familiar and friendly faces. We quickly fell in love all over again.
Emmy and Ndemno, Matonyok’s Founders, always the gracious and tender hosts, welcomed us. Children we remembered from 2012 were bigger, healthier, and happier. New faces welcomed us, too. We were continually treated to hugs, smiles, and silliness. And this one song and dance number, “like so like so like so,” will be playing in our heads for some time.
At Matonyok we helped to weed and water the garden, and fold the laundry, giving us a new appreciation for sprinkler systems and electric washer/dryers. We were also treated to a lesson in how to make chapatti, a delicious flatbread popular in Tanzania.
Each of our Mamas had special time with Emmy. We think Emmy has special healing powers. While it’s hard to pinpoint, we all felt her love and compassion.
At Usa River Academy, we met many TFFT Scholars. We interrupted their studies, but they were all kind and gracious and led us in more songs and dances. While our good byes felt rushed, we were happy to leave a mountain of donated sneakers and soccer cleats.
One evening the complete TFFT Arusha Team treated us to a wonderful dinner. While enjoying Tanzanian pizza, we were updated about all the specific work they are doing, and learned about their challenges and successes.
Afternoons were spent enjoying long lunches at beautiful outdoor venues, negotiating with the Maasai Mamas at the market, and listening to the loving stories of each participant’s child.
Our wonderful and skilled drivers, Ashley and Charles, navigated the muddy, sloppy unpaved roads, and our kind and considerate (and tireless!) guide Emily Cottingham (and TFFT Co-Founder), of Lang Adventures, made the trip more special and memorable than we could have imagined.
Arusha National Park, “Tanzania’s Hidden Secret” was the treat we saved for our last day. On our mini safari we spotted dozens of monkeys, baboon, wart hogs, giraffes and zebras. As for elephants, well, let’s just say, we could smell them. And as a final gift, at the end of this our last day Mt. Kilimanjaro came out from behind her clouds to appear in full view, as if to say a final “karibu.”
On this trip we honored Robby, Summer, Tony, Annais, Christine and Tyler. Their free spirits, love of life, courage, generous hearts, and sincere respect for the dignity and beauty of all will forever direct our lives.
As Rumi said:
Of the rain at night no one is aware
for every soul is asleep.
Yet the freshness of the rose garden in the morning
Is evidence of the rain that no one saw.
Asante Sana Tanzania. Until we meet again!