Sunday's Safari

Greetings from Mufindi,

Yesterday we emeraged at sunrise as we were going on a 2 ½ hour mini safari with Geoff and Vicky Fox to visit Dr. Leena at the Lutheran Mission Hospital at Ilemubula. With Geoff behind the wheel we drove over the usual deeply rutted roads, dodging potholes, careening through dusty villages, past people walking to church in their Sunday best. We finally reached the TanZam tarmac road choked with lorries belching fumes and loaded with goods for Tanzanian or Zambian markets. The speed was fast, the distance between roadside cyclists on one side of Geoff’s car and oncoming lorries on the other side was a gasping distance away. A white knuckle experience driving with Mufinidi’s Stirling Moss ! The remedy for frayed nerves was to focus on the dramatically changing scenery and temperature - from the cool verdant hills of Mufindi to the hot flat land of the plains.

Leena’s house, a colourful oasis of plants, trees, birds and the occasional unwelcome boom slang, was a welcome sight. She had prepared a selection of delectable treats for our morning tea, which we enjoyed on her “baraza” (porch) overlooking an “out of Africa” scene with flat top classic acacias dotting the expansive landscape.

Leena took us on a tour of the 300 bed hospital where for 30 years she has been the driving force for improving health care. Geoff was keen to see the operating rooms and various wards as he is building a hospital in nearby Mdabulo village in Mufindi. A constant flow of people were in the wide outdoor passageways moving quietly to the numerous wards. We met a Tanzanian optician who examines people’s eyes, makes glasses from scratch and performs over 1,000 cataract operations a year. Leena took us to the maternity ward consisting of multiple rooms with playful murals, lines of beds with mosquito nets and many moms with their newborns. During one busy day 20 babies were born in 24 hours. Over 2,000 babies a year are born here. Leena calls this “Ilembula’s baby factory!” The orphanage is a delightful building with inviting play areas and perfect locally made furniture for little people. Children only stay in this orphanage until the age of 2 or 3. The staff works very hard to find good homes to place the orphans. Some orphans are transferred to another Lutheran orphanage for older children.

After a scrumptious lunch, Leena Ruth and I went for a walk in the midday sun meeting bibis (grandmothers) in their modest homes. One bibi had lost her 7 children and was looking after her only grandchild. Leena’s day at home is punctuated with people stopping by with small offerings of fruit and vegetables. Leena doesn’t turn anyone away. Her generous heart and support enables many to cope with their daily struggles!

Leena had a surprise for us. She had arranged for little Feraja and her adopted mother to visit. Ruth and I had met Feraja at Ilembula’s orphanage two years ago. Feraja had been abandoned by her mother and left near the hospital. One of the medical workers on call bonded instantly with Feraja when she was admitted to the orphanage. He visited her frequently and was determined to adopt her. Now 2 years later Feraja is living happily with her new mother and father. The little girl who walked confidently into Leena’s house was unrecognizable from the toddler with outstretched hands begging to be held. At that time she clung to me crying loudly every time I tried to put her down. What a miraculous transformation!

Fortified with Leena’s gourmet food and memories of a very special Sunday we climbed in the car with controlled feelings of trepidation as we set off on our return trip with Mufindi’s gentlemanly Stirling Moss behind the wheel!

Safely home and sending much love,