I have been slowly gaining back my confidence to travel around by myself and the last two days were spent visiting! Last summer, I consistently had someone with me, mostly my partner Soren. Traveling alone as a mzungu can get a little draining. Dala dala rides are usually just fine, but every once in a while, if there are teenagers sitting next to you, it can call for an uncomfortable ride knowing they are just talking about you and laughing hysterically about it. I enjoy when I'm completely ignored, just as everyone else is on the dala dala! At least these instances are great motivators to keep working on my Swahili, I just wish I was better at memorizing! I have at least gained back all of the vocab and grammar I learned last year and am learning new phrases and words every day. On Tuesday, GCS had to run some errands in town so I decided to go with and visit Mt. Meru Hospital. I was worried my favorite staff member, Nuru, and the bili lights Soren and I had built would both be gone, but luckily both were there :) Nuru was super surprised to see me again and of course asked where "Sony" was. After chatting, she escorted be to the NEW neonatal room, which is so much better than the one we worked in last year! There was a new doctor in charge and he informed me that there was an oxygen concentrator that hasn't been working after I'd told him what I did last year. Unfortunately, I don't have the kind of tools we were using last year, so I told them I'd make sure the EWH group knows and will come to help as well when they arrive! The nurses showed me to the bili lights and a baby was right there underneath it! I had a pretty big fear that they'd either not have it or they'd have it stuck in a corner, I always love nice surprises! She was saying how "it cures babies so fast" and that the staff loves it. I was glad we had made it so easy to move, considering they moved it to an entirely different building! After chatting for a bit, I headed out and Nuru invited me over to her house, so I am excited to head over there sometime soon!
First chai masala of the year, yum!
On Wednesday, I set out determined to finally go see my mama and volunteer at Cradle of Love. I figured Mama John wouldn't be at the house when I arrived around 11:30 (it takes a little over an hour to get to Makumera from Njiro via dala dala) and ended up basically doing some type of gesturing/bad Swahili/simple English to try and ask her house girl when she'd be back and when I thought I'd be back. I figured, since it was a big market day, that she would't get back until at least 3 and it'd give me some time to visit Cradle of Love. It happened to be lunch time so nobody was around to let me in their gate, so I went further up to visit TCDC and drink a soda while I waited. TCDC is where we took our Swahili classes and had repair labs and became such a comfortable place to always go back to in our second month at the hospital. Finally, I was able to get into Cradle and was told the older babies were still asleep, but I was welcome to go into the nursery (a first!!!). My heart just melted putting my little scrub attire on and entering a room with 9 precious newborns (0-6 months). There were a few other volunteers there, so while we were all holding and feeding babies, it was nice hearing about their adventures so far and what they've liked about Arusha. But my goodness, seeing how a helpless little bundle of love can feel safe and comfortable just by being held close is something words can't describe. After wandering around the nursery for a while with a sleepy baby named Priket, one of the staff members, Rhoda, proclaimed, "Unapenda watoto!" (you like children!) with a big smile and of course I replied, "Ndiyo, kabisa!" (Yes, completely!). Time went by way too fast, and I realized I had to go since it was already 4:30. One of the trickiest parts about being here is how quickly it gets dark out. It is basically pitch black by 7:30, and it's never advised for anyone to roam around too much after that. With a quick visit to my mama's, I was able to explain the cookbook project to her and ask her if she'd be willing to help me with cooking now since my main source is gone. She said she'd think about it because she's so busy and didn't know if she'd have the time. I inquired about the women's group she is in and my brain started churning about how I could bring all of this together.
I survived my first outing by myself and decided to pick up some fresh fruits and veggies to add to the collection in the house. It is amazing how cheap and delicious the local produce is here. The bananas, cucumber, tomatoes, oranges, and avocado pictured were purchased for 2000 shillings or $1.25 at a stand that is literally a 45 second walk from my house! I am so excited to start the cookbook process and take full advantage of all the deliciousness Tanzania has to offer :D