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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 15 Jun 2010

Location: Canada

MapHeike: Sponsored Children Visits in Tanzania

They live in a world so very different from ours and we arrive as representatives of their sponsors in Canada. We have only a small gift for each child, as all the planning and preparation for meeting the container and bringing the totes, so lovingly prepared by sponsor families at home, has gone awry, due to unforeseen changes in shipping schedules, etc. But what do these children and their parent/ aunt/ uncle/ grandmother /grandfather/friend, or whoever has accepted the responsibility to accompany them to meet the Canadian visitors, know of such things? We are their link to a world larger, and certainly far wealthier, than their own and the personification of the love and support that they feel in knowing that they have a sponsor and that someone far away cares about them and their life in a small village in a rather remote area of their developing country.

We smile and stutter our way through a few words of Swahili - Jambo! Habari gani? - in our attempts to make a connection, until we quickly cede to the skills of a World Vision interpreter, who has traveled as much as 100 kms to provide their valuable service to us today. Soon both parties start to relax a little and we engage in an exchange of information that hopefully will be meaningful in its own right, even after the visit is over. Of course, once we arrive back in our rooms that evening, other questions and comments come to mind, that we could have asked or shared, but time slips by, even "African time," and so some things are left unsaid for perhaps another occasion in the future.

The games provide a connection beyond the language barrier. The "crazy muzungus" engage and entertain with antics that surprise the reserved adults and delight the children. A ball bouncing off a head or appearing suddenly when thrown from an unexpected direction or angle needs no translation, it is quite simply both fun and funny. The children know how to share meager resources and include everyone. The ball is thrown around and across the circle with due care for the younger ones and an extra oomph in the arm from an older one, who would like to contribute a challenge to this communal game.

Soon lunch is being served. It may have been cooked outdoors, and we may also eat it under nature's canopy, but proper hygiene is observed by all and hands are duly washed with soap under the flow of clean water from a pitcher into a basin. Now the choice to eat in the traditional manner, with fingers only, or with a spoon, is left to the individual. The food is warm and plentiful. It varies only slightly from one visit to another, as the staples of rice, beans, chicken or beef, (sweet) potatoes and peanuts form the basic diet of those who live so close to the land. We sit companionably in groups and partake of the feast, wondering perhaps if this is a long-awaited special meal for some, or if here too there can at times be excess, as we notice what is occasionally left behind on a plate. Our impressions are those of the moment, and are added to the large collection that has already accumulated in our minds and will still be processed further, from a distance, when we are home again.

All too soon it is time to say our good-byes and climb back into the vehicles that have brought us here, while the children and their guardians drift off down the red earth road and begin their long walk back home.