My last day in Tanzania began with a protocol. We had once again, for the 12th time on the trip, to meet with leaders and get blessed to see a school and a clinic. Tina Muskoge, the representative from Shot@Life I was traveling with usually does the honors. But our interpreter from the ministry of health who starts the conversation for us in Swahili decided to pull a fast one. You have to understand that Sahdid has been fairly quiet, serious and very professional since we started this journey. But today, he announced to this “chieftain” who was surrounded by his team that I would tell them why were there. Surprise! These greetings begin with thanking them for having us, telling them we are here to share with moms and others around the world the good work they are doing. They are very careful with access. So we have to choose our words carefully. I stated our cause and introduced my colleagues. There was a pause and then “the chieftain” said, “Permission granted.” Whew! For a minute there I thought he was going to say, “Off with their heads.”
Now that we were blessed, we headed to the clinic. This clinic was a bit more upscale–a small concrete building with a few rooms. Still nothing like the clinics in America. The women and their babies sat in the back crowded onto wooden benches with the scale to weigh the babies hanging from a wooden structure at the front of the room. They are so proud of their babies and happy to show them off once they are told why we are there. They are not at all like American moms who hover over our children for fear of them hurting themselves. I find myself being the one to point out potential danger to keep them from falling. The area is filled with rocks and a big drop off the patio we are on. And what I find amazing is how they swaddle the babies on their backs. There is no way I could have gotten either of my two children to lay on my back while I placed the wrap on them and tied them in place. They were just too wiggly. I do think it’s much more ingenious then our front contraptions.
After the clinic we went across the street to the school. The walls of American schools are filled with posters, maps, computers and drawings the students have made. This African school had wooden benches with a single blackboard. The back of the room was cluttered with a heap of old wooden structures that looked like bed frames. That was it. The most stark and cold schoolroom I’ve ever been in. But it was filled with the happiest, most well-behaved group of children I’ve ever seen and I don’t think it was because they had visitors. As a mom, I’ve heard many a classroom sing, attended a multitude of class plays and talent shows, but I’ve never heard a group of children sing louder or more proudly. I found myself wishing my children were with me to see how lucky they are.
This was my last day in Tanzania. So what did I learn from my trip about moms? There is one thing every mom I’ve met has in common regardless of economic circumstances, cultural differences or family situations. The commonality is resilience. We do whatever it takes to survive and to make the best out of life for our children.