Friday, January 25, 2013

Big Mac Tanzanian Style

This blog entry was written by Jessica, one of our medical students from VCOM.  Jessica and her husband Stephen are here rotating with us this month.   

It takes a whole village to make…

…A hamburger!

We came home from church today to find a large chunk of meat sitting on the counter, which is a treat in and of itself. However, we became even more animated as J decided that we should make hamburgers out it! Cooking here is, of course, a wee bit different from home. 

We began by putting our “Hamburger Helpers” to work…Meat was chopped into chunks, and then Pete and Stephen took turns grinding it. When I asked what I could do, I was sent on a quest to see if I could find tomatoes. We had none in the garden, so I went to ask the matron of the children’s home if she knew where we could find/buy some. After locating her in the school room, she assured me that there would be some at the local market in the village. Keep in mind that this “market” is NOT like your neighborhood Walmart Market- it is a few stands made out of branches in a wide spot by the road. She assigned one of the older boys the job of going into the village to get the tomatoes. Pete, a volunteer from North Carolina, decided to join him on the journey. Meanwhile, back at the children’s home, J was kneading homemade dough into rolls, letting them rise on the awning for the porch swing!

With Stephen still grinding meat, some of the girls began to form and cook patties on the griddle that traveled across the sea for just such a purpose! The guys soon returned from their quest, having been to 2 neighboring villages to find and buy tomatoes. I played search and rescue with trucks in the “sandbox” with the kids so that everyone else could finish their part in preparing the meal.

Several hours after beginning, we were finally ready to enjoy our not-so-fast food- freshly ground beef turned into yummy hamburgers, local avocadoes and tomatoes sliced up, and rolls cooked to perfection! We even had local perfectly ripe watermelon! Trust me, we savored every single bite of it all!

Hamburger Helper grinding the meat. 

The cast iron griddle we brought with us came in handy.

The fruit of our labors - long sought-after tomatoes.

Not quite fast food.

Big Mac Tanzanian Style

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Few More Pics

Playing dodgeball with City of Hope kids.

W. and her doll baby.

Love my rugby, love my sister!

Special dance teams were brought in to entertain the kids.

W. dancing African style at the annual end of the year celebration
with all the kids from the City of Hope children's home.

T. and the kids from the children's home love to play board games.

Home repair -- resurrecting a very cheap oven.  I think T. had this thing in
60 parts at one point.  It is working much better now.

Step 1: Launch water balloons across the shamba (garden).

Step 2: "Catch" the balloons!

Before and after juice making!

Carrot, passion fruit, orange juice! Amazing!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Check Us Out!

Immensely enjoying playing with Christmas Legos!
Rainy season brings HUGE thunderstorms.
All the Tanzanian kids run inside, but T. runs
outside!  He loves to find the puddles and
stand in the waterfalls pouring off the roof.

The way we open coconuts.

Coconut milk.

Granola bars (the impetus for the coconut in the first place.)
Ever made granola bars with freshly grated coconut???
It's a little time consuming...first go to the market and buy a coconut...

Afternoon showers brings a rainbow over our new school building,
"Destiny Primary School." which was recently ranked #1 in test results
in the state!
We went to the pool today.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Teaching Each Other

Written by Ty

Who would'a thunk?  Apparently you can teach a cow not to eat out of your garden.  Just now I was chastising some of the boys for letting a cow eat in their garden.  I told them I did not want them to become skinny (they are skinny enough) because they let the cow eat their sukuma (it's like kale and they eat it pretty much every day).  

Two of the eldest turned to me and said "That one doesn't eat sukuma."  As a refutation I pointed to it eating in the garden.
They exchanged words I couldn't catch and then announced, "That one doesn't eat sukuma--just grass."

"How do you know it doesn't eat sukuma?" I queried.

"We taught it," they countered.
"You can teach it to just eat the grass and not the sukuma?"  I was a little incredulous.
"Yes," they insisted, "but you have to start when it's a calf."  
"How do you teach it?"

"With a stick!" they cried in unison.

I guess you could say that the cow is "weeding the garden."

I would still be tempted to disbelieve them except I've had enough experience with these boys to know that they are really quite clever.  Yesterday, in preparation for some guests arriving to day, we had a "compound day," which means we spent a lot of time cleaning up and doing yardwork.  An American lawnmower that had not been used in two years materialized out of a storage shed.  Of course the boys couldn't get it to start.  But they were motivated because usually they cut all the grass with pangas (like machetes) and we have several acres of grass.  I told them I could probably get it to run.  About ten of them came along to discover how to resurrect this machine.  I got out my tools and removed and rebuilt the carburetor and cleaned the gas tank and lines.  A tank of new gas and little fiddling with the choke and throttle and it started right up.  While I tinkered with it, I explained to them all about how a combustion engine works: how it needs fuel, oxygen, heat, and a spark--just like a fire does (they all know how to do that) and just like their bodies do.  And how the fuel and air have to be mixed in the right proportion (like building a fire).  This comparison was lost on a few of them but others latched right on to it.  

They spent the whole afternoon mowing in turns.  They took turns because it was a privilege, not because they didn't want to work.  A few hours later I stopped them and quizzed them.  "What does the carburetor do?" I asked.  "It mixes the petrol and the air so that the fuel can burn!" they shouted with glee.  In no time they were experts at the choke and throttle and the nuances of running a lawnmower--including how to bypass the safety features.  They figured that out all on their own from watching me and from experimenting.  They're really clever kids.  They may be from the bush and not yet educated, but they are not dumb.  They were at it again at dawn this morning.  It wouldn't surprise me to find out that they were standing out there at 5AM with the lawnmower waiting for the sun to lighten the eastern sky.  They love the thing.  I can hear it running out there right now.  Maybe if they finish all our grass here I'll send the over to the hospital which has another 5 acres of tall grass...

By the way, if I can teach them about a carburetor and how to revive an unresponsive lawnmower, I can teach them about a metabolism and how to resuscitate a sick patient.

Moringa Dilemma

Written by Ty

Here's a dilemma for you. Let me know what you think:

I have tried and failed twice to start seedlings for the moringa tree. The moringa tree is sometimes called “the miracle tree” because its leaves contain the essential amino acids—a providential oddity in the horticultural world. As you may know, legumes contain some amino acids (the building blocks of protein, essential amino acids being the ones your liver cannot make itself so you must eat them) while grains contain a different subset of amino acids, but you must eat a combination of grains and legumes to get all of the essential amino acids that you need. Not true for the moringa tree. Eating the leaves provides a complete protein just like meat does. But growing moringa trees is cheaper, easier, and more sustainable than growing animals for food. All they need is sun and rain. We have plenty of both here. The moringa leaves would a perfect addition to the diet of our children here at City of Hope, as well as the children in the village.

In January I went to great lengths to obtain moringa seeds from a Scandinavian agricultural project in the city 2.5 hrs away. I had to visit them several times in order to procure the seeds. In February, just before the rains, I planted 1000 seeds and left instructions with a friend to water them if they needed it. He did so, but one day the cows got loose and discovered our seedlings. They devoured the tender shoots in five minutes. In August I tried again, this time building a fairly stout fence around them. The rains were again immanent. My friend was away so I left instructions with the children to water the seedlings. When I returned in December: no baby trees. The kids had forgotten to water them. Now I am out of seeds.

Joi had a very good idea. I teach over and over again that it is important to encourage the ideas and initiative of the local people. When the idea is their own, they are much more likely to persevere and carry the plan to fruition. Joi's idea is to gather a group of the boys who are interested in farming and teach them about the moringa tree. Perhaps their desire to grow and become stronger will incite them to take on a moringa project of their own. And then they will be motivated to water them and protect them from animals. I agree. Great idea. That's what I should have done in the first place.

Recently a local nursery owner/farmer brought one of his many sons to the clinic. He was very sick. After bringing him to the hospital he improved dramatically. As a gift to the hospital, the man offered to give us some seedlings—he grows them for profit. We drove to his farm yesterday and discovered a pleasant nursery with thousands of trees of a dozen varieties: coffee, tea, mango, avocado, guava, grevillia, and others—some of them four feet tall. He gave us our choice of 30 trees. I observed all I could and asked many questions. He offered us a price of 12 cents per seedling if we wanted to buy more. I intend to take him up on that in the future in order to do some landscaping. He did not know the moringa tree. I told him about it at length, explaining it would help his many children. I asked him how much he would charge me to raise 1000 moringas until they were 2 feet tall. His price is $70—a steal really—especially given the frustration and failure I have endured thus far. That's seven cents a tree.

So what do I do? Do I strive to somehow incite our boys to start a moringa nursery, with admittedly a fairly high chance of failure and high probability of having to start and restart several times, or do I take the shortcut and get a jumpstart by spending a little money? Of course it would be beneficial to teach the boys to grow seedlings for profit, which they can do for themselves in the future. And even if I get the 2' tall trees, which will probably take a year, I'll still need the boys to plant them, guard them from animals, and nurture them through the transplantation process. But if I rely on the boys' initiative, it may be three years before we finally have 2' tall trees. It's been a year already and we have nothing. They need the protein ASAP. Which will be more profitable: getting them the additional protein as soon as possible by a shortcut which is a pretty sure bet, or investing in their agricultural and business skills and more importantly in their initiative and self esteem by helping them start a nursery—which has a high likelihood of several rounds of failure IF it ever succeeds. I am accepting votes and comments below...

I know, I can do both, but I only have so much time and so much money. I may end up doing both, but want to hear what you think.

Why is a doctor spending time and energy on this? Because a healthy diet, the benefits of a healthy career and income, and a healthy relationship with the land will do more for the children and the community than passing out pills in the clinic will ever do.

Friday, January 4, 2013

January 4, 1997

16 years ago today Grandma Nelson prayed for no snow or storms for our winter wedding and I imagine she prayed for more than that, too. On that day in 1997, a high temperature record of 68 degrees was set in Blacksburg, and still remains today.

At 21 years old we didn't know much about marriage, we didn't know it wasn't all about being happy and in love. We didn't know it would be hard. We didn't know part of the whole thing was to rub against one another's rough spots in order to smooth them out. We did know that giving up was never an option.

We've had adventures all over the world together--and surely our most daring adventure has been our children--I believe all of Grandma's prayers were answered that day.

Thank you for 16 faithful, funny, difficult, never-boring, beautiful, redemptive years. Thank you for never giving up. I love you and thank you for patiently and lovingly sanding down all my rough spots (still a few more to go...)

Happy Anniversary! We didn't forget this time!! ~ Joi