Coming to Tanzania to work has again provided the team an opportunity to see a side of the country and the people that most do not get to see. We have seen over 100 patients this week at Upone Clinic and have learned much more about the culture of the Tanzanians. The patients and staff have all been so open in providing information and answering all of our questions, no matter how personal or intimate. On Thursday morning we had the opportunity to visit one HIV+ patient, Peter, and his wife, at their home in a very poor village in Arusha. I was reminded, as I often am in working with clients at home, that their story becomes three dimensional when you are invited into their homes. Peter, his wife, and his two year old daughter, Glory, are all HIV infected. His wife and daughter have not become sick, but Peter is now unable to work because of his illness, and has not been able to provide for his family for several months. They explained that they have been unable to pay their rent for three months, and have relied on donations from extended family and friends to keep their home. Despite these difficulties, this family was so gracious and welcoming to the team. Their house was no more than 8′x8′, and still they welcomed us – 10 wnzungus(including 6’6″ Dr. Tyson!). It was amazing to see how these people lived, in what we would consider extreme poverty. The visit appeared to have an emotional impact on the entire team. I think some may have seen this situation as depressing, but this was not a depressed family. They were a hopeful family. Hopeful that the wife and daughter would continue to be healthy, hopeful that Peter would continue to receive medications from Upone to treat his opportunistic infections, thankful that they had a loving family to provide support to them when possible, and thankful for the crazy Americans who wanted to take photographs of their Jean Claude VanDam poster.
This afternoon we were treated to a concert by the choir of St. Simon Catholic Church in Arusha. Our driver, Pascal, arranged for this performance, and we were told that they had been practicing for our visit since before Christmas! At the beginning of the week, Pascal presented them with a recording made by the St. Dominic’s Adult Choir in Eagle Rock (my dad, his wife, and good friends Vince Corcoran and Harry Torres are in the choir). They were thrilled to have a sister choir in America, and are currently attempting to translate and sing the songs performed by the St. Dominic’s choir. The St. Simon’s choir performed about 15 songs for us – including three costume changes, and wonderful African choreography! We videotaped the entire performance, and I took three roles of film. It was really amazing, and I can’t wait to share the video with the St. Dom’s choir.
We come here to work in and support Dr. Solomon and the Upone Clinic, and each time I come to Arusha I’m just amazed at how much the people we come in contact with welcome us and allow us into their lives and their families to see a side of Tanzania that most never get to see.