JUNE 1, 2008
Today we went on safari. Mere minutes into our venture in Lake Manyara National Park, someone spotted an elephant nearby. We stopped to watch her (as she turned out to be a she), and she came right up to our van – we could have touched her, she was so close. We proceeded onward, and saw baboons, vervet monkeys, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, impalas, water buffalo, hippopotamuses, bison, wildebeests, flamencos, flamingos, a tortoise and dik-diks (which are small, reindeer-like creatures that mate for life).
We hoped to see a lion, but as the morning wore on, our chances were looking grim. But, then, miraculously, we saw them: two lionesses, asleep in a tree. They were beautiful! Wilfred, our van driver, told us we were incredibly lucky to have seen them, and we were – lions don’t usually come out until later in the day, around dusk.
Having passed the lions, we went to the Hot Springs in the park, which were literally steaming. When we tested the water, it felt like I was sticking my hand into a cup of tea. There were animal bones scattered throughout, giving the landscape the feel of something out of The Lion King.
We left the park after six hours and went to the Selian Lutheran Health Centre of Kirurumo. Doctor Simon Megiroo told us about the problem of HIV/AIDS. The health clinic treats many patients with HIV/AIDS, and offers special support to positive pregnant women. They consult with the women during all stages of pregnancy and make a point of seeing the children born there for at least two years afterward.
If a mother chooses to breast feed, there is a 10 to 25 percent chance that the child will get the disease. But many mothers do not want to feed their children with bottles, because everyone knows that a woman who doesn’t breast feed is positive. So they tend to breast feed despite the chances of it affecting their children because of the stigma attached to being positive (as Mama Beti told us, people can be shunned outright by communities).
Doctor Megiroo gave us a tour of the facilities, although we couldn’t see specific rooms because it is Sunday, and they don’t perform operations today. After touring the clinic, we made the two-and-a-half-hour drive back to Arusha.
We saw many Masaai huts on the ride back. We had learned earlier that young Masaai boys (at about age four or five) begin herding goats and cows as their chore, and so I wasn’t as surprised on the return trip to see many young boys on their own herding animals as I was on the trip to Lake Manyara.
We returned to Boma Home, had a small Mass conducted by Father Campbell, and went to bed early – there was a power outage, with only candles to journal and read by.