I (Victoria) don’t want to count how many partially planned blog posts are lurking around in the crevices of my brain and as drafts amongst my computer files. It’s too much to put everything down since our last blog post, so here are a few key points that I can remember from March until now!
Back in March my Dad came over to Tanzania to do some Bible Teaching at the local college. We planned a few fun trips while he got over his flight related sleep deprivation and before he started his teaching – a short trip into the Serengeti being one of them. Things were just getting heated with the virus at that stage and after doing one short session at the Bible College we were informed that the college, along with all the other schools and colleges in Tanzania, was going to be closed as a precautionary measure.
My Dad opted to stay here until his flight was officially cancelled and re-booked, rather than leaving early. This gave us a few final days to enjoy each other’s company and a few swims at a back-of-nowhere swimming pool! At that stage we really had no idea of the nature of the virus and went equipped with bleach spray to clean our chairs and tables etc!
It’s really hard to remember the exact order of everything that has happened over the months, but Tanzania, along with the rest of Africa has not been affected by COVID as much as other places, and although there have been various changes at different times, right now life is pretty much back to normal here.
There was never any official lockdown but we did sort of lock ourselves down to an extent and even now, while things are pretty normal, there are times that we are cautious. Throughout the summer we attended church online, mainly through our home church in Leighton Buzzard. More recently we’ve been attending a house church that meets outside. We value prayers and wisdom about how to go forward with church attendance locally.
During the lockdown period I completed two short-courses, one on COVID-19, as I thought this was a good opportunity to update my public health training and a second course on disability and global health, which is an area of interest to me. The COVID course was very useful and I was able to put my new knowledge to use straight away, running a couple of seminars on COVID-19 with our local staff. Our staff travel far and wide to villages across the Mwanza region and are respected local sources of information, so it was good to be able to train them, so they in turn could pass the knowledge on. We find Tanzanians living in villages often have good, well thought through questions, but lack good sources of information. Rumours and mis-information also circulate here rapidly, so I incorporated practical sessions on assessing the quality of sources of information.
Early on in the crises we decided, as an EI Tanzania team, to put together a COVID committee and create a plan for how best to serve our local churches. This resulted in us putting together some educational material about COVID-19, including some myth busters, and distributing 10,000 pamphlets, alongside handwashing buckets across 300 churches.
These days we spend most of our time at our home in Mwanza city. Simon is involved in doing a lot of admin here in Mwanza overseeing the finances for EI Tanzania, and for the most part we are able to train the staff from here. Simon has made several trips to Kome since March alone and we have made one trip as a family. We were really encouraged to see everyone on Kome and very much enjoyed the opportunity to experience ‘Kome life’ after a long break! We also met a Tanzanian man who lives with his family in the UK, who had opted to travel to Kome as a family to spend lockdown with extended family there. Kome is so remote, so it was amazing to find someone who has spent decades in the UK, in such a remote area. It also reminded me of how many children growing up the UK come from such diverse backgrounds. I imagined his kids sharing their lockdown tales when they got back to the UK, telling their friends about spending it on a remote island with no running water etc and it was strange to think that for his children, the UK was more normal than it is for ours!
We were due to spend this past summer in the UK but due to all the restrictions in place there, decided to stay here for now. It’s likely that we’ll head to the UK for a couple of months early next year depending on the situation there. The UK is so different to here in many ways and our children do not have strong memories of life in the UK. I find myself regularly explaining things to the children along the lines of ’In the UK people say/do/have’ etc. It will be interesting for them to go and see for themselves and it’s a long time now since they’ve seen their extended family and they miss them.
Stay tuned for more updates on some of the other things we’ve been getting up to recently!