I cannot possibly express how thrilled I am to be back here with these gorgeous little faces. The pictures would help, but my card reader is acting up, so words will have to suffice for today! After leaving my apartment in London at 5 am, I arrived in Tanzania on Sunday at midnight, only to find that my bags had decided they’d rather take a quick break in Nairobi before joining me. Only slightly daunted, I was picked up by wonderful Tanzanian friends and was in bed in my house next to the hospital by 2 am.

And up at 6 am. Because I am a crazy person, and missed those kids so much that my body couldn’t handle the idea of sleeping until a reasonable hour when they were SO CLOSE. I think I completely shocked the mama working that morning – apparently word hadn’t fully made its way around the staff that I was coming back! –  but I got the warmest welcome anyone could possibly wish for. I was jumped on immediately by six toddlers and thirteen “big kids” from 3-5 years old, all chanting my name. At least, they were excited to see me for a few minutes, before they immediately started asking, “Wapi (where is) Mama Bekka? Wapi Baba Bekka? Wapi Bethan? Wapi Jasmine? Wapi Emily? Wapi Megan?” and so on.  They were thrilled to bits to hear that Bethan and Emily are making their way out in the next few weeks!

Zi started yelling my name right away, and within a few minutes was singing “Nakupenda, nakupenda, Bekka Bekka Bekka nakupenda” – which means “I love you,” and made my heart nearly burst. All the kids look fantastic – Zawadi is running all over the place, although her big old bow-legs are pretty silly looking, she’s an absolute superstar!

Peace is looking much healthier, and I was thrilled to meet the woman who has been hired using our funding to stay with him every day – she hasn’t taken a single day off for three weeks, until yesterday Mama Pendo made her take a break! It’s looking like she will be the next permanent hire, which is very exciting – we’re honored to get to be a part of it.

The big babies are still struggling, although some are doing better than others. Gracie is at most a few weeks from walking on her own. Vicki loves walking with help, and can’t stop giggling whenever she’s standing upright – apparently the world is much funnier from another few inches off the floor! Filipo and Maureen are getting some good practice in, standing and walking with help, but they still need a lot more work. Ebenezer is doing fantastically well, given how tiny he was at birth (and for several months afterwards) – he’s now a year and crawling well. Our gorgeous little frog Frankie, however, is struggling more than I’d like – he was quite sick with resistant malaria for several months when he was younger, and although he’s well over a year now, he’s only just crawling and refuses to put any weight on his legs. He’s quite a chunker, but weak – we think he just needs some practice and encouragement to build up his muscles. In the meantime, it’s hard to resist his desire to stay permanently cuddled on any convenient chest – but it’s for his own good!

When my bags finally arrived yesterday (after three days traveling and working in the orphanage in the same clothes, I was definitely ready for a change, as was everyone else around me!), Mama Pendo and I started to sort through the amazing donations. Toys are being saved for Christmas – so pictures of their thrilled faces will definitely be coming, but not quite yet! The nappies from Real Nappies blew the mamas away – they’re so much stronger and better made than anything we have currently. Half went out for use immediately, while another half are stashed away in the back office until they’re needed! They’re also already using the Mahu nappy cream and wash donated by Real Nappies, and I can report that they are definitely gorgeous smelling, soft babies – although I can’t guarantee all of that is from the Mahu, it definitely seems to help! Slings are coming over with Bethan next week, so no reaction on those yet – however, they were so excited for the baby liquid vitamins and special formula for preemies (donated by Rebecca Woolf of Girls Gone Child), both of which will help keep the kids healthy and strong.

We also put together a DVD from many of the former volunteers, sending our love via video for all the times when we can’t be there – and the kids went crazy for it, blowing kisses at the TV, and watched it literally six times in a row before I could convince them to turn it off! They were so excited to see pictures and videos from Emma, Marie, Kristina, the Underhill family, Jasmine, Peter, and everyone else. So much fun to see their reactions!

Things have been a little rough lately at the orphanage – the overloaded electrical system has blown in the laundry room, so the mamas are doing all the laundry by hand. I hate doing just my own laundry by hand when I’m here – they’re doing the laundry for 30 very messy children! It makes it very difficult for them to spend any time with the kids. However, we’re setting up a consultation with an excellent electrician who specializes in solar panels, who will be doing a full audit for us and helping to develop a plan of action to help them out. More details pending!

I’ll track down a functioning card reader soon and get some pictures and videos up – in the meantime, please know that your dollars are doing so much good here, and I can’t think of anywhere in the world I’d rather be than curled up on the floor in three-day-dirty-clothes under a pile of these amazing kids.

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