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It's Not Really About the Cold

The first five hours of the drive to Lushoto take us north through the flat savannah of Tanzania--shrub brush, miles of pineapple and sisal plantations, villages of stick-and-mud houses.

But after those five hours, we get to a junction where we make a sharp right, and the road winds another two hours up into the Usambara mountain range, where the town of Lushoto is located. We drive past waterfalls and rock formations, sharing the the curvy mountain roads with elderly women carrying enormous bundles of sticks on their heads.

Our family has a tradition when we make that right turn up into the mountains. We note the outside temperature, which is usually somewhere around 34 degrees (94 degrees Fahrenheit) and we make bets as to what the temperature will be when we hit Lushoto. This year the winner had predicted 24 degrees (75 degrees Fahrenheit), which is just about as luxurious as we could expect when escaping the heat monster of Dar es Salaam.

We say that the reason we love Lushoto is because of the cold, and that's why we've been there over a dozen times during our years in Tanzania. But there's more to it than that. Because we've never gone to Lushoto alone, but always with people we've called family during that particular year.

This year, Johnny busted open his knee one night while the kids were careening around in the dark, and we realized pretty quickly he was going to need stitches. Lushoto is remote town, and there's no 24-hour urgent care we could take him to, so we needed to wait until morning. But our friends immediately sprang into action, collecting bandages and painkillers and sticks to act as a splint. (In the end, one friend found a random pair of nunchucks in a shed, so Johnny had the most awesome splint ever invented.)

Somehow we keep going back to Lushoto, even though not all the memories are happy. Ironically, the only other time our family has experienced stitches was also in Lushoto, when Gil put his arm through a glass window seven years ago. Then there was also the time a different year when friends were robbed of their computer and camera while we were all eating dinner. Or the time when one teenager got typhoid, or the time when one family rolled their van on the way home.

But I think the common denominator each time has been that whether we are playing games or reveling in our long sleeves and drinking cappuccinos (not me--blech--but this is the highlight for my friends), or whether we are figuring out how to splint a seven-year-old's leg with nunchucks, life has just kept throwing us together with these people. And Lushoto kind of encapsulates that for all of us--the highest highs and the lowest lows--which in the end create these kind of bonds that usually only happen when you share blood.

One of these families is leaving Tanzania forever next week, and another is on their way to leave this summer. We're not sure how many Lushoto years our own family has left. So the bitter mixes with the sweet in the midst of all the memories. But that's kind of what makes memories stronger, isn't it?

Grace's birthday always happens when we're in Lushoto, and this year she found out she'll get to see Hamilton this summer.

These two...someday they'll get their own post. 

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