The following is the complete journal of our adventure in Tanzania, without the starts and stops of irregular postings. So, if you are reading it for the first time, just start at the beginning and read through.
In 2008. a Lutheran minister, who has a program for English teachers in China, came to speak at our church. He told about a program of six weeks duration that he has every summer, in which English speaking people come and spend time with medical staff and teachers in China, to help them improve their English skills.
I listened to what he said, and then thought to myself. "I can do this". When I spoke to Fred about it, he said that if that is what I wanted to do, I should look into it further, but that it wasn't something that he was interested in doing. I sent off for information and prayed. The more I read and learned, the more I thought that perhaps I had a "calling" to do this.
Several months passed, and I prepared my application. One Sunday morning before I had mailed off my China paper work, I happened to be talking to the bishop of our synod, who is a member of our congregation, and brought up the topic of going to China. She said that she wasn't familiar with that particular program, and was curious why I had chosen China. Our synod has a special relationship with the Konde diocese in Tanzania, and she stressed that they are always anxious to have English speaking people come and help them.
Later that day, I spoke to Fred about my conversation, and he said, "If you are interested in going to Tanzania instead of China, I will go with you." At that moment, it all came together for me, that yes, Tanzania was where we should go. With Fred's retirement planned for the end of July, 2009, the fall of that year seemed like the perfect time to go.
Tanzania, what will we do when we get there?
What do we need to know to go to Tanzania? What will we be doing when we get there? Can anybody help us figure this out? Neither Fred nor I have any idea how to answer the questions just posed. The bishop, Carol Hendrix, is the person to ask, since in her capacity as bishop she has been there. There is also a Konde diocese contact person, Judy McKee, at our synod office. Carol invites us all to her house for the evening to talk.
Well the one thing that I discovered is that I probably should learn to like tea. We had tea served in Tanzanian style, which Fred enjoyed, but I who have never liked tea, well, that might prove to be a problem. The water in general is not potable unless boiled, so soda and tea are what most people drink. Guess who doesn't like soda either. I believe that the bottled water industry may be glad to see me coming.
Judy, from the synod office, is going to TZ soon and will speak to their bishop about what Fred and I might be able to do. We are certainly anxious to hear what she will have to tell us when she returns.
Judy is back from seeing Bishop Israel-Peter in Tanzania; he is thinking that perhaps Fred can do some legal work, and perhaps I will be teaching English in one of the schools. In Tanzania, children speak a tribal language until they start school, then in elementary school they are instructed in Swahili, but in order to go on to high school or university, they must know English. Only the elementary school is free for the people; for high school and university, they must pay.
I am starting to do some research about the country. Before WWI it was a German colony, called German East Africa, but when the Germans lost the war, they also lost their colonies. Part of the area was renamed Tanganyika and came under British control. In the 60's, many African countries declared their independence, and soon afterward, Tanganyika merged with the island of Zanzibar and together they became the country of Tanzania.
Because the country was originally colonized by Germans, the Lutheran church has a strong presence there. About 45% of the people in the country are Christian, and about 35% are Muslim. Islam is stronger in the coastal areas, while Christianity is stronger inland.
The part of Tanzania, that we will be going to is called the Konde Diocese and it is in the southwest corner of the country near Malawi. Dar es Salaam, the largest city in the country, is on the Indian Ocean, and that is where we will initially land when we fly over. Then it will be about a twelve hour bus ride to Mbeya, a large city in the southwest. No, the buses are not air-conditioned, and no, the buses are not restroom equipped. We have been told to pack our belongings inside plastic bags, inside the suitcase, to keep the contents clean, since they will ride on top of the bus, and we are getting there in the dry season.
We went to the bookstore and procured books on Tanzania. Our evenings for the past week have been spent reading them. There is a lot that we didn't know, but we are learning. My main concern will be the language barrier. Fred has learned to say, that he would like his tea without milk and sugar. Meanwhile, I have progressed as far as saying asante sana, which means thank you very much. And courtesy of the movie Lion King, I also know the word for lion which is simba. We also got some tapes from the library and have been playing them, in the car whenever we are driving around together. I cannot understand most of what they are saying, but perhaps we are getting used to the rhythm of Swahili.
The real planning begins
On the 7th of June, we are back to our bishop's house to have dinner with Israel-Peter
Mwakyolile. He and several others from Tanzania are here in the states for our church's annual meeting. He is a delightful gentleman, and he speaks the Queen's English very well. Meanwhile, Fred and I are careful to speak more slowly than usual, and try not to use too many phrases that might not be commonly used in Tanzania.
With the bishop is the chaplain from the Mbeya Lutheran Teachers' College in Mbeya. They both feel that Fred and I will be most useful working there. The bishop thinks more highly of our skills than we do. Fred would be comfortable teaching both English and history, and doing some legal work, while I would be comfortable teaching English and helping organize their library. the bishop wondered if I could also teach mathematics and economics, and Fred teach philosophy of education. It has been quite some time since either of us have done any significant work in any of those areas, even though we did study them in college. We will just have to wait, pray, and see.
I don't think that I had mentioned just how long we plan to stay in Tanzania. Well Israel-Peter feels from July through December would be good, but since Fred doesn't retire until after his birthday, July 30th, that will not work. As of now we are planning to leave for TZ on the 23rd of August and return to the states by Thanksgiving. We are also hoping to spend a few days on our way home visiting my nephew Alex and his family. He is my sister Ava's son, who lives in Strasbourg, France.
What do we need to do to get there?
We are starting to get to the time when things need to be done. I looked at my passport and realized that I needed more pages for the journey; we shall both need Tanzanian visas in addition. Shall we fly; foolish question, of course, so "Moon" the synod's suggested travel agent enters our life. Just to complicate our arrangements, we add the additional flight to Frankfurt for our way back. Does Frankfurt have a connection to Dar Es Salaam? No, so that means our flight plan is looking like Dulles to Heathrow to Dar Es Salaam and then Dar to Heathrow to Frankfurt to Heathrow to Dulles. I must not forget to add the bus between Frankfurt and Strasbourg and back to Frankfurt. No wonder I need more pages in my passport.
It will also be good to make arrangements for someone from Konde to meet us in Dar es Salaam, and help us find our way through the airport and into the city to the hostel for the night and then to the bus station the next morning. Oh, I almost forgot, we need to make arrangements to get to Dulles in August, and then back to Carlisle in November. Should we fly, or can I convince our daughters, Kate and Bess, to work together on providing transportation?
Yes, and then there is the problem of getting a letter from the church that says we will be there on non dastardly business. We shall need that to get our visas. This coming Monday, we are headed for the travel clinic at a local hospital to get our shots, and we need quite a few. I am getting rather excited, because the trip seems more real every day.
Less than a month to go
Having just returned from a one week cruise on Lake Michigan with my sister, Nancy, I realize that time is getting short for our Tanzanian preparation. So many things to think about, and so many things to do. One nice aspect of our Elderhostel Michigan trip was talking to several people who had traveled in Africa in recent years. They were more than willing to share experiences and helpful hints. Of course the person who gave me an article from "Natural History" magazine about the problem of lions eating people in southern Tanzania verged on being a little too much information. A few of my fellow travelers, who happened to be Lutheran, said that they were going to add Fred and me to the prayers at their church. This hopefully will help to offset the historical connection between Christians and lions that was occurring to me.
I was to my doctor yesterday for a final check to be certain that I am in good health and able to make the trip. I am. She gave me some more prescriptions to fill, syringes, bags of normal saline, and IV tubing for just in case. I don't know if she was trying to make me nervous, or if she merely likes to be prepared; I feel really prepared.
Our calendar is beginning to look quite full for the next couple of weeks. We are attempting to keep the last week before we go free, for I am sure that a lot of last minute things will come up. We want to get in some visits to relatives before heading out, so this coming weekend, I am spending time in Virginia with our daughter Bess; later on, after Fred retires, we plan to spend a couple days in New Jersey with his sisters.
We will attempt to post to our blogs weekly while away, and hope that you will make occasional comments. It would also be nice to get real mail. Our address while in Tanzania will be:
Mbeya Lutheran Teachers’ College
23 August 2009
I could not sleep last night, and finally got up at 4 AM, and went to the computer to print out our boarding passes. Tomorrow morning at this time we will be flying over the Atlantic Ocean, heading to London, on the first leg of our trip.
The past several days have been a frenzy of collecting all the lists of what we wanted to take, and then collecting all the things on our lists. The big discovery was that everything would not fit into our allotted six suitcases to check, two carryons, my pocketbook, and Fred's laptop case. Solution? No, not to take as much, but to call a friend who was kind enough to loan me a larger suitcase. I transferred the contents of the smallest case into the borrowed one, and could even add a few things. Success!
Saturday evening, we invited some folks over for an "empty the frig of food party". Not only did we eat, but everybody who came, got to take some food home with them. It was a good time to just talk and relax before the next couple of hectic days. Goodbyes are a little harder than I imagined they would be. Friends and family are special, and at the moment, November seems a long way off.
This morning at church, our pastor had a brief sending service for us at the beginning of worship. My sister, Nancy, and two of our children, Kate and Thad, came to church with us. At the coffee hour after communion, we spoke to several people and then headed home to load the car in preparation for Kate driving us to Dulles Airport.
We have a few stops to make on the way. First, in Chambersburg, to have lunch with my mother and aunt, at the retirement center where they live; then on to Leesburg, VA. We arrive in Leesburg and wait at the library for Bess's day to finish. Then a quick meal together at IHOP, and our twenty minute jaunt to Dulles, where our daughters deposit us and our luggage by the curb If all goes well, we should be in Tanzania by Tuesday morning, but I make no promises about how soon I will be able to make my next posting.
At the airport our eight bags easily fill two carts, and we find the British Airways "FAST BAG DROP" line for our flight. After almost two hours in the line, our bags are processed. I'm certainly glad the line wasn't the "SLOW BAG DROP" one.
The only problem that I had before boarding was my inability to find my toiletries bag. When neither the x-ray machine or attendant was able to see it, I figured that I had forgotten it. It was a rather long night with fitful naps punctuating the time on the plane.
Upon arrival at Heathrow, we dropped our carryons at left luggage and proceeded to the tube, headed for downtown and the British Museum. We followed several peoples' directions after getting off at Russell Square, and with much meandering arrived at our destination. The Rosetta Stone was our main objective to see, and it held a prominent place on the first floor. I got a picture of the crowds looking at it, and then also a picture of the actual stone. A small story book of Peter Rabbit written in hieroglyphics was our souvenir of the museum.
Then back to Heathrow and the wait for our next flight. This plane had many empty seats, so we each took a double seat by a window and were able to get some actual sleeping done on our second night of travel. As the sun rose that morning, we caught a glimpse of Mt Kilimanjaro rising through the clouds.
This flight made good time, and we were soon on the ground at the Dar es Salaam airport, where we were greeted by white lab coated, masked personnel handing out H1N1 information sheets - a little disconcerting. Because we already had our visas we quickly passed through the airport, retrieved our bags and stepped out into the waiting area, where we immediately saw Mwankenja, who greeted us with hugs and "Karibu". (Welcome in Swahilli).
He had borrowed a car into which we all fit with our many bags, then we sped into the city, as fast as the morning rush hour permitted. He had a room reserved for us at Luther House, which has the local diocese office, cathedral, restaurant, and hostel. A small, older woman carried our bags up the stairs to our room by balancing them on her head, most of our bags weighing close to 45 pounds. Breakfast was first on our list of what to do, and that was quickly followed by a shower and nap. We were told the water would be warm, but it was pretty much the temperature of Laurel Lake, a mountain lake near Carlisle.
We joined Mwankenja and his brother for a lunch of ugali, a Tanzanian porridge. I ate mine in the traditional way by rolling the porridge into balls with my hand and dipping it in sauce, while Fred employed a knife and fork. After lunch we went to an internet cafe and sent off an e-mail to our children to let them know that we had arrived safely, We also had an opportunity to change some money before we went for a short driving tour of part of the city, which included stopping at the Indian Ocean, so I could put my hand in the water.
Our room at the Hostel has a rather large bed complete with mosquito netting, which Mwankenja demonstrated the workings of. We soon made use of the bed, actually skipping supper, since we were still rather tired from the two days of flying. It did prove interesting though, during the night, working our way in and out of the netting a time or two.
25 August 09
The day was spent is Dar es Salaam relaxing and doing a little shopping for a cell phone to use in Tanzania and also getting whatr we needed for the internet to get us connected to the outside world
26 August 09
Hodi, hodi which is knock knock, came at our door at 5:00 am. We had a partial breakfast, pocketed our hardboiled eggs, and lugged the suitcases downstairs to the waiting taxi. We arrived at the bus station in ample time, and were soon on our way to Mbeya. As the bus stopped at various appointed stops, the hawkers came out of nowhere, and attacked the bus in hope that they were able to sale their wares of wrist watches, sunglasses, juice, fruit, and cashews
My first experience with the infamous third world squatty potty was at an official stop at Morogoro. I prevailed, but didn’t use the pitcher of water, I, the girl scout, had tissues on hand and hand sanitizer also. The driver had said that the stop would be 10 minutes; he meant it, and we were the last two people back to the bus.
The bus ride was longer than either of the planes flights, but there was so much to see around us. The road traveled through the Makumi National Park, and wildlife was everywhere. Elephants, giraffes, bush pigs, antelope, zebra, and baboons. The baboons were waiting on the road in hopes that travelers would toss out food to them, but it was illegal to feed any of the creatures.
Eventually, we entered the Baobao Valley, with the baobao trees all around They reminded me of the Berenstein Bears’ family tree house, and the spooky trees that were often in Halloween cartoons. Flat topped acacia trees abounded also.
After a lunch stop of ten minutes, just time that we got in a squatty potty break and queued up for some meat on a stick, we were back on the bus with our food, and headed toward the Southern Highlands. By now, Fred and I had both started to become quite tired sitting. The temperature began to cool, and the landscape began to look like the Scottish Highlands, but there were more rocks and boulders here.
The driver seemed to know what he was doing, which was fortunate. He beeped and passed trucks as we ascended and descended around torturous curves finally we arrived at a somewhat level area – the Highlands.
We passed many structures that were either in the process of construction or demolition, we couldn’t really tell. Many had thatch roofs, or at least partial thatch roofs. Fred and I started to worry a little about the house that we were promised in Mbeya.
This was not going to be a mere twelve hour bus ride, since that much time had elapsed already, and we just stopped for a potty break in the bushes. I was certainly glad that I was wearing a skirt. The sun had set, and darkness enveloped us when the bus finally came to our stop. Mwankenja led us off the bus and into the blackness of the African night, and to a waiting taxi. We were to spend the next two nights at a hotel nearby the school, and at this point in time, my only concern was a western toilet, and bed.
27 August 09
We were awakened at seven in the morning by a secondary school choir that sang and danced to Swahili gospel songs on the plaza right outside our window. Many school choirs came to this hotel to make recordings of their music, then they were sold to raise money for the school.
We skipped our morning shower, because we couldn’t find the drain hole in the floor and were concerned about flooding the entire area. Ablutions can be accomplished at a miniscule sink, and the temperature of the water was not important.
Today we toured the Mbeya Lutheran Teachers’ College, and were introduced to everyone that we passed. Our library in our home was probably twice the size of the school library here. Since organizing the library was one of the aspects of the work I was asked to do, I was especially interested in theirs. Our daughter, Bess, and Fred’s sister, Lina, both librarians, may be getting individual e-mails from me about this.
A real shortage of most supplies existed at the school; students carried their chairs from the assembly hall, to the classroom, to the dining room, and they often share a chair. Desks were at an even higher premium. We also met the principal, Doudi, who had just began the position this summer.
On to our house. I don’t know why we worried so much and didn’t just trust God to provide. Although quite sparsely furnished, the house was of nice size and in good repair. There was a living/dining area, two rooms with beds, and one with no furniture that was to be our study. On the other side of the enclosed courtyard was a small kitchen, toilet, bathroom, and storage room.
Notice, that I said an extra bed, so feel free to come to visit.
28 August 09
Mwankenja took us downtown Mbeya to do some window shopping for some extras for the house, and that evening we had a real treat when he invited us to his home for dinner. It was delicious and consisted of pumpkin leaves with peanuts, boiled green bananas with onions and meat, rice of course, and avocado. Tea completed the meal.
29 August 09
This morning we repacked the few things we had taken from our suitcases,and hauled all our bags to the front porch of the hotel. One of the employees is on his hands and knees with a bucket of water, washing the entrance walk. There is a different secondary school choir singing and dancing to Swahili gospel songs in front of the building. Many schools come here to be taped.
Mwankenja stops by in his own car at nine, and all of our gear fits, but not Fred and me. We decide to walk to the college; it’s only about a mile and a half away. This was a good idea of ours, except that we missed the turn off to the school. Fortunately, the school driver was running an errand, spied us, and took us back to where we belonged.
The principal, who lives next door to us on the campus, came for an official tour of our house. We then all decided to go into town together to buy the various items we had priced yesterday, but at that moment, the Bishop, Israel-Peter Mwakyolile, drove in from Tukuyu.
The Bishop’s visit took precedence over everything else. He had brought us housewarming gifts of fresh bananas and pineapples. So it was another tour of our house. He was concerned about the quality of our mosquito netting, and insisted that a different one be purchased.
The day proceeded on and we soon had a new net. After lunch, he headed back to Tukuyu, and we also continued our planned shopping. The only disagreement that we had was over flooring for our bedroom. Fred and I finally convinced Mwankenja that we were really content with the concrete floor and would rather spend the equivalent amount of money for two study lamps instead.
We did discover that credit cards were not readily usable, and put off the grocery purchases until a later time. After we returned to the house, Hiari, the woman who will be helping us with domestic chores, stopped by. We talked for a while and she washed up all the new kitchen purchases. Finally the day came to an end.
30 August 09
The principal’s rooster is well trained to crow early in the morning. Fred, of course, didn’t mind, but I did. Since we had not done grocery shopping, we made do with the Bishop’s bananas, some peanut butter from our suitcase, and a leftover packaged roll from one plane flight. Shopping for food went to the top of the list for tomorrow.
The shower functioned almost, but one can get clean with a cold trickle. The ants that always seem to live in the bathroom? Well maybe I should collect them for Kuku, our pet chicken – more about her later.
Mwankenja came as promised, and we headed for the local Lutheran church. He gave us two hymnals and an English/Swahili Bible to use to follow along. Many of the people at the church did not have much money, so they brought offerings in kind. At the conclusion of the service an auction was held and other parishioners bid on and bought the “in kind” offerings.
As Pastor Mwankenja, Fred, and I were entering the courtyard during the auction after the first service, someone bought a chicken for us. The chicken, a hen whom we named Kuku (Swahili for chicken), stayed in the church office while we attended the second service.
We were introduced at the announcement time of the service. Fred spoke briefly, and gave greetings from our home church and synod while Mwankenja translated. We followed the service fairly well for Mwankenja sat between us and translated as needed. Many of the hymn tunes were familiar, and we found ourselves thinking the English words as the Swahili flowed around us. The church had several choirs and also a guest choir from a nearby secondary school
It was a harvest gathering festival day with many sacks of maize drug up to the altar area. We were invited to the church office after the service and auction for tea, which consisted of tea and rice flour doughnuts. We also stopped at the home of the pastor to meet his wife, who also wanted us to stay for tea. The hospitality of the people was phenomenal
By the time we had finished our visits, it was two in the afternoon, and we returned to our house, Kuku also. The chicken is safely ensconced in our kitchen-courtyard area. Hiari was ready to kill her at that time, but Fred and I had not yet decided Kuku’s fate.
31 August 09
Neither the neighbor’s rooster nor Fred got awake on time, so we were a little late for morning devotions. Actually, we were quite late since they had started at seven and not the seven-thirty, we had been led to believe. Today was to be the day for money changing. We had gotten a little desperate for groceries – bananas and peanut butter were only palatable for so long a time.
It seemed like a simple enough mission; there were seven things on our to do list, the money changing being number one or kwanza. See I have learned a little Swahili. This was when we discovered that going to town with some one whose English was not very good, while our Swahili vocabulary numbered less than 20 words, was not a good idea. How many banks did it take? Well, quite a few as we searched for the best exchange rate, realized that some banks would only change if you had an account with them, and finally ended up in a back alley at the Blue Bird Exchange and got the job done. In this venture we also learned that bills of a certain year are not exchangeable, nor any that have any dirt on them.
We were also able to buy stamps at the post office; groceries at the small grocery store; beans, flour, and a plastic pitcher and sharp knife at the open market; but unfortunately we were unable to get the gas cylinder for cooking, or an attachment for the plug to Fred’s computer. After we returned home, Fred spoke to the principal, who made a call to a computer store, and Fred returned to town with the driver and got what was needed. Finally we were back in connection with the outside world at least for now.
1 September, 09
The first of September and we were up in time for the new day, ready for morning devotions, whatever time they happen to start. Today was spent primarily with the principal and academic dean. Our talks took a 10:00 am tea break, tea breaks being very important to the folks here. This break was the first meal of the day for most of the people, and consisted of tea, with milk and sugar, and mandazi, a very oily doughnut. There was another tea break around 2:30, usually with bread and tea, then the final meal of the day occurred after 6, which usually consisted of beans and rice or beans and ugali.
We had a tour of the college’s garden, with its cabbages, peppers, and mustard greens, also, avocado trees lined the perimeter. A large tree hung heavy with giant green fruits that were oozing milky sap, was also there; I am not sure what it compared to in the States. .
After we had a gathering and introduction with the tutors in the staff lounge, Fred and I made plans to sit in on various classes, some that we were assigned to lecture in, English, Communications, and Mathematics, and others for pure information sake, like Kiswahili.
The house seemed to have an electrical phantom of sorts. Various lights and outlets took turns over the past several days working or not working. It was one of the jobs first thing in the morning to see what worked and what didn’t. At this point everything was functioning adequately. The only real problem was when the refrigerator’s outlet goes down, but if we unplugged the frig when we ironed or used the teapot; we just had to remember to plug it back in. I believed that we had a system now.
We began the habit of taking a walk every evening, and enjoyed it greatly; we needed our sweaters , since the evenings cooled quickly, as soon as the sun sat.
2 September, 09
Since morning devotions did not seem to be attended by any of the staff and there is no translator, we decided to sleep in and skipped them. We were found out! The Principal stopped by our house a little after eight o’clock to make sure we were okay.
I gave Mr. Doudi the final stack of software and books that we had brought from the States, and our list of latest electrical problems; the two of us read the electrical list together, and it seemed to be understood. I found out later that I was wrong!
Fred was able to get on the internet this morning, but when I tried- problems again. That was why Fred had been able to blog and I had not. When Mwankenja stopped by later, he promised to go to town with Fred tomorrow and another attempt was to be made for the computer.
This morning for the 10 tea, I took my own, a decafe spice, for the regular tea was more than I could handle yesterday. Fred still bravely persevered with the real stuff. Hiari conducted her first cooking class to make ugali, Tanzanian mush, for our afternoon tea. She demonstrated to me how to do it, and then I guess that I was on my own. We ate it, the technique of course to do it with your fingers, dipped in a ham, pineapple, and tomato mixture.
Fred visited both Communications and English, and I was to have sat in on Mr. Kolowela’s math, but he told me that “there was an emergency and class was cancelled, maybe there will be another emergency tomorrow” Fred and I both thought the school very laid back, as far as class times.
The electrician came to the house with twice as many plugs for the sockets as we thought that we requested, oh well, what were another Tsh3000 (a little over $2)? At the moment all outlets were working including the cooker and frig.
We are getting adjusted somewhat to the cultural differences here. The two things that bothered me most seem to be the workmen’s loud music, and that Hiari never shuts the doors at our house. So, flies abound; I killed 12 this afternoon in the house.
This early evening for the first time, we ventured out of the college compound and down the road. Some children were playing soccer, and many goats and chickens were roaming in search of their dinner. The children smiled and shouted out “Good Morning”, and we responded with “Asante” – Swahili for thank you. I know just how the children felt, however, because, “za ashabuhi”, good morning in Swahili, is one of the few phrases that I had mastered.
Back on campus, the students were heading toward the dining room with their chairs and bowls for their supper of rice and beans. I asked several how to say good evening, and who knows, I might remember until tomorrow.
After our supper of bread and peanut butter, I settled down for a game of solitaire on the computa (Swahili word needing no translation). No internet.
3 September 09
The hymn tune at morning devotions was “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” In my hymnal that I brought from the States, the hymn has 5 verses, but the Swahili version went on for 8 verses. The same tune was also to “Lord Teach Me How to Pray Aright”, so we were not sure what words they were singing.
At our morning tea we chatted with several staff and “enjoyed our mandazi”. Verywell, the Communications teacher, walked back to our house with me after tea, to retrieve a syllabus that he had lent Fred. Another entry in our guest book! I offered him tea or juice, but he declined.
For our trip to town, we met Mwankenja, and walked to his car, which was at his home a mile and a half away, and we were off. As always, we attempted to fix the internet problem, and were assured that we have now done so, by the people at the computa store. Then it was here and there, as we procured assorted items from a shopping list that Hiari and I had written
We took a break from shopping to stop at the Mbeya branch of the Tanzanian High Court. Mwankenja’s wife’s father’s younger brother has a civil suit, we think, and needed to get some information about it. The extended family is confusing at times in Tanzania. We finished our shopping as the day grew hotter, and were glad to return to the house.
Hiairi had roasted Kuku, our chicken, so for dinner tonight we dined on cold roast chicken and leftover ugali. The chicken was done well, and we saved half of it for another day, and also made plans to boil the bones for stock. It was with great disgust that we discovered the internet malfunctioning again this evening. Wasn’t it just this afternoon that we had had it fixed again?
4 September. 09
We got up again this morning, but the lack of breakfast right away was a bother. I had been grabbing a piece of fruit to hold me until 10 tea, which seemed so far away. This was Fred’s first morning to teach – in Verywell’s communication class. His topic was to explain the purpose of the internet. Those of you who were familiar with our internet skills, particularly, considering the difficulties we had been having the past week here might be ROF LOL.
Poor Mwankenja, again he was going to try to help us with the computa. First, he permitted us to use his to at least check our e-mails.
At morning tea, mandazi was, I have decided, a hungry person’s food. I apparently was not hungry enough to enjoy it. Maybe when we have stayed longer, I will be hungrier and enjoy it more. After tea, we also spoke with Kai, the science teacher, who has invited us to dinner for the evening. He was raised in Tanzania, by his German missionary parents.
Now began an experience in African time. The Bishop is to come at 11:00 for an all campus assembly. The students were coming with chairs to the main building, and it was almost eleven. Fred and I waited patiently outside the building since we were unsure of where we were to sit. Eventually we walked over to another tutor who was correcting papers on a nearby porch, and we began talking about the differences in our two countries’ government.
Around noon, we were invited to the principal’s office for tea, with the bishop. Another half hour later, we went to the assembly hall where the students had been waiting patiently, and the bishop and president both spoke. Fred also commented briefly saying how happy we were to be here. That concluded the eleven o’clock assembly, for the students, but not our time with the bishop.
We now proceeded to the staff lounge, where the bishop and principal made similar remarks to the staff, only this time I was the one to speak instead of Fred. Finally by 1:30, we were finished with all the assembly proceedings.
Back at the house, Hiairi had done yard work, watering down the ground around the house so the dust was kept under control. Fred and I discussed a garden with her. If Fred did the digging, then she would plant and tend to it.
Garbage, trash, and recycling were an issue that we needed to find out about. First, a large hole was dug behind our house, into which anything burnable was to be deposited and then torched. Second, the plastic water bottles were to be put in a large cardboard box in our storage room in hopes of being recycled. Third, we were just to throw any compostable garbage into the area around our house, where it rots. Fred was thinking that he might rescue the compost and bury it in the garden.
This evening was to be our first big social venture into Mbeya nightlife with Kai the science teacher. We should have known after the timing of the morning events that Kai might be a little late, but foolishly, we didn’t think of that – after all, Kai is German, not really African.
He was coming at 7:00, so by a quarter of seven Fred and I were ready and waiting. At 7:45, Fred went to the kitchen to reheat some beans, our thought was that we had misunderstood Kai about the evening. Just as the beans were warm, Kai called from outside our house that he might be a little late, and to give him another 10 minutes. We put the beans back in the frig, waited about 10 minutes, then walked to his house about a half block equivalent, and stood by his car. At 8:30, Kai came out and we left for town.
He took us to a local type restaurant for standard Tanzanian food: ugali, rice, green bananas, greens, fried whole fish with everything but the guts, and a very enlightening evening of conversation. Based on our observations of the restaurant, however, we did not drink the water, chances of it being boiled seemed slim.
5 September 09
Today was a sleep in day, but we were up before Hiari arrived. Her days usually began with laundry and washing all the floors, to which we have now added burning of the trash. She and I rearranged the furniture today, not that we have much. We moved the frig from the empty room into the spare bedroom which was closer to the table where we ate. The empty room was now totally empty, and was ready for the large study table that the principal has promised to give us soon. We must wait and see. African time you know.
Just guess where Fred and Mwankenja were while Hiari and I were working at the house. Yes, a computer fixing trip to town. When they returned later that morning, it was working. We borrowed a grub hoe, and this afternoon after the heat of the day had passed, Fred dug a substantial section of the field behind our house for a garden. The other big venture of the afternoon was boiling our drinking water.
Culinary delights finished off our day. Fred made Scottish oats cakes, but with corn flour instead of wheat, and of course oatmeal, oil, baking powder, and water. The other taste of home was the stock from our chicken with corn and onions and hard boiled eggs, for a Tanzanian imitation of chicken corn soup.
We read our e-mails, and took notes, then I responded to them by typing onto a word document, as we tried to preserve our internet time, but to no avail. When we attempted to cut and paste them and my blog from word unto the internet at one fell swoop – we discovered that it had failed again. Modern technology was a wonderful thing, I guess.
6 September, 09
Because we liked to annoy ourselves, this morning first thing, we checked the computer, and it did not respond for the internet. Mwankenja arrived to take us to church. A different one than last week, but Lutheran none the less.
We sat in the front on the left side, immediately by the sound system, which was rather loud, to me at least. It’s difficult to feel comfortable at times in other churches, add to that an entirely different culture, and today I found it hard to always keep focused on the service. Even though it was a different culture, thanks be to God it was the same Lord we worshipped, and the experience of sharing the Eucharist was indescribable.
As like last week, we were invited to the pastor’s office for tea after the service. The tea was complete with rice, green bananas and meat, papaya and oranges. Most of the people at the tea were speaking Swahili, so we felt a little out of the main conversation, but the best was, did you notice, they did not serve tea.
The remainder of Sunday was a true Sabbath as we rested and just enjoyed each others company, thinking ahead to the coming week.
7 September 09
Back to the work week, if we were home in the States, it would be a holiday, Labor Day. But, we get our chance in Tanzania, to celebrate soon, when we celebrate Julius Nyerere Day to honor the death of the first president. He was well respected by many people.
Finally, I have real contact with the math tutor, Petro Kalowela. (Just like in Britain, the teachers are called tutors.) Mgogo, the academic dean, took me to Kalowela’s office and stood in the doorway and he could not get away. Petro and I talk for quite a bit about differences in education between Tanzania and the US. It was amusing that he kept giving me math problems – inserting them in our conversation – to see if I could solve them.
An example: “In Tanzania the primary schools are for seven years – If you had 8 problems on a test and missed 1, what would your score be” – as soon as I replied, “That would round to 88%” he said “and in our secondary schools either four or six years.” Rather odd, I thought. In case you were wondering, he did not stump me once on any of his questions. The hardest was probably which was longer, 10 cm or 4 in – its 4 inches.
Kalowela also gave me some test papers to correct and bring back in the morning. The test had to do with finding range, mean, mode, median, and standard deviation. It was fun to play teacher again.
I could give an update on our internet situation, but if you are reading my blog, apparently something worked.
The principal invited us to his house for dinner tonight. We went at the invited time, and the meal was served within a half hour – almost like in the states. Their house was exactly build like ours, and they had eight people living in it. I was not sure how everyone was related to everyone else, but extended families often live together here. The principal’s son, Ibrahim, and daughter, Ireni, are both young and quite adorable.
It was a friendly visit, with good food and pleasant conversation.
8 September 09
Today, I spent a few hours in the library with Verywell, the assistant academic dean; we formulated a plan of attack for starting work in the library. We made up a five step approach:
1. Clean the library
2. Catalogue the books by Dewey Decimal System
3. Construct a card satalogue
4. Place pockets in books then using cards to simplify checkout
5. Establish regular library hours
After our time together, I wrote a memo and gave it to the principal whose approval was needed before anything begins. What transpires next will be up to him.
At tea we chatted with the history tutor, Peter. Fred wanted to sit in on some of his classes, so hopefully next week that will be happening.
When we returned to our house, we found that Hiari had been working in the garden. She had purchased seeds for us at the local open air market, and was getting the ground ready. The seeds she bought were for greens that should be ready in a few weeks to harvest.
The power/electrical problem today was not just in our house, but was at least campus wide. Mwankenja stopped by to alert us. He also told us of our plans for the next few days. Tomorrow morning, he will stop and take us with him to a diocese meeting in Matema, passing through Tukuyu on the way. Matema is a resort of sorts on the northern shore of Lake Nyasa. We are looking forward to this, and plan to stay there through Saturday. Since geography is one of my hobbies, you may find a map of Tanzania helpful when you read my blog.
Now to the real issue of the day that needed to be decided – would we have cold chicken corn soup or cold fried hamburger; perhaps the standby peanut butter for afternoon tea? Decisions, decisions! Before the power outage, our thoughts had been spaghetti with meat sauce and then the soup for tomorrow’s morning tea before we left.
Just as the power returned, two students that I had met on campus stopped by to visit. Karibuni, is what one says to greet more than one person, so karibuni. Lulu and Masha sat on our porch with us for a bit, to talk, then two of their friends, Mary and Jesca, joined us, bringing with them unripe peaches they had recently picked.
We invited them inside for tea, except for Lulu who didn’t like tea – she and I had water. I also served some dried plums we had brought from home. The young ladies were very nice, taught me some Swahili words, signed our guest book, and smiled when I took their picture. This was some of what I envisioned when I thought about coming to Tanzania, enjoying being with the students.
9 September 09
Matema ho! This was the day that we head off to Lake Nyasa. Early German missionaries, from Bavaria, had established a mission there in the late 19th century.
Before we left, the principal asked me to his office, and we discussed the library plans that I had given him earlier. He was pleased with my thoughts and was ready to begin this coming Monday.
Since we were leaving at 9:30, we were off – at least as far as Mwankenja’s house - for he had not yet packed or had his morning tea. His wife’s maandazi were excellent, and we met his oldest child, Eliazer, who was home on vacation from boarding school. By eleven, we began our ascent to Tukuyu in earnest. The diocese offices were located there. It was a paved road, so the traveling went fairly well, but the altitude change was abrupt.
Once in the city, we stopped by the church offices, and we were introduced to many of the personnel. Mwankenja had some brief work to do there, and then we were off again, this time for a stop at the unfinished Lutheran cathedral. This cathedral has been under construction for several decades. Cathedrals were often “still under construction” all throughout history, if I remember correctly. This one was begun on a pinnacle in the town and is lovely. Although unfinished, it housed an active congregation.
Now we headed back to the Tanzanian road system with which we were quite familiar – unpaved, ungraded, extremely dusty. Tukuyu was about halfway to Matema, so a long second half of the journey awaited us. We all had arm exercises as we opened and closed the windows. When no vehicle was passing us, we had the windows down for a cool breeze, but we rolled them up quickly, which kept out the dust cloud, as a car or truck zipped past.
We were definitely in rural Tanzania. The banana trees and tea plants grew right up to the road, and pyramids of Irish potatoes for sale tottered along the roadside. The climate was such that three potato crops a year could be cultivated.
We were gradually descending in altitude and the temperature was increasing. Later in the afternoon, we stopped at a group of buildings built by the Germans in the colonial period. Several of the buildings had been reconstructed in the authentic manner to preserve their historical significance. Nearby, was Crater Lake, where we paused to eat the lunch that we had brought along.
It was tranquil by the lake, as we sat near women doing their laundry. This was Mwankenja’s home area, his father had swum in the lake as a young boy. It was not much further to his parents’ farm. We met the family, which included a younger brother who did the active farming. The farm had a shallow well, but no electricity, and the farm house had dirt floors; a typical farm complete with cows, chickens and goats. Cacao and mango trees and bananas abounded, and I was able to eat a cacao bean fresh from the pod. I think that I liked cacao better after Nestle or Ghirardelli had worked with it.
Mwankenja’s father had been a Lutheran pastor, having served a parish many years ago, for eight months, for a church in New Mexico. Unfortunately his health was not good at present.
As the sky darkened, the last leg of the journey continued and finally concluded around seven at the Matema Lutheran Centre. Bishop Mwakyolile was there and greeted us both. I believe that it is a sign of our advancing years how tired long vehicle trips made us. We were definitely tired, but went to dinner and sat with the bishop at his table.
I should mention that we had probably the best hut on the lake front. The bishop said that we should stay in the one he usually stayed in. We can sit on our porch or look out our bedroom window and watch Lake Nyasa’s waves crashing on the shore. Mwankenja, Fred, and I walked down to the water’s edge before we turned in for a good night’s rest.
10 September 09
Today, the executive council of the Konde Diocese began its meeting, and after opening devotions, Fred and I were introduced. He finally got to wear one of the three suits he had brought with him to Tanzania. Each of us spoke briefly in English while Mwankenja translated. We then listened until tea time to Mwankenja’s presentation about Mbeya Lutheran Teachers’ College becoming a university, without the benefit of a translator. It was not the most exciting way to spend time.
Kai and three other Germans were there, and because they were all staying in Tanzania for extended periods, had automatic seats on the executive council. For most of the remainder of the day, we enjoyed being at the resort. I used the term resort loosely, if you could picture Camp Nawakwa, with a lovely beach, but with only electricity for four hours in the evening and no screens, then you had an idea of what Matema was like. I should have mentioned that occasionally we would have more electricity, when the small nearby hospital had to do surgery, they would turn on the generator extra for that.
The most interesting sight we witnessed was the large truck/bus that was stuck in the sand near the main building. For several hours, various techniques were attempted to get it loose, but to no avail. Small trucks and large trucks pulling, digging by the wheels and packing rocks and placing lumber at the wheel and, running water to harden the sand were all employed. In the end, when seven men also pushed, the truck came free and was able to drive out of the hole. We later saw the vehicle loaded with members of a Moravian Church choir that had come to the beach and made a video. Loaded was an understatement, the bed was packed, but I believe that they were only standing one layer deep.
Later Mwankenja had some free time, so we walked to another beach. Along the way, we passed a woman who was working with cassava to make flour. The Lutheran Hospital and the Lutheran Bible School, where he had been the principal were near by. The school had a tent making philosophy – just like in the New Testament – the students learned both a trade and theology in preparation for becoming evangelists for churches.
Evangelists were Christians trained to do basic church work, but were not ordained. Many evangelists later took additional courses and then sought ordination. The woman who had conducted the service at the Lutheran church we attended our first Sunday in Tanzania, was an evangelist.
We returned to Matema in time for dinner and ate with Edward, the assistant to the Bishop. We had met him briefly in June when he had attended our synod meeting here in the States. We found him to be quite an interesting dinner companion, and the fact that his English was excellent added to the fact. Perhaps the language barrier was too difficult to overcome for some. I had looked forward to talking with many of the women at Matema, but most of them though friendly would not engage in conversation with me beyond basic greetings. At one meal, we dined with several men who also were quite polite and friendly, but our conversation did not go farther than it had with the women.
11 September 09
The day began as at Mbeya with morning devotions – today Mwankenja was in charge. The German woman who was a pastor in the one district of Konde, shared her hymnal with us. It seemed to be a belief for most of the Tanzanians that if you were white, then you must be German. Many times they would work very hard to greet us in German or inquire as to where in Germany we lived. I felt bad telling them that they were wrong, so often, if one said Guten Tag (German for good morning) merely in passing, I would just respond in German to them. My one semester of college German came in handy. The Germans’ relationship with the people, dating back to the colonial days, had extended for a much longer time period than the American one.
For exercise and cultural growth, we took a 5 km walk to Ikombe Market. It was a good walk, but I would have enjoyed it more if it had not been in the heat of the day. I wished that I had taken my hat for some sun protection, but I did have my sunscreen. Since we were very close to the equator, the sun was quite intense.
This was probably the typical African village that I was expecting when we came here. Bamboo structures with grass thatched roofs, small children not always fully clothed, and people being what I considered African. You must realize that this view is courtesy of my experience with National Geographic Magazine.
Ebitha, Mwankenja’s wife, who had joined us in Matema, had lived and worked there before she married. As we traveled, she greeted many people, as did Mwankenja. It was a slow walk, as we spoke to people and meandered from one side of the path to another seeking the shade.
A friend of Ebitha, made clay pots for which the village is famous, so we procured two. They are of the local clay, and thrown for shaping. The kiln that was used is merely a pit lined with dried banana leaves, then set ablaze. The largest of the pots were used for keeping water cool, but since we were under size constraints, the ones that we bought as kumbu – souvenirs - were small. Ebitha got a few of the large pots and carried them on her head, but I did not risk transporting mine that way.
Besides the pottery, the village economy mainly subsisted on the fish that the men would catch every night out on the lake from their dugout canoes. The fish were sardine size, and we had had some for lunch one day; they were delicious fried - bones, heads and all. My only disappointment about our village visit was my inability to take many pictures. Mwankenja warned me that the people do not like to have their pictures taken; out of respect photos were limited.
The people who were attending the diocese meetings took there work very seriously They met in an open air pavilion, even working by flashlight as the sky darkened and the time for the generator had not yet arrived. Most evenings, they did not stop for dinner until well after 8:30. I must add however, that everybody did know what was important, they always stopped twice a day without fail for their tea.
The resort had a small museum that Fred and I enjoyed looking at. It contained much history of the German colonial period and the indigenous people. All in all, the trip to Matema was quite worthwhile. Tomorrow, we headed back to Mbeya.
12 September 09
After breakfast we thanked the Bishop and Edward, his assistant, and packed up to begin the drive back. First stop was for fresh fish near by. It must have been a good idea since the Bishop’s car is there and his staff is also buying fish. Then rice from a friend and bananas from Ebitha’s relatives.
We continue on slowly leaving the Matema area and drive past long expanses of rice fields. With a slight detour on a paved road we come to the Malawi border. The Songwe River is the official dividing line. We get out of the vehicle and walk over the bridge to the Malawi Customs gate - adding another country to our list of ones that we have visited, but barely.
Now with no more unpaved roads to travel on, we were headed home. The air cools as we ascend to Tukuyu. Mwankenja begins to notice a slight hesitancy when switching gears - definitely an omen. Through Tukuyu and a little beyond it happens; or rather nothing happens, at least as far as having the vehicle in gear.
This is where we realize that we are in an entirely different culture. People come out of no where to help push us off of the road to safety. Of course much advice is offered by everyone as to what the problem is.
Mwankenja had borrowed the vehicle from a pastor friend; so after he buys some air time for his phone, he calls the owner, he calls the bishop, he calls Matema, he calles the diocese office, but no response
Fortunately we are in a small town that has a Lutheran church, and Mwankeja tells Fred, Ebitha, and me to go to the church while he stayd with the vehicle and continuesto try to contact someone who could help.
About a mile away, the three of us come to the church. Ebitha knocks on the door of the parsonage and just goes in and sits down. In a bit, an older women comes in and sits down and greeted Ebitha. I assume they know each other, both being pastors’ wives.
Actually, they have never met, the husbands have never met, we just sit in their house for almost two and a half hours, drinking soda while Mwankenja makes contact with the vehicle owner, who drives up from Mbeya with his mechanic, who then fixes the car. Mwankenja calls us, so we say goodbye and continue on our way home.
So, tell me, could this have happened in the States - Walk into a total stranger’s house, and sit down, plus be served drinks AND probably more amazing, get a mechanic on a lte Saturday afternoon to come and fix your car!
We make it back without further incident, and it is good to be home. Praise God for his blessings.
13 September 09
Today for the first Sunday in TZ we decided to not attend worship. Mwankenja was called unexpectedly to preach two services at a local church, so we would have no translator.
We slept in and then, I had brought along an old small hymnal from the States, we looked up the appropriate readings for the Sunday in ordinary time and discussed between ourselves some of the verses. Then, we sang a few of the suggested hymns together. This was all the more amazing since neither of us can carry a tune at all, but it was a joyful noise unto the Lord. Joyful, not tuneful!
Hiari stopped by in the afternoon and gave us our clay pots that had been in Mwankenja’s bag. We all looked at the garden together and there was the beginning of something green. Fred continued in his quest to sit on our porch and snap a picture of the black and white crow that often perches near to us.
The principal’s wife who is going to school for her diploma to teach history in a secondary school also stopped by for a short visit. She had been busy all day doing laundry and was tired. The principal had taken the small children and gone to church to pray. As yet, I have not figured out what women’s place is in society in Tanzanian culture.
We took our usual walk circumnavigating the entire fenced college community. There was almost a path the whole distance around, just an occasional bit of harvested corn field here and there. Both of us have found our walking sticks to be quite useful when out and about.
Tonight for supper, we worked some more on our chicken corn soup. The second time that we ate it we added some fried off hamburger, left over from spaghetti sauce, to make enough. We had some left, so we put it in the frig and now we added some left over baked potato to stretch it. There was still some left, but it gets tastier each time. Don’t know what we will add for the next serving. Who knows, remnants of the soup may out last our stay in Tanzania!
14 September 09
Back to the week day grind. Hiari was here most of the day doing up all the laundry from our trip to Matema. When she irons in the afternoon, and she actually presses everything - socks included - I usually sit by her and have a Swahili lessons. I do know more than I did.
This morning at Morning Devotions we sang a song called “Alleluia Bwana”, translated Alleluia Lord. It just had those two words and for the first time I understood all the words to a song.
The real work in the library has begun. The cataloging is a little tricky. I have one very old Dewey Decimal book and no real internet time. I shudder to think what a real librarian might think of some of the choices I have made, but I believe that basic cataloging, however, is better than none.
It is sad that many people and groups have sent book donations to the school without being aware of what the needs are. There is quite a supply of books on evangelism, very old devotional books, and dilapidated books of all types.
Like any teachers' school, they are in dire need of up to date text books. The few text books that they have may only be checked out for an hour or two at a time and then you see several students together huddled around it at the same time.
I am sorry to report that we have finished our soup tonight; we added some freeze dried peas and tomatoes we had brought from the States. The result was the best soup yet.
15 September 09
The 15th of September and almost a third of our time here has passed. I believe that we are settling in to the school, and that our work is going well.
The religion books in the library are all catalogued now, and I plan to put the numbers on the spines next. I will then move on to the 300’s, which are social sciences, including education. This may require some help since some of the books are written in Swahili.
I made a shopping list of a few things we needed, and Fred and Hiari headed off to the open air market about a mile away. Hiari is such a delight; before walking to market she put on her good clothes to be seen with Mr. Fred. It is humbling that she thinks so highly of us.
We have never been gourmet cooks, and things have not changed for us in Tanzania. We have the basics – my pot doubles well as a mixing bowl; converting to metric – no problem, we have no measuring spoons or cups and the oven is not accurate anyway. We make do with what we have and little goes to waste. I find that I do not miss the mega supermarkets back home.
Our evenings are usually spent reading at our home. Fred had brought a substantial stack of paperbacks with him from PA and has worked his way through at least six of them. He enjoys crime novels and has found an English teacher here that shares this passion – so he is passing them on. What am I reading? My Swahili phrase book and I work my Sudoku and other puzzles. Although today, I found an atlas of Tanzania at the library and brought it home to study this evening.
16 September 2009
It has been a while since we have had plumbing issues, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when there was no water this morning. We always keep some boiled water on hand, so morning ablutions were possible, but brief.
My day started in the library cataloging books, but right before tea time, the matron came to invite me to play net ball with the other women this afternoon. I didn’t know what net ball was, but said yes anyway. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I have not played any real sports since the early 70’s. Walking is more my style.
First, picture a basketball court on a rough, dry, short cut hay field, two posts that wobble when touched – one at each end – having hoops without nets or backboards. I immediately ruled out dribbling!
To start, the ball is thrown high in the air at the center of the field and anyone who can get to it grabs it. Then as everyone runs to one of the hoops the ball is passed back and forth briskly. The most interesting rule is that when a person has possession of the ball, no other player may come closer than one meter to her.
So the game speeds along up the court until a player is close to the hoop. Then so politely, everyone waits for the person to take a shot I kept wanting to grab the ball like in basketball, and yes the referee kept blowing her whistle on me.
The real problem was that after four times back and forth on the court, I went back again but ran out of energy to go forth. I’ll let Fred tell you about his similar experiences with the male teachers on the football (soccer) field.
We had the pleasure today of meeting the former principal of the college; he had just retired the end of June. A delightful gentleman, who answered many of the questions we had about the general operation of the school and how one qualifies to become a teacher in Tanzania. And of course, what would a meeting here be without tea? Well not a meeting at all!
Early this evening we experienced the first rain of our time here in Africa. It was just a brief shower, and we do not know if this portends the start of the rainy season or not. We will have to wait and see.
17 September, 09
An interesting occurrence at morning devotions today; they are student led, with students often giving a brief talk. The young man who spoke this morning was of a very strong charismatic bent, vigorously yelling and gesticulating. Mwankenja, the chaplain, who was sitting in the rear by Fred and me, let him go on for a bit, but when he mentioned that tree worship was a good thing as long as you were filled with the spirit, Mwankenja went to the front and asked him to sit down.
Fred attempted to get on Mgogo’s good side today. Mgogo is the academic dean and unfortunately his oral English skills are not the best. We have had a lot of difficulty in our conversations. Yesterday, he asked to have Fred’s hat, and Fred, who always wears a hat to protect his head from sunburn, had to refuse. So, today, he took an extra hat with him and gave it to Mgogo. He seemed pleased and I spied him wearing it later in the day.
Two major events in our lives – first we bought more air time for the computer. This is never as easy as it first appears. The voucher went to the wrong sim card – and I have no idea what that means, but after several phone calls and a trip back to the voucher house, with a translator, we are back on line.
The other event was my cooking lesson from Hiari for coconut beans. A basic enough recipe. Of course this is Tanzania. First, sort and put the beans to soak – simple enough. Second, crack the coconut, by hitting it against a pointed rock, rotating it slightly with each hit (a little harder but not much) Third, (and this is the tricky part) borrow a mbuzi from the neighbor; a mbuzi is a low to the ground folding chair with a rasp sticking out on one end – one sits sideways on the chair and grates the inside of the two shell halves, Fourth, then you pour hot water on the grated coconut to cover well, and finally squeeze by hand the resulting milky liquid into the simmering pot of beans. Fifth, continue cooking until the power failure. Sixth, set the not as yet fully cooked beans aside and plan something else for dinner. And seventh, hope to continue lesson tomorrow.
The day ends with the hope that the neighbor’s rooster is not by our bedroom window at 4:00 AM tomorrow, singing “Cock a leelee loo”, which is Swahili for cock a doodle doo, as he was today.
18 September, 09
One finds out what is happening at the school, not by memos or announcements, but by observing the students and staff. We noticed that no one was in any of the classrooms this morning after morning devotions. Surprise, there are no classes today, rather there is to be a big assembly program - variety show to welcome the first year class that started in July.
The students hosed down the floor in the assembly building to lay the dust, and they put up bunting for decoration. There was a head table for the dean and other officials. The staff, tutors and lesser lights (which included Fred and me) sat up front and off to the side. Chairs had been gathered from all over campus, so every student had one, or at least half of one.
Even though Mwankenja wasn't there, which meant no translator, we enjoyed the program a lot. Native singing and dancing, comedy skits, a soda drinking contest, all interspersed with brief remarks.
We were astute enough to listen, so when the matron said Karen and Fred, followed by Karibuni (welcome), we stood up and responded with "Asante sana" meaning thank you very much.
Some of the native dancing included an ngoma by the Nyakyusa students and those on staff of that tribe joined in. Nyakyusa is Mwankenja's and the bishop's native tribe. With mop handles in place of spears and also drums and face paint, they sang and danced. All in all the assembly was great! I took pictures, but I think they will not do it justice. You had to have been there.
After a short break, the netball game was played; unfortunately the students outscored the staff, but it was great fun. Don't ask me how I did! Then it was Fred's turn on the playing field with the staff vs student football (soccer) contest.
Hiari today found some old screen to put over the young plants in our garden. Not only does the neighbor's rooster wake us too early in the morning, he also brings his harem of hens to feast on our salad greens. The thoughts that I am beginning to have concerning the rooster, I fear are not Christian. If maybe he could encourage the hens to leave an egg or two in exchange for the produce they eat, I might feel more kindly towards him. The weekend awaits.
19 September 09
Today is the day Verywell is coming for morning tea. Verywell is the English/Communication tutor and also at one time ran the library. Fred and I both have very positive feelings for him. He is both quite personable and has excellent English.
The other day, when he stopped by the library,, he inquired if we had any English books he could visit. So we invited him to our house for tea. It is always a good thing to have company; one tidies the house. I brought out the English grammar language books I had with us, and he took three of the four back home with him. We said that we needed to keep at least one here for our own use.
Fred made bannock first thing this morning to have for tea. Actually, he made an ample supply, that should last us for several days. Hiari came and watered the garden and put more screening down for chicken proofing. They had been back to dine and left a black feather behind as proof of their dastardly daring.
Verywell was right on time at 10:00 am. Fred was pleased to learn that he doesn’t like milk in his tea either. Both of them drink it with milk at the canteen for morning tea, since that is the only way that it is served.
Our conversation ranged over many topics from Tanzanian bride prices, quality of education in the country, financing of retirement, the Kiswahili/English debate, and electricity availability and pricing. It was a good time for all of us. He has promised to bring me a list of some Tanzanian authors and their books – in translation of course.
Hiari was upset about something this morning, but I am not sure why. She said that she need to go to church to pray at 10:00 am. I told her that wasn’t a problem, but a couple times, I noticed her wiping her eyes as if she had been crying. I don’t know what is troubling her.
We were to have gone with Mwankenja to a wedding this afternoon, but something must have come up for him. He never came to get us, so we just had a peaceful Saturday at home.
20 September 09
I love to sleep in on Sundays – not long, jut enough so it feels like a day off. Since Mwankenja is not around, after our 10 am tea we again have our own devotions and sing a few hymns.
This afternoon for fun, we head to the library, and Fred is ecstatic – we catalogue math books. He gets as excited about math as I did about the law and government books we had done earlier.
Fred’s day to be chef, and he concocted a stew of sorts from what he could manage to find – tomatoes, cabbage, dried apples, potatoes, carrots, rice, and salt and pepper. Meat is pretty much a rarity. The stew is not bad, and we will probably get two more meals from it.
We are concerned about Mwankenja, not having heard anything from him since Thursday afternoon when he was leaving to visit his father near Matema. We hope that everything is going well with him.
21 September 09
Up as usual, and off to morning devotions. Remember what I had written before about seeing where the students are to know what was happening where and when – well no students at the assembly hall, so that probably means no morning devotions.
Today is the last day of Ramadan – a holy day for the Islamic faith – so a national holiday. In Tanzania, we discover, the holy days for both Christians and Muslims are considered national holidays, and everything shuts down for them.
The mystery of Mwankenja’s absence was solved this morning when he came to campus and stopped by the library where Fred and I were working. (We decided to work even though it was a holiday) He had gone to his parents, who were feeling better, but his uncle was ill, and he returned too late to pick us up for the wedding, but the church was filled with a swarm of bees, and the ceremony was delayed three hours to fumigate, and his cell phone was out of charge.
The end result was he’s fine, had been fine all weekend and it didn’t occur to him that we might be concerned. This is Africa, after all, where people don’t really make plans, they make dreams.
I guess he felt bad after talking to us, since he then offered to take us to Mbeya to do some shopping. The local market, which is within walking distance, is very limited in what it offers.
Mwankenja’s vehicle, a decrepit Suzuki, is the main means of transportation. Poor Fred, he sits in the back – and it is difficult to enter and exit. We first went to a stationery store and bought some note cards and stamps. The stamp to mail to the States costs Tsh800, but they were out of them. There were a few Tsh400 stamps and lots of Tsh230 and Tsh170. I had about ten cards already written just waiting for stamps with me. The clerk in the store carefully fit the three stamps, one of each, on each little postcard. They just fit without covering any of the address or message. I think he spent about 15 minutes till he had carefully wet and positioned all the stamps.
Then to a market to buy a broom for Hiari. I obviously do not clean enough. Did you know that there are specific brooms for rough surfaces, smooth surfaces, in between surfaces, inside, outside, five different lengths of straw, and several more lengths of handles. And, all my life I had gotten by at home with merely two brooms one for outside and one for inside.
The most important stops were the little grocery store with refrigeration, where we found cheese and several other food supplies; the fish store for king fish and sardines; and a final stop by the open market for bananas. Just like brooms, there are many different kinds of bananas. The ones we bought there are for fresh eating, not cooking, but they are green when ripe, and quite good, I might add.
After arriving back home, we relaxed and read, then heated up some of Fred’s stew for dinner. Hiairi and I are planning to prepare some fish tomorrow.
22 September 09
If we were home, today would be the first day of Autumn – here officially, I guess it is the first day of spring. Since they don’t pay attention to those seasons, but rather the short rains, the long rains, and the dry season – spring means little here.
With Mwankenja’s help, I procured stamps at the school office. Two each of the Tsh230 and Tsh170 equals Tsh800. The little note cards I had bought have envelopes just big enough to hold all four of them.
Kalowela, the math tutor was not here this morning – so I assumed that meant no math class. I was right! Fred and I worked in the library – maktaba in Kiswahili. My office is officially the library, but Fred doesn’t have one. We actually had someone come into the library today to look for a book on a specific subject – a first.
The tutors are quite in a tizzy right now. In Tanzania, all requirements for courses come from a single office in Dar es Salaam. The principal just got an e-mail that all the syllabi are changing for all subjects. Second year students may get their certificates under the old program, but the 1st year class which is halfway through their first semester needs to switch to the new requirements.
This means the tutors must write all new lesson plans beginning almost immediately. If you’ve ever taught; it is like having to begin with a new textbook when you were quite comfortable with the old. Nobody here is happy. The English teacher is particularly concerned since the college does not own some of the novels that he is now to cover in his course in literature.
Today, Hiari showed me how to prepare dagaa nyasa – the little sardine type fish that we had enjoyed at Matema. We had them for afternoon tea, along with rice and cooked pumpkin leaves. To fix, she first rubbed each little fish with salt then fried them in very hot oil for just a few minutes. They were crunchy and tasty.
Every evening on our walk, we attempt a little bit of a different route, but always to have some contact with the students. It is a continual process to learn another Kiswahili word or phrase. After coming back to the house, I practiced my numbers in Kiswahili, after all I am a math tutor.
23 September 09
When Mwankenja is at morning devotions, we all sit up front together while he translates. I think that I enjoy sitting in the back more.
Wonder of wonders, I have my own key to the library. The lock was changed yesterday, and I received one of the new keys. It will be good not to have to go to the office every time I want into the library.
But the most interesting happening of the day was when Kalowela, the math tutor asked me to come to his math class and there really was a math class. I sat in the back and listened while he lectured in Kiswahili. All at once, he said, “Madame Karen, explain this to the students like they were in America.”
I honestly didn’t know what his lesson was about - from the back of the assembly hall I couldn’t even see the blackboard. When I went closer to the front, I realized he was using <> symbols, which stand for less than and greater than in math expressions. Fortunately, I have learned the Kiswahili numbers, and using number lines I gave many examples of <>.
Then the tutor said to add equals to the mix. Actually, it was fun. The class was basic math concepts and methods for primary teachers. Because primary schools here in Tanzania are not taught in English, their teacher instruction is not in English either.
By the end of the class, I believe they had an understanding of what I said. Fred also taught a communication class today, but he had the advantage of knowing in advance and had made lesson plans. His class was also for students preparing to teach on the secondary level, so their instructional language is English.
Fred and I are finishing the day, each with a novel by an African writer, that Verywell had lent to us.. Fred is about a third of the way through his book, and his comment was, “Is this book to have a plot?” Mine is a little better.
24 September 09
I so enjoy never knowing what the schedule is like. It keeps things from getting dull and monotonous. Morning devotions were at 7:00 this morning, not 7:30. The students are having some sort of exams, so the time changed.
Because of campus wide exams - no classes. there is always the library to work in. I learned two new phrases today. One for necessity sake and one for politeness sake. The necessity sake phrase was “kikopu cha takatake kimejaa” - meaning the paper can is full. In the library, I had filled the paper can over the past several weeks and needed to empty it, but didn’t know where.
My other phrase was “samahani kwa usumbufu” meaning sorry to disturb you. When I need to ask some one something, it is more polite to say this first. The one thing which I have learned about the people of Tanzania, is they are very polite. My typical American manners need to be refined more.
This afternoon, I opened Karen’s barbershop and trimmed Fred’s hair. It had begun to look little ragged around the edges. It wasn’t as good as job as his barber back home does, but I didn’t charge him anything.
25 September 09
The exams continue as does our library work. Today, we worked from 7:30 to 2:00, with Fred taking a 10:00 tea break. People are beginning to stop at the library just to visit a bit. This makes our time much more enjoyable. Mwankenja has said that our purpose here is not solely to teach and do library work, but it is almost as important to develop relationships with people.
I am not sure how good an ambassador Fred or I are cut out to be, but we give thanks that God is with us. Yesterday, when I was sorting through some papers I had with me, a little notecard fell out. The card, which I did not realize I had brought with me, said “Don’t worry that you’re not strong enough before you begin. It is in the journey that God makes you strong.” Then it referenced Isaiah 58:11. “The Lord shall guide thee continually and satisfy thy soul.”
Mgogo, the academic dean, asked us to proctor some exams on Monday. I imagine students attempt to cheat pretty much the same way here as in the States. My only concern is if someone asks me a question – will I be able to understand her well enough to answer.
We are also making plans to visit the public library in downtown Mbeya sometime soon. It will be interesting to see how they organize their books. The college library is also to be open to the public when the cataloguing is finished.
Hiari is taking an English class in the evenings, so we both studied together a little in the afternoon. I was helping her with English, and she was helping me with Kiswahili.
After Fred’s and my early evening walk, the power went off for several hours. We sat in the dock with our flashlights at our sides. Later the school landrover drove up and delivered a letter. The driver was excited because it had come from America. Of course, we were quite excited also, so we sat on our couch and eagerly read it by flashlight. It was from a friend in Carlisle and greatly appreciated. It takes about 1 ½ weeks for a letter to come, and our address is
Mbeya Lutheran Teachers’ College
P.P. Box 3040
Yes, this is a blatant plug for mail.
A little bit later, the principal’s wife from next door brought a kerosene lantern over so we wouldn’t be in the dark. It is amazing how much one lantern can light up the room. It is also amazing to realize that she would share, for I am sure that in her house with eight people, the second lantern would have been useful.
26 September 2009
Today, we have been invited to Verywell’s house for lunch. I am looking forward to this very much. Fred made some cornbread this morning to take as a hostess gift. While he was baking, I did some mending on one of his shirts. The button holes and buttons both needed some work.
Verywell came to our house at two, and the three of us walked together about two miles to his house. The walk was not bad, a bit dusty and hot, but we kept up a steady stream of conversation the whole way.
He lives in a very nice house with a large courtyard complete with bananas trees, avocado trees, ducks, and chickens. His wife, Rhida was lovely, and he also has three young children, Priscilla, Ezekiel, and Doris living at home, in addition to two nephews and a niece. The one nephew was born on Good Friday, so that is his name. I heard Verywell call him Friday when speaking to him.
All six of the children greeted us politely by shaking hands and saying “Shikamoo” and we responded “Marahaba”. That is the greeting that one gives an older person, and the appropriate response.
Rhida had prepared a lovely Tanzanian meal complete with cold bottled water, which is not Tanzanian, but Fred and I enjoyed it. Drinks are hardly ever served cold here, usually room temperature – except tea or coffee which is piping hot.
After the meal, we sat in the living room for a bit watching television. Verywell asked if we had a camera; he wanted a picture of his family with the first white people who had ever been in his home. Now the fun began, it seems that no one but me could operate the camera. Verywell tried very hard and the one nephew, Geoffrey, also attempted. In the end we had pictures on the camera, and I promised to send them copies after we were back in the States in November.
Verywell insisted on walking back to our house the entire way, which was very kind. I felt bad that he ended up making two round trips to our one. He was very worried that two old people like us would get too tired along the way.
27 September 09
This morning we are going to worship in the oldest Lutheran church in Mbeya. Ebitha went along with us. Thankfully, they run on African time, since by my watch we were about twenty minutes late. The four of us squeezed into a back pew, but Mwankenja was wearing his clerics and was spied, so we all were led to seats in the front. Actually the one pastor got up from his bench in the chancel area and gave it to us, and if we thought that we were squeezed before, we were even more so now. As usual then at announcement time we were introduced.
The church was filled to overflowing, the ushers kept bringing in benches for people to sit on, even a row of them down the center aisle perpendicular to the pews – one would have thought that it was Christmas Eve. It was children and women’s Sunday; a special Sunday sat aside in the Tanzanian church year. All of the children participated in the service instead of being in their regular Sunday School classes. One boy recited the entire 25th chapter of Genesis, all 34 verses. After he was finished many people came up front and put money in a basket at his feet. Mwankenja said that the pastor, the parents, and the boy then would meet together and talk about how the money could be used.
This was the longest service we have been to on Sunday morning – three hours, In addition to the various recitations, songs, and dances by the children, the women’s group also honored the Sunday School teachers, and two different choirs had anthems. Add this to the normal liturgy, the regular sermon, the standard twenty minutes of announcements, and two offering times when everyone comes forward to place their offerings in the box in the chancel area and it was a long time to sit. I almost forgot that two families had Thanksgivings to give, which is when one at a time an extended family came to the front and sang and danced and put offerings in the box in response to something they were grateful for.
At the conclusion of the service, of course, was the auction of the in kind offerings. Someone bought Mwankenja some Chinese cabbage from the auction, which he shared with us.
Having tea with the pastor – seems to be a tradition for guests. At the pastor’s house were about ten people enjoying rice, chicken, greens, and many other foods. But strangely no tea, just soda and water. We visited for awhile there.
The members of the women’s group at the church were all dressed in dark purple dresses with white collars. Fred took my picture with Dorcas, the leader of the group. We also met a Lutheran deaconess who works at a nearby church orphanage, and we hope to make plans to visit there soon. This is the home congregation of the former college head, and he and his wife both greeted us also.
We stopped on the way home from church and bought a few English language newspapers, the first we have read since leaving the States. We now know a lot about current African news,a little bit of world news, and one article worth of American news. Without a television or radio and little internet time we were starting to feel really out of touch.
Mwankenja and Ebitha visited at our place for a while, and then Fred and I relaxed. Come supper time, we weren’t really hungry, so just had a bannock and a little peanut butter.
28 September 09
The last day of exams and we are to proctor some of them. Fred, with about 6 others, watched over a couple hundred students in the assembly hall, while I was in the dining hall with 2 tutors and a hundred students, It was interesting that Fred had a math exam and I had a social studies, since math is my area and history and government are his.
Fortunately, we didn’t see any cheating, and someone else was able to answer the few questions that the students raised about test questions. Walking about the room for two hours got tiring after a bit however.
Then at 10:30 was our promised trip to the public library in town. We first went to the main building to look at their card catalogue and how it was organized. The library was small, and surprisingly, in the entire collection there were very few Kiswahili books. Many people do not go on to secondary school, and therefore do not know English, so the library does not meet the needs of over half of the city’s population.
In the entire library was not one computer, and because it was the dry season, dust lay thickly everywhere.
On to the children’s section – if you have ever been to the public library in Carlisle, then you will understand my comparison – ½ the size with 1/10 the books. Most of the room is just empty space. A couple bins for picture books and about six shelves for regular children’s books, and most on the shelves are in English.
We returned to the college for more exam proctoring, which finished up around three. Oh, had I mentioned that there was no water anywhere on campus today? Nobody seems to know why. Hiari walked a mile to the market and bought a five gallon bucket with a lid and a one gallon lidded bucket. She then filled both with water and balanced one on the other, on top of her head and walked back to our house. That would be almost 50 pounds – and she did it twice! I have been told that the average African woman can carry up to 100 pounds on her head.
First: concerning Swahili and Kiswhili. Swahili refers to an area of East Africa, primarily the coastal region and the people who live there. Kiswahili is the name of the language that is spoken.
Second: When I speak of tutors, I am using British English – tutor in Britain means what we would call a teacher, not someone doing individual work with a student needing additional help. The country was under British control prior to independence so British English is the rule. Fred and I are sometimes caught off guard and have to translate in our heads some words and phrases into American English to understand just what people are saying.
Therefore when I say that Fred and I are tutors, it means that we are teachers, specifically Fred is teaching Communications and I am teaching Mathematics.
29 September 09
After 12 today, the students will be on vacation until October 15th. It is a mid term holiday; the term began in July and ends the latter part of December.
Today Hiari is going to bake fish and potatoes, then also Chinese cabbage in the Tanzanian style, which is finely chopped and cooked with a little salt, oil, and onion. We decide to invite Mwankenja to eat with us at 2:00 tea time.
We don’t seem to accomplish much today. The principal invites us to his office for morning tea, which lasts over an hour. Then there is an assembly that goes on for two hours. It was totally in Kiswahili, and Mwankenja wasn’t there to translate; one of the other tutors that I sat beside did an on gain off again English commentary so we were not totally in the dark.
The meeting was to alert students to the changes in the requirements for their degrees. The ministry in Dar es Salaam has ordered that the new requirements go into effect immediately upon the students return from vacation. Each faculty member spoke about how it would effect their subject, and students asked lots of questions.
After the assembly, there was a faculty meeting, and by the time that was over - tea time. Hiari prepared the meal and the four of us ate well.
I find that meetings can be more tiring than regular work, so not much else was done besides our regular early evening walk.
30 September 09
The last day of September, and even though the college is now on holiday, Fred and I are as busy as ever in the library. We are currently bogged down cataloguing the education section; what makes it a little slow going is translating Kiswahili titles to figure out what the books are about. Hisabati is math, urea is civics, sayansi is science, but there are other words in the title to figure out also. We had another batch of the sardine type fish for afternoon tea with rice and cabbage. I enjoy it when Hiari cooks.
Mwankenja has asked me to proofread his doctoral thesis, which is entitled The Ethical Dimension of Economic Globalization in Tanzania: An African Communal Perspective. The work was already approved, and he has his PhD, but he would like to get it published. It has been a while since I have read any heavy economics papers (I graduated in ’76 with my BA in economics and math), but I am enjoying wading through it.
Today was special, the power was off two different times: first in the late afternoon which wasn’t a problem, but later at 7 pm after it was dark. The campus night watchman dropped off two candles and a pack of matches – he must have noticed our house was dark.
We ended up going to bed early, and the power returned during the night.
1 October 09
Hiari and I had made plans to ride a dala-dala to Mbeya Town to do some shopping. We are planning to leave around 10 to avoid the morning rush. Dala-dalas are minibuses that many consider unsafe, and they are usually quite crowded. Often, you see people hanging by an arm and a leg off the side of one as it speeds along down the main road.
Mwankenja asked us not to do it today since many of the drivers are on strike, and the few buses running would be excessively crowded. The drivers are striking because two other drivers were convicted of assaulting would be passengers, and they wanted to show their support for them. Dala-dala riding is not for the faint hearted.
So, Mwankenja drove us to town to run our shopping errands. It was interesting to listen to him bargain in the main market. When the one person said that the broccoli was Tsh 5,000, he said, are you sure that you are not lying to me, I am a pastor, and that would not be good for you to lie to me. He got the price down to Tsh 2,000. He related this to me after we had paid for the produce. This is one reason why Fred and I do not go shopping just the two of us, even to the market that is only a mile away. We would probably end up paying excessive amounts for what we bought.
The evening we spent checking our e-mails and blogging.
2 October 09
This is a day to put a star beside on the calendar. We got a package from home. A friend from church sent some practical things (toilet paper), but the best part was the newspapers from home full of local news, and also some church bulletins/weekly news letters. I cannot tell you how great it was to read them all. I don’t think that there was one article or ad that we skipped over. Thanks!
So aside from usual library work and our package perusing, not much else was accomplished. Fred and I spent the evening doing a Sunday crossword puzzle from our gift box.
3 October 09
The campus is so quiet with many of the students away on break. Notice that I did not mention that our friend the rooster has taken a holiday; he hasn’t
In the excitement over the package yesterday, I forgot to mention I had a visit from Janeth. She is a pastor here and has been to the States; she was the Konde Diocese’s representative when Carol Hendrix was installed as our bishop in Pennsylvania some years ago.
A woman, whom I know through a church women’s group at home, also knows Janeth and had sent along a gift for me to deliver. Shirley, if you are reading my blog, you now know that I have made good on my delivery promise.
The former principal has invited us to his house for tea at three this afternoon. The driver who speaks no English came for us at 3:30 to take us. The former principal and his wife were lovely hosts, but they spoke in Kiswahili most of the time. leaving Fred and I a little out of the loop.
The principal, who had studied for his master’s in Canada, related the following story about his experience there. He visited a primary school to talk to the children. The children, expecting Africans to be naked, said to him, “Where did you get your clothes?” He pulled their legs by answering, “I was fortunate enough to be able to buy them at the airport when I landed.” The children also inquired about what it was like to live in the jungle. Tanzania, of course does not have a jungle to speak of. He said that his government saves the tallest tree with the longest vine for the ambassador from Canada. Before he left the school, he assured them that he had been joking.
The table at the house groaned with food, but the best thing was the fresh pineapple – absolutely delicious and not long picked from the tree. When we left, “Mama” Principal gave me a basket with two dozen eggs.
4 October 09
Growing up at home, the first Sunday in October, I remember as World Wide Communion Sunday. Because of both the shortage of pastors here and the cost of wine, communion is not celebrated often, and today was no exception.
We went to a Lutheran church in Songwe, which is a little beyond the perimeter of Mbeya, but the opposite side of the city from where we live. It was about 20 km, a rather time consuming trip. Compared to the churches that we have been to before, which were large city type congregations, this one was small and more rural. The regular choir was taking the Sunday off, so the children sang instead. I am really getting to enjoy the choir music, they sing with their whole hearts, and even my staid, old Lutheran feet start tapping along.
As usual, we were introduced during the service, and invited to the pastor’s office afterwards for tea. A church elder and the head of the building and grounds were also there. To help meet their budget, the church is constructing a strip mall on their property along the road. They also have plans for a parking lot for large trucks. The church sits on the main road from Nairobi to Capetown. The evangelist, who was presiding at today’s service, said that the people in the church have stopped crying, “Who will come and help us support our church?” They are hoping to do it themselves. Evangelists, I have mentioned before, are trained church workers, but not ordained. In their training they also learn a trade to help support themselves, since most churches do not pay them much.
On our travels to and from church we saw where the Mbeya airport is being constructed and also the train station for the main railway that runs from Dar Es Salaam into Zambia. A poignant stop was at a church run orphanage. The children there are a mixture of abandoned children from the street, and children whose parents have died from HIV/AIDS. Mwankenja’s wife until recently had worked as a nurse there, but is now nursing at a hospital closer to home. After a final stop for bananas and avocados, we arrived home.
5 October 09
This has to be the windiest place we have ever spent time. This morning, as we were sitting in the library listening to the wind howling, I wished we were home and it was January and snow was drifting outside instead of dust storms.
Many people here do not understand how we can live in a place that gets as cold as Pennsylvania some winters. The temperature here stays fairly moderate year round and the concept of needing a furnace or air conditioner is unfathomable.
The national government is using Mbeya College as a site for some nation wide testing. That is one reason why the college students have a vacation at this time. The tests were brought to campus under armed guard. The school even put a door frame and door on the main assembly building, so it can be locked when each testing session begins. No late comers allowed.
We can now add termites to the various animals that have come to live in our house – mound building ones no less – and in the bathroom. Yesterday we also were up close and personal with a lovely pinky orange and turquoise lizard at the church we attended. The lizards that live at our house are just drab colored.
Mwankenja is in Dar Es Salaam for a few days, but before he left he dropped off a battery powered short wave radio at the house. We are trying to figure out how it works, so we can get a little news from the BBC, which of course broadcasts in English.
Hiari and I did a little cooking together this afternoon. She had never prepared broccoli before; interestingly a lot of cabbage is grown here, but not much broccoli. We trade back and forth American and Tanzanian recipes and techniques. It seems most vegetables here are cooked with a little oil, a little salt, and a little onion; they are also finely chopped.
If all goes well in a day or two, we will cook the second chicken we have living in our courtyard. Hiari bought her for us at market the past weekend. I am hungry for chicken and dumplings, but I’m not sure how my dumplings will turn out. I’ll let you know how the meal goes.
6 October 09
This morning on our way to the library, we stopped and talked with some of the guards, who are currently on campus. Their English was fairly good, and we had a good chat. They don’t seem as frightening up close. The one had a small stuffed panda stuck on the end of his rifle.
The principal spied us and invited us into his office. He talked over a half hour about many things, but we finally made our get away and got to the library.
At two, Hiari prepared afternoon tea using greens for the first time from our own garden. She chopped and did them Tanzanian style. We also had rice, hard boiled eggs and avocado to finish off the meal.
The two of us had our afternoon language class after tea. In her class, she is studying the past tense and past participles of verbs. I had to stop and think on several of them. Be honest, without pausing to think, could you say the parts of lie? Okay, I’ll help – lie, lay, lain.
Fred and I were both reading a little before eight o’clock when the power suddenly went out. We thought we were prepared however, but when I used my flashlight to get a match and light a candle – surprise, none of the matches in our box had heads on them! Add matches to the shopping list. It was an early bedtime for us.
7 October 09
I was just going to write that today was a dull ordinary day, but when I really stop to think, it was a great day. The sky is a gorgeous blue, the view of the mountain is crystal clear, everybody greeted me with a smile, and we were able to accomplish a lot in the library. I’m thinking of a chorus I sometimes sing to myself: “This is the day that the Lord has made – We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
We are fortunate that even though there is no power for us to cook afternoon tea at the house, the college dining hall cooks with charcoal and we were able to buy cooked rice, tomatoes and bananas and not go hungry.
Hiari left early around two, to ride the dala-dala to town and get us a few things: matches with heads and a baking pan so we can make escalloped potatoes, which we have both developed a desire for. I had written down dimensions for a metal pan and given her what she thought it might cost. I told her just to bring them when she came the next day.
Several hours later, we heard her at our courtyard door. She had been to town, and had not been able to find the size pan I had asked for, but brought back five different ones of various sizes, so I could choose. When I asked if she had had enough money, and would it be hard to return the ones that I didn’t want, she said that she hadn’t had enough money, but left her cell phone with the pan dealer. Tanzanian economy works differently from American. Two of the pans together served my purposes, so Hiari left with the other three and a little more money. I hope that she will be able to get her cell phone back.
8 October 09
Yes, when Hiari came this morning, she had her cell phone and no extra pans.
Fred stayed at the house a little longer today to supervise the demise of our “Kuku” He wanted to show Hiari how to do a chicken in a stew pot; that apparently is not a Tanzanian way to fix chicken.
I went ahead to the library to get started on the work, and I discovered that the library aide had chosen today to come back from her maternity leave. Her baby Happy is three months old.
So a lot of time was spent trying to explain what it was Fred and I were doing there. The English/Kiswahili problem was much in evidence. Actually, it was quite frustrating for us, so I only can imagine how frustrating it must have been for her to find us there. It is important that she understand what is happening since we are leaving in November and the library will be in her care. Tomorrow will be another day to try again.
We had lots of company this afternoon. First Mwankenja, who is back from Dar Es Salaam, brought Doris to the library to see us. Doris, a German university student in theology, will be working at a Lutheran secondary school for six months teaching religion. Her English was excellent so we were able to converse easily.
Later Hiari’s English teacher stopped by to see us her. Her classes are in the evening about a mile from our house. Right after he left, a friend of Hiari’s named Gladness came. She wanted to talk English, and she did – for over two hours. The final visitors were Mwankenja, his daughter Eunice, and Doris; they had been to town and stopped by with some vouchers we had given them money to buy. Our internet service has more time now. By the time that everyone left it was too late for our usual walk, but company is nice.
9 October 09
The second day with the library aide Salome, and after some thoughts and prayers. Maybe conversations about non library topics might be good. What mother doesn’t like to talk about her children? After we spoke about her three, she is bringing pictures of them on Monday. Also, it turns out that her father is a Moravian pastor and spent almost a year preaching at a Moravian church in New Haven, CT. So we get out the atlas, and find New Haven and New York City, and then Carlisle. I share some of the experiences I had while living in New York City, and she tells me some of the things that her father experienced there. Again, not much library work was done, but maybe the beginnings of a friendship? She is only working half days for a few months because of her baby, so I feel that we will be able to get along and both still get our work done.
Verywell and Mwankenja both stopped by for brief visits and to discuss weekend plans. We are all going to take a “Field trip” on Sunday to the Mbozi Meteorite and the country of Zambia. We are to be ready to go at 9:00am Mwankenja stopped by later to say 8:00am we are going. Not a problem, we can handle that.
Today for afternoon tea, we have invited another of the English tutors, who is anxious to try some American food. Hence the chicken and dumplings, which turned out well, by the way. I also fixed steamed broccoli and had cold cooked apples with cinnamon. We enjoyed his company. Hiari enjoyed watching me make the chicken and dumplings and wrote down directions on how to do it. The one thing quite different between my cooking and Tanzanian is salt. Fred and I use very little salt and everything in Tanzania is heavily salted. I think that Ndalama, our guest, probably put over a teaspoon of salt to each serving he had.
Later in the afternoon, close to 6:00pm, Verywell rode his bike to our house to say that we would be leaving at 7:00am on Sunday morning. I hope that we get no additional calls or visits that push the time earlier in the morning; I don’t want to be tired before I start.
10 Oct 09
A day off, well sort of. The library is always there to work at. The power was off from 7:00am to sometime after we went to bed that evening, which ruined my plans for doing some cooking and baking. Also, we didn’t want to open the frig and let out the cold air so our meals today consisted of peanut butter and fruit.
Just as well that nothing much happened so we can conserve our energy for Sunday’s venture to Zambia.
11 October 09
We set our alarm for 6:00 to be ready on time. And we are ready and at the front gate when the school landrover pulls up at around 7:15am. Eight of us fit in initially for the trip to Zambia which is approximately 110 KM away. Now since math is my area, I have to give you the rest of the figures. We dropped one halfway there, picked up three at the church, dropped 2 at the restaurant, added one at the restaurant, dropped one at the church, dropped one at the border, and seven of us made it back to Mbeya. The important thing is that Fred and I and the driver were among the seven. The most interesting point of who went on the trip was one person who rode the entire trip with us, but we never found out his name.
Now to fill you in on what we did in between starting and stopping the landrover. The first stop was at the Lutheran Church in Tunduma, Tanzania, right on the border. The regular pastor had been called away, so the evangelist preached. Unfortunately, I was sitting right in front of a very loud speaker which reverberated so that I could not hear Mwankenja’s translation. As always the choirs, three of them, sang beautifully.
After the service, we had cold drinks at the church and then the evangelist took our group to a nearby restaurant for lunch. I had fish which was very nice, and the most humongous pile of rice I have ever seen. I only ate a little of the rice. It was very kind of the evangelist to invite us.
Then on to the border. There is no real geographic feature that marks the border, such as the river that creates the Malawi/Tanzania border. We just walked out in a field and we were in Zambia. English and various tribal languages, but not Swahili, are spoken in Zamia, so Mwankenja and Verywell who both speak English well could have just kept on walking and stayed in Zambia. The other blacks in our group were not fluent enough in English. Fred and I would have been spotted as non-Zambians right away for obvious reasons.
We also went to the official road crossing where trucks were queued for quite a distance, waiting for customs inspection. We walked into the no mans land that is neither country and also checked out the nearby market in Tanzania.
Verywell had grown up not far from the border, so we visited the family homestead. He first introduced us to his mother. Then he turned to the woman beside his mother and said, “This is my stepmother, my father’s second wife. He is a polygamist.” He then introduced a third woman who was his father’s third wife. The fourth woman that he introduced was not his father’s fourth wife, but was his sister, same father, but different mother. The father was not around; he had gone drinking.
Now we were on to one of the main purposes of the trip – the Mbozi Meteorite – the 8th largest in the world. It weighs 12 tons approximately. Verywell knew where it was, which was a good thing, since the turn off from the main road was not signposted. Fourteen dusty, rocky kilometers we went and we found it. There was a guide who gave a brief talk about its history for less than a dollar US. By now all of us were tired and we headed home to Mbeya.
12 October 09
I slept well after our Zambian adventure and didn’t get awake till seven this morning. Happy Columbus Day to you all! As you may have surmised, it is not a holiday here. So, we are in the library working away.
Fred took a break and went to town with Mwankenja to pick up a few things we were running low on. Fred was particularly concerned about tea. While he was gone, Salome, the library aide, helped me catalogue some books. We did not work quickly, but we got some books done.
Today, Hiari made ugali (TZ cornmeal mush) for afternoon tea – Fred doesn’t like it at all, but I don’t find it too bad. She also made cabbage the Tanzanian way which I am quite fond of. Tomorrow, we are going to try our hand at making spaghetti sauce using dried tomatoes I had brought from home.
I got another section of Mwankenja’s PhD paper read. It is slow going; when I find a section that doesn’t read well, I have to reread it a few times to determine if it is a problem of grammar or a problem of syntax from a non native English writer.
Fred and I had a long talk with Verywell concerning polygamy. He says that it is not outlawed in the country, but for non-Muslim, younger, urban, and well-educated men it is not usually practiced. In the rural villages, if a man has only one wife he is not considered really married. The more wives that a man has, the more important he is; also more wives mean more chance of surviving children.
As we took our walk this evening, we both thought that wearing jackets would have been a good idea for it was quite cool.
13 October 09
We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel for the library; we are down to the last 100 or so of the books to catalogue. Of course, the card catalogue itself needs to be made, but I believe that we can see success here for our work.
Verywell stopped by the library again today for a second chapter on polygamy. He said that polygamy is one reason why more people do not convert to Christianity. Women feel the need to marry and have a man, and men feel that they should help them. He believes that many Christian women marry pagans who practice polygamy just to get a husband.
He also spoke of the measles epidemics that swept the area where he grew up. Of the 10 children his father had, five died of measles. It wasn’t until a white planter got a farm in the region and provided medicine for people that the epidemics stopped. Verywell’s mother’s first four children all died from measles before they were school age. Her father felt that there must have been something wrong with her, so he gave another daughter to the husband, hoping that she would provide healthy children. She did – it just happened to coincide with the time medicine for measles arrived.
14 October 09
Happy Julius Nyerere Day! Today is a national holiday in Tanzania. Nyerere was the first president of the country, and everyone has off work in remembrance of his death. The current president will give a speech, but it will be in Swahili – so we do not plan to listen. There are no shopping specials that I know of or cherry pie either, like we would have for Presidents’ Day in the States.
But to honor the day, Hiari and I went shopping. I wanted to buy a kanga, so we walked a mile and a half and then rode the dalaldala for several miles to an open air market where there are many kanga merchants. A kanga is the wrap skirt that most sub Saharan women wear – you can tie it many ways: around your waist, around your waist and also up around your neck, around you at your underarms, and it is the traditional cloth one ties your baby in to carry it. It was fun shopping.
The daladala ride was interesting – since we were not at any rush hour and it was a holiday we were able to have our own seats – neither sitting on someone’s lap, nor anyone sitting on ours. The principal at the college had said I should ride the dala dala for a cultural experience. I now have experience. You notice that I didn’t mention Fred getting any cultural experience, that is because he did not go along with us.
Hiari and I also got some groceries, and then because we were so encumbered with our purchases, we took a taxi back to the college. Of course we did show and tell with Fred when we got back. He was not overly excited with the kangas, but since he has a wife and two daughters he has learned to look interested when we show off our shopping.
It had been another day totally without electricity, so we had our typical powerless meal of peanut butter and dried fruit each time we ate. The power came back on sometime during the night.
15 October 2009
The students are back from their vacation today, although they probably will not all straggle in until Monday. Fred was in the classroom this morning teaching the English Communication course that he has been assisting with since he came. I am attempting to work on some more Swahili books in the library. It is quite a struggle for me, and I was so pleased when a French book turned up to catalogue. It seemed so easy to translate and catalogue, and I only had one year of high school French. French is one of the official languages of the African National Union so it is required for all graduating teachers to know something about the language.
My big accomplishment of the day was making a fly swatter. At times, I feel like I am going mad with all the flies that are flying around me. The Swahili word for fly swatter translated literally is “basket for killing flies”. They have a phrase for it, but I have not been able to find one in any store. The swatter that I constructed is from some screening left over from chicken proofing the garden, a broken handle from an old broom, and the outside ring of a plastic lid that I had cut the center out of. A little tape, a stapler, and a bit of rag finished the job. It has already caused three flies to meet their demise.
Hiari had a cooking lesson in the art of spaghetti sauce. We have been postponing it for some time. Every time we make plans to do it, it seems that the power goes off. The electric company cooperated today, and the pot is currently simmering on the cooker. It is definitely Tanzanian sauce – not quite how I would make it in Carlisle. I would have a food mill at home to remove skins and seeds, but had to leave them in here. Also, sometimes I add fried off hamburger at the end, but here lentils that had been previously cooked in onions and oil were added. A couple heaping tablespoons of leftover cooked greens also found there way in. The final adulteration is that we will probably eat it with ugali or rice. Maybe I shouldn’t even call it spaghetti sauce. Fred and Hiari both agreed that it tasted good when they sampled it.
16 October, 2009
I had already written in my journal and put it away for the evening last night when we had a knock at our front door. Ebitha and Eunice, Mwankenja’s wife and five year old daughter, along with Hiari had come for a visit. We talked and enjoyed each other’s company for a while. Of course we served tea. That is one thing I enjoy about Tanzania, the importance of visiting. No big calling ahead and making plans, just dropping in. Time moves much more slowly here, and as a guest, you know that you will be “most warmly welcomed”, a phrase that is common here.
This morning, Mwankenja himself stopped by to see us. His meetings in Iringa had gotten over earlier than expected, so he came back to Mbeya before heading off to Dar Es Salaam for another meeting. Look on a map if you are confused about the location of any of these cities.
I had asked Ebitha where she thought I would be able to get my hair cut – it has gotten a little straggly in the past two months. Mwankenja suggested that we ask the Pakistani woman at a little grocery shop where she goes to get hers cut. The woman does not speak English, so Mwankenja would be translating, I am concerned what might be lost in the process. Especially since Mwankenja keeps referring to having a shave.
Another issue that comes to my mind is the HIV/AIDS problem. How clean are the tools the person will be using and what are the chances of being nicked by scissors or razor? Maybe I will rethink the hair cut until I am out of East Africa.
Verywell came by the library today and helped us translate some of the Kiswahili books. It makes it so much easier to catalogue if one knows what the book is about. He is also anxious to rearrange the furniture in the library to make a more comfortable reading area for the students. This would be good since few of the books can be checked out and many of the students cluster together in the room to share one book.
Fred is terribly concerned about missing the post season baseball play offs and World Series. Very few Tanzanians follow baseball, soccer is the sport here, so nothing is in newspapers about it. I am not overly concerned as long as the Phillies win.
17 October, 09
This morning with electricity running, we decide to make escalloped potatoes because if we were in Pennsylvania it would be getting to that time of year when oven meals start to sound good.
Unfortunately, all we got done was deciding since the electricity went off right after our decision. I think that I wouldn’t mind the lack of power nearly as much if we only knew when it would happen and could plan. It’s the not knowing that is frustrating.
So, it is peanut butter and fruit and off to the library. The power came back on a little after 11:00 AM, Fred immediately went back home to start potato preparations. He was successful, and around 1:30 the potatoes were ready. Have I mentioned that we have a very slow oven?
I happened to spy Verywell on campus, so Fred asked him to come over and have some American food with us. He was excited to eat American food, before he has even been there. Knowing what food he will see if he ever comes to America, he said was a good thing. I didn’t mention McDonald’s and hamburgers and fries would probably be what he would see first! Of course he is Tanzanian so added more salt to the potatoes. We also served cooked apples with the potatoes and he had seconds of both.
We didn’t go back to the library after our meal, and that was good or we would have missed the excitement. We heard this crackling noise outside our house and went on our porch to investigate. The field beside us was on fire. We were never in danger, but some of the flames were shooting rather high in the air.
One of the teenage youths from next door, probably heard the fire also and came to check it out. She looked and then ran away only to return with two teenage boys in tow and all of them carrying leafy tree branches. They all started to beat on the flames attempting to put the fire out. Soon, the principal’s wife also came with her two preschool children and a tree branch. She left her children on the porch with us and headed into the flames to help beat them back.
We are near the end of the dry season, so most of the vegetation is easily caught on fire and small controlled burns are not unusual as people clear fields in preparation for the coming planting season. I guess that this one just got out of hand. About twenty minutes later the fire fighters returned victorious, picked up Ibrahim and Ireni, and went home.
On our evening walk tonight, we saw the full extent of the brush fire. It had started to char the one electric pole and came near the campus dining hall. Fortunately no one was injured. It is good that cement making is a significant industry around here; cement buildings do not burn.
18 October 09
Ebitha, Mwankenja’s wife, has offered to go to church with us today. We decide to use a taxi, to be sure to be there on time. Mwankenja himself should be returning tomorrow from Dar Es Salaam.
Ebitha said she could not translate as well as Mwankenja, but did say that she would let us know when to stand up and sit down. Fred also sat beside a gentleman we knew; he had been the treasurer at the college, but is now on leave working on his degree in accounting. He has been to the college library several times to use the accounting books there. So Fred got a bit of translation from him.
It was difficult for me to stay focused today. Initially, as we were doing the liturgy up through the gospel lesson, I knew what was happening. Fred and I looked up the various lessons in our English/ Swahili Bible and followed along. But now began the problem, as the announcement time was to be followed shortly by the sermon.
The area of the pew where I was sitting was between Ebitha and Fred, and at first glance had ample space, but it was where two benches came together, almost. Imagine a little bit of bench, a substantial gap, and a second little bit of bench. I knew by the time the twenty minutes of announcements were over that the typical hour sermon would not leave my behind very comfortable. I was right. I began by praying for God to take my mind off of the bench problem, but after 45 minutes of reciting to myself all the verses of hymn and scripture I had memorized and could recall at the time, I resorted to asking God to give the preacher a coughing spell so he would have to stop the sermon.
God did not act favorably on my selfish request, but did give me endurance, and I lived to write this. The pastor’s wife invited us to their house after the service for tea. As usual, tea also involved more than just tea: sambusa, chapatti, rice, greens, meat sauce, and bananas. Sambusa are deep fried triangular pastry, filled with chopped meat and vegetables.
We finished the day, after returning home, in true Sabbath fashion – resting. When Fred turned on the computer this evening, we noticed that the time had changed (we keep ours on Carlisle time). Is it standard time now? If it is, we are eight hours ahead in Tanzania.
19 October 09
Today was moving day in the library. Fred and I started at 7:00AM to move books, and when Verywell stopped by after teaching some classes and morning tea the rearranging began in earnest. Fortunately, the college has many strong, 18, 19, and 20 year old male students. The book cases are quite large and made from solid wood, but for the students it was no problem at all. Verywell directed the process, and Fred and I kept moving books. Now the shelves are along the outside perimeter of the main library room, and the reading tables are in the center of the room.
It took two different groups of students each about ½ hour each, and the major moving was finished. Fred and I still have hundreds of books and periodicals to re-sort and shelve. I personally think it will look great when we finish up tomorrow. What really amazed me was the amount of dust and dirt we unearthed under each bookcase as we changed its position. I emptied the taka taka bin twice. (Taka taka is Swahili for rubbish.)
This was hard work for us old people, and we are rather tired. We went back to the library again after our afternoon tea and spent another couple hours cleaning shelves and organizing books. The main library room looks quite nice. The task tomorrow will be working in the conference room off of the main room. It serves as the reference room and reserve section. Also, many of the extra textbooks are stored there.
20 October 09
Classes have begun again for all the students and Fred and I were both called upon to help this morning. Fred in Verywell’s Communication class and I in Concepts and Teaching Methods of Math. Today’s math topic was discussing various number systems. The students had fun comparing and contrasting Egyptian, Roman, and Arabic systems; especially drawing the Egyptian symbols! For homework they were to do a long division problem in Egyptian showing their work. They started in class and as I walked around, I didn’t see one student whose first step was converting the symbols to Arabic, which would have been how I would have started. Never make your work harder then it has to be.
Horror of horrors – we unearthed another stash of books tucked away in the corner of a cabinet – maybe three linear feet of them after they were all hauled out. Dusty papers, empty pop bottles, old student exercise notebooks, and uncapped syringes were crowded in with them. I assume that the syringes were used at one time to refill ink cartridges. We didn’t find any ink cartridges or any machine that used them either. Oh well, we’re here to work on their library – so that’s what we’ll continue to do!
A note on our nutritional lifestyle – Fred finished our fifth jar of peanut butter just the other day – and we had only brought five with us. Peanut butter is not easily gotten here, but peanuts (which they call ground nuts) are. We don’t care much for them raw or boiled, but we shell them and heat them in a frying pan, that is when the electricity is on!
21 October 09
Not feeling well today. I worked a little in the library, but mainly rested at home. I didn’t go to math class or history class. The history tutor had invited both of us to speak to the class about the Great Depression in the United States.
22 October 09
Still not feeling well, worked a little in the library, but it was important to stay near our western toilet at the house.
23 October 09
New experience in Tanzania. After three days of not being able to eat or drink anything and have it stay down, and now quite dehydrated, Mwankenja said that I should go to the hospital. Ifizi Hospital is a Swiss hospital on the far side of Mbeya near Songwe.
I felt bad that when we got to the hospital that they treated me before the hundred or so people jammed on the benches waiting in line. But I was white and could pay, I guess
My doctor from the states had sent along with me bags of normal saline, IV tubing, and syringes which I was glad to have with me. I am always dubious about the sterility of supplies here.
They did lab work and admitted me to a private room. The room had a hospital bed with one sheet and no pillow or blanket, one bed for a relative with one blanket and no pillow or sheet, and a couch for visitors to use. Oh yes, and a real western bathroom without towels or toilet paper.
The nurse hooked up an IV line. The Swiss doctor who communicated with me in English said that the lab tests ruled out malaria, but instead believed I had built up a toxicity to the antimalarial drug I was taking. He said that by two months, it was known to cause problems because it is rather caustic.
Now why, you might be wondering was there a bed for a relative in my room. Hospitals in Tanzania do not provide any meal service for their patients, so you need a relative there to get your food for you. One of the privileges of a private room is a bed for the person locking after you. People in the wards have to have their food provider find their own place to stay. So Fred spent the night even though I wasn’t eating anything.
24 October 09
The night passed uneventfully, and after three different bags hung on the IV pole and no more antimalaria drugs, I was feeling much better. They judged me well enough to come home after I was able to keep some tea down. The school principal and the driver came in the school car and got the two of us around 11:00. We had luggage to bring home too, since Hiari who knew more about Tanzanian hospitals than we, had sent along sheets, blankets, and towels with Fred when he had come last evening.
The trip home was uneventful; the principal did stop to buy a chicken on the way. The chicken worked its way out of the plastic bag, but its feet were tied so it didn’t go far in the landrover, mainly flapped and cackled. We are getting used to riding with livestock.
When we got home we discovered that Hiari had bolted the living room door on the inside. Guess to which door we had a key? If you guessed living room, you guessed correctly. So we were locked out. We could not get in touch with her by phone to bring the door key. So began an almost two hour search without success. In the end the campus storekeeper brought a massive unlabeled ring of skeleton keys and after many tries found one that unlocked our courtyard door.
During the key search, Fred and I stayed next door at the principal’s house. Ireni, their 3 year old, who has a crush on Fred, asked her mother if Mr. Fredi was the one who was sick. After she was told it was Mrs. Fredi, she said, “That’s good.”
I think that I will rest for the remainder of the day. The principal’s wife is such a dear, she brought Fred food for lunch, French fries and fresh squeezed papaya juice, and has just come to the house a bit ago with food for him for dinner. I guess it is the culture here that people believe the man of the house cannot cook, when in actuality Fred is a better cook than I am.
25 October 09
It was good to be home last evening, sleeping in my own bed. In thanksgiving for my health, Fred, Mwankenja, Ebitha and I went to worship this morning. Mwankenja’s vehicle is out of service, so we made plans for a taxi to go the two miles to Agape Lutheran Church, a relatively new church planting.
Churches here in the Konde Diocese have partnerships with churches in the Lower Susquehanna Synod back home. This morning’s church has an active relationship with Shiloh Lutheran Church on route 74 north of York. Agape is building a new sanctuary that will totally encompass the old, which will then be razed upon the new structures completion.
The people were excited that we had chosen their church to visit. The pastor of the church had been a religion student of Mwankenja’s years ago. Then when the guest preacher got up to preach, he turned to Mwankenja and said, “I know an older Mwankenja.” It seems the preacher and Mwankenja’s father had been divinity students together.
The choir had just gotten new uniforms: dark blue skirts or trousers, and apricot dress shirts. The pastor had all of the members come to the chancel area and stand touching one another while he touched the fabric of one person. The choir members had raised the money themselves to buy them, and they were so glad to have been able to do it.
The high point of the service was the Holy Communion however. That is one thing that I miss here – not having weekly communion - because of the shortage of ordained clergy and price of wine. It was great as the people crowded eagerly at the communion rail to receive the elements.It was also a special day, Reformation Sunday. It was celebrated in honor of Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses to the church door at Wittenburg, asking to debate theological points with Roman Catholic theologians.
At the in kind offering auction outside after the service, with Mwankenja’s help, we bought a small hand of bananas. When someone in the congregation noticed that we liked bananas, he bought us another hand as a gift. We gave the 2nd hand to Mwankenja afterward.
Of course we had fellowship at the pastor’s house at the conclusion of the morning, but I was very careful about what I ate, sticking to just rice and water, leaving the chicken, sauce, and greens for other folks. After going home, I was worn out and took a four hour nap, then woke up for a few hours, and finally slept through the night.
26 October 09
I awoke today feeling rested and with more energy than I had had for many days.
The college car was making a trip to Mbeya town today so Fred and I went along to go to the drug store to get new anti-malarial medication. At the end of our stay here, we will be spending a few days in Dar Es Salaam, which is a well known haven for mosquitoes, and we want to be protected.
While in Mbeya, we also visited the “hanging tree”, where German colonialists supposedly hung rebels during the Maji Maji Rebellion of 1905-07. The tree is well over a hundred years old and extends out over a stream near the police station in the downtown. Maji is the Kiswahili word for water, and the rebels were led to believe that if they were sprinkled with water from a magic spring that they would be impervious to bullets. It didn’t work and the Germans suppressed the rebellion. We also went searching for a pan to make vitumbua in, but to no avail.
Today was a rainy day for well over an hour. It was interesting to watch the rain clouds move in from the mountains to the south east. The sheets of rain advanced and then all at once you were inundated. We are not officially but almost into the short rainy season. Nov is when the rain is most intense for the season. Then there are a few months of dry time, before the long rainy season begins. The short rains provide moisture for the beginning of the main growing season.
27 October 09
Just a little over two weeks until our time here is over. I can hardly believe it. We have learned so much and the experience has been phenomenal – even though my Kiswahili is still quite minimal. Reading and writing is coming along, but speaking and listening is still quite abysmal.
I’ve learned that I need very little to get by on. Approximately ½ of the clothing I brought with me hasn’t been worn. When I was looking at my things today, I thought.”Why haul it back to PA where I won’t use it either?”
So I spoke to Hiari, who before we came had a little clothing stand at some of the local markets. She was quite appreciative of the clothing that I didn’t want to take home with me. A few pieces she wanted to keep for herself and not try to sell. She got down on her knees to thank me; Fred and I are continually amazed at how meaningful the smallest act on our part can be to the people here.
The temperature, complete with wind chill, I judged to be in the low 60’s today. The students were in knit hats and down jackets, while Fred and I were debating over putting on a sweater or not. The concept of how we survive winter never ceases to amaze the folks here.
I spent some time in math class today explaining Greatest Common Divisor and Least Common Multiple. These would be concepts that they would be expected to teach near the end of the fifth form (end of fourth grade in the States)
28 October 09
Mwankenja has finally made contact with Girl Guides/Girl Scouts here in Mbeya. I am quite involved with Scouts at home and had been looking forward to meeting some in Tanzania.
There is a government secondary day school near the campus so Mwankenja, Fred, and I went to visit this morning. The scouts in TZ are usually connected with the schools. At their ten o’clock tea break about 15 scouts, both boys and girls, met me in the scout camp site on the school grounds. They all snapped to attention and saluted and gave me the official scout handshake, I was impressed. (For the uninformed, the scout handshake is with the left hand.)
At their camp site was seating that they had made using square lashing. But the best part was their singing of scout songs together in beautiful harmony. The woman in charge of the scouts has invited us back on Saturday morning for one of their regular meetings and maybe to sit in on a math or English class or two, since they also have regular classes some on Saturday morning. This was a great day! Only problem, no scouts the age of my own scouts who are 1st graders
In the early evening Hiari stopped by with a khanga she had bought at the local market. It is blue with pictures of many different animals. I had wanted one with animals on it so this fills the bill – now if it were only green instead of blue
And at 8:45 last evening I finished reading Mwankenja’s book on The Ethical Dimension of Economic Globalization in Tanzania. It had taken awhile to wade through. He and I will talk about my comments soon.
29 October 09
In addition to the khanga, Hiari had also brought us a chicken from the market last evening. Chickens are not known for their intelligence, but this one seems exceptionally dense. Maybe she knows that Friday will be her demise!
Today was the day that the last book in the library was officially catalogued. I told Fred if he finds another cupboard in the library that under threat of death, he is not to open it. Even if he thinks he hears books calling out to him.
On Monday we will begin establishing a card catalogue. But today, Fred brought his communication class to the library for an intro on how the Dewey Decimal System works. I did not bring my math class, we were busy reviewing the difference between prime and composite numbers.
Hiari also went to market again today and found a green khanga with animals just like the blue one. Now, I am happy!
I got an e-mail from Katy yesterday giving me the go ahead from my Pennsylvania doctor to start my new anti-malarial drug. I hope that this one works without any side effects.
30 October 09
To quote George the III of England – he wrote in his journal “Nothing happened today.” on July 4, 1776. That is pretty much our feelings for 30 Oct, 2009. I trust that I have not been as shortsighted as George.
But, if you turned on your computer just to read my blog, I do not want you disappointed. So here is a brief discussion on how the church/ pastor relationship works here in Tanzania. Skip it if your not interested and come back tomorrow for a more exciting update.
We asked Mwankenja, why it is that every church where we have gone to Sunday service never has the regular pastor preaching. He is either away somewhere and an evangelist preaches or there is a guest preacher. The feeling is that people would get tired of hearing the same person preaching often. That would rule out a pastor preaching on a certain topic for several weeks in a row I would guess.
Also, the Bishop makes all pastoral appointments, the individual pastors or congregations have no say, while in the States, the Lutheran Bishops receive requests from pastors and congregations who desire changes and he or she suggests good matches, but it is entirely up to the involved pastor and congregation to pray and trust the Holy Spirit to guide them in their decision of where to go.
A pastor usually stays at a church for only two years at the most, sometimes less than a year. In the Lutheran Church in America, a pastor’s tenure is usually much longer. At our church in Carlisle, 25 years seems to be about the average, and we even had a pastor who was there for 50 years. Some of our older members still remember him. I can see problems with excessively short and long stays.
31 October 09
I slept in, almost 8 o’clock when I got up. I didn’t mind a bit. Today, we were to go to Uyeole Secondary School for a scout meeting, but the leader called and the scouts had been asked to participate in a graduation ceremony somewhere so they would not be available.
Mwankenja is also officiating at a wedding at 11:00, this morning at the Uyeole Lutheran Church. The last time we attempted to go to that church for a wedding, bees had swarmed in it and the ceremony was delayed three hours and we never did make it. We have high hopes for today’s service.
The taxi came for us around 11 AM and when we got to the church we joined the bride and groom, their attendants, and Mwankenja in the pastor’s office. Interesting fact about attendants at weddings. At home we would call them best man and maid of honor, but here they are called best man and best woman. Also the church here requires that they be married to each other, which is often not the case in the States. Mwankenja explained that the attendants are to be the first people to go to if you start to have difficulties with your marriage. I guess that it also provides a beginning foundation of a married couple friendship. I can see the positive side of having a couple stand up for you and not two people who don’t even know each other. Of course Fred’s and my marriage has lasted for over 30 years, and our best man and maid of honor didn’t meet until the night before out wedding.
The bride wore white and she was lovely. Mwankenja asked both the bride and groom if they wanted to go through with the wedding before they went into the nave. This apparently is standard, and they both assented. The processional included Mwankenja, the bride and groom together, the two attendants, Fred and I, two vocal choirs, and a brass band.
We sat in the chancel area with the groom’s parents. His mother translated some for us. In Tanzania, it is the groom’s family who basically is in charge of the wedding and reception afterward. His family also pays the bride price of however many cows the value of the bride is deemed to be worth. The cow paying is done previous to the day of the wedding, and is not always in actual cows, but often these days in equivalent cash value. Mwankenja’s wife cost his family three cows, but they had only actually driven one cow to her father’s home, and gave cash in lieu of one other animal. Verywell’s family had a bride price of three cow’s, they gave one cow, paid for another, and still owe on the third.
Mwankenja, Fred, and I did not attend the reception, even though the groom’s family had invited us. We just had the standard rice, meat sauce, greens, and bananas that always seem to be at a church office just waiting for any visitors to have.
Afterwards, Mwankenja showed us the copy of the marriage certificate that he and the wedding party had signed. There was one section that needed to be checked that is not on a standard US license – the polygamy section. There are three choices to choose among: a monogamous union, not currently, but may become polygamous, or currently polygamous. The Lutheran Church will only officiate if the bride and groom check that it is a monogamous union.
After we got home, we realized that we had not paid Hiari’s wages for October, so we walked over to Mwankenja’s house (Hiari lives with them) and dropped the money off with Elisha, Mwankenja’s younger son, to give to her. I guess I had not done much walking since I was ill because I was exhausted by the time we got back home again, and it was only three km round trip.
1 November 2009
Today’s church visit was Sinai Lutheran Church between Uyole and Mbeya town, and no I couldn’t find it again. It was back a complicated warren of roads that a blood hound would get lost in; possibly because the dust would clog his nostrils.
Guess what? The pastor knew Mwankenja. We have a standard joke going that no matter where we go, Mwankenja has some connection with somebody, and not just church people either. For example, he used to collect the rent from the scout leader that we met. It amazes us.
It was the choir’s birthday and in addition a guest choir from another diocese also sang. The guest choir did a shortened variant of a Bach chorale which was beautiful. And as always there was a guest preacher, who had real evangelistic fervor.
It was also All Saints’ Day in the church year, when we liturgical Christians remember the church members who have died in the past year. At our church in Carlisle, the pastor always reads the list of the names of those who have died since last All Saints’ Day. They did not do that here, and I missed hearing it, although I would not have known any of the names.
After the service, we had lunch with the pastor’s family which included two young boys, Moses and Michael. They were about the same age as Eunice, who was along with Mwankenja and Ebitha. I had rice pilau for the first time. It is regular rice but, one puts coloring and flavoring with it to make it special and it is usually only served on special occasions.
Later in the afternoon, Mwankenja stopped by and we made some plans for the coming week. It is starting to get tricky getting everything planned we want to do before we leave for home. A visit here and there, some shopping here and there, and guests to have over for a meal. I cannot believe how quickly the time has gone.
2 November 09
Today is the day that the math test I wrote is to be given to the math students. It is not a difficult test and I had Kalowela, the math tutot approve it.
As with all test taking, some of the students finished in no time, and some were still laboring to the very end of the period Now there are 168 papers to correct, and I an the one who gets to correct them. The curve was skewed slightly to higher grades, but not much; the tutor was pleased with the results.
After correcting the papers, the tutor told me to get some prizes to give the four students who had 100% papers. Fortunately, I had brought along some math type activities which I used – little calculators, geometry tools, etc. All four of the students chose calculators.
Fred and I both congratulated Verywell on his degree. He had earned his first bachelors degree this past July, and the actual ceremony was just this past Saturday. His degree was in languages – English and Kiswahili. He gave us his paper to read; it was about school-- community relations at a local primary school and was considerably shorter than the one written by Mwankenja for his doctoral.
Today we had an issue of no water for a while, but we had some boiled up so it did not cause much problem.
3 November 09
Yesterday the college office gave me a slip from the post saying I had a package with money due. So today, we make plans with John the driver and Mwankenja the translator, to go to town and get it.
Before we go, the principal invited Fred and myself into his office for a little chat. The principal’s chats often go on for quite a while, and this was no exception. His oral English skills are good, but not excellent so we have to listen very carefully when we speak with him to understand just what he is saying. He certainly is a kind man, but sometimes he has trouble getting to the point. The main thrust of his talk this morning was that he would like us to stay longer in Tanzania, or at least come back soon and stay longer that time. He also would like us to bring our children with us, since he believes that our missing them is why we are returning to the US so soon.
Then I had math class and we went over the tests. Then the office here had copies to make to take to town. Finally John had to get diesel for the school landrover. The 8:30 trip to town started closer 11:00.
We began at the post since that was my main concern. Mwankenja handed the slip in while Fred and I just stood back and waited to be told where to sign. It seems that in addition to a little postage due. We also owed excise tax of 25% and value added tax of 18%. Was it a simple matter of paying it there? No, we and our packages were escorted under armed guard to the revenue office about a block away, where we then signed forms and paid the fees – not of course without more questions. All in all, it took about an hour.
The rest of our time in town went about as well. The search for a vitumbua pan continues without success. (I hope that I find one, because they are delicious rice type doughnuts). I spoke with a person that I knew from the Bishop’s office about a mutual friend’s illness.
We looked at the two known little grocery stores in Mbeya for meat – I only buy meat that is refrigerated, not hanging in the sun with flies on it – and found a few pork chops and some sausage, but no beef. Do you think that I can fashion a meat loaf from some left over chicken and this sausage? We are inviting people for meals a couple times this week, so I guess I’ll try to concoct something with chops one night and the sausage another.
We also stopped at the main market in Mbeya to get fresh vegetables, and I found red beets. Harvard beets will add color to my meal won’t it? I don’t want to lay in too much in the way of food since we will be leaving soon.
At last all of the errands for us and the school are finished and we can come home and delve into our packages – one from our daughter Kate, and the other from a friend in Carlisle. Thank you, thank you!
Kate’s had some long awaited books for a friend here at school and then some goodies for filling out the box as packing/ The other was a veritable treasure trove of treats ranging from snacks to puzzles, to reading supplies. Hiari and I each had a Cup of Soup and cookies for afternoon tea – forget nutrition. I think a cup of dark chocolate hot cocoa is next.
Fortunately, the power has been cooperating lately, since we have invited the principal and his wife for dinner tonight. Pork chops, escalloped potatoes, Harvard beets, and tossed salad, with stewed apples for dessert. It wasn’t bad. Only problem was the principal’s wife doesn’t eat pork, so her husband ate her piece. No, she is not Muslim, just doesn’t eat pork. So, she had none, Fred and I shared one chop and the principal had two – since we only had found three chops to start with.
It was a nice evening visiting with our neighbors.
4 November 09
Today, we are adventuring through parts of the Konde Diocese as yet unexplored. John stopped at 7 this morning in the school car to get us. Then a pick up for Mwankenja and we head for Tukuyu for the Diocese office where we have a little chat with the bishop. The bishop is such a gentleman; both of us have enjoyed getting to know him. His English is impeccable, with a bit of a British accent.
We have three main places on our list: Manow, Itete, and Mwakaleli, but this is Africa so nothing will be quite that straightforward. We have a vehicle, and we are going places so of course we will be making deliveries. First, as we head to Manow School, which is supported by the Lutheran Church here, we stop at Nellie’s parents’ home. (Nellie works in the college office). One package to drop off and one to pick up.
Next we stop at the principal’s mother’s home and exchange another set of packages. Mwankenja and John were both anxious to stop there since she makes what they say is the best sour milk yogurt drink around. Fred and I just stick to standard tea. Along the way we have also stopped to buy a stalk of little bananas to stand in the landrover and break off and nibble on while traveling.
We have climbed in altitude since leaving Mbeya and also we are into a greener section of the country as we arrive at Manow, the secondary boarding school. We tour around, check out the library, talk with the headmaster, and visit Doris, a German volunteer whom we had met earlier in Mbeya. She offered us brownies to eat. Manow is definitely built on the side of a hill – a lot of ups and downs to the campus. Two of the bishop’s sons are students here, and we meet one of them.
Itete, is a 50 year old Lutheran hospital which is our next stop. It is on the top of a hill with a gorgeous view of the surrounding countryside from both the church and several of the staff houses. The head medical officer was Mwankenja’s best man at his wedding. The church at Itete is in partnership with Christ Lutheran Church in York, PA. and the doctor had a Cat’s Meow on his desk of the York church. HIV/Aids is a major problem for this region, and a lot of their concern is in either malaria or HIV work.
Surprisingly, Manow and Itete were both rather warm and humid, but now we head to Mwakaleli, a retreat center and boarding school, where it is much cooler and misty. Here we have a little lunch – rice with about seven side dishes, my favorite was pumpkin leaves with peanuts.
We had a nice tour of the grounds, including the dorms, gardens, and the chicken coop. There is both a tailoring course at the school and also another class for students who are slow learners. The chicken coop project is part of the slow learners’ curriculum.
It is back to Tukuyu and then Mbeya. First, as we are driving by the ubiquitous roadside peddlers, I spy a fruit/vegetable that I do not recognize. Mwankenja does, and we stop to buy one for each of us. It is called in the local tribal language MASWISA and the best way to describe it is a bloated three lobed hand grenade. Fred thought that they tasted a little like blackberries, but I am not so sure.
Later on we stop again and Mwankenja and John both buy green, cooking bananas, lots of them which they fasten onto the roof of the vehicle. Bags of pineapples and ripe bananas come inside with us.
And just a final update on the road conditions of our twelve hour venture. Nice, paved road from Mbeya to Tukuyu, but markedly unimproved after that. I am just glad that we didn’t meet many vehicles coming towards us. Very limited places for passing. John is a good driver though and we arrived home safely around 7 that evening, just as it was growing dark.
5 November 09
After a few weeks of no power outages, we are without electricity for most of the day and evening. Tanzania’s president and his wife had been in the Mbeya area for a while (elections coming up within the year) and during that time period Mbeya’s power was not reduced, but they have moved on to other districts and the power regularity has gone with them.
We ate salmon from the latest care package for lunch today – cold from its packet with rice and cabbage that Hiari had cooked over charcoal.
We have begun the cards for the card catalogue, starting with title and author cards. I began by procuring an old manual typewriter from the office. Although, many years ago, I initially learned typing on a manual, I had forgotten how labor intensive it was. It really takes some strength to push the shift lock! Not to mention rewinding the ribbon by twirling it with your finger. The apostrophe also is not where it is supposed to be; but the main problem is that the comma key sticks and I have to pull it back down with my right index finger each time that I use it. I got 50 author cards typed before tiring.
I guess that the short rains are officially here, since every day we get some rain and often thunder and wind with it. This evening we read by candlelight – Fred is working on a James Michener novel and I on some puzzles. Fred’s flashlight is recharged by shaking it; so we sit in the semi darkness and I hear clack a clack a, then quiet and some pages turn, then clack a clack a again. My flashlight is the non disturbing quiet battery operating type.
At 9:30 we give up on candles and clack a clack a and head for bed, but hear “Hodi, hodi”. Kai, a neighbor up the street, stops in for a visit. He is a German who has been at the school for several years and will be returning to Europe in a few weeks. We have a good chat for an hour or so, and then we say good night.
6 November 09
I went to the library early this morning to work on the catalogue cards. But first I made a meatloaf from my leftover chicken and also sausage. We almost always have power first thing in the morning, so I decided to bake the meatloaf now and if need be we can eat it cold on Saturday evening when Mwankenja’s family is here for dinner. One has to get into a mind set of two menus – one for if the power is on and one for if there if no power.
The meal this Saturday is to be a Thanksgiving meal, in thanksgiving to God for what Mwankenja and his family have done to support us while we are here in Tanzania. I even am making cranberry sauce from some dried cranberries that I had brought from the States. I think that I have become a more interesting cook here, since I can not rely on recipes, but just add ingredients to food until they seem right. For the Thanksgiving meal, I could not find pumpkin to make a pie, but I did come up with an apple crisp that I believe will work.
So back to the library, I have one card in the typewriter and the office person comes and says the office needs the typewriter back, but I can have it again at 3 PM. For the remainder of the morning, I hand print title cards, until our supply of cards is exhausted.
At 11:30 I return to the house and Hiari teaches me how to play Bao, a Tanzanian game of logic. We are getting a real Bao board in Dar Es Salaam, so for today we just use a large piece of paper with the markings drawn on and small stones she picked up outside. I like the game; maybe because I won the first time I played.
Fred and I spent the remainder of the day at the house, and at 4:00 Mwankenja and a taxi arrived to take us to Agape Lutheran Church for choir rehearsal. No, do not laugh – we have not joined a choir. They have three choirs and I give all the choir members cross necklaces. An older girls’ scout troop in Carlisle made the necklaces for me to bring and share – they have a cross and different color beads for the different seasons of the church year.
I particularly enjoyed the one choir when we had been there to worship the other Sunday. I also gave a Women of the ELCA denim shirt to the woman in charge of the women’s group. Fortunately, she was a large woman since the shirt was a 2X.
We sat in on all three choir rehearsals at the church and had a nice visit with the pastor also. One choir was classic African gospel, one was the youth choir,, and the third had key board, sound, and dance. The third choir gave us an audio CD they had recorded. Mwankenja had said that we would be at the church for about an hour, but we ended up staying for over two hours.
The evening ended at home by candlelight,
7 November 09
I got up early and fixed apple crisp this morning with hopes of just warming it later this evening for dessert at dinner. If this turns out well, I will make another one for Salome the library aide who has been requesting an apple pie.
Mwankenja, Ebitha , and her brother stop by in good time this morning to work in the field by our house. They are preparing it to plant maize soon. Fred puts on his jeans and goes out to help also.
Later in the morning, Fred and I did some fine tuning in the 428 section of the library after getting an update from our daughter Bess on how to further break them down. It only took us about two hours to do that updating, which wasn’t bad. We still need the tutors to bring by some books that are not catalogued, that they have in their offices. I don’t know if that will happen before we go or not. Until Verywell gets us more catalogue cards the library work is now at a standstill.
Ngogo, is back from Dar Es Salaam where he was working on his master’s degree. He and his family have a house here on campus not far from ours, but this morning when he stopped by the library, was the first time that I met him. Ngogo is not to be confused with Mgogo, the academic dean, whom we have been in contact with ever since we arrived in August. I am not sure exactly what Ngog’s position is here.
Hiari, who usually doesn’t work on Saturdays is here today since we are having company for dinner. She says that she is part of our family – it felt good to hear her say that. I tidy up the house in preparation for the dinner guests and Fred and I spend a relaxing afternoon getting things ready for dinner. The power cooperates and everything is ready on time for the 6:00 meal, except Mwankenja and his family are about 20 minutes late.
We enjoy our time visiting together and eating. Fred’s potatoes as always are a hit and Mwankenja likes the Harvard beets enough that he wants Hiari to learn how to make them. Just as Fred removes the apple crisp from the oven where I had put it to warm up, the power goes off, so we have dessert by candlelight. It was a bittersweet time, knowing that we have little remaining opportunity to be together.
A bit later, they all walked home in the dark – Hiari with them. They are African you know – no need for a flashlight.
8 November 09
Hiari came to day since she was concerned about all the dirty dishes she left here when she went home last evening. This is the first she has worked on Sunday since the initial time she came. She says that she can wash up things much more quickly than I. I am so spoiled here. I felt bad about her working particularly since Fred and I went off with Mwankenja to church.
Today’s church service was the installation of a pastor at Iwambe, a relatively young congregation on the Songwe side of Mbeya. This was the pastor first call to a parish. Even though it was a Sunday morning service, almost all the district’s pastors were there – I guess that they left their own congregations with the evangelists in charge.
Mwankenja got us seats up front with the new pastor’s family. I don’t think that I have spent as much time in my whole life in the chancel area of a church as I have these past three months in Tanzania.
The district pastor did the actual 45 installation including a 20 minute sermon at the beginning of the service as all the other clergy stood assembled around. Then we had a regular service complete with all the integral parts of a Tanzanian Lutheran service, but the announcement time was extra long to include all the guests. When Fred and I briefly spoke, it was sad to realize that this was our last time to worship in Tanzania.
The main preacher of the morning spoke very quickly, so quickly that Mwankenja had a little trouble keeping up with the translation. After the service, the new pastor and his wife, who is about 8 and a half months pregnant, sat at a table in the chancel and every organization, family, or congregant came forward to shake their hands and place a gift on the table. The gift procession lasted almost half an hour.
And what would a gathering be without food – that came next. Fried potatoes, fried bananas, spaghetti with meat, peas and peppers, ground nuts, maandazi, beef chunks, sambusa, pineapple, chapatti, soda, and water. I met a woman from one of the other Mbeya congregations who had a daughter named Karen. We sat together to eat and exchanged emails.
Our taxi driver stayed the entire time and slept in the car; we woke him around four when we were ready to go. It was less expensive to pay him for the whole time than to pay for him to make two trips back and forth.
9 November 09
This is the start of our last week in Tanzania. Today, the college is planning a farewell assembly for us at 11:00. Since we have never gotten used to African time, we foolishly believe that it will probably start a little after 11:00. At 1:15, the math tutor comes bustling into the library where for several hours Fred and I have been busy making catalogue cards for the books. He says, “Come on, they are waiting for you in the assembly hall.” When we pause to lock the library door – he insists that we hurry – people are waiting.
Were people waiting? Not really. Students were still carrying chairs in. But this was an honest to goodness assembly, however. The floor had been hosed to keep the dust down and there was a head table complete with bunting and artificial flowers.
It was a lovely program with dances by students from two tribes. The principal read a tribute to us in English & gave us a copy in both English and Kiswahili. One of the students spoke on behalf of the rest; she mentioned particularly how much she enjoyed my math class.
Then the principal, one of the tutors and one of the support staff together presented us with a Tanzanian reed/straw rug and a batik dress and shirt.
It was then our turn to respond – which was difficult. They have so little, they had welcomed us so warmly, and they are thanking “us” for what “we” did. Both Fred and I were able to each say a few words.
What next, why the food for all the tutors and staff in the faculty lounge. By now it was afternoon tea time and there were grilled cooking bananas, chicken, and bits of unknown meat with potatoes. Classes had been cancelled for the whole day because of the assembly.
Our day wasn’t over though, since in a few hours Mwankenja, Fred and I were off to Tukuyu to have dinner with the Bishop and his wife. Fred and I both wore our new clothes that the college had given us, and I must say that we looked rather good.
Also at the Bishop’s house were two Germans and a group of five who had just arrived from Pennsylvania. This week is a meeting of all the pastors of Konde Diocese with representatives from other synods in other countries that are partner groups. That was why the Germans and Americans were gathering.
Fred and I had met three of the Americans before and it was good to spend the evening with everybody. The American group is just staying for two weeks, except for one, a young nurse, who is going to go to Itete Lutheran Hospital to work for about a month. Tukuyu is about 50 miles from Mbeya, but it is a good road, so the trip there and back was not difficult.
10 November 09
It truly is the short rainy season. On our trip to Tukuyu and back it rained, During the night, I was awakened by a hard rain and we have had several torrential downpours today I hope that when we drive through Mukumi National Park on our way to Dar es Salaam in a few days, that the rain will let up enough that we will be able to see wildlife.
Fred had a communication class to teach today, but I had no classes scheduled. I invited the women tutors to the house for lunch (afternoon tea). There are just four on the staff; I told Fred not to come home for tea – that this was a ladies affair.
I made tuna salad, courtesy of tuna packets from my recent care package, added fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from the market, reheated the Harvard beets from the other day, and made fresh apple crisp, using up the remaining dried apples that we had brought with us from the States. Hiari also prepared rice, just in case anyone didn’t like the American food. We ate everything.
We had a good time eating and visiting. I showed off pictures of my family and I gave each of them a handmade pen that I had brought with me from home. They gave me a khanga that had a phrase on it about the importance of friendship. The English Communication tutor and his family had also given me one that says women can do anything when they are supported.
Fred and I later stopped in at the school dispensary to visit one of the other tutors who is a patient there with malaria. He had been to his mother’s funeral the other week in an area where mosquitoes are a problem. Yes, Fred and I are both taking our anti malarial drugs in preparation for going to mosquito infested Dar es Salaam the end of the week.
11 November 09
I tried to use up some of our food today. I was up at 6:00 and baked two blueberry crisps to take to the canteen for the staff to have with their 10:00 AM tea. That finished up the dried fruit we had brought along. I have small container of cranberry salad to give to Verywell, which will only leave a little margarine, one hard boiled egg, a tomato, a slice of bacon, and a bit of cheese in our frig. Mwankenja will take whatever food we leave behind in the frig or pantry to his house.
Today, I am trying to make sure that I have pictures and signatures of the people on campus. Also Fred and I have some gifts to give out.
I had brought along pens a good friend had made out of faux marble and we gave one each to Mwankenja, Verywell, the principal, and the bishop. The pens that we had that were made from wood went to tutors whose classes we had helped with. The geography tutor got our inflatable globe, and the academic dean now has my mini cassette recorder to help him with a research paper that he is doing.
We also had some books to share with various people. No matter whom we talked to the question was always asked - “Can’t you stay longer? When are you coming back?”
We stopped by the principal’s office to donate some medical supplies, which we had taken along and not used. The school dispensary would benefit from them. He gave us an 11 X 14 aerial picture of the campus.
It was especially difficult to say goodbye to Mwankenja - he had been our first and best friend in Tanzania. He was always willing and usually able to help us in whatever situation we found ourselves, and he did it with a smile. He was leaving Mbeya today for a diocese meeting which would last several days. In the afternoon, Hiari helped me pack; we were able to get everything into five suitcases instead of the eight we had come loaded down with. No, I didn’t leave suitcases behind, but packed some of the smaller ones inside some bigger ones.
Fred and I tidied up in the library - making sure that all the supplies we left were clearly labeled. For one last time, we read the shelves and straightened the books. I fear we have becomes a little possessive of “our” library, Verywell has promised to take good care of it, and we know that he will.
Then it was time for our last evening stroll around the campus as it started to rain a little. I stopped at the one women’s dorm and passed out cross necklaces that older Girl Scouts in Carlisle had made for me to bring and share. I was amazed how many of the students I recognized and how many I could name. The students have become very special to me.
We made it back home before the rain started in earnest, checked out our e-mail, and lit our candles as the power went out for our last evening in Mbeya. Just as well, since the college landrover is coming to get us at 6:30 in the morning to start our journey.
12 November 09
What I thought when our phone alarm rang was - “I have not slept long enough.” It turned out to be the former college principal calling to say goodbye and it was only 9:30. After we talked a bit, we went back to sleep for the remainder of the night.
The alarm went off for real at 5:30, and I did have to get up. Fred fixed a hearty breakfast of potatoes and bacon to eat since we had no idea when during our ride we might stop for food. We also packed some food from our pantry to eat along the way.
When the landrover came at 6:30 we were ready to go, and all our luggage fit along with the five of us: Fred and me, the driver, Verywell- who was in charge and would translate when needed, and a fellow who was extended family of somebody who someone knew that needed a ride to Dar es Salaam. We also had a large stalk of green cooking bananas tied on the roof for delivery to somebody’s family in the city.
The Southern Highlands were cool and refreshing as we started off. I had my sweater on for the breeze was a little chilly actually. The highlands had been our home for well over two months, and it was sad to go just as the short rains were turning everything from dusty brown to vibrant green.
It took most of the morning to cross the area, passing through the city of Iringa; then it was a twisty, turning descent to the warmer level of the country as we continued east towards Dar es Salaam. Not long after coming out of the mountains, we did stop for food - it was about afternoon tea time - I am not sure what happened to 10 am tea!
We kept seeing Tanzanian men on bicycles with monstrous loads. The loads were usually bigger than both the bicycle and rider together. To me, this was a perfect Kodak Moment. The question now arises, “How many people does it take to shoot a good picture of one of the laden bikes?” Well until you have tried, it may seem simple enough. Trust me, it is not. We have about a dozen pictures of parts of bicycles, with each of us except the driver, taking a turn or two trying for the picture. Finally I got what I was after.
My next thought was a picture of a mango tree, heavy with fruit. Much easier to capture on film; they didn’t move.
Finally, we arrive at Makumi National Park, which the main road that we were on transects. It is about four in the afternoon when we pick up our guide at the park office and begin driving around the park in search of African wildlife.
We are successful: lions (at a distance), impalas (scores of them and up close), warthogs, giraffes, and skeletons of buffalo and bushbuck (probably lion kills). The hippo pool was great; I now know the sound of a hippo. Crocodiles were in the pond also. On the way out of the park we saw more lions and heard them roar.
We decide to come back first thing tomorrow morning, since our park pass is good for 24 hours. After leaving the park office, we head toward the town of Makumi to spend the night. But before we were totally out of the park, right beside the road, we passed a half dozen giraffes and about 4 or 5 zebras grazing.
Our lodgings had what I considered the essentials: fan, bed, mosquito net, and attached western toilet. We slept well.
13 November 09
Around 9:30. we made it back to the park, after John, the driver, did some minor repairs to the vehicle. Today the warthogs and wildebeasts were within our sights. There had been rain and some of the roads were quite muddy with water standing a foot deep at places. We were forced to turn around a few times at impassable spots, in spite of John’s excellent on and off road driving.
We went to the hippo pool again, which was my favorite spot in the park. I loved watching both them and the crocodiles just lazing in the water. It was warm enough that if the animals had not been in the pool, I would have been happy to jump in.
We spent a few hours at Makumi, which included touring their museum of taxidermy exhibits and skeletal remains. Then unfortunately, we were on the road again to Dar es Salaam.
As the afternoon went on, the temperature continued to go up, and the traffic increased, particularly after Morogoro. By six o’clock, after the green banana drop, we were downtown in the city, searching for our contact who had made our lodging arrangements. The contact was a pastor who was a friend of Mwankenja. We talked with him briefly at his office, and he gave us his secretary to help us find the YMCA hostel which was to be our home for the next two nights.
By now the school landrover which had a leaky clutch seal and a broken alternator was ready to expire, but fortunately, it had gotten safely to where we needed to be. Our prayer now was that it would get John and Verywell back to Mbeya. When we said goodbye, Verywell said that if God wills we shall meet again - I hope that God wills.
Have I mentioned that the city is very hot and humid? It is! So we settled in for the night with the mosquito netting blocking what little air the ceiling fan circulated. It didn’t seem much cooler come morning.
14 November 09
Today is our day to shop. The pastor friend is lending us his car along with his driver and teenage son, Joshua, who will act as translator. My job is to supply the list. They were to come at 9 AM, but showed up at 8 AM. We hurried and got ready, and were soon on our way, but not until after they had an early morning tea.
I just want some “kumbu, kumbu” - souvenirs - to take back, some for ourselves and some for gifts. First though we found towels, since the hostel didn’t provide, and one day in the heat without a shower was one too many. Then some assorted stamps at the post of different birds and animals of Tanzania were added to our shopping bag.
The main store we had wanted to visit was a book store. If you know us at all, then you are aware that we love books. We found one in the downtown and got about a half dozen books. They also had an excellent map of Tanzania, which we had been seeking ever since we got to the country; now that we were leaving, we finally have it. Another stop was was at the Lutheran Cathedral Bookstore to procure a hymnal, but they were out of stock - maybe on our next trip?
But the most elusive quest of the day was for our vitumbua pans; vitumbua are similar to doughnuts and are made from rice flour. The pans themselves look like cast iron muffin tins, but the bottoms are rounded.
Shopping with a non English speaking driver and a teen age boy, who has probably never cooked, added to our difficulty in locating them. I think we tried five shops before Joshua made a phone call for help. We then ended up in one of the standard open air markets, meandering around stalls which were selling most everything imaginable; we made an abrupt right turn and a door opened. Behind the door was a Tanzanian merchant who had dusty various size vitumbua pans hanging on the wall. We bought two which he wrapped in newspaper.
Adding to the shopping fun was the search for some bright, shiny, new Tanzanian coins. Every time we got change, we asked for new money. Fred and I have a habit of collecting representative coins from any country we visit. Coins in Tanzania are 50, 100, and 200 shillings and their paper money comes in 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, and 10,000. Before you think that I’m bringing home a large amount of money - a rough approximate is Tsh 1,300 is worth about $1.
The final stop of the morning was the National Museum of Tanzania, which interested Fred a lot more than I. There was a memorial there to the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in the city. Also they had some antique/classic cars, one of which was the car for the country’s first president, Julius Nyerere, who is quite highly regarded.
We finished our day by relaxing and reading back at the hostel, eating our last Tanzanian meal around five in the courtyard restaurant. I had ugali one last time with chicken and thin tomato sauce, the same exact meal that I had had as my first meal in the country. Fred had fish and chips.
We got a call later in the evening from Verywell. When I answered, I hoped he was calling to say they had gotten back to Mbeya okay. No such luck - they hadn’t even left Dar es Salaam.
So they had a problem, no more money. Verywell came by the Y hostel and we gave him enough money to pay for the parts they needed for the vehicle. After all, it was because of us that they were in Dar es Salaam at all. If we had not helped, they would have had to wait for the college principal to wire some money to them.
I packed and repacked attempting to get the weight distributed evenly; cast iron vitumbua pans are heavy. We also checked at the reception desk and they called for a taxi to come at 6 the next morning. Then we lay down for another warm night under our mosquito netting.
15 November 09
I got awake at 4:30 AM and decided to get up. I now had what I trust will be my last cold shower for some time. Fred says that he has gotten used to them, but I have not.
Had I mentioned that we had two flights of stairs to take our luggage down? Some of it I couldn’t manage myself, so I took down what I could, and Fred brought the heavy stuff. I wasn’t able to get the iron gate open at the bottom of the stairs - turns out that I was pushing and should have been pulling (reminiscent of the Far Side cartoon of the Midvale School for the Gifted). The taxi driver opened it; I felt rather foolish.
So at 6:15, we were off to the airport. It was about a 20 minute ride. The airport is around the same size as the one in Harrisburg. Everyone at the airport was quite polite and helpful, and in no time we were through the security checks and immigration and in the departure lounge waiting for our flight to be called.
While sitting in the lounge, we tried to call Verywell to see if they were on their way yet to Mbeya, but no answer. We also attempted to call Mwankenja to let him know that we had made it to the airport but couldn’t get through to him either. People in Tanzania seem to cut their cell phone time very close and often are running out. My guess is that happened to both Verywell and Mwankenja.
One final chore before leaving Tanzania was to change money. Tanzanian shillings are not very useful outside of Tanzania; they are not very strong against most other currencies. So, there I was with well over a million shillings in a rather large pile of bills, and I came away from the change kiosk with eight bills worth around 500 euros. But to further my disappointment they didn’t have enough Euros or US dollars to change all of our money, so we still have a couple hundred thousand shillings. I guess that I will go to the bank when we get stateside and see what I can do with them.
On our flight from Dar es Salaam to London, I have the dreaded middle seat in the center section of the plane. The person behind me is very tall and her knees are constantly kneading my back. The person in front of me must not have had her morning medication, since she is in continual motion, rocking vigorously in her seat. The person to my right was fine until he fell asleep a half hour into the ten hour flight. Now various parts of his body have overlapped into my space. As he gently snores, his head keeps bumping my shoulder and his elbow my ribs. Fred, who is on my left, knows not to do anything that will further agitate me.
The flight brings us safely to Heathrow Airport where we wait for our next flight this evening to Frankfurt, Germany, as we travel to my nephew and his family in Strasbourg, France. We hope to spend several days there and finally make it back to the States, and Carlisle specifically, by the weekend.
This is the final posting of my Tanzania adventure. For the last ten days we have been traveling across Tanzania, flying for ten hours here and eight hours there, visiting my nephew and his family in France, and stopping to see our daughter Bess in Virginia. We are now back safely in Carlisle, and it is good to be home.
I have enjoyed keeping a journal, and I hope that you have enjoyed reading it. Maybe, you have even learned an interesting fact or two, or been amused by some of our adventures.
I must say thank you to those who have taken the time to send e-mails. Hearing news from home surely brightened our days. The letters that came in the post were treasured and reread many times. Also the care packages were great, we would unpack them ever so slowly to maintain the suspense.
But most of all, a very special thank you to our friends who have prayed for us. Tanzania is a strange and marvelous country, and there were times when we felt discouraged and alone. I know, however, that your prayers helped us through a few dark days.
And with grateful hearts. we thank God for raising up a loving community of Tanzanian Christians with whom we were so privileged to work, and share, and love. Amen
3 years ago