Sunday, February 26, 2012

Long Rains

The long rains have started here in northern Tanzania. The change in weather was kind of sudden. Just one day, or evening, I think, the sky got cloudy, a wind picked up, and it rained for about an hour or 2. Then, almost even day or evening since then, we've had at least a little bit of rain. On some occasions the rain has been quite hard. Today as I type this, it's probably in the upper 60's and totally cloudy. It reminds me of a nice Fall day in Columbia. I LOVE it! Makes me want to curl up on the bed and watch movies/sleep.

Here's a little video to show you the rain and the view over Lake Victoria. It's not uncommon to see lighting coming through the clouds in that direction over the lake.

It usually doesn't stay cloudy and rainy all day. The sun will usually poke through the clouds and it will warm up to the 80's again. And then it starts again the next day.

Also, the Rossers (our fellow MKLMers here at language school) posted a fairly in-depth blog post about life in language school. I thought I'd share the link here since our life is pretty similar to theirs right now. In the post, they have a video of David talking to my favorite teacher, Dismas. I love me some Dismas! He and his wife just had a baby in December and in early February Chris and I went to his house to visit with them and hold the baby.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Today marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a time of preparation and anticipation. I find it interesting and poignant that both Lent and Advent this year have been times of great preparation and anticipation for me, as I prepared to leave the country in December and am now preparing for work and cultural immersion in Tanzania.

This morning, as I sat in church listening to the readings, I was struck in a new way by those same readings I hear every year at this time.
"When you are fasting, do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they go about looking unsightly to let people know they are fasting. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put scent on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret."(Matt 6:16-18)
Most years I sit in church, hungry from eating little all day and thinking about how my hunger in my stomach relates to my hunger for something bigger and better than this life. But today, I was struck by the call to be quiet. To not be "showy".

I got to thinking about this blog, and my Facebook page, and the newsletters that I send home to friends, family, and supporters. And honestly, I became a little embarrassed at how ostentatious I am about the work I'm doing here. To give myself a little credit, there's practical reasons for keeping these methods of communication. I think it's important that we share our work so those at home are more aware of the issues and conditions of people in other places around the world. And, I know that a lot of people just want to know how we're doing and these are easy* ways to communicate. But I have to wonder how much of my writing is to "tout my own greatness."

So, maybe this is a good reminder to me that I need to look at myself a bit less and look at the greater work that's being done, as well as the One responsible for me being here.

*One could read that as "lazy" ways to communicate, I admit.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Video from Sunday's Mass

Here's a video from the drumming circle that was after Sunday's Centennial Mass.

Monday, February 13, 2012

MK Sister’s Centennial Celebration

This year marks the 100th anniversary the Foreign Mission Sisters of St. Dominic, more commonly referred to as the Maryknoll Sisters. Last year the MK Fathers and Brothers celebrated their centennial and this year they’ve passed the baton to the sisters. All throughout the year there will be celebrations in the various countries that has a MK presence.

About 15-20 MK sisters from across Tanzania and even some from the US and Kenya are all gathering this week for a variety of celebrations. This weekend we were fortunate to be able to attend the first half of the celebrations, which were held in our neck of the woods. We took a “pilgrimage” of sorts to the first Maryknoll parish in a small village about a ½ hour’s drive from the language school where we currently live. The Maryknolls first established the parish in Nyegina in 1951. And, what was cool about yesterday’s celebration was that there was one sister with us who was in Nyegina during that time. Sister Ann still lives in Tanzania, though she is about to retire in just a few weeks and return to the States.

The parish has since been taken over by the local diocese, but boy did they put on a show to recognize and celebrate the centennial. We were first greeted by a parade of children singing and dancing as the bus pulled into the church.

As the bus approaches, we're greeted with children singing and dancing

Then, we attended a very long, very hot, very crowded Mass. There must have been over 400 people jammed into the church. No windows, no air circulation. It was insanely hot. And the Mass lasted over 2 hours. But, it was such a great celebration that I hardly cared it was so hot. There was a ton of singing and dancing by both a children and adult choir. The Mass was all in Swahili so I only understood about 10% of what was being said. But it was abundantly clear that the priest and the community were singing the praises of the MK sisters. Maryknoll has a major presence in this entire area of the country. They started many schools, founded parishes, opened churches, promoted the education of women, etc. So all of that was recognized and discussed during Mass. All of the sisters and even the lay missioners were invited to stand on the alter and introduce ourselves in Swahili! Luckily, one of the long-term missioners took pity on us and introduced ourselves so we didn’t have to bumble through our elementary Swahili in front of the whole congregation. Several of the community leaders gave speeches and at the end of Mass the 2 longest serving MK sisters in TZ got up and were presented with gifts of cloth from a variety of community members. The people would approach the sisters who were standing on the alter, hold up their fabric, wrap it around the two sisters’ shoulders and then give them a joint hug and kiss. Then the next person would come up and do the same. They must’ve been presented with about 20 different pieces of fabric, each one more beautiful then the next.*

At the end of Mass we were ushered out of the church by a chorus of rambunctious children who we had to hold back for fear of them knocking over the elderly nuns. When we got outside there was a singing and drumming circle. The sister’s didn’t waste a second; by the time I got out there they were already dancing and waving their newly acquired cloth. The whole congregation flooded outside; kids climbed trees just to get a look at the circle. It was awesome. Then, we paraded down the road via drumbeat and dancing to the convent where the MK sisters were planting a commemorative tree.

After Mass the entire congregation went outside to dance and play drums in a circle
The drum and dance circle outside the church.

After Mass the entire congregation went outside to dance and play drums in a circle
The sisters dancing in the circle.

A parade from the Church to the tree-planting
The procession to the treeplanting.

Planting the tree
The sisters plant the tree.

After the tree was planted most of the congregation dispersed and we were served a fabulous meal by the sisters who now run the parish. They had tables and chairs setup under the trees and it was quite an idyllic spot to sit and enjoy the breeze after being cooped up in the hot church for so long.

Sitting under the tree waiting for lunch
Enjoying a rest under the tree before lunch.

Yesterday’s celebration was such a tribute not only to the MK sisters and their history, but also to the Tanzanian people. It was everything I love about this country. Celebration. Beauty. Faith. Music. Dance. Community. So lovely!

It should also be noted that the drive to Nyegina was absolutely beautiful! As we wound our way around Lake Victoria, we drove through some of the lushest farms in the country. The lake was to our right and the farms to our left as we passed small huts and family compounds. People stopped to look at the bus full of wazungu (Westerners) as we drove by and kids waved and yelled hello. Absolutely spectacular.

*The sisters were generous enough to give us lay missioners some fabric. So I got a bolt of pretty purple fabric that I hope to get made into a dress or shirt.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Giving and Receiving Consolation

A child showing me her picture at Lisa's Pride 2-11-12

This was my daily reading the other day. Thought it was appropriate since we were going back to Lisa's Pride this Saturday.

Consolation is a beautiful word. It means 'to be' (con-) 'with the lonely one' (solus). To offer consolation is one of the most important ways to care. Life is so full of pain, sadness, and loneliness that we often wonder what we can do to alleviate the immense suffering we see. We can and must offer consolation. We can and must console the mother who lost her child, the young person with AIDS, the family whose house burned down, the soldier who was wounded, the teenager who contemplates suicide, the old man who wonders why he should stay alive.

To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there and say, 'You are not alone, I am with you. Together we can carry the burden. Don't be afraid. I am here.' That is consolation. We all need to give it as well as to receive it.
-Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

Lisa's Pride 2-11-12

Sunday, February 05, 2012

My First TZ Haircut

Big "ups" to fellow MK Lay Missioner, Liz, for my first haircut in East Africa! This afternoon she cut a few inches off the bottom and I think she did a great job.

My first TZ haircut

When I got home I also thinned it out a bit with a little trick I learned from watching my hairdresser cut my hair so many times in the past. I'm not sure how professional it looks, but I'm happy with it. And my main goal was not to mess it up too royally and it seems that I've achieved that. So hooray!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Great Hadithi Quote

Each week we have to memorize dialogue and stories in Swahili in order to help build vocabulary and get us used to the flow of the language. This week's hadithi (story) is about women's equality in Tanzania. The best quote is:

"Wanawake duniani pote wanajiunga pamoja kudai haki zao."

Roughly translated it means "Women around the world are all joining together to demand their rights."