Thursday, September 27, 2012

Work Update

I've not really talked too much about work lately so I thought I'd give an update on what I've been doing in the office. I mentioned all the way back in June that I was working for an NGO that is a women's rights organization. After being at Kivulini for several months the Executive Director and I have developed a job description for myself and over the next few more months I'll come up with a formal work plan. I am serving as a Technical Adviser for Programs. I'm pleased with what we came up with because it plays to my strengths and I think the organization needs a lot of help in this area. They do really good work, but they're not so good at monitoring, supporting, tracking or evaluating the programs that they run. So I'm going to be helping them do a better job at this, which is important so they can continue to improve their programs and services to improve women's rights in this part of Tanzania. Also, if they can prove their programs are successful, they'll be able to get more funding to do even more programs and potentially become more of a global player. There aren't many other organizations in TZ as big as Kivulini so I think they have a lot of potential. That is, if they can get some of their core operations in order.

Up until this point I've mostly been doing very unglamorous, but very necessary work alongside their new Executive Director. I really like the new ED. He's about my age, so he's young and he's got a lot of energy and great ideas. I think he and I think alike in our approach to our work and we work well together, which is something I definitely appreciate. For the past few weeks I've been spending a lot of time working on the organization's strategic plan. It's boring work, but very necessary to help set the course for the organization over the next few years. But, a few weeks ago I was able to break away from the office and attend a training that we were running for local leaders.

Kivulini ED facilitates part of a training. I pretend to understand what's being said.
The ED facilitates a portion of the training. I'm thinking "What the hell is he saying??"

Here's something majorly different between America and TZ: in America you have to schedule a training months in advance, notify your participants, have them RSVP, line up a venue, etc. Here? Nope. I didn't even know about this training until a day or 2 beforehand. I asked if that was unusual and they said no. No one plans ahead. They just called all the participants a day or 2 beforehand and said they were holding the training. People are so excited about getting more education and information to help them in their jobs, so they'll come. And they did!

Group work
Participants breaking out into work groups.

This training was for local leaders (mostly Ward Tribunal Officers) who are the first responders when there is an incident (such as domestic violence) in the community. We work extensively with these people in 4 wards in Mwanza to help them know how to respond to and refer victims of VAW. This particular training was talking about the overlap between HIV/AIDS and VAW. Victims of VAW are at a significantly higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS because they have no power to control when they have sex or if they use protection. Also, women who are HIV+ are at higher risk of violence for a number of reasons, not the least of them is that the husband/boyfriend thinks she contracted the virus from an affair and retaliates with violence (this is despite the fact that he very well may be the one having an affair). 

Group work under an awning that says "Prevent violence against women"

The training was really interesting for me to attend. I love being out in the community, so I was happy to just be doing that. I still don't understand a large portion of what's being said but I realized very quickly that these community members didn't know a lot about HIV/AIDS. This really surprised me because I was under the impression that Tanzania had received a lot of education on the subject. Obviously not because the participants were coming out with a lot of the old standard stereotypes. I can only imagine how little uneducated, rural people know if this was what educated community leaders knew! That just makes them more at risk. Needless to say, the training was a good one and people left with more knowledge and tools to help women in their community.

So, that's the scoop for now. So far I'm happy with where I am work-wise and I hope it will only continue to pick up as I'm there longer. It's so important for us to be doing something we feel is making a contribution. We have to feel like we are doing something that was important enough to leave our family, friends, home, community, etc. and move all the way across the globe. So far, this is a good start.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Yard Project

We've* been working and working and working in the backyard to get it ready for planting our garden. You might remember I planted some seedlings a few weeks ago. Well, the work has paid off because check out what's coming up!

Guess what's coming up in the garden?

Oh wait! That's not a plant. That's Smokey!

Smokey's planted herself in the garden!

Well, that's almost as good as plants. Dumb dog.

*By "we" I mean Chris.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Few Unrelated things

I've been meaning to post a bunch of things. Really, I have. About work. About fun things we've been doing. But I seem to barely have much time these days. And, the electricity's been out a lot lately. We just went through 14 hours with no power. That's following this past weekend when we had either no power or no water (or both) for large stints of time. It's not unusual for those things to go out, but not with this much regularity. Good thing our fridge didn't have much in it. I only had to dump a few things. Luckily, the cookies I made last night aren't refrigerated so those were unhurt. Thank God for that! ;)

Unrelated to this: today we received our absentee ballots via email. I can't believe it's that time of year! September is almost over?? Wow! I'd take a picture of the ballot and post it here, but I'm afraid that might not be legal or something. But it's pretty cool.

Lastly, here's a sneak peak of something we treated ourselves to this past week. We just needed a little R&R. It was amazing!

Sunday, September 09, 2012


Thanks to some packages from the States, today I was able to start a few seedlings for our garden.

9 seedlings for our garden 2012
Basil, oregano, sage, dill, cosmos, daisies, sunflowers, gourds, and rosemary.

I don't have any fertilizer or anything yet so I just used the dirt from the ground. We'll see if anything takes.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Ordination in Mabatini

A few months ago Chris and I started attending church in a parish that is run by the Maryknoll Fathers. It's a little further away for us, but we liked the parish. It's got a lively congregation and it's really nice to see our brothers in community, the MK Fathers, each week. Plus, it's easier to understand a westerner who speaks Swahili than a native speaker. So, if we're lucky we can understand a little more of the homily! I've posted pictures of me in the past when I was hanging out with the parish women's group making chapati.

Anyways, this Wednesday the parish was celebrating the ordination of a new priest. Now, I've never been to an ordination in the States, so I have nothing to compare this to. But I'm pretty sure that our ordinations are NOTHING like this! Here in TZ the ordinations are celebrated individually in the home parish of the new priest rather than in one large celebration at the Cathedral. And when I say celebrated, I mean CELEBRATED! There were close to 3000 people at the Mass.

These were all the tents set up surounding the church to accommodate all the people.
They set up a bunch of tents to accommodate the number of people.

We were considered "special guests" (either because we're foreigners or because we're Maryknoll family, probably both) and got "chai" beforehand. Chai consisted of tea or coffee, chapatis, mandazis (which are friend dough), boiled egg, and meat soup. Probably about 100 other people were considered special guests as well and got the same treatment. I heard a rumor that all the other guests got mandazis and chai, but I'm not sure.

After chai we headed to the church for Mass, which was held outside in an open area that has a roof, in order for everyone under the tents to see the alter.

A view from our seats. They set up an alter to the side of the church and there were people on all sides of us, about 3000 people in all.
We sat in the section for Sisters. I hope no one noticed that we weren't wearing habits!

Mass was about 3 hours long. It was full of wonderful music sung by the choir who had matching outfits and fancy hairdos. A kids group did liturgical dances during every song.

The childrens liturgical dancers--loved them!
The kids must've been so tired because they spent almost the whole day dancing!

The Bishop said Mass along with probably at least 35 other priests. At one point, all of them came up and gave the new priest a big hug one-by-one.

The Bishop blessing the new priest.
The Bishop blessing the new priest.

After Mass was over all 3000 people were invited to come up and shake the hand of the new priest and congratulate him. There was a guy on a microphone the whole time shouting "Welcome! Welcome! Greet the new priest! Shake his hand!" We sat there for a little while, but then made our way to the back and up into the priests' residence where we discovered lunch was already being served. Everyone who attended the Mass was invited to eat dinner either in the residence or outside. It was such a well-ordered affair and there was so much food! We had the choice of rice (2 kinds), chicken, beef (I think), fish, veggies, watermelon, beer, water, soda. I was in such awe of how organized* everything was and how smoothly things seemed to move. In a country where the systems are a complete anomaly to me, this seemed like a big deal.

After lunch they had a huge gift-giving ceremony where people from each community were invited to present the new priest with a gift. The gift was announced by loudspeaker so all could hear. At this point it was getting on into the afternoon so we snuck out**. I don't know how late everything went that day, but when we left our car was stuck in the back of the parking lot so we had to leave it until the following day.

I heard that the following day the parish had another, more intimate gathering of about 300 people from just the parish. They had another celebration where gifts were danced up the aisles to the new priest and a snake dancer was there to entertain the crowd. Then afterwards the family hosted another big reception, resembling a wedding reception, at the yacht club. We had to work that day so unfortunately we skipped out on these festivities.

I have to say, at first when I was attending the ordination on Wednesday I kind of struggled a little bit in my mind about how to reconcile such extravagance in the midst of a country that has such poverty. I couldn't help but continue to dwell on how much  money must've been spent to put such an elaborate affair together and wonder if the money could've been better spent on some community outreach project. But then I realized how much joy and pride this gave the community. Most Tanzanians don't celebrate birthdays or holidays in the way that we do in America. They don't give and receive gifts or have big elaborate meals. Therefore, they don't get much opportunity to celebrate. And some of the people in this community don't have two coins to rub together on most days. They don't have much they can take pride in. This was something that brought the community together and gave them a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It's something major to be proud of and you could certainly see their pride shining through, whether it was in the matching outfits of the dancers and choir or in the work and preparation that went into planning the day. I feel like celebrations like these are so important in everyone's life. We should all have days where we can pull out all the stops, eat a fabulous meal, have fellowship with those we love. I live for days like this myself, so why shouldn't everyone?

*Each church in TZ has small community groups that do weekly Bible study and provide support to each other. For this ordination I think that each group was responsible for helping to raise money for the food and they had to prepare and serve the lunches to people in their community. This contributed to the orderliness of the day.

**There is no such thing as sneaking out when you're a white person in an all black country. Everyone watched us as we tried to be stealthy and sneak away. I always find it kinda funny when we try to be sneaky and it totally backfires.

In the Dark

We lost power last night around 3AM and haven't gotten it back yet. Apparently bugs (or wadudu in Swahili) ate through the bottom of the pole and it fell over. Wonder how long it'll take to fix it. We've got less than an hour on our computer so we've got a little while until panic phase sets in. The Reids with no computer/internet for the night!? WHAT WILL WE DO!!!??

UPDATE: About 30 minutes after I wrote this post the power came back on, which clearly indicates that every time we lose power I should write a blog post and it'll trigger it to come back. Glad I worked that out!