Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Hanukah

Bubu poses as a minorah to wish everyone a happy Hanukah. I agree!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkey

Bubu is the real Thanksgiving turkey. Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's that time of year again!

Clive Turkey

Clive Turkey wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving week!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Hide and Seek

After searching all over the house for the stupid cat, look where I found him. 

Do you see him?

How about now?

There's just a lot of patterns going on there so he's easy to miss. 

He must've known we were annoyed at him for stinking up the back room by peeing all over the floor. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

First home visits

We did our first home visits today for Lulu project. Mwanza ain't called "Rock City" for nothing. Sheesh, it's a workout hiking up those hills/boulders! I can't imagine doing it every day as the residents do (and usually they are carrying something in their head and/or a baby in their back).

 Getting tired on the way up. 

A view of Mwanza but I'm disappointed because if doesn't look like much in this shot. 

We visited 5 girls today. We hope to do more on Sunday so stay tuned. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lulu Update

I just typed up a database for the girls who have signed up for Lulu group so far. Here are the stats:

So far we have 33 girls*.

They range in age from 12-24 years.

Only 3 of them have jobs. They rest work in the home (theirs or someone else's) for no/little pay.

9 of them have children.

22 of them have left school.

13 of them went only to 8th grade.

Stated reasons for wanting to join the group:
  • I want unity and collaboration 
  • I want to learn a skill
  • To pull myself out of poverty
  • I want to learn more and prepare for later in life

*We will keep collecting forms for the next few weeks but also some girls will drop out, so these numbers will change. Also, we might break the girls into 2 groups, those in school and those not in school because their schedules are so different, it will be hard to find a time suitable for both groups of girls.

Can't wait to get started!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Environmental Impact

This is what happens when a country has a lack of garbage disposal and sanitation--people dump everything into the rivers and streams. Then this happens:

The stream has diverted due to the trash blocking the way. You can see it flowing freely through the neighborhood.
The river gets blocked and after a heavy rain the water finds an alternate route to get out, thus flooding your neighborhood.

This is the way it's supposed to flow.
Chris and David tried to unclog it so the river could flow again, a very dirty job.

Our house is the gate on the left. The stream is supposed to run alongside it.
Some neighborhood kids helped, which hopefully is a good lesson to them.

Chris and David trying to re-divert the stream. Mariamu and some other children help in the background.
Eventually they decided it was a fruitless effort to clean it out while there was water flowing. So they'll wait until it dries up again and try to clean in after a few days (if we don't get another torrential downpour like yesterday.

Monday, November 04, 2013

As Is

Before our unexpected trip to Nairobi I posted about the topic of waiting and mentioned that we were waiting to hear from the university about teaching positions for the semester. We were also invited to help the university to research and create a social work bachelors program, something that Chris and I were super excited about. In my blogpost you might've noticed my apprehension that the university might ask me to start teaching 300 students the following day with little to no time for preparation. Never in my wildest dreams did I suspect that instead they would say, "Thanks but no thanks." But, indeed that's what they said! It's a long story that I won't go into here, but basically they said they didn't need us this year as professors and that social work isn't a priority to the university.

All of this is untrue. We know that for a fact, but we'll never know the real story about what happened to cause this to fall through. But we really should've known better. We've already learned too well that we shouldn't count on anything here in TZ until everything is done and finalized. But we had been in meetings with the university for many months and everyone on both sides were really excited about the opportunities. Needless-to-say, it was all for naught.

This is something that's very hard for us Westerners to get used to, but is "business as usual" for Tanzanians. We have a very strong cultural belief in the US that if a person works hard enough, they can succeed in life.* But here in TZ it just doesn't work that way. Everyone works hard. And almost no one gets ahead. There are so many uncertainties. The banks fail and businesses go under causing people to lose all their money. Deflation makes the money worthless. Or, someone gets sick. Promises kept are broken. People are tricked through bribery and extortion.  Someone steals from another person. Life is just very uncertain; things can change drastically at the drop of a hat and many people here just have come to expect that things won't work out. They keep moving forward, but they don't ever expect it to go anywhere. This is something I just don't know if I'll ever get used to.

So, all of this has left both me and Chris wondering what next work-wise. This doesn't change much for Chris. He will still continue working at Capacitar, the organization that's he's been with for the past year and a half. And he and I do a lot of regional organizational work for MKLM, which helps the region run and supports our fellow missioners in the field. But in terms of full-time work for me? Well, I left my job to pursue this opportunity at the university so I'm left a little in the lurch. The Lulu Project, the one I am starting in the parish to help teenage girls, is still moving forward so that will definitely be something that could make a big impact. But it's not full time work and I doubt it will be for a long time.

When Chris and I were in Nairobi, we took a few days' retreat at the MK Father's house to think and pray about our next steps. It was a really nice process for both me and Chris and we had some good breakthroughs. We talked a lot about what it means to be a "missioner" versus for example an NGO worker or a short term volunteer. All of these positions are good and worthwhile in their own right but they're very distinct and have different approaches. By its very nature, a long-term missioner is a much more loose job description. You don't always have a set job in front of you, but instead you are led by the community (and by God) to help in ways that they see are needs. You kind of end up doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, rather than having something that looks like a cohesive job description. It can be a very slow approach and it takes a lot of work to build relationships (and language!) and to just try different things and see where it leads you. It's something I feel like I have been pushing against because I have a very specific interest and have wanted to use my skills in certain ways. But for various reasons those things haven't worked out for me here, so I'm realizing I have to go back to these basics.

So, how am I spending my time each day? Well, doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, of course. I am planning Lulu, as I mentioned. So I meet with the facilitators each week to work on planning, which can require office work, meetings with girls and families, meetings in the parish or with local leadership, buying things in town, etc. Soon we will have a parents meeting, which will be the kickoff for officially meeting with the girls two times each week. I have also been visiting with people in the community, trying to make more of an effort to be with people, hear their own stories and support them in various ways. I have been working on Maryknoll business (such as planning future tourist trips for Americans to visit MK sites in TZ, human resources work, and even helping with some orientation work for 3 new missioners coming in January), which can require me to traipse around town, do more office work, type endless emails, etc. This week II'll start going up to the parish to help one of the MK Brothers with an adult literacy class that he teaches two times a week. I have also been asked by several people to help on organizational levels at their projects-things like strategic planning, program management, training of staff.

So, as you can see there's more than enough to fill my time; it's just all structured in a very different way than what I might've been picturing. And I'm going to be very honest and say that this way of working is something I'm not that great at. I like to have concrete goals and check things off as I go along, to know exactly what I'm doing and move forward with it. Maybe I'll get more comfortable with this approach as time goes on, but for now I definitely feel a little anchor-less and unfocused. So please, continued prayers as we move into our last 1 1/2 years of this contract, that we can find fulfillment in our life and work here in TZ and that we can make even a little bit of an impact on the crazy system here and the people on the ground.


This is such a long blogpost with only words and no interesting pictures, so here's that baby elephant again. So cute!

*I know that this is a false assumption, even in the US. People in the states work hard also and most never get ahead. But despite it being a falsehood, most people in the states still believe in it and the longer I am living outside the US I'm realizing more and more how optimistic and trusting we are as a people. We trust that things will work out; whereas here, people don't. They have no reason to believe that any organization or system has their back so they don't count on those things.