Tuesday, December 30, 2014

December Lulu Graduation Festivities

December has been a fun, yet eventful month. In the early part of the month the Lulu Project celebrated the graduation of about 40 of its girls from 5 of the 8 groups here in Mwanza. As I have described in a previous blogpost about Lulu graduation, we celebrate for three full days whenever we have a graduation. It's a lot of work but we have a great time and this allows for all the girls to participate in the celebrations.

On Monday we invited all the girls to join each other in a netball match. One of Lulu's foundational principles is "ushirikiano" or "cooperation," but that didn't stop the girls from forming friendly rivalries. We joined two Lulu groups per netball team to help foster collaboration and teamwork.

Girls on the sideline watch as other teams play against each other.

Some girls brought their kids and other family members, who cheered their mom's on from the sidelines.

This daughter of a Lulu girl was her mom's biggest supporter.

In the end we had three winners. The overall winner took home the prize of a soccer ball from Europe, which the groups can use to play more games in the future.

Call it home-court advantage, but the combined team of Mabatini (the hosts) and Bwiru won the top spot.

On Tuesday of that same week a small group of us persevered through torrential rainstorms and neighborhood flooding to bake 13 cakes on charcoal grills. In my last blogpost about graduation I documented the process of cooking on charcoal grills, so I'll leave that out this time. This being the third time many of these girls have done this process, they are getting quicker at it and are more creative.

Working under shelter instead of in my yard, due to the all-day rain.

The final product of the cakes displayed at graduation on Wednesday.

Graduation on Wednesday was a special event for me since it was held in the Maryknoll parish in Mabatini and since the biggest group of girls to graduate came from the Mabatini group, which I was responsible for starting a year ago.

Guests are arriving and graduation is about to start.

Corine and I usher the girls out so they can process into the hall (a process that takes about 15 minutes itself!).

I gave a brief welcome and speech.

A lot of work went into the planning and execution of this day, but most of it was done by a committee of girls with us coordinators overseeing and guiding them along. They really did a great job and the day was a major success!

Corine and I with the 4 Senior Facilitators. These are an amazing group of hard-working young women!

But wait! That's not all. Stay tuned for more blogposts about other December festivities!

Monday, December 29, 2014

I was Just Sitting There... In December

...waiting for 50 of the Lulu girls for a holiday shopping spree.

In just a few short minutes the scene changed dramatically.

I was also just sitting there, after a very hectic month, getting some much-needed rest on Zanzibar island! 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

I Was Just Sitting There... Listening to Birds

A rare moment of quiet on the school grounds of Gedeli School in Nyakato. I arrived to Lulu group early and usually it's a madhouse of kids running and playing. School's closed for holidays until after the new year so I got a nice treat of peace and quiet.

I Was Just Sitting There...Related to Food

On Thanksgiving I was just sitting there...

wondering if I could force another plateful in. Answer: I did.

It's a little belated, but we had a wonderful Thanksgiving gathering here in Mabatini with many, many Maryknoll folks in attendance. I didn't take many pictures because I was busy with eating and shewing away thieving monkeys who were bound and determined to get at the food table (having entered through the roof in the open courtyard of the MK Father's/Brother's House). We have much to be thankful for and I appreciate having a night together to remember to give thanks.

A week later I was sitting there...

waiting for chips mayai to be made. This was during the Lulu pre-graduation festivities. We ran out of food (a rarity here in TZ, where there's always enough for everyone plus the neighbors!) so I stepped out to get 4 of these delicious treats, each made one-by-one on a charcoal jiko (stove). I sure do love a well-cooked chips mayai. (Basically a french fry omelet.)

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Winter 2014 Newsletter

Here's our Winter MKLM Newsletter, including a profile of one of my Lulu girls, an update about Chris's involvement with a new craft association, and an announcement about our next steps. Click the link to download. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Was Just Sitting There... waiting for chapatis

CHAPATIS! Best thing ever. Never get tired of them.

I Was Just Sitting There... in the grass

in beautiful weather watching the Lulu girls practice soccer in the churchyard field with the duka-lined streets and hills in the background. What you can't see in this picture is how LOUD it is! There was a wedding that day in the church so there was like at least 3 different types of music dueling each other.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Support Mwanza Charity Craft Association

This past weekend the Lulu project (among others) had a booth where we sold our handcrafts to locals in Mwanza. It was a very successful 2 days, which shows that our goal of having a storefront is possible! Please think about supporting this Gofundme site, which is raising money for a shared store for Lulu and several other NGOs like ours in Mwanza.

Here are a few more pictures from the Craft Fair this weekend. It was the best one yet!

A shot of a group that supports street children. The kids do skits and acrobatics to raise money for the center.

Chris was not only on the planning committee for the event, but he also MCed a little bit and was in charge of a very successful raffle. *

Me looking slightly dazed at our booth. Photo by Corine t'Hart

*I think for the first time in my life I won something. That's right, I WON a raffle! And not any old raffle either. I won a night away in a smancy hotel in Mwanza! YIPPEE. Secret (free) getaway coming up soon!

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Halloween in Mwanza

Halloween isn't something that's much celebrated outside of America; that's why it was such a nice treat for us on the 31st to be hosted by our Dutch friends and fellow missioners for a Halloween party. I don't think that was the original intention, to celebrate Halloween, but they did it up really good and we had such a nice time. In fact, Chris and I were one of the only Americans not dressed in costume. Oops!

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures myself. But I got these from one of the other folks who was there that night.

Corine and I making a concoction.
Chris borrowed this mustache for a few minutes so he could have a temporary costume.

I was justting there... at a dispensary

I was there on business for my work at the Health Department to learn about their system of data collection. This dispensary has a completely computerized, paperless system for client data entry. I was quite impressed!

Oh, and check out the serious drama happening on the TV.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Smokey (2007ish - 2014)

We got our puppy, Smokey, in 2012 right when we first moved to Mwanza. She was already a few years old by then so I'm not exactly sure when she was born. She's my first-ever dog (outside of my family growing up) and I'd been waiting for her for many, many years. She was my buddy and loved to spend time with me.

Even though she was supposed to be a "guard" dog, living outside and guarding the house, she's been an important part of the family and has been with us through all the ups and downs of the past few years in Tanzania. She was poisoned back in 2012 when we were robbed and survived it like a champ.

Unfortunately, she got sick a few months ago; we thought it was a cold because of the change in weather. It ended up being worms that aren't treatable.

Smokey loved to dig holes in the ground (much to the annoyance of her parents). She was a true African dog and loved to lay in the full heat of the midday sun. Sometimes I thought she was dead because she'd lay there so still for so long. She knew exactly what to do with a cat when it snuck into the yard, but she had no clue what to do with bones that we gave her as a treat. Even though she was the sweetest thing, she did have a forked tongue so maybe she had a little evil in her after all.

I'm gonna miss my little buddy very much. It just won't be the same at home without seeing your smiling face.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Was Just Sitting There in Bukoba (psst! It's Beautiful!)

We had a beautiful and relaxing retreat in Bukoba this weekend (I'll write more about it in a later post, but for now,) I was just sitting there...

on the banks of Lake Victoria in Bukoba.

I was just standing there...
enjoying the beautiful balcony view of Lake Victoria in our hotel in Bukoba.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I was just sitting there in a public school classroom...

waiting for Lulu to start.

We often use classrooms in schools for our Lulu groups, each one worse than the other. This classroom actually isn't as bad as some of the other ones. It's not unusual to come into a room that has the floor completely destroyed by holes and pits (crappy cement diluted down by sand breaks down very fast), no desks, and a chalkboard that's unreadable. Would you want to send your kids to school here?

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

I was just just sitting there today with the birthday girl...

and two Lulu facilitators enjoying my favorite lunch in Mwanza, samosas and fries.

Later today I was just sitting there playing with these perfect feet.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Am I a Jerk for Wanting to Be Me?

One of the things that I've noticed about myself living in a cross-cultural situation is that I often feel, well, for lack of a better term, like an asshole. When two very drastically different cultural norms for behavior intersect it can cause some conflict and it leaves me feeling sort of jerky for not doing it "their way." But at the same time I've learned that there are just some things I can't change about myself, or don't want to, even if I know that if I do it "my way" I'll look like a jerk. Let's take this past Sunday's church experience as an example.

A few months ago Chris and I switched from attending Mass in our neighborhood, Swahili-speaking church to going to an English-speaking Mass in town. We don't want to totally lose the connection to our local parish, so we popped in yesterday for church for the first time in probably two months. Unbeknownst to us, toward the end of Mass the parish leader got up and called by name members of various church committees to stand together at the alter and say a vow to working on the committee for the coming year. Well wouldn't you know, when they called up one of the first committees, the Peace and Justice Committee, they called me as one of the members. Say what!?? No one told me ahead of time that this was going to happen, nor did anyone ask if I would be interested in joining said committee. If anything could be an indicator, I had attended a meeting early in the year about possibly educating the parish on upcoming Tanzanian national constitutional reforms, but that was like probably more than 9 or more months ago and I'd not heard anything more about it. So it was quite a shock to hear my name called. Not to mention that this was all in Swahili so I still wasn't 100% sure of what was happening and what was going to be expected of me.

Now, most Tanzanians in this situation would just go up to the front of the church and wing it. They'd do whatever was expected of them without much protest or questions. But me in my American ways was not going to get up in front of the church and promise to do anything without first knowing what I was promising to do and what was expected of me. So I just stayed in my seat, probably looking pretty pissy, since I was a little annoyed that no one had even mentioned this to me. Toward the end of calling all the names of the committee members, someone from the group came toward me, tapped me on the back, and said that I needed to come up to the alter. I shook my head and said I wasn't going to get up there because no one had asked me if I wanted to join a committee. He looked a little put off, but said finally said fine, we can talk after Mass.

So the thing with this is that I didn't feel really bad about what happened; I wasn't mad or anything. Nor do I feel like I did anything particularly wrong or right. I just didn't do something I wasn't comfortable with. But I also don't think they did anything wrong. It would never be seen as a big deal to not tell someone ahead of time that they had been volunteered for a commitment. Despite this, I sat in church for the rest of the Mass feeling keenly aware of the fact that I did something very un-Tanzanian and I'm sure that I attracted much more attention by sitting there than I would have if I'd just gone up and said the pledge. In Tanzania saving face (for yourself or others) is very important. So there were probably a lot of people looking at me and wondering why I didn't just get up there. I probably embarrassed church leaders by not playing my role and people probably thought I was really mad, which I wasn't.

All of this may not seem like that big of a deal, but it kind of is, especially when we face situations like this all the time. The way we act, the way we communicate (even if it is in fluent Swahili, which it usually ISN'T), the way we hold our posture. Everything we do can be misconstrued as confrontational or offensive. In the beginning I really cared about coming across as a nice person and trying not to offend anyone. But after a while I realized that it's impossible not to offend people when you are from such drastically different cultures, even if you are super careful (as I hope I still am). And no one likes feeling like they're a jerk. So then I'm left with figuring out what to do with these feelings.

I don't really have an answer about how to deal with this. I've just kind of learned how to live with it. Actually, I am still learning how to live with it. Hopefully it's made me more tolerant of people and their own cultural differences, though I know that I can still get upset at people even when I know it's a cultural thing. In the end, it just comes with the territory of living here and the things we unknowingly agree to when we sign up for this. I agree to look like a jerk, even when I'm not a jerk and I don't want to be a jerk. All in all I'm just hoping that it evens out!

I was just sitting there... with my animals

I was just sitting there...

with Smokey after he was visited by his least favorite person in the world, the vet. Sorry for the shots, buddy, but hopefully you'll get better soon.

I was just sitting there...

watching Bubu cuddle with Chris. When did this cat become a lap-kitty?

Monday, September 29, 2014

In the past week I was just sitting there...

...in Ibungilo waiting for the Lulu girls, while sewing some handcrafts. It's blazing hot in the sun but these goats don't care.

...wondering if I'm the only one freaked out by this t-shirt.

...waiting for a Lulu facilitator to meet me on the road so I can visit her house. These sugar canes are a familiar site in TZ.

Friday, September 19, 2014

I was just sitting there... frustrated

...trying to figure out this crochet thing! ?? I was the comic relief for the girls yesterday.

UPDATE: I realized the picture never posted. Here it is!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Livable Wage

Speaking of "rethinking things," I had another humbling experience the other day, this time relating to money. You'd think after living in Tanzania almost 3 years that I'd be fully aware of the (sub)standard of living in which most people here live. But no, I can still be struck dumb by small conversations that just hit me over the head by surprise.

Last week, while we were waiting for more girls to show up to group, I was talking with Violet, one of our Lulu facilitators-in-training. Violet, a young mother of 2, was keeping herself busy by crocheting while we were waiting for other girls to show up, so I asked her what she was sewing. "A baby hat," she replied. One of the skills the Lulu girls are taught is how to crochet hats, blankets, baby sweaters, purses, and other items, all of which can be highly sought after in their communities. "Are you selling them to people in your neighborhood?" I asked her. She replied affirmatively, so then I asked her how much she can sell a hat for. She said it depending on if the buyer supplied their own yarn. She said it's hard to make a lot of money because people want to reduce the price. They purchase their own yarn and just pay Violet for the work.

"So," I responded. "If someone supplies their own yarn, how much can you sell it for?" She said about 2,000 Tanzanian Shillings (about $1.25 US). "And how long does it take you to make one hat?" "About 2 days," she said. At this point I was going to affirm her earlier comment about not making a lot of money and talk more with her about how to make ends meet. "So, 2000 Shillings for 2 days of work," I said. "Yeah, that's..." She interrupted me and said, "Yeah, so that's not too bad. Two days' work for 2000 Shillings."!

What do we do with $1.25? I will spend more than that on a beer when I go out to dinner. I can't imagine trying to live on that for 2 days. Granted, this girl will take that money and contribute it to the larger household income earned from other members so it'll be stretched further. But still, it ain't much.

Now, I don't expect any of us, myself included, to reduce our expenses and only live in $.75/day. It's not an ideal way to live and I wouldn't want it for myself, just as I don't want it for Violet and her family. Instead, I wish there were an easier way to increase her salary. To give her what she deserves and to have it be enough to raise her children within a solid home and with a good education. I hope that'll come with time. At least this is a start. Because the money she's getting now and the skills she's gained is more than she had before. But still, I don't think I'll look at 2000 Shillings the same way again.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Rethinking things

Lately I've been having some Lulu girls stop by my house because they're making handcrafts for an order that I received. So, as they finish their products they stop by the house so I can give them last minute touch-up suggestions and then to finally sell them to me.

One girl, Eliza, stopped by the other evening while I was preparing dinner. You might recall from pictures that when you enter our house we have a long hallway that leads to the living room. When we walked through the hallway Eliza immediately stopped, took off her shoes, and then proceeded to sit in the hallway on the rug. I didn't think much of it but just said to her, "Here, come in here and sit on a chair," and welcomed her further into the living room to the couches.

It didn't surprise me in any way that she'd stopped to sit on the rug because a lot of Tanzanians sit on rugs on the floor. And I had completely forgotten about it until later that night when I walked through again and I got to thinking about it and I just kind of thought it's an interesting anecdotal story. It just got me thinking about needs and wants and taking things for granted. I know that to a lot of people it looks like we have a simple life. And in a lot of ways we do live a simple life. Our house is pretty bare bones and no-frills. But the flip side of that is the side that Eliza saw when she came into the house the other day. In the eyes of a lot of other people, what we have and the way we live is quite extravagant. When the rug in our hallway is a perfectly adequate place to sit, fancier still than what most others have in their house, and we are just using it as a pass-through, then I think it's really clear that we're doing okay.

So, it's just a nice reminder to me about all that I have and that there's always another way to look at things. And I really appreciate Eliza for helping me change my perspective about such a simple thing as my hallway. Whenever I walk through I think I'll be reminded of her visit and I will remember to be thankful for what I have.

I was just sitting there... at the traffic light.

Wait. What? When did we get that a second traffic light in Mwanza!?

Monday, September 01, 2014

I'm just sitting here at Lulu...

I'm just sitting here..

at the Lulu Bwiru classroom. After being at the hospital in town (yes, entering week two of illnesses) it made more sense to just come here a little early rather than waste time in town (while feeling like crap). 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fall Newsletter 2014

I've not been much of a blogger lately. But in lieu of a proper blog post, here's a link to our latest newsletter. Read about our work and more at http://reidsinafrica.weebly.com/uploads/1/4/6/2/14624418/reid_fall_2014_newsletter_for_web.pdf.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sometime in the past two weeks I was just sitting there

...being serenaded by 150 schoolgirls.

...watching the FAB guests with Maryknoll Lay Missioners pound out artimesea. 

...watching the traditional dances of the Sukuma people at the Bujora Sukuma Museum. (I know people think this is an everyday thing in Africa-seeing traditional drummers and dancers- but I assure you, it is not! This is a special treat because of our visitors.)

*Sorry, I'm a little behind with posting these. These pictures are all from the when we had guests from MKLM. Just catching up.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I was just sitting there...in a hotel lobby

where our guests of Maryknoll Lay Missioners are staying while they are here for 2 weeks. They arrived today from America very jet-lagged, so they are taking a much needed 2 hr rest while I (the trip coordinator) gets to chill too.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

I'm just sitting here...

I'm just sitting here...

At the gas station waiting for a refill.

Monday, August 04, 2014

I'm just sitting here...

I'm just sitting here...

sitting at a restaurant along the banks of Lake Victoria taking a break from the hot and hectic city.

I'm just sitting here...

at church checking out these sweet Tommy's, I mean Toomy's.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

I'm just sitting here...

In TZ you find yourself rushing to something only end up just sitting waiting for things to happen. Or, even when things are happening you're still just kinda sitting there. So in honor of that, today I'm starting a new thing called "I'm just sitting here." And I'll post a picture of whatever I'm looking at.

I'm just sitting here...at Uzima Center.

And here's one from the other day too.

I was just sitting there... as I tried to learn crocheting (poorly). These girls were really good!


Thursday, July 24, 2014


Make yourself comfortable, Bubu. Don't let us hold you back. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Next Steps? Keep on Truckin'

For those of you who don't know, Chris and I are in the final year of our 3 1/2 year contract with Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Our contract is up in May 2015, at which time we can renew for another 3 years, extend for a shorter period of time, or move on to something else entirely. Although 10 months is a long time away, it also seems like it's just around the corner and we've noticed lately that an increased number of people are asking us about our next steps.

On the outset, I totally understand why people are asking. Folks at home want to know if they'll be seeing our faces at next year's Fourth of July BBQs, birthday parties, births of their children, etc. Folks in Tanzania are asking because they want to know if they should include us in their organizational budgets, if we'll be able to continue proving support to their programs, and they too want to know if they'll be the ones seeing our faces at BBQs, birthday parties, etc. So I totally get it. Y'all are so sweet and we totally appreciate your love and support.

On the flip side of things, when I get asked what I'll be doing next year I want to ask back to people  what they'll be doing in 10 months. The answer is that they probably don't know. I assume most people hope to be in a job that they like, living in a city that they like, surrounded by people that they like and who like them, but usually people don't plan that far in advanced so the specifics are yet unclear. Can't we just live life in the moment, I want to say, without planning what's around the next corner.

I know. I know. That's kinda a jerky response.

And it's not exactly true, anyway. I mean, don't get me wrong. Chris and I talk about it all the time. All. The. Time. Every day. Ad nauseam. And, come to think of it, maybe that's why I get a little twitchy when people ask me what we're doing next. Because we've talked ourselves into so many ideas that we. have. absolutely. no. clue. And it starts to stress me out. I mean, I'm in my mid(some say late, thankyouverymuch)-30's and my life is still up in the air. This was stressful enough when I was graduating college and I felt like I could do anything I wanted to do. I had the energy then. And seemingly endless time. Now? I don't know. I feel the clock ticking and the lack of direction seems to me more like a weight then an opportunity.

What I can tell you is this. Yes, our contract is up in May 2015. Yes, we have started to talk about what we will do. Yes, we are open to staying in Tanzania, or to moving back to the United States, or to living in Europe. That doesn't narrow it much, does it? Our decision is based on a number of things ranging from finances, family health/stability, our ability to adopt a child, and location of an appropriate job for our interests and skills. Some of these things can be planned for, but most of them can't be predicted until much closer to our end-of-contract date. So it's mostly a waiting game for now.

And speaking of waiting games. Although I think it's absolutely appropriate and wise to start discussing and researching our next steps, in all fairness to Tanzania and the life we have now, I think it's also vitally important for us to continue to enjoy where we are now and give our all to the work we are doing at the moment. That's very hard when we're also simultaneously thinking about, researching, and, okay I'll admit, fantasizing about our next move. We fell into this trap before when we were planning to come to Tanzania. It's really hard to live and enjoy the moment when we are waiting for the next change. But I'm not really sure how to do that gracefully.

So for now, I'll try to steer clear of snarky remarks. (Is that possible for me?) And I'll keep asking for support, prayers, and listening ears from family and friends near and far. And we'll just see what opportunities arise around the corner.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Magical Land

Chris and I are back from a wonderful week-long trip with family to Venice and the surrounding countryside. I'm kind of in a depression at having to get back to reality. I mean, COME ON, ITALY! how can a place be so beautiful?

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Istanbul for a Day

We have a 22 hour layover in Turkey on our way through to Italy and wouldn't you know, if you fly with Turkish Airlines they provide free tours of the city! So Chris and I spent the day trampsing around the city. 

One day in Istanbul just isn't enough. What a beautiful city!

Inside the Blue Mosque. (Never mind that I look like I have no teeth.)

Outside the Blue Mosque. 

The Turkish flag on the grounds of the Hagia Sofia. 

Inside a room in the Topkapi Muaeum. 

Spices at the Grand Bizaar. 

Metal works at the Grand Bizaar. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lulu Graduation Festivities

This past week has been a busy one for Lulu Mwanza. Four of our girls groups finished their cycle of classes. It usually takes about 9 months to get through all of the lessons. Once they have finished the lessons, girls can continue but it's a big accomplishment to stick through it and the participants really go through a transformation in the process. So, we like to celebrate the occasion and give them a well-deserved party. Well, actually 3 days of partying.

Monday's Netball Match

Since there are too many girls for everyone to attend the actual graduation, we invited all the girls in all 8 of the Lulu groups to a netball match at the beginning of the week.

 Corine explaining how the matches would be organized.

One of the pillars of the program is cooperation and this a great opportunity for the girls to get to know each other, root for other teams, and have some healthy competition. And, boy did they compete!

Eliza gets taken out but the game continues.

During a break in the matches, the girls from Bwiru sing a victory song while others make plans for the rest of the game or are resting till it's their turn to play.

It was really fun to watch, though, and as one team got knocked out of competition, they'd immediately start rooting for another team. In the end one of our newest groups were the victors.

Mecco celebrating their big win.

Cooking and Prep for Gradation

On Tuesday a select number of graduating girls and facilitators gathered to bake the cakes, cooking and sambusas for graduation. It's another added "gift" to the girls who have had good attendance and have showed initiative throughout the year for them to learn how to bake cakes and cookies. Cakes are a hot commodity here in Mwanza and they are very expensive, even for a simple sheet cake. So learning to bake is a skill they could use to start a business in their communities.

Did you know you can bake cakes and cookies are charcoal grills? There are a number of ways you can do it, but here's how we did it.

First you have to fill a tray with sand. We just dug it up in the yard.

That tray will be placed on a charcoal grill until it is very hot.

Then, once you've put greased newspaper in the bottom of a pan and filled it with your batter, place that on the hot sand.

Cover the lid with hot coals and a stone and leave it to cook until done.

I'd heard about this method before but hadn't had the chance to try it out. I have to say it was a whole lot easier than I had expected and the cakes turned out really well. The girls did all the work and were so proud of their accomplishments!

Wednesday Graduation

First of all, about graduation I have to say that the girls take all the credit for it being a success. They planned, organized, and put together everything with guidance and technical advice from Corine. But all the work and planning was done by them. They researched and reserved the hall rental; planned, bought and put up all the decorations; wrote out the schedule of ceremonies; MCed the event; planned and put on skits, songs and dances. All of it was so great and the best part was just the self confidence they showed. You could just see the pride on their faces. This is a far step away from the normal behavior of Tanzanian young women, who often hide their faces if asked a question and are discouraged from making direct eye contact with people.

Teddy icing the cakes, which we'd made the day before.

Easter hanging balloons.

Finishing touches on the head table.

The ceremony going on.

The girls from Ilamela group danced.

Eliza, Teddy, and Anisisa sing a song of thanks for the Lulu program.

It was an action-packed week and my body is paying the price for it this weekend (I'm sick in bed as I write this) but what a great week and what a wonderful tribute to some special girls.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Corpus Christi 2014

In Catholic news, today is the feast of Corpus Christi. In the US we don't usually do much to commemorate this feast day, but in much of the rest of the world parades and processions are usually held. In our own church in Mabatini there is always a procession in between the two Masses, where the Eucharist is paraded down the street and a large line of people go before and after, singing songs and making joyful sounds. It's always kinda cool to watch*.

The Eucharist is processed under this tent with incense being spread before it. You can also see the children in front with white shirts and red skirts/pants. Those are the Eucharistic dancers, who were throwing flower petals in front as they processed. Love them.

The line is actually quite long; it snakes around out of the picture and then back in again.

A video of the procession coming into the church.

*Even if it means that Mass is then 3 1/2 hours.

Monday, June 16, 2014

International Day of the African Child

Did you know June 16 is the Day of the African Child? In honor of the day, let's meet some of the familiar African child faces from our neighborhood. What better reason to celebrate than these cuties! And aren't we lucky we get to see them every day.

Maende in fancy shoes. He has a wonderful personality and is just old enough to be coming into his own.

Paulo. His parents own the little shop where we buy our daily staples (bread, eggs, flour, matches, etc.).

Sifa, which means praise. She's a girl. She comes with her mom each week for tutoring class with Chris.

Last but certainly not least, Stevu. I like to think of him as kinda the mayor of the kids in the neighborhood. His mom also owns another little shop where we buy our staples when Mama Paulo is out.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Lulu Merchandise for Sale (Limited quantities)

After I posted the picture of our Lulu booth at last weekend's craft fair, I received some feedback from folks interested in purchasing items. As I'm sure most understand, shipping from Africa isn't really very reliable, nor is it cost effective. So I have to rely on travelers coming to and from our area to transport any items going to the US. Luckily, such an opportunity is coming up next month! So, I present to you pictures of Lulu items that I have for sale.

Crocheted Bag/Purse (with lining and zipper), Stuffed Lizard made from kitenge African fabric, and Small Gift Bags made out of kitenge

Closeup of Bag/Purse (also available in pink)

Closeup of Lizards

Closeup of Gift bags

Crocheted Baby and Infant Sweaters and Caps and Balls made of kitenge African fabric

Necklaces with handmade beads of kitenge African fabric (available in 3 lengths: 25-, 30- and 40-bead count) and Greeting Cards (cards available are Christmas cards, flowers, wedding, and baby)

Closeup of the cool beads with various fabrics/colors

Mobiles with birds, stars or hearts (available in 2 lengths: 3- and 5-count) made of kitenge African fabric and bracelets with handmade beads of kitenge African fabric

Closeup of shorter Mobiles

Closeup of longer Mobiles

Closeup of Bracelets

Plastic Ball with rattle inside made of recycled plastic bags

Plastic Bag/Basket made of recycled plastic bags

I have limited quantities and the space in the suitcase will be small, so big orders for churches or other groups will have to wait for another time (though you can certainly let me know if this is something you're interested in for the future). Leave a comment in the message box, or email me at kreid(at)mklm.org with questions or more detailed pictures and to discuss payment options.

Also, here's a picture of the girls in Mabatini* making cards last week. I love that they're all wearing their Lulu t-shirts, which say Ushirikiano (cooperation), Uthubutu (assertiveness), and Ubunifu (creativity)!

Finally, here's a Lulu baby, one of many. Queenie gets a little bored during our lessons so we tried to entertain her on this day by putting chalk on her face. She loved it!

Asante sana (thank you so much) on behalf of the girls for your support!

*Just to be clear, the handcrafts pictured above are made by all Lulu girls in our various groups around Mwanza.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Craft Fair May/June 2014

We just had the first of 2 days at the Mwanza Charity Craft Fair. Great day! A little hot, but the company was great, the crafts were beautiful and the causes were worthy.

Taking a break from the sun. In the back you can see some of the hanging mobiles and necklaces that the girls made.

Our booth with crafts, all of which were made by Lulu girls. If you can take out take out the stuff from the booth from behind us, you'll see bags and balls made out of grocery bags, crocheted tablet bags, bracelets, baby sweaters, crocheted bags, balls made out of African fabric, etc. Great job, girls!

We hope even more people will come out tomorrow to support the great work in Mwanza.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lulu Happenings

I'm so proud of the Lulu girls in Mabatini. Ever since they learned kazi za mikono (handcrafts), they have really been working hard to get things done so they can sell them and make a little money. (The idea is that this money will be used to fund small businesses of their own.) For the past month the girls have been showing up early and not wanting to leave when the class is over. We have to kick them out! And THAT'S saying something from a culture where it's normal for no one to show up to a meeting until an hour after it was supposed to start. It's just really exciting and heartwarming to see them really using their skills to the fullest.

Mwanhamisi, who is a new facilitator currently in training, sits with Easter (pronounced Ester). who is a more experienced facilitator, to learn about making greeting cards.

One of our most quiet participants, Nyigo, is really proficient at card-making and it's been a great way to get her more involved with the other girls, who are much more outgoing.

The downside to this is that when you empower people to stand up for what they want, they can get really pushy. Just as it is heartwarming to see our hard work paying off, it's also really annoying when they're all 20 of them swarmed around me and demanding whatever it is that they need. Sheesh! We've created monsters!*

Also, speaking of unexpected things...Sometimes we have unexpected visitors in our Lulu classroom. Check out who stopped by with his family to hear about our session on family planning. There were so many of them, I think they might need the lesson!

A family of monkeys! This was the only shot I could grab of these cute, but mischievious guys.

*Really, I'm just kidding. I wish all my friends and family at home could see the transformations from our first meetings, where everyone was timidly sitting, afraid to talk or interact with each other, up until now, when they're joking with each other, participating in classes, and working so hard. So many of them have started small businesses and are making a little money to help their families along or to educate their kids. It's really, truly wonderful!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's day

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, step-mothers, mothers-in-law, and mother-like figures, especially to those who who are no longer united with their children.

I thought that a special flashback Mother's Day picture would be appropriate for this occasion.

Mom and Grandmom on presumably Mother's Day AM, just a few years back.

I don't know if I should say sorry to or congratulate my step-mom on her fortune at the incomprehensible fact that I don't have an old photo of her.  Instead, here's one of my two mom's on our last visit.

Photo by Ben Waldie.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Duara wa Utawala na Uthubiti- Power and Control Wheel in Swahili

When I was planning my presentation on Healthy Relationships and Domestic Violence for the Lulu facilitators' training last month I was hoping to find some materials in Swahili so that I could use their own words to describe things or define concepts, rather than using English words and concepts translated into Swahili.

If I were doing a presentation in America or in English I could do a quick Google search and find an overwhelming amount of materials, as well as some fairly standard tools that are used pretty much universally by most Domestic Violence Prevention Educators across North America. Unfortunately, when I did those same searches in Swahili I couldn't find a single thing. So I had to recreate the wheel, literally.

Duara wa Utawala na Uthubiti or Power and Control Wheel, in English
Since there was really nothing online I thought I'd add my contribution to the field here. Maybe someone in the future will do research on violence in East African relationships and this will be helpful to them. This was reviewed by several Tanzanians and Tanzanian cultural experts, so I think it's not only linguistically accurate, but also culturally appropriate. I think it's a shame that there's not more resources out there specifically for Tanzania and, more importantly, research out there in Swahili.

So here is Power and Control Wheel, or Duara wa Utawala na Uthubiti in Swahili, which is a tool to describe various methods that an abuser often uses to obtain power over another person. It certainly isn't an all-inclusive list, but just an illustration of a few examples. I wanted to have pictures in order to be inclusive of those who can't read, but being that I have little to no artistic ability I didn't want to (poorly) draw everything. Luckily, I found pictures from a Power and Control Wheel I found online, which is meant to be used for people with hearing impairments.

So anyways, for all posterity here it is. Hope it can be of some use to someone at some point.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Happy 11th Anniversary to the Hubby

Remember when we looked like this? Wow! Happy 11th, babe.

Friday, April 25, 2014


One thing I can't do without is my translator App on my iPhone. It's nothing fancy but I go everywhere with it and use it a zillion times a day. I decided to create a Wordle out of the most recent words that were saved in the App's history. Thought it would give an interesting snapshot of what words I'm using (and failing to remember because I've looked them up over and over again!).

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Easter

For the second year in a row, we (me and the Rossers) dyed Easter eggs and had an egg hunt with the neighborhood kids on the Saturday before Easter. This isn't really a custom that Tanzanians participate in, so it's hard for the kids to fully understand what we're doing and why we're doing it. But that doesn't stop us from having a great time!

Caitlin helping Steve to dye his egg and pick out stickers while Steve manages his lollipop.

Check out this little egg.

I think my favorite part of the day was when one of the girls saw David walking back from the duka with juice he just bought for the kids to drink and she says with glee, "ARE WE GOING TO HIDE THE JUICE NOW!?"

Dogs, kids and chickens all race around the yard to find the eggs.

We had to keep a close eye on the dogs and chase them away a lot because they were keen to get the eggs and eat them before the kids could find them!

Counting the eggs to be sure we found them all.

After the hunt was over, all the kids were able to eat a few eggs and a glass of mango juice.

Enjoying the fruits of their labor...well, I guess that would be the fruits of the chickens labor.

Smokey waiting for an opportunity.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter Sunday and wishing you continued blessings for the whole Easter season.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Two Weeks of Workshops

The past two weeks of Lulu have been quite exciting. Last week all of the Lulu participants in all 5 of the groups around town had the opportunity to study different hand craft skills. We offered crocheting workshops, workshops on making gift cards, on sewing different stuffed animals, and on making rosaries. The girls were able to chose which of the handcrafts they wanted to learn and then they traveled to another group for the class. This offered the participants the opportunity to learn about other Lulu groups and to meet girls from another area of town. I had a great time hosting new girls at the Mabatini workshops and loved just sitting with them as they quietly worked away.

A participant from our Mabatini group learns how to sew animals out of fabric.

Sikudhani, the teacher, is showing off the "mifano" or examples that the girls are learning to sew, a ball and a lizard.

This past week the regular Lulu participants had the week off for holiday, but the facilitators and we coordinators were busy with facilitator workshops. All week long we had sessions to help the peer educators develop new facilitation skills, learn new topics, and increase their skills to be better at their jobs as Lulu facilitators.

Listening intently. Photo by Corine 't Hart.

On Monday I had the opportunity to facilitate a 90-minute session on healthy relationships and domestic violence. Did I mention it was in Swahili!? It my first time presenting this topic in Swahili so it was a challenge. But all-in-all I thought it went well and I was really proud of myself.

Facilitating my workshop. Photo by Corine 't Hart.

Facilitating my workshop. Photo by Corine 't Hart.

All week long, it was so wonderful to see the girls laughing and enjoying each others' company, asking insightful questions, challenging each other and the facilitators, and expanding their minds and world-views. It makes me so happy to be here and so honored to play even a small part of facilitating this change in them.

Our whole crew for the week. Photo by Corine t' Hart.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How's Bubu?

I haven't posted much lately. Things are busy with the normal stuff of work and rest.

But how's Bubu, you want to know.

Chilling, as always.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Another Year, on to 36

It's hard for me to believe that a year ago I was in the US on a quick, last minute trip due to ongoing illnesses. The year has really flown by and here I am, still in Tanzania, celebrating another birthday, my 36th. I am so happy that this past year I have been able to put a lot of my health issues behind me  and concentrate more on work and enjoying my life here.

Thanks, everyone, for all the well-wishes, emails, Facebook messages, notes, etc on my birthday. It really means a lot to me to be remembered. I had a very nice day. I spent the morning at the one and only nice coffee shop in town for a work meeting. It was much nicer than it sounds because my coworker is also a friend and I enjoyed a cool iced tea while we planned and chatted. I also spent a few hours with these ladies.

Then I got to go out to dinner with this guy.

Here's what was on the other side of the table.

Wuw! I can't believe that I actually look like this because this is what I still think I look like.

Anyways, here's to another great year of getting older, to health, happiness and meaningful work!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Expanding Lulu Groups

Over the past few weeks I've made a slight but important shift in my ministry work. Where I once was really only working with one of our Lulu groups, the one in Mabatini that I helped to open up, I'm now taking on a bit more responsibility with some of the other groups around town. Our Mabatini group is doing really well; the facilitators are planning well and handling the group; the girls are gaining more and more skills each day; and soon they'll be learning some hand crafts so they can make a little more money for themselves and their families.

 The girls have gotten really good at doing skits/role plays. Here they're talking about saving money by shopping around for the best price of vegetables.

Natalie, an adult facilitator, teaches about managing money and creating a budget based on income and expenditures.

Now is a good time for me to take a step back (while still supporting them, of course) and help Corine, the SMA missioner who created the program and is the person responsible for Lulu in her goal to open up 2 more Lulu groups in 2 different areas of the city. Last week we went out for some visits to those locations.

In an area called Nyakato, we had a meeting for interested girls and their parents. We have a lot of great support in this area from the local leaders, one of whom offered up their house for us to have this meeting.

Corine talking about Lulu and how the girls can join

On Wednesday of this week I will go out for our first meeting in Nyakato exclusively for the girls (without parents). It's always a good feeling to start a fresh new group. At this point, there's nothing going wrong, they're all clean slates toward the program and we can start at square one. Soon things take on a life of their own and become more complicated, so it's always a nice, fresh feeling at the start! Despite the challenges that may come, though, I'm very excited to see what happens here!

After we get Nyakato group off the ground, we plan to work with a local computer school to start another group, in an area called Mecco (not too far from Nyakato). The computer school has a special program for young girls who are pregnant or parenting, to teach them computer skills and try to help them get a job. We're going to open a Lulu group here to help give the girls even more skills.

Me and Corine meeting with Rose, one of the office staff at EBLI (Education for Better Living).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Answers to Life's Most Pressing Questions

When we were in the US, we were fielding a lot of great questions from family and friends. After a while we started noticing some of the same questions popping up over and over, so I thought I’d devote a blog or two to answering some of the more popular questions. If you’ve got a question about our life here in TZ, about the local’s way of life, about our work, our observations, etc., feel free to write it in the comments section and I’ll try to get to it in a future post.

What kinds of food do you eat?
In our home we eat Western food similar to what we ate in America. Since coming here, Chris and I are no longer vegetarians so we eat meat, but I don’t cook it a lot. We can get a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, pastas, rice, and dried beans.

Here are some of the veggies I bought today. It's very rare for me to get zucchini or lettuce so today is a good day! Can you tell there are lemons and oranges in there? They are both green!

Most of the food is locally grown, with the small exception of things coming in from Nairobi or South Africa. So that means there’s limited diversity and if it’s not made/grown in Tanzania, it’s going to be much more expensive. For example, cheese. You can buy cheese here, but there are only a few kinds and they are usually a mild cheddar-type variety and it’s very expensive. We splurge on buying cheese and tend to eat a fair amount of it but we use that same cheese for everything--on pizza, in “Mexican” dishes, in risotto, on grilled cheese sandwiches. You get my point.

Nom nom nom. I sure would love some of this liquid goodness.

When we visit Tanzanians in their homes, they either serve rice with meat/fish, vegetables, and/or beans or the same accompaniments with ugali.
Meals usually look a little like this.

Ugali, a staple in many parts of Africa, is basically boiled flour that forms a more paste-like polenta. This type of food is almost exclusively what Tanzanians eat in this area of the country. I really like some local foods, while others are just so-so to me. The beans are awesome. Smashed greens with peanut sauce? Yum, my mouth is watering just typing about it. Their hot sauce is probably one of my favorite things too. I actually don’t even mind the ugali, though I wouldn’t want to eat it every day like they do.

What’s your house like? (Do you have power, running water, electricity?)
We live in a very adequate, safe house with finished concrete walls, a metal roof, running water and electricity. It’s 3-bedroom (we use 1 as an office) with 2 bathrooms. While certainly not luxurious in American standards, considering that most Americans assume we live in a mud-block and thatched roof house, it’s quite nice. And, compared to the vast majority of Tanzanians, who do live in mud-block, thatched-roof houses, or with 10 people in one room, we’re living the highlife.

Here's a quick tour of what our (messy) house looks like today:

Here is the road as you approach our house behind the gate on the right.

Our cute little yard and house. The vehicle belongs to MKLM and we are fortunate to get to use it right now.

Our washer and dryer in the side yard. Haha.

As you walk into our house, our bedroom is on the right.

A few steps from our bedroom is our dining room, living room and kitchen, which are all one big room.

Everything's a bit messy right now but it's an accurate representation of the normal basis.

Our master bathroom is across the hall from the living/dining room/kitchen. There is a sit-down toilet in our bathroom off the bedroom. This bathroom is where we take showers. Cold water goes through the heater on the shower head and it has an electrical unit to heat it up. We call that "the widow-maker."

In the back of the house on the right is our office and across the hall is a guest bedroom. I didn't take a picture of that today.

What do you “do”?
As Americans we tend to define ourselves in terms of what we do, whereas Tanzanians want to know who a person’s family is and where they come from. They usually “do” whatever they can to get by. I find that now that we’ve lived here for 2 years, it’s easier for me to think in these terms, partly because it’s hard to describe what I “do” and how I describe what I do might depend on who I’m talking to.

When I say I’m a missionary or with a Catholic Lay Mission organization Tanzanians tend to know that this means that I’ve been inspired by my faith to move to another country to work in some sort of aid capacity. For those from a more Western perspective who want to know more or who might have a different impression when they hear the word “missionary,” I’m working on a girls’ projects called Lulu that helps young women roughly between the ages of 15-20 years old who are out of school, have children or live in at-risk environments. The girls meet two-times or more a week to learn about life skills, communication/cooperation, handcrafts and small business skills. I am working with another Lay Missioner (an SMA Lay Missioner from the Netherlands), who wrote the program and piloted it in several locations. Istarted my first group in my own neighborhood of Mabatini, an incredibly overpopulated and poor urban neighborhood in Mwanza city. We are now in the process of opening 2 more groups, which we expect to have off the ground in the next month to two months. I tend to take more of a behind-the-scenes roll in my work. We use Tanzanian facilitators, usually girls themselves, and I support them to make sure they’re successful.

What do you do in your spare time? (Hobbies/ways to get away)
To be honest, there’s not much to do here in Mwanza. No movie theaters, few museums and not many places to “get away” from the hustle and bustle of city life. I like to go out to eat at the numerous restaurants or “hotelis” in town. Sometimes we drive to the top of a large rock outcropping overlooking Lake Victoria and have a picnic dinner. I like to swim at a pool at the international school and sometimes I go along with some of our neighborhood kids. I like to run/jog in the early mornings. I like to find creative ways to cook with the limited ingredients we have here (see the question above about food). Chris and I have had a great time traveling to other countries around the region, but that is expensive and takes time so we can’t do that more than 1x/year if we’re lucky. Mostly if the power is on and the work is done, I watch movies or TV shows at night on the computer. We rely pretty solely on things that people send on external drives, so if you’re ever thinking of something to mail us, that’s a pretty good bet!

Picnic dinner with fellow MKLMers on the rock outcroppings.

What’s the weather like? (AKA It’s hot there, right?)

A snapshot of this month's weather from weather.com. Not much variety.

The weather maintains a fairly constant temperature all year round in Mwanza. We’re on the lake, so we get some cooling effect due to that. The temperature usually remains in the 80’s (Fahrenheit) and only varies about 7 degrees, depending on whether it’s the wet or dry season. We have 2 rainy seasons, the long rainy and short rainy season. The weather tends to get more hot right before the rains come and then it cools off a bit when it starts to rain. 

What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
Clearly it’d be an African so you can easily do the math there. You have to know these things when you're a king you know.