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Kwaheri

I fell in love today – well, I fell in love yesterday and continued it today.  I think we all fell in love a little in the past week.

We said a lot of goodbyes (“kwaheri” in Kiswahili) today. They started at 9:30am and didn’t finish until 5pm.  It began with a stop at the elderly home and then to the orphanage and then to B. Hillhurst Secondary School for a mass and a little going away party that the students put together for us and unfortunately included a little input by the 10 of us.  Let me tell you how great our part was.  Perhaps we’ll include a little bit here.  No, it was just too embarrassing.  For the record, don’t ask us to sing the national anthem together. Ever.

The students sang and danced and put on a little “dramatisation” for us.  It was quite impressive to say the least. 

And then there was some dancing that we took part in.  Ask Joe about it. 

We split into our respective Forms then for some pictures and more personal goodbyes.  And then some more pictures.  And some more. 

Our day would have not been complete without a full meal cooked for us by the Mgolole sisters (for all of you wondering, if we look 20 pounds heavier when we get back to the US, it is not our fault).  Lunch was accompanied by wonderful conversation and more goodbyes.

Speaking of goodbyes, this will most likely be our last blog as we probably won’t have free access to internet like we do here in Morogoro.  Sorry about that.  I know how many faithful readers we have out there and we appreciate each and every one of you.  Really, thank you for your support and love and, of course, your comments through this whole experience.  We’ll see you on the other side…of the Atlantic.

Kwaheri,
Annie and Jenn

Notes from an alum…

*Note: this entry should have been posted Saturday night, which is when it was written in my mind.  Apologies for it taking a few more days (in due African custom) to appear in type and online…

 

Four years ago I traveled by bus from Nairobi, Kenya, to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and was extremely distraught over the depressing poverty I perceived surrounding my route.  This was just one of many reasons I swore I would never repeat any part of the 15-hour journey between Nairobi and Dar again.  Today I somewhat hesitantly retraced my steps for almost 11 hours to Arusha, as I departed a week’s company with the SJU group in Morogoro.  I witnessed the same scenery, but this time my restlessness was replaced by a profound sense of inner peace.  A friend once told me, “It’s good to return to a place we haven’t been in awhile to see how much we’ve changed.”  Four years since I first stepped on African soil, my mindset seems to be shifting more vigorously than ever, not the least of which my perception of poverty and understanding of development.

 

Then I was fresh out of college experiencing Africa for the first time.  Now, in the midst of my fourth trip to the continent, I jumped at the opportunity to experience a sort of “service immersion trip in reverse”: after two months of fieldwork and research on poverty-related issues in Kenya and Uganda, I retreated to reflect with my alma mater as it experienced the first of its African excursions.  Somewhat ironically, I was breaking from the realities and the peoples these students were just encountering for the first time (save for the lone African member of the group, Michael Mungai, who has contrastingly lived them all of his life), and taking some time to myself in the midst of familiar and comfortable surroundings – a mobile Wolfington Center if you will.

 

So as this respite provided the much-needed space which enabled me to see pure beauty surrounding my journey today and poverty only so much as it lied within me, I couldn’t help but ask myself how these students are processing their newfound surroundings and wonder about where it will lead them in years – and return trips – to come.

 

Safari Njema…

 

-Mark Orrs, ’03

Just Be

Just Be.

 

What does that really mean? Does it mean “fly by the seat of your pants”? Does it mean “what will happen, will happen”? Or does it mean “live for today”? I don’t know. It’s not really in my nature to live my life like this… I am a planner. On several occasions I have been told that I have trouble with this, that I am a future-oriented person, and if I’m not careful, I will miss the present. But sometimes I am able to make the conscious decision to just be. It’s hard. Life happens, and I forget to just be. In our fast-paced society, if you sit on the porch swing too long, you miss things. Yet, don’t they also say, “Stop and smell the flowers;” or “Life happens while you’re busy making other plans;” and my personal favorite, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” So how does one really live life like this?

 

The Tanzanians are big on using the present tense Beth said. “I am happy. This is wonderful.” Maybe I need to learn this lesson from them…a lesson of sitting still on the porch and just being. Yesterday we went into town to get skirts made. The tailor and his sewing machine were located on the front porch of his house, and he was surrounded by a whole host of characters. Several women, a few men, and many children were all just sitting around, talking and spending time together. There was no agenda, no future planning, just being…with each other. I envy that way of existing. In those moments they were 100 percent present to each other. They viewed each other as the most important things in the world, and they treated each other in that way. It was beautiful. I have found for myself that when I am able to let go of all of my baggage, all of my planning, all of my “what ifs” or “what could bes”, I really am able to enjoy myself. My experience is so much richer, and those relationships are so much deeper. I am whole. Now I don’t intend to take actions without considering the consequences, and I do like having my five year plan, but if I can master the art of just being, well, who knows where my life with take me in the end.

 

~ annie

An Inspiring Day at B. Hilhorst Secondary School

   Today I truly learned the meaning of Humility.  As Joe, Alena and I were standing in front of 40 Pre-Form (ages 14-16) students, we presented the issue of HIV/AIDS as our topic of discussion for the next 4 hours.  At first – and for the next hour – we could honestly hear a pin drop… I actually think I heard a cricket chirp on the other side of the classroom.  We asked the students what sort of stigmas are attached with the disease, how people acquire HIV, and how they can prevent the spread of the virus.  After a while, someone finally broke the silence.

   Realizing that we might have an easier time having discussions in smaller groups, we met with about 13 students each.  After a few mintues, most of the students were comfortable enough to tell us what they knew about HIV/AIDS.  A majority of their facts being correct, they seemed to be no strangers to the disease which affects so many millions in their country and the entire continent of Africa.  The reverence with which they treated this topic (versus the lighthearted days prior of ‘musical chairs,’ ‘red light-green light,’ and even our debate in English class ‘ Is American music better than Tanzanian music?’) helped me understand that this day would be special.

   We wound up creating and presenting a skit to the entire grade (120 students) which we worked on for about an hour.  I was merely there to coordinate their efforts and start the ball rolling, but what I witnessed next made me both proud (as their teacher for a week) and inspired!  They all worked together to explain to others how serious the spread of HIV/AIDS is and that, as young students, they need to be informed and educated as to how they can acquire this debilhitating disease.  And so, as Philip, Felista, Leah, Ashura, Elizabeth, Anton, Digna, Martha, Josephat, Anita, Elizabeth (#2), Sylvia and Siewiema poured their hearts into this skit, my hope was that we may have helped someone out who may not have known much about this deadly, yet preventable, disease.  These bright young minds of Tanzania have deinitely taught me a thing or two this week and I feel honored to be called their teacher.

– [Mr.] Matthew

A few thoughts

Jirani ni nani? (Who is my neighbor?)

This Sunday was a bleary-eyed awakening to an early Swahili Mass at the Capuchin Friars.  We were a few minutes late and so we joined the crowds of people spilling out of the back of the church, packed and pressed in to hear the joy of the choir, the beating of the drums, and the prophetic Word preached.The Gospel this Sunday was the story of the Good Samaritan and the posed question – who is my neighbor?  One of our group asked, what does it mean for Tanzanians to hear this Gospel?  The preacher admonished the congregation – What about the street boys you pass by without acknowledgement?  Those who are sick with HIV/AIDS whom you do not visit?  What about African values of community and hospitality – how are these being lost by an uncritical absorption of all things Western?  Over and over again, he repeated “We all need each other.”  And we do – there is very obvious need here.  And – as we have reflected often on this trip – there is very real, different need within us as well.  But how often do we pass over to the other side of the road, averting our eyes? 

Jisikie nyumbani (Feel at home)

After “Karibu,” (Welcome) I think that “Jisikie nyumbani” (Feel at home) is one of the most common greetings extended to us here.  And with so many warm welcomes, how can we not feel at home?  As a Jesuit Volunteer in Tanzania for 2 years, I reflected often on home.  I was often homesick.  However, after time, my neighbors made me feel at home.  And, after I left, I often felt less at home in the cultural context of the States than I had felt as a Jesuit Volunteer in Tanzania.Coming back to Tanzania, in a way, feels like coming home.  They say home is where the heart is, and definitely a part of my heart is with my Tanzanian community.  However, I know that truly I am called to find home wherever I am.  One of my theology professors described a mystic as one who is truly “at home.”  How often do I rush through my days, how often do I travel far geographically only to realize that I am far from who I truly am or am called to be?

Kuimba (To sing)

I think some of the SJU group has already written about our greeting from the students at the Mgolole secondary school.  A whole morning we sat as near-celebrities, as the students performed songs of greeting and welcome for us.  Their voices swell and fill the hall with vibrancy and life.  “Viva Tanzania!  Viva America!” they sing and I wonder what we will ever be able to offer them in return. 

Hope

Josefina, a Form One student at the Mgololoe sister’s school, says she wants to be the president of Tanzania when she grows up.  She glows with enthusiasm and eagerness.  I tell her that I want to come back to Tanzania when she becomes president.

-Beth

Remember the Juiceman

I guess I should keep this one quick to the payoff, since nobody reads my posts.

Women should come with instruction manuals; young idealism is fleeting; where’s my Juiceman 10000; and little kids are brats.

Firstly, women should come with instruction manuals. The same could be said for men, but I’m a man and I pretty much have stuff figured out on this side.  Luckily, we have a half-heart attempt in everyone’s favorite romatic comedy “Hitch” (I know I know, I’m really reaching now).   Anyway, arguably the most utilitarian line in that gut wrenching, yet quite enjoyable film is: “Women don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘Gee, I hope I don’t get swept off my feet today.'”  For myself, that seems profound since, in the States, I usually wake up to the same seemingly vanilla world where insipration is hard to come by or it comes in the  form of a Rocky movie.  I believe that there are none among us that wake up every morning and say “Gee, I hope I don’t get inspired today.”  Somehow, someway here in Tanzania I have been inspired and empowered everyday.  Empowerment being the key phrase, I am emboldened and envigored to take action, yet why is this not the case in the States?  We do live in the greatest country in the world correct? (In my book, sure.)  I’m just throwing that out there.  In any case, women should come with a instruction manual that is better than the movie “Hitch”, which I would crupple up and throw away.

Young idealism is fleeting.  Reality overpowers any romantic fantasy.  The truth remains; our world is filled with corruption, inequality, deception, defeatism, injustice, and hypocracy.  I didn’t have to come to Africa to see the poor when they live on my doorstep (If you live in the Kenmore Apts you know what I mean).  This world is perfect for jaded young, naive, optomistic idealists.  In fact, I believe this world survives by latching on and draining the life force from its adolescent idealists like a paracitic vampire.  So what’s a young naivete to do?  Where is it safe for our immature idealists?  What does your young idealist need?  The Juiceman.   

I am the only member of the team that still remembers Jay Kordich, a.k.a. the Juiceman.  The old man with crazy eyebrows, a chest of steel, and a Califorinia tan and boy (oh boy) could he pawn off a second-rate blender as a Juicer, and then sell you books about “Juicing” (the old school way, pre-Barry Bonds).  As a young impressionable child I could watch his infomercial two, three, five times a day. He was just that good.  “Why peel a mango when you can juice it?” Or, “Why waste your peach and mango pits, why waste your apple and pear cores? There’s perfectly good juice in there?”  That was an “idea” and juicing was the “-lism.”  Think about that.

I guess I should try with a better analogy.  This didn’t happen to me, but I’ll use it like it did happen to me.  I was walking on the beach one day, low tide had just reached its peak.  The sun and the ocean danced together, but I was too busy trying not to step on starfish to notice.  The beach was covered in starfish, it was as if the starfish decided that they would rather die then spend another minute in that polluted cesspool called the ocean (another blog, another time).  The starfish had enough!!  They were on strike maybe (I don’t know I’m not a starfish, nor did I speak starfish at the time). Down on the other side of the beach was a little brat that methodically (the annoying way only little children can do) picked up starfish and threw them into the ocean.  I looked on and watched the fleeting folly of youth, until I finally spoke out, “Hey kid, stop wasting your time. It’s not going to make a difference, there are just too many.”  The snot-nosed brat looked at me, picked up another one, threw it in the ocean, and replied, “It made a difference to that one.”  Stupid kids, I wasted a gorgeous day at the beach with some brat throwing starfish.

J.Kim