O Brother, Why Art Thou Here?

ayubu.jpgThe question “Why are we here?” was a simple one posed today by a 70-year-old religious Brother (Donald) born and raised in Brooklyn, NY who has lived in Tanzania for the past 49 years. Still emblazoning his Brooklyn bravado as if he had just moved away last month, he made me, and the others in our band of Hawks, think about the deeper meanings behind the inquisition.

The answers vary immensely from person to person and, for the most part, are a virtual work in progress. One of the most honest answers from one of the students was “I really don’t know why I’m here!” It’s not that we haven’t thought about this trip every day for the past 10 months (and as some will say, for theire entire lives), it’s just that we are all trying to keep a very open mind as to what we are experiencing out here in East Africa and I truly believe that we may not necessarily “figure it out” during our 3 weeks’ time here.

For myself, a better sense of a more global understanding of the human family is what I hope to come away with, but I really have no idea what the next few weeks will hold for us! All I can say is that our Tanzanian brothers (‘kaka’) and sisters (‘dada’) have been immensely kind to us. The smiles of the faces of the children who have greeted us in the streets of Morogoro and Dar es Salaam have been unbelievably uplifting in the face of abject poverty and it really has made me take a step back and reevaluate what is important in my life.

As many have blogged already, there have been some incredible moments on this trip and for all of these moments, and the people who made them possible, I am grateful. The one experience which stands out to me as “powerful” occurred this past Saturday at the Boys’ Home for street children in Kigamboni (a section of Dar es Salaam right along the coast of the Indian Ocean). As we were getting to know the 7 boys, this spunky 12-year old by the name of Ayubu (with a personality no playwright or Hollywood script could ever conceive) and I started talking. I honestly didn’t know how much we’d have in common. But he was really interested in learning the names of my siblings and so we went back and forth, him telling me about Ali, Namea, and Everest and me about Katie, Missy, and my little niece, Meredith. Within a few minutes, we started rapping and making up a beat to the names of those most near and dear to us so that the other could remember them and it was probably one of the most ridiculous yet touching moments of my life. We hung out in the front of the packed Dala Dala on the ride to the beach and talked and he just put his arm around me… I’m not sure who needed the hug more, but there was an undeniable brotherhood between us that just seemed to make sense. Although he has been dealt a different hand than me in life, he still knows what is important to him… family! I realized more than ever how important mine is to me thanks to my buddy, Ayubu. The rest of the day was awesome (aside from stepping on that sea urchin!) and I can honestly say that I have a little brother/kindred spirit/friend over here in Tanzania

So although I may not exactly know yet why I’m here, I know that I definitely have a lot of thinking to do when I get back home. The good news is that even Brother Donald hasn’t “figured it all out” yet though and this, among most things, gives me hope for what is to come.

Asante, Matt

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9 Responses to “O Brother, Why Art Thou Here?”


  1. 1 Marianne and Ron Grace July 11, 2007 at 2:12 am

    Matt, thanks!! Marianne

  2. 2 Mary July 11, 2007 at 2:18 am

    Hello to Matt, Beth, and all the exceptional Hawks!

    It has been wonderful to hear some insights into your joureny of the unknown. From the blogs that have been sent so far it seems as though each of you is learning and experiencing a very different and unique experience unto yourselfs. You should all be proud of the work you are doing and the joy and hope YOU are bringing to the people that are bringing much of the same to you!

    In an attempt to learn a few phrases of Swahili, I send you angu (my… I think) amani and upendo (love?). Continue to spread your love and happiness to the land of Tanzania and enjoy each and every special moment you have there~

    Amani,

    Mary (Donati) 🙂

  3. 3 Mom (Margaret Fullmer) July 11, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Hello Matt,

    Your “Why are we here?” piece is absolutely beautiful and touching! How wonderful for you and your fellow travelers to be able to see the sights you describe and experience the feelings you have for these dear people. You are all gaining a global sense of the world we live in and what you have in common with those living in a country so far away and so different from ours. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Continue to enjoy, absorb, experience and spread the message of brotherhood and love in Tanzania. Go Hawks!

    Love,
    Mom (Margaret Fullmer)

  4. 4 Jena Fioravanti July 11, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    Hi Matt,

    Just saw your email and decided to take a look at your blog. I work in Research Services and just returned from Bolivia with nine others from the University at the end of May. I wish all of you an incredible journey and experience… I can relate so closely to all that you’ve shared. I got chills just thinking about the enlightening, emotional, spiritual, and wondrous experiences that I/we had while immersed. The human connections I felt filled me with great joy as well. And the experience did not end when I returned home… it lives on in you and alters something about the world. I’m still working out my answer to the “why are you here” question. It is an important question, not easily answered, so I will continue to ponder my answer. The wonderful joy and awakening of my perspective and world view as a result has been an incredible gift… I hope it is one that is felt by all in your group! Take care! Hope every day is a wonderful adventure, full of indescribable moments! Can’t wait to hear more…

    Jena

  5. 5 Missy Fullmer (Matt's Sister) July 12, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    “Oh Brother, Why Art Thou [T]here?”

    Admittedly, little brother, that is something I ask myself repeatedly … not just about this trip, but about all of your journeys. Sure, I am the big sister (or “umbu,” as you would say in Tanzania) and hence, always questioning what you do. Not in a negative way, mind you (okay, with a minor few exceptions ) … that’s just my job. Although we are separated my a mere three years, I suppose I’ve always seen my role as the protector, the mentor, the pioneer, if you will … the one who’s supposed to plow the road ahead of you, test the waters of adulthood, lead by example, shield you from knowing defeat and see you through to success.

    In an ironic twist, however, it is YOU who soars to great heights and teaches me. You never cease to amaze me, Matty. The places you’ve seen, the lives you’ve touched, the hope you’ve instilled … you are a true inspiration and role model to all. As I read your posting, I was consumed by great emotion … pride, excitement, wonder, and most importantly, thankfulness. Through God’s grace, I was blessed with a remarkable brother. Family is, indeed, the most precious gift that we have in life, and it’s only fitting that you and Ayubu bonded by sharing in each other’s. I’m flattered to know that I am memorialized in a rap that the two of you will likely never forget, and I’m looking forward to hearing it upon your return!

    To all the wonderful Hawks who are sharing in this adventure:
    Each of you should be proud of the work you’re doing. I have enjoyed reading about your experiences thus far, and look forward to many more. Savor every moment of your immersion and know that there are many of us back home waiting to learn from your experiences! Each of you, in your own right, is making a mark on the world.

    Amani and upendo,
    Missy

  6. 6 Rosie Kaczmarcik July 18, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    Just wanted to say that I am really enjoying reading your blog entries! Makes me miss SJU and Immersion Trips a lot. I wish you guys the best and know you are doing wonderful, fabulous things.

    Peace!
    Rosie

  7. 7 Katie July 19, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Great blog entry! I love your bonding experience with Ayubu. I can only imagine the rap song…I can’t wait to hear it and compare it to my version that I created! Thanks for the message Matty! We love you and can’t wait to see you! Go Hawks…and I love reading everyone’s blogs! Two-ton here on the East Coast can’t wait to see pictures of his cousins in East Africa!
    Love ya!

  8. 8 vietinvip October 14, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Hello.
    🙂 The natural photo of the new arrival, taken by Emma Tallulah’s dad,
    Bye.

  9. 9 cristal-ballena.com July 28, 2013 at 5:30 am

    Excellent write-up. I certainly appreciate this website.
    Thanks!


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