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So much of our days are filled with new challenges.  Our old brains, already forgetful, are really shorting out these days as there is so much new information, challenges, and wonders to process.  Life is utterly fascinating, never boring.  But, there are the small everyday tasks we do here that soothe in their calming, arcane behaviours we thought we would share:

There is the morning washing of the blackboard rag at the tap outside the classroom before our English Class.

washing the blackboard ragEnglish class

Texting…

Jessie Texting

feeding the poor sick dog that wanders our neighborhood,

feeding the poor dog

Tally shining our shoes after our day of walking the dirt paths to and from our classes.

Tally shining shoes 1Tally shining shoes 2Tally Shining shoes 3

Feeding our neighbor, Iri Moto’s, chickens who calm and amuse us with their clucks and antics,

Tally feeding the chickens

giving food to old Shamba who comes everyday in his heavy coat and bare feet,

Shamba

then lastly our “cocktail hour” before we cook our dinner of beans and rice, do some work and usually turn into our beds around 9:00 to read before going to sleep.

cocktail time

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We were up at 6:30 this morning in order to be ready to leave for a Roman Catholic service four miles from where we live. We didn’t know but suspected that we would be going via Dala-Dala, a small van similar to the first Volkswagen buses, but not as large and also in very poor repair.

After walking about a mile we hopped onto a packed Dala-Dala and bounced along the dirt road until we got to the church. Sonorous music came from inside and soon we were seated among 5 to 6 hundred Africans listening to a service in Kiswahili. Funny how we couldn’t even say the Nicene Creed in English. We needed the BCP. We were allowed to take communion “provided our hearts were right.” We were comfortable with the liturgy and felt quite at home.

We assumed that we would return to Msalato after the service but our friends then wanted to know if we were willing to walk into Dodoma town. I think they worried about me, a bibi, (grandmother) not knowing that I walk 4 to 5 miles everyday with James and Jessie and her dogs. They didn’t accept or understand that we have been into town many times. It seemed they wanted to be our guides and take us sightseeing (oh, what sights) in Dodoma Town.

We finally told them that we needed to get back to do some preparation for tomorrow’s classes. Again we climbed aboard a Dala-Dala along with 24 anothers packed in like sardines in a tin can. Jessie and I shared a seat with half of my bohiney hanging off the seat and with my arms hanging onto Jessie as our driver navigated the potholes in the road. Don Schulte advised me on my first journey to South Africa to take in the sights, the smells, and the entire landscape. We certainly had that opportunity today. We took our friends to a new cafe for lunch and ordered chopped eggs not knowing what in the world chopped eggs were. ‘Twas a hard boiled egg wrapped in a thin shell of meat??? and dipped in what looked like a coconut shell, or whatever and then fried. Actually they were pretty tasty.

Our hosts wanted to continue to “take us on the town” all on foot. As the afternoon wore on we insisted that we needed to get back to Msalato to work on tomorrow’s lessons. At 3:30 we arrived home and all we could think about was a bucket bath! The power went off just as Jessie began to cook dinner. Believe me, that’s Africa.

I wish you could have seen me standing by the Dodoma Road alone while Jessie went to look for the man who was to take us to the church. I was the only mzungu (white person) on the planet. All in all it was a happy day but let me reassure sure you that living and working in a totally different culture is a challenge. Remember what FDR said? “Eleanor hates war, I hate war, Falla hates war, but we love the smell of gunpowder?” Jessie and I love the challenge.

I now have a sense of heaven. Jessie and I borrowed a CD player to use in a music class at the Bp. Stanway Primary School this morning and then took advantage of having it long enough to listen to two Mozart piano concertos that Jessie had brought along. We thought we had died and gone to heaven. “Ah, music,” I said. We have an African batik on the wall and fresh flowers and music. What more could one ask for? We also thought of Karen Blixen (remember “Out of Africa”) when Denys brought her a wind-up phonograph so she could listen to Mozart’s clarinet concerto. Such divine music!

As we walked the path to her school, shared with cows and goats, we commented on how quickly we have adapted to  life here.  Such is the power of human relationships.  The people are just grand.

I must tell you about the green-grocer who came yesterday to our door, the green-grocer being a young woman in a brightly colored kanga with a large plastic tub on her head filled with bunches of a leafy green vegetable we knew not what.  We were yearning for something green as we had eaten black beans and rice for the past 3 or 4 evenings. Jessie, artist turned cook, made a delicious meal with the greens slathered with butter.  We had the beans and rice too!

There was a spirited discussion among my students in pastoral care yesterday. More than anything they want to know how we do pastoral care in America.  Also, they wanted to know why children don’t die of malaria in America. This entire experience breaks the heart but also enlarges it.

Now is the weekend, with time to read, relax and reflect.  Tally

bucket

Father Hank had an expression “crying tired”.  Well, that is the way I feel tonight.   It has been a full day, things have been accomplished, good moments shared, meaningful conversations on African-American existential issues with the student that Tally and I are sponsoring.  I look forward to sharing some of that with you all when am not so weary.

I brought my pedometer with me here to see how far we walk in a day. To and from my school, around our neighborhood at the college and so forth – today seven miles. I am suffering from a bit of vanity because at the last minute I left my comfortable, worn-in clogs, in favour of brand new ones (same make and style) because I only brought two pairs of shoes, running shoes and the clogs.   Well, I did not want to wear my crummy old clogs traveling on the plane, etc.  so bought new ones, and the second day of walking back and forth to my school, I have blisters on the soles of my feet. Tally had bandaids, so I put them on, put on socks and the worst-looking old running shoes and am wearing them with my nice skirt and top.  I sigh with comfort, and no one has commented either. (Tally just laughed when I mentioned this to her as she dutifully polishes our shoes everyday, sometimes twice a day, because of the dusty paths we walk on.) The wind does a dance with the dust and we end up with dusty hair, clothes, shoes, teeth and noses. But, our friends, it is a lovely COOL breeze not a hot and humid breeze and we sleep at night under two warm blankets while you turn on the air. Na,na, na, na, na.

Lots to do tomorrow, it is ten o’clock, time for a bucket bath and bed. (There actually is a sensual joy in tipping an entire bucket over your head and feeling it run down your body.) The “shower” or faucet is a tiny stream, so useless. We are lucky though, because we do have water and a loo in our home.   Sleep well, Y’all. Jessie and Tally

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Photos from our home in Dodoma, Tanzania

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Habari! We are getting settled in, even had a “dinner party” at our house last night, though very humble. This morning went for our daily walk and it is so hard not to be filled with utter despair. Lack of rain means there is going to be a famine, not as bad as in 2005, but bad enough. we passed a herdsman with his cattle, they were skin and bones with nothing for them to graze but dried out grass and very sparce at that. He said he was worried about food for his family. I think of Africa and get so angry, what would it take for things to improve here…one feels so hopeless it is tempting to throw one’s hands up hopelessness. As Sandy says, one holds the tension of doing nothing or doing something…

We start teaching our English classes tomorrow, then I will go to Bishop Stanway in the afternoon and Tally will teach Pastoral Care. We are praying for a volunteer plumber, but will tell about THOSE problems when I can attach photos. Jessie

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