Thursday, June 30, 2011

Malaria Affects Studying

As a few of you have heard, I have Malaria.  By the way, if you have never had it or didn't know, it is not fun.  I have been in bed for the better part of the past two days, sleeping and reading.  I have not gone to class since Tuesday, but I will try to go back this afternoon.  I was feeling better yesterday, as I have switched from Malaria Prevention Medication to Malaria Fighting Medication.  By the way, there is no refund on prophylaxis if you get sick anyway.  However, when I woke up this morning, I was as bad as the first day, so I am taking the morning of and may head to class after morning tea.  It will depend on what I feel I can actually accomplish by going.  So, I haven't exactly been accomplishing anything this week, but at least I proved that Jeffrey Sachs was right, Malaria does decrease output and efficiency.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Farewell Sermon for Pastor Hafermann

I took another trip to visit the Massai and Kwere today.  We met first in the house of a local Masaai who has used his wealth to build an area school and aid in the construction of the church in the village.  His house is connected to electricity and backed up by solar power and has indoor plumming.  While this seems to Americans as basic utilities, it is uncommon among the rural villages.  His family has just been extremely fortunate and were good businessmen. 

Anyway, the church service was excellent.  Perhaps 80 were in attendence, a large group for a Monday, but this is a week off for the young children, who are home from school.  After the service we were fed quite well, so no dinner again today.  Not necessary. 

This was Pastor Hafermann's last sermon in Tanzania, at least for a while, as he will return to the United States on Thursday.  I will miss him and the opportunity to travel with him, but his introductions and kindness have opened many doors for me, not only over the next few weeks after he has gone, but also in years to come.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Another Trip with the Pastor

I went out with Pastor Hafermann as planned today.  We travelled a few hours to get there and were late, so no time for tea.  We went straight in to church.  It is a nice feeling beginning to understand more of a church service.  Secondly, this past week I learned all the number up to 10,000 and the word for "page number" and "hymn."  So, I can follow along a little easier this weekend. 

In Masaai culture, guests are served a meal, regardless of home many times they have already eaten.  Therefore, we had one meal after the service, a second on visiting the home of a church elder, and a third on visiting a sick friend of the church.  All the meals were rice and goat-fat stew, which is really good, but too much of a good thing...well, you know the story.  Needless to say I went without dinner when I got back.

On a more serious note, I encountered AIDs for the first time today.  It is one thing to read about it, or know of it in America where it is isolated and well-treated.  But seeing it untreatable here in Tanzania was something I was not prepared for.  I met a man who had surgery for a staff infection and is on crutches now, who has taken in the children (it appeared as many as 7) who were recently orphaned by the death of their parents who both from AIDs.

Today's experiences have certainly given me new perspectives, both on the advantages we have in the US that we take wholistically for granted, but also, I was struck by the level of such happiness and contentment felt by the people I met today.  With a life expectancy of about 45 and illness and death a part of everyday, these people still manage joy.  It was something unbelievable to witness, and I will not forget it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Third Week of Study

Things are continuing well this week.  I am progressing continually in Swahili, and as I have now some experience, I have really begun to use Swahili in common speach. 

Plans to leave the school fell through today, so I have been reading and studying.  Skyping home was an added bonus to the day, as the electricity and internet have now remained on for a continuous 20 hours.

There is not much happening here.  I am heading out tomorrow with Pastor Hafermann.  I will let you know how that goes.  For now I am safe and content with my books.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nationalized Power and a Fantastic Second Week

For those of you who are earnestly checking my blog everyday, I appologize that I have disappointed you for so many days in a row.  I have hoped to write this many times in the past week, but have been unable.  In Tanzania, there is one nationalized electricity company, which when it determines it "necessary," may turn of the power grid in certain areas as it sees fit.  Everyday in the last 10 we have been without power for some part of the day.  While the power does come back on eventually, the internet connection doesn't always come back with it.  So, long story short, this is the first time I have been here with time to write and the internet was working.  (I did tell many of you that constant communication would not always be possible.)

Anyway, I have now completed my second week of Swahili training in Morogoro and today began my third (by the way, Monday mornings at school are the same on every continent).  I can introduce myself with confidence and carry a mildly interesting conversation.  This is to say that I have been speaking and studying for three weeks, so I am not sure whether I am saying it all right, but everyone seems to be understanding me well enough. 

This weekend, I was given the opportunity to travel again.  On Saturday afternoon, I traveled to the cattle market at Sokoine.  This is much like a cross between a county fair and a flea market, except that the food is slaughtered on the spot.  It was a great time and an interesting experience.  The cattle market is held every other Saturday.  Masaai bring cattle and other livestock to market and sell each cow individually, setting their prices against all others.  There are perhaps more than a hundred other vendors selling everything from knives to beads, clothing, shoes, and everything else you may need.  This is the weekend gathering for everyone, so there were probably 1000 people there, and as I was with Pastor Hafermann, it seemed as though everyone wanted to say hello.

Sunday, I travelled with Pastor Hafermann on a preaching trip to the village of Kambala.  About 2 hours from Morogoro, it was not too far, and half of the drive was on paved roads, so that was a plus.  The service was 3 hours long (which in the US would never be allowed, I am told).  During the service and soon afterward, I met two incredible people.  The first, a deaf-mute since birth, was all smiles to greet the Pastor and his guests.  He could not say anything, but "voiced" his excitement to see us.  At first I was skeptical of his faith when he came to church, but while one of the choirs was singing, he proceeded to the front of the choir to direct, in perfect time.  It seemed miraculous that a deaf man, and mute, could direct a choral group in time, but I later learned that he has learned to feel the vibrations in the foundations and can "feel" the music.  I watched him though much of the service (as I can only understand a little of the actual service).  I realized that he is as faithful as the rest, perhaps moreso than the rest.  He "sings" and praises, takes communion, and gives offering.  I was humbled immediately.

The second man I met after the service is a changed man.  Some people tell stories of 180 degree reversals in life: this is one of them.  Moreto is brother to the Laibon, who is the political head of the Parakuyo people, and also what we would call a witch doctor.  Moreto was also a witch doctor and practiced black magic until his conversion.  One day he realized that his work was wrong, and brought all his tools and his chair to the church at Kambala (the chair was important as it was the seat from which he would curse people).  He asked to be baptized and that someone fetch oil.  After his baptism and repenting for his practices, he piled all his tools, dark objects, and his chair in a pile before the church, doused it in oil, and burnt it all.  Since then, he has faithfully attended church and become a reformed christian.  I was introduced to his four wives and found that he has 50 children as well.  (For those of you who are confused, having multiple wives is common practice and not strictly against any code of the church.)

Having been thoroughly humbled for the day and had my fill of goat stew and rice, I returned back to Morogoro ready as ever for sleep.  I woke up this morning and started everything all over again.  But hey, today I spoke Swahili without really realizing what I was saying, and it came out right to what I meant to say, so there is hope for me yet. 

Blessings to all at home and elsewhere. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A semester in 3 days

I suppose I did not introduce my situation in Morogoro very well in my previous posts.  Morogoro, Tanzania is the first of three programs of study over the next seven months in East Africa.  Here I will be studying intensive Swahili language and Tanzanian culture for 7 to 8 weeks.  Meanwhile, I am working with Professor Jennings of Washington & Lee, studying the history of the Parakuyo pastoralists of East Africa.  He has since returned to the United States, but we will continue to be in contact.  In addition to these projects, Pastor Hafermann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, who teaches at the Seminary in Morogoro and ministers to over 100 communities in the area, has invited me to travel during my weekends to visit people in his congregations and witness the work of the church in Tanzania.  Having been with him this past weekend, it will be a true blessing to travel and learn from his bank of knowledge.

So, now I have begun my Swahili study at the ELCT Junior Seminary in Morogoro, Tanzania.  To say that it is an intensive course may put it lightly by some standards.  I have covered the equivalent of a semester of study in the US over the past three days.  This is for certain the most mentally consumed by a single subject I have ever been.  However, it has allowed me to begin speaking Swahili with local Tanzanians from the first day.  Although we are not discussing anything more than basic conversation, I am satisfied with three days work.  I have high hopes for myself at the end of 7 weeks. 

So, to all who are concerned, I am doing well.  I am studying hard, and learning a lot.  I hope you are all happy in whatever it is you are doing. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

First Days in Tanzania

Given the variablity of access to internet, I will journal everyday and post the days or events which seem to be most interesting.  I have arrived safe and sound in Tanzania, plus I have overcome jet lag in only one day, so I am feeling pretty good about myself. 

June 4, 2011
Today was my first full day in Tanzania, and a great one at that.  Pastor Hafermann took Professor Jennings and me with Emanuel to a Parakuyo village about an hour’s drive from the school.  Along the way, we picked up a Pastor Ulinga who went with us to visit the village, as he comes from the area.  We spent the morning and the better part of the afternoon visiting with the village men, conversing (they talked while I pretended I could understand more than the occasional familiar word).  We sat for nearly 4 hours, Professor Jennings prodded for about an hour on the history of the Parakuyo as described by Moses, a man of importance in the village and among the Parakuyo, as well as an pastor of the ELCT.  We were given the opportunity to visit the cattle heard of the village head, and view his new water project.  I had my first taste of fresh goat, twice, as well as Chai with goat milk and Tangawizi (ginger beer).  Eventually, the real purpose of our visit was reached, and about 2:30 pm the village gathered for church.  Because the “Big Man” was forced to build houses for his family instead of the promised church, the service took place beneath the shade of a nearby tree.  As it was all in Kiswahili, I understood next to nothing, but as before, I was treated as a guest and welcomed to sing, pray, and take communion with the rest.  Not long after the service was over, I was thanked for my visit, but asked to stay for an evening meal.  We had rice with more goat, which seems to have been prepared specifically for Pastor Hafermann’s visit.  Again, it was a fantastic meal.  We then returned along the rural “dirt road” to the main road and back to Morogoro.  As I said, a great day to be welcomed to Tanzania and the people of the Morogoro region.