Last week we traveled from the big city of Mwanza to the small village of Mwakiwasha… and I left you there. This week I’d like to welcome you into the village of Mwakiwasha as my guest.
Because my friends at Mwakiwasha knew I was bringing guests from the United States (Kevin and Sara), who had never been to Africa before, they went a bit more formal with our visit. They had gathered a whole bunch of people from the village, many of them children, to greet us upon our arrival. Then together we went into their small church building.
We sang a few songs… in Swahili — because the guys at Mwakiwasha know that I haven’t learned Sukuma yet.
Then we had one of the best Bible studies of which I’ve been a part in the village. It was also in Swahili (I won’t start learning Sukuma until next March), and was from 2 Peter 4.
I especially liked the sermon for two reasons:
- It was short. Often there’s a Bible reading followed by a really long sermon, followed by someone else summarizing the sermon. That’s good for oral cultures, but difficult for me.
- It wasn’t on doctrine — ie. what we have to believe. Rather it was on loving one another regardless of race or nationality.
While we were meeting together, the food was being prepared. The pictures below are not of the actual kitchen where our food was cooked that day (as far as I know), but are of a kitchen in Mwakiwasha — and one that is pretty typical for that matter.
You can see in the corner the three stones placed in a triangle and surrounded by soot. A fire is built inside those stones and pots placed on top of them when cooking.
Now we wash our hands, and are served soap and water in order to do so. Kind of reminiscent of foot-washing in the New Testament (at least a little). We’re not being served because we are guests, rather this is typical hand-washing practice. [Though to be fair, I suppose Sara is being served because she's a guest? Generally the men would eat together, while the women cook and serve.]
The cokes, however, ARE special for the visitors. They were served before the meal while we were chatting about the differences between Tanzania and South Korea (where Kevin and Sara live and work).
We’re served chai (hot tea) — and this tea has a WHOLE lot of sugar in it. I’m not sure if they always drink it this sweet or if it’s just for guests. I’m pretty sure it’s always this sweet; and it’s hard for me to drink. [Imagine that, an Alabama boy who can't handle some sweet tea... I should be made to swim across a catfish pond nude (a very typical south Alabama punishment).]
The way eating works is you grab some rice with your right hand (only) and apply adequate pressure, fashioning it into a solid chunk. Then you dip it in the sauce in which the meat is resting. When you want chicken, you just grab a piece out of the center bowl (all the while praying you’re getting a part of the chicken you might actually want to eat). OR if you’re not eating well enough, you’ll be told to take more chicken (poor Sara, she doesn’t seem thrilled about eating meat much of anywhere).
It’s not as easy as it looks. I’m not above admitting that I’m horrible at this whole making “rice balls” thing. I’m sure the guys in the village sit around a campfire at night and laugh about how poorly I shape my rice. I’ve invented lots of theories on how to do so better, ranging from placing the rice in a different part of my hand to applying varying amounts of pressure to getting more oil and sauce on my hands before making my horrid attempts at forming solid lumps of rice. I’ve asked the Tanzanians for tutorials, and they’ve gladly obliged. Nothing has helped.
I’ve never in my life been accused of being bad at eating… until now.
The meal is over, and we’ve washed our hands again. Now we sit around and talk. More often than not, meals in Mwakiwasha involve lots of questions about other cultures. The biggest revelations in this question-and-answer session were:
- Americans and Koreans must use “some kind of medicine” to keep from having lots of children.
- The greatest change in the village of Mwakiwasha in the past 50 years is a more recent one — when they began accepting Christ as Lord earlier this same century, the men stopped beating their wives. [The Sukuma are known for four things: 1) having lots of cows, 2) having particularly strong black magic, 3) their skills of drumming and dancing, and 4) the beatings their women traditionally have received.]
Hope you enjoyed your visit. Next week I’ll walk you around the village a bit.