Here are some photos of people around these parts:
Tag Archives: Geita
As is usually the case, I’m not including our full work report here at aliens and strangers because 1) it’s a little long and 2) I’d rather have a little more narrative (or rambling) on the blog. So the blog work report and the email work report are always just a little bit different, folks. [If you want to subscribe to the full version of our work report, let me know in the comments; I'll send it to you by email.]
A couple of blog posts worth reading, which are nearer to me than — and therefore not relegated to — a morning blend post. There’s no real theme here, unless we want to call it “missionary life in East Africa?”
From my friend, Bobby Garner, who works in Uganda.
“Approaching the hospital, Tappe told us the baby had crowned. Actually it was more like, “He’s about to fall”. My response was, “Absolutely not!” Tappe’s next words were “He fell!” Ronald and I simultaneously looked on the floor for a baby. We didn’t see one. Then we noticed a baby on the seat as Tappe hovered above. Ronald quickly scooped the little boy up. The baby let out a gurgled cry.”
And from Duane and Jenny Dixon, who are adopting a cute little girl from Ethiopia and, as a result, were able to visit Carson and Holly last week here in Geita. They took a lot of great photos of Geita, the surrounding areas, and of some of our neighbors. [And if you look backwards on their blog a post or two, you can see pictures of their beautiful little girl, Selah. They actually passed court while in Geita.]
My favorite photo of the many:
And I just happened to notice that Jude’s friend in the photo isn’t wearing any pants, but is wearing a very strategically placed button-up shirt under his jacket. Then I noticed that in all of these pictures, this little boy happens to be covered up with great care. For example:
A thriving metropolis, Geita, Tanzania is not.* Though opportunities for running do abound. We’ve got a single paved road and lots of dirt roads, bicycle paths, and goat trails. They pass from town to country, over mountains and through forests.
One day a week I run the mountains behind our house. And because
of Janie’s incessant whining I thought it might be interesting to some of you, I’m posting photos from this morning’s run.
It takes five minutes or so of running to get to the trailhead. So my “warmup” is past my neighbors’ houses and gardens, waving hellos and shouting greetings to those I see.
Any run in Geita is going to teach you at least a little about the culture and lives of many Tanzanians. Above is a photo of a family mining for gravel. It sells for $35-40 per small dump truck load… if you’ve got your own dump truck. Also in the photo is a large water reservoir which is meant to supply a third of Geita with its water. [Did I tell you guys we haven't received city water since July of last year?]
It takes me 15-17 minutes to climb the roughly 1000 feet from my house to the top of the mountain.
My GPS watch measures the distance to be almost exactly a mile from my house to the top of the mountain. And the peak — more like a ridge — sits at nearly 5300 feet above sea level (just about a mile).
These mountains are technically part of a Tanzanian national forest. For that reason, there are some wild animals around. On this particular run I saw two olive baboons and a vervet monkey. I wasn’t fast enough, though, to get photos of any of them. Sorry, guys. I let you down.
Although the area is a national forest, it isn’t exactly treated as such. Trees are being cut down for firewood and charcoal. Gravel is being mined. Pits are being dug in order to harvest mud for brick-making (and that too requires firewood). All of these activities are illegal inside the national forest, but a few small bribes in the right pockets go a long way in turning the heads of those with power.
There’s not a whole lot to the town of Geita. We’re told we have a population of anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000. It’s hard to tell which is the more accurate number; neither figure seems correct when looking at the town’s infrastructure.
The Sukuma people are famous for their cows. And the above cows are some of the finest in Geita. Not many farmers take their cattle to the mountaintop — I can imagine it’s tough to get them up there — so the grazing seems to be particularly good. There’s also plenty of water for them to drink except during the driest of seasons.
There are a lot of trails up and down the mountain, and nearly just as many on top. I get lost during about half my runs. But remembering which side of the mountain I’m supposed to go down is all that’s really important. Down is always down — one side goes home, and the other not so much.
Admittedly, this last photo wasn’t taken on a well-traveled trail. But it is how I get to a particular rock I like to climb above the main spring on this side of the mountain.
The views are pretty spectacular considering that during this run I was never more than about 2 miles from our house.
It’s also nice that there still remains a few areas with large trees and a canopy providing good shade. This is also where the vervet monkeys hang out.
The photo above was taken on future Neema House property. For those of you who don’t know, Neema House is our team’s planned care center for orphaned children and broken families. The property sits about a mile up the hill from our house, just before the mountain turns steep.
If any of you are ever in the neighborhood, and want to go for a run… let me know. You’re more than welcome. Really. And I’ll make you some great coffee and better-than-average pancakes.
* Although technically Geita is a metropolis: the capital or chief city of a country or region.
Double Red Rose is a grocery store in town, with which Christie and I are currently having some difficulties. Every time we take Baylor there, the girls behind the counter give her candy while we’re not looking. On this one day I decided to let Baylor keep the sucker in her mouth because she was so happy. After all, it had the wrapper still on it — it’s not like she’s really able to eat the candy…
It was NOT easy to take away this candy. And there are major problems now every time we see a sucker.
My sister is coming to visit in a few weeks and, as all good visitors to missionaries in East Africa, will be bringing a few things that are hard to come by here. You know, the usual… Velveeta, cheese goldfish, and freezer paper. In fact, we sent her and my mom a short list of items to purchase. At the end of said list, my wife added this one imaginary product:
- 1 magical box to lose all baby / christmas cookie weight
Christie and I have had the good pleasure this week of entertaining a virus who brought with him much vomiting and diarrhea. When we mentioned this to my mom and sister, my mother responded:
sounds like you’ve found your own magic box to lose weight
Baylor hasn’t gotten sick yet, and we hope that she won’t. Her recent good fortune in health probably has to do with her extremely superstitious nature. Earlier today it got a little too quiet and, so, I went in search of our wonderful daughter. I found her dumping into the floor all the salt from the salt shaker. I didn’t actually see her tossing any of it over her shoulder, but she probably did.
For the new year, the Geita mission team was blessed to have as our guests the entire Mwanza mission team. We called it the Geita New Year’s Extravaganza. Here are some pictures that sum up the event:
In the mornings I can often be found on one of the trails in our nearby national forest. I like combining my exercise and quiet time by praying while I run (or bike). And the Geita Forest Reserve is just the place to do that. There aren’t many people around, and little more can be heard than the sounds which nature provides — the singing of birds and the rustling of leaves in the wind. I frequently spot monkeys and baboons, and even the occasional gazelle. But it’s the trees I enjoy the most. The trees are amazing. I have to cover a lot of ground before I can run under a beautiful, green canopy of trees; but it’s well worth my time and energy.
The portion of the national forest closest to Geita has been destroyed in order to provide firewood and charcoal for nearby citizens. I’m not one to value nature over human life, and I don’t know if there exists some better solution for cooking fuel — so I’m not placing judgment. It’s a tough thing when nature and humanity stand at odds with one another. Many westerners complain that “dumb Africans” don’t know any better than to drink water that’s not been purified. But those same westerners complain when those same “dumb Africans” cut down the surrounding trees in order to boil their water. I don’t think there’s an easy answer — and name-calling certainly doesn’t help.
But I digress. While I’m not placing judgment one way or the other (instead I’m thinking through possible solutions to said problems), I do enjoy a great deal running under the big, beautiful trees that stand deep in our forest reserve. Trees that have been around much longer than any of us living in Geita. Trees that once were food for giraffes and shade for lions — animals both long gone from this forest. Trees that have withstood the winds and storms of more than a hundred Tanzanian rainy seasons. Trees that are a testament both to God’s power and to his love of beauty.
Isaiah (and later Jesus) speaks of an anointing the Lord has placed on him — an anointing to preach good news to the poor and to proclaim freedom for the captives. Those who mourn will be comforted. And they will be crowned with beauty instead of ashes, and the oil of gladness instead of mourning. They will be clothed with garments of praise instead of spirits of despair. And in Isaiah 61:3, we learn this about those who will be comforted by God:
“They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
A few thoughts:
- The captives will be set free and the mourners comforted; and that’s great news to them. But ultimately this is for the display of God’s splendor, and not for their own good pleasure.
- Any joy, beauty, and gladness in my life was planted there by my God.
- Any joy, beauty, and gladness in my life is a testimony to others of my God’s glory.
- Missions and evangelism are most effective when others see the freedom and joy I’ve been given by God.
- I believe this is indeed God’s plan for mission: For those of us who have experienced changed lives to stand together as a magnificent forest, a tall and mighty witness of God’s power and love for humanity.
- I will go so far as to say that any system, program, or methodology designed for mission — which is not dependent on changed lives and observable righteousness, freedom, and joy — is not a strategy in keeping with God’s plans.
Father God, make us oaks of righteousness. Show your splendor and glory to the world through our lives. Set us free from that which holds us captive. Comfort us when we mourn. Plant in us joy, gladness, and beauty. May you be praised in our lives, and also in the lives of those who look upon us. Amen.
I got an email this morning. It was from someone I’ve never met in person — but we read one another’s blogs. I hadn’t posted in a while, and he was just sending a quick email to check and see that all was okay with our family. This email was the seventh of that type in the last week. Which means two things:
- I have neglected my blog for far too long.
- My readers are incredibly thoughtful and encouraging people.
I’ll address the second idea first. I just want to say thank you to all of you who are actively praying for my wife and I in our work here in Tanzania. And I am flattered to death that some of you actually miss my blog posts when they’re not around. You guys are great.
And now on to an explanation of my recent internet absence. I didn’t intend to go radio silent when we first left our home in Geita; it was merely bad luck and busy scheduling that kept me from having part of my mornings to write. Then it was a teething baby waking at 4:00 am. And then it was a hotel without working internet. And then it was — well, let’s make this a game. I’ll post a list of things which I’ve experienced in the last few weeks, and you try and pick out the four happenings that are false. Ready, go:
- Christie, Baylor, and I drove to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and back to meet for a few days with our missionary mentors for marriage, family, and missionary counseling. We respect and appreciate Fielden and Janet Allison a great deal, and are thankful for their willingness to spend time with us.
- Because we were already in Dar, we spent three nights at the beach in Zanzibar, a short boat trip away. A boat ticket that costs Tanzanian residents (that’s us) $16 will cost visiting tourists $70 — just one of the many perks of living in Tanzania. Other perks include having a great deal of patience and paying $4.50+ for every gallon of diesel pumped.
- I ordered some calamari one day while at the beach. The guys went out and speared a squid while I was waiting, and then showed it to me for my approval. But, while cooking it, a big crow swooped down and flew away with the whole thing. I ate fish for lunch that day.
- I dropped our computer on the floor and the glass display screen broke, but the computer still seems to work fine. We spent one morning trying to find out where and how we could get the computer fixed. It, however, has not yet been repaired.
- We went to Spur, an over-rated South African restaurant chain, and Baylor was given her first restaurant balloon ever. Then we realized it was actually the first time she’d ever seen a balloon. We need to get this girl out of the house more often. Baylor also was able to play on a couple of different playgrounds; she prefers slides, but enjoys climbing up them more than sliding down.
- Our brakes went out while we were driving in a parking lot, yet we drove another 30-40 miles that day to accomplish that which was on our list. [A clutch works fine to stop a truck, by the way, provided you know far enough ahead of time that you'll need to stop.]
- We spent three different mornings getting our truck worked on. And Dar is still Africa. While I was able to have my alignment done with a 3D computer system at one shop, another guy repaired our rear axle with a gasket made out of a piece of paper and some silicone. He used to live and work in Geita.
- We did a lot of shopping while in Dar, picking up some items we can’t get in Geita, Mwanza, or even Kigali — or that are much cheaper on the coast. Examples: garden sprayers, a drill, spices, and oatmeal.
- We watched a few movies in a theater, finding that once Baylor goes to sleep at 8 pm, she does just fine in a noisy and crowded public area.
- We went bowling, and I beat Christie by double her score. Poor Baylor never even had a chance. The girl’s a miserable bowler. Too weak an arm.
- At one restaurant on the beach, I ate a 64-ounce steak, 12 jumbo shrimp, and two sides to receive my entire dinner free of charge and get my picture on the wall. And you know what? By far the most difficult thing to finish was the baked potato. I hate baked potatoes.
- I was pulled over by a female police officer. She was supposed to accompany me to the police station in order to actually give me a ticket, and so, she kept mentioning how far away the station was and how long it would take to process a ticket. She simply wanted to forgive me, she said. Then she asked for half the amount of the ticket. I told her I really appreciated her forgiveness, but that I couldn’t pay any money out without an official receipt — that my organization frowns on that, as it might be seen as offering a bribe to a police officer. She let me go without any ticket or money paid.
- Christie got a staph infection that actually probably started more than a month before. So we ended up staying an extra six days and seeing two doctors in four visits before that was resolved enough to return home.
- Christie had to take a pretty strong antibiotic which required that Baylor stop nursing. So Baylor is now officially and completely weaned — and did so cold turkey. The girl now eats like a daughter of Groen.*
- I slew four giant, fire-breathing dragons with only one ninja star and my bare hands.
- We ordered the construction of some canvas folding chairs, but they weren’t ready on the day upon which we’d agreed — or the next day, which was the day we actually needed them. When they finally did come, they weren’t built nearly as well as the display model, and three of them broke while in the selling area. I refused to take them and it took me six hours and a wealthy Tanzanian family buying an entire living room suite to get my deposit back.
- I stepped on three sea urchins the day I was learning to windsurf. I rubbed an unripe papaya on them. It didn’t seem to help at all.
- I ran my second barefoot / minimalist shoe race. It was a half-marathon (again called a marathon), and I finished in 1:53, a time with which I was quite disappointed. But the sun in Dar es Salaam is just sooo hot; I was completely zapped by mile 10. And my foot was still a little sore from the whole sea urchin experience….
- I saw former Tanzanian president, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, in person. At 85 years old he walked the 9k race and finished ahead of a whole lot of middle and high school students.
- A friend of ours ran the 9k race and was the first female finisher and third overall. She got a 100,000 shilling gift certificate to a nice restaurant. She didn’t take us out to dinner, though.
- Another friend of ours (who grew up with Christie in Richmond) broke six Tanzanian national swimming records while we were staying with he and his wife — and he is now quite officially and appropriately dubbed “The Fastest Swimmer in Tanzania.”
- During the 15 1/2 hour return drive to Geita, Baylor sat quietly in her car seat, never letting out even a single, short whimper.
* Our teammates in Geita, the Groens, have three daughters with whom I am very, very proud to share a table. They can’t out-eat me, but they eat Carson under the table at every meal. Of course Carson does lots of things like a little girl.
Christie and I returned to Geita today. It’s a quiet night in the Harrison home. We’ve been blessed to have visitors the past couple of weeks (who are considering joining our team), and we had a great time with them. But any two-week trip to Africa is bound to keep everyone involved very busy. And, so, we have been. [And hence my absence here on aliens and strangers.]
We saw our friends off at the Mwanza airport this afternoon, and they are currently on a plane to Europe, en route to the U.S., while we are back in Geita… in our quiet house. Baylor’s asleep, and Christie and I are catching up on our reading. The only sounds are the squeaks of the bats in the attic and the musical stylings of my current favorite artist, Aron Wright (with whom I went to Lipscomb). [My favorite songs of his: "To the Country" and "I Hope We Die."]
It used to be that I enjoyed going out more than staying in — and I’ve certainly not become an introvert during my short time thus far in Tanzania. But I do enjoy our home… and the quiet rest of time alone with my family. A few months ago I wrote a bit about what home means to me in home and the april work report, and this is an excerpt from that short essay:
…I write this to say that we are at home in Geita now, and it’s amazing to think it will be home for the next 8 or 9 years. And that Baylor will have so many of her firsts in this house, and in this yard, and in this family. I’ll spend over 3000 mornings reading the Bible in that corner of our living room. And for as many nights, Christie and I will share the hours between Baylor’s bedtime and our own. We praise God for giving us a place to call home, and even more for making it feel that way.
I know Geita, and this world, is not my true home — believe me, I’m reminded of it every single day. But it’s nice to have one place that feels like home. I don’t think it’s so much about being comfortable on this earth, and grasping firmly to the things of this world. It’s more about having one little “kingdom place” on earth that’s as close to heaven as I can experience in this life. And that, for me, is my home.
And these are two of my favorite scriptures concerning home, both of which are very much being affirmed in my life these days:
The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. – Proverbs 3:33
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters of mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age [...] and in the age to come…” — Mark 10:29-30
“Oh, are you and Carson just getting back from having seen the president?” Kulwa asked as we stepped out of the truck.
“The president? You mean President Kikwete?! THE President? As in, of Tanzania? He’s in Geita?”
“Yeah,” Kulwa responded, “He’s coming to Geita today, but I’m not sure when he arrives.”
Geita, Tanzania is not a big town. Basically it’s an overgrown village center. But it’s an overgrown village center that’s continuing to overgrow. And big things are on the horizon. It’s been known for some time that Mwanza region in Tanzania is getting too big, and so, another region will be formed — and the widespread rumor has been that Geita will indeed be the capital of this new region. [Region::Tanzania as state::U.S.A.] So we’ve kind of been expecting President Kikwete to arrive at some point and make the whole thing official.
Elections are also coming up, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to get a really big crowd together and wave some flags for the Chama Cha Mapinduzi. The CCM (Party of the Revolution) is one of the political parties in Tanzania, though it might as well be the only political party in Tanzania. It was established in 1977 (one month before this author’s birth) by the first President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, and was the only recognized and legal party until 1992. The CCM has won every single election on the regional and national level in the history of Tanzania (and I’m guessing all others as well, but have no facts to support such a theory). Jakaya Kikwete is the current chairman of the party and president of Tanzania; each of the other three men who served as CCM chairman also held the office of president.
So what follows is a photo essay (with video) of a CCM rally and presidential visit in Geita, Tanzania. Karibu Geita, wageni.
First there was a performance. The “Tanzania Number One” band and dance group entertained the crowd, who started gathering by 10:00 am for the president’s 4:15 pm arrival.
Finding a pleasant place to await President Kikwete’s arrival; where better than underneath this life-size poster of the man himself? [I neglected to tell you that the president is a giant among men.]
There were actually a whole lot of umbrellas in the crowd… despite the fact that I was the only individual present who is actually capable of being sunburned.
And we all know you can’t have crowds without crowd control.
Photography Rule #1 in Tanzania: Either people really, really want their picture taken… OR they really, really don’t want their picture taken… OR they don’t care either way, but really, really think you’ll pay them to pose for the camera. Guess which group these guys fall in.
CCM’s colors are green and yellow. So there was a lot of green and yellow. And lots of chants and cheers for CCM, President Kikwete, and Geita. This event was the closest thing I’ve found here to an Auburn football game or a high school pep rally. [Probably closer to the high school pep rally, except for the number of people present.]
In true African fashion, President Kikwete arrived more than two hours late.
But still the welcome was a warm one. There were several groups who had been previously selected to “officially” welcome the president. Some groups wore traditional dress, others green and yellow, and still others tanzanian flag attire. But all danced.
Oh, there was dancing.
I feel like in the states we often call something “standing room only” just because there aren’t any chairs. But this was literally standing room only. About halfway through the president’s speech, I snapped a few pictures with the camera — and then realized I could no longer put my hands down by my side, I was being pressed against so. I did manage, though, to cross my arms in kind of a hug-myself fashion for the remainder of the speech, giving my arms a place to rest (and my heart a nice, warm feeling).
After the President and his entourage left, everyone just kind of hung around and talked. It was a lot like a Sunday evening after church (not a Sunday morning, because that’s when everyone’s in a hurry to get to PoFolks). I chatted with several people I knew, and I think I was seen as more a real part of the community than I often am. It was really nice.
I left shortly after this picture was taken, in order to be home before dark. But it seemed most people weren’t planning on leaving anytime soon. Everyone was so excited to share in this important time for our town. Geita will officially become a region, and the capital of that region, on January 1, 2011.