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From time to time I get requests to see more of our family’s everyday life in Tanzania. But, not unlike all of you, I don’t carry a camera during everyday life. Visitors do, however, carry cameras. And I’m taking advantage of that camera’s presence. [This post isn't really everyday life -- it's more a family visit.] This is what we’ve been up to this week:
We have visitors! My little sister (Brittney) and her boyfriend (Mitchell) arrived last Wednesday for a visit. They’ll be with us for nearly two weeks, and we’re really happy to have them — and not just because they brought us Velveeta and Nature Valley Bars. They flew into Mwanza (and the Serengeti’s only a 2-hour drive from there), so last Thursday I took them to the Serengeti for a 24-hour safari. [In Swahili safari actually only means "a journey or travel." But for the sake of this blog post, I'm using the term as an English word -- which we all know means "sitting in a truck for 8 hours at a time, wearing khaki pants and shirts with lots of pockets, in order to see (dangerous) animals we don't have in the United States.]
Christie and Baylor stayed in Mwanza, while I took Brittney and Mitchell on their safari. [Christie sprained her back, and long hours in vehicles don't help any at all.] It was a good trip, and we saw everything we thought we would except for elephants; we couldn’t find any anywhere. We also didn’t see cheetahs or leopards, but we generally don’t count on seeing those. We did see a hyena carrying a zebra’s leg in his mouth.
We returned to Geita with our guests on Friday of last week. We hope to be able to show them our life and work here over the next week. I’ve prewritten a few blog posts, so aliens and strangers won’t be a ghost town. But I may very well be scarce on the blog comments for a while.
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.
One of my old buddies from college was traveling in East Africa recently, so Christie and I picked he and a friend up in Mwanza to show them around. On the way to our home in Geita, Kevin and Sarah accompanied me to a village outside of Sengerema town. This is the first post in a series and is a “photo essay” of our travel from the city of Mwanza to the village of Mwakiwasha.
Mwanza has a population of something like 1,000,000 people. It’s home to many of the government offices we visit, as well as our post office box, mechanic, various grocers we frequent, and a couple of western restaurants. I have a love-hate relationship with Mwanza — I despise the traffic and fast pace of life, but I, oh, so enjoy the occasional cheeseburger next to a swimming pool.
Every trip to or from Mwanza requires a 30-minute ferry ride across a portion of Lake Victoria. That 30 minutes, however, does NOT include time spent waiting in line for the ferry’s arrival. On this day, both ferries are running (you can see the second in the background) so the wait is short (30 minutes).
The only town of any size between Mwanza and Geita is Sengerema, which is also where we turn off to get to Mwakiwasha village.
Sengerema’s not a bad place to stop for a meal. This is mishikaki and chips, a pretty easy dish to come by. It’s just grilled beef and fat french fries, and if you can get past how chewy the meat and gristle is, it’s one of the best and most affordable meals available. A plate with a soda costs about $2.00, depending on where you get it.
After a quick lunch, we’re off the paved road and towards Mwakiwasha.
A village center is a place to which all the surrounding people can come to buy and sell goods. There’s a small market and usually a school of some sort. Geita was once a village center, but is now a booming small town.
Bicycles are the primary means of moving goods in most small towns and even more so when you get into the more rural areas.
Because of the deterioration, you can see in this picture the way in which a mud home is built.
African traditional religion is prevalent throughout Tanzania, especially as you travel deeper into the bush. Some witch doctors specialize in natural herbal treatments, while others focus more on black magic, witchcraft, and ancestor “manipulation.” The Sukuma people are famous for their powerful magic.
The further we get into the bush, the more spread out the huts become, with planting fields scattered in between.
And 3 1/2 hours after leaving Mwanza, we’ve arrived at Mwakiwasha. From Geita, this trip is only about 1 hour and 15 minutes — though we also wouldn’t have stopped for a meal coming that direction.
Next post in the series: a visit in mwakiwasha village