a visit in mwakiwasha village

"karibu mwakiwasha"

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.

mwakiwasha village

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.

children in the pews

We sang a few songs… in Swahili — because the guys at Mwakiwasha know that I haven’t learned Sukuma yet.

a swahili songbook

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.

a short sermon

I especially liked the sermon for two reasons:

  1. 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.
  2. It wasn’t on doctrine — ie. what we have to believe.  Rather it was on loving one another regardless of race or nationality.

i neglected to bring an english bible for our visitors -- so we "shared" my swahili one

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.

cooking is generally done in a special "cooking hut" or outside

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.

cooking corner of the kitchen

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).

washing hands after the appetizer of warm coca-cola

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).]

pouring the chai -- you can also see our meal to the left (sorry for the blur)

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 so hard, right?

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.

kevin's hand is on the right, mine on the left

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:

  1. Americans and Koreans must use “some kind of medicine” to keep from having lots of children.
  2. 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.


Filed under just photos, living in africa, tanzania

35 responses to “a visit in mwakiwasha village

  1. Zee

    thanks for sharing the experience.

    making rice balls sounds like a fun thing (although if i were a guest, i would be so nervous that all my rice-making fun feelings would disappear…) 😀

    • why would you be nervous, zee? we’re talking about some really friendly people at mwakiwasha.

      • Zee

        oh, i don’t doubt they are friendly 🙂 but i don’t usually feel comfortable when there are a lot of people around me – at least when i am eating…

        on the other hand, maybe that would be a first step to overcoming that silly social awkwardness.

  2. Making the rice balls and dipping them into the meat sauce reminds me of what they do in Zambia. Rather than rice, though, they cook a real fine corn meal into big clumps that have the consistency of dumplings. You pull off a chunk, make a ball and dip it. Since it has even less taste than rice you do want to dip it into something with flavor.

    To Americans the idea of having this maize dish three times a day would be monotonous. To the folks of Zambia that would be a sign of relative wealth!

    Thanks for the on-going tour.

    • we have that same stuff here in tanzania; in swahili, it’s called ugali. they make it all over africa, but from different stuff. corn flour is what the nicest ugali is made from. out in villages you generally get cassava ugali. when i was in congo, we got what must’ve been millet ugali — and they eat it fermented. we get ugali in a lot of villages here, but mwakiwasha and the other villages around sengerema are actually “famous” for rice. oh, and i’ll take rice over ugali any day.

  3. I echo Zee and John…thanks for the tour. I love these trips! I can’t be there but you can take me there.

  4. Beka

    Another reason that I’m so thankful I was born in America…..thankful I don’t get beat by my husband. That’s so sad!
    Thanks for the tutorial about dinner time…..so interesting! Love traveling with you through the blog and pics. Keep them coming.:)

    • the Holy Spirit and his transformation are powerful. it is sad what the sukuma are known for, but it’s changing… at least in places. glad you’re enjoying the tutorial.

  5. the landscape brings back soooo many memories for me…. LOVE the pics!

  6. I am very interested in reading about people from different cultures and what God is doing among them. Thank you for sharing

    • i’m enjoying new cultures more every day, amrita. the more i learn about them, the more i want to learn. and i hope i can share with others just a little bit of the joy i have.

  7. Thanks for the visit, so rural but such beautiful countryside, you make me wanna go home!

    • and exactly where in south africa is your home? big city, small town, or what?

      • Grew up in small, rural farming community but have lived in small and big cities since going to university and work.

        Have a house in Cape Town at present but have not spent one night in it and probably never will – rented out.

        So home is where we stay at the moment.

        • well… home is where we stay as well. that’s crazy that you guys have a house in cape town and have never stayed there before. do you know much about durban? i’m wanting to go there either 2012 or 2014 if i can find a way to do it…

          • Well the little town I grew up in is not far from Durban – a 1 hour car journey away. We used to hit Durbs for “THE BIG CITY” experience whilst I was at school. Durbanites are really laid back. Durban has some great beaches(the quieter, out of the way one’s) with fabulously warm water. The city itself is not really worth a visit in my opinion there are way better cities to visit in South Africa. However, there are some amazing places outside of Durban in the province of KwaZulu Natal, like the Drakensberg Mountains and further North has great game farms for seeing the big 5 and so on. Unless you have something specific to see in Durban, I would rather give it a miss and head towards the Western Cape. Of course it is my opinion based on having lived ALL over SA but Durbanites may disagree.

          • well… really i’d only be going to run comrades. but i’d probably hang out at the beach for a couple of days afterward. nothing against the land of south africa, but i don’t think there’s anything there that i’m just dying to see. should i reconsider?

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  9. Well, I have thoroughly enjoyed my visit to mwakiwasha village, and the pictures are just great! The one of the children in the church is beautiful! Thank you for the tour!

  10. GO AND RUN THE COMRADES!!!!!! It is the MOST amazing race and you will LOVE it. That is one very good reason to go to Durban/Pietermaritzburg.

    • i’m running it either in 2012 or 2014… IF i can get the money. i’m afraid it’s going to be too expensive. but i really, really want to run it.

      • If you are able to go, it will be SO worth it. I cannot begin to tell you how much fun (and pain) you will experience. It really is a once in a lifetime kinda run.

        • have you run it before? and way to try and sell me on the pain part of it… what kind of crazy person would be encouraged to run a race for pain?

          • I wish I could say that I’ve run it but professional sport had me on the track for many years and now my poor body is so battered and bruised(I have the knees of a 60 year old) that I just know that I would struggle with long term injuries from such a long run and all the training required to complete it. I’m all for pain during a run but don’t want to wake up with too much of it every morning. My family has been involved in the Comrades for many years and we spent many hours on the side of the road cheering for and rubbing down the legs of friends during the race. Pain is part of the deal though, it’s a long race. The atmosphere and comraderie during the race is amazing though and gets you through the lows.

          • professional sport? what’s that about?

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