October 29, 2008

Resources

We're out of water here at the school. I was lucky to have it for the first month, to have running water and everything. But now, it sounds like they're connecting a new water system, and since I'm connected to the old, I won't have it. This means I have to haul water in buckets from a faucet only a hundred yards from my house (though it's unreliable), which isn't bad. It also means I notice how much water I use, exactly how many buckets a day. I suppose someday when I'm paying utilities bills I'll know how much, but maybe it's different than carrying the buckets myself and seeing how quickly they go down. So, I have to flush the toilet with my dishwater after I finish dishes, and I can take a bath (though washing hair is more difficult) with only a gallon or so. Yeah, even dinosaurs take baths, maybe it doesn't get me that clean, but when have I ever been that concerned about being clean? On a side note, flush toilets are stupid in a water-scarce area, so we're talking about getting a latrine dug behind our house. In general I just have to think more about resource use here. I burn my own trash, so we try to keep that low, and every piece of paper and pen seems valuable when the students never stop asking me for another pen. Sometimes we play Bingo to review vocabulary in class, and the prize is a pencil, and it's amazing how much they get excited about the pencil as a prize, how much they cheat and how competitive they get. Yeah, Maasae girls are wonderful but they're not particularly honest or compassionate (are any of us?). So I think it's good to have to be responsible for your own waste, it makes you more aware. Also, I've been thinking, all the tasks that take me so long- laundry, cooking, dishes, cleaning, etc., would be so much more enjoyable if I didn't live alone. I think this is why Tanzanians all live with their family until they move in with a new family (esp in the village) and part of why they have maids, and part of why living in community is just way better, and how awesome it is to share work together rather than do it all yourself. But, I'm learning a lot about simple living and culture and sanitation and who knows what else.

October 27, 2008

honesty

i haven't really been honest with people on that other side of the atlantic, that i'm actually having a hard time. well, when i say i love it here it's 100% true. i love the beauty of monduli, i love spending time with the girls, i love brushing up on my swahili and everything. however, i don't love living alone and being sort of secluded and having only one really close friend here, john, to whom i have been telling EVERYTHING and probably driving him crazy. this is all to be expected, that coming here would be a bit lonely, that i would miss you all a lot, that i would feel sometimes a bit of selfishness and directionlessness. because everything i do is focused on myself. i mean i teach, but then i go back to my house and cook myself food and clean and try to entertain myself so that i don't feel too lonely. and i feel like, as much as i want to give to the girls, i'm giving so little of what i have to give. and whenever i go out in public, sadly, most of my personal interaction seems to be governed by this contradictory principle, that i want to make friends and be in tanzania but i also want to avoid awkward circumstances or people asking me for things i can't/don't want to give them. it's like i'm afraid to get to know people because there is this inequality between us that makes me ever suspectful of what they want, or even if not suspectful, nervous that i will disappoint them. even the people i'm closest to. and all of this is not love. about a week ago, john and i walked past a boy in the streets of arusha, a street kid, probably high on glue, sleeping in the gutter in the late afternoon. it really hit him. he's still talking about it. and i feel sort of put to shame that it didn't affect me, or just that he can hurt so much for someone else when i've been so hung up on my own problems lately. but, i think realizing this has been good and will help me just to continue to look for small ways to reach outside myself. and also to give myself grace for the times when i am selfish, because i'm dealing with culture shock and living alone and being done with college and being in a relationship and all these things that are so new and challenging. so it is good.

October 16, 2008

Faith

Whenever I come to Africa, I tend to hear these stories. I mean, we've all heard stories of people being miraculously healed from sickness and blindness and whatnot. But they're just stories. Last year when I was in Tanzania, I met a kid who told of how he'd been totally sick, paralyzed, unable to eat, and Jesus told him to get up and walk. That brought the issue home a little, like now I have to really decide if I believe it or not. Well, this year, I've been confronted with the issue again, in partially detached and sometimes more troubling ways. One is an American missionary, a woman that John knew when he lived in Kenya. She was really sick with a bunch of stuff at that time, arthritis and muscular stuff and unable to eat. She and her husband went home to the US, really discouraged. John remembers her being really sick. But they've come back, and we saw them at this church not too long ago. Her husband told us how one day he another guy were praying for her. At the time he was sick of praying prayers that weren't being answered. He thought she was going to die. And he just felt this peace suddenly, and went home and she was totally fine, didn't need medications anymore, completely healed. It turned their life around, they came back to Africa so much more encouraged and with faith instead of discouragement and since then they have seen blind people see, lame people walk, all this crazy stuff. I heard it from the guy himself. So I've been thinking a lot about all this. And, I believe it, I really do. But I realized that I believe it in a detached way. I say I believe it, but what does that mean? I guess I don't really believe that God would work that directly in my life or the lives of people I know who are sick or hurt or whatever. I mean I believe he could, but I don't have the kind of expectant faith where I'm about ready to pray and see it happen. I'm still detached. Part of me longs for the kind of faith that would really see God come down and be active in our lives. It seems that was a huge part of Jesus' ministry, direct healing and stuff, and also part of what he called his followers to do, to heal the sick, cast out evil, raise the dead. But you have to suspend a lot of reason and also a lot of cultural assumptions in order to really believe it. And while I long for that kind of faith, I'm also terrified of it. It gets more troubling in the Pentecostal church that I went to this past week. I mean, the pastor there does a lot of healing and has tons of crazy stories, but he also has a lot of focus on casting out evil spirits. Which also, I'm starting to believe are possibly real, I mean there are lots of evil and troubling things in the hearts of people. But when I went to the service Sunday, it felt frightening, or sickening, or just weird. It could be culture shock or it could be something very frightening. They prayed for people at the end of the service and lots were crying and women were writhing (that's the other thing, it seems there's a bit of patriarchy in this, the women are 80% of the congregation and always the ones with demons) and I started crying, I just felt scared or like there was badness present. But what struck me the most was I just felt like, why are they focusing so much on the negative, saying to the demon in the name of Jesus, LEAVE! And I found myself praying that these women would be filled not with fear of evil but with the presence of God, with faith that God loves them, with peace and knowledge that they matter, that there is something stronger than the troubling aspects of their lives, hearts, bodies. So maybe I'm just the same as them, we all just want to really believe and have confidence in God and love.