December 30, 2008

culture is hard

This is something i'm learning to accept. i hate disappointing people, so when culture is hard, i tend to try to swallow it anyway. john says our generation tries to have a machismo attitude toward culture. so, even when something is difficult-like lack of solitude or accepting hospitality or friendship meaning 4 phone calls a day- we try to accept it and adapt. this is good. there is so much i want to learn from Tanzanian culture. but i'm also learning that it's way to stressful if i don't allow myself to reject some things and to make room for my own culture. even if it will disappoint someone, sometimes i'm just going to turn my phone off. sometimes i'm not going to drink a soda even if it offends your hospitality. sometimes i'm going to turn off the TV and request silence. otherwise, i will go mad, and become irritated in a way that doesnt allow me to love or to be generous. i am trying to learn to stand up for myself and to give myself time alone and with other americans, not in a way that will cut me off but in a way that will allow me to love better.i never want to be above riding a dala dala, or eating ugali in someone's home, and i want to learn patience and community. but i also need sanity. on the other hand Christmas in Moshi was beautiful. Moshi is where i want to retire, since the chagga are the nicest people in the world and they also have the best weather. for christmas i was at the home of a grandpa who used to work for the Tanzanian ministry of ag (DANIELLE YOU NEED TO MEET HIM IF YOU ARE LEARNING ABOUT CHAGGA AND FARMING) and had lots of interesting stuff to say. aside from the cow intestines,all the food was great, and we had a relaxing time together. it even hailed a little on christmas day (along with rain) so i guess you could say we had a white christmas. now, i'm finishing up at school (it's going to be so hard to leave). today my students carried water for me from 600 yds up the hill, because wehaven't had water for over a week and my buckets ran out, and my neck just isn't strong enough to carry 20 liter buckets of water on my head. so that was extremely sweet of them. my parents are coming next week! then, i move to arusha, moving in with my friend Ester. final plans yet to come as of how long i'm staying...

December 23, 2008

Dar es Salaam

i've been in dar es salaam, the hottest city on earth (well, i haven't been to sudan yet, probably worse there) for the last few days. it's wonderful to see people, but it's hard. it's hard when you have friends who have so much less than you, and the closer you get to them the more they expect you to bring them to the U.S. someday. and it's interesting because i want to have real friends here so badly, and yet the inequality makes our friendships so different. and to some point i want to help them. like if i could give them education or get them away somehow from their husband who beats them. but i want it to be on my terms. i was thinking how americans love to give away money to help people but only on their terms. so i don't think that it is beneficial for them to come to America. They would either dislike it or be totally dependent on me. and tanzania is beautiful. i want the people of tanzania to want to make their country better, not to want to leave it. plus i feel that the money spend to fly my tanzanian friends to american could be better used. and then it's just a little awkward having these relationships where you're afraid to be too generous or too close because they're asking so much of you. although, in tanzanian culture it's not strange to ask people for money. if a relative has the ability to help you with something that you need, then they help you. so, what makes it so strange in this case is the utter inequality. it hurts so badly when you see someone hurting, and yet you're afraid to really get close and get involved, because you don't want to be responsible. and i'/ve been thinking lately that while i assume sometimes the main way i, as an american, can help the people of tanzania is with money and connections to money, i've seen that maybe that's not the case. love is love, friendship might mean more to some of these people than giving them a bunch of money to buy a TV or whatever they'd do with it. there's so much to think through. dar es salaam is like this. i'm excited to go to moshi tomorrow for christmas. it will be much cooler and hopefully lots of fun. Merry christmas to all. i can't help but think about how Jesus was born in the humblest of places, announced to the humblest of people. maybe i can think more about that this christmas season, without my cookies and christmas lights and millions of gifts. i pray that i will be able to see it in a new way, at least.

December 10, 2008

Just a Taste

I've recently been spending lots of time in silence and reflection and writing and prayer, and finally come not only to endure it without loneliness but actually to cherish it (so thanks to all who pointed me in that direction!) and I have been trying to understand better this need of mine to always be active, never wasting time, always doing something meaningful and changing the world. Why can't I see character development and relationship building, if they occur in silence and stillness, as doing something? I've also been trying to understand how to balance pouring all you have into loving people and serving God, and how to justify time for rest and how to justify saying "no, you can't stay at my house for the next 2 weeks and have me teach you english" or "no, i can't give you money" when Jesus says, "give to all who ask of you." But, I think today I started to understand something. I was thinking about how even Jesus didn't heal every person he met. He healed some, and he also spent a good bit of time just hanging out with people, or even in solitude. Why, when his work was so great and he had such great capacity, would he not use every minute to heal and teach and save? But, I think I'm understanding. The point isn't to heal everyone in the world. The point can't be to save the world, or even to get as much work done as possible. It's not really that big a deal whether 5 or 7 of these girls go to university. I mean it is, because each person matters, but we just can't love or save the world on our own. And that's ok. I think part of Jesus ministry of healing was just to be an icon, or a witness, or just a taste, to the great loving capacity of God. To show that God cares about us, and to point to a kingdom of God when every tear will be wiped away. So, I can't save these girls, and that shouldn't be my goal, but rather just to love them in a way that is a symbol of the God who will give them living water. To point to something greater than myself. As I was reading recently, it is said of John the Baptist, "He himself was not the light but he came to testify to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world." So, seen in that way, my work is not in vain. And that is comforting to me.

a new friend

I have a friend now. I mean, when Tanzanians say friend they mean for serious, they mean spending lots of time together and sleeping at each other's houses. There's almost some level of exclusivity. If you have too many friends you can't really devote time to them. So, through John and his roommate, I made a friend named Ester. I've been to her house twice now. What I love about Tanzanian hospitality is that they just welcome you to what they are normally doing. They're not worried about exactly what you eat or if you're bored or doing something special. They just invite you into their lives. It makes it a lot easier to have someone over. You don't have to clean the house and plan your cooking days in advance. You just say, "Karibu." So, this past weekend at Ester's, we cooked a lot, and fetched water, and washed the dishes, and listened to cassette tapes (she doesn't have electricity but they have a car battery to plug in the radio) and she taught me to dance along to the music, Tanzanian style. Meanwhile her niece and 2-year-old nephew danced along, and all these other neighborhood kids showed up and we just danced for an hour and a half. And we slept in the same bed and read verses from the Swahili Bible before we went to sleep, and talked a lot about America and Tanzania, and I taught her and her sister-in-law to sing Joy to the World and we practiced their English. And it was beautiful. It is the kind of experience of Tanzanian life, Tanzanian women's life especially, that I long for, and I'm lucky to get. This weekend Ester's coming to my place, but I'm really nervous. I mean, I need to learn from Tanzanian hospitality that it doesn't have to be spectacular, but I'm nervous because I don't have a radio and I have all these American gadgets like a fridge and running water and a flush toilet and a shower and an oven and a toaster and on and on....and I know she's going to think it's better than what she's got. And yet I honestly don't think it's better. But, I just have to welcome her to my life as it is, and I'm planning on having a few people over Saturday to bake Christmas cookies. So it should be lots of fun.