Sunday Afternoon Continued…

Sunday, February 13, 2005
Sunday Afternoon-2.13.05

Sunday Afternoon-2.13.05After church, we had been invited to Jessicas house for dinner. She has been asking all week, so I know that it is important to her, but it is even more important to me! We walked down dusty roads until we got to a small dirt driveway. At the end was a small group of buildings made of brick. This is Jessicas home and fourteen people live here. The word family, in Tanzania, encompasses much more than it does in our country. Cousins are considered sisters, aunts are considered mothers, and a Tanzanian can routinely have thousands in their ‘family’.
As we walked through the buildings, Jessica introduced us to many sisters, friends, and children. There was fresh laundry hanging on the line, and several of the women are huddled over a small fire in the corner of the courtyard preparing lunch. Jessica’s mother came out and I adored her instantly! She looks just like Aunt Jemima on the syrup bottle, and she is constantly laughing and smiling. When we tell her how much we love her daughter, she just beams. The warmth and love in this family is so evident, and they immediately all made us feel at home.
We went into the main room of the home where there were chairs and couches covered in lace doilys. In Tanzania, very few houses have glass in the windows, and this home was no exception. Flies come and go and all of the sounds of the animals float through the room as we sit in sweaty little puddles. The heat outside is quite intense, but inside, the shade of the house makes it more tolerable. As Christy and I sat on the couches, we heard Jessica struggling with something large and bulky. With a proud smile, she carried a television into the room. Their home is one of the few that has power, and they are very proud to have a TV. She turns it on to the only available station and the sounds of a South African soap opera fill the room. We sat there trying to figure out who was marrying whom, and who was who’s daughter, and before long, Mama Digna (Jessica’s mother) came in with a tray of mugs and a pot of tea. As she poured the tea, I realized that I was about to experience yet another first. Tanzanian tea. Hmmm… do I describe this? Well, first you go out and milk the cow, then you heat the milk very hot, add a splash of tea and a spoon of brown sugar granuales. The result is the most…….earthy tea that I have ever tasted. Every few minutes, you would have to scrape off the film that had appeared on the top, and I managed to make it through ¾ of the mug before I finally gave up. It wasn’t that the tea was bad, actually it was pretty good! However, I have never had non-pasturized whole milk straight from the cow, and for a girl that finds it tough to choke down skim milk, this was really different!
After tea, Jessica took us out to show us the family’s animals. Three cows, a calf, many pigs both large and small, and a ton of chickens filled the pens in back of the house. However, it was the dogs that I loved the most! Tanzanians have a lot of dogs, but they are kept for guard purposes only. No one ever pets them or loves on them. At first, I was horrified at this, but I soon came to see that it is just a normal part of their culture. Earlier in the week, I had been telling Jessica about my dog Scarlet, and how she sleeps with me. Jessica was truly shocked and said that she could never imagine such a thing. I walked up to one of the dogs in her yard and started to pet it. It immediately rolled over and bared its belly for a scratch. As her tail wagged back and forth furiously, I told Jessica, “See….she likes it! It shows her that you love her, and the tail wagging shows you that she is happy!”. Jessica agreed that she would begin to pet the dogs of occasion, even though I could tell that she thought I was crazy!!! 
We went back into the main room of the house, and soon, low wooden tables were brought in, and lunch was served. We had brought our own bottled water, and the rest of the family drank tap water. Mama Digna opened a large steaming pot filled with rice, seasoned with onions, potatoes, oil, and a little beef. Alongside that was steamed greens, much like spinach, but with a different type of leaf. There were peeled cucumbers, tomatoes, and mangos, and it was all delicious!! I was really touched at how much work Mama Digna had put into the meal. Knowing that we cannot eat any raw fruit or vegetable that has not been peeled, she went to a lot of extra work for us!
After two helpings of lunch, we all declared, “Nimesheba, asante”, (thank you, I am full), and settled back into the couches. Refusing help with the dishes, Mama Digna cleared the table, and a few seconds later came back into the room with a tray held high. Stacked on the tray were six dusty, tall bottles of Pepsi and Orangeade. What a surprise!!!! I knew that we were honoured guests, but these six bottles of soda were a very, very special treat for the family, and I couldn’t believe that they were sharing them with us! Jessica’s father sat back in a chair with a contented sigh and took a long drink of his warm Pepsi. We all joined in, feeling very, very lucky.
After lunch, several of the younger children got over their shyness and came in to see us. We soon began to share the various childrens songs we knew and before you could say “Mary Had A Little lamb”, the entire family was crowded into the living room and we were teaching them the “Chicken Dance”! It was so much fun! We all laughed, and twisted, and wiped the sweat rolling off of our brows. At the end, Mama Digna declared that Christy was her Dada, (sister), and that I was her first born, Sarah was her second born, and Jessica was her third born! With that, she swept us all into a big giant hug and a new family was born. We laughed and called ourselves the Mzungu/Bongo family. Bongo is the word that is used for natives here, and this family was proud to adopt us into their own.
Soon it was time to head home, so we began to make our good-byes. Jessica said that her mother wanted to escort us home, so to please wait for her. A few minutes later, Mama Digna came out in a beautiful outfit and head covering. She was going to escort us in style! We set off down the road, ten of us holding hands and singing. We waved to neighbors, and scared all of the chickens off of the road. Half way home, The smaller children, including the little boy that had been holding my hand, headed back for home while the rest of us walked on. After a few minutes, Mama Digna stopped to help a neighbor with his cell phone and we kept going. We stopped a way down the road to wait for her and when she turned the corner, we all burst into a rousing rendition of the Chicken Dance for her! She laughed and clapped her hands while joining us for the remainder of our walk home.
The day was completely magical, and I cannot imagine anything this special happening for the remainder of my trip. However, who knows what Tanzania still holds? All I know is that it just doesn’t get much better than this!!
Love, Anna

Anna aka Mud Butt

A Rau kind of Sunday

Sunday, February 13, 2005
A Rau kind of Sunday

Note: This is out of order, but I have not had time to finish typing up Saturday and the rest of Sunday. However, I wanted to send this on so that you could read it! I will try to send the rest tomorrow!! Take care! Love, anna 

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Today was the greatest day! Christy and I got up early to go to church with Jessica. I was nice and clean, and off we went. Well, no one told us it was a two mile walk to church!! We walked very fast and I was dying of the heat, but it was wonderful. We walked on narrow dirt roads and through alleys framed in flowering vines. We dodged chickens and goats, and cut across newly-cleared fields of maize. At one point, we walked by a small store and picked up Jessica’s cousin, Baby. A young teenage girl, she kept telling me, “Oh, you are very fat!”. It would have been upsetting, but here, that is a very big compliment! Men walk up to me on the street and tell me I am beautiful! Seriously! It turns out that the size of a woman reflects directly on her husband. If she is thin, the village people tell the man that he is stingy and not feeding his wife properly. When a woman has a baby, for six weeks, she does nothing but breast feed. Her husbands job is to bring her food and wait on her hand and foot. At the end of six weeks, all of the men in town know that this is the day that the woman will wrap up her baby, put her basket on her head, and go to the market. They line up at the bars along the road and wait for her. She literally sashays down the road and if she has gotten fat, all the men clap her husband on the back and tell him he is a good man. How great is that!!?
Anyway, I digress. When we arrived at church, there was a large roof held up by concrete posts. There were easily 400 people sitting and standing under the roof singing. The church only owns a few benches, so most people bring a small stool from their home to sit on. Christy and I, being the only two mzungu there, were regarded as guests of honor, so several people went to get a bench for us to sit on.
You have to picture it¦a bright blue sky, cool breeze, and green trees and palms all around. Cows from neighboring homes are mooing and the sound of chickens and goats float through the air. The breeze smells like a combination of freshly-turned dirt, sweaty people, animals, and hay. The people look like a grand splash of every imaginable color known to man! Everyone is in their finest and there is nothing in this world that can rival the sight! Women wear multi-colored kanga and kitenge, two or three at a time, with no thought of them matching in the Western sense. Most women also have head wraps or scarves on, so the sight was quite brilliant.
This is a Catholic church, and mass was two and a half hours long. In Swahili.
At one point, I thought that they were saying the Lord’s Prayer, but an hour later, Jessica leaned over and said “This is the Lord’s Prayer now,” so I have no idea what was going on earlier. The singing was, at the risk of sounding terribly corny, heavenly. It was not like the music that I have heard in other masses. It was two and three-part harmony African singing. It was the one time on this trip I wish that I owned a tape recorder so that I could share that sound with everyone at home. Sickness, illiteracy, and poverty melted away. Hundreds of people singing together, in a church that they were building with their own hands¦.you could feel the joy emanating from the congregation. It might well be one of the most special things I have ever experienced.
Twice during the service, we all processed up to the make-shift altar to make an offering, once for the normal offering and once for a fund to complete the church construction. Each time, as I walked back to my seat, elderly women would reach out and grasp my hand. These women look like the pictures you would see in a magazine of any tribal elders. Wrinkles deeply etched, toothless smiles, and hands malformed by years of hard work and arthiritis. As I met each ones gaze, she first looked surprised and then delighted when I smiled at them. They seemed so grateful that I greeted them, but the truth was, I was the one overwhelmingly grateful.
Later, Jessica said that many people wanted to come greet us, but that they were ashamed that they could not speak English. Can you imagine?! I am in their country, and they are ashamed that they cannot speak MY language?! I am trying to speak as much Swahili as possible, so as to put people at ease. Until 20 years ago, there was a 98% illiteracy rate here in Tanzania. In the last 20 years, Tanzania has built many schools and a university, so the literacy rate has increased dramatically. However, it is a good chance that anyone over the age of 40 has had little or no education, and they are painfully aware of the fact. This is very evident when we meet people, and I am struggling with how to let them know that my meeting them is a much greater honor than they can imagine and that I am in awe of them regardless of their education.
This email has become kind of long, so I will continue it in the next one. For now, it is enough to say that this amazing day is just getting started!

Love, Anna
“When all is said and done here at the ending of the day, I look out on this world and it still takes my breath away…”
“Robin’s Song” Small Potatoes

Anna aka Mud Butt