Saturday, January 14, 2012

First Week in Mwanza

The teary goodbye at SeaTac.

It’s been one week since Caitlin and I stepped, literally, off of the plane and onto the soil of Mwanza Tanzania.  Like Peter we weren’t sure exactly what we were getting into, but trusting in those who had followed the call before us, we went.  Although harder tests of faith are sure to come, this week has been a week of challenges but also many rewards as we begin following Yesu Kristo in Tanzania.

Storks, bumps and fettucini.

We arrived early on Friday morning and undertook our biggest challenge so far- staying up another 12 hours after flying 32 hours in order to adjust to the Tanzanian time zone.  Most likely the lack of sleep exacerbated the bumpy roads, ugly storks and foreignness of the land we are now calling home. Needless to say, although we were excited, our first day was a bit overwhelming.

However, the next day, New Years Eve, we began to settle in and get adjusted.  We had a subtle, but fun New Years Eve celebration drinking wine and sharing stories with others of our new Maryknoller family of lay missioners, priests, brothers and sisters (one of whom has been here since the days of the British in the 1950’s). The community was very warm and welcoming as they shared about how for 3 years they have been waiting and praying for MKLM to send them new lay missioners. It was very clear that they were all excited to have some fresh blood in the region.
At midnight the neighborhood children began marching/running around the neighborhood chanting “Happy New Year” or something in Swahili and banging pots, pans and plastic jugs. Many kids stood at the gate of our house and yelled “Happy New Year!” to us in English and then in regular Tanzanian child fashion, followed the greeting with, “Give me my money!” In all, we surprised ourselves by being able to stay awake for the dawning of 2012 in our new hometown.

The next few days were a blur of visits to all of the mission sites, talk of modems and cell phones and resident visas and a couple of visits to some not so Tanzanian restaurants. We spent a lot of time in the car, driving through the craziness that is the streets of Mwanza. The major roads are paved but swarmed with people walking and pushing carts of fruits and vegetables , people riding motorcycles and bicycles, and cars that prefer the creative driving method and dalla dalla buses that are constantly pulling over and then pulling back into the road at random. Just riding in the car is an adventure and I haven’t even talked about the side roads yet.

Downtown Mwanza looking rather subdued.
The roads around the house in which we stayed in Mwanza are dirt and seem to change from day to day depending on the rain. They are marked with potholes, deep ruts and grand canyons on the worst days. Driving over them is a full body workout at times as it takes all of your core muscles to keep your body from bouncing like a rag doll against the windows or the people sitting beside you.

Huruma School
Although the car rides were taxing they were well worth it when we arrived at our mission sites. David’s school, Huruma, is up a long and VERY bumpy road in the hills. The surrounding area is actually one of the most beautiful places in Mwanza. The land is red and scattered with large boulders and cement house with tin roofs. It looks almost like how I would imagine the surface of the moon would look  (except with lush vegetation and farm plots scattered everywhere). Huruma School is in a new three room building. There are two traditional classrooms with desks and chairs and then one multi-purpose room that serves as both a wood shop and physical therapy room.  We were given a tour of the school by Andrew, the mwalimu mku (head teacher) and talked about the students schedules.  He also showed us the very large canyon that the surface drainage has made in their driveway which will be a big obstacle for the dala dala (public transportation) to bring the students who can’t walk to school.  Shida Kubwa! (Big problem!).
The Grand Canyon in the driveway at Huruma School.

Caitlin’s school, or chekechea as they call preschool in Tanzania is on the opposite end of town at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Butimba. Like Huruma it is also in a very beautiful area. The two classrooms are nestled into a shady green sanctuary on the property of the church. Although it is only a about a mile outside of the heart of the city it feels very quiet and peaceful once you are in the gates of the parish.

Caitlin was happy to meet her Mwalimu Mku, Grace who showed her around her two classrooms. The rooms were pretty bare at first glance, but upon closer examination of the shelves that bordered the room, there were several sets of math, science, and literacy manipulatives that piqued Caitlin’s interest. Caitlin was also very happy to find out that although the teacher’s are Montessori trained, they are very open to her ideas. As one of the other Maryknoll Lay Missioners explained, “In Tanzania, ‘Montessori’ really only means that the teachers don’t hit the kids and make them memorize everything”. These are clearly two notions that Caitlin can really get behind.

Overall the week was marked by the extreme hospitality of George and Michelle Otte and Joanne Miya, our fellow team members who have already been living here.  George, a resourceful foodie, managed to find the ingredients for such things as omelets, pasta primavera, coffee cake and, the best, shrimp fettuccini (with a little help from the parmesan cheese which Katie Reid brought from the states).  Mind you this is no small feet in a town where vegetables and meats are bought in open-air stalls in the middle of a field. 
George and Michelle's house.

Now we are at language school (more on that next post) and trying our best to not butcher the language.  We miss and love you all and hope you enjoyed hearing about our first week.  Please continue to keep us in your prayers and of course send any emails or facebook messages with news from home!!


  1. David and Caitlin,
    Thanks so much for posting these blogs and photos. It's so wonderful to hear and see a bit of what you are doing. I am really thrilled to see these. Lots of love and blessings to you both. Thanks for doing good work!

  2. David & Caitlin - Thanks for keeping in touch; I'm sorry I didn't call when you were back in the Seattle area but.... this blog is wonderful! And your stories and photos brings back fond memories of a brief visit to Mwanza. Sending good wishes from the Missions Office,
    J.L. Drouhard