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Entries in Tanzania (11)


Passing thoughts on poverty

I grew up poor. American poor, which in the big scheme of things isn't that bad. In high school we lived in rent-controlled housing and a single-wide trailer. I never owned two pairs of shoes at one time until I was sixteen and then it was only because I needed work shoes. I shared a checking account with my mom so my income from washing dishes could pay our rent. But as Pat Conroy once said, "The greatest gift a writer can receive is an unhappy childhood." My gift, compared to Pat's, was small.

Visiting Tanzania was an opportunity to evaluate the pluses and minuses of poverty. The negatives are obvious and grim. From a shorter life-span, to not having clean water, to living with the imminent threat of diseases that we don't even think about anymore. (Sad that my dog is better immunized than any of the children we met).

But the surprising thing was that there are peculiar pluses of poverty, not that I'd wish it upon anyone. But while the poor in underdeveloped countries are chained to daily subsistence living, they're not chained to possessions, or the commercialism that comes with them. They aren't bombarded with messages 24/7 that say, "You're not slender enough, you're not rich enough, drink this, eat this, buy this and be happy."

They just are happy. Because happiness is free.


Speaking of free things (and if you can forgive this crass, commercial segue), the fine folks at Random House have posted the first two chapters of SONGS OF WILLOW FROST online, for free. SONGS is set during the Great Depression so there's that poverty thing again. There's also abandonment. But if you look real close, if you search between the lines, you'll know there's a glimmer of happiness, somewhere.


Tanzania Mission, soundtrack

We're back, but still in jetlag-la-la-land. I'll post a longer report tomorrow (about poverty) but in the meantime here's a clip of a village choir in Pommern. I attended three different church services, different denominations, and all had amazing choirs. We heard them practicing all week, much to our delight.

Also, musically-speaking, Britt, Madi, and Karissa managed to make the "Cup Song" from Pitch Perfect part of an English lesson. Here's the final result.


Tanzania Mission, leaving (sadly)

Our last day ended with a school-wide celebration, followed by a special dinner at the mission house.

Sorry for the absence of updates. No, I wasn't been eaten by meerkats nor have I "chucked it all," Apocalypse Now-style to go live in the jungle. Basically, the Gods of the Interwebs were unkind the past several days, which wasn't always a bad thing.

We're back in Dar es Salaam after twelve hours on the road (complete with crossing baboons). I'll post a multi-day recap once I'm back in the US, but for now I have to say that I'm experiencing the first pangs of what can best be described as "re-entry shock".

I'm just not ready for the world of Kardashians, infomercials, Botox, or $4 coffee. I miss the red dirt on my socks, greeting everyone we see (and having that greeting warmly returned), and I miss hearing little kids yell "tee-cha!"


Tanzania Mission, weekend off

Despite the weekend off, we still got up at chicken-thirty. The rooster that crows outside our door will become Lucas’ birthday dinner on Monday. I’m looking forward to sleeping past 6:00 AM on Tuesday.

Today we wandered back over to the Italian-run orphanage and chatted with folks for a while. So strange to banter back and forth with Europeans in Swahili. Then we played football with the little kids who all know our names by now and linger on the road and call our names while we’re napping (they know we have a real soccer ball).

The kids know us now and shout our names from the road when they want to play.

The rest of the crew went to Ruaha National Park while Karissa and me stayed behind. We wanted to go check out the churches tomorrow so we’re going to the Katoliki Mass at 8:00 AM and then the Lutheran service on the other side of the village at 10:30 AM. When in Rome…wait, didn’t the Roman’s throw Christians to the lions? I get very confused. Though I’m especially excited for the Lutheran service. I’ve been hearing their choir practice all week and they’re ridiculously amazing.

A previous visitor with Global Volunteers spent a few weeks here and then went home to Boston and raised funds to bring the Pomerini Choir to the US for two months (40 concerts). The concert proceeds paid for the piping to bring water to the village. Before 2008, women and children would walk 5 km each way to fetch water, going back and forth several times throughout the day as needed for cooking, washing, bathing, etc.

Tomorrow get to hear the choir for free. And enjoy water anytime.