Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Home

I'm not going to lie. It's hard to believe that I've only been back at home in the states for 1 1/2 weeks. So much has happened as I try to get myself situated to move forward with life here while seeing everyone and coming to terms with the fact that I have finished my service in Tanzania. So far things are looking up: I've got a job, it's looking like my friend and I most likely have an apartment lined up, and while I am still trying to work on getting into those classes for speech and language pathology, it seems like things are moving forward for that as well. I'm back at karate, back to visiting all my favorite spots, and reconnecting with everyone I've lost touch with during my extended stay out of the country. And the food; good Lord I've eaten SOOO much good food since I've been back!!!! :D

But, off and on it hits me: I'm gone now. I've left Africa and I don't know when I'll be back. I want to go back some day. When I left, I knew that it was time; I knew that my service at Wesley had ended. But does that mean that my service to Africa has ended? Only God knows the answer to that question, but I feel in my heart that it is not over yet. Yes, America is home, but Tanzania is my home now too. When I was in Tanzania, America became like a dream life for me: something so far away and completely unrelated to what I was experiencing in Tanzania. Now, I guess the opposite will become true. As my life in America becomes more real, my life in Tanzania will feel further and further away. But, America never truly left me while I was there, and I don't think Tanzania will ever truly leave me just because I'm here.

Thankfully, there are so many reminders of my life in Tanzania that surround me. I still speak occasional Swahili words without thinking about it. I've got a HUGE stack of goodbye letters from my students that I read before I left, but have not read since I've arrived in America. I think it'll be a very emotional experience for me now that I'm so far away from them. Plus I've got all kinds of home decorations and outfits that I wear proudly to church and around town. The other night, I was showing some Tanzanian TV commercials and Gospel music videos to my parents on youtube. For me, I was transported back to Pastor Umba's house. For me, it was like I was in the sitting room, eating dinner with the family, talking and sharing and watching TV. I know that my parents couldn't understand anything that was being said, and some of it's pretty strange to us in our culture, but it was a chance to share yet another small part of my life in Tanzania. And today, I went through my pictures that I took over the last year and a half. There's a LOT of them. I feel like I will have no troubles remembering my time in Tanzania. I filled up just about 5 journals (and they're not particularly small journals either), took thousands of pictures, and I've got my whole blog documenting my experiences. As I was going through the pictures, I remembered what it was like walking through the hot and dusty streets in town, and the funny things my students have said and done. Those smiles and those faces, those places and those times will always stay with me. I've tried my hardest to make sure of that, but I still pray that one day I will be able to return.

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You,
~Christine

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mission Team Visit in Morogoro

My last week in Morogoro, we were blessed to have a mission team visit our site from Oklahoma. Many members of the group had visited the site before and had built wonderful relationships with the members of our church. Also, it was a very exciting visit because it marked the beginning of the construction for the roof of our church. As I have mentioned before, our church has been under construction for a LONG time. Mostly, this is because the church in Morogoro is very dependent on foreign money. They wait until they have received the funds and then they start the next project.

It was really fun, though, watching everyone from the church as they got ready for the visitors. There were extra rehearsals and more choir groups were created to present even more music at the Sunday service. A group of youth also rehearsed a dancing routine for while we were singing our praising songs. It was quite a festival on Sunday and there were a lot more people in church! There was a time that the mission team was called up to introduce themselves to the congregation (a very important part of Tanzanian culture). One of the members of the team gave us our message at church about how we are to trust God to save us in our situations. In the end, we all had communion together. This was a very powerful time for me because it was my last Sunday and God reminded me that it doesn't matter where we come from, we are all so very precious in His eyes. It doesn't matter what we've done before, what continent or city we were born in, how our lives growing up are, He loves us all unconditionally and in His presence, we are the same. (Please note that the Sunday I'm talking about in this blog was the same Sunday as my last Sunday in Morogoro. I know that I kind of split it up a bit.)

Mission team introductions

Dancing while praising

Church Communion
Throughout their stay, the team did what they could on the work site, but I think it was difficult because so much of the work was meant for skilled laborers. They got to do things like mix concrete and transfer the mixture in buckets up the ladder to where it was needed on top. They also got to spend some time playing with the kids from the school. I think they kids really enjoyed the simple activities and toys that the team brought with them. I even got to help them teach some of the kids how to make gimp which is a crafting project that was really popular when I was growing up. 

The scaffolding which was used to put up the church roof

A line of people (mission team and church members) passing buckets of concrete up the ladder
Overall, the visit of the mission team was a very nice experience, but a little bit stressful for me because they were keeping their items at my house. Luckily, everything worked out and I was able to do everything that I needed to do (including packing) without much difficulty!! :)

I hope that you are having a blessed week!! I'm currently visiting a volunteer missionary (like me!) in Czech Republic right now. It's been great to see her church and see the town where she has been living for the last 15 months. She's also finishing up her service and we will be heading back to the states together later this week. It's really crazy to think that it's actually happening and I'm really going to be home so soon!! :D

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You!
~Christine

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Many Goodbyes

Throughout my last week and a half in Tanzania, there were many goodbye celebrations and everything else. It was almost overwhelming how many people wanted to do stuff for me to say goodbye. I've already mentioned the goodybe parties that the school put on for me, so these are the other goodbyes.

The last few days of school, I really didn't want to teach anything. I had finished up what I wanted to do with Classes V and VI and so we just had music and game times. We learned songs and I worked further with Class VI on the recorders. They actually did pretty well there and I think the reason is because they were more secure in their music theory foundation (YAY!!). The rest of the time, we played enriching games like Simon Says and Jimmy Pa and we also watched informative movies like Tangled. The last few days of school was like a big party for me. I was exhausted when I got home every day because of all the activity, but it was worth it. (The other teachers were not really teaching anything because most of them are class teachers and were working on their end of the year reports, so I got a lot of freedom to go in and out of classes as I wished.) On the last day, Friday, I went to each class and gave every student a sticker as my final gift to them. It was quite a solemn event and everyone was silent as I went around the room. Class VII hadn't finished their movie when the bell rang for everyone to go home, so they remained in the classroom for quite a while. Many students from the other classes stuck around for a long time, not wanting to say the final goodbye just yet. It was a really sad time for us all.

The following Sunday was my last one in Morogoro and it was quite the event. The mission team had arrived at that point, so there were many extra songs which had been prepared for them and there was a lot of excitement in the church surrounding that. At one point in the service, I was called up to the front and Pastor Umba gave a speech about me and my service to the community in their church and the school. Then the women presented me with the gift of a kitenge fabric. Afterwards, I was given the opportunity to give a speech which I did (or I should say attempted to do) in Swahili. I thanked everyone for their welcome and for allowing me the chance to teach at their school. I expressed my hope to one day to return to Morogoro, but only God knows if that will come to fruition or not.

Last Sunday at Church:

Dancing with the gift of a new kitenge fabric

Giving my goodbye speech in Swahili at church

Some girls from the English choir and me

On Sunday in the evening, Nathan finally made his way home from secondary school. I had pretty much given up hope that I was going to see him before I left for America, so I really really excited when he came back. Rhodier, Frank, Vanessa, and I had all expressed our excitement over his return and they decided that they wanted to throw a party for him. In the end, it was decided that the party was to celebrate: Nathan's birthday (which we had missed because he had been at secondary school), Nathan's return, and the fact that Frank, Rhoider, and Nathan had finished their first term in secondary school.
Rhoider and Vanessa decided to come over early on Monday morning to prepare for the party. I found some balloons that other missionaries had given me and we blew them up and taped them to the walls. Also, they had brought some sparkly tape that they used to write "Bye 'Tina" because they ran out of the tape. (I pretended not to notice that after we had decided that the party was supposed to be about Nathan and the finishing of the first term of secondary school and all).
In the afternoon, we began the party. I had some Oreo cookies, and some crackers that I put out on plates. I also cut up an apple and bought sodas for everyone. It was quite the little party!! It was announced that the party was in honor of my leaving in addition to all the other reasons mentioned above. Then, we ate and drank and talked together before starting our movie which I had promised to Nathan when he was home for the Easter holiday: Captain America. I think they really enjoyed it!! One thing I realized later was that these were all the students who were translators for me at church. I'm not sure that it was ever meant to be that way, but these are all students that I have grown particularly close to over the past year and a half and I am very sad to have left them.

Goodbye party with Nathan, Rhoider, Frank, and Vanessa:


Making the preparations


Me and my translators

On Tuesday, I had lunch with some friends in town at my favorite restaurant, Oasis. It was a really nice meal and I was happy to see them one last time. After lunch, I went to Day Spring for the last time. All of the kids had been begging me to visit them again, so I agreed. They also asked if I could spend the night, so I said I would since it was going to be my last visit. It was so funny when my friend drove me up: all the kids gathered around the car to take my bag and greet me even though I had just seen many of them at school that morning. (Classes IV and VII are meeting during break to prepare for exams and Class VI is meeting because they failed their math exams and need extra work) As soon as I walked inside, all of the kids gathered in the sitting room area and whipped out a deck of cards. They all wanted to talk with me and play with me. It was such an amazing transformation from the first time I had visited last year. Then, the kids had been so shy and were not really sure what to do. The visit had been so awkward and I hadn't really known what to do.

This last visit was so wonderful. I taught them how to play the card games Crazy 8's and Battle. Then, we ate lunch together which was ugali and veggies. I wasn't able to eat very much, though, because I had just eaten a huge meal at the restaurant. Afterwards, we put in a movie, The Princess and the Frog. I think they enjoyed it. After the movie, I called everyone into the sitting room so that I could present the kids with a small gift. We had taken group pictures at the school and I had made sure to get a picture with all of my students from Day Spring. I then took it to the print studio in town and got it printed and framed. It was a simple gift, but the kids were SO very excited about it and they put it up in a special place in their home. I hope that it will serve as a reminder of our times together and the many visits I made to their home. Then we started the next movies: Madagascar 3 and Finding Nemo while we prepared things for dinner and ate dinner. Before, I wouldn't have dared to help with the dinner preparations because I know it's rather against Tanzanian hospitality for the guest to do work, but some of the girls were peeling garlic and onions and I got brave and jumped right in and helped. It was really fun!!
At the request of my students, I spent the night at the orphanage because it was going to be my last visit to them. In the morning, I planned to go to school early with the students from Class IV, VI, and VII in their car. The only problem ended up being that the car came SUPER late for reasons which are still unknown to me. (I've noticed this year that their ride seems to be a lot less reliable and they've been late to school many times or have had to stay very late into the evening.) So, we sang songs and played while we waited. They also had a prayer for me for my journey home and their grandmother presented me with the gift of khanga fabric. That fabric is probably the most special fabric that I now own because every time I see it or wear it I think of my precious students from Day Spring and their bibi (grandmother).

Last visit to Day Spring Orphanage:

Peeling garlic and onions

Just hanging out

I <3 these crazy students!! :D

Finally, on Wednesday evening, after the prayer service, the youth from church made a stop by my house to say goodbye and present me with their gifts: khanga fabric and kitenge fabric. The gave a small speech of thanks and we took many pictures together.

Goodbye gifts from the youth:


Right now, I'm having a great time visiting my friends in Maua, Kenya and comparing my experience with theirs. It seems that they live in a much poorer area and thus our experiences have been different. Also, there are quite a few subtle differences between Tanzanian and Kenyan culture which is always interesting to learn more about. I hope to write a blog entry about it soon, but I'm trying to finish updating about my last weeks in Tanzania. 
Soon, however, I will be moving to the next stage in my journey back to the states: a stop to visit a missionary friend in Czech Republic. I'm really looking forward to getting to see where she has been living and learning about her experiences and mission in an area where there is still a strong Communist ideology. From what she's told me so far, it's been very tricky going about spreading the Gospel there because so many people are against it. 

I hope that you are all well and that you have been having a blessed week!

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You,
~Christine

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Kids Who Changed My Life

First of all, I want to apologize profusely for not getting this blog up sooner. First of all, I've been ridiculously busy with packing and preparing to leave. Also, we had a mission team visiting during my last week in Morogoro which made things all the more hectic. The other problem I was experiencing was that I could log into blogger, but I couldn't access any of my previous posts or create a new post for whatever reason. But, I can say that I am alive and well and have now left Tanzania and begun my journey home. Thus, now I am visiting some missionaries in Kenya before returning to the states.

Well, I must say that I had an absolutely WONDERFUL last week of school. I finished everything that I wanted to with my kids and also had a lot of time for playing and hanging out with them. It was super fantastic!! On Tuesday of my last week, the kids threw a party for me. It was super cute, they all started having practices the week before to prepare, but they were all trying to keep it a secret from me (although I totally knew what was going on, I pretended not to. The students just said they were going to "football practice" or something like that). 

Tuesday was a wonderful day. The kids sang all kinds of goodbye songs that they wrote for me and did all kinds of dances. There was even a fashion show with some of the most interesting fashions I've seen (LOL!). Some of my students even break danced which was absolutely hysterical to watch. Seriously, this one boy in particular from the orphanage is such a punk! There was even some cultural dancing by some of the kids. It was absolutely wonderful and a bit overwhelming realizing that they prepared all of this just for me. 

When I think back on everything that I've been through in Morogoro, I realize that it was tough, but I am made of tough stuff and I survived. I didn't want to teach. I wasn't even 100% sure that I wanted to come to Morogoro because I really wanted to be placed somewhere where I wouldn't have to teach. But, I can say that these kids have changed my life. I'm not really interested in teaching once I get back to the states, but I can say that I am so thankful that by the grace of God I came to Morogoro and had this wonderful experience doing the one thing I didn't want to do. Seriously, I feel like God used these kids to heal something inside of me. So, I may or may not have changed their lives, but I know, without a doubt, that they have changed mine! And for that I praise God!!

Here are some pictures of my amazing students!! :D











I hope to get some more entries posted soon, but I'm not sure how feasible that is seeing as I'm traveling and in transition now. Hopefully I'll get one more post up this week though because a LOT has happened in the last couple weeks since I posted. There were quite a number of "good-bye" parties and also we had a mission team visiting our site my last week (as I mentioned previously).

I hope that you're having a blessed start to week so far!!

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You,
~Christine

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

DAR

Recently, some of my very good friends have moved to DAR to do their mission work. So a friend from Morogoro and I decided to go this past weekend and visit them at their new homes. We all had a really great time together helping one of the families move into their finally finished house, going to the beach, eating all kinds of awesome food, and visiting their church.

DAR is an amazing and magical world full of exotic foods like Subway sandwiches, stuffed crust pizza, fettuccini alfredo, cheesecake and more. It's a strange city that somehow combines African culture and western culture all into one big lump. You can find all kinds of places like malls, beach resorts, and restaurants which are created especially for foreigners. And, at the same time, you can find all of the normal small African shops as well. There are many cars, motorcylces, buses, and as a result so much traffic because the roads are narrow and poorly maintained. Yet, at the same time, there are so many poorer people walking and trying their hardest to sell things on the streets. It was a very strange combination to experience; especially after having been away from western life for so long. The strangest part of the experience was going from church on Sunday (which is not complete, but it does at least have a roof), and then going to a mall where we ate fast food at a chicken place (sort of like KFC, which there also is one of those in DAR). I also got to walk through a real supermarket for the first time in a year. I was overwhelmed by the number of choices in food. I even found Clif Bars (one of my favorite snacks), Reece's cups, half an isle with just different types of teas, and so much more; though, of course, all of these things were grossly overpriced.

In spite of the shocking aspects of the weekend, it was just what I needed since things have been really stressful for me in Morogoro as of late. Any transition is difficult, but I think that the transition of a cross-cultural move is even more stressful than most. I'm used to life here now, but lately, knowing that I will be leaving soon, some cultural aspects of life have really been getting on my nerves. Mostly this has had to do with the attitude of locals towards white people and the fact that I can't go anywhere without attracting a lot of attention from people. It's very frustrating because I simply can't be friends with every single person I meet and it's impossible to greet everyone. If I did stop to greet every person, I would never get anywhere and if I was friends with everyone I met I wouldn't have time for anything. It's very overwhelming sometimes. In DAR, I suddenly became invisible and I was able to walk around and, well, just exist without extra attention being brought to myself. It was such a relief for me.

Here are some pictures of the weekend. My friend is supposed to be sending me pictures of the beach, but I don't have them yet.

Yeah, that's right. The first thing on this list is "Cajun Chicken". I didn't try it, but I was shocked to see that on a menu in Tanzania.




Hope you're having a great week so far!

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You,
~Christine


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Final Finals

Two and a half weeks left; and only 7 of those days are with my kids. That's all that's been on my mind lately; how soon my departure is. While it's half exciting, it's also half sad and maybe a little bit scary (if I'm going to be completely honest).

As it turns out, I wasn't able to get into graduate school for this fall. Apparently, it was a very competitive year, but I was given very good feedback from a couple of universities that told me I should try again next year. So, I'm going to try and take some prerequisite courses this fall and spring which might help my application even more for next year. Thus, the future is a little uncertain at this time, but I just have to put my faith in God and I know that all things will work out.

As for life here in Tanzania, this week has been mid-year finals week. Exam week always feels like a big black hole and I personally don't care so much for it. The students just take exams all day and it can be pretty boring for me as a teacher. Because Class VII doesn't take the monthly exams, I only have two sets of papers to grade throughout the week (Classes V and VI English) and each day I'm only scheduled to give one or two tests the whole day. Thus I've been reading a lot and hanging out with the kids when they finish their tests and are allowed to go outside. Also, I've been giving the Class VII students a LOT of work to do throughout the day since no teachers go in to teach them while the others are doing exams. It keeps them quiet for a while and reassures me that they're learning something.

Today was the last day of exams (praise Jesus). For the next two days Class VII will be taking a mock examination to prepare for the exams in September and I'll be doing test corrections with Classes V and VI. Then, next week is the last week before the mid-year break. Usually, breaks are good and I look forward to them. In fact I know that it's just about time for a break now because it's been taking me 20 minutes to wake up to my alarm lately. But, it hasn't quite hit me that this is the end. Up to this point during my time here, we've had several breaks; we go and we all come back again. The difference now is that after this break, the students will return to school and I will not. So next week is it; the end. I'm slightly torn between wanting to continue teaching up to the end and just letting them watch movies or something like that. I mean, we've already had the exams and they're going to go on break for a month, so what's the point of teaching something new? But, at the same time, this is my last chance to pour out any last bit of information into their brains. I already know that Friday is going to be the "farewell party". Maybe I'll teach until Wednesday and have some movie time on Thursday? We'll see how it goes.

As for myself, I'm going to be traveling to DAR this weekend to see friends and say a final goodbye. Also, we have a mission team from Oklahoma that will be arriving mid-week next week, so that will be exciting to meet them. They will be here up until about the time that I begin my journey back to the states via Kenya and Czech Republic. (On my way home I'm going to be visiting some missionary friends that I met through my training to come here. I'm really excited to see where they are living and what kinds of things they have been doing!)

Well, I guess that's the update for now. I hope that you're having fantastic week so far!!

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You,
~Christine





Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Teacher is...

So this week, nothing particularly exciting or amazing or wonderful happened. It was just an average week at school, teaching and sharing with my kids. Soooo...I tried to think of what to write about and this is what I came up with! Enjoy!! :D

When I was in my undergraduate classes, we talked about what/who a teacher is. We discussed how teachers spend a huge chunk of the day with their students; and sometimes the students spend more time with their teachers than their actual parents. So, what does this mean for teachers? It means, that a teacher takes on many roles. A teacher is not just a teacher, but a friend, a counselor, a mother/father figure, a confidant, and so much more. And, just because you living in a foreign country does not change this fact. Somehow, over the past year, I have managed to embrace all of these roles in some form or fashion. When I'm in the class, I am "Madam" and I do my best to maintain control while allowing the students to have some fun and laugh a little. Outside of class, we talk, make jokes, and tell stories. The students are always coming up to my desk during break time to hang out with me. Many students, especially in Class VII, have been coming to me with questions about English and Math. A few students have opened up to me about personal problems they're experiencing and I've been blessed to be there for them (it is a very rare thing here for people to express their real emotions). Yeah, we've had a good run together and it's going to be really hard to leave them all so soon.

Just this week, one student was asking me what day I was leaving and another student who standing nearby said "She's not leaving. Nope!" When students make comments like that and "Please don't go madam!!" it makes me want to start crying because I realize how much of an impact I've had on their little lives. It's in those moments I realize that I have succeeded as a teacher, in all of these aspects.

I knew, when coming here, that I wouldn't be able to change the whole world. It's just a bit to big for me. ;) But, I hoped that God would move through my life to change the lives of the people I met here in Morogoro. I'm so blessed that He has allowed me to have such a powerful experience with memories to last a lifetime, and also because I'll be leaving a small mark here that I hope will last beyond my own impending departure.

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You,
~Christine


Haha, sorry for all the repeat photos! I've got to get some more recent ones at school this week and in the last two after that! ;)