Monday, August 28, 2006

Testing the four wheel drive...gravity..and having some fun!

A friend of ours had friends in town over the weekend. They decided they wanted to go paragliding so we went along too! I watched, as I wanted to save my money for my trip to Nairobi this weekend, but Tanya received her own flight as a birthday gift from Anna. After a somewhat nerve racking ride in four wheel drive we managed to get atop a hill overlooking Arusha! What a view! Tanya had her chance to test gravity and we all decided that it is such a cheap (about $15 US) activity we must do it again...ALL OF US! A bit nerve racking for a someone who really likes to keep her feet on the ground! More pictures on the Flickr site. (link to the right)
Tanya gets ready...
She gets set...
And off she goes! Goofing off while we wait for her to make it back ...
One of my favorite pictures from the day...

As I mentioned, heading to Nairobi, Kenya this weekend! I am excited to get out of town, as it is a hard week. My brothers wedding is this weekend in Houston, TX, and I won't be there. Before I left, I thought it wouldn't be so difficult to miss, after all, he has been married for a year and I made it to the courthouse event...but it just isn't the same. It is hard knowing my entire family will be in the same place celebrating...and I will be here. I think this is quite possibly the hardest episode of homesickness I have had so far. Prayers are very much appreciated!
The girls and I thought getting out of Arusha would be good. So, even though it doesn't compare, we are heading to Nairobi to "rest." (AKA go to the MOVIE THEATER!) We decided we must go all out...after all, none of us have been to a theater since we arrived in Tanzania! (however, rumors say Arusha is going to get her own movie theater soon!) We don't even care what is showing...well, I guess we care, but we are so excited we can't hold it in!
Still doing language and modules! I am learning a ton, and so thankful for the training program CMF requires I complete. Some think it quite odd, many though, when they see what I am learning with their org made them do something similar.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I've Fallen in Love...

I realized today as I was driving up Temi Hill towards town, that I am one of the lucky ones. As I looked up towards Mountain Meru and saw the sun cast its sunset shadow, I realized Arusha has taken up a special place in my heart. I realized, that this place is becoming normal to me, it is becoming home, and I am lucky, because I like it...ALOT!

I was overtaken by emotion when I realized that I will miss this crazy town when I leave. I have fallen in love with this community, with its people, with its nuances, with its beauty, with its culture, with is street vendors, used clothings markets, beggars and with its bad drivers and dala dalas!

I am a fortunate one. I love my job. I love what I feel I have been created to do, and I love the place I am doing it in. I don't think it could get any better than this...well maybe if I had someone to share it with...maybe oneday I will find that love.

We've got a problem...BEES!

** Anyone reading this should note, that I am writing from what I have heard, not from what I have seen, as I am have no need whatsoever to go near the mission center at the present time...and I have no desire to do so either!

Scott mentioned our little (sarcasm) problem a few weeks ago in our team prayer time. It seems, that the CMF mission center, and the surrounding village is fighting a battle with bees. The problem lies, in that these aren't just normal bees, they are African Bees, also known as the African Killer Bees. Aparently they like the wood in the easements of the three homes out on the mission center...ALOT! Here is a picture of what I think is an entrance to a hive...as I am told they actually prefer to live up inside the easment/attic area:


These bees are dangerous in that if you are stung by one, it sends a signal, and others come and sting as well. They are more protective of their hive, and more easily agitated. Scott was stung last week, and fortunately was close enough to a door that he got in the house in a hurry. These bees don't hang out, as Scott puts it, they just attack you.

Fortunately no lives on our mission center have been lost...except that of one of the guard dogs, but we are told that many people in the surrounding village have been stung and had to go to the clinic and some have died.

Please pray that the bees would just go away. That there would once again be peace in this village.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Polka Dotted Pam...

So I am still itchy, and a bit polka dotted, but not nearly as bad as I was on Sunday.

Monday, after the spots continued to spread, itch, and hurt for the fourth day in a row, a friend and I decided to be brave and go to the local clinic. (Anna was sick as well, so we used the buddy system.)

Here is the take of the day at the clinic:

10:00 Arrive in the lobby of the jam packed clinic.
10:10 Still waiting with the mass of people to check in.
10:15 Following the African example before us, we push our way in front of the people who cut in front of us and check in.
11:30 Still waiting
12:45 Our names are called, and we think, HOORAY! We are told to go stand in a line to have our vitals checked.
1:15 Our vitals are checked and recorded. We stand in another line to pay for our visit (before seeing the dr.)
1:45 We are still waiting.
2:00 Our names are called again. We wait in line outside the door to the dr's room.
2:05 It is my turn to see the dr. I enter. He looks at me and says, "you don't look sick. why are you here?" I then pull up my sleeves and point towards my face neck and back showing the many red bumps on my body. Explain that they are itch and burn and are spreading each day. He says, you are allergic to something and gives me a prescription for who knows what.
2:08ish. I wait in another line to get my prescription.
2:15 I am told I have to pay for the prescription first, and must go to another line.
2:20 Back in prescription line, with receipt in hand.
2:30 In car, leaving clinic. Still polka dotted, itchy and burning.

All in all it wasn't that bad of a visit, even though it took FOUR hours and we were the only white people present and were the object of everyones attention!

A few things I noticed:
the many lines. (obvious)
paying before being seen.
The pushiest person is seen first. Then it reverts to first come first serve. (ie. the deathly ill are probably seen last unless someone is willing to push for them.)
Everyone dresses up for the clinic, wearing there sunday best, no joke!

Today, the spots are fading, and I am thankful. However, everywhere I went today (the market and gas station) everyone asked, "what is wrong with you?" There is really no anonymity here. Although I don't know what I was reacting to, I have an idea. And maybe one day I will have the courage to test my theory, until then, I will just avoid all possible options!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

It reminds me of the chicken pox...

Fortunately I have already had the chicken pox. And fortunately I know what chicken pox look like, and the little red itchy spots that have appeared on my body are do not look anything like them.

It started on Thursday last week. I got out of the shower and had a few itchy bumps on my hands. I first thought they were flea bites, and that I had got them from the family I was staying with...but then...throughout the day, more and more appeared, covering my hands. They itched ferociously. I started carrying hydrocortizone cream with me.

Friday some appeared on my neck.

Saturday they appeared on my face. I look like a pizza face. I don't like looking like a pizza face.

Today, I have a few more on my feet.

Thankfully no fever, or other illness to report, just insane itching. I have asked person after person and no one seems to know what it is. I have learned of new bugs since I have been here as one person says...it must be the mango worm. Then someone else says no, mango worm bites don't look like that...and they suggest another bug. I think if more appear tomorrow, I might risk going to the clinic...but something tells me they won't know what it is either, and they tell me to put hydrocortizone cream on it...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The petting zoo...starring Pam McKerring!

In the last few weeks, I have made a few decisions that stand out in my mind. Two of which I thought I would share with you...

1. I chose, meaning I didn't have to, it wasn't even suggested, but I CHOSE to put myself into a Tanzanian home for a few weeks to learn about how Tanzanians really live. Some would argue that this was a crazy idea, I had several Tanzanians tell me I was a fool, and then laugh at me. But I would say, that this is by far the best decision I have made since my arrival to Arusha. I now have a better understanding of life here. I also have a community within this community that feels very much like a second home. oh yeah...my swahili has improved too!

2. The other decision was not such a good one. I allowed myself to dream about what it would be like if I got a plane ticket and surprised my brother by showing up at his wedding on September 2. I blissfully imagined giving him a hug, and participating in the roast, and maybe even showing up in costume (my family has a few crazy traditions.) This was not a wise decision, as it made me want to be there even more. Instead of spending $4500 traveling the 30 hours 1 way to America (I dreamed long enough to look it up, poor decision number 3), I will likely travel to Nairobi, Kenya (much cheaper, more affordable, and shorter trip) to be distracted by some girlfriends. I am wondering if it will work.

Now to the petting zoo...starring me...which is the real reason you all are reading this post. Believe it or not, some people in Tanzania have never seen a white person face to face, or been close enough to touch them. I encountered a girl, who was so incredibly facinated by my white skin that she couldn't help but touch, poke, and pinch. She then moved to my hair. I had it pulled back, but it didn't stop her from pulling it out of its ponytail, inspecting, and feeling it. So what do you do, when you are sitting on a stool, and a young girl is pulling your fingers and toes, your hair, pinching your arms, looking intently at your freckles and inspecting you like you were an alien? Remember that you are an alien, endure, and breathe a sigh of relief when she stops. Life is always a bit interesting.

Monday, August 14, 2006

How's your soul?

Someone asked me this question lately...and while I must say I am doing well...a recent journal entry reflects how my heart is doing...

"I have come to realize that the hard part of being here is not so much the physical challenges or the annoying cultural differences that occur in everyday life. I think I could eat Ugali and drink Loshoro until I became sick and I would still be ok. It is instead, the loss of intimate friendships, the changing of those relationships, the missing of family events and even the daily family occurances that bring heartache big enough to make me want to turn back.

It is at this juncture that I must remember that no one friend or family member aside from God can meet my emotional and relational needs. Turning back would bring a greater pain and a greater void as I would be turning away from the thing I believe I was created to do, and also turn away from the one who created me to do it. I press on, knowing, that God walks this path with me, and knowing that as He is the one who can meet all my needs, I want to walk as close and near to Him as I possibly can and watch those needs be met.

Be near me Lord Jesus."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I am so incredibly White...

Now for all of those who know me, you know I was blessed, through my wonderful Irish heritage, with white, and I mean WHITE, skin! It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out, that just being white here would cause me to stand out.

Some might say that wouldn't be too big of an issue, but for me, the introvert, who likes to blend in as much as possible, there are days where I can hardly stand it. But the fact remains, I am white, and I am a novelty. It isn't something kept quiet. When I walk down the street, people yell..."Mzungu...Mzungu!" Then try any english they know, and then the part that is most disturbing...they pet you. Thursday, I had about had enough when I was talking with a few girls in the village. One of them started touching my toes, pulling on them, then started pinching my arm, and pulling on my ear lobe. It was about all I could take when I was reminded that I am new and strange to them. Thankfully after about 10 minutes of picking, she stopped, and I breathed an internal sigh of relief

The area I was in, they hardly ever see a white person, let alone have them staying in a home near them. Quite honestly, from what I understood, I was the first white person to actually "live" among them. Not only did I not know what to do...they didn't either! All they knew, was that white people from America, didn't live in mud houses, they had endless resources, and they know God better. I find the last remark a bit interesting, given the fact that some of the people I met in the last week have a much deeper and more committed faith than I do.

The more I continue in this module, the more I realize how misunderstood Africans are, and how misunderstood Americans are in this population. I am thankful for the opportunity presented to me to live among them, and learn from them. I am thankful also for the opportunity to set them straight about Americans. I pray that my example will leave a good taste for Americans (aside from being a financial resource) as well as be a good example of the God who loves them.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I NEED A HUSBAND!!!

Or at least that is what I was told!

There are so many things that I have learned in the last week, I am not sure I will get them down. I must admit I am still processing, still thinking through it all...but here are a few lessons learned...

Life for an African Woman is HARD!
This has little reflection on my physical surroundings in the last week, but more, reflects that work that the women do. It can easily be said, that they do all work pertaining to the home. All being, the cooking and cleaning, the farming, the selling of goods, the gathering and chopping of wood, the fetching of water, the taking care of the inlaws and the children.

Life for an African Woman who is not in a Christian Family is even HARDER!
I was told from talking with the ladies in this community, that they are the lucky ones. Their husbands are Christians and come home from work and at least respect them. They then proceeded to tell me how many families are falling apart because of the lack of standards and also the deception of alcohol, drugs and prostitution. They say, that many men, don't come home with money from work but instead go to town, spend it all on alcohol and prostitutes. He then returns home expecting food on the table. When there isn't food because he didn't bring home any money to buy the food, he then beats the wife. She and her kids go to bed starving and hurting.

And then there are the African girls.
The mama's all mentioned to me how sad it is that tradition has led to the pain of many girls who are sold into marriages with men who are old enough to be their father or grandfather. When she is unable to get pregnant, she is beaten and sent back to her parents. She is now used. She is able to get married again, but to find a spouse is a challenge.

To be my age and not married...is WEIRD!
Each day the topic came up, at least once, if not twice. It is a very odd thing for Tanzanian women to see a woman, who is 28 years old, living in Africa, without her parents or a husband. It literally, is beyond their comprehension. Girls are supposed to stay at home until they are married. And then, they are supposed to stay at that home. I AM A WEIRDO! (now I know many of you thought so already...save the jokes!) It was such a foreign idea to them, that these women were eager to help me out, many offered their sons to solve my problem of not having a husband...not to worry...I declined. I also learned that my lacking a husband, also effects the level of respect I receive in the community. A woman earns respect by marriage. She even earns more respect if she can produce a male child. I have done neither of which...I have little respect among the men. Mind you I am not opposed to marriage...it was just a whole new perspective on the subject to me.

The task ahead of us...is a BIG one!
Each day I get a little more of a glimpse of this. When I see how darkness has permeated this city, how the laws of other religions have oppressed women and children, when I see how the deceit of alcohol, drugs and prostitution have enabled such poverty to continue...I become challenged. We have a HUGE opportunity ahead of us...and we are thankful for this opportunity...the oppression itself brings us this opportunity to bring light into the lives of so many...but I recognize that this is not going to be easy. The darkness does not want us present. Thankfully, light always overpowers darkness.

The urban poor project...

My last post asked for prayers as the Urban Poor Team was meeting to begin talking strategy. This is the first of I am sure many meetings, but it was really to just bring to the table what God had been putting on our hearts so far as we look at the Arusha Urban CHE program.

I left that meeting encouraged and excited about heading into the poorer communities of Arusha. For lack of better words...I was pretty jazzed.

Friday morning, I had such an opportunity. Donnie Price, who I might say is an amazing photographer studying at Milligan, was in town visiting his parents. (Team Leaders Scott and Annelle Price). He asked if we needed any photos, video etc. and I jumped at the opportunity. Shockingly, even though I have been here almost 5 months, it was my first time to actually enter the slums. You can't just walk in, and you should always have a purpose in going. Since I was not proficient enough in the language and the starting of our project was so far off, there was no point in me going until now.

What an eye opening day. I can see how deception and oppression have removed all hope from these communities. We talked with many folks, one man, had 36, yes, 36, it is not a typo, children. He also had four wives. Sadly, he admitted that he could not tell you the names of all of his children or their ages. I could not even imagine what it must feel like to be his child. I am so greatful that my dad, and God the Father know so much about me!

We also had the rare occasion to meet one of the community leaders (much like a tribal chief) for a slum neighborhood. At first it was a bit scary. We were talking with a mama who was sitting outside her mud room with her children when we heard a man's voice behind us "Why are you to come into my neighborhood without first talking to the Committee?" We turned around to see a rather large, intimidating man dressed in his Friday Prayer clothing. Somehow, we were able to re-earn his respect. We had the joy of entering into his home, and talking with him. This man is a devout muslim. His community is 95% muslim. He wants development, but doesn't want Christianity. Yet, he was open to further discussion. At this point we are praying, we still aren't sure which neighborhood to enter first. This may be an open door. Pray with us for clarity.

In another slum, we encountered an older woman who was a Christian. She invited us in for tea, and as we sat and talked with her, saw how her life has been challenged by the darkness that is present in her neighborhood. Around the corner from her house is a local, home brewery, by home brewery it must be mentioned that this means a brewery in a shack. They showed us around, and the brew was so strong I thought I might become intoxicated by just smelling it. There was a crowd of men and women already there, at 10:30 am, obviously intoxicated.

In a third we encountered much of the same, and some prostitutes who were a little to eager to befriend the two men I was with. We talked briefly with them.

My words cannot adequately give you a picture of what we saw that day. I can only say that I left that day knowing this is a large task ahead of us, and I admit I was a bit overwhelmed by how bad the living conditions were. What an opportunity lies in front of us, and in front of God to redeem this town.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Prayer requests and photos...

A quick note and some photos for you. Tomorrow, the CMF Tanzania Urban team will begin our discussions on the best strategy for beginning this new Community Health Evangelism project. This is an exciting time, as this is what I came for, but a little overhwelming too, as I am still doing modules and language learning. Planning ahead agrees with me, I am a natural planner...but I must say I am a bit intimidated by the daunting task of laying the ground work for this new ministry. Pray that we would hear the voice of God as we brainstorm (CHE has many different routes, methods, etc) the best possible way to reach the lost here. Pray that our team would be unified, and that progress would be made. I am sure this is the first of many meetings, but prayer would be appreciated!

Additional prayer would be appreciated as plans have finalized for me to move into the home of a national family on monday in order to work on my swahili. I will be leaving the comfort of my bed, kitchen (this is a big deal, I really like to cook), and hot shower. I am excited, but a bit nervous as I will be in a home that speaks little english, and it will be a traditional Tanzanian home, which brings amazing learning opportunities about the culture, but also a bit intimidating as I have never lived in such conditions. I don't know what the house looks like, I am just told it is a mud house (possibly similar to the one pictured below). I will come home on weekends, and will be sure to update you on my progress of adjustment and language learning.

Included some photos below as blogger was cooperating with me tonight! Enjoy.







Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The language of the horn...

I can count on my hands the number of times I used the horn of my car in the US. I have already exceeded that amount 100 times over. It dawned on me today that there is a language spoken by the horn.

There is a short "beep." used to tell bicycles and people to get out of your way.

There is a short "beep-beep." used to tell them a second time and to let them know that you are serious.

Then, there is the long "beeeeeeeeeep." This is used when you are in town to display your disgust to the person who is trying to cut you off.

My last, and most famous. Is the wedding honk. Here, weddings come with the wedding parade, and they occur all over town on saturdays and sundays causing terrific traffic jams. I hope to get a picture for you some day. And, with this honk, there is a notable rhythm with two short "beep-beeps" and a long "beeep, beep-beep."
A few hours ago, we said goodbye to some pretty quality girls. Katie, Emily, Morganne and Amber spent the summer with us, as part of CMF REACH internship program. It is safe to say that not only their lives were changed, but ours were as well. It was difficult to say goodbye, as they brought joy and laughter to us daily. Many memories were made, and I must say, that with all the practice of saying goodbyes that I have had over the last several months, that these goodbyes were not easy.