Sunday, October 23, 2011

Kila Siku


I recently received an email from one of my sisters that spoke
beautifully to what it has been like for us in Chipole lately. She
said,  “things have slowed down here…everything has become ordinary,
and has intern become harder to appreciate, but of course not
impossible. I feel somewhat sad that the excitement has passed, but am
trying to remember that I have to ability to give each day
immeasurable excitement, if I so wish.” It was amazing to me how we
could be feeling such similar things in such different situations.
What a wonderful reminder that wherever you are, you cannot escape the
wanes and waxes of life.

This also prompted some reflection on the daily routine I have come to
take for granted. I realized how many things I have made a point to do
kila siku, daily. Daily rituals may not have immeasurable excitement,
as my sister says, but I feel like these are the things that in
retrospect, if not before, will have immeasurable significance. More
simply, I realized that many people at home have no idea what a
typical day looks like for me, and I thought it might be fun to give
everyone a better idea of the life that has developed for me here in

6:15- Wake up. Throw on a skirt. Walk down the hall for daily mass.
7:30- Breakfast, most often bread, jam and tea. BBC world news after.
8:30- Study Swahili
9:30- Work in the Bakery or somewhere in the monastery.
1:00- Lunch, most often potatoes, ugali, meat, vegetables and bananas
or papaya for dessert.
1:45- Make the mile walk out the secondary school to teach English or Computer
4:00- return from school, take tea.
4:30- read, journal, write emails, letters etc.
5:30- water our garden of cabbage, tomatoes, watermelon and carrots.
6:00- exercise.
7:00 – dinner, most often ugali, rice, meat, vegetables, same fruit for dessert.
10:30- sleep.

This is the most typical day for Ashley and I, but especially lately
we have been trying to mix it up as much as possible. In the evenings,
we do fun things- reading, crosswords, games, drawing, phone calls
back home, get a drink at the restaurant or have the occasional movie
night. I am sure this all sounds incredibly dull, but it is amazing
how exciting the smallest thing, a new food, an event out of the
ordinary, can be so exciting. The thing I love most is the time I have
to do things I am unable to prioritize at home. I spend more time
journaling or doing personal writing, reading, praying- so much so
that I worry about returning to my hectic life at home. I would love
to come back with a better sense of how to balance my life, and the
ability to incorporate at least of few of the daily rituals I find so
enriching here. The strangest thing about all this, I think, is that I
came to Tanzania very much in search of an adventure. I certainly have
experienced here to a greater degree than ever before, but somehow,
wherever I go, normal just chases me down and finds me. The strange
part is, I’m not the least bit disappointed.

P.S. a great big shout out to my October birthday loves- Amanda, Cait,
Mary and Le- I’m thinking of all of you always, but extra on your
special days. Wish I could celebrate with you!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Rainy Day Pilgrimage


A while ago, Fr. Damas offered to take us (Ashley, myself and fellow
American volunteer Alicia) to visit his home parish and village of
Mpitimbi. Ventures with Fr. Damas never disappoint, so we jumped at
the chance. We eat all of our meals with Fr. Damas, and for a while
now there hasn’t been other volunteers so it’s just the four of us.
Fr. Damas is humble, faithful and shy at times. More than anything, he
loves to answer any questions we have which means that mealtimes
usually consist of his amazing life stories and a crash-course in
Tanzanian culture. We feel incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful
priest in residence and were rightfully anticipating this particular
outing with much excitement because it was so personal to him.

We planned the trip for Thursday, since it is our day off teaching.
Wednesday, however, unexpectedly brought the first rain we have seen
since we arrived and it continued into Thursday. Getting rain here is
more than an inconvenience. We’ve been told that during the rainy
season we will most likely be completely unable to leave and after
yesterday, I finally understand this.

In spite of the rain, we continued with the trip as planned. The drive
to Mpitimbi was about an hour and a half. This proved to be, by far,
the easiest leg of the journey. One of the stories Fr. Damas likes to
tell us is about how he used to walk to school until he was in
Standard 6 (6th grade-ish). From the home where he grew up to the
school is a two hour walk one way, about 6 miles. He did this everyday
as a kid, rain or shine, and always without shoes. When planning our
trip, he asked us if we would like to do the walk and visit his
childhood home and of course, we said yes. And walk, we did.  About 12
miles total, the whole time in pouring rain.  Though we opted for
umbrellas and rain-coats rather than the banana leaves Fr. Damas used
as a kid to keep his head dry, we were still soaked from head to toe
for most of the walk.

The spirit of the pilgrimage, however, refused to be dampened. It was
so special meeting his brother, sisters, and nieces and nephews, a few
of them even made the walk out with us. The man who now lives on the
land that once was Fr. Damas’ childhood home is his “elder brother,”
or the oldest living member of Fr. Damas’ family. This man lives truly
lives alone. There are no roads leading to his house that cars are
able to take, just the long, narrow trail we walked on. When we
arrived there we took shelter from the rain under one of his grass
huts and ate bread and fried bananas. He showed us coins he had dug up
from the ruins of his great-grandfathers house. They were old
shillings, from colonial times and probably saved for a dowry.
Needless to say, it was a pretty cool moment. The rain still coming
down, sitting in the company of people who lead lives so drastically
from our own, hearing about their ancestors- all the while physically
standing on the very ground that generations of this family has lived,
played, worked and died on. Later, Fr. Damas told us we were probably
the first white people to set foot on that ground.

The adventures of the day did not end there. After the 6 miles back
(still raining) we shared a meal prepared by Fr. Damas’ sister in her
home and visited the parish church. We were officially initiated into
rainy season on the ride home. The hour and a half drive we had taken
that morning ended up being four hours long on the way back because
the rain makes the dirt roads so slick. It was a little rough sitting
cold, wet and exhausted for that amount of time, and were happy when
we arrived back home in Chipole from our pilgrimage safe and sound.
100% worth it, but clean, dry socks have never felt so good.