A Pentecost Experience

Although I do not know much Swahili, I am learning to understand many things. It is perfect communication when the nursery school students greet me as I walk up the path to school, and they run to hold my hand. During a lesson when I get tickled by something a child has done, I often exchange a glance with one of the teachers who is enjoying the same moment and we give each other a smile. Around Grace’s and Festo’s dinner table, the grace is said in German, Swahili or English depending on who is saying the grace and each prayer is understood.

One afternoon, Jim and I walked to the village so I could buy a straw hat.  As we passed houses, people were sitting in the shade and we waved and greeted them.   On the way back, I showed my hat to those whom I had greeted earlier.  They waved and approved of my purchase.   It was the simplest of communication, but it made me feel like I was not a stranger.

The key to understanding others in this culture which is not mine has been to adopt an attitude of watching and waiting. This experience has made me wonder about words and how often they distract and clutter a situation. Being lean on words because of my lack of language has caused me to notice more. I wonder if this is a good lesson to take home with me—watch and wait to notice and appreciate people and surroundings more fully.

Jim and I are half way through with our time in Tanzania. We are well and send our greetings homeward to family and friends.

Amazing people with my age and other things

For the last four weeks, Word Press and this blog would not load so from time to time I have put some little thing on Facebook. Today, on a lazy Saturday afternoon in Tanzania, Word Press popped up. What follows is a more contemplative piece than has been the FB posts.

Although it is not a secret that I am seventy, I do not usually share this news as part of introducing of myself. When I was introduced in church as a visitor, Grace (our host and mentor) turned to me and asked me to tell the congregation my age. When I did there was applause. Later people came up to me and shared their amazement at my advanced age and that I was not bent over or walked with a stick.

I am telling you this because it is tied into another thing that happened…

Meeting with the nursery school teachers with my recommendations of some things to add to the curriculum was first met with reserve and hesitation. They were teaching the children like they had been taught—writing ABCs and numbers on the blackboard and the children reciting out loud.

The two of the “mammas” as two of the teachers are called told Grace that making changes at their age was hard because they were old. It has been hard to judge age in this culture so I was surprised when Grace asked their ages and learned that one was in her forties and one was in her early fifties. Ah, to be so young again.

But I have had time to think about this. These two mammas in their four or five decades of life have worked hard to keep their big families well and feed in a place of scarcity, haven’t had the best of health care, have had only the most basic of comforts, and continue to help with the planting and harvesting of food that is essential for their families. In contrast, my seven decades are marked by excellent health care, opportunities for education and travel, and conveniences of every kind.
These two tired mammas feel old in a way that I don’t because my life has not worn me out.

But do you know what they have done this last week? They have tried the new curriculum and seem to like some of the things that we are adding like story books and math manipulatives. That they have done this with grace inspires in me the greatest respect.

This is what Africa gives me—a larger perspective and a humble heart.

Our work will continue for the next six weeks.  We are well and enjoying ourselves.