Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Two Days of Work

We are currently back in Mwanza for a week’s break from language school, and each of us have spent the last two days at our respective worksites. As you may remember, I will work with Mrs. Constansia Mbogoma at Capacitar Tanzania, a health and wellness program. Now, theoretically, I was recruited to assist with several women’s cooperatives, a side project of Capacitar, but this effort is new and thus my job has been pretty nebulous up to this point, and pinning down an exact job description has been a challenge. I’ve been OK with this, but it’s been kind of hard to mentally prepare for my ministry when my MKLM folks are talking about women’s co-ops but most of the info I’ve received from Mrs. Mbogoma was about Capacitar and the wellness work. Ostensibly, the two are connected (the groups I’ll be assisting have all received Capacitar training), but I just didn’t really know how the two would mesh in reality.

At this point, I should state that breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and meditation all have traditionally held very little interest to me. It’s just not something that “grabbed” me, and anytime the option to attend a meditation workshop or exercise group arose, I opted to be somewhere else. We had several workshops on this type of stuff at our MKLM training, and I just didn’t like much of it. So when the focus of my work seemed to be shifting to exactly that type of stuff, I did get nervous that this was not the placement for me and even talked with Katie about whether I should bring this up. But I committed to it and resisted the urge to make a snap judgment without giving it a chance, so I said a prayer and took a leap of faith, and here I am. After two days of working with Mrs. Mbogoma and getting a glimpse of what I’ll be doing, my concerns have largely subsided and I’m very excited about the work that lay ahead.

Though I am still not 100% sure exactly what I’ll be doing, working with women's groups will be the bulk of my work, though I have gathered that I will likely have my hands in many different projects, and that is exciting. I was happy to see how much of Capacitar’s work dovetails with Social Work goals and methods. Mrs. Mbogoma welcomes any new ideas and suggestions I can provide, and she has welcomed into the organization with open arms. I think I will receive a lot of in-depth exposure to Tanzanian culture through this ministry and will learn an incredible amount from these experiences as well as Mrs. Mbogoma’s mentoring. As a bonus, I also think my own health will likely improve from learning the wellness exercises (for the last two days, we began the day with about 15 minutes of Tai Chi in her garden. It was quite enjoyable, and I was reminded that, despite my general reticence for this type of thing, at one point I was really interested in Tai Chi).

On my first day (yesterday), I spent the day hearing more about Capacitar’s work. I was able to practice my Swahili quite a lot- Mrs. Mbogoma used to teach Swahili so she made sure I was using it. Additionally, I met another of my colleagues, Mary, and the three of us continued speaking about projects. We also talked about the differences in Tanzanian and American cultures then strolled around her garden and she explained what plants were growing. The day was pretty short, and after a dalla-dalla ride I was home by about 2pm.

Today, day two, (Wednesday), I was able to get a first-hand glimpse at what my post-language-school work will entail. After more Tai Chi in the garden*, Mrs. Mbogoma, Mary, and I set out to catch a dalla-dalla to the outskirts of the city to visit the Buswelu Women’s Cooperative. Great experience. The women were very welcoming and excited that we were there. I met each woman, looked at their vegetable stalls where they sell their produce, then we all went out to see two the women’s farms. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve been a little shy here lately- performance anxiety, if you will. Yet today, out in this more rural setting, with all these women, I was completely comfortable (could really talk with them, but it was never awkward being the lone mzungu and the only guy). My brain was spinning with questions about the co-ops, and as I walked through the fields (mashamba) I felt all my fears lifted from my shoulders and the excitement take hold. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but suddenly that wasn’t scary anymore, but an opportunity to get out there and learn. This was it- this was what we were called here to do, this desire for this type of experience was what made us want to come here. It was a great day. So praise the Lord**, I think I’m gonna like my job!

*My MKLM colleague Caitlin told me I was going to be the most zen person she knew after enough time at my placement.

**Seriously, praise the Lord!

Monday, March 05, 2012

A Confession

I have something to confess. It’s not something that I ever thought would happen to me, but it did, so I’m going to just put it out there for everyone to know.

I like Glee.

No, I love Glee.

Now, I know I have some of my friends out there are now shaking their heads and thinking “Downloading REO Speedwagon was bad enough, but now this?” This can seriously do some damage to whatever cred I may have as a bona fide music snob*, but it’s true. I genuinely like this show. But man did I not think I ever would.

My mom loves Glee and would always make me watch clips when I went home for a visit, but I never saw the appeal. She always just showed me the song segments, but without any context, it was just a show of pretty people doing karaoke versions of pop songs I didn't much like to begin with. However, here in TZ, one of our fellow missioners had the first two seasons on DVD, so Katie started watching the show as a way to zone out at night after studying Kiswahili all day. I’d watch a few minutes here, then a few minutes there, and slowly but surely I got pulled in. I still don't like a lot of the song selections, but they'll bust out some good stuff enough to keep me hooked (they love some Queen). I think the show has some really good messages in it, and I’ll be damned if watching a bunch of good-looking, highly-talented actors unrealistically being portrayed as high school outcasts singing songs about being losers doesn’t actually resonate a little with my own memories of feeling out of place in high school.

So I love Glee. Unironically. I guess I'm a Gleek. I just needed to put that out there. Don’t hate on me too much, because I can’t sing well enough to use today's Top 40 hits to put on a show-stopping number to express my innermost feelings of rejection.

* My music philosophy is that people should listen to whatever music makes them happy. Love what you love. Just know that, at the end of the day, my music tastes are still better than yours. BOOM.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Creature Feature (AKA Wild Kingdom)

Since we’re living in an area that’s populated by a fair amount of people, we don’t actually see many wild animals (though we see tons of goats (mbuzi), cows (ng’ombe), chickens (kuku), ducks (bata), and dogs (mbwa). And many different birds (ndege). And lots of bugs (wadudu)). But every now and then, we stumble upon something cool. The western entrance to the Serengeti National Park is on the road to Musoma, and while driving by on the way to language school, we saw lots of zebras and wildebeests, and that was really cool.

Then a few days after arriving here, we saw a monitor lizard that was over three feet long dozing without a care in the world while sunning itself on a path. I actually thought it was dead at first, but it was indeed breathing and would readjust it's snoozing position over the TWO DAYS it was just laying there. Lazy bugger. (Full disclosure: Katie was the voice of reason when I stated my intention to poke it with a stick.)

Anyway, that’s been about it for animal excitement...until yesterday! The day started in the typical way. Woke up. Went to mass. Ate breakfast. Zoned in the room cramming for class. Then start class at 8:30am. I was slowly strolling to class in a bit of a stupor when something caught my eye- some movement in the distance. Lo and behold, a monkey was running down the driveway about 100 feet from where I stood, right through our campus. It was perfect, too, tail up, in a slow run so we got a good look at it as it passed. Being the adult that I am, I handled this is the most mature way I could, by rocking up and down on my toes pointing an yelling “A MONKEY!! EVERYONE LOOK!! IT’S A MONKEY!! A MONKEY!! OOOOO A MONKEY!! MONKEY!!” Luckily, I was not alone in this excitement. Thankfully, someone had a camera to capture this moment on film:

I can assure you that starting the day with a real live monkey running across your yard is a pretty badass way to kick off the day. But there’s more…

Later that day, my MKLM colleague David comes running in the building yelling that our fellow student Sister Maria has caught a chameleon. So off I went to see a real live, wild chameleon. Pretty cool little critter. It tried to look scary, but I eventually mustered up the nerve to hold it, and it was very docile and chill. Really neat experience.

We head back down to Mwanza for a break on Saturday, so we’ll pass the Serengeti again. Maybe we’ll have a few more animal sightings to report.