I have allowed a shocking amount of time to pass between blog posts, for which I apologize profusely to my faithful readers, especially Grandma Adams, whom I email infrequently, and thus depends on my blog to make sure that I continue to live and breathe. I have many excuses for my lack of posting, some of them are quite valid, but my dad always said that “Excuses are like armpits - everybody’s got two of them, and they both stink.”
When last I posted, I had just returned from traveling to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. Here’s what has happened in the meantime:
New office - Right after I returned from that trip, office renovations began around the church. My office, which was initially a “guest room” back when the church building was a disco/brothel, had a non-working bathroom in it, severely impinging on working space. Due to an unexpectedly favorable exchange rate, GHMD was given a year-end bonus of approximately $6,000 to spend within one month on whatever would benefit the program. As a result of this bonus, my office got renovated to remove the bathroom, now making it large enough for Leah and me to share. Leah has a desk for the first time since she’s been here, and we have a ceiling fan for the hot days we are now experiencing. Several offices are still in the process of renovation, so there is a fine dust of concrete and dirt and probably asbestos covering everything.
Mail - I had a big envelope from my Grandma Adams with books and oatmeal in it waiting for me upon my return, then the next week I got a big envelope from Grandma Jones with my requested Italian seasoning, powdered cheese, and lots of varieties of tea. At the same time I got a letter from my cousin, Kyle, and on Monday I got letters from my brother, who is in military EMT training in Texas, and my friend Rachelle. I have been taking advantage of the many long church services of late to reply to Kyle’s letter, and replies to Roy and Rachelle are coming forthwith. (My grandma says I write “a real good letter”, so if you want some international mail, write me a letter – KMT Iringa Road, Leisha Adams, PO Box 3230, Dodoma, Tanzania.)
Travel – The last weekend of March I was invited by the leadership of the church women to come with them to conduct a seminar in the town of Mbeya, in the southwest part of the country. The Mennonite church in Mbeya is quite small, and the women of the church here in Dodoma are very well organized, so they wanted to go do a one day seminar for the women in Mbeya. They invited me to come along and speak about caring for the vulnerable. The eight of us (and a baby) went by car, in the Nissan Patrol which fits seven comfortably, on the 14 hour trip. Apparently if you drive fast straight through it’s an 8-ish hour trip, but we had a puncture and had to change the tire, then we stopped to take tea while the puncture was being repaired, then we stopped to greet and encourage the Mennonite pastor in Iringa and have lunch with them, then there was road construction leaving Iringa, so it took us 14 hours to finally arrive. The next day we did the seminar, at which we did teaching on small business, the role of women in the church, prayer, and organizing a women’s ministry. My teaching was on generosity toward the poor, how generosity is one of the marks of a Christ-follower, and how caring for the poor is only religious activity unless we are connected to the love of Jesus for the people we are serving. The leaders of the church asked us to preach, and the ladies in our group nominated me to preach both services. I spoke in the morning on marriage (I know I’m not married, but it went well), and in the afternoon about being a man or woman with excellence of character. We were all staying in the home of one of the deacons of the church, seven of us (and a baby) sharing four single mattresses on the floor. I was sharing my mattress with Mama Askofu, and I can say with certainty that she hogs the bed, but she shared her blanket with me, so I can’t complain. The night before we left I got the best compliment I’ve ever received. The ladies of the Mbeya church told one of my co-travelers that I am not really a mzungu (white person), I’m just a “photocopy mzungu”. Because I was sleeping down on the floor, bathing from a bucket and using a squat toilet, eating the same food as them, and wearing modest, traditional dresses, they had decided that my skin looks like a white person’s, but I’m not like any white person they’d ever met. That made me feel absolutely fantastic. We returned to Dodoma the next day, another 14 hour trip because it had been raining, so we had many delays. At one point two semis had gotten stuck halfway up a hill, and another two semis had tried to pass them and started to fall off the road. Our master driver, Shomary, took us off-road around the right side of the trucks, so that was only a short delay, but we spent an hour at a bridge that had a pretty decent flood pouring over the top of it. After a while the water subsided enough for us to power across. I thought it was kind of fun, but the ladies in the back had their eyes closed and were desperately pleading the blood of Jesus over us. We arrived back safely, with baskets full of pears, avocados, and guavas from the much cheaper produce markets in Mbeya (5 huge avocados, and about 10 huge Asian pears for $3.50, and the guava for free from a friend).
Party – Using some of that $6,000 bonus, we threw a party for the staff and volunteers of GHMD last week. The party was on Thursday, and we got to distribute gifts to each of the staff members and volunteers that we work with. Tiffannee, the local MCC worker from Cleveland, Leah, and I wrote small words of encouragement and appreciation about each of the workers, which really touched them. Then we got to eat really good fried bananas, fried potatoes, fried chicken, fried meat, and cabbage cooked in oil. My stomach is still happy from that horrible meal.
Proposal – When we were in Dar es Salaam we stayed with a friend of the Muhagachis who is extremely wealthy, and often has many guests who are passing through the city on their way somewhere. When we were there one of those guests was a young man named Emanuel, who tried very hard to talk to Leah and me the one night when we got to watch American television shows. Needless to say, our attention was not on him, and I responded to his frequent interruptions with not-too-thinly-veiled impatience. The next night the power was out, so Leah and I retired to our room early to bathe and sleep, but heard a greeting at the window from Emanuel, who was insisting on getting our phone numbers. We usually have a policy against sharing our phone numbers with people we don’t know, but were both mostly naked, and he wouldn’t leave the thinly-curtained window until we gave him our numbers, so we judged that the quickest and easiest route out of the awkward situation was to be sharing our contact information. Emanuel immediately texted us, and continued sending messages including several terms of endearment, in the following weeks. We never replied. Last Friday night, Leah received a message from Emanuel saying “Please I want to marry you”. She freaked out, especially since he then immediately tried to call. She rejected the call as I laughed heartily, but then he sent a follow-up text saying “Sorry that message was meant for Leisha”. The shoe was on the other foot, as Leah laughed, and I stared blankly at the message he sent to my phone saying “Please I love you and want to marry you”. I tried in vain to explain that he couldn’t possibly love me because he doesn’t know me, and when that didn’t work, I tried the no-fail “I’m in a relationship” bit, but that didn’t work either. He kept insisting that he loves me and wants to marry me. Finally I said I didn’t want to hear any more about this nonsense, and stopped texting with him. I had tried to be nice, but he simply wouldn’t take no for an answer! Who knew I am such a hot commodity?
Pasaka – Pasaka is the Swahili word for Passover, which is what they call Easter. We got an unprecedented six day holiday, starting on Good Friday and finishing yesterday on what happened to be the holiday for the anniversary of the death of the first president of Zanzibar. Friday we had a long church service, Saturday we did a massive spring cleaning that made us both sore and tired, then went to an evangelism service in one of the poor neighborhoods where some of our clients live. On Sunday we had another long church service and went to another evangelism service. Monday we dealt with the chicken for most of the day (see Leah’s blog for details), and on Tuesday we walked to the post office and got our favorite chips from our friend Rasta Chitema. Yesterday we rested for most of the day, then went to church in the afternoon, and today, at long last, we are back to work!