13 June 2011

Back in the Saddle...and sad...

Well, I've been back here in Tanzania for almost a month, and all I've written about is my transportation woes!  Here's a little sketch of my life in Shirati:

Office/Compound - Shirati was the first place Mennonite missionaries settled in Tanzania, something like 60 years ago, so there's this large compound of Mennonite facilities.  There's the local church and their offices and nursery school and a huge playing field and playground equipment for the kids, which makes me jealous on behalf of the kids at Iringa Road Mennonite Church and their tiny dirt patch playing field/driveway/parking lot.  There's a hospital and a nursing school and a home for people with leprosy, and a ton of houses, some built by the diocese or church, and others left behind by former missionaries.  The diocesan offices are a pretty big one-story building with all the offices facing an inner courtyard and a guest house operating in the outward facing rooms at one end of the "community center".  This is where Fred works, and they've given me the outer part of his office to use as my office.  The first thing I did was put up something bright and colorful...it wouldn't be my office without some art by Spencer Reynolds on the wall!  My outer office location basically means that I'm like Fred's receptionist, but I'm grateful for an office so close to my husband's office.  He is the Planning Officer for the diocese, and a lot of his projects have to do with agriculture, so he's out of the office often working on his farm or garden or test garden.  There are so many new people in the offices that I'm having a difficult time sorting out who is who, let alone their names and jobs.  I do know David in the kitchen, though, because he is like Mama Neema Chiboni in Dodoma: the source of all that is good and edible.

Home - One of the perks of working for the diocese is rent-free housing on the compound, so we have a house not far from the office.  It's been passed over by a number of doctors and other administrators who wanted nicer houses, so they're just really happy that we're okay with living there.  When Fred first came and they put him in that house, it was no problem because he was a single man and insisted that he didn't mind that it was pretty old and run-down.  When they heard he was bringing a wife back with him (and a white woman, no less), they started worrying that I would refuse to live in that house.  I have to admit that it needs a fair bit of work, but it's got great potential.  It's large (10 rooms plus entryway and back porch), and it was designed by some former missionaries (which accounts for the size).  It is like the house I lived in in Dodoma in that it has electricity and water whenever the city permits them to be on, and in that there is only one working water tap at present, so we use a lot of buckets.  It is unlike the house in Dodoma in that it was not furnished, so we have a twin-sized bed that we share and a couple of tables for cooking surfaces and some chairs, all on loan from the diocese.  We can't have guests over, because we have no where for them to sit, which is not such a bad thing, since I'm the object of broad curiosity, and would have chai demanded of me on a regular basis if we had anywhere for people to sit while they demaded the chai.  We're trying to plan for furniture purchasing, but I have a lot of traveling to do in the next few months, so a sofa will have to wait a bit.  The thing I miss the most that we had in Dodoma is a toaster.  What I wouldn't give for a toaster!

Sounds good, right?  So why so sad?

A big part of my current ennui is just being physically tired and sick-ish.  I have been suffering from allergies which medicine does little to help, and it's keeping me awake at night sniffling and sneezing, leaving me weary all day.  I took a day and a half off work last week, but I can't seem to get my energy back.  As my sister-in-law advised, I probably just need to drink a bunch more water, so I'll work on that.

Another part of my general gloom is feeling kind of lonely.  I'm starting over, and knew only my husband when we arrived here, but it's becoming clear that people have already formed opinions about me.  Probably due to my weariness, this seems a much bigger deal to me than it would ordinarily, but some of the nursing students who maybe were trying to make a play for Fred before I came along, are making comments about me and just generally always watching me.  It makes me really self-conscious, whether at work or at home, it seems like I'm always on stage, so I end up spending a lot of time locked into the two rooms of our house that are occupiable.  There's one person who has made it clear that he's delighted with me, and that's a friend of Fred's named Sam.  He's an older man living with leprosy, and I'll write a whole post about him soon, but he's wonderful.

One difficulty has been that my Swahili has gotten rusty a bit, although it wouldn't matter too much, because the people I love talking to, the watchmen and cleaning ladies and little kids, mostly speak Luo, their tribal language.  I've tried learning a few greetings in Luo, but I need to put some work into both my Swahili and my Luo.  This was very apparent when I went on a home visit with a bunch of visitors from the States, and I couldn't even greet the palliative care patient we were visiting because he and his wife and son and mother only spoke Luo.  I felt pretty inept that I couldn't encourage them or pray with them or even thank them without translation, which is like stepping back to my first days in Tanzania.  This particular home visit was difficult because the man is dying of AIDS, the family is starving, and they didn't even have a home until the local volunteer social worker mobilized some neighbors to build them a simple house.  They're sleeping in the dirt, and we had brought nothing to give them.  Mennonite Central Committee had just sent hundreds of HIV care kits with things that would help this family, but due to reasons I can't get into without being disrespectful, this family is not receiving that aid.  I encouraged the American visitors we were with to contribute some money to buy food for the family, which they did.  A short term fix, but better than nothing.

Finally, my closing downer is this: I'm feeling pretty isolated from people in the States.  It's always hardest right after I've been there, just as it was hardest for me to be away from my friends in Tanzania right after I arrived in the States.  I could use some bolstering and frivolity, if anyone has the time to lift my spirits a bit.  Thanks for reading all this etcetera, but please don't feel too sorry for me.  I get to eat fresh-picked watermelon grown on Fred's farm in a few minutes, which will be great.


.:kate cremisino:. said...


There is so much to say! Firstly, thanks for posting an update and describing not only what your days are like, but what your new life is like at the moment and what you are feeling.

I feel for you!

Change is definitely hard and then to feel judged/watched/unknown.. that is even harder. I pray right now that you would find your affirmation and endurance in the Lord as you wait for things to smooth out. I am so proud of you and wish to give you heaps of hugs.

(I am drinking Chai right now after shoveling up liquefaction from yesterday's earthquakes. I am quite worn out!)

I totally totally feel for you in what you are going through--on some level.

1. New situation (adjusting is so hard)

2. Being unknown, feeling like you have to prove yourself (God kept reminding us not to prove ourselves but just be ourselves)

3. Being sick during first impressions (I hate this! At YWAM I was randomly sick for a month and no one knew me. I was known as the sick girl and I hated it! I don't like feeling misperceived)

4. Living in not so great conditions. (When we moved to this house it was awful. Moldy, broken things, a few miscellaneous over-used furniture, torn up, stained carpets, spiders everywhere, moldy dishes, etc. etc... I felt so overwhelmed just in the task of cleaning.)

5. Feeling forgotten by everyone I loved. (After a great farewell it was super hard to come to struggle on our own, apart from everyone.. people didnt keep in touch super well or understand what we were feeling, etc... and after our summer trip last year to colorado, i felt misunderstood there AND coming back was hard... feeling like no one cared.. even though i know they did!.. i felt so needy.. needing lots of affirmation/contact constantly cuz i felt so far from everyone and forgetten, etc)

I wish I had an amazing thing to say to make you feel better, but for me, God took me through it and it was tough. I literally had to just hang in there and get through each day. Slowly. Painfully.

Just like you, I was CALLED. But it's not always amazing, joyful, beautiful.

I pray that you cling to God's comfort and strength as you take things day by day... as new things become familiar... as people get to know you... I pray that you know I am thinking of you often and love your updates...

I know one thing that did help make things better was finally after like 8 months of struggling off and on, someone told me a prophetic word.. that God would not only give us a heart for this place but settle our hearts here. And I finally started asking God to turn my heart toward loving it and helping me to not struggle.. and almost immediately it worked and I was in a better mindset. I was wallowing in negativity for awhile. (I have no idea if you are, this is just my story. I love that you are being honest in what you are going thru.) But for me, I was very negative. So anyway, God is our helper and I trust he will help you thru the dark days and stuggles.

Lord please protect Leisha, give her joy and strength and bring her some good friends.

ps. garlic works wonders on sickness. EVERY sore throat/cold i start to get goes away as soon as i take a garlic tablet... (or just eat heaps of garlic. chop up a few cloves of garlic and swallow quickly with water)


Jaclyn said...

I'm looking forward to processing all of this and more in person soon and will really appreciate bonding with you and Fred on our journey. :)
I have no doubt that all of these insecurities will be turned around one by one as you're given more opportunities to be yourself and let your guard down- for now I'm praying for just one distinct sign of God's favor and blessing with the people there this week.
Lots of love,

hannah said...

Hi Leisha,

Dirk has been following your blog more frequently and encouraged me to take a look at it. I have to say I totally admire you in this adventure God has put you on!

While I can't imagine life in your shoes, I have to say that I understand some of what you're feeling, and even more so as you have placed yourself into an entirely new situation (again) where you have to start over from scratch (again). It seems that culture never fits any mold that we place upon it and I will be praying that as you continue to live in Mwanza and people see your consistently sweet spirit that opinions and initial reactions will be transformed and you will find yourself in great community with those around you.

Keep your chin up girl, you're doing great!


rawster said...

One time when I was in El Salvador I was extremely tired and it turned out I had walking pneumonia and had to sleep and rest for multiple days straight before I felt better. I wonder if that's what you have? Try to get as much sleep and drink as much fluids as you can. Eat watermelon. It's full of water and vitamin C.