Friday, November 6, 2009

Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Today we went with Mwankenja, and John, the College driver, on a tour of the more rural areas of Konde diocese—the centers of Manow, Itete, and Makaleile, stopping at the diocese headquarters along the way for a brief visit with the Bishop. The trip to Tikuyu was interesting. Just a few minutes from Uylole Junction, once we got up into the hills that we can see from our house and where it appears to have been raining nearly every day the landscape became green, looking much like Spring, which of course it is here, although temperature and day length have hardly changed at all. Some of the areas between Manow and Itete, however, looked as if there had been no rain in a long time. Going to Manow we skirted the side of one of the dormant volcanoes. In places along the road where earth had been cut away we could see what appeared to be different layers of ash put down by earlier eruptions. The area is still geologically active, and small earthquakes are common. A few years ago there was a larger earthquake that damaged or destroyed many houses. “Experts” attributed the quake to excessive carbon dioxide withdrawal by the gas mining operation at the foot of the volcano. Along the way we passed by many houses with smoke, apparently from cooking fires inside, seeping out of many apertures, and in some cases where the roofs were thatch, through the roof itself—no chimneys. On can only imagine how smoky it must be inside. Speaking of the “Centers” that we visited—Manow is a church run secondary school, Itete a church run hospital, and Makaleile a church run vocational and life skills training center, the people at Mbeya speak of them often, and I am sure they provide valuable services, but to us each of them appeared to be out in the middle of nowhere, with only a small village nearby. Of course culture never stands still—all three were centers of early missionary activity, with churches dating back to the turn of the 20th Century or before, and Manow was formerly the diocese headquarters, but still to us they seemed very isolated. I have been told that the European missionaries favored those areas because the climate was more hospitable to them. It was a very long day. We left at 7 AM and did not get back until a little over twelve hours later. On the way back we bought some maswisa, local fruits that resemble hand grenades, and which taste a little like blackberries.

Saturday, October 31. Halloween is totally unknown here. Karen asked Mwankenja if it is celebrated in Tanzania and he totally drew a blank. Today Mwankenja was officiating at a wedding at Uyole Lutheran, and he invited us to attend, as a cultural experience. Once again, although we would have been content to sit in the pews we were escorted up front to sit on the chancel. It turns out we had met the Best Man when at a previous Sunday service. We did not remember him, but he remembered us—white people are easier to remember. There were two choirs and a brass band. The ceremony was over an hour long. The Groom’s mother invited us to the reception, but because Mwankenja could not go due to business in Mbeya, we declined also—we would have felt very out of place without an interpreter. Nevertheless, we got lunch—the evangelist had arranged for food at the pastor’s home—the usual Tanzanian fare—rice, meat in sauce, beans, and bananas. The congregation insisted on paying our taxi fare as an act of hospitality. The official Tanzanian marriage certificate has space to indicate whether the marriage is monogamous, potentially polygamous, or polygamous. If monogamous is elected, the man cannot later change to polygamy—the wife has legal standing to block the change.After we arrived home we realized that it was the end of the month and we had not paid Hiari. She had already left for the day, so we walked to Mwankenja’s house to give her her wages. I had always expressed doubt about being able to find the house by myself, and it turns out I was not mistaken. Fortunately, we were close by, and Mwankenja’s son, Elisha, recognized us and came out to greet us. Neither Mwankenja nor Hiari were at home, but we left the envelope with Elisha, with a note for Hiari. This afternoon students were watching a soccer game on TV in the dining hall—it must have been quite exciting, for we could hear the cheering inside our house as if the game were being played in person on campus.
Thursday, October 29
The weather pattern for the past week has been, with but one exception, that of clear, cloudless sky in the morning, with rain developing somewhere in the area by late afternoon. When rain comes it is hard and cold, and sometimes the air remains cold after the rain. Several days this week the local people were bundled up against the cold. Supposedly temperatures rise as the rainy season approaches, but that does not seem to be the case thus far. The rains we have had thus far have certainly settled the dust—it is almost nonexistent compared with what we had been coping with since we arrived here, even though the surface of the ground appears dry in most places. Patches of green are starting to appear on the hills and mountains to the south, which have been getting rain more consistently that we here in the valley.
Monday, October 26
Today when we went into town we saw the “Hanging Tree” where the Germans supposedly hanged prisoners after the Maji Maji rebellion (1905-1907). Neither Mwankenja nor Verywell knew anything about it until we pointed it out from one of our guidebooks. The tree has a very small metal hoop imbedded in one of its branches. At one time there was a wire apparatus hanging from the hoop, but that has supposedly been removed to the nearby fire station. One of the firemen offered to show it to us but apparently he wanted money to do so. Verywell vetoed that suggestion so we did not go to see it. This afternoon it rained again. Another cold hard rain that lasted a couple hours. Amazingly, when we went for a walk after 6 PM neither the ground nor the vegetation seemed wet—apparently the continuing effect of the long dry season. We have now had electricity for three days in a row.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009
Today Mwankenja took us to Agape Lutheran Church, which is off the old road from Dar es Salaam to Tunduma, a little way out of Uyole. Agape was formerly a subcongregation of the Uyole church, but it become autonomous. Agape has a partnership relation with Shiloh Lutheran in York County. Shiloh had sent Agape a guitar several months ago. The pastor made a point of showing it to us in case we encounter someone from Shiloh when we get back home. They are in the midst of constructing a large new building surrounding the smaller original building where worship is currently held. Once again when Mwankenja was recognized we were invited to move up to the front and today we actually sitting in the chancel. Everywhere we go the clergy seem to have some connection with Mwnakenja. Today the pastor of the congregation was a former student of Mwankenja’s, and the guest speaker was a seminary colleague of Mwankenja’s father. As usual we were introduced to the congregation and asked to say a few words. At the auction after the service we bought a hand of bananas, and then someone in the congregation bought us another hand, seeing that we like bananas. Later when we were at “tea” in the parsonage the electricity went out, and it seemed that some of those present were expressing unkind thoughts about the president of Tanzania. The air was warm today but throughout the afternoon the wind howled so much that it sounded cold.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
There is noticeable humidity this morning, but no mud. The dry ground soaked up all the rain without becoming muddy. This morning before sunrise there was a farmer out with a hoe working on a hillside across from our house that had been burned off just before yesterday’s rain. This morning we had the first oral presentations in the Communication Skills class—for first attempts they weren’t bad. No electricity again most of the day and evening.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Today Peter Chaula, one of the history tutors, invited us to speak to his diploma class about the Great Depression, since he had learned that our parents and grandparents had both lived through that time. Karen was no able to go, because she had become ill, so the class did not have the benefit of our families’ differing points of view. Chaula has also invited me to sit in and possibly speak to the class for the rest of the time we are here. The next unit is on precolonial society in Africa. I am not sure how much I can contribute, but it may be a learning experience for me. This afternoon and evening we had our first real rain—two separate bouts of hard cold rain, each lasting a little over an hour.
Tuesday October 20, 2009
This morning there was a cloud sitting atop the mountain to our north, but I do not know if it dropped any rain. If it did, any runoff would most likely have gone toward Lake Rukwa, instead of to the Great Ruaha River, which feeds the reservoir that is used to generate electric power. Electricity was on and off all day today, and it is starting to get old. Our friends here say that the problem is more pronounced this year than in the past. I have now finished typing a list of books in the library that do not have accession numbers—30 pages. Some, but not many in comparison, are books that we have donated. Accession numbers are supposedly very important, but obviously many books have found their way in without having been logged in. Perhaps I should say that I may have finished, because this afternoon we found another 3 to 4 feet of books hidden away in a cabinet, that have yet to be cataloged. I have no idea if they all have accession numbers. We still do not know if we have found all the books that have been squirreled away in various places.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Saturday, October, 17.
To day there was electricity when we awoke, but it went off around 7:30 AM. It came back on around 11 while we were working in the library, so I went to the house to cook. It stayed on, so we were able to have a hot American style meal for lunch, to which we invited Verywell. He is the duty tutor this weekend; we thought he would enjoy a hot meal. Later in the afternoon there was a grass fire near the house. What I assume had been started as a controlled burn to clear a field for planting apparently got out of control. It was a very windy day. We were never in any danger because the fire would have run out of fuel before reaching us, but another prong of it appeared to be in danger of spreading to the main part of the campus. Our neighbors came out to fight it with leafy branches torn off trees, and they enlisted some students as well. The burned over area revealed two stone walls and several piles of stones that he had not known were there. The ground here is very rocky. The rocks seem to be volcanic in origin, but are rather soft. They do no seem to stand up well to vehicles running over them. Speaking of the wind, it would seem to me that the way the wind blows here wind turbines would be a useful supplement to water power for generating electricity. The electricity went off again around 7 PM, and did not come back on until well after we had gone to bed.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Tuesday morning the weather was raw and overcast, as if it were about to rain, but by the time of morning tea all clouds had disappeared and it was sunny for the rest of the day. On Wednesday it looked as if we would actually get rain—the hills to the south were totally obscured and it appeared to be raining there, and in mid afternoon it looked as if a storm were actually heading our way, but once again nothing materialized. There was no electricity for most of Wednesday, except for a couple hours in late afternoon, and then nothing until long after we had gone to bed. It seems that happens whenever we plan an oven meal. As a result Wednesday’s food, for me anyway, consisted entirely of peanut butter and dried fruit. We have now finished cataloging all of the books in the library that are in English. The books in Swahili are a challenge because the library aide’s English skills are not good enough to enable her to explain authors and titles to us. Thursday and Friday we actually had electricity during all of our waking hours.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009
Once again around midafternoon it appeared that rain clouds were coming from the South, but again they had dissipated by evening without dropping rain. This past Saturday we were without electricity all day. It finally came on some time during the night. We ate peanut butter and dried fruit, with leftover chicken and dumplings for dinner. Speaking of chicken, I know that free range chicken has a sort of following in the States among natural food devotees, but those that we have eaten here in Tanzania would never pass muster with Jim Perdue—very tough. On Sunday we had a trip to the Zambia border in the college car with Mwankenja and Verywell. We attended a church service at the border, after which the evangelist insisted on taking us to dinner at a local restaurant. Karen and I had fish with rice, which was very good. One of Verywell’s brothers, Meshack, joined us for a time in Tunduma, the town on the border. On the way back Verywell treated us to a visit to his home village where we met his mother, along with his father’s two other wives, and a couple of his siblings. According to Verywell, polygamy is still legal and not uncommon in Tanzania, although it may be slowly dying out among educated non-Muslims. On the way back we also visited the Mbozi Meteorite, said the be the eighth largest in the world. It is a local tourist attraction, but Mwankenja, always able to get mileage out of his status as a pastor, convinced the caretaker to charge us all the resident rate, as opposed to the higher tourist rate. The meteorite is several kilometers off the highway and there are no signs until you reach the final turnoff. There were no electricity problems on Sunday and as of 7:30 PM none today either.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday October 8, 2009
We have been having power outages almost daily. On yesterday the power went off just before 8 PM and was off for a few hours. We went to light a candle but discovered we were out of matches. Today there was no power from around 10AM until some time after 4 PM. We were unable to cook lunch at home so we went to the College canteen, which cooks with charcoal, so lack of electricity is not a problem. Lunch at the canteen is always the same: a huge mound of rice, a few pieces of very chewy beef, a sauce made mostly from tomatoes but also having a few carrots and peppers, a green vegetable, and sometimes small bananas. I think I must have gotten the last of the beef and green vegetable, because Karen, and Godfrey Ndalama, (one of the tutors) who came in after me, got only rice, sauce, and banana. In the evening the power went off again shortly after 7 (It is fully dark by then) and stayed off until about 9:45. We did have candlelight because we had borrowed matches from the office. In think I have now perfected the art of reading by flashlight.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Yesterday the electricity was off from around 7:30 AM until about 4 PM. We later heard that the national electricity supplier had announced that due to shortage of generation capacity there would be rolling blackouts throughout the country. Tanzania uses water power to generate electricity and apparently the water level is low. Around 3 PM it clouded over and the air felt as if rain had fallen somewhere, but we got none. At 3:30 PM the College driver with the Acting Principal’s car picked us up at the house to take us to visit the former principal’s home. Along the way we stopped and picked up the Acting Principal who was on his way back from Mbeya. The former principal lives in a large house surrounded by a high wall pierced by a metal gate. The home is located far off the highway back in the usual warren of bumpy dusty unpaved roads. It seems that even though the locals tell us how safe Tanzania is, there are many houses that are in walled enclosures. We were to have done some traveling during the College holiday but as yet the College car is still undergoing repair. This morning Mwankenja took us to services at a small Lutheran congregation several kilometers beyond the city along the Tanzam highway. It was the first time we were at a service that was not packed full. The evangelist who was conducting the service said that there had been a death in the neighborhood and many parishioners had apparently gone to the mourning instead of coming to church. This is a struggling congregation that is conducting a “tentmaking” project—they are constructing a strip mall of sorts that will be rented out to businesses for use as small shops, as a means of increasing income to the congregation. After we returned to the house there seemed to be thunder coming from the direction of Mbeya but once again we have gotten no rain here at the campus.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009
The last couple of afternoons it has looked and felt like it could rain, but nothing has materialized. We are seeing more and more fields being burned off in anticipation of the rainy season, including some very steep slopes on the mountain to the north. Yesterday we invited the practice teachers from Dar es Salaam University to see what we had been doing in the library. I was surprised that they were unaware of book cataloging in any form. The same seems to be true of some of the tutors here. Amazing.
Fred—Wednesday September 30
Another power outage this afternoon. It lasted a little over an hour. The good news is that we have water back at all places. For the last two days we have had water in the courtyard but not in the bathroom. That has now been rectified. Early in the afternoon it looked and felt as if we could get rain, and the view of the mountains to the south was obscured as if rain were falling there, but none fell at the house. By late afternoon the mountains had reappeared. Wind is very strong this afternoon, too strong to sit out on the porch and read. Another power outage around 7 PM. This time the watchman brought us candles, which we did not use. We went to bed early and power was restored some time in the night.