Sunday, August 16, 2009


I made a baby cry yesterday. We were walking through the village of Ifakara and I was greeting people and talking as much as I could in swahili. I must have gotten over confident because I went up to a woman with a beautiful baby girl and greeted the mom then bent down and said hello to the girl. She took one look at me and started screaming in what I am assuming was terror. Poor thing. White skin would be a lot to handle for the first time, and even worse when the white skin is mlefu (tall). I laughed and apologized to the mother who was also laughing.

We went on a canoeing trip yesterday on the Kilombero river. I was hoping to see a hippo, but apparently they didnt feel like finding us. I was ready to offer one of my toes to them as a sacrifice, I guess they are actually really mean and eat people. I thought the lost toe would be a compelling story later on. I feel like I am kind of experiencing African tourism for the first time, even though I have been here before. I dont quite know how to handle it. It is just so far removed from the reality of an average Tanzanian's daily life and I find that hard to reconcile. And being with a large group of westerners is also very difficult.

We went to the local catholic church today. There were a lot of people there and the music was awesome. I wish I understood swahili so I could follow along. We were seated on the stage for the entire service. This has happened to me before and I know they do it to honor us as guests, but I also think it makes it easier for everyone to look at us. It would be much more rude if they had to crane their necks backward to stare at us sitting behind them dont you think? I think it is funny. We met with a lot of the teenagers after the service and they asked us some questions. One of the guys asked what we were going to do as foreigners to help them with AIDS. How do you even begin to answer a question like that? Especially when you have been in the community for four days? We are going back on Thursday and I hope to talk to him one on one. We are trying to emphasize that we are here to learn from them and see what they are already doing so we can come alongside as much as possible. This is so opposite to traditional norms of western aid, and I think it will take a lot of foreigners coming in with the same idea before people here really believe it. For so long we as westerners have said that we were listening to them, when in reality we just came in and did what we wanted without actually consulting any of the local people. I had a great discussion today with some of the other fellows about the ethical constraints of international aid. Fascinating stuff. And really frustrating. I am trying my best to simply listen to the locals, because we want to work through an asset based approach in an area that has traditional been viewed in a deficit based way. It takes a total shift in thinking.

In other news, I am leading a Christian reflection time tomorrow for all the fellows. I think I am going to talk about Joshua and the verses about being courageous. I think courage in our work is something we all need and it can transcend religious differences.

Also apparently a bunch of chickens are being killed on Tuesday and I have invited myself to the festivities. I think I will have some good video footage afterwards, in spite of potentially never wanting to eat chicken again.

And I have decided to practice ramadan. It is something I have been thinking/praying about for months and the two muslim fellows here support me participating with them. So starting August 20, I will not be eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. I am excited for what I will learn through the experience.

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