Friday, December 25, 2009

Home Again and Back

Today is Christmas and I find myself in Colorado and David is in Dar es Salaam.  A decision was made for me to fly back and acquire a new computer plus of course to visit family and friends.  It has been an unusual Christmas for me and for David.  We usually spend major holidays together but with one son in Japan and our oldest in Colorado it meant a world wide Christmas this year!  It is nice to be home and to see my church family and my son and his wife.  But it has created in me a different view of the world I came from to the world I really belong. So here are some thoughts just rambling around in my head...enjoy and please comment if you can.

December 24, 2009

Denver …Tanzania… Reflections
I went to the Christmas Eve Candle Light service tonight. The lights, the lighted tree, the candles, the carols, the pastor’s message all seemed to be perfectly fitting into that holy space on this the holiest of nights. But the images in my mind tonight were not of the wonderful snow, or the candles or the smiling faces I see around me. The images I see are of a place far from here. One that is full of poverty and desperation but at the same time full of hope and faith. The images I see are of Tanzania.
Everywhere I look tonight my mind shifts me back to a place where little is more, to have is to give, and to receive is a blessing. This is country where daily life is a struggle for all. Where water is obtained by carrying it on ones head not by turning on a faucet. Where traveling to work is by foot, by bike or local bus not by personal car. When it is time to do your laundry it is done by hand not by machines.  Reading at night is by candle or flashlight not by electricity.  Learning is done with a piece of chalk and board not by textbooks, pencils, crayons and paper.  Cooking is often done over a charcoal pot in the middle of a room rather than on a stove and food is bought daily rather than stored in a refrigerator.  Trash is burned  in a pit in your backyard rather than gathered up by garbage collectors.  Plastic bags are saved and washed instead of thrown away and coke comes in glass bottles rather than cans. Most roads are dirt and not maintained rather than paved with four to six lanes..traveling is only done by car when needed..not for a pleasure drive on Sundays.
The differences are so great from this wonderful country of plenty to Tanzania that is has created in me a sense of have and have not mentality. I seem at times to be a state of unequal balance trying hard to juggle the reality of Tanzania and reality of Colorado.
For example, my head spins when I enter a supermarket. Too overwhelmed by all the choices I often leave with little I came for. And when I do buy it is often the items I would select in the open air markets back in Tanzania.

Starved for western entertainment I have spent hours looking at movies to buy or rent. I have not done well in this area, usually only buying movies to share with others back in Dodoma.
Armed with a shopping list from Tanzania friends I walk among the isles of department stores my brain going into overload until I retreat to the safety of my car. My list is still very long!
The simple fact is that life for us here in the United States is not difficult for a large part of our population. But for the average citizen in Tanzania life is difficult and often not kind. Take Christmas, for most children in Tanzania it will not be one full of presents with decorations on a tree. It is a church event with carols and thanksgiving. Not one of endless presents and expectations of toys. There is little talk of Santa or Father Christmas. Christmas in Tanzania is simple and with family. It is all about the birth of Christ.
Another example is Tanzanians have little disposable income. Over 90% of the population live on less than two hundred dollars a year. And if they do make more it usually goes to their extended family to help out others who are in need. No one is expected to keep their money it goes for the good of the family. As a foreigner in Tanzania I must constantly keep in mind that I can spend more in a week than most people make in three months. I try to be careful about how I shop taking care not to buy too many items at one time. Theft is a problem in Tanzania.

One last example is the Church in Tanzania is not just a place to go on Sundays, but a place for the people to meet and greet, it ties the villages together and creates a place where social events happen through out the week. Being in touch with God is a way of life in Tanzania. Morning prayers and church bells ring out each and everyday at 6:00am and through out the day. Church members join choirs and spend hours every week practicing hymns for a Sunday service. The choirs hold competions and compete for the best choir in their area. They even make CD recordings of their hymns and sell them to make money for their church. It is considered an honor to be part of a church choir.

Writing tonight has helped my head to settle down. I see by the clock it is 6 minutes past midnight. Merry Christmas Evergreen, Merry Christmas Japan and Merry Christmas Tanzania!!

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