We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Friday, 4 November 2011

A Fish out of Water

I'm feeling like a fish out of water and wondering what the other idioms I am looking for are! Not quite a bull in a china shop, but maybe almost! And maybe a blind dog in a meat market - I just looked that one up! I love living here in Tanzania, I really do, but sometimes from time to time I just feel so completely alien, completely unable to communicate, completely confused and completely exhausted trying! This week was such a time! But reflection and perspective is always a good thing and I can see (admittedly, later than I would like!) that it isn't always in the "doing" but often just in the "being" that makes the difference and a quick look around me quickly puts my own little problems in perspective!

But as you are reading this to find out what we've been up to this week, I'll fill you in! We left for Magozi very early on Tuesday morning to be in time for the start of the stoves groups meeting at 8:30am. By 9:30am I was hotter beyond belief, already tired and wondering how we would survive the day! It was a tough three days for various reasons. But it was hot; mid 40's in the shade and it really just made everything hot - the candle was melting, the spoons were hot to pick up, the drinking water was frankly disgusting! Louisa came in for supper one evening extremely hot and bothered, sweat running rivers all down her. Before we could blink, she had stripped off her clothes and sat down for tea. Amisadai quick as a flash, followed suit (no pun intended!) and to be honest, I wished I could have done the same! There just was one moment of brief relief from the intensity of the heat - a fizzy drink! Then the buzz wore off and we wilted and dripped again. Under the tin roof was like a sauna, outside the ground seemed to burn through our sandals. I think you get the idea! But the group times went really well. Tim worked hard to reinforce good techniques in making the stoves to try and raise the standard. They also experimented with a mix of new clay, working on preventing cracking. We were hoping to fire this week, but the kiln didn't get fixed, so hopefully next week. We have another 60 stoves ready to fire which is good. We had lunch with Mama Kalista on Tuesday, and she is so delighted with her jiko - talking of how she can cook outside even in the wind, how it cooks well and quickly and uses less wood. Encouraging to hear!

Abdara finishing a jiko
The girls and I did schoolwork on the Wednesday; the project was appropriate, measuring shadows and observing the pattern of the sun! I tried to go out and visit with the other women, but for some reason this time really struggled. One drawback was the heat - even walking three minutes was hard. But cultural differences and communication problems seemed to bother me more than usual and I just felt so out of place. I was tired of being told I didn't have enough children, of everyone discussing my ability to conceive and medicines for contraception. I was tired of everyone always touching me and discussing what was wrong with my skin having moles and freckles, even the annoying zit on my chin! I was tired of not understanding what was going on around me, of people laughing (not unkindly) at me and I didn't know why.

Then it was time to come back to Iringa. We brought back with us Mama Meriziana, (from the stoves group) to get her some glasses in town. We had seen her struggling to read her Bible. Then another lady (to whom we had previously mentioned was welcome to come and stay in town sometime) asked if she could come for a pumziko ("break"). We agreed it was fine; she was happy to share a room. So after lunch, we were all piling into the land cruiser and as Mama got in the front, her two girls climbed in the back! There was some confusion for a while, but in the end they were not getting out as they didn't want Mama to leave them. They were coming too! Now I am thinking about the situation when we get home - not much food in the house, I knew I had no eggs or butter and only a little flour and sugar. And not much of anything fresh. Also short on the beds and bedding. Then I remember  no water either ... having all these guests really isn't sounding like a good idea. But then these were all thoughts from my Western culture head. Here none of that matters. We have some rice and beans and we have much more floor space than they are used to and they don't have bedding or running water anyway so it's all fine. Well it was for a little while. The eight of us were bumping along in the boiling heat, when one of the girls got as sick as a dog (I imagine it was her first time in a car). She threw up pretty much all the way home, all on the floor at our feet. I tried to no avail to get her to do it out the window (we didn't have a bucket or anything vaguely appropriate!), but every time, just right on the floor. We were all glad to finally arrive home. But then there were new things to learn ... like toilets! The two girls didn't know what to do, and no doubt feeling nervous about it all, one just went right in the middle of the living room! Adding to the chaos was the fact that not only was there no water, but also no power. (At this point, I really just wanted a shower followed by a lovely cup of tea sitting on the couch and then a chance to sort out all our laundry.) But we managed and despite all the ensuing cultural confusions from village to town life, from Tanzanian to British life, we are so thankful we could have this friendship and in a special and rather amazing way, feel joined as part of the same family!

The other very good thing about it all was that Mama Meriziana was able to get glasses this morning. She has apparently had a lazy eye since birth, and the other eye obviously weakened. She came home from the optician and put her new glasses on and was so thrilled, it was lovely! She took out her (Swahili) Bible and read all of Isaiah 61 out loud "... to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." And she said after reading it, "... now I have eyes."

Mama Meri (the stoves group treasurer)
reading easily for the first time!
So whether I feel like a fish out of water or not, I'm as pleased as punch we are here ... and Tim adds "definitely as mad as a hatter anyway!"


  1. We think you are all amazing - we have been hugely impressed by the way you overcome all sorts of difficulties graciously and cheerfully. Most of the rest of us would have been totally overwhelmed on day one, so you're still doing really well.

    Great to hear that the glasses worked out well.

  2. We think you are real stars as you embrace each challenge and cope with the unexpected. Mama Meriziana will never forget this time. Every day that she reads her bible she will bless the God who sent such a family to her village. You are a model to us all. Amisadai & Louisa are great as they accept each situation. Heaps of love. Edwin & Margaret.

  3. Hi Rachel,
    Just come back from Church and heard all about you all from Greg & Co. We think you are all terrific how you are serving God and we are praying for you all.
    Love Andy Shirley & Vicki xxx

  4. Linda Fitzmaurice7 November 2011 at 03:43

    TRAL, you are wonderful, all four of you! I agree with the other comments above: you have been taking all sorts of challenges and strains in your stride. And just kept on serving God with a joyful attitude! You are an enormous inspiration to everyone and we are all carrying you in prayer!

  5. Wow!! Love to read about your life over there. Much love and blessings from Clive and Petra in Czech Republic

  6. You know, you should keep all these stories...I sense a good book brewing here in these notes :-) Life seems 'odd' for me (Clive) at times, even after 10yrs here in CR...but I think that pales compared to what you guys are experiencing...and to see 'the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living'...wow! That is just amazing!! ;-)


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