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

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

What's the Difference?

I was talking with the head and one of the teachers at Aldermaston School and he brought up the fact that so often we focus on talking about the differences and fail to reflect on the similarities. When thinking about cultures, how does this affect the way we view one another across oceans and cultural barriers? How does this affect our understanding of our humanity?
We went to the Royal County of Berkshire Show on Saturday which is the British equivalent of Saba Saba (see the blog from July 8th), the annual agricultural fair. And throughout the day, we made comparisons! As we had demonstrated innovative fuel-efficient stoves in Powaga, others in Newbury were displaying new machines and methods. And yes, a part of me wished we had our jiko and haybox and I could jump in there and demonstrate efficient jiko cooking (it would be easier in English!) There were cooking demonstrations, goats and cows, snacks to eat and a main arena with events and music. The differences were in the size and scale of everything, from the event as a whole right down to individual animals (huge pigs!) and of course a posh smartness and organised professionalism that we don't see in Magozi!

Similar: An efficient stove display

Similar: A bread-making demonstration
It is very true that for us at the moment, trying to adapt to the “new” culture, we are so much more keenly aware of the cultural differences as we are so struck by them again and again! For example, over-generalising greatly, life here seems to revolve around the time and money of the individual. But time and money are of little consequence in Magozi. Here there seems to be a lack of time and a lot of money... or is that debt? (but at least a visible display of material wealth), while in Magozi there seems to be an abundance of time and obvious lack of material wealth. Different, indeed opposite, yet neither is good.
So yes, there are differences: the individual versus the community, priorities of time or money, diverse living conditions, styles and levels of education, the list could go on. Now where are the similarities. On an external level, the similarities may seem harder to find. Yes, education is important here as well as there, yes, we all enjoy a good meal and a good sleep! But deep down, there are similarities that can join us despite all the differences. Our means to live, our work to eat. Our relationship and communication with one another. Our need for one another is a similarity, although noting it just highlights another difference: acknowledging this basic similar need. In the West we can deny this need in our quests as individuals, yet it still remains a need. Our need for God, our search for hope. And here I am stuck by what truly joins us together with our friends in Magozi. Particularly those in the Church. We are family. We work with the same heart and mind for the same purpose. A love for God and our neighbour. 
Both the differences and the similarities can be postive and negative. But we need to look at both.  So while we can enjoy, appreciate and learn from our differences, likewise we can learn from and be encouraged noticing the similarities. Try it!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

So Much

Blogging from the UK now feels a little bit strange! Especially as I am now in close proximity to so many of you who follow us! But I will try to keep occasional updates posted and perhaps take the opportunity to share the odd reflection on cultural adjustments!

Cultural adjustment is a funny thing. So much seems so familiar but yet so foreign. Everything feels so comfortable and easy, yet at the same time uncomfortably complicated. There is the odd feeling of living a double life. But it is like flicking a switch inside myself to get from one life to the other. I can't equate the two lives, it is impossible to compare, almost impossible to imagine one when living in the other.

I was forewarned about entering a large grocery store, and yes, as much as it seemed so "normal" in its context, it was rather overwhelming! So much food, so much choice, so much money! Clean, shiny floors, freezing cold air conditioning, clear glass doors, unnatural lighting and organised rows and queues! Yellow lemons, orange oranges, perfectly shaped fruits and vegetables.

I drive along the smooth roads, feeling rather like I'm in either a sports car (I'm not racing, it just feels fast!), or one of those toy cars at Legoland (low on the ground with a tiddly gear shift!) Traffic lights, parking lines (which our land cruiser would never fit inside!) and oh so many cars!

We are enjoying the food immensely! Sausages, cheese, fromage frais, crisps (chips), parsnips, apples, blackberries, croissants ... So many treats, it just feels completely decadent. So many things feel completely decadent: lying back in the chair getting my hair washed and cut at the hairdressers (noting again how clean and shiny everything is!) So, so much. Everywhere, so much! It is good to appreciate it all so much more.
Finally! A much-needed haircut!
Meanwhile the girls are adjusting to school which is proving easier for Amisadai than Louisa. Louisa doesn't remember anything about life in England, and there is a lot to learn! But they are both enjoying it and making friends. Things like shoes are rather a bother and as Louisa said it is now difficult for us to find her as her class is full of other blond ponytails! But the school is great and has welcomed us warmly back!
Ready for school
Back with friends!
As we make all these cultural adjustments we are so grateful to Tim's parents for having us to stay here with them! And so grateful for the lovely welcome we have had from Tadley Community Church! So many friends were gathered on Sunday for the service and following lunch. Our hearts feel so full with so much to share, so much to thank so many people for, so much to catch up with, it's hard to know where and how to begin! But begin we have!
Our Dar-es-Salaam toes! (Amisadai has the Tanzanian flag)