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

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Cross-Cultural Lenses: Through Someone Else's Eyes

At the moment, things are a bit of struggle ... nothing major, just the cumulative stack of lots of small things. And this blog, which I wrote some days ago but couldn't post with internet and power problems, is now a good reminder for me! How easily I forgot.
Do you ever look at the world through someone else's eyes? For over a week, I have enjoyed again just looking at the ordinary which makes up everyday life through someone else's eyes. It made me appreciate things I take for granted or fail to observe. It caused me to think about and question my own priorities. It challenged the way I look at things. It's enlightening! 
We have had Mendriad and Hosea staying with us since last Monday. Over the years, we have spent many hours in their homes in Magozi (the village where we started the first fuel-efficient stoves project) and they in ours there. (The other evening I enjoyed a read from those days when we moved into the village ... those initial thoughts as we entered a different world!) And then, Mendriad was always staying with us in our village house in Kimande, and Hosea also stayed while building the kiln. But it is very different when living together in the village, as we are adapting to their life. Staying here in the city, Mendriad and Hosea were adapting to ours! Sure we ate Tanzanian food and supplied plenty of sugary tea, but we had light switches and showers and toilets to explain. I never really thought before about how complicated we make even making a bed! They had no idea what all the bedding was for (bottom sheet, top sheet, duvet, duvet cover, pillow, pillowcase and all on a mattress on a frame...) and I realised after they left, it was all untouched! In the village a foam mattress is a luxury and then all that is needed is a khanga. But they entered our world and tried coffee and hot chocolate and developed a taste for zucchini muffins and spaghetti as well!
It was incredibly exciting to see Mwanza with them! To peer up at such tall buildings! The sight and sounds of so many vehicles driving on so many tarmac roads! To satisfy their interest in the reason for green and red lights; waiting for the green light to go, while incredulous that if the light was red and there were no cars waiting, we would still have to wait (mind you, I think there are plenty of drivers in Mwanza who don't get that!) Seeing the long straight tracks for trains, with the thought of where and how far they stretch ... and the thrill of a train thundering past! That caught all of us, as well as all the people selling their goods on the tracks by surprise! Scary!
But most exciting of all was, by far, Lake Victoria. They couldn't take their eyes off the vast expanse of water. Magozi is usually such a dry and dusty place; the most water they have is the small brown river nearby (except for the puddles in the rainy season!). But it wasn't just the water. There were boats on the Lake; small boats floating, boats with engines chugging out, large ferries carrying cars, even busses and trucks and lots of people! The thought of being "in" the water was terrifying; the sight of the small waves on the lake gave rise to nervous laughter!
On the shores of Lake Victoria

As we sat on Saturday and drank sodas right beside the Lake, talking about boats, Tim and I looked at each other and thought "why not?"  We headed over on foot through the fish market at the lakeside to the ferry. We waited over an hour for the next ferry to Kamanga and hopped on. We made the 45 minutes crossing (all for a grand total of $3 for the six of us!) and came straight back! Conversation throughout the rest of the day between all of us, and the many friends and family they phoned in Magozi, often reverted back to who of the two was more scared! But they loved the adventure and how amazing and fantastic it was to appreciate the beauty of the area, the vastness of the Lake and the distant views, the feel of the wind and the waves below, with them. Wondering how it felt to be landless for the first time?   

Mendriad boards the ferry

On the ferry!

Getting off and getting on (all at the same time!) 
They came to train a group here in Mwanza how to make the fuel-efficient stoves out of clay. They did a great job and I'll tell you more about that later! We also took them to see the agricultural work going on in Kayenze and Kisesa ... and there is more about that later too! But going to Kayenze with them on Sunday was great. We were glad that Hosea was able to preach. And after the service we walked down to the lake shore, just 100m from the church building. They saw the fishing boats, the fishing nets and the vast expanse of water before them and were keen for lots of photos! But unfortunately they didn't seem to care about what I was seeing ... lots of naked men washing in the Lake! I turned away from the sudsy bodies, protesting ... but I wondered if they even noticed! They kept asking to come back with the camera! So averting my eyes, I did my best to get a photo avoiding any naked men in the lens!
Carefully Cropped Photo: Posing in a Fisherman's Boat

It has been a very full week with all the outings, training days, and lots of extra cooking! At times it seemed so easy to look at it all through the wrong lenses. But when the power keeps cutting out, I remember that no electricity is everyday normal in Magozi (and you can still play crazy card games by candlelight!) When I completely burn the beans on the gas and the rice is uncooked, why am I worried? They are so grateful and appreciative for everything! Putting on the appreciative lenses makes the view so much brighter and exciting! I am so thankful for these guys! Living with them both in the village and here in the city has taught us all so much! We are so much richer for entering their world and experiencing them enter ours; we can appreciate that there is so much more out there for all of us than our own comfortable "normal."


  1. So easy for us to take so much for granted. thank you for the privilege of entering your world and the appreciation that those who have so little in this worlds goods show. Thankfulness and gratitude so important to have and show. Bless you all. Gracexx


Please leave us message! We love to hear your news and thoughts too!