Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Closing of a Chapter and the Starting of a New

We head out today from Maryknoll Lay Missioners​'s headquarters in NY as we slowly make our way to South Carolina. Christopher​ and I were both sad last night and not wanting to pack up. Excited to see family and get settled into our new jobs, but we are definitely mourning the reality that our "Africa experience" is over (for now).

"The Big House" for the MK Fathers and Brothers right next to the building for MKLM in Ossining, NY

A big thank you to all our family and friends who have (perhaps reluctantly at times) supported us over the past 3 1/2 years or more. It's because of all of you that we were able to take on this journey and because of your continued support and prayers that we made it through to the end. We couldn't have done this without you and we are just as proud of you for "making it" as you are of us. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Things I'm Gonna Miss

This was happening in our yard on Saturday while we were moving out of the house. 

I'm sure going to miss their little faces. 

Also, speaking of things I'll miss. Sadly, we've experienced the death of another dog. (That's three in three years, plus a cat. Man, this place is harsh.) Nyeusi, our sweet puppy (she was maybe 3 years old) died on Monday. We are so sad that she left us so early and that she won't be free to roam the neighborhood with her pal Taquilla as we had originally planned. 

This was taken on Saturday while the kids played. Neyusi loved the neighborhood kids. 

She loved attention and would flop on her back to have her belly rubbed at any opportunity. 

We're gonna miss you, buddy. 

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

There's No Going Home Again

Easter is a time of new beginnings, as I told a neighbor the other day when I was trying to explain the weird American tradition of the Easter egg hunt, which is very much NOT a Tanzanian thing, but yet we do every year with their children.
Dying eggs with the neighborhood kids 2015.
And how appropriate it is since boy, do we have some new beginnings coming up! In less than 2 weeks everything will change for us. Yet what is strange this time around is that now we are changing BACK. We are moving back into our house in SC, back to jobs similar to what we were doing before we left. Back with our family and friends who I have missed so much. Back to regular power and electricity, comfort and stability, familiarity. These are all things I've longed for so many times over the years.

Yet, despite all these amazing things, I just can't seem to shake some overwhelmingly negative feelings. When the power goes out and the computer dies while I'm in the middle of working on something, instead of getting mad, I remind myself that I only have to deal with this for X number of months/weeks/days. When I drive by a group of kids in the neighborhood and they try for the zillionth time to jump onto the back of my moving truck, I count down the number of times I think this will happen before I will Yet, there is some sort of "longingness" in these countdowns. I can't really explain it, but I've found myself savoring these instances lately. What gives? Surely I won't be sad to shed myself of these daily annoyances?

But of course, it's not the annoyances that I love about Tanzania, is it? It's easy to boil it down to that, so many annoyances and inconveniences. But our experience has been so, so much more than that. There is so much that I am sad about leaving, so much I will miss. The great friends we have made, who we have relied upon and who have helped us as if we were family. The silly smile of the neighborhood kids and the cheeky dance Maende does when I come home every night. The cool breeze that comes through with a rain after days and days of dryness. The sheer delight when the power comes back on in time for me to catch a TV show before bed. I'm even sad that I won't be an expat anymore. There's something inherently neat about that, even if I am truly the most boring person in the world, which I am.

Maende, so much sass for such a little guy.
But the sadness isn't it. I think there's something deeper at play here and I think it's been hiding just underneath the sadness and per-ordained nostalgia. And I'll just come right out and say it. I'm scared. Scared to go back. I always fear change, so this shouldn't come as a surprise to me but I guess I am a little caught off guard at how fearful I am of this change. I've tried to hide my fear under a cloak of sadness, but if I'm going to be true, this is what's up. I worry that I might be unhappy in our "old life?" What if my family and friends don't really like who I have become? What if I don't like them? What if I can't keep up with my new job or I'm just not good at it? But maybe worst of all, what if I forget? Forget the life I had here, the people I met and the joys I had? What if it just all goes back to the way it was?

Life here isn't easy and it isn't simple. But because we put up with so many daily inconveniences and the folks here struggle with so much, I've found myself rejoicing in the simple pleasures. I appreciate so much more here. And this is what I am afraid of. We are so fortunate in the US and I'm afraid I will get lost in the abundance. I will forget the things I should appreciate. Friends, family, electricity and clean water, good food, the smell of rain, the change of seasons, bird songs and clear traffic on the drive home from work, paved roads, croaking frogs. They say there is no going home again and I really hope that's true. Even though it scares me to death, I hope I won't be the same again.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What We Do When We're not Doing

What do we do when we are done with a day's work?

Scare Play with kids, of course.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Pain of Knowing and Feeling

I know that for a while I've been relatively silent in general on this blog and I have been especially silent in terms of our return and reintegration to the US. Honestly, I just don't know what to say. I've got so much going on inside my own head, it's kind of hard to get it out and also to translate the feelings into words.

As of today we are 1 month and 1 day away from departing TZ, our home for the past 3+ years. How do I describe the mixed emotions that this entails? This picture says a lot to me but I'm not sure if it'll mean much to others.

This is pretty much my office view. I sit with a bunch of girls on a mat. Now, this is cool and it's fun but it's also dirty and it's hard. It's hard on my body; my legs and back hurt after an hour of sitting this way. I get pooped on regularly by birds or bees or whatever else. And it's hard on my head; it's difficult to keep up with what's being talked about and sometimes I wonder if I'm really contributing anything. Many times over the past 3 years I have felt so inadequate. Take for example the other day when the girls were learning about the transmission of HIV/AIDS. The asked me a question, which they had to repeat like 5 times for me to understand. Then I bumbled out an answer in broken Swahili that I hope conveyed the gist of what I was trying to say, clearing up any of their misconceptions and stigmas and elucidating what it was they were trying to understand. I fear I failed miserably at it and I thought for the zillionth time that it would so much easier to do this in English. It's just so hard and I'm not going to miss this.

On the flip side, I really love this work. I love when I am sitting with the girls and they're just chatting about normal life and they ask me my opinion about something or other. It's a great opportunity to make a real impact in a way that I never would have with any other work in the US. Or I love when the girls make a joke and I ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND IT! I feel so good about meeting them on that level. And they are so funny! Tanzanian humor is a little dirty, a little self- or other-depreciating and I just love it. I see so much opportunity in my work here and love contributing in this way. It provides a sense of fulfillment like I've never felt before and I know I'm going to miss this.

Sigh. Life. As my brilliant husband once said, life is a good kind of sadness.

I know how lucky I am to have had this opportunity, not only to fulfill a life-long dream of mine, but to have lived here.  For all it's hardness. For all it's pain. The ups and downs. I know I am just. So. Lucky.

And it kinda hurts.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Reid Spring 2015 Newsletter

To our faithful newsletter readers, you can find our Reid Spring 2015 Newsletter by clicking here. We are just beginning to wrap things up here in TZ, so read in the newsletter about some of our proud accomplishments over the past few years. Also you'll find a little more information about our next steps.

Thanks for your continued support and encouragement!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Last Weekend's Wedding

Last weekend I had the good fortune to go to the wedding of one of our Lulu girls, Hamisa. 

 The wedding announcement and the wedding invitation. Unlike in the US when you get a "save the date" card, this wedding announcement card (on the right) doesn't say the date. It just tells you that you've been invited and how much you have to pay to attend. The actual invitation comes out a few days before the wedding and is your official entry card to get into the wedding on the day-of.

It was actually the first official wedding of a Lulu participant since we started the program. Many of the Lulu girls have boyfriends, "fiances," or live-in partners, but marriages are kind of a more complicated arrangement for many of our girls. In Tanzania there are three types of marriages- religious marriages, tribal marriages, and civil marriages. There are different customs or requirements for each type and many times poorer people, for various reasons usually related to finance and dowry price, can't pull off an official marriage. So it was kind of unusual and a fun occasion for many reasons to go to this wedding. Also, the bride and groom are Muslim, so I was excited to see how this wedding would be different from other Christian weddings I'd been to here in TZ.

The bride and groom stand together. According to tradition she is leaving her family and joining his so she is not supposed to smile, otherwise it will look like she's happy to get away from her parents and family.

I'll start off right off the bat and say that as far as I could tell the wedding wasn't much different because it was a Muslim wedding. Other than there being no alcohol (in plain sight) and it taking place at the home rather than in a Church everything else seemed the same. And by "the same" I mean VERY different from a wedding in the US. Weddings here are a several day affair with lots of partying and lots of people. In fact, we showed up to the wedding on the second day and came about 3 hours after we had been invited to show up. And I sure am glad I did! We came in as Hamisa was introducing her side of the family. She cracked a rare smile as we came in and introduced us as her sisters. Following that, they introduced his side of the family. (They have big families so this took a while.) Then, both sides gave a speech and welcomed their new family members.

Her side of the family welcoming the new additions into their home.

Then, they did a procession of gifts to the new couple. People were welcomed up to the "stage" group-by-group -- meaning parents first, then sibling groups, then in-laws, then extended family, then friends, then clubs or communities they might be a part of. Each group danced up their gifts, waving them around and showing them off, while the MC announced what the gift was, and then shook hands with the bride and groom. This took forever! Also, hey took about at 10 minutes at the end for the wedding planning committee (yes, they have that) to process up a gift of a sewing machine.

Hamisa's sister, also a member of Lulu, processed her gift up, wearing her Lulu shirt!

If the gift was small, such a small amount of money, the MC would tease the gift-giver a little bit. This might sound uncomfortable to us because it's so different than the way we do things, but it was actually quite funny and it kind of reminded me of the old school tradition at some American weddings of paying to dance with the bride. At one point some of the groom's brothers gave just a few small shillings (worth pennies) and the MC pulled the money out and said to the groom, "Was that your brother? Your brother by BIRTH!? He just gave 200 shillings (10 cents)! Seriously? OK, tell him God bless him." And at another time the MC actually gave the money back because it was so small. This had everyone in the crowd in hysterics. Keep in mind, of course that the family probably already raised a lot of money for the wedding, so it's not like this is the only time the brother had the opportunity to give money.

The gift giving was followed by dancing by several groups of the family. One cute dance in particular was a dance between her parents and his. Everyone was so smiley and happy.


After that (and I may be getting a little fuzzy on the timeline here because it all started to blend together) they had a few dances by a male dance group. They were dressed in matching outfits and doing flips and stuff. Not too bad, even if I almost got hit a few times.

Being in the first seat of the first row made this a little bit dangerous!

After the dances ended, everyone got food. And by everyone I mean probably about a hundred people or more. They served different food depending on your relationship to the family (honored guests got meat, normal guests got beans) and his side of the family and their guests got food first, since they were considered the "invited guests." I enjoyed the food, though I would've preferred beans and veg, rather than the meat that we got. But still, it was yummy.

At this point we actually slipped out to go home. By now we had already been there over 2 hours and the party was just getting started and if we didn't slip out while we had the opportunity we would've been there well until after dark. All-in-all, though, it was such a wonderful wedding. I really enjoyed how happy everyone was. All the dancing, singing, ululating. It was so fun.

This little Bibi (grandmom) stood behind me, waving her arms, dancing, and ululating the whole time we were there.

What a joyous occasion!