Thursday, February 3, 2011

Starting My Mission Journey with The Adorers

Greetings!  I arrived to my first mission stop with the Adorers of the Blood Christ on Sunday, January 30th in Dar Es Saalam, TZ.  I was met at the airport by two wonderful smiling faces, Sr. Theresia, headmistress of the Adorers Center, Johana Merlini Nursery and Day Care Center and their driver, Ambrose.  They had a placard with my name printed on it.  It was a welcome site since I knew no one.  I gathered up my luggage and off we went by car to the center about 1 hour drive from the airport.  Even though it was Sunday the traffice was heavy, but Ambrose is a proficient driver and weaves in and out of the lanes.

I settled into my room at the Sisters home which is on the same grounds as the school.  I met all the sisters (seven) then we enjoyed dinner together.  Sr. Stella is the director of the entire center in Dar Es Saalam.   (Dinner is about 7:30 pm after evening prayer in the chapel.)  They have a daily schedule of Mass at 6:30am about a 10 minute walk, (parish temporary Church building, St. Thomas Moore) then prayer in the chapel at the Sisters' home, breakfast about 7:30am.  Breakfast food varies, but it is always common to have homemade bread rolls, with homemade jams, mango, orange and a mixture of fruit jams.  Fresh bananas, mangoes, pineapple are always present.  They are fresh and delicious.  Sometimes porridge which is like our cream of wheat.  It is quite tasty with sugar and a fresh orange juice squeezed on it.  Most of the sisters drink hot tea, however, they have made me espresso coffee with hot mail; which I like very much.
Children for the school from ages 2-6years old start arriving about 7:30 am and sometimes sooner.  The sisters have a mini van that picks up children and parents also walk their children to school or a few have cars and bring them.  All the children wear uniforms which the parents are requested to furnish.  The tuition fees range about $100,000 TZ shillings a year which would be less than $100 for the year.  If the parents can not afford the total fees they are asked to pay a portion.  The remainder of the fees come from donors. 

The school is divided into 3 classrooms, Love (2-3yrs), Hope and Peace for ( 4-6yrs.)  At the present their are about 60 students enrolled.  They go all year except for a break for the month of June and December. And Easter week.  Classes start about 8 am and last till about 12:30 am.  The school employees 3 lay teachers and then Sr. Theresia is the headmistress(Principal).  They have a cook and an assistant who maintains the school grounds and assist the cook.  The children have a tea and cookie break about 10 am then recess in the playground.  They have good playground equipment for small children, slides, swings, titter totters.  The children appear to be healthy and happy.  They provide lunch and juice for the children about noon then they depart about 12:30 - 1:00pm. Lunch might consist of rice sauteed with tomatoes and onions and red beans cooked with maybe some seasonings and a little coconut oil.  It is quite tasty and nutritious.   Two teachers go with the driver to drop the children off at their homes and one teacher stays and monitors the children who will be picked up by their parents.  The teachers end their school day about 3:30 pm.

The other sisters have various work assignments at different catholic parishes.  The sisters take turns in cooking for the day.  One day I helped one of the sisters make fruit smoothies.  They had never had one before.  They enjoyed it very much.  Another day we made pizza for the dinner meal.  Carrot pizza.  Homemade dough, fresh carrots finely grated then mixed with a little oil and salt to marinate.  This was the only topping on the pizza with a little finely grated Parmesan cheese.  It was quite tasty.  The other pizza was made with fresh tomatoes, diced and sauteed with fresh garlic.  This was the topping with a small amount of Parmesan cheese.  We made 4 large square pans about 18 inches square.  They fit in a pizza oven (Italian) that was heated by wood/charcoal outside.  The left over pizza was eaten at breakfast.

The foundress of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ was Sr. Maria DeMattias of Rome, Italy.  Thus the pizza oven from Italy.  The sisters' home is a three story stucco building with tile and terrazzo floors very much like the Italians have with high ceilings for the heat.

Sr. Theresia had a large poster board that she needed printed for the School Timetable (Schedule) for 2011.  I suggested that I could do that for her.  It was about 2 ft. by 3 ft.  I measured everything carefully then printed all the information in pencil then proceeded to go over the printing in different color magic markers.  It was a fun project to do but it took me forever.  But it got done.  Sr. Theresia wanted to put the roster of students' names in the computer in alphabetical order but couldn't find the function in Word to do it.  After a little praying and a lot of looking I found a function for sorting....low and behold we could sort by fields of information, viola...names either first or last could be alphabetized.

The Merlini School is trying to teach English for all the classes and then have one designated class for Swahili.  They are in desperate need for childrens' books' in English, (ages 2-6 years old).  The teacher had one book in English for teaching but that was all.  The teaching is done mostly by verbal and repetition. Those of you receiving this blog and want to help with books for the children I know it would be God sent.  It would also be good to have books with African/American children in the story.  They also need basic children's games in English for counting and learning the ABC's and reading.  Most of the children at the school very seldom see others of light colored skin.  I took pictures which I will download later and post to the blogspot.  When I took their picture I would also show them the picture in my viewer which they would scream with laughter.

I had a wonderful stay at the Merlini Center for 3 nights and 2 days.

Sr. Stella accompanied me by bus to the next Adorers mission in Dodoma. It is about a 7 hour bus ride on a paved two lane highway.  It is traveled a good deal by buses and trucks.  I had planned to take the bus by myself but Sr. Euphrasia who is the Director of the Adorers in Tanzania and located in Dodoma thought it best for Sr. Stella to come with me.  Glad I was.  Ambrose took Sr. Stella and me to the bus station about 8:30 am.  It was about a 45 minute drive.  I asked what time we would take the bus they said about 11:00 am.  I was curious why we would leave so early but thought it best not to say anything.  Time in Tanzania is very flexible as I found out.  When we got to the bus station their where dozens of buses with a variety of company names on them.  No timetable was seen anywhere.  Lots of men clamoring to take your luggage and motioning a lot.  Ambrose handled it all well.  After much discussion it was decided that we would take the Shabby Bus and it would leave at 11:30 am.  I looked at my watch and it was 9:30 am.  It was already very hot and humid.  We stood outside trying to find a little shade and boarded the bus at about 11:30 am but it didn't leave the station until noon.  Ambrose went inside the building and bought our tickets.  I think the fare one way was about $10. Sr. Stella bought some juice, water and wafers for us to snack on.  I had my protein bars with me too.  I offered one to Sr. Stella but she said she was fine with juice and wafers. There were hundreds of men and women with boxes of things they wanted to sell you.  Sunglasses, eggs, fruit, cookies, bread, water, juice, soap, watches, name it.  It was like a flee market only they were walking around carrying a box and trying to get you to buy something.  I had a feeling a lot of this stuff was from China. The bus from the outside looked very modern.  It was pretty worn inside but was suitable for the journey.  It had two tv screens in the aisle and air conditioning.  However, the ac never went reminded me of the early 1950's without ac in the cars on a hot and windy July Kansas day.  I don't know what the weather temp was; it felt like about 95 degrees and humidity about 95. Very dusty.  Once we got started the loud TV's went on with some B movie with Asian actors speaking English.  I read a book and took a nap.  We made one stop in a town called Morogoro about 4 hours in the journey.  We got off the bus for a look around.  Very congested...again the same scene...lots of people trying to sell you fresh carrots, fruit, juice and cooked food.  I ventured to an ouside was pretty primitive but I managed to make do.  I carry toilet paper and handi wipes where every I go.  I'm just about out of handi wipes so will hopefully find some soon.

We made one more short stop and Sr. Stella bought some fresh cashews(Tanzania grows cashews and peanuts) that had just been roasted from a man who had them in small cellophane wrappers.  There were maybe 6-10 men selling the same things.  They must buy them from a roaster then resell them for a little more to make money.  I also so a women with a basket of peanuts she had a cup and would give you one or two to taste then if you wanted to buy a cup or more she would give that much.

We arrived in Dodoma about 7 pm and was met at the bus station by the Adorers' driver, Paschal.  Sr. Stella had a cell phone so she communicated to the sisters in Dodoma when we were about to the bus station.

The Adorers of the Blood of Christ in Dodoma share a compound with the Precious Blood priests.  The priests have a seminarians studying here.  There are also several young women in preparation to be a sister.
We had dinner together about 8 pm.  After dinner I went to my room and was in bed by 9:30 pm.  I've had the luxury to have a bath in my bedrooms at both of the missions.  Water is scarce so I try to use very little when I shower.  I get wet first, then turn off the water, soap up then put the water back on to rinse.  My hair is short so I shampoo fast and let it dry on its own.  In fact when I was in Dar there was a beauty our old barber shops across the street from the sisters' home.  I needed the back hair trimmed so one of the sisters walked with me to the salon to interpret for me and she trimmed the back shorter.  It cost me about $1. I gave her a tip too and she was grateful.  Sometimes hot water is not available so you do with cool or warm water which is perfectly fine.    The temperature in Dodoma is much cooler and drier.

This am we went to Mass on the compound at 6:30.  The mass was said in English.  In Dar it was said in Swahili.  I believe the seminarians are learning all their subjects in English.  There is a push in Tanzania to learn English so you can go to secondary school and then to University. 

I have been told their are as many as 120 tribal dialects in Tanzania.  Some rural areas may only speak their tribal language and not even Swahili which is the mother tongue of Tanzania.  The more rural the less likely anyone can speak English.

After breakfast I did some computer work and then visited the two classrooms of children.  These are very poor children from 2 years to 6 years.  Some have uniforms but I doubt any fees are accessed.  The children walk to school by themselves are might be accompanied by an older sibling or parent.  They are here till about noon.  They are given a hot meal and juice before they leave. And also a refreshment break in the morning. Again no books and no playground equipment.

In many of the public schools in Tanzania they go in two shifts...early am leave their home at 6 am till about noon then a second group comes from about 1 pm to 5 pm.  This is do to overcrowding in schools.

I will end my post for today.  I believe my schedule will now take me later today to the Adorers Manyoni Mission where I will tutor and teach some English.  My stay with the Adorers has been so very nice.  They are very kind and hospitable.  Most of the sisters are not proficient in English but can understand enough that we can communicate.  Sister Melania who set me up on the computer has very good English skills. I explained to her I had bills to pay on line which was a new concept to her.   She works in the office here at the sisters compound so she reads and writes in English.

There is so much to say but I hope you can get a glimpse of Tanzania through my travels.  One more thing...the electricity can go off at anytime...sometimes there is a schedule announced on tv or the radio but often it just goes off.  The sisters have generators so they can get it back up and running for the necessiates.  I carry a flashlight with me at night.  My wonderful Coleman flashlight.  It comes in very handy..