Week 5

Sunday June 16, 2013

I haven’t been very motivated to journal lately. Partially because we haven’t been very busy, partially because I’m trying to catch up on my reading, and partially because I have a cold.

Friday we stayed at home because Rachel had a sinus infection, so the boys came over and we made preparations for youth day on Saturday. Around 3:00 we went to the edge of the land to hand out food to a group of blind/lame/leprous people. when the Smiths are here they usually continue to their house for more food and audio Bible lesson, but since Jeremy isn’t here they just got food this week. Also, I accidentally kicked a crippled lady. She said it was fine.

Saturday we got up early to head down to the pavilion to host youth day. Youth day is basically the Mozambican equivalent of an area wide youth rally. We played soccer, volleyball, and capture the flag before we finally ate the goat. By the end of the games I felt very Mozambican, leaping over obstacles in my skirt to tackle the enemy. One of my volleyball teammates was especially nice and really good at volleyball, but he kept yelling instructions and me in Portuguese and I was having a hard time understanding. Later Chad said, “Did you meet ____?” I nodded my head. “Isn’t his English great?” To my surprise my new friend came and re-introduced himself to me in English and also informed me that he’s about to graduate from university with a degree in Portuguese literature, he writes a lot of poetry (mostly sonnets and acrostics), and is studying 7 languages. No big deal.

After games and before lunch each youth group represented performed a worship song or dance – it was awesome. Then we served all the food we had and watched some of the neighborhood kids devour the crumbs off the ground like rabid animals.

After everything was cleaned up we headed back to the house to take showers and naps. I tried to sleep, but my inability to breathe through my nose hindered me. Soon Kara came over and said, “Jessica, the neighbor’s kids are asking to play with you.” So I headed over to Kara’s house, excited to have something to do.

I’ve become pretty close to all of Domingos’s kids, but I’m closest to Isabel, who is 15. We’re as close as friends can be when you’ve met a week prior and speak about 10 words in their language. I played with Isabel, her younger sister Ruthie, her younger brother Esmeraldo, her baby sister Miriam, and her baby niece Teresa. We played volleyball for a while until Celeste came over and the girls decided to braid our hair with beads. Once it got dark they headed home and I went back for some tomato egg soup. After dinner we had worship time, put the girls to bed, and played Monopoly Deal with Rachel & Alan.

This morning Bailey, Cara, & I went to church with the Howells in Nikunda, then came back to hang out and chat. I went outside to play with the neighbors again, which I really love doing. When I’m playing with them I don’t feel white, I don’t feel privileged, and I don’t feel superior. It’s been another area in which I’m reminded of how much I love the life of ministry – a career about building relationships with people and loving them so much that they open their souls and let Christ into their lives.

After we played for a while (and when they wouldn’t stop inviting me to dinner) I went back in for lasagna and movie night- Up was tonight’s film of choice. Kara leaves tomorrow, so she came over to say her last goodbyes. It’s been so great to know her – to see that not having a post-graduation play isn’t the end of the world, to see that you don’t have to be married to successful abroad, and to see that cultural immersion works.

I was reading For Missionaries Only and I ran across something that perfectly describes how I’m feeling. “Missions attracts the humbles of people and turns them into a celebrity.” Not to say that I’m the humbles of people by any means, but the most frustrating part of this experience has been being a constant spectacle. But the greatest experiences I’ve had so far – looking at Elena’s photo album, reading Makua Bible stories while Eliza acted them out, playing volleyball at youth day, and hanging out with Domingos’s kids – have been when I was just hanging out with my friends, not carrying the white man’s burden. Rachel said today that no matter where God takes you, it can be home. It may take time and work, but home is not confined to one place on Earth. But then again, we should always be foreigners in this land, just traveling homeward to our God.

Tuesday June 18, 2013

Monday I woke up at 6:00 and got out of bed since it was physically impossible for me to go back to bed. Rachel made french toast and we hung out until the boys came over around 10:00 to go to the market. We quickly bought stuff for cassava chips, chicken burritos, and chocolate covered bananas. I think the Indian man at the bakery thinks something is wrong with us because we go to buy chocolate so often.

We worked on a few things, hung out, took naps, played with the girls, and finished making dinner. At this dinner the tortillas were much rounder, the chicken was much tastier, and the cassava chips were much more flavorful, and the dessert much prettier than any of our other intern meals. After dinner the Howells sung their parodies “Bumpy Roads” (to the tune of “Country Roads”) and “My Not Favorite Things.” Once the girls went to bed we ate our dessert, played Up the River Down the River, and then spent the rest of the night packing for survey.

We drove most of today, stopping in the middle of nowhere to eat a tangerine and boiled egg, and go to the bathroom behind a tarantula infested tree. We drove through Mueda for a while and met a Bible translator at our not-so-5 star hotel at 3:00. They were able to sell us a few copies of the Makonde New Testament to take to the Makonde team. At 5:00 we ordered dinner. 2 hours, some survey strategizing, and a strangely long conversation with an English-speaking African later, we received our food and devoured it like ravenous wolves. Then Celeste and I headed back to the “VIP suite” to get some rest before tomorrow’s early morning, but not before moving the big yellow leather chair in front of the door for security.

Wednesday June 19, 2013

Celeste and I got up at 4:40 this morning to pack up our stuff and get to the truck by 5:00. We moved the giant puffy chair out of the doorway with satisfaction, feeling that we had successfully avoided an abduction attempt, and went out to the truck. At 5:15 we pulled out with Katie, Ben, and me in the back with everyone’s stuff. I tried to sleep as my body continuously banged against the side and everyone’s bags kept falling on my head. After an hour we pulled over for breakfast and switched seats. All of the interns moved to the front and Mozambicans moved to the back. Thus began the treacherous journey to the border. I think we traveled over the Grand Canyon. At 12:00 we finally reached immigration. We spent about 30 minutes at the Mozambican building, then drove across the “unity bridge,” and arrived at the Tanzanian immigration office where we spent 3 hours mostly dedicated to getting the car registered. Then we finally got into Tanzania – the land of the gloriously paved main road.

I was in charge of mapping out villages as we drove, so I put places like Ntambaswala and Chipuputa into the GPS. I imagine that 4% of the recorded village names were spelled correctly. I also got a large number of marriage proposals, which made me feel extra special given my tired eyes and windblown hair look. Around 4:30 we dropped off our Mozambican friends, and only Swahili speakers, at Mangaka, then continued on to Mtwara. The night was not so scary with the paved road, and there were only a few occasions that were questionable, when we hoped that the signs said detour and crossed our fingers when we came to crossroads. We arrived in Mtwara around 9:00.

When we pulled over to wait for Travis to meet us Alan told us that Katie & I would be staying with the Frasers. We got out and grabbed our bags just before Andrew arrived. We drove back to their new house to meet Sarah and Reed, who were standing on the porch. Apparently Reed was highly anticipating our arrival and got to stay up a little later to greet us.

Dinner was waiting for us when we got inside. The cold spaghetti was a pleasant relief from the 2 days of apples and peanut butter. Sarah’s aunt and uncle are also visiting, so we all sat around the table and chatted about Harding. I’m so happy to be here! I love hanging out with them, especially at their house. They’ve been such great mentors and friends, and I cant wait to see all of the work they’re doing in Mtwara. Also, there’s a beeping bird outside. That’s not censorship. It sounds like a security system.

Thursday June 20, 2013

This morning I woke up unnecessarily early, as usual, took a shower, and drank some chai before breakfast. After breakfast Reed told me that she thought it would be a good idea if we watched Brave together. After the movie and some sunflower seed sifting we met everyone for lunch and had some chicken pilau before the women took us on a village visit for an “Excellent Nutrition and Breastfeeding Club” meeting. Sarah stayed home with Reed since Reed has the chicken pox.

I really enjoyed being with the Makonde women. I felt like I really got along with them, they were great with nonverbal communication, I got to wear a head covering, and one lady told me that I’ll get married soon. Today’s class was about all of the nutritional benefits of moringa leaves. We participated in the class, helped make food, and then ate an ugali (the Tanzanian form of ixima) together. While the Makua people usually have guests sit separately, the Makonde women split us apart and each English speaker sat in a group of Makondes. I was chosen to sit with one of the feistier ladies who made valiant attempts to learn about my life through sign language. I absolutely loved it there.

After a long coastal drive back we met up with Andrew, who took Katie and me back to the house to pick up the rest of the family before going out to eat. We all enjoyed some chicken, fries, and passion fruit Fanta before going home for coffee and macaroons.

Today a woman pushed my headscarf back on my head so that she could remember that I was an American. Goal reached.

Saturday June 21, 2013

Yesterday Andrew and Sarah took everyone to the Old Boma for breakfast. The Old Boma is a boutique hotel overlooking the ocean that is part of a renovated German military fortress. It looked like a resort. We had chapatis and chai by the pool as we all gave each other book recommendations. After breakfast Andrew dropped Sarah, Reed, Katie, and me off at the house while he took Tim and Mariann to the airport. Once the Frasers’ house worker arrived the 4 of us headed to the market to pick up food for the night. We looked at fabric, toured the giant food market, talked to Sarah’s friends, and watched the butchering of our dinner. We started preparing lunch when we got back. Sarah made biscuits. I didn’t know biscuits were attainable. This was a high point of the day.

After lunch we started preparing the huge group dinner for the night. I sat outside and peeled sweet potatoes while I talked to Sarah about Mtwara. Mtwara is a whole different animal from Montepuez. The Mtwara team is young, the individuals are unsure of their niches on the team, and their audience is generally unresponsive. Sarah says that much of what she originally anticipated about Mtwara has changed dramatically. She is no longer seeking after a huge church planting movement or Christians overtaking the Tanzanian coast. Now she’s seeking individuals with whom to develop relationships and share faith in hopes of creating genuine Christ worshipers and disciples who will be lights in the community. They are seeking people of peace or individuals with an “entrepreneurial spirit” who would be open to change and are pouring their faith into these people. She said that the past 3 years have been the hardest years of her life and if she had known what she knows now she probably wouldn’t have come.

At 5:00 everyone arrived and drank some chai while we talked about the work in Mtwara. Alan asked about highs and lows in their time there. “Mostly lows” was the general response. Each team member has had an extremely difficult time and the desire to quit is frequent. But they keep going because their mission is greater than their obstacles.

After this long talk we played whiffle ball. I dreaded the thought of once again walking to the plate and striking out in front of all these people as I have done so many times before. Luckily all my years of playing softball and going to those horrid batting lessons were not in vain. The first hit was a line drive to Ross Kellis’s face and the second went to the other side of the yard. The intern team lost miserably, but my pride did not.

We ate a delicious meal and hung out for a while, enjoying our last night in Mtwara. When everyone left Andrew put Reed to bed and the 4 of us sat on the kitchen floor drinking all the leftover chai from “Haman cups.” Apparently Haman is a local shop owner who is known to all the locals as “the Fat Indian.” Andrew and Sarah claim that everything he sells, be it sealed 3 plastic bags deep, has a distinct and awful Haman-y smell which becomes a distinct and awful Haman-y taste. The cups and chai were testament to this claim. Soon Andrew and Sarah went to bed and then the night truly began.

If anyone else had seen this they would have thought me rather foolish, if not completely insane. Since Tim and Mariann left I moved into the big bedroom by myself. By “by myself” I mean that I was alone in a battle against a cavalry of carnivorous mosquitos seeking to destroy my existence. There I was, in my pajamas, leaping from the bed to the floor, swinging from the mosquito net, clapping and swinging my arms in the air, occasionally using a book or other nearby object to take down the bloodsucking foes. Once I had secured my fortress (the mosquito net) and annihilated all invasion attempts, I began reading Kate McCord’s In the Land of Blue Burqas, the true story of a single white American Christian woman relocating to Afghanistan. As I lay in my bed on the African coast I was again reminded of my passion for these people whose lives revolve around submitting to a false interpretation of my God. Around 1:00 I finally fell asleep praying that the lost would find God and that God would lead me to find them.

Saturday morning we left around 7:00am to meet Alan and Travis for the real beginning of our survey. I said a sad goodbye to Sarah, not sure if I’ll see her in the fall in Greece, next summer in Mtwara, or their next furlough in Searcy. Once we got to Travis’s house I did the same with Andrew. Ben & I hopped into Travis’s enormous truck, everyone else climbed in the Toyota with Alan, and then our survey began. I tracked villages all the way to Newala, where we had lunch with the Hills, an American family overseeing several Bible translations through PBT. They were a stereotypical Christian missionary couple with 4 stereotypical little boys and they told us all about their lives as isolated Bible translators. In contrast to the Mtwara team that wishes they weren’t in Tanzania pretty frequently, the Hills said that they really loved being there and wouldn’t change anything. We enjoyed some cornbread and chili before beginning our journey toward Masasi. We got to Masasi a little before dark and unloaded our things into an empty missionary house before heading to dinner with the missionaries who lived on the compound.

I enjoyed chicken and fries as I talked to Ana, the Zambian missionary in Masasi. She told me about the difficult transition from Zambia to Tanzania, as well as all of the struggles their ministry faces, including issues with circumcision and marriage ceremonies. Once we finished eating we headed back to the compound to sing, assess the day, and play Monopoly Deal.

Tuesday June 25, 2013

Sunday Cara, Katie, Travis, Alan, and I drove out into the villages to find Caunia, my bonding dad and one of the Mozambicans we had brought with us to help translate along the way. From here on out I will refer to him as Big Papa C. We got a little lost before finding him, but made a few friends along the way.

We sat on a mat while the village gathered around to watch us sit. It seems to me that village life is rather uneventful. As the men sat and chatted elsewhere, people etched closer and closer until they were leaning on me and I could feel them breathing all around me. I could sense that Katie was getting really uncomfortable, so despite my exhaustion I got up and proceeded to chase the kids around the village so the crowding would lessen for a minute. Unfortunately this backfired because after running for a while the kids started bringing all the children that were terrified of white people to me. After several squealing and crying children were laid at my feet I decided that the only way to end the torture was to return to the mat. After a long time of trying to entertain blank faces it was finally time to eat.

Instead of ugali we were served rice, fish, and chai. Everyone’s fish looked like it had been cut open, all the meat had been removed, and the remains had been reconstructed to serve to guests. The taste was further evidence of this suspicion. But the chai was delicious and it was great to see my friend Big Papa C again.

After lunch we returned to the compound, played another round of Monopoly Deal, and then went to visit another Makua Bible translator. I’m not going to say this experience was the most boring experience of my life, but it was difficult to keep my eyes open. After we got done there we returned to the same restaurant, but I got crazy and got goat. It was pretty tasty. After dinner we once again returned to the compound, talked about the day, & played Monopoly Deal.

Monday we surveyed again. While Alan met with a Bible translator and traveled north with him, all of the interns went west to Tunduru with Travis. The goal of this survey was to see if a team would do good in the Masasi area and how far the Makua people are spread. We stopped in more than 20 villages and I took notes on all of them as I plugged each in the GPS.

About halfway to Tunduru we got flagged down by a man needing a ride. Though we weren’t going in the direction he needed to go, a woman approached my window and said she needed a ride to the hospital because her baby had malaria. In the midst of all of this we developed our strangest relationship thus far. As soon as we got there Jimmy approached the truck. I have no idea what his real name is, but I call him Jimmy. Jimmy was about 25 years old, probably a little mentally unstable, and maybe a little drunk. When he saw Ben his eyes lit up. He ran toward the truck, eager to shake Ben’s hand. His handshake morphed into an arm hold, which morphed into an arm massage as Jimmy stood at the window, just peering over the top and giggling maniacally. Then, before Ben realized what was happening, Jimmy licked his arm. At this point Ben sent Jimmy back to see Bailey. Bailey’s story was similar, but what Jimmy lacked in arm licking in this interaction he made up for in awkward arm massaging. As he began to round the car to come to my side Travis sent him away so Travis could talk to the people. As the team was deciding whether or not we wanted to take the extra passengers and commit to going all the way to Tunduru, Jimmy came to my window to greet me. He shook my hand for an extended period of time and then I felt something extra in his hand, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Travis told him to go away because we were talking and he slipped the unidentified object into my hand. Travis saw me draw back my hand and just hold it open. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the transaction and just assumed that I was just grossed out until he exclaimed, “Did he pay you?!” There in my had sat a 100 shilling coin that I received from my good friend Jimmy. 100 shillings isn’t much, but it could certainly buy something, making it a very strange gift.

This was not our only interaction with mentally unstable folks. When we stopped to ask directions and call Domingos we were approached by 3 exceptional individuals. One man was carrying a large bucket of peanuts and shaking a live chicken very close to the open truck window. The other man came running at my open window holding a cat, marking the scariest moment of my life. The third person was an old lady with peanut shells braided into her hair who claimed she was a little girl and told me that I needed to get out of the car because Travis was crazy.

An hour and a half later we arrived in Tunduru. We stopped at a restaurant to get drinks and go to the bathroom. I asked where it was then followed the waitress around the building to a dirty shack past some creepy snickering men. When I opened the door the pep talks began. “This is normal. Everyone does this. I’m not going to get a disease. Those men outside aren’t going to rape me. It doesn’t look like someone just gave birth on the floor. I’m going to be okay. This is normal.” I said this to myself over and over again.

I loved doing the survey. I loved talking to people, mapping out the villages, and seeing the different towns. We found a few towns that would be great for a team to live in and a ton of villages in desperate need of the gospel.

When we got back to the compound we found out that we were having dinner with the Zambian missionaries. This filled my heart with dread. We hadn’t eaten all day and the thought of eating another plate of ugali made my stomach cringe. When I walked in the door I saw the table covered in a huge spread of food – none of it ugali. A great burden was lifted from my heart that day. We ate for a while and then returned to the compound to play a few final rounds of Monopoly Deal.

I’m really glad we got to bring Travis along on our survey, and not only because we desperately  needed a translator. He is unsure of his niche on the team, but has a lot of interests including agriculture, Bible studies, and writing. He also has incredible taste in music and watches Portlandia, so he’s an ideal human.

The next morning it began.

Go to the Journey through the Fire Swamp!

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