Sunday, May 10, 2009

To market, to market... buy a kanga!  Kangas are the pieces of cloth that African women use for absolutely everything - for clothing, for wrapping and carrying babies, for sheets, for balancing pails of water on their heads - you name it, they do it.  And so when we went to the outdoor market, I was not surprised to see many, many kangas for sale.  And lots of other stuff, too.  Shoes (made from old tires!), cattle, pots and pans, chickens, jewellery, dried fish, clothes (sewn on old treadle machines right out in the open) and the list goes on.  It made for some pretty colorful photos.

One of our group, Cheryl, bought some shoes for our driver, Adriano's, children.  Here's Adriano showing Father Joachim the shoes.  He was so grateful.  Father Joachim came along as our intrepretor and "haggler".  It is the custom in Tanzania to barter, and we Westerners are really not that good at it!  Besides which, we had no idea of the value of some of the things there.

Here are some of the colorful kangas.  Look closely...

...and you"ll see the one that got away!!!

Arlene, another one of our group, had been to Ussongo last year and helped out in the medical center.  She helped deliver baby Julie, and she invited us along to meet the family one year later.  

With Arlene is Sister Happiness (yes, that's her real name!) who was also there when Julie was born.   Here are Julie's parents.

The family live on a farm some distance from Ussongo.  It was hard to tell exactly how far, since we left the so-called road and drove through fields to get there.  It was reminiscent of a drive with Grandpa Schan.  They have a small, three-room brick house ("sitting room" with two chairs, which they brought outside for us, a small bedroom, and a storage room.  This is Julie's mother in their home.  

The cook house sits perpendicular to the home, connected by a fence.  It was pitch dark in there, with a small fire going, and another small storage room.  They have no electricity and no running water.  There were chickens and very skinny dogs hanging around the yard, and children herding cattle just beyond the yard.  

They had quite a nice garden, with corn (maize), cassava, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.  

Relatives and friends appeared out of nowhere to see the white strangers! 

All in all it was a very informative afternoon.  The grandmother presented Arlene with a gift of two live chickens, which she had the children chase down and then bound their legs with strips of a rag.  We also received a bag of rice, some eggs, and some tomatoes.   Tanzanians are a very generous and hospitable people, and I was constantly amazed at their willingness to give from the little they own.  We could take a lesson!

Thanks for checking in yet again!


More about Ussongo

Our second day at Ussongo involved much church attendance!  Father Chuwa has two masses at the home parish, and then goes to two mission parishes.  Father Joachim presides at up to another four missions.  It is amazing to see the faithful come out in such numbers.  The first mass at Ussongo is at 6:45 am, and is mainly attended by the students of the school.  650 teenagers - boys on one side, girls on the other - all in school uniforms, is quite a sight.  The second mass is attended by the villagers.  The women are all decked out in their most colorful, fashionable outfits, and the choir is amazing.  This is the inside of the church, before mass.  

I couldn't help thinking that Madeline Weinmeyer would have loved being part of this parish!  (An inside joke for a couple of church ladies who will remain unnamed!)

I didn't get a shot of the statue of the Virgin Mary surrounded by flashing Christmas lights, but you get the picture.  Many plastic flowers and glittery decorations - the glitzier, the better, it seemed.  

These are the pews.  Comfort is not a big consideration.

 At the weekday masses, the musical accompaniment is provided solely by three drums.  The just pound them, and everyone sings and breaks into harmony - it makes the hair on your neck stand up and gets your toes tapping!  How church should be, methinks.

During and after the first mass, there are many children waiting outside for the second one to begin.  They absolutely love to have their pictures taken, and often jostled for a spot right in front of the photographer.  Many speak only Swahili, but know how to say "take my picture" in English.  They also love to see themselves on the camera screen.    They are also often toting younger siblings, even in the traditional "kanga" wrapped around their back.

After the second mass, and after breakfast, we loaded into the "vans", and headed off for Mwisi and Bongomela, two of the small villages with mission parishes.  We were treated like royalty!  Everyone wanted to see us and touch us and have their pictures taken with us.  In fact, one young entrepreneur with an antiquated camera seemed to be charging for such photos! 

At each parish, the choir started singing and dancing outside the church, and continued until Father was ready and the procession into the church began.  We were always included in the procession, and given seats of honor at the front of the church.  After each mass, Father invited us to stand at the front and introduce ourselves.  He translated, of course.  After that, we were given gifts, which were always presented with song and dance.  It was very touching to have these people of relative poverty give so much.  

(Are you watching, Madeline?)

During the week, Father drove us to some of the other mission parishes to see the old church buildings and the ones he has had built in the thirteen years he's been at the parish.   Check out the stone pews in this old church, which Father says still holds up to 100 people for Sunday mass!

This church is about one year old.  The parish catechist and some of the children were on hand to greet us!

That's the old church in the background.

 I couldn't get enough of these happy faces!

And thus ended our first full day in Ussongo.  We collapsed into bed each night by 9 or 10, exhausted from all we had seen and heard and felt.  

Thanks for stopping in!


Happy Mother's Day!

I'm interrupting my Africa saga to wish all you mothers out there a very special day.  There is one mother in particular that I must single out - mine!  

I've known her all my life, and I can tell you she is the best mom out there!  Here's a shot from when I was the only one, although I must say that didn't last long!

Now, five kids and five grandchildren later, she's still the best!

Thanks for everything, Mom.  We love you!

I can't end this post without mentioning another mom and grandma that we keep in our hearts.  We miss you, Marj.

Our boys have been so blessed to have such wonderful women in their lives.

Happy Mother's Day!

Thanks for checking in again!


Friday, May 08, 2009

I'm Ba-a-ack!

I have returned - out of Africa, so to speak! It was an incredible and exhausting trip. We arrived home last Sunday evening, after 36 hours and seven flights. It seemed to take forever! Not quite as long as the trip there, though, as both our Air Canada flights were delayed, which meant we missed our connection in Zurich. So it was off to London Heathrow for a short detour, but we were soon back on track and on our way to Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. Here is our motley crew in Toronto, I believe. We're still smiling, so it must be on the way to Africa! From Dar Es Salaam we flew to Mwanza, where we were greeted by Father Chuwa and his drivers. Fr. Chuwa is the big guy in the black jacket. More about him later!

Our mode of transportation while in Ussongo was usually Father's new Landrover, which seated five, and this older vehicle, which seated as many as would fit in the back plus an extra in the front passenger seat.

This shot was taken when we were riding in luxury. You should have seen it packed with suitcases and six bodies for the four-hour trip from Mwanza to Ussongo! Luckily Father took pity on us and we stopped a couple of times to see if our legs still worked. The first stop was at a convent near Mwanza, where the nuns had prepared some refreshments for us.

The second stop was at Shinyanga for a beer. The power had been out for most of the day, so it was warm beer. The Tanzanians often drink their beer warm anyway. It is also interesting to note that the large brown glass bottles contain 500 ml of beer!

After we arrived at Ussongo, we had a little time to check out our rooms and freshen up a bit before the evening meal.  The dining room was in Father Chuwa's house, which was just across a bit of a courtyard from the "guesthouse", a building with about 8 bedrooms, each with its own bathroom.   This was my and Anita's room.

The bathroom was interesting.  Just a shower head jutting out from the wall, with a squeegee propped up against the wall to move all the water to the drain.  A clean floor each day!

This is the dining room/living room in Father's house.


There was a gorgeous veranda along Father's house, where we spent a lot of time before and after meals, and to escape the heat of the afternoon.  It was probably my favorite place in Ussongo!!

After our first supper in Ussongo, Father Chuwa, his assistant, Father Joachim, and the workers, Maggie, Grace, Bertha, Devota, and Joyce, held a welcoming celebration for us, on the veranda, of course!  Most Tanzanian celebrations of this sort include a cake, which the hosts cut into pieces and feed to their guest on toothpicks!  It is quite interesting and amusing!  This was our cake, before the official cutting.

And here's the whole crew, minus the photographer!

That's it for now, folks.  I don't think my mind is working properly yet, as this post took two days to finish.  More later!

Thanks for stopping in!