Thursday, September 25, 2008

Signing off for now...


Completed the day-long waterfall hike: one of the most physically exhausting experiences (although second to house demolition in plastic body suits in 100% humidity in New Orleans - Wesley group knows what I'm talking about!) but also by far the most beautiful. You'll have to wait for pictures, but trust me, it was breath-taking. On another note, I will never view the ritual of foot washing the same way again. And we were all put to shame when the grandmas of the villages seemed to fly by us, even with their heavy loads.

The UN Tribunals for Rwanda are taking place in Arusha now. They're open to the public so I'm trying to find some time to sit in on a bit of them - the volunteers who got here the day before me did just that. Logistically, I'm not sure if that will happen. I took a picture of the UN sign out front today as we trekked by; would have taken a picture of the building had the security guard not intervened - I really thought my camera was going to be confiscated (or worse) at that point but luckily was not. It makes no sense to me that the trials would be open to the public but the bldg can't be photographed - and if the UN is off-limits, we have some problems - but at this point I'll just follow their rules. Activism is better done long-distance, I think.

Another night out in Arusha this evening, followed by an early morning move to our more remote orientation spot and then on to the villages we'll be working in. Expect not to hear from me for awhile, but know that all is well and I greatly appreciate your comments and prayers.

Grace and Peace,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tuesday afternoon

We've had our first day of orientation - health & safety followed by Swahili. What a great group of people. Most are recent college grads, with one girl in the middle of her undergrad and one guy who just graduated HS. He quickly adapted to the Little Brother r0le in our little family. We'll be in a communal orientation setting for the next 9 nights or so then split into 3 groups and moved into the villages.

The city has a mixture of Christian and Muslim traditions, and the calls to prayer from the mosque can be heard all over town. I wish I understood them, but am enjoying it none the less. There are also chickens (kuku) everywhere who seem to crow at all hours.

The food is absolutely wonderful and if meals in the villages are anything like those in town I think I gain rather than lose weight while here.

I intentionally didn't bring jewelry with me because i was worried about theft. Now wishing i'd brought a few rings - there seem to be marriage offers everywhere the girls go!

The Swahili classes back home were so helpful. My vocabulary isn't what it could be, but everyone seems to really appreciate the effort and it's made things so much easier.

I'm slowly learning about the culture and loving it.

The altitude here is similar to Denver, which makes me a bit nervous for tomorrow's marathon hike, but it should be fine. It's gorgeous here. Being so close to the equator means the sun sets around 6:30pm, which is strange and makes safety in the evenings more of a challenge, but generally there are no problems as long as common sense is used.

Hamna shida - there are no worries - is a common and accurate phrase here.

Much love to you all!

In Arusha

On a quick break, just wanted you all to know I'm here safe and sound and very happy with all luggage. Met all the American volunteers and coordinators, a small group, am sure we'll be very close in no time. Will meet Tanzanian teaching partners tonight. Having skirts made - great fabrics and able to haggle a bit in Swahili - so much more fun than shopping in US. 10 hour bus ride was more comfortable than I had anticipated. Will have 8 hour waterfall hike tomorrow! Went over the schedule for the next few months and am very excited to get started! Interestingly, American music is big here, particulary Brittany Spears and Akon - very strange. Saw a Tanzanian guy w/ Fox Racing shirt and immediately missed Sarah. There is so much I wish I could tell all of you - it's been amazing already - but am running out of time.
Much love,

Monday, September 22, 2008


That's Swahili for elephant, and now in my mind, also symbolic of the many, many people following this blog and praying for me. Thank you, Rosemary! All of you mean so much to me! See you in a few months - probably with more photos and stories than you'll care to sit through.

In London

Greetings from Heathrow! After long flights to Chicago and London, I'm doing well - just don't ask me what day or time it is! Thankfully, I've always been able to sleep on flights. The reality of no cell phone just sank in. I'm not sure when I'll get to update this next, but know that I'm fine and will get in touch when I can. I just met up with Kim, my traveling partner. Both recent grads, we're setting aside the UA/ASU rivalry for our common goal and are excited to leave in a few hours for Dar es Salaam. My carry-on bag, while well under the weight requirement, was too long for British Airways, meaning it's now my second checked bag. Here's hoping nothing critical gets lost...

The National Sidewalk Ministries Conference was the absolute perfect way to leave. Logistically, a bit of a challenge, but well worth it. What an amazing group of people doing great things across the country! I wanted more time with all of you. Billie, I hope you're working on the next one. (Someone please send this address to Cindy K. and Rosemary A. - I meant to before I left and well...) Thank you all for a wonderful few days. Please stay in touch.

We leave London at 7:20pm (It's 4pm now) and arrive in DAR at 7am. Our cross-country bus ride begins at 9:30am and will arrive in Arusha that evening or night. Our orientation begins Wednesday morning. I'm so excited!! Thanks to all you for your prayers, pep talks, and words of encouragement. I'm finally ready.

Much love,

Monday, September 15, 2008

General Info

Many people have asked me for statistics about Tanzania, so I thought I would share what I've learned. The capital is Dodoma, although Dar es Salaam, the city I will be flying into, is larger. Tanzania is composed of 365,00 square miles and approximately 37,900,000 people. If you're reading this from Arizona, Tanzania is 14 hours ahead of you. The currency is the Tanzanian schilling. For the months I will be there, the lows will probably be in the fifties, the highs in the eighties.

If you'd like more information about Support for International Change please visit Their mailing address is:
PO Box 16390
Arusha, Tanzania, East Africa

If You Pray...

In the last few weeks, many, many people have told me that they will be praying for me as I spend time in Tanzania. I appreciate this because I know it comes from a place of sincere desire to wish me the best and is an indication of a common belief in a loving Spirit that surrounds us all. I appreciate these sentiments and the kindness and sense of community that comes with them. I know that they are all well-intended, and my first response is always, “Thank you”. My next response, however, is an unspoken “What does that mean?” What, specifically, are people praying for? The answers, though I will likely never know them, shed a light on the way in which we view the world. To the one person who took the time to ask what I might want him to pray for, thank you. That question gave me pause and prompted me to share the response with all of you. It is not my intent to alienate anyone, merely a desire to let you know what is on my mind tonight, one week before I leave.

Many have commented that I am brave or noble for seeking out this experience. I respectfully disagree. 80% of the people in this world live in what we consider “sub-standard” housing. I will voluntarily be joining them for three short months. I have already been told that the brief moment in time I spend walking in their shoes will open doors for me to better graduate programs and better career opportunities once I return to the comforts of home. “Noble” is hardly the word that comes to mind.

If you pray, do not pray for my health. I have had countless vaccinations, will take anti -malarials and antibiotics with me, will have plenty of bottled water, and will have full access to treatment at a clinic in Arusha and hospital in Nairobi should the need arise. Pray instead for the millions of people in world whose resources prevent them from ever receiving such care, forcing them to suffer in silence.

If you pray, do not pray that I would be sheltered from harm should political unrest arise. Tanzania is peaceful, and the U.S. Embassy will have my name and location, quite literally keeping the other volunteers and me a top priority in the unlikely event that problems arise. Pray instead for the many regions of the world in which people have committed the unforgiveable crime of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time, becoming casualties in conflicts they did not create, people whose lives will be reduced to the category of “collateral damage”, nombres desconocidos, not important enough even to require an accurate count.

If you pray, do not pray that I will find enough to eat. The families who have graciously agreed to open their homes to me will provide nutritious meals of ugali, rice, potatoes, noodles, beans, eggplant, greens, tea, eggs, porridge, and fruit. On weekends, trips to the nearest city will provide the opportunity to dine in the many restaurants that cater to tourists. Pray instead for the 50% of the world population that is continuously malnourished.

If you pray, do not pray that I will always be able to find someone who is fluent in English to help me. Pray that I would have the discipline and humility to continuously improve my limited Swahili vocabulary, forever setting aside the arrogant notion that the whole world should speak my language.

If you pray, do not pray that I will be surrounded by people whose religious beliefs are similar to my own. Pray instead that I would have an open mind and heart enough to realize that the spiritual experiences of all traditions are as significant and meaningful as my own.

If you pray, do not pray that things will be organized and smooth for me. Pray instead that I will have patience in the midst of chaos, gentleness in the midst of conflict.

If you pray, pray that I will be remember that the privilege and power I have been accustomed to my entire life is not a divine right, but a product of unjust systems in the world, amplified by my own inaction and apathy.

During the months of “pre-field training” for this experience, we were asked to read To Hell with Good Intentions by Ivan Illich. Written in 1968, it is an incredibly harsh speech delivered to American volunteers about to begin a service project in Mexico. Illich criticizes Americans who “attempt to soothe their troubled consciences” in areas where they are “linguistically deaf and dumb”. He goes on to say that it is profoundly damaging to impose your ideals and declare that all your actions are helpful, good, and sacrificial, and tells would-be volunteers that “if you insist on working with the poor, then at least work among the poor who can tell you to go to hell.” The first time I read it, I was indignant. The second time, convicted. The third and many times since were a conscious commitment that I would do my best to ensure that I do not become the embodiment of his words.

Pray that I remember that I am not an expert. Pray that I remember that I am as much the student as the teacher. Pray that I will be culturally sensitive and aware enough to be an effective teacher, that I will earn the right to be heard, that I will play a small but significant role in educating people about HIV/AIDS, as well as in helping Tanzanians become advocates for better health education in their own villages. Pray that the work I do will be relevant and sustainable.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Approaching Departure

It's hard to believe that I'll be leaving in just two weeks. This summer has flown by!

After several long conversations with the patient and knowledgeable staff at REI, I now have a backpack, head lamp, and various and sundry other supposedly must-have items. Now the task at hand is to pack. I've found that the list of items deemed "essential" narrows dramatically when you are asked to carry your belongings a few miles. Perhaps there is a lesson here ... the words "consumerism" and "priorities" come to mind. Hmm, sounds like the groundwork for a sermon outline. (Although I'll openly admit that I would be addressing myself as much as anyone else!) I don't see ordination on the horizon, but cherish the opportunities I've had to speak from the pulpit and hope that such opportunities will continue to emerge. There are wonderful examples in my life of laity whose voices are powerful and Spirit-filled - thank you.

When I think about how many people have helped to make this experience possible, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. To the members of the DSC AIDS Task Force, the congregations of First UMC Tucson, St. Francis in the Foothills UMC, Living Hope Community Church, Parker UMC and the Tucson Wesley Foundation, the Clinical Pathology department of University Medical Center, and the many, many individuals across the country who have generously provided gifts of time, resources, words of encouragement, and prayer, I extend my heartfelt thanks. To the patient individuals on two continents who have helped me begin to learn Kiswahili - asante sana. To the bold former U of A students who were courageous enough to begin an international non-profit and dare to believe that they could make a difference - you will forever have my admiration. I am extremely grateful for the families in Tanzania I have yet to meet who have graciously opened their homes and hearts to complete strangers. And, especially, thank you to my family members who have taken the time to join me in learning about Tanzania and about blogs, who have promised to be brave as they watch me go where I am led, having long ago stopped asking questions like, "Aren't there people in Phoenix you could help instead?" Your support means the world to me, and I couldn't do it without you.