Monday, March 28, 2011

Yes We Can!

Well, we know it’s Lent. But we really could not help ourselves when a big care package arrived from California. Bulging with treats & goodies, we tore it open and uncovered a box of chocolate chip cookie mix inside! Wow! THE JACKPOT!!!!

But wait. Read: Bake in 375 degree oven. Alas! We do not have an oven. What to do? So we wondered, “Can we cook a cookie mix on top of the stove?”

“Yes, we can!”

We might be in the middle of Lent, but we gave up chocolate chip cookies ALL YEAR! So we are enjoying every delectable bite!

Many, many, many thanks to all of our “Care Package Angels” around the world: San Francisco, Los Angeles, La Quinta, San Leandro, Martinez, and Lafayette, California; Seattle, Washington; Wood-Ridge, New Jersey; Riverside, Rhode Island; and Falmouth, Nova Scotia.

We cannot thank our “Care Package Angels” and our “Corresponding & Praying Angels” enough for shipping all your love to us in the form of chocolates, cookies, books, magazines, school supplies, vitamins, batteries, shoes, lotions, calendars, shirts, socks, cards, letters, emails, texts, prayers and so much more. Because of all the love you send us, we have so much more love to give to those we serve. Love –does- make the world go round!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lent, Magomeni church

I took these two pictures today after attending the early morning Mass at our church in the Magomeni neighborhood of Mtwara, Church of Jesus Christ Redeemer [ Kanisa la Yesu Kristu Mkombozi ].

Purple being one of my favorite colors, I was drawn to take a few photos during this Lent. I really like the layout of this church and its light and airiness. Compared to most Catholic churches in the U.S. the furnishings are very simple. I find that appealing, maybe even elegant. The Tanzanians probably have a different view: that the simplicity is necessitated by having little money.

I wanted to get a photo of our pastor Fr Patrick Mwaya presiding but a visiting priest was there instead. Fr Patrick often goes to the outstations, of which there are several in various villages outside of town, so he is on the go quite a bit. I will catch him another time. -Earl

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mid-Term Slump

I have been in a bit of a slump the past several weeks. I think much of this is due to teaching in a secondary school. The entire school system in this country is stressed.

Overall, there are not nearly enough teachers. There are schools full of students that are barely staffed. Even when teachers are present the pervasive poverty affects so much: low salaries, lack of textbooks and supplies, the inability of families to pay tuition.

Students have personal problems that of course affect their ability to study: malaria and other health issues; divorced parents; living far away from home; relatives infected by HIV; and just plain hunger. Even being at a private Catholic school such as ours we are hardly unaffected by these things.

So much is at stake when the national examinations are taken. They determine whether a student can progress to the next step in the system. If you don't at least pass, your job prospects are bleak — and that seems to be so much of the focus of education. There are alternatives to getting a university degree but they seem to be considered second-rate and looked down on. So there is a lot of pressure on the students academically (and indirectly on their teachers).

And, there is dealing with the bureaucracy of a top-down government that is very centralized and whose education departments are highly politicized. Imagine edicts handed down by people who are not educators making decisions which schools have no choice but to follow even if they do not make sense pedagogically.

I must add that comparatively speaking our school is adequately staffed, well managed, and more or less solvent. We strive not only to prepare our students for those all-important exams but also to influence good character and behavior and to educate in the broadest and best sense of the word.

But that's just it — there are so few schools that are able to attain even the modest level that we are running at. Even in the best of conditions I would expect the needs of a secondary school anywhere to be endless; after all you are working with groups of adolescents who are constantly coming and going as they enter and as they graduate. In our circumstances, the needs are so much greater; they can feel overwhelming. - Earl

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Head Got Mowed!

Just when I thought I was doing pretty well in getting things done around our town of Mtwara and speaking enough Swahili to get by I come home with this (unintended) haircut.

I had gotten haircuts before on my own. I would tell the barber which number attachment to use on the electric clippers. He would trim the sides and back closely and take something off the top.

This time the barber &mdash who had not worked on me before — said, "all of it?" I said "yes" without thinking. He proceeded to mow down a wide swath right off the very top of my head and said, "like this?" At that point I had what you might call a "reverse mohawk" and realized that there was no choice but to get the shortest haircut of my life. I laughed and said, "keep going".

One of the other barbers in the shop quickly explained something to my guy about cutting non-African hair, a bit late but useful for the next time.

I have to say, this is easy to comb and takes very little shampoo to wash. Diane feels like she is married to a Buddhist monk. The Tanzanians all love it because almost all of the men maintain their hair just like this — millimeters long. -Earl