Friday, February 24, 2012

Differences between Tanzanians and Westerners (Part One of Four)

Much of this blog consists of reflections by Diane and me about living in Tanzania and about the people here. But I am always wondering about how things are from their point of view. What do they make of these wazungu (Europeans / Westerners) who come from another planet?

So I asked our friend Moris Damian to write something about the differences that he has noticed. Moris is among the more intelligent, aware, and articulate Tanzanians whom we have met. He has spent many years doing work of various sorts for wazungu and interacting with them.

Moris is able to converse pretty well in English, at least, he is able to get the idea across. However, I wanted him to write in the language that is most expressive for him, and that is Swahili.

He came back to me with several pages, which I have started to translate. At this point I have enough basic grasp of Swahili grammar that with heavy use of dictionaries I am able to translate almost everything.

I then meet with Moris to review all of my work and to help me through the sticky parts -- sometimes a slight misspelling is enough to throw me off! In return he also gets an opportunity to improve his English. I pay him, too, since he struggles to make a living.

There is no he/she, him/her distinction in Swahili. In English I am using "he" and "him" for both genders. - Earl


Tofauti ya mzungu na mwafrika kwa karne nyingi. Lakini kwanza tuone kuwa binadamu wote ni sawa na hii ni kwa imani ya kanisa. Lakini kwa imani ya kibiolojia binadamu wa kwanza kwa mwafrika ni sokwe na hatimaye binadamu halisi. Hapa nitazungumzia tofauti za kimaisha ya mazoea ya kila siku.

Huzaliwa katika mazingira ambayo hayana maandalizi ya kutosha kwani huko vijijini hakuna zahanati nyingi na hata kama kuna zahanati hakuna elimu ya kuelekeza watu watumie zahanati kwa elimu ya uzazi na utunzaji wa mimba atimae kupata mtoto mwenye afya njema.

Elimu ya mtoto wa kiafrika elimu ni suala gumu kwani elimu ya rasmi inaingia wakati mtoto anaumri wa miaka 7. Kwa mzungu elimu hupata tangu akiwa miaka 2 na lugha anayotumia nyumbani ni hiyo hiyo hadi atamaliza chuo kikuu. Kwa mwafrika mfano Tanzania elimu hutolewa kwa lugha ya kiswahili toka darasa la awali mpaka darasa la 7 na baadae kidato cha kwanza anajifunza masomo yote kwa lugha ya kigeni yaani kingereza. Hivyo watoto huona kama elimu ni adhabu na sio ufunguo wa miasha.

Mazingira ya Kila Siku.

Hapa Tanzania na Afrika kwa ujumla watu hasa wazazi ni vigumu kuandaa mazingira ya mtoto baada ya kutimiza miaka 18. Hakuna mazingira ya mzazi kuangalia maisha ya mtoto, hakuna elimu ya kupambana na maisha. Sana sana wazazi huwapa watoto eneo la kilimo wakati mzungu huandaa mazingira ya mtoto hufungulia maisha tangu mwanzo. Umpa elimu na humuwekea akiba ya fedha za kuanzia maisha yake ya baadae.

Maisha ya Kila Siku.

Mwafrika hupenda kufanyakazi kwa maamuzi yake bila ya kutimiza wajibu wake. Hii kwa shughuli za kilimo au za kiofisi.

Shughuli za kiofisi - mwafrika hata kama atakuwa na sheria ya kufika kazini saa 2.00 hsb sheria hii ni lazima atavunja. Ni mazoea ya mwafrika kuona kazi yoyote atafanya kwa wakati wake, hajui kazi ni muhimu. Mfano.

Mwalimu wa shule iwe sekondari au shule ya msingi hadi chuo kikuu, mwafrika anafanya kazi kwa muda tu, sehemu kubwa ya muda hutumia kwa soga na biashara au miradi yake mwenyewe badala ya kufundisha, cha ajabu pia, ushindana kwa mavazi, viatu, kutengeneza nywele, n.k.

Wakati mzungu kazi kwanza na muda wa kazi kama ni saa 2.00 yeye atakuja saa 1.45 ili kazi aanze mara 2.00. Mavazi kwake sio shida, anaweza kutumia nguo hata kwa siku 4 - 5 nguo moja, akiwa kazini ni kazi, hata kama kuna mgeni ni mpaka amalize muda wake wa kazi, hana soga nyingi, hana biashara nyingine ndani ya muda wa kazi, hata simu ni vigumu kutumia muda mrefu kwa kuongea akiwa kazini na simu.


There have been differences between the Westerner and the African for many centuries. But first let us regard that all human beings are equal and this is through the faith of the church. But through beliefs from biology the first African was an ape and eventually a true human. Here I talk about differences in the habits of every day living.

The African:
Is born into circumstances which do not have sufficient preparations because in the villages there are not many clinics, and even if there are clinics there is not education to explain to people to use the clinics for education in maternity and pregnancy care so as to get a child in good health.

The education of children in African education is a difficult problem because formal education starts when the child is seven. The Westerner gets education from 2 years old, and the language which he uses at home is the one used until he completes college. For the African, for example education in Tanzania, it is offered in the Swahili language from the first grade until grade 7 and then in form one [the initial level of secondary school] he learns all subjects in a foreign language, that is, English. In this way children look at education as punishment and not the key to life.

Everyday Circumstances.

Here in Tanzania and Africa on the whole for people especially parents it is difficult to prepare circumstances for children after they reach age 18. There are no circumstances for parents to look out for the life of the child. There is no education for how to struggle with life. Very very often parents give children an area for farming, while the Westerner prepares the circumstances of the child to open up life from the beginning. You give him education and keep for them an amount of money for starting their later life.

Everyday Life.

The African likes to work according to his choosing without completing his responsibilities. This is so in farming or office work.

Office work - the African even if he has a rule to arrive at work at 8:00 a.m., this will certainly be broken. It is the habit of the African to see that any work is done in his own time, he does not know that work is important. For example.

A teacher at a school which is secondary or primary school up to college, the African works for some time only. He uses a large part of the time to chat about his own business or projects instead of teaching, surprisingly also, to compare with each other in clothes, shoes, hair-do, etc.

For the Westerner work is first and if the time of work is 8:00 he will come at 7:45 so that the work starts at 8:00. For him clothes are not a problem, he can use the same clothes for even 4 - 5 days. If at work, it is work, even if there is a visitor [at the workplace], [the visitor waits] until the worker completes his work time. There is not a lot of chatting, not other business during work time. Even phones are difficult to use for conversing for a long time when at work with a phone.

Moris is a fellow Catholic parishioner. My impression is that Christians here tend to regard the coming of the European missionaries in the 19th century positively because they established schools, health care clinics, and hospitals. They continue this work to the present day. Consequently, some East Africans have reasons in general to favorably view wazungu and their ways of doing things.

(continued at Part Two)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love & Malaria

Sending all our love to all of you for a
Happy Valentine's Day!

This little heart box was given to me by a Form I student after Art club one afternoon. Abdukarim created it using scraps of paper and glue. I cannot think of a more priceless gift! 8-)

 Well, I am celebrating this very special day with a chunk of Godiva dark chocolate & my first dose of an anti-malarial treatment. I was one of many people in the dispensary yesterday to get their blood test results: +mps. You have malaria.

I usually enjoy a high amount of energy, but for the last two weeks I was feeling really run down. No aches. No pains. Just no energy. After several days of not feeling well, I took my temperature because high fever is symptomatic of malaria. But it was only slightly elevated. Because we take a prophylaxis, I figured, “Well, it’s not malaria!”

Well, if it’s NOT malaria, then what is it? Perhaps all those weekends I worked overtime at school? Or it’s anticipatory grief about leaving Tanzania in July? Or it’s the stress of the million & one things we have to do before we leave Tanzania & the million & one things we have to do when we arrive back home in the USA? Or perhaps it is my increasing anxiety about stepping into the UNKNOWN once again? Or maybe it’s about growing gray, aging & dying? Or maybe it’s my fear telling me it WILL NOT climb 19,341 feet to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in July?

Many question marks. No periods. What is WRONG with me?

And so when I received my lab results yesterday, I was quite relieved because then I knew what my problem was. My symptoms are not psychosomatic. I really am SICK. I have unfriendly parasites swimming around in my bloodstream making my life miserable. I would not have been a happy camper if my blood test results were negative. At least now I can get treated & get well.

But what about all the other stressors in my life? Is there a pill I can take to reduce my workaholism? Or a shot I can get to eliminate my anticipatory grief? Or an antidote to my growing anxiety? Or a cure-all for all things UNKNOWN? Or a special tonic for aging boomers? Or a courage booster to overcome all needless anxieties?

Well, I probably could find stuff to relieve a lot of that. But then I would be a walking medicine cabinet.

What is life if it is not committing yourself to serving those in need? Or what is life if it is not feeling grief about leaving those you have come to love? Or what is life if it is not undergoing the pain of change & growth? Or what is life if it is not stepping out in faith? Or what is life if it is not becoming –real– like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit? Or what is life if it is not overcoming senseless fears? Or what is life if it is not attempting to live your dreams or to achieve the impossible with the help of God?

Hopefully, the anti-malarial drugs will do the trick for me. But for the rest of my problems, I think I will just live one day at a time. Life can be pretty overwhelming & scary if you look too far ahead into that big UNKNOWN. But if you look into this very present moment you will not find fear ~ you will only find the face & grace of God!
…Be awake. Sing. Hold a moderate pace.
And try not to step out ahead of grace.

from “Amulet”
by Mary Bradish O’Connor
Before I sign out, I would like the whole world to know how much I adore my beloved husband, Earl. I am one lucky sweetheart! And I know it. 8-) Thank you, Earl, for sharing this great adventure, that is life, with me! Happy Valentine’s Day, Darling!


P.S. Here in Africa malaria continues to be a very SERIOUS & potentially FATAL disease! Malaria is preventable & treatable and according to Africa Fighting Malaria,
“[malaria] is still a leading cause of illness and death in Africa, Latin America and Southern Asia. The World Health Organization estimates up to 500 million cases of malaria annually around the world. Other scientists suggest as many as 660 million cases. The disease kills at least one million of those infected each year, which amounts to someone dying every 30 seconds. About 90% of these deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa, where P. falciparum accounts for over 90% of all malaria infections. Malaria primarily affects young children and pregnant women, whose reduced immunity makes them especially vulnerable.”

Now that I have malaria, I am growing in my understanding of the disease & developing a greater compassion for those who suffer with malaria. It is not uncommon for a student to tell me they have malaria & that they have begun treatment. In fact, just the other day Earl & I met Baba Patrick Mwaya, our pastor, in the village while we were on our way to school. He announced that he had malaria (again!) and that he is taking the Chinese anti-malarial. So malaria is like the common cold around here. It is treatable but you must be treated right away! The greatest tragedy lies in the death of so many helpless infants, children & pregnant women.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Boredom and Entertainment

"... my chief value for the Dowayos was simply that of a curiosity. It is untrue that boredom is a complaint exclusively endemic to civilization. Village life in Africa is very dull indeed, not just to a Westerner accustomed to a wealth of daily-changing stimuli, but to villagers themselves. Every small event or scandal is lovingly rehashed and raked over, every novelty sought out, any change of routine greeted as a relief from monotony. I was liked because I had entertainment value." 

From The Innocent Anthropologist: Notes from a Mud Hut by Nigel Barley
When I first arrived I, too, thought that Tanzanians would be immune to boredom. After all, for the most part they don't have the array of books, magazines, televisions, movie theatres, computers, video games, iPods, and other sources of amusement, entertainment, and distraction that we in the developed world are so used to. And life here just moves a lot more slowly. They would be content to watch the day progress and to observe the flow of the natural world.

I still think there is much truth to that. But I also think that given the opportunity Tanzanians, especially the younger ones, will take to much of the same media and gadgetry that we do. They are not much for reading — even though there are plenty of inexpensive Swahili language newspapers — but they are very visual and auditory.

For instance, when our students are introduced to the encyclopedia that I installed on the school computers they avidly look through all the pictures and the video clips. Quite a few have discovered and gotten hooked on playing Spider Solitaire when someone (occasionally me) explains the game to them. Others like to doodle using a paint program or to play a math game.

On a recent morning at the daily Mass a woman was sitting in front of me. Beside her on the bench were, not one, but two cellphones. Is she so attached to those phones that she could not leave them at home for the quiet of a half hour religious service?  -Earl

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Harmless Idiots, With Benefits

"Much nonsense has been written, by people who should know better, about the anthropologist 'being accepted'. It is sometimes suggested that an alien people will somehow come to view the visitor of distinct race and culture as in every way similar to the locals. This is, alas, unlikely. The best one can probably hope for is to be viewed as a harmless idiot who brings certain advantages to this village. He is a source of money and creates employment."

From The Innocent Anthropologist: Notes from a Mud Hut by Nigel Barley
Idiot? I feel like an idiot whenever I do something that seems socially awkward, or open my mouth to speak Swahili, or stare blankly at someone who is explaining to me how to get something done. Harmless? Well, aside from my work and presence at our school, which is where Diane and I have really centered our lives, my involvement with the rest of Mtwara has been minimal. So in that regard I have been harmless, insofar as I know. [School is a different story, which I will defer to another time.]

Source of money and employment? Our teaching allowance from the school and our mission allowance from LMH both pretty much get spent in this town (and when we're traveling, in this country). We hire our Tanzanian friend to shop and do errands two or three times a week — I would say we have kept him and his family in food. Lately money has been pumped by us into paintings from a couple of local artists, for whom we have also gotten some business from customers in the U.S. So, yes, we have contributed to the local economy. The amount of money may sound small — around five hundred dollars a month — but that's nothing to sneeze at in a community which is so cash-poor.

Tanzania is a peaceful and civil place to live. Harmless idiots are well-tolerated. -Earl