Day 15 – Fr. John’s Tanzania Mission Trip

Tuesday, Jan. 31 – Last full day in Tanzania


So much for sleeping until 5:00 a.m.  At 3:45 this morning, I awoke rather warm and uncomfortable.  I realized that my ceiling fan and a/c had stopped working, and it was pitch black and getting hot and sticky in my room.  I got out of my bed, walked two steps to where I thought the closest light switch was on the wall outside the bathroom, groped in the dark for the switch, pressed it with no resulting coming on of the bathroom light, and realized that the building I’m staying in had lost its electricity.  I used the light on my iPhone to locate a device that I use for hands-free illumination in the dark at home, which is a bendable tube that I can wrap around my neck with small battery-powered flashlights on each end.  I fixed the tube around my neck, turned on the small flashlights, went to the door of my room and looked out in the hallway.  Although my room was heating up, it was still much cooler than the hallway, so I closed my door and walked to the lobby.  When I opened the door from the hallway to the lobby, a man who had been sleeping on a sofa in the dark turned on a flashlight, spoke to me words in Swahili that I didn’t understand and gestured for me to return to my room.  I went back to my room, took off my pajamas, lay back down on my bed, and texted Theresa, asking her to pray for me to let go and let God, as I became frustrated with the whole situation of my staying at the TEC, wallowed in self-pity, and wished that I were in a nice hotel with good a/c and at least one electric outlet that would allow me to recharge my laptop, iPhone and iPhone battery charger.  Theresa, who was on her way to our Catholic Biblical School class back home responded after she got to the class, and we exchanged a few texts, which distracted me from my situation and allowed me to realize that my relatively slight discomfort was nothing compared to the privations endured in their daily existences by the vast majority of the people of Tanzania.  Then I felt ashamed and said a prayer of thanks to God for all the blessings I enjoy in my life.  At 5:00 a.m. the power in our building came back on, and I got out of bed again and showered and dressed for Mass.


Mass in the chapel was very much like our daily Masses back home, except that it was in Swahili.  I was able to follow along with my Magnificat and say the responses and prayers in English and read the readings in English.  At one point they passed around sheets of paper with prayer in typed in Swahili, and it was recited.  I did my best to read it aloud with everyone else, but I sometimes stumbled over the longer words that I hadn’t seen written before and couldn’t sound out phonetically in my head fast enough to keep up with everyone else, but then I’d catch up and continue to do my best.  Fr. John had taught me several words and phrases that he wrote out for us before we left and then helped me to spell in my notes on my iPhone after we got to Tanzania, and I had practiced those often and was starting to get the hang of Swahili, which is spelled with our English alphabet and pronounced consistently with our phonics.


After Mass we met several of the priests, had some pleasant introductory exchanges with them in Swahili and then went to breakfast at the restaurant.  By 8:30 a.m., we gathered in the lobby of the hostel building for an excursion into Dar for shopping and other errands, riding with Victor in his minivan.  First we had to go to a branch of Fr. John’s Tanzanian bank, National Microfinance Bank (NFB), to get his replacement ATM card.  Some of our crew used an ATM there to get some more cash for shopping, while John went inside to get his new ATM card.  The rest of us waited outside in the heat and humidity for a while, but eventually, since it ended up taking about an hour for Fr. John to get his new card, we realized that it was cool inside the bank, and we all went inside and sat on two strange metal benches that tilted backwards and forwards and required all of us to lean back in the seat in unison, to keep from sliding off it in front.  At one point in our conversation, a bank employee came over and chided me for being too loud, and I had to make it a point to hush my speech.


After Fr. John finally got his replacement ATM card, we went to the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam’s St. Joseph Cathedral, where we could use the bathrooms, which everyone in Tanzania calls “washrooms.”  Then Fr. John took us to a Catholic bookstore across the street from the Cathedral, told us it was air-conditioned, which it was not, and left us for a while to go exchange some U.S. currency for Tanzanian currency that Fr. John could send to Geita Diocese.  (Apparently he couldn’t do that at his bank.)  It was too stiflingly hot inside the bookstore for me, so I waited outside on the front steps where a slight breeze was blowing, but I was still sweating constantly.  Later the rest of our crew came outside as well, remarking how it was much hotter inside the bookstore than outside.  A Catholic nun from the parish approached the entrance to the store, and we had introductions, after which she asked a few of us to give her our mailing addresses and e-mail addresses, which we did.  Fr. John finally returned and spoke to the sister for a few minutes, and then we went back to the minivan in the church parking lot and headed off for our shopping adventure.


Our route from St. Joseph Cathedral to shopping took us through rows of embassies and along the beach and the ocean, which was beautiful in several areas.  The tide was out and people were walking along the beach in areas that would later be under water when the tide came back in.  We came to an upscale area that had many nice hotels, including a Doubletree by Hilton, and then a very nice and relatively new upscale shopping center called Slipway Shopping Center, some of which was still under construction.  I spied a gelato and yogurt store and went in and bought some chocolate and vanilla gelato.  When I asked the store attendant how much two scoops of gelato would be she told me it would be 5,000 Tanzanian shillings, about $2.25 U.S.  A couple others of our group also got some gelato, but they had to pay 5,000 shillings for only one scoop.  When they asked the attendant why they couldn’t get two scoops for 5,000 shillings, she replied, “That was just for him,” indicating me.  Just down the walk was a bar and restaurant, and Scott had a Kilimanjaro and was drinking it at an outside table when we got there.  img_9383I joined him and got a Kilimanjaro myself, while the rest of the crew went to find a restaurant at which we would have lunch.  Fr. John came back to Scott and me and asked us to accompany him to a vendor selling very nice African shirts and dresses and dashikis.  Dashikis are rectangular pieces of woven and printed kitenge fabrics with varied and colorful patterns typically sold in two panels suitable for using as wraparound outer skirts and wraps, which are worn by many African women over their dresses or skirts.  There Fr. John insisted on buying shirts for the three of us men and dresses for the three women.  We men picked out shirts, Eleanor and Chris picked out dresses, and Jill opted for two kitenge dashikis.


After we received our gifts from Fr. John (the shirts being the fourth shirts we men had received as gifts on the trip), we all went to an open-air restaurant that had amazingly good food.  After lunch we all did some more shopping for friends and family.  Then we went in Victor’s minivan to a very nice and upscale (and well air-conditioned) supermarket that made many of ours back home pale in comparison to its inventory, ambiance and cleanliness.  Scott purchased a six-pack of Kilimanjaro, intending to try to take it back home, and Fr. John bought several items, including a large number of oranges, which he later distributed to us.  Finally, we went back to the TEC for the rest of the afternoon, arriving there at about 3:30 p.m.  Fr. John had made plans to take us to a restaurant for dinner, and we agreed to meet up in the lobby of the hostel at 6:30 p.m.

When Fr. John and I went back to our rooms, he accompanied me to my room first, after I had told him I had no electrical outlet in my room with which I could charge my electronic devices.  He looked at the outlets in the room I had found, agreed with me that they weren’t usable by me, and then found another outlet behind one of the three beds in the room.  That one was exactly like all the others I had used at the Lenny Hotel and the Malaika Beach Resort Hotel, and I was delighted.  I immediately pulled out my computer, iPhone, iPhone charger and converter, plugged everything in, booted up the computer, caught up on my journaling and then sent out by e-mail several days’ journals that I hadn’t been able to send out previously.

At 5:30 p.m. I took another shower, dressed and went to the lobby to meet everyone there for our trip to the restaurant.  I was surprised and happy to meet two men and a woman whom Fr. John introduced to me as “Frank,” Clement” and “Katharine.”  Clement is Fr. John’s brother, Frank is a nephew, and Katharine is a close family friend whose family supported Fr. John with his schooling and let Fr. John stay with them in Dar es Salaam.  The two families became so close that Fr. John now refers to Katharine as his sister.


We loaded up in two cars, one of which is owned and was driven by a friend of Fr. John named Titus, an ex-seminarian who I understand was in seminary with Fr. John for a while.  (Some of the group will recall that when I learned that the car I got in first wasn’t air-conditioned, I slyly sneaked into the other one, which was Titus’s car.)  The drive to the restaurant, which was at a resort called Kijiji Beach Resort, took us east across an inlet from the Indian Ocean over a beautiful and very modern-looking suspension toll bridge called the Nyerere Bridge, named after Julius Nyerere, the former Chief Minister of Tanzania who led the country to independence in 1960.  The bridge is not only artistically designed but also gaily lit with many different lights of many designs and many colors.  However, after crossing the bridge, the road became a dirt road in as poor condition as the first interior Tanzanian roads we traveled on early in our trip.  The total drive took about 45 minutes, and when we got to Kijiji beach Resort, it was very dark. However, we could see that the resort is right on the ocean, and a stiff ocean breeze was blowing across the beach.  We opted for outdoor tables next to the pool and proceeded to have a long and enjoyable night of eating, drinking and dancing that kept us out till after midnight.  Egged on by yours truly, dubbed by Scott as “Crazylegs,” everyone else except Chris got up and danced with me to the popular Tanzanian music that the restaurant was playing for our entertainment.  (There were no other patrons there tonight.)


By the time we got back to the TEC, it was well after 1:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, and our plan called for us to make the 6:30 a.m. daily Mass, if possible, have breakfast in the TEC restaurant at 7:00 a.m., and be ready to check out and leave by 8:00 or 8:30 a.m. to start our long trip back home.  Before we had left for dinner that evening I hadn’t realized we’d be out so late, and I had been busy journaling until it was time to get ready to leave.  So I hadn’t re-organized my stuff and preliminarily packed my bags for the morning.  But I was too tired to do it tonight, so I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. and crawled into bed at about 1:30 a.m.

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