Sunday, 5 February 2017

Laugh or cry?

Coming back to Tanzania after four months in England meant that certain aspects of living here became freshly frustrating – sometimes it can be hard to know whether to laugh or cry. But then there’s other things that I see that give me a good giggle, where a local person wouldn’t notice anything strange. So here’s a few things that I’ve smiled about during my time here:
  • How do you tie back the curtains in church? Pringle tubes cut up to make loops!
  • How do you transport your pig? On the back of a motorbike! In fact, I would love to have my camera ready in time to snap pics of the many things I have seen on the backs of push bikes and motorbikes, from armchairs to trays of eggs piled high to baskets of live chickens.
  • While many younger people here follow the fashions we may follow in England (especially university students), there are some who have a uniquely Tanzanian dress sense. There’s the bright printed fabric trouser suits, the shiny lilac suit a colleague of mine wears (replete with shiny pointed shoes) or the man I saw walking to church today wearing a bright pink t-shirt, shiny pink trousers and pink shoes. I think they find our way of dressing often rather too casual – I certainly get the most complements from Tanzanians when I am wearing one of my locally made outfits.
  • Who should be in class first – the student or the teacher? At a workshop I was teaching on for colleagues, a student ran ahead of me to reach our room first, as it’s not good for the teacher to be the first to turn up! (I wish this happened in our village workshops though, where everyone is happy to be an hour or more late!)
  • I went to a local shop (situated on the grounds of the prison) to pick up a few items and suppressed a laugh when my shopping was packed into…wait for it…ASDA bags!!! Where did they come from?!
  • Have you ever seen a rain frog? Little things that puff up and give off quite a croak. They’re hilarious.

And here’s some times when I don’t know whether to laugh or cry:
  • Getting back from a couple of weeks away to find that all my rice flour has gone mouldy. As I try to avoid wheat, and therefore have to arrange for rice flour to be ground rather than just going to a shop to buy some, this could have made me cry. But then I have to smile too – I’d never have had to spread my flour out on a sheet to dry out before using it in England! And the neighbours’ kids happened to be visiting when I discovered the problem, so one of them emptied out the flour, another cleaned out the tub and then we played Uno! It’s impossible to be upset surrounded by excited children.
  • Discovering some lush chocolates a friend sent have strangely melted and become infested with bugs. This has only ever happened once here, but why did it happen to this particular form of chocolate?! Bugs, bugs, bugs – we are often chasing cockroaches, swatting flies or sifting weevils out of flour. However, I recently spent some time in a town near Lake Victoria, and I suddenly realised how fortunate I was to live in Mbeya. Our cockroaches are slim, smallish, brown things, while theirs were big and black. We only get ants round our waste food bin, they have them running in a constant stream across work surfaces, however clean they might be.
  • Back in Mbeya I pulled on my sandals for my first day’s walk to work. As my feet quickly became dirty from the combination of wet grass and dirt footpaths, I remembered that I had been choosing to wear walking shoes rather than sandals to go to work. I feel like I never have clean feet here, but I do rather like wandering around bare foot!
  • Water pressure – another frustration. Often the pressure isn’t high enough for my electric shower to turn on, so I have a cold dribble of water to bathe in. The strange (and good) thing is that my housemate’s shower doesn’t seem to have this problem, so when I just can’t face the cold dribble, I use her shower. I really need to get someone out to look at it, but finding good plumbers who turn up on time is as much of a challenge here as in England!
And so I am settling back into life in Mbeya, with plenty to laugh over if only I have eyes to see it, so much human and divine creativity to make me smile. And in those times when it all just feels too much, I know that God knows what it’s like to suffer and He sees my struggles, and tomorrow is a new day.

Amazing rock formations (Musoma, near Lake Victoria, north Tanzania)
Enjoying colouring truths about God

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