Thursday, March 15, 2012

Give us this day....

For us it is a good day when we wake up to electricity and see that the water filter has processed some water.  Not everyday is like that, unfortunately.  When we get together with our Peace Corps friends or meet other foreign volunteers, the topic of conversation always turns to food.  What do you miss the most from home?  Have you tried making this or that?  Do you have any favorite ways of preparing left over white rice?  (Our favorite is to turn it into fried rice, with onions, egg and soy sauce, which we found in a store in Lushoto).  Jonas, a volunteer from Germany at Rainbow School, told us where we could get popcorn!  On our way home from Pangani, we were given directions to a “supermarket” in Tanga.  We were very excited to find cheddar cheese, Ragu sauce and Raman noodles.
This fixation on the food we miss brings us to the realization of how fortunate the minority of people in the world are.  In our training in Toronto, we were given a new outlook on how to describe the people of the world...not “Third World” but “Majority World”.  The minority people, the “First World” have the luxury of money and the availability of many kinds of foods in all seasons.  In the US, we can buy tropical fruits all year round.  Grapes come from Chile and bananas from Costa Rica.  We can buy Maine lobsters, Alaskan crabs, imported cheeses from France, England or Italy.  
What is your daily menu?   As a child, my mother continued the schedule established by her mother-in law.  Chicken on Monday; fish on Friday; pork, sauerkraut and hot dogs on Saturday, and of course we had the weekly roast beef on Sunday.  And don’t forget that Wednesday was “Prince spaghetti day” ( you need to be of a certain age to get that.)  
Here, our main dishes rotate through white rice, brown rice (pilau), and chipsi’s (French fries).  These are accompanied by mixed vegetables, carrots, beans or fried cabbage.  We also enjoy fruit with every meal, mangoes, pineapple, oranges, or bananas.  Compared to home, it is difficult not to complain or feel deprived.  But we are among the few blessed people who have a choice.
At the home, the children eat ugi (porridge) for breakfast, milk at 10 am, lunch of ugali or rice with vegetables, juice at 4pm, and dinner of ugali or rice with vegetables.  The health care workers have something called Makande for dinner every night.  It is like a bean stew.  Sometimes the type of bean varies, but the dish stays mostly the same.  Back in the 70’s, I used to watch Julia Child on television and had one of her cookbooks.  Once, I made Cassoulet, a bean dish with pork, sausage and many seasonings.  The Makanda is like a Cassoulet without the meat and only basic seasoning.  It is very tasty, but would you want it every day?  People in many places are surprised to learn that in other countries, our meals vary from day to day.  
Lunch for the girls does change somewhat.  Some days they have ugali (think Italian polenta) with vegetables.  Sometimes the vegetables include daga (small dried fish) or powdered daga added for protein.  Some meals include mchicha, a spinach-like green, but bitter.
Our Pastor Patricia Neale, recently represented the Southern Pennsylvania Synod at an ELCA World Hunger Leaders gathering.  The focus of the program was the ELCA initiatives for World Hunger and Domestic Hunger programs.  In these difficult economic times, the need is great and the finances are hard to come by.  Feast of Justice is such a food program, located at St John’s Lutheran Church in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia.  It is supported by many congregations and denominations in the area. In our area of New Jersey there is the South Jersey Food Bank, which is a non-denominational program.  I am sure programs like these can be found all over. 
At each meal, we thank God for our white rice or brown rice, and for the hands that have prepared it.  We are grateful for what we have, even though we really miss many things.  As you prepare your meals, or decide what to order at the restaurant, please give some thought to those who are in need.  What can we do to help?
God bless you,
Susan and Tom

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blessed are they...

Yesterday, when we returned from Pangani, Mama Marianna took us in to see the new baby who had just arrived that morning.  His name was Hussein and he weighed 1.5 kg.  This comes to about 3 pounds.  He was premature, born at home, and his mother had died during the birth.  I had never seen such a small baby.  Tom had seen some even smaller, but in the NICU unit at Cooper Hospital in an incubator.
The staff of the home did everything they could for little Hussein, but at about 1am last night, he died.  Everyone here was devastated by the loss of this small baby.  It was a very quiet morning.  Everyone spoke in low voices.  The children played in the indoor areas and even they were quieter than normal.  When we arrived this morning, Mama Marianna took us to see Hussein.  He was in a little crib in an extra room, wrapped in a blanket, with ice packs around him, and covered by a sheet and a small bouquet of flowers.  
Mama Marianna asked Tom if he would help with the trip to the church.  Tom washed the truck which was caked in mud from our return trip yesterday.  We would wait for the arrival of Hussein’s grandmother and family members.  
At about 12:30, the family arrived.  Most of the girls were waiting too, wrapped in their kangas.  As we started to get into the car, one of the men who works here came out of the reception room carrying a small wooden coffin.  The grandmother and two other women got into the back seat.  The employees of the home all got into the back of the pick-up truck with the coffin and the girls began to sing quietly.  Tom drove slowly to the church and followed a dirt road into the bush.  After only a hundred yards, we saw the burial site in a small area to the side of the road.  The grave had been dug by the men who work at the home.  The man who cuts the grass carried the small coffin and laid it gently in the grave.  The girls continued to sing quietly.  When the song ended, Mr Kipingu, the Evangelist, began the graveside service.  There was a hymn, a reading from the Gospel of Mark, and some prayers.  Mr. Kipingu spoke very gently and then there was some noise from behind us in the brush.  An unsuspecting farmer was bringing his cows down the dirt road to another field.  Because our truck was parked int the one lane road, the cows were coming through the cemetery.  There were about twenty cows and they were moving very quickly.  The men from the home picked up some sticks keep the cows from the grave site and to move them back to the road.
At the end of his message, Mr. Kipingu led us in Baba Yetu, the Lord’s Prayer.  The grandmother, family members, and Mama Marianna each put a handful of dirt on the coffin.  Then we were all invited to do the same.  The grave was filled by the four men and then one of the men used the shovel handle to make an impression of a cross on the top of the grave.  Hussein’s grandmother and Rocathe, one of the child care workers, each put a small bouquet of flowers on the top.  The other girls then added loose flowers and cut folliage on top of the grave.  
Blessed are they who die in the name of the Lord.