Karibu Zanzibar

•December 5, 2008 • 3 Comments


The moon dressed up for us our first night and used planets for her earrings. Appropriate since she is the symbol of Islam and Zanzibar is 95% Islamic. The boat ride to Zanzibar was extremely hot and long. I was drenched in sweat for a couple hours before we could find a spot to stand outside the boat. But we all made it there in one piece. We spent the first night in Stone Town, Zanzibar at the Narrow Street Hotel.


The knife painter took us to his place which had amazing views of the city. He has this eccentric multistory studio all to himself.


I didn’t really get a chance to see him at work, but the sights around his place were really interesting.


This picture just feels like what I imagined Zanzibar to be


The painter’s most recent work. He also does amazing brush work painting Zanzibar doors and tingatinga. His tingatinga is good, but it is of a newer style and isn’t as authentic.


This guy is a young Norwegian Christian pastor in Zanzibar. He is thee guy when it comes to Christian/Muslim relations. His life work is devoted to creating peace between the two especially on the island of Zanzibar where Christians are sometimes frowned upon. Zanzibar sort of plays by its own rules when it comes to religion. The courts are based on Islamic family law and the government sponsors Islamic leaders for each area of the island. It was inspirational to see how much this man strived to love his Islamic brothers despite many negative encounters and a growing negative perception of of them. He and his wife run the shop pictured above. Christian and Muslim women get together and sew clothing and make jewelry for the shop. While they work they become friends and discuss life and their faith. The shop’s name is upendo which means love in Swahili (pictured above). We were able to talk to him for quite a while in the workroom of the shop. One thing he said really struck a chord with me. We as Christians are uninformed about the Islamic faith and Islamics are misinformed about the Christians. Islamics learn about Christians in a fundamentalist twisted manner in madras (Arabic school). Christians never really learn about Islamics. I think this is a large root of the misunderstandings between us. He also talked about the different languages people can use when they talk from different faith backgrounds. First there is the language of the head, which is represented by theology and can often lead to confrontation. Second is the language of the heart, which is represented by prayer and concern for others and for peace. Third is the language of the hands, which is represented by work. The language of the hands is represented very well in his store. If people of different faiths and accomplish something concrete like clothes side by side the begin to dream of what more they can accomplish. He told a story that represented the language of the heart very well. The Christians and Muslim leaders both felt like political leaders were not representing their common interest of peace very well. So they held a meeting with all the political candidates and Christian and Muslim leaders. Both religions took turns praying in their own ways for peace to be represented in the government in the future. Our Norwegian pastor friend said he could feel the holy spirit on the meeting and felt like the political leaders were impacted by it.


This is an Old Anglican church that was built on the old slave market (note the mosque on the left). The slave market along with the spices grown by slaves on plantations were the staples of the Zanzibar economy for many years. They would sell slaves from Africa to all over the world. The Anglican church started by buying slaves at the market then give them a choice of living with them or having a free life. Imagine the choice of deciding what slaves go free that day. During the 19th century during the abolition of slavery the Anglicans bought up the slave market square and built this church there. We spent the first 20 minutes of our tour in and old slave chamber in the basement of the church. They built the church so that the alter is where the old whipping post used to be. The church also had beautiful stained glass of the Ethiopian eunuch. The church also has connections with the famous Stanley Livingstone, an explorer of Tanzania. By the pulpit there is a cross made out of the wood of a tree that his heart was buried under.


We fit in quite a bit of shopping while we were in Zanzibar. I picked up a few gifts for friends and family. I was able to buy a few tingatina paintings after studying them for my art class. (see lower left giraffe for an example). It was nice because many of the artists did the paintings in their shop, so the person selling me the artwork was often times the artist. I could also sort of seem them at work from time to time.


We went on a tour of a spice farm. This was a private spice farm so it had almost every verity of spice, whereas the government run spice farms mass produce one type. On our tour a kid would climb up trees and retrieve leaves and spices for us to smell. Our guide would have us try to guess the spice before he told us more about it. It rained almost the entire time, but it was still a really good tour. I had no idea so many spices grew on trees! Some of the spices that we saw/smelled included, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, ginger, coffee beans, cocoa. At the end of the tour they had us try all sorts of tropical fruit. It was the first time I had starfruit, it was like nothing I had ever tasted, it was pretty good.


Nutmeg… apparently it can get you high


This young lad could scamper up and down trees as quick as a monkey. Here he is modeling a plant that ladies used to use for lipstick.


At the end of the tour they gave us hats made out of leaves. They also gave Sara a basket and rings and ties for the men.


We spent the next two nights on a hotel on the beach. It was really different 1. Being pretty much the only Christians around 2. Being treated like tourists 3. Being treated like white people who didn’t know any Swahili. Everyone would greet us by saying “jambo”, which is Kenyan Swahili and a test of if you are a tourist or not. We would answer back “sijambo” signifying that we knew at least some Swahili. We would then exchange more and more greetings until we started using slang. Then they would get really excited that they could talk to wazungo in Swahili. This happened a lot on the beach, but then the person would end up trying to sell you something and you couldn’t get rid of them when you wanted to.


The beach itself was beautiful and full of beautiful life and seashells. Our group spent a lot of time walking the beach looking for pretty seashells. It was easily the most enjoyable beach I’ve been to even though there were scattered showers for most of the time.

The place that we stayed at had delicious food. On our last night Tim and I both ordered some King prawns in lemon butter sauce that were really tasty.


Kids playing soccer on the sand at sunset.


Bicycle versus feet, wonder which will win


Sea cows. We also ran into Massai from the Morogoro area. It was like running into family


The boats ran on man power, long poles and sails


Peter was brave enough to pick up a sea urchin. Careful not to step on them!


Watch your step!

When we walked out into the ocean for a while we found a seaweed farm. They just have ropes attached to posts and seaweed grows on it. Our area was protected by a reef so it was relatively shallow all the way out to the reef.

We visited near the reef when Peter, Tim, Luka and myself went snorkeling. We took a primitive sailboat a couple kilometers out into the ocean where there were some big clumps of coral and lots of tropical fish. It was definitely the highlight of my Zanzibar trip. It was like watching the movie Finding Nemo, but it was real. I actually found nemo, and dory, and red spiked starfish, and fish of all sorts of electric neon colors, blues yellows and reds. At first we used our snorkels more as straws then breathing devices, but then we got used to how it worked. It we ever got in trouble we could just stand up on a big piece of coral and adjust our masks. The ocean floor was probably only 20 feet below at the deepest. At one point I was pointing out a jellyfish to Luka when we were standing on a piece of coral, then the jellyfish turned and headed straight toward Tim’s face! You could tell the exact moment Tim saw the jellyfish. I don’t think they were too dangerous, but we didn’t want to find out. From that point on Tim kept running into jellyfish while the rest of us hardly saw any. The sun came out for our journey and left us with a little sunburn, not too bad though. I can see why people want to be marine biologists and spend all day in that sort of environment, too bad my camera isn’t waterproof.


Sunrise as the fishermen go out to sea


Yet another picture you might find hanging at the dentist’s office


As we drove back to Stone Town we ran into some monkeys on the side of the road.

For much of the trip Peter was feeling sick, but was still able to participate in about everything he wanted to. We just found out that it is malaria, that twice for him for those of you keeping score at home. After our boat ride back he was dehydrated and low on electrolytes. He turned to Tim and said, “I think I am going to faint”. Then he put the cap back on his water bottle and blacked out for a few seconds. The man next to him caught him and Tim made sure he didn’t hit his head and still had a pulse. He revived in a few seconds and was helped to some nearby shade where he recovered more fully. We are glad it is malaria because now we can treat it, he should be feeling much better in the next few days.

This weekend we are getting ready for the evangelist conference that will be taking place this next week. All the evangelists, pastors and their wives and kids will come from the Morogoro area. It will be nice to be able to see all the evangelists one more time before we leave. Also it will keep us busy and minds of going back home so soon…. One week from today!



•November 30, 2008 • 1 Comment

I am in Zanzibar without access to the internet until Thursday. I’ll update you on my travels upon my return.

Maskini – poor person

•November 29, 2008 • 1 Comment

People here are poor. Some of our teachers don’t have electricity or fans in their houses. I know people that live on less then $5 per week. And it all seems very normal. I became friends with people here and when I discovered more about their lives it just seemed like a natural thing that they don’t have much money. A lot of people wear the same shirt every day because it is the only one they have. And that seems normal. Kidegi and Moreto have dibs on my sweatshirt and belt when I leave. I have had multiple people ask if they can have my backpack and watch. I need my watch to wake up in the morning and my backpack to carry things in, otherwise I probably would have given them away by now. It is a very natural thing for people to ask for things from you because you have more then them. There isn’t the awkward tension created by economic classes nor the extreme drive to be “successful” as an individual. I think these two things take away some of the shame normally associated with giving people material things because you can is just one of many dimensions of ways you both benefit from being friends with each other. It is tough though. I mean is it even that bad to be poor in the first place? Of course if people are starving because they are poor or are not able to afford hospital or schooling costs then being poor is more then an inconvenience. Something that has been on my mind during my time here are the lyrics of the Notorious B.I.G. “Mo money, mo problems”. I just can’t figure out if this statement is true for Africa or even at all. I think with money comes different types of problems, not necessarily bigger ones.

In the bigger picture Africa should not be as dependent on foreign aid. Western money has kept many a corrupt dictator in power longer then they should be. It has also put the interest of some countries focused on the will of where their money is coming from. “He who pays the piper picks the tune”. But this is all on a more global view of “charity”. Some people thrive from aid, others become dependent on it… just like in the U.S. It all depends how it is given and moderated.

-The United States is 22nd in giving international aid, as compared to other countries, only giving 16 cents for every 100 dollars earned. We have promised the UN 7% for foreign aid and are currently giving 1.6%.

Luke 12:33 “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Christian socialism has made a lot more sense since coming here.

Friday Sara and I went to a Swahili service and Tim and Peter stayed home sick. (They are better now). It poured and poured lots of rain on a church up on a hill with beautiful scenery. The temperature dropped very quickly into the lower 60s or lower. You could see the dark clouds on the horizon, feel the wind picking up, smell the rain and just sense that everyone and everything was holding their breath for the rain. Once it started raining in sheets you couldn’t hear anything but the rain crushing down on the metal roof. The pastors tried yelling over it, but I doubt many people could hear them. Things kept moving on as normal though and eventually the rain became a dull roar. It was really neat to watch baptisms in such torrential rain.


Cool lighting thanks to the approaching rain.


There were a lot of children and they were all bunched toward the front of the church.


Rain! Farmers in the area had corn (mahindi) that was dying because it was so dry. They were very happy to see the rain come and rescue their crops.


The German Lutheran missionaries liked to build churches on a hill as a symbol for the town to look up to.

Today I spent the day not really doing much of anything but enjoying the rain, and food, and naps. It was a really nice day off. Oh yeah I helped Peter kill a scorpion.


Jumping Massai

•November 25, 2008 • 3 Comments


The riverbed. If you dig you will get water suitable for washing clothes or for cattle to drink.


A massai man herding cattle to drink from the riverbed.


And his little helper


Some shy kids spying on us from the safety of their tree


As the kids get older they take care of older cattle


Up out of the watering hole


Father teaching his son how to herd cattle. They asked for a picture, I obliged


I really like the tree in the background of this picture. We hung out under it for a while. It also serves as a choir loft later.


Pretty handsome looking bunch.


I became pretty close with this guy. After the service we walked around holding hands as the Massai showed us where they want to build a their future church.


The “lunch table”. I am pretty sure the Massai eat whoever their close friends are, these friends (family) are likely to include people in their age group, but are not limited to age brackets. Kind of like Thanksgiving?


Playing mancala waiting for the service to start.


The women/choir came singing and dancing in and performed from the risers.


One of many young men in attendance.


Mr January. First installment of hunky Massai men calendar… for Sara


This older Umchungaji got up and made a passionate speech about how proud he was about this young growing congregation. I only understood a little of it, but it left me a little teary eyed.


Lots of baptisms today. This was a Massai warrior probably about 17 years old


A good handful of mothers and their babies were baptized. First the mother, then the baby. You can see the next pair in the background.


Ala Baba, na la Mwana, na la Roho Mtakatifu


I doubt the water was very cold. Massai bless children by touching their heads. Compare to the traditional actions of baptism.


Making the sign of the cross


After baptizing, Pr. H. looks each person in the eye and says “welcome to the family of Jesus” and people applaud and trill their tongues.


In your head and in your heart.


It was interesting to watch so many new Christians take communion. You could see on their faces an array of emotions, from hesitant, to contemplative, to relief. Some also used humor to make the situation more comfortable for them. Some of the men would talk to people as they were communing. I don’t know what they were saying, but I think they were joking about what the experience was like so they could find out more about it via humor.


The men watching the women take communion. Communion shifts are not designated to age or gender groups, they just end up sectioned that way sometimes. Pr. H said some more of these young men were ready to come up for communion, but we were moving too quickly trying to get the service wrapped up before the cows came home.


After the service the men circles up and started humming hRRRRRRm, hRRRRRRRm and bouncing their bodies to the rhythm. It started off as a show during our dinner, but grew to be much more then that.


Then they started jumping, each one trying to get their head higher then the other.



One of the village elders cheering the Massai jumpers on.

Sharing the sights

•November 24, 2008 • 3 Comments


The trees continue to surprise us with with the color and verity of their flowers


Tiny little bugs help the flowers break open their buds. (Not pictured that I can see)


The rose garden where I sometimes read scripture at sunset. It is sort of out of the way, you have to take a back path to get to it. It is actually pretty close to the water tower


View from the rose garden


A “Christmas tree” these thrive especially on the LJS campus. They come in all sorts of orange and reddish shades.


A weeping white flower that reminds me of sea creatures mixed with wedding.

Quick reminder:




Habari za weekendi

•November 23, 2008 • 2 Comments

Friday we went to Luka’s house for supper. It was really neat to see the “typical” Waswahili lifestyle. We were also finally able to see his entire nuclear family gathered under one roof. His family includes four adopted children from his brother Solomon’s death, Eme, his wife and Kristen their 10(?) month old baby. Eme fed us incredibly well, it was sort of like an early Thanksgiving for us. The Americans and Luka ate in the living room while Eme and the kids ate in the kitchen. That is just the culture and the way things normally happen. The typical Tanzanian housewife is normally pretty quiet and submissive around guests, Eme is already pretty naturally shy so she fit that role well. We were fed rice, meat, beans, mashed steamed potatoes, vegetables, pineapple, mango, jackfruit, Pepsi, water, etc. It took us a while to work up the energy to get out of our seats. Luka’s house like a lot of houses in the area doesn’t really have electricity. I think he might have solar power for his shower, but our only lighting for the night was either carasene lamp or an individual solar powered desk light. When it gets dark in Tanzania so do most people’s houses. The house was built by Luka over a couple years and is sturdy with fancy looking tile floor. He also showed us a chicken coop he built by the house that day, very fine work. Luka builds fast and builds well. He said from the time the ground is broken to finished product, it can take only three weeks to build a church.

As I look back on Saturday it seems like a did a lot more then I thought I did. My plan was to rest for the day and maybe get over my cold a little quicker. In the morning I studied Swahili and listened to music and e-mailed a bunch of people. Sometime after lunch, during my nap, the power went out for the rest of the day. So Tim Peter and myself watched The Office on his laptop and had guy talk. Before supper I went out and had God time in a rose garden in a secluded area on the LJS property. After supper when it was getting dark Tim, Peter and I took a walk out to a field a little past the rose garden and water tower. On the way we ran into Pr. H, Luka and the night watchman. We couldn’t understand anything the night watchman said, but I think he figured out we were LJS language students. When we got to the field we laid out a blanket and watched the stars come out for a while. After that romantic experience I joined Florian, Natalie, Anna and Sara on a candle lit porch. Anna brought out her guitar and I played contemporary worship songs, Christmas music and figured out the chords to some other pop/rock songs. While we were all just humming along to a certain song Florian noticed a scorpion crawling in the direction of his family jewels. He hopped up very quickly (upesi) and smacked it to death with his flip flop. It was just a baby scorpion, and the ones here are not life threatening. Miho one of the Japanese language students stepped on a scorpian a while back and was limping around for a good week after that. Now i wear sandals in my room and check under my covers at night.

Today we went back to the region I have previously referred to as Kilosoa. More specifically the name of the Massai village is Mabugari. Good luck finding it on a map. Along the way we picked up a young evangelist at Sokonie. For those of you that don’t remember Kilosa/Mabugari is the town that has experienced both bloodshed, thievery and discrimination curtsy of the nearby Swahili people and police. The last time we went to deliver food, it felt incredibly eery. This time the mood had changed. Massai men were mingling among the Waswahili towns people. The women and children were no longer in hiding and more willing to sing during worship. Pr H preached on the text where Jesus says “I say to you no longer and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. You could see the men in the congregation listening intently and nodding their heads in agreement. A good sign. Generally people looked more at ease and more ready to smile. What a difference two weeks can make. Two hundred out of the four hundred cattle have been returned. Still more needs to be done though. Definately. Most of the stolen goats will likely never be returned. A reason we were shocked to be fed goat after the service today. Even though the people are still recovering they fed us very well. This stems from their tradition of feeding all guests very well because a lot of times people would of had to walk for days to get to a village. By the time they reach their destination they are starving. We continue to be fed like we are starving even though we drove their in the comfort of Pr. H’s car. Picture the type of hospitality Jesus and his disciples received (or at times maybe didn’t recieve) walking from place to place.

During lunch at Mabugari Pr H. told us that the Massai really take the parable of the midnight visitor in Luke 11 to heart:

And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” 7And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

After the service there was a small auction of some corn, a chicken and some soap. It wasn’t much but it still classifies as a harvest festival, a testament to a people who are willing to sacrifice, celebrate and welcome guests even in the midst of hardship. During the auction we heard the screams of a woman come from the church. It was very high and sounded like squealing tires at times. It wasn’t overly loud, but definitely noticeable. When we were done with the harvest festival the Pastors and evangelists prayed over the woman as she screamed and convulsed for some time. The four of us entered the church along with a bunch of children during this time. Oddly enough Sara and I ended up playing with the kids a bit in the church to keep them distracted. I pulled my lips up with invisible string and taught a couple kids how to cross their eyes…. all while watching the woman out of the corner of my eye. Peter and Tim helped take down the alter garbs and communion cushions. All of us were silently praying as we occupied ourselves with familiar tasks just to be doing something. The pastors had everything under control and I don’t think any of us were afraid at any point, all we could really do is pray from the sidelines. Which is ok. Eventually the woman calmed down down and “surrendered herself to Jesus” according to Pr. H. When we were back in the car we talked to him about the event. He said this lady had done this sort of thing before but this time he got the feeling resolved differently. Previously in times when she was not well she had said things such as “I want to kill my child”. I personally think she was likely suffering from anxiety attacks from post partem depression. Pr H. agreed that it was perhaps not an evil spirit possession, but would not go to far as to rule out the possibility. Anyway it is something we are all still processing tonight. Tim Peter and I had a conversation an hour or two ago about how we just wanted so much to have the woman realize how much love Jesus had for her.

On the way back we saw two dogs taring a rabbit to pieces. It was pretty gory and I did Sara the favor of taking a few pictures of it on her camera. I doubt she has looked at them yet. I haven’t taken pictures lately because my camera battery died and there hasn’t been electricity until now.

Also on the way back we saw our second dead man on the side of the road. Peter and I saw a man who had very recently died on the side of the road a few weeks ago. The first is probably an image I will never forget. Bicycles and people were serving to avoid his newly dead body as we rounded the corner. The one today was between two cars who had stopped to protect the body from cars coming from either direction. We only got a glimpse of it. People here walk right along the edges of the highways here, making it next to impossible to tell if the death was accidental or suicide as a passerby. Pr. H did tell a story about a young man who was committed  to ending his life and laid down in the road right in front of his car. He was able to swerve and miss him then  parked his car sideways on the road so that no one else would be able to hit him. The average life expectancy in TZ is forty two.

2 Samuel 14:14 Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life, instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not stay estranged from him.

As the spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words so will we pray for an inclusive God because of our hope of things unseen.

Siku hizi- these days

•November 20, 2008 • 7 Comments


Kidegi has been our teacher for this week and last week. He has been traveling with us to Massai villages. He is really nice to have along as he speaks Kimassai, Kiswahili and English fluently. He is a teacher of both language and culture.


For offering people brought six goats a cow and several chickens. Note that this picture was taken inside church. It was quite the crazy, messy situation for a while. Pr H had to close the service in prayer over the noise of the animals and the people trying to control them. It is a good thing they do offering at the end of the service


Massai women carry their children on their backs, tying them on with a katengi


This little guy was famous for swallowing a nail last week. He is quite the ham and a bundle of trouble.


I will miss this


Finally brought out the frisbee


They caught on pretty quickly.

I am coming down with a petty bad cold, but with rest and liquids i should be healthy again soon.