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Three Weeks In Tanzania

Sometimes, in the evenings when I'm relaxing, or when I first wake up in the morning, I forget that I'm in Tanzania, at an agricultural centre, a half hour drive from the Kenyan border. It startles me to remember. And then it startles me that I've managed to forget, again.

Each time I walk past a mud hut and call "Mangana!" to the children staring at me, I am struck by how much of the world is deeply different from Canada.

Explaining snow to local pastors has become a bit of a hobby. What is an apartment building? And what do I mean, unmarried "bintis" live with neither their mother nor their father's families? No, pastors in Canada do not farm to supplement their meager church income. And people never bring eggs or vegetables to church as their offering. Yes, I am 29 and unmarried.

We are coming into our last week of learning, and I am still not sure why I'm here. I've walked through fields, up hills and through valleys, preached in clay brick churches, prayed for people in their homes, asked many questions about traditional Kuria culture. I've cried for my sisters who believe FGM makes them a woman, and for those resisting the pressure to marry, choosing instead to serve the church. I have laughed and danced and sung. I am bracing myself for our tour of the Canadian-owned gold mine, set up as an African business so that it doesn't have to adhere to Canadian safety or environmental standards.

What do I do with all these things?

Bishop Mwite, our professor and one of the liveliest and sharpest men I've ever met, said to us, "You aren't really encountering Tarime when you are here. When you go home, then Tarime will be ringing in your ears."

I can't shake the feeling that he is right. That all I can do while I'm here is take things in, and maybe, hopefully, once I am back in Canada, things will sink deeper, show me some patterns or purpose to all this beauty and weight.


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