Updates from OCMC Missionary Katie Wilcoxson
The past two weeks have had their ups and downs. I think I finally left the honeymoon stage of being a missionary. It is okay though; I am looking towards the future! I have been so blessed to have the opportunity to speak and skype with my friends. It makes a huge difference also to be able to skype with my folks.
Two weeks ago we welcomed Fr. David Rucker and his son Ethan. It was wonderful to be with them; we all had a great time together. The team visited Father at the Catholic Hostel where he was staying. Felice and I were very interested in the possibilty moving to this hostel. Father and Ethan headed to Mwanza, the new Diocesan headquarters for His Eminence Jeronymos in the northern part of Tanzania. Father was able to give us a quick report about his visit with the Archbishop, and there is a good possibility that we will move to Mwanza within the next two months. This move will bring us closer to our final destination, Bukoba, where the Holy Resurrection Hospital is located.
A week later, Felice and I decided to move into the Catholic Hostel just down the road from the Salvation Army compound. We would still attend Kiswalhili lessons, get our laundry done, and eat meals at the Salvation Army. The people at this new hostel are some of the most welcoming and good hearted people around. Felice and I moved our luggage into the rooms with the help of our taxi driver and the hostel’s very kind staff. We, like many women, pack heavy bags, but important supplies are sometimes heavy. We decided to get separate rooms this time around. We feel very blessed to have been able to move into a more contemporary hostel. In the process we met a very nice taxi driver named Bernard. Bernard has become our personal taxi driver. We just call him, and he comes to pick us up. It is very nice to have one person to call and to have someone with whom we have a relationship. I enjoy practicing my Kiswalhili with him, and I am finding that I am able to chat with people on the streets after I finally decided I would start conversing in the language. Tanzanians are not only very grateful for someone’s willingness to speak their language, but they are very patiently teaching us the proper pronunciations.
This past Thursday Mama Jango (our Tanzanian culture instructor) took us to one of the larger market places in downtown Tanzania. The market was huge, and I took come very interesting pictures (please check the website for them). Mama Jango made sure we didn’t get scammed by vendors charging us too much. She also made sure we didn’t set ourselves up to be pick pocketed. The afternoon seemed longer than it was; we all learned a lot and were able to purchase things we wouldn’t have been able to purchase otherwise.
Classes with Christopher are going well. Christopher reminds me everyday to “fight to learn Kiswalhili.” “Fight” he says “fight hard.” Christopher is not only my Kiswalhili teacher, he is also one of the guards for the Salvation Army, and he is also a farmer. Just like in the states, Tanzanians have to work several jobs to make ends meet.
I cannot believe it has been almost a whole month since I arrived in Africa. I told Felice today, “You know what I just realized? I live in Africa!!”
I am thrilled to have the opportunity to learn Kiswahili and to become better acquainted with the Tanzanian culture. I am very excited after class to use the verbs that I learned that day as I have interactions with my teammates and the people around me. The Tanzanians as a whole have been remarkably patient and helpful as I stumble to speak their native tongue–and I stumble a lot. I take the laughs and giggles as a sign of love and appreciation from the Tanzanians as I try to speak Kiswahili. It’s like being a small child again, stumbling to use the right word or combination of words as needed. And there are many things that I enjoy about Kiswahili. For example the double words: pikipiki (motorcycle) or buibui (spider) make me laugh like a little girl.
Recently our team had the opportunity to visit our Kiswahili instructors’ homes and families. Near their homes is the Mbagala Girls Home. We had a tour of the grounds (you can see some of these pictures at http://kwilcoxson.ocmc.org). As is the case in many orphanages in Africa, many of the girls at Mblagala have lost one or both of their parents from HIV/AIDS, malaria, or tuberculosis. The home is supported and run by the Salvation Army. Pastor Wilson Chacha is one of many people who keep the home running. We met Pastor Wilson at the conclusion of our tour. We were introduced to him, and he was told what our purpose was for being here in Tanzania as well as what our occupations were. He spoke minimal English, so I took the opportunity to practice my Kiswahili, especially the words that I recently learned. I boldly told him “Ninapenda Tanzania” (I love Tanzania). He was elated to hear those words come out of my mouth. He then asked in English “Do you want to live here? Do you want to become a citizen of Tanzania? All you have to do is live here for six years then you can ask the government to give you citizenship. They won’t give you any problems. They will happily let you become a Tanzanian!”
I truly believe “I love you” is the best phrase in any language!
Top 10 Tanzanian Things You can Buy From Vendors Who Approach You When
You are Stuck in Traffic or Sitting Down for a Meal.
10. Water or Soda
9. Sugar Cane, Pickled dates, or Tangerines/Oranges/Bananas
8. Bumper Stickers or Posters of Celebrities/Presidents
7. Packaged Cookies, Ice Cream, or Assorted Nuts
6. Tennis Rackets, Children’s Toys/clothes, Assorted Children’s School
Supplies with characters/celebrities on cell phone minute cards
5. DVD Trilogy of the lives of Barack Obama/Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete
(current President of Tanzania) and the Koran. Any DVD for that
4. Watches, Belts, T-shirts, Shoes, Ties, Children’s clothing, Hats,
3. Pillows, Beach Towels, Sweat rags, or Steering Wheel Covers.
2. One cigarette (not a pack)
And the Number One thing you can buy from Tanzanian vendors IS (wait
for it): Underwear