Planting the seeds…. (Day 7)
Another 4 a.m. wake-up to head to the airport. This time it was to leave Dar es Salaam and head to Dodoma in central Tanzania.
It was still dark at 5 a.m. when the driver pulled up to pick us up for the half hour drive to the airport. As expected there was very little traffic at that time of the morning. There were mostly buses with commuters heading into the city to their jobs. Anytime we approached an intersection with a red light the driver would slow down and little bit and if there was no one coming proceed on his way – it made all those red light runners in Orlando look positively law abiding!
We were dropped off at Terminal Two at the airport and found out when we got to security that we needed to be at Terminal One. So it was a quick scramble to find a taxi to take us to the correct terminal. It turned out to be a short drive, but I was thankful to not have to walk along the roadway with our backpacks and duffel bags. Terminal One is the original airport in Dar so it was pretty small and easy to find our way around. We did the usual security check at the front door and over to the Flightlink ticket counter. Since we were early we had to wait until the ticket counter was open for us to check in. The waiting room did have a small souvenir shop and some additional domestic airlines that covered more remote areas of the country. We saw a group of mostly young women dressed as what I called “Unicef Babes” – tight little baby blue t-shirts and tight black pants. They appeared to be part of a group of older more seasoned workers – I’m guessing they were interns of some sort. Anyway, when it was time we checked in and were issued a boarding pass that looked much more substantial than those thin computer generated passes we get these days for boarding. We met another passenger who was going to Dodoma. As it turned out he was a priest in the Diocese of Kondoa – Reverend Iri. He was returning from his 3 - week trip to visit family in New Zealand. The only other person on our flight was a businessman from Belfast, Ireland.
I’m happy to report that the flight was very pleasant. I don’t know the name or type of plane (Sorry Ken), but it only seated 12 people. So we had plenty of room. We were able to see a lot of the terrain as we headed north. The southern part of the country is very lush and green. It eventually transitioned into a more arid, mountainous looking region with very large boulders. I do know that Kondoa has some prehistoric rock paintings that we will probably get to visit in October when we have more time.
We walked through the smallest airport that I have ever been to when we landed in Dodoma. Needless to say we did not have to wait long to get our baggage. It was a good thing that Reverend Iri was on the flight with us because there was no one to meet us at the airport. He called Bishop Given’s driver to let him know we were there and left in a taxi to get his car. It was such a pleasant day that I didn’t mind the 10 - minute wait for Bishop Given. He said that he usually sees the plane landing from his house so he knows when to leave, but that morning he missed seeing the plane so he didn’t realize we had landed! We all climbed into the very beat up official “Anglican Diocese of Kondoa” white Land Rover and were driven over to the Gaula’s house in Dodoma. They originally bought the house because it is within easy walking distance of St. John’s University, back when they thought that they would be returning to Dodoma from New Zealand after Bishop Given completed his doctorate. As it turned out, it was still a good idea because that is where the children live during the school year with Bishop Given’s mother because they have to attend school there – there are no secondary schools in Kondoa.
Just as a side note – we originally were going to go to Arusha to visit the Echo East Africa Impact office and then return to Dar from there. After waiting for months to get a response Christopher called them on the Thursday before we left to confirm if anyone was going to be there. The phone call did not reassure us that we would be able to meet with anyone. Then when we found out that it was a 4 ½ to 5 - hour drive on mostly unpaved roads, it was decided to cancel that portion of the trip. We needed to reschedule our return from Dodoma. Bishop Given ended up spending a considerable amount of time on the phone with various people trying to confirm that we would be able to have seats on the Thursday morning flight out of Dodoma. At this point we do not know if we have seats on that flight or not – it will be a work in progress. I think part of the difficulty is that we are dealing with the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the Eid celebration, which lasts two days. Just as in the US, banks are closed and a lot of businesses close for the holiday. There is only one flight per day from Dodoma to Dar and if we miss that flight then we miss our connection back to Malawi. So what would have been a two - hour flight then becomes a marathon 30 - hour trip to Ethiopia, and who knows where else to get back to Malawi. The two - hour flight is only available once a week.
We were welcomed to Bishop Given’s house by four Kenyans who were part of a larger group who had been in Kondoa for almost a week helping to evangelize to the rural communities. If I haven’t mentioned it before, the region here is 95% Muslim. Tanzania is a secular democracy and the issue of freedom of religion is very taken very seriously. The Christian churches in Kondoa have begun to make inroads (no pun intended) and are seeing very positive results. The priest who brought the Kenyan group to Kondoa is a friend of Bishop Given from their days at Seminary in Nairobi. He said that Bishop Given was the baby of the group so they all watched out for him when he was there back in 1988!
We had a Tanzanian breakfast of a type of rice flour fried fat pancake, a large doughnut minus the hole and hot tea. (I still can’t believe the carbs I’ve had since I got to Africa – I shudder to think about how my clothes will fit when I get home. Here I am wearing loose fitting long skirts with t - shirts, so there is a lot of camouflaging going on).
And then the Grand Tour ... the Kenyans wanted to see more of Dodoma, Bishop Given had to wait to sign some official paperwork, and the spare tire needed to be repaired. We began by walking over to the campus of St. John’s University. The Anglican Church founded it in 2007. Bishop Given served as a chaplain there for a year and his middle child Ilumbo was born in Dodoma and she was baptized at the chapel on campus. There are about 5,000 students enrolled, with around 70% male and 30% female. This is where Bishop Given was going to head up the theology department that is until the diocese in Kondoa elected him bishop! It is a pleasant campus, but as with a lot of buildings here it is already showing wear and tear. I think mostly because of poor quality materials that are used and lack of the funds for maintenance. I noticed the same conditions in India.
Pascal, the driver met us outside the gates and we drove to downtown Dodoma. Even though Dodoma is the capital of Tanzania it is still very much a small town. The national government is in the process of putting more of the buildings of the various ministries in Dodoma. So there are these very large new modern buildings that have either been built or are being built and the official residence of the Prime Minister is there, yet it is still a pretty sleepy little town. It was created the capital after independence from England in the early 1960s. Tanzania was created by combining the countries of Tanganikya and Zanzibar. The first president, Julius Nyerere wanted to place the capital in the center of the country so that it would theoretically be easier to get to for its citizens. The cabinet ministers were also chosen from all over the country and it was to be a secular country. Despite his best efforts he could not get enough people to move from Dar es Salaam where they had established businesses and residences to move inland to Dodoma. It is still a concern 50 years later!
We drove into the surrounding outskirts of the city to look at the campus of the University of Dodoma that was currently under development. A Chinese construction company has the contract to construct all of the buildings on campus. It is a sprawling modern campus located in the foothills of Dodoma. There are enormous boulders scattered throughout the landscape. According to Bishop Given there are approximately 45,000 students enrolled. They come from various parts of Tanzania and then leave as soon as they graduate. The region in general has a very difficult time recruiting any professionals to stay in the area once they’ve gotten their degrees.
While we were there we stopped at a new branch office of Bishop Given’s bank. He wanted us to meet the young woman who is the branch manager there. She helped him open his first bank account ten years ago before he came to Virginia to study at Virginia Theological Seminary.
As we were driving around we would transition from a paved road and then suddenly we would be on a severely rutted unpaved portion – there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for why the paved portion stopped or started! It was a very different situation from Lilongwe, Malawi. It is an absolute necessity to have a Land Rover under those conditions.
The next stop was the headquarters office of the Diocese of Dodoma of the Anglican Church of Tanzania. We waited there while Bishop Given signed some official documents. They were very unassuming offices in a side street off of another street, sandwiched in between some shops. However unassuming the offices were we found out that the diocese there has over 1 million active members! It is the largest in the Anglican Communion.
Back to the house for a late lunch around 2:30– with rice, chopped greens, a sort of tomato stew with onions and carrots and junks of meat with boiled chicken and chapattis, and always with hot tea. We also had lots of bottled water available for every stage of the trip.
It was close to 3:30 by the time we were ready to head to Kondoa. We now had 9 people and all of our bags crammed into the Land Rover – not the most confortable accommodations for the 3-½ hour drive on mostly bumpy, rutted, dusty roads. I was given the seat of honor and got to ride upfront so I got to see every pothole, every rut, gully, goat, donkey, child, dog, motorbike and truck heading our way!
This part of Tanzania looks very much like Arizona or New Mexico. It is mountainous, dusty (Did I say dusty – I don’t remember having seen this much dust in my life – I will be bringing some scarves with me in October to wear over my hair to keep it from becoming a dust magnet!) There were some trees near Dodoma, but as we got farther and farther away we saw them less and less. We did see some baobab trees along the roadside and some cactus, but mostly dust.
The first hour of the trip we were on a paved road, so other than avoiding potholes, other vehicles, pedestrians, and goats we moved along fairly quickly. Then we moved onto the unpaved portion of the remainder of the trip – did I mention dust?
The road from Dodoma to Kondoa is actually under construction by the Chinese, I’m not sure what the distance is, but Bishop Given said they had started it when he got back a little over two years ago and let’s just say it is a work in progress. Once the road is completed it will take approximately 1-½ hours to drive, in the mean time it can take upwards of 3 hours, so there is still much work to be done.
We began to drive past villages with more basic construction. The same hand made bricks that I have come to expect in East Africa, but with a rectangular shaped house and a metal roof if they have some extra money, otherwise it is a straw roof. Again the dirt yards are swept clean, but the surrounding area is usually strewn with discarded bottles and plastic bags caught on the bushes. The goats were checking through the trash for anything edible and lots of young children everywhere. We saw very few vehicles, mostly people walking, riding bikes, donkey carts and a few motorbikes. I saw many more donkeys in this region than in Malawi and I don’t remember seeing any in Uganda. I also saw more herds of cattle and goats the closer we got to Kondoa. This is an area where the Masai have begun to settle as they get squeezed out of Kenya into more of Tanzania.
I’m learning that when you travel with Bishop Given it is never a simple journey. There are stops along the way that must be made – churches that must be visited. One stop had been planned in advance and the other was a special request once they learned about the other stop. The first stop was in the village of Kidoka – a welcoming committee was waiting for us when we pulled up. We were greeted by the women’s choir complete with drums. In addition to them there were the pastor and his wife and lots of children. The children here mostly wait shyly staring at you and smiling after you wave or smile at them and say “Jambo” (hello).
We went into the long, rectangular shaped brick church where we sat at the front with the Bishop, the pastor and other leaders. The thing that I noticed immediately though was the portable generator that was used to run the keyboard and speakers for the choir! After prayers and opening remarks the women’s choir began to sing and play the drums – it was a beautiful, joyful sound. I was able to make a video of the first song they sang – unlike any songs in our hymnal back at St. Richard’s that’s for sure! We were introduced, said a few words, another song was sung, a blessing was said and we were back on the bumpy road.
The second stop was the village of Chemba where the vocational school is going to be built. A church is located here in addition to some buildings that had been built by World Vision in the 1990s (I think…) a donor in the UK has pledged the funding to complete the campus for the vocational school once the bricks have been made. Right now they have 2,000 bricks and need 20,000! The plan is to have classrooms, staff housing and dormitories for the students. It is located close to a permanent road maintenance facility that the Chinese have built and are currently using. The advantage to that is that it has electricity and water and Bishop Given is planning to try to tap into those resources for the school as well. It is located on a rise that overlooks the valley. The pastor and his wife and other members of the congregation had prepared a small meal for us. We once again washed our hands as someone poured water into the basin. We then had the first of many meals on this leg of the trip. We became very familiar with the menu – rice, tomato stew with onions, carrots and meat, another meat dish, potatoes and chapattis with hot tea. (I am seriously wondering what that scale is going to look like when I get home!)
It was just starting to get dark as we continued the final leg of our journey to Kondoa. (Don’t tell Ken) The good news about traveling at night is that there is not much traffic, the bad news is that it is harder to see the ruts and potholes, the people, goats, dogs, cattle, bicycles and various and sundry other things along the side of the road. It was close to 7:30by the time we pulled onto the grounds of the Bishop’s official residence in Kondoa.
That was the final night of the mission for the group from Kenya so they were coming over for an evening meal to share their experiences. We had a very enjoyable time talking with them and listening to their stories of evangelizing with the villagers in the rural communities. They were warmly welcomed by the Muslim population, 8 people decided to convert, recommendations were made to continue with the outreach, to provide preschool teachers, and they promised to return again next summer to evangelize. They will also provide funding to pay for someone to head up the preschool outreach in the diocese. I was very touched and moved by their commitment – you could tell that these were people who were rich in spirit if not in pocketbook. They were truly willing to put their money where their mouths were. The next morning they were getting on a bus to start the long 12 - hour trip back to the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya.
We finally checked into “The Simple Lodge” in Kondoa around 10 pm that evening. I will say that it lived up to its name. I had a bed with a mosquito net that only had a few holes that I used my cellophane tape to close and I had a bathroom with a western style toilet. It was reasonably clean – I had two bottles of water. I put the rubber doorstop under the door. There was a television in the room, but I never turned it on. Internet was advertised, but I don’t remember getting a signal in the room. I think I got a brief opening once when we were in the lobby area in the morning waiting for a ride. And I got a good night’s sleep!