Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Moses is Married! - The Practice of Dowry Explained

By Tanzania Country Manager Edward Mgeni

Moses and Zamuda on their wedding day in Pommern.
When deciding a "Dowry" in this community [The Hehe and Bena], the practice is of very great
importance when a man is to marry a wife.  When the gentleman plans get to married, he first reports to his parents about the matter for approval. The parents  in turn invite a number of relatives and very close friends to discuss the matter and advise the gentleman.  When the family members at the meeting support  the idea, it entails that the betrothed and her family members are  accepted to form a big family altogether.

A letter of application gets written to the girl's parents with some Tanzanians shillings in the envelope. Two people[a man and a lady] gets chosen to take the letter to the family. This letter is never posted. The money can be between 20,000/= to 50,000/= . The "applicant's" current financial position determines the application fee. When the girl's parents receives the letter, they first ask their daughter at a family level to confirm  the matter. Usually at this stage letters gets confirmed. Then the parents calls their close relatives and friend and to inform them over a calabash of bamboo or corn liquor .  At this session, relatives evaluates the applicant and his family members daily life similar to what the gentleman’ s parents did.  When the application is accepted, they then on the same day decide what the gentleman should give in place of their daughter.   Usually the mention is in terms of the living animals [cows, sheep or goats] plus other minor items like blankets and bed sheets. The date gets fixed when both families, friends and close relatives will meet. This date is the day for the gentleman’s family to give  the dowry.  Food gets prepared and ceremoniously  eaten together if the dowry has been given.  Then wedding is planned and announced by the gentleman’s  party.

While other people think that dowry giving is purchasing human beings, it is not so.  Our tribe culturally understands that dowry is to be given.  This is our understanding:  How do you know that one is serious with taking one's daughter with simple word s such as “ I love your daughter" and "I would like her to marry me”?  Dowry is a taste question and if he gives the dowry, we know he is serious, and thus shall value her and take care of her.

 Many marriages last long in Iringa, however these days, there are various challenges due to education, outsiders' influence  and  money economy. Moses gave cows and was allowed to get married. I paid and I got married. Many other still do and so forth.  Other tribes with many cows give more cows. Wow !!!This sounds strange, eeh! This is how it is, one time  the youth representative in the parliament raised the abolishment of the dowry  issue  to the parliament for discussion, the decision was:  "Let those who are asking bare their own daughters  to give free - not our daughters," the members of the parliament concluded.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Volunteer Vacation in Tanzania - Tuesday, October 15, 2013

“If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.  If you put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.”  
  -Bruce Lee

One of the great features about water is in its adaptability: water can clean you, drown you, save you, feed you.  Our bodies, similar to the earth we are born into, are mainly made of water.  Like water, we adapt, or eventually perish.  Tuesday was a day that represented our beginning to the adaptation of Pommern.  We began the day with another great breakfast, I woke up a little late due to the slumber party Shahana, Roxanna and I had the night before.  We saw the Great Gatsby.  We went to school for the first time and met the staff and some students.  When we came back home, we were treated to a great lunch, a great dinner, and a fantastic lesson by Muhammad on Hey-Hey/Swahili.  Later that night we all danced to Latin music, samba, African music, and reggae.  This would prepare us well for tomorrow.  The spontaneous movement to patterned music is very symbolic of the way we move through life.  The earth rotates the same.  The sun rises and falls, and in between it the static patterns are fluid motions of life.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Volunteer Vacation in Tanzania - Monday, October 14, 2013

“It takes a village to bring up a child.”

The trip continues to unfold.  Still having the ‘oh my god, we’re in Africa!’ moments.  We woke to a brilliant, clear sky and the bustle of Iringa preparing to host the president of the country.  Our hosts at the Lutheran guest house were still cheerful and gracious after staying late last night to be sure we got dinner… Muhammad took us into town to shop. 
Mama Toni shopping for team meals.
Going with Mama Toni as she went to the market for food and then eating in Pommern was the high light.   The covered market was a beautiful display of color in the form of fresh fruit, vegetable, legumes and spices – everything piled high with the vendors in their own colorful outfits often sitting atop the display and doing business from there.  Mama Joni made her way confidently thru the thing.  She carefully selected her items, then left them to be packaged up and collected later. 

We, her ducklings, tried to keep up but often wandered away only to catch up with her later.  The presidential visit stalled our departure from town a little. By around 3 PM we left but not before visiting a gift shop called Neema, I think.  The items are made and the shop is run by disabled people.  I know Edward probably feels like he’s trying to herd cats when he dares to let us out anywhere.  There were pretty cool items there - We shall return.  The drive to Pommern was beautiful starting with a panoramic view of Iringa as we departed.  We followed dirt roads that seemed to get deeper red the further we moved away from Iringa.  The houses were fewer.   The goats, cows, and chickens had as much right to the road as vehicles and were often escorted by a child or adult herding them along.  Muhammad does an expert job of weaving through all this without killing anything.  People were all busy with the business of living – sitting under trees, children playing, adults talking, women washing, men making furniture, people of all ages walking with heavy loads balanced on their heads or toting large, cumbersome loads on their bikes, boys swimming in the rivers.  And then the village of Pommern was down a red tree lined road.
Our old 1899 mission house awaited us – a romantic old European style building with a veranda all around it.  The van was unpacked, and we were shown our rooms.  Jackson, a boy of about 9 or so, introduced himself and his younger brother Frank, about 4.  “Hello, what’s your name?” He asked in perfect English.  As we were leaving for a walk we found Mama Toni cooking for us in the dark – using only a small flashlight between her teeth when she really needed light – softly moving around her kitchen – calm and sure of her work.  Wow!  It was a lovely meal of fried banana, noodles, fish in a tasty broth, and a banana for dessert.  So far Edward, Muhammad and Mama Toni are the village that has cared for us with generosity and kindness.  We hope soon to be able to do something for them.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Volunteer Vacation in Tanzania - Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Ocean View in Dar es Salaam
We met for breakfast and started our journey to Iringa.  We were also joined by Edward’s brother-in-law and a doctor.  Along the way, we stopped for a delicious lunch and snapped pictures of the scenic roads, giraffes, baboons, and deer.  Tanzania has the most beautiful trees that I have ever seen.  Each is unique, elegant, and displays a strong foundation, just like the people and culture of Tanzania.  So far, Tanzania has felt vivid, colorful, diverse, vibrant, friendly, and most of all homely.  I think like the trees of Tanzania, the people here have the kind of beauty, elegance, and strength which makes you feel warm, safe, and welcomed right away.  I hope in the next few weeks I can be of some assistance to our gracious hosts.  Moreover, I’m looking forward to developing long lasting relationships with the friends I make here.  After all, as Edward beautifully reminded us, “we are one.”

 “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”
   –Mother Theresa

 “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It is about learning to dance in the rain.”

            -Vivian Greene

“If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.”

            - Dalai Lama

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Family's Service Adventure in Tanzania

The Ford Family of Great Falls, Montana (all nine of them) served together in Pommern in June 2013.  This is their journal of their Adventure in Service.

8/6/13 - Lovely seaside dinner with Edward. The food is delicious and the view of the water amazing, but we realize this is the tourist “Disneyland” part of Tanzania and we’ll start the REAL journey tomorrow when we drive ten hours to Iringa.

Overall the trip has been splendid and peaceful. We love Edward’s grace and
Mohammed’s quiet, sweet patience with all our language struggles and
dorky American ways.  Oh, and in case I forget…
- Jamie

Leaving With Lifetime Memories


“The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow. For every challenge encountered there is opportunity for growth.” –unknown

Thursday was our last full day in Pommern. We spent the morning at the primary school and the clinic. The clinic was pretty busy because of the CTC. We said our final goodbyes to all the staff at the clinic. It has been really enjoyable spending the past three weeks with them! After lunch we made our way to Iringa. We made another visit to Neema Craft, a store that employs disabled people. Carrie and I both bought a few things. We spent the night at the Lutheran Center again. Our stay there was quite pleasant! It was very nice to have hot water again. We left Iringa bright and early this morning to head to Dar es Salaam. We stopped for lunch at the Arc Hotel in Morogoro. It was delicious! We made our way to Slipway despite the heavy traffic! We had our final dinner with Edward this evening. I cannot believe this trip is coming to an end. It truly is a bittersweet ending. I will cherish these memories forever!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Volunteering in Tanzania - June 5

“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
– Steve Jobs

A sad day today – it is our last full day in Pommern. I can’t believe the time went so fast. We did something different today. We went to the Roman Catholic Church where they have a center for disabled children. We spent the morning there. After the children had their clothes changed and had their breakfast we were able to help with stretching and exercising. It is a very nice facility with lots of toys and things for the children and three nice ladies who worked with them. Two or three of the kids probably have cerebral palsy and needed serious stretching exercises – the rest just needed some special attention and love – and we had so much fun playing with balls kicking and catching and stacking blocks. 

After a delicious "Mama Toni pizza" for lunch, we went to the primary school to continue our hand washing education. After three weeks here, the class finally knew our names and didn’t try to call Taylor and I “mzungu”. After that we went to the secondary school to drop some donations off for the matron – Regina. It was just a few things like bandaids, gauze, and ibuprofen but I know she will put them to good use. Now we are organizing and packing our things and getting ready to say our goodbyes tomorrow.