|The soon to be bride in front!|
The first weekend at the Stella Maris Executive Lodge was an exciting one. As the Foreign Relations Manager/Host/Bartender/Exterminator I have enjoyed a busy weekend! What is most exciting for us all is that we actually have some guests from Virginia and North Carolina here for our Conference Center and hotel accommodations. They are from a non-for-profit Godparents for Tanzania which provides disadvantaged secondary and university students the chance to continue their education with scholarships. We met through the media opportunities/interviews I had earlier this year (thank you Res Publica!). They heard of the work we were doing here in Tanzania and were kind enough to contact me with interest in staying at our lodge. It is so encouraging to hear their stories of success and their desire to help our children at Stella Maris through staying at our Lodge! It has been a great relationship. It is also great because they have been talking with Matt and I, giving advice on what would make their stay more comfortable. So we have been traveling to and from town getting small things like bath mats, no slip shower mats, towel hangers, food items and other miscellaneous things. What is most encouraging is that we have an incredible building and value already, but we see where we can improve. Also we can improve because we have a strong friendship already and they are very comfortable. It is another way that we can set our hotel apart from the competition with the best service, rooms, value and of course purpose and story!
One unexpected job Matt and I already had was bartender. We hosted a local young woman’s "send off" this weekend. It was a beautiful ceremony. It is customary in Tanzania for families to have a “send off” for their daughter a week before she is married, since she is starting her own new family. For this occasion more than 300 people joined the family to celebrate the coming wedding. It was my first time ever seeing such a ceremony and we both especially enjoyed being a part of it. Matt and I were excited to help out in any way we could and bartender was apparently where we could help most. Of course everyone thought this was hilarious to have wazungu (white guy) bartenders and the community welcomed us warmly. We were also asked to join the actual ceremony itself. We joined the brothers and stood in front of the bride and “popped” champagne bottles in celebration of our sister getting married! Although we were “working” the party Matt and I had an amazing time talking, practicing our Swahili and just being accepted into the community further. Anyway we can break down cultural expectations and deepen our bonds is an opportunity we have a responsibility to seize. Plus, you don’t get many opportunities to add “Bartender in Africa” to your resume.
|Our outdoor bartender job|
On Sunday Matt and I made our way over to Mailisita Church to celebrate mass. Unfortunately we had the mass time wrong, and ended up joining the children's mass for the last 5 minutes… whoops! It was a nice mistake though because the children saw us, grabbed us by our hands and “forced” us to leave at the end of mass and hang out with them. We then stayed with all the children who wanted to play and talk outside church. We were all equally happy to have an opportunity to laugh, joke and play with one another. It was still only the second time I was able to really spend time with the children, so it great to pick up where we left off months ago with our typical Sunday routine together. One great highlight for Matt and I was Catherine Izahack, one of our P3 students, leading us in a game of “around the bamboo tree”. After a long discussion and lunch with Fr. Kitali and Fr. Sipendi, we made lots of plans for the future and thought of new ways we could help the community. Matt and I returned to the Lodge so we could go on an afternoon run. I could not think of a better way to spend a Sunday.
|Our Tarantula rafiki|
That night as I was trying to prepare my first entry for my blog from Africa we welcomed some unexpected guests. We have a large crowd of locals who had come to watch the soccer matches at night, so we were all sitting together downstairs. While sitting there one of the girls said “rat!” and sure enough a little rat scurried across the floor and hid under the soda machine. After finally stirring him from out underneath the machine and sending him outside it wasn’t more than 20 minutes when Matt said “whoa there is a tarantula”. I very calmly sat there until I realized that when he said Tarantula, that there really was a huge hairy spider slowly crawling along the floor (way nastier than the de-fanged version I had in my classroom at St. Joseph earlier this year!). Matt and I had typical reactions of 25 year old American men, we laughed, stared at it, took pictures and then had no idea what to do. Luckily a local man stepped up, grabbed some Konyagi "The Spirit of the Nation" and was able to stun the huge hairy spider before “dismissing” it. The perfect way to end an eventful weekend. Just a note; our rooms are upstairs and our downstairs (where the rat and spider came) is wide open for a few hours at night. It is odd to have these “guests” and there is no way that the tarantula or rat would have made it to our rooms…but this is Africa so yes it is all part of the job.
I look forward to spending more time in the classroom this week teaching, helping and getting to know the new staff. I will post again soon about the classroom (which has been incredible), but there was too much excitement in the first weekend to ignore! Also I will have a post from “Future Doctor Matt Partain”! Matt is a medical student at Loyola who is volunteering at local hospitals, dispensaries and helping assess and teach me how to assess medical needs of our students at Stella Maris. Our hope is that we can begin to get a better idea of the needs of our students so that they can be more successful in school. Also he is one of my best friends, which makes this a real privilege to share these experiences together.