It is funny the way life turns out. At the same moment that I am writing about how much these children need loving parents, some loving parents were helping me. Although I have already thanked you personally, I just want to thank you all again. An especially big asante sana to the Kristopher family, the Bossler family, the Martin family, the McKeehan family, the Schiff family, the Frels family, the Anastos family, the Lenihan family, the Benjamin family, the Scott family, the Lacke family, the Pagano family, the Elert family, the Hettinger family, the Pelc family and the Partain family for your garage sale benefit to help me. It was such a heartfelt gesture and incredible surprise. I am still stunned. You all are the reason that I am here in the first place and I feel more and more blessed every day to know you. Though the children are enough daily encouragement, it is knowing that you all support me that keeps thinking of more and new ways to help the children. Without your help I never would be here and you all continue to support me so much. You are responsible for any good I do here and I think and pray for all of you all always. Not enough can be said about the example you all provide for me and others. Like I said before, when I grow up I want to be just like you :).
Now a fun story for you…This weekend we had a special event at our hotel, a wedding reception! Though I initially thought I would be working it as a bartender, I was a last minute invite to it, or so I thought. When the guests for the wedding reception started arriving Mama Shayo (our headmistress and wedding attendee) eagerly found me. She then told me “You go in now with her” and handed me an invitation. I was a bit confused by her rushing me in right then with a beautiful young African woman but I found a seat and the wedding reception began shortly after. As I sat there I opened and read the invitation and on the inside. It said welcome “Mr. Terry and Marta” and that is when I realized… I was her date! At that point everything made sense, why Mama Shayo grabbed me, why everyone was staring at me and why this young woman knew my name before I ever met her. For the last couple years everywhere I go people introduce me to their daughters, nieces, friends and everyone in between so that I will “find a nice girl, get married and stay in Tanzania”. The mamas at the school are especially guilty of this. Of course (no worries mom and dad) I am the quintessential gentleman, so I had a wonderful time chatting with my new friend/date Marta.
This was the fifth wedding reception that I have attended in Tanzania so I knew what to expect, but I still found myself laughing and a bit in awe at certain points. First the music began which was a mixture of brass instruments outside and DJ music inside. Somehow everyone found a beat and began to clap and dance on their way to the seats. The whole family, about 50 people, walked and danced on the way in to lead in the newly married couple. As the new couple stepped inside to the wedding reception hall I noticed two lizards scurry up the wall. I don’t normally notice lizards anymore, because they are everywhere, but I wondered how many new American brides would be totally ok with lizards running around the walls of their wedding reception hall? I have to think that lizards might be a deal breaker for most people when considering a wedding reception hall. After everyone was inside, they began the many speeches of the family members offering advice, sometimes very personal advice to the new couple (luckily for me I had Marta there to translate them for me). After about an hour of talking and speeches it was time for the cake. Of course when I say cake at a Chagga wedding I mean mbuzi cake.
One important element to most weddings here, especially a Chagga tribe wedding (as this one was) is “mbuzi” which is goat. This barbequed goat is also brought down in a procession of music and dancing. So the chef, family and wedding planners all danced while spinning and pushing a cart carrying a big barbequed goat with an apple and leaves stuck in his mouth. Picture a pig on a spicket sort of roasting with lots of dancing and music. They brought the goat right up in front of the stage, in the middle of everyone and the chef began slicing off pieces. This then leads to the bride and groom hand feeding the pieces of goat to the family and special guests which of course being the only white guy there I was a “special guest”. There are few experiences that compare to being hand fed goat on a toothpick in Africa. One by one we filed up dancing and clapping to receive the goat. Luckily with everyone watching I didn’t drop the piece or choke on it, although it was quite chewy and a bit hairy.
After eating dinner comes the gift giving which of course is done by, you guessed it, a dancing procession. There are typical gifts of money, cloths (called Kangas and Kitenges) and other items. They call up the different groups of people; family, friends, coworkers and everyone else, but the absolute best gift given was a goat. My favorite part was when they danced the entire way while carrying the goat to the couple! It was quite a sight to see, a whole family dancing around one man, who was still wearing a suit and tie swinging and dancing carrying a goat right into the middle of a wedding reception. I of course had no gift (certainly no goats) but instead stuffed some cash into an envelope. By this time I had drawn a fair amount of attention (due to my whiteness) so when I came up to hand my gift Mama Shayo grabbed the microphone and began talking to the people. She explained that I was her son and I was here to teach the children of Stella Maris. After a nice speech she handed the DJ/host who then asked me in English what is your name and where do you come from. Figuring it was my best chance to actually introduce myself I said “Jina langu ni Massawe, ninatoka Kibosho” which means “My name is Massawe (a common Chagga tribe name) and I come from Kibosho (The heart of Chagga tribe land). The entire wedding went from stunned to laughing hysterically. They all stood up, danced and shook my hand on the way back to my seat, even though they were probably more confused than ever who I actually was. There is nothing like African hospitality.
After the reception had ended we all stood outside together and said goodbye. Even the goat was outside tied to a pole chewing on our grass around the hotel. Many people came up to me, thanked me for coming, helping and then congratulated me. Then they would talk to Marta laugh, hug her and congratulate her. After about two dozen different people saying “hongera” which means “congratulations” I asked Marta why they would congratulate me when I was just attending a wedding. She then told me “because they think you are my fiancé. They think we are getting married and I am going to America with you.” Don’t worry though, I will give you all a heads up before I get married. Although a destination wedding does sound pretty awesome, keep checking your mailbox for the invitations. Thank you again to the incredible families from St. Joseph who continually inspire me with their generosity. I love you all. Thank you everyone and God bless!