Christmastide turned out to be a several tier event with each layer adding to our emergence into the spirit of the holiday, diverting feelings of aloneness and deprivation that can hover over travelers during the season where at home or with kith and kin seems the right place.
Two Nights Before:
We attended a Fellowship caroling event followed by a potluck dinner .It was interesting to note that while our group was made up of several nationalities, English, Danish, South African and a few Americans, the carols were, for the most part ,the traditional ones that we are used to singing. We enjoyed watching the endearing Danish tradition of lighting candles by the children to symbolize the light that the Christmas child brought to the world.
Many of the people at the dinner following shared descriptions of their reasons and logistics for relocation to Tanzania adding to the stories of other expatriates which we have been gathering as we go. Some of these I would like to share with you in another blog entry. Suffice it to observe at present that their presence here adds an interesting dimension to an already remarkable homeland culture.
The Night Before :
We had a welcome taste of American our roots and a number of laughs with a Lutheran Minister, his wife and their extended family who arrived in time to celebrate the holiday. The group is a for real, an American, stereotypical, eclectic one, comprised of the Minister and his wife from Mn , their daughter and son in law and three children, and the son in law’s parents from NJ. Happily the Minister and his wife will be staying on for four months, living in the unit below us. The others leave in two weeks after a three day safari.
We joined them for dinner at The Lutheran Center, which is close to our apartment building. Everyone had something interesting or humorous to share. Gary, the minister and his wife Carol, talked about their involvement in Tanzanian life. Their daughter, Jennifer, told us about a number of their American friends doing creative work in Africa. One example that caught our imagination was a young couple coming to form an NGO dedicated to raising awareness of the Masaii regarding how their practice of killing lions in revenge for attacks on their livestock may damage the local economy by diminishing the tourist trade as well as endanger the cycle of nature by significantly interrupting it..
Mike, the son in law, a graduate of Notre Dame and a portfolio manger gave us some inside scoop on The Fighting Irish , (he had been the team manager during his student years during Lou Holtz’s time), and some US business perspective.
His mother told a funny story about being on a tour with a group led by a religious denomination whose name I remember not. The tour director asked her about her origins. She replied that she was Irish Catholic from NJ. Later he introduced her as Jewish from NY. That made us all chuckle as we, like the tour director, could intuit the connection.
His father, who is Italian, entertained us with recounting of a recent incident in which one of the youngsters from the extended family called him to ask if he would go beat up some kids that were harassing him at school, implying that the youngster’s visual impression of him evoked images from The Sopranos.
The two pre teen boys could be spotted wrestling at every presenting opportunity while the little girl stayed sweetly on her mother’s lap.
Ah, how sweet the sights and sounds of home when far from its shores. Vive la American habits and diversity!!
Christmas Day: A Tanzanian Church Experience:
We attended a traditional Christmas mass at the Catholic Cathedral. The Bishop was the Presider, assisted by two priests, six altar boys and several nuns. The altar and crèche were most attractive in their seasonal adornments, and the Choir was mesmerizing in their rendition of Tanzanian hymns and traditional Christmas music.
Hearing Hark The Herald Angel Sing, Come let us Adore him, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem and others interlaced with the rhythm of African drumbeat captivated us so that the three hours we were there seemed not one minute too long .
The Church was packed as it is every Sunday at every mass giving us the impression that unlike in the US and Europe, church attendance ,by both genders, is not on the wane. One has to be careful not to be seriously distracted from the service by the beauty of the African garb on both women and children.
Tanzanians celebrate Noel as they do other holidays; they get together with family and friends to enjoy food, camaraderie, and relaxation. There a few decorations at home and gift giving is not largely practiced.
We were treated to a typical yuletide experience later in the day by our Tanzanian family, our grandson, Crispin’s father, brothers, sister and her two children. They provided a delicious spread which I picture below with the dish covers on because I foolishly did not take one with them off. (I entertain delusions of getting better).The fish, chicken, chips, rice , vegetables and fruit were expertly prepared and competed most favorably with any meal we have had here to date.
Like in many homes across The Country, the kids played quietly while adult conversation turned to familial, country, cultural, worldly happenings and concerns making the time fly and leaving the desire for more when the day was over. For our part, we introduced the kids to Santa, and they liked him.
On a personal note, Crispin wrote an email message greeting to our gathering. . It and his good news that he had made the Dean’s list this first semester at Bucknell was much appreciated and applauded by all.
Hope your day, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, was merry as well.
Pictures below show Grayson opening his gift, one little party goer, Rahma, getting a bath to prepare for the event,Tom holding Rahma with Venance looking on , Winnie and Rahim at table, and our delicious feast.