Hamjambo from Iringa
Today we begin real efforts to fulfill our mission here. We met with the Sacred Heart Parish pastor, Father Chatilla, along with the parish council, and selected activities leaders. Introductions were challenging as the Iringans are a soft-spoken people and we are not yet unaccustomed to their Swahili accent. The parish council included educators, one nun, a retired judge who teaches at the university, a doctor and other university and school personnel. All were welcoming, so gracious and so pleased we had come to visit.
To begin our meeting, Peter Kasanga, a lecturer at Ruaha Catholic University gave an overview of Sacred Heart parish. There are 40,000 people in the Diocese of Iringa, and 18,000 (45%) are Catholic. Within Iringa town, there are four parishes; Sacred Heart is the cathedral parish. In addition, Sacred Heart serves 15 out-stations; an out-station is a small Christian community of 10 to 20 households. The out-station exists because of the geographical size of the parish, and the long travel distances between the homes and the church. The farthest out-station is 32 km from Iringa town. Five Sunday masses at Sacred Heart serve the local parishioners but only one mass a month is celebrated at each out-station. All these Catholics are served by two priests who must see to all the needs of a parish as well as travel long distances to the out-stations.
The system of Iringa parishes provides more than just spiritual services to their parishioners. For example, it is not unusual for a parish to also run orphanages, hospitals, and secondary schools.
Kathy Howard gave an overview of St. Thomas More Parish. Some of our audience members were very English proficient and nodding heads indicated they understood. However, others were less proficient but gracious in their attentive listening.
What meeting is complete without shared food? We sampled samosa, small pastries stuffed with meat along with a variety of drinks and the hot-dog like sausages that seem to be served at most meals.
Next…a Kiswahili lesson, much needed instruction. Miraji Vanginothi is a born teacher. With an infectious smile, a quick laugh and a charming personality, he helped us understand the basic phrases we could use while in country. Kiswahili is the real name of the language but Swahili is common shortened name. Keys phrases we learned included: maji beridi (cold water), habari (hello), choo kiko wapi? (where is the toilet) , samahani polepole (speak slower) and the ever present asante (thank you.)
Swahili lessons made us hungry so off to Hasty Tasty Too for lunch of grilled sandwiches and milk shakes.
Our afternoon was spent at the Kibebe Farm. It is a large farm in the Iringa valley operated by Richard and Victoria Phillips, who are English by nationality but long time residents of Tanzania. They host the weekly volleyball picnic for the wzunga (whites), an open game with whoever shows up. The farm consists of two large residential homes, a guest house, and a milk production building. There are 525 cattle, 168 milking cows, and numerous sheep and goats. We visited the milking station, fascinated by the process.
It was at this gathering that we had our first African kahawa (coffee). This heavily milked instant coffee proved a worthy companion to iced brownies in a setting worthy of a Hollywood movie.
On our trip from the picnic to dinner, our first experience was not the woman with the shovel on her head but the next best thing. Then we experienced TFT: Tanzanian Flexible Time. The Vice President of Tanzanian was scheduled to drive through Iringa. All traffic was stopped, causing a lengthy delay. When the traffic was allowed to resume, all drivers recklessly jockeyed for position, making New York City cab drivers look like the world’s safest drivers.
Kwaheri for now. More tomorrow.