calendar December 6, 2010 in Global Vision, SEKOMU

SEKUCo’s First Class: A Tanzanian Journey 2

Susan Pursch, chair of our Synod’s SEKUCo Coordinating Committee, traveled to Tanzania for the first graduation at the Sebastian Kolowa University College there.  Read more to share her observations from the journey…

(This article will be updated as we receive reports from Susan via email.)


Monday, November 29


We have had a very peaceful night’s sleep except for the mosquitos buzzing around my ears.  Of course I had not put my mosquito net up until the early morning.  After that I was able to have peaceful sleep with no worries.

We had a very good breakfast at the hotel.  Went to the bank to change money.  Went to the ELCT book store where Kate and Meghan spent a lot of money on resources for children with special needs.  We then had a bit of tea with Tom Roach – ELCA mission staff here in Arusha.  His wife Sally was not able to join us.  So it has been a busy morning.

We are now packing the traveling vehicle with heavy luggage strapped to the top of the vehicle.  Heading to pick up Bill Nolan and Catherine after their safari.  Returning to the New Safari Hotel to leave some of their luggage here and off for a 4 1/2 hour drive to Lushoto.

We are so grateful to be here. To reconnect with friends and to give thanks for what God has done, is doing and certainly will continue to do.

All are feeling well.  I am keenly aware that the world is not connected through cell phones and other connectivity.  That will be a topic for a later time.


Tuesday, November 30

We had lunch at the lodge – a great lunch – and started on our journey to Lushoto.  This is a long drive and I had hoped to get started earlier, however that was not possible. We left Arusha at 230 p.m.  My main concern was traveling on the late end in the dark.

We had good travels.  Stopped of course at the Elephant Hotel – those who have been here will know the place as it is a usual stretch site.  The black faced monkeys were present and wanted to greet all who have ever stopped there.

As we journeyed through Same, Mombo and up the mountain to Soni and then on to Lushoto we were traveling in the dark.  Which is a shame because all you see are car lights and darkness.  This was unfortunate because Bill, Catherine and Meghan have never been here and did not get a chance to see the beautiful scenery.  The switch back roads, the farms planted on the side of the mountains, the people walking along the road and tending their gardens.  This is truly a beautiful location.  We left Arusha at 2:30 p.m. and arrived at the Irente Viewpoint Lodge at 8:45 pm in pitch darkness.  The roads up here are dirt and very rutted, we were bounding along.  During our drive Anneth Munga got in touch with us to welcome us to Tanzania and indicate we are welcome here.  Good to hear from her.

As we had off loaded all the luggage and got our things into the lobby of the Irente Viewpoint Lodge ALL THE LIGHTS WENT OUT – it was pitch black and we all just froze in place.  Quickly the staff pulled out their flashlights and we staggered around in the dark with minimal light.  Shortly thereafter the generator kicked in and light was restored.  Just part of being present in the local culture.  By now we were quite hungry.  We were glad for the answer to our question of whether we could get something to eat.  The answer was "Yes."  We placed our orders and were escorted to our rooms.  When we returned to the lodge we waited for our food as we unwound from the bouncy roads and long journey.  The food was prepared and tasty.  Catherine ordered a cheeseburger.  When her meal arrived she started eating her cheese burger only to find out there was no burger, only melted cheese on a bun with some fixings.  She called over the waiter and asked, in essence, "Where’s the beef?"  Only to find out that to have what we could call a cheese burger one needs to order what Catherine ordered PLUS the beef.  How much we take for granted in our culture.  Another learning that things are not what they seem and are different in other cultures.  By then we ate what was ordered and were grateful to have something to eat.

Irente viewpoint is a natural stone piece of the mountain with a lodge built into the side of the mountain.  In the dark it looks like any other place.  We all rested peacefully and awoke to look out the window to a bright sunny morning. We had a wonderful, adequate breakfast and decided before departing to hike up to Irente Viewpoint. We all did, huffing and puffing, as it is a bit steep and hard to navigate because of the dirt and tree roots.


Wednesday, December 1

Today we awoke to bright sunshine and the clouds going out and coming in at Irente Viewpoint. For those of you who do not know is a very high viewing are at the top of a mountain.  Up there it feels like you are flying and your feet are on the ground. If it is not cloudy you can see for over 30 miles.  There are no guard railings on the edge of the mountain.  It is amazing. After we had been there – within 5 minutes the clouds rolled in and we were engulfed in a cloud bank.  The Ken Crest people went to The Irente Rainbow school today to talk with the teachers.  Tomorrow they are having parents day and a big celebration.  Should be a lot of fun.
Today I am spending the day with Dr. Munga. She is currently on sabbatical and therefore not involved in all the preparations at SEKUCo.  She is quite laid back and anticipates being on sabbatical for maybe a hear. She remains Provost at SEKUCo but has entrusted things to her faculty and staff. We will go to SEKUCo tomorrow.  Friday is a convocation with several speeches and Saturday is Graduation.
We stopped by to see the faculty at Rainbow and saw the teachers – Rosy the gardener and cook with one arm. She lost her other arm in a bus accident many years ago.  She is a great witness to those around.  We had lunch at Tumaini Hostel and I checked in there while the others remain at the Viewpoint.
The weather is cool and getting cloudy. News from NED is that Dean Jonathan Mwamboza is no longer on the Bishop’s staff and no longer lives in Lushoto.  I do not know all the details but they have dealt out his responsibilities to others in the office.
It is wonderful to return to Lushoto.  Feels like home.  Many good friends and friendly faces.  Dirt from the roads still fill the air and there are always many people walking up and down the streets because to have a vehicle even a motorcycle -piggy piggy – is expensive to maintain and put fuel in.
For those of you who have been here there are many greetings being sent to you from your "Tanzanian family members."  For those who have never been here they would say you are always welcome – and they truly mean it.


Thursday, December 2

Today was another day of waiting.  One realizes when out of the USA and especially in Tanzania that punctuality is a frame of reference to be dismissed.  When people indicate you will be picked up at 9:30 and show up at 11:15 – no problem.  Hakuna matata – This is truly frustrating for me as I pride myself on being on time.  Here I have to force myself to just stay calm.  The other element is that plans are always changing and so what – really.

Today we were to be at the Irente Rainbow School at 10:00 to take part in the parents day program.  We arrived later than 10:00 and things were just getting arranged.  Then we were to line up with the students and faculty to greet some important guests from the Government Department of Education..  We lined up 4 times and only on the 4th time did the guests actually arrive.  The children and staff are so patient.  Children – some with severe disabilities standing in the hot Tanzanian sun and just waiting.  The older children taking care of the younger ones.  Placing them back in line and holding their hand or arm as a point of contact and a reminder they are cared for. The sun is very hot because we are much closer to the equator.  So the long times of standing in the sun brought me a bit of sunburn today. Pretty typical for me.

Then there are formalities such as signing the guest book at each location, which always takes time.  Then the tour of the facility.  So the parent’s day program started about 12:30 and ended at 3:30.  The children sang, there were some governmental representatives, there was a DJ kind of person.  There was a famous disabled Swedish singer-Lenna Maria – who was present, then each of us made brief speeches.  It was a great program however it ended around 3:30 and we still had not had lunch. Catherine Nold presented the video taken of her disabled son Russell.  This was presented as a way of indicating that even with a disability all people are of value and have something’s to share.  It was wonderful.  We quickly took some lunch and then needed to get to the Cathedral to meet with the students who are receiving scholarships from members of the Upper Dublin Lutheran Church in Ambler, PA.  Quickly is not a viable concept here.  Lunch took a while, there were some additional presentations.  We finally got in the car and the Swedish film crew wanted to take up driving away – and we needed to do 2 takes – PHEW!  By now I am doing a bit of self talk to stay current and calm.  There was really nothing we could do so just go with the flow.

Pastor Peter Bandera, Cathedral Church, had arranged for me to meet with the students who are sponsored by members of Upper Dublin Lutheran Church.  We were to meet with them at 3:00 p.m. and we did not arrive until 6:20 p.m.  Therefore the students had been waiting for us for over 3 hours. I apologized profusely.  Mr. Mrema and Pastor Bandera and I organized the handing out of the cards from their sponsors (26 of them) and made sure we had the correct list of students. There were about 9 changes from the List that Upper Dublin had, but we worked it out. There were, of course, many changes.  I took pictures of each student and videotaped Mr. Mrema and Pastor Bandera with greetings to Upper Dublin.


Friday, December 3

Today is beautiful.  I awoke well rested and went to breakfast.  Had a brief conversation   with the Vice Chancellor of Tumaini Universities.  I shared with him our SEKUCo newsletter and he suggested it also be shared with President Mkapa – retired President of Tanzania.  I waited to get to the internet cafe which was to open at 8:30 and the staff person came at 9:20.  I waited and watched people walking up and down the main road in Lushoto.  I filmed some young children going to school and when they saw I was filming them, they stayed around and then wanted to be paid for their service. I did not pay them and they went along to school.  I was woken up this morning as well as all mornings in Lushoto with the school bell ringing – it is an old tire rim and hit with a hammer.
While I was waiting for the internet cafe who should come by but Michael Singano and his wife.  They are members at the Cathedral and he is the head master at Bangala Junior Seminary.  He is also on the scholarship committee at Upper Dublin and was recently in the States.  Michael and I had a few minutes to chat and I filmed a greetings from him to Upper Dublin.  Then his wife returned and she has brought a greeting in Kiswahili
My driver arrived, Mr. Sheryl, to take me to Dr. Munga’s home.  We had some great Tanzanian tea made from cardamom and some citric leaves from the garden.  Very good.  We chatted about many things and had a bite to eat.  She shared with me the program for the Graduation tomorrow.  She was very excited for the day.  I am one of the guests speaking along with Caroline from Germany/Tanzania and one other.  It will be  a wonderful celebration in a very crowded room.  Today was the convocation which we thought we were attending but rather it was a closed meeting. Therefore I went to SEKUCo and had a private tour of SEKUCo campus A and B led by a German volunteers.  It was fund to bring her up to date on the worked we have jointly done over the years and she could show me the new things.
I just have to say as I am sitting the server room at Campus B that the 45 piece trumpet procession is rehearsing for tomorrow.  They will be escorting people  from Campus A to Campus B. I went out and found not a group of adult players, but a group of small children playing their hearts out.  I have filmed them and will provide them later one – probably when I am home.
Campus A looks pretty much as it did at the inauguration.  They have moved things around and the computer lab and library at now all on Campus B.  It is so fun to be back and greetings friends from over the years.  They are all asking about things in SEPA and sending their greetings.  We are truly a united global family.  Thanks be to God!
I have brought with me a DVD prepared by Judith Heumann, Special Advisor on International Disability Rights in the US Department of State.  Judith has become a good friend and certainly wished to be here.  She spends all of her days in a motorized wheelchair.  She has made a DVD greeting to the graduating students.  It is a wonderful piece and one which we truly cherish.  Having a connection in the US Administration Department of State is truly wonderful.  I will have it shared at the end of my presentation.
They now have the capacity of video conferencing on the campus so those who will not be able to get into the assembly hall will watch in 3 other classrooms on Campus B and also on Campus A. This place has gone from a dilapidated unusable facility to a state of the art university campus in a very short period of time.  The computer staff has gone from 1 to 5 and the amount of computers available for students is now up to over 90 – all with internet connectivity.  So one can be studying in the beautiful Usambara mountains and be planted in the global community.  What a gift the internet and connectivity is.
It is fun to watch the students at this point as they are rehearsing for graduation – so proud of wearing the cap and gowns and knowing they are the first of many students who will graduate from SEKUCo.
I should also tell you that the name of SEKUCo will probably be changing as they will be known as Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University.  They will no longer be a college – but rather a full fledged University.  We will have to see what they do with the name SEKUCo which is how all of us identify them.  Stay tuned.
Plans for tomorrow are we will attend Graduation and then the US delegation and Mary Gale and Marg from International Special Educators will be having dinner at the Munga residence.  What a fitting conclusion to what will surely be an amazing day.
I have seen many staff and other friends around the campuses.  You who have been here know the greeting.  Always warm and welcoming – reestablishing friendships and lots of broad grins, bright eyes, hand or arm shakes, and occasionally a hug (an American tradition which the Tanzanians have learned) – here any physical contact in public is frowned upon – even between a husband and wife.  Thank God they humor us in our greeting ways.
The diocese is planning on building many student hostels – dormitories as the students want to live closer to the campus. As they are very entrepreneurial they do not have the money yet, but are already clearing the ground – by hand – of course.
I look fondly at the building that 4 years ago we dumped dirt into for 7 hours and made the sub-flooring.  It is now a dorm room and beautiful.  My how far we have all come.
I think that is probably enough for now.  We Thank God for what has taken place in Magamba, in the hearts and minds of all concerned and in the country of Tanzania.  A dream is coming true only to have it reestablished as a new dream and vision for the future.  Which certainly at this point is VERY BRIGHT!
Sorry I can not bring you up to date on the Ken Crest group as we are not staying together or traveling together.  they continue to focus on The Irente Rainbow School and I pray are being successful as this is am important connection for all concerned.
Thanks for journeying with us.