calendar December 7, 2010 in Global Vision, SEKOMU

Tanzanian Journey: Inside Graduation Day 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…

Saturday, December 4

Saturday – as you know was the day of graduation.  I had written my presentation the day before in the server room at SEKUCo Campus B – with their fiber optic connections it is now almost as fast as at home – truly wonderful.  They have gone from dial up directly to fiber optic. First the slowest dial up you can imagine.  I realize in the USA with broadband and DSL lines if we get a thought, quickly we can fire up the computer/laptop connect to our respective email accounts, type quickly, spell check and send in a matter of minutes.  With a very slow dial up at each step in the process one waits and can be interrupted with their own thoughts, or by others and totally lose your original thought.  Because we have had speed without connectivity, we forget from where we have come.  The fiber optics is new at SEKUCo – brought initially into Campus B and now cabled to Campus A. The connections at Campus A are not too fast yet, but they are working on it.  They need to dig, by hand, trenches, deep enough that people will not dig them up, cover them and then make sure everything is set.  Complicated and so vital to their connectivity future.

We were picked up Saturday at 9:00 and arrived at Campus B.  This was this was the first time at SEKUCo for Bill, Catherine and Meghan.  A wonderful place – built into the side of the mountain – the plants and flowers are abundant as this is a lush green area.  We were met at Campus A by all the delegates. There was a wonderful brass band made up of all young people.  In fact the entire drumming section was under 10 years old.  They lead the procession and then there was a detailed protocol of how people lined up.  We were toward the front followed by the graduates the faculty and others. We processed from Campus A to Campus B via the road – about a mile and a half, keeping in mind that the band was playing and walking down the road for about 45 minutes.  They must have lips of rubber and drumming arm that just keep going.  There were over1000 people processing.  The sun was very hot, the excitement was building with each step. The dignitaries rode in cars and went before the procession and therefore greeted us when we arrived at Campus B.  We all processed into the gathering hall to great fanfare.  The room was decorated in SEKUCo colors – white and orange.  There were hundreds of red and white freshly cut the day before roses lining the entire front of the stage. There was seating on the stage for about 60 people.  This is where the American, Finnish, German and other local dignitaries sat on the stage facing the graduates and others who were privileged to be inside.  There was closed circuit big screen TVs immediately outside the hall and be they now have the capacity for video conferencing they beamed the live footage to 3 other sights on Campus B and one site on Campus A so people could see what was going on as if they were in the room.

The entire graduation took 4 hours.  There were several formal presentation and protocols.  There were representatives from Tumaini, the government, the Bishop of the ELCT, NED pastors and a few international guests such as ourselves.

For my presentation I wrote up some comments, read a letter from Bishop Claire Burkat and Joanne Carlson – the Bishop of SEPA, I read the certificate that indicated that the SEPA SEKUCo Coordinating Committee provided a graduation gift to SEKUCo for $14,000 – which was a surprise for them and concluded with the DVD from Judith Heumann.  Unfortunately the media crew did not have it immediately to play, so the program marched on.  I was immediately disappointed – be cause to have a DVD from the US State Department is a big deal in my eyes.  Anneth has indicated she will use it first with the faculty and then share it with the entire student body over the next couple weeks.  We had practiced where this would come in my remarks and the media team was just not ready.  Nothing I could do at the moment.

It was wonderful to see Robert graduate.  He was the second highest student in the student body.  He received 2 awards – one for being the second highest student and one for doing exceptional work.  We were all proud of him. He had a party with his family after graduation at home.

We then processed out to a sea of people with no order to it at all.  There was a kind of receiving line with Bishop Munga, Dr. Munga, the ELCT Bishop, Mkapa (former President of TZ) and others.  So groups of students would gather in front of them and have their picture taken, then move along and another group would come in.  There were families present outside and many had their own celebration with their graduate.  It looked chaotic but, as usual, seemed to work.

There was then a lunch for guests on Campus A. With the hot sun and a limited number of vehicles available it got a bit complicated.  We ultimately got a ride to Campus A, had lunch – sent off Bill and Catherine to Tanga so that Catherine could be with their companion congregation on Sunday. They were present Sunday morning for 3 services – 2 in Kiswahili and one in English.  Bill was able to share about the Rainbow School and Ken Crest.  Catherine was able to talk about having a son with disabilities. It evidently was well received. Their trip to Tanga took 3 hours as they left directly from graduation on Saturday.

The US delegation was scheduled to have dinner with the Munga at their home.  That did not pan out so Kate, Meghan, Mary Gale, Margo and I had dinner with Anneth at Tumaini.  This gave us some time to chat also.  The lights went out so we ate – quite late – by candle light which meant that preparing the food was also complicated.  When ordering food here it always takes at least 1 hour before you are served, as they prepare ONLY what is ordered, and ONLY went it available. We had a lovely dinner.  I returned to my TOTALLY DARK room, while Kate and Meghan got a ride to their place of lodging – Irente Viewpoint.  Marg and Mary Gale went to their place – St. Eugenie’s and Anneth was driven home.

I was grateful for flashlights.  It was a bit complicated getting my contacts out.  Fortunately I took them out when Kate and Meghan and I were waiting for their ride.  PHEW!  As I was trying to change clothes, brush my teeth it. in the dark, I was reminded of those who are blind.  This was calming for me as a means of solidarity.  I rested peacefully knowing what a historic day it had been and how very tired I was.

Thanks for journeying with us on this Saturday, December 4, 2010.  The first graduation day at SEKUCo.



Sunday, December 5

The group of Kate, Meghan, May Gale and Marg left Lushoto at 8:30 am headed to Tanga.  They had a safe drive and stayed at the Mkonge Hotel in Tanga.  I remained in Lushoto as Anneth wanted to have further discussions with me.  She then arranged a car and driver for me.

I had breakfast and walked to Cathedral for the one service at 9:00 am.  It was a wonderful walk of greeting many people and viewing the countryside.  The service was packed.  Many pastors, 2 choirs, the brass band from Saturday with the small drummer pushing up the sleeves on his bright pink shirt because it was probably the smallest shirt they had and it just did not fit him well.  No matter – he kept drumming.  During the service I was introduced and had the opportunity to bring greetings from Bishop Burkat, Joanne Carlson, Upper Dublin congregation and to indicate our overall strong partnership.  Pastor Bandera translated – when I used the phrase bega kwa bega (shoulder to shoulder) his translation when he got to that part he said shoulder to shoulder – you have to have a very quick mind to hear another language and translate into their own language.  Not a skill set I possess, but one I am most grateful that others do.

There were many greetings from the Cathedral to the members of Upper Dublin.  Also during the service there was the installation of new (in the past 2 years) staff for NED and other institutions of NED, such as Rainbow and SEKUCo.  I was then asked by Bishop Munga to come up and greet all of them (about 15 people).  There were several of us who were to greet the staff people.  Toward the end of the 4 hour service Bishop Munga addressed me specifically and wanted to send their greetings to Bishop Claire, Joanne, and all partners in SEPA.  I sat with Caroline Shedafa and her sons, Godlison, Edson and her husband’s son from a previous marriage.  The kids were great for 4 hours sitting in church.

Then in good Tanzanian tradition we processed from the church and made a huge circle for the auction.  This means if you do not money to give in the offering you bring something else that can be auctioned off and the proceeds do to the church.  There was a large rooster which I saw ad I had come forward a couple times.  I told Caroline that I wanted to purchase the chicken (kuku) for her family.  So she did the bidding and the chicken was purchased for 35,000 TZ shillings – about 4 dollars.  The children loved it.  They carried the chicken by the two wings and the feet were bound.  They would keep the kuku for a couple days, slaughter it and have a great dinner for several days.  A great gift of food for the family.  Mr. Mrema was one of the auctioneers as there were several things available.

Then there was a luncheon behind the cathedral.  I ate there and then went to another building to meet with Mr. Mrema and the students who are receiving scholarships from Upper Dublin.  It was a plain room with just benches.  Mr. Mrema had each student write a thank you note to their sponsors in English.  He would then call them up where they presented him with their letters.  He read them and edited them.  They then returned to their bench and rewrote their letters, put them in envelopes and I am bringing them back with me.  26 students are being sponsored and I am returning with 13 letters.  The others are away at boarding school.  They will catch up with them and send the letters when they are available.

Anneth has provided me with a car and driver.  I was then taken to Tumaini where Bishop Munga, General Secretary Mwinuka, and Anneth were sitting outside under a thatched hut talking and having chi (tea).  We then chatted for some time, interrupted frequently by phone calls coming in or being made.  Cell phones not only rule our lives, but also the lives of those in Tanzania.  Then Anneth invited me to their house for dinner.  We arrived at 7:30.  I was escorted into their home.  I sat there for a while and then Anneth emerged having changed cloths and with Bishop Munga in his casual clothes.  We then had a lovely dinner with the family as Daniel, Mikel and his caregiver, the Bishop, Anneth and I had dinner.  After that we had time for casual conversation and futuristic thinking.  It was a wonderful time.  The evening ended with family devotions lead by Daniel playing the electronic piano, the caregiver reading scriptures, I prayed and all was well.  I arrived back at Tumaini around 11:00 p.m.

From there I packed up my stuff as I was leaving first thing in the morning.  Fortunately the electricity was on. I have rested well and am grateful to spend time with our brothers and sisters in Tanzania.

Thanks for journeying with us.

God Bless You!