For those of you on Facebook you've probably already seen my latest FB update. For those of you who haven't, let me fill you in. Last night we lost power - again - around 6pm. Nights without power are actually some of my favorite here in TZ. We light lanterns and just enjoy each other's company. No bright lights, no tv, no computers, no radio. Just stories, laughter and chai. Around 9:30pm everyone had gone to bed. I went to my room to read and write in my journal for a while. Strangely, around 5 minutes to 11pm I heard the prayers from the mosque - they are sung over a megaphone of sorts that broadcasts them across the city and surrounding villages. The prayers also start precisely at the top of the hour so the early start was a bit odd. Plus, I was sure the last prayers were around 8pm.
The trees and fields were lit by the full moon above. Shortly after the prayers began, I heard people yelling in the distance. Usually the neighborhood is quiet after dark, but last night there was a lot of commotion. I didn't think much more about it and went to sleep around 11:30pm. This morning, Fatuma began to tell what had happened - or what she thought had happened. She was very worried last night. She couldn't sleep. The sky was lit with orange lights and people were running to the mosques, crying for help. There was commotion everywhere. I could see she was still frightened. I tried to ask more questions using her broken English and my broken Swahili. She thought maybe it was missile fire above. After some frantic conversation, I decided to Google it (thank goodness for Google) and we discovered that it was a lunar eclipse. And not just any lunar eclipse, but the biggest one in 11 years. And, oh yeah, - I missed it! I was in one of the best viewing spots in the world for the eclipse and I never saw it. Of course.
Before I forget, I've added a photos page to the blog. You can click on the "photos" link to the right to see pictures. I will add more weekly. You will notice that there are no pictures of the lunar eclipse.
Over the past few hours I've thought a lot about the commotion of last night. The fear the villagers must have felt is indescribable, and ironically enough, unfounded and avoidable. Unfortunately, this is often the case in Tanzania - all over the third world for that matter. People fear what they do not know. It is exactly for instances such as last night that education is so important. Children in classrooms often share one single science book. Many times it is 20 years old. Doctors make guesses to the best of their ability on how to treat illnesses they have never seen before. Traditional healers are murdering albinos in Tanzania because of an age-old taboo.
Thankfully, many organizations and individuals here in Tanzania are leading efforts to combat these injustices. Schools like Good Hope in Arusha are teaching children math, science and English. I met a volunteer this weekend who runs a computer lab high up in the mountains for the rural villages. Access to the internet equals access to knowledge. A couple of the girls I met from Denmark are working with a locally-based micro-finance organization that provides loans to small farmers to buy seeds, chickens and livestock. The farmers are taught how to rotate their crops and increase egg yields from their chickens. The organization is now looking into a program to help these farmers develop a savings plan to send their children to school. There is another volunteer here who is working independently with a dairy co-op in a rural village. He has constructed a plan to help increase dairy yields and decrease transportation costs leading to an additional 25% in income for the farmers in the co-op.
What I have found most inspiring is that every one of these volunteers is here on their own. They aren't working for UNICEF or Amnesty International or the Red Cross, but they are still changing lives. They each came to Tanzania for a short visit, saw a need and decided to return to address the need. It doesn't take much more than a willing spirit to make a difference here.
I haven't quite figured out what my focus will be while studying here over the next year. And for those of you who know me, well, you know this is driving me crazy. I'm ready to start making things happen! Nevertheless, I am encouraged by what I have seen in only 6 short days. Whatever it is I decide to do, I know this is where I've been led. And as I was reminded in Proverbs 4:11 last night I have been guided in the way of wisdom and will be led on the right path.