Traveling In Africa Can Be Interesting...

Last week we had the honor of being invited to attend the wedding of one of our local brothers. He was going to be married in Chimala, a village in the southern part of the country. It was going to be an awfully long trip, but we relished the opportunity to witness this aspect of Tanzanian culture and to strengthen our relationship with this good family. Chimala is also home to one of the oldest mission points in the country, and we have long desired to visit this work. Additionally, our new friends the Evans family and John Strong work in Iringa (located between us and Chimala). It is always a great idea to visit with other missionaries when the opportunity arises in order to trade ideas and encourage one another. With the chance to accomplish all of these things at once, we decided to take our very first African road-trip! Let me tell you, it was A LOT different from any road-trip I've ever taken before. Take a look at these images from the trip, then let me tell you all about it.

First of all, this trip was much more interesting than the typical interstate trip. The cross country scenery was amazing, and we saw a variety of African lifestyles along the way. Unfortunately, our Tanzanian road map doesn't make a distinction between nicely paved roads and long, rough dirt roads. This resulted in us driving for one stretch of over 100 miles on a dirt road. Can't say I ever did that back home. Fortunately, the traffic was very light on that road... with the exception of giant buses driving way too fast as they carried their passengers on cross country trips of their own. Several times we just had to pull off the road to avoid being flattened. 

One of the really enjoyable aspects of the travel was the wildlife encountered on the way. At home we were accustomed to seeing the occasional deer or raccoon. Here we had to stop to let zebras cross the road, and a variety of other animals as well. We even encountered a sign detailing the fines incurred by running into different animals. Running into an elephant or giraffe will cost you $15,000. However baboon roadkill will only set you back $110.

The convenience that we missed the most was fast food. Aside from a bag of peanuts from a village street vendor, we pretty much only had the food that we carried with us. There were very few restaurants along the way, but being out of our home turf we had no way to know if they were safe or not. They would almost certainly have been extremely slow anyway. 

However, we planned for this situation, and Tiffany packed picnics for us. We stopped at a pretty little spot along the way and prepared for a pleasant meal of peanut butter sandwiches. Little did we know, we had chosen a spot in the middle of a path that the Maasai used for their livestock. So as Tiffany was making the sandwiches, a small herd of cows and goats came walking right through our picnic! Oh well, TIA (this is Africa)!

The other thing we had to be conscious of was gas, or petrol as it is called here. Gas stations are a little farther between each other here so we start looking for one when we get down to half a tank. At one point things did get a little close. We were about 50 miles from the nearest petrol station and we needed some fuel. We found a garage and asked them with broken Swahili if they knew where we could find petrol. They misunderstood and thought we were searching for a man named Petrol. They asked, "Who does Petrol work for?" I was thinking, "I hope it works for me because I need some fuel!" Eventually we solved the miscommunication, and they sold us 10 liters of petrol that they happened to have on hand. Just another TIA moment!

We arrived in Iringa and had a great visit with our friends, the Evans family and John Strong. It was wonderful to see their work and spend time with our fellow soldiers in Christ. They were very hospitable to us, and we look forward to the next time we'll see them.

We were thrilled to get a chance to visit Chimala Mission. My family almost moved there to work when I was in 8th grade. I couldn't help but wonder as I toured the facility what life would have been like if those plans had come to fruition. 

Chimala is an extensive work that provides many services to the community. There is a hospital, nursery school, primary boarding school, secondary boarding school, and a biblical institute. They were gracious enough to let us stay there for the night.

Finally, it was time for the wedding. It was a festive blend of western and local traditions, and was something that we were fortunate to be able to witness. It was scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m., but in true Africa fashion things didn't get started until about 1:00 p.m. Time moves at a different pace here, and things are more laid back for the most part. Fortunately, we were warned to anticipate this so we arrived late anyway.

When we arrived, the atmosphere was festive. The women from the local congregation had gathered in front of the building, and wearing matching dresses for the occasion formed a joyful chorus. Their singing filled the air and notified the neighborhood that something special was happening that day. This inside of the church building was filled with brightly colored, satiny material and flowers. When the bride and groom arrived, the fanfare hit a crescendo.

The whole experience was designed to be fun for everyone. Things began with the men from the wedding party entering the building. An emcee jokingly rebuked them for leaving the women behind and sent them back out. The men returned with their female counterparts. The emcee then rebuked them for forgetting the bride and groom, and sent them all back out to enter properly. This set the tone for a fun and spirited ceremony.

After the ceremony, a procession went to another location to take pictures of the happy couple. Following the photo session, we all went to a family member's home for a reception.

Here people had the chance to greet the newly weds and present gifts. Rather than being all wrapped up to be opened later, gifts were proudly paraded around in the open and celebrated. Then we all shared a meal together.

Then we went back into the village where a facility had been rented out for a second reception. Here more gifts were given. The guests were all introduced to one another and given a chance to address the crowd. I was asked to speak on behalf of the Arusha residents and offer some biblical thoughts to the couple. Cake was cut, and general festivities continued. The cake tradition is a little different here. There were three cakes. One was presented to each family, then the bride and groom fed cake to each other. Remaining cake was smashed and passed around the crowd where guest sampled pinches of it (kind of like passing the Lord's Supper). I finally excused myself at 10:30 p.m. and they party was still going strong, with a full meal waiting to be served. It was certainly a full day of celebration, and an amazing event to witness. I wish the very best to the new husband and wife.

What a trip! :)

Daniel Gaines

To see Daniel’s report, loaded with pictures worth seeing, click here.

Posted on July 20, 2014 .