Please look around and continue visiting my blog so that I can keep you up to date about everything having to do with my serving in Tanzania ! Feel free to email me with questions and please keep me in your prayers!
Matthew Sroka

Friday, April 1, 2011

Greetings from Tanzania's Southern Highlands

Greetings from Iringa, Tanzania, the city on a hill!

Yesterday we arrived in Iringa, a larger “city” in the Mufindi District in which we teach. We had a pleasant bus ride in which we were actually not squished like sardines. Iringa is about 3 hours by bus from Nyololo, the closest bus stop to our home. It was a frightening ride up a winding road in the Daladala (bus) to the town situated in a valley high in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. So far we’ve enjoyed lattes, burgers and panini’s and hot (well warm) showers.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been focused on spending as much time with the people in Bumilayinga as possible. Our village lady friends, have visited our home for tea and banana bread. And we have visited the orphanage for lunch and spending time with the children. Rehema, a Tanzanian who works at the orphanage, has a really sweet spirit, and we are already planning to leave her our Swahili Children’s Bible in order to share with the kids. My tutor, Upendo, continues to try to teach me the language, and on my part, I am trying to speak it more, which helps in my knowledge. On our way to Iringa, we stopped to visit Mama Upendo, in Nyololo. It’s a beautiful thing to see the complete thanks offered, not to us, but to God, for our ability to help Upendo with school fees. Likewise, Zamayoni who is another student who works for us and he has been such a blessing. We call him the bike doctor because he always fixes our bike (and our bikes do break on a weekly occurrence); we also joke that he is our son because there is no one who spends more time at our house besides us. He evens come on Saturdays and Sundays to see if there is work to do or sometimes he comes just to hang out. Anyway, I mention him here because his mother came to us a couple months ago (as you might recall from previous updates) to implore us to let him work for us. Since then his mother has made the couple hour trek from her home to bring us baskets, food, and other things. Every time, she comes her face beams with thankfulness and appreciation of the help we’re giving her son. If we ever doubt why God has brought us here or if our lives here really our making a difference, we just stop and think of Mama Zamayoni and all our misgivings fade away and we thank God. Praise be to God! We are blessed with so much in America, it takes coming to Africa to remind us to have a giving heart. Students and families often bring gifts to us to thank us for our service and help to students. In America, giving a gift is something that we need a special occasion for. How many times have I given a simple gift to a friend just because I wanted them to know I am thankful for them? I think few, if ever. Tanzanians, whether in their home or giving a gift, give what they have. Potatoes, beans, wheat, or baskets. They give all they have to offer. And not for anything in return, just because they want to express thanks.

Students just finished mid-term exams, and also have a week long holiday. We continue to have almost all teacher positions staffed, which is benefiting the students immensely. The Form 2 class will take government administered exams in June will determine their ability to continue to Form 3. Bukimau currently isn’t “registered” which means the students will have to travel to another VST school to take exams. The process of registration involves government officials coming to view the school. Also, they require a ‘laboratory’ to be partly finished, which is now under construction at Bukimau.

At school we have had two recent football (also known as soccer to you Americans) matches against two government schools. The fist we traveled to was about 40 minutes from home by bicycle. That week we had construction workers from VST staying, and they kindly took two loads of students to the match riding in the back of a dump truck. The next game took place at our school, and the day included a netball game (Tanzania’s version of basketball for girls), and a debate. As we have explained, English is the medium of Secondary school in Tanzania. However, Maduma, the visiting school, refused, or was unable to debate in English. It’s a sad reflection of the state of schools here. Our students learn how to debate from the start. We have had two debates with our Pre-form students, in their extremely broken and limited English. Form One and Form Two are also capable of debating in English. However, this nearby government school, which goes up to Form Four, was unable. It’s a rewarding thing to know that for the state of education to change, students simply need to learn English, and at Bukimau, we make sure that they do. J

As we have expectantly approached and passed the three months remaining mark, we are starting to be filled with both joy and sadness. We are looking forward to the next chapter of our lives and to see what God has in store for us. We also will leave precious students and friends behind. Something we keep in mind is that such a young school that Bukimau is, there needs to be many planters before there are harvests. We trust that the Lord uses the seeds we have planted and that the next person in the plan at Bukimau will take their place in the planting, watering, or harvesting process.

  • Prayer Requests:
  • School registration: construction, water intake, electricity
  • Energy and peace in our last 2+ months
  • Travel Safety going back to Bumilayinga and home in June
  • Continued health
  • Quality time and conversations with students including Zamoyoni, Upendo, Stewart, Margret, Sessy, Upendo and all our classes
  • Relationships with Rehema and Mama Nevadina
Much love, Emily and Matt