Friday, January 9, 2015

One Month In Tanzania so far...

Hello everyone!

I have officially been in Tanzania now for about 6 weeks, and feel quite settled in. The newest member of Pamoja, Kirsten from BC, Canada, just arrived on Tuesday who will be working on construction around the campus. It’s exciting to see the Pamoja family grow a little bigger, and frankly I’m stoked to have another single young woman on base with me :)
Raha has also been a fantastic constant companion,
which makes dealing with the negative effects of culture shock far less painful :)
my cubicle space in the office
Now that I am familiarized with life here, my days are also fairly scheduled, so I quickly dove into the project that I came to Tanzania for. On weekdays I work roughly from 9-5 on the financial literacy comics, which are a series of comic books to accompany an animated curriculum. The story follows a local East African man named Maswali (meaning “questions” in Swahili,) who learns basic financial concepts such as record keeping, budgeting, investing in banks, and good stewardship of finances in a way that both honors God and benefits their community. While culturally relevant, the stories also promote the importance of female education and loving marriages—awesome principles to encourage in a patriarchal society. For example, the name of Maswali’s wife is Upendo, which translates to “beloved.”

Maswali- screenshot from the animation
mockup of comics

original prototype comics
The past month been filled with lots of experimenting as we try to figure out economical yet aesthetically pleasing designs for the comics. I even had to learn some scripting in Photoshop, and rack my brains to do some mathematical calculations which would give us high image quality without using too much ink. Anyone who knows me fairly well understands that any type of math is my worst nemesis, so going through this is a big deal for me. Who knew that math and programming would come to haunt me in Africa? I also learned that while I may have increased my knowledge at USC in certain subjects, I definitely haven’t gotten any brighter at math.

finding ways to save ink through a bitmap filter (that's the little white dots)

cover design ideas

Thank you again to all my supporters, due all the prayers and contributions I was able to arrive in Africa with awesome equipment for Pamoja! -As you can see in some of these images, I’ve using the Cintiq, a high quality digital drawing tablet, to create designs for the comics!

Now that I am settled into Pamoja with a steady work schedule, it is tempting to remain in my Pamoja/missionary bubble and ignore the local culture that I came here to serve. As I have noticed whenever I travel abroad for extended periods, my introverted tendencies tend to emerge once I begin to pass the honeymoon stage of culture shock. I can hide in my apartment and read books, skype friends, or watch American movies; or I can push myself to learn more of the language, travel around Arusha, and interact with local Tanzanians.

Even though I often talk about how enriching it was for me to engage with local Italians while I lived in Florence, I also forget how difficult it is for me to go beyond what is culturally comfortable. It’s not comfortable for me to speak in broken Swahili, nor will it be comfortable for me to venture out to a local Swahili-speaking church. It is really not comfortable to be labeled “mzungu” (foreigner or white person) everywhere I go.

But Jesus’ ministry would not have been so revolutionary had He chosen to “love” the world from comfortable places. Jesus’ love is like no other because He is willing to share our pain, our laughter, and our lives. His love is unconditional despite fully understanding and enduring the brokenness of humanity. Likewise, I now need to ask myself—am I willing to share life with Tanzanians instead of recreating my own American bubble? It is a humbling and uncomfortable question.

So! Prayer requests for the upcoming week include:

Challenging myself: 
As mentioned above, I don’t want to remain in my cultural bubble. Please pray for courage to step into Tanzanian culture, faith that God will guide me, and grace/humility to deal with any differences/difficulties that I am sure to encounter.

Finding time for Jesus: Lastly, in the midst of everything it can be tempting to sleep until I absolutely must get up for work, or spend my evenings crashing in my apartment. Please pray that Christ will remain in the center of my life, and in everything I do here at Pamoja :)

And here are some more pictures that capture the past month here!

the Pamoja team went on a safari to Arusha National park the day after Christmas! 
standing on top of a mountain with Lucy and Angela (missionaries from Tanzania)

Natasha helping me draw for a book

I caught a sunbird the other day!

Sunset during our Nipe Jibu showing (a musical film from Pamoja)

the local church we showed the film at

Kwaheri kilamtu!

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