"If you don't see me at the back of the bus, you can't find me nowhere, come on over to the front of the bus. I"ll be riding up there."
We left Chipole a few days ago. It's the home of the Benedictine Sisters of St. Agnes. What a beautiful experience and the beginning of a beautiful relationship with them. Working, singing, dancing and praying with them is a meaningful spiritual experience. It took us 21 hours to reach Chipole from Dar es Salaam, so in leaving, we decided to stop in a few places on the way hoping to have no breakdowns.
We started in Songea with peanuts and Maandazis (doughnuts) for the bus ride. It's a 3 hour ride by Tumaini (hope) bus from Chipole. We were with Deo Gratias who was the pre school teacher at Chipole. She is now beginning secondary school in Songea. She is sponsored by two parishioners from St. Michael's Parish in Olympia, our home parish. She is motivated and filled with hope.
From Songea in southern Tanzania to Mafinga was a 7 hour bus ride and our first stop on our journey to Dar ed Salaam. We stopped here to visit a young man we have known since he was in 6th grade in Musoma where we Maryknoll Lay Missioners for 3 1/2 years. Some of you will remember him in some of our earlier stories. His name is Melkiadi. Our first meeting with him after Mass at Mwisenge parish in Musoma. Walking with him after Mass he asked us in English "Is it possible to live like St. Francis today? This surprised us for many reasons since few young students could speak English. When we asked how he knew English he answered, "I study." Melkiadi for the next two years volunteered his time helping us teach children to read Kiswahili. Kitty and I sponsored him at Nyegezi seminary in Mwanza. He graduated first in his class in science and first in his class over all. He is now beginning form 6 at Mafinga seminary and next year will begin medical school in Tanzania.
Our next stop from Mafinga along the Tanzam Highway was Morogoro. Stopping at Morogoro would be of interest to Maryknoll Affiliates because we visited Janet Srebalus and 3 other Maryknoll Sisters there. Janet was the Maryknoll Sisters' representative to the Maryknoll and Affiliates and visited many Affiliate groups across the US. She asks us to say hello to all of the Affiliates.
Sometimes you are seated at the back of the bus when you start from a small town like Mafinga. From Mafinga to Morogoro (7 hrs) we were sitting at the back of the bus. With each bump and there many we would bounce to the top of the bus. It was like riding a bucking horse. But there was an advantage. We had a panoramic view through the windows at the front of the bus and the side windows. These were perfect seats for viewing animals for 50 kilometers through Mikumi National Park. Although the bus never slowed down, it was possible to see animals along the highway through the park. We say 20 elephants, 3 giraffes, a herd o 50 to 70 buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, antelope and a wart hog. After staying one night with the Maryknoll sisters in Morogoro we had only a 3 hour ride to Dar where we stay with the Benedictine Brothers from Hanga. Excuse the spelling, the Maryknoll Sisters are Janet, Sr. Sue, Sr. Leh King and Sr. Jen.
Today we are waiting to board an airplane for Musoma. We are helping 11 students. in secondary school. Six will graduate this October. Four of them are girls. Last year we gave them solar powered lights so they could study at night. They has a two hour walk to and from school. Their final year they will board in town with tutors. This is an important year for them since the government exam after secondary school determines the future plans of the students. We will encourage them. One of the girls, we think will want to attend medical school also.
We will also visit and buy items that women at Tupendane make. Christmas cards and sewn items such as purses that our parish sells at the Fair Trade Sale each December. This has been a very successful relationship with our parish. So here we are at the front of the bus filled with hope because we are beginning new relationships. Some in the States have sewn dresses for the orphans, some have crocheted prayer shawls for sisters who are ill whom they will never meet, some have knit hate for the orphans. Others have sponsored girls in secondary school, some have helped sponsor a kid that will begin medical school. Others have helped by volunteering time and donated books to bring books to begin a library. And the sisters and the people of Tanzania have welcomed us, loved us, fed us and prayed with us showing us the way to peace. Together we have begun relationships. In our prayers and our hopes we are riding on the front of the bus, sitting side by side. We are the Body of Christ