Friday, January 30, 2009

Do You Like It There?

I get this question a lot. It’s usually asked with a degree of uncertainty, as if the person were saying, “Is it possible for an American to like living in Africa?”

Do I like living in Tanzania? Well, I would certainly hope so. My life would be pretty miserable if I didn’t.

There are a million things I love about Tanzania. Purple and pink and white bougainvillea, the sparkling Indian ocean with the temperature of bath water, delicious vegetables and tropical fruit, the friendliness and openness of Tanzanians, the richness of the African and Indian cultures present in the city, the smell of the rain. I feel less pressure here to look a certain way or buy certain things. I like being away from television. I like being away from consumerism. I like that living here makes us appreciate the little things of life more.

More significant is that Gil and I absolutely love working at HOPAC. As I said before, it is a perfect fit for us. For me personally, ministry at HOPAC has been exhilarating. I love kids; I love teaching; I love education as a field. During these last 4 years, I haven’t been teaching full time, and my role at HOPAC has lessened as our family has grown. But HOPAC is a young school (about 15 years old), which means that a lot of things are still “a work in progress” and Gil and I have had the fabulous opportunity to really be instrumental in getting a lot of things going. It is so fulfilling to not just be a part of the school, but to be a part of making it even better. For example, during the last four years, I’ve had a part in getting a staff/parents association going, providing opportunities for parents to support staff, getting an after-school program up and running, tutoring ESL kids, helping with the recruitment program, writing a handbook for new teachers, establishing a counseling policy, teaching elementary chapel once a week, assisting with drama, starting a service emphasis week, helping with a service learning class, starting a schoolwide memory verse program, and chaperoning field trips. Gil's list would be even longer. Among many other things, Gil has set the Bible curriculum for the entire jr. high and high school. I love this! Not only do I love the vision of HOPAC, but I love that we are able to really be a part of building the school’s foundation.

Of course this doesn’t mean that I love everything here. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that we do face different kinds of challenges that we would in the States. But the hardest part, by far, is being so far away from family and friends. I tell new missionaries all the time, “You’ll get used to the way of life in about 6-9 months, but you never get used to missing the people you love.” But we definitely have it better than missionaries a generation ago, with the advent of the internet and cheaper air travel. And is there really anywhere in the world where life is perfect?
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