Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Visit from a President

Today has been interesting. The president of Ireland came to visit the center and met with the students studying in the development course here (mostly from Tanzania and Kenya, but also from other parts of Africa). There was a group of singers and dancers here to welcome her - it was quite an event. She was accompanied by quite an entourage and lots of Tanzanian police officers (who are a bit scary, I must say).

Today was also our first full day of class. We have class from 8:30 to 10:00 am, a break for tea, then class again from 10:30 to 12:30. From 12:30 to 2:00 we have a lunch break. We have had lots of yummy East African food mixed with a little European (this is a Danish training center). Then we have class again from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. After that, we have time to do homework, play games, read and/or talk before dinner at 7:00 pm.

This afternoon, I came to the library to work, where I saw a Tanzania friend that I had met earlier and another Tanzanian. I was really embarrassed to get out my computer knowing that it epitomizes my American privilege relative to my African colleagues. We talked for a while about why exactly that is so and then I just started to cry. But they were both totally understanding and were able to see my heart for justice and my desire to work for change. They both saw compassion in my tears rather than weakness, for which I am grateful. Then we talked about development and about the kind of research I will be doing in Kenya (mostly in Swahili with some English). It was very encouraging and affirming to share together with them and to be understood.

Outside the window here in the library, I can hear birds chirping and an occasionally interesting animal sounds. I see acacia trees (the ones that are wide and flat on top) and baby banana trees. East Africa really is beautiful. It’s nice too to be out of the city a little and to be around a little more nature.

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