The following is a letter to the Church School students at Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, sent on 16 May 2010
Utukufu kwa Yesu Kristo! Glory to Jesus Christ!
How are you all? What’s new in Cincinnati?
And greetings from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania! I am here to study Swahili, which is the major language of Tanzania. After some time here in Dar es Salaam, I will move to Mwanza to begin serving the Orthodox Church there. I’d like to tell you a little bit about what my life is like here.
Dar es Salaam is Tanzania’s biggest city. It is on the coast of the Indian Ocean, and it’s an old Arabic seaport. Its name means “Haven of Peace” in Arabic. There are about as many people here as in Cincinnati’s metro area– around two and a half million. The city’s downtown is on the waterfront, just like Cincinnati. On my way to class each day, my bus passes the waterfront and the ferry terminal where people go to Zanzibar Island.
The weather here is like summer in Ohio. At night it gets into the high 60s, and in the day it gets into the mid 90s. Since we’re near the equator, the temperature stays about the same all year round. Right now it’s the rainy season, so it’s very humid. Most people don’t have air conditioning, so when it’s hot outdoors it’s hot indoors as well. Thank God, my room has an overhead fan which is on almost all the time!
Most people don’t have cars. So we travel on minibuses that are called “dala dala.” There are LOTS of buses on the road all the time, and during rush hour they get very crowded. But no matter how full the bus is, somehow there always seems to be room for one more person to squeeze in. The big roads are paved, but the smaller ones are just dirt roads. And all the roads have potholes. So driving can get pretty bumpy.
But it’s very pretty. It’s green everywhere, with lots of coconut palm trees. People are really friendly, and they love to talk. When you meet someone, you don’t just say hi. You say hi first, then you ask, “How are you? How are things? How’s your morning? How’s your family? How’s work?” and so on. People might spend five or ten minutes greeting each other before they start talking about anything else. It’s good for me learning the language, because people are eager to talk with me all the time.
Soccer is very popular. The Dar es Salaam soccer team, Simba, just won the national championship and people are very excited. Their team color is red, so there are red flags everywhere, and lots of people wearing the red team jersey.
While I’m here, I’m worshiping at St. Paraskevi Orthodox Cathedral downtown. It’s a big, beautiful church that was built about sixty years ago. In addition to national Tanzanians, the congregation has Orthodox Christians from India, Ethiopia, Russia, Greece, and even the Congo. I’m the only American, though! We do the Liturgy in three languages: Swahili, English and Greek.
Right now, it’s my job to learn Swahili. The most important thing is for me to learn to listen to people. Please pray for me in these next few months, that God would give me the strength to really listen, and try hard to understand and love everyone I meet. And please stay in touch!
By your prayers,