Monday, April 30, 2012

Getting My License

Well, it’s official.  I am a licensed driver in two countries.  How many people can say that? :) 

To get that license was quite an adventure and I thought I would share that adventure with all my blog members…if anyone still takes the time to read it.

The first thing we had to do was go to one office to see if my international license was enough.  The woman at that office didn’t know the answer so we had to go to a different place in the same strip mall.  The guy there said that I could get a license if I wanted to, but the international license was good enough.  We decided since we had driven 2 hours and rented a guesthouse for 2 nights just so I could get my license, that we would go ahead and get it.  So we went back to the first office to get me a TIN (Tanzanian Identification Number) which identifies me, but could also mean they would require I pay taxes which would be a very big pain.  Well, the woman in this office once again sent us back to the TRA (Tanzanian Revenue Authority) that was the building she had sent us to the first time so I could fill out a required form.  The TRA is the Tanzanian equivalent to the BMV (as far as I could tell).  We turned this form in to one of the guys working in the office.  He told us he would waive the need for a TIN so we didn’t have to go back to the lady we started with.  This was a good thing because now I don’t need to worry about paying taxes years from now when I’m not even in Tanzania.  Then I gave my fingerprints (to make sure I’m not a wanted criminal) and they took my picture and put my information in the computer.  For those of us familiar with the licensing process in the US, you would think the process would be finishing up, but we’re not even close.  At this point I have to go to the traffic police so they can sign a form saying I am capable of driving.  We needed to get the signatures of 2 different men.  By the time we got there, they were both gone for the day so we would have to return the next day.  We were told they would get in around 9am the next day.

The next day, we got there just a little before 9 and were waiting around for a little bit.  When they didn’t show up by 9:30, we asked one of the guys in the office what time we should expect them and we were told 10 this time.  So we went and ran other errands.  By the time we got back, the men had gone for their tea break.  So we waited some more.  Finally, both men were in their office.  We had to wait some more for the people who were there before us to meet with him.  He easily signed my form and was incredibly nice and helpful.  He enjoyed trying out his English speaking abilities with me and showed us where we needed to go after talking to the second traffic police guy.  The second guy put my information in a big book and then sent us back to the first building we had been in the day before.  So we returned there but this time went up to the very top floor to an air-conditioned office where the guy working there added the traffic police approval into the computer under my file that had been started the previous day.  Then we went back to the TRA where I stood in a line and told them I had finished with the police.  They gave me a note to take to the bank to give them my money for the license.  I took it to the bank next door because I read on the form that it was one of the approved banks.  This ended up shaving several hours off my adventure because there was no wait at this bank whereas the bank the missionaries were used to using with licensing had a queue that was about 30 people long and across town.  Then I went back to the TRA, we showed them all my paperwork and expected them to tell us to come back tomorrow to get my finished license.  Instead they said… “One week”

That’s right.  I spent all that time and didn’t even walk away from our 2-day adventure with the actual license.  Thankfully, Mavuto had to return to Mtwara for other reasons, so he picked it up while he was there.  So now, I have two forms of identification that are driver’s licenses. 

Now that you’ve read through the entire description of the process, I come to the point of telling you all about it.  The next time you visit a US BMV and start complaining about the wait or the hoops you have to jump through, just think of how much more difficult it could be. :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Going to Church

Well, I’ve been here in Masasi for both of the major Christian holidays (Christmas and Easter) so I thought it was a good time to talk about the difference between my home church in Ohio and the churches I’ve visited here.  I am here through an organization called Team Expansion.  The missionaries I’m working with are focused on developing the leaders of the churches that have been planted by previous missionaries.  There are seven churches that have been planted by Team Expansion missionaries that are still meeting.  I’ve visited all seven of them at least once.  While they are each different and special in their own unique way, they are also similar to each other in ways that are different from what I’m used to.  It’s these similarities that I will use to compare them with my home church and my United States church experience.

The first thing you notice when you get to church here is that there are no pews or chairs.  They have homemade benches with no backs to them.  Also, women sit on one side and men on the other. 

Another unique thing is that there are no instruments other than a small drum. There are 2 churches that have raised money and bought a keyboard and one speaker, but these churches are definitely the minority because they also have to buy a generator and the gas to power it since the villages do not have electricity. 

When we start to sing, there’s a person leading the song, but he or she doesn’t stand up front to lead.  Usually they just stay in the congregation.  We also don’t have any fancy power point or any other way to read the words for the song.  To make up for this, the song leader sings the chorus and then the congregation repeats it.  The leader might sing the chorus one more time and then the congregation repeats.  Then the leader will sing a verse and then the congregation sings the chorus again.  This is how the congregation knows what the words are for the song, if they don’t already know it from singing it before.  They also have Swahili hymn books that they sing a few songs from. 

Anther big difference in worship is that they are more active in their worship.  They aren’t afraid of dancing while they are praising the Lord.  It’s very refreshing and nice not to worry about other people giving me weird looks because I’m swaying a lot to the music.  For one, I already get a lot of weird looks – mostly from the children who have never seen a white person before… but also because everyone else is doing way more than just swaying to the music.  They are full out dancing for the Lord!  I must warn anyone who stands next to me during worship when I return home that I will be moving a lot more than I ever did before.  They are rubbing off on me here. :)

Just like at home, they have an offering time and communion every week.  Offering is a little different though because you go up and put your money in a container at the front of the church instead of in a basket as it’s passed down your row in the congregation.

Another big difference is that the service usually lasts for 2-2.5 hours.  At home, the longest sercive goes is an hour and twenty minutes and even then people are shifting in their seats and ready to leave after an hour.  After service, they leaders of the church usually have prepared a meal for the missionary family so we eat and visit with the members of the church.

It’s been a really good experience.  I’ve gotten video and pictures of what worship looks like here so I can show the people at home and we can come to the realization that we have all the technology in the world in the States, but it’s the heart that is needed most in worship.  The people here have none of the fancy things or effects that we have yet I’ve never seen people worship more completely and all out than I have here.  They don’t need a lot of people or microphones and instruments to fill their building with sounds of people praising the Lord.  It is truly amazing and humbling, becase it’s shown me how lacking we are at times in the States in completely worshipping God with all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength.