(Photo credit: travel.NationalGeographic.com)
First of all, at the school I work at the seventh graders are studying Africa in their world geography class and reading literature related to Africa in their reading workshop classes. Today we were so lucky to have a husband and wife from Tanzania in the library speaking to three of these classes. Since I work in the library I got the amazing pleasure of talking to Elias and Elly one-on-one before and after each class presentation and then got to listen to their amazing stories they shared with the groups. I could go on forever about this because it really was powerful meeting them and hearing about their lives there and in Waukesha where they live now. They are here on a "mission" but I won't go into that too much because that wasn't the focus.
Right when I was introduced to them by Deb (a former teacher at my school), I was touched by how warm-hearted they were. I felt like they were welcoming me even though they were in "my" library. The culture they come from is a sharing and strongly-bonded one, so coming to America was a bit hard for them at first. They noticed that so many people didn't know their neighbors or even look each other in the eye here. I just knew that if I went to visit them on one of their visits back to their home in Africa I would be treated like a special family member--I could sense that right away. They also explained how if they say "come on over", they really really mean it. When they came here many people would say, "let's get together sometime," and they assumed they meant it too, but often Americans just say those things in passing according to their experience. They really believe in unity and gave me such a great feeling inside to talk with and listen to.
I took pictures of them for our school, but I didn't have the guts to ask to take a personal picture for my blog--just couldn't do it! I didn't know if they'd understand about a blog and I just didn't want to make them feel uncomfortable. So, just picture this couple with beaming smiles, she with traditional African dress and he with a handmade African shirt, with lovely accents, wonderful life experiences and beautiful hearts. When asked by a student what was Elias's best life experience, he took a breath and said (I'll paraphrase here):
"sitting at home with my family (43 brothers and sisters--his father had 5 wives), around a fire outside, sharing food and telling stories under the stars..."
What a great picture I got from that, and how simple, but how huge as well. I would love to have more of those connections with neighbors and family and really having that quality time together they talk of having back in Africa.
Thanks for visiting today. I hope you found some warmth and inspiration from it as I did from meeting them.