So I woke up this morning a bit later than I had anticipated. I got up at the last possible moment (ie a couple minutes after my last snooze went off and one minute before I fell back asleep and committed myself to a later (and potentially even longer, I'm told) Mass time). I walked out the door right at 6:30 and walked as fast as I could comfortably without breaking into a profuse sweat.
As I went, I tried to pray part of my daily Rosary, but was concentrated almost more on making it on time. I knew I'd be okay when I passed a couple nuns walking in the same direction, so I chilled out a bit.
Suffice it to say, this Sunday was a VAST improvement over last Sunday.
First, I had my bearings...where is the altar, the choir, the holy water, Jesus in the tabernacle, etc. So I found myself a seat amid the rather still empty Church after arriving at about 6:42. Then I looked around and realized that the columns separating the nave from the aisle were blocking my view of Jesus (the tabernacle was off on a side altar...DON'T GET ME STARTED...). So I readjusted my approach and took a seat where I could see Him and the altar at the same time. Bam.
Second, this Sunday I came prepared. I had downloaded the readings onto my phone before arriving and so was going to be able to follow along like clockwork, even if the Mass was all in Swahili. Also, when the time came for everyone to stand up, walk to the front of the Church, and put their offering into the slit-topped wooden box, I was not empty-handed...though as it turns out the seat I had chosen was the dividing point in the Church where they put a second box, so literally all I had to do was stand up, take a step forward, and sit back down...HA!
Third, I knew what to expect. LOADS of singing, a very public offertory, announcements that I'm certain I must be getting purgatory credit for. It didn't bother me too much...I brought religious reading material and wasn't going to be afraid to use it.
As the Cathedral filled, I started to notice the choir dressed in bright red shirts and red/white patterned dresses this Sunday. The lectors wore full length red robes. And as it would follow, the altar boys (yes all boys/young men!) wore red garments as well. Certainly they were going all out for Palm/Passion Sunday.
After the Church filled up and as Mass was starting, I realized I had left my umbrella in the little nook at the front of each pew. I hoped it would be there at the end of Mass, but I wouldn't be suprised or upset if it wasn't, I told myself. I let the thought of it go, and it was time for the greatest show on (heaven and) earth!
The singing dominated the Mass again, of course, as the choir not only sang beautifully, but this Sunday had found their dancing shoes...now, not dancing in the aisles or even spinning, etc in their pews...moreso just a smooth movement in place almost like you might expect to see somewhere in the Caribbean maybe. I dunno, I am terrible at both dancing and describing dance, so there. They were dancing.
However, the priest decided to join the club this week to...and there was CHANTING...now this guy was speaking my language. The intonations were familiar and almost made it seem like a language I truly knew, and helped me follow along even better. All throughout the Mass I felt like I had a better understanding of what was being said, felt more a part of what was going on, etc.
Then, just before the Gospel was proclaimed (like JUST before, as in, the priest had already kissed the book, said which Gospel it was from, was about to read the first word of the first verse), the priest stopped, said something in his normal, non-reading-the-Gospel voice, and two men stood up and escorted another man out of the Church! I had no idea what was going on. The man had said nothing, as far as I knew had not done anything, but it was very quickly accepted that he had to go, and so he went. Then the priest made a very calm remark in Swahili that of course I couldn't understand, and proceeded as if nothing had happened.
As the Gospel proceeded, I realized about when the priest said "Hosannah" that he wasn't reading the Passion as I had expected. I then realized (though I half noticed and knew something wasn't quite right earlier) that the entrance into Jerusalem Gospel wasn't read at the beginning of Mass as per usual Palm Sunday. Strange, I thought...then I realized that my hand was empty...we had no palms! I assumed there were good reasons for both, but even still, I felt like I missed a little piece of what I was anticipating, even if it was going to be in a language I didn't understand.
Now just a few more quick points all in a row because this is getting too long.
1) The homily was long, but even in the way that the priest was speaking, I could tell he would have been more my kind of homilist (informed but also humorous and not too serious).
2) The incense was ABOUNDING. I mean, when they incensed, they did it right. As in, incense so thick you actually sometimes couldn't see the details on the priest's face. You could see the actual smoke! This made an impact on me in the sense that in a country where there is relatively so little, so much is given and used to reverence God and clearly emphasize his importance and the fact that He is GOD.
3) Once again, the Eucharistic prayer was just what I needed. As soon as everyone's knees hit the kneeler in front of them, it was as if I was in any other Church in America, Ireland, Cambodia, Australia, Peru, and on and on and on...we are one holy catholic and apostolic.
4) The Mass was, in a way, a mix of old and (relatively) new. In that I mean, there was so much reverence and homage to what I imagine pre-Vatican 2 (or even pre-2000) liturgy, and it was refreshing and absolutely desirable. At the same time, this was the 2000 year old Church that has in relative recent history been more and more expansive into Africa, and the customs certainly contrast with what I considered to be "Church etiquette". It made me feel a bit odd. However, at the same time, though contrasting, in this setting, they are complimentary. I think what bothers me back home is that when there is a strong emphasis on one aspect of the Mass, other components fall away. Not always, but for example, it seems to me that the Masses with "get up and get moving" choirs and "feel good" priests are also the ones without incense, without stress on doctrine and dogma, without many of the things that traditional Catholics hold dear (and with extra components added in that are either semi-liturgical or blatantly NOT liturgical)....might I recommend The Spirit of the Liturgy??
The Cathedral after Mass...look! Nuns!
After Holy Communion, there were the customary ten minute announcements (see non-liturgical), and a miniature 2 minute second homily, then we were out in only...1 hour and 50 minutes! Oy..but this time, I was more comfortable, more focused, and it didn't seem nearly as long. I took a few pictures after saying a couple prayers and then headed home.
As I got home, the three sibling hosts and Carmelle were headed out to church as well, so I had the morning to myself essentially. I finished my Rosary and Morning Prayer, then noticed the power in the house (and in the neighborhood) was out when I found my bread still in the toaster as...bread. So, I had bread with nutella and peanut butter, took it out to the veranda (by way of jumping the railing as the key of the door leading to was nowhere to be found), and enjoyed the morning with some good friends...the Pope Emeritus (in his book), Nickel Creek (on my phone), and Yuppy (one of the two dogs of the household). The last slept while I read...and somehow I was able to read and listen to the music at the same time...that never happens.
Besties...me, the Pope, Yuppy, Nickel Creek, "Scotch & Chocolate"
An aside for Nickel Creek fans...maybe you got this before, and maybe you didn't...but I think I figured out why the instrumental song "Scotch & Chocolate" is so named. I never can figure the names out (though maybe that's the case for a fair number of the lyrics to their other songs), but this morning it made sense, at least to me. The song's first half is rather slow and easy, low pitched, smooth...then about halfway through it picks up, becomes more vibrant, and ends up being incredibly fast. Sooooo...how would you consume scotch...slow and easy, smooth. And chocolate? As fast as possible. Hence, Scotch & Chocolate.
About 11, my housemates returned home, and we all decided to make Utengule, a coffee lodge and plantation about a 30 minute drive from the house. We decided against a trip the Lake Malawi as it appeared there were some DARK storm clouds in that general direction...perhaps another day.
The ride out was a perfect length, with a mishmash of countryside scenery interspersed with shops and groups of small homes and shops with which the general weekend hubub was associated. Small side streets off the main road were also packed with people trucks, produce, and random goods somehow for sale. Over a few hills, under a bridge, and through increasingly prevalent countryside, we finally made a turn towards the mountain and proceeded into more forested area. Another few minutes and we turned off paved road, up a hill maybe a kilometer long, and arrived at Utengule.
Somehow I didn't even realize consciously that I was finishing the circle
The view, the food, and the kitchen
It was rather posh, if I can say so, at least by the standards in which I had been living for the previous 10 days. The views were incredible, with the Mbeya mountain to the left, a valley in front in the distance (far far away, a large storm was proceeding from what I took to be south to north (left to right) and drenching, I imagined, everything in its path. We stood and enjoyed the scenery for a while, then sat down to eat some lunch. The prices certainly reflected the environment, though again relatively. The food was certainly affordable and fairly priced...just more considering what you could scrape by on in Mbeya. Further, the TZS 10,000 entrance fee actually doubled as a voucher for the equivalent amount of food or drink, so that made things even better.
The four of us (Amelia, Carmelle, Josh, and myself) enjoyed lunch, and I went with the more popular option of pizza! Yes, the second time in two days, but I can almost never turn down pizza (unless whataburger is next to it). We waited a few minutes as the cook working in a nearby outdoor kitchen prepared our pizzas, and then enjoyed our food. The pizza was fine...nothing to write home about (though maybe in a sense I just did), but also certainly not bad by any means. It could have used a bit more sauce, cheese, and crunch/bake time. I downed it along with my bitter lemon soda in no time...though I opted out of putting additional "tomato sauce" (aka KETCHUP) on mine as our Namibian hosts did.
After eating, I realized that I was totally beat. So, being at a coffee plantation, I ordered some French press coffee. As the largest pot was only $3, I saw no reason to order a small or medium. However, Josh was the only one who joined me in consuming the coffee, so, three and a half cups later, I had something to say about EVERYTHING. My energy was back with a vengeance. I felt great.
I drank half....this last pic is for Reid-o
See, I felt GREAT!
As Josh and I sat in the cab of the truck on the ride over, it was our turn to deal with the elements...which were becoming a bit hairier as time went on...clouds were gathering around us. Nonetheless, I wanted to see the coffee plantation, so rather than take a 30 minute hike there, we drove about 5 minutes (standing in the bed holding onto the horizontal bar in proper style) on the road down from the hill along a river to our left and turned off right into the fields.
We jumped out, took a few minutes to take some pictures as time would allow, including some jumping pics. Also, I ate a raw coffee bean...don't, they don't taste good. Quickly we then headed for home hoping to avoid the weather.
Doing silly things in the coffee fields
Doing a stupid thing in a coffee field...YUCK
As we raced back, the rain began, and though not too heavy, Josh and I definitely got the worse half of the trip. I cycled between squatting/sitting and standing, wanting to grab a shot here and there of certain things along the road. Eventually I figured I could turn on my camera, start recording, place in in my holster, and get a good video of the road with both hands clenched onto the bar still. I was most proud. Josh and I continued to get pelted by cold rain, but the view of the mountains, countryside, and towns with clouds moving all about were worth the small price the elements demanded. Indeed, a truck bed is the way to see this place.
Did I say it wasn't bad?
We stopped for a few minutes to feed Amelia's horses on the way home, and finally just as the rain was getting really strong, we made it home. I was only so we as to need to take off my fleece, which rendered me pretty dry.
After getting settled, Carmelle, Amelia, and I decided to play a rainy day game of Scrabble. It was more fun than I remember it being. I started out pretty slow, and was handicapped by a multitude of vowels for about the middle third of the game (literally I played MAUI as it was my only play), but then used a few combination plays that generated multiple words to catch up. The only contention came as one of the players attempted to play the word "SIZER". I wasn't too sure that this word existed, and neither was our very slow internet connection. However, the player who played it eventually found a Webster's online dictionary entry for something called a "SIZER die"...I don't even remember what it is.
In any case, we won't discuss who won, as it is not proper to brag, and I promised that I wouldn't.
About the only thing you could make out of these letters...alphabet soup
Two non-winners and a winner
The finished product...I still think "Sizer Die" sounds like a German curse word
After the game, it was just about dinner time, so I volunteered to go and pick up food to go from Mbeya Hotel. I knew there was a soccer match on, so I figured I would just hang out and watch it while I waited. I walked the short five minutes down, placed the to-go order, and the woman nodded and said, very clearly, "Twenty minutes."
Now, we had NEVER been given a time before. This was unprecedented. On top of that, the restaurant was more full than I had ever seen before. I doubted the estimate as we hadn't ever seen food in less than 30 minutes. Whatever, I nodded and told the woman I would be in the bar area watching the game.
The always picturesque walk down to Mbeya Hotel.
Yes, this was full. The capacity is about 10 people, then it's standing room only
The area was rather full, and I had to motion to the bartender and holler out to get a drink as the seats were all taken...SRO for Chelsea vs Swanson. All in all, I was there for the entire second half (yes 45 minutes), had the locals do what I think was making fun of me for making ooh and ahh and grunting noises at near misses and goals (eg when I said "Gah!" a local turned to me and sad "No Gah, Ba!" (Ba was the name of the player who missed the goal shot), and didn't really even mind the wait. I gathered the food once it was finally ready and headed back up hill.
As we all sat down for dinner, I realized I was EXHAUSTED. The coffee certainly had worn off, but still. Also, I had very little appetite. No worries I thought, that just meant leftovers of my Paneer masala. We talked a bit, I actually found an ability to finish the cocoa my hosts had made, and then decided it was bedtime. I was so tired I didn't even shower, and clearly didn't pay much attention to the fact that I felt a bit warm.
Proof that I was tired but still feeling okay when I went to bed.
It was an exhausting day...so I thought.