Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Departures & Transitions: When one door closes, another will open

Hello everyone, greetings and love from Kiabakari!

A lot has happened since I last wrote and  it has been an interesting and challenging few months. 

For those of you who don't know, in July I wrote a request to extend my stay here in Kiabakari. It is truly insane and inconceivable i have been here for two years! Over the past year two years I have started my first job post-unniversity, moved thousands of miles from home, learned a new language, been immersed in a new culture and new community. I have been and am, immensely happy and extremely grateful for my experiences in Kiabakari. There really isn't a way I can fully express how much I have enjoyed living here and how much this place has woven it's way into and around my heart! 

I was recently in Arusha for about a month to get physical therapy on my arm (also for those of you who don't know I fractured my elbow in an accident early in July and still haven't regained my range motion, it's getting better now, it's just experiencing what barbie does daily because my arm is always slightly bent). Anyway, when I first arrived in Arusha, I was told I needed to go home asap and have surgery on my arm. I was then told if this was the case, my term here would be finished and my friends in Kiabakari would have to pack my things and ship them to me. Wooosh... Devastation... 

The morning after this  I woke up to an email from a doctor who said  I should stay and do PT as originally planned. That should always be the first course of action. Hallelujah!! No words. I was and am so happy I didn't have to end my time here in this way.

A couple weeks later the task force for the churches that sent me had a meeting to decide whether or not my extension would be possible... (I should say, no one else is being sent after me, and extending my stay would mean another year of funding...) needless to say, I wasn't too hopeful to get a yes...

I got the letter, it was Saturday night I was already in bed and I couldnt bring myself to read it. So, I prayed instead. It wasn't that i was praying for extension and asking God to give me my way(even though we all like to do that at times). Rather, I was praying for peace no matter what the decision was. It was then that I realized something. As much as I would love to stay longer in Kiabakari, and as hard as it will be to leave, I shouldn't waste too much time being upset, because.... Drum roll... God can and will use us, wherever we are. And not just by location, but wherever we may be in life. We just need to be willing to be used...(so why waste lots of time being down when we life doesn't go exactly how we would like it to!-easier said than done I know...but true none the less eh?)

I think as soon as that thought occurred to me, God was shouting DUH at me. So often I think people feel what I am doing is exrtra-ordinary. Well, while it may be out of the ordinary, it by no means is extra ordinary. I am doing something I love. I am loving and living life, and trying to follow Christ's example (as many of you do too) it just happens to be in a small village in Northern Tanzania. I wake up, work, eat, sleep just like you, wherever you may be located. 

After feeling at peace with whatever decision the email may bring, I opened it. The decision has been made and I will be coming home in December in time for Christmas with my friends and family  and I will not be returning for another year here in Kiabakari. 

While it still breaks my heart to know soon I will blink and have to be saying goodbye to my family and friends here, I have decided to enjoy each moment left, (and preferably blink as little as possible).

It brings me great comfort to know God is everywhere (how amazing is that!) and he will use me and stay with me wherever life brings me. We are all called to love others and be a light in this at many times dark world. Whatever we may be doing wherever it may be, from a smile, going out of your way to help someone or standing up against injustice. And that is what I intend to do no matter where I end up! (So for those of you itching to ask what's next?? That's my answers for now and other details will fall into place in their own time!) One door is closing and I'm certain another will open :)

Until then, peace and blessings to you all. I can't promise to take time to write another blog post while I'm still here, but who knows. If not, thanks for those who followed my time here! :) your love and support means more than you can know! And your prayers are much appreciated as I prepare to leave close some doors and transition into the next open doors (not sure what they are, but confident they'll appear:) 

With Love,

"Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it's at work or with your family.  Every minute should be enjoyed and savored."  Earl Nightingale

"A very small percentage of the people in this world will actuallyexperience and live today. So many people will be stuck on another day, another time that traumatized them and caused them to spirituallystutter so they miss out on this day."— Steve Maraboli 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Evangelism: my original prejudices and what I've come to realize

I read something on evangelism tonight that really struck me I had to write about out: 

"[w]hen we opt for rescuing souls over loving neighbors, compassionate acts can soon degenerate  into evangelism techniques; pressing human needs depreciate in importance, and the spirit becomes the only thing worth caring about... When we skip over the Great Commandment on the way to fulfilling the Great Commission, we do great harm to the authenticity of the faith."Robert Lupton 

Wow. Really, wow. I was rereading part of his book about rethinking ministry to the poor, and it hit me. Something has changed in me. 

I recall when I first heard the description of my current "job". Teaching English at a Bible College training evangelists. I'm not going to lie, now that I remember clearly the whole Bible College for Evangelists part of it made me apprehensive (ok, the teaching English in another language to adults worried me some to, but that's another story!). 

For those of you who know me, the thought of evangelizing used to really make me uncomfortable (if you didn't know that, consider this my confession). Thanks to this reading, I feel like I finally somewhat understand why. 

So, before coming to Tanzania, when I thought of evangelists or evangelicals, the pictures that so often flooded my mind were the people standing in public places yelling at you, condemning you, basically threatening you to believe in God. Or, those in public places not giving you a chance to choose for yourself if you would like to listen to them or not. . Forcing you to hear, their outlook on salvation. Or those who love to talk at you but leave no room for discussion ... Basically only negative things came to mind :/. 

But why?? I feel like I have a strong faith in God and I believe Jesus died, our Savior to forgive us our sins aaand moreover I think it is a good thing for more people to know about this amazing love and grace of God ... So then what is my problem exactly? 

To be honest I now have forgotten much of these reservations. It wasn't until I read this passage i remembered I had them in the first place. Truth be told, the school I work at, the people I work with, and the evangelists I have the honor to teach are such blessings to my life. So... what is the problem ...??

The problem is this, as Robert Lupton pointed out in his book, if we start focusing on evangelizing without remaining focused on God's love and how we are to share that first and foremost, we focus too much on saving souls rather than loving our neighbor.

 Lupton gave an example at a Bible college he visited in the states. When all the students were focused on evangelizing, rather than love. So a student raised the question whether or not telling someone about Jesus and saving them ultimately was not love.. (see above quote for Lupton's response!)

 So, what has changed? I guess I've grown to realize while I one-hundred percent agree with Lupton, my students devoting their lives to being evangelists have shown me how wrong my original  prejudices were. Just because you devote your life to evangelism, does not necessarily mean an autofocus on soul-saving and a disregard for human needs, compassion and well, love. My students become extremely involved in their communities, do many home visits (in which can take hours, and feels a lot more meaningful and personal than all of my prejudicial and pre-Tanzania experiences/feelings.) 

So... My problem... I let my prejudice and my own negative experiences with evangelists at home effect how I looked at evangelism as a whole. Luckily, I have been blessed to witness evangelism paired with love and compassion of the human, rather than just a soul. 



"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22: 37-39

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of age." Matthew 28:19-20

Friday, July 5, 2013

Lions and cheetahs and Buffalo- Oh my! Camping in the Serengeti!

Hello Everyone!

I hope this finds you all well! I wanted to make sure I made myself write about my recent trip camping in the Serengeti because it was quite a memorable trip and not only due to the crazy exciting and sometimes a little worrisome situations we found ourselves in!

A week and a half ago, I had two Danish friends visiting. One from Dar Es Salaam named Lars, whom I met at Christmastime, and the other named Christian, Lars' friend visiting from home. Lars has been volunteering for ten months now and wanted to see beautiful Mara, Tanzania before he headed home (who can blame him ;) why more people don't come this way is beyond me... 

Anyways within the short visit, we had many adventures. One day, we went to the 'big city' of musoma (including my favorite spots, chai, beach on Lake Victoria, and the one mzungu restaurant in all Mara.) Another day we hiked a small mountain to an awesome view of the Serengeti lake Victoria and much of the Mara region. (however the grass was nice and tall, in many places taller than me and it felt like we were swimming through it! (we were all very thankful we only saw one snake and it wasn't interested in us!)

Then, the big kahuna: overnight camping trip, no guide Serengeti!

Right now, lots of animals are in the western corridor of the Serengeti, meaning not too far from my school. We went through the gate nearest to us, which meant we had a good distance to go prior to reaching our campsite. We saw bunches if zebras wildebeest, giraffes, elephants, gazelles, hippos, ooooh and many many birds, right Lars ;) We realized we needed to start moving quicker to reach our campsite well before dark. 

(this is the part in my not yet exciting story where I need to explain something.) The car we were driving had Soma Biblia (read the Bible) on the front and back. I didn't realize the importance of this to our trip! )

Okay, so as we got closer to Seronera we passed a work crew fixing the road...in the middle of the Serengeti (what a job). Some of them shouted at us: Biblia! Biblia! So Lars stopped and have them some small pamphlets/Bible stories that he brought with in case this happened. They took them and graciously thanked us, but as we were about to take off again they yelled "subiri! Subiri! Umepata puncha!" (wait, wait, you've gotten a puncture!) Sure enough... We had gotten a flat tire. Luckily, it had just happened and it couldn't have happened in a better spot! (no lions or other damgerous animals and help!) Although Lars and Christian knew all about changing tires, the Tanzanians working there jumped in to help and it went really quick. They thanked us again and didn't even ask for anything in return for their help (often a rarity with car assistance in Tanzania! At least for wazungus).they sent us on our way and explained how to get to the petrol station where we could patch up our tire! 

We made it to town got our puncture fixed and hurried off to our campsite .. However, Five kilometers before our campsite were not one, not two, but THREE lions lounging on rocks. (Oh. Boy.) So, we pulled into the campsite, in  the middle of the Serengeti, near lions and set up our flimsy plastic tents. As we were setting up our tents, a man came up and asked if we wanted kuni (firewood). He explained "Ni nzuri kutengeza moto itakulinda. Juzi simba wamepita hapa. Kama unawasha moto hawataingia." (it's good to make a fire it will protect you. Two days ago lions were passing through here.  If you light a fire they won't enter.) SAY WHAT?!?! Oh. Boy. Yes please we'd love firewood. (okay  so if I wasn't a little concerned about the lions we saw lounging close by, I was now slightly close to terrified. 

Daylight was leaving and you're not supposed to drive in the park after dark but, we didn't pack much food, so we had to find the local food places for some quick rice and beans. As we drove back dinner, 10 kms from camp was a big herd of buffalo, and sure enough our lion friends were still lounging on the all too near rocks.  (I hoped they would stay put, but lions hunt at night). 

I know you Minnesotans will nit believe me but it was COLD!!! I was wearing two sweaters, leggings under my skirt, and two scarves. (Meaning it maaaaaaaaybe got under 60 and I'm in serious trouble when I come home in December!!) We built our fire and sat by it while playing cards for a while-- We had met a nice family on a camping safari with their cooks/guides. As they were eating their cook (who had lent us matches), came and invited us to eat any leftover food after the family had finished. (we hadn't eaten lunch- and surprisingly the local place we ate at didn't give us the normal heaping portions that leave you full for a couple meals, so we had some room for more food). So we graciously accepted.

(Note we are entering my favorite part of the safari..)

A little later we went into the dining area were they had set three place settings for us. Before we started eating, we knew it to be good to ask if there would be any cost. 'No,no, no! He said please don't. We saw on your car soma biblia and we know you are Christians too, and, we wanted to welcome you to food and conversation. We also didn't see you eat.( Wow. Wow. Wow.) They gave us some soup delicious we thanked them... (but of course those of you who have ever gone on a safari with a company know the meals are wonderful and huge), so once we finished the soup  the cook brought clean plates followed by various dishes (tilapia, coconut curry peas, green beans, garlic mashed potatoes, and papaya  AMAZING! As was the conversation.

The cooks were so kind, I saw God  in them and in their actions and words. He told us a story about a tine he and a customers
came up on a broken down Land Rover in the Serengeti. The customer told the safari guide / cook that they should stop and help knowing the cook was able to fix the car. They stopped and he worked on the car over an hour, which put him and his customer behind schedule some. After fixing the car, he apologized to the customer and told her they could stay longer and he could pay the difference. She said it was no problem and that she was happy to help the others, and they talked about the Bible and how important is to help one another out- even if you do not know who it is you are helping very well. It  was just really neat to hear his story and to see someone being so kind to us- without knowing us at all simply because he believed it our job as brothers and sisters in Christ.

 This night stuck with me and probably always will as an amazing example of how we are to help one another out, even if we do not know each other- we never truly know when our kindness can affect one another. I could only think about how in our own churches, with people we know and sometimes those we know very well, we often don't go out of our way to help one another, certainly not when we are inconveniencing ourselves. (Meaning although these cooks had already washed a round of dishes and had already boiled some water for the nice family to have tea and coffee they would do it all over again for us, even though they didn't  know us and needed to be up before 6 a.m...) The cooks kindness and words also thoroughly comforted me and I was able to sleep pretty well - not too concerned about the lions, buffalo, leopards, elephant's, and the hyenas running around our campsite (good thing they scare easy- glorified dogs!).  I am quite thankful for this amazing experience- and as amazing as the whole animal aspect of the trip was, and surviving the lions that were so close by- I think this is my favorite part of the trip! ( side note: I also asked the cook/guide what his favorite memory of all his Safari trips were when it comes to animals, and I will put it at the end of this blog AMAZING!!)

In the morning, we got up and packed up bright and early (okay minus the bright) and left before the sun and ourselves were fully awake. We only paid for 24 hours in the park, so we wanted to get our money's worth. we definitely did. We ended up seeing a great sunrise over the Serengeti (see picture) LOTS of lions in.fact  we even saw an elephant fight a lion (lion lost- ran off). Once the elephants all moved through we saw the lion was a father and there was also mama and two cubs in long grass with him! Pretty amazing. we also saw the wildebeest migration outside of the park on our way home, which was also pretty amazing and got another puncture. Which made the trip home quite a long one.

This was an amazing trip, so grateful I was able to experience it! Thanks Lars and Christian for inviting me along and for coming to visit! 

Much love to all of you back home! Hope you found my long story interesting!


Additional updates: 

1.  As for now school just closed for about five weeks and I was quite sad to see my students leave! but, apparently a break was okay as soon as they left I took a two hour nap and started googling Zanzibar for when my friend Erika comes at the end of the month!! 
2. Just had a lovely visit from my friend Stephanie who is working in Kigali and bussed over here! It was nice to spend a few days with her, I appreciate our conversations and, she spent some time showing me some helpful sites for potential future jobs :) thank you!!!
3.The cook's story: this is amazing. I asked the cook what the neatest thing he has seen on safari and he told me the following.. One day we saw a cheetah approaching the road and an, impala on the other side so we parked between the two. The cheetah jumped over the hood of the car and started attacking the impala, only it didn't kill it or eat it, it strangled it and left it half dead. He said he was confused until  the cheetah returned with small cubs and gave it hunting practice on the semi conscious impala. (holy buckets, can you imagine witnessing that!?) 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cultivating gratefulness

Picture this:

A white, blonde female riding her bike on a small dirt road. It has just been raining, the air is cooler and lacks the normal stickiness. In them evening light the banana trees and the growing harvests are vividly green against the muddy ground. She greets those she meets on the road and they greet her back as well. They do not know one another, but they greet one another as friends just the same -as is custom. She arrives at her destination, church. She meets two amazing women. They sing hymns and pray with one another. She leaves and as she bikes home she is overwhelmed with gratitude for where she is, her experiences and the relationships she has in such a beautiful place. Then two of her friends jokingly try to knock her off her bike and laughing they all wish each other to have nice evenings:)

Yes! You may have guessed it, this is a true story and one I thought I would share to update you with my feelings lately. Many people ask me how I'm doing and how I am enjoying myself here in Tanzania. Well, here it is. I am so grateful. I love it. I'm enjoying life here as I hope you are in your own home :) 

Before I continue, let me say a couple of things. Turns out (as you may have  guessed) I am not good at blogging regularly. I wish I were better at it but apparently I'm not. Sorry for that- but it is what it is. It takes time and effort to write a blog and a lot of times I don't feel like I have a lot to say as life here is becoming well  normal to me. So if anyone takes time to read thus,  welcome to a new chapter in the blog.

Since I last wrote: (has it really been three months??)

I have battled some nasty sicknesses, which has not been so fun. Even thigh I felt awful, i apparently didn't look it because when I went to be tested for various things at the local clinic ( which I will not do again), the man drawing my blood told me I will marry him... No, not a question... I only wish I was still throwing up at that moment... but I just gave him my blood and left. you'll be happy to know that I am feeling happy and healthy now and for that I am very thankful.

My baba came to visit! :-) it was so wonderful having my dad here and getting to show him off and show him as much as possible in a few weeks. I really enjoyed his time here and it was really hard to see him go again.  But my mom is very happy he is home- even more so that he's been doing lots of chores while she is at work (way to go dad! :) he is enjoying retirement.

Luckily, as I mentioned briefly in my last blog post I have amazing students and it makes my job so enjoyable. Really I feel blessed and fortunate for my experience is here and am really enjoying teaching ( minus not always the English grammar part... Which it times is just a frustrating language! - but don't tell my students I said that!) I also think I am losing some of my vocabulary which I do not like so much- I am reading lots, which I love, and so it is not so much recognizing the words, but more so using them! It's sad.. And there have been many occasions I cannot think of the English word for something in Swahilli... Oh well it always comes eventually  ( to peel... How can you forget that!)

It has been 20 months now since I have been here. Although to some, that may be a big statement, I feel pretty much impartial to it. What is 20 month anyway? Time goes by so fast lately and the more I think about it, the more I am trying hard to measure my time here in moments rather than hours, days, weeks, months... etc. It is a pretty challenging thing since I am at heart American and lived for 24 years in a busy fast-paced society where efficiency, accomplishments, and careers trump most. To go from that busy place to Tanzania, where people are not living by jam-packed busy schedules, but rather from event to event ( as life brings them of course) not worrying or looking at the clock to rush off to the next thing or as I love about it a place where others take priority and taking time for others is a key part of the daily agenda. Something I can only hope to take home with me to the land of the quicker the better.

Perhaps this happiness stems from the feeling that my time here is so limited. Only until Christmas? Oy! That seems like tomorrow. Well, I am determined to enjoy it. The students here however have been scheming for ways for me to stay. Along with the board of the school, we had a meeting in which their solution to me leaving was for me not to leave... Um okay that's not really a solution, but it is nice that people want me to stay!

okay, I guess that is all I will try to be better especially over break, but I cannot make promises of course ;). If you are ever wondering how I am doing, wanting me to blog or worried for my lack of writing a blog or anything feel free to email me! (abunio@gmail.com)

Thank you all for your continued support and prayers without you this with I'll be a lot more difficult. I'll leave you with these words from Emerson:

"Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you and give thanks continuously. And because of all things that have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Much love, Mungu akubariki,

Annie Bunio

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A new year

Hello everyone (written February 1)! Greetings from my home, sweet home, in Kiabakari, Tanzania. I've been back a couple months now, and despite some illness, it's been nice to be home. I had an amazing time and quite a wonderful adventures with all my travels, but it was such a wonderful feeling to come home. I was lucky to have two trips over our long "summer" break! (yes, summer here ... not that it ever gets to be truly winter)! First, I had a wonderful time in Arusha visiting wonderful friends and family. From Arusha, I traveled with my "cousins" Jessie and Eric to Rwanda, via bus. We took buses from Arusha to Nairobi (Kenya), Nairobi to Kampala (Uganda), and Kampala to Kigali (Rwanda). <4/5 East African countries via bus!> It was a really long trip, all in all about 34 hours on three buses (7, 14, and 13 hours)! We also decided in order to avoid the costs of hotels, it would be a good idea to take overnight buses and see the cities in the afternoons...(good idea?? Well... It was an adventure, I'll leave it at that... ;) It was interesting, tiring and frustrating -but we got there in one piece, and I'm very thankful for that! ( and also very thankful for the various strangers that genuinely helped us along the way from emergency toilet situations, to directions, and even rides!) I had such an amazing time in Kigali. I was so lucky to spend a day at the orphanage I had volunteered at nearly three years ago! It was so wonderful to see some of my brothers and sisters there and catch up with them...( I hope to go back again before my return to the states!) I also got to visit my Rwandan mama and her new baby (my brother :) what a proud moment he's so stinking cute!! I had a wonderful time catching up with friends, seeing my old home and making new friends too :) I'm very fortunate for this trip. After our time there I took an 17+ hour bus to mwanza and the next day a few hours to get me back home! I'm so thankful for safe and blessed travels! For Christmas I traveled (again...) to the coast with my Danish family here in Kiabakari. It was a very Danish Christmas (complete with dancing around the Christmas tree), spent with many wonderful Danish families in Dar Es Salaam. I had a wonderful time surrounded by wonderful people who welcomed me into their family and made me feel at home.  Then for New Years I went camping along the Indian ocean near a place called Tanga :) it was pretty amazing, relaxing filled with well camping, hammock time, swimming, reading and great company. :) Now, I'm back in Kiabakari, where things are wonderful. The week before school started, I spent a lot of time working on English curriculum for the school, including daily lesson plans and a workbook of exercises (good, but definitely work!) It was nice to get a bunch ready and finished though. :) School "opened" January 14. The students came slowly ... We didn't start teaching until the following Monday, when we had three students. With prayers and encouragement, this past Monday (January 25) we reached a total of 7 students. Last year we started with 25.  We don't expect more students to show up. It's a little strange having so few students, and at first I think we(staff) were all a bit discouraged, but I came to realize and ask myself where the sense in that was.  I try to think about how this is the last year for these students at the school and despite the small numbers, they deserve the best we have to offer. Therefore I need to put more time and energy into my teaching to make his the best year possible (getting focused on numbers doesn't help). So far I've been EXTREMELY impressed with the students this year!! Four of the seven are returning students from last year. I was told this year would be more difficult for me, as many of the students are older. This made me so worried that going into my first day of teaching I could barely sleep!  Well I'm happy to say  it was wonderful (in fact I think my classes have all been great, thanks to my students). They have been very motivated, participate a lot in class, and are trying very hard! Outside of classes as well, I'm amazed by the great example they set for being in community with one another. They have cleaning duties every week, but instead of dividing them, they have decided to share all of the work instead and work together. One student told me "Where one person has a job, we all do." (pretty big difference from last year!) I feel so blessed for this all and truly look forward to getting to know the students well, since we are so few :) this is all proof to myself that there's no sense in worrying about things until I know what it will be like! (plus this was not in my control I have to trust God's bigger than so many things I spend way too much time worrying about! That's about all for now! Sorry to write so much I'll try to do better about updating every couple weeks! Until then much love to you all from Kiabakari! Annie Other stuff: 1. In 40 days one of the coolest guys I know will be arriving in Tanzania!! To visit me!! My dad :) cannot wait! 2. Obama lives in my backyard poor guy has fleas and worms.... But he's running around and happy and a good kisser (I'll add a picture ;) 3. I climbed a few local mountains the past weeks, fun and great views over the Serengeti and lake Vick 4. Read a great book by my favorite author Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie) he wrote a new one "the timekeeper" my mom sent it for Christmas! It's a quick read and very much worth it!  It was a good lesson to me about how precious time is and how it's not to be taken for granted, rushed, or bargained with! Time is a gift  God- we're the ones measure it, but it's not up to us how much we get!  pictures:(in order) sunrise over the Indian.ocean, my kiss from Obama, and grocery.shopping (market) (16 months along in the journey and 10 and some to go;)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Happy Holidays; Thankful: Thorns have Roses.

 Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happiest of New Years to all of you!! (you may think I'm confused with my timing...Thanksgiving has passed, Christmas isn't for a couple of weeks and New Years beyond that...) But... Aren't all of these holidays full of attitudes that we should be mindful of more than once a year? After finishing my first year teaching and a year living in Kiabakari, I've taken some time to reflect a bit on the past year and the year to come.

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” ― Alphonse Karr

I've taken some time to think about the past year, the joy, the challenges, the exciting and dull days... and this year for me, Thanksgiving has taken on a whole new meaning. A much deeper sense of how much I truly have in my life to be grateful for.  This, newfound sense of all the blessings in my life would not be possible without ALL of the experiences I have had here in Tanzania. The way I view myself and the reality of the world and situations I live in, and therefore the gratefulness I have for my life and all of these experiences would not be the same without the past year in Tanzania. 

So what is it that I'm more mindful to be grateful of this year? 

I'm more mindful of the harsh realities for so many around the world, and so grateful for how blessed I have been in my life. 

I'm grateful for the opportunities I have had in my life, even the most thorny, challenging and painful ones, because those tend to have the ability to teach us something meaningful and have the capacity to bloom into a beautiful rose. 

As I've become more aware about vast inequity in places in the world, I'm grateful for being raised in a household where I was taught no one human being is better than another. Not even based on various attributes, such as economic status, gender, race, education, age, etc. 

One thing that has been brought to my  full awareness while I have been living here, is the large gap here between women and men. I've written before about the inequality between men and women in the area I am living in, and this has made me very grateful for the opportunities I have in my life.  This is not to say where I am living is an awful place where every single woman is oppressed and doesn't enjoy life. However, that being said many women face challenges unimaginable to many of us as well.  I do not want to portray the village I'm living in, in a negative light, however it has challenges , just as everywhere in the world. For instance, I would argue women still lack equitable opportunities and rights to men the United States.  However, we have come a long way and through many experiences, I am more grateful for what my grandmother and mother had to endure not so long ago to gain certain privileges for women that many in the world still struggle for today.

 Something else that strikes me is how little people need to survive and yet can be quite happy... (key word, need). I face it quite often here traveling in various villages seeing adorable, content children playing with broken toys (if they're lucky), pebbles or seeds or dirt more often. It never ceases to amaze me and so often shame me. It is all to easy to get caught up in our excess, especially this time of year, the season of "giving".

The last thing I'm overwhelmingly grateful for is my community of support. I have two of the most amazing and supportive parents in the world, wonderful supporting friends and family both near far away! Also I'm so blessed by an amazing group of people here in Tanzania that being here is so much easier than most you back home imagine. For all of that I'm immeasurably grateful.

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Many people (myself included), don't realize the privileges and freedoms we have, we can so easily take them for granted. Living here facing some difficult challenges and seeing some of those around me facing even more unimaginable challenges  has made me so thankful for the privileges I have and the wonderful people I'm blessed to have.

Happiest of Holidays to you all from Tanzania.
Mungu akubariki ~God bless,

Annie Bunio

Three of my  holiday movie quotes:

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." - Dr. Suess

"No man is a failure who has friends." Clarence ( It's a Wonderful Life)

" Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights, please. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.' That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." Linus Van PeltFrom my Android phone on T-Mobile. The first nationwide 4G network.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Updates! Graduation and travels

Hello everyone from Arusha! I know what you might be thinking... arusha what? Or why have you not been blogging??? (thanks Tom Morris for getting on my case, I cannot believe it's been almost two months..I will do better!!)... Anyways, let me attempt to fill you all in on some of the crazy, amazing, wonderful and challenging things that have been going on since I last wrote. Last I wrote we had three weeks left of teaching exams and then graduation. It went by so fast! It's been planting season so we also had some days in the fields planting and digging up weeds, by hand, or hoe rather.. It's also been raining which just meant a few days of heavy mud hoe work... Not easy, but good work and nice time working with the students. I'll attach some pictures of a myself and a couple.students that did work with me on a Saturday morning. you'll enjoy our mud shoes...the mud cakes your shoes.so I've learned to ditch them right as I enter the field, then the mud will cake to your feet and form new protective mud shoes :-) I also have purchased some wonderful tire shoes Enough about shoes!!! The last few weeks of teaching went by really fast. The very last week we had some wonderful Norwegian Bible school students who came to Kiabakari and helped in the classroom for a week! The students did a project with these Norwegian visitors and it was a wonderful way to wrap up the school year. It was nice to see many students asking the visitors questions and really trying to use some of what they had learned. Halloween visited Kiabakari this year, I decided, being born in the Halloween Capitol of the World and all, (yes... Anoka MN) that I needed to share this with my friends in Kiabakari...so I explained trick-or-treating in my class, then I invited everyone students and coworkers alike to come trick or treat at my house in the evening...of course.costumes mandatory. It was wonderful, everyone came I made.cookies and it was a lot of fun (lots of Obama costumes...:) best Halloween ever! I also taught the Norwegian children how to carve pumpkins....they were thrilled they loved it and look forward to it next year as well :-) I think the last big update is graduation and travel plans! Graduation was nuts and wonderful! A lot of preparation and work, but it was wonderful to see the students graduate. Each student was given one invitation to invite one guest, I was honored when one often of my students invited me! ;Graduation was also really surreal... These are the students I moved to Kiabakari with, and now moving on, it will be different in January... I don't think it will fully sink in until then, but until then I can officially say I've finished a whole school year teaching, and crazy enough have been in Tanzania over a year! Nuts! Travel.. I spent two days on the road by car the first day, ten hours to Nairobi, Kenya. Then on Thanksgiving I got up early and got on a bus to Arusha, Tanzania (ok i may have woken up.at 5:30 instead of 6 to indulge in a HOT.shower :-) I arrived in Arusha late afternoon, on Thanksgiving :-)It's been wonderful to see "family" and friends here! ;I am so thankful to be here and was able to celebrate Thanksgiving with a potluck of 62 people and even got invited to a second Thanksgiving dinner over the weekend. Amazing! I'm having a wonderful time with my adoptive parents here in Arusha Linda and Mark, who I am so blessed to have in my life, they are such wonderful examples for me to be around, and they treat me like a daughter :-) so lucky! Another thing I'm thankful for is the opportunity to go back to Rwanda! Two of my friends here and myself, will travel by bus from Arusha to Nairobi, to Kampala to Rwanda! Stay for a few days and then head back through Tanzania, where I will head back to Kiabakari! So that is what I've been up to for those of you who've been anxious to know!! >Thanks for reading!< Annie

Other fun things...
1. I dug up a sweet potato the size of my head, called it my child, when I asked my students if it looked like me they said without hesitation, yeah, it's white...
2 Obama is living in my backyard.. Lady the dog had puppies, due to premature birth all died but one spurred by (awesome) election results, I named him Obama.
3. Somehow hearing Christmas music at 80°makes it feel like I'm listening to Christmas music in July.. But it's advent... Hmmf it'll come...my mama's sending me It's A Wonderful Life!