Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tanzanian Family Structure

June 28
Tanzanian family structure is very confusing sometimes.  Jon and I got our homestay family figured out quite easily.  But, many of our fellow trainees are even today still trying to figure out who is who and how they’re related.  One problem is that most people just refer to any relation as “brother” or “sister” when in reality they are cousins.  There’s no real term for aunt or uncle.  Older people are just referred to as grandma or grandpa, even if they really aren’t your grandma or grandpa.  In our home, even our servants were introduced to us as our sisters.  So, as you can see, it can get incredibly confusing.  My mama’s sister and niece are currently staying with us.  I asked mama how long they will be here for.  Mama told me that in Tanzanian culture, it’s incredibly rude to ask your guest how long they will stay for.  So, your guests come and stay as long as they need/want.  So, we refer to Mama’s sister as mama, too.  Her sister is a born-again preacher who travels to various places of worship to preach.  Mama’s niece is 19 and finishing up her last year of high school.  She plans to attend university next year.  She speaks wonderful English and is very sweet.  My host mama has an infectious laugh.  She is always laughing and when she learns something new, she makes this great “aahhhh haa!”  I love hearing it.  On the other hand, her sister is very reserved and soft spoken.  I really enjoy her company.  She is a preacher and seems very peaceful.  Her presence helps me calm down after a stressful day or aggravating moment.  Unfortunately, she leaves tomorrow to go preach.  My host sister works 15 hour days, so I sadly have not had an opportunity to get to know her.  All in all, things are going pretty good.  Our training group has arranged for a hike this Sunday.  I am really looking forward to it!

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