My first couple months in Tanzania - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Lent 2022 newsletter


Laurie Rumpf, Tanzania


Village children who always greet me with “shikamoo”

Dear friends and family:

Now with two months behind me, I am almost officially a resident of Mwanza. It has been an amazing journey but not without some issues. Last week I woke up with what looked like a bad mosquito bite on my finger. By the time I went to bed it was about five times the size, and it burned like I had stuck my finger in the fire. I took every bit of pain reliever and antihistamine I could think of, and it gradually got better. I took a picture of it and sent it to a doctor friend of mine in the U.S.: spider bite. Then I got scared. I don’t remember even seeing a spider. I have been soaking it in hot water, pouring peroxide over it, and yes, it is getting better.

Aside from this, all has been well. I switched to a slower-paced Swahili class. I actually received a 95 on my last test, proving I may indeed be smarter than a fifth grader. I also taught my first yoga class here last week at the local gym. I worked out an arrangement with the manager that half of the proceeds from my class will go toward purchasing yoga mats for the children at Uzima Centre.

Girls who greet me on my walk

I have made a few friends, and at the end of March I start my ministry work at the Uzima Centre. One of my new friends is from Finland, a reporter for the Lutheran Church. The other is an Indian woman who grew up in Dar es Salaam and moved to Mwanza when she married her husband. They are Sikhs and explained what the 5 Ks are. This is fascinating to me. So many things are. Aziz, the taxi driver I use when I travel at night, is Muslim Tanzanian and is looking for a new job. He has a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He told me it is very hard to get a job here in his field.

I am in the habit of taking a walk every day. As I walk through the neighborhoods, I am greeted by just about everyone — mostly with “shikamoo” (see photo above and at right), which is reserved as a greeting of respect to someone who is older. I never thought of myself as an elder, but I think in this youthful country, I am. Sometimes, I am greeted with mzungu (white person). I started telling them “Naitwa Laurie,” and now when I walk through the village, I hear my name all the time.

I have lost seven pounds which is great news for me. I think it is due to walking everywhere and not eating any processed food. This is the first time in my adult life I have not had a car. I don’t really miss it. I enjoy figuring out how to get places by bus, and the walking has been good for my physical and mental health.

I have really learned these past two months what it means to adapt, transform and apply. Nothing here in Mwanza gets wasted. Used butter containers become Tupperware. Plastic Zip lock bags are used over and over until they wear out. Tin foil used to cover a dish will be saved until needed to cover the next one and the next. Almost everyone has a small garden, and it is amazing the amount of produce a small garden can yield — corn, okra, sugar cane, fruit trees can all fit in a small 10-by-10-foot space.

A woman shopping at a fabric store

The children sometimes have cars made from rectangular milk boxes. The tops are used as wheels. Every scrap of metal is saved and repurposed into table bases or other furnishings. Wooden shipping pallets are taken apart and become the frame for couches and armchairs. Some of the leftovers are turned into artwork. The attached photo is of a trivet made from bottle caps and leftover pieces of cloth. The beads are made from old magazines.

It does not end there. Fallen trees become charcoal. Pieces of wood are creatively made into baskets for live chickens and put on a bicycle. Everywhere I look is something transformed into something else. Nothing really gets wasted. I am a bit embarrassed by how wasteful I was living in New York. I actually thought I was good recycler until I came to Mwanza. I don’t think I will ever throw a zip lock bag out again. I really had no idea how special they are.

In my next newsletter I will talk about the African kanga fabric and the dresses I have had made and some of the other wonderful things here in Tanzania.

Please keep in touch.


Please consider making a special Lenten gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!

Laurie Rumpf
Laurie Rumpf joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners in December 2021. She is serving in Mwanza, Tanzania.