Lauren Linck and her husband Justin are serving as Lay Mission-Helpers in the Diocese of Mtwara, Tanzania. Lauren earned a BA in Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma and is a member of St. Thomas More University Parish. She teaches Bible Knowledge and is in charge of the library at Aquinas Secondary School in Mtwara.
At 7:15 a.m. I begin my mile walk to school.
On Monday and Friday we have morning assembly from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. where we read the gospel for the day with a short prayer, sing the national anthem and hear announcements. After midterms and finals, we use this time to reward students who have done well on their tests.
Most of my day is spent in the library. We have one of the nicest libraries in the region, with about 8,000 books. Most of the books are textbooks, but we do have a few novels to read for fun. Many of the students love to read, and will read anything they can get their hands on.
The library is open to students from 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and from 2:50 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The students are also welcome to come if their teacher is absent.
10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. is tea time (Tanzania was a British colony). At school we call it uji break after the thin porridge that is served with the tea. During this time you can buy various fried snacks such as a chapati (like a fried tortilla) or vitumbua (fried rice cakes).
On Thursday and Friday, I teach classes after uji break. I teach Bible Knowledge for Form One and Three. My biggest challenge is teaching the Form One students English (primary school is taught in Swahili while secondary school is taught in English). I have about 80 Form One students. In the beginning, I was confident that 10 of the students understood the majority of what I said in English. I have tried to incorporate artwork with the Bible stories we are reading in class to help them better understand.
From 12:40 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. we have a lunch break. For lunch we get a vegetable, beans or meat and rice or ugali (flour and water mixed together, that looks like mashed potatoes but has no taste). My favorite combination is cabbage, beans and rice.
On Thursday and Friday I teach classes after lunch break. My Form Three class is much better at speaking English, and we are able to have discussions in class. At this level, we cover The Gospel of Matthew and Acts of the Apostles.
On Wednesday we have clubs from 2:50 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Many of our students are very artistic, but they do not get many chances to express themselves. There are no art classes and art supplies are very limited. This semester I have started an art club. The last couple of weeks we have had a former student come and teach us how to draw Tingatinga, an African style of abstract animals.
By 4:00 p.m. we are headed home from work. When we get home we have some time to just relax. I enjoy spending a lot of that time reading. The Kindle was one of the best things that I brought to Tanzania. Now I will always have a book to read. In the last ten months I have read seventy-eight books. It is nice to have the free time to read. In the past, I had always been busy with my own school work and didn’t have much time to enjoy reading things that were required for class.
Around 6:00 p.m. I start making dinner. I have not learned how to cook any Tanzanian foods, so our meals are Western style. Pasta dishes are the most common meal.
After dinner I get on the computer to check my email and Facebook. We are fortunate to have a USB internet stick that works most of the time. It tends to work best if we raise it on our lantern.
Around 9:00 p.m. I am getting ready to go to bed so that I can start all over again tomorrow.
Lay Mission Helpers is comprised of Catholic lay people, single men and women, married couples, and families, called through baptism to mission. They seek to walk with the poor of other countries sharing their gifts, living their faith, and learning from one another. Lay Mission-Helpers serve in a variety of different professions and strive to live a simple life close to the poor. For more information, click here.