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April 12, 1966

Dear Mom,

…I am stationed about 5 miles outside of Arusha among the Wa-Arusha people.  In physical appearance, language, dress and folkways, they are Massai.  But Massai who have settled down to farm small plots of land, growing corn and beans and raising small herds of cattle, sheep and goats.  Temperment wise, most are open and quite friendly.  Father Simon, a native Wa-Arusha priest, and I are opening up the work among these people.  The concentration of effort in the diocese has been among the Massai, leaving the Wa-Arusha virtually untouched up to now.

Hence we are in the initial stages of establishing the Church among them.  The main mission, Bourka, is central to the area inhabited by this tribe and so far Father Simon has established four outstations, each with its small primary school of three grades.  We also have two dispensaries operating.  Two weeks after my arrival, I began what will be my basic mode of activity for the foreseeable future.  I live in each of the areas for four or five days at a time, getting around more and more each time in each locality –walking, visiting various huts, talking and getting to know the people.

A Wa-Arusha hut is built of long poles bent over at the upper ends to form sort of an igloo.  This frame is covered with mud and then grass.   In the center is a fire for cooking and warmth.  This house, which is quite large, constitutes not only a home for the family (except the man, who has his own sleeping hut) but also a storehouse for corn and beans and a shelter for cows, goats and sheep.  Although we are now in the rainy season the house is always warm and comfortable because of the fire and the many occupants.

At each stop the Mama offers me a little stool to sit by the fire, then some milk to drink or sometimes an ear of roasted corn.  Then we talk for a while until my still meager vocabulary runs out.  I play with the children and give them candy.  Some of you are probably familiar with a toy called the magic slate.  I bought one of these.  The writing disappears when the plastic cover is lifted.  It amazes the kids.  I’ve had a bit of fun with it and its helped to make them more comfortable with me. When we’ve had our visit, we say “Serena Nikidua” (goodbye till we meet again) and then I am off to the next little place along the path.

We have not been able to add on a place to stay at any of the little schools, so I say with the people most of the time.  This turns out to be much better for many reasons.  Usually I walk a good number of miles each day.  This was very difficult at first, but I’m getting used to it and it’s doing me a lot of good.  Not long ago I tried to get to one of the outstations by car.  Usually Fr. Simon drops me off about two miles from the school or a fairly good road because the “roads” into these places are little more than cattle paths.  After getting stuck and digging myself out six times with plenty of help and advice from many people who gathered each time I sunk down in the mud, a man stopped whose shamba (farm plot) was near by.  He told me to wait where I was.  In a little while he returned with six cows, hitched them to the car and pulled me all the way back to the main road, about a mile and a half.  It was quite a sight.  I wish I had a picture to show all of you.

Before coming to Africa, I was frightened of being a foreigner here, perhaps for the rest of my life.  Although I’ve been here only a little over a month, I feel very much at home and a part of these people already.   It’s a beautiful country, filled with very warm and friendly people and I am very happy here.

Love,

Ned

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