Salesian life as a lay person…..
One of my concerns before I came out here was how I would cope with the community and prayer life that the Salesians practise as part of their mission and charism. Over the last 5 weeks we have stayed – albeit for short periods – in 6 different communities and houses. (One more to go!) As one priest said to us, we could now become consultants on the Salesian houses in Tanzania!
Generally there are only 3 or 4 people in the community but in some there have been frequent visitors (ourselves included) so it often meant going down to a meal to meet another new face. I think we must have met most of the Salesians – both brothers and priests – in the East Africa province, which includes Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan. In a couple of the formation houses, where young men are studying to become brothers or priests, there have been greater numbers.
The usual routine in each house is up early for Morning Prayer and Mass at any time from 5.30am onwards. I have generally made it to Mass most days which has usually been between half six and seven followed by breakfast. The schools tend to start at half past seven with assembly so where there has been a school on the compound, we have sometimes gone to this.
During the day everyone is obviously busy with their respective jobs. The Rector (person in charge of the community) sometimes doubles up as principal of the school or as the academic master. Where the school is boarding, the brothers who are still in formation tend to be the ones who look after the boys. Most days we have either been planning or delivering INSET except for here in Nairobi as we are in between placements. We have been having a bit of a holiday since being here this week. Actually it’s been a good time to gather ourselves together and re energise as I was getting very tired by the time we left Tanzania.
Lunch tends to be about 1pm and is always a big cooked meal. There are a large number of Indian Salesians here so we have tended to eat Indian style food with rice and vegetables most days. The working day seems to end about 5pm or so, although for those houses that have youth groups and sports (oratory as they call it) the young people tend to come about that time. In every community there is a table tennis table which is used more in some than in others. In Dar es Salaam a game of table tennis was a scheduled daily event and was taken very seriously! The Papal Nuncio to Tanzania would come and play as often as he could and Zelma and I would frequently make up a foursome with him and the Rector.
The evening meal follows evening prayer and sometimes the rosary (although usually this is after supper and something that I have not regularly taken part in). They tend to eat late, about 7.45 or 8pm; once again it is a large cooked affair sometimes accompanied by a beer or a soda (rather than just water). My hope of losing weight out here has been shattered because of all the carbohydrates I’ve eaten! Sometimes the evening meal has gone on for awhile depending on the community and how involved the discussion gets. All communities have been extremely welcoming and very hospitable but some have taken a while to relax with us but then two old women coming in to their male communities must be threatening! Occasionally, after having eaten, Zelma and I will play scrabble or watch a DVD on my laptop, but more often than not we just retire to our rooms and I go to bed with a book relishing the rare opportunity to have some time on my own!