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Sister Janet, her student Saidi and his mother
Today's Think Kit blog post prompt:
Hi, I'm ______
Nametags and punchbowls aren't necessary (but we're okay with that!) – who did you meet this year? Was it awkward? Enlightening? Was your first impression correct? Was it accidental & meant to be, pre-arranged, or somewhere in-between? Whether you found a soulmate, held a new baby, or finally trusted someone to style your hair just so, write about a new person (or people) in your life.
The person that I met this year is someone that I've known my whole life.
I got to spend almost a month with my godmother, Sr. Janet, in Tanzania.
I'm sure Janet was at my 1961 baptism, but my first memories of her are from delightful airmail letters - those blue envelopes still make me smile - and her visits to Indianapolis with exotic gifts. I wore the elephant hair bracelet until it fell apart and it still has a place of honor in my jewelry box.
She joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1962 and started her first assignment in Tanzania in 1966. She has served a few stints in the States over the years and did a fantastic job of keeping in touch.
Janet visited me at Purdue, came to Philadelphia when I worked there, has seen my house, has been to my St. Valentine's Day party, and has toured Second Helpings. I feel like she's been around for all of my major life events.
I visited the Maryknoll Sisters Motherhouse and had been to her family home in Indianapolis several times and was lucky enough to meet her parents.
But I'd never spent more than a day with her.
We basically went from zero to spending 28 days in a row with each other.
And it was fabulous!
There was no better way get to know someone than to immerse yourself in their life. In another country where you don't speak the language (no matter how many phrases you thought you learned).
I loved every second with Janet. It was wonderful to see her in action and witness how beloved she is in her adopted country. I always knew that Janet was smart and independent and kind- it was amazing to see it in person. She teaches at a university, she works with a group of women in the village working towards empowerment, and has a group of men in a prison that she prays and shares with. And I got to see it all in action!
Seeing strangers reactions when she spoke perfect Swahili was priceless. I soon recognized being introduced as her "mtoto wa ubatizo," child of baptism.
I also learned that we're a bit alike. Our interests are varied and we're fascinated by people, we think that popcorn and beer is a perfectly acceptable dinner, and we're both a little scattered - let's just say that we both spend time tracking down our cell phones.
My favorite times with Janet were doing the everyday things - trips to the post office and market, car trips, and meals at her home.
I miss being with her. I wish it was easier to hop on a plane and spend a few days in Morogoro. I'm ready for an evening of watching the BBC and Castle snacking on chips and catching up on our lives.