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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Last day of camp. Nothing until chai, but we have some planning and finalizing to do for the skits this afternoon. Bethany, fortunately, is an organizer, and she’s taking care of cast and prop lists and all those things you have to think about ahead of time.

We announce the temporary point totals at chai. Jonathan’s team is ahead at this point, by quite a bit, but mostly on the strength of Bible memory verses, so we exhort the other teams to be diligent and catch up.

At 11 we send them out for God and I Time, with some reading on Daniel’s character in chapters 1 and 2. Today we do it as teams, both to build team unity and to ensure that they’re using the time effectively.

They have their staff Bible time at noon; we do a review of plans for the skits, and some of the girls continue a project for sherehe that they’ve been working on for quite a while: photo-collage posters for each year of Tumaini’s existence. They’ve hand-lettered the year numbers with African animals worked in (think old illuminated manuscripts, but in more of a cartoon style), and they’re coming together pretty well.

Lunch is stuffed tortillas (remember, we don’t say the other T-word around here) and good fellowship. Yesterday we fellowshipped a little too much and started game time 30 minutes late, so we pay better attention today so we don’t keep the children waiting for what they consider the highlight of their day.

We start with a scavenger hunt. Five of the, um, more mature folks—me, Beth, Rachelle, Abeli, and one of the mamas—have Zip-locTM bags containing 5 very large jigsaw puzzle pieces and a task to accomplish. We position ourselves around the compound, and the teams run to us in any order they like, complete the task (mine is saying the alphabet backwards), and receive a puzzle piece. When they’ve been to all 5 locations, they run to the kibanda and try to be the first team to turn in their pieces. Jonathan’s team wins, pretty much by a landslide. Their technique is to follow the shortest route, which in this case means they don’t have to wait while some other team ahead of them struggles to complete their task at a given location.

The second game is Trash Pickup. Seriously. They pick up trash around the compound and bring it to their team captain. The bucket with the heaviest trash wins. To my surprise, the children really get into it. I’d be thinking, “This is the most exploitative alleged ‘game’ I’ve ever heard of!” But boy do they clean up the trash.

We take a little break before Fun Time, for which we have 4 skits scheduled. Some of the children who are in the church choir need to leave to go to the evangelistic services that are being held in Shadi this week.

Our first skit is “The Doctor,” which we do every year and the children always love. I’m a patient in the doctor’s waiting room, and each team member comes in with a visible malady of some sort: Sara is scratching, Jonathan is hiccupping, Rachael is sneezing, Bethany is seizing, Jojo is vomiting, and Lora is visibly pregnant (thanks to a convenient watermelon). As each patient comes in, I add his symptoms to my collection, and when the pregnant lady comes in I run out screaming. As I’ve said, the kids always think it’s funny, even though they know what’s going to happen.

Skit 2 is “Beeping Sleauty,” which I tell and the Crew acts out. It was a last-minute replacement for one involving 2 kings insulting each other; this morning we decided a skit encouraging insults might not be a good idea. I’m wondering whether the children will be able to make any sense out of the spoonerisms—English is their second language, after all. My hunch is that they don’t understand what I’m saying very well, but they do laugh at the Crew’s acting.

Skit 3 is the old Ball Identification game, where a contestant is told to lift the cover off an item on the table and identify it, and the rest of the series, as quickly as possible. It’s a setup; the third “ball” is a team member, and when the contestant uncovers the head, its owner screams, terrifying the poor child. This is called fun. Jonathan is slated to be the head, but we find out during setup that he can’t fit under the table, so Lora steps in. For some reason we decided to use plastic buckets as covers instead of the usual towels. The third contestant, one of the older girls, panics when Lora screams and throws the bucket back at her, opening a wound on the bridge of her nose. So Lora steps out for a little first aid (and the girl feels terrible), and I step in for a couple more contestants. No long-term damage, but now we know why they usually use towels instead of buckets.

Skit 4 is the bit where 1 person stands behind a second and #1’s arms become #2’s arms, so #2 looks like a tiny person. Jojo and Lora (complete with Band-AidTM on nose) are the two front people, and Jonathan and Lora respectively are behind the curtain providing the arms. The two wake up in the morning, wash their faces, brush their teeth, Jojo shaves, and they eat some mush for breakfast. It gets pretty messy by the end, since the people in the back can’t see what their arms are doing out in front of the curtain. The children love it.

Time to hang out together until supper, our last taste of ugali for this trip. Then house devotions, where Jojo decides to have a singspiration, and the boys outdo themselves in singing in both Swahili and English. It’s a great time.

After team devotions we spend time watching videos of the skits. It’s fun to see all the things you didn’t notice at the time.

Tomorrow is good-bye day; we’ll remind ourselves of that in several ways throughout the day. Tonight we pray for grace, and for faith in God’s providence to take the seeds we’ve planted in this very brief time and use them to bear fruit in the years ahead.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sleeping in is a wonderful thing—provided the roosters and the children will allow it. The roosters do their thing as usual, and one of the children is at the window next to the bunk pestering Jonathan to come out and play. Jonathan says something to the effect of “MMfrpghsyttttt.”

Shortly after I arrive at the house they bring one of the boys by. He fell out of bed this morning, landing on the back of his head on the concrete floor. He’s got a bump about 2 inches in diameter and protruding an inch from his scalp. Must have been quite a landing. Mama Nursi is off compound, having taken another child to the hospital for a regularly scheduled checkup, so it’s up to me and Sarah, EMTs with not a whole lot of experience. No laceration, so no external bleeding. He knows who he is, but not what day it is—but then, most kids here don’t know what day it is. In the States we always ask who the President of the US is, but that doesn’t seem useful here either. I grab my cell phone and use the flashlight to check pupillary response, and for the first time my life, I’m looking at eyes that are so dark I can’t clearly distinguish the pupil from the iris. After several attempts I’m pretty sure I see contraction, so that’s good. I ask him if he feels nauseated; he doesn’t know the word. I mimic vomiting; he understands and says no. Dizzy? Eh? So I pretend to be dizzy. Nope, that’s not a problem. Just the head hurts. All we have for pain is extra strength acetaminophen, which is too strong a dose for someone his age.

So what would you do? Either he’s fine—maybe a mild concussion—or perhaps there’s intracranial hemorrhage. If we take him to the hospital, it’s unlikely they could do anything for the latter—if they even have the equipment to detect it—and it’s equally likely that he’d pick up staph or something else there. So we tell him no games; stay in the kibanda with the mamas and rest. We watch him throughout the day, and he seems to be returning to normal.

Beth has arranged for some local artisans to come by and set up a little craft fair for us. In years past there’s been a big one downtown at the yacht club, but for some reason we didn’t get a shot at it this time, so we’re having our own. I’m a little nervous—I hope our kids can buy enough to make it worthwhile for these folks to bring their wares out to show.

During chai Rachelle tells us that the artisans are here, setting up on Beth’s porch. We go down to take a look. There are wood carvings, baskets, paintings, hand-drawn stationery, fabrics, fabric bags, drums, knives, and other miscellaneous stuff. Jojo sees the drums and buys two immediately. That was easy to predict. Everybody buys a respectable amount, and I even buy some things, which is unusual for me. There’s a hand-carved wooden globe—I’m a sucker for geography—and some nice wall hangings for the office. It appears that the vendors consider the sales volume worthwhile for the trip, so I’m relieved.

Back up the hill to the kibanda, where we blow the air horn to call the children together for “God and I Time.” Sarah, the house inspector for camp, says everyone’s done very well with chores, so the points system is off to a flying start. Now the Crew shepherd them through personal devotions—the older kids are on their own in the assigned passage, and the little ones are in groups with team members.

Lunch is baked potatoes ‘n’ fixin’s—as American as apple pie.

To begin game time—we’re a little late, delayed by cleanup after lunch—we introduce the 5 teams (for the 5 Olympic rings) and their captains. Then it’s on to the competition, for the glory of sport. Today’s competition is “The Cat in the Hat,” which is basically a variant on Musical Chairs, so we send all the children off to get chairs and bring them to the football field. That goes surprisingly well. We set up 2 circles, one for older children, and one for younger (so the little ones won’t get massacred during the scramble for seats). Sarah reads the story, and chaos—the good kind—ensues. We play for nearly an hour, with no serious injuries, and nothing major to complain about.

There’s free time until supper, which we encourage the children to use to work on their memory verses, which many do. Supper is rice and beans—bet you saw that coming—with pineapple and a special treat, mango.

Just before supper Jojo heads down to Beth’s porch. His grandfather’s graveside service is at 11 am in New Jersey, which is 6 pm here. We’ve arranged to clear the internet access of all other traffic so he can do a video chat with those who are there. The connection works well, and he is able to talk to several relatives as well as read Scripture during the brief service. It’s remarkable that he’s able to do that from all the way over here. And it helps to ease the pain of being here when he’d much rather be there.

After team devotions we spend a couple hours finalizing plans for tomorrow’s skits; we’re going to have a “fun time” after the game time. A couple of the skits the children have seen before from earlier teams, but we know that they’ll enjoy it just as much a third or even fourth time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The alarm rooster is particularly feisty this morning. Sometimes I wonder what they think they’re accomplishing. Fine, greet the morning, announce your existence and personal pride. But you’re saying the same thing over and over, dude. What, is your brain the size of a pea or something?

The equinox is about now; it’s on either the 20th or the 21st, depending on where on the planet you happen to be at the moment. (Theological footnote: has it ever occurred to you that at any given time, it’s 2 different days on portions of the earth? Except for the split second at noon Greenwich. If for no other reason, that’s why we shouldn’t try to predict the day Christ will return. It’s a hopeless cause.) Here near the equator the equinox makes very little difference; the days are of nearly equal length all year long. It’s just you more polar tribes who are affected by it.

The house is buzzing when I arrive—or more accurately, the people in the house are buzzing. (I suppose that if the house were buzzing, we’d need to investigate.) They’re ready for their last day of classes. I ask, “Remember how you felt on the last day of classes at BJU in April? Well, that’s how your kids feel today.” Fortunately, our expectations are reasonable—just engage them with something. Worst case, turn ‘em loose and let ‘em play football.

All the shower boys are in class on time; Abeli, Ferdinand’s assistant, and I shut down the shower rooms in both houses. After rounds I do the dishes and then some writing. I packed all my stuff this morning and moved it to the other apartment; now it’s just a case of waiting for a third bed to show up.

Chai is chapati. I’m gonna miss that fat tortilla.

Second session is spotty, but we get through it. Done with tutoring.

Lunch is a good chicken soup, with chapati chips and salsa, and fresh papaya. We run the day camp plans by Beth and Rachelle, and they all look good, with a small exception. We were planning to take the children down to the incinerator after house devotions tonight for the lighting of the Olympic Trash—we thought it would look better after dark—but Matt suggested that it might tend to misimpression, especially in the village when they heard a lot of noise coming out of the compound after dark. Apparently nothing good happens after dark here. So we’ll do it right after supper, at dusk, before house devotions, and we’ll explain what we’re doing. That’ll work.

They’ve moved a bed into the guys’ apartment for me. I get it set up and made, and I’m officially moved in for the last 4 nights. Living with a couple of college guys. Again. After all these years. The sacrifices I make for the Kingdom.

Jonathan has his last choir practice with the children, and they sound pretty good to me, though he says their hearts really aren’t in it. Now they need to keep the songs in their heads until sherehe in August. All of the sherehe groups have something to show for their efforts; The Crew has done well at getting them organized and reasonably productive. There’s cross-stitch, and pillows, and drawings, and of course the choir. It’s all good.

Jonathan has a little vocabulary mishap with the children. He tells them to go somewhere (toka), but he gets the vowels switched (tako). There’s that word for buttocks again. The children think it’s very funny.

It’s been cloudy and cool all day. This is the dry season, as it always is when the team is here, and I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve seen it rain here in my 4 visits. The locals aren’t hopeful; it can look for all the world like it’s going to rain, and then just not do it. But at 5:30 there are actual drops, and by 6 we have a bona fide rainstorm. A little girl from Shadi gets caught by it just outside our gate, and we welcome her into the kibanda to get some shelter. She speaks no English, but Lora has one of the girls translate for her and assures her she’s welcome to stay dry with us and watch the rain.

Supper is always served in the Big House, but hardly anybody eats in there; we traditionally pick up our food and then go out to the kibanda. But tonight it’s too rainy, and we crowd into the Big House. There’s a Disney video of Robin Hood playing, and the children are surprised that I know the songs: “Robin Hood and Little John, walkin’ through the forest …” I have fond memories of singing those songs with my children, back in the Dark Ages, when Robin Hood was current events.

So the Big House is crowded, and festive, and chaotic, and joyous. It’s a nice change to the typical supper routine, as enjoyable as that is.

Looks like our Olympic Bucket of Trash Lighting Ceremony is kaput, though.

We decide to have house devotions right in the Big House, all the children together, to give the rain a chance to stop. The children sing boisterously, and the acoustics make it sound even better than it is. Jojo shares the gospel story, and 2 of the children pray with Jojo closing.

Then we announce that the next 2 days will be The Tumaini Olympics. We’ll announce the specific teams tomorrow, but for now we tell them how they can get points, and they’re pretty excited.

And the best part of it all is that nothing starts until after chai at 10 am. What a great schedule.

After team devotions we work out some final details and do some thinking about skits for a Fun Time to close camp Thursday afternoon. I think this crew can do a fine job.

It’s after 10 when we finish. I suggest an IHOP run, and everybody groans.

Dad jokes.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The new puppies are being kept in a fenced area behind the Big House, and they don’t like it. By 6 am they’re yelping and crying as though they’re the most neglected animals in the world, and they’re right outside the girls’ bedroom window. They woke the girls up early yesterday, and from our house I can hear that they’re doing it again this morning. Eventually they’ll be moved to the kennel, down the hill from our house and in an out-of-the-way corner of the property, but for now they’re a little too young to be boarding regularly with the big dogs, and besides that there are some small holes in the kennel that render it unable to contain the little guys, and the staff hasn’t had time to patch them up (the holes, not the little guys).

I’m up around 7—that’s midnight Eastern time, but it sure doesn’t feel like it—and do the morning routine. This will be a challenging week; we have tutoring sessions just Monday and Tuesday, but we’ll be doing a day camp structure on Wednesday and Thursday, and we’ll need to do some planning and organizing for that over the next couple of days. In addition, Dan Eads’s parents are arriving for a 2-week visit tomorrow, and I’ll need to move out of my place and in with the other 2 guys for the rest of the week. Plus there’s planning and team preparation to do for next week’s new responsibilities in Cape Town. So no sitting around for the present.

At HQ at 8.45, the Crew is ready for their next-to-last day of tutoring. Bethany in particular is ready; for some reason she had it in her head that classes start at 8—despite a week and a half of starting at 9—and so she had an extra hour of free time this morning. I think maybe we’re all getting a little addled.

The children are a challenge in both sessions. Another kid tried the shower routine this morning to avoid class. We don’t have the Serengeti to hold over their heads anymore, but we can use the upcoming day camp as leverage—in some ways. But in any case, the morning is a challenge.

I’m passing the office building about 11 am when I see one of the mamas carrying 2 freshly caught tilapia. I come over to see them, and she offers to sell me one for 4000 shillings. Two bucks. Deal. I start to take possession of my prize when she tells me she’ll clean it up for me. Now that’s really a good deal. Do we want it for lunch? Well, not necessary, if that’s too soon. Supper’s fine.

Leftovers for lunch. We have some PBJ sandwiches, some canned tuna fish. Some carrots, and a watermelon and a pineapple. Not only enough, but nutritionally balanced as well.

I spend the afternoon catching up on housework and getting ready for Wednesday’s move to the other apartment, as well as getting things organized for the even bigger move to Cape Town at the end of the week.

Supper is rice and beans and papaya, and our fish shows up, deep fried and chopped into serving-sized pieces. I go straight for the head—the best meat on the fish is in the cheeks—and surprisingly, the other kids don’t fight me for it. I later comment that the eyes were overcooked, and they react as you might expect. Even the team member who’s most squeamish about fish has a piece and judges it tasty. When I go back to see if any is left, there’s just one piece—you guessed it, the tail. Americans love their cooked animals, but they don’t like to be reminded that the thing was, in fact, an animal. So I munch on the tail as dessert. I guess dinner should end with The End, no?

For boys’ house devotions Jojo gives his testimony (the short version), telling about the car accident that injured the nerve in his arm and the role his rebellion played in it. The boys listen closely; they admire him for his football skills, and his warnings about the consequences of sin seem to resonate with them. I suspect that seed will need a lot of watering over the next few years, but I’d like to think that his challenge to them registers in their minds.

After team devotions I lay out the general idea of the 2-day camp we’re having on Wednesday and Thursday, and I go make popcorn while they do the detail work of planning the theme, the teams, the cheers, the schedule, the points system, the games, and so on. They’re a creative bunch; there are so many ideas popping out that they decide to have an object—a BananagramsTM  banana—that the speaker has to hold in his hand, so everybody else will let him talk.

I make a couple of bowls of popcorn—lemon pepper seasoning works really well on that, by the way—and then fix myself a cup of peppermint tea while I listen to them work. At 10.30 they’re still going, and I’m not, so I wish them lala salamah and head to bed.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Our last Sunday in Shadi. Our group does special music in the church service, in Swahili, but with a more Western harmony pattern than they use here (and I notice that Jojo isn’t using his bucket). The members of the church enjoy it, even clapping and ululating when the singers finish. The moderator takes some time to commend our group for their participation, in choir as well as in the special music, and the children tell us that he mildly rebukes those from the church itself who aren’t participating in the choir.

It’s the usual slow, restful Sunday. Chai is uji and the boiled egg, and lunch is rice & beans. I spend a good chunk of the afternoon getting the blog up to date; I feel like I can’t have an entry on the Serengeti without uploading some photos, and the bandwidth here makes that a pretty time-consuming project.

When I get back to the house, all the girls are asleep in their room, and Jonathan’s asleep on the couch in the front room. I suspect Jojo’s at his place studying his eyelids as well.

So. What’s an old man to do in the company of such robust, energetic young people? Well, read some G.K. Chesterton until he makes him sleepy, and then slump into the arms of Morpheus himself.

On waking up I drop by the kibanda, and it’s empty. Sound coming from the Big House. A bunch of the children are watching a video, but no wazungu among them. All’s quiet at HQ, until I call, “Anybody here?” Sarah’s in the back. “Where is everybody?” “Oh, Jojo’s got a football game, and they’re all over there watching it.”

News to me. Turns out the Tumaini children are playing against a team organized from Shadi, and they’ve asked Jojo to act as their official Ringer. That should be interesting.

I drop by Beth’s porch at suppertime, and the rest of the crew shows up pretty much on time—except for Jojo. The game’s still going, apparently. We have drip beef sandwiches and salad, and the Gasses join us. About half way through Jojo shows up. They won, so everybody’s pretty excited. And after the win, the boys say, “This was for Gershon!” Well, that’s nice. The only male on last year’s team (other than me, and I don’t count, because I’m old and not cool), and they claim the win in his honor. Not sure why, frankly, but it’s a nice gesture.

Jojo’s in charge of boys’ house devotions for the week. He may be tired from the game, but he’s ready to go. Challenges the boys about dealing with conflict in a biblical way. It’ll be interesting to see where he takes this throughout the week.

Like last Sunday, we all gather at the Eadses’ house (except the Gasses, since their kids are up against bedtime) for a time of singing. Jonathan plays the keyboard, Rachelle the violin, and we sing for about an hour. It’s a good time of fellowship. I ask Dan how we can pray for him after we leave, and he mentions a Bible study in conjunction with SAUT (St. Augustine University of Tanzania) in Sweya, which didn’t exist when they started here and is now the second largest university in the country. They hope to influence key leaders for the future of Tanzania. And the Bible institute here is completely revamping its curriculum to embody the pedagogical style most effective here, which is highly interactive and application- rather than lecture-based. That’s a very large project, but it will also increase the institute’s effectiveness and the likelihood that they can indigenize at least much of the teaching relatively soon.

Those are good requests. Perhaps you’d care to join us in supporting this good ministry in long-term prayer.

By 9:30 two of the girls are half asleep, so we all call it a night.