Thursday, June 6, 2013

For today and tomorrow our hosts have planned a language experience for us. Beth will drop half the team off downtown each day, with some tasks to accomplish, and our Swahili teacher will accompany us as backup. Should be interesting.

Abbie, Keri, Joslyn, and I have breakfast and then report to Beth’s house. We have our Swahili cheat sheets, but we’re a little nervous. She drives us and our teacher, Maiwe, to the edge of town, where we catch a taxi van. It’s a little smaller than a 15-passenger van, seating 11 with a little standing room around the door, and a raised ceiling. In Kenya they call these things matatus; here they’re dalidalis. We get on at the beginning of the route, when it’s empty, so we all get seats. Abbie and I are seated by the door, and we entertain ourselves by counting in Swahili as people get on and off. When we get to 26 (!), we can no longer see if people are getting on or off, or how many. That is one full van.

At the center of town is the end of the line, and everybody gets off. Maiwe leads us into the market, where we need to get some groceries. Markets are the same in developing countries the world over; this one is very similar to the one in Wa. Our rule is, Swahili only. That’s not as bad as it sounds; we each know what we’re supposed to buy, so we can formulate our key sentence ahead of time, and then it’s just a matter of the numbers as the bargaining goes on. Keri gets a couple of pineapples; the others get bananas and something that’s slipped my mind at the moment; I’m assigned sugar (sukari, clearly a loan word), for which I’ve memorized the sentence “Ninaomba kununua asukari, kilo mbili” (“I am asking to buy sugar, two kilos”). That works fine. I see some dried corn kernels in the same booth, and I ask Maiwe if it’s popcorn by making an exploding sound and gesturing. He says yes, so I point to that and ask, “Bei gani?” (“How much?”). The price is right—both together are 6,000 shillings, or a little over $3.50 for 5 lbs of sugar and 2.5 lbs of popcorn.

It takes us a while to work through all of that, and then Maiwe has been instructed to take us to the souvenir areas of the market so we can get things if we wish. That takes a while longer, as the girls examine the stuff and haggle over prices. I’m a spectator this time, but that’s fine with me.

Done with the market, we meet Beth at the appointed place and set off on some other business: ATMs for those who want to supplement their cash in shillings; the phone company, where we buy cell time, including cellular modem time, which we hope will finally give us web access for posting updates; an office where we make arrangements for a little surprise Saturday (I’ll tell you later); a shop where I make a little purchase for my wife (I have to text her so she’ll know the credit card charge is legit); and some other things. Then lunch at a little restaurant in the middle of town, where it seems a lot of wazungu are eating. We get pizza—it’s the same place where Beth got the pizzas we ate on arrival Saturday night—and two of the girls try black currant Fanta, which is quite tasty; Beth says it’s the closest you can get to Dr. Pepper locally. In general, the soda flavors are more diverse here, and more centered on fruit flavors.

After lunch there’s more business, including some upper-scale souvenir shops where we browse a lot and buy some. By the time we get back home, it’s almost 5 pm. The rest of the team has had a bit of a rest day; their turn will come tomorrow.

Supper is at Tumaini; it’s ugali, with boiled spinach and daga, or fish—more specifically, little tiny fish, minnows, cooked and eaten whole, 4 or 5 at a time. They’re quite tasty, and the team gets over their tentativeness and eventually eats them.

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We lead devotions with the kids as usual and have devotions as a team after that. With web access working—though at dialup speeds—we’ve heard from the Cameroon squad in Accra, getting ready to fly to Cameroon tomorrow, and we have specific things we can pray about.

By the way, the slow connection speeds pretty well mean that pictures are out of the question for now, and the blog is questionable; I’m getting the entries out by email, and that’s taking a long time. I’ll try to upload some photos when we get to Cape Town.

The gnats are still a problem.

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Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion.

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