Tuesday, June 4, 2013

This 10 am start is really nice. Four of the team—Will, Catherine, Angel, and Katie—get up at 7 to run. We actually asked the leadership’s advice about that. Nobody runs for exercise around here, so it’s odd. And the girls have to wear skirts because of the local culture, which makes it even odder. They run along the dirt road around the outside of the property; they get lots of stares, but they say a lot of “Shikamoo”s (respectful greeting to someone of superior social status), and everything seems to work out fine.

While Abbie is fixing breakfast, she finds a spider approximately 8 miles across in the cupboard. She reacts as you would expect, putting some serious distance between her and said arachnid, and Will and Angel send it to that great web in the sky while Abbie, Katie, and Catherine stand on the furniture.

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We have chai at 10 with the children; the carbohydrate is a rectangular donut—shaped like a piece of coffee cake, but made of donut dough and deep fried. Joslyn gets a serious sugar high.

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Our morning meeting with Beth is a simple Q&A session; we’re far enough into our prep that we pretty well know what our questions are and can ask for what we need. Then comes our second Swahili session; Maiwe goes over numbers, food items, and other kinds of info we’ll need to engage in commerce in the market. He’s given us a lot of information; our greatest need now is just to get the practice.

Lunch with our hosts is a big bowl of potato soup. Dan and I get to talking about some theological stuff in connection with the pastors’ training class he’s teaching right now. We get in pretty deep, and before I know it it’s well into the afternoon, and I haven’t shown up for my mealtime cleanup shift. That’s not good; lousy leadership begets lousy followership. The fish rots from the head down. I’ll have to make that up to them.

We spend the afternoon doing more planning for our teaching. Identify the worksheets and other handouts to be duplicated; create learning games and writing exercises. The toughest part for me is what they call “ICT”: Information Communication and Technology. I check the Standard 5 textbook, and it’s about the post office, radio, television, and print media—all things that are becoming increasingly irrelevant in American culture. I’ll need to consult with Beth about how much to emphasize in each area, and whether to throw in some computer stuff, including the internet. We have to keep in mind that we’re helping them get ready for their standardized tests; in this case I wonder whether the tests aren’t in fact impeding progress rather than furthering it. There’s a section in their book about storing old newspapers as helpful sources of information. Really? How do you find anything? And how much space in a 2-room house do you devote to the stacks of old newspapers?

By the end of the afternoon, most of us are in pretty good shape for next week. That feels like an accomplishment. Now we need to work on our Swahili, to be ready for the town trip on Thu and Fri (half the team each day).

We have supper with the children in the main lobby of the school building. It’s ugali, a staple here in east Africa, a corn-meal mush that’s a little thicker than mashed potatoes. You eat it with your hands; you take a bit in your right hand and form it into a ball a little smaller than a golf ball, using only your right hand (remember than dirty-left-hand thing). Then you use it to pick up whatever else you’re eating; tonight it’s boiled spinach and a few pieces of beef in a tasty red sauce. It sounds unmanageable to western ears, but you get the hang of it pretty quickly, and it’s really quite good.

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As usual after supper, we hang out with the kids in the kibanda as darkness comes, kicking around a football, practicing our Swahili, learning and teaching songs. The girls like to stand in a circle and do clapping / singing / chanting games.

The usual children’s house devotions at 7:30; tonight Jon speaks to the older boys, Catherine to the older girls, Angel to the younger kids. The older boys seem pretty responsive, though they’re still noticeably shy. The older girls seem friendly in the standard social contexts, but in devotional times they pretty much shut down. We’ll pray about that. I’m scheduled to speak to them once in a few days; I’ll be interested in seeing that personally.

After house devotions Beth comes by to discuss plans for Saturday. She’s suggested going on a day-trip safari to Serengeti; it seems workable and affordable, so we decide to do it. I agree with her that it seems nuts to come to East Africa, within 2 hours of a game park, and not see any wild game. If the kids help out with the cost, and they all agree to, then we can do this. Email sent, plans made.

By the way, Beth’s name here at the compound is Shengazi, or “Auntie.” I’ll have to try to remember not to call her Benghazi; that’s a whole different African phenomenon.

Since we have Beth right here at the house, we decide we have a moral obligation to teach her to play Signs. She picks it up quickly and manages never to get sent to the middle of the circle.

I’ve mentioned the fruit here. In the middle of the game several of the girls stop to make a fruit salad, which we devour in minutes. Mangoes, pineapple, orange, watermelon, all fresh and all fully tree-ripened. You simply can’t imagine.

For devotions I point them to God’s provision for our labors, from 2 Cor. 9:8. We’ll need this promise as teaching begins next week.

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Dan Olinger

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

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