Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

Today is yesterday’s twin; the other half of the team goes into town to practice their Swahili and take care of other business. Today it’s Angel, Catherine, Katie, Jon, and Will. I come along for some business that I’ll get to in a moment.

We drive with Beth to the dalidali pickup point. I see with some disappointment that they have a much larger vehicle, maybe a little smaller than a typical school bus, so they won’t have the compression experience that we had yesterday. Beth and I drop them off with Maiwe and head into town.

We go to finish some business. Beth has suggested that we plan a trip to the Serengeti National Park to see some wildlife. In East Africa, that’s really the greatest attraction. I’ve always told the team that this trip isn’t about tourism and that they shouldn’t expect much of it, but we can do Serengeti as a Saturday day trip, and while it’s more money than I’d like, if they contribute some, which they’re eager to do, the budget can take the strain. So yesterday we made the reservations for Saturday (that’s tomorrow), and today we need to pay for it. Beth and I drop by the bank so I can pull the funds from the team account back home. My ATM card is rejected. Hoo boy. I try the card for my personal account. Rejected. I try the BJU corporate credit card. Needs a PIN. Since I never intended to use it for cash advances, I have no PIN. (BTW, the tour company won’t take the credit card, or any credit crads. What tour company won’t take a credit card?! Good grief.)

Dead in the water. And this is worse than just Serengeti; rather than bringing in cash the many thousands of dollars that the team would need for the 8-week trip, I’ve advanced some to the various hosts, am carrying some, and am counting on ATM access for the rest. This puts us in a bind for covering expenses for the rest of the trip, particularly food in Cape Town. (I’ve already charged the lodging and vehicle rental for that venue; I suppose I can use the corporate credit card for all food purchases there, but that will limit the places we can buy.)

We step into the bank, and their staff member tries a few things that are ineffective. She suggests that it might be a network problem, and perhaps we could try a larger bank, such as Barclay’s. We do. No help.

Beth has business to take care of, so she drops me off at a large, modern hotel right in the middle of town, where there’s a coffee shop in the tiled lobby. I get a cup of lemongrass tea and settle in to a booth. They don’t have open wireless here, but my cellular modem does have a much stronger signal (3G!), and that leads to less signal loss, error correction, and retransmission, which in turn yields significantly higher speeds. I hit the team’s account online, and I confirm that there’s plenty of money there. I send an email asking them for help in solving the access problem; the site says I’ll get a reply within 24 hours. Naturally, it’s always Friday when these things happen, so I guess I’ll need to wait until Monday for an answer. As backup, I also ask my wife to talk to our bank and get me card access to that account as well, so I can cover the team expenses that way if I have to.

I’m also able to get the blog back up to date—it’s been nearly a week since I posted anything there, though I have emailed the entries directly to the parents, and Joy has been doing the same from Ghana. I’m also able to catch up on the significant backlog of email.

Out the window I see the crew come by and head into a souvenir shop across the street, so I join them. Jon, it turns out, has broken his glasses, so that the right piece (what do you call that thing? an earpiece? doesn’t sound quite right) is missing, and his glasses lie crooked on his face, and he keeps adjusting them so he can see. It’s pretty comical. He does have another pair, and his contacts, back at the compound, so he’ll be fine.

From the shop we walk around the corner to the phone store, where one team member buys a local phone—they’re only about $30—and several buy time. You do that with a SIM card, which you can put in any phone. It’s an efficient system; you carry your account with you in the SIM card, and you can place it in any phone and make a call as though it’s your own: number, time, contacts, call history, everything.

From there we walk across the intersection to the pizza place where we ate yesterday. It’s quintessentially urban African. It was a vacant lot surrounded by concrete walls topped with coils of barbed wire, with three or four trees. They have poured a little concrete, erected a roof around the trees (reminiscent of a tree house), thrown in some tables and chairs and a bathroom in the back, and voila! a restaurant! Most of the kids try the black currant Fanta, since Beth is having it, and we get four pizzas. Jon likes eggplant, so we get one pizza with those. I leave it to the others to eat that one. Yyyyyechhhhh.

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Beth notes that several of the other team members had their ATM cards rejected while I was in the coffee shop. I take that as good news, in an odd sort of way; perhaps it’s a network problem that will work itself out in a day or two.

We all drop by the safari place to tell that about the payment problem. Technically, I have the cash to cover the cost, but that’s about all the cash I’m carrying, and I don’t want to spend it if we’re not going to be able to access our other funds. So we postpone the reservation a week to give us time to work out the problem. Here’s hoping.

I’m a providentialist; I’m convinced that God directs all things for His good and our glory (Rom 8.28 and often elsewhere). So we’ll see where this goes.

We repeat the afternoon shopping we did with the other half of the team yesterday. We drop by a sidewalk vendor with whom Beth has dealt often over the years, and he has a good day. 🙂 Then next door to U-Turn, an Indian-run grocery store that has a pretty good selection, though a little pricey ($10 for a pound of cheese). There are lots of wazungu in there, and we enjoy browsing and buying a few things. The highlight is the front corner of the store, which is closed off as sort of a closet so it can be air conditioned. Why? Because they don’t want the CHOCOLATE to melt. It’s a candy room, and we stand in there in the coolness and just inhale the sweet smells.

Back home just before 5, we unload our produce and bags of souvenirs and tell our stories to those who stayed home today. Postponing the safari is disappointing, of course, but we hope it will be worked out. (If the cash access isn’t worked out, our problems will be a lot bigger than missing a safari.)

Supper is rice and beans. Yes, the kids are getting an authentic African experience.

The dogs, as usual, hang around for the little bits of rice the kids occasionally drop, accidentally or on purpose. There are four dogs here: Simba and Nala, the father and mother, respectively, of Silver, a female, and Dog Samuel, a male. They call Samuel Dog Samuel so they won’t get him confused with a person named Samuel. 🙂 Abbie says she has trouble distinguishing Silver and Dog Samuel; I reply that, yeah, I keep confusing her (Abbie) and Will, too. Nala has golden eyes, and some of the locals find her a little freaky. But at least none of the dogs are psychotic, like our old friend Brita.

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Speaking of which, Joy notes in her updates that my goat was featured in a church supper back in Wa. Farewell, old friend. Our time together was brief but warm. And apparently your time after I left got rather warmer as well.

Devotions as usual in the children’s houses—Catherine with the older boys, with Will and me for crowd control; Jon with the older girls; and Angel with the younger kids—and team devotions back at the girls’ guest house. We have a longer time of prayer tonight, first because we feel like we need it, and second because as we’re praying, the Ghana / Cameroon team is landing in Cameroon. As we’re finishing, Joy texts to say that they safe in Douala and have contacted the Loeschers. I can breathe again.

For reasons we don’t fully understand, we stay up late; it’s midnight when the guys head out. I guess we just like one another.

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Dan Olinger

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

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