Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Catherine, Will, Joslyn, and Angel, joined by one Tumaini child, two town children, and one unidentified African man, go running together at 7 am. They’ve gotten used to picking up a few people along the way; I think the locals have started watching for them. They run down to the lakefront and see lots of water and a snake. But they outrun him.

On day two of teaching, the students’ excitement has worn off, and the behavioral problems start in several of the classes. They need to take more frequent breaks and let the kids blow off some steam—and that’s with chai at 10, lunch at 1, and an hour of games at 4. During the games, some of the boys put their hands on a tree that’s filled with ants, and in 5 or 10 seconds their hands and arms are covered with the non-stinging creatures. Then they put their hand on another child so he’s got ants all over him. Jon tells them to stop doing it to the girls. At least that’s a start.

Since my class is the oldest children, Standard 5, they seem to have outgrown the perpetual restlessness that afflicts the younger ones. It occurs to me that that I can encourage them, both boys and girls, to exercise leadership in the family, first by not setting a bad example, and second by telling the younger ones to knock it off. Maybe I’ll work on that over the next few days.

We have lunch with the missionaries again—Dan & Jana’s family, the Gasses, and Beth. Haystacks this time; very good. Since Dan and Matt come by during a break in class, I ask them how things are going, and we have some interesting talking about problems teaching theology cross-culturally. For example, since there’s no word for “spirit” in Sakuma, the local tribal language, a Bible translator chose to render “demons” as “ancestors,” and boy, has that caused problems, considering the animism that still holds sway in much of the area. The discussions around the idea of a spirit being get pretty philosophical among the pastors and their teachers.

Keri is excited that in her afternoon class, her autistic student learns the letters a through j and their sounds. That’s quite a day; we’ll see how much of it he retains tomorrow.

I have my first ICT class today; that’s “Introduction to Communication Technology,” which sounds like computer literacy, but the Standard 5 text has no computer stuff in it; just using the post office, how to read magazines and newspapers, and a little bit of library stuff. Pretty light. I’ve discussed with Beth whether we can predict how deep computer penetration will be here; should they really be encouraged to save old newspapers for reference, or is it likely they’ll routinely have web access on their cell phones? I meet with this class only 4 times over the 2 weeks of tutoring, so I decide to give them some computer exposure. We talk about the hardware and software basics of the laptop, and I show them how to use the trackpad. Then we play a “Concentration” game, each of them taking turns. I note pretty quickly that they don’t play at all strategically; they just turn over cards at random and then can’t remember the position where they saw the card like it. It seems consistent with the emphasis in their education on memorization and recitation rather than higher order thinking skills; you ask them a question that requires them to figure something out, and they’re at a loss as to how to proceed. We’re all working on that, but there’s only so much you can do in 2 weeks.

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Even with the cellular modem, I’ve lost any meaningful internet access—but you know that, because you’re not reading this right now. 🙂 I spend an hour after my last class sitting in Dan & Jana’s house, which gets the strongest cellular signal on the campus, trying to get online. I have 5 bars the whole time, but I never get more than 5 kbps of bandwidth—which, as those of you who follow such things know, is way worse than the old dial-up days. I can never get a webpage loaded. So I guess y’all will hear from me eventually.

After supper I go back to their house and try it on Dan’s computer. I do manage to contact my online bank account and receive a message from them saying that the card should work now; that’s the most critical need at this point.

So no problem at all with web access on Dan’s computer. Different computer, different operating system, different modem. Could be a lot of things. We’ll have to see whether it appears to be tied to the hardware, or whether my computer seems to get some speed back over time. I can’t take the time now to update the blog or even send an email; there are other things going on, and I don’t want to be in the way. But it seems like progress.

Around 9 pm Angel and Katie cook up some plantains for a bedtime snack. The kitchen smells great. We’re not suffering.

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Dan Olinger

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

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