Friday, June 14, 2013

Today is the day we tell the kids that they’re going to just half a day of classes for the next week.

They’re disappointed.

We’re not. 🙂

We’ll evaluate each of our students and give them the curricular emphases that they need. That means that we won’t be spending time reviewing stuff they already know pretty well. I think that’s a good thing.

While the rest of the team is enjoying their afternoon off, I catch a ride with Matt, who’s going into town. I want try the ATM card again, now that the bank has assured me that it will work. And Beth has given me a small shopping list. And when the team hears that I’m going in, 5 of them want me to pick up phone vouchers for them. And there’s also the tantalizing possibility of actual web access.

I go by Matt’s house after my morning teaching is done. We jump in his Land Cruiser and head into town. The Cruiser is a good choice; as he puts it, you have to shoot it to kill it. We also note that Toyota apparently put more mental effort into protecting the car than protecting its passengers; it’s got quite an entertaining suspension system, and since you can’t hurt the thing, we, um, enjoy the ride.

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Matt’s got a dental appointment, and he needs to go to the ATM too, so we both go to his bank. I insert my card, press a few buttons, and … a glorious avalanche of pink 6-dollar bills cascades into my hand. (Actually they’re 10,000 Tanzanian shilling notes, the standard note here, but they’re worth about 6 bucks each, so I call ‘em 6-dollar bills.) I get a bunch, to pay back half of the safari cost. I’ll get the other half next week.

Literally while I’m getting the cash, my phone rings. You know, the one that won’t send or receive calls? Well, apparently it will receive. It’s Dr. Loescher, the host of the Cameroon team, to talk over some business. Joy had texted me during class this morning and asked me to call him. I had tried at the break, and of course the call would cancel itself immediately. But he can call me, and we get some business taken care of. I feel almost human.

Matt drops me off downtown and goes to the dentist. I walk over to the pizza restaurant, where we get our bread. The order is waiting for me. 10 loaves. “Say, could I come back about 3 and pick this up then?” I don’t want to have to carry a large box of bread around town until Matt gets out of the chair. “No problem,” they say. I love Africa.

Over to the phone store, where I get the vouchers for the kids in less than 10 minutes. I’ve made all the arrangements I need to, and in less the 20 minutes. Something seriously spooky is going on here. This is not how Africa works.

Over to the hotel lobby, where the coffee shop gets 3G cellular speed. There are no open booths—that’s where the electrical outlets are—but I have an hour of battery left, so I get a table with a nice view of all the booths and set up there, prepared to pounce when somebody leaves. I order a bitter lemon soda.

A word about that. In every former British colony I’ve visited (except the good old US of A), you can get bitter lemon soda. South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, St. Vincent, Tanzania. This stuff is seriously good. Strong lemon, less sugar. You need to try it.

Seriously.

Right now.

Go get some.

After half an hour, a booth opens up. I pounce, plug in, crank up the screen brightness, and prepare to get careless about my electricity consumption. Get all my email caught up, all the blog up to date (though I note that Joy hasn’t sent me anything to post in a few days), and even get to chat with my daughter Jennifer on Facebook for a few minutes. Man, I miss those girls.

Soon Matt shows up, numb mouth and all. I buy him a bitter lemon; nothing is more appropriate after a visit to the dentist than filling your mouth with flavored sugar water. Back to the car; pick up the bread, and then one last stop at U-Turn, the western-style grocery store, to get Beth’s list. I’ve taken to calling it U-Haul. I don’t know why, but that just strikes me funny.

Back at Tumaini in time to do the 5 pm private reading tutoring with a student. So that was a pretty efficient trip. You know all that stuff I said the other day about inefficiency? Well, it’s still true, but some days everything just clicks.

We have supper with Dan & Jana and the Gasses. Dan & Jana are going to Nairobi tomorrow for a doctor’s visit, and on to Mombasa for a week’s vacation, so we’ll be gone when they get back. We tell them goodbye and give them a card saying thanks. They’ve been good hosts, though they’d be quick to say that Beth has done the yeoman’s share of the work that hosting a team always involves.

After house and team devotions, we spend some time getting organized for tomorrow’s early departure for the Serengeti. The children who are coming along have been told, of course, and they’re nearly as excited as we are. Tomorrow will be tiring but memorable.

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Dan Olinger

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

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