Tuesday, 5/27/14

What’s an average day look like here at Tumaini?

The first thing you learn is that you don’t need an alarm clock. The light streaming in the window plays some role, but the determining factor is the roosters. They feel a moral obligation to announce that they’re awake and that everyone should join them. I’ve had roosters as my morning companions every time I’ve been in Africa, except for the Cape Town visits, and I oddly associate them with Africa—even though roosters are everywhere, of course. But there aren’t any near my house in Greenville, so I always feel like I know I’m in Africa if I wake up to roosters.

Anyhow, that starts about 6 am or sometimes earlier. The children go off to school at 6:15 or 6:30, and we can hear them chattering as they board the bus. Next week they’ll start their vacation—that’s why we’re here—but they’ll still be up and noisy around the same time.

We don’t need to start quite so early; Beth wore us out last year, and while I have no objection to that—if you’re going to go a long ways and do a lot of preparation, you might as well leave it all on the field, so to speak—I think she feels the need to back off just a little so she doesn’t kill us. So we have nothing officially scheduled until 10 am. We use that time for personal devotions, hygiene, and anything else we’d like to do.

I’ve brought my laptop in order to produce this blog, but it also has Logos Bible software on it, so I have pretty much all of my theological study resources right with me. That’s great privilege and a great opportunity for personal study. I often wonder what David Livingstone or Hudson Taylor would have thought of that—and what they would have done with it.

Personal hygiene requires some extra attention, but it’s not a problem. With the city water minimal right now, none of the spigots available to us produces any water, and none of the toilets will flush, so we have to do a little extra work. We have lots of 5-gallon buckets, the kind you get all kinds of stuff in at Lowe’s or Home Depot, and we carry one of those to the large water-storage tanks behind the girls’ house to get non-potable water for washing and flushing the toilets. There are two sources for this water—the city supply, which the folks here have stored up in 4 3000-liter containers, in anticipation of just a problem like the one we’re having right now, and rainwater collection, which is gathered from the gutters and directed into similar storage tanks. In much of the world this kind of water collection and storage is both routine and absolutely necessary; people literally can’t survive without it. In most of America, we take it for granted, and if we lost our city water supply, we’d be in serious trouble in a very short time.

So anyway, we get a bucket of water and take it to the shower, which for the boys is in a concrete outbuilding near their dorm, and for the girls is just down the hall. You disrobe and hang your clothes on any handy protrusion—the showerhead works well, since you won’t actually be using it—and you splash some water from the bucket all over yourself and lather up. Then you splash water on yourself some more to rinse. The water is at room temperature, but that feels a lot colder than we spoiled gringos are used to. Your first attempt at a bucket shower is usually pretty pitiful—and the dance is hysterical—but you get better at it after a few times, and eventually you can actually get pretty clean.

There’s a concrete sink, complete with tap and drain, on the outside of the outbuilding, where you can brush your teeth. We use bottled water for that, of course. (One of the missionaries told me last summer that his family uses tap water to brush their teeth and have had no problems, but that sounds a little risky to me.) We buy several 5-gallon jugs per week from town, the kind of jugs you see on water coolers. So far we’ve been using about 1 jug per day, which is better than we had expected. We pour that water into pitchers that we keep in the refrigerator, and we pour that into our personal water bottles as we need. That’s for drinking and brushing your teeth (I meant to say “for drinking and for brushing your teeth,” not “for drinking your teeth and brushing them”). So you trickle a little water on your toothbrush, brush like crazy, spit, trickle a little more water on your brush to rinse it, and then decide not to use your precious drinking water to rinse the spit off the concrete sink. You can rinse that with non-potable water later, maybe, if you decide it’s a worthwhile use of the water.

If we want a little breakfast, we can drop by the girls’ house and grab a piece of that delectable tree-ripened fruit they have here. I usually don’t do that, because we’re going to have chai at 10. That’s usually a bread—chapati or mandazi, a sort of hole-less doughnut—or a boiled egg, with a liquid—either uji or Fruit Loop tea. Starting next week we’ll have 2 tutoring sessions in the morning, usually at 9 and 10:30, and 1 in the afternoon, after lunch with the missionaries. We’ll have some free time, to ourselves or with the children, in the later afternoon, followed by an hour reading with individual students before supper, which we’ll eat with the children on weekdays, as previously noted. We’ll hold devotional times at the student residences at 7, our own team devotions at 8, and then have free time until 10.

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On this day, we start with chai at 10—mandazi and tea—and then progress to our orientation on Beth’s porch. This seems like a good time to mention that Beth has a Swahili name here at Tumaini; the children call her Shangazi, or auntie, and we’ve picked up on using the name too. Yeah, it sounds a little like Benghazi, but we try not to think about that.

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She spends the time talking to us about the children and about some cultural issues that may come up as we teach them. One that I remember from last year is that when children are in trouble, it is considered arrogant for them to look you in the eye; they lower their heads out of respect—or at least a public display of respect. So telling a child to “look me in the eye when I speak to you” is incomprehensible—the child will not do what you ask, and he’s not rebelling when he refuses. We have a lot to learn; some of it we’ll pick up by experience, but it’s often better to have some forewarning so you can make better sense of a situation while you’re in it.

At 11:30 Maiwe shows up for our second Swahili lesson. We learn a lot more about verb conjugations and sentence construction, and we spend some time working with money and preparing for specific conversations in the market, which will involve bargaining on price.

Lunch with Beth, Karen, Rachelle, and Laura Gass is mac and cheese and tomato soup. Cheese is quite expensive in most of Africa, so we won’t see a lot of it, especially the kind that smothers the dish or hangs in strings from the edge of the food. (I’ll bet mission teams to Mexico don’t have that problem.) This is really good. We spend more time talking about the kids and particular needs, as well as hearing some stories.

We have the whole afternoon to work on tutoring prep again. I’m not a tutor this year; I’m not trying to avoid work, but I thought it would be good to be free during teaching times to do class observations, to be available for crowd control in the difficult class of the hour, or to sub if somebody gets sick. So I have this afternoon free. My plan is to catch up on the blog—which I’m doing right now, if you hadn’t noticed—and to take my Swahili cheat sheet from last year and fine-tune it so I can make it available to the kids who want it.

I’m still working out the web access. We have some folks here with smartphones that can serve as hotspot tethers, and they get 3G here on the compound, but so far that isn’t working reliably. My standard expectation is that there’s no access without a trip into town; we’ll keeping working on the mobile hotspot possibility, but so far it still looks as though we’ll have only 2 updates a week or so.

About 5:30 the children get back from school. (Yes, they leave at 6:30 am and get back at 5:30 pm; there’s a 90-minute bus ride each way, but the private school is exponentially better than the public school here in Shadi, where the Tumaini staff learned that children were sometimes put to work in the teacher’s fields.) We have some time to play before supper.

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Supper is an old standby, rice and beans. It’s what much of the world has for food at every meal. This is the meal for which we get a utensil, a spoon. 🙂 A chunk of pineapple for dessert.

House devotions after supper; in my group, Caitlin continues with the boys on the series on the Ten Commandments. She does well; she’s energetic, and the boys listen.

Team devotions goes well; several team members share what they’re learning, and they’re right on track.

We’re getting into a rhythm now; I think jetlag is pretty well done, and the schedule seems normal to us. I suspect that getting the boys to their dorm at 10 plays a part in that.

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Dan Olinger

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

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