Thursday, 5/29/14

It’s another blissfully slow start. We have nothing scheduled until chai again; I spend the morning fine-tuning the blog and catching up on stored email in offline mode. Chai is mandazi and uji, and immediately afterward we load up Beth’s vehicle and head into town. It’s Beth, Karen, Maiwe, the 3 Sarahs, Caitlyn, Matt, and me. Beth drops everybody but me “at the pavement,” that is, where the paved road starts on the outskirts of town, and they catch a dala-dala, or bus. We want them to have the experience of riding one; Maiwe will take them to the market to practice buying things in Swahili.

Beth and I drive into town and make the arrangements for the Serengeti trip on the 14th of June. Because we’re making only one stop on this trip, expenses are generally lower than normal, and we have enough to take everybody on a 1-day safari ride in one of the world’s premier wild-game parks. We did that last year with a smaller group, and the provider, Serengeti Services, generously said we could fill any empty seats with orphans, and they would pay the children’s gate fees at the park. In planning this trip, we thought they might offer that again, and we noticed that whereas we had 5 empty seats last year with the smaller team, this year we’d have only 2. I got to thinking about that, and our budget surplus, and I wondered aloud if we could get a 3rd safari vehicle and fill those seats with orphans. Then we realized that we’d be taking advantage of their generosity in offering, so we weren’t quite sure what to do. Anyhow, when we sat down with them in the office, Beth tentatively suggested a third vehicle, and they said that if we’d pay the extra gate fees, that would be fine. How much are the gate fees? For a Tanzanian citizen under 16, 2000 shillings. A buck 33. And 10 times as much for an adult Tanzanian. We’ll bring 8 children and 1 of the house fathers for about 20 bucks. I think we have the basis for a wonderful relationship. We set it all up.

Beth drops me off at the Gold Crest Hotel in the center of town. There’s a coffee shop there with free Wi-Fi and very good bandwidth. I buy myself a soda—Krest Bitter Lemon, which I always get when I’m in a former British colony—and get comfortable in a booth. There’s an electrical outlet, and in seconds I’m connected and working faster than I have in days. I answer some email—my wife tells me there’s a mouse in the house—and edit the blog, in the meantime adding photos to about half of the entries. Ah, bandwidth.

Eventually Beth comes by to tell me the kids are done at the market and are going to the pizza shop just down the street. I tell her I’ll be along in a few, upload the last couple of photos, shut down, and walk across the square and into the shade of several large trees to our favorite pizza place. It’s just a vacant city lot, with concrete walls on both sides, where they’ve erected a couple of shelters and put tables and chairs under them. There’s a little booth where they do the cooking, and a couple of toilets in the back. With the shade trees, it’s really a very pleasant experience—and the pizzas are good as well. The kids show me what they’ve bought and tell me their stories of conversation in a language in which they have just 3 days’ experience. Maiwe graciously helped them a lot, and they say the whole experience was much less scary than they anticipated. I knew that, from last year, but I didn’t want to tell them that ahead of time.

After lunch we hit a bank machine for those who want some cash, and a forex for those who have cash they want to convert to shillings, and then drop by a little Western grocery store called U-Turn, run by Indians and specializing in all the stuff ex-pats wish they could get from back home—at a price, of course. Turns out they’ve doubled the floor space since last year. I feel one little twinge of regret: before the expansion, just inside the front door, they had the candy room—just a closet really—which was all closed in and air conditioned so the chocolate wouldn’t melt. The smells in there were astonishing. Well, now the whole store’s air conditioned, so they have the chocolate out on the shelves, and The Smell has dissipated. There’s a price for progress, I guess. I check out the cheese, and the exotic flavors of potato chips, and the saffron-and-cardamom ice cream. Several of the kids buy some snacks to keep for later.

Then it’s back to town center to pick up 5 jugs of drinking water, and back home we go. We have some time to finish up any class prep, but most of us are done with that, and we rest. We find that the other half of the team is also done; they’ve done a jigsaw puzzle while we were away. With the kids at school, there’s not much for them to do. Since the kids are home from school tomorrow, we won’t have that kind of boredom.

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No solution to the water problem in sight, so the staff has purchased some 55-gallon (or so—this is a metric country) plastic barrels to store lake water in, and they’ve placed them around the campus and hired a truck to fill them. This will keep the lake water from contaminating the city water supply in the large standard storage tanks. It’s generally not wise to expect much response from the government here—you know we never have that problem in the States—so we’re planning for this to be the situation for the duration of the trip. We’ll plan on no access to city water; we’ll drink from our supply of filtered water purchased in town every week; I’ve also suggested that with judicious use of a wash cloth, they can probably get their faces clean with drinking water as well. We’ll use the lake water for flushing toilets and washing dishes; that’s fine as long as the dishes are dried thoroughly, by whatever method, before the next use. For bathing we have several options: we can add a small amount of bleach to the lake water to kill the microorganisms, though of course that make us smell a bit like bleach; we can boil the water, which will require more fuel than I think is prudent; or we can use well water from the lower end of the property. That well is designed to supply just the missionary houses, but so far it has produced enough water that we think a few weeks of extra load won’t be a serious problem. I expect we’ll use that water and try to conserve, again by judicious use of wash cloths.

This may sound like a hardship, but it’s really not; it’s how most of the world lives. The American view of water (and electricity, for that matter) as a limitless resource is almost unique in the world. It’s good for these students to see life from another culture’s perspective. They’ll be fine.

Supper is rice and beans, with pineapple for dessert. In the boys’ house, Sarah B has the devotional on commandments 7 and 8. We’ve discussed how she’ll define “adultery” for the seventh commandment; she tells the kids it means that a man should have only one wife. I think that’s close enough for this age level. That goes well, and the boys seem to be singing a little better than earlier this week. Two of them pray in Swahili. I can’t understand what they say, of course, but I don’t hear any snickers or sense any other misbehavior, so I guess things are on the level.

In team devotional time I ask what the Lord is teaching them, and we share what’s going on inside. This is a significant part of our bonding as a team and setting things up for mutual edification in the trying and tiring days ahead.

Signs afterwards, until 10. I don’t know why, but that game is always filled with laughter and generally brings teams closer together. It’s been pretty much the favorite pastime of every team I’ve been involved with.

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Dan Olinger

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

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