Tuesday, 6/3/14

Ah, that rooster.

I suppose I should comment on the wildlife here on the compound. There are 3 dogs—they’re not quite pets, since no one actually feeds them, as far as I can tell; they pick up scraps off the ground after we eat. The mom is Nala; she’s showing her age. She has 2 offspring, a girl named Silver (“Silvah,” as the children call her) and Dog Samuel. They call him “Dog Samuel” to prevent confusion with any people named Samuel who might be on the compound at any given time. Their father, Simba (Swahili for “lion”), was here last year but was in poor health even then, and he died along about January. We try to give the dogs a scratch on the head whenever we can, and they seem to appreciate it. They’re very submissive dogs, not at all aggressive, which I suppose is good with all the little kids running around. They are particularly fond of Ferdinand’s wife, Mama Nestori. (Mothers here are typically called “Mama” followed by the name of their eldest child.) They do engage in the irritating practice of howling for a while overnight. Not sure what they’re after with that.

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The children’s home keeps a little herd of livestock down toward the lake. There are several pigs—3 or 4 adults and a bunch of little ones—who get the scraps after the meals. The leadership at Tumaini is hoping to sell some soon, so they have fewer mouths to feed, so to speak, but right now the market’s not very good. (I don’t know how much that is affected by Islamic influence in the region.)

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There are also some chickens, from which we get a good supply of eggs. The pigs are penned; the chickens are not. They run around as much as they can, but they can’t get far, and in any case they’re not going to leave their food supply.

There are also a lot of bugs, to use the term very loosely. I’ve mentioned the lizards and the dragonflies. We also have spiders, and I have to educate the team that spiders, like lizards, are our friends here, since they eat mosquitoes. I think the girls are a little more comfortable with the lizards than the spiders, but at least they’ve learned not to kill the little fellas.

Today we get right down to business with our first tutoring session at 9. There’s one group of 4 children in Standard 4 who seem to have the most potential for misbehavior; I decide to sit in on that session this hour, to put the damper on any early outbreaks. I recall a time on the China team when we were teaching middle-school children, and one class was just out of control. We flooded it with grownups who all acted like Tiglath-Pileser III for the day, and that solved the problem. You wouldn’t believe how mean Tom Lamb can look without actually being angry inside. 🙂

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We have a bit of a time getting the 3 boys in the group to actually come to class, but eventually everyone is there and we get to work on math. Asher, who is their tutor for this hour, passes out a worksheet, and the 2 of us help the 4 children as they need it. I can tell that one child in particular is struggling because he doesn’t know his math facts; to find 5 + 7, he draws 5 circles on his paper, a “+” sign, and 7 more circles, and then ticks them off as he counts them. He understands the concept of carrying the one to the next higher place, but he can’t add 1-digit numbers without drawing a picture. I suppose he’s using manipulatives, in a way, so there’s hope that he’ll get the concepts long-term, but it strikes me as odd that in this case his calculating skills would be more efficient if he’d just learn to count on his fingers. I never thought I’d say that.

Asher gets a pack of flashcards; we’ll work with them on the basic math facts until they have them. If that’s all we accomplish this month, that would be a large step forward for them.

Chai follows at 10 with mandazi and tea. The team is generally upbeat; there are challenges, and some of those less experienced in teaching (namely, the non-education majors) have a few questions, but the kids help one another, and in general everyone’s accomplishing something, which is great for the first day.

The second session, at 10:30, goes quietly. Then there’s a little down time; the kids have their Bible lesson at noon. Usually that’s taught by Ferdinand, or as they call him, Mjombe, “Uncle.” But he’s just gone on vacation (“holiday,” as British influence here dictates). For a month. I’m really glad for him; he has a 24/7 job, and 55 little kids think of him essentially as Dad. While Shangazi directs the home—and is very good at it—it’s Ferdinand for whom Swahili is his native language, and for whom Tanzanian culture is his own. His wisdom and insight are essential to the successful running of the home; Shangazi has said, unprompted, that she couldn’t do it without him. If I were in his shoes—sandals—I’d need to get away, and I’m glad he has this chance. He and his family will go to the southern portion of Tanzania, on the border with Zambia, where he grew up, and where his closest family connections are. He says he couldn’t leave for this long if we weren’t here; I frankly doubt that, but if he thinks so, then I’m glad we got him a vacation. 🙂

Anyhow, in his absence his assistant, Abeli, runs the Bible story time. It’s all in Swahili—they’ll understand it better that way. Their English is markedly improved since last year, mostly because they’re in the private school in Mwanza now, where instruction is in English, instead of the public school in Shadi, where it’s in Swahili. But they still hear Swahili as their primary language, so that’s how the Bible instruction is delivered. And since we’re clueless, we stay inside and get some relaxation time before lunch.

Lunch, down on the porch, is the team’s first exposure to “Stacky-Uppies,” or what the folks here call “Haystacks.” You lay down a foundation of rice, then some meat (cubed chicken, in this case), then some other stuff—diced peppers, tomatoes, onions, pineapple, shredded coconut, peanuts, whatever you have—and then you eat. It’s filling, and mildly entertaining, and good for you.

After lunch we’re relaxing in the girls’ house, enjoying the newly functioning electrical outlets, when a bona fide exciting event breaks out. Several children show up at the door babbling excitedly that Shangazi is calling and somebody is hurt and come quick!

So I run down to the first aid station, where one of the older boys is bleeding from a slash on his arm, and there’s blood all over the ground and the floor. Abeli has pressure on the wound, and it’s coming under control. I’m a little curious how this happened, and the answer is actually pretty cool. This kid is creative, and he was trying to make a slingshot out of a plastic tube and a rubber band, with a hedgehog quill fasten to a stick for an arrow. He put the arrow in his trousers pocket and accidentally slashed his forearm with the end of the quill.

The nurse arrives and takes the boy into the clinic, and Abeli starts mopping up the blood. They have pretty good medical supplies here—gloves, antibiotic cream, bandages, sterile and non-sterile gauze—and the nurse makes short work of it.  Well. That was exciting.

Lois leads the kids in “Red Light, Green Light” at game time, and the rules are remarkably flexible with this group. But everybody has fun and ends up with stickers all over their feet from the grass, and the kids seem a little more tired, which, after all, was the point of it all.

The girls have noticed that the fridge isn’t cooling. It runs on propane—makes no sense to me that you can keep things cool with a flame, but apparently you can. We follow the instructions to move the regulator to the second tank of propane; then we need to restart the fire, which turns out to require about a bazillion pushes on the igniter button. Several of us take turns sitting in front of the infernal machine, holding the button that starts the gas flowing, and pressing that igniter button more times than seems necessary, waiting for the satisfying “Whoosh” of ignition.

I never do hear one, but I do notice that a heat sink on the back of the fridge is hot, so something must be running in there. And then the freezer feels a little cooler. By the end of the night we’re sure of it; we have refrigeration again.

The children seem tired at house devotions; even the girls don’t feel much like singing. Well, we gave them three tutoring sessions and a game time, plus they had a Bible lesson at noon, so maybe that explains it.

To my surprise, the team doesn’t seem tired afterwards. We have our devotional time, and then they chatter until 10, comparing experiences of the day and giving advice occasionally. Turns out one of Asher’s students threw up! Wow, the same day as the blood! This could turn out to be a long month.

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Dan Olinger

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

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