Wednesday, 6/4/14

Day 2 of the regular full-day schedule. This is precisely the point at which these blog entries will begin to get shorter, since the daily pattern will be pretty much standardized. I’ll report on any deviations, and I may take an opportunity to do a discursus on any subject that comes to mind—such as yesterday’s comments on the local fauna.

One nice thing about being here—and this is true of most of the developing world—is that getting up early is a lot easier and more natural than it is at home. In the first place, you tend to go to bed earlier, because most stuff shuts down at sunset, and here near the equator the sun sets around 6 or 7 pm all year long. We typically go until 10 pm, and we have to be careful about the noise level at that time, because everybody but us wazungu are long in the arms of Morpheus by then. And for us, even 10 pm is early. So we’re almost always asleep before we would be at home.

The second reason is that everything gets going early here, starting most obviously with the roosters, but the wild birds are also in full song by 6, rejoicing in God’s faithfulness in bringing around a new day, I suppose. 🙂 The dogs start barking, and we can hear the Tumaini staff starting their chores, carrying water, sweeping (they sweep the dirt here; that seems odd, perhaps, but keeping the paths down to hard soil keeps the dust down during the day), and doing other necessities.

So most of us are regularly awake by 6, and Asher and I are typically up and around, doing our morning routine, by 7. With the standard 9 am start on tutoring, we gather at the girls’ house between 8:30 and 9, any who want to grab a bite for breakfast do so, and we set off on the day.

So far it’s taken some time to get the children together for the first tutoring session at 9. There’s the “Africa time” cultural influence—everything starts late. But these children, for all their cuteness and affection, are born sinners, and they are creative in their machinations to get out of doing things they don’t want to do. I round up any children I see running loose—almost all of them boys—and send them to their respective locations. One boy says he has to do his chore of carrying water to his dorm. Lessee—what should I do here? I can tell him to hurry and get it done, and run back to his class, but he’ll stall all he can. I decide to try a little experiment. Since he seems to prefer the chore to class, I take his bucket and say, “I’ll carry this to the house; you go to class.” He sets off at a run. There’s a chance, obviously, that he’s just manipulated me into doing his chore for him. That’s a chance I’ll take; if he tries it tomorrow, I’ll walk with him at a rapid pace, and I’ll tell him that if he’s late with his chore the next day, there will be consequences. Of some kind. Which I’ll come up with in due time.

Chai is chapati and tea, which is my personal favorite. Then it’s off to the 10:30 session. Several of the teachers have behavioral problems—maybe I should phrase that less ambiguously—but they deal with them in due time. The children will be testing the limits with these new tutors, of course, and the teachers will need to establish themselves as serious, competent, firm but fair.

We move lunch on the porch a bit earlier today because several of the missionaries are making a town run afterwards and want to have a little more time before dark. I hitch a ride so I can upload some more photos. When the team hears that I’m going to town, the requests come pouring in. One of the girls wants some OTC stuff from the chemist (pharmacist), but the other requests are more general: ice cream! soda! chocolate! I guess I’ll be making a visit to U-Turn.

After we burn through a significant amount of lunch’s tuna ziti casserole (Nathanael wins for most eaten), Shangazi, Karen, Rachelle, and I head into town. Several things to do; for me, a visit to town is always connected with uploading photos to the blog, since we don’t have the bandwidth to do that at Tumaini, but we also need to get more drinking water, visit the child welfare people, and do some shopping. The welfare office is the first stop; we need to notify the legal guardians of the Tumaini children that the team is here tutoring them. Karen, Rachelle, and I go in while Shangazi runs a few doors down to order the week’s drinking water. We wait in the lobby for a few minutes. Let me say this, um, carefully: government offices seem to feel the same the world over, if you know what I mean. After 20 minutes or so we’re invited in. Mama Misana, the person responsible for child welfare issues in the Mwanza region, is professional, businesslike, clearly competent and caring. We present the team’s passport information and tell her that they are here from America for the month to tutor the children. She looks at me. “You are their leader?” “I am a university professor teaching them for this field experience; they are my students.” “So they are not professionals?” “No, not yet; they are students.” “Are they all studying to be professional teachers?” “Most of them.” She does not ask for more details. I’m mildly relieved; one of the team is a criminal justice major teaching math, and one is a voice major not teaching voice. For some reason, I’m hoping she doesn’t ask, “You are a professor of education?” because, well, I’m not, and her businesslike manner makes me think she might not be impressed by my theological credentials in an educational context. But she doesn’t, studying the photocopied passports for several minutes. “You should have brought the tutors here, so I could meet them.” “Since there are 13 of them, that would be difficult.” “You have 50 children at Tumaini?” “55.” She seems favorably impressed with the child-to-tutor ratio. But we’re still getting a negative feeling.

Then there’s a tap at the door, and Shangazi walks in, smiling, and greets Mama Misana with all the customary attentiveness. They have met before, and it’s immediately obvious that Mama likes her. She asks her a few questions, Shangazi answers, and they laugh. She points to the handwritten note Shangazi sent and says, “Send me an official letter.” “I will do that.” “That will be fine.” And just like that, with a laugh, the meeting is over, and we’re cleared to proceed.

God can do His work any way He pleases, but His human instruments should not undervalue the way He uses their effective preparation, cultural understanding, and interpersonal skills. If you want to get something done, as a steward you’re responsible to learn the system, meet the key people, demonstrate your competence and cooperativeness, and just do a good job. Missions is about more than just good intentions.

That done, the other three go off to do their other stuff while I walk a block to the Gold Crest, pay for the Wi-Fi password, and prepare to get to work. All the booths, which have the outlets, are occupied, so I set my club soda down on a table and settle in to wait, “like a spider,” for a booth to open up. I fire up the laptop and see, to my chagrin, that I have only 30 minutes of battery left. Poor planning. Maybe a booth will open in that time, but maybe not; everybody there looks like he’s settled in for the long haul, like those hipsters who call Starbucks their “office.” I figure I’d better work fast in case 30 minutes is all I have. When I open WordPress I notice that the photo uploads I did last time aren’t on the blog—did I not update those entries before closing out? Well, whatever the reason, I’ll need to pull those in again. Working feverishly, I get a couple dozen photos uploaded and placed into the blog at the proper places. The battery meter on my laptop reads under 5 minutes, and that annoying orange LED is flashing as if to say, “I’m serious, you dolt.” A man walks by my table, and on looking up I notice that he’s the guy from that booth over there, and he appears to be leaving. I grab my stuff and head over, and sure enough, the battlefield is clear. Perfect timing! I plug in and watch that nice little “Charging” icon appear at the lower right of my screen. OK. Now we’re in business. But then I notice I’m disconnected, so I try to reconnect. It won’t. Well, that’s weird.

Long story short, I spend the next half-hour toggling Wi-Fi on and off, rebooting several times, repeatedly typing the password (which worked just a few minutes ago, at the table), trying the whole thing on my iPod to see whether it’s just my laptop having the problem, looking around at the other booths to see whether it looks like they’re having connection problems. Nothing makes sense. Is it possible that the hotel IT department changed the day’s password in the middle of the day? I ask at the counter; he says he’ll check with IT. About 5 minutes later Rachelle comes in and says they’re ready to go. So, as is typical in developing countries, you get some things done, but it takes longer than it ought to, you get less done than you wanted, it’s all a struggle, and you leave scratching your head and asking, “What just happened here?” The life of the missionary.

Just 2 more items on the agenda: dinner, since we’re missing dinner at Tumaini, and a visit to U-Turn to buy some groceries. We’ll do that last because I’m planning to buy ice cream, which, um, melts, and because they’re open late.

They’ve decided to go to Ryan’s Bay Hotel, just down from the Yacht Club, for dinner. Remember how the Yacht Club is less than it sounds like? Well, Ryan’s Bay isn’t. It’s a beautiful place, with a balcony for each room overlooking the lake, and a very nice restaurant with an outdoor section overlooking the pool. They pick a table out there. There’s an electrical outlet at the table, and Wi-Fi, to which the waiter gives us the password. Service is not hurried, but that’s OK, we’re all online. While we wait, I connect and try to finish the photo uploads. This place doesn’t have the bandwidth for that, but I do update my email. I answer an email from my wife and find, to my delight, that she responds immediately. We’re online at the same time. So we have a nice conversation. That is an unexpected pleasure.

Our food arrives. I’ve ordered a whole grilled tilapia, which arrives looking simply spectacular. Karen and Rachelle both order Szechwan chicken, and Shangazi gets a beef filet, which turns out to be the size of Nebraska and so requires a take-home container. All the meals are 16,000 shillings, or just a whisker over 10 bucks.

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Then to U-Haul. I’ve mentioned that the kids have asked for some home-style things, and I’m feeling pretty guilty about that restaurant, so I get ice cream, 4 1.5-liter sodas, Nutella, and 3 flavors of Pringles. That’ll do for this week. 🙂

We drive home in the dark, something we don’t like to do, but we have gotten a lot of work done today, and it’s worth it. We unlock the gate to the compound and let ourselves in; the children come running, as usual, and they begin lugging the water jugs to the office, 2 children to a jug. I go to the house, place the grocery bags on the floor, and say, “Be sure the ICE CREAM doesn’t melt.” A cheer springs from the throats of the whole team. Maybe I’ll tell them about the restaurant later. The guys accompany me back to the car, where we hoist water jugs and carry them back to the house. Successful trip.

Matt has brought the game Bananagrams. Today he taught it to the rest of the team, and they’re pretty much addicted already; a game is in progress when I arrive. We break for news and devotions—they got along fine this afternoon. They spend the hour after devotions hunkered around the coffee table in the front room, playing a team-wide edition of Bananagrams, while I do some work in the corner chair, amused by the laughter and energy. Evidently the first 2 full days of teaching haven’t worn them out. That’s good; there are a lot more to come.

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Dan Olinger

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

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