Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What a great night’s sleep. I wake up at 7, very late for me, and Gershon’s still dead to the world. I gather supplies and head to the bathhouse for a shower.

The guys’ toilet and shower facilities are in a small concrete building about 25 yards from the front door of our dorm room. (Our rooms open to the outside.) It contains 3 shower stalls and 3 squatty potties, all with concrete and plaster walls and a metal roof. Americans would think it primitive, but it has everything you need. I note that the first shower stall I enter has no knob on the faucet, so there’s no way to turn the water on. So I put everything back on and go to the next one. It has a knob, but there’s no locking mechanism for the door. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll ask Beth about moving the knob over to the locking shower. For this morning I shower in the non-locking one, hoping that one of the staff mamas who cleans the showers won’t pop in unexpectedly. You know, that’s a very vulnerable feeling.

Over to the girls’ house after 8:30, our agreed morning reverse-curfew time. Amber’s up, but the rest are nowhere in sight. No problem; our first scheduled activity today is chai at 10. So there’s time to catch up on the blog, though no way to post it yet.

The girls appear, one by one. Charity makes coffee in the French press, and she, Emily, and Michaela all have a cup. I tell them they’ll feel better in a few minutes. Charity says her bed functioned well last night; I put an extra nail in the side rail as a temporary fix until Ferdinand can get a couple of serious bolts in there. So no middle-of-the-night disorientation.

The kids work on their journals and review their Swahili until chai.

For chai we have mandazi, a fried pastry about the size of a donut but without the hole, and rectangular. Very good. And “fruit loop” tea. They serve a tea here that back in 2013 Jon Reid noted tastes just like Fruit Loops™. Like all their other teas, it’s very sweet.

As I’m heading back into the kitchen with my dirty dish, I see Mama Nursi, the Tumaini nurse, talking with Ferdinand and Beth.

Greetings are very important in this culture; when we first see any staff member in the morning, we are expected to exchange greetings. If the person is older than you are, you initiate the greeting with “Shikamoo” (the “oo” at the end is pronounced as a long o), which I believe literally means something like “I place myself under your feet.” The reply is “Marahaba,” which I’m told means something along the lines of “Splendid!”

Last year I asked Beth if it’s offensive to greet a woman with “Shikamoo” if you’re not sure she’s older than you. In American culture, of course, that would be a very risky business. Beth said that since age is respected here, a woman won’t take offense at the honored treatment, though she may correct you and say you don’t need to “Shikamoo” her.

So I greet Mama Nursi with “Shikamoo,” and she replies “Marahaba.” Then she says something in Swahili to Beth and Ferdinand, and Beth says to me, “She’s fifty-four.” I pretend offense. “Ah! You must shikamoo me! I am 60!” She laughs and says, “Shikamoo!” I reply, “Marahaba. Ndiyo! [Good!]” And we all part friends.

As in Ghana, the culture here values people more than process. It’s more important to stop and exchange a series of relatively formalized greetings than to be on time to your next appointment. Tanzanians would be horrified by the American practice of a casual wave and a called “Morning!” without the walking pace even slowing.

Cultures are different, and in many cases the differences are matters of practice and taste rather than morals. But here I think there’s something to be said for the African priority. People over process. That’s something American business managers are learning at long last. It’s a good thing.

Our second Swahili lesson with Maiwe focuses on verbs, with more work on moods and tenses, especially imperatives, positive and negative. Plus 3 of the 8 classes of nouns. The nouns are pretty complicated. Each of the 8 classes has different forms for possessives and plurals, so there are a lot of prefixes, infixes, and suffixes to keep track of. By the end of the hour, we feel just as you’d expect for people drinking from a firehose: stuffed, and needing to take some time to organize and digest all of this. We’ll get plenty of practice over the next weeks.

Lunch on Dan & Jana’s porch. They’ve now left for Nairobi and Mombasa, so it seems pretty quiet, especially without the kids. We have macaroni and CHEESE!!! and tomato soup, and the team’s contributed side dish is chopped watermelon, chilled. We sit around the table after lunch, talking more culture and the exigencies of running an operation like Tumaini. Amber, Michaela, and I are on dish duty; it goes quickly with one washing, one rinsing, and one drying.

The afternoon is set aside for more session planning. Now that each tutor knows what, when, and whom he’s teaching, it’s a matter of selecting worksheets and other materials for duplication. Beth tells us (and I can verify) that progress in class is slower than most Americans expect, so we don’t need to go overboard on the photocopies.

The kids generally use the time well, and there’s good progress on the planning. Soon it’s suppertime—rice and beans—and then time for house devotions. It’s Michaela’s turn to do the devotional with the boys tonight: she has them identify attributes of God. They’re very reticent again tonight. I don’t know if it’s a Tanzania thing, or an orphan thing, or because they’re not really used to us yet, or the fact that these guys are out of sorts because Standards 4 and 7 are at Crush. Those are some of the most outgoing kids, and many of the ones left behind are more comfortable as followers. We’ll figure this out as time goes by.

Tonight’s our first night to use Dan & Jana’s wi-fi. We get it going, and it doesn’t seem to be a problem for all of us to be doing things simultaneously. Maybe tomorrow we’ll try a Skype session and see how the system handles that.

Team devotions at 9. Lots of testimonies of God’s grace and conviction. Things are definitely happening in the lives of the team members. They’re not perfect, and the world’s not perfect, but God is at work, as He always is.

We hang around together in the guest house until a bit after 10, then call it a night.

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Dan Olinger

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

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