Thursday, June 11, 2015

This is scheduled to be a relatively slow day before tutoring sessions start tomorrow. Nothing before chai, which is mandazi and FLT. I drop by the girls’ house after 9, and everybody’s up. Beth, Rachelle, and I are leaving for town after chai; the team will have their final Swahili lesson at 11:30, and Rachelle has left them some enchiladas to heat up for lunch. They’ll be able to do some final lesson prep before 3, when they’re supposed to spend a couple of hours of quality time with the kids, in games, reading, and anything else that comes to mind.

We’re going into town primarily to get the photocopies made for handouts for the tutoring sessions, but also to pick up a few things at the western grocery store and to conduct some other business that I’ll tell you about in a day or so.

First stop is the copy shop, so they can be working on the copies while we’re doing the other stuff. Then my business, which works out well, and I’ll tell you about later. Then we drop off the water jugs we’ve used and pick up 4 more to replace them. We get our drinking water in town, in those 5-gallon plastic jugs you see on water coolers. Except we don’t use a water cooler. 🙂 We’ve gone through 4 since we arrived on Sunday; that’s about 1 per day, which is about right.

Key business done, we grab lunch at a little pizza joint downtown that previous teams will remember well. It’s basically a vacant lot with several trees in it; they’ve built little roof shelters around the trees, put in some tables and chairs, and presto! You have a restaurant. We order a couple of pizzas and drinks—Beth and I get Fanta Black Currant, which she claims is the closest thing you can get to Dr. Pepper here—and enjoy the pizzas. They don’t use mozzarella here, which makes the pizza taste a little different from what you’re expecting, but it’s good.

Some long-term missionaries in Mwanza are heading back to the States for medical reasons, and they’re selling a bunch of the stuff that they’ve accumulated over the decades. Beth and Rachelle want to see what they have. Ah, I see how it is. They get me into town on the promise of getting business done, and then I find myself on a shopping trip with 2 women. Yikes.

But the missionaries are interesting people, so he and I talk while the girls are making their decisions. We end up taking a lot of kitchen things back with us. No long-term harm done.

We pick up the photocopies and head for our last stop. There’s a little grocery store here that carries a bunch of western products; you see a lot of wazungu (whites) shopping there. It’s called U-Turn (I call it “U-Haul”), and it’s run by a guy who looks either Indian or Pakistani. There are a lot of Indians in East Africa, so it’s probably the former.

Every year I find that they’ve completely renovated the store. The first year it was quite cramped; my favorite part was a little closet near the front of the store where they kept the candy. I liked it because it was air conditioned and because it smelled like, well, candy. Last year they had doubled their floor space and put AC in the whole place, which meant that they’d moved the candy out onto the shelves and dissipated the aromas. That was disappointing.

This year, I’m pleased to announce that the store is larger yet, and best of all, the candy room is back. And it’s twice as big as before. I could just stand in there and breathe forever. Anyway, there’s a remarkable paucity of chocolate, which the girls had demanded requested quite specifically. All I can find is some melting chocolate that you use for coating candies; most of it is white chocolate, which serious students of chocolate will tell you is not chocolate at all, but cocoa butter—and which, as it happens, is my favorite kind. But I’m pretty sure the girls won’t be happy with that. I do find a few chunks of dark chocolate; I assume it’s not baker’s chocolate, and even if it is we can melt it and add sugar. So I pick up a kilo to keep the females from turning on me.

I have daughters; I know how this works.

It takes us quite a while to travel the 6 miles back to Shadi; it’s amazing how degraded these roads are. But roads to villages that dead-end at the lake don’t get a very high priority from the guys who occasionally dump large piles of dirt on the roads and spread it out.

When we arrive the team is hard at work at game time with the kids, and everyone’s having a great time. When they’re done around 5, they come in and hydrate, and the coffee junkies are pleased with what I’ve selected, and the women approve of the block of chocolate, so I’ll be allowed to live for another few days.

Supper is rice and beans, which we love and which sticks with you, so it’s all good. In house devotions the boys sing pretty well—I note that they sing a lot more lustily when they’re singing in Swahili—and I bring a challenge on the plan of salvation, asking lots of questions as we go. They seem to understand it; how many are really believers it’s impossible to say.

Wi-fi time, then team devotions back at the house. The group is quieter tonight, which usually means that they’re tired. Since tomorrow begins the tutoring sessions, I’m hoping they have more in them; the hard work is just starting.

After devotions someone decides to make popcorn, and soon somebody suggests we melt some of that chocolate and mix it in with the popcorn. Brilliant idea.

Around 10:30 the guys decide to head home for the night, and it’s not long before we’re off to our medically induced dream land. (Most malaria meds can cause vivid dreams; I had one last night, and most of the others are feeling that side effect as well. So we’ll see how tonight goes.)

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Dan Olinger

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

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