Saturday, June 13, 2015

Yeah, this is Saturday, but we’re doing some tutoring sessions today to work out any kinks in the system. Just the 2 morning sessions.

The showers are cold here, so I regularly practice my Lamaze breathing as I get under the stream. Since the weather’s 10 to 15 degrees cooler here than in Ghana, the showers aren’t quite so refreshing, especially in the cool of the morning. I’ve considered taking my shower in the afternoon, when it’s hotter, but nobody seems to do that around here, and I don’t want to appear, you know, odd. Though since people stare at us wazungu everywhere we go, what’s the difference?

Off to the sessions at 9. The children come together in a reasonably organized fashion, and as I make the rounds everything appears to be going smoothly. After the session the crew confirms that things went well, as we enjoy the mandazi and FLT for chai.

This would be a good time to talk about hygiene. As in most developing countries, there are two primary vectors of disease: food-borne (including water) and insufficient hand-washing (also called technically the fecal-oral vector). We’re pretty careful in both of those areas; we use filtered water for drinking, cooking, and brushing our teeth, although with this water the odds of harm from limited exposure like brushing your teeth are fairly small. We wash all fruits and vegetables, including those we’ll cut with a knife, since driving a blade through the skin into the flesh will contaminate the flesh with whatever’s on the skin. I think we’re doing well with that vector.

The one that’s more difficult behaviorally is the fecal-oral vector. A child uses the rest room, doesn’t wash his hands carefully, and then places his hands all over yours. You now stand a pretty good chance of having e. coli on your hands, and if you rub your eye, or pick your teeth, or bite your nail, you’re busted, and the next 36 hours will be relatively unpleasant. So my instruction to the team has always been to keep your hands away from your face unless they’ve just been washed. That simple practice will greatly reduce the odds of getting sick.

Over the years, in repeated exposures to these kinds of environments, I’ve developed the habit of being aware of when my hands are freshly washed and when they’ve been contaminated—I suppose a bit like a surgeon who’s just scrubbed in. We’ll wash in the sink, with soap, before we go to chai; then the kids come running and reach for your hand. The instinct is to pull away—and I’ll confess that I’ve done that occasionally without meaning to. In those cases you need to give the kids all the affection they want and take care of hygiene later—maybe by sidling off to another sink, or by using some hand sanitizer. But that can be tricky as well. They can smell when you’ve used hand sanitizer, and of course you’d be offended if someone slathered up his hands every time you touched him.

So it’s a case of being mindful and attentive, but ministry-minded in the process. It’s a useful exercise in stewardship.

The second tutoring session goes well, though in 1 class a student hollers at another student, which sends the other student limp against the wall, sitting on the floor. I stick my head in about that time and am able to reinforce the discipline of the first student and to sit with the second on the floor for the last few minutes of class. He starts mumbling in Swahili, but I can’t understand any more than just a few words: “When I grow up, I’m gonna smite that guy hip and thigh, bone and marrow, and wreak, yea, vengeance upon him and all his seed, to the third and fourth generation.” Just kidding; I don’t know that much Swahili, so I’m not completely sure that’s precisely what he said.

Again we have an hour after the second session before lunch. Nobody wants to climb the ridge again; some play with the children for the few minutes before their Bible lesson at noon, and some write in their journals or take care of other personal business.

On the weekends the meal schedule is reversed; we eat lunch with the children and supper with the missionaries. For lunch we have a sort of bean and corn hash, which is tasty and filling, but the children don’t like it much, and the reaction on the team is mixed. I like it fine, but I’m a veggies sort of person.

After lunch we head out for a planned activity. There a craft fair for the benefit of several charities going on downtown, and Beth thinks it would be a good opportunity to shop for souvenirs in a single place and time. We rent pikipikis (motobikes) for 6 of the crew, while Jess, Jessica, and I ride in with Beth and Rachelle. The bikes take their passengers to The Pavement, which is what we call the end of the dirt road and the beginning of paved road at Sweya, where SAUT (Saint Augustine University of Tanzania) is. We meet them there, and Rachelle gets them onto a couple of daladalas (van taxis) for the rest of the ride into town. They really pack those things; they’re smaller than 15-passenger vans, but the team members on one of them count 30-some people plus children on theirs.

The craft fair is held at the Mwanza Yacht Club. I should say that the yacht club has a nice lawn, and toilets, and a view of the lake, but no actual yachts. Last year there was a single rowboat berthed at the rickety dock. This year there are two boats that might be called yachts, if yachts can be less than 20 feet long.

But it’s a nice spot for setting up booths selling various crafts and a little food, all raising money for decent causes. And it attracts, apparently, every mzungu in Mwanza. Haven’t seen so many white people in one place since we left Amsterdam. We turn the crew loose, and the shopping commences. I walk around some, but I have all the African stuff I’ll ever need or want, so eventually I find a chair in the shade, watch all the shoppers, and listen to the African music, some canned and some live. There’s a small vocal ensemble that sings some nice African choir numbers, with the rich harmonies that characterize music all across the continent. Just as we’re leaving, there’s a dance troupe from Uganda that performs; we watch a few minutes before we need to get going.

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We hire a taxi to take half of us back to Shadi; the rest ride in Beth’s van. When we get there, the children come running to see what we’ve gotten. We have just enough time to get supper together and eat before house devotions; supper is spaghetti and meat sauce, and salad. As I’ve mentioned before, salad is a very rare treat in most of Africa, because prep of all the ingredients is really labor intensive. Earlier in the blog I said that a meal in Ghana was the first salad I’d had in Africa, other than South Africa and one in a fancy hotel in Zimbabwe years ago. Beth reminds me that we’ve had salad at Tumaini before, and I must agree that she’s right, and my memory faulty. Sackcloth and ashes. Anyway, supper is really good. Comfort food.

Off to house devos with the children; we’re rotating groups tomorrow night, so this is my group’s last night with the boys. I talk about the 2nd great commandment. They know the idea of loving your neighbor, and they know how to talk about application. Living it out, however, is more of a battle. Sort of like with us.

Back to Dan & Jana’s house for meal cleanup and some singing. There’s an electronic keyboard in the living room, as well as a few songbooks; Michaela plays, and we have a chance to sing with a little more robustness than we’ve been able to summon before. We sing until almost 10 and then head home and to bed.

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Dan Olinger

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

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