Tuesday, May 17, 2016

After a night with more trips down the hall than usual, I wake to a relatively settled stomach. That’s a relief. I’ll give the thing some rest this morning and see how it feels.

Carlos comes by early and asks Jojo if he wants to help him paint. Jojo comes back in pretty quickly to get his roll of duct tape; apparently the paint roller is broken. Yes, Jojo packed duct tape. (See the standard reference work How Men Pack.)

Timothy dropped off some mangoes and a watermelon yesterday, and Bethany wants to have some mango, but she’s never cut one before. We begin with a little lesson on preparing to cut fruit here. Fruit with a rind or peel is typically safe to eat, but you have to think about how you cut it. The outside likely is contaminated, and by the act of cutting you’re moving contamination from the rind to the flesh with the knife. So you begin by cleaning the outside. There are several options, including washing with potassium permanganate (which we don’t have), wiping thoroughly with vinegar (which we don’t have), washing with soap and potable water (which typically requires more of your drinking water than you want to spend on a piece of fruit), or even wiping down with hand sanitizer. We go with the last option, let the fruit dry, and then wipe them down with a clean washcloth moistened with drinking water.

Ready to cut. I give her a mango anatomy lesson and then show her the two cutting methods I’ve picked up. If you’re going to eat the whole piece of fruit, you can make a large X on the end opposite the stem and then just peel it like a banana. More often you cut along the pit to yield the two side pieces, which you can dice like an avocado and then either spoon the pieces into a bowl or eat them right off the rind by flexing it. The pit you can try to get more flesh off of, but it usually doesn’t yield much.

The mango is just perfect. If it’s not quite ripe, it will be stringy and not taste like much; if it’s too ripe, it can taste a bit like kerosene. But these are perfect.

When my daughters were small, I told them that oranges are proof that there is a God, and that He is good. I feel the same way about mangoes.

On a typical morning we have several Waala here at the house. Abraham, the custodian, will come by to take out the trash and burn it, and he’ll ask if there is anything that needs fixing. He’ll often work on related matters, such as sharpening tools, in the little tool shop built onto the side of the house. I’ve known him for several years; he’s a really good man. Mary usually comes by mid-morning to get lunch ready, and we interact with her as she cooks. She doesn’t really want help, though our crew regularly offers. She says we can watch but not touch. It’s hard to argue with success. Occasionally a college student will come by, sent by Ivy or Timothy to take care of something. And once in a while Ivy or Timothy comes by as well. As I’ve noted, I try to keep our demands on them at a minimum; they have a lot of responsibilities.

I’ll spend the typical weekday preparing for the evening’s 3-hour teaching session—as I noted earlier, I have to do more preparing this time, because I’ve never formally taught the course before—and the kids will organize the games, songs, and Bible stories for the VBS, deciding who’s doing what. Because things routinely change at the last minute, they have to consider contingencies. Who will tell the Bible story to the third group of children if enough show up that we have to divide them into 3 groups instead of 2? And so forth. But that’s far from a full day’s work; they’re having a pretty easy time of it so far. That will change in Tanzania if not sooner.

Soon Carlos and Jojo return from painting, and Augustine, one of the 2 graduates from Saturday, drops by as well. We sit in the living room talking, swapping stories, sharing cultures. Already the crew has a chance to put their thinking from last night into action. Augustine asks if any of our group is married; I return the favor by asking if he is. Nope. I note that there are many beautiful young women at Faith; he says he’s not there much, since he works with a church out in one of the villages. I ask, How long does it take to notice that there are many beautiful young women? He suddenly says that Mary needs his help with the yams.

Mama Mary is preparing yams for lunch today. Don’t think of sweet potatoes; these are West African yams, a staple. Yams are typically large—about the size of a fireplace log—and white-fleshed, like a potato. She cubes them and boils them until they’re soft, then goes outside to mash (she says “pound”) them with a wooden mortar and pestle. She’s kind enough to let some of us try pounding, but it involves more technique than is immediately obvious. But we all have a good either pounding or watching. When Mary turns the mass of yams as Augustine pounds, with the pestle just missing her fingers each time, it’s a very impressive sight.

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She serves the pounded yams, commonly called fufu, with a spicy red sauce. The fufu looks a lot like a ball of bread dough; you twist off a piece with the fingers of your right hand (even if you’re left-handed; in Muslim-influenced cultures, the left hand is considered dirty), dip it in the sauce, and pop it into your mouth. It’s pretty much tasteless, so the flavor of the sauce is a significant part of the dish.

Carlos joins us for lunch and talks us through the procedure and vocabulary. As I’ve mentioned, he’s from Ethiopia; he’s associated with a Baptist Mid-Missions orphanage there, and they’ve sent him here to WABC for a year. He’s finishing up; he’ll go back home in two weeks, when my class is over. He’s learned a lot about Waala culture, observing it as an expat would, and he’s good at helping us understand it.

After lunch most of the group takes a trip into town to the market with Ivy to pick up some groceries. I take a nap instead. I’m the old guy.

At 3.30 it’s time for them to head out to their first VBS, at Faith. Lora decides to ride over with Carlos on his motorbike. He fires it up and off they go. Just as they leave, Timothy’s son arrives to announce that with the threatening rain, we’ll wait and see if we’re going to proceed with the VBS. And seconds later, the heavens open.

Well. Timing is everything. Sure hope Lora has fun. On the motorbike. In the rain. With the Ethiopian.

We sit on the front steps and enjoy the gully-washer and the petrichor. After 20 minutes or so it lets up, and Timothy comes by to say we’re going ahead with the VBS. Good. That’ll make recovery of our missing team member a little simpler. So they all climb into the white Times Baptist Academy bus, and I go inside to finish prep for tonight’s class.

Half an hour later, they’re back, including Lora and Carlos on the motorbike. Most of the children had already left. They’ll try again Wednesday.

Off to class—and the announcement by the jubilant college students that internet access has been restored. Now I have to teach for three hours before I can upload the several days that I’m behind in the blog. That’s OK.

Class goes well. Most of it is on the intertestamental period, and that can be less than gripping, but since I’m including it to explain the new cultural elements in the NT—changes from the OT—I focus on those. That makes the material purposeful; when you explain to the students who the Herodians were, then the fact that they conspired with the Pharisees against Jesus pretty much jumps off the page at you.

At one point a bat flies in and is unable to find his way out again. He circles the room several times, but no luck. Finally he runs into a wall and knocks himself out, and a student kicks him out the door.

So as I was saying …

After class I get the backup uploaded to the blog, and I can hear cries of delight and relief from parents all the way over here.

When class ends, The Kids are all in the back of the room getting their wifi fix. They’re addicts, I tell ya.

Back at the house we have devotions and evaluate how we’re doing at the things we talked about last night. There have been good examples of their taking time to develop relationships with people, to learn their culture, to help others.

The kids are all right.

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Dan Olinger

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

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