Friday, June 10, 2016

Yes, it does. (See yesterday’s last sentence.) Here on the equator dawn and dusk happen a lot faster; I don’t mean earlier—on the equator the days and nights are the same length all year long—but faster. In the mornings it gets light in a hurry, and I typically wake up when that happens.

At the house I learn that there was another hike this morning; John, Rachael, Bethany, and Lora all hit the ridge first thing. They’re 15 minutes up the ridge before the children see them, so it’s too late for them to catch up; instead the children sit on the football field and watch them go. They see the tail end of the sunrise from the top of the ridge, and then they explore to south end and find the monkeys that I’ve told them live in the rocks there. Even get some pictures.

They’re having coffee in the Big House when I show up. I suspect that an early morning hike is a good way to get animated for the morning sessions. Jojo shows up during coffee, and he’s, um, not quite as animated.

At 9 they head out for the first session. Things typically start up pretty well; I find that it’s 30 or 40 minutes in when the kids start to lose it. So before my first round I do the breakfast dishes and get the water filter filled and running for the day. Then I go by each class, and everything seems to be going well. Jonathan’s kids are working on angles, and he’s having them do whole-body movements to show what they know; he names an angle, and they swivel by that much. They pretty well have it down.

We find that most of these kids need the kinesthetic for good comprehension; if they can move their hands or their whole bodies to reflect what they’re learning, they tend to do better. I don’t know whether as many of them would be that way if they were learning in American schools and dealing with more abstract material, but it sure seems to work here.

I’ve mentioned greetings in passing for journal entries from both Ghana and Tanzania, but perhaps I should say more. This is one of the most obvious cultural differences between Africa—and most tribal cultures—and the West. In the US, if we see someone in passing, it’s perfectly polite to give a quick wave, say “Late for a meeting,” and move on. In our thinking, if someone is waiting for you, it’s rude to keep him waiting. Here, it’s worse to be rude to the person you’re actually with than some potential colleague down the road. So you stop and greet whomever you come across, and you take your time. The younger person speaks first:

“Shikamoo.”

“Marahaba.”

“Habari za asu buhi?” (lit., “news of the morning?”)

“Salamah. Hujambo?” (“Peace. Are you well?”)

“Sijambo.” (“I am well.”)

If you actually know Swahili, the conversation will often continue; how is your family? your third cousin twice removed? To just wave and move on is considered quite rude; it’s common here for Americans to think they’re being polite and be completely unaware just how rude they’re being perceived as.

So in the mornings you plan to take some time to walk across the compound. You greet everyone you meet with a few lines, and if you see someone nearby—say, the ladies doing the laundry—you walk over and go through the greetings with each one. I have to say that I like this a lot. It indicates respect for everybody; it keeps the village informed of how everybody is; it points you to the importance of people over process, which is a significant failing of the Western culture. It’s common in the US for you to be unaware that your neighbor’s mother has died; you may not even know your neighbor’s name, let alone his mother. Here’s that’s completely inconceivable.

The children here are quite Westernized; they typically greet me with “Good morning, Dr. Dan!” rather than “Shikamoo.” But when they greet the mamas, they use Swahili.

Chapati and tea for chai. I hear the Cup Song going on the porch; this time it’s Jonathan and Michael, one of the oldest boys, working a duet. I suspect that before long we’ll have 60-some people in a huge circle. That would be pretty impressive for sherehe

Second session goes reasonably well; there are some rough spots, but the children seem to be genuinely trying to cooperate. Since it’s Friday, we’re on our own for lunch—Beth and Rachelle are still in town anyway—and we do very well for ourselves. We have two kinds of soup left over—potato soup and home-made Roma tomato soup—and Sarah snags some chapati from chai that Bethany turns into chips in the oven. Sarah makes some guacamole and some pineapple/mango salsa, and Bethany makes some egg salad that we eat on some leftover rolls. The upshot is that we have leftovers from our leftovers.

The afternoon is quiet; some nap, some do some lesson planning, some hang out with the children. John leads the singing rehearsal at 3:30, and the children sing lustily. No lack of energy there. Then the sherehe prep sessions. Bethany says some of the girls are doing pretty well with their sewing project, and then there are the others. 🙂

I can tell the crew is getting tired. It’s just about the time in the trip when that’s planned.

There are two reasons this trip lasts 8 weeks. The first is that if you’re going to go all the way to Africa, you might as well stay for a while. The second is that one purpose of the trip is to give the students as realistic a view of missions as we can. I firmly believe that you can’t do that in a week or two, because college-aged kids can last that long just on adrenaline. They come home all excited and tell everybody how awesome the trip was. But that’s not realistic. A good mission trip should last long enough for them to get tired—for the excitement to wear off, and for them to realize that living in an alien culture is constantly demanding your attention, constantly calling on your problem-solving skills, and constantly just wearing you down. It’s not glamorous, and it’s not an uninterrupted spiritual mountaintop experience.

So they need to get tired, and this is the time in the trip when that typically starts to happen. Fortunately, the weekend upon us, and that will give us an opportunity for a change of pace. I have some ideas for tomorrow that should be reinvigorating. I’ll tell you about them later.

After supper of rice and beans, I talk to the boys in house devotions about believers being members of the body of Christ and thus seeking to build up others and help them rather than tearing them down. Why would you lie to another member of the body? Why would you gossip? Does the index finger attack the eye? Not if it’s a member of the same body. The boys seem to listen, but there is this huge disconnect for them between theory and practice.

For team devotions we’re visibly subdued; definitely needing a change of pace, which the weekend will bring.

For some odd reason, after devotions John starts singing the cup song, and I pick up the chords on Rachelle’s guitar, and then the others join in, and soon they’re gathered in a circle around the kitchen counter, slapping the counter and passing cups around. I’m gonna call it a team-building exercise and claim it was all part of my plan.

Shortly after 10 I head off to bed. Since both the guys and the girls are leading hikes tomorrow morning, I suspect they’ll turn in pretty soon as well.

In my apartment I find a small lizard hanging around. Like spiders, lizards are our friends; they kill and eat bugs, especially mosquitos. I wish him happy hunting and drift off to sleep.

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Dan Olinger

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

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