Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sleeping in. I get up shortly after 8. I assume Jonathan and Jojo have taken the boys out on a hike to the large hill over by the lake. After house prayer meeting last night, Jojo kept the older boys behind and talked to them about leadership. Essentially he told them that if the little ones don’t cooperate, that’ll be the end of hikes for this trip. We’ll see how they do at enforcing order among the troops. Positive peer pressure is a wonderful thing.

I drop by the house a little before 9. Bethany and Lora have taken the girls on a hike to the ridge, and Rachael and Sarah are at the house. We talk for a few minutes until Jojo and Jonathan arrive from their hike, which started shortly after 6 am. (The boys are always excited to go on a hike.) They have walked north out of the main gate to a side road, then west to the good-sized hill that overlooks the lake. It’s a lot longer than the hike to the ridge across the street, but it’s less strenuous, since you can take a reasonably inclined dirt road pretty much all the way to the top. The views are quite good. Jonathan tells me that he got scratched by a cactus, and also met some fire ants. I sympathize; those rascals can get all the way up your trouser leg before you know it, and I’ve found that the only way to really eradicate them is to bail out of the trousers and go to work killing. He claims he got ‘em all by just smacking his trousers, without having to take them off. I’m impressed.

Jojo says they got some good opportunities to talk to the older boys about big brotherhood and that they listened well. Here’s hoping.

Half an hour later Lora and Bethany come in from their hike. They tell me the girls showed them a much easier path up the ridge than what they were able to find the other day without any of the children along; that’s a big advantage to taking the kids. They got some scratches and abrasions too, but overall they’ve come away in good shape.

We socialize with the children during chai, waiting for the pikipikis (motorbikes) to come by at 11, as I’ve asked Ferdinand to arrange. About quarter till they start arriving, first 2, then another, then 3 more. But no number 7. Ferdinand makes a call, and tells me that the seventh one found a rider on the way out and abandoned the partnership. Now there’s an illustration for teamwork. He lines up another friend, who shows up in minutes. 7 pikipikis. Everyone hops on a bike, and off we go in a cloud of dust, the children cheering us off.

They drive carefully, slaloming through the moguls that constitute the road here, avoiding the deep dry powder. My bike starts out in the back, which is where I prefer to be, in case anyone else has a problem. But soon we pass a couple of others, but not by much, so I can still keep an eye on things. In half an hour or so we’re at Sweya, or as we call it, The Pavement, where the actual road starts, and where you can catch a “bus,” called a daladala. I pay the drivers 3000 shillings  ($1.50) apiece; the guy collecting the money tries to get another hundred for me, but I count it out in Swahili and take my hundred back. His colleagues laugh heartily, that the mzungu didn’t get taken.

There are no daladalas in the parking lot when we arrive; I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the lot empty before. We wait under the shade tree for about 10 minutes, and one shows up. They’re what we would call 15-passenger vans, with high tops, and seating for 17 plus the driver, and a center aisle that can hold, apparently, an unlimited number of people. We immediately get 20 on, and off we go. Along the way we stop and pick up others; eventually it gets too crowded for me to count, but I estimate that somewhere between 25 and 30 are on board. Every time the vehicle stops, the clutch gets a real workout getting up to speed again. I find myself feeling sorry for it.

It’s just 400 shillings (20 cents) per person to cover the 8 or so kilometers into the center of town; we go to the end of the line, a little parking lot in front of a bank at the roundabout that encircles a fountain in the shape of a fish. We hit the ATMs first, so everyone will have enough cash for any shopping we do today and next Saturday at the Serengeti. Then a block north to the Gold Crest Hotel, where there’s a  great little air-conditioned coffee shop in the lobby (not to mention a series of leather recliners), and where we’ll drop by later. But now we take a right and walk a block to Kuleana Pizza, where we can get something closer to American pizza than we’ve been able to get since we left the States.

The shop is built in an irregularly shaped tree-filled vacant lot, where they’ve added some wooden awnings, under which they’ve placed tables and chairs. Instant pizza joint. They have several kinds of pizza, none of which have much meat. I get one with capers and mushrooms; Lora gets a New York style; Jojo gets pilipili (hot peppers); and so on. Plus sodas all around. We have a grand old time.

Just as we’re finishing up, a group of Americans in scrubs comes in. 5 of them sit across the way, and 2 sit at the end of our table. They’re 1st-year medical students from UC Irvine, doing some clinics in the area for a couple of weeks. We talk briefly before we head out.

It’s a 3-block walk to U-Turn, the closest thing to a Western supermarket in that I’ve seen in Mwanza. I show the Crew the candy room—so-called because it’s air-conditioned, so the candy won’t melt. The aroma in there is just glorious. A couple of the girls pick up chocolate bars, and then notice that they’re $7.50 each and put them back. I dunno—I thought they’d be willing to pay that. Come on—it’s chocolate. But no. We also look at the ice cream, but again, there’s no way we can get it back home before it melts. Should have brought spoons.

There are several Muslim girls picking out ice cream. I chuckle to myself; it’s Ramadan, the month of devotional fasting. But it’s no secret that many Muslims fast between sunrise and sundown and then feast after dark. Lessee: what kinds of ice cream shall we get for tonight? I suppose that’s within the rules, but it hardly seems like fasting.

We walk the 3 blocks back to Gold Crest, being careful to look both ways before stepping into the street; since they drive on the left here, the way your instinct tells you to look can get you killed. In London, they even paint the words “Look right” on the street in the crosswalk. There are too many Americans whose last words were “Looks clear to me!”

There’s a metal detector set up at the entrance to the Gold Crest. That’s new since last year, but I’m happy to see it. We all manage to get through without being invited to the local constabulary for the night, and we cross the lobby to the coffee shop. They have genuine espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos, as well as several flavors of milkshakes. We all order something—I notice that everyone gets something cold, after our little hike—and we settle into a booth for some wifi. Sarah and Jonathan converse with folks at home, right there in front of everybody. And I do the Most Important Thing of the Day, which is to post yesterday’s blog entry.

Again, as we’re about to leave, the pre-med students from California come in. Once again, BJU shows its leadership over the entire UC system. Excellence attracts followers.

At 4:30 we walk the block to the Fish Fountain round-about to catch the daladala back to Sweya. We get one just as it’s pulling out. It’s just as crowded going the other way. When we disembark in the parking lot at Sweya, there are about 20 pikipiki drivers waiting for riders. I decide to test Milton Friedman’s economic theory. Why pay 3,000 shillings apiece if there’s an abundance of sellers and a lack of buyers? “Wazungu!” (White people!) I smile. I hold up 2 fingers. “Elfu mbili!” (2,000 [shillings])!” I get 7 takers immediately. God bless you, Milton. And Ludwig von Mises. You were right.

And down the dusty road we go again. Jonathan’s driver briefly gets stuck in a ditch and apologizes to Jonathan, who replies, “Hakuna matata!” The driver laughs, and off they go.

Back at the Tumaini gate, I count bikes. 7. All with mzungu riders. “Asante sana!” I say. I hold up 2 fingers again. “Elfu mbili?” (2,000?) “Elfu tatu!” (3,000!) I count out 21,000 shillings ($10.50) and hand it to my driver to distribute. The drivers break into smiles and all shake my hand.

I’m happy because we got the service we asked for, and because we’re all alive and uninjured. They’re happy because they got an extra 50 cents each. Economics is just awesome. But Beth later reminds me that I may have just raised the cost of living for the wazungu who follow us. Ah, unintended consequences. Economics is awesome, but hard.

Choir practice is happening in the church building, so Lora, Bethany, Jojo, and Jonathan head in there. Sarah, Rachael, and I head back to HQ. I have a lot of writing to do.

We gather for supper on Beth’s porch—spaghetti, salad, squash casserole, bananas—and talk about the day. It’s a key time, when the impressions of the noobs get bounced off the informed judgment of Americans with much more experience here. I’m glad the teams get regular opportunities to do this.

During house devotions both the boys and the girls seem much more positive, receptive, thoughtful. Several of the boys want to talk to me afterwards, about Bible questions, about applicational questions, or just about plans for the rest of the time we’ll be here.

Team devotions is pretty positive as well. We share what we’ve learned, what we’ve observed among the children and among ourselves as a team. We learn something every day.

During the rest of the evening everyone does what needs to be done for tomorrow’s early start. (As usual, church is at 8 am.) At one point they’re all gathered around the kitchen counter, with Jonathan playing the guitar as they sing one of the Swahili songs:

Kwake Yesu nasi mama;

Ndie mwamba ni salama;

Ndie mwamba ni salama;

Ndie mwamba ni salama.

(This is the chorus to “The Solid Rock,” but they sing it to a different tune here. It’s one of my favorites.) The team harmonizes well, and they clearly love the way this culture expresses itself in worship. Broad horizons, broad vision, as broad as the love and purpose of God.

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Dan Olinger

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

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