Monday, June 13, 2016

Monday of our only full week of teaching dawns bright and clear; as Kipling said of another equatorial location, “The dawn comes up like thunder.” Two alarm roosters are competing for the attention of the hens outside my window, and one of them is definitely getting the worst of it in the vocal competition.

Second day without running water in our guest house. The Big House never lost water this time, which seems odd, but they have 5 tanks, and we have just 1, so it’s possible that our tank might be exhausted during a short outage while theirs were not. At the tap, that looks just like no outage at all.

I drop by HQ at 8.45, and there’s a flurry of activity. Apparently one of the team members is a little under the weather this morning. Might need a sub. So I look over the materials and prepare myself to—get ready for it—teach some elementary school. Subjects and verbs, LCFs and GCMs, and maybe a little Candyland if time requires. I’m just getting mentally in gear when said team member appears, looking pretty good to me, and says [he / she] is ready to teach. Well, that’s a relief.

How kind a leader I am, you say, to care so much for the health of my team members. I’m relieved, you say, that the team member is not feeling unwell after all, or at least as unwell as we feared. Well, save your Nobel peace prize. I’m just relieved that I don’t have to teach energetic and incomprehensible little humans who aren’t anywhere near college age. You have mistaken self-interest for altruism, I’m afraid.

First session goes well, including the one with the questionable team member. I move around the compound, checking on the groups and greeting the Tumaini staff. One benefit we provide here, that we don’t always think about, is by tutoring all the children we give the staff a bit of a break for the session times. I can tell they appreciate having a little time to sit on the kibanda wall and relax a bit. Imagine how you’d feel if all 55 of your children were out of school for 3 weeks …

I also have time to do the morning dishes (mostly coffee cups) and sweep and mop the floor. It gets quite a workout from all the people tracking dirt and dust with their constant comings and goings.

I must say I’ve grown accustomed to the 10 o’clock chai time, as I always do during our visits here. I don’t typically eat breakfast—and no, it’s not the most important meal of the day, for everybody—and I consistently do well going all the way from the previous evening to lunch feeling light and ready to go. But chai is just nice. A little carb or two, a cup of something warm, it’s just a nice little oasis in the middle of the morning. If I followed the standard British tradition of tea and crumpets at 10 and 4, I’d never be able to eat anything at mealtimes. But this is OK.

Second session goes routinely as well. By “routinely,” I mean that the teachers come back to HQ in varying stages of frustration and exhaustion. 🙂 The children are a challenge, all right—one tutor comments that one of her students is spending pretty much all his time plotting how not to do what he’s supposed to—but we’re getting somewhere in these sessions, and the children are learning some things. When your objective is simply that the children aren’t in worse shape than before you started, you have a reasonable chance of success.

This being Monday, we’re on our own for lunch. We have lots of leftovers, so we have a buffet of 2 kinds of soup, sliced cucumbers, egg salad sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese. Nothing to complain about.

The refrigerator at HQ is a solar-powered chest model (like a chest freezer, but not a freezer), and it keeps things in good shape for days. One advantage is that not much cold escapes when the top’s open, so it does a really good job. And during the dry season, there’s always plenty of power available from our friend the sun.

Low-key afternoon; pretty much everybody takes a nap. The music rehearsal is a little low-energy today, but that’s OK; I upload the blog during the 4 pm group sessions, so I have little to report on those as well. Supper is rice and beans. The team members have been feeding the dogs, which is understandable, given that they’re man’s best friend and all, but experienced folks will tell you that that’s generally a bad idea. Now the dogs gather around us on the kibanda, looking both attentive and mournful, trying to get tidbits through the pitiful look in their eyes.

In the boys’ house for house devotions, John talks about Rahab the harlot, and how God recognized her faith even though she was disobedient earlier. We teach them the “Obedience” song, which to my surprise they don’t appear to already know.

For team devotions we agree that we’re tired, and we talk about why. The team agrees that our schedule is not particularly rigorous—I tell them that at BJU, when faculty members have 2 classes in a day, we call that a light day. Health is generally good, and we’re well fed. I suggest that it may be the cultural immersion that’s making them tired—constantly paying attention to details, having to think about which hand you’re using, constantly interacting with the children across both a language barrier and a cultural barrier. I suggest they take some time every day to get away from the children and spend time alone. A couple of the girls and one of the guys heads off to bed by 9 or shortly after.

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Dan Olinger

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

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