Friday, June 24, 2016

The whole team takes the children who want to go on hikes this morning—boys to the 2nd ridge east of the compound, girls to the 1st. They arrive back at home with the scratches to prove it. A delightful time, it appears.

For chai we have our last chapati of the trip. The Crew is spending as much time with the children as possible. The children have a tendency to be maudlin when we’re leaving, and we try not to exponentiate that, but we do share in their sorrow.

Something to think about is that the lives of these children consist of a long series of visits from friendly people, with whom they become friends, and who then leave and almost never come back. That’s a hard way to grow up. Some come back; I do, but I’m old and don’t count. Sarah did this year. And folks from other places occasionally do a repeat visit as well. But for the most part they never see their friends again; they know them only through the photos of good times posted on the walls around the place. We remind them that we will certainly see one another again eventually, but that makes the farewells feel even more like funerals. And imagine the pain if we promise to write and then don’t. That’s something I’ll be harping on with the team in the days to come.

At 11:30 we announce the team scores—Rachel’s and Jonathan’s teams have tied for first—and then gather on the steps of the big house for the official photo with Tumaini staff and children and the team. I remind them that this is the photo they’ll have posted on the wall of their house to look at in future years; I hope that will discourage them from covering their faces or being otherwise uncooperative as a few of them do in pictures.

At noon the pikipikis show up to take 6 of us into town (all but Sarah). Some want Tanzanian football jerseys, and some want kangas (wrap-around skirts, usually with Swahili sayings on them), and I just go along because, well, I’m supposed to be responsible for this gang. I negotiate a price of 2000 shillings and pay them 3 at Sweya, mostly because it’s too much trouble to make change. There’s a daladala waiting, so in we pile, and we all get seats. About a kilometer down the road a nun gets on, and I offer her my seat, but she won’t take it. I’m not sure whether to argue or not; cultures are tricky. I am older than she is, and age is important here, and there are younger men on the daladala, so I don’t prolong the argument. She gets off not far down the road anyway.

At the destination we hit ATMs in preparation for transactions in the market. Jojo’s waiting outside the bank, leaning against the wall, when an official-looking gentlemen comes up and greets him in Swahili. Jojo replies with the typical response. The man asks, “Where are your parents?” When Jojo tells us that, we all crack up. The kid has a beard, for crying out loud. Well, sort of.

A block down the road is a chicken place that’s been recommended to us. It’s called Kuku Poa, or “Cool Chicken.” I tell the crew that it would be better translated “Groovy Chicken”; “cool” could refer to temperature, and who wants cool chicken? Anyway, we all order fried chicken of one kind or another, except Lora, who gets a pizza. They put something in the mix—nutmeg, I think—that makes it taste different from the fried chicken we’re used to. With our drinks they bring cups of ice. I note that we don’t know what kind of water the ice comes from, and the kids look disappointed. Look, you’re adults. You can make your own decisions. The restaurant probably has the good sense to make the ice from filtered water. But we don’t know that.

Four of them opt to use the ice. We’ll see how that turns out.

Down the street to the market, which is chaotic in the seductive way that markets in developing countries typically are. It doesn’t take long to find some dukas that sell kangas, and there are football jerseys nearby, so the negotiating commences. Two of the girls buy a couple of kangas each, and Jojo and two of the girls buy jerseys.

Mission accomplished. A block over to Nyerere Road, then left a couple of blocks to the fish fountain. Board the daladala to Sweya—we all get seats again—and off we go. We’re getting so this is routine. Pikipikis for 2000 each. I tell my driver that I want us to go last so I can be behind any problems that might occur. He nods and then takes off, passing everybody else while blowing a siren he got from somewhere. Those second languages can be tricky.

Back at Tumaini, the children coming running to greet us. We told them we’d try to be back by 4; it’s 3.15, so we’ll have some extra time together. Some of them are born manipulators; they’ll remind you that you left them to go into town, on the last day, and push the point for sympathy or other concessions.

A little before 6 we do a team tradition; Beth, Rachelle, and the team (and 2 of the dogs) walk over to the Faulu Beach Resort next door and up to the little café at the top of the hill to have a soda and enjoy the view of the lake. It’s our traditional way of celebrating the completion of the work here. (Don’t get too excited about the name; there’s neither a beach nor a resort, really; just a rentable house in the grassy field and the little snack place on the hill.)

Back to Tumaini for supper, where the cooks have prepared us another nice tilapia, this time braised with the delicious red sauce they make nearly every day. Spectacular.

And then the part we haven’t really been looking forward to; the children gather in the kibanda to sing several songs in farewell, and then we form a line and say good-bye to each of them. Some children act peremptory as a sort of emotional shield; many of the girls cry into their shirts and can’t look us in the eye or say anything much. We say our good-byes and then escort the children to the 2 houses for house devotions. Jojo shares a few thoughts in farewell, and we sing. To my surprise, the boys sing well, joyously.

Afterwards the team gathers on Beth’s porch and we talk about the move to Cape Town. I talk about the obvious changes, climate and modernization being the most obvious, and we go over the schedule, consisting mostly of VBSes and local church services. Then I address the security issues brought by the terrorism warning, and we put some protocols in place that will minimize the risk.

I should add here that I have communicated to the parents my risk assessment—I believe the risk to be acceptably low—and they have agreed with my thinking. (We’ll be modifying our activities in several ways that I believe will make the likelihood of being exposed to a problem extremely low. For starters, terrorists tend not to attack poor neighborhoods.) We will not be communicating our specific plans ahead of time here on the blog or in personal correspondence. Of course we would appreciate your prayers for safety.

Packing and house cleanup into the night. Phase 2, in Tanzania, is now complete, and again the team has performed well.

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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