Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Day 2 of my incarceration. My days are pretty much the same. Get up, read, try to think of things to do. Wash dishes. Do laundry. Straighten up. Stare at my sole (no, not my soul, my sole) to see if it’s getting any better.

Three times a day the guard slides a meal tray under my door. Chai today was mandazi and lemongrass tea. Lunch was spaghetti and meat sauce, breadsticks, and fresh green beans with tomato chunks. Supper was rice and beans with pineapple chunks. Fresh, of course. All very good; much better than ordinary prison food.

About noon Mati, the Swahili teacher, who is also a doctor, came to see me and examine the cause of my incarceration. He agreed with me that’s it’s healing and that I’m doing what’s necessary to keep it clean. Just have to be patient. You got a pill for that, Doc? Nope.

Then wait for 7.30, when I get to go out and do house devotions for the older boys, a highlight of my day. And then stop at HQ on the way back to hear about the team’s day.

Concerning which I now speak.

After their second Swahili lesson and lunch, 5 of the team went into town with Mati to practice their Swahili on the poor unsuspecting shopkeepers, just nice guys trying to make a living. They rode pikipikis (motorbikes) from Tumaini to “The Pavement,” or the spot where the dirt road ends and the pavement starts about 2 or 3 kilometers from here in the village of Sweya, home to St. Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT). There they get a daladala, or taxi van. We’d say it can hold maybe 15 people, but they routinely get 25 or 30 in one. It’s close fellowship.

It’s a short walk from the daladala terminal to the market. They have food purchases to make, in Swahili, but it’s not really that big a deal; they can just point at what they want, and the shopkeeper writes the price on their notebook, and they can write the counteroffer, or say it if they remember how. All that fear and apprehension for nothing.

After their food purchases, they have time to do some personal shopping. They buy some souvenirs—a necklace here, a carving there—and they all buy some fabric to be made into a dress, and/or a kanga, or wraparound skirt.

I had mentioned to the girls earlier that men they meet will often ask for a way to contact them on social media. In my experience it’s usually for one of two things: 1) to ask them for money or things in future communications; or 2) to try to develop a relationship for the purpose of coming to America. Of course I advised them not to give them the contact info. Well, today a vendor asked Liv for her Whatsapp handle, and Liv said, “Babu (grandfather) said no boys!” The vendor stepped back, held up his hands, and said, “Well, if Babu said …”

That one made me laugh.

While the 5 are gone to town, the other 4 go on a hike with the boys, up the ridge just across the street to the east. It’s a relatively easy climb, but it yields a wonderful view of the compound, the neighboring properties, and the Lake beyond. Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa. We’re not on the lake itself, but on Mwanza Gulf, just about a mile wide and maybe 25 miles long. We can’t see the lake itself from here, but we can easily see across the gulf and down it for some ways.

There are monkeys living in the rocks at the south end of the ridge, but when I ask the crew about them, they say they didn’t see them. But they do tell me something that warms my heart; they say the boys were very nice to them, holding their purses when they were climbing, and generally being gentlemen. I hadn’t told the team what I said to the boys last night, but it sounds like they were actually listening.

When they get back from the hike, some of the older boys have cut and peeled some sugar cane so they can try it. They even bring some by my prison. It’s juicy and sweet, but you end up spitting out a lot of pulp.

At house devotions the town crew shows their purchases and we all talk about the day. We sing, share prayer requests, and hear a little more from Ephesians 1. It’s like the 12 Days of Christmas—we open one more gift a day.

I’m pleased with how they’re acclimating, how they’re forming relationships with the children, how they’re noticing the spiritual strength of the leadership here—both American and Tanzanian—and how they’re dealing with the constant vagaries of life in the village. We’ve been out of tap water for several days now, and they’re learning, for example, that during the day they need to think about refilling the water barrels so they can shower at night.

I think it’s good for them. And maybe there will be tap water tomorrow.

Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

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Dan Olinger

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

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