Friday, June 8, 2018

Need to do a trip into town today to take care of some business, but Rachelle says we won’t leave until 10, so I have time to drop by HQ and see that everyone’s set for the 9 am tutoring session. You may recall that we’ve agreed that I won’t show up there before 8 am. I hobble over at 8.30 and note that the screen door is still locked from the inside, so I can’t get in. I do the usual greeting, calling “Hodi!” which is the Tanzanian equivalent of knocking. At the sound of my voice, sheer panic breaks out inside. “No!” “Not yet!” “Give us a minute!”

Heh, heh. They don’t know I can’t get in anyway.

In other early morning news, some of the boys wanted to hike the ridge this morning and see the sunrise, and Annalee and Paige agreed to take them. The boys said 5 am; the girls were ready; and the boys showed up at 6. That’s appropriate in this culture; people tell time by sections of the day rather than a clock, and anytime early morning is good enough. So about 8 boys and the 2 girls hike to the top just in time to see the sun crest the horizon. Paige has a lot of beautiful pictures.

The crew heads out to class at 9, ready to go. Jana and Paige, as scheduled, are the floaters this hour.

I note that one of the toilets is clogged and go looking for a plunger. Hmmm. No plunger in any of the 3 toilets or in the toilet storage area. Paige the floater finds Katie, who thinks there’s a plunger somewhere. I’m thinking, surely there’s a plunger—this is an essential. In a few minutes she returns with one, and even better, the kind with the little flange in the bell that makes it more efficient. A few minutes of focused effort, and we’re back in business.

We filter our drinking water here. You can buy it in town, in those 5-gallon clear plastic jugs, but it’s less expensive to buy a filter and filter cleaner and do your own. You put the city water in a 5-gallon bucket—like the ones contractors use for everything—and make sure it’s up on a counter or table or stand, then run a hose to the filter, which hangs down into a funnel into a lower jug. It just drips away all day long, and you can almost always outpace your water use if you’re diligent about keeping the top bucket full and the filter clean. I clean the filter while Paige lugs water from the kitchen supply tanks—3 5,000-liter tanks out behind the big house. I wish I were lugging the water, but Paige has figured out how to carry the bucket on her head, and she says that really is a lot easier.

At 10 it’s time to head into town. I need to hit a bank machine, then pay for next Saturday’s safari to the Serengeti—oh, I didn’t tell you about that? We’re just a 2-hour drive from the Serengeti, one of the 4 premier game parks in Africa (the other 3 being Kenya’s Masai Mara [which is just the Serengeti on the other side of the border] and Amboseli and South Africa’s Kruger). They all argue about which is the best. Anyhow, if you’re this close, it’s really inexcusable not to go.

I’ve always taken the Tanzania team to the Serengeti for a day drive, but I never tell them during the planning stages, because I don’t want people signing up for the Africa team, and getting a lot of financial support from people, just to be tourists. So after we arrived here, I told the crew about the plan. We’ll hire a couple of vehicles and drivers/guides, fill any empty seats with children from the orphanage, and drive out there and back a week from Saturday, the 16th. It’s always a special trip.

So I need to pay the tour company for that. Afterwards, Rachelle and Katie have several things to do around town, and they’ve kindly offered to drop me and my foot off at the new mall, where there’s a good coffee shop and free wifi. No harm in that.

The mall is new in the last couple of years. We’ve passed it on previous trips, but it was always under construction or empty; now it’s in operation. Rachelle drops me off, and in I go.

It’s circular around a central atrium, 5 or 6 stories high. Elevators, escalators, all the conveniences. Much of it is still unoccupied, but there are enough stores open to make it a friendly place. Good-sized supermarket on the first floor, some furniture, jewelry, and other shops, a phone store or two, and some restaurants.

On a hunch I drop by a phone store to see if I can get a SIM for my iPhone. I need to register, and for that they need ID. Didn’t bring the passport; will a driver’s license do? Nope. OK, then. No phone today.

Rachelle has said I should meet them in an hour at Mambo Café, on the third floor. They have a coffee shop there, she says, and we’ll have lunch there as well. I find a table and ask if they have decaf. Nope. OK, then, rooibos tea. A minute later a man comes by the table and says they do have decaf after all, so I can have my latte instead. Everything’s looking up. The latte arrives, with a nice crema and the requisite floral design rendered in milk, and they give me the wifi password.

The place is full of wazungu (white people). I see why. Expat heaven.

When Rachelle and Katie arrive, having successfully concluded their business, we order lunch. There’s a Greek salad on the menu, which I go for. Turns out their Greek salad has no feta cheese and no Kalamata olives, which makes it—a salad, but a tasty one. No complaints.

We stop at U-Turn, a western market popular among the expats, on the way home. I pick up a tub of ice cream and a couple of big Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars, because, well, I lived more than 20 years in a house full of women, and I know what they need. Then we load up the van with a bunch of inventory from some local artisans who want to sell crafts to our crew—we’re having a sale tomorrow right on the compound—and then a stop at a market for fresh produce, and we’re ready to head back.

Town days are long and tiring, but a necessary part of life in a village. There are things you just can’t get out there.

Back at HQ just as the 3rd tutoring session ends, I learn that the tap water is running, for the first time in several days. Running water for doing dishes. Toilets that flush. The true joys of life.

As the crew comes in from tutoring, the door gets left open a little too long, and a wasp invites himself in. Jess grabs a broom and, with aggressive coaching from Gabby and Katlyn, tries to help him find the door. Every time the poor guy moves, there’s a chorus of screams and bodily contortions from the self-appointed exterminators. It’s a real hoot to watch. Eventually the poor guy finds his way back out the door. He may never have realized that his presence was such a problem.

The visit to town has been hard on my foot, so I take some time off until house devotions. The boys are active tonight and sing well, but listen well too.

Team devotions is a joy. The crew sings well, and we’re enjoying our study in Ephesians 1. In prayer we thank the Lord for successes in the tutoring startup, and we ask for help with the challenges. The pattern here on every trip is that the children love us when we play with them, but we are the enemy when we’re the teachers. One team member noted that the students she teaches now act like they don’t like her, but fortunately there are lots of other children who still like her. This pattern will get more nuanced as the time here continues, but right now it’s pretty much all or nothing.

I mentioned the tub of ice cream earlier. You wouldn’t believe how delighted the crew was to see it. I tell them that I feel like I’m cheating, because it’s so easy to make them happy. When tap water is a big deal, ice cream is out of this world. We all have a bowl—chocolate swirl—and get our feet under us again.

A number of the crew is tired, so we shut down early so they can get to bed. Some of them are taking the children on a hike early tomorrow (boys at 5, girls at 6), and we prayed tonight that the occasion would provide opportunities to deepen the relationships between teachers and their students. I’m not going to be there, of course, but it should be a great opportunity.

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Dan Olinger

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

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