Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The morning sessions go well.

The big news of the morning is that one of the team gets her first ever bee sting. That’s worth some attention. Was there a stinger left behind? Yes; pulled it out several minutes ago. Any history of allergy? Nope—no history of bee stings, period. Any pain? At first, but subsided now. No significant swelling. How long’s it been? About 20 minutes. OK, then. Let me know if it changes. Welcome to the bee sting club.

The children—and the tutors—know there’s no afternoon session, because the team is going into town, so that adds some positive feelings in both groups. Several team members need to get cash for the Serengeti gift shop for Saturday, and we need to pick up some fruit at the market for suppers for the rest of the week, so the trip’s necessary. I don’t want them to go without me, because they’re not sure where all the places are that they need to hit.

The plan is to head in after the 11 am session, so at noon. Rachelle has graciously offered to drive, because I’m not confident that I can handle a pikipiki / daladala trip with the foot as it is. It feels much better today than yesterday, and that’s a good sign, but yesterday we thought it might be wise to take care of the thing.

So Rachelle’s driving. But because we can’t all fit in her van, three of the girls will ride pikipikis and daladalas, under Katie’s supervision. The pikipikis are 45 minutes late (surprise, surprise), but when they arrive we see Paige and Liv and Janis off, and then the rest of us jump into the van and try to catch up.

It typically takes about an hour to travel the 6 kilometers to the center of town. The roads are not good, and closer to town the traffic picks up considerably. But the van is air conditioned—the only AC we experience here—a special treat.

First stop is the ATM. EcoBank is the only bank here that doesn’t charge an ATM transaction fee, but after 7 or 8 of us hit it, it’s out of large notes. I go next door and pay the fee at a different bank.

A note about “large” notes. The largest note printed in Tanzania is 10,000 TSh (shillings), which sounds like a lot, but it’s only 5 bucks. Imagine withdrawing 300 or 400 dollars in 5s. People are walking around with wads of cash in their pockets all the time.

It’s after 12, and we’re hungry. The next stop is the Tilapia Hotel, which has a nice restaurant out on a porch, with a sunny view of the pool on one side and the gulf on the other. Palm trees, flowering bushes, the whole bit. Very nice. And a broad menu; I get beef stroganoff, several get chicken kiev, there are salads, and who knows what else.

But. In Africa, restaurant service is a LOT slower than in the States. That’s just the way it is. We eat well, and enjoy things immensely, but lunch takes close to 3 hours.

While Rachelle and Katie take care of some bank business, we plan to walk a half mile or so to the Gold Crest Hotel and hit the coffee shop. Some of these kids are seriously missing their coffee. But the road we’re walking on is full of businesses that cater to expats, with the result that there are several little tourist shops along the way, and we patronize all of them. Let me tell you, when a shop owner sees 10 Americans coming, he gets really, really excited.

By the time we get to town center, we realize we don’t have time for both the coffee shop and the western grocery; we have to choose. Ice cream and chocolate, or good coffee?

The choice is painful, but the group says we hit the grocery store. So we meet Rachelle, and those who can’t fit in the van grab a taxi over to U-Turn, a western grocery run by Muslims. The first thing I always do there is go into the little air-conditioned room where they keep the candy, and just breathe deeply. The smell is extraordinary. I pick up perhaps a kilo of milk chocolate just for them to munch on, and they pick out a tub of coffee ice cream and a smaller tub of “chocolate plus,” whatever that means. It can’t be bad, right?

All this seems fairly trivial, no? Not really. When you’re immersed in a strange culture—by that I mean simply one with which you’re not familiar—the daily stress of dealing with the ever-present differences can build up. Culture shock, we call it. It’s really helpful to see and do familiar things; to eat food that’s familiar, to enjoy the little touches of the way things are back home. That’s not jingoism; it’s an effective way of dealing with the stress of culture shock. It helps keep us on the path to success.

Then into the van, with 3 plus Katie getting a daladala to the Pavement, where they’ll hire pikipikis for the rest of the ride. Those of us in the van stop at a market and pick up a LOT of produce.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig. Everybody’s safe and sound.

It’s right at supper time, but we’re still full from lunch, so we hang out with the children while they eat, and then, as usual, head for house devotions. My older boys, I’m told, have all been conscripted to carry maize to the miller in the village for grinding, so there will be corn meal for ugali tomorrow. Since they won’t be back until 9, there’s nobody for me to meet with. I pop next door to the younger boys’ house, where Annalee, Janis, and Jana are running things. We sing, and Annalee tells the story of Jonah, contrasting him with Jesus, who went to prophesy where the Father told him to instead of resisting. It’s a good contrast.

Back at HQ, we enjoy singing and praying together and spending time in the Word. We have some popcorn—Janis volunteers to pop it this time—and some of that chocolate block. Seeing that everybody’s tired, I clear out so they can have the house to themselves. Two more days of teaching lie ahead, and they’ll need their rest.

 

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Dan Olinger

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

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