Tuesday, June 4, 2019

On arrival at HQ around 8.30, I find that the girls have had an exciting night. You’ll want to hear this.

About 1.30 am, Shelbie realizes that she’s knocked her phone off the back side of her bed to somewhere down below. At first she thinks she’ll just leave it, but then she remembers that she has set the alarm, and she doesn’t want it to wake everybody up when it goes off, so she climbs down from her top bunk and finds her flashlight and starts looking for the phone. The light wakes Rebekah and Michaela up, and they start helping her look. Then Shelbie drops the flashlight, and it breaks into several pieces. Then, somehow, Shelbie finds the phone lying on the back side of the bed underneath, occupied by Cathryn. So Shelbie’s leaning over Cathryn, trying to reach the phone without waking her up. Cathryn wakes up and wonders what is going on. Shelbie and Rebekah get to laughing so hard that they have to leave the room to keep from waking everybody else up. By the time it’s over, everyone but Cheyenne is awake and laughing.

And then they find the largest cockroach in the history of the world, and one of the girls (I forget which) decides to kill it—with Michaela’s sandal. Michaela isn’t too excited about that.

Then some of them can’t get back to sleep; Rebekah decides she’s hungry and goes out to fix something to eat.

Makes me wonder how they’re going to withstand the rigors that lie ahead for the day.

We meet with Beth again at 9 for more preparatory information for our interaction with the children, including some guidance about counseling matters.

Chai today is mandazi and tea, followed, as usual, by our Swahili lesson. Since we’re going shopping in the market today, we need some very specific verbal skills to get the job done, and Faith addresses them thoroughly. The major topics are fruit and vegetables, numbers, and money.

Lunch at Beth’s. Katie has prepared enchiladas with fixin’s—salsa, sour cream, guacamole, ranch dressing—and Laura has brought another of her rainbow salad trays. We’re eating in a hurry to get going into town; seems a shame we can’t linger over this food.

Then a quick run to our residences to get what we’re going to need: backpack, hat, water, sunscreen, medical insurance card, photocopy of passport. Soon the pikipikis roar up to the front gate, and 9 of our 10 jump on the back of a bike and disappear in several consecutive clouds of dust. Cathryn, Faith, and I pile into Beth’s (air-conditioned!) van to bring up the rear. I like to come in behind the pikipikis so in case there’s a problem we’ll find it and have the ability to transport the injured. By the way, there’s never been a problem. These drivers are skilled and responsible.

When we arrive at “the pavement”—that is, the spot where the road becomes paved—Cathryn and I get out and join the pikipiki riders in climbing into daladalas, or vans functioning as buses for the rest of the ride into the city. Often these vehicles are uncomfortably crowded—I once counted 27 passengers in a 15-passenger van, and I stopped counting only because I couldn’t see anymore how many were getting on. But today it’s a pretty light load—all the seats full, but no one standing—all the way into town.

The team was split among several daladalas; we rejoin at the terminal, where I rejoin Beth for a trip to a Forex while the team heads off to the market.

We’ve arranged a little competition. The crew has been divided into 2 subteams, each team given identical shopping lists. They need to visit vendors in the sprawling, chaotic market and purchase the items on the list, speaking only in Swahili. The Eadses’ 2 oldest children, Grace and Silas, are each accompanying a team and are available to give hints, but each hint involves a penalty. (Katie and Faith are also along just to ensure that everything’s OK.) The team that gets the most items with the money they’ve been given wins; if both teams get all items, the team with the most money left—after hint penalties are figured in—wins. And the winning team gets ice cream.

I wish I could go along to watch, but several of the kids need Tanzanian money to shop for fabric after the market competition, and to save time I’m taking their US money to a Forex and delivering it to them when they bring us the fruit and vegetables from the competition. Beth has to do some business at a bank, so it’s most efficient for me to hit the Forex—and an ATM, for my own cash needs—at the same time.

I get the needed cash fairly quickly, and even have time to drop in to a chemist—you colonials call them pharmacists—to pick up some medicine. I made a rookie mistake coming over last week; I grabbed the wrong bottle of prescription medicine, the almost empty one, when I was packing, and when I opened it here for a dose, I thought, “Well, now, that was stupid!” But the cool thing here is that for many meds that require prescriptions in the US, you don’t need one here. I catch the chemist’s eye, ask for my medicine, and he steps into the back and brings me what I need. (OK, I use the generic, and he brings the brand name, so it’s a little more expensive, but I’m happy to pay it under the circumstances.)

I cross the hall to Beth’s bank. She’s in an office, waiting for the officer to return, and she motions me over to the window with a concerned look on her face. She holds her phone up to the window. She’s received a text. I squint. It’s a little too small for me to read. But I can tell it’s all in Swahili.

Why, Beth, are you showing me this?

Turns out it says that Katie’s had her phone stolen in the market. The text is from Faith.

Well, the good news is, stolen smartphones can be tracked. Maybe they’ll catch the guy. Last year’s Ghana team had an interesting experience in that regard; you can read the story here.

Beth finishes her business successfully, and then it’s back to meet the kids, let them offload the produce, and give the ones who asked me to get them spending money what they have coming. We do the transfer by the side of an extremely busy city street, and the crew heads back into the market while Beth and I head off to buy supplies. Since I knew I’d have a chance to buy some groceries, I asked the crew what they’d like to have around the house, and they gave me a list: milk, bread, cinnamon, and syrup (for French toast), and peanut butter and jelly (for sandwiches), and cheese. And chocolate—please, chocolate.

We’ve been doing quite well against our projected spending so far, and over the years I’ve found that kids in this situation get really happy about simple comfort foods—and happy kids tend to hold up better and consequently get things done better.

This list is a trifle. This I’m happy to supply.

We hit a couple of grocery stores, including U-Turn, and I get everything they’ve asked for and a little more—3 kinds of jelly, and a small bottle of hot sauce (who can’t use a little hot sauce?), and a couple packages of cookies. I go a little nuts on the chocolate—3 smaller bars of Cadbury Dairy Milk in different flavors (they break up into little sections so everybody can sample them) and 2 large bars (like 2 pounds each) of dark chocolate, for the serious connoisseurs. And the cheese is a big ol’ wheel of Gouda. And since they said they wanted syrup, and they wanted chocolate, I throw in a bottle of Hershey’s™ syrup for the pot.

Oh, and 8.5 liters of ice cream for the competition prize.

That’ll cheer ‘em up.

We get back to Tumaini about the same time the crew is coming in. Supper is being served, so we eat quickly and gather on Beth’s porch for the competition judging. Both teams got all the items on the list. One team had more money left, but they had 4 hints, so the other team won. After heated discussion, they decide that everybody should get ice cream. Peter mutters something about the biggest problem with America being the fact that every kid gets a participation trophy, and he doesn’t have any ice cream, but most of the others do—after house devotions, since the children are expecting us at 7.30.

In the boys’ house, Blake brings a devotional from 1Cor 13, emphasizing that love isn’t about being selfish as a man, but using your strength to care for others, even as Jesus did. I’ve asked the guys on the team to try to set an example of strong, committed Christian manhood as an encouragement to the boys. I hope we can make some progress on that.

The singing is a little tenuous tonight; the boys don’t seem to be into it. But by the end they’ve picked it up some.

At the house afterwards, after the ice cream, the crew rolls out what they have for the camp schedule. I point out some areas lacking—we didn’t expect to have everything done by tonight—and make a few suggestions, including examples from previous years. They get to work while I head back to my place to work on the blog.

I don’t know how long they’ll be up working on this. I’ll have to find out in the morning.

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Dan Olinger

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

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