Thursday, June 13, 2019

Well, the tap water was great while it lasted, but it’s out at the guys’ house again. Back to the buckets; normal life resumes.

We’re fine.

At the house at 8.30, the crew is waking up. Peter’s cooking breakfast, as usual, and some are eating. Some are sipping their coffee. Some are just sitting, staring straight ahead. Some are cleaning up the morning dishes. (We can’t leave dirty dishes lying around for long; they’ll attract pests of various kinds.)

Those of us who are morning people are trying not to be That Guy who rises with a loud voice early in the morning (Prov 27.14).

Out the door they go for their 9 am sessions.

In moments Abbie is back. Her student is off getting some medical tests done. But 5 of the Form 1 kids tell her their hired tutor didn’t show up, so can she play Uno with them, please? While she’s looking for the cards, the teacher arrives, and of course the students are devastated. Cathryn is tutoring her two students by herself so that Cheyenne can prepare for the noon Bible story time. But Cheyenne sees a baby praying mantis in the house and is determined to transfer it outside without any injury or death. Creation care.

The place is hoppin’ this morning.

About 10 minutes into the session I make my rounds. Feel free to come along. From HQ down the path—new dirt!—to the office building, where Sam and Michaela are working on 2-digit multiplication on their chalkboard with their two Standard 3 boys. Head north along the path, past the laundry building, where 3 of the staff ladies are doing the daily load, scrubbing the children’s clothes by hand on concrete counters next to the sinks. Greeted them earlier, as you always do here on your first meeting of the day.

Further north to the children’s houses, where we’re using 3 of the 4 porches for classrooms. Here’s Shelbie doing division by fractions with her Standard 6 girl. She’s sharp, and getting the answers right. Next is Peter and his Standard 6 boy, working on the multiplication tables. This student is easily discouraged, and Peter’s teaching with grace and encouragement. The boy smiles as he remembers the right answers. Clifford the dog is lying peacefully in the dirt at their feet. At the last porch Blake and Rebecca are doing more maths (that’s what the Brits call it, and it makes sense, since “mathematics” is plural in form) with a Standard 6 boy with some pretty significant behavioral problems. He’s on task, concentrating, getting right answers. Back down the central path to the kibanda, where Cathryn is doing addition on a portable chalkboard with two active Standard 3 boys. They’re on task as well. And the porch on the Big House is uncharacteristically empty, with Abbie’s student absent today.

Well. That’s pretty good. Work getting done, students and tutors evidently happy, even the ones who often aren’t.

Back at the house, Abbie takes the compostable trash behind the big house to the compost pile by the kitchen. Following the protocols, keeping things running smoothly. Kat is grading papers from yesterday and doing some planning for this afternoon’s session with her Form 1 students.

Life on the compound. No complaints.

But here’s how it works. When the crew comes in from the session, one of them tells me that her student was thoroughly uncooperative but straightened up when I came by. Hmmm. Gonna have to sneak up on her next time.

One of the girls sees a spider in the house and sets out to mash it into oblivion. But spiders are good; they kill mosquitos. So I tell her to just capture it and put it outside. Nope. Not gonna happen. OK, I’ll do it. Get me a container of some sort. Back him into a corner, get him on a piece of paper, drop him into a bowl, out the door and into the bushes.

Several minutes later: “Cheyenne, you can get down off the stool now.”

Chai is mandazi and uji. Blake skips the uji and puts peanut butter and Nutella™ on his mandazi. Peter skips the uji and drinks apple juice from the solar-powered fridge instead. Kat skips the uji. Rebekah and Michaela get both, and they follow Blake’s example on the PB and Nutella. Shelbie’s going for water with a Propel™ packet. Abbie and Cheyenne are making chocolate peanut butter cookies in a frying pan on the stove, without oil. Sam wanders in from the kibanda and admires their work, then joins in to help, mostly in an advisory role. There’s an animated discussion about why the Nutella is going so fast. Cathryn’s using the time to write out a math worksheet. Blake heads out to interact with the boys. The rest comment on interactions with their students this morning. The smell of baking cookies fills the kitchen. Cheyenne samples one and says, “It doesn’t taste that bad!” and then mumbles something about “setting the whole place on fire.” Shelbie tastes one. “These are good!” with a note of surprise in her voice. Cheyenne responds, “You like it?” with a similar note of surprise. Rebekah’s wiping the dishes. Peter’s absorbed in his phone. Michaela’s sitting in a corner and watching, like me. Cathryn peers out the window and is surprised that she can’t see any children out there. Sam’s sweeping the floor. Two of the team compare notes on one of their BJU classes, taught by a faculty member in my division. I can learn a lot by just sitting and listening.

The conversation is constant. Laughter is frequent.

Life in the house. No complaints.

Off to the 11.00. Most tutors go a little lighter and more casual in the second hour, given that several of the children are less cooperative.

Lunch at 2 is drip beef sandwiches, coleslaw, and Laura’s rainbow salad platter. Katie baked the rolls for the sandwiches in my oven, and the place smells like a bakery, because, well, it is.

Confession time. Yesterday at U-Turn, I forgot to get bread, and that’s a particular problem because we plan to make PBJ sandwiches for the Serengeti trip, and we’ll have cold-cut sandwiches when we get back. That’s a mess of sandwiches. Gotta do something about that.

Hire a pikipiki to take me out to the main road (Highway B6), where Beth says there’s a Royal Oven bakery. Sure ‘nuff. Shelves of bread, 3,000 shillings a loaf. I get 10 loaves. My plan is to fit most of them into my backpack and maybe carry 1 bag on the pikipiki on the way back, but these are big loaves. The girl at the counter is amused by my trying to fit several into the backpack without crushing them. I end up with 3 in the backpack and 4 bags.

That’ll never work on a pikipiki. Fortunately, at the daladala stop there’s a bajaj waiting for a rider. That’s an enclosed 3-wheeled scooter with a bench seat for 3 in the back. Plenty of room for me, my backpack, and all four bags, with nothing getting squished. I tell the driver I want to go to Shadi. He eyes that quantity of bread I’m carrying and says something in Swahili that includes the word watoto—“children”—and I say “Ndio”—“Yes.” Elfu tano—5,000 shillings. Excellent. In we go.

I’ll note that there’s not much of a suspension on this bajaj—though the ones on the daladalas and pikipikis aren’t all that hot either—and this driver believes in powering through the bumps, of which there are billions. You know those videos of skiers falling halfway down a ridiculously steep mountain and then tumbling end over end for miles? Yeah, that was me in the back seat of that bajaj. With Tanzanian pop music blaring all the way. Some people would pay outrageous sums of money for the same experience at an amusement park.

Back at TCH, he honks impatiently at the drive-in gate for the attendant to come open it. I tap him on the shoulder and point to the walk-in gate, unlocked, a few yards further down. He drops me there, and I walk over and apologize to the gate attendant. “Pole, rafiki”—“Sorry, friend.” He smiles. Impatience isn’t all that uncommon here (said the Type A American blogger).

I tell the crew the bread is for Saturday, so they won’t make it all into some breakfast French toast marathon or something. We don’t have enough Nutella for that.

While the afternoon tutoring session is going on, I discover that the tap water is back on, so I take the opportunity to do some laundry. We pay a woman here to do our laundry—she’s happy to make the money—but in this culture it’s inappropriate to wash somebody else’s underwear, even for hire, so we all do our own. Ah, the flexibility of those 5-gallon buckets.

It’s a sunny, fairly hot afternoon. One of the dogs is howling for some reason. No idea why. About 5, Katie agrees to take the crew over to a duka (shop) just south of the compound, to get sodas. I catch the tail end just as they’re leaving, and join the group. These kids really, really want soda. They feel like they’re just not Americans without colored, flavored soda water. The duka is near a shade tree with several villagers sitting under it. Everybody gets a soda—Fanta orange, Fanta pineapple, and Coke are the most popular. 5900 shillings—just under 3 bucks—for 10 sodas. Not bad.

We take a few minutes to greet all the villagers in the usual way. I joke with them that we’re “wazungu mia”—100 white people! We do attract a lot of attention ambling down the dirt road; several children accompany us as we follow the road past a few houses to the point where it ends at the lake in sort of a boat ramp. There are several fishing boats lying there, some looking as though they haven’t been used in some time. They’re painted bright colors, in the African tradition.

Nearby is a pasture where 40 or 50 beef are grazing and some teen boys are playing football. Blake and Sam walk over and join them. At one point a calf gets into the middle of the game and then gets out with some consternation.

At 6 we know we have to get back for supper. We drop by the duka to return the glass bottles—that’s expected here—and re-enter the compound for rice, beans, cabbage, watermelon. You know the drill.

After supper, as usual, we sit around the kibanda watching the boys play football and several children inside the kibanda play gagaball. They’d play all night if we’d let them.

At house devotions Peter speaks about God’s call of Moses. The boys seem to listen well. When he calls for a song afterwards, one boy asks for “My God Is So Big,” which is perfect for what Peter’s been talking about. How about that.

Back at HQ we take some prayer requests—health is generally good, but there are friends back home in need of prayer—and pray for ourselves and others. Then some talk of prep for Serengeti. We’ll need to make 60 peanut butter sandwiches at some point tomorrow. More people going than usual, since we’re bringing along 15 of the Tumaini children and 2 staff members. Every year we’ve been able to take a few; Beth has sent children starting with the oldest. I firmly believe that Tanzanians should be able to see their own greatest national treasure. The cost for us to include them is negligible—less than $30 for this year’s group, plus the cost of a vehicle and driver.

Some wifi time after the meeting, and then to bed.

By the way—the blog is now at 40 pages and 25,000 words for this trip.

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Dan Olinger

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

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