Thursday, June 20, 2019

Morning at Tumaini.

The night has been typical. Dogs have been howling intermittently; the Alarm Rooster starts going off around 4, and the birds bring their more musical tones to the chorus between 5 and 6.

Get up, crawl out from inside the mosquito netting. Minimize use of electricity, so use light only where you need it. First, over the sink. Get drinking water out of the fridge (I like to keep mine cold, even though it’s not unduly hot here) and use it to brush and floss the teeth. Tap water to shave. Sink light off, shower light on. Shower using the running water. Comes out of the showerhead, falls all over you. What a delightful concept. It’s gravity fed, so the pressure’s not as high as back home, and it’s not heated, but it gets you just as clean. And it honestly is refreshing. Though my first shower when I get home will be hot. 🙂

Personal devotions. Nehemiah’s building the wall today, with all the workers holding weapons in one hand and working with the other. Everybody’s organized so the wall’s getting rebuilt, all the way around the city. What’s the big idea? God keeps his promises, and he uses willing people–among others–to do it. I ought to be one of those today, and let’s just see what comes of it. God’s gathering a people for his name, from all places and all times. Here, and now. Work, watch, and trust him for the results.

Well, that’s a good place to start the day.

Head over toward the house about 8.30, to allow time for the greetings, highly significant here. The lizards, bright red heads and blue tails, are sunning on the boulders outside the guys’ house. (There are lots of rocks here—more than you can imagine. I’ve never seen anyplace like it. They call Mwanza Rock City, which explains the name of the mall.) The pungent smell of smoke tells me that someone has already burned some trash down at the incinerator.

First person I see is the staff lady at the laundry center, working on the large pile for the day, as they always do first thing. There are usually two, but the one who’s already started is the younger one. Younger than I am. She’s supposed to initiate the greeting, so I walk into her line of sight. “Shikamoo!” she says. “Malahaba! Habari za asubuhi?” “Nzuri. Karibu.” “Asante.”

As far as I know, she speaks no English at all, but we’ve done the morning ritual. All’s well.

It’s a bright, sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. The birds singing actively. All the easier to say “Nzuri” (“good”). One of the staff men is trimming the hedge along the path toward the house. Another set of greetings. Everybody’s fine. (As far as I can tell, everybody’s always fine, even when they’re not. Kind of like in the States.)

I can see one of the mamas over in the kibanda, where a couple of the boys are already kicking the requisite football. She’s younger than I am too, so as I walk by she initiates the greeting sequence, and I respond.

There’s something civilizing about being expected to go around and greet everybody within sight first thing in the morning. We barbarians ought to do that more often. Walk over, go a few steps out of your way, and do the morning ritual. Civilized.

Back to the house. Everybody’s there; several, as usual, eating some breakfast, including scrambled eggs—we’re buying a lot from the staff lady  who sells them, and she’s happy for it—and toast made on the griddle. I learn that one of the girls is nauseated this morning; she’s basically OK but just needs to take at least the morning off. With a bucket of water nearby. The crew has already arranged to cover her tutoring sessions for the morning. We’ve got this.

They’re discussing what could have caused it. What did you eat? Well, we all tend to eat pretty much the same stuff, so if nobody else is sick, it’s not likely to be food. It could be as simple as opening a door and then rubbing your eye or your nose with the same hand. You’ll never isolate the culprit. So stay near the bucket, drink water, and rest. We’ll take care of your business for you.

The air horn blows for the 9 am session. The crew, minus 1, heads out with their teaching materials and ideas. Within a few minutes each of the 6 locations is populated. I wander by just to see what’s going on. The children are usually better behaved in this first session, before they get tired, cranky, and uncooperative—as is a typical characteristic of children all around the world.

Later in the hour I make a second round. On the nearest dorm porch site, one of our girls, who’s subbing for the sick one, is working with a girl who’s very smart but has significant issues with motivation. She tells me, “She did all of the multiplication flash cards in under 2 minutes! Now we’re cutting out letters.” Multimodal instruction. Good choice. On the second porch Peter is reading with one of the boys who is easily frustrated and sensitive to making mistakes. Peter’s sitting by his side, and they’re reading together out of Proverbs. Peter’s explaining what each verse means, and the boy is understanding. On the last porch Blake and one of the girls (I’m not naming them so you can’t figure out who the sick one is) are double-teaming one of the most challenging boys, who has significant behavioral issues. Dog Samuel is dozing nearby, and Bunny is frolicking with her puppy, Kiala, on the other side of the porch.

Over in the kibanda, one of our girls is sitting on the floor playing Bananagrams™ with 2 of the youngest boys while one of the mamas watches. On the Big House porch another of our girls is working patiently with one of the most difficult girls, who’s in upper elementary officially—and several grades behind her age at that—but still can’t read. Inside, the kitchen staff already have the uji and mandazi set up for us, 15 minutes early. Up the path comes Sam with a couple more boys. Sometimes you just have to get out of the classroom and go for a walk. The boys both greet me, this time in the British tradition. “Good morning, Dr. Dan.” “Good morning! How are you?” “I am fine.” Formulaic, again, but civilized.

At the house, a second of our girls is lying on the couch by the bucket. Says she feels “nauseous.” Uh-oh. Hope this isn’t the start of something big. Nothing like 11 nauseated people on a 15-hour flight. But the first sick one is up and eating some bread to see how that goes. I turn into Mom: small bites, chewed thoroughly. I point out that technically nobody is “nauseous,” because that means “causing nausea.” What they’re feeling is “nauseated,” which means “feeling nausea.”

They don’t seem to care about the distinction.

Then one of the guys is feeling poorly, then another one. OK, we have an infirmary here. Best treatment is just water and rest.

The crew—the remaining ones—go to work. #3, the first of the guys, is scheduled to handle Bible time today. The girl who’s scheduled tomorrow takes over, and we figure he’ll be well enough to do the swap for tomorrow. The remaining crew recalculates all the 11 am tutoring sessions, combining some and shifting people around until everybody’s covered. #4, the second guy, feels well enough to take his session. So 3 in the house, and everybody else being flexible. Let me tell you, these kids are really good on the flexibility front.

Morning at Tumaini. Natural beauty, social interaction, sickness, behavioral challenges. Delight and depravity, all at the same time. Like everywhere. Even if you’ve never been here, the experience is familiar.

I make a quick round in the 11.00 session. With all the combining, there are a bunch of empty sites. One of our girls and one of our guys are working with 5 children, who are usually in 3 or 4 classes, in the classroom down in the office building. Good times.

For Bible time, as I’ve said, #3 was scheduled but is sawing logs on a couch at HQ, so the girl scheduled for tomorrow brings the devotional. She speaks from Philippians 1, focusing on the need for discernment, which derives from knowledge, which we get from God’s word. She does a good job.

Afterwards I check on #4, who’s sawing logs on a couch in the guys’ house. OK. 4 down, all resting and stable, nobody violently ill. This is workable.

Lunch at Beth’s porch is tortillas stuffed with meat and other things, you know, that word we say only to make our Swahili instructor laugh herself to tears. To my surprise, everyone shows up, even the sick ones, and everyone eats at least a little something. Only one of the four has had, shall I say, consequences of the nausea, and that was very early this morning. So we’ll take things a little easy and see if this clears up.

For some time now the girls have wanted to get their hair braided, as all previous teams have done. Beth has made arrangements, and the lady shows up right after lunch and sets up shop on the porch of the Big House. All the girls but Rebekah gather there immediately, and Abbie is the first to get worked on. After Peter, that is, who has the lady corn-row his hair just to see what it would look like.

Allen Iverson, he’s not.

By suppertime (rice, beans, cabbage, pineapple) Abbie and Cheyenne are both done, Grace is in the chair, and Shelbie’s waiting her turn.

On the healthcare front, #1, #3, and #4 are all up and active. #2 and #5 (yes, there is a #5 now) are resting quietly at HQ.

By end of the night, #2 is in the worst shape, but she’s actually feeling pretty good. She thinks a good night’s sleep will have her back in action. Shelbie is the last one having her hair braided; it’ll probably be 10 pm or so before she’s done. I’ll try to post a picture of the whole crew tomorrow, when there’s daylight.

Dan Olinger

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

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