Wednesday, February 8, 2017
“Normal is an ideal. But it’s not reality. Reality is brutal, it’s beautiful, it’s every shade between black and white, and it’s magical. Yes, magical. Because every now and then, it turns nothing into something.” ― Tara Kelly
Someone wrote and asked what a typical day here was like. Well, I don’t think we’ve ever had a “typical” day—seems like there is always some new excitement, but here’s what usually happens. We start early, John (sometimes Karen, sometimes me) opens up around 6:30 A.M. by turning off all the security lights, unlocking all the outside doors, unlocking the gates for our interior fence, and giving the keys to the outside gates to the uniformed security guard so he can let in our day workers. Once Francis gets here, the guard leaves and the other workers start arriving. We have two outside workers, one inside, two teachers for the preschool, the cook and aide for the preschool, and Shaban who drives and does most of the repairs and works on the new projects. Rachel gets here around eight in the morning and cooks breakfast for Karen and me (John fixes his own before seven), porridge for Karen, bacon and eggs for me. The kids (about forty of ‘em) pile up at the gate around seven-thirty even though school doesn’t officially start till nine, but they come in at eight and by nine are laughing and singing and sort of helping get their hot porridge cooked. We can always hear the school in session because the kids love to laugh and sing and shout out the answers they know. There is almost always at least some repair work that needs to be done, or Karen or John will have projects that need work. Right now, we are getting new cabinets built for our tiny little kitchen (about six by four feet) so space is at a premium. New uniforms for the preschool kids are also underway, the community well is still being prepared, and there are always lights that need to be replaced. In addition, our German shepherd-ish (one is pedigreed, the others are shepherd mixes) watch dogs love to dig out burrowing animals and frequently make holes beneath our fences that drug cartels would admire. Our chain-link exterior fence is anchored in concrete and these holes collapse the concrete, so there is almost always some fence repair going. Anyone with a pair of pliers could cut their way in, but in twelve years only once has anybody tried it, and they were teenagers high on drugs who were caught. They had tried to steal four plastic chairs (not very ambitious), but we got them back. Our neighbors caught them. They got in because it was during a monsoon rain, and the dogs and the guard where hiding from the rain. So, once in twelve years is not a bad thing—seems things work as we want them most of the time. Oh, and I also get up around four in the morning to write and post a blog with a picture every single day and post pictures of the watch I'm wearing that day with other pictures of our mission and the work we do. Keeps me busy.
Almost every day, people come to ask for things, money usually, for school fees or trips to funerals or medical costs. The teachers come to talk to Karen, the workers come to talk to John (who manages the mission) about all kinds of things. One of the hardest things in our adjustment to living here was having people in and around the house all the time. On a typical day there are eight workers and around sixty children in and around the place—not all at the same time, but it seems like that. We have to check on what needs to be bought at the market, supplies and food, so Rachel can walk down and buy the stuff. Remember, after buying our food, it needs to be cleaned. We even wash the eggs before putting them in the fridge. Also, remember that we have no vacuum cleaners, no automatic dishwashers, no washing machines, no dryers—everything is done by hand. The wind, dust, and open windows mean that the floors needs sweeping and mopping every single day and dusting is a never-ending job. Clothes need washing and hanging up to dry. The clothesline has to have a shade cover to keep the African sun from fading everything and for keeping the rains from giving everything a second rinse. In addition, we have to make sure the two propane tanks are full and that there are full back up tanks since we never know when the gas will run out (usually about a month per tank).
At least once or twice a week, John, Karen, or I take trips to Musoma or Mwanza for medical reasons, to cash checks (our bank is in Musoma), and John works on projects (solar and computer) in Musoma and Mwanza. We also have to travel to buy parts for repair projects and for official paperwork as Immigration is in Musoma (residence permits, labor permits and the like). We also have to keep the car insured, registered, licensed, and we need all the accouterments that are required by law here. We have to have a certified, dated fire extinguisher, reflective triangles for break downs, current paperwork, and other stuff. There are now many police stops between us and and anywhere we want to go. We get stopped two or three times a trip, but never have to pay fines (they call them punishments here) because Shaban always has everything up to date.
It’s never boring here and no day is ever just like another. Sacks of corn get delivered to hungry people at our churches, there are weddings, funerals, and church meetings that last all day and for which we have to prepare food. There are kids to feed, teach, and dogs to wash and who want to play. It’s not a bad life at all and one we rather enjoy. We have packages in the mail, so we always are expecting good things to come. That’s not a bad way to live. We shut down every night around six as all the workers leave and the security guard arrives. John locks up and sets the security lights, so the three of us are in to watch a little television around seven. Bedtime is usually around nine for me and Karen. John will sometimes be up all night as his computer and internet friends around the world are in different time zones. All ya’ll are welcome to come see for yourself. We can sleep sixteen with hot showers and western toilets, and don’t forget we are right on the edge of the Serengeti National Park and can provide a one-day safari at the least. Come on over, we’ll leave the light on for you (now that the generator is new and working).