Day 4- March 11
So the toilet in my bathroom works, but the shower didn't last night. It took like half an hour to get ready to take a shower- find towels, find toiletries, find shower shoes, strip extra bed of sheets, make curtains over the very large window in the bathroom....and it didn't work. I had to take a "bird bath" as Terri called it, and use the sink. Normally I don't wash my hair every day, but here, I need to! I'm going to check with Jeanie and see if I can borrow her shower this evening.
I slept pretty well last night. Here's what was on the breakfast buffet: bread with butter, something that looked like hush puppies (?), some other bread, chapatis (which are like Indian tortillas, and taste a little like crepes), some kind of meat, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, watermelon, and maybe a few other random things. I got buttered bread, watermelon, and a chapati. I couldn't eat it all, but I did make an effort.
After breakfast, we got to work sorting through all our stuff for the different projects. We filled 8 suitcases full of art supplies, school supplies, stickers, coloring books, jump ropes, frisbees, sports equipment, and I don't know what else. We organized our stuff for VBS, filling up another suitcase. And we were able to make up baggies with a few things for the home visits, like dish towels, soap, and other small things. Sean said our primary gift would be food, though.
The long line of stuff
For a while, I was in charge of sorting crayons! Sadly they were not all Crayola.
Some of our VBS supplies
Then we split into two groups and headed off to the centers. My bus went to 814 with Keith. The kids greeted us with garlands made of ribbon, and did a few songs. Then we went outside and played. I felt kind of awkward at first. Some of the mamas were asking me questions like my age (immediately followed, always, by how many children I have, and then a sad "ohhhh" when I say "none.") They also were fascinated with the things hanging from my backpack- a small flashlight ("torch! Torch!") and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Then a young lady named Rachel showed up, and asked to carry my backpack. We, along with a gaggle of other girls, walked a little ways to a field where everyone was playing and doing various activities. We threw a soccer ball around, and I decided to try to teach them four square....but six girls wanted to play, and they didn't understand the whole standing in a square thing. So I would bounce the ball to them, and they had to catch it in one bounce. They would throw it back, and then I'd tell them (and motion) to back up. They'd laugh and then do it. This went on for quite a while. I was getting a little tired, so I moved on to teaching them tic tac toe. We played in the dirt. They got it really quickly, but to many kids wanted to play. So we had teams. That was really popular. After that, I was running out of ideas, so I decided to try rock paper scissors. I started with Rachel, since she spoke some English, but a few girls joined in. Usually they would end up changing their choice to mine. So if I threw "rock", even if they had "paper" and would have beaten me, they'd switch to rock! I tried to explain that they really had it right the first time, and they'd just laugh. There was one small girl in particular who just cracked up- she beat me almost every time, but she'd always change her move to mine! For like half an hour, all I'd say was "no! You win!" and then there would be all this laughter. Really, their favorite part of the game was counting to three and hitting their fists on their hands- which is like, the part of the game that comes before the actual game.
Welcome to 814!
The choir sings a song for us
Keith referenced a Bible verse, and Pando, who was translating, borrowed the pastor's Bible to make sure he got it right. The pastor's Bible is so worn that most of the pages in the New Testament are half gone.
Just a small delegation of boys joined in with the music.
One of the girls gives her testimony
And another testimony
Stacie teaches the kids tic tac toe using some activity books- she was able to leave them with the kids!
We headed back to the church for lunch, and there was quite a spread. Rice, meat with sauce (that is literally how it is described to us), chicken, cabbage with carrots, cooked bananas, greens with onions, avocado, watermelon, and pineapple. There were also huge bottles of water (one liter each) and sodas.
One of the church ladies gets to work, starting the fires to fix our lunch
One of the lead singers of the choir wore her very fanciest shoes in honor of our visit
Lunch! Eating avocado was pretty fun.
Neighborhood kids come to see what's going on in the center. They know something special is happening, and we're eating. I want you to know that if you go on a sponsor tour and connect with a child who is not part of Compassion's program, if you want to sponsor them, they will register the child right then and there. Three or four new kids joined the sponsorship program during our trip!
After lunch, we did our first home visits. We trekked down the road and through a cornfield to get to the house. A twelve year old girl named Bahati ("lucky" in Swahili) got a visit from us. She was home with her mom, and maybe a sibling. There were more kids, too, but not all of them live at home. The mom actually said she did have 11 kids, but two died, and now she has 9. When we all said "ohhh" softly and sadly, our translator said "no, that's a good thing." I guess only losing two out of your eleven children is seen as a pretty good survival rate. And that's sad. Bahati's house was very small, and dark. There were no windows. We all gathered in the front room, which only had a footstool in it. It was a relief to lean against the cool brick walls. I'm not sure how many rooms the house had, but it appeared to only have two or three. The kitchen was in a separate shed-like building. Bahati's sponsors are named Tim and Judy, which was pretty funny- earlier, when we'd been touring the center, we stopped by the office and they handed us a random binder to show examples of how the children's information is organized. There's a photo on the front inside of the binder, and then some information on her performance in school and stuff...and then the drafts of all the letters she's written to her sponsors. The letters we saw? "Dear Tim and Judy." So we all laughed, and then explained to Bahati that we had seen some of her letters!
Welcome to Bahati's house
Several folks had their photos taken with Bahati and her mama
When we brought gifts, we put the food in our old water bottle boxes. We brought things like rice and sugar.
Speaking of the visit to the office, Harlan and Terri had a special visit while we were there. A lady from their church sponsors a child at 814, named Baraka (which means "blessings.") They had brought a gallon bag full of gifts for him, and asked in the office if they could see if he was there that day. Most of the kids who were at the center were teenage girls. The kids have school during the week, so it was kind of a special occasion for the kids who were actually at the centers we visited- normally they only attend on Saturdays. Well, it turned out that Baraka was there! What a blessing indeed! One of the center staff ran outside to find him, and they brought him in all confused looking. It was sooooo cute. Harlan and Terri explained who they were, and that they knew his sponsor, and presented him with his gifts. He was all smiled. One thing I'm realizing on this trip is that we are ambassadors to these kids, on behalf of their sponsors. Chances are, they won't ever meet their sponsors in this lifetime, but by meeting us, we can act as sort of representatives, and love on them and spend time with them and talk and listen to them, on their sponsors' behalf. But can you imagine how exciting it must be for Baraka, to not only meet a visitor, but to meet one who knows his sponsor? Wow! He was so happy. I can't blame him. I would have been, too. I'm really thankful that I was there to see it!
He looks so happy!
When we got back from the home visit, there was some more singing and dancing while we waited for the other groups to get back from their visits. After everyone got back, some girls from the center presented a gift to Keith- a Maasai blanket. They wrapped him up like a chief. Then it was our turn to present our gift to the center. When the girls came in with the blanket for Keith, they played music, and the girls carried it in while dancing. So they turned the music back on, and our guys danced as they brought in the suitcase! It was funny and sweet.
Just wanted to note that since the Frisbees we brought look a lot like Maasai necklaces, everywhere we went, they ended up being worn as such. : )
We started to say our goodbyes. One particularly giggly girl I had played rock paper scissors with came up to the bus, and I signaled to her that we should play one more time. Of course, she beat me- I pointed to her and said "you win!" and she just lost it. The bus started up, and I blew her a kiss. She laughed and covered her face. It was precious.
The young lady with her hand in the air is Rachel
Now we're back at the hotel. I prayed over my shower. I feel weird admitting that, but it worked. I don't know whether it happened because of divine intervention, or maybe just living in the hotel room for a day got the plumbing all warmed up, but I don't care. I'm clean, and just biding my time to go to dinner and do devotionals.
We had an impromptu meeting of the craft group this evening before dinner. I think everything's going to be great. Everyone is excited and nice, which I think is funny. I mean, I definitely didn't intend to be in this sort of leadership role, and while I still don't think of myself as any sort of leader, I'm really glad I have such a great group. They keep thanking me for being so organized and everything...I just thought it was considerate to communicate! I knew we'd need supplies, and wanted to make sure we could get things together before the trip.
Dinner tonight was pretty good. They put out a little plate of salt, so I was able to put some on my "chips"- which are hand-cut french fries. I love fries, but it's not quite the same when they're not salted, and there is no ketchup or honey mustard or whatever. I also got rice and added pineapple to it (it makes it easier to swallo), 2 fish sticks, and some corn. We were all excited to see corn- it looked like corn from back home. I know several people loaded up on it. But...it was really like, lentils and mushy stuff and it didn't taste like corn at all. Maybe some salt would have helped. I sat with Harlan and Terri tonight, and I really like them. They are nice and funny, and they were here 4 years ago so they have some great insight and knowledge. Robert joined us later (younger Robert, who is in my family group) but I know he was really tired and pretty out of it. Then we talked about the day as a group, and headed to our rooms.
A few things I forgot to mention earlier. As we were walking back from the home visit, I asked Raphael, one of our Compassion field office staff/translators, about farmer's day. Elisha wrote that that's his favorite holiday, so I figured I'd try to find out more about it. Raphael said that it's actually a weeklong festival, from August 1-8, and that the actual holiday is on the 8th. From what he described, it sounds a lot like the agricultural aspects of the state fair. Farmers from all over show off what they grow, and there are competitions and stuff. I think it's really neat that this is such an important holiday- the Tanzanian people (and government) recognize how important farmers are, so they gave them their own holiday! Farmers get a lot of respect here. I guess that kind of thing happens when you actually know where your food is coming from.
Also, it's really neat seeing how the kids at the centers do sewing, weaving, knitting and carpentry. The carpentry we saw today was especially impressive. It's great that the kids are learning skills they can turn into businesses when they're grown, and they also make these goods which are sold to help benefit the center. And I'm sure that in turn, that leads to more lessons, about things like budgeting, bookkeeping, etc.
And Jeanie is really sweet and checks in on me a lot. I appreciate that. It makes me feel less alone while I'm here.