Saturday, 31 October 2015

All in a day

The alarm goes off at 6.45am, time to get up and get going. I put my solar lights outside to recharge then head to the kitchen to cook my porridge. As I eat I continue to read Genesis and ponder the life of Joseph. I turn on the tap to wash up but there isn’t any water, and there hasn’t been any since yesterday afternoon. Hopefully someone will fix that problem today. I get in my Toyota Prado ready to head to the village to pick up my colleague, Amani. As I’m about to turn on the engine I find a text message from Amani telling me he isn’t able to come to town today, he’s elsewhere. Frustrated with the constant change in plans I decide to head to town anyhow, to meet with my other colleague, John.

As I head along the dirt road, I pass through a check-point and a lady asks for a lift. She gets in the car and I show her how to fasten her seatbelt. She is a Safwa lady, so I play the book of Ruth in the Safwa language for her to listen to, which she obviously enjoys by the various affirmative sounds she makes! I negotiate my way through the morning bustle around the cattle market, where men in blood-stained white coats are milling around to buy and butcher animals, and up the pot-holed street past vendors selling potatoes and other vegetables on their road-side stands.

I arrive at our Safwa office, on the grounds of a garage run by a Swiss mission, where people are trained to fix cars. John has already arrived and we greet each other, “Mwagona!” We report back on the activities of the previous week and discuss plans for the coming months and a question that John had from his reading of Genesis (we are all working our way through this book). My morning drinks have gone through me so I head to the toilet, a nice hole in the ground. The bucket of water for flushing is empty, so I find a nearby tap and fill it up.
John heads off to visit some people and sell Safwa books. I remain behind to continue with computer work, taking advantage of having electricity and a fairly good internet connection while in town. The room gets warmer and warmer as the day heats up. 

At lunchtime I lock the office padlock and head out to find some food. I stroll up the dusty road and down a passageway littered with plastic bags. A vendor selling oranges tries to persuade me to buy some, a child calls out “mzungu” (referring to me, a white foreigner) and I squeeze past a mother carrying her baby on her back. I walk through the market where all kinds of wares are available, from kitchen equipment to shoes to food, and before I get totally lost in the maze I ask a lady where I can find somewhere to eat. She shows me to a room, with a grubby lace curtain for a door. On entering I recognised the table, I’ve eaten here before with my colleagues. The owner brings me a plate piled high with rice and with small portions of greens, meat and beans on the side. I get talking with the other people at the table, sharing about our work. I turn on my phone for them to listen to the Bible in their language and get into conversation about churches in Tanzania and the lack of faith in England.

It’s time to head back to the office, so I pay up (about 50p) and take a cocktail stick to get the bits of meat out from between my teeth that are the inevitable result of eating tough (but flavoursome) beef. On the way back I buy a five litre container so I can get some more petrol for my generator, which seems to guzzle fuel. I don’t know what the container used to hold, maybe soap or cooking oil. Someone has washed it out thoroughly and now it’s available to buy for a mere 50p. I also pick up some tomatoes, buying four for 10p. Back in the office I settle back down in front of my laptop to continue with emails, finance issues and other administrative things that have built up while I have been busy teaching over the past couple of weeks. A man knocks on the door and enters. He is looking for my colleague. We get into conversation and I show him the Safwa books and explain to him why the translation process is so long and thorough. He is a pastor. He takes my colleague’s phone number – maybe he will get in touch to invite us to speak at his church.

The office is hot, it’s hard to focus, but it’s not long until hometime. John has returned and we finish the day by praying together. I drive to the petrol station to get fuel for the generator before heading home, driving past the school children returning from a day of studies, slowing down to skirt round a herd of cows being driven down the road, and overtaking motorbikes, which are the most common form of public transport off the main roads.

On arriving home I unload the car and get changed ready for a walk in the slightly cooler evening air. I decide to head to the river for a paddle in the cold mountain water. It’s a beautiful spot and I watch the butterflies fluttering around. I spy a rock and some plants that look black, but on closer inspection discover they are simply alive with flying ants. As I return from my walk the sky is painted in the gentle pastel colours that come after the sun has set. I head to my carrot patch to pull up a few carrots for tea and I also pick a few strawberries as I pass through my friend’s strawberry patch, before returning home to wash my hair (having earlier boiled the kettle on the gas stove to give me some water to do so). 

My friend, Mama Pendo, arrives to make a cake. Armed with bananas from their own plot of land we set to making banana bread for some guests she is receiving tomorrow. A little later her husband arrives and we enjoy a good natter while we wait for the cake to bake, discussing everything from schooling to what grains we grow in England. At 9pm they leave and I accompany them the short way to their house, as it is polite to walk a little way with your guests rather than just wave them goodbye from the door. Now it is time to throw together a light tea with home made bread followed by a fruit salad of fresh pineapple, passion and banana. I sit in the lounge to eat while WhatsApping my parents and watching an episode of ‘To a Manor Born’, which is refreshingly British and light hearted after a day of speaking Swahili and dealing with life in Tanzania, while the generator drones noisily in the garage.

It’s after 10pm and time I was in bed. I head to the kitchen, wash up, turn off the generator and get ready for bed by the light of my solar lantern. Teeth brushed, I let down the mosquito net and settle down for what I hope will be a good night’s sleep, to the sound of the cicadas and the occasional hoot of an owl. Outside the heavens declare the glory of God as the stars shine out brightly in all their vast array, with the milky way marking a clear pathway across the sky. Sleep.