I’ve been away from the computer for some time now. My parents- and sister-in-law flew in a week ago Saturday to visit us in Tanzania for a short time — well, let’s just be honest and say it… they came to meet the new granddaughter (and niece). It was only a bonus to see Brett and Christie (and Brett and Christie not even in that order). Christie’s sister returned to the states Saturday, and her parents are leaving on Wednesday. These have been short trips, but they will be memorable… oh, how they will be memorable.
I’m a little bit torn about what to desire for visitors when they come to Tanzania. On one hand I’d like them to have a good experience and get to do and see some enjoyable things. I’d hate for someone to take a week or two off work, come to Africa for vacation, everything go wrong, and them return to the states more stressed out and tired than when they left. Also (but to a slightly lesser extent than Christie), I want our families and friends to see while they’re here that we are happy and safe, and that Geita is a place where we can raise our kids in relative comfort.
On the other hand, though, this is not always reality. More often than not, things here don’t go as planned. There are a lot of problems and difficulties to go with the many rewards of being a missionary in Geita. We trust God to keep us safe, and to give us the comfort we need. But we’re not living in suburban America. We have a house that is comfortable — when the electricity is working and when we have water. We are safe here and not in any great danger — though we’re not able to drive in rural areas at night because of bandits, and our home is a target for robbers. Africa is a great place, but it’s not all coffee and safaris.
So I struggle. Do I want my family to have a stress-free vacation in which they leave knowing everything is comfortable and fine? Or do I want them to experience Africa in its fullest sense? I guess I don’t really have a great deal of choice in the matter. Christie’s family, for instance, got the full Africa experience. Not that we planned it that way. It just happened. Africa happens like that. I wish I was able to tell you from their viewpoint what they’ve seen and been a part of, and what it must be like for them. But I can’t. Instead, I’ll just tell you a little about my last week — the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the past week, I…
- preached my first “sermon” in Swahili.
- preached my first “sermon” in a village church.
- had to use quotation marks to describe my preaching as a sermon, because it really doesn’t deserve to be referred to as a sermon. I’ll keep working on the new language thing…
- enjoyed a rural Tanzanian meal of rice and dagaa (sun-dried little fish) with the family and several Christians from the village.
- laughed as I overheard another missionary describe the dirt road on which we were traveling as a good one. [It would have been the worst of roads in the states.]
- was blessed to be able to host Christie’s family in a comfortable guesthouse for the Mwanza portion of their stay. It belongs to a missionary family here who graciously let many use it.
- even in that nice guesthouse, welcomed our guests to Africa by asking them to inform me when they’d like to take showers, so I could turn the water on from outside.
- had a flat tire the day we were planning to go to Geita from Mwanza — but was able to repair it and still get on the road that afternoon.
- had the same tire explode on us at nearly 70 miles/hour on what has got to be the best tarmac road in Tanzania right now.
- had a really really heavy Toyota Landcruiser roll sideways and fall off a high-lift jack, but not before I could hold it up long enough for my father-in-law to put the lug nuts back on the wheel.
- arrived just in time to catch the ferry across a portion of Lake Victoria (in order to get to Geita), only to be told they decided to wash the ferry instead of running it that trip.
- arrived in Geita to a house with no electricity or water. [For those of you who don’t know, living without electricity is not that difficult. But water is really important.]
- got water and electricity back in the house. Though there’s still a leak somewhere, so I’m turning the water off every night when we go to bed and back on again in the mornings.
- showed the family around Geita town, introduced them to some of our Tanzanian friends, ate lunch at a little Swahili cafe (think beans and rice), and helped them buy some souvenirs.
- drove the family up to the top of a nearby mountain for a view of Geita from above.
- ran out of fuel on the way down the mountain, but was able to coast and ride fumes to a petrol station.
- took my wife’s family on a nice, relaxing trip to an island in Lake Victoria — that went all wrong…
- rode for the first time a “speed” boat on Lake Victoria.
- rode for the first time a boat on Lake Victoria during a rainstorm.
- held Baylor in a carseat covered with a rain poncho as our boat maneuvered through five and six foot swells in search of a relaxing couple of nights next to a pool — the whole time thinking about that lifeguard test in which I had to tread water for two minutes holding a concrete block above my head.
- ran out of fuel somewhere in the middle of nowhere on Lake Victoria.
- in the end, had a 30-minute boat ride to the island turn into a 4-hour, 15-minute trip — the only time in my life I actually wanted to kiss the ground like in the movies.
- enjoyed one wonderful day on the island — great weather, beautiful scenery, incredible food. It was like paradise, only without the ice cream and singing animals.
- took Baylor for her first swim in Lake Victoria.
- went hiking for a few hours and saw crocodiles, hippos, monitor lizards, bushbucks, and a whole lot of birds.
- woke up to rain on the day we were planning to leave the island. Tried to wait it out, but eventually left in just a drizzle with choppy water and no waves. 1-hour, 45-minutes on that trip. Didn’t run out of fuel either.
- needing to make it to Mwanza that night (for Amy’s flight out the next day), traveled toward the Kamanga Ferry on a road I’d never before been on. It was dirt (of course — as are all but one road anywhere near Geita) and quite scenic. The last part, though, was harsh.
- had the muffler and exhaust system come unattached from the truck as we hurriedly tried to make the last ferry across the lake. We made it, but not without some serious concerns being raised about my driving.
- waved goodbye to my sister-in-law at the airport on Saturday.
- took the car to Fortes’ garage yet again: got the muffler welded back where it belongs, repaired the back door so that it now opens, and spent $1700 on four new tires (that would’ve been $600-700 in the states).
- woke up Sunday to a truck that wouldn’t start. tried for 2 1/2 hours to get it to start and couldn’t. Christie’s parents’ luggages were still in Geita, though, so we took the McNeal’s truck to Geita and left the Landcruiser in the Guild’s yard — where a few of the Mwanza guys will tow it in to Fortes’ today.
- saw a group of people pulling a dead person out of the lake and wrapping his body in papyrus leaves to cover him until they could prepare him for burial.
- shared a meal, worshiped, and had communion with the Groens and Christie’s parents.
- praised God for good news concerning our teammates Daniel and Kasey George and their coming to Tanzania — and prayed for them.
- woke up this morning to no electricity… which means no coffee.
- saw and heard Baylor giggle for the first time. She’s been able to smile for a long time, but this is the first laugh that’s actually sounded like a laugh. It was one of my favorite moments in life so far.
- just got a call about an airplane that slipped off the runway in Mwanza, closing the airport. We don’t know yet if that will affect the Wade’s flight out on Wednesday or not.
So that’s my past week. Christie joked that her parents were experiencing a month of Africa in only a week. I’d say that’s about right. I wonder what my mom will get when she arrives this weekend…. My feelings are quite mixed. I want her to experience Africa, but I myself would like a break.