A mission adventure




Diary of my mission trip to Tanzania

by Ruth Weston (age 11)

Africa photos courtesy of Kate Mowbray and Tim Dieppe
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Wednesday, 14th May 1997
I am just beginning to allow myself to get excited. I have been trying hard not to do so before, in case things didn't work out, but now I feel like turning cartwheels! I just can't express how lucky I am. Tomorrow I am meeting Matt and Helen for the first time. I have been told that Helen is great, but I don't know anything about Matt yet. All will be revealed . . . We have padded the frame of my rucksack, which is crammed with all sorts of useful things, so it won't stick in to my back and bruise me.

Grandpa and I had a wonderful chat about Africa and my great, great uncle Frank Weston, who was a missionary bishop in Zanzibar. Someday, I hope I will stand where he stood, or at least continue the work he began out there, encouraging people to turn to the Lord and offering practical advice for non-Christians. I must say bye now as I want to be refreshed and prepared for anything tomorrow. Bye!

Thursday 15th May - London
I can hardly believe it! The Lord had it all planned - no need whatsoever to worry. I dreamt last night that I met Matt and he was ace and very understanding. I sure hope it's true!
We set off at 9:00 and after three and a half hours travelling had lunch with some friends. I've got some fruit pastels to suck if my ears pop on the aeroplane. I've flown before and reckon you are far more likely to die of choking than in a plane crash, so I'm not in the least bothered. I was not sad about saying goodbye to Mum and Dad either - excitement drowns all bad emotions!

We had a quick drink at Sharon and Hugo's house (they're our leaders) then Hugo, Wendy, Helen and I drove to the airport from Barnet and had a meal at Burger king. Yummy for my tummy!

After that Tim and I went `exploring' around the shops. We came upon this huge bookshop . . . Paradise! Tim bought me a Swahili pocket phrase book! He's really nice . . . They're all really nice . . . and deep down inside, my heart is just bursting to say I love them all.

Now I am sitting down comfortably in the aeroplane. It's just gone 11:30 but I still feel wide awake. I can hardly believe this is happening . . . it seems too wonderful to be true . . . me, setting off for Tanzania, to Africa . . . the place God has called me to. I guess you could say I've been drawn like a magnet. Africa. Africa. The word rings inside my head as the plane begins to shake in readiness to take off at 220 miles per hour.

I have drunk orange juice, Fanta and water so far since leaving Hugo and Sharon's house and I have also drunk happiness; in fact, huge gulpfuls of it at a time. Well, with that drink I've been extremely greedy and taken every mouthful that I can and hidden it inside me, in the hope that it will shine out to others.

Friday May 16th - Arrival in Tanzania

It is now 4:00 in the morning  -  7:00 Tanzanian time.  I am very tired as I have not yet gone to sleep.  I envy Sharon who is fast asleep, but I'll try to catch up on the twenty two hour train journey that we're going on next. Phew! After the plane landed, two African men whom Sharon knew collected us, and I changed my money into shillings.  They helped Tim and me into a jeep, and I chatted to the driver as much as I could in Swahili.  He was not married and had no children.

We were driven to the pastor's house up a bumpy road.  You might say `Big deal  -  what's a bumpy road to me?' The answer is, you don't know this one! It was made of mud and the countless pot holes were filled with slush and water.  One puddle we drove through had stepping stones!



As we went past the mud houses, I was amazed by how organised everything was.  There was a shoe-shine stall, food for sale, plastics, clothes, materials, dawa (medicine), even a hair dresser! At the back was the pastor's house and the church.

We were warmly welcomed at the pastor's house.  Girls just wanted to hug me, shake my hand and look at me.  We went into the front room and prayed together, thanking the Lord that we had arrived safely.  A girl clad in an oak-leaved blue dress came in and served us Coke and Tango.  I would have guessed she was about fourteen, but in fact, she was twenty.  Her name was Sereka.  Two overweight women were hugging me, holding my hand, giving me slobbery kisses on the cheek.  They kept calling me `Baby!' How embarrassing!

It was beginning to pour with warm rain when we set off to my new friend Grace's house for lunch, where there was plenty of variety, but all I could manage was a little rice and a sweet banana (they have small ones here half the size of a normal banana, but sweeter and better as you don't have to stuff yourself with them.)

At this point I was feeling very light-headed, wishing that I hadn't eaten so much breakfast on the plane.  Yep, I began to feel a bit . . .  I panicked  -  what was I supposed to do? I didn't want to throw up in the house.  I raced outside and let go over a drain.  Gross.

`You have vomited?' asked a lady in broken English.  I should have said `ndiyo,' to her, but my first thought was those simple English words, `Yeah, 'fraid so.' I stayed outside breathing in the damp air.  After that we drove to the train station as it was nearly 5:00.  However, we were told to come back at 10:00 as (so I have heard) a bomb or something had damaged the track.

So we went to yet another house where four pastors live together.  The first room was painted green and yellow  -  people often paint a room here two colours, as if one wasn't enough, or they had run out of one colour.

Wendy, Helen, Naomi, Grace and I went into a bedroom which had two beds, a chest of drawers and a wardrobe.  Joined onto it was a bathroom  -  an `en- suite' (though not the kind you would find in a hotel!) where I tried to wash the African way: to stand in an absolutely filthy bath, rub myself down with lemon soap (which is also an effective insect repellent) and tip freezing cold water down my body with the aid of a really grimy drinking flask.  I washed half of my body at a time  -  it's easier, though not the proper African style, which Grace showed me.  Brrr! I got into my light, multi-coloured dress and plastered myself with Jungle Formula.  Unwisely, I dared any mosquito to bite me  -  now I've got two bites on my ankle!

Grace and I walked around the garden.  She is twenty four years old, very pretty, and works for an advertising company.  Sereka's brother helped us bring in the luggage and I went to have a nap for three hours, to try and catch up after a completely sleepless night on the 'plane.  Helen tucked in my mosquito net.

Dazed, I woke up when Sharon brought me some `Seven Up'.  I felt too tired to drink it but was very grateful afterwards that I had, as it was my only drink for a long time.  At 9pm once more we set off to the station.  The men insisted on carrying my bags.  I felt strange without something to carry, as if I were walking around in a swimming costume!

The ladies all kissed and hugged me and we all said, `Kwa heri.' (Goodbye) About half an hour after they had left, Tim came into our cabin and told us we would not be leaving until eight in the morning.  This sounded unbelievable, so Sharon went out and checked with the station porter.  Unfortunately, it was only too true.

We made up our beds on the grey mattresses and tried to make it as comfy as we could.  It was pretty late now, and most of us had got into our PJ'S.  Strapping on our sandals, we walked across the station's stone floor to the toilet in our PJ's.  (Not a thing I would normally do!) We saw two `Mother of coackroaches' in the loo, as Helen called them.  Later she found another in her bag that had crawled in.  I helped her to catch it in a plastic cup and she let it go out in the corridor.  That makes five that I have seen so far  -  I've discovered I am not particularly fond of them.  It was sniffingly hot as the fan didn't work (no electricity).  I found it difficult to breathe, and my PJs were drenched with sweat.  Kindly, Wendy swopped with me, so I went on the bottom bunk which was cooler.  I got to sleep at 2:00 and was glad of it.
Saturday May 17th - On the Train
  I woke at 8:30 and, for some odd reason, felt like I had slept for days. A waiter came in with our breakfast which consisted of two very dry fried eggs, bread and baked beans which tasted like . . . well, I shan't give you a description, beyond saying that they definitely weren't as tasty as Heinz's. The meal cost 1000 shillings, the equivalent of 1.00, which I thought was cheap but, over here, is very expensive.
At 10:00 the train started. Hooray! Everyone cheered as the wheels began to move. For a while I was content just to look out of the window, but then I played a game of cards with the others and wrote up my diary.

It is now 3:00. Our train has just stopped to refill its engine - very considerate, as we were just starting our lunch of beef and rice (with stones in it because it hadn't been thoroughly sifted). A delicate flavour, I must say!

A group of children crowded round our window. They wanted maji (water). Quite a few things flashed through my mind at that moment: of starving children, of their skin getting blotchy, their tummies swelling up and their hair going red and tight; of thirsty children, and their tongues getting twisted. I hurried to fetch a bottle of water.

To my great surprise, they tipped the water out. It was the bottle they were after! Richard, who is travelling with us, explained that they would fill the bottles and sell them. They wanted more of them. Uh-uh. Not this time! Instead, they received balloons with YESU ANAKUPENDA (Jesus loves you) written in bold writing.

With Richard's help, we found out that all but two were Muslims, and four of them could read. We passed a leaflet about how much God loved His people to a boy; a Christian who could read.


It was a special time, and I loved to see their happy faces as the puppets were brought out. Well, there's our first children's club in Africa! It struck me later how I could tell there was something different about the big boy who was a Christian and could read. He shared the balloons out evenly.

He smiled. He shone.

Two things that are worldwide - Coca Cola and pop music. It's blasting out now, and it was last night too. Oh well what does it matter? Just now I saw some deer and three giraffes. Cool!(or should I say, `hot'?!)

The soil over here is clay or sand, poor for crops, but most things are green, as we have come just after the rainy season. I am now an animal detector, taking careful note of all the animals I see, as we go through a game park. Boring! one whole hour later and all I have seen is a wildebeest's tail. But now they are coming into view: giraffes, zebras, deer, vultures, warthogs, wildebeests, too! The train has just stopped suddenly - there's a giraffe on the railway track! I can see countless anthills, taller than a (full-sized) man. I have spotted herds of buffalo, mud huts, mountains that look blue in the mist . . . It's a bit like a lucky dip, not knowing what I'll see next, but with the wonderful knowledge that no treasure is going to get left behind. Two of the biggest thrills were seeing an okapi (a very rare mammal that is a cross between a zebra and a deer) and a dark brown monkey!

We have stopped for a while. Children younger than my eight-year old brother, are walking along by the side of the train selling food. Men of about eighteen walk along the side of the track to chase them off with a stick.

Lucky Wendy has just seen two black elephants, which I missed, because I was busy writing this! My first instinct was to envy her, as elephants are one of my favourite animals, but I soon snapped that thought out of my head; I have been so fortunate in seeing all the other animals, how could I possibly be jealous? Went to bed at 10:30.


Sunday May 18th - Mbeya
  We got up hurriedly at 6:30, as Richard said we were nearly there. Never believe an African's `nearly there' tactic it could mean something very different! We arrived in Mbeya at 8:15. What a welcome!
People were cheering, clapping, hugging and shaking hands. The women were doing a thing in which they say `ahhh' very high and wiggle their tongues. There was even a choir dancing and singing, `We welcome you,' and, `how are you?' I am so happy I could burst with joy.

We got on a mini bus and were driven straight to the pastor Kenneth's house, where we each had a soda, and then walked to church just half an hour later. Curious children followed and crowded around us. What were white people doing coming to their church?

There were four choirs: one in a blue uniform, one in a black uniform, an `Old man's choir', who wore something fairly posh, and a children's choir, who wore anything. They all sang and danced in perfect unison. I liked the children's choir especially. They were so bold the way they sang, and the lead singer was five years old!

Sharon and Hugo talked together about unity. Several people came forward and cried. We went out and prayed for them. Then we went for a meal at Kenneth and Joyce's house. I found the meat very chewy, and the rice filling. Slept well at the Karabuni centre, which is where we shall be staying.

Monday, May 19th - A Proposition!
  Woke at 7:30, thinking of the talk Hugo had given last night about using the gifts that Roho Mtakatifu (The Holy Spirit) has given us. My gift seems to be not wanting to wake up!
I missed breakfast. I had got up too late and, anyhow, wasn't in the mood for fried egg. Instead I had a shower. There are two knobs - one is scalding hot and the other freezing cold. There is an art, I'm sure, to managing the shower so you don't burn or freeze yourself to death.

While I'm in the bathroom, let me explain about the toilet, in case you are lucky enough to come to Africa! If you are fortunate, you will have a plastic covering with grips for your feet so you don't slip down the hole. If you are unfortunate, you will just have a hole, with flies in it. If you are very lucky, you will have toilet paper, a loo brush and no flies. If there is no paper, your left hand or leaves will do. (Poor Matt was given stinging nettles mixed into his!)

We went to the morning service. Because we are here they're having church twice every day. Kenneth talked about the vine and the branch. It must have been something mighty powerful, as it made at least ten women cry and the rest all looked pretty grave.



After a meal of fatty meat and potatoes (a wonderful break from rice) we went out to buy bus tickets, for those who are returning to Dar Es Salaam early with us. On the way there, we had just boarded a mini bus to get to the booking office when a teenage boy (at a guess around 16-18) banged on my window. I don't remember clearly, but I think he was trying to sell me something. `No?' He asked. As Wendy reported it, I said `hapana' with great authority!

He hooted with laughter and crossed his little fingers together. I asked Richard what that meant. Smiling an embarrassed smile, he told me the boy wanted to have `a relationship' with me. Don't get me wrong; I know what that means. He offered me a Leopard, the most common type of cigarette over here, which I don't think was a `come on,' but merely an act of friendship. Then he started showing me other teenage boys who were looking very eager and excited. Well, it was `uh-uh' to them - and to the cigarette.

I turned my back on them and began to talk and laugh a lot to Wendy, who acted well. It worked magnificently! (Though in truth I sure was glad there was a piece of hard glass between me and the teenagers, who were thumping hard on the bus.)

If it hadn't been for Richard, Hugo would have been thoroughly ripped off buying the tickets. On the way back Matt brought a leather football for 15,000 shillings. A plastic football wouldn't have lasted a day in a jungle of splinters, thorns and prickly hedges.

We got back late for the church meeting, and soon after we arrived Sharon started talking, crying out for people to humble themselves and be as innocent as a child. It took a long time for Sharon to find a child who would let her carry them, but at last a girl about five named Sara was placed in Sharon's arms and she was able to tell the story of Jesus and the little kids. I love that story. I am tired now so Lala Salama (sleep well).

Tuesday May 20th - Jesus and the Cripple
  Woke at 7:30. I'm still not having breakfast yet, and can still hardly manage the lunch which Kenneth kindly provides. I think the reason for this is because they serve me Dad-sized portions of rice. They call it 'Mount Kilimanjaro!'

At church Hugo gave a talk on Evangelism. Up came the subject of `Evangelistic football' - that is, a church picks five people who enjoy football, and tell them each to find a non-Christian friend who likes football too, then challenge another local church to do the same thing and have a competition. Afterwards the thirsty players go to some one's house for a soda where someone shares their testimony.

At the end of church the children gathered around me again. An elder explained they wanted me to teach them something in English - a song would be ideal. When I said I would the children all gave a cheer and rushed into the Church. Thinking rapidly, my mind whizzed back to my friend Jonathan, and of how we had sung songs together on the swings at a retreat centre. One of those songs was, We are marching in the light of God, which the children enjoyed.

The elder had arranged the benches so that the watoto (children) could sit facing me, like in school, though I doubt somehow that a usual school has quite so many eager students, nor quite such a young teacher with so many children on her lap!

We had rice, meat and tomatoes at Kenneth's house for lunch. I was so relieved when Dr Antoine requested a small portion for me. My own plea, `Kidogo chakula, tadfadhali,' (Small food please) doesn't seem to work.

The afternoon's service was about sin and the story of Jesus and the Cripple. I can just imagine how that beggar felt. Sad and sorry for himself. The dust oozing between his toes, his parched lips crying out for love and for water, his clothing worn and ragged, his deformed legs refusing to obey him when he told them to move. What is a wooden replacement leg compared to the amazing bones and flesh, blood and joints that must have taken God ages to design?

Slumped on the side of the road with an empty bowl, hoping that someone will be kind and fill it with something tasty to eat, or a little money. Hoping. You've got to be optimistic, haven't you? But encouraging thoughts soon crumble into ash, like a piece of paper on a bonfire that shrivels and curls until it is nothing more than something that once existed. How easy it is to burn things, and yet how impossible to recover them! Just like thoughts that keep up morale. Or like legs that will never walk again. Just like sin. Why did this disaster not strike down so-and-so who is much more sinful than me? Why me, Lord, why?

A little voice deep down inside tells you that you are just as sinful as everyone else. How would I be without legs? I wouldn't steal. I wouldn't commit murder . . . That little voice answers, `Thoughts.' Jealous thoughts. Angry thoughts. Despising thoughts. Sinful thoughts can be just as bad as evil things you can do with working legs. And what about words? Cutting words, sharper than a deadly knife. Slashing words. Hating, hurtful words, that kill. Then there's always lies. Wicked lies. Crafty lies. Sinful lies. And deeds. Just think: that last little incident with the . . . It's all sin to Me.

And sin is wicked. Evil; wrong. Sin is the thing that makes Me cry and mourn. Little sins become medium-sized ones, and medium sins become big, until they turn into enormous sins. And if you don't deal with Tiny Sin, Mr. Enormous Sin becomes too big to handle. (Sharon demonstrated this with three pieces of rope, short, medium and large. She showed how wrong sin is by pulling on the ropes until they all became the same length. Amazing!)

But why should I repent? I wish I was dead anyway, rather than left with only half a body that works. Yep, I'm afraid it has come to that.

Someone taps on your shoulder. You turn round, and there to your surprise are four of your friends. So the world isn't about to end after all! Eagerly, they cry, Jesus is in town . . . Yesu . . . the Messiah . . . They say He has the power to heal leprosy; He is not afraid of the lepers . . . Through God's power the deaf can hear, the blind can see . . . Come and see what wonders God's Son can perform!

The news hits you like a falling nazi (coconut). It's impossible to take it all in. A man who heals the sick, and does amazing miracles . . . who is not afraid to touch the lepers surely he could heal a cripple! Then something stabs you. Another thought. I am too sinful to approach the Son of God! Tears come to your eyes. But I'm sorry truly, honestly sorry. Is that enough?

The sound of excited voices forces you out of dream land. 'So, will you come? Yes?' `Of course,' You reply, your hopes rising. Who would want to miss out if Jesus is in town?

Your helpless body is rolled onto a mat, which is tied onto two poles and carried by your friends. At last, you arrive at the house where Jesus is talking. But alas, you cannot reach him because the crowd is overflowing out of the doors. You feel miserable, and frustrated! (I couldn't work out why Jesus wasn't preaching outside where more people could hear him? Maybe it was raining.)

Anyway, your friends are exhausted but, as the old saying goes, `never give up'! Up the stairs on the outside of the house and . . . well what's the point of doing that? You're just as far from Jesus as you were before. But your mat is gently put down, and they begin to dig. Huh? How can you dig roof?! But in those days the roofs and indeed, all the houses, were made of mud, dung, straw and horse hair. Perhaps they used a stick or just their bare hands.

Right, now you are standing in quite a few different people's shoes (or sandals - you know what I mean). First of all, there's the host. Wouldn't you feel the weeniest bit annoyed if your roof was deliberately demolished?! Secondly, the important people who were there. Embarrassed and disgusted. How dare these common people interrupt this meeting? Thirdly, Jesus. Well, I don't know what He was thinking but I reckon He sussed out what was happening pretty quickly. Lastly, the children - Wow! (But don't go getting any ideas from me about digging through roofs, kids!)
I doubt if there was space inside for a mat to be laid, but when pieces of dung began to fall on the official's faces, people would have begun to move out of the way fast!

Finally, the hole is dug. Several worried heads look down. Who knows - Jesus might be in the other room. But He's not. He's right there, still preaching just as if nothing unusual was going on. I bet He carried on talking right until the mat had been lowered down and the cripple healed.

Wow! Fantastic! Amazing! Cool! Brill! Ace! Wonderful! Stupendous! Incredible! Whoppee! Mzuri Sana, sana, SANA! .

I'm HEALED! I can WALK! I can PRAISE GOD WITH ALL OF MY BODY! I don't know what words he would have used, but he sure would have been leaping for joy.

Slept fairly well. PS Fizzy drinks have become my enemy. All that gas doesn't help when going to the loo. I can't understand why, at Burger King, I didn't just stick to good old English water.

Wednesday 21st May - Back to School!
  As usual, we left the Karabuni centre (which is the plural of `Karibu' - welcome) after reading some more of Acts together and praying in the cool chapel. On the way we met Richard, who was riding his red bicycle. He let me ride on it. Cool! If I had been about 10 inches taller my toes would have touched the ground, and the brakes didn't work. So what: in Africa, who cares about silly old English bicycle rules? I didn't - that is, until we came to a steep part and, out of control, I went straight into a knee-deep swamp. I pushed it out and, with some difficulty, managed to hop on board again. After all, I started to ride a tricycle when I was two!

Richard is a lovely man. He's 28 and wants to be an evangelist. He spent six months chopping wood to buy money for a guitar to give to the Church of God. He had a girlfriend, Adou, who he was going to marry but because his church split in two he lost both the guitar and the girl he was going to marry. This morning Emmanuel, who is a teacher at a Secondary school, took Helen, Wendy and me to visit a junior school. It was brilliant! It was an assembly held outdoors, over a hundred children sitting in a neat triangle watching us eagerly. Emmanuel began with a long prayer lasting about seven minutes. Then we explained why we were here in Tanzania, said how good it was to be here, and told them stories.


I taught them an English song, then translated it into Swahili (the teachers didn't object as it was thoroughly educational(!) At the end it was as if I had a hundred and one hands to shake! About nine girls recognized me from church, and waved to me from the doorway. I grinned and waved back.

Next we visited a Secondary school, which goes from age 14-19. (No-one could believe it when I told them I was in secondary-school in England). Delectable, tempting smells from the kitchen! It felt good to be alive.

We, that is, Helen, Tim, myself, and of course several children, mbu (mosquitoes) and Jesus went up for a prayer walk up on the mountain the same one we had climbed on one of our first days here, where I had met Philipo, Kenneth's son and Bento, his nephew. It's amazing how strong relationships with friends and family are over here.

On the mountain, in the middle of nowhere, there was an un-used mud brick garage which had a ramp to look at the underside of your car. You can really feel God's presence here. It's strange, but I find it easier to feel God coming close listening to the sound of `the local traffic jams' (cow bells) the wind rustling and the laughter of children than I do in my untidy English bedroom.

Then we went to Josiah's house, where we had a feast. There were savoury and sweet bananas, rice, meat, avocado and much much more! I drank Fanta instead of unpasteurized milk as I didn't want to risk any bugs. Back at the church I taught the children:

1, 2, 3, Jesus loves me.
1, 2, Jesus loves you .
3, 4 he loves you more
Than you've ever been loved before.

Richard translated it into Swahili for me:
Moja, mbili, tatu, Yesu aninpenda,
moja, mbili,
Yesu anakupenda.

We had to miss out the last bit as it was too complicated. Sharon, Hugo and Wendy talked about listening to God, and I told the people a story, which they seemed to appreciate. It's easier with a translator; it gives you time to think about what you want to say next.

Again we had samosa for tea. I usually only manage three altogether, although I could love them to their tiny mince-meat bits. Went to sleep early at 9:00.

Thursday 22nd May - Last Day in Mbeya
  This is my last whole day in Mbeya, and I am feeling sad. I almost feel I have been here months, and have become very settled in only a few days!

I have given my clothes to be washed which should work out at about 1000 shilingi. I'm now going to paint a picture with words about my bedroom, so I don't forget it. There is a grey marbled floor, and pine wood lines the ceiling. There are three beds which lean against the white wall - Wendy's, Helen's and mine. Each has a pink coverlet and a coloured sheet. Above all three beds is a mozzy net which twirls and looks a bit like one of those things people used to get changed in on the beach. Just above the ceiling is a small ledge, on which Wendy hangs her clothes. In the centre-back is a dark wood desk which is useful for storing bits and bobs such as hair brushes and a night light candle which Wendy lights for me when I go to sleep. Behind the desk are purple curtains and a mirror hanging by the door.

I made putting on sunblock fun by painting my face like a Native American Indian warrior, and put snazz into mozzy guard by spraying Jungle Juice as liberally as perfume, and doing designs with the roll-on and sunburn relief. 1000 shillings for a small pile of washing?! Hapana! It only cost 400 shillings(40p) - |Ikidogo sana!|i And having written all this waffle, I think I'll give my pen and wrist a bit of a rest!

At church we had communion which was very interesting. The wine was not coke, as we had half been expecting, but Ribena, and the flesh Jesus gave for us was small circles of thin bread that melt in your mouth you know the sort? Africans kneel much more than English people. I think they are right: there is a time to humble yourself before Jesus rather than stand stiff-legged with your hands clasped in a prayer that doesn't mean much.

After church we went to Eliza's house for lunch, with Emmanuel, Kenneth, Amber and our whole team, and then, after lunch Amber, Hugo, Helen and I walked to the market together. The others went back to the Karabuni centre to get some talks ready.

If someone had told me a year ago that I would be in Africa carrying long poles through the market, I doubt if I would have believed them. First we went to a shop which sold clothes and material. We purchased three pieces of cloth - one red, one yellow and one green, each a metre and a half long and a metre wide. I can just hear you saying 'What on earth for?' Just wait and be patient and you'll see for yourself!

We went to buy a huge rectangular chunk of wood, the type that is used for building houses. On the way through the two-foot wide mud lanes between the stalls several children recognised me. I guess a white girl called `Woosy' (which is how they pronounced my name), who sings songs with children and wears jungle juice isn't easily forgotten.

Amber and I carried the wood to the carpenters' stall. I found it quite heavy, but to show that white girls aren't complete weaklings who can't even carry a woven ring on their head, let alone a huge water gourd, I held my end high up level with Amber's, although it left my arm aching as he was taller than me.

In the shop (an open courtyard with corrugated iron stuck on flimsy poles for shade) were about seven people. One was a boy of about fourteen. I bet he has to work for his baba (father) or someone, who gives him low wages.

First of all they split the wood lengthwise, then cut that in half so there were four quarters. Then they rounded and smoothed them with a thing that took the place of sandpaper and looked a little like a metal iron (sandpaper doesn't last, whereas this does.)

All this only cost 700 shillings (70p) but Hugo gave them 1000 (1.00) It was worth it, don't you think? Much cheaper than popping down to B&Q, at any rate! Can you guess what we wanted all these items for? Ndiyo - flags!

We had the pieces of material sewn so that the end part flapped over two inches and sewn up, then across the top but not the end, like a pocket. Helen told me to stand still and pose, then turned and took a snapshot of the old sewing machine that would sell for about 500,000 shilingi. Sneaky! But she tried that tactic once too often - she was about to take a photo that would come out really well: six banana stalls standing in a row with the sun's rays beaming through. She thought she could get away with it but, no! A fat African lady started shouting and yelling at us and demanding money. She didn't like photos of her stall being taken.

Amber tried to explain we were sorry and wouldn't do it ever again but she kept on yelling at us until we silently plodded away. Ebu! (I say) - Quite impressive really that someone had so much temper. Although I hardly dared to show it, inside my heart was bubbling over with laughter. A little later after that incident Emmanuel said they thought we were spies. Spies indeed! (We were later told, she could have thought we would take the photo back to England, show it to people and laugh at their poverty.)

Before we fixed the material on, we marched proudly through the market stalls. Each of us except Helen were carrying the poles, and by chance had made a circle around her. I thought she looked like a very rich muzungu princess being escorted to her palace in all her fine robes. Helen said she felt more like a heavily guarded prisoner being taken to court. `You're weird!' people shouted, and I heartily agreed with them. Imagine yourself walking through the market of your own town with a pole almost twice your height with eyes staring at you as if you are a Masai warrior with gold and orange bangles and the traditional knife. 'Mimi geni sana mzungu!' (I am a very strange white person!)

We walked back together along the dusty roads, and on the way two little girls, after much whispering, came up and curtsied to us. I tried to look at them as if to say, `we are white, yes, and although Helen may look like one, she is not a princess neither am I, for that matter; I'm a kid just like you, although I'm older, I still do some of the things you do,' but my Swahili wasn't up to saying all that, so I just smiled. I waved the flags at the meeting with Hugo, though I didn't dare ripple them over the congregation as he did because I might have knocked someone's head with the pole, which would have, been . . . slightly embarrassing!

Sharon talked about receiving the Holy Spirit and being open for Him, to let Him wash you like Jesus washed his disciples' feet. Some people, including me, actually got their feet washed this morning when Kenneth was talking on that part of the Bible, although he was really talking about washing on the inside, where no soap or brush can ever reach. Which reminds me of a lady who came to the front to give her life to the Lord. Sharon and I prayed for her, and soon she began speaking fluent English. Bwana Sephua! (Praise God!) These were her words: `Jesus, the washer, the cleaner, the cleanser, Jesus the healer, the helper, oh Jesus the refresher.' We learnt baddi (later) that she had only been able to speak Kiswahili. Amazing!

We finished the service the way we always do; with the people going out of the church dancing and singing, shaking hands in a row and forming a circle - so that everybody gets to shake everybody's hand. I was about to sing with the children for one last time, but Kenneth took me by the hand to a quiet corner of the church, and his daughter Mary presented me with a beautiful rush mat. Oh, I just couldn't begin to express how thankful I was - asante sana (thank you very much) just didn't seem to be enough.

Osward asked me to send photos of myself, my family, my friends and my class mates, which I was more than happy to promise to do. It will help us keep in touch.

I sang for a short time with the children, and tried as gently as I could to explain to the older ones that I would not be coming again tomorrow. But it stung so much when the younger children said their usual `Kesho, Tutana Kesho, Tomorrow!' It hurt so much. It stabbed inside me. I wouldn't be coming back tomorrow.

Had my last shower at the Karabuni centre, deciding not to wash my hair as it's too much hassle. Slept well.

Friday 23rd May - Return to Dar-es-Salaam
  Woke up and had a mouthful of cereal bar to keep me going through the day. I packed my bags tying them tightly and stripped my bed down. Enoch taught me a Swahili song that I enjoyed, but can hardly remember now. Tim has the words, which I will copy soon. Then we all squatted or stood to pose for a photo.

Richard was muttering something like `Must sit down next to Ruthie, yes, sit down by Ruth'. Richard is very gentle and caring. So is Amber - in fact, Amber's name is a shortened Swahili word which means `caring'.

We left in a jam-packed taxi. I felt sad leaving them all behind, but cheered myself up a little by thinking that I was going to see Richard again. The station was the same, except that there was no choir, no children to greet us, and no women waggling their tongues. On the train we had ugali - how can anyone actually enjoy eating pure maize starch? It tastes rubbery and reminded me of wallpaper paste - which isn't the nicest thing to have for lunch.Chips and cabbage for tea; not as bad as the ugali. I still wave to all the children I see out of the window. Slept quite well.

Saturday 24th May   -   A very different church

Woke at 6:30, partly because of a cockerel on board the train. Don't believe that they only crow three times: it isn't true! Helen and I are on the top bunks, and Tim and Hugo are on the bottom.  I can't express what a joy it is having the wind blow past your face as you lean out of the window.  Believe it or not, at one of the stations I saw the same boy who was a Christian and could read who we met at our children's meeting' on the side of the railway.  I recognised his face.  I saw some buffalo and deer, and a whole group of monkeys prowling  -  at first they looked a bit like dogs.

Breakfast was very dry egg and very dry bread and a nice sweet banana which Tim had bought from the side of the train for 500 shillings.  I carefully tipped the whole of my contents of milky tea out of the window.  All I hope is that no-one in the carriage behind us had their face out of the window! Hugo, too, was generous in feeding the ants outside.

Helen isn't feeling well.  I think it's the fresh milk she drank at Josiah's house.  I worry for her, but gave her the sick bag I had got on the aeroplane.  What's the point of fussing if you can do a little something to help?

We waited for while to get off the train as everyone was rushing and there wasn't much room.  We were forced to pass our bags out of the window to Hugo, who had managed to get out quickly.  We were greeted by the Pastor Reuben.  My usual greeting to someone older than me is Shikmoo - or Jambo to someone younger.

We were driven in a car which was lovely and cool with relaxing music to where we are staying  -  the YWCA (The Young Womens' Christian Association)  We dropped off our bags in the bedroom which I am sharing with Helen.  It's basic but fine; we have a sink, curtains, two beds and a cupboard each, along with a chair that is more useful for throwing clothes on than for sitting.  I rested a little and then we went to church.

This church in Dar-Es-Salaam is so different from the Pentecostal Stable Church in Mbeya! For one thing, it has a roof.  The choir didn't smile and only had two men in it.  The lead singer had a microphone.  The windows are those concrete patterns which let in some air.  Children come up and stare through these, and someone slaps their hand down on the concrete, as if they were flicking away a fly on a dinner plate.  However, there were fans and electricity and even electric guitars.

Hugo introduced us all and explained that Sharon, Matt and Wendy would be coming later on.  He spoke about the holy well at which Jesus talked with the woman.  He talked about it with such enthusiasm my ears were pricked up all the time.  Went back to the YWCA and slept well, without having tea.

Sunday 25th May - Come Holy Spirit
  Woke at 6:15 and had a breakfast of dry white bread and a savoury banana, after an absolutely freezing cold shower, which pours brown, and seemingly dirty water from a simple tap above your head that dares to call itself a shower.

Grace and Daniel met us at the entrance, and drove us in the back of the jeep to church. Arrived there at 9:15.

Actually the routine goes like this:
8:00 to 9:00 - worship, praising with songs, praying on your own, reading the Bible etc.
9:00 to around 10:00 Bible study. This is known as Sunday School and they go from passage to passage so fast I nearly gave up on turning all the pages to find another verse which doesn't seem to have anything in common with the previous one.
The main service is from 10 till 1, with pastor Reuben speaking. As Helen played her song, many people, including myself, were deeply moved.

Afterwards, we went to the place where Grace lives. We had a wonderful lunch. I got full up to the brim, and relaxed by looking at photos with Grace.

At church Hugo talked about letting the Holy Spirit come into your heart. Many people were touched and started praying in tongues. Then he asked all the people who were being called to tell others about Jesus to come forward and be prayed for. Hugo asked me to pray for them, and I had to do it with the microphone and a translator - which is very different to praying just with the team or privately to God. I can't remember a single word I said other than asking the Lord to open the gates of uhuru (freedom) for these people to be able to speak about their love for Jesus, and that their desire to share their faith would be satisfied as a thirsty child's thirst is quenched by water.

We went and prayed for these people separately. One woman I prayed for fell over after a few minutes. A man helped me lower her. I learnt later that she was really touched by the fact that the Lord can use a child to help grown-ups, and to pray, just as an adult can. So come on kids, start praying about something different rather than `Dear God, Hello. You know, everyone else in my class has got one. Everyone I know has too. It's only a little thing, Jesus. I really want . . . no, I really need it, Lord. Please get it for me. Please.'! The books You can change the world, and Operation World helped me to start praying for other countries.

After church I went out and blew bubbles with the children, with me sitting in the back of the truck. 'Mimi! Mimi! Let me blow the bubbles!' they all cried. As Hugo says, with bubbles and Jesus, you can go far. They ran so fast after us to say goodbye!

Slept well - I think I've almost mastered the art of going to sleep by just curling up, shutting your eyes and thinking of nothing but the fact that you must get to sleep.

Monday 26th May - A Mud Bath
  Woke up feeling exhausted. Had another freezing shower and checked to see if the clothes I washed with soap and shampoo last night were dry. They weren't. Had savoury banana and bread for breakfast. We studied Acts some more as a group. At 9:30 Alfred, a friend from church, came to take Helen, Tim and me shopping to buy a guitar for Richard. On our expedition we found two acoustic ones. The first one we looked at was 300,000 shillings! (300) and the second was totally duff but still cost 100,000 shillings. Hapana!

We brought some souvenirs; I got a thumb piano, some wooden whistles for friends and - this is the best - a hunter's bow and arrow! I'm told it is the type used by the Masai tribe, but these particular arrows haven't shot anything - thank goodness! We came back around lunchtime and I filled myself up with tough chicken and chips at the YWCA's canteen.

Hugo came back from church and together we went to the bus station to meet Sharon, Matt, Wendy and Richard, who had just returned from Mbeya. I was very excited when we got on board the truck. It was sure good to see them all again. I never realized how much a person can miss rafikis (friends). We went back to the YWCA for a soda.

Hugo and Sharon gently broke the news to Richard that we hadn't been able to get him a guitar. I'm not sure if he understood it all, but I hated to see the disappointment on his face. Now he tells us that he wants an electric guitar but the Pentecostal Stable Church hasn't even got electricity! I know I shouldn't laugh, but it seems a bit funny. Just so long as he worships the Lord with it I don't care what he gets!

We hopped in the back of the truck and stopped half way to drop Richard off. I was sorry to see him go. It was he who revised my Swahili and taught me to count. He made sure we were not cheated when we bought bus tickets, was our faithful travelling companion, and has become my friend.

Well, we carried on driving - that is, as far as we could, because someone had dug a trench and filled it with water to stop us coming. I got out with Tim and the driver to inspect it. A teenage boy came in and told us he would show us another way. We reversed and drove over the school compound on a track, until we got stuck.

I jumped out of the back of the truck when it started to move backwards and, not particularly wanting to get run over, I ran left and jumped into - guess what? A knee-deep muddy swamp! Worse things followed. Some children came running up to see what was happening. They began to push the pick-up truck and so did I, if only to show that not all mzungus are afraid of dirt. But of course I had to stand in the worst possible place, didn't I? Right behind the wheel and when the wheel began to spin . . .

I'm sure you can figure out what happened next. I got completely splattered. I looked like a dripping mud pie like the ones I used to make when I was a kid. It was a very cheap and disgusting way of getting a mud bath. I didn't know whether to be horrified or to burst out laughing, but at least I didn't look much like a white person any more!

`Mama' took me by the hand, and we both ignored people's gasps, although I was a bit embarrassed at the way people stared at me and at how she cuddled me in the state that I was in. She took me into a small courtyard and washed down with water from a well, which cleaned me up - although the water wasn't much cleaner than the puddle I had just jumped into! I said asante so many times she began to chuckle. Went to bed early.

Tuesday 27th May   -   Final Moments

Woke up to the sound of heavy rain.  Oh great  -  now we wouldn't be able to go to the beach with Grace.  Oh well, we went shopping again instead and I got some more gifts for friends, including whistles, wooden animals, mini thumb pianos and a bar of spice soap.

We all went for a drink at the Sheraton a ghali (expensive) but lovely hotel.  I had fruit crush which is a gorgeous combination of fruit juices with pineapple on top.  Mmmmm! I stayed to finish a game I was playing with Tim which is a wooden board with places to fit stones in and you have to capture each other's stones.

We walked back to the YWCA where we met Grace and her friend who had just come back from work.  It was now about 4:00 and they wanted to take us to the beach, but unfortunately it was too late, so we went for a soda at the cafe, and Grace told us interesting things about her job.

We rode back in a different truck.  Helen and I chatted to Grace and her friend: all the kind of things that you talk about when you know you're not going to see each other again for a long time, including all about the man Grace wants to marry.

When we arrived at the airport, we found almost the whole church waiting to say goodbye to us.  I have become a good friend of Mr Allen, and I plan to write to him, as I do Kenneth, Kenneth's church, Grace and Neema.  Lots of other people wanted my address and gave me theirs.

I felt sort of weird and floating when I said goodbye to them.  We checked in and I brought a `Learn Swahili' T-shirt for Tim, my younger brother.  I know I shouldn't say this, but believe it or not I have actually been missing him!

As we boarded the plane something took hold of me.  Fear, maybe  no, just the fact that I don't want to leave.  A lump is building in my throat; hot tears come to my eyes . . .  wanting to fall but being resolutely held back.  The plane is shaking, just like it did when it set off to Tanzania, but this time all I can see are street lights, and then the pitch blackness of the sky.  My heart thumps and my pulse is racing as I admit the truth: I'm leaving.

I tried to comfort myself by playing with the outside of Baby-Bel cheese, modelling people crying and people with no arms of legs yet still trying to walk, but it didn't help much.  I guessed the only thing I could do was to go to sleep, which I did, reluctantly.

We arrived at Gatwick early morning where we met Helen's husband and my Mum and Dad.  We had a good reunion at the airport, but how could I say I was glad to be back?! The English weather was its usual boring self: cold, wet and foggy.

Something inside was trying to tell me that my adventure was over.  I'm back home, and school starts again on Monday.  Yuck! But then another, cheeky little voice is whispering to me: Uh-uh, mate; you'll be back again! And you must never moan or try to forget it, wishing it had never happened.  After all, you can't shake off the happiest memories of your life, can you?' I grin when I hear this.  You can't.

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Page last updated
27 Mar 2013