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
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
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
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
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
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 -
||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.
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
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!'
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.