The thing I’m finding out about Africa is that everything and everyone gets up really early and then makes enough noise that you have no option but to get up too. My first recollection this morning is this cockerel crowing (not thrice but continually while its still dark and sunrise is seemingly hours away - well in my head anyway). No self respecting chicken should be opening its beak before the sun comes up as far as I am concerned, but this guy is just making a nuisance of himself! Just when I think hes quit making his racket, it turns out that he’s woken the birds and they are now chirping – still no sign of the sun. The birds are louder than the cockerel – what time is it! The birds wake the dogs – same ones that were late to bed last night because of their bowl chasing adventures. Does anything on this continent ever lie in? Before I know it,the skies lighten and the trucks and people start. Its official, nighttime is over and that means for me too.
So, after getting breakfast and preparing our pack lunches – which are limited due to the ingredients available (ham is typically not good here, cheese is expensive, tomatoes are there but nothing really to accompany them) - we are ready to head to Msalata school to do our first Bible clubs and start painting classrooms. We split into two teams to tackle these tasks – Ellie, Matthew, David, Zara and Robin in one team and Craig, Chris, Thomas, Dan, Beth and Chloe in the other.
Arriving at the school we are greeted initially by a few brave souls who approach the Masungu (or something like that!) and use their English to say hello! We try to return the gesture by saying hello back in Swahili – Mambo – to which the response from the children is Poa. If you pronounce Mambo incorrectly we find out you get a quizzical look (mamba means crocodile!) Who are these Masungu coming to our country and calling us crocodiles?
Soon however everyone is around us – and all know more English than any of us know Swahili – especially the class joker. He is stringing together sentences – looking at his mates – getting answers to the questions he has asked and then either coming back with further comments or laughing and walking away followed by his adoring hoard. But the smile you get from him as he completes his conversation with the white folks means that you don’t really care how much fun he has made of you in front of his friends.
So we head to work. The Bible club team have a classroom of 67 lined up in their desks. We have choruses, Bible talk, craft and a memory verse for them and Consalito (aka Consuela, or just call me Connie) will be our translator. For the first chorus - “Praise ye the Lord – Alleluia” or should I say “Bwana Asifiwe – Alleluia” we explain the stand up sit down actions and are subsequently greeted by the most enthusiastic response imaginable. (When Thomas in the afternoon was doing the actions with his class, sitting down invoked a rather large split in the shorts department! Always check your equipment is suitable before you start an activity!)
Jesus’ Love is very wonderful was essentially an actions only song for the kids as we didn’t have a translation for that song, but it was clear that they all loved it.
After our talk about how the colours Gold, Black, Red, White and Green remind us of the promise of salvation, we started into trying craft with 67 10 or 11 year olds – making bead bracelets. These went well on the whole – it was typically only when the Musungu came over to help tie bracelets that beads ended up on the floor!
Yohana 3:16 was very well repeated by everyone in the class and two brave souls decided that they would try John 3:16 (in English). Both were successful and were rewarded with Haribo (the international currency of the under 12’s). Before setting out onto the playing field/waste ground/rocky barren patch of dirt about the size of a football pitch that no one back home would ever consider playing games on, we gave sweets to the whole class and had them pose for photos (bolt or dab being well known such poses)
The other international language – football – then came to the fore with peoples favourite teams and players being requested. Obviously Barcelona, Argentina,Lionel Messi and Ronaldo came up, but it was good that there is a more cultured group within this school that are Manchester United and Paul Pogba fans. We even found a Harry Kane fan!
On the playground,the parachute game took a little explaining to the morning group. However once they got the idea, all were keen to try to trap those trying to cross before they completed their crossing. We tried this in English and Swahili. Again, frequent quizzical looks – did I say red or did I call them something else I didn’t mean. The Football (or Mpire) didn’t need explaining. A fifteen a side game on a pitch with a rocky outcrop for a centre circle quickly ensued. You may think it is charming watching a mob of young Tanzanian children run around a dirt playing field all chasing the ball emulating their TV heroes, however there was nothing charming as far as the kids were concerned. Several eyewatering challenges that would have had referees or VAR officials reaching for the red card occurred and were seen as commonplace. The injured party was stood around by the rest until he got back up and then off we went again. Our game would have gone on all day without any enthusiasm waning – even if the Musungu had to go to lunch or paint. When a penalty was awarded for his team, the insistence was that David take the penalty kick – which he scored and was then instantly mobbed by his teammates.
The girls weren’t to be left out. They had a game which was played with a tennis ball where someone had to try to avoid being hit by the other girls throwing that tennis ball. No gentle lobs here – think baseball pitching from 8 feet. The girls here take no quarter. Lose and you bruise!
While the Bible club was going on the other team each time were painting two classrooms in the school. While childrens classrooms in Tanzania still have their students work adorning the walls like we have back in Northern Ireland, it is nice at times to have nice bright walls rather than old dirty ones. So, base coats on today. Top coats and artwork (lets hope this goes well!) tomorrow.
After the afternoon club completed we headed back to the kids4school lodge to both clean up our equipment, debrief and prepare for tomorrow. The Tanzanian catering crew again did us proud with the food selection and the quality and quantity of it.
We did our Bible study on the Gospel message and in particular defining concisely what this is, sang a couple more favourite songs – which I think sounded very well despite a lack of accompaniment and headed for bed.
One message above all others was made clear. No banging doors (even though this is the only way to properly shut them) and keep the noise down (boys) otherwise Jackie will be stringing someone up in the morning. Which reminds me – those dogs are asleep tonight. No bowl chasing. Maybe they are expecting an early call from the rooster….