It was an hour or so before dusk when Florian came to our door and Susan gave him a seat in the living room and called for me. It was too dark in the house for me to see his face and so I said let's go outside and go for a walk the two of us.
So, what do you want young man?
Everyone -- all our students, people in the village, really everyone -- is just thrilled that last night the big D6 bulldozer arrived! Work has begun in earnest at the college clearing out three additional meadows -- we have a lab building to build in one meadow, 4 new lecture halls planned for a second meadow, and in a big meadow way to the back of the campus we're going to put in three more houses for professors. Once that's all done, we're going to use that bulldozer to put in a serious firebreak -- a huge road -- that will completely surround our entire 55-acre campus.
A decade ago here in Tanzania, the song "Jesus will wipe away all of our tears" was wildly popular and I remember that our bus driver would play it over and over as he drove people on the three-hour trip all the way to Lugoda Hospital for AIDS treatment. Back in those days, people were only starting to come into the idea that AIDS was a disease you could live with, hope was in short supply, and it seemed that tears flowed all the time. People liked that song.
I remember the first time I was confronted with the reality that using the names of people and not their numbers upset the government medical personnel. We were distributing people's files on a HIV/AIDS clinic day a few years back and I got scolded and told that we were the ONLY clinic in the whole region that used names -- and the head doctor didn't mean that as a compliment. She really was angry. I remember that it really struck me odd that using names and not numbers would be so disturbing –especially in a place where people have never gone to school and consequently don’t know numbers.
When we came to the first bridge I knew we were in trouble. The river was a torrent and water had already risen right up to the bottom of the bridge. I could see that on the other side of the bridge part of the road had already been washed away. My heart sank.
The last official moments of our leadership conference were over by 9 pm, but the distribution of everything from textbooks to soccer jerseys, receipt books to report cards went on until way past midnight. And then at 2:30 in the morning, the first bus pulled away from our college campus where we had held the conference to take people to town so they could start catching buses and trucks that would take everyone back to our schools scattered over the eight regions of this country. All day I've been receiving SMS messages on my phone, and tonight the first of those are actually getting home.
Sometimes I just can’t help but marvel at how people who are dying or losing loved ones have time to remember to make sure you are comfortable in their homes when you go to visit them. How many times have I visited someone near death who quickly comes to life barking orders to “get the chairs for the visitors!” I marvel at it all. In addition to their hospitality, their generosity is simply humbling. As soon as they have something to share, they share it. I might be coming to bring them a blanket, some fruit, a mattress, but in return there is always a gift.
We had walked down the hill around the corner and we were standing in the middle of a meadow on the college campus, surrounded by these beautiful towering pines, on the place where we’re going to build the chapel one day.
Three weeks ago, a note folded many times over and squeezed in a sweaty hand was passed along to me sometime during a long, hectic day at our HIV/AIDS clinic. It was only in the evening that I had time to carefully unfold it and give it some thought. It started out with the usual, ever so polite Tanzanian greetings that are such a part of life here. First of all, I begin with greeting you – Shikamoo!
Every time I have heard people talk about celebrities from America coming to Africa, I have found myself strangely relieved that we live in such a remote village. I figured it would mean I would never have to worry about any celebrities choosing to come here.