Amazing Grace

Been up to some interesting stuff in the past couple of days. So here’s a quick update. Yesterday morning we all went to the Lutheran Church where Baptiste (our cook) worships. Grace (one of the teachers) was kind enough to attend with us and drove us in her truck. It was quite an experience. Although the sermon and worship was in Swahili, the people were very welcoming and our presence was greeted with much enthusiasm. The service was possibly the longest service I have ever sat through and it involved a lot of standing up, sitting down again and clapping of hands. The choir there was awesome and Baptiste is arranging for a few CDs to be ordered that the church choir has produced as a memento of the day. After the service finished we walked outside and Ben volunteered to say a few words on behalf of the volunteers, interpreted into Swahili by Grace, to express our appreciation for being welcomed into the church so enthusiastically. We were then taken aside by a group from the church and went back into the building. They told us they wanted to spend some time with us and we went around introducing ourselves. The climax of the morning came when we proceeded to sing Amazing Grace together, the volunteers in English and the locals in Swahili, which is a memory I will never forget. To join hands and worship with these local people was something special. Very touching. Afterwards Baptiste invited us all back to his house where we sat in his crowded living room for a while and talked with him and his family. It was a joy to welcomed into his family home.

The church choir + volunteers

The church choir + volunteers

After returning home we had a quick lunch before Gerrard, one of our drivers, took us into Mewnge to the wood market for a bit of shopping. The wood market is a strip of 30 or more small wooden shops that are crammed full of beautiful hand crafted African merchandise; wooden ornaments, paintings and drawings lined dozens makeshift shelves in each shop. As we walked from shop to shop people would crowd around us trying to sell us something or get us to come into their shop. In every shop I was greeted graciously with exclamations of ‘brother, I give you good price here’. It was really quite an intense experience. If you see something you like, you ask how much and the shopkeeper replies with a high starting price. You then engage in a bartering game, and eventually agree on a price around half of the original offer. I was looking forward to partaking in a bit of bartering at the market, but I did find it a difficult activity to engage in. I was very conscious of getting a reasonable price for my purchases whilst providing the merchants with a good profit to go home a feed their their families. The merchants were obviously very used to bartering and were good at playing this game. Many of them told me they had no money and needed my business and some followed me the entire length of the market. But it was a great experience, and I will be better prepared for next time if we make a return trip. Plus, I made some good purchases.

Shopping at the Mwenge wood market

Shopping at the Mwenge wood market

In the evening we went down to the beach where some local people were preparing some fresh fish and chips for us for dinner (Sunday is Baptiste’s day off). I had prearranged this with a local chap called Phil whom I met on the beach last week, who was more than happy to provide this service to us. We should have asked for a price before they started cooking because he tried to charge us 10,000 shillings each, but we managed to barter it down to 5,000 (around GBP2.50) including a camp fire. The fish was so fresh you could almost taste the salt water.

The mood was slightly dampened later in the evening when we heard the distinct sound of a dog being shot by a local further up the beach. This was particularly discomforting considering that we had asked the Phil to keep a couple of stray dogs that were hanging around us earlier away from the food, and he obliged by kicking one of them. I don’t like to think about whether those two incidents are connected in any way. We finished the evening off with a few drinks in the safety of the hotel bar looking over the private section of the beach.

Teaching class

Teaching class

Today work recommenced at the school, albeit with a few changes as two volunteers left on Saturday and we decided to split the huge morning class into two. Myself, Steve, Ben (aka the Brits) and Laural taught the higher group of youngsters in a small outbuilding. We have been conducting tests on the kids this last week to establish an understanding of their relative levels of intelligence and separate the class accordingly. Initially, the higher class will only consist of a handful of the brighter kids. However, over time this will grow and we will eventually split the lower group into 2 to form a third class. The outcome of this morning’s teaching was very positive; I felt we achieved a lot more than we would have done in a larger class as the smaller group was much more manageable. In the afternoon session myself, Steve and Laural took the middle class as Roxanne is now helping out in Maggie and Robbie’s class (who are leaving later this week). This was very enjoyable, and it’s nice that I am beginning to fill an established role within the school. These are indeed good times

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