Today was my first day off. I suppose it will be my only day off before leaving for my next stop. I woke up early, but decided to go back to sleep instead of doing my grading for Gateway, grading for the class here, writing a sermon for tomorrow, reviewing the D.Min. prospectus for a candidate I am supervising…well, you get the idea. I probably should have been doing something besides sleeping. Nevertheless, it felt pretty good.
Pastor and I went out for breakfast, ending up eating at a French place called, appropriately enough, Paul. We both ordered croissant and café which made our waiter turn up his nose. Funny how quickly Africans can learn French snobbery.
After breakfast, we collected the pastor’s wife and a driver and headed to the new school the pastor’s mission has been building. It will be the only secondary school in the area. Now, people who live in the area have to ship their kids off to live in the city at the ripe age of 12. Pastor says that people have been begging him to build a secondary school since he arrived some 20 years ago. The school will open for business in September.
The school is really something, large enough for hundreds of young people. Workers were busy painting, laying grass, and putting finishing touches on the buildings when we arrived. Pastor fell into supervising the work almost immediately. I’m seeing that he has a real heart for things to be done right. I had brought my camera; really, it’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to get it out since I arrived. I contented myself to snapping pictures of the buildings, the workers, the lizards. I even took a picture of an old corn cob.
There were a few kids hanging around; kids of the workers, I presume. One of them was half sweeping, half playing with the homemade broom. When he saw me, he made his way toward me, sweeping as he went. I asked if I could take his picture; he seemed thrilled and quickly gave up sweeping for posing. Perhaps his true calling is not as a construction site sweeper. I would guess him at 9 or 10. A younger kid saw me, seemed a little timid at first, then yelled, “Le Blanc,” and ran to me and wrapped his arms around my legs. When a guy—smaller yet—saw his friend do that, he followed suit. The little one had managed to get on a shirt before heading to the worksite, but nothing else. Yikes. Fortunately, it was a long shirt.
Another kid showed up and all but the littlest took it on themselves to keep me entertained for the remainder of the time at the school. They loved the camera and kept wanting to grab it away from me. I let them shoot a few frames while I held onto the camera, but…well, I really need the camera for the next trip. After just taking pictures got old, they started showing me their Karate moves. The oldest let me know through a combination of French and sign language that he is the premier Karate artist in the province. I don’t doubt it. The younger of the three kept rough-housing with him and got a couple of bumps. But the tears I kept expecting never came. He is a tough little guy.
After Karate, they started singing for me with motions. I have no idea what they were saying…well, except the last song is the song, “I will dance like David danced.” I’ve mostly heard it in Spanish. But these guys had verses I had never dreamed of. And each verse had its own motions.
When pastor called to me to let me know he was ready to go, I headed up front with three kids dragging along behind. As I got in and drove away, they were waving and yelling, “Aurvior.” The pastor laughed at me and said, “I see you have made some friends.” I told him I thought they just liked my camera. “Ha. I don’t think so,” he said. “They are sad you are leaving.”
We drove back into town and had Pho for lunch. The pastor seems to be a big fan of Vietnamese food. Second time we’ve been there in 7 days.
We dropped his wife back at the house and went to a craft center. I don’t know how to describe it. I suppose it is a tourist trap, when is a funny thing to have in a country that really has nothing for tourists to come see. But, I wanted to add to my mask collection. I should probably let it go, but I think there are a few more square inches on my office wall. The shopkeepers are high-pressure sales men and they are good at it. I no more got through the door than one of them was trying to bargain with me on a wooden carving I had just looked at twice. After dragging myself away from a few shops I found a mask that I liked in my price range. It was something typical to this area. I gave the shopkeeper about half of what he had asked for. He acted like I had just taken the food right out of his baby’s mouth, but I somehow think he did ok. And then, somehow, he convinced me to buy a carved rhino. OK, it is pretty cool. A few other small things and I was out of money. In fact, the driver had loaned me a few thousand just to finish up the last deal. (That’s right, everyone one here carries thousands in their pocket. One thousand is worth about $2.)
The day has been restful, but I’ve got to go over the sermon I’m planning to share in the morning. Yikes!