24 June 2010

Things You Should Know About Me and My Dad

Because I have not updated this recently, and because I was a crappy daughter and missed Father's Day (and Mother's Day, but let's not dwell on that just now), this will be a "mash-ups" post where I will try to give you items of interest about my life here in Dodoma and then somehow link them to how cool my dad is. Let's see how many I can do!

1. As every person on this continent and in the city of Portland know, the World Cup is on right now. For my friends in less enlightened parts of America, this is a very big deal. It's been difficult to establish any kind of loyalty so far since no East African teams made it through, but America did, but I feel somewhat obligated to cheer for African teams like Nigeria and Ghana. We did cheer loud enough to disturb our friend's neighbors when USA scored that brilliant goal last night. All these matches I've been watching remind me of my dad because pretty much any football-related comment I make to impress my male African friends is pure regurgitation of things I heard from my dad during years of watching my brother and sister play football/soccer and the brief time I played under him on my high school's co-ed team. (The team needed girls, he was the coach, ergo, I played.) When I criticized Honduras for standing around watching while their shots bounced out, I remember my dad's mantra to always follow your shot (also basketball advice). When I screamed at the forwards from Australia for always scooting around to shoot with their right foot, I remember my dad's pride the one time I accidentally scored a goal because the ball just basically ricocheted off of my left foot into the goal (but it still counts, even if it's an accident). The guys have been very impressed with my understanding of the game, entirely thanks to my dad.

2. We have a volunteer from Mennonite Central Committee staying with us. Her name is Rachel, and we have been enlightening her in the awesomeness that is the first season of Friday Night Lights, a television show about a high school (American)football team in Dillon, Texas. (If anyone wants to send me additional seasons of FNL, I'd be grateful.) The other day we were watching this episode where a guy gets in the coach's daughter's face and is telling her that they should start packing because her dad wasn't going to make it in that town. Coach Taylor goes over and leans real close to the guy and gives a little speech about how ridiculous the guy is because he's picking a fight with a 15-year-old girl, etc. Something about what he said and how he said it totally reminded me of how my dad talks to men who use their strength to try to intimidate women. I told my roommates that if anyone ever make a movie about my life, I want that actor to play my dad. Also, my dad loves and coaches American football, and he instilled that love in me, so much so that I was the only girl in my college's "Football Coaching Theory" class. My dad was so proud he even drove to Linfield to help me draft plays for my final presentation. I got one of the top grades in the class, shaming many guys who'd been playing football all their lives. Also, because of his training, I was able to explain to Leah what the ref meant when he told the boys to "only hit what they see".

3. We sing a lot here. A lot. Nearly every meeting starts with at least one song from the songbook (a little orange book called the Tenzi Za Rohoni). Many of the songs we sing are English hymns that have been translated to Swahili. Every morning before work we have devotions and we sing three songs from the Tenzi, often the same songs over and over and over, but then, miracle of miracles, two days ago we sang a new song: number 82, "Sioni Haya Kwa Bwana", a rough translation of my dad's favorite hymn, "At the Cross". The chorus, in English, says "At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my sins rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day." When I was little, I remember singing that with my dad in the car, and having a mental image of being at a stoplight and having a big backpack of sins roll away down the hill.

4. Related to music, I have joined New Life Choir, the young people's choir at the church. I was in choir with my mom when I was in high school, and I always sang in my high school's vocal ensembles, but this is a whole new ball game. In addition to singing in public, in Swahili, we dance. This is not American dancing either, where a choir might sway back and forth, but hard-core, sweaty, choreographed dancing. I've been thinking of how glad my dad would be to see me doing this because he was always concerned about the fact that I haven't really rebuilt the strength in my right leg since I broke it six years ago. Being in choir is probably the best physical therapy I could be doing, since we jump up and down, we jump side to side, we shift our weight from one leg to the other while doing stuff with our hands, and there's even one dance where we spend half of the song sliding our right legs backward and forward. It's exhausting, and I have had a fair number of mornings spent rubbing IcyHot into my back, shoulders, and hips, especially after our twice monthly all night practices. That's right. All night, as in starts at 9pm and ends at 4am. Anyway, I'm sure my dad would be thrilled at the range of movement I'm forcing my leg through, and when we reach the fifth consecutive hour of dancing and I just want to fall down, I hear him telling me "Don't let anyone know you're hurt!" and I keep pushing, because my daddy didn't raise no quitter.

5. When Rachel came to stay with us, she was given a bicycle that had been used by a prior MCC volunteer. Unfortunately for her, that volunteer was a 6-foot-tall guy who liked to go off-roading, and the men's bike is way too big for her 5'2" frame, especially when wearing a skirt. Thus the bike has been relegated to our locked front porch for the past few weeks. Last Saturday, however, we discovered a couple of young teenage boys trying to sneak into our compound through the back fence to take the bike off of the porch while Rachel sat in the living room. She chased them off, repeatedly, but then Leah came home on Tuesday to find that someone, probably the same boys, had tried to wrench the lock off of our porch gate with a piece of welded rebar (I know what rebar looks like because of my grandpa), damaging the gate a bit. Leah's impulse through this whole ordeal has been to fix any vulnerable points in the house and double check the locks. Rachel's inherent optimism believes that now that we've moved the bike inside, the boys will leave us alone. I am my father's daughter, however, and got myself a weapon (a big stick). I find myself secretly hoping that they'll come back while I'm there so that I can show them that we aren't some helpless white girls that they can mess with. In fact, yesterday morning I was brushing my teeth and I glanced out the window to see a leg coming through the hole in our fence. I immediately ran to the front door, wrenched open the deadbolt and ran (forgetting the stick) toward the hole yelling "Wewe!" (You!), only to come face-to-grinning-face with our watchman who was trying to figure out how to fix the hole. He's done a bang up job at reinforcing the compound (it sounds so cool to talk about my house like it's a besieged castle), and he's hanging around during the day as well as all night to make sure no one comes back. I think I'll have to give him a bonus.

6. My dad's name came up last night. We were at our friend Martin's house, and started talking about names. In Tanzania a child is given a baptized name, then they take the first name of his or her father as their second name. The third name is the name of the child's paternal grandfather. We were explaining about the concept of a family name, and that when a woman marries she takes her husband's family name. Even for a culture that has, on the whole, a rather lower view of women, this seems completely odd to many Tanzanians. My name is pretty simple for Tanzanians to pronounce and remember, especially since Adams is so close to Adam, which is a common name here, and Leisha is easily pronounced in Kiswahili (although I'm called "leh-sha" rather than "lee-sha"). It was entertaining, though, to think that my name could be Leisha Samuel Mark, or, in Kiswahili, Leisha Samweli Marco. At the very least, I rather like the idea that if I ever marry a Tanzanian, I could keep my family name and be Leisha Adams for the rest of my life.

7. I actually just avoided getting married off to the younger brother of one of my co-workers recently. She's been pushing me and pushing me to consider marrying her brother, who looks like he's about 18 years old (although I'm assured he's actually 30), he doesn't speak any English, and can hardly drag his eyes off of his shoes when he's around me. When I first came, and she asked me to marry her brother, I laughed and she didn't, then she asked what dowry my father wants. I happened to have already had the dowry discussion with my dad another time, so I could say with confidence that he wants "two camels shipped to America". Well, the camels have not materialized, but the brother kept coming around. Trying to be kind, I made the point that I couldn't marry anyone without my father's consent, and she replied that Baba Askofu is my Tanzanian father, and he approved the marriage, so that's not an obstacle at all. (I'm pretty sure that Baba Askofu did not actually approve the marriage, except as a joke.) When the brother started showing up at my house, I asked for some intervention, and Mama Askofu made it clear to everyone that I would not be marrying the brother, much to my relief.

Unfortunately, I've run out of news and stories that I can tangentially link to my dad, although I do have to say one more thing. If it were not for my dad, I would not be in Tanzania today. When I came back from my very first trip to Africa, the first person I thought of taking back with me was my dad. He's always been up for adventures, and he came with me on my second trip. He was a trooper, in spite of my poor planning and several unexpected expenses, and it really blessed the people here to have him come with me. He has always supported my work with Lahash, contributing money, helping me raise money from his contacts, talking to anyone who might be interested about Lahash's work, and even coming to help us with construction projects on our various offices. When I decided to move here, he was very supportive (and cautionary) and, although sad to have me moving so far away, he was happy for me to be continuing down such an exciting life path.

There is no way I would be able to hack life here without the training I received as his daughter. People tell me all the time how strong I am, and how much they admire my courage. They say things about how confident I am, especially for a single woman. For all of those things, and many more, I am grateful to my dad. I know that I have him to thank for teaching me character and strength of will and general toughness. From him I learned about justice and compassion, and that I have purpose and value. It is because of the example and leadership of my dad that I have learned to love and follow my Father in Heaven. I see so many young women hurting because their fathers were abusive or absent or weak, and I really thank God for a father who was always present and always loving and who had a big part in shaping me into the woman I am today.

Thank you, Dad, for being a part of my entire life. I would not have had the courage for so many of the things I've experienced if it weren't for you. I don't say it enough, but I love you and there is no man I respect more than you.

01 June 2010

Maduka and the Mouse

No, I am not writing a children's book, although that would make a good title. The story would be a realistic, if not particularly child-friendly, tale of dealing with rodents.

I do not fear many things. I don't fear heights or snakes or spiders. I slightly fear tightly enclosed spaces. I have an overwhelming, undignified fear of rodents, especially rats and mice. I know this is irrational, and I have had loads of people tell me how rodents are more afraid of me than I am of them (I'm skeptical). Regardless, I've been thanking God that I haven't seen any mice around my house, probably because there are about eight cats that patrol the grounds.

Edit: I HADN'T seen any mice, until two weeks ago.

It was a Sunday night, and I was asleep. I woke up to hear the small bag of garbage on the floor in my room rustling. Since this post is obviously about a mouse, I'm sure you've guessed what was in the bag, but I was thinking it might be a cockroach, since we do have plenty of those around, some the size of Matchbox cars. I turned on my flashlight and pointed it at the rustling bag, which immediately stopped moving. Suspicion started to burgeon in the back of my mind, so I got a long nail file from my bedside table and poked the bag gently. I might have screamed a bit when a grey tail flicked into sight then disappeared again.

The distance between my bed and the door had never seemed so long, and before visions of the mouse running out of the bag over or, worse, under my feet could become too real, I jumped for the door. I had one thought in my head: "Maduka".

Maduka is our watchman. He's a member of our church, and has been really faithful and helpful at the house. He not only keeps watch, but also burns our garbage for us, sweeps the compound daily, and trims the bushes when needed. He has helped us with countless small tasks, and I knew he was my only hope of dealing with that mouse. I ran down the hallway, turning on lights as I went with complete disregard for my sleeping roommates. I paused in the living room to look up the word "mouse" in our English-Swahili dictionary, then ran out to the front porch where Maduka sits. He looked up in alarm at my abrupt appearance, and I gasped out "Naona panya! Ninaogopa sana!" (I see a mouse! I am fearing much!)

He followed me into my bedroom, where I stayed in the doorway and pointed to the corner where I had seen the mouse. He started moving the furniture looking for the mouse, which failed to appear. He probably was starting to think I had been dreaming when I saw the mouse run from under my bed. I yelled and pointed to the corner where it had run, and he moved the trunk it was hiding behind. It started running around the room, so I leaped onto my bed pointing and making girly noises of fear. Maduka had taken off his shoe, and was chasing behind the mouse trying to whack it with his shoe. We must have made quite a picture.

Finally the mouse ran out the door of my bedroom with Maduka right behind him. There were two doors the mouse might have disappeared through: the empty bedroom we use as a storeroom for the program and Leah's bedroom. Maduka thought the mouse had gone into the storeroom behind a bunch of mattresses, but there's no electricity in that room, so we couldn't check. I decided to use the power of elimination and check out Leah's bedroom. By this time our temporary roommate Rachel was out of her bed and watching as I opened the door of Leah's room. She looked up at me in sleepy confusion while I explained that there might be a mouse in her room. I explained it twice, from the doorway, then asked her to move her curtains to make sure the mouse wasn't hiding behind them. (I was NOT going in that room until I knew for sure the mouse wasn't there. It wasn't.) I told her I would put something across the bottom of her door so the mouse couldn't get in, and she went back to sleep. Maduka moved all my furniture back, and Rachel and I both laid clothes across the cracks at the bottom of our doors and went to sleep.

The next day, Monday, was our Sabbath. We ran some errands in town, then came back to the house and played cards, but the whole time my mind was on that mouse in the storeroom. Finally, I devised a plan, and Rachel and Leah bravely helped me put it into effect. We moved all of the mattresses into the hallway, then I blocked the doorway with a mat so that the mouse couldn't run out. Leah had the broom and Rachel had a plastic basin we use for washing clothes. Methodically they worked their way through the hospital kits on the floor of that room, expecting at any moment for the mouse to run out. Finally it did, and hid under a stacked bed frame in the corner. After we all screamed and danced around a bit, Leah started try to scare the mouse to run out in a certain direction, which it did, and Rachel was ready to trap it with the basin. We jumped up and down screaming, from triumph and delight instead of surprise and/or terror this time, then put a box of paper on top of the basin, just in case.

When Maduka arrived that evening, I triumphantly led him to the storeroom and pointed at the basin, announcing "Panya!" (Mouse!) He looked astonished that we had caught the mouse, then we told him we wanted him to kill it. He took the box of paper off, and started scooting the basin toward the living room, planning to kill it on the front porch. He ran into a problem when he couldn't move the basin over the lip of the front door lintel without losing the mouse, so he slid the basin back and forth several times, hoping to daze the mouse. I realized what he was going to do, and jumped onto the couch, just in case. He lifted the edge of the basin, and when the mouse started to make a break for freedom, he brought the basin down on its back, killing it instantly. He flicked the dead mouse outside while we thanked him profusely.

As I said, not exactly a child-friendly tale, but we have proudly repeated it to almost everyone we know because we caught a mouse, and that makes us feel pretty bad-ass (even though I mostly just stood around squealing while other people did the work).