Tuesday 26th July

I have not been able to find yoghurt, other than occasionally with breakfast, but then that is probably not local, but doulos yog. Sometime I must try to get some local. Many individuals are buying masses of cheap African fruit, but I don’t think that the ship officially can do so quite like that. I don’t know how all these things work, what with regulations and all.

About Sunday’s day in the AOG church….

On the board was listed our group, and the time to meet up and discuss what was happening at 5.30pm on Saturday. I did not manage to get there, though, but when I spoke to the team leader later at supper, he said no-one else had either, so no big deal. We would meet up at 8am on Sunday morning, and then leave at 9.

So at 8am I went to the room we were meeting at, and no-one was there. Eventually, at about half past, the rest turned up, gradually, and we said what we would do, the numbers presentation (a whole bunch of cards with numbers on them, one of them the year the ship was build, one of them the number of visitors so far (18 million!), one with the number of book titles, one with the number of nationalities, etc), one girl would give her testimony, we would do a drama, which one of the others had just written (very simple), and one guy would preach. Cool.

So we all then went and waited for our lift at the gates. At the gates, we found another team who had been waiting since 8am there for theirs. Ours turned up after about 8 minutes, suprisingly, and was an escort, not a lift. Very tall thin smartly dressed suit-and-tie-and-glasses type. He spoke good English, and made witty jokes occasionaly, as we walked though the city.

After a 10 minute walk, we then took a chappa (local bus). A typical 11 seater type mini-van. With 19 in it. The pastor/escort said he wanted us to experience local transport. Cool.

So we bounced along for quite a while, and eventually got to the destination. A big main street of the city. No pavement, no sidewalks, but brown/red Troodos-coloured dirt. And a big road too. About the width and lenght of Larnaka’s main street, I would guess. Then we walked for another 10 minutes, I guess, through various back allys and sidestreets, made up of mud-brick and concrete bungaloes/houses, with corricated iron roofs. Loads of kids playing out in the streets, and quite a lot of people greeted the pastor.

Eventually the house! We went in through a swing door, and into a tiny courtyard/ally, and then from there into a small room, with quite nice furniture, an ancient computer (about 25 years old or so), and a table/kitchen area at the far end. We sat down, and then were introduced to the ‘real’ pastor, who did not speak any English he said (not quite true. He did speak some. And understand more.)

So we sat around in silence for a few minutes, after attempting conversation, to little avail. And then we talked amongst ourselves for a bit. After a while the first guy came back again, and translated a bit, and we talked some about the weather of Mozambique, and Maputo in particular.

Then the owner of the house came in, the widow of the previous pastor of this church, which still met here, they said. She was very cheerful, very frail, and said she felt a bit ill, so instantly, one of the team, who for some reason always makes me think she just jumped (literally) right out of 1980-ish Spring Harvest, said we would pray for her. So the widow sat down on a chair, we all gathered around, and prayed. Then we stopped, and she got up, said thanks, and hobbled off.

About this time we started hearing lots of singing from just outside, which we guessed was Christian, from the occasional ‘Alleluya’s, and ‘Amen’s. This went on for about 20 minutes, as we sat and made small talk with pastor 2, the guy who had brought us there. Then for no apparent reason he stood up, and said, “I think it is about time for us to go in now.”

So we followed, and went outside into a covered yard area, with 10 hand-made wooden benches in rows, and 7 medium-comfy/plastic seats at the front, a small table with a table-cloth, and a pulpit. There were about 15 people on the benches, who all were singing, a few children and babies too. We were led up to the front, and sat on the chairs, facing the congregation, and listened to their singing.

Once they had finished the song, the pastor stood and said to them to pray, (we got a translation from pastor 2 for everything) and then everyone began praying, quite loudly, at the same time. After a few minutes, pastor 1 was the only one still praying, and so after continuing for a while, he stopped too, said “Amen”, which was echoed back by the faithful.

Then he said that they would welcome us, and so everyone sang a song, and then came up while singing, and dancing, to shake us all by the hand, smiling at us a lot. Then they sang more and more songs, some of them coming up to the front to sing and dance for us, some just starting off songs from wherever they were sitting. All a capella, so no written music needed. Pastor 2 told us that some songs were in the local language, some in portuguese, some in Zulu, and others in other moderately local languages.

Then we were told that someone had a gift for us, and they gave us (collectively) a beautiful handmade woven basket, which her husband had made (but was working and could not give himself). We all ‘ooh’ed and ‘ahh’ed at it, and it was indeed well worth ‘ooh’ing and ‘ahh’ing. Very strong, solid, and good. There is something about hand-made stuff.

Anyway, then after that, they sang another song, and brought up traditional local head scarfs and wrap-about skirts for the 2 ladies of our team, and put them on them (on top of their other clothes), and then all the church ‘ooh’ed and ‘ahh’ed, laughed, and smiled a lot. Then we did our program, which went over quite well.

I had been not really expecting a small church like this, when we talked about it before we went. For some reason I always think of AOG churches as being quite large. This was fairly structured, though.

Anyway.

After our program, one of the pastors talked a bit, and showed them all some tickets for various Doulos events, and said he would give them out afterwards to people. Then was the offering, and everyone danced forward to give some coins, and I was expecting to do the same, and had brought with me the appropriate kind of ammount (At port orientation, they tell us what kind of ball-park figures, too much and too little being rude, of course), but then as none of the rest of the team went forward, and we had forgotten to discuss it before the meeting, I guessed that perhaps the leader was going to give something from all of us, or something like that. Which he then did, and some more tickets.

The pastor laughed and said “ah. Your offering comes strait back to you” and everyone else laughed too, me feeling rather uncomfortable about the whole thing. — Really, the whole “money” issue is really confusing for me. Also, like when people ask you for money, on the streets, or while sitting in little canoes off the side of the ship… I dunno. It’s the whole “If we give, then we just encourage begging, and reliance on rich foreigners, and if we don’t, then we are selfish.” It’s complex. I still don’t have a satisfactory position.

Then they prayed some more, sang some more, and then began to walk off. Then one of the women brought some presents for us men: 2 wooden hand-made brooms, and a small hand-made purse. I was given a broom. Very cool, and very nice, but I have NO idea how, if at all, to bring it home. Hm.

We then had lunch in the first room, with the 2 pastors, and some of the ladies bringing in food for us, serving it, and then walking out again. Before we ate, one of them brought around a bowl and a kettle full of warm water, and a towel, to wash our hands in.

The first dish was a lovely soup of cabbage, carrots, onions, possibly potatoes, and other bits like that, then after that they brought some cooked chicken, and chips. I had kind of been expecting them to bring meat, and so for the past 2 days had been praying a lot. I had decided that I ought to eat it, as it would be insulting not to. So I ate it, tried not to think about it, and felt really weird and slimey inside for the rest of the day. I don’t like meat. It was very good, I think, for chicken, but I just don’t like it any more. 3 years without meat will do that to you, I guess. Blah.

Hey, random future STEPPERs who read this. Yes, you will have to eat things you don’t want to. At least it wasn’t as bad as what Rusty had told us in our first week that would would eat. (hint… huge roasted catapillers… yum…). Blah again.

We also had coke and fanta. Ditto for me with the chicken. I mean, I am glad it was not local water, about which we had been warned, but coke and fanta now are for me bad as well.

Speaking of weird drinks, I have started drinking tea since I joined the Doulos. I never did before. Well, I did, once, I needed caffine while setting up a performance at the theatre, years ago. It was foul then. Too much sugar and milk and stuff. So I tried the tea black here. Not black-black, because just one teabag, and only for a few mins. I acutally rather like it.

So, back to the heroic saga…

Then after a little while sitting around, we got to wash our hands again, and then a while later, after looking at a few photos, and talking with the pastors about their lives, and what they would be doing, we left. We walked out through the same way, with the pastors, and one of their church, took the chappa, and got home safely.

So thus endeth mine tale good friendes, family, and all.

On board we STEPPERs are STEP-sisters and brothers. Also we have a STEP-mom and STEP-dad. Who, by the way, are not married. The STEP-dad is married to someone else though, so we have a “STEP-mom-2” as well. All of them are crazy fun people.

Right now, I’m fasting. Today was good actually, I didn’t really feel hungry at all. Perhaps due to going out for a “last supper” with the other STEPPERs to a wonderful chinese resurant. Lovely lovely Chinese food… Lovely lovely Chinese tea… Mmmmm… Anyway. I am begining to feel a bit hungry now, it being 7:22 and I have not had anything all day (except water), but I have been working quite hard, and have not really had much chance to think about food. I am glad I have not been faint and energy-less though. Fasting is a strange practice. I want to investigate more. After a good meal.

Oh well. To sleep, one more day of fasting, and work, and then a good meal. Apparently day 2 is much easier, although for me day 1 has not been too hard. Normally it is, they say. Perhaps being vegetarian, and the diet on board has something to do with it. I would not be suprised.

Anyway.

I am tired, all day in the paint raft with a needle gun, electric-wire-brush, and chipping hammer scraping away old paint and rust from the hull and re-painting,
as this port allows us to. Most don’t. That is the official reason we are doing it.

The unoffical one, and one I have a hard time totally disbelieving, is that next port is South Africa, and far too many of the ships company (in particular the chief deckie) are South African.

Oh well. It looked bad before, and will be very good when we get the rest of the coats of paint on. Currently it is a rather terrible shade of red. We have 3 coats of primer paint to put on, red, grey, and then white, and then after that we will put on a coat of proper outside paint. Everything on board which gets painted gets the three primer coats.

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