Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Papa Smirff Goes Wild... or at least to the Game Park

(Once again the internet is slow and we are limited to only one computer. This makes me sad. I know it does you, too)

Yesterday was one of those days where you just feel good. We worked hard. We played hard. We ate rice hard. It was good. All in a days work, really!

We traveled by rickety old b/v/t to a "urban" village to paint a church. By Urban I mean that we didn't have to run over trees to get to our location and there was a DUKA (store) with a fridge that had cold pop available for purchase. I'm not even going to lie to you- that was a little bit of heaven right there. I have never longed for ice cubes so much in my life.

We arrived and immediately had tea. The Haff likes to joke that in Tanzania CHAI is actually the third sacrament. Baptism, Communion, and Chai- though not necessarily in that order, as Chai seems to be a pretty big priority in these parts of the world. Some of our girls are becoming masters at "accidentally" hiding their cups when the tea comes around... I don't know if we'll continue this ritual when we return home.

Soon after we went to work painting the church. The building itself was erected by a German Missionary. It was a very well built church and we actually pretty large compared to most churches we've seen. A normal church costs around $6,000 US dollars. I was told that this one was nearly $10,000- and trust me when I tell you that an extra $4,000 here will go A LONG way. The building was made almost entirely of cement, with the exception of the iron on the windows and the tin roof. When the missionary built the church, he wanted it to double as a school. However, not long after the church was completed, a school was built nearby so that necessity is no more. However, the front of the church was still complete with an ugly makeshift chalkboard. I can tell you right now that after this Redeemer crew got done leaving their mark, there is no longer an ugly chalkboard!

Under the direction of: The Man, The Legend, THE DAVE WYLAM, we got our butts in gear and started to work...

Walls were first painted white.
Then the pillars were painted blue.
Cream was added around the bottom.
Brown was painted as an accent.

It. Looked. Fantastic.

Somewhere along the lines someone thought it would be a good idea to enlist my "artistic" abilities to create a mural on the front alter where the chalkboard had been. Because of my lack of Swahili, I was unable to inform them that this probably wasn't a good idea. But alas the handiwork of yours truly now rests on the wall of a church in the middle of nowhere in Africa. My mother would be proud. Or deny our relation. I'm not sure which. Though I'm hoping it's the first. She did used to hang my artwork on the fridge...

Someone asked the Haff why the Masaai didn't paint their own church. His reply: Have you ever seen a Masaai with a paintbrush? I am happy to report that I can now say that yes, yes I have. Much to our surprise, as soon as we started to paint, the Masaai wanted to join us. They actually took brushes and rollers out of our hands! Though it was a bit more "artistic" than our crews methods, it was great to see them taking ownership in their building. Men, women, and children were all hard at work. And those that didn't have a brush in their hands were supervising intently. And by supervising, I mean that they were watching us with wonder. I have to admit, a dark skinned Masaai man covered in white paint is a sight to see!

We learned a few things while painting today.
1. Pastor Jim has quite the German accent. Especially when he's been exposed to too many paint fumes. Ask Amber Freesemann about this. She'll be happy to share her experience.
2. Sharpened sticks make nice roller brush extenders and touch up tools and a hair tie is a very versatile tool.
3. Pastor Jim with blue paint on him- really does look like Papa Smirff.

It took us nearly 8 hours to complete the whole project. But complete it we did! The Haff said later that he didn't think we would get as much done as we did. We reminded him that we're from Iowa. Hard workers are bred and raised where we come from. Enough said.

As I have mentioned in other posts, in Africa you can only expect to expect the unexpected. This has been VERY true with our trip so far. Our church building days have been interrupted by circumstances beyond our control (supplies that weren't delivered by other people, generators with issues, broken tools, etc.) but it was AMAZING to have a day where we started and finished a project COMPLETELY. It was good for our hearts and souls, as well as our group morale. We totally left our Midwestern mark. Woot woot.

Today we travel to Mikumi National Park for 24 hours of wilderness/animal awesomeness! We leave the seminary after lunch and will begin our trek into the wild. I plan on fully expressing myself by means of my lion call. You will be updated on the outcome of this when we return. I hope to have several lion friends, and even a water buffalo or two, by the time we leave the park. It will be good.

Until then-
Keep practicing your lion calls. I know I will be.

Emily "The Lion Queen" Harkins


  1. Em,

    What an awesome experience to be able to share with the folks from your church!

    I LOVE reading your updates and following your trip. Your stories are funny and full of love, and do an excellent job of sharing the heart of Africa itself. And of course, bring back fabulous memories (especially the one time Momma Monica spilled the blue paint everywhere and Luka tried to convince us that painting 8 coats of paint was the best idea.)

    Send my love to P. Haff, Luka, and Tanz itself. :)

    Keep having a fabulous time, you all are in my thoughts!


  2. I love reading all your posts. They make me smile :)
    I hope you got pictures of your 'masterpiece' on the chalkboard-no-more!
    I CAN'T WAIT to see your pictures of the safari adventures! Have a great time!

    P.S. Please tell Daniel 'hi' from us, since he seems to have dropped off the face of the earth and we haven't heard from him since his choking incident.

    Blessings to all of you,

  3. I can only assume you are referring to the Lion King song. And I wish I could hear you belt it out.

  4. Emily:
    3 things I learned in Tanzania when I was there circa 1993:
    1-A lion with a wagging tail is not necessarily your friend.
    2-Water Buffalo should ALWAYs be avoided. They are meaner, bigger, stronger than a lion.
    3-WHen walking through the wilderness, toward the back of the line, "Don't Run" in the presence of Lions can only be heard as "RUN"....but DON'T RUN! Lions are faster than hard working Iowans!

  5. Missing you all! Can't wait to hear the details and see some picts. LOVE your blog, Emily. You are such a good writer! Come home safe and soon!!!