I have decided that you all might be interested in some of the “little things” that we have learned since coming to Nzara. These little things are of a wide variety and character. They consist of learning something about local customs that it would be good to accommodate ourselves to as well as very practical things that make daily life a whole lot easier.
One of the first traditions that I violated in my complete and utter ignorance was the almost universally followed custom of shaking hands at the door of the church after service. After my first daily service of morning prayers (opening prayer, bible reading, homily, confession, absolution, Lord’s Prayer, general prayers, benediction and announcements) I shook hands with the officiant and proceeded to walk home. I looked back for some reason only to discover that everyone was looking at me from a long line of greeters that I had left a hole in by my “rudeness.” It is the clear expectation that everyone in church, not just the clergy, greets everyone else in church that day. Out in the market place or on ones coming into any room it is typical that everyone shakes hands with every other person in the room. A perfunctory verbal greeting of “Hi, how are you all?” will NOT do.
Then there are the little clues one discovers about how to avoid problems before they occur. One of these clues is that when at the local street market to never buy eggs from a seller who is setting out in the open without any protection from the blazing sun for the eggs he or she is selling. If you do you will find that the sun has, in effect, already partially cooked the fresh eggs you have just purchased. Another clue we learned very early on is to always make sure that you hear and feel the click of the lid on the plastic container into which you have put the sugar and whole milk powder you use for your tea and coffee. If you don’t the white ants that are everywhere will quickly discover your negligence and invade the container. The same holds true for making sure that the bread is securely wrapped in a plastic bag and then put in a large plastic bucket with a tight seal. Yet another clue for daily living is to make sure that all four legs of the stool that the basin sits on when you take your daily bucket bath are securely on the floor. If they are not the stool will tip and the basin will spill its water contents on the floor. Such a scenario leaves you naked in the bath house covered with soap and with no water to wash the soap off with. Karen and I have both done this once. It has never happened to either of us again. See it is possible for some very old dogs to learn at least a few new tricks.
The dry season, that we are presently in, has brought with it yet another new learning and that is to always be ready to roll up your car window. It is hard to over emphasize how dusty it is on the roads. The window facing oncoming traffic has to be lowered every time another car, bus or truck approaches. The blue of the Bishops car is made red after but one short trip, I have to wear a clean pair of pants every day because those of the day before are covered in dust and every time a table or window sill is wiped down the cloth turns a dull reddish brown almost instantly. Bishop Samuel has commented to people here that instead of shining his shoes every day when he is at home that he spent almost a full year at Wartburg Seminary in the US without having to clean off any accumulated dust.