Growing up in America, especially the mid-west, I have grown accustomed to many colloquial sayings such as: “When it rains it pours!” Of course, we understand it to mean that trouble is no isolated incident. It tends to increase both in frequency and intensity before letting up. The analogy is lost here in Tanzania being almost completely an agricultural society that depends on rain for almost everything. Rain at any time of the year is a blessing; thus, to use it as an example for trouble is almost seen as a curse in their minds.
Not only that, but 65% of the electricity in the country is generated by hydroelectric plants. Having had nearly no rain since September of last year has caused the whole country to be on scheduled black-outs since around December. That, coupled with mismanagement, the water levels to operate these plants have dropped to within two feet of total shut down. We reap the consequences of daily (and nightly) blackouts which usually leave us with about 6 hours of power out of every 48 hours. We are thankful to have a generator to rely on which we can run for a couple hours each day; but, with fuel prices reaching more than $5.50 a gallon, it is a costly alternative. In this case, the “When it rains it pours!” analogy loses its effectiveness on the average Tanzania because if it did rain, they would WANT it to pour!
Nonetheless, it makes sense in our minds…especially right now. Not only have we gone through extended black-outs since November 2010, but also, we have spent more than $10,000 in vehicle repairs since returning to the field in February of the same year. This is, of course, because it is 10 years old…and…the majority of its life has been spent being driven in the bush where the roads age a car at a yearly ratio of about 2 to 1.
On Monday morning, I brought our vehicle back into the garage where I have developed a long-standing relationship with the management and mechanics. They have proven themselves to be trustworthy in their analysis and reliable in their repairs over the past seven years. Well, I was hoping that they could help me by fitting a new belt on our A/C when the mechanic and I uncovered a short list of major and minor problems ranging from replacing the A/C pulley and bearing up front, to re-welding the chassis in the back. The chassis will have been re-welded three times in the last six months. This time it came dangerously close to crushing both the break line and the power steering line which run along the chassis under the wheel well. It would be superfluous for me to list all of the new-found damages here…but I would like to now refer back to the “When it rains, it pours!” principle.
After leaving the car at the garage, I perilously made my way back into town by using the over-stuffed, lawless, public transport buses. Once there, I withdrew our monthly pay from the bank. Afterwards, I met up with my partner in ministry, Aaron Shipe, who was in town with his roomy, safe, comfortable vehicle. After getting a quick lunch together, we returned to his car to find the drivers-side door lock ‘compromised’ and both of our bags missing from the back-seat floorboard! Mine had about $1,200 in Tanzanian shillings—the bulk of the paycheck which I just withdrew! We stood stunned! We had just 30 minutes prior been warned by a Tanzanian lady selling tangerines on the street that it wasn’t safe where we were because of robbers prowling around. It was because of this, we decided to move the car forward two blocks and park it directly in front of a bank where we supposed ample security cameras and personnel would deter the average robber. We were wrong! Like it or not, we had been robbed—what was done was done!
After finishing a story like this, the average Tanzania would conclude by saying: “Ndivyo hivyo!” which basically means: “That’s how it is!” I concur…but I would like to add that, for us, right now—it’s not only raining: it’s pouring…like it or not!