Praise the Lord, I’m going to Church!

I’m about to go church.  This is something which people here are absolutely crazy about.  Every Monday, the first question someone usually asks me at school is “What did you do over the weekend?   Did you go to church?????”  Well, I’ve been in the village for more than 2 months now and this will be my third time at church, so the answer to this question is usually “no, I had to [insert arbitrary excuse here]”  This answer is not met with a smile.  So last weekend I went, I wasn’t busy, figured it wouldn’t kill me, plus and I was sick of deflecting inquires on Monday.  Now let me tell you about the church scene in Dzanani:  The name of the church is “Higher Grace”, the structure is a large steel frame with a roof, probably 60,000 square feet or so.  There is a stage with a podium (or is it a lectern?), a drumset and electric instruments (WIN), as well as seating for about 500 people, 110% of which is occupied.  It’s Christian, everybody (except me) has a translated bible, but it’s also very energetic: music, dancing, loud sermons of great gusto and the like.  Then there’s the holy communion for 500 + people, which takes some doing.  Now I don’t mind a little commune with God on Sunday, Jesus is my homeboy and all that, the live music part is really fun of course and there’s even an interpreter for the sermons so I can actually understand something.  The two reasons I usually try to dodge church are:

1) Time invasion.  The ceremony lasts 4 hours, but factoring in preparation, transport and African time, it’s a total dedication of about 6 hours.  Too much.  I could get down with an hour or so, but I mean come on, this is my laundry day.

2) Fishbowl effect.  Like I said, there are more than 500 people at this thing, and I’m the only one who’s white.  Don’t get me wrong, people aren’t racist or anything, they’re thrilled to see a mukhuwa in their church.  So I immediately get flagged down by some coordinator who marches me up to the front and center, with a bajillion eyes following me all the way.   Oh please God, deliver me from humiliation, please absolve the uncouth wrinkle which doth lie upon my shirt, and the crudeish dullish spot which doth lie upon my left shoe, and the unkeptness of my hairs, which is most frightful oh Lord, for these things are surely to be seen and spoken of by every soul in this church.  OK, Sunday is one of the only days of the week which I can relax at home and not feel like a magnet for people’s eyes, but if I go to church I’m right back in the Caucasian zoo exhibit.  I’m not thrilled at the prospect, but people really don’t understand the concept of breathing room.

When I ponder this type of situation, I feel very misunderstood.  I’m not all bent out of shape about it, I accept that people think I’ll be bothered by things which I find totally fine, and yet they have no idea about some other things really irritate me.  Here are some hypothetical (but accurate) examples:

Well-meaning, but misunderstanding friend: “James, let’s take an overcrowded taxi to church where you’ll receive an uncomfortable amount of attention for several hours!  Oh wait, it’s pretty hot.  The sun will hurt your white skin, so let’s get an umbrella first”.

Me: “Actually dude, the sun is fine and I’m really enjoying the weather here.  I’m more concerned about how nonchalantly you just identified me as white and then followed up with an incorrect racial assumption”.

Or maybe a conversation like this one:

Friend: “Are you having problems with water at your home?”

Me: “Well there’s no running tap, so I have to get water from the pump across the street”

Friend: “Oh my god, what a travesty, how do you manage????”

Me: “I have a wheelbarrow and some buckets”

Friend: “I’m so sorry to hear that.  It’s terrible that you should suffer like that.”

I really don’t mind hauling the water I need. It’s actually quite satisfying, but everybody seems to think that it’s killing me.  Laundry and ironing are another thing people don’t think mukhuwa is capable of doing.  I had this one guy on my case for weeks, telling me that I mustn’t suffer by washing my own clothes and that God was not happy to see me doing so much work.  “You teach during the week, so you must relax on the weekend.  God does not want you doing two jobs”.  Gezz dude if God didn’t want me to multitask, I’m pretty sure he would’ve given me a different work ethic.

Teacher: “James, what are you doing?”

Me: “I’m trying to finish making this review sheet for the 7th grade.  They have a test tomorrow and I want to give them some material to study since they don’t have textbooks”

Teacher: “But it’s lunch time.”

Me: “I have to finish this now.  I won’t have time to do it after lunch because I’ve got classes.”

Teacher: “James you must eat.”

Me: “I will as soon as I’m done here.”

Teacher: “No no, you come and eat now.  Anyway those kids are lazy and they should make their own study sheets”

Yes the kids certainly are lazy.  I wonder what could’ve possibly influenced them to be that way?

Well I’m off to church.  At this point I’m dreading it, but usually once it’s over I end up thinking “well that wasn’t so bad.  I just hope I’ve got time to dry my laundry before the sun sets”.  Hopefully I’ll have a follow up report, but I’ve still got this pile of laundry and that sun’s not setting any slower.

4 Hours of churchgoing later…..

Gezz that was painful.  Not much interpretation going on this Sunday; I was bored to tears.  At least I wasn’t front and center this time.   Efforts were made to put me there but I held fast and convinced them I was fine seated in the mid rows.  I am actually exhausted; it’s too hot for this kind of thing.  Funny thing about church:  The last time, the pastor asked everyone who was single to raise their hands (so I did, oops) then asked that everyone pray for them to find a spouse.  THIS time, he asked that all the single females of age 21-24 stand up and parade/dance around the congregation, then afterwards asked the same of the single males of that age.  On that one I opted out, for reasons that I think you can surmise.  Most people think I’m a lot older than I actually am anyway so there wasn’t too much suspicion about why I didn’t get up and dance around.

I’m not doing laundry today because the place I go which has plenty of water is unavailable right now.  I’ll have to do it tomorrow, leaving me free to start working on my non-electrical refrigeration system!  It’s called a Zeer, originally from middle east and apparently it’s quite old technology.  It consists of a tin bucket inside an earthen (clay) pot with a layer of wet sand in between the two.  The theory is that the moisture in the sand takes heat energy out of the tin bucket as it evaporates (the moisture not the bucket).  Since an earthen pot is porous, this allows the evaporated water, along with the heat energy, to leave.  Now this thing isn’t going to be an ice box but hopefully it will cool my drinks at least a little bit.  If not it’s at least providing me with something to do.  I really do hope it works though, because damn.  It’s hot.


One Response to “Praise the Lord, I’m going to Church!”

  1. Picture a blond haired JEWISH girl at a Nigerian pentecostal church, being prayed over to find Jesus in her heart. Then imagine that 7 weeks in a row because my “family” has multiple ministers in it (as did all the other congregants)…oy. I’m glad to see your blog…and that you’re gone (though I would have liked to say bye!). Can’t wait to read all about your adventures.

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