Warm Coke and Runny Eggs

Warm Coke and Runny Eggs

“What’s the Difference?”

He had a choice!

He could have pulled a cold one from the office refrigerator!  He just chose the warm 12-ounce beverage from the 12-pack stacked on the floor.

OK, so we’re different.  Lota likes his Coke (or in this case, ice tea) warm.  Maybe a Tanzania thing.  Maybe he’s just as crazy as me.  I like mine cold.  Yes, I already know how crazy I am.  But enjoying a cold one doesn’t really seem that crazy to me.  Warm ice tea screams “Crazy!”

While Lota visited me a month or so ago, we spent a bunch of time in my office.  He worked on computer techy stuff while I tried to meet the tax filing deadline for a few clients whose personal tax returns had yet to be filed.  Needed to hydrate every once in a while.  Me too.

Ten years ago, when Linda, Katie and I took a trip to Tanzania and safaried across the country with our trusty guide, Adam noted my taste for soda.  Packed a few Cokes in the ice chest, or whatever lunch container it was.  But by lunch time, all was warm.  Adam screwed up his face, “You like your Coke cold?”  Silly question!  Everybody likes their Coke cold!

Well, I soon learned that Tanzanians preferred warm Coke.  That’s what they learned to drink in the context of a dearth of refrigerators.  And, a scarcity of reliable electricity to keep refrigerators doing what they’re supposed to do.  Keep things cold!

* * * * *

“I’ll take my eggs just the way you make them,” offered Lota.  I think he regretted that offer.  I served up eggs sunny side down.  Over easy.  Over very easy!

“I’ll do it!” he offered, the next time eggs needed cooking.  He fried them hard.  Almost crisp.  Broke the yolks from the start.  On purpose!  Did Lota simply offer his generous cooking skills out of the pure goodness of his heart?

“How do you want your eggs cooked?” I asked, the next time I stood at the stove.

Confession.  “I’ll have them hard,” he replied.

Yuk!  Hard yolk-ed eggs?  I like mine runny.  He should, too.  They’re good that way.  You can sop the yellow stuff with your sausage and enjoy the spicy meat better with the runny taste of over-easy eggs.

OK, we’re different.  He likes his eggs fried good and hard.  I like them over very easy.  Runny!  Everybody should enjoy their eggs “runny”!

* * * * *

We celebrated Lota’s 29th birthday just about the day before he left to return to Tanzania.  Again, we’re different!  I’m just a little over 21.  (OK, I exaggerate a little.  Every once in a while.)  But our age gap contributes to another little difference between the two of us.  He’s getting to be an old man.  In my mind, I retain my youth.  Since I actually reached 50, I just started counting backwards.  I get younger every year.

* * * * *

Lota tells me his full name all the time.  Lotaanywaki Elisha.  Lotaanywaki Van Elisha.  Lot Ole Elisha.  Lota Ole Memiri.  Lota Elisha Memiri.  Take your pick!  “Just call me Lota,” he says.

“Just call me, ‘Ole’,” says Lota’s father.  But his resume says, “Elisha David Ole-Memiri.”

Lota told me that “Ole” means “Son of”.  We both think that “Van” means “From” in Dutch.  Lota’s got a slight Dutch accent.

I noticed, while I visited Tanzania a year or so ago, that names seemed to take on a dynamic character, different than what I grew accustomed to in the United States.  Loon Maeda, the son of Matilda Maida, spelled his last name differently than his father and mother when he first attended school.  He spelled it the way it sounded.  Once done, done forever.  He continues to spell his last name, Maeda.  Must be starting a new clan, or something.  Or, who cares?

Nenduvoto told me her last name was Mollel.  Her brother informed me of his name, John Wilson.  Then John Wilson Lendita.  Then, John Lendita.  Then, Wilson Lendita.  John W Lendita.  “So, why don’t you share the same last name as your sister?” I asked.

“I do!” he replied.  “John Wilson Lendita Mollel.”

Magabilo offered up, Magabilo Mjalifu.  That’s the only way that I knew him.  His last (family) name must be Mjalifu.  Right?

But when he proposed a business plan to me, he called it, “Masambu’s African Cultural Events Center”.  When pressed to explain his new last name, he ponied-up his full name as Magabilo Mjalifu Masambu.

Tanzanian names seem slippery.

To me, family names mean a lot.  They define a person as part of a clan.  But they’re elusive, also.  In Tanzania, family names get dropped as easy as an egg splattering egg yolk all over the floor.  They become a little runny, at times.  A person can slip on a name that its holder abbreviated for the convenience of his/her new employer, new friend, new teacher, or casually-encountered stranger.

I wonder why the Tanzanian government finally decided to assign a number to everyone?  Similar to a Social Security number.  “I don’t like that,” offered Calvin.

Seems to me, in the U.S., family names remain crisp as a firmly fried egg.  Last names don’t change often.  When they do change, generally a legally-sanctioned body makes it official.  My uncle changed the spelling of his last name, just to make the spelling comport with its pronunciation.  “Voila, potential employer, neighbor and friend!”

* * * * *

When Pappalio, aka, Elias Laizer, asked me if I really thought that he and I were “equal”, I told him, “Yes, of course.”  In the U.S., we’ve been raised to consider each other equal.  From a legal standpoint, we are, though political pundits still seem to debate this principle’s reality.  From a mathematical standpoint, 1 person here equals 1 person there.  We all get one vote.  We all get treated (at least in principle) equally.  OK, Florida and Georgia continue to figure this out, in the aftermath of our most recent election.

In spite of our equality, we’re all different.  No two individuals clone each other.  (At least, not yet.)  We all seem to demonstrate different likes and dislikes.  Some of us prefer our Cokes warm, while some of us (well, at least one of us) prefers our eggs runny.  Some of us would rather change our names, whereas others carry the mark of our clan as proudly as a forehead tattoo.

I sense that Christ’s current-day disciples reflect both attitudes.  Some call themselves Protestant, others Roman Catholic.  Some join friends as Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, or Presbyterians.  Some obtain baptism by blowing bubbles under water, while others simulate perspiration on the forehead.  When pressed, many just say, “I’m Christian.”

Lota and I appear different.  We do things differently.  We eat and drink with different tastes.  We believe things a bit differently, although not much.

Isn’t it crazy how best friends can be so different?

I kinda like “different”.  Even “crazy” different.

I wonder if Christ cares?

I wonder if our family name makes any difference when the Lord calls our name?  Even our first name?

“Yes, I’m talking to you, Mr. John!  Pay attention!”



November 19, 2018