Size 11.  Medium width.  Quality made.  Generally, my shoes fit me pretty well.

I’ve got all kinds.  Dress shoes.  Gym shoes.  Casual shoes.  Hiking shoes, even though I walk in all of them.  I even have a pair that I wear in the water.  I have a pair of fins that I wear on my feet to help me kick water even better.  And I have a pair of sandals that I wear around the locker room and the pool, to help protect against someone else’s foot lingerings, like athlete’s foot fungus.  Different kinds for different purposes.

I only think about them in the morning, when I decide what I’m going to do, next.  Lately, I’ve begun wondering what I might do next, if next, I again visit Tanzania.

Next time I visit Tanzania, I would like to try on the shoes of a few others.  I wonder if I could walk a mile in someone else’s shoes?  Probably not as easily as I could in my favorite pair of walking shoes.  Mine fit much too nicely.

I’ll still wear my own shoes when I next visit Tanzania.  But I would like to wear the lifestyle shoes of the friends I’ve made there.  I want to walk a mile or two with various friends who may have already offered to provide a bed and breakfast when I first visited.  Pastor Abel might still have the list.  But in addition to working his list, I think I might like to add to his, or gather my own list, now that many of us are on talking terms.  Or, translated talking terms.

Cecilia’s Shoes

If the invitation were open, I would like to walk in Cecilia’s shoes.  I would like to sleep in her apartment.  I would bring my own mat, pillow and sleeping bag, of course.  I would even bring my own mosquito net, the one that I brought with me in 2017 and never used.  (Lota provided me a bed with a mosquito net already covering it.)

I’m not sure how she goes about washing up in the morning, but I’m willing to learn how to do it, in the context in which she lives.  I’m not sure what she eats for breakfast, but whatever it is, I would look forward to her sharing the experience with me.

I imagine walking with Cecilia to purchase avocados and bananas for re-sale.  I imagine stuffing them in my own basket or sack as I accompany her to the school that lies just across the road, plus a few meters, from her apartment.  I think she also supplies Anna’s grocery stand.  I might surprise Anna as she spies this crazy mzungu walking with Cecilia down the road that Anna’s business fronts.

I imagine returning to Cecilia’s place, after transacting the day’s business.  I imagine, through the translation help of her daughter, discussing strategies for increasing her market outreach.  I imagine taking notes, maybe even pulling out my laptop, and transcribing into electronic form the story of the day’s culturally significant experience.

When she and I last talked, she indicated that she would like to build up enough capital to double her purchasing power.  She also said that, with the help of a refrigerator, she could buy enough produce to carry her for several days.  It could cut down on the time invested in traveling to her purchase points.  Maybe, by purchasing in greater quantities, she could even negotiate a lower, per-unit purchase price.

I wanted to help her invest in a refrigerator when I last visited Tanzania.  But I had already resolved that I wouldn’t allow myself to get caught in the trap of providing charity.  Although I would hold to that resolution on my next trip, I think that an exchange of her hospitality for a refrigerator might afford a fair bargain between us.  Her business might be too small to merit a formal partnership based upon a business plan.  But a simple swap of hospitality and an experiential memory maker for something tangible, like an appliance, would enable me to keep my resolution in tack.  And maybe as a result, she might find a higher level of prosperity.  Another pair of life’s shoes that would fit her style of walking.

Anna’s Shoes

Anna’s grocery stand lies less than a kilometer from Cecilia’s place.  Actually, it lies right across the street from the gate that barriers the Ilboru Lodge from the shoeless, and from those whose count of shillings fall short of funding the replacement of the worn ones.

I don’t know where Anna, her daughter, and her husband live.  But I would love to spend one or more nights with them.  Similar adventure.  Similar “shoes”, but different.  I would like to experience a day or two in the life of a shop-owner.

When we discussed business planning last summer, we talked about marketing ideas that seemed to take Anna and others by surprise . . . the “blue light special” . . . the “loss leader” . . . the flashing light and siren that might announce to the neighborhood the time-limited nature of a sale on bananas or something else . . . the punch card that would offer a lottery-like awarding of a one-hour massage to the lucky winner.

I’ll betcha that I could give a pretty good shoulder massage.  Not sure that I would do more than a back massage, maybe a foot massage.  So rather than offering an end-of-month awarding of a free massage to the lucky punch card winner, we could offer an end-of-day massage.  I certainly wouldn’t prohibit Anna from providing one to a lucky winner.  But I can imagine providing the reward myself.  Yup, I’m game.  I’d find some massage lotion, the kind my wife and daughter use when they exchange foot massages.

Just like with Cecilia, I would want to craft a story about my experience in the life of a Tanzanian shop owner.  Maybe, in exchange for her hospitality, I could buy her a siren and flashing light.  Maybe I could initiate the handout of punch cards to local customers.

I wonder where the Ilboru Lodge gets its supplies of vending machine types of offerings?  I wonder if we could arrange for Anna to provide a purchasing-of-snacks service.  Or even a vending machine replenishment service?  Don’t know if the Lodge has anything like that.  But it could.

Culturally Significant Experiences

I made a list of culturally significant experiences when I visited last summer.  I wonder if I could find a few volunteers who would be willing to host a mzungu and supervise a few culturally significant experiences?

I want to;

  • Herd a few goats or cattle from here to over there (the butcher shop?),
  • Build and tend a cooking fire alongside the road, and sell cooked maize, or whatever else cooks up well on these fires that I saw all over the place,
  • Play a game of bao (I don’t know what it is, exactly, but I’d like to learn),
  • Visit a Maasai village and sleep on a Maasai leather bed,
  • Gather and haul sticks in one of those man-drawn carts,
  • Hammer quarried rock into gravel or other small pieces, like the women I saw doing it when I was there,
  • Learn a tribal dance, perhaps even in costume,
  • Carry a basket of fruit or grain on my head, like many of the women do,
  • Gather branches and sticks and build a wall like the Maasai do to protect their villages from wild animals.

Along with a friend, within a few days we intend to formalize a partnership with a greenhouse pepper grower.  It would be nice to participate in the cultivation of a greenhouse crop.

Shortly, I anticipate helping finish the development of a poultry farm business plan.  As with a dentist and greenhouse farmer, I anticipate partnering possibly with RULIDE and one or two others, in the development of a poultry business.  I would like to spend a few days tending to poultry care, feeding, egg harvesting, and broiler production and selling.  I’ve never participated in the poultry business, but I would like to not only give it a try; I would like to gain knowledge about how it is actually done.  I want to know the business in which I anticipate investing.

Someone challenged me to consider helping him develop a business plan for raising pigs.  He is already in this business, as well as poultry and greenhouse farming.  I would love to live his life for a few days, walking in his shoes, and caring for the livestock and crops as he currently does.

Miler Shoes

I’ve worn many kinds of shoes.  Most all have fit fairly well.  They’ve all been quality made.  Comfortable and cozy.  Few blisters.  Mild calluses.  Shoes capable of hoofing me miles at a time.  But I’ve not really worn the shoes of a typical Tanzanian.

It’s hard to understand a person’s story about walking in uncomfortable shoes, until one has actually walked in them.  I’m really not willing to give up my lifestyle for another’s, whose lifestyle shoes fit much less comfortably than mine.  Call me a hypocrite, a sissy, or any other label that fits.  Nevertheless, I would like to understand better the kind of experience that someone from different circumstances lives every day.  I want to walk in his shoes, maybe for just a few days.

As a wannabe Christian, I’ve listened and talked about walking, as a disciple, in the shoes of Christ.  I would like to experience a walk in the shoes of a co-disciple of Christ.  I’d like to better understand his experience, perhaps even a glimpse of his perspective.  Perhaps by sharing perspectives and even trading shoes, we might make a better team, maybe better partners, than trying to walk in Christ’s shoes by ourselves.

I’m just imagining.

Call me crazy!

Maybe it’s all just one big crazy idea!

John

1/28/2018