Jamboree, a gathering of Scouts from different places, and hence a festive gathering of any sort, comes from the Swahili greeting Jambo! which you can hear all over Central and East Africa. (Jambo is also the origin of Jumbo the elephant’s name, but that’s another story.) All over Tenke, you can hear the people say, “Jambo!” sometimes in the form, “Jambo, Mama” or “Jambo, Baba.” (Mama and Baba are Mother/Father but also Ma’am/Sir.) A follow-up in Swahili is Habari? meaning, “What’s the news? What’s happening?” The appropriate reply in the local dialect of Swahili is Muzuri or Muzuri sana (good/very good). (It took me a while to catch on to this last; I started out saying, Nzuri, which is very proper Swahili, and made me sound Tanzanian, I’m sure.)
French is even more common in Tenke, so people calling out, Bonjour! or Bon soir! can be heard all over town. The appropriate follow-up to exchanging this greeting is Ça va? (“how’s it going”), to which the usual reply is, Ça va bien (“it’s going well”).
When approaching someone’s door, people call out, Odi! which is, I think, Swahili. Certainly most people welcoming us to their homes greeted us with Karibu! which is Swahili for “welcome.” Personal greetings when you are newly arrived are often in Kiluba: Wafwako! This is a word with many meanings. It can be used as a condolence (“I’m sorry”) or as a form of “I’m so glad to see you,” depending upon context and tone of voice. When people are really happy to see you, it can come out as Wako! Wako! Wako! which makes them sound to our ears like Fozzie Bear.
By the time Mitch and Dave were done Americanizing the local street kids, it wasn’t unusual to hear one of them say, “What’s up?” and even give you a fist bump. Toward the end of our stay, I was so mentally tired that more than once I failed to recognize what form of how-ya-doin I was being asked, and I found myself defaulting to German in my reply: Ausgezeichnet! Dave reverted to his high school Spanish, though when challenged on it, claimed to be speaking it with a French accent. Hmm. A Hoosier French accent, maybe.
Well, that’s enough on language, except to say that we were blessed with several very good translators. Taylor Denyer stayed for a couple of days, and her French was very good. Douce, daughter of Pastor Maloba from Lubumbashi (and a student at Africa University), also was with us for most of the event, as was Joseph Kabwit from Lubumbashi. Conference Youth Coordinator Nhoris Ngoy and Pastor Innocent Mulamba were with us throughout the event and were very helpful. Several of our hosts knew more English than they were comfortable letting on. In the absence of a translator DS Daniel Mumba and Conference Evangelist Baba Nyembo could make do in English when they had to; certainly, they were better at English than I was at French. Mitch and Nikki had both taken French in high school, though Mitch’s was fresher than Nikki’s.
By 6 a.m., I am up and at ‘em, a pattern I held to for the entire trip. There is an armed guard at the guest house – for the Senator/Bishop. Ntambo asked if we had a spare team t-shirt he could wear. I had brought two for myself, so I gave him one of mine. I like my shirts loose and he likes his snug, so my XXL fit him pretty well.
After breakfast – bread and butter, coffee and tea – we get ready for church. There is a big service this morning with multiple choirs, the Bishop, three robed clergy. Yesterday’s service was just a warm-up, a welcome. This service is launching the event. Translation proves to be a bit of a problem – getting the routine down, that is. It’s not easy to translate on the fly, and relaying somebody’s speech requires a certain responsiveness on the part of both speaker and translator. The speaker needs to be make it easy for the translator, breaking his words up into easy-to-grasp chunks and avoiding hard-to-translate expressions.
Bishop Ntambo preaches in both English and Swahili, without a translator. There is more singing and dancing. Ntambo dances with the Scouts, after which he tells us that in heaven there will be no pianos: the music of heaven will be drums!
As fun and uplifting as all this is, I am profoundly uneasy. At our welcome the previous afternoon, Ntambo said we should rest, because we will begin (begin what?) in the morning at 9:00 a.m., meaning with this service. Now, according to the schedule all of us on both sides of the Atlantic agreed to, the Jamboree itself isn’t supposed to start until Thursday. I am surprised that so many Scouts are already in town. I had thought we’d have a couple of days to meet our counterparts and get organized before they started coming in. But here they are, most of them. Do they think we’re starting the Jamboree today?
Yes, they do. At the end of his sermon, Bishop Ntambo invites me to step up and “begin the program,” which I am in no way ready to do. We just got here, we haven’t seen the camp yet, nothing’s unpacked. It’s an awkward moment. I wonder how we could have reached this point. Are the Africans just that eager that they think as soon as we’re on board, we can begin? Or are they just used to Americans who are eager to start preaching/teaching as soon as they can? Maybe a bit of both. In any case, talking at people is not how Scouting works, so I have to make a careful transition here to a format more to our ministry’s advantage.
I step up to the pulpit and begin to outline the tasks before us. I mention some of the things we’re going to do this week, like the soccer tournament (they like that idea!). But I also say that today is for getting ready. The American team and the African team have to become one team. That means we need to talk together. We need to tour the camp and see where the various activities will take place. And we need to wait a bit for the Scouts who haven’t turned up yet. There have been problems with the trains and several Scouts are stranded, waiting to get a way to Tenke.
Waiting is hard, I tell them. We all want to get on with things. But I remind them that God holds back the Day of Glory until all who will come in have chosen to do so. He is patient, because he doesn’t want any of the children he loves to miss out on the kingdom of heaven. So, we need to be patient, too, and wait a bit on our fellow Scouts and see if they can surmount their transportation problems. Today is for getting ready.
Rev. Fred, Mama Taylor, Baba Nyembo, DS Mumba
Processional to the church
The oldest ritual in the liturgy is that of entering the church
After the service, Ntambo and I are whisked off to the see the camp where the Scouts will stay. It’s a camp owned and operated by the Orthodox Church, which is also on site. There is a dormitory/classroom block with several rooms – many of which need to be cleaned out. There’s a toilet block. Bathing places have been erected. There’s a headquarters building for the adult staff and a side building where the kitchen will be. We don’t have time to walk to the soccer field, but they’ve already got that in their minds. Some Scouts are already sleeping on site, but others are just crashing in town with friends, apparently. So the Congolese leaders agree that they need to spend today finishing up the cleaning and such and move everybody to the camp in the morning.
They want to know if we brought an American flag. No, I reply. This intrigues me. In 2001, when I led the big do in Kigoma, both Congolese and Tanzanian Scouts were very ill at ease with flag ceremonies and so we didn’t plan on emphasizing them at this Jamboree. But Congolese society is changing all the time, and as the memories of repression and war recede, normal life has been advancing everywhere. The national flag isn’t just for government types any more. Even taxi drivers in Lubumbashi fly little Congolese flags on their cars. So, we’ll get to see what a Congolese Scout flag ceremony looks like.
Bishop Ntambo leaves shortly thereafter to get back to other things. He has three Annual Conferences to preside over in a few days -- Tanzania, Tanganyika, and North Katanga. Before he goes, he reminds our team several times to adapt to the African sense of time. “We make time,” he says, while “you keep time.”
After he leaves, the leadership on both sides sit down for a meeting of the minds. The meeting goes well, I think. Dave, Nikki, and Mitch are also being shown around town. They play with all the children they meet, which makes them instantly popular. They are making something happen without having to have a set schedule. I’m impressed. In introducing the team, I said that we hoped to bring a greater number, but in any case, we had brought our best. And we have. Scouts make good missionaries. Meanwhile, Bob, Taylor, Phred, and I are in constant little conversations with Mumba, with Chief Scout Sampasa, and others over details. It’s coming together, I think. We’re in the right spirit, the right frame of mind. It’s going to be great.
Some folks from Tenke Fungurume Mine also come to see us and we ask for a tour for the following day. I’d rather get that over with before starting in on the Jamboree in earnest. Interrupting the program wouldn’t be good for the Scouts. The TFM guys say they’ll see what they can do.
Nikki’s still not keeping food down, though she’s functioning. The altitude (it’s over 6,000 feet above sea level here) and lateness of meals make me dizzy and faint in the afternoons, but my innards are finally starting to straighten out. By tomorrow, we should be able to get after things pretty well.
Main Drag, Tenke
Potholes that could swallow a Volkswagen
The Jamboree finally opens in camp in the morning with a flag ceremony and morning prayer. The Congolese, led by their Prestant Philip (I hope I have that right; in our terminology, he would be the Senior Patrol Leader) raise their national flag and the international Scout flag. They sing their national anthem and another patriotic song.
One of my pet peeves with the way we learn languages is that we don’t learn the terms for items in our interest. Our language books have us talking about things other than what we want to talk about. In my case, I want to know Scouting terms and expressions. I note that Philip says Salué! where we would say, “Salute!” or “Scout Sign!” To end the salute, instead of our “Tu!,” he says, Fixe!
After the flags are up, we are led in singing by one of the leaders. Prayers of various kinds, including personal confession, are offered. Whoever is leading simply calls on a leader to pray. All of us will be called upon over the course of the Jamboree. Prayers are not translated, whether in English, French, Swahili, Kiluba, or Lingala (another of the languages used by some of the Scouts). Baba Nyembo, one of the Conference Evangelists, has been appointed Chaplain for this event. He preaches to the Scouts.
Photo by Bob Walters
After the opening ceremonies, we have more talk, more negotiation over things. Somewhat to the African leaders’ consternation, I insist on including Philip in our decision-making. Scouting is supposed to be led by the youth instead of the adults, and as the senior young adult, I want him to take the lead. We walk the whole camp and settle where the various activities are to take place. Then, it’s back to town for lunch.
After lunch, we schlep all our stuff out to the camp. This requires some help from the Scouts, since we brought a lot of stuff, and it’s heavy. Also, the camp is a good seven-tenths of a mile from the guest house and parsonage. We elect to leave the guest house and erect our patrol site in camp. The Scouts are greatly curious about our style of camping. They are very interested in our little backpacking tents. I’m more worried about the local street kids getting into our stuff, but we are told not to worry. The Scouts will watch over everything. I remember Bob telling me that the Scouts provide security for Annual Conference, so I trust them to do so for us. Over the next few days, they tirelessly watch over our stuff and we have never a care for anything.
Stirring the pot
Nikki pretending to help cook for campers
Everywhere Mitch and Dave went, they attracted a following
View from our guest house
Baba Mumba’s house is just under the cell tower
Preparing for program
Mitch making a fire-by-friction set
This gentleman became a Scout in 1945
Chaplain Nyembo preaching
Finally, we are ready to start the program. We play a camp-wide game. Wide games are a Jamboree tradition from way, way back. We furnish every Scout with a piece of paper upon which the picture of an animal is printed – cat, dog, goat, etc. When we start, they must find all other persons bearing their animal and then come line up at the HQ to receive their Jamboree polos as a group. As soon as I say, “Go!” they are off and running. All the waiting, the pent-up energy breaks and they move like lightning. Fun is instantaneous, smiles break out on leaders’ faces. We are well launched.
The Congolese leaders have already broken up their attendance into three sections, the better to rotate through the three program activities we have prepared. One section goes with Nikki and Douce to learn First Aid skills. Mitch, David, and Joseph are outdoors, teaching firebuilding, including fire by friction. Phred and Innocent teach basic compass work at the other end of the parade field.
Taylor and I, meanwhile, meet with the adult Scouters in a Roundtable session. I begin by asking them how many years each has been in Scouting. Three have more years than I do; the oldest joined Scouts in 1945. I remind them that young people need the wisdom and affirmation of older generations, and I thank them for their years of service and their dedication to the boys and girls. Then I ask them what sorts of issues they are wrestling with that we might be able to help with.
The issues are mostly those of connection and support. “Support” is a euphemism for materials such as handbooks and uniforms. The meeting is in danger of wandering off into the usual list of stuff we want missionaries to provide. Taylor and I re-direct the conversation into things we can better help with. The Scouts have felt disconnected from the Church, but they think this Jamboree is a great thing and will go far to repair any alienation they have felt. The Katangans also feel left out when the Scout Association in Kinshasa assists other regions’ Scouting programs, but not theirs. Kinshasa says to the Katangans that they have friends from overseas who can help, while other areas of the country are not so blessed. Once again, we talk about what’s possible and what’s not. We talk about the mechanics of providing assistance, about costs and efficiencies. I am pleased to discover that they are better connected to the national Scout Association than I thought they were. They don’t want to break away, they just need to figure out who to supply their Scouts with materials. We talk about getting permission to photocopy resources, about publishing sewing patterns for uniforms. Some seed money might be generated back in America, but the Congolese need to figure out the best way to get things done; organizing things from America just makes things more expensive, which means fewer Scouts get what they need. It’s a good, nuts-and-bolts kind of meeting.
As we head to supper, Nikki, Mitch, and Dave are as high as kites. Their sessions have gone very well, and they are very excited. As we are preparing to leave, I hear vespers being sung in the Orthodox church – with drums, of course.
We come back after supper for the Opening Campfire. Wow. African Scouts have a very good tradition on these things. They build really good fires, and they have many opening and closing ceremonies for their fires. They’re just the best at all sorts of Scoutishness. Mitch grades campfires all the time for the Firecrafter organization. He gave them very high marks.
We were asked to do a skit for the campfire – on very short notice. The previous skit was a bit of burlesque on the theme of wife ordering about a weak husband, whose friends try to get him to man up, etc. Taylor was not enjoying it much. When we talked about which of our traditional skits might “translate,” though, we couldn’t do much better. We opted for the skit about the two guys camping out where the motorcycle gang comes by and keeps beating up the guy outside the tent; finally, after persuading his buddy to switch places, the gang comes in and opts (for a change) to beat up the guy in the tent – i.e, the same guy. I explain that this is mindless cartoon violence. It’s part of the vaudeville repertoire preserved in the campfire tradition. Taylor would prefer something uplifting, with a moral, but that comes later. Scouts can be inspirational, but this part of a campfire usually features fairly broad humor; inspiration comes at the end.
Of course, what’s really different about an African Scout campfire is the singing and dancing! African campfires also last a very long time; we had to leave early. All in all, it was an amazing day.
Dancing the night away
Photo by Taylor Denyer