The Early Years, Part I: An Interview with Hank Weaver

 

The Early Years series will offer a glimpse into SST’s rich history through interviews with key players in SST’s creation and beginning decades. For the first installment, we spoke with Henry (Hank) Weaver of Goshen, who served on the planning committee for SST.

 Hank Weaver’s game was chemistry. It was his love, his research, what he taught at Eastern Mennonite College and Goshen College, and the spark that sent him to Peru in 1964 as a consultant at San Marcos University in Lima. When he returned to Goshen from a year of teaching in very bad Spanish and Lima’s grey humidity, his passion was still chemistry. But now he could not stop thinking about the world.

Tanzania: A Film

My trip to Tanzania had been on my mind for my entire time at Goshen leading up to that spring. I always imagined that I would create a video of the experience, but I remember hesitating when we were told not to bring expensive cameras. The moment of hesitation didn’t last long, though – I would never forgive myself for not bringing my camera to Tanzania of all places. I’d just have to take the risk.

A Morning with Ma Ma

Ma Ma and Ba Ba Wang were an older retired couple — he an ex-military officer, she a rotund local tennis star. I lived in their apartment in Nanchong, China with their dog, Er Wa, and a turtle that mysteriously disappeared after a few weeks. Neither parent spoke a word of English, but their bubbly personalities, the deep bowls of noodles ready each evening, and their strange daily routine of stripping down to their underwear after a long day out on the town — it all became my world for a few months, so dear to me over time.

The Wangs were an odd duo, as many fellow SST friends would attest to after spending an evening with them. They were always eager to teach me everything there was to know, despite the language barrier. They’d tell me where to place my hands when I slept, scolded me for having a pimple on my face, and instructed me on how to correctly sit at the table. What seemed overwhelming at first, I understood later as a way of trying to shelter me, they just wanted me to feel at home with them. They were goofy, and made me feel goofy. We soon made one happy family.

A Moment, Not a Movie

One afternoon in Kemgesi, Serengeti District, Tanzania, I crouched watching elderly men play a local variant of Bao, similar to the game Mancala. They were scooping up beans from the weathered board and counting in Kingoreme, the local language, as they re-deposited them, one by one, into each cavity on the board.

One of my neighbors, a man known as Mwalimu (meaning “teacher,” though he didn’t teach at any school as far as I knew), walked up and started a conversation. He was dressed in a jersey and shorts — usually a no-no for adult men in Tanzania unless actively involved in sports — and held a ball.

“Do you know how to play volleyball?” he asked. A teenager joined us, holding his arms behind his back, who was also dressed for sport.

I followed Mwalimu and the teenager to the village soccer field. We stopped there, but I didn’t see a net. The three of us formed a triangle and Mwalimu started to pass the ball back and forth. Soon, we became a circle as more and more teenage boys congregated, as if drawn by the gravity of the volleyball itself.

To My Mother

Lauraine,

On cold and snowy Colorado nights, when with the turn of a knob I can have a hot bath, I think of you. On beautiful sunny days when the sky, framed by evergreens and rugged mountains, is a blue you can’t believe until you see it, I think of you. When it rains and the rivers and streams turn to rust from the rocks and hills around them, I think of you, and the red dirt of Zimbabwe. It’s as if the rocks I climb here wash away until they become the dust that coated my feet as I walked the streets of Bulawayo, where you became my mother.