Mikumi National Park

Saturday, July 14, 2012

In Moments Like These

It is nights like last night that make me want to stay in Africa forever. Mornings like this morning make me rejoice that we are moving home soon.

Last night some wonderful friends came over for dinner. Their four kids plus our three proved to be a great time. We enjoyed good food, had great conversation and laughed at each other out loud. We had serious discussion about our faith and our work. We laughed at each other (OK, mostly we laughed at Jeff) as we played with the kids and made funny voices. I promise he can sound just like the black preacher on "What's in the Bible". Which is funny since he preaches in Tanzanian churches on a regular basis. 

We have plenty to talk about. The men's work is totally different but they share some of the same struggles. Jeff and Wendy are missionaries with the Assembly of God church. Jeff teaches at the Bible College, digs water wells, build churches, coordinates with the convention in the US and a myriad of other things. He is one busy man. Wendy home schools their four kids and supports Jeff in his ministry. (Although her list is short her task is grand.)

We talk about the struggles of life here. We laugh about it. Jeff has great stories about his trips into the bush.  We shake our heads and laugh and conclude that it is just another day in Tanzania. We talk about what is going on in our home country and how our hearts break as it turns further and further away from God. We share our personal struggles but still remember that our God is bigger and stronger and He is present.

Our kids get along really well. That makes it easy to get together, right. We have people whose company we really enjoy but if the kids don't get along you are less likely to get together much. Our kids get along great. Our little ones adore each other and cry every time we have to leave. The boys play video games and love jumping on the trampoline. Our big girls love all of the same things and their daughter is old enough that Madeline doesn't try to boss her around.

It was a great night.

Then I woke up this morning.

Roosters were crowing. (They are sooo loud it makes me want to scream! I really have suggested our gardener eat the rooster but he just laughs. I am SURE he will eat it as soon as we move.) Windows were creaking in the breeze. Our window panes swing open (as opposed to moving up and down) and must be latched open or closed. All of the latches don't work and they swing and creak. I am trapped in my mosquito net and have to push my way out. My little one is in bed with me. The roosters wake her up. My husband is not in bed. Here they work EVERY Saturday. I can hear the pump whinning. The city water must be off. Laurence has to wash dishes so the kids can eat breakfast. We only have a few bowls. We used them all last night when our friends came to eat. We have no dishwasher. Our housekeeper will not be in this weekend because I gave her the weekend off so she could see her kids. I had to pay her bus fare and some school fees for her kids. The kids could not eat the few granola bars we have left from the US for breakfast. We are going on safari in a few weeks and we have to save them. No telling what the lodge will serve us. If we break down on the trip (highly likely) we need to have something to eat. Even if there is a cafe' to get something to eat it would take forever and no telling what sickness we could get from it. So the granola bars must be saved. As I go into the kitchen there are two guards sitting on my porch. They are speaking Swahili, which I still don't understand. (I know it is my fault.) It creeps me out.

Just another morning in Tanzania.

We really have enjoyed our time here in Africa. We have met some AMAZING people. To see what they do and how they live has been an invaluable experience. To live in another culture and see that although we are all different we all want the same things even if the definition of what those things are or how to achieve them is different has been immeasurable. (I know that is a run-on sentence. Get over it.) I have experienced it. It is not my life calling. I want to go home.


Sunday, July 8, 2012


I didn't mention that we moved. Yep. Sorry. We went back to the states in October of 2011 and found out a few days before we returned to Tanzania that we had to move. We moved from beautiful, green, lush Morogoro to dry, dusty, arid Dodoma. Almost from rain forest to dessert.

There are a lot of challenges to moving in Africa. My husband, the awesome, wonderful guy that he is took care of most of the challenges. One thing that frightened me the most was what about our housekeeper and how will I get groceries? You see, there are a few grocery stores but the bulk of our food comes from the market. With my limited Kiswahili the market is a daunting place. In fact, even our career missionary friends rarely go to the market. They send their housekeepers. In Morogoro, we actually had a gentleman that came to the house several times a week and asked if we needed errands run and one of those was going to the market for us. Sweet, I know! I would give Lighton a list, some money, and he would return with wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables. And by money I mean less than you spend at McDonalds for one meal. He even knew to bring us knew seasonal fruit for the kids to try.

In the manner that God ALWAYS provides for us, he took care of our needs. Our new home has servants quarters in the rear of the property. That allowed our sweet Sabina to come with us and have a safe, free place to live. When we arrived the cousin of our landlord who was out of work, spoke English and was willing to do whatever job he could to provide for his family. Did I mention he is a committed Christian and his wife is a pastor?  God ALWAYS provides. He became our gardener and goes to the market for me.

So this is all background information, right. We have been living here for about 6 months. So there is another family we knew in Morogoro. Our housekeepers sister is their nanny and housekeeper. Angelina is wonderful. She can cook, speaks great English and is even smilier than our Sabina. The kids Adore her. She babysat for us a few times. Her employer had to move to Dar es Salaam and she went with them. Very common here in Tanzania. NOW, that family is moving to the United Kingdom and taking her with them.

Just to get this straight. We have a wonderful housekeeper named Sabina. We are moving back to the states in a few weeks and leaving her here. Her sister is a housekeeper and nanny to another family and they are moving to the UK and taking her with them. When I was talking about this with Sabina she said the other family "loves Angelina very much." My heart broke. You see, we love Sabina too. But there is NO WAY we could bring her back to the States. She just doesn't understand that. I wonder if she thought that it was a possibility. I wonder if she dreamed (as I often dream of winning a millions dollars and what would I do with it) about coming to the States and living in the land of plenty. She even said that life in Tanzania was no good and life in the UK was very good. I wonder if she dreamed of having plenty of money forever and being able to send her kids to a better school and providing them with a nice home and clothes. 

I wonder if she thinks we don't love her.

Is a world of plenty actually a better life? A life of ease and convenience. Is that better than being raised by your own mother? These women are good, godly mothers. They love their children and they worship their god. Is the price of opportunity worth the cost? Angelina's kids will have more opportunity. They will now have plenty of food and will be able to go to a better school and have more opportunity. But they will not have their mother because she will be in the UK raising someone else's children. Don't get me wrong. I am not blaming Angelina, nor do I think she is making the wrong choice. Given the choice to provide for your family in a magnificent way or face the possibility of unemployment she has to choose the job. I guess I am angry at the family for making this decision for her. It seems very selfish that they are bringing her along so that THEIR children do not have to go through another transition. What about what Angelina's kids are missing out on? But what about what her children are going to receive?

But on the other hand maybe this IS their chance? Maybe this will give them the opportunity to rise up out of mediocrity and be the next generation of Christian leaders in this country that is full of corruption and greed. Just maybe. I pray this it is. I pray for the best for these kids. 

I realize this has very little to do with me directly. We could never bring Sabina back with us and neither do I desire it. I can take care of my own home and raise my own children. I actually do not desire to have a housekeeper. I like my privacy. Oh, and coupled with the fact that we could not pay her enough or get her a Visa to be in the US. I mean really, I am just trying to picture in my head what it would look like with her trying to figure out a dishwasher and dryer, trying to find a tub to hand wash and find a line to dry her clothes. Food and food preparation is a whole nother ball game! Oh, my! Could you see her trying to find sweet potato leaves somewhere? And cooking over an open fire? 

We love Sabina and we need to make sure she knows it even though she is not moving back with us.

Just what I am thinking about today.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Salvation has come!!!

I am not sure what I thought it would feel like...the day when my children received Christ. I have prayed for it since the day, no BEFORE the day I knew I was pregnant with them. As an expecting mom (or for me, as one who wanted to be expecting for so long) people pray for lots of things, health is one of those top ones. But I prayed for their salvation, that they would know the Christ and be madly in love with him. Today it happened. Both Madeline and Carter prayed and allowed the perfectly illogical miracle to occur, the living God now dwells in their heart.

Just for a split second I am sad. Laurence and I were not the ones to lead them in the prayer. That quickly passed because we Know, that it will always be a sweet moment shared with a super sweet, kind devoted lady. Mrs. Rachel is the kids' Sunday School teacher. She and her husband have been in Tanzania for 15 years teaching and reaching the lost. They started their English language worship service about 6 months ago. We have been attending since almost the beginning.

Carter has a "Super Hero" vision of God. Since we moved to Africa he started saying things like, "But God can't pick-up this house, right?" We would gently explain that although God CAN it is not something He generally does, but he COULD. Then he would equate God to people or events around us. In the last few months he began praying, "and God I just feel you stuck in my heart, I love you so much", "I know you will always love me." and most recently, "I just want to give you a present but I know I can't." Don't think he is super spiritual. The other day at dinner he said, "God is like the best Jedi." We knew he was getting ready and it would only be a matter of time. He did give God a present. He gave him his life.

Madeline is a bit different. Her relationship with Christ is a little more personal. Not so vocal. She prays. But she does it in private. At our bedtime prayers she said the same memorized scripture for almost 2 years. Lately she just asks if she can pray silently. For all of the talking the girl does she has a hard time expressing herself in this way. For quiet some time she has understood salvation and her need for it. She has told me. She just wasn't ready. She was finally ready. We talked about it, a little. They are just different kids. Madeline just internalizes things a bit more.

Today is a new day.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spit splat, sputter...

You would think that in a country where there is little electricity and few people have cars that it would be peaceful and quiet. Nope! LOUD LOUD LOUD!!! So this morning I awoke to a strange sound. Spit, spit, sputter. OFF. Spit, sputter, off. You see my husband is terribly considerate. Sputter, sputter.

What was it? Water. Or should I say, lack thereof.  We have run out of water AGAIN. I can pull up my grown-up panties and say that doing without power is OK, (we have actually had very little outages lately) but WATER. Really! So what does it effect? I mean it isn't like you can drink it. We don't even brush our teeth with it because, well, we have seen a tub full of it. Eeek. (So looking forward to a hot bath in a tub of clean water and my jetted {spelling word yesterday} tub.)

It means:
1. Running around telling your kids not to flush the toilet. (bet that has never come out of your mouth!)

2. No washing hands.
3. No washing dishes. (and by that I mean our housekeeper, living in poor countries does have its advantages :)
4. No cleaning fruit that we just bought at the gate.
5. A million reminders to be thankful.

It always comes back to thankfulness for me. I am thankful that this is a rare occurrence for me. It happens to my friend Shonna often. In many areas of our country people have to walk hours, daily, to get the water they need for cooking and drinking. I have plenty of bottled water sitting in the storage room. Clean, pure, disease free drinking water. This is only a temporary position for us and can return to the US and drink water out of the tap. Heck, we use drinking water to wash our bodies, clothes and flush our toilets. Explain that to this continent and they will think you are crazy!!!

So as my kids watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and my oldest still rests in her cozy bed covered in a mosquito net, and I hear screeching (LOUD SCREECHING) of the birds; I marvel at God's creation and give thanks with a thankful heart.

Monday, August 1, 2011

First Day of School!!

In April, when the new catalog came out, I eagerly ordered my new school material. We home school by choice. There is an International School here in our town. We know several families whose children go there. We just thought it wasn't best for our kids. From the start, Carter said he was NOT going to that International School, he was going to be home schooled until we went back to North Carolina and he went to Madeline's school. I'm sure it is a good school. The children I have met seem intelligent and well adjusted. And secretly I guess it was my opportunity to explore something that had been lurking in the back of my mind. I mean, so many of my friends home school. It seemed so cool. You get to teach your kids all kinds of cool stuff. Teach them scripture, be there with them as they learn, get to share in the excitement. And then after the sticker shock of education in a developing country ($$$$$) we decided it was best for us. I mean, what was I going to do all day with only one kid and a full-time housekeeper?

I ordered our material in April. It arrived at my home in North Carolina a week or two later. How was I going to get it over here? It is tons of books. Madeline has 25 chapter books to read on her own plus books I read to her and books we teach from and then there are Carter's books on top of that. My good fortune I overhead LT talking to the office one night, "Bill of Laden, blah blah, blah, Duty Free, blah, blah, VAT, blah, blah" Poking my head out of the kitchen, "Are you having a container coming over?" "Uhhh, yea." "Where from???!!!" "North Carolina..." "Can we put my school books on it?!" "Uh..yea, but it is leaving tomorrow." LIGHTBULB! "Deborah can do it :)" Well, Deborah did it. She went home for lunch, grabbed the boxes that had been delivered to our house but she had been picking up the mail since Emily was in California and brought them to the office. She contacted the right guy in shipping and Voila! They were put in the container ready to set sail. (Oh, we had to exchange a few e-mails about invoices for the Bill of Laden and then...Voila!)

Great right! All of my books were coming over together. Well most, I had an order from Amazon that wasn't included and my math books. She had my math books but LT didn't want to push his luck with the shipping guy. It took two months for the books to travel across the oceans. See, because of all of the pirates (try explaining to your kids that not all pirates are nice guys like the Veggie Tales) the boats have to go around the Cape of Good Hope and back up instead of going through the Med and then down. Yea!! It arrived in port. We can have it on June 20th! Nope, sorry, it will be ready Tuesday. You do understand that keshu doesn't really mean tomorrow right? Next Tuesday. I guess next Tuesday doesn't really mean THE next Tuesday. A month of Tuesdays later and our box had cleared port. It will be transported Wednesday. And Wednesday it was transported. Right past here and to the other yard three hours from here. (Yep, it just keeps getting better doesn't it.) "I saw it Mam and it is coming your way." We met LT for lunch Friday and I just knew he would have our boxes with him. The container arrived at the office and they were unloading it. Yep. I had really stopped asking a month ago (except for stealing his Blackberry sometimes and checking for myself, not that I understood any of the codes and what-have-you that these people talk in).

Box Day!!! The boxes came in a little red wagon! We were so excited!

So excited in fact, that Madeline couldn't wait to start reading her new books. She looked at the list and grabbed one of her "extra" books and stole off to bed and read by flashlight. Saturday she started reading one of the books to a friend as their nails were drying. Genna had had enough but Madeline kept on reading. Sunday when we returned from church she was ready to label all of the books and put them on the shelf. Then about four o'clock she asked if we could start school "Tomorrow!" Well, I guess if you want to. So I rushed around and got things ready and we started school this morning.

It is hard to believe I have two kids in school. Madeline is starting 3rd grade and Carter, Kindergarten. Lizzie had to have her own school books too! (Dollar Tree workbooks are GREAT!) She is 3 and wearing the outfit Madeline wore on her first day of Pre-School at Methodist. (Where has the time went?) The day went well. Carter was slow doing his handwriting and I didn't even attempt math with Madeline (I'm not THAT crazy!!) but all-in-all it was a good day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Count Your Blessings

This morning started out great! I woke up early and new this was the day to start the next level of my new work-out routine. Lizzie got up and LT put her in bed with me but she got up again because she wanted Daddy. GREAT! Go get your Daddy :) Early in the morning is their special time. They eat breakfast together, he starts his computer, etc... it is a great time.

I get up, get dressed, put the laundry on and pop in the DVD. I am doing great. It is tough but I have my favorite 3 year old cheerleader cheering me on. "You can do it Mommy. Mommy like dis. You have to do it like dis." Cute little blond curls bobbing along. And then it happened...I was on the mat about to start crunches and  I feel wetness. "LIZZIE!!!!" I assumed she had peed. I turn around and the whole room is flooded. The living room, the kitchen, I get up, the dinning room. FLOODED.

I took off my shoes, plopped Lizzie in the only area that is not flooded, turn off the culprit (washing machine) and start mopping and baling. Madeline got up and started leading the kids campaign. They picked up their tent and started moving and drying Legos. I texted LT, he called back and came home. As we were almost finished our sweet housekeeper arrived. She helped out with the details.

Counting my blessings, name them one by one.
I am thankful that we have power this morning and are even able to have a washing machine. I am thankful that my husband was in town and his first thought was that he needed to come to help. I am thankful for Madeline. She is such a hard worker. She went to town directing (bossing) the children in taking care of their area. I am SOOOO thankful that all of our floors are tile and our furniture is all raised from the ground. Not a single thing was damaged (it is an Asian style with huge timbers sitting on the floor). I am thankful for the reminder to be thankful. Last night before I got off Facebook my sister-in-love, Jish, posted "I will praise you in the storm." I love that song by the way. We have so much to be thankful for, even when the waters come up. So thankful for the reminder to always be thankful.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's all Tobacco's fault

We have in our glorious town, three tobacco companies. Other than missionaries and our group, that is where all of the ex-pats come from. They do great things here. They provide a lot of jobs. They are the reason for so much housing. They built the Gymkhana Club (it is KIND of like a country club). They even provide the doctor that we go see. He is a company doctor for one of the plants but they allow the ex-pats to use him too. (Not sure how that works I just know that is who I have in my phone.)

But...it is all their fault that we have been out of electricity so much lately. You see, when they are processing, they use 1/3 of the electricity for our region. REGION Our schedule has gone like this: Out all day Saturday (7:30 am - 6:00 pm); Sunday out a few hours during church and around lunch. Then out again Sunday evening until sometime early in the morning. Out all day Monday (7:30am - 6:00pm). Out again Tuesday night (6:30 pm - midnight). We have had power all day today. So weird. I am sure it will be off another day and another evening this week. But here is the real shocker....it is NO BIG DEAL.

Thanksgiving was shortly after we arrived. The power went out as we were having an outside party. Anywhere else it would have been pandemonium. No one here even batted an eye. The party went on. Electricity was out all day for Madeline and Lizzie's birthday. We stayed at a really nice lodge on safari a few weeks ago and they didn't turn the generator on until they needed to make sure the beer was cold for dinner! It is really no big deal.

Let's think about it. What is the biggest inconvenience when the power goes out? Air conditioner or heater right. Power in the US usually goes out because of hurricanes in the summer or ice storms in the winter. Well, we don't have hurricanes or ice storms here and we don't have air conditioners or heaters either. (People in Dar and Zanzibar have a/c but not in the town we live in.) HOW ON EARTH DO YOU SURVIVE WITHOUT A/C? Well, you just do. Our house was built for it. We live at the base of a mountain and get a good breeze, our house has too many windows to count and they never get closed. There is a crosswind that is so strong that the solid wood doors slam closed routinely. Don't let me try to fool you, January and February are HOT! I drank A LOT of lemonade and in the afternoons I did as little as possible. We slept under fans and prayed that we could feel them through the mosquito nets. But right now, it is winter and many nights we are cold and searching for the covers. I have spent many days of late in long pants and/or my favorite GAP sweatshirt. But most days it is comfortable.

What about your fridge and freezer? Well, I was taught not to open them when the power is out and that makes good sense except that with it out so often you just can't live like that. So, I try to keep Lizzie out of the fridge, open it as little as possible and at this point don't even give it a second thought. Except for the ice cream. It melts and refreezes and then is a little weird. Not too weird. I mean, we still eat it just the same. Can't throw out ice cream.

We do have to plan our meals. Our burners are gas but the oven is electric. Carter and Lizzie are good with cereal or oatmeal. We make coffee with a french press. No electricity required, just boil your water on the stove. (We have been caught without beans ground. We don't let that happen any more!) Madeline loves toast and eggs. She has discovered the wonderful treat of toast made in the skillet just like my grandma made. Oh, my! So good. I have been caught with dinner planned to go in the oven and power go out. It only takes once. I now plan to have meals out of the oven before 6:30.

What do you do all day? Well, we count our blessings. I bought a laptop just before we left and in my husbands great wisdom he upgraded to a 9 cell battery. We can play games and watch movies for a very long time before that baby runs out. We watched a movie last night in the peaceful darkness. The kids run and play and I don't have to monitor how long Carter plays on the Wii. I love that part!! We read books and do art projects and color in coloring books. The day goes on and we are happy.

What happens when it goes out at night? We are used to the routine. We have candles in the dining room (they were first placed there to keep the flies away during the summer, but they are also there when the power goes out as we are having dinner) and in our bathroom. If it is light outside when the power goes out we hurry the kids to get ready for bed and pull their covers back. If it is already dark we have them all get ready for bed in our room. We even have a spot to put a candle in the bathroom to brush teeth. Why don't you just use flashlights you may ask? Well, the kids broke the bulbs in my two mini mags and the batteries run out REALLY fast in the flashlights we purchased here. We purchased a lantern here but it doesn't shine very bright or very long. I have seen those oil lanterns. My grandma used to use them. Love them! except the smell. It gives me a headache. Plus, I just really love candles. We have them in empty wine bottles. I love the way the wax drips down the sides. Don't know why, just do. Then I catch my housekeeper cleaning the wax off of them. Don't know how to ask her to stop. Oh well, let it go. (Part of my new, relax, it doesn't really matter attitude. It's working for me.)

We have had some of the best times when the lights go out in the evening. One night we sat around in the sun room (before we had furniture in the living room :) and made up stories. Someone started out and then each person got to add on. I will remember it forever. Especially how Madeline always made it a princess and a prince getting married, Lizzie wanted them to have a baby and Carter entered with the Big Bad Wolf and ate them up. No matter what scenario Laurence and I came up with theirs was the same. We laughed and laughed. Then they started stealing each others stories. Good times.

We have had power all day today. I better finish off the ice cream. It is sure to go off tomorrow.