Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hellooooo.....Out There......

Blogging is an odd experience. At least when I email, even if it's a "group" email (like our prayer updates), I know who is getting them. But blogging is really out there for the entire world to see, should they choose. (Hence the reason why the topics on this blog tend to be in the "frivolous" category--there certainly are more important things in our lives than cars and water problems and birthday parties, but usually I'm not able to write about them for the sake of privacy of others). And up until last month, I have had no idea who is reading this blog unless the person leaves a comment or they tell me some other way.

Enter Google Analytics....

My brother, Paul, is rapidly moving up the Google ladder, and when we were in CA for Christmas, he set up a Google Analytics site for my blog.

It's very cool. It tells me how many people visit my blog every day, and what countries they come from and even what states and cities they come from. And there have been some unexpected surprises.

Since December, 199 people (maybe you are the 200th!) have made 770 visits to this blog. You come from 10 different countries and 26 different states. I can think of people I know in a lot of these places....but some of them are beyond me! I can't remember who I know in Idaho or New York or Utah or Virginia or Kentucky. And I especially can't remember who I know in the Philippines--someone who checks this blog regularly. Now, I'm not asking you to reveal yourselves...you have a right to your privacy, and personally I have checked out many blogs of people I knew a long time ago or even don't know at all--and never left comments. But it is indeed odd to think that there could be perfect strangers out there who are interested in this blog!

So anyway...to all you readers out there...whether I know you or not....thanks for taking the time to be interested in our lives! It's quite an honor, actually.

(Oh, and if you have a blogspot and now want your own Google Analytics page...don't ask me what my brother did to set it up. I have no idea. Sorry!)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The New Car



Okay, so it's not exactly new. It's actually a 1998, so it's really not new. But considering the fact that we've never bought a really "new" car, and the fact that this car only has 60,000 km (40,000 miles) on it, it seems new to us.


We decided it was time to get a new car because our 17-year-old Suzuki was becoming a money pit. And we needed something with more seats, because once we add another car seat into the mix, we would have had no room to transport anyone else except our family in the Suzuki. Which was a problem since and there is always someone living with us.


Buying a car is interesting here. First of all, you can pay in two ways: through a wire transfer or in cash. Yep, cash. And the highest denomination in Tanzanian currency is 10,000 shillings (about 9 dollars). Imagine buying your last car with 10 dollar bills. That's a lot of cash. So we decided to go the wire transfer route.


On the day we went to pick up the car, Gil took it downtown to get everything nailed down.


Literally. Nailed down.


Every piece of rubber, every light cover, every decorative piece of metal on the car was bolted down. He also had the license plate number etched into every window of the car. Why? So that none of those things get stolen. It happens a lot. In our Suzuki, we had everything on the outside bolted down, so nothing there was stolen, but we did have our window switches stolen twice (you know, the switches used for automatic windows), and the head rests and the ash tray stolen. Basically, anything that can come off of the car can/will be stolen. Hence the reason for getting anything and everything bolted down.


So now we have a new car! It's a Toyota Ipsum, imported directly from Japan. That model does not exist in the States, but basically it's a mini-mini van. Smaller than an American mini-van but with 7 seats. It drives great! The only downside to it is that it does not have 4-wheel drive, which means that there will be roads where we can't drive it in the rainy season. But a 4-wheel drive would have cost twice as much, and we didn't think that was worth it.


I like driving so much better now that I don't have to worry about my car breaking down! :-)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Daddy Needed Some More Practice With His Lighting Equipment...









"Praying"

After he got the lighting perfect, he then proceeded to take individual yearbook shots of every kid at HOPAC!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Two!


Last Saturday we finally had a free weekend to celebrate Grace's birthday (which was on January 1st). Grace loved it, since being in the center of attention is her favorite place to be.


When you ask her how old she is, she yells, "Two!" and holds up her thumb and index finger.


Dorothy (or "Dorfy" according to Grace)


We celebrated with some teacher friends and the girls who baby-sit Grace.


Grace was in heaven--six baby-sitters giving her a bath at once!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Homestudy

I've been jumping through hoops, going through the process for our second adoption. Today the social worker came to our house for a homestudy. I'd be interested in hearing from those of you who have had homestudies in the States. Because from what I know of those, they are a wee bit different than what we experienced today....

Our district social worker, Mama Mbaruku ("Mama" is used much like "Mrs." here) had told me a couple days ago that she thought today would be a good day for the homestudy. So I called her up this morning and she said I should come get her about 3:30. Yes, come get her. Even the district social worker doesn't have a car. So Grace and I drove the 45 minutes to go get her. Then we waited for an hour (which is interesting in small office with a toddler). When we got to our car, she said, "Oh, Grace can sit with me!" I politely told her that we had a special car seat for Grace to sit in. Then we drove back in traffic so it took over an hour to get home.

After all that, she stayed at our house for about 15 minutes. I'm not exactly sure what she was writing down, but I showed her every room in the house. Her biggest concern was that Grace was sleeping in her own bed in her own room. "She's only two years old! She needs to be sleeping with you in your bed." I told her that it was our American custom to have babies sleep in their own beds. "From what age?" she asked. "Usually, from birth!" I told her. I assured her that Grace was perfectly fine, and showed her how the baby monitor worked, but I'm not sure she was convinced.

And that was it.

As strange as this description might sound to those of you who have had American homestudies, it actually went really well. The last time we had a homestudy (in between Grace's foster care and adoption), when I showed up at the appointed time to pick up a (different) social worker, she told me she was tired and didn't want to come. In contrast, I've been more than impressed with Mama Mbaruku's professionalism and earnest desire to help us--and I thank God for her! Our paperwork should get done much faster this time because of her. We just have to take into account the totally different worldview.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My First Thought When Arriving Home in Tanzania from the Airport....

..."Quick, get all the chocolate out of the suitcases and put it in the fridge!"

Why?

Within two hours of arriving in Tanzania, my twelve bags of chocolate chips had already begun melting.

So do you believe me when I say it's hot here? :-)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Christmas in Tanzania

These pictures are out of order...this happened BEFORE we went to the States...but you get the idea.


We took our youth group kids to a nearby village the week before Christmas. The head janitor at HOPAC, a wonderful Tanzanian named William, is planting a church in this village, and we came to play and bring gifts to the kids. It was a great experience for our kids and theirs.

We brought nail polish to do up the girls' nails (and some of the boys who didn't want to be left out!). Then, of course, they had to do OUR nails too! And to think I didn't pay anything for this manicure.

Our kids and their kids.

My discipleship group came over for cookie decorating. Oh, and of course, they got to eat the ones that "accidentally" broke.

Jenai (Irish), Jessi (Swiss), Hannah (Korean), Andrea (Dutch), and Michelle (Australian--a short-term missionary). Each of these girls is an MK.


The "rain" and the "sun" in the elementary Christmas production. These little people were WAY too cute.

Christmas in San Dimas

Six fun days with the Medina clan! Grandma and Grace.

Grace and cousin Maddie...Grandma knows how to find the coolest presents! This one, however, did not make it on the plane with us....!

Hooray for more presents! Really, though, her favorite part was just tearing off the paper.

By the way, Grace is talking more and more every day now. After spending two weeks in the States, she learned two very important words: "Elmo" and "Dora." Should I be proud....or should I call it corruption???