Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas in San Jose

We are still in CA, so more to come later...but here's a few pictures from our very fun, jam-packed 6 days in San Jose.

First experience with mittens and a scarf (from Grandma Medina)!

Grace and her favorite Aunt Kimmie

Grace and her Babu

With Bibi at Happy Hollow

The Coutts' at Christmas in the Park

My Sweet Girl

Cool Uncle Paul

My grandmother and her traditional 35 types of cookies!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Scary Santa

Our grocery store displays a 5 foot tall, mechanical singing and moving Santa. (The meager Christmas decorations that are seen here do not exactly fall into the "classy" category).

A couple of weeks ago, Grace saw it for the first time and started screaming in absolute terror. Thankfully, we were leaving the store when she saw it and we got her out of there quick!

Earlier this week, Grace and I went shopping again. We walked in the store, she saw the Santa about 30 feet away, and she screamed and started running out of the store. So I picked her up and kept assuring her, "We'll stay away from the Santa. But the Santa's not scary."

As we walked through the store, she kept looking over her shoulder for the Santa, and kept assuring herself, "Santa not scary....Santa not scary." We passed by it quickly as we left and I told her that we were going "bye bye" from the Santa and that everything was okay now.

I still think the whole experience was fairly traumatic for her because for the past two days, she has been telling me out of the blue, "Santa not scary....bye bye Santa."

Not sure how she'll react when she sees Santas everywhere in the States! Hopefully they at least won't be mechanical.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Only in Africa

On Friday we noticed that water was no longer coming to our house. This is not an immediate problem, because we have large water storage tanks at this house that collect water when it comes in from the city (because water tends to be irregular). The water in our tanks can last us a couple of weeks.

However, we found out today that the water company has shut off the water for the entire area, because too many people have not paid their water bill!

Water is the only utility in this city that is not pre-paid. You don't get a bill in the mail either. Periodically you just have to drive to the water company and ask to pay your bill. (My bill is PAID, thank you very much). And since they can't just turn off an individual's water, they turned off everyone's water.

So who knows how long the water will be off. The problem is that since there is no accountability for paying for your water bill, a renter will move on without paying their year's worth of water. So that means that the next renter is supposed to pay for the past renter's water bill too....which is why no one pays for water.

So what will we do in a week or so when we run out of water? Hire a "water truck" to come to our house and fill our tanks with water again. It's more expensive that way...but...what can you do?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My City

It's taken a long time for this sprawling city of 4 million people to feel like "my" city. Don't get me wrong; Tanzania felt like home after our first term here, but the city itself intimidated me. Very few street signs, driving on the "wrong" side of the road, very little traffic-law enforcement (which leads to chaos most of the time), huge diversity in economic levels, cows and goats mingled in with millions of people. It really wasn't until the last couple of years, when I was forced to drive to all sorts of unusual places in order to adopt Grace that I really started feeling comfortable driving in this city. They say you come to a point when living overseas of reaching a "new normal." I think I have finally come to that point.

Downtown traffic

A main market

Dar es Salaam is 70% Muslim

Bicycles are not recreational here! They are a means of work--and it's amazing what is carried on the back of a bicycle! Every morning you see guys with their bicycles stacked with bread, as in this picture. Even more amazing are the guys who carry about 30 dozen eggs on the back of a bicycle!

A common sight

The most common form of transportation for most Tanzanians--the "dolla dolla." One of these buses can take 50 or more people during rush hour, and there are thousands of dolla-dollas in the city. It costs about 30 cents to get to town.

Just for clarification--we live more on the outskirts of the city, just a few mintues away from HOPAC. I guess you could call us the "suberbs"--but it's a far cry from California suberbs!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Let the Nations Be Glad!

Most days at HOPAC, ethnicity is forgotten, even though our kids come from 30 different countries. Our students have names like Tsiry and Hyungmuk and Dasha, they bring chopsticks and sushi to school for lunch, and speak many different languages at home, but in their blue uniforms and the universality of childhood, their differences fade into the background. HOPAC certainly has cliques and rivalries just like any other school, but they are not based on race.

But one day a year, those differences are celebrated. International Day has always been one of the highlights of the year. Students dress in their national costumes, parents set up booths full of artifacts and food from their home countries, and dances and songs are performed. This day never fails to bring me to tears, as I always get the distinct impression that we are witnessing a foretaste of heaven from the Creator and Lover of culture.

Many of the nationalities at HOPAC come from business people working in Tanzania, but more encouraging is that many are MK's--from Sweden, Spain, Korea, Germany, UK, Australia, Finland...the list goes on. What an amazing experience to witness the worldwide Body of Christ.

11th Grade Girls and Their Science Teacher

Litte Dutch Girls

Little Swedish Girls

The Korean Clan

Big Tough Irish Guys

It's November...and gathered on the basketball court, everyone sweats in the same language!

Mmmm...Everbody's favorite part is the food.

All the kids get their "passports" stamped at the different displays.


Tanzanian Dancing

Iksheeta and Grace: She wasn't too happy with the crowds and noise!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


During our half-term break, Gil and I took our first "no-Grace" trip for 3 days to celebrate our 7th anniversary. We went to Zanzibar, an inhabited island off the coast of Tanzania. Technically Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, but is culturally much more Arab. We hadn't been there in years, so this was a special treat. Zanzibar is one of the most fascinating, beautiful, and mysterious places on earth.

Zanzibar from the air. It's only a 20 minute plane ride away.

Seen at the airport: "Smile U R in Zanzibar" Definitely gave us a good laugh!

We stayed at the "Zanzibar Coffee House:" VERY cool Bed and Breakfast-type place (even though we don't drink coffee!) in a renovated old Arab house. Check out our bathroom!

The main city on the island is called Stonetown. All the original buildings are made out of coral and have the most fascinating architecture. Intricately carved doors, called "Zanzibar doors" are seen everywhere--even in the most run down buildings.

Zanzibar is 99% Muslim.

Yes, we were really that close to these dolphins! Close enough, in fact, to jump in with snorkels and swim alongside them.

Got even closer to these monkeys--Red Colobus Monkeys, found only in Zanzibar. Have to be careful not stand directly under them!

At night, dozens of vendors set up on the beach selling all kinds of seafood.

Anglican church established by David Livingstone on the site of a former slave market. Notice the mosque steeple right next door.

Wooden path-like bridge through a mangrove forest. It's hard to see in the picture, but all these trees live in salt water, so the path makes you feel like you are walking on water. Absolutely breathtaking.

Come visit us and we'll take you with us to Zanzibar next time!

Recipe Adaptations

I find it amusing how I need to adapt recipes here.

For instance, tonight I am making Beef Stroganoff. The recipe says, "Simmer 10 minutes or until tender."

I therefore interpret that as meaning, "Simmer 3 hours."

I started it at 4:30, and we'll eat at 7 tonight. By then, it should be pretty tender.

Tanzania doesn't have any kind of mamsy-pamsy cows that get to sit around all day and eat. These cows WORK for a living!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Daddy's On Vacation....

...and that means a new photo shoot for Grace! Who needs Sears when you have Gil Medina?

It was very hard to pick my favorites...but here they are:
Grace Christa Medina, age 22 months