Sunday, February 24, 2008

Not Your Average Returns Policy

So on Thursday our new car had a tire blow out (happens constantly here). Thankfully it happened just before I got home. We then realized that we were missing the "spinner" to take off the bolts.

So on Saturday I used our old Suzuki (which is now finally running again well enough to sell after investing a heck of a lot of money to completely overhall the engine) to go try and find a spinner that would fit the bolts on our new car.

I first tried a little auto parts shop (more like a shack) and they didn't have one. So then I went to a little place next to the gas station which has fixed punctures ("punchas" in Swahili) in our tires enough times that they recognize us.

Auto parts are not in my Swahili vocabulary, so this was interesting. But the guy knew what I was talking about and ran off to find me one. When he brought it to me, I asked him if I could bring it back and exchange it if it wasn't the right size.

He didn't like that idea. So he thought a moment and suggested that instead he come with me to my house, and I check to see if it was the right size. I thought a moment and decided that would be better than spending $15 on a tool that we couldn't use.

So he hopped in my car; we drove to the house and discovered that it was indeed the right size, and then I drove him back to the gas station.

Can you imagine that happening at your local Auto Parts store???

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Oh! How I Love These Girls

I had "my" girls over for a sleepover last weekend, something we hadn't done in a long time...and of course, their activity of choice was a photo shoot. Gil was happy to oblige.

These girls were my students in 5th and 6th grade...they are now juniors. They are wonderful and fun and smart and I love them so much. I can't wait to see all God does in their lives.

Fun loving Aishi

Classy Dorothy

Witty Lotta

Glamorous Bernice and Grace

Aishi loves teaching Grace to do all sorts of crazy things.

Lotta stays with us quite often and Grace loves having a big sister around.
Grace and I decided to get in on the action this time.

I should clarify something...these pictures aren't exactly realistic. First of all, I NEVER wear jeans except on International Day when I am trying to look American. And I NEVER wear my hair down between the months of October to March. Just too stinkin' hot.

Double winks!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Buzz of the Town

If you keep up with the news, you know that our own U.S. President is touring African countries right now. And at this very moment, he is on Tanzanian soil. Oh my goodness. The excitement, the excitement. He's here for four whole days. Apparently that is a long time.

They re-paved the road in front of the American embassy. Rumor has it that all of the new lines they painted on the roads are also in his honor. (Do you think he'll notice?)

This morning at church we talked to a friend who works for the U.S. government. He said that Our President's envoy is taking up the entirety of the three nicest hotels in Dar es Salaam. That's hundreds of rooms. Apparently in addition to Air Force One, they also flew in ten (ten!) gigantic cargo planes that brought in helicopters and bullet-proof cars and who knows what else. Them's your tax dollars at work, folks!

Sadly, we won't be seeing him. But a few of our students whose parents work for the U.S. government will even get to meet him. Whew! Pretty exciting.....

Thursday, February 7, 2008

No Bugs or Monkey Brains

Now that I know that I have other readers besides my mother, and that many of you are reading this blog because you are interested in life in Africa, well...I need to give my public what they want.

So. I went grocery shopping today, and below are pictures and comments of a few of my purchases. Many people assume that missionaries in Africa eat grubs and monkey brains. Well...maybe they do in some places. And actually, even HOPAC kids will pull flying termites out of the air and pop them in their mouths at times.

But anyway. The staples here are beans, rice, lentils, stews, fish, beef, chicken, and a mashed potato type dish that is made out of corn flour (ugali). Oh, and fried chicken and french fries. Not too strange.

When we first moved to Dar in 2001, there was only one "real" grocery store (in a city of 4 million) and it was the size of a 7-11. Now there are big grocery stores that even sell meat in the little styrofoam trays. I buy food from lots of different places--from a couple different stores, from the local market, from Tanzanian friends. Here are some samples below.

I try to get all my veggies from nearby shops, because the grocery stores don't really have nice produce. I LOVE the produce here. I hated tomatoes until I came to live in Tanzania. The carrots here do have to be peeled and cut up (imagine that!), but they are so sweet that they make American carrots seem tasteless. If any of you have grown your own produce--that's what it tastes like here. All of these veggies are sitting in bleach water. Anything that cannot be peeled or cooked gets soaked in bleach water. All of these veggies (plus 2 pounds of onions and 2 pounds of carrots) cost about $3.50.

The most common way to buy juice and milk (unless you buy powdered milk). Neither has to be refrigerated until it is opened.

This is the cereal that Grace eats daily (imported from the UK). It is very healthy but practically tasteless. All other cereals cost about $10 a box, so that's out of the question. Every week I bake banana bread, pumpkin bread, muffins or bagels for breakfast for Gil and I.

Butter and cheese imported from New Zealand. The cheese is cut and sold in chunks. However, more and more local Tanzanian dairy products are appearing on the shelves these days.

The last time we were in the States, I was struck by how white the eggs are. And how clean. They almost looked fake. I usually buy eggs, flour, sugar, rice, etc. at the little market near our house. Sometimes if I buy eggs and flour at once, the seller will put the eggs into the flour as padding. Otherwise they are just carefully put into a plastic bag.

Homemade tortillas. The one kind of food we miss the most is Mexican, so we try to make do. I used to make my own tortillas from scratch--they did NOT look like this picture, and they never turned out that great. Finally one of the missionaries taught a Tanzanian lady how to make them, and she sells them to the teachers every Thursday. Very exciting. They are almost authentically Mexican.

Locally made cassava chips. Made from cassava root (similar to a potato) and fried up like potato chips. Mmmm.... very yummy. I bought lots today because we are hosting a good-bye party on Saturday.

"Splurges." The can of refried beans cost about $5. (Sometimes I do make my own refried beans but they just aren't the same.) The Pringles cost about $2.50 and the small bag of chips (individual size) was about 55 cents (and those were on sale because they are near expiration).

I cook much more from scratch here than I ever did in the States. And I enjoy it. But there are some nights when I really wish for a frozen pizza...or a rice pilaf mix...or a Taco Bell. But most of the time, I don't mind.


This morning, I went out to open the gate for someone, and when I got back to the house, the door was locked. Grace was inside.

We have two front doors--a regular, wooden one, and an outer, iron one. It was the wooden one that was locked. We keep the key in that door, on the inside, because it tends to fly open on its own. So either Grace had fiddled with the key and locked it, or it had somehow locked when I closed it. Regardless, I was on the outside and Grace was on the inside.

Now, for those of you from FCC who read the story about Hannah in Japan, this won't seem nearly as entertaining. But it still was an adventure.

Every window of our house is covered with iron bars. Great security (and necessary), but makes it impossible to break in. Going through a window was out of the question.

Now, I had my keys with me, because I had unlocked the gate, and I had the key to that door. But since there was another key in the lock on the other side, I was unable to put my key in. So my first strategy was to try to get Grace to take the key out on her side. Didn't work.

Next I told her to drag her chair over and try again. She obeyed. I could hear her trying. Still didn't work. Next I told her to drag over one of the kitchen chairs--which by the way, are made of a very hard and heavy wood. She succeeded in dragging it over, and I told her to stand on it (normally a no-no), and try again. She still couldn't do it.

My next strategy was to tell her to find Mommy's phone, which was in our bedroom next to my bed. After two tries, she succeeded. I cut a hole in the screen and had her pass it to me. I called Gil. He told me to "kick it like they do in the movies"--karate chop kick it right at the lock. I did this about 25 times. Did not succeed.

Gil was in the middle of teaching a class so he came when he could. He kicked it like they do in the movies and succeeded! What a guy. My hero. Without even too much damage to the door.

Grace was locked inside for almost 2 hours. She was perfectly fine; didn't get upset, and obeyed my instructions. Even though I kept telling her, "If you take out the key, Mommy will give you candy. If you take out the key, Mommy will give you a present. Try again!" Poor thing. She did try. She got candy anyway.

Grace kept saying to me "Hodi! Hodi!" which is what you say in Swahili when you want someone to let you in. It was great.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


A moment ago I caught my husband at the kitchen sink, desperately washing his beef jerky.


Because it had mold on it. And it came from the States and is a delicacy to him.

Pretty humid country we live in here.....even beef jerky, which would probably survive a nuclear holocaust, gets mold on it.

He did, by the way, successfully wash off the mold. And he does indeed intend on eating it. Sometimes, you just get desperate.

He is now "doing the twist" with my daughter in the living room.

I love my husband. :-)

Monday, February 4, 2008

The CRACKS Are Coming

*cue scary music*

I love my house. I love the large windows, big yard, simple design, and high ceiling in the front room. But my house is cracking.

Yep, cracking. My house is made entirely of concrete block, like almost all the other buildings in this city. (As a good Californian, I do hope that we never have an earthquake).

When we moved in, there were a number of large cracks in some of the walls. We asked the landlord to have them filled in. She did. Six months later, they had reappeared again. A couple months ago I made an effort to use caulk to fill in all the cracks in our two bathrooms, because they were pretty ugly on the tile.

But now, just in the last month, the cracks opened up again. And lately it seems like they have been daily been getting worse.

It's a little unnerving--to go into the bathroom in the morning and find new cracks that weren't there the day before.

We have a good friend in construction, and I asked him about this, and he said that it's probably because our house's foundation is clay. Which means that if it rains hard (which it has lately), then water gets into the foundation and causes the walls to shift slightly. He said we don't need to worry unless the floor or the ceiling starts cracking. Comforting. Um, yeah, I guess so.

I love this house. So I don't think I will be convinced to move. But I do hope that the walls decide to stop cracking any day now.

The hallway

These are new as of last week.

Just the other day, this big chunk fell out of the tile on the bathroom wall. Sigh. That's going to take a lot of caulk to fill in....

This one has got to be the biggest crack of all. It's about 1/4 inch wide. Thankfully, just in my closet.