Saturday, May 24, 2008

She's Already Brainwashed

It's her favorite outfit. Whenever she gets to choose what to wear, that's what she chooses. And whenever she sees the logo on the back of a bus or on someone's shirt, she starts chanting, "Manchester, Manchester!"

And who can blame her? Even my husband, who had arthoscopic knee surgery on Tuesday, managed to get himself over to the nearest hotel to watch the Final Champion's League game. AND THEY WON.

All of you Americans probably haven't a clue as to what I am talking about. Which only means you are...well, American...since the rest of world would never consider "football" to be played with a brown oblong ball.

Ah...the things I've learned since living in Africa.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Happy Sight

You know you have a lot of youth in your house when.....

....there are a lot of shoes by the front door.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

She Needs a Sibling, Doesn't She?

No, that is not my baby with Grace. (Silly people! That baby doesn't look anything like me!) That is Baby Amy, Esta's daughter, whom she has been bringing to work with her. Grace is enchanted by Baby Amy and smothers her with kisses every day.

But I can't wait for the day when there are two children in my family pictures (or three...or four...) And the last few days have been discouraging in that department.

Once again, we are waiting...and waiting...for our adoption of a baby boy. I have been waiting for a month now for the regional social worker to write a letter to International Social Services. Every time I call her she tells me, "Next week." That's happened for about 5 weeks now. I contacted our lawyer for advice today, and she said that sadly, the social welfare office seems totally unmotivated to help anyone with adoptions right now. One family has already been waiting 18 months to get approved--which is the longest anyone has waited so far.

This was discouraging for me, since I was hoping that we'd have our baby boy this summer. I am not giving up....last week I brought cookies to the social worker, and she'll be back in the office next Wednesday so Grace and I will bring her more cookies. But, today I also started making some serious inquiries into international adoption from other countries. Gil and I have talked about this for a long time, and were going to wait until after we got our boy, but decided that considering the circumstances we should start now.

That is daunting too. The process is so expensive...and even more so for a family trying to adopt internationally who is not living in the U.S. So many orphans in the world...and it's so hard to bring them home.

But...I take a deep breath...and here I go.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What More Could I Ask For?

Mother's Day 2008: How Blessed I Am!

(Fun story about the matching outfits: In Tanzanian culture, when a woman gets married, she chooses a fabric that all her female friends buy from her. The women take this fabric and have it made into an outfit of some kind, and then wear it to her shower (called a Kitchen Party here) and/or her "Send-Off" Party--the party given by the bride's parents the week before the wedding (the groom's family pays for the wedding itself). Grace and I went to Esta's sister's Send-Off Party a month or so ago, and these were our outfits. It's fun to go to one of these events and see all the ladies wearing outfits with matching fabric.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Little Piece O' Turkish Delight

Lucky, lucky Daddy got to go to Istanbul for a week for an ASCI convention. If you are a teacher at a Christian school in California, maybe you get to go to Sacramento or Anaheim for an ASCI convention. If you are a teacher in Africa, you get to go to TURKEY. Not that I was jealous or anything.


He had a great time doing things like eating at Burger King and going go-carting and shopping for Grace at Toys R' Us. Oh, and I guess he learned a thing or two at the conference too. He had a fantastic time. And this is (one of the things) he brought Grace. Now I have my very own little belly dancer.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Amazing Grace

Yesterday was the Secondary School Talent Show. Grace and I went to watch. The kids did a great job and everyone enjoyed it.

Right at the end, while the judges were tallying the results for a few minutes, everyone was just waiting and murmuring and someone got up and told lame jokes. Gil turned to me and said, "You should take Grace up there and see if she will sing." We've gotten her to "perform" in front of groups of other people before--but it's been maybe a maximum of 10 people. We thought, "Well, she probably won't do it, but it's worth a shot." All of the secondary kids love Grace and would think it was cute even if she didn't do anything.

So I took her up, handed her the microphone, and told her to sing the ABC song. And she did. My 2 year, 4 month old daughter sang her ABCs into the microphone in front of over 200 students, staff, and parents. We were on a roll, so then I asked her to sing "Amazing Grace," which I had just discovered a couple days ago she could sing on her own. So she did. The crowd went beserk.

She was definitely the show-stealer. :-)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Cultural Progress???

Yesterday (Saturday) I needed to go grocery shopping. Gil said he would watch Grace, so I took off on my own.

There is one two-lane road that leads into town (we are sort of in the suburbs). One two-lane road for a city of 4 million people. As you can imagine, there are times when it gets quite congested. Well, yesterday morning, “congested” was an understatement. After 45 minutes, I had only gotten a mile from home. Now, that kind of traffic is bad enough, but you know when you are stuck in traffic on the freeway in California, and there’s always some renegade who drives on the shoulder? You mutter curses under your breath and pray that an officer catches him. Well, imagine you are stuck in traffic, but dozens and dozens of people are driving on the shoulder. Not only that, but as soon as there’s a break in on-coming traffic, they drive straight down that lane as well. Sometimes they even drive on the shoulder on the other side of the road. (See post below). For those of us who continue to wait patiently in our own lane, you can imagine that this is quite frustrating.

So, frustrated, irritated, and still very determined to get to the store, I turned around, drove back past our house and took off down what is affectionately called “The Back Way.” The Back Way is an all-dirt, very bumpy road. But given that this is rainy season, it’s actually a mud road. And the bumps turn into enormous lakes. And given the fact that we do not have a 4-wheel-drive car, going down this road was not the smartest thing I have ever done.

All I can say is that I am very, very thankful that our car did not stall in the middle of one these lakes of mud. Some of them were 3 or 4 feet deep. The worst point came when I was driving through one of these “puddles” and the mud came up over the hood of the car and onto my windshield. You could say that got my adrenalin going.

Like I said, not the smartest thing I have ever done. But I was determined. And indeed, there was much less traffic on The Back Way.

An hour and a half after I left home, I finally did make the 10 miles to my destination. The grocery store I was headed towards is at Dar es Salaam’s very own mall. Yep, we finally have a mall. And it does indeed look like a mall (albeit a very small one) by American standards. It has about 30 stores and is fully enclosed and air-conditioned. But the stores are not quite what you would expect at a mall: a grocery store, a pharmacy, a dry cleaners, 5 banks, and a photocopy store are some of the more unusual merchants. Much to our delight, there is also a movie theater with three screens. (It’s getting “Juno” this week—sounds like a date night!).

Yesterday, however, before I went grocery shopping, I headed to the newest store, the one all our students were talking about last week, called “Mr. Price.” Upon entering, though, I went through somewhat of a culture shock.

Half of the store looks exactly a smaller version of Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The other half looks like the clothes section of Target. It is a beautiful store. I was in shock. After driving through the mud lake and fighting the mayhem outside, to suddenly be transported back to America sent my senses into overload. I walked around in much of a daze—kind of like how I felt a year ago when the mall first opened.

But perhaps what was most disturbing to me about Mr. Price was the prices. They were actually quite reasonable. Why would I be disturbed about that? Well, because there are a few other stores in the mall which sell imported clothes and housewares, but they are so absurdly priced that I don’t even give them the time of day. But the prices in this store were affordable—kind of like Target prices.

And at least half of the customers were Tanzanian. That’s what disturbed me. There is a growing middle class in Tanzania—which is a good thing! But just because there are people in Tanzania who are moving out of poverty, does that mean their houses have to look American? Does that mean their clothes have to look American? The decorating styles in Mr. Price were most definitely western (it’s a South African chain). The majority of the clothes do not meet African modesty standards (which considers the legs as the most important part to cover up). Yet this Tanzanian middle class can now afford these things.

And that makes me sad. Even for myself—yes, I was attracted to the things in that store. But I don’t want my house to look American. No, it doesn’t look totally Tanzanian either. But my goal isn’t to re-create the kind of life I would have had in the States. Part of the reason I love living in Africa is because I get to escape the materialism of the west. I have always liked finding local products to substitute for things I need.

But the west is coming to Africa. And with each store, a little bit of the African culture dies. I do most earnestly hope and pray that the roads will improve! But I wish there was a way to allow progress to happen to Africa while still remaining distinctly African.