Monday, October 27, 2008

Settlers of Catan, Version 6.2

Do you think we should get it copyrighted?

See, this is what you do. When the power goes out, but you have students over and you want to play a game, you just take the Settlers game and build it around the candle! We called it the "volcano." you think there will be a market for it?

Hmmm. Maybe not.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Week in the Life of Us

Okay, okay, so I know it's been a while since I have blogged (as some of you have so politely reminded me).

The truth is, there hasn't been anything terribly interesting to write about. And creative topics haven't been coming to me. Is that called a blogger's block?

So. I will write about my non-interesting week so that you can see that life in Africa isn't always an adventure. And despite what I said in my last post, maybe sometimes it is even boring.

We've been on vacation this week. For me, that doesn't mean much except that I don't teach my sixth grade Bible class (which is only 4 hours a week anyway). More significantly, it means that Gil is home.

Often we try to get away during our school breaks. But this time, with prices going up all over place, we decided we didn't have the money, we weren't ready to leave Josiah overnight, and there just aren't too many toddler-friendly places around here anyway.

So. Then our not-so-exciting break turned even more un-exciting when Gil got sick Saturday-Sunday-Monday and Grace and Josiah got sick Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, including the oh-so-wonderful Wednesday when Grace cried pretty much the whole day due to an ear ache.

So we visited the doctor and got meds. Lots of them. "Mommy," Grace told me that night after getting totally doped up, "I have nose drops and ear drops...and mouth drops!" (referring to the cough syrup). What can I say? My dad is a pharmacist. I believe in medicine.

But there were some highlights along the way.

Tuesday we went to the pool.

Nope! She's not drowning. She's swimming!

And the happy little guy. Who actually isn't that happy while I am writing this because he still doesn't feel good. But he was happy in the pool.

Yesterday Gil did a photo shoot for two girls who are very special to us.
And their parents are doing very important work assisting Bible translation.
Victoria, grade 7

Christa, grade 9. (I know you are reading this, Christa! Do you like my choice?)

Today we went to Tanzania's one-and-only mall to get Grace's ears pierced, since every Tanzanian little girl has her ears pierced. But we discovered that the jewelry store is closed on Fridays because the owners are Muslim (Fridays for Muslims are kind of like Sundays for Christians). So then we had to explain to Grace that, no, she wasn't going to get to wear her earrings today after all. She was sad. Probably because she didn't really realize that "getting your ears pierced" actually involves piercing.

We also got to host our mission team meeting on Monday night, have some teens over for dinner on Tuesday night, and last night, Gil and I went to go see a free movie about the Red Cross during the "European Film Festival."

And today, while doing some grocery shopping and noticing that the price of disposable diapers has increased AGAIN, I decided, THAT'S IT!, I'm going to cloth. (Though I have made that decision before and changed my we'll see).

So now, at this moment, while waiting for pictures to download, I am researching cloth diapers. I do already have some, and Grace uses them at night, but they are the old-fashioned kind which you have to fold and pin. I didn't realize until recently the amazing cloth diaper diversity that is out there! Any suggestions from anyone? I'm a little overwhelmed with all the choices....

There you have it. A vacation week in the life of an American couple living in Africa with two small children. Whether you really wanted to know all those details or not.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


There's always parts about living in Africa that could be considered "inconveniences" or "problems" but that I am learning to choose to see as "adventures." And sometimes, I succeed.

Last week we saw two chalk lines headed down our road and around the corner. They also happened to pass directly through our driveway. A couple days later, when we saw workers digging a trench between those two lines, we got a little worried that the trench was therefore headed for our driveway.

And indeed, it was, as you can see from the picture above. The water company decided to put in a new pipe and figured our driveway was the best path.

Thankfully, after living here five years, I've had enough practice seeing such things as "adventures" that I actually saw the whole thing as rather humorous. After making friends with all the workmen by bringing them orange Kool-aid, they were all very helpful when it came to passing children and bags over the large trench in order to get in and out of the car and in and out of my house. And when it rained and the entire thing became one giant mud pit and I was still trying to get in and out of the car with two small children, it became even more humorous.

One thing is for certain: Life does not get boring here.

However, lest you think I am now an expert at being "adventurous," I am struggling very hard to take the recent news of more power cuts with an adventurous spirit. During the entire year of 2006, Tanzania endured a major power shortage and we were without electricity from 7 am till 7 pm each day. Now there is once again a power shortage, and starting last week, we are without power from 9 am till 6 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays. I'm afraid this will be only the is often the case.

It certainly is not the end of the world to be without power two days a week. There are many people in the world, including most of Tanzania, who never have electricity, but when you have it, you depend on it. All of the work I do at home (school projects, lesson planning, and work on my master's degree) is done on my computer. But probably the hardest part is no fans now that we are entering summer.

So. I am trying to remind myself that there are far greater inconveniences in life, and I should be most concerned about how power rationing affects the economy of Tanzania, since so many businesses and factories are reliant on it.

Okay. It's an adventure, right? We'll play outside in the sprinkler more; I won't have to worry about getting my computer work done since I can't do it anyway; and it will make me all the more grateful for when the power is on. Such is the stuff of sanctification.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Not Quite the Same as a Game Park

A number of months ago, about a mile from our house, we saw a large sign appear labeled "Zoo," with an arrow pointing down the road.

We were intrigued. There's never been a zoo in Dar es Salaam, and the arrow pointed down a road that didn't lead to much.

So yesterday, since there was no school, we decided to be adventurous and find the Zoo. The signs led us through a village, down a bunch of very bumpy, very dusty dirt roads, to what looked like someone's house.

It was someone's house. And the Zoo was in their backyard. A very, very large backyard, mind you, but a backyard just the same. The owner and his family live there. When we arrived, their laundry was hanging out to dry and they were just finishing lunch.

We did a little negotiating over the price (think you could do that at the San Francisco Zoo?), and since we were the only visitors there, the wife and her little boy showed us around.

It actually was more than we were expecting. They had a few zebra, wildebeest, a baby crocodile, two lion cubs (repeatedly labeled "Lion Curbs" in the brochure), some gorgeous birds and a few other things. The cages were all hand made but sturdy, and the animals looked relatively healthy. All of the animals were native to Tanzania. I asked our guide how they got them.

"We have trappers," she said.

Oh. Got it.

Wildebeast. Not quite the same as seeing them in herds of hundreds out in the wild.

Loved seeing all the birds up close, though it was a little depressing to see the gorgeous birds of prey in cages too small to fly in.

These were my favorite. Gigantic land tortoises. I think they are native to Zanzibar Island, since that's the only other place I've seen them before. They are enormous, very gentle, and very old (can have longer life spans than humans).

Too bad we didn't get Daddy in this picture. Could have been our next prayer card!

At the end of the visit, Gil asked Grace what animal was her favorite.

"Minnie," she replied. Interesting, considering our Jack Russell wasn't at the Zoo.

Actually, I think her favorite was a little monkey that fascinated her.

"Mommy," she said. "He's talking to me!"

"Really? What's he saying?"

"He's saying that he wants to get out of this...this...[looking up and down at the cage]...this basket!"

You're right, Grace. I think that's what he was telling you.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Did You Know....?

Can you imagine treating Christmas day like Labor Day? Just another normal holiday, a nice day off, but nothing special? Well....that is indeed how most of the world views Christmas. In Tanzania, Christmas day and Boxing Day (Dec. 26) are public holidays, but the majority of Tanzanians don't celebrate it--unless they are Christians.

I was thinking about this today since yesterday and today, most of this city is in celebration. Yesterday marked the end of the most significant Month of the year for many of our friends--a month of fasting every day from dawn till dusk. The holiday at the of the month comes with the sighting of the new moon (by someone in Saudi Arabia, I think), so we never know ahead of time what will be the exact date. However, yesterday morning at day break, I could hear the calling from mosques all over the city: The Holiday had begun.

For many of our friends and students, and over 1 billion of the world's population, yesterday and today are as significant as our Christmas. Feasting, gift giving, and warm family time mark these days. But for our family, we are just enjoying having the days off!

Much more could be discussed, but this is not the place. But for those of you with friends who are celebrating right now, make sure you wish them a Happy Holiday, and take this great opportunity to enter deeper levels of discussion with them.