Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas in Pictures--Part 2

Christmas means...Flame Trees! Affectionately known as 'Christmas Trees' because they come into bloom around Christmas time.

Christmas means....pineapple season! Truckloads of them, piles of them for sale all over the city. This one cost about $1.25.

Christmas morning

This kid is literally obsessed with balls. We've considered putting him in 12 Step Program. Unfortunately his grandparents are feeding his addiction.


The maracas came in at a close second to the balls.

Christmas afternoon/evening. We had a great day with friends!

Grace pulling Ingrid and Josiah, thanks to Daddy's ingenuity.
We had a great Christmas! Even though my stove ran out of gas a half hour before serving time, and I spent an hour driving around trying to find an open place to buy more [stove gas in sold in large canisters, like for a BBQ in the States], but didn't find any, the only things we were lacking were the rice and half of the rolls. But we had plenty of food anyway. Gil had been sick all week but thankfully felt much better on Christmas Day! We had wonderful fellowship with friends.

Yesterday we wanted to go to the pool, but the hotel raised the prices for the holidays so much that we went next door to the beach instead. Much sandier, but much cheaper.
Grace said, "Look, we are snowmen!"

Oh, and since we always receive Christmas cards all through January....let the merriment continue!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Adventures in Paying Bills

We interrupt the Christmas posts for another adventure.....

I've always been the one in charge of paying the bills in this family. I remember the good ol' days when paying bills consisted of sitting down with the checkbook one evening every month and writing a bunch of checks.

Not so anymore.

Everything is paid in cash, in person in Tanzania. For example:

Cell phone: Pre-paid phone cards. This is pretty easy because phone cards are sold everywhere.

Electricity: Purchased in cash at the Luku shop. They give me credit on a little card which I then insert into a small box in our house, and we are then recharged with electricity.

Internet: 4O minute drive into town, over to the PPF Towers building, go up to the 15th floor, pre-pay for the next three months in cash.

Water: This is the only utility that isn't pre-paid. Someone stops by our house every month and delivers the bill. Then I go to the water company and cash.

Garbage: The garbage men honk at the gate once a month and I bring them their fee.

I've gotten pretty used to all of this. But yesterday threw me for a loop.

Our yearly car registration is overdue. I mistakenly assumed the wrong due date, so I realized a few days ago that we passed the deadline. Oops....praying, praying every time I pass a police officer that we won't get pulled over [happens a lot for no particular reason].

In the past, we've had the 'go-fer' at school take care of our registration renewal for us. But since it was overdue, I decided to tackle it myself, even though I had never done it before. Hey, I thought, if I can handle the process of two adoptions, I can certainly get our car registration renewed.

So Gil helped me look up the location on a map, since I have absolutely no sense of direction. No problem, I thought, I can find it.

Drive downtown. It wasn't in the place I assumed. No problem, I thought, I'll go down the street in the other direction. Oops. One way street. I turn and take the parallel street. Oops. Another one way street. Now I am hopelessly lost.

But the traffic downtown is so congested that I can't pull over for a while. Finally I find a place, and a kind parking attendant points me in the right direction.

I park at two places and someone tells me I can't park there. Finally I park way down the street and walk to the building. It had already taken me one hour and 45 minutes to get to this point.

The place is teaming with people. I am the only white person, and the only female. I find the right window and get the right forms. Then I notice that everyone around me already has receipts. I spot the only female customer and notice that she is also renewing her registration.

'Can you help me?'

'Sure!' She is pleasant. 'You first have to go to the bank next door, pay, and get a receipt. Then you have to go to the third floor and get a stamp. Then you can come back to here and turn it all in.'

Sigh. I go next door to the bank. There are 4O people in line. I get in line and look at the form I'm supposed to fill out. I can't do it. It's even in English, but I have no idea what to write down. Plus I notice people around me with different paperwork than I brought with me.

At this point I am near tears. I call a friend who is Tanzanian and is the facilities manager for our school. 'What do I do?' I ask. 'You should get George [the go-fer] to do it,' he tells me.

Yep. I don't care how much time I've wasted, or whether the police give me a ticket. Having George do it sounds like a great idea.

Last night another friend told me about a different location that is much easier to get the job done. So maybe next week I will be brave enough to try again.

But hey...on my way back to my car I found a great little bookstore with some kids' books in Swahili for Grace. So it wasn't a total loss. :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas in Pictures--Part 1

Mommy is doing a lot of really silly things at this moment.

I love this picture. She really isn't hurting him. He just did not want to be there.
Ah, the torture we impose upon our children.

Little Miss Photogenic

Youth Group Christmas Party.
The group was much smaller than usual for a number of reasons, but it was still Very Merry.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas in Tanzania

I have loved reading other people's blogs and Facebook status' about snow, freezing cold, going out to look at Christmas lights, peppermint lattes, fireplaces, and warm jammies that all occur this time of year.

It's pretty different for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere. [It may not have occured to some of you that the seasons are reversed down here. Thus, Christmas=summer.]

So we don't have any of those things I listed above. But that's okay. We still have fun. Examples:

1. Christmas tree: We have one. Up until this year, we only had a little tabletop tree. But earlier this year we bought a large tree from a family who was leaving. We hadn't taken it out until last week--and it's huge! About 8 feet tall. Definitely very, very fake. But once we put all the lights and ornaments and such on it, we think it looks pretty darn festive! Grace is absolutely enthralled by it.

2. Christmas decorations: Don't really exist in the city. Some of the stores have put up Christmas trees. Nobody puts up house lights. All of the decorations available to buy are definitely in the 'tacky' category. Stockings are stuck to the wall. Candles are only for power outages. Impossible to keep them lit with so many fans going. But there is a particular kind of tree which bursts into red flowers during this time of year....all over the city...and in my backyard. Love it, love it!

3. Weather: See previous posts. I do have a 'Let It Snow' decoration on my door. There's always hope....

4. Christmas activities: HOPAC Elementary Christmas production. HOPAC Secondary Christmas Carol Sing. HOPAC Christmas Fair. HOPAC Staff Party. Youth Group Christmas Party. There is always a Christmas Eve sunset service at the Yacht Club [yes, there are people rich enough here to own yachts] put on by the International Churches [we used to go to this, but the traffic coming home has gotten so bad that we probably won't go this year.] The local 'Little Theatre' also puts on a 'Pantomine' every Christmas. [For those of you Americans, Christmas Pantomimes are a British tradition. They do not involve silent people with white faces. They are always a spin on a fairy tale and always involve audience participation. Loads of fun.]

5. Christmas day: No extended family. Sigh. That's the hardest part. But we make do. This year we are hosting 17 people here at our house! I am excited. This weekend I will be looking up all sorts of new appetizer and dessert and side dish recipes. We won't have a turkey; they are too expensive. So I will make roast beef.

6. Holidays: December 25th and 26th [Boxing Day, also in the British tradition] are national holidays. But unlike the States, only Christians celebrate Christmas. Non-Christians often go to the beach. Many Tanzanians go home to their family's village around this time of year. They usually celebrate with a big feast.

7. Christmas vacation: In years past, we have gone to a lodge in the mountains, about 7 hours away. It is so much cooler there. But we decided that it's really not very toddler friendly, so we will be sticking around here. We'll go to the pool, the water park, the beach...etc.

Pictures to come soon!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reflections on a Bad Attitude

Here I am. In my house. On the internet.

That means we have power again.

It really is a miracle. Yesterday we talked to someone we know who is high up with the power company, and he said that the power company is so completely in debt that it could be days....weeks....before we got power again.

So we contacted a friend who is in the States for this month, and they said we could stay in their house. Yesterday afternoon we collected up a week's worth of clothes, food, and toys and moved it all over to the friend's house. So, of course, we were shocked when this morning we received a text message from our night guard that the power was back on.

I have concluded that the last four days were just plain rotten. No power=suffocating heat, spoiling food, little sleep, dark house. Add on top of that, Josiah getting a fever and throwing up, me getting a fever and not feeling great, Gil's jetlag, and Gil working like a dog for the last 3 days to get his report cards done by today, since he had spent the last two weeks in the States. Gil was sleeping at school because the house was too hot and I was sleeping at home, which I accomplished by sticking my head under the shower every few hours and dripping back to bed.

Just plain rotten days. In fact, for the first time in four years, I told Gil, "I've had it! I want to go back to the States."

Ha. Ha. HA.

As if people in the States never have bad days. I can hear you chuckling at me right now.

So. How did God speak to me these four days?

1. I taught Grace Philippians 2:14 a couple weeks ago, and that silly girl just keeps bringing it up. "Do everything without complaining or arguing." Yeah, yeah, okay. Do you have to keep reminding me?

2. A couple weeks ago, Gil preached a great sermon--as always--on Philippians 1:21. "To live is Christ; to die is gain." Am I living for comfort? Is that really the purpose of my life? Is that why I am here in Tanzania? If I am truly living for Christ, nothing else in life should matter much.

3. A song from the "Sovereign Grace" kids' album:
When I don't get to have my own way
I will trust in you
For you know what is best
When tears begin to run down my face
I will trust in you
For you are good, you are good

Fantastic album, by the way. Buy it even if you don't have kids.

4. An article by John Piper in WORLD Magazine--which you should also buy.

His article was about the election, but applicable to all aspects of life.
"Let those who mourn do so as though they were not mourning. Our losses do not incapacitate us. They do not blind us to the truth that for Christians the best is always yet to come. Always. The Lord gives and takes away. But He remains. Let those who rejoice do so as though they were not rejoicing. Christians rejoice in a thousand created things. But none of them satisfies the soul. Even the surest sights of glory now are in a mirror dimly. Such delights will soon be as though they were not. They will be replaced by a vastly better joy."

I need to hold much more loosely to the things of this world. None of this matters--not comfort, not water or electricity, not Christmas, not even husband or children--in light of the surpassing greatness of Christ.

So I am thankful. I wish I could say that I know I will handle it better 'next time'--since I know there will be one--but I look forward to what He will teach me then too.

And now I am feeling very humbled by our electricity. I definitely don't deserve it.

Oh! I also have a very clean, sparkly, shiny refrigerator that hasn't looked this good in two years. Nothing like no power for 4 days for a great opportunity to clean the fridge. Mmmm....makes me happy when I look at it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

I'm struggling with this one today.

Saturday Gil came home after two weeks in the States for his brother's wedding. Joy!

Saturday night the power went out. Sigh. Long night. Gil can barely sleep with no power; I do better but not by much. Imagine trying to sleep in your car on a hot day with all the windows up. That's what it feels like.

No power all day Sunday.

No power all Sunday night. Gil came to school and slept in his classroom.

No power all day today. Broke a record for us--previously, the longest we had gone without power was 36 hours.

Called the power company--again--this afternoon.

They finally admitted that the transformer for our neighborhood blew up because someone stole the oil out of it--a common occurance.

And they don't have a replacement. And they don't know when they will.

Last night I took all the meat out of my freezer to a friend's house who has a deep freezer. In a couple days our house will run out of water, since every few days it has to be pumped in by electric pump.

I am not feeling thankful. I am not feeling joyful. I am actually feeling quite grumpy.

And bitter.

I am very, very mad at the thieves who took the oil. People like that are tearing their country down instead of building it up.

And now what will we do? We can't realistically stay in our house with no power and no water. Our house is quite dark during the day, without lights. And totally miserable without fans. Without a fridge. Or a computer to do our work on.

And I am pouting. Because we had plans to decorate for Christmas this week. And instead we're looking into guest houses or hotels or house sitting for someone. For who knows how long. Really, it could be weeks. The thought of not being in our house for Christmas--and the big celebration I am already planning--is almost more than I can bear.

But what does Scripture say? Be joyful always....give thanks in all circumstances.

And I am mad at myself, at my own reaction, knowing full well that billions of people all over the world...less than a mile away from me...never have electricity or running water. Never have Christmas decorations. Never have health and daily bread and all the other things that I have been blessed with.

So I am thankful for this situation because it does reveal attitudes....motives....idols in my heart that need to be dealt with. Pray that God roots them out and disposes of them.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Adventures in Humidity

We have had the rainiest November in the six years we have lived here. I finally got a picture of what the road outside our house looks like when it rains...and this isn't even as bad as it was the day of the Big Flood.

All this rain has resulted what feels like the highest humidity we've ever felt. 100% humidity, to be exact. 100% humidity sort of feels like a sauna...or a steam room...or the bathroom after a hot shower. It's actually not that hot in temperature--it hovers around 88 degrees. But besides making you constantly sweat, humidity does weird things, especially to food. Like making bread mold if you leave it out overnight. And making mold grow on your leather shoes. And the other day, I went into my pantry and found this:

Can you tell from the picture? The Hershey's syrup was blown up like a balloon. Hmmm... Checked the expiration date. Not expired. Opened it up. Smelled like beer.

Did you know you can make beer from Hershey's syrup?

Tasted it. Don't know if it tastes right. The stuff is vile to me anyway, since my parents forever ruined Hershey's syrup for me by smashing up malaria tablets and making me take them in Hershey's syrup every Sunday for all of my young life. So now? Hershey's syrup forever tastes like choroquine to me.

And now it smells like beer.

Still haven't thrown it away though. That stuff's expensive.

Monday, December 1, 2008


On the night before my 16th birthday
my best friends kidnapped me in my pajamas
and made me a cake
and I slept over at a friend's house

and then the next day they dressed me up in my fanciest dress
and curled my hair
and took me out for breakfast
and made me go to school like that so that everyone would know that it was my birthday.
And I felt very loved.

Sixteen years later, on my 32nd birthday,
Four of my favorite girls, who used to be my students but are now my friends
came to my house
and made me a cake
and gave me a present
and curled my hair

and decorated my daughter

and arranged for a baby-sitter, since Gil is in the States right now---thanks, Christa!
and took me out to dinner.

And I felt very, very loved.