Friday, December 31, 2010

The Quest for a Tanzanian Christmas

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose….

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring ting tingling too…Come on its lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you!

Snowmen. Fires. Pine trees. Candles. Wreaths. The North Pole.

Do you sense a pattern here?

Let me put it this way. We can go on and on with our children about how “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” but if the Church suddenly wanted to change Christmas to July 25th, there would be a revolt. Right? Am I right?

Everyone would say, “But it doesn’t feel like Christmas in July!” Somehow, along the way in our western traditions, Christmas became associated with, intertwined with, unable to be separated from….winter. It can still be Christmas without Santa Claus. It can still be Christmas even without presents. But can it be Christmas in the summer? Never.

I’m not saying there’s a problem with this. I love the sweaters and the snowmen and the candles just as much as the next person. And of course, I do believe that the Incarnation of Jesus Christ in all its wonder and mystery and hope is worthy of a gigantic celebration every year. But even though none of us Christians want to admit it, we would be pretty disappointed to take out the pine tree, sweaters, and fire places at Christmas time.

So this is the dilemma I face as a Southern Hemisphere dweller. It’s summer here. I live in a city that never feels like winter, but December is the hottest, stickiest time of the year. We dutifully put up our ridiculously fake Christmas tree, display the candles that we will never light because the overhead fans will immediately extinguish them (unless the power goes out, in which case we are sweating too much to enjoy them), and laugh every year we put the “Let It Snow” plaque on our door. Gil and I have always struggled with it not “feeling” like Christmas, even being from California! But it wasn’t such a big deal. We went ahead and pretended anyway.

But this year I noticed something subtle. My daughter. The Tanzanian one, born and raised here, adopted into an American family, duel citizenship. Comments she would make. Just little ones, as we went about our Christmas activities. “Why doesn’t it snow here?” “Why are we making paper snowmen?” And then the worst of all: “Christmas in America is better.”

Ugh. Not what I want to hear. Of course, I want her to miss her relatives. But that’s the only thing I want her to miss about Christmas in America. I want her to love Tanzania; I want her to love being Tanzanian. I don’t want her to think Christmas in America is better just because they have the cold and the fires and the fir trees.

So it struck me this year. For the sake of my kids, I don’t want to keep pretending it is winter here at Christmas time. I want them to love the fun and the feeling of Christmas, but yet not feel like they are missing out on something because we are going to the beach instead of the snow.

But I’m really not sure how to do that. This goes beyond the bounds of my limited creativity. Couldn’t we just adopt Tanzanian traditions, you ask? Well, there really aren’t any. Christmas is a national holiday, but only those with a Christian background celebrate it, which is about 30% of the population. But the full extent of their celebrating is to go to church and then have a big feast at home. Kids often get new church clothes.  That’s it. And what about Kwanza, you ask? Um, yeah. Even though it’s got a lot of Swahili words, no African I know has ever heard of it.

So basically we have to create our Christmas culture from scratch. I’ve been asking my Australian and South African friends (who are of European decent) about what they do. I’ve been paying attention to what my more creative friends in Tanzania do. Some of them don’t decorate a very fake pine tree. Some use a palm tree. A couple families use a sisal stalk, which turns out beautiful, by the way. Hmmm. I need ideas. Let me know if you have any.

My hope is that one day, years from now, when we spend Christmas in America, that Grace will tell me, “But Mommy, it doesn’t feel like Christmas here!”

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Meet Maggie

Maggie is a senior at HOPAC.  She joined last year, but her parents live three hours away.  Since HOPAC is not a boarding school, she found a girls' hostel to live in.  We found out this year through the grapevine that this was a really negative situation for her.

So we prayed and thought and decided to convert our garage into a bedroom, and invite her to live with us.  She moved in, about a month ago.  She is awesome.  She is kind and helpful and loves our kids.  She is very, very smart--scoring perfect SAT scores in math and physics, and wants to attend MIT to study aerospace engineering.  Yeah, I help her with her homework all the time.  Ha.

Grace says, "Mommy, I REALLY want my little sister to come home [Yeah, me too, Sweetie!] but I also wanted a big sister and now I have one!"  Blessings all around for all of us.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Just Like to Smile. Smiling's My Favorite.

This was Christmas 1998.

It's a long story.  Don't ask.


Our Youth Group decided on an "Elf" Christmas party this year.  As in, the movie.  So you could come dressed up as anything from the movie, such as The World's Best Cup of Coffee or the Arctic Puffin.  But considering the history of elves in my family, I decided that we had to go as elves.  

Let's just say I love tailors in Tanzania.  But I do wonder exactly what went through his mind when I asked him to make these costumes. 

(And I do understand that I owe my husband big for making him dress up as an elf.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Representing Us

For the past ten years, this quilt has been on our bed.  Our wonderful friend Suzanne made it for us as a wedding present, and if you read our story, you know that Suzanne had a pretty big part.  I love that quilt.  It reprsented us.  She had let me pick out the fabric, and it combined our two favorite colors. 

But it has been 10 years.  So it's been falling apart.  And after mending it a half dozen times, I finally decided we needed a new bed cover.  So when we were in the States, I looked.  And looked.  And looked.  And I found nothing good enough...nothing special enough. 

I'm glad I waited.  

When we were in Zanzibar for our anniversary, we came upon this amazing shop.  We had seen it before on previous trips, and I have always, always loved the work of these talented women.  But it was Gil who suggested this time, "I wonder if they make bed covers?"

And they said Yes, we could special order it.  And they could bring it to us in Dar es Salaam.  I immediately knew that this would be The One.

All the quilting is 100% hand stitched.  Incredible?  Oh yeah.  (And $140.  Yep.  Had to add that in there.)

I mended Suzanne's quilt one last time and put it away for sleepovers and special occasions.  And now we have a new quilt for the second decade of our marriage. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Continuing in Hope: Stella's Story

Remember how I told you that Stella went to Massana hospital two weeks ago? 

Well, she's still there.  And it looks like she won't leave until that baby is born.

At first, the doctor wanted her to stay a few days to recover after the suturing surgery.  Then, apparently she came down with malaria so she stayed a few more days after that. 

A couple days ago I talked to William about this.  "What is the doctor saying?"  He told me that the doctor says that she could go home, or that she could stay.  It was up to her, as long as they could afford it.

I told him that the money wasn't a problem.  It costs about $10 a day to keep Stella at the hospital.  But I was still wondering if that's really what they wanted to do.  It seems like torture to me.  No friends.  No television.  Nothing to do but lay in bed, all day long.  Of course, she would be on bedrest at home, but at least she would have people to talk to, and a husband to come home to her (who has been biking to see her every day).

Yes, he told me.  She wants to stay in the hospital.  She is afraid to go home.


Of course she is afraid.  Wouldn't you be?  The woman has had one miscarriage and three consecutive viable births at 7 or 8 months that have resulted in a dead baby. 

I have had a hard time imagining how such a young woman has dealt with such unspeakable pain.  In many ways, she seems incredibly strong for all of her 23 years.  And her faith is unshakable. 

But she is afraid.  It just takes them too long to get to the hospital from their house, William told me.  And if something goes wrong in the middle of the night, they might not even find a taxi to take her. 

She's in her fifth month.  So that means she will be in the hospital for about 4 months.  That's a long time.  But worth it, if she finally gets to hold her baby in her arms.

Dr. Carolyn told me the other day that she recently assisted in a birth at that hospital, and she was marveling at the wonder of it.  She said the nurses told her, "Next time you can help Stella deliver!"  As she told me this, we both got tears in our eyes.

Let's pray that day comes. 

And until then, I'm going to try to find Stella some yarn and a crochet hook.  :-)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mama Dar

Last night, I was at this event:

A book launch.  For a book called "Mama Dar:  Tales of Family Life in Tanzania."  A Collection of 34 essays, short stories, and poems by 27 authors from around the world.

I got the privilege of being one of those 27 authors.  I got published!  It's just a short story about Josiah's adoption, adapted from this blog, actually.  My good friend Dyan recommended me to the editors a couple months ago, and my story got in right before publication.  Pretty exciting!

It's a very professionally done book, and all the proceeds are going to a battered women's shelter in Tanzania.  If you would like a copy, send me an email or a comment and I can try to get one to you.  The cost is $20 which will also include shipping on my end.  I'm guessing that mostly this will appeal to those of my readers who have previously been mothers in Dar es Salaam!  But it will strike a cord with anyone who has raised children overseas, or is interested in Africa or Third Culture kids.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest

I am an expert on fear.

Worrying is a particular specialty of mine. I could give you some great tips. Like, it’s important to feel in control of every possible horrible situation that could ever happen to you by using your imagination to go through each and every detail of each possible scenario.

I remember once trying to convince Gil that we needed a full-time gardener so that someone could open the gate for us instead of doing it ourselves. “But what if,” I argued, “I was trying to open the gate myself, and in doing so I left the kids in the car, and a car jacker came up and demanded the keys from me, and he drove off with the kids in the car?” I could totally picture myself running down the road and screaming. If I thought about it hard enough, I could even start crying.

Gil just looked at me in disbelief. “Have you ever heard of that happening here?” he asked.

Well, no. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

And just when I think I have worried about every-possible-bad-thing-that-could-ever-happen, then God surprises me by allowing my washing machine to catch fire in the middle of the night. Never had thought through that one.

But anyway.

I have been more than just a worrier. When I say I am an expert on fear, that’s not just because of my over-active imagination. It’s because I struggled for a number of years with what some would call Panic Disorder.

It started 10 days after arriving in Dar es Salaam for the first time in 2001. I had a massive panic attack, which led to a nervous breakdown for the following few weeks. “Barely coping” would be an understatement. “Breathing for the next minute” would be more descriptive. Darkness, fear, the world falling apart around me…that’s what it felt like. I thought I was going insane; I had crazy obsessive fears; I couldn’t use a knife in the kitchen because I was paranoid I was going to stab someone with it.

There were no professional counselors in Dar at the time. I didn’t know what was happening to me so I had a hard time even articulating it to my husband. Only the grace of God kept me in Tanzania. I honestly didn’t think there was much hope for me, so I didn’t think that going back to the States would make things any better. So I stayed.

The darkness lasted at least six months. We later traced its beginning to the malaria medicine I was taking at the time, but even after the drug was out of my system, my brain had a new way of thinking. The second year in Tanzania was better, but within two months of returning to the States, it all returned with a vengeance.

This time I fought. I fought hard. I read everything I could. I got some help. I trained Gil in what to say to me when I was struggling (Bless my patient husband for enduring this with me!). The turning point came when I took a class at my church in the Foundations of Biblical Counseling. I took the class because I wanted to help other people, but first I needed to apply the principles to my own life.

And it all clicked. Not all at once, of course. But I started to get it. The roots of my fear. God’s view of suffering. The importance of perseverance. Who I was and who God was. Acceptance of suffering; confession of sin; trusting Him above everything else; submission to His will. And I was set free.

That was 2004. Six years ago, and it has yet to come back. I have no guarantee that it won’t; but I don’t fear it anymore if it does. And that is probably my best weapon to fight it.

The whole point of why I am writing this post is to give you a book recommendation. But I had to give you all that background so that you would understand why I so highly recommend this book. I have read a multitude of books on the subjects of fear and worry, from all sides of the counseling spectrum. But this one takes the cake. This one gets the prize. He gets it. He says all the things I had to figure out on my own. If you are just an everyday worrier or an expert in fear like me, then you want this book.

Some nuggets:

“Any time you love or want something deeply, you will notice fear and anxieties because you might not get them. Any time you can’t control the fate of those things you want or love, you will notice fears and anxieties because you might lose them…..Control and certainly are myths.”

“Worriers are visionaries minus the optimism.”

“One message is obvious: If I imagine the worst, I will be more prepared for it. Worry is looking for control. It is still irrational because worry will not prepare us for anything, but at least it has its reasons.”

“If you are jaded because you feel as though God has been unreliable, look at it this way: there are no other choices….The greatest possibility for rest and comfort lies in the knowledge of the true God.”

“If I can trust the word of a friend, why do I question the word of the God of the universe? Go figure. Sin is truly bizarre.”

“Anxiety asks for more information so it can be prepared for the coming apocalypse. It also asks for more information so it can manage the world apart from God.”

“Can we say that we die to our children? Yes, in a sense, but it isn’t exactly our children. We die to our notions that God doesn’t care about them. We die to the fear that no one is in control. We die to our belief that God is not always good. We die to the grasping that says, ‘My children are mine and mine alone.’”

I could go on. But I’ll just let you read the book instead.  And I pray you find the rest and freedom that have been granted to me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fragile Hope

If you've read this blog for a while, then you know about William and Stella.  If you haven't and want to be up to speed, then first read here, and then here

About a month ago I ran into William and he told me that Stella is pregnant again.  I told him I would pray.  I told him I would tell others to pray.

And then I came home and decided I needed to do something in addition to that.  I decided that if money would help save Stella's baby, then I would get that money.  So I started exploring how that would happen.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked him how things were going.  She's now in her fourth month.  He told me that they were going to a government hospital in town, because that's what they could afford.  It takes an hour to get there, on a good traffic day.  He said that the weekend before they had had some sort of scare with her pregnancy, and that it had taken a $60 taxi ride (which is about half his monthly salary) and way too much time to get her there. 

I was horrified.  First of all, I gave him my phone number, and I said that next time he should call me, even if it's the middle of the night, and I would take Stella to the hospital.  Second, I said we needed to find a closer hospital, especially because William said the doctor suggested she live there during her third trimester.

This year we have a part-time biology teacher at HOPAC, Carolyn, who is a doctor from Scotland.  She works her other part-time at a hospital not too far from school.  It's more expensive than the other hospital...but that just means that a birth and delivery there costs $100 instead of $50.  You know, that kind of "expensive." 

I told Carolyn about William.  She agreed to help.  She got Stella an appointment with a good doctor at this hospital.  They went this morning.  And the doctor is suturing Stella as I write. 

So this is the team God is assembling for William and Stella.  A good doctor to monitor her, at a hospital not too far from school where William works.  Myself, who will let others know of the needs and collect the money.  And Carolyn, who will act as the "middleman."  And then, of course, there's the dozens of people who have already told me they will donate towards Stella's cause.  Carolyn says that the doctor will probably want Stella staying at the hospital from 32 weeks on.   There would be no way they could afford that on their own.  Truly, the Body of Christ in action.

Let's pray she gets to 32 weeks.  Okay?  That's why I'm writing.  So that you will be compelled to pray.  I have already written to friends of William and Stella and they have committed money to help them, and if I need more, I will probably ask you too.  But for now, that part is covered.  But will you join William and Stella's team in prayer? Pray...pray for this dear young woman, that God preserves her life, and that God gives her a baby to hold.  We will do everything we can humanly do, but we still need God to act. 

You can be sure I will keep you updated. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Be Thankful...But In All Circumstances

Give thanks in all circumstances.
What does that mean, anyway?

Yesterday, I did not want to give thanks.  The power went out at 7 am.  I had huge loads of laundry to do that obviously would not happen.  It was hot.  Our house is dark.   My house worker was sick.  How would I get everything done?  At 6:45 pm, when we realized it still wasn't coming on, we sent out dozens of text messages to our students, changing the location of Youth Group.  The power came back on at 10 pm last night.  Lots of chatter in the Dar community about this and we all are coming to the sad realization that electricity rationing has started again, even though the power company has yet to publicly announce it.  That means that the 15 hours without power yesterday will probably be a regular occurrence. 

Yet I am told to give thanks in all circumstances. 

This morning my eyes popped open at 6 am, early for a Saturday.  Immediately I thought, "I've got to get the laundry in the machine while the power is on." 

The laundry went in, the flour came out.  I spent the morning doing what I love:  creating with dough.  The washing machine hummed and my electric beaters whipped up the cream beautifully.  There's my thankful heart. 

My gardener called me outside.  "There's a problem," he said, "A small one."  He told me he was fixing a drain outside our house by pulling up some concrete slabs that cover our drain pipes.  He pulled up the slab for me.  "Wadudu," he said.  Bugs.   

I looked inside the hole and shrieked.  There were about 100 cockroaches of varying sizes.  "SO THAT'S WHERE THEY HAVE BEEN COMING FROM!" Those nasty, nasty creatures who are not fit to live have been creeping into my kitchen cupboards.  Two inches long, those beasties are.

I raced into the house, grabbed the insecticide, and proceeded to empty the entire aerosol container into the hole.  "DIE!" I screeched.  My gardener must have thought I had completely lost it.

Does God want me to be thankful for cockroaches?

Be thankful in all circumstances. 

The afternoon was easy.  At our friend Kathy's house for our "Thanksgiving Saturday," turkey with all the trimmings, a group of friends ranging from ages 2 to 65.  Laughter, chattering, exclamations over every dish served and "Can I get this recipe?"  Kids hyped up on sugar barreling through the house.  Just like a Thanksgiving should be, except without the blood relations.  It was a wonderful day.  Easy to be thankful.

But...Be thankful in all circumstances.  All.  Not griping, not complaining...but trusting His goodness and His Sovereignty in every situation. 

I still have a long way to go.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Different Kind of Pilgrim

Thanksgiving kind of feels lonely when you are not in America.

True, it's sweaty here and there are no leaves falling off of trees.  In fact, I discovered yesterday that the reason my turkey baster is perpetually sticky is because the rubber is disintegrating in the humidity.  But we do always manage to track down a turkey....we can make mashed potatoes and stuffing and green bean casserole and even sweet potatoes with the marshmallows on top.  And last night Daddy and the kids cut up my yellow pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern and slept with it in their's hoping it will still make great pie!

But anyway.  There's still something missing, and it's not just the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.  Because that's big, of course.   It's just....It kind of feels like, living here, we are just pretending.  In America everyone drops everything on the fourth Thursday in November...everyone has the same menu, the same parade on their television sets, the same cranberry sauce out of a can. 

But here, well, today is just a normal day.  Everyone goes on with life as normal; rush hour, work, school.  We go on a treasure hunt for Thanksgiving foods instead of having them prominently displayed in the grocery store.  And we do our best, we re-create all the memories....but you can't keep the kids up too tomorrow.  Or, in our case, we celebrate on Saturday.  It kind of feels forced. 

It's funny; this is my 14th Thanksgiving outside of America, and these things never bothered me that much before.  Maybe it's because now I have kids.  Maybe it's because on the last 4th Thursday in November, we were gathered around our parents' tables. 

Of course, I still am reflecting on the multitude of what I have to be thankful for, and I am most definitely looking forward to Saturday.  I am not looking to feel sorry for myself; I am not asking for sympathy.  I love my Savior, and I love this life He has given me. 

And now I need to go cook up that Jack-o-Lantern.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Always the Best Day in November

Haven of Peace Academy International Day 2010
The Dutch

Japan, 3 from Tanzania, Madagascar

Good friends.  I LOVE how this little girl's first language will be German.  :-)




Tanzanian...Don't you want to come to HOPAC and teach these cuties???

This is Mikey.  He is Greek.  He's a character. 
Can't help but love him.

Let the Nations Be Glad!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'm Going to Miss Two

He was such a great Two.  But I'm loving Three also. 

Love this boy.  He lights up my life. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

God's Sovereignty in the Lives of Two Little Girls

October 12, 2005 email prayer update:

Many of you know that we have been interested in adoption in Tanzania for a long time. This last Sunday, we met with an American lawyer here in Dar es Salaam who has helped numerous families with Tanzanian adoptions. She warned us that the process would be long and arduous, that it would take at least a year to get a baby in our home, and another year to finalize the adoption.
That was Sunday. Then came Tuesday, when we were driving to meet the lawyer to turn in our application. She called us on the way and said, "Uh, I have a baby I want you to meet. She's available for immediate foster care and then adoption." We arrived and she immediately placed a one-month old baby in Gil's arms.

After we picked ourselves up off the floor and our heads stopped spinning around, the lawyer explained that this baby was an exception to the rule, because she had not been turned over to a government orphanage. Thus, her family could hand her over to us immediately, and we could go through the process of becoming foster parents and then adoptive parents while we were caring for her.

This process has more risk than the "long-way" of getting a baby from an orphanage, because the family could change their minds and want the baby back before the adoption is complete. But the baby's mother has died, the father is nowhere to be found, and the remaining relatives are very poor. They have adamantly expressed that they want the baby to be adopted.  She is currently being cared for by a middle-aged (white) South African woman who loves her, but wants her to have a good family.

What does this mean? We have a significant decision to make within the next couple of days! If we decide to take her, as soon as we have received written consent from the family, she would be in our home--as soon as two weeks from now.

October 14, 2005 email prayer update:

To update you: We have decided to move forward with the process of getting this baby! We're not getting our hopes too high yet. This Sunday, at 3:00, we will meet with the baby's uncle, who represents the family.
Then, on Tuesday (hypothetically), the uncle, the baby, the lawyer, and us will go to meet Miss Moyo, the regional social worker.

Once all these consents are done with, we will shortly be able to take the baby into our home! She will not be legally adopted for a number of months. So please also pray that the family does not change their mind before the adoption is complete. We are trusting God with this, but we still want to pray about it!

October 16, 2005 email prayer update:

Unfortunately, the meeting this afternoon with the baby's relatives did not go well. Adoption is a very foreign process in Tanzania; in fact, there isn't even a word in Kiswahili that is an exact translation. The woman who rescued this baby and is fostering her is not Tanzanian, and even though she thought the family had made it clear they wanted the baby to be adopted, we found out today that isn't true.
The uncles were very clear about the fact that they did not want to relinquish rights to this baby; they only wanted someone to care for her for a while. Unfortunately, in Tanzanian culture it is more acceptable to let a child live in an orphanage for her whole life than to have her be adopted by another family.

We are, of course, very disappointed. But we are thankful that this came out before we had taken this child into our home, named her, and had our hearts set on her. We prayed that God would make this very clear to us, and He has answered that prayer.

We were crushed, of course.  I cried a lot that day.  It felt the same way as my miscarriage.

That baby's name was Lisabel.  For a week I thought she would be my Grace.  But she was not.  My Grace was not born until January 2006.  And I did not bring her home until November 2006.

But Lisabel's story did not end there.  The woman who had taken her in as a starving infant (a white South African lady whose children were grown), though she wanted her adopted into a good family, had then cared for her for 4 weeks and was not willing to give Lisabel back into the terrible situation from which she had come.  So she kept her, even though she knew that the uncles did not want her adopted.  After about two years of this, she finally, finally, finally convinced them to let her adopt Lisabel, and it even came down to the very last wire in the court room. 

During the last five years, we have run into Lisabel and her adoptive mother twice, very briefly.  It was always strange to see the little girl who, for a week, I thought would be my daughter. 

So who would have thought, that out of all the roads in this city of 5 million people, Lisabel and her mother would be living on the same road as us.  And who would have thought that out of the thousands of pre-schools in this city, and even the dozen or so on this road, that Lisabel would be going to the same pre-school as my Grace. 

And now they are best friends.

Sometimes the ways of God make me a bit dizzy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Oddness of My Normal Life

Just an ordinary Monday.

Kids up, breakfast made, Gil's lunch assembled, Bible time with the kids.  Walked to school to pick up the car, told Grace, "Be ready for school by the time I get back!"  Out the door at 9 am. 

Drove the mile to Grace's school, she got out, came to my window, and promptly burst into inconsolable tears.  Taken aback at the behavior of my normally sunny, outgoing, I-love-school daughter, I asked, "What's wrong?"

"I don't want to go to school!!!!"

Why not?

"I want to go home!!!!"

Firm Mommy.  Pried her fingers off the car, deposited her in the arms of one her teachers, and drove off with the vision of my daughter's screeching face, outstretched arms in my rear-view mirror.

Horrible Mommy.  And my mind races.  Why didn't she want to go to school?  Are they mistreating her?  Did something terrible happen that she didn't tell me?  Mega guilt.

Next stop:  gas station.  Only and always full service in this country.  I asked for 40,000 shillings.  "Oops," the attendant says to me, "I accidentally put in 46,000."  Well.  Good thing I had the cash, since that's the only method of payment. 

Drove for five minutes and realized the gas gauge was barely budging over a quarter of a tank.  For $30 worth of gas.  Irritated.

Stopped by the appliance store.  Since the weather has heated up, our fridge no longer can keep up and everything is spoiling, and no one has been able to fix it.  So we need a new refrigerator.  "We no longer sell refrigerators," the clerk tells me.  "Now we only have air conditioners."  I day dream for a minute about that air conditioner that is the size of a walk-in closet.  Maybe we could just make our whole house the temperature of a refrigerator.  Would that work?

Got to the grocery store.  I have recently fallen in love with weekly meal planning; it makes life so much less stressful.  That is, except when I can never find the things on my list.  Lasagna on the list for tonight; it's Bible study night and I need something that will feed 8 people and can be adapted for our token vegetarian. 

No lasagna noodles.  I sigh and buy manicotti instead.  No fresh milk.  I debate for a while; do I want to buy boxed milk for the ricotta cheese, even though it's twice the price of fresh milk and probably not even really milk?  (I mean, how can real milk sit on a shelf for months and not go bad?)  I sigh again and dump four boxes in the cart.

On the way home I stop at two other smaller shops.  But apparently all of Dar es Salaam is out of lasagna noodles and fresh milk. 

I go back to the gas station.  I put on my angry face and show the attendant my gas gauge.  "Is something wrong with the machine?" I ask.

"Maybe," she shrugs. 

She pulls out the hose and puts another 15,000 shillings worth of gas in my car.  "Now check your gauge," she asks me.  "Is that enough?"  The ludicrousy of this exercise does not escape me.  "I guess so," I say.

Guilty Mommy is still present, so I decide to pick up Grace early from school.  I pull in and she is playing outside with her friends.  "Why are you here, Mommy?"

"Because you were upset.  Because you didn't want to come to school today."

"Oh."  Long stare.

"Why didn't you want to come to school?"

"Because I didn't think it would be fun.  But it is."

Sigh again.  "Do you want me to come back after lunch like usual?"

"Yes, please."

(She and I will be "discussing" it this afternoon.)

Came home, gave Josiah hot dogs and mango for lunch, and now he is singing in his bedroom instead of sleeping.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pumpkins and Pineapples

November 2009

I love Facebook and reading blogs because it helps me keep in touch with people so well. I love that I can see pictures of my friends’ kids as they are growing up….that I can hear about major events in their lives so that when I see them again, we can pick up where we left off.

But then there’s the hard part.

I was thinking about this recently when everyone started posting pictures of taking their kids to the pumpkin patch. And talking about fall colors and cold air and pumpkin pie scented candles. But over here on my side of the world, I laid awake till 1 am last night, staring into the darkness, with soaking wet hair, trying to breathe, waiting for the power to come back on so that we could turn on the air conditioner. As my friends in America are layering on sweaters, we are layering on the deodorant. I put out a fall-themed table runner last week, and this really confused Grace. Is it autumn, Mommy? Well, no, Sweetie, not in Tanzania, just in America. There is much discussion among our American mission friends (as every year) on how we will track down a turkey (a major undertaking) so that we can celebrate Thanksgiving (on a Saturday, since it’s not a holiday here).

It’s often not been so bad as long as I can forget what “my other life” would be like if I were in it. But having just gone through fall/winter last year in the States, and with all these reminders on the internet, it is, well, hard. So I struggle with wanting to keep in touch with people but not allowing my heart to dwell on what I don’t have. I struggle with wanting to remain “American” but yet allowing my children to delight in being Tanzanian.

And you’re probably thinking anyway, “But look at your amazing pictures of Zanzibar!” True. I know that. And though we don’t have bright orange pumpkins appearing in October, we have enormous pineapples being trucked in. So how do I live between these worlds? How do I retain my American-ness while embracing my Tanzanian-ness?

I realized recently that I have spent almost 14 of my 33 years in Africa. Just about half my life, isn’t it? It’s a strange feeling. I’m not quite sure which one is more me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Everybody Say "Awwwwww....."

We had always talked about breeding our Jack Russell, so now, finally, 5 years later, we finally got around to it. 

I wondered often what was going through Minnie's mind through this whole thing.  I mean, she's never seen a birth, never seen puppies, and one day she gets this enormous stomach that is practically touching the ground, and then puppies start appearing.  "It all started when that strange dog showed up," she wonders to herself.  Minnie did give us some very bewildered looks those first few days.  "How did this happen?"  Yet, of course, due to our marvelous Creator, the dog (who has never seen a birth or had anyone teach her) knows exactly what to do.  Maybe this isn't very amazing to many people but I've thought it's all been pretty darn cool. 

And of course, there isn't anything much cuter than kids and puppies. 

Don't bother asking for one.  They were spoken for before they were born.  Jack Russells like to catch rats and bark at strangers, so they are quite popular dogs around here. 

Three more weeks till they go to their new homes.  I will miss those little faces, but I will not miss all the pee.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Capturing Zanzibar

Last week was mid-term break, so Gil and I left the kids with friends and snuck away for four days to celebrate our 10th Anniversary.  We went to Zanzibar, where we have been quite a few times before, but there's always new places to explore and fall in love with all over again. 

Zanzibar is an inhabited island (population 1 million) off the coast of Tanzania and though it is technically part of Tanzania, has a very unique culture.  The beaches are unlike anything in the world.  The architecture is stunning.  The culture and people, a mix of Arab and African, are fascinating.  We stayed three nights at a beach hotel and one night in Stonetown, the capital city.  We biked, snorkeled, walked, watched the sunset, read, swam, kayaked, and enjoyed great food.  It was just plain wonderful. 

Gil collected these while snorkeling by tying them to his trunks....don't worry, we threw them all back after the picture!

A sea turtle conservation facility. 
Since I've seen baby turtles hatching twice now, it was so fascinating to see them as adults!  Such beautiful, graceful, gentle animals. 

Mnarani Beach Hotel

The rest of these pictures are views from Stonetown.

Tanzania elections coming up on Sunday....the streets everywhere are plastered with posters!

At night, Forodhani Gardens are lit up by dozens of food vendors selling all the seafood you can imagine!