Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Morning

We got Lily a tricycle, since she loves to sit on Grace and Josiah's bikes. 

But the gift that she really, really, really loved?  The beeping play phone that her sister got her.  Worth about 50 cents.

Yep.  Isn't that always how it goes? 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Making Merry

Caleb is Grace's very best friend.  They are almost exactly the same age, and been friends their whole lives.  Josiah and Imani are also the same age, but they have just gotten to the point where they have stopped looking at each other in distain.  Not quite the same relationship as Grace and Caleb.

We love Caleb and Imani's family, and they were in town last weekend, so we did some Christmas merriment with them. 

Last year at Christmas we spent a Sunday afternoon at a fancy hotel's special buffet...and had so much fun that we did it again this year. 

We don't normally eat this well.  :-)

Last year, the hotel had a jumper and clowns to entertain the kids.  This year, they had nada.  So the kids ran in the sprinklers instead.  Hopefully the hotel regrets not getting that jumper. 

The next day, we had our First Annual Gingerbread-Making Party.

This was Mommy's first time making gingerbread houses from scratch.  So....ummm...yeah.
Emily (Caleb's Mom) said that the houses reminded her of the village where they live.  As in, they are all falling down.  Well, at least our gingerbread houses were culturally appropriate.

Although I think Josiah's simply collapsed under the weight of everything he put on it. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's Okay; I Like the Sun After All

Night before last, the thunder woke me up. I kept waiting for the kids to start screaming, but they slept through it. I did not.

Yesterday I had plans. Visit social welfare; take the girls to the salon.

We left the house, and our first stop was to get fuel. Problem #1: No fuel. And we were almost on empty. Went to four gas stations. Nothing.

Uh oh.

I took the girls to a salon near our house instead of the one in town. Decided to go to social welfare the next day. Got home and started to realize how bad the fuel shortage was. Plus, we had no electricity and no fuel for the generator. I found a gas station with fuel and waited in line for 45 minutes. Filled up our car, and our extra tanks for the generator.

Last night, the thunder started again and didn't stop for something like 9 hours. Now, I was annoyed. Once again we had to scrap our plans for the day.

Then we started hearing. Bridges out. Not just flooded bridges, but washed away bridges. The bridges that connect us to town, actually. After 36 hours with no power, we finally found a friend who just came over and fixed it. Hooray for our friend Hans!

I got online and started to see the pictures.

And I'm sorry for complaining about the sun. And I am ashamed for complaining about my messed-up plans. Because this is what parts of my city looks like right now.

And two more days of rain are forcasted.

Please pray for Dar es Salaam.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Getting Into the Season

I love African rain.  There's really nothing that beats that amazing smell in the air.

And I love the tropical sun when I'm on a speed boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

But other than that, I really miss having seasons.

It's probably one of the things I miss the most while living in Tanzania.  And it always hits me the hardest at Christmastime. 

I really, really wish I could embrace this tropical Christmas thing.  And of course, the celebration of the Incarnation has nothing to do with the weather.  But that marvelous feel of Christmas?  Just doesn't exist here.

The temperature these days is near 100 degrees.  With 96% humidity.  And it doesn't get much better at night.  My entire body feels sticky.  The last thing I want anyone to do is to touch me. 

Kind of makes that Christmasy, blankets-and-hot-cocoa, cozy feeling a little impossible. 

I love Christmas music like the next person, but with all their talk of sleigh bells and winter wonderlands and open fires, it doesn't really help my mood.  This really is the time of year I get most homesick.  Grandchildren separated from grandparents doesn't help either.

But we try.  To feel Christmasy, that is.  And sometimes, you just have to laugh.

Last week, the secondary school held their annual Christmas program on a Thursday night.  The music was beautiful.  The music teachers outdid themselves. 

Paper snowflakes hung delicately over the stage.  And when they turned the overhead lights on, the flying termites came out in swarms.  It almost looked like snow.  Almost. 

Sweat dripped down our backs.  The power went out during one of the skits, and they had to just continue by yelling their lines really loud until someone could get the generator on. 

The students were told to wear white and black.  And since you can't just head out to Walmart to pick up a white blouse, that meant that some of the "white and black" attire was rather interesting.

But they did all their own accompaniments.  I was so proud of them. 
And they all sang, really loud.  Even the 8th grade boys.  Which is kind of a Christmas miracle.

And everyone brought food, clothes, and toys that night, which was all then presented to the manager of a local orphanage by my friend Lauren.  That's HOPAC's true Christmas spirit.

The nice thing is, that all of this makes no difference to my kids.  And I know that's true, because some of my best Christmas memories are the ones my family spent in Liberia when I was a kid.  So this week, we are having a family water balloon fight since we can't have a snow ball fight.  And taking a bath with green and red ice cubes.  We'll have a sleepover in the living room.  We're having a Christmas Eve BBQ with our church.  I did try super hard to find a true "Tanzanian" Christmas tree this year, but the only "natural" one I found that was big enough cost $200.  I decided our plastic tree wasn't so bad after all.

We can't light candles because the fans will blow them out.  We don't have a fireplace for our stockings.  We certainly won't be getting cozy.  But we're creating memories just the same.

And now I'm off to bake gingerbread, since tomorrow we have friends coming over for a gingerbread house party.  Except the molasses was too expensive, so I used date syrup instead.  So we'll have a kind of middle-eastern flavored gingerbread.

Seems appropriate, don't you think?

Monday, December 12, 2011

He Gives and Takes Away

Criscilla and Victor (HOPAC's excellent and quite popular history teacher from Zimbabwe)

and sweet baby Christian....who fought for so long, was doing so well, but God ordained that today would be his last day.

Pray for Victor and Criscilla, and pray for the HOPAC community.  Every single student's Facebook status shows their grief.  And in this generation, that's how they mourn.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I'm All In

I'm pretty good at poker.

But that's probably because I've never actually played with real money.  I doubt I'd be very good under those circumstances.

Because I am not a risk-taker.  I hate risks. 

And adoption?  Kind of risky.  But at least with my other three, I knew that as long as I persisted long enough, I would get my children.

This time, I have no idea.

I spent all day working on the adoption for that little guy.

It was a really rough day.  I wish I could vent about it, but it would not be very wise for me to do so here.  After all, this is a public blog. 

So let's just say that after Meeting #1 with Person #1, I left the office in tears, broken-hearted and absolutely infuriated.  I immediately went up one more floor to try to meet with the Big Boss.  He was not in.  His secretary did not know when he would be in.  Tomorrow is a holiday, and next week he is going on vacation.  It's December 8th, and I would not have another chance to talk to him until January.

I called Amy H. at Forever Angels, then I called our lawyer, and blubbered my way through those conversations.  We made a plan for January.

Since I was already downtown, I walked around, looking for some things I need for HOPAC's Christmas Fun Day on Saturday.  I was looking for large sheets of plastic to make a Slip n' Slide, and each shopkeeper kept directing me farther and farther down the street.  When I finally found it, bought it, and made it back to my car, another hour had past.

On a whim, I called the secretary again.  "He's come back early!"  she told me.  "Come up now!"

So I ran back up the five flights of stairs.  And then I sat there outside his office and waited for two more hours while he was in another meeting.

We talked, I cried again, and he directed me to talk to yet another person, next week.  Someone who will be in the office.

Right before I left, he off-handedly mentioned that he wasn't supposed to be in the office this afternoon.  He had been in a conference and been sent back early for another reason.

I was happy for that tiny reminder that God is in this.

And I need that, because this is riskier than any of my other adoptions.  I don't know how this will end up.  So far, it doesn't look good.  Yet I can't seem to shake the conviction to keep going.  But I know already, based on my reaction to conversations today, that it will really, really hurt if we hit a dead end.

And I don't like that. 

But I'm all in.

So here I go. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Giving Thanks

Our mission team in Tanzania has a tradition to celebrate Thanksgiving together each year.  We are all from America, and we are as much family as we're going to get out here.  This year, the Medinas hosted.  All 40 of us. 

Things that are the same as Thanksgiving in the States:

1.  Turkey
2.  Pumpkin pie
3.  Excessive and absurd amounts of food
4.  Lots of laughter and fun
5.  Very very grateful hearts

I think that's where the similarities stop.

Things that are different from Thanksgiving in the States:

1.  Finding a turkey was a major undertaking.  Finding one that wouldn't cost $1 per bite was even more of a challenge.  But we did it.

2.  The pumpkin pie, as well as absolutely everything else on the table, was completely from scratch.  Meaning, we cooked down pumpkins for the pies.  And dried out bread cubes for stuffing.  And peeled real potatoes and mashed them.  (Okay, I do know that this does occasionally happen in America as well.  Not trying to insult anyone.)  I did not do all the cooking.  It was a huge potluck, and my part was only baking the rolls and some pies.  We have amazing cooks on our mission kind of have to become that way if you want to eat anything more than scrambled eggs in this country.

3.  Oh, I was wrong.  The cranberry sauce did come from a can.  Which someone had brought with them from the States. 

4.  The fourth Thursday of November is not a holiday in this country.  We all had to work, and thus we held our meal on the fourth Saturday of November.

5.  The power went out right before the guests arrived.  We had been trying to cool down the room by blasting the air conditioning in the living room before they came (which we rarely use), and so we had to turn on the generator to keep it going.  The generator did not like all the power we were using, so we had to choose between the air conditioner and the lights.  The lights went off. 

6.  Having 40 people in the house in 90 degree weather, even with the A/C, still caused a profuse amount of sweating.  Lots of people ate outside. 

7.  The marshmallows on top of the sweet potatoes were pink.  Pink is the primary color of all marshmallows in Tanzania.

8.  I used pineapples and bougainvillea as part of my centerpieces.

9.  There was no football, no parade, and nothing, nowhere was on sale. 

But it still felt like Thanksgiving.

We started at 1:00, but many people stayed until 9, snacking on leftovers and playing games for hours. 

There are many things I am thankful for, but this team is a major one.  We are all so far from our families, but they fill us up with love and affection.  My kids call them all "Aunt" and "Uncle."  They are amazing people with amazing stories and are doing incredible things for God's kingdom....reaching the very development through health care, teaching English, building Tanzanians to be missionaries....equipping pastors. 

My first choice would be to be with my family on Thanksgiving.  But this is the next best thing. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Oh, To Be Back In High School

My wonderful team of Student Council members (still need a picture of them!) did a fantastic job organizing Spirit Week last week. So proud of their hard work and loved how much "spirit" at HOPAC they encouraged! 

They were told "a girl" would give them a kiss and they had to guess which one....
....and it was their moms.  (The only "girls" who should be kissing them right now anyway!)

Tesfaye (Vice President) and Randra (Treasurer)....on 70's day

Our Tinkerbell Sam.  And No, that's not my husband wearing Josiah's Buzz costume.  You just think it is. 

Kindergarten At Its Best

I don't know if we'll be in Tanzania another 12 years, but I know that if we are, Grace will graduate from HOPAC with a lot of the kids she is on the playground with now.
So I want to get to know these parents.  A couple of weeks ago was my first attempt.  I love the fact that I can invite these families to school for a birthday party for the kindergarten teacher, on a Saturday afternoon, and they will actually come. 

Such a great day.  When you've got families with as diverse backgrounds as those at HOPAC, you know you're going to have great conversations. 
(That's Grace's classroom in the background.)

The kids brought their bikes and careened around the campus, and us moms got to know each other. 

Later that week, the kids got the surprise of their life.  This class loves to dance (and I love that their teacher encourages them to dance), and one of their favorite songs to dance to is by a Kenyan Christian rap star. 

So you can imagine their excitement when Bupe himself jumped into their dance party one day. 

I'd say those are some pretty lucky kindergarteners.