Thursday, August 30, 2012


Grace had her first day of first grade last week.  Her second top tooth fell out just in time.  After all, everyone knows that first graders should not have their two front teeth.

We also just passed the fourth anniversary of Josiah coming home to us, and the day after that, the first anniversary of Lily coming home to us.  And as I sit here watching them, I think about how far we've come since that day last August. 

The war between Josiah and Lily has come to a peaceable end.  Of course, there are still battles--there always will be, but Josiah has not slammed the door in Lily's face or done any kind of bodily harm to her for at least 8 months now.  Now....Grace did tell me the other day that Josiah peed on the trampoline and then tried to get Lily to step in it....but we'll just chalk that up to being a four-year-old boy instead of evil hatred.  (But yes, he did get consequences all the same.)

It is now 9:00 am, and Josiah and Lily have been playing together for the past two hours and there has been no screaming.  That would have never happened a year ago.  They are both dressed in Spiderman costumes and playing with legos.  Yesterday, they were both Jedi knights.  It's kind of funny, actually, since Lily is quite the girly-girl who loves her dolls and dishes.  But since Josiah is her playmate most of the time, she has become quite adept with a light saber.  And I just heard her mutter something about The Dark Side. 

When he is not trying to make her step in pee, Josiah now takes his role as big brother quite seriously.  It has been a long, long road of discipline and discussions to get him to this point, and just as much work to get Lily to stop screaming.  It took months of telling them, "You are best friends!" before they finally starting acting like it. 

I think the worst is over.  Sigh of relief.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Year of Lasts

The first time I stepped foot on the campus of Haven of Peace Academy was August 2001. 

I was 23 years old.  Gil and I had been married all of 9 months.  I had two years of experience teaching second grade in California. 

HOPAC was only 6 years old.  They had just added grade 10; they had one administrator for the whole school.  They had just moved to their new campus on the edge of Dar es Salaam.  And construction was certainly still happening.

I arrived on campus in August to get my classroom ready.  5th grade--that's was I was assigned to teach.  My classroom was an empty shell.  No bulletin boards, no white boards on the walls.  Everything was in chaos.  My books were piled in boxes in the middle of the room. 

There was no teacher orientation.  The only administrator arrived only three days before school started.  The only copy machine was broken until the day before school started.  I eventually got my bulletin boards nailed to the wall, but I couldn't find butcher paper.  I scrounged around to find some poster paper on which to write my class rules.  I had no idea what I was supposed to teach, except for what I could figure out from the textbooks in the middle of the room.

I was entirely overwhelmed.  I was suffering from panic attacks, and I had no idea how I would make it through the first day of school, let alone the entire school year.  The only way I made it to school on that first day was by the grace of God. 

The students arrived, and on that first day, we fell in love with each other.  So much so that we stuck together through 6th grade too.  That first day was the beginning of the best two years of teaching I have ever had. 

(Roman Day)

Gil had come to Tanzania to help with church planting, but he had some hours available during the day and HOPAC sucked him in.  (In those days, they sucked in anyone who breathed.)  He started teaching grade 7 & 8 Bible classes, and suddenly realized that not only was he really, really good at teaching Bible, but that he loved it.  The director started recruiting him to be HOPAC's chaplain.

We returned to the States for 2003-2005 while he finished his seminary degree (and I taught kindergarten), and came back to HOPAC in August of 2005, this time full time at HOPAC--he as the chaplain and Bible teacher, and me working part time.  And for the past eight years, that's where we have been. 

For 10 of the last 12 years, HOPAC has been our life and breath.  Almost all of our married life.  A third of our entire lives. 

HOPAC is now a K-12 school of over 300 students, ASCI accredited, and with an administrative team of 6.  They just completed over a week of teacher orientation.  A pool, science building, administration building, kitchen, and soccer pitch have been added in the years we've been here.  HOPAC has come a very, very long way since August 2001.  I have come even further.  And it has been pure joy to be a part of it all.

Our hearts and our God have let us know that this is our last year.  Our last first day of school was yesterday.  The last time Gil will give the opening talk at the all-school assembly.  The last time I will get the banner made for the all-school theme.  The last time we attended the teacher orientation.

I know I will tear up many times this year.  This place and these people are incredibly dear to us, and have been an incredible gift. 

It will be a busy year.  Gil and I will be attempting to write everything down for the next guy, organize anything we ever coordinated, try to make sure that nothing we've started drops off after we leave.  But in the midst of it, I want to reflect as well, to record my stories and memories of these ten years. 

To have the privilege of living a life that is meaningful and purposeful, to do what you love every single day--this is significant.  We don't want to forget.  And we want to finish well. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Two Worlds

So even though I didn't post any pictures of Walmart, I did go.  In fact, one day my Mom took Grace to play minature golf and dropped me off at Walmart, and I walked down every single aisle.  If someone from marketing had seen me, they would have wanted to use my awestruck face in a commercial, certainly. 

I did, however, take a picture of this: 

Because Olive Garden's breadsticks and salad deserve to be immortalized.

It was a wonderful two weeks.  Or rather, 12 days.  Plus 4 days for traveling.  Grace and I soaked up all the hugs and memories and fun that we could possibly squeeze into those 12 days.  And that amazing man of mine, who genuinely enjoys being Mr. Mom, took Lily and Josiah to the pool, kept up their routines, declared a Star Wars day, and even re-organized various sections of the house while we were gone.  Of course, they did also eat a ridiculous amount of bacon.  Thankfully there were no heart attacks as a result.

But it was still hard in a lot of ways.  All the happiness with our families just serves as a painful reminder of what we have given up.  All the memories we create just seem to prick me in the heart of all the memories we could be having. 

And every time we go back, I feel more distant from American life.  Every time we go back, it seems to get harder.  And this time was especially hard because my daughter gets it now too.  We said good-bye to my Mom at the airport, walked through security, and she burst into tears.  I pulled her aside and put her head in my lap while she wept.  Why do we have to live so far away from them?  she said.  Why do we live in Tanzania when all the rest of our family lives in America?  Why couldn't I give Babu one last hug?

And how can I explain it to a six-year-old?  Because Tanzania is where God wants us to be, my Sweetheart.  Because we love it there.  Because we fix our eyes on things above, on That Day when there will be no more good-byes. 

But my words sound hollow, even to myself, because I know my heart is breaking as much as hers is.

This is our last year at HOPAC.  Next summer, we will return to the States for a whole year before returning to Tanzania in a different ministry.  So Next Year was a big topic of conversation with everyone we talked to.  Next Year we'll have time to get together.  Next Year we'll be able to go to that place.  Next Year I'll be able to do more than just hug you in the church foyer. 

And I am simultaneously excited and terrified.  Excited for obvious reasons, and terrified because I just don't how much more of this my heart can handle; this living in two worlds. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Trip in Pictures

Learning to fish with Aunt Tabby

Riding horses while camping with the Medina family

Grandma and Grandpa Medina

Visiting Maggie at Stanford

At Great America with Bibi and Babu (my parents)

Trampolining with Uncle Paul


Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus!

Would my Dad have bought me this hat when I was a kid?  I don't think so. 
What is with grandparents? 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

On Flying Internationally

When I was a little girl flying to Africa, times were different. 

There would be one big screen in the front of the cabin, on which one movie was shown that everyone had to watch.  At least, everyone who was big enough to see over the seats.  And if their Mom let them watch that particular movie.

I also remember that those were the days of smoking sections.  Once we were accidentally seated in the smoking section.  Another time, we were in the row directly behind the smoking section.  The guy in front of us smoked cigars the entire 10 hours.  I visited the bathroom about 3 times an hour, just to get away from the smoke.

But the times have changed, and not just because smoking is never allowed on any airplane anymore.  We still fly coach, but 20 hours on a plane isn't nearly as bad as it used to be, especially for kids.

For the first time, we flew on Emirates Air.  They gave Grace a free blanket (to take home), a stuffed animal, and an insulated lunch box with snacks in it. 

We had a menu.  I had already pre-ordered kids' meals for Grace, but I got to choose from these options for myself.  U.S. airlines may only give you peanuts, but international airlines just keep feeding you.  

The best part, however, are the personal touch screens on every seat.  Dozens of movies, TV shows, and even video games that you can play with the other passengers.  I watched almost the entire Seasons 1 & 2 of "Downton Abbey."  I'll work on the rest on the way home!

Grace was in heaven.  Free toys, blankets, snacks AND she gets to watch 5 movies in a row?  Doesn't get much better than that for a kid. 


After our first 5 hour flight, Emirates even gave us a free hotel room (and meals) for our 8 hour layover in Dubai. 

I must admit, however, that even though I have been a missionary for most of my life, I had some pretty serious culture shock in Dubai (United Arab Emirates).  The Dar es Salaam airport, even though it's an international airport for a city of 5 million people, has only six gates.  Six.  Yep, just six. 

The Dubai airport, in a city where opulence is King and probably even the cockroaches wear gold, has over 200 gates in just one of its terminals.  When we landed on the runway, a bus picked us up and we drove for 15 minutes just to get to the terminal

So yes, on arrival I felt nauseous and panicky and wanted to run right back into my nice safe Dar es Salaam with its six gates. 


After an 8 hour layover, we got back on the plane for a sixteen hour flight.  Yes, you read that right.  Sixteen hours from Dubai to Los Angeles.  That's the longest I've ever been on a plane at once, but Downton Abbey made it pretty bearable.  And the best part was getting to see the North Pole from 30,000 feet up. 
Totally indescribable. 

And when we got off the plane, Love was on the other end waiting for us.