Sunday, December 30, 2012

Making Merry

Since it's almost impossible to buy decent gifts for the kids here, Christmas presents usually arrive via big yellow envelopes.  These particular ones were from our friends at FCC. 
Thank you to everyone who blesses us at Christmas!
Annual gingerbread house decorating with Caleb and Imani. 
My houses did not collapse this year, so I am improving.  However, as I was wrestling with these ridiculous contraptions, I declared rather loudly to anyone who would listen,
Next year I am buying a kit! 
Making glorious messes has always got to be a part of Christmas.

Skyping in the relatives.
Next year there will be no Skyping!

 More glorious messes:  Christmas morning.
And the benefit to hosting 14 additional people on Christmas afternoon?  It all gets cleaned up, lickety split.  

So Gil convinced his mom to purchase a zip line for the kids for Christmas.  (I don't think, actually, that Grandma realized that this particular gift means that her grandchildren will be whizzing across our yard at tremendous speeds and almost crashing into trees...with no helmet.)
Thanks to Grandma for purchasing it;
Carley's family for carting it over here;
and Tony and Devin for their help in putting it up.
It was a whiz-bang Christmas.

It was also a Claimjumper Christmas. 
It all started with the meat. 
My friends Alyssa and Lauren and I went to a day-long women's retreat in November.  A gift was given to each woman who attended:  a recipe and little bag of spices to make Claimjumper's Corned Beef.
We decided right then and there that we would make the beef for Christmas.  AND that therefore, we needed an entire Claimjumper's Christmas.  Logical conclusion, don't you think?
So we scoured the internet for recipes.  And oh my.  I have amazing friends. 
Bacon wrapped shrimp, citrus salad, Thai salad, BBQ salad, mozzarella cheese sticks, cheese-potato cakes, twice-baked potatoes with chicken.  And corned beef.  We should open our own Claimjumpers. 

Yes, those are Hershey's kiss cookies, made from kisses that have been at the bottom of my freezer since August.  However, they are not very well suited to Tanzania, since they could only be out of the freezer for about 10 minutes before they turned into Hershey's kiss puddles.  But that's okay, 10 minutes is enough! 

And of course, it would not be a Claimjumper's Christmas without
The Motherlode
Except mine was only 5 layers, instead of 6.  I couldn't fit six under my cake container. 

Heri ya Krismas! 
Next year.  Next year I will be home for Christmas!
But wait.  This is home too.  And I will miss it.
Be still, my divided heart. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Very Best Way to Spend Christmas Eve

Gil has had a significant influence in David S. and David. M's life for at least the past six years.  Now they are seniors, and when 18-year-old boys are wanting to stand up and declare their commitment to Christ, that is something worth celebrating.  Especially on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


I love Tanzanian fabric.  Half of my wardrobe is made from it. 
Kangas are probably the most common form of Tanzanian fabric, and what makes them unique is that each pattern has a saying or proverb written along the bottom.  When I found this one, I knew I had to get it for my kids and made into outfits for them. 
It says:  Upendo wa mungu umetuweka pamoja.
The love of God has brought us together.
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

He Comes to Make His Blessings Flow, Far As the Curse Is Found

Remember William and Stella

There's that precious baby girl, Janet, who is now 20 months old and scared to death of anyone white.  Would not let me come near her; you can see it on her face.  But the sight of her sure makes me smile! 
As you might remember, William is the head cleaner at HOPAC and blesses us every day.  He is also the pastor of a church in a village not far from here.  So we decided to make a visit to William's church, and to play with the kids that come to his Sunday School.  (We've been there a number of times in the past.)
It wasn't much, just some crafts and snacks and games.  Santa, interestingly enough, doesn't make it out to the villages in Africa, so it was fun to bless these kids, just a little bit.  Though I think my own kids got the most out of it. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

except the Traffic

I recently saw this t-shirt:

Oh yes.  That is my life as a resident of Dar, but even more so as an adoptive mama. 

A bit of relief has been felt in this household in the past few weeks, as we have acquired two new passports:

If you could only understand what goes into procuring these precious little books of paper.  Bringing home Lily's Tanzanian passport turned into a much bigger undertaking than expected, or necessary.  But such is life.

Last week I realized that in order to track down this passport, I would need to go to the immigration headquarters building in downtown Dar es Salaam.  I had only been there once, and my perception of it was that it was far, far away.  Never never land.  Like, the kind of errand that would take me the better part of an entire day to complete.  Needless to say, I was not looking forward to it.

I also did not remember how to get there.  Gil told me to look it up on Google Maps.

"You can do that here?" I said.  I was incredulous.  I didn't believe him.  But he was right.

I didn't know a lot of those streets even had names.  But my main shock in seeing these directions is that it told me that it is only 25 kilometers (15 miles) from our house to Kurasini.

15 miles?  15 miles!  Like, if I was in America, I could jump on the freeway and be there in 20 minutes?  Like I said, my perception was that this place was in Never Never Land.

My second shock came from Google Map's estimation of how long it would take to get there:  34 minutes.

At this, I had myself a good long laugh.  Obviously, that little satellite up there, looking down on good ol' Dar es Salaam, has no idea that 5 million people live in this city.  5 million people on roads that could handle about 250,000, give or take a few.

34 minutes.  Ha ha HA.

So when I left for the trip, I set my clock.  90 minutes later, I arrived.  90 minutes for 15 miles.  No wonder I thought it was so far away.  And it took at least that long to get back home.

But at least, we are now a 7-passport family. Can't wait until we are an 8-passport family, when Lily has her U.S. passport.  The day that I am done acquiring passports will be a Day of Celebration.  You will be invited.  But it will take you at least two hours to get to our house from the airport.  (Google Maps:  17 miles, 46 minutes) 

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Whenever you drive into downtown Dar and stop at a major intersection, little boys run up to your car.  They are about 10 or 12 years old, and hold a jug full of soapy water and a piece of a broken windshield wiper.  As soon as your car stops, they splash water on your windshield, "wash" the window in about 10 seconds, and then hold out their hands to be paid. 

I used to get annoyed at these boys.  I really didn't need my window washed two or three times in a half hour (once at each intersection), and I didn't like that they assumed I even wanted my window washed.  I also didn't like that I am always targeted because I am white.

These boys are most likely all street boys.  Runaways from abusive homes, orphans, or cast out for one reason or another, and now literally living on the street.  Which is the life that very likely my Josiah could have been living, had circumstances turned out differently for him.  And so, a couple of years ago, when one of these boys tried to wash my windshield, all of a sudden, I saw Josiah's face there instead. 

And I started to cry.  And instead of shrugging him away, I paid him.  Now I do every time. 

Like every other American (and much of the world), I have been thinking and praying and mourning over the terrible tragedy of 20 lost little lives in Connecticut.  But what has struck me about the situation and how it is being presented is that this tragedy is somehow unusual for our world. 

Did you know that in the past couple of weeks, 700,000 refugees have fled Congo?  That they are fleeing a militia that has been bombing and burning down their villages, raping and shooting indiscriminately?  Ironically, they are fleeing into Rwanda, country where only 10 years ago, the majority tribe massacred one million of their fellow countrymen/women/children, neighbor against neighbor, and usually with machetes? 

Did you know that often in some African countries, children suffer a fate far worse than being gunned down by a crazy person; instead they are handed a gun, forced to murder their own parents, and then conscripted into an army to kill their own neighbors and friends? 

The United States will corporately mourn those 20 little lives lost on Friday, and rightly so.  But I can't help but ask, why are those little lives so much more valuable than the ones over here?  Why do people care so much about this tragedy, and barely cast a glance at Congo?  Why is anyone surprised that such an event would occur, when it has been happening in the rest of the world since Cain and Abel?

And I'm guessing it's because that people see their own children, or themselves, in the faces of those children from Connecticut.  They can imagine what it would be like to send their own little ones off to school, only to never see them again.  But they can't imagine a crazed, drug-induced militia entering their neighborhood, raping, burning, and shooting their small children, ripping open their pregnant women before handing their 10-year-old a gun and telling him to shoot his mother or die himself. 

The American children have names and faces.  The African children don't. 

Adopting three Tanzanian children has broken my heart for other African children in ways that I never imagined, even after growing up here.  I see children here suffering and I see my children's faces instead.  I think about my children starving, alone, frightened, separated from their families by tragedy, fighting in wars.  Or even just living on the street, trying to make enough money for a meal by washing car windows.

So yes, mourn this tragedy, America.  See your children's faces in the newscasts and hug your own children tighter today.  But don't forget the millions of children and families who endure even worse things every day.  Adopt a child.  Sponsor a child.  Send money to churches in Rwanda who are helping the Congolese.

And remember that we're not celebrating Christmas because of the warm fuzzies and fun and sugar plums.   We celebrate Christmas because our world is desperately, horrifically, tragically broken and our only hope is in Jesus Christ. 

A thrill of hope; a weary world rejoices.  For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn! 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

English Lesson

I remember the first time I heard the term gobsmacked.  I was in a HOPAC staff meeting a number of years ago, with a British principal, and when he said it, all the Americans just stared at him.  What did you say? 
It's rather amusing, working in an enviroment with Brits and Scots and Irish.  We all speak English, but sometimes it doesn't feel that way.  The Revolutionary War did more than just make two separate countries; it also created two separate vocabularies.  And even in a school environment, sometimes we have difficulty communicating. Until you get used to it, there are a lot of blank stares.
Some examples:
Invigilate = proctor
Rubber = eraser
Full stop = period
Penultimate week = week before the last
Fortnight = two weeks
Squared paper = graph paper
Mark exams = grade tests
Dust bin = trash can
Maths = math
File = binder
And so on.
Then there's food:
Aubergine = eggplant
Biscuit = cookie
Sweets = candy
Pudding = dessert
Crisps = chips
Chips = French Fries (which they also like to stick between two pieces of bread with mayo and call a sandwich)
I could go on. There's more....oh, there's so much more.
This leads to some rather hilarious conversations.  For example, last week I was with some friends and we were discussing how the British say bum pack when the Americans would say fanny pack. The reason for this is because the British find the word fanny to be extraordinarily crude. (Very sorry to the Brits reading this post and forced to see this word in print.)  The laughter that ensued from this conversation (which included both Americans and Brits) was jolly, indeed.
Another example:
When Americans hear the word pantomime, they think of this:
But when Brits hear the word pantomime, they think of this:

A British pantomime is always a humorous twist on a fairy tale, the lead characters are always played by the opposite gender, and it is always performed at Christmastime.  There is most definitely talking (and singing) involved, and the audience always participates by booing and hissing and cheering at appropriate times. It is a important British tradition and the local theatre in Dar always puts on one, every December. 
And yes, that is Doug B., for those of you who know him. 

Since our friends were directing/starring in the pantomime this year, Gil got to be the photographer. 
 So just remember:  If a British child asks you for a rubber, you needn't be gobsmacked, he just wants an eraser. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Grade 1, Term 1

She has: 
A teacher she adores, someone dedicated enough to leave country and family to move halfway around the world and teach her.
Friends from literally all over the world, a multitude of cultures, backgrounds, and religions. 
So many opportunities to practice loving and leading.
Lots of wiggly teeth.


First grade assembly, Term 1, doing their Ultra Super Cool Creation Rap.