Friday, November 28, 2008

giving thanks

We ate no turkey, no pumpkin pie, and no stuffing. We did not watch any football nor stuff our faces until we were forced to wear "comfy pants." We did not scope out any sales nor get up at the crack of dawn to snag any great buys.
But we are very thankful and isn't that what it is about.

Our first Thanksgiving outside the U.S. was unusual but memorable. First off, it is still hoovering at around a cool 91 degrees and 75% humidity so even if we had access to all those fabulous comfort foods from home I would not be able to eat them let alone stand in a hot kitchen all day cooking them. Second, we had language school all morning followed by 2 hours of homework. Alas, it was just another day. No one here, local or other ex-pats really understand what Thanksgiving is since only us Americans celebrate it but we did our best to inform everyone of what a fabulous holiday it is stateside. We knew we had to mark the day with at least a special meal for dinner so I made pasta, salad, and brushcetta with fresh basil we grow outside. For dessert we even had an instant cheesecake that Beck sent in a package (Thanks girl!!). After tasting the cheesecake Jason and I discussed how one taste of home is indeed "life affirming."
our thanksgiving meal
I also was able to make a batch of pumpkin scones because our generous renter back in Chicago sent us some canned pumpkin. Sifting the flour is always an adventure in insect identification. But the results made Jason a happy man indeed. We also got to share the scones with some of our team and some locals who agreed with our assessment that they rock!
the bugs and bug larvae that is in 1/2 cup of flour...
Mmmm extra protein
As I was cooking a friend from the neighborhood stopped over with her son to visit after a month long trip to another island. We visited and she helped me cook a bit. She definitely feels more at home now in my kitchen as she goes through everything to help and starts doing the dishes as we talk. It is awesome to begin to feel like we have real friends here.
a friend and her adorable son that stopped over

In the midst of everything we also got to talk to some family and friends and even had a webcam tour of the cooking marathon in process and the snow on the ground outside. We thought maybe this would make us homesick but the opposite was true. Instead, we felt apart of everything even though we are so far away. Thinking through what I am thankful for I realize the list includes many people, many "seemingly small" things that I took for granted before living here, health, opportunities, His abundant gifts to our family.

Yes, I am giving thanks for many our refrigerator working, new friends that want to get to know us, old friends that are far away but make the effort to keep in touch, a new family member who joined the Engstrom clan last week, talking with a friend for an hour all in Kiswahili, an Internet webcam that allow us to see family we dearly miss half way across the world, a healthy daughter and husband, the sunshine, small comforts that refresh us, the things our family is learning being so far from home, the opportunity I have to trust in the face of uncertainty, and the privilege to serve Him wherever we are.
A Psalm for Thanksgiving.
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His loving kindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

racial identity

White girl moves to Africa. It was just a matter of time before Annikah realized she is a bit different around here. Kids have an amazing way of figuring things out, of making sense of their world and if we are careful not to jump in and allow them to discover on their own it can be pretty amazing. Really, it is one of the best parts of parenting to me, to get to experience another little human being discover and make sense of her world. When we moved here we knew we were in many ways going to rock Anni's world for better and worse. She is figuring out that life is different here and that she is part of that difference. It is easy to realize when walking through the market drenched in sweat while the locals (wearing twice as many layers) have not a bead of perspiration on their faces, or when we get weird stomach bugs from even a drop of unsafe water when the local kids can drink it off our roof (they do too!), or when every time we visit neighbors people come out to stare at Annikah like she is in a museum or the zoo, they are fascinated with her every move. No doubt we are different and apparently novel as most days when we are out and about people remind us so by saying "Mzungu" as we pass as if to point out the obvious fact that we are indeed white.
Annikah has figured out that she is a Mzungu. We never have discussed this with her in any formal way but the other week as we were getting her ready for bed she announced that she is indeed a "zungu." We asked for more explanation and she said "because Anni wear that" and pointed to her skin. I thought that was a pretty profound thought. To her after careful observation and experimentation over the last few months the only difference is skin, just the covering we wear, not the person we are. She is now sure to point out other Wazungu when we are out and even discovered a few hiding on her backpack that Grandma sent. Racial identity to a two year old, pretty interesting stuff.

*Jason would like to set the record straight that he does NOT wear or own any yellow dresses...... Just in case Anni's story leaks to the media.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Welcome cousin Claire

The following is a message from Annikah to her new adorable (and five weeks early) cousin Claire; congrats Annie & Justin. We miss you so much today and wish we could be there to kiss you all!! Yeah for girls!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

island escape

A few months ago some amazing friends that shall remain nameless (ok, Jim & Dre and Tim & Chloe- THANK YOU!) sent us an email telling us that they had booked us a day trip to a nearby island. We were so grateful but with everything keeping us busy we had not found the time (and a babysitter for Anni) until now. Suddenly after getting kicked in the butt for a few weeks with sickness we had a new sense of urgency about sitting on a beach chair and eating food we did not cook or clean up. Rockstar award recipients Julie & Alex watched Annikah for the entire day so we could enjoy some time sans kiddo. We took a boat over in the morning to a tiny island, it is so small that at any given time there is less than 20 people on the entire island. It is a protected reserve and coral park and it is well known for eco-tourism. They use all green energy (no electricity anywhere) and it was amazing to see how everything worked. Even though we were only staying for the day they let use a bungalow (it is low tourist season).

check out the solar panels on each bungalow

The solar panels on each bungalow powered everything: lights creativity nestled inside of coconut shells, a fan, even a solar powered flashlight! There was a compost toilet that had us enthralled for way longer than I care to divulge here.
compost choo: wicked cool!

We went snorkeling with a few of the tourists that were staying on the island and saw coral and fish as far as the eye could see. Jason even spotted a blue spotted stingray and dove down to see it and try to bother it out of hiding. When he tried to get me in on his little plan I quickly turned him down noting that would happen to me "woman goes to island to relax and gets killed by giant stingray." I told 'malaria boy' that with his recent assortment of bad luck I would steer clear as well but you know boys and shiny things...
After snorkeling we had a yummy lunch of local curries and fresh fruit followed by amazing lemongrass tea.

lunch overlooking the water

After eating I had a date with a lounge chair and a book. It was fabulous and remarkably quiet there. After having Annikah I have never again taken for granted quiet moments to just lay like a lazy bum, do absolutely nothing but smell the sea air and feel the hot sun on my skin, it is truly a gift. After making sure all the calories we had consumed settled in we decided we had to explore a bit and hiked up to the top of a lighthouse. We laughed the whole way up noting that there is no way this structure as shady as this would be open to the public or deemed as safe to climb but we made it and the view was more than reward for our efforts.

the stairs leading to the top

view from the top of the lighthouse, not bad huh?

All too soon our day of sun and sloth came to end and we took the 45 minutes boat ride back talking with the local boat drivers the whole is awesome to actually be able to communicate now. It was a blessing to get away from daily living stuff for the entire day and just relax and take it in; we are living in an amazing part of the world, even if some days we forget it. To quote the great and enduring Ferris Bueller, "if you have the means I highly recommend checking it out."

solared power chic....Africa style

time just to think...a luxury not to be taken for granted

coconut crab...nasty lil dudes

Monday, November 17, 2008

No he didn't.......

We have the sweetest teacher for language school named Mohammad. It is a really small class of 5 people all learning Kiswahili for various reasons (a gal from Holland who is living here with her boyfriend who is a musician, an artist who was raised in Africa, and a gal from Netherlands who is working on the mainland). Our teacher cracks us up daily. He has several mannerisms and quirks that I adore. One is that everyday he brings about 12 dry erase markers to class. Now, why does one person need that many markers to write with? It because 11 of them DO NOT WORK at all yet he brings them all each day and then goes through each one no less than 20 times throughout the course of the class. Last week he finally chucked a few out the window during the lesson. It just makes me laugh that he will not just throw them away and only keep the ones that work. He also tells us stories of his kids taking a rat to school to play football with it (ok, animal rights lovers out there I am not condoning said behavior but after seeing the size of the rat lurking outside our house a few days ago I might be willing to drop kick the thing too) and that before he went to teacher college he would pop his students on the head when they would not listen (glad I am on the "after" side of that one). His English is awesome, of course as he is teaching Kiswahili to a bunch of Wazungu but there are certain things no matter how long you speak a language you will never say as a native speaker (good for me to keep in mind). For example, he sometimes says marginally funny things that produce a smile or chuckle from the native speaker crowd like "the food it is for finished" or "my soda has been rotten" or "breast (he spelled it brist) is painful" but today was the best one ever. He wrote on the board a series of sentences we were to translate into Kiswahili and this was one of them...

"She has not shitted in the bed"
Seriously, and that is what he meant. This was hilarious for obvious reasons and we all had to attempt to not burst out laughing. Added to it was the fact that Annikah has indeed had diarrhea in her bed for the whole of last week so it was a useful phrase for me to learn. Also, later Jason and I discussed what a better translation would be and we could not really come up with one except "defecate" which is a very tough word to "come across" when you are learning English. Again, I will say never a dull moment here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

it was my birthday and I almost cried cuz I wanted to

I turned 29 on Friday, the last year in my 20's. In Africa. In a part of Africa most people cannot find on a map (I couldn't until I came here). Many people have asked me if "it felt like my birthday" and I guess the answer is yes and no. No, it did not because it was a cool 94 degrees, no because I did not eat Mexican food, no because I did not treat myself to a latte, (and it is too flippin' hot to have one anyway). Yes because I got tons of encouraging emails and birthday wishes, yes because Anni and Jason gave me a handmade card, Yes because some girlfriends on my team here were amazing and baked me a cake and gave me presents...I LOVE presents! This mixture of emotion coupled with the rough health issues we have had lately made me feel weepy. Not because of the "I am getting older," less firmness, more cellulite issues that may creep into my thoughts occasionally (although much less here) but because I somehow feel like celebrating holidays here is a big deal, marking the passage of time, it means we live here, that this place; however foreign is our home for now. The day started with a long run which gave me tons of time to think and pray. I reflected about my life and how different but how the same it is since last year. How much I have learned about myself just in the past year; that I am resilient and strong, and at the same time petty, selfish, and weak. That God is teaching my through everything that happens and how much of the time I am not listening. How His grace is still always sufficient. How He has plans for me and although they are unknown to me they are good. How I am thankful I have the opportunities I have had to learn that life is not all about me and yet He cares about the daily living stuff that has been so rough for us to adjust to.
I arrived home to find my hubby preparing some bread for breakfast while getting Anni ready for school; awesome! Especially since he awoke AGAIN in a cold sweat followed by several trip to the choo (Kiswahili word for you can guess). He surprised me with telling me he had arranged team members to babysit tonight and saved money so we could go out to dinner. I was very excited since it has been a tough few weeks and our fridge is still broken. After breakfast we headed to school and I passed out muffins I had made in our sun oven, you know like 3rd grade style when it is your b-day you bring treats. It was fun since our teacher had never had banana bread and loved them. After school we came home, ate, cleaned up and got ready for our team meeting. The team arrived a bit early and the girls on the team surprised me with presents wrapped and even tied with ribbon! It was awesome and I teared up a bit. I desperately missed my family and friends on my b-day and although these girls have known me for only a few weeks or months they made an extra effort to celebrate with me. Julie even baked a carrot cake!! I got a fun bracelet, a cute bag, some crackers (Ahhh, salty crackers :), and the best of all....a 6 pack of diet coke from Dubai (Alex was there last week for a conference and carried it all the way back for me). The hard part will be to save the precious few for special occasions (or really bad days...hey no judgements we all cope in different ways).

my fav B-day coke all the way from Dubai (Alex you rock!)
After team meeting Jason was still feeling terrible so he had to cancel for my b-day dinner. Of course, I completely understood but I was seriously bummed. I knew we would go another time but I really did not want to cook or clean up on my birthday and was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I knew Jason would rather be feeling better and taking me out but I am just sick of us being sick and felt like crying.* We called Julie and let her know that we did not need them to babysit and she immediately suggested that the girls go out instead for a girl's night for my b-day. They even treated me to my chicken burger and a yummy hot chocolate (Ah, chicken & chocolate)! So, my 29th birthday turned out to be special and fabulous; markedly different, with an African flair but notably similar surrounded by friends & family.

Thanks made my b-day special!

*After another day of him getting worse he went back to the hospital only to find out that they had given the WRONG MEDS! and that the amoeba was still alive & kicking! He got the right meds on Saturday after several more tests and about 4 hours later started feeling better (amazing what the correct meds can do). Today he seems back to normal for the first time in almost 3 weeks!! Yeah! Thanks for continued prayers!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

random pics from this week

cooking mkate wa ndizi (banana bread) in our sun is awesome!
I caught this sweet moment right before we left for the day.
Annikah always has to hug and kiss her friend before going anywhere.
another stop at the least everyone knows us now.
Not hard to spot when we are the only Wazungus in the waiting area.
Jason was still feeling terrible today so we took a stool sample over
(there is another thing I never thought I would discuss on this blog)
and he has an amoeba too!! Malaria & an amoeba: that is a bad week!

a box of corn flakes that cost way too much (we were desperate for something besides bread and fruit for breakfast)..I saw written on the side panel
"store in a cool, dry place."
Trust me if I knew of one me & the corn flakes would be there!

the lizards that frequent our house.
I thought it was funny that we spotted him on the map of Africa!

why we don't eat a ton of meat here.......yummy huh?

fruit & veg market

furniture market in town

women shopping in the market

thanks Grandma Rho for the handmade outfits.....we love them!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

it is good to have friends....really good

I must say that we are so encouraged by the amazing friends and family we have been blessed with and because of technology we do not feel as far away as the miles on the map would suggest. So many of you have sent emails, posted comments, mailed us goodies, asked what you can do, thought of us, and prayed for us that we are overwhelmed (and I promise as soon as I dig myself out of the hole I will write back :). I seriously cried (Ok, no surprises there) about how supportive so many people have been as we deal with some stresses lately. You really have no idea how much it means. We also know that while we are having a rough patch right now everyone one of you are dealing with your own, just as difficult life stresses so we feel especially blessed that people take time to love on us. Although there are dangers everywhere and part of our fallen nature is to be sick, to struggle, to deal with hardships without your support network you can feel overwhelmed. We took this for granted when we lived close to family and friends. No matter where you live there are no guarantees of health, safety, security and any assurance we think we may of those things can easily fall away. Too often we can feel cheated or doomed. Even living here a short time I realize the people of Africa know a lot of suffering and hardships, it is a daily reality and in my Western reality sometimes it seems more of a shock, something unfair or undeserved, something which should be eradicated quickly or dealt with. Of course there are benefits to both cultural outlooks (ie. in the West we take preventative care and health more seriously and here they rally around someone in the family who is suffering). The tragedy for me in living in my Western mindset is that I can easily feel life, or God "owes" me something, that I deserve or have earned something. This robs me of the opportunity I have everyday to chose to be grateful, to chose joy even when things are not going as planned. I really think anyone that can say God does not have a sense of humor need only to look at our family. Two anal time-oriented planners move to Africa! Ah, the irony! I am again reminded that God cares more about our character than our comfort but I am grateful that in the midst of everything he blesses us with friends, Asante sana to you all!

It is also really good that Anni has friends. She loves inviting her friends in and has made me so proud to be her Mama lately. When she gets a treat she almost always says "share with rafiki" and marches herself outside to find her friend and share her loot. Although she has plenty of "mine" moments she is learning to have a kind and generous spirit, to realize that not everyone has what she has and she can chose to share. The video below is her and her friend* running amok in the house and it makes me smile. I was doing my language homework and they were cracking me up prancing past the door. Annikah wanted to share the spider rings and dress up clothes she got from Jess and Stan (thank guys!!) and it was hilarious to watch them play. We also spend a lot of time reading books which gives tons of opportunity for cultural learning for all of us. Annikah tried to explain snow to her was funny! My inspiration for this post is to say thank you to God for bringing so many awesome souls into my and my family's life and to thank you all for loving us. Your challenge: tell someone you take for granted thank you really is good to have friends...........

*some people have asked what her friends name is and I do not know how to spell it, her parents are illiterate and since it is not a common Kiswahili word (like her sister Zawadee meaning gift) we have no best stab at it is Mgoray.

post script......Jason is still pretty sick, yesterday it was awful, he was so weak he texted me from the bedroom b/c he could not yell into the kitchen..poor guy! He missed school today to try to rest so hopefully he will feel better soon. Anni has bounced back completely and it back to making me chase her around to keep up. As an added ridiculous thing she does lately..she is wearing her swimsuit in the above picture not because she was swimming as a swimsuit would commonly indicate but because she likes to wear it, inside, outside, to the Duka (small store) pretty much clinching our status as stupid Wazungus (Mzungu in plural becomes Wazungus....and who says I am not learning anything in language school?)

Monday, November 10, 2008

there can always be more....

Beware of feeling overwhelmed because there can always be more...Jason has malaria. He thought he had a reoccurring nasty cold for the past few days but yesterday it took a turn for the worst; fever and an array other unpleasant symptoms. So off we headed to the hospital with blood slide in hand. At least we are getting to know the staff! After a positive test he got some meds and started them last night. We are hoping he will start feeling better within one or two days. Plus, after seven hours of a fundi dismantling and "fixing" our fridge it is still busted today. Urgh! Nothing cold to drink is a serious bummer when it is 90 plus degrees. Life is kicking us in the butt (I wonder how you say that in Kiswahili?). Annikah is bouncing back though so asante (thank you) for everyone who sent wishes and prayers our way.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


This is a Kiswahili word meaning chaos or craziness.....and I think it is a fabulous word and aptly describes today. So after waking up and for the sixth day in a row cleaning up diarrhea from all over Annikah's bed we felt like crying. No, I should be honest and say that we cried, all three of us. Jason has a temperature today as well and feels terrible and I am exhausted. That was the start, it only gets better. Then our fridge broke, which is a usual occurrence here but today it was just too much. Jason called his language helper and asked if he knew any "fundi" (meaning a expert in Kiswahili but we think the translation should be more like one who may know something about said item but mostly takes it apart and attempts to put it back together). But with no choice and a fridge full of spoiled food we decided what did we have to lose? Jason's language helper said he would come over with a fundi but of course we had no idea what time. After I talked to some friends here that have dealt with all kids of sickness with their five kids I headed over to their house for some Kool-aid (to prevent dehydration) and some moral support. My main concern right now is dehydration because of the heat here. We have been offering her tons of drinks but our healthy parenting kicks us in the butt as she will not drink soda or sugary drinks since she has never had them. We are actually bribing her with candy to drink kool messed up is that? Since Anni seems to still be sick we were thinking maybe it is/was not malaria because usually malaria responds right away to the drug combo we gave her. After way too long spent reading websites and freaking out we thought maybe it could be a parasite causing the diarrhea and fever. I took Annikah with me as she has been having a clingfest lately and off we headed to drop off a stool sample at the doctor and stop by our friends place. At the hospital Anni was all smiles with the staff as we waited for the lab results and to see a doctor. The results showed an amoeba that we need to treat. I got the medicine (we have to give it to her every 8 hours for a week) and headed over to our friend's place with at least some relief that finally we had an answer for what was causing this. At least the whole visit to the local "hospital": lab tests, doctor consultation, and medicines cost us 9,500 shillings or around 9 bucks. My Mama friend read some info from her natural medical book, gave us some goodies to take home, and provided a ton of moral support as they had been through this as well.

We returned from our outing to find about 10 people at our house. Outside our house our Mlinzi and his family were having friends and family over and Jason was busy inside with visitors as well. Our Dala-Dala driver from four years ago when we were here with Habitat for Humanity had stopped by to visit and another friend's son was hanging out in the living room. I walked into the kitchen to see Jason's language helper and a fundi dismantling the fridge, food everywhere, dirty water covering the floor. At this point it was about 1pm and none of us had eaten lunch so I start cooking rice and Mchuzi (curry sauce) and reheating in the oven some Pilau that was going to go bad without refrigeration (Oh what I would give for one day of fast food!). After about 40 minutes of cooking and navigating through the insane jammed kitchen while Annikah ran around with her friend and Jason entertained our several guests that randomly showed up (we are learning that privacy is a Western manufactured item), we all ate. I had made food for everyone (you always offer food if you are eating &/or it is a mealtime) and although it was a bit stressful getting everything ready and cleaning up spending time with everyone was great and Annikah made us super happy by eating tons of rice and drinking Kool-Aid. An absolutely hilarious moment came when Jason looked over at one of our guests drinking his water out of the vase that sits on our kitchen table. I guess to him it must serve a practical purpose and thus he decided to fill it up and drink. While I was getting Anni ready for her nap there was tons of noise outside the house as our Mlinzi's extended family was over and they were taking pictures. We were totally spying on them as they dressed up in different outfits and posed in what to us were hilarious get-ups and arrangements (one included a stereo, suitcase, and random shoes...oh how I wish I had copies to post here). About 4pm the fridge fundi was finished (took about 7 hours) and Jason had to negotiate the price which involved about an hour of discussion and then he drove him home. On his way home Jason stopped off at the fundi's workshop where they offered to freon charge our car for 40,000 TSH. They unashamedly announced that the price was 40k for a mzungu, but for a local, 15,000. What a joke! What a crazy Saturday. At least there is never a dull moment here!

Alas, it was a siku shugalabugala (a chaotic day).

So what was the cause of all Annikah's symptoms? We still are not completely sure if she had malaria but since we never confirmed with a positive test we are thinking she most likely had this amoeba the entire time. I talked with a nurse on the mainland that we know and she said we did the right thing by treating for malaria because of the aforementioned reasons (the prophylactic disguising symptoms and the possibility of a false negative test). Of course we are taking this seriously, giving her medicine, taking her to the doctor, and watching her closely but now more than ever we are learning just how much we rely on our Heavenly Father for health. Please join us in praying that Annikah (and Jason) is healed soon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Why Annikah got chocolate chip cookies for dinner...

because the poor kid has Malaria or at least we are pretty sure it is Malaria. Since the beginning stages of our plan to move here I have worried about the dreaded M-word and now that we are in the midst of it we are doing better than I thought. Long story short(ish).....Annikah spiked a fever, although not as high as some kids that have Malaria about 4 days ago and we thought maybe it was just a bug that was going around. When she added body aches (indicated by her saying "tummy (leg, butt, etc) hurt mama" constantly), diarrhea, no appetite, and vomiting to her repertoire we thought more about the possibility of malaria and pricked her finger to test (a horrid act perpetrated by me because Jason was too much of a light weight to stick her with the small instrument or torture). The test came back negative so we waited it out another day and she seemed better. She even went to school that day as she had no fever and seemed to be back to her crazy self. Next morning she awoke crying and obviously feeling terrible again. That all but clinched it for us as Malaria is known for going away for a day and coming back with a vengeance. After calling a friend who has had three kids with Malaria and comparing symptoms we were pretty sure. We also realized that a cause for a negative blood test could be the anti-malaria drugs she has been on (that we will not be the spoken people for any time soon since the 600 dollar drugs did not help our baby girl out). So after realizing the dates for incubation would put us exactly on the dates we were in DAR and the Malaria is way worse on the mainland we decided to treat her. She is feeling better and seems to be almost back to normal. We all ditched school yesterday, we watched Lion King on our computer while snuggling in bed, followed by eating jello for lunch and chocolate chip cookies for dinner. She may be sick but it is not stopping Annikah....please pray for her though as it is rough to be sick.

history happened

We awoke yesterday morning and ran to check on-line to see who was elected to the highest office in America. Obama won, history was made, and we missed it, sort of, at least we missed the Chicago part. We quickly scoured over tons of websites and found pictures of the huge rally in Grant Park and immediately started feeling homesick. That is our home town, we knew people that were there, we lived 15 minutes from Grant Park, and we are all the way across the world. We were able (finally) to download the acceptance speech and watched the thousands of people participating in the rally. Whether or not you agree with President elect Obama's political views it is exciting to me to witness so many people; especially young people, excited about politics, having hope for America, and leaving apathy behind and choosing to hope. For too long too many people have complained but remained silent at the ballot and I think this election empowered many people to insist on having a voice. It is crazy to see how here almost everywhere we go people were talking about the election. The world was watching and waiting to see what the election results would be. The outcome of this election has impact worldwide; there were celebration across Africa, parties here on the island, and Kenyans got the entire day off of work due to the president declaring a national holiday. I also thought Obama's words about McCain were respectful and true, he is a great American and has sacrificed much for our country and now as Obama takes leadership he has a difficult road ahead and he must work with both parties to accomplish anything of value for our country. A country that is ready for change. While I am interested in politics whatever the outcome of any election my only real job in life is to love God and love people, and I have a hard enough time trying to do just that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


One of my running buddies back at training Meghan is headed back to Africa (YEAH!) and she is going to be working with an organization called Nuru; meaning light in Kiswahili. They just launched there new website. It is only a small thing but you can help the global community in the fight against world poverty by checking out more about the organization. Nuru is exciting because it is holistic and sustainable development. It is a dozen NGOs and thousands of grassroots volunteers working alongside the poor to break the cycle of extreme poverty. Check it our here!And karibu sana back to Africa Meghan!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

so this is life

I have been a terrible slacker in posting more about everyday life here. Pole sana! (sorry!)

We also forget to take pictures and video when we are hanging out with our neighbors and friends but I FINALLY took some video of the market, public transport, the crazy rain here, etc (see below). It is a completely random mix but I hope this gives you some idea of what our life here is like. I also wanted to post a few pictures of some friends we have been hanging out with. I absolutely crack up at these pictures because I look like a giant as I am at least one foot taller than any woman I have met here and always a shiny, sweaty mess!! A documentary could be made about me called From Somewhat Pulled Together to Sweaty, Crazy Mzungu: One Woman's Journey to Africa. We are really excited to be making more local friends as we learn more language. Jason goes biking and swimming with friends and this week he was the only white boy on a totally local beach. It is a gym where they use rocks for weights, do karate, and swim. A ton of people wanted him to give swimming lessons because he was so fast in the water! I am thoroughly impressed with his language ability, he has done amazingly well. Our teacher at language school said he should be in the intermediate class not beginner! I am proud of mume wangu (my husband). Although women have a bit less freedom and there are more "rules" that govern their behavior I have been able to make some great connections as well. I usually have a friend from the neighborhood stop over a couple times a week and a few days ago she came in and jumped in to help me bake some banana bread while we talked and I could actually understand most of what she said! yeah! She also told me I had to get her a gift when I went to Dar which culturally is a good sign that we are becoming friends. When she told me a few days ago she is going on a trip I told her she has to get me a gift:) It feels so weird to ask for a gift but culturally that is what friends do and since I am a gift-lovin' gal I like it! We are still getting used to people stopping over constantly unannounced but we know it is a blessing that they feel welcome. We are also excited to be able to say more than "hello, how are you?" and then just stare at each other. We actually are able to communicate a bit more and hopefully language school will help. So here is a slice of life on the sweaty side....

visiting friends from our home stay

ladies in the kitchen

Jason & his rafiki go biking to the local beach

the videos....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

in honor of.....

some haiku's in honor of those who recently made our day by sending packages...

the worsts' are the best
sent Halloween & dress up
how fun to share it.Aneeds & Studees
corn tortillas to make chips
our first time since home

Grandma sends backpack
plus coffee, jello, hairspray
random fabulous

*Asante sana!! It means so much to us! Annikah cannot wait to give the new baby the Aneeds sent to her rafiki for Christmas (I had to tackle her as she almost made it out the door with it after opening the package because she is so excited). Thanks again for all the reminders from home!a video introducing our kitty, saying thank you Grandma, and proving that Miss Annikah is quickly recovering from her burned feet:

some ups & downs

This week was crazy. Busy, difficult, awesome, all at once. It is seeming that more and more of my life here is like that. I suppose life in general is a series of ups and downs and my role is to find joy and blessing in all of it.

This was my last week of teaching at the preschool and while I will miss the kiddies so much I am also glad to be moving on to language school starting Monday. We also had new team members from UK arrive Friday and we are excited to get to know them. We are not the newbies anymore!

This week was hard because Annikah started the week with a cold and then on Wednesday she managed to sneak out the back door when I thought she was playing in her room. Now, I repeatedly tell her to wear her shoes when she gos outside for numerous reasons; the dirt, the bugs, the potential boo-boo's that await non-shoed girls, etc but when none of her friends wear shoes it is hard to convince her of this and she walked outside with no shoes on. All of a sudden I hear screaming from outside the house. My heart sank and I ran to find her, our house helper Martha had picked her up (annikah LOVES Martha and cries when she leaves for the day) to comfort her. I could not figure what had happened and thought maybe she had just gotten freaked out by something but as I rinsed her off I realized she had burns all over both feet. We were able to discern from the Kiswahili conversation outside was that she had climbed on top of the tank that holds our well water and the metal cover had gotten so hot in the sun that it burned her feet, and not just an uncomfortable small boo boo, we are talking blisters all over her toes and pads of her feet. When we first moved here we noticed the potential for danger with this tank and made sure to get a lock and ask our Mlinzi to always keep it locked when the girls are playing (to avoid a fall) but we never thought it could get so hot as to burn her. Poor kid, I cleaned and dressed the burn and after about an hour of crying she finally fell asleep for a nap. I cried holding her thinking it was all my fault....if I had only been watching her ...if only I never brought her here.......but accidents happen and this happened despite Jason, myself , and Martha being in the house. I made a decision a while ago to never parent out of guilt asI believe it makes for selfish kids and paralyzed parents. I know that kids will always get injured despite our best efforts to guard their safety and perhaps they need to experience these minor accidents to realize the dangers that lurk in their world but still my heart aches when she is in pain. Jason and I had just been praying for some friends here when this happened and 10 minutes later a local friend was coming to meet Jason so there definitely feels as though this was meant to bring us down, to discourage us. The same day while in town I had serious pain and bleeding (I will not go into detail for fear that some of my male readers will never again check this blog) but after rushing home and laying on the bed for 30 minutes I realized it was a cyst rupture. I would have been wicked scared if I had never experienced it before but I have had this a couple times stateside so I was pretty sure I knew what to do. All this in one day has the potential to make us feel very discouraged but God is good. All the time. We did not feel discouraged at all. Instead we recognize the power the dwells within us and the ability we have to chose joy. Annikah is walking on her heels but she is fine. I had some pain but I am fine. We are together and we are more than fine, we are great.

The next day was awesome with great language interactions, locals visiting, a fun lesson with the kids from school, and getting 2 packages from home (thanks Mom!). I was also invited to a Halloween decorating party. This was a shocker as we had just been discussing with some ex-pats here what Halloween is as it seems to us the U.S. is the only place that celebrates Halloween. It definitely is not a holiday that translates very well cross culturally; try to explain that one with limited Kiswahili! But the rotary club here has a Halloween party every year to raise money and I went to the decorating party and helped paint tombstones. I am not going to the actual party tonight because Annikah is still a bit sick and the entrance fee is steep but it was exciting to meet some many people that have lived her for years (I even found a running buddy). The house was super swanky and many of people there were owners of various tourist businesses in town. Besides meeting some really nice ex-pats the best part was that they had cheese...REAL cheese flown in from South Africa. It is the little things. We also are pleased to introduce our new kitty!! Our friends had a cat that had 2 kittens and we promised Annikah we would get her one when they were weaned and this week we picked up our kitten. Annikah got to name her and so far her name is "paca mdogo" which means little cat in Kiswahili. After hiding from us for two days she now loves to be with us. It is a good thing we are cat people because dogs are culturally off limits unless you keep them always outside as protection. We love our "little cat" and hopes she also will enjoy eating some of the bugs and snakes around this joint.

I think the ups are really good right now because so much is new, different, stressful, uncomfortable. But I am thankful for the ways I see God working on me through the downs. I am learning to trust, to trust and turn to Him first instead of rushing to the doctor. Annikah is learning this out of necessity and has the best attitude of all. She told me "Annikah boo-boo better Mama" and then asked us to "more pray." I am learning to trust Him that He brought us here and has plans for us although those plans may not look like what I thought they would. To trust that He is good. All the time.

Annikah's foot a few days later