Thursday, January 29, 2009

new grooves & new moves

Miss A loves to dance, this is no surprise to those that have read this blog for over 2 days but since moving here she has been deprived of her ditties, jipped of her jingles, robbed of her rock-n-roll, and generally stripped of her songs. Her ability to bust a move whenever the spirit so inspired has been absent because we did not have a CD player or radio. We had good intentions of getting one but just had not found a good deal or made the time to scour tons of dukas in search of one that works. When we first arrived here there seemed to be portable ones everywhere so we thought we did not need to be in any rush to purchase one. We were wrong and we have learned; since this is an island things come in shipments on boats and once they are gone they are gone, everything....CD players, toasters, Snickers bars, you name it. They may reappear one day but no guarantees so if you see something you want it is better to get it right away (not very helpful to those trying to stay on a budget). We finally decided we needed to get one so we can hear Kiswahili more on the radio and so that Annikah can listen to her precious CD's (and stop begging us to play them on the computer) so we set out on a search. Jason and I went around in town and finally found a used one that although seemed a little beat up was in our price range. The Muuza Duka (shop keeper) tested for us and it seemed to work fine. After some negotiations that included that he had to throw in a power cable since we had no idea where to find one and no desire to begin another epic search for said needed item we agreed on a price. He was very kind and ran around to trade for a cable for us so we could seal the deal and even gave us a one week warranty. We took it home and Annikah was thrilled. Really she has no choice in the matter. Reminds me of back in the day when I would spend hours in my room listening to my tapes and coordinating routines with my little sister (add to my somewhat delusional self thinking one day they may be featured on Soul Train). Another dream never realized. Sigh. Back to Annikah, she cannot help herself and upon coming home from school or the market, waking up, or walking to her room she jumps up and down requesting "more songs Mama." Here is to hoping her little CD player-o-happiness outlasts the 1 week guarantee.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ground Breaking

the official photo..I'm the tall white girl in the back with sunglasses :)

Our team had the official ground breaking for our vocational school this past Saturday. It actually happened on the day as planned although even a week before we were doubtful it would all work out. I once heard a woman who had lived in Africa for most of her life say that the most needed quality one needs to thrive here is flexibility and I totally agree. Without it you can let minor annoyances get to you when really they are not that important. The world does not function on my timetable and I am working on dealing with that, and praying a lot. Everything was delayed mostly because there are just so many cultural "rules" we needed to play by that took us unaware and things that came up last minute. Our team mate Alex did most of the work arranging everything (Rock Star award) and even spoke on the day as well. The college we are partnering with made many of the arrangements and even though we had no power a last minute generator run saved the day. We were so excited everything came together in the end. It was predictably wicked hot and because many government officials were there we all needed to dress up; meaning head coverings for the girls and ties for the boys. Jason had a mad search for socks since he has not worn them since arriving here 6 months ago but finally located a pair and after borrowing some dress shoes he was ready. We were all sweaty messes before the ceremony even started but we were told we did a good job respecting the culture so it was worth it. There were many guests of honor (that had to be invited with an official invite with a stamp on it) and we were very excited they came to mark this ground breaking as an important event for the island. Some of our friends came as well to support the effort which was a blessing. There were a few unexpected moments, the college had told us they wanted the speeches to be in English but then on the day most of the speakers (except Alex who had no time to prepare one in Kiswahili) gave speeches in Kiswahili. I put together a video of some of the day including snippets of the speeches and the PS (Principal Secretary) actually breaking the ground. This week we will start the digging for the foundation and begin the process of building. Yeah for more progress!!
girls at the ground breaking....we even made the nightly news!
Alex & Jason set was that hot!!!
listening to speeches & plans for the future of the school
the guest of honor speaks... for a long time
walking to the site
serving refreshments after the ceremony
Rich, Jason, and Alex...they clean up nice huh?

the video is a bit long but gives you a sense of the day

Sunday, January 25, 2009

adventures in Dar

We are back from Dar and we had a great time visiting friends, eating some "western-ish" meals, going to 2 water parks, and then of course the necessary work and living stuff of visiting VETA offices and doctor's appointments. We paired some needed work with a couple days vacation. I have not been able to update since we arrived home due to no power for 2 days! As always when you travel in Africa it is best is to be ready for adventure and chaos. We never know exactly what we are in for but that is part of the fun. Here is some of the sorted details.....We headed over on the puke boat again ( I know I vowed never to take it again but they raised the rates for the plane and insisted that Annikah must pay for a full ticket even though she would sit on my lap and thus being broke we knew we had to brave the ferry again). Fortunately, Annikah and I both drugged up before the ride and as long as I sat very still (yeah, try that with a 2 year old with you) I was ok. Since Jason does much better he was super papa with Annikah on both trips so I could be yak-free. After the trip over we picked up a car (our team vehicle) and headed to our friend's place. We know Juli and Delicia from training and they offered their place when they knew we were coming (you are amazing ladies!). They are all teachers at Haven of Peace Academy in Dar and we even visited one morning and were very impressed. The school has many ex-pat kids but also a really good mix of Tanzanian students. Annikah even enjoyed sitting in her own desk in the 4th grade for a while while the kids did their Daily Oral Language. The teachers were great, the students seemed to have a sense of pride in their school, and they had more resources than I did on the South side of Chicago. We had a grand tour and were thoroughly impressed and as a teacher that is big for me to say.

Anni checks out the 4th grade

There was some seriously bizarre power stuff going on at our friend's place and we were out of power most of our stay making sleeping next to impossible with no fans and the crazy heat. By the last day they even had to shut off their water source because electric currents were shocking us from the taps!! We kept making each other check every faucet because it hurt, darn it! It was bucket bathes for us because we were too scared of being electrocuted. I can say for sure that after living here I will never again take for granted running water or electricity!

We headed to 2 water parks during our stay and one experience was more hilarious than the next. The first and bigger of the two we went to was very affordable but when we arrived around the opening time it was a ghost land. Nothing was running and no one was there. We immediately thought power cut or for some other reason it was closed but they welcomed us in. Stateside if a water park opened on a weekend at 10am there would be a line outside to get in, not here. We were there ONLY people there for about 2 hours while we watched them (in no rush) clean the water and start to turn everything on. When we first arrived the water looked pretty nasty and nothing seemed to be working but I must say by around 2 pm the place was hopping!! Tons of locals showed up and all the slides were working just fine. I guess we were just too early. Annikah was the only white kid we noticed in the place and people kept coming up to her to take her picture, it was seriously bizarre! She made some great friends while we were there and spent about 2 hours walking around, swimming, and laughing with them.
We ended up letting her stay until 4pm to play with them because she was having so much fun. Some very interesting differences in the water park here was that there are really no rules anywhere. This can be very alarming to my Western notion of safety at first but as I watched kids and parents there is also much more of a sense that you help any child near you if they need it. People constantly would pick Annikah up if (more like when) she fell, or help her down a slide, etc. Also, anyone can go on anything, no real weight, height limits. So after we rode a few of the big slides we let her come down with us and she loved it (after the momentary terror wore off). In America there are just rules for everything and with good reason (lawsuits, safety, etc) but I do appreciate that here they let you as the parent judge what is safe for your child. Annikah even went on some of the water slides by herself by the end of the day. We also had to join in the dance party on the stage (see video). We definitely had a blast and on the car ride home Annikah told us "me want to thank Jesus for that water and new friends"!

Dar traffic is no fun but Anni made the best of it
making sure she and Woody and baby were always buckled in tightly
The next day we were up early and out the door for a 8am doctor's appointment. We had left with double the amount of driving time required but the traffic was miserable so we ended up being over an hour late. The best part was that we called to apologize and say we were stuck in traffic and the receptionist told us not to worry because the doctor was on the same road and would probably get here when we did. The doctor was great (thanks Julie & Alex for the recommendation) and after a battery of tests for Jason and a few shots for Annikah we were on our way. The doctor said that Jason seems to have recovered fully from whatever was ailing him and he also said that what they did here on the island was good (this was a huge relief to us). He thinks Jason may have had Dengue fever which is similar to malaria and transmitted by mosquito. Unfortunately the specialized blood test to detect this are not available here but since it is viral the treatment would be similar to malaria. It was just a blessing to be understood and have a doctor hear our concerns and help us make wise choices regarding health. Annikah is super healthy and impressed all the nurses with her Kiswahili skills so they bestowed upon her many stickers.

After the doctor appointments we headed to a mall with AC to do a little shopping, well more walking around in AC.

A mall!!! With AC...(do you hear the Hallelujah chorus swelling?)
There is just something sanity saving about the somewhat familiar. We shopped around mostly looking at stuff we A.) cannot afford or B.) cannot bring back on the boat but it was still such a blast. Anni test drives some lil' bikes around the entire store...
I think she misses stores like Target as much as we do

We were inside one store when the power in the mall shut off. Some workers immediately bolted for the doors of the store and slammed them closed to make sure no one could steal anything. Annikah screamed hamna umeme (no power) which had many locals inside cracking up. She knows that phrase too well living here. She also celebrated with a loud umeme upo (there is power) when a few minutes later the power came back on thanks to a generator. One night Juli offered to watch Annikah so Jason and I could have a date night (juli, you are a rock star!!) and we headed out for a place we were told served Mexican food one night a week but after searching for it and finally arriving they said it was going to be tomorrow! Plans foiled again! No worries though because we headed to Spur, the closest thing you can get to a Western restaurant we have seen. It was awesome food and the best part was we got to watch the entire inauguration on TV with the waiters and other patrons. It was amazing, everyone was glued to the TV watching the historic day. We also claimed our celebrity status being from the same city as Obama. On the way home we saw every TV was tuned in, literally the world was watching, at least our corner of it was. I even saw some guys huddled around a TV that was on top of a pile of rocks and had fluorescent light bulbs as an antennae cheering at the TV. There was just a sense of anticipation, of hope, and I was excited to be American.

The next morning we packed up, drove to the port to get our ferry tickets and then after a quick supermarket run (diet coke...holla!) headed to where we needed to go that morning VETA. VETA is the Tanzanian vocational training authority and we needed to pick up some training materials so that as we develop the curriculum for our school on the island we are sure that the standards we set will meet or exceed those of the national program so our students can easily get certified. You would think this would be easy but again never expect anything will be easy, simple, or fast. We parked the car in the VETA compound and went in to our first of many offices. We told the secretary what we needed and she escorted us to an office where there were stacks of paper everywhere. There was one women hidden amongst the rubble who said she was indeed the person we needed to speak with but she was too busy and we should come back after January 30th. We kindly explained that we would not be able to do that since we live on an island 2 1/2 hours away but she seemed unconcerned and said if we wanted to pursue our goal we should head to another office. We started off again and this time after getting directions from 4 different people (who, by the way gave us four different locations) we found the correct office only to discover the person was out to lunch. We decided to wait as this was our only chance to get the materials even though Annikah had not eaten (it was almost 1pm). Finally the woman returned and we again explained our situation. Almost everyday I am just amazed at how relational Africans are and this was no exception. Although we had been waiting, were almost late for our ferry, and just came to "do business" the women in the office were spending so much time talking with Annikah, asking her questions in Kiswahili to see how much she knew. It was precious, although in some ways irritating as we needed to bust a move. All the guards were much more interested in talking to Anni then helping us find the needed offices. After more questions, visiting, and being led around to different offices she told us they did not have any printed and we would have to come back. We should have known but she was very encouraging of our project here and did give us her email so we are hopeful we may someday get the needed materials. Just another lesson is the people are more important than the task. Then on our way to drop the car off we were pulled over by the police; always an adventure! Supposedly Jason made an illegal U-turn which was posted no where and that we do at least once a day on the island with no issue. Then the police wanted to see his licence, registration, and had a barrage of other questions like where was our fire extinguisher? and why did we not have a triangle reflector (what the heck is that for?) Basically we prepared for the fine and finally after he drew several pictures and asked us all about the island told us we had to pay him 10,000 shillings (about 9 bucks). I am amazed at how nice people are even when they are ripping you off :) When we asked for a receipt (thinking if he just wanted a bribe maybe he would let us go) he thought a minute and then said we would have to leave our car in the middle of the median on a crazy busy road and walk about 4 blocks to ask at the station for a receipt. Yeah! Since we were already late, had not eaten, and were exhausted. We just payed him off and hit the road. We dropped off the car and made the ferry no problem to head back home. Not even no power, electro-charged water, corrupt police officers, and dirty pool water could dampen our fabulous time on the mainland.

a Western-ish mall....notice me taking advantage of my opportunity to sport both a tank top and pants-WOOHOO!!

food reminiscent of is that good!

Western shopping for stuff we cannot get here

this may be my fav picture ever of my sweet little girl, that is her real (non cheesy) smile!
She had a blast in this little train that was totally busted.....let's hear it for imagination!
Videos of our water park adventures:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

we are back!

We are back from our few days on the mainland. As always it was refreshing, exciting, busy, bizarre, and fabulous!!
More later but for case you ever wondered what pure joy looks like....

Saturday, January 17, 2009

chakula......or a little about food

Since many people have asked "what do you eat there?" I thought I would post a little about the chakula (food) in our lives. Although we live on an island we can get a lot of things, especially compared to some friends that live in the bush and get tomatoes like once a month! Since there are tourist places here in town we can get many veggies and amazing fruits which for the most part I think are better tasting than at home, I think because of no hormones or preservatives. Some of the rare ones like broccoli will cost you so we only treat ourselves once a month to those if they are available. One of the major differences is using virtually nothing prepackaged and eating only things that are in season and therefore cheaper. This is vastly different than our previous lives of stocked supermarkets of options and a freezer full of convenience. We do not eat much meat but we eat lots of beans, fruit, and Mchuzi (curry with veggies, coconut milk, etc). Here is a bit more in pics....

many times friends bring us gifts of fruit.
The mangoes & grapefruit are amazing but some we could do without....
like a jackfruit...Yuck!
I hate it but Jason eats a piece or two and then we are usually happy to share :)
we eat a lot of rice, like every day...
Almost every other day we eat mchicha (local spinach) This is why....... our backyard shamba full of enough mchicha to, well, make you sick & tired of mchicha (not Annikah though she LOVES it! ) I also make tortillas! I make them once a month (since the whole process takes about 4-5 hours) & then freeze them and we use them all month. Viva Mexican food!
of course on special occasions we do live it up a bit and eat some treats from home. Lasagna, tacos, or pizza are our favorites. I took this picture to commemorate my 3 1/2 hours of labor....making ricotta cheese, sauce, cooking questionable meat, etc. We do not eat this often (ok, once)!

One of the biggest differences is hardly any snack food and being American where snacking is considered a sport we miss it! Probably healthier but I would give up the benefits for some Doritoes and a box of Cheeze-Its any day!

of course there is always ice cream sold roadside from bike carts so we make do just fine!

Annikah is adjusting to the different palate here much faster than we are. One day when she was playing with her water cups outside I called her in for dinner and when she did not come (bizarre as my child loves to eat, she is MY kid) I found her outside our house doing this: (ugali is a cheap stomach filler made from Maize flour, kinda of like eating paste if you ask me but Annikah likes to join right in.)

This video is mostly for the younger set as it is a bit long but I just love watching Annikah's imagination at work. She loves to "cook" and many times she tells us that she is cooking local foods, of course that is until Jason suggests bacon, I guess he is living vicariously through play dough as well. You can also see of a bit of her Kiswahili skills in this one. Oh, and she is only wearing chupis and her apron because it is that hot and after lunch most days she does her mid afternoon strip down because she is sweaty and dirty. New clothes is just too much of an effort most days. Here is La Naked Chef Annikah with some background noise of the ever present roosters:

Friday, January 16, 2009

getting around

It is really incredible and to my Western personal space lovin' self a bit disarming how people get around here. There is never a limit to how many people (or stuff) can fit in any small defined space. There are many creative methods of transport here and I have collected a few pictures of the ones I have seen recently. Of course we have our car but there are numerous other transport options available although many are "at your own risk" we do like to travel local when we can. I have taken to running quick errands on Jason's bike because even though you get mad sweaty and riding in a long skirt is a bit of a challenge it is fun to chat to people. Last week riding to a meeting I was so into greeting people that I went full speed over a huge bump in the road and lost everything out of my basket. Immediately about 4 people stopped, one even jumping off the back of a car, to help my crazy Mzungu self pick up everything. There is just such a sense of community that I really appreciate. When we get on the Dala Dala and people see that I have a heavy market bag and Annikah there is always someone who helps Anni on. By far Annikah's favorite way of getting around is the Dala Dala (public bus-ish). I can seriously bribe her with a Dala Dala trip and once on the crammed bus she says constantly "Mama, me no want to get off this Dala Dala." I think it is because so many locals love that A. she is a pretty adorable and rare Mzungu kid B. she speaks a bit of Kiswahili and likes to charm everyone so she gets a lot of attention. Although we live on an island we definitely get around!
Anni waits patiently for the Dala Dala
(notice her baby tied to her back ALWAYS) Annikah rides the packed Dala Dala with some new friends

we could always hitch a ride here....

how many people & stuff can you fit on the Dala seems it is similar to the Tootsie Roll, the world may never know...this one was actually swaying it was so heavy
that is a guy on a bike with a tiny cart hauling 2 chairs and a sofa!!! Yeah, on a bike!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

welcome progress

Finally I am taking the time to update about the awesome progress we have seen recently in our work here!! I am sitting at our desk with Miss Annikah happily at school and Jason running errands in town and able for the first time in a week actually think and take time to post about the recent breakthroughs in our project here.

A few updates first, Jason is feeling much better. Thanks to everyone who prayed, sent encouraging emails, and thought of us. We are still very concerned about his health and plan to see a French doctor that comes with excellent recommendations on the mainland next week. We hope we will be able to discern what is the cause of his symptoms and what we should be doing for treatment. Also, we were able to get our car fixed rather quickly thanks to the help of our team leader and Jason spending a day searching for parts and installing everything themselves. The bad news is that our insurance will not cover any of it since we did not have an immobilizer (to prevent a thief from stealing the car- highly unlikely here since we live on an island!) installed on the car yet (not that this gadget would have prevented the theft but it is all about the details with insurance). We now have the immobilizer so we are ready for any future incidents:)

Back to the exciting news. Since arriving here we have been focused as a team on the technical school project but have hot many barriers and roadblocks. This was challenging as we were getting the run around, many different answers from different people, jumping through hoops (fair enough, it is their country), and overall feeling like there was much work with little fruit. Of course, like sickness we were told to be prepared for these issues but hearing about the difficulties others warned we would encounter from the comfort of our life in Chicago we thought "yeah, that will be tough" but truthfully we spent little mental energy on "going there." When you are in the midst it is a whole different thing. For Jason and I it has also been hard because ever since our first trip here four years ago we really felt called to help to train locals with skills that would empower them and do it in a way that we work ourselves out of a job, ie. not set up a system of reliance on the foreigner. This is so much more challenging than I ever thought and we are still only at the start of the process. We see so many people here that desperately want to learn a trade or English to better their lives and the lives of their family but have little opportunity for further education. Thus, the birth of the idea for a technical school that will teach auto mechanics, computer skills, trades like sewing (hopefully in the future as we have no one to teach this yet), business start up and management, and English. After classes begin our team will turn everything over to the local "Science and Technology" institute within 10 years. After years and months of work we started clearing the field for the school this week. Other members of our team have seen this from the start and we are so grateful for their diligence work being committed to ethically dealing with every obstacle without bribes and respecting the local authority even when we felt like they were wrong. There are too many small details to divulge here but we are so excited to see the work moving forward. Word is out as well and we have already had so many people ask "when will the school be ready?" It is awesome to see our local friends excited about the new opportunities. Again, we are learning so much more about our selves, about trust, about patience, and about prayer.

Our team is crazy busy with meetings, risk assessment, planning, meeting with school officials, getting workers to help with the building, looking at the construction plans, etc but no one is complaining as we are seeing the work move forward. I rode Jason's bike over to the site of the school to bring some of the workers who were helping to clear the land some lemonade. I took some pictures of the site that we hope and pray will become a blessing to the people here. We will soon put shovel to earth and break ground on a project that has a lot of sweat, tears, and love already poured into it. Thank you God for this welcome progress!!!

the site of the future technical school

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

diet coke worthy

I am having a bit of a pity party and liking it. I decided today was more than worthy of a diet coke, the precious, the few, diet cokes. Now, as you may have read to drink my special birthday diet cokes I must really need one.

This has been a rough week, one where many nights I just wanted to go to bed hoping that tomorrow would be better. Add to the epic mystery sickness of Jason and me; sometimes not with the best attitude, doing most of the work around here my mom sending updates that my dad had a kidney stone and my grandma needs surgery because she keeps falling (being so far away and unable to help just makes me feel terrible). Then tack on to that Annikah freaking out for the past two days. Seriously, no sooner had I posted that she was "being great"did she decide to bust out her secret identity; Nasty Girl. You may know it, girl who can make her mother cry or pull out her hair with her rude attitude, asking for something then chucking it on the floor and then crying about it being "dirty", whining for no apparent reason other than to irritate said Mama, and in general being difficult for the sport of it. She even bit me yesterday. Bit me!
Why is it that those you love the most have the ability to hurt you the most? Now of course, she may be getting a tooth, or sick, or "going through a phase(she is 2)" but none of that make me feel better. The bottom line is I feel like my primary role for the last 2 and a half years is to raise Annikah; to care for her needs, to teach her what is right and wrong, and to help her navigate her place in this world the best I can allowing her to find her own way. That is why I have such a hard time when I count down the minutes until she naps or look at her mid tantrum and think "who taught you this?" and "whose kid are you?" I feel guilty for not enjoying this motherhood gig all the time. The worst part is she does learn some of her impatience from me and I am sure many other of her not so lovable traits. I just feel like a failure of a Mama when things get ugly and as many times as I have encouraged others I just cannot kick my butt into NOT feeling this way. I also know things have been busy and tense around here because of Jason being sick and me not always being the cheerful care giver so I am sure she senses this chaos and is responding by adding to it. We feel like we have tried everything; there seems to be more time-outs around here then time-in lately. Alas, I know there is hope and there have been many days like this before and there will be many more. As always at times such as this I learn more about myself then about Annikah.
That is why I am having a diet coke, a cold, refreshing coping mechanism-in-a-tin-can diet coke.
Parenting for me sometimes borders on minutes of "this is the most brilliant, adorable child ever born" and "do you think she can get air if I lock her in this closet?" The best part of it is that after venting all of this and having to save the post to make dinner Annikah came over to me and said "Mama, me want mama pick Annikah up and me want a hug." She also suggested "me want to take a picture and see that." Jason took a picture and this is what I want to remember about today. This and my fabulous diet coke.

Monday, January 12, 2009

learning to trust

Once again I am finding it difficult to practice what I preach. In a definite UN-coincidence last week Jason led a devotional time on learning to trust God through trials and to persevere, that He often teaches us through difficulties and wants us to grow, even if sometimes it is painful. We had some pain this weekend, mostly Jason but I never realized how scary it is when someone you love is sick and you can not do much to help. Of course, compared to many this was not a huge trial but for me I am seeing that I have a lot to learn about trust.
Deciding that Jason, being the introvert he is, needed a day off from family and work I sent him away to walk in town, grab a coffee, sit and read, whatever on Saturday. Annikah and I had a girl's day. He returned very early for someone who was kid-free for a day at around 2pm while Annikah was sleeping. He said he started to feel really bad and needed to rest. That morning he had woken up with body aches and another unpleasant but all to common issue we face here. He really has not felt himself since November when we had all the health issues. Within an hour his temperature had spiked to 104 and he was visibly shaking and looking terrible. We quickly headed over to our team leader's home for a RDT (rapid self malaria test) which came back negative. In a way a relief but also very worrying as his symptoms of diarrhea, chills, fever, circulation issues and body aches, etc seemed to be getting worse. Our team leader took him to a local hospital (so Annikah could avoid being there) and stayed with him for almost 4 hours while they ran numerous tests. As I made Annikah dinner, cleaned up, gave her a bath, read stories, and put her to bed I was getting worried that everything was taking so long (usually a trip to the doctor takes less than a hour...before you get jealous you also usually end up with the wrong medicine or find out nothing). After a call from our team leader he said Jason was still there because his blood pressure had dropped severely and they wanted him to have fluids. They had to buy the fluids, meds, and needle (to make sure it was unopened) and they were going to stay while they ran more tests. I was worried. What the heck was wrong? and why were there never any clear answers? I was relieved that our team leader who grew up here and speaks the language was there to help. All sorts of thought flooded my mind as I sat alone waiting to hear any news. If I thought anyone would struggle with health issues after moving here it was me. I am the one who has had too many surgeries to count, I am the one who everyone knew by name in the ER, not Jason. After some moments of silence that is what was what hit me. This is not supposed to be Jason. He is supposed to always feel great and be able to rescue us. He should not be sick, especially in a new and scary place. I realized how much I take for granted our health, without which we cannot function in our daily life. I suddenly got more of that vow I took almost eight years ago that has rarely entered my mind but some who struggle so much more know all too well; "in sickness and in health." I needed to be reminded that can go both ways. After another hour Jason arrived home, looking a little better but still pretty rough along with about 5 prescriptions and tons of medical supplies(see picture). He had not needed fluids because he had hammered down some re hydration salts and his pressure came back up (but we know have them just in case). The outcome of all the tests was that he has a bacterial infection, something that can be common in living in an environment so foreign to our bodies, but nonetheless concerning. I monitored his pressure throughout the night setting an alarm to make sure we did it every few hours and it seemed to be staying in a normal range. Neither of us slept. It is hard to not feel guilty because you are healthly and watching someone you love suffer. Jason turned to me at about 4am and said "this is the worst night of my life." It was terrible for him and all I could do was bring him water and just be there. But I guess there is a lot in the just being there and of course praying. I also tried to make him laugh a bit by telling him "if you die I will kill you" (not at all kidding :) He feels much better after 2 days and hopefully will continue to improve. We have an appointment to see a doctor on the mainland during our trip there next week as well. We still hope to understand more of what is causing this and that he will kick it's butt once and for all!

There has been much blessing in this; our team leader's generosity and his ability to help in providing medical supplies, Annikah has been great, our team support and prayers, and above all knowing He is in control and has a purpose for everything.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I finally have my very own! You know it: the uniform of those who have lived in Africa for a while and been away from a fashion magazine or mall for way too long. I call it the all-you-can-eat-dress because of it's extraordinary ability to make even the curviest person appear shapeless, which is in part it's function here: modesty. Now don't hate because you know I still look good! :)
A dear local friend gave this dress for Krismasi and it was a very generous gift as they are expensive. The problem was it was a size XXXL! Now at first I was a bit offended thinking that she thought I was a Mama kubwa (big Mama) but she explained the only way to get a dress long enough for my oddly giant self was to buy a huge size. I had to wait until the used sewing machine a team mate gave me was fixed to take it in about 5 inches on each side (and as you can see it still is plenty big) to even make it wearable. The detail is really pretty and it will be awesome to don the next time I attend a shrehe or harusi (celebration or wedding) (since last time I was not appropriately dressed) . I would only wear the head covering if it was a wedding or other important event but I thought I would give you the full effect. I do not know how the women here wear this many clothes every day with heat, I needed a shower after posing for these pictures.

So be jealous that I have my very own all-you-can-eat-dress and I know the 411 on where you can get one too!

some pics from this week

check out this nasty fish our friend Alex caught with the spear gun
after an epic search for something resembling an office chair Jason bargained for this one and then with no way to get the car through the narrow streets to pick it up....
he "when in Africa do like the Africans"
How excited was Anni to play on an actual slide? Our friends built one in their backyard.
ready to go out & play
Reason #1,254 I love my husband...he set up a tent in Annikah's room so she could have adventures. That kanga is the door & you must Hoodi before coming in.
Mac-n-cheese sent in a package...a true delicacy....
Martha & Annikah (she decided she needed rollers)
On New Year's Day all the kids in our neighborhood had these pinwheels made out of palm leaves. Annikah was very pleased when they made her one!
*lots of exciting updates on the school coming soon, we have just been so busy!

Monday, January 5, 2009

touching turtles

Last week we finally made our way to an aquarium on the southern coast of the island that is home to many turtles. We tried once before to search it out with little success. That was when we were new to living here and assumed that if it was an aquarium there must be signs. Well, there was one small sign but you could only find this place if A.) you were incredible lucky B.) a taxi drove you there or C.0 you speak enough Kiswahili to ask the locals in the village where to find it. Lucky for us we were able to ask and finally after 3 or 4 wrong turns found the small aquarium. We had promised Annikah that we would see turtles and we were going to deliver! The huge sea turtles lived in the natural lagoon where they are protected. The owners of the aquarium pay fishermen more then they would get at market to save the turtles and bring them here so they can make it to adulthood. They are huge!! They also have a snake, some land tortoises, and a big iguana. Annikah's favorite part was touching and "petting" (can you pet something with no fur?) the baby sea turtles which they let you pick up from a small tank. There was no railing over the massive lagoon and no place to wash your hands after, making the experience totally African but we loved it and of course I always come armed with the essential hand washing in a crunch items. Annikah was so exhausted from her turtle lovin' that she passed out and slept the entire way home despite the bumpy road. Another successful adventure enjoying the beauty of our new home.

Annikah remarked "mama, me like that little one"
"Papa pick up 'nother one"
one of the guides shows Anni the massive snake, thankfully that one stayed in the cage