Friday, February 27, 2009

watermelon...a love affair

just in case I never mentioned.....



this kid LOVES tikiti (watermelon).

pole sana a phrase that now that we know it I can never function without it again. seriously. Some days life just necessitates a pole sana. It basically means "sorry" but it is used to mean more like "sucks to be you"(if you have done something wrong and say "sorry" that is a different word that is used much less often). Pole sana is for when you want to say you are sorry for something that happened to someone else that was out of your control. It is a great phrase. And it is used for everything. If you slice your finger while cutting veggies; you get a pole sana. Someone steals your phone; Oh, pole sana. You best friend dies; another pole sana. It is a catch all in Kiswahili that expresses your sorrow for someone else's situation; big or small.

So there have been many pole sana-able moment thus far for us like when Jason and Annikah had malaria or when our car got broken into but the ones that I treasure are when I dropped newly washed laundry in the mud (as I was trying to hang it to dry) or when I slipped in the pouring rain exposing my chupis to anyone that happened to be in the vicinity. For all of the above we procured a dearly offered pole sana. But I must say on Jason's birthday a few days ago we had an experience worthy of the pole sana, if only to us. I spent roughly 3 hours (and I AM counting!) making a lasagna for Jason hoping to have a nice dinner for his birthday. I cooked in the heat while entertaining visitors curious about the bizarre food I was making for most of the morning. After we got Annikah to bed for the night we sat down to have a nice birthday dinner and after once bite I knew that it was definitely not worth the effort. The meat was bad. Not make you sick and end up in the hospital terrible but really gamey tasting and just overall nasty. Jason was so sweet and tried to eat as much as he could to make me feel that my effort was worth it. But we had to face facts and admit defeat. It could have been from sitting in a fridge that was warm at best because the power was out all day. Or just because the odds of getting good meat here are always similar to a trip to Vegas. Whatever the reason we gave each other a heartfelt pole sana (pole sana to me for spending so much time cooking to eat a salad and pole sana for Jason to a birthday dinner gone terribly wrong) and fed the rest to our cat. Yes, some days, you just need a good pole sana.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

welcome home

We are back on our little island that is beginning to feel more like home. We actually arrived on Sunday in an amazing series of events that included driving 9 hours without any incidents (a miracle of epic proportions) and then racing to the port in Dar to catch the last ferry of the day while throwing everything in our bags as we weaved through traffic. It was quite a feat!

But alas I have been unable to update (or do much) because we have had no power for 4 days. Ah, home sweet home. Actually we did have periods of each day with power but it always seemed to go off the minute we tried to do something on the computer (like poor Jason spending 10 minutes logging into our tax return info just to have the power go out). At least each time it goes out we get a beeping noise that accompanies it, sort of announcing our defeat in the world of electronic anything and Annikah immediately yells "hamna umeme" (there is no power). I also now have patented my "Umeme upo" (the power is here) dance. It started one day after no power all day just as we had piled all of the soon to go bad food from our refrigerator into a cooler to take it to a friend's home (they have a generator) when suddenly it came back on. Hey, you would have danced too! Now it is just part of the crazy Mzungu persona I have going on. Outside people wait for me to bust out my front door and dance like a complete fool each time it returns. I know I need to get out more but seriously power is something to be grateful for. Last night it was so hot and the power kept flickering on and off. I was sitting under our misquote net sweating like a chubby girl in cling wrap trying to read my book, flashlight in hand as every few minutes the power flickered off and then on. Flashlight clicked on then off, then on, then off. Seriously, I just had to laugh because it was utterly ridiculous. So today so far we have power! We did have a great trip and were so thankful to spend some time in a bit cooler weather, get the opportunity to learn from others who do similar work here, and visit friends. It also gives us perspective that we do really love our new home, complete with oppressive heat and no power, this is nymbani kwetu (our home) for now and we are grateful to be back.

game night at our conference

Anni had a blast making new friends


gotta love traffic....could we all choose a lane please?

we saw this punda milia (literally means donkey with stripes)
on the side of the road as we drove through Tanzania

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

images from a journey to Kenya

Anni chills after a hike to a stream in Northern Tanzania...did I mention we LOVE the cooler weather!!
Jason talks with a guy that sharpens knives with his bike (do not try this at home)

We made it! The border was a process but thankfully although time consuming it was also uneventful.
We shopped at a used clothing market in Nairobi ....negotiating in Kiswahili was a blast....I love a bargain in any language!!
Annikah proudly shows off her deals from the Elmo backpack, used books, & bootleg movies...what else could a girl want?

Anni loved staying with our friend's kids..smiles all around!
a game of Settlers (Jason's fav)
Paula & I show off our new short haircuts cuz it is just too darn hot on the island
Can you find my newly acquired piece of jewelry? Anni with our friend's boys enjoying some amazing and cheap Ethiopian food in Nairobi

driving to Nairobi National Park
Annikah pets a Cheetah at the animal orphanage...yeah...AMAZING!

While staying with our friends we visited a local school & Miss Annikah was very popular

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Valentines Day!

So I am definitely on "African time" as they say in wishing everyone a Happy Valentine's Day. Since this is something I probably would never do while I lived in the states I am sure no one waited for my well wishes of what I mostly consider a guilt-induced, over priced flower racket, fake romantic, junk Hallmark holiday. Not that I am bitter. I always told Jason never to get me anything for Valentines Day since it would mean much more if showed up with daises some random day when he thought of me (I know he owes me for letting him off so easily). But since living outside the US I must say I miss holidays way more than I thought I would, even the cheesy ones. I just miss the way we completely over do practically everything in the states. Well, this year my mom sent Annikah little "wazungu" (as she calls the Disney princesses) valentines. You know the ones that come in the cardboard box that you gave out in elementary school (and if you were like me spent hours deciding who should get the "your sweet" instead of the "your a peachy friend" one as if the messages sealed your romantic future forever and would be interpreted with serious scrutiny). Annikah loved them and spent an entire morning before we left on this trip coloring them while I wrote down the names of friends she wanted to give them to. We had a blast celebrating Valentine's Day early in all its cheesy splendor by walking around with Annikah's lil' valentines handing them out to her friends. It is fun to share some of our culture, even the hallmark variety with friends here. We explained that Valentine's Day is a day you tell people you care about them and they are dear to you, a great exercise for us as we have so many new friends to be thankful for. Maybe I will lighten up my hatin' on V-day. Hope yours was full of love!

We are still in Kenya and having a great mix of relaxing and well as being encouraged and challenged at our conference. Plus, have I mentioned the weather? How fabulous to not sweat all day! I will post pics soon. We stayed with a family from Texas we met at training way back and they spoiled us with American food and great company. We also spent a couple nights with a Canadian family from training and had a blast sharing about our time in Africa so far and seeing the city. We are blessed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

our road trip so far

Yesterday, we headed out from Dar for 600+ kilometers drive
the gals in the back seat
first mishap.... that tire is destroyed!!
Rich & Jason change the flat with an interested crowd
Annikah chills on the luggage while the guys change the flat
Jason & Rich discuss the price of a used tire that had a patch, was too small, and needed a tube. After much negotiation we purchased one as it was our only option in case of another blow out
the police pulled us over for speeding..Rich shows off his ticket. The best part was the officer gave him the ticket and then asked for additional money as a "small gift," seriously does anyone ever say "sure, let me give you more money after you just ripped me off"?
at least the views were beautiful & it was getting cooler
pit stop for some cold sodas & a stretch break
We finally made it & Anni already found a friend!
but the best part is we get to wear sweat shirts!
More later, we are looking forward to a few days of relaxing before we head to Nairobi.

Friday, February 6, 2009


I should do it more than I do. Especially before I open my mouth and say the first thing that made its way to my brain. I am thinking a lot these days about what sustainability means, what transformation means, what changes I need to embrace before I can think about making an impact here. As we move forward with building the vocational school we are constantly wrestling with what it means to create a program that will serve the people here while not creating a system of dependence.
Not an easy task. Not to be taken lightly.
Of course, it is easy to point out past mistakes of programs and learn from them but if we stop there it is too easy, too cowardly, too weak. The problem is that most of these "mistakes" and cultural flops were made with the best of intentions. I am under no delusion that in 20 years others will not look back on mistakes we are making and judge our decisions. As we move forward I pray we will be guided, that our plans would not only be ours but that God would intervene even if that means things take longer, don't go as planned, or seem a failure in the sight of others. Transformation, sustainability,and development is not something I have the answers to; in my own culture let alone here, and I am much aware of my need for humility.

Just something constantly on my mind and heart. I read the following about the kind of holistic work we are doing and the following excerpts gave me more than enough to reflect on, think, on and pray on. Thought maybe others would find it challenging.

What kind of attributes of mind and heart might a holistic practitioner aspire to?

Be a good neighbor. – The requirement that we have the attitude of a good neighbor has its roots in the commandment that we are to love God and our neighbor. Chambers puts it simply, "The bottom line is be nice to people“. But being nice is only the beginning. We have to do more to be a true neighbor. Miroslav Volf, in his struggle to create a understanding of reconciliation in the context of modern Croatia and the Bosnian War oft he early 1990s, says that "we must have the will to give ourselves to others and ´welcome´ them by readjusting our identities to make space for them“. Being a good neighbor requires our willingness to change who we are.

Be patient. – Take as much time as it takes. Development does not work on a time table. Getting activities done time may make donors happy, but it is unlikely to enhance transformation or sustainability. Remember that God is willing to walk at three miles an hour because that´s the best that human beings can do.

Be humble before the facts. – We don´t know as much as we wish we did. The other person always knows more than we expect. Besides, we are both going to have to change our minds on things, anyway, as soon as new facts emerge.

Everyone is learning – It is obvious that without learning, no transformation is taking place. Sometimes we forget, however, that if everyone – the poor, the non-poor, and the holistic practitioner – is not learning, then only limited transformation is taking place.

Everywhere is holy. – We need to show respect for the everyone. After all, God was in the community before us, working there since the beginning of time.

Every moment and every action is potentially transforming. – We will never know what God uses for change until he does it. Everything we do carries a message. The only question is what that message is. Every action can heal or harm. In this sense, every action is a silent offering to God, a potentially transforming moment.
An example might help. Ravi Jayakaran reports carrying a participatory evaluation in a village in India. When he arrived with a colleague, the village brought out chairs for the visitors, while the villagers sat on mats. Ravi and his friend respectfully set the chairs aside and sat alongside the villagers on the dusty mats. They listened to the stories about the well and the school and the other things the project had accomplished. Finally, at the end of conversation, Ravi asked them: What was the most important change? An older man said: "You are sitting on the same mat, looking me in the eye, and talking to us as equals. That´s the biggest change.“ Sharing the same mat had more transformative power than digging the well or repairing the school.

Love the people, not the program. – We always need to remember why we are in the development "business,“ who our "customer" is. We are here to serve people, not programs. Donors sometimes create environments in which we forget this basic fact.

Cultivate a repentant spirit. – We all make mistakes. We will do things we will regret. Part of loving our neighbors includes willingness to go to them and repent of our mistakes and seek their forgiveness. Nothing removes the mystery surrounding our professionalism as well as repentant spirit that shows that we are accountable to God and to those whom we seek to serve.

Act like dependent people. – We need to show daily that we are people who are dependent to God and not on our professional skills, our development technology, or our financial resources. People will see for themselves in what we most truly place our trust. We need to be sure, that our trust is in God and nowhere else.

Whose reality counts? – We must guard daily against the power of our education and experience. There is always a temptation to assume our view of reality is correct in a way that adds to the poverty of the poor.
Whose knowledge counts?
Whose values?
Whose criteria and preferences?
Whose appraisal, analysis and planning?
Whose action?
Whose monitoring and evaluation?
Whose learning?
Whose empowerment?
Whose reality counts?
Ours or theirs?

pictures from the site of the school this week

so that was the buzzing coming from my fresh off the line undies....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

a highlight from today

So I have mostly given up running here because the heat is crazy and the thought of adding to the already sweaty mess I am most days seems ludicrous (we are still working on the acclimatizing). Add that to the fact I have to be mostly covered if and when I do run and Taebo in our house most mornings seems a much better alternative even with the onlookers and laughs from the window. But I do miss it so much. Mostly because running always has been an opportunity for relative quiet, for reflection, thinking, processing, and prayer. Today I decided that since I was already hot I might as well go for a run. I changed, drank some water and headed out with cell phone in hand and started running along the main road near our house. First mile was pretty good, greeting everyone along the way and enjoying the views. Second mile I started realizing how ridiculously hot I was and I started wishing I was back home. After another 10 minutes I started wondering what they heck I was thinking running in 90+ degree heat 6 degrees from the Equator. Just as I took a walking break a huge truck drove by spewing smog, dust, and dirt everywhere. "Yeah, this sucks" I thought. I kept on keeping on and in front of me on the road saw the soldiers running towards me in a pack. We see them often running in full mismatched gear and boots and we often think that must be what hell is like...running in heavy clothes in oppressive heat. They always are singing and chanting loudly something in Kiswahili, of which I usually can only pick out one or two words. I was running towards them when the leader group saw me and started chanting "Mzungu, Mzungu, Mzungu" and by the time I was close to them the entire group of about 60 men were chanting and clapping. I suddenly could not help but laugh out loud and smile back at them. The leaders yelled to come with them but I kept heading in the same direction back home tired and not sure what cultural mistake I could potentially make. But after the first few rows of soldiers kept motioning for me to turn around and join them something inside me had a burst of energy &/or stupidity and said "what the heck?" I turned and they cheered as I joined them on their run. It was seriously hilarious. As we made our way down the road women along the way stopped and clapped and celebrated with me; a women among men keeping up with them. The best moment of my day was when a small older woman who I see everyday as she sits on the side of the road chipping coral rock stood up jumped up and down and yelled waving her arms in the air. I could not help but feel we women were all connected and empowered in a man's world, even if only for a minute. The cheers from the women were better than a crowd at the finish line of a marathon. I only lasted about 10 minutes (hey, no judgements I already had run 3 miles) and had to turn around and tell them in Kiswahili nimeshachoka, ninahitagi kurudi nymbani (I am already tired and need to return home). I added a thank you and made my way back to our house. I was disgustingly sweaty and tired and my thighs hurt a bit tonight but my lttle run was truly worth all the effort.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sunday adventures

Because we had no power all day Sunday we made a quick and decisive plan to escape the microwave oven our house becomes without the loud hum of fans running. We ventured out to a butterfly sanctuary here that we have heard about but until now had not made time to visit. Annikah loves butterflies (what 2 year old girl does not?) and learned the Kiswahili word for them early on because her favorite helper at school; Mama Theresa sings a song that includes the word "kipepeo" (butterfly, literally of the wind). We had the kindest tour guide named Juma who did our tour in Kiswahili and did not even mind repeating everything slowly as needed (we do not know the words for larvae and caterpillar yet, go figure!) so we learned a lot. The heat was insane especially inside the huge net they keep the butterflies in but Anni seemed unaffected as she ran in search of "more kipepeo." The sanctuary was built by some Scottish folks who then taught locals how to raise the butterflies and protect the grounds. A group of locals run and maintain everything now and we were happy to support a program that is preserving wildlife and empowering locals.

On the ride home we stopped off to buy some fruit and veggies from along the road and wondered into a small cooperative that makes and sells amazing woven baskets, clothes, and table clothes. They were happy to open the workshop for us and tell us about the project. I am always blessed by how kind and welcoming people are here. They explained that they dye the thread and then weave it with a huge loom that was made here (the technology is from India). The artisans all sell from this one place and distribute to all over. "There is power together" the woman told me in Kiswahili so they formed a cooperative to make sure they can sell their art and goods at fair prices. Even though we really did not have the funds we bought one small basket to take home from the kindest woman who proudly showed off their work. Annikah got a chance to sit alongside and watch one weaver as he worked (see video); pretty cool for a last minute Sunday adventure

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

party time

On Saturday we attended a b-day party for Anni's school!! The co-op turned 1 this week so the new teacher wanted to celebrate with all the kids and parents and it was an amazing day. Local acrobats performed, kids got their faces painted, decorated their own cupcakes, and searched for treasure on the beach. What more could a party for 2-4 year olds need? Our teammate Paula joined Annikah and I since our crazy husbands got up at 5am to go on an epic fishing trip. After the party we stayed to use the new pool the hotel next to the school just built. Unfortunately we cannot usually use this one without paying a steep price but since the party was there they let us in for free just for the day and we happily took the opportunity to wear out our welcome. It was a blast. I am again reminded how exceedingly grateful I am for the opportunities God has provided for our family here.

local acrobats..amazing (we see them practicing on the beach all the time)

Anni shows off her painted face!

Fahad (on the left) decided butterflies were not for boys he went for the much more manly chicken :) painted on his face
The hats and balloons
Anni & Paula
we enjoy the pool (thanks Gma for Anni's swim suit..she LOVES it, like everyday "me want to wear Grammy swim sup")