Tuesday, June 29, 2010

some shule updates

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Thanks to everyone who has asked how shule is going. It is great and I am so enjoying teaching again and being a part of the kid's lives and getting to know the families better. The kids are over here constantly (if they can get past Jason who is not as much of a fan of loud watoto playing outside:). They are always playing ball, on the swings, or asking to "help" us (need street food they'll go get it, need something from the duka they are all over it). The parents have also been impressed that the kids are indeed learning and can now tell them the English words for some things around their homes. It is exciting for sure and I am eager to see what God does next. No shule this week since we will be in Dar for work stuff (for the vocational training center) and a Dr. appointment for Miss Evy. I wanted to record some funny and sweet stories of the watoto and give a bit of an update:

*We have been working a lot on greetings and saying please and thank you and most of them have it down. They greet me whenever we walk out of our gate or drive our car anywhere and although there are some "good morning" at 6pm for the most part they are doing great.

*Something that just makes me laugh hysterically is that not a day can go by without one of the students loudly proclaiming "underwear" and busting out a huge grin. In one of our books the "u" is for underwear and after seeing the picture and translating the word to chupi they all fell out laughing. It is for sure their favorite English word and thanks to me there are almost 20 kids who cannot speak much English but should you ask them to tell what underwear means they got it covered!!
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*An exciting development is that many of the younger kids that could barely hold a pencil can now write some letters. They are not fabulous at writing and still need help from me or Paula most of the time but they are trying which is HUGE! When we first started writing in our books the children who could not just refused to even try and had an older child write for them. At schools here many times repeating and performing is emphasized over figuring it out for yourself or really trying and thus learning yourself. I broke that up quickly by making a rule that you only got a sticker if you tried yourself. So many of them were afraid to try since they knew the other kids would laugh or maybe they thought I would be upset they could not do it "right." It is such a blessing to see them trying, writing letters, and proud of themselves for their work. So rewarding!
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* This weekend I brought over some pizza for the watoto to try. I wanted them to be able to see and taste pizza since they learned "P" is for pizza from one of the books we use to practice letters. The kids all tried it (which is more than I can say for some of the adults who were afraid to even taste it which in fairness is sometimes how I feel about their fish heads or fried octopus). Most of the kids loved it although all agreed that squid is still way better:)

*Last week when I was collecting homework one little boy did not have his (a first since every week they ALL bring their work back completed) and when I asked him why he said "Teacher, kazi ya nymbani yangu imepeperuka" (my homework, it flew away). I started cracking up but also realized it probably was the truth since his house has no screens on the windows and it could be completely possible and in fact plausible that it did indeed fly away. After discussing the merits of putting a rock on all homework so this would not happen again I gave him another copy:)

*We are learning about the 5 senses in Kiswahili and English and one worksheet I copied asked the kids to tell which senses they would use for example for a flower (the answer being we can see it, smell it, touch it but not taste it or hear it) and EVERY single student circled that for a bunny we can see it, touch it, AND taste it. Hilarious but true: in Africa animals are for eating!!

*While I am completely tone deaf the kids seem not to care at all and LOVE singing and learning new songs. Any suggestions for songs that are easy to learn and sing? Singing is a highlight everyday of shule and I have roped my team mate Paula into teaching some songs she knows too. Here is us belting out the 'Rainbow song'
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Some awesome and generous peeps out there have asked how they can support the shule and I came up with a few things that while not necessary would be amazing to be able to use:
-a set of crayons for each child would be awesome for them to do homework at their houses (currently they are sharing one set-all 18 kids)

-flashcards for teaching ESL kids (animals, weather, colors, shapes, emotions, actions, etc)

-construction paper-various colors

-markers, paints, and any things we can use for art

-laminating pouches to make class sets of things we use all the time

-elementary workbooks with activities to learn English (I have a few of Anni's I currently use and make copies when needed but it would be great to have a few for older kids too)

-a clock that you can move the hands around and use to teach time (I used to have a small one when I taught preschool and they are great and the kids can use it)

-pocket calendar for teaching that we could use for weather, dates, days of the week, etc.

-donations toward a field trip to the local zoo (If I could raise 50 US dollars that would cover all the kids and some parents' admission, transportation, and snacks while there) I think this would be a great incentive and opportunity for the kids!

-general donations for a "shule fund" for xerox copies (HW), pencils, notebooks when needed (as well as some of the above can be purchased here)

Well, I guess that is a lot of suggestions but just get me thinking and I can think up lots we could do :) Any and all help would be so appreciated!! Thanks everyone for your interest in shule and please continue to pray God helps the kids learn, me teach, and blesses the families! Asante!
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here is a little video Jason shot with snipets of shule we made for J's parents. I had to post it so you can check out my daughter smack her best friend during the singing(little bugger) & the litle boy I pick up is the one whose homework flew away :)Karibu shule yetu(welcome to our school)(and no comments on my singing:)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

local celebrity

Who knew you could be famous for being...well a Mzungu. A mzungu that lives and works here and speaks Kiswahili (often butchering it but still trying the best she can). After hearing children holler "Mama Annikah" in other neighborhoods Jason confirmed that my 'quest for island domination' has begun. Seriously, how do those kids even know who I am? It really is funny and also reaffirms that we cannot do anything without everyone knowing our business. I actually might get a big head about it if it wasn't for the fact that it is entirely impossible for me to take myself too seriously. That and mostly I am well known for my ridiculous escapades (the latest of which was trying to teach the kids at shule "Old MacDonald" and snorting like a pig).

Recently my celebrity status got me an invite to a friend of Jason's event last weekend. He asked me to come and be a guest of honor and speak at an event for the students in his foundation. He has started a tourist company (that is cool since most tourist companies here are run by foreigners) and then also started this foundation to help local kids improve their performance in school (doubly cool). English is a big part of what they study and so he asked me to come and listen to them speak and ask them some questions. After sitting and listening to "How are you?" and "I am fine" for about an hour I got a chance to ask some questions and speak with the kids. They were very excited I had come and the whole thing was videotaped for use in promoting the program (which gave me a little chuckle to think I was a "token" white person). After we were finished I was ready to head home (and Evy was ready like 20 minutes previous) but before we could go he asked us to take pictures. I was thinking maybe a few shots of the group. No, I sat in a chair while every single student came up and sat next to me for their chance to get a picture with the Mzungu. They actually cheered when he announced that they would all get a picture with me. I honestly felt like I should be asking them if they were good little boys and girls and what did they want for Christmas? It was hilarious. Luckily, all the attention from the kids kept an overtired Evy happy until the epic photo session was over and after many thank yous and goodbyes we were off. Back to my non-celeb, dishing washing, diaper changing life. It was fun while it lasted.
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Friday, June 25, 2010

my girls

just an excuse to post some cute pics of my girls I took this week. Have I mentioned they are just adorable?
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Evangeline is now 6 months old!! We go to the mainland next week for her check up and to see how much she weighs and to get her shots (pole!). She just seems to have grown overnight and in these pics is wearing an adorable one-sie a friend made for her.
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she is very good at rolling over and loves to chew on her toes (which a friend here told me means she will walk late) we shall see...
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she is such a happy baby...many times I do not even know she is awake after her nap because she will just hang out laughing and "talking" to herself in her bed. Everyone here always says "akafurahi" She is so happy! Yep, I agree, she is super sweet! I LOVE this stage!
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Annikah hanging out and teaching her friends to make funny faces
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Anni with her 'adopted' siblings (they play together everyday!)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

her house

Annikah LOVES to play house or nymbani. Anything can be a house....her room, under her net in her bed, our front porch, under the table, couch, pretty much anywhere you can define a space can be the new Nymbani Kwake (her house) and there are several rules one must follow when entering Anni's house. First, you must always approach with a loud "Hoodi" and wait until you hear the "Karibu" before going in. Second, you must eat what is offered to you which usually means a plastic banana, cup of tea, carrot, or the like. And third, you must comment of the yumminess of said plastic food and then take a nap. The other day I heard Anni hollering "Mama, come to my new house" from somewhere in the kitchen and I could not figure out where she was. I finally opened the pantry door and this is what I saw (she dragged her bedding in there and managed to move all tubs containing flour, sugar, etc and climbed up there by herself). I just had to take this picture complete with a scolding for not saying Hoodi. She is serious about her rules.
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zawadi

means gift and in this culture gifts are HUGE!! Like every time you go anywhere all your friends tell you to lete zawadi or bring a gift back. I found out that they really mean it after going to Dar once for work and not bringing anything back...I was sooo busted! At first I thought this was terribly rude but once I realized it really is a universal thing that you bring gifts for people whenever you go on a trip (and honesty I expect J or close friends to bring me a little something when they go somewhere...I guess people here just have no shame in asking straight up for it). And I have even been known to ask for a few zawadi's these days :) After my trip to another island I became very popular around here. Anyone who knew someone from that island seemed to call me, bring said friend or relative over, or ask me when I was going back. Seriously several people I do not even know have asked about my trip. When my girlfriend came back last week she called and said she had a gift for me from one woman we stayed with in the village. She came over the next morning with this wrapped in newspaper:
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No matter what the container was previously used for it is ALWAYS able to be re purposed and I knew I had to open it to really know what was in there. There was super spicy and yummy pili pili (hot pepper) sauce (or achree) made with limes, salt, hot peppers, cumin, etc. I loved it while we were there and the Mama had made a big old batch and my friend carried it back on the ferry for me. I had to transfer it to glass jars because mentally it was weird to eat something out of a hair treatment tub but these days we are enjoying a little of my zawadi everyday with our rice. Yummy!
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

a winner!

Since many recipes I try here flop (lest we remember the great lasagna fiasco of 2009) I get really excited when I have a winner! And since Jason is a lover of food I try hard to make him a happy boy and knew I succeeded with this one from his "Mmmm's and Ah's." I modified this taco recipe I found on-line and it is supper yummy. I thought I would share since it is a perfect light summer dinner. And if anyone is wondering how to put that cumin or red pepper we brought from here to use try this. All measurements are estimations since I have never been known to measure...takes the joy out of experimenting:)
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Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro Lime Sauce
20 medium prawns (shrimp) raw, peeled and deveined
2 cloves garlic- crushed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp pili pili (chili powder) or fresh chilies to taste..the more the better:)
little salt
fresh lime juice- squeeze 1/2 a lime

Combine everything above and allow shrimp to hang out and flavors to merry for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. Then heat skillet and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until shrimp are pink and cooked through (not more than 5 minutes). Cover and keep warm until serving.

Here we serve them with homemade flour tortillas but I think corn would be better- your preference. And garnish with fresh veggies- sliced avocado, chopped tomatoes, green onions, , green pepper, lettuce (we use cabbage since it is more readily available), hot peppers and drizzle with cilantro lime yogurt.

Cilantro-lime Yogurt

mix
1/2 cup plain yogurt (or you could use sour cream, we don't have that here so yogurt works well plus it is better for you :)
at least 2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. cumin
juice and zest from 1-2 limes
salt to taste

Serve with warm tortillas and fresh limes.....and if you like rice and/or beans. Enjoy with someone you love!

afresh...

This morning was a new day and for that I am grateful. I was able to shake the funk a bit after talking it through with J and praying and sleeping. Evy only woke up once and that in itself is reason to do a little ditty. Then Anni got up, dressed herself with no fuss, and even greeted our house helper with a respectful "Shikamo" (something she usually only does when suggested by us). I took her to school and stayed to lead the craft and read stories and she was soo helpful, sweet, and pretty darn fabulous. I almost passed out when the words "Mama, I want to share this with everyone" came out of her mouth. At least she always keeps me guessing and praying and for sure laughing.

Here is the video of her making Evy laugh a couple nights ago. I dare you to watch it without smiling....

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I said it.....yep, sure did

I actually found myself praying yesterday to God "Help me like Annikah right now." Seriously, it was deep. rough. I am tired.

I thought about even writing about this post. That people might judge me, might think of me as a craptastic mother, might not have ever had a low like this. But then I realized that anyone who has children understands stress, tears, losing all semblance of order or sanity or patience....even if they would not broadcast their difficulties to the world. The demands of loving and parenting children grow and stretch and point out areas in our lives where we do not have all the answers (heck, I'd settle for SOME of the answers nowadays). Plus, anyone that has read this blog for more than 5 minutes knows my life is not shiny, my parenting not perfect, and thankfully everything redeemed by Grace. I need some extra these days.

I had a moment yesterday where I honestly wished that I could run away from this house screaming. Annikah was on a tirade. A crabby, whining, rude binge and I wanted to escape. The thing is much of her behavior is "just bad" enough not to be terrible but to be nasty. Case in point, she answers me when I ask her to come in from outside with a snotty "OK!! MAMA, I hear you!" Gulp. So she "listens" but with a funky attitude. Flash forward to 10 years from now and I get a shiver down my spine. It would only be divine retribution since I was a terror during my teen years (sorry Mom) and spent most of my time disagreeing with anything my parents uttered while managing the difficult skill of a perpetual eye roll.

Anni likes to boss everyone around and if anyone (including me) does not want to follow her request she loses it. Now, I can see leadership ability there for sure but right now it seems more like Stalin-ish than Martin Luther King, Jr. Double gulp. Almost everything I suggested or asked her to do was akin to Chinese water torture. We are talking heavy sighs, hands on hip, and a barrage of reasons why this was just not possible (she will be a great creative writer someday). She would acquiesce to my request but always in a begrudging way. I even tried to play games, do crafts, anything "productive" and fun but she would just do something to ruin it like smack her friend or cry because it is not always her turn at 'Go Fish.' I was just exhausted of trying to deal with what she was going to come up with next. It was like reactively parenting a volcano. I was drowning for sure. And the killer is I failed miserably. At least that is how I felt at the end of the day when I sat down and cried. I ended up sending her to her room and telling her I did not want to hear her voice for 5 minutes. This turned into every 2 minutes a cry, a plea from the desperate prisoner calling out from her room in a pathetic whiny voice "Mama, it has been 5 minutes!!" To which I replied "nope!" and tried again. Eventually she did remain quiet but emerged from her room ready to rip up the joint again. And although yesterday was particularly heinous this behavior has been quite common these days. Sigh.

Jason got home and offered some respite and gave her a "talking to." Parenting as a team is the only way I can handle days like this and I am again thankful I have a supportive and loving (and in this case "fresh") Papa. Never mind I had said the same things to her but coming from Papa she actually apologized. Truly forgiving and moving on is rough. That serves as a example of how often I forget just how much I have been forgiven. He forgives and keeps no record of wrong. Oh Lord help me love in Your Way. Help me remember everything You have done, are doing, and will do and help me live in that peace, abundance, forgiveness, and freedom. I know the terrible twos were supposed to be rough but the threes are pretty tumultuous in my experience (any advice from Mamas out there?). I so desire to love her and demonstrate God's love for her. As I discussed with someone recently this whole parenting gig would be a lot easier if all I cared about was her behavior. But trouble is I desperately care about who she is, who she will become, how she sees the world, how she interacts with others, and how she views herself as created and loved by her Maker. That makes me invested and for real emotionally in it. Deep Breath.

After Anni's tirade, apology, dinner, and a bath she decided to amuse a crabby Evy who missed a nap due to visitors and a renegade chicken outside her room (a story for another time). And Anni was just adorable and made Evy laugh for about 10 minutes. And then just to further confuse me she asks in a sweet little voice "Mama, can I help you fold the laundry?" and does just that carefully folding each cloth diaper and stacking them neatly. I swear it was like she knew I was on the brink and had to guarantee we would not sell her to gypsies errrr something. She really is an amazing, sweet, creative, hilarious, thoughtful, smart kid and I just to remind myself that these days are part of the deal. I am not always so fabulous and I need lots of do-overs and lots of mercy and lots of grace. Days like yesterday make me realize just how far we all have to go. For sure me included. I am just as disobedient sometimes in loving, forgiving, listening, and serving. So for now I hold my breath a bit and pray a lot. I also continue to try to be consistent, loving but firm, and watch and guide as she grows, changes, and becomes....and if there are reports by the neighbors of that crazy Mzungu Mama Annikah running from our house screaming everyone will know why. Here is to beginning afresh tomorrow...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hongera sana!!

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Congrats!!One of Jason's best friends here and his wife had their first baby a few days ago. We got the call late when they were headed to the hospital and were kept up to date via text messages during the next day. And we prayed and waited. The next day his wife was still at the government hospital with her mother but he showed up to Jason's computer class! That is dedicated (well, that and he could not go into the hospital anyway). Early the next morning we got a text that a little baby boy arrived safely. Jason offered to drive them home from the hospital so she would not have to take the dala dala over an hour (Can you imagine taking the dala dala after only giving birth a few hours ago? Not to mention with no pain meds...I just cringe when I think about being crushed in with all those people and going over bumps.....people here are for sure hardcore!) Needless to say, they were very grateful for the ride. Jason arrived at the hospital and his friend was still outside waiting as he was not present at the delivery (usually only the woman and her mom are there) and had not yet seen his son. They were released from the hospital and before all cramming in the car Jason asked to see the tiny little baby and he and his friend saw him at the same time! So different as children are really seen as a mother's sphere. After a few days they gave the baby his name and we went to visit the new Mama and baby boy at her mother's house. He is tiny and was all bundled up in kangas and a winter hat because it is so cold here :). He also has black makeup around his eyes as is custom. In the culture it is meant to protect the baby from "the evil eye" as people are very fearful of bad things happening to their children. I guess in a world where things often don't make sense this is how this culture tries to control mortality. We brought some food and some baby garb as is custom in our culture for overwhelmed new Mamas and Jason prayed for them and the baby. That they would know peace, sense God's love, and rely on His protection. Their first born son: that is big!! And we got to share in the blessing a bit and for that we are thankful.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Celebrating Papa Day!

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We had a chill day celebrating Father's Day today. Anni made Jason a really sweet card (I just LOVE his facial hair in her drawing) and Evy's present to all of us was sleeping in until almost 7:30am! That was reason enough to party but add that my husband being a sensitive, fun, caring, loving, snugly, plays dolls with his girls kinda guy we had to celebrate him. He slept in while Miss A and I made a yummy breakfast of regular pancakes, Swedish pancakes (because Anni said it was a special day so we need both), and a veggie omelet. I even got a little crazy using both cheese and throwing in some summer sausage we got in a package to make the omelet not your average omelet. Anni worked hard on some fresh squeezed OJ and helped me set the table.

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Jason was way impressed with the spread and ate until he hurt. He even said the burps were good :) After worshipping as a family we also took a trip to a playground and grabbed some pizza at a hotel here. Just family time. Just time to say thanks J for all you are to us!! We love you Papa!!

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Happy Father's Day to my Dad and to all the fabulous Dads I know!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

chelewa

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Yesterday almost all of my watoto were late for shule. When we first begun our school this was a chronic problem as none of them have watches or clocks at home but I made a deal that if they come on time they get a pipi (candy) (in addition to ya know filling their brains with wonder and such) and that seemed to have watoto hanging around our house all afternoon waiting for school to start. They know that if they are even 5 minutes chelewa (late) they get a pole from me when it comes to candy. I have found that it is universally true that when something is important enough to you you can be on time even if that is not a cultural value. Usually a few arrive late and suffer the consequences of "pole and hamna pipi" (no candy...I know I am cruel) but almost all of them are on time. But yesterday almost all of them were late and I was thinking they forgot it was a school day. After about 10 minutes they arrived in a pack carrying fish, squid, octopus, and clams piled neatly on chipped, dented, and well used plates. They were beaming and informed me they were selling the catch from that morning (it was a good day for their fathers) but they hurried back for shule. I decided that was a pretty good excuse and after buying 3 fish we all ate pipis and started shule.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

speak any English?

By ways of an overdue update we have started English conversation hour at our school here! It is not "official" English classes because we are still waiting on our visas to be approved to actually work and teach here since for the first year we had student visas for language and culture learning. Getting the visas approved has been an exercise in patience and the some government big guys still have our passports...eeek! Trying to trust we will see them again. That and the need for much more planning, curriculum development, work on the application process, student interviews, legal issues for the NGO, accounting, etc will keep us busy for a bit before everything is up and running. And may I just say that starting a school from scratch is A LOT more work that slipping into teaching at an already formed org. Trust me I have seen both.....sigh....
But even though we are not fully up and running we have had tons of interest and our English conversation hours are well attended each week. Paula and I have been sorta winging it and coming up with different games (we tried a culturally adapted version of Simon says called "Abduli says" that was a major hit), topics (from family, education, sports, even globalization), questions and answers, and activities each week to help the students learn new vocabulary and practice (that is when Paula and I are not fighting over British vs. American English (obviously the latter being superior :). And although we are feeling so busy these days it is exciting to see our work here moving forward and getting the chance to know more people through the school.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

singing a silly song

Annikah always comes home with new songs that she learns at school. Most of the English songs she sings with a Tanzania accent (or wrong words all together) but if we try to advise her of the "correct" words or pronunciation she gets quite ornery and rebuts "Mama, that is not how my teacher says it". In order to maintain peace we often allow her to sing it the way she hears it (which often results in giggles around here as we try to figure out what she thinks it is...like for example "ba, ba, black sheep" around these parts goes something like this "ba,ba, brick sleep, etie etie wool"). Although English songs sometimes take a beating the Kiswahili ones are pretty fabulous and fun for even us to learn. This is one of my favorite ones she sings because she always does it with such gusto. Plus, almost everyone here seems to know it and if she starts it someone always finishes it with her. Kids, adults, even a teenage guy sang with her when we were walking down our street yesterday.
Pretty sweet. A silly song about ducks presented with a few mistakes but enough adorable-ness to make up for it....

Mabata madogo dogo wanaogelea (x2)
katika shamba zuri la bustani
Wanapenda kutembea bila viatu, bila viatu (x2)
katika shamba zuri la bustani
Wanapenda kulia "kwa,kwa, kwa,kwa,kwa,kwa" (x2)
katika shamba zuri la bustani


little ducks swimming (x2)
in the beautiful countryside in a garden
They like to walk without shoes, without shoes (x2)
in the beautiful countryside in a garden
They like to cry "quack...." (x2)
in the beautiful countryside in the garden

Monday, June 14, 2010

unattended

So yesterday I left J in charge of the homestead while I ran out to make some copies and when I returned this was my sweet Evy girl:

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J's only comment "2 minutes unattended with Annikah." Evy did not make a peep during her tattooing but we explained to Miss A that this is naughty and she cannot write or "do henna" as she says on her sister because she could poke her eye or hurt her. We tried really hard to put our serious, responsible parenting faces on but it was pretty funny. One of the many hazards of being second born. Pole sana Evy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

cultural confusion & a definition

"Mama and Paula, look at me! I am doing what the Americans do"

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our little beach bum

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Friday, June 11, 2010

going local

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I am back from my safari to another island. I have not really had time to process everything since life started right back up full swing upon my return. But for now I can say it was simultaneously one of the most difficult and one of the most awesome experiences of my life. For sure it was an adventure. I took amazing pictures and I will say it again the people and children here are just beautiful, amazing, and so kind. We were in shamba sana (countryside/village) and Evy and I never saw any other Wazungus our entire time there. I will try to sum up some of the time away lest I forget these experiences although I promise no cohesive storytelling since I am wicked tired:). But I just have a sense of the richness of what I am experiencing and want to breath deep, not blink, and let it all settle in. And for sure shower and rest. A lot.

To start our adventure my friend and her two daughters slept over at our house the night before our boat because in her words "or I will be late." I had to laugh as at least she knows herself!! We got up, crammed everything this Mzungu could fit into a suitcase for myself and Evy, and we all piled into our car so Jason could drop us at the port. The boat was over an hour late arriving but we passed the time talking and the two girls took turns holding Evy and entertaining her. The boat ride was not terrible mostly because I had some pharmaceutical assistance and we got to sit in first class even though we did not pay for it. Cool story: the regular seats were packed full and we would not have been able to sit together so we went up on deck to see if there were any outside seats; nada. So on our way back down with everything in tow my friend suggested we sit in first class. One of the crew members came and tried to kick us out but a local man talked to him and told him "you let her stay, she has a child and she respects our culture." Very cool. He also carried my bag for me the entire time expecting nothing in return. On the boat ride lots of folks were interested in why we were heading to the island and we had lots of good conversations and Evy was passed around and even took a nap for about an hour on another woman's lap giving me a chance to rest as well.

We arrived at the port and immediately boarded a bus that was headed to our next destination. Now I really had no idea where we were going, how far it was, etc and was just trying to "go with the flow." Our luggage was quickly thrown on top of the bus (I just prayed it made it on the right one) and after filling the bus beyond capacity we were off. The bus made about a zillion stops along the way and after about 2 hours we were driving up a hill when we heard some nasty sound. The kind of sound that usually means something is busted, broken, smoking, or otherwise out of commission. The bus died and rolled a few feet back down the hill. The conductors jumped out and began pushing it off to the side of the road. After a couple minutes smoke started to fill the bus and we were all told to exit. What I could understand is that it overheated and they needed water. A few men ran off in search of "maji" while we all hung out along the road. I was so ready to get there already but we had no choice but to wait. We do a lot of waiting here.
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After pouring some water and waiting for the smoke to clear we all boarded the bus again and after the conductors giving the bus a running push start from behind we were off again. After a bit we arrived in a town that was the end of the bus line. I was relived until I realized we then had to board a dala dala to get to the village. Some guys my friend knew were shopping at the local market and helped us carry our luggage through the bumpy road until we got to what can only be described as the most crammed full dala dala I have ever seen. And that is saying something. When my friend suggested I get on I stepped up and seriously looked around dumbfounded as to where to sit. After some butt shuffling I managed to get one cheek on some precious bench real estate and my stuff was farmed out to various people around the dala dala. Poor Evy had had it at this point and the only way to keep her quiet was to nurse her but that was really a feat of massive skill and maneuvering. While I was sitting one butt cheek on the seat, nursing Evy, trying to hold on to the top of the dala dala over bumps someone handed me a live chicken in a bag. I just had a moment. Really, is this my life? It was hilarious (once it was over) and thankfully that trip only lasted about 30-45 minutes. As we approached the village I heard yelling and this crazy loud high pitched noise the women here make. To say we were welcomed would be an extreme understatement. Upon sight of the dala dala a group of women (including my friend and her son that had left a few weeks back) came running out and helped us carry everything and get off. After lots of greetings we were ushered into the house we were staying and into a front room where everyone immediately started stripping our clothes off us. This was definitely a learning experience! In a way it comforts me that they too get wicked hot and cannot wait to strip down. They hung our clothes for us and we basically sat around in our skivies for about 20 minutes until someone else brought us hot chai. After resting a bit we washed up and changed clothes and set out to greet everyone in the village. Everyone was very welcoming and very excited we had come and they were eager to show us their homes and village. And eveybody wanted to hold Evy...can't blame them there!
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The house we stayed at had no furniture in it at all (since it is a vacant house right now) and had a pit toilet. We had to get all our water using buckets from a well at the mosque but after the first day I was actually pretty capable of getting my own water and we used this for cooking, bathing with buckets and soap, and washing dishes, etc.
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Since there was nothing in our house we borrowed everything we needed. And every meal we would share food with other people there.
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Again, I learned just how communal life is here as people just come around and get the phone charger, the chai kettle, the bucket for washing, etc. Everything you have is for use by everyone. I discovered this one day when another woman was wearing my scarf (she then washed it and returned it to my bag but took it without asking).

Visiting everyone in the village was overwhelming but so interesting as well. The first day all the women were sitting around together preparing for the wedding the next day. They were slicing onions, sifting 50 kilos of rice, and applying henna. The women prepped all the food but the men cooked it the next morning for the actual wedding day.
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Kids were running everywhere at all times and they were always interested to see the Mzungu. I seriously felt like an animal at the zoo most of the time there. They would just sit and stare at me and two nights people came over to our house just to watch me and see what the odd Mzungu was going to do. Hated to disappoint them as I am pretty boring although no one seemed to mind.
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Most of my time in the village was spent visiting, helping cooking, washing, making kids laugh at my Mzungu antics, preparing for the wedding, attending wedding festivities, and just sitting and hanging out. Evy was a complete rockstar which was such an answer to prayer. I thought I had attended a lot of weddings but this was EPIC. Seriously, no other word for it. Everyday there were different events and we went to all of them.
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We were awoken at 5am on Friday to go attend the actual "ceremony" but ended up just waiting outside the house with about 50 other people until we heard celebratory cheering. Later that day was the big "dance party" although they will not call it that since technically they are not allowed to dance but it is at least "rhythmic swaying" in my opinion. My friend's had had a special "sare" made for me or uniform of the wedding. It is not really like bridesmaids since I did not even know the bride but more like a special fabric for certain days of the wedding that many of the women wear. There were 3 days of sare but I only got one for the Friday celebration. My friend and her sisters had a little too much fun getting me ready for the celebration by putting on black eyeliner and lipstick and since there were no mirrors I took this self take to see how I looked. They had so much fun dressing me up and besides the glaringly white skin I actually fit in the crowd pretty well.
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our crew
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dancing....errr...I mean swaying
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check out the pilau pot they rented to cook for everyone in the village

As in many weddings each day the bride sat in a room all day looking sad. I guess this is tradition but some people also said she is afraid to get married. She was completely blinged out though everyday with new outfits.
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dancing with a Bibi of the village
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Being a part of the celebrations was really fun but to be honest lots of things were tough. The nights were really rough. That first night my friends borrowed a thin foam pad from another house for us to sleep on. It was about a double size and four of us slept there. The hardest part of the time there was that there just was never any time for me to be alone, to think, to breath. Add to that being "on display" all the time and ick. And even for an extrovert that all got draining after a few days. On the second night there was a night party as well where everyone danced to some huge rented blaring loud speakers until the generator (there was no power) they had borrowed ran out of gas at about 2am. The next night I was not so lucky as the power returned for about 10 hours and they blared music until 4am. It was so loud the floor and the walls vibrated in our house. That was honestly one of the worst experiences for me of the whole time there. There just is no respect for quiet or sleep in this culture. Poor Evy kept waking up to the bass pumping music and I would try to calm her and nurse her and convince her to sleep but between 12 and 4am we were both awake and at one point I joined her in crying. At 4am they finally stopped the music and my friends came in and everyone crashed to sleep until 45 minutes later when the mosque call woke us all up. They functioned on about 1 hour of sleep that day. I have no idea how they can do that as I was hurting. Bad. It was also that morning that I was really nauseous, had a terrible headache (gee, I wonder why?), and had some predictable stomach issues that are not so fun in previously mentioned pit toliet ('nuff said). I was feeling pretty rotten and was also worried since Evy got some bug bites that night despite the bug spray and net. After some initial panic, I started to feel better around mid day and had some great chances to visit. I just had to push past feeling bad, being dirty, and feeling frustrated. Honesty once I let go of a lot of that stuff I really had a great time.
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at least I was not the only one who did not care for the loud music
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I really enjoyed visiting more and getting to know some people. When we would all sit together it was a challenge as my Kiswahili is still a work in progress and with everyone talking at once as it is hard to understand. We had lots of girl talk time and I really felt we grew so much closer (and Jason said upon hearing my story that I even broke "the fart barrier" as one of my friends farted in front of me). They were impressed I even knew the words for said bodily function and we all had a good laugh. Even though my brain hurt after lots of Kiswahili it was a great opportunity to learn what Swahili life in the village is really like, how they live day to day, and how they celebrate. I was able to understand and communicate better when I talked with people one on one and on the third day had some great visits in people's homes. I was able to ask lots of questions about their lives, work, families and they asked a lot about me as well. The last day we were there I had a great conversations with a family in their home and shared some of the awesome things God has done in my life. They brought a couple to me and asked if I would pray for them to have a baby since they had been married for over a year and not had a baby yet (not a big deal in my culture but a very big deal here). I also had very interesting conversations about marriage with some women. One who was worried that my husband would beat me since Evy got a few bug bites. Sad but she was concerned for me. It was very awesome to have chances to encourage and love people and share life.
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kids dancing it up at the last party of the week

On the last day we attended yet another celebration and then headed to a bigger town about 30 minutes away to stay with a family until my plane left the next day. As we were leaving the village lots of people came out to see us off and I got lots of requests to come back and stay longer next time. After a bumpy car ride at night we arrived in the town. Staying at that house was really fun although we still all stayed up until after 2am watching a video of the wedding festivities we had just been at. Since all 11 of us slept in the same room no one could go to bed until everyone did. Although I was very grateful that night because Evy and I slept much better.
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possibly the best bed head ever!!

In the morning we got up early, had some chai, and then they took me on a walking tour of the town and the hospital where the Mama of the house worked. After that we all piled into a car to head to the airport.
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They all accompanied me all the way to the check-in desk and then got special permission to help me through security and make sure I was fine before leaving (I had to head back for work and because I could not go more days with no sleep- call me a wuss...but I am sooo not that hardcore!) and they were staying a few more days. After a short flight I was home and reunited with Anni and J. I was so thankful to see them and so thankful for the family and marriage God has blessed me with and a new sense of how important those things are. Spending so much concentrated time "going local" away from my (already abnormal) normal life gave me some new insights into the lives of my friends here, taught me more about some of the awesome aspects of the culture I continue to learn from every time I am with people as well as some of the darker aspects of the culture that drive me to have compassion, love, and pray. Not everyone has what I have in terms of family support, mutual respect, and freedom and I am keenly aware that I am blessed. Both to be a daughter of the King and to be able to experience and learn so many new things from dear friends here. It was a great trip!