Tuesday, August 31, 2010

dear 4 year old Annikah

You are 4 today (or actually tomorrow at 2:36 am African time- a fact that only your Papa could be counted on to figure out). You woke up this morning and as usual got dressed by yourself and even accessorized with a snazzy headband that you dug up from somewhere. I made you pancakes for your "birthday princess treat" and you happily ate 3 in your crazy way of cutting them up and them placing each piece carefully around the edges of your plate and then pouring syrup in the middle to dip them. You said "Thank you mama for making these yummy pancakes" at least twice while I sat and nursed your sister. Then off you went to school, backpack and sparkly pink shoes on (you even make your boring uniform special). Today is your 4th birthday little girl.
Anni 4th Birthday 037.jpgedit
I am not sure when it happened but you are for sure more big kid than baby. I love that so much and part of me wants to cry for a long while that you are growing up so fast. I still remember feeling you kick in utero and day dreaming about what you would look like, who you would become, and what your little voice would sound like. I remember being terrified about being a Mama. That I would not know what to do in any number of scary sounding scenarios. That I would fail. And what I found out is I have, many times, but the awesome news is that God is good and He is molding and making and growing our family every step of the way. The day you were born was the scariest and most thrilling of my life. You changed everything. I thought I was prepared but I was no where near "ready." But that is the beauty of family. We are pretty much a mess but we are each other's mess and we figure stuff out together. The minute you were born I was completely overcome with love for you. It was immediate, intense, and disarming. The kind of love that just takes over and puts in perspective everything that came before. Papa and I are so blessed that God entrusted you to us. It is an amazing thing to see you grow and change and become yourself.
matching dresses, making pilau with rocks, evy and martin 001.jpgedit
You become more and more Annikah everyday. You make us laugh with your hilarious quotes and you make us cry sometimes with your stubbornness (wonder where you get that?:). You are intense in everything you do which I can see God using in your life. You are often shy at first but after about 10 minutes of trying something new you take it on with gusto. You love your cabbage patch baby named "Blueberry" and take her everywhere. You have strong opinions and a zest for life and are never content to sit on the sidelines. You are learning to show love and compassion to those around you which is amazing to see. You are thoughtful and kind and respond because you see that all kids do not have what you have. Your best friend in the world right now is Lusi and you play all day together mostly in your make believe world. You love cucumbers and beans and all things candy or cookie. You see the world through trust and faith and I love that. It restores my faith on days I am hurting or stretching to see. You love pink and all things girly including but not limited too; sparkly nail polish, shiny lip gloss, tutu's, fancy shoes, and dress up jewelry. You love to dress like Evy and show off your sister to everyone. Your favorite books to read are Bernstein Bear books and they are best enjoyed snuggling with Papa before bed. You are a great big sister (when you are not pelting the kid for ripping your book:) and helper to Mama. You do love to please and to be noticed. You love to sing songs that you learn in school or ones that you make up and then pretend you learned in school :) and you are a pretty awesome dancer. You can write all your letters and numbers and love to read books and do crafts with friends. Your Kiswahili is awesome and still shocks me some days when I hear you talking to someone. I am amazed at your ability to thrive in this life that our family has chosen. You are a strong, sassy, brilliant, funny, and loving girl.
I gave birth to you four years ago and it has been and will continue to be one of the most worthwhile and difficult adventures in my life to be your mother. You have taught me so much about myself. How to love, how to forgive, how to be more vulnerable, how to laugh, how to be so proud you think you might explode, how to deal with my own past pain, how to be (a tad) less selfish, how to live in the moment more, and why to be called "children of God" is such a privilege. Thank you for being patience with me as your Mama. Thanks for understanding that God is still working on me too. I cannot wait to see where this life takes you and I am always praying that you will forever know how deep and how wide is His love for you. That our love will help you gain confidence to find your way and be your own unique and beautiful self. Always. I am cheering you on Anni! We love you so much Miss Annikah Joy and hongera kwa siku ya kuzaliwa yako! Happy Birthday my baby girl.
Anni 4th Birthday 032.jpgedit

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"mama, the wazungus are back!"

Yep. They are indeed. Well, at least a few of them and some new ones as well. Our team leader and his family arrived safely and with lots of luggage in tow this week. It was great to see them and size up how big the kids had gotten in their months back in Germany. They are adjusting back to life here and the kids are thrilled to be back to days of running around outside. We were also treated to some special zawadis they brought back including some Gouda cheese and dried sausage which we happily ate for dinner last night. Anni is excited to have some wazungus kids to hang with again and noted that "Mama, the wazungus are back." Another family arrived this week too! They were living in Kenya and now headed not to from from here but they stopped on our little island first to study Kiswahili for a couple months. They are Americans and even brought us a big bag full of Doritoes.....so they won our hearts!! They have 3 girls and I see lots of princess dress up dates in our future. Our team leader also brought back and installed a zip line in his yard. We had to do the neighborly thing and go check it out Saturday morning. 6 girls on a zip line: Fun times!
zipline 003.jpgedit
zipline 002.jpgedit
hanging out with friends rules!
zipline 005.jpgedit

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Birthday day at school

Each month at Anni's school they pick one day to celebrate any kids that have a Bday during that month. Parents can send treats to school and the teachers have a little party for the watoto. To say Anni was excited about this would be like saying I LIKE Mexican food. In other words, an extreme understatement. It was adorable; she would ask me about the cake plans and remind me that I was supposed to pack a pretty dress in her backpack for her to change into at least once a day for the past week. She would also tell us over and over that she was going to pick Iftiham to help her since she was her "really good friend" and I guess you get to pick one friend to help you with your cake festivities. Friday was the day (although I only found that out on Thursday) but I could not let Miss Anni down. I donned my apron and we baked and baked until we had tons of pink cupcakes. Anni mostly licked the beaters but still a valiant effort on her part.
eng muffins, martin stickers, play outside 015.jpgedit
I dropped her off at school on Friday with candy for everyone, pink frosted cupcakes, and a special "really fancy dress" selected by Miss Anni along with a bling headband. That day she was up super early with backpack on (before she even ate breakfast) and on the car ride there she said "Mama, I hope we are not late and it is already meal time." It reminded me of those days when you were little were you would lose sleep or wake extra early so excited about a special day, a field trip, or a party at school. My big girl had a birthday celebration at school and it was well anticipated! I resisted my urge to stay to see every minute of the celebration (and it helped that I was wicked busy that day and no other parents usually come and I try hard to not be so "wazungu" all the time) and left my camera with a teacher in my stead. When Anni got home she had a handmade crown and some balloons from her teacher and told us the tales of "Birthday Day" at school. Pretty rock on in Miss Annikah's book! j with dog, bday at eden 007.jpgedit
j with dog, bday at eden 015.jpgedit
Anni & the other Bday boy get ready to cut the cakes (which looked a lot better pre-heat that morning)...gotta love the Bday candle, right?
j with dog, bday at eden 019.jpgedit
Anni & Ifti feeding each other
j with dog, bday at eden 020.jpgedit
Almost 4...just a matter of days now...

Friday, August 27, 2010

there they are..

So that is where 4 sheets of princess stickers went.....
eng muffins, martin stickers, play outside 026.jpgedit
I wondered.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

finger painting fun

It is Wednesday again and today I tried out home made finger paints at Anni's school! It was a blast! I must say the kids really loved it although they were so afraid at first to touch the paint, like they might get busted. I knew I explained it correctly in Kiswahili so when they were still hesitant I had my messy kid demonstrate-she loved that!!
finger paint 007.jpgedit
The paints are easy to make with stuff you might already have at home and thus super cheap. Thought I would share the recipe for any one who wants to have their own finger painting fun.
Finger paint - Rangi kwa vidole
Combine and stir until dissolved: 1 tbsp cornstarch (here called corn flour) and 1/2 cup cold water (I tripled this to make 4 jars of paints)
Stir constantly (this is important) while cooking over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, loses whiteness, and starts to thicken. Lower heat to almost notta for another 2 minutes until mixture is very thick and smooth. Remove from heat and cool. Divide into jars and color with a few drops food coloring.
Dampen paper and let kids at it! You can save left over paint in the fridge for a week.
evy talking vid, finger paint 004.jpgedit
(adorable watotos you'll have to gather yourself)
evy talking vid, finger paint 003.jpgedit

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

African Fairy Princess Party....part one

Annikah Joy turns 4 next week! I am the parent of a 4 year old. That is pretty crazy since most days I still feel not old enough to be trusted with fire let alone children. But then I remember the aches in my back, the music always being too loud, and my well earned stretch marks and I know I am old. But I love watching our family grow and change. I am not much of a party planner as far as concepts but I do love to plan fun food, games, and most all include kids in every aspect of it. It is just so much fun to see them come up with, work on, and see the final product of their creative ideas.

Anni and I started discussions (or should I say negotiations) about what her party would be like about a month ago (as soon as she was aware it was quickly approaching). Since it is Ramadan she will not be able to have a big bash but we wanted to let her have small-ish gathering with some friends. We talked themes and colors but not in the "what should we go out and get?" but more like the "what do we have here?" Which actually is adventurous and fun. We hunted around the house and also dug into the stash of little odds and ends that people have sent that I keep stashed in a cupboard. Bibi also sent some party favors (light up rings, lollipop wands, make you own crowns, and necklaces) so Anni was super excited and those were on the must give out list. We did not want to do a repeat of last year's Disney Princess ShinDig (plus, thankfully she is cycling out of that a bit) but what to do? It still needs a girly flair. This is Annikah folks. We were stumped but a few weeks back she came to me one morning while I was working at the computer and announced "Mama, I know now. I want an African Fairy Princess Party that is pink." Well then.

I remembered Auntie Jorie had sent us this African version of 12 Dancing Princesses book that Anni loves and grabbed it off the shelf for inspiration. Anni was in and we started planning. She asked for a tea party (only with kool aid since "I don't like chai Mama!" and pink cupcakes outside on a mat and she wants everyone "to wear pretty fairy skirts like the Africans" (now, I have never seen an African wearing a fairy skirt but they do LOVE to dress up and I think that is what Anni meant). And so with those ideas we set forth on our quest to prepare an African Fairy Princess Party. That is pink.

I found this super easy almost no sew fairy skirt pattern online and used some odds and ends of fabric we had from making some of my all-you-can-eat local dresses longer (Ah, the quest to find ANYTHING long enough for my giant white self...story of my life). Plus, we some extra fundage from Bibi's bike fund so I whisked Anni away to the fabric dukas in town and let her pick out some tulle and one shiny blingy fabric. She was lovin' every minute of it and even asked the guy how much in Kiswahili. Plus, her cute little mug was a great help in bargaining since I told him we only had a certain amount of money and needed to get 5 yards. Plus, I also "suggested" we add purple to the color palette since I had some left over at the house. She was game.
anni and Evy, anni buying fabric in mjini 006.jpgedit
We got a great price (about 1-2 dollars per yard) grabbed some elastic and ribbon and headed home. Anni helped me measure and hold all the fabric while I cut enough strips to make 6 skirts.
burning skirts,basil,laundry 018.jpgedit
I then burned the edges of the shiny satin fabric (which a friend from South Africa showed me how to do with a TP roll and a candle!) which is absolutely fabulous because it will not fray and you do not need to sew it! Right now we have 4 of the 6 skirts completed for the girls and Anni is giddy.
tomatoes,fairy skirt, teaching computer to anni 019.jpgedit
Everyday she asks "how many more naps until my party?" Meaning how many more times she has to go to bed and wake up until she gets to don her fairy skirt, sip kool aid, and celebrate African Fairy Princess style. I figured we had to try hers on just to make sure it fit, right?
Eden Party, Anni's Skirt 168.jpgedit
more to come....

Monday, August 23, 2010

trip to Dar..and why I hate wazungus

The girls and I are back from Dar. Jason is hanging back to help our team leader and his family arrive (help is needed with tons of luggage not to mention 4 watoto in tow). Hopefully if all goes well he will catch the boat back sometime today. Back to our trip and why I hate Wazungus. ok, hate is a strong word but I had nightmare-ish experiences with white folks on BOTH trips. (and as a note I realize this is all way TMI but I just need to record all these happenings lest I even forget the adventure of raising kids and living here).

On the way there Jason went on the early ferry to pick up the car and so he would have time to stop in at the social services office to check on the progress of our adoption paperwork (and to drop off our international references). That meant the girls are I caught the later ferry by ourselves. This is not my favorite option at all. If any of us get sick (which is almost a guarantee) it is really craptastic. But the alternative is flying which is more then double the price. Alas, we suck it up, take some drugs, pray, and hope for the best. The trip over was definitely not the best. First the boat was about 45 minutes late in arriving meaning all of us were standing in the blazing sun waiting and waiting. Tourist season is upon us and I realized right away there were a lot of white folks. About 10 minutes into to waiting I smelled the funk and knew there was trouble. After a quick whiff and look I saw that Evy had pooped and it was now leaking out of her diaper down her leg and onto to my shirt. Now, of course I had just changed her but these cheap diapers here leak if you even think about a haja kubwa! No place to change her except a rocky, dirty ground and not wanting to get out of the crunch of people were were calling a line I just wrapped her in a kanga and tried to apologize to anyone who was around. Finally, we boarded and after struggling with the car seat, my bag, and both kids we made it up to the deck we were sitting on. No seats together. This is a first as usually there is plenty of room but with all the tourists there was no room for Anni and I to sit together. (strike 1 for the wazungus). Once Anni realized that she was not able to sit with me she started crying. I tried to comfort her and remind her I would be near her but she knows she sometimes gets sick and was scared to be rows away from my and Evy. You would think at that point someone who give up their seat; after all couldn't you listen to your Ipod and ignore your friend in another row? No one offered; fair enough they got there first. After some confidence building Anni was ok on her own and we were off. First hour was ok and the drugs Anni took to prevent sea sickness helped her fall asleep. Evy was wide awake and wanted none of the sitting in my lap thing. She was restless but not crying at all. Occasionally she would chuck her toy on the floor or bump the man sitting next to me and I would always say I was so sorry. I was starting to get really sick and knew this would not end well. I was not the first to succumb to the waves lurching but joined in the chorus of people puking about 1 1/2 hours in. Have you ever tried to throw up in a bag while nursing or holding an 8 month old? I do not recommend it. More helpful waznugus next to me then said "why don't you leave IT and go outside?" That is right, they called my daughter it. Now maybe it was just language (I will give them the benefit of the doubt there since they seemed to be Italian) but the man rolled his eyes and seemed irritated that I was sick. Like that was exactly what I wanted to be doing at that moment: puking, sick on a boat with my kids: good times! I was completely shielding him from my nasty puking and doing the best job I could to keep Evy happy. I also could not "leave it" if I wanted to since there are no seat belts. I tried to get up but the boat was moving so much that I was afraid I would drop Evy or fall on the disgusting floor. A local man about 3 seats back stood up and insisted he would hold her while I got a sick bag and checked on Anni. Yeah, kind soul! Anni was luckily still sleeping but she had dropped her carefully packed princess backpack which had her books, baby, blanket, and other dear treasures face down and now with every move of the boat was being saturated with at least 4 different people's vomit. I would deal with that later. I took Evy back and we made it back to our seat and survived the rest of the trip. After another 20 minutes the wife of the man who was sitting next to me starting throwing up as well but I resisted all urges to ask her to vacate :) We gathered our things and a local woman helped me tie Evy securely to my back and we made it off the ferry and to Jason who was waiting with the car and armed with napkins and water. So the trip there was not so much fun but we arrived safely and after recovering, getting some food, and cleaning up we were fine. We stayed with some relatives of Jason (not even sure exactly how they are related maybe 2nd cousins or that once removed jive?) but they just moved from India to Dar and graciously offered to have us stay even though they had just moved into their house 3 weeks earlier. Anni loved their 3 kids and the first day she got a "make-over" done by the oldest Lindsey.
Dar 024.jpgedit
She was in heaven running around and playing with 3 America-ish kids :) and puppy! We also loved talking with them and hearing stories of India and what they had learned. It was great to be with other Americans and family!

The next morning we headed out our our day filled with errands which was made even more ridiculous because every time we stopped the car we had to disconnect the battery since there is something wrong with the back lights and if we do not disconnect everything they will stay on and kill the car (really I record these stories because one day I will laugh). First stop was to take Evy to the doctor where she got 3 shots-pole baby girl! She was a rockstar and barely cried at all! Jason dropped us at the doctor and headed to the U.S. Embassy to get my passport pages added. He had called to make sure they were open and he could come in and the person on the phone assured him the hours on Friday were 8am until 12. He arrived at 10:04am and was told he was too late since they closed at 10am. He explained our situation and that he had called and was told 12 and pleaded that we needed these pages for my new work permit and visa and that I could be in trouble when we returned to the island but just got a pole sana. How frustrating! So we would have to come back another day to get the pages added. Really, who has only 2 hours of work hours a day? I realize they are probably inundated with crisis but it was a major bummer they could not just help us since it would now mean lots of cost not to mention another puke boat ride to fix said problem.

We shock it off by heading to our fav restaurant and then getting some playground time in for Miss Annikah.
Dar 007.jpgedit
Dar 019.jpgedit
Evy post shots :)

We also borrowed a stroller and walked around as a family which was a blast. Miss Evy dug it for sure and my back appreciated pushing her rather than carrying her. We also just loved being able to eat and drink as we wished and spend some time as a family.
Dar 009.jpgedit
We hit typical Dar traffic but killed time by singing, talking, and watching the interesting things for sale out the window; ice cream (we partook), posters, books, apples, pillows, hangers, DVD's, giant blow up things and my favorite of which was birds!! Like parakeets in a little cage!
Dar 023.jpgedit
I snapped this pic but the windows were too dirty to see properly.
Dar 028.jpgedit but just for the record you can buy birds as you drive by in Dar!

We arrived back at their place and hung out and helped make dinner. That night at about 2am we were awoken to Anni throwing up all over herself, her bed, and her clean clothes piled next to her bed. The throwing up and crying of course woke Evy who was running a fever because of her shots and not happy at all. Jason tried to handle the Anni situation while I nursed Evy but as soon as I was awake I knew I also was sick. My stomach was turning and about 20 minutes later I was throwing up. This continued until about 6am and poor Jason was the only one well but now sleep deprived and exhausted form cleaning up puke. I felt flu-sick and was of no use in helping with anything so the whole day I slept with intervals of Jason bringing Evy in to nurse and nap. Anni bounced back quicker but still had an upset tummy for most of the day. We cancelled our plans to go to these beach bandas and have fun swimming together (so sad!!) and decided to just try to recover. I was so bummed not only because it is awkward and weird to be sick in someone else's space (and one of their bathrooms was not working) but because the last time we went to the mainland I got sick and could not really enjoy all things Dar. By Sunday I decided to join the land of the living and at least pretend like I was better. The family we were staying with were so amazing as they helped us with the kids and dealt with our sicky selves. That was such a blessing!
Dar 026.jpgedit
Anni and the kids at the house had a tea party outside complete with real tea which was the highlight of Anni's day (if not life:) and after hanging out and packing up we said goodbye. We met some friends for lunch and I was able to get my appetite back a bit. After another hour or so I started to feel terrible again and was still running a fever. I was still going to try to make it on the boat but this time I would have all our luggage and both kids by myself (since Jason was staying back to help our team leader). We then decided that even though we could not really afford it I would fly back since the boat was just not an option for me at that point.

We headed to the airport to try to get a flight and negotiate the price of the kids. I sat with the stuff while Jason ran around and tried to find a flight at a reasonable price. About 30 minutes later he returned and said we were on a flight at 4pm. Music to my ears! He stayed with us a bit until I could nurse an overtired Evy to sleep and then headed out to find the place he was staying. We we waiting for a while since we had arrived pretty early but Annikah was being great just reading her books and Evy slept for about 45 minutes so other than my arm going numb everything was fine. Evy awoke and I was getting everything ready (trying to stuff the broccoli I had brought into my purse so to make less bags) when Anni tripped over a strap and fell hard on the ground. On the way down she hit the back of her head on the metal seats and started screaming which in turn scared her sister who also started crying. I was trying to calm both of them down when a mzungu wearing cargo shorts and carrying a duffel came over to me. Now at this point the girls had been crying less than a minute and I was bouncing Evy and rubbing Anni's head assuring her she would be ok. He interrupted to say in an unmistakable North American accent, "Is this what I can look forward to on my flight to Arusha?"It took a few seconds to even register this unimaginably rude comment not to mention he said it over the cries of both the girls as I was trying my best to calm them down. All I could mutter was "no, we are headed to the island. We are just trying to get home as we have been sick. And that is incredibly rude." He walked away just relieved he would not have to "deal with us." Anni calmed down and I nursed Evy and both girls were fine again and as I sat there I felt like crying. I just was so shocked that someone would say that. I must admit my first (ok, and second and third) very un- Jesus follower thought was I hope this guy drinks some un-safi water and ends up missing a day of his safari having to run to less than desirable toilets! I think we should really all operate under what our Moms told us way back "if you don't have anything nice to say DO NOT say anything at all" (and I would add "or anything helpful to offer just hush"). But after sitting there for another 10 minutes I actually started to feel bad for him. I think you really must be hurting to see someone struggling and still say something so mean.

But I have a public service announcement to anyone like this: We (parents of small kids) DO NOT try to get our children to cry, fuss, or scream. We do not pinch, punch, deprive, and or be evil to them just to irritate you. In fact, we usually try everything in our arsenal: snacks, bribes, boobs (for the younger set), games, songs, etc to the point of exhaustion just to get them to behave and tolerate travel which is much harder when you are a wee one. Please act accordingly : with compassion, a smile, a kind word, a helping hand OR say nothing at all. Thank you."

Now, I realize there are exceptions to this. Like the people who just think it is adorable when lil Timmy continues to kick the back of your seat, or the person who laughs at the antics of lil Kate and Billy chucking gummy bears at everyone in site and running around destroying the joint. But these folks are few and far between. And I would argue so unconcerned with others that even a rude comment would do nothing to stop their pursuit of ruining your day. The rest of us are trying folks, we really are.

Another 10 minutes and they called us for our flight and as soon soon as a local man saw me carrying the car seat, bags, and the baby he grabbed everything from me to help. Then guess who hurried in front of us? Mr. Cargo-Short Wearing Safari! Turns out HE WAS on our flight since it went to the island first and then on to Arusha. Pole for him! It actually was not terrible since I tried to be very kind to him (repeating in my head a little mantra that I should practice what I preach) and after Anni respectfully greeted all the locals on the flight they were all talking about how wonderful my children are! See, I knew it :) Both girls we great on the 15 minute flight. Evy happily chewed on the evacuation guide and Anni was loving looking out the window and as soon as we touched down Anni yelled "asante sana Mungu!" (thank you God) which only further endeared us to everyone on board. But after all that we made it home salama kabisa (totally peacefully)! I think we shall stay put for a bit :) It is good to be home!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

what else rules....

getting 2 packages filled with supplies for shule, yummy treats, and gifts for Anni Joy and Evy (most of which have safely hidden away for next weeks 4th Bday festivities for the aforementioned Miss A). Thanks Aunt Annie & Uncle Justin & Bibi and Babu E!!

Anni was so thrilled about her new additions to her Berenstain Bear collection that she ...well...rolled in them! (And J & I secretly love BB books since they remind us of being kids)
bb books 003.jpgedit
And Evy looks too cute in her new headband:
evy wearing new bow 006.jpgedit
Also, even though no one guessed the correct misquoted English question from my class I had a blast reading everyone's guesses: Asante for posting comments. Ready for the correct answer: She asked why do Wazungus say "God is sick?" but what she actually heard was "FOR GOODNESS SAKE!" Gotta love it!! Although "gotta sec" was actually a GREAT guess! But as promised the zawadi goes to: Kers (but if you are still reading from Iowa I need your address so please send me an email with it and a shiny bling scarf will start making it's way to YOU:) More misadventures to come.....

In other non-related news we are off to the mainland for a routine doctor's appointment, a visit to the Social Services office to give our international references for the adoption :), a stop at the Embassy for some passport updates, and helping our team leader and his family arrive back after being in Germany for a few months. And of course, what would a trip to Dar be without a little Wazungu fun! Wearing pants and eating bacon here we come!! *

*for clarification the wearing pants is only fun for me since Jason always wears pants...just thought he would appreciate me making sure that was understood :)

u know what rules??

having my husband back from the shamba!
He arrived back on his piki piki last night, minus some bananas and with a wicked sunburn and a shirt covered is fish blood after an impromtu all day fishing expedition with his new friends. Word traveled fast he was back and soon lots of watoto were outside peering in. I missed him so and when he returned we sat down and he told me about his trip. We talked about everything he experienced; about his fasting with his friends to show that he also follows God and that he prays to Jesus and that Jesus hears and loves us, getting woken up at 3am to eat, learning more about their faith, seeing up close the cultural practices here, getting to experience the praying 5 times a day, sharing with his friends from the Word, expressing the freedom Jason has not because he has earned it but because he knows who gives it, sleeping on a pillow that might have well been a rock (I laughed for a good 10 minutes at his acting out and description of where he slept and the fact that he had to bathe, and go to the bathroom (both haja's) about 5 inches from the mama of the house cooking..pole J!), visiting some schools, the hospital, and lots of homes, and lots of just sitting talking and being together. It was at times very discouraging, overwhelming, and difficult but overall as he shared I could see the newness, the understanding, the compassion, and the love growing in him. Awesome to hear about and I think I will force him to write up some of his experience and post it on our family blog soon. He left with many invites to return and some new stirring that maybe we can all travel back to help at a school there and to visit some of the people he met.

As he was sharing Anni was happily running around outside with her friend Fatuma playing "gather dirty rocks, and chuck them at the fence" and the ever popular "pretend to cook futari (the breaking the fast meal)". While he was sharing we were interrupted a few times by shule kids hoodi'ing and asking to use a ball to play or tattling on someone for not sharing the swing and once by one of my students who shyly came over to where I was sitting to give me a zawadi: this barua (letter) and drawing made with the crayons she got last week. It touched me so much. Jason shared about the fishing trip he had and how the next day he was so blessed by one of the fishermen. We both got misty eyed just sitting, sharing in the midst of the hum of kid commotion and the LIFE surrounding us. The experiences we have had are so changing us. It is hard to explain but these little things mean so much here. In a place where we often feel so exposed, so raw, so real. These moments of sharing, learning and growing, seeing God at work, of being part of our friend's lives, of loving each other in the daily mess of life matter.

They really matter.
fatuma's drawing.jpegedit

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

personal trainer for hire

specializing in bike riding (on her new Bday present- yeah we found one! Thanx Bibi!)...

I love that Lusi taught her to ride local style (cram as many people as possible on any mode of transport).... carpooling was invented by Africans for sure!
and Tae-Bo.....

she is pretty good, right? (she has been doing Taebo since she was a wee one)

resume & recommendations available upon request.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

a NEW beach...

anni with shungi, nungwi beach day 030.jpgedit....jump for joy!

Yeah, we go to the beach a lot. Truthfully there is not much else to do, especially with small kids. But we are learning more and more that fun and family is what you breathe into it, your attitude, your gratitude for every situation, and ultimately what you make of it! Check out this new beach we found last weekend. We spent the day there to have some fun before Jason headed out to the shamba. Mission accomplished! It was beautiful!

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low tide made for a little "baby pool" as Anni called it. This kid loves the beach...
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Evy too...although she much prefers shoving handfuls of wet sand in her mouth to swimming
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Major downer for the day was Jason getting stung by a sea urchin the first 10 minutes we were there...Ouch!! Pole sana!
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But even a stinging foot did not stop J from playing baseball with Anni
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I LOVE my girls..
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and my 2 fav pics of the day (if not ever):
anni close uo
It was NOT a nudist beach but that did not seem to concern one little girl....
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Monday, August 16, 2010

another shamba

Shamba has two meanings: the place you grow stuff or the countryside. In this case I mean the countryside as that where my hubby is for the week. He left yesterday to spend a few days in a small village with family members of a good friend here. He took his piki piki and before he left it was pretty hilarious to watch him secure his small suitcase and then a gift for the people he is staying with; a huge bunch of bananas and a bag of tomatoes from our other shamba, to the back of his bike using rope. He for sure rode local style withe everything piled high and sorta tied down! This week will be a great opportunity to practice his Kiswahili, learn a lot about life in a village, share stories and time together, and understand more about the culture especially during Ramadan. He called last night and he seems to be doing great although I know the sleeping arrangements are gonna be a little rough :) He is also fasting with his friends so in the heat that is a challenge but all good stuff. Me and the girls are keeping very busy and being looked after by our neighbors while Jason is becoming a Mshamba.
tomatoes, bruschetta, jason to shamba 014.jpgedit
Go J!
*also, 2 more days to get your guess or comment in here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

our shamba

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I am not much of a gardener. Truth be told the thought of ever having my own house with a yard scares me. It just feels so grown up...ick! But here almost everyone uses what ever land they can find to grow something and with the added motivation of NEEDING my weekly fix (ok, sometimes daily fix of Mexican something- like salsa and guacamole) I had to figure out how to grow cilantro, right?

And our new exciting news: we are actually growing stuff besides mchicha (spinach) in our shamba!! Figuring out how to grow stuff when we first arrived was so low on the priority list.....way after say....learn how to buy things at the market....and figure out how not to die by drinking unsafe water......that we had not revisited it after a few failed and half hearted attempts. Lots of things grow in our yard already; star fruits, cooking bananas, and passion fruits. But when we returned this time we came armed with seeds from everything to cantaloupe to parsley and we also tracked down some local seeds so we are giving it a whirl. Pretty adventurous for us city slickers but with the help of our Mlinzi family we are growing stuff!!! We got some fresh udongo (dirt and manure) delivered by cow cart by a friend about a month ago and after planting everything, watering it (which Anni loves), and trying to keep wadudu from eating everything we are seeing the pay-off now!!
So far we have some cucumbers, hot peppers, cilantro, and tons of basil and tomatoes.

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We have to pick them a bit unripe because the bugs love to eat them (or kids jump over the wall and swipe them!)
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and by lots I mean TONS!
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Can you guess which is the American seed & which we got locally? :)
tomatoes,fairy skirt, teaching computer to anni 001.jpgedit
Enough basil to open an Italian restaurant!!
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Today we made some ridiculous amounts of salsa and bruschetta and still had enough tomatoes to take to our neighbors. Jason commented "we are like frontiersmen! We made our own bread and we used tomatoes and basil from our shamba" Yeah, like frontiers people only we have a bread machine and help in growing everything. So, no, definitely not so hardcore :)

and we are trying some daisy seeds too...
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Yeah for our shamba!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

a trip to the hospital

Nope, not for any of us. One of my shule students fell in a big hole while helping her mom dig for clams at the beach 2 days ago. Her head was split open and bleeding pretty bad. The day it happened she missed shule and the other kids told me what had happened complete with tales of how much blood there was. I went over to ask her mother how she was and pray for her after we finished. Today we drove them to the hospital to get the stitches out and to clean the wound. I know why adults here are so hard core: because they learn to 'suck everything up' from a young age. This little girl is 7 and they did not give her any numbing meds for stitching her up or for removing the stitches. Yikes! I am a wuss and I like drugs! just saying.....
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We waited for them in the waiting area and after about a half an hour they were done. The little girl came out and her mom helped her put back on her head covering before we headed home. I told her I thought she did a good job and that she was very brave and tears welled in her eyes. Annikah hugged her, grabbed her hand, and then said in perfect Kiswahili "lakini, umependeza sana" (but you look beautiful) and then added "na mimi pia" (and me too :) The other people waiting in the hospital laughed and said what a fabulous little girl Anni is :) and in my heart I had to agree. Anni then reached in her pocket and offered the little girl some of her prized lip gloss she got in a package from a dear friend in Chicago. After Anni helped her to adequately apply shiny blueberry gloss we headed out and on the car ride home the kids taught each other the Kiswahili or English words for everything they could see. No tears, just giggles from the back seat. I get to see Annikah's heart grow and I love the view from here.

*In the interest of full disclosure*
Just to put everything in perspective after being home for 10 minutes Anni promptly walloped her sister on the head in swift retribution for touching her play phone :)

Friday, August 13, 2010


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New crayons are pretty fabulous. Especially when some kind folks from the states ship one brand spanking new box for each watoto at shule!! I wrote each student's name on one box and handed them out last thursday during school. They were so excited to have their own crayons that they can use at home to complete their homework that they could not stop smiling. They sat on our mat and pulled out each color and examined them one by one asking me about the names in English (pretty hard to explain why the name is apricot (when they do not have those here) or cadet blue but nonetheless it was the best day of shule yet! I am so humbled that so many of you have wanted to help and support our shule (some people I have never even met). We are certainily moving up from the world of a mat, a few pencils, some of Anni's toys, and a children's Bible. Although that will always be our foundation and really all we need. Everything else is just bonus! After getting several packages filled with new flashcards, construction paper, music CD's, new puzzles, and lots of crafty fabulousness one of the students said "Mama Annikah, now our school is like a real school" (in Kiswahili of course:). It is also a blessing that we prayed together to ask God to provide and He did and now we all get a front row seat to see what He is doing. I cannot wait to see what is next!! Special thanks to everyone who is supporting us (through funds, awesome school stuff, and prayers)......it means so much......we are so appreciative......just look at these faces!
getting crayons at shule 012.jpgedity new crayons ROCK!
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Asante sana everyone!!!