Friday, September 30, 2011

6 hour trip and why everything is negotiable here...

We are back from a 6 hour trip to Dar. In short: Took early ferry. Puked. Again. Same story there. Walked to the office of Social services and big surprise our social worker AND the commissioner were both out of the office. We told the woman working in the office we would wait for them to return and we hunkered down and prepped for some epic waiting as if often the case here. Amazingly we had convinced some fabulous friends to watch the girls for the day so we could wait without entertaining kids in the dark and narrow hallway where we have spent many an hour waiting, praying, reading, being frustrated, and learning to trust. That was a good idea y'all. We were among many folks also waiting for their chance and there was no room for us both so I sat on a broken chair at the end of the long hallway while Jason sat just outside the office making sure it was known "We are still here!" We both started praying that the commissioner would return despite what we had been told (appointments just do not happen here and he was supposedly gone for a long time at a meeting). But within 20 minutes he appeared! Ever been shocked God answered your prayer so exactly? We were! And thankful.

After some more waiting as the folks on the seats next to us slowly went in one by one it was our turn. He remembered us and we explained why we had come. We were able to offer a solution to the issue that is preventing us from adopting due to the recent law change. We are open to getting dual residency or possibly moving to Dar for a time and he seemed favorable to that although he still thought of some other objections that might creep up now. He is very cautious because as we have learned the last commissioner was known for shady deals and not doing his job so this commissioner is afraid of bending the rules or sticking his neck out even when maybe he should. But I respect that he wants to do his job well and does care about the children. He promised to contact the ministry's lawyer and ask the needed questions and get back to us which may or may not happen. We will need to follow up and wait again.
But what I want to share is this: God was there in that meeting. We were able to be honest and offer what we felt we were willing to do to allow the adoption to continue and we did not have to lie or mislead him at all as some have advised we do to make the problem "go away." We shared our heart with him and said we really feel God wants us to adopt and so we want to follow up and understand if this is no longer possible here as it may affect our ability to stay. We felt peace that we had taken the small step we felt Him leading us to and now we wait and pray and rely on Him in whatever is next. If I am honest I float between moments of complete certainty and trust and moments of weepy-ness and feeling overwhelmed with doubt that this could all work out somehow. It is still insane to me how difficult this process is when there are thousands of orphans that need homes. I started to cry reading an email from an orphanage director this morning begging someone to take a little boy she might have to turn away because even the not so great orphanages are full. Begging for people willing to take him and love him. I want to scream "We are!!" but for now the answer is wait. Doing what He wants is rarely easy and I have learned that and know that even though there is heartbreak, waiting, difficulty there is also joy and abundance. I must trust that He has a good purpose for this all. I will trust in that amidst the waiting and uncertainty. God's plan is for good even when I struggle to see it.

And now for something much less serious but too good to forget.....
After our meeting and grabbing lunch we walked to a clinic where I heard there was an orthodontist! Short back story necessary to appreciate this story.....a few months back my permanent lower retainer that was holding my formerly scary rows of shark teeth in place since getting my braces off came loose on one side and after a couple days of cutting my mouth whenever I ate I hacked the thing off with a razor. Not the best option I know but an option for one who lives in the absence of all things dental care. Over the last few months I have noticed the shift and my devious teeth wanting to go back to their former shark teeth glory (or lack there of). A dentist here advised me that there is ONE orthodontist from India in Tanzania and I could get an appointment with her. Score! We arrived early for the appointment and within 20 minutes I had a new lower retainer. Over the phone I had asked the price and after being told 690,000 shillings (about 500 bucks) I asked if there was anyway to lower the price and she said no problem and lowered the fee to 250,000 shillings (the fee for aid workers and poor folks). Still a bit pricey but nothing compared to getting braces again if I ignore the problem (and remember the shark teeth...seriously, not pretty!). When it came time to pay we realized that after paying for lunch we were short fund-age and Jason was going to run to an ATM but when he asked the nurse she said the ATM's were pretty far and instead asked exactly how much we had. We counted every shilling and came up with 170,000 to which she replied "ok, pay 150,000 shillings." Seriously, I love this place. EVERYTHING is negotiable! Even a retainer! We used our last 20,000 shillings to get a taxi to the airport to head home. The flight was 30 minutes from taking off and as we sat in traffic we could not help laughing as our driver said with God's help we will make it. We agreed and laughed about how much we have changed in 3 years. That situation would have made me worry, sweat, and cry probably in that order a few years back but we have learned to live "inshallah" for sure. It is really the only way to maintain sanity. In the end we arrived 3 minutes before the take-off time and even though everyone was already on board we talked them into letting us run to the plane on the runway, jump on, and we made it! We touched down 25 minutes later on our island and started walking home (since we had not 1 shilling to our name at this point) until Jason greeted a man walking to his car and asked for a lift home. He happily agreed and we arrived home a few minutes later. Awesome.

So I am reminded there are so many things I love about this place. Thanks for everyone who sent a note, prayed, and thought of us...more to come on this journey.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

lazy afternoons

Just because we have no official shule around here for a few weeks does not mean the kids stay away. They climb over the wall, pound on the gate, and sneak in when the door is open but only when Jason is at Pamoja teaching because as the neighborhood kids know "Baba Annikah hapendi kelele" (Anni's Papa does not like noise) and noise is what they bring folks....

I teach English in the mornings now which is sooooo much better for my sanity so we have some lazy afternoons at home these days. I am thinking about starting up Shule ya Imani again at least once a week since everyone is saying they will forget all we have learned but I must say I am enjoying these afternoons of just hanging out with the folks in the neighborhood. No school it gives us more time to just play and laugh and pick fruit and climb trees and catch bugs and jump in dirty water in our chupis (ok, well not me to be sure as I am pretty sure that would negate the whole reason I wear a head covering...I just giggled and took pics). But after dumping out a few buckets of water a party broke out. It was messy but fabulous! See....
watoto wa shule, playing at our house, bug 028.jpgedit
watoto wa shule, playing at our house, bug 018.jpgedit
watoto wa shule, playing at our house, bug 004.jpgedit
I love these watoto!

Monday, September 26, 2011

the latest on adoption

We were promised adoption would not be easy. And we believed it but in a way you believe something you have never lived. Like for example; "marriage takes commitment and work" or "raising kids is hard." We smiled and agreed and figured we would have it covered when the time came. Confession: I do not have it covered (marriage, raising kids, adoption...please check all of the above). The latest problem has us at a seemingly closed door and I am wrecked about it. It has been difficult for me to process how I feel about it all. But after some shock, time, prayer, and talking through it with J I also have peace that He is in control and although I have no idea what is next I can trust the One who knows. I guess that makes no sense that I can feel wrecked while simultaneously feeling peace but that is the only way to describe my current emotional state. J and I fasted and prayed together about this and He so clearly spoke to both of us that "yes, adoption is part of our journey" but that we were not to "lie" or force something through in this situation (which has been reccommended to us) even if that would mean we could help an orphan here. That in what can be a grey area we are still called to walk in the light. God is calling us to adoption, we both feel that, but whether or not that means here is now completely out of our hands and it could change a lot about our future. The details are many and the answers are few but at this point please pray for us. For clarity. For more trusting in Him. For us to embrace this trial instead of run from it. For us to here clearly, discern, and obey. It has already meant some heartbreak and I sense for sure there is more to come but God can handle it all. I often hear people quote that "He heals the brokenhearted" without really thinking that to be healed means first your heart must be broken. And the breaking part is painful. He gave us this desire to adopt and this dream bring a child into our family and He will fulfill it in His timing. We are just called to follow one step at a time. Tomorrow we take the step He is calling us to right now.

Tomorrow we will take the early ferry to Dar and hope we can meet with the commissioner and our social worker to try to understand just what this new law (that has now been officially passed) means for us living on this island and our adoption journey.

I read in Oswald Chambers.."Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you exactly what He is going to do; He reveals to you WHO He is."
So, more unknowns, more waiting and more relying on Him. We are full of hope and expectancy as to how He will use this to draw us closer and to demonstrate who He is.

Friday, September 23, 2011

just chill....

How easily I succumb to being "stressed out," to worrying, or being anxious. And as promised it has never added a single hour to my life. If I really think about how stress manifests in my life it is actually the opposite of trust. Jesus calls us to more faith because we are His. Valued. Loved. zoo, kids from shule playing 004.jpgedit

I'm trying to take a cue from Miss Evy Imani and just chill today....and if you find yourself spinning wheels going nowhere, worrying without peace, or coping instead of thriving join me and remember He is worthy of more of our life, more of our faith, and will bring us more of the peace only He is capable of. Happy Friday friends!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

shule news

I started teaching English for grown folk at Pamoja again and thus Shule ya Imani is on a break much to the dismay of many little watoto who have been known to sneak in our gate daily and ask repeatedly "Mama Annikah, shule kesho?" (school tomorrow?). I am such a sucker for these little kids I tell you! Becuase I miss them and the chaos they bring I will reminisce by posting some pics of our party for Ramadan and passing their tests! We had some games, singing, and cupcakes to celebrate Miss Anni's Bday of course. Why is it on party days every student plus any other kids in a 1 mile radius show up EARLY!??! We have fun y'all!
shule party for Eid, anni's bday 001.jpgedit
game time...there was no mercy for the balloon popping game...seriously I was a afraid for my life:)
shule party for Eid, anni's bday 008.jpgedit
shule party for Eid, anni's bday 021.jpgedit
Happy Bday to Anni!
shule party for Eid, anni's bday 026.jpgedit
showing off their gifts
shule party for Eid, anni's bday 032.jpgedit
we have had some rockin' guests...and we LOVE guests people (hint: come visit...seriously try to resist these faces..I dare you!).....
Shule with Ginger 015.jpgedit
check it of my students came to school wearing this dress!! Nice fabric...ILL....INI!!
amina pic, u of I fabric 002.jpgedit

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

wonder where that is going....

Even after living here 3 years I still am caught off guard by some of the things that pass by on the backs of bikes....yikes!!

Monday, September 19, 2011


the girls and I found a great new little place in town that serves up a mean coconut, banana, and mango smoothie! Plus, they have yummy spiced coffee that makes this Mama happy! Woo-hoo!! We get pumped about fun new places!

Hmmm.....I wonder where she gets this face?
girls day in Ngunwi, evy and anni and door 021.jpgedit
Oh Yeah.....her sister.
girls day in Ngunwi, evy and anni and door 022.jpgedit
yep, us girls live it up.
girls day in Ngunwi, evy and anni and door 023.jpgedit

the artist continued...

anni's 5th barbie island party 016.jpgedit
I have always written about Miss Annikah Joy's artist tendencies and even when her flare for color and art took to the walls of the joint I simple know the ...kid...must....paint! There was an event a few weeks back in town sponsored by a bookstore where a group of local artists gathered to share their skills and show of their amazing creations. Guests were then invited to add to the "wall" by painting scenes of people. The theme was "everyday people" and Anni quickly planned her masterpiece and got to work painting. Evy, Papa, and I cheered her on (and made some hand prints in paint...well Miss Evy that is)....check it out...I think she did a pretty amazing job!
anni's 5th barbie island party 005.jpgedit

planning her painting
anni's 5th barbie island party 012.jpgedit
anni's 5th barbie island party 022.jpgedit
her finished masterpiece..."Mama, our neighbor, Papa with his pants, and me by the ocean and the grass"

Sunday, September 18, 2011


After many prayers services and much visiting to share sorrow and grief today I am thankful for reminders of life and laughter.
kids in rain after ferry sinking 003.jpgedit

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


The people here are very stoic and tears in front of others are always met with "mombea dua. Usilie yamaza kimya" (pray a special prayer, don't cry and be quiet). I heard that or something similar at least 20 times yesterday at the Khitma (prayer service) for my student.

There were probably close to 300 women there (the men were all at the mosque near by) and among the bright kangas, smoking incense, and chanting there was profound sadness and wondering and at the same time an acceptance of it all. Before the praying began everyone took seats on the mats laid outside the family's home, answered phone calls, and whispered among themselves about the latest news about the ferry some families lost as many as 32 bribes were paid to allow the ship to continue making runs because it did not past bodies are now washing up in Tanga... how most of the people that died were women and God does not make mistakes and we must accept this. I prayed a lot during the hours I spent sitting on that mat with some of my students and neighbors. I had lots of time since I did not understand the Arabic prayers being recited. About an hour into praying my student next to me started to shake and sob and her tears were met with other women slapping her on the arm or back and telling her to pray and not cry. Not because they do not also feel grief but because the culture dictates that they must not cry. I held her hand and as tears also filled my eyes I told her God hears her cries. And I knew in that moment He did. I know He does. It filled me with peace in the midst of pain I cannot understand nor fix. He hears their cries. He even keeps the tears. This verse has always comforted me as I am known for my tendency to cry in any and all circumstances. I would not survive long had I been born in this culture since I have been known to cry even at well placed music swelling during a commercial. But it does not only comfort me because of my own basket-case inclinations but because to really know, to feel, to wrap my small understanding of God around this thought brings a warm blanket of peace over me. He collects the tears. He remembers and is deeply involved when we feel pain or joy. I read some commentary on this verse and it said that:
" It is possible, and, indeed, it seems probable, that there is an allusion in this verse to the custom of collecting tears shed in a time of calamity and sorrow, and preserving them in a small bottle or “lachrymatory,” as a memorial of the grief."
We are the created beings but yet in His wisdom He saw fit to know us each personally and hear our grief. After the service we stood in line to greet his mother and sister and as soon as I saw them again I started crying. I tried to comfort them in broken Kiswahili. I pray they felt loved by everyone gathering to mourn Mohammed. Even Jesus cried when his friend died. He has suffered so we can bring our pain to Him. And in death there can be victory. I am praying for healing and love to flow from a tragedy and people here to know they are deeply loved.

It has been raining all day and night here today for the first time in months. It feels to me like even God is crying. Cleansing. Mourning. Remembering.
mohd pic

Sunday, September 11, 2011


means tragedy.

We still know very little. We received our first text about this tragedy at around 3am Saturday morning. A boat was going down and could we pray. We heard news first thing in the morning that the ferry did sink and many people were dead or missing. Many people were saved as well.
I was away at the coast and first heard that one of my English students Mohammed was on the ferry but he was among those saved and ok. Then a call came this morning that he had died and was burried in the middle of the night to meet the dominant's religions ordinances regarding burial. I am now going to be with his family. To try to love them, just be with them, to cry, to mourn, and maybe even offer hope in an impossible situation. When another student called me he said "tumefiwa" meaning we have been bereaved or we have lost because we all have been affected by this and that is how it feels. There are few here that don't know someone that died or was on that boat between our two small islands.
For now I have little to say, only prayers to offer as my heart is further wrecked for the people here. For their hardships and their sufferings. And I am further learning to trust and feel profound loss. I am leaning into His ways even when I do not understand them.

Jason wrote this this morning:

As the world mourns 10 years since 9/11, the people of our island have been dealt their own tragedy. Many of you have probably not heard of the tragedy that struck us yesterday. An overloaded passenger ferry, traveling from Unguja (our island) to Pemba (sister island) capsized and sank around 1-3 AM. The boat may have had over 1000 people on board (registered to carry only 600).

As of now, it seems that near 600 people have survived and been rescued (miraculous due to the timing and extreme lack of rescue equipment and infrastructure), but over 240 have been confirmed dead, and that number will only rise (some think it could top out around 500) as many are likely still trapped in the hull of the ship.

This has had a profound impact on these islands, as there is nearly no one that has not been impacted by someone that has died or was on the ship. Shock, despair, anger, sadness, grief. Many woke up this morning never to see their loved ones again. It looks as though one of Roxanne's English students is among those that lost his life. Tragically, the ship was full of children and students celebrating Eid here on Unguja and heading back home. Numbers seem to indicate that 90% of those that died were women or children.

more here and here and here and here

We have an amazing opportunity to pray for God's love, comfort, and blessings to flow from tragedy. We are praying that God would meet them in their need, and that love would be shown to them and that they would have peace. We believe God speaks to people in their distress. Please join us in praying and standing in the gap for them in the days ahead. Pray for God to provide opportunities for us to share hope and truth and comfort and peace into their lives. Please pray we would seek where we can help in practical ways to show how God provides. Some children have also lost parents and are now orphaned - pray for God to provide for them via relatives, or perhaps even to open the hearts of the government to allow us to adopt one? We believe God wants to do big and beautiful things through this tragic event. We appreciate your partnership as we seek to further His kingdom.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Evy Imani has a favorite location in town. It is a coffee house that we happen to love as well but Evy is very well known there and shameless in her quest for treats. Let me explain how things go down.....we walk in and as soon as she hears the women that work there greet us she starts kicking me to get untied from my back (her usual walking in town locale). She then proceeds to run to the women and give kisses, ask to be picked up, and answers all their Kiswahili questions with affirming grunts and then puts her little hand out to request food. And it always works. Her shameful begging for treats results in cookies, small chocolate brownies, and many women snuggling and lovin' on her shameless self. Girl knows how to work it for sure and she is spoiled every time.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The 5th Barbie Birthday Bash...island style!

anni in barbie dress
Last night we through Anni's Barbie Island Princess party! And it was so fun! And it ended a very busy week (although still one more party at shule tomorrow). Jason commented earlier in the day as cake preparation, crafts planning, wardrobe decisions, and decorations were being finalized that he was not sure who was more excited: me or Annikah! Confession: I love throwing kid's parties. I love seeing Anni get so excited she asks everyday "how many more days til the party?" And on the day "how many more minutes?" I love the challenge of throwing a party with minimal expenses & resources but lots fabulous-ness! I remember as a kid not being able to sleep the day before a party or a field trip because you are THAT pumped. I want to give our children that feeling of being special, loved, and celebrated because they are. But I want them to always know it is not about "the stuff" it is about being together, being creative, celebrating, and thanking God. Ok, and eating. It was a special party!

We had friends over and the kids enjoyed crafts, reading a story together, a scavenger hunt ending with a little tree climbing to get the treasure from our backyard, singing, birthday cake, special prayer time, and presents (some sent all the way from the states- thanks to Bibis').

The Barbie in the cake was sorta a disaster as the icing did not hold up well to the heat and I made the fateful decision to not add butter since we do not like the way the butter here tastes. Thus, the Barbie in the cake looked more like me most days: a girl melting in the heat. Sigh. That and I had very few of the "needed" pans, ingredients, and recommended kitchen fancies to make it work. But Annikah loved it nonetheless and that made it the best cake ever. She could see through the mess and did not miss the joy of having a special cake made just for her. And it tasted great so we all happily devoured melting Barbie's dress despite her bedraggled appearance! I think the highlight was Anni's wardrobe change halfway through the party. After the scavenger hunt we all came in for cake and Miss Anni transformed from "Island Ro" to "Princess Rosella" (totally her idea) as in the story. The first outfit was leftover fabric wrapped and tied with some flowers from outside. The second dress made by a local fundi was just stinkin' awesome and for about 5 bucks we could swing it (seriously...anyone out there want specially made and designed princess dresses from here?:)) and thanks to a friend here I found real peacock feathers we fashioned to the back! She looked as sweet as she is. Our big 5 year old girl...
anni's 5th barbie island party 053.jpgedit
me & "Island Rho" after she was shipwrecked on a tropical island waiting for the guests to arrive
anni's 5th barbie island party 059.jpgedit
craft time
bday collage
party favors for everyone in coconut shells, clues for the games, and said pathetic cake
the scavenger hunt included everyone crossing the "ocean" with the help of 2 dolphins
...painting shells to decorate the castle, gathering fruit, and mixing special "tonic" to save the animals (trust me it is all in the story:)
blowing out the candles on Mama's sad but yummy attempt at a Barbie cake
anni's 5th barbie island party 082.jpgedit
how fun is opening presents?
anni's 5th barbie island party 087.jpgedit
Happy Barbie Island Princess Party to Anni Joy!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

more Eid fun..

siku kuu with Idi 007.jpgedit
The last day of Eid was yesterday and we partied. Hard. And we are tired. Exhausted but blessed. We spent time with friends, ate pilau and cakes for every meal, visited, and went to the parties in town. The celebration in town is a crush of people in brightly colored new clothes celebrating, buying new cheap Chinese import toys set out on mats along the road, eating goodies like octopus, fries, urojo soup (yum!), sweets, kids playing, and everyone vying for very few spots to sit. It is complete chaos AND it is the place to be.
siku kuu with Idi 001.jpgedit

Evy makes a friend
siku kuu with Idi 015.jpgedit
and then decides she wants to take a bath...with an audience of course!
siku kuu with Idi 027.jpgedit
lunch with dear friends...
siku kuu with Idi 029.jpgedit
at the festival in town..
waiting in line for the slide
except this little girl who got many passes from women who thought her Mzungu self was adorable and lifted her up over and over again
Eid 2011 was a good one folks.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

siku kuu 101

Eid Mubarak!! It is Eid y'all.....endless eating, cakes and sweets wrapped in newspaper and brought around to all your friends and neighbors, wearing new clothes, celebrating, eating (did I already mention that?) sharing and visiting...oh the visiting.... here is a little taste of Eid on our island....
The day started with breakfast in bed for one Miss Anni Joy who turned 5!!! (Party to come after the chaos cools)
Eid siku 1 002.jpgedit
many watoto coming to show off new clothes and shamelessly beg for candy and money (a totally acceptable thing on siku kuu) and I am a sucker for these faces...
Eid siku 1 020.jpgedit
Eid siku 1 023.jpgedit
henna is a must for all ladies....
henna 005.jpgedit
then there is epic baking...this year I decided this island was ready for chocolate chip cookies...we shall see.....
baking for eid.jpgedit
all these gifts brought by and it is only 10 am!!!
Eid siku 1 063.jpgedit
wrap up baked goods and dress in your Eid best....
Eid siku 1 058.jpgedit
first stop our Baba & Mama of the island...they had to see "their grandchildren"
Eid siku 1 036.jpgedit
A friend gave Evy this little get up and she loved sporting the bling. Anni's new dress did not quite make the dala dala trip back to our house by the time we left but she decided to spiff up her outfit with the shungi. We never ask the girls the wear head coverings but they love the attention they get (not to mention the coins and candy....Anni is rich!) Oh, the fancy of it all....but it lasted about 15 minutes :)
Eid siku 1 056.jpgedit
all dressed up and still chasing chickens...
Eid siku 1 051.jpgedit
ahhh.... the dirt.....
Eid siku 1 060.jpgedit
being together and celebrating friendship...and eating
Eid siku 1 071.jpgedit
off to see more friends (with a quick stop off at home for reloading our mkoba with more sweets & gifts & because Anni's dress made it!)
Eid siku 1 079.jpgedit
pretty fancy huh?
Eid siku 1 091.jpgEDIT
but no matter how fancy the dress the girls cannot bear to stay clean for too long....
Eid siku 1 089.jpgEDIT
friends are eveywhere and digging in the dirt is too hard to resist...
Eid siku 1 068.jpgedit
and the grown folk sit and talk and eat (again) for a long while....
Eid siku 1 100.jpgEDIT
time to head back..but we run into another friend who invites us to his is siku kuu how can we refuse?
Eid siku 1 108.jpgEDIT
plus, they have ducks & chickens...that keeps 2 tired girls busy while we visit...getting dark and everyone is heading out to party in town so we say our goodbyes and thank yous and blessings...
Eid siku 1 110.jpgedit
we stop off at home first because a friend is waiting to visit and exchange gifts...we all hang out a while and then Anni and Papa head into town on the piki piki for some more partying. Evy and I hang back with my friend. What a day...3 more like this one to go!
Eid Mubarak!!