Some videos to brighten your Friday...They certainly made mine.
First Miss Evy dancing. She was her own wardrobe stylist which involved her chupi, Anni's head covering worn more like a belt, and a flower headband worn "West side" style.Girl has rhythm no?
Friday, March 30, 2012
Some videos to brighten your Friday...They certainly made mine.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
I should know better than to believe someone here when they say "siyo mbali" "it's not far." Because for people here who are used to walking all day in this heat it really is not that far but for the record for my Mzungu wuss self it was faaaaaarrrrrrr! Yep, really, it was my own fault as we lamented many a times while walking for almost an hour in search of a government primary school this week. Doro came along for which I am so grateful since we are better as a team and she rocks and she manages to take pictures while I am busy singing, talking, or otherwise occupied (not to mention her extra awesome-ness (it is a word hush!) in carrying Miss Evy for a spell when the loooooong walk (did I mention we walked for ever?) got to be too much for this sweat covered Mama).
Evy managed about 20 feet on her own but girlfriend was too hot. I feel you!
Once we were escorted by one of the teacher's husband who left his welding shop to rescue and lead the lost Wazungu through what can only be described as a maze of winding dirt pathways we finally arrived. And I thought I sweated back when I ran the marathon....child' play people. We had quite a reception of screaming watoto who were very pumped that we made it! It was sorta like a frenzied mob attack only with giggling and pointing. I think I now know how Angelina must feel when she is accosted by paparazzi.
We walked through the entire school until we made it to the two nursery classrooms and met the teacher and students. The teacher from the seminar was pumped we made it and we chatted a bit about her classroom and listened to the kids sing a welcome song.
have I mentioned before just how amazingly beautiful the children here are? Just in case there was any doubt...
We taught them a few new songs and just hung out for a bit including the mandatory "drink this soda and sit at special table in the head teacher's office as guest of honor." Before heading out we had to get a class picture that was framed and dropped off today to a very happy teacher and students to proudly hang in their classroom.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
J was up early to catch the morning puke ferry to Dar since his foot issues have been getting worse. We are praying he can actually get some care and answers today. After breakfast Evy and I escorted Anni Joy to her bus stop. The bus was late again but the girls enjoyed playing, chasing chickens, and finding shells and I got to chat with some neighbors. And the bus finally made it packed full of watoto chanting "Annikah, Annikah, Annikah!"
And upon further review I regretted my decision to allow the girls to draw with markers while I was in the shower.
Good morning folks.
Monday, March 26, 2012
It has been almost four years since we boarded a plane with an eighteenth month old, 10 pieces of luggage that represented all we owned that was not sold or occupying space in our parent's garages, and the weight of vast unknowns. There was hope and fear mixed in with that one step of faith for us. And if you have told me then everything that would happen over these 4 years I would have turned around and gotten my butt off that plane in New York like a sensible person. But now as I write this I can say with complete honesty with tear stained cheeks that I am so grateful I had no idea what was to come and just took that one step. It has changed everything about our future and makes our present more rich and full. I am more alive because I was forced to really see if what I said I believed was true. To really live it out even when it meant pain commingled with joy. I was not "ready" to come here, to learn to love in a way that cost me personally, to start over, and be stretched in the ways required of me but that is exactly where God wanted me. He wanted to show me personally that His power is indeed perfected in weakness. He humbled me again and again and showed me I am His child and I can trust. For me to learn these lessons I had to trade my control for chaos, my ease for discomfort, the stuff I was "good" at for the seemingly endless stuff I was clueless about, my known for the unknown. It has been a difficult journey for me but that is where I have met Jesus again and again.
I have not be able to adequately process everything that is happening but we know now for sure that change is here. That He is again calling us to trust and not desire comfort or the known (even this known) over growth and obedience. We are leaving this place we call "home." We have learned to call it home; sometimes with tears, sometimes with laughter, but always with deep respect. We are headed back to the U.S. for a season and even though there is more "known" to us there in some moments it feels like a world away.
And again I am struggling to say "yes" with my whole being.
Last night after an impromptu (isn't everything here?) play session and chat with my neighbors I escaped to the bathroom because it is one of the only places in our house everyone outside cannot hear everything we do and I cried. No wept, so hard my chest heaved and I had to concentrate on breathing. I sat on the floor and just thought about how much this place is a part of me now. The thought of not seeing the people everyday at my house makes me feel like I can't breathe. I cannot imagine not having hordes of watoto invading our house everyday, or having folks greeting me first thing in the morning, visiting friends and schools, or sitting with women cooking, kid wrangling and listening to them sharing the stuff of life. I cannot imagine not being a part of this place everyday because my life here it is not a list of what has been good and what has been difficult because I think for my wussy, pampered self the hard list would win out hands down. It is the totality of my experience of learning to trust more, have more faith, believe in miracles because I get to see them, and see scripture come to life in ways I never have before.
This journey has allowed me to let go of a lot of stuff that was crowding the space in my soul that only Jesus can fill. Obvious, I guess, is the physical stuff. I just realized we do not need a lot that I thought one needs to be happy. Of course we still have a lot compared with most people here or most people in the world if we are being honest (computer, fridge, car puts me in the top 1% of the world's wealthiest) so I completely admit I have no material poverty to speak from but the constant obsession with "upgrading" and getting more that plagued me stateside just becomes so apparently unnecessary and frankly really ugly here. And my greed is just plain stupid when compared to the riches God has for me in obedience. I really believe that Jesus did not command us to give only because there are people in need; as He himself said there will always be, but because it releases us from bondage. I have learned to be more content with what we have, not what I wish I had, or what someone else has, or what I cannot have but just what we have at the moment. This is a constant lesson though that I am sure will be tested again and again in the land of consumerism. Even though I have never suffered like Paul I can now identify with more of what he wrote " I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Phil 4:11-13. We can only be content in plenty or in want when we rely on His strength and not our own.
"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ" Often quoted but what I missed before was what precedes these words; a long list of accomplishments, things to be proud of, titles, basically a list of things that would be pretty impressive. But he counts it all as nothing. What would be on my list? yours? Material wealth, success at mothering, degrees, stuff, work, "religious" good deeds? And yet I long to say I really count it all as garbage compared to my Savior. Even life is nothing in comparison to living and finishing the task Jesus has given us. Do I really count my very life as nothing? Easy to quote difficult to live. This place has given me new perspective on what really matters. Our stuff lays hold of us and fights for our allegiance, it can hold us back from being who He created us to be, and I am fighting to count it all as nothing in comparison.
My time here has also helped me realize how much we add to the cross of following Jesus that is religion and culture and not really what He Spoke and what He Did and who He Was and what He Commanded. We add so much that I think sometimes we actually forget to just listen to Him and read His Word. We read books, listen to experts, and have endless discussions. We stuff the "follow Jesus" backpack full of "you should do this" or "say this" or "look like this" and by the way "dress like this." Living outside of my culture forced me to re-evaluate and get back to what the scripture actually says. I am no expert and still wrestling to understand the vastness of His Word. Countless times I was confronted with something here and had to ask "what does the Word say about that?" Not "what did my pastor say about that?" or "what do I think it says about that?" but reading the actual Words of God. That is available to us and I used to use it far too infrequently before I became desperate to read it and know what it says. Jesus was not American or even Western and He spoke harshly against some of the dearest held values of our modern society. He had tremendous power but chose to be humble, to even appear weak to some. He freely laid down His rights for the future plan and Glory of His Father. We pack so much of our own crap into His message that we forget who He really is and what He really said. We make Jesus easier to swallow for us and harder for others to understand that He loves dearly. We make Him resemble us, our style, our likes, even our prejudices. We also lighten the load of the cross by shying away from hardship, running from suffering clearly promised. I am seeking to understand more of the mystery and asking for the courage to respond to the Truth. And I have learned He can handle all our fear and doubt if we come with it. He is bigger than our plans, our budgets, our ministries, our plans, and our ideas of worship. And He does not fit neatly into our lives. He came for all people everywhere so that all may have peace and a relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth. And as His follower I have fear and trembling and love and passion as I bring that message, and I pray only that message.
These lessons have been really painful for me. They have forced me to really examine what I believe and who I am and how I live and I come up short every single day. But there is Grace. Grace I have been forced to live in because of my short comings and failures. Living in your strengths is easy but venturing out to the unknown has meant being laughed at, being wounded, being afraid and all the while begging for more of His presence. Needing it and seeking it and getting to see just how big He is and just how small I am. And here is the amazing part; with the clearing away I found more joy, more contentment, more compassion, and more faith. Clinging to our lives is easy because it is what we know. But He has called us to more and promised "If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it." Being here has helped me find my life.
I just want to be broke and broken except this ONE thing that changes everything.
Once I wiped away the tears and willed my breathing back to normal I was reminded that that was how we came here- we said 'YES' to coming but really had no clue what that would look like and even though walking in reality right now is painful I know He is working through it. Yes, change is looming and creeping in, just over the horizon and in some moments I feel peace and trust and faith and in some I feel terrified and doubtful and uncertain of everything. I have huge hopes, unanswered questions, complete confidence, shaky weakness, trembling excitement, and I want to have greater expectancy of what He will show me. Because I can remember what He has done.
So even though my foot is shaking and my palms are sweating I will breathe in freedom and life and take this one step, not knowing what is beyond because I can trust He will give me peace and not peace as the world gives. He has done it before and He will again. Whatever comes next I must trust it will be for my good and His Glory and above all I know He will be there. Change is coming but my Constant is always here.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Today was not at all what I thought it would be but since I am reminded about "doing all things without complaining or arguing" I will just recount the good parts. Maybe with just a little whining because for reals there was no power all day and it was HOT up in here and with no fans you feel every degree of the 110 heat index.
Jason left in the wees hours for a fishing expedition so us girls were left to our own devices. And that means toe nail painting and because the temp inside was around 3,000 with humidity we figured the only sane thing was a pool date with friends. We got a bit rained out but opted for allowing the kids to run freely in the lobby successfully annoying every tourist in the vicinity. There may or may not have been a "opps Mama poo poo" accident involving Miss Evy Imani. Luckily I always carry extra chupis in my purse.
We headed home in hopes the power had returned and Evy could get a much needed nap in giving me time to relax and read. But foiled again and no power meant no nap for Evy who instead of resting repeatedly lobbed items from her pack-n-play while screaming "MAMA!" in a kind of shrill and angry squeal. Can't really blame a sister...I can't sleep without fans either. After admitting defeat and greeting at least 5 women who came by since with no power our house became the hot spot for all your water drawing needs I was sweating profusely and we decided it was necessary to head into town to hit up our favorite smoothie place only to find it closed due to the power outage. We then walked another 10 minutes over to an ice cream place only to discover they had no ice cream (but were open...hmmm). You see I was really trying to have a positive attitude but my resolve was fading fast at that point. We opted for a warm milkshake and a water because darn it we had come all the way there and were not leaving until we got ourselves something! But enjoying our warm milkshake with friends who were also escaping the heat of their home made it all worth it. I am so grateful for those moments connecting and being understood.
Then we got word that our fisherman J was returning from his day on the ocean so we headed home and ate the leftovers in the fridge that were quickly warming past the point of no return. Room temperature leftover rice is not so bad with a little taco seasoning and hot sauce...FYI. Soon Jason; my manly man, came home; sweaty, sun burnt, smelling of the sea, and carrying half of this dude....
Wicked teeth right? He caught him himself and we heartily congratulated him on his hardcore-ness. We fixed a fire, grilled fish dude up, gave some away to very happy neighbors, and called it a night.
And the power came back and I remembered sometimes the difficulties here make the moments of calm and ease so much easier to be grateful for.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Annikah's school "bus" broke down yesterday meaning she was over 2 hours late in coming home from school and I was more than a bit freaked out. She, however; arrived home bursting to tell me of all the fun she had with her classmates while they waited for said busted bus to be fixed.
Kid's perspective: "cool, we get to sing and play with dirt and run amok"
Adult perspective: "my kid is in a horrible accident AHHHHHHHHH"
Deep breathing and praying were necessary.
Combined with Jason's all day treasure hunting expedition yesterday (seriously, he needs to write up this expereince- crazy!) this Mama was worn out today so Anni is playing hooky until they sort out the transport problem at her school. This combined with a rainy morning made for a perfect day for us girls to get our make-overs on. Anni is the stylist for Evy and after applying make-up (where rules about eye shadow being for the eyelids and blush being for the cheeks do not apply at all) there was a fashion show.
We opt for the creative flair y'all. Happy Friday!
Thursday, March 22, 2012
She came to our house three times before I was actually there to speak with her. It must have been a crazy week but that day she came at around 6pm just when I was feeding the girls and about to hose them down for the day and get them ready for bed. I heard the "hoodi" and summoned my energy and respectfully greeted her as my elder, then welcomed her to sit on our front porch. Our girls along with other kids from the neighborhood were running amok around us, sharing the one precious and highly sought after bicycle and laughing and requesting intervention when someone was not up for sharing the two swings. She asked me how my family was and then said she had to discuss something with me. She needed to learn more English but does not have the time or money to attend school right now and she asked if I could teach her. I have often had this request since arriving here and immediately started formulating in my mind the reasons; very good ones I might add, that this was just not possible. I have two small kids, I am already teaching 45 kids in the neighborhood and working. I started in with my list, all of which she understood and agreed that indeed I was too busy. I excused myself for a minute to comfort Evy who had fallen down and to fetch banana muffins for us to share. As I walked in the kitchen I offered a quick prayer and immediately felt as if I had been punched in the spiritual gut. Seriously the only way I can describe it. It took my breath away and I sensed that there was more He wanted to do in this situation. What is it Lord? What am I missing?
I patched up Evy and returned and we ate cake and talked about the happenings in the neighborhood. Just before dark she left I told her I would pray about it and if I heard anything from Him I would call her back. We exchanged numbers and said goodbye until we would see each other again, inshallah.
I went back in the house with this heaviness that there was more. More that I was missing but truthfully I just did not want to do anything else. Without me saying a word Jason asked who had come and what it was about and said the whole time I was talking to her he had a real sense there was something that He was calling me to in that situation. I froze. I could not believe it. Jason heard something too. Because mostly Jason encourages me; and it is needed, to reduce the amount of things I am involved in here because after ten years of marriage he knows my tendency to stretch myself thin and thus not be very good at anything. He affirmed that God was speaking to me, to us, and we needed to discern and proceed with fear and trembling and with confidence and hope. We took the next several weeks to pray and ask Him what was next. After all the timing does not really "make sense" to start anything new. Again and again He confirmed to us that there was more to this.
So a month ago I started teaching women English at my home each Wednesday night after work is finished for the day the chores are done. Soon it became clear who should be there and those invited were happy to come along to study, talk, learn, and hear His Word. Most days I am exhausted and drenched in sweat and barely holding it together by the time they arrive at our gate; most a few minutes late due to prayer time, but as I was reminded again last night it is a special time. We share, learn, and continue to build friendships. The first night I spoke all in Kiswahili to be certain everyone understood that I want to help them learn because God spoke to my heart and asked me to help women reach their goals but that we would not tolerate any gossip at all in our group. I promised to shut it down immediately if I heard anyone making fun of anyone else's ability or lack there of. This was a popular idea since many women here never even begin to try because they are often talked about in the neighborhood and feel shame about never having studied. Among the 10 women that attend there are those who never had any formal education past nursery school and those who finished all formal education here and work for the government. Doro offered to join us to offer support, prayer, and to learn more Kiswahili for which I am very grateful. So the 12 of us give or take a couple each week meet together and sit on a mat in our home to practice and learn English, to laugh at ourselves when we make mistakes (we laugh a lot), to eat cakes, and to retell a story each week from God's Word. The highlight is getting to see the women act out the story and the motions they chose for different words. It is just us ladies and a few nursing and tired babes and I am excited and expectant as to how He will continue to speak and bless and challenge and show His love to all of us.
God speaks. Right Now, If we only take the time to listen. I am not very good at listening but I am seeking to humble myself (not easy for a girl who tends to depend on herself a lot). And I am learning to hear His voice more in the everyday and it is not because I am a good person or special it is because of who He is and because I have a desperate need to hear Him.
Asking for more courage to listen and respond,
Monday, March 19, 2012
These last few weeks have been busy with more school visits. I never know what to expect in going into a school; will the school have few resources, none or lots? Will I actually find it (yep, gotten lost a few times- easy for my directional challenged self especially when directions include "the school down the dirt road past where they tie up goats, next to the mango tree and guy who sells cell phones")? Will they want me to mostly observe or teach for the entire day (happened a few times)? How can we be a blessing while never suggesting my ways are always better? How can I truly listen and encourage their hearts as they teach?
In my opinion teachers everywhere are almost always overworked, underpaid, under appreciated, and expected to perform miracles. I know because I was there and if you disagree I dare you to try it for a year (this goes back to my idea that Jason thinks would totally work...my own version of The Apprentice/Survivor but under funded school version....throw everyone in an overcrowded, underfunded classroom , no need to say "you're fired" because most folks would quit and see who survives...now, I would soooo watch that).
The teachers that we have built relationships with are working hard and want to grow in their skills and it is a blessing to me to get to help them realize more of their goals for their classrooms. And the best way to do that is to go to them, on their turf, meeting their students, congratulating them on their progress, seeing their perspective, and listening to their ideas. It has been time well spent for sure.
At this nursery school the first thing I noticed was that there was an office full of stuff but nothing in the classrooms. The teachers explained they cannot hang anything on the walls or leave anything in the classrooms because the doors do not lock and people sneak in at night and rip or steal everything they put up. Seriously, they do not have functional doors. I listened to the teachers and we discussed ways they wanted to improve their school and before leaving I asked if I could pray for them and ask God to bless this school and their response was "Yes!" These four women are really trying with the limited support and resources available. They cook for the children, clean the school, teach, and get paid less per month than most folks I know spend on a dinner out. We are planning a community meeting to gather support from the neighborhood and trying to raise funds for 4 new doors and proper locks. Two of them are my former English students and I love them dearly. Evy and I taught some songs on our first visit and later we heard them singing loudly showing off their new skills.
Evy was invited to stay and entertained the idea until all 40 kids rushed at her at once to give her a hug. Maybe next time....
Last week Evy and I headed out to Anni's school to check in on the teachers, sing a few songs, and join in on game time. Of course we were invited to stay for snack time and we never turn down free food....
After snack time all the kids brush their teeth. Seems like a brilliant idea if you ask me since "snack time" is mostly spent guzzling sugary tea and eating greasy fries and chapati.
The next day we went to a nursery school in town.
The teachers there have been amazingly resourceful in decorating every classroom. And ducks and chickens DO live with you here so they are perfect examples of "domestic" animals in case you were wondering....
These pictures make me smile. I love that they look like the people here...great artwork by the teachers....well done!
teachers leading the watoto in some songs they learned at the Teacher Seminar and we got to learn some great new Kiswahili ones!
Gift giving culture means lots of treats every time we visit. Evy was given the following in one morning: pototoe balls, chips, 6 peices of candy (once out of another child's mouth), cookies, boiled cassava, and a bottle of soda. I did manage to turn down the soda on her behalf but she was too quick in acceptiong and devouring her other zawadi. Girl likes visiting schools. Me too.
Friday, March 16, 2012
I am feeling all around funky and not in the groovy sort of way.
First, I pouted a bit and then was generally crabby and irritable all while I ingested excessive amounts of salt and inordinate oodles of caffeine as per my usual coping stratgies. When all that failed ( I know I'm shocked too) I decided maybe I need to actually pray and quiet myself.
There are changes looming friends. Big shifts and new seasons and more starting over and I think I am not "handling" it well. I actually do not know what "having it together" would look like anyway so why even shoot for that right? I was reminded this morning that what He calls us to is not easy just worth it. And He is there every step of the way- before me and in me and with me. I am still working through my emotions (not easy since there are so many of them crowded in there) but it is good to know I can trust.
So in lieu of any real divulging for now let's just say that this picture makes me really happy.
Sooo my girls. Happy Friday y'all.
Feeling all nostalgic today. In my defense it was brought on by the request of a friend to see a picture from my wedding and after searching on the computer for one Jason scanned in a while back I got sucked into the pictures we took the first summer we had a digital camera. Yes, I am old enough to remember "back in the day" when we had to actually develop our pictures to see them (and we also walked to school uphill..both ways..... in case you are wondering). I was clicking through these pictures of a younger, pre-Mama version of myself. Thoughts and memories flooded my mind. It is good to look back and remember. I thought back to being 20 something and I had distinct feeling settle in me that I am glad I am here not there again. Not that there was bad, at all. I loved and cherished those experiences but I would not go back. Sure I would love a weekend getaway with just my man but I would never trade the insecurities I felt then for the peace I feel now. I am much more comfortable in my skin; even if that skin is a bit stretched and dimply. A good reminder that experiencing all of life's challenges and peaks has been blessing and taught me how to have joy in my everyday.
I was trashing talking my fashion choices to Jason until I realized I was doing so while wearing a scarf on my head and an all- you-can-eat dress. Touche.
but seriously I used to think this was a good look...
but I still think we look pretty smashing on our big day. My friend agreed although she did not get why I was not wearing green.
Ah, memories....here is to cherishing them and making more everyday worth remembering.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
guess who won?
At least he is ok although I do not dig having my husband come home late covered in blood... "ah, Rox, can you help clean this for me?" He was coming home from a night meeting with some friends and after taking a turn on a dusty road his piki piki slid out from under him. He scraped his arm up pretty good (hence blood and dirt necessitating clean up) but the real bummer has been pain and swelling in his foot. He went to the local hospital and got an x-ray and they said it is not broken (yeah!) but beyond that they really can not say much. This week we are trying some dawa ya mti shamba (herbal medicine, or literally medicine from trees) that involves bizari (a kind of tumeric) and salt mixed with water and heated. Our neighbors insist we try it since they swear it helps inflammation and swelling. I was willing to try since a few months ago I had a nasty cold that would not go away until I drank a disgusting but apparently awesome blend of leaves and juices. It totally helped! J's brew seems to be helping with the pain too. I paint it on his foot and dude looks crazy for the rest of the day after he washes it off because his skin is bright yellow!
J laughed that for once I was daktari to him since I patch up the whole neighbor (or at least it feels like that some days). The girls calls this dawa mixture "poo poo for Papa" and we all think that is pretty hilarious.
So we are going local tree meds up in here and praying his foot fully recovers quickly!
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
homeboy looks scared and innocent but he is the one terrozing us up in here and eatin' up all our dried food goods. And I can handle some bugs in my beans. Heck, I am even a good sport when it comes to cockroaches in the rice bag but when you mess with our mac-n-cheese from the U.S. you sign your own warrant: dead mouse walking. He will now have to defend himself against the cats that roam outside. And we are not talking over-fed Western cats that lay in the sun all day licking themselves. Nope, these are hard core scruffy not-eaten-a-proper-meal-in-weeks African cats. Sorry lil' dude, but that is how it has gotta be.
Consider all panya warned: don't mess with the Wazungu.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
1. early morning birthday goodies for a best friend
2. the little girl that kicked measles butt
3. fisherman's morning catch
4. after school cooking party
5. impromptu craft club at our house
6. original Lent picture by Miss Anni Joy entitles "The lamb of God and a rainbow" Seriously.
7. dressed up & off to visit a new baby girl born 4 days ago
8. the girls could not resist holding her...me neither!
9. big bad gang of jump rope girls
10. Mtundu (Yep, I'll say it again)