Thursday, May 31, 2012

saying goodbye at Pamoja

One of our going away parties was at Pamoja.  The NGO we have seen built over the last 4 years, spent lots of hours, taught, learned, held trainings and workshops, and been amazed at what God has done to grow and maintain this "little" workshop and school.  This party was planned and organized by our team leaders Hans and Doro and it was really a great party to thank us for our time and work there as well as honoring and blessing our students and staff (and Doro even managed to take great photos as well!Thanks!).  It was an important day for us as we said goodbye to our life and work on our island for now....
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girls dressed up in their new outfits made by friends and waiting for the guests to arrive
The morning started with speeches by students, staff, and mechanics
one of the teacher's Mkasi gave the sweetest speech of the day...we both cried so much when she shared what the training and help has meant to her.
listening to the kind speeches "maneno madogo" (small words)
at least I wasn't the only one crying
receiving special gifts and card (all gifts were then prompting ripped open by Miss Evy and Miss Anni)
the kids amusing themselves with a friend's was a big hit with the adults too!
then we all crowded into the English classroom (it was HOT)  to watch a slide show of our 4 years.
J and some of the guys from the workshop and one of my English students
some of the beautiful teachers from the training...I love these ladies
We said goodbye for now to our students, the teachers, and the staff at Pamoja. We came to teach there but for sure we learned more than we could have envisioned. We will miss these folks so much and we will continue to pray Pamoja grows and exists for the Glory of God and to bless the people of Zanzibar. Pamoja means togetherness in Kiswahili and that sums it up.

so is it still an "international school" if the only Mzungu leaves?

For months we have been talking about our transition.  We have tried to prepare the girls for leaving and I think in some ways talking about it with them also helped us deal with the same feelings of loss and change and excitement and pain.  We tired to help them negotiate these feelings but inevitably when you walk home from the bus stop and see your bed and toys being loaded into someone's car you freak out.  It was hard and admittedly I did not always have the patience required to talk through every issue.  It was hard for my girls to move had way across the world.  Because even though more people speak English and look like them here they have come to identify with the people on our island.
Without fail every time we talked about it Annikah asked if she really had to leave her school.  She was afraid she won't see her friends again.  She is afraid she won't make new friends here. We prayed together almost everyday about this and these prayers were offered for me too.  Because if I am honest I have the same fears.  When our departure date sped up we had to cut some things we wanted to do; go to the beach one more time, take a boat ride one more time, eat a a favorite restaurant, etc but without a doubt we knew we had to proceed with the going away party at Anni's school.  She had wanted to have this for months and we thought it would help her with closure and heck, what kid does not want to forgo school all day and play games?  I chatted with the teachers and after crying about leaving we all agreed that a party was in order.
Annikah chose Urojo for the food (a local soup that is fabulously yummy) and my best friend and neighbor agreed to shop for and cook everything even though it meant getting up at 4am that day (yes, she is amazing) and I recruited some other friends to join us and help out.  Anni was also very insistent that we have a scavenger hunt and with the help of the amazing German gals who are helping our team for a year we made a 10 stop, wild and crazy scavenger hunt of sorts that included drinking all the the water in the jugs, singing, scoring 20 goals, finding the cook of the school and telling her thank you, hugging all your teachers and saying ' I love you' and a little crazy dancing (this is Miss Anni folks).  To end the game everyone searched for a shiny box hidden in the trees to reveal their gifts (pencils and cookies). After the chaos of games and eating the teachers had a little ceremony to present Anni with her graduation from Nursery School certificate (with incorrect English which makes it even more precious).  They dressed her in a graduation gown and gave her a few gifts from her friends and after some speeches and more tears she hugged everyone and climbed into our packed car to wave goodbye.  It was an awesome morning. And end to a chapter of her life that has been different, unexpected, at times very difficult, but so rich and special.
serving up the yummy urojo and juice (my friends rock)
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it is soooooo tasty with a little coconut chutney and hot sauce
reading the first clue
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Anni's teacher reading the next clue
They searched until the found it!
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running to find the cook Fatma!
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singing some songs to get their next clue
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Our little Grad (and her ever present sidekick & cheerleader (she has 3 of those))
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saying goodbye was so hard but it was also a reminder that this school has been a huge part of our family's experience in Africa. Anni and I started to cry as we pulled away and started on the insanely bumpy road leading back to the main road.  This was a special few years of Annikah's education and we pray this school continues to bless the community and be blessed.  Through tears we joked, "The question still remains, if the only Mzungu leaves is it still an International School?" A morning well spent saying goodbye to Eden School.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I couldn't make this stuff up...

Seriously fair warning what follows completely ups our crazy meter (if that is possible?). Right now we are resting, wearing sweatshirts, drinking coffee, and enjoying the quiet instead of being at the hospital for skin grafts. Why? Because God healed Miss Evy Imani. Again. Yep, I know! I sorta feel like cussing out of pure shock and joy (I think I just might)!   Honestly I could not make this up and we were just as shocked when after wrapping a wound that looked like this ten minutes before we got on the plane island side (a wound that was still open, not healing much and had signs of eschar inside...not to mention it looked like a few slices of her toe were gone)...... Evy Burn 015.jpgedit
we unwrapped a wound that looked this this 36 hours later in Chicago... evy toe
It was like a chunk of her toe regrew in the air.  I called Jason over and he immediately joined me in my freak out.  We prayed and prayed for healing for her in Zanzibar.  Even with my mustard sized faith I believed that maybe just maybe I would open her wound the next morning to find not even a scratch.  But He did not heal her that way.  We don't know why but He chose to have us rearrange things for an early departure.  I think part of it was to protect my emotional self from prolonged and painful goodbyes.  Maybe He knew we needed to wear sweatshirts and hang out for a couple weeks without much of an agenda.  Maybe this is another lesson in my ways are not your ways.  But whatever the reasons we are so thankful that our baby will not have to go through surgery or skin grafts, at least for now.   The awesome doctor at Children's could not believe she walked away from an electrocution in Africa with just this scar!  He examined her and affirmed that it was much better than the picture he saw of just a few days prior.  The pink area is new skin and shows no signs of infection at all.  He gave us instructions on keeping it clean, closed, moist, and treated; no fun in the sand or water for Evy (no worries it is way too cold for us Africans here) and she has to wear socks all the time and come back this week to check on the progress.  He said she may have a wicked scar (but I happen to think scars are pretty know "this is where I wrestled with a lion" or "this is where I put a pic ax through my knee" (a story for another time) or in Evy's case "yep, oh that. That is where 360 volts of electricity exited my 2 year body and God miraculously saved me."  So, she is doing great and we are in awe. Again.  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

a wedding, violence, and praying for peace

Sorting through pictures of our last week island side and contrasting our lives a week ago with my life right now.  Insanity.  Today I am remembering this beautiful, colorful, crazy loud wedding. And I am praying for peace for our island that is experiencing more political violence right now you can read more about it here. But this is not just a news story to us, not just another "African problem" easily overlooked.  It is a place we care deeply about, a place where our friends and some of our family- not by blood but by love and sharing life- live and work. Streets are empty after some rioting and more police from the mainland are being called in to help.  Please pray with us for peace and His glory in this all. And to inspire you.... look at these beautiful faces celebrating a wedding last Friday, the holy day, when my neighbor's younger sister got hitched and this Mzungu was asked to be the photographer..... Last week in Zanzibar 545.jpgedit
crammed into one small sweaty room to catch a glimpse of the bride....
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bling-ed & henna-ed up
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my side kicks all afternoon
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halua..special sticky sweet treat much sought after and quickly devoured
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the groom arrives
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special rose water perfume for everyone in the growing crowd
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Rashidi watching the ladies
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beautiful colors.  I never will forget how amazing the vibrant color is here.
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nor will I ever forget these beautiful people...all of them.
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starting their new life together.....
asking for peace for our friends very far away but so close to our hearts,

Friday, May 25, 2012


Tupo (We're here). We have tasted the sweet love of family (and lettuce and lattes and hormone injected chicken).  But jet lag is no joke folks. Especially when our 2 year old pole vaults out of her pack and play and wonders around at 4am. But alas, we are readjusting or at least I think we are...whatever that means. I know I am wearing pants and using fast internet and loving it and I know I have already been to target like 3 times.  I also know I already am missing our neighbors and friends and feeling a longing for the place I have called home for four years.  A place dear to me.  A place that's cartographic existence is unknown to most people here.  These last years have so altered my life that I struggle to adequately explain just how much I have changed.  So if you ask and I just stare blankly or say nothing it is because my take aways are so vast I find it challenging to try to encapsulate them in a 2 minute tidbit. Or it could be because I still have not slept a full night. Ok, so either one but I am working on it and it helps we have so many amazing friends and family here willing to listen.
We left our island on Monday and until the minute we left we had folks at our home, crowded in the doorway watching us pack up, drinking coffee, eating oranges and rice, and sharing time together.  We celebrated a birthday I would miss, we got an early morning call to tell us a friend's wife had her baby and ran to the hospital to visit them after we had prayed she would have the baby before we left: awesome! Anni said goodbye to her friends and cried so much she had to go inside and catch her breath.   She is my daughter.  Anni and I got got a goodbye present of henna and we packed and loaded our stuff into a van borrowed from Pamoja.  A few of our friends went all the way to the airport to say goodbye and we cried (yeah, again) saying goodbye to our team leaders who are more like family after everything we have gone through together.  It was a full day.  In every sense of that word.
Once we finally checked our luggage and entered through security (I use this term loosely in Africa) we were 'on our way home.'  Only we were distinctly aware that 'home' holds different meaning to us now.  It was weird.  It was all at once a sense of deep relief and profound loss and eager excitement.  As our little plane lifted off I looked out the small, dirty windows on the plane and saw many coming days and many past days.  I watched Africa leaving me below; rusted tin roofs, cows and goats wandering, girls with broken zippers on their dresses running down windy dirt roads, people hauling their catch or produce to market, and palm trees stretching out of the vast green landscape.  There is no going back.  At least for a time and tears began to fall.  It was ok though when I looked over at Jason and realized as in many things we were together on this.   Anni and Evy yelled over and over again in Kiswahili 'goodbye Africa' unaware of just how different their lives would be now and I said a quiet prayer they would always carry this place with them.

 It is ironic that in our first year there when I could not communicate, cook, when my husband and daughter were so sick, and when I desperately wanted any excuse to get up outta there, to run, to vacate, we clearly heard God say "Stay" for our sanctification, for our good.  He was right and I am so grateful we have been able to experience everything over the last 4 years.  Over the past weeks of saying goodbye to folks here we really felt God confirm over and over that our time here was rich and special and not wasted.  Any of it.  And now when we feel more comfortable living there, when we can see ourselves staying we feel His hands gently but firmly pushing us into something new.  Where we lived we were always out of place.  Our white skin and strange ways always marked us as different.  Now we are similar to many in the crowd but we are clearly different and it is hard to fit in but not really.  It is hard to question everything I once accepted as just normal.  I think this is what you call re-entry shock.  I already have been overwhelmed trying to buy deodorant because really how can there be an entire aisle of choices?  Anni already asked me why it is so freezing cold here and after seeing some girls in short shorts she asked why people wear their chupis (underwear) to the store in America.  Try explaining that one to a girl who has only seen ankles and hands for years.    As a girlfriend and soul sister pointed out it is indeed the "land of ginormous beverages and ridiculous overkill convenience products."  Really, how did we survive without all this crap?   Oh yeah, pretty much just fine (but I do love me some custom made overpriced coffee drinks...ahhh the bipolarness of these feelings).
welcoming committee
We survived the flights and besides one piece of luggage going missing only to show up a few days later it was uneventful.  Mostly because we strictly adhere to the belief that any and all brands of parenting are permissible on continent traversing jaunts.  Jason was once overheard asking me "where is the tranquilizer gun?" but all in all we held it together pretty well and the girls enjoy traveling even if we are exhausted at the other end.  My family came to the airport and gathered us and we are now at my parent's lake house and soaking it in.  We also took Miss Evy to the doctor yesterday and I will update about her foot soon.

Yep, we are readjusting but also knowing we want to live differently than we did 4 years ago because when you see and experience what we have seen and lived the only acceptable response is a changed heart and a desire to see God's glory manifested above comfort, above convenience, and above any cultural norm.  But living that is the challenge.  One I am keenly aware can only be done resting in the Holy Spirit.  I am not sure what this all means but we know we need to rely on Him to show us what is next.  It is going to be a bumpy journey as we ask and seek because I have more questions than answers. So yeah, for other culture re-shock issues check back here in the weeks to come.....for now we love you all and are pumped to see you and hug you and be in the same-ish time zone as many of you.  So 'holla because tupo!