Showing posts with label daily life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label daily life. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Crossing Cultures

Who would have guessed that moving to Tanzania and back again was only the beginning of my international life?
In the Amsterdam airport, on my way to Kenya for the first time, in college, 2005
Chacos on my feet, camera in my backpack... I was off to capture the world (and learn a ton along the way!)
I never. Ever. EVER planned on or even conceived of meeting and marrying a Korean. Ever. Especially after living and teaching Kids from around the world in East Africa for four years! But God has a sense of timing, wisdom, and humour that I have yet to figure out.

And so, while I was once worried about coming back to the States and to no one who could understand my weird Christian world-perspective or grieve and rejoice with me about events around the world, I've found my life to be anything but. And while cross-cultural marriage has its challenges (much less than expected, to be honest, in the case of these two crazy world-travelers!!!), the perks of joining with another international for life, and of having an incredible multicultural community in part because of it, makes my life richer and more thankful. Who knew I would have the chance with my husband to touch and shine light in the lives of people from every continent* around the world without setting foot outside of good ol' Dutchland, West Michigan?

I get to tutor kids from overseas and whose parents are internationals. I think missionary and third culture kids are some of the coolest kids out there. We're surrounded by cross-cultural marriages in our church and at our dinner table. 

Who would have guessed our wedding party would have people representing every continent* without even realizing?

Our wedding 'guestmap' :)
And then there are the (completely regular) days when I sit at our dinner table as the only "American," among a Korean, a French man, and an Egyptian straight in from overseas. Or with a Korean, Bulgarian, a Nepelese man, and a Malaysian. 

Notice the continuing Korean theme? Yep, this guy's pretty much my favorite. :)

Picture taken by Samara, budding photographer, age 10.
I've tried more new foods since returning from the Land of Tanz than I did while there. I know what celebratory Chinese New Moon cakes taste like, what traditional red bean tteok treats look like for Korean thanksgiving, and that Bulgarians make the best cheesy bread and salad on the planet. I know that Malaysia knows how to make some seriously cute wall-hangings of monkeys for the upcoming Chinese New Year's "Year of the Monkey," that Koreans say "Kimchi!" instead of "Cheese!" when taking pictures, and that little girls from Bulgaria, Iran, Mexico, Uganda, and Australia all equally love to sing the "Let it go" song with the same exuberant gusto and sweeping elaborate gestures as their American counterparts.

There are the days when I connect with dear-to-my-heart missionary friends from the Land of Tanz and my heat aches for the people I got to serve with there. I still want my kids to grow up overseas, if even for a short time, and I wish the country we live in wasn't so bent on individualism that we'd get excited for a neighbor willing to trade ingredients and share household items when needed.

But I have no doubt that this is where I'm supposed to be. That God's crazy, out-of-this-world plans were established for me long long ago, and that they are better than I could ever have imagined. And so we set out on our knees with prayers for wisdom, grace for ourselves and each other, and a lot of thankfulness each day as we cross cultures in our home and beyond... and know that none of these opportunities, connections, or relationships would be possible without Him.

*(minus Antarctica, of course!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


I’m always amazed at what I take for granted… until I don’t have it.

In Tanzania, it was often electricity. Hot water (for a shower). Or clean water, even (the kind you’d be willing to use for a shower, not the kind you’d actually drink).
Picture from: Lyndy Henrickson

While I’m still amazed at the ability to get hot, clean (drinkable even!) water out of our shower faucet, and doubt I’ll take that for granted any time soon… most recently, I’ve been even reminded of some even more basic elements of life we take for granted.

Over Christmas, I got a stomach bug – the kind that won’t even let you drink a few sips of water without quickly ejecting them. I was beyond thirsty (although the kind nurse at urgent care didn’t think I was dehydrated, thanks to ever great-looking veins), and was at the desperate point of wanting to quench my thirst. I meditated on the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31) in a very real way, and understood the desire (in some small way) to get a single drop of water from someone’s finger into my mouth to help appease my need for fluid. So I got creative. If I couldn’t actually DRINK the water, I could at least put it in my mouth, right? Enter scene left: me standing in the bathroom pouring water into my mouth, holding it, spitting it out, and starting over again. It wasn’t quite relief, but it was certainly a good start until the anti-nausea meds kicked in and I could keep something down!

More recently (this week, in fact), a cold coupled with teaching Sunday School brought me to the point not just a head-cold, but no voice. While I’ve had students choose to “lose” the use of their voice – or leg – or arms – during Special Needs day in my classroom at school (to understand a tiny bit of what having a disability feels like - often with humorous and thought-provoking results), I don’t think I’ve actually ever lost my own voice to the point of a whisper.
And wow, has it been humbling. When handing off a package to a friend, I couldn’t properly (in my mind) explain why it had taken longer than expected to get them what they needed. And although I’m by nature a listener, I’ve realized in the last few days just how much I try to defend myself through words when I feel I’ve been wronged or judged… often with my husband (who is, in all reality, just trying to be helpful and loving). But when even whispering requires extra effort, and I have to choose between defending myself or sharing my thoughts on something else a little later? Suddenly priorities kick in and I’m just thankful for the few words I might be able to share about my day.

And so, in good ol’ Holland, MI, I’m reminded yet again in ways I didn’t expect of how to be thankful for what I have. Whether electricity, heat in our home, or a voice to ask questions over my ever-working smartphone… I am more than grateful for what I’ve been given. Especially for the people around me who love on and care for me even when I’m not as thankful as I should be!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Across the Miles

A few of my most-favourite moments here in Tanzania have been spent facing a computer screen, skyping with someone across the ocean.
Things like...
  • Learning that I was going to be an aunt
  • Worshiping weekly with an amazing family in the States over Skype in English 
  • Joining a friend’s newly-adopted kids at the table for their breakfast (my dinner)
  • Playing hide-and-seek via an ipad with a 2-yr-old friend and her sisters in Kalamazoo.
  • Seeing a kids' church group raise over $500 for the learning center here in Musoma, gather amazing supplies, and pie their leader in the face on our behalf.
These kids (and their leaders) ROCK!!!
  • Answering questions (at 2:30am my time) from kids about the weather (is it like Mexico?), whether I have elephants in my yard, and why I have guards outside my house.
  • Being prayed over by great friends and feeling equipped for the next week by prayers across the miles.
I don’t say this meaning that I haven’t had amazing moments here in Tanzania. I've tried to fill a blog with all the moments I treasure with people here, both with Tanzanians and amazing teammates from other countries - and have only begun to scratch the surface. But the support/encouragement of people over skype and being included in life events from afar has made being here all the things I’ve missed (by being here) more doable – and encouraged me immensely along the way when I felt alone, or when everything here was overwhelming. So I thought I'd share just a bit of what I've learned over the past 5 years for the next person headed this way.

(Just A Few) Ways to Encourage Your Friends on the Mission Field

  • Send them invitations to events like weddings. Even if you know they won’t be able to attend, it makes all the difference in the world. (A huge thanks goes out to the amazing people who did this for me.)
  • Send Christmas cards. It doesn’t matter if they arrive in February – they’ll still love and treasure every one, hang your picture up on their wall to look at the next three years... and smile. 
  • When you get a newsletter emailed to your inbox, take a second, read it, and then write back. Even just a sentence or two. If you’re praying for them, tell them. Write your prayer out in an email. If you liked something in particular or want to learn more, they’d love to know!
  • Find out if your missionary has a wish list. Skim it every now and again.
  • Ask for information that you can share on their behalf with your church, small group, Bible Study, etc. If they’re going to miss missions Sunday at your church, ask how you can represent them in their absence. They'll be honored to be remembered.
  • Decorate a pillow case (or table cloth, or blanket if they live someplace cold) with verses, prayers, outlines of hands, pictures, etc using sharpies and send it to them. Have your kids work with you on the design. Your missionary, young or old, can fall asleep each night being reminded of God’s Truth and that people believe in and support and love them.
This case (and others) are hardly readable after all the love they've received the last two years!
  • If you haven’t heard from them for a while, ask why. Chances are that’s when they need your prayers more than ever.
  • Share your prayer requests. Some of my dearest encouragers have been those who have shared their needs with me too. Being able to “live life” together and pray from across the miles makes fellowship all the sweeter… and allows missionaries to feel comfortable truly sharing what’s going on knowing it’s a two-way street.
And with thanks to FB, I just came across a site that has a few more ideas of how to encourage missionaries HERE for your reading pleasure... :)

Friday, February 14, 2014

How to Treat Sickness in Musoma in 8 Easy Steps

I wrote this back in December from my own (not-serious) experiences, and have since watched many teammates go through the same (sometimes scary) process. Sickness here in Musoma is always prevalent and ends up being a huge frustration as well as a roadblock in getting the work done we’ve come to do. Would you pray this next month especially for good health for everyone on our team – parents and kids, expats and Tanzanians included?

How to Treat Sickness in Musoma in 8 Easy Steps
1. Recognize and keep track of your symptoms. Talk to others on team (this can get interesting depending on symptoms – try to avoid these conversations over dinner!) to see if they have ideas or similar experiences.
2. If thought wise, go get tested at one of the two local clinics. Or, if you want, go to both. Take the diagnosis with a grain of salt.
3. Call the health liaisons in your organization for recommendations on treatment. Get everyone and anyone’s perspective, look up things online, check the Where There Is No Doctor book, and self-diagnose as best you can figure out.
4. Look for treatment that is NOT made in Dar es Salaam, Uganda, or anywhere in East Africa. Even better if you can find a brand that you recognize.
5. Treat.
6. If symptoms persist, talk to teammates again. Use prior experiences as a judge and re-self-diagnose, including the clinic, liaisons, online articles, and books in the process.
7. Consider whether the situation is critical enough to bus/drive 4 hours to Mwanza for more reliable testing, or 10 hours for Western-ish style healthcare and better meds in Nairobi, remembering that Med-Evac can't land in Musoma at night.
8. Repeat process as many times as necessary till you’re feeling mostly back to what seems normal. Thank God for the innumerous ways He’s provided along the way.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thoughts from Summer

In case you haven't caught on yet, I use writing as a way to process life... faith... whatever happens to be happening around me. Not to say I haven't had anything to process the past couple of months - I just haven't had a chance to post it!

This summer I wrote a series of "journals" as I transitioned and traveled, took classes, saw old friends and made new, and came back to Musoma exhaustedly trying to finish my masters courses. They're unpolished, unedited, and admittedly way too long... but I thought the chronology as I transitioned time zones, continents, cultures, and oh so many other things provided a bit of perspective of my summer 2013.

24 June 2013 - Nairobi, nearing the airport...

Things that still amaze me when I leave East Africa:
  • The concept of drinking out of the faucet – I balk every time and have to tell myself it’s ok…
  • Not super-washing and super-drying every piece of fruit and veggies…
  • Eating salad.  Every meal.  Every day. 
  • Cereal!!!
  • Strawberries.
  • Cold weather.  (I seriously should have packed more warm clothes!!!)
  • English. Church. Sunsets at 10pm, instead of the usual equatorial 6:30…

27 June 2013 Transitioning to Germany

It never ceases to amaze me… this trouble with transition.

I tend to think, somehow, that I should be good at this by now.  But then, I move someplace else (maybe moving isn’t quite right – but after this past year, I consider anything over a couple of weeks a move), and hit that moment when I hate everything and can’t figure out what’s wrong with me… then realize that yep, I’m normal.  And that this too shall pass, though perhaps not quite soon enough.

Another continent, another country, another culture.  As much as I love traveling (and I do, honest!) and realize the amazing opportunities that God is letting me live out, sometimes I wish for… consistency.  Normalcy.  Non-change-ability.  And then I remember.  That Book that I follow, that good God I lean on not enough but more and more every day… He never promised consistency.  Or comfort.  Or security, or sameness.  EVER. 

But after sitting through another day of class on the exposition of Romans?  I remember that He DOES promise me the seal of adoption.  Freedom from fear, love that knows no bounds.  Inheritance, glorious inheritance with a deposit of His Spirit in my life in the meantime.  And for this, I am grateful.

Because I’m certain that having a house in one place wouldn’t promise me an eternal inheritance.  And it certainly wouldn’t guarantee adding to the number of those who have this knowledge and faith and belief in East Africa through the Word of God in their language either. 

And so yes, I wish I knew every language on earth.  I wish the Tower of Babel never happened, and that I could sit down and have real conversations with people I meet.  I wish that I wasn’t “alone” on this journey, that transition didn’t always mean all new faces, that I would learn to trust more and worry less.  I wish a lot of things.

But more than that, I wish for the time when no one would need to tell his neighbor about the Lord, because they would already know.  When every tear was caught, every word held close to a heart that cared, and that we’d GET this and understand it and live it and be it.

I wish…

I wish for the life I have.

28 June 2013 More thoughts on Germany during class (ahem!)

That moment when…
  • You realize there are a certain set of words you should know in every language.  Even before “please” and “thank you” come a more critical set of vocabulary: “toilette,” “dame,” and “mann.”
  • You remember why introducing the world to stropwaffles is a very good thing. 
  • You pull a tank top out of your suitcase, and your housemate rightly comments, “Wait, that used to be WHITE?”  Oh, Tanzania.  Apparently my clothes don’t look quite as good as I thought when compared to the outside world!
  • Amazing joy collides with sadness in hearing my niece has been safely born – half a world away.
  • You wonder why you decided taking classes was a good idea on top of everything else!
  • You meet up with people who think having guards at a school is normal, and say things like, “Of course you'd never stop and stay in the case of a car accident..."

14 July 2013 Finishing classes in Germany and getting ready to travel to London to visit friends and study

How to know you’ve been living in international environments:
  • You realize the reason you can’t find a shampoo that works well is that you need a different kind depending on what continent you’re living on – and have valid proof of this from the past three years.
  • You get excited for things like being able to open your mouth in the shower and breath normally.
  • You stock up on cadburry chocolate whenever you have a chance, and ask someone to drive you to a neighboring German town where they sell little bags of chocolate chips.  (The driver wanted some too!)
  • You get REALLY excited when you realize you’re actually in a country where you can read the signs – in your own language.  It feels a bit spoiling!
  • You have sim (cell phone) cards for multiple locations and are glad whatsapp works for all of them.
  • You have every phone number entered into your cell with country codes added so they’ll work no matter where you’re on earth you’re calling from.
  • You stay at someone’s house with no top sheet and nod, realizing that’s pretty normal “in this area…”
  • You think it’s weird that you can throw away all trash into the same bin in London, and look for the gelbesack to put your containers into…
  • You hear someone mention that they can tell if someone’s from Italy or France based on the way they dress.  And you start wondering… where would someone say I’m from based on clothing??
  • You think things like, “I’ll already be on the continent… I may as well layover in…”
  • You know what amazing products are cheap in various parts of the world, and seriously think it’d be worth going to said places to get the cheap prices – and visit the people you know there, of course!
  • You get weirded out by drinking tap water, and consistently remind yourself that if the fruits and vegetables still have water on them after washing, they’re still safe to eat. 
  • You find yourself moving from a question on how you dry your clothes in Tanzania to a description of mango flies…
  • You realize that discussions of health-related issues are way more natural and normal around the dinner table – even with people you’ve met recently – then perhaps they should be!
  • You regularly carry self-test kits and meds for malaria and other common East African diseases whenever you travel.
  • You plan to get extras of meds when in Nairobi (10 hours from home) because 1. They’re cheap, and 2. They’re better quality (and more available!) than in Tanzania
  • You lament at your keyboard’s lack of British Pounds and Euros key options for working out travel budgets.
  • You have your picture file sorted by continent, then country, then city…
  • You are constantly using your currency converter, and are adept at calculating at least three country currencies in your head.
  • You’re adept at using both British and American English terms in your classes interchangeably… and after using a British term (which is most natural), you quickly add the translated version for your lone American student…
  • You give your students an example of the importance of standard measurements: “When I was living in Tanzania, and my brother was in America, and he was getting married in Colombia… I could send my measurements to America AND Colombia and they were the same on all three continents!” 

21 July 2013 Church in Bristol
Worshipping today in a church in England with an Australian pastor and new friends from around the world made me feel at home.  I wouldn’t often say that new situations feel comfortable, but this one certainly did.  I could worship, be myself, not think about how I was coming across or how a message was going to be perceived culturally.  It was in English.  I was a guest.  And oh, did I realize how much I missed just being in God’s presence letting my heart cry out to Him!

1 August 2013 Leaving London

I sit looking around a room I’ve called home for the past three weeks in London, at bags I still need to pack and weigh and hope they make the cut…
     at the latest cable (wire) I finally got that still doesn’t let me skype on my computer properly…
     at the two pair of sunglasses I finally purchased today after a hard search, in two sunglasses cases so hopefully this time they’ll survive in the Land of Tanz…
     at the LTPro (London transport) app on my phone I won’t need after tomorrow early…

and I remember what it means to have everything change.  again.

     Tonight is the last time in a long while I’ll take a shower and breathe through my mouth, willingly allowing drops of water to enter my body without fear of infection.

     Tonight I eat my last Subway sandwich and cookie (white chocolate macadamia nut, of course!)

     Tonight I stare outside one last time at the light filtering through the window at 9pm.

By tomorrow evening, I’ll be in Nairobi, on my way to Musomaland.  I’ll slowly switch out of my western clothes, my western mindset, my western way…

I’ve learned a lot along the way. 
   Things like – how much influence Britain really has on the Land of Tanz. 
   Things like – American credit cards – even new ones – don’t have chips in them that allow them to work at most British shops.  (Credit card discrimination, my friend announced, and I tend to agree…)
  • I’ve learned that British lemonade has fizz.  Every time. 
  • where Ziplock bags and  surge protector/adapters can be purchased (key items on any missionary’s shopping list!)
  • That it really does get sunny and hot in London.  Sometimes. 
  • To relish every shower where I can leave my mouth open.
  • To relish every consistent shower.
  • To relish premade foods.
  • To relish the times I get in the places where I am… and to look forward to the next thing while softly mourning what’s done and gone...

4 August 2013 (in the Mayfield Guesthouse in Nairobi, Kenya)

Affects of Transition:
  • Dreaming you can convert between F and C quickly without a second thought.
  • Waking up completely confused where you are
  • Speaking the wrong language in the wrong country – always.
  • Putting every new phone number into your phone using the country code, so it’s viable no matter what country or continent you want to use your phone from
  • Meeting people you love from the country you just came from as they head back there from where you’re going… randomly in a guest house…
  • Being thrilled when people get whatsapp so you can keep in personal touch (not FB) with them – for free.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Drinking Water

There are times that I forget that the "Musoma-norm" isn't what the rest of the world would think is normal.  And by saying that, I realize I'm referring to the Western world... and that the greater majority of the world would think my life here is pretty grand!  After all, my story of getting water to drink begins with a faucet with running water inside my home, and not with a bucket carried overhead to and from Lake Victoria a ways away... and uses helpful devices that many people simply don't have access to!

After studying in Germany this summer, and finally getting over my fear of drinking water directly from the tap while there, I thought it'd be a good time to share a bit of my every-few-days "how to get clean, cold drinking water" routine with all of you!  When your water could easily come out of the faucet looking a bit like this...

you think twice about drinking water straight from the tap anywhere!

Step 1: Get water.  (As previously stated, this could be from a variety of sources, but since we have indoor plumbing, it looks a bit like this!)
Just don't fill it TOO full - you still have to lift it afterwards!  And not break the not-so-sturdy sink...
Water-storage container on the right for when water is out serves double as a continuation of our dishes to-be-washed counter-space...
Step 2: Put said water into sand filter.
Yep, just dump it in.  I love when things are simple, even if they are time consuming...

The sand filters out a lot of the big stuff - which we're more than ok with!  Just be sure to use a different bucket for collection so as not to contaminate the freshly sand-filtered water...
Wait for water to go through the system and new bucket to fill up.

Step 3: Take bucket back indoors, and use a smaller container to scoop it into a Katadyn filter above your head.  

Fill it up, and let it sit for several hours till it filters through from top to bottom.

Step 4: Collect filtered water into water bottles for use.  Make sure several are on hand for when water is scarce...
...and don't forget to turn off the tap before the bottles overflow!

Step 5: If desired, put water into fridge and let chill.

Step 6: Fill up desired container and enjoy some refreshment!

...just be sure to start the process a day or so before
you're ready for your cold drink, or you'll be waiting for a while!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

You Know You've Been Traveling A Lot When...

A few thoughts since getting "home" to Musomaland after all my travels this summer...
  • You get messages from close friends that start with, "I don't know where you might be in the world right now, but..."
  • Seeing the word "transition" - even in a writing-a-paper-context - makes you cringe...
  • The word "visa" really DOES make you think of something you put in a passport...
  • You realize your (brand new) credit card is pretty much unusable in England because of it's lack of a smartchip...
  • Getting on a plane for 8 hours is as normal as getting in a car for a road trip... except you don't have to worry about bringing snacks!
    My regular super-unhealthy-but-keeps-me-awake roadtrip food of choice in the States.
    Road trip snacks look a lot bit different here in Tanzania... :)
  • in your phone has a country code already added in, so it's usable from whatever country you might happen to be calling from...
  • You have long, well-informed conversations with friends about your most-favourite airport in the world and why...
  • You veto your friend's idea of a travel-themed journal because traveling more is the LAST thing you want to think about or do!
  • You recognize the importance of Subway cookies in your life... And make sure to take advantage of their existence in any country you enter (same goes for berries... And good ice cream...)
    Strawberries and Cherries?  YES please!!!
  • You appreciate Whatsapp mucho (an app that lets you text around the world for free) so you can be in regular contact with amazing close friends in other countries and those fitting the same description down-the-road. And because it's your source of new-niece pictures from Florida!!!
  • You accidentally use Swahili in text conversations with friends from the States, and when you try to correct yourself with English, they let you know they remembered the translation from last time you accidentally used it!
  • You think, "Someday, I'll live in one place for long enough to buy a decorative bowl and have a place to keep it!" then again, maybe moving often is good for my accumulative nature... ;)
    Germany.  With a guy just behind the counter making them by hand.
    Oh, I would have loved to bring one of these home...
  • You make decisions on size and model of guitar based on travel plans for the next several years (got it 5 yrs ago... It's concert-sized for a reason!)
  • You know the name of Walmart-owned chains on at least three continents
  • Your little Bible is your primary one - the one you use always. (And that had to be duct-taped to continue it's longevity...) Study Bibles are great, but too heavy to carry on airplanes and buses and ferries and... and... and around the world!
    Big thanks to my friends in MI who made the duct tape job look professional! 
    Never could have done this myself!
  • You're not surprised when the people you'd hoped to meet up with in England happen to be in the guesthouse in Nairobi heading back to England from Zambia as you travel back to Musoma... Meeting up with random people unexpectedly isn't all that unexpected. Just God! :)
  • You pray. A lot. And expect God to show up big time. And aren't surprised to see when He does!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Back to a Place Where...

I've arrived safely back in Musoma, Tanzania after a crazy summer of travels and studying.  After making it through the Nairobi airport safely Friday, and a loooonnng bus ride down Monday, I'm settling into my "new" house as I finish up papers from my masters and prepare to teach some great kiddos in a few weeks!

It's been awhile since I've left and returned to the same location.  It was kind of a good feeling this time, knowing that despite having a new place to live (no more guano falling from the ceiling!), the people would be the same.  And for that, I am extraordinarily grateful.

So here are a few of my thoughts as I "return" back to a place (or, at least people) that is starting to feel a lot like home.

Back to a Place Where...
- dirt piles, dirt roads, and dust clouds announce your arrival
- chickens cluck beneath windows and roosters announce dawn with gusto
- closed-mouth showers and filtered-water regimens reign
- mosquito nets hang overhead and zappers lay on bedside action packers
- limited Swahili gets pulled out, and laughter at mistakes is always the right choice

- dust accumulates at exponential rates
- skirts and gauchos are the daily norm, and sweatshirts/jumpers are a luxury
- made-from-scratch meals ARE the menu
- group facebook posts excitedly announce when broccoli and lettuce are available at market
- fingers call out “mzungu” faces amidst the beautiful Tanzanian tapestry

- detailed conversations of tropical diseases are more than normal over dinner with friends
- hug-ful send offs and jumping-up-and-down-screaming welcome backs from kids aren’t rare
- “transition” is normal, and yet seriously understood, accounted for, and accepted

- palm trees thrive and ripe banana bunches fall behind your house
- rain is actually appreciated instead of bemoaned
- hedges of bamboo are serious landscaping options
- fresh pineapple is cheap and oh so sweet

- a small package of German chocolate chips is frozen and savored
- the most basic gifts (a scented candle, sticky notes) bring abundant joy
- even old “new” music is exciting
- dinner at student’s houses is normal
- parents of kids are Bible Study buddies, prayer partners, neighbors, support group, encouragers…
- friends are family and family is your support
- the people make this place feel like "home"

Sunday, July 7, 2013

So THAT is white...

In case you missed it, I'm currently in Germany studying for my masters for a few weeks (in English, mind you!).  The past year has flown past - I can hardly believe I've been in Tanzania for over a year before flying out for classes!  Anyway... I had a few items on my list of things I wanted to purchase in Europe this summer before heading back to Tanzania.  Things like a new Skype headset, sunglasses (mine have all broken), and maybe a few choice food items I can't get in the Land of Tanz.

Clothing was really not one of them.

You see, I have a lot of clothes.  Clothes that work really, really well in East Africa.  They might be a couple few years old, or gently well-loved, but they’re still in really great mostly decent shape.  And they still look nice, and I get compliments on them quite a lot (yes, from other missionaries… but hey! I trusted their judgment!)

But then, I hit Germany.  And I realized.

I realized as I pulled a shirt out of my suitcase and one of my housemates proclaimed, “Wait, that used to be WHITE!?”  I realized as I put on my one and only fleece jacket and all the zippers started falling off or refusing to zip.  I realized as I put on socks that have stretched out (thanks to hand-washing in rivers and no dryers)... put on shirts that are way too big (after my recent amoeba weight-loss plan)... and as I took another look at the clothes in my suitcase compared to those of people around me.

And I realized… a shopping trip might just be in order.

The idea of clothes shopping actually sounds like a lot of fun, I must say.  If you ignore the fact that I'm totally confused at this point on exchange rates and don't where to get the best deals on a budget... set aside the fact that I don't understand European sizes... and forget that I don't have ANY vocabulary, much less for clothing, in German or Swiss-German.  Praying I can get some good deals along the way - and hopefully, a few pieces of clothing that are a bit warmer for cold-weather places like Germany and Nairobi!  Just thankful for a roommate or two who are excited to accompany me on yet another new adventure... :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Life in Countdowns

A lot has been happening lately in life, at school, and everywhere else.  I'm thankful for God's grace and help in abundance, but some days are definitely easier than others!  Lately, in an effort to continue to look on the bright side while I've been sick, when life is crazy and the hats to wear are many, I’ve started realizing that countdowns are helping me to focus on the happy little things along the way and make it through to the next "exciting" landmark!

So, here is my life in countdowns, with an explanation of why they rank countdown-status.  :)

-4 DAYS since I got my hair cut! 
With wazungu (white people) being the serious minority here in Musomaland, there aren’t a lot any options for hair stylists who are able or willing to cut our hair.  So when one comes to visit from America, under the guise of wanting to visit her best friend that lives here… we flock from miles kilometers around!  Can’t tell you how much we ALL looked forward to this day… so I'll let someone else tell you instead!
 11 DAYS till we move!
Yes, I know our new house will have it’s own set of frustrations and inconveniences.  But seeing as I don’t know what these are yet, and that I do know my current situation, I’m free to dream!  Looking forward to no more bat poop on the floor and on my bed every evening… a (hopefully) better shower… no more driving on the pot-hole-ridden road between our house and the school… and being a whole lot closer to town and fabulous people!
23 DAYS (inc weekends) till Lake Victoria Learning Center gets out!
Not that I don’t love teaching… don’t get me wrong.  And I LOVE teaching these fabulous kiddos!  But it’s been a crazy year of multiple transitions, and I’m feeling ready to start fresh once again…
31 DAYS till I fly to Germany!
I’m sure I’ll be in culture shock again.  But at least this time I have an idea of what I’m headed into.  I’ll have just packed up all my things.  But at least this time I’ll know where I’m coming back to.  And I actually know my roommates, and can look forward to swimming, walking around and blending in, hot showers, and a great little ice cream place where you can mix the most fun flavors ever!
41ish DAYS till I become an aunt! 
Ok, can’t say much about this that’s not already obvious – I’m pretty excited and wish I could be in Florida to meet my new niece right away instead of sitting in masters classes for sure!
53 DAYS until I get to London! 
Yes, I’ll be doing all my post-coursework Masters assignments, so it won’t be vaca per se.  But I’m REALLY looking forward to visiting a dear friend or two… and I’m excited for a bit of refreshment time, whatever that looks like! 
(I could really use some good recommendations of what to do in London and the surrounding areas, if you have ideas, since my previous times in London have numbered hours between cross-continental flights!)
And… that’s about as far as I’ve gotten.  I’d say that’s pretty good for now.  Sometime after all this I’ll make my way back to Nairobi, take a bus to Musoma, start getting ready for the upcoming semester… and start helping to teach a whole new crop of MKs! 

Taking it one day at a time... and joyfully counting down along the way! :)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Daily Drives... and Ducks

I recently saw a photo on FaceBook showing someone's creativity in expressing their displeasure of potholes somewhere in South Africa.  It was cute.  Really.  I considered (for a brief moment) the idea of doing the same thing here in Musoma... but I couldn't imagine where I'd find the rubber duckies, the cage just seemed like too much work... and it seemed the real ducks in our potholes would probably prefer I leave the water to them!
Picture from FB and
My roommate and I live a bit out of the main town, so driving into work during rainy season is always a fun challenge depending on how much it's rained the night before.  Unfortunately, the video below doesn't show the real LIVE ducks we often dodge on our way into town... but this gives you a bit of a perspective of what the start of my daily drive looks like here in Musoma, Tanzania.  This is the worst section for sure... and the video is really long, so feel free to cut off whenever you get tired, bored, or start feeling carsick!

*Special video credits go to my phone for taking this semi-decent video, a gob of blutack (kind of like poster putty) which held my phone on my windshield for recording purposes, and of course Rascal Flatts for their cover of an applicable song.  (Come to find out, there really aren't that many songs out there about driving... just in case you were wondering!)

(P.S. We are moving into town in 26 days, and my roommate and I are just a bit excited for the move!  Less petrol consumption, not to mention less wear-and-tear on the car, will be more than welcome.  As a friend recently said, some people count numbers of sleeps till big events;  I tend to count numbers of drives...)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Bat Chronicles

There's this tendency in the West to make everything cute. Cuddly. Approachable, and oh so lovable.

Have you ever seen the book Stellaluna? It's the story of this adorable little bat that gets knocked out of a tree into a birds' nest as a baby, and tries her best to be accepted as a proper bird in her new home.  Admittedly, one scene is a bit confusing as the illustrator attempts to portray sonar visually with a light-beam coming from Stella's eyes, but otherwise it is a precious, bubble-wrapped safe method of introducing young, impressionable children to the wonderful, intriguing, and much-to-be-explored world of bats.
Whoever wrote the book must either have never seen a real bat, or been seriously inventive in their lovable cuteness factors. Because bats? They aren't cute.

Pictures from,, and

Take our house. The entire attic is filled with the constantly squeaking, thumping, dirty little creatures. And as the ceilings in our rooms are made of wooden slats with openings to the attic, the bats generously share their guano leftovers with us on a daily basis, too. On the floor. On top of my mosquito net, and filtering down to my bed. And into any unattended glasses. (It's always wise to check your glass before consumption...)
a view of my mosquito net and floors on a regular basis
Our guard eagerly volunteered to go up and take care of the problem. Armed with a stick, a wire to encourage the bats out of corners, and a scoop, he came back down covered in sweat and dust with 35 bats and 2 hugely heavy containers of guano in tow. (I wondered if we should also have armed him with rabies shots, but he didn't seem to think there was a need.)
The end result of our guard's efforts.  I'd say no bats were harmed in the making of these pictures, but, well, I'd be lying.
That evening, as we heard Stellaluna's cousins making themselves comfy in the attic, we reassured ourselves that at least there were less guano piles above our heads waiting to fall.

More recently, the beautifully-crafted, mice-like creatures have found ways from their otherwise preferred upstairs abode into our living quarters. My roommate, having lived in Musomaland for longer, is more experienced and adept at such maneuvers. The other night I came home to see this:

Ronit got it outside still alive.  We'll just assume it lived a long and happy life, despite two very curious hungry dogs chasing after it...

Last night, though, made me realize just how ill-adept I might be for life in the Land of Tanz. I've survived tarantulas, flying jumping spiders, massive rats, and disgusting cockroaches, but this... this just might be my breaking point.

I stepped into the shower and heard a familiar squeaking sound, more than familiarly close. Turning, I looked up at the doorway I had just passed under and... there it was. I wish I could say it looked like cute little Stellaluna. But no. It's brown curled-up hunched-over disgustingness sat on the trim above the door that I had just walked through. I won't pretend I didn't freak. I'd seen them before lifeless, but never this close... and never turning to get a better look at the two-legged, no-winged creature that had just entered it's newly-claimed domain.

Since I was alone late at night by myself, I opted for the "close-the-door-put-a-towel-over-the-crack-and-take-a-bucket-shower-instead" tactic. And as I lay in bed contemplating the dilemma, I was more inclined to swallow my pride the next day and ask a guy to come help me than trying to get rid of this disgusting lovable creation of God all by myself.

The next morning I called a friend, who bravely entered the battle zone with a mosquito racket.  After a thorough search our little winged friend was proclaimed missing.  The good news: I could now take a shower.  The bad news: Who knows where it might pop up next?  As I started preparing for said shower, I took yet another glance at the drain, and found... this.

The scene quickly turned to this:

After another call to my friend, I was finally able to enjoy a shower in my own home.  


In light of recent developments, I propose a truce. I'll stop complaining about the guano-rain, and the bats promise never to show their faces in my quarters again. It seems like a win-win situation.

Either that, or these little rascals seriously need to start helping with rent...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

10+ Reasons to be Thankful...

...For the Tanzanian wedding next door :)

1. The chance to upload funny Facebook posts.
2. Remembering that they're really, joyfully celebrating their marriage.  Can't argue with that, right?
3. The couple are probably getting lots of gifts, which are a blessing to them.  (trying *really* hard to be thankful here as the music blares and the windows shake around us...)
4. We were actually invited to the sherehe (celebration) - God provided a chance to attend a Tanzanian wedding!!!  - but we chose to pass up the fun for Bible Sunday.  I guess this means we can't really complain about the noise.
5. The opportunity for passive improvement of Swahili as we listen to the loudspeakers next door.
6. The event isn't every night like the bar across the street in Dar was... thankful this is a one-time thing!
7. Due to our inability to communicate verbally, we have a good chance to work on our sign language skills.
8. The opportunity to bond over awkward and difficult situations with my new roommate so we can laugh over it later.
9. Renewed appreciation of ear plugs, and thankfulness for having them here...
10. If we can't rest and give up trying to sleep, there's a chance of being extremely productive tonight!
11. Appreciation for being able to call the cops if in the States if this ever happened there...

** We laughed.  And were amazed that we unknowingly came up with more than 10 reasons to be thankful once we got on a roll.  However, sometimes the process of giving thanks works better than others.  There are some situations you can laugh at for a long while... and come away refreshed.  Others stop being funny a few minutes later, especially when you hear the words "mpaka asabuhi" (till morning) come out of the announcer's mouth.  This was one of the latter.  So, our final reason for giving thanks in having a Tanzanian Wedding going on next door?  **

12. Discovering/remembering that you have friends you can stay with in difficult situations... and that say "come on over" to spend the night when you text them at 8:30pm the night of... 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

That Moment When...

You get ridiculously excited when your teacher shares the word for "snow" - a word that has alluded me for 2 years in Dar (who needs a word for snow in Tanz, really? Unless of course you're describing the weather patterns in MI...)

You realize you can best describe the scope of your allergies by saying you're allergic to all of the m/wa class of Swahili nouns (living, moving things), plus trees.

You see a little five-yr-old boy riding a bicycle in circles outside on the dirt path after dinner with a headlamp on, and think it's normal.

You realize you can see the Milky Way clearly above your tent, every night... and wish you could photograph the sky for other people to see.

You spend an hour star-gazing with a friend and a nightsky app on your phone...

You remember why Dar isn't the greatest place to live on earth (first mozzie bite, sticky sweatiness, traffic, noise, blah!)

You realize just how much you appreciate quiet times at meals... (as much as I love the 40 people I’m living with at camp every day, some days it’s nice to just eat alone…)

Your old guard in Dar greets you after two months of language school... And asks why all your roommates can speak Swahili and you can't.  (Sooo encouraging!!!)

You realize just how quiet the campsite really is.

You look at the clock thinking it's late and must be time for sleep... To realize it's only 8pm. (I've heard rumor that learning a new language makes you need an extra hour of sleep each night, and am beginning to believe it's true...)

You bring a friend dental floss from Dar and they get super-duper excited about it :)

You realize you don't know the ENGLISH word in your English-Swahili dictionary... And aren't sure if it's because it's inappropriate, because it's not often used, or because it's British...

You think you've actually really lost your Swahili noun chart - for real this time - and you have a minor panic attack...

You realize that you can determine your daily level of stress by your level of chocolate consumption at language school...

You look up at the star-studded sky, vibrant balls of fire that God hand-placed according to His creativity and plans, and realize just how inconsequential you are. And how big God is. And that any worries, or concerns, or "not working out the way I expected"s, are silly in comparison, knowing God is totally in control and has good plans to hand-place my future according to His creativity and love.

You realize you only have 2ish weeks left in your hobbit-hole tent at language school, and you actually feel sad.

You wake up at 3am and realize this is the perfect time to try resending the picture to your church they've requested... and spend an hour trying to do the upload...

You see a "Happy Fall" package someone sent your friends with colored leaves drawn on the outside, and you remember that in Michigan... It's fall. Pumpkins. Brisk cool air. Apple cider. Caramel apples. And ... I'm thankful for this. Even if I'm missing it and I'm not there. Enjoy it for me!!!

You pray. And you see God answer. And you wonder why you don't pray more.

You see a girl in long board shorts in a movie and think, "Those shorts aren't appropriate... Her knees are showing!" (Living in Tanz has done something to me...)

Someone asks for prayer for wisdom for: finding a house, new friends for themselves and their kids, a new community in a new city, and a school and church in a new language in a new country. Again. And they sum it up by calling it the norms of life.

The directions say... "Do blah blah blah... But if you're at all unsure about doing it yourself, find a specialized guitar repair shop in your area to perform the installation."  Specialized guitar repair shop. Looking... Looking... Hmm.  Tanzania.  Right. :P

You look at the pillowcases on your bed decorated by kids in the States, and really miss them. A lot.

You find yourself staring at your neighbor's watch more than your teacher or your Swahili notes during class... And realize that Mondays. are Mondays. no matter where you live or what you do...

You find lizard poop on your bed - again - as you lay down to sleep. Then realize afterwards it doesn't faze you in the least...

You look around and think, "Wait! This is my life?!" And you can't decide if you feel more homesick or blessed... and how much you miss people scattered all over the world as you prepare for yet another series of transitions in the weeks just ahead. again.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Introducing... my Neighbors :)

I'm in Dar!  In case you're not on Facebook and didn't get the memo.  It's taken me a bit to get back on internet though, so I apologize for the delay.  I also arrived sick, so I tried to hide from the world for a few days so as not to infect even more than the three airports and two airplanes full of people that I had already spread this thing to.

Anyway, while I'm here in Dar for a month or so, I thought I'd introduce you to a few of my neighbors.

                                                                                                        is Marie.

She’s from Minnesota-Alaska-Tanzania.  Or something like that.  She's the special needs teacher at HOPAC and is amazing at what she does.

Marie and I were roommates my first two years in Dar.  We had some good times, some hard times, and learned a lot along the way.  We also laughed.  a lot.  (It was better than crying on the craziest of days!)  Whenever the guards had to peak their heads around the corner to check and see what all the laughter was about, or opened the gate to see two white girls carrying a plank of wood a kilometer down the road with everyone staring, or joined in a game of baseball using a marshmallow and a spatula in the dark outside when we were cooking and the power went out... that may have been us.  They usually turned around, shook their heads, and laughed in disbelief. 

Hey, you've got to make candle holders somehow when the power goes out, right?
I have to say I'm very glad I'm starting out here in Dar with this girl in the room next door.  It's making transition a bit easier.  On the other hand, I’ve found a few more neighbors that aren’t paying rent living right around me, too, and thought I’d share them with you as well.

The first neighbor I discovered was the reptilian kind.   Upon walking into the toilet, I felt something drop on my head and had a vague recollection of this being a normal occurrence here in the Land of Tanz.  I looked around for a frog, and found a long tail swirling frantically around in the water in front of me.  Oh, yeah.  Geckos.  I tried to help get him out but he just hid under the rim, so I left him to his own devices and went to borrow another facility.
This isn't the same one, but I thought I'd preserve the dignity
of the one in the toilet by not taking it's picture...

Next came another bathroom visitor.  Or rather, visitors.  I'm used to having ants around the house - this is Tanzania, after all!  But for some reason, these ants decided that our bathroom hand towels were the perfect place to set up shop.  Literally.  Colonies were formed, emancipation proclamations were written as they advanced from the great outdoors, and little pieces of white… something were moved in.  I’m hoping (I think?) that it was food.  Maybe.  Gross.

This is Bethlehem, or Bethy for short.  She was born on Christmas a couple years ago and we've had her since.  Unfortunately, she lost her sister a few weeks back and has since decided to daily remind us with long cries that she, too, is evidently well on her way to dying.  This morning she opted to enjoy the sunshine instead, which meant I got to sleep just a bit longer (or maybe that's just the jet lag wearing off!?)
Walking up to our house, you'll see this.

The house with the red roof is where I'm staying.  The goat... well, it seemed to be enjoying the view :)
 And this.
 And a bit of this.
This guy didn't seem too happy to see me, but I made an executive decision
that I could take him on if needed and kept walking. 
 Don't you keep your lawnmower on a leash?
Later I saw the little shepherd boy responsible for these guys walking one along the path with a rope, that was tied around the goat’s neck and his own waist, but felt a bit conspicuous pulling out my camera from behind him.  So I’ll leave that one to your own imagination.

Last, but not least, is our other lawnmower.
Actually, Stafford helps out with the gardening and watching the house, but when I woke up this morning I heard the sound of snip snip snipping and went out to investigate.  He was happily whistling and worshiping the Lord as he cut the grass away in our yard... pole pole (/pole-a pole-a/, or slowly), bit by bit.  Gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "whistle while you work."  He offered to teach me and I got the hang of it pretty quickly... at least in the 1 foot square block I worked on!  I asked him (in my limited Swahili) why he didn't use a machete instead, which is a popular way of cutting grass here, but he explained that this process is better because it makes the grass shorter and more even.  It also keeps the grass from getting pulled out of the ground, which keeps it looking nicer.  He has way more perseverance than I do, it seems... but I appreciate the hard work!

So... there you have it.  My trusty neighbors, in all sizes, shapes, and multiples of legs.  I've seen a lot of other great people the past few days too that I've missed tremendously, but I've been too busy giving them hugs and catching up to pull out the camera.  Hope you're enjoying life... wherever and with whomever it might be!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Journey Ahead - in Snapshots

Someone recently told me that the older you get, the faster time goes.  Literally.  A year when you're 5 is 1/5 of your life.  A year when you're 28 is a significantly less percentage, making every day speed by faster and faster.  I've seen this happening more and more as time goes on - this past year of furlough has FLOWN by!  I can hardly believe I leave in just a few hours to drive to Chicago... and then I'm on a plane to Tanzania!

The thing is, as I've described what's coming up, I've noticed that not everyone has as good of a working perspective of Tanzanian geography as I have recently acquired by necessity.  So sharing the journeys to come with people ends up sounding like a lot of crazy Swahili words mixed together in a jumble, leaving people with less idea of what's happening than before I opened my mouth.  Instead of adding to the confusion, I thought I'd share a bit of what I know (which isn't much!) with you in snapshots. :)

Are you ready for this?!

When I arrive in Dar es Salaam (1), I’ll be heading to conference (2).  To give hugs to people I haven’t seen in a long time… say hello to people I’ve been talking to via email but have never physically said “hello” to, and saying goodbye to others who are leaving the Land of Tanz for their previously-labeled “homes.”
This was two summers ago... crazy how fast time flies!

Hopefully sometime in here (3), I'll be able to purchase a car, get my updated Tanzanian driver's license, and start sorting/packing up the stuff that I stored away before I left!

New families are coming in soon after for training, and I'll be helping with the kid's portion (3).  I'm excited to work with some of the kids I'll be teaching in just a few months... and hopefully help these families deal with all the transitions along the way!

Then, I’ll be off to language school (4).  Three months of learning a musical, repetitive language that I’ve struggled to grasp the past two years.  Living in a permanent tent… and having lots of new fun 4, 6, and 8-legged-visitor-friends along the way, from what I hear.
My Living Quarters for Language School
The Inside View
Yet another classroom... this time I'LL be the student!
I’m just hoping this guy won’t be coming any time soon!
Then, I’ll be discovering yet another new “home” called Musoma (5).  For this I’m excited.  To get to know the families I’ll be working with even better.  And a little overwhelmed.  Since it took quite a while to figure out where to find things for the best price in Dar, and I feel like I’m starting completely over.  I’ll be starting to teach.  In a two-room school house, which I have the feeling is just one more way God is teaching me to rely completely on Him.

These are just the kids that were there when I went to visit.  Many more to come!

For all you visual learners out there, here's a key to see where I'll be! :)

I'm so honored to have each of you coming with me!  ...although you can be glad no spiders will be residing on your pillows... :)  I couldn't do any of this without you!