Showing posts with label little things. Show all posts
Showing posts with label little things. Show all posts

Thursday, December 24, 2015

New Traditions

When we talked about how to spend our first official married Christmas together, this isn’t quite what I imagined.

We talked about what traditions we’d want to start. (Ok, I talked about it. He asked for examples, since he’s basically been on his own for ages). I mentioned how I would love to spend the week before Christmas with people doing fun Christmas-y things, like making cookies with friends or watching Christmas movies together.

Which we did. We had lots of time for movies, more than I expected. And a Christmas cookie extravaganza with girls did happen, on the one day I was feeling 100%.

But spending this week-before-Christmas switching between bed and couch, trying to keep down liquids, wasn’t quite what I had in mind. (For the record, I was only sick-sick Sunday, then after a "normal" day Monday, ate something that disagreed with both SM and I, that put me back in sick mode and him in "discomfort" for the next few days. Blah!)

And no, I’m pretty sure I’m not pregnant. Though for the first time in my life, it is a bit strange to realize that the possibility is actually real. More-so, of course, than the virgin-birth Mary variety.

And so we began our first Christmas together with sickness. SM pointed out today that last year around this time, I was heading out to dinner with his friends while he stayed home on his couch sick with a flu/cold… and this year he’s headed to the candlelight Christmas Eve service where we were supposed to meet friends, while I stay home on his (now "our”) couch and munch more toast.

Let’s just hope this isn’t a tradition we’ll keep!

Despite some unplanned events of the past week, however, we have both learned a lot. This is the first time either of us have been sick since we got married in August, and I’ve gotten to see a side of my husband that I “knew” was there but hadn’t yet really experienced.

The seriously caring, tender side that takes really really good care of me when I’m sick.

Ok, call it newly-wed-ism. Maybe it won’t last, just like everyone seems to say. But all in all, I married a really good guy.

A guy who hasn't just learned the importance of Christmas movies and that Elf is actually pretty amusing, but also one who got to experience someone else miserably throwing up and not keeping anything down including water for the first time ever just days before Christmas Eve. Who learned about the Urgent Care system and even got to navigate picking up his first-ever prescription on his own, all in one day. Who has figured out the BRAT diet and learned that sprite, crackers, toast, and ginger ale are all really really good things to have around. (Poor guy never gets sick! I -ahem- feel so bad for him. ;)

All in all, as I lay here typing, listening to a made-for-TV Christmas special streaming down from the apartment above, looking at a Christmas tree filled with lights and memories of Christmases around the world, with gladness in my heart for the amazing people God has surrounded me with over the years and for His unfailing presence and love... and when I think of the reason we’re here doing any of these things at all… I remember that the first Christmas probably didn’t go quite as expected, either.

No room in an inn.

No women to surround her... only an unexperienced husband pushing past cultural norms to be there for her when she needed him most.

No place for Mary to lay her newborn, except a dirty feeding trough.

Definitely no privacy, no glamour for the virgin-birth mother, just lots of unknowns of what God might be doing and trying their best to be available and be faithful in hard circumstances.

And I remember that Christmas this year, in a comfortable home with doctors and food and clean blankets and clothing and controllable warmth - despite a few hiccups - is actually going pretty well...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Littlest Things, the Greatest Memories

It’s always amazing to me how the littlest things can evoke the strongest memories. The “Meijer” price tag sticker on a body wash container I brought with me to Tanzania made me smile every.single.time I saw it, for months. Despite not fully appreciating Walmart here in the States, even bags from said location sent as padding with school supplies from my church were items that were kept and often used around the house – not because we didn’t have plastic bags available, but because they reminded us of bits of “home.”
(...because who is to say there wasn't a hedgehog or hippo at the manger?
Ok, maybe not a hippo, realistically... but an elephant!? ALL creatures worship Jesus right!?)
Today, as I began to pack up my Tanzanian nativity I’ve had on display this Christmas, I thought about getting slightly “softer” plastic bags to wrap the carved pieces in. But then I noticed the bags’ designs, and was instantly transported back over 4 years of memories of shopping and cooking, searching for boxes while moving houses, getting supplies and adventures, and getting yelled at  reprimanded corrected for doing things wrong in stores with friends (like holding up an overpriced imported shirt to see if it might fit me instead of going straight to the dressing room.) Shoprite, which is a South African chain officially now owned by none-other than Walmart, was our link to American foods like Pringles and European treats like Haribo gummies in Dar es Salaam. Alpha Choice was the much-tinier link in Musoma, where we could get ground chuck/beef already packaged – a dream come true for this girl who was seriously not excited about grinding her own meat! – and things like batteries and regular-sized containers of vanilla for baking when the whole town was out. And ice cream. Did I mention ice cream?

It’s a smell of burning smoke (though generally not of burning trash here in the States), a taste of coconut curry, a glimpse of various (though different) Fanta flavors at the local Burger King soda machine. A message from a Tanzanian colleague in Swahili. Walking into a job interview recently and hearing Swahili being discussed between teachers. Realizing the painting of a lake fit the background of my nativity perfectly, as many Tanzanian's lives revolve around fishing… As I sit looking out the window at so much snow, I am thankful both to be here, and to have the treasure of incredible memories that almost seem unreal at times of adored people and places in my not-too-distant past.

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... :)

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... :)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Office

Recently, I’ve discovered a whole new side of the world.  I’m not sure how I missed it, but it’s there, and for most people, it’s obvious.  It’s the norm.

It’s the Office.

Ok, not the TV show.  Though I finally actually saw the show for the first time upon arrival in Musoma.  (Yes, I know I'm behind the times.) Instead, I mean the REAL office.  That place where people go to work every day, week after week, and do things that up till now were a complete and utter mystery to me.

The thing is, I’ve suddenly been plunged into a location and life where I’m seeing bits of office life for the first time.  My roommate works at an office.  I go there to print things, pick up mail, meet with people, and all sorts of other oddities.  Since we don’t have our own school copy machine, I go there to make copies for my students. 

And the thing I’m realizing is… the office. is a whole lot different than the classroom. in every. single. way.

One day, I went to the office to get my computer hooked up to the server (so I can print materials).  Then I sat down at an empty desk and checked my email.  I might have sat there for half an hour in dead quiet, catching up on things and responding to important messages people had sent in the past week. 

And… it was during the day.  Daylight hours. 

And… I wasn’t sitting at home in the dark on my bed.  Dead tired from the day.

It was a surreal experience, to say the least.

Obviously, I know people do a lot of things besides check their email and respond to messages for their jobs.  But the fact that it’s possible during the work day to attend to such things, without rushing to do so in 2.5 minutes before the students arrive, or without a sandwich in hand for lunch and a student by your side that you’re tutoring in math at the same time… just blows my mind.

And then there’s the aspect of communication.  It’s occurred to me recently that in an office setting, people talk to each other.  With real, adult conversations.  About things that aren’t necessarily always, 100%, related to work.  Meaning there are moments that are down times, where things aren’t completely crazy, when the world isn’t in constant motion and you’re not teaching and monitoring and helping kids and encouraging a student with their success and hoping that another student who is sliding out of his chair might hear the praise and do the same.  Thinking about what you’re teaching next, how to best keep their attention, make it fun and make it stick.  Recognizing when one of 10 children are losing interest and finding a way on the fly to get them back. 

You mean, this isn’t normal? 

I’m so confused.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE teaching.  (most days anyway!)  And I love the discussions I have with kids. They make me laugh, and sometimes, cry.  I get to pour into them about the world and about God and get to help mold their characters and encourage them in their walk with the Lord.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 

It's just fun to explore this unique new world around me for the first time in my life!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

There's something about... a farm

Grass blowing.  Trees swaying.  Hanging leaves wandering into the sun, unhindered by pruning and city-block-shaping.  Space.  Fields of green, peaking up from brown cracked dirt.  Paths through tall grass, just because.  Fruit trees storing up energy for ripe deliciousness in the fall.  I could eat this up, store leftovers in a box for later.  Wish for this space in life.  In the midst     of life.

I step outside, and I see stars, millions of stars.  Grass covering fields.  Frogs that live and breathe and fish that swim and eat and birds that fly and find worms and feed their babies and flowers in all their glory that could only be created, sustained, made.  And these things live and these things die.  And they are amazing.  And God has touched each one, put His finger, His creative touch, His glory into each creature, calling out it's name.  Speaking it into existence.  Speaking. into me.

And I drink deeply of the air, of fresh fields turned over, of blue skies hazy with clouds and sunshine streaming and white stone drives.  I breathe out frustration and unmet expectations and control over details and I know it's ok.  There's space enough for it all.  They fly away, into soaring space that has no limit, into the sky that breathes and sustains and gives life and provides food for trees and leaves and everything green.  And the wind swirls around me and whispers, "be still.  I am here."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Find a Penny...

11 August 2011   <-- (Here are a few more musings from my first days back... that got lost in the shuffle and never made it online.)

... pick it up ... and all the day you'll have good luck!
I was heading home via the airport the other day (seems like I’ve been doing that a lot lately!).  As I plopped down on one of the oh-so-comfortably-divided airport benches at my gate to wait for my flight, my eye was drawn to something shiny under the seats across from me.  The sight might not have gained your attention, but it definitely caught mine.  Because, you see, I don't think I've seen a coin or spare change lying around on the ground for over two years.

I had to wonder a couple of things.  One, why is it that in all the countries I've been to in the past two years (and others before that), I've never seen change lying around on the ground?  And two, why is this such a common sight in the States?

I've heard of people throwing away pennies simply because "they're not worth anything."  A sad thought, in my mind.  (I was raised by parents who taught me to save my pennies and hit the clearance section first!)  But I did have to ponder why it is that we have such a prevalence of coins lying on the sidewalk when other countries seemingly have none to leave by the wayside, accidental though it might be.  Are we so affluent here in America that we don't need to take time to pick up something worth so little?  Or are we too busy to notice such a "treasure" on the ground?

(Allow me to stretch the topic a bit…) 

Jesus talked about found treasures in the Bible, and the worth they should hold.  He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field" (Mat 13:44).

Sometimes, I’m amazed at the treasures that we have in front of us that we simply take for granted.  Yes, a penny is a little thing.  Only worth one cent.  But it does have worth.  And as I prepare to go back to Tanzania, I see a correlation between our lack of need for small treasures such as pennies and for larger treasures like God’s Word. 
Did you know that there are over 500 English translations of the Bible available today?  It truly is an amazing thing.  My students at HOPAC will tell you that my favorite website is, and they just might be right.  I like to go online and look up different versions of the same passage of Scripture to better understand what I’m reading.  And I love to model this for my kids.  I love even more to pull up a version of the Bible in a child’s own heart language and have them read it in the language they understand best for the class.  (I can’t think of a better, more powerful way to teach Bible to an English Language Learner in my classroom than having them memorize God’s Word in their own language… instead of trying to get them to grasp deep, meaningful concepts in a language they struggle to understand!)
Because isn’t that really what it’s all about?  Speaking to people in a way that connects to their heart?  The staggering statistic is that in Tanzania alone, there over 120 languages spoken.  These are the languages that speak to people's hearts - the ones their mothers spoke to them when they were born.  While they may know Swahili, or English, or another trade-language, their "heart language" is what will move them the most in discussing ideas and emotions that are most meaningful to them. 

I’ll be the first to say that I struggle sometimes to read my Bible.  It’s not always easy to stay plugged in to His Word.  But when I remember what a treasure it is to hear and see God’s Word in my own language, it makes it a little easier to dive in.  And when I realize just how many people don’t have a single word of Scripture in a language they understand best, it convinces me again that there is still work to be done… and that I have a place in the process!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What do Teachers DO when they go on Break?

Play, of course!  (We can't let the kids have ALL the fun!)

24 April 2011

A few years back during summer break in North Carolina, I joined a couple of friends for a day at Chuckee Cheese’s.  My kids were always completely shocked, flabbergasted, and falling on the floor with amazement when I told them I’d never been to this delightful place of fun, food, and friend’s birthday parties.  I thought I should at least check it out. 
Luckily, it didn’t take too much convincing to get some teacher-friends to join me!
This year, though, we did things a little differently.  Our school just got a brand new playground, which all the kids are THRILLED about.  We dedicated this the last day of school before break, and of course the teachers had to take some time to “show” the kids how to use all the different pieces. :) (Some of these kids have never seen a merry-go-round or swings before.  Not that it’s necessarily bad – they have more local, fun creative things to play on instead!)
The whole primary school on the playground... or what you can see of it... and us!
Also, after school on this day, the weather decided to POUR!  Not just a bit, but a downpour.  At the time, a teacher-friend of mine and I were outside walking, and despite our infinite sweetness (as my kids tell me EVERY day when I have ants crawling on me from my desk), we decided we weren’t going to melt.  We kept walking, then played a bit with kids who were enjoying the cool weather as well.  As a co-worker walked past, she commented in disgust, “I can’t believe these kids that are out playing in the rain…” then she looked at our wet clothes in complete shock.  “Not YOU, too!”  Ha!  I figure, what better way to enjoy the last day of term?

Over break, my friend Marie and I headed West to Dodoma to visit a wonderful family there.  We got to take the kids to the MAF playground, and of course we couldn’t let the kids have ALL the fun!  So we joined in. 
I love this playground – SO much more creative than anything we could bring from the States, and all locally made!  I'm hoping someday I can get some amazing, super-handy guys to build something like this for a school that needs it...
My favorite part is the zipline, bottom left corner.  There are two half-tires at the end of the wire, creating just enough distance to keep kids from swinging into the pole.  Ingenious!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Find of the Day!!! (It's the little things...)

6 February 2011

There are a couple of major stores where you can get imported goods… and last year I frequented these places a lot.  They’re great for getting the foods we just can’t get here, but at the same time, I’ve since found many alternatives to the things I always thought I needed... And now know I hardly need at all.  A lot of our shopping is done more locally where there are better prices and mostly friendly people... where Swahili can be practiced... where local acquaintances can be made... and where import taxes do not necessarily apply.  So while last year I would head to Shoppers every week after church to get groceries for the week, it’s been nearly two months now since I’ve headed to this delightful (and over-priced, but great atmosphere!) store.

The first place you always look when at Shoppers is the Bargain aisle.  (Yes, mom, you taught me well!)  This is where you may sometimes find something like slightly-damaged Karo Corn Syrup for 500Tsh (about 40 cents) versus it’s usual 12,000Tsh (about $10, which I’d never buy).  Or nearly-expired brownie mix.  Or other goodies that are just too good to pass up.

But today, my big find wasn’t in the Bargain aisle.  It was in the automotive/extension cords/tools section of one of the aisles.  And that find was… get ready!  WD-40!!!

Yes, it seems like a little thing.  And really, it is.  The one I got today was 100mL.  Pretty small.  It cost 5,000Tsh (about $3.50ish).  And yet, this is a product that has never-before-been-seen in Tanzania.  Until two weeks ago, when it was spotted on the Peninsula (which is where all the Diplomats live).  I never thought it would make it to our very own Shoppers in only two weeks time! I actually contemplated bringing this back with me from the States at Christmas (along with the supply of duct tape), but thought that perhaps the airlines wouldn't appreciate me packing this.  I guess it's a good thing I waited.

I can’t remember now what project we were just saying we needed this fantastic invention for the other day.  But I’m sure we’ll recall it soon – and regardless, it’s always good to pick up things like this when you see them, as it’s very possible that next week they’ll be MIA from all stores, never-to-be-seen-again.

Friday, January 21, 2011

One Day At A Time

I'm still in the process of moving into my new room.  I got a new bookcase so I can store my books (hooray!), and am slowly but surely finding places for things I love on the walls.  In the midst of the sorting and putting-up, I hung a couple of things on the same hook... and realized the irony (or wisdom) of it later on as I passed by!

Despite the slightly in-the-way-ness of this setup, I just might leave it... at least for now :)  It may be exactly what I need to be reminded of as I start each new day! 

Happy Friday!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Memories... and looking at the NOW

22 December 2010
I’m sitting in a circle of kitchen stuff from the past… realizing the good quality of the walmart pans I bought in NC, the nice glass Pyrex pans I inherited from my parent’s leftover wedding gifts when I moved away from home.  Beautiful Pfaltzgraff dishes that I bought at a garage sale just before moving on my own, and utensils that have been sitting in a box for the past year and a half.  A good portion of these are going with me back to Tanzania (now that we’re in a new house that’s not furnished, we need a LOT of kitchen utensils – and even plastic stuff there isn’t cheap!!!).  But there are a lot of things – the dishes, the glass liquid measuring cups, the Pyrex pans, that just can’t make it through a round-the-world trip to Africa.
 It’s funny.  These are things I knew I had, and was anxious to bring back.  But I forgot just how many memories were attached to them.  And now that I’m putting a lot of it back in a box – and giving the others to my mom to use in the meantime – it’s feeling a bit funny.  Like letting go a part of myself once again.
I was rereading Two from Galilee (by Marjorie Holmes) on the way home from Tanzania, which is a historical fiction based on the story of Mary and Joseph (and of course, Jesus!) in the beginning of Luke.  In the story, Mary and Joseph are getting ready to travel to Bethlehem for the census, and they’ve only been married for a few months if that.  They’re looking at the things that Joseph lovingly made for Mary for their wedding – a beautifully carved table, chairs, a hand-carved sewing box… and the handmade home that Joseph had labored to build.  And they wondered when they’d be back to see it.  (Turns out, not for a very long time!)

The funny thing is, the pair had no way of knowing that they wouldn’t be living in Nazareth for the rest of their lives.  And that’s kind of the way it is with me.  I don’t know what the future holds.  I was reminded the other day that I need to “put down some sort of roots” or act like I’ll be somewhere long enough to get a piece of furniture built, because otherwise I’ll always feel like I’m in limbo.  And so with that, my pots and pans are heading back to Africa with me.  BUT at the same time, there are lots of things that I bought before I realized I was quickly going to Africa.  And they were things I needed at the time… and still could use, if transport was an option!  The thing is that I’m realizing I need to plan for the future, yes… but I also need to live more fully in the moment.  Because if I’m always worrying and thinking about the next five years, I’m never going to be able to fully experience, appreciate, and settle into living in the here and now… wherever that might be!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sometimes it's the little things...

10 November 2010

Sometimes, it really is just the little things that make me happy. 

In a city and country that is often overflowing with fresh fruit, especially pineapple, it seems strange that this fruit isn’t put to use in food dishes more often.  Really, I’m just thinking of pizza.  For the past year, I’ve asked and searched for pineapple on pizza everywhere they make pizza around Dar… to no avail.  I know I’m lucky to be in a place where pizza is even made at restaurants – most places around the world, such luxuries aren't available.  We often just make our own, homemade, which is delicious but takes some work.  It just seems strange that, even per request over a couple of weeks time, restaurant owners refuse to put this lovely fruit on a pizza.

I guess we're just too far from Hawaii.
Making homemade pizza together with friends for our Compound Christmas Eve dinner last year

As my favorite pizza is ham and pineapple, this disappointment is only compounded by the fact that ham (or “gammon,” as the Brits say) is extraordinarily expensive here in Dar.  I don’t know if it’s because of the predominance of Islam or just because meat prices here can be funny… but a small ham costs about $30.00 USD, on a good day.  We splurged on it once right before Easter last year, and made it last a week.  It was some of the best meals – and tastes of home – that I’d had all year.

But because of this, any thoughts of even MAKING a Hawaiian pizza are pretty much squashed before they begin.  No little pre-cut-up squares of ham from Meijer for making salads here… actually, salad Tanzanian-style is made up of tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers (the red ones cost about $8 a piece at Shoppers).  Lettuce is a rarity in Dar, I’m sad to say!

But recently, as a friend headed out to a Pizzeria called Savario’s, she mentioned that they had Hawaiian pizza.  I was shocked, and had to clarify.  HAWAIIAN???  As in, Ham and Pineapple?  Being new here, she didn’t understand the significance these words held for me.  But they must have shown on my smile, because she offered to bring a pizza home especially for me.  I readily agreed. :)
Pineapple.  AND Ham.  On a pizza, ready-made!!!
The other thing that makes me happy – I’m not sure why – is Parmesan cheese.  I love cheese and it is generally very difficult to find – or very expensive – here in Dar.  I think I’ve actually seen Parmesan cheese (grated like we think of) once in all my time here so far.  I’m not sure why cheese is so expensive with so many cows wandering the streets… but that’s a different post for another day! 

A cow wandering by our compound where we live.  It's common to be sleeping... or taking a shower... or grading... or anything and hear cows mooing as they wander by with their shepherds!
At Christmas last year, my parents sent a couple of small Kraft Parmesan Cheese containers with my brother, and I literally jumped up and down like a little kid with joy.  Yes, I know.  It sounds a little silly.  But I guess I didn’t realize how much I appreciated, enjoyed, and relished good cheese till I arrived here!

Regardless, when I got my ham and pineapple pizza last week, and I was able to put real Kraft Parmesan cheese on top (sprinkled liberally for the momentous occasion), I was brimming with joy… and had to take a picture to share with all of you.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some Days, You Just Need to Laugh

24 October 2010

On the days when you’re riding on a bus that only gets up to 30km per hour, going downhill… and as you realize the bus has a set of six different types of horns, some of which sound like a machine gun or a circus… why not label the horn patterns with numbers?  1-3-2, 2-2-2, ooh! 6-(that’s the circus one)5-5…  It’s better to laugh than get frustrated!

On the days when relationships are hard, and the world seems against you, you may as well laugh as a friend puts a necklace around your neck… with no other reason than to try to make you smile.

On the days when you’re searching for a new place to live, you may as well learn to drive a bajaj along the way… and hope other drivers don’t get into accidents as they turn around for a second look at the white person driving the bajaj!

On the days when everything goes wrong, you may as well admit it’s a chocolate cake day and eat it with a silly smile on your face… while sharing with friends, of course!

On the days when you find yourself pacing the kitchen, opening and closing the fridge trying to find something to eat and knowing there’s nothing there while your stomach is grumbling… you may as well revel in the fun of saying “cheese chapattis” as you heat up the cooker!

On the days when the loud advertisement trucks are sitting outside the house blaring about something I don’t understand, (but which I definitely do not want to buy simply because of the fact that they are blaring loud-speakers outside my house…) why not yell “Jesus Loves You!” at the top of your lungs?  It makes you feel better, and at least you’re sharing something positive!

On the days when nothing goes right, it makes your heart smile to realize that your roommates made an emergency ice cream run for you on their own accord… and made homemade chocolate sauce for the banana splits!  With friends like these, who wouldn’t be smiling at least a little by the end of the day???

On the days when you run out of water and it takes you a six hour off-and-on process to boil and filter enough drinking water for the five people running in and out of your house… you may as well make up a random dance along the way!  And laugh, of course. The water will definitely taste better with a little laughter thrown in! :D

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to make your teacher smile :)

25 March 2010

This past term, I've been feeling pretty pampered. My “room mom” of sorts organized a schedule for me to be adopted by a different family each week of the term. They asked me ahead of time what I’d like (gave me a list of options of what I thought I'd appreciate) – whether being invited over for dinner, having a dinner or snack prepared, have extra help in the classroom, simply calling to ask what they could do to help me out… there was a whole list but I can’t remember what all it included. Anyway, whether the things are big and expensive, or small and simple, doesn’t really matter. Its been much appreciated, and a huge blessing to me, no matter what!

One week one of my students brought in something small each day. The first day was a Nature Valley granola bar from the STATES!!! I’m sure they just grabbed it from the stash they had in the cupboard (and I mean that with total loving adoration - it was totally appreciated and amazing! Just showing how easy this can be :) .) Next day was an apple and a quick handwritten card from the student. Something chocolate the next day I think.

Anyway, I didn’t catch on at first that it was “his” week (some of my students bring me treats all the time, but after the fourth quick note thanking me for being his teacher, I was astounded and feeling very much loved... blessed to say the least. The last day I was surprised by a cute recycled-flour-bag tote bag, and I love it. But honestly, the little granola bar and purple 3x5 card that said “thanks for all you do” made my day just as much as the bag did.

Sometimes, it’s just nice to be reminded that you are appreciated.

So, here’s my thought. For all you parents out there, here’s an easy thing to do to make your kids’ teachers feel super-special. Get together with other parents and assign one family to each week of the school year. Make it clear that mucho money definitely does NOT need to be spent. And ask them to bless/encourage the teacher on their week by doing one or more little things to make them realize they are loved. A granola bar and a quick “thanks for all you do!” note was the best start ever to my Monday morning!!! (especially as I was running late from preparing for school and didn’t have time for breakfast.) Other ideas that would make a teacher’s day (I’m sure teachers would agree) include: a sharpie pen/marker, or any fun-colored pen that writes well (we write a LOT!), a pack of fun pre-sharpened pencils, a sheet of encouraging or fun stickers, an offer to come in for a bit to help out sometime that week, a highlighter, a little stamp the teacher could use on kids' papers (dollar tree finds are awesome), a healthy snack (or chocolate is good, too!), a card sharing “thanks,” especially one written from the student, a cute paper or sticky note pad (2 for a dollar at the dollar section in Target!), a WHITEBOARD MARKER, or a couple of fun toys to put in their prize box for the classroom. OR ask what craft is coming up and if there’s something specific he or she could use; ask if they’d like for you to come in and DO a craft with the kids related to the theme they’re learning this week; ask if there’s a specific movie he/she has been wanting to see, and rent it (or let them borrow it if you have it); or arrange for a different parent to provide a sack-dinner on Wednesdays so the teacher doesn’t have to cook. (Think of simply making a bit extra of whatever you’re cooking for your family, and wah-la! You’re done!) Teachers? I’m sure you have other ideas… karibu with adding your recommendations at the bottom!

Sometimes, despite the frequent hugs we get in lower-elementary, teachers feel a little frustrated. Run-down. Overwhelmed. You should hear us at the gym or processing after school, going over the things that went well, struggling to figure out how to help each child get a specific math concept better, searching online or picking the brains of those who might have ideas, deliberating over how best to teach the next topic… And we feel like, “What in the world am I really doing? Are all the hours I’m spending before and after school preparing for my kids really worth it? Does anyone even notice or care that I’m pouring my heart and soul out into my kids?” The little things really DO make a big difference!!! Think of it as simply putting your daily thoughts into clearly-communicated action. As you think about the little snacks and notes you send with your kids to school all the time, realize that no one is sending their teacher a smiley face note in their lunchbox. And sometimes, a smiley note and a granola bar is all we need to make us smile.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Margin 101

Feb 16, 2010 (for all you Americans) :)

I’m sitting here working on my computer, which seems strange since the power is off. But none-the-less, I was inspired to pick up my laptop and type. I’m sitting in front of my house in a white plastic lawn-chair, reading a book called “Margin” by Richard A. Swenson. As I read, I’m reminded of the need we have for rest – physical, emotional, and Spiritual. (More to come on this later!) And I realize for the three-hundredth time that, if I look out, I can see the Indian Ocean. There are palm trees around me baking in the sun. Despite the heat, it’s relatively cooler in the shade of our front porch, and the wind is whistling by on the ocean breeze. Birds hover and call to one another in the trees, and I hear voices in Swahili passing by on the other side of our cement compound wall. Our neighbors sit out reading, then talk to their (new) dogs reassuring them everything is ok. There is traffic on the other side of my house, on the main road, but thanks to the lack of power, no radios blast from the neighborhood bar.

I’m trying to think of what I should be doing right now, and though I’m sure there is something, nothing much seems important. Not enough, anyway, to cancel out this moment of peace and solitude. True, nothing is quite as easy here, and the heat sure is oppressive. But somehow, in the midst of everything, I’m starting to find a bit of balance. Maybe, slowly, God is teaching me to let go of my worries, one thing at a time.

It’s a slow process, to be sure. But in the end, I’m glad it’s a process that is in God’s hands!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Giving Thanks

30 January 2010

What a week! While I think I’m finally getting used to life here in Dar (the day-to-day things, anyway), we seem to have had more face-to-face confrontations about money this week than I’ve ever had in my life. It's been "A Week"!

In spite of this, I’ve decided it’s time to remember all the things I’m thankful for here in Dar es Salaam. Here are just a few :)

Things I’m thankful for:
  • Mac and cheese packets and mini-Parmesan cheese containers (it’s the little things!).
  • Great roommates, a soft bed, and (usually) electricity running through our walls.
  • The fact that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever… that His Word never changes… and that I have it in my own language!
  • Parents at school who actually support our work as teachers, and sincerely want to know how they can help!
  • Internet, Skype, and cell phones.
  • Having our last rabies shot completed yesterday, by a nurse who was willing to ask for help, then learned to use gloves, an alcohol swab, and all the things we take for granted in medical facilities in the States. Yay!
  • A community of people here who have experienced missing weddings, family events, and all sorts of things because they’ve been on the mission field – and who can relate when things get tough.
  • Almost ten years since I had my surgery – Monday’s the anniversary. That’s amazing!
  • Friends who are going out and friends that are coming in, whether to or from the States, or people who are settled in one place – I’m lucky to know and have you all in my life!!!
  • Prayer – that God truly hears us and answers, all-be-it in His own time and way! And a God who doesn’t give up on us no matter how stubborn we can try to be. The knowledge that people are lifting up prayers from your side of the world on my behalf is a huge comfort, too, on the toughest days!
Thanks, all, for your prayers and emails and all that you do. I TRULY couldn't be here without you!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What's New?

It's been a busy few weeks of break, and I'm pretty much exhausted! Sometimes the every day things here in Dar can be the most tiring. I keep trying to write about my recent adventures with transportation, vaccines, tours, and police, but somehow in the end they don't really have a point. The point is, I'm tired. And I'd say that's pretty normal after having my brother leave for the States, getting a new future-sister-in-law, having Christmas away from home for the first time, celebrating New Years in a completely new country, and lots of other "firsts".

In lieu of a recent post by a friend who is getting ready to go to PNG, who is also having difficulty vocalizing herself due to all the stress of transitions, I've thought maybe it's time to start putting random thoughts up on here so you don't miss out on my life the next few weeks as I try to put some coherent ideas together. So, here goes...

1. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And, PTL, His story (of His Birth, the Resurrection, etc.) are the same in MI, NC, PNG, and Tanzania.

2. I'm SO glad to help welcome my friends the Martins to Tanzania! I met them during training in Orlando, and were supposed to be the friendly familiar faces I'd see when I got here. I'm glad I can be that for them now that they're here!

3. The thermometer here in Dar keeps melting. Yep, it's really that hot. At least that's what we're assuming, since most days the website is "not reporting" for our country!

4. People come and people go. I know that's normal for missions, but I'm realizing it more and more here in my first year teaching overseas. It seems hard to get a foothold and to establish strong relationships when people all know other people for varying amounts of time, and the people you want to get to know most are leaving in a month, or 3 months, or potentially here for 3 years!

5. Transportation in Dar is NOT FUN! So far, I've heard lots of ideas for bargaining and then writing down the agreed price so that when we get to our destination, there are no "that's not what you said, I'm calling the police" remarks... we'll have to try those out. In the meantime, I'm just glad school is within walking distance! Maybe I'll just not go out from now on... :)

6. I LOVE AC!!! Yesterday, after another adventure with a cab driver and several hours with my friend at the hospital, we came back exhausted. I turned the AC in my bedroom on full-blast (it's the only one in our house, pole, rafiki!) and we all soaked in the coolness as we sat with our computers in blissful silence.

7. God's Grace is Sufficient. And I'm learning (again, just like my first year of teaching), that sometimes we have to trust that we'll have just enough for this day. Or this minute. Looking ahead to the future only brings worry and I'm realizing it's just way too much to deal with right now. In the meantime, I guess I'll be learning to think just about today, and not worry about tomorrow... (hmm, sounds almost Biblical!)

8. On that note, I saw a great movie called Bella the other day that had a great quote in it. It said (loosely), "Oh, I'm not worried. I don't worry anymore. I used to worry. But then I did some research and discovered that ten out of ten people... die." I have to laugh at the ridiculous simplicity and truth of this statement every time I think of it.

9. I'm SO thankful for the internet (when we have it) and for friends who are willing to "listen." Thanks to all of you who have been encouraging me lately from afar!

10. Adventures, such as half-power, no internet, heat, humidity, and arguments on buses only stay "adventures" for so long. Pray for me as I get through this next stretch and that I will continue to see things from the "funny side" of life every day!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Charlie Brown Christmas

December 6, 2009
It turns out that many countries around the world don’t start decorating for Christmas, or even thinking about it, till long after November 27. The Americans, Canadians, UKians, and many others have their decorations up, and the couple of major shopping stores around here cater to us with a surprising amount of decorations and items to buy. But Tanzanians scratch their heads and wonder why we’re so intent on finding pine trees in Dar es Salaam, on December 1.

Last Christmas, I planned a Christmas-around-the-World unit for grade 1 at Stocks on South African Christmases. I threw a beach ball around, explained the difference in weather in the hemispheres of the Earth, and helped students make palm trees out of pipe cleaners. To make the craft officially African, we used various beads to decorate the limbs of the palm trees before they took them home. It seemed pretty exotic to imagine going to the beach for Christmas day and having a barbecue for dinner. In complete honesty, I really had no idea I’d be experiencing just that the very next year. At the time, I was just starting my application for teaching overseas, and it all just seemed like one big dream. Less than a year later, I’m experiencing it in my daily life – warm weather, beach, barbeques in December, and palm trees everywhere. It’s a bit harder to get into the Christmas spirit, or believe it’s actually December, when the weather is getting hotter and the humidity is in the 90th percentile.

I’ve heard a number of perspectives on the holidays in the Land of Tanz. A couple of people who have been here for several years have completely gave up all hope of celebrating Christmas, let alone Thanksgiving, years ago. “It doesn’t feel right, there’s nothing to buy that anyone wants anyway… our Christmas tree was Charlie Brown-style and horrible-looking, with cardboard cut-out ornaments… who ever heard of having a barbeque on Christmas? I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate Christmas again for the next five years.” In the midst of missing home, snow, cold, and sweaters, I’m finding this attitude doesn’t help.

Others who have been here for years have accumulated the over-priced decorations and are now loaning these out to others as they prepare to return to their home countries. This is the perspective I’d like to keep as we go into the holidays. As Marie and I decided, we’d rather have a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, hand-made Christmas ornaments, melting cookies, and a few construction-paper wrapped gifts to give than to completely ignore the holiday season upon us.

It’s true that the “West” overdoes Christmas lights, presents, and “stuff” to decorate with during this holiday. No, these things don’t portray the “real meaning” of Christmas. But they do bring memories of families gathered around a Christmas tree, listening to Matt read the Matthew Christmas story at my grandparents’, and playing games as we munch on leftovers and desserts galore with already-full stomachs. There’s something about tradition that keeps hope alive and a certain warm, comfortable joy in your smile. While the weather here is warm, the humidity high, and palm trees abound – we’ve been watching Christmas movies since before Thanksgiving and are working on setting up our newly-acquired 130cm fake Noble Pine tree. Marie and I have hand-cut out snowmen, candy canes, gingerbread, bells, Christmas trees and stars out of construction paper to decorate our windows with (oh, how we miss the Ellison dye cut machines at our old establishments). And if we concentrate hard enough, it might just feel like the birth of our Savior is really approaching!

At the very least, we are gaining a perspective on what Jesus’ birth might really have looked like – and why, as a child laying in the manger, He only needed scraps of cloth instead of a warm fleece blanket to cover Him. I hope the animals didn’t crowd around too close, or He might have gotten over-heated!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Few of the Perks to Living in Dar

10 November 2009
I was taking a shower last night when I realized the ridiculousness of me plunging into the cold water – and refusing to turn on the water heater. I thought back to friends who’ve said that it’s best to take hot showers in hot weather – I’m not sure I’m sold on that yet. Anyway, sometimes the best way to live and transition to a new place is to LAUGH!!! Here are a few of the perks I’ve come up with from living here in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania!

10. Improved hand-eye coordination, as I master the skill of killing mozzies (mosquitoes) with one hand. Kyle, you'd be proud! :)

9. The opportunity to laugh – hard – as I learn to say things like nyenye (yes, think Chinese-sounding), and as I make up my own new version of Swah-English. (No-sante?!) I’ve also started to add Spanish into the mix, sometimes not even sure if I’m speaking Spanish or Swahili.

8. A great opportunity to learn the process of sweat vs. hydration – and practice it daily. It’s got to be good for your pores, right?!

7. A constant supply of “karibu - welcomes” everywhere I go. (I guess that should mean I’ll never feel lonely…)

6. A new appreciation for things like: candles, colored pens, corn syrup, cereal, and ziplock bags.

5. A never-ending question to mull over as to why there are so many cows – everywhere – and yet beef and dairy products are outrageously expensive. (Must be everyone is saving up their cows for bride-prices…)

4. Learning new things about the United States daily, such as “There are no M’s in America” or “Obama was my next door neighbor – I grew up with him.” Should I be impressed???

3. A new appreciation – and love – for cold showers. (Not to mention AC!!!) No need to turn on water heaters here!

2. A beautiful palm-tree sunrise out the window every morning, and a nice ocean breeze as you get out of school (yes, that means 4pm, mostly!).

1. Having a sweet vacation spot for people to come visit. Karibu!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Instant Gratification

I love the weekly emails I get from I went to the conference in 2003 and have been getting their emails every Wednesday ever since. They are all about missions around the world, and gaining a Christian world perspective of young and old people, males and females, everywhere. You should check it out!
Anyway, one article I read a year or so back was about the instant gratification we have available to us in the United States. At the time, I didn’t agree. I was living in North Carolina, was fairly careful with what I bought, and tried not to indulge in everything I wanted all the time. “That applies to the regular culture,” I thought, “but not to me.”

Now that I’m living in Tanzania, however, I am beginning to grasp what the author meant. It’s not so much that we get everything we want materially in the States, although that often happens, too. It’s that we are used to having everything we need at our fingertips. It was so easy in the States to make a quick Walmart run (or Meijer, which is so much better, in MI…), or shoot off a quick email to my personnel person online. If you’ve read my most recent post, you’ll realize why this just isn’t possible in Dar. Running to the store (besides the duka across the street) is way more complicated and time consuming with transportation issues and everything so spread out. Walmart-like stores don’t necessarily exist – at least in terms of selection, availability, and prices. Shooting off a quick email involves crossing the crazy street to get to school, the power to be on, and the internet to actually be working at the time you get there. That’s a lot of “ifs” on any given day.

The things I’ve taken for granted are definitely not always available in the same way in Tanzania. Perhaps if and as I get more settled, I will find better ways to handle things. And I do know that everything is available for a price… including getting a printer that actually prints, or a spatula for about 15 bucks at Shoppers yesterday (no thanks!). But I think it’s good, too, to realize that what someone said to me when I first got here is very true. “Daily life just seems to take longer here.” It’s not so much that getting on the internet takes longer – or getting a glass of water. But it’s the in-between things that seem to make everything slower. (Making the trip to school and finding out the internet is actually on… or boiling the water, letting it cool, scooping it with a pan into the water filter, waiting for it to filter, then putting it into a water bottle in the fridge to get cold.)

I think what I’m learning during this process is a lot about who God made me to be. And about how it’s ok not to be able to do everything all the time. That I’m not going to be “perfectly” able to do everything I want or think I should be able to do. That it’s ok to take one or two things a day in the midst of daily life. And that worrying about time spent waiting or doing this and that is going to get me nowhere. It’s going to look different here, and crossing off every item on my to-do list may not be the most critical thing for me to get done every day. I’m learning to enjoy the times like this evening, when our power was out. Several of our neighbors were sitting on our front steps as we chatted in the brilliant orange moonlight for over an hour (with the silhouettes of palm trees in the foreground). Yes, I had reader’s response journals that I could have been grading by the light of my headlamp. But at that moment, a few other life-moments were much more important. Like learning more about the life-stories of my new friends, laughing over our calling Tanesco (the power company) and realizing that they weren’t answering their phones at all an hour after they had said the power would be coming on (turns out the whole city was out of power!), and having one of my students sit on my lap as we discussed her flexibility while her parents went to a meeting at the generator-powered house next door. These are moments that I will remember, and half-treasure when there’s not such a threat of the power going off again any moment. They are good bonding moments, and opportunities to chill, grow, share, and learn from a culture that treasures relationships and spending time with others way above the task-oriented perspective we hold tight to in America.

It’s true what my housemate Elaine said earlier today – that she’s glad the power goes off so she can appreciate it that much more when it’s back on. I’d like to think that, too. Part of me, though, thinks that the wires in the walls of our house were made to carry electricity, and that it’s sure nice when they do. Back to my “instant gratification” mentality, I guess!