Showing posts with label random. Show all posts
Showing posts with label random. Show all posts

Sunday, March 9, 2014

It's NOT that time again, but...

(from Christianity Today)
I recently heard about Joni Eareckson Tada for the first time when her picture made it on a magazine at our one-and-only local wazungu-type cafĂ©. True, I’m probably the only person in the greater Christian community that hasn’t heard of her, but I’ll attribute that to my not growing up reading biographies as a kid. For some reason, I was way more interested in epic stories of kids in far-off lands!

Back to the point. I heard a brief synopsis of Joni’s story – how she was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident, and how she has been used in powerful ways over the years by God. With her name in hand, I set off to find her biography on Kindle… and sat down to read in-between letting bread dough rise for dinner.

And then, I kept reading. And reading. Through the second-try of rising bread dough (the first one was disgusting, thanks to a bad batch of flour!), and more reading in bed that night. Yes, it was really good – but in some ways, I kept reading because I wanted to get past the uncomfortable, difficult bits of what happened and on to what God is doing now. While Joni’s experiences were nothing like mine, her story all-too-clearly whispered back memories of a story of my own.

A story of facing death, wondering if I would wake up unable to use part or all of my body for awhile or forever. A story of a teenager who lived life through movement and saw the possibility of this all being taken away. A fear of what we can’t control, a reminder that life is short, that what we have we take for granted, and that God is in control even when it seems all is wrong.

As I read, I could clearly imagine the feeling of lying in bed staring at a ceiling, unable to move a muscle. The possibility was once all too real. It’s not out of the scope of my imagination to know the dread of hoping and praying and having no idea what the outcome might be. And yes, for some reason my ending was not in a Stryker bed and wheelchair, but in a recovery room playing with the oxygen monitor on my finger, years more of dance and competitions and eventually living on another continent teaching kids.

It’s funny, how these feelings sometimes creep in unexpectedly, sliding under the door unannounced but all too real. I used to worry about “what might happen if” and dreaded checkups. These days, my biggest thought concerning this time of my life is the reminder to save up funds towards my next MRI. While once fears were real, now I consider my check-ups a great (though loud) nap time and am not surprised when I get a clean (though expensive) bill of health at the end. But then there are moments like reading Joni’s book, moments that bring me back to that time and make me realize just how very different the result could have been.

And while I try not to wonder “why” anymore, “Why did my story turn out so differently from so many others…?,” I do count my life and breath and being and ability to move and love on kids and teach with song and dance a privilege, just a little bit more, when I’m reminded of the gifts I’ve been given, while fully knowing God would have provided exactly what I needed even if the results had been different.

In any case, whether you’ve heard of Joni (or not), I definitely recommend her first book. The story of her healing and understanding of God is incredible. However, just a word of caution to anyone with a history of head trauma or brain/spinal issues… if that describes you, I’d recommend possibly skipping the biography and reading her more recent writings instead!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How to be a Kindergartener

  1. Follow the rules. Every single one. Tell on people who don’t.
  2. Forget to wash your hands every.single.time you go to the toilet.
  3. When cutting pictures or letters out of a magazine, ALWAYS start cutting at the other end of the page.
  4. Give hugs. Lots of hugs.
  5. Tell your parents everything interesting you learned that day, including how all mammals are mommies because they feed their babies milk.
    “Mommy, I want to be a mammal some day! But my brother can never be :(…”
  6. Bring flowers... candy... half-used bottles of lotion... or anything else you find on the playground to your teacher as a token of your love.
  7. Get tired of writing after one sentence. A five-word limit is preferred.
  8. Drink as much water as you can JUST AFTER recess/break/bathroom time.
  9. Tell your teacher when her hair looks especially nice. Or especially bad. Or Chinese.
  10. Ask your teacher the color name of every crayon you don't already know. Announce it excitedly to your class, then wait for classmates to find similar colors and ask teacher for color-name confirmation as well. Try crayons (which you've used a hundred times before) to test the validity of the colors. Ooh and ahh in excitement over colors as only 5-year-olds can do!
  11. When sitting next to your teacher for one-on-one reading, elbow her in the side or leg as many times as possible while settling into a comfortable position.
  12. Always tell the teacher when she misses something or does something out-of-routine.
  13. When completing a sticker (prize) chart, form a look of shocked amazement. Jump up and down, and force the words out of your mouth, "This... means... I get... to bring home... my sticker chart... AND a prize... on the same day...!!!"
    (apparently Squinkies are all the rage these days!?)
  14. Sing in the bathroom.
  15. Pretend you don’t know that your teacher lets you win math games. Till she plays with someone else… then remind her from across the room that she’s supposed to let the student win sometimes.
  16. Announce your snack/lunch as you take it out of your backpack with complete and utter excitement. Every day.
  17. Proclaim every day to be the school.EVER. Except for the days you cry. 
  18. Make sure everything. is fair. for everyone. at all times. but more fair for you!
  19. When your teacher is sad, give her a hug. When your neighbor stubs his toe, give a pat on the shoulder and an "I'm sorry." Offer your Comfy or satin piece of fabric or stuffed mouse toy or whatever you personally know makes you feel better to them as a token of comfort. Whether they fully appreciate it or not, at least you did your best. This is love.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Door, and other Headaches

This was written about a month ago, but the feelings associated with such predicaments are sometimes all too real on a regular basis...

I don’t often write blogs in the heat of the moment. 

There are a lot of things I like about Tanzania.  I actually do usually appreciate the creativity that is forced on you when living here.  But then, there are some things that just seem like way.too.much. to deal with. 

I remember when the newbies (now more than a year-in families) arrived a year ago last July.  Suddenly, I was reminded of all the things I’d struggled with upon my arrival.  Dads feeling inadequate and unable to provide for their families in the simplest of things… like not knowing how to turn the light on, or where the bathroom switch might even be.  Not knowing how to flush the toilet.  Not knowing what’s wrong with their kiddo who has a fever but won’t get better.

It’s usually not even the biggest inconveniences that give me trouble.  I expect the power to go off at the most random, most unhelpful times.  I’m used to crazy traffic.

But the little things – the things that shouldn’t be a big deal?  Those are the things that add up and end up driving me bonkers if I let them… or maybe that’s to tears.  Depends on the day I guess.

Today it was tears.

Sometimes, you just want a house you can call a home and feel comfortable in.  Other times, you just want to be able to leave said house, without getting sores on your arms and metallic scrapes and frustration boiling over and tears running down.  After the last couple of days (apparently our door has been warping over the past few months) I’ve spent about 30 hours (ok, maybe minutes) trying to wrestle the grill on our front door (through the little hand-hole) into a position where I can lock it.

Why not lock the inside, wooden door, you might ask?  Well, that door has warped too. 

And the back door?  What about that?  Did I mention warping?  This one requires a hammer to get it shut.

I should go ahead and state clearly here that my roommate and I have by far the best (in our opinion) house in Musoma of anybody (at least as a place for two singles to live!).  It's comfortable, feels homey, and usually, most things work.  So generally I can't complain.  But there ARE times at which I'd like to leave said environment and mix with the outside world, and at such moments, locking the door behind me becomes a necessity.

So yesterday when I texted my roommate in frustration as I tried to leave for school (late already, of course), she granted me a reprieve by crossing the street from the office to help me “lock myself out.”

*Have I mentioned what an amazing roommate I have?*

I didn’t come back till I knew she was there.  Though I might have been otherwise tempted by a dinner with my adopted family as well! 

Today, same idea, except my roommate was far away helping someone move.  This time I was finished.  Yesterday I kept it together, today was supposed to be a relaxing Saturday, and this was just too much.  I called my friend who I was supposed to meet, told her I wasn’t coming, closed (carefully, I’m sure) the door from the inside and collapsed at my computer.  To write this.  A few minutes later some friends drove by who had heard about my predicament and between the two of them, managed to wrestle the door into submission. 

Have I mentioned what an amazing community we have here?

I left, WAY more frazzled than usual. 

The thing is, I know it’s stupid.  I know the door has nothing against me, I know that it’s a little thing, but sometimes the little things add right up to make people feel like they’re not competent, and the lies of “you’re not good enough” and “something’s wrong with you” and “why do you even try” start filtering through.  I’m getting better at zapping them with my light-saber flavored Truth, but it’s still easy for the frustration to cloud the view of the silver linings and start to let raindrops start coming down. 

The acid kind, that burn.  Not the cool refreshing ones.

A few days later, we got a fundi (expert/specialist of some kind) to come out and re-solder the door… and for the time being, at least, I can once again leave my house in peace and safety.  Oh, what a relief it is!  But in all honesty, as frustrating as some things are here sometimes, I’m so blessed, encouraged, and amazed to see how the missionary community that surrounds me is willing to help one another with the big and little things every day!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Shopping Surprises

Recently my cousin mentioned on Facebook that he had stepped on a cockroach.  In a grocery store. 

Which, of course, is gross.

But in all honesty, at first, I didn’t think much of his comment… till I realized he wasn’t one of my friends in umpteen different developing countries around the world.  Then, yes, it made me remember the prospect of this was actually not really ok.  Or expected, ever, in this context.

Fast-forward to today.

I headed into our local “grocery” store – the kind that has some of the non-local products available (think: Pringles, ice cream, and apples), and is bigger than the typical duka on the side of the road (think: the size of the soda-bottle return area at Meijer).  As I peeked around a stack of baking powder tubs to see if there was any soda bicarbonate (baking soda) hiding behind it, I found this.

I stopped, stared, realized it wasn't moving, and grimaced.  But then, as I walked away, a few interesting tag lines ran through my head regarding the situation.  And at the risk of never having anyone come visit me again, I'm sharing said comments here for your reading enjoyment.  Here are my thoughts:

“ha! that’s hilarious!”

“Would it be weird if I took a picture?”

“Is it bad that this totally won’t deter me from coming back?”

“Health codes? Hmm.  What’s that?”

“It’s so tiny!  Usually the ones running around eating food in dukas are at least 5 times this size!”

“I’m just glad it’s dead… this is gross of course, but it’s the live ones that make me jumpy!”

“Should this bother me more?  I’m still planning on buying something…”

“Why was he poking around the soda bicarbonate?  There was sugar right across the aisle..."

“Is THAT why they’ve been out of soda bicarbonate for a month?” :P

“I wonder if I should have told the shopkeeper… hmm… maybe they already know?”

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Best Friendemic

Just a few of the people who bring smiles to my heart around the world...
and whose pictures just happened to be handy on my computer.
I have this problem.  You see, I have too many amazing friends.  I’ve been assured that this is normal for my lifestyle – you know, one where I out of necessity develop close relationships in a variety of cities, states, and countries around the world.  But, at the same time, it makes conversations difficult at times.

Last night, my roommate was told “you can’t have that many best friends!”  Well, maybe not best friends, but she’s a lot like me.  Once you’ve lived overseas, moved a few times, and have lived in various places, especially as a single, it gets to be a bit complicated.  I remember arriving in Kalamazoo last year on furlough and realizing that, at that moment, I had amazing friends in cities all over the world, but not a single close friend that I could call to go to dinner.  (A couple of friends from Kalamazoo were away, but still.  It was lonely.) 

I’m not saying that I need more friends – nor that I don’t want any more.  It’s just a weird phenomenon.  And, it’s typical, from what I read.  In the book Third Culture Kids, it talks about how many kids who have grown up overseas have a FB friend list a mile long and how they realize at some point that they just can’t keep up with them all like they want to.  It’s sad – missing out on the lives of those with whom you’ve grown close.  And it’s amazing – realizing that you’ve gotten to meet and be a small part of this many amazing people’s lives!  It’s hard, to continue to get close when you know it’ll end in goodbye.  And it’s easy – to fall into close relationships quickly when you’re surrounded by stressful difficulties and need to lean on one another for everything from medicine to bug spray to food to a place to go and cry on someone’s shoulder. 

It’s weird.  It’s crazy.  It’s life.  My life.  And while there are many times when I’ve asked, “who decided this was a good idea, anyway?” I can honestly say that most days, I’m incredibly thankful for the journey God has put me on.  And more than anything, I am reminded that my home – my real home – is in heaven, where tears and goodbyes will be finished and I’ll get to worship around the throne with my 394 best friends – and a million other amazing people I never got the chance to meet – from all around the world! :)

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!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Can We Keep It???

I’m sure that in homes around the world, this is an anticipated yet dreaded question of every parent, ever.  Somehow, as a teacher, I just didn’t see it coming.  But when I moved to Tanzania, all bets were off.  Give kids a playground with wildlife galore, and you just don’t know what they’re going to find!

Here are a few of the “Can we keep its?” I’ve had over the past 3 years.
Aren't I just so CUTE??  Well, yes, and whiny... 
But look, I promise I'll stay right here in this basket.  For 2 whole seconds... :)
This was Sam.  He lived in a box.  In my classroom.  Until the kids who found him forgot him on a hot muggy Dar Friday afternoon when they left for the weekend.  Not knowing what else to do, I brought him (hypothetical "him" of course) home and let him live in my shower for the weekend.  When he started biting (he was old and cross) we promptly let him go - we had just finished a set of rabies shots and didn't feel like starting over!
a puppy (sorry, no picture)

5 kittens (again, no picture... they were hidden away.  Mama escaped from the horde of primary HOPAC kiddos who rampaged her hiding spot during break time with excited shouting...)

hedgehog #2 (quickly released before picture-taking (and forgetfulness) could commence, for it's own good… see above)

geckos were never a question – they are just permanent, well-welcomed residents of the classroom, and require no work other than avoiding their leftover droppings from the night before.
George.  Seeing as we couldn't get him to eat, we were glad when he decided to take a break from the classroom.  We had a lot of fun with him though, and even got to see him molt!  And he was my kind of pet... replace his little leafy branch in a plastic bottle every day and we were done!
chameleon #2 (went home with a kiddo)

And last but not least... Hedgie! 
Seeing the kids all sitting quietly like this during break? 
I knew SOMETHING was up!

I’ve been a bit more willing to take on pets here in Musoma (read: for a week at MOST!) because:
1) the pets the kids find generally aren’t going to make me stuffed up.
2) they are VERY low maintenance.
3) I can just as easily release them and they’ll be fine.
4) they are HEDGEHOGS and CHAMELEONS - if they run away, oh well!?
5) these are all pets that the families here already have, so I have experienced people to turn to for help and directions – and weekend housesitters.
6) Did I mention low maintenance, and hypoallergenic?

Then again, after we let Hedgie go on Tuesday, I decided it might just be time for a pet break at school - and home.  Looking forward to a bit less craziness in the weeks to come... (one can always hope, right?!)

And because I'm a teacher, this is the song that goes through my head every time I hear, "Please, Miss Crystal, can we keep it!?"

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Banana Week

It’s banana week at our house. 
A few weeks back, one of the bunches of bananas on the banana trees in back of our house dropped.  Ronit and I had big plans for these bananas – we tend to use whatever we have on hand pretty well.  So when they went missing, we were pretty bummed.  And confused.

After a bit of inquiry, we discovered that one of our guards had helpfully put the bananas in a cardboard box, tied it closed with copper wire, and put it in one of the back storage rooms on the property.

When he heard we were looking for them, he brought the box up to the house, explaining that you should always put bananas in a cardboard box to ripen quicker.  “Right,” we said, nodding our heads.  Inwardly, I likened it to an old Tanzanian-wives-tale, like the one where I'm not supposed to drink cold water on hot days because it makes me cough. I'm sure it had nothing to do with allergies!?

All I could think of when I saw the copper wire was how people steal
copper off irrigation systems in the States to sell it for money! 
If they only knew how many boxes of bananas were sitting wrapped
with copper wire in Tanzanian backyards...
I'm assuming the newspaper is also critical to the ripening process?

My roommate and I laughed, took a few pictures (because that’s what we do), and left the box covered to see what would happen.

A couple of weeks later we started smelling a mysterious banana-like smell from the entryway where we had left the box.  We checked inside, and whala!  The bananas were ready!  Turns out that bananas really do let off a ripening agent-something-or-other-that-does-something-so-they-ripen-and-apparently-you-can-put-other-fruit-in-the-box-to-ripen-too-and-I-should-look-up-why-this-is-but-will-refer-you-to-knowledgeable-chemist-friends-instead-because,-well,-I’m-too-busy-cooking-with-bananas.

Suddenly, all our plans for Sunday-afternoon cooking changed.  Pumpkin bread for morning routines was cancelled, and banana bread subbed in.  We found a Betty Crocker Pound Cake Mix (a treasure in these parts!) in the freezer and came up with a banana-maple syrup topping for it.  Making pancakes?  Add a few – or ten – bananas to the mix!  And I’m pretty sure that banana chocolate chip bars will be on the dessert/snack menu for sometime this week – sans oats, since oats are so expensive here.

yum! :)
We started wondering in the bustle of banana-cooking what would happen once these bananas were gone.  After all, we had managed to use nearly half the box in 30 minutes time!  And then we remembered the trees out back, with another five bunches worth of bananas slowly getting ready to drop… and simply smiled as we thought of all the banana weeks to come.


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.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Things I've learned at camp (aka Swahili language school)

(Because my brain only seems to be thinking in lists these days... must be all the stacks of vocabulary I'm trying to memorize!)

1. Never leave clothes on the floor. Or if you choose to do so, check jean pockets for scorpions, siafu (huge biting ants), and other fun friends before donning said clothes. (don't worry, I've learned this through someone else first...)

2. When taking a shower in the cold of the evening down the hill from your tent, be sure to remember to bring your towel with you.

3. Contrary to popular belief... it really DOES get cold in Africa! :P

4. Always shake out your shoes before putting them on... Any time of day.

5. Sleep - and lots of it - is important when learning a new language.  So are study breaks and long walks...

6. Go climbing. It's beautiful.

7. Make friends with the dog. Even if you're allergic.

8. Denmark has a queen! Did you know that? (Things learned at chai (tea) with friends from all over the world...)

9. It doesn't matter how clean your kid (or his/her clothes) might be at the start of the day... It's guaranteed within 20 mins they'll be brown from nose to toes.

10. Gaining a new language causes your primary language to go downhill... fast. 

11. Fleece blankets are important. Vital even.

12. Hot water bottles no longer seem old-fashioned.

13. Walk loudly and carry a large stick... when walking through the tall grass and woods :) and don't freak out if you get bitten.

14. More knowledge of American TV shows can be gained in the middle of a campsite in Tanzania than during a full year of living in the States...  (evidently I didn't turn on the TV much!)

15. Avoid siafu (army ants) no matter what.  In fact, avoid entire vicinities where they have last been spotted. 

16. Drink. a lot. of water. The clean boiled filtered kind, of course. Except not at dinner, or then you'll have to trek down the hill to the bathroom in the dark...

17. Living in a tent isn't all bad as long as you have a bed and warm blankets to sleep with.

18. A hot shower makes everything better, even if taken by flashlight :)

19. If using a lock to secure your tent, be sure to have an extra key. And have it handy. Especially when you lock yourself in at night.

20. Laughter is important. All the time. (Then again, so are good friends with shoulders to cry on.)  So thankful for community here with whom it's safe to do both!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Happy August!

August!  Did you realize that it's August?  I really don't even remember it turning to July, which is why I'm slightly shocked that it's over already.  In the past month, I have...

recovered from a nasty virus I picked up on the way to Tanzania
moved into my old house in Dar
traveled to Kenya for conference
traveled back to Tanzania, realizing along the way that I seriously have to start thinking Tanzanian again (there are so many things I forgot while in the States!)
packed up all my stuff that got mixed together with my roommates two years ago
bought a car
learned how to shred a coconut and make coconut milk
started helping with a three week orientation course of kids whose families just arrived in country
remembered what it feels like to have power go out three times a day, internet not work, phone companies change their rates without telling you, and a million other little things that make up "normal" life here in Tanzania
oh yeah, and ate.  slept a little.  the basics. :P

I wish I had time to sit down and post all my thoughts from the past month.  I've written some posts, but alas, no internet meant you never saw them.  I'll work on getting them up soon enough. In the meantime, I'd like to leave you with a few images of the past month - when I've remembered to take my camera out.

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!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Along my travels down I-75 and further south... I came along a few interesting sights.  Some of them I managed to take pics of (when I wasn't surrounded by traffic) and others I had to note down on the yellow post-it beside me.  Here are a few of the things that kept me entertained on my 3 days of driving south!
Because you wouldn't want a regular, boring mountain road...

Who WOULDN'T want to live on Stinking Creek Road, really?
(Turns out there's also a Boggy Creek Road in FL, in case you want the wet version...)
Does it bother anyone else that the American Kidney Fund truck has pick-up service?
I keep hearing about this coca-cola museum, but didn't have a chance to stop...
From my one experience in Atlanta before, I remembered how the right lane of traffic suddenly turns into an off-ramp without warning.  I tried to stay in the middle. 
Did you know there really IS an Oscar Meyer Weiner Vehicle?
Neither did I, till I passed it going down I-75! 
Not sure I'd want to drive this on a windy day though!
Oh, how this reminds me of Tanzania! 
Who says the luggage has to fit within the confines of the vehicle?
Another random street name that called for a picture...
"NEEDMORE RD?" This name cracks me up... let alone that it's obviously under construction!
Everyone wants a "Big Boy" statue walking across their lawn!
Because all dairy farmers should be united...