The Mongers in Tanzania!

We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International and local churches on physical and spiritual development. Find out what's cookin' ... particularly on the fuel-efficient clay stoves Tim works on and Rachel cooks on!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Sprouting Cheerful Wonders

We now have just over a week to go! This really has been the longest ever month! We seem to have had rather a lot of bad news, but there are some good things sprouting in the midst of it all. Our seeds are starting to come up which is always a cheerful wonder.

Here are some photos of the canavalia jackbeans and sorgham seeds sprouting in their blanket of mulch. The lablab is continuing to do very well as are the pigeon peas. All good crops with their own wonderful purpose!


Recently, it has been a blur of daily power cuts, computer problems, sickness for the girls, car problems, seriously disgusting termite problems and various project delays. Our guard Thaddeus is travelling next week to search for his sons who are still missing, our other guard is going this weekend to say goodbye to his mum who is dying; our house-help, Lucy has had a three day seminar this week after sickness last week.

But I did finally got a toilet seat that fits ... but I need to figure out how. As I puzzled over it, Louisa said, "we don't need a proper man, mummy. We can do it!" Only I am not so sure!

I went back to the post office with the required money and passport photos that they last week asked me to bring. I went from desk to desk, talking to three different people, before finally being told that there were no boxes available. All were taken. Right.

And in the middle of it all, there was the timely, cheery, wonderful gift of a delicious meal dropped off for us by a kind friend. And there was the cheerful help of a "proper man" who came over to get our car sorted out!
This beautiful new hive arrived this week!
It will have to wait until we come back now to get put in place and occupied!
We've had a music recital, which was lovely - only in Tanzania would all the kids at the recital sit with dirty, bare feet hooked around a piano bench and only in Tanzania would the power go out on the fourth piece (thankfully there was a generator!) We've had endless renditions of songs and dances preparing for the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory school production next week. We've had football club, youth club, mamas groups ... And today I went to the tree nursery and discovered a huge tree had fallen in the strong winds. Yes, right on the nursery enclosure! So with Joseph and Bahati Daudi, we spent the morning repairing the fence, sorting the tree seedlings and preparing compost.

But again, in repairing the ruins, we saw again the small good things shooting up. Seedlings with potential to bear so much fruit. The wonder of our Creator.

Preparing compost

The tree nursery rebuilt
Meanwhile these crazy girls have been a great help mucking in and being patient in the busy-ness!

Love 'em!

And they went out on Mother's Day to tidy up my seriously neglected garden for me!

It's not all about chocolate and flowers! Love 'em again!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

To the Boatyard and the Hospital

One week down and two and half to go! We are missing Tim very much ... but I have to say that I appreciate all he does even more after this week! Doing some of Tim's side of the work has given me a far greater appreciation of him and what he does! And this current multiplication of labour has reinforced my appreciation of the division of labour! 

Tim and his Dad and the rest of the family are especially in our thoughts and prayers today as we await news of how the surgery went to removed the brain tumour.

It has admittedly been rather a struggle this week. Trying to get everything done has been an uphill battle.  Realising on Tanzanian time I was never going to get through everything, I scheduled simultaneous appointments in confidence that one or more would be cancelled or delayed. In my time-conscious and orderly mind, this was very risky. But it worked! I was supposed to be meeting two people at 11am and I was shopping in town at the time. Even getting stopped by the police twice, I still got the shopping done (except for the toilet seat ... which is again, another rather unfortunate, on-going story), made both appointments (which were predictably late) and was back in time for school pick-up!

Of all the things I have been doing (which includes a lot of chasing compost, 4 days worth of chasing purple T-shirts, going to get a new post box, but being told to come back later when the lady with the form has come back from visiting her friend in hospital)  probably one of the most interesting was a trip to the boatyard.

To the Boatyard

The girls and I went with Dr Makori to look at some fibreglass boats which have potential to be ambulance boats. It would be a huge asset to the health work on the islands on the Lake, helping the many people in remote areas without easy access to medical help. It is a very big dream, but such a good one! It was fascinating to see the boats in progress and it stimulated some architectural thinking, as I designed in my head a floating mobile clinic, this emergency service boat with a solar-charged drugs cupboard! I, along with Dr Makori, do hope this dream will come true!
Checking out the boats with Dr Makori and Dixon
A 12m hull

A very big boat!

A small boat!
Amisadai checks out the workroom

Hospital Visit

Saturday was an interesting and good day. Mamas group was planned for the morning. But on Friday evening, I heard that Mama Penina had given birth that afternoon and with another mama away, the group was postponed. I made plans to visit Penina in hospital. But then as we were enjoying a bonus lie-in and leisurely breakfast on Saturday, I had a call from Mama Faith at the school wondering where I and others were! The girls and I ran out the door and drove down to meet her and started making bead necklaces. Mama Wilson also turned up along with little Dora.
Making necklaces with Dora
At the end of the morning, we all went to the hospital together. I was so thankful they were with me as I'm sure on my own I would never have found Penina in the confusing scrum of people and babies! Delighted to see us all, she suggested as we had a car, we all go to her house ... and so with the three girls, three mamas, a new heavily wrapped baby, thermos' of uji (porridge), washing bowls and bags, our entourage made its way out to the car. Another lady, I have no idea who she was, came with us! We squeezed in amongst all the freshly varnished beads which were hanging to dry from every available place in the ceiling of the car.

You may remember from a previous blog, I have been to Penina's house before! It is up a bad and bumpy road, one which almost defeated me when I got stuck on it. I drove as far I could before getting to the very dodgy bit. Then we all, baby, bowls, bags and all, traipsed up the mountainside. I most certainly would never have dreamt of such a hike the day after giving birth! Penina took it slowly, it must have been torture! But then, she does this every day. It was a steep and rocky walk! Amisadai has written more about our visit on their blog.


At the house, having a cuddle with this precious baby, we gave thanks. A beautiful baby girl! A healthy baby and safe delivery is never taken for granted here. The lives of children of these mamas are not taken for granted. (You may have seen there has been yet another attack this week. A 6-year old child's hand was chopped off and the mama injured as she tried to protect her son).

So many things are not taken for granted here and it is so good to be learning to do the same.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Hanging in Trees and Ants in Pants

The hives are now hanging. After a second episode with siafu ants, we decided to try and take the legs off the ground. Tim told me just to "do it" with Joseph and it seemed it would be easy, but I came in afterwards rather harried and had-it with all things bees. Joseph is a great worker, and incredibly fast, but sometimes just too quick! While I wanted to stop and think and make a plan, design a pulley, measure and cut ... he was jumping up and out of trees, cutting ropes and tying knots faster than I could think. It got a little stressful! In the process, Joseph slipped out of the tree once - almost wiping out a hive. I got an army of siafu ants up my trousers and had to hightail it inside to strip off and pinch the ants from every hidden part of my body. A serious case of ants in my pants. And my wonderful kitchen scissors were broken when Joseph managed to get them stuck up the tree and yanked to get them back. Snap. The whole process getting three hives in trees took ages and far more rope than was necessary. I should have made a plan first. I seriously can't believe the lengths I must go to for the sake of the bees.

Anyway, the deed is done, although I think we will need to make serious modifications. But that will have to wait until I have time to make a plan. But there are now no siafu ants in the hive and we tempted the bees back and are once again, hoping for the best.

We got there in the end! Hanging hives
(now wait for the winds in the rainy season; I think they will take off!)


And now for an update on the peanuts ... I love growing our own peanuts and have the head gardeners permission to grow lots more next season! We roasted many in their shells, we tried boiling some (not so popular) and Lucy shelled raw peanuts to roast for peanut butter which I made today. Seriously, who needs a gym? All that pounding was great exercise!

Lucy shells some raw peanuts

Pounding the roasted nuts into peanut butter

And Then There Were Three

Tim left yesterday and is winging his way to England as I write. It is so good he is able to be there for his Dad and the family at this difficult time. It wasn't so good when he kept sending texts from his relaxed horizontal position by the Indian Ocean, cappuccino in hand, to me running around with lists and busily translating notes, with no power and a very pongy problem with the shower drain which smelled suspiciously like a rat and rather urgently needed dealing with! But all in all, we are doing well ... today we managed to get both girls out of the house all dressed up for World Book Day (yes, we do it here too!), with a Sleeping Beauty and what happily turned out to be an award-winning Susan from Narnia costume. I ticked everything off my list for the day (which is an amazing and rare occurrence and particularly good given the circumstances!) And we had a most interesting excursion with Dr Bernard Makori this afternoon which I will save for another post now!

Purse Dancing

Just to finish, here is photo of the church service on Sunday. We were with Pastor Charles' church in Mkuyuni and it was Mamas Sunday. This means the Mamas plan and organize special songs and presentations for the morning (and means it is a rather lengthier service than usual!) It was lovely watching and listening to these women sing and dance ... even a procession and dance with purses on their heads! We love this church; and this week as we said our goodbyes, and they prayed for us, their love was so beautifully expressed. So thankful!

Mamas Sunday singing
If you haven't done so, think about signing this petition which calls for the government of Tanzania to do all they can to put an end to the killings and attacks of people with albinism.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Jiko Progress

I think there is a name for it. It is that thing when you have so much to do and don't know where to start so you end up doing something that isn't important but makes you feel busy. Procrastination ... in a kind of justifiable way. I can be quite good at it. And I am doing it now by sitting down to blog a bit!

Super Seed Sort-out Session

But to my credit (or rather, my excuse is...), we have just finished a super seed sort-out session. With planting season approaching now that the rains are starting again and Tim leaving us all to be in England with his Dad on Wednesday, we had to sort it all out. So we had seeds all over the living room floor: lablab, jackbean, sunflower, pigeon pea, maize, beans, sorghum and the extra special canavalia brasilicus! It felt like Christmas as we packaged the seeds up and labelled and grouped and bagged them all for different people. Sorting a season of planting multiple crops for five farms in one evening! Brilliant!
Recent blogs of ours have been rather serious. But that is because things like murders and attacks, missing children, deaths and brain tumours are some seriously sad stuff. But this time, I'm happy to blog something positively encouraging!

Tree Nursery

We had a very good, (albeit very long) day last Sunday. We took Joseph (our guard and now also a project worker) and Esther (our agricultural trainer) with us to Nyegezi Corner church where Tim was preaching (and did a great job). Afterwards, we met with Bahati Daudi (who attends this church) and he showed us his progress in the tree nursery outside. There is still a long way to go, but he is doing well and next week I hope to take him, Joseph and a load of his trees to go tree-planting at the Kisesa farm.

Tim preaching in the newly enlarged church building! Always amazingly decorated!
Amisadai and Louisa check out some of the trees

Tim with Daudi (centre) and Joseph (right)
At this point, after a long service and tree nursery chat, we were getting rather hungry. Esther had invited us all to her house having arranged lunch preparations for us. But the pastor was also expecting us all to eat at his house. So we went there first! It was past 3pm when we were treated to an amazing spread of food at Pastor Isaac's house. But then, rather than go straight to Esther's for lunch number two, we thought it best to go first to Tambukareli Church where the stove group meets. I must confess that Tim and I were both prepared at this point for disappointment. We have not had the time we wanted to invest in this group since the initial training last November. And factoring in the fact that the kiln had collapsed in the heavy rains of December, expectations were not high. But we were so positively surprised!

Clay Stove Group Surprise

The group had fixed and rebuilt the kiln. It was brilliant! And they had continued to make stoves. And they were brilliant! We were thrilled with the way they had taken on the project and worked together and worked things out. The good quality clay and careful work produced some excellent quality stoves. No cracks!

The group shows us the stoves

A good meeting with the Tambukareli Stoves Group

And so to our great surprise they were talking about firing these stoves very soon and starting to sell! We had a good meeting discussing the way forward. Unfortunately with Tim leaving for the UK, this leaves me a little in the lurch and a little out of my comfort zone ... I will need to return in a few weeks to oversee the firing (a first for this group) and also do the training on marketing and demonstrating the stove. We have always done this together in the past ... a whole family effort with Tim doing the main chunk of the teaching, me doing the cooking demo, and the girls ably helping with dramas to teach the marketing aspect! So I will miss Tim in England and the girls at school ... and no Ezekiel or Mendriad to help either! But we are excited to be moving ahead with this group. We hope to get some group T-shirts made as soon as possible and are talking about how the group will move out to do village training when we return to Tanzania in August. And this will be a very good thing this year ...

As you have probably already read in the previous post, there is increased risk at the moment for older women accused of being witches. This is a result of the increase in attacks and killings of children with albinism and people using soothsayers to "discover" the cause of the murders or misfortune. But the women accused are often targeted simply because of their red eyes, a result of the smoke from cooking in unventilated spaces over a three stone fire. A village stove project run by a local church is a good platform from which to address some of the issues involved here. May the churches here shine light and truth into the darkness and wickedness of the witchcraft that is so prevalent.

From Pastor Isaac's, we went to Esther's home for lunch number 2 which by now was easily more like dinner, approaching 5pm! I just love the hospitality here ... No one really minds when it all happens, as long as the guests are served food. Or sodas. We had so many offers of sodas that day. As Amisadai said just before we got to Esther's house, "I am just so fizzed up inside, I don't think I can drink another soda!" Esther was probably pretty fizzed up herself and kindly served us mango juice!

Louisa LOVES Esther, and particularly loves her shoe collection!
I seriously don't know how Esther manages to walk in them around here!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Kneading and Waiting with Mamas of Children with Albinism

On Saturday I was with some hard-pressed lovely mamas of children with albinism. We were all shocked and deeply saddened by the recent murder of  little Yohanna with albinism. The previous day, 18-month old Yohanna's broken body had been buried beside the graves of his older brother and sister (also with albinism). He was buried in a deep grave built with bricks and mortar, iron rods and corrugated iron to prevent his grave later being robbed. His mother Ester still lies in serious condition in hospital in Mwanza, after desperately attempting to protect her baby from the five attackers who broke into their home with machetes. His other siblings (ages 3 and 12), also with albinism, are being protected, but their fear and grief is unimaginable.

I have written before about the evils of witchcraft. The horrifically numerous incidences of killings of people with albinism in Tanzania are the horrible and gruesome evidence of such evil. Every one of Yohanna's limbs was severed from his body, taken by his killers to sell for huge sums of money. Witch doctors will pay as much as $75,000 for a "full set" of albino body parts from which to make their charms and spells to bring good luck and wealth.

It has been suggested that the killings and tortures of people with albinism are linked somehow to politicians (using witchcraft practices to secure power or foretell the future), given the fact that killings increase around election years. Tanzania elections will be held in October of this year. Fear is rising as Yohanna is the second child this month to be taken. There has still been no sign of 4-year old Pendo.

The word is getting out around the world on the atrocities happening here. And it needs to. Please share! Many are working to put pressure on the government to act. On March 2nd people are gathering in Dar es Salaam to protest the killings, the lack of action and the lack of prosecution of those responsible; to plead on behalf of people with albinism and pray for victims. Please pray!

Also complicating and worsening the situation, is that now there is an increase in vigilante justice, as people take matters into their own hands. Witch hunts are leading to the killings of innocent women accused of being witches. Last month, a 58 year old woman, Jane Bakiri in Tabora was attacked at night in her home by many villagers with machetes and knives and then burned alive. Older women, particularly those with red eyes (caused by the smoke over years of cooking on a three stone fire) are at risk from angry or frightened villagers seeking their own form of perceived justice. Tragic and unjust.

The mamas and I that met together on Saturday all knew the dangers, the feelings of helplessness amid such wickedness and corruption; they knew first-hand the fear. Mama Penina talked about the instant worry if she has a moment wondering where her little Maria is playing. I cannot imagine. None of Mama Wilison's five children have albinism, but she has it herself. She has grown up and lived with the danger. Yet they are so brave. Both Mama Penina and Mama Faith shared from Psalm 140; they have little confidence in their government, but every confidence in their heavenly Father.

That day we kneaded bread. We kneaded hard. They have been asking for some weeks now to learn how to use a small jiko (fuel-efficient clay stove) to bake bread. And so we did. And we talked. With my stumbling, inadequate Swahili, we talked about their children. We talked about our broken world and talked about a God who created us and loves us and clothes our nakedness. We talked about a good God who has a saving plan that started with another broken body. And we prayed.

We drank chai. And we broke the bread and ate together.
Shaping the bread dough

Eating bread and drinking chai
Mama Faith enjoys the bread and chai
Kneading and waiting. These two things are key in the process. Kneading to get the right consistency, to make the bread strong and prevent collapse later on. Hard pressed. Waiting. Waiting for the yeast to do its job and leaven the dough and make it grow.

And we do pray for this country and its government, that the leaven of the Kingdom would do its work. Even where governments fail, a little leaven will go a long way.

Working with the bread, seeing a product good and strong come out of a time of kneading and waiting, was a good reminder in the middle of a time of hard pressing and waiting. Not just for these mamas. Also for our guard Thaddeus who three days ago asked us to pray for his two boys. They are away at boarding school and the other night, Thaddeus received a call to say that both had run away and no one knew where they were. There is still no sign of them although police and family are searching.

Also for Tim's Dad and our whole family. We talked with Tim's parents yesterday, receiving the news that Dad's surgery to remove the brain tumour is set for March 10th. All felt that it would be best for Tim to be there. Suddenly the waiting from afar leapt into a blur of action as we changed Tim's tickets and tried to make fast plans for Tim to leave here on Wednesday next week in order to be with his Dad. So sad that we cannot all go together, particularly at such a "kneading" time, the girls and I plan to stay the rest of the month to finish things well here and pack up before our 4 months away. It's strange how things that seemed so important before, are suddenly not.

And so in the kneading and the waiting we remember we all have the opportunity to grow stronger. And we remember that it was through brokenness that we have wholeness.

Bread in process