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!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Bees and Wedded Bliss

It's been a while since I've done a Bee Post! But it's time now! And I'm sure this post will be far more popular than my gripping last post on bio-fertilizer. Yep.

I was so delighted (yes, maybe a little over-excited!) when we arrived back home to see that bees had taken up residency in my two hives at the bottom of the garden, but I was a little nervous to investigate much further. I wasn't sure what I was looking for in there and wasn't sure how to go about looking even if I knew what I was looking for. Things seemed great from the outside and I was content to think (albeit naively) that it was just as great on the inside!
Our friend, Innocent (a beekeeper in Kigoma) came over one evening this week and together, in wellies, he and I made our way in the dark, down to the hives. We had a torch and a long piece of wire. Innocent ever so slowly and very gently poked the wire through the holes in the hive to determine the honeycomb situation inside.

I was relieved we didn't have to take the hive out of the tree and remove the roof and top bars. We didn't need my smoker or even my hat. I admit I was a bit disappointed not to wear my hat, but when Innocent laughed at my suggestion to put it on, I thought I should just act cool and carry on. But even without my beekeeper hat, I immediately caught Innocent's contagious excitement as he exclaimed in amazement at the number of bees and the activity going on! And then again when we checked the second hive! Awesome!

Innocent poking carefully in the hive (I was chief torch-bearer)
We trekked happily back up to the house where Tim was sitting comfortably in the candlelight and told him all about it.  Hives bursting with bees, and buckets full of honey and plenty of beeswax for industrious mamas on the way! I am geared up with anticipation for harvesting the honey in possibly just six weeks! And all on track for our bee project starting in villages in February! Buzzing with excitement! Tim managed to show five minutes worth of enthusiasm, but then I could tell there was only so much bee passion he could take. He tried to tell me he was excited on the inside, but I could tell it was time to stop buzzing out loud!

The other buzz of excitement this week was celebrating our fourteenth wedding anniversary! I am so thankful for my wonderful husband and our years of adventure spread across our three continents! He treated me to a lovely lunch out at Hotel Tilapia, with a long, lingering proper coffee. Bliss.
Coffee with a view!

Coconut Paneer, Honey shredded Beef, Rice and Naan
And later on, as darkness fell, we enjoyed a romantic candlelit evening, courtesy of TANESCO, the electricity company! But it crossed my mind to wonder if we would ever make the effort to do this candlelight thing on purpose! It seems rather odd to me now that people would light a candle when they have electricity!

This week has been a bit of write-off for power! We had none on Monday but some in the evening and then in the day on Tuesday. But then aside from a few hours in the middle of the night we didn't get any again until Thursday at 10pm. I wondered what to do! Should I start doing laundry, or bake some cookies and do some ironing? In the end, I just happily had a hot shower and went to bed. Not very industrious, but what were my priorities? It was a shaky off-on-off-on start on Friday (not good for cake-making) and then off again Friday night and Saturday and still off now on Saturday evening! Word has it that all will be well on October 10th. But I'm not holding my breath!

And as I bring this post to a close, this week Joseph built a shelter for the small seedling nursery we are starting here at home. We planted moringa, jatropha and a few other seeds and settled them safely in their banda. We will add a variety of trees to our small collection and with Bahati Daudi's nursery, put all to good use in the agricultural and tree planting work. So wonderful to watch things grow... in more ways than one!
The Seedling Banda

Some previous bee posts!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Homemade Bio-Fertilizer

Once again, this week there seems to be far too much to write about! But I will keep this blog post short and entirely focussed on one thing ... bio-fertilizer.

I'm sure I just lost a bunch of you! But for those of you still interested, follow along!

Last week, with the able help of Joseph, we made our own bio-fertilizer which we can teach other farmers in the agricultural project how to make and use for their crops. The bio-fertilizer can be used to provide bigger and better harvests. As it is made from natural food products, it is a far better alternative to chemical fertilizer and not to mention a lot cheaper and easier to get hold of!

So, step one involved pounding the skins and flesh of a pineapple with a pestle and mortar. This we then soaked in water to soften ... and then pounded again.

Pounding the Pineapple
Then we pounded a kilogram of dried fish into powder. This was hard work and Joseph ended up doing this on the verandah with a large stone!
Dagaa (small dried fish)
Pounding the Dagaa

Then we heated a large hunk of solid molasses sugar to liquefy it. This was harder than anticipated because boiling caramelised it and any time off the heat solidified it again! But we got there in the end and mixed it in a bucket with the pounded pineapple, powdered fish and some extra water.

Hard molasses

Mixing the strange and smelly concoction!
It stank! We mixed some more. We put the lid on and labelled the bucket with the date. Since that day, every day for seven days I faithfully stirred the fermenting mixture. Now it really stinks! On day 7, we stopped stirring and are now leaving it until day 14 to stir again. And then we will stir again on day 21 when it will be ready to be poured into glass containers to store until we dilute it to use in the field.
Job done!
And as a post-script to this post, we also made some homemade natural pesticide to deal with some of the pests in the crops. An awful concoction of chili peppers, garlic, onions, baking powder, soap pieces and ash mixed with water. This also (if it proves successful), we can teach the farmers in the project how to make and use for their benefit! It's easy and it's cheap and soon we'll see if it works! Has anyone else tried this? Or find it as interesting as I do?!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Rejoicing! The Boys Lost are Home!

It was February 22nd, over seven months ago, that Walter and Baraka went missing. They are the two sons of our guard, Thaddeus. The details were not clear; all we knew was that they had run away from their boarding school in the northwest of Tanzania. Thaddeus travelled to search for them, he tried the police and various contacts. But nothing. Here there were no surveillance cameras, no missing children alerts, and really, the outlook was bleak. It has been a long and worrying time for the whole family.

But this week Thaddeus heard news of his boys and travelled to Musoma and he found them! They were thin, but otherwise fine! They were being mistreated in the home they were living to attend school and ran away. But then needing money to travel home, they ended up working for someone who basically took them hostage, forcing their labour and never paying. To make a long story short, Thaddeus was able to get them out of there and bring them home. We bought a chicken which we gave to Thaddeus and the family to celebrate the miraculous homecoming! Those who once were lost now are found! A real miracle!

Thaddeus (sorry, we don't have a photo of his sons!)
This wonderful news encouraged us immensely in the midst of this week. Tim has spent endless time at the infamous TRA getting his drivers license renewed. Rather than recount the whole story, just read about my experience a few years ago (I laughed out loud reading this again!) and that almost sums it up for him! He has also been to Immigration, working on getting our residence permit renewed. Again, it is hard to explain how a single job can take so much time, paperwork, trips and effort, but that is the way it is. And that is why sometimes you get to the end of a day feeling like you really haven't accomplished anything at all.

Sometimes it seems people think our life is rather exciting or full of feelings of fulfilment. But that feeling of accomplishing "nothing" over a long period of time is not so exciting. This week, in the daily, unexciting routine of school runs, homework and music practice, my kitchen drawer collapsed in a heap of termite destruction. The kitchen drain clogged back up. Our waste pipe burst and bubbled forth in a foul mess in the garden. The quote which came to mind was from Cyril in Nanny McPhee: "We're in the land of poo!"

When it settled down. Gross!
Feeling under the weather with a cold, I managed to drop a glass jar full of precious jam (it is precious here!) and the following day a full jar of honey and was brought to tears by the sticky, sharp mess on the floor! I was missing the extra help with Lucy absent at meetings and wedding parties. And then Lucy's return from family was delayed when her sister was hit by a motorbike. She was thankfully ok, but there were hospital and police visits to sort out. All the time, we watched helplessly as our electricity leaked at an alarming and expensive rate whenever the power did actually come on ... and we waited for an electrician to stop praying. Yes, the good man had three days of prayer and was thus delayed. And then with our power out during the days, he was long unable to do anything. A great relief when we had a day of power and he could pray on the job! All is fixed now, but we have yet to enjoy it because the power is out again as I write, with the disappointing news that this state of affairs will last yet another month!

So when I look at what I have accomplished this week, it doesn't add up to much. But thanks to the prayers of friends and of course the wonderful news about Walter and Baraka, it was possible to be encouraged! And that's with the assurance of where my joy and hope comes from ... what a relief it's not from whether kitchen cupboards stand firm and waste pipes hold fast (although I wondered for a while!) or even our attempts at accomplishments! And as for accomplishments, I did manage to make some bio-fertilizer (very smelly) for our crops, but rest-assured, nothing to do with the burst sewage! But more on that next time ... 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Fire of Persecution

We heard the news this morning that three churches near Lake Victoria in northwest Tanzania were burned last night and the buildings and contents completely destroyed. Three churches (PAG, EAGT and Living Waters) were set on fire with paraffin in the Bukoba area in Kigera Region. There are no reports yet as to who started the fires. This is the third time in three years that the Living Waters church has been burned by arsonists. The church building which burned yesterday had not yet even been completed.

This is a sad repeat of events. In March of this year, in the same region, three other churches were burned down. Earlier in February, a church building was destroyed. And in May, Samson Gwajima, a Bukoba pastor, was attacked in his home after receiving threats. In October of last year, Dioniz Ng'wandu, a 31 year old father of two, was killed with machetes and another injured as they attended a TAG prayer meeting in that same area. The church has reportedly received threats from Muslim extremists who say they want to reduce the number of Christians in the region.

We hear that it is difficult to get authorisations for churches. Churches say they are refused permission to rebuild on their premises, with claims that the land is for residency only. So even if the church can raise the financial resources to build, there are further obstacles to overcome.

This area is also one heavily involved in witchcraft. It was in this region that 18 witch doctors were arrested in March, during the crackdown on murders of people with albinism which involved the arrest of over 200 witchdoctors nationwide. The area has been repeatedly in the news with reports of ritual killings for organs, other kidnappings and killings of children and people with albinism or other mysterious killings with witchdoctors involved. In March of this year, there were at least seven people killed in the Bukoba region, allegedly with a 90 year old witchdoctor, Gaudensia Ndibalema, behind it all.

So please share and pray for the church here in Tanzania. Pray for the churches in this region of Kigera. As in many places worldwide, the church is quite literally in the fire. But if we remember Moses and the burning bush and Shadrach, Meshak and Abednigo in the fiery furnace, in the fire was the abiding and preserving presence of God and in the end was His glory!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Planting Land Cruisers

I know I posted only yesterday, but I must share Tim's news from last week ...!

Fifteen local farmers gathered together in Kayenze last week! Tim left town on Tuesday with Esther, after teaching at the Bible College in the morning. They waited an hour on the daladala (local bus) in town for it to fill up with people. When it was full, they left. After two daladalas and stopping twice on the bumpy way to do a bodged job on the steering when the bus broke down, they finally arrived!

The Kayenze church building
The teaching on Conservation Agriculture in a Biblical context was spread over two days and shared between Tim, Esther, Peter (who gained strength recovering from typhoid and malaria and made it to Kayenze just a day late) and Pastor Amon: a good team! Amon was fantastic as he animatedly talked about his experiences learning with us last year. He joked about how his neighbours had watched and laughed at him planting last year, saying the wazungu (white people) were planting land cruisers! But then he told the farmers of his exceedingly fruitful harvest and how it was he who had the last laugh!

Amon teaching (unfortunately he doesn't look so animated here!)

Peter teaching
As is often the case, it was difficult to get things started on time and to get everyone there. But there was a good group of farmers who were keen and eager to learn the new methods of farming. Tim also enjoyed the time he was able to have staying with Peter, Esther and Amon, sharing in prayer for the whole project and also sharing some good meals and conversations together!

Farmers gather at the seminar
Tim came back on Thursday afternoon (when the bus had finally filled). With no breakdowns on this journey, the only mishap on the return was stepping on and traumatizing the chicken placed near his feet. The girls and I thankfully welcomed him home after our own eventful few days of minor sickness and electricity problems which had lasted the three days he had been gone. We realised the problems were not simply the city cuts (which are still bad enough) but also some kind of leakage at home. An umeme fundi (electrician) is "on his way."

Saturday was disappointing as the second part of the seminar Tim had planned to do in Kisesa had to get postponed. Also, the meeting I had planned for the Upendo wa Mama group didn't happen as none of the women could come. I waited and waited on the steps outside the locked primary classroom! But while I sat in the school yard, the cancelled seminar meant Tim could take the girls for a final farewell to our friends, Tim and Joyce Jarvis, who are moving back to the States this week after living here in Mwanza for many years.
Farewell for the Jarvis' with Mwanza International Community Church
And now, the preparations begin for planting. Today we sorted out bags of seeds and I went to find some small banana trees ("children" as they are referred to here!). Fields will be checked out this week, and then let the planting commence! As always, there is something exciting and hopeful, something loaded with potential and anticipation about this time!

And you never know, maybe a  project Land Cruiser will sprout!

While the seminar went on inside, children gathered outside
with a church member for their own time of learning!