We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

Many of you, our family and friends, have been very much in our thoughts and prayers as we have celebrated Christmas in Tanzania. And we know for some of you, it has not been an easy time. We have missed you! But we have had a lovely Christmas here. We spent Christmas Day with the Galvin family and Raymond and Helen and our Canadian friend, Laura. The girls thoroughly enjoyed their first Christmas in the sun as they played outside in the huge "paddling" pool the Galvins had. (Not a lot of water in it though!)

Amisadai and Louisa splashing with Tianna, Abeni and Kaiya
 As well as paddling on Christmas Day, there were many other Christmas firsts this year: 1. We had no brussel sprouts (yay!) 2. We went to get milk and wish the cows a Happy Christmas before breakfast on Christmas morning  3. We were tormented by flies during Christmas Dinner  4. We ate our Christmas cake off  plastic picnic bowls and not our best china... But amidst all the things that were so different to our "normal, traditional" Christmas, the reason for Christmas, the meaning of Christmas, the story of Christmas was the true constant and this was happily celebrated! And it was good to share this with new friends - from Canada and Tanzania on Christmas Eve, and friends from Australia on Christmas Day.

Now we are thinking about Amisadai's birthday coming up on Thursday. Her idea is for us to go for samosas at Hasty Tasty in Iringa. They are tasty! And then we will have some kind of party here in the afternoon. Thanks to Grandma, we have everything we need to decorate a birthday cake now!

And as I write, Tim is intently chasing flies and mozzies with our new toy - a racquet which electrocutes insects!

The girls gave me a lovely Tanzanian bag!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Candles in Potatoes and Jiggers in Feet

We are thinking of all those of you in cold and snowy England at the moment! We have been checking the snow news for Heathrow flights for our EI friends Andy and Angela who are trying to get home for Christmas. They are unfortunately currently stuck in Dar es Salaam with no internet access. (We lost our internet too, and now as I finally post this blog, they have secured seats on a flight tomorrow) I am sure many of you have your own snow problems and stories!

Here, (with temperatures which have gone up in the 30's) we are enjoying a break from homeschool and language school. But we have also temporarily lost our househelper, Lucy, who has taken a Christmas break to visit family in Arusha. And so the time spent in school has more than been filled with all that she normally does for us! I miss her terribly! This morning my attempt at making the bread was a disaster! I tried to follow Lucy's recipe, pinned on our noticeboard, thinking it would be more reliable than my Western recipes, taking account of the flour here and the altitude etc etc... But her recipe was as follows and somewhere along the line, I went wrong!

Mikate 2 - 4
unga was ngamo
vitcombe 3 - 6
hamira 3 - 6
chumbi 1 kijiko kidogo 2
mafuta ----

Then I was pasteurizing two batches of milk, boiling water for washing the dishes, then sweeping the dusty house, then on my hand and knees with a towel and a bucket ... and before I knew it the morning was over and I hadn't even started doing the things I was planning to do this morning! So we ate the mishappen rock that vaguely resembled bread! 

On Friday, we had a great EI party for all our househelp and guards and all their families. We had over fifty people with all the children! We enjoyed a feast of rice pilau, meat, coconut peas, chapattis, bananas ... It was a great opportunity to thank all our workers for all they do for us as well as meet all their families. Mama Kiri (a lovely lady who lives nearby)with her daughter, spent the day preparing and cooking the meal with a little help from the EI ladies!

Mama Kiri had come to my rescue a few days earlier ....  I got my first jigger in the foot! I thought it was a splinter for the first day or two and when I finally looked at it properly when my foot was really hurting, with a big purple, swollen patch, I realised it wasn't. The next day, I sat down to sort it out and realized it probably was a jigger. So I tried to dig it out with a needle. If you are reading this Jay or Laurena, I was thinking of you, first wishing you were here, then very glad you weren't able to see the terrible mess I made of the whole operation! I ended up bursting the egg sac, trying to squeeze the thing out, so little eggs were spread out along with puss and by now I was clammy and nauseous (I'm not very good with this sort of thing!!) so I dabbed on a whole load of antisepetic and went to bed! The next day, I went to Mama Kiri, and she and her daughter came to my rescue. They pulled out numerous little eggs one by one! And then finally the culprit. So now I just have a small crater in my foot where she and her sac of eggs were! Oh joy! Next time I will go straight to Mama Kiri and get the whole thing out in one piece  ... and get a lesson in jigger removal! Although I'm not sure any in this family particularly want me to practice on them!

Last Tuesday we had the Christmas Carol Service with the English-speaking church. For the small nativity, Amisadai was a shepherd and Louisa an angel, complete with wings made of a mosquito net and a halo with tinsel from South Africa! Amisadai enjoyed playing her violin for the carols along with another violin, a cello, flute and myself on the piano. And we even had a Christingle, but because there are no oranges here at the moment, the candles were all stuck in potatoes! But as it was pointed out, the orange is supposed to represent the world, and really, with all the valleys and mountains, a lumpy potato is probably more fitting! 

Thank you so much to everyone who has sent us Christmas cards! It means such a lot to get news from you. And we have enjoyed some packages too! Thank you for the chocolate snowballs which arrived today, Dixons - I wish you could have seen the girls faces! Thanks so much!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Advent Reflections

Decorating our Christmas tree
This year's run-up to Christmas has, so far, been very different: no crammed calendar, no mad shopping for presents, and no pressure to have this year's Christmas bling. Instead it's been do-it-yourself preparations - we've made an Advent wreath (each week we light a candle and have a service prepared by Amisadai), made a wooden stable for our nativity set, made our own decorations (we're very grateful to Tim's cousin Rachel, husband Paul and son Aaron for sending us festive craft supplies). Our gardener, Spedito, went outside our gate to chop the top off a conifer for our Christmas tree - can't get a fresher tree than that! He really enjoyed seeing the excitement of the girls as he helped them decorate it! In this season of waiting, we have enjoyed the gift of time! We've had time together as we've made preparations or as we read the Christmas story.

Last evening, we had the time for a leisurely Christmas party with our EI friends, Andrew, Miriam, Ben, Sam, Andy and Angela. The children enjoyed a treasure hunt in the garden. Then we shared a lavish meal, and all the cooks did a wonderful job. Games afterwards added to the fun, even if one or two did try it on! It's taken us most of today to clear up - including washing up without a dishwasher - but that doesn't matter, because we've got the time to do so and as we do can remember our fun time last night! We are also very grateful to have the water, and the electricity to heat it, now!

It's as if we've rediscovered the joy of Christmas. We're savouring every moment and we're looking forward to what's coming. We have our Christmas Carol Service on Tuesday evening with Amisadai, Louisa and Rachel all taking part. Before that we have the visit tomorrow of our friends Huruma, Kenny and Jimmy Nkone from Dar-es-Salaam. Our joy is in the time and simplicity - time together with people in an uncomplicated way. The first Christmas was very simple indeed, and this is what we are most looking forward to celebrate, hopefully in the same manner, where what's supposed to be in the background stays in the background. One wonders what Joseph and Mary talked about in the hours they had in that stable. Maybe they discussed the meaning of God's fulfilling his promise of sending a Saviour.

Painting decorations with Lucy
Our E.I. Christmas Feast

Monday, 6 December 2010

Mzungu Woman on a Bike!

Yes, this Mzungu (white person) now has a bike! And I was a great source of entertainment to Tanzanians as I tried it out on a lap around the market last week! It is no easy feat riding a strange bike, in a skirt, through throngs of people with bananas on their heads, water cans on their carts or sacks on their bikes. They are all staring at me, pointing, laughing, smiling, as I try to remain decent with my skirt flapping about and remain stable and erect while avoiding the bumps and deep ditches! I have never seen a Tanzanian woman on a bike in Iringa and this may be why! But now I have a bike, it will save so much time going to and from school, not to mention the running costs of the land cruiser! The only downside is now I must also use it to go to the market. And this is where I really am a Mzungu, as I cannot imagine being able to ride up that hill back home, with my bike overloaded with pineapples and bags of rice, with mangoes and bananas on my head and buckets of flour hanging from my handlebars!

Last week, amidst the excitement of bartering for my second-hand bike, we enjoyed a visit from the new EI International Director, Doug Anderson. He came to see how we are all getting on here in Iringa! It was great to meet him, share what we are doing and be encouraged by him.

The EI Team with Doug Anderson (third in from left)
 I am typing this blog entry with no internet, and wonder when I will be able to post this! It has been another day without power, but we now know the pattern, and so it is possible to plan (flexibly!) accordingly! We seem to have a day/evening with power, followed by a day with no power until 8pm and then on the third day, power until 6pm. So the candles are getting low and we have even resorted to eating frozen bread as hunger strikes before we can cook anything! We did end up in the dark when Doug came for dinner last week. Thankfully, the meal was almost ready when the lights suddenly and unexpectedly dimmed. I ran to the kitchen, hoping to quickly fry the meat before we lost all power. But I only made it as far as the door! We were able to cook the meat on the kerosene burner outside and ate by candlelight – the only further mishap, caused by our lack of candleholders, was a lit candle that toppled onto Doug’s serviette! It was all rather miraculous, that we (1) enjoyed a hot meal and (2) didn’t go up in flames!