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

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Friends, Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas All in One

On Sunday we managed to squeeze lots of festivities into one day! We met with the Pentecostal Church in the morning (where Tim was preaching), then celebrated the first Sunday of Advent at home with a little service the girls prepared and finished the day celebrating American Thanksgiving! A little out of order, but nobody minded! We had Marc, a potter from the States, currently working at Neema Crafts, for dinner, which aside from the puny little chicken posing as a turkey, was fairly traditional! We even had cranberry sauce! I looked all over the market for pumpkins with no success, but we splashed out on apples and with a real North American apple pie, no one was complaining. Andy and Angela joined us for coffee and apple pie and the girls excitedly presented their shadow play “The Story of Kuang-li” which you should soon be able to watch from their blog! All the festive activity was thrown together rather quickly and a lot of fun in our brief two-days at home!
Enjoying some apple pie!
Early Monday morning we took the bus to Morogoro, to visit our good friends Matt and Amy Dixon who have just moved there from the UK. We arrived in time for a late lunch at Ricky’s, where they treated us to burgers! It was wonderful to see them again and meet little Finley for the first time! The girls thoroughly enjoyed playing with Elia, now almost three years old. It has been a rough start for Matt and Amy with one thing and another, but we are so glad they are in the country and excited about having them here with us in Iringa for Christmas! We commiserated over car problems and water problems among other things, enjoyed bacon butties and chats among other things, and then had to be back to the bus station for 12:30pm the next day.
Playing with Elia and all the babies
We got home at 6:30pm and then another quick turn-around for Tim who quickly unpacked and packed ready to go to Magozi at 7am yesterday morning. He gets back later today, but the girls and I have stayed here to sort some of the chaos of the past week and do some schoolwork! In all the excitement, we seem to have run low on all kinds of things such as food obviously, but also pig food, drinking water, electricity, phone credit … and we haven’t had time to go to the post office, where we hear there are five parcels waiting!
Later ...
Well after all recent niggling frustrations with things like the kettle breaking, the puppy chewing my new boots and pajamas, continuing failed efforts at the electricity company to top up our supply, failed attempts at getting internet, failure to get through the dishes and laundry (we are really missing Mama Lucy who has been sick!) we had the most wonderful failure just now! Failure to carry all the packages out of the post office!! The girls and I had been trailing around town, hot and tired with not much going as planned, when we had the most amazing, exciting visit to the post office ever! We knew we had five packages waiting for us and were already very excited about getting them! But to our amazement, we had a post box full of green slips (each green slip means a parcel is ready to be picked up) - TEN! The staff at the post office found the girls' uncontainable excitement very amusing as we waited for ages to get all the parcels brought and signed for. We signed for ten parcels and they all started coming, but further to our surprise, when we counted there were TWELVE! The woman made sure we signed all ten out, checked my ID and checked orally that I knew my name several times, and then a little confused with the extra two parcels, just handed those over as well! The girls were quite beside themselves and now can't wait for Daddy to get home and show him the pile of brown paper packages tied up with string! Talk about favourite things! Then curiousity will only grow as they wait till Christmas Day! We don't know who you are yet, but thank you so, so very, very much those of you who sent parcels! I wish you could be with us to share in the great excitement! I'll stop now as I'm getting all teary-eyed! Lots of love from all of us!
Christmas comes to Iringa!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Entertaining in Style

It has been one of those weeks with moments where I can’t quite believe what I am doing! When expecting guests, I used to plan the menus, go shopping for some food treats, spruce up a guest room and generally try to make things as pleasant as possible! Now here I was, escorting our guest in a bumping, dirty, dusty old land cruiser to a house even more dusty and dirty with not much beyond beans and rice for food (apart from the lemon cake and banana loaf which was a nice treat while it lasted!) When we arrived and she was “shown to her room,” I quickly started sweeping up rat poo, dead cockroaches and heaps of dust and dirt. Then began the mouse chase, after seeing one dart behind a shelf … another visitor had arrived by this time and while Amisadai and Louisa ended up standing on the furniture, she ended up being the one to spear the creature with a long sharp stick! Disposing of the thing with my dustpan, the thought crossing my mind is that of pretty, scented soaps and soft creams laid out on a pristine bathroom counter and a vase of flowers on a dressing table. But we have no bathroom, let alone bathroom counter and no dressing table even if we could find a flower! Actually the smell is sweat rather than soaps and flowers, and we can’t even offer a fan for some relief from the brutally uncomfortable heat! But Mama Masawa was lovely and settled in with our family, fitting right in!
Mama Masawa is a Tanzanian who works for the Diocese of Ruaha. She came to Magozi with us to teach the stoves group on business and marketing and also work with a group of people on improving reading skills. She was such an encouragement to the stoves group, inspiring them to work hard and be proactive in selling. We also presented the snazzy red Magozi Jiko T-shirts, which were a great hit! Now you can easily spot a group member in the village! The plan had been to come for four days of teaching, but unfortunately she was called back to town and so managed to squeeze four sessions into one short and one very long day! In the afternoons she worked on the reading. We had expected a small group of women, but it turned out to be a large group of men and women, all very keen and eager to learn or improve reading skills! We sat in a circle, taking turns to read out loud; I saw the marked difference between listening to the adults struggle to read and the children that have gathered at our house to read so much more fluently. The children now have an opportunity of an education that many of the adults have not had. We realized that this was a much bigger thing than we had originally thought, and this time with Mama Masawa just the beginning. The group was so eager to learn and the potential is amazing! We would love to do what we can to facilitate some reading groups for learning and improving. The ability to read – a free gift, but priceless!

Presenting the T-shirts
Reading Session (the group grew!)
It was a busy and tiring but very good week. The girls kept up with schoolwork, we kept up with meals (with only one struggle to keep the fire alight!), we kept up with drinking water and we kept up with the rodent kills! It often seemed bizarre (particularly at moments like going to bed one night wondering where the third scorpion had gone) that being in Magozi could be so good! But it was so amazing to see people so enthusiastic and eager to learn and improve, sitting for hours on uncomfortable planks through the heat of the day to do so! It was so encouraging to see the quality of the stove-making improve. It was great to have a late visit last night from Ezekiel, the group secretary, who came to ask for some flipchart paper and a marker pen so as to draw up some advertising posters to put up at the roadside, pointing to the jikos for sale in the village. He got busy right then and there in our little house with the small solar light! And then we were able to bring another lady back to town with us to get glasses, how wonderful to now see Mama Margaret able to read!  

Mama Margaret
As we had no meetings in Magozi today, we were able to come back early this morning, which was great for the girls as they were delighted to get back in time for their friend, Abeni’s birthday party! They then went to bed at 6pm! We are hoping to find a pumpkin in the market tomorrow and celebrate American Thanksgiving with a pie on Sunday evening (as we missed Canadian Thanksgiving this year!)  And then on Monday we are looking forward to getting the bus to Morogoro to visit Matt and Amy Dixon!
The first scorpion
(they got bigger!)

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Ukwega and Back

Driving back this afternoon from Ukwega, a small village next to Magozi, I thought wistfully about 176th Street in Langley, Canada - I miss that road! It's long and straight with no potholes and you can drink a coffee driving along it (not that I particularly wanted the coffee at that point ... but to divert along the coffee thought, our recent tragedy with the cafetiere has been heroically rescued by the Belleguelles in the UK who in no time at all have seen to it that a new cafetiere is on its way to Africa! Asante sana!) Driving along, I also thought how strange it would seem in the UK to be taking your clothes off in the car driving to or from a church meeting as Louisa did today feeling excessively hot!

The Ukwega Church after shaking hands
at the end of the service
  Today we went to meet with a small, very new church in Ukwega, recently started by Yuda who is also the chairman of the Ebenezer Stoves Group. About 15 adults and surely twice as many children come together in a small, carefully made shelter of sticks and straw. Inside they have embedded poles in the ground with a V to support horizontal poles to perch on; village style "pews" on which with a sleepy Louisa on my lap, perching is no easy task! They warmly welcomed and received us; Yuda was able to talk about the stoves project, with the help of the girls who were wearing the new and snazzy group T-shirts and sang the Jiko Jingle! Tim preached and they were all very encouraging about his Swahili! And following the service (yes, very glad to stand up!) we shared a meal with Stephano and Vicki, elders of the church who live in the village. They are an amazing couple with great initiative and energy. They have set up a "cafe" in the village serving chai and rice and also established a small shop which they stock every month by going on the bus to Iringa. They are now talking about building a church building.

Yuda and Tim process to the front at the start of the service.
Yuda talks about the project with the girls in the new T-shirts!
This week in Magozi, the kiln was fixed and the second batch of stoves was fired! All 70 stoves have been "spoken for" so production really does need to pick up as with the whole batch effectively sold, there are none left to sell at the market! We are also still having some problems with the clay cracking, so really trying to solve this one!

We are all going back to Magozi on Tuesday, taking with us Mama Masawa who will be staying with us to teach until Friday on business & marketing and to work with women on improving reading skills. We will also be presenting the new T-shirts which will be hugely exciting! It will be a busy week being "hostess" to Mama and teacher to the girls, and trying to attend as many of the reading classes as possible too! The plan for girls is to learn about the light of the sun as we make sundials, but to be honest, I rather wish the sun might go behind the clouds a bit more this week!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Events and Unevents

This week, I actually think I can take on the challenge from my sister to write a whole blog update without mentioning animals dead or alive or on the plate, or sickness from either end! My week has been rather more uneventful than usual! But Tim has been part of a huge event! He has been in Dar-es-Salaam for much of the week. He and Andy both got there and back safely on the bus. Tim was booked home on a bus yesterday which didn't exist, but it was sorted out in the end! While in Dar, Tim was able to pick up some awesome T-shirts for the Ebenezer Stoves Group (they will be so excited to get them - I can't wait!). He was able to meet up with good friends Matt and Amy Dixon and their two little ones. We are very excited that they will soon be just a 5 hour drive away! Tim and Andy also went to look at vehicles for EI and put a bid in on one. Unfortunately, we heard yesterday that we lost the bid. And Tim went to the Campus Night, a huge three-night event for university students hosted by Victory Christian Centre (Pastor Huruma's Church). It was an inspirational time for thousands of students from across East Africa with a varied programme of music and speakers, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs as guest of honour. One speaker, Dr Charles Sokile (a Tanzanian), works for the UK Government, Department for International Development, as an advisor on how to help Tanzania come of out poverty. So the students could see how they can make a difference for their nation.

While Tim was away, the girls and I marked the events of Tanzania's 50 years of independence and then this weekend, Remembrance Day. But you can read all about that on the girls' blog! I was looking forward to making the most of a solid, uninterupted week in town for some schoolwork ... exploring light and shadows and quest myths and legends. We did well, but I can't say it was completely uninterrupted! We also enjoyed some company while Tim was away, with Angela and Inkeri (who is lodging with the Sharpes) over for dinner and a big girls' movie on Wednesday evening (I can't say what we had for dinner, or I fail the challenge), and Laura over for dinner and a little girls' movie on Friday evening!

Now we are all enjoying a quiet and uneventful Sunday afternoon!

Friday, 4 November 2011

A Fish out of Water

I'm feeling like a fish out of water and wondering what the other idioms I am looking for are! Not quite a bull in a china shop, but maybe almost! And maybe a blind dog in a meat market - I just looked that one up! I love living here in Tanzania, I really do, but sometimes from time to time I just feel so completely alien, completely unable to communicate, completely confused and completely exhausted trying! This week was such a time! But reflection and perspective is always a good thing and I can see (admittedly, later than I would like!) that it isn't always in the "doing" but often just in the "being" that makes the difference and a quick look around me quickly puts my own little problems in perspective!

But as you are reading this to find out what we've been up to this week, I'll fill you in! We left for Magozi very early on Tuesday morning to be in time for the start of the stoves groups meeting at 8:30am. By 9:30am I was hotter beyond belief, already tired and wondering how we would survive the day! It was a tough three days for various reasons. But it was hot; mid 40's in the shade and it really just made everything hot - the candle was melting, the spoons were hot to pick up, the drinking water was frankly disgusting! Louisa came in for supper one evening extremely hot and bothered, sweat running rivers all down her. Before we could blink, she had stripped off her clothes and sat down for tea. Amisadai quick as a flash, followed suit (no pun intended!) and to be honest, I wished I could have done the same! There just was one moment of brief relief from the intensity of the heat - a fizzy drink! Then the buzz wore off and we wilted and dripped again. Under the tin roof was like a sauna, outside the ground seemed to burn through our sandals. I think you get the idea! But the group times went really well. Tim worked hard to reinforce good techniques in making the stoves to try and raise the standard. They also experimented with a mix of new clay, working on preventing cracking. We were hoping to fire this week, but the kiln didn't get fixed, so hopefully next week. We have another 60 stoves ready to fire which is good. We had lunch with Mama Kalista on Tuesday, and she is so delighted with her jiko - talking of how she can cook outside even in the wind, how it cooks well and quickly and uses less wood. Encouraging to hear!

Abdara finishing a jiko
The girls and I did schoolwork on the Wednesday; the project was appropriate, measuring shadows and observing the pattern of the sun! I tried to go out and visit with the other women, but for some reason this time really struggled. One drawback was the heat - even walking three minutes was hard. But cultural differences and communication problems seemed to bother me more than usual and I just felt so out of place. I was tired of being told I didn't have enough children, of everyone discussing my ability to conceive and medicines for contraception. I was tired of everyone always touching me and discussing what was wrong with my skin having moles and freckles, even the annoying zit on my chin! I was tired of not understanding what was going on around me, of people laughing (not unkindly) at me and I didn't know why.

Then it was time to come back to Iringa. We brought back with us Mama Meriziana, (from the stoves group) to get her some glasses in town. We had seen her struggling to read her Bible. Then another lady (to whom we had previously mentioned was welcome to come and stay in town sometime) asked if she could come for a pumziko ("break"). We agreed it was fine; she was happy to share a room. So after lunch, we were all piling into the land cruiser and as Mama got in the front, her two girls climbed in the back! There was some confusion for a while, but in the end they were not getting out as they didn't want Mama to leave them. They were coming too! Now I am thinking about the situation when we get home - not much food in the house, I knew I had no eggs or butter and only a little flour and sugar. And not much of anything fresh. Also short on the beds and bedding. Then I remember  no water either ... having all these guests really isn't sounding like a good idea. But then these were all thoughts from my Western culture head. Here none of that matters. We have some rice and beans and we have much more floor space than they are used to and they don't have bedding or running water anyway so it's all fine. Well it was for a little while. The eight of us were bumping along in the boiling heat, when one of the girls got as sick as a dog (I imagine it was her first time in a car). She threw up pretty much all the way home, all on the floor at our feet. I tried to no avail to get her to do it out the window (we didn't have a bucket or anything vaguely appropriate!), but every time, just right on the floor. We were all glad to finally arrive home. But then there were new things to learn ... like toilets! The two girls didn't know what to do, and no doubt feeling nervous about it all, one just went right in the middle of the living room! Adding to the chaos was the fact that not only was there no water, but also no power. (At this point, I really just wanted a shower followed by a lovely cup of tea sitting on the couch and then a chance to sort out all our laundry.) But we managed and despite all the ensuing cultural confusions from village to town life, from Tanzanian to British life, we are so thankful we could have this friendship and in a special and rather amazing way, feel joined as part of the same family!

The other very good thing about it all was that Mama Meriziana was able to get glasses this morning. She has apparently had a lazy eye since birth, and the other eye obviously weakened. She came home from the optician and put her new glasses on and was so thrilled, it was lovely! She took out her (Swahili) Bible and read all of Isaiah 61 out loud "... to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." And she said after reading it, "... now I have eyes."

Mama Meri (the stoves group treasurer)
reading easily for the first time!
So whether I feel like a fish out of water or not, I'm as pleased as punch we are here ... and Tim adds "definitely as mad as a hatter anyway!"