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

Friday, 21 December 2012

Home for Christmas

The school backpacks, lunch bags, school uniforms and rather tatty black shoes are now finished with. It was sad today saying goodbye to Aldermaston CE Primary School, but they gave the girls such a lovely farewell and have been so kind to us all.
It is a strange muddle of emotions at the moment, while feeling a little torn for time. We would love to be able to share a little more time with so many people! Leaving and arriving, sadness and excitement. And then there is the question, “will you be at home for Christmas?”  
We no longer worry about where “home” is. Home is where we are together. But the question still throws some confusion! Does that mean staying in the UK for Christmas, returning to Tanzania, or going to Canada? In the next few weeks we will be in the three places we have called home: UK, Canada and Tanzania. And as Christmas dawns, we’ll be somewhere mid-Atlantic!
Yesterday afternoon I heard “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” play for the first time this year. This song always makes me cry and it didn’t fail this time. It’s thinking of all the soldiers that won’t make it home for Christmas. And this goes back to an old Hallmark commercial that always made me cry, in which a young boy bravely but sadly sings alone for his family without his big brother in the army, who can’t get home for Christmas. But then to everyone's amazed delight, the big brother walks in and joins the singing (actually singing “Oh Holy Night”, but it makes me cry as much as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”).
But this Christmas, it’s also thinking of all those parents in Connecticut whose children, children just like our 6 year old, Louisa, won’t be home for Christmas this year.
It’s also fondly remembering Christmas in past years, in different homes, but knowing that home is where we belong, wherever that is. And that means that we can be home for Christmas in the UK, Canada and Tanzania. Many people won’t be “home” for Christmas. For many people, there is no home or no sense of belonging. Yesterday, as a Christmas present from Tim's brother, Steve, we really enjoyed going to see "The Hobbit" at the cinema. Here we met the dwarves who lost their kingdom (as their love of gold became greed) and then wandered as exiles, belonging nowhere. But here enters Bilbo who joins them and says " You don't have [a home]; it was taken from you. But I will help you take it back."
I know that I have a home. That I belong somewhere. For now, I know that I belong in Tanzania and so that is home. (Although at the same time it has been wonderful being "home" in the UK for these months, and yes, it will be so wonderful to be "home" with my family in Canada for Christmas!)  I am so grateful for home, for belonging. Appreciating home, finding home, sharing home, showing people "home." Can't we all do more of this?
When God sent His son to the earth, he offered everyone a home. A place to belong, a relationship with Father, a family, a future hope and inheritance. He's given us a home for Christmas.

Friday, 14 December 2012

A Christmas Recipe for Advent

I love this season of Advent! I love the theme running through these weeks up to Christmas of light coming into darkness. Hope coming. Emmanuel: God With Us.

Today we did our last assembly at Aldermaston Primary School (which I suddenly found quite sad!). They have been presenting their Christmas Nativity this week: The Christmas Recipe. What are the ingredients for a good Christmas? Father Christmas, robins, snow, presents, angels and shepherds ... the list can go on. But really, what is the Vital Ingredient? And that is JESUS! We picked up on this in the assembly this morning. We know that in Tanzania, the recipe for Christmas is very different, definitely no snow or robins and for those in Magozi village, no presents. But the vital ingredient is there and that is the reason that people of all ages and nationalities all over the world celebrate Christmas!

So today we remembered with the Aldermaston pupils here in the UK, that Jesus is the Light of the WHOLE world. He came as light and hope for a world in darkness. We talked about Baby Lightness born to our friends, Ezekiel and Bora last Christmas. That little baby was wrapped in khangas and lay in the darkness without a fancy crib or baby toys, just like another baby we know born so many years ago. And we see that with all other "ingredients" gone, the vital ingredient truly is Jesus! And so to remember this, we lit Christingle candles this morning just as we did in Tanzania the past two years, using potatoes instead of oranges!
Lighting the Christngle candles for the Assembly

Louisa narrating for the Christmas Recipe Nativity
We do still see darkness around us, in sadness, despair, wickedness, war, hopelessness and pain in different places all over the world, but the Light has come to bring hope to all and what an exciting privilege we have to carry that light! Wherever we are in the world!

We are coming to the end of our time in the UK now. And realise it will be hard to leave! I went shopping to stock up on all those things like shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant etc as well as a funny list of things we miss (like marmite, certain spices and mixes, dried fruit and of course the oats!). And suddenly in the Christmassy aisles of inviting food, there I was all emotional about Sainsbury's! You have to chuckle at the things that suddenly hit and make one all emotional (well me anyway, Tim wasn't too bothered!). But at the same time we are looking forward to getting back to Tanzania, very much looking forward to seeing friends there again, and very excited to be starting up the stoves project in our new village.

Light of the World from Rachel Monger on Vimeo.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

What's Cookin' in Canada?

For all our friends in Beautiful British Columbia ...

The Mongers are coming to Canada!   

Open Afternoon with the Mongers
2:30pm – 5:30pm on Sunday, January 6th
At the King’s Centre (in the Ark)         21783 76B Avenue, Langley, B.C.

We would like an opportunity to thank all those who have been supporting us financially and with prayer and encouragement during our two years in Tanzania with Emmanuel International. We would like to share details about the work we have been doing and plans for the work when we return. So for all those interested, we will be sharing news, stories and photos at 3:00pm with time for discussion and questions following. From 4:00pm it will be an open time to drop in and have a chat!

(Please bring a small plate of finger food to share)
RSVP Brian and Roz Watts wattsb@shaw.ca

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Insurance for Jiko Use in the UK ...

It's been a while since I blogged... a little out of routine! Since the last entry, Tim and I enjoyed a lovely few days in Cornwall, which included a fun, interesting and useful day out at the Eden Project! I can't wait to get back to Tanzania to try out some healthy Baobab smoothies now! We were interested to see the Eden Project rainwater harvesting too and learn more about medicinal gardens!

Enjoying a coastal walk in Cornwall
We've enjoyed speaking at different meetings recently. I had the jiko going at a ladies' lunch in Tadley after going to great efforts to ensure that everything was insured and I wasn't breaking any laws lighting a fire in a public place! After several phone calls and emails, I was given the go-ahead and all proceeded safely and without incident! We had a really lovely time that morning, talking about "Hope in a Small Cake and Water Jar" and how God wants to use us to bring His transformation into people's lives and situations, no matter how empty or inadequate we feel we are.
Using a jiko in the UK! Health and Safety approved?!
We also enjoyed the opportunity to share with people last Saturday evening about the work have been doing and our heart behind it all. We will write it up for the next newsletter for those of you who were not able to make it to the evening but would like to know what is going on! As well as thanking all who have supported us so generously, enabling us to work in Tanzania, we wanted to share some important aspects of what is behind the work we do. Things like the importance of being in community with people, integrating all that we do into a cohesive whole of different practical work together with spiritual growth. We also mentioned the importance of encouraging, building-up and training people. We discussed poverty and the importance of diagnosing the nature of poverty before attempting a solution. We recommended two books we have found helpful, Transforming the World?: The gospel and social responsibility (edited by Jamie A Grant and Dewi A Hughes) and When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself (by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert). We in the west tend to think of poverty simply in terms of a lack of material things, failing to recognise its other dimensions of shame, powerlessness and hopelessness, all resulting out of a brokenness of their relationships with God, self, others and the rest of creation. We believe that the good news of the cross of Christ, sets the right framework for the healing of these relationships, so that people can live and work fruitfully as God intended.
Finally we ask for your continuing involvement as we return to Tanzania. We appreciate your prayers and support, and we want to encourage more communication as well. We know that many of our friends and supporters have experience and contacts that can help us. In particular for fund-raising for the project, we are aware that we need a fair bit of help! Please communicate with us your thoughts, advice, comments, suggestions! And likewise we want to keep communicating with you as best we can!
Thanks to Helping Hands in Tadley for their contribution to the Stoves Project!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Giving Around the World

I just wanted to share a link with you. EI Canada is currently raising funds for our stoves project, so please take a look if you are interested! This is particularly for Canadians, but if you are not it Canada and would like to give, then drop an email to Sue Fallon in the UK office and she can help you. Thank you EI Canada for organising this support! Every bit helps! Also, if you have any ideas how we can raise funds for the village stoves project, please let us know.

Click here for link to the EI webpage about the Fuel Efficient Stoves Project.
Click here for a brochure about the project. This can be printed out to share!

I was just looking at what Laurie Leung (we used to teach in the Langley King's School) is doing with her children (and others) in Newcastle, Ontario, Canada, raising money for wells for Africa. (See the link here!) I have been inspired by Amelie in Year 5 in Aldermaston Primary School who with her friends was making things to sell and organising fund-raising for the school stoves project. It is so fantastic to see children getting excited about giving and realising how much they really can give! We have seen these past few months how hard it is here even to understand the difficulties of living without water and all the other conveniences and luxuries that we have. How hard it is to appreciate what we have when we are surrounded by it. But seeing these kids do just that is great, and so encouraging for the rest of us! Giving is a gift and seeing what children do, giving around the world, you see that nothing is too small!

And while we are on the topic of generous giving, we want to thank all those who have been generously giving (of both money and encouraging support) to us! So you, and anyone interested in supporting us as we return to Tanzania in January, are welcome to the Sarum Hill Centre in Basingstoke on Saturday, November 17th at 7:30pm. Please get in touch if you would like to come! There is more information about this in a previous blog (A What's Cookin' Evening)

We are back from our week at the lovely Pitt Farm (not far from Totnes in Devon and a fantastic place to stay!). Louisa's leg is healing up, the worst part about it was the missed swims! Here are some holiday pics with the cousins and grandparents!  As you can see we did have some lovely weather - particularly for November in England!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Variety is the Spice of Life

"Variety's the very spice of life that gives it all its flavour." (William Cowper, 1731-1800) I loved this about our life in Tanzania and life here seems as varied as ever! One day I was shadowing the village butcher in Kingsclere, then the next soaking up culture with a string quartet in Covent Garden, followed by discussions on agricultural development in the Houses of Parliament. One minute I am reading up and planning units on Vikings and outer space and and then I'm thinking about nutritious, medicinal gardens in Tanzania. One moment I feel quintessentially English, welly-traipsing through the beautiful Cotswolds in all its Autumnal glory, and then I am wrapped in a khanga, Tanzania-style cooking ugali on a jiko in someone's back garden - yes, freezing cold!

The Cotswolds
It was great fun shadowing the village butcher! But really, it bore little resemblance to my butchery experience in Tanzania. This pig (actually, just half a pig) had been drying out for a few days, and was a clean cut of pig with no slimy guts, squelching fat or dripping blood. The butcher was rather incredulous when I told him of my tree-hanging, blood-draining, gut-removing antics when he asked if the pigs arrived to me to Tanzania in the same prepared state! With his razor sharp knife and saw, he had the half in sections in minutes. But that was as far as I got in my lesson ... not into chops, steaks, mince, bacon. It was a stark contrast to my Lulu endeavour! But I took plenty of notes and photos and hope to return for one more lesson.

 This week we are in Devon with Tim's family for half term. We arrived last night and are staying in a lovely big house on Pitt Farm, with the original Lulu! We stayed here together the Easter before we moved to Tanzania, and met Lulu the pig, the namesake of our own late Lulu. The cousins are having great fun being together. But unfortunately, in the rush and excitement to get to the swimming pool this morning, Louisa went flying and cut up her knee. So she added a little spice of a different sort today as she had her first experience of A&E in the UK! It was too bad to do this on the first day of holiday, particularly when this week was her opportunity with a swimming pool to learn to swim. But I was just thankful it happened here rather than Magozi! Here, there is a hospital nearby and Auntie Carleen is a nurse ... and there is chocolate (thanks to Grandma) and a Hello Kitty magazine treat (thanks to Auntie Carleen)!

So with all that variety, I feel life has plenty of flavour at the moment! And I think it is more a case of "what's chilin' in Devon" rather than "what's cookin'" as we were shocked to find ice ("Wow! Real ice") outside this morning! Oooh - it was for sure and certain the coldest I have been yet!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Home from Home

We are enjoying making the most of our time here in the UK! We are continuing to make the most of the availability of cheese, bacon, mushrooms and all kinds of sweet treats! The girls are really enjoying being in school again and I am enjoying a break from teaching! Yes, starting to miss the warm, sunny outdoor weather and also thinking over the next few months, it will be a little hard to swallow all the Christmas hype!

We are keeping busy in an interesting and varied way! In six weekends, we have visited friends and families in 7 counties. In the weekdays in between, we have had about 17 speaking engagements, talking to various school assemblies, year group classes, various adult coffee mornings and evening group meetings. We have been able to meet up with many friends for coffee or lunch and are trying to make the most of learning what we can about sustainable agriculture and agro-forestry (any help here appreciated!), practicing Swahili (Rachel failing here) and thinking through issues of how people in different countries can best help one another! Thinking about returning to Tanzania, I have started restocking things like first aid and English spices. And now I really need to focus on school supplies and curriculum planning for Years 2-3-4-5-6 (aggh!).

We really enjoyed doing the Harvest Festival with the Aldermaston Primary School this week. We were given the opportunity to speak about harvest thanksgiving with a Tanzanian twist. The school has generously raised money to help provide a fuel-efficient stove for the school in Magozi. The students in Amisadai's Year 4 class helped with it, and led some lovely prayers. It is so fantastic to have local support and we are really looking forward to sharing their love and kindness with the Magozi community when we go back!

We are looking forward to a week in Devon with the Monger family over half term. The cousins are very excited to have a whole week together to play! And then in the second week of November, Tim and I are looking forward to a few days in Cornwall (courtesy of a kind and generous friend!), which will be a very welcome rest with time to just think and reflect, process things and get some perspective for the future!

We are looking forward to our "Tanzania Evening" on November17th. It is our opportunity to thank all those of you in the area who have supported us in different ways, and share what we have been doing and plans for the future. Anyone interested in the work we are doing is welcome! Please get in touch with us if you would like to join us.

Fun with Ruth before the long-awaited McDonalds!!

Fun with Uncle Steve in Weston-Super-Mare. Yes - England is cold!

Monday, 15 October 2012

A 'What's Cookin' in Tanzania?' Evening

We would like to thank all those who have been supporting us in all kinds of ways, financially and with encouragement and prayer, during our first two years in Tanzania with Emmanuel International.
You are welcome to come and hear more about the work we have been doing and plans for the work when we go back in January. We will be sharing news, stories and pictures and there will be plenty of time for chatting and questions! We so appreciate your involvement and would value your insight and ideas. Please join us!

Saturday, November 17th at 7:30pm

Sarum Hill Center (Sarum Hill, Basingstoke RG21 8SR)

RSVP Tim and Rachel
tel. 01256 850 545  email rachelmonger@gmail.com
(For those of you in the Vancouver area, we will have another Tanzania evening after Christmas!)

Monday, 8 October 2012

Crowning the Year: Harvest Thanksgiving

Here we are in autumnal England in the midst of various Harvest Celebrations and today celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with a delicious pumpkin pie. And I am thinking of the July harvest in Tanzania. In all three countries, England, Canada and Tanzania, people give thanks for another year of food, a bountiful harvest. In villages in Tanzania, there is no pumpkin pie or turkey dinner, no baskets of apples or hampers of vegetables but people take a portion of their harvest to the front of the church and lay it down in sacrificial gratitude. This annual crowning of the year is such a good reminder to all of us to give thanks for all that we have. A reminder to give from what we have been given to help each other. God has blessed us and we are blessed to be a blessing! Wise words were spoken to me years ago ... "many people want to know how to become rich but the secret is to become thankful, because then you are already rich."

Living in Magozi, people had very little, but people were grateful and content and I found, despite my grumbles from time to time, I too found it easier to be content. But now, suddenly surrounded by so much, I realise how much harder it is in the west to be content! Attracted by so many things to buy in order to make things easier, more comfortable, or look better ... I almost think I "need" them! How much we have but really, how little we need.

Giving Thanks for Family!
Celebrating Great Granny's 101st Birthday

Grandad's Birthday with the cousins

Celebrating Great Grandad's 90th Birthday

Fun with Grandparents

Roman Chester Explorations with Great Grandpa
 "Give us today our daily bread ..." Appreciate the little things like a loaf of bread, a plate of rice, a glass of water. Living in the village, we have learnt to appreciate these things so much more. There are many people who will never take these things for granted. Yet all of us, wherever we are, and with whatever we have, can give thanks to our God who knows our every need and "crowns the year with His bounty." (Ps. 65)

Finally, have a look here to see what is involved in the harvesting of rice in Magozi!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

What's the Difference?

I was talking with the head and one of the teachers at Aldermaston School and he brought up the fact that so often we focus on talking about the differences and fail to reflect on the similarities. When thinking about cultures, how does this affect the way we view one another across oceans and cultural barriers? How does this affect our understanding of our humanity?
We went to the Royal County of Berkshire Show on Saturday which is the British equivalent of Saba Saba (see the blog from July 8th), the annual agricultural fair. And throughout the day, we made comparisons! As we had demonstrated innovative fuel-efficient stoves in Powaga, others in Newbury were displaying new machines and methods. And yes, a part of me wished we had our jiko and haybox and I could jump in there and demonstrate efficient jiko cooking (it would be easier in English!) There were cooking demonstrations, goats and cows, snacks to eat and a main arena with events and music. The differences were in the size and scale of everything, from the event as a whole right down to individual animals (huge pigs!) and of course a posh smartness and organised professionalism that we don't see in Magozi!

Similar: An efficient stove display

Similar: A bread-making demonstration
It is very true that for us at the moment, trying to adapt to the “new” culture, we are so much more keenly aware of the cultural differences as we are so struck by them again and again! For example, over-generalising greatly, life here seems to revolve around the time and money of the individual. But time and money are of little consequence in Magozi. Here there seems to be a lack of time and a lot of money... or is that debt? (but at least a visible display of material wealth), while in Magozi there seems to be an abundance of time and obvious lack of material wealth. Different, indeed opposite, yet neither is good.
So yes, there are differences: the individual versus the community, priorities of time or money, diverse living conditions, styles and levels of education, the list could go on. Now where are the similarities. On an external level, the similarities may seem harder to find. Yes, education is important here as well as there, yes, we all enjoy a good meal and a good sleep! But deep down, there are similarities that can join us despite all the differences. Our means to live, our work to eat. Our relationship and communication with one another. Our need for one another is a similarity, although noting it just highlights another difference: acknowledging this basic similar need. In the West we can deny this need in our quests as individuals, yet it still remains a need. Our need for God, our search for hope. And here I am stuck by what truly joins us together with our friends in Magozi. Particularly those in the Church. We are family. We work with the same heart and mind for the same purpose. A love for God and our neighbour. 
Both the differences and the similarities can be postive and negative. But we need to look at both.  So while we can enjoy, appreciate and learn from our differences, likewise we can learn from and be encouraged noticing the similarities. Try it!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

So Much

Blogging from the UK now feels a little bit strange! Especially as I am now in close proximity to so many of you who follow us! But I will try to keep occasional updates posted and perhaps take the opportunity to share the odd reflection on cultural adjustments!

Cultural adjustment is a funny thing. So much seems so familiar but yet so foreign. Everything feels so comfortable and easy, yet at the same time uncomfortably complicated. There is the odd feeling of living a double life. But it is like flicking a switch inside myself to get from one life to the other. I can't equate the two lives, it is impossible to compare, almost impossible to imagine one when living in the other.

I was forewarned about entering a large grocery store, and yes, as much as it seemed so "normal" in its context, it was rather overwhelming! So much food, so much choice, so much money! Clean, shiny floors, freezing cold air conditioning, clear glass doors, unnatural lighting and organised rows and queues! Yellow lemons, orange oranges, perfectly shaped fruits and vegetables.

I drive along the smooth roads, feeling rather like I'm in either a sports car (I'm not racing, it just feels fast!), or one of those toy cars at Legoland (low on the ground with a tiddly gear shift!) Traffic lights, parking lines (which our land cruiser would never fit inside!) and oh so many cars!

We are enjoying the food immensely! Sausages, cheese, fromage frais, crisps (chips), parsnips, apples, blackberries, croissants ... So many treats, it just feels completely decadent. So many things feel completely decadent: lying back in the chair getting my hair washed and cut at the hairdressers (noting again how clean and shiny everything is!) So, so much. Everywhere, so much! It is good to appreciate it all so much more.
Finally! A much-needed haircut!
Meanwhile the girls are adjusting to school which is proving easier for Amisadai than Louisa. Louisa doesn't remember anything about life in England, and there is a lot to learn! But they are both enjoying it and making friends. Things like shoes are rather a bother and as Louisa said it is now difficult for us to find her as her class is full of other blond ponytails! But the school is great and has welcomed us warmly back!
Ready for school
Back with friends!
As we make all these cultural adjustments we are so grateful to Tim's parents for having us to stay here with them! And so grateful for the lovely welcome we have had from Tadley Community Church! So many friends were gathered on Sunday for the service and following lunch. Our hearts feel so full with so much to share, so much to thank so many people for, so much to catch up with, it's hard to know where and how to begin! But begin we have!
Our Dar-es-Salaam toes! (Amisadai has the Tanzanian flag)

Thursday, 30 August 2012

"Doctor" Tim and a Tanzanian Departure

Our last day in Iringa was rewardingly typically Tanzanian! We grow to love (in a way) these unexpected, random events that make us wonder how we ended up where we are!  This time Tim ended up in the maternity ward in Iringa Hospital in doctor's garb, being proudly introduced to staff and patients on the ward as the new doctor from Dar es Salaam! How, you may ask, when one is just expecting to be packing to leave the following day, does this happen? It all began at 8:15am while we were eating our breakfast, that we had a call to say that Ezekiel had arrived on the bus from Magozi and could we pick him up. So a little later, we were all in town, and there was his brother-in-law (although we didn't realise that at the time) whose wife (Ezekiel's sister) was in labour in the hospital. But we didn't realise it was labour at the time as pregnancy and labour is not public discussion here So all we knew was that she was sick. While we ran some errands in town, Ezekiel and Ndondole went to visit her and came back reporting that she was very, very ill (we thought she was dying and were suitably distressed and sympathetic) but 30 minutes later, Ezekiel received a phone call announcing that his sister has given birth to a baby girl! I guess in labour one does seem "very, very ill!"

"Doctor" Tim
We all went home for some chai (not sure at this point what anyone's plans were ... and how many would need food and lodging for the night). Later, after some lunch in the midst of clearing and packing up the contents of the house, another visit was made to the hospital to see the new baby. All were keen to see the new baby, but the nurse looked past the new father (we realised now that he was the father), the brother, Amisadai and Louisa, and turned to Tim saying "only you can come in!" And this was how Tim ended up in a doctor's coat introduced as the new doctor from Dar es Salaam. Tim protested to the nurse that he wasn't a doctor but was assured that didn't matter. He met the new mother, her firstborn and her mother. He became the official photographer. And then he left. The whole group then left the hospital, no others were allowed to enter, but were quite satisfied to see the photos! To finish the story, we were also asked to name this precious baby with an "English" name. As the safe delivery came at the end of a difficult pregnancy, we suggested "Joy" which was happily given. We pray this little girl will continue to be a source of joy to many as she grows up!

Baby Joy
Ezekiel left with us early the next morning for Dar, without meeting his new niece. But the new father was able to meet his daughter that same evening.

We arrived safely in Dar-es-Salaam, after a lovely stop in Morogoro with Matt and Amy, and after minor meetings with a bolting impala and then a guinea fowl in Mikumi Game Park! The guinea fowl ended up caught in the roof-rack and with it flapping and the bus behind us honking and flashing, we continued until we were out of the game park to pull over and investigate. The guinea fowl was almost if not completely dead and rather a sight on the roof of the car. But as we just looked at it wondering how to disentangle it, the bus behind pulled over and guys jumped out and ran over to climb up and remove it. They happily carried it back to the bus and continued on their way, lunch ready!
Guinea Fowl Prize
We then had five days in Dar-es-Salaam. We had medical check-ups done on Friday. We failed at the "synchronised pooing" at 11am! Later, Louisa did the most expensive poo at a whopping $45 US but that's another story!

We had a lovely last Sunday at Victory Christian Centre and a great time with the Nkone family, particularly as we went with them Monday-Tuesday to Kipepeo Beach.

And now, to finish this rather long account of our activities, we find ourselves in a rather wet and cold England. But happy and feeling very welcomed! Keith and Pat were at the airport with Tim's parents, with flowers and chocolate ice creams and pressies for the girls. And Tim's mum and dad have welcomed us into their house with lots of special treatment!

We are looking forward to catching up with lots of you in the area!
On British soil again!

Friday, 17 August 2012

My Life as a Butcher

Sorry, it's another pig story! But I must tell it!

Today, after two days of grace, Lulu bravely faced her end. As Amisadai said, she was bonked on the head. And then she knew no more, nothing of the slit throat (I'll spare you the details) or the apprehensive butcher nervously trying to tie off the rectum or the two girls giggling at the wee squirting out of the bladder. The girls coped fine, and eased the pain of losing Lulu by roasting some previously rationed marshmallows on the fire that boiled the water. A little surreal roasting marshmallows by a beheaded pig, but we are getting accustomed to strange experiences.
Roasting marshmallows
We had Edge (Swahili-spelt phonetically, but pronounced Edgar) to do the dreaded deed and help with butchering, but I think he was used to the slaughtering more than the butchering. I had to work hard to convince him to hang Lulu in the tree by her back legs so the blood drained out and not the other way around. But that was nothing like the hard work actually getting her hung up there! Whew!
Finally hung and examining the innards

We managed to get all the vital organs out without disaster. Another biology lesson. And yes, we saved the bladder to blow up for a game of catch! Edge sawed the pig in half very ably. But then all my studies of the diagrams and photos of Greg butchering seemed to fly out the window, and I lost my way a little in the search for recognisably British joints. Trotters off. Legs off. That was fine, but then trying to pull back the ribs and find the chops all became a little trickier. As for cutting out the blade bone ... made a pig's ear of that. In the end, with Edge, it all got chopped up and put in pots and buckets. Dirty and bloodied, my work then began in the kitchen, and it took all day! So much pig and what to do with it! It is now all sorted into legs, a fairly acceptable rolled joint, and the rest chopped, sliced or minced. Then there is the liver and kidneys and lots of fat and bones. Well and truly butchered.

So at the end of the day, exhausted and just a little stressed, with hands stained red from blood (and purple from an incident with a purple dye yesterday which is another story altogether) and clothes filthy with blood and guts, all I wanted was to get the mess cleared up and have a shower. But to my total dismay, the water had gone off. The shower was not to be. I had to strain the ants out of the rain water bucket and use a jug.

So that is the end of my butchering day (which began far too early at 6am!). Tim manged to miss the whole event as he was in a village 90 miles away with Andrew and Andy ... but he was dutiably impressed with my efforts when he returned! I am gutted I didn't do a better job, but keen to have butchering lessons when we get to England ... as well as hair-dressing (as long as I don't confuse the two).
The first half (before it got messy!)

Monday, 13 August 2012

Woven into Something Beautiful

In Magozi last week, I was practising my mkeka-making skills. Long khambas (like rushes) are woven into strips which are sewn together into mats. I brought dye powder with me from Iringa for our friends, the evangelist and his wife, Rose. On the jiko they boiled the water in which we dyed the pale brown strips pink, purple and yellow. They were then dried in the sun before being bundled up ready to weave. About 27 strips of khamba (including a few coloured strips) are tied together and then woven in and out, It is a beautiful and simple handicraft, one that we see quite a few people in the village doing at this time of year when the harvest is in. The girls and I have enjoyed weaving strips, and have collected khambas to bring back with us so that we can do some weaving in England!

Khamba in the dye

Khambas drying in the sun

Laying out khamba to dry

Weaving the mats

Learning with a few khambas
A strip made with many khambas

Individual strands are woven together and what results is something beautiful and something useful. Sometimes there is some pulling and tugging, sometimes there is some trimming and cutting. Some strands are different, and that is what makes the uniqueness of the pattern. But if one strand is taken out, everything is misshapen and the pattern broken. If one strand becomes hard, it cracks and will break unless soaked and softened. Underneath looks messy with strands hanging out at angles as one strand ends and another enters to take its place, but on the top all is smooth with the pattern continuing and unending.
Lives intertwined, we have a Master Weaver with a master plan. We each have our place if we bend in His hands. Woven into something beautiful.

EI has just posted this video clip which is all about the school here in Ikuku where Andy and Andrew have been working on the water, sanitation and hygiene project. Take a look!


Monday, 6 August 2012

Weight in Gold

While the world was watching how fast people can swim, run or cycle, we were in a village that has no idea about Olympic racing and competing.  The thought of a deep pool of clear, clean water to jump into seems incredible when just a glass would be nice. And the thought of lifting 140kg of metal just for the sake of it seems bizarre when there are loads of 60kg sacks of rice to be lifted because you have to.  Cycling fast on smooth tracks in sleek outfits with shiny helmets also is hard to imagine when here to have a bicycle is a luxury, even more so if it has pedals. The rush of speed is unfathomable in the slow pace of life and a weight of gold to hang round your neck doesn't compare to a small coin wrapped in the knot of a woman's skirt.
Needless to say, we felt a world away from the Olympics! But we had such a special time as we finished our work in Magozi and stayed in our Magozi house for the last time. We arrived on Thursday, cake in hand, expecting the group ready for our final meeting as we “handed over” the project. But there was no chai boiling. There was no group there! We are fairly sure that no one had taken us seriously when we said this was the end of our work with the project! But I soon had water boiling on our jiko and with chai almost ready, people from the group began to appear… and then disappear only to return a while later with their Jiko shirt on! We all squashed into our little house, and as we shared our thanks and encouragement with them, and my tears began to fall, they realised this was really it!
Our last Ebenezer Jiko Magozi meeting

On Friday, we went to Kimande, the village where we will be starting the next project in January, with a few of the group members. We thought we were meeting with the leaders of the Pentecostal and Anglican churches to discuss the project, but the Pentecostals weren’t there and the Anglicans thought we were doing a seminar on fuel-efficient stoves and making cakes and bread! We thought we were starting at 9:30am, and sat and waited but when nothing was happening at 12:30pm, we thought we might just go home, but in the end we started an impromptu “seminar” on the stove at 1pm! I had made rolls on the jiko earlier and eating them for “chai” pacified the desire for bread lessons! We were home for a late lunch that day! But the Kimande pastor had found a house for us and we were able to take a look and now begin to get excited about the next step.

Back in Magozi, there were lots of goodbyes. We seem to have a lot of these which is never a fun thing, but always good evidence of love! We have felt so loved these past few days, as people took us into their homes and shared food with us and even bought us sodas. This may seems such a small and insignificant gift but you have to see their cost to realise how much it means. We felt loved, and couldn’t possibly refuse, but there is also a limit to how many sodas you can drink in an afternoon – and after three on Saturday, I was bubbled up and ready to pop!

Sunday was an emotional day with a lovely send-off! The Wingfield family and also local government officials came for the church service.  EI and ourselves were thanked for the work we have started and the group was encouraged in its work with the stoves and the church in its work as salt and light in the community. We were then overwhelmed with gifts of rice, handcrafted brooms, money, mats, wooden spoons, and khangas (Tanzanian material) with which Kalista (a lovely friend) is sewing the girls dresses! I don’t know what the cultural norm is in these situations, but I cried through it all, and there wasn’t much I could do about it! We all managed words of thanks and farewell and Tim encouraged the group that this was not the end but just the beginning. The stoves group had prepared a send-off lunch to follow and yet again, we just so appreciated all the friends and wonderful people we have met in this place.  
Receiving a huge gift of rice from the Stoves Group
Receiving the love and gifts from the church

On the last night as I killed our last scorpion under Amisadai's bed and the last cockroach in the outhouse, I appreciated how much we have learned and how much we have grown to love this place! Not so much the cockroaches and scorpions, but the love and community we have found there. People worth their weight in gold.