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

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Being Together ... when the roast fails and the shower explodes

The girls and I are feeling a bit sad and sorry for ourselves after saying goodbye to Greg, Hugh, Lyn, Ellie and Pat who have headed off with Tim to the beach before their flight at the end of the week. We have so enjoyed having them with us; it really has been like having a little bit of Tadley here for a while! We do miss you all in Tadley and it has been great to feel part of you all once again! Even sharing in sadness, with friends that are special but so far away. We are sending lots of love back to you all with this great group!

A great farewell meal at Sai Villa together
So today, the day of farewell, hasn't been the greatest day. Clearing up and hitting the books. Failed plumbing attempts and another visit from the vet for the rabbits, this after he just came to put down one of our dogs last week. It all wasn't helped by being stuck in a landcruiser in town for two hours either! This was the third day (for me) to be in town when the main road has been closed off for the passing of the President or Vice-President. Traffic jams at every road. The first time I managed to escape (more on that another time!), the second time we passed the time getting our nails painted, but this time, after finishing my shopping and heading home, I was well and truly stuck. In the landcrusier, boiling hot. I drank the yogurt I had just bought and prayed.

I won't say much today as I am hoping for some guest bloggers to tell of our Tanzanian adventures over the past week or two! But as you know, life here is never dull, and these past weeks were no exception! From the very day our visitors arrived. In honour of their arrival, I had planned and prepared a Sunday Roast Dinner. A very British Roast Beef. But then the oven stopped working properly. I decided to go ahead and just carefully watch things and control the temperature by careful positioning. But then as the joint was going in, the power went out. I scrambled to figure a Plan B. Scrambled eggs? But then, forty-five minutes later, the power came back on. Back to Plan A. Then, as the stuffing was going in, as the potatoes needed crisping up and as the vegetables were going on, the power cut again! I quickly got out the gas ring and started rapidly rotating vegetables. The gas ran out. I cut my finger. I thought I should have gone with the scrambled eggs.

But somehow we salvaged a Roast Dinner and it was good to be reminded that that it isn't all about amazing food, but the joy of being together. It was wonderful! The oven deteriorated rapidly, and it became a challenge to keep up the catering for the nine of us. We ended up like little ants marching up the road with various food and bread dough, to cook things at Angela's house (she and Andy were in the UK for a few weeks). Then there were various toilets and sinks leaking, a shower exploded and it was time to remember again that it was all about enjoying being together and not pristine living conditions! Our visitors were all very understanding and kind! And at the end of the day we were all fed and all clean ... well, for the most part, anyway! And it was good to be together!

It has been wonderful having them ... they have done a lot in a short time with us and so please don't ask them how their "holiday" was! They have been such an encouragement to us and to many others as well. I won't tell you about the other adventures ... car-jackings, party-crashings and the like! But it has been a very good albeit rather busy time! 

Another adventure ... The Puncture in the Village

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

President's Party, Plumbing Problems and Tooting Tudors

It's just me n' the girls this week. Tim is in Dar, dropping Kate off at the airport for her African Overlander Adventure and also picking up our next visitors for their "Life with the Mongers Adventure." While in Dar he is also doing all those "Dar" things like getting the vehicle serviced and his teeth sorted.  Tim's Terrible Teeth Saga just keeps going! He assures me that he is fine and it doesn't bother him, but yesterday he was back in the chair, getting another hole drilled down to where the infection is and getting topped up with dawa (medicine) to clear it all up. He has to go back another three times for more treatment ... and so it goes on!

While he has been away, the girls and I were gearing up for our "Meet the President" occasion. Our church in town (Pentecostal Holiness Mission) is raising funds for a new building and invited the President of Tanzania to a large fundraising event during his visit to Iringa for the finale of the annual tour of the Uhuru Torch (the aim of the tour is "to bring hope where there is despair, love where there is enmity and respect where there is hatred."). It was a grand event, banquet tables elaborately decorated in honour of the Important Guest. He was to visit the church site first (which was also adorned with flags and meticulously swept) and then a reception was to follow at a local university. The church members were all to arrive at the church at 8am in order to be prepared with flags to wave before the President arrived at 9am. The girls and I were there. But then the disappointing news came in. He wasn't coming! Rumours of an attempted attack on the President the previous evening and his quick return to Dar that morning seemed to be the reason. The girls were most disappointed, but as the saying goes, the show must go on! It was actually a very long morning waiting for the Presidential party to arrive (which they did eventually, sometime after noon), but we were kept entertained by plenty of singing and dancing! But at the end of the day, saying I shook hands with the Minister of Land and Housing doesn't have quite the same ring to it!

We are holding the fort though, the girls and I. We have sold a pig (beloved Peppa) and we have kept various plumbing issues under control. Well ... put a bucket under the toilet cistern and a bucket under the bathroom sink and sidestepped the water springing out of the brickwork on the front path). Actually after three days, a plumber did finally arrive today and all problems, including a broken shower as well, are fixed. Amazing!

The other good news is that the Kimande Stoves Group had another 100 stoves ready, so have just done their second firing! Selling is now more of a priority ...

And we are wrapping up the Tudors and starting on the Stuarts at school, so I'll leave you with our Tudor Tongue Twister, courtesy of my dad ...

A Tudor Tongue Twister

A Tudor who tooted the flute
Tried to tutor two tooters to toot.
Said the two to the tutor.
“Is it harder to toot, or
To tutor two tooters to toot?”


Monday, 14 October 2013

Give us this day our daily ugali ...

Ugali is the staple food here in Tanzania. It is made by cooking maize flour with water to a thick porridge-like consistency. It is difficult to explain to those who have never tried it before. It looks like mashed potato, but is thick and stodgey with a granular texture. We don't think it tastes of much so it is much better with a good sauce to dip it into. This is done by taking a small bit of ugali, shaping it into a ball with your fingers and pressing a small thumbhole which is then used a bit like a spoon to pick up the sauce when you dip. Often the meal is communal; you all take from a huge tray of ugali and dip your bit in the shared bowl of spinach or beans. This is the usual meal for both lunch and dinner in the village, and a watered down version (called uji) is eaten for breakfast. It is a daily food and it fills you up.

Cooking ugali

Ugali is fine, but I'd probably still rather have a sandwich! Where I come from, it is quite usual to have toast for breakfast, a sandwich or filled roll (bun) for lunch and not uncommon to have some kind of bread for dinner in the form of a bread roll, burger bun, garlic bread or cornbread. Bread. Our daily bread.

So the Lord's Prayer makes sense for us. "Give us this day our daily bread." But it doesn't work for Tanzanians. "Give us this day our daily ugali" means more to our friends here! Actually the Swahili Bible says "Utupe siku kwa siku riziki yetu" translating "bread" as "provision." But Tim preached with his own "ugali" translation in his sermon last week and that resonated with people!

After teaching his friends how to pray ("The Lord's Prayer), Jesus tells a story. We will put this story in the African context. One night in a small village in Tanzania, a man who has travelled far arrives at his friend Ezekiel's house. Ezekiel is surprised to see his friend and feels terrible because he has no ugali to give him to eat. The shame of it! He must provide his guest the hospitality expected. Even though it is very late, Ezekiel goes to his friend Mendriad's house to ask for help. He asks for three cups of maize flour to make ugali. It is inconvenient for Mendriad. He has locked up his house and his family is all asleep. "Don't bother me!" Mendriad says. "I can't get up and give you anything." He tells Ezekiel to go away; he will not help.

Can you imagine a friend like this, who refuses to help? No! Of course not!

No, a friend in the village would help. And why would he help? Jesus explains. "Even if the one inside (Mendriad) will not get up and give him the bread (ugali) because he is a friend, he will still give it to him." (Luke 11:8) The reason is not because the one outside (Ezekiel) keeps on asking and asking (as many translations suggest), but actually because the one inside (Mendriad) will avoid shame. Even if Mendriad didn't want to help his friend because it was inconvenient and easier not to, he would still do so because he would not see himself shamed by the whole village. That is certainly what would happen if people heard the next morning that he had refused food to a guest. In fact, the whole village would be shamed that a visitor to their village did not receive hospitality.

Living in the village, we have seen a glimpse of this story played out. We have received guests to our house in the village. English visitors. Now, before they came, they told us not to worry about feeding them. They didn't want to be a burden and were really not all that keen to eat ugali and spinach anyway. So they brought their own English sandwiches. We completely understood, but it was harder for our friends in the village to understand. To have special visitors and not offer them hospitality (ugali) is just not done here. It was shameful. They were worried that we, the immediate hosts, would look bad. Not only that, but the whole village would look bad! We had long conversations assuring them that our guests respected the people of the village and they need feel no shame.

The incident helped us to better understand this story in Luke. If we are the ones asking (like  Ezekiel), who is the one inside? It is God, the Father. Will God give us the daily bread (ugali)? Of course He will. Because He will not be shamed. He will do what honours His name. But God is not like the one inside who does not want to help. He is our Father and as our Father who loves us, how much more will he answer us? He doesn't just give three cupfuls of maize flour, he gives as much as is needed! And as Jesus says, to a child who asks for an fish or an egg, what father would give a snake or a scorpion? (We understand snakes and scorpions a bit better here in Tanzania too!)

So we see this link of bread (or in our case, ugali) here between the Lord's prayer and this story. And the asking for bread is in the context of other people; asking for bread in order to meet our need to be hospitable. We can see "being hospitable" not only as practically giving food or a place to stay, but also giving whatever it is that people need. We can ask the Father so that others can be given what they need. This is not just a prayer for ourselves, but so that we can share and meet the needs of others. How better can God's name be honoured and how better can His kingdom come than when he is able to give us what we ask and others experience His blessing? If we can attune ourselves to God through His Spirit and attune ourselves to the needs of others, then we can ask God for the very thing they need to know the peace and joy of the Father himself. And we can also ask how we might be part of God answering that prayer!

Sharing ugali in the evening

"When we come to the altar with our hands open, receiving the bread of life, the source of our hope and the sustenance for our spirit, we participate in the kingdom here and now." NT Wright 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Baobab Icecream for your Fingernails

Kate figures that baobab is good for her fingernails. Well, good for the whole body really, but especially good for cuticles and nails! Sorry, you probably haven't had time to read the last blog post (about the Secret Vote) yet, and here's another one flying out! But it seemed more fun to write about baobab than do the lesson planning that I should be doing! So Kate has been pounding baobab in the pestle and mortar and soaking it ... hard work! She has made some delicious smoothies with different fruit juices. And now she has made the amazing baobab ice cream, including one with a hint of hibiscus. How delicious is that?
Kate sieves the baobab in the "cheka cheka"
It has been great having my cousin, Kate here with us for these past weeks! She has been a great help with school. She has been teaching French, and not just to the girls. She even has Ezekiel and Mendriad speaking French now; Ezekiel proudly greets us "Bonjour! Je m'appelle Ezekiel!" She has been teaching biology on "healthy bodies" (and yes, the baobab would come in useful here again!) She has been a patient and elegant model for the Tudor portraits and been a popular ICT teacher for Louisa. We are really going to miss her when she leaves us at the end of this week. She has coped remarkably with our rather chaotic, crazy life and been happy to muck in with everything!

Kate poses for portraits
This week Kate went with Andy on Monday to the village of Ihomasa where he is starting a water project. She faced her biggest challenge, being served a huge plateful of ugali and spinach! But aside from the ugali, she really enjoyed the opportunity to see the work being done with the water projects here. She was then with us all in Ikuka on Thursday. But apart from that, we have been doing quite a bit of school together in town, plus some shopping! And after being surrounded by Swahili for her first month or so here, we have been able to do some socializing in English this week! It was great to share time over a meal and games with Ben and Katy before they go to the UK to have their baby. We also had Andy and Angela round (for the infamous rabbit pie) before they head to the UK for a couple of weeks. And with two parties at the weekend, it's been quite a wazungu social whirl!

This weekend I had my third attempt at butchering a pig! A HUGE pig! So huge that it was almost impossible to get the pig into a wheelbarrow, let alone to heave it up to hang in the three! What a job! The pig belonged to the E.I. guards, and I joined Edgar (who I think could do the job himself now with the help of the laminated photos from the local Kingsclere Butcher!) for the task. So after my lovely "Full Monty" breakfast - a treat from my wonderful husband, very coincidentally bacon and egg and pork sausages, I headed over to help! Edgar and I were at the butchering table and all the cuts were passed on to Andrew who kept up with bagging, weighing and labelling it all. I have to say I find the job rather, well, maybe fun isn't quite the right word, but something like that! Is this very strange?! There is something incredibly satisfying about finding these cuts of meat in the inside of a pig and ordering it all! A mass of flesh and bone overcome. Fifty kilograms of meat cut and organized into identifiable parts. A good day's work. And good business for these guys! But definitely a muckier, smellier business than Lucy's baking!

Edgar and me with The Big Fat Pig
... by the way, the Baobab Icecream is easy to make. Just mix together 2 cups of milk with about 60g of baobab powder and 150g of sugar. We divided the mixture into two containers and added a glug of fresh hibiscus juice to one. Then just freeze. Next time we are going to try adding mango juice.

Baobab Icecream
And I'm curious to know ... how much does baobab powder cost for all of you my friends in other places?

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Secret Vote

The secret vote. All eyes shut, heads down and quiet hands raised. Silence for the count. It is all very serious. Stove Group Election Meeting. This what was happening in Ikuka when we went on Thursday. The group was nominating and electing people for the positions of Chair and Vice-chair, Secretary and Vice-secretary and Treasurer and Vice-treasurer. Then the numbers are read out; 2 votes for him (big claps and vocal trills for the loser) and 20 votes for her (bigger claps and louder trills for the winner)! Now feeling a bit bad for the loser!

The secret vote
But the end result was group-appointed leaders that all were happy with. It is great to see how quickly this group (of 25 people, mostly women) is learning how to make stoves and to see them now take ownership of the project. We had a great time with them all, happy to be reunited with Jesca and the "Pawaga Threesome" and excited to meet the new group. We also actually felt useless and superfluous there, which is great really! Jesca is doing a fantastic job managing the project, with help from Ezekiel, Mendriad and Anna. It hasn't been an easy week for them, certainly not without its hurdles and problems.

Sadly, death marked the week. There was a funeral in the village on the first training day. Then another funeral the second day. Mortality rates are high here and so funerals are sadly a rather frequent occurance. In Kimande a few weeks ago, when we arrived there were actually three funerals all on the same day in the village. They involve a lot of people, a lot of time together in mourning and then also preparing and eating a lot of rice and beans and spinach. But this week in Ikuka, the two funerals were tragically followed by a man's suicide hanging. Difficult times.

Jesca leading the stoves group 
The other big hurdle in Ikuka is water. We seem to have written a lot about water problems, but please don't just switch off because you've heard it all before! Although it is the same problem, this is another village, full of different people who need water as much as everyone else. Their problem is even worse than for those in Kimande. The closest water for them is 10km away. This is why EI recently did a water project for the school at Ikuka (but this water is solely for the school). A new water system is being worked on, so water is on the way for the village, but for now, it is a problem. A few guys go the distance on bikes and power-tillas and bring back water which they sell for 1000Tsh. in the village. So obviously this makes life for all incredibly difficult, but it is also a challenge for the stoves project which needs water to soak and prepare the clay. So with everything going on, Jesca had a challenge to hold together the training week. But somehow she did and as she said herself, it was with God's help and grace!

Crossing the riverbed. People dig deep to try and source a small amount of water.
The river
The Pawaga threesome is with the Ikuka group until Wednesday, and then they return to their homes and the Ikuka group will carry on with Jesca's help and supervision. Meanwhile Tim is back in Kimande for a couple of days this week, encouraging them in the selling of the stoves just fired.

Back in town, we were back visiting our friends at Cheetah Development, an organization focussed on development through economic and business ventures. You can find out more about them on their website! One of their projects is a solar dryer project whereby villagers can dry excess crops (like tomatoes amongst many other things) to sell (through markets arranged through Cheetah). Lucy now buys sundried tomatoes and onions from them and bakes delicious sun-dried tomato and herb breadsticks and also specialty breads to sell in town. This week Cheetah had a team of 15-20 from the International Journalist Program visiting, writing about issues related to food security and nutrition. They were interviewing various people involved in the Cheetah project, from the farmers who sell the dried produce to people like Lucy who buy the produce to make another marketable product.

We haven't said much about Lucy on the blog recently, but she is continuing to do really well with her little side-business. We are trying to convince her to master the art of riding a bicycle to help with deliveries. But she is still very reticent, although considering the possibility! The breadsticks and cinnamon buns are still the best sellers, but she also makes breads, the best ever ginger biscuits and a variety of cookies. And with her profits, she has paid off debts and put money towards expensive tuition to get her eldest daughter through school, training as an accountant. No easy feat for a widow here. We think she is just the most lovely and amazing lady!

Today's order: Cinnamon buns, breadsticks and bread

Lucy is interviewed about her breadsticks!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Piggy in a Basket

Yes, it's another pig story! I was trying to come up with a good title for this blog ... something to do with Percy the Pig, pigs in baskets, pigs on bikes ... then add in a rabbit in the pie and there seemed scope for something funny, but I couldn't quite get there!

The other night a man turned up at our gate wanting to buy our pig. Right then and there! In the dark. Wondering how he would get the pig home, we then saw his motorbike! I couldn't believe he was seriously going to take this strong pig home on the back of his bike! I thought travelling with a pig in the back of a landcrusiser was bad enough! The noise was horrific as Percy was dragged, kicking and squealing out of his cozy home to the front gate.

Percy leaves home
Still wondering how on earth they were going to get this stubborn and resisting pig on the bike, we watched in amazement! The buyer and our night guard tied the legs of the pig together; no easy task with all the squealing and thrashing about .. and to Amisadai and Louisa's horror, doing number twos in the process! They then proceeded to put poor Percy into a basket and tie him in.

Pig in a basket
I was still very unsure that poor Percy, thrashing about would ever stay in the basket or that the basket would ever stay on the bike, but the basket was tied on tightly to the bike. And then Percy was gone. Snout in the man's back. Farewell to a good pig.
Bye, Percy!

Also at the weekend, Tim and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary! We can't believe it's been twelve years, but are very thankful for every one of them!

We had a lovely day on Sunday, coming home from the early Pentecostal service for cinnamon buns, homemade granola, yogurt and papaya. Later for lunch we enjoyed some homemade halloumi (made the day before), grilled on fresh sun-dried tomato bread. And then for dinner, thanks to Kate's kind babysitting service, Tim and I went out for pizza! It has been months and months since we've been out together for a meal and it was a real treat! And thank you for all the lovely messages on facebook - we felt very loved and remembered. And it was nice to feel like we were connected with the rest of the world with something all could relate to!
Anniversary Brunch

Pressing the cheese

Yum! Halloumi Cheese
We had planned to make cheddar cheese, planning ahead for Christmas! But the poor cows next door didn't have enough milk, so we settled for a quick halloumi which we could eat right away. We will try again at the Cheddar-making another day!

And finally, as was hinted at in the beginning, we said a fond farewell to one of the rabbits yesterday. So what's next cookin' in Tanzania? I think it's Rabbit Pie!