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

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

From the Hive! Kitenge Beeswraps and Beeswax Balms

Before our Zanzibar adventures, things were really moving with the Mamas! The Upendo wa Mama group in Mwanza was working hard to make a record number of beeswax balms, soaps and beeswraps for a friend connected to a Fair Trade Shop in Sweden. They were also busy making many Kitenge Beewraps for the Bees Abroad table at the National Honey Show in the UK. Talk about a hive of activity!

It was wonderful to have Ineke Varcoe come and help us finish off the last things on our last day before boxing up! She (and the members of Harrow Church in London) have been prayerful and practical supporters of our group from the start, and it was lovely to have her with us. She shared chai and English shortbread with us and we continued our delve into Proverbs, finding nuggets of timely and applicable wisdom. 
Products ready to go!
It was a big relief to have the orders completed in the nick of time! I then travelled to the Under the Same office in Dar es Salaam to work with the Upendo wa Mama women's group there. It had been an unusually long time between visits, and it was wonderful to see them all again. It hasn't been easy for them, and I wish I could offer easy answers, but sometime there just aren't any. But I hope I could encourage them to persevere, and together we made progress! We are working to connect their work together with the Mwanza group, as they continue to make beeswraps and soaps and hopefully now more balms. 

Making Coconut Milk Soap

Making Beeswraps

While in Dar, it was great to catch up with Ester, Rahab and Hadijah and others in the office. It was great to go with Ester to VCC a few times and share a meal together. I was able to drop off a visa application for Laura, our new teammate and do some exploring and shopping in the completely crazy Kariakoo market. It was also a really special surprise to find a good friend in Dar at the same time! Amy Dixon and I were able to meet up for lunch and an afternoon of chatting while I was there!
with Amy
And this past weekend it was fantastic to hear reports from Bees Abroad about the National Honey Show! Our Tanzanian Beeswraps were very popular with their unique African prints and soft pliability, and quickly sold out! Demand is now high with a London market asking for an initial one hundred! And they will soon be available for Christmas in the UK through Bees Abroad online!

Now the mamas are busy preparing all these beeswraps and also other products for the Mwanza Christmas Craft Fair. The progress of the group is certainly not without frustrations and problems, but we are continually trusting God to make a way! In the midst of all the work, there is plenty of time to talk and pray which is always so important. Supporting one another in these recent weeks through sickness, family troubles, attempted break-in/attacks is more important than any number of beeswraps we could make. And the good news is that the women are able to take home monthly profits now and it is encouraging to talk about their goals and plans as they save for new home enterprises. And also wonderful to be talking about how we as a group can reach out with the blessings we have received to bless others.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

On a Zanzibar Spice Farm

How does black pepper grow? How are cloves harvested? How is vanilla pollinated? I realised exploring the spice farm in Zanzibar that I use these beautiful things all the time without ever really thinking about where they came from! I will appreciate my Spice Cake all the more now!

It was a fantastic experience to see where so many of our spices come from! Walking around the lush farm, enjoying the sweet and spicy aromas, we touched and tasted a new part of the amazing creation we get to call home!
With our woven palm gifts of crowns and baskets!
Cloves are the gold of Zanzibar. They are the reason for Zanzibar's name: Spice Island. So many clove plantations (a sad link of the Slave Trade and Spice Trade) produced so many cloves, that it is said sailors could catch their scent as they sailed to the island! 

Freshly picked cloves from the tree. Now to be dried for a few days!
While cloves are the gold of Zanzibar, black pepper is King of the Spices!
Spice King! The Pepper Tree
Freshly picked peppercorns. They grow green, are picked just before turning red, 
and are dried until black. White pepper is a more complicated process!

Cardamon Plant
Cardamon seeds in the roots
Ylang lang tree
Ylang lang leaves. A photo doesn't work. You have to smell the sweet perfume!
I enjoyed finding out about all the natural soaps made by the local women's groups! 
I was amazed to realize why vanilla is so expensive! Related to the orchid, the plant only flowers once a year and pollinating it is something even the brilliant bees can't help with. It must be done by hand, flower by flower and the farmer has only one chance at it, because if the fragile bloom is not touched by noon it dies hours after blossoming and there will be no pods. Critical! And when the pods are ready, the processing is just as intense! Don't take vanilla for granted!
Beautiful vanilla pods

Cinnamon Trees (see where the bark is scraped?)

The cinnamon leaves smelled amazing and we checked out the medicinal roots too!

Harvesting some iodine
The Kapok tree. These trees are really amazing. It is hollow; you can hear the echo when you knock on it. They are used to make the dhow boats. And the soft cotton-like fluff from the seed pod makes a great filler stuffing!
Louisa in a hollow kapok tree.

My favourite! Beautiful nutmeg! Hidden in a fruit, the gem is the pit!
(and the red aril is the mace!)
There was so much more … teak trees, coffee, hibiscus, lemongrass, eucalyptus, henna, grapefruit, coconut, pineapple, banana, turmeric, ginger … Truly an amazing and educational experience for all the senses!
Bixa Orelana. The Lipstick Plant!

Amisadai tested the lipstick - great colour!
At the end of the tour, we received our woven palm gifts of crowns, hats, bracelets, necklaces (Tim had a tie), and baskets. We felt like lemurs on the Lion King … or proper tourists! Then we were seated in the shade to sample some of the fruits! Yum!

Sampling the fruits

Under the jackfruit tree

Spice Queens! 
Although that title is officially given to cardamon!

Saturday, 20 October 2018


Zanzibar. Spice Island. A beautiful island bursting with history and culture, bright colours and spices! We met Mum at the airport in Dar es Salaam on Sunday and came straight to Stone Town, the port on the west coast of the island. We had an amazing day on Monday exploring the sights, sounds and smells of Stone Town. Wandering through the Darajani Market, we found vanilla pods, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, cardamon … fish and fruits and interestingly, lots of hair scrunchies!  We meandered through the narrow alleys, admiring the ornately carved wooden doors and soaking up the atmosphere! 

We had spiced coffee on the breezy rooftop of the Zanzibar Coffee House, one of the oldest buildings in Stone Town and with a "real" coffee table!
Coffee with a view

We visited the museum at the site of the old Slave Market, an incredibly moving memorial to the many thousands of people kidnapped, enslaved and sold in the Arab Slave Trade. Slaves arrived in Stone Town crammed in dhows (wooden boats) from Bagamoyo (which means "lay down your heart"). And laying down their hearts is what those slaves did before giving up on freedom before the perilous journey across to Zanzibar. They were held for up to 7 days in low, dark, airless underground chambers until being taken up to the market to be traded, if they had not already died on the boat or suffocated in the chamber. 

After absorbing the sobering reality of what happened, and also the tragic reality that slavery is as much alive today as it was then, we sat in the first Anglican Cathedral in East Africa, the vision and work of Bishop Steere in the 1870's. The altar is set on the spot of the former whipping post of slaves. The cross at the altar is carved from the tree under which David Livingstone's heart is buried in Zambia. Livingstone's call for compassion, his passionate pleas for change from what he called "...this trade in Hell, this open sore of the world..." was heard. It was amazing to see how the compassion and dedication of the Christians in that day helped slaves make the difficult adjustment to freedom, setting up vocational training, health centres, schools. Their work was inspirational for us all today.
Christ Church Cathedral 

As the sun set over the Indian Ocean, we enjoyed the atmosphere at Foradhani Gardens, the ultimate food fair! We settled for delicious Indian at the Silk Route, sitting high in this restaurant close to the Old Fort, the oldest building of Stone Town, built by Omani Arabs after expelling the Portuguese in 1699. It was a perfect end to an amazing day.

The next day was a visit to Pastor Dixon, a brave man with an amazing testimony and this was followed by a tour of a Spice Farm and then our arrival at the beach on the east coast of the island … but those stories will be for another blog!