This is it!

The Indian Ocean view from our room!

I am typing this as I woke up super early, on our last full day here in Dar. The sun is rising over the Indian Ocean, which I can see from our bedroom, all is peaceful and quiet. This is making me so aware of the fact that I will miss Tanzania very much. Although the year has been so full, and seemed long at times, it is hard to believe that this is it. Stepping off of the plane just over a year ago we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but we have nothing but gratitude for this experience.

We will truly miss Tanzania, and our friends here. At lunch yesterday, Austin and I wrote down things that we have learned from this experience and want to take back home to our life in America. I hope that we are able to make those goals a reality. We have both changed, been stretched and grown so much this year. I pray that we are able to keep it up.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us, encouraged us, and loved us, both here and around the world! I for sure would not have made it a full year here with out it.

Maybe one day we will make it back here, to visit, or even work again, but for now we are at peace in knowing that we are going back home. We are not really sure what God has in mind for us when we get there but we would love your prayers for safe travels, getting settled in and for the transition back to life in America.

Our last visit at HOPAC

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Adios Amigos

Well, it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t have a BBQ to end our time here in Dar. Our friends Steve and Dyan and some others, helped to put together a Beach BBQ this past weekend which was such a perfect way to end our time here.

We invited all of our friends here, including our fellow staff at HOPAC, all of the Tanaznians we have been friends with, our Young Life Africa family and all of my students. It was such a blessing to have everyone together in one spot. It was also a blessing to see our two sets of friends here, Tanzanian, and Expats, come together.

We had hot dogs, many different side dishes brought by our guests, punch, and two fabulous cakes made by our dear friend and host Dyan. We played sand volleyball, beach soccer, and swam in the ocean. We tried to visit with everyone we could, but it was not easy because there were so many people here. It was so nice to feel so celebrated, appreciated and loved. At the end everyone gathered around us to pray. I thought I was going to be able to make it through the party without crying, but no such luck. A few of my students prayed for us, which choked me up right away. To think about all of the memories we had together, in and out of the classroom, how much they have grown, and how much they have taught me is truly a work of God.

Thank you SOOOO MUCH STEVE, DYAN, TESFAYE, CALEB, ZOE, and EPIPHANY! For hosting our party and loving us so well this year! We are in denial that we will not be neighbors anymore!

Adios Amigos! Vaya con Dios!

Babu and his family!

The Grahams : )

Beach volleyball with the whole gang!

Cake made with love from Dyan!

One Last Hoorah

Austin and I decided to go for it and take one last trip to Arusha. We took the long bus ride over on the 6am Dar Express. We hung out with Zac and Hannah for just a couple days, as they graciously hosted us, took us around the town, and fed us. Our time with them was refreshing and challenging.

We also decided to do a safari in the Ngorogoro Crater. Zac and Hannah hooked us up with some other people from Arusha to save us some dough and we headed out to the Crater.

It is about a 3 hour drive from Zac and Hannah’s house to the bottom of the crater which is a pretty easy drive. Our driver Nixon, has been a tour guide for a long time so he taught us lots about the crater and more. As we drove there, we passed through the East African Rift Valley, which was pretty cool, and we also passed by Lake Manyara, another place that has lots of wildlife.

The Ngorogoro Crater was once a volcano that is now just a big huge bowl that is just over 200 square km inside. When we arrived we were not able to see the view from the rim, because of some cloud cover, but we were able to see it on the way out and it was breathtaking. You can see herds of wildebeests, zebras, flamingos and others massed together from the rim. There are grasslands, a forest area, and lakes of water as well. The crater is a perfect place for animal life to thrive because it is so protected. It is a great place for breeding and feeding, especially for the cats who pretty much have their choice for dinner.

Once we made the descent into the crater we saw so many animals! We saw enormous elephants that were around 60 years old. Nixon told us that the Crater is like a retirement ground for the few elephants there because it is so peaceful, has water and lots of greenery to eat. During our lunch break two elephants walked right through the parking lot we were in. Many of the tourists were being typical tourists and got too close to them, making them not so happy. I decided to stay away, but we did get some sweet pictures. We saw herds of zebra and wildebeests hanging out together in massive numbers. Apparently Zebra have good eyes, and Wildebeests good ears so together they are able to help each other out when predators are own the prowl. We saw hippos going in and out of the water, but we stayed far away because we have heard they are some of the most aggressive animals around. We saw a cheetah, trying to hide out and hunt some wildebeests. We saw rhinos at a a distance, but I really couldn’t make out their shape even, so we weren’t close at all. We saw a bird, I forgot what it was called, perched on a dry tree eating a rat. He was so content with his catch, and working vigorously to eat the slimy guts we saw. We saw tons of flamingos across the lake. They were some of  my favorites. Their color is so beautiful and I love that they are always in together. Our biggest find for the day were the lions. We saw three all together. The first one was a male who was hanging out in the grasslands by himself. He posed for a picture for us and then went back to his cat nap. He was not nearly as exciting as the lion and lioness we saw shortly afterwards, who were mating. At first I skeptical that we would actually see anything besides them laying there. But they were so majestic laying around watching over the creatures in the Crater. Then after about 10 minutes of being there the male jumped on top of the female for all of about 3 seconds hopped off and that was it. The female, rolled over as if to show she was exhausted, and then laid on her back playfully as if to say she was so very content. It was pretty funny. Our guide told us that when mating they will continue this pattern for 2 to 3 days every 15 mins or so. That must be tiring! I guess it does really help to ensure that their population will keep growing. It was fascinating to say the least.

After a long full day driving through the Crater, we headed back out. What a beautiful look at God’s incredible creation, He is the ultimate artist.

Rafiki Wa Karibu

Me and Jackie : )

It is customary in Tanzania, for foreigners and upper class Tanzanians,  to hire a house worker to do daily tasks, such as cleaning and laundry. Some people even have hired full time cooks and drivers. Upon coming here, Austin and I were unsure of how this would work because we are very capable of doing our own chores, however, we very much wanted to be able to provide a job for someone here.

We ended up hiring a girl named Jackie, who is the sister of one of our friends workers. I had no idea then, how much of an impact she would make on us in just one year! Over the course of this year, she has become my closest friend here in Tanzania, and I am so very grateful for the time I have spent with her.

One year ago Jackie had no job, and like many Tanzanians, comes from a loving but poor family, and at 25, just a few months older than me, she has been through so many trials. However, she is so strong, and through our time together we have both grown together in friendship and in the Lord.

Although, I truly have appreciated all that she has done for us when it comes to house chores and much much more, it is her friendship I have appreciated most. At first, this was very difficult because of the language barrier. She has pretty much no English, and with my limited Kiswahili our conversations were basic greetings, and me frantically searching in the dictionary for every word of a sentence. As the year progressed, I started to pick up more and more Kiswahili. I learned a bit of grammar and my vocabulary grew which was a big help. Unfortunately, because I was working at an all English speaking school it was difficult for me to really get good practice in.

In January, I began teaching Jackie to cook lots of new dishes. After a few weeks, I was amazed at how much better my Kiswahili was getting, but even more amazed at how much I loved that time I was having with her. After school three times a week I would do my very best to come home and think of something new we could learn to cook together. I too am a novice chef and so we were learning together. We have had so much fun deciphering each other and eventually getting to a point where we can have full conversations. : ) YAY!

After the craziness of the end of the school year, my time with Jackie increased dramatically, which I was so very happy about. She can now cook so many “Western” foods, which is great for her in keeping a job in the future.

Most of all I have loved our conversations. We talk about family and how we grew up. She is one of 8 children and grew up in Moshi, a town at the bottom of Mt. Kilimanjaro. She has two children Ramson who is 8 and goes to school in Moshi, and is looked after by Jackie’s mom, and Kevin who is 2 and lives with her here in Dar es Salaam. She has a husband named Steve, who is a driver. She loves her family very much, and is so dedicated to providing for them. We talk about faith in the Lord and how He helps us through everything. She loves going to church, and Bible study, and is so inspired by how much her son Ramson loves Jesus. We talk about how different life is in America and Tanzania, which I find really hard to explain. We talk about her dreams to learn English, for her kids to go to great schools and succeed, and how she wants to own her very own shop.We talk about pretty much everything, and although many Tanzanians do not understand my Kiswahili very well, Jackie is able to decipher meaning from what I am saying which gives me more confidence, to keep trying.

Words truly cannot express how thankful I am for her, and how much I am going to miss her. She has taught me so much about life in Tanzania, lots of Kiswahili, and so much about how to live with the Joy of the Lord! I think what is most crazy to me, is that she and I are so close in age yet, we come from two completely different worlds, neither one better than the other, just completely different. She for sure gone through more struggles than I have, and yet is still so filled with joy and hope. This is so humbling. What a blessing it has been that the Lord has crossed our paths. In all of our differences He is truly the one who unites us.

I pray so many blessings on Jackie, and her family. and I do pray that her hopes and dreams may one day be a reality. Asante Sana Jackie, kwa kuwa rafiki yangu mkubwa.! Nitakukosa sana. Mungu akubariki sana!

Austin and I with Jackie and her son Kevin

I HEART Jackie!

Zac and Hannah

Shortly after arriving in Dar, we met a couple who does International School Young Life here in Africa, Zac and Hannah West. We had no idea then that we would have lots of opportunities to hang out and grow close to them over this year.

The work they do here is very different from the Young Life Africa national ministries. They work at International Schools in Arusha, Tanzania, which are comprised of students from all over the world. Many of their parents are UN workers, Ambassadors, NGO workers, and wealthy businessmen and women in the community. The students come from outside of Arusha, and are boarded at the schools. This makes for a challenging yet awesome opportunity to come along side these kids and share Jesus.

Zac and Hannah have now lived in Arusha for two and half years, and are doing such amazing work. The have around 60 kids that come to club each week and just this year had the first ever International School Camp, which we were blessed to be apart of. What is most amazing, is how passionate they are about loving these kids and the work they are doing.

Besides being great at what they are doing, they are also just so much fun to be around. Hannah, is a whiz in the kitchen and is always teaching me new tricks and tips, and Zac is so funny and always has Austin and I rolling with laughter. We love visiting them for many reasons. First, Arusha is a great break from the heat here. Second, we love their cute house, with its beautiful view of Mt. Meru and its location in the coffee plantation. Third, we love playing games and the great conversations we have.

We have been so grateful for their friendship and pray that their work continues to be fruitful. We are also praying for them as they are in the process of adoption here which is so very complicated. Please join us in prayer for their ministry and adoption.

WE LOVE ZAC AND HANNAH!

Things I will miss….

Bug Zapper Tennis Rackets.

My students.

Down time.

Particular Tanzanian foods- particularly cabbage, beans, mandazi chai and Mchuzi.

Fresh produce especially mango, passion fruit, enormous zucchini, and pineapple.

Small chat with the ladies at the Duka’s down the road.

Relaxing at the Ocean. Friends.

The Hopac Community.

Working with Austin every day.

Lots of Quiet time.

Seeing Masai.

Super cool handmade jewelry and wooden carvings.

The unique mixing of cultures in Dar es Salaam.

Fresh Zanzibar Spices.

Brightly colored Kangas.

Kuku na chipsi at Corner Bar.

World Cup watching with our African friends.

Woman miraculously balancing so much on their heads.

Riding in crowded dala dalas.

Soccer being played on any field, anywhere, using any means.

Bicyclists carrying huge loads of everything from chickens, to charcoal, to dusters, to bread, to massive amounts of eggs.

Street vendors selling plastic maps, phone credit, pillows, soccer balls, Tupperware, and much much more while sitting in traffic.

Five greeting minimums in all conversations.

Our guards Panclasi, Imani, and Francis.

Living in a closely knit compound.

Learning Kiswahili, even if I don’t know it that well still.

Fresh Passion and Mango fruit juices.

Quality Spicy Indian foods.

Hanging with YL Africa family.

Catching a Bajaj for a quick trip.

Bottled Soda (even though I don’t drink it much, I just think it is such a better way to serve it.)

Tanzanian kids saying hello and wanting to be near the wazungu.

Exploring how to cook, especially Tanzanian foods.

Arusha visits with cool mountains weather and our good friends Zac and Hannah.

Pet goats.

Simplicity of life.

Running on the beach regularly.

Oceanside dinners at Mediteranneo.

Watching YL kids dance at YL camps.

Sewing and woodworking fundi’s who can make you anything you want.

Paying upfront instead of with credit for everything.

$5 pedicures from Stella.

Having a house worker.

Quality time with our wonderful house worker and friend Jackie!

Ridiculously loud phone company traveling trucks advertising their products.

Brass wedding bands crammed in the back of a pick-up.

Lots of time for reading.

Crazy amazing times with our family here the Larmeys!

Obviously, there are many things that we will miss about life in Dar! Once again we have been so blessed by our time here and are so grateful to the Lord for all that He has provided for us here in Tanzania.

Life’s Beautiful Mysteries

On Friday, I heard in passing that the sea turtles had hatched and were going to be released. In the southern part of Dar es Salaam, in a place called South Beach, there are some Sea Turtle hatching spots that are protected by a local organization called Sea Sense. Being a bit disappointed I missed it last year, I jumped on the chance to check them out this year.

Austin and I along with a caravan of cars headed down to South Beach, directly after school. For the first time ever we took the ferry, which was pretty fun, and we did not have to wait long at all, which was also nice.

Loading on to the ferry.

After you get off the ferry, you have about an hour more driving to go, most of which is on a dirt road. All in all, it took us about 2 hours to get there.

When we pulled up we were just in time to see the baby sea turtles heading into the big blue sea. There were about 30 turtles in all that we saw. They were so precious, so tiny, so full of brand new life. Just seeing them was incredible. Then slowly, one by one they began digging their way out of their hatching place, and out in to the wild. They would flip over and get stuck, but eventually they would be able to get themselves right side up again. They crawled slowly but each one of them knew exactly where they were headed. Like a baby instinctively knows its mother, they all headed directly for the sea. A few of them went a bit of a round about way of getting there, which allowed for us to take more pictures and marvel at their beauty. As they were charging towards the sea, small piles of sand seemed like mountains to climb over and sticks and sea weed on the beach were hurdles, however they were so determined to get to the sea. Cruising and conquering the land, despite being just 2 days old and never having done this before. Then they would make it down on to the shore where they were ready to finally meet their destination, the ocean. One small wave would pass, but it wouldn’t be enough to sweep them away. A second larger one and away they went. Beginning their new adventure. An unknown and somewhat scary adventure, yet an exciting adventure for sure.

We talked with one of the Sea Sense workers and he knew a lot about the cute sea turtles. Apparently over 100 turtles had hatched over just a few days. It takes them about 55 days to hatch after being laid, and they leave for the sea instinctively after just about 2 days of hatching. It is essential that they are able to take in the sights and smells of the land, because this is where they too will come to lay their eggs, if they survive the seas for long enough. Sadly, the majority of them do not make it, however, Sea sense is trying to do all they can to ensure that they are protected.

Everyone crowding around trying to get a good look.

Some of the babies trying to get out of their nest.

An unfertilized sea turtle egg.

Watching the sea turtles enter the sea, I could not help but marvel at the beauty of the Lord’s creation. Watching them so instinctively head towards the sea, makes me wonder how anyone could question if there is a God out there. Of course there is! How beautiful is His wonderful creation!

Genesis 1: 20-22 says: 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”

He created all of the creatures of the sea and blessed them and told them to multiply, and today they still do! What and AMAZING God we have!

Heading to the ocean.

Face covered in sand, but determined to get to the sea.