Archive for December, 2009

Happy New Year from Ethiopia!

Happy New Year to all!  We are currently in Ethiopia and have so much to share! However, we have very little internet! Sorry I haven’t posted anything yet. I should have them up by Monday!

Kuwa na Krismasi Njema!

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d]—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

In  such a beautiful season of love and happiness, I am so reminded of how blessed we are. GOD IS WITH US! Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to His people on earth!

Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family! We miss you all terribly. We are so grateful for your love and support. Wishing you a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

If you can't be with family you might as well be at the beach.

Missing Home

Things I miss about home.

  1. Milk in a jug that comes cold.
  2. Simply Orange Orange Juice, medium pulp.
  3. Driving on the right side of the road.
  4. Clean water from the tap.
  5. Trader Joes.
  6. Running on the dry Rillito River.
  7. Arizona Sunsets and sunrises
  8. Bagels.
  9. The sun coming up before 6am.
  10. Snow in Pinetop to snowboard in.
  11. The incredible Christmas music at Church.
  12. The beauty of the desert.
  13. Organized soccer teams for adults.
  14. Sandwiches.
  15. Catalina, Santa Rita, Rincon and Tucson Mountains.
  16. Being able to run out to the store in a short amount of time.
  17. Good Cheese.
  18. Eegees.
  19. Do I even have to say it….. MEXICAN FOOD! Even Los Betos would taste like heaven to me right now.
  20. Playing with Charlie and Osa.
  21. Bible Study Girls.
  22. The ability to go to a gym.
  23. Not Sweating.
  24. Blueberry Pies.
  25. Riding around with Dad and the British Car Club.
  26. The Cabin.
  27. Decorating for Christmas.
  28. Fourth Avenue Street Fair.
  29. Dry Heat.
  30. Grapes.
  31. Being able to drive over to my parents whenever I want in a matter of ten minutes.
  32. BBQ’s.
  33. Large family gatherings and traditions especially, The March.
  34. Hiking.
  35. Watching my parents play with their horses.
  36. Sabino Canyon.
  37. Berries- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, black berries.
  38. My brother horse shoeing all day long.
  39. Cousins. All of them.
  40. Wearing Shorts.
  41. Second hand stores, namely Savers and Bookmans.
  42. Winterhaven.
  43. Walking or running around the U of A campus.
  44. Our awesome YL community.
  45. Going to a Raging Sage to sit and chat with friends.
  46. Crazy Aunts and Uncles.
  47. Hanging out with my family 3 or 4 nights a week.
  48. Drewbers.
  49. Mom.
  50. Daddy.

Random Tid Bits

You drive on the Left side of the road. Takes some serious getting used to.

Traffic is awful, but either you get used to it, or you just don’t go out.

All water must be filtered in a Katadyn. All fruits and veggies should then be washed in the filtered water.

Mosquito nets are not for decoration, they play a very important role here.

Men ride small carts selling tasty Azam ice cream in the afternoons. I recommend the Cono, much like a drumstick.

Women really do carry ridiculous amounts of weight on their heads, but what is more impressive is the amount of things that men carry on the back of bicycles without falling over. Chickens, hundreds of eggs, bamboo, sugar cane, wood, coal and so much more piled on their bike perfectly balanced.

Covering your knees is a must for women. Showing above your knees is like walking around shirtless back home.

You can help someone out here so easily for just a few dollars a day. With this they can support their whole family. They will cook, clean, do laundry and anything else for you. At times I feel bad for this, but we LOVE our house help and, she has been able to get on her own two feet since she began working for us. We are her very first job!

Sewing Fundi’s are awesome. You can take in a piece of material and a picture of a dress, or skirt and have it made for $10 bucks. AMAZING!

The jewelry, shoes and purses here are all hand crafted and absolutely gorgeous. I actually change jewelry often here.

Cooking is all done by scratch. Make sure you have some great recipes.

People here eat bleach white bread and a generous helping of blue band, a Margarine/Crisco mix, for lunch. Kind of grosses me out but they like it.

Getting mail here is way too difficult. Don’t even bother if you don’t have to. On the up side sending it is pretty easy.

Congas are worn by every woman. In fact you look strange if you aren’t in one. They wrap them around their hips, around their tops and on their heads. They even wrap their babies in them.

The Masai, are the native people of the land. They wear red garments, are generally tall, They cattle herders around here.

Currency is the Tanzanian Shilling. The largest bill you can get is 10,000 tsh, roughly equivalent to 7 USD.

Humid! Humid! Humid! Never have I lived somewhere more humid!

Bug Zappers can be bought at local stores. They seem like an As Seen on TV product to me, but here they are so very worth the few dollars. Austin has a nightly ritual to kill all the mosquitoes he can find.

Bananas spoil quickly. If you don’t plan on eating them that day, plan on making banana bread.

Pineapples and mangoes are large and in season right at Christmas time.

It is very common to see people falling asleep everywhere you are. On the bus, on the side of the road, at work everywhere you go people fall asleep. After experiencing the humidity here, I can see why. I think that Tanzania would greatly benefit from adding the siesta into their schedule.

Pharmacies are everywhere. You can pretty much get any meds you want, no prescription necessary. You just have to make sure you are really getting what you want.

Fresh fish is sold on the side of the roads. Mostly in the afternoons right after the fisherman bring in their catch.

Dried fish is sold on the side of the roads for a snack. Yuck. Sugar cane, calamari, boiled eggs, roasted peanuts and corn are all sold as snacks as well.

Living The Dream

So what is it like to live in Tanzania? What are the differences?  Here is a brief look at what our life looks like in Dar.

In the morning we are woken up by the call to prayer. At first It did wake me up, but now we really do not hear it at all. It goes on throughout the day, but most of the time it just blends in as background noise. There are mosques all over and speakers set up to project the prayers all over town.

Walking to school. Where some would think this is not a big deal considering we live only 300ft from the school gates, it really is a life gamble every day. We must cross the main street going into town in order to get there. Busses flying, truckers going way too fast, taxis, motorcycles, bicycles, bajaj’s and don’t forget all of the everyday cars going up and down the road. You really have to be patient and wait for the perfect moment to cross the perilous road.

Getting around town. There are a few different ways to get around. Dala Dala- a crowded VW bus like van, with many seats that generally is crammed with as many people as possible. Generally about $ 0.20 per ride. City Bus- Much like a dala experience, except that it is about the size of a normal bus in the States. They only go on major roads. Price is about the same as a dala depending on where you are going. Bajaj- A small three wheeled, covered moped. A bit more pricy about $1 per ride. Motorcycle- Way too dangerous in my opinion. No Helmet. Just hang on tight. Have not even ventured to try it yet. Bicycle- Hop on the back of a bicycle built for two. They will take you anywhere you like, even up enormous hills. Super cheap but dangerous with all of the other forms of traffic on the road. Taxi- Small white, four door cars, with a large yellow stripe down the middle to show that it is in fact a taxi. Most expensive but reliable and spacious.

Dala with the message God is Able on the front windshield : )

Shopping. Because of the presence of so many ex-patriots Dar has quite a few grocery stores. We have 2 that are about 30 minutes away without traffic in a Dala Dala. They are South African Chains and generally carry most things that you need. They can be way over priced. For example Nature valley Granola Bars are over $10 a box. Cake mix $16 dollars a box. Cheap Cereal is $5 a box. Cheese is $10 for a small thing of low quality cheese. Fruits and Vegetables that are not grown locally are outrageously priced. Grapes are $19 bucks a kilo! Peaches, Kiwi and a few others are $10 bucks a kilo. However, if you stick with the local brands and locally grown foods things are reasonable.

For quick things, eggs, fruit veggies, bread, flour, sugar, etc. we just walk on over to the dukas that are about a half a mile away. There you can find most things you need day to day. We prefer Mama Mary’s Duka. They are always very nice to us and seem to have a good stock of items.

There is a store called Game, which in my mind is a Walmart equivalent. It is filled with rows and rows of dollar store quality items, but sold at premium prices. For example the exact same silverware we bought at Walmart for $0.99 right before we left, they sell in sets of 4 for $ 6bucks. Pots and pans all of the lowest possible quality sold for $50 or more for one pot. The truth is, at least we can get it. There are many surrounding towns that do not even have the option to get these things. Often we just opt to not buy things, and to save our pennies whenever we can. We have a hard time justifying buying something at a premium price that we know we could get for $1 in the US.

Power. We get power from the local power company Tanesco. In order to have power, we need to go to a luku (power) shop. In every house there is a luku box, where you put in some magic numbers and then you get power. You get these numbers by going to the shop and giving them your luku box number. They load on however many shillings you want to load on your account and they give you a receipt with some magic numbers. You punch them in and just like magic you have power.

Luku Box

This however does not always apply. The power does go out here, but it is actually not too bad right now. The power company is working feverishly to make it so that we can keep our power. I would say that a majority of people in Dar do not have power in their homes, but for those that do they try to keep it going. Most houses have power set in phases. At times one phase can be on super power, while another has no power. This is when your appliances can get fried. Make sure to unplug everything! Use conversion adaptors or you will be sorry.

When the power goes out we light candles and it gets very hot. We pray our food will not spoil by the time the power returns. We find activities we can do in the candle light. I really do not mind it at all.

Cooking. We cook on a stove that is electric and gas. Very nice for when the power is out.  At least we can still cook. We get our gas tank filled at the local station. Pretty easy process.

Water. We are hooked up to a water line, sort of. The water is stored in a large tank on the roof of our house. In our old house if we ran out of power we ran out of water because he had no water pressure if the power was out.

Rent. Rent here is always paid up front. One year at a time. This was a shock to us as we are so used to paying one month at a time. This can be frustrating because a landlord then has no motivation to actually fix anything because you have already paid him.

Rent in Dar is expensive. I compare it to living in New York, or Chicago. You pay way too much for what you get, when you could move outside the city and pay a fraction of the cost. I guess it is what we get for big city life.

Free Time. During our free time we mostly hang out with our friends. Occasionally we will go to see a movie at the air conditioned movie theatre, or go out to eat at some of the places we like to eat. We really like Mediterraneo, a Mediterranean restaurant right on the ocean coast, and Anghiti’s, an Indian Restaurant. Otherwise we like to hang out at the Ocean. I keep telling Austin you never know if we are ever going to live this close to the ocean again so soak it up while you can. We like to head over to White sands beach, bring a book and chill, or over to the Kunduchi Beach Hotel and grab a Soda at their beach bar.

Construction. The whole process of building things is very backwards from what we are used to. Instead of making plans things are just done. If they are done wrong then someone tears them up and starts over. Stairs are not measure to be the same distance apart so I trip all of the time. Instead of having a few standard size options for doors and windows, the building fundi’s (experts) just make a whole for a door or window, and the window and door fundi’s have to make a door or window that fit. Each day they delay, because it means another ways pay. They are not in a rush at all.

There are hundreds of fundi’s all over town. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians, shoe fundi”s, bicycle fundi’s, you name it there is a fundi for it. This is very nice because you can have a man come and fix things for a very fair price. The only problem is getting them to show up when you want them to.

Planting Grass. Our friends Steve and Dyan just had some grass planted. There is no such thing as buying sod or seed. So you hire a group of workers to plant the grass. You must buy a big huge bale of grass shoots for about $10. The workers then take the shoots and plant them in the ground one by one, until you have a lawn. It just may be the most tedious job ever.

Well that is pretty much what we experience on a day to day basis. I know there are plenty of other things, but I know I have probably overloaded you all ready.

Birthday in Bed : (

Austin turned 27 today. After my big birthday celebrations, I wanted so badly to spoil Austin as well as he had spoiled me. He kept saying he wanted to just have dinner at home and to keep it small and low key. So I did. I got him a small present and got all the supplies to make dinner.

Sadly, the Saturday before his birthday, Austin got sick. He spent the entire day sleeping on the couch with a headache. Sunday, it was a similar day, however, he did make it to church and lunch afterwards. We took his temperature that night and he was at 101.2. As Monday morning approached I could tell this would not be the birthday I was thinking of for him.

Lying in bed watching a movie.

I decorated the house, made a cake, wrapped his presents and made a big spaghetti dinner, while Austin stayed in bed ALL DAY! I felt so bad. I just wanted to do anything to make him feel better. We watched A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (with the Abominable Snowman, a childhood favorite of his), and Harry Potter. He left the room just a few times to eat and the house once for a few mins to run down and grab eggs from the duka with me.

Homemade Yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

Apparently, growing up he spent his birthday sick a lot of the time. Makes sense to me, once you let your body rest after working so hard, your immune system lets down and you are more susceptible to falling ill.

Due to his sickness we have decided to not go with the Larmey’s to Ruaha for Christmas. We were very sad about the decision, but we are glad to be resting over the break, and getting back to 100%.

As much as I hate watching Austin be sick, I love his attitude about it all. Instead of complaining, he just kept telling me how much he loves me and loves how I take care of him. I wish that I could say the same about my thoughts when I am sick. He is so selfless in so many ways that I am not. I thank the Lord for his selflessness and pray that in being married to him that some of that will rub off on me over time.

Happy Birthday My Love! May this year be filled with many blessings!

Make a wish!

The Peace Child

Every Christmas, the primary students at Hopac put on a Christmas play. This year the play chosen was called the Peace Child. As a student, I remember loving being in the 5th and 6th grade Christmas performance and Saints Peter and Paul. In fifth grade you had the honored position of being backup singers and in 6th grade you took the stage. We performed “Dr. Newheart,” in which I played the role of grumpy Nurse Philpot. To this day I remember many of my lines and most of the songs from this show. With as much as I do remember from the show, I do not remember hours upon hours of merciless practice.

My students were pulled out starting at about one month out from the show for lines and solos and learning dances. As time got closer it seemed as if the play had literally taken over everything. For the entire last week of school we really did nothing except rehearse. Now don’t get me wrong I know that practice makes perfect, but as a teacher I had to be there at the rehearsals too. Let us just say that I was very glad when it was all said and done.

With that being said, the students did do an excellent job. Many of my students had main parts, and dances and they really did well. I was so proud of them and they were so very proud of themselves. It is so fun to watch kids pour their hearts out into a piece of work and for it to be a success.

After the Peace Child, the kindergarten performed a short reenactment of the birth of Jesus. It was super cute. Complete with Joseph and Mary hugging, and Mary chucking the baby Jesus into his manger. They were the stars of the show! It is so refreshing to be at a school where we are able to celebrate the meaning of Christmas with our students.

The African Christmas Tree

Getting a Christmas Tree in Africa is a bit of a different process. Most people we know here just have a nice fake tree that they either bought here for way too much, or brought over with their belongings on a container. We actually have two this year, both of them are borrowed from people who were going back home for Christmas. They are only about 3 feet tall each but they are more than we need for sure.

If you want a live tree there are a few options, a couple different trees that grow around here look like a pine tree so some use those. Our friends the Larmey’s use a sisel tree top. Sisel is a plant that reminds me a lot of an aloe vera plant that has a very tall stalk going out from the top of it. The sisel itself is dried and then braided into rope. However the top of it is thin and has branches like a pine tree. It is green in color, like a Palo Verde tree, but does not have much too it. These are fun for stringing lights around and putting lots of decorations on.

Before cutting the sisel this is what it looks like. After chopped down and decorated sisel.


In Tanzania, having a Christmas tree is not a normal tradition, but they do have what they refer to as the “African Christmas Tree.” They are found here everywhere and are in bloom during Christmas time. Bright red blossoms fill the tree, and catch your eye from miles away. They are absolutely stunning. They are not cut down or decorated, just admired for their beauty, during their season. We have some on the HOPAC campus and every time we pass them I always stop and take in their beauty. How beautiful is God’s creation!

The big tree that welcomes you to our school! So pretty!

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

According to our friend Steve, when in Ethiopia, saying yes to having coffee is a big commitment. It is not the, “meet you at Starbucks,” brief encounters that we think of when we have coffee. Rather it is a huge event in which everything is stopped and you are honored as a guest for many hours. For my birthday we got a small taste of what a real coffee ceremony looks like.

The set up

An African mama, sets up a beautiful spread with flowers, popcorn, and nice coffee cups. She then begins the roasting of the beans right in front of your eyes on hot coals. With the heat in Dar, I felt so very bad for this woman, sweating away for this ceremony. After much patience the beans are roasted. She takes the freshly roasted beans and makes sure everyone smells them not just once but twice. I am not a coffee drinker but these freshly roasted beans smelled very nice. She then placed the beans in a large mortar and ground the beans by hand. So much work was put into this coffee. Once they were completely ground she then, put them inside a special coffee roasting pot, native to Ethiopia. Austin of course was drooling over this pot. If we make it to Ethiopia, there is no doubt we will have one of them by the time we leave. She let them cook for quite awhile until steam started coming from the top of the pot. Once they were hot it enough, she through some popcorn on the ground to signal that the coffee was ready. As a side note, popcorn is a traditional side to serve with coffee or tea in Ethiopia. She then pours the coffee which is ready for drinking right away. I was not a big fan, but that is no surprise. Austin really enjoyed it. All in all, it was one of those unique experiences we were so glad to have had. Just make sure that you have a few hours before you sign up for one.

Smelling the freshly roasted beans.


Working Hard.

A Quarter of a Century.

Funfetti cake with a goat print. Only in Africa.

Today I was so very spoiled by so many friends here in Africa, but mostly by Austin. I woke up to the house decorated with birthday banners and streamers on the fan (very creative if you ask me.) Then after getting ready for school Austin and I sat down to eat my favorite breakfast, French toast. After quickly shoveling it in, we headed to school.

We were only at school for a very short time because of the Children’s Christmas production The Peace Child, which seems to have taken over life these days. We were then picked up by Opas, our friends driver, who took us to the Muhumbili Hospital. Okay so being at the hospital is not ideal for your birthday however, in this instance it was a blessing and a half.

As many of you may know, I have suffered from anxiety since my grandmother passed away on March 24th of this year. For the months that followed, I was in an out of doctors, convinced that something was really wrong with me and that I was dying, when in fact it was just my body dealing with what my mind could not. To be honest it was the most difficult thing I have ever gone through. Thankfully, Austin and my family and friends were there to see me through it. We had many reservations about even moving to Africa because of my health, but felt that we were still supposed to go. And so we did. Living here, although hard in some aspects especially missing family, has been so healing for me in so many ways. My anxiety is almost completely gone. I think that removing myself from my everyday grind was the best thing I could have done to begin truly healing. This does not mean that I do not still miss my grandmother, but God has really taught me a lot through this trying experience.

Anyways back to the doctor’s appointment, since March, I have had this feeling in my throat as if something is there. I had many doctors tell me different things, and after awhile I knew it could very well have been a globus, which is a feeling that your throat creates when you are anxious about something. I wanted someone to just take a scope and check it out. If nothing was there, at least I know it is my anxiety and we can begin to deal with that. After a long process and experience that was unforgettable (see blog On Being a Minority), I got the scope and found out that all was well, except for a bit of a stretched vocal chord. This was great news for two reasons. One because there is nothing majorly wrong with my throat, therefore my worries may cease. Two, there was something going on in my throat which means I am not just anxious and crazy. I was so relieved, and I think Austin was too! Praise the Lord that I am so healthy right now!

Afterwards we headed up to Oyster Bay, I would compare it to the La Encantada of Dar, except that it all can fit in the Crate and Barrel store. We had a gift certificate to eat at a restaurant called Sweet Easy, which we got from HOPAC as a Christmas present. We had a surprisingly delicious lunch with Opas, the driver. Then we walked around the shopping center. Lots of cool little shops. A deli, which I am pretty sure is the only one in Dar, sandwiches cannot be found here a fancy hardware store, a pet store that smelled not so pleasant, a recommended computer store, a flower shop rare indeed, a few clothing shops and a leather shop. At the leather shop I got this awesome wallet that we saw in it’s factory in Moshi while we were there in October. We then headed home for a short nap time before the big dinner.

For dinner we met a few our friends at a well known restaurant called, Addis in Dar, it is an Ethiopian Restaurant. Addis in Dar has one of the best atmospheres in all of the restaurants we have been to in Dar. They have these boldy colored umbrellas over the lights, a beautiful upstairs patio, comfortable seating and family style table arrangements. The food was incredible! We had so much fun with our friends Pierre and Renshaw, Neal, Sarah and baby Joseph and the Larmeys. When dinner was over we had a special Coffee Ceremony. To top it all off, Dyan made me a Funfetti cake all the way from America, stamped with the hoof print of their goat Marmalade.

I thought that being away from my family for my birthday would be unbearable, but as hard as it was to not be with them, turning 25 in Dar es Salaam turned out pretty good.