Archive for May, 2010

Adventures in Babysitting

A few months ago our friends here approached us about babysitting their 4 children for 10 days while they went away on business. We love their family and their kids a so much fun so we did not hesitate to say yes.

So off went mom and dad while Austin and I moved in.

Steve, Dyan and their amazing kiddos!

Their children, Tesfaye (15), Caleb (12), Zoe (12), Epiphany (9), are a bit older so there were no diapers to change and for the most part they can take care of themselves which makes our job a lot easier. They also have Oppas, the driver, who can run and get groceries and other such things while we are at work, Jenny the cook who makes delicious food and makes it so that after a long day I do not have to worry about anything except setting the table, Mama Mary and Mama Jane who do all of the cleaning and laundry, Babu who runs the grounds and feeds the animals, and guards to keep us safe day and night. All of these wonderful people together, made our time there easy and enjoyable.

The other part of the gig that is nice is that we are right across the street from the Indian Ocean. The road that lines the ocean is much more peaceful than the other roads around in Dar es Salaam and is very nice for getting a good run in. We had many afternoons on the beach and even got a good Beach BBQ in.

At the Larmey house there is never a dull moment and this time was not an exception. The first morning we were there Austin and Caleb found a rat in the kitchen. This is not a rare thing to see here, but the next part of the story is what makes it amazing. Austin and Caleb, thinking quickly grabbed Chuy the cat, and placed her right where they had cornered the rat. Chuy quickly figured out what was going on and caught the rat. She then did her little cat thing and played with it and killed it to feed it to her 5 baby kittens. Austin tried to get it on video but it did not safe. Bummer. Ginger the dog then tried to steal the rat from Chuy, but Chuy was not having it so she slashed Ginger in the eye and Ginger was bleeding. All of this happened before 7am that morning which I was impressed by.

Throughout the 1o days the kids went to friends for sleepovers, we swam in the ocean, watched the Shrek movies, McGyver, and Veggie Tales, we played instruments, studied for tests, packed lots of lunches and had friends over to sleepover at our house too. On the second to last night we had a few older boys over to spend the night and stayed up quite late. Eventually we got to bed but it was late. Once we were completely asleep and in the REM cycle of sleep we were awakened by the loudest and scariest sound I have ever heard! It sounded as if every dish in the kitchen had shattered to pieces, or the glass chandelier had fallen from the ceiling. With crime being something that happens more normally here we were scared to death. If it were someone breaking in they were for sure already in and had already done the damage. With no bat to protect us, feeling helpless Austin got the courage to go outside our room and see what had happened. As we entered the hallway and kitchen we found dishes shattered all over the floor. Upon further inspection we figured out that the shelf had completely given way and the bottom a half of it collapsed and took all that was in it with it. These shelves were not built that long ago and they were not built enough support, or the right support. The worst part was that it was some of Dyan’s favorite dishes, some of which were from Ethiopia.

Why it decided to fall in the middle of the night is beyond me, but I am thankful that it was not when the kids were sitting and eating breakfast at the table right by it or when one of the house workers was walking by. We are very grateful that no one was hurt and that it was not a robbery. Austin was pretty anxious the few nights afterward but he seems to be back to normal now. For once I was the calmer one in the situation.

After that insane, and unpredictable event we prayed that we would not have any others like it.

On our final full day with the kids we took them to the 9th annual goat races (our second time for this event.) We ate food, saw lots of goats, helped raise some money for charities, and saw lots of friends. Afterward we took them to get a milkshake at the local chain restaurant Spur. It was a long day with lots of traffic and lots of rain but it was a lot of fun too.

Zoe and I wearing our fancy hats to the races.

The big blow up goat that welcomes you as you enter.

Getting the goats ready to race.

Kids feeding the goats as they waited for their turn to race.

We love the Larmey’s and had a wonderful time with all 4 of the kids. We are ready for more babysitting adventures in the future but hope that next time the cabinets will stay put!

Kayaking on the Open Seas

Over the four day weekend, one of my friends here, asked me if I wanted to go kayaking on the ocean. Being the “I like to look at the water and not go in it,” type and being not so fond of any sports in which you only use your arms (I played soccer give me a break),  I wearily said yes.

So on Friday morning we went out for our adventure. We borrowed the kayak from some friends of ours who recently aquired the kayak. Now this is no ordinary kayak. Austin had a great kayak which he very much wishes he had here however, we sold it before we left and bringing it here would not be worth the money at all. That kayak was a great kayak. Spacious, went through the water well and much more. This kayak is very different.  It is a blow up kayak, however it was made for the open waters. This is not my ideal kayak ing situation but I decided to go for it anyways.

We carried the kayak across the street to the ocean and headed out. Our goal was to reach Snake Island which seems really close when you are looking from the beach but you never really can tell how close islands are.

The beginning was easy. My arms were fresh and I was excited for my new adventure. I really loved all of the quality time that Elaine and I got to spend together. Lots of time for girl talk which is always nice around here, due to the fact that my close friends live on the other side of the world.

As we approached our destination I realized that the side of the island we were about the hit was very rocky and did not look like a good place for a blow up kayak to go. Therefore about 50 feet from the island we decided to turn the kayak around. It took us about 45 minutes to get to this point.

Once we turned around was when my arms started to get tired. After that my legs were feeling cramped and wanted to move. On top of that I was beginning to feel seasick. I did not want Elaine to think I was  chicken or that I did not enjoy the adventure because I did, however I do not feel I was ready for this long of an adventure. In my head I was thinking “GET ME OUT OF HERE AND ON LAND!” I knew though, that the only way to get back was to keep paddling and so I did.

After what seemed like an eternity we did make it back. My legs and arms and mind were so happy to be on land. I laid in the sand for a few and just rested. This helped a lot with the seasickness, which almost made me hurl. Our landing was much further down shore from where we started our journey so we had to carry the kayak up the shore for a little over a 1/4 of a mile. This may not seem like that long but after my arms  and legs were so tired and I was not feeling well I was not looking forward to it. We started by carrying it with our arms but quickly realized that would take us forever. I suggested carrying it on our heads. And so we did. It worked quite nicely and I felt like a real African Mama. I am sure the Tanzanians that saw the two white girls carrying a kayak on their heads were quite amused.

When we made it back to our friends house to drop off the kayak I was exhausted but very pleased with the adventure. I am still not sure if I am meant for the open seas or for using my arms for major exercise but I am always eager for new adventures.

New Supermarket

A new supermarket has opened just a few hundred feet down the road, and I could not be happier! Going to the grocery store is not a quick trip of convenience here. At our house in Tucson, I can get to the grocery store and back with in 15 mins. Now that is fast!

Here the grocery store is about 10 or 15 miles away, not really sure. However, there are only 2 main roads to get there, each of which take a good 30 mins to get to with no traffic. With traffic however, it can be over 2 or 3 hours.

With that being said, I have been trying to figure a way to get everything we need locally. Locally meaning, with in walking distance, or a short ride on the dala dala. Thankfully, across the street, we have a duka with flour, beans, rice and a few other essentials, and right next door is a great hardware store. Down the road about a mile are a whole group of dukas where I can get fruits and vegetables, oil, toiletries and other of our daily needs.

There are however, a few items that we just cannot get from these places. These include cheese, good yogurt, chicken, ground beef, apples, asparagus, and a few other special treats.

I was thrilled to hear that a new grocery store was going to open so close. We made to short trek down and found that they have a lot of our everyday items and a bit more. Although they don’t have our special items, the fact that they are so close makes my life a lot easier! I guess the saying is true, you can’t fully appreciate something until you no longer have it. I am grateful for our new grocery store and how convenient it is!

5Km Fun Run

In Dar es Salaam, it is not the easiest thing to be physically active. Although it is sunny most of the days the humidity makes it way too difficult for me to work out for extended periods of time. In Tucson, I was able to go running everyday and I was not drenched in sweat even after I had been running for an hour.

Anyways, winter is on its way and the weather has been quite nice since we have been back. The PE teacher at HOPAC, who is one of those people who was made to be a PE teacher, organized a 5k fun run for the students, parents and community of HOPAC.

I just love these types of events! They bring together the family and promote active healthy lifestyles. There were lots of families that came out and participated, and even doggies.

The event went smoothly. Both Austin and I completed the race, although I wish I had been in a bit better shape but soon enough I will be. I made a deal with my students that if they beat me they could get some house points. Some of them did so I will have to pay up.

The race ended just in time for it to start raining, again. I hope that in the future HOPAC can see many more events like this.

Registering for the Race

Austin coming through the finish line

The Winners!

World Economic Forum Comes to Town

Since being back from Tucson, we have avoided the roads of Dar es Salaam like the plague. Besides the fact that we don’t have a car, the traffic has multiplied exponentially in the past few weeks, due to the rains and we just have no desire or need to be driving around.

We measured it and it takes us 10km, more or less 8 miles, to get to the major city crossing from our side of town. This trip takes a half an hour with no traffic, and can take over 2 hours in standard rush hour traffic. After coming back from the States, this seems so ridiculous but this is life in Africa and you have to learn to live with it. We have realized how grateful we are for smoothly paved, well kept roads, stop lights that mean something and drivers who follow the rules.

Typical dead stopped traffic, while vendors attempt to sell you all kinds of random things.

Buses that stop every few 100 meters, that add to the traffic mess.

I love this one. A bride who is stuck in traffic gets out on a hot, sticky day so that she can make it to her groom to be in time.

Anyways, during the first week of May there was a World Economic Forum held here in Dar es Salaam. Leaders from all over the world came to discuss the many economies of Africa. The ironic thing is that in order for them to have this fancy forum, they shut down many of the local economies here in the city.

They closed most of the major roads during the peak hours of driving in order to get the forum participants to and from their meeting location. This had a huge impact on all of Dar es Salaam. As it is the infrastructure here is only capable of supporting a town of maybe 10,000, and we have 4 million people here with thousands of new cars being brought in all of the time. These road closures have caused the already horrendous traffic to be up to 3 or 4 hours, dead stopped traffic. This loses business for many places that would normally be getting business from those who were sitting in traffic. Along with that they closed the major mall of the city, which I still don’t understand.

I am glad that there are people meeting to help move the many economies of Africa, I just wish they would take into account the effect they have on the cities they meet in even just for a meeting. They spend millions of dollars on flights, and wining and dining but don’t realize the direct negative effect they are having now. The government in Tanzania, spent some serious bucks too securing the roads, making sure the power was running during this time and even planting new palm trees down the main road to show a good face.  This is yet another thing I do not understand about culture here. Even you don’t have money, or the ability to really get something done, you do it anyways just to put on a good face. The palm trees they have planted are already looking like they are dying, which just proves so much that this “good face” is so temporary.

Rumor had it that Bill Gates was even in town. I looked online and did not find this information to be true, but he is one of the major backers of the forum. Either way, I hope in the future these leaders can really make a difference to help the economies of Africa succeed.

Nothing But Proud!

In case you don’t know, this is my brother. He is one of the most determined, hard working, gentle, and so many other great qualities, people you will ever meet!

Growing up, Drew and I were so blessed to be the kind of siblings that actually get along really well. We had our fair share of fights over the remote, or who got the last bowl of cereal but overall we really have been best friends since I can remember.

Well, this week he is officially a college graduate and I am so proud of him! Although he is one of the hardest working people I know, school has never been fun for Drew. I always loved school and never wanted to miss a day, but Drew wanted to be outside spending time shoeing or doing anything else besides school. Therefore, this was no small accomplishment.

He is graduating with a degree in History and a minor in Equine Sciences (which is perfect because he loves history and always has, and he is so passionate about horses and the proper care they need.)

During his sophomore year in college he decided to sign up for the ROTC Army program at the U of A. He is now a graduate of this program which makes him and OFFICER! So cool! He leaves the week after graduation for Kentucky to lead a ROTC training, then heads off to Virginia to train for his position, and then in January will be stationed at Ft. Hood, in Texas.

I am so excited for my brother and his new adventure, although I must admit I am a bit sad because he will be far away for awhile. However, I cannot talk too much considering I currently live on the other side of the world. Either way, I am nothing but proud of my brother! I pray God’s blessing upon him in the next four years in the military and will be praying everyday for his protection.

I am so grateful for the blessing of my brother and only wish I could be there to celebrate in person with him today!

CONGRATULATIONS MY SWEET! YOU DID IT!

Lessons to Learn

Upon returning home we were bound to notice differences between our lives in Africa and our lives in Tucson. Here are just a few that stuck out:

Quality/ Constant Family Time-

One thing I absolutely love about our life in Tanzania is that it is so centered around family time. The lifestyle here promotes families doing everything together.  In fact, it is difficult to not do things together. I found that being in Tucson I was jealous of Austin’s time with others. Not in a crazy wife way, but simply because we spend so much time together here. We work together, hang out with friends together, go to the store together, live together and pretty much do everything together here. There are very few things we do separately. When we got to Tucson, we each got our own cars and headed off to hang out with our own friends and that was that. Although I liked the girl time, and I know he really misses the guy time in Africa, I love being able to do so much together. This is one thing I hope that we can bring back to our lives in Tucson when we are back home.

Image is Not an Issue-

Once in Tucson, I realized that I had not looked in a long mirror in 8 months, and I did not miss it one bit. As soon as we were there I wanted to check the mirror, make sure I looked good, put on more make up etc. In Tanzania, women who are bigger are seen as beautiful. When selling clothes the put women’s clothes on hangers that stretch them out so they are bigger because they are more appealing to the women here. If a women tells you, you are looking fatter it is nothing but a compliment. On top of that, the constant advertising that you get in the States with magazines, TV, movies and so much more is almost non-existent.

Don’t get me wrong, I love getting dressed up and most of the time I am over dressed for occasions here it is just not a priority here (besides your clothes get ruined too easily anyways.)

What I love about this is that getting your hair or nails done, shopping, or the other frivolous things that take up so much time in my life in America don’t even matter here. Instead, I can spend time with friends just hanging out and being real, reading a book, and saving oh so much money.

Sadly, while we were there many of my friends were talking about getting cosmetic surgery to enhance their beauty. I find this absolutely tragic. I am only 25 and girls my age feel the need to get surgery to fix themselves, and these are beautiful girls. I pray that they can find their beauty in the Lord who created them.

“ Let your beauty not be external – the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes – but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.”
1Peter 3:3-4

“The King is enthralled by your beauty, honor Him for He is your God.”

Psalm 45:11

Identity-

What do you do? This is such a common question to ask people in the US. I never noticed that until I had been gone for awhile.

Interestingly, I asked someone this question and they had a difficult time answering it due unemployment. They said that they had been in their position for so long that it was hard to know how to answer this question now.

This is when it struck me that in America, we are so wrapped up in titles. If you have a good job and have good schooling behind you then you are successful. That is how you are measured in society. Doctor, engineer, lawyer equals lots of respect, lots of success. Social worker, waitress, teacher (all three of which I have been), equals good hearted, kind but not as successful or accomplished. High pay, nice house, nice cars all the bells and whistles, that is the dream right? This is not a rant on American living, because really I love America and am so grateful for the freedoms we have and that we have the opportunity to succeed. I also know that this is not true of everyone but it is I would say it is a generalization that can be made about our society. Mostly, it is simply something I noticed that made me think twice.

My mother who was, and still is on the side, a well respected lawyer, left the world of law to be a teacher of theology. This transition was huge and she said that people literally looked at her differently with her new title. She is a brilliant, accomplished woman, but going from lawyer to teacher somehow made some people look at her with less respect. I was nothing but proud of her because she LOVES what she is doing and she is making a huge difference, but then again what do I know I am just a teacher too. : )

Anyways, here no one asks you this in the same manner. First they ask you how your family is, where you come from, how you grew up. Eventually they ask you what you do but it is not a major question.

I love this about life here. I am not defined at all by being a teacher. Instead I am defined by being a someone who loves her family, someone who loves community, someone who loves to have people around, by being a wife and a friend who calls even when living in Africa, by being a runner, and singer, someone who is attempting to cook, someone who loves adventure, a teacher who loves her students and most importantly someone who LOVES JESUS!

What is it that defines you?

Katie Got Married

There are very few people in your life that know everything about you. The kind of friend that you grow up with and do everything together as kids. The kind of friend that even through the ups and downs of life, you can still always pick up and leave off right where you left it. The friend who always understands you, well as best as anyone can.

Katie, has been that friend for me since the first grade. Since the first day of school we knew we would be friends. We grew up together; swim team, youth group, soccer, softball (which we were not so good at), girl scouts and so much more. Not to mention, we went to school together from first grade all the way through college. We had our times of trials, like the time in third grade when we broke up, and of course unforgettable times like when we did a talent show routine to Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.”

Anyways, there are also very few friends I would even consider flying across the world for their wedding day, but Katie is an exception. And so we flew literally across the world for Katie’s big day.

Thankfully, I was able to be there for a lot of the festivities. I went to the bachelorette party which was lots of fun, and the Bridesmaids luncheon at the Arizona Inn. I went to the rehearsal, and dinner. And of course Saturday was wedding day all day.

The wedding was beautiful and went off without a hitch. Katie, and her new husband Danny who I think is wonderful for Katie, got married at the church we grew up at, and had the reception at her parent’s house. It was a great event that brought together so many of our friends and family that we grew up with.

Seeing Katie walk down the aisle, was like watching my sister walk down the aisle. I could not have been happier that we were there for the big day.

Congrats to Katie and Danny Marwitz! May God bless you and your marriage always!

Mr. and Mrs. Marwitz

Me and Katie

The Newlyweds

Dancing with my Brother and Daddy

Family Time!

If you know anything about me you know that I LOVE MY FAMILY! God has blessed me so much with an amazing family. The greatest part about my family is that it does not just include my Dad, Mom and Brother. I have tons of cousins, aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, more second cousins than you can imagine, friends who have been like family forever, and since I have been married I have a whole new family to add to it.

During our time in the Tucson, we were able to spend lots of quality time with almost all of them. We started with a quiet two days at my parent’s brand new, beautiful cabin. Although I have much nostalgia for the cabin I grew up in, I do very much like the new one and I am excited to spend lots of vacation time there. Not only was it cold there, but we even got to play and sled in the snow with our puppies, who of course are a huge part of our family too! Mostly I loved being with my Mom and Dad who are beyond wonderful.

Me and my family at Katie's wedding

Then Austin’s Mom, Craig and Matty came into town for a whirl wind weekend. We had lots of Mexican food, went hiking in Sabino Canyon, went to Bookmans and ate lots of Eegees. During this weekend we also had a homecoming party so that we could see as many of our friends and family as we could. I made Pilau, a Tanzanian meat, rice and potato dish, and Kachumbali Salad, a caggbage salad, and Mandazi, doughnuts of some sort. We always love to have people over and to throw large parties so this was a treat.

Milkshakes at Little Anthony's with Austin's mom, Craig and sister Amy

The second week we were there we had meetings one after the other, with friends and family. From 7am until 10pm or later we were out and about having coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner with our irreplaceable community in Tucson. I would love to tell you about each of them and how much they mean to us but really that would just take forever. Just know that, that is in my opinion, what is hardest to be away from.

We also had some quality time with Austin’s Dad, Mary, Amy, Veronica and Rhonda. I always love our relaxing dinners at their house. We took Charlie to Baum’s, he seemed to miss the place a bit but really he seems pretty laid back and content wherever and whoever he is with.

Austin's family sister Amy, Mary, Veronica, Rhonda, and Fred

My great uncle Frankie invited us to dinner which was so picturesque, with their views of the sunset and Catalina Mountains. My great aunts and uncle remind me so much of my grandmother, which is hard and wonderful at the same time.

Dinner at Uncle Frankie's with a very small part of the Vasquez side of the family.

My mom’s side of the family came over and we made them dinner which was wonderful and reminded me of the good old days when we all had dinner every Wednesday at Granny’ house. I got some good time with many of them but always wish I had more.

The Terry Cousins : )

My cousin Elena, was even able to do my hair for the wedding, which turned out beautifully! Thanks Elena!

Some of my favorite times, were with my brother. Because he is in his last semester of college, his schedule is much more flexible. This allowed us to get a lot of quality time together. He is and always has been my best friend! We have always gotten along well which is strange for brother and sister so close together in age. He graduates from college and leaves for active duty in the Army in a few weeks, and I am so proud of him. I am so thankful for our time together before his new adventure in life.

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Again, I am so grateful for ALL of my family. I pray for them daily and cling to this verse when I am missing them:

“I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters, or mother or father, or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30

It’s A Boy!!!!

I am taking a small time out from the usual posts to announce the birth of Victor Jr.. Victor, is a contractor at HOPAC, and works very closely with Austin. Since about February he told us that the baby was due, so we have been eager to meet this little guy! I guess the doctors were a bit wrong seeing how he was born at the tail end of April. No matter to us we are just glad he is here and he and mom are healthy.

He was born on Friday the 30th and his cousin was born on the exact same day! Pretty exciting. We got to see the proud Mama and Papa on Sunday and welcome their sweet baby boy! We are praying for a good health for the whole family!

HONGERA SANA VICTOR AND LINDA!

Victor Jr. and I and his twin cousin and Uncle

So sweet.

Proud Daddy Victor with Victor Jr.