Archive for August, 2010

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.

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Back to School

HOPAC has been back in school for one week now. It is amazing how fast it seems that it all gets back into the groove of things so easily. Austin has been quite busy with making sure that everything is up and running well for the teachers, but it is not easy here. Servers crash, computers get fried, people have lots of questions. However, he is doing well and having fun too. The week before school started, Austin gave a presentation about IT and all of the ins and outs of what he and the rest of the IT department have been up to over the summer.

Austin giving his presentation. He even wore a tie. What a professional.

Besides that teachers were bustling around making copies, putting up bulletin boards, placing name tags on desks and making sure that all was ready for the first week of school. To kick off the first week for teachers, we decided to put together a teacher’s Game Night. First we all headed down to Verna’s Mexican, which is open once a week at Verna’s house. Verna is South African but she has the only Mexican restaurant around so it is a real treat. Then we headed back to the Larmey’s for game time. We had lots of fun and lots of teachers came, old and new. We played all sorts of games. Jenga. Rummikub. Connect Four. Twister. and much more. It was a great time for community, for new teachers to meet others, and for reconnecting with people we had not seen in awhile.

Jenga with the girls!

Don't know the game, but they sure were having fun!

Collecting the name tags after our large game of Who Am I?

Everyone trying to figure out who they were.

WELCOME BACK HOPAC!

IT Party!!!!

IT PARTY! (A term Austin has coined for he and his staff. Sounds way cooler than IT Department.)

When we first arrived Austin had no clue what he was going to be doing for HOPAC. He came as a “part time” employee, and had no established role yet. On his application he had put that he had been a life guard, and played the saxophone and piano. To this the school offered him the choice of helping out at the pool teaching swim lessons, and giving clarinet lessons. Don’t know where the clarinet lessons came from but we thought it was amusing.

Anyways, once the school year was underway and I was busily teaching my cute fifth graders, Austin started by filling his time helping the little kids with their swim lessons, taking Kiswahili lessons, and helping with some various IT projects. Over time, being the dedicated and hard worker that he is, this was just not enough for him. He slowly started to to more and more with the IT department. Then one day, our friend Ron, who was the head of the IT stuff, sports coordinator and so much more, informed us that he got a job elsewhere. This then opened the door to Austin going from IT helper, to the official IT Department Manager (a title that did not really exist before Austin took it over).

Being the business brain, and ideas man that he is, he decided to cast his own vision for HOPAC’s IT system. With this, in a matter of less than 9 months, he has now created an identity for the IT department, but more importantly revamped the entire network at HOPAC.

However, he has not done this alone, there are two other guys, Victor and Oscar, who have been working at HOPAC and who have helped make some of Austin’s projects come to life.

Victor.

Victor has been working at the school as a part time consultant for a few years now. He has a lot of IT knowledge and is a great asset to the school and to Austin, as Austin has had no real IT training. Victor, is married and just had his first baby in April, Victor Jr.

Oscar.

Oscar, has also been working for the school for a few years, as an all around IT guy. Fixing computers, printers, and thing that needs fixing and overseeing the computer lab. Oscar, is super sweet, and is set to get married in October. Very exciting!

Over the course of this year together these boys have done so much to improve the school. From fixing  printers, fax machines, and scanners, to replacing hard drives. From getting rid of nasty computer viruses that were shared around the whole school, to recreating the server. From backing up the back up’s back up drive, to rewiring the entire campus. From getting a new internet provider that has increased the internet speed here by at least 10x from when we first got here, to purchasing a new copier that has been so needed. From teaching teachers, and being patient with teachers, who are IT clueless, to putting in 12 hour days. Austin, Victor and Oscar, have been dedicated to making sure that HOPAC is set up for success when it comes to technology.

As much as I am grateful for what Oscar, and Victor have done, it is really Austin who is the force behind it all. I love how he is the person who had no job at first, but quickly turned into one of the most valuable positions on campus. He started with very little, and lots of mix matched pieces, and has worked to make every aspect of IT better at school. The truth is that this is just who the Lord created him to be, and I know that he is capable of doing this at whatever job he is working. In my opinion, HOPAC has benefited so greatly from his hard work, and will continue to for years to come.

Humidity vs. Dry Heat

Austin and I come from the land of DRY HEAT. Now I know that many people may have maybe heard of dry heat, but having not experienced it, unaware of the difference between dry heat and humid heat. I thought I would take the time to explain some of the differences between the two.

DRY HEAT

1. You always need lotion. Doesn’t matter the time of year.

2. Your clothes never feel sticky.

3. When you get out of the shower, you barely need a towel to dry yourself off. The dry air does it for you.

4. When working out you usually don’t sweat until after the workout (unless your the type who sweats profusely, or you decide to run in the middle of the afternoon on a 110 degree day).

5. You can wear one outfit all day without it being soaked at any point in time.

HUMIDITY

1. There is no point to showering except to cool off.

2. Immediately after a shower you will still be dripping with sweat.

3. You do not have to be doing exercise to provoke sweating. It will happen naturally all day long.

4. Working out burns twice the calories and exhausts you twice as fast as a workout without humid conditions. (The calories part may not be true, but it sure does feel like it.)

5. Lotion is not necessary.

I have never lived in a place as humid as Dar es Salaam. Although, I have gotten more accustomed to it, I would not venture to say that I have started to like it yet. I will not miss being covered with sweat before I even begin a work out. Although Tucson, is pretty warm right now, I will take that dry heat over the humidity any day. I tell people this back home and they keep telling me that it is not dry right now. However, after looking at the humidity between the two cities even currently, (keep in mind we are in winter here now) Dar es Salaam is between 50 and 70% humidity, and Tucson between 20 and 30%. The average Humidity on a daily basis here is somewhere between the mid 60’s up until the mid 80’s with the “discomfort from heat and humidity” being marked HIGH for 8 out of 12 months of the year, and MEDIUM for the other 4 months. Don’t believe me check it out for yourself here Dar es Salaam.

I tried to find the same chart for Tucson, but was only able to get one for Phoenix, close enough. The average humidity on a daily basis in Phoenix ranging from 14 to 40 percent. Now that is what I call dry and comfy. The “discomfort from heat and humidity” column is marked high for only 3 months, medium to moderate for another three, and has NO marking for the other 6 months of the year. That is of course because there is no “discomfort from heat and humidity” those other months, and this is for Phoenix. Tucson, being far superior to Phoenix, and having cooler weather , has even better weather than this. For more check out this chart on Phoenix weather.

Anyways, I know I may sound like a bit of a whiner, but I just wanted to clarify the differences for those who may not have ever lived in such a humid place. The biggest benefit of the humidity here is that it means the ocean is near by, and is almost always perfect temperature to swim in.  MAJOR BONUS. Although, I have enjoyed living near the ocean, and have come to love it much more than ever before, I am very happy and grateful for dry heat and excited to get back to it.

This is how much Austin sweats on a normal day here in Dar. Poor guy. He was drenched.

Walking the Line Between Black and White

Upon arriving in Tanzania, I was unaware of what our lives would look like here. I LOVE learning about other cultures, learning other languages, and most especially love living IN other cultures. I think the best way to get to know people, and language is to be among them. Before coming here, I had hoped that we would have this kind of experience here in Dar, however, I have found that we have experienced something completely different than my expectations.

Working at a school for mostly foreigner’s children, and the rest being of the wealthier population in Tanzania, the community that we have been apart of, although wonderful, does not represent the majority of Tanzanians. Living on a compound with huge houses, in the city, with way more than we need, although a huge blessing, we have been separated from living life with Tanzanians. Being surrounded by English in our jobs, has made it difficult for us to pick up any language, and we definitely did not have time to study it while we were working so hard. Overall, our friends here have been friends that we made through HOPAC. They hail from all over America, England, Europe, and other countries, but very few of them from Tanzania.

Therefore, I found that we were in this sort of “third culture.” Where we were not apart of Tanzanian life, or the life that we were familiar with like that of the ex-patriots that live here in Dar, but with a culture that has been created all on its own at HOPAC.

There are times when I get a taste of Tanzanian life. Like when I am squished inside the dala dalas with 30 other of my closest friends, or when I am shopping in the duka’s nearby and people actually know my name and asking me how I am doing, or when I am actually in a situation where I can only use Kiswahili, or eating out at T-square (a local Tanzanian restaurant). However, the majority of the time my life is not filled with Tanzanian culture.

There are a few Tanzanians who have been a significant part of our lives here. The first one being our houseworker Jackie, she only speaks Kiswahili so she really is a great help in language. The second are our guards Imani, Panclas, and Francis. Day and night they are working on our compound taking care of the yard, and protecting us from harm. They are wonderful. The third are the HOPAC staff who are Tanzanian. Many of them have been working there for a long time and they are always super friendly and welcoming. And finally, our friends workers who do a myriad of jobs. They too are wonderful, and they teach us a lot about Tanzanian culture.

Recently we had two barbecues. The first one consisted of our wazungu, foreigner, friends and the second was with our Tanzanian friends. I so badly wish that the two worlds collided more but in our circumstance they do not. There are definitely cultural lines, and employer/employee lines that get gray when it comes to this. The reality is that as an American, that has traveled all this way, I have way more than many Tanzanians may have in a life time when it comes to financial resources and needs and wants being met. This does not make me any better than them, it does however make them see me differently. As a white person you are thought of as wealthy, and although it is true in most cases, and definitely compared to most Tanzanians, it creates a divide. You are white with more than you could ever need, they are black with many needs.

I find myself wanting to live with them, speak with them, eat with them, so that I can better understand them and so that the divide between us could be less. I try my best to love everyone as Christ loves me regardless of color or status. I try to make them all feel welcome, equal and included. I want to be best friends with them, and sit and have conversations about family, faith, and life, like I would with anyone else. Although, this is difficult here. I know people who are doing this here in Africa, and I so very much admire their work. I would love for it to not be us and them, but rather to be just us. I so wish this divide could be shattered. Until then, I will be praying for  Christ’s love to come and be the bridge in this community between black and white.

Island Paradise

Welcome to Mbudja Island!

Just off the shore of the Indian ocean that we live one mile from, there are a few islands that you can take day trips to. There are Tanzanians that live on the Island and take all the money from the wazungu that want to spend the day there. However, it is well worth the 30 dollar trip in my opinion.

Snake Island (We chose not to go there).

Another boat we ran into on the way.

We started with a short boat ride on a “speed boat.” It was not so speedy but it did get us there. When we arrived we set up camp in a banda and then headed out for adventure. I was unsure if you could actually walk around the entire island but found out that it was possible. It took us about 2 hours to walk around the whole thing, and thank the Lord it was low tide or else it would not have been possible at all. We saw all sorts of sea life including, starfish big and small, sea cucumbers which I have never seen in the wild before, crabs of all sizes and colors, many different fish, sea urchins everywhere, and we even saw an eel that was about 3 feet long, and had babies. It was an exciting adventure to say the least. While out on the far side of the island we were also able to see the bigger waves that break right at the barrier reef just a few miles from shore. If only they broke right at shore. Then Austin could have perfected his surfing and opened up the first ever surf shop in Tanzania.

Starfish #1.

Starfish #2. It was HUGE!.

Sea Urchins.

So beautiful!

BIG WAVES!

After our two hours circumnavigating the island, it was lunch time. The menu consisted of Fresh Fish caught while we were exploring and chips (french fries). They were delicious.

We were all ready for some rest after lunch. We sat and read and enjoyed the cool ocean breezes of winter.

The return boat came to pick us up, but not before we got to take a quick dip in the water. The temperature was perfect both inside and outside of the water and it was so refreshing.

Our new friends Mary and Erin.

The way back was a bit choppy as the winds had picked up. We were all completely soaked but it, along with our sunburns, did not spoil our day of paradise at Mbudja Island.

Saying goodbye to Mbudja.

Man Projects

As many of you many know, Austin loves to work. He loves to fix things, like computers, cell phones, printers, and other technological devices. He loves to take them apart and start from scratch. He loves to read instruction manuals for complicated devices. He always has new ideas to create out of the ordinary devices such as heavy duty potato launchers, and  make your own satellites, and then he will actually go and make them. He loves doing work outdoors, with heavy machinery. His ideal Saturday would be spent with an early morning run to Home Depot, Ace Hardware or Auto Zone, and the rest of the day complete some sort of project (ie building a porch and deck or fixing the Jeep). I think he truly gets some sort of adrenaline rush from these things.

I absolutely love this about him, and wouldn’t change it for the world.

He has missed many things about Tucson but one things he has missed most is climbing. There are no rocks to climb here and no climbing gyms to make up for not having rocks. He has talked about building a Campus Board to increase his finger strength all year, and has finally gotten a chance to build one. Once he does set his mind to something and has the time for it he is able to complete it in no time flat. This baby was completed with in just a few days and under 24 hours of work. I am very impressed by it, as are the students, staff and guards at the school. It is very funny because Austin is one of the only people at the school with the upper body strength to actually use it (they play a lot of soccer here instead of climbing). Hopefully, in time others will follow his footsteps.

Here is the full process in pictures of his latest man project:

Using man tools.

Seriously Focused.

The beginning stages.

Backboard complete.

Finger boards ready and on.

Mounted and ready for use.

First Day Using the Campus Board