Archive for the ‘Life in Africa’ Category

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

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!

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.


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.

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 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, 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.


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.


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.

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!


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

ONE YEAR!!!!!!

That’s right, today celebrates the one year anniversary of Austin and I stepping off of the plane and marching into an unknown adventure in Tanzania. It is hard to believe all that we have done, seen, and experienced in our time here. We have been so blessed by this experience, HOPAC, and the community of people surrounding us.

Here is a quick overview of what we have done in the past year (In no particular order):

-Taught a full year of fifth grade.

-Fixed more computers, printers, and other miscellaneous IT gadgets than you can imagine.

-Gone on Safari in the Terengeri Safari Park

-Gone to Arusha three times! We love it there. Hung out with our favorite people there Hannah, Zac, Jackie, Alexis, Fluffy, Dusty, Marlaina, and Imani.

-Climbed up to hut #1 on the Marangu trail of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

-Tramped around in the Amani Rainforest, in Tanga with 20 fifth graders.

-Helped with the first ever International School YL Africa Camp in the mountains of Lushoto

-Lead WYLDLIFE at HOPAC including Blueband club, Grody club and Luau Club. : )

-Served at 2 Young Life Summer Camps. One in Arusha and one in Iringa.

-Spent New Year’s in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, lead a training for WYLDLIFE and got to be apart of Campaigner’s Camp.

-Learned how to cook from scratch. Well at least got a good start.

-Went home for Katie’s wedding, and a refreshing time with family!

-Picked up a bit of Kiswahili and can actually have conversations with people now!

-Worked on our tans, and spent lots of quality time on the beaches of the Indian Ocean.

-Took a Marriage Course where we learned that 2=1 : )

-Employed a wonderful lady named Jackie for her very first job!

-Started the first ever Dar es Salaam Men’s Grill Association, and had many BBQ’s with great fellowship.

-Put together another man’s group, to do pre-navy seal training workouts.

-Completed a study on the book of Esther with some beautiful women.

– Explored the town of Bagamoyo.

-Spent lots of great time with our best friends here, the Kriegers, the Maxwells and the Larmeys!

-Watched most of the FIFA WORLD CUP, in Africa, while it was being held in Africa. Pretty Awesome!

-Kayaked the Open Seas.

-Sailed to Mbudja Island for some fellowship and fresh fish!

-Celebrated HOPAC’s 15th Anniversary.

-Rode in daladala’s, bicycle taxis, and bajaj’s more than cars.

-Worshiped the Lord with the Senior African Leadership Team.

-Watched Rikka Nne (A group of YL leaders), go through and graduate their official training.

-Had roommates. Something we did not expect but were blessed by.

-Celebrated our first anniversary in the spice capital of the world, the island of Zanzibar.

-Visited the dentist in Dar, and got a Wisdom tooth removed.

-Coached little girls soccer.

-Became best friends with Skype.

-Learned more about Ramadan, and other aspects of Muslim culture.

-Celebrated Birthday’s and Holidays away from home for the very first time.

-Helped out with primary Student Council.

-Read lots of books.

-Worked together for the first time. Ate all three meals together and did not get sick of each other. Hopefully. we can find a way to do this again in the future.

-Had more time to spend seeking the Lord, and listening to His plan for us.

As you can see this year has been full of so many wonderful, and life changing experiences! Thank you Lord for all of the blessings you have given us here in Africa! We are so grateful, and could not have dreamed a better adventure for ourselves. Asante sana Bwana Yesu!