Archive for the ‘Thoughts in Dar.’ 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

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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.

What Makes a House a Home?

After not feeling settled for the majority of our time here in Tanzania, I started to think about what really makes a house a home.

Is it a living room, with comfy chairs, bookshelves with trinkets and pictures hung?

Our Living Room

Is it having a guest bedroom and office where you can see the Indian Ocean everyday?

The Beautiful View from our guest bed/office.

Is it when you have lots of pictures up of friends and family?

Family and Friends Photos

Is it having Fresh Basil in the yard?

Fresh Basil that I grew.

Is it having a place to sit and enjoy each other’s company while reading a book, drinking coffee, or having quiet time?

A place to enjoy the view.

Or is it knowing where everything goes, having everything organized and encouraging notes up too?

Organization!

Is it a kitchen that welcomes people warmly, is fully stocked and easy to cook in?

Is it having a table to share laughter and food with friends?

Dining Room (Please don't mind our disgusting curtains)

Is it a bedroom with an ocean view?

This year has been a bit chaotic when it comes to feeling settled in a home of our own. When we first moved here we lived in a house that we really loved and that started to feel like home, However, after just three months, we moved into a house literally next door on the compound. Although we very much appreciated our time in that house, our roommate Kate and other guests, there is sure something about living in your own home that just feels right.

After getting back from camps, we moved back into our previous house and have been able to make it feel more like a home. Although we will only be here for a short time, it feels so nice to have a place to call home. We have even had lots of parties already, just like we like it!

Although all of these pieces help to make a house a home, I think what really makes it the most for me is being able to have a house full of people who we love!

HOME SWEET HOME : )

Today’s Adventures

Today’s Adventures

Here is what my today looked like. I would say it is a typical day I have here, however, there is no such thing as a typical day here. Everything is unpredictable and you have to be willing to roll with the punches.

7:30 Wake up to the sunrise over the ocean. Make Austin coffee and enjoy some quiet time reading the Bible and journaling.

8:30 Check emails, facebook and any blogs I like keeping up with. Map out a schedule for the day so that I make sure I stay on track.

9:00 Jackie, our wonderful houseworker, arrives. Today she brought her son Kevin because we invited all of our Tanzanian friends over for dinner, and she is included of course.

9:30 Head to HOPAC to give Austin his lunch that he forgot, and do some various odds and ends at HOPAC.

9:45 Hail a bajaj driver to take me to White Sands. Today the Bajaj driver I used, I have used before. Unfortunately because my Kiswahili is getting better I can understand a lot more of what they are saying. He told me he loved me and wanted to marry me repeatedly, even though I told him multiple times that I have a husband. This made for a very awkward ride. Needless to say, I will not use him again as a driver.

9:55 Arrive at Larmey’s house. Say hello to Len and have a nice chat. Grab a good book, and a crock pot that we got for free and left there on accident. Say hello to Opas, our friend and driver.

10:00 Attempt to leave with car, however Opas informs me that one of the tires needs air. I say no problem I can get it filled. Off I go to run a few errands.

10:15 Arrive at Engen, a local gas station/supermarket/pharmacy/cooking gas/power/car repair shop/ATM/ Movie Shop/ and Fast food stop all wrapped into one, it really is convenient. I tell the car fundis (experts) about my tire problem but they tell me sorry we cannot fix because we do not have any air pressure in our machines.

10:30 I make a last minute decision to stop at the pharmacy to get our second dose of deworming medication. (Yes, I know you are all jealous. You are strongly encouraged to deworm every 6 months here.) Super helpful pharmacist. I also buy Umeme (power). No monthly bills here just give your meter number and they give you a receipt with a ridiculously long set of numbers you enter into the meter to give you credit.

10:40 I went to the super market grabbed a few things sugar, milk, bread and phone credit. I so badly wanted to buy Austin a magazine but they are really expensive here. While paying one of the tire guys approaches me and tries to tell me something about changing a tire. My Kiswahili is still limited, especially when it comes to car talk so I tell him to wait and that I will come.

10:50 Tire fundi shows me that there are two nails in the tire and it needs to be changed. I had no choice but to stop my future errands and get the tire changed. I called Opas who is an expert and knows how much it should cost. Got myself a fair price. They told me it would take 20 minutes. Being in Tanzania I knew this meant longer, my guess was 45 because as they were not busy.

11:00 I walked down the street a bit in search of some new furniture for some of the new Young Life people who are coming to work at HOPAC. The first place I stopped gave me an outrageous price, so I proceeded to the next store. The second place was very friendly, appreciated that I knew some Kiswahili (it seems as everyone appreciates when a mzumgu, or foreigner, knows enough kiswahili to have a bit of a conversation), and gave me pretty fair prices. I jotted them down and told them I would come back another day. I walked back to Engen to see if my car was ready.

11:20 Car not ready of course but no big deal. I had worked up a sweat so I bought some cold water to quench my thirst. Although it is winter here, it is still a bit humid and walking in the sun can be tiring. However, I am not complaining as the weather is generally between 75 and 80 with nice breezes all day. I sat down on a bench and began reading my book. I always carry a book with me here as you never know when you will have to wait for something.

11:30- Car is ready! Pretty good guess 40 mins and it was ready. I paid they men and was on my way.

11:40 On the way back I stopped at a local store. Not really sure what to call it. They sell toilets, showers, glass bowls, plates and cups, wrapping paper, paint and a few other things. I needed a shower curtain rod and they had one for a decent price. Whoo hoo! It is always a good day when they have what you need for a decent price. The vendor asked me if I was married, and if he could have my number, always awkward. I really like doing things with Austin better here. It alleviates a lot of the awkward moments.

11:45 Headed back to the house. Here I find Jackie working away and Kevin, who is 2 and cute as a button, wanting to play with me. He and I eat a piece of bread with blue band and begin our work. We cleaned together, and cut vegetables together and much more. He was a great help. Jackie and I realized we did not have enough garlic for the main dish, pilau, so off I went to the store again.

1:00 On the road again. Thankfully these dukas are very close to us. I stopped and got a few more sodas from the soda vendor. His name was Peter, and he asked if I would be willing to teach his children English. I told him I would love to but that I was leaving soon. He was very nice. Then I went to one of my favorite veggie dukas. Bought a bunch of garlic and decided last minute to get things to make my own pili pili sauce (hot sauce). On the way back I decided to stop and see our favorite banana vendor. I bought a bunch of bananas for our evening guests.

1:30 I returned. Back to work. Chopping. Peeling. Cutting. And lots of it! We made a huge heap of kachumbali salad (a cabbage salad) and pilau (meat, rice and potatoes dish). I purposely made lots of extras so that I could give it away to our friends.

4:45 After much work the food was ready and, the house picked up. Now it was time to get freshened up. At this time Austin came home from work, and helped a bit with the preparations.

5:30 Guests arrive. So fun to see our Tanzanian friends with the families. There were many kids and wives to. I finally feel as if my Kiswahili is decent enough that they can understand me and I can understand them a bit as well which is so very nice.

6:00 We all enjoy sodas, and homemade chips that Austin made. One of the babies who was about 1 and a half cried pretty much the whole time. He was scared of Austin and I . Apparently many Tanzanian children can be scared of wazungu (foreigners) because they are not used to having white people around. It was pretty funny seeing him cry dramatically the whole night. Poor baby.

6:30 We eat! I put out silverware, but I am not sure why. Austin and I were the only ones that used it. Definitely not cultural to use silverware. Making small talk and asking questions. Thanking them for all of their hard work and for all they have done for us. In turn they told us tutakumbuka, which means we will remember or miss you. This warmed my heart and made me wish I could have more time with them.

7:00 Austin began playing cards with our friends. Super fun as Austin’s Kiswahili is limited, but they all understood the game. It was called last card.

8:00 Guests are full tired and ready to leave, but very grateful for the food and party.

8:15 Austin and I clean up the mess. Apparently eating with your hands gets a lot more food on the floor.

9:00 We did it! Now time to relax, decompress and get ready for bed.

It was a long day and I am tired but a great day none the less. Everything did not go exactly as planned but still turned out all
right. I am so thankful for days like these where I just get experience Tanzanian culture. I am grateful for our house worker Jackie. She is such a blessing! Not as a worker at all but as a friend. She teaches me so much. I am thankful for all of our Tanzanian friends and pray God’s blessing on them and their families always.

Planting Grass

One piece at a time

Some things… Okay many things that are done here in Tanzania are not done efficeintly, or conveniently, at least from my American perspective.

For example, the stairs in our house here have a half step that is shaped like a piece of a pie chart at each turn, ensuring that you will trip almost every time you are going up or down them.

Or when building a house the builders simply make a hole for a door or window that they feel is about the right size, and then the door and window experts come and hand craft a window or door to fit the hole.

Or when building a house they wait until it is erected to think about how piping and electrical circuits should be arranged. This results in many more hours of trying to fix the work that was done poorly in the first place.

There are many others, but the one that takes the top of the cake in my opinion is they way in which they plant grass. No machines or tools. No seeds. No already ready to go grass pads.

Instead they take huge bundles of already grown grass seedlings, and by hand dig small holes in the ground about three inches apart from each other, placing one grass root at a time in the ground. They then soak the ground completely and wait. This process can take weeks and weeks depending on how much land must be covered and how many workers there are. The process takes forever, and no one who is hired to do it looks like they are enjoying themselves.

The pros are that you are able to provide work for many that might not have work otherwise, and that in just a few weeks you really do have a great looking lawn. I am just thankful that I am not the one doing the planting.

TADA! Finished product!

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?