Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Walking Talking Blessing...

That's Mark on the left. The guy on the right may look like an ordinary guy, but he's really a blessing straight from heaven (he'll probably roll his eyes when he reads that). But it's true. Steve and his family moved from Golden Valley to Dar es Salaam in July. He's the director (mkurugenzi in Swahili) of a Christian mission school called Haven of Peace Academy there. We met him last spring a few times before they left and he's here at language camp in class with us.

But it's not his amazing grasp of Kiswahili that makes him a blessing. It's just who he is--a strong Christian with such a positive and hopeful and realistic outlook on life here in Tanzania, particularly as it relates to family and faith and education. Although he and Mark are working on very different projects, his 6 months of experience ahead of us and his perspective on doing business here as ex-pats has been so supportive and helpful (when we're not terrified at hearing about the work there is to do actually put into words). :-) For us coming here, we have not arrived into any type of support network or "think tank" for living or working--it's something that we'll have to create ourselves. And even though Steve and his family live several hours away, we have come to see them as a key part of that support we'll need as we forge on here.

And so, if he doesn't kill Mark with these daily runs they go on...he'll continue to be a great support to Mark in his work and his faith.

Thanks, Steve.

Peace House and Project 640

Project 640 is a group of amazing people from Chicago who are supporting Peace House Foundation. Through their efforts they have raised a tremendous amount of money for our cause and created so much energy and enthusiasm wherever they go! Where they went was Tanzania this past week to work at the PHA site. We visited them on their last day before leaving on safari and a well-earned vacation. I think they truly experienced TANZANIA...the wonderful resourceful people, the need, the heat, the wind, the beauty...the dust tornado that knocked down the tent while they were under it...I'm not sure how to express my appreciation and admiration for what they've done...but for those who were here for the first time, we truly understand how they've been changed by their experience. You can read their blog entries from this week at http://web.mac.com/rjz48/iWeb/640Journal/Welcome.html This is the banda(what we would call a gazebo) that the group worked on. Do you see any sizable trees anywhere? No? That's why we need the banda. It is located where the guest housing will be, but we're thinking that a few more of these might not be a bad idea until we can grow some shade!
Yes, we know it's hot and humid in Minnesota, but the heat and wind here at the equator is really punishing. So, the group also worked on these fabulous mosaics when taking a break from hard labor. I escaped without actual pics of their finished products but they are really wonderful. They'll be displayed at the school when it is compeleted and will be a special reminder of their efforts here.

Trees need rain to grow...rain is terribly unpredictable here...so in addition to planting trees, the group also worked on a nursery where we can raise trees until the timing is right to plant them. There are trees here that grow 9 feet a year! So at least we're not waiting for an elm or maple, but it will be nice to give them a head start while we're waiting for optimal weather.

Thank you Project 640--you guys were and are terrific!

Another Ava Party

Ava's kindergarden class (what they call ages 3-6 here) had a little party for her today. They run a preschool for Tanzanian children here in the morning, which is why half the children are in uniform. They had juice, jam/bread, and a real birthday cake. Everything baked dries out unbelievably fast here, but the kids didn't mind at all. They sang happy birthday in English and then a Swahili song. The teachers made a Tshirt for Ava that says, "Give me a child for the first 6 years and you can have him forever". I can't remember who said it, but it's a quote often used to stress the importance of early education and intervention. Ava was very pleased with the whole affair!

These are Sebastian and Jonathon and we are thrilled that they arrived yesterday because they are boys, they speak outstanding English, and they are Cameron and Noah's ages...hurray! They are going to get to go on an overnight to Ngorongoro Crater and camp there. Of course they're thrilled!

For a bit of an eye-opener about the rest of the world...the boys' father is from Uganda, and their mother is from Denmark. When they married, he didn't speak Danish, so the only language common in the family was English. The dad went to Danish language school to learn to speak Danish. The children speak English at home and with their Ugandan relatives and Danish at school and with their Danish friend/relatives.

We're from Minnesota.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Peace House and Amani

Most of you know that Peace House supports a home for street children called Amani ("amani" means "peace" in Swahili). I first saw it 3 years ago when they were really struggling. Now, they are making plans for construction of a new building and it's really an amazing program! We spent an hour or so there last week with Project 640 (more on them later). Mark doesn't get enough mention on the blog, but yes, we did bring him along... The kids were subdued to realize they were surrounded by sixty-some kids who have no homes. Some have run away because there wasn't food or they couldn't attend school. Some have lost parents and were mistreated or abused and arrived in Moshi to live on the street. Amani runs a reunification program to help families resolve issues that will allow the children to return home. The kids are very friendly and love showing off for cameras. Cameron was a good sport.
Noah is always less than thrilled to have his picture taken and was pretty overwhelmed by the attention from the kids. This was the only pic he was willing to put up with...

Culture Presentation at Langauge School

Just a few pics of a culture presentation at language school Friday afternoon. It was put on by a dancing/drumming group from Arusha. The dancing was a lot of fun--I'll try to learn how to post a video clip--otherwise I'll attach it via email.

Ava and Rasmus aren't trying to join in--they're playing in the mud and (despite the drums and singing) did not realize a new group of dancers was starting!

This last dancer was great...lots of energy and enthusiasm. Several dances involved (real) spears and machetes and he made a great show of waving them at the kids, who loved it, of course! I'm thinking my kids will have great ideas for Halloween costumes when they return to the States....except I bet the neighbors will raise their eyebrows when they drag out their weapons!

Happy Birthday, Ava!

Today is Ava's birthday. She's a bit horse-crazy so you can imagine how excited she was to open her American birthday present! She also picked out a wooden lion from a local shop. She and Noah had collected a number of wooden animals from TZ which we left behind so they're looking forward to accruing a new menagerie. We had ice cream bars (ice cream is in short supply right now with the power outages) and finished with a wonderful swim at a nearby safari lodge.

By the way, we've finally located Ava's real family. She certainly looks much more like Minda and Rasmus, doesn't she? They are from Norway and they've become good friends this week at school. People commented about how Ava would stand out with her blond curls, but really there are so many Danes/Swedes/Norskis that she doesn't look much different than she did at home!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

New People in our Lives

We are adding some new people to our lives. First, there is Nda. He is Maasai and works as our day guard/handyman. We also have Godfrey, who is our night guard and Samwe, who is our weekend day guard. They work for a service called Watch-n-Guard. We hired a service because we needed people quickly while we are at language school. Since everything here is done by who you know, it can take time to track down people that have good references.

This weekend Mark is helping our new housekeeper move in. His name is Yasini. He has a wife, Lucy, and 4 children--a high school girl, two boys about Cameron and Noah's ages, and a little girl almost two. He has been working for a Baptist seminary and speaks good English and has a pretty good idea of how Americans do things. Finding someone who knows how to read a recipe or knows what Americans tend to be picky about (like not cutting raw meat and fresh veggies with the same knife) which is also nice. The seminary is going to be turned over to new Tanzanian management and they have hinted that his job there may not last. Unlike many Tanzanians, Yasini decided to be proactive and was looking for another position.

Their family will be living in the servant's quarters at our compound. The SQ consists of two rooms, each about 10x12 feet, and a bathroom with a squatty potty and shower. There is an outdoor sink for washing and cooking. Nope, no kitchen--they cook on charcoal stoves. Yasini's daughter will start boarding at school and the oldest boy will live with his aunt until school is out--not because there's not enough room, but because it is very difficult for students to transfer between schools. When we move to the PHA site, his children will have to transition again to schools closer to our site and they may need to find their own housing as there may not be housing on site for workers.

Coming to work for us has made some logistical difficulties for Yasini. But, there are opportunities for him as well. He managed the guest housing at the seminary and did a great job of escorting visitors/volunteers around town as needed. He did not complete high school, but can read and write well and speaks good English--self-taught, so he is very motivated. It is likely that there would be opportunities for him at PHA, which he recognizes.

Mark is helping him move some things to storage and the rest of their stuff to our home. Renting truck for the afternoon would cost about 15,000Tsh. Is this a lot? Well, Yasini is earning 65,000 Tsh per month from us. That's less than $60 per month and is a very fair rate. So, yeah, 15,000 is a full week's work for him.

Just FYI, Nda is earning 50,000Tsh per month. Once Yasini and his family are living full-time on the compound we may not need him anymore as there would always be someone around the compound. He is actually working for the landlord (there's a very extended family operation working in this area) so he will be able to move to another position somewhere. Although he is a good worker, he's not really a gardener who can work with the flowers, shrubs, etc. Right now we are pretty happy with the night security system as they call the guards via radio every hour and dock them if they don't answer (if they're sleeping). The guard company charges about $120 per month, which is probably double what we would pay if we found someone on our own. But that takes time and we have to be comfortable knowing that the person would likely be sleeping through the night. That seems to be the case with just about everyone we've met, but without dogs, we feel better with the current system.

Speaking of pets, we stopped at a duka (a little shack-type shop) down from our house for sodas one day and found a white and gray (normal looking) cat with 3 little kittens. I'm sure you can write the rest of this story. We'll include pics when she arrives--and despite Mark's objections, I'm sure she will arrive. We checked with the vet and found out that neutering/spaying and all vaccinations will cost less than $60.00. Animals generally eat a smelly but inexpensive diet of ugali (a paste made with maize flour) or rice and dried fish cooked together, plus whatever scraps make their way from our table. The vet also posts dogs/puppies for sale from expats who may be leaving the country, so we'll keep our eyes open for something that is friendly but protective and barks at only the right times. Those of you who really know us knew this would be coming soon...

Should I mention Noah is drawing plans for a chicken coops, Ava is picking out baby goats by the side of the road, not to mention a burro!? No wonder we're referring to the school site lately as "the farm".

And some more pics...

This is a look down the main drag in Arusha. It's not very crowded in this shot. Usually, you can hardly move. No stoplights at any intersections. Driving is not a relaxing endeavor and forget about using your cell phone (everyone here texts anyway because it's so much cheaper so that wouldn't work anyway).

By day Khan's sells auto parts, but when the sun goes down it turns into this terrific Indian barbeque place. They grill chicken, beef, and mutton, and then have amazing sauces and salads (hot and cold, spicy and mild) to add on. Add some naan and sodas and you've got a feast. Our whole family can eat for less than $20.

Remember our hut? Well, even with the stuff that needs to get done around the house, our landlord decided to hire these two women to remud our hut. They make mud from termite mounds and then use a mixture of water and ash to seal it.

Some thoughts because I can't upload pics for some reason

St. Karen also sent me People magazine's "Twenty Years of the Sexiest Man Alive". Here's what I've learned...

*I'm old--I was an adult 20 years ago
*Tom Cruise was really never that good-looking.
*Neither was Brad Pitt (except for A River Runs Through it)
*Mel Gibson really was that good-looking
*Patrick Swayze really DID look that good dancing
*Rob Lowe used way too much mousse (as did everyone else) in the 80s
*Hugh Jackman has been shortchanged every year he hasn't been on the cover
*I'm more interested in how long celebrities have been married than what they look like

I also used the word "paean" in a recent email to a friend. I'm pretty sure I know 3 people who can confidently know the definition of that word off the top of their heads. Feel free to discuss...

Virtually all Swahili words begin with mw or wa, and end in "i". They are also fond of repeating syllables...case in point...


Points for whoever knows these...plus I'll crib the answers from you for my homework assignments (although, truth to tell, these are the few that I've been able to commit to memory so far).

Good night!

More Pics from nyumba na Hillman

Does the stove look nice? It is...it's gas to avoid electric hassles. We have a big tank that sits next to it. The next size down wouldn't fit a cookie sheet. Also, they don't fuss much with actual temperature. The other one only had "heat up". When it got to a temp. you thought was good, you just propped open the door to let out excess heat. At the equator. It might be a nice idea in Minnesota in the winter, but...

Also, when the power cycles up or down, you can't always predict that what you think is the oven temp. actually is, so cooking times and results vary. I think this one will work for us! I've actually boiled noodles on it, although the altitude makes boiling take longer.

Our new bathroom (we have two). The tub is a nice touch. There is a handheld shower head that's a little like showering with a waterpik. Unlike home, landlords here don't care what you do to the place, since anything you do is likely to be an improvement. We're going the American route, though, and asking him to install an actual showerhead.
This is the living space. Parquet floors and wainscoting, plus a wood ceiling. Pretty, but dark with our lighting situation. The floors show every bit of dust (and there's a lot) more than concrete floors, but the wood actually reminds me of home so I like it.
This is the veranda (not a porch here) and our first cooked meal...mac and cheese with hot dogs. This stump topped with a window pane and two old cowhide chairs are our furniture. Somewhere in Minnesota people are enjoying my red leather chair and ottoman, my mission-style bed, my mission buffet...we will pick up our beds, dining room table/chairs, and coffee table at the end of language camp. A couch will come shortly after.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cameron's new ambition

This is Cameron. He's not usually this dirty (but Ava is). He's trying to get a tan the only way he can. He told us the other day he might like to be a photographer.

He took this picture at the game sanctuary of a marabou stork flying overhead (standing they are taller than Noah). I think it's pretty good.

Mark's Trip to the Hospital

We are now starting a 3 week Swahili class at a Danish camp that works with langauge and NGO development (non-governmental organizations). Personally, I think it's great--the classes are terrific, the food is good, the beds are comfortable, the kids are having fun...

We arrived Sunday night and Mark went to bed with an upset stomach. He was up all night visiting the nice bathroom and spent all of Monday either in a bathroom or lying down. By dinner we were worried that it might be malaria (the symptoms can come on looking like the flu). Also, we are about 10 miles from Arusha and a hospital and if I had to drive him in the night I would have to bring the kids. The camp has a driver's service so I packed him off at about 8:30.

He arrived back home at 11:00 with good news--no malaria, but a stomach bug and a prescription for Cipro. He's feeling much better today. It was actually a blessing--I have worried about the kids getting sick or hurt and visiting the hospital, but now Mark has seen first hand that they are good and we know the way so I feel much better now.

BTW, "hopital" is used loosely. This is in a house. They are Tanzanian docs but well-trained and have a reputation for knowing when they are not adequate and referring out to Nairobi. They have a lab and have a good reputation for sterile work. They have 5-6 beds, all in a bedroom, so you can imagine what it might be like to have a sick kid on a night with a person who might have pneumonia or another with the flu. Medical care here does not include any personal care or feeding--that's up to the family.

The whole bill--visit, labwork, meds--20,000 Tshillings--less than $20.

He was also sent home with oral rehydration mix to drink (lovingly provided by the World Health Organization). Step one reads....

"Pour 1 litre (two 500ml beer bottles) of drinking water into a clean container."

Now I ask you, what kind of place clarifies a measurement with beer bottles? Honestly.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Home in Arusha

This is our kitchen. It's a bit old-fashioned with the wall tile and you are looking at our only set of counters or cabinets. Right now they're empty, but not for long, I suppose! Acquiring stuff is more difficult here and the stuff you really need is pricey so I imagine my kitchen will not be as cluttered as my old one was! On the ceiling is the most energy-efficient light ever made. It's flourescent, which as you know, is longer lasting than regular light bulbs. We have them in the hallway and on the verdanda, too. During the day when we don't need them they light up just fine. After 7 when it's dark and they cycle the power down, the flourescent lights don't get enough power to turn on. So they don't. And we have to use a flashlight in the kitchen. Actually, there are flourescents in the living room, too, but those do come on, just not very bright so we use flashlights there, too. There is a water shortage which is causing power to be regulated so we don't know if the cycling down is a normal event or the result of the water shortage. We'll see....
This is the yard (what they call the "garden" here. You can just see Nda, our day guard/handyman. He doesn't speak any English so talking to him is a bit of a trial--I'm sure he feels the same way! He works very hard, though, and is very conscientious about arriving and leaving on time. His only broom is a bunch of branches tied together and his rake has been made of barbed wire. Apparently those tools are not that unusual but I'm going to do something about that when I get back. But if he has a good broom and rake, he'll finish his work sooner, and then what will he do? Honestly, that's a question people ask around here.
Here is the Hillman abode for the next 8-9 months. The temperature is wonderful and shady, unlike the school site where we'll eventually go. The view is from the front gate. Houses are in compounds so there is a wall covered with bouganvilla surrounding the yard and a large gate to come in and out. The gate is watched by either Nda (during the day) or security company guards on the nights and weekends. It makes you feel safe at night, but it can feel isolating during the day. On the other hand, given how many people stare and follow you when you go out, maybe it's not such a bad thing.

More house pictures will be coming soon...uploading takes forever and multiple failures before I succeed.

Saviours of Lost Americans

This is Clive and Bodil Ashton...they take in lost Americans they find wandering around in Tanzania. They put them up (and put up with them) until they can learn to survive on their own. They are truly wonderful and everything they do goes above and beyond the call of duty.

And no...I didn't misspell "saviours" in the title. Clive is British (Bodil is Danish) and they like these curious spellings!

Happy Birthday Noah!


Yesterday was Noah’s birthday. He is 7 and he’s the first Hillman to ever celebrate his birthday in Africa. We went to a small game sanctuary, ate lunch at McMoody’s (where he drank his favorite Pepsi and got a decent burger and fries). He picked out a Maasai walking stick for his African birthday present. We also ran out of gas today on the way back to Arusha. We sat by the side of the road while Mark jogged up to get more gas and by the time he returned at least 10 people were just standing around staring at us…it happens a lot (the staring, not the out of gas) but it is disconcerting.

President Kikwete drove down Main Street while we were at lunch today, too—another fun birthday event. Here the Secret Service is not so secret (machine guns in full view) so we didn’t dare risk a picture.

Noah got a Star Wars lego set (actually 2, as he had an early birthday celebration with a new friend who shares his birthday) and after ice cream and skittles he proclaimed this “the best birthday ever”! How’s that for positive mental attitude? Those of you who know Noah will know that he is PASSIONATE about everything!

Do you have a best friend?

I do…and here she is…this is Karen, patron saint of processed foods. Karen is the most efficiently amazing person I know. Nothing seems to get to her and she is so talented and well-read in so many areas. She and I served on the PHF board for almost 6 years and home schooled our kids together for 18 months, which I could never have done without her support and help. I knew she was a dear friend for a long time but today a care package arrived via a PHF member and now I know what true friendship really is. Here’s what we got….


Lipton instant noodles and cup-o-soup

Instant mashed potatoes

Hidden Valley Ranch dressing

Sloppy joe mix

Taco seasoning

TONS of instant gravy

Fruit snacks


Instant spaghetti sauce

Zip-lock bags (amazingly expensive here)

Little toys for the kids

Curse of the Were-Rabbit

People magazine’s 20 years the sexiest men alive

In short, tons of that preprocessed celebrity gossip crap that apparently America is known for—and which I absolutely adore! Yes, it’s true that we eat too much processed foods, but dang—is it hard to rustle up a meal without them!

Do you have a best friend? One that you can really count on—or maybe you have really had to lean on that someone when you were in a rough place? I hope you realize how truly special that relationship is. When you can lean on someone and count on them to know exactly what you need, even when you are halfway around the world…that’s a friend.

Don’t wait to do tell your friend how you feel. Do something great for them just because you know how precious that person is.

P.S. I know that she is great because while I was writing this she sent me an email about "friendships of convenience" (of which we've all had so many) and friendships that last across time and distance and circumstance. I've been blessed to have two of those people in my life (yes, Lisa, that's you--my friend since 4th grade!) and so I'm feeling very lucky today, albeit very far away!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

We are in Arusha

And I do have pics of the house and other stuff. But we don't have internet service yet and we may not until we get back from language camp. If I can't post pics there, you'll just have to tune in after March 12th.

We are sleeping on mats on the floor, we have one chair, a fridge, no stove, some lights that work, a washing machine (but no clothes pins). We have ordered beds, a dining room table, a coffee table, and some chairs. It's not like camping at all--camping only lasts a few days--and my great bro and sis in law have a sweet camper.

Talk to you later!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Things we miss (today).

*Spaghetti from home or from the Olive Garden
*Gretel our dog
*Cool ranch Doritos and goldfish crackers and pretzels
*Air conditioning
*A huge salad
*The Bloomington pool (yes, I know it's winter there, but it's blazing hot right now here)
*My stuff (no matter what I wrote previously)
*Ranch dressing
*Decent Scotch tape

(Notice we haven't mentioned actual cold weather or snow!)

A quick update on the Hillmans.

We have been two days in Arusha with a wonderful couple (thanks Dave. D. for the contact) who took us around and showed us how we can get started on living on our own. Our house should be done by Monday so I think we'll be able to move over on Tuesday or Wednesday. Still no pics, but I'll have them next week for sure. It will be a bit like camping for a while. All furniture has to be made. I've brought my trusty IKEA and Pottery Barn catalogs since they can make furniture from a picture, but since most don't speak English, it will be a bit comical trying to get things done. We'll be buying more expensive food for a bit at the grocery store until we find other places to buy our daily things.

We are also in the interesting/uncomfortable position of hiring workers. We met with a man who speaks very good English and has been working for a Baptist mission school and is looking for work. We are desparately hoping that he will agree to come with us. We don't know exactly how to go about having housekeepers, etc. and Tanzanians will not tell you up front what they really need. We have servant's quarters at our house....2 rooms that are each 10x12, a shower/toilet, and an outdoor sink. That's it. This man has a wife and 4 children. They will all live in that space. Happily. It's a very difficult thing to come to grips with...we've raised the issue with everyone we've met and all agree that the chasm between the haves and have nots is huge, but eventually we'll be more comfortable with it as we meet more Tanzanians and see how they live. We had our new friend look at the quarters and he assured us that it was more than adequate. So...how many rooms does your house have?

There's also this thing...probably American...that has me uncomfortable when a black man is carrying my things around or doing work for me, saying "yes, ma'am". It is true that just the act of living is very time consuming...things just can't/don't get done easily so having workers is really pretty essential. Plus, we are wealthy by TZ standards, and employing someone in an honest job allows that person to provide for their family. I think it will be one of the most difficult things to adjust to. We also have to hire day and night guards to make sure someone's always around the property. We will be hiring a security service for the night shifts and will probably keep the Masaai man for the days, along with a part-time gardener/yard worker.

Eventually we will also need at least one large dog that can bark at all the right times, and probably two since they stay outside all the time. There is a vet's clinic that posts dogs from expats who are leaving, so we're hoping to strike something lucky. African dogs all look alike--yellowish, scrawny, etc. Dogs that look like a particular breed, like the kind we're used to, can be very intimidating/frightening to Africans. Our new friends have a boxer...the meter reader asks them to cover the dog's eyes while he's at the house because he thinks the dog can see inside him (the pushed in face really bothers people, apparently)! So does their Jack Russell, because she moves so quickly and goes in the house. We probably won't need dogs once we are at the school so we'll need to make sure whatever we choose can make a good transition.

We also visited the kids' school and fell in love with it at first glance. It is an international school, with kids from all over the world. The Arusha campus has kids from 3 through 10th grade, with 11-12th graders going to the Moshi campus as boarders. It runs an international baccalaureate program, which is very demanding. They place a big emphasis on inquiry and discovery and do alot with local issues and resources. They have great materials (and a fabulous pool) and classroom resources. The kids were so excited as they walked around campus and met their teachers and classes. Cameron's class is scheduled to go on a week long camping trip on his first day of school--he was so thrilled! Talk about brave--I don't think he's ever been away from home for a week before, not to mention in a school with complete strangers! We're very proud of his willingness to jump in. His teacher, Lloyd, will be a great fit for Cameron as he adjusts back to being in school. If you want to learn more about the schools, you can check out their website at www.ismoshi.org.

After being led around for two days by Americans who know what's what, we are feeling more comfortable with striking out on our own. We'll be in Arusha for 10 days, then at language camp for 3 weeks, then it's the real world for real! I promise more pics! In fact, I promise a whole entry of mostly pics and minimal words!

Thanks to all of you for your emails and prayers. Each one makes us tear up, but we treasure every word that you write. We are looking at a service that will allow us to call home for 2-3 cents per minute, so you may be hearing from us sooner than you think (or like)!

Thinking about Immigrants...

How come we are all so proud of our heritage and love to celebrate different aspects of our cultural background in America? And why are so many Americans so hard on those who are coming to our country now?

We are just back from 2 days in Arusha where we had to purchase a number of things in a town of over 1,000,000 people. There is no map of the city, no phone book, no real advertising, no real way of knowing where to go or what to do. A man in our church gave a contact of his cousin's son. They live in Arusha (he actually grew up there so he speaks fluent Swahili) and we met and he took us around town for two days so we could buy a fridge, stove, washer, foam mattresses, and beds. Very few people in our everyday lives will speak functional English and it would have been nigh impossible to accomplish these things on our own. Thanks to Amy and Chris, we enjoyed an early birthday party for Noah and their son (who share the same birthday), ate pizza, and learned our way around town (a little).

We did not know how to get a PO box, how to pay our upcoming water and electric bills, how to read the Swahili driver's license applications, or how business is done in a mostly cash economy.
Amy and Chris have been in Arusha for about 18 months so we were able to see what life might look like for us in a while.

We also had dinner with a couple from New York who have been in Moshi since August with their 2 little girls who are Ava's age. The girls played dressup and the boys watched "Star Wars". We had real hamburgers and hotdogs with ketchup and mustard!

So--now that we've been here for 10 days, what have we done? Run straight into the arms of "people like us". Those who have come before us, who understand what it's like to be new and feel isolated. Those who have learned to navigate their way around a system that was so simple back home and so overwhelming here. Those who know how to cook food we like. Those who just understand us, even though we've just met.

We'll get better. We'll learn the language and branch out. We'll be blessed with friends from every part of the globe. We'll learn new ways and love new foods and celebrate all the great things we'll get to do. But when you're brand new--there's nothing like something from home.

So if you're looking around and see people who are new to wherever you live, take a moment and try to imagine how our American world looks from their point of view. Is it any wonder every group that has come to this country since it began has settles together? Being an immigrant takes an unbelievable amount of courage. Whatever you might feel about the immigration issue, say a prayer for those who have made the journey.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Here we are in color!

This is a little hut made by the Masaai guard who is currently watching the house we'll be renting (notice his spear between Noah and Ava). The kids are already claiming this as their new playhouse (there are two of them actually) as I think we'll hire our own guards. The house has a very nice garden and the kids are looking forward to adding some dogs to the mix and playing outside. There is another compound next to ours, and a number of Tanzanian homes nearby as well. The house sits off any big roads which will help with noise and dirt control. More pics of the house when we get in and it's finished.

This is at the school site, where our house will be built. It was terrifically windy that day and really hot. The dust was flying and coating EVERYTHING. On the way back to Moshi we could hardly see. You can imagine how we looked! Clive says that kind of wind and dust blowing is not usual. The plantings that will hide the fence will offer a little windbreak. Here's hoping! On the plus side, the view is great! Now that water has been found on the land, we can actually think about plantings and buildings!

Hooray! A picture! This is us on our 2nd day in Moshi after picking up some peanut butter for breakfast at a little store. Notice how the kids are clutching their sodas! Look closer and you can see that Cameron's Sprite can is written in Arabic! I'll give another shot at the other pics later.

Aaah...the sounds of Africa

The breeze blowing gently through the trees?

The soft murmur of voices as people pass your house?

The songs of women as they work?


It’s dogs. Dogs barking. Dogs fighting. Dogs howling. All night. Every night. At least until the chickens start crowing at dawn.

We're in Africa

We have arrived! We’re here in Moshi, a smaller town at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro for another week with our friends Clive and Bodil. We are beginning the overwhelming adjustment to the heat (with no A/C for respite), the dust, the food, everything. We’ve finally had a couple nights of decent sleep, which also helps.

The kids are having the bigger adjustment right now. Clive and Bodil have a really nice compound with 2 dogs and two small children that live in their guest quarters so Noah and Ava have been playing a lot, even if they can’t talk to each other (the other children speak Swahili). Cameron is reading a lot and finding more ways to play with Noah, too. Although we told them they wouldn’t get many of their favorite foods here, they’ve had ice cream, pizza, chicken fingers, and hot dogs. Everything, of course, is different, though, so even those foods have been a bit of a letdown. They’re not yet hungry enough to just dig in—yet. Any of you who have eaten with them know they’re a bit finicky, but there’s nothing to do but wait it out. We did visit a South African grocery store in Arusha which sells tons of Western foods, but it is very expensive so we’ll have to be careful about what we buy there. But in a pinch, it’s nice to know you can have chocolate syrup on your ice cream or Frosted Flakes for breakfast.

Mark and I are overwhelmed with the idea of starting life from scratch and not knowing exactly how to go about it. We have rented a house that will be ready in about a week. It has a nice yard (“garden” as it’s called here) with servant’s quarters and a washroom for laundry. It’s a four bedroom home, so it’s larger than what we’ll eventually have at PHA. There’s also an adjacent lot with a workshop that will serve as offices for Mark and the headmaster and a place to store the shipping container when it arrives. Sounds great! BUT—there’s no furniture, stove, fridge, or washing machine. And in case you think there’s a Slumberland or ApplianceMart nearby, sorry. Everything needs to be ordered from different places and the furniture is made to order. Sheets, kitchen appliances, dishes, silverware, sheets—all purchased at different shops around town. Everyone has cell phones, but it doesn’t seem like this type of business is conducted that way. Everyone just says, “Oh, there’s lots of people that can help you with that” but we’re just not sure where “those people” are or how to locate them. We will also need to hire a day and night security guard as well as at least 1 housekeeper/cook (and we’ll probably need 2 with our family’s size). While the idea of having help around the house is nice, the actual process of hiring and figuring out how to work that relationship is challenging. It seems every time we turn around, we remember something we need to do and realize we don’t know how to do it. We are heading back to Arusha this week for a couple days to get those things in order. Arusha is only about 45 miles away, but the drive is very stressful with the bad road, crazy driving, cows, goats, donkeys, and people on the road. It’s not a road you would want to drive on at night so we’ll probably spend the night there.

I remember that we had this wonderful idea of heading down to the coast for a few days before language camp. HA. It will take much longer to get settled and organized than I could have imagined. People here have told us to allow at least 3 months.

Despite all of that, we are so excited to be here. It’s hard to believe that we’ve got this opportunity and are trying to make the most of every adventure along the way. We have been met at every turn with so many helpful and generous people and we are confident that God will continue to open any doors where we have a need.

***Here’s a PS to put up the hair on the back of your neck—there are no seatbelts in the cars we’ve been driving. Ever thought you’d load your kids in a car with no belts? Neither did we. Mark is going to look at a car tomorrow—we’ve decided seat belts are just not optional.

***PPS I'm having trouble uploading my pics to the blog. Be patient...I am taking them!