Sunday, April 30, 2006

An Auspicious Day for PHA--The Beginning

The Prime Minister of Tanzania, Edward Lowassa, visited Arusha yesterday to tour two of the projects the Lutheran Church is involved with. Peace House Academy was one of those projects! The weather, however, was not cooperative. It had been raining almost steadily for the past 36 hours--wet, chilly, overcast, and MUDDY! Both the main road and the cut-through road (that we use occasionally and the route the PM and his entourage were taking) were almost impassable!

Here is the entourage arriving at the back of the property. As you
can see from the angle of the first car, the police are very stuck. Luckily, the on-lookers quickly pushed them out and they continued on (albeit to just more slippery sticky mud).

Click on the pic to enlarge it and you'll see that even men with machine guns are not immune to the weather here. We were surprised that the security was light and seemingly low-key. Maybe the fact that the guys have automatic weapons has something to do with it? They had sent an advance detail out the day before to scout out the site, but no one "official" arrived before the PM to do any security work at all.

As the entourage was leaving, the PM's wife's car got stuck in the mud (this pic is right outside the banda). The men had to step into the mess to heave the car out. I think there's a connection between Clive's (the guy in the red coat) happy face and the fact that he was the only one that dressed sensibly for the day!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

An Auspicious Day for PHA--The Middle

The Prime Minister (in the dark shirt) arrives at the banda at Peace House Academy. The Bishop of the Arusha Diocese is in front of him in the gray and the General Secretary of the Dioceses is to his left. It is the General Secretary that we do most of our work with on a daily basis in planning for PHA.

Like most politicians, Mr. Lowassa is skilled at shaking a large number of hands and getting introductions at hyper-speed. Don't he and Mark look friendly? Actually, all introductions were done within the context of the speeches given by the Bishop and the General Secretary, so Mark did not have an opportunity to speak personally to Mr. Lowassa at this point.

Joshua, our architect, outlined the plans for PHA building. The PM is the former Minister of Water and asked several questions about the proposed plans for rainwater catchment and possible use of graywater storage and use. He also asked about the number of students and the costs of the project. It was a very effective presentation, as Joshua had a good visual aid and was able to point out on the site where each of the buildings would be.

The PM also asked about what other work Peace House is doing. Clive Ashton (our PHF representative who lives in Moshi) spoke about the children we have been sponsoring for the past few years, mostly in the Moshi area. The PM also asked about whether Muslim children are sponsored and whether they would have an opportunity to attend PHA (he is Christian but the President is Muslim, as is almost 1/3 of the country. We don't currently sponsor any Muslim children, but it is our intent to have the population of Tanzania represented within our target group of orphans.

One of the projects at the site that needs to be done is the moving of the power lines that run directly through the campus. They are high-tension, high-power wires and need to be relocated so they are away from the main campus. This will cost a substantial amount of money. This "problem" was pointed out to the PM as a need of ours. We hope that he will consider making a "gift" and provide the funds for moving those lines.

An Auspicious Day for PHA--The End

The day ended with a fundraiser at the Impala Hotel for the ELCT-DAR diocese, at which the PM and his wife were guests. During his speech, he mentioned the projects that he had visited that day and asked Mark to come up to thank him for his work at PHA. Surprisingly, then, he also asked Mark to say a few words. Mark also thanked him for coming and the church for their generosity and hoped that we would be good stewards of the gifts given to us by God through donors in the US, the church here, and the people in the community. It was short, but eloquent, and heartfelt. As the fundraiser was attended by the pastors of the (huge) diocese region as well as the business community of same (but mostly from Arusha) it was a great opportunity to put our school and work out to the community in a very public way. What an honor!

Then came the fundraising. By categories (pastors, health, education, business, etc.) people came forward, announced who they were and what they were giving--publically. At times, the Prime Minister thought someone could give more and challenged them to up their giving on the spot. This happened (in a friendly way) with the pastors from his home region (he is from Monduli, near Arusha) and from several bigger businesses here in town. The PM personally gave about $35,000, for a total of about $126,000 raised that evening. This is Clive and Mark giving the PHF donation. Pics of this were hard to get as the lighting was strange and there were so many people standing on the sidelines. We had a good time--and we've been invited to lunch on Monday at an upscale tented camp lodge at Lake Manyara by the owner, whom we sat next to at the dinner. He was very interested in our ideas about mentoring youth in business and the possibility of internships to learn practical applications, etc.

So there it is--Peace House Foundation steps into the limelight!

Friday, April 28, 2006

One of Life's Lessons

"We have to change our patterns of reacting to experience. For our problems do not lie in what we experience, but in the attitude we have towards it."

At the risk of complaining...

*I spent two hours yesterday trying to pay my water bill--the meter was read in March and again on Monday, yet when I've gone in, there's no record of the reading. When I tell them I really want to pay so that I can avoid some gigantic bill, they insist that I drive a meter reader back to the house to read it again. Which I do. Then I drive him back because it will be "just a few minutes to record the reading and print the bill." And I leave 45 minutes later, late for a meeting, with no bill ready. Today when I show up, naively assuming that it would be ready, I finally get the bill an hour later. Oh, and the bill is almost $80 in arrears from before we moved in. Guess who gets to work through that?

*We ordered some tables and chairs from a workshop in March. They are beautiful! Again, naively, we assumed this man would do the same quality of work on the bookcases and benches we ordered. Two weeks later than he promised, we get the benches. They were stained, evidently during some type of stampede, because there are spots all over where the stain was rubbed off. And the workers set the stain cans on the wet stain. And the bookcases were not sanded well and were also not poly'd--just raw wood. We have made 3 trips back and forth with these bookcases (who are the verge of earning their own frequent flier miles) to try to impress on this man that we would like the same quality of work that he delivered on the first order.

*We met with the chaplain of the Maasae Girls' School who shared with us the reality of working on teacher development in Tanzania. While we really didn't expect (or necessarily want) to transform people into replicas of American education, it was an eye-opener to hear about the resistance to change that the teachers had. It was a reminder of how much learning we will do while we are here.

*We have had a little engine trouble with the new truck. Nothing serious, but several things have come up. The dealer is very willing to make repairs--but only repairs the one thing that is not working. Finally, we had to visit him today to impress upon him the need to not only fix the problem, but really go over the engine to make sure nothing else is about to go out.

We came to Tanzania, after all, because it was different, in part because we felt that there were things about living in the States that we wanted to get away from. And Tanzania really is wonderful. One of the blessings about being here is that you get beyond the picture of destitution and hopelessness that is often broadcast to the rest of the world. You really do get to see the beauty of the land and the people and the blessings that are here and for that we are so greatful.

But this week we are struggling with our attitudes and how easy it is to fall into a pattern of negativity and criticism, too look around and sniff and say, "This place is a mess." How presumptuous of us! The frustrating part for me, personally, is that I run through a litany of thoughts and feelings before getting around to just praying about it. Forgetting to pray until I've used up all the other options has always been a weakness, but doing it my way wastes so much more effort!

So the quote at the top of the page is to remind me that the only person or thing I can change is myself. In every interaction or situation I have a choice to make about how to react and how to feel. And it's my decision in that respect that will determine how I feel about what is happening.

So there's our homework for the next week--and month--and year.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Power Rationing Again

The news today warned of 12 hour power shedding, possibly starting tomorrow. Despite the gallons of rain we seem to get daily here, there has not been enough rain in the areas where the dams are located so the water level continues to be a concern.

Power rationing causes tremendous hardships for people here at all levels. Businesses suffer terribly. At one restaurant where we eat, the owner told us that virtually all of his profit was going to running the generator so that he could stay open. Prices are very high right now for virtually all foods and for charcoal and will likely stay that way until after the harvest time. A bag of charcoal, which can last a family 2-3 weeks if that's their only source of fuel for cooking, used to cost Tsh3,000. Now it costs about Tsh10,000. Keep in mind that a housekeeper like ours earns between Tsh65,000-75,000 per month. That's a huge chunk of income going to just fuel for cooking. For so many families the margin of survival is very low and it takes very little to push them into a state of crisis.

Back home, we tried to do our part with conserving and recycling, but I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't at the forefront of my thoughts every day. In fact, much of my conservation had more to do with conserving my money than the resources (why are the kids running that water again? who keeps turning on these lights?)

Here it's different. We are surrounded by people who have so much less than we do and the idea of letting water run or just throwing away food because you didn't like the taste is really terrible. We have heard stories that other family's workers will remove things from trash that we would consider no good, but they would use/eat. We feel much more keenly the realization that what we do has an impact on others and on the world.

I'm so glad that PHA will have water catchment systems in place to utilize the rain that falls, rather than just pumping water out of the ground "because it's there". We are also exploring collecting and reusing "gray water" for watering and irrigation needs. It allows us to be better stewards, better neighbors, and provides opportunities to teach the students how to be creative with using resources efficiently as well.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Hint About the Pics

Yes, I know they're tiny. I just can't get them to upload any bigger right now, but I keep working on it. Anyway, if you click on any of the blog pics, you can enlarge them and get a better view.

Have fun looking!

Why the Road Needs Work

The school site sits about 2 kilometers off of the main road. Most of the road is bordered on both sides by farmland. During the dry season, it's simply a bumpy ride. During the wet season, a couple corners are a complete mess. This is one of the corners...

If you look on the right you can get a sense of just how deep the mud is (about shin-deep). Luckily (really!) the base underneath all that mud is pretty firm, so it's slippery but you don't really sink in. At other times, though...until we got the new car we were hesitant to go out there after a big rain, but the new 'Cruiser does fine. Where does all this mud come from, you ask?
Well, most of it comes from here. Don't let this peaceful scene fool you--that mud is also shin deep and unbelievably sticky. Even I, who would be overstating things by calling my farming knowledge "rudimentary" know that you don't plow the rows down the hill. Which the farm does. Which allows all the water and dirt to flow very efficiently down on to the road.

The people who live out near the school site are long-term TZ residents who have worked very hard to restore their own lands and have tried to talk to the folks who manage the land about changing their farming practices, but with no luck. We are hoping that perhaps we can work something out. Currently, any fix involves putting down rock and murram to fill in the worst spots, but it's a band-aid approach that needs to be repeated yearly. It would be better all around if the farming would change the direction of the planting, along with a bit of road work.

Tutaona (we will see). Our new mantra here in Tanzania.

The Work Continues... the workers begin the foundations for the student dorms.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Things are Bloomin' All Over!

It's hard to believe that this site was baked hard and brown just a month ago! Living where there are no seasons except rainy and dry has given a whole new perspective on the importance of rain. The vegetation here takes immediate advantage of the moisture and grows like crazy.

Case in point...Isaya (who is working at planting acacia trees--over 3,500 of them so far--and managing erosion) is pointing to the seedlings he is growing under the canopy built by Project 640 in February. Like most plants you buy here, they are grown in plastic bags filled with dirt. The canopy provides some shade, yet allows light through for good growth.

This is an acacia tree planted several months ago. It's possible to plant a tree here and sit under its shade in just a few years. If you have water, growing things here can be ridiculously easy! Currently, the site is being overplanted to manage erosion. Later, trees will be thinned out and moved. Eventually some will be cut for firewood as needed--better than charcoal which requires more wood to make.

While the land is beautiful, it is wide open so shade will be very much appreciated!

How Do You Like the View?

Behold, the view from your very own guest house. Imagine waking up to the pastoral sounds of cattle lowing in the distance as you sit and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee while you watch the clouds float gently past the peak of Mt. Meru. You can almost taste the homemade croissants and scones made fresh every day, just for you.
OK, I admit it...that last one was my own invention. But all the rest can be yours when you volunteer at Peace House Academy!

Home Base for Hillmans

The boys are busy exploring what will be their new home. They enjoy getting out to the site and exploring. The house is staked and the foundations are started to be poured. It looks very tiny when it's just a rectangle on the ground, but Mark assures us by comparing the size to other houses we've visited.

The view is wonderful! We will have a long veranda that stretches across two sides of the house and overlooks the rest of the campus
with a view of Mt. Meru (and theoretically, Kilimanjaro). There are French doors along the short side that will open up so the living area can be exteded out onto the veranda for get-togethers and nice weather.

We Have an Address!

Wonder of wonders, we FINALLY got an address here! Turns out the woman I had been asking every time I went there was probably lying to me. Because on Thursday when I asked (again) and she said "no locks" I pointed to the 5 locks laying on her desk and said, "What about those?" I was half surprised she didn't just flat out deny they were there. So I said, "I think you can rent me a box today." The look on her face...yikes.

So she started the process, asked for my photos (passport-sized--everything you do here requires a photo) and immediately said they were too large and no good. I'd just have to get smaller ones and come back. "No," I said, "I think these are fine"."No, they're not," she said. "Yes, they are," I replied. "You can rent this box to me today with these pictures and then tell me where to get smaller pictures and then I'll bring those back. After you give me the box today." Again, the look on her face...ouch. But it's not as rude as it sounds. The Swahili language uses commands rather than requests in general so instead of asking someone "can you do this" you tend to use the command form, which sounds less polite to us.

So she did tell me I had to come back on Monday for the key. I was highly suspicious of this wrinkle, but yesterday when I came back she did give me a a box...that worked. So there you have it.

So...our address is (and this is the correct version)

Peace House Academy
Attn: Mark (or Carla) Hillman
Meru Post Office
P.O. Box 13386
Arusha, Tanzania

If you send mail , address things above to make it look official as possible. Also, keep in mind that customs and/or the post office is liable to rifle through the contents and will have no qualms aboutremoving items for themselves. Obviously, please don't send anything of value. It seems to take about 3 weeks for things to arrive. Just let us know if we should be expecting something.

Also, a friend recommended that nothing be shipped in its original package to discourage the theft and reselling of the item. Food can be put in ziplock baggies, DVDs or Cds can be sent in protective sleeves, with the actual cases and liners sent separately, if needed. The less something looks new or useable, the less likely it is to get "nicked".

Many of you have asked what we need or what you can send. We have been doing fine and will be getting a bag in June via a volunteer thatwill be coming over with some things that I realized I should havepacked but didn't (mostly kitchen things that people said we could get here but didn't mention the cost--$15.00 for a cookie sheet or a breadloaf pan, no measuring spoons or cups because everything's metric here). The kids still miss snack foods--pretzels, goldfish, fruit rollups, doritos, chocolate chips. We can get Twix, Kitkats, and Snickers bars so chocolate isn't a problem! We also found maple syrup so they're happy campers at breakfast. Food would also likely to be left alone at customs as often Tanzanians either don't recognize or seem to want wazungu (white) junk food. Other things that we seem to miss can't really be mailed easily and continues to be part of the adjustment.

We are still waiting for our shipping container. Through a series of...well, whatever...some documents were not sent properly and then there was mislabeling somewhere, so the container has been sitting in Dar es Salaam for several weeks now and can't be sent to Tanga where it needs to go to clear customs (clearing there is faster and much less expensive than Dar, along with less cost for road transport to Arusha). We hope/pray every day we'll hear that it's been straightened out and the crate is on its way, but no luck yet. As you are all moving into spring and warmer weather, we are winding down the rainy season and will be moving into the coldest time of theyear...and our blankets are on the shipping container...and maybe other warmer clothes, too. I can't remember if I took anyone's advice to actually pack warmer clothes here!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

This Has Nothing to do with Tanzania

But it's raining and gloomy and an email from my sister brought back memories (and made me feel a bit old, too)! I'll post my responses. Weigh in with your comments and I'll add them (anonymously, of course) to the post. As a bit of personal background, I graduated from high school in a small town in Montana in 1983 (my family moved there when I was 6 from the San Francisco area), and some of these cross into my high school years. Maybe Montana was just a bit behind the times.

My responses are in purple. I should introduce my friend, Lisa. We have been friends since 4th grade, growing up together in Montana. We met on a plane ride back from California when we were 10 and have stuck together since. She lives in Edina with her husband and two great girls and they do amazing travel adventures themselves. Anyway, we lived the 70s and 80s together so I put her responses in red. I did promise to keep it anonymous, though, so any other responses shall remain nameless.


1. You had that Fisher Price Doctor's Kit with a stethoscope that actually worked.
Nope. Although some of the other (obviously more high-achieving) kids did.
No, but we had toy rifles and Davy Crockett hats. I can't decide ifmy parentswere ahead of the curve (providing boy toys to girls), or behind thecurve (guns?)with that one.
2. You owned a bicycle with a banana seat and a plastic basket with flowers on it.
The bike and seat, yes. I always hated those baskets. Besides, I mostly rode a horse.
My purple bike came with the basket as described-handle bars and seat too!
3. You learned to skate with actual skates.
Yep. I even had a skate key. But it was in California--no pavement in Montana where I was.
I loved roller skating but skating in Montana was nothing compared to skating (in my OP shorts) in California to the "Double Dutch Bus" song.
Growing up in Minnesota, of course, "skates" meant ice skates. And yes, we all had them.
4. You thought Gopher from Love Boat was cute (admit it!)
Ewww. But it's true.
Yes, and Isaac the bartender too. (very progressive for Minnesota!)
I never sank that low. (fingers crossed)
5. Love's Baby Soft was the first "real" perfume you ever owned
Well, of course. But then I matured and switched to "Charlie".
No, I had one of those spray ones named after me—“XXXXX,” as in “If you like Lauren, you’ll LOVE ‘XXXX’…” (names changed to protect the innocent)
I remember better the flavored lip balms, like cotton candy & 7-up.
6. You had nightmares after watching Fantasy Island.
Still do.
Was that the one with the midget?
"The plane, the plane!"
7. You had rubber boots for rainy days and Moon boots for snowy days.
I had go-go boots (very practical in Montana) but moon boots were after my time. My sister, who's 10 year younger than I am, had a very snazzy pair, though.
No moon boots, but I vaguely remember plastic bread bags insertedinto our snow boots
8. You had a "bowl cut" or "pixie," or "Dorothy Hamill" because your Mom was sick of braiding your hair.
I have to claim the Dorothy Hamill--sadly.
Dorothy Hamil haircut came and went quickly for me as it was not very flattering!
Mine was a Tony Tenille (from Captain &) cut. This was a bowl cut,in which the effect was exacerbated by curling the hair under all theway around the bowl...
9. Your Holly Hobby sleeping bag was your most prized possession.
No way--but I bet my friend Lisa did. She and her friend Lorri were into that.
I CERTAINLY DID NOT get into Strawberry Short Cake or Holly Hobbie! My slumber bag had psychaldelic design in hot pink and green.
10. You wore a poncho, gauchos, and knickers.
Poncho--my mom made it and it was covered with British flags. Whatever.
Gauchos--you bet. They're cowboys, y'know, so I would have thought they were cool.
Knickers--sadly, I may have owned a velvet pair. I've blocked the memory.
I don’t remember the poncho or gauchos. Probably before my time, too. My mother insists on periodically reminding me that I had some black velvet knickers that were “so adorable and made me look like a little page boy.” She laments that she has no photos. Yup, it breaks my heart.
11. You begged Santa for the electronic game, Simon.
And got one. I also was one of the first kids to have Atari's Pong (remember?) thanks to my relatives in California.
I did receive some sort of hand held electronic game-can't remember the name but it was red and I was able to play about 8 different games pertaining to the numeric buttons on the key pad. (it was a Merlin--I had one, too) My Uncle had Pong on his TV system...maybe that was the early 80's though.
I had a Merlin, and I remember riding my bike to the teen center toplay the hot new "pong" game.
12. You had the Donnie and Marie dolls with those pink and purple satiny shredded outfits.
Not the dolls, but nobody better criticize Donny Osmond. If you want to feel REALLY old, though--he just recently became a grandfather.
The 70's were all about Donny Osmond in my opinion and still are
No, but I loved the Jackson 5, esp. Jermaine..
13. You spent hours in your backyard on your metal swing set with the trapeze.
In California, not Montana
No trapeze, just basic swings & a slide, probably from Wards.
14. The swing set tipped over at least once.
No, but you could really get it rocking.
No, but Dad had to chain it down so we wouldn't rock it out of the ground.
15. You had homemade ribbon barrettes in every imaginable color.
Yeah, those probably looked really nice with above-mentioned Dorothy Hamill
16. You had a pair of Doctor Scholl's sandals (the ones with hard sole & the buckle).
Yep, but I think it was high school.
17. You wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder really bad; you wore that little House on the Prairie-inspired plaid, ruffle shirt with the high neck in at least one school picture; and you despised Nellie Olson!
OK--who's been spying on me?! We played it every day. I wore my dress (including the sunbonnet, which just hung down my back ala Laura for my 5th grade picture)
I did have the Little House on the Praire Dress (reference my 5th grade pic too!)
I wanted to be Laura. I read that series about a dozen times. My sister is the one who got the dress and bonnet.
18. Your hairstyle was described as having "wings" or "feathers."
Feathers--my hair has always been the bane of my existence. I hated Farrah Fawcett and all those girls who could do that with their hair.
I tried desperately to do wings but my mother didn’t like that hairstyle for little girls and wouldn’t let me get it cut in layers. So my wings were in my imagination.
19. You know who Strawberry Shortcake is, as well as her friends, Blueberry Muffin and Huckleberry Pie.
I hated all of these things--still do.
20. You carried a Muppets lunch box to school and it was metal, not plastic.
My last lunchbox (about 5th grade) was a metal one with the rounded top. It was a school bus with Disney characters riding to school. I got in trouble every year for dropping it and breaking my thermos. I was paperbagging it by 7th grade. My mom used to wrap my sandwiches in waxed paper which made me look very lame among the kids who got baggies.
21. You and your girlfriends would fight over which of the Dukes of Hazzard was your boyfriend. (BO!!)
Luke--I'll choose dark over blond any day. See my affliction with Hugh Jackman as evidence.
What happened to Barry Manilow? Wasn't he a 70's guy!?
I did prefer Bo. Luke was so short.
22. Every now and then "It's a Hard Knock Life" from the movie, "Annie" will pop into your brain and you can't stop singing it the whole day.
"The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" but same difference.
23. It was a big event in your house each year when the "Wizard of Oz" would come on TV.
In Montana we had 3 channels so yeah, it was a big deal.
We also only had three channels. “Wizard of Oz” was a major event, as was “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
24. You often asked your Magic-8 ball the question: "Who will I marry. Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett, or Rick Springfield?" (ohhhhh it was such an incredibly tough choice!)
Ick. Shaun and Leif were just too fem-looking. Rick Springfield (who just reprised his Dr. Noah Drake role on General Hospital) was a different story, but he was early 80s. But if Lisa dares to weigh in she'll have to admit how much sleep she lost over Shaun and Leif. Now, if they had mentioned Scott Baio (Chachi)....

By the way, it was John Stamos (Blackie) on General Hospital that really turned my head. Still would.
I did kind of love Shaun Cassidy too! Certainly not Leif Garrett...have you seen him these days! I only liked his album! I also had a thing for Rex Smith and attempted to have my hair cut like his-YIKES! Remember..."You Take My Breath Away"?
My friend’s older sisters loved Rick Springfield. Like you, Carla, I loved Chachi and Blackie.
25. You completely wore out your Grease, Saturday Night Fever, and Fame soundtrack cassettes.
They were LPs, not cassettes, and I only watched the movie and TV show of Fame, but didn't have the album. Did you know Dr. Romano (from ER, who had his arm cut off in a helicopter accident and later died when a 'copter fell on him) was on Fame?
I never had those, but I did watch Fame religiously.
26. You tried to do lots of arts and crafts, like yarn and Popsicle-stick God's eyes, decoupae, or those weird potholders made on a plastic loom.
Still do with the kids. I gave Lisa's daughter a potholder loom kit last year.
27. You made Shrinky-Dinks and put iron-on kittens on your t-shirts!
Still do with the kids, but I was never into the fluffy kitten thing--too girly for me.
28. You used to tape record songs off the radio by holding your portable tape player up to the speaker.
Yep. I had a friend in high school who took pictures of cute guys on the TV with her camera.
29. You couldn't wait to get the free animal poster that came when you ordered books from the Weekly Reader book club.
Especially if it was a horse.
Oh! I’d completely forgotten about that! I drooled over the horse posters too.
Oh! I’d completely forgotten about that! I drooled over the horse posters too.
30. You learned everything you needed to know about girl issues from Judy Blume books (Are you there God, It's me, Margaret.)
Nah, but there was "The Other Side of Midnight" (Sidney Sheldon) in 9th grade...very revealing.
31. You thought Olivia Newton John's song "Physical" was about aerobics.
Even I wasn't that dim. But my danceline did do an aerobics routine to it in high school.
Ha ha! Yes, I admit it!
32. You wore friendship pins on your tennis shoes, or shoelaces with heart or rainbow designs.
All the time!
33. You had a Big Wheel with a brake on the side, and a Sit-n-Spin.
Yes to the Big Wheel. My sister had the sit-n-spin.
I don’t remember Big Wheel but we loved our Sit-n-Spin. My kids have one too.
I did not have a Big Wheel. My cousins did though and I still loved riding it even after I could barely squeeze my body into the seat!
34. You had subscriptions to Dynamite and Tiger Beat.
Well, of course. I even kissed the pics.
35. You wanted your first kiss to be at a roller rink.
How romantic would that be?! But it was in the back of our family Ford Bronco with David Covill on the way home from "Grease" with my friend Sarah and her date, Rory. (Blast from the past, eh, Lisa?) I was in 8th grade.
Oh yes. Roller rinks were still popular in central Maine in the mid 80s. I went every Friday night in the summer.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Final Easter Pics and Some Updates

When we're together as a family, I often end up with Ava, often lagging behind while she explores things at a 4 year old pace. So I often end up with more pics of her than the boys--so here are a couple of the boys. We met a family with kids whose ages matched ours and they had a lot of fun together. Cameron, especially, really had a great time this weekend. He really loves to go new places and explore things.
Noah is not fond of having his picture taken in general and he's trying to avoid me here. The dhow we took out snorkeling is in the background. Another cultural note--on the 2nd day there were 25 people on board with 5 kids under the age of 5. Guess who were the only kids in lifejackets? Yep--the Yanks! Does that say something about me, or Americans, or Europeans?

As for Noah--whether it was the prayers, the antibiotics, the antibiotic soap, or the constant soaking in the salt water for 3 days--but his boils are gone. The big one is healing nicely and the up and coming ones just went away! The one on my back is also healing nicely. Thank you for all your kind words and prayers. It was really an unpleasant event in his (our) lives and one we hope won't be repeated!

Some of you may have also heard that Mark was also sick this past week with some type of stomach amoeba. He's also recovered. I guess I neglected to mention he was sick when we asked for prayers for Noah! He's a very healthy guy in general but stress in his life manifests itself in physical ailments. I think we are all susceptible right now to bugs and things that are new in our environment. Also, even on great days, we are still under stress while we continue this transition so that makes us susceptible as well.

The kids head back to school on Wednesday so I'll be able to get some more work done with developing a staff handbook and ongoing household things. Look for more pics on the school construction this week as well. Our new car gives us more confidence as we make the trip out to the school site during this rainy season. Roadwork will become a necessity!

More Easter News

One of the highlights of the weekend was the dhow trip to a small sand island about 5 kilometers off shore. We motored out, stopping a couple times along the way for snorkeling, something none of us had ever done before. All of us bailed overboard, including Ava, who paddled around in her water wings while we all were amazed at the coral, fish and beatutiful water. We ended up on the sand island where we ate a boxed lunch, collected shells, played in the waves, desperately tried to stave off impending sunburn...

The boys are floating along totally into snorkeling. Noah was the big surprise, as he is often the more fearful one preferring to do his own (planned and expected) thing. Once he hit the water, though, he was loving it!

Ava is looking around for some lunch. Or maybe looking around to see if anyone is seeing her looking for some lunch. After 2 days out on the island she got a bit of sunburn on her legs which was a very big deal for her (as is every minute scrape or mark). All the kids now understand the value of sunscreen, especially at the equator!

Happy Easter!

Well, it wasn't very traditional (I don't know if you can even get a "real" ham here!) but we had a wonderful break exploring a whole new part of Tanzania. The Easter ostrich (we haven't seen any bunnies here) delivered a small bit of good old American Sweetarts and Tootsie Rolls (thanks, Karen!) as well as some Tanzanian trinkets that the kids have eyeballed at the craft markets. We spent 3 days at Peponi's, "resort" between Tanga and Pangani on the coast. "Resort" seems to be too fancy a word, but I guess that's what it was. The guests tend to be ex-pats and backpackers so it's off the beaten path as far as tourists go. They have bandas (individuals rooms made entirely of woven palms), very low-key atmosphere, and good food (everything outdoors, soft sand so barefoot everywhere). Oh yeah, lots of sand...everywhere...and humidity...and mosquitos! But that's life and we loved it. None of us has ever been to a tropical beach before, so we were amazed by the water temperature which, in the afternoon, was hotter than a bath! I wouldn't say the beach was remote or unspoiled, but there were more cool shells to find every day than the kids could possibly collect (although they tried)! There was also plenty of low tide time to explore and dig and build...what is it with boys and digging?
So this is what the kids dragged home off the beach the first day! Yes, it's a sea turtle shell and yes, we had every intention of lugging it home with us. But that was before we actually smelled it and found out how long it was going to take to purge that smell. Those of you who know me will understand truly how bad the smell was to keep me from hauling it home--even the kids agreed that it was best to bring home the picture!
This is the fruits of the last day on the beach. The boys tried to stave off the inevitable waves and rising tide with the sand and coconut shell fortress. They had just as much fun watching it wash away as they did building it!

Another View of Tanzania

We've grown accustomed to a fairly typical view of African life up here in Arusha, and particularly in a more urban setting. There's the city of Arusha proper, with its cars and noise and unique blend of people--Tanzanians, people in from the bush, ex-pats, tourists--and then the surrounding areas. Out of the city there are small houses dotting the landscape. People are working in maize fields or herding cattle and goats. The open land stretches for miles in every direction, with acacia trees and scrubbrush covering the landscape.

And then we went to Pangani...

On our 5 hour drive (in our NEW car--at last--hooray!) we passed many small villages that really opened our eyes to what life is like throughout the country. Small houses made of mud bricks and sticks--no doors or windows, no electricity or water. One small groups of homes was near a sign that proclaimed the primary school was 8 kilometers away--that's about 5 miles one way for a child to walk. There was just nothing around these communities that spoke to anything other than subsistence living. As we approached the "resort" (that seems a fancy word for a very low-key family friendly pretty inexpensive place) the landscape changed dramatically. Giant palm trees were mixed with sisal farms. The humidity was up and the heat was on!

This is a dhow, a traditional wooden sailing boat found up and down the coast of Tanzania. They have one sail and a rudder and usually several poles for maneuvering in shallow water. This is a relatively small one, but the larger ones seem to carry 6-10 people plus the catch. Every morning we would see the dhows and outriggers begin to head out before the tide went out. The weather was very hot and humid and the sun was intense. I can't imagine what it must be like to spend 6 or 7 days a week out on the water like that. Remember Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea"? I thought about old Santiago as I saw these ancient wooden boats heading out to sea and the uncertainty they face every day. I have such a strong sense of being out of place whenI'm are out on the water, so far removed from familiar land.

This is crew pulling in their nets. There's another group of 6-7 guys behind me as I'm taking the picture also pulling. They'll pull for probably 20 minutes, while a couple guys are swimming at the far edge of the nets guiding them in. As the nets get closer, there's a large bag at the end and the swimmers will get inside the nets and begin slapping the water to move the fish down into the bag. When it's all said and done, there doesn't seem to be a lot of fish for the effort! Then, they head out and cast out the nets again and repeat the process. It's brutal work, spending your life standing in water under broiling sun and pulling those nets. But that's the picture of Tanzania. Those who are working are working impossibly hard for so very little.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Word on Noah's Behalf

I feel that I should say something in support of Noah. I made a couple comments in the previous post about his extreme reactions to things, ranging from taking medicine to having the wrong color cup at dinner. His emotions swing very quickly back and forth and sometimes it wears me out.

But tonight, I had to squeeze his sore to see if I could drain out more gunk--something that's very painful. I've done it 3 times a day for each of these things and each time when I tell him it's time, he begins to cry, but submits. I've told him he's the strongest kid I know, that when the chips are down he's really tough. He agrees--loudly at times!

Tonight as I was finishing he said in a small sad voice, "why is this happening to me?" which pretty much broke my heart. Sadly, there's no answer right now. Unfortunately, 3 more of these things have started up on his body again, so I'm praying the antibiotics are the trick.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Our First (real) Doctor Visit

I say "real" only because it involved one of the kids. Mark had been once in March and had gone in again the night before with another stomach bug--not a flu bug but something like giardia. But this one counts because I took Noah in today.

Most of you were (thankfully, believe me) spared the gruesome details of a bite that appeared on both Noah and Ava a couple weeks ago. They started out looking like mosquito bites but grew alarmingly quickly, becoming bright red/purple and hard. A friendly doc at church said it was either a boil or a bite and to let them go until they popped or until they caused pain. "Exploded" would have been a better word. Anyway, once they opened up the swelling was gone in 2-3 days and things were fine. (I told them it was from petting the neighborhood dog in a (vain) attempt to keep them away from this rather mangy, but friendly, pooch).

note--The above is an incredibly sanitized version of what went on with these bites on the kids. Trust me, it wasn't pretty.

So two days ago another one popped up on Noah's elbow, and this morning he has two more on his body that look suspiciously like these other yucky things. Those of you who know Noah and his "energetic" responses to events should pity me.

So off we went to the clinic today to see if the doc could tell us what was causing the problem. I was happy to see the clinic was bright and clean. It was an old house at one time, with 2 or so bedrooms divided into exam rooms and another couple bedrooms with 4-5 beds if you need to stay overnight (God forbid--I could just imagine being in a room with other sick people with possibly contagious--or at the very least gross--ailments. And since all you get is medical care, you have to stay with the patient to provide personal care and food, etc. for them).

The doc looked at Noah and said, "Boils, bites, or abcesses." They took a blood sample (I watched the tech to make sure there were new gloves and equipment--everything was OK) but can't really tell what it is. In good old-fashioned American style, he couldn't let me leave without antibiotics, though. In the event that there is some infection inside that's causing the trouble.

In an un-American twist, however--I was handed a box with a bottle of powder, which included directions on how to add water to make the solution myself. No one offered any further information until I asked about dosage. Then the nurse told me, but didn't write anything down. Everything was in milliliters, so I had to ask for a spoon or cup to measure it out (that stumped them for a minute). Also very un-American--the price. About $45 for the exam, labwork, antibiotics, and cream for the sores.

So if my kids are beseiged by strange bugs or typical illnesses, I feel like we'd be OK. However, there's clearly nothing in place for anything serious other than airlifting to Nairobi. Heart attacks, serious injuries, etc. would be a very serious issue, particularly if they happened out in the bush or on the road somewhere. I know adequate health care in the States is a serious problem, and I never thought I took it for granted there, but now I realize how much a part of your life it is to count on good health care.

Hopefully we'll knock these things out.

Let's see-- medicine twice a day for five days + Noah= well, you really don't want to know!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Family Picture

Those of you with kids know that you have photo albums filled with pictures of your children and one adult--because there's always that one person in charge of recording family history. In Mark's family it was his father--in our family it's me. So here is a shot that actually shows I'm along for the ride. This is a giant tree that grew down on both sides of the road and you can drive a car through it. The tree is called a strangler fig because it looks like a huge knot of vines that are covering another tree, but it's actually just one tree (botany lesson courtesy of Cameron). The road heads up toward the trail head for climbing Mt. Meru and was pretty brutal, involving crossing a rather big stream with the car. Growing up in rural Montana, I'm used to tough roads and logging trails, but my 4x4 experience is pretty limited, until now!

Something Got Lost in Translation

OK, you've all been to a national park where they post all the things you need to do (or actually shouldn't do) in order to stay safe and protect the environment. Usually, in order to make their point, the signs repeat the phrase "do not" at the beginning of each statement. (personal digression--my all time favorites are the ones at Yellowstone warning you not to get too close to the geyser pools, which feature the image of a child tumbling in)

But this sign at Arusha National Park has lost its true meaning. To be truthful the sign just out of the picture at the top does say "Do not get out of your car or feed the animals". But from there on the sign does not actually say "do not" and the remainder of the sign actually seems to encourage dangerous behavior. This is a very liberal park.

...and the Small.

Another of Cameron's photo experiments of one of the smaller residents of the park.

Arusha National Park--The Big...

Today's family explore took us to Arusha National Park, just a few miles down the road at the foot of Mt. Meru. Not a park that gets a lot of attention on the safari circuit, but that's too bad because it's absolutely beautiful. Most of the park sits on the rainy side of the mountain--plus it's the rainy season so everything was lush and thick. It's a very wooded park, with little open space--no lions and very few elephants, but well-known for zebras, buffalo, giraffes, and monkeys. We didn't see any hippos, but were well-rewarded with some of these big boys...

This little guy and his mother were about 15 feet from the car. I know elephants are a big thing, but honestly, an elephant 15 feet from my car makes me want to crawl under the seat. I'm pretty sure an elephant can wreak some serious havoc on a car if it wants to. Giraffes, however, are impressive AND mild-mannered. They even run in slow motion.

Obviously, this group (15 in all) just can't figure out what we're looking at!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Noah's New Quilt

Our housekeeper's wife, Lucy, makes quilts. This is Noah's quilt, made from fabric he picked out at the market. It's a batik and a kanga, which is a very colorful patterned piece of cloth that is the staple garment of every Tanzanian woman. They use them for headwraps, shawls, skirts, baby carriers, blankets, you name it!

Anyway, Lucy can do beautiful handquilted things as well. For the kids I had her do a simple machine sewed one that's tied, rather than quilted (those of you who are Lutheran will recognize the description) because they'll be more durable. When it comes time to make ours, however, I may need to have her go the actual quilted route.

Noah is thrilled, Ava is anxiously awaiting hers, and Cameron is jealous that he's gotta wait til last.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Here we are!

On a hike in Usa River. It was a great day as we hiked along trails, a creek, roads, and through small fields of maize. Once I stopped worrying about nyoka (snakes) I had a great time! :-)
It's not hiking in the traditional sense (although you can do lots of that here) but it's a great chance to see how people are living out of the city.

We passed a huge old water pump that was working hard and generating electricity. We followed the paths up to a small bridge with a sign for a safari lodge. As we climbed the mossy brick steps past irrigation channels and hanging vines, it felt like we were in an Indiana Jones
movie. We swung open the gate and stepped into perfectly manicured lawns and gardens, surrounded by the lodge buildings. Ava was immediatley captivated by the horses and camels grazing on the lawns. Suddenly the tranquil scene was interrupted by two enormous snarling foaming...Dobermans! They tore around the corner of the lodge and headed straight at us. Cameron and Noah turned to run and I was shouting at them not to run, Mark was shouting at the dogs...Ava was determinedly making her way to the afore-mentioned horses and camels. Finally someone came out and retrieved the dogs and "welcomed" us. Yes, we did take a back way onto the grounds, but the bridge was marked with the lodge sign so you would think they might realize that someone might walk up. But I guess not--we're just the crazy people who actually walk without a specific purpose--since Tanzanians would never go there and "normal" people would drive up the main road. So now we can add "attacked by killer dogs" to our list of adventures here!

Along a spillway we ran across a couple of these interesting guys. I don't know--I didn't expect to see a nice-sized crab in a fresh-water resevoir. He wasn't very big, but he put up a tough show, clicking his claws and waving them at us as he sidled by. Cameron poked him with a stick and the crab grabbed it, then took it away and dropped it in the water, thereby disarming him and retreating safely.

Too bad my pic of the GINORMOUS spider (legs about 2 inches long--no lie) didn't turn out. Or maybe that's just as well.

Hillman Update

Good news from Minnesota (no, that's not a typo)--we have finally rented our house! Hopefully this will bring some money into the bank as well as some peace of mind.

Over here...we are starting the end of term break, school-wise. The kids are off until the 19th of April and I'm wondering a bit what to do with them! We will be swimming at the school a lot, and we have met a family with ponies and the kids are keen to try riding a bit. We had parent conferences with each teacher and got good feedback that they are making the adjustment nicely. Everything that's done at school is in "units of inquiry" which are kind of like integrated units, which the kids really like. Cameron has to find a mentor and do a presentation at the end of the year on a topic of land use. He already has some good ideas and is looking forward to working on a presentation.

We will be spending Easter on the coast at a town called Pangani. We really haven't been out of the Arusha/Moshi area and the kids were not interested in safari, but wanted to see the ocean and swim. We'll have some nice pics to post and we're looking forward to a family adventure.

I hate to mention it in case I jinx things--but we are hoping to (finally) have our residence permits this week. The church office sent a man down to Dar es Salaam to chase down the paperwork and to file the papers for the tax-free status on our vehicles. If it all worked out, that could mean cars and papers all in one week--dare we hope? We are learning to steel ourselves and hold everything lightly until it actually happens!

Mark will be officially (well, unofficially since he doesn't have a work permit) working with a retired headmaster who will be acting as a consultant for the next 3 months. He has set up an office in our workshop here at the house and will begin the enormous process of working with the architects and contractors on the building, writing curriculum, developing policies and operations, and hiring staff. He is looking forward to focusing more on his work, which means that we have enough of our personal lives settled for him to do this. Keep him in your prayers as his tasks are monumental!

That's it for now...