Saturday, December 29

20/20 Vision

When I was little, various different friends had to have braces on their teeth, crutches when they broke their legs or glasses because they were either long/short sighted. In a funny sort of way I found myself a little envious and really longed to have all three, braces, crutches and glasses!!! Strange what you wish for when you're young!

Today I went for an eye-test at a local opticians. Not because I thought I needed new glasses but because it's been three years since my last check-up and I just wanted to see how my eyes were doing.

About 10 years ago I was getting headaches with too much computer work and when I was doing any sewing type stuff where I had to concentrate. Getting glasses made such a difference ... my whole face relaxed, I just hadn't realised that I had been straining all the time.

Over the last couple of years I've found that I haven't needed my glasses so much. To the point where, I honestly can't remember the last time I wore them! I didn't know if I just haven't been concentrating as much or if by some miracle I didn't need them anymore. Glasses and little people don't mix well so not having to wear them would definitely be a bonus!

It was a really pleasant surprise today, to find that my eyes had actually improved and that I officially don't need to wear glasses anymore (which would explain why I was doing so well without them!). One less thing to worry about for me and one less expense for us to have to pay out on. One way to save money on a missionary budget ... have your eyes fix themselves!!

It's a relief to know that I won't need glasses for a while and that to-date I haven't needed braces or crutches either! I can't imagine the logic in wanting any of those things when I was little ... but maybe that just comes from having a 'grown-up' perspective now!

I would have included a photo of me wearing my glasses (that I don't need anymore!) but I couldn't find one ... it's been that long since I've worn them!!

Thursday, December 27

In Between

Right now I find myself living 'in between' worlds!

England is 'home' to us but having lived in the States for three years, so much about there has become almost more familiar and normal to us ... but it is no longer home for our family. Tanzania will be the next place that will be home ... but yet not for a couple more months! So it leaves us floating somewhere in the middle!

Over this last week I've been acclimatising to what was once very familiar but as the years go by, living out of the UK, has become less so. In fact, I'm almost embarrassed to admit at the moment there are probably more things that I prefer about life in the States than in the UK!!!

I miss the sheer space and size of things where we were in the States ... right now everything is feeling really small, closed in and claustrophobic. Houses are much closer together, roads narrower and much busier, shops smaller and more expensive, parking spaces minuscule and difficult to manoeuvre into ... and much more! 

On the flip side there is a charm and quaintness about things here that I never found in the States. Little things are more familiar for example knowing which shops will sell the things you need (if they are still where they were last time you were back!). Or being able to eat different types of food that I haven't been able to get hold of since our last trip to the UK.

I have found myself using American English rather than British English expressions many times over the last week and today when we were out shopping we even went to an American chain restaurant for dinner so that we  could enjoy the little familiar things, like booth's and free-refills!!! So, I guess there is some element of living in both places at once!

Being here in the UK is only temporary though and soon we will find ourselves in a culture which is neither American or British and I'm sure we'll find things that we miss from both cultures ... and find others things that we will enjoy even more about life in Tanzania once we become more accustomed with it. 


I often wonder what the girls are making of all of the differences especially as they have never really had a chance to be 'at home' in the UK to begin with. They aren't fully familiar with their parents culture or the ones we have been living in but have their own 'in between' one. 

That is where the term Third-Culture-Kid (TCK) comes from. Dr Useem coined the term and describes the third culture as ... 
... a shared, or interstitial way of life lived by those who had gone from one culture (the home or first culture) to a host culture (the second) and had developed their own shared way of life with others also living outside their passport cultures.
Making the girls feel as 'at home' as possible, is one of the roles as both a missionary and parent that me and my husband take very seriously and are trying as hard as we can to make the girls as comfortable and as familiar with the different cultures as possible. No doubt there will be many an occasion where we will get it wrong and other times when we make our own family traditions that will cross the cultures instead of embracing any particular one. 

Right now though, it all seems a bit strange as I'm feeling a little like an outsider in my own 'home culture'. I know from previous years that that will pass as we familiarize ourselves with everything again ... but each year it takes just that little bit longer!

Tuesday, December 25

Christmas Carols

Love them or hate them?! Christmas carols are part of the Christmas culture. Some people complain about the number of verses in some carols or the speed that others are played, some people love the tradition, the tunes and for many it's the closest that they ever come to church or anything religious whatsoever!

I love carols by candlelight when everything is cosy and glowing ... the familiar melodies, most of which tell the story of Jesus' birth in one way or another. 'While shepherd's watched', 'Away in a manger', 'Once in Royal David's City' ... if you think about it, this could be the only gospel some people hear in their lifetime. 

But how often do we actually think about it? Do we just sing the familiar words without considering the meaning? From various Facebook updates in the last week or so, I've seen that many people who would never set foot in a church the rest of the year, have been thoroughly enjoying both carol services and nativity plays.

We had the opportunity to take part in the Live Drive-Thru Nativity at our church in Coshocton before we left the States. Mark and I played Mary and Joseph and spent an hour and a half sitting in a stable cuddling the 'Baby Jesus'. 


In a strange way it helped me see the nativity in a new light this year, putting myself in Mary's shoes, with a new baby and all it's immediate needs in an empty stable, with nothing but what they got to take with them on a donkey, staring adoringly at her son. In Luke 2:19, it says 'Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself' ... special memories of a mother regardless of the situation, something that all other mother's can relate to.

The story of that first Christmas is below ... I hope you have a great one with your own families!


Luke 2 - from The Message

The Birth of Jesus

1-5 About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was pregnant.

6-7 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

An Event for Everyone

8-12 There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

Friday, December 21

Homeless

Last Friday, five very friendly but total strangers came into our house and packed up all our belongings onto this container, which is now making it's way slowly to Tanzania ahead of us!


On Tuesday this week, we handed over the keys to the place we have called 'home' for the last three years. Now in it's empty, shell-type form, it can be described as a house again until someone else fills it with their belongings and makes their own memories there.

Later the same day we flew from Ohio to London via Toronto ... and now we are living between our parents houses and various other locations until we move to Tanzania in February.

Transition is never straight forward, whether it's in the details of the packing, travel arrangements, living with just of a small selection of your belongings, adjusting to time zones, helping little people understand what's going on, taking in yourself that one chunk of your life is over and waiting for the next one to begin.

In some ways I'd expected all those things and I had also anticipated that however well prepared we were, it was not all going to be plain sailing ... like when the shipping people told us that not everything was going to fit in the container and we had to pick out what we 'didn't want to take with us' or when the girls are extra cranky as they try in their own little ways to assimilate what's going on  ... and many other little gems!

But it wasn't until we were just about to board the plane on Tuesday and were spending a last few moments with a really good friend before saying our goodbye's, that it actually dawned on me ... technically, as a family, we are currently homeless. How strange! The securities that we all work towards  for our loved ones, have been stripped away for these few months at least. 

When in her tiredness Abigail says to me 'I want to go home', I have to reply that for now we don't have one. She knows that all our things are on a boat to Africa and we will settle once again but for now we are living in other people's homes and are grateful that our family looks after us so well until we have a 'home' of our own again!

If you are friends from England ... check out our family blog post, Back in the UK for more information of where we're going to be and when over the next couple of months.

Thursday, December 13

Christmas Came Early

Trying to maintain some level of normality in our house right now is proving more and more difficult. There is stuff everywhere and it's taking twice as long as normal to find anything that we need. Roll on Friday when everything will be taken away and we won't have to sort through our belongings anymore!

The next two months will be equally as crazy travelling all over and meeting up with people left right and centre ... as well as celebrating Christmas and New Year with family. We won't be able to give presents to the girls in the same way as normal this year. Travelling with presents either to or from the UK isn't really practical, so we've had to improvise and give one of our pressies a little early.

The girls love, love, love to dress up and we found the best trunk/foot locker to give them, so all their things can be stored in one place! A few days ago we told them to close their eyes and had lots of fun watching the smiles on their faces, when they realised what their early Christmas present was!! They were super excited and jumped straight in themselves, shouting 'Hooray'!



Dress up is such a great source of imaginative play for little ones. According to about.com ...

... while dress up play is an incredibly fun activity for little kids, it's also a very important one, helping them build up their vocabulary as well as their confidence ... Role playing, especially when it happens with other children, encourages taking turns, cooperation and socialization. Children that allow their imaginations to run wild become great problem solvers as adults. Why? Because creative thinking grows with use and practice and while trying to figure out how to rescue dolls from the bad guys doesn't seem like a pressing issue to you, to the superhero child, it's a quandary that has to be figured out immediately.
As I said, my two love it and I often have fairy cowboys, kung-fu fighting santas and a lot of princesses parading around and playing in my living room really nicely together! It can take up hours of their time and while they're clearly having a whale of a time, it is also a lot of fun to watch too!

Christmas certainly will be a little different from normal this year but in some ways it will extend the celebrations (they have already started!) and may even make it more fun and memorable in years to come.

Due to the everything that is going on over the next week ... I may well miss out a few of my normal posts until we're in the UK ... or not! I'll just see how it all goes!

Tuesday, December 11

The "Goodbye's" Have Begun

With just over a week to go ... our goodbye's have begun in earnest. 

Last weekend we had the MMS Christmas celebration and next weekend our Sunday School class will be having their's. It has been a great opportunity for us as a family to see everyone in a couple of places and say goodbye's to those friends who have have been part of our lives for these last three years without having to arrange anything ourselves.

Four of the MAF/MMS munchkins at the Christmas Party

Goodbye's aren't just reserved for people though ... there will be places that we won't get to visit again, restaurants we won't get to eat in, shops we won't get to frequent and family traditions we've started, that we won't be able to continue once we've moved on from here.

While I'm really excited about the next step, I always love the next adventure and all the new things, friends and experiences that come with it. When a chapter in my life comes to an end, I hate the thought that I won't get to do all the things that are part of our life as a family right now ... and can get very sentimental.

The missionary lifestyle can be difficult as there are always a lot of comings and goings of people and good friends and while the goodbye's are tough, life keeps going in your own home. This time however, we're the ones who are going and so the wrench is going to be that much bigger, especially because it will be a couple of months before we have the chance to properly settle again.

I have really enjoyed our three years in the States, while it hasn't always been easy there have been some really special moments, including the arrival of Naomi. Every day of these last few weeks have been full of goodbye's and 'last time' experiences that I'm trying to treasure ... before we have the chance to create a whole load more where we make our next home.

Saturday, December 8

Fun and Games

We like to have fun as a family and some games are very cultural. Some we've been able to teach others. Kubb, for example, a Swedish game, we learnt in the UK, that we've taught to American friends. Or Carcassonne, a German style board game based on a medieval French town, taught to us by Dutch friends!

Over the time that we've been here in America we have had a growing appreciation as a family for the State License Plate Game (free printable, courtesy of The Dating Divas Blog)! When we first moved here and I heard people mention it, to be honest I have to admit rolling my eyes, thinking 'boring'. Fast forward three years and you will find us hunting down different plates while we're out and about.

For those who aren't familiar, each of the 50 states of America have a different license plate (or a few different ones) which are easily identifiable as the name of the state should be on there. Every car has a license plate based on where the owner lives. So if you move states, you change plates. That means that if you live in Florida (bottom right of the USA) and see a car with a Washington (top left of the USA) license plate ... you know it's travelled a LONG way to get there!

Our long road trip to Florida earlier on this year found us noticing different plates and after a while we started writing down all the different ones we'd seen. Later we found the free printable (see link above) and now we always have a copy in the car to mark down any new ones we see! Abigail's very quick to point out the Ohio ones because they are 'just like ours'. She's also desperate to see an Hawaii one as it has a rainbow on it ... given the geography of the states, we're unlikely to spot one of those round here!!

A couple of months ago we set ourselves the task of finding as many of the 50 states plates as possible before leaving the country. While we knew that it was highly unlikely that we would find all of them, given that Hawaii and Alaska and not even attached to the rest of the states, we thought we had a reasonable chance to get the other 48. 

With less than two weeks to go, we only have about 8 more plates to go to reach the big five-0. The biggest surprise so far was when we found an Alaska plate in the car park at Columbus Zoo ... they really had travelled a long way to see the animals!


Yesterday's trip to Columbus was a little disappointing as we didn't manage to add any to our quota ... and we even drove down one section of a car park, as we spotted a different plate at the other end that we wanted a better look at! We don't usually detour specifically for license plates but we're running out of time! 

When Mark's parents visited in October we introduced them to the game ... and it wasn't unusual to totally loose Gramps in a car park much to Grandma's annoyance!! He kept wandering off trying to locate some more to add their tally of plates spotted. Totally addicted in a very short time!

If you're living or travelling in the States I can thoroughly recommend it as an ongoing family pastime ... a sentence I never predicted saying a couple of years ago! I know if we ever come back here, we'll definitely have a fresh copy out and be ready to cross off the states as we see them!

Thursday, December 6

Classmates

Apart from a little nursery/playschool I went to when I was very little, I attended the same school from age 5 all the way through until I was 18 years old. While the classes grew in number there was always the same core of us that went all the way through ... and a lot of us are still in touch, albeit in many cases only on Facebook.

So it seems a little strange to me when taking a picture of Abigail and her class earlier on this week that she will unlikely ever see or be in touch with most of them again given that we will soon be halfway across the world.


Abigail has had the best start to her school career. She has absolutely loved every minute of it at the Early Advantage Pre-School here in Coshocton, Ohio. She is now 'chomping at the bit' to start at her new school in Tanzania too, where her name is already on the sticker chart awaiting her arrival! In fact during our recent visit Abigail was even a bit annoyed with us that she couldn't start straight away!! Who knows how long she will be at this next school though ... at least four years, maybe more? It all depends.

Although Abigail's school experience is going to be totally poles apart from mine (it is already), I'm so glad the early stages have been such an excitement to her. She confidently bounds in every day and is full of stories about what she has been up to and the new friends she has made. I hope that her little sister will follow in her footsteps in that respect when she starts school in 2014 ... yes she is already enrolled this far in advance! With all the moving around we'll be doing as a missionary family, for them both to feel settled at school will be really important for us.

In the meantime, Abigail is enjoying her last few weeks with her classmates at her 'first school' before she will say goodbye to these, her first school friends.

Tuesday, December 4

Things I have learnt ...

This evening was my last Apprentice Wives meeting. For most of the time we've been living in the States, a group of us have met two evenings a month to share, encourage and learn from one another, while our husbands have been training in the MMS hangar.


As this was my last meeting I was asked to share what I have learnt over our time here.  When I started thinking about it, there were lots of useful (and not so useful things) that I have had to learn over recent years, so I started to make a list!

Some of these things I've been learning since my first missions trip to Iringa, Tanzania, back in 1997 (15 years ago!) and that continue to be relevant. Some I learnt to expect from my studies at All Nations and have now had a chance to put them into practice. Some are from personal experience and some are from observing others. Some are sensible and others are not ... but they are all things I've learnt since I started my journey into missions!! 

In no particular order ...
  • How to drive on the other side of the road
  • How to raise and maintain support 
  • To appreciate Fair food Stateside ... deep fried oreos, funnel cake, corn dogs
  • The differences between having a baby in the UK and the USA
  • To be content whatever the resources and circumstances 
  • How to plan and enjoy long road trips with little munchkins
  • To speak a different language (American English can be very different)
  • That the more you give (time/money/resources), the more you receive
  • To always clarify the details when asked to do something (over and over) ... what you understand someone to be saying might not be what you’re being asked
  • That God is interested and faithful in all the details
  • Not to come with expectations
  • That Americans will never fully understand the expression ‘A nice cup of tea’ in the same way Brits do!
  • To look for where you can be useful, you can always make an important contribution
  • That new culture’s aren’t wrong, they’re just different 
  • That your family comes first, if you want to remain on the mission field 
  • To find ways to extend hospitality to others because they often won’t extend it to you
  • How to shoot a gun
  • To take time to get settled as a family before getting involved in too many things
  • That God really does supply all your needs, often in unexpected ways
  • How to survive on very little sleep for prolonged periods of time
  • To be intentional in making friendships
  • How to be a mum to more than one daughter
  • To enjoy iced-tea and endless refills of drinks at restaurants
  • That when you invest time praying for difficult relationships, God can really turn them around in ways you couldn’t even imagine
  • To appreciate some of the ‘cheesy’ American Christian movies and literature 
  • That we are blessed with the full support of our family (even though they’re a long way away)
  • Small town America is not the America of the movies
  • To live for the last week before payday every month with no money
  • That it’s important to find yourself replacement ‘family’ where you live
  • That everyone deals with transition in different ways, don’t take it personally
  • How to make a quilt
  • That God continues to see the bigger picture and has got it all worked out perfectly, making time for him, helps you ‘sweat the big stuff’ less!
I look forward to learning even more stuff as the journey continues!

Friday, November 30

Ideas for the Newbie Missionary Mum

Today I want to introduce Amy to you. I met Amy and her family in Ohio, USA when we visited for a week's evaluation at MMS Aviation. Amy is American and her husband David is from Peru. They had us round for dinner that week, in March 2009 and that is the only time we've actually been in the same place at the same time, as they had moved on by the time we arrived in the States permanently! They are now based in Bolivia working with South American Mission. David fixes planes and Amy is a homeschooling, blogging mum of 3, in her own words 'two born in my womb and one was born in my heart'. You can check out her own blog at 'Missional Mama'.



Amy's topic for this post is a very timely reminder for me, as we're right in the middle of packing and about to set up life in a whole new place ...

Four Ideas for the Newbie Missionary Mom (or Mum!)

So, you are heading overseas. There is so much to do getting ready with selling, storing, packing, saying goodbye not to mention making sure you have filled out every form, raised the support needed, and sent the appropriate letters. It is overwhelming!

Likely, you will sit on the airplane with a small sense of relief because everything that could be done is and now the new adventure will begin. You will soon try new foods, meet co-workers, and probably look for a home. New often equals fun…at least at the beginning.

Shortly though, things may not seem as “romantic” as they did when you were preparing to come and sharing with partners. You may feel like you don’t fit, your kids may show signs of stress, and you could begin to second guess whether you can really handle this life after all. You are not alone!

Here are four reminders to help you as you move into this new life …

1. RELAX

When moving the family and kids overseas, we soon find that the outside pressures of life in our home country (ex: to have the perfect family with amazingly gifted children) changes a little. On the field, we still want our kids to excel or at least to do well, but they also need to do much of life in another language. They will also need to learn things taught in new and confusing ways. This can be hard on kids and parents alike.

It is essential for missionary moms to consider what needs to be done and focus on that. For example, if your kids need to learn the language, find a way to make that happen and let other outside activities go for now. We all know that kids need time to play and be creative. Scheduling every moment of life is not healthy for anyone and will likely be frustrating in your new culture. Ask God to help you decide with what to be involved and then free yourself from worrying about it.

2. FEEL

Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. It is not easy to change cultures. You won’t magically fit in and you will make lots of mistakes. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to talk, find a trustworthy friend. When people leave again and it hurts, be upset. If you get depressed, let God walk with you in that too. The thing is that it will likely be very hard, at least at times, and that is OK!

3. CULTIVATE

One of my life goals (that I borrowed from former president and chancellor of the Moody Bible Institute, Dr. George Sweeting) is to, “cultivate my inner life”. This is especially crucial for handling overseas living. Find what feeds you in devotions, learn to study the Bible, pray, and read quality Christian books. Listen to sermons in your native tongue and talk with solid friends. Know God and out of that will flow the living words and actions for others.

4. INVEST

Not only is it important to learn the language to the best of your ability but also to get to know the people. Investing time in the lives of the nationals helps you understand and capture the culture as well as fall in love with the people you are there to serve. It seems like this would be a natural aspect of every missionary, but you will find that flocking towards like-minded people (from your home culture) is the easier thing to do. You will need time with people that understand you, but be intentional about investing in the culture, language, and people to whom God has called you. Also, remember that language learning and cultural adaptation is different for everyone; resist the urge to compare yourself with others.

I have noticed that there is a lot of guilt in motherhood and I would say life on the mission field can grow that guilt if we are not careful. God called you to your culture and He gave you the family that you have. He has a plan for your children that you cannot comprehend which includes living in a third culture.

May God be with you as you work towards raising children and living life for His glory!

Thursday, November 29

Packing Up

Our house right now is just a total mess of piles, half packed boxes, lists ... all of things to sell, things to get rid of, things to ship, things to travel with us and a whole lot more.

We're sorting out shipping companies, sorting out schedules for when we're home in the UK, trying to look ahead to things that we need lined up for when we arrive in Tanzania, as well as the day to day stuff and having some fun with our girlies so they're not totally disorientated with everything that is going on!

For someone who likes an element of order in her house, it is getting a little frustrating already and there are still a couple of weeks left. Sometimes it all seems a little overwhelming, sometimes it doesn't! That changes from day-to-day, or hour-to-hour ... even minute-to-minute!

I know it will all be over in just a few months time ... when we're settled again in Dodoma. But to be honest those few months seem like they will last forever when you look at them from my standpoint right now! Thankfully, as with all the changes that have been going on, we have been working through it all one step at a time and so far it hasn't been overly stressful!

There have been also been little high points for me in the process too ... successful sales of stuff we don't want anymore to friends and on various Facebook pages, collecting together things for crafty projects for me, presents for the girls next birthdays (yes, we're having to look that far ahead!), random items to make our new house a home so that we will be able to settle into it quickly at the other end and much more.

Here are a couple of fabrics I've bought to decorate different rooms in our new home. I have to admit I'm excited to get there, unpack my sewing machine and get started on them ... but even writing that, I'm aware at how middle-aged and missionary-like I'm sounding already! Oh well ... Ho Hum ... in the midst of all this right now, see if I care!


Tuesday, November 27

Don't let the Mosquito's get you

I've shared before one of my favourite quotes ...
'If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in bed with a mosquito'
It has a whole different connotation when you're moving your family, little people included, across the world to a country where malaria is a common occurrence. 

When I lived in Tanzania before, I survived my first year unscathed. The second year was different though ... I managed to get malaria, not once, not twice but three times. Seriously! 

When a healthy, well nourished person get's malaria it can just be like a bad case of the flu, that is treatable. On the flip side, it can be a deadly disease for those who have limited resources or access to medical attention. Thankfully we should be blessed with former situation during our time in Dodoma, but it won't guarantee total immunity, just a stronger body to deal with it!

Obviously we're going to be careful, not going out in the prime mosquito time of the day, using bug spray and to begin with, taking anti-malarial medication. Talking to the other families when we visited, it seems that most people don't take them the whole time though ... after all, who wants to pump themselves and their little munchkins with drugs, year after year?

We used this recent trip to test out how we all (but the girls especially) reacted to one particular type of anti-malarial before committing to taking it for a longer period of time, when we move to Tanzania in 2013. Thankfully it seemed to be a total success with none of the possible side effects like instant vomiting, diarrhoea, hallucinations and other stuff ... much to our relief!

Getting the girls to take the medicine was a whole other experience though. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT follow the instructions that say dissolve in water and give it to your children as a drink. I am here to personally testify that it does not work like that!! The first time, we had one agonising afternoon where we were force-feeding this disgusting solution to two very uncooperative little girls but had to make sure they were taking it! We really hadn't thought it through at all.

Fast forward one week ... and we were two very much more prepared parents! Crush it, mix it into just one spoonful of yoghurt and serve in the first mouthful without mentioning anything about anything. Absolutely no problem. Every week since has been exactly the same. BIG sigh of relief because believe me, we weren't going to repeat that first experience again each week!!


Hopefully we'll avoid the mosquito's and malaria as much as possible ... and thankfully, the process hasn't altered the girls love of yoghurt either.

Sunday, November 25

Good Friends and Good Food

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in the States and we've just got back from spending a few days with some good friends in Indiana (hence the day's delay on this post!). 

This was our fourth and final Thanksgiving here and my favourite. We got to take a trip to a new State to us, enjoy time with good friends who we haven't seen for a while and who are like family, eat some total yumminess, relax a little in the midst of the craziness of an international move, get some good deals in the Black Friday sales on things we really needed to buy before we leave ... and lots more! What was not to love?!

Thanksgiving is often stereotyped as an excuse for gluttonous feasting ... and to be fair, I haven't gone hungry any year we've celebrated it out here! There is a lot of pumpkin involved, as well as other combinations of food that wouldn't necessarily feel natural to me to put together on a plate but it has always been delicious!
Thanksgiving Dinner

This year, the day after Thanksgiving I got to treat our hosts to another yummy feast, this time one of Thai food. When I was studying at All Nations, I had a really good Thai friend, who taught me to cook 'real' Thai food, rather than a westernised version (much to my husband's delight!). We often enjoy a Thai meal at home but from time to time I'll cook three or more dishes when we entertain and give our friends a real 'party in their mouths'!

One of my favourites is the Matsaman Curry, so I always include that ... here's the recipe according to my wonderful Thai friend! Serve with basmati rice.

  • Matsaman Curry Paste (approx 1Tbsp ... sometimes more!)
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 500g beef or chicken, inch cubed
  • 300g potatoes, inch cubed
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 onion, cubed
  • large handful of peas or green beans
  • 50g salted peanuts
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp fish sauce
  1. In a large saucepan, bring half coconut milk to boil and mix in paste
  2. Add meat & when cooked, add extra coconut milk
  3. Add potato (& water if necessary to cover potato)
  4. Add milk
  5. Add onion
  6. Add peanuts
  7. Add brown sugar and fish sauce
  8. Boil/Simmer til it's all cooked

Wednesday, November 21

Monkey

When I was first pregnant with Abigail, we didn't want to refer to the bump as 'baby' or 'bump' but to give the little person growing inside of me a name. So, until she made her grand entrance into the world, she was known as 'Monkey' ... and has been numerous times since, if the truth be known!

When she was very small we had put a few soft toys in her cot and let her pick a favourite ... and she picked one which was a monkey (no, they weren't all monkeys!!). It has been her prized possession ever since and literally goes EVERYWHERE ... even now! (He was enjoying a rest at the play park in the photo below).


Once she had made her choice, we endeavoured to find a second identical monkey ... just in case the worst should happen to 'Monkey One'. However we had bought him on clearance as an end of the line toy and nowhere on amazon or ebay or on the internet anywhere, have we been able to find another one. We've even contacted the company who manufactured him, several times, but they have never responded to our messages (you can tell it's a Brit company and not a US one from the lack of customer service!).

We have had several 'heart sinking, stomach flopping moments' in the last four years when we thought we had lost Monkey or left him behind somewhere but actually he has faired pretty well. He did get defaced in a moment of madness once and he does travel on his own passport now too (which unbelievably we've managed to convince at least 3 international immigration officers to stamp for us!!) but he has always stuck like glue to his owner who dotes on him constantly! Yesterday we spent a good hour hunting him down in the house. We knew he was here somewhere but as Abigail conceded after we found him, 'He is getting very good at playing hide and seek'!!!

Naomi on the flip-side has no favourite toy. Which can be a blessing and a curse. There is nothing to loose (or remember to take) but then there is nothing that can comfort her or for her to snuggle up with when she needs it either ... she usually wants one of us, which isn't always so convenient. Monkey on the other hand is now and will definitely always be the fifth member of our family!

Tuesday, November 20

Pringles ... Who knew?

Sorry for the blip in entries last week ... the recovery from our trip was my first priority!

It seems a little bit unreal that our look-see visit to Tanzania is already done and dusted. Given that there were 7 days of travel for a 6 day stay ... it was a huge undertaking and required a lot of planning and now unbelievably it's all over!


The munchkins did amazingly well considering the number of days, hours and minutes we spent getting to and from Dodoma, Tanzania. Four flights to get there over four days, including two night flights ... the second of which the girls decided they wanted to stay awake for. Three days to get home, starting with a day on a bus followed by three flights.

Now that long journey's are becoming more normal and regular for us, the preparations are becoming more straight forward too. We know what does and doesn't work, we know what to look for, what to include in the girl's goody bags and what kind of snacks to stock up on. 

We tend to over compensate for every eventuality, so that we have access to a well maintained stockpile to both keep the girl's happy and make the journeys as seamless as possible! My preference in this kind of situation is to be as prepared as possible!

Arriving back home, we had multiple presents and snacks leftover ... which will be tucked away for the next trip. Both girls had a blast (for the most part) and loved the whole adventure. But ... do you know what? A lot of the time they didn't even need the extra bits and pieces we'd packed to amuse them. 

One thing that seemed to be the biggest hit ... and very simple and easy to come by and stock up with at every stop we made ... was a tube of Pringles. Yes really!! It must have seemed to the girls that our tube was never ending as it kept magically becoming full again! If I'd realised just how popular they were going to be, I may have left some of the other stuff behind. I'm just glad we found the key to keeping them happy for this trip ... no doubt it will be something else for the next one though!

Tuesday, November 13

Dodoma - 10 years on

As much as this last week has been about preparing ourselves as a family for life here in Dodoma, it has brought back lots of memories for me. Seeing familiar people and places, noticing how things have changed, catching up with Tanzanian friends who I haven't seen in 11 years and just being able to show Mark a lot of the things I've been telling him about over the years. It is more 'town-like' than it ever was ... but Dodoma still has the same charm!


(We have also been sharing photos on Facebook that we've taken and have  had friends who I taught with out there, all those years ago, reliving the memories too!)

Now that we're at the end of our week's visit to Dodoma, I thought I'd reflect on some of the things that have changed or are the same between now and 1999-2001 when I was last out here. They may be of more interest to people who have lived in Dodoma in the past but some are just fun observations.

In no particular order ...

  • There are a lot more sealed roads
  • There are street name signs on many roads (I never knew their names before!)
  • The primary and secondary school are on the same site
  • The school (CAMS) has it's own bus
  • The 'Two Sister's' has moved a couple of doors down but is still the same
  • The 'Superdealer' has twice as much stock as it used to
  • There is a top notch computer room at CAMS
  • There is a chinese restaurant, coffee house and a pizzeria with crazy golf in town .. yes, really!
  • There is a small supermarket that has several aisles and a electronic scanner (when the power is on!!)
  • There is a pool at the Dodoma Hotel (school swim lessons are there now)
  • There are only a handful of MAF families left in town
  • The Shabiby bus is MUCH improved ... AC, toilet, free soda and Morogoro stop and Dar bus station are more civilised
  • There is more traffic everywhere Dodoma, Dodoma-Dar road and Dar
  • The Dodoma market hasn't changed one bit ... the same smell's, the same hustle and bustle, the same stalls in the same places
  • There are a couple of nice shopping centres and cinema's in Dar (7 hours drive away)
  • There is a new wing to CAMS with two more classrooms and a large library and another 2 classrooms currently being built
  • There are a few more tv channels ... all as boring and poor quality as each other
  • Blueband has had it's packaging upgraded but it's still the same margarine type spread that doesn't need to be stored in the fridge!
  • There are about 10 ATM's in Dodoma (the nearest one used to be in Dar!)
  • There are twice as many Tz Shillings to the £ as there were
  • Beans and ugali still taste great
  • There is Nyrere Square in town by the Ice-cream parlour ... with a statue of Nyrere surrounded by some gardens
  • The cathedral has a big screen/projector/computer set up ... for the songs and the liturgy
  • Internet and mobile phones are everywhere (we used to have no phones and one email address between all the staff on one computer at the school!)
  • There are several universities in Dodoma, one hopes to have up to 40,000 students (currently at about 15,000)
  • One member of parliament is building their house (mansion?) up on Lion Rock
I'm sure I could add a whole load more things and I also think I will notice more still once we live there permanently. It was so fun though for so much to be familiar. After all, come February, Mark will be safely at work in the hangar, while I adjust the family to life in Tanzania!

Friday, November 9

All about the Planes?

While we've had the chance to see the MAF hangar this week, we had a tour as a family and Mark has spent a couple of mornings in their familiarising himself with everything and everyone, this week has been more about getting to know what life will be like for us as family. The climate, the routines, finding out was is available, helping the girls transition and so much more.


There has been so much to take in, new people to meet, information to gather, places to go and it all began with 5 nights of very little sleep thanks to travel and jet-lag. Even though as an adult I understand what's going on and why we're here, plus the fact that I've lived in Dodoma before ... it's still a lot to take in.

I can't imagine what is going on in Abigail and Naomi's heads right now. They both seem to be taking it all in their stride and most days Abigail has said something like 'I like living in Africa', 'I love Africa', 'I don't want to go home, I want to stay in Africa', which is really encouraging!

There have been times when their behaviour has been a little more cranky than normal though, which has been completely understandable. The challenge has been not pushing them too much and finding the balance as a parent as to what is still acceptable or not under the circumstances. They haven't been all that bad but when we're all really tired, finding the patience to be understanding in every situation has been tough!

I know it will be different once we've moved here permanently and are much more settled but in their cranky moments ... February seems like a long way away!! At the same time it's been exciting to see how easily they have adjusted to most elements of life here and have been having a lot of fun in the process! It will make preparing to move here so much easier knowing that it is somewhere they enjoy being!

Wednesday, November 7

Our New Home

Today was exciting for all of us as we went to see our new home. It is one more link in the chain of preparation before we return to Dodoma, Tanzania in February next year and settle here. 

As it is not on the main MAF compound, next to the hangar and we don't currently have transportation it wasn't practical that we stay there for this short visit ... plus the fact that is currently a short term couple living there! But today as part of our 'look-see' week here we had a chance to go and have a look so that we will be better prepared to pack, knowing more what we need to bring back with us in just a few months time.

Below is a photograph of us outside the front door ... along with Abigail's new best friend, Aleah!


I love making a 'house' into a 'home', so this part of the trip was important to me. We were measuring up the rooms, the windows (for curtains) looking at the furniture and deciding what we wanted where and what would be useful to get in the States or the UK beforehand!

It sounds a bit old fashioned being a 'home-maker' and loving it but practically, for our family to feel the most settled the most quickly, it will be really important that the house feels comfortable for both the family and for guests visiting too.

If the girls don't feel comfortable in this house really quickly after we arrive, life will be a lot tougher on all of us. Within a different culture, when they're so little and can't really comprehend everything that's going on very easily, having somewhere safe to come back to is really important. 

So while I hope to get involved in projects of my own within the community during our time in Tanzania, my first and most important priority (even if it takes preference over other things) will not only be getting the house in order ... but more than that, feeling familiar and like home. Today I had the chance to start working out more practically just how I can do that and I'm already getting quite excited about the possibilities!

Monday, November 5

Jet Lag

It is 2.30am and both my girlies are WIDE awake and busy! About 17 hours ago we touched down in Tanzania!

The journey was OK ... the munchkins did pretty well considering! The first two flight they were brill! We went through security in London and had lunch with my mum and Mark's parents which broke up the journey a little and gave us a couple of extra pairs of hands to amuse the girls. 

The second night flight was a lot harder ... because we were so tired too! Of the nine and half hours we were on the plane, Naomi fought sleep for the first six and Abigail the first eight!! Bodyclocks gone haywire and I'm not surprised, mine was feeling a little loopy and I understood everything that's going on!

Now I have no idea what time my body think's it is but the girls bodies most certainly don't believe it's the middle of the night! I've never had to cope with jet lag like this before after 48 hours travel with little ones in tow. It's certainly interesting and frustrating and confusing and a whole load of other emotions all rolled into one.

We had a snooze this morning and then fought to keep the girls (and ourselves) awake in the afternoon. We walked around the compound where we are staying for the night ... checking out the mango trees and the girls were hugging the palm trees (Abigail was SO excited to see they were in Africa after falling in love with them when we were in Florida!) and trying to have some outside time in an effort to get sunlight and adjusted but right now it seems that it was all in vain!



In less than two hours time we have to get up to go to the airport for our final MAF flight to Dodoma ... so I'm guessing that there is no point in trying anything too drastic to adjust now and just roll with punches tomorrow!

The irony is that by the time they are properly settled, it will most likely be when we begin our return journey home in a weeks time! I'm just grateful that when we next arrive in Tanzania we will only have to adjust from UK time and not US time, a lot less hours to cope with and then a lot longer to adjust to it too ... as we'll be staying!

Friday, November 2

Planning ahead!

So, today is a BIG day in our household!

We are on our way to visit what will be our new home, Dodoma, Tanzania and while it is very exciting to get the opportunity to go ... it has been a mammoth undertaking.

From securing the finances to the detailed planning and packing beforehand. The preparation has been huge ... but now that the bags are packed there is an even bigger task ahead of us. Travelling for 3 days, across 3 time zones, on 4 aeroplanes with our two little munchkins! (Insert sharp intake of breath here!) I am a little apprehensive about that part although the girls have always been good so far!

Yesterday we were pottering around getting everything together and having quite a leisurely time packing. A little surreal in our family ... packing is one of our least favourite things to do in the whole world and one of the only times that Mark and I tend to get a bit short with each other! Not ideal given the amount of packing and moving and travelling we have already had to do and will continue to do in the future! Given that this is our biggest trip ever as a family, I had expected it to be quite stressful so was pleasantly surprised with the whole experience!

I made lists of lists a week ago, in order for everything to be accounted for in advance. We worked out the final things we needed to buy and set aside time to do that without leaving it til the last minute. We started separating out everything we needed to take days in advance, so it was all ready. Then yesterday afternoon, I played with the girls while Mark worked his magic with the cases.


In all the travelling I've done around the world, I have never been quite so methodical about what I needed to pack ... ever! (I have also never done such a big trip with a family of four either.) It most certainly paid off though and made it a much more pleasant experience for everyone.

Now we just have the journey to deal with ... and the excitement of a trip to Africa!

(While I hope to be able to continue posting as normal while we're away, with so many unknown variables at this point, I can't promise anything ... just watch this space!)

Thursday, November 1

All Hallows Eve

Today is All Hallows Eve ... or Halloween as it's more commonly known. It's on the 'Eve' of All Hallows Day or All Saints Day. It's difficult to imagine with all the hype that goes along with it today, that it had anything to do with honouring the Saints of God at some point!

There is such a dark, almost evil element to the 'holiday' now, and since moving to the States I've noticed what a HUGE commercialised event it is to celebrate out here. Way, way, WAY, more than I ever imagined it would be from the UK, where the Brits efforts are positively pathetic compared to their American counterparts.

While there is a totally harmless side to it all, with all kinds of fun and ingenious costumes there are also the more spooky elements on display ... with toddlers running around pretending to be zombies, monsters, wrapped up as mummy's, with fake blood dripping from their mouths and necks or as scary skeletons. 

Call me old fashioned but is it really necessary to expose such little ones to all that stuff so early? It may seem harmless but there is also the more sinister side that surely they really don't need to be aware of just yet. Abigail won't even walk down the aisle in the store that sells those things because she finds them scary, she's certainly not going to wear any of them! Even all the kids tv channels this week put their most 'spooktacular' episodes on back-to-back to celebrate Halloween. Overkill ... needless to say it's been more DVD's than TV this week in our house!

Trick or treating is a much more organised business here in Ohio. There is a designated couple of hours, one evening which is well publicised in advance where if someone is on their front porch it means they welcome 'trick or treaters' and will have all kinds of goodies ready for them. So, I will admit, it is relatively safe and fun. Back at home I know of older folk (and younger ones too!) who dread Halloween and hearing their doorbells ring, for fear of who or what will be on the other side and if they stick a 'no trick or treating' sign up on their door, can find that they get their house 'egged' because they're not entering into the spirit of things! Nice!

In a culture, here in the States, that is acceptably so much more Christian than we're allowed to be by law in the UK, it surprised us that Churches celebrate Halloween here too ... the same way as everyone else, just on their premises. Costumes, trunk or treat (going round to the trunk/boots of people's cars in the church carpark to get the goodies rather than going door-to-door) etc. Almost embracing it rather than being the light in the midst of it.

Back in the UK, I have been used to churches organising 'Light Parties' on Halloween. Fun without the sinister, using it as an opportunity to draw attention to and praise God rather than embrace the encroaching darkness of the world today, particularly on October 31st when it all just gets that little bit darker.

We have successfully missed 'celebrating' Halloween each year we've lived here as we've usually been back in the UK visiting visas. This year however we have been surrounded by it. Wondering what the correct response to the cashier at the store is when they greet you with 'Happy Halloween'. Trying to work out how to explain it all to Abigail who is full of questions.

In the build up to Halloween, Abigail was telling us she didn't like it because all the advertising made it look 'too scary'. I was relieved! Then she saw an advert where a little girl was dressed up as a princess and from that point on she was hooked, saying 'I like Halloween', 'On Halloween I'm going to be a princess'. And she made a very beautiful Rapunzel for both our church event last weekend and for pre-school this morning ... 


All I can say is, I'm very grateful that we'll soon be moving on somewhere where all this hype and marketing won't affect us when it comes to Halloween. It won't hurt our girls one bit, to grow up slightly more protected from it all until they're just a little bit older. 

I know, I know, I'm a fuddy-duddy ... but on this topic, I really don't care!