Saturday, September 29

Moving Time

Almost exactly three years ago, a family of three Beckwith's moved from the UK to Coshocton, Ohio to begin the apprenticeship programme at MMS Aviation. It seems like such a long time ago now. Within a month of us arriving, another family from Alabama also arrived to start. They too have recently finished and tomorrow they will get into their cars and drive away for the last time, to their new destination.

It makes our move seem a whole lot closer and there is a lot to do before then. But what is so significant about this particular family's move? The 'Missionary Mum' of that family is Kristin. Since we both arrived here, we have become great friends and shared an awful lot over the last three years ... she is even one of Naomi's godmothers. There have been both times of great joy and huge frustration which we have made it through. We were the 'new' girls together and although our backgrounds and missions experience were completely opposite, we clicked straight away and have had lots of giggles ever since.

Here is a photograph of my wonderful friend taken by another good friend, Cayton Heath at one of her recent photo shoots.

I have been so blessed by Kristin's friendship, we have learnt so much from each other and I'm so grateful that God put us in the same place for our MMS experience. I know that God will put someone new in both of our lives, who is equally as special, as we move on from here ... but also know that however far apart we are across the miles, our friendship will still be extra special. 

It does make goodbye's hard when someone so special leaves, it's one of the downsides of the missionary lifestyle, which doesn't become any less difficult however many times you do it. On the plus side (there always has to be a plus side!!!), selfishly, with Kristin and her family leaving first, our goodbye's in a couple of months time will be slightly easier with one less extra special friend to say farewell to ... although there are still a few tough goodbye's on the cards for me.
'Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave and impossible to forget'
Would I trade these friendships so that I could avoid the painful goodbyes? No way. They make me who I am today ... I'm grateful to have really good friends around the world, many of whom I can pick up with where we left off, with no problems, however long it's been. Good friends have always been and will always be SO important to me. I look forward to seeing who God has got prepared to be part of my life for the next stage and am just extremely grateful that I will always get to take my bestest friend (my hubby) with me wherever I go!

Thursday, September 27

Oodles of Noodles

What is it about little people and pasta? It seems that in my experience, pasta is universally inhaled by babies and toddlers ... and really quick and easy to prepare. 

Mac'n'cheese is a staple dish out here in the States, in fact I had never realised just how HUGE a dish it is, until we moved here. There are loads of variations to flavours and you can find a whole area at the supermarket devoted to all different sizes and brands of instant mac'n'cheese, really!! It did actually make us laugh a lot when we first arrived in the States!

While we do eat mac'n'cheese from time to time, more often we like to have something a little healthier. One family favourite of ours is garlic chicken stir fry with bok choy or spinach. While the original recipe I found was designed to be served with rice, we use a 'secret' ingredient that we can't get here in Coshocton but have visitors bring from the UK, udon noodles. The noodles are delicious and are Japanese wheat flour noodles ... much more delicious than traditional pasta. It does mean we can't eat it as often as we would like as we're often waiting for a new 'shipment' to come!

The amounts in this recipe feed the four of us ... so probably about 3 adult portions! We all LOVE to eat this meal from the youngest to the eldest in the family, Abigail in particular loves to slurp the noodles.

  • 1 Large Chicken breast (the ones we buy here are at least twice the size we get in the UK!!!)
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 6 spring onions
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 500g bok choy (chopped coarsely) or baby spinach
  • Udon noodles or rice as you prefer/is available
  1. Thinly slice the chicken and coat in flour - shake off the excess
  2. Heat oil in wok, stir fry chicken in batches til browned all over & cooked through (remove)
  3. Add garlic, pepper and spring onions to the wok, cook until pepper is tender
  4. Return chicken to wok with stock, soy sauce & peas
  5. Stir fry til sauce boils and thickens slightly
  6. Stir in noodles and cook for 3-5 mins
  7. Just before serving, add bok choy/baby spinach until it wilts
(If serving with rice, don't forget to put it on to cook at the beginning, skip No 6 and then serve the stir fry on a bed of rice!)

Tuesday, September 25

Good Night, Sleep Tight

Last night we tucked the girls into bed at 7pm and this morning they woke up around 6am. Why would I think that would be significant enough to blog about? Because it's highly unusual in our household ... well, ever since Naomi arrived 17 months ago anyway!

When we had Abigail she was a total dream-baby when it came to sleep. From just 3 months she slept 12 hours a night, could self-soothe and until she was almost 2 years old she had two long naps during the day as well. As I've mentioned before on this subject, Naomi has not followed in her sisters footsteps, in fact she has given us a greater understanding of why sleep deprivation is such an effective form of torture!

For some reason, second time round we totally missed the optimum window of opportunity when it came to teaching Naomi to put herself to sleep as a little baby. With travelling back to the UK for a month at 5 months, then us all being sick for almost a month, Mark being in PNG for 3 weeks and the girls sharing a room, there appeared to be limited opportunity to let her work it out or cry it out herself and we managed to get ourselves into a rut. Naomi would only fall asleep on us and then we finally got her into bed, when she did wake up she would freak out as we weren't there anymore. Bedtime was between 7.30pm-10.30pm, depending on her, with multiple wake-ups a night ... we were so tired, a large majority of nights she ended up in our bed as we just couldn't keep our eyes open any longer!

After almost a year and a half of disturbed sleep and with a window of undisturbed opportunity we were ready to take action. We had tried the controlled-crying technique once before ... Day 1 = 15 mins crying, Day 2 = 40 mins crying ... by Day 5 and 2 hours non-stop crying, we gave up ... it clearly wasn't working and was totally traumatising the other three members of the family.

I can't remember where I saw this book advertised but I ordered The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight from the library and thought I'd see what her suggestion was. Rather than listening to Naomi screaming from a different room, her method allows you to be in the room and reassure your children ... and we were willing to give it a go!

Three weeks ago today was our first night of 'sleep training'. Skeptical but determined! It still cracks me up that some kids need to be trained to sleep but I am here to testify that it's true!  It was definitely a family effort though. Poor Abigail has taken it well. The first couple of nights she got to stay up late with Mark and watch movies which was a treat, later that week she was telling us 'I don't want a late night, I want to go to bed!' After that she was really good about going to sleep in our bed and either moving herself or letting us move her later on! So here's a little glimpse as to what happened ...

Day 1, sitting by the cot, took about an hour and a half but I felt unnaturally calm about it and being able to see that Naomi wasn't hurt but just being stubborn made it a little easier than just hearing her cry from the other room, not really knowing what was going on. She was also determined that night and fell asleep many times standing up with her head and arms hanging over the side of her cot. It was just that her legs kept giving way and waking her up.

Days 2-5, progressively got shorter and shorter. I went in on Day 2 a lot more confident and by Day 3 it was just getting boring waiting for her to pipe down and go to sleep! The funniest thing was on these nights, she had learned not to stand up after Day 1, so she sat down and wobbled like a Weeble for 20+ mins at a time ... it was hilarious!

By Week 2, we were sitting by the door (and had swapped the dining table chair for something more comfortable) and were out of the room within 20 mins ... she was usually asleep within 10! Night wake ups were a little more difficult though.

By 2 1/2 weeks, Abigail was back the room and we were putting both girls to bed together at the same time and sitting within view in the hallway. Unless Abigail woke up in the night needing the bathroom, Naomi was undisturbed or could self-soothe back to sleep.

The last couple of nights we have just put them to bed together and that's been it! Which has been unreal and wonderful all at the same time! Naomi has cried hard but literally just for a few minutes then she has totally zonked. Last night Abigail came out twice to tell me what a good girl Naomi was because she was already asleep ... promptly waking her up each time but not for too long!!

Obviously we still have a little tweaking to do, with the night wake-ups and some earlier mornings than we would like. However difficult these last few weeks have been (and we've had to back out from different evening commitments in order to see it through), bedtime and nighttime for us is now as different as night and day and life is becoming a lot more pleasant for all of us! I've even got to enjoy a couple of evenings with my husband again ... woohoo!! I never believed it would only take three weeks but it did! Thank you Sleep Lady!

Saturday, September 22

First Best Friend

Can you remember your first best friend? I'm still best friends with mine (Thirty years of friendship)! It's funny to think that we've been good friends ever since we were Abigail's age! 

Abigail's first friend, Isabelle, was born just two days after her and for the first year of their lives, until we moved to the States, they met up most weeks. 

Since we came to Ohio, Abigail has grown up a lot but soon after we arrived she met Bri, who is just 4 months older than her and they have been best buddies ever since. We've lived here now for three years, which is three quarters of her lifetime ...  so it really is her longest ever friendship!

Bri's mum started a photography business last year (check out Beloved Images) and so as part of Abigail's birthday present she gave the girls a BFF photo shoot, which they really enjoyed this morning. Here is just one of the gorgeous images she took, amidst the giggles.

One of the difficult parts of living the missionary lifestyle and moving from country to country every few years, especially for the children is saying goodbye to friends and having to make new ones. As adults, me and Mark can understand more what's going on and can process all the hello's and goodbye's, which doesn't always make it any easier but I can't imagine trying to assimilate all that so young.

Abigail has been practising making new friends in her new pre-school class at the moment and is often telling me how excited she is to go to her new school in Tanzania to meet her 'new friends' there too. We have been trying to build up the excitement of the move and all the fun things that will happen, as much as possible in these months leading up to it.

It's not only Abigail we have to look out for though. While Abigail is getting excited about all the new things that will happen, the closer it is upon us, the more aware I am that there are a few people here who will get left behind with a big gap in their lives. That their friends who have always lived round the corner won't be there anymore or anywhere nearby. Bri's mum was telling me today how difficult it has been to explain that Abigail won't be here for her birthday party next year and things like that. 

It breaks my heart to know that the implications of our decisions make some things really difficult not only for our girls but also for their friends too. While the benefits of the experiences they will have living across different cultures will be huge, there will inevitably be the bittersweet moments, like when Bri and Abigail have to say a final goodbye in just a few months time. Thank goodness for Skype, that's all I can say!

Thursday, September 20

One Certified Mechanic

Today was the day that we have been working towards as a family ever since we arrived here in Ohio ... and in fact, ever since we joined MAF back in June 2009. Mark took the final part of his Airframe and Power plant exams and is now certified to fix aircraft and more specifically for us now the aircraft that MAF fly in Dodoma, Tanzania. Naomi was helpfully pointing it out on the huge world map up at the MMS hangar just after Mark qualified this afternoon, if you weren't already clued in to where it is!

As I've said before, I am SO SO proud of him and the hard work that he has had to put in to get to this point. It hasn't always been easy and there have been many times since we signed up for this that Mark has said he felt a real pressure, that he had moved his family across the world for him to get this qualification with us being dragged along but that it was all down to him. Of course, I have totally believed in him and his abilities from the start and took great pleasure in saying 'I told you so' this afternoon when he finally passed, with flying colours!

As there are many families who have gone before us, it has been helpful to hear their input about both the apprenticeship and exam period. Most have reported that the latter is 'horribly stressful' and as with the apprenticeship itself, although the guys are the ones to do all the 'work', it really is a family effort throughout the whole process. 

While some people may see that our time here is all about what Mark is doing, we have certainly seen it as a team effort, in order for us to get to the next stage, an MAF project. Last night, before embarking on the final day of his exams, he thanked me for everything I had done to get him and us to this point and that without it being joint undertaking he would never have made it. 

I love how we have always worked together in everything, pretty much since we first met, whoever appears to be doing the 'important' stuff! Today really is all about him though and the incredibly hard work that he has had to put in over the last three years and more importantly over the last month with the exams. He is now not only a very proficient (and in the UK, head-hunted) aircraft design engineer but he is now an FAA certified mechanic, ready to use his skills for God in Africa ... He rocks!

Monday, September 17

From One Extreme to Another

Yesterday I was going through some photographs from earlier on in the year. Some of the mealtime shots of Naomi just made me laugh so much ... and want to gag too! 

Around May time, she was all about pasting her food all over her face, up her arms, through her hair and all over her tray-table! Believe it or not, some of it would actually go into her mouth as well! In Naomi's defence, she had only just celebrated her first birthday!

The phrase 'She enjoys her food', could certainly have applied to her, just not in the way we would normally use it. Having her face and hands wiped was the most traumatic experience in the world as well ... making the clean-up process 'interesting' to say the least!

It's funny the difference a couple of months can make. Now if there is just a splodge of food on her mat or hand, she gets most disgruntled and points to the wipes and won't continue to eat until she's all clean! Really! And she gives lots of hearty chuckles as you clean her face and hands at the end of a meal too, if she hasn't already done it herself. Naomi has most definitely gone from one extreme to the other in such a short space of time!

Recently we've been noticing just how much of a little girl Naomi is, rather than being a baby anymore in so many aspects. For some reason, although I expected Abigail to grow up and become her own little person, it seems to have crept up and surprised me with Naomi! She certainly is a goofball but lots of fun with it ... there are always lots of giggles coming from her direction which is music to my ears!

The baby years certainly do go as fast as everyone warns you they will and while they have been harder work second time round, I've enjoyed watching both of their little personalities develop. I love observing what the next thing is that they grasp, understand and are able to achieve, all the little milestones ... even if they are often of the messy variety!

Friday, September 14

Stingy or Sensible?

Yesterday was Abigail's fourth birthday. We had lots of fun celebrating as a family (it was an extra treat that with Mark revising for exams he could spend a lot of it with us all too!) and tomorrow morning it's party-time with a small Abigail-picked selection of her friends!

I have no idea what birthday etiquette is back in the UK but it seems that here ... or in Abigail's pre-school at least, for the most part kids bring in some sort of goody bag, one for each classmate! In my mind that is a little excessive, and so was grateful that with Abigail's birthday being quite near the beginning of the school year, no lofty expectations have yet been put in place (and we've set the bar very low for those following!)

Instead, I spent some time with Abigail, making and decorating, chocolate covered bake-pops, with blue sprinkles for boys and pink for girls (her choice!). You probably can't tell from the photo but they were really sparkly and about the size of Naomi's fist, so perfect for a snack! 

They were relatively cheap and definitely fun to make. Abigail took them into school and each child in her class got to take one home with them ... even Abigail got one herself and her verdict was that they were 'yummy'! Surely that is the most important opinion, after all it was her birthday. When I dropped Abigail and the bake-pops off in the morning her teacher was really surprised when we said we'd made them the day before ... it seems that going the homemade route is becoming less common!

So my question is, was I really stingy or did I do the sensible thing? On a limited budget and counting the fun-factor and the deliciousness I think so! It did cross my mind though that if any of the other parents had a problem with it (not that they would have), it didn't really matter, as we'll be gone in a couple of months anyway! We won't have to be drawn into any oneupmanship that might ensue with goody bags later on in the school year and may even be a family tradition that we continue in the years to come!

Thursday, September 13

One Car Family

When we first arrived in the States, someone very thoughtfully said to me 'It's a real privilege to have a car'. It is a statement I have often found myself going back to and finding a little bit strange, as while it is most definitely a privilege to have a car, living here in Coshocton, it is even more than that ... it's a necessity.

Here, there is no public transport, no buses, no trains, no sidewalks on a lot of roads and very limited cycle paths. However the local population is really spread out over the Coshocton area (many of my friends live a 15 minute drive away, out of the town) and to get to the one main big Walmart superstore ... you HAVE to drive.

The 'drive-thru' culture is definitely thriving here too. For example, without leaving the comfort (and warmth in the winter and AC in the summer) of our vehicle, I can mail/post a letter, withdraw money from an ATM, deposit money/cheque's with a bank teller, drop off library books and pick up a prescription from the pharmacy ... as well as get snacks, lunch or drinks from numerous, doughnut, fast food and coffee shop retailers. Seriously!

As an aside ... I still fail to understand why there would be braille on the buttons at the drive-thru ATM! Think about that for a minute ... if you can't see the buttons, should you really have driven a car to get you there?!

When we first arrived here, we considered attempting to function with just one vehicle but with Mark leaving for the hangar at 7am or sometimes earlier, it just wasn't sensible to get the family up and out at that time of day especially on the FREEZING cold winter mornings ... or to remain at home without a vehicle every weekday, with multiple errands to run and two children.

At the point where we were looking for a second car (something really basic and cheap just to get Mark to and from the hangar), we were blessed with a generous gift from one of our supporting churches in the UK which was exactly the amount we needed when converted into dollars to buy the car below. God obviously had it all planned out!

A couple of weeks ago, after a very short drive into town the engine started smoking and we knew something was wrong with it. Thankfully it wasn't as catastrophic as we had first anticipated but it made us evaluate the usefulness of running two vehicles now, with Mark finished full-time in the hangar and only three months to go before we leave the country anyway. 

Having had it in the garage for a week before making the decision, we realised that with some adjustment and forward planning, functioning with one car wasn't going to be too difficult, save us some money and mean that we will have one less thing to deal with in a few months time while we're packing up everything else. We weren't too disappointed to bid it adieu last week ... both vehicles we have here were cheap and fulfilling a purpose, rather than being our first choice of make or model and both have served us well. We're quite happy to be a one car family again!

Tuesday, September 11

Being Advocates For Our Kids

As promised on this blog's First Anniversary, The Missionary Mum will feature a guest post from one of my many missionary mum friends who are working all over the world. 

Today I am really pleased to introduce Eluned, who I met along with her husband Mat, while Mark and I were studying at All Nations. In fact, we were assigned to help them settle in as they arrived in our second year ... we soon became great friends. Eluned and Mat are both British and are currently serving as CMS missionaries in Madrid, Spain. Zac joined the family in 2009 after they had moved out there. They have their own website and blog, full of information and stories about their work, lives and cultural experiences of being in a different country but for this post, Eluned writes for me.

I think that the most important thing in the entire world when it comes to childrearing is being advocates for our kids. They're ours. They didn't ask to be born (as when they get older they may well tell us!) and we are responsible for their wellbeing above pretty much anything else in the world.

While being an MK (missionary kid) has lots of positives MKs also have additional challenges in their lives, and rarely will anyone else who hasn't been in a similar situation understand them fully. So it is our responsibility as parents (and significant others) to understand them and advocate for them. To get them. As missionary parents our ministry responsibilities start with our kids (and our spouse) - they are absolutely not a tagged on extra. And they should never feel like they are put last in the equation. 

An amazing example of being advocates for our kids is from a vicar we know. I was utterly challenged and impressed when he said to me some years ago that it was his son's birthday (he was maybe fourteen or fifteen) and the son and his friends were having a party at the house and he'd bought them some beers. Because he'd rather they were drinking weak beer in the house than out somewhere in a park and he didn't know where they were and drinking.

Now, we may have different reactions to alcohol and underage drinking. But this father understood the context his son was in. That was the reality of the place they lived in. That is the reality of many teenagers in the UK. And he chose to engage with it in a way that trusted his son and put their relationship first above rigidly applied rules.  

The last thing you need as the vicar's son is the additional pressure of a parent who requires you to meet impossible standards of behaviour so that you don't tarnish their reputation. Imagine how many of us if it was us might have thought "we can't let them drink in here, it's the vicarage! What will the parishioners think?

That son knew that he was more important to his father than what other people thought. I am so grateful to that friend for the example he's given me over the years of how to put your kids in first place. 

I remember another missionary I knew many years ago letting her child behave what I thought at the time was appallingly - and it was only later in the day that I found up that the child had been up all night because of some very difficult circumstances. Her mum knew that and felt no need to defend her actions to others. Praise God for wise parenting!

Recently when we were back in the UK some people commented that my three year old should be sleeping through the night, I had to say. "Yes, and he does sleep well at home usually but he's just moved six times in four weeks and he just wants to check we're still there." I had to understand him - he wasn't being a pain, he was stressed and confused. Everything in his life had changed more times in six weeks than many people's changes in a five year span. 

If your child is acting up because of circumstances, don't punish them. (Easier said than done!) 

At the other end of the spectrum I heard a very sad story of a friend who was sent off to boarding school in the UK while his parents were missionaries in Africa. And when they were in the UK for Christmas they told him on the phone that they couldn't come and see him because they were ministering to the "poor Africans who had nobody" in London. That little boy (now a grown man) also "had nobody" but felt that to ask for his parents support would be to tear them away from God's work. And that he wasn't that valuable. My heart breaks.

So lets be advocates for our kids like no one else can be. Let's bless them and encourage them and spend the time it takes to get them. And lets encourage each other in this weird and wonderful journey of missionary parenting and change. 

Saturday, September 8


The whole point of our three years here is to learn ... not just Mark in the hangar but all of us. 

Whether it be to learn more ...
  • about each other as a family
  • from the mission community around us who have years of experience between them
  • from living and adapting to a new culture (we have established that it is very different from the UK, here in Ohio!)
  • from friendships we have made here and from our supporters at home
  • from apprentices and their families who have gone before us
  • from God and the lessons he is teaching us on our missionary journey 
  • ... or many other things!!!!!

I have a good friend who takes every situation that she finds herself in, from the daily mundane stuff to the big things as an opportunity to be teachable. She makes it a priority to look for lessons to be learned, in everything ... and over the years that I have known her, she has grown so much as a result. I have a lot that I can learn from her, I know that I am not always as quick to look to for ways to grow through the situations that I find myself in as she can be.

On the flip side I have other friends, who are so quick to jump to conclusions about situations, that they don't stop to take in all the information, or are willing enough to be teachable, they just bowl straight in and have often offended in the process. While that sounds extreme, it can be a reality and when viewed in contrast with my other friend, seems incredibly arrogant, rather than dealing with situations with the humility we should ideally display. 

We're all prone to do it though, as alas we're only human. I've come to appreciate that I just need to work on making the most of every learning opportunity that comes my way and when it's not obvious, take a moment to look for it because it will inevitably be there ... somewhere! I still have a long way to go!

This pile of books has been Mark's nemesis for the last three years. This has been his main learning assignment (and a more traditional one) since we've been in the States ... the whole reason we're here. From the chapter tests he took during the first year or two (of which there were 46, one taken every 10 days), to the three FAA written exams at the end of his apprenticeship, the third of which he passed with flying colours (as he did with the other two!) this morning. Now he only has the oral and practical elements left and these books won't be quite so intimidating anymore!

Both at All Nations and here at MMS we've had the opportunity to learn and grow more as individuals and as a family. To make our relationships with each other stronger, the foundations of our faith deeper and the ability to be effective as missionaries greater. Once we get to Tanzania, we will just continue to learn ... and attempt to be as teachable as possible. That will have to be a conscious decision and one we will probably find ourselves recommitting to on a daily basis ... but consciously trying to learn through all circumstances is the only way we will be the most valuable in our roles.

Thursday, September 6

Legal Matters

It seems that not only language and culture differ across the pond but legal matters also!

In the UK, it is standard procedure for certain people and professions to certify and sign documents or copies of passports and/or photos themselves to declare that they are the 'true likeness' of the person in question. It really isn't that big of a deal as long as the person and the document are there in front of them.

Imagine our surprise and frustration to find that it is not so straight forward here in the States. To get Naomi's passport we were able to ask British friends here that we'd known the required amount of time, no worries. But recently we were trying to open an additional savings account in the UK where the list people of who could certify our documents was a lot more restrictive and none of our British friends fitted any of the roles.

We took the list and started at the top ... 'Manager of a regulated financial service' and headed to our local bank here. The bank manager himself was off on paternity leave and wasn't expected back for a couple of weeks but apparently he and a few other members of staff were able to 'notarise' a document (the American equivalent). Without the recognised required forms in the States, they told us no one was authorised or willing to sign for us. 

The staff at the bank pointed us to the Court House where we were assured it would be notarised. At the Court House, the sheriff at the door said that it wasn't something anyone there could help us with. But on the plus side we got to go inside a beautiful building we'd never been in since living here! 

Looking further down the list we read 'serving police officer' and as we were right opposite the Sheriff's office (and it was another building we'd never been inside!) we took a walk over there. While very helpful and understanding of our situation, the lady we spoke to looked over the paperwork and was too worried she might get something wrong as in her words 'she didn't know what she was looking for' and had 'never seen one of these before', so wasn't prepared to do it for us. I wasn't going to argue with her, after all, she was carrying a gun!

With the nearest 'consulate, embassy or high commission' to us being in Washington, DC, six and a half hours drive away and no British civil servants anywhere near, the list of people who could sign for us was gradually shrinking. Eventually we were able to hunt someone down who was willing to do it for us (someone from our church congregation as it happens). But on a hot humid day, dragging two little ones with us from one place to another ... certainly made for an interesting experience!!

It never ceases to amaze me though, even after three years of living here how little things like this, that we assume will be so straight forward, most definitely are not and can totally surprise us! Just glad that this story had a happy ending for us!

Tuesday, September 4

Feeling Pampered

As you've probably come to realise if you've been reading my blog ... my family are big fans of yummy food. 

In fact, we're part of the 'old-fashioned' traditionalists, who enjoy a family meal, round the table each and every day. I realise that for many this is not possible, with work commitments and family situations but we have been extremely privileged that for our whole married life, we have been able to share a family meal together, whether it was when there was just two of us ... or as our family grew, first to three and then four.  

In the UK Mark's hours were flexible and here, with an early start and an earlier finish, he has been able to be home every night for dinner, which should continue in Tanznia. It's time we value as a family and time when interruptions are ignored (yes, we're one of those annoying family's who let any calls go to the answer phone at mealtimes because we choose to prioritise that time together!).

During the first year or so that we were in the States, we soon came to realise that most people weren't going to reach out to us in friendship, so we started inviting families over for a meal to our house instead, to build relationships that way. That actually made more sense for us, as it was less unsettling for Abigail who was only little then! Most weeks, where possible, we made the effort to have different people round, it was lots of fun and built some great friendships. Sadly, once Naomi came along we got a little side-tracked and have got out of the habit.

As we enjoy cooking and entertaining and because in many cultures food is such a social thing for both building important relationships and making people feel loved, we intend to continue using food for this purpose once we leave here. Knowing that a lot of 'ordinary' cooking tools are difficult to come by and  often more expensive for substandard products, we were really blessed to have a Pampered Chef Missionary Shower at our church last week.  We have been able to both stock up on essentials and have friends here, purchase some of the things on our wish-list for us too.

The evening was run by one of the other MMS wives, Isobel Dunkley, who has been a Pampered Chef consultant for years and it was a lot of fun. For us, it was just another example of how our friends and church family here are so supportive of what we're doing and excited to help us get as prepared as possible in the remaining months before we leave. 

Thank you, if you came or if you ordered online, either for your own kitchen or for ours. I will think of you when I am in Tanzania, preparing food for us and our new friends and using our new bits and pieces!

Saturday, September 1

Speaking the Lingo

Can you speak Swahili? Are you sure? While English is widely spoken in Tanzania, Swahili (Kiswahili) is the other national language. According to Wikipedia, it is spoken by 90% of Tanzanians in addition to their first, tribal languages. So how much do you know? Probably a little more than you expect! (I'm pretty sure most of you will be thinking 'I don't know any Swahili, what planet is she on?') 

Well, let's see ... Have you watched the Lion King? Do you know the song 'Hakuna Matata'? It really does mean 'No worries'! The main character in the movie is called Simba, he is a lion ... Simba means Lion! Have you ever dreamed of going on safari? While we often associate it with an African game-park style holiday, the word safari actually means journey. Now do you know any Swahili?

When I lived in Tanzania before, I tried to learn the lingo a bit. It is possible to get by without but my experience was definitely much richer for the effort. I have always loved languages so I was up for the challenge too and the local people really appreciated that I had taked the time to learn it. When I returned to England I never imagined for a million years that the first job I got would mean I got to use Swahili from time to time, translating and actually giving briefings in it.

Some words were more difficult than others to get the hang of ... but there are some hilarious variations of English thrown in there too (here are just a few) ...

karoti - carrot
blanketi - blanket
picha - picture
baisikeli - bicycle
musiki - music
Desemba - December
tochi - torch (flashlight)
kipi-lefti - roundabout (keep left!)

... so, I guess the moral of the story is, if all else fails try the English word and add '-i' on the end!

Today I popped into our local library to pick up some of the books I had on hold there. I came out with a whole armful of Swahili books. Some kiddies story books, some phrase books and some more language/grammar type ones. There are still more on order to come. (I love our library!)

I wanted to see what was out there and what may or may not be worth buying, to add to my old books from last time! Abigail can already count to 10 in Swahili from a book we bought last year and both she & Naomi are loving the kiddies books we got today. My plan, is to get a bit of study time in of my own once Mark has finished his FAA exams, so I can begin brushing up on my grammar. I've no doubt given half a chance the girls will pick it all up a lot quicker than me and Mark, so anything for a little head start!