Monday, March 25

Time Together

Right now we're in the middle of an 'Internet Blip' here in Tanzania! So I probably won't be able to publish posts on either of our blogs or update our Facebook Page for the next couple of weeks. It seems that there is a problem with a cable somewhere under the sea between Egypt and Marseilles for one of the major service providers to the country ... or something like that ... so if you don't hear from us for a while, that is why!

In the meantime (just for today at least), back to my normal musings!!

When I was waiting for baby No 2 ... exactly two years ago. I began to realise two things. Firstly, that I would never have so much quality 'me and Abigail' time and secondly this new little person (later known as Naomi!) would never get anything like so much of that individual quality time.

I know that's just the way it goes but at the same time it made me feel really sad. And of course wonder how on earth people with really big families manage!!

When we arrived here in Dodoma, to say Abigail was eager to go to school was definitely an understatement! The consequences of which meant that every weekday morning since, I have had Naomi all to myself.

Admittedly, we're not getting the very early stages of life together. But actually she is a right comedian at the moment, reliving events in her own little stop-start manner while her language develops, with lots of arm waving and hilarious facial expressions! She loves reading, doing jigsaw puzzles, colouring and so much much more and is at that stage where she wants to do it all with someone rather than being 100% independent like her sister! 

So to be honest, while her little character is developing, this feels like the best time to have some quality one-on-one time together!

I'm really grateful to have this time with her, especially before we get involved in too much stuff. It's like a gift just for me in our early Dodoma days!

The other thing I'm really grateful for is that after all the fun we've had in the morning, Naomi has consistently been going to sleep at lunch time for an hour or two ... something she hasn't done EVER in her life before! Which has meant I can then have a window of quality time with just Abigail every day again too! 

I count myself a lucky lady and am making the most of it. There are occassions when it does cross my mind there are other things I could 'better' be doing with my time ... but then I realise what better way could there be, than to spend it with my two gorgeous girlies!

Wednesday, March 20

Plughole Dilemma

To clean the plughole or not to clean the plughole? That is the question!!

It may not seem like much of a dilemma to many of you. Cleanliness and hygiene of course is paramount, especially when there are little people in your house ... but lots of things aren't as straight forward as they seem out here!

When I lived here in Dodoma before and my mum visited she very 'helpfully' cleaned the plughole in my shower. Little did she know that all those yucky bits were there for a reason. They actually served a purpose!

Soon after I arrived, I discovered that I wasn't the only person living in my little house! There were lots of other little beings there too! Most of whom I was able to remove but some who insisted on coming back to visit ... via my shower plughole! 

The smaller cockroaches could make their way up the pipes and through the holes and join me mid-shower! The yucky stuff kept them at bay and meant I could shower in peace ... and I love to start my day with a good shower, alone!

Last week, a friend of mine here was surprised to find a small snake in her shower. He had found his way into their bathroom using the same method! Gulp!

So now, maybe you can understand my dilemma, maybe the yucky stuff isn't so bad after all! It may make you think twice before you step into your shower next time too ... or you may just think of us and what we might meet instead!

Monday, March 18

Telling the Time

I had an interesting conversation with Maria (the mama who works in our home) today. She asked me what the time was and then got her mobile phone out to explain that she didn't understand how to read the time on there.

Maria is a total superstar and has been more than a blessing to us here. I'm sure I'll tell you more about what she gets up to another time. Every so often though, she'll tell me that she doesn't know very much because she didn't go to school.

Learning to tell the time is one of those big learning curves in primary school, something that as an adult we take for granted. But Maria doesn't have trouble with telling the time from a watch or clock, just the digital type. 

It was just before midday and the phone read 11:54. She couldn't understand why there was an 11 in there. Why? Because in Swahili, telling the time is a whole different kettle of fish! 

Check out the clock below. At first glance it is just a clock ... but then take a closer look at the numbers, it's like they have completely flipped! The numbers 1-6 have completely swapped places with 7-12.

The day here in Tanzania starts when the sun comes up ... around 7am, it is the first hour and is called 'Saa Moja', literally 'Hour One' ... and the day continues like that. So when Maria asked me the time I had replied that it was almost 'Saa Sita' (Hour Six), midday. No wonder she was confused that there was a number 11 on her phone!

My watch has markings but no numbers, so Maria is able to read it, no problem. I drew her a clock, with numbers as we would say them in English  (because we currently have no clocks in our house!!) and she was really surprised to see that we would say 12 at the top and not 6.

Learning to tell the time out here takes quite a bit of mental gymnastics. First, you have to learn the numbers in Swahili and then you have to swap them around in your head before they come out of your mouth! If you're not careful  arrangements you make with Tanzania friends could get a bit confused!

One addition ... just to clarify, the clocks don't actually look like this out here ... but this is the best way to show how they flip the numbers!!

Friday, March 15

From Scratch

I know I've mentioned since the beginning of this blog that I've been trying out new recipes and searching out new cookbooks specifically so I can learn to make things from scratch. 

Why? Because I knew that once we made it to an MAF programme, those things that we can get from the store and take for granted just won't be there to purchase. Some MAF staff live in big cities (in East Africa) but we knew that wasn't for us ... which means that there is even less available.

While a lot of my kitchen equipment and recipes have yet to arrive ... it has only reduced the extent of but not stopped the 'from scratch' cooking that is going on in our house!

I fully appreciate that many people living in the UK or America like to make things in the same way even though ready made options are available and we did a lot of that too. But when you're having a busy week, you know you can always go and pick up a loaf of bread from the shop, buy some coleslaw to add to a meal or have a couple of frozen pizza's on hand as a back up. Here that is just not an option ... unless it has been made from scratch in your own kitchen beforehand.

It is not even that any of these things are particularly difficult to make. Given the time we could all do it. Here you HAVE to make the time or you can't eat them. Simple as that. There are no 'convenience stores'!

So, in the last few weeks we have enjoyed bread, biscuits, coleslaw, yoghurt, potato salad, caramelised onions, pasta sauce, chapati's and many other things ... but only because we've made them ourselves.

A lot of people have asked me, exactly what I will be doing, while Mark is busy fixing planes. In time I've no doubt that I'll find something to get involved in but in the meantime, the amount of preparation that goes into just running a house and getting food ready for a family of four is plenty to keep me out of mischief!!!

Wednesday, March 13


Greetings in Swahili could easily go on for the first five minutes of a conversation, it's just one of the cultural things you get used to out here in Tanzania.

They include ... 'How are you?', 'How are your children/husband/wife?', 'How is your home?', 'How is your work?', 'How are you since yesterday?', 'How is your morning/afternoon/evening?'! The list goes on. Usually at least three are used in each direction ... it wouldn't be right to start on the real conversation until this part has been completed!

Thankfully for Mark, who doesn't know too much Swahili YET ... the response for all of them is the same. Just one word 'Nzuri' or 'good'.

I have been meeting up with lots of people over the last few weeks, some that I know well and some that I am just getting to know. Having these greetings already in my Swahili repertoire has helped a lot!

Of course at some point in most conversations I've had, I've also had to introduce myself ... whether to people I knew before or to the new faces.

I have been called many different things by different people over the years. Last time I was in Dodoma as a young single girl, I was Jenny to some and Miss Hadlow to others. 

This time round I come with a family and so it's different. I am still Jenny to some (my ex-pat friends), I don't think I've yet to introduce myself as Mrs Beckwith to anyone ... but to Tanzanians, my name is Mama Abigail (pronounced Abi-gay-lee).

Here in East Africa, children are considered a real blessing and it is questioned if you are not married or don't have them. Mothers and Fathers are called after their eldest child, it is respectful. So we are Mama na Baba Abigaylee! Already it is slowly becoming a name I am learning to use and respond to. 

Naomi is also getting used to the new pronunciation of her name. We've heard different versions of it ever since she was born from ... Neigh-Oh-Me, Neigh-Ah-Me to Nigh-Oh-Me. Here in Tanzania she is known Nah-Oh-Me ... but to us most of the time she is stil Nomi, a name her big sister used shortly after she was born and has stuck with the rest of us ever since!

Monday, March 11

My Promise

Promises are important. Teaching them to little people is important. Modelling the 'keeping of promises' is also important!

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a promise as ...
'a declaration or assurance that one will do something or that a particular thing will happen'
Recently I seem to have been making a lot of promises to Abigail. Ones that I know I can keep ... Ones that I make sure I do. So that she can knows she can trust me in the little things now and when I promise something bigger in the future, she will know that she can continue to trust me.

When we were still living in the States, I made a promise to my family, that I know I will have trouble keeping ... but a promise is a promise and so with their help, I will!

My promise was, not to get involved in anything or volunteer to help in anything for the first six months that we are here in Tanzania.

Does that sound like a strange promise to you? Or one that is easy/hard to keep? Why on earth did I make it, I hear you say! Does it make any sense whatsoever?!!!!

Here are my reasons ...

  • Lots of missionary families start out with the best intentions but get involved in too much too quickly ... it's easier to say yes further down the line, than to say no after you've started being involved in something - I have already seen enough things that could fill up all my time and more if I had said yes straight away and we have only been here for 3 weeks! I want a chance to get a good overview of what I can do.
  • Some missionary families don't stay the course because some or all of the family members don't settle properly - my primary goal in the first six months is to make sure that we are all really settled and our home really does feel like a home.
  • Sometimes missionary families have been known to put their work before their families which doesn't always produce a healthy home life - as we have already moved across the world twice in the last four year I am choosing to put my family first for the time being.
  • I had the privilege of being at home during Abigail's early years as my visa in the States wouldn't allow me to work. Now she is at school I want to enjoy that privilege with Naomi too ... they are only young once and I will always cherish the years I have been able to have with them at home. There will still be plenty of things for me to get involved with once Naomi is in school too!

It has already been difficult for me not to step up to fill multiple needs, as that would be the most natural thing for me to do. Areas where I am more than capable of taking a part and many that I used to be involved in when I lived here as a single girl, once upon a time ago, as well! But this time round I am a different person with different responsibilities ... and with a promise to keep to the most important people in my lives!!

Friday, March 8

Favourite Recipes

One thing that I am (selfishly) really grateful for about this blog, is the fact that I've included some of our favourite recipes. 

Why? Because right now, while all our belongings are sitting in a container somewhere between here and there ... including my recipe books ... I still have access to some of the things we, as a family, enjoy eating the most!

Abigail especially, has been asking if we can get the ingredients to certain things out here in Tanzania and has been really surprised (and excited) when I have told her that we can! 

Already we have enjoyed our chicken pot pie, pasta sauce and speedy chilli. Although note-to-self ... the chilli powder out here is a lot stronger than the chilli powder we've been used to! Yesterday afternoon, all three of us girlies made some flapjack too. I'm not sure which of the three of us were more eager for it to cool down once it was out of the oven before we could chomp away on a piece!!

One thing that we have seen on either on Facebook, Pinterest or both recently, was a spaghetti and hotdog variation that looked quite fun to do, especially with little ones. Basically you poke your spaghetti through pieces of hotdog before they are boiled so that it is threaded through once it is cooked (see below).

Admittedly it was a little time consuming to do all the spaghetti threading but the whole family chipped in and had a lot of fun together doing it. Naomi probably ate more dried spaghetti and hotdog pieces than she actually made but enjoyed herself nonetheless!

Abigail was a bit bemused by the whole process but was certainly wide-eyed when she realised the end result as they were served at the table. We just kept it simple with some pasta sauce and peas and corn ... as it could all be cooked up together in one pot. The novelty of the whole experience put a smile on all our faces though!

Wednesday, March 6

Snail Mail

What happened to good old fashioned snail mail? Yes, I know email and blogs just like this one took over and everything from updating to tweeting took the place of putting pen to paper!

I am still a big believer in the handwritten variety of news, although admittedly I know I have let it slip more than I would have liked with two little munchkins in the house. However with one now in school ... hopefully I will have more of a chance to get into my 'snail mail' flow again. There is just something that little bit more special about a piece of personalised post!

The MAF mail box only gets checked once or twice a week and so far we have had NO snail mail since living here in Dodoma ... but then with all of the settling in, we haven't had a chance to send any either! For those of you who want to return to the 'dark ages' of communication and send us something, our address is 'Mission Aviation Fellowship, PO Box 491, Dodoma, Tanzania.

Yesterday I took my first trip to the post office. One step closer to sending some snail mail of my own! It's a little different to how it was 12 years ago but essentially the same. 

The thing that surprised me the most however, was the fact that a stamp to the UK costs 800tsh (Tanzanian Shillings). Sound like a lot? In fact, it's only about 33p, making it cheaper to send a letter all the way from Tanzania to England than sending a second class letter within the British Isles. Crazy but true! (To the US it only costs a little more, 900tsh, about 56 cents!)

Security and safety of post or mail in both directions is questionable, although the majority of letters get through, packages are another matter (unless they're Amazon apparently, which generally arrive OK!). When I lived here before any packages that had 'educational material' written on them multiple times, were more likely to arrive in one piece than ones that didn't. Time wise though, nothing has changed ... things can take anything from just 4 days to 6 months or longer!

Chatting to some friends who have been out here for a while, they advised, smaller packages are less interesting than the bigger ones, so have a higher success rate at reaching their recipient. Customs labels have to be completed but you can confuse the officials with your creative language and never put a high value on the contents ... making them less inclined to bother with your packages. 

Here are a couple of examples ... When sending Christmas presents, you can put 'Festive Cheer' as the description. Or for chocolates and other yumminess, write 'Dietary supplements'! It really just depends on how much you can think out of the box but still describe what is inside!

Maybe I should ask those of you reading this to think of some more creative alternatives and post comments with them so that we can all share the wisdom when mailing missionary friends overseas! More than that ... you could even put them into practice and send us something as a surprise via snail mail!

Monday, March 4

Holiday Mode

Amazingly we've been in our new house for two weeks already! As a family we're getting used to our new surroundings and routines ... and just enjoying the space after a totally manic few months.

Now that we're beginning to settle into our rhythm and routines, we're noticing that a few things are missing. As yet, we have no car (it's a work in progress!) and our container is ... well, we're not quite sure where exactly in the world it is but we know it's not here!

We have had an amazing welcome here in Dodoma, our house has been kitted out with everything we need in the meantime and we are not without constant offers of transport, which is great and has been helping us build relationships.

But ... there is always a 'but' in there somewhere isn't there? As a family we don't feel like we can properly settle in until those final two pieces of the puzzle are here! It's like something is holding us back from that final feeling of 'we've made it, we're here'.

Mark hit the nail on the head the other day ... he absentmindedly said it felt like we were on holiday, living in someone else's house, with someone else's things, just like when we helped out MFI in Florida last April for a few weeks. Which isn't a bad thing, just different.

We're in a perfectly functioning house, but it just doesn't quite feel like 'home' yet. For the time being, we're in kind of a permanent holiday mode ... and I guess will complete the practical side of our transition once the rest of puzzle is in place!

Friday, March 1

Simple Things

To parents of little people, there is nothing more wonderful than watching your children sleeping peacefully. I appreciate that as they get older waking up is more of an issue than putting them to sleep!

When Abigail was little I would often find myself just watching her sleeping, taking in every last piece of her while she was enjoying her slumber. With Naomi, there has probably been more of a look of wonderment on my face that she is actually asleep! She didn't take to the whole sleep thing as well as her sister.

There is definitely something special about watching them sleep though. For me, when they were newborn, it was amazement that I could have such a perfect little bundle in my care ... and okay, I'll admit it, occasionally to check they were breathing! As they have grown up, I can't help but marvel at how each of them are changing and becoming their own little person.

My munchkins so rarely stay in one place for very long and can be quite noisy. Asleep they are serene, peaceful ... and quiet!! I cherish those moments, to take in everything about them as I know in the blink of an eye they will be grown up and gone!

As Naomi has been such a terrible sleeper and our last home had VERY creaky floorboards, once she was asleep, I would never ever risk going back in their bedroom to just watch them! However much I wanted to, it just wasn't worth it!

There is one definite bonus of living here in Dodoma. The floors are concrete. Very practical for keeping cool ... But they also pass the creak-free test too! In the last two weeks, I have taken great delight in being able to have a minute or two in their bedroom, checking they are OK and watching them sleep peacefully! (Albeit through a mosquito net!)

It's the simple things of Dodoma life, like our concrete floor, that I'm starting to appreciate in a whole different way than I expected to!