Friday, May 24

Watch this Space

This week things haven't been going quite to plan.

One of the things we knew to be prepared for when we signed up to this kind of life was flexibility. Whether it be to the culture, the lifestyle, the climate ... or the sicknesses.

Both me and Abigail have succumbed this week to a little something nasty ... although in much milder doses than some of our friends here. So things have had to change a little to compensate. Missing blog posts, unanswered emails, to name just two.

Before it all hit though, I was working on something new. I am not all that clued in with technical blog type stuff. Yes really, I know some of you think I know what I'm talking about but I only know the basics and writing bits, not the design stuff!

So, I plan to take a few weeks break from writing in order to use the time in tweaking a new look for The Missionary Mum blog. Here's a sneak peek ...

It's something I've wanted to do for a while and I figure that when our container eventually arrives in Dodoma, spare time will be few and far between! So 'Watch This Space' and take a last look at the old style blog as it won't be round for much longer!

Monday, May 20

More Traffic Jams

This morning I was sitting in my car on a dual carriageway in a traffic jam! Not moving an inch!

While it may be standard practice for many of you, in your day-to-day commute or simply just getting from A to B ... it really is not the norm here in Dodoma. It's a busy town, much busier than Coshocton where we last lived but everything flows and there is not an excessive amount of traffic or even a rush hour or anything.

With one exception ... when there are VIP's here everything and I mean EVERYTHING stops. The Tanzanian Parliament is here in Dodoma and all the top politicians have residences both here and in Dar Es Salaam. You know when parliament is in session as police and military appear everywhere stopping traffic and you could be waiting for anything from a few minutes to twenty or more!

Then at some point you are treated to a 'car parade' as Abigail calls it. The cavalcade speeds through fast but is motorbikes, cars, 4x4's and they go on and on and on! Usually you hear the presidential or other jet first ... then you know there is a chance of getting stuck on the roads. The President of Tanzania has the longest entourage but other VIP's come with their own train of vehicles too.

This weekend, as a family we avoided town completely. There were way too many VIP's around for the installation of the new Archbishop of Tanzania and it would have taken forever to get anywhere. The only person we really had any interest in seeing was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who flew in for the occasion. 

Lucky for us, he flew into Dodoma via MAF and so right at airport, on arrival, we were able to see him before all the craziness really set in!

He was given quite the welcome. Bishops and clergy, politicians, tribal dancing ... the list goes on! This was his first visit to Tanzania since becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury and he really was treated like royalty.

Thankfully, the weekend went off without incident, although there was some concern before and now all the VIP's are heading out again. There isn't much here worth sticking around for to be honest! 

That means that as this week progresses there will be less and less reason for all the traffic to be stopped again and life for the rest of us lesser beings will go on without sitting in anymore jams ... until the next time!

Friday, May 17


Today I have a guest blog to share with you ... with a difference. Many missionaries work in situations where it is not always safe to reveal their identity or the true work that they are involved in and these situations they are in can change at moments notice. Studying at All Nations, I had the opportunity to make friends with people called to all types of mission work and today's guest post is from someone in this position. Both she and her husband are professionals in their own right and they have three boys under the age of 10. Here's is a glimpse into their past year which didn't go at all how they had planned.

All Nations Christian College

Transition is not a word I used much before preparing and going overseas. It’s one I’ve had a lot of reasons to think about over the past year especially. 

When we went out to South Asia with 2 children under 2, I knew that adjustments were going to be greatest for us adults. We left close family and friendships behind, we were used to certain freedoms and opportunities that now were not available, we were the ones who needed to get used to new routines involving purifying water, sterilizing fruit and veg before eating it, removing large spiders from very basic bathrooms before using them, and many other new experiences. Our boys mainly continued in a similar routine with Mum and Dad around them as before, it was just that the food got a bit spicier and the weather a whole lot warmer!

But 5 years later it was a different story. There was now a no. 3 who was toddler age, but all his life he had known a 3rd adult in the house most of his waking hours – our hardworking and faithful house-helper who loved our boys to bits and took great care of them at the times we were both out at work.

Nos. 1 and 2 now had their own friends, local friends from preschool and school, and ex-pat friends we met up with for fellowship and fun times – like cooling off together in the heat at a local pool we had access to. This was their home. Our home, England, was just a place of visits and holidays, time out from the ordinary. For our children ‘ordinary’ was the colour and dust and bustle of a sprawling developing world city, ‘ordinary’ was having school closures for the next day announced at 11pm (on TV channels we didn’t watch!) due to unrest in the city, ‘normal’ was donkey carts and camels on the road alongside crowded public buses and smart shiny 4x4s of the city elite.

And then in the space of 2 weeks our world was turned upside-down by the cancellation of our visas and the instruction to leave. It was time to go through transition again, but this time there was very little time to prepare, and whilst we needed to help our boys through it we were in bits ourselves over what was happening.

Today as I write this it is a year to the very day since we received news that we had to leave the country we had grown to love. And three weeks ago we sold our house in a leafy London suburb to move to a very South Asian area just a few miles down the road, where we have seen God lead us over recent months. Moving house is said to be one of the most stressful things you can do – because, I think, it involves a lot of change and uncertainty. We certainly experienced some of that with this move. However, harder still for us was leaving what was our home in South Asia so quickly, and so against our will. Time for goodbyes was short, opportunities to do special things as a family one last time were very limited as we raced to sort, pack, sell and give away all we had. And returning to the UK with no plans, no hopes and nowhere permanent to live was a great example of how not to ‘do transition’ if you can possibly help it!

Alongside being a mum I’m also a GP. I’m used to hearing about a problem and formulating a plan, an approach to it. As a mum helping my boys deal with all the changes the past year has brought, I’ve learnt that there needs to be more than one treatment option – in fact each of us needs a personalised treatment plan in tough times like major change.

My eldest (8) I think found it the hardest – he had friends he’d known since he was 2, some really special friends, but at 7 as he was then you don’t really do much more than hug when you say goodbye. For a while he would get really upset, angry even, over little incidents, minor injustices between him and his brother, or him and the rest of the world, it all just hurt. And efforts to help him process sadness through drawing pictures (which he usually loves) or reviewing photos he refused to do – I think it was just too painful. Occasional chats about things we did or friends we had, as they were relevant to what we were doing, seemed an easier way to re-live those times for him. It felt a real breakthrough to hear him say just a month back how he’d like to go back and visit his friends one day – the first time he has expressed a desire to return.

No. 2 (then 5, now 6) actually really went for the picture drawing, he could go to those places and draw on the good times. He had most enthusiasm for sending a UK postcard to friends back in our city. But he too had his moments, an increase in the times he would overreact, breakdowns into uncontrollable sobs when things didn’t go his way. I found this a real challenge as a parent with very limited resources in the patience department at the time, still in my own wilderness.

And no. 3 (then 15 months, now 2yrs) who had always been secure, confident and a fantastic sleeper, became oh so clingy. It’s taken a good length of time for him to be happily without Mum and Dad, and in the first few months of frequent changes of location, staying in many different friends’ and family’s houses, he would often wake at strange times and need us around to settle him like never before. It took me a long time to see things from his perspective, to realise that his life had always involved 3 significant adults with our house-helper around as well, and suddenly she was gone. There had been no explanation that he could grasp, no gradual change, first she was part of his daily life and then she was gone. He missed her, I came to realise, and having lost her I could see why he would want to make sure Mum and Dad didn’t go too.

Transition. It’s been quite a year. Our recent house move is the 4th major change of home in the past 12 months, but at least this time other things (like school) are staying the same, even if the nature of the area we live in have changed a lot, and the boys seem happy to be in our new home. They have come through many of the issues mentioned above. Nos. 1 and 2 love school and have gradually made good friends both their and in our new church. No. 3 adores the childminder he spends 3 mornings a week with and has great fun charging about with Indian, Pakistani and Somali children we mix with locally. I haven’t even touched on how I and my husband have dealt with all the change, I’ll just go so far as saying it’s ongoing – emotions and issues surfacing at times when the pressing needs of family life and new work and ministry in the UK allow it to.

And where is God in all this? I’ve not mentioned Him either. He’s been right in the middle of all the mess with us. I’m so glad our faith allows for God to be in mess and hurt, confusion, imperfection and uncertainty, and to understand it. It has helped me to recognise that Jesus experienced all this and more as he faced misunderstanding, disappointment and rejection throughout his earthly life. The scriptural idea of being aliens and strangers makes more sense when living as one on the move, with no fixed horizons for a while, and there have been valuable lessons to share with our boys from this part of our story. Together we have known what it is to call heaven our true home, together we have learnt more about trusting God when our plans, hopes and dreams have fallen apart, and together we are learning more about how he rebuilds us in a way that prepares us for wherever he takes us next. Transition and change can be challenging, for us and our children, but like everything else we can trust God to use it for our good.

Wednesday, May 15

All Things Pink and Sparkly

In a tone of complete and utter desperation last week, Abigail said 'I want the whole world to be pink and purple and sparkly ... oh and chocolate!' Life through the eyes of a four and a half year old! If only things were that simple!

I have never been much of a girly girl. It wasn't until Abigail was born that suddenly there was a pink explosion in our home, literally overnight! Naomi's arrival just consolidated the pinkness and my wonderful husband will forevermore be surrounded! (In fact Abigail has even been known to pick out a shirt for him which has a hint of pink in it ... and a lot of blue too, he will be quick to add!)

Along with the pink, has also come lots of purple (which actually I love, so don't mind at all!) and anything sparkly. Thanks to Rapunzel, golden will often be cited as a favourite too!

Last Saturday we went for a wander in town around some of the shopping streets ... especially One-Way Street, the only pedestrian one. We often drive into town for specific things, usually food and come straight out again but this time we wanted to take in the atmosphere and just get more of a feel for Dodoma.

There are people everywhere, lots of noise, smells and colours. Materials hanging up, second hand clothes and shoes, hung up and laid out, plastics and pots stacked high, fundi's sat at their sewing machines making clothes, men pulling carts stacked with all kinds of things from foam mattresses to rubbish. It was great for me as it brought back lots of memories from when I lived here before and it gave the rest of the family a chance to see life outside of our little compound.

Neither of the girls were bothered by the interest in us. Both of them were just as fascinated in everything that was going on, as the people around us were interested in seeing the four of us walking along together. 

We had lots of silly prices quoted to us for various items we showed an interested in but once they realised I spoke the language a bit and wasn't going to be taken for a complete ride we easily got them down ... at least a few thousand shillings anyway!

Abigail was definitely seeing the world through pink coloured glasses that day. As everything she found was pink. She saw pink buckets, pink material, a man riding a pink bicycle and even the ketchup we had when we stopped for some lunch was pink!!! It is safe to say Abigail loves Dodoma right now. 

Here a few things we picked up, although the shoes have been assigned to the dress-up pile only!

Some would say that the pink and sparkly thing has come from one of the girls aunties but to be fair we've never lived close enough or been able to spend extensive amounts of time together for that to be the case, as we've been overseas since Abigail turned one. It is obviously just in the genes ... and has given me the chance to be a bit more girly as well now too!

Monday, May 13

Impossible Mountains

This weekend, as a family we received news we really didn't want to hear.

To get completely settled here we really need a car, a visa and all our belongings and this is the news we received in a nutshell ... There seems to be a shortage of reliable cars available (we need something to last us for the long haul!), yet another one we had lined up fell through. We're having problems getting our visas because of immigration changes. Without the visas our container cannot be released from port even though it arrived here just two weeks after us. It doesn't look like the visa will be issued anytime soon either!

We left the States almost 5 months ago now and next weekend we'll celebrate 3 months of being here in Tanzania. Last year, when we were looking ahead to our move to Dodoma, this wasn't exactly how we had pictured everything would work out.

By now we should have had a car. By now we should have had our visas. By now we should have unpacked everything into our new house and made it feel like home. But they were our plans and they were our timings. 

Using our western mindset, we can get easily frustrated by the situation. We expect that visas will be processed in a uniform manner. We expect that paperwork will be completed in a timely manner. We expect that there will be no corruption. We expect it ... because it is right and proper.

While I am not suggesting that the entire system here in Tanzania is corrupt or illegal, it just doesn't function in a way that I am used to. It isn't uniform, it isn't always logical and for that reason it is extremely frustrating but it doesn't mean that it's wrong.

As a family, I know we're in the right place. I know that we're doing what God has planned for us. And I know that he is the God of miracles. 

After having time to mull over the news we received, I spotted one of my girls stickers (see above). Matthew 17:20 tells us that faith will move mountains and straight away it gave me a sense of peace. Right now I have to believe that, even more than normal ... because there is going to be no other way to get through these hurdles without the odd miracle or two and without our mountains being moved!

Life here is good apart from these few major hiccups. We're enjoying the daily adventures and are surviving nicely on all the borrowed bits and pieces that our generous new friends have lent us. The day-to-day stuff is attainable, it's doable, it's how we're making the most of it. 

To dwell on the things that are out of our control would make this interim time totally miserable. We have to believe what Jesus says in Luke 18:27 "What is impossible with man is possible with God". 

I look forward to seeing just how he works all this out because right now there is no logical human route for us to take but in the meantime I'm going to help my family enjoy the ride. Because for this time, that's my job. So that Mark can work effectively in the hangar and study for his exams and so that the girls feel completely settled and at home ... even if lots of things are still up in the air.

Friday, May 10

It's all about FOOD!

Life here seems to revolve around food. Sourcing it, preparing it, eating it.

Locating it is the first hurdle. Without the supermarkets that we're used to in the UK and America just being able to get hold of the ingredients can be quite the adventure. Last week my neighbour came rushing round to say someone was standing in a butchers in Arusha (in the north of the country) right at that moment, a couple of hours flight away and did I want anything as there is so much more available there. He is one of the MAF pilots who lives there and was going to buy it and send it down on a plane the same day!

Preparing it is another story. Absolutely everything has be prepared from scratch. Literally. From sifting the stones out of your rice before washing and cooking it. To blanching your tomatoes to use in homemade pasta sauce. To chopping up a slab of Cadbury's Dairy Milk into little bits to use as chocolate chips. To boiling your milk and then cooling it before you can use it, as it comes straight from the cow! 

There really are several extra steps to every ingredient in every recipe and you have to be that much more prepared before every meal. It's like turning back the clock in many ways, how things once were before all the conveniences of processed food etc. The difference being we now know about the processed/pre-packaged/prepared options but can't access them!

So it is not unusual for my brain to just be processing what is needed for the next meal ... and the next few days meals too!

Dodoma is a great town but to be honest there really isn't all that much to actually do. Preparing food can not only be seen as time consuming but also as a family activity ... creating and experimenting with different things together and having lots of fun in the process. See Abigail below, styling her little sister's birthday present while Naomi was busy snoozing! Today we tried dairy free coconut macaroons (for a guest tonight) but had a little bit of fun, dying one half of the mixture pink and the other half blue!

Socially life revolves around food too. With nothing much to do apart from hanging out with people over a meal ... we have already found ourselves sitting around our table with new friends much more than we would usually (and that's without all our belongings arriving!). There is never a rush to go and do anything else as there isn't anything else to do. It's something I really enjoy about life here!

The life we live, food wise, is in contrast to that of many locals. With no electricity and no proper storage for food, they literally live from day to day. Buying what they need for the next meal, cooking it, eating and starting over again. I'm grateful for the conveniences that we have so that I don't have to run into town before every meal.

So, you see ... whichever way you look at it, it really is all about the food!

Monday, May 6

Missing the Milestones

We've been here almost 3 months now. That's a quarter of a year!

In that time there have been many significant life events happening for friends and family. Parents of good friends of mine have died, there have been weddings, births and literally everything in between. And we've missed it all!

In fact just this last weekend, one of my cousins got married, another went wedding dress shopping for next year, my best friend throughout school announced she was expecting her fourth baby and another good friend gave birth to a beautiful baby girl!

Life goes on at home when you leave it all behind. I use the term 'home' loosely because our family and friends are literally spread out over the world. There is absolutely no way had we been in the UK (our real home country) that we would have been able to be part of all these events anyway as most were spread out enough across the world that it would have been impossible. Being so far removed from everything out here can sometimes feel like we're missing out though. 

The reality is, that our family are also achieving all the different milestones here while we're away too. Naomi was born in the States, Abigail started school in Tanzania, to name just two. Those closest to us are missing out on our lives as much as we're missing out on theirs.

The internet has helped us to keep in touch and up-to-date a lot more than the first time I lived here. I didn't even have a email address of my own in those days. Now we're sharing photos backwards and forwards, just minutes after they are taken (like the one of me and my girlies above!). Or talking face-to-face via Skype, something I introduced Maria (our house help) to the other day ... she couldn't believe it was possible!

Missing the milestones is one sacrifice of the missionary lifestyle, that you don't always consider when you're preparing for a life overseas but thanks to modern technology we are no longer so far removed from everything ... or waiting anything from 2 weeks to 2 months or longer for news to arrive via snail mail. Missing out hasn't been something that has adversely affected any of us so far and we're 4 years into our MAF/mission experience as a family and counting, so that's definitely something to be grateful for. 

Congratulations to everyone who has been celebrating exciting stuff recently ... we're definitely there in spirit, if not in person!

Wednesday, May 1


This is the second week in a row that we've had a Bank Holiday here in Tanzania. Last week it was Friday, so we got a long, 3 day weekend and this week it is today, Wednesday.

We thought it would be fun to have a full English Breakfast style brunch (who doesn't like to indulge in one of those from time to time!) and invite a few of the teachers from Abigail's school to celebrate having the day off. It was lots of fun, the food was delicious and it was a lovely opportunity to get to know some of the teaching staff at CAMS (2 Brits, 2 Aussies).

When I lived here in Dodoma as a teacher, I really appreciated my friends at MAF. Whether it be just to escape to the other side of town away from the teachers compound and everything school related, to be in a 'real' home for a few hours (MAF staff tend to have more home comforts as they move out here for longer periods of time) or whether is was to eat some yummy food that as a teacher I couldn't always afford ... those MAF families that opened their home to me and my fellow teachers were always extra special and most are still friends of mine over a decade later!

As soon as we knew that we were coming back to Dodoma as a family, all those months ago, I told my hubby that looking out for the teachers would be one way that we could support the staff, most of whom are single and far from family in America, UK, Australia, New Zealand and other places. Having been on the receiving end of such hospitality and understanding the huge significance of it, it was always going to be a priority for me now that I'm in the position with my family to offer it. 

We had been holding out a little, in the hope that our container would arrive and we could make the house more 'homey' before we started inviting people but a few weeks ago we made the decision that waiting was pointless, we might just as well get on with it. 

It's already been fun to properly invite people round and if we have to borrow chairs, dishes and frying pans from our neighbours in order to do it, that's just the way it will have to be for the time being!