Friday, June 28

Need. More. Sleep.

It's the first day of the school holidays. Technically it's the winter break, being in the southern hemisphere but the sun shines and it's hot all year round! I am sitting here in a pair of jeans, watching a movie with the girls.

What's so strange about that? I'm in jeans! I think I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've worn jeans since we arrived in Tanzania (see Fashion Police) and I'm even wearing them on a day when Maria (our house mama) will see me.

The reason? I'm tired and I just want to feel cosy and 'normal'! Just for the day! Although to be honest it will probably get too hot and I'll have to change before the day is over!

Right now to describe my state of mind as 'tired' would probably be quite the understatement! Both me and Mark are amazed that we get to the end of the day in one piece. (And by the end of the day I mean about 7.30pm.) Total lightweights? Or are we?

With our brains working overtime getting used to culture, language, climate, constantly meeting new people, learning how everything is done ... and everything else, we knew that this transition would take it's toll on us in the tiredness stakes. It's happened before so we were expecting it again.

On top of that Naomi has never been the best sleeper. There were no surprises then that she has taken longer to settle sleep-wise than we would have chosen but at least we know it is something we can work at (Good Night Sleep Tight) and we are winning the battle! Here she is just a few weeks old sleeping peacefully ... if only that would last!

Abigail, the good sleeper, has been a little less predictable as normal. Instead of seeing her once or twice a month in the night, it's been once or twice a week! Thankfully our bed is huge here and there is enough room for all four of us. As long as the little two don't fidget too much. However I believe they are yet to receive that memo!

Currently we have the extra added bonus that Naomi is in the process of getting her two-year-old molars. One down three to go. Just another reason for her to be noisy and unsettled during the night. She has never been one to teeth gracefully and we're certainly being treated to the same weird and wonderful behaviour as we were first time round.

Added to all that is the fact that we're still not really in a position to feel totally settled as we continue to chase up getting our container here, our visa's are only temporary and the car we're using is borrowed as nothing good seems to be coming available. 

It all requires the brain to work double, triple maybe even quadruple time on less sleep than we're used to, in a climate and at an altitude we're not used ... no wonder we're tired! We're just trying to remember to stay patient in the process!

On the flip-side, we're all really enjoying the bits that we're awake for. Loving the new experiences, the sunshine, the vibrant culture, the new friends of all different nationalities. We just hit our 'wall' of tiredness a lot sooner than we're used to. It's something we're learning that is part of our current 'normal'. Knowing that it is just a season and will come to an end at some point.

Here are just a few of the things that we're looking forward to and we know there will be a day when it will be so. Proper visas, our belongings to be here, all four of Naomi's second molars to be through, sleep-filled nights on a regular basis not just one good night every couple of weeks. 

In the meantime my mantra (and most probably Mark's) will be the same ... Need. More. Sleep. And also in the meantime, you'll find me drinking a little more coffee than I usually do and on occasion, you might find me being cosy in my jeans!!!

Wednesday, June 26

Settling in School

Tomorrow is the last day of term here at Abigail's school, CAMS here in Dodoma. Her last day in the Reception class.

The photo below shows the Early Years Centre (EYC) where the nursery and reception classes are based. The right hand side reception class building is new since I was last living and working here. It's really nice that the younger children have their own little area with separate playground.

Abigail started going to school just 48 hours after we arrived in Dodoma, at her request and has loved everything about it ever since. To the point where, when she really wasn't well one day, she was determined to go into school and still has a clear record with no days absent.

Today Abigail got her first ever school report and as well as listing all her achievements, she was described as being
'A polite and helpful student who always works diligently to complete work to the best of her ability.'
Moving children across the world can be one of the downsides of the missionary lifestyle, you just never know how it's going to go, you can just hope and pray they will be able to adjust and that as a parent you can make it as easy and understandable as possible. Having had a rough couple of months and lots of cranky behaviour between leaving the States and arriving in Tanzania, nothing could have made me and Mark happier than the fact that not only did she want to go straight to school but that she settled in really well and has absolutely thrived on it. Her reading has literally exploded in just a few short months as well as so many other things.

Every morning she has got on the bus at 7.20am and hasn't returned until about 12.20pm, five days a week. They are long hours when you're little and not used to it and I won't lie and say it's always been easy. There have been times when she has been absolutely exhausted (and grouchy) and a couple of days a week has even resumed her afternoon sleep just to cope with it all. 

Abigail's really looking forward to the holidays now ... and for the first time in her short little life has even said she's looking forward to the lie-ins!!! Something else that her mummy and daddy hope to be grateful for! If only she could convince her little sister of the same thing!

Monday, June 24

All Grown Up

Many teachers have the privilege of catching up with past students. They will often go on to teach their siblings or will just see them around ... maybe bump into them at the supermarket or at the local park on a sunny day.

It was certainly something I never imagined was going to be possible for me having done my only teaching, for two years out here in Dodoma. Being back however has changed all that and I have had the opportunity to surprise some of my 'little' kiddies ... who are now all grown up but amazingly still remember me!

Yesterday we were at the school for a farewell to the outgoing Principal and her family. They are from New Zealand and have served here for just over six years. It was another time of memories for me, being part of an event at CAMS (Canon Andrea Mwaka School) ... and I have to admit to feeling quite sentimental.

There was a time of mingling after the main event and who did I manage to catch up with but some former students! ...

They had both been in Standard 7 when I last saw them about 13 years ago. I had taught them French and been on camp with them. They hadn't even started secondary school ... and now look at them, all grown up!

Victoria has just finished her first degree in Gloucestershire in the UK and is now heading off to Paris to do a Masters at the International Fashion Academy. Faizan continued his studies in Dar Es Salaam and then returned to Dodoma and went into business with his uncle. 

It was so great to see how they had both achieved so much in a relatively short period of time, building on their initial education at CAMS. It made me feel proud that I had played a part (albeit very small!) in their lives a long time ago and will now get to be a part of them in a small way  once again. It is definitely one of the perks of returning here to live in Dodoma for a second time!

Friday, June 21

Just Like Everyone Else

It's a common misconception that missionaries or those that work in the church are super spiritual, Holy Joe's with a hotline to our Heavenly Father and the ability to discern much more clearly what God is saying in every situation.

I am here to testify that it really just isn't the case. We're no different from anyone else ... bumbling on with the day-to-day stuff. Whether that be work, bringing up children at home or everything in between.

There is no higher plain of communication that we have reached for both talking and listening to God or for understanding the Bible. We are still surrounded by the same distractions that keep us away from spending time working on our relationship with God. In fact, sometimes it feels like a few more have been thrown in our path to keep our minds on other things!

The truth is that no matter who we are or what path we are walking, as with any friendship, time and effort is involved to deepen a relationship. The decision to put that effort in is up to the individual.

In the last 5 years, moving across the world a couple of times and having two small children, amongst other things, I know that my time nurturing the special relationship, that should really have been given my first priority, has not always been afforded it's rightful place. In fact, sometimes when I have been able to fit it in, it's felt more like a chore than something enjoyable and I'm sure I'm not the only one ... if you're really honest with yourself.

Determined to make a difference, I had a look on Amazon to find a book or two to give me some inspiration and something I could instantly download onto my Kindle rather than paying for postage out here and waiting for weeks to see if it would actually arrive.

It was there that I stumbled upon a Jen Hatmaker book called A Modern Girl's Guide to Bible Study. If you are living in the States you may have heard of her recently, after one of her blog posts went viral, Worst End of School Year Mom Ever. She was even interviewed on the Today Show as a result!

It was SO easy to read. I got through it in just a few days. It is not a theological masterpiece. It is real. It is accessible. It makes you believe that connecting with the Bible and with God isn't as complicated as it can so often appear ... or is made out to be, by many well meaning sermons or books. 

How often do we try to learn about how to do it, rather than roll up our sleeves and actually get down to business? Jen Hatmaker, herself writes ... 
'It is possible to learn a great deal about the Bible while barely spending any personal time connecting with it.'
Her aim is to get you to do just that, to fall in love with the Bible and God, equipping you with the skills that will last a lifetime and while I have to admit I was more than a little skeptical, I was willing to give it a go. At the end of the book is a 'Study Guide' to get you into a groove before embarking on your own private study. 

While I am still working my way through the study guide, I can honestly say my opinion and outlook when it comes to Bible study has changed so much ... and most definitely for the better. I can't wait to engage with another section of it, making it a priority over other things, getting so much more out of it and being amazed at how the time flies when I check my watch. And that's how it should be! 

The book was definitely a good buy and something that if you're stuck in a rut, looking for a different approach or just to be inspired anew in studying the Bible, I can't recommend it enough. It may not work for everyone but it most certainly did for me!

Wednesday, June 19

Beg, Borrow or Steal

We're still playing the waiting game here in Tanzania. For our container, our visas and our car ... believe me if any of those had been resolved you would probably hear the celebrations from all corners of the world!

In the meantime, we are making do ... quite successfully really! We are surrounded by wonderful new friends, who not only made us welcome on our arrival just over four months ago but have also proved to be lifesavers in lending us all manner of things from their pyrex dishes and muffin trays, chairs and duvets, to children's toys ... and even their cars.

While we have no vehicle of our own right now, for the next couple of days at least, we are actually going to be a two-car-family because of the generosity of others. One family have put off selling their car in order to lend it to us and another is on home assignment, having a little baby for a couple months.

We have been so grateful for the use of the smaller car for three of the four months that we've been here. To give us the freedom to come and go as we please, rather than relying on lifts for everything as we had to at the beginning. Now we will have the use of the bigger one and will be able to travel further afield and over much less forgiving terrain which is all too common out here.

Life here in Dodoma, especially among the ex-pat/missionary community, thrives on lending things backwards and forwards. It's just how it is. Everybody arrives here without a lot of the things we take for granted back in our home countries. We all appreciate the comforts that we have left behind and so, for the most part, we make sure we share what we have here. I already have an advance mental list of things to lend people, of items that are in the container once it actually makes it here!

While we haven't been put in a position where we've had to beg for anything, borrowing has become second nature to us.  We have yet to resort to stealing ... however if a car doesn't become available for us to buy over the next couple of months, it might cross our minds to mislay the car keys of the big car we're currently borrowing when it's owners return! (Only joking!!!)

Monday, June 17

Postal Systems

While I have spouted on about my love of snail mail, Abigail especially (but Naomi too) has also caught onto the excitement and specialness of receiving things in the post!

To give you some idea of the postal system for us. Mail gets stamped in Dar Es Salaam when it comes into the country and then gets sent up to Dodoma where it is stamped again. It seems that it isn't a daily service. 

There is no home delivery service (or collection like when we were in Ohio!). To receive mail you need a box at the Post Office. Our letters and packages go to the MAF box which is collected once or twice a week. There is then a wall of 'pigeon holes' in the hangar including a 'Beckwith' one. 

There is absolutely no rhyme or reason as to when or how often post will arrive, so Mark gets to surprise us from time to time with letters ... sometimes a couple of bits or sometimes a whole pile of goodies depending how delayed each step in the system has got and there is often a backlog! It really is a BIG event in grand scheme of things out here to receive anything!

Today we got a nice little pile between us. Abigail was super excited to receive some pictures drawn by Isabelle, a friend now in Australia but who she used to play with every week in Dorset and who was born just two days after her! They are pictured together in the photo below (Abigail on the left) not long before we moved to Ohio and they moved overseas too. They hadn't even celebrated their first birthday's yet! It is hard to imagine this was the last time we saw Isabelle and her family face-to-face ... and now the girls are both almost five years old!

Straight away Abigail has been working on something to send back. It is lovely in the digital world of technology that we now live in, to see someone so little, so excited about both sending and receiving snail mail!

Last month Abigail was lucky enough to receive a parcel from her pre-school in the States, where each and every child in her old class had made her an 'I miss you' card. Those and the lovely letters that her teachers included made me all sentimental and I have to admit that my eyes did a little more than just water! It was such a wonderful gesture and meant so much to Abigail.

I'm glad that so far I'm passing on my love of snail mail to the girls. I have a feeling that living here in Tanzania will just make it mean so much more to them than if we'd stayed living in the UK as post here is just so special!

Friday, June 14

Childhood Fads

I think most parents can appreciate the sentiment when I say my munchkins fill me with both deep joy and never-ending frustrations ... often simultaneously!

One think that can both crack me up and make my blood boil are the little phases they go through.

This is what I'm talking about ... and I don't mean a one off occurrence, I mean a couple of days, weeks or in some cases, even months (I can almost hear some of you nodding along in agreement already) ... things like ...

I want to stay in the bath forever
I don't want to get in the bath
I only want to wear dresses
I only want to wear t-shirts
I just want to read my books and do nothing else
I don't like reading
I can't go anywhere without this toy
I don't like that toy, take it away from me
I want to wear my hair in a ponytail
I don't want anything in my hair
I don't like tomatoes
I only want to eat tomatoes
I don't want to go to bed
I don't want to get out of bed
I really want to play with my sister
I don't want to play with my sister

The list just goes on and on and on!!!

And then of course there are three of my particular favourites ...

No No No No No
Mine Mine Mine Mine Mine
Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

Recently we had an interesting one with Naomi which lasted quite a few weeks, almost to the point when I did begin to wonder if this was a permanent habit, rather than just a phase. She has always been a good eater but she started getting a little bit more picky.

Her little 'fad' was this ... she would only eat yellow things! No I'm not joking! Bread and butter, crisps ('chips' to my US friends), cheese, potato, pasta, pineapple, banana. If it's a food and it's available here in Dodoma and it's yellow, then there is a strong possibility that Naomi was happily munching away at it and nothing else during that period!

It seems that wherever you live in the world your children will go through their little phases. Some are definitely more amusing than others!

Wednesday, June 12

Better Than Eating Out

'Better than eating out'. That's the compliment my hubby gave the burgers we made the other day!  Having lived in the States where there are burgers on the menu EVERYWHERE, that really was saying something! They were delicious, I have to admit ... and all thanks to Jamie Oliver

We've made burgers before but more as a treat than out of necessity, as alternatives were readily available. Here in Dodoma, it is possible in a couple of places to get a burger but they are not worth the few Tanzanian shillings you pay for them. So, homemade (as with so many other things!) really is the only option!

Another quick trawl of the internet and we found a recipe, that when our container finally gets here, will definitely be included in my recipe box! We had to make a few Dodoma-friendly tweaks and only added toppings that are available, including our homemade caramalised onions, then served them in Maria's delicious rolls. The result being ... that they were better than restaurant burgers (and I don't mean McDonalds!), we'll definitely be having them again and we can thoroughly recommend them!

It's such an easy, simple recipe that can be adapted and flavoured according to your own preferences. I will just include the base recipe here ... experiment at will! The mince beef we use isn't the greatest and they're still yummy. Once our container eventually gets here, we'll be grinding our own meat, so I can't wait to see how they turn out then!!

  • 500g minced beef
  • 12 cream crackers
  • 1/2-1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 egg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  1. Wrap the crackers in a tea towel and smash until they are fine
  2. Add all the ingredients (except the olive oil) in a bowl, scrunch and mix everything up well
  3. Divide into 6 and pat and mould into a roundish shape about 2cm thick
  4. Drizzle burgers with olive oil and put on a plate, cover and place in fridge, to firm them up until needed
  5. Place on baking tray in the oven for about 20 mins, turning halfway through (add cheese then if you want it!) ... Jamie grills but we found baking was a great alternative and kept them juicy!

Monday, June 10

Signing Up For Change

Today I want to introduce you to one of the Missionary Mum's that I have had the chance to get to know since we moved to Dodoma. Liz is English and a primary school teacher back at home. Her husband is from South Africa and is one of the MAF pilots based here in Dodoma. They have 3 children, Joel is in Naomi's circle of friends, Ben is in Abigail's class and Esther who is only a little bit older, is another friend that Abigail enjoys playing with! Liz writes her own blog 'Tales from Tanzania' too, all about the adventures her family are having which includes insights of what day-to-day life actually means to all of us here in Tanzania but today she write for me ...

As a starry-eyed newly-wed back in the UK in 2003, I had no idea what I had signed up for, as my new husband and I agreed that we wanted to serve God together. How could I realise back then what kind of an exciting, but at times terrifying, roller-coaster-ride God had planned for us?

At that time, we were living in central London, I was enjoying a full-time teaching job, great social life, wonderful church and was within easy reach of family, I had no idea that within 9 months, Andrew and I would be homeless, jobless and facing an uncertain future in a far-flung country! I had to learn that God is a God of surprises- opening up unforeseen opportunites and leading us on adventures far beyond any I would ever have imagined!

A few months into our marriage, Andrew and I had responded to a call at our London church, St Michael's Chester Square, to commit ourselves to follow God- whatever or wherever He may lead us to. Around the same time, we were praying seriously about a new career path for Andrew, a change from the office jobs that had made up his working life to this point. So it should not have been too big a shock when a MAF magazine plopped through our letterbox "out of the blue"- randomly redirected from an old student address I had once had. Andrew picked it up. He had never heard of MAF, so he was surprised to learn about their ministry. "Look at this" he said, "a way to serve God with a practical career! I think this is something I could do...."

And the rest, as they say, is history!

We left our home and jobs in London and went to South Africa where Andrew trained as a pilot and built up a further 2 years work experience. We moved back to the UK to apply to MAF in 2009, were accepted and moved to Tanzania later that year. This path to serving with MAF has been full of change. In our 9 years of marriage, we have lived in 8 different homes over 3 different countries, gradually adding more family members on the way! We were relieved to "settle" down in Dodoma and enjoy being part of the missionary community with our 3 children.

However, I have discovered that living in one place as a 'Missionary Mum' does not rule out change! Being part of the caring missionary community in Dodoma means that friendships we build often run deep: our friends become like family as we support one another in a foreign culture, far, far away from our actual families. Then, one day, your friends announce that they are leaving - our lovely next-door neighbours moved to Uganda, another family who had become very close to us moved to Sweden, another family to America and another good friend moved on to Kenya ... We cried and we grieved. It seemed unlikely we would see them again. 

God, in His mercy, sent new families here - so we all adjusted, our children have bonded with new friends and as Mums, we enjoy being together with our kids and as families. We are grateful to count Jenny, Mark, Abigail and Naomi as our new friends and were so excited to welcome them here! But now I am conscious that my own time in Tanzania is limited and one day, our family will be the ones to move on, probably to another country, as the need for pilots varies from place to place. More change. It will be painful: it will be scary: in other ways, it will be exciting. The only certainty we can really count on as Missionary Mums with MAF is this fact: Nothing Stays the Same!

For this reason, I am learning the great value of the verse below. Within this life of change that I signed up for all those years ago, there IS one true constant - my Best Friend and my anchor: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever." Hebrews 13 v.8.

Friday, June 7

Little Tweaks

I'm back! As promised the blog looks a little different now ... but to be honest it is essentially the same. Hope you like the changes! (Those of you who get the posts emailed directly to your inbox may not even notice anything different at all!)

Ever since I started this blog I've wanted to put more of a personal stamp on it but wasn't sure if it would last the distance (which I'm very excited to say it has!) and also I just haven't had the opportunity. These last couple of weeks I've enjoyed playing around with all kinds of things to make it look like this and had lots of frustrations too! I have also found lots of other little things that I want to adjust here and there. They will only be little tweaks now that I'm up and running again and you may not even notice them but it is still a work in progress, even if the majority of the work has been done!

I've also been thinking a lot about how life in Tanzania feels quite normal to us now. There are lots of little tweaks and adjustments that we have learned as a family to make over these first few months, allowing a lot of our day-to-day stuff to feel familiar ... although like the blog, life does 'look' totally different out here. 

I thought I'd share just a few of of our little tweaks with you!
  • Before you leave the house, either lather up with sunscreen or bug spray (depending on the time of day/activity you are doing)
  • Freeze Weetabix, crackers and other dry goods for 24 hours after purchase to kill off any weevils before you eat them
  • Remember to keep the water filter topped up at all times ... it's amazing how much water we get through and all the different things you need to use clean water for
  • Don't get frustrated when post (mail) takes weeks to get through/gets returned/doesn't make it at all, just appreciate what does make it when it does arrive
  • As certain things aren't available in the shops, add extra steps to every recipe ... like chopping your own chocolate chips before making Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins
  • Keep your mosquito nets closed at night so no little bugs can come and get you
  • Put the solar powered bedside lights out to charge once a week so that they don't run out of charge and you can read in bed or use them when the power goes out
  • Float your eggs after purchase to check for rotten ones ... they don't come in packaged, dated packs here!
  • However naturally it comes to stick your toothbrush under the tap to wash it out DON'T (I can't count the number of times I have automatically gone to turn the tap on in the morning or last thing at night!)
  • Be content with or without electricity and internet ... sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't ... life goes on!