Wednesday, November 27

Our Little Black Book

When I first met my hubby, he had a 'little black book' which made me a chuckle a lot! It had all his names and addresses in ... not just a list of his ex-girlfriends, as in the past it might have done!! Now we have our own Little Black Book that we use right here in Dodoma. This one is a little different though.

As a white person in Tanzania you are automatically perceived as having great wealth. While there is a small percentage of the population who are wealthy, the truth is, compared to most here we probably do have more money. 

Reconciling that with everyday life isn't always straight forward. We are able to buy more than a lot of nationals, have bigger more comfortable homes, drive around in our own cars ... the list goes on. What we have is minimal to our peers back home ... yet some of our friends here in Tanzania and those we interact with everyday see it as luxury they cannot ever begin to envisage for themselves. Which leaves us living in an in-between world!

It is inevitable when you work somewhere like Dodoma that you will be asked for money ... from beggars on the street, from people who come to your gate or even from people you know, but in that case, usually for a loan. My house Mama was surprised when she learned that our income comes from churches, family, friends and supporters across the world and we don't actually earn big sums of money ourselves!

Yesterday, I surprised a couple of Tanzanian friends when I refused to see a blind man at our gate. Not because I didn't care but because I knew that he would be asking for money and in the last couple of months I had already given him something for various issues. As a family we are happy to help (and often do) but are trying to be careful that we are not the only source of income or become relied upon.

Which brings me to our 'Little Black Book'. We knew in advance that we would be asked for loans and wanted to make sure we are able to assist in a way that was both practical and helpful. Here are a couple of things that we decided and also took advice from others early on ... so there could be no misunderstanding. 
  • In the first 6 months of being here we said 'No' to any loan requests ... we wanted to set a precedent, take time to decide what was best for us and also didn't want to look like a soft touch. 
  • We have set a low maximum limit (which in western terms isn't much but here can go a long way and yet would still be returnable)
  • We always say we will discuss it with each other before agreeing (usually it's me who is approached as I have the Swahili, although sometimes it's Mark!)
  • The person has to have a specific reason/need for the loan
  • They must tell us how and when they will return it
  • The loan is written down in the book and signed for
  • They will not be lent anything more until the loan has been returned in full

It's not rocket science and we haven't lent out to the whole world. The sums of money are minimal (at least in our eyes) and so far the loans have all been honoured. At the same time we have been able to help people in a time of need and make sure that they and their families are looked after ... and it has built trust and relationships too.

If you are planning to move to, or already live in a culture where you will be asked for money on a regular basis ... be ready, set your own boundaries (they might not look like any of ours) ... but make sure you set them. It will cause a lot less stress later on, I can promise you!

Monday, November 25

Early Mornings

Are you a morning person?! Or does that early morning chirpy thing drive you mad ... and find you reaching for the snooze button or the coffee mug?!

The significance of mornings changes over time, situation and it would seem over cultures!

A friend of mine, parent of a 2 year old, recently shared this status on Facebook ...
'As a teenager a good sleep would involve me getting up around mid day. Now I'm grateful if I can get to 8-9am'
Something I can totally relate to. While Abigail slept like a dream as a baby, her little sister hasn't quite followed in her footsteps. A lie-in would be a dream and just chilling with a book without falling asleep after a page or two would be great! I know it's just a 'season' and I'll be dragging the girls out of bed in a few years time. In the meantime I'll try to enjoy them at whatever time of day they greet me!

The girls aside ... here in Dodoma, the early morning call to prayer from the local mosque often wakes me up sometime after 5am. If it doesn't, then as soon as the sun comes up the wildlife definitely makes themselves known (it's as if someone just flicks a switch) ... as does the population of the Dodoma. 

A lot of people here have no electricity, so waking hours are determined by the hours of sunlight. As we're so close to the equator it is between 5.30 and 6.30 morning and evening for sun-up and sun-down all year round. So that is when the day begins!

Once you get into the swing of it, it's not all that bad. Bed-time just shifts earlier to compensate, which is why the 'Missionary Midnight' is universally known as 9pm. Honestly there are nights when 9pm can feel like the early hours of the morning and you feel like such a light-weight when you check your watch to find that back in the 'real world' you would still be going for another couple of hours!

Now we're in the hotter part of the year (although to be fair all year round is hot by UK standards!) I see the benefits of being an early riser. With no air-conditioning or ceiling fans and having to get on with the day-to-day ordinary stuff, the most productive time of day for me is the morning-time ... so extending mornings, even if it is by starting them earlier has got to be a bonus! The afternoon's can often be a total write-off!

There are still mornings when I don't want to get up ... but I don't often get a choice from my cheeky girlies anyway and if I don't get going, there is so much that wouldn't get done. It makes perfect sense to just fit into the local culture and get on with it! This is definitely our season of early mornings!

Thursday, November 14

Marshmallow Pavlova

Cooking out here produces all kinds of culinary challenges ... sourcing items for familiar recipes is something I have shared about already.

When you are on hospitality for people who are gluten-free, dairy-free or vegetarian (or any other combination!) it pushes you one step further, but as per usual, I'm always up for the challenge, to extend the boundaries of my recipe collection one step further! 

Recently we hosted someone who is dairy-free and while I'm happy to serve up the easy fruit salad option for dessert, I wanted to try something new and something that has been on my recipe 'to try' list for years!

As a child I used to LOVE eating pavlova's but was never a fan of the cream on top ... so would just have the meringue and fruit! (For future reference, I'm happy to enjoy it with the cream and anything else on top nowadays!!) It made perfect sense then for me to serve the meringue, cream and fruit in three separate bowls for everyone to take and enjoy the bits they could eat, so that it would work for my dairy-free guest! (When you see 'cream' read 'dream topping' ... real cream is not available here unless you skim off the top of your milk once it's been boiled and slowly collect it!)

A pavlova is not rocket science to make, I have just never got around to trying it. Having done it once (breaking my own, don't try out a new recipe on dinner guests rule!) and finding that it was super delicious in spite of my dodgy oven, we've enjoyed it a few more times since!

I'm a big fan of the Australian Women's Weekly Recipe Books. The recipes always seem to work first time and so far we haven't been disappointed by any I've tried. I have their Cheesecakes, Pavlovas and Trifles mini book ... and opted to try their 'Marshmallow Pavlova' recipe as opposed the classic one and it was SSSSOOOOOOO good ... the photo above is really a pavlova that we made and ate! Yum ... so here it is, as I have since promised several dinner guests the recipe!
  • 4 eggs whites
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1T cornflour
  • 1t white vinegar
  • cream/dream topping equivalent
  • fruit/chocolate shavings ... whatever topping you want
  1. Beat eggs whites in a small bowl (an electric mixer makes the process a LOT quicker and easier!) until soft peaks form.
  2. Gradually add sugar, beating until dissolved after additions.
  3. Fold in cornflour and vinegar.
  4. Line baking tray with baking paper and spread meringue in a circle. For best results do not squash or flatten but shape side up and in towards the centre like a mound. Make furrows up the side of the meringue using a small spatula and level the top.
  5. Bake in a very slow over for about 1 1/4 hours or until dry, Turn oven off and leave in while the oven cools, (My dodgy oven only needs about half an hours cooking!!!)
  6. Top with cream and whatever other yumminess you want!

Sunday, November 10

What DO you do?

Recently I have been asked several times what exactly I do out here in Tanzania. We're with MAF. Mark fixes the planes. So how do I spend my time?

I have been asked via email by people we don't know but who follow our news. I have been asked by friends that I used to hang out with while we lived in the States. I was even asked by new friends out here who don't live on our side of town. 

I think the assumption is that I don't do very much ... maybe just shop for food, cook it and look after the kids. I don't even have to clean as we have a Mama who comes in to do that. One lady here in Dodoma asked me if I was bored or lonely living on a compound with only one other family. Yeah right!!

I used to think much the same when I lived here before, that the MAF wives were 'busy doing nothing'! Just this last week I've had several different people asking me to do things for them and while I always try to help out, I've had to say no ... I just don't have the time at the moment!

I've shared before what I get up to out here for MAF and within the family in general terms. But I thought it would be interesting just to list what I have been doing, both for myself and for those of you who were wondering, what exactly it is that I do do out here! None of it is mind-blowing, none of it is particularly difficult, none of it is that different to what any other mum out here (or back home for that matter!) would do in a normal week ... it is just the nitty gritty of my life!

So here goes, just some of the things I have got up to over the last 8 days ...
  • Shopping trip to the market
  • Written a couple of cards to friends
  • Played jigsaws and board games with the kids
  • Watched a couple of movies and a few episodes of different TV series on DVD
  • Went to church
  • Did hospitality 4 times, twice because we had to for MAF and twice because we chose to
  • Went swimming twice (once on my own, once with the family)
  • Spent a couple of hours at the school taking photos and started editing them
  • Shopping to some of the duka's
  • Compiling the MAF Tz programme weekly news bulletin
  • Kept up to date with emails (ish!)
  • Had a Skype call/meeting with the current MMS Apprentice Wives group
  • Did four lots of exercise
  • Taught Naomi to play snap
  • 5 loads of washing
  • Fell asleep reading my book every night!!
  • Wrote the agenda for a meeting, took notes in the meeting (which took place in the compound of a local mosque), wrote up the minutes
  • Went out for lunch once
  • Did the school run on the MAF bus three times
  • Tried a couple of new recipes
  • Listened to Abigail doing her daily reading for school
  • Updated 2 different Facebook pages
  • Arranged and supervised a couple of playdates
  • Baked for and co-hosted a staff prayer meeting at our house
  • Caught up with some friends
  • Updated three pages on the school website
  • Went to a Bible Study
  • Had one afternoon siesta
  • Learnt some new Swahili words
  • Arranged a couple of meetings for over the next few weeks
  • Started our online Christmas shopping

You might be under the impression that life is very different out here as a missionary but so much of it is just 'normal' everyday, mum stuff (just in a different setting, climate and sometimes a different language!) ... sorry if I have shattered any illusions you might have but this is a snapshot of the reality!!

Wednesday, November 6

The Best Thing

This month's guest post is from another missionary mum and MAF wife, Sarah Newnham, living in East Africa (like me!), but this time in Kampala, Uganda. Sarah and her husband, also Mark, went through the MMS programme in Ohio just like we did and have already completed the required 8 years service with MAF following that. I'm pleased to say they have chosen to continue their service with MAF. We had the chance to meet them/hang out with them/pick their brains (!!) with their eldest 2 children a few years ago when they revisited the MMS programme. Today she shares some thoughts living on the mission field both as a child herself and as a mother. You can read their family blog here.

I am a Missionary Mum but I am also an MK (missionary kid). I think we are often misunderstood and no one fully understands where we are coming from, except other MK’s. One thing that can usually be said about us is that we grow up with transition and the feeling that no one place is quite ‘home’. At the age of 22, I had lived in around 30 houses.

So in 2000, just a year after getting married, when Mark & I began our journey into missions I think I envisaged that life would continue to be one of transitions. That was OK. I enjoyed going to new places, meeting new people and travelling and after all, the other name for MAF is ‘Move Again Friend’! 

We lived in Ohio, USA for three years while Mark trained as an aircraft engineer and we then began serving with MAF in Uganda in 2005. I really thought that after a few years we would be moving on to a new location, but here we are eight years later, still living in Uganda. 

Why? The simple answer is that this is where God wants us to be and we don’t yet feel he is asking us to move. However, there are several reasons and this lack of transition has not always been easy for me to deal with. I am an MK/third culture kid after all … moving is what I am good at. The thought of moving home, particularly to another country, may fill most of you with fear and anxiety but I find it quite exciting. 

Several years ago, we were offered the opportunity to move. I would have loved to go, as the post on offer would have taken us to the country where my parents were serving as missionaries. How wonderful it would be to live near my mum and dad but Mark was not ready for all the new role would entail. How I willed it to be different and yet, deep down I knew I had to accept what was best for Mark. He needed to gain more experience here in Uganda. 

One of the best things that has come out of living in Uganda is that this is where two of our children come from. Mark & I were unable to have our own children and God blessed us with two amazing children that we have adopted here. Amy & Joshua are now 7 and 6 years old. Just last year we had a biological child, Abigail. They are each miracles in their own way but that is another whole story in itself! 

While I cope well with transition, we have one child in particular who does not. I may struggle to think of anywhere as ‘home’ but this is most definitely ‘home’ for Amy & Joshua. Uganda is the country they come from, the only place they have ever lived and it has become clear to us how important it is for them in building their identity that they know something of this beautiful country and culture for themselves. They are one of the reasons we have not moved on. 

There are times that it seems like a sacrifice for me to stay in one place but I realise that God is doing it for a couple of reasons ... 

It is the best thing for my whole family right now. As a mum, I want what is best for my children and right now that is stability. God wants what is best for us and a happy/well adjusted family will last far longer on the mission field. 

It is the best thing for me. I have realised that it is tough staying in one place. It is simply easier for me to be the one who moves on to new places and challenges but staying put and being the one left behind is hard for me. I have had to say many good byes to close friends and colleagues this year. I still grieve at times but God wants me to grow in this area of trusting him when I am the one left behind. The experience is drawing me closer to the One who remains the same and is always there, Jesus, and I am thankful for this season of my life in which God is teaching me to make transitions, in terms of building new friendships and finding new things to do even when I am still in the same location.

Friday, November 1

Something New

Living within a smaller community of people in a culture that's different from that which you're used to, means that you get to know each other quite well reasonably quickly. 

People come and people go ... yes, even though we've only been here 8 months we've seen many people and families in both categories. But in some respects we're still getting to know a lot of them as we're relatively new out here!

Here are some of my 'new' friends. They are from all over the world ... New Zealand, Australia, Holland, Switzerland, South Africa, England!

It never ceases to amaze me when I begin to think that I know someone reasonably well and then find something unexpected about them or their family, both here and amongst friends I've known for years. Like last week when I found out that as a child one of my friends tied a sibling to a telegraph pole for a couple of hours. Or last month when the husband of another friend said that on their first date she had told him up front that she most definitely never wanted children, they're now happily married with four children and she is broody for more!

There is always an opportunity to learn new things about people. Even when you have known someone for years there is always something new to discover. Just last weekend I discovered that my husband who I have seen almost every day since we first met back in September 2005, 8 years ago, can be quite particular when it comes to washing up ... what made me laugh was that it was something that I am also quite particular about too!!

I love the chance we have to get to know people from all over the world, being based in Dodoma, getting to know not only something of them but also of their cultures too. As I said because of the nature of life here, you get to know people quicker and deeper. It's definitely one of the bonuses when you give up so many other things to live and work in a missionary context ... making the effort to spend time and get to know people is well worth it and also because on another level they become your support and your family!