Thursday, October 16

Going Through the Motions

For the last month or so I feel like we have all just been going through the motions in many respects.

SSSOOOO much has been going on. Sorting through all our stuff, giving things away, selling other things, packing what's left, organising shipping, saying goodbyes, visiting special places for the last time, making sure we get a break, keeping the girls sane during a huge transition, keeping in touch with contacts to ensure accommodation on arrival, travelling for several days to reach our destination, contacting schools and real estate agents to ensure a smooth transition at the other end ... the list goes on.

In the midst of it all, I was unwell and not strong enough to do half of what I had anticipated on any given day too which was very frustrating. But with time ticking there was not really a 'pause' option and so on occasion, it really was a case of going through the motions, to ensure that we could make the move we have just done from Dodoma, Tanzania to Queensland, Australia.

Sometimes, it was a case of just getting through the day, shower, morning school run, food, packing, food, afternoon school run, packing, food, bed. Automatic pilot kicked in and the essentials were done. Familiarity in the mundane daily routines was almost comforting and the limit of what any of us could deal with.

Some days it was easier to just go through the motions and not have to think about the implications at the end, the task seemed too enormous, so to focus on the job in hand with blinkers on was much, much easier.

At other times, knowing that we would be saying goodbye to such a special time in our lives and to people that we wouldn't see again this side of heaven was also too huge to contemplate. Taking the practical things one step at a time in order to achieve all that had to be done and leaving the other 'messy' bits to cope with later down the line seemed the most sensible thing to do.

Fast forward a few weeks and the packing/sorting/painful goodbyes of Dodoma (above) are over and here we are in Australia. We knew we would need the energy and refreshing of a few days at the beach beforehand and although tired and jet-lagged, the journey here went like clockwork, the girls loved it all and every piece of luggage arrived with no problems.

Knowing that the familiarity of routine would be comforting, in spite of us all still being incredibly tired having arrived on Friday, Monday morning we started to visit schools in an attempt to get us settled as soon as possible. The staff at one school couldn't believe that we were launching ourselves in so quickly! In some ways though, it's still part of that automatic pilot we had learned so well at the end of our time in Tanzania, of going through the motions, not because we wanted to but because we had to for our long term sanity.

While I won't go into the details, later on that same day we ended up spending 8 hours in 2 different hospitals and leaving my husband behind, hooked up to machines, when it got so late the girls needed to be in bed. In order to keep even the faintest semblance of normal, I had to kick up that automatic pilot mode into hyperdrive and get into a rhythm at the barely functioning level to keep us ticking over.

While Mark was home by the next morning which was a huge relief even though he was still very sick, I had now become mother and nursemaid, in a culture that was different to us (especially after living in Tanzania for 2 years!), in a town we aren't familiar with, in a cramped temporary home, driving around in an old temperamental car I'm not used to, without a network of family and friends, still jet-lagged, keeping family and supporters updated ... and trying to keep things feeling normal for the girls!

A few days on, and now Mark is a lot brighter, things are more familiar and we've had a good couple of nights sleep ... I can finally take off my blinkers and breathe once again! It was like I was just holding my breath and ploughing through. We may not be in our own house amongst our own things yet but life has kicked into a gentler, more relaxed, temporary normal.

It's not how we'd planned things to go and after all the goodbye's etc in Tanzania. It's definitely not something that I would have said I would have been ready to deal with ... but it has happened and we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now I can take myself off 'automatic pilot' and reset to 'manual' ... and instead of spending my time just going through the motions, I can start to live every minute once again.

Sometimes our big adventure as a family is exactly that ... a big adventure. Sometimes, it's a roller-coaster I would gladly get off and trade for something really mundane. Just because we're missionaries and according to some "we've signed up for this kind of thing", doesn't make it any easier at all! I'm grateful for all the experiences that we've been having on our journey so far but right at this moment I honestly can't wait for us to be settled for a little while, so everything that has happened in the last few months can properly catch up with us!

Tuesday, September 9

Leaving ...

Leaving somewhere special is never easy ... especially when there are so many happy memories in a place. I love the adventure of going somewhere new, but closing the previous chapter of my life is not something that I ever enjoy.

With just a few weeks left here in Dodoma, both my husband and I have noticed our brains start processing the fact that we're leaving ... and we've started viewing the place a little differently.

We all absolutely love living here but there is a lot about being in Dodoma that is difficult. It is stuff that you take for granted in the daily routines and don't even really notice (or try not to, anyway!) ... but when you know you're on the way out, it's almost a feeling of relief, that you know these frustrating elements are soon to be over. Maybe it's a form of self-preservation, in anticipation of the pain of saying goodbye that will inevitably come but it certainly takes the edge off, that's for sure!

Before I make a list, I want to be clear, there is WAY more stuff that I will miss about living here, than the things that bug me, but it is what it is!

There is no particular order to these and they are just my own observations but I won't lie, I won't be missing these things once we've moved next month!

  • Sleeping under a mosquito net
  • Never knowing if what you want to buy will be in the local shops from one week to the next
  • Grit in the rice, beans and sugar
  • The majority of life happening in another language, so you only ever get bits and pieces about what's going on
  • Living, working, socialising and going to church with the same group of people
  • Having to put use bug spray, on a regular basis
  • Driving for a whole day to go to real shops and restaurants (no offense to Dodoma!)
  • Never fully understanding the culture
  • The toilet paper that shreds and disintegrates mid-wipe, every wipe!!
  • Having total strangers come up and touch the girls hair, saying 'Baby' in a weird high-pitched voice
  • Wondering whether post will reach it's destination or if you'll actually receive what you're expecting to
  • The extreme poverty right on your doorstep
  • Sticking out like a sore thumb as a white person amongst a whole load of Tanzanians
  • There is nowhere to go in and around town, like parks/museums/shops, which can make it feel very monotonous
  • The corruption within straightforward processes that we would usually consider trustworthy, like police, tax, immigration etc
  • Lack of a variety of fresh vegetables, just carrots, tomatoes, green peppers and bullet-consistency peas!
  • No reliable healthcare and the underlying stress whenever you or more importantly your children are under the weather
  • The crazy bus drivers and general lack of observance of any of the rules of the road
  • Ordering food in a restaurant and waiting an hour or two for it to be served
  • The dust which is everywhere and gets everywhere

Friday, September 5

Expect the Unexpected

One thing I have learnt (and am continuing to learn) is to expect the unexpected ... especially as a mum. Little people have the habit of catching us off guard and pushing our boundaries in all different directions.

When I started this blog, I expected to be able to write regularly every week and yet my last post was about 5 months ago. I also totally missed the 3rd anniversary of 'The Missionary Mum' last month. (My apologies to those of you who have been missing the regular updates, I think I'm back, but who knows!)

From my experience, taking the step to commit yourself to God and following the path he has for you, is more often than not, filled with the unexpected. 

We can have all our own plans and agendas carefully laid out but when God, who can see the bigger picture, is in control, it rarely works out how we expect.

When I decided that working in missions was my way forward and enrolled at All Nations, I expected to go onto the mission field as a single woman. Within two weeks of term starting, I had met Mark and now we are a family of four!

When we were looking at which mission organisation to join, we expected to work in a developing country but then went on to spend three years in the States.

When we got here to Tanzania, we expected to be in Dodoma for eight years. However, our programme was closed a few months ago ... and now less than two years later, we're just about to move to Australia (another First World country)!

These are just a few of the bigger examples of where God's plans have been completely different to mine and there are countless others that I could share from my own experience and those of my friends. 

While I think that I have a really good idea of what is best for me, so far God has always surprised me and come up with something different. I can honestly say that each time my plans have been changed (and that's happened a lot!), God's alternative has been amazing. Well, of course it has, he knows what's best for me!

It doesn't mean that it has been easy. In fact, on many occasions it has been more than a little uncomfortable. Embarrassingly too, learning one time doesn't mean it has made it any easier the next either. 

The path has been prepared for me though and I plan to continue walking in it ... the next, 'unexpected' is always just around the corner!

Monday, March 31

Being English

At the end of last year I read a book that opened my eyes, made me laugh (many times) ... and made me understand a little bit more about why I think the way I do! I can't even count the number of times that I wanted to read Mark extracts from it!

Are you English? Are you English and work with people from other cultures? Do you know anyone who is English? Then I can't recommend this book enough. It was suggested to me by an American friend who is married to someone English and I even think it was something that was mentioned as helpful to look at when we were at All Nations, for those living cross-culturally.

Anyway ... it is called Watching the English, it was written by an English anthropologist, who has spent a lot of time living in different cultures throughout her life. She was able to analyse the English culture, while also having an insiders view! Hilariously insightful and sometimes painfully accurate! Making me question why on earth we do some things and giving me an understanding why other things seem 'normal' to us and downright weird to others!

From pub-culture, to queueing, to how the different classes spend their money on weddings ... and of course the magical powers of a simple cup of tea, Kate Fox analyses and sometimes uses behaviour that is counter-culture just to test peoples reactions! 

Below are just a few of the extracts that put a smile on my face ...
"My queue-jumping experiments were the most difficult and distasteful and upsetting of all the rule-breaking field-experiments I conducted during the research for this book ... just the thought of queue-jumping was so horribly embarrassing that I very nearly abandoned the whole project rather than subject myself to such an ordeal."
"... when you examine English queues under a social-science microscope, you find that each one is a little mini-drama - not just an entertaining 'comedy of manners', but a real human-interest story, full of intrigue and scheming, intense moral dilemmas, honour and altruism, shifting alliances, shame and face-saving, anger and reconciliation." 
"Tea is still believed, by English people of all classes, to have miraculous properties. A cup of tea can cure, or at least significantly alleviate, almost all minor physical ailments and indispositions, from a headache to a scraped knee. Tea is also an essential remedy for all social and psychological ills, from a bruised ego to the trauma of a divorce or bereavement. This magical drink can be used equally effectively as a sedative or stimulant, to calm and soothe or to revive and invigorate. Whatever your mental or physical state, what you need is 'a nice cup of tea'" 
This last week I've had a couple of conversations about it with some other Brit friends ... hoping it can make you smile to!

Friday, March 21

Being Different

Today's post is a guest blog from one of my missionary mum friends, Joni Versteeg. I met Joni, her husband, Eduard, and their two oldest children (of which one was a new born at the time!) at All Nations, we were in the same Tutor Group. They are from Holland and are currently serving with International Teams in Albania. Joni was a missionary kid herself before becoming a missionary mum and so has a great understanding of living life, being 'different' in a new culture.

You may not know this, but if you are a missionary mom like me, you are green. 

I can’t stop thinking about the face of the lady in the bakery down the street. Every time she sees me walk towards the shop, she get’s this scared, worried look on her face. I know I can’t put words into her mouth, but I can almost hear her think…"Oh no, here she comes again. Why does this woman always buy 5 loaves of bread? It will definitely cause a cue and it makes me stressed. Doesn’t she know that all normal people just buy one loaf at the time?"

We are different ...

As an MK (Missionary Kid) I can remember wanting to just blend in especially during furlough. I didn’t want to be different, I didn’t want to stand out, I wanted to be NORMAL.  

It brings a smile to my face when I think about that day in the village. I can’t quite remember what we were celebrating, but we had a party and of course people were dancing, because after all what is an Albanian party without dancing?! I was so proud of myself for joining in. I was the only foreigner among them and I thought I was doing so well. I got all the steps down and was able to keep up. Until at one point the guy next to me looks at me and says; ‘It doesn’t matter Joni, you’ll learn …’  

We are different …

Eduard does the dishes and looks after the kids when I am out of the house. I drive the car to and from the village (I remember the time when all the boys came and watched me turn the car around). Our kids don’t go to the local school …

We are different … 

We do try to fit in in the Albanian culture as well as we can. The greatest compliment they can give me is that they think I’m Albanian (they usually think I’m an Albanian who has lived outside of the country for a while, because of my accent). To be honest I think most of our Albanian friends would agree that we fit in pretty well. We can speak the language, we do the traditional visits and we know that we are supposed to wish them a happy wedding for their kids as we raise our glass. 

But even so, in the end we are different. 

We are green. Let’s say our home culture represents the colour blue and the hosting culture represents the colour yellow. What do you get when those two meet? That’s right: A whole different colour, a whole different ‘normal’: green. 

My prayer is that the people around us can see past the cultural differences and that they can see that there is something else that is different about us. If you read Ephesians 4:20 in Dutch, it says: but you are different, you have gotten to know Christ! I love that kind of different! I’m so happy that different can be positive.

Friday, March 14

Absolutely Fuming

Sometimes things go smoothly, sometimes they don't. Every day, people go through different circumstances and we all cope with them in different ways. Often we have no idea of the extent of those in the lives of others just like they often don't know what's going on in ours!

The greetings we use every day make me laugh. "How are you?", with the standard responses being "Fine" or "Good thanks". It's the same here in Tanzania, when you greet (which you do during the first 5 minutes of every conversation!) in Kiswahili the response is either "Nzuri" or "Salama" ... basically "Good"!

Recently I was talking with a friend about this quote (below) that has been floating about on and off on Facebook for the last few months. How true it is ... but how easy is it to "Be kind. Always."?

Earlier this week I had a conversation with someone, first thing in the morning and without even giving me a chance to say 'Hello', they more-than-ranted about something that wasn't even any business of theirs and made me feel awful, really wound up and frustrated. 

I would like to say that I was the perfect Christian missionary wife and mum, forgiving and understanding. Quick with a word of encouragement. But I'm only human! I had to drive across town straight afterwards and would be lying if I didn't say I was absolutely fuming the whole way there and the whole back! In fact, I'm surprised that there wasn't smoke coming out of my ears, I really was THAT mad!

Remembering the quote above. I took time to consider all that the person in question is going through at the moment. While I don't condone their behaviour, I understood a little bit why they acted the way they did. I also came to the conclusion that anger breeds anger ... they had made me mad after all. Forgiveness and understanding would be a much better reaction (requiring super-human powers) and besides I wasn't going to let them ruin my day.

Just because people are Christians doesn't make them perfect. I know those looking in on the Christian community are often quick to criticise when people they expect to act without fault, mess up ... or just 'act human'! We're all a work in progress and sometimes it is harder to react in a godly way than others ... but in the meantime just remember, everyone is fighting a battle you may never even know about, don't be quick to judge (or fume), be kind.

Friday, March 7

Friends, Old and New

Yesterday I had the chance to have a good laugh with two very different sets of ladies!

In the afternoon I had arranged to visited Jane (middle in the photo below), who used to be my classroom assistant, when I was the Standard One teacher at CAMS. She hasn't been very well over the last year or so and we've had trouble meeting up but finally we managed to work something out.

The other two ladies in the photo, Esta (left) and Rose (right) are still on the staff at CAMS. Esta has been the school secretary for 25 years and taught me my Swahili when I was teaching here! Rose has been teaching in the Nursery for a long time too and has been really looking forward to having Naomi in her class for the next academic year (which may or may not happen now!)!

Getting together with these three special ladies for an hour or two yesterday was a lot of giggles from the start. Picking up Esta and Rose to drive to Jane's house and both of them getting me lost was just the start of the fun! Catching up and sharing photos, them all telling me I needed to be more Tanzanian and have more babies and so the list goes on!

Earlier the same day I was having more giggles with two other very different ladies in my car ... however this was much more unexpected!

I got stopped by the police on my way through town. You never know what the police here are looking for or how they are going to try and catch you out, usually for some kind of payment, so as I pulled over I was trying to imagine what it was going to be this time! They are usually very businesslike and quite severe!

The policewoman who pulled me over took her time ambling up to my passenger window, so I thought I'd get my licence out ready for checking. When I looked up, a second police woman had appeared at the drivers window making me jump out of my skin and both of us burst out laughing! 

Without any questioning whatsoever, both ladies then asked me for a lift to the other side of town, where I was going anyway, so I let them hop in. They fell in love with Naomi straight away and spent the whole journey in a mixture of Swahili and English (or Sw-inglish!) commenting on how well fed and healthy she looked, asking if I gave her vitamins and when I said no, just fruit and vegetables, asking me what type and how many times a day. They were really determined to get as much information out of me as possible in the space of the short journey!

It was so funny, so unexpected and so totally random that we all found ourselves giggling away and once we left them on their way, Naomi kept referring to them as "Mummy's New Friends"!! I think if we get stopped by these two again, we will only have friendly faces at the window to greet us! 

Experiences like that are part of the highlights and quirks of everyday life, living here! Part of the adventure that we're on as family ... and so totally unlike living anywhere else we've been so far!

Monday, March 3

Visiting "Home"!

"Home" has changed for us over the last few years, Dorset, Ohio, Dodoma (the next place is yet to be determined!) ... different places, different continents, different cultures. We try to make wherever we are living, home. A place of comfort, escape, security, family.

We also have our home country and home culture. For most of the family it's England, although for Abigail, she only lived there for one year. Technically Naomi's home country is America, as she's never lived in England but realistically she won't remember living in either places!

In fact, for the foreseeable future the only time we will be "Home" is when we are on Home Assignment, travelling backwards and forwards, visiting friends and supporters, speaking at different churches ... it's not really home. We enjoy seeing everyone, we enjoy eating home comforts, we enjoy visiting familiar places but to be honest, we also enjoy the end when we can return and relax!

At the moment, it has been over a year since we've been "Home" to the UK. During this time of waiting on our future, with the changes in MAF Tanzania, we don't know when exactly that might come either. Whenever it is though, it will be a BIG undertaking.

Earlier today I read an amazingly honest post about the dreaded Home Assignment time ... The Naked Truth About Deputation: Can You See Through My Eyes? If you are going on deputation, or are welcoming someone back on deputation from working overseas, please take a few minutes to read this. It really does feel like this writer describes to the family who is travelling around visiting. When people view it as a break, as a holiday, as a time away from work ... think again!

Wednesday, February 26

Special Occasions!

Here in Dodoma, it is often the case that if you see something in a local shop and you like it, you buy it. Why? Because it very well may not be there again any time soon ... if ever! It can be very disappointing when you go back another time and it's not there anymore. It's a lesson you learn early on! 

You can work up quite a stash! We have had several things in our pantry that fit that category. That have been saved to only come out on a special occasion! Nutella, dried apricots, puff pastry, chorizo, white cooking chocolate, marshmallows, raisins ... the list goes on!

However things change and now we're faced with eating our way through all these treats and making every occasion a special one for the time being!

Last week, we cracked open the puff pastry and I made a Minced Beef Wellington! Yum! It felt very indulgent, which just shows how differently we value things living here!

Here's the recipe I used, tweaked to what I can get hold of here! ... (serves 4-6)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 potato
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 large mushrooms
  • olive oil
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • big handful of frozen peas
  • 1 large egg
  • 500g minced beef
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • plain flour for dusting
  • 500g puff pastry, chilled
  1. Preheat oven - 180/350/GM4
  2. Peel, chop and dice vegetables (1cm) and grate/mince garlic
  3. Put oil in a large pan, add rosemary leaves and add veg - fry for approx 8 mins until soft
  4. Add peas & cook for another minute, then cool
  5. Beat egg and add half to the mixture and mince, salt & pepper
  6. Scrunch up and mix well together by hand
  7. Dust surface, roll out pastry to tea towel size
  8. Put mixture along long edge in a sausage shape
  9. Brush edge of pastry with beaten egg and roll until covered
  10. Dust baking tray with flour, place Wellington on the tray and brush with beaten egg
  11. Bake for an hour until golden

Friday, February 14

Crazy Life

Today, I have this month's guest post. I have known this missionary mum since 2005 and have lots of fun and happy memories hanging out with her, when we were both single gals with a heart for mission! She met her husband in the same place as I did and is living on the same continent as I am right now. Given the sensitive nature of her families work with Reach Across, working amongst the Muslim community and for 28 Too Many that is as detailed as I am able to get. She has a gorgeous little daughter (see below) and as of last week a brand new son too! Today she writes for me (during a time of uncertainty for us) about a time of uncertainty that her family have had to work through over the last couple years.

Almost exactly a year ago we were evacuated from our country. We were ordered to leave when the political situation meant that foreign nationals were perceived to be at high risk of kidnapping and being caught in any potential conflict.

We had arrived for our first term as missionaries only 4 months earlier with our then 7 month old. We had started language acquisition, getting to know neighbours, culture, house decorating, getting furniture ... all the usual stuff you do when you move somewhere new. I was so excited to finally be where I thought would be "home". I had waited a long time for this. This was where we would be for a good many years, where our kids would grow up, where we would make a life as a family.

It was a roller coaster ride leaving under such stressful circumstances, not knowing for how long, or if we would ever be able to return. The good road out of the country was deemed off limits as it was too close to a 'high-risk' area so we did a 24 hour detour which involved a night on a church floor and some pretty hairy terrain (that was the most fun in those crazy days of packing and travelling to our temporary home in the neighbouring country, especially as I was driving the roughest bit!).

So we eventually arrived at our temporary home and were stuck in limbo for about 5 months. It was a pretty difficult time emotionally and spiritually. The relentless mosquitos were also pretty annoying but the location was nice and at times I was able to really enjoy that aspect of our situation.

Disappointed? Confused? Angry? Frustrated? Lost? You name the emotion, I am pretty sure I felt it.

I couldn't understand why we were going through all this. We had worked so hard to get there. Bible school, learning French (our bridge language), raising the money to go. We had felt all along that it was God's will and he had made it all pretty straightforward even easy at times. So what was this all about? And what about my little girl? This surely couldn't be good for her. As a new Mum I was new to the feelings of utter responsibility for a little person and wanted to do all I could to protect her.

So things seemed pretty bleak at times to be honest. I was really unhappy and felt guilty for not being able to do the ministry we were being supported to do as well as all the other issues I have touched upon.

We returned to our country (not our town yet) in June and have settled in the city for a while, mostly because baby number 2 will be arriving very soon!

The first few weeks were strange and I came to realise that since the evacuation I had been super protective over our daughter, which I also realised was more for me than for her! I had had zero control over most things in my life for so long that the only thing I could control was her routine. This is not very African! So I told myself to suck it up and start embracing life here the way I had planned. Being flexible and as African as possible. Life is short and was not going to be fun if I put limits on our life in that way. Good decision!

So what's happening now? Well, as I said it's one year on. A lot has changed. I have changed. We have changed as a family. I have learnt a lot and been reminded of many things I learnt at Bible school which I know will help me in the long term and I hope will enable me to support others who go through similar situations in the future. 

The life of a missionary can be stressful and a very steep learning curve (and wonderful!!)

The life of a mum can be stressful and a very steep learning curve (and wonderful!!)

The life of a wife can be stressful and a very steep learning curve (and wonderful!!)

We live in constant transition.

Home is not necessarily one physical place. It IS one spiritual place.

Expect the unexpected.

Kids are way more resilient than we give them credit for!

Hold on to material things lightly. It's great to make your house a home, but we have to recognise that it may not be home for as long as we hope or expect.

Our plans don't always work out the way we expect. God has really surprised me in how he has used our time in the big city to be really useful despite it seemingly slowing down all our other plans.

There are a ton of other things I could write and even more that I'm sure will come to me later but I hope this may be of use to someone in a similar situation at some point.

It's a crazy life we lead. But I know I wouldn't change it for the world.

Friday, February 7

Still Processing ...

For those of you who read this regularly, you may have noticed I have gone a bit quieter than usual.

Last week we had some BIG news that ultimately changes the role of MAF here in Tanzania and won't require the services of the Beckwith family (and many others) to continue. The impact of this for us and those we live and work with is HUGE and as a result there is a lot to think about.

Most (but not all) of the MAF Dodoma team

When we came to Dodoma, we had expected to spend 8 years here (our minimum commitment to MAF). We prepared with that in mind. We invested a lot of time, effort and money with that focus before we came and have tried to settle well with a long term goal in mind. Now it feels like we have been thrown a real curve ball and it's taking a while for full impact of that to sink in.

One verse that has meant a lot to us as a family this week is from Proverbs 16:9 "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." Sometimes these two things are more different than we can imagine. We were thorough in our preparations, we had the roller-coaster of releasing our container, the even longer wait to get a car and while we've enjoyed life since we set foot in Tanzania, to be fair, we only just got to the really happy balanced, things are ticking along quite nicely phase in the last couple of months. Clearly God has other ideas for our future though!

Later this month we will celebrate our first (and what we now know, will be our only) anniversary here in Tanzania as a family. We may have only been here a year but with the long term goal in mind we have also invested heavily emotionally in what we had thought would be the home for us for the foreseeable future and so it is heartbreaking to think that we won't be here to celebrate any more anniversaries.

We are not bitter or angry about the situation, we totally agree with the decisions that the management of MAF have been making with regards to the programme and it is tough for everyone involved from top to bottom that this is the situation. 

While moving internationally again was most definitely not on my 'To Do' list again for this year, it is there on my list nonetheless ... and so already while there is nothing set in stone yet, we have much to get our heads around. On the plus side, it has been a privilege for me to have been able to share my beloved Dodoma with Mark and the girls for a considerable amount of time. Now the memories we have will be those we have made together and not just my own stories from long ago!

Right now though the emotions are still fresh and they come in waves, some are easier to ride than others. There are also so many questions that are occupying whatever brain power I have left from normal family life here in Tanzania ... here are just a few ...

  • Which MAF programme will we go to now?
  • When will we go?
  • How will we go?
  • What will we take with us?
  • How will we take it with us?
  • What should I give away?
  • Who should I give it to?
  • Will we fit in home assignment that we were due later this year?
  • Will Abigail finish the school year here?
  • Where do we want to visit in Tanzania before we leave?
  • When can we do that?
  • What will happen to the other MAF staff?
  • Will my house mama find work elsewhere?
  • What about the friends we will all leave behind?
  • ...
So, while I take my time to wade through the endless possible answers to each question, start working on the details of the bits I am able to ... and just work up the energy and enthusiasm to move again (something which I only just feel like I'm beginning to recover from, from last time!) ... I may be a little quieter than normal. 

I'm still here ... but for now I'm still processing!

Thursday, January 30

Magazines and Whoopie Pies

Have you read a magazine recently? Even just flicked through one in a shop?

It may sound strange to those living in the 'West' but reading a magazine is considered a real luxury here in this part of the world, where they are either completely unavailable or wildly expensive! So much so, that they get passed from person to person to person in the ex-pat community and you often find yourself reading magazines that are a year or two old!

If some of my friends walk into my house and spy a magazine, their eyes light up and they always have a quick flick through, ask if I have read it yet ... and of course, if they can borrow it! So as an aside, if you have friends who are missionaries in more remote locations and you have an old magazine sat around, you may just think of sticking it into an envelope and sending it to them. It may be expensive to post but I can guarantee you it will be read by a whole community!

One that we had passed onto us a couple of weeks ago, had a recipe page that immediately caught the eyes of both my girls, Whoopie Pies! Being the lovely mummy that I am, I promised that during the Christmas break we would try to make them and on the very last Sunday of the holidays I kept my promise!

They were even more of a treat because one of the ingredients, marshmallows, is difficult to get here, usually you have to wait until a trip to Dar Es Salaam to stock up! Admittedly the whoopie pies were a bit more of a faff than I'm used to when it comes to baking, but the girls loved them and from the photo below, you can see they didn't turn out too bad at all! (The recipe is below too!)

  • 250g unsalted butter, chopped, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 150g vanilla and strawberry flavoured marshmallows
  • 80g white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup hundreds and thousands
  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.
  2. Put 200g of the butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 5 minutes or until light and creamy. Add eggs and egg yolks, then beat until combined.
  3. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and ginger over butter mixture then fold until a stiff dough forms
  4. Divide into 24 pieces and roll each into a ball with your hands. Arrange balls 7 cm apart on trays, bake for 20 minutes or until firm, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  5. Put marshmallows and remaining butter in a small saucepan over a low heat and cook, stirring until melted.
  6. Remove pan from heat, add white chocolate and beat until smooth. Set aside for 5 minutes or until cool.
  7. Spread 1 heaped Tbsp of marshmallow mixture onto a flat side of 1 biscuit, then sandwich with a second biscuit. Repeat.
  8. Spread hundreds and thousands on a plate, then roll edges of each whoopie pie to coat.

Monday, January 27

My Anthem

There are few things going on right now that are taking up a lot of my emotional/will/brain power. Times like this can easily frustrate. They can leave you grumbling and miserable. 

Or not. 

Not that I get things right all the time ... I know I don't. At this point in time, the only reason I'm feeling level-headed and peaceful is that instead of running from God, getting wound up about things, I've been running towards him.

I may be a 'missionary' and as a family we are often perceived (incorrectly) as having a hotline to God. But just like anyone else, life can often keep me from quality time and relationship with my main source of power and strength.

Over the last couple of weeks I have consciously tried to redress that balance, knowing that without prioritising God right now, I wouldn't be able to get through whatever was going to be thrown in my direction. 

The peace and calm that has been the result, the feeling like whatever happens I (and we as a family!) can get through it, is certainly not coming from me. My source of strength rocks!

I love Mandisa and her newest album and title song is slowly becoming my anthem right now! Click on the link to see and hear it (the words are below!). As a rule I don't dance, but this makes me want to bounce and party however I'm feeling!

Mandisa - Overcomer

Staring at a stop sign
Watching people drive by
T Mac on the radio
Got so much on your mind
Nothing's really going right
Looking for a ray of hope

Whatever it is you may be going through
I know He's not gonna let it get the best of you

You're an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You're not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it's hopeless
That's when He reminds You
That you're an overcomer
You're an overcomer

Everybody's been down
Hit the bottom, hit the ground
Oh, you're not alone
Just take a breath, don't forget
Hang on to His promises
He wants You to know

The same Man, the Great I am
The one who overcame death
Is living inside of You
So just hold tight, fix your eyes
On the one who holds your life
There's nothing He can't do
He's telling You

Friday, January 24

Sanity Saver

This month's guest post comes from a missionary mum right here in Dodoma. Naomi Jones and her husband are here serving with SIM (Serving in Mission) Australia and are originally from Melbourne. While Andrew is involved in Entrepreneur Training, Naomi is using her background in Family Psychology in both school and hospital settings. They have four children. Today Naomi shares how to survive the sometimes hard slog of being a missionary and a mum here in Dodoma!

I have lived here in Dodoma, Tanzania with my husband and 4 children for almost eighteen months now.  Amongst the many pieces of helpful information I was given before we came (and again on arrival) was that if we wanted to stay even a little sane while on the mission field, we needed to bring some of our hobbies with us.

It felt like obvious advice at the time; of course we would try to fit into our daily schedules time for leisure/fun/relaxation as we had always done. But on arriving here the truth began to settle. Life in Tanzania can often feel like a “hard slog” and lots of daily tasks are time consuming and tedious. This, combined with the very real and endless needs of the people around us, can sometimes make leisure time and associated activities feel a little too decadent. 

I began by assessing my options. My “sanity saver” of choice has always been exercise; surely a simple activity to pursue in Dodoma I hear you say? Well not exactly! Swimming was ruled out first. The nearest “lap” pool is out of town and too far away to visit in between work and school commitments. The local hotel boasts a gym on it’s website which I was quite excited about until I saw it in the flesh. Not so much as a gym as a room with some old equipment lying around waiting to be repaired. Exercising outdoors is do-able if you don’t mind the (usually unwanted) attention, the uneven surfaces and the inescapable heat factor. Fast losing inspiration, I was spurred on by friends and family at home who reminded me how much enjoyment I used to get from these activities back home. At that point, I mustered up some courage, put aside my inhibitions and made do with what Dodoma had to offer!

I can truly say now, that exercise has acted as a “transition object” for me in the time we have been here. It is something familiar and predictable in a place where not much else is. When life feels overwhelming, I know that I can count on running to give me the usual endorphin rush, or on walking up a mountain to give me the same sense of peace that it always has. I believe that God wants us to engage in the activities that we love and that are “life-giving” while we are here on the mission field, without feeling guilty. Sure, it is a more challenging task at times, and sometimes it may even involve asking others for help with say, childcare, but at the end of the day it is truly worth it!

Thursday, January 23

Rainy Days

The English are known for their talk of weather. The English are also very used to grey rainy days!

This last week or so the rain has been coming fast and furious. A big relief to the local people especially the farmers. While it has come a month or so later than expected, the rains are finally here in Dodoma ... making some roads a lot more difficult to negotiate!

While this next statement may seem a little bizarre to my Brit friends ... the rain is a very welcome relief! A relief from the hot glaring sunshiny days that are much more typical. Instead of being depressing, it's almost both comforting and refreshing to see looming grey clouds, feel the slight chill of a breeze and run around in the heavy downpours of rain.

On Saturday we had just one of those days. The power was off, the skies were grey, it was much cooler than normal (I even wore a sweatshirt, not because I needed to but because I could ... and there really is a difference!) and the whole family were still in pyjamas at 10am playing board games by the light of battery operated lamps! It was wonderful! 

By mid-afternoon the four of us were under a tent of four chairs and a sheet, sipping water from teeny tiny tea-cups and eating apples and biscuits off small plastic plates.  An indoor tea-party picnic, what else?!

A day of old-fashioned family fun in weather that reminded us of 'home'. It's amazing how comforting and wonderful it felt and how sometimes you realise that even though you've having the time of your life, you also miss things about home more than you really think you do!

Friday, January 17

One Kali Mama

My Swahili study has taken a bit of a back foot recently, not because I don't want to but just because so much other stuff has been going on. I have already shared some of the Swahili-isms that amuse me, adding '-i' onto English words or when words are repeated.

'Kali' (pronounced car-lee) is one of those words in KiSwahili that make me smile. It can mean any of the following; {violent}, {wild}, {bitter}, {vehement}, {ferocious}, {fierce}, {mean}, {strict}, {cruel}, {distressing}, {hot}, {intense}, {scorching}, {severe}, {urgent}, {sharp} or {sour}. Here are just a few example's of how it can be used ...
  • jua kali - scorching hot (intense) sun
  • mbwa mkali - fierce dog
  • kisu kikali - sharp knife
  • mama mkali - strict/severe mum

In some ways, one word having so many meanings means less vocabulary to learn (always a bonus!). But in other ways you have to learn ALL the meanings and in Swahili depending on the context you have to add a different prefix too!

After the craziness of Christmas, lots of visitors and a trip to the beach, a fun but topsy-turvy month or so, it has unfortunately meant that my two girlies have been a little bit cranky-pants this week! Which in turn has meant that I have become the mama mkali while I whip them back into shape! 

It's not really my favourite part of parenting but to be fair it has all been pretty straight forward and they are now a lot less stroppy at the end of the week than they were at the beginning! The naughty chair may have had a little bit more of a workout this week but they are pretty slick at the whole routine now. And as the weekend looms I can return to being a yummy mummy again having lots of fun and being super silly rather than being the mama mkali!

Tuesday, January 14

Two for One!

Apologies for the slackness of my blogging for the beginning of 2014 (only one post so far!) but I've been far too busy relaxing on holiday! To make up for it here's the first recipe post of the year with two different versions!

Avocado's are cheap, readily available and HUGE here in Tanzania ... at the moment the ones I am buying are coconut size or bigger. Ready made food or more specifically dips are not available or if they are, are in Dar Es Salaam and not cheap. 

So I asked a couple of friends for their delicious guacamole recipes. I knew I wouldn't be disappointed as they were already tried and tested! The recipes are very different though ... one is a hot and spicy variety that only me and a select few enjoy, that I got from American friends who are third generation missionaries in Mexico, the other one is a family friendly recipe from Swiss friends here in Tanzania!

Hot and Spicy Guacamole ... (pineapple and feta versions!)
  • 2 avocados
  • 3-5 jalapeños depending on size, spicyness, and desired level of spicyness
  • 1/4 - 1/2 of a medium onion depending on how much you like onion
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic 
  • 7 juicy limes
  • Salt to taste
  1. Sauté jalapeños with onions, adding garlic toward the end. 
  2. Put in blender and add avocados, salt, and squeezed limes. 
  3. Add just enough water to allow the mixture to blend.
This is the base recipe to add the pineapple to. If you want to make the feta cheese version, it is just a bit different. Same general ingredients, except in place of limes and water, use milk. Just enough milk to make it blend, then add feta/Bleu/ or other yummy cheese. (Just remember don't blend the pineapple or cheese ... mix them in afterwards!)

REALLY easy family friendly Guacamole ...

The amount of each ingredient will depend on your own personal preference but this is what to mix together in your bowl ... (photo above is this recipe!)
  • avocado's ... squished with a fork or blend if you want it smooth
  • salt
  • pepper
  • lemon juice (fresh is best but concentrate works too!)
  • tomatoes ... finely cut
  • crushed garlic (not too much!)
  • grated cheese (quite a bit, helps to get the consistency you want!)

Need to work on a recipe for tortilla chips now, as they also have very limited availability here!

Friday, January 3

Published Author

I think I've shared once before that one of the things on my bucket list is to write a book! This Christmas, in a roundabout way, my husband has helped that dream to become a reality!

While I haven't sat down and put 'pen-to-paper' with any of the million ideas I have for an 'actual' book. Believe me there are so many ideas but with two little ones and no time to actually act on them, for the time being, this is most definitely the next best thing!

Mark used a website to have my blog posts made into a book from the beginning, the very first post and gave them to me as a Christmas present. Two volumes, one for each full year that I've been writing 'The Missionary Mum', with the potential to continue in the years to come.

I love that my husband can surprise me with great presents that I don't expect. I love that I now own two books that I have written, even if I am the only person to own copies of them. Living here in the middle of Tanzania, presents like this are like gold dust! It may even give me the incentive to start putting some of my other ideas together into something a little bit more solid too!

I shared earlier this week how things are up in the air for us at the moment. That doesn't stop the day-to-day stuff (nothing can stop that unfortunately!) or keep me from striving to achieve goals and dreams, even if it is with baby steps. It keeps me thinking ahead and not dwelling on the uncertainties of the here and now ... as that could be a little depressing. It doesn't mean that I am living in a dreamworld unaware of what's going on, I'm just trying to make the most of it in the meantime and trusting that God has my back!