Thursday, July 24, 2014


Make yourself comfortable, Bubu. Don't let us hold you back. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Next Steps? Keep on Truckin'

For those of you who don't know, Chris and I are in the final year of our 3 1/2 year contract with Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Our contract is up in May 2015, at which time we can renew for another 3 years, extend for a shorter period of time, or move on to something else entirely. Although 10 months is a long time away, it also seems like it's just around the corner and we've noticed lately that an increased number of people are asking us about our next steps.

On the outset, I totally understand why people are asking. Folks at home want to know if they'll be seeing our faces at next year's Fourth of July BBQs, birthday parties, births of their children, etc. Folks in Tanzania are asking because they want to know if they should include us in their organizational budgets, if we'll be able to continue proving support to their programs, and they too want to know if they'll be the ones seeing our faces at BBQs, birthday parties, etc. So I totally get it. Y'all are so sweet and we totally appreciate your love and support.

On the flip side of things, when I get asked what I'll be doing next year I want to ask back to people  what they'll be doing in 10 months. The answer is that they probably don't know. I assume most people hope to be in a job that they like, living in a city that they like, surrounded by people that they like and who like them, but usually people don't plan that far in advanced so the specifics are yet unclear. Can't we just live life in the moment, I want to say, without planning what's around the next corner.

I know. I know. That's kinda a jerky response.

And it's not exactly true, anyway. I mean, don't get me wrong. Chris and I talk about it all the time. All. The. Time. Every day. Ad nauseam. And, come to think of it, maybe that's why I get a little twitchy when people ask me what we're doing next. Because we've talked ourselves into so many ideas that we. have. absolutely. no. clue. And it starts to stress me out. I mean, I'm in my mid(some say late, thankyouverymuch)-30's and my life is still up in the air. This was stressful enough when I was graduating college and I felt like I could do anything I wanted to do. I had the energy then. And seemingly endless time. Now? I don't know. I feel the clock ticking and the lack of direction seems to me more like a weight then an opportunity.

What I can tell you is this. Yes, our contract is up in May 2015. Yes, we have started to talk about what we will do. Yes, we are open to staying in Tanzania, or to moving back to the United States, or to living in Europe. That doesn't narrow it much, does it? Our decision is based on a number of things ranging from finances, family health/stability, our ability to adopt a child, and location of an appropriate job for our interests and skills. Some of these things can be planned for, but most of them can't be predicted until much closer to our end-of-contract date. So it's mostly a waiting game for now.

And speaking of waiting games. Although I think it's absolutely appropriate and wise to start discussing and researching our next steps, in all fairness to Tanzania and the life we have now, I think it's also vitally important for us to continue to enjoy where we are now and give our all to the work we are doing at the moment. That's very hard when we're also simultaneously thinking about, researching, and, okay I'll admit, fantasizing about our next move. We fell into this trap before when we were planning to come to Tanzania. It's really hard to live and enjoy the moment when we are waiting for the next change. But I'm not really sure how to do that gracefully.

So for now, I'll try to steer clear of snarky remarks. (Is that possible for me?) And I'll keep asking for support, prayers, and listening ears from family and friends near and far. And we'll just see what opportunities arise around the corner.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Magical Land

Chris and I are back from a wonderful week-long trip with family to Venice and the surrounding countryside. I'm kind of in a depression at having to get back to reality. I mean, COME ON, ITALY! how can a place be so beautiful?

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Istanbul for a Day

We have a 22 hour layover in Turkey on our way through to Italy and wouldn't you know, if you fly with Turkish Airlines they provide free tours of the city! So Chris and I spent the day trampsing around the city. 

One day in Istanbul just isn't enough. What a beautiful city!

Inside the Blue Mosque. (Never mind that I look like I have no teeth.)

Outside the Blue Mosque. 

The Turkish flag on the grounds of the Hagia Sofia. 

Inside a room in the Topkapi Muaeum. 

Spices at the Grand Bizaar. 

Metal works at the Grand Bizaar. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lulu Graduation Festivities

This past week has been a busy one for Lulu Mwanza. Four of our girls groups finished their cycle of classes. It usually takes about 9 months to get through all of the lessons. Once they have finished the lessons, girls can continue but it's a big accomplishment to stick through it and the participants really go through a transformation in the process. So, we like to celebrate the occasion and give them a well-deserved party. Well, actually 3 days of partying.

Monday's Netball Match

Since there are too many girls for everyone to attend the actual graduation, we invited all the girls in all 8 of the Lulu groups to a netball match at the beginning of the week.

 Corine explaining how the matches would be organized.

One of the pillars of the program is cooperation and this a great opportunity for the girls to get to know each other, root for other teams, and have some healthy competition. And, boy did they compete!

Eliza gets taken out but the game continues.

During a break in the matches, the girls from Bwiru sing a victory song while others make plans for the rest of the game or are resting till it's their turn to play.

It was really fun to watch, though, and as one team got knocked out of competition, they'd immediately start rooting for another team. In the end one of our newest groups were the victors.

Mecco celebrating their big win.

Cooking and Prep for Gradation

On Tuesday a select number of graduating girls and facilitators gathered to bake the cakes, cooking and sambusas for graduation. It's another added "gift" to the girls who have had good attendance and have showed initiative throughout the year for them to learn how to bake cakes and cookies. Cakes are a hot commodity here in Mwanza and they are very expensive, even for a simple sheet cake. So learning to bake is a skill they could use to start a business in their communities.

Did you know you can bake cakes and cookies are charcoal grills? There are a number of ways you can do it, but here's how we did it.

First you have to fill a tray with sand. We just dug it up in the yard.

That tray will be placed on a charcoal grill until it is very hot.

Then, once you've put greased newspaper in the bottom of a pan and filled it with your batter, place that on the hot sand.

Cover the lid with hot coals and a stone and leave it to cook until done.

I'd heard about this method before but hadn't had the chance to try it out. I have to say it was a whole lot easier than I had expected and the cakes turned out really well. The girls did all the work and were so proud of their accomplishments!

Wednesday Graduation

First of all, about graduation I have to say that the girls take all the credit for it being a success. They planned, organized, and put together everything with guidance and technical advice from Corine. But all the work and planning was done by them. They researched and reserved the hall rental; planned, bought and put up all the decorations; wrote out the schedule of ceremonies; MCed the event; planned and put on skits, songs and dances. All of it was so great and the best part was just the self confidence they showed. You could just see the pride on their faces. This is a far step away from the normal behavior of Tanzanian young women, who often hide their faces if asked a question and are discouraged from making direct eye contact with people.

Teddy icing the cakes, which we'd made the day before.

Easter hanging balloons.

Finishing touches on the head table.

The ceremony going on.

The girls from Ilamela group danced.

Eliza, Teddy, and Anisisa sing a song of thanks for the Lulu program.

It was an action-packed week and my body is paying the price for it this weekend (I'm sick in bed as I write this) but what a great week and what a wonderful tribute to some special girls.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Corpus Christi 2014

In Catholic news, today is the feast of Corpus Christi. In the US we don't usually do much to commemorate this feast day, but in much of the rest of the world parades and processions are usually held. In our own church in Mabatini there is always a procession in between the two Masses, where the Eucharist is paraded down the street and a large line of people go before and after, singing songs and making joyful sounds. It's always kinda cool to watch*.

The Eucharist is processed under this tent with incense being spread before it. You can also see the children in front with white shirts and red skirts/pants. Those are the Eucharistic dancers, who were throwing flower petals in front as they processed. Love them.

The line is actually quite long; it snakes around out of the picture and then back in again.

A video of the procession coming into the church.

*Even if it means that Mass is then 3 1/2 hours.

Monday, June 16, 2014

International Day of the African Child

Did you know June 16 is the Day of the African Child? In honor of the day, let's meet some of the familiar African child faces from our neighborhood. What better reason to celebrate than these cuties! And aren't we lucky we get to see them every day.

Maende in fancy shoes. He has a wonderful personality and is just old enough to be coming into his own.

Paulo. His parents own the little shop where we buy our daily staples (bread, eggs, flour, matches, etc.).

Sifa, which means praise. She's a girl. She comes with her mom each week for tutoring class with Chris.

Last but certainly not least, Stevu. I like to think of him as kinda the mayor of the kids in the neighborhood. His mom also owns another little shop where we buy our staples when Mama Paulo is out.