Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Happy Birthday, t. We are so happy to be able to celebrate another year of your life with you. You are a treasure. You are smart, funny, creative, mischevious, delightful, sensitive, expressive and a true delight. We love you more than we ever dared hope or dream. We thank God for you every day and we are so greateful that you have been given to us to love and cherish. Happy Birthday!!!
Like his father, t's “love language”is primarily food. We started the day with his favorite breakfast of oatmeal. Later we invited some of his friends over to watch “Cars” the movie. I'm not sure how well it translated but all the kids laughed and smiled throughout. Dinner was another favorite of macaroni and cheese (a huge splurge here-cheese is very expensive and not easy to find.) He LOVED it. He said the food here is better than the food at home. After dinner we had more friends over and shared a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting...sounds simple but everything was made from scratch-even the frosting, which began as milk powder and was turned into yogurt, then strained into greek yogurt, then super-strained/squeezed into neufchatel. Which I then made into frosting. Needless to say, it was delicious, and t. was very pleased. He even sang “Happy Birthday” to himself, very quickly, before diving in, not unlike his “turbo grace” that he is known for saying before meals. (“DearGodthankyouforthisnicefoodamen!”)

t's only complaint was heard after celebrating. “Mommy, I still can't read!” Much disappointment came upon realizing that despite his advanced age, he is still yet unable to read.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Futility of Man

I've been feeling overwhelmed this week. Getting the hospital open is no small task. Important governmental officials are coming to see the progress next week (the regional commissioner, analogous to a state governor in the States, and his formidable entourage). Meanwhile my time is taken up with such mundane tasks as building 3 tables and 6 chairs (because we don't have any), moving a huge pile of bricks out of the patient waiting area, and writing employee contracts.

I knew from the beginning that I'm not really up to the task—that if it is to get done then God will have to do it. But now I'm really experiencing the futility of man. There is so much more to do than I can do myself. Even with a large team (which I do not have at this point) I would still be overwhelmed with the enormity of the task. Even just making my to do list is a big job.

I am encouraged this morning by one of those psalms that can seem so depressing at times. (Don't worry, I'm not depressed—just daunted). In Psalm 89: 47-48 the psalmist addresses the Father:

     "Remember how short my life is; remember that you created all of us mortal!
     Who can live and never die? How can human beings keep themselves from the grave?"

I identify with that this morning. I don't have enough days in my life (not to mention energy or freedom from distraction) to get done what needs to be done. One of my main tasks is to recruit and train workers for hospital, but so far I have only found one and we haven't really done any training yet. But the slow progress in that department brings me to an important point:

Ministry is about people, not progress or projects. People embody eternal souls. In a hundred or so years, both this hospital and this children's home will mostly likely be rubble. But these staff, these patients, and these children will still exist (albeit in different material circumstances). My task here is much bigger than just the practical nuts and bolts of getting a hospital up and running. I'm actively trying to be people-focused instead of institution-focused. I am especially focused on mentoring the hospital staff. This is about investing in the destiny of eternal souls—children of God created in His own image! Has he entrusted me with such tremendous responsibility? Indeed he has. When I think of that: talk about coming up hard against the futility of man!

I am NOT up to that task! But I am reminded that all He requires of me, He provides. The work is not mine but His. Really I'm just along for the ride—for how He will use the journey to shape my life and my family and for other reasons that I cannot hope to see. But He does.

In the remainder of Psalm 89, the psalmist, after lamenting his impotence, in effect reminds God: “Don't forget who you are!” Like Abraham pleading on behalf of a few hypothetical righteous Sodomites, like Habakkuk lamenting the problem of evil in Israel, like Paul assuring the Philippians that Christ will finish what He started (1:6), the psalmist declaims (my paraphrase): “God, You are who You are. The battle belongs to You.”

I say the same this morning. The battle belongs to Jesus. He has called me to come alongside a few of his sheep and encourage them toward Him. That's all I need to do. Hospitals and tables and bricks and government officials are all just details. I need not be anxious over them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fast (by our standards) internet=photos today

T and w sorting through the container of donated supplies for the hospital. This is one happy bedpan holding guy!

w insists on taking off her shoes and asking Mr. Ben to help put them back on. He is one of the guards and an excellent kiswahili instructor.

One village mama asked T "Why are you carrying her on your back?" T said "Because she would not lay down." She answered approvingly, "That is what we do. When they don't lay down we just put them on our backs and keep working!"
The kids from the children's home are currently harvesting the maize from their fields. They work before and after school in the fields and live off the maize.
Neighbor children.
Our inaugural surgery. No anesthetic (none available) but one very brave boy! Three stitches in the calf.
View from the mountain.
T has a 5 minute commute. Sure beats the beltway!


Amani Hospital-Ntagatcha, Tanzania
Pediatrics and Maternity wards to the left. Inpatient and Outpatient to the right.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Workout of the day-Tuesday

100 jump squats with w. in backpack (30 pounds)
100 push ups (with w.)
1 minute forward plank (with w.) x5
60 cuban presses (12 lbs)
60 burpees
60 pull ups

20 jump squats
20 reverse sit-ups
10 double under jump rope
repeat for 5 rounds.
J completed in 26 minutes

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Parenting Part 2:

Dawn is so lovely here. In the quiet hours of this morning God has shown me something very important. I see now that my frustration and disappointment over t's behavior and rebellion are evidence that my love for him has in many ways been selfish. My love for him has been for the sake of what I get out of the relationship—for the love I get back from him. This is exactly what Franz Kafka criticized as love that is not really love (and he's right), leading him to dismiss the concept of love altogether.  (He was wrong about that).

For the past year, t's behavior has gradually declined. His will has surfaced and his behavior has become more and more difficult to manage. But parenting is not at its core about managing behavior is it?

Years ago a missionary friend told me: “How I treat my kids and how they treat me, says more to this community than anything I ever say from the pulpit.” Intuitively I recognized this as true. But I've been repeating it for years without really understanding what it means. It does not mean that the people will listen to me because my kids respect me. It means loving my kids even when their behavior is atrocious—even when they are unfaithful to me—even when I am getting nothing back, or worse yet, getting frank rebellion in return. Is this not what Our Father has done for us? Is this not the best way to show people the gospel—what God has done for me? He has taken me back and comforted me and forgiven all that I have done and will do. How can I not do the same for t?

Even as I have been writing this, t has been totally unloveable. I stopped writing to make him a nice breakfast at his request. He promptly spent the next thirty minutes screaming, and wailing, and thrashing about because his scrambled eggs were “too big.” I was fairly patient with him, but he just got worse and worse. I gave him a lot of chances but eventually I had to walk away from him. Is he finding assurance of my love by pushing me away with bad behavior and then asking in effect, “Do you still love me?” More screaming. “Now do you still love me?”

I don't know if I'm over analyzing things (perhaps that's my form of comfort). Perhaps he's just having “normal” temper tantrums. But it has certainly caused me to wonder: “What does this reveal to me about how God handles my rebellion and tantrums?

Workout of the Day-Saturday

Today I we had group class! T, myself and two other volunteers here all did this workout together. This one was hard but we killed it. It is much more fun to workout with friends!! Big T did this entire workout with w. strapped to his back. That's an extra 30+ pounds. For the most part she loved it, but I think the box jumps were a tad bouncy for her.

1 minute of box jumps
1 minute rest
1 minute hanging leg raises or situps
1 minute rest
1 minute double under jump rope
1 minute rest
1 minute thrusters (12 pounds)
1 minute rest
Repeat 4 times

This is our "before" picture:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Parenting Part 1

Thus far, the hardest thing about being in Africa has been parenting.  Little w is doing fine.  She basically seems oblivious to all the changes and has even started trying to say "Jambo."  J is a hero for doing cloth diapers for in the absence of running water.  THAT is a lot of dirty work.  Pray that the running water gets fixed soon.

Back to parenting.  Little t is really struggling.  The is A LOT to adjust to, though we see improvement each day.  The hardest part for him is that there are 300 kids here half of whom live 50 paces away in the children's home.  These kids are sweet and joyful and well behaved, but they're still kids with no concept of personal space or privacy or alone time because they are all always around 100 of their peers.  My hat is off to Christopher, the manager/pastor/father here, who manages to keep this wild herd more or less under control twenty four hours a day.  I'm failing to manage my two.

The outworking of t's struggles are that his behavior has been atrocious.  I won't go into details.  And he is having nightmares, night terrors, and is experiencing a lot of fear that he is neither able to express nor really able to process.  Of course he just comes to us for security.  But he doesn't ask or use words.  Don't think: cuddling up and saying “Mommy hold me."  Think: irrational inconsolable four year old screaming in our bed for an hour at 3AM.  Almost daily.  And there are lots of other unpleasant symptoms.
It's stressful. And we're not getting good sleep. Frankly, it's hard not to be angry with him—especially when I've been up most of the night. I confess that at time I have felt and even expressed anger. I'm frustrated that I can't control his feelings or behavior. This has led to some pretty desperate moments. But I'm learning something from it.

I am experiencing the inevitable brokenness of human relationships, and I am so disappointed. I have tried so hard (not just this month, but for the last four years, always striving to make parenting a priority). And I realize that in some sense I have failed. Our relationship cannot be perfect, no matter how I try.

His behavior is so bad at times that often I don't even want to be around him. And that just breaks my heart.

But I don't know why I expected otherwise. Of course we are both sinners (imperfect people), doing not what we know we ought to, and doing what we know we ought not. Of course brokenness enters in and disrupts our relationship.

There is hope, however, that our relationship will be redeemed. Because it has been fractured and will be made new again on the altar of Christ, it will be better than new, better than it would be if it had never been disrupted. We can choose to love one another nonetheless.

Have we not behaved the very same way toward Our Heavenly Father?

To be continued...

Workout of the Day-Wednesday

20 box jumps (10 inches)
20 thrusters (12 pounds)
20 situps
20 airquats

(repeat for 4 rounds)

finish with 100 jump rope

Total time: 16:30

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"I touch your feet"

To give you an idea on how I actually spend the hours of the day (that are not taken up with activities of daily living, which take about five times longer here than they do at home--because you have to do things like actually fetch water):

It's not easy trying to get a hospital open.  Mostly I've been meeting with government officials to get inspections, permissions, and registration, meeting with community leaders to get their input and buy in, and hiring staff, and making plans for training.  All of these things are harder and take more time in Africa.  This is partly because we have no running water (it's broken), no regular electricity, no decent roads, vehicles that have mechanical trouble more often than not, and very temperamental phone and internet.  Except for getting frustrated with losing my work on the internet from time to time, I don't actually miss any of these luxuries.  I have learned (in the past) to expect them.

And then there is the language barrier.  I spend at least an hour a day actively working on that hurdle and several other periods of time each day sorting out misunderstandings--usually ones that I have caused, either by using the wrong words or hearing the wrong words.  Sometimes these are pretty funny.  The first day I was here I accidentally asked a little girl if she had seen "my husband." (I meant to say "my son.")  She only giggled a little.  Years ago, I told a woman who had just delivered a baby that it was of utmost importance that she give the baby "my breast."  She actually had the grace to keep a totally straight face.  The other funny one I can think of took place on our second or third day.  It takes a little background explaining:  The common greeting to an elder here is "Shikamuu," which literally means "I touch your feet." The traditional response is "Marahaba," which translates roughly, "Delightful!"  It's sounds pretty heirarchical to Western ears, and I suppose it really is.  But people here are so accustomed to it that it seems they think little of it.  So on day two or three, a little girl greeted me while I was doing my morning Bible reading on the porch.  I was a little distracted.

"Shikamuu," she whispered.  (It's almost always whispered).

The right response didn't come to mind right away.  Knowing it is impolite to ignore this courteous greeting, I struggled for it a bit, and came up with the wrong word.  Remember, I'm supposed to say "Marahaba."  Instead, I said "Maharagwe."  She literally ran away so I wouldn't notice her giggling.

"Maharagwe" means "beans."  Close but no cigar.

I find this incident extremely amusing.  "I touch your feet." ....  "Beans."
I can't help laughing every time I think of it.  It's embarrassing enough that I have not yet had the courage to relate the story to anyone here.  I've been wondering if she will approach me and try again anytime soon, just to see if she can get the same silly response.  Actually, I've been thinking of saying "beans" on purpose just to make the kids laugh.  I don't know if they will get it that I'm doing it on purpose, and I don't want to embarrass them...  I'll let you know if it works.

The slowness of progress is partly because, well, you kind of have to be in Africa to understand.  If you've spent any time here, you know what I'm talking about.  Things just don't go as planned.  Ever.

But all in all, opening the hospital is going swimmingly.  We have gotten appropriate licenses and permissions and have gathered a few key people for the team. We are thankful to God.

Feel free to share any experiences of your own in botched communication!

Big T

Good news for our new friend

The little girl we met yesterday is now on her way to a special school
in Kenya which is for children with disabilities. It was decided that
they would be better equipped to serve her there. Keep her in your
prayers-I'm sure she is still very nervous and unsure of what is
happening to her. Thank you for your love and prayers!

Monday, January 16, 2012

This little girl could use some help

Dr Cha Cha and our newest student
This morning after putting W. down for a nap I was called out to the yard by Dr. Cha Cha. He was standing with a middle aged man and a little girl who looked about 8. The first thing I noticed about her was that she did not smile. She actually looked like she had not smiled in a long time. Cha Cha wanted to ask me if I thought we could "help" her. I wasn't really sure what he meant and then he pointed out her foot and arm. Her foot appears to be clubbed, it is turned sideways. Her arm is rigid, her hand clenched. According to her father, she was given a "bad injection." I was a little confused about what kind of help Cha Cha was asking about but after observing for a while longer I gathered that he was trying to determine if we could enroll her in both the children's home and the school. As of now they don't have any children with disabilities.

This little girl, in this culture, is described as "lame." If a child is lame, they have a very, very hard life. They are often neglected, never sent to school and usually abused either at home or by other people in the community. They are not considered worth the trouble of caring for and often have to fend for themselves, if they even make it to adulthood.I don't know if there is anything we can do for her medically, but surely we can help her socially, physically, spiritually, emotionally. The children's home here at City of Hope is full of love and acceptance and I am sure if she is able to stay that she will be nurtured and loved and come to know and believe that she is lovely, beautiful, valuable and
perfect just as she is.

Cha Cha told her father that she could stay temporarily as a guest, for a week or so. After that she will need to find a sponsor for her tuition, room, board, basic healthcare, vaccines, school supplies, etc. Myself and another volunteer that arrived this week have both agreed to try to get the word out about this little one to see if there may be someone willing to sponsor her. The cost is $35/month per sponsor and she needs 2 sponsors.

Her father walked away saying he would be back with her school fees for the week. I am not sure we will ever see him again, but I hope he keeps his word. As he left tears streamed down this little one's face. She will not speak to us yet--she is really nervous and I'm sure overwhelmed, but she did whisper to Cha Cha that she is regularly beaten. By whom, we do not know, but surely this place will be a refuge for her. A real City of Hope.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fixing cars with superglue

The last 2 days were very African days. Yesterday I was supposed to go and visit the closest health center, which is apparently way overloaded. I have been assured that they (that Health Center) will be thrilled when we open as it will reduce their workload. We intended to leave at 10AM. But the clutch on the van was out. So we decided to work on that, since we needed the van to get there (remember the SUV is sleeping and uninsured and the truck was recently rolled—an update on that in a moment). The plan was to work on the van clutch, and if we finished by 2PM, then to proceed to the meeting.

You guessed it. At 4PM we were still working on it. I had never expected to get off the ground once I'd heard that the van was having trouble, so it was not a let down. But the day was so African: I was supposed to go to an important meeting, but what I did instead was: try to replace the hydraulic line for the clutch on the vehicle I was supposed to take to the meeting, clean up and reassure t., who puked in his bed, in the upholstered chair, and many other places, and who knows what else I did. The bottom line is that by 5PM I had worked all day, most of it at fairly dirty jobs, and had “accomplished” little to nothing. That's just how things go in Africa. The most fun part of it is that when working on the hydraulic line, our fundi “mechanic” did some truly African mechanical alchemy: I will not reveal his secrets, but I will allow that he used materials such as thread and superglue. That part of it actually seemed to work, but when we drove the van this morning, the clutch problem was still there. For now it is solved by a little clutch acrobatics including double clutching every time you shift and also pulling the clutch back up with your foot every time you shift, which is hard when you are trying to double clutch quickly.

A quick aside about the pickup: the windshield is shattered but still hanging in place. It's impossible to see through—a spiderweb of fissures. The truck has to drive about 9 hours away to get it replaced. So our plan? Remove the whole windshield and drive the whole 9 hours with motorcycle helmets on (personal windscreens)! Luckily, I don't have to actually do that job. If I did, being a white guy, I'd get stopped by the police every ten minutes. I imagine it would be funny to try to act like there really was a windshield there and insist that it was super clean—convincing them by acting out cleaning it. Silly, I admit, but it's funny to imagine.

Today continued with more of the same: We went to meet some government officials. One of the two we were supposed to meet with was in a different town for the day, despite the fact that we had made an appointment with him for 10AM today. I was so unsurprised. On the way home we had a flat in the van. Also unsurprising. But we had the spare on and were on our way in less than fifteen minutes. You know, I don't even have a spare for either of my vehicles at home? I haven't had a true flat tire in twenty years. And I drive at least 40K miles per year!

t. seems better, but now J. is sick again. Please pray for her quick recovery. And pray for discernment for us on how to move forward.

Thanks-Big T.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Workout of the Day-Tuesday
20 jump squats
20 hollow rocks unweighted or 10 weighted (in this case there was a 30 pound baby laying on my chest making it more difficult. You can use any size baby.)
20 weighted alternating lunges (we used a duffel bag filled with 20 pounds of corn)
Do maximum rounds for 15 minutes. I didn't count but I kept moving almost the whole time. Here is a picture of T. doing burpees (with w. holding the stopwatch) and T. doing weighted pull-ups (with said duffel bag of corn). Amazingly, our house has monkey bars built right in!

Domestic Life Part I

This morning was my (j’s) turn to make breakfast. Anyone staying at the guest house for any length of time is put on rotation for breakfast. Lunch and dinner are made by our 2 guest house workers, who also clean and do laundry. They are amazing cooks and the food has been great. We have been eating sukuma (leafy green vegetable kind of like kale) almost every day, and frequently have ugali (very fine cornmeal cooked into a thick porridge).

So back to my breakfast….there is almost no dairy to speak of here. And since our family pretty much lives on greek yogurt, milk and cheese, I became determined to see if I could try to make some yogurt. The only dairy we have is powdered milk. I used the “More with Less” Mennonite cookbook recipe with some alterations based on what we have here, and would you believe it, it worked! I was actually really surprised. The part I was worried about was the fermentation. (t. kept asking, “Is the yogurt done rising mommy?”)

"hot pot" is on the right with the green lid
I put the ingredients in a small crock and lowered the crock into a “hot pot” (something we never use at home but they use them constantly here—it’s an insulated pot with a tight fitting lid to keep cooked food warm.) and then added boiling water around the crock. I put the whole thing outside in the sun, hoping that it would maintain its heat. It needs to stay around 120 f. for 5-8 hours. After 5 hours I checked it and it did NOT look promising. I was worried. It was starting to get cool outside so I brought it inside and put it in the oven (not turned on).

In the morning I was amazed to find perfect yogurt! Except it tastes like powdered milk. But that’s ok!! It’s better than no yogurt!

In addition, I made “granola” with the only ingredients I could find: oats (which tasted off-can they go sour?), vegetable oil, sugar, cinnamon. We do not have electricity here, so the stove/oven runs on propane. The stove is really leaky and inefficient so I was told to avoid baking. So I toasted the granola in a cast iron skillet and it worked fine.

It really is amazing how you can always figure out SOME way to do SOMEthing if you are willing to be creative and maybe adjust your expectations a bit.

I also used the leftover ugali from the night before to make “cornmeal pancakes” which T. loved and the other guest (Tanzanian) said was “very nice”. Of course everyone poured “maple” syrup on them so of course they tasted nice!!

The very best part of breakfast, however, was the coffee. We did splurge on some good beans when we were in Nairobi, and the only way to make coffee here is with a French press…so needless to say it was delicious.

Apparently, one can get green coffee beans here in the village. We are looking into getting some and roasting them. T. also suggested to the director that we (they) try to start a little enterprise of coffee roasting and selling the beans to the short term missions teams that come here in the summer time. He suggested $15-20 a pound for home-grown, on-site roasted beans, with all the proceeds going to the children’s home. The kids could participate in the process and also set up a store from which they are sold. They would learn about agriculture, the coffee trade, and business. Anyone want to pre-order?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Workout of the day-Sunday

20 airsquats
20 push ups OR double under jump rope
20 alternating lunges
20 situps

Do 5 rounds as fast as you can. My time was 24:54. I am really feeling the elevation!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

We arrived in TZ 48 hours ago. It's beautiful here, and our hosts have been most gracious. Mostly we've just unpacked and gotten settled and tried to get over the jet lag. The time difference is 8 hours.
Swahili is clearly more useful here than English. My (T's) Swahili is pretty rusty, but I've been surprised to find vocabulary and phrases bubbling up into my consciousness from some forgotten cerebral aquifer. Just being around the language makes it boil to the surface more or less unbidden. Though I have the vocabulary, diction, and grammar of a three year old, people seem so delighted that I can speak any Swahili at all that I keep trying.
I visited the new hospital grounds yesterday. The construction is basically done. A few workers are still putting up some trimwork, but beyond that there is little to do. The rooms are all empty, though already have designations. The hospital design (and it seems a good one) is after an approved health center plan from the TZ government.
I had a bit of an amusing (and enlightening) moment on the way to see the hospital. Four government officials arrived in the morning to view the progress of the construction—sort of an informal pre-inspection (I suppose before a real inspection after which the hospital will presumable be given permission to officially open. The officials arrived with their driver in a nine-seater white Land Cruiser—the same vehicle used by governments all over Africa. They asked three of us (two Tanzanians and me) to accompany them to the hospital. Having not seen it yet, I wasn't aware that the hospital is only about 400 yards away.
But of course we had to drive. City of Hope (where are are staying and the parent ministry of the hospital) has three vehicles, but the pickup had recently been wrecked, the Nissan SUV wouldn't start, and the keys had gone missing for the van. We spent twenty minutes hunting for keys, making phone calls looking for keys, and trying to get the comatose SUV to start by transplanting the battery from the woebegone pickup. No luck. All the while, we could have walked to the hospital and back again several times. Eventually someone had the brilliant idea to ride in the government Land Cruiser with the officials. After all, it was a nine seater. Thankfully they were amenable to this, so the eight of us piled in. I couldn't help chuckling to myself when we arrived on the hospital grounds a full thirty seconds later.
How many times have we seen this same technophilic mindset operating in our own western culture—especially in healthcare? Why have we been so silly as to export it to African cultures? Isn't this so much of what is wrong with our own healthcare system in America? I think it was Oppenheimer, the leader of the Manhattan project, who famously said, when asked why build the bomb: “Because we can.”
The truth is Africans are very good at coming up with a simple solutions if we will just let them, rather than try to convince them (usually by way of example) that the best answer is the most technological answer. For instance, this morning, when taking a family walk, we witnessed a young man driving a team of oxen down the dirt road, dragging a plow. Not in use, the plow lay on its side, bumping along in the gravel. Joi asked, “Why is he just dragging his plow like that?” But I had noticed the fellow's ingenuity. The plow itself was not actually touching the ground. He had lashed the implement to a small sacrificial log which took the beating of being drug along the rough road, leaving the plow unscathed. The twenty pounds that this makeshift sledge added to the oxen's load was negligible. When I explained his method to Joi, she made an apt comparison: “Oh, it's on a trailer.” Exactly: a “trailer” that cost him nothing but a few minutes at the roadside with a machete, could be easily reproduced by any farmer at no expense, and was perfectly adequate for the job. I wish I could have pointed out this humble farmer's inventiveness to our friendly health officials, who admittedly only operate the way they do because we (even I) have taught them to be champions of technology, often without considering the cost.
Oh, and by the way: Yesterday was our fifteenth wedding anniversary. And we both forgot! We have other things on our minds...

Workout of the day-Saturday

I (J.) had to take today off from an official workout due to unofficially doing a killer ab workout last night off and on for about 4 hours. In other words, throwing up most of the night. I am kind of sore from it. I would not recommend anyone do this workout at home!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Workout of the day

Although there will be no shortage of activity, T. and I are trying to maintain some kind of exercise routine. Our friend and trainer from home has sent us with a schedule (Thanks, Ash!) Mainly to give myself some accountability I am sharing it with you. (I lack discipline!) Feel free to join me! This is all stuff you can do at home.

100 burpies, 50 hollow rocks for fastest time. I finished in about 13 minutes. Ty finished in 10:54

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Getting there part II

We went straight to Nakumatt (Kenyan walmart) for some snacks to get us through the night in case the kids woke up at 2 AM ready to start the day. We crashed hard at the Anglican Guest house around 10pm. Thankfully, both kids slept till 10AM. I love this picture of w. sleeping under the big mosquito net with her bottom up in the air. 

The next day we went back to Nakumatt for some basic things that we can't live without (good coffee, cheese, cell phone service, internet service, local currency) and all went fairly well except we could not get money because it was still a bank holiday for New Years. We ate lunch at the Java House and got back to the hotel around 5pm. If we ran these same errands at home it probably would have taken an hour, maybe two. In Africa it took all day.
After a fairly decent night of sleep we got up, packed and headed to Wilson Airport for our charter flight to the Kenyan border. Wilson is a very small airport that services primarily missionary airplanes and tour companies. There were about 50 people there boarding different little planes when we arrived, and all but 2 appeared to be going on safari. The other 2 were peace corp volunteers headed to Marsabit, Kenya, which is very close to Gatab, where we have worked before. They are REALLY out in the bush. The amazing thing was that our government paid for them to fly to Marsabit on an enormous airplane—just the two of them. They looked like rock stars getting on that huge Cessna Caravan! We on the other hand, boarded a very shiny and new 6 seater from AIM Air, the Cessna 206.

Big T was feeling a little sick that morning and asked to ride cockpit (at least he claimed to be sick but we know he wanted to fly the plane). Imani and t. rode in the middle. w. and I rode in the back. I don't know if you have ever been on such a small plane but it is truly thrilling and exhilarating to take off in one of those. When the pilot turned on the engines and made like we were going to take off I was pretty worried because there was very little straightaway in front of us. But off we went. It felt like we were accelerating on the tarmac for 10 seconds or so and then LIFT OFF!
The one hour flight was fairly uneventful until about 10 minutes before landing. Poor t. was so excited to be on the plane but he could not see out the windows because he is so little so I felt sorry for him and gave him the ipod so he could play a puzzle game. Now I know that this was a very bad idea. It only took about 5 minutes for him to get sick and throw up on himself. The ipod was spared but he made quite a mess. And of course it's my mommy duty to clean up vomit and the like but I was strapped into my seat and holding a sleeping w. so I was useless. I handed Imani a cloth diaper and asked him to “help”. The next time t. threw up it dutifully went into the sick bag.

When we landed on the airstrip (a flat gravel lane in the middle of the bush) we were greeted unenthusiastically by some cows, goats and villagers. I guess they see this kind of thing regularly. We were picked up by a very kind City of Hope staff member and we were off to register at immigration/border patrol. Besides being quite hot and paying too much money to use a public toilet (which was a hole in the ground) it all went very smoothly and we walked across the Kenyan border into Tanzania with little fanfare. From there we rode to the City of Hope on a very rough dirt road, which has recently been beaten up quite badly by the rains.

Arriving at City of Hope was delightful. The children from the children's home were all together singing and clapping and the staff was present. We were very warmly welcomed. Little t. was kind of mobbed and looked nervous but the kids were trying to be nice and friendly. Big T. was encouraged to give a speech (make note, always be prepared to give an extemporaneous speech when visiting Africa. Some cultures really love this and will insist on it.) and I think he did a great job but he was not thrilled by it. He told the people that we are so happy to be there, that we were thankful for their invitation, and that together we would discover how to bring heath and wellness to their community. They cheered and whooped and looked very pleased.

So now we just have to figure out how to do that. Any ideas?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Getting there part I

Some of this may not be of interest to everyone—but our intention is just to document our experience. So if you want to skip around we will not be offended.

We have surely been granted traveling mercies. We are now safe and sound in Ntagatcha, Tanzania! We left for Charlotte Saturday morning. After our connection in DC we flew to Zurich, Switzerland (8 hrs), from Zurich to Nairobi (8 hrs), 2 nights in Nairobi and then an AIM Air (Africa Inland Mission) flight to near the Kenyan border (1 hour) followed by a 30 minute ride to the actual border, some time spent at immigration and another 30 minutes bumpity-bump ride to City of Hope.

I (j.) will say that traveling to Africa is not what it used to be before we had children. There is no option to just stick the headphones in and zone out, self-medicate, sleep, talk to your neighbor or even really watch a movie. On the leg to Nairobi w. took a short nap and somehow woke up fully recharged. Big T and little t were thankfully sleeping so I tried entertaining her on my lap which just made her more excited. Looking at books turned into hurling them. Itsy bitsy spider turned into face grabbing and screeching...eventually I put her in the sling and stood next to my seat bouncing her around, singing to her, and trying not to be in everyone's way. I actually watched most of “The Help” while doing this so it was not all that bad, except my back and shoulder got petty tired. I started to cry close to the end of the movie when the in-flight entertainment was turned off for landing. So don't spoil the ending for me!

In Zurich we were thrilled to find a children's play center in the airport. It was amazing. The kids LOVED it and I was amazed by them also. It was 2 AM Eastern time when we got there, and they just were running around like it was the middle of the day. It was staffed by a lovely Swiss woman who kept apologizing for being away when we arrived (she was only gone for 5 minutes). There were 3 rooms of toys, games and activities. In one corner there was an Indian couple (with no children) sleeping on the sofas. They were in their 60s and snoring very loudly while about 10 kids screeched and laughed and played. They must have been really out of their time zones or something.

The leg to Nairobi was definitely the hardest. All I wanted to do was sleep but it just never worked out. Thankfully the kids were fairly quiet and they handled it better than I did. When we arrived in Nairobi we had no trouble getting our luggage or finding our host, Imani. All answers to prayers! When we were carrying our things out to the van t. started spontaneously singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and he asked me to sing with him. Then he said “Children come in all different colors don't they, mommy?” Well, he was about to find out!