February 28, 2013

In Which I Meet the Queen

{the squeemish should look away}

So there are these HUGE termite mounds all over in Africa, including here in Moshi.

Today I got to meet the queen.
It's the only way to get rid of the colony.  You've got to find the queen, remove her and the rest of them will disappear.  I wish the picture was a video.  Because then you could see the lower part of her body pulsating, moving, squirming with all the tiny eggs that filled her body.  It was like watching a wave machine.  But gross.  WAY gross.

Here it is.  I've warned you - if you're squeamish, look away!  There's a normal-distance shot to show you the size perspective, and then a close up.

 So there's two of them in there.  If you look at the one on the bottom you can see it's main body - it like of looks like an ant.  Then it just drags it's... erm.... rear end? around with the eggs in it.  See how it's bumpy?  That's because it's filled with thousands of teeny tiny eggs, moving around and pulsating in there.  It was disgusting.  But the kind of disgusting that's kind of hard to look away from.  So I had to take a picture. :)

So there ya have it.  If you still aren't feeling squeamish, it might be a fun fact for you to know that these are often eaten.  Yup.  Fried up in a pan and CRUNCH.  Full of nutrients.  In fact, a missionary we know here has eaten one.  And it was even bigger that those above.  GROSS.  I may have eaten goat liver, but I would NOT do that.  No. Way. Not. Ever.

Okay.  I'll stop grossing you out now.

Kwaheri! (goodbye)

February 26, 2013

In which I get HOT

This is day 5 on the ground in Tanzania and just yesterday is when I really started to feel hot. Not in temperature (it's been hot since we arrived!) but in spirit. I suppose it has to do with jet lag a little, but I also know that part of it was Satan trying to wiggle in. I recognized it right away- I was feeling 'blech'. Not physically, but emotionally. I wasn't as excited to be here as I thought I would be – or even as I was the first few moments we arrived. I just felt normal. Like we were just 'living'. Doing the day-to-day thing. But as soon as I recognized that I was lukewarm I spoke it out. I told someone that I felt that way and talking about it made me realize that I had to speak life and vision to turn things around. So that's what I did, and I prayed, asking God for eyes to see what he'd have us to see while we're here. I also prayed for the jet lag to be over, I'm sure that wasn't helping my emotions either.
So yesterday was an amazing day. I was really feeling... it. Whatever 'it' is. I had a chance to sit with the missionaries and talk about life in Moshi. We got a lot of good info that I'm keeping track of in my journal. I was able to get a good look at what the general cost of living looks like – how much renting a house typically costs, cost for buying appliances, a car, etc. We'll also be moving over to the apartment soon too and I'm pretty excited about it. It's been awesome staying at the Street's home but I'm ready to be on our own. To buy our own groceries, cook meals and get settled in. Plus with that baby coming soon I definitely don't want to be a burden to them! I got the down low on where to go for what groceries last night, where you can find the best selection and prices, things like that. So once we do move over to the apartment we'll go shopping and start our life in Moshi... at least for the next three weeks :)
Connections are starting to fall in line too. We got a cell phone while we're here and have already got things in the works to meet with the director of the international school the Street's are on the board of. I plan to go in there at least one day while we're here and volunteer in the 3rd/4th grade class or maybe even teach a lesson. We'll also be going to a baby's home, an orphanage, and of course going to the property at the House of Hope to see the progress and look over the plans for the other buildings.
I'm really so glad that I got out of the funk. It feels so much better to be HOT than lukewarm. I'm excited, so excited at what God is going to continue to reveal to us while were here!

February 25, 2013

In Which We're Becoming African

My almost-two-year-old sits next to me in the back seat of the Land Rover. Looking all tiny and cute with his little feet barely stretching to the edge of the seat. His eyes are wide as he looks out the windshield. He squeals in delight as we turn off the main road onto the neighborhood road and he sees it's made of dirt. “Bumpy!!” He exclaims, waiting anxiously for the 'big bumps' (speed bumps) and giggling with every bounce and bump.

We're heading to the store to pick up some butter and little bear wants to tag along. I scoop him up, barefoot and sweaty and plop him in the car with us. He's slung on my hip with his dirty bare feet swinging as we wait in line to pay for the butter.

It's almost bed time and I look at his sweet face. His eyes are red with tiredness, legs speckled with dirt, feet red-brown from clay and dust walking around barefoot all day and hair slightly matted from sweat.

As I lay him on our bed our mosquito net remains open, it's not the rainy season and malaria is very rare in this region. With the ceiling fan and floor fan on full blast mosquitoes don't stand a chance in our room anyway.

He falls asleep within 5 minutes and we head back out to the living room to chat with the grown-ups. The thought I've been playing with in my head for the past day and a half needs to be resolved; a decision has to be made. “I'm thinking about us not taking the anti-malaria meds,” I say to Bill. “Yea, me too.” Confirming the stirring in my spirit that they aren't necessary. Just to be sure, we ask the missionaries we're staying with what they think. They share some facts with us: “The meds are horrible for your liver, and that's research that has been done on adults, so imagine what it would do to an infant's liver. Malaria is very rare in this region, and there aren't many mosquitoes right now since it's not the rainy season. In my 10 years of living here, only 2 people have ever gotten malaria, and once they took the medicine for it they were fine.” Bill & I look at each other and I can tell he feels the same peace about it as I do.

We head to bed, tired but full of peace. At about 1:30 O decides it's time to be awake. All the way awake. Giggly, happy, jumping up and down, restless, not going back to sleep kind of awake. We finally all fell back asleep around 3:30, waking up again at 11am. Oops.
I guess we aren't quite African yet. :)

February 22, 2013

Vomit and Favor

I woke up hot this morning. I mean. I knew it would be hot here. But for some reason I guess it I didn't think it would be the I'm -sitting-here-not-doing-anything-and-sweating kind of hot. It feels wonderful. Especially after trenching through the blizzard of 2013 that hit Charlotte 6 days ago. Those three inches of snow were horrendous.
Anyhow. I'm feeling well rested and ready to go. Go where, I'm not sure yet. But I know God has amazing things planned for us on this trip. Especially if our travels here are any indication.
We were dropped off at the airport with two hours to spare before boarding our plane. And it was a good thing too. There was some sort of glitch in the computer system so we couldn't get our boarding passes. After 45 minutes at the 'special services' desk, a couple of calls to Delta Global and re-entering all of O's information, we had our boarding passes in hand.
We had a few minutes before we boarded and it was dinner time so we hit the atrium food court.. Owen loved it because there was a kid playing a piano, we gave O a dollar to put in the tip jar and he thought that was cool. We finished up just in time to be the last group on the plane – somewhat intentional. Being the first on the plane means sitting there longer with a toddler – not something we wanted to do.
The flight from Charlotte to LaGuardia (NY) ended up being delayed. After we were already on the plane. We sat on the runway for an hour before finally taking off. Luckily the flight attendants were nice and they took O for walks while we waited, he thought that was pretty cool.
Once in LaGuardia I strapped O in the Boba and carried the stroller down to the baggage claim. Bill had the backpack on his back, the diaper bag slung over his shoulder and was toting the rolling carry on suitcase too. We grabbed our four large suitcases off the carousel and tried to figure out how to maneuver. Bill stacked the large rolling duffel on the large rolling suitcase, then the rolling carry on stacked on the other large rolling suitcase (that's 200lbs of luggage, incase you lost track) and I pulled the stroller (collapsed) and the large hard-sided suitcase(50lbs) (with O still strapped in the Boba). We walked the ten feet to the shuttle counter to grab the ride to JFK but were told the guy for the shuttle was on the other end of the airport. Joy. So we finally make it down there and hear the shuttle won't be back for another 20 minutes.
When we finally got to JFK and found our ticket counter (on the complete opposite end of the place we were dropped off) the lady at the counter says, “You're going to Amsterdam? You didn't give yourself very much time, they're boarding in a few minutes and are about to close the luggage gate.” I (ever-so-politely, even though I didn't want to be nice) said, “I'm sorry, our flight from Charlotte was delayed an hour, and then we had to wait for the shuttle to get here.” Sheesh lady. Thankfully, another ticketing agent came up and was much more helpful and kind, letting us leave our bags as we took them in a more manageable way to the luggage drop. We ran (literally) to our gate and were among the last to board the flight. We found our seats in the middle section of a 3-4-3 seating arrangement. We were behind the toilets which meant we had extra leg room and walking-around room for O. AND the only other person in our row was a lady that had a little lap dog. Proof that God thinks of the big things (us catching our plane, despite the odds after a late flight and shuttle ride) and the small things (having an extra seat in our row, extra legroom for free and a puppy for O to be entertained by.)
O did a great job on the 7 hour flight, sleeping most of the time. Toward the middle we hit some serious turbulence, and it lasted for about an hour. After which O woke up vomiting profusely. It was everywhere. All over his shirt and pants, some on me (since I was holding him while he slept) on his puppy, his blankie, everywhere. The poor kid was terrified. It was the first time he'd ever thrown up and he was awakened by it. After we got things cleaned up, got him changed and settled back in, he fell back asleep. And then woke up vomiting again. Luckily we had a blanket (courtesy of KLM) draped over him so he didn't get too much on himself this time, but he was still shaking, cold-sweating and scared. We went through the clean up process again and opted to keep him in the outfit he was in since it didn't get too much vomit on it. We found another blanket and tucked it up under his chin and he fell asleep. This scenario repeated I think three more times (I lost track after the fourth time), eventually he was only throwing up stomach acid. He was such a trooper though, he really was a big boy about it all, and slept in between it all. We finally touched down in Amsterdam and put him in the stroller to go find our gate. He was super happy to be on solid ground again. Luckily it was on the same concourse and only a short walk away. Until we got there and saw that it had been moved to another concourse. Awesome. We turned around and headed to the gate, looking for a phamacy-type store along the way to grab some motion sickness cure for little bear. He asked where we were going so we told him we wanted to get him some medicine so he didn't get sick. He said, “Owenbear crying. Yuck yuck..” and pointing to his mouth. “Yea honey, you were crying and it was yucky.” That sweet boy.
So we found a place but they didn't have anything for infants, so we kept going to the gate. Once we were on the plane we discovered it wasn't a full flight. There were probably only a couple dozen people on the entire plane. We had an entire row to ourselves and there wasn't anyone three or four rows in front of or behind us. It was awesome. I told the flight attendant that O got sick on the last flight so we might need some napkins or something and she went and grabbed some medicine she had, we broke it up and put it in some juice for bear and he drank it right up. The flight went awesome. He got to play and walk around, and he was happy as can be. He didn't get sick once, and he was such a big boy the entire time. He asked once, with about four hours left in the flight; “Ready?” Telling us he was ready to get off the plane, but after that he fell asleep for a while on me. Toward the end of the flight – the last hour and half or so, he was getting pretty antsy (to be expected after 24 hours of travel!) With about 45 minutes left in the flight he started asking again “Ready? Go down?” so we said, “we'll be going down soon. When it's time to go down you'll have to get your seatbelt on and not walk around anymore, okay?” And with that he got up in his seat, asked us to buckle his seatbelt and sat there perfectly still for the rest of the flight, just waiting for it to land. We got in, got through customs without a hitch, grabbed all our luggage and headed out to meet Peter & Brian. The drive home was quick and we went to bed right away since it was almost 1 am (Tanzania time.) O slept with us and we stayed with Peter & Mary for the night since it was so late. We all slept great – O probably the best out of the three of us. He was knocked out and thrashing all over the place, giving Bill & I black eyes and kidney punches all night. :)
God's grace and favor was all over this trip. We felt it so strong, and know it was because of all the prayers being sent up by our supporters. It's so clear to us that this is where we are supposed to be, not just later but right now. It's a feeling that's mostly indiscribable – being right in the middle of God's will and plan for us. And we pretty much love it.

February 05, 2013

Praise Jesus!

I want you to read this when you're older.
Maybe when you're a teenager struggling with the concept of faith, or maybe when a bump in the road comes along trying to derail you.  I want this to be forever documented so you can remember.  So you can see what I get to witness in you, tears brimming my eyes, every. single. time it happens.  (which is a lot these days)

The other day you asked me to put some music on so you could play your guitar.

I put on the Laurie Berkner Band station on Pandora (you like watching her 'dinosaur' video a lot).  As soon as the first lyric was sung you said, "No.  Praise Jesus" and put your hand in the air.
"You want praise Jesus music?" I asked.
"Yeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!" You exclaimed emphatically, jumping up and down with your guitar strapped over your shoulder.  As soon as that Fee song came on, you started dancing and singing and raising your hand every once in a while shouting "Praise Jesus!" with an ear-to-ear grin on your face.  Proof that joy, true joy, comes from no one but Him.

In the car ride this morning I flipped on the radio, just because, and the Hillsong CD was in.  You've only heard this track one other time, but you immediately raised your hand in the backseat and shouted "Praise Jesus!"
"Yea, this is praise Jesus music honey!  You want me to turn it up?"
"YEEEAAAHHH!!" you exclaimed, with that smile spreading over your face again, and your hands beginning to clap along to the music.
As the track started to fade out your smile faded too, and I saw a concerned look came across your brow as I glanced in the mirror to see you.
"More?" you asked.
"Yes, honey, there's more."
It only took you three songs to figure out that you didn't have to keep asking for more, that it would keep playing.  Eventually you began to recognize that the end of the song didn't mean the end of the music and you would clap right along with the audience from that Live CD, with a smile on your face anxious for the new song to start.

Your love for worship is so sweet, so child-like, and so wide-open.  I love the way you want "Praise Jesus" music.  I love the way it fills you up with joy and the smile that comes over your face.
I try to stop it, but I can't.  Every time I see you praising Jesus, it brings tears to my eyes.

You, my son, are anointed by God, just as your middle name implies.  And someday when it doesn't 'feel' like it, I want you to read this and remember, it has always been so.  From the very beginning.  And you recognized it before you were even two years old.