March 26, 2013


First we were striving... then we were stopping... and because of that we are (still in the process of) finding (God's face)

It's Friday morning and we're waiting for Andrea – the taxi. Getting ready to run last-minute errands to pick up some gifts and goodies to take home with us.
I'm standing under a make-shift shelter: tree branches held together with twine, topped with a tin roof. A momma sits on a table picking through a pile of clothes. I join her looking for newborn-sized cuteness for little Naomi. I really need to learn my Swahili numbers. I can ask 'shin gape?', but it does no good because then they assume I speak the language entirely and answer me with a slew of words I can't understand. So I ask “how much?” in English instead, and after some hesitation and thought she replies, “one-thousand”. Not bad, less than $0.75 for a cute onesie from Gap, an adorable dress from Old Navy – I'm excited for the day I can come back to Memoria and just walk around checking it all out. They get shipment bundles from Europe and the US from major stores that have overstocks, etc. and re-sell them here. It's a mess, like TJ Max was dumped onto tons of plywood tables situated under tin-roof shelters, atop dirty, dusty open fields. But it's fun for me to walk around here, looking for that amazing deal.
It's lunchtime and Peter stops in the middle of the road to let me out of the truck. I still think it's funny that it's normal here to do that. I hop out and stride over to 10 to 10, where Bill & Owen are already sitting with Vicki H. 

For the first time that day we speak about August, school, needs, desires, and all that. She offers some very sound advice and encouraging words and we feel refreshed about it all.
We're walking to Peter & Mary's and stop at Rosie's fruit stand. Six banana's for 600 shillings – that's like 6 cents each. I put them into the basket of the stroller and Bill says, “Did you see that?”
“See what?”
“That big nasty black spider that was on your hand.”
“Um. NO. Where is it?!”
“It's in the stroller now. It was on the bananas when she handed them to you, then it crawled around your hand and back onto the bananas as you put them in the stroller.”
“KILL IT! Here's a stick.”
He can't seem to get to it so we give up and continue on to the Street's.
I'm positioning a newborn on a blanket in the heat of the day as the sun streams into the veranda. Her little mini-photo session at only a few days old and Naomi takes it like a champ – giant headbands and all. :)

It's time to start thinking about it again. We ask Peter the specifics about renting the apartment this fall. How much is rent, what's included, what's required to hold it if we do decide to come, etc. I take mental notes and it feels good to have some answers to questions we've been thinking about. He asks for a date when we'll know. I throw out April 1st. The sooner the better, not only for our sake and his, but for the school too.
I'm sitting in a fabric folding-director style chair at a table with a red and black plaid tablecloth. Owen and Noelani are playing on the tiled steps and I'm keeping my eye on him like a hawk. 

Last time we ate at El Rancho, one of the workers picked him up and took him in the restaurant to show him and his blond hair/blue eyed self off to the kitchen workers without asking us. Not letting that happen again.
We're eating now. Enjoying chicken nuggets and other yummies, when Rebekah said they'd had a thought. And they want to know what we think about their thought.
“We're going on furlough to the States in August, until about February, and we had the thought that you guys could stay in our house.”
I'm speechless. Because we've stopped striving and the opportunities have been appearing. Because we've only just met this couple, yet they feel comfortable enough to let us live in their home with all of their things, to pay their workers, everything. Shocked speechless at God and what he is doing.
There's numbers to crunch to figure out expenses, and things to consider, but as we walk through their house just now, I can see us living here. It's lived in by a family with a two year old – that means toys, a toddler bed, a pack & play, Owen would be all set. God is awesome.
It's nighttime now and I lay here chatting with God. Telling him how awesome I think he is, and how I love that he cares about the details. I tell him we're going to keep trying not to strive, but instead, trying to find what he wants for us, and what he has for us. Because it's probably (definitely) better than anything we could strive for on our own.
We're riding on the Arusha road with a Dutch family we've just met. Friends of Melinda's, they want a photo shoot on her property before the tea garden begins.

I walk into the kitchen, ready to shoot some images for Melinda of the food, preparations, workers and guests of her tea garden. My mouth is already watering at the sights and smells of her amazing concoctions. I'm behind the lens and I'm in my 'place.' My eyes are darting around, looking for the details, looking at the big picture, and trying to capture it all. Before I realize it it's lunch time and we haven't eaten. I've taken pictures of all the food but not tasted it yet!

I give Daniel our order, and on our ticket he writes “Photo mama”. Love it. Here it's common for women to be referred to by mama. I'm traditionally be referred to as “mama Owen” because he's my firstborn, but I think Daniel has forgotten Owen's name and opts for the more obvious moniker. I don't mind a bit.

Our food comes and I sit and enjoy my family, and our new, extended family, for the first time all day. The salad I ordered melts in my mouth and makes me drool all at the same time. It's just that good. Home made feta cheese, baby greens, fresh raspberries, a homemade herb dressing, fresh veggies. I want seven more.
I watch Bill contemplate how exactly to eat his hamburger. Made with Kenyan beef and stacked upon lettuce, tomatoes, caramelized onions, pickles and special sauce oozing out between the two just-toasted buns, his eyes are bigger than his mouth.
After lunch I head back to the kitchen, capturing more moments, more desserts, and touching base with Melinda. She's such a sweet person, and such an amazing cook. 

I count it an honor to be able to do this for her and having this Saturday on her property is truly amazing. Bill & I both decide right then that it will become a family day for us once a month to come to her house for tea.
I'm holding on tight in the back of Vicki H.'s truck, bouncing over foot-deep gulleys in the dirt road, riding paralell to rail road tracks.
I see girls sitting on the front step cutting fabric. 

Inside are rows of old-fashioned looking sewing machines. One man is working on one, (presumably) fixing it. Two girls are in the corner sewing, eye-balling Owen and trying to hide their smiles. 

They've just finished making a bunch of shoulder bags and coin purses per our request. The Courage Center is a place for girls from the village to learn a trade and get a leg-up on life. Their items are shipped to the States and sold as a way to raise funds. I pick up the bags, thanking them profusely and paying them as we walk back out the door.

I hear the loud rumble of an engine and know the Loudermilks are here for their photosession. I throw on my flip flops and we get started right away. Africa is looking good on them. They're really getting into life here and I'm so happy for them. 

From the other side of the yard I hear a “Haaaapppaaa Praaaaisseee!!”
Owen discovers his friend is here.

I wrap up the session and Mandee's telling me how she thinks my photography could really take off here. I'm skeptical, since there's only a small community of people and most of them are missionaries which means they don't have much excess funds for pictures.
We're riding up Kili again and I can feel the air getting cooler as we climb.
I'm standing in a coffee field, surrounded by beauty and snapping away as I peer through my lens at this beautiful family of three from Alaska.

We are searching and pleading with the clouds to move out of the way so we can get a clear shot of Kilimanjaro and it finally happens. 
I hop out of the car, frame up the shot and snap away, making silly noises in attempt at getting the two year old to crack a smile for me.
I hand my camera to the client and ask that she tries taking our picture with Kili in the background – something I never thought we'd get since I'm always the one with the camera.
I'm sticking to the couch and editing away fervently. We leave tomorrow. I don't even want to say it. I miss things at home – our cat, the carpet (I know, it's weird), mexican food, almond milk. But I love it so much here. I feel so at home here. We feel so at home here. It's normal for us. It's not Africa. It's home.

It's Sunday and we're skipping church. I've got a coffee date with Vicki H. and I don't know which I'm looking forward to more – the amazing latte that Union cafe makes with beans off Kilimanjaro or the company and getting to know Vicki more. :)
We're talking about our lives, our backgrounds, our parents, our kids. It's nice to talk normal stuff – to make a new friend – and to sip on this amazing latte.
I'm stuffing clothes and other things into ziploc baggies and the suitcases are getting full. We organize everything just-so then sit down to share a PB&J – the last of our food in the house, and our last meal before leaving for the airport.
I check facebook before heading to the shower and Mission for Mawu has a message. A lady wants me to photograph a home-wedding just outside of Moshi. She found me through the Street's and Meulenberg's photos I posted several days ago. The wedding is in December. I explain to her our situation, letting her know that we'll know for sure if we'll be back in Moshi by the beginning of April and I can get back with her. She replies immediately and says there's no rush and she hopes I can do it and that we'll be back.
I'm surprised, and tell Bill, who is also surprised. I hop in the shower, not thinking about it much more, instead focusing on making sure we get the last-minute things packed and don't forget them.
Out of the shower it's almost time to go, so I log on the computer one more time. Mission for Mawu has another message. Another lady asking me to photograph her wedding. In January. At Terengerie. I give her the same explanation I gave the other lady, and she also responds immediately. She says she really hopes I can do it because she loved the pictures of the Streets and Meulenberg's.
I look at Bill and read him the message. His eyes are big and his mouth hangs open a little. “I can't believe it.” I say. “I don't even know what to think. On the day we're leaving, within 30 minutes of each other I get two requests to shoot weddings in Tanzania. I don't even do weddings! This is crazy!”
“I think it's a sign,” he says. “Look at how God is opening things up!”
“Um. I think it's two signs.” I reply.
I sit here on this leather couch, sweating through my jean capris. Dumbfounded. Shocked.

March 22, 2013


If you know our son at all, you know helping is one of his gifts.  The kid loves to help.  He will help make granola, he'll help clean the house, help feed the cat, help do laundry - helping is his thing and it brings him such joy.

One afternoon we were lounging around the apartment and he was getting restless.  So I said, somewhat flippantly, "Honey, why don't you get the bucket and go get the laundry out of the washer, I think it's done and ready to be taken out to dry."
So I watch him disappear with the bucket.
It's super quiet and Bill & I enjoy that for a minute, before looking at each other and realizing just how quiet it is.  So we get up and check on O.  And this is what we find:

We go back out to the living room and sit down, smiling at each other, so proud of our little boy who is so eager to help, no questions asked.
A few moments later he comes waddling out with a 'matter-of-fact' look on his face.  "Laundry ahhht." "The laundry's all done?"
"Oh okay, well, can you push the bucket out here to the door so we can go hang it on the porch?"

He turns around and waddles quickly back to the bathroom, we hear him grunting a bit as he pushes the heavy, wet clothes our way.

Love that kid and his helping heart.

Another day we were visiting the Street family, and Owen & Bill were outside.  I glanced out the window to see what was happening to find Owen holding a leaf and handing it to Eli B (the gardener). Eli B loves Owen and got a kick out of him handing him leaves, one by one, as he raked some into a bucket.  He eventually handed Owen the rake and let him 'help' that way too.  Owen was in heaven.  
Every time we went over there he wanted to help Eli B. 
One day we were out walking around, looking for the tortoises.  We found Eli B and he tagged along until we found two of them back by the clothesline.  Eli B ran over to the table, grabbed a bowl and pulled out the baby tortoise - presenting it to Owen.  
 O thought it was pretty neat and poked at it for a minute.  Eli B was just smiling down at him, then O looked at Eli B, looked over at the other two (grown) turtles munching on the grass and promptly walked over and gently set the baby turtle down right next to the others.  He then looked at Eli B, crossed his arms over his chest (the way he does when he's proud of himself) and smiled real big.  As if he was saying, "I'm a good helper Eli B!  I put the turtle back where he goes." 

O. Em.  GEeee.  It was adorable. Eli B thought so too. :)

One day we were at the Welch's house, having lunch and talking about the logistics of moving to Tanzania (they just moved there 6 months ago).  Owen was getting bored so Vicki suggested he go out with their house mama and help with laundry.  All he needed to hear was the "L" word and he was on it.  He was actually kind of sad when there wasn't any more laundry that needed to be hung on the line.  
We left their house, then came back a few hours later for dinner and worship, and when we told O we were going back to Vicki & Vince's house the first thing he said was, "Laundry?"

I so hope you read this someday, little bear, and see that the gift God has given you to help others started at such a young age.  I look forward to watching you grow in this gifting and am excited to see where it takes you in life.  Momma & Papa love you and your helpful heart, sweet boy!

March 21, 2013


It's Thursday and I wake up remembering the night before and we pray to God that he helps us not to strive today- but that we live in the moment. I promise to seek him rather than the answers.
I'm preparing for a photo shoot at Melinda's. Her driver arrives to pick us up and we go as a family to her beautiful property about 25 minutes away from Shanty Town. We have a wonderful time taking photos and she invites us to come Saturday for her weekly tea garden. In exchange of me taking photos of the tea garden guests, food and workers, we can enjoy lunch as a family. I gladly accept, drooling already at the prospect of eating more of Melinda's home-cooking. She mentions that her friend may want photos if we have time before we leave Sunday and that she'll put her in contact with me.
I'm riding in the back of the Neuberger's car now as the sun sets behind the trees. We're headed up Kili a ways to a lodge for their family photo session.
I'm sitting here thinking, as the bats squeak in the night air, for the first time today. And I'm thinking about school, and August. But I'm thinking about how I haven't been thinking about it all day. And I'm proud of myself for not striving. For living in the moment. And I see God's face. Because in one day I held two photo sessions and booked another two. More cash continuing to fill our missions fund.

March 20, 2013


It's Wednesday morning and I'm walking to the Street's house to catch a ride to school. Today's school picture day and I'm super excited to do this for Hope International School. It's their first year being open, and it's just such a landmark to be able to capture for them. When I mentioned the idea to Stacy (the founder) a few days before she said something to the effect of, “Wow, school pictures. That means we're, like, a real school.” As if she was shocked that her dream was actually being played out.
When I arrive I see many familiar faces and receive lots of smiles from those I was in the classroom with the day before. There was a shady spot in the courtyard I had my eye on so I set up a table and wait for the kids. The pre-schoolers come first and they're oh-so-adorable. And oh-so-squirmy as they wait their turn. But as soon as I tell them to stand on the crack in the concrete in front of the camera it's as if the 'magic' of the camera calms them and each and every one of them stands perfectly still, letting me snap their picture.
The morning progresses and I end up finishing early, so I pack up and head to the principals' office. Ruth & Steve welcome me, and having just met with Stacy, have answers to the questions Bill & I asked at our lunch meeting/interview yesterday. They tell me what they're able to provide to get us back to Africa and how much they can provide monthly as a stipend for food. We discuss details about the monthly excursions and the availability of a car for going into town. The conversation turns to curriculum and classes offered and “How do you feel about teaching art?” and “You could take over the photography class,” and “It would be great if you were up to leading a year book committee.” Then she mentions, those classes may change because the extra curricular classes are based mostly on what the teachers chose to teach and what their strengths are. I (admitedly) stop listening to her continue as I roll that around in my head: “The extra curricular classes are based on what the teachers want to teach and what their strengths are.” Amazing. A school that actually listens to the teachers and plays to their strengths. I resume listening and we get back on the subject of curriculum and are now flipping through the catalog. My heart is going fluttery as I think of teaching again and the activities and extensions and lessons that could be taught– looking through that catalog did it, I'm sure (you teachers know what I mean).
Before I know it, the lunch bell is ringing which means it's time for me to catch my ride. I collect my things and head toward Stacy's van.
It's lunchtime now and I join Bill & Owen at Vince & Vicki's house. The table is already set, but the food isn't quite ready. We're here to talk with the Welches about the logistics of making the 'move'. What expenses are, where to get the best rates on insurance, etc. I say hello to Vicki & Vince but I'm still kind of numb from all the information swimming in my head. The last couple nights have been spent figuring out how we could make it work to come here in August for the school year. Do we sell everything and move here in August? Is this even God telling us to move, or is it just us being over zealous and wanting it? Or do we come here just for the school year, attempt to rent our house out, and consolidate some of our bills? How much support would we need to raise in order to live in Moshi? What would we need to bring with us? What would our 'start-up' costs be? Are people going to freak out about this? Who can rent our house – who do we trust, that is able to rent it? So many questions that we were trying so desperately to answer over the past few days.
I come back to the moment and Vince has prepared two sheets full of numbers, ideas and 'good-to-know' things. He's already been talking to Bill a little while. The info Vince is giving us is great and I quickly start scribbling things down – a lot of those questions we'd been talking about are getting answered and it's helpful. Fortunately, lunch is ready because I'm not sure my head can handle one more iota of information.
I truly enjoy lunch, being in the moment and not thinking about school or the future. It's a nice reprieve. Before I know it though the conversation has turned from how amazing the sausages and banana bread muffins are to what I gleaned from the interview/meeting yesterday and if I'd heard any more information from Ruth. I fill them in on the details and we move back into the living room and resume talking business.
Before I know it we're talking newsletters and support and numbers are flying everywhere. My head is spinning but I try not to let on. Owen is getting fussy and ready for a nap so we bid our adieus with the promise to return in a few hours for potluck and community worship/prayer time.
I'm walking along the dusty road and we're half-talking about everything that just went on, still in a stupor from information overload. Talking about all the numbers and what it all means and is this God or is this us? Are we on the right path? Are we going to fast? How could we make this work? Should we make this work?
We're walking back to the Welch's now, a tupperware container filled with french toast and my brain is feeling better. It's been a couple hours since we've talked about the fall and all that entials and I'm feeling a little rested, in that sense. We arrive and it's breakfast pot luck in full swing and boy is it good. Bacon. French Toast. Eggs. Quiche. Yummm. I let my brain rest just a little while longer so I can fully enjoy the smorgasbord that lies ahead.
It's getting close to being worship time and a new face comes over to us. Gina introduces herself and tells us about her ministry to the unreached people of the tribal villages. She asks us our intentions/hearts for Moshi and we share a tiny bit about the school and our potential plans. We would love to go to the villages with her once in a while, but, for now, that's now where we're feeling led for long-term ministry for our family and we tell her so.
It's worship time now and Rebekah is singing while she plays the keyboard, Alex jumping in on the hand drum every now and then. I soak in the moment and hold back the tears. Worship always makes me so emotional. The lyrics remind me that God is in control and He is all we need, tat he will always provide.
Worship is nearing the end and Vicki is talking now. She is saying she wants the community to pray for us. When I hear our names I snap to attention, and realize fully what is about to happen. We didn't ask for this, but it's going to happen.   She asks with her glance if it's okay that she shares the three decisions we're bouncing around and I nod the 'ok'. The group is listening as she shares: “Do they move here at all? Do they just come for ten months? Do they sell everything and move here permanently?” She asks the community to pray as they feel led and Vince is bringing over two dining room chairs to the middle of the room.
I'm sitting in this chair, holding my husbands hand and tears are streaming down my face. These people are praying with their hearts, the Holy Spirit is here and I can feel him. They pray of provision and speak scriptures over us. Several words are spoken that are encouraging and positive (oh how I wish there was a scribe for this moment!). The praying dies down a bit and Rebekah shares that she feels God is telling her to tell us to stop striving. That he's put this dream in our heart and not in vain. That if we stop striving and just seek him rather than seeking the answers, we will find our answers. Others start to speak out in agreement and peace is spoken over us.
It's quiet in the room and I'm still sitting here holding Bill's hand. My cheeks wet with tears and my heart overflowing-full. I explain that I'm crying because these people in this room are like family and we're going to miss them so much. Rebekah mentions that God is in this because it's not easy to submerge oneself into a community and have it feel like family in less than a month. Family doesn't just happen like that. But it has. And I'm sitting right in the middle of it soaking it all up.
It's nighttime now and I'm listening to the bats squeaking as Owen sleeps soundly in the bedroom across the hall. I'm writing our supporters asking for them to come alongside us in prayer that we would just stop striving. I can't explain, I just ask, knowing that so many of them will just pray. 

March 16, 2013

After School

After school we headed out to lunch. We picked up Bill & Owen and Ruth & Steve (the current administrators of Hope) and Vicki & Vince (next year's administrators) and I all headed to the local Indian restaurant (El Rancho) for lunch. It was part interview, part meeting and it was a lot of fun. We talked about the details of what it would look like for me to teach at Hope. They're currently hiring a teacher for grades 6/7/8 (combined classroom, though currently they don't have any 8th graders enrolled, so it may end up being only 6/7), also a preschool teacher and possibly a 1st grade teacher if their numbers get high enough to be able to split K/1 up to two classes. When Hope “hires” a teacher, airfare is paid for (round trip) the visa is paid for and typically living expenses are covered. Right now all the teachers are single so they all live in a big house roommate style and are given a monthly stipend for food. Since we'd be the first family hired into Hope they needed to do some number crunching to figure out what kind of stipend we'd receive. Teaching at Hope isn't really a 'job' in the conventional sense – it's a volunteer position. Teachers aren't paid. Hope is an international school which means there are students from all over the globe that attend- US kids, Indian kids, Tanzanian kids, etc. The school is taught in English, and each classroom has a Tanzanian assistant for the local kids that come in only speaking Swahili. There are also Swahili classes in the afternoon for all the kids to learn the local language (there's one offered for teachers once a week too!)
Anyway, I told them out of all the positions available I'd be most interested in the 6/7/8 position. I know. Those of you that know me (and taught with me) are probably jaw-to-the-floor right now. But it's different here. First of all (those of you that know me also know this) I do not have any desire to do preschool. First grade might be okay – but if given the choice I'd rather teach older kids. I much prefer being able to do projects and fun stuff like that, rather than tying shoes and wiping noses :) And the middle-schoolers here are still middle-schoolers, but there wouldn't be 30 of them in my classroom, there'd be less than a dozen, maybe only a handful, so it's an entirely different dynamic. Anyway, there is also a photography class offered right now that will not have a teacher once Ruth & Steve leave for the States, so I could teach that class as well. I would also continue taking school pictures, and they were really hoping to get a teacher to head up a yearbook group so the school could publish one of those next year (I was on yearbook staff in high school).
So it seems as though God is up to something in all this. (Surprise, surprise) The way things seem to line up is kind of uncanny. I asked if they needed to know by a certain time our intentions of coming back for the fall and it pretty much is 'the sooner the better'. They're actively seeking teachers to fill the positions so in order to get the grades I want, I have to be the first to commit to it.
So we've committed right now, to praying. Lots of praying. Seeking God to see if this is what he wants for us. It's hard right now for us to make sure this is God and not just a 'want' on our end. So we've committed to pray, and seek, and listen. And see what God has to say.

March 15, 2013

Getting Back on the Saddle.... or is it in the Saddle?

So Tuesday morning I stepped through the gate of Hope International School of Arts and walked to Miss Holly's classroom. I'd been in it once before, but only to peek around and say 'hi.' I found the sub plans on the desk and began reading through them. I found a smal white box with a red top fashioned with a bow on it, and opened it to find the chalk for the chalk board. I scrawled my name in the corner of the board, grabbed the black towel and wiped away the date, entering in the new one as chalk dust collected on my fingers. A little round face peeked in the room and smiled at me.
“Good morning,” I greeted her.
“Good morning,” she replied.
“What's your name?”
“I'm Miss Amanda.”
She nodded shyly, hiding a smile and ducked back out to the courtyard to play with the other kids before the proverbial bell rang. (I'm pretty sure it was just a whistle being blown)
When it was time for the day to start the kids lined up at the door, waiting to be allowed in. As the filed in the room I asked each their name, and told them mine in return. Mercy, Noella, Chloe, Prince and Hasanni walked in and stood behind their desks waiting. For what I wasn't sure. Chloe lead the class in saying good morning to me, and the day began.
After some Bible time of reading about a missionary and working on illustrating the memory verse for the week we had some worship time and sang a song a capella style with Hasanni and Mr. Stephen (the Tanzanian assistant) drumming along on the desk top. Next was language arts time and after going over the assignment I watched the kids work together in their groups to create a cheer that focused on verbs. It gave me time to think and remember how much I miss teaching. Truly teaching. Not paperwork, not meetings every second day, not politics- just teaching. The kids were excited about learning, excited to work together on a project. And they did such an amazing job! After language arts it was time for break. The kids all went outside for a little while and I got to chat with a couple of the other teachers who asked how the morning was going (it was only 10am). After about 20 minutes we returned to the classroom to a tray of watermelon and uji layed out for the kids' snack. They each grabbed their mug (uji (oo-ghee) is a cream-of-wheat type substance but much more filling, made with soybeans, peanuts and different flours, etc.) and their watermelon and headed over to the reading chair for read-aloud time. Then it was time for math. Since it's a two grade split, there are two groups of kids on different levels of math (acutally there's a third, one girl is on her own level and the assistant does math with her). So one group got some leftover work finished up while I got the other group started on their math. Once they got the concept and we did a few problems on the board they were ready to go on their own so I started with the other group. They were working on multi-digit multiplication and didn't grasp it quite as quickly as the other group. So we sat and worked out problems with manipulatives, worked out problems on the paper using different ways to get the answer, and they finally started getting it.
That's when it happened.
As I stepped back and watched them do one last problem on their own and they were doing all the steps and getting it right, and seeing where they forgot a step and going back and fixing it – when I saw that I knew – I was ready to be back in the classroom. This is my passion. It's what I live for – being able to teach and see the progression from confusion, to understanding, to mastery. I was so proud of the students for pushing through and battling with the problems until they got it! And frankly, it made me smile inside, knowing that I was able to teach two students (one Tanzanian and one American) how to do mulit-digit multiplication – because it took me a minute to remember how to do it after all these years :)
Before I knew it the day was over. It was noon and almost time for lunch! The core curriculum at Hope is taught in the morning, then in the afternoon it's electives time (drama, PE, art, photography classes, etc.). The afternoons are also opened up for area home-schoolers to come take part in a la carte type classes. I said good-bye to the kids, reminding them that I'd see them tomorrow for picture day and my heart was happy. The joy of teaching had been returned to me and it felt so. Good.
The kids were amazing, so sweet, so eager to learn. The atmosphere was soaked in the Holy Spirit and so relaxed and fun – it really, really made me want to get back in the saddle especially if it's here at Hope School.... or is it on the saddle? -  

March 14, 2013

First Moments: Relived

(Monday, March 11th, 2013)
I knew the nostalgia would start to come as I climbed the steps of Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center. Mary was in surgery and with every step I took to reach the 3rd floor she was getting closer to meeting her new little one. I couldn't help but be brought back to the time almost two years ago when I was in her place.
The steps I climbed were concrete, wet in places, and accompanied by a dirty handrail. At each floor there was an open corridor, with a slatted wall letting in the fresh, cool breeze coming in off the mountain. Finally on the third floor we walked the hallway and I glanced over the edge of the half-wall next to me. Beneath was a courtyard of sorts, with several clotheslines displaying the morning's laundry put out to dry. Directly across were the surgery rooms, Mary was in the first on the right. 

Steve (Peter's dad) & I saw Anne (Peter's mum) waiting for us at the corner and we all walked down to have a seat on the bench and wait at the end of the hall that lead to the surgery rooms.

When we heard it we all looked at each other, then down the hallway. That just had to have been baby Street's little cry we heard! Immediately following Anne got a text – it was from Peter: “It's a girl!!” We all got up and walked to the end of the hallway, peaking through the birthing center doors and down the hall in hopes of catching a glimpse of something telling us everything was going well. 
Kuzalia (coo-zah-LEE-uh) means "To be born" in Swahili

We saw Peter pop out of the room on the left (where Mary was) and go into a room on the right (where the baby was), flashing us a thumbs-up on the way. 
We waited for what seemed like ages, but was probably only a few minutes, hearing the sweet little girls cries here and there, and watching Peter go back and forth checking on baby, then checking on mom. 
While we waited the memories came back to me as well – watching them pull Owen out of my stomach, then handing him off to the nurses to be cleaned up, then handed him to Bill so we could be together as a family before they took him away to get him started on his IV to get rid of the infection we both caught during labor. Watching Peter go back and forth between Mary and the baby made me wonder what it must have been like for Bill to have to stay with me while they took O. That wasn't an option for us, at least it wasn't presented as one, so we didn't get to see him again until I was in post-op.
Finally they wheeled Mary out to the hallway, just outside the door the baby was in. Peter's mum was given the 'ok' to go see the baby (they're very strict about people going into this area of the hospital). She had to switch out her shoes for some flip flops that were sitting near the red 'do-not-cross' line on the floor, and put on a doctor's coat before she could cross the threshold to see the baby. Next was Steve's turn so Anne put the coat on him, and he tried to slip on the too-small flip flops in place of his crocs to go see his new grandbaby. When he returned they said it was my turn. Peter was just brining the baby out of the room to see Mary when I got the coat and flip flops on and got my camera ready. It was such a sweet moment to capture; Peter holding Naomi Grace up to Mary so she could smell the sweet new-baby smell of her daughter. So she could feel her breath on her cheek and hear the soft coo-ing coming from her soft voice. Tears began to fill Mary's eyes and I found myself having a hard time seeing through my lens. 
The memories came back again, so extremely vividly, of Bill holding Owen next to my face, just as Peter was doing for Mary. The tears that came on that day were uncontrollable for me, and they were of pure joy, just as I imagine they were for Mary in that moment.
I also truly enjoyed watching Peter fawn over his new little girl. I imagine a new gun will be added to this family's collection soon, but such is the territory with daughters I hear. :)
As I was snapping Peter asked if I would hold Naomi so he could change out of the scrubs – was that even a question?! I took that sweet girl in my arms, wrapped only in the hospital issue blue blanket and I could feel her small, warm body through the thin linnen. I rocked her slightly and she cooed and fidgeted around with her hands and feet. I could feel her bare bottom beneath the blanket – the hospital doesn't provide diapers, so she'd be bare until they were in post-op and could get to their suitcase with all their supplies in it.
Before I knew it Peter was out of his scrubs and they were getting ready to roll Mary down to the post-op room. I handed Naomi back to her daddy and resumed my place behind the lens – totally and utterly caught up in the moment the Street family had so generously offered for me to share. Even as I type this I can't believe the opportunity I had to be a part of such a sacred time for this family, it was truly a blessing.
Down in the post-op room, which was one large room with about 5 beds in it I think, Mary got transferred to the bed while Peter & Anne went to see about getting a diaper on Naomi and wrapping her in the blankets from home, which were much softer and warmer. 
(Getting a diaper on Naomi - that's a bassinet you see in the foreground)
What an amazing morning it was, and it wasn't even 9am yet! I am so blessed to have been a part of the Street family welcoming this new little life, it is a moment I know they will never forget, and I know I won't either.

March 13, 2013

Re-Cap (March 11th)

Wow. It's been a while. I guess I'll pick up where I left off – on Tuesday.
Tuesday morning Mandee & I walked to Kasey's for playgroup with Owen & Harper. There ended up being about a dozen or so kids/moms there and O had a blast. 

He got down right away and started playing. At playgroup I got to meet a handful of other moms that live in the area, only a couple of them missionaries. One mom is here for business – her husband is a coffee trader. Another mom is here because she wanted her kids to get a more cultured experience growing up. She's a yoga instructor and teaches mountaineering when she's not chasing around her one year old. It was nice to break out of the bubble and meet non-missionary moms, but moms that still love Africa and all that Moshi has to offer. After play group we hung out at Peter & Mary's for a little while, before coming home for dinner & bed. Our evenings here have been about the same most nights. We have dinner, let O play for a little bit, do bath time and bed for him, then Bill & I will play card games on the computer and/or watch a movie before heading to bed ourselves. It's been nice to have it so simple. There's no TV in the apartment and I'm totally fine with that. We use the computer to watch movies and it's helped us be more intentional about communicating – er – remembering to communicating. Even back home in the States we recently decided to go screen-free for two nights of the week. No computer or TV on means we remember to actually have meaningful conversation and get creative about entertaining ourselves, rather than him playing a computer game and me pinning things on Pinterest that (let's face it) I'll probably never actually accomplish. :)
Anyway, Wednesday was a pretty relaxed day, we hung out all morning at home then walked to the Street's in the afternoon to do Mary's maternity session. 

From there, we walked over to Vince & Vickie's for a potluck dinner and worship time. 

The potluck was a baked potato bar and someone was kind enough to bust out their stash of Velveeta – normally I don't like that stuff, but they did something to it and it was amazing over that baked potato! It was a real taste of America :) Bill & I had a chance to talk more with Ruth & Steve, the current administrators (principals, essentially) at Hope International School. They've been there for the schools first year but now know God is calling them to head back to California, so Vince & Vickie will be administrating next year, until the school can find someone to come on long-term. Stacy talked to us about this when she was over the other day and I think I would love doing the administrator's job. I'm not positive, of course, since I haven't even worked at the school – but I know it wouldn't be as crazy as trying to be a principal at a public school in the States! Anyway, we also met a guy named Alex that's working with churches in a village near Lake Manyara. His dream is to eventually have a drive-through coffee shop in the area, with all the proceeds going to help the poorer locals from the surrounding villages. He is also the current community developer for Hope School. He was going to be drumming for worship and O came over and sat on my lap eye-balling his drum (it was sort of jembe-looking, but smaller). Alex held out the drum for him and O's face lit up like you wouldn't believe. His eyes got a big, and his mouth dropped open a little bit – he thought it was the coolest thing ever that Alex let him play the drum a little before worship.
Thursday was another low-key day for the most part. I had a photo session in the morning and got to meet the Schultz family. 

They're from Michigan but have been living in Moshi for about six years as Baptist missionaries planting churches. We went out to Melinda's property for the session. Melinda is another mzungu (mm-ZOON-goo: white person) living in Moshi, but not as a missionaries. Her and her husband own thousands upon thousands of chrysanthemum plants that they export all over the world. She also is an amazing cook/baker and does the catering for Wild at Heart Safaris (the Street's safari co.). We had her boxed lunch when we went on safari and it was far from a 'box lunch'. It had a gorgeous salad with a vinaigrette dressing, fresh raspberries and even an edible flour on it! Then there was a passionfruit cheesecake for dessert, and a pita filled with chicken salad. Anyway, her property is absolutely gorgeous, so it was neat to be able to do a session there. She also spoke with me about doing a session for her and her husband – a few family shots and some pictures of her food and treats for her business. Her husband also races pigeons and wants pictures of them for identification/selling purposes, so I'm looking forward to a very interesting session with them next week! After returning from the session with the Schultz family, we just bummed around at home most of the day, it was kind of nice.
Friday Mandee & us split a cab to head into town for some groceries. We went to the market, Union cafe (so I could get some fun things to use for a fundraiser back in the States), and Nakumatt. Nakumatt is like the closest thing to Wal-Mart that Moshi has. 
Harper & Owen like Nakumatt  :)
It's actually a brand new store, and the chain is based out of Kenya. It's very similar to a Wal-Mart, but on a much smaller scale. It is two stories tall, with groceries and household stuff on the first floor, and entertainment, mattressess, toys, etc on the second floor. The difference between Nakumatt (nock-OO-mot) and Wal-Mart is also pricing. Nakumatt tends to be more expensive for most things than the local ma & pa shoppes and the market. There are some things you can get for a good price – like bread is only 2000tsh for a good-sized, fresh baked sliced wheat loaf – but their produce and some other things, like pancake syrup (at 12,500 tsh ($7.81!! for a normal sized bottle of (fake) syrup!) are quite a bit more expensive. Things like that, though (syrup, nutella, etc.) are generally more expensive here anyways because they're imported. After getting all of our errands run, we just hung out at home the rest of the evening.
Saturday we got to spend some time with Gaudy and Justin (and Nikki & Bella of course!) We planned a morning photo session for them, then just hung out and let the kids play, and ended our time together with lunch. 

Nikki & Owen were so cute to watch play together. Owen decided he had to wear socks and shoes that day, and when we got there we took his shoes off, and Nikki ran and told Gaudy she wanted to wear socks like Owen. Later on in our stay his socks ended up coming off because he was hot, so Nikki had to take her's off too. Wherever Nikki went (in the yard, in the bedroom, etc) Owen had to follow. And wherever Owen went, Nikki had to follow. It was pretty darn adorable. After Bella woke up just before lunch time Owen immediately asked to hold her. He was all coy about asking me “Hold, baby?” so I told him he had to ask Gaudy. He climbed up on my lap and was happier than a clam to hold that sweet little baby (who's just less than 4 weeks old). 

He was so intent on examining her and softly touching her tiny little toes and fingers. He was quite upset when I shifted her away from him when she started fussing. He almost cried. Then he really did cry when she was getting too fussy and wanted to be walked around. Gaudy made some amazing beans & chopati for lunch, then we got packed up and headed home. After Owen's nap we piled in the car with the Streets and the Loudermilks (that's 6 adults and 7 children, in one SUV if you lost count) and headed to a friend's pool. None of the women (or Owen) swam but the guys and the kids had a bunch of fun while we all hung out poolside and chatted.
Sunday Stacy picked us up and we went to ICC church to hear Holly's dad preach. Apparently he's a pretty well-known preacher in the UK and he was in town to connect with Pastor Sho – the pastor at ICC. It was a great service, half of which Owen slept through. Afterward We headed to Pastor Sho's house for lunch and fellowship. He had a tent set up outside and had some food catered in and we all just hung out, ate, and talked. 

Owen had a blast when he discovered one of the other boys had a little Nerf football. He played with that thing almost the entire time with either Ben (Stacy's boy) or Bill. 

When he wasn't playing football with the boys, Owen was schmoozing the ladies – the teachers mostly. He was eyeing Miss Holly and Miss Rachel and Miss Rebecca quite a bit and being a little flirt! Meanwhile I got to connect with Holly's mom (or mum as she would say) and chatted at bit with her dad as well. I also noticed someone there that I had meant to connect with at worship the other night, but never had a chance to, so I slipped over and introduced myself. I felt drawn to her Wednesday when we were at the Welch's for dinner/worship and nothing had changed – when I went over and introduced myself and we got to talking I figured out why.
Vicki Hemman is single and has been living in Tz for a while now. Her daughter, would have been my age, but was killed in a car accident when she was 13. Her name was Amanda. (Weird?!) She's in the process of starting a home for girls/women that have been sexually abused/raped and/or trafficked in a village not too far from Moshi. The property has been purchased and when drilling the first well they realized there was flowing water at only 30 meters! The area around the 4-acre property is very poor and she hopes to be a huge impact to the community not only through housing a dozen or so girls/women, but by employing some of the locals as well, and having classes for them too. Her goal is for the home to be completely self-sustainable within two years. She kept telling me “I really don't know what I'm doing!” But I could tell from listening to her that she truly has a passion and a drive for this God-dream of hers and it's going to come to fruition because God does know what he's doing. I love how down-to-earth she is though, and how genuinely reliant on God she is. I think her quiet personality drew me in too :) It was awesome talking to her and getting to know her a bit. We parted ways at the end of the afternoon with intent to meet up again before we leave and I hope we're able to. We headed to the Loudermilk's guest house in the evening so Owen could play with Harper and so we could get online since we'd been without internet for several days.
And here I sit, Monday morning, waiting to be picked up by Peter's dad so I can head to the hospital. Mary has been prepped and taken in for surgery and we get to find out soon if the baby is a he or a she! I'm super excited to be able to capture their first moments with their new little one – and I'll admit, I'm interested to see the hospital too! 

March 06, 2013

Owen's Africa

Owen's Africa is being on the porch and outside.

"Po'ch?" He asks, 26 times a day.  It's more like a sun room - walls, floor and door with 3 of the walls being screens.   He loves being out there.  But most days that only lasts a few minutes and he's asking to "Go. atside?"  He loves being outside.
I'm not sure if it's because it's so warm here or what, be he always wants to be outside.  His favorite outside activity: sticks.  The kid is always on the hunt for a stick.  And there are plenty for him to find here.  Once he finds a stick he will either a) bang it, or, b) draw in the dirt with it.  He is such a boy.  And when he's banging the stick and it breaks, he keeps going until it's too small to bang and he finds another one.  Yesterday I witnessed him banging sticks on the brick wall on the side of the property for a good 10 minutes.  Not even kidding.

Owen's Africa is playing with friends.

When we're at the Street's house his activities broaden a bit because there are friends for him to play with and toys and such.  His favorite thing to do there is push people on bikes.
The other day our dear friend Gaudy came over and O and Nikki (a couple months apart from O) got reunited. They met when we were here last time and became fast friends.  It was sweet to see them play and interact again.
Nikki was happy for the free ride :)

He also really likes Harper, the 2 year old daughter of the Loudermilk's (who are staying the guesthouse at Peter & Mary's).  He calls her "Ha-per" it's quite cute. :)


Owen pushing Harper while Faith looks on
At playgroup - area moms, in Moshi for all different reasons, gather each week to hang out and let the littles play.
Owen's Africa is not having to ride in a carseat.
He doesn't look thrilled here, but that's cause he was tired.  He loves the freedom of sitting on a lap, or next to someone and sometimes even (close your eyes Americans) standing on the floorboards.  Don't freak out.  It's only when we're going slowly on the dirt roads. :)

Owen's Africa is adventure.
He loves going new places, walking to the store in the stroller, exploring all the new territory, sounds and people.  Every time he hears a new sound he asks what it is.  Like the locusts buzzing in the trees, the rooster crowing (at all hours of the day/night), the dinner bell at the boarding school next door, the morning doves cooing, the cawing of the weird-looking large birds that are around here.  He loves it.  
Standing on a ladder at the House of Hope, currently under construction. (
That is Owen's Africa.