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?”
“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.