Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The House

Like I said in a previous post, searching for houses in Tanzania is not the same as searching for houses in the States.  But, after a week of driving all over Geita, we found a house that actually fit our criteria, or at least most of it.  It is 1) within 1 mile of the central market and town, so I can walk easily; 2) is super cheap; and 3) has an indoor kitchen!  I'm very excited about number 3. The house is larger than we were wanting, but there is just not a lot available in Geita, so you take what you can get.  We found a few other houses that also fit what we were looking for, except they were even bigger.  One house that our friends looked at had 11 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms.  I'm thinking it was originally meant to be a guest house.  Anyway, ours does not have that many rooms.  But we do have 2 guest rooms, so Karibu! (karibu means welcome, which is probably the most common word used in Swahili) We also found a few houses that were smaller, but they either did not have indoor kitchens or were more expensive to rent.  

Our landlord is giving is such a good price because he believes God sent us to him so that he could help us out and in turn, we could help the community. He's also a very wealthy man, so money's not so much an issue with him.  

So here's our house:

As you can probably tell, the house is not quite finished.  Or not at all finished.  People here often begin building a house and don't finish it until they find a renter.  Otherwise, squatters will move in, not take care of the house, and bring down the value.  So, while our house had walls and a roof, it didn't have much else.  When you rent a house in Tanzania, you pay between 1 and 3 years rent up front (security for the landlord).  And if the house is not finished, that money goes towards finishing the house.  We are paying 3 years rent to finish the house, and while we don't particularly like the money part, it does mean we get some say in how the house will be finished.  For example, I don't have to have royal blue tinted windows or tile covering every square inch of the house (including the front porch and walls-very popular here-to show wealth).  

Brett has been spending the last several weeks supervising and helping with the work being done on the house.  It's a stressful job, and I'm glad I'm not the one who has to do it.  But he's been able to build relationships while doing this, and two families have requested Bible studies as a result of this work.  Praise God!

We're hoping to move in to the house when we come back from Dar Es Salaam after Baylor is born.  It should be finished before then, but we don't know for sure.   And I don't know if our watch puppy will be up to guarding the house and its contents all on his own before then. I'll post more pictures as we get more work done.  I think today we're getting a toilet.   

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Couple of Large Things

There are many creatures in Africa that I would not welcome into my home.  However, we enjoy having geckos around, because they eat mosquitos and in general cause no problems.  Yesterday we saw this enormous lizard hanging out on our window screen, and while I like lizards fine, I'm glad this one was on the outside of the house.  I doubt you can really tell how big it is, but from head to tail, it's at least a foot long.  

  The second large thing is me.  Ok, so I'm not exactly huge for 32 weeks, but I assure you I am uncomfortable and often bump my stomach on various pieces of furniture, cars, and other pointy items.  And I don't know why I'm sideways--I edited the picture to be up and down.  And I'm squinting because it's really sunny.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Girls and Dresses

One day, while wandering through the market in town, a duka (little  shop) filled with young women beckoned for me to come over to them.  So I went.  They are all seamstresses, and sew in this little wooden shop for about 10 hours a day.  There are 4 girls who are there every day, and sometimes they're joined by a younger girl who is apprenticing to be a seamstress, and when I'm there, usually several others who work nearby come to visit.  

These girls are super nice.  For the last 2 weeks, I've been going to sit with them every day in their duka for 30 minutes or an hour, just chatting.  I get to practice my Swahili, learn about life in Geita as a young woman, and make friends.  On my first visit, I discovered they were all Muslim, and that they were surprised that I, a Christian, would want to be friends with and help the people here, regardless of their religious beliefs and practices.  It makes me wonder what the other Christians in town are like that they would think this.  I'm hoping that I'll be able to develop deeper relationships with these girls that are also intentional in sharing God's love.  

They're very excited that I'm going to have a baby.  So excited that one of them decided to make me a maternity dress as a gift.  I was hoping you'd be able to see the whole dress in the picture, because it is something, but alas, no one around knew how to use a camera, so I just stuck my arm out and took it myself.  I would like to point out that I am not nearly so pasty in real life as this picture would indicate--I actually have a fairly decent tan.  So this is me with my first friends in Geita.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It Has Begun

So this morning I awoke to a bright sunny day, happy to discover we had both electricity and running water.  Yea--I can do laundry!  So, I put my clothes in the washing machine and 3 minutes later, the electricity goes out.  Ah well, it happens.  Perhaps it will come back on again soon.  So, I eat breakfast and wash the dishes, and then the electricity does come back on.  Wahoo!  So, I turn on the washing machine and 3 minutes later, oh, no more running water.  Well, at least I finished washing the dishes.  I go ahead and do my Bible and prayer time and then start studying Swahili, when the water comes back on.  We'll see if it works this time.  I turn the washer back on and continue studying, and am delighted to see that both the water and electricity is staying on.  Holly and I have a meeting at 11:00 with a man who will hopefully be supplying us with milk straight from the cow every morning (which we'll pasteurize ourselves) so that instead of paying $9/gallon at the store, we can pay him $1.75/gallon.  At about 11:30, Mr. Milkman still not here, I finish up my Swahili and set about making hamburger buns for supper (it's Holly's birthday, so we're having an All-American dinner), continuing to wait for the laundry to be done (for the half-hour setting, it typically takes an hour or an hour-and-a-half; something to do with the low levels of water and electricity) and for our guy to show up.  12:30 rolls around and we still have no milkman, but my washing machine sings to me that it is finished.  I take out our clothes and head to the back yard to hang them on the line.  The minute I walk outside it starts raining.  I haven't seen rain in 5 months.  I mean seriously, not just no rain, but not a cloud in the sky, beautiful blue sunny days.  And it has now been pouring down rain for the last 3 hours.  I take my newly laundered clothes inside and try to find places to hang them all over the house.  Hopefully they'll still get dry.  

But anyway, rainy season has begun.  This is good for several reasons.  The main one being that there is a major lack of water here, so now people will have enough for not only themselves, but also their crops.  The only downfall here is that there are more mosquitoes during the rainy season and the rain is annoying.  This is not so much a place where you drive around to the grocery store.  I walk to the market every day to not only buy food, but also just to talk to people, building relationships and practicing my Swahili.  The market is, of course, outside, which makes this slightly more difficult.  But, I have a wonderful pair of wellingtons and a somewhat waterproof jacket, so after I finish this blog post, I will go out in the rain in my skirt and continue to live life, just like everybody else.  Maybe the milkman will come tomorrow?

Friday, September 11, 2009


A few weeks ago we went to Kigali, Rwanda for week-long conference on church planting movements.  There were over 100 people there from 17 countries and they sections in both English and French.  The teacher was David Watson, who has done mission work all over the world.  

The conference was great.  Before we came to Tanzania, our team had spent some time learning about discovery bible studies, or 3-column studies, from John King, the preacher at our home church.  The method is, in short, this: In the first column, you copy word for word the section of scripture you are studying.  In the second column, you re-write the passage in your own words, and in the third column, you write what you feel prompted to do from your study of the passage and prayer.  We call these "I will" statements.  The first column makes you slow down and really look at the passage.  The second column ensures that you really have an understanding of what it means.  This is great for study--I think we often skip over things b/c "we know" what they mean, and then when it comes time to explain it, we lose our knowing.  The third column is great for obedience and is really the key of this style of study.  So often we read something and think, "oh, that's great, " but we don't really do anything about it.  The I will statements have you actually acting out what the Bible teaches.  These studies are typically done in groups, and thus you are also accountable to do what you said you are going to do.  

CPM also puts more emphasis on God and the Bible as the real teachers, rather than the missionary.  If the learners have questions, instead of just answering the question, we show them where in the Bible to read, and they learn to look for answers from God themselves.  Also, while we will still be attending the group studies, we quit leading them after just 2 or 3 weeks.  We train a member of the group to lead the study (even though they are usually not yet believers), and meet with him some time the week before to go over things. This creates more ownership in a church and allows for less dependence on the missionary.  Another key is multiplication.  Group members are instructed to share what they learned that week with at least one other person.  After a group has been meeting a couple of weeks, no one else is allowed to join the group.  Instead, when someone comes and says, "My friends wants to study too." We tell them to start another group which they can lead.  So that person continues in the group they are in and is leading another group.  

So, that is CPM in brief.  Trying to fit a week-long conference in two paragraphs is difficult, but you get the gist.  The picture at the top is of Brett with the members of his small group at the conference.  I think the guy on the right decided to try to start growing a beard to compete with Brett...

In addition to learning a lot of neat things, I also got to see several friends from college, most of whom I had no idea would be there.  So that was a nice bonus.  Plus, Kigali has a great pizza restaurant.

Monday, September 7, 2009

First Invite

Yesterday we were invited to have lunch at the house of a family in town.  So, we headed off at 11:00 to their home.  We met the father of the family while looking at houses to rent.  It looks like he's going to be our landlord.  He and his wife have 3 kids and one on the way, plus a few other relative living with them.  He owns a stationary store in town and is the main supplier of the region's businesses' copy needs.  As there was no electricity in town yesterday (or water for that matter), we spent a lazy day on the front porch getting to know the family and a few other friends.  They slaughtered a sheep and grilled it--probably the best meat we've had since we've been here.  Plus about a million side dishes.  

Geita, while a pretty rough place, is also filled with welcoming, generous people.  We've been here less than a week and already spent 5 hours at one family's home and have been invited to another.  Building relationships in Africa is a good bit different than in the States, and takes some getting used to, but it certainly isn't difficult to meet people.  Everyone wants to be your friend--which is great, but also not so great sometimes.  Relationships are everything in this culture, and building your circle of friends and aquaintances is high on everybody's list.  It's a system that will take a long time for me to really get used to, introvert that I am, but Brett fits right in.  

We're really excited about the way things are going so far, and are thankful that God is working so evidently already.  Can't wait to see what He's got planned next:)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Finally in Geita!!

We have finally made it to Geita, the town we’ve been planning on living in for the last four years, after five-and-a-half months of being in Tanzania.  This is quite exciting for us.  It’s been really good to have gotten into things slowly here, spending time with the Mwanza team, language school, and the conference in Rwanda (more on that in another post)-- I think in the long run, adjusting slowly is a much better course of action than jumping right into working not knowing any language, culture, etc.  

So, Brett and I moved here on Wednesday and are currently sharing a house with Carson and Holly, which the Groen’s have rented but won’t move into for a while because they’re in Mwanza doing paperwork and going through red tape for the orphanage.  The house is a nice little place, only about a 100 yard walk to the center market, which is helpful.  On the other hand, it’s also 100 yards to the market, which also means 100 yards from the discos, the church which is having a revival ( I don’t think you can comprehend the meaning of loud until you have attended a Tanzanian church revival), and the Mosque which reads 1/30 of the Koran every night on a loudspeaker for Ramadan.  Currently, none of us in the house are speaking, because you can’t hear each other unless you yell.  This lasts from about 8:30am to midnight.  Of course, once the revival’s over, it won’t be an everyday thing.  

This is our current house.  You can't see it, but there's a big beautiful mango tree right in front of it.

But we have been looking for houses.  We’re trying to find a house within a mile of the town center, so we can be accessible to the people here, yet be far enough away to not hear the music all the time.  Also high on our list is a house with an indoor kitchen.  This is a harder task than you might think.  Tanzanians typically cook outside, so most houses don’t have kitchens.  And often the ones that do are very small, just enough room for a sink and refrigerator.  Finding houses to rent is in itself a highly amusing process.  There aren’t any real estate agents or for rent signs here, so basically you just drive around town until you see a house you think you might like, then stop the car, get out, and ask if anyone is home.  If there is someone home, you ask if they live there, and if the house is for rent.  If it is, you then find out who the owner is and somehow manage to get in contact with him (often they live in another town) to see the house.  If the house is not for rent, you ask if they know of any houses around that are.  Tanzanians hate telling someone “no,” because they don’t won’t to disappoint anyone, so often let you see the house even if it being rented, and then after an hour, hint that maybe you should look at another house, because it might be more suitable.  We really liked one house until we found that it was already being rented.  Some days of house-hunting have been more successful than others.  But never boring.  

The people of Geita have been extremely welcoming and friendly.  They love that we speak Swahili, even if we don’t speak it perfectly.  They’re happy to just sit and talk for 30 minutes or an hour about whatever, and we’ve been able to have some good conversations already about the needs of the community, etc.  

The first 4 days here have been great, hopefully with more greatness to follow.