Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Year In Review

We have now officially been in Tanzania over 1 year.  I can honestly say it has been the fastest year of my life.  So many changes: new country, new language, new culture, new house, new friends, new baby.  It would be impossible to write a summary of the year--there's no way to do it justice.  So I thought I'd share our year in pictures (it was going to be in slideshow format, but our internet here just didn't seem up to it).  Thanks so much for all your prayers and support this year.  We're so blessed.  

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Three Hour Tour

After having a flat tire, fixing it; rushing to meet a ferry, making it just in the nick of time only to find out they weren't going to run it for another hour and a half so they could clean it; having the aforementioned tire explode (literally--I've never seen a tire do that before) on the way home; arriving home to find no electricity and no water and everything in the fridge and freezer spoiled (including several chickens), I decided my family could use a nice relaxing visit to a nearby national park.

So after touring Geita, meeting friends, and buying some souvenirs, we packed up and headed to Rubondo Island.  This required an hour and a half drive on dirt and a 30-minute boat ride.  So we were told.  When we actually made it to the dock in an hour and a half, we believed we would have a 30 minute boat ride as well.  So foolish.  As we were driving up, the sky began to darken and waves began to swell.  Rain was spotted on the horizon.  Our sea captain told us we'd delay for a few minutes (2 hours) to let the storm pass.  When he deemed it safe to embark, we were hesitant, but thought, "it's only 30 minutes, that's not so bad.

This was not the best decision we've made.  We put Baylor in her carseat asleep and went on our way.  It soon started raining.  Fortunately, my mom had a travel poncho and we draped it over the carseat so Baylor wouldn't get wet.  Baylor was the only one who didn't get wet.  Not just wet--fantastically wet.  The 5 and 6 foot waves (not exaggerating) poured in over our little boat (seen in the picture above) and we were all soaked through.  Forty-five minutes into our trip, the boat stopped and the driver said the equivalent of "uh oh" and began fiddling with the engine.  We were only stopped about 15 minutes that time.  Another hour later, the boat stopped again and the driver fiddled again.  Another hour later the boat stopped again and the driver and assistant got out paddles.  We were out of gas.  The island was even in sight.  They tried to call but there was no reception.  Have you ever seen 2 guys try to paddle a "speed" boat in 5 and 6 foot swells?  It's really not very productive.  Brett finally got our hotel on the phone and they said they would send another boat with gas.  Another hour later and we were on our way.  We finally set foot on land 4 hours and 15 minutes after our departure.  Baylor was still asleep.  

Despite the ridiculous journey there, the island itself is beautiful.  We were met on the beach with little glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice and escorted to our tented bandas.  We found out we were the only visitors on the entire island at that time.  It was like we rented it just for us.  
The rain had made it cold enough that I could wear a sweatshirt and drink hot tea snuggled up in a blanket on the covered deck overlooking the water.  It's been a long time since I could wear a sweatshirt.  The food was excellent.  Our second (and last) night there they even set up our evening meal on the beach and had a bonfire going to relax by after eating.

Rubondo Island is actually a game park, complete with hippos, monkeys, crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, various gazelle-type creatures, and a whole host of birds.  It's a rainforest though, so it's hard to spot a lot of them. We didn't get to see the elephants or giraffes.  It's also the only place in Tanzania where you can do walking safaris.  So after waking up with monkey on our porches, we went for a 4-hour hike in search of animals, along with a man carrying a large gun (for protection, not killing).

We were also able to swim in Lake Victoria.  You would think we do this all the time, since we live so close to it, but not so.  Along the shores where we live it is easy to contract bilharzia, an illness carried by snails and people.  I won't go into details, but you don't want to get it.  Swimming was fun, and it was Baylor's first time to really get in.  

And here is a picture or Baylor riding a hippo in her safari pants.

After one sunny day, we awoke the next to find rain and more rain.  As this was our departure day, we were filled with a certain dread of getting back on that boat.  After several hours though, it calmed a fair amount, and we left.  This time it only took an hour and forty-five minutes.  When in the world did it take them 30?  We didn't get to spend a lot of time on Rubondo, so I hope I can go back one day.  It's a relaxing place, as long as you go on a sunny day.  

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Baylor's First Village Visit

Sorry for the long blogging silence.  The last 6 weeks have been crazy busy; moving into our house, going to Kenya on a retreat, having my family visit, having Brett's family visit....  I'm going to try and catch you up over the next few weeks.  

I thought I'd start with one of my favorite days I've had in Africa so far.  In February, my parents and sister were able to visit us for 10 days.  It was great to see them and for them to meet Baylor.  Their trip was... an adventure.  Or perhaps just a great example of cultural differences.   On the first Sunday they were here, we went to a village outside of Mwanza for worship.  The church getting together here is not quite the same as it is in the States.  Here it is an all day event.  After a 45-minute drive on what I thought was a great dirt road (my family thought otherwise), we arrived in a little village and were greeted by one of the elders.  He brought us into the building and sat us down front facing everyone.  Visitors here are usually treated with this special honor.  We sang, prayed, had communion, listened to a sermon, listened to Brett give his first sermon in Swahili (another honor for a visitor--being invited to give an impromptu sermon in another language), and greeted each member of the church.  This was not only my family's first village visit, buy also Baylor's.  She seemed to enjoy it immensely, which is good, since she will be spending a great deal of time there in the years to come.

Tanzanians love babies.  I mean really love them.  It's considered a huge blessing to have a baby (even more so than in the States) and it's a really big deal.  So, since Baylor is still so new, the church decided they would give her a blessing.  It was really special.  They held her up in front of the church and prayed over her.  Then they brought all the children in the congregation up front to pray for all of them as well. 

After the service was over, we were invited to one of the member's houses for a meal.  We spent the afternoon either in the dining hut or in the courtyard outside.  My sister rocked a little girl to sleep, my dad walked to the village center to have a coke with the elder, and my mom enjoyed playing with her granddaughter under a tree.  My parents lent their camera to one of the guys and he walked around taking pictures of everyone and everything.  Her seriously took over 100 pictures. The battery almost ran out.   After 3 hours of waiting, we were finally served lunch: rice and degaa (little whole sun-dried fish).  I went heavy on the rice.  After the meal we drove home, exhausted after our 8-hour event, but happy and content.