Monday, November 29, 2010

Electricity junkies?

I remember on the rare occasions living in America when the electricity would go out, people behaved as if it were the end of the world.  After storms the news would report how many homes were still without electricity several hours later.  We're so dependent on it.  Our computers, fax machines, tvs, refrigerators, air conditioners, and so many more things, all run on electricity and it seems that we don't know how to function without it.  It wasn't too long ago that no one had it.  For most, it was a luxury, reserved for the wealthy.  Now it's available to pretty much everyone and it's a necessity.

Living in Africa has shown me that electricity, while nice, isn't needed for living.  Last week our electricity was out for a total of about 53 hours, which is about average.  Sometimes we lose it a little more, sometimes a little less.  And you know, it's not that big a deal.  We only need lights for about 4 hours of our waking day.  While it can get hot without fans, we always have the windows open and there's usually a breeze.  We have a gas oven, so cooking's not usually affected.  Refrigerators don't need to be on all the time to keep things cold.  The only times it really bothers me are when I'm in the middle of doing laundry and from about 6:30 to 8:00 at night when we're trying to cook, eat, and get Baylor to bed by lantern.  Granted, we do have a back up generator that runs on petrol that we can use if we want, but it's expensive so we don't unless we need to...or if we've had a really long day and don't feel like sitting in the dark again.

Many people in Geita don't have electricity in their homes at all, and only very few have generators.  It's like it was in America way back when--a luxury.  I read somewhere that in America more electricity is used to power televisions when they're off than when they're on--I suppose to keep that little red light on in the front.  I've just been thinking lately how odd it is that we expect to have electricity all the time, even in the day in our homes when we're not there.  I'm not going to say I don't care about it at all; obviously I prefer to have it.  But I have learned that I don't need it and it's not so bad without it--though it does make having ice cream a bit difficult.  I guess I'll just have to eat it all at once.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


The oddest thing about Thanksgiving here is the lack of cold weather.  Yesterday was actually one of the hottest days we've had.  It just doesn't seem very Thanksgivingy.  I imagine Christmas will be the same, except that I plan on decking the house out with holly, shiny orbs on green trees, and tiny reindeer.

Our team, with the addition of Carson's parents, met together for the day at the Groens' house.  We each brought several delicious things to eat and ended up with somewhat of a feast: stuffing, casseroles galore, pies a plenty, and much much more.

Lunch was followed with naps and games.  No college football though.  Baylor had a fantastic time running around with everyone.  And the running is almost becoming literal.  Her abilities to move around upright are rapidly improving.

The only disappointing part of the day was when we tried to skype with our families.  The internet was down so we only got to talk to Brett's family for a few minutes and mine not at all.  However, I'm sure there will plenty more opportunities to chat over the next month or so what with birthdays and Christmas looming near.

We're so thankful for this past year.  We have a beautiful baby girl, a house to live in, food to eat, a car to drive, wonderful family and friends.  God is indeed good.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Baby Explorer

Nearing the ripe old age of one, Baylor has a strong hatred for staying still.  She is constantly wanting to move and explore.  She tires easily of not only toys, but also of rooms and even our entire house.  If we don't go somewhere every couple of days she transforms into Grumpy Baylor and our happy lives become much less so.

This past Sunday we went out to a village for the day.  Baylor loves going to to the village.  There are chickens and goats to chase, yummy food to eat, and lots of new people to play with.  We assume she's going to come  home dirty no matter what we do, so we just put her in old clothes and let her roam-supervised, of course.

After worship under a mango tree we were just sitting around and so I let Baylor go off to play in the fields with some kids.  A little while later I went to check on her and found her giggling loudly, happily playing with a big old chunk of cow poop.  Fantastic.  It was at least mostly old and dried out. And she also had her pacifier in her mouth so the exciting new toy stayed on her hands.

There are just some things I wish she would be content not to explore.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What Are They Thinking?

Recently our night guard, Oscar, had his home broken into (ironic, I know) and everything was stolen except for his family's clothes and shoes.  Everything.

In Tanzania, theft is common.   Anyone who can afford it puts some kind of fence or wall around their house and bars on the windows.  I would never leave my bike in town, even chained up, knowing it probably wouldn't be there when I came back.  Nor do I walk around town with my bag unzipped.  I don't walk around afraid I'll be stolen from, I just don't see a reason to not do what I can to prevent it.

The odd thing about theft being so common here is that the punishment for thieves is harsh.  Harsh is actually putting it lightly.  If a thief is caught, he is immediately mobbed by those around.  Hearing the mob, more people usually join in, making the mob larger and more uncontrollable.  The thief, if he is lucky, will only be beaten to within an inch of his life.  If he isn't lucky, he will not survive the beating, or worse, will be burned alive.  The police rarely arrive in time to prevent this from happening.  There is no sympathy.  I have been told stories of other missionaries who stepped in to prevent mobs from killing children, guilty of pick-pocketing.  Tanzanians do not typically step in to save someone, though I have known some to.

So why on earth would anyone continue to steal?  It's something I don't know if I will ever understand.

I've thought about why the reaction to theft is so harsh here, because other crimes are not so treated.  My conclusion is this:  Tanzania is a culture of giving.  If you need something, you ask and someone will help you.  Most people don't have enough money for everything all the time, so you help each other out. "I know that if I help pay for your children's school fees now, later you will help me pay for my son's wedding."  If people show up at your door, you feed them and give them a place to stay, indefinitely.  It's never ok to ask a guest to leave, they may stay as long as they desire.  So for someone to steal is a complete rejection of the way of life here.  It's as if they are saying, "I don't care about any of you.  I only care about myself.  I don't want to ask you for help because I don't want to be held responsible for helping you later."  Greed and selfishness are some of the worst traits you can possess.  If you have, you share.  If you don't have, you will be taken care of.

I don't know if I'm right, but it seems the most logical conclusion.

As for Oscar and his thief; the man was later caught.  It turns out he was part of a larger crime ring that had been stealing all over Geita district for some time.  When he was caught, he confessed and gave up his partners and their hideout.  Upon confessing, he was burned to death.  Soon after, police raided the house where the other thieves were, shot and killed them all, then burned their hideout to the ground (before removing all the stolen goods).

The whole thing makes me sad.  What makes these people take such a risk just for things?  And where is the mercy for their mistakes?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween--Not So Scary In Tanzania

Never has Halloween passed by with so little fanfare as this year.  I saw not one costume, no candy, no orange and black decorations or clothing, no ghosts, goblins, or witches.  Only normal people going about their normal day as if there were no anticipation of jack-o-lanterns and kids hyped up on sugar.  Last year we happened to be in Mwanza for Halloween and there was at least a costume party for kids.  But in Geita, hamna (there wasn't anything).  

Not that I find Halloween to be the best holiday ever -- that would be my birthday ( and yes, I do consider it a holiday), but still, I loved dressing up as a kid and going trick or treating.  I also know that Baylor would have no idea what was going if I were to dress her up as a tiny ghost and take her from house to house to get candy that she would not be allowed to eat.  But still, I assume in the future it will make me a little sad that she won't get to experience that here.  Fortunately, we've decided that our furloughs will generally be in the fall, so at least some years she'll get to participate.  

So on Halloween we took our recovering from and still somewhat sick from a bad cold family to the gold mine for lunch and a short swim.  Not exactly typical of October 31st, but not too shabby either.  We put Baylor in her Halloween pajamas (which glow in the dark) for a photo shoot that she did not in the least enjoy to commemorate her first Halloween.