Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

Yesterday morning I was awakened at 6:30am by an ecstatic Baylor, who had run into our room yelling, "Mama! Mama!"  I opened my eyes to find her with two suckers in her hands and a kit kat in her mouth, squealing "Candy! Candy!"

Upon reaching the living room, I saw several presents unwrapped and Baylor's Uncle Brian's stocking completely ransacked.  I suppose that's what kids do.  So I took away her suckers (not without protest), rewrapped the presents, restuffed the stocking and Brett put everything out of reach.  A couple hours later we were joined by the rest of the household for breakfast and fun presents time.

I hope you had a holly jolly Christmas.  

Friday, December 23, 2011

We're Back

We've actually been back in Tanzania for a full month now, but I decided to continue blogging for a while about our furlough since I did such a bad job of updating while we were actually in the States.  The flights back to Geita weren't so bad. Baylor did well, though we were all exhausted by the time we got home.  And to be honest, we're still a little exhausted.  Baylor has had difficulty sleeping ever since we returned and only in the last few nights has she actually slept somewhat normally.  By normally, I mean she hasn't woken up screaming like she's being attacked by mutants multiple times a night often for hours.  She's not sleeping as late as she used to, but I think that might just be her getting older and not needing as much sleep.  I'm not a big fan of getting up before light.  Fortunately, Brett usually gets up in the early morning with her.

We've been super busy, trying to accomplish as much as we can in a short period of time, knowing we're leaving again in the middle of January for Dar to have Harper.  Our team currently has three apprentices working with us; a single guy and a married couple, all recently out of college, who are interested in learning about missions in Africa, helping our team, and perhaps moving somewhere on the continent to work in the future.  We've had the couple living with us and we've enjoyed them all immensely.  Four player games are so much more fun than two player games.

Friday, December 9, 2011

First Fall

When we first moved to Tanzania, we had originally planned on taking our first furlough after two years, which would have put us there last spring.  However, Brett and I both love the fall and it's something we miss while in Tanzania.  No leaves changing colors, no college football, no sitting in sweatshirts by a fire sipping cider (though as much as I love fall, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't trade my year-round 75-80 degree weather).  So we pushed our furlough back 5 or 6 months so that we could be home for all those things.  The leaves are my favorite thing.  We made Baylor play in the leaves for the first time.  I say made because she didn't seem too keen on the idea.  Once in, she had fun, but only for a few minutes.  I think the fact that it was 85 degrees that day in Alabama and she was wearing shorts and a t-shirt made it less fun and more itchy.  But we had a great time watching her (and throwing her in). 

Monday, December 5, 2011

The National Peanut Festival

Unless you know Brett or are from lower Alabama yourself, you are probably unaware that Dothan, Alabama is the "Peanut Capital of the World."  I myself question the veracity of this title, but I know there are a lot of peanuts around the area and that Dothanites are very proud of them.  In fact, every year they have a huge fair and parade to celebrate the beloved peanut.  

When we lived in the States we always made sure to make it to Dothan for the event.  It was always one of the highlights of Brett's year and I enjoyed it as well.  For the last few years in Tanzania, Brett has been saddened by his inability to attend, so we made sure that we were able on our furlough.  Baylor needed to experience the unceasing fun. So here is our family underneath a giant happy peanut. 

No fair would be complete without rides and Baylor had a blast.  Most of the time an adult was required to go with her but she got to drive these cars all by herself.  I know the picture's blurry, but she was so excited I wanted to put it in anyway.  

She was also able to ride the train, shouting "Choo! Choo!" the whole time.

Baylor loves animals and was able to feed and pet several goats, camels, sheep, and even a llama.  

After the petting zoo we braved the cold to watch the pig races.  Yes, they actually had pig races.  Sooey!  Fun times for all.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Baylor the Ladybug

I can't say Halloween has ever been my favorite holiday.  I never disliked it, but it just couldn't compare with Thanksgiving and Christmas.  My opinion might have been different as a candy-loving child.  But now that I have a child old enough to enjoy the holiday herself, I find that I like it more.  It's fun to get Baylor dressed up and get to see her so excited about going to all the houses.  

This first picture was in San Antonio at the Trunk or Treat at my aunt and uncle's church.  Baylor is with Batman, otherwise known as Gage, my cousin's son.  They had a lot of fun together.  

We were in Searcy, Arkansas for actual Halloween night and were able to trick or treat with my aunt and uncle there.  They have a great neighborhood for festivities and there were a ton of kids out.  Baylor would go up to the door, say "trick treat", "thank you", and then turn to me and say "more?"  She caught on quickly to the fact that she could only go to the houses with the front porch lights on and would immediately start running for the next one.

Notice the healthy crackers are off to the side by themselves.

I think another reason I liked Halloween so much this year was because it was a holiday I could actual celebrate the exact same way as when we lived in the States.  We try to replicate things as much as possible in Tanzania but somehow it's just not the same.  We enjoy them still, but not in the same way.  I'm glad we were able to be in America for at least one major holiday.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In the Pumpkin Patch

We've been busy this last month traveling through 8 states, visiting family, friends, and sponsoring churches.  I know it would have been better if I had been posting that whole time, but I haven't been, and I'm not going to to try to go back and re-create it all.  However, I will put up some pictures of one of our most enjoyable evenings.

Last week we stayed in Fort Worth, Texas with a friend of Brett's from college, Greg, and his family.  They have a daughter about Baylor's age and we decided to take them to the local pumpkin patch for the evening.  Fall is my favorite season, at least before it gets too cold.  I love the leaves changing color and putting on a sweatshirt at night and even watching college football on occasion.  Fall festival type events are particularly fun for us.

That last one was taken towards the end of the night and it was getting to be a bit past Baylor and Ellie's bedtimes.  All that fun just wore them out.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

You Probably Already Know

Well, I can't say I'm the best at keeping up with blogging while here in the States.  I'm sorry about that, but not too sorry; I'm enjoying my time with family, friends, and convenient eating.  One other thing we have done a bit of while here is go to doctors.  Baylor had her first real check-up, where we discovered she's perfectly healthy after not having had any other check-ups the first two years of her life.

Our most recent trip to the doctor was for our new little one, now 23 weeks into life before the outside world.  If you read Brett's blog, you will already know what we're having, but if not, you get to find out now.  Another girl!  yea:) We've already decided on a name -- Harper Mae Harrison.  Harper is looking perfectly lovely according to the ultrasound.  Everything is normal and on schedule.  We've been trying to explain to Baylor that she's going to have a sister and that I have a baby in my tummy.  She lifts up my shirt and searches everywhere and says "Where baby?"  She never finds her.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Earthquakes and Hurricanes, Oh My

It seems that Mother Nature was so excited I'm back in Virginia that she just couldn't contain herself.  This was the second earthquake I've felt.  The first actually, was about four months ago in Rwanda.  This one was much bigger.  Not big enough for me to think we were in any real danger, but big enough that I got Baylor up from her nap and went and stood in a doorway in case anything fell off the walls.  Definitely the biggest consequence of the event for me was dealing with a tired, grumpy baby for the rest of the day.  I was awakened two nights later by an aftershock, but by the time I really had a grip on my mental faculties, I figured it would be over before I could get Baylor and go downstairs so I just stayed where I was and went back to sleep. 

Hurricanes, though, are a more familiar natural disaster for us Virginians.  We never get the brunt of the storm, but often enough get the edges of the storms to know we'll be without power for a while and have to spend the next morning clearing limbs and debris from our yards.  I have a blister and some splinters from my efforts this year.  I remember one time in high school getting out for a hurricane and it ended up changing direction so we had the day off because of some light rain.  My mom told me of a time when I was seven or eight when we lost power because of the storm for several days.  It was really cold so my dad lit a fire in the fireplace and we all stayed down in that one room.  My mom put a roast, potatoes, and carrots in a pot in the fire and cooked dinner.

It's a lot more inconvenient to live in the States without electricity than in Africa.  It seems that it is either hot or cold without air conditioning or heat; there are too many cars on the road without working traffic lights so there are extra accidents; people usually have electic stoves and ovens so you can't cook; and of course, most people don't have back-up generators so you lose much of what's in the fridge and freezer.  But that is a nice excuse to eat all the ice cream.

Thus far my time in Richmond has been surprising, hopefully I won't be encountering any tornadoes or floods here in the near future.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Family and Friends

We've been traveling so much the last few weeks visiting with family and friends, running many an errand, and meeting with sponsering churches that I just haven't seemed to find the time to post.

After four days in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area with both of our immediate families, we went to the Nashville/Murfreesboro area for a week.  We were able to stay with my sister's family for a few days and then with Daniel, Kasey, and AnnElise George.  It was so fun to see Baylor playing with her cousins and friends.  We got some car work done, saw the doctor, went to the bank, had a great meeting with the shepherds at Stones River (our main sponsering church) and in general were busy all the time.  We did find time to go hiking and rock climbing at Foster Falls.  Baylor loved it.  Brett tried to convince me to let him rock climb with her on his back but you just have to draw the line somewhere. 

From Tennessee we drove to Christiansburg, VA to see Casey and Susie Lowrance, and did our best to get Casey kicked out of med school for skipping class and not studying.  We got to hiking in the Blue Ridge mountains and it was beautiful.  I miss the trees and greenery of Virginia.  I like the Tanzanian landscape as well, but it's completely different.  Both times we went hiking we were able to borrow a backpack that you can carry small children in.  And both times Baylor loved it in the beginning, hated it in the middle, and fell asleep in the end.

I would have post more pictures but I'm really awful at remembering to take my camera so we have here just a few of our time with Casey and Susie.  I'll try to get some pictures of our time with other people and places at some point. 

Friday, August 12, 2011


It's funny how different things seem after leaving a place for so long and then returning to it.  America mostly seems the same, but certain things stand out a lot to us now.  Here are 10 random observations from a furloughing missionary's first week.

There is A LOT of sugar in everything.

Things are big, from buildings to people to serving sizes at restaurants.

We keep our country clean and quite well-manicured.

We have a lot of laws, especially about driving, which most people seem to completely disregard.

Baylor is not nearly so interesting to people here as there are a plethora of other young blonde children.

Everything looks new and often shiny, except for my three year old clothes.

There is too much security in airports.

People schedule everything and the whole day is filled, even weekends.

August is hot.

When you order a sandwich without mayo, it actually comes without mayo.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

And We're Here

After a many days journey we finally made it to the good ol US of A on Tuesday night.  We were supposed to get here Monday night but alas, it was not to be.  Last Saturday we flew to Dar Es Salaam and spent the day in our hotel room waiting to get up before dawn to catch our next flight to London.  Upon arriving at the airport at 6:30 in the morning, we were greeted with "Hello.  Your flight has been delayed for a minimum of 10 hours.  Please wait for more details."  Oh happy day.  Fortunately, British Airways put everyone up at the Holiday Inn (one of the nicest hotels in Tanzania) for the day while we waited.  And then they put us all up their for the night because the flight had been delayed until the next day due to the fact that the original plane had to make an emergency landing in Greece because of engine problems.  The pilot assured us that we were not in fact on that plane but that a new one had been flown in.  As a um, somewhat nervous flier, I was relieved to hear that.  The flight was pretty smooth and Baylor behaved wonderfully for the most part, and we landed in london just 2 hours after our flight to Atlanta departed.  So, we enjoyed another night in a hotel paid for by British Airways.  By enjoyed, I don't mean we were thrilled by staying yet another night in a hotel with Baylor, but just that it was free, which was nice.  And the breakfast buffet was amazing--strawberries, hashbrowns, fresh squeezed orange juice and milk that tasted like milk.  Delicious.  

Our last flight was not quite as pleasant as the previous two.  Since we missed our first flight we got stuck in the back (poor person next to us) instead of in the bulkhead where infants usually get put and Baylor was less than thrilled with being confined yet again for nine hours.  Plus she was exhausted and I imagine a little confused.  But after four hours of grumpiness she went to sleep for the rest of the flight while I endured scary turbulence for another four hours.  I hate turbulence.  But we landed safely and soon made our way to the customs line where Baylor promptly threw up all Brett and the floor.  And while that was not exactly pleasant, we were swiftly moved to the front of the line, so there was a silver lining.  After a ridiculous amount of security, we finally exited the airport where we were met by friend extraordinaire, RaDora, who took us to Chick Fil A and then to a soft comfy bed.  I love beds in America.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

And We're Off! almost

Today is our last full day in Geita before we start making our way to America for furlough.  For the last week we've been scrambling trying to get our house ready for our teammates, the Groens, to move in while we're gone.  We've finally got shelves in all our closets, albeit with no rods or doors, but that's ok.  The important thing is that there won't be waist and shoulder-high piles of boxes and things lying about in the corners of rooms.  It takes a bit longer to do things like this here than in the States.  I'm sure most of you would not have lived in your houses this long without closets.  But you have to do everything yourself here.  Brett goes and orders the wood and then gives measurements to the wood cutting guy.  Hopefully, that guy cuts the wood to the correct size and then you can begin the process of installation.  Brett has spent the last two weeks gathering every screw and fisher plug in Geita.  The city actually ran out before we could get everything up so we still lack a few things.  Also, you have to wait for a day when there is electricity so you can run the electric drill.  No hammering here -- we have concrete walls.  So anyway, it takes a while and I'm glad it's finally done.  It makes me feel a bit more organized.

We've managed to pack up most of our things to give the Groens some room and after dinner tonight with the McNeals we'll head to Mwanza tomorrow, pick the Groens up from the airport on Friday, spend a nice day with them, fly to Dar on Saturday, fly to London on Sunday, and fly to Atlanta on Monday, where we will finally be able to hug our family and friends and eat an Arby's roast beef and curly fries.

See you all in a week!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Senene are considered to be an especially delicious treat here in Tanzania.  "What are senene?" you ask.  Why, they are grasshoppers.  Wings and legs pulled off and fried to perfection.  Mmmm.  During a big rain, they come out in droves and our house feels like it's in the midst of a good ol' biblical times plague.  Since Brett and I in general do not partake in the eating of sanene, we allow the neighbor kids to come over and gather them: from our porch, on top of the car, hanging on the windows, in a pile on the ground from where we swept them out of our house.  You get the picture.  It's like Halloween to them (without the costumes).

It is currently dry season so we have not seen senene in quite some time.  However, earlier this week our friend James, who grew up in Kenya a missionary kid, came to stay with us on his way through back to Mwanza from Bukoba.  Now, Bukoba is a town further north and is a very green and beautiful area.  And this green lovliness comes from rain, and rain leads to senene.  So up in Bukoba they have sanene year round and James brought us a bag of them.

Baylor seemed intrigued so we let her have a taste.  But Baylor's new-found senene love was not satisfied by just a morsel.  She ate and ate and ate to her heart's content.  It wasn't particularly strange to me that she liked them.  What was strange was that later in the evening we had chocolate pudding for dessert and Baylor took one bite and didn't want any more.  My child prefers grasshoppers to pudding.  She's truly a Tanzanian child.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Mysterious Doughy

Most of the time when Baylor is talking, we understand what she's saying.  She may not say the words exactly right, but for the most part she's pretty clear.  However, she has one word the Brett and I have no idea what she means.


Hmmm.  We know this is something that she believes is a real word.  We also know that doughy is something that lives outside.  She always looks outside when she's saying it.  She gets very excited about doughy.  She'll kind of jump up and down, animatedly pointing out the window while repeating her favorite word.

Yesterday we were outside at the gold mine and Holly asked Baylor if she could show her doughy.  So Baylor immediately started searching, calling for doughy as she looked.  She didn't to find it; so now we can eliminate grass, bushes, buckets, buildings, and flags.  Maybe an imaginary friend?

Our best guess is she's trying to say doggy.  However, she can say dog, puppy, Gene, and Max (the names of our dogs), so I don't know why she'd add in another one.  Who knows?  Perhaps one day we'll discover the answer.  Until then, we're actually quite entertained trying to figure it out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One More

"One more what?" you may be thinking to yourself.  One more...month until we'll be in the States?  One more...birthday until Brett hits 35?  One more...time they play that song on the radio before I scream?  While those things all might be true, they are not what this post is about.

This post is about announcing the coming arrival of one more Harrison.  Yes, we will sometime in the near future be having another baby.  I'm about 12 weeks now, so this little one will be born sometime at the end of January or beginning of February.  My due date is actually January 26th, but after Baylor's due date came and went and the days kept going by for two weeks, I've decided to go with more of a due range than a date in an effort to keep my sanity at the end.

We saw the doctor in Mwanza a few weeks ago and after four hours of mostly waiting, we were assured that everyone seems to be in perfect health thus far.  I'm not so sure lying on the couch trying not to throw up for six weeks constitutes perfect health, but whatever.  I have started feeling a little better this week and have even ventured out a few times.

Baylor seems to have no concept of what's coming, but Brett and I are very excited.  I'm especially excited about coming back to America soon on furlough where I won't have to cook three meals a day.  Take out has never sounded better.  We ask that you pray for the health of Harrison #4 and me, and I'll keep you updated on our preggie progress.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The 4th Festivities

We always enjoy the 4th of July here because we can essentially celebrate it in the same way we would in America.  Holidays here in general can be a bit disappointing, what with the lack of family and 80 degree Christmas parties, but Independence Day is all about warm weather, grilling with family and friends, and perhaps some lawn games.

Yesterday the McNeals came over for the day and we were joined by a couple of friends, James and Meg, from Mwanza.

We played some cards while the kids swam.  We listened to bluegrass music while grilling good old fashioned hamburgers.  We even had our second annual July 4th bocce ball tournament.  

We ended our day with a lot of eating: hamburgers, baked beans, pasta salad, onion straws, watermelon, and of course, star shaped, red, white, and blue cookies with ice cream (Holly's our master baker -- she even made the sprinkles from scratch).

Baylor didn't want to go to bed, but we finally got her down in her holidayesque pajamas after several hugs and kisses.    

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Baylor Fun Days

Baylor loves to swim.  We typically only go to the pool once a week for our family day which just wasn't enough for her so we found this little pool to use in our backyard.  The trial run seemed to be quite successful.  

Last Saturday out at the gold mine was Family Fun Day.  So Brett and Baylor headed out for the afternoon with the McNeals (I wasn't feeling well) for a day of super fun.  They had big blow up bouncy toys, a giant slip and slide, a book booth, bake sale, barbeque, raffle, fair-type games for kids and even face painting.  Baylor settled just for a hand though.

By far, Baylor's favorite part of the day were the prizes for the games she played--namely, candy.  We don't let Baylor have candy very often so when she does get it, she has difficulty concentrating on anything other than sweet deliciousness in her mouth (including looking at the camera).  All in all, fun times for the little one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Words

Despite her constant babbling, Baylor is not exactly ahead of the game on talking.  Learning two languages at the same time (I assume) is confusing and thus, we have a toddler who doesn't talk too much.  She does, however, understand a great deal in both English and Swahili.  She loves to clean and when she spills something we tell her to go to the kitchen, get a rag, and come clean it up.  This she does with abandon.  No milk puddles on our floor.

She loves animals and can say dog, cow, and twiga (Swahili for giraffe).  She also loves to moo.  Her new favorite words though, are "uh oh" and "no."  I'm pretty sure I hear those words at least 50 times each a day.  I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that one of Baylor's first words is "no" since she hears it so often from her parents, but still, I wouldn't mind a "yes" on occasion.

She has started calling both me and Brett "mama."  I'm not sure why she does this because she can say "baba" (what Baylor calls Brett -- it's Swahili for daddy) and when I say "take this to Baba" she does.  It's amusing to me; not so much for Brett.

I'm looking forward to when she starts talking more.  Partly because I think Baylor will be less frustrated because she'll be able to communicate better and partly because kids say funny things and I think it will be entertaining.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Life of a Tanzanian Woman

Being a woman in Tanzania is hard.  You get up at dawn; you fetch water from the spring; you cook breakfast; you wash the clothes by hand; you hoe the fields; you feed the chickens; you take care of the kids, etc, etc, etc, until you finally go to sleep at night.  Tanzania has very definite gender roles and the role of the woman is never ending.

I was giving a ride into town to a few Tanzanian mine workers and while driving down the road we saw a guy run out of the bushes, across the road and into the bushes on the other side.  A few seconds later he was followed by another guy and then a woman.  She was carrying a bunch of things and tripped trying to get up the hill after she had crossed the road.  She turned around and looked behind her, eyes wide in fear.  I followed her gaze and saw a man with a large dog, obviously chasing them.  I don't know what they had done, probably lived somewhere illegally or perhaps stole something.  The men in my car said "the life of the poor women in Tanzania is hard."  They noticed that she was the one carrying all the things and when she tripped the men she was with didn't even attempt to stop and help her.  They mentioned it was better to be a man here.  I'm not sure what happened to the woman or the men she was with.  I hope whoever was chasing them was merciful.

Life for me in Geita is not the same as for Tanzanians.  As Americans, we obviously come from a different culture and don't do things the way Tanzanians do just because we live here.  Sometimes, though, it can be frustrating because everyone expects that we do and should live that way.  If Brett takes Baylor into town people say, "Where is the Mama?  Why do you have the child?"  A Tanzanian man spent the night at our house last night and in the morning (after I had cleaned for him, cooked for him, and made up his bed) said "why did you sleep so late? (it was 7am) Your child was up, your husband was up; he had to make me tea and take care of the child.  It's not good.  You should not do this."  I just decided to leave the room and start making breakfast.  I don't think he was trying to be rude or insulting. He was just trying in his manly wisdom to point out that I wasn't performing my motherly and wifely duties as I should be and that I should work on that.  And so yes, it can be frustrating living in this society as a female, but I do know that it could be much more difficult and I am grateful for the life that I have.  I don't think that it's necessarily a bad thing to have gender roles; I'm just happy that I have the freedom to move about them some.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Great Modern Divide

As with everywhere in the world, times are changing.  They just seem to be changing slower here.  I think it's important that all people have access to education, good health care, nutritious food, adequate shelter.  I don't think it's a bad thing when people move from huts to houses.  I do think it's sad when people lose what makes them unique.  I've traveled a lot and it seems to me that while every place is indeed different, countries and cultures seem to be rapidly melding together.  There's a McDonald's on every corner in China.  Clothing styles in Peru look much the same as in Virginia.  I can buy all the seasons of Friends at a gas station in Dar Es Salaam.  It's nice to feel comfortable no matter where you go and have something in common with people on the other side of the world, but I imagine traveling the world a hundred years ago, or even fifty, was a much more eye-opening experience than it is now.  All that to say technology and modernization come with great advantages, but I hope the world's cultures hold on to what makes them special.

Tanzania is a country where for the vast majority of it's people, life has not changed drastically for centuries.  Most people still live in mud huts with thatch roofs.  Most walk to the local stream or well or river every day multiple times to fetch water.  Most people don't have electricity or running water.  They often wear the same style clothes their great grandparents wore, especially the women.  Life changes slowly in Africa.  Traditions are held onto; sometimes for the love of them, sometimes for the lack of ability to change them.

Yet there are quite a few who currently straddle the modern and the traditional here.  I could talk about the struggles that come between the younger generations with their elders or the difficulties of getting ahead for anyone who actually makes any amount of money, but I feel this post has been serious enough, so instead I'll amuse you with images (or rather descriptions) of a couple people I've seen recently mixing the old with the new.

Not many people here can afford to fly.  So you know anyone who steps off a plane is someone with great resources, probably from a larger city with access to malls and movie theaters.  The other day while dropping someone off at the airport I saw a Tanzanian girl in jeans, high heels, makeup, the works.  When she got her luggage, she picked up the suitcase, firmly put it on her head and made her way to the taxi.  I wanted to ask her if she noticed the suitcase had wheels.  Girls are taught to carry things on their heads here at an early age.  Yesterday we were driving down the street and I saw a women walking in a business suit, carrying a briefcase.  This seems to be indicative that this women has been well-educated, accepted in her career and is probably successful.  Not easy in this society.  Strapped to her back in a Kanga (the traditional cloth of choice) was a little baby, sleeping away.  Some things are just ingrained forever.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tandem Biking

There is a South African/British couple venturing across Africa on a tandem bicycle.  They left England eight months ago and have been through part of Europe, the Middle East and quite a lot of Africa.  Someone they met along their journey knew Calvin and they asked him if they could stay with them while traveling through Geita.  The Groens, being in America on furlough, referred them to the McNeals, and so last night we met them over there for dinner.

I'm not sure quite what I expected of people who are bicycling across Africa, but I assumed they would be hard core athletes who love nothing more in life than exercising on the open road.  I did not expect them to have Phds from Cambridge with plans to teach geology in Cape Town upon arrival.  They are just very smart people who love exercising on the open road.  While here they wanted to talk with some geologists at the gold mine so we introduced them to some people we knew there and as I type this post they are touring the mine and asking lots of intelligent questions.

Living in Tanzania I've found that I meet all kinds of people I never would have otherwise--there's never a dull moment.  Well, actually there a lots of dull moments, but those aren't very interesting to write about, are they?

If you'd like to read more about our cycling friends, their website is

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Geita -- the Capital

Geita used to be just your everyday district in a larger region ( a region is essentially the same as a state; a district like a county).  But as of january 1st of this year, Geita is now the capital city of it's own region.  Yes, we are now a state.  For the last several years the Mwanza region has been rapidly growing in population, yet retained the same number of government offices and employees.  Things have been getting backed up, to say the least.  We heard the rumor long before it actually came to be.  We wondered if it would really happen.  Surprisingly, it did.  And even the exact date they said it would be.

Because of this, Geita will be changing a lot over the next several years.  They've already started clearing land for the the new government offices.  They've outlawed bicycle taxis (I'm not sure why) though people aren't paying much attention to that particular mandate.  They've even put big red Xs on raggedy buildings along the main street to mark them for demolition; I assume to make Geita look prettier.  We figure one day we might even get more than the one paved road we already have.

All this, though, did not make renewing our residence permits easier.  We still had to go to Mwanza to the Immigration office there as ours does not yet have the capabilities to process the visas.  So off we went.  We were told this would take a day or maybe two--instead it took 5.  I suppose that's not so bad compared to the five months it took to get our original visas.  But we do get tired of driving to the "big city" to do things like this.  It's time away from home and work.  Brett managed to get some work done there, but still, it's gotten a little old.  I don't know if having our own immigration offices here in town will make the process any shorter, but at least at the end of the day we can come home and sleep in our own beds. And of course we also have the pride of being Geita, capital city of Geita region.  And if that doesn't make life fantastic, I don't know what will.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pasaka In the Village

Pasaka, Swahili for Easter, is the biggest day of the year for Tanzanian Christians.  It's a 4 day national holiday that everyone celebrates with lots of food and lots of sitting in church.  Tanzanians love long church services.  

Some time ago a Tanzanian Christian, Yohanna, decided he wanted to teach others about Jesus.  So in his hometown of Kasilo, about a two hour drive from Geita, he began to share his faith.  Introduced to our teammate Calvin by a mutual friend, he asked if he would mind coming out occasionally to help him teach.  Calvin did so and a relationship with the village of Kasilo and the Geita Team was established.  The Groens were just leaving to go home on furlough when Yohanna called and said that several people had decided they wanted to be baptized on Easter.  He wanted to know if since Calvin was leaving, Brett might be wiling to come and teach on baptism to the new believers.  

So yesterday we headed out at 7am to spend the day at the village of Kasilo.  Upon our arrival a little after 9:00 we were greeted heartily and served a big plate of rice and beans.  I actually really like rice and beans (Brett hates beans) but even for me, eating them not hungry at 9:30 in the morning wasn't especially appetizing.  Baylor, however, a rice and beans fiend, was delighted.  

After Yohanna pulled out a guy's wisdom tooth (seriously), we headed to the meeting area under a couple tarps.  We had some good worship time and after Brett's lesson we headed to the "river." By river I mean large puddle of stagnant water in the middle of some rice paddies.  But hey, I didn't have to get in it.  It was great to participate in such an event.  Eleven people dedicated their lives to Christ.  My favorite moment was when a teenage boy who a bit afraid of the water was dunked three times because he kept trying to not go under. The water being only about three feet deep I wasn't too worried about him; he came through it happy and proud.

After the baptisms we headed back to the meeting place. We sang and Yohanna taught a little more for the new believers.  We were then served our second helping of rice and beans.  They really are quite tasty.

While Brett spent time talking with the men about agriculture and Bibles, I half talked with the women and half kept an eye on Baylor playing with the other kids.  One time she managed to get all the way into someone else's house before I got to her.  The girl can run.  The occupants of that house were quite amused by their visitor.

Around 3:00 we had communion together and then we headed home.  Baylor was asleep within minutes.  Playing in the village always wears her out.  Just as we were getting back to Geita we were stopped by a bunch of cows.  This is a common occurrence but I thought it was funny with the giant Coca Cola billboard in the background.  Tanzania often seems to be caught in the middle of tradition and modernity.  

I hope your Easter was as happy as ours.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Guest

We have Tanzanians in our home often.  But the other night we had our first Tanzanian guest to spend the night.  I can't imagine an easier house guest.  Lazaro was a member of one of the churches the Mwanza team planted some years ago and he has been a gifted and capable leader and servant.  Last year he was offered a job working with a medical clinic (run by the churches of christ) in Tanga and so he and his wife moved away.  I know the Mwanza team has missed him greatly and he came this past week to visit his old friends.  He came by Geita for two days and spent the first night with the Groens and the second with us.  We had chili for supper and he ate his up heartily, following Brett's lead and adding hot sauce and cayenne pepper to his bowl. Baylor loved spending time with Lazaro and greeted him in the morning by brushing his hair.  Fun for everyone.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Puppies and Slides

A while ago I promised pictures of Baylor with the puppies.  They've grown a bit since we first got them, but all in all, the same boisterous puppies...boisterous enough to pull my sheets down from drying on the line--argh.  The black one is Max and the brown one is Gene.  

Baylor sometimes gets a little overwhelmed with the puppy love.

We go to the gold mine sometimes to swim and play.  It's the only pool and playground within a three hour drive and Baylor is starting to enjoy doing more at the playground than just eating the sand.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Baylor's One Year Pictures (a little late)

A good while ago we took Baylor's one year old pictures and I realized I never posted any, so here they are.  Well, here are a few of them.  Just a few months later and she already seems a lot bigger than she looks in these pictures.  Nonetheless, she's pretty cute.  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cups and Clothespins

Baylor's favorite hobby these days seems to be putting things in my cup.  Usually it's just her hands, but often cheerios or puffs.  Yesterday it was clothespins.  You turn away for one second...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gene and Maximus

Our dog, Gus, has never been particularly happy at our house.  While we got him as a puppy, we didn't really have a house to live in, so with being in Dar to have Baylor and trying to finish our house, we didn't end up up having him live with us until he was 8 or 10 months old.  He'd been living with his sister, Eames, at Carson and Holly's house and constantly tried to get back there.  He's a master of escape.  Well, over the last couple months he'd been disappearing more and more, usually found with Eames at the McNeal's, until one day, he never returned.  He wasn't with Eames; he wasn't anywhere.  Perhaps he's found a lovely lady dog to settle down with.

To be honest, Brett and I weren't so upset at this development.  Like I said, he wasn't ever happy with us, so he was a bit troublesome and not at all a good guard dog.  But dogs are needed here, so we went on a search for a pup.

The dog of our friends in Mwanza recently had puppies and their dog is great, so we decided to take one from them.  Then we decided maybe it would be better if we took two from them.  That way our doggie would have a playmate.  So last week Brett went to Mwanza and returned with two very adorable puppies, who we named Gene (after Auburn's football coach -- which one of picked that do you think?) and Max (short for Maximus).  They seem to be great dogs and to enjoy being a part of our family.  They especially love Baylor, who now loves them too, though at first would run away whenever they came near her.

I tried to get a good picture of Baylor and the puppies but one-year-olds and puppies are not particularly cooperative with sitting still.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Truck

Some 9 months ago we ordered a new truck from Japan to be delivered here to Tanzania.  Our old truck, while it usually got us around, got us around a bit too often to Mwanza for repairs.  There's no mechanic in Geita and when you drive a 13 year old truck on crazy dirt roads all the time, things are bound to happen.  Our muffler, for example, was held on by twine.  Having to go to Mwanza every time something needs to be repaired is both time consuming and expensive.  We were worried the truck would only need repairs increasingly often the longer we live here and thought it probably wouldn't make it through our tenure.  Hence the new truck.

There's a company that allows us as missionaries to order certain vehicles at a much lower rate straight from the factory in Japan.  Living where we do, a pretty hefty four wheel drive is a necessity, albeit expensive, so we're quite thankful to this company.  When we ordered the truck in July, they said it would take three to four months to reach Tanzania.  We were told once in Tanzania, it should take an additional three to four weeks to go through customs.  The truck arrived in Tanzania as scheduled but it it did not take an additional three to four weeks to go through customs.  It took an additional three to four months.  The government charges port fees while the things you own are in customs.  Every day something's there, you're charged more money.  So why, really, what is the motivation to ever speed the process along?

Even so, after much waiting and calling to talk to people about the situation, we finally got the call our truck was ready.  We flew to dar a few weeks ago to pick it up.  And it actually was ready only 4 days after we were told it would be, with a couple of parts stolen and a whopping $6,300 in port fees added.  But we have our truck.  Finally.  And we're grateful.  We feel like our time will be freed up more to do what we came here to do.  And we can fit some 11 people in there, so that free taxi service I spoke of a while ago can really be cranked up a notch.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Two weeks ago, our family went to Dar to pick up our new truck (though that will be another post).  The day after we arrived, Baylor woke up with a fever that stayed with her throughout the day.  It stubbornly refused to respond to Tylenol.  Around 10:00 that night Baylor’s fever shot up and she had a seizure.  We called our nurse friend, Heather, who advised us on other ways to get the fever down and to go to the hospital if she had another seizure.  Her fever did start to go down, however, around 1:00am she had another more violent seizure and we rushed her to the hospital.  Fortunately, we were in Dar, and there was a hospital with a reliable doctor open at that time.  Also fortunately it was the middle of the night so there was no traffic, and a drive that normally takes an hour only took 10 minutes.  
The doctor on call took blood work and gave her some medicine to bring down her fever.  The blood work came back normal.  He assumed it was an infection though, and two hours after we arrived, he gave us antibiotics and ibuprofin and we were on our way home.  Baylor’s fever, though still fairly high, never spiked again and she had no more seizures.  The next day, though obviously still sick, she seemed a little better.  Late in the afternoon, though, she started breaking out in a rash.  By that night, it had spread all over her body.  I’ve never seen a rash this bad.  We called Heather again and she advised us to discontinue both the antibiotics and the ibuprofin, as she’d never had either before, and to go to the doctor the next day. 
So we went to the pediatrician the next morning and they did blood work again and this time it indicated a virus and possibly an infection as well.  The doctor prescribed a different antibiotic and said while Baylor’s allergic reaction was probably due to the first antibiotic it was impossible to be sure so it was necessary to discontinue the ibuprofin as well and then reintroduce them later separately.  She said it was even possible the rash was caused by the virus itself. 
By the fourth day, Baylor’s fever had mostly gone and she seemed to be much more her normal self.  The rash was gone after about 5 days.  We’re not sure what was really going on with her little body, but we’re so thankful she’s better now.  

Monday, February 14, 2011

Just Another Road Trip

Ok, so it wasn't really a road trip, just a drive to Mwanza from the village.  But it was eventful.  Having a car in Tanzania essentially means you are a free taxi service.  This is particularly true when you go out to a village.  Many villages are hours from the nearest sizable town by car and pretty much no one in the village has a car, so when someone comes by who does, they seize upon the opportunity.

And so we found ourselves leaving the village with a lovely middle-aged woman.  Brett's sister Brittney and Mitchell were with us as well so the car was pretty full, to say the least.  As we were leaving the village our hitchhiker asked if we could stop at the market so she could get some food to take to her daughter as a gift (her daughter lives outside of Mwanza, hence the reason she needed the ride).  "No problem," Brett replied.  Ten minutes later she climbs back in the car with a bag of freshly baked cookies.  A delicious aroma filled the car.  Right.  What really happened is that she climbed back in the car with a bag of dead fish. Yes, dead fish.  The aroma was not delicious.  But we cracked our windows and drove on.  Some 20 minutes later she asks Brett to pull over because she's going to be sick.  Tanzanians often get sick in cars as they are unaccustomed to riding in them.  We were thrilled, however, that she gave us advance warning of her sickness because vomit and dead fish are not a good combination.

While she was tending to business on the side of the road I had Baylor in my lap and somehow her diaper came loose and she peed all over me.  Wahoo!  All in the first 30 minutes of a 3 hour trip (or tour, perhaps?).  There wasn't much I could do about that but change Baylor's diaper and let her sit clothesless the rest of the trip while I endured in my less than dry skirt.

After we got back on the road (and after another quick stop to continue the car-sickness) we saw a bicycle lying in the middle of the road.  Then another and another.  An abandoned purse.  More bicycles.  What has happened here?  What could possibly have made all these people abandon their things?  It was like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  Suddenly Brett shouts at us to roll our windows up.  Then we saw the bees.  Lots of them.  A massive group of killer bees was attacking the area.  We couldn't see that anyone was hurt, so we kept driving, now with the windows closed and that oh so wonderful stench of fish wafting into our nostrils.

After another stop on the roadside, we finally reached the ferry to Mwanza.  We were soon free of fish-filled noses and peed-on skirts. Yes, just another ride home from the village.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Joyce is five years old and recently she and her mother showed up at our gate asking for help.  Joyce had what are clearly large tumors on the sides of her face and her mother was at a loss about what to do.  So yesterday I drove them to Sengerema, a town about 35 minutes away, to go the hospital there, which is better than ours here in Geita.  
It is difficult to really describe the state of health care in Tanzania.  There are few doctors and millions of patients.  There is a shortage of medicine, medical equipment, beds, and really just about anything else you can think of related to health care.  
When we got to the hospital, we first had to go to a window to pay to get a registration card.  I was pleasantly surprised when we got to the window because there was an actual line there, which is pretty unusual.  After about 15 minutes, though, some people decided lines were a waste of time and they just started pushing towards the front to cut in.  This is just the Tanzanian way; it’s not rude at all, though as an American I often find it both annoying and inefficient.  However, after only 30 minutes we were able to pay the 65 cents and got our receipt so that we could jump in the mass of people at the reception window and begin pushing our way to the front to actually get the card we payed for.  When we got to that window, there were about 40 people all trying to accomplish the same thing.  We were successful after about an hour, which was actually sooner than I expected.  While waiting, a car drove up and some men got out and ran into the hospital.  They returned shortly with a rusty metal table on wheels.  They proceeded to carefully extract a man from their car and gently move him onto the table.  He looked barely conscious.  Certainly very sick.  Not a single person working at the hospital came to assist.  You’re on your own here.  There’s just not enough people to help.  
After we got the registration card we were told to go wait in front of one of the doctor’s doors.  There were four doors and bunches of people waiting outside each one.  We settled on number four and eventually were shown in only to be told we needed to go to the pediatric wing.  So off we went across the courtyard, following the sounds of crying babies.  We were able to see a pediatrician fairly quickly--only about a 30 minute wait.  I’ve waited longer than that in the States.  He diagnosed Joyce with tuberculosis.  We would need to see a different doctor for more complicated problems.  He sent us to get blood work done.  One of the administrators of the hospital was there and showed me their new blood analysis machines.  He showed me how they only take 2 minutes to process the results.  Great, I thought, no waiting.  We were told to wait outside for the results, which I knew were already done.  An hour later that same administrator passed and asked what we were doing.  When we told him still waiting, he hurried into the lab and returned about 5 seconds later with the results, now stapled to her card.  
We took these results back to the specialized doctor and he confirmed it was indeed TB and that they needed to schedule a biopsy to find out whether or not the tumors are malignant.  I’m taking Joyce back next week for the operation.  About 50% of all TB patients die.  She has an even less likely chance as she’s a child in Africa with the TB already spread out of her lungs.  She’s such a sweet little girl and so scared.  
We got back to Geita about 6 1/2 hours after we left that morning.  A typical day for the hospital.  Please pray for Joyce and for her mother, Zam Zam, who in all likelihood has it as well.  Sometimes things just don’t seem fair in Tanzania. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

This Week In Pictures

This past week we've been having so much fun with Brett's sister Brittney and her boyfriend, Mitchell.  Baylor has especially loved all the extra attention.  But it's also been a busy week, so my post is just going to be some pictures.  I figure that's what everyone really wants anyway.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The First Word

Baylor has officially said her first word.  By that I mean she consistently uses the correct word for the object in question.  She's been talking non-stop for the last 8 months, even saying mama and baba and all kinds of other things that are actually words without knowing their meaning.  She sounds a great deal like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets.

But for the last week or so she has said "dog" every time she sees a dog or hears it bark.  This seems a bit unfair to Mama and Baba after all the hard work they've done.  I mean, what has the dog done?  I don't even remember spending a great deal of time trying to get her to learn the word dog.  She doesn't even like them that much.  If they get to close she gets scared.  Oh well, i figure other words are soon to follow and eventually some of them will be "Mom, you're the most super thing in the whole world, even more super than cheerios and bananas."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Holidays and Things

I've been trying to get this post up forever, but between internet failings and a stomach virus making its way through our family over the last 8 days, I seem to have been defeated until today.

We had a nice Christmas.  Brett and I stuffed each others' stockings with random things we found in Geita, including fruit magnets, actual fruit, a bicycling jersey, snickers bars, a panda bear toothbrush, and tic tacs, among other things.  Baylor enjoyed opening up her cheerios and safari truck, complete with animals.

That afternoon our team came over for Christmas dinner and a silly gift exchange.  The kids exchanged real gifts and Baylor got this truck from the Groen girls, which she loves.

While the adults played Balderdash the older kids watched a movie and Baylor and Jude played on Baylor's new banana tree bark table and chairs.

All in all, a nice Christmas, even though it was weird for it to be 80 degrees and not a single shopping mall Santa in sight.