Sunday, December 30, 2012


I don't typically write year-end posts or make New Year's resolutions or Top 10 lists or anything like that.  But for those of you who know me, you know I love to read. And to mark the end of my" read during my free time for pleasure and get lost in a book" period and enter my "read text books not so much for pleasure however useful they might be during my free time" period, I have decided to list some of the books I have read this year that I really enjoyed.  I know that I am probably behind in most of these--remember, I live in Africa.  But still, maybe you'll see one that piques your interest.

These are in the order I read them this year.

1.  Country Driving -- A Chinese Road Trip  by Peter Hessler.
           Narrative non-fiction at its best.  This is the third book in a series about China.  Perhaps I liked it even more because of all the memories of my time in China coming up as I read, but I still think anyone would find it interesting.

2.  Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
            A beautiful book about the relationships between hostages and their kidnappers.  The book is a little slow.  I didn't realize how much I was invested in it until the very end when I found myself weeping.

3.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett
             I was hesitant to read this book just because of all the hype surrounding it.  I usually find when a book is super popular I end up disappointed.  But this was great.  Not sappy at all.

4, 5, and 6.  The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
             Some people don't like this series assuming it's all about kids killing kids, but really it's about an oppressive government and the people who rise against it.  I couldn't put them down.

7.  Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
             This book is set at a mission hospital in Ethiopia.  It is the story of the physicians who work there.  I will say, this book might not be for everyone - the medical explanations are in great detail, often a little more than I would have wished.

8 and 9.  Progeny (the Children of the White Lions) and Prophecy (the Children of the White Lions) by R.T. Kaelin
              It's been a long time since I've read a fantasy series this good.  It's creative and is even clean;  I'm not a fan of graphic violence, even in battle scenes.  The only downside is that I'll have to wait a long time to read the third one, as the second one only just came out.

10.  Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie
             I love Agatha Christie; particularly Hercule Poirot stories.  This one was a lot of fun to read (provided you think murder mysteries are fun).

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas 2012

We actually got Baylor to wait to open presents so we could take a picture.

The aftermath

Do you like my Christmas socks?  Courtesy of my sister.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A New Venture

I am happy to announce that I will be starting graduate school in January at Lincoln Christian University.  I will be studying for a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.  It's a fully online program, 21 months long, so I can complete it from right here in Tanzania.  On an even better note, I have been given full scholarship!  Praise God for his provision.

I've been thinking about doing this for sometime.  We decided while I'm at home more now anyway, what with two little ones, it's the perfect time.  While teaching ESL was never something I really envisioned myself doing, it keeps popping up in my life.  First in China, then in Tennessee, and now in Geita.  I am happy to teach people who ask me, but I feel like I'm at a point where I need to have more formal training.  I see no reason to teach people badly.

We also would like to eventually become self-supported missionaries.  And while that's probably not going to happen teaching English here in Geita, it could elsewhere in the future.  It also opens up doors to places that are closed to Christians coming in just to teach Jesus.

I'm excited about being a student again.  Maybe I won't be in another year, but who knows?  I'm looking forward to it all the same.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Jiko Part

Last week I attended a jiko party. Though the invitation said "part" so I thought I'd spell it that way in the title.  "Jiko" is the Swahili word for kitchen.  There are two types of jiko parties here in Tanzania.  One is for a teenage girl who is entering the phase of her life where she is training to be a wife, mother, and general household manager (this is a several year long process).  The other type, which I attended, is for a young woman about to be married.  Essentially, a bridal shower.  Not knowing what type of gift was really appropriate, as I shopped I found myself wishing they had gift registries here. I finally settled on a pitcher and matching glasses set.  

My invitation to the part said it would begin at 2:00 in the afternoon.  Knowing that would never happen, I showed up at 3:00.  However, when there were no decorations and the hostess was wearing an oversized t-shirt, I realized this thing wasn't going to start for a very long time.  They welcomed me and sat me down in a chair and we chatted for 15 minutes or so until someone said, "You know, the party isn't going to start until 5:00."  

I said, "But my invitation said 2:00."  

"What? You got the wrong invitation."

Apparently I had been given the invitation for those who were helping to prepare for the event.  The hostess said, "But if you were Tanzanian, you probably wouldn't have shown up until 5:00 anyway.  You westerners always show up right on time."

I pointed out that I had, in fact, shown up an hour late, and she said, "Well, maybe you're becoming Tanzanian a little bit." It only took about 4 years. She said she would send someone to get me when they actually got things started.  So I went home and around 6:00 a girl came for me.  

A jiko party in Tanzania is similar to a bridal shower in the states as far as gift giving goes, though I think the gifts here are on the whole a bit more practical (even cleaning supplies are given). But it wasn't entirely the same.  First, only married women can come.  This is because much advice is given to the bride-to-be about marriage, etc.  In fact, they have kind of an MC who goes through all the different categories of advice, such as communication, cleaning, attitude, etc.  This MC just calls on random people and makes them get up and give advice about a particular topic (Many of those present were extremely reluctant advisors.  It was pretty funny.).  And yes, I was called on.  I went up to the front where the bride and maid of honor were sitting, and had to give advice about how to keep your body clean.  "Umm...use soap?"  Seriously?  What was I supposed to say?  Part of me was glad I didn't get asked about one of the more culture-related categories because I'm sure my advice would not have been useful here.  But part of me was just as exasperated to get this topic because this girl knows how to keep herself clean.  She takes showers, brushes her teeth, wears nice clothes.  I managed to talk for a couple of minutes and hopefully I didn't sound too much like I was talking to a 3 year old.  The person after me got how to keep the spirit clean.  Come on, I'm a missionary, I totally should have been given that one.  

This is someone giving advice about communication with your husband

After the very long, but interesting and sometimes quite entertaining advice giving part was over, we all got in a line and danced our gifts up to the front to give them to her.  I'm actually not sure what happened after that because I went home.  It was after dark and I needed to get home to a hungry Harper.  I'm pretty sure food was involved. I really enjoyed this experience.  I think no matter how long I live here, I'm going to be experiencing and learning new things.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Baylor's 3rd Birthday

Baylor had a very Dora birthday last week, filled with friends, presents, and food.  The Groen family joined us for a small party.  We opened presents, then played with them for quite some time,

ate spaghetti,

and cake.

Those of you who know me well know that I am not a crafty person.  But I thought I could venture to make a Dora map cake.  Forest, river, snowy mountain.  I know it doesn't look like much, but it actually kind of resembles the actual maps on Dora the Explorer, so I'm pretty pleased with myself.  It tasted good and Baylor liked it, so what else can I ask for?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pumpkin Bowling

This year's Thanksgiving was quite festive.  Our team, sans McNeal's (who are stateside for a wedding) was joined by Brett's mom and our friends James and Daphne from Mwanza.  We had the typical dressing, casseroles, rolls, cranberry sauce, pies galore and cookies.  Instead of turkey this year, Calvin fried up some chicken tenders.  Which I think should become the new tradition.  Brett's mom brought Thanksgiving plates and napkins.  We each shared three things we were thankful for: Baylor's were sharing her cups, sharing her bowls, and sharing her toys.  We had to remind her of that sharing toys thing later.  

After lunch we used water bottles as pins and a nice round pumpkin (Baylor's Halloween pumpkin) for a ball, and bowled down our hallway.  Sadie was the winner and Calvin was the most enthusiastic, actually splitting the pumpkin in two on his last roll (or perhaps it was more of a throw).

Later the kids watched a movie while the adults played Balderdash.  I have to say, I'm a pretty accomplished liar.  I destroyed the the other players with an eleven point lead.  Of course, you'll never know if that is, in fact, true.  

We finished the evening with more eating and chatting.  Miraculously, we had electricity the whole day.  It's not exactly the same thing as what we grew up with, but we're starting to be comfortable with our new traditions and even enjoy them.  Baylor and Harper will one day be in the States thinking, "Thanksgiving is just not the same when it's so cold."  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


My teammate Holly recently wrote a post about preschool with Baylor and Jude.  Here is the link if you would like to read it.

Monday, November 19, 2012


We recently had a group of 13 college students and 2 teachers come to visit us in Geita for four days.  Harding University (my very own alma mater) has a study abroad program in Zambia every fall.  Students are mostly medical, and along with taking classes, they volunteer in a clinic, as well as an orphanage and something else that I don't remember.  A little more self-sacrificing than my semester abroad in Italy, eating gelato while looking at paintings, dreaming of the pasta I would have for dinner.  Anyway, at the end of the semester the students take a tour of east Africa, going on safari, rafting the Nile, and visiting us.  I assume we're the real highlight.  They got to go to a village where we work, learn from Calvin about the Neema House baby home, from Brett about agricultural development (and work a little on the demonstration farm), and from Carson about film ministry.  They attended the Geita Town Church and a seminar on Discovery Bible Studies.  The church loved their visit because they sang for them.  They were a fantastic group of singers.   We were really encouraged worshipping with them one night at the Groens' house.  They came to our houses for meals and we played charades and volleyball.  The goal was for them to see what it is really like for young missionary families to live in Africa and minister using the local language.  They were a great group and we really enjoyed having them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Last month my mom was able to come visit us in Geita for a couple weeks and meet Harper.  The girls loved having their GiGi here.  Harper was cuddled to her heart's content and Baylor had about a library's worth of books read to her.  We spent a long day in the village, which my mom had done before, but she got to attend a town church this time as well, which was new.  I suppose it can only be so exciting when it's in a different language, though.  Mostly we just did our normal thing; hunting lions, riding camels, and swashing our way though unchartered jungle.  Mom's amazing on a camel.  

We decided to go on our annual family vacation to Zanzibar with my parents.  We flew to Stonetown and my dad met us there the next day.  Zanzibar is one of our favorite places.  It's unique.  The history is interesting, the architecture is beautiful, and the food is delicious.  Below is our family eating at House of Spices, which I highly recommend.  The food was fantastic.  I enjoyed a bacon and pineapple pizza while Brett got some kind of fish that was skewered and hung from that metal thing.  It was really great presentation.  I even got homemade cinnamon ice cream for dessert, which is one of my favorite flavors, and hard to find.  

Zanzibar is known as "Spice Island" due to the numerous spices they grow and sell.  Brett and I had been on a tour of a spice farm before and enjoyed it, so we took my parents this time.  They teach you about the different kinds of spices and fruits they grow and let you taste a lot of them. One guy sang and danced his way up a coconut tree. They also made these super cool hats for us.

We then made our way to the beach, one of the most beautiful places I've been to.  Baylor loves the beach.  She played all day every day in the sand and waves and most nights fell asleep at the dinner table.  Brett employed his art skills in making sand creatures.  This was his favorite -- a lizard.  Baylor and a few other little girls she befriended "helped."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween in Geita

Baylor had so much fun at Halloween last year in the States that we decided to have a party here in Geita.  She still randomly talks about how she dressed up like a ladybug and got candy from people.  My mom gave us some Halloween napkins and pencils and stickers and some cute pumpkin shoes for Harper and my sister sent Baylor a fairy costume so we were well on our way to a fun day.

Brett and I found a black tablecloth and some fake dracula teeth while in Dar getting Harper's vaccinations and Baylor, my mom, and I made a lovely black and orange construction paper chain for decoration.

I went to town to buy pumpkins for the kids to carve and/or draw on with markers, and they were amused at the market that I would want 5 pumpkins that would stand up on their own.  We don't have the perfectly round bright orange variety you see in the states.  Ours range from green to yellow to beige to orange and we have solid, striped and speckled.  They are big, small, long, oval, round, square-ish and somewhat misshapen at times.  But still, I found some that would be suitable and we had fun.  Later I will make a pumpkin pie.

I wanted to bob for apples but it was kind of chilly yesterday and no one really likes getting wet anyway, so we tied the apples to a string and held them in the air.  You had to bite them without using your hands.  It's more challenging than it sounds.  Afterwards, we cut up our apples and dipped them in caramel, which I made by boiling sweetened condensed milk for four hours.

I believe I have a very similar picture of Baylor somewhere

Trick or treating for real is not an so much an option, as no one here has ever heard of it; so we (the adults) went to different rooms in the house and the kids came and knocked on the doors shouting "trick or treat" and were given a not too huge but satisfying, nonetheless, amount of candy.

I don't know if Baylor likes Easter or Halloween more.  Any day she gets candy is generally a good day.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kids Say the Darndest Things

When you go to most restaurants in Tanzania, you don't expect them to have a bathroom.  And if they do, you definitely don't expect them to have toilet paper.  So generally, we bring our own.  There is one restaurant we go to, though, that always has a nice supply.  Last night we were eating there, as were quite a few other English speaking people, and Brett got up to go to the bathroom.  As he was walking away, Baylor shouted, "Baba! Don't forget to take paper to wipe your bottom!" A thoroughly enjoyable moment for me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How much banana bread can one person eat?

We just harvested our first bananas from the trees in our yard.  We first planted the trees about a year and a half ago and they have flourished, to say the least.  Banana trees reproduce other trees rapidly, so we have many sprouting up in our yard.  However, they only produce bananas once.  So once we pull down the bananas we chop down that tree, giving the new trees space to grow.

Baylor and Harper have been especially enjoying them.  I'm trying to figure out what to do with all of them.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Our night guard, Ondiek, is in general quite the jolly fellow.  He spends his evenings on our back porch reading the Bible and sometimes wakes us up in the middle of the night as he sings on his rounds.  One of his favorite things to do is talk to Baylor in a high, squeaky voice and make silly faces at her.

A few weeks ago he came to us asking for help because his teenage son, Ezekiel, was sick.  This is normal.  We often help our employees with their doctor bills and medicines when someone in their families is sick.  But his request was unusual.  He was asking for money to pay for an ambulance to take him to the hospital in Mwanza, three hours away.

"Where is your son now?"

"At the Geita hospital."

"What's wrong?"

"The doctor's say it's his liver."

For the doctors to have said he needed an ambulance was a huge indicator to how severely ill Ezekiel was.  There are only a few and they are rarely used.  Unfortunately, the ambulance was not available that day so we rented a van for Ondiek, his wife, and their ten children to go to Mwanza.

There, the doctors say it's not his liver, but rather his kidneys, and maybe some other parts as well.  After several days, they still don't have a diagnosis, but he seems to be improving.  It came as a surprise then, when Ondiek called and said his son had died.

Our joyful friend is no longer so.  He had ten children, and loved every one of them tremendously.  You can see on his face how much he feels this loss.  

I find myself thinking, "Would this have happened in America?"  Was this a strange illness only found here?  Did Ezekiel die because they waited too long to go to the doctor?  Or was is because the doctors weren't qualified enough? Or was there a lack of medicine? Or would this have happened no matter where he was or what was done?   There are no answers to my questions.  I  only know that we are mourning our friend's loss and have nothing to say to comfort him.  So I ask you to pray for Ezekiel's family, that God will provide them the peace that passes understanding.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

For the Love of Speed bumps

Tanzanians have a deep love for speed bumps.  For a town, it's kind of viewed as if having a speed bump is what makes you officially a town.  The more speed bumps, the more important the town.  It's not just in towns though.  You'll be driving in the middle of nowhere where the speed limit is 70 and suddenly there's a speed bump in the road.  I, personally, feel it's a little bit dangerous.  But alas, I am not the Tanzanian minister of transportation.

The inspiration for this post is the growing number of speed bumps in Geita.  More specifically, the growing number of speed bumps on the one mile stretch of road between the main market and my house.  While driving home the other day I decided to count exactly how many there were and as it turns out...16.  There are 16 speed bumps in a space of one mile.  "Is this because it is such a heavily trafficked road?" you might ask.  Why, no.  There might even be more speed bumps than the number of cars that drive down that road in a day.  So I am left to think that either 1)someone who lives on this road is rather important or 2)Brett is driving too fast.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Household chores in Tanzania?

Watering the banana trees.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yummy Cereal

Harper has recently joined the ranks of solid food eaters.  Here are a couple of pictures of her first attempt at rice cereal.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Banana Pancakes

A couple of weeks ago at church in the village of Mwakiwasha, some women asked if I knew how to make chapattis, a kind of flat bread common in Tanzania, originally brought from India.  I told them I did and they asked if I would teach them.  "No problem," I answered, forgetting at the time that while I do know how to make them I did not know how to make them with no measuring cups or spoons or anything like that.  Brett also volunteered me to teach banana pancakes.

So I went to my trusty friend Margaret and asked her to show me how Tanzanians measure.  It's all about what looks right in the bowl.  One of interns, Krista, helped as well.  It was a fun afternoon of learning and of experimenting with recipes for pancakes that don't involve expensive or hard to get items like baking powder or milk or eggs.

We went back to the village a few days later and set about our cooking class.  We also cooked for the first time on the new rocket stove our interns helped the villagers make (a rocket stove is a small cob stove that uses less firewood as well as prevents small children from falling into an open fire).  It was all generally hilarious.  One of the older mamas could not roll out dough to save her life (we used glass bottles as rolling pins).  It seriously took her 15 minutes to roll out one 6-inch circle and it still was not at all a circle.  Most of the others did ok, though.  It was a challenge to cook in their pots.  They don't have skillets and the pots they have are not exactly high quality so it was difficult keeping the food from sticking and burning.  But we managed and the chapattis turned out very well.

The big hit, though, was the banana pancake.  They had never eaten anything quite like it before, and they claimed it was "tamu sana." -- very delicious.  I'm hoping banana pancakes start spreading across Tanzania as a regular food.  I would love to occasionally be served that for breakfast instead of rice and beans.  Don't get me wrong, I really like rice and beans, just not at 9 in the morning.

It was fun just working with the women like this.  It was the first time I was not just made to be a visitor, sitting by myself in a chair while all the other women worked.  Building relationships takes time, but I know in the end, it will be well worth it.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Things have been busy this last month.  Brett went to Arusha for the first two weeks of June for an agriculture class while the girls and I stayed in Geita.  It was not the most fun two weeks of my life, but we managed to fill our days.  We played with cloud dough, a kind of sand box substitute that was recently introduced to us.

Baylor likes to play dress up and her favorite thing to be is a ballerina.  She loves any skirt and calls them all tutus.

Harper was a duck.

A few days after Brett got back our college interns arrived.  We have five interns with us for the summer and so far it's been great.  At least it has been for us; I hope it has been for them.  They've spent a lot of time in the village and have gotten to see town life and work as well.  Baylor is thrilled to have them around.  They're all great with the kids and are amazingly tolerant of my super extroverted and energetic two year old.

One of our interns discovered that if you blow in Harper's face, she always closes her eyes and sticks out her tongue.  This, of course, happens often now.

Friday, July 20, 2012

To Dar and Back

Getting vaccinations here is a bit of a chore.  We have to find some way to either bring them from Dar, Kigali, or Nairobi and keep them refrigerated (which is difficult with our electricity situation) or actually go those places ourselves.  Some friends went to Nairobi in April and brought back Harper's two month shots, but no one was going to any of those places near the time for her four months shots so we had to figure something else out.  An American university opened a clinic last year in Mwanza and we were told we could actually get the vaccinations there so we decided to check it out.  We asked ahead of time if they had the vaccines and could we get them and were told yes, so we made our way to Mwanza (a three hour drive is much more appealing than a fifteen hour one.).  Unfortunately, the clinic only had one of the three of the vaccines.  We were grateful for the one we got but still needed the others.  So, Harper and I hopped on a plane and flew to Dar.  We got a taxi at the airport, drove to the clinic there, got the shots, went to lunch, and drove back to the airport, where we waited 6 hours for our flight which was delayed.  But we did eventually get back to Mwanza that night, tired and grumpy, but with a new resistance to several strains of disease.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More Firsts

After over three years in Tanzania, we continue to have firsts here.  A few weeks ago, after Harper had her vaccinations, we took her to the village for the first time.  We thought that since she has such a laid back personality it would be an easy trip.  It's funny how you think things.  Harper did not seem to enjoy the village all that much.  She's more of a homebody than Baylor, who would rather be just about anywhere other than at our house.  Fortunately, she slept a lot, because she was crying pretty much the whole time she was awake.  Baylor, on the other hand, chased goats and chickens, helped carry the dried corn into the corn shed, and ate massive amounts of rice happily.  Hopefully Harper will learn to love our excursions.

A couple of weeks ago I was so fortunate as to have gotten worms for the first time.  Isn't it wonderful that after all this time I've finally gotten to experience them?  Coincidence that I got them after my first trip back to the village since before Harper was born?  Perhaps.  In any case, I'm glad for pharmacies.

And for the first time while driving at night we nearly ran over a man lying motionless in the middle of the road.  We were driving home from the Groens' house and Brett spotted him ahead of us, just down at the end of our street.  Brett took me and the girls home, picked up Oscar, our night guard, and went back to investigate.  We figured one of four things could be happening here. 1) He was very sick or injured. 2) He was dead. 3) He was drunk. 4) He was pretending to be sick so that when a passerby stopped to help he could rob him.  They approached cautiously and when he didn't jump up and hit them, they crossed number four off the list.  They could see that he was breathing so number two was gone.  They tried to wake him up but he was totally out.  They sniffed him but couldn't smell alcohol so they decided he must be sick.  They picked him up and put him in the truck and started to make their way to the hospital.  A few minutes later they hear "Wali!" (Rice!)  The man did not seem overly concerned that he was in a car going down the road with strangers.  He told them he didn't want to go to the hospital; that he was just hungry and that he had passed out because of that.  What can you do? So they took him to town and dropped him off to get something to eat.  He did not care for their company, so they came back up to the house.  It was altogether unusual.  What I find humorous was that our friend T was visiting from the States and this was his first night in Geita.  Brett said he was tempted to pretend that this was a normal, everyday  occurrence, but was really too surprised to do so.

Life is always full of interesting firsts.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Reception

Our invitation to the reception, held at a hotel in town, was said to begin at 6:00, about five hours after the wedding ended.  Knowing that it wouldn't start anywhere near on time, we arrived about 7:15 (we brought Harper but Baylor stayed at home with our friend Margaret and her daughter Stefania).  There were probably about thirty other people there at the time.  It was a pretty strict process to get in.  They had guards at the entrance and they checked our invitation very carefully and marked us off a list.  I suppose party crashing is common.  The crowd increased a lot over the next couple of hours and by 9 or so, there were probably 500 people present.  The bride and groom didn't show up until about 8:30.  Their entrance was preceded by close friends and family, as well as these two professional cute kids.  Seriously.  Cute kids are hired to look cute and walk before the happy couple.   

When we sat down at our table, a waitress came and asked what we wanted to drink.  Brett and I both asked for water and Brittney asked for coke.  The waitress came back with a small bottle of water each for Brett and me and eight cans of coke for Brittney.  What?  We looked around and everyone else had six or eight of what they ordered.  I guess they thought no one would want water and so they were in short supply?  Anyway, we sat around for a long time listening to music, sipping our waters.  The receiving line was basically the same as in America except that you had to dance the whole time you're in line.

Then there was approximately three hours of speeches and gift giving.  I, along with the rest of the wedding planning committee, presented our gifts of fabric for the mothers-in-law, and cookware and plate settings for the couple.  The layers of the wedding cake were individually wrapped to give as gifts to the parents and grandparents.  

Around 10:00 the Groens decided to go home.  The girls were getting tired, but I think they enjoyed getting dressed up for the event, though they thought it was a bit loud. 

It was a lot of sitting around but fun because it was such a different way to spend an evening.  We don't get out a lot at night.

Brett was determined to wait for the food, but around 11:30 he gave up and we went home.  Later on we talked to someone there who said they didn't serve it until 1:00am.  Glad we didn't wait.  Tanzanians love a big event.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Wedding

We were told the night before the wedding that it was important we be well-dressed.  And not well-dressed by American standards, but by Tanzanian standards.  Think 1980s prom or perhaps your high school choir gowns.   So we hit the used clothing market.  Alicia's dress actually looks nice, and I have cleverly hidden my monstrosity with a scarf and a baby, but Brittney's bubble gum explosion is here for all of you to love.  

We arrived at the church at 11:00 (which our invitations stated as the starting time), but we were the only ones there other than the cleaning staff sweeping out the auditorium.  We headed across the street to a little restaurant to have coke so that we could wait and watch for other people.

We actually didn't have to wait too long.  By 11:30 most everyone else was there, including the bride.  The church choir lined up on either side of the walkway and sang while the bride slowly entered.  I had a video of the choir, which was actually quite good, but I couldn't get it to upload on our slow internet.

It was a Catholic service, so it was rather long (two-ish hours), but interesting.  The sermon took up most of the time.  The wedding part was fairly brief.

In Tanzanian wedding culture, the bride is supposed to look sad the entire time, to symbolize her grief in leaving her family.  But Brett caught this gleaming moment on film, and I think it's a great picture.

Everyone follows the couple out in a line, throwing confetti, much like our rice.

We were met outside by a four-member band who played marching band type music behind the procession.

We went home for a break before the reception that evening.  And to change out of our hideous clothing.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Pre-Wedding Party

Upon picking up the bride and groom's wedding garments from the dry cleaners in Mwanza, we returned to Geita just in time for the pre-wedding party.  The first thing I did was sit down with the women and start making mandazi.  Mandazi are a kind of pastry, most similar to a doughnut but drier and less sweet.  My job was rolling and cutting, which is good, since I don't know exactly what goes in them so they might not have been up to Tanzanian wedding standards.  They are cooked in giant pots over open flame.  In the picture on the right you can see the finished product in the pot in the back--nicely browned.  

Around 7:30, other guests started arriving and sat down in the chairs below, which are in the front yard of our landlords' house.  Baylor had a blast running around the poles.  The had just started to set down some of the food around 8:00.  Our landlord's wife was still getting her hair done so we knew the actual party wouldn't get started for quite some time. Since my mandazi making duties were finished we decided to go ahead and leave around 8:30, before food and whatever else. We figured we had a full day ahead of us and the kids really needed to get to bed.  Alicia said she could hear the music from her house until 4:30 in the morning.  Crazy. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Wedding Committee

About a month ago I was invited to be on a wedding planning committee for my landlords.  I was a little surprised by this invitation because 1) I have no idea how to plan a Tanzanian wedding, and 2) I thought my landlords were already married as they told us they were and they have four children the oldest of which is fourteen.  Turns out they are legally married, they just never had a ceremony.  It's pretty common practice here to get married and then have the big ceremony and reception later when you have more money.  It just seemed odd for my landlords because they're quite wealthy and I assumed they had the ceremony a long time ago.  I guess they just got busy making all that money and forgot.

Anyway, they're getting married next Saturday and I have now been to two committee meetings.  I had no idea what to expect being a wedding planner.  I was nervous I would end up organizing food for 500 people or somehow accidently volunteer to pay for the whole thing.  I went in thinking I would offer to make the wedding cake, as I have more baking experience than all the Tanzanian women in Geita combined.  I was afraid the meetings would last for hours and hours and this would be my life for a month.  Turns out I had nothing to worry about.  Nearly every woman in our neighborhood and some others as well (approximately forty or fifty) were invited to join the committee.  We all came to the meeting and introduced ourselves and then we ate peanuts and drank coke while listening to the music they were planning on using at the reception. (I was forced to dance a little bit by myself in front of all these women -- who doesn't want to laugh at an uncoordinated foreigner?) We each gave 5,000 shillings (about $3.50) to go towards a wedding gift and matching outfits for the mothers of the bride and groom.  We had a prayer and planned the date and time for the next meeting and after two hours, we went home.

It's important in Tanzania to be a part of the community.  So while my landlord had no desire for fifty women to plan her wedding, it was necessary to invite them all so they wouldn't feel left out.  It would have been terribly rude to act as if she didn't need or want all the opinions and help of her neighbors, especially the older women.  The meetings are basically little parties and in reality, a small group of about five of her closest friends are doing the bulk of the plans and preparations.  The only thing I'm in charge of is getting the wedding dress and groom's suit cleaned properly.  My teammate Alicia is in charge of picking out the fabric for the mothers' outfits and the dinnerware that the group decided would be our present to the bride.  

It's actually been a fun experience.  I've gotten to know my neighbors better and I believe have solidified my place in our little community just a little bit more.  Friday night is the bachelorette party (more peanuts and cokes and probably very loud music) and Saturday is the wedding.  It'll be the first wedding in Tanzania I'll have been to and our entire family is attending.  I'm sure there will be a blog about it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


This year Brett went to the village for Easter without the rest of us since Harper hasn't had her vaccinations yet.  He spent two days preaching, eating, and listening to special Easter choirs, while we did fun things at home.  Holidays are becoming more enjoyable as Baylor gets older.  She's able to do and enjoy the fun parts. Such as dying Easter eggs.  She didn't get nearly as messy as I thought she would and she had a great time.  

We decided to delay our family Easter time until Brett got home that night, so after dinner and our nightly Bible story and prayer time, Baylor got to experience her first Easter basket.  Since we'd had the egg hunt a few days before, she knew what was in those eggs and could barely contain her excitement.  She kept asking for eggs for days after and was severely disappointed when I would offer her just the regular kind.  

I tried really hard to get good pictures of the girls in their dresses, but it didn't go quite as I had planned.  Baylor was not a particularly obliging participant, Harper kept falling over, and my camera apparently had a smudge on the lens.  But nonetheless, we came out with a few that were ok, so hopefully the grandparents will be happy:)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Good Friday

Since Easter is the biggest holiday of the year here in Geita, our team decided to have our own celebration on Good Friday, as we knew most of us would be working on Easter Sunday.  We had worship together and good food, followed by an egg hunt for the kids.  Fortunate for the crops, but unfortunate for the hunt, the rain was pouring down so we moved the fun inside.  We hid eggs filled with candy, bouncy balls, stickers, necklaces, and other goodies; it was quite fun, even for the big kids, who Brett taunted by hiding some of the eggs in ridiculous places.  

Harper even participated by hiding one of the eggs in her pants.