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?