Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Paul Hefft Salon

After moving to Dodoma one of my burning questions was this: "Where do I get my hair cut?" I expected the answers I received (knowing a little from friends and family about the typical missionary experience), but secretly I was hoping for a much different reality. If you are a mzungu (white person) here in Dodoma, your best option for hair cutting is to either do it yourself (and, really, how does one cut the back of their own head in any sort of straight line?) or have a trusted friend do it for you.

Last night, I reached the end of my rope. After five months without a haircut, washing my hair in dirty river water for four of those months, and general dissatisfaction with the style of my hair, I asked Paul if he would be willing to try and cut it. Being the "go-getter" type, he agreed.

The before picture:

First, we did a little research on the internet - a simple, medium-length bob didn't seem so difficult. Then, I wet my hair down, we grabbed our hair cutting scissors and clips, and he gave it a go.After half an hour or so, the work was done. My hair was shorter and healthier. And, personally, I think he did a really good job. He even gave me some basic layers.

I guess we have one more talent to add to his long list of abilities. (Although, he's made me promise that I won't offer his services to any of our friends.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The First Real Meal

One of the things I missed the most in the last 6 months of transition was having my own kitchen. Sure, it was great to have every meal catered and to not have any dishes to clean up, but Paul and I both love to cook. So by the end of language school, we were both in a serious state of cooking withdrawal. How does one medicate a serious state of cooking withdrawal? Well, get in that new kitchen and cook everything you've been missing for many, many weeks and months, of course.

In our first week in our new house, we've made spaghetti sauce (starting from fresh tomatoes), chocolate cake, buttermilk biscuits, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, beans and rice, and pigs in a blanket. Everything has tasted so good, but I must say that our first real dinner created in our new kitchen was the best!

Mexican food, a family favorite, is hard to come by in Tanzania, so our first home-cooked dinner in our new house had to be Mexican. We had great fun creating a chicken fajita feast.

Anna and I made flour tortillas from scratch. Paul then used a few of them to fry up some homemade tortilla chips.My master chef hard at work:
We also made guacamole and fresh salsa. Washed down with a bottle of cold coke, we were all quite satisfied at the end of our meal. Yum!Cooking is good medicine!

Our New Home

After many months of transition (since June to be exact), we have a real home again!

We arrived in Dodoma last Thursday (after 2 flat tires on our way here from Iringa) and have been working on unpacking and settling in since then. We are living on a housing compound of another organization working in this area, and we feel blessed to be here. Our neighbors and colleagues have been extremely helpful and welcoming, which has made the moving in process a bit less hectic.

I'll post pictures of the inside of our house once we get a little more settled.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Today, we graduated from language school. We're in no way fluent in Swahili, but we have the foundation we need to communicate on a basic level and continue to progress in our ability to speak and comprehend.
It's hard to believe that we have been studying Swahili and living here for 16 weeks now. We had the privilege of studying with 3 other members from our organization, Jacob, Tine, and Ellen. We have become good friends during this time, and it will be difficult to say goodbye to them. At least we know we'll get to see each other again at our branch conference every year.
We've also enjoyed getting to know Kay and Les, the Riverside Campsite directors. They have made us feel so welcome here, like family. We'll miss them.
We're grateful for our nanny, Mama Gretia as well. The kids have grown to love her, and they will miss seeing her every day.As I look back at the whole experience, it really has sped by. In the last 4 months, God has taught me a lot about myself and revealed Himself to me in many ways. I keep thinking of that old hymn I Need Thee Every Hour. Boy, isn't that the truth? Without Him, I cannot get a word of Swahili out of my mouth or understand anything that is said to me. Without Him, it is impossible to parent my children in a godly manner. Without Him, I can't be the wife my husband needs. And the list goes on. I'm so grateful for the power and strength God provides His children through the Holy Spirit. I am blessed.

And so it begins...the part of the journey we've been anticipating for months and months. In the morning, we'll get in our car (which is loaded to the gills) and make our way to Dodoma. All of us are excited to begin unpacking our things, making friends, and finally settling in to our own home. Paul is looking forward to starting his ministry with the language project, and Josiah can't wait to start school in January.

I'm excited to see what God has in store for this next phase.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. And once again this year, we have so much for which to be thankful. We serve an awesome God. We have amazing kids, great families and friends, and wonderful co-workers. God provided a spectacular partnership team to help us come here to Tanzania, and He has been with us every step of the way as we have been adjusting to life here and learning Kiswahili.

I'm also thankful that language school is nearly complete. Today, we finished our final day of classroom learning! The next step is leaving tomorrow morning for a 7-day home stay with a Tanzanian family in Iringa town. After our home stay, we'll return to the campsite for a home-stay debriefing, oral and written Kiswahili assessments, and graduation. We'd deeply appreciate your prayers as we finish up and prepare to move to our new home in Dodoma.

Before I end for today, however, I'll leave you with a few pictures from our first Thanksgiving here in Tanzania. Paul, our friend Ellen, and I cooked a traditional American Thanksgiving lunch for the four other families here at the campsite. All four families are European and had never experienced Thanksgiving before. We were definitely conducting some "food experiments," considering the fact that we were cooking on/in a charcoal stove. But thankfully, everything except my yeast rolls (which didn't rise - I'll blame it on the high altitude) was a success and received rave reviews (if I can say so myself).

Sweet potatoes and carrots boiling on the stove:Making cornbread for stuffing and apple cobbler:
Ellen putting the finishing touches on the sweet potato casserole:Taking the stuffing out of the oven:
Finished products ready to serve:
Our friend, Les, carving one of the 4 chickens we roasted:Our family at dinner:
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

All Creatures Great and Small

You know you live in Africa when your son comes running inside first thing in the morning yelling, "Hey, Mom! I see monkeys!"

I must admit, when that happened yesterday, I almost didn't believe him. But when we went outside together, I quickly discovered that he, indeed, was telling the truth. On the rocks just feet (or meters...still haven't adjusted to the metric system) from our banda, three monkeys were jumping on the rocks and swinging in the trees. Of course, we ran for our camera.

See, I wasn't lying:Living here in Tanzania brings out the kid in me. I don't care who you are - as an American who grows up seeing all of your "wild" animals from behind the safety of zoo bars or Plexiglas, it's an amazing thing to see these creatures roaming in their natural habitat. Following is a sample of some of the animals and insects we have come across while living here.

Giraffes we saw while driving back to Iringa after our language school break:
ZebrasElephants under a tree (hard to capture without our telephoto lens):I love watching these lizards. Their colors are so striking. We have one that lives near our banda.A green mamba some of the guys discovered at the campsite (I kept my distance):A praying mantis Josiah found:
Siafu ants - amazing little creatures, but you need to stay out of their way.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Break Time

I promised to be better at blogging, but alas, it has again been weeks since my last post. I'll blame it on being busy in language school – a true statement, indeed. By the end of the day, I'm so exhausted that I've typically lost the ability to write anything longer than one sentence. Language learning is simply an exhausting process, no matter how challenging the language.

Because of this, our entire family was overjoyed to have a one-week break after nine weeks here at the campsite. We've had more relaxing vacations, but we certainly accomplished many important tasks (and we had some fun along the way too).

Our lakizo (holiday) began last Friday when we boarded a bus to Dar es Salaam. We visited our friends Crystal and Marie, spent a day at the pool, and went car shopping. The first day of car shopping was highly disappointing. None of the ideal vehicles (rugged SUVs that will handle the dirt roads up to the villages) in our price range were in good shape mechanically. We were both discouraged, and began to pray that God would open a door for us. God did.

The next day, we found a Honda CR-V in good condition with low miles that was being sold by another expat. This car is not ideal since it is not nearly rugged enough to handle roads to the villages (we need something that is a “real truck”), but the CR-V will serve as a temporary solution for our need to transport our young family around Tanzania. The price was very good, so Paul and I both felt peace about buying this vehicle. We plan to drive it until God provides the additional funds we need to purchase the rugged vehicle that will meet all the needs we have for our ministry. For now, we are really enjoying having our own wheels again!

After we purchased our car in Dar, we spent the remainder of our break in Dodoma, the city where we'll live after language school. We really enjoyed our time there. We met the Burunge translators and other staff with whom we'll be working. We visited the school that our kids will attend. We found a house to rent. And, we spent time with our friends, Jonathan and Rachel.

Here we are out to dinner in Dodoma (a place run by an Italian that serves great pizza!):

The house we'll be renting:

We arrived back at the campsite on Saturday evening, and are beginning to settle back into our little “home.” Even though our break was busy, we were grateful to find a car, visit with friends, and see our new home. Our time away gave us the renewed energy we need to buckle down again and finish strong.

Before we know it, the next phase of our ministry will be underway!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cooking Day

Here at language school, they not only teach us how to speak Kiswahili, but we have cultural lessons too.

Yesterday, we spent the morning in the campsite kitchen learning to cook 12 different traditional Tanzanian dishes. We had a lot of fun! Cooking methods here in Tanzania are a little different than what I'm used to, but both Paul and I really enjoyed being back in the kitchen. (We both LOVE to cook!) Here are some pictures from our day:

The first thing we learned how to do was crack open a coconut (nazi). It took me several whacks with the pestle, but I was able to get the job done. Paul opened his in two or three whacks. Many of the dishes we prepared were made with coconut, so everyone in our class had the chance to to learn the coconut-cracking method.

After we cracked open the coconuts, our teacher, Mosi, showed us how to remove the meat. We used a tool called an mbuzi (which is also the word for goat, believe it or not) to scratch the meat out onto a platter.

We all got to give it a try.

There was a lot of preparation to be done before we cooked. Here some of the teachers and our classmate, Tina, are cutting up vegetables.

Another exciting event of the day was preparing chickens (kuku). In general, when you want to serve chicken here in Tanzania, you have to start with a live bird, and butcher it yourself. That's what we did. Paul was given the job of butchering one of the two chickens we prepared. (I'll spare you the picture of the actual deed.) Then, he plucked it and cut it up.

Another new experience for us was cooking on the stove in the campsite kitchen. It is a stone stove, heated by charcoal. The cook here even bakes cakes (and pretty good ones) over the coals. All of us were definitely taken back by how hot the stove gets. Below is Georgina, the assistant cook, standing in front of it.

Another fun part of the morning was making visheti. Visheti are little fried coconut donuts, covered in a sugar syrup coating. My friend, Ellen, and I got to fry them.

One of my favorite parts of the day was making chapatis. Chapatis are a fried flatbread, sort of like a tortilla. I love eating them, so it was fun to be taught how to make them. My teacher even congratulated me on my nice dough circles.

After we rolled them out, we fried them on a small charcoal stove called a jiko.

We all had a really great day! It really makes me miss having my own kitchen.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, Anna!

Anna turned 3 today! We weren't able to throw a big party like we have in previous years, but she had a good day nonetheless.

One of her favorite parts of her birthday was eating chocolate birthday cake during chai (Thanks to the mpishi here at Riverside for baking it for us!). And like any other three-year-old, another highlight was playing with her new toys and watching a new DVD that she received.

It's hard to believe that my baby is already 3. But, man, am I grateful to be in the front seat as I watch this amazing child grow up. Does she frustrate me? Yes, at times. But more often than not, she is in the business of amazing me. Anna is determined, confident, and nimble. She is charming, witty, and outgoing.

Praise the Lord for Anna Katherine!

And did I mention that her brother is particularly wonderful as well!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wikiendi Nzuri!

We simply had a great weekend. After a leisurely breakfast on Saturday, Paul did a little laundry while I trimmed Anna's hair for the first time since we moved to Tanzania. It took me nearly an hour, but after it was all said and done, I think it looks perfectly acceptable. I was pretty proud of myself. It was my first wedge cut! Thankfully, my hairdresser in the States had given me some pointers on trimming Anna's hairstyle before we left.

Paul doing laundry in our banda's bathroom

Trimming Anna's hair on the front porch of our banda

After completing our laundry and hair-trimming duties, our family and a few friends took a 2k hike to a waterfall near the campsite. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Josiah was so excited to be exploring that we nearly had to run to keep up with him.

Anna, on the other hand, felt like she should be carried most of the way. Suffice it to say, I had a good workout.

When hiking in Tanzania, it's always a good idea to watch out for thorns like these. They're everywhere!

When we reached the waterfall, we all had fun climbing around on the huge rocks in the river. It also made for good photo opportunities. All of our running water comes straight from the river via an aqueduct all the way from the waterfall. (Don't worry, we don't drink it.)

Today was a lovely day as well. A group of us traveled into Iringa town to attend a local English-speaking church service. It was wonderful to worship corporately in our own language and to fellowship with other expatriate believers in the area. The fellowship even provides Sunday School for the children, which was a nice treat.

When we returned home, we had lunch and naps before heading down to the TV banda to play games with some of the other campsite residents. Several of us pulled out the dominoes to play Chicken Foot (old-school...yes, but good fun). We even interested some of the younger girls, and taught them how to play. Somehow, I have a feeling that Chicken Foot might become a tradition around here.

I often forget how restful a good weekend can be. This was definitely one of them.