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.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Life in Iringa

It's been absolutely too long since I've posted on my blog, so here's a quick update:

Since I last wrote, we completed our three-week orientation course in Dar es Salaam and traveled inland via local bus line to Riverside Campsite, just outside the town of Iringa. On our trip to Iringa, we drove through Mikumi National Park. Our kids were delighted when we saw a family of elephants, giraffes, gazelles, zebras, and even a baboon. Their excitement was contagious!

We have been here at Riverside Campsite for nearly 3 weeks now and will be staying in Iringa until the end of the year studying Swahili. We are grateful to have be given a little banda (cabin) to live in during our time here. We're all sleeping in the same room like we were in Dar, but here we each have our own beds and we have our own bathroom and study room. That is so nice! We also have one of the best views of the entire campsite (See right). We feel blessed.

Language learning is going well for us. It's amazing how many grammatical structures and how much vocabulary we have learned in just 3 weeks. Today, we put some of our new Swahili ability to good use. Our class took the cook's grocery list and went into town to buy supplies for the campsite at the open-air produce market. We bought things like papai (papaya), tikiti maji (watermelon), mchele (uncooked rice), mkate (bread), pili pili mbuzi (hot peppers), ndizi (bananas) and maharagwe (beans). It felt good to feel confident enough to use Swahili and to be understood as well. (Picture 2: Me with my friends Tena and Ellen after buying our produce.)

Many people have asked how the kids are doing. Thanks so much for your prayers on their behalf. They have adjusted well to life here in Tanzania. While we are in class in the mornings, they play with the children of other students and are watched by a Tanzanian nanny. Our nanny, Nikwisa, is wonderful, and the kids adore her! She is teaching them Swahili greetings, too, which is an added bonus. (Picture 3: Anna and Nikwisa)

Josiah, our nature lover, is in heaven here at Riverside. The camp is nestled in mountains and located next to the Little Ruaha River, so there are tons of new things to explore. He has a collection box full of sticks, leaves, seed pods, and even a bug or two. If you let him, he would explore all day. (Picture 4: Josiah and me with our friend Ellen perched on one of the highest rocks at the campsite.)

Okay, so now I feel better about finally getting something new posted. More later... (hopefully sooner than later). Thanks for reading!