Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weekend Update on Burglary

It's been a roller coaster of a week and Chris and I are still trying to make sense of what's happening and find a way to move forward from here.

I want to say again thank you to all the people who have prayed for us, sent emails, texts, etc. We have such a great support system and we really appreciate all the love and concern that people have expressed to us. It truly does make a difference.

At this point, there's not too much more to tell. We went into the police station Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. I'm grateful that we've not had to go in for the past 2 days. It's not really the most pleasant place in the world, to say the least, and I find it hard to heal when I have to keep going back there. We've made statements. An investigator has come out to the house. They are trying to get the phone records to see if the thieves made any calls prior to us turning off our phones. Josephat (our guard) was held in lockup from Monday until Thursday. They didn't really get much information out of him so they released him. He has maintained his innocence this whole time and admitted to sleeping during the burglary. He also stopped by the house yesterday and we were able to have a conversation with him and get some closure. In the meantime, we've hired a security guard company to patrol the house at night and are sleeping better because of that.

Smokey has had a rough week too. We now think that she was poisoned the night of the robbery and it just took a few days to go into effect. We've had the vet out here several times to give her anti-toxins, antibiotics and other drugs to help her get past this. She is a strong dog, for sure, and I'm certain she'll pull through. She has slowly, slowly been moving around a bit more each day and last night she ate the first bit of "food" since Monday. I gave her raw egg with oil and she lapped it right up. I fed her that again this morning and she ate that too. So I will slowly start reintroducing some solids and I feel hopeful that she'll take them. At times this week we thought she might've been brain dead because all she did was sit and stare into the distance. It was so sad to see. But this morning she was the most like her old self than she has been all week. She was happy to see us, scratched at the front gate to let her in, and had her tongue hanging out happily.

As far as how Chris and I are doing...well, time will tell. We both have been handling it pretty well, I think. But we've also had our breaking points at various times throughout the week. It definitely helps to have a guard again and to see Smokey feeling better. It has helped to Skype with family and friends and receive their support. And the MKLM community has been really supportive, as well. We're still a bit jumpy, especially at night. But I think that's going to take a long time (if ever) to go away. We're very sad that our relationship with Josephat has ended. We may never know whether or not he had anything to do with the burglary. But regardless, we feel like we lost a friend. If he was complicit, we never had the relationship that we thought we had and it makes us question our sense of trust. And if he's not, then he's a victim just as much, if not more, than us. He was put in prison for 4 days with little food; he was hit by another prisoner while in prison; he lost his job; he lost his dog (he loved Smokey); and he lost our friendship and trust. People may think it's crazy, but I do feel sorry for him regardless and wish it all could've turned out differently.

We will go back to the police station on Monday and see if there are any new developments with the case. In the meantime, we're trying to go about our days as normally as possible. I can't say whether we'll move from this house and into another neighborhood or not. Some days we feel comfortable here and want to stay, and other days we want to move just to feel like we're not being watched as much. But there's really not much we can do at this point, so we'll see how we feel as time goes on. We are definitely not leaving Tanzania and we will continue our mission from here. Don't get me wrong, there were definitely times this week where we were ready to pack up our bags and get out of Dodge. These things are difficult to handle at any point in life. But to have something this traumatic happen in the first year oversees is especially difficult, not just for us but also for those at home. However, this will not be the end of our time here. This is not what mission is about. If we left now we would only have accomplished a victory for the burglars. We would only think of Tanzania as a bad place, a place where the people are "out to get us." And that couldn't be further from the truth. We have had so many Tanzanian coworkers stopping by all week. It's proof that people are both good and bad, just like anywhere else. We will stay here and create more wonderful memories, make more friends and be changed in more positive ways. This is just a blip on our path.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Update on Burglary

A big, huge thank you to everyone for your calls, emails, texts, thoughts, prayers, etc over the past few days as we've been dealing with the burglary. It's been a crazy, emotional week but Chris and I are handling things pretty well, thanks to everyone's support. Everyone has been asking what happened, so here's the story.

As some of you may remember, on Sunday we had 2 puppies suddenly come into our possession. We'd spent a large part of the day chasing them around the yard trying to catch them. Chris had been sick all week and still wasn't feeling great, especially after chasing puppies all day. So we were very distracted, to say the least. Because of all that, we forgot to lock the back door. Josephat, our guard, was on duty and our regular guard dog, Smokey, was there too. Chris and I had gotten up several times in the night to check on the puppies. We got up at 4AM, went outside to the porch, fixed a hole the dogs had chewed through to try to escape, talked with Josephat and then went back to bed. At 5AM we woke up again because we heard the puppies. When we got up we realized that we'd been robbed. Josephat said he didn't hear anything and we think Smokey was distracted by the puppies and that's why she didn't bark. The thieves took both our laptops, our new camera, Chris's boots, both our cell phones, my Blackberry, Chris's backpack, his wallet with ID and credit cards, a green bucket and balsamic vinegar. Don't ask why they took those last 2 items. I have no idea. Luckily, they didn't get our passports or residence work permits. Those were locked up and they were smart enough to not open any drawers or cabinets because it would've made noise.

We've gone to the police every day this week trying to go through the process of filing reports, etc. They took our guard into custody (standard protocol) and we don't have any idea if he was involved or not. Seems like too much of a coincidence for him not to at least tip someone off. But at the same time, he's such a nice guy, we just can't imagine him doing this to us (I know, that's what everyone says). Also, to make matters worse, on Monday while we were at the police station, the puppies ran away. And yesterday we discovered that Smokey had been poisoned. We don't know if they did it the night of the robbery and it took a few days to go into effect, or if someone wanted to kill the dog because we now have no guard, or if it was just a strange coincidence (because people poison dogs all the time here). We were both really broken up about the dog but we had the vet over yesterday. He gave her a shot and we've been monitoring her. Last night we thought for sure she wouldn't live, but today she's doing a bit better and we think she'll be okay.

Yesterday the police transfered Josephat to another jurisdiction and put the case there because it's closer to where we live. And an investigator came to the house today, walked around, took an inventory of what was lost. We've also been working with local leaders who know the area well. Things work slow slow slow here, so we're just trying to be patient and see it through. We've had several Tanzanians that we know through work and other channels stop by to lend a hand, make phone calls to people they know in the police, and give their "pole" ("po-lay"; it's a word that basically means "I'm sorry."). It's been really wonderful and heartwarming to see the support that we have both in Tanzania and abroad.

I think Chris and I are handling things pretty well, or at least as well as can be expected. We're not freaking out or anything, just a little jumpy at night. But we're for damn sure locking our doors now and are locking up anything of value (not that there's much left). We'll continue to keep everyone posted if any new developments come to light.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weird Day

Chris and I were the unfortunate victims of a robbery last night. We're safe but shaken. They took our computers, though, so we'll be a bit slow on communication for a little while. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers in the coming days as we try to figure this all out and as we reconcile in our minds what happened. Also please keep the thief(s) in your prayers and those who are investigating. We want the victims to be caught, of course, but we also want it to be fair and just.

Oh, and the puppies are gone. They escaped from the yard while we were at the police station today. So, crap and more crap.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Camping Trip-Day 4 & 5

I have to finish writing up the camping trip, otherwise I'll never do it! And we've been home over a week now. Here's the last installment:

On the last morning at our little camp ground it was so windy it's hard to believe that we didn't just completely blow away. Like on the previous days we started with Mass. But it was too windy to do it outside, so we all squeezed into a tent. Can't say I've ever attended Mass in a tent before.

It was so windy we had to say Mass in a tent
Poor Mike was trying to concentrate and the wind kept whipping the tent and hitting him in the head.

After Mass and breakfast we took down our camp and began the journey out of the bush. First, we stopped at a family's house to visit and pick up their daughter for school. There is a school for children in nomadic families out toward one of the cities. Fr. Dan has 3 girls that he helps with school fees and transportation to this school. Their break was over so he wanted to bring the 3 girls back with us while we were headed in that direction. Unfortunately, the girl at the first house wasn't able to go back to school just yet. Not exactly sure why, but hopefully she'll return in the future.

Fr. Mike steals a baby
Mike visits with a baby while we wait for the girl, who ended up not going with us.

Since we had some time to spare we took a detour and went to the salt flats. The people use the salt from Lake Eyasi and harvest it to sell. They dam the water in some places and when the water evaporates, you've got salt! Scrape it up and you're ready to go.

We visited the salt flats along the lake
Mike and John and seemingly endless space beyond.

Once enough salt rises to the top it's harvested
It was so windy Mike had to hold his hat on.

It's gotta be tough work. Hard winds, dry conditions. At least the sun keeps it cool.
Where the workers are scraping salt from the dammed areas.

After the salt flats we picked up the other 2 girls who were returning to school and went to a small town where Fr. Dan works.

We stopped along our route to pick up a student who was returning to school. We ended up taking some of her family along as well.
You can't just pick up one person. Their family has to come along too.

Dan works in the small town of Magalata doing Pastoral work and beekeeping. He has a 1 room house, a place to say Mass, and a small yard. It was really great to visit here because many of the members of the small Christian community came out to say hello. They visited a while, cooked dinner for us, and said prayers. They were a really amazing bunch of people! I wish I was able to communicate more with them.

Houses in Magalata
Some houses around Magalata.

Waiting outside Dan's house for dinner to start
Sitting outside Dan's house inside his compound with members of the community. The girl on the far left in the blue dress and the other girl on the far right in the red shirt were the 2 girls going back to school.

Fatuma and her daughter

A member of the community in Magalata

Esther is sort of a matriarch in the community. She was so nice and really chatty. And so pretty! I was memorized by her facial scars.

That night we slept out under the stars in Dan's compound. I was so tired and my eyes were so swollen and sore from the dust and sun, I had to work hard to really appreciate it. But we saw a few shooting stars and I slept more soundly than I ever would've thought I could have in the outdoors.

Our "bedroom" for the night.

The next morning we started bright and early again with Mass. The community came back to join us and Mass was said in their local language.

Mass on Friday

After Mass we ate the most delicious breakfast ever--mandazis and chai.

Kids eating
A ton of the community came by and it was great to see that everyone was fed, no matter whether they were Christian or not.

We headed out from Magalata fairly quickly because we had a long journey ahead of us. We first had to drop Dan, Hong, and John in Ndoleleji. Then we had to drop the 2 schoolgirls off at the tarmac before heading to Mwanza. Poor Liz and Mike had even further to go, as they had to drive from Mwanza to Musoma, another couple of hours. Luckily, Mike had the joy of hugging a baobab to sustain him for the remainder of the journey.

Chris and Mike fulfilling their wish to hug a baobab tree

A big thank you to Liz and Dan without whom this trip would never have happened. And big ups to Dan and John. I hope I'm still going this strong when I'm in my 80's!

Dan and Mike, our fearless leaders, back in Ndoleleji


She's not quite sure of us

There were 3 puppies living in the pile of coal next to our gate. We just had to take one.

Chris is pretty happy. Sprocket, not so much.
One person is happy. One dog is not. She was so scared!

Her brother climbed the gate today too. So for the night (and hopefully just the night) we have 2 puppies! We're not naming the boy because we're not keeping him. For reals.

Sprocket and her brother

What does Smokey think? She's super happy! But we're keeping them separated right now because Smokey was playing too rough.

What does Smokey think?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Analogy for Marriage?

Earlier this week a few of us new missioners went to the International Language School in town to register for Swahili tutoring. We had to take a test to assess where we are so they could accurately place us in a class. Chris and I went back the next day and met the woman who will be our teacher. Upon introducing ourselves she said to me, "OH! I know you!" I was all, "Huh? Have we met?"And then she said that when she graded our tests I had made a mistake that made her laugh and she'd never forget me. Great, I thought. One of the questions asked us to tell our life story. I briefly wrote about my age and where I was from. And I said I was married in 2003. Well, I thought I'd said that at least. Turns out I said something like in 2003 I was swept into a pile of garbage. Nice!

*I was going to just post this as-is. But then I felt like I needed to add a comment clarify that I do not, in fact, feel like I was swept into a pile of garbage when I was married in 2003. I love my marriage and my husband and don't feel like I'm trash. So, there. The record is straight. Still a funny mistake, though.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mailing Stuff to TZ

Many of you in the past have asked about mailing things to us in Tanzania. If you've ever gotten instructions from me with our mailing addresses please read this update on mailing instructions.

Today there was a confrontation between customs and Liz (the MK missioner up there) over a package that was sent for me. They opened a box and found that what was sent was not what was written on the customs form. The box was confiscated and Liz was subjected to a verbal lashing about what liars we are. Apparently they already had their eye on Liz and Marion for something someone else had sent in their name (not for me). So, in light of today's episode I'm going to ask people to NOT send to the Musoma address anymore. If you send anything to us from now on, please use the Mwanza address for all boxes, envelopes, everything.

Also, please be vague on customs forms but do not outright misrepresent or lie. We don't want it to be a shopping list for custom officials to see and take what they want, but we also don't want to get in trouble with them for being dishonest if they happen to open it.

I know some of you may have already sent some things to this address. That's fine. Hopefully we'll be able to get them without any problems. I just want to minimize any issues that Liz or Sr. Marion needs to deal with in the future.

Thanks so much for all the things you guys send. I know it's a major pain in the butt and we so appreciate you going through the hassle to give us a little piece of home. The outpouring of love and support we get from everyone, whether it's through snail mail, email, Facebook messages, phone calls, whatever, is so so so special to us. It makes us feel closer to you all and allows us to continue on the roughest days. Thank you.

Camping Trip-Day 3

Sunrise across the dry riverbed by our camp
We started out Wednesday morning bright and early with the sunrise.

I was amazed at how well I slept! No bump-bump-bumping of the neighborhood duka sampling the music of CDs they sell. No cockle-doodle-do of the neighborhood roosters. No mosque calling Muslims to prayer. Over the past few months I've learned to sleep through all of these noises, but it was so nice to not have that! I didn't realize how much I've been missing quiet.

Mass with a guest
As the sun continued to rise we celebrated Mass together. Visitors started coming right away, so they sat down and joined in.

Making pancakes
We carbed it up on a pancake breakfast. It was so windy that as soon as I'd put the batter into the pan it'd be covered in a layer of dust. I kept saying that as new residents in TZ we needed to breath, eat and taste the country.

After breakfast we headed out on what we thought was going to be a 1 mile hike. We wanted to visit what we affectionately referred to as "the baboon pools." They are a series of pools with cool mountain water where herders bring their cattle to drink and baboons sometimes sit on the edges. We had different intentions, though. We wanted to swim! We'd gone a few dusty days without showers, so even a cattle trough sounded good to me.

Baboons by our campground
As soon as we set out we saw these guys by our campsite. Maybe they were headed to the pools themselves!

It was a hot, dry, dusty walk. And it ended up being more like 3 miles instead of 1 mile, which was tough because we'd not brought enough water. We also had an older MK priest with us and there was some concern about whether he'd make it. But I'll tell you what, those MK priests are the real deal! John hung in there like a champ and even lead the pack at times. One of our visitors from the morning, a young man named Thomas, took it upon himself to be our guide. I was grateful for his guidance because on the way back he took a shortcut through the plains and it shaved off about 20 minutes off our 2 hour walk!

Walking to find the "baboon pools"
Headed to the mountains in the distance. We should've known it was more than 1 mile!

Along the walk we saw lots of cattle being corralled by their herders. We also saw 2 snakes, a huge jackrabbit and a dik-dik.

Finally reached the pools.
We finally reached the pools, hot and sweaty. I was ready for a swim!

You can get a scale of the pools and rockface surrounding it
We walked along the rock-face to get to the highest pool. It was a little cleaner than the others and we the cattle couldn't get up there, so we wouldn't have to worry about them coming up while we were swimming.

Only me, Liz, Caitlin and Mike took the opportunity to swim. The water was freezing cold, but after the hot walk it felt great. Liz even thought to bring soap so I could get a little sudzed up!

It was a long walk back but it was great to see how everyone helped each other out, slowing down when someone was falling behind. We had plans to do some more hiking around afterwards, but by the time we got back to camp it was mid-afternoon and everyone was spent. So we just napped, chilled and got a bite to eat.

That night we had another great meal on the fire, told stories, and helped pop each other's blisters.

Liz doing "surgery" on my blisters after a 3 mile "1 mile" walk

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lake Eyasi Camping Trip-Day 1 & 2

We headed out from Mwanza on Monday after lunch and drove several hours to a village called Ndoleleji. There are several MK priests out there and we were to meet up with them, spend the night and then head into the bush on Tuesday. Unfortunately, we experienced several car problems along the way.

Car problem #2-A broken front light
I didn't get a shot of our first issue, an empty radiator! But just after getting that problem fixed and setting off again we were flagged down by a nice man who told us our headlight was hanging off!

Because of the car trouble, we were a little late getting to Ndoleleji. But in true MK fashion, the fathers had a great spread ready for us so we could have a "sun downer" and enjoy tasty libations while watching the sunset in their back yard. What a great way to recover from the stressful journey.

Watching the sunset in Dan's backyard at Ndoleleji

The next morning after Mass in the yard, we took a brief tour of one of Fr. Dan's projects-BEEKEEPING!

Mass in Dan's backyard
Fr. Dan prior to Mass.

"Killer Bee" Honey
"Killer Bee" Honey. They're NOT killer bees. Don't get me started on that rant. It's just a name.

After packing up the trucks with necessities like M&M/granola snack mix, beer, and water, we set out.

Portable fridge. Important for keeping beer and soda cold while camping.
Portable fridge for drinks...we know how to "rough it."

Packing up the gear

Fr. Mike singing a song on the ukelele
Fr. Mike warming up for the campfire songs.

We spent most of Tuesday driving. It was a dusty, long journey and I drove one of the trucks the whole way. I was proud of my navigating through dry river beds and getting the truck in and out of 4-wheel drive.

The road out into the bush
This is lush compared to where we ended up going.

Stopping for lunch
We made a few stops along the way. Here we had lunch under a tree. It was great to get a little break from the dusty roads. I made hummus and we brought it out. Happy to say that it's now an international favorite. Thanks, Bo.

One car waits for the other 2 to get through a dry river bed. I'm driving the 2nd car.
Fr. Dan's truck stops to make sure the other trucks get through the dry riverbed without sticking. I'm driving the middle truck. You can see we've picked up a traveler along the way. Can't imagine riding in the back of the truck, it was so dusty!

The outside of the church being built
We made another stop at a village to visit another MK priest who is building a huge church.

After a day of driving we arrived at our destination. We did some searching and found a nice place to camp right along a dry riverbed. It's the rainy season, so there was little to worry about in the way of being carried away by flood.

Our campsite, along a dry riverbed
You can see, we're along the rift escarpment, so there are mountains/hills in the background. We were close to Lake Eyasi at this point but couldn't see if from where we were camping.

By the time we found a campsite the sun was settling pretty quickly. So we hastily set up camp and went about the business of making dinner. We were with such a great group of people. Everyone pitched in to help with whatever tasks needed to be done. I never felt like anyone was slacking on helping out. There were 9 of us altogether, 5 lay missioners and 4 MK priests (1 priest from Musoma, 2 from Ndoleleji, and 1 from Nairobi).

Setting up camp
Some of the guys setting up Chris's and my home-away-from-home.

Setting up camp and cooking dinner. You can see we've already gotten visitors stopping by.
The people who live in this area have some crazy telepathic social networking ability or something because word of our arrival spread like wildfire and people were stopping by before we even made camp. They just came to say hello and welcome. They were curious about who we were and what we were doing there. Oh, and they wanted to share in our food and whatever else we had to offer.

Setting up camp
Fathers Dan and Hong setting up camp.

Hanging out after dinner
We were all pretty tuckered out that night from the long drive. But we enjoyed a great meal, some tasty drinks, good music, fun stories and lots of laughs before heading off to bed.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Different Sense of Homesickness

For the past few days, ever since we returned from our trip to Lake Eyasi, I've been thinking about how to write up my experience there. I just don't think there's any way to adequately convey my experience of camping in the bush and visiting the nomadic peoples of this area. I think I will hold this as one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Before we left on the trip I expected that it would be a difficult week, but that afterwards I would look back on it as an interesting and worthwhile adventure. I also expected that I would experience a feeling of "home-sweet-home" when I returned back to our house in Mwanza. And now that I think about it, I wonder if I was looking forward to that feeling upon returning because for the past year I've not had a home and maybe in some way I wanted to appreciate being finally settled.

Now that I've gone and come back I'm having quite a mix of emotions. I was accurate when I anticipated it being a difficult week. But it was difficult in ways I'd not expected (the dust and dirt were really hard on my eyes, for one). And yet, I enjoyed it way more than I anticipated. The beauty of the land, the great MK company along the way, the warm welcome and abundant curiosity of the people. All of these things far exceeded any difficulties we encountered. Also, I wasn't as ready to return to Mwanza as I thought I'd be. Don't get me wrong, I was glad to get a shower and be clean, it was nice to see our little doggie again, and our home is quite nice here. But all throughout this weekend I keep feeling a sense of homesickness instead of the "home-sweet-home" feeling I anticipated experiencing. It's similar to the feelings I had when I came back to the States after our first trip to Tanzania in 2006. After that trip both Chris and I felt a sense of homesickness for a place we'd only briefly known. And that's how I feel right now. I long to go back to live and work with the people in this area. Unfortunately, it's not a possibility right now because all MK Lay Missioners are being asked by the powers-that-be to live and work in and around the city of Mwanza. But as soon as that restriction is lifted, I could definitely see me and Chris uprooting again and moving out a little closer to work with this community.

I'm still in the process of uploading our pictures from the trip, but I'll post some along with stories soon.

Friday, July 13, 2012

We're back!

Just returned from an wonderful adventure! We're a bit tired, but what a life-changing experience! I can't wait to share so many amazing stories and pictures. But for now, here's a teaser:

Chris and some friends at our campsite
Some friends who stopped by our campground to say hi one morning.

Me and Lucia
Lucia is a woman from the small Christian community that a MK Father works with in Magalata. Can you spot the little kiddie toes that are sticking out from behind her back? Baby Regina (born in April) was happily hanging out on her momma's back. Regina peed on me a lot over the past few days.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Photos from Our Life

I noticed the other day that I haven’t been posting many pictures on the web lately and I realized that’s because I’ve moved into the day-to-day stuff of regular life and most people don’t take pictures of that. But because our life isn’t really much like “regular life” to those at home, I’m trying to make a conscious effort to take some shots to help you see a little of what we see on a daily basis.

How do you vaccuum without a vaccuum?
Without a vacuum, this is how we have to clean the rugs. Chris hates this rug, not only because it has to be cleaned in this way, but also because I don't think he wants to admit to owning a tiger skin patterned rug. But, hey, it gets the dirt off our feet before we get into bed. And that, my friends, is why there was SOOOOO much dirt on/under it! Amazing how much dirt piles up so quickly here.

My life in Africa. A series of locks.
We have locks on our gate, then another lock on our gate to our porch, then a lock on our door. Takes about 5 minutes just to get in or out of our house.

Facebook for Dummies
Got together with some Americans for 4th of July. This was what was being discussed in the corner at the party. It was just too funny to me. 

Monkeys at Mabatini Church
Saw these monkeys playing around Fr. Jim's car at the Church in Mabatini. What's even crazier about this picture is that Mabatini is a very congested area. It's highly populated and incredibly dense. So to see monkeys in such a place seemed really odd to me.

"Helping" to make chapati. (I really didn't do anything but watch.)
Speaking of Mabatini, I've been spending a lot of time in the parish there. The MK fathers run this parish so there's lots of opportunity to get involved. I've been spending time with their parish women's group. They make and sell chapati and tea after each Mass, so for the past few weeks I've been sitting with them, watching and listening. They like to pretend that I'm helping them, but really I'm just sitting watching and trying to understand little bits of Swahili as they chat to each other. I'm also going on home visits to the women's houses. It's an invaluable experience to see where the people live and meet their families. My hope is to slowly understand more about their needs and the challenges the women's group faces so that I can eventually help them a little bit. Right now it sounds like they struggle to break even with their post-church sales and the group doesn't really have much of a function other than that.

All ready for our week in the bush!
Tomorrow we head out into the bush for the week. We are going to visit a community of nomadic people that the MK fathers work with and where a MK lay missioner had her first mission several decades ago. We'll be "roughing it" for the week and camping, while we visit with the people and hike around. It's going to be so beautiful! I can't wait. I tested out the tent, made hummus, granola and brownies and everything is ready to go! We'll be offline for the week while we're away. But hopefully we'll have some spectacular pictures when we return.