Thursday, July 23, 2015

Finding Lulu: The Tanzanian Connection

In some ways it's hard to believe I was ever there. We've been back from Tanzania for just over 3 months and I'm still trying to make sense of the experience. That being said, it was really hard to write this blog post for my office. But here is a little writeup that I did:

Check it out here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Back in the US Again

It's hard to believe that a month ago Chris and I were in Mwanza still working and hanging out with friends. So much has happened in the last month, from transitioning out of Maryknoll Lay Missioners in NY, to visiting with family in NJ and PA, getting our stuff out of storage at my grandparents' house, and then finally moving back into our house in SC. Here's a quick visual tour of our time:

Maryknoll Society House in Ossining, NY
Saying goodbye to the "big house" in Ossining, NY. This place is beautiful but it was SO COLD for our African-adjusted bodies!

We'd been telling people "We have nothing!" Where'd all this crap come from
When you combine the furniture we got from family and all the crap we didn't know we kept in storage, we totally filled this 10' truck. What happened to living minimally!?

Back in SC!
Exciting moment of crossing the border from NC to SC. We're baAAAAck!

Our little house still stands
First stop (after getting a rental car) - our house! It's in great shape after 4 years of renters!

Taking some time out in Sesquicentenial Park
In between shopping at thrift stores we took a moment to recognize and remember South Carolina's beauty at Sesquicentennial Park.

The big man all ready for his first day of work.
After less than 3 days in South Carolina, the big guy starts work. He cleans up well doesn't he!?

First meal in the old/new house - Indian food boil-in-a-bag
First meal in the house -local muscadine cider and Indian food boil-in-a-bag. God bless America!

Our bedroom getting set up

Dining room/kitchen getting set up
The house is slowly coming together.

We bought a car!

Chris's pikipiki to get to work
New modes of transportation.

First milkshake at Rosewood Dairy
Remembering our old haunts.

So far the transition has been smooth sailing, thanks to the support and help of family and friends. My mind is still boggled at the fact that we are here for good and I'm not going to have to pack everything back up again. And I still feel weird about things like drinking water from the tap, not having to worry that my purse is going to be stolen from the front seat of the car, or plugging my electronics into the socket without a volt guard or adapter. But these are obviously the little things. The big things will come later, I'm sure, when I'm not so distracted with getting settled.

Thanks again and big ups to everyone far and wide for giving so freely of your support, your free time, your prayers, your extra furniture, kitchen utensils, and everything else. We're so happy to be back amongst such wonderful people.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Closing of a Chapter and the Starting of a New

We head out today from Maryknoll Lay Missioners​'s headquarters in NY as we slowly make our way to South Carolina. Christopher​ and I were both sad last night and not wanting to pack up. Excited to see family and get settled into our new jobs, but we are definitely mourning the reality that our "Africa experience" is over (for now).

"The Big House" for the MK Fathers and Brothers right next to the building for MKLM in Ossining, NY

A big thank you to all our family and friends who have (perhaps reluctantly at times) supported us over the past 3 1/2 years or more. It's because of all of you that we were able to take on this journey and because of your continued support and prayers that we made it through to the end. We couldn't have done this without you and we are just as proud of you for "making it" as you are of us. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Things I'm Gonna Miss

This was happening in our yard on Saturday while we were moving out of the house. 

I'm sure going to miss their little faces. 

Also, speaking of things I'll miss. Sadly, we've experienced the death of another dog. (That's three in three years, plus a cat. Man, this place is harsh.) Nyeusi, our sweet puppy (she was maybe 3 years old) died on Monday. We are so sad that she left us so early and that she won't be free to roam the neighborhood with her pal Taquilla as we had originally planned. 

This was taken on Saturday while the kids played. Neyusi loved the neighborhood kids. 

She loved attention and would flop on her back to have her belly rubbed at any opportunity. 

We're gonna miss you, buddy. 

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

There's No Going Home Again

Easter is a time of new beginnings, as I told a neighbor the other day when I was trying to explain the weird American tradition of the Easter egg hunt, which is very much NOT a Tanzanian thing, but yet we do every year with their children.
Dying eggs with the neighborhood kids 2015.
And how appropriate it is since boy, do we have some new beginnings coming up! In less than 2 weeks everything will change for us. Yet what is strange this time around is that now we are changing BACK. We are moving back into our house in SC, back to jobs similar to what we were doing before we left. Back with our family and friends who I have missed so much. Back to regular power and electricity, comfort and stability, familiarity. These are all things I've longed for so many times over the years.

Yet, despite all these amazing things, I just can't seem to shake some overwhelmingly negative feelings. When the power goes out and the computer dies while I'm in the middle of working on something, instead of getting mad, I remind myself that I only have to deal with this for X number of months/weeks/days. When I drive by a group of kids in the neighborhood and they try for the zillionth time to jump onto the back of my moving truck, I count down the number of times I think this will happen before I will Yet, there is some sort of "longingness" in these countdowns. I can't really explain it, but I've found myself savoring these instances lately. What gives? Surely I won't be sad to shed myself of these daily annoyances?

But of course, it's not the annoyances that I love about Tanzania, is it? It's easy to boil it down to that, so many annoyances and inconveniences. But our experience has been so, so much more than that. There is so much that I am sad about leaving, so much I will miss. The great friends we have made, who we have relied upon and who have helped us as if we were family. The silly smile of the neighborhood kids and the cheeky dance Maende does when I come home every night. The cool breeze that comes through with a rain after days and days of dryness. The sheer delight when the power comes back on in time for me to catch a TV show before bed. I'm even sad that I won't be an expat anymore. There's something inherently neat about that, even if I am truly the most boring person in the world, which I am.

Maende, so much sass for such a little guy.
But the sadness isn't it. I think there's something deeper at play here and I think it's been hiding just underneath the sadness and per-ordained nostalgia. And I'll just come right out and say it. I'm scared. Scared to go back. I always fear change, so this shouldn't come as a surprise to me but I guess I am a little caught off guard at how fearful I am of this change. I've tried to hide my fear under a cloak of sadness, but if I'm going to be true, this is what's up. I worry that I might be unhappy in our "old life?" What if my family and friends don't really like who I have become? What if I don't like them? What if I can't keep up with my new job or I'm just not good at it? But maybe worst of all, what if I forget? Forget the life I had here, the people I met and the joys I had? What if it just all goes back to the way it was?

Life here isn't easy and it isn't simple. But because we put up with so many daily inconveniences and the folks here struggle with so much, I've found myself rejoicing in the simple pleasures. I appreciate so much more here. And this is what I am afraid of. We are so fortunate in the US and I'm afraid I will get lost in the abundance. I will forget the things I should appreciate. Friends, family, electricity and clean water, good food, the smell of rain, the change of seasons, bird songs and clear traffic on the drive home from work, paved roads, croaking frogs. They say there is no going home again and I really hope that's true. Even though it scares me to death, I hope I won't be the same again.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What We Do When We're not Doing

What do we do when we are done with a day's work?

Scare Play with kids, of course.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Pain of Knowing and Feeling

I know that for a while I've been relatively silent in general on this blog and I have been especially silent in terms of our return and reintegration to the US. Honestly, I just don't know what to say. I've got so much going on inside my own head, it's kind of hard to get it out and also to translate the feelings into words.

As of today we are 1 month and 1 day away from departing TZ, our home for the past 3+ years. How do I describe the mixed emotions that this entails? This picture says a lot to me but I'm not sure if it'll mean much to others.

This is pretty much my office view. I sit with a bunch of girls on a mat. Now, this is cool and it's fun but it's also dirty and it's hard. It's hard on my body; my legs and back hurt after an hour of sitting this way. I get pooped on regularly by birds or bees or whatever else. And it's hard on my head; it's difficult to keep up with what's being talked about and sometimes I wonder if I'm really contributing anything. Many times over the past 3 years I have felt so inadequate. Take for example the other day when the girls were learning about the transmission of HIV/AIDS. The asked me a question, which they had to repeat like 5 times for me to understand. Then I bumbled out an answer in broken Swahili that I hope conveyed the gist of what I was trying to say, clearing up any of their misconceptions and stigmas and elucidating what it was they were trying to understand. I fear I failed miserably at it and I thought for the zillionth time that it would so much easier to do this in English. It's just so hard and I'm not going to miss this.

On the flip side, I really love this work. I love when I am sitting with the girls and they're just chatting about normal life and they ask me my opinion about something or other. It's a great opportunity to make a real impact in a way that I never would have with any other work in the US. Or I love when the girls make a joke and I ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND IT! I feel so good about meeting them on that level. And they are so funny! Tanzanian humor is a little dirty, a little self- or other-depreciating and I just love it. I see so much opportunity in my work here and love contributing in this way. It provides a sense of fulfillment like I've never felt before and I know I'm going to miss this.

Sigh. Life. As my brilliant husband once said, life is a good kind of sadness.

I know how lucky I am to have had this opportunity, not only to fulfill a life-long dream of mine, but to have lived here.  For all it's hardness. For all it's pain. The ups and downs. I know I am just. So. Lucky.

And it kinda hurts.