Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Arusha, Tanzania

HERI YA KRISMASI!! (Merry Christmas!)

What a GREAT Christmas. I can honestly say that. While of course it has been out of the norm (eating way too much, spending time with family/ close friends, wearing long underwear, cuddling with my dog by the fire, crazy present exchanges beating my family in cards... etc etc..)- it has been such a wonderful and joyous Christmas.

This weekend has been full of warm-hearted invitations to various family’s houses, church friends and even potlucks. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of hospitality I have been shown by so many here in Arusha, and I am so thankful for that, if you know anyone wherever you are that will be alone for Christmas, take this time to think about what it would feel like to be that person, maybe it’s a perfect opportunity to reach out and really make a difference – because I assure you, it really does.

Anywho, being 80-some degrees however... it didn’t quite feel like Christmas to me... that is- - until the Carols by Candlelight service here. I was able to participate in a church choral service here in Arusha where we sang many Christmas carols (I think I will end with my favorite verse of my favorite Christmas hymn - In the Bleak Mid-Winter) - - This service just made it feel like home, and filled me with such an amazing Christmas joy- which I hope to try and encompass year-round, because- shouldn’t Christmas joy really be a year round thing anyways? < I’ve decided it should :- )> Anyways it was just a great service and a great reminder- I felt like a small child hearing the Christmas story for the first time—even though I’ve heard it so many times because of how happy it made me, it was also just a HUGE reminder of the love story this story, the story of Jesus’ birth is for each and all of us : -) Now that’s something to be joyful about.

Christmas Eve here was fun too, in the evening, my housemate Brian and a medical student from Germany came over, we made homemade pizzas, guacamole and watched.. get ready... my favorite Christmas special, Rudolph. It was fun!

Then today, on Christmas I woke up to some amazing acts of kindness, surprise gifts from people including kitenges (jenny! ;-) and even... a BICYCLE! My task force is giving me money to buy myself a bicycle for traveling around in my village, I’m super excited about that, hooray! That’s right, I woke up on Christmas morning to a Bike! ☺ After a great church service some of my friends and I did perhaps the most meaningful thing I have ever done on Christmas. We went to the Plaster House.

I have mentioned Plaster House before, but it is a children’s home in Arusha for children from around Tanzania to recover in after they have had corrective orthopaedic surgery, plastic surgery or neurosurgery for a disability check out the website, if you have any desire to give to an organization this holiday season, give a gift to the plaster house, it's a wonderful place and they're raising funds to build a bigger house!! ;-) Myself and five of my medical friends went with lots of cookies and two cakes. We got there right after the children had eaten, in time for them to get their presents. Oh. My. Goodness. These children were instructed that they would each get a bag of goodies, in which they had to keep closed until all 30-ish of them had their presents, then altogether they would open them. This would never have worked in the US, but here the children got their presents, held them silently and patiently waiting for everyone to have theirs, before they were given permission to open them. Wow. Amazing. Then they opened up gifts of various toys, small balls, stuffed animals, hot wheels oh and tooth brushes soap etc etc (which they were also pumped about). It was simply amazing.

We stayed and played with the children for a few hours, it was SO much fun playing with and interacting with the kids (aged probably 2-18 about..) So. Much Fun and Joy! Some of these children have deformities, that may cause them to be self-conscious, but here at plaster house all children are equal- included, and treated as equal it’s amazing. Also, one small boy maybe 6-7 picked up some car wheels of a broken toy, I half expected him to cry, be angry – like most kids would be.. but he picked it up and looked at me with the biggest (two front teeth missing) smile ever- so full of happiness. Something I hope has found all of you this Christmas, it sure has found me.

I guess what I think I’ve learned this Christmas is; Sometimes God shows us amazing joy- at times we don’t always expect it, and many times we need to be mindful in all circumstances to do our best be joyful, even when handed broken car wheels. I think also I was shown how wonderful it is to have others share joy with you maybe when you really need it, which you never know when someone could really need some joy in their lives so let’s just spread it around for fun... all year round.

So no, I didn’t have my family, nor my closest friends, I didn’t have my family traditions, waaay too many Christmas cookies, Christmas lights everywhere, presents under a tree, yet I had one of the most joyous Christmas’ ever. Thank you to all of you who spread joy to me this Christmas, there are too many to name.

Much Love and a Merry Christmas to you all,


Let’s try to make Christmas joy ever-present in our lives and those we meet, all year round.

“What Can I Give Him, Poor As I Am
If I Were A Shepherd, I Would Bring A Lamb
If I Were A Wiseman, I Would Do My Part
Yet What I Can I Give Him, Give My Heart “

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Hello everyone-

A quick unpleasant update for you all- - Saturday, while walking through town around 1:30pm, I was mugged on one of the main streets in Arusha Town. I've heard things to this nature are getting worse and worse, and also crime goes up over Christmas time. I thought I was being careful, had my tall friend Cameron with me was holding my (zipped) purse close to my body, but sometimes these things happen. I feel very fortunate I was not hurt, because the thief was swinging a machete at my arm to get me to let go of my purse. I did and yelled Mwizi (thief in swahili) but he got away. (which I figure is okay because the huge crowd that gathered right after may have beat him pretty badly if they caught him- and I don't want that on my conscious).

He didn't get too much exciting maybe $50 in shillings , my phone, a sweater< which my mom told me was bad karma since my dog Toby ripped off a pocket in it right before I left, haha - well good riddance sweater-) and all my swahili materials (which I am bummed about, but I'm sure is a joke on him because he was probably hoping for a computer not swahili notebooks and books). It was pretty upsetting but all in all I'm happy that I'm okay and my friend Cameron was with me, he was very helpful and kept reassuring me that everything in the purse was replaceable. True, story Cameron. So as of right now I do not have a phone but am hoping to get my number back today- will let you know if it changes.

On a brighter note, yesterday I hung out more with Rabies- he followed me all the way to a friends house and then walked me home.. true love... ;-)

Hope you are well,


Friday, December 9, 2011

Arusha Adventures and The Love of My Life

Hello everyone!

Miaka Hamsini Uhuru!! (50 years of freedom!) Yes—today is Independence Day here in Tanzania- I celebrated by going to my new sessions of swahili studies – I kept telling my teacher, Leo ni Lakizo (today’s a holiday- -) but he would laugh and say... not for you American – haha ...
Hope this post finds everyone happy and healthy – I haven’t written in a while, and will do my best to keep this short... (although I say that every post) Thanksgiving was wonderful here- I got to eat all the wonderful Thanksgiving food, and spend it with lots of wonderful people! It was also a good reminder of what wonderful friends and family I have at home! (miss you all- thanks for your continued support...couldn’t do it without you rooting for me at home)

A discovery I decided it was time I shared: I have found SO much family here in Tanzania- it’s crazy. I found out I have LOTS of children, mama to probably in the hundreds of thousands of people. I have eve more numbers of brothers (kaka) and sisters (dada).... It’s funny- people greet or call you mama/ dada wherever you go- depending on the age difference ;-) Just a realization as I’ve been walking around much more - -

I have also fallen in love...

... with two dogs here that live at the dispensary near Jacobson’s. One’s named Rabies, and the other Mange. Don’t let their names fool you they’re super sweet- and they’ve stolen my heart (yes these dogs do, but no so far none of the men who’ve confessed their love to me on the streets have won me over ;-) Anyways, one dog- Rabies is named that because he has this weird twitch type thing where he snarls every few seconds, at first it freaked me out, but now I know it’s just his thing and well.. I love him. Mange - -well I’m sure you can figure that one out for yourselves. But they’re both great especially rabies will greet me with a wagging tail and kisses (on the hand). Yes, I let a dog named rabies kiss me, oh well ;-)
So yes.. I am in love—with Rabies. (if you are skimming this blog you will be utterly confused and concerned unless you read the previous paragraph!)

Since my last post, I have graduated my Swahili Beginners course, complete with a certificate and shaking the headmaster’s hand. Wahoo, two graduations in 2 years, I am impressed too, don’t worry ;-) I loved school – the people, language, food , and teachers GREAT experience, and I feel as though I’ve learned a lot! Now a few days ago I’ve started attending Swahili lessons for a few hours a day- it’s good, I love learning the language. Some of my friends from school and I went to a place called Mitumba one weekend, it’s basically a goodwill here but x 1,000, a huge used clothing market- I LOVED IT!! I mean- you all know I get all my clothes from goodwill, so I was overjoyed to find this great place! One more thing I REALLY enjoyed about Swahili school was the Aerobics class. Yes, for those of you who know me it’s hard to imagine but then I ask you to picture this: Abba’s Dancing Queen techno mix- -blasting, an extremely energetic, encouraging and enthusiastic instructor named Amadeus, friends, and lots of laughter ;-) need I say more – it was hilarious and a decent workout too!

I’ve also been on a few hikes here, a few with friends around language school where Alicia and I decided to let the boys Freddy and Alex find our way back to school a new way from that which we came... It was a tad frightening, but we made it back before dark and discovered some really cool places, and lots of Siafu (army ants that travel in herds and if you get in their way they’ll crawl up your legs and bite you!). And last weekend I went hiking up Mount Meru to a waterfall, I didn’t’ really realize it was UP the mountain.. nor that it was a good 6 hour hike.. haha ( I woke up to an invitation from my friend and decided I could be ready to leave in 10 minutes... haha oops!) -- but it was fun and pretty. We climbed a lot, it was SO steep for a good hour, then eventually a bit more gradual climb, then straight down a bit to a stream / through a stream to a waterfall, then on the way back up up up and down steep... it was POURING, I was soaking wet, and we were all fighting falling the whole way down (so slippery!) ;-) I got home and was soaked muddy and exhausted, BUT it was beautiful and lots of fun!

I also had the opportunity to house sit with my wonderful friend Jenny (no dad, I did not actually sit on a house ;-) it was fun! Basically meant eating and cooking lots of yummy things together play games and watch movies, like mini slumber parties each night Things we cooked get ready: grilled cheese/tomato soup, pasta with fresh veggies of course ;-), butternut squash, banana bread, chocolate chip cookes (YUM- I personally think they gave sweet martha’s a run..); homemade pizza –it was fun- of course guacamole.. (I am getting really good at making guacamole ☺ yum!)

I also Joined church kuwaya (choir)- :- ) We are doing Christmas program called Carols by candle light here on Dec. 22nd and on the 18th we’re going to go caroling at a few of the hospitals in town.. (and no- not in Swahili – mostly in English- -sorry) BUT it is SO much fun to be a part of – I am loving it!

Last update sorry to bombard you with so much writing, I didn’t want to write too much, I’m here in Arusha for the time being waiting on a few things to get figured out before I head back to Kiabakari to start teaching in January- My thanks for continued prayers! Love to you all!