We had a lovely time in the UK, mostly rushing from place to place! We managed to catch up with a lot of our friends and family and were really encouraged to be reminded of the number of people who take an interest in us back in the UK! We managed to visit a number of churches around the country. One church decided to bless the kids with a kindle each, which definitely made the journey back here easier!
We ended up with a few extra appointments, which resulted in more rushing around the length and breath of the country that we planned! We discovered Tabitha had a lazy eye and we received some glasses for her that ended up being the totally wrong prescription! We wanted to be sure to get things right, knowing how hard it is to get things like that sorted here, so we ended up driving across the country to see a good friend to get her some correct prescription glasses and then across the country a couple of times to see an eye specialist to get her started on eye patching. The kindles have also come in handy for playing eye strengthening games!
It was definitely worth all the travel during our time in the UK and we were blessed with some wonderful hosts and some great memories for the kids.
Some people have asked us how ‘re-entry’ was, you learn all this new lingo when you enter the missionary word! Re-entry was good, but challenging in some ways. The main challenge for the children has been missing family. Reuben still keeps thinking he can might meet his cousins at various places here. I also lost my grandma since being back in Tanzania, so that took a bit of processing. Although I’m very grateful we got to see her a few times when we were in the UK and I know the timing was perfect.
Gertrude did great job of keeping the health project ticking over on the Island while we were away and there didn’t seem to be any major problems. In fact the project received some guests and various donations during the time we were away, which has helped us get started on some additional projects. For one thing we’ve managed to help one of the pastors buy land to build a church, which has been exciting to be part of. Pastor Margaret below on the new church ground.
It’s been great working with Margaret on the health project. She’s really strived to welcome a broad range of community members in the project and the groups run through her church attract people both from within and outside the church. She has a contagious enthusiasm, so it was great to see her excitement when we finally concluded negotiating the terms of the purchase!
We’ve done two trips to Kome since returning to Tanzania and it felt like we’d been away a long time. Our journey to Kome involves two ferries and a stretch of very poor road between the two. Many of you will know that one of the ferries, which wasn’t far from where we travel, recently sank. We’ve done a bit of thinking about how to make ourselves safer on the journey and have come up with a few plans for us. I was surprised to see some of the ‘rules’ that have been put in place from the ferry side.
We had some Tanzanian friends of the children to play one day soon after returning to Tanzania. The children decided play ‘shops’ and every time Tabitha went to ‘buy’ something from the shop keeper one of the friends would join the queue – in front of Tabitha rather than behind her. I told Tabitha she was having a lesson in Tanzanian queueing. Tabitha was somewhat perturbed by the situation and wanted to discuss it further the next day. We were going to be getting the ferry to Kome the following day, so I thought I’d use the opportunity to prepare her for the journey. One of our new family rules for getting the ferry is that the children will come with me to buy the tickets and walk onto the ferry, rather than stay in the car with Simon. Buying the tickets generally involves a lot of being shoved around, as people push to be served first. I decided to discuss the queueing arrangement with Tabitha. She asked whether I push as well and I explained that I try and push my feet into the ground so that I will hold my place and people won’t be able to push past. I also have the rule that if someone plonks a heavy arm on my shoulder to reach past and buy a ticket I shove it off!
On our first trip back to Kome I braced myself for the ‘queueing’ experience and I have to be honest I walked past a bunch of people to reach the usual version of the ‘front’, only to realise that everyone was in an orderly queue. I had to stop for a minute to check whether I was still sane before walking to join the back of the queue. I have never seen such an orderly queue, at least not in Tanzania. I’ll admit it was being supervised by armed police, but I was still impressed! After buying the tickets we had to give our names and ages to be logged in a book, no doubt to help the identification job if things take a turn for the worst again. The ferry was a little overcrowded but nothing like it had been and apparently they’ve been making people wait for the next ferry and for the most part keeping to the ferry’s limit of one row of vehicles instead of forcing three lanes. I have to say that on the second trip the police were absent, the queues were slightly less orderly and the ferries slightly more overcrowded, we’ll see how long the changes last.
One of our children was a little bit concerned about going back to Kome the first time and given the chance probably wouldn’t have gone. I think sometimes fear can build up about anything you haven’t done for a while and it can be harder to go back and do something you haven’t done for a while than try something new. It’s been great to see how both the kids adapted, even during the first few hours there.
On our first day back on Kome we walked into town and attracted quite a crowd of kids on the way. The local children were obviously also feeling that we’d been gone for a long time. Our children did amazingly well walking the 45 minute round trip to town in the sand, surrounded by goats and motorbikes and kids wanting to hold their hands and touch them, without complaint or problem. I’m reminded how far we have come from the early trips to Kome and the childrens’ struggles. When we got back home about ten children sat down in our doorway to watch our general comings and goings. It’s one of those cultural things that makes me laugh, one Tanzanian friend of mine describes staring as ‘the national sport’! Reuben and are below surrounded by a small crowd of children…
We have all increased in our confidence to manage the situation here and keep things relatively under control. Despite that, in all honesty I’m always torn – on one hand I’m so happy to be on Kome, right on the edge of the lake, surrounded by friendly neighbours in such an open environment where we can walk freely, talking to everyone along the way. On the other hand it’s pretty exhausting even getting there, let alone being there and getting school work and meetings done. Life can feel like almost constant transition between one place and the other and I often feel overwhelmed by efforts to maintain any sort of sanitation and keep the kids healthy. It’s always hard to know where to start on the journey towards effective sanitation. As we take the project forward we’re going to try and think of new ways to push the sanitation side of the project forward. We know that if it’s difficult for us, it’s almost impossible for them!
We have some things to get sorted in Mwanza at the moment, so are spending most of the month here. It’s hard to believe this is our second Christmas in Mwanza and we’re looking forward to a few events with friends over the next week.
Thank you to everyone for your support over the past year – we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing here without the prayerful and financial support of many of you. Thank you also to those of you who help us in making decisions about the work we do and those that help us keep up-to-date with life in the UK!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year fom the Ewings!