South Africa

We’ve now been in South Africa for two weeks and although we don’t have an exact departure date, it will probably be by the end of this week, or early next week. I’m pleased to say there has been a lot of progress with my knee, which is well on its way to recovery. At one point I was worried I’d be going back to Tanzania with my knee much as it was when we left, but thankfully that is not the case!

After weeks of not really being able to walk on, bend or straighten my leg properly, I was definitely ready to get it sorted, and wasn’t keen on the idea of returning to Tanzania until it was something like sorted. But there are mixed feelings too. While it was frustrating not being able to get stuck into doing anything much on the islands because of the challenge of getting there with my knee how it was, it’s been just as frustrating to be even further away in order to get it sorted. We do feel sure it was the right decision though and are encouraged now that it looks like our return date will be soon. And despite the frustrations it’s been lovely to enjoy a holiday in South Africa! I’m sure we’ve picked up a few pounds of extra weight from all the good food. We’ve especially been enjoying the variety of food. In the last week my knee has been that much better and we’ve been able to a couple of holiday-style days out. On the down side, I guess we partly don’t feel like we’ve been in the thick of life in Tanzania long enough to deserve the indulgence or time away. We’re also aware that the break away at this point is less than ideal for our language acquisition. It’s challenging for the children too. We’ve spent a few months in each of two different houses many miles apart from one another in Tanzania, and now all our things are packed in one room, ready to be moved to the new house on our return. At one point we had to clarify that when we leave South Africa we’ll be going back to Tanzania, not the UK. It has been great to be able to stock up on some essentials, like sun cream and life jackets, but I think we’re all ready to get back to the simple life of Tanzania. I think the children miss playing in the dirt outside!

One of the biggest hurdles for the health project now is getting funding. We’ve been putting in various funding applications, so prayers appreciated that one of them will be successful!

Coming or going?

We’re preparing to move to our final Mwanza house. The house is available, but we just want to get rid of the squatters (bats) and get the painting and plumbing sorted before we move in. This is being slightly complicated by the fact that we’re planning to go to South Africa on Monday to get my knee sorted.

I’ve now been on crutches for almost six weeks and my knee is still painful, a little swollen and stiff. Usually medical evacuations from here are to Nairobi, Kenya, but an orthopaedic surgeon friend of mine recommended I go to South Africa. I wasn’t sure how the health insurance would respond. I was also told by the doctor here that it was unlikely the insurance company would pay for the whole family to go. When I spoke to the insurance company they said they would normally send me to Nairobi, but it was up to me if I was up for the longer journey. I was pretty surprised how accommodating they were, so I quickly took the opportunity to try my luck and ask whether it would be possible for Simon to accompany me. I explained it could be pretty tricky with crutches, in an unfamiliar city with no one around to help. They said that sounded like a reasonable request. Since they seemed so accommodating I thought I better mention that I also have two young children and asked whether they had any suggestions of what I can do with them. They said I obviously couldn’t leave them behind, so they’d pay to take them with me. So the insurance company is now holding no less than six seats on the flight to South Africa for Monday. Apparently I need three seats, as this is the only way I can travel there with my leg up!

The only potentially delaying issue at the moment is that I need a doctor’s letter stating that I’m fit to fly on a commercial flight. Now the summer is in full force, most of the doctors we know have left for holidays, so I’m hoping to get someone who can produce a letter sooner rather than later.

Between packing to move house, and packing bags to travel to South Africa, poor Tabitha is once again not sure whether she’s coming or going. I took a few moments to sit her down and make it clear about which bags are going where and what our plan is. We are guilty of often discussing things when she’s not around, or not listening, and not taking the time to explain things to her. I knew she had understood though, when at bedtime today she asked whether there would be nice food in South Africa, and specifically whether they’d be croissants, and whether we’d be in a hotel, and whether that would mean croissants for breakfast. She is definitely my girl.

We’ve been praying about the solution to our need for life jackets for the children. I’m not sure a destroyed knee and evacuation of the whole family to South Africa for possible surgery is the most convenient way of obtaining life jackets, but it might just be a solution to that problem too 🙂

Progress, pests and the knee

Time in our current house is drawing to a close and I think we’re ready for our next move. We’ve enjoyed staying in this house and Tabitha has especially enjoyed having the many books that are here read to her. It will be nice though to move in the next few weeks and have space to unpack our own books and set up our own home!

Simon made a trip to Kome last week with the intention of pushing along the repair works on our house there. They had been making good progress in our absence though, and he was encouraged. The main things we wanted done was for the house to have window bars and mosquito netting. There had been some empty holes in the walls when we went last time, leaving the house quite insecure. We’re looking forward to spending some proper time on the island, and doing what we really came here to do.

Over the past four weeks we’ve been having some ‘top-up’ Swahili lessons. It’s been useful to revise the things that we did in Iringa. Due to timings, we’d ended up with a shorted course than usual, and it’s usually a pretty tight course. I think the extra lessons have helped, although there’s a long way to go. I think being on the Island will really help us get to grips with the language. This set of lessons has focused much more on learning the language through learning about the culture here in Tanzania. Many of the issues raised are not too different from those in Malawi. But it’s given us another opportunity to think about how things work (or don’t work) here, how we can engage with the culture and how we can be useful within the culture here. Life also just continues with us getting used to how things work here. Simon was wondering the other day why time seems to disappear here, and was realising how much more time things take when every stage of the process needs doing. If you want to eat peanuts, they will first need sorting to pull out the bad ones, and then cooking; if you want to use dates, you need to stone them first; rice needs sorting for stones and dirt. It seems like no labour saving stages are done for you. You really take for granted how much stuff you buy from the supermarket in the UK, which doesn’t need any preparation. I think we’re still feeling the lack of all that ‘stuff’!

It’s also amazing how many pests become part of everyday life here! Mwanza is more tropical than the area of Malawi where we spent most of the time, and we definitely notice the difference with things like pests. Armies of ants try to march through the garden or property. Today I took out a bag of coriander seeds that was held closed with a food clip and placed a plastic container, and almost every seed has been hollowed out by an enormous hoard of some tiny inset or other. They’d also started munching through my bay leaves! Nothing is sacred! Thankfully none of us are very squeamish and we secretly enjoy the challenge 🙂

The torn meniscus in my knee might make it hard for me to go to Kome in the next couple of weeks. It’s finally settling down, but car journeys are tough on it. I managed to get hold of a knee brace the other week and I think that’s really helped. It’s still quite swollen, but the swelling is beginning to go down. It’s not particularly painful unless I move it in the wrong way. I’m also finally able to bend and straighten it a bit more, which is a good sign! I’m going to review it with the doctor in another week; we’re working on the basis that while it continues to improve it’s OK to leave it be. I had previously been told there was 80% chance it would need surgery. But I’m continuing to hope and pray I’m in the 20%!

Bees and knees!

Life continues to be an adventure!

With Rachel away I was nominated to support her second in command (her husband Tim), in working on some of the Bee projects. These projects were set up to help local communities establish a source of income for themselves, through selling the wax and honey they collect. The projects are at fairly early stages, so while Rachel has been trained and is competent to run the projects, no one else really has much training. And I for one have none. I have to admit this hasn’t gone particularly well. The idea was to make sure the projects were in a good condition before Tim leaves to join Rachel for their Canada and UK visits over the next few months. We planned to check on some hives and to collect honey from one hive in particular, which was very full. Unfortunately all we have to show for ourselves is a bunch of stings and some upset community members, who also received a few stings (including some people that were not supposed to be involved in the projects!). I have to admit to being quite happy to be leaving this project aside, at least for a while, and that this is not my reason for being here in Tanzania!

We’ve started Swahili lessons again, we’ll be having two lessons a week for four weeks. It’s been useful to review some of the things we’ve previously learnt, and from next week we’ll be focusing specifically on vocal relevant to our work. I’ve got some nice Swahili health materials from USAID and UNICEF, so I’ll be working with the teacher to learn some of the vocab and to try and understand what’s written on them!

We’re enjoying being in Mwanza, and feel like we’re settling well. We’ll be moving house in another month or so but the new house is virtually next door, so we’re hoping it won’t be too hard a transition. Although I have to say this is a very nice house so we may miss it a bit!

Unfortunately to add to the chaos of life, I’ve managed to tear the meniscus in my knee. Definitely not ideal and means I’ll be on crutches for the next little while. I didn’t actually do much to damage it, but I think injured it a little bit a while back and instead of resting it did things like traipsing through fields of sugar cane in an attempt to escape from 100,000 angry African bees! Ho hum… I’m really hoping that rest and anti-inflammatories will be enough to heal it over the next 6 weeks or so. If not I’ll have to consider a trip to Kenya for an MRI. I have to say that after resting it for almost a week it doesn’t really seem to have improved, but I’m still hoping for the best.

Mwanza!

Quite a lot has happened since our last blog. We’ve been in Mwanza for about a week and I think we’re settling quite well into life here.  I think it’s a good fit for us. It definitely has a very different feel to Iringa – a much more tropical environment. It’s quite a lot warmer, there are lots of coconut trees, and with the lake it has potential to look like a holiday destination! The lake is not really used for swimming, at least not around here. There is the risk of bilharzia, which you can get from swimming in fresh water lakes, but there also just doesn’t seem to be much of a tourist industry around here. The lake offers the more important commercial purpose of fishing. The local delicacy – a fresh water fish called Tilapia, is delicious. We previously lived in Malawi, which also has a large fresh water lake, so eating Tilapia brings back fond memories, and we’ve been looking forward to indulging!

The children seem to have adapted well to the new setting. I think it helps, that for now at least, they’ve had us around a lot. They’ve enjoyed being shipped off to various people while we study Swahili, but it’s nice for them to have a bit more time with us too. They’ve tolerated the various meetings this week, mostly because our fellow EI missionaries in Mwanza have an 11 year old daughter called Louisa, who has taken them very much under her wing. They’ve loved playing with her lots throughout the week.

This week we’ve spent quite a bit of time with Tim Monger, learning about how EI operates here in Mwanza. We’ve also met with various other members of the Mwanza team. We were able to attend the annual Tanzania Assemblies of God (TAG) Conference. EI works with the Anglican Church in Iringa, but with TAG up here, so that’s quite different too. We were able to introduce ourselves (briefly in Swahili and then some more details with the help of a translator) to the TAG pastors who attended the conference and also had a brief meeting with the local Bishop and the deputy Archbishop of TAG. They were very supportive and it was great to have been able to introduce ourselves. We also met a couple of the local pastors who work on Kome Island. I think they were excited about having us come and support them and we were really pleased to meet them too. Especially as one of them spoke good English!

We are well and truly house-hoppers at the moment. We are staying in a house that belongs to some missionaries who are on home assignment. We’ll be here for around two months, and then we’ll be moving into the house of some missionaries who will be leaving. We’ve been able to see the new house and have a think about some of the things that we’d like to have done to it before we move in.

This week we’ve also met with Doctor Bernard Makori and Doctor Isaac. Bernard is the man who has set up the Rural Island health project and Isaac mans the mobile clinic on Kome. It was brilliant to finally meet them both and have them over for lunch. Isaac has managed to secure a rented house for us on Kome, so we used the opportunity to see some photos and sign the contract. Very exciting. We plan to base ourselves in Mwanza, but need a house there for use during our time on the Island. We needed somewhere away from the hubbub and a safe, child friendly environment. There are definitely a few things needing doing to the property. We are going to start with the most important things. We plan to put glass in the windows – as you can get a lot of dust, noise etc without. This definitely sounds like a good plan to me. Ceiling boards beneath the corrugated iron roof. This apparently helps avoid dealing with bats in the night. Mosquito nets on the windows and door and new locks. For the future we’ll think about perhaps putting something around the perimeter of the property. We’ll judge this closer to the time. We also need to have some furniture made eg beds. If we get some furniture in Mwanza, apparently we can send things across on the passenger ferry, and Isaac will receive them the other end. It would be good to support the local handymen though if there’s anything that can be made on Kome. The house has electricity, which is nice. Who knows how reliable it will be though! It doesn’t have water, so we’ll have to come up with an arrangement to collect lake water. The village have suggested a local lady to help with these sorts of tasks.

We’re planning our first visit to Kome at the end of the month, when we’ll stay for a few days. We’ll arrange a later visit after that. Tim has also managed to arrange some more Swahili lessons, to make up for the hours we weren’t able to complete in Iringa. We’ll do a day each a week for a month, starting the end of the month.

It’s all getting exciting. Prayers appreciated for us to continue settling in well. That our Swahili would improve at a miraculous rate! And that those in Kome would be ready to receive us and that we’d have wisdom in how we move forward.

Transition phase 2

Well we’ve sort of settled into life in Iringa just in time for us to depart! We’re planning to move to Mwanza next weekend. It’s a two day journey, which we’re planning to do over the Sunday-Monday. We’ve had a great time in Iringa and made good friends. We’ve found people in Iringa to be incredibly patient with language learners – they make a real effort to understand what you’re trying to say, and guess if necessary!

I have seen a decline in Tabitha’s focus and attention and also my patience over the past week or so, and now I realise we’re all beginning to feel the strain of the upcoming move. I guess it’s sadness at leaving, combined with fear of the unknown ahead. Due to working out timings at the Mwanza end we’ve had to expedite our language training a bit, which has been a bit stressful. We’re both aware of how much more we need to learn, but also that learning a language is an ongoing process that never really ends.

We still don’t have a car, so Simon is making the trip to Dar by bus first thing tomorrow where he’s hoping to purchase one. He’s hoping to drive himself back early next week. Tabitha is unusually sad about saying goodbye to Daddy, but I think it’s in the context of the upcoming move. It’s about a 10 hour drive to Dar, and possibly longer by bus, so prayers appreciated for a smooth and safe journey.

We’d also appreciate prayers for those of us left staying this end, especially that we’d have a peaceful time together without Simon. I’m not sure how the Swahili lessons will work exactly without Simon to share the childcare, but it may have to be a flexible approach that involves the children. We do not indulge a great deal in freezer based treats here, but in anticipation of how the next few days may feel, Simon has ensured we are equipped with supplies of ice cream. It’s always best to be prepared!

Even though it’s a bit stressful, we are excited that the move will bring us closer to the work we plan to do. We’re excited that we’re getting closer to visiting and staying at the field site on Kome Island. Even though it’s a little scary. I’m also a little bit too excited in general that the recent team visiting from the UK brought out my pressure cooker. It saves so much cooking time and fuel, and also means it’s not a disaster if I fail to remember to soak beans. It’s the small things in life after all…!

Settling in

It’s been a busy three weeks. Our time is mainly consumed with learning Swahili at the moment. We each have two hours of lessons a day and then usually do about an hour homework a day. There’s a lady who comes three times a week to help out with the running of the house so we try to use opportunities to talk with her. She’s also been helping the children learn Swahili and they are both saying a few words now (for Reuben, “kuku” is easier to say than “chicken” anyway!)

Reuben doesn’t really notice that Swahili is different from English, but Tabitha enjoys running off to the housekeeper and asking her what words mean. The housekeeper often talks to/at Tabitha in Swahili and Tabitha rabbits back at her in English and either understand any of what the other says, but it doesn’t seem to bother either of them!

I think we’re all feeling a bit more settled into general life here. All the routines are getting into place. A lot of these routines revolve around food preparation. We mostly eat beans and pulses as a source of protein here and these need soaking. They also take quite a while to cook, so none of this starting to cook dinner 20 minutes before you need to eat! We’re a bit mad and brought a bread machine with us, and making bread is another thing to remember to do each day. We also need to treat rainwater for drinking/brushing teeth etc. We filter the water and also use a method called SODIS to treat it. The rainwater is put into clear plastic bottles and shaken before being left in the sun for a day or two, depending on how cloudy the sky is. After SODISing we filter it before drinking. Tabitha cannot have cow’s milk and amazingly we’ve managed to track down someone with lovely goats that were brought over from Switzerland! There are plenty of other goats here, but they are not usually milked, and it’s nice to know that the goats have a good health record. The milk needs pasteurising though, so that’s another process that needs doing. Finally the all-important treats like cakes etc need to be made from scratch, so that’s another thing to organise. We’re also home schooling Tabitha, which means that when one of us is having Swahili lessons the other usually does some work with her. It’s a bit of a disaster if we fall behind on any of these routines, but I think we’ve got some systems in place.

Picture of Simon collecting rainwater reading for cleaning:

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Simon looking proud of his ciabatta loaves…dsc_0347

Tabitha enjoying some goats milk. She thinks it’s hilarious that she’s drinking out of a bowl. I was trying to get the milk to cool down quickly…

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Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by this scene. It’s a game of ‘see if you can spot: a maths book, an English book, ink pads for hand/finger prints, green hands, a child wearing pants, paints, glue, cuttings,  pens, bug loupe, threading beads, random unexplained mess, other…’

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I’m sure our children will somehow learn through the chaos (I hope)!

We’re getting there with working out what you can get here and where from. You definitely need to shop around to get the various bits and pieces. We’re also working out where they give you a fair and sensible price, rather than the ignorant foreigner’s price! A local farm do an order system, which we have only just organised ourselves to do this week. If you know how obsessed I am with vegetables, you’ll know how happy I was to get a really nice variety of vegetables this week! We all feasted on sweetcorn and broccoli this evening, even the children were really excited and gobbled it all up with local style beans and potato wedges! In terms of veg we’ve mostly been eating carrots, green peppers and aubergines, so it was nice to get some variation! I’m probably a bit too excited about the spinach that’s waiting for me tomorrow… I can’t complain though, the market is pretty good and there are a lot of spices and plenty of things like popcorn and peanuts, which make nice snacks, especially for the children.

I had the privilege of taking part in the world women’s day of prayer today. I’m pretty gutted that I didn’t get a photo. We marched as a group of women, on the road for about 1km through town. It was pretty amazing to be part of a group of strong women taking control of the roads and making a stand for God in their town. It was right in the middle of the day and I realised too late that I had forgotten the children’s hats and that no amount of sun cream was going to protect Tabitha’s exposed shoulders! Thankfully Miriam noticed that the other women with babies had umbrellas to shade them with and she ran off and managed to find a huge umbrella. So I walked through town with Reuben asleep in the sling on my back and Tabitha shaded with me under a huge camouflage umbrella. The women sang loudly and enthusiastically the whole way – a great experience. We decided not to stay for the meeting after and I think Tabitha was pretty tired by that point anyway, so it was good to get back home.

I think that’s a pretty comprehensive summary of our lives atm. For those that have asked, If you would like to send anything out our postal address is: Simon and Victoria Ewing, Emmanuel International, PO BOX 962, Iringa, Tanzania. A5 jiffy bags do not go through customs, so we’re more likely to receive what you send if you keep to that size. I understand larger packages do come through, but it’s better not to send items new in packaging, but rather something that can be marked as second hand. If you send out anything marked as printed material, that tends to arrive with no problems…

We’ve arrived

I can only apologise for the lack of recent blog posts. I think it’s fair to say that we had no idea how crazy the last month in the UK would be. January went by in a whirl-wind of trying to sort out all the final jabs, get medicines, a couple of extra hospital visits for Tabitha and in the end we basically ended up emptying the contents of our house and tipping it into Simon’s parents’ house before sorting and packing.

I’d like to pretend we left the in-laws’ house just as we found it, but after all the hard work there were still boxes left for them to put in the loft. They were incredibly patient and tolerant throughout the chaos!

The journey to Tanzania was smooth. We managed to keep all our checked bags within the limit, just. We got away with significantly more hand luggage than we really should have, and even included 3 litres of goat’s milk for Tabitha. They seemed to turn a blind eye both in London and Switzerland. They actually checked two of our hand luggage bags into the hold when we got to Switzerland and they saw how much we had. They didn’t charge us for it though.

I think we’re generally adapting well to the food here. We’ve been spoilt because there is an Italian cookery school in town run by some nuns. We arrived to find a pantry stocked with some treats like proper home-made pasta and a big jar of pesto. We all love Italian food and these have definitely helped balance out the regular rice and beans meals and the porridge for breakfast every day. We have managed to locate a goat here so Tabitha hasn’t gone without. Having milk for her feels like a real blessing from God; I’m sure it would have been much harder for her to settle without it!

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We made the long journey from Dar es Salaam to Iringa with no problems. The children coped remarkably well. It was by far their longest car journey yet. Andrew Wingfield picked us up, which meant I was free to sit in the back and entertain the children. Andrew, along with his wife Miriam, head up Emmanuel International in Tanzania. Reuben slept well on the journey, although Tabitha is still catching up on sleep. Tabitha is definitely my (Victoria’s) child, and I think the two of us take longer to settle into a good sleep routine when there are changes.

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The children have been adapting well to life here. Reuben is pretty much built for the craziness and will soon be a mountain goat. The road outside our house is mostly absent, it is one of the worst roads I’ve even seen. It’s really hard to capture how bad it is, but the photo above gives you an idea. Reuben seems to enjoy galloping and skidding his way along. Tabitha is definitely the more cautious of the children and I think it’s pretty obvious she’s just arrived from the UK. She was playing imaginary eye spy with some of the girls here and was saying she could ‘see’ something beginning with ‘ch’, which turned out to be ‘church spire’. Lots of confused looks and a few giggles amongst the British expats! She has already made a few lovely friends and is easily filling her day with play. We’re trying to get a few small pieces of school work done every day. I’m working on the basis that if she does some reading, writing and maths every day, then at least she’s learning some of the basics. We’re doing tiny bits of project work, but mostly I think it’s enough to be getting used to the new life style.

One of our biggest challenges at the moment is the lack of language. It does feel isolating not being able to say much, especially in a culture where it is expected that you spend a significant amount of time greeting everyone you meet. We’ll be starting our language training on Wednesday, so we’d appreciate prayers for that.

Thanks all for your messages and support!

All clear!

Thank you to all of you who have sent messages and called about our plans and Tabitha’s progress. Tabitha is recovering extremely well from surgery and we’ve been given the all clear to go to Tanzania. The surgeon will see her again in a few years time, assuming we have no more problems in the mean time.

It’s been amazing to see Tabitha’s lip transform over the past couple of weeks. They are particularly pleased with the repair of the muscle. I had always noticed her lip sort of ‘hung down’, but I put it down to weakness or habit. Tabitha’s haemangioma appeared a few days after she was born. It grew rapidly and ulcerated very early on, causing her a great deal of pain and leaving her with scarring. She used a special feeder bottle as a baby, that didn’t require her to use her lips. I assumed she hung the lower lip down when feeding to avoid the pain of contact, and thought perhaps this habit had lasted.

Having now repaired the muscle, the surgeon was pleased to see her how her lip is moving normally when she speaks. There was no haemangioma there when Tabitha was born, and to me her lip now looks like it did when during those first few days before the problems started.

Simon is keeping himself busy with the house. It feels like the last opportunity to get everything up-to-date and there’s quite a bit to do. Thankfully no massive jobs, but enough small ones to keep him going for quite a while! We’re also home educating now. We haven’t really changed anything and I don’t plan on doing any official project work at the moment. I think project ‘moving overseas’ is enough for her to get her head around. We’re just trying to make sure we keep up with a bit of reading, writing and maths. Most of the syllabus stuff I’ve ordered is to start from next September, as I figured we’d take things fairly easy until then. I’ve just finished reading her Charlie and the chocolate factory, which she loved, I think that counts as work…?

We sent out a bag of stuff to Tanzania this week. It went out with a contact of Simon’s and it arrived in Mwanza the next day. We wont be in Mwanza until we’ve finished language training, so we had to plan ahead a bit, but exciting to know that our things are waiting for us!

We’re still not quite ready to book flights. We’ve received our work permits, but the next stage is our residents permits. We’re working out with those on the ground whether to wait for these to come through, or book without. Without them we’d need to book a return flight and waste the return component. With them we’d just need a single. Still lots of planning to do, but we’ll get there…

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Thank you to all who have supported us, prayed, or followed our plans this past year. We really do appreciate it and feel well supported.

It’s crazy how time is flying and we know there is so much to do now over the next month before we leave. Getting jabs done is one of the big things. Tabitha is definitely not loving it, but equally seems to have understood the idea that they are necessary.

I think both Simon and I are slightly overwhelmed by the idea of sorting and packing up all our belongings. Lots of people ask about how we’re going to get our stuff to Tanzania. We’ve been planning on just taking our bags and paying for excess baggage, which can be relatively reasonable. We’ve just been told though that there are some other things we may need, which we had thought we could get there, so we are looking at options.

Tabitha had her operation on her lip four days ago. It’s amazing how she stayed well for the whole month. The other three of us have all had horrible colds at different times and Reuben had D&V. Tabitha managed to avoid it all, which we are very thankful for. The operation went really well. They took out most of the haemangioma (a type of birthmark which is a collection of blood vessels), they also repaired the damaged muscle and corrected some of the scarring that was present from previous ulceration. It’s well on its way to being healed, although still a little scabby and the stitches will take a few more days to dissolve. She has had almost no pain with it. They put in loads of local anaesthetic before they woke her up and even when that wore off she didn’t seem in any pain. She has a check up at the end of the week so we’re hoping to get the all clear so we can go ahead and book our flights!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! We have loved the past few days of spending time with family, reflecting on the birth of Christ and generally eating A LOT of food!

I received a somewhat unexpected and perhaps even miraculous present – Reuben suddenly developed a huge interest in using the toilet. He is going regularly, asking to go and doing all of the firmer stuff on the loo.

It’s over a year since we first thought about spending time on a remote rural island on Lake Victoria. Back then I briefly gave thought to the idea of hand washing nappies using lake water. This idea was quickly dismissed when I decided we would simply toilet train Reuben before leaving.

When Tabitha was 18 months I offered her two option: I held up a lovely pair of pretty little pants, and a huge, no doubt slightly restrictive cloth nappy and asked – “would you like to wear pants like Mummy, or nappies?”. She said “pants” and that was that. It wasn’t all easy, but she made the switch, and three month later refused to wear night nappies. She wet the bed three times and has never since.

When Reuben was 18 months I imagined how the same conversation would go…He’d likely wonder why I was offering him these two random items to eat. Three months later he still has very little speech.

I know that on the island where we’ll be saying, people will have their children out of their cloth nappy equivalent nearer to their first than second birthday. That is what most of the world does. Who can blame them, why would they hand wash those cloths?! In the UK though, later toilet training has become the norm and I have been doubting myself. I’ve been thinking about all the precious space in our bag that will be taken up with nappies and wondering whether to just risk not taking them and blitzing it when we get there. All of a sudden though Reuben seems to get it. This sounds like a small thing, but it has brought me huge relief, I’m so thankful and am taking this as one of my best Christmas presents 🙂

A week of lasts

It feels like it’s been a big week.

Tabitha had her last swimming lesson on Wednesday. Swimming has been a big part of the last year of her life. The point was to get her water confident ready for island life. It was the best decision ever and she is a much more confident and physically competent child, largely as a result. She also finished school on Friday. She actually seems quite happy and relieved about not going back. She’s enjoyed school, but I think it’s been quite tiring. They gave her a big goodbye card, which included a picture of all her class mates pulling silly faces. She loved the silly picture so much it overshadowed any sadness she experienced!

A slightly bigger ‘last’, was Simon’s last day of work yesterday. Today was his first official unemployed day. That’s where the real steps of faith start. I think it’s quite a big step psychologically to go from having a stable job, to being unemployed. We’re not silly with money, but we also don’t generally worry about money either. The thought of having no income has made us think a little more about how we spend, especially during Christmas.

It has been a fairly crazy first day of Simon being unemployed. I have spent literally hours on the phone over the past couple of months trying to sort out travel vaccines and medicines for the family. For the first time in as long as I can remember I’ve used all my ‘free’ phone minutes, and I still have a week and a half left in this payment month! I woke up suddenly in the early hours of this morning when my subconscious calculated that that we wouldn’t have enough time between the children’s first and second Hep B vaccines before we leave Leighton Buzzard. I had already paid for them to be done at the local surgery, but the dates had been miscalculated. After yet more phone calls I managed to arrange for their first jabs to be brought forward to today and rescheduled the others. We had planned to start vaccines after Tabitha’s operation, as if she get’s side effects that make her ill she risks missing out on her operation. A quick phone to GOSH, and they assured me I could go ahead.

Before heading out for the vaccines, we had to make a big decision about our Christmas plans. We had planned to split the time between our two families, but due to the need to reduce exposure to illness before Tabitha’s operation, we made the decision to change our plans and not see some of our family until new year. It was a tough decision. It’s the balance between living by faith and trying to make sensible decisions. It will reduce the stress of the driving over Christmas. But it made us feel sad.

We then set off for the jabs – Tabitha is not thrilled about these at all. She is definitely the more sensitive of our two children. Half-way through dealing with the trauma of getting them done I had a message from Simon to say that someone had anonymously dropped a large amount of cash through the door (Thank you, if you are reading!). It’s amazing for that to happen on Simon’s first day of unemployment. Just when we were thinking about changes we need to make to live within our new means. Also for it to be in the middle of putting my child through mild trauma in the name of mission. It was definitely an encouragement that we are not taking this step alone. We know God is with us. But also, others around us are taking big steps to support us. It means a lot.

We got back from the Doctors to discover someone has responded to an advert we had put out for our chickens. We took Tabitha out to say goodbye to them, and it was by far the saddest moment of our journey to Tanzania so far. It may have perhaps been the accumulation of everything, but it was a very sad time. We got it over quickly and went straight out for a lovely long afternoon with several of her pre-school friends. They are such a lovely and supportive group and it was the perfect antidote, but we were definitely reeling with the ups and downs of the day.

At the end of the day/week I think we are all feeling pretty exhausted. We are looking forward to Christmas celebrations. It’s a great time to reflect and take time to make sure Christ is central. We know that there are tough times ahead. But we are excited as we get closer to the next stage of our journey.