January marked the end of the second year of our Island project, so a lot of thought has gone in to what’s next. We organised a seminar for two of the women’s groups to invite their friends and neighbours to demonstrate what they’d learnt over the last two years. The women practiced role plays to perform in front of the groups to stimulate discussions. Unfortunately no one from outside the groups attended but Victoria held a long question and answer session on the topic of the plays. These women are really hungry for knowledge so we really feel supporting these groups over the last few years has been worth the effort. It was also a really great time of fellowship. I played taxi and bought one (very rural) group to (the slightly more townie) Buhama. There aren’t many occasions outside of funerals that these two groups would meet so it was a privilege to see their warmness towards each other. During the seminar I drove the length and breadth of the island trying to find enough Fanta to reward the groups for their hard work, 3 from one shop, 5 from another, eventually getting two crates worth!
Driving around the island is becoming much more difficult. The rains have been super heavy, cutting through the sandy roads making them impassable even for motorbikes. Although not really flooding here in Mwanza the water table is really high, meaning many of the pit latrines we are working to improve are simply full to the brim! (I’ll let you guess why we are focussing on the sanitation project next!)
I spent a couple of days with Pastor Daudi training him how to make toilet slabs that work with the brilliant invention, the SaTo toilet pan. This plastic moulding is cheap , hygienic and has a self closing mechanism which means when you throw a bucket of water down after doing your business a little door opens and closes again (think: aeroplane toilet) and any smell or flies are trapped. We’re working hard to set up small businesses to distribute and install these SaTo pans at a slightly subsidised price. I’ve written up a project proposal for this work for the next two years and we’re sending it around some donors, but If you know anyone who’d like to fund this or contribute to this work please let us know!
In the last week of January my parents came to visit which was such a blessing. The kids obviously loved having their grandparents around! We wore them out hiking up to Jiwe Kuu, a massive rock on the hillside not far from our house. The kids managed the hike well, and the view from the top was worth the sweat and bruised bottoms! Reuben did most of it in bare feet, of course.
Mwanza is an interesting place to visit for about a week, and then you’ve “done” the restaurants and sites. Two years ago my parents came and we “did” the Serengeti and Kome Island (although you can’t really compare the two!) This time we decided to give them a lift to the airport, 800km away in Kilimanjaro! This gave us the chance to see Tanzania on a two-day road trip through the different agricultural regions of northern Tanzania, ending up in the mountainous region of Arusha. We stayed a few days in the foothills of Mount Meru and explored Arusha National Park. We did an amazing self-drive safari around the park and saw flamingos, giraffe, zebra and loads of other things. We then drove most of the way up Mt Meru to a beautiful waterfall and the freak-of-nature Fig Arch.
We stayed one night at a lodge which had a very colonial feel about it, with a beautiful lake (which we went punting on in the rain), outdoor pool, rabbit enclosure, horses and hydroelectric turbine! (guess what I was most excited about!). We then drove to within a few miles of Kilimanjaro and stayed at another hotel with camels, a tortoise and heated outdoor pool. The place was full of pre-hike Kilimanjaro climbers. We joked with them that it was obvious they were pre-hike (clean shaven, laughing, unbruised!)
The week after my parents left we had a team retreat for all EI Tanzania staff. We had a really nice couple of days exploring the reality of what it means to be the body of Christ, through our work and team relationships. We were all challenged to change how we work in the team and to use our skills and talents more effectively. We took all the national team into the Serengeti for a half day safari and saw most things (no big cats unfortunately). The rivers were flowing really fast so some of the river fords appeared unpassable. This made for an exciting few moments when at one ford we asked some rangers to cross in front of us. If they succeeded we would follow. They did succeed but the water was really very high up the side of their car, and neither Joel or I felt the consequence of driving into a river filled with crocodiles and hippos would go down well. We opted for the rather long detour.
As for everyday life, school for the kids is going on well and we are counting down the weeks until the summer break in July. Tabitha is training hard for a national swim gala on Friday, and Reuben is mostly climbing trees and swinging from ropes in the garden (although his swimming is also excellent now, easily managing 25 metres). We’re hoping to finish school work in good time for our planned two months in the UK in July and August. Let us know where you’ll be during those months!
The expat population of Mwanza is changing pretty quickly, with many long-termers returning home. Everyone is having visa issues which will no doubt affect us when we reapply next year. It seems to be affecting everyone we know, but we’re praying that we’ll get the visas we need to stay for at least the next two years to see the sanitation project through. We’re also seeing transitions in our EI team with the VanWoerdens in Iringa (who left in January) and the Mongers in Mwanza (who will leave this summer). These changes mean the remaining EI missionaries pick up new roles, and for now I’ll be overseeing the finances for our office.
Times of transition are always especially difficult for the children, who see their friendship groups getting turned upside down! Pray that they’d know the constant presence of Christ in their lives throughout ongoing change.
But for now, this week we’re looking forward to Victoria’s dad coming to do some Bible teaching, so more treats for the kids are in store!