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%!

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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.

Kome Island

We made our first to Kome island last weekend almost two years after our first thoughts about  working there. It was great to see some of the communities we’ll be working in. It was also great to see the clinic and pharmacy that have been set up on the island and think a bit more about the work we’ll be doing there. We went to a local church on the Sunday and got to experience some of the local hospitality. It’s a good thing we’re a fish loving family!

Kome is lovely and peaceful. In Mwanza, between the night-time parties, dogs barking all night and the calls from the surrounding mosques, I feel like I never actually sleep! I’m not sure I really slept anymore on the island, but it was lovely to wake during the night and hear nothing but insects, until the birds and other animals began to wake. It’s a bit of a shock getting back just in time for Ramadan, as there are more calls and for a lot longer. The mosques project some of their sermons through loud speakers. It continues till late and starts at 4am.

We are renting a house on Kome. We visited the property on Saturday with the intention of using the house as a base for our 4 day trip to the island. Unfortunately on arrival it was obvious that although a lot of work had been done to make the place habitable it was very much still a building site. We were able to find a guest house for £2 a night instead!

The location of the house is pretty idyllic, overlooking a sandy beach on the southern shores of Lake Victoria. You quickly get used to the smell of drying fish which the local women spread out to dry in their thousands on the sand, raking them constantly. Having a house in the heart of a fishing community will give us a real insight into how the community works and we should get to know many of the people being served by the projects in the village just by living alongside them.

We drew a fair amount of attention on the island! During the few days we were there, we had a pretty much constant audience. The local children were very happy to hang in through the windows of every building we entered in order to maintain a constant watch on what we were doing, even if that was sitting still and resting for an hour. We can live with that while out in public, but thinking about setting up a life for ourselves on the island, we’d appreciate a space where we can sit and eat without having an audience. Therefore we have decided to have a simple fence around our property.

Some aspects of setting up a house within the community make us a little uncomfortable, especially considering some of the modifications being done to the house. Although not something we asked for, those modifying the house have taken it upon themselves to install electricity. They obviously felt that was something we needed. It looks like none of the neighbours have electricity, so we are already standing out as ‘rich’, but that will be more obvious when we park our shiny prado on the driveway. We would be happy with a basic but secure house, but we probably need to accept we won’t exactly fit in no matter what we do. No-one has running water and that will include us. It is expected for us to have someone to help within the house and one of their jobs will be to collect water from the nearby lake. We are fortunate to have the knowledge and facilities to clean our water, but Its shocking how many people in Tanzania drink from unclean water sources. Today we saw countless people collect their water from small pools or the lake, sharing their water source with many animals. From a Public health (and engineering) perspective there is much to be involved with so i’m sure we’ll be very busy over the coming months.

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…!

Iringa living

I think it’s fair to say life has been pretty busy! We have less than 3 weeks of language training left, which is pretty scary. I don’t think we’re anywhere near the level that would be necessary to work in any kind of efficient way! They are really trying to push us now, but I can see how really the lessons just give a foundation and it’s from there that you have to do some serious learning. We plan to spend a stint on Kome Island in the near future and I think that will be a good time to consolidate and hopefully get to grips with the language a bit more thoroughly. Simon is really pushing himself on and trying to read bits of the Bible in pamphlet style accessible language. To be honest though I’m spending some time going back to the basics and trying to get clear in my mind some of the things from our early weeks, which I’ve already forgotten! My memory is not what it once was and languages were never really my forte!
We’ve been enjoying life in Iringa, and the children have become quite settled. I’m a bit apprehensive about another transition, but Tabitha is excited about seeing Lake Victoria at least! We plan to leave for Mwanza at the end of the month. Our house won’t be available straight away, so we’ll be housesitting for some missionaries who are going on home leave for the first couple of months.

Yesterday we went to visit a team who are over from the UK and staying in a village called Lupembelwasenga. It was great to see what the villagers and the team have managed to achieve. The villagers have been working hard digging a trench in order to put in a water pipe to provide the village with clean water. It needs to be something ridiculous like 10km long and 1m deep the whole way. It’s no joke, but amazing progress so far. I think it’s been a real encouragement to have the team come out and support the village in this endeavour, and hopefully it will help inspire them to keep going. It’s been no mean feat for the team though and they’ve been working hard. They’re also running kids activities in the afternoon, which have been attracting over 100 children. As you can imagine, they are getting pretty tired. So pray for strength for them and also for health, as one or two have been unwell.

The accommodation is pretty basic down in the village, but it was great to see how happy our children were there. Both are getting fairly proficient with using squat toilets and both are happy running around in the fresh air all day! This reassured us that they will cope with Island life (hopefully).

Reuben unfortunately trapped his big toe a metal gate a couple of weeks ago. He damaged the nail and it was quite sore at the time, but settled down and looked fine within a couple of days. Over a week later it suddenly became painful and was obviously infected. As a result his nail gradually detached itself and he now has no nail. It will be interesting to see whether it grows back, and in what form. He has not loved the antibiotics and didn’t want to walk on it much, but it’s obviously feeling a lot better now and will hopefully have settled down completely by the time is course of antibiotics is finished.

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch! As always we appreciate all your support and words of encouragement!

Here are a few more updates of the last month:
-Reuben turned 2 and had a lovely party with a car cake and pin the tail on the baa baa.
– The Rolletts have moved into the house now which will be their Base for the next 2 years. We’ve really enjoyed their company and they’re a great addition to the Iringa family.
– The car search continues, the best choice is in Dar es salaam, 10hrs drive away so the logistics of finding a car, checking it out and then bringing it to iringa is taking a lot of Simon’s spare time. The ideal scenario would be to have one of our own in time for our relocation to Mwanza in a few weeks time.

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…