Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The smell of diesel

I remember in one of my college business classes talking about brand names that become synonymous with broader categories (there's a proper term that I can't remember, must have missed that question on the final). You know, like instead of saying photocopy we say Xerox. Or we ask for a Kleanex instead of a tissue. Perhaps some Koolaid to drink, or maybe you'd like a Coke in the south (even if you mean a Dr. Pepper, or Mountain Dew, or RC Cola, to name my favorites). What do you use after a boo-boo? A band-aid. For you in the younger crowd... ever drink from a non-nalgene Nalgene? Or listen to an ipod that's not made by Apple?

In Tanzania, gas stations are known as 'Sheli's'. Very often, English words are Swhiliized by changing the spelling a bit and adding an 'i' to the end. Like baiskeli (bicycle), televesheni (television), or kluchi (clutch). So to hear a gas station called a 'sheli' seemed to make perfect sense. But for a year we've traveled throughout Tanzania, and not until today in Nairobi after seeing an actual Shell station did I realize that I've never seen a single Shell station in Tanzania. From Dar Es Salaam to Morogoro to Moshi to Iringa to Arusha, we've never seen a Shell. There's Gapco, Oilcom, Oryx, Tiot, even BP, but no Shells! And yet, gas stations are referred to as Sheli. Weird, huh?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Barber Shop

Where does President-elect Barak Obama get his ever so presidential haircut?

At the Obama Hair Cut Saloon of course!

Monday, December 22, 2008

And we bid adieu

Mike and Lisa are on their way home. We were sad to say goodbye, but soooo thankful for their visit. Thank you Church at Tatesbrook for lending these two to us. They were a joy to us and to Tanzania. We love you guys and hope you make it home safely!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Intracontinental Travels

I wish I could say this was a rare and exciting sighting, like a rhino or something. But no, this is just everyday life. It's times like these when we love our home in Tanzania. Some things just never get old!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

They're here

Check out the world travelers!
We've gladly welcomed Mike and Lisa to their new homes for a couple weeks, and we even rolled out the red carpet by having the electricity cut this morning! Mike and Lisa are sharing with our group of college student m's before they return to the States. Pray for open sharing and coolness!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rally Time

To our surprise, Morogoro hosted a rally car race.

Curious indeed, we read the posters that were up months in advance, and come race day we were pleasantly surprised to be able to see cars racing through our local streets, up into the mountains, and back across speed bumps and all. What was interesting was to watch the cars on their time trials, and while they had clear roads at the beginning as they left town, the return trip housed roads peppered with cars and buses, which the drivers then dodged as they raced for the best time. Another fun moment came when a car rushed down the first stretch, hit and held the first turn at full speed, and then abruptly turned left into a gas station and came to a halt to, well, fill up with gas. Too funny. As far as we know, no spectators were crushed or trampled, but they only narrowly escaped a few times!

Monday, December 8, 2008

What's going on?

We've been busy these days. It's a good busy, but also a tiring busy. Last week, the students at Mzumbe had a week long break from academics. To our delight, one of our friends at school planned a youth retreat in which he invited 30+ high school students from the city and surrounding to go to a camp in the mountains and spend a week in prayer and Bible study. He invited me (M) to come up and teach a little, so naturally I went and played games, getting the students to act out Bible stories, which they did a great job with.

About a week ago, the international school in Morogoro hosted a Christmas pageant, which was a pleasure to watch. We were able to watch some kids as they acted out the parts of shepherds, angels, mary, joseph, and all, and we enjoyed some Christmas carols played by the local international crowd on everything from guitars to flutes to trumpets. It was nice to feel a part of the Christmas season even though everything around us is so different from what we're used to!

One day my car was pretty slow to start, so after consulting a friend and checking the battery voltage, I decided to go to town to buy a new car battery. After a process of charging and filling with water, etc, we install the new battery on the side of the road in town. But the car doesn't start. So a short discussion ensues, which I mostly ignore b/c it's in my second language and would take waaaay too much brainpower to keep up with. Then one of my friends, a local mechanic, begins to climb into the driver seat of my car, telling me he's going to "shtua" the car. I sort of shrug as another guy yells in swahili that "Michael is able to 'shtua' the car." At which point I began to frantically think, "what in the world is 'shtua'?!?" So my friend climbs out and hands me the keys and says "can you 'shtua' it?" Again, I rack my brain for this funny sounding word, but I say "Sure... but what is 'shtua'?" He sort of laughs a nervous laugh as if to say, "I have no idea how to explain 'schtua' to this crazy foreigner who obviously knows nothing about cars." I then climb in the car, still whirring my mind for a memory of such a word, but quickly realize that I have no more time for that. A crowd of about 10 Tanzanians has gathered at the front of my car with hands on the hood and they begin to push me backwards into oncoming traffic. Thankfully, I gave up on trying to figure out this new word through language thoughts and instead rationally realized that I'd better throw it in reverse, turn the key, and roll start this car right now!! Seconds later, I 'shtuaed' the car to the delight of my new group of friends.

Oh, and always remember to keep a respectable Dress Cod. Your fish should not offend others.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Life in the Wild

Some recent animal photos:

Hanging out.

One big happy family!

What's that funny thing in the road?

Love the translation, or attempt. Trush in, trush out! Like the old GIGO saying. In Swahili below the 'english', it says in Swahili to 'please leave with your trash'.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Go Cards?

Didn't Pitino at one time say something about Louisville's restaurants being better than Lexington's?

Stay classy UL!


Monday, November 10, 2008

A deal is a deal

Who else out there walks into a grocery store and without question buys the gigantic jar of mayonnaise, knowing well that you only need a small amount, because obviously it's a better deal?! I do. I always have. My wonderful mother taught me the beauty of a Sam's Club and a pantry at an early age. Even though I really don't like stockpiling food and such as home, I'll buy the extra-wholesale-super-big jar of pretzels to save 2 cents per every pound of pretzel, and then just eat nothing but pretzels for two weeks. Maybe that's my way of sticking it to the man.

So, I've always enjoyed watching prices of stuff, and anomalies amuse me. Take for instance, White Castle: Have you ever walked up and thought, "I really want 3 of those delectable delights with some fries and a drink... but the 'value meal' has 4 with fries and a drink. Oh well, it's a better deal. I'll take a #1 please!" Unless they've changed their menu in the last year, it's not a better deal! Add up the cost of 4 burgers, fries, and a drink, and you'll find the cost of the meal down to the penny. But we assume it's a 'value'. In their defense, White Castle calls them "Combo Meals" and not "Value Meals." Maybe genius on their part.

An example of how my patheticness helped humanity: One day in college, I was standing in the Long John Silvers line at the food court and I watched my friend Nick order a 2 chicken meal add a fish (his usual). I pointed out to him that if he would instead order a 1 chicken 1 fish meal, add a chicken, he would save 10 cents. I think if you ask him today, he will tell you I forever changed his life.

Anyhow, I've strayed. So we assume that bigger is [relatively] cheaper right? Why else would we buy the jumbo tub? Well, since I left home and moved to Tanzania, I've had to learn a whole new process of assumptions! It's not true here. My ethnocentricity wants me to believe that store managers here are missing something and have made a mistake. But I'm still not sure. Last week, we wanted some Orange Juice. Naturally, we grabbed the biggest one, a 1.5 liter jug for 3000 shillings. Then I noticed that the individual serving 250ml juices cost 450 shillings. That means we'd save 300 shillings by getting 6 little boxes instead of one big one!! A whole 23 cents (approx)! And you get lots of cool little straws! I then began to fill our cart with little boxes, but JJ removed them and tried to get more of the big ones, insisting on the convenience of having one big bottle to pour from. I kept adding the small ones until we came to a compromise to get both.

Is 23 cents worth the ease of one big bottle in the fridge? Help, save our marriage!!

[JJ the hippie wants to add in her thoughts that we are responsible to the environment and the 6 little boxes do much more damage than the 1 big one... juice for thought]

Watch the bottom line shoppers!

Swahili word for the day is hisabati which means 'mathematics'.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Near Death Experience

This week, we found a new visitor at home. We are no strangers to visitors in the house like the usual assortment of lizards, crickets, spiders, and small flying creatures. The lizards and spiders are friends mostly, as they eat the malaria-ridden mosquitoes that sometimes find their way inside our doors. The crickets are just funny, as they flop around and get completely disoriented. And the kitten-sized rats and lower-on-the-food-chain snakes have yet to penetrate our fortress. But this time, we came perhaps closer to death than ever before inside the comfort of our own home. While sitting on the couch reading a book I noticed a flash of movement beneath my feet that ran from one piece of furniture to another, and this one wasn't familiar.

This little guy is what we uncovered, and he was pretty quick moving when threatened. Using our incredible skills of discernment, we assumed that this bug was not a good one to have around, and we might want to use care. In the days following, we learned that the creature is known as Tandu in Swahili, and I'm not yet sure of the English or Latin name. A bite from the Tandu will not kill you directly, but will certainly send you to the hospital (we're told), as his poison will make you swell up like a balloon with leprosy. Many people however, have allergic reactions to this fella's bite, and their lungs as well swell shut... we hear that's not good.

In this photo, our friends are helping us to attack, capture, and kill the poisonous creature (the size of a small pencil) with the most sensible thing we could find: a machete. The best quote of the night came from Aaron. In response to "I'm trying to help you," and my attempt at scooping the bug onto the machete, he said, "I'm trying not to kill you!!" In the end, the little critter was cut in two, thrown outside, and the next day we mopped the floors.

So who's ready to come visit?

Swahili word for the day is Tandu, and it's that thing in the pictures.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Could it be true??

We spent most of this week in the big city; had some meetings and a few things to accomplish. Last week we'd heard a rumor about this supposed "Mexican Restaurant" that's opened in Dar. We kept our expectations extremely low, because our typical experience with the cultural meals in Tanzania are that everything is sort of "ish"ish. Yeah, that meal of fried rice was Chinese-ish. Or that slab of meat between some bread was burger-ish. Well that ice cream dessert was ok, but it'd be a long shot to call is Chocolate-ish. Get the idea?

So we saw the sign in the morning, and went back in the evening, and what a treat!! We walked in and sat down, surrounded by a small international crowd, and the ex-pat waitress walked up to us and asked if we had ever tried Mexican food. We laughed to ourselves but understood, as this may have been the first occasion of Mexican food being served outside of a private residence in Tanzania. We then quickly scanned the four item menu of Burritos, Tacos, Salad, and Chips & Salsa and decided on our delights. We even went off the menu and she graciously prepared a quesadilla starter as well!

Turns out that our waitress and company owner was an American from California who had some free time and thus decided to open a Mexican restaurant to see how it'd do. It doesn't have a location and is only in operation two nights a week, borrowing space from two other local eateries, but we think (and hope) it's here to stay! Now we know on which days to plan all of our trips in to the city!

What came to our table was goooooood. Really good. Real salsa, giant foil wrapped burritos. Mmmm. Sadly, because I set a personal record for eating time while wolfing down my burrito, I never did get a picture of it, but here's a picture of the second round of chips and salsa that came out after the burritos.

Also while in town, we went to the rather massive US Embassy to vote. Even though our write-in absentee ballots may never be looked at nor counted, it was fun to feel a part of it all. And hey, we got to do it before everyone at home!

Tomorrow we celebrate one year exactly in country. What a ride it's been and what a ride we have ahead of us...

Swahili word for the day is kupiga kura, which means to vote.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Our events as of late

We've had an eventful few weeks recently. All is well with us, Joe Joe is continuing to change, the baby kicks a lot, and God has blessed us both with pretty good health. Last week we had a wonderful opportunity to lead a training for students going up into the mountains to share Christ with Luguru farmers and people of the Mgeta community. The time of training was challenging, as we really pushed the students to take their call seriously and commit to return trips and discipleship. But we also had a lot of fun sharing stories, acting out dramas, singing, teaching, and thinking. Thank you for your prayers over this time! Some good relationships grew from it as well, now we're anxiously awaiting reports from the trip!

With students on break and away for a week, we were able to visit a church in town and enjoyed a more traditional African worship service. We happily embraced a welcome treat of observing a baptism during the service. We were encouraged to listen as the pastor explained from the water that the baptism carries no power of salvation in itself, but is a symbol of our re-birth. This act of obedience symbolizes faith in a buried and risen Saviour, and the rebirth of death to sin and resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. Said Jesus, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3). Solid teaching such as this is important for the Church Body here in Africa, and we were excited to hear it.

We've also had the joy to welcome in a new batch of students at Mzumbe who are moving in as first-year freshmen, coming from all over the country. It's been fun to meet them and show some around, as we (the weird foreigners) actually know more about the university and the city than they do, having lived here for a year. In this picture with Joe Joe is not one of the new freshman.

Swahili word for the day is mpya, which means new.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Recent Vacation to the Beach

For Joe Joe's birthday, and of course to celebrate the coming of our first born, we went to a pretty nice place on a secluded beach. It was beautiful!!

Out here, the monkeys eat crabs. Our meals were pretty good too.

Here's one night's dinner.

Just beautiful.

Even more beautiful. :)

Watching baby sea turtles be born and take their initial trek to sea was a welcome surprise.

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's a....

Baby warning message: If you do not want to know the gender of our upcoming baby, stop reading right now...

Last week we went to the doctor in Dar to get a big check-up done. Everything is now checked up and Joe Joe and the baby are both doing great!! At our ultrasound we were able to watch the little rascal kick and play (which Joe Joe has been feeling for quite some time). One highlight was when the tech doing the ultrasound poked to get the fella movin and we watched as a little foot raised up twice to poke right back.

And indeed, we did discover that we're going to have a little boy!! In celebration, we decided to go out to eat and indulge ourselves in some manly meals. Here's Joe Joe enjoying her NY Strip Steak with baked potato and Michael tearing into his Texan-Chili Burger. We're ready for ya big guy!!

Swahili word for the day is mvulana, which means boy.

Monday, September 15, 2008


While in Iringa, we took a day trip to Isimila Stone Age site. Both the home of an on-going archaeological dig and just some really cool sandstone creations of God, this was a great place to spend a few hours!

Like the grand canyon.... but smaller and a lot less of those pesky tourists.

Here's some of the handtools that have been found, giving us clues to early civilizations. Plainly, you can see items like hand-axe, hammerstone, rock, big rock, and small pointy rock.

Look, I'm the giant SANDstoneMAN.

Satisfied with a fun day.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Happy 25th Joe Joe!

On her birthday a week ago, Joe Joe was able to witness greetings from home and well wishes, what a fun surprise!!

Also fun was her luncheon with some girlfriends, complete with pedicures and mshikaki.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Ring of Fire

This is looking out our front window at dusk one night last week. Could it be aliens? Ewoks? Johnny Cash? Puff the Magic Dragon? A governmental conspiracy? Harry Potter? Some lost members of the Olympic closing ceremony production team?

Most likely, it's farmers burning off land for planting. It's illegal, and sad, because the forests are beautiful up in the mountains. Also, burning is not the best thing they could do for the soil. But still, it happens. We're guessing at night so that no one could navigate the mountain roads and paths in the dark to find the culprits!

Swahili for fire is moto.