Sunday, December 22, 2013

Scavenger Hunt Sunday

1. Lights
I got this shot at our church's annual Christmas play, and really love it. 

2. Tree
I have a nanny job now and take care of this little girl. She loves the Christmas tree and everything on it!

3. Big
My Dad actually took this shot while we were in Africa. Big rocks are not uncommon over there, but this one was pretty unique. 

4. Merry
Probably my favorite shot from last night. 

5. Door
I found it humorous how the curtain for the play was messed up the whole time. Made it cute though. 

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas! May Christ be with you.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Buy Me Jesus." | Reminisce of Africa; The Davie Chronicles

Quite often Kat and I would sit out on the steps of one of the school buildings to chat about the day, what God had been teaching us, and what was on our mind. One night little Davie, age four, heard us and came to see us. He sat quietly for a while and then asked what Kat’s rosary was. We replied that it was Jesus. He said he wanted Jesus, and we told him he could have him. Then he asked where Jesus was. We pointed to his heart and said he was inside of him. Ha! He looked at us like we were lunatics!

The next couple days he kept asking us to buy him Jesus. So one day we took his brother, Lazaro, to the market to by a rosary for each of them. We got a glass beaded one for Lazaro and a fun bright wooden beaded one for Davie. Davie loved it, until his brother convinced him that the glass one was good and the wooden one bad. Davie looked up to his big brother very much and told us he wanted one like Lazaro’s. Now we had several, so we gave him one…which was broken the next day. So we offered him the wooden one; “no! It’s bad!” he said.

A week or so later I was going through my stuff and Davie spotted a cloth beaded necklace with a crucifix at the end. “I want that one, Sveta.” He told me. So I gave it to him. I told him his sister or mom had to help him to get it on and off or else it would break. From that day on, he had it on every single day.

Often he’d wear it under his shirt and when we asked where Jesus was at, he’d point to his heart…because that’s where the necklace was. I hope that he still wears that necklace and will someday know that Jesus IS in his heart. 


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Davie and His Bike | Reminisce of Africa; The Davie Chronicles

Davie is a little boy that lived next door to us while we were in Africa. I nicknamed him "HoneyBunches" and he called me "Mama HoneyBunches." He holds a very special place in my heart and I watched him transform in a way I never thought he could. "The Davie Chronicles" is a collection of stories/memories that I have written out. Expect to see a lot of these. 

In our compound there was two families with children, one with twins (Shanya and Danny) age four and one with Lazaro (9) and Davie (4). Shanya, Danny, and Davie are together almost every waking hour of the day even though their two families are vastly different. Shanya and Danny are the pastor’s children and have a wonderful home. Davie and Lazaro are from a broken family with Dad hardly ever home. Their mama works hard to provide for and love her children.

One day Shanya and Danny received bicycles. There was much joy and excitement in the compound, as getting little bicycles is not very common. However, the twins would not share their prized possessions and Davie spent many hours watching them have fun, but not being able to participate. My family saw this and wanted to surprise Davie and his brother with a bike as a going away present. We looked around, but were disappointed to find out that buying a bike was out of our price range. In all, it would cost around $75. It was never said aloud, but still known that we wouldn’t be able to get Davie a bike.

A week before we left I saw one in town that looked perfect for him. But I didn’t ask the price of it. Part of the reason why was because I was kind of scared to ask, and the other because Dad said he knew it’d be too much. Five days before we left Tanzania Kat and I were visiting the Cottey’s, missionary friends of ours from England. As we were saying goodbye I saw a little orange bike lying by the door. I asked Mrs. Cottey how much they had paid and where they had got that bike. I don’t know why I even asked, because I knew we couldn’t afford one. I guess I just wasn’t willing to give up because I was sure God would give Davie a bike. Mrs. Cottey replied “Oh, I don’t know how much they cost. The Enns’ gave us the bike. Why do you ask?” I told her about Davie and why we wanted to give him a bike. To my surprise she said “Wait a second and let me ask John; we have two bikes and I don’t see why you couldn’t take one.” Kat stood there and said to me “They don’t need to give us a bike, Sveta!” But my thoughts were “If they want to give us a bike, then I’m not going to refuse. I want Davie to have a bike!” The Cottey’s came back out and said “Well, it needs a little fixing up, but you can take this one if you want to.” Kat and I walked up the road and took the dala dala (public bus) into town where we met Dad at the bike shop. The guy there fixed it up and we then caught another dala dala home. The bike cost us $2.28.

The next couple days were spent helping Davie learn to ride his bicycle. Even Lazaro wanted to help his little brother. Each time he fell, he’d get up and ride again. He was determined to learn. One day I reminded Davie, as he was playing outside, that if he wasn’t riding the bike it needed to be inside or he needed to be watching it so no one would steal it. He promptly went over and sat beside his bike “I’m watching it, Sveta.” He said to me in Swahili.

Two days later, and  3 days before we left, Shanya came in the house “A thief took Davie’s bike!” No way, I didn’t believe it. Just an hour before I saw it in their house…but then anyone could have seen it and taken it while the kids weren’t looking. I went out and looked in their house, sure enough it was gone. Davie was sitting outside pounding a hammer at dirt. He wouldn’t look at me or speak to me…and that’s not normal behavior for him towards me. Lazaro came out with red eyes, obvious from crying, and repeated what Shanya had told me. So it was true.

Later that day I told Davie to ask God for his bike to come back. Davie looked at me like I was crazy…kinda like how you all are thinking of me now as I just said that… and sort of laughed, but, you see, I didn’t think God would give us that bike like He had if it wasn’t intended for Davie to have. So, with Davie sitting beside me, I closed my eyes and said, in Swahili, “God, please bring Davie’s bike back.” Davie quit laughing when he realized I was serious. I feel like he suddenly had faith, too, that his bike would be back.

In the evening I was talking to Davie’s mom, but couldn’t understand what all she was asking and called one of the neighbor kids, Max, over who knew Swahili and English. We talked about this and that and then out of the blue Max told her that Davie’s bike got stolen that morning. She laughed and said something in Swahili. I asked Max what Mama Queenie had just said, he replied with a lot of laughter “Oh, she said the bike isn’t stolen. She had hid it in the bathroom so that no one would steal it!” Nobody had thought to look there! I turned to Davie and said “See, God brought your bike back.” He still looked at me like I was crazy, but he was happy to see his bike again.

Davie holds a special place in my heart. He started out hostile and kicking and biting and ended up my special little boy. He trusts each one of us as one would trust their mom or dad. I saw transformation in him that I’ve never seen in a child. Joy and life was brought back into his eyes, and he’s told me on various occasions that he loves my Dad. That meant a lot because he doesn’t have a dad around much and doesn’t seem to trust a fatherly figure too much.

To you, this story might not mean anything, but to me…it’s a story of one of the small miracles God did. When I remember Tanzania, and all of the moments I had there, Davie is a part of most of my favorites. I miss this kid like crazy, but I'm ever so thankful to have known him. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

goodbye and hello

I lay awake in my bed staring at the blue mosquito net surrounding me and think of how I'll never need one again. Glancing at the clock, I see that it is 5 a.m.. Across the walls I can hear Daudi and Philip, to 14yr. old neighbor kids, just getting up; they spent the night at our house so that they could "escort" us to the airport. Daddy comes down the hall to make sure all are awake, telling us we've got 15 minutes to get ready. Then it started raining. It was November 12th, the day in which we would leave.

I thought of a dream my sister Susanna recently had. "It was just before we were to leave and it started raining, and raining, and raining. It wouldn't stop and then it flooded...and then we couldn't go to the airport." Leaving our little home in Nyakato, Tanzania has been a hard move for us to make. In the meantime my father, Daudi, Philip, and our friend, Baraka (who drove) left, with all the luggage, for the airport. 

Philip, Daudi, and Max
My sisters, brother, and I then had a horribly long wait for the car to come back and take us. I could hear Mama in the kitchen with her best friend, Neema, as they talked and prayed. Fr. Muheta waited in the, now bare, living/dining room. "Grandpa" Kipili came up with my little brother, who often stayed at their house, and waited with us. We all talked a little, but mostly tried to hold back the tears. We were all happy to be seeing family and friends in the states again, but not knowing if we'd ever see these beautiful African family and friends again made it difficult. I once wrote in my journal "Our family was made for Africa." and I still hold that statement to be true.

I kept waiting, with what I thought was just false hope, that someone on the compound would wake up before I left. Maybe Eric, or Mama Davie, or Davie himself? Just as the car pulled up I looked up to see Davie, his mom, and his brother at their door. I dropped my bags and ran down to say goodbye. I scooped Davie (a child that has stolen most of my heart...) up into my arms and told him that I loved him and would never forget him and don't forget to ask God if I can come back someday. He looked at me and then hit me. Then he hit me again. Whenever Davie is mad, he hits. It's not a "I hate you" hit, but, rather, a "Stop. Don't tell me that. NO!" sort of hit. He held on to me as if he was holding on for dear life. I had to pry him off. I gave his mom a hug and walked away. To this day I can't think, talk or read about Davie without tears coming. 

We had a short wait at the airport before we boarded our first flight. It was a short one, only an hour and a half, to the big city of Dar es Salaam where we were greeted with horrid hot and humid weather. We spent the night at a Catholic retreat center, and I think we drove our "neighbors" crazy with us going in and out of our two rooms and the doors echoing down the hall each time we opened a shut them. 

The next day we set off, from the Dar airport, with our first flight being only 6 hours. You will see soon why I say "only." Once in Dubai I tried to get a little sleep, to no avail, and then we set off for the last and longest flight...14 hours. Watched movies, slept, watched movies, ate food (surprisingly the airplane food was pretty great!). Emerites treated us like royalty; I can't imagine first class. 

Waiting to get checked in

Enjoying some tea and a movie before catching some sleep.
At 8 a.m. on Thursday morning we arrived in DC. Our friends in that area picked us up and my brother and his friend came up a couple days later. I didn't have much in the way of culture shock or jet-lag. That was a surprise. We headed home on Monday morning. Twelve hours later we pulled into our driveway to be greeted by Kat's family and some of our family as well. My sister had put together a meal and we all gathered around the table. The first "reverse culture shock" I had was when I stepped inside our house. "Yikes! This place is huge! Oh my goodness, look at all the white people! Is this really home? Wow." I wanted to run and hide.

A brand new day dawns
So now we're home. Well one of them anyways. I don't know if I'll ever return to the beautiful land of Tanzania, but in the mean time I'm excited to see what life here will bring my way. God is good. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Motor Runs Hot...

The motor under me is running hot.
There are twenty-eight people
And lots of luggage in the truck.
Underneath are my bad tires.
The brakes are unreliable.
Unfortunately I have no money,
And parts are difficult to get.
"Jesus is mine"
Is written on the vehicle,
For without Him I would not drive a single mile.
The people in the back are relying on me.
They trust me because they see the words:
"Jesus is mine."
I trust You!
First come the straight road
With little danger,
I can keep my eyes on the women,
Children and chickens in the village.
But soon the road begins to turn,
It goes up and down,
It jumps and dances,
This death-road to Kumasi.
Tractors carrying mahogany trunks drive
As if there were no right or left.
Kusami is the temptation
To take more people than we should.
Let's overcome it!
The road to Accra is another problem.
Truck drivers try to beat the record,
Although the road is poor
And has many holes
And there are many curves
Before we come to the hills.
And finally to Akwasim.
Passing large churches in every village,
I am reminded of you, and in reverence
I take off my hat.
Now downhill in second gear.

Taken from "And African Prayer Book", 
compiled by Bp. Desmond Tutu

Our main form of transportation here, in Tanzania, is a dala dala. This is the term for a 16 passenger van/bus that works like a city bus. These buses are often decorated with words and pictures. Some I’ve seen are like this: “King Jesus” or “Trust God” or “Ensured by mafia; you hit us, we hit you” or “Allah is the one.” Africans like color and d├ęcor, so having a clean white bus would just not be right! There have been times I could see the road under me, and the walls bursting. It’s not unusual to find 28 people in the vehicle. There was one time my sister sat between two fat people “Every time we went over a bump, I thought the sides were going to burst. The wall was literally moving.” One time we rode along and the door fell off. Then there’s also been the one’s we’ve ridden with fancy seats and purple lights inside. Riding a dala dala is an adventure in itself, and I love it!

One time my sister got in beside the driver. A passenger next to her said “You’re sitting on the motor.” She thought to herself “I don’t care…” Minutes later her seat was “burning up beneath me” and she moved to the seat over as soon as she could. The motor runs hot beneath me…

Oh, and the time someone put a load of oranges on, and they spilled all over. It smelled good. J
Then there was the time my two sisters were on a dala dala and an old, ugly guy proposed to them. It produced a great amount of laughter in the bus. He was drunk.

Once my whole family was riding home and the only dala dala available was an almost full one. There was two free seats in the middle isle. So we piled in…and there was a “pile of Wazungu down the middle.” It must have been funny because the lady in front of us couldn’t stop laughing, and neither could her children. (If you’ve ever seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then just think of someone from the Greek side…)
One Sunday morning two of my sisters and I were going to church alone on a dala dala. The first bus stop we made was full of young men…one jumped up and down in excitement, another jumped in the bus, and yet another would not stop blowing a whistle. Now, I don’t know how well you know Kat, but she despises whistles. Absolutely cannot stand them…and this guy came to her window, and blew the whistle in her ears. Ha!

On main highways there are speed bumps every 3 miles, so bumpety bump along, my friends!
There was also that one time we drove along a road in the midst of getting new gravel. There would be piles of gravel on one side for a mile and then suddenly the piles would be on the other side. It went on like this for several miles…that was a fun ride!

To give you an idea of the roads, Kat says “You want some thrill? Let’s go cross the road. It’s better than a roller coaster because there are no safety precautions; you just guess and go.” Or you could grab on to someone else’s hand as they cross. Yes, she (Kat) did that, to a complete stranger.

Our great fun on the African roads will be over soon. In just 1 ½ short weeks we will pack up, say our goodbyes, and fly away. This is going to be a hard transition to all of us. I think my heart is going to shatter. No more Davie (4 yrs. old)  at the door at 7am for chia and prayers. No more randomness on the walk to work each morning. No more tree ripened mangos. No more market days. No more dala dala rides. I don’t know if I will ever return to this lovely place, for I don’t know what God has in store for my life. But one thing I do know is this: that I have two homes now – Nyakato, Tanzania and Liberty, Kentucky. I am so blessed to have been here for 6 months of my life. Keep us in your prayers as we begin the trek home.

Next time…America! 

P.S. My Dad (and I) wrote a great post with lots of pictures HERE

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

a look into my life

This morning I awoke at 6:40a.m; too early, in my opinion. The door creaked shut from the morning breeze coming through our barred window. Kat, my roommate, seemed to still be sleeping contentedly, and I closed my eyes again for a few minutes. I lay there thinking of the day’s agenda:  get up, prayers, breakfast, go to work, do laundry, and cook. "I might as well get started with it all," I thought to myself. I opened my eyes to sunlight streaming through the window, and birds happily chirping the morning away.

Not actually my house, but it gives you the idea. :)
Trash is strewn along the little dirt roads that lead to Hisani Orphanage, my current place of work. Half way there we walk along the edge of a schoolyard, filled to the brim with children. Despite that they all have identical uniforms, we somehow spot three children we know. With there being so many people in Tanzania, I find great delight in seeing some that I know personally. As we near the orphanage we pass a group of motorcycle guys, each of which “love” us so much.

We are greeted by Junior. He sees us and smiles/laughs so hard his hands go in his drooling mouth and he begins to jump up and down. Some days I find his little laugh annoying, but I scold myself for such thoughts. If Junior is happy in his early years, then let it be so because there is no telling what life will bring to him as an orphan in his later years.

My sister with Junior
I sat on a cool tile floor with several children. We laughed and joked, even though we couldn't communicate very well through words. We played clapping games and sang songs. We watched baby Kulwa splash happily in a tub of water. Jackie, just nine years old, is one of the more responsible children as far as caring for others goes. When I look into her face I see a girl who’s had a hard life, but is full of determination to not let anyone mess with her anymore. She is rough and she is firm, but she is still a little girl with a hunger for love. Jackie came over to sit on my lap, perfectly content to stay there until another child comes to try and take over my lap.

Jackie found a pen somewhere and pretty soon my arm was tattooed up. When Jackie finished, Elina, eleven years old, got a hold of the pen. She wrote “Sveta anapenda watoto”, meaning “Sveta loves children,” on my hand. I was honored to have her say this because I often wonder if the children care at all that I am there.
Abram is a new child. The first day we saw him there he was hitting children, and so I sat him down to say “sorry.” When he refused, we sat quietly while I held his hands “You can go play when you say you are sorry,” I told him. After ten minutes he whispered the word and I let him go. I was sure that since that was our first encounter together he would hate me. Surprisingly it has been the opposite. At first sight of me, he runs to claim my lap first. It surprises me that such a rough six year old boy would be so content to just sit quietly on my lap.


After an hour of holding children, soothing crying children, laughing with children, getting overrun by children, and playing games we take our leave. I often scold myself for only taking an hour of my day to spend with these children, but it gets tiresome. However, leaving forever in November will be one of the hardest things I’ll ever do. I treasure the moments I have at Hisani because my one desire is to love children who have no love, and I want them to know the greatest love of all, Jesus Christ. I know that I have a long way to go, but I hope that right now there is at least a spark of Him that they can see in me. I am a blessed woman to serve “the least of these.” 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Our Crooked House

The front door won't open more than two feet, unless, of course, you push so hard you'd think it would fall over. It's a good thing we're all fit and thin. The concrete floor, in the kitchen, slopes down towards the kitchen sink in the corner. When water spills, it stays for a while; concrete doesn't usually soak up much moisture. The door frames are all crooked in some way, shape, or form. The door to my sisters' bedroom is permanently open because if you try to move it, then it'd fall over on your head. The ceilings are water-stained and warped. My sister and I lay at night thinking of the day they'll fall in on us while we are sleeping. The walls are of peeled yellow paint, with chips here and there. Welcome to our crooked house.

From early hours in the morning until late hours at night, there are African children in and out. Davie, four years old, is the faithful morning child. Usually bananas are what is on his mind. He has become an adopted child in our family and joins us whenever his playmates are not around. Shanya and Danny are two neighbor children, also four years old, who are around all day long. Shanya always brings a smile to your face with his big eyes and silly attitude. His brother, Danny, however, can be the more serious type. Although when he does smile, it's one that goes from ear to ear. Daudi and Philip, both thirteen years old, rarely miss a day to come over after school. The children come and go, knowing they are welcome at any time. Welcome to our multi-cultural home.

Smells of chapati, mboga, or other African foods often drift through the house. You can often find me sitting on a little hand-carved wooden stool as I cook at my charcoal fire. Usually one or two others are sitting on buckets, and we chat about the day as food cooks. A green counter lines one side of the room. Cabinets of slowly disintegrating wood are below it, but the only things stored in them are those hideous creatures called cockroaches. Despite this, the kitchen is a popular room. We'll gather on the floor to sort through rocky rice or to peel potatoes. The dirty dish pile seems to never diminish, and many songs are sung at the top of our lungs as we attempt to diminish it. Welcome to our kitchen, where memories are made each day.

My bedroom, shared with Kat, is a simple room with two beds, a desk, and a closet. The windows are always dusty, and barred, so as to keep the burglars out. Netting is hung over our beds to keep the wretched mosquitoes away while we sleep. We wonder how stuff piles up on the floor so quickly; my parents would most likely say it is from laziness. I say it is from little brothers digging through our stuff to find a knife. We kids often sit in this room and talk about the day. We drink chia and eat mandazi in here. We tell jokes. The little boys join us too, pretending to sleep, preach, or fight. Kat and I lay awake at night talking about how we are going to conquer the “nominal Christian world.” We talk about the future and of Africa. Many things have gone through these four small walls. Welcome to the room where the door is going to fall down because it has had so much use.

I despise the color of paint each room has: peeled and yellow. I can't stand to look at the crooked bookshelves. I miss having a couch. I don't care for the table bench that is not only uncomfortable, but also makes the loudest, most deafening screech you ever did hear. The concrete floors are ugly and impossible to keep clean. The toilet doesn't flush, the shower drain doesn't work, and the pipe leaks. The windows look weird. The ants like us too much, and when my bedroom door creaks I just want to tear it down. Despite the looks of our house, there has been so many good conversations and meals shared in it. Laughter rings down the hall. Children run in and out. Joy is bursting in the walls. “Hodi Hodi,” at the door. With a hearty heart, I say “Welcome home.”

Davie and I

Danny (aka: Marshmallow), Davie (aka: HoneyBunches), and Shanya (aka: Yo-Yo)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

What the African Church has Taught Me About Christianity

This past weekend my family had the privilege of visiting Ukerewe Island, located in Lake Victoria. We stayed in a friend’s home while there, and were warmly welcomed as family. A short walk down the road was the Anglican Church, which we attended on Sunday morning. As I sat on a wooden bench and listened to my father’s sermon, my thoughts drifted to discontentment of “these horribly uncomfortable benches!” I, however, scolded myself for having those thoughts, for I am not being persecuted for my faith. I am freely worshiping God on an island out in a big lake in Africa. I have no right to be complaining of uncomfortable wooden benches, foreign languages, and my father’s long sermons.

I am currently reading a book by Eric Ludy entitled, The Bravehearted Gospel. This book is about how our modern churches are losing the masculine side of things. We focus on love, peace, joy, and all those comfortable thoughts. We are all about compassion and God’s amazing grace. We may not forget that we are sinners, but we try to cover it all up in saying that “God will forgive me, for he is a God of love and mercy.” Maybe God will forgive us, but in the meantime we should be trying to fix the problems. We should try to avoid sin. We should aspire to be a church of martyrs. We should walk the straight and narrow path. We should not let others put our faith down. We should defend Christianity. Yes, we need the feminine feelings in church, but we also need the masculine bravery and fixers in the church. Just as God inhabited both the male and female side of things, so also our churches need the right balance of the two.

My thoughts drifted to that book as I sat in the back row and surveyed the room of about 70 people. The benches were full. Each person had a Bible. These Bibles were perfect in looks, for they were tattered and stained from obvious years of use. These people valued this book, even down to the youth.

The floors were concrete, and full of scratches, cracks, and holes. The benches were made of rough boards, and were obviously handmade. Some of the boards were broken, warped, and stained. There was no ceiling, just the rusted tin roof and trusses up above. The choir sang in a cappella, either because of no electricity on this morning or because the equipment wasn’t working properly. The congregation joined in with singing and clapping.

What am I trying to say in all this? In Africa life is real. Some people live in small huts made of mud bricks, and some people live in bigger cement houses. Everyone cooks on fires, eats the whole animal, and bathes in a bucket. To a westerner, it seems odd and like the life of the poor. To an African, it is simply life. So as the life of an African is real, the faith of an African is real. The spiritual is so important that is it intertwined with the physical. Whether Christian, Muslim, or anything else it plays a huge role in their lives. Granted, you will find the hypocrites and nominal religious people wherever you go, but for the most part if you are a Christian, you strive to live like Christ and are faithful in your prayers, praise, and church going. If you are Muslim, you have prayer many times a day. For a Muslim, you dress differently, showing the world that you are of the Islamic religion and are not ashamed of  it.

As I’ve been reading Eric Ludy’s book, I think of the African Churches I’ve been to. They’re real, nitty-gritty, genuine, bold, and also full of love. Yes, they have problems and are not perfect, but that is expected everywhere because we are churches filled with human beings. However, the faith of a person is deemed important here. It’s mixed into their lives, like flour and water are mixed to make bread.

We can learn from these Christians. Our faith and our life should be mixed. We cannot get bread by only having flour; neither can we can get to heaven by simply having life. We must mix ingredients into life in order to obtain eternal life. These people have challenged me to live my life in the faith and truth of Christ.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

'my' boys

Africa is full of people. There's grandmas and grandpas, mamas and babas, old people, young people. There's white people, but mostly black. There's tall people, there's short. There's fat and there's thin, but mostly fit. And there's children. That's where my heart is, with the children of Africa...of Tanzania. I don't think there's a more beautiful sight than a little, black, smiling child. Maybe if they were laughing, then maybe that would be the best. But nothing else could surpass the beauty of people than that.

And then there's 'my' children...and they consist of little boys. Some might think it odd that the little boys capture my heart more than the girls, since I am more of a girly-girl, but it's true. In our compound there is three littles -Shanya, Danny, and Davie. Shanya and Danny are twins, and the sons of the local pastor. From morning til night they are running in and out, since their house is right next door. Shanya is a fast learner for English, and has fun with that. His eyes are huge and he always has laughter in his heart. He is easily humored, as well as one who makes others laugh. He loves to sing and dance...and make his eyes look funny. Danny is a little more serious, and sometimes moody, but without him life would be missing something. He's the one who will sit in my lap and watch the volleyball game for an hour. He's the one who'll come in with a stick and tell me I'm a bad girl...until I tell him I'm going to cook porridge, then I'm his best friend.

Davie started out hating us, but now? We're his second family. If all the Africans were to have a smiling contest, I'm sure he would win. His laugh is so big, and I treasure it because for a month he wouldn't laugh. He loves bananas, and he's always eager to go through my bags after I return from the market...just in case there's a banana in there. If he's ever sad, there's one thing that makes him happy again - and that's to sit with him and call each other names. "wewe ni ngombe." (you're a cow) he says with a look to offend me. "oh, but wewe ni ndege" (you're a bird) I say. "wewe ni chapati!" he says, laughing. "mimi ni nzuri sana!" (I'm very good!) I reply back. It never fails to bring lots of laughter.

All three boys are four years old. The perfect age, right? Below are a couple stories I wrote in my journal the other day.

One night we were having dinner at the Mgangas' and while we were waiting to eat Danny laid on the floor. "mimi ni kufa." (I'm dead) So we checked him and carried him across the room for burial. He thought it was the silliest thing ever. Later Kat asked him to teach her Swahili. He got real quiet, went across the room and got a stick. He proceeded to point at the numbers on the fridge. "one. two. three. four. five." Kat repeated each one to him, and as she finished he said "eh, hehh." He's a teacher's boy for sure. :) Then he started whipping me because I was a "very bad student." haha!

One day Shanya and Davie were at our house and Shanya had a stick. (seems like they always have sticks.) I took it from and and bent over, like a grandma. In Africa, you always show respect to your elders and say "Shikamoo" meaning "I am beneath you." Their reply is "marahaba", meaning "Indeed it is so." Shanya, of course, gave me the proper greetings. Then I walked around, having a very hard time at it...and fell over. Shanya laughed so hard he fell over. Then we imitated me and fell on top of me. That kid. I love him to pieces.

I smell the poato soup I'm cooking up for lunch, and really need to go check it. And I can almost hear the growling tummies of my family, so I'd better go check it before I get in trouble with hungry people. :) I'm going to try and update this blog more while here, so wish me luck.

til next time,

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

i call it home.

Two years ago I would have never dreamed I'd go to Africa in my 17th year; one year ago I told myself I wasn't going to go; now I'm here. We've been in Tanzania for almost three months now. My days are filled with loving children, doing chores for the fam, writing, studying, walking, exploring, and cooking.

Right now I'm sitting with my bff, Kat, in the kitchen while she fans the charcoal fire for cooking supper. Sounds of little boys playing nicely like boys are coming from outside. *insert someone yelling and someone else crying* Sounds from the Pentecostal Wednesday night meeting are coming from across the fence. They sound like busy bees while praying, and you can hear the services from a mile away, but that goes for any African church.

Here, we call anyone who is a mother "mama" and father "baba", grandma "bibi" grandpa "babu." We greet each elder with "Shikamoo" and are greeted by everyone in the street with "mzungu! Hi! How are you!", and in high squeaky voices from the guys...with a "sister" added on the end. Let me tell you, or them, high squeaky voices are not attractive!

Tanzania is among the places in the world where the friendliest people reside. We are welcomed into each home with great joy and lots of food. A typical meal is rice, cooked greens, and meat. Man, can they cook sounds simple, but it's the best food I've had. People want us to learn Swahili so much, and say we'll know it in two months (it's been longer than that...). I've been scolded more than once for not knowing it and for my funny accent when I try.

People think of Africa and think "poor starving children." Let me give you a little lesson, people don't starve here. The problem lies in malnutrition. Yes, I'm in a "third-world country" and yes, they don't have complicated materials, but they have friends and family and relationships. Africa is materialistically simple, but socially complex. America is socially simple, and materialistically complex. While there are struggles, this is a beautiful land.

It took a bit, but I've come to call this place home. I cook over a charcoal fire, the electric and water quits randomly, internet is not readily available, we walk everywhere, we have no fridge. But it doesn't matter. We have amazing friends and enjoy life being simpler (or maybe it's more complex...).

Some call it Africa. I call it home.

Monday, May 27, 2013

10 days and counting

The anticipation is over. After 1 week, 4 states, 17 hours in airplanes, 5 hours in airports, and 37 hours in cars we arrived in our new hometown  in Tanzania. It's been ten days since we've actually been in the country itself. And let me tell you, I love to travel...but I gotta say I was tired of traveling after a weeks worth of it! We're not to our house yet, but that's because it needed renovations. Tomorrow we move in. For now we've been blessed to stay with a wonderful missionary family. With seven people a hotel could get expensive for a whole week...I'm so thankful we didn't have to do that. Besides, we've also been able to meet other really nice people through this family. People that will be life friends. 

So I don't have a lot of time to blog, and therefor I won't write too much. I'll let you look at the pictures to see some of our adventures. Much less time to do that than me write a ton. God Bless. -Sveta 


Yes, that's me sleeping on the floor..don't make fun, I had slept about 3 hours in two days and was tired!

Typical African highway scene. 

A little town...

Kids! I've never felt so white in all my life.

Playing games with village children. The first kids we played with over here.

Laundry day!

Why, hello there!

Beautiful sisters in a beautiful land. I'm blessed.

Sunday afternoon hiking.

We saw monkeys.

Mwanza: the city of rocks. Oh, just in case you ever wondered - rock climbing in a skirt doesn't work very well.

Totally worth the hike! So wonderful to be here.