The House a Village Built

The days kept passing and my frustrations continued to grow. I asked God “why” over and over. How much longer would we live in our single room. How much longer would I trek back and forth to the outhouse. How much longer would I have to cook three steps away from my bed?

I know I will look back on the first 6 months of our marriage crammed into that tiny room as a strengthening exercise. And truly, I feel I learned more about Tanzanian culture and life in that time that any other time here. I truly lived like my neighbors live, though often whole families, inside one single room.

But this past Sunday I finally let out a sigh of relief. We could move into “the house a village built”.

I am so thankful for every single one of you who helped us get to this point. They say the easiest part of building in Tanzania is getting the walls up and I found that to be true. The material for the walls is so cheap. It’s the “finishing” that eats up your money and takes the longest! We are not completely finished, but we can sleep easy knowing this is OUR home and we are excited to grow our family here.

Here are a few pictures, excuse the slight mess!

In the future we plan to add plastic carpet to the rest of the rooms, not just the sitting rooms, as the cement is very cold! We will add tiles on the walls in the bathroom (hence the “half paint”) and add a shower and the flush mechanism to the toilet once we can get a water storage tank. We will build some shelves/cabinets in the kitchen. Also we have no interior doors (hence the curtains!) I did not take pictures of the two bedrooms because they are still getting organized but I will later!

Because people have asked, these additional projects we still have to finish will cost as follows: Carpet -$200, Tiles – $90, Doors – $180, Shower/Flush – $30, Water storage tank – $450, Cabinets- $150. These are in no way urgent needs and all in all we are SO happy to be moved into our house.

Karibuni sana (you are very welcome) to visit!

A letter to my Unborn child

Dear Baby Mollel,il_214x170-927607008_3iy3-copyNot much longer til we get to meet you now. I mean, I hope you stay put until you’re good and ready to come out, but we are so excited to meet you. As you grow bigger and stronger I feel you more and more, wiggling all around in there. I’ll admit it took me awhile in the beginning to figure out if it really was you moving. Sure enough, you made yourself known.

You know, never in a million years did I think this is how it would go. I never expected to fall in love in Tanzania. Trust me, I am so glad I met your Baba, and God knew what he was doing bringing me here but we have and we will continue to face many challenges. Some people think I’m crazy to give birth to you here in Tanzania. But this is my home, this is your home. This is our home.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what your life will be like. Will you prefer English or Swahili? Will you identify as a “Mzungu” or “Mswahili”? Or both? Will you long for America even before you know where it is? Or will you be content here in Tanzania? Will you have your Baba’s big nose? His deep, dark brown eyes? Will you be born bald like I was?

We aren’t nearly as ready as I hoped we would be. Being a “type A” person has got my stomach in knots thinking of all the things I haven’t been able to do. We haven’t  even been able to move into our house yet and the thought of bringing you into this world while still living out of this single room sends my heart into a panic. I also prayed and wished your big brother would be home with us first. We continue to pray that it won’t be too much longer for him.

You are so loved. I’m sorry I haven’t taken much time to document your growth thus far. I feel like I’ve been in shock through most of this pregnancy, but you ARE real and you will be here SOON! Despite all the chaos around us, when I sit still and feel you move I am filled with peace. As I sort through your little clothes and teeny tiny shoes my heart is overwhelmed. I love you so much.

Your Baba is excited too. He’s always talking to you and dreaming about your arrival. In a lot of ways he’s probably more prepared than me! He’s always so calm and collected about things but he’s so excited about your arrival. He’s ready to be “Baba “insert your name here”, and he wants the world to know it.

We are waiting for you but please, no hurry.

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“Simple” grocery trip?

In general, there is no such thing as “a simple errand” here in Tanzania. Or even a “simple chore” at that. Everything takes longer than you would expect, and there are plenty of additional difficulties. With our simplistic life, and our current single room living situation, the littlest tasks can take a whole different approach. Dishes to wash? Grab your bucket of water that has come out of the pump over at the in laws house. Fill a basin with dirty dishes and water. Have a second basin for clean water. Wash from the first basin, rinse in the second and then find a cloth to dry them to place them back on the shelves. When finished the second basin can be emptied onto the “porch” area so you can mop as well.

Another thing that is not so simple here? Grocery shopping…. Here are some comparisons from when I lived in the US to now.


Getting To the Supermarket

US: Walk a few steps from my kitchen to the driveway where my car is parked. Drive to grocery store. Park, usually not very far from the front doors of the store. Done.

Tanzania: Depending on which supermarket I want to go to that day. Say I want to go to Nakumatt, the largest (though not best stocked so I usually only visit once a month) supermarket on the opposite end of town. I leave my house and walk about 20 steps to the waiting point for a dala dala. When one arrives check to see if its standing room only or seats. If seats are available climb on board. Ride all the way to the end of the route, which is a giant open lot of tons of dala dalas going every which way. Walk quickly across the lot while trying to avoid getting run over and all the conductors trying to get me to climb into their dala dala. Exit the lot and cross one of the busiest streets in town. Walk about 5 minutes and enter the supermarket.


The Supermarket

US: The store features huge shopping carts, wide aisles, and some kind of pleasant background music. No one looks at me or cares that I am there, except for the occasional employee who asks if there’s anything I need help finding. There are a million different kinds/brands of most products.

Tanzania: People stare. Often I am flirted with/asked for me number even though I wear my wedding ring. Employees constantly ask if you need something or are welcoming you. The stock varies and you can usually only find one brand/kind of anything, that is if you can find it at all. The “Americanized” items are 3 or 4 times the price you would pay for them in America, or occasionally even more ridiculous like 6 times the price.

What I Buy

US: Whatever is on my list. Usually enough food to last us a week. Often this includes things like freezer and convenience foods, pre-washed produce/veggies, cheese and breads.

Tanzania: Whatever is on my list that is also actually in stock that particular day. Since I do not own a car, I also have to plan for carrying my bags to public transport and being able to hold them on my lap for the duration of the ride. My fridge and storage spaces are limited and so there is very little “stocking up” and more so what can I get by with for maybe a week.

My meat is generally bought at a separate store. As well as most fruits and vegetables are bought at the market. In order to get everything I would want to buy for the week I generally need to visit at least 4 different locations, though without a car, I cannot accomplish all of that in one day. 

Getting Home

US: Reverse of “Getting to the Supermarket.”

Tanzania: Hand carrying bags of groceries to public transport where you then find a way to hold them on your lap and not spill out contents onto the floor while people stare at you. Try to ignore looks you get when someone sees you carrying a large container of mayonnaise or other specialty items.  Get off the dala dala at the same place you got on and carry the bags up to the house where you fiddle with the padlock until you can get inside.

There’s always more…

And that’s just the groceries. I could go on about all the other tasks of daily life that require more effort here. We don’t own a washing machine, dust covers every inch of every surface until cleaned multiple times a day. I have to COOK my dogs food from scratch. We don’t have a oven, all meals are prepared over a gas stove. There have been months and months of every other day power outages (from 7am-7pm). I buy all my clothes at a giant second hand clothing market. There is no Target or Walmart for one stop shopping.

Please don’t think this is all about complaining. I am trying to be more intentional in sharing what life really looks like here in Tanzania.  It’s been almost 3 years and I have gotten use to the routine of life here, but I realize most of you don’t even know what “routine” for Tanzania even is!

Maybe our next goal after the house is finished will be a car😉

 

On being pregnant in Africa…

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Looking back to three years ago, I was packing my bags getting ready to move to Arusha Tanzania, East Africa with only a tiny picture of what that would actually look like. Sure, I planned to work with Neema House (now Neema Village). Sure, I expected to fall in love with a zillion little babies and toddlers. I expected, and planned, to live in the volunteer house. I set a loose time line of a year…

Fast forward to now. Almost three years since I set foot in Arusha. I am married. I am pregnant. And we are pursing an adoption! Can you say a huge change from a single, short term volunteer? Arusha is now my home. We are building our house. I am growing my roots (which happen to be intertwined!) and making new relationships, and speaking Swahili as if I’ve known it my whole life! I tried to think about myself 5 years ago, and where I had thought I’d be now and how my life would look and I can’t even believe it. This was NOT the plan, but I am happy and fulfilled and at peace. Sure, life is a challenge, but there is joy and there is peace and I know I am where I belong.

So getting back to being pregnant in Africa. I’ve tried various google searches of blogs of expats pregnant in Tanzania and have come up with basically nothing. So maybe someday someone will be in my shoes and happen across this! Granted, I was never pregnant in America, and so I can only compare my pregnancy to stories of friends and family. The first thing about pregnancy in Tanzania that really stands out is that no one talks about it! There are no celebrations like baby showers or sex reveal parties or maternity photo shoots. Rarely do people comment on your ever expanding midsection. Many women actually wear loose fitting clothing throughout their pregnancy to hide it even. Like I wrote about before in the harsh truth about pregnancy,  for many women they are uncertain of how to feel about their pregnancy. There can be many risks associated with being pregnant here in Africa.

I am nervous, as any first time mom would be I assume, but we are also so excited. We are excited for our ever-growing family. Specifics for Arusha, I have been attending the prenatal clinic at Total Care which is run by the head OBGYN from Selian Hospital, Dr. Sweke. Selian Lutheran Hospital, otherwise known as ALMC, is the leading hospital in Arusha. This is where I plan to deliver, Total Care clinic is just closer for my regular appointments. Selian is also where our pediatrician (for the Neema House children) Dr. Matthews, works. He’s an American doctor who has been here in Arusha for over 9 years. Due to how often Neema House uses Selian Hospital I know many of the doctors and nurses already.

One of the hardest things has probably been that I am totally disinterested in Tanzanian food. And I’ve had some miserable cravings for McDonalds and donuts. These sound petty, I’m sure, but hey a girl can dream. Things like public transport get more and more uncomfortable, with the crazy bumpy roads and tight, small spaces, with lots of interesting smells. There is also the thing I think all pregnant women think about and that is if everyone just thinks I’m getting fat or pregnant, haha.

There are things we will have to figure out afterwards, like getting the baby’s American passport and registering their birth abroad. And of course things like choosing a name! In Tanzania, all children are giving their father’s name as their middle name, regardless of sex of the child. We plan on giving our child a traditional English name, with consideration to Tanzanian pronunciation, and the child will also be given a Maasai name as per custom with my husband’s family. We have a few ideas, but we are not sharing the name, or any name ideas, until the child arrives.

We hope to be moved into our home before the baby comes. I will admit that has been a bit stressful. If you would like to sponsor one of our remaining items they are as follows:

Ceiling boards = Materials $175, work  $75
Flooring = Cement $70, work $75, tiles $90
Inside doors= 3 doors at $75 a piece
Glass for windows = $40
Primer/Paint = $120

Every little bit helps! You can donate directly through paypal (link in sidebar) or through my youcaring page.  You should be able to click on each photo here to see the caption/description.

It would take a miracle….

If I’m being honest, these days it feels like it would take a miracle.

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It would take a miracle to finish our house.

It would take a miracle to be able to MOVE INTO our house.

It would take a miracle to bring our little boy home.

It would take a miracle to bring my family to visit America.

It would take a miracle…

But our God is the God of miracles right? And I know my God owns the cattle on a thousand hillsides (Psalm 50:10), so why would he leave us struggling for so long. We struggle and toil, day in and day out, and yet we are left with empty hands. I know He called me to Tanzania, but why do I feel like He has forgotten His promises?  When He told me He would provide and I placed all my trust in Him, I found freedom and my trust abounded. But day in and day out as time has passed my faith in His promise has wavered. I hear it said “some are called to go and some are called to give.” But what if you’re called to go and STAY and then those who give move on to other things?

(I want to break here to say I do not want those of you who give to feel like I am ungrateful for your gifts. Your gifts have got me this far and continue to sustain me. I thank God for you daily.)5cd0566e461926725b8baea423444d13

We are trying desperately to forge our livelihoods here, please believe that. I am not allowed to work for pay due to very strict Tanzanian visa regulations. The average Tanzanian salary is less than $100 a month. Because Dickson is an “on call” carpenter, his work (and therefore income) is even more sporadic. He tried another job at a factory, and was willing to deal with the hazardous work conditions until he realized his daily pay (after paying transport) was less than .50 cents. FIFTY cents for a 10 hour work day in terrible conditions. Our very promising farm harvest failed at the time of harvest due to an early frost. This was set to be a huge boost (enough for all our window grates and front door) and now it will maybe cover two window grates.

I admit I cried out to God in frustration when I heard of our harvest. I couldn’t believe he would let this happen. All growing season we were rejoicing at how are crop was thriving. Then in the matter of one evening, one storm, our hopes were crushed. In the midst of my frustration, my husband reminded me of the other farmers from our area. Those who had 10, 15, 20 acres, compared to our 3 and how much they had lost. How their farms were their only livelihood. I recognized my selfishness and moved to prayer for those family. But I still felt hurt in my heart.

God has brought me back to a song I always said I didn’t like. I didn’t like thinking about the hard things. I didn’t like “unanswered prayers.” I didn’t want to believe the truth in this. That the trials of this life can be His mercies in disguise.

It’s one thing to trust God when He answers your prayers; it’s a whole different story to trust Him when He says no or doesn’t say a thing at all. Will you remain faithful even if your greatest fears come to pass?

I find myself stuck with this question. Will I remain faithful if we remain in this single room. Will I remain faithful if we cannot bring our little boy home? Will I remain faithful if  I can never afford to visit all of you in America again?

I want to say I will be faithful. I will trust in You who is, who was, who always will be.

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31 months

I have been away for 31 months.

A year turned into two turned into …forever?

When I look back to when I started this blog, as I was preparing to come to Tanzania, or when I see my “timehop” posts from a few years back I can’t believe the time has passed.

I’ve heard it said that you can spend a week in a foreign country and write a book, spend a month and you can write a solid blog, spend more than a year and you can hardly write a sentence. Sometimes this is how I feel. DSC_7332

I was chatting with a long-termer who lives in Tanzania and has a blog I enjoy reading. She said it took her years to even get started. That gives me a bit more hope that maybe the best is yet to come.

Day in, day out, Tanzania has become home. I wake up every morning I make some eggs and my coffee in the french press. I cook my dogs porridge.  I say goodbye to my husband. I get dressed and ready for the day in our tiny single room house. I lock up with the padlock we place on the outside of our door and walk the 5 minutes to Neema, greeting my neighbors sitting outside on the way.

I arrive at Neema and greet everyone individually in their age appropriate Swahili greetings. I peak into each of the rooms to seem babies laughing, crying, sleeping, or playing. It’s almost always loud. I open my mouth to speak and 90% of the time Swahili comes out. Sometimes I try to speak English and Swahili still comes out. The challenges of learning language I suppose. The hardest is when things don’t really translate from Swahili to English and I cannot for the life of me think of substitutes. Who would have thought I could get to this point without any schooling? I am thankful.IMG_4455

Sometime in the afternoon, depending on the work of the day, I head back home. All the kids are home from school usually and I am greeted by upwards of 20 “Shikamoo Aunty!”. (Shikamoo is the greeting of respect for those older than you). I’ve found I have many nieces and nephews now, as Dickson’s family is huge (he’s one of 11), and even all the neighbor children call me Aunty. My favorite so far is the youngest child of my neighbors to the front. She is perhaps 16 months old and has started to mimic the older children shooting “Aut-y Aut-y” every time I pass.

I unlock my house and sit on my bed with the door open. The entryway is covered by a curtain, as per the norm here in Tanzania. A closed door means no one is home or someone is sleeping. Or perhaps if it is raining or very chilly that day. I do some work on the computer and then start thinking about what to make for dinner. When your bedroom, kitchen, sitting room, ect is all in one room your space for meal prep is very limited. DSC_6467

Dickson comes home around 4 and gets ready for school. He started English  courses to improve his writing and tenses, and so Monday – Friday he is in class from 6-8:30 pm. It is still funny how much “Swa-glish” (Swahili/English) was speak. I know when I go look in his eyes I’ve never known love like this. How two people can so perfectly complement each other, despite having come from two drastically different places.

We dream about the future. We dream and plan for the building of our home. We talk about after that’s finished. We want to start a school. He’s passionate about giving all children opportunities, our hearts missions are intertwined.

Every day I feel my roots grow deeper and deeper here. This is home. This is my family now, and it is growing! But that does not mean I do not miss all of you back stateside. Pray with us that someday we will be able to visit the States together. My prayer is that within 2 years, we will make the trip as a family. As soon as our house is finished (only about $1500 away!) we will begin saving for plane tickets. Pray for favor in fiances and, for when the time comes, favor for Dickson’s visa.

If you can give financially, please visit the “support” page or our house fundraiser.

Where does time go?

I feel like I have gotten to this point where I haven’t really blogged in so long that it is impossible to start again. But I have decided I refuse to believe that and so here I am.

Firstly, I got married!

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I am now officially Mrs. Kelly Marie Dickson Mollel, as per tradition in Tanzania the wife not only takes her husbands surname, but first name as well. All wedding photos can be found on my facebook page, and if you’re interested in the full wedding a video can be found “here

Secondly, I have been working on making over my blog. Feel free to click around and get a feel for how it’s going and let me know if you have any comments!

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Thirdly, we are STILL trying to finish our house. I know, I know, again. We are currently harvesting our farm and hopefully in the next couple weeks our sesame will be ready to sell and will hugely help our building fund but if you feel like you can help in any way please head to our youcaring page.

Stay tuned for a “welcome to our crib” post of our current living situation, and hopefully in the not too distant future, our future home!