Monday, 16 December 2013

Count your blessings...

You may have heard how the old hymn goes: 'Count your blessings, name them one by one.' So as one day started to overwhelm with things going wrong I decided to look on the bright side of life and follow this advice!

A typical Wednesday morning arrived with the cry of puppies at 5am - Blessing no.1 as they started at 3am the last couple of days!

The power was on - Blessing no.2, it had been off last week, also Blessing no.3 the fact that the mornings are now light enough by 5am to not need power to see to put my contact lenses in! Blessings no.4, 5 and 6 followed quickly as I woke the kids up, Harry and Robyn had had an earlier night last night so were much more pleasant at 5.45am than on previous days, Jack, well, he's a teenager!

Molle (Swedish name definitely NOT Molly as he get very offended!), our big male Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, greeted everyone - Blessing no.7 as he has injured his back, is on anti inflammatories and in a fair bit of pain. He has been thoroughly miserable and not eating for nearly 2 weeks now so this was a good sign. 
Blessings no. 8, 9 10 and 11 came rushing into the house to greet us in the form of our other 4 dogs; Gandalf, AWOL, Sprinter and Millie. Where else would we have been able to have so many 4 legged 'friends' who are so happy and excited to see us each morning as if we had been away for just - forever!!

Blessing no. 12 a beautiful sunrise turned into Blessing no.13 a bright blue cloudless sky with shining sun, sorry everyone in the UK if its dull, grey and raining, but rain is an amazing blessing, so refreshing, we just don't get enough of it here!

Blessings 14, 15, 16 and 17 romped their way up the steps falling over themselves in their eagerness to greet and be greeted - at 6 weeks we are preparing ourselves to say 'goodbye' soon to Badger, Black Beauty and Lady Galadriel.

Morpheus will be staying as sadly we had to have Bilbo put down.

Harry was excited to see I was cooking scrambled eggs - Blessings no's 18-28, our amazing Chickens and their fresh eggs, even had a double yolk yesterday! (It's ok not all of them have names, just Fog Horn Leghorn, Col.Kentucky, Nando's, Reepicheep and Cheekycheep!) -Harry however was less than thrilled to hear the puppies were getting the double yolker for their breakfast, my reasoning being I could deal with a 13yr old who was more than capable of cooking his own eggs but 4 hungry pups tripping me up and chewing my toes was beyond my endurance!

7am - time to get into the car to get to school. Blessing no. 29 the car starts (not always the norm I must say). Blessing no. 30 all 3 children, bags, lunch boxes and water bottles in the car - although Jack did have to get back into the house to get his shoes! It has been known for Jack to forget his shoes on several occasions when we are going out or leave them behind somewhere (like in Ruaha National Park?!), so we often tell him not to bother with shoes, although for school they do tend to need them as he discovered one day when getting out the car to the realisation his trainers were still at home and he had to borrow my flip flops (green and pink), until I could get home and back to school with his.


Traffic was awful with so many more cars cutting through to avoid the problems of the busy market area of Tegeta and now with the new road construction meaning new housing developments springing up bringing many more cars, quarry and construction trucks, bajaj and pike pike(motorbike taxi's) onto our normally reasonably quiet road to school. Having followed the school buses, dala dala's (public buses) with people hanging off, pike pike's and morning rush general traffic past the busy market area of Mtongoni where life just happens despite itself, avoided cows, goats and school children crossing the roads (and the dead dog that didn't make it), over several speed bumps and up the hill towards the bit where the road is semi-closed and crumbling away, we finally arrive at the junction to cross over to the children's school.

I would like to call this junction a crossroads but it doesn't resemble anything you would recognise as such, apart from the fact that everyone is very 'cross' whilst trying to navigate a route over the 'roads' to get to where they want to go. Cars are coming in all directions, this morning I counted at least a possible 12 or so different lanes all pushing to go first, and of course no police in sight to 'assist', although I must say the traffic does seem to work itself out better without their 'help'!
As we sat in the middle of 'no man's land' we had 2 lanes approach from in front to the right coming down the hill, the side of the road they should of been on was closed, 1 lane was coming straight towards us, 2 on the left in front coming up the hill and 1 more just above them on what is really more of a path than a road but might get them there quicker! There was the lane we were in trying to go straight across, and 1 or 2 other lanes developing around us all trying to do the same. Behind us there were 2 lanes trying to get onto the main road (African style), and 2 lanes trying to get off and cut down another dirt path to avoid having to wait.

Blessings no. 31 and 32 the traffic was at least still moving and your brain gets a thorough work out trying to work out the puzzle of a route across and back - who needs 'Brain Training' when you live in Dar?!
Blessing no. 33 - guys from Knight Support who help with the traffic outside the school, protect it's gates and grounds and stand to attention and wave enthusiastically as we drive past them in the morning! Great guys always smiling and willing to help!
Blessings no. 34 - HOPAC, our kids Christian school that is safe from the chaos outside it's gates, where they learn so much more than just academics, their spiritual life is nurtured and they can grow into young men and women of God.

International Day

Blessing no. 35 we arrive on time, in fact 5mins early and all 3 run excitedly to class, ok, so slight exaggeration, all 3 wander off grumbling about being hugged in front of the whole school and the fact that it's already too hot (remember those clear blue skies and sunshine at 6am?).

Blessing no. 36 I navigate what by now has broken down into complete chaos and bears no semblance to a road/dual carriageway/junction and head home without incident. The 'you are pushing your luck running on fumes' warning light is still on but, Blessing no.37 by the grace of God I arrive back, not having had to stop and wait as usual for the National Defence Army recruits as they run up the road, but being allowed to continue to drive slowly past as they swelter in full kit, back packs and rifles in 35oC.
On returning home 8 dogs of varying size greet me and suggest I might like to take them for a run on the beach as they try to climb into the car. On opening the house door Molle ambles out, enjoying the fact he is on 2 weeks bed rest and so can't be left out in the hot sun on guard duty to 'rough it' with the other dogs, when its so much more pleasant inside on cool tiles!
Blessing no. 38 - the power is still on, at least the 2 most important phases are working well - the fridge and freezer and the fans! The 3rd phase is a bit dubious but as long as I can get this finished I shall be happy. My computer battery has died so I need mains power to run it, this gets really frustrating when I'm about to go on the the power goes off - but at least I have a laptop that still works, mostly :)
Blessing no. 39 - I discover the puppies hadn't eaten all their breakfast but it had been put out of reach of the other dogs so they can have it later for 'chai'. It's nearly impossible to find puppy food here so I'm improvising using guidelines found on line and from our vet although they eat so much and we have no more money until the end of the month so as they say, 'every little helps'!
Blessing no.40 I have 5L of fresh milk from the cows next door to boil up which tastes so much better than the UHT alternative that is available. I also boil up some chicken livers for the puppies to mix with Ugali for their lunch and dinner, and no doubt for Molle as he seems to approve of these rather than the Ugali and Dagaa (small dried fish) the rest of the dogs will get.

As I hear the fundi arrive to collect the generator which died over the long school break, I turn to notice Molle had been sick, not carrots, but milk, curdled and smelling rather rancid in the heat! The tablet I forced down him on an empty stomach seemed to have back fired on me. So I collected the mop and bucket to clear away the new water feature that was beginning to cascade down the steps into the living room. At this point Gandalf walks in followed by 3 of the puppies who slip and slide in the offending vomit before I can get them back out - when Gandalf first learn't to open doors it was cute, not my immediate thought now.
Just As I finish mopping I remember the milk! As it is about to boil over I rescue the cooker from a milky baptism  (I should really name it Cleopatra the amount of baths of milk it takes), and remember also to turn down the chicken livers - foamy liver juices is never a good look over your gas ring burner!
Molle is now showing interest in the chicken livers that are cooking but having found 2 more piles of milky vomit he's not in my good books - nor is the puppy who relieved herself in the house sneaking in as I went out to give the fundi a hammer!

Blessing no. 41 the generator is now released from it's prison, chains broken, and is now in the back of the fundi's vehicle on it's way to being fixed before we have any 20hr + power cuts that mean the fridge and freezer leak all over the kitchen floor.
Blessings 42 and 43, Tom and Barbara (otherwise known as Neo and Trinity by Jack), are happily settled and running around with the chickens - hopefully eating ticks that plague us due to having so many cows near by.


As I throw stones at the crows that threaten to steal the chicken food that I've just put out, I remember another Blessing no.44 - Robert, our guard/worker found where we could buy 70kg of chicken feed for 20,000 Tanzanian Shillings (that's about £8)! Not quite the same quality as before but then at nearer to 80,000 Tsh (£20) for the 70kg they are going to like it!
This reminds me that of course some of our biggest blessings are our workers; Robert, Mama Mawazo (who helps me in the house), Isaac and our new guard Joseph - Blessings 45, 46 and 47.

Fruit from our garden
I make 'chai' for Joseph and as I cut him some papai I am thinking Blessing no. 48 - the fruit here is amazing, you can't beat the sun to ripen it properly making it so sweet and juicy, cold storage on a plane leaves things so...

The sea breeze, Blessing no. 49 is gently blowing the coconut palms which rustle in the background of exotic birdsong - Blessing no. 50 - I was really not looking forward to leaving behind the beautiful chorus of the British Songbirds when we came to Tanzania but God has blessed us with amazing birdlife, some downright bizarre but most of which have a beautiful call. I can honestly say I haven't missed my old favourites at all - although I long to be back one spring again just to hear the dawn chorus and see the blossoms on the trees.

By 10am this morning I had counted 50 blessings - still to come is my bible study group, Jack's football match, the delight of driving back in mad traffic with 3 tired and grumpies, homework (every mother should know my pain with this!) and cooking dinner. Many more blessings to come...

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