Flying into Namibia



Looks pretty dry, doesn’t it?  It is.  Our new home is dry, dry, dry.  The first few weeks, we had to slather on lotion twice a day to keep from feeling itchy all the time.  There were some bloody noses, and we had to adjust to the over 5,000 foot altitude of Windhoek.  Our neighborhood is pretty hilly, and after we bought our standard shift truck, there was a lot of grinding of gears as we re-learned to drive a stick shift on steep hills.

We are so appreciative of all who prayed for a Jpegsmooth entry into Namibia for us.  There were no problems at all.  This country has just over 2 million people, and is very protective (rightfully so) of the jobs of their population.  It can be difficult for foreigners to enter.  However, God provided the work permits we needed at just the right time so we could come for the handover from our colleagues.   Our house is in a middle-class suburb on a busy road, with taxis passing by constantly (a plus, since you can step outside the gate and hail one to take you downtown for about 80 cents US.  I took our puppy to the vet in one of those taxis and no one batted an eye.)  We can see the beautiful mountains surrounding the city from our hill, and we love to see the city lights from our windows at night.  Crime is about the same as in Moz, so we have burglar bars, big dogs and a secure gate, but an electronic security system instead of a guard who stands outside (or sleeps outside more usually).

img_4965There are a lot of wealthy people in this city and therefore there are 3 nice malls, and lots of “nice things” we can take advantage of.  We are enjoying those.  However, there is also a huge poor section of the city where, when we drove through recently, Ben exclaimed “This looks just like Mozambique!”.  The houses are rather different though, as you can see.   Those tin shacks must be incredibly hot in the Namibian sun.  We compare the climate here to New Mexico though we’ve never lived there.  You try to stay out of the sun between 10 and 3, though it cools down at night.

Here in Windhoek, we also enjoyed taking over ownership of the house dog Jpeg(as in comes with the house, not lives in the house) Molly, a 10 year old Great Dane who is the sweetest thing.  Quite a crime deterrent too.

It’s funny, so many things are familiar to us, even after 20 years away (we lived in Namibia from 1994-1996).  And the biggest surprise?  Afrikaans is still the main language though almost everyone also speaks English.  We are brushing up on our Afrikaans skills, long forgotten, and enjoying getting settled into our new house, with plenty of room for visitors.  All of our trunks arrived safely from Moz, and it is nice to have a few familiar things though there hasn’t really been time to arrange those yet.  After the thorough training by our predecessors, it was time to jump feet first into personnel care and support, our main job here. – C

Packing again

Someone told me recently that the missionary’s idea of heaven is no baggage.  Wow can we agree.  Travel we don’t mind so much, but the hauling around of belongings and worry over whether it will be accepted by the airline as 1472448253920well as wondering if it will arrive intact really wears you down.  When Toby and I left Mozambique, we had three more flights to get to Kenya.  From there, I had two more flights to get down to South Africa where Kevin and Ben had arrived two days later after two of their own flights to Johannesburg.  When we left the USA, we had a flight to Philly, then a flight to Qatar, then a flight to Nairobi, then a flight to Nampula (with a stop on the way where all the bags were taken off the plane and checked, then reloaded).

Every one of our bags arrived at every destination unbroken, unstolen, unrejected.  For those of you who haven’t traveled overseas to Africa before, you know that this is nigh on impossible.  ūüôā  We are so thankful!  Next week, we’ll fly to Namibia (after Kevin does another trip to Kenya this weekend) and hope that once again everything will arrive.  After that, we are relieved that our big suitcases will be put into storage for awhile.  There will be some small trips, but the wrestling of those big bags will be over for awhile.  What a relief.  – C

Goodbye to Toby

Well, the time we were dreading at the end of the time we were dreading finally arrived – after saying goodbye to our friends in Mozambique, to our dogs and to our house and possessions, and then to Mozambique itself, we said goodbye to Toby.  1471717404346

There are many who don’t understand our decision to send our oldest away to boarding school in another country.   It can be hard to explain to those who are not walking in our shoes.  Suffice it to say, we believe it is for the best, and so does Toby.  In the months leading up to departure, we spent a lot of time preparing the things he would need, packing suitcases full of clothes, soccer shoes, sheets and school supplies.  We also talked a lot about what it might be like, though neither of us has ever been to boarding school.

Whenever we encountered people who know his school, we’d ask questions and listen to their stories, which were always positive.  We became more convinced that this was the place for him to have opportunities and grow in ways we could not provide for him.

But, in the end when we had to unpack his bags in his dorm room and walk away, it was really hard.  Our prayer is that his time at school will help him to grow spiritually as well as academically – we of course think he is already an amazing person, but there is more for him to learn before he’s ready to launch into the world.  He’ll be home at the end of November – to a new home! – for a month of school break.  Thanks for praying for him – C

Stuff I Won’t Miss

Ok, this could easily deteriorate into a really negative post about Mozambique.  There are a lot of things about living there that are difficult, and as we arrived back into Nampula I often commented in my mind “well, I won’t miss THAT.”  T1468661457281he bumpy roads, the fleas and the mosquitoes that carry malaria, the pushy car guards downtown, the crazy drivers (who zip through red lights), the men urinating on the side of the road (and sometimes in the middle of the road!), the dust (which I am allergic to) and the gravel (which ruins leather shoes).  The dirty water from the tap which must be filtered, the vegetables which must all be bleached before eating.  And most of all, people staring at me!

All of these are things we won’t regret saying goodbye to.    But tied up in all of that is our life in Mozambique.  All of these things were a part of every day, a way of life that became normal for us and when I think of Nampula, I will remember those things, all tangled up with the smile of the pumpkin vendor at the market, and the man with no hands who often guarded my car.  When I bothered to look up from the dusty roads, I’d see so many palm trees against t1468663090320he blue sky.  The ladies in their bright capulana wrap skirts were a contrast to the broken-down buildings and the stink of the garbage pile was on the footpath to my friend’s house with the cute little girls.

We believe that the life ahead of us in Namibia will be a lot easier physically, and especially as regards the roads.  So, as we bumped to the airport to get on the plane, I looked out the window with mixed feelings.   When I think of that place, there is all of THAT mixed in with my life. – C

The Big Sort

A houseful of stuff – it’s all gotta go!  When we left Moz last August, almost all of our belongings were packed up into the shipping container that sits right in front of the house.  When we returned in mid-July, every item had to be gone through and a decision made.  Sell?  Give away?  Throw Away?  Send to Kenya?  Send to Namibia?

1469458250774Some things were easy to let go, but there were a great many items that I held in my hands and made me remember.  Little boys playing in the back yard, happy Christmas mornings, a precious find in a dingy shop, the big score at another missionary’s garage sale.   Here’s a photo of the boys going through all of our children’s books – four footlockers full!  Many of the book series belonged to Toby and were duly packed up to ship to Namibia.  However, the end I had to get strict with the kids – only 10 “little kid” books each could be chosen to ship.  It was hard to see a lot of those go but we were glad to be able to donate them to two libraries where we know they will be read often.

I spent hours in the container, opening boxes and pricing items as I stacked them against the far end.  It was surprisingly hard to let go of my kitchen things, which had been carefully collected over the years until I had a fully functioning kitchen.  I think it took me 5 years until I had what I needed – items had been purchased from others who were leaving, given to me by friends, bought on trips into South Africa or brought back from the USA, or arrived in packages sent by our parents.  There was a particular blue plastic bowl that was much admired by people who came over to the house for dinner, though it was only some cheap bowl from Walmart.  But in Nampula, it was really something special!  1471019550308In the end, everything was ready for the big garage sale.

What a day – it was a madhouse.  Some particularly unattractive qualities were displayed by a number of folks, but most of our shoppers were pleased with their purchases and glad to go out with their treasures.  It was fun to see who bought what, and I was especially glad to see our furniture put to use in other people’s houses.  A family with young children bought our bunk bed and I saw it online recently – their two little cuties sitting in front of the bed where I had tucked up my cuties many a night.  1471084000020I’m glad to see it is serving someone else.  I’ll still miss my things, I’m sorry to say.  One does get attached, especially when it is difficult to procure the items you really need.  I am grateful, however, that I was allowed to have those things for a season of time and that God continues to provide what we need even as we start fresh in Namibia. – C



Saying Hello to Say Goodbye

When we arrived in Nampula, our first job was to set up the house temporarily so we could live in it for six weeks.  After that, the next task was to start contacting people to say our goodbyes.  We knew that with only this short period of time, we had to schedule people immediately or we wouldn’t fit them in before we left. In the USA, we often had people trying schedule a time to see us just a week or two before we left, and it became very stressful to fit them in while doing the final shopping, packing, time with family, etc. Luckily, almost all of the people we know in Nampula are very familiar with this strategy and also were eager to “make a plan”!

1471614889315How strange it was, though to meet up and talk about the year we had not seen each other, catching up on details, just to move on to the “so what will you be doing” and “when might we see you again?” stage.  The kids found that many reunions were tinged with sadness as their time with friends was so limited.  Well, I guess Kevin and I found the same thing.  There were many regretful conversations with people we enjoy tremendously and whom we will miss.

We also said goodbye to our truck with sadness, though with tremendous relief.  It is a terrible time to sell a truck in Mozambique, 1470235799230because the local currency has dropped by more than half since we left last year.  The truck is actually worth a good amount, being in such good condition, but the buyers are few.  Kevin spent a LOT of time publicizing it during our first few weeks back, and we wondered what we would do if it didn’t sell.  We discussed exporting it and then importing it to Namibia, and other options.  We had people call us up and offer us “cash today!” if they could take it immediately for almost nothing.  Others called and said they’d bring a check right over if they could take the truck right away.  Scammers.  In the end, God put the right buyer into our lives and we were tremendously grateful that a happy deal was concluded.  A friend drove the truck south for us, through gunfire!  We were relieved that he arrived safely, and with no bullet holes in the truck.

1471607622637What a blessing they have been to us, our friends in Nampula.  I remember the friend who brought us a homemade pizza when my 5 year old Toby was seriously ill with malaria.  I remember another friend who came with me to the clinic when I had a motorcycle accident and sat with me while my cuts were sewn up.  Another who sat through many, many local language lessons and laughed with me at our mistakes.  The friend who explained to me what was happening when I attended a funeral and wasn’t sure of etiquette.  The one who loved my children so beautifully that they always wanted to be at her house.  The one who made no pretense of “having it all together” when I was falling apart.  The one who blessed me with her uplifting words when all I could do was blame myself.  The friend whose calm kindness was a balm to my soul.

I have known many people who returned to their home country to say that they missed the friendships they had while living overseas.  I joked to a friend once, that it is because we had to help each other survive!  Life in the trenches creates relationships that are burned deep into our hearts.   -C


What a strange feeling it was to drive home from the airport, looking out the window at the sights of Nampula. ¬†Coming from Hartford, Connecticut, to a crowded African city is a contrast that I won’t even try to describe here as it would just take too long. ¬† It wasn’t the bewildered and shocked feeling that you often see on the faces of American visitors, though. ¬†It was a “Yup, I remember this. ¬†This was my life. ¬†Wow.” feeling. ¬†By the time we’d reached our house, my back was sore from the bumpy roads, despite my colleague’s careful driving. ¬† It was wonderful to meet dear friends waiting for us in the yard with a meal for the next day, and walk into our house, so familiar and yet looking so dingy and empty!

However, the next morning what a joy as friends came to greet us, we began to bring our things in from the locked container, and our dogs bounded around.  All of our things smelled like mold, or were coated with mold, the dogs were painfully thin, and the new puppies (10 days old) infested with fleas, but we were home!!  As the first days went by, what a joy to see dear faces and exchange greetings and a few words about the year that had passed.  It was hard to believe the time had gone by so quickly, and each of us had experienced so much in the meantime.

The boys quickly dove into their favorite books and toys, unpacking and organizing their things (Toby) and dumping out all the legos (Ben).  The happiness on their faces . . . these dear children have endured a lot of meetings this last year, done homeschooling in a very disjointed way, and said goodbye to many dear relatives, so to see their joy at being here was a balm to my heart.  Tinged with a sadness at knowing that soon they will be saying goodbyes here too, perhaps forever.

The first task was getting the car on the road and legalized, and Kevin spent the better part of two days getting insurance, inspection, and the famous “radio tax” which costs a dollar or something and requires drivers to go to some office in some building which must be tracked down. ¬†Traffic cops do check to see if you’ve paid it! ¬†Second task was draining our entire cistern, which had about 6 inches of muck in the bottom of it as well as some dead frogs. ¬†Our drinking water was smelly and wierd-tasting, and no wonder. ¬†My tasks were to get the dogs settled and wounds on their ears treated, as well as de-flea the puppies and make sure the mother was feeding them enough. ¬†Bed had to be set up, sheets found, and plates uncovered. ¬†The fridge didn’t seem to be working, but after plugging it into another extension, started right up. ¬†What a relief. ¬†Meanwhile, everything is coated with dust and spiderwebs (after just one day, my countertops have a layer of dust during this dry winter season) and some mold. ¬†Every sheet, towel and dishrag had to be washed, hung out on the line and then taken down and folded. ¬†The guest house next door had to be completely cleaned, top to bottom, for incoming guests, and everything in there washed. ¬†Between the two of us, Kevin and I didn’t sit down for 5 minutes for the first few days, except to eat or visit with someone. ¬†Whew! ¬†The kids were pressed into service and carried all the laundry in and out, carried furniture, and hung up clothes. ¬†They also played a lot of Wii, to keep them busy and happy. ¬†We are so thankful for our colleagues, who outfitted us with some groceries and a couple of meals, and friends who brought meals. ¬†It was truly a ministry to us.

That was the first week.  Soon it was time for Kevin to attend the biggest annual Bible conference here, and he spent a lot of time sitting and talking with the monitors.  Another post on that.  Meanwhile, I started the big sort.  Every single possession must be taken out of storage, looked at, cleaned and either priced, placed in a pile to give away or ship to Namibia, or thrown away.  that is an ongoing project before our garage sale mid-August.

I’m tired just writing all this. ¬†Fortunately, I have time to write this today. ¬†Unfortunately, it is because I am in bed resting my back. ¬†The mozambique roads and too much visiting (and sitting) have done a number on it. ¬†We are thankful, however, that we know it will improve with proper care, and it is further confirmation that a move is a good idea. – C


Traveling Tales

We left the USA via Hartford on July 5th with 9 suitcases and 8 carry-ons. ¬†Really, we dislike traveling with so much stuff, but when leaving the States for four years, you find that there are a lot of things on your list to take with you. ¬†Unfortunately, I didn’t have room for the parmesan cheese, ranch dressing mix powder and taco flavor powder that we always want to have over here, but there are quite a few other things that needed to come. ¬†Ben accumulated an amazing number of toys (purchased with his own money) this year, and since we are moving to a new country, we were pretty generous in his luggage allowance. ¬†Toby is headed off to boarding school and I did my best to supply him with enough clothes and shoes to last for two years (allowing for growth), which took up another couple of suitcases. ¬†Camping is likely in our future in Namibia (it will be our cheapest option for getaways and they have great campsites there for tourists) so sleeping bags, a tent and thermarests all had to be packed too. ¬†We stood at the airport and grimly surveyed the mountain of luggage, then Kevin and boys got busy shifting all of it while I spoke to the lady at the desk. ¬†Unfortunately, she informed me that the travel agency had put my name on my ticket wrong, so she would let me through to Philadelphia but that Air Qatar would probably make me buy a new ticket there to go onwards to Nairobi via Doha. ¬†This was not the way we wanted to start the journey at 4 am!

Thankfully, Air Qatar gave us no problem with the issue since all of my names were on the ticket, just in the wrong order, and also checked three of our carryons at no charge. ¬†Free to roam the airport, we made a last stop at Dunkin’ Donuts (it was 7 am) and Ben made slow-motion videos on my phone to entertain himself. ¬† The kids were eager to see what was next on the journey and to get on the “big plane” where there are lots of video games and movies to choose from, and I tried to calm myself as I considered the hectic and sad week before, as well as the unknowns of the journey ahead. ¬†Kevin, the eternal optimist, enjoyed himself by looking around the airport and chatting.

13 hours later, Doha airport was lovely and interesting, and we slumped tiredly in seats near our gate after trying to freshen up a little in the bathroom. ¬†I wish we’d had time to go out and see the city, built on the water on the edge of what looked like a desert. ¬†We’d flown over many oil wells, burning in the distance, as we came in to land. ¬†Onwards to Nairobi, only a 6 hour flight in a much smaller plane with a distinct odor of bodies packed in tightly. ¬†We landed in Nairobi to find an hour-long wait in the immigration line, despite our pre-purchased tourist visas. ¬†Toby felt ill and was pale and grumpy, while Ben was bored and parked himself on the floor near a column. ¬†Back in a different world, Chinese passengers tried to get in front of us in line and we shuffled along sweatily in the airless building. ¬†At the immigration counter, we asked if we could get a refund for the boy’s visas ($50 each) since we had found out too late that children don’t need visas. ¬†The good-natured official laughed at us heartily and said “No, you can’t!” with a big smile. ¬†We had to laugh too.

Free at last, we met our ride and guarded the bags while he went to get the van. ¬†Our ride through Nairobi in rush hour took over an hour and it was a relief to get to the guest house. ¬†It was a joy to see the happiness on the boys’ faces. ¬†“We’re back in Africa!” ¬†they said over and over, pointing out things that were similar to Mozambique.

We spent a night there, then 2 nights at RVA boarding school where Toby will attend, then a night back at the guest house before heading to the airport to go to Nampula. ¬† I was very nervous about checking in at Mozambique airlines, because I had been unable to get our carry-ons down to the requisite 15 pounds each. ¬†Many of our electronics as well as our original birth certificates, marriage license and other important papers simply had to come with us. ¬†The suitcases were at the absolute maximum. ¬†Thankfully, there was an employee hanging around at the ticket counter who smoothed our way. ¬†God must have sent him. ¬†The lady at the counter was unhappy with our bags, which were each 4 pounds overweight (she said our scale was broken, but I suspect it was hers though of course we didn’t say that) as well as with the carry-ons which would not fit in the overhead bins of the smaller plane. ¬†However, this man kept saying “No problem! ¬†Let them through. ¬†That is fine.” and she grudgingly went along with him. ¬†What a relief to be checked in, though I realized as we boarded the plane that I had allowed her to check a carry-on that contained all of our original documents. ¬†Bags frequently go missing or are late arriving in Mozambique, and if that bag were lost…. (we did arrive with it, thanks be to God!)

The 3 hour flight to Pemba was quiet, and the kids were excited to be approaching home. ¬†Pemba was our entry point to Mozambique, so all of our bags had to come off of the plane and go through customs, and we went through immigration. ¬†It was chaos. ¬†The security people were doing the best they could, but there was no clear direction for the passengers, and the Chinese passengers kept trying to wander off without being checked. We had to translate for several of them because they didn’t speak Portuguese. ¬†Each of our bags had to be sent through an x-ray machine, and several of them opened. ¬†We fumbled for keys and Toby and Ben did a great job watching over our backpacks while we trotted back and forth between the baggage arrival area and the baggage search area. ¬†One passenger¬†tried to take one of our suitcases away but Kevin saw him and went after it. ¬†God really protected us, as we couldn’t always stand right in front of our opened suitcases as they were searched. ¬†Security didn’t give a very hard time about any of our belongings, thankfully, or we could have really been delayed. ¬†As we re-locked our bags and sent them back OUT to the plane, we realized that one had never arrived.

Two ladies from the airline came to fetch us – “We have to go! ¬†The pilot wants to leave!” they urged us. ¬†But, to get back out the the plane we had to run our backpacks through the scanner at yet another checkpoint, taking out computers and allowing security to look through the bags. ¬†The ladies were panicked, urging the man to hurry, and he replied that he had to do his job thoroughly. ¬†Finally he pulled out a little bottle of gold flakes that Ben had bought at Ohio Caverns as a momento and he said angrily “What is this?” ¬†Of course we couldn’t say GOLD because it would have been all over for us, so we said it was a little souvenir that Ben bought at a museum (which was true) and the ladies repeated it, asking him to let us go. ¬†They started yelling at each other and we watched, just glad they weren’t yelling at us. ¬†At that point I realized that the children were gone, and left Kevin to sort it out while I went after them. ¬†Apparently another employee had come and taken them away to get on the plane! ¬†I could see them across the tarmac, standing beside the stairs to the plane, and as Kevin joined me and we ran toward them, I said “What are you DOING?”. ¬†Toby replied that they had tried to get them on the plane, but he refused to board without us. ¬† Wise, wise Toby had been so vigilant with our bags, said and done all the right things, and kept his cool despite all the yelling. ¬†It sure makes me feel better about sending him on his own to travel home to us in December from Kenya. ¬†The gold flakes, by the way, were run through the machine and determined to NOT be metal so they were allowed onwards. In future, those will go in the luggage (or maybe not travel at all).

Anyway, we landed in Nampula after dark and waited for our bags again. ¬†All of them came out! ¬†The missing one had reappeared, and it seems that nothing was disturbed. ¬†Customs made us run bags through the scanner AGAIN and gave Kevin a hard time but in the end they let us go. ¬†We emerged from the airport to find a crowd of “helpers” who rushed forward to try to grab our bags and carry them to the car, but some friends who had come to greet us blocked their way and helped us get everything in the back of our colleague’s truck before anything went missing. ¬†We were on alert again immediately, in a place where bags are grabbed and disappear almost before you can react.

And that is our travel tale. . . missing quite a bit of details but those are the highlights. ¬†I felt weak from relief on our safe arrival at our house, all bags unloaded and safe, after a week of wrestling with packing before, and five flights to get them all to the destination. ¬†We are so grateful for God’s mercy in this. ¬†I could tell you many, many sad (and true) stories of lost luggage, luggage stolen out of trucks coming home from the airport, bags grabbed through windows, items stolen out of luggage enroute, and long, tense discussions with customs officials and harassment, but our way was SMOOTH comparatively. ¬†Thanks, God! – C

The Hardest Part

Coming up in the next days is the hardest part of living overseas  . . . saying goodbye to our families.  We are blessed to have parents and siblings who support us wholeheartedly.  We see other field workers struggle with very different situations.  However, it is still hard to hug that loved one goodbye, knowing it may be 4 years before you see them again.  Saying goodbye to elderly relatives is another zing to the heart.  Particularly difficult is to put my children into the car after watching them say goodbye to their grandparents.  Sometimes this seems to almost too hard to bear, and I  have to trust that God will provide what each needs as they are separated.  As much as we are privileged to serve overseas, we are also very aware of the sacrifices that are made.  And not just by us.  We appreciate your prayers for us and for our families as we say our farewells. – c