Your Donation Shopping List

If you don’t already know, Bethany and I are currently working in Tanzania at a girls’ home (with 46 girls from 6 to 18) and school.

Bethany’s parents and my sister are all coming in August and each have a spare suitcase, which means we have a lot of room for some pretty awesome donations! After spending half a year here and seeing the sort of donations that are typically brought, we’ve compiled a list of some more creative items (things that we could really use, but may not be the first thing people think of when they’re looking to donate).

If you see any of these items for a good price, please buy them and pass them along:

  • Yard Games
  • Board Games
  • Hammocks
  • Digital cameras (we’d like to get at least 6), memory cards
  • MP3 Players
  • Headphones
  • Portable speakers
  • Small radios
  • Legos
  • Sun glasses
  • Kid’s costumes
  • Watches
  • Sewing kits
  • Small folding stools
  • Anything solar powered (radios, chargers, etc.)
  • Pool Floats
  • Art projects for groups over 30
  • USB Sticks

If you want to buy something online and have it sent to my sister or Bethany’s parents, we’d love to have more children’s books about children in Africa (currently they books we have at the school library are very North American-centrique. Some books we’d LOVE to have sent include:

More expensive items, we’d also appreciate would be things like:

Additionally, there’s always a need for children’s DVDs and NICE clothing for girls (aged 6 – 16), and clothing for toddlers (either gender) though that could easily fill all of their bags, so buy these sparingly.

None of these things are cheap new (so don’t buy them new!), but if you’re thrift shopping or shopping a yard sale and you see a deal, then you should buy it, message me, and I’ll let you know who to give it to so it’ll get to us!

Keep in mind, these things are being packed into luggage so lighter items are better (i.e. if it’s a yard game it’s better if it’s foldable/travel sized rather than made of wood/bocce balls).

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Jeff & Bethany’s Nairobi Vacation

After hearing a missionary describe Nairobi as a place where you can buy anything and eat at a multitude of restaurants (something we now consider a luxury), I had to go. So this week Bethany Joy and I went to Nairobi, Kenya and stayed at an Air BnB!

Our bus, which was comfortable with big seats, left our town at 2:30 pm and arrived the next morning at 3 am. Even this late, the city was bustling as the taxi driver drove us by night clubs and 24 hour stores teaming with life.

Even though things didn’t go entirely according to plan, our first day in Nairobi was a resounding success!

Our first stop was the Lavington Mall. The third ATM we tried allowed us to take out some Kenyan Shillings, so we went to the Art cafe for a late breakfast/early lunch. We had Eggs Benedict (our first in 4 months!) and a milk shake that literally had a piece of carrot cake blended into it.

Neither Bethany nor I are big mall shoppers, but it was really nice seeing familiar stores and products. Bethany raided a health store before we hit the closest grocery store for some water. It was three times bigger than the largest one we have in our nearby town.

Across the street from the mall was the Nairobi Art Centre, which was in fact an art school. It looked cool though!

We walked up the street to the Chocolate Festival. As we peaked into the gate it didn’t look like much, but it had taken 20 minutes to walk there so we were committed to checking it out. That is until, as we shuffled through our bag for money, a woman came storming over to us.

“Have you bought your tickets?” she asked. We told her no and she continued: “Then don’t!” She gestured to the nearly empty grounds. “This is all there is.” She pulled out her phone and loaded Facebook. Scrolling through the event description she pointed out, “Look at that description. None of that is here. If you wanted to look at a chocolate bar you can save your money and go to a grocery store.”

We laughed, but not too loudly as security started to casually gather around. As she turned her attention to them we slipped back out of the gate.

Toi Market 2Our next stop was the Toi Market. I’d read it was the largest second hand market in Nairobi, but otherwise didn’t know what to expect. In the end we were blown away! It sprawled across multiple blocks and we ended up buying clothes, books, and movies.

Some back story, a girl at Bibi’s had asked me if I had two movies just before we’d left: Alvin and the Chipmunks and Miracles from Heaven. I told her I could get Alvin, but had never heard of the other one. Imagine then how surprised I was when Bethany found a stack of Christian movies and as I half listened to her listing off titles I’d never heard of she said “Miracles from Heaven.”

As we walked to our final destination, we happened to pass the Brew Bistro. We’d been planning to go to their second location by our house, but since our feet were sore and we were making good time, we stopped in and couldn’t be happier. Microbreweries are huge in Halifax, but for the last four months we’ve only had a handful of options of East African beers. It was really nice having options on tap!

Our last stop was the Junction Mall. We went to Nairobi’s equivalent of Wal-Mart and spent a couple hours getting food, games, and underwear without holes! When the Irish Pub we were planning to get supper at was closed, we made do and got Subway and soft serve instead!

As a rule, we wake up between 7 and 8 with or without an alarm and even on vacation our bodies internal clock wakes us up bright and early. On Sunday morning, Bethany Joy took advantage of the pool for some early laps and I took advantage of the speedy WiFi!

We are taking turns picking a church and this week I’d found the International Christian Fellowship. The main selling point for me was that it was in English and near our next destination for the day, but it turned out being a refreshing taste of home. They meet in the intimate auditorium of a giant international school up the road from the UN. Bethany enjoyed the singing and the sermon was pretty good.

Karura ForrestThe Karura Forrest is just a 15 minute walk from the school so we made the trek to our lunch destination: The River Cafe. Chai tea, a veggie burger (with basil mayo and avocado), and more eggs benedict later and we were ready for our adventure.

For $5 we rented bikes and set off in search of a waterfall and caves. The terrain was well kept and felt like you were always traveling down hill. Despite never feeling entirely comfortable on a bike, it was a great ride. I personally did a virtual tour of the caves. We didn’t want to leave the bikes on the path without supervision so we decided to take turns walking the 100 steps down to the caves. After Bethany finished, she showed me a video of all she saw and we concluded I may not want to take the trek down. It was a great movie though!

Next we headed to the Village Mall. Uber is amazing here. Cars are always in the area, you don’t have to negotiate a price or have exact change, and they never cost more than $6. But we have been only able to use them from the house where we have WiFi! Not anymore! For $6.50 we were able to buy a Kenyan SIM card and a gig of data for Bethany’s phone. As much as I miss Canada, I dread having to deal with the ridiculous prices of phones and internet at home.

On the way to the mall, we took a tour of the world seeing Sweden, the USA, Morocco, Poland and a variety of other countries… their embassies anyway!

PoutineAfter the mall, we headed back to Brew Bistro and tried their Canadian poutine. It was good, but not even in the ballpark of poutine. Instead, it was a weird sour cream/cheese sauce on top of fries. Sacrilege!


On the bottom floor of the same building was a Cold BikesStone Creamery where Bethany got ice cream (if only it was attached to a Tim Hortons like at home!) and a Dominos where Bethany was amused by the couple dozen delivery motorcycles they had out front.

We tried to find a cheaper sushi place I’d researched, but after searching the Westgate mall for it, we gave up and went to the more expensive one. Too expensive, but at least we got a little taste!

ArborteumAfter a suggestion from Victoria, Bethany and I spent Monday morning walking through the Arborteum, a dense forest with walking paths in the city. There were school groups playing in clearings, ice cream carts pushed by eager salespeople, and some of the largest trees we’ve seen since arriving in Africa.

MuseumWe continued our walk to the PAWA254 project which turned out to be a dud and so took an uber to the National Museum and Snake Park instead. It may seem like an odd combination, but for a meer $15 we saw 100s of stuffed birds, the big 5 up close, ancient skulls, historical artifacts, and some of the most poisonous snakes in the world.

By this point it was getting late and a confused uber driver kept accepting and cancelling our pick up request, so we started the walk towards home. Along the way we stopped at the Urban Eatery for a very late lunch/first supper. Picture a super fancy food court. Effectively there’s 5 restaurants surrounding the perimeter of the eatery and tables set in the middle. Waiters come with a massive menu containing all of the restaurants options and you mix and match. We had greek chicken and sushi!

We went across the street to a grocery store to stock up on more of the things we can’t get at home and then got gyros delivered to our door for dinner!

Tuesday was supposed to be our downtown Nairobi day and it sort of was…

We started at the Alliance Francais to scope out some art shows happening later in the week and then went to Java House to finally get a bagel!

I’d added the City Market as a time filler, but it turned into the best part of the day. There was tons of art and souvenirs and we spent hours negotiating (painful) and browsing. The biggest success was finding what will eventually become my dad‘s Christmas present, though we also got a shirt and skirt, knick knacks, wooden kid’s toys and puzzles, and sand stone figurines.

We walked around downtown for a bit longer but couldn’t find many of the stores on my map and eventually went to our third Nakumatt (Kenya’s Walmart). This one was “Mega” and we were able to buy a fan AND Christmas lights, two things I’d been looking to buy since arriving.Brew Bistro

We took an uber to another very late lunch at Burger Hut hoping for a Big Mac ripoff and got pretty decent burgers instead. We’d broken our rental’s broom handle combating flying bugs in the kitchen one night and had purchased a replacement, so I did my best Moses impression as we crossed the highway on our walk home.

We had a very chilly dip in the pool before going out for late night tapas and live music back at the Brew Bistro!

On Wednesday we played tourist and as a result we had an exceptionally good day.

Baby ElephantsOn the edge of the Nairobi National Park, Bethany and I found ourselves at the David Sheldick Elephant Orphange. Only from 11 am to noon are visitors allowed. We arrived just in time!

During the hour, the visitors all stand behind a “fence” made of a couple of ropes which surrounds a large mud pit. Over 25 baby orphan elephants then come out in two groups and we watched as they were bottle fed formula, bathed in the mud, drank from a hose, wrestled, farted, and – at one point – made a break for it. They were so close you could touch then and we did, feeling their rough, dirty skin.

GiraffeIf that wasn’t special enough, our next stop was the Giraffe Centre. Here we saw lots of giraffes: two babies, two adult females, and a male. We hand fed them pellets, pet their head, and avoided getting head butted. Bethany even fed one with her mouth!

Finally on our tourist binge we went to Carnivore Restaurant. Here they walk around with skewers of meat and you can eat Carnivoreas much as you’d like. We had crocodile (surprisingly good), ostrich, rabbit, ox testicle (not-surprisingly gross), pork, lamb, beef, and turkey. Oh the indigestion!

Thursday was defined by shopping.

In the morning Bethany and I went to the Sarit Centre and found Monty’s, which sold a variety of unique candies. They used to sell root beer, but alas no longer. Then we headed to the Yaya Centre where we found a huge book store with a sizable used-section called Bookstop. We’ve been looking for a veggie spiraller since arriving and when I walked into one random kitchen store with only a handful of items, there one was at eye level!

Ethiopian FoodAfter seeing many recommendations for Habeesh, we walked there for lunch. The menu was a bit intimidating, us having never had Ethiopian food before. We got a sampler and it was amazing. Effectively on a crepe the size of a pizza pan, they put five different sauces and you sort of ate your plate while dipping in these meat and vegetarian dishes. All were amazing!

Toi marketIn the afternoon we were back at the Toi Market. Last time we were there we walked through it and ended at what we thought was the last booth. This time we realized that last booth was actually the start of a hallway that led to the second half of the market. This place was HUGE! We bought a few more clothing items and I splurged on tv series and books.

After stopping in at Brew Bistro again, we went to Tokyo Restaurant for some over priced sushi that was totally worth it!

For Friday, we’d scheduled an early tour of the UN.

Bright and early we ubered to Wasp and Sprout. Hidden behind a small shopping complex, this hipster cafe appealed greatly to Bethany’s granola sensibilities. There was art and jewelry for sale on the walls, chairs covered in kitanga fabric, and -gasp- english muffins!

The UN tour was also great. We were shown around the grounds including Canada’s assigned seat in the conference room.

We did some birthday shopping at the Village Market before heading home for an afternoon nap (in a bed without a mosquito net!)

AlchemistOur Air BnB host had invited us out to an outdoor bar and venue called The Alchemist, so that evening we risked the rain and checked it out. There was a cover band followed by a funk band in a venue that would fit right in in Halifax, if it wasn’t for our weather!

We didn’t have big plans for Saturday, which was kind of nice. We slept in. Bethany went for an ice swim in the pool and received a kamboocha starter kit, while I went for a walk in search of birthday presents (somewhat successfully). We had an awesome lunch at About Thyme and then we saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2 at the theatre. It was a relaxing day in preparation for our last one!

On Sunday we packed two huge duffle bags with the crazy variety of things we’d purchased. They ranged from big purchases like a fan, Christmas lights, a veggie spiraller, and a dozen+ books to smaller things like bagels, sauces, chocolate bars, and souvenirs. It was a hefty load!

We left our crammed packed bags at the apartment and went to church. The music and dancing was great in theory as it got people very involved, but made this non-dancer a little uncomfortable.

For lunch we went to a Japanese buffet for my last sushi in a while. I made Drew proud and ate a couple dozen pieces of sashimi.

TheatreAfterwards was a performance called “Peace and Love” that Bethany wanted to see. The music in it was great (including a guy who played a saxophone without having a saxophone) though the poetry bits dragged on a bit and I may or may not have had a nap.

Then it was one more stop at Brew Bistro, a burger at Mama Rocks and picking up our bags at the apartment.

The one final challenge was getting on the bus. We arrived at the bus stop we were told to meet at just in time only to find out our bus stop was three blocks away. We would have run for it if it weren’t for Bethany pointing out our bags weighed the same as a couple baby elephants (which we’re now experts in after seeing them bottle fed earlier in the week) and we got an uber instead. We made it with time to spare!

That’s the end of our Nairobi adventure. We’re a little heavier in body and lighter in wallet, but it was an exceptional vacation we hope to take home with us!

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How Jeff & Bethany Spend Saturday Evenings

dsc_0253The girls at Bibi Mimi’s each have one time a week that they get to watch movies or television shows. For the older girls it’s Saturday night, which is an extra special treat since it means they can stay up late and be out of their home past curfew. For the younger girls, it takes place on Sunday afternoon after church.

For both, it typically takes place at the school resource centre, which is a large empty room with a 20” flat screen television in it. The girls all sit on the ground, using pillows, blankets, and chairs they brought with them to get more comfortable. Often, though they just use each other as pillows as they braid each other’s hair or watch the shows.

The younger girls watched cartoons, while the older girls had begun watching Korean television that had English subtitles, as well as Korean audio and audio in a mystery language. The girls enjoyed them, but they were certainly a bit painful to watch for Bethany and I.

I’ve missed having people over and really enjoyed hanging out with the girls this way, but decided to ask around about trying a few things. With the blessing of the staff and girls, Bethany and I put our plan into action.

I had brought a lot of TV shows for myself to watch, but no cases, so my first task was making a document that gave options. I took an hour to make a 10 page list with DVD case pictures and television show summaries and presented it to the girls. At the Saturday prayer, I asked if they made their selection. They had: “iZombie.”

At 7 p.m., I was back at the house and starting to put our plan into motion. Earlier in the day, I had made six liters of strawberry and vanilla tea, which was now cooling in mason jars in our freezer. I poured them into a large juice dispenser we happen to have in our closet and Bethany added more water and a little sugar. It tasted just like juice!

We then set to work on making popcorn. I’d read the trick was to heat the oil with three kernels in it. When the kernels popped, you knew the oil was at the right temperature. You’d add the rest of the kernels, take it off the heat for 30 seconds and then return it to the stove. It was supposed to give you perfect popcorn every time. I wish I could say – for comedic effect – that there were disastrous results, but other than being a little time consuming it worked like a charm! We made four big batches in no time.

Our house is solar powered with energy being stored on batteries in our closet for cloudy days and the night time. If the panel is green, you have lots of energy; yellow, you should be fine; and red means to worry, but just a little. This evening, the panel shown a bright red, and I worried more than a little. What if the power went out half way through the show and I had ruined the older girls’ one chance to watch television this week? What if I was responsible for huge disappointment? I was oddly consoled by the story of Hanukah. “That oil lasted for eight days even though it was only supposed to last for one,” I thought. “Maybe this will be a similar case.”

As a back-up, I was charging my laptop’s spare battery down at the restaurant. If the power ran out, we could at least watch it on my small laptop screen. So near 8 p.m., when the girls were expected to arrive, I headed down to the restaurant to get it. I suspected upon my return for our house to be full of people, but instead I just found Bethany at the table picking a few burnt kernels out of the popcorn bowl.

dsc_0252“I hope they know which house we were doing it at?” I thought to myself. “What if they forgot and went down to the school instead?” I felt a rush of insecurity like a child waiting for people to show up to their birthday party.

I needn’t have worried. Right around 8:30, the nearly thirty girls came up our walk in a long line. They piled into the house and onto our three couches and the two spare mattresses we’d put on the floor.

We laughed, we gasped, and we closed our eyes if there was any kissing onscreen. It was a great night overall and we plan to do it again soon! Plus the power didn’t shut off once. A movie night miracle!

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What do you do with a Tanzanian baby tooth?

20170212_183858Earlier in the day, Salma had opened her mouth wide and wiggled one of her teeth with her finger.

“It’s going to fall out soon!” I exclaimed and she nodded excitedly.

Later, she was sitting beside me in prayer and suddenly started poking my arm vigorously. I looked over and the tiny white tooth was in her hand and she was smiling from ear to ear.

“Your tooth!” I said too loudly before covering my mouth and whispering, “It fell out.” She was so excited that she started tossing it from hand to hand playfully. Before too long, it had accidentally been launched forward under the dress of a smaller girl, who was sitting on the ground in front of her. Salma’s face dropped into fear and I stifled a laugh. The girl, being aware of what had just happened, lifted her dress off the ground, but it wasn’t there and instead the girl suddenly launched herself to her feet trying to shake the tooth off of her dress.

I cannot convey to you what happened next as I was at this point in the story, closing my eyes with my hand covering my face trying not to lose control of my laughter mid-prayer. Needless to say, the tooth was recovered and only caused a slight commotion – when I did finally open my eyes only a third of the room was looking at us.

Later I asked her what she would do with the tooth and she told me she’d throw it on the roof. I thought it must be a miscommunication, so I asked one of the older girls. This is the conversation that followed:

Jeff: What do little kids do when they lose a tooth?

Emma: They throw it on the roof.

Jeff: Why?

Emma: So they grow a new, bigger one.

Jeff: Well, that’s weird. In Canada and the USA, a fairy comes.

Emma: A fairy?

Jeff: Yeah. A fairy comes, takes the tooth, and leaves you money.

Emma: What does she do with the tooth?

Jeff: Hmmm… we don’t really ask those questions…
It was a funny little conversation. I thought it was strange to throw your baby tooth on the roof, but was quickly shown how strange our own customs are if you think about them even for a minute from an outsider’s perspective.

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Our Tanzanian Lifestyles: Two spoiled Canadians

When we began to look for work internationally, we didn’t expect the level of comfort we’d eventually find ourselves. We have running water (though it’s not drinkable, we also have drinking water delivered regularly), a shower (though not always hot, who even wants a hot shower in this climate), flush toilets, and a fridge/freezer (that stay on most of the time). We have access to Tanzania food at the girls’ home and school and North American-style food at the restaurant.

dsc_0005In many ways, we are even better off here. There are house Mamas, women hired to care for the house and make meals for us (and the volunteers when they are here). They make lunches on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and they make dinners on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We can request whatever we like as long as the ingredients are purchasable or grown on the farm and we can explain how to make it. I haven’t had to sweep or wash dishes since arriving!

That doesn’t mean, we haven’t worked to improve our new home, which has been effectively empty for the past year. We’ve spent the weekends hard at work making our house into a home. We spent the first weekend scrubbing the tupperwarebathroom turning the mostly brown room back into its original yellow walls and white shower curtain. We scrubbed the walls in our room as well and then decorated it. We spent a weekend organizing our kitchen: figuring out the Tupperware, organizing the shelves, disposing of spoiled food, and washing the fridge and freezer. We’ve been down to the guest house to organize their storage space and I’ve even alphabetized the movie collection (though that was likely more just my OCD than anything).movies

teaIt’s hard to complain though as we’ve felt quite pampered. We have cold water regularly as we fill six 1.5 L water bottles every other day from the office water cooler and keep them in the freezer. We have milk and chocolate milk in small boxes that don’t need to be refrigerated, but always stay in the freezer nonetheless. We even have iced tea, as we make it every Sunday in six 1 L mason jars!

What we don’t have on campus, we can get in the city and this is where we get truly spoiled. In the city, there is a hotel and restaurant called Tilapia. The food and drinks are American prices if not better ($12 meals and $2 drinks) and for $10 you can use their outdoor swimming pool for as long as you want. That, with the high speed internet which I use to do work and download YouTube videos so I can keep up on my Colbert, makes it a paradise!

There’s even a movie theatre in town!

Last Friday, we spent the day in the city. We had an afternoon retreat at Tilipia, which was preceded by lunch at Salma Cone – an outdoor restaurant where we spent $5 for chicken, fries, three apps, and two sundaes – and followed by a night at the movies.

The movies are at Mwanza’s mall – the only one in Northern Tanzania I believe. Despite being built within the last couple of years, it’s in a bad state of affairs. There are few stores inside, other than the two grocery stores on the ground floor. There is poor natural lighting and worst electrical lighting. It’s built like a tire with stores around the empty space in the middle, and it goes up six floors.

canadian-harvestAt the grocery store though, we did have success! This is where we first were able to buy white milk, votive candles, zucchini, and a power bar that plugs into the walls here, but allows for North American plugs into the bar. We also discovered that “American Garden,” the poorly made, cheap brand of sauces found here has a Canadian cousin called “Canadian Harvest” (made in Dubai).

The movie theatre is on the top floor. We had been planning to see “XXX: The Return of Xander Cage,” but ended up arriving an hour early and didn’t want to wait around. So instead we chose to see an Indian movie. The plot, as we read online, involved a man who was blind finding love, facing tragedy, and then getting revenge. We were intrigued!

When I lived in Toronto there used to be $2 Tuesdays. I’d go every week and when I’d fun out of Hollywood movies to see, I’d go see foreign films. I watched French movies and Italian movies that I would have otherwise never bothered with. But you get use to subtitles pretty quickly, and a good story is a good story!

mallBy the intermission, Bethany had to use the bathroom and I went out to the snack bar to eye up the slushies. I’m a big fan of slushies, but recalled eating one from a gas station in Honduras and Bethany telling me a story about her sister having one internationally and being hospitalized since they had been made from local water. At the time, I looked at her for a moment and then continued eating it; if I was going to be hospitalized it was already too late (I turned out to be fine)! However, this time that concern was too much, so after Bethany came out of the bathroom I went in.

When I came out she was waiting for me with a slushy! She’d asked and it was made from bottled water. It was like home and I now want to go see bad movies all the time, just to get one!

So as you can see, we’re living pretty happily here in Tanzania! We’re a little spoiled and going back to sweeping will be a pretty big burden!

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Dreaming of Home

I don’t believe in interpreting dreams in the supernatural sense, but I do think that my dreams are often my subconscious exploring something that I’m not currently dealing with consciously. Last night I had two dreams.

One took place in a fictional world the day before we were supposed to leave for Africa. Bethany was pregnant and going into labor. I found myself climbing a large wooden plank into a tree house, which was where she wanted to give birth. She still intended for us to fly to Africa the next day with the newborn. This dream falls somewhere between me being for taking medicine and her wanting to ride things out whenever possible AND some giving birth in Africa fear. It seems pretty cut and dry.

The second dream took place in a fictional Yarmouth and I was driving by a building that had great importance to me. The fact I hadn’t been there in so long made me weep despite waking up and not recognizing the dream building at all.

I haven’t felt particularly homesick as of yet, though I think this dream was my subconscious missing the familiar. Throughout our busy days I do have pangs of “Wouldn’t it be nice to be home doing…”


Chinese food in Yarmouth, NS… best egg rolls ever!

So far they’ve included things like eating at Lotus Garden, an amazing Chinese restaurant, in Yarmouth or second-handing at the big Salvation Army in Spryfield. I miss having people over for board game nights or for any activity at all! I miss playing soccer every Sunday with the guys and regularly talking on the phone with my friends with vision loss.

However, it’s with great irony that most of what I find myself reminiscing about relates to summer activities: getting sushi with Jordan in St. Catharines, playing spike ball in the commons, or having friends over for a BBQ. This is at the same time that my parents – who are both teachers – have had their fourth snow day as they’re hit again and again with blizzards. Perhaps, I should just be thankful for the blue skies, the tropical temperatures, and the warm breeze!


BBQing in Cape Breton last summer

It’s funny the sort of feelings you have as you establish a new home for yourself. There are things I long for from Halifax: friends, a reliable internet connection, the ability to drive myself to any store I could ever want. But I know that when I get back to Canada, I’ll wistfully look out my window caked with snow and dream of Lake Victoria.

Home is like that. And as someone who has lived in many places and will likely live many more, I suspect my homes will increase at the same rate as my longings for the last one.

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A Tour of our New Home


The sign near the front of the campus

We are proud of our new home, so let me take you on a tour of our house and the JBFC campus! As you arrive on campus, you first come to two brick boxes on either side of the road that would typically have a gate locked in place.


The empty gate at the start of the campus

The gate has been removed because JBFC literally wants people to know that everyone is welcome!


To the left are two rectangular buildings positioned in the shape of an L. The bottom of the L is the science lab and library, while the height of the L is the Secondary School with four classrooms.


The library & lab on the left and secondary school on the right

As you continue along the road there is a path that goes left. Where these two meet, there is the dining hall, which is the size of a small gym (In the collage below: bottom two photos). It has a wall around the premises around 4 feet high and then columns hold up the tin roof a couple dozen feet in the air. It’s open to the outside as most things are here (with temperatures like this, you don’t always need walls). Beside the building is a large pile of wood that the staff uses to light fires that cook the rice. Bethany and I have both spent a day or two helping chop vegetables here and serve food to the students and staff who eat breakfast and lunch here. There aren’t tables or chairs (donations welcome!), so the younger students sit on the floor, while the older ones find a piece of wall to lean on.


As you continue along this path you pass an empty building, still under construction, which will eventually be the vocational school where future students will study tourism after graduating high school (In the collage above: center right photo).

The path ends at the administrative building, which is visible from the road (In the collage below: top two photos) . It is a square building with offices on the outside and a courtyard and fish pond in the middle. Staff, volunteer chaperones, and interns can come here for some occasional Wifi, and I have been spending my mornings here in a borrowed office writing and working on projects. Bethany has also been working here a lot over the last week, helping the nurse inventorying donated medications.


Joseph & Mary’s Primary School

Back to the road, it’s a couple minute walk to the Joseph & Mary Primary School. It’s built in the shape of a “U” with a court yard and a large tree in the centre.  The younger grades (pre-school and kindergarten) sit on a large carpet, while older children sit in desks built at JBFC. There are white boards and colorful art on the walls. Bethany and I sat in on classes here and were found to be novel with the children rubbing my beard and pulling out Bethany’s blond hair as souvenirs of our visit.



A little soccer behind Bibi Mimi’s

Another few minutes down the road and you’ll find yourself at Bibi Mimi’s – the girls’ home named after the founder’s grandmother. It is surrounded by a fence (because it legally has to be) with a garden of kale and peppers (which we planted!) in the front. It is three rectangle buildings that form a “U.” Each building has two dorms with 8 girls and a mama in each. In the centre is a fourth building, which acts as the girls’ kitchen and dining hall.


The carpenter’s tree

Not far from the entrance of the girls’ home is a large tree where you can usually find a few Maasai, a tribe of people that JBFC hires as security. They hang out in their red cloaks and occasionally make patrols down the main stretch. The tree is where the path divides. To the left are the farm storage shed, pig sty, and chicken coop with 400 baby chickens huddled under an iron stove. Behind this is the solar pump, which throughout the day pumps up to 50,000 liters of lake water up to the storage tank of water at the top of the hill.


The guest house in the bushes to the right; the Rock House to the left.

Just pass this on the left is where the carpenters work to build the furniture at JBFC. The road continues straight, but another path turns right up some cement stairs and to the top of the hill. Along this path is first the Guest House where volunteers stay and the campus director in training is temporarily staying before moving to JBFC’s new campus. Then it’s the “Rock House” where Melinda and Paula live. Finally it’s our house. As the road and path eventually become parallel, our house overlooks the road, farm, and lake!

When you first enter our house, there is the kitchen. We have a fridge and freezer (always stocked with bottled water), propane stove, and all the dishes we could need (we even have a coffee grinder and waffle maker)! Mamas, who are the women hired to make meals and keep these three houses in order, can often be found hanging out in our kitchen throughout the weekdays.

To the left, the kitchen opens up into our very large living room with vaulted ceilings and a wall of windows overlooking the often blue sky and bluer lake. There is a second door in the center of this wall, which is often left open and where dogs often lay, taking in the rays and overlooking their domain.

There is a long dining table, big enough for 12 people. There are three couches built by the carpenters at JBFC arranged in a semi-circle. And there is a large book shelf on the far wall with pictures and African trinkets. Every free space on the yellow walls is covered in African masks and paintings.

There are two spare bedrooms in the house, enough room to sleep another 7 people. They are currently mostly used for storage, though would house you (if you come to visit) or JBFC guests in certain circumstances.

Our room is to the back of the living room on the right-side. Its blue walls now have a collage of pictures from home hanging from string and clothespins. There’s a small bookshelf in the corner with books and trinkets (a small wooden fisherman I bought second-handing and my hula girl, who has followed me from job to job ever since working at the MS Society). The other corner has a much larger bookshelf/former TV stand with all of our clothing and electronics.  Our queen-sized bed and mosquito net are in the center of the room with a side-table on both sides: one has Bethany’s essential oil diffuser, while the other usually has my laptop as this is where we tend to watch movies most nights (we’re currently watching Penny Dreadful and Gavin & Stacey)!

There’s a long hall parallel to our room that comes off the living room, which leads to Seth’s room. This hall has a large shelving unit with JBFC’s collection of movies (alphabetized now to my pleasure) and three flags: one Tanzanian, one American, and one Canadian. Admittedly, the Canadian one is the biggest.


Jeff at Papa’s

If you go back to the road or exit out of our second door and walk down the hill to meet the road, it’s only a three minute walk to Papa’s Restaurant and the bungalows. The restaurant is a money generator for the campus, while feeding international staff and providing a future training ground for the vocational school. They serve a variety of dishes. My first day for lunch I tried my reigning favorite: Nile Perch in a coconut curry sauce (though the zucchini fries are a close second). There’s a great breeze at Papa’s, the internet works best there, and it too overlooks the lake. I can imagine trying to spend a lot of time there!

That’s the end of the tour! I hope you enjoyed it and will come out to see our home and us in real life! This blog can’t do how nice it is here any justice!

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