Monday, January 25, 2010

Winter Shows Off

I've never seen so many kinds of precipitation fall from the sky in one winter. It seems as if winter is showing off: "Look how many ways I can complicate your life! Look how many reasons I can give you to cancel school!" But there is also this: "Look how beautiful the trees are when God flocks them all in white frost!" And: "Look how pretty the icy trees are back-lit by the sun!"

Ok, ok. We see the beauty, we appreciate the fact that we have no control over the weather, we give credit to the One who does have control, we take extra precautions when we venture out, we reschedule our lives and accept that we will be spending part of June at school. BUT ENOUGH ALREADY!!! My husband jokingly told Victor and Dennis this morning that we were going to have to send them home- we can't take any more of this and whoever we have offended is going to get them back! I'm glad they laughed.

Dennis was delighted to see the sun Sunday morning- we all felt a tiny glimpse of hope. But alas, by the time church was over, we were back under an overcast sky, the wind had switched, and by nightfall the snow had started again. Almost every day he asks me, "When is the snow going to melt?" All I can say is that each day we are closer to spring. I'm not sure he believes me anymore.

One good way to boost our spirits is to serve others. Both Victor and Dennis are always willing to do that, and last week was no exception. We organized some other kids and picked up branches- casualties from the ice storm- and chipped at ice for elderly folks in town for 3 hours in the cold and wet. (see picture) They were real troopers! And it helped that the kids were having fun throwing snowballs by the end of the day.

Victor has been wanting to walk on frozen water, so on the way home from our clean up project (since we were already wet and dirty), we stopped at a nearby lake to walk on the water. We took a quick picture to record the event and hastened home to get out of our wet socks!

The snowball fight (and our wet feet) signaled the end of our ice storm day home from school. But not the end of winter, I'm afraid. Good to know the sun is still there, even though we can't see it!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Africa is a Continent, not a Country

One snowy (of course) Saturday in January we went to see the movie about South Africa and Nelson Mandela entitled "Invictus". It was a wonderful movie about Mandela's leadership, the evils of apartheid, and how the national rugby team helped unify the nation at a critical time in their history. I erroneously assumed that Victor and Dennis would know all about this story before we even arrived at the posh midtown cinema in Omaha. As it turns out, the only thing they knew even a little about was rugby, and that wasn't much. This is the latest in a series of lessons I'm learning about how big, how varied, how diverse, and how complex Africa is. Just because something happens in Africa does not mean my African sons know anything about it. Victor is fond of repeating this phrase when I ask a stupid question: "Mum, Africa is a continent, not a country."

So I asked them if they were offended when I referred to them as my African sons. They said that they were not. But then, I am their "North American host mother" and I do fix their "North American food". So I think they are very patient with me. And I'm very thankful for that.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In the Kitchen with Victor and Dennis

Being snowed in AGAIN has given us more opportunities to have fun in the kitchen. Victor is always present and helpful at meal time (maybe because he wants to hasten the arrival of the meal to the table- he has grown 2 inches since he got here!). He sometimes cooks for his brothers at home, so he is not afraid to ask questions and try new things. Dennis is a different story. The cooks at the boarding school do not need helpers, and wouldn't have time to answer questions. So it was a big step when Dennis told me he would like to learn how to make pizza so he could surprise Rose, his sister-in-law (he stays with his brother when not at school). Men are not generally found helping in the kitchen because that is considered women's work in their culture.

For our first try, we started with a pizza crust mix and canned pizza sauce. We doubled everything for obvious reasons (what family of 4 is happy with 1 medium pizza? especially when that family includes growing boys?), used 2 pounds of prime ground beef, and a large cookie sheet for the pizza instead of two round pizza pans. This was a little confusing, though, for Dennis. After we put the finished product in the oven, he asked me if it would come out round! We had a good laugh as I explained that pizzas don't have to be round and that the oven will not change the shape of what we put in. I think Dennis enjoyed the process, though he was wondering if he would be able to take the ingredients home that he would need. Next time, we will make it from "scratch" so he can have a better idea how to do it in Tanzania. And if he wants a round pizza, he might want to add pizza pan to the list of things he wants to take home with him. Rose will be so surprised!