Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Settling in Pemba, starting in simplicity


Our first two weeks in Pemba was one of the hardest times we’ve had on our journey so far. We arrived fairly exhausted after our overland trip from Cape Town & we were met at the airport bus stop by the base leaders Katie & Jacinto, who took us to our new house. We hadn’t known where we were going to be based until we arrived. There are two bases in Pemba – one is the main base where all the children live & all the departments work – and the other is staff accommodation and is about 15 minutes walk along the beach. This smaller base is where our new house was – and although it wasn’t big, I think we were overjoyed that it was more than one room after being used to hotels for so long.

We agreed that we’d settle in for a week or two before deciding exactly what we were going to be doing at Iris. We had come to do micro-credit – helping people set up and run businesses through small loans – but Katie had asked us to consider helping with one of the areas that was particularly understaffed. Hardly anyone speaks a word of English, so our first task was to start language learning – Cate decided to focus on Makua (the main local African language) & I decided on Portuguese (spoken across the country). Every day we walked in the baking heat & humidity along to the other base to have our lunch in the dining hall and we’d sit and chat to people and learn the simplest phrases. At 5pm it would be dark & after supper we’d sit in our dimly lit house and play a game of Bananagrams, still hungry after the day’s food. We realised that without money, we were cut off from so many of the things that could make our lives easier. Going to a restaurant, buying extra food, having a car to drive around. We tried twice to go to the beach to relax and both times gave up and went home as we were denied any personal space.


And so our initial two weeks were long and testing. Our days were hot and shapeless, our bodies hungry, our house not feeling yet ours, our nights quiet and empty. Our bank balance hovered around the zero mark, before a couple of unexpected living costs dipped us into the red. For nine months we had been surviving entirely by praying to God to provide for our needs – and it had been a beautiful adventure of always having enough! We prayed, but we sank a little deeper into debt and began to ask questions. Were we still only to pray? And is it supposed to be this hard? The latter question became particularly acute as I would occasionally dissolve into tears over beans and rice (again).

Our route of prayer for finances began to isolate us. Friends would e-mail us asking how we were, and we would reply ambiguously that we were facing challenges. I sensed God begin to whisper to me. ‘Be honest, be open, be vulnerable. Don’t be proud, admit your need.’ So we e-mailed some close friends, and following that our parents, to ask for their wisdom on our money situation. Awaiting response and sitting in our little undecorated house trying to work out how to move forward. It was difficult, but it also was a time that taught us much. One day we bought some cheap grilled chicken, and I have never been so grateful. I began to understand the frustration of not having money, the jealousy that I felt as I saw others enjoy simple pleasures – and also beautiful things; the intimacy that came with drawing near to Him in the stretch, the dependence, the opening of my heart to another world of people unlike me.

It was not forever. In fact it was only to be two weeks, but it felt a lot longer. An American couple asked us to housesit (and dog-sit) while they returned to the States for two months. Delighted to be in a beautifully furnished, comfortable home, we accepted. A cheerful dog, a spacious yard, a fridge full of food – what a treat! Meanwhile, e-mail responses full of love and sincere counsel flooded our inbox, and we felt so held and cared for. Since then – through some of those precious ones, and through others too – abundant provision poured in, and has done ever since.

I can see the beauty of what we learned during our testing trip north, and our first fortnight in Pemba. But sometimes we are open to learning even more when hardship is chosen. Enforced simplicity can stir up a gritted-teeth, hardened-heart approach – this route says I have to do this, and it is hard, but I will do it. On the other hand, chosen sacrificial love has better fruit – that route says I will go without because I love you. Nonetheless despite our somewhat imposed simplicity, we managed to waver between these two routes and it was a humbling beginning in Pemba. And, sitting at the table of our air-conditioned home we were to housesit for two months, we seriously enjoyed our first bite of a homemade pancake.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Delightful Cape Town, Difficult journey

Cape Town was a blur of many beautiful memories. We began in Constancia with friends of Bill & Joyce, welcoming the latter with much excitement! After four months we were very happy to be with family again and sped off for lunch on a farm surrounded by pecking chicks. Our stay in Contancia was lovely, and we had some good conversations too.

We hired a car and our next stop was Newlands, staying in a very pretty cottage with the majestic Table Mountain watching over us. We took a very untaxing cable car to the top and witnessed stunning views of the beach below, with seemingly tiny ants sunbathing and moving around in miniscule metal cars. Braving an explosive ocean, we made it to Robben Island which for me was as solemn as it should be, but also inspiring as to what a person’s heart and will can achieve. We also ran around Kirstenbosch and there we drank the sweetest, deepest, thickest hot chocolate on earth.

Cape Town’s other side didn’t hide itself during our trip, for which I am glad. In fact visiting our friend Pete in Manenberg was a sheer delight, painting his house in bright colours and bible verses. Despite much fearful advice from people who look like us saying we mustn’t venture into the infamously dangerous Cape Flats, we met the friendliest Capetonians there and had a lot of fun. We also ate local African food in an informal settlement, met the children in the local nursery and asked ourselves questions. It takes forty minutes to drive on one road from the glossiest of wealth to the very hungry. Why on earth does Cape Town look like this? Why does the world look like this? Who will wade into this dynamic, be unafraid of its mess and love unceasingly? Am I willing to face these questions and not flinch? Are you?

We finished at Fishhoek, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, perched at the bottom of the earth. Surrounded by sea views, I spent much time snuggled in a rug on our veranda watching waves crash in the wind and drinking coffee. It was delightful to be with Bill and Joyce, who always love us so well and make us laugh. We had real conversations and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. It is really these rich days together, full of time and talk and sharing, that make up for the distance.

Our time together came to a close and a long journey north hung in the horizon. We had to make it all the way back to Iris in the Northern Mozambican town of Pemba, our chosen place to settle. Cape Town to Bloemfontein was the first stretch and we arrived at 1am into Bloem. Praying for a safe taxi, we had to trust a stranger with an unmarked car to take us in an unknown city to an unknown hostel. Considering all this, we arrived safely into a dingy warehouse and slept for five hours in a room with things like ‘Chris loves Stacey 2002’ ebbed in black marker pen on the wall.

Regretting our unrefreshing stop and vowing next time to sleep on the bus, we were back on a new bus to Johannesburg. We arrived drained to a perfect and invigorating stay with friends of Bill and Joyce. They looked after us so thoughtfully, fed us delicious food and sent us to Maputo cheered up with a gigantic bag of snacks.

Across the border to Maputo we felt a surprising sense of relief. Relief from what is still a great divide in South African – although there are differences in Mozambique, the stark separation is gone and in its place the warmth of mixture. In Maputo we checked into a backpackers and celebrated Nick eating fish again by going to a smart poolside restaurant and ordering the cheapest fish on the menu.

It was the following day that we realised we were very much behind on bookkeeping. The concerning conclusion was that we barely had enough money to eat, never mind make it to Pemba. Suddenly immeasurably grateful for the big bag of food our friends in Jo’burg gave us, we sat down to the share a little spinach salad in our hostel, and went to bed wondering what on earth we were going to do.

Quickly our imagined beachside amble north to Pemba, stopping in at little lodges to snooze, was forgotten. Our goal was to get to Pemba fast (because fast meant fewer hotel bills). We spent the next day brainstorming in the local bus company’s office. At 3am that night we boarded the bus to Beira, alongside weeping wives waving goodbye to working husbands, and 17 hours later we emerged at Beira utterly exhausted. I’m sure many enjoy their stay in Beira. What we read about it was it was a malaria hotspot and had an unpleasant night scene. What we experienced was a long and hungry day wandering around, with not a lot to eat, hoping someone might hand us a wad of cash. (Before you all start to worry, we are doing much better financially these days, but forget I told you for the moment, so you can really enjoy our tumultuous tale.)

Another middle-of-the-night awakening and another 17-hour bus journey awaited us. By this time we were really having to pull ourselves on the bus, pull ourselves north. The bus was unbearably cold with the AC pulsing freezing jets all night long, so I wore my scarf wrapped around my head for pure warmth and again felt grateful for the nuts and raisins to nibble on through the night. Finally in Nampula, friends of friends kindly took us in and fed us hot bean stew – and I am unsure if I have ever been so thankful for a hot meal! We spent a day resting at their place as I was feeling a bit unwell, and the next day spent seven hours on a bumpy ride up to Pemba. The last seven hours of a much longer trip that took seven months: England, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, southern Mozambique, central Mozambique, northern Mozambique… Pemba. And this time to stay.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A Playful Month in Zimbabwe

The school finished in dancing, celebration and glory on December 19th, 150 students racing out of Pemba believing they really could do anything. We raced out among them, but we knew we were returning in a month or two to this beautiful little Mozambiquan seaside town. Yes, during our stay God had spoken to us about staying, but more on that later.

Twenty of us jammed in the back of a truck, we left Pemba early in the morning. Zimbabwe – a land birthing stories of unparelled beauty and also pain – awaited us. An uncomfortable seven hours later, we emerged grubby and tired on a stunning farm outside Nampula, a town a little further south in Mozambique. Towering orange mountain rocks encircled us, and we spent a happy day playing in the greenery and running away from unnaturally huge insects. There we met two easygoing Zimbabweans who were driving to Harare the following day, and offered us a lift. Unbelievably helpful for us, we said yes please.

We broke for the night in a delightful guesthouse near the border of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. However the ‘superbugs’ (as we called them) we came across on the Nampula farm paled in comparison to the creatures that surrounded our little room. Great lizards, enormous crickets and cockroaches in the sink all competed for the ‘most alarming’ prize, but our winner was surely the baby scorpion hanging happily on our curtain. We fearfully informed the lady preparing our room, who calmly pinched the curtain with her bare fingers, killing the little intruder in two pinches.

We arrived in Harare and had a strange couple of days. We foolishly accepted a lift from a stranger (I know, I know) and felt a little shaken afterwards, as it brought back some unpleasant feelings from Dar. It felt almost like a ghost city – once a hub of art, life and richness, our snapshot was of countless vacant hotels, slightly sad Christmas lights and angry men. Happy to leave on the bus to Bulawayo we met our wonderful friend Ezra who took us in at his farm for what ended up being a month.

And what a fun month it was! We remember that month full of good conversation round his huge wooden table, long mornings with coffee, worship music always playing on the ipod, lots of delicious food, rambling around the farm with his two enormous puppies, making new friends, jumping on the back of Ez’s pick-up. We enjoying glimpsing Ez’s daily life, visiting ladies outgrowing chickens in his project and meeting some of the Zimbabwean leaders he works with – and even visiting Ebeneezer, a beautiful stretch of land where youth learn to farm in a similar way to how God cares for the land. Seeing the land bursting with food brought hope to our hearts and portrayed a bright alternative to the British media’s desolate depiction of a bleak nation. We absolutely heard horrendous stories during our trip; no doubt many Zimbabweans have witnessed a terrible degree of suffering. But the inspirational people we meet, the crops waving in the breeze and the faith of many stirred us with excitement.

We spent Christmas spotting elephants and hippos, and saw the unspeakably beautiful Victoria Falls. Our first wedding anniversary was celebrated over a veggie lasagne in a cafĂ© – not exactly five star treatment, but full of good conversations, laughter and love – the good things of life! We even got to catch our dear friend Chris before we set out south.

And set out south we did, waving goodbye to our friends from the Bulawayo – Pretoria bus. South Africa here we come! I had never been before and this country of lions and landscapes, famous for countless reasons, held much allure. And it was only a night bus away…

We woke exhausted after a bad night’s sleep on the bus to Pretoria. (Picture it being the middle of the night, having to walk for ages carrying all your luggage. It was at this moment I remember saying to Nick in quite a cross voice ‘Why do we travel like this?’) Anna, our friend, came to collect us and hosted us in her beautiful house for what was an oasis of rest. We were still reeling at any Western food, and loved roaming around Western shopping complexes – we had seen nothing like this for months. Onwards to Cape Town - 24 hours in a train, but absolutely worth it for who awaited us there: the one and only Bill & Joyce Lear!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Iris Harvest School, Oct-Dec

Is it possible to sum up two months in a few paragraphs? It is even more of a challenge when those two months are spent intensely, sometimes learning an abundance of new thoughts, sometimes mediating on the beauty of the oldest truths, the heart whizzing through the weeks with barely any time to digest all that is poured in. Does that make any sense?

Let me start with our home. We were given a little concrete house amidst fifteen other houses. In this little house we had a room a little larger than our double bed. We shared our wee kitchen with eight other women (also doing the school). This was to be our community for the next ten weeks. We woke around 6am, to have tea and bread for breakfast, have a quiet time, sometimes hand-washing our clothes until we dripped with sweat, and began class at 8am singing to God and loving him with all our hearts. We sat on the floor for 5 or 6 hours listening to some of the most inspirational people walking the earth share with us – on all manner of things… on love, on being with the poor, on learning a new culture, on miraculous healing and raising the dead, on being intimate with Jesus, knowing the Father’s heart… It was truly shaping and we would always leave for beans at lunch with our heads spinning and our hearts on fire – inspired to be what we heard about.

Afternoons were free, but we would often have meetings, hang around with kids, read our required book list… Yet sometimes Nick and I would escape the crazy schedule and catch up over a soda. It was a deeply beautiful time and we learnt a lot. During those months it felt like my head was full, my heart was full, and I was hungry to see what all of this teaching looked like in practice.

A question Heidi often posed to us was “what does love look like?” To the widow, to the orphan, to the rich banker, to your sister, to the lonely? And I felt my heart enlarge… She shared from her depths, pleading with us to stop with compassion for the one in front of us, and also inviting us to stop to spend time with God, to let him be a Daddy to us, to cover us with his love. Often we would spend time singing to him, talking to him after someone had taught, and it was in these times that I felt him open my eyes to new things – like, for example, I felt a huge joy that I had been forgiven. Often people tell you in church “oh you are forgiven through Jesus” and we are supposed to be happy about it, but sometimes we are pretending because we don’t know what that really means. One day after Rolland shared about Jesus saving us I felt so happy, so delighted, so grateful I was in tears.

The Iris Harvest School is an incredible opportunity to grow in your faith. For us, it was like someone holding our hand as we had ventured out of our home countries into Africa, following a sense of God’s call to work with children in need, but with no home or place to go. Some of you may have been to church conferences or church weekends and experienced God in a new and more powerful way. The school was a bit like that, but tenfold. People had come from all over the world to experience God and that itself bought a really exciting feel to the group of 150 or so students. On the other hand most of us found being outside of our comfort zones pretty tough – lack of personal space in the houses and out and about, the soaring temperatures, the basic diet (oops, we’re now responsible for that diet!) – and that meant it was pretty difficult at times. Also, for me it was stretching to hear so much about miracles and the supernatural and to be with a group that was quite as loud as this one was in the meetings. At times some would scream and laugh and cry and fall over when they were experiencing God in some way. It’s always tempting to judge people for doing this and want to feel like they are looking for attention, but I tried to fight this as hard as I could and just focus on my response to what we were learning about.

By far and away the most inspirational teaching came from Heidi Baker who started the ministry with her husband. I have never heard teaching with the heart that she has and with real life action to back it up. The only reason Iris is here in Mozambique at all is because 15 years ago she started going to a rubbish dump and telling them about Jesus, and then started taking in kids to their home when they found orphans who’d been left to fend for themselves. Rolland Baker too brought excellent teaching, bringing a lot of wisdom and balance to the more fiery visiting speakers. And fiery ones there were! From the USA, from Singapore, from Brazil, from Mozambique… people Heidi thought would inspire us and who were walking the walk too. Some of the major themes were taking risks, expecting miracles, being compassionate to the one person in front of you when surrounded by so much need, coming to a new culture humbly and from a place of service and bringing in the kingdom of God through preaching the gospel and praying for the sick. Iris Pemba has an incredible commitment to send out teams every weekend week in week out to visit villages in the bush to show the Jesus film, preach the gospel and pray for the sick.

I think this last thing was the thing that impacted me most on the school. I think for a long time I have drifted from the commitment I had in my 20’s to enable people to hear of the wonderful grace that is available to them in Jesus. He has absolutely transformed my life and continues to do so, and I want to live and speak in a way that brings people to God. I think for a long time, under the cover of sensitivity or feeling like I was too hypocritical to preach any message, I have long ceased to live like that. I felt like a weight lifted off me on the school. I think it helps stepping out of the UK and being in a different culture – it helped me see more clearly what my life had become. I was also spending a lot of my time and energy focusing on issues of the environment and of the institutional church. These are still areas I am passionate about, but they had become far too dominant for me. Jesus’ first disciples had a pretty simple message on their minds when they travelled village to village.

For me, the school was not only a beautiful walk but a wrestle. “What does love look like?” is a challenging question, and I found myself constantly probing myself. Is it ok to have a coke? Should I live in a mud hut? It is easy to say “no, no, don’t be too extreme” to these kind of questions, but I think there is beauty in loving the poor so much that they become my family, and it is difficult to see huge gulfs of wealth between me and my family. But there is also a beauty in letting God be Daddy and letting him treat me, nurture me, look after me, and that might mean a coke! Throughout the school I wrestled a fair bit, and occasionally drifted into the arid lands of pushing myself towards a simplicity of lifestyle that I could not achieve – nor one Daddy was asking of me. I found the food tough too and found myself longing for a feta salad like never before.

Despite all this, I was ringing with joy from so many different wonderful experiences. With hindsight now I see a lot of beautiful thoughts were carved into my heart during that time… But, really, life is more beautiful now we are actually living it (more about this later). Yes it harder now. Yes we have to engineer our own spiritual input rather than pitching up to six hours of teaching and singing. Yes now people can be really mean and a lot of people during the school was amazingly sweet. Yes we slept more then than we do now. Yes, then, we were free to go to the beach whenever we wanted, and now we have to hand out plates of beans and deal with terrible conflicts. But I found learning about love was absolutely not what I crave. I crave to live a life of love. A life that spends hours receiving the beautiful love of my saviour, and a life that pours out, like wine, unceasing, full of compassion for the one who fights, full of healing for the one who hurts, overflowing and pouring, redeeming and changing. Why only learn about the most beautiful thing on earth when one can really become it?

Friday, 20 May 2011

Danger in Dar

If you were following our blog when we travelled down to Mozambique from London, we got as far as the Kenya-Tanzania border where we had our third and most embarassing incident of not having enough money to buy the visa into the next country & where I had to spend a few hours travelling back to a town with a cash machine while Cate sat with the border police. All of this meant that by the time we had cleared the border – getting on the back of a motorbike being the only way to travel between Lunga Lunga in Kenya and Hora Hora in Tanzania – it was too late to travel further, which we had planned to do, as we had often read dubious reports of small border towns.

It was a slightly scary experience, as the almost complete lack of electrical lighting added to our general fear of borders, but we found a basic hotel which served an even more basic meal. We even braved a walk around and talked to some of the people, who were very friendly, and there were plenty of Masai in their traditional dress. In the morning light, all fears were gone as we waited for the next bus travelling down to the capital, Dar Es Salaam. This bus proved to be the bumpiest we had yet experienced with us being thrown right out of our seats for a particularly bumpy stretch. Nevertheless we made it safely to the city.

When we arrived, the taxi drivers outside were already competing for our custom by trying to catch our eye on the bus & we agreed to go with a particularly keen man who gave his name as ‘Jones’. With the benefit of hindsight there will be many points where it is hard to see why we didn’t smell something fishy, but remember we had travelled across Europe, through the Middle East & down through half of Africa without a hitch, so we’d become very trusting.

We had a few budget places in mind to stay in, but he recommended the Arocha Grand Hotel & we decided to go with his advice. We noticed he sat in reception for the whole time we were checking in and was keen to give us his number if we needed a taxi later on. We did need a taxi to take us to the ferry port for our trip to the island of Zanzibar, so booked Jones to return the next day. He picked us up with his friend in the car. This would be very strange in the UK, but it didn’t feel any different to us than a lot of other strange experiences we’d had on our journey down.

At the port, his friend accompanied us through the ticket office, which was appreciated as we didn’t know much about what to do and there was a lot of hassle at the port, like men arguing and picking up rocks outside the office. At the end Jones’ friend asked if we wanted a taxi to pick us up on return to Dar two days later. We booked this friend, and told him our return time.

And so off we zoomed to Zanzibar for a special couple of days. A birthday treat and a celebration of the near-end of our travels, we booked into a lovely beachside place. With an entire apartment to ourselves, we walked on white sands and swam in astonishingly blue waters. I had a lovely massage listening to the gentle murmuring of waves, and we nuzzled up with prawns by candlelight. The sound of Zanzibar evokes wealth in the imagination, and fittingly so– exotic and beautiful, a picture of boats in azure sea in the afternoon, warm fushia skies by night.

Two days later in the Zanzibar port, the morning ferry was cancelled. Still, after getting the afternoon ferry after a lovely lunch in Stone Town, the man was there to pick us up. I felt bad that he had waited all day for our custom.

He took us to his taxi where there were two new men – one was introduced as his driver and the other his uncle. We had gone from having 1 to 2 to 3 men in the taxi each time and had thought it was just a cultural thing – we had often seen the Afircan custom of sharing business with friends or family even when it wasn’t what we would call efficient or needed. They were also incredibly charming and friendly – some of the friendliest men we had met on our travels. We had intended to go to the Mozambique embassy that day, but because our boat was delayed, we knew it was now shut. The guys said they knew the embassy worker and could take us to his house, where he would arrange a visa for us. We were so pleased about this as we were behind schedule in getting to Pemba and thought it was a real stroke of luck. Within about half an hour we were driving out of town. They turned off the main road, saying we were near the embassy worker’s house. I remember feeling a slight twinge at this point, that perhaps it was a little bit odd that we were driving out of town with three guys we didn’t know, but I put it down to just one more of the very different experieces that we’d had on this trip.

They turned off the main road – saying it was to avoid the traffic – and as we were heading away into a quiet, dusty, residential area they stopped the car and in got one more man. We now had four men in the car – two of them in the front and two squeezed in the back with us. I know it seems hard to believe, but even at this point we trusted them. Even now we were laughing and chatting away with them and with this new man, believing them to be some of the nicest people we’d met on our trip.

A few minutes later they stopped the car and said it was time to introduce themselves. This was a chilling and horrible moment. In an instant all their charm and friendliness vanished. The newest man seemed to take the lead and calmly explained that they were going to take all our money, and that nothing would happen to us if we cooperated. The man in the front was much more agitated and shouted at us that they were dangerous. We had long ago decided that in a mugging we would do what was asked of us, that money was nothing compared to saftey. We were also trapped. The doors were locked from the front, they were four strong men & I remembered that I had waved to children before and they’d looked right through me. The windows were reflective.

So I handed over all our cash and cards. They took all this, but they were quite nervous and agitated and quite soon they were having a four-way shouting match with each other. Cate was crying by this time and pleading with them not to hurt me. Under pressure, Cate showed her selfless character. The man in the front was angry that Cate was crying, saying that they hadn’t hit her or anything. In a panic they thrust all the cash and cards back at me and drove off, as if they weren’t happy with how this was going. That didn’t last long however & they stopped again and took everything back.

We had already been in the car with them for about an hour by now, Congolese music playing the whole time in the background. We were more than ready to get out of that car. But their method was to drive around the city using different cash machines, not taking too much at each machine, until they had reached the limit on the cards. On our journey we had constantly had problems with our cards not working in all machines or with all banks and sometimes not working in a country at all. We tried to explain this to them, as the cards were not working at the first few machines they tried. They seemed to believe us for a time, but as time went on and they were getting increasingly stressed. They were driving madly around, finding new ATMs, parking up, getting out and queueing, using the card and seeing no cash. They decided we were lying about the PIN numbers. This was a sickly, horrible time as their threats increased, as did our pleas that we were telling the truth and that the cards were at fault. They kept saying, “Maybe you have made a mistake with the PIN number” as if I was lying and that would make it easier to say “Sorry, you’re right, I have made a mistake, this is the right number.” But I knew I hadn’t. It was starting to feel like we’d never be released. Even so, we were able to explain that as Christians we forgave them for what they were doing & that we wouldn’t hold it against them.

After three hours of no success, they were convinced we were lying. They provided an ultimatum, that they would kill me if Nick did not confess the correct pin. The man left the car for what he said was his final time. We were praying like crazy, unbearably desperate. I felt as though God showed me a huge ring of fire around us, protecting us. Sure enough, that time the pin worked! I tell you, it was a complete miracle and I believe God utterly broke in and saved our lives.

After retracting a nasty amount of cash, they put us in a tuk tuk (three-wheeled taxi) and sent us off to a hotel of their recommendation. Not keen to take advice from our fellow bandits, I requested we go straight to the smartest and safest hotel in town. There we spent a few days resting, worshipping and recovering. It was a beautiful time. We were fragile and yet so held by our loving God. We would get scared and then we would worship and feel safe and bold. We slept in unimaginable luxury after two months of roughing it to reach Africa. We ate a lot of food. We also caught a flight to Pemba, keen to head towards our destination. And I must say once we arrived in our little Pemba place, we let out a big sigh of relief. Rich and incredibly joyous, and yet full of hard hours and tears – the long journey south was finally over. At least for the moment.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

What has happened since we last wrote

So we did finally fulfill our original blog title and make it all the way from Camberwell to Cape Town. We travelled through 3 continents & 18 Countries, on 30 long train & bus journeys (many of which were through the night & a couple were more than 24 hours!), plus 2 plane flights, 3 ferries, quite a few taxis and tuk-tuks and motorbikes and one camel. London to Cape Town is about 6000 miles as the plane flies, but I think we travelled around 9000 miles to get there. It cost a lot more in pounds and a lot less in carbon dioxide. And we had a life-changing experience of cultures and people that we may never have again (or might have in a couple of years if we want to come back and visit!) I’ve got to say that neither of us are born travellers – we didn’t chose to do this for fun and it was pretty tough at times. But I think it has shaped us and our ability to adjust to the different culture that we now live in.

Let’s go back to early October last year. We will spend a bit of time going through our experience in Dar es Salaam – mainly the reason why our blog stopped so abruptly. Then we must share a bit about our two months attending the Iris school in Mozambique, zoom onto our month in Zimbabwe, share stories from South Africa and finally report back from our long trip north – back to Pemba. I now sit in Pemba looking out on the expansive blue Indian Ocean, the sun beginning to sink in the sky. We now call this place our home. But I am skipping ahead. Back to Dar, and then onwards and upwards!