The last few months…

Well, folks, it has been almost three months since we last posted a blog. Three months!! And, let me tell you, those three months flew by in a flash!

Whenever that much time elapses between blog posts (this, unfortunately, happens more frequently that not), I have a debilitating urge to fill you in on everything that has happened–which, of course, is impossible.

So, in the words of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride:

“Let me explain… no, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

On March 20 we welcomed a charming little man into our family: Oliver Easton. We have enjoyed getting to know him over the past few months. He has already brought so much joy and laughter to our little family.

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Because much of our furlough-time was spent waiting for our baby–and then recovering from an unplanned C-section–we did not get to see everyone we would have liked! If you are one of our many friends who we did not get to visit this time, just know we missed seeing you and look forward to the next time our paths cross.

Though we would have loved to spend more time with our friends and loved ones across the US, the fact that we didn’t have much choice but to stay put for a while actually allowed us some time to rest and rejuvenate–something that we really needed. So, though we may have been a little sleep deprived from the nights with a new baby, by the end of our time in the States we felt rested and ready to get back to Tanzania.

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My two boys.

Which brings us up-to-date. We are back in Mtwara! We were warmly welcomed by team-mates and friends. It has been so fun to introduce Oliver to our many friends here!

And since “summing up” is much harder to do in words, I turn to my ever faithful pictures to do the work for me.

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Bekari meeting baby Oliver (pronounced: Oh-li-va)

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Fatima meeting Oliver

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Aletheia and Oliver

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Jeda and Oliver (the two little boys on the team)

 

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Swimming with Sarah and Reed

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Oliver’s first swim in the Indian ocean!!

 

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Trull Family Vacation, Part 2 — Vic Falls

They call it Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “the smoke that thunders.”

Approaching from the Zambia side, at the top of the falls, from miles away you can see a misty smoke blown high into the air. And you can hear the thundering.

Everything else after that is a dream.

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Photo Summary: February & March 2012

These past few months have been fast-paced and non-stop for us. Amidst language school, village trips, and meetings around East Africa, we’ve fallen a few blog posts behind. So here’s a quick summary post that we hope will catch you up on the major events… in pictures.

January 30 – February 17: Three-week language program at State University of Zanzibar

We had class from 8 to 12 every day. This is our teacher, Mwalimu Farouq.

We lived with a local Zanzibari family as a part of this immersion program. We ate all our meals with them and visited into the night, all in Swahili. This is our host mother, Mama Rahma.

Mama Rahma's daughter, Amal, was also a good language helper.

We were also able to attend some special events, such as this engagement party.

February 20 – 24: East Africa Men’s Retreat at Rondo Retreat Center in Kenya

Every year a different team around East Africa plans this event and brings in a speaker. It is a great time for us to be challenged as well as to connect with and learn from others around the region doing work similar to ours.

One of the many old houses at Rondo Retreat Center, which is located in the beautiful Kakamega Forest.

While passing through Nairobi on my way to and from the retreat, I was able to spend a fun evening with my two good friends Murithi and Mwenda, both of whom I grew up with as a child in Kenya.

February 27 – March 9: Back in Mtwara

After a month out of Mtwara, it was great to be back in town. We tried to hit the ground running, making the rounds to greet our friends around town and get updated on any news. We also quickly made plans to head out to some villages to build some developing relationships and to have some more good Swahili immersion time. So our first week back we spent Thursday in a village area on the edge of Newala, Thursday night in Tandahimba, and Friday in the village of Chikongo, where we made plans to return for a much longer stay in April. Monday the following week we attended a surprise wedding ceremony near Newala (we’ll have to write more about that in another blog post); then we spent Monday night in Newala and Tuesday traveling to nearby villages with the groom to announce the news of his wedding to his friends and relatives who hadn’t heard.

Women singing to the bride inside the hut as a part of the wedding ceremony.

The men wait outside the hut, bearing witness as the groom and father of the bride solidify their agreement as overseen and prayed for by a local Muslim leader.

The ceremony continues.

Singing Makonde songs as we drive the bride and groom to the groom's home after the ceremony.

March 14 – 27: Tanzania Meeting, Visiting Rangi Church near Mwanza, and East African Women’s Retreat.

Group photo at the Tanzania Meeting.

Following the Tanzania Meeting, Lauren and the team girls headed off to the Women's Retreat on Lake Kivu in Rwanda.

Lake Kivu in Rwanda.

While our wives were at the Women's Retreat, the men (plus Reed and Aletheia) spent 3 days with the Rangi church near Mwanza.

The Rangi church has been extremely helpful to our team in many ways, and we are very thankful for them and for the time we have been able to spend with them last month.

We are very grateful to have been able to participate in these events across East Africa and believe that the work we do here in Mtwara will undoubtedly benefit as a result of this time. But we’re glad to be back in town and to be getting back into a more regular routine here in Mtwara.

Our Summer in the Deep South

“Summer in the Deep South” — The words on my magazine page jump out at me. These words have always conjured up certain images in my mind: cookouts, ice-cold-lemonade, wading in the creek, lazing about with friends and family surrounded by lush green mountains, and, occasionally, swatting pesky mosquitos. Though a Tanzanian summer is incredibly different from the ones of my childhood in East Tennessee, the pictures on my magazine page somehow don’t look so different from the images floating in my head of our recently-ended summer.

I look at the words again and, in my mind, drop the font size and add some letters to the type. It now reads: “Summer in the Deep South of Tanzania”. There. Now I turn my attention to the pictures and begin inserting familiar faces, changing the scenery a bit, and Voilà!!

Thought I would share some of those pictures with you:

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July 4, 2011

I woke early from my uneasy slumber. The sun was lifting herself over the horizon, and her beams steadily pulled themselves through the screens of our bedroom window. An orange hue filled the dark room. Our neighbor’s rooster added his voice to the new morning’s symphony of light. He shouted to all that the world was fresh and that today we should expect, like every other day, everything and nothing, terrors and treasures, horrors and hopes.

As I sat up in bed and climbed out from under our mosquito net I ignored the rooster’s call, and I thought nothing of what the day might bring.

It was neither the sun nor the bird that had pulled me from bed that morning. Nor had I abandoned my rest for any idea or ethic or principle or discipline, but for a friend.

Life is a treacherous beast — if you don’t believe this then you, like me, are a part of the world’s elite, and you and I are sheltered from many of this planet’s monsters. But B___, the friend for whom I woke, he has no affluence, few connections, and even little food or shelter to shield him from the beasts of destruction. In the last 6 months they have devoured his family, taking from him, first, his youngest son, a 9 year old, next, his dear wife, whom he loved, and finally, his last remaining child, Ali, a thirteen year old boy. He was left alone, brokenhearted, and with news that he had a life-threatening disease that would drastically alter the coming years of his life, if those years came at all.

There were, and still are, many dark hours for B___, and hope is sometimes more evasive, more transient, than most admit. But laughter drifts up from all corners of the earth, and everyone has moments of joy that, even if just for that brief moment, outweigh even the heaviest sorrows.

So I woke for a friend. A friend who, like me, has self-destructive beasts living even within his own soul, but who, also like me, is trying to follow a candle through a dark room. I woke for a friend who I really don’t know all that well, but with whom I have already laughed and cried many times… and laughed some more. I pulled myself from bed for another day with another friend — a day like any other.

We were headed to B___’s home village, a place called Nachunyu, about an hour and a half by motorcycle from my home in Mtwara. B___ met me at my house with his supplies to spend a week in the village visiting his extended family and childhood friends. We loaded up my dirtbike, strapping everything on tightly, and started our journey north. As we left town he shouted excitedly to a few friends who we passed, “We’re going to visit my family! He’ll come back today, but I’ll stay for a week!”

B___ shouted over the roar the of the motorcycle and the wind, telling me about the places we were passing and directing me around new turns and down new paths. Almost two hours later we were pulling into the remote, hilltop village of Nachunyu, in distant view of the Indian Ocean. People shouted to B___ as we pulled into his part of the village, welcoming him home. “I’ll come by and visit you later!” he shouted back.

The following hours were spent meeting B___’s friends and family. I was warmly welcomed, and enjoyed meeting everyone and seeing the place. Soon into my visit my friend invited me to walk with him and his oldest and closest childhood friend, Sele, out to the nearby edge of their village. Here we came into a thickly wooded area with many towering trees as well as smaller, younger ones growing beneath. A few gravestones stood beneath the trees, and I quickly learned that this was the village cemetery and that those who couldn’t afford gravestones, which was nearly everyone, would instead plant a tree over the resting place of their loved one. The tree would be a marker to remind where the loved one rests, and to remind that from death will come life.

We had come to visit the graves of B___’s wife and two sons. Their deaths being recent, small, young saplings marked their graves. The large number of other young saplings in the area reminded us that sorrow and death are shared by all, and perhaps unite us as much as life itself.

I left B___ with his mother in Nachunyu, where his father hopped on the back of my bike to hitch a ride to his home village, about a half hour away. After a nice visit there, I left for home, finally alone again except for the pile of Papayas loaded on the back of my bike and a handful of chicken eggs in my backpack, gifts from my kind hosts.

Except for the roaring wind, the ride home was quiet. As I drove south I noticed many roads branching in many directions, unexplored paths that I wanted to turn down — paths that might, for a time, distract me from my current one with all its difficulties and ambiguities. But this was the road I had chosen, and it was the road that I needed to travel, so I clicked my dirt bike into fifth gear, turned the throttle, and bent my gaze forward to the road ahead and the glowing horizon beyond.

Loaded up and ready to go.

Headed off.

In Nachunyu with B___'s family.

With B___'s Dad. The Papayas at the bottom left (including a huge pile off screen) were a gift to me.

Weekends and Photos

We’ve had two weekends so far, and are starting our third today.

The first Saturday Lauren and I took public transport into Tanga town to run errands. In the afternoon we rented canoes at TICC (located in a Mangrove forested inlet of the Indian Ocean) and explored the sea. Sunday our team met together as a church community. The second weekend we spent all of Saturday morning washing our clothes by hand. On Sunday our team met together as a church again, and Lauren and I were also able to join the Norwegian students here at TICC on a boat (‘dhow’) excursion out to a large sandbank island that appears when the tides are right. We spent a good portion of the day lounging on the sandbank, Lauren reading Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder, and I reading Hopes and Impediments by Chinua Achebe. We also did some snorkeling, seeing some interesting fish and quite a few impressively large Sea Urchins.

Today we plan to have a date day. We will head into Tanga to buy some groceries and hopefully to find a pizza place we hear exists somewhere in town.

 

Trull and Kellis Temporary Language School Home

 

 

 

Team Breakfast on the roof of our house.

 

 

Chai, Chapati, and Mandazis for breakfast.

 

 

Kitchen for the Language School Restaurant.

 

 

Conference Building where class is held.

 

 

Us in class with Mwalimu Siagi.

 

Glimpses of Our Year

So, since Lauren’s camera broke on our big road trip, our life has been far less photo oriented lately. However, I have thought to pull my own much older, more worn and torn camera a few times since hers broke. And today I finally got a chance to download the pictures off of it, which I quickly realized were photos from a smattering of events over the past year. They were from the few rare times I thought to have my camera with me, and they had accumulated all year long. So I thought I’d post some random samples here. It will be a sort of year at a glance for me. Here we go.

Moving into our apartment.

Flying to Zanzibar.

Hanging out with Mwenda and his family.

Siezing the snow with Andrew and Ross.

Packing for our road trip using gifts courtesy of Uncle Stan and Aunt Tina.

Lauren watercolors a scene from our road trip.

Larry's Pudding.

Trull family getaway to a cabin near Hot Springs, AR.

Lauren learning to weld.

Us on stage at the MRN benefit Dinner in Dallas, TX.

Our apartment before we started disassembling it in preparation for our big move.

Rachel and Jeremy at Rachel's birthday dinner.

Lauren's rescued chair gifted to the community garden.

Andrew, Reed, Caleb, and Aletheia at a team meeting.