Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rock of Ages

“… cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee,” by Augustus Toplady. This is a line of deep strength in a hymn I love dearly.

My morning devotions yesterday got only about halfway done before picture sorting from my Africa trip took over. As I resume this page in Tabletalk today, a string of events from the past week are now coming into alignment spiritually in my reflecting mind.

First, there was the tree I told you about me climbing on site in Dar es Salaam. I was eager to climb it. I knew I had the ability to as well. I was frustrated because I was failing where I knew I was able to succeed. I told God about my desire to climb the tree. I told Him with a heart that was confident and resting in knowledge that His will (which is so much broader in scope) is best, and that he knows my desire already (even better than I). I said, “I want to climb this tree, it’d be great if you would make that happen,” and attempted climb #3, the successful climb, with confidence in an unchanging God.

Later in the week, we were on our way home from a local Swahili church. Our bus had made its way down a very narrow (shops on each side of a car-width lane) and bumpy dirt road for about a kilometer before we reached the church. We were all amazed at the driver’s ability to navigate. I have no idea how or where the driver managed to get the bus facing the opposite direction for when we exited church and got onto the vehicle, but he did. We encountered an additional obstacle on the way home though, a car was parked alongside a shop at a curve in the road, inhibiting our ability to round this bend. Our bus was pinned, trapped. As people began gathering around the bus, chatting with the driver, and all giving thoughts and ideas for a hard to imagine escape, our driver got out and began to inspect the side of the bus near the rear. Apparently, with all the maneuvering we had got a tree pressed up firmly onto the side window and another’s trunk was blocking the back upper corner of the bus. It was entertaining to watch the ordeal from inside the bus as the local men chat back and forth, and the American men inside the bus suggest things to one another about picking up the car, etc. (haha) But then, I realize something (or some-power we have), and spoke out loud. “God, please move the tree,” I said. Following my bold little prayer with a defense to the person next to me, “I don’t care if he literally moves the tree (miracle) or if it just seems like it moved, as long as it gets us free.” The idea that sometimes God uses science to dispense his will, and other times he breaks it for his will (miracle). Another teammate replied, “Yeah, God can move mountains, so a tree he can as well.” Certainly. A funny thing happened, the next lurch of the bus set us free from both trees and we continued along our way on the narrow dirt road.

Tonight, I went for a walk around the area of my residence at L’Abri in Holland. The sun sets very early this far north of the equator, around 5pm at the moment, though gloomy and dim most of the day anyway. So when I set out at 4:30, I knew my time with light would be short. After requesting recommended routes from a Dutch L’Abri student, I embarked on a small twenty-minute loop around the apple orchard and through the heart of Eck en Weil (a quaint Dutch village in the country). One hour ten minutes later I returned to L’Abri.

It was an adventure that got me lost beyond belief. I was exhausted. I had been distracted viewing the extraordinary diversity of housing and residential landscaping in Eck en Wiel. I really should go back and take photos of them for study later. Anyway, this fascination, and my semi-conscious delight in finding my own way in foreign towns led me to take the wrong turn. I was nervous that I missed the original turn (apparently I did) and thought I would make up for it (not probable in the Dutch countryside) with the next right turn and thus make my way back around as long as I kept taking the right. But one of my turns ended up leading more straight than right after a bit, so I could feel myself wandering on foot farther away from the intended direction (at this point I still had my sense of direction, though it quickly vanished with the next turn). I made the very next right just as the night was getting very near, even though it was through a residence area. It was hard to see into the distance anymore. I was looking for the apple orchard the was on this side of L’Abri… but there were so many more apple orchards that I had realized since I had only arrived after nightfall earlier this week! I reached a road that I anticipated would be the “main road” I had taken into Eck en Weil at the start of my travels, but instead I was shocked to find it was a dinky country road, and had to press on ahead to what “must” be the road up ahead (I saw cars lights pass by on occasion). I had already tried running, but the temperature was 5 Celsius, so my leg muscle was still very tight and uncooperative from my injury this summer. I pressed on to reach the road, uncertain really which way to go, but made a right again to be consistent, figuring if it was incorrect I would at least end up back at Eck en Weil and could retrace my earlier steps from there. Still lost moments later as I reach the main road (though this part doesn’t look familiar), I see a truck driver hop out of his vehicle near a loading dock, so I head his direction to venture the trouble of communicating English to Dutch-only speakers for directions to a place I don't even have an address for! He hopped back in and was off down the road before I reached him.

I followed after a man I saw just inside the door of the truck building. I knocked and he came over to allow me to make my request, I apologized for only speaking English. He left me and shortly later two other men showed up. I asked the first for directions to L’Abri, for I was very lost. He pointed right and directed me down there a ways until I would reach a bridge. I was confused when the second guy chimed in asking me something in Dutch. I apologized again for only English. He said in a choppy voice, “Where, do you want, to go?” After sharing my request again, he responds, “Oh, LA-BRI” and points the OPPOSITE direction and tells me to go 1.5 kilometers that way.

“Oh dear God! Help me to be going the right direction,” I prayed quickly as I walked. At this point it was very very dark, though not pitch black, and I was on a “main road” – though little room for walking on it. I was teary, and started down the ‘woe-is-me’ path, then I remembered my two tree prayers within the last week. I remembered my full confidence in His will and knowledge. And most of all, I remember His answers.

As I walked, I added an equally important prayer, “God, may I recognize L’Abri when I get there.” For I had only ever been to the entrance when I arrived the other night in pitch black and thick fog… then again, I would be arriving at dark again, but that didn't bring me any comfort since I saw nothing as I travelled with an associate at this point. There were a few more moments of tears along the way, but they cleared when I thought about how God had answered my prayers before, and spoke clarity into my mind about my situation and confidence in Him.

As I travelled along the way of the truck man’s recommendation, a young woman on a bike grunted some kind of Dutch greeting to me as she passed. I spoke loud enough her direction rather quickly as she passed, “Excuse me, do you know the way to L’Abri?” And she continued to pass without a glance. Just then, I reached a fork in the road, and she went left. I cried. Which way do I go? It was so dark, that I hadn’t even seen the signs in the fork of the road ahead until reaching it (there are no street lights or nearby lights in the country here). I prayed again, “May I get there,” and walked straight ahead. A few moments later I look at my watch, and it is 5:40, well past the time I told others to come searching for me if I wasn’t back by then… but I didn’t receive any confirmation they would. To the contrary actually. A second later, I heard a duck quack and then flap against some water. I looked toward the sound on my left, and could barely make it out in the dark, but on a light background I read in black hand painted letters “L’ABRI.” Hallelujah!

I am reminded from the words of my Tabletalk devotional that, “He delights to hear us confess our reliance on His mighty hand.” Maybe this is a lesson that most of you understand already, but for me it is quite what I need to hear. I take strength in God’s sovereignty, in His consistency, in Him, the ROCK of ages. I desire to be formed around him, in him, by him. Too often I fail to pray requests, because I don’t know how to keep the balance of confidence in his movement and requesting his movement. How to have this properly balanced to avoid expectations that will disappoint and confuse faith.

Of course I know to pray the character of God, to pray what I know from the word about him, but when I get lazy and read less of his word, that ability fades fast. Requests to God are few in my prayers, they are hard to make, for I fear disappointment. As I’ve see God respond to these three prayers with a “yes” answer, I am reminded that as little as these things were and as simple as the requests were made, that God does answer YES at times. Just how impacting this is to me has lead me to a fuller realization of how embittered I have become to his answers. With so many requests being returned “no” over the last four years, I have forgotten how eager he is to give us what we ask for.

Maybe I had been resisting his will (like Jonah) so I was receiving consequences. Maybe I was running from his call (like Jonah to missions or from moving/to Florida). I do not know for certain and I’m not sure how much energy I should put into figuring out the past but I think not much, rather to focus on the present. I am excited to hear God answering yes to my little prayers and am encouraged to bring my requests before him with more confidence in getting a “yes” at times.

“Certainly God often intervenes on our behalf /when we fail to ask for His assistance, but that does not mean we should /believe that we need not go before Him in prayer to ask for His help.” ~Tabletalk November 16, 2010

TREE: Climbing an existing tree on the edge of our site.

BUS: Tree hampering our drive back from church in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

L'ABRI: Small moat-type area photographed from the house-side (road in background).  I heard a duck carrying-on there at a critical moment in my journey.


Ah, the joy of hot, pressured showers! This morning I slept in until 10am, then took my things to the girls shower room. Setting myself up I stepped into the shower, turned it on, and behold! A full, steady spray of hot water! This joy lasted the duration of my cleansing processes and I thought many a times about how long it had been since experiencing such a thing. For 10 days I filled water bottles with warm water, transferred it into a larger water bottle, and when getting enough, rinsed my soapy hair. It was entirely manageable, but I was ecstatic to embrace this luxury again.

SHOWER: The low-pressure all-in-one shower/toilet/sink/mirror room in Tanzania.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I amsterdam

As I emerge from the underground tunnels, my eye lands on its first Dutch Windmill. With its four sheik modern blades it glides through the air softly, giving power to this modern town in a very traditional way.

The architecture takes me back to my sophomore year in college. It was my best year of architectural design. I can hear Harry Eggink going on and on about how amazing “his” Holland is; the canals, narrow roads, bridges, and tall residential mixed-use construction. I can see the building I designed and rendered slide right into the context here.

Sheep pasture – pads of pure green grassy land separated by 3-5’ canals with fluffy white sheep only 20 minutes from the city center.

WINDMILL: The traditional windmills are nowhere to be seen, but the modern new ones still speckle the countryside.

AMSTERDAM: My sophmore project was to design a building within a row of homes/shops like this.

SHEEP: Looking at them still makes me giggle!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

God's Glory

After we went around the table at our closing dinner, reflecting on how the Lord impacted our lives on this trip, James spoke. He spoke of our need to focus on God’s glory. The way he spoke reminded me that it is not critical that I figure out what the Lord is speaking to me regarding this trip, nor where he is directing me next, but rather to look to see where and how he has been glorified and focus outward on that instead of inward on self.

JAMES & MARY KAMAU:  The director of ICM Tanzania and his wife (leader of women's ministry & counseling training).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Market & H2O

I practically begged our team lead to let us go to the main market today. Most of the group is going on safari, but I’m just one day in Zanzibar, then starting my trek back to the US. So I was dying to make it to a traditional market to pick up a few items on my list. Having picked up on my many “subtle” hints, we were given permission and a guide to accompany us to the market. It was so funny to stop by the Mall to exchange money, and walk into a Shop Rite grocery store at the corner of the complex! A sea of dark faces passed by us at the entrance, and one of our guys commented that we weren’t being stared at. Sure enough, we found 1 in 20 people to be pale-skinned like most of us. It seemed people were accustomed to this in the area we were shopping in (unlike the area we were staying in). The first light-face that passed us in the doors of the Mall was large, round, and had two giant ears emerging from the top of his head. Mickey Mouse!

During our Tanzanian Mall experience we exchanged money, used the toilet (as it is more accurately called, not restroom), and picked up some yummy foreign snacks at the grocery. These snacks have got the worst of me yet, as I of course went for those tasty oat biscuits (with chocolate!) and proceeded to finish the box before the night was out. I got into a side conversation about my use of the water here. After spending 3 months in India, and getting sick a number of times after wading in the ocean, I am not so phased by the warnings to be super-cautious about letting the water touch your mouth. Each day I’ve got a bit more bold. First it was noticing a bit of water between my lips during shower, then wiping my mouth after tooth brushing with faucet water, then cleaning my brush from the faucet after, then straight up brushing my teeth with the water from the faucet. I haven’t died yet. And I’m certainly not gotten sick like I know very well from Indian water incidences.

Tomorrow we are going to the BEACH! We will see if the Indian Ocean is any cleaner on this side of the great chasm of water.

SHOPRITE:  In Tanzania?!?  Yes, sortof.

OCEAN:  The Indian Ocean from the west coast of Africa.

The Week End

It’s Saturday, the conclusion of our design “charette.”* My thoughts at this point are a craving for rice krispy treats (thanks to Ben for bringing THAT up!) and Cape Cod Potato Chips (I’ve got the late night munchies), as well as a ping of sadness as I am at the beginning of recognizing I’ll need to start thinking about leaving my new friends, goodbyes, and the world beyond our Africa ministry bubble.

*The concept of charette comes from the French word for “cart.” The word began use during the days of the L’Ecole Beau Arts, the first school of architecture, when a professor sent around a cart to the student housing at the time the design assignment was due. Many students, setting the precedent for today’s all-nighters and last minute design changes, would hop onto the cart that was collecting the project models and final drafts, thus capturing a few last minutes of work as they rode the cart towards its final destination.

TEAM:  Architects, project manager, water, surveyor, structural, and road designer all at work designing and computing together.

TEAM:  Three architects discuss our designs-in-progress with the structural engineer.

TEAM:  ICM director James Kamau speaks clearly and directly about his vision and desires for the campus master plan as the architects stand by making adjustments.

CAMPUS MASTERPLAN:  At the conclusion of Day 1, the design team presented 5 distinctly different master plan designs to James.  His wonderfully clear responses directed us to draw from a few and dispose the others.

CAMPUS MASTERPLAN:  After one week of designing, we presented a masterplan that took into account specific building design and all the disciplines present and necessary to construct.

Friday, November 12, 2010


These are my new friends:

Pray for Janet & Mike, they have been dating for 6 months, and they are very much in love - infatuated for sure – you should see this girl light up – lol – the universal language! Janet is 22, and Mike is 27. He works with supply for petrol stations. Janet & Mike want to get married. Life is very difficult in Tanzania they say. Janet asked for prayer about her relationship with Mike. I’m not sure, but it may have been in regard to purity.

Matilda is not married, but she has a 3 year old son. It is very difficult for her - she had a conflict with her son’s father 4 months ago, and she left her son with his father. Although sometimes she goes and takes him [to spend time with him], it is hard. His name is Valentine. Matilda emphasized to me how difficult she knows it to be a wife or a husband. Muslims divorce and remarry sometimes 3-4 times, but Christians marry only once and are with the person forever. As she mentioned her 3 year old son, I noticed her eyes. As I asked her his name, the corners of her eyes welled up. “Life in Tanzania is hard. That is why I work hard, hopefully I can make money, and…” her voice trails off and gaze shifts down in sadness and shame.

These ladies are two of the 4-6 staff that have been waiting on us all day shopping, preparing, and serving our meals, cleaning our rooms (and relocating our stuff – lol), and doing our laundry.

Ross, our road engineer on this trip (assistant for plumbing and w/ww engineer)has been asking us to consider ways that we can serve these ladies in return for all that they have served us this week. Ideas have been to take them out to eat with us, to wash our own dishes after one meal, or sketching and framing a nice sketch of their brand new hotel building. For me, I see service as an everyday event. While there job is to cook, clean, and serve, we serve them when we both show our appreciation for how each of them do their tasks well and how we treat them as just as valuable in God’s eyes as us, the ones they are serving. I desire to serve them by building relationship with them to learn how to love them best. Though receiving these acts of service in the business relationship we have, I find other ways to show them love. Whether stumbling with Swahili while accepting my meal, or learning their names each one by one, I seek to develop relationship. We’ve been exchanging an increasing amount of laughter over the last few days, and we are getting to know one another better each day. This evening, I saw Matilda do a dance move or two from a glance out my bedroom door, I laughed heartily, and she smiled beautifully, then ran to get Janet and the both hustled over to my door. You see, I had done a few silly dance moves to random music that came from a cell phone or from a tv, and laughed at myself with them to share that common language of laughter. They came inside my room. Then inquired about the stuffed bear on my bed – haha – it filled out into a full conversation about their lives, ending when they got a call to get back to work. What a blessing to get to know them better, and the joy of being charged to pray for their needs. Praise God for these new friends!

HOTEL STAFF:  And my new friends Janet and Matilda.


Doing architecture in Africa, interruptions can be expec---

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Our “office” (aka hotel) is surrounded by very little development. A building foundation is in construction to the north, a small shack snack shop is on the northeast corner, there is a church across the way in the northeast, a few shack homes (made of corrugated metal scraps, totaling approximately 80sf each) below on the south side, and a cement block “factory” to the east.

It has been fascinating to watch these men create the hundreds of cement blocks they’ve produced during our time here. They move so fast, for so long. One guy fills the machine with each bucket of heavy ingredients that mix into the cement, another shovels the product from below the machine into the forming machine, another waits with a wooden platform to slip the SOLID cement block (not the typical kind with two holes, this weighs 70lbs!) out from the machine and RUNS it across the drying field to lay it on the ground for curing in the sun, running back of course, and they all do this continually. I saw one guy do the running with bricks for at least four hours as he gathered the dried blocks up into a pile at the other end of the field. He was shirtless, with unreal muscles showing at no more than 6% body fat, his jeans (for Tanzanians wear pants even in the immense heat) were held up with a worn rope, and he glistened with the sweat as we worked.

Even so, as four of us snuck a peek at his amazing accomplishments, a few children began yelling as they passed by. A young boy and girl were in a bit of a scuffle. A young boy had caused a girl to drop the bucket off her head as she carried it home from the watering hole. She became immediately offended at his actions and demanded he pick it up as her jug lay on the ground gurgling out its contents. He refused, and the pushing and fighting began. The worker without hesitation walked calmly over to the kids and pulled them away from each other. He heard their story, then told the boy to go home, talking to the girl, he picked up the bucket and disappeared. It must have been a good five minutes before he returned, it seemed like forever as the girl sulked along the street, but he returned with a full bucket of water, and sent her on her way. This kind of hospitality from a man who has been running back and forth all day with 70 pound blocks to earn his living. Impressive. It warmed my heart to see such an example.

There is power, power, wondering working power in the blood of the Lamb - but not on the lines today

Ten computers, Air Conditioner, and all the people chatting, breathing, and moving - versus the African heat, that was a battle that African power was not willing to fight. We rotated charging our laptops on a system, so that we could all continue working without power failure… well, at least while we had continuous power on this one power strip in the room. We had two outlets, and one power strip, and a whole assortment of plug converters to get from the British plug to American plug, then for some needed to get from the three prong to the two prong. It was a sight for sure.

Our system went into fail mode at times when we drew too much power and blew the circuit – but ah, we had an electrical engineer with us – yay! Dennis went faithfully to reset our power at least a dozen times today. We were playing around with it a bit to see if we could figure out a pattern of how much was too much, but in the end we still lost power unexpectedly throughout the day. The end all for the day was when power for the whole area went out around 4pm. Sunset here isn’t until 7 or 8pm, so we used up all the last juice in our laptops, and one by one switched gears into free time. A group walked down to the water hole to mingle with the locals, and then we settled back at the hotel and played a good game of cards. We were a bit concerned with meeting our deadline, as each hour on a 10 day design trip is worth a week in regular professional time, but we made the best of this dilemma, we are working in Africa after all!

Design Production & Indian Food

The days are starting to turn to mush by the time I get to the end of the day. Reflecting on today, I can hardly remember where it started! I know I got up around 7:30am, and skipped a shower again today, although I really shouldn’t have – lol. Showers here are the same as they were in India… in one room with toilet and sink. There is a spray hose beside for “badae” purposes and the shower head is mounted to the wall with no separation via curtain, tub, nor change in flooring from the rest of the room. The shower head lets out not much more than a trickle, so I’ve been using the 1.5L water bottles and a smaller one to fill up from the sink, then fill up the big one for pouring over my hair in “shower.” I’ve been rather successful showering this way, but it does take a long time. Later today, my hot water switch didn’t work, so I went to Shannon’s room to shower, even though it’s a good 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit, I still like my warm (bucket) showers :)

This morning was encouraging again. I worked on the Visitor’s Housing and took it to a greater level of detail. James took a look at my work and we discussed the passive lighting and passive cooling elements integrated into the design. He had many good things to say about how it was designed, so we proceeded with the help and questions of the structural and electrical engineers to hash out some of the details. It is through this process that I have been able to get as far as detailed roof design, electrical outlets and lights laid out, and am about to hand it over to plumbing as well for their input/design.

I’ve been moving right along due to the nature of the building I’ve been working on and the smooth processing, so I took up an opportunity to go to town briefly this afternoon. Aaron needed to grab a few supplies from the Stationary store in Tegeta, so Jennifer, one of the kind gals that works for the hotel helped us navigate town for these modeling supplies. James drove us with his coworker Joshua, but when they dropped us off in the busy markets of Tegeta, it was Jennifer that lead our way around the vendors to the right side shop, and into its small 5’x5’ interior customer space. We ended up getting only a few sheets of paper since what we really wanted was cardboard – I suggested we use boxes, and we have plenty back at the hotel.

We’ve been using more Swahili words lately as we learn them. For example, we road a DalaDala home today (mini-bus). It is hard to remember these bubbly words that have an abundance of syllables in each word! “DalaDala bill y’all.” I use ANY reference for memorization I can think of – haha! On the bus we met a cute little kid. He was sitting on his mother’s lap, and his brother was across the aisle in front of us at first (until a man got on board at the next stop, ushering him out of his seat, and then moments later pulling him in to sit on his lap – how rude I thought, actually, it was very sweet – it’s hard to think of this happening in the States though, especially since they were strangers!). I waved in response to his stare a number of times. Then, I noticed every time my hands went to my face, as they all to often do, so did his. Hm, then when I lowered my hands down I was figiting with my fingers, and so were his. Ah-ha, he’s copying me! Sure enough, we was mimicking everything I did, I giggled, smiled, and played along. Aaron showed me how to stack my hands and let the middle fingers hang out the opposite side, making a funny wobbling movement. The kids tried to follow, to varying levels of success ,it was cute. The little one had quite a bit of fun wiggling his fingers around his eyes to copy us in our new version of wiggly glasses. All of a sudden, his mother started digging through her bag while he continued to fill her lap. The boy then pulls on a pair of cool fluorescent shades and sends another large toothless smile my direction. B) I wish I had a picture of this interaction, but on a busy city bus one has to be careful not to offend anyone and remain peaceful. Oh, but I did the best I could, with a slip of my hand, I was able to flip the switch on for my video camera and grab a bit of the sounds of the city as we road through town on the bus (dala dala).

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Part of the process of applying to volunteer with eMi, we have to sign a disclaimer that says amongst other things, that we will not drink alcoholic beverages while on trip with them. Ironically, the small 12’x15’ space that we adopted as our office space for the duration of the trip was in fact a bar. We laughed as two of us pulled up stools at the bar to clunk away designing at the computer and 4-6 others arranged our serving tables from dinner in the center for their laptops and to use for drawing alongside the blank wall that became littered with trash paper and drafting dots, an architect’s staple tools for schematic design. I found my spot behind the bar, next to the small travel printer and in front of the wall of beer. As a fact though, there were really only 12-24 beers in the whole bar that we could find… not that we were looking of course. There was however a stuffed deer on the wall – stuffed with cotton, a children’s animal that is, I never did ask about this Bambi - lol.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


It’s the end of the day, and I feel good. Productive actually. Yes, productive in Africa! We spent the morning presenting our five site plan concepts to James. James was hilarious in his responses. He’s got a real sense of humor; a familiarity with American culture that is both shocking and hilarious. He loved our concepts and gives us a lot of freedom, trusting we will come up with the best plan. We told him that we wouldn’t be happy if he likes all five plans, asking him to be super honest. He was very comfortable telling us that one of the plans he didn't like at all. Then half way through he messed with us by saying that he didn’t like having to many choices (like at an American restaurant) instead, he liked all of them all – lol! Then when our team lead points out that he bashed the plan he created, James didn't hesitate to remark how much he really didn’t like it. I was rolling on the floor. It’s not that he was being disrespectful, he just doesn’t have any problem being perfectly honest. It’s refreshing :)

After our meeting, I started to put together the design for the visitor’s housing. Boy, I just flew through the design, and didn’t look back. It felt great to get good feedback and get a lot done. A real treat to be back sketching and then producing in AutoCAD.

The survey team has not been as successful as they struggled, travelling around town in search of a post-hole digger. All day long. Travelling in and out of traffic with Mary, James wife, they maneuvered there way about town for this special tool. A post-hole digger is preferred for doing a percolation or “perk” test because it makes a narrow 6-8” hole that requires much less water … which is impossible to find on site during these dry spring/summer months. Instead it will be brought to the site by a guy on a bike with big jugs of water on the back! Tomorrow, they will head out to the site with shovels, and have an adventure ahead for themselves as they dig 3’ down in unknown density of soil and search for many gallons (or litres) of water to fill it multiple times. This is engineering language at the moment, so I will trail off for the night ….

Monday, November 8, 2010

Work Day 1

Architects are particular people. We are creative. We are leaders. We often struggle to work in groups ;). We experienced a bit of that struggle today. It was somewhat comical in how things turned out after the two lead architects gave us each a scheme to develop, then return to all share tasks for creating consistent graphic presentation of them all as a united “ours.” Our team lead was recruited to help out with our crew, and he got majorly carried away! No matter how often we told him to wait for a team decision he was one step ahead, plowing the way for us all to play catch up with whatever decisions he made. It really was comical how our group was huddled up in a small room together switching plans each taking a part, speaking up to ask who was doing what and how, and most often getting the answer “well, Rex did it this way, so I guess that’s how we’re all doing it.” We are all particular people. Just one example from today.

Site Visit- photo journal

Site Visit

Every project begins with a site visit. The twelve of us (including the two teenage sons) rode the bus 20 minutes north to the outskirts of the Dar es Salaam district. There we walked the site with James, the Kenyan-born director, and Michael, a council member of ICM Tanzania. We began the site tour at the northwest corner under a giant cashew tree. Later Aaron, Ben and I all spent a few minutes sitting in its branches, our feet hanging above others heads below. Did you know that a cashew tree produces a fruit called an apple that bears only one nut… on the top of the fruit NOT inside? This is a good trivia fact to remember when paying a high price for a can of ‘shews. That, and that the fruit is poisonous and nut roasted prior to consumption!

Climbing trees turned out to be my biggest task on the site visit. On our way up from the hotel James used a large tree in the distance to point out our site up on the hill out in front of our approach on Bagamoyo Road. This tree was located on the ridge just east of the property on what we imagined was the Oceanside of the property. Confirming this speculation would determine if it were possible to get ocean views from a third story structure onsite. Naturally, I volunteered to cross the property and climb the giant bilbao tree. Now that was a beautiful climbing tree! And I don’t mean it was anything like the swiss family robinson style treehouse type tree like our cashew tree experience. This tree was so old and over 20’ in diameter, that it was ridden with pocks, beautiful climbing grips! It was so embarrassing though. I got about 5’ in the air and got stuck trying to shift my weight to the right, well, stuck isn’t the right word, when my left hand left the tree, I swung away from the trunk and lost my connection to the tree, gaining connection between my backside and the dusty gray African earth. Aaron shimmied his way up the tree while I dusted my pride off, and I gave him a boost past my trouble spot. He made it up easy, so I tried again. Boom. I got near the same spot and reestablished that I can indeed sit on the African soil well. Argh, how can I friction climb 600’ at a 5.8 pitch, yet can’t climb a stupid African tree?! I took off my shoes and I prayed. Yes, I did. I made my way up that big ol’ beast and out cautiously onto a limb. “OCEAN VIEW!” We took lots of pictures of the site from that perspective, and got a great sense of what rooms in the third-story would be like. I hugged the tree close between my legs the whole time with a firm grip like a saddle between my hands, determined not to fall this time from 15 feet. Always an adventure you know – this site visit was no exception.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sights in a foreign country

As we drive around town I’ve been enjoying seeing the sights as we pass by the “everyday” life of Tanzanians in Dar es Salaam. We get chuckling a bit in the bus by many of the unique store signs. I enjoyed spotting a barber shop showing a nice sign painted with P-Diddy, or the one called Boyz II Men Barber Shop. My favorite is definitely the “Sick New Shop” . I’m uncertain what the “God Love Shop” is selling, but I sure hope it’s good. There is one that got me wondering about the drinking age in Tanzania, that is the “Family Bar.” Then there is the shop I was advised us to stay away from: “White Butchery,” – haha!

Church Day

As we left church today, I joked with a teammate about it being hard to find a bible church with strong preaching in the States, so I should probably move to Tanzania and go to this one. It was a joy to open up the word with this Australian preacher and the body of Christ meeting at “I-Serv” the international service of Hope Christian School. The word from Matthew 7:1-12 reminded me that we are all “works in progress.” I’ve been struggling with bitterness about one of my relationships that I felt very heavily persecuted in for righteousness sake. I took the hard steps toward restoration to preserve the witness of the body of Christ, but have seen the opposite of justice result. Today’s scriptures (John 7:24, Ro 14:10-13, Heb 4:15-16, Gal 6:1-5), remind me that God’s goal for us is not justice, but restoration. As I desire to be on mission with Him, I need to make restoration to relationship with God my goal for my relationships as well.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Travel Update: I’m finally here!

Wow, now THAT was a long time traveling. I spotted my first eMi-er at the JFK airport. Aaron was wearing a Phila. Univ. sweatshirt, so I figured he was the intern I had been told to keep my eyes open for. I was right, but WAY off in my logic actually… I knew it was him because I thought he was wearing a PBU shirt = Christian, which makes NO sense because PBU doesn't have an architecture program, and Philadelphia University isn’t a Christian school. So-ya, I got it right on my hunch though.

Once to the terminal, I hastily wrote up a prayer update to email to all my contacts, after failing to find my staple TCBY treat pre- flight, sad day! Aaron and I spotted a couple fitting the profile for one of our father & son duo eMi-ers at JFK as well. Aaron snuck up behind them in the check in line and ruled them out due to their native French conversation. Man, I REALLY thought it was them (5’10” with 13yr old son).

We got in WAY early to Amsterdam… not that it did us any good in getting us to Africa any sooner, but I was able to spread out along the hallway on a bed of travel towels, stacks of paper, my trip binder, bible and scarf used to separate the cold floor from my body. The four of us met up with the rest of the group, one flight arrived slightly before us, and we walked right by them AND our gate while wandering and chatting, which made for an interesting spectacle as we travelled both directions “touring” the terminal on the moving walkways, though no one was at the gate to watch. It took a long while before I legitimately fell asleep amongst the hustle and bustle of the terminal, but I got two good solid naps in to substitute for my Friday night’s sleep before lining up at the gate at 10am. At this point, I needed to move around a bit and spoke to the eager-to-be-challenged 17yr old on our trip, Kyle, err, Nate and got a good power walking race out of him. He had the moving walkway in his favor, and I was on the ground beside. And man, I TOTALLY almost won! It was a tie ;) as I just barely squeezed a final step up as he was stepping off the walkway.

It’s interesting meeting the eMi teams. Due to the nature of having a diversity of engineers/architects to meet the needs of the project, we get most of the sterotypes covered. We have Jim, the quiet and polished looking architect, and Shannon, the single, I’ll pick apart anything I see architect as well. Then there is Kent, the surveyor, blunt, bold, starting “trouble” as means of making friends. Let’s not forget the electrical engineer Dennis, who is very black and white, calculated, and predictable. Then there is the structural engineer Robert, our dad of 13yr old Ben, who is a good wholesome Midwestern style guy, where nothing is spontaneous or out of the box, but a casual and calm personality. Last but not least there is our civil engineer/roads guy Ross, who is … young, so I’m not sure he fits a type yet!

The accommodations here are great… and I am falling asleep in bed with A.C. Breakfast is tomorrow at 7am… and it’s almost 3am… It’s good to be stretched out horizontal. Caio for nowzzzZZZZ!