Today starts a new thing we are doing over here at Taking Route. As you’ve probably heard, “connect” is our one-word goal for this blog for the year 2015. One way we want to put that word into action is by connecting you to other awesome expat blogs. So, each month we will be featuring an expat blog here on Taking Route. The featured blogger will be interviewed about their expat life and will also receive a pretty, little featured spot on our left side bar all month long. If you hope to have your blog featured on Taking Route one month, all you have to do is click on the region you live in our left sidebar and link up your blog. Let us, and others, connect with you through your blog!
This Month’s Feature Blog comes from Melissa at The Beauty of Becoming. Melissa along with her sweet family live in Tanzania, Africa. Melissa invites you to journey with her in the “day-to-day adventures of wife, mom and designer.” We had a virtual “chat” with Melissa and we learned tons about her, her blog and her love for Tanzania.
Tell Us About…
…Your Host Country.
What brought you to your host country?
I first came to Tanzania in 2010 to do a summer internship with our organization, Global-EFFECT. Prior to coming to Tanzania, I had spent time in other East African countries; Kenya (2008) and Uganda (2010). While I was interning in TZ, I met my (now) husband for the first time face-to-face and we got engaged 6 weeks later (we have a pretty crazy love-story which you can read about HERE). My husband, Brandon, was living in Tanzania as a single missionary, working at a Christian orphanage in the Kilimanjaro region. A month after getting married the following summer, we moved to Tanzania together and I began working at the orphanage as well. Since that time, we have switched organizations, welcomed 2 kids into our world, and have refocused our calling of caring for orphans. My husband and I now direct Kingdom Families, a program under Global-EFFECT that partners with local pastors and churches, as well as the Tanzanian Welfare Department, to place orphaned and/or abandoned children into Tanzanian families. We still live at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro and have an incredible view of the mountain from our dining room.
What was your first impression of your host country?
Having been to Kenya and Uganda prior to my first visit to Tanzania, I already had an impression about East Africa. At first I was shocked by the poverty and corruption, as well as the cultural differences. Growing up in a beautiful, small, hippy beach town on the Central Coast of California, I had never been in such poor situations like that before. It changed my life forever. But because of it, when I first came to Tanzania, I was able to see the country and people for what they are: beautiful, full of life, passionate, hospitable and kind. My impression of life in Tanzania has changed the longer that we live here. It’s such a layered experience with many dimensions and changes.
How has living abroad changed you?
Living abroad has changed me in many different ways. I think one of the biggest ways, though, is that I have learned to have a higher level of grace for myself. I often have high expectations and strive to do things well. Living in Tanzania, no day is like the other—which can be hard for someone like myself who likes to be able to expect what each day may bring. I remember about a month after we first moved to Kilimanjaro in 2011, we were hosting an open house party for our friends. I had everything planned out and had been working really hard all day to get the house cleaned up and ready. It was such a warm day and by the end of my efforts I was so sweaty and smelly. Unfortunately the power was out all day and we had no more running water. I desperately needed to take a shower! About 5 minutes before our guests arrived, the power came back on and the water began to pump. I seized the opportunity and took the fastest shower of my life. But as people arrived, I greeted them with sopping wet hair and no makeup (not really my mode of operation). There are so many stories that I could share about the ‘normal’ experiences we have everyday. As someone who is a planner and list maker, I have learned a new level of flexibility and grace. Some days are still hard and by the end of the day we are exhausted, but I am learning to smile through the crazy moments and embrace all that Tanzania brings my way.
What is the most difficult thing about where you live?
The most difficult thing about living in Tanzania are the health risks. My husband, Brandon, has had malaria twice already and as a family we have all experienced intestinal issues as well as worms. This year my 2 year old daughter, Promise, began to suffer from bronchial spasms from the poor air quality (people burn trash and their are no laws that enforce smog checks), causing her to need an inhaler. Also, both Brandon and I have experienced mango fly larvae’s hatching out of our skin, leaving ugly scars but cool, ‘exotic’ stories that gross out friends and family in the states. Health care is not that great in Tanzania and for that reason we have always chosen to return to the states to give birth to our two kids.
What is the most exciting thing about where you live?
Besides living in one of the most beautiful places on earth, we really love the community that we are apart of as well as the things that are taking place with our program, Kingdom Families. It is such an encouragement to us to be living in a community of nationals, expats, and missionaries who have families as well and are raising their children in the same circumstances. We love the support and care that we receive from our friends and team members in TZ—it makes living far from family more bearable. We are also very excited about how Kingdom Families is developing and the partnerships—both in Tanzania and America—are forming and growing. It is our heart to see orphaned and/or abandoned children be placed into loving, caring homes and for the cultural mindsets among Tanzanians regarding adoption to change.
Is there anything you’ve learned to do while living abroad that surprises you?
(1) Make our house feel like a home and (2) be pregnant and raise our kids. I really enjoy home decor and when I first moved to Tanzania, I wondered how I would be able to create a home with what is available in country as well as the few things I could pack from the US in our Rubbermade containers. Over time I have really come to enjoy the process of interior decorating in Tanzania. Living in Tanzania has given me a whole new appreciation for being resourceful and using what’s available to make something beautiful. Even more, raising our children in Tanzania has been amazing. It’s funny, one of the main things that people say when we tell them that we live in Tanzania is this: “I would love to do that, but we can’t now that we have kids.” Moving to a third world country and raising your kids is totally possible! Our daughter Promise is thriving and loves playing outside all day in the red, African dirt. Our son Shepherd, though he is only 6 weeks old and hasn’t been to Tanzania yet (except in the womb) will do amazing as well. Of course there are things that we always have to be cautious of (malaria, worms, amoebas, etc.), but overall our family is doing well and we know that our kids will look back one day and love and appreciate that they grew up in Africa.
…Your Passport Country.
What do you miss the most about your passport country?
Target, Trader Joe’s, and In-N-Out. Haha! But seriously, convenience is something I miss. Living in Tanzania has taught me such a deeper meaning of what it means to be intentional. I have to be much more organized and planned, especially when it comes to cooking. Cooking from scratch takes up a lot more time and I always have to consider the likeliness of the electricity going out. In America, I can always run down to the grocery store and whip up a meal within minutes. That’s not really the case in Tanzania. Conveniences aside, the biggest thing I miss about living abroad is our family. Having just given birth to our 2nd child, not being close to family seems to have gotten harder the longer we live overseas. Realizing that our families miss out on a lot of the growth and development that takes place in those early years of childhood makes being in Tanzania difficult at times. Thank God for Skype, Facebook, and emails though!! It makes a world of a difference and Promise, our 2 year old daughter, always loves being able to see and interact with our family members (almost weekly).
Why did you start a blog?
I first started my blog to share with friends and family about life as a newly married woman living on the missions field. Over time, my blog has grown so much and has really gotten to a place that I never expected. I love to share on my blog about what it means for me to thrive in Africa. I share lots of different things—stories about my kids, pictures that I capture around Kilimanjaro, what it’s like being pregnant overseas, as well as ways that I have decorated our home. I love that I get to inspire others around the world and always enjoy getting emails from readers who are raising their families in countries not their own.
Can you share your 3 favorite posts?
Do you have a question for Melissa? She would love to CONNECT with you. Leave your comment or question right here. Or better yet move on over to her blog and leave a few comments there.