Monday, December 10, 2012

O Melhor Segunda Feira do Tudos (Best Monday Ever)

This post is so belated, but, I tell you what, with the temperamental internet access, unreliable electricity, new and non-stop responsibilities, and all around tiredness I've given myself a pass. A pass to watch Downton Abbey. But, Shawn is in South Africa for the next few days and I am under STRICT instructions not to watch without him so now I can do something productive with my time. And it's time Grandmas get a glimpse of the grandkids - an early Christmas present :)

Let me start with what was the best day of our lives up to that point. We have since had a couple more AMAZING days, but you never forget your first, and I keep forgetting to have my camera around to take pictures. 

Shawn dropped off this box and then immediately had to run an errand. He asked us to wait for him to get back until we opened it and since it was from him mom I thought I better. Never in my life have I used so much self-control.
Please note Asher's sweet excitement :) That box was filled with oatmeal and toys and love and Starbuck Via and candy and love and a new dress and homemade black raspberry jam and love.
Luciana thoroughly enjoying the pancakes that came from Grandma.
Homemade black raspberry jam!!!!!
They are hard at work coloring in their special coloring books.

And, of course, a couple random unrelated pictures. But, when the bandwidth is there to upload, I upload.

This is just a screen shot of my average wake-up time. It's usually Asher crawling in bed announcing, "Not dark. Eat bread." The picture in from last year in Moz - the kids are on Wimbi Beach just across the road from us.
Spaghetti has become a staple dinner around here. The pasta is cheap and we make our own sauce with tomato paste, green peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes.  I'm probably going to start a food blog next because I have so many awesome recipes.
Something else I make about once a week is chicken. Here Luci is cleaning the carcass.  Oh, my.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bem Vindo a Nossa Casa (Welcome To Our Home)

Casa Ercoli

Here is our humble abode. Our front yard comes complete with a spot to park a motorcycle and keep an old toilet. They have promised to come pick it up, but I'm not holding my breath.

Here is our main room - the windows and door face the front of the house. Until recently, our stove was under the utensils hanging on the wall, but we moved it into the newly renovated kitchen. This is where we eat, (that's a bowl of rice & beans on the table), the kids do school, and hang out with friends when the kids are in bed. The door near the windows goes to the kitchen and the other door near the table is for the bathroom. Our bedroom is also off this room on to the right.

Previously, this space housed a toilet (please see photo#1 for a visual) and a sink. We tore those out and had an actual sink and countertop installed. Shawn is planning to put up shelves, but that will probably get done after his trip to South Africa. I painted this room in a shade I call "Acunya" which is Makua for white person.

Now this might not be exciting to you, but please notice the faucet under the sink. This makes filling water buckets much easier because I don't have to fill a small bucket to fill the big one. I just turn on the faucet and let it go. Assuming there is water. 

Our stove. It's no small miracle that there is even a stove here, and it's even more miraculous that it hasn't blown up yet. Shawn kindly labeled the knobs for us: Left Rear, Left Front, Oven (Lo, Med, & Hi), Front Right, and Death.

This bathroom used to have a broken toilet (now fixed) and a shower with 3 shower heads. That was great for parties, but since there's not enough water for more than one dribbly shower it made more sense to take two out and put in a sink. I purposefully waited to post pictures of the house (especially this bathroom) until we made some improvements. I didn't want a well-meaning/horrified friend or family member calling the UN for an emergency evac. I haven't gotten to go snorkeling yet and it's almost mango season.

The master suite. Shawn turned the bed into a 4 poster so that we wouldn't have a droopy mosquito net. Not pictured is an armoire that holds our clothes, extra sheets and towels, school supplies, shoes, and electronic equipment we rather not have sitting out getting sandy. And under the bed I have some suitcases - one is called Target, one Costco, and the other is stuff we're saving for our return trip through Switzerland that we don't use here. Like pants and socks.

This is the "office." When we first got here, there was a set of bunk beds for one of the kids to use, but we felt that the enormous cracks in the walls and the cracked and sinking floor made it better suited for hammock time and facebook trolling. 

This is where the kiddos sleep. Asher is on the bottom bed in the back. Luciana is on the bottom with the pick pillow and Judah got stuck with the top. So far, it hasn't been too hot for him up there, but it's not summer yet here. I stood on their dresser to take this picture, so they have that and another window on the left.

And just so you don't think I sit around all day drinking out of my American sized coffee cup and sweep, I had a really great meeting with one of the volunteers (Anthony from New Zealand) who has worked for the last 6 months straightening out the well-drilling program. IRIS Relief has just been handed the well-drilling project and since Anthony is leaving in a couple weeks, it's my job to maintain all the hard work he did. I've been going over all of his paperwork to get as familiar as I can with the ins and outs of the admin of the program so that the transition will be as smooth as possible. 

Shawn has also been working on a well project of his own. When we first got here, things were a little slow and I know in Shawn's mind he was thinking, "I did't pay all this money and come all this way to watch Joy sweep." So, true to form, Shawn looked around and made up his own projects. One was to renovate the house, another to clean up all the trash nearly covers every inch of ground here and build a suitable containment solution for it, and the other was to fix a stinky maggoty muddy drainage problem at the well near our house. He drew up a plan, secured funding, bought materials, and found helpers. I have a before photo but I'm still waiting for the after. They should be done today, but

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Antes e Depois (Before and After)

So we had a regular door on our house, but it gets pretty hot in these parts and we mostly left that door open to keep some air moving.  As you can imagine, the house was full of flies and mosquitos. Gross. Thankfully, it is Shawn style to take matters in to his own hands. Just a little DIY project Mozambican style.

Here is the door before. We used the door that had been in the "office" but we took it off earlier because it was mostly in the way.

Glamour shot of Shawn sawing through a solid mahogany door.

As a life-long member of Team Eskola I know that "Doing It Is Doing It." I also have a pretty strong resume in hand tools. Then to make it even better, Shawn asked for my help by saying, "Hey, do you want a workout?" Yes, please. 

The finished project. We are soon to post this on Pinterest.

And now, just a few random photos from the week.

This is Luci and Asher playing in what I think is a place formerly used to wash clothes. Now it is used to "store" old toilet parts. They made a fort using said parts, but I wisely did not take a picture of that because it most likely could and would be used against me. 

You might think that this is just a picture of a dirt pile. And you would be right except that it is the 7th dirt pile I had swept up that day. We probably sweep 10x a day and each pile is like this. The window are only screens, the sand is everywhere, and the wind blows constantly. 

Luciana sporting the local 'do. 

And Judah as a Super Hero. It's hard to see in this picture, but he has a screen belt that is holding his beloved Swiss Army knife and a later, post-photo op addition was a cape. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Multo Fotos (Many Photos)

 A little breakfast of bread and Nutella. So messy and sooooo delicious.

This was supposed to be a video of Luciana squealing with delight, "It's tickling me!" It was a millipede.

 Judah homeschooling.

Luciana learning how to read with Katia and Filito. More importantly, check out that amazing and HUGE coffee cup. It is full of Starbucks Via and sometimes it seems too small :)

 Luciana just can't help herself.

Tub Time! I never call them clean; just less dirty and wet.

 Making it work. It's a glamorous life here on the edge of the world.

That's right. I'm drying out Ziploc bags to reuse them. Super Target is a looooong way away.

It's all day every day in the dirt.

Luci was getting every last bit of the organic olives sent from the States. Here she is enjoying a bowl full of the juice.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tudo Bom (Everything is Good)

Ahhh, the first post from the comfort of my mosquito net in Pemba. This might not be one of my most well thought out posts, but there’s a good chance it’s not the least either. It’s been just over a week since we arrived here and we took the first few days to get settled. We unpacked, did a town run for the essentials: fans, electric water kettle, bananas, a fuse for a power converter, etc., did a quick accounting of the Starbucks Vias, and by Monday, Shawn already had meetings scheduled and it was time for the kids to finally have their first day of school. I have a great picture of Luciana working on her reading with a few of our new neighborhood friends hovering around. But I haven’t convinced the internet to let me upload pictures yet. I’m working on it.

This has been an exciting week for IRIS Relief here in Pemba, too. In August, we invited Francois Batalingaya the country director of Somalia for World Vision to come and do some sessions at the Harvest School on disaster relief. He has been in the relief field for nearly 20 years and is a wealth of knowledge. It was a great opportunity for the Harvest School students to get to hear him, but even more for IRIS Relief.  We are babies in the disaster relief business and to have him share from him experience is priceless. Shawn got to take him out for dinner one night with another IR friend and they spent the evening telling stories and drinking coffee. I would have gone, too, but I had a Mozambican baby shower to attend.

The kids are having no trouble adjusting (only sometimes fussing about rice & beans) and they already have 3 friends who live around us – I’m not sure where, but it must be close because they’re always showing up. There is Filito, (4 or 5) Orlanda (maybe 6), and Katia (3ish).  Luci and Katia met the first morning and became fast friends. I often hearing Katia yelling, “Amiga! Amiga!” at Luci who is clueless as to what that means. She’ll catch on J

It’s only been one week and there is still so much to tell. This is definitely an adventure. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bitte, Meh Chas (Please, More Cheese)

We've spent the last four days in Switzerland trying to overcome jet lag. We used age old remedies of hiking in the Alps, riding trains, touring the capital city, and eating lots of cheese. And since we still had more time, we milked some cows, fed the pigs, carried kittens around, and jumped on a trampoline. Judah also lost his first tooth in the shadow of the Eiger, Luciana made a Swiss friend, Juli, and Asher slept on the bar of a restaurant next to brown bear enclosure. 

The next leg of the journey will be a 24 hour stay in Nairobi, Kenya and then on to our final destination: Pemba, Mozambique. One last hot shower and then we settle in for life in the red dirt. Go big, or go home - right?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This Will Only Pinch a Little

Here is Luci (yes, that is a Minnie Mouse dress she's wearing) at the Travel Clinic waiting for Shot-a-palooza.

Then she reconsidered. "Take a sad face picture."

Monday, September 10, 2012

He-He-Whoooo. He-He-Whoooo.

I have given birth to three children and one of the things I remember most of the actual birthing part is how much it hurt and how much I wanted to quit. Also the miracle of new life, of course! Who could forget that? For instance, my solution to the pain of Judah's delivery was to crab-walk off the back of the labor bed while Shawn and a stout nurse had to help me commit to finishing the job at hand.  I can see that it seems irrational now, but in the moment, I was a genius! And now I find myself in a similar situation. The pain is less physical, but my solutions are just as genius. This is the part of our journey to Mozambique that feels like "transition" in delivery. We are at the no-turning back point; tickets are purchased, good-byes are being said, and someone is setting up bunk beds for us in Pemba. This baby is happening! But all of the last-minute details are piling up and they have become quite the pile and I just found out we won't have a place to cook food when we get there and travel health insurance is not quite the bargain price it used to be and we're told a 6 month visa is a loooooong shot. I'm sure everything would be so much better if I just crawled out of here backwards. Or could get an epidural. But, I know it's time to take a deep breath and bear down. Soon enough all of our clothes will be packed (the latest in missionary wear), all auto-payments will be scheduled, and we get to see what we are made of. It has already been quite a ride and we're just getting to the wild part. Plus, I have learned my own lesson: Giving birth is really hard, but I was rewarded with the 3 most wonderful kids ever. Getting to Mozambique will be just as worth it. And messy.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Must Do List

I have lists laying all over the place. Packing lists, Costco lists, Target lists, To-Do lists.  I noticed an addition to this one while I was taking the pen away from Asher who was making his own addition. I was able to check it off immediately.

Then I turned it over. That boy is thorough.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


So here's what we'll be doing in Pemba for the next two years:

One of our jobs will be to manage and develop the child sponsorship program which serves children in need to provide them with the means to go to school and help support their families. There are about 1,500 children who need to be interviewed as the first step toward sponsorship, nearly 1,000 who need help with writing letters or drawing pictures to send to their sponsors, and more database management than can be blogged about. This will be my main focus while we're there.

Shawn's big project will be overseeing the construction of 400 bush churches in villages across Mozambique. From what I understand, a wealthy guy in Virginia left his fortune to a church with the intent of building churches in Mozambique. That church has partnered with IRIS Ministries and Shawn is tasked with making sure the project is on track. He is the right man for the job, just sayin'.

We will still be doing IRIS Relief work, too. We're writing and tweaking the training manual, we'll be doing some of the training during the Harvest Schools, ever more admin, and we're hoping to develop  disaster preparedness plans for the base.

And, as ever, if you want to send a little sugar our way, you can send tax-deductible donations to:

Zion Christian Fellowship
10405 Old Sawmill Rd
Powell, OH 43065 (please put Mozambique in the memo line)

If you are a Nigerian prince who needs to deposit money directly into our account, I totally get that. Just  email me and I'll get you our information ASAP.

Friday, July 20, 2012


For some reason I can't turn off the closed captioning on my Jillian Michael's Extreme Shed & Shred DVD and I had to pause it (not because I was too fatigued to continue, but because a child needed my immediate attention) in the middle of Jillian's cool-down motivational speech. The words paused on the bottom of the screen that I could barely make out due to the sweat dripping in my eyes were: You lived through it.

That got me to thinking about my mindset for our 1st Mozambique experience versus how I'm preparing this time. Last year, I kept telling myself, "You can do anything for 10 weeks." Harvest School was an incredible experience, but one I had psyched myself up to get through, to endure, to survive. From the beginning I had my eyes on the prize: finishing well. Mostly finishing, but if I could do it well - then I would be bi-winning. For a trivial example, we brought food with us - oatmeal, Jolly Ranchers, life-saving Starbucks Via, etc and we rationed those things trying to make them last the whole time. Hanging on to things like that perpetuated the feeling that we needed them to feel normal and happy. There's no way pack enough comfort food for 6 months (we'll be there for 2 years, but have to leave at least every 6 months to renew or visas/stock back up on trash bags and malaria medicine...) so that pressure is a non-issue this time around. But don't kid yourself, I'm bringing Via again; when I said "life-saving" I wasn't messing around.

This time around is a whole different ball game. First of all, the terror of the unknown has been taken care of and I have a better idea of what to expect. My pep talk this time is, "You're not there to live through it, you're there to LIVE!" We are going to call Pemba home for a while and that's where we are going to thrive not just survive. This is where Judah is going to learn to speak Portuguese, Luciana will learn to read, and Asher will be potty trained (Thanks, Moz.). There's a good chance Shawn will get to be a better pilot and I will see children go from being hopeless to having opportunities and choices.

So, we press on living our lives by faith. This promises to be our biggest adventure to date and I have kissed the word normal goodbye.