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New Role, New Friends, and Lots of News (part 2)

Hey there! I'm back for part 2 of my update posts! If you missed part 1, click HERE. I shared about my new role and my new friends...now it's time for the NEWS! 

You may know that I've been looking into eye surgery lately. I have Dwayne's Syndrome in my right eye, which, to put it in short, means that (1) some of my nerves aren't connected how they should be, and (2) my eye muscles have weakened, making my eye turn from the middle of my eyelid to the center of my face. This has also caused some double vision - which was thankfully mostly fixed with a better glasses prescription, but still happens on occasion (especially when I'm super tired or under stress!). God is absolutely incredible to have created our brains to compensate when other parts of our bodies don't function as "normal". I can still see out of my right eye, and don't have constant double vision. Praise God!

photo credit: Cole Gorman
I expected to have eye surgery this summer, and actually left Tanzania a month early to see my doctor. But, he didn't think surgery was the way to go. We (My parents and I) left the appointment confused, but trusting God had a bigger plan. We decided to get a second opinion with a doctor in-network of my new insurance, and he recommended surgery, but would work on both eyes. I wasn't comfortable with this, especially since the first doctor's advice was completely opposite.

We researched to find doctors who specialized in my area of ophthalmology, and found a doctor who had 20+ years of experience in this area at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Unfortunately, after calling to book an appointment, we found out he had no openings until after August, when I would be back in Tanzania. We had our name put down in case of a cancellation, and continued to pray and trust God. Amazingly enough, God provided an opportunity for me to get an appointment with him before I left for Tanzania!

He ran a myriad of tests (like using this crazy contraption ;) and gave me great assurance and hope! He decided surgery would be a good idea, and answered all of our questions. He plans to work on the muscles of my right eye to turn it back to center. He said that I would even be able to have followup surgeries if they eye slips back to being turned in! God is good!
He recommends to have the surgery sooner than later. We were actually able to schedule the surgery for December 11! Unfortunately, that means I'll be taking a leave of absence from Tanzania, but I know the Lord has a master plan. He's orchestrated everything to work out in His timing, and I trust He will continue to fulfill His plan.

I will be leaving Tanzania on Sunday, October 28, because I have the wonderful opportunity to join my parents in Cape Town, South Africa, before heading to the U.S.! They are currently in Botswana, and will be making their way down to Cape Town to meet me for a few days. Like I said, God's plan is perfect!

I'll be in the U.S. for November, December, and January, as I prepare for, have, and recuperate from my surgery. My prayer is for a quick recovery so that I can hopefully return to Tanzania in February, after my six-week post-operation appointment! I'm looking forward to being home for the end of fall, and for the holidays! Though, it is hard to leave Tanzania and Hope School for three months in the middle of the school year!

 As I make this transition and prepare for surgery, would you please pray for me? Here are some ways you can pray for me these next few months:
  • Healing for my eye! I believe God is our Healer- and He will heal my eye, whether it is through the surgery, or before it even happens! 
  • Favor with my insurance company - I've been having some trouble getting coverage for the surgery, as the Mayo Clinic is out of my network. Please pray that God would change their minds and allow me to have this important surgery with this doctor, who has specialized in this field for so many years! It is an expensive surgery; one that I cannot pay for without insurance. I know God has ordained this and I trust He will provide financially!
  • Surgery – that God would be with the doctor to do exactly what’s needed for my eye, and that my body would do well in and after surgery
  • Recovery – that the recovery would be quick and painless, that my body would accept the change of my eye, and my brain would quickly re-calibrate to the new placement, so that I do not have double vision! I believe for complete healing in Jesus name!
Thank you for your love and support. Thank you for your prayers!! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me!!
I would so appreciate your financial support as well! Though I won't be in Tanzania for a couple months, I will be working with the other volunteers to help Hope as much as possible from afar. Also, this surgery is not cheap, though it is very important for my well-being! If you feel led to support me financially, you can go to: http://bit.ly/AllieDonate. Select Hope International School and write my name "Allie Elliott" in the comments. All donations are tax-deductible! "Asante sana!" (Thank you so much! in Swahili) 
I’m blessed to be serving God in beautiful Tanzania, and know that He has big plans for this nation and for me in the months to come!!

Much love,

New Role, New Friends, and Lots of News (part 1)

Hellooooo friends!! So much to catch you up on...life has been going too fast to document!! We've been in Moshi for two and a half months, and it's been great!! (We being my MOM and I!!) Here's a quick update on life in Tanzania...

First of all, I've stepped into a new leadership role. We're calling it Academic Coordinator. I work with the other Western Mentor Teachers to help the Tanzanian teachers. We now have two Tanzanians in each classroom as partner teachers, and the mentors each have a role to help them succeed. I work with them, a bit more removed from the classrooms, to keep everything moving in the right direction, as well as some admin work. It's been an interesting transition, but I really am enjoying a different side of teaching in Tanzania! I get a chance to impact the whole school through teacher training, coordinating curriculum and school events, and overseeing the academic side of Hope School.

We had some last-minute teacher changes this summer, and my mom felt God leading her to come help out for the first two months. This time has been such a gift to both of us, and I've especially loved sharing my second-home with her. She's helped the school SO much with organization, and doing the jobs I wouldn't have had time to do if she wasn't here. She also has such a gift of loving people well, and the students and teachers have all experienced that.

It's been so fun introducing her to all of my friends here, and showing her around my world! Our time has been filled to the brim with adventures and time together, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Highlights this past two months include:

Getting to know my new housemates! Josh & Emily (the two on the left in the bottom pic) work with me & Katie (who was here last year, left on the top pic) at the school, and Grenisha (right on the top pic) works with another ministry in Moshi! I so appreciate them and am so glad to be doing life with them here in Tanzania!!

Teacher Training! I started the year out with a two-week teacher training before school started. It was intense, and a lot of work, but was a great start to the year. We did some team building activities, set up their classrooms, and spent time going over all of the teacher stuff: curriculum, classroom management, and more.


Adventuring! We've spent time getting out of Moshi and going to waterfalls, a coffee tour, a beautiful farm, a big city, and the Hot Springs! It's so much fun to see new places in Tanzania, as well as return to some favorites.

Last week, my dad joined my mom and I for a few days! It was a joy to show him my life here, and we packed as much as possible into his four days. We went to a church in the village, got to travel up the mountain a bit each day to see a hospital his hospital partners with and an awesome shop with painters & Tanzanite, and I showed him the school & he got to meet the teachers/staff! He and my mom decided to make a whole trip out of their visit here, so now they're off to Kenya for safari!

I have so much more to share with you, including some exciting news! Look for part 2 of this blog post tomorrow! Thanks for sharing in this adventure with me!

Top 10 Trader Joe's Finds for Clean Eating!

I am almost halfway through my first *official* Whole30! I did a near Whole30 in February in Tanzania, but didn't exclude legumes and some other things, just because I didn't have access to as much as I do in the U.S. I'm feeling really good about my June Whole30- and seeing results on-and-off-the scale! I am always searching for great Whole30 compliant food to make my life easier, and Trader Joe's has a TON of great options! So I thought I'd share my TOP 10 with you today (in no particular order!).

1. Bagged & Prepped Veggies
I love these because they save me prep time! The broccoli is the same price as a bunch of broccoli, and it's already cut up. #nobrainer! I love me some roasted brussel sprouts- so all I need to do with these is cut them in half, season them, and pop them in the oven. #done! I don't get the squash and potatoes a lot, because they're more expensive. But I can see them being SUPER useful on those nights when you don't have a lot of time!!

2. Avocados & Tomatoes
I'm cheating by putting these together! They're my "eat every day on every meal in every way" foods that add flavor and yumminess without any of the processed stuff! TJ's has the BEST grape tomatoes in my opinion. They're super plump and juicy! And the bags of four avocados are way cheaper than purchasing them individually! You save almost TWO DOLLARS. That's huge!! #frugalshopper

3. Mixed Nut Butter
This stuff is PRICEY but DELICIOUS!! It's very liquidy, but I love the mixture of nutty flavor it gives. Perfect for dipping apples or bananas in, or for a quick smoothie! It's definitely worth the splurge! Plus, you just saved $2 by buying your avocados in bulk! :)

4. Turkey Burgers
This is my newest discovery! The Chili Lime Chicken Burgers are also Whole30 approved, but I'm not such a fan of chili. The turkey burgers are an easy option if you need something fast (they take about 15 minutes to cook). Also, that price can't be beat! They're tasty and you can even break them apart to add to your meal if you need more protein.

5. Potatoes
I looooove that I can eat potatoes on the Whole30! #lifesaver! These Organic Gold Potatoes are my FAVORITE. The best part is that you don't have to peel them!! #winning I chop them up and roast them in the oven with some sweet potatoes, or slice them thinly for a delicious Potatoes Au Gratin! Even pop them in the microwave for a quick baked potato!

6. Coconut Aminos
This is the best substitute for soy sauce, and it adds great flavor to your dish! It doesn't have as much of a salty taste, but it's super yummy for all those Asian dishes. I made a beef stir-fry with it this week and it totally satisfied my Asian-food-cravings! $3 can't be beat!

7. Riced Cauliflower and Broccoli
I was super skeptical about cauliflower rice before my Whole30. But I actually love that it soaks up the sauce of any dish and takes on its flavors! TJ's has done the ricing for you, and makes it super easy to cook! Just make sure it doesn't sit in your fridge too long before you cook it-it can get pretty stinky pretty fast!

8. Everything But the Bagel Seasoning
This is one of my FAVORITE seasonings of ALL TIME. It tastes SO good on EVERYTHING- eggs, veggies, salads, meat, etc. It adds a delicious flavor without overpowering the dish. It literally sits on my stovetop all the time because I use it for almost every meal. #MUSTTRY

9. Vegetable Broth
This is Whole30 approved and super cheap. It's hard to find chicken broth that is super clean, so I have been sticking to veggie. It's great because you can use it for beef or chicken dishes! Also, I used it in my Potatoes Au Gratin this week and it made it look cheesy! So that's a bonus! ;) I'll usually add this to my pan after I sautee the cauliflower/broccoli rice for a few minutes and simmer until the liquid is gone. It plumps it up and adds some flavor!

10. DIY Trail Mix - Dried Fruit and Nuts

So I'm kinda cheating on this. But I'm okay with that! I've created my own trail mix from these bits and pieces, and it's awesome! I love the unsweetened coconut chips-they add an interesting texture. The nuts are all awesome, and I do a mixed assortment. I think this time I used cashews, almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. Just remember to read the labels- and make sure if you choose roasted nuts they're roasted in a compliant oil. I usually use raw nuts. The dried fruit is a yummy component. But again, it is SO important to check that they didn't add extra sugar! I've found that the dried cherries, some dried mango, and the dried pears are good because they don't have any added sugar. I do NOT like raisins, so I don't even pick up those bags to look at the label! :) I just mixed these three things in a big ziploc bag, and have it on hand for when I need a snack! The options are endless! :D

HONORABLE MENTIONS - These aren't as high up on my must-have list, but I thought I'd share them with you!
This Purple Crush Juice is delicious!! It's sweet, but not too sweet, and is really good for you too. It's a yummy treat to have that won't get you off track.

Obviously, the sugar is NOT part of this list, but TJ's has great almond flour. Or get the Almond Meal and save your self $1.50! I'm going to use this on chicken this week, so I'll let you know how it turns out!
I love the Nutritional Yeast too- I like to sprinkle it on top of my dishes for another level of flavor.

Unsweetened Applesauce is another great sweet treat to have every once in a while! I like it when it's really cold, especially on hot days! Just remember to look for the UNSWEETENED part. No added sugar!

I love all the options TJ's gives for the bagged lettuce mixes! One of my favorite is the Cruciferous Crunch! But they're all super yummy and make an easy salad or even addition to a stir-fry! Baby spinach is awesome for breakfast too!

I hope you enjoyed traveling through the grocery store as I share my top picks with you! Trader Joe's has become my FAVORITE grocery store. I love the small-town feel and the awesome prices! I hope you found some new ideas here. I would love for you to share your favorite TJ's purchase with me in the comments!! Also, pin this on Pinterest so you can reference it for the future!

Until next time,