Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Zambia 2013...last day

Day eight: We're up early again, not because we had to be but because Ellen doesn't keep track of the time and she got bored. Have I mentioned my roommate is an insomniac? She has done very well in letting me sleep for the most part, her kindle helps. My warning of imminent death if I couldn't sleep may also have been a motivation. I also mentioned to her that she would need to share the room with me unlike in Kenya where her stuff was everywhere, even on my suitcase. She did better and I'm a minimalist so it worked out. You can check out the video for proof of truth.

So we wait this morning to start our llloooonnnnggggg flight home. As I hear the news of the Nairobi airport on fire, terrorists are suspected, I have to wonder if this will impact our flights. I guess we'll see. I can't believe it's over already. I would willingly stay another week, but at a slower place. We'll see what vehicle arrives to take us to the airport. We'll say goodbye to this beautiful country, our laughing friend Fraywell and his lovely wife, Loveness. 

Fraywell and Loveness arrived in the Jeep! It was fixed last evening and although it is still running a little rough, needs a tuneup, it is running. We loaded up and arrived at the airport in plenty of time to check-in, have a drink, do a little shopping, and get to our gate. I'm hoping to sleep on the flight from Addis to Washington, we'll see if my body cooperates. 

My sister had given me a ring a couple of Christmases ago with Jeremiah 29:11-13 inscribed in it. I wore it to Zambia instead of my wedding ring but last night I felt very impressed to give it to Loveness. So I did this morning when we had a moment alone and told her I would remember my Zambian sister. I plan to replace the ring, just a simple silver band, because I treasure the gift from my sister and now I'll treasure the memory of where the first ring abides. I am forever grateful for the experience of seeing true African life. It is a hard world for women, without conveniences, old world ideas of women's roles, and little hope for change in the basic areas. Even with some limited modern conveniences, even the smallest tasks are time-consuming. Cooking, cleaning, bathing, managing a home just takes more time with the lack of clean water, electricity, and things we don't even think about.

So we made it to the airport, did a little shopping, got a replacement band for my silver one with little geckos on it. It's wide and I love it! Finished up some gift buying, I think I'm covered. Our flight took off on-time and the biggest blessing of all, we were in business class! Our first flight from Addis to Lusaka we were in coach and by the time we landed my feet were huge and I had impressions in my knees from the seat in front of me. So very tight. But this time, room to spare, no swelling, no indentions and a much easier flight. Thank you God for this treat. 

When we arrived in Addis, we were told which terminal to go to and as we walked off the plane, there was a bus. It took us to baggage claim, we found a sign directing us to our terminal, and after many questions, found our gate. I think the lack of communication is the caveat in most international travel, at least in Africa. Bathrooms with no paper, shopkeepers who tell you one thing and gate agents who tell you something different, the most intimate pat down I've ever had at a security gate and the longest line we've encountered all to get to our gate. I think in light of Nairobi, things are tighter than usual and we are headed to the US. 

We get to the gate and then we wait...last group to board, some seat mixups and we're on our way to Washington. Very little sleep, very long flight, and some major wackado hair. Of course that is par for the course, I forgot my blow dryer and have been wackado hair woman all week. At least it is sort of clean, Ellen's goal for this trip was to not wash her hair the whole time we were gone. She succeeded. Her hair is a great deal longer than mine, but the thought makes me itchy.

I've discovered something else about my friend, she is Peter Pan. She is also a major nester and rule breaker. And the ultimate Oma. A heart for women and children, she has reveled in her time with the Zambian women. I was a little afraid she wouldn't come home. But she did and is now applying to be my permanent traveling companion for all Africa reviews. We might have to compromise on the hair-washing thing.....

I'm really dehydrated, my skin looks like alligator skin. I know I haven't consumed as much water as I normally do. With hours on the road and hours on the plane and sketchy bathroom facilities or none at all, I refrained from drinking during travel. I feel dried up, everything is staticky, and I can't wait to get home and take a shower, drink some water and maybe, eat something Mexican. Or maybe some BWW....we'll see who comes to the airport. We layover in DC, fly to Houston and layover some more and then to OKC. I'm sad to leave Zambia but I'm very ready to stop flying and to see my family. I'll have to take them with me next time.

As I reflect on the trip, I am just grateful. I never knew what an adventure my life would be and I wouldn't change anything. Thank you God for such an incredible existence. Never let me forget their faces.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Zambia 2013....more

Day 5: Up at 4:15, we left Lima Garden at 4:45 to take Charles to the bus station. Now bus stations are sketchy even in OK, but add in the African dynamic and it's an adventure. People everywhere, busses everywhere, horns honking, men acting almost like carnies to hock their bus tickets, and cars coming and going all in a parking lot the size of a small business lot in OK. We dropped Charles off and in the darkness, headed to Livingstone, I presume...sorry, couldn't resist.

Getting out of town was as normal as any African journey in town. Sparce street lights, traffic, walkers, taxis, until we reached the end of town and hit the highway construction. So yeah...for many miles it was one way traffic. They would stop one direction and allow the other direction to go and then switch. Just as we came out of that we were diverted to a dirt road for many miles. At one point, Fraywell says he has never gone this way before. It's dark, no signs, much traffic and our driver is wondering if we're headed the right direction. And a lot of semis, a LOT! Instead of wide load, the signs on the oversized trucks here say ABNORMAL. As you can imagine, we got several giggles out of that. I'm pretty sure every time Fraywell sees one now, he'll think of us.

The good news, we were headed the right direction and met back up with the highway after 20 or so kilometers of ungrated dirt road. Most of my fillings are still in my head I'm pretty sure. So we turn south again and head to Livingstone. We enter the Manunu Hills and I'm transported temporarily back to the Arbuckle mountains of OK. Have I mentioned the dirt here is red like home? Watching the sunrise over the mountains was a special enjoyment. I love the trees of Africa. The Baobob is my favorite with its huge trunk, many of the trees here bloom in bright colors and the sweeping umbrellas of the Acacia trees are like lace against the sky. School children walking alongside the highway makes my breath catch. It is their everyday and yet to see small children walking alongside a highway where cars are driving 100KM an hour is startling to me and yet it's just what they do. Sometimes they see me and we wave at each other bringing smiles to us all.

As I'm heading to see the seventh wonder of the world, I'm in awe of the opportunities I've had in my life, I want to always be grateful for this great adventure. 

So the sights and smells of Africa are intriguing. These sweet people are concerned about keeping their cars in clean, pristine condition. They wipe them down at the end of every day, car washes are prolific and yet throw their trash out of the window as they drive along. Keeps the car clean but covers the countryside in garbage. And with water being a premium, although their cars are clean, their bodies are ripe. Not dirty necessarily, at least visibly. But the scent of an African man at the end of the day is quite, well, full? Imagine a man having freshly mown the lawn, chopped the wood and taken out the trash in his  Sunday clothes giving you a hug. Now you're getting it. And it's winter here so there is most likely a jacket on top. The only benefit is with the dusty air and lack of catalytic converters, most of the time my nose is stopped up. And my heart is stronger than my sense of smell, I genuinely love the people!

I have discovered my true worth here though. In the front seat of the car , I am almost a guaranteed wave through at the plentiful police stops along the highways. You see an orange cone and you begin to slow down for ahead the police are in the middle of the road checking drivers licenses, tax stickers, breath for drinkers, or other violations. Probably more than  20 stops so far, we've been waved through all but 2. Fraywell says the police want me to go home and send everyone to Zambia. I totally will, it's beautiful here and the people are lovely. They speak English well, the kwacha are easy to understand.  $100 kwacha =$20 American. Even I can do that math. 

So we arrived in Livingstone and I'm immediately struck by how clean it is. The UNWTO is having their 20th conference here and they are putting on the show for them. The streets lines are painted, the sellers have been moved out, the streets are swept and clean. There is a lot of construction racing to be finished and the markets are well stocked and ready. In two weeks, Livingstone will be full! 

Our first day here we got more rest than expected. We were anticipating reviewing 14 National Missionaries in the afternoon and then a visit with a friend of Fraywells. Our regional leader showed up and said he had sent the men to rest because he thought we would be tired. We were not happy about this and asked him to try and reschedule them for that evening. He said he would call them. We did not hear from him until late in the evening, he had gone to play golf. See? We aren't really so different.

As he came by that evening, Fraywell had a stern talk with him and said the men needed to be at our place, ready for interviews by 8am. Not only were they there, but several arrived early. This was very good. We finished the reviews, our regional director apologized for the previous day and we changed clothes to go.

Day six: We struck out through Livingstone toward Victoria Falls. It is truly a wonder! The sound and sight of it are awe inspiring. The baboons in the park just running around add a special humor. At this time of year, the falls are not at their fullest so you don't have to wear raingear. We did however get plenty damp from the rising mist. It's a little bit of a hike but very pleasurable! 

After leaving the falls we went shopping. I must admit this wears me out. I'm not a shopper in America but to have to haggle over every price, be called into every shop, be best friends with every shop owner and to be called mama by strangers all day is exhausting. The handicrafts and artwork are beautiful. The process to bring them home. Not so much. But I got the mama discount for almost everything and although I could have haggled longer, I feel good with what I did. If I paid 5 kwacha too much here and there, I hope it is a blessing.

We returned to our guest house, the nicest one we have stayed in so far for a short rest. Then on to Christopher's home. He is a retired government worker and friend of Fraywells. We walked around the corner from where we were staying and entered his compound. Christopher purchased a piece of land and built his house in the middle. He then built 4 rental units around the back of the property, 2 duplexes. It is a large home with large rooms but even though the house is less than two years old, it is like much of the construction here, very poor. 

So even though Christopher was suffering with malaria, he was a gracious host. We started with juice and biscuits. Conversation was plentiful and diverse. His daughter, Katie, was cooking all this time. We got there at 4. Dinner was served around 7, and after-dinner yogurt and fruit finished around 8:30. We were given a tour of the home and admired some of his sand art. He insisted on giving one piece to Ellen because he had two alike. As we were leaving his home, he gave me and Fraywell each 100 kwacha because he couldn't let us leave with only one having a gift. Americans could learn much from Africans.

I feel like all we have done is eat. It is hard when people with so little honor you by feeding you. You feel obligated to eat each time and to eat it all and they want you to have your fill, so they keep passing the bowls. And pop is a big treat here, especially cold ones. And there is always one waiting.

This is shima. Basically like grits without the liquid. Served at every meal. 

I will leave Africa having gained weight. I need to make my peace with that.

Day seven: We left early again this morning for our 500 km journey home.  

The return trip was without incident. It was hot for the first time since we've been here. Road construction made our journey slower and much dustier. At one point the dust was so thick, we had to roll up the windows and ride with only the vent blowing. we were sweaty! The Chinese have built good roads here.  The Zambians have paid for them in mineral rights. The Chinese are smart and one day we may all need to speak their language. 

We pulled into Arcades, a local shopping center much like an American strip mall. Exchanged some money, we had spent all the kwacha we had. When we were ready to leave, Fraywell started the car, we heard a thump and a bad noise. Fraywell couldn't turn the steering wheel and we found the belt on the ground. After Fraywell, Ellen, a security guard, a taxi driver and a passerby looked it over it was determined that a pulley had broken and the belt had come off. Fraywell sent us home in a taxi and he left to hunt down the part. I hope he got some rest last night, it's been a wild week.

Ellen helping Fraywell fix the car. If you know Ellen, you know why this is funny! 


Friday, August 23, 2013

Zambia 2013...cont.

Day three:We have so much choice in America. It is difficult for us to be gracious in other countries. Today the church people had left cold cokes for their special guests and pastor for after the service. In America, we just say no thank you if we don't want something. However, in Africa, you say yes, thank you. It is their way of hospitality. Even those with very little will offer you something and you cannot offend them by refusing. I am trying to just put aside my American habits and live in this culture. It feels strange to be an honored guest everywhere I go. I want to say I'm just me, doing the job God has given me to do. But they see an American white woman who is the Director of Reaching Generations, an orphan ministry in 7 countries of Africa. It impresses them...and I am beyond honored. But it is humbling for their lives are so difficult and they work so hard to get through daily living much less work as well. I'm spoiled and life is convenient and I have little to struggle with really. So I thank them all the while praying for God to bless them, help them and keep me forever mindful of this time.

With the agricultural fair in town, service was much smaller than usual. I was unexpectedly called on to pray over the service. Wow, humbled again. When church ended, we (special guests, special preacher Edison Tembo and Fraywell) stood at the door and shook each hand. Only 500 or so, church attendance was down. We then met with Chanda and his mother. He has a large tumor on the left side of his face and eye. After 3 surgeries, it continues to grow back and there is nothing further that can be done. As I looked on him, my heart broke. I cannot imagine an American child just left to live in that condition. But once again, we have choices. Even the poorest among us are blessed.

Tomorrow, day three, we are going to visit two young girls orphaned by a hippo attacking their father's boat. We will stay the night because driving in the dark is dangerous, the elephants like to sleep on the road at night. I'm feeling so many emotions, I'm tired, and so very blessed. Thank you, God, for this special journey. 

Day four: I am wide awake at 2:00 am after a long day. We traveled from Lusaka to Kaoma, about 6 hours, to visit two young orphan girls. They are the daughters of one of our National Missionaries who was killed after preaching the gospel near the Zambezi river. He was in a canoe crossing back after preaching when a hippo capsized his boat and killed him. His wife had died the year before so his sister took the girls in to care for. She is also a widow with a young son, young nephew and now two additional children. As we met with them under a tree, they were so shy and unsure at first. We started talking to them and they warmed up to us. The baby boy began kissing the stuffed dog John had given him. Like any other children. The toys were like Christmas! We began to draw attention and for the sake of the guardian, we said our goodbyes. Thelma and Suthen, the two girls, will hold a special place in my heart, their family has given so much to spread God's word.

Today as we journeyed back we saw water buffalo, zebras, warthogs, baboons, dik dik, impala, kudu, heartbeast, antelope, hyenas, guineas, and elephants! Probably the largest elephant I have ever seen. As large as a tree. We hadn't eaten so we stopped at Mumbaki lodge to have a ham sandwich. Nestled against the banks of the Kafue river, we sat on the balcony and enjoyed the breeze. Our soldier guide Regin joined us. I'm sure he had never been there before and was surprised we included him.  And now we head back to Lusaka. Tomorrow will be another early day, but I should sleep well tonight. We enjoyed dinner at The Arabian Nights in the Arcade shopping center. Although our choices included kudu or impala, I had the Arabian kabobs which were delicious! The first beef I've eaten here that didn't resemble jerky. That includes the chicken.
I enjoyed the conversantion with Charles, Fraywell, John & Ellen. We laughed much about about Fraywell's BIG fish. As we returned to the hotel, the children alongside the road saw us coming as started waving and shouting Mzungu (white person) and we smiled and waved back. My short taste of celebrity although it happens almost everywhere we go, I guess our white faces are a novelty. And I was right, it was a good nights sleep, even though short.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Zambia 2013

I'm going to share my journal from the trip here on my blog, hope you "travel" with me. 

Day one: We landed and had dinner, just Tandoori chicken and chips at the mall. I am in Africa, right?With a large agricultural event in Lusaka from August 1-5 everything is crowded. Parking, roads and people are full! Tomorrow is also a full day, starting early.

Day two: I am attending an African funeral of a woman 5 years my junior. Her 5 children are now without their mother, and her family without their daughter and sister. The deaconesses from the church prepared her body, attended to the service with their singing and weeping and will bury her at the cemetery. A white pine box, simply made,  and her life is now complete. Her oldest daughters wept so hard as they passed the body, they couldn't continue to stand and were helped out by the women. I had held my tears until then but they flowed freely at this sight. She is in heaven and although I mourned her having never met her, I will meet her one day.

After the funeral, I met 82 orphans, their guardians and overseers. It is unimaginable the joy which comes from seeing your work in person. I do not have the ability to see my daily work and the impact it has on a regular basis. Papers do not hug you, thank you, kiss you, or make you smile! It has been so good to be here.

We then went to see 12 orphans and welcome them into our program. They live in a village called Soweto with a population of around 400,000. probably the size of Warr Acres in OK. little huts and houses everywhere, and children as far as the eye could see. Muzungu (white people) draw quite a crowd. They were shy and in shock. When I announced they did not have to wait until January, there were smiles and whispers and tears. With profound thanks, they came forward and received their first month of support. Many couldn't even look at me, many had tears. I encouraged them, prayed over them and she'd my own tears for the hundreds I walked by on the way out whom I could not yet offer help.

We shared dinner with Fraywell and his family. Loveness was a sweet hostess and so excited to see a woman from Reaching Souls. Fraywell, when asked what was his favorite thing about her, said her frankness for it made him a better man. She loved most his persistence and love for her and her children. They shared their love story, Fraywell took us by the place he had first seen her on our way home to Lima Garden and it was such a special time.

Tomorrow, church and rest.