Saturday, July 5, 2014

Week 3: I'm Mary and I'm Martha All At the Same Time

June 29, 2014

This morning we went to Tumango for church. Since Emily, Emily, and Brandi (the Harding girls who got in last night) were with us, the church asked us to sing for the congregation. We got up in front of everyone, sang a couple of songs, and they really seemed to enjoy it. It was good to be able to bless them in some sort of way.

After church we went to the Merritt’s for lunch. We had baked potatoes with the Merritt's and Jason and Cyntia. It was so nice to have a family homestyle setting with a lot of faces both old and new.

We went to the Havens to get our baby we’d planned to have one on one time with today. I was going to take Pri again but since she was Emily’s baby when she studied abroad here last year I let her spend some time with her. I chose Vera due to the fact I’ve grown to love her dearly this past week. The Harding girls stayed at the Havens for the afternoon while we came back to spend some time with our little one. Aubrey read a few children’s’ books to the babies and they were still as stones. They can be so incredibly attentive and engaged with things like that it's surprising. Vera and I did the shape sorter, ring stacking, and reading. And tickling. Lots and lots of tickling.

Sweet Vera.

Before long, it was time to strap them on our backs and walk back to the Havens in order to get the babies there and for us to get back before sundown. The walk was beautiful as always but at one point we had to army crawl under some barbed wire with the babies strapped on our backs. Again, the things that happen sometimes.

We got the Harding girls, walked back, and made breakfast for dinner. It’s been great being together telling stories and sharing this special summer that’s happening in all of our lives. Even if it is just for a few days. We went to Johnson church after dinner and Roy continued his Temple series. Tonight he talked about keeping your temple holy in terms of sexual purity. Another girl decided to get baptized! We were all so exhausted we just came back to the house and went straight to bed.

It blows my mind we’re already beginning week 3.


June 30, 2014

This morning we pulled ourselves out of bed to go running. The sunrises never get old.

Since it’s a new week we moved Havens so I’m in Haven 3 now. Haven 3 is all ages from newborns to walking and talking. They’re in Haven 3 instead of Havens 1 or 2 with the other kids due to individual medical reasons. It can be anything from they were exposed to HIV or TB or anything that requires special attention to medicine-taking. So they keep them in a separate Haven not because they’re dangerous or contagious but just for the simplicity of medicine storing and making sure each child gets what they need and medicines aren't forgotten in the shuffle of the day.

I was able to have one-on-one time with Kent, Angel, Helen, Rita, Jeremy, Chilala, Candace, Petra, Boyd, Gilimo, Esther, Agnes, Evelyn, and Chabilo.

Today was especially hard for a number of reasons. Some of the kids were tired, so shy they wouldn’t utter a sound, or just plain cranky. Besides that, today was the first time I had really seen one of the struggling babies who was here when we were Fall 2012. He went back to the village with his family and was brought back because he was almost dead from malnourishment. Now he doesn’t even look like the same child. He has ringworm everywhere, dark scabby skin on his sideburns and wrists and feet, splotchy skin, white scarred fingers, discolored eyes and teeth, and red hair from the malnourishment. He hasn’t said a word since being back at the Havens and when he left he was a babbling baby. The whole one on one time today I was so angry. Just looking at him was hard. Not because I was disgusted. Because I was looking into a face of straight abuse. I'm angry, but also relieved that he’s alive and back. How could it have gotten that bad? How could God have let a child get THAT bad and not intervene sooner?

On top of that we found out pretty solemn news about Zack, one of the guys that studied abroad with us. He was in a really bad farming accident a week ago and was not expected to make it. Then he did make it but is still critical yet improving. Now he is sedated and the everyone is just waiting. Doctors are saying he’s “extremely critical” and to pray. Who knows if that's a positive or negative statement but today was just a day of a lot of thinking and wondering why things are the way they are.

All the babies went down for their usual naptime so I went to help Grace in the kitchen with lunch. Emily, one of the Harding girls visiting, had a Zambian friend with her, Elise, who she met last year. She brought Elise to the Havens so they could spend some time together. Elise is so intelligent and speaks remarkable English. They helped in the kitchen as well and Elise showed us how to shred cabbage for rape (a type of relish here). She turned on some music on her phone and the first song she put on was a Gospel song by Destiny’s Child. What even. After that song finished she turned to Emily and said, “Listen to this one and tell me if you know it.” And SWEET HOME ALABAMA started playing. For the love of all I just lost it laughing. Lynard Skynard playing on a Zambian’s phone in Africa. I told her I was from Alabama and she goes, “Oh really? Please don’t cry listening to this song.” Haha I mean I can’t say I’ve ever had the desire to cry during Sweet Home Alabama, but I almost did today from laughing so hard.

We had nsima, rape, beef, and some soy chicken kind of stuff. It was super good. Since the babies were napping for another hour at least, I went and got Joel and spent over an hour with him. It was perfect timing to just sit with him and let his presence heal the hurt happening.

After feeding at Haven 3 all of us came back to Meag’s and had stir fry for dinner. All of us girls ended the evening sitting around the table playing games and telling stories.

There were hidden blessings in today. Like Rita’s sweetness, Jeremy’s joy, Esther’s small fingers feeling my face while feeding her, Petra’s dancing, Joel just being who he is, and even the humor in the song on Elise’s phone. But today there was also a lot of frustration about the injustice all over this place and this world. I’m mad because the problem is so big and any kind of attempt is feeble; a drop in the bucket.

Will the bad news ever stop? Will there ever be a stretch where no one I know is hurting or doubting or dying? I guess what I’m wanting is Heaven. Which in itself is proof that this world really isn’t my home.


July 1, 2014

Somehow we got ourselves up this morning and we walked our usual trail. Language class today was more information about names; the process of naming and who gets to give the names, etc.

We got news that Zack is doing pretty poorly. He’s having renal problems which Meagan says is never positive news.

On the way to the Havens I was feeling extremely down about the whole day. The Zack situation, having to see Kent again, just a lot of different things. And today ended up being one of the best days as of yet. I was able to get one on one time with every single kid which I haven’t done since I’ve been here. Some of the quiet ones from yesterday talked and laughed with me. AND Kent spoke. Which is HUGE.

I also had a whole hour with Joel. I hung up my hammock and planned to swing and read to him but he was so tired all he wanted to do was lay on my chest. We read a couple of books and hammocked the entire time. Thank you God for that moment.

We fed at Haven 3 which is always crazy. I fed Helen and Chilala, two girls who were both hesitant with me yesterday. They were talkative and giggly with me, which only added to the goodness of the day.

We all came back to Meag’s, made tacos, and played games with the Harding girls since we’re taking them to Choma tomorrow for the start of their internship.

Today was such a great day after such a whirlwind yesterday. I lay down every night wondering how in the world Meagan and the Aunties and other missionaries do this every day. The work itself is draining  and the emotional toll it takes is exhausting. However, it has forced me find joy even in the smallest positives. Because sometimes the small positives are all you’ve got.

July 2, 2014

We got up early this morning to take the Harding girls to Macha to begin their internship. We got an update on Zack that his bowels are not functioning and his body is not absorbing any nutrients because he keeps rejecting everything from his feeding tube. A lot of our car ride was spent in silence.

When we got to Macha, we went straight to the grocery store to get some stuff for both the girls and for us. We drove another hour to the research center where the Harding girls will be doing their internship. We helped them get their groceries and bags inside and said our goodbyes.

From there Meagan decided this would be a good day to do some village visits since some of the kids live out that way.

We started by finding Nico. We pulled up to her house to be greeted by a man who seemed to be out of his mind. He was talking to Meagan in Tonga but she told us after he walked away that she thought he may be out of his mind because he wasn’t making sense. A few minutes later Nico and her grandmother walked up the path to the house. Once Meagan saw her she started running and Nico did the same. The reunion was so sweet. The grandmother got each of us a chair to sit in and a cup of cibwantu (fermented corn mush with water). Meagan was catching up with her grandmother about how Nico was doing. She has constant ear infections and think she may be almost deaf because of it. Her grandmother said that a lot of times she won’t respond or even know you’re talking to her unless she’s looking at you. Otherwise she seemed healthy and happy. It was so obvious her grandmother loves her. She gave Meagan a whole bucketful of sweet potatoes when we were leaving. In the car afterward Meagan said Nico's grandmother always gives her some sort of gift as she’s leaving. And whenever Meagan thanks her, her grandmother says that what Meagan has done for Nico will always outweigh any kind of gift she could give Meagan. I felt extremely positive when we pulled away.

After Nico, we trekked across to the other side of Choma to find Prince and Princess. We pulled up and there was Prince, standing at the door, his face looking exactly the same as the baby Prince we all knew. Princess came running around the house with a huge Aretha Franklin weave fro. We were laughing so hard thinking about how Bridget would react to such a sight. They both are so incredibly healthy and in the best situation I could have ever imagined. They’re living with their aunt and uncle in a really nice house with other kids both older and younger. They didn’t remember any of us (obviously) but they didn’t even remember Meagan which I was surprised to observe. Meagan said it can be painful for her when that happens, but it’s always a good thing because it means they consider their real family their real family. Meag said it’s always more difficult for her leaving a village from a visit with the baby latching on to her wanting her to take them with her. But this wasn’t the case with Prince and Princess. Their aunt and uncle both work at a hospital and were so friendly. They invited us in and we sat in their living room talking about the World Cup and news. The uncle asked us where we were from and when we told him America he goes, “How do you manage to survive there?” At first I thought he was joking with us but after a second I realized he was totally serious. We asked what he meant and he said he hears about things like “bush fires” (forest fires) and suicide. I told him we survive the same way they do in Zambia and he said here they might suffer from illness of some sort, but never natural disasters or civil war like we do. He said it with such genuine concern for us almost like he felt bad for us. It took me off guard for a minute but then I realized he was right. Not that America is a worse (or better even) condition, but I mean to say he’s right in that Zambia really is such a more peaceful place.  We pulled away from their house, both Prince and Princess waving. They’re in such a happy home that will encourage them to pursue such a bright future.

We left there and started roaming around the area for Caleb. Meagan had been in contact with a neighbor of his so he met us out on the main road to help us know which path to turn onto. We passed the path a bunch of times but finally saw him. He led us up to their hut where we found Caleb. He was sitting on the ground with both of his feet clubbed as ever. His right foot has become significantly worse. He wouldn’t talk at all to any of us. Meagan sat next to him, pulled him onto her lap, and started massaging his legs and feet. She exchanged words with the man who helped us find the hut. I couldn’t gather much but I did hear Meagan ask why he hadn’t been going to the clinic to get casts on his feet regularly. The man answered saying they didn’t have transport money to get there and back. Meagan asked how much it costs to get there and back and he said 40 kwatcha. That’s about $6.50. Meagan then asked how far away the school is for the kids and he said it was about a 45 minute walk (a task no person with two clubbed feet can do). It hit me then that this boy’s future relies on $6.50. If he doesn’t get his feet fixed, he can’t get to school. If he doesn’t get to school, he can’t progress to a better life than he has now. He would be left with farming but he really couldn’t even do that with two clubbed feet either. $6.50. That’s the difference between becoming a beggar and a businessman here. We left their house and I asked Meagan what else the man said and she said she would tell us whenever she was less angry and not on the verge of tears. We rode the rest of the way home in silence while tears were streaming down Meag's face.

Before getting to the Namwianga road we turned off onto another path to see Kent and Jesse, two siblings who have come home from the Havens. Both of their parents are blind, which astounds me. They’re able to keep up with 5 kids, and a farm, blind. All the kids can see which helps, but still. Wow. All the day to day tasks started running through my mind: starting a fire, knowing which of their vegetables are ready to eat, gathering those vegetables, cooking, washing, just getting around the area safely. It seems hard enough with two working eyes. Their youngest sister (Cipo) is in Haven 1 right now and Meagan said we’ll be bringing Cipo home this Sunday.

We got back to the house from their house, unloaded groceries, and ate before getting ready for Bible study with the girls. They didn’t come tonight so it may be a holiday or some kind of break for them. So we all just turned in for the night and went to bed early before working at the Havens and going to the village tomorrow night.

I have a lot of mixed emotions about today: anger, joy, sadness, thankfulness, relief, confusion. It’s so hard for me to understand why a lot of things happen here. In the world really. With the babies, with Zack, with a lot of different situations. Why there’s so much pain. “Because this world is broken and sinful” just doesn’t seem to satisfy that question for me anymore.

July 3, 2014

This morning we slept in until language class and learned random words from a grade 1 book Chimuka brought for us.

At the Havens I managed to see all but two kids. It was a really good day overall even though I was pretty slow moving. Petra was so cuddly and talkative. Every one of the little, little babies were so incredibly smiley. Kent was more playful, especially with bubbles. Jeremy was so still during a book we read together. And all Joel wanted to do was give me kisses all over my face. He would even point to his mouth and then my cheek totally on his own.

Memory, one of the Zambians that helped cook food for our HIZ group, surprised us at the Havens.  A lot of the girls had befriended her and become close with her when we were here. She showed up and we caught up with her about how her schooling and student teaching was going.

Bina Mbombo and I left for the village at 17:00. On the road back to her house we passed a cobra stretched across a log. I was less than 2 feet away from it when we passed it and once I saw it my whole body went numb and straight into fight or flight mode. I just kept walking and it wasn’t until a little farther down the path did Bina Mbombo tell me it had been killed so it wasn’t even alive. Snake eyes, even dead ones, are just as beady and scary.

We got to her village and I helped her sweep out the inside of her house and sat with her as she cooked nsima. We had chicken and nsima and then went outside and sang under the stars with her kids. I really loved one song in particular. They sing the whole thing in Tonga and then again in English. It says:

Every time,
In the Spirit,
In my heart.

In the mountain,
In the hillside,
In the valley,
In the sea.

It was so fun to sing and one of those songs you sing as loud as you can because you want to remind yourself the truth of the words.

We were joined by a lot of the village kids and we all went inside the house because of the cold. One of the boys went to get an empty jug and brought it back inside to use as a drum and we sang the night away. Two other Aunties, Mabel and Esten came over and Bina Mbombo’s daughter, Luyando, danced some of the traditional dances she’s been learning at school.  I counted and by the end of the night we had 17 people inside of her house. It was loud in the best kind of way.

July 4, 2014

Last night I didn’t sleep we at all for whatever reason and woke up feeling a little sick. Bina Mbombo prepared rice and sugar for breakfast so we ate and talked a little bit about all kinds of things. America, HIV, our village visit, and then started the walk to the Havens. We met up with Aubrey and River and Ba Beauty on the path. We passed our cobra friend and got to take a pic with him.

We went to the Hamby to grab some coffee and say bye to Emmett before leaving for our fun weekend with Meagan. The plan is to go to this lake for Friday night and then go to Lusaka for Saturday.

We finished packing our stuff and started our drive to Lake Kariba. We found out we’re staying on an island in the middle of the lake which was exciting. We drove for what felt like hours; well, it was--three hours down a bumpy and potholed road. None of us were sure we were going to right way but after we asked some people for some direction, we arrived. It was like night and day. The road up to the lake was primetime Africa but once we got to the lake it was such a touristy spot. The lake was huge and so blue. It just didn’t feel like a place like this could exist out in the middle of nowhere, but I'm surely thankful it does. We had an hour to lounge around until the boat left for the island so I found myself a little corner in a chair, read, and spent some time alone.

Soon it was time to load up with another family of 5 and boat to the island. We rode for about an hour and got to talk with the manager of this place. She’s from South Africa and is taking over the manager position while her son is gone since his wife just had a baby. When we docked we toured around and got our chalet. Aubrey and I are staying together tonight and River and Meagan are in another place. It’s pretty cozy. There’s no Internet and only a couple of places with cell phone service which I actually think is one of the best things about it. It’s almost relieving to know there’s no way anything on the outside can reach us here. They told us we need to be in our houses by 11 tonight because sometimes elephants from some of the other islands like to swim over and walk around here. What.

The four of us rested a little and played a game of Phase 10 before going back out on the boat for a sunset ride. We rode out a bit to where you could really see the horizon. The sky is the most beautiful colors of pink and orange. There were these mountains far away and all you could see were the layered silhouettes of them. It was like a painting. We were talking to the guys driving the boat and we had heard previously that someone had died on an island close by a few months ago so we asked them what happened. One of our guides was actually there when it happened and the guy that died was one of his friends. They were installing a water pump and he said he heard an elephant beginning to charge (you can hear their ears flapping and obviously their charge itself). He said he jumped into the croc infested lake to get away but his friend didn’t hear the elephant because he had earphones in listening to music. He said the elephant grabbed his friend with his trunk, squeezed him to death by crushing all of his bones, dropped him in the water, fished for him in the water with his trunk, pulled him up, and then trampled him. Meagan asked the guy if he ever goes back to that place and he just laughed. He said that he goes all the time and had just gone earlier to take a client to look at the elephants. It’s remarkable the difference in grief between this culture and mine.

We returned back to the island, showered, and rested some before dinner. We had T-bone steaks, potatoes, salad, and this really awesome cake stuff for dessert. We were all laughing so hard because we had skipped lunch that day, and dinner wasn’t ready until almost 21:00 (9:00 PM) and we were just so ravenous. We all got a steak as big as our plates, scarfed it down, and all looked at each other and just died laughing because we were all still so hungry. You would think we had been living in the woods and hadn’t eaten for weeks or something, when in actuality we were just at Meagan’s house that morning. We decided since we had skipped lunch and been out in the sun a lot that day it was ok for us to be that hungry. Kind of.

After dinner we went back to River and Meag’s chalet and laid on the bed talking. It was great having today be such a peaceful beginning to the weekend.

July 5, 2014

Early this morning I woke up early again not feeling well. It was right as the sun was rising so I went out onto our porch to read and greet the sun.

When Aubrey got up we packed our stuff and went to breakfast. Meagan and River came a little later and once we had all eaten, we loaded our stuff on the boat and headed towards the mainland. It was only an hour this time but it was so nice being out on the lake in the morning time.

We paid for everything and started our journey to Lusaka. The trip was a little shorter than we anticipated which was a pleasant surprise. We got to Lusaka around 3:00 and found out A Fault In Our Stars was playing at 3:15. So we went to see an afternoon show. Afterward we went and ate dinner at Mugg & Bean, this little coffee/restaurant place we found a couple years ago. We decided we’d make it a movie day and planned to go back to the theater to see Maleficent. Meag started to feel extremely sick at Mugg & Bean so we came back to the hotel to drop off our stuff, let her go to bed, and we walked back to the theater. When we got there they told us they stopped showing that movie this past Thursday so we just moseyed through town and came back to the hotel. Our room is so great. We finished the night watching While You Were Sleeping and catching up on emails.

This weekend we’ve discovered two ringworms on me; one on my leg, one on my face. But ya know, it only means some babies that needed some good love got some and I’m ok with it. The end of this week marks our halfway point, which is so hard believe. It feels like it’s been forever yet no time at all. Here’s to three more weeks of loving so hard it hurts (and maybe even gives me a couple more ringworms).

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