Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving in Zambia

On Monday I headed back out to the CRC on my bike.  I made my usual stop at Zambikes to bring all the men sweets and get my bike tuned up.  I also wanted to see if the owners (who just so happen to be American) were back from Mozambique.  I walked into the house and sure enough they were home.  I proceeded to invite myself to their Thanksgiving feast and fortunately they approved of the idea.  I was bound and determined to eat something other than Nschima and beans for dinner on Thursday.

I offered to bring mashed potatoes because frankly without any electricity or ingredients there’s not much else to offer.  So I’m going to walk you through my Thanksgiving Day.

Here’s the bag of potatoes that Innocent brought for me the previous day.  At this point it’s about 8:30 AM and I’m already starting my preparations for a dinner that starts at 5:00 PM.


Thankfully Jackie helped me peel the potatoes.  First time I’ve ever used a knife to peel them.  It took me almost two hours to peel and cut all the potatoes.  Good thing I started early.


While I was peeling the potatoes I realized that I was also going to need some milk and butter.  The nearest shop is a 30 minute bike ride so around 11 AM I hopped on my bike and rode to the farm shop. 

On the way I ran into these beauties.  The one on the right is Miriam who’s married to Martin (works for MWB) and her baby Elizabeth.  I also finally met Gertrude, Lubinda’s wife (also works for MWB) and her two kids, Jacqueline and Joseph.  It was so fun to visit with these gems.  They live nearby each other so I paid a visit to both homes.  Miriam loves to dance so while we were at Gertrude’s home we put in some music and danced for a bit.  These Zambians know how to dance.  I’m hoping that it will rub off.


While Miriam and Gertrude were escorting me back to the main road we passed this woman plowing a filled.  They wanted me to stop and do some plowing myself and just laughed at me when I made my futile attempt.


I finally made it home around 1 PM and had some beans for lunch.  I put the potatoes on the fire around 2 PM and studied with the kids for a bit.  At 3 PM I prepared the mashed potatoes. 

At 4 PM I was ready to go.  I put the potatoes in a big container which fortunately fit in my backpack.  I was worried about carrying them on my bike but it all worked perfectly.  It took me about 45 minutes to get there with a few stops along the way to visit with friends.



When I reached Zambike, I was pleasantly surprised to find a full house with a kitchen bustling with women preparing the feast we were about to partake of.  I didn’t know anyone but my two white Zambike friends that I had only met two other times.  It was fun talking to all these white people and finding out what they were doing in Zambia on Thanksgiving Day.

At about 6:30 PM the food was ready so we prayed and began the feast and boy was it a feast.  I hadn’t seen this much food for a long time.  I was in heaven.  I LOVE FOOD!!!  Of course I had a big grin the whole night.  Here’s the line up for food.


See how happy I am with all this food.


Once dinner started I sat by all the Zambian guests.  For some reason I feel more comfortable with them than the muzungoos.  I loved chatting and laughing with them.  There were so many people and they just kept coming.  It was quite the party and I was so glad I invited myself to the occasion.

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For sure this was my favorite part of the night.  Look at all those pies in Zambia.  It’s like manna from heaven.


A little after 10 PM my new Zambian friends gave me a ride home.  It’s not safe to move around at dark so I was grateful for the ride.  I also got to talk to my sisters.  They were so nice to call and it helped me feel not so far from home.  It was a wonderful Thanksgiving and I was grateful to be so fortunate.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Visiting Teaching in the Compounds

On the weekends I stay in the guesthouse of the Relief Society president.  Because I’m around on Sunday’s she asks me to accompany her when she goes visiting teaching.  Today’s visiting teaching was rough and I want to try and describe it.  I don’t have any pictures because who takes their camera to visiting teaching appointments?  Sure wish I had today.

Most of the members live in Garden Compound so that’s where we visit teach.  It’s quite a long walk through all sorts of little shortcuts.  I always have to mentally prepare myself when I know I’m going to a compound.  They are worse than the slummiest slums in America (not that I’ve been in the slums of America but I can’t imagine anything worse than the compounds here in Africa).  The majority of Zambians stay in these compounds.  They are huge and are stacked with tons of people.  I feel ill just walking around in them looking at the way these people live.  Then I enter the homes of the wonderful members that I see every Sunday at church with their big smiles and strong testimonies and it’s all I can do to not burst into tears right there in their home (I wait until I get home to do that).  After the first home Mavis kept saying how nice of an area it was in.  I looked at her in disbelief because I’ve never seen a worse area until we went to the second and third home. 

The roads and passageways between the homes are all dirt which is fine when everything is dry.  However, the rains have come and now the dirt has turned to mud.  There are pools of dirty muddy water everywhere making many areas impassible.  Today we had to jump over big wide cracks in the path that were filled with water, trash and who knows what else.  We walked along the edges of these big pools holding onto the trees so we didn’t fall in just so that we could reach a member’s home.  We walked around the piles of trash that are everywhere.  I’m paranoid the whole time that I’m going to slip or that I’ll get any dirt on my feet and then I look around at all the people we’re passing and find that nobody is wearing any shoes and they don’t seem to mind.

There are people everywhere doing wash, cleaning dishes, fixing food, drawing water, buying things at the shops, playing soccer, drinking beer, playing in the mud puddles, and just sitting around.  We finally reach the members home and they always welcome us in with big smiles.  The houses are dark, small, and uncomfortable for me as an American.  Sometimes they don’t have a place for both of us to sit so they pull up these little stools to sit on.  The members in the second home we visited had just moved into their home and were grateful because now they had electricity.  That’s about all they had in their little tiny home. 

It’s one thing to visit these homes when they are complete strangers and I know I’m not going to see them again.  It’s quite another when I visit the homes of the members that I have grown to love and look forward to seeing every Sunday.  It gives me a whole new perspective on their lives and to be honest it’s a perspective I’m not sure I really want to have.  Sometimes ignorance is much sweeter than reality.

This was my favorite question from our little visiting teaching experience… Mavis: “So is this how visiting teaching is in America?” Heather: “No Mavis, it’s quite different than this.”  Understatement of the century.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My sweet African children

I just wanted to post some pictures of all the kids that I live with at the farm and include a few details about how they came to stay with us at Mothers Without Borders.

These are the three smallest of the bunch. From left to right: Blessing age 3 (F), Abby age 4 (M), Alice age 5 (F).


Blessing is the daughter to Faith and George who are caretakers. Abby is the grandson of Fagness and Boxen who are also caretakers. I mentioned Alice in my previous post. She’s only been with us for a few months and came to us as a favor for the AIDS organization we work with.

Next comes Emmanuel age 7 (M) and Kennedy age 8 (M).


These two little morsels, both in Grade 1, are connected at the hip. Emmanuel has been with us since 2006. I was here the day they brought him, his brother Charles, and sister Exildah to the orphanage. I remember standing outside the closet-sized home where the kids were staying with their grandpa, listening to the social worker tell us about how the kids were being abused and only receiving one meal a day and had no education and on and on and on. It was only the third day that I had been in Africa and after we left the home I just lost it. I couldn't believe these beautiful children were being treated so badly. Since then, I have visited many more homes like this, and heard even more similar stories to that of Emmanuel, Charles, and Exildah. It never gets easier and sometimes I just want to shut my eyes, plug my ears and make it all go away.

Kennedy came to us sometime in 2007 with his other siblings Bwalya and Bridget. They had another brother, Moses, come in 2008 but he is no longer with us. Kennedy and his siblings are double orphans, meaning that both parents have passed away. Their older sister was trying to earn money, by being a prostitute, so she could care for her many younger siblings. This happens to too many young girls here. They have no other alternative; their parents are dead, siblings are hungry, so they turn to prostitution to help pay for food and shelter.

This next bunch of boys are fairly new to Mothers Without Borders (MWB): Gift age 9 (M), Lovemore age 9 (M), Harrison age 10 (M).


All these boys were street kids before they came to us. There are many of these sweet little kids that become orphans and are then forced to live on the streets and fight for their lives. All three of these boys were picked up from the streets and sent to a transit home. The transit home then contacts MWB and asks if we can take them in. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to inherit these handsome boys. Street boys come to us with a lot of anger and a desire to fight for everything but I’ve found that a little love can go a long way with these kids and now that they are receiving proper food and shelter we can start working on mending the wounds of their heart.

This next group of boys are all in grade 3. They are bright, happy, active boys. Bwalya age 11 (M), Makupa age 9 (M), Charles age 10 (M), and Lucky age 12 (M).


I’ve already told you a bit about Bwalya and Charles, and Kupa is George and Faith’s (caretakers) son. Lucky came to us some time at the beginning of this year. He’s a double orphan who was living with the grandmother. One day, a few years ago, she left to visit another city and never returned. Lucky was forced to stay with his sixteen yr old brother. He was found by social welfare and they sent him to us. He’s probably the best student I have. He works so hard.

Bridget and Diana are two peas in a pod. Diana age 12 (F), Bridget age 13 (F).


Bridget is Kennedy’s sister and came in 2007. Diana came to MWB in July of 2008. I was living at the CRC the day she came. I remember walking home from school with the kids and they were all talking about the new girl that was coming to live with us that day. That was the first I’d heard of it and sure enough when we got home there was sweet little shy quiet Diana who couldn’t speak a lick of English. I can’t even begin to tell you the progress she’s made in the last year. She’s now the one who translates for me when I don’t understand what the little kids are saying. She is also reading a few words and doing very well in school. Before she came she was living at Julius Village and had a huge problem with her eyes. Although not perfect, her eyes are much better than they used to be. Both she and Bridget are such a delight…they are always telling some kind of exciting story that happened that day.

Choolwe age 13 (M) has been with MWB for more than five years now.


He was living at the house with his four other siblings when I arrived the first time in 2006. Every year another one of his siblings leaves for one reason or another so now Choolwe is the last remaining of his family at the CRC. I miss his siblings as I’m sure he does as well. I talked about his story before coming to MWB in my blog last year (What Do You When You're Hungry? August 2008) Besides the caretakers children, Choolwe is the only child that has been at the CRC from the first time I met all the kids. This boy is dear to my heart.

Ethel age 14 (F) has been with us for almost two years now.


She took care of her sick mother up until the day that she died. She was left with nothing and no one. She was living with a friend but was kicked out and sent to live on the streets. A friend of Josephine’s (MWB staff) had told us about Ethel and we found her and brought her to MWB. She has the best voice of all the kids. I love to listen to her sing.

Josephine age 18 (F) has been with us for a few years.

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She’s a cousin to another girl that used to stay with us. She is so so sweet and very mature. She’s leaving us this December because she’s 18 and it’s government policy that when they become an adult these kids are no longer allowed to stay at the orphanage. She hardly feels like an adult to me and it makes me sad to see her go. I will miss her dearly.

Raymond age 11 (M) and Chanda age 7 (F) are, along with Makupa and Blessing, George and Faith’s children. DSCN0817

Raymond is the smartest out of all the kids. He’s always asking me a million questions that I never have the answers for. However, just this week we had a wonderful man from the states come and bring us a whole brand spanking new set of Encyclopedia Britannica's. I was so happy when I saw them I started crying. Who knew that one day I would cry over receiving a set of encyclopedias? Now I can give Raymond the answers he’s always searching for. Thank you Val Stokes.

Chanda hasn’t lived with us for long. I’m not sure where she was staying before but I’m happy she’s with us now. She’s a feisty girl who won’t be pushed around but somehow she always finds my hand during our evening prayer. She’s beautiful with a wonderful smile and she’s always by my side to give me the love that I need.

Victor age 15 (M), Vincent age 15 (M) (they are twins), and Chola (he’s the one on the left in the picture at the bottom) age 13 (M) are Boxen and Fagness’ children.

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Victor is quite the preacher and is always telling the kids to be good and speak English and clean the dishes and all this other good stuff. He always says it in the most kind and gentle manner. All three of these boys are so very polite. They treat me like gold.

There are so many others who have come and gone. A few that I will gratefully see again and others that I must wait until the next life to see. Life here is never constant. You never know when another child will come or when another will go. I’m learning to never miss an opportunity to kiss, hug, and tell these beautiful children how much I love them. I’ve learned that with love comes pain but the blessings that come from loving these children far outweigh the pain when they’re no longer around to hug.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Life in Zambia

I’ve now been in Zambia for a month and it’s high time I post some highlights.  It’s been full of ups and downs.  I’ve postponed blogging because I want pictures but keep forgetting to take pictures.  I’m hoping to have a weekly update but we’ll see.

So I have a double life here…one with an angel and one with the devil (sometimes I think I’m funny and really that’s all that matters).  Actually both my lives are pretty angelic like but quite different.  I have a Monday to Friday life and then a Friday to Monday life.  Every once in a while I take a day or two from one life and give to another but in general this is my world.

Monday to Friday – The Farm, The Bush, The CRC, The Orphanage

These titles all represent the same place.  This is where I stay during the week.  It’s beautiful in the Bush.  We live about 8 km away from where the pavement ends and from the nearest bus stop.  I stay with 25 adorable children, 5 incredible women who cook, clean, and care for the children, 3 men who maintain the land, and a few other workers who spend their days with us in the bush.

My roommate and dear friend Jackie and her sweet little two month old baby Liseli.


The other day my sweet sister Mable came walking out wearing a T-shirt from MY University.  It made me so happy I had to take a picture.


I got to visit my other sister Miriam and meet her adorable baby Elizabeth.  Her husband, Martin, is one of the workers on the land.


Life on the farm is simple but never dull.  I spend my mornings in my “office” trying to figure out how to start a school in January for all these kids.  The afternoons are spent working and tutoring the kids.  Early evenings are reserved for my runs and the late evening for singing and praying with the kids.  The night is a whole different story out at the farm.  The kids are in bed by 8 PM and I’m right there with them.  The night is filled with mysterious creatures that crawl all over everything and anything.  I’ve been introduced to the joy and wonder of cockroaches and their incredible ability to reproduce.  I have also never seen so many different kinds of insects that fly and crawl and make me want to hurl.  I try to take care of all bathroom needs before the lights go out because when they do it is no longer the world of humans but a world where tiny creatures reign.

It’s not the best picture but if you look closely you can see all sorts of bugs many different shapes and sizes crawling around.


This is how I try to protect myself from the bugs at night.  My bed is the one in the middle.  There are three of us and sweet little Liseli that share a room.


Here’s a picture of the younger kids in the “attention position”.  You always have to take two pictures of everyone in Africa, the second comes only after you’ve realized that no one ever smiles the first time and they have to be reminded to smile.


The mornings come early because the kids have to leave by 5:30 so they can walk the 8 km to school for one measly little math class and turn back around to walk another 8 km.  OK sometimes they get more than one class but I sure will be grateful when we start our school and these kids are in school for 6+ hrs instead of 1 or 2 and only have to walk 20 ft instead of 16 km.

On Wednesday mornings I do my wash.  I HATE doing my wash.  It takes me HOURS.  Oh the joys of time saving devices.  NEVER complain about doing laundry if you have a washing machine.  Everyone keeps saying, “you’ll get used” but instead of getting “used” I’ve just decided to start wearing everything for 3 or 4 days before I decide it’s dirty.  Who needs hygiene???


Since I’ve already complained about the bugs and the wash I’ll save the food for another post.

The children are my greatest joy.  They come from many different backgrounds and that presents many challenges and blessings.  We have more boys than girls and many of them have come to us from the streets.  They are wonderful children who’ve had hard hard lives.  Every once in a while I catch a glimpse into the lives they’ve lived and it brings tears to my eyes.  I have learned so much from their broken but strong spirits.  I feel so grateful for the opportunity to love and be loved by them.


Here the kids are watching a movie on my laptop.  Unfortunately, that’s about the only movie they could watch because I’m unable to charge my laptop when I’m at the farm.  We’ve got solar power but it’s not enough to recharge the laptop.  I’ve been told that we’ll have electricity by December.  Crossing my fingers on that one.


One little girl, Alice, is such a delight.  She has AIDS and came to us as sort of a favor for an AIDS organization we work with.  Alice is a doll and the only English she can speak is “I Love You”.  She’s five yrs old and smaller than my two yr old niece.  She’s the best cuddler and speaks non-stop Nyanja to me.  I think she’s finally clued in to the fact that I don’t speak Nyanja but I think she’s determined to teach me because her jaws never stop jabbering.  She’s been so sick ever since I got here with a bad cough.  This past week she’s had a high fever.  Hopefully she’ll get to feeling better soon.


This is how Alice sleeps in her bed.  Who needs all that space anyway?


(This post is turning out to be much longer than I had planned…it’s all about enduring to the end my friends…just keep going…the end is near.)

On Fridays I hop on my little Zambike (riding a bike in Zambia deserves an entire post all to itself) and ride the 33 km into town where I spend the next few days in my other life.

Friday to Monday -

I love my weekends.  They are a much needed break from the kids and a chance to recharge for the following Monday.  I stay with the sister missionaries in a nice clean bug free home.

Here’s a pic of my weekend home.


My favorite part of this second life is the chance to connect to America and more importantly my family and friends.  I get to see and talk to my sisters and Dad every week.  Still trying to get those brothers of mine to remember that I need a little attention from them as well, but alas, what can you do?  I LOVE talking to my family.  I’m the only American amongst all these wonderful Zambians and every once in a while I just need the opportunity to talk to someone who knows my background.  I cherish my time at the Kilimanjaro Cafe where I spend more time than I should on Skype.

Here’s a pic of the Cafe from the outside looking in.


I get up early Saturday morning and head to the Cafe so I can talk to the fam before they head to bed.  Then at 10 AM I attend institute at the church and spend the next many hours using the free wireless internet.  Did you hear that??? Free Internet…the church really is true  (now if I could just get them to give me the keys so I can use it when my family is awake).

After I get kicked out of the church I go to Shoprite to buy food that’s not Nschima.


Then I return home, make dinner, do some wash, prepare my RS lesson and head to bed.

Some Saturdays I’ve also had the opportunity to visit old friends and meet new friends.  Here’s some pics of my friend Eric, his wife, and their little baby Joseph.

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On Sunday’s I head to church on my bike with the laptop.  Spend a few hours after church on the Internet, sometimes I visit teach with Mavis on Sunday afternoons, and take advantage of my final hours of peace and quiet.

On Monday mornings I hop on my bike to ride the 33 km back to the CRC and do it all over again.

As I said earlier, I feel so blessed to be here.  Life here is full of challenges and blessings.  I’m learning to adapt and love whatever comes my way.