Thursday, December 27, 2007

Spa Day

After all of this holiday stress, a few of us decided we needed some relaxation. Be thankful you only have to plan Christmas gifts for your family and friends. After helping to prepare meals and gifts for 55 COZV children, 23 COZV staff and their multitudinous children, 70+ Mafuta children and 9 Mafuta volunteers… I’m pretty much “elf-ed” out.

Now normally my idea of relaxation would a Decaf Iced Mocha from Starbucks, painting my toenails and watching a chick flick. I had to settle for a spa day with some of the girls. I know some of you would jump at this chance but being the not-so-touchy-feely kind of person, I was skeptical how relaxing this was going to be. It sounded more like torture than relaxation but they convinced me to give it a try. I was all for getting a pedicure… feet are fair game. If someone is willing to pick sand and goat doodie out from under my toenails, so be it. But they wouldn’t let me off so easy. After much coaxing, I settled for a facial and a neck/shoulder massage. BUT I also got my feet scrubbed and my toenails painted in Avon Chocolate Decadence. (OK, so I know some of you are rolling your eyes… this isn’t really the suffering for Jesus you thought was going on over here. Honestly I would have never expected there to be a spa in Katima either.) So now that I have a bright, shiny face and the cutest toes this side of the Zambezi, I can actually say it turned into a fairly relaxing daylong adventure after all.

PS Happy 80th Birthday Grandpa Ed!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The First “No Way”

As planned on Boxing Day (Dec. 26th) approx 70 children and 9 volunteers from Mafuta joined us for a Christmas celebration. We took 3 vehicles to go pick them up and bring them to COZV. We traveled in true African style… every available nook and cranny packed to the gills. When we arrived back to COZV, we matched up our children with at least one Mafuta child to host. It was so adorable to watch our little ones walking around all day hand in hand.
We had intended on serving them goat and chicken on the braai (barbeque) but we got a rude awakening when we took the goat meat out of the cool room on Christmas Eve. It quickly filled the entire children’s home with one of the worst smells I think biologically possible. Seeing that I greatly despise smelly things, I barely escaped outside before being overcome by its putrid aroma. It had only been in there 3 days but something went very, very wrong. Flexibility again came in handy and we quickly shifted to plan B by serving just chicken with rice, veggies and loads of ice cream. I didn’t hear one complaint and many happily came up for seconds.
After the meal, the Mafuta children sang for us a Christmas song they had been preparing. A couple of weeks ago, the African teacher I work with at Mafuta asked me to write down the lyrics for The First Noel. I wrote out, “The first noel the angels did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay…” But as she went to copy it to the board, she corrected me and said that it was spelled no way. After a brief conversation, I didn’t have the heart to keep arguing her and honestly I couldn’t explain what noel meant anyway (I have since learned it is another word for Christmas). So, you can see the pic above if you want to learn the African version. The kids passionately sang, “The first no way the angels did say…..No way, No way, Noooo waaaayyy, No way, Born is the King of Israel.” I couldn’t help but crack up. Nevertheless, I was shamelessly proud of “my” kids.
We were able to give out some small gifts including baby dolls for the girls and beanie babies for the boys. I wish I had gotten a picture of their little girls faces light up. After having their fill of playing with our kids, horseback rides, soccer and with full bellies, we drove them home late in the afternoon. After which I pretty much collapsed.
Happy Boxing Day!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree

Last Saturday we decorated the Children’s home for Christmas. It was so fun to watch the older kids put up the tree and then all the kids decorate it with their homemade ornaments. Sometimes they chose to decorate themselves first before the items made it on the tree. It’s finally starting to feel like the holiday season despite there being a lack of snow.

I’ve been a busy little elf helping to prepare Christmas cookies for a staff party we had on Friday as well as packaging presents for the kids and staff. We had a huge braai (barbecue) of goat, chicken, sausage, potato salad, three bean salad and misc. other items. We had about 30 staff and volunteers around a big table. We all ate until we were stuffed though I admit I didn’t try the barbequed goat much to the dismay of some of the children.

Since I probably won’t get to post again until after Christmas and Boxing Day… I hope you all have a blessed holiday with your families! Merry Christmas!!!

Santa Claus Is Comin' To Mafuta

One of the other volunteers here received a donation from his coworkers in the States to buy the kids at Mafuta some Christmas clothes. So about a week and a half ago a few of the other volunteers from COZV came with me to play Santa. It’s amazing how far just a few hundred dollars goes here. We were able to buy t-shirts, some shorts and some pants for about 50 children. We had also received a few pairs of used shoes from a different group of donors. Some of these children had desperately needed these clothes and shoes. They were SO excited to receive them. So many thanks to these donors for giving these kids something new to wear!We’ve invited the Mafuta children and volunteers to join us here at Children of Zion on Boxing Day (Dec. 26th) to celebrate Christmas with us. They will get to play with our kids, soccer, net ball, ride the horses and be treated to a big meal of rice, chicken, goat and ice cream. Our children at COZV will also prepare them a little gift.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

more about Mafuta

As I’ve mentioned, almost every morning after devotions, I head to Mafuta, a local village where we support an orphan feeding program and preschool. I have been typically arriving at 9am. As I drive down the dirt road nearing the facility, a bunch of my preschoolers start running from every direction behind the truck and many of them are already there waiting for me. When I pull in I am greeted by them all chanting “mikuwa” which means European or white person. As I step out of the truck they start fist fighting over which of them gets to hold my hand as I walk into the building. It is a welcoming gesture and it makes me wish I had octopus arms to hold each of their hands.

If I arrive earlier, which seems to rarely happen, I can help the women prepare the food that is fed to the orphans around 10am, their one meal of the day. They use these huge black cast iron pots to cook over an open fire. In one pot they usually prepare shima or pap which is a very stiff cornmeal porridge, a staple here. It’s made by adding cornmeal to boiling water. They add more and more cornmeal until it is so thick it is nearly impossible to stir. Two women face each other and stir with these long-handled wooden paddles in opposite directions with amazing force and rhythm like the churning of a washing machine. I am convinced these women have the biceps of Hercules to do this on a daily basis. The shima is eaten by rolling it in your hand and then dipping it into some sort of fish stew or soy meat soup or whatever type of “soup” is available.

In order to cook everyday, the men that volunteer at Mafuta have to bring in the firewood from outside the compound. A week or two ago, they convinced me to help them go into the bush to collect firewood so they could have enough when the rains come and the roads become impassable. I drove the pickup 2.5 km into the bush on a sand road. I parked in the shade and then watched in awe as these men went running into the bush in various directions. They each returned with a huge tree trunk slung over their shoulder and dropped them next to the truck. They did this over and over again for about 45 minutes. To me it seemed to be a competition to see who could carry the heaviest log at the fastest speed. It was like watching the African version of the caber toss at the Scottish games.

Most days I assist teaching preschool for about 2 hrs. We have an average of 15 students and they are fairly attentive. They unfortunate thing for me is the language barrier. Most of these little ones at Mafuta don’t speak much English so most of my lessons or story times require translation. Their favorite book that I brought from America is “Buster Has the Hiccups,” a story about a lion with a bad case of the hiccups (Thanks Moscinski Family!!). Whenever we get to the part in the book where it says “hiccup” they all make the sound. It’s quite hilarious. It also has a little squeaky lion on the front that they all have to take turns squeezing when story time is over. I think we’ve read the book nearly every day I’ve been here so far. The new school year starts in January and as I understand it we’ll be having a class of 40 kids. I think it will definitely keep me on my toes.

As far as my prayer requests for Mafuta go… It is quite a challenging situation. Not only are many of the children there in great need, but there are some additional situations I am dealing with made even more complicated by the language barrier. I need prayer for wisdom and discernment how to best come alongside the staff that already volunteer there as well as to assist in solidifying the program. And if God would bless me with a divine understanding of Lozi my life would be a lot easier.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Trying to act like a chief

I was walking from the school building the other day when it looked like it was going to downpour.  One of the African teachers that works here was walking beside me.   He told me this story about the African philosophy of rain.  He said that the chief of a village is not allowed to take cover during the rains if he is caught out of doors during a storm.   He is supposed to walk proudly through his village as if he is unaffected by the rain.  Because if he were to hide his head, it would be as if he was cursing the rain in front of his people and therefore drive away the much needed rain.   So the teacher said the moral of the story for me is that I shouldn't duck my head when it rains, I should walk proudly as if I am unaffected just like the chief.   Little does he know what a wet-fabric-phobic person that I am.  I was not quite convinced this was the best way to react to the torrential African downpours, but I gave it a shot just to see how it changed my perspective on it. My consensus is that I'm thankful I'm not a chief.   I will continue to try to make peace with my wet-fabric syndrome all the while trying to stay as dry as possible during the inevitable rains.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Brown paper packages tied up with strings...

These are a few of my favorite things... hint, hint :-)


- starbucks

- CHOCOLATE esp anything dark, almond joy, midnight milkyway, or chocolate covered espresso beans

- peanut butter M&Ms

- luzianne tea or Twinnings Decaf Irish breakfast tea

- drink mix "singles"packets

- daisies

- cheddar cheese pretzel combos

- new recipes

- new pictures of you and your family

- books

- epis of bro & sis (lindy: this one's for you)

you can contact angie, mary, sara or my mom (my cellphone is still active) for my mailing address if the mood so strikes you.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A day in my life…

Many of you have asked what my typical daily activities are.  That's a bit hard to explain because I'm under the assumption there are very few typical days, but here's a snapshot of what this week has been like.  

A typical week day sort of looks like this:

7am   wake up and shower

8          staff/volunteer devotions

8:30    I leave for Mafuta

9          Mafuta preschool begins

9:45    serve meal to orphans

10:15 preschool resumes

11        head back to COZV

Til 1pm I do various task: office work, spending time with the babies or preschoolers, whatever needs to be done.

1pm   lunch & rest time

2:30    back to the office or wherever I'm needed until chores or dinner

4:30    choretime (I admit I don't typically head out to the barn)

7:30    dinner & rest time

Between 9-11pm I'm in bed, reading, writing, etc. 


One word to describe Monday: flexibility!  I woke up thinking I was going to Mafuta.   I was dressed in long cargo pants with my pockets stuffed with what I normally need when I'm there.   I went to devotions and then was helping Gary pack the pickup truck with the provisions I was bringing to Mafuta.   I was just about to leave when I found out that my day was going to look very different.   A volunteer who had been waiting to hear about getting a flight to the states needed to be rushed to the airport in Livingstone Zambia.   So I rushed back to the bungalow, changed into much lighter cloths and jumped in the van with another brand new volunteer.   We arrived there by noon, got them through airport security and then began the trip back.   I was driving the Quantum, a very large van.  I'm glad I've been getting used to driving on the left side of the road.   Fortunately there was little traffic.  It's basically one turn and then 2-3 hrs straight on a tar road.  It was pretty easy drive, though I did have to dodge a bunch of piglets in the road, not the typical African road hazard.   We were able to stop for lunch and I ate a huge bacon cheeseburger. I was famished and it was very good.  We reached the border posts by 4:30 and surprisingly navigated them like pros for two newbies. All in all it turned into a fun adventure.  

Tuesday was a pretty typical day. After rest time, I took 6 kids into town for various errands: some needed sneakers & pata pata (flip flops), some needed paperwork, one got to go as a reward for good behavior.   Our first stop was the most critical, paperwork for 2 of the kids.  In my ignorance, I apparently showed up on the wrong day and at the wrong time.   So that was a bust.  But fortunately we were able to accomplish what we needed to during the rest of our stops except to find pata patas that were large enough for one of the girls.   Overall, it was a successful trip. 

Wednesday was a fairly typical day with little to report. I spent some quality time in the office learning my tasks to help with the bookkeeping here.

Thursday was also a fairly typical day except for the meal at Mafuta.  There are an amazing bunch of female volunteers at Mafuta that are dedicated to preparing the food for the children.   They have tried to teach me to cook their way, but for the most part, I am too weak.  They cook in these huge black metal pots with long wooden paddles.   They say if I try a bit each day I will get stronger which is probably true.   So normally they cook and then I help serve the food to give them a little bit of a break.   On this particular day, they prepared mackerel and cabbage "soup" served with shima (a stiff cornmeal porridge, a staple here.)   Wow was that an interesting aroma.   To have my head over a pot of that for 30-45 minutes just about did me in.  Before I left the states, my family and I had a pretty disgusting episode with rotten sauerkraut (don't ask).   This was pretty similar. But the kids gobbled it up. They really seem to love fish, bones, eyes, skin and all.  I spent the rest of the day trying to get the fishy cabbage smell off my hands.    

Friday started like any other day… I left devotions and walked down the path to get the truck I drive to Mafuta.   I hadn't taken more than 4 steps out of the gate and right in my path was a snake!   My first sighting since I've been here. EEK! It was bright green, about the length of my arm, very narrow and you could barely make out its head.  I don't know whether to say praise God, I've made it 14 days without seeing a snake or to say I've only made it 14 days…   Either way, I promptly turned around and yelled for the African staff.   Leonard, an absolute gentleman and a VERY hard worker, came running with a big stick… my new hero!!  He told me it was just a little water snake (fairly harmless from what I understand) but either way he apparently clubbed it.   I got out of there.   I was running late as it was and didn't want to find out if he was wrong.   Phew… I've lived through what I'm sure is just the first of many sightings.   The funny thing was that right before devotions I was reading in Genesis about Eve and the serpent in the Garden.

Addendum:  on my way to the main house to post this blog, I got roped into helping stitch up a horse's forehead.   By the time we were done, it was dinner time.   During dinner the power went off and then after dinner, I was helping comfort a girl that wasn't feeling well.   Needless to say I never got to post my blog. All part of the adventure…

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Moving… Again!

So I know that will make some of my friends laugh given my Guinness Record worthy history of moving around Rochester, but I've moved again! Yesterday some volunteers left, leaving some open beds in the staff bungalow. So I moved inside the compound with all the other female staff. It's a thatched roof house near the river that I share with 4 other girls. It's nice to feel a little more settled and I actually unpacked some things now.

I should probably report that I have made a few successful trips to Mafuta on my own. Driving here isn't as difficult to get used to as I expected once I figured out a way to be able to touch the pedals. Though I thought I'd get away from the bad winter driving conditions in NY. Well I have to say driving on sand roads after there has been a downpour isn't much different. Sand seems like it can be as slick as ice when it is wet. But fortunately all of my wintertime experience seems to be helping me navigate without too much trouble… so far anyway. The rainy season has just begun.

Speaking of rain… we've seen a few big storms in our first week, mostly overnight. There were some pretty impressive downpours and HUGE claps of thunder. I'm sure there was lightening too, but I couldn't see that with my head buried under a pillow.

Not much else to report… just trying to get acclimated to the schedule here at the children's home as well as my tasks at Mafuta. I *do* have internet access on a more regular basis than I expected so you can use my gmail account to contact me. I can't promise I'll be prompt about returning your emails, but it is nice to hear from you all.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Traveling mercies….

Sorry for the delay in letting you all know I arrived safe and sound.  I kind of jumped right in with some projects that have kept me busy.
I arrived at the children's home late Friday afternoon after relatively little hassle or delay and all luggage intact (praise God!).  For the first week I am living in the staff house slightly off the children's home compound.  (Jocelyn/Cassie/Bethany, Pernicious says hello.)
Saturday morning I helped out in the kitchen and made 18 batches of chocolate goat milk pudding from scratch with the help of one of the older girls.  Apparently everyone thought it turned out well. 
Saturday night some of the girls went camping a short walk from the children's home.  I didn't  sleepover but stayed for the hot dogs and marshmallows over the campfire.  One of the other volunteers pointed out a very bright star and said, "Hey, I bet that really bright star is a planet."  I laughed out loud and they all looked at me strangely because they didn't really think it was funny.  It made me slightly homesick for Sara.
On and off I've been helping a volunteer who is here for one week with her digital photography class for some of the older children.  It's kept me quite busy and the kids are doing a great job. 
Today (Monday) I took my first trip to Mafuta where I will be working every day with their feeding program.  It is going to be very challenging but I am excited to begin working.  Pretty soon I'll be driving there on my own on the left hand side of the road driving stick shift also with my left hand.  Pray for me and everyone else on the road. :-)  Fortunately it isn't far.   
Note to my RWC team: many of the kids have asked about each of you, wanting to know where you are and if you are every coming back especially Justin because they want to play soccer. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

So long...farewell...auf weidersehen goodbye...

I hate to go and leave this pretty sight... goodbye home sweet home.
On to my big adventure! Tomorrow afternoon I fly out of JFK directly to Johannesburg. It's a LONG flight something like 18hrs plus a time change (but I plenty of reading material thanks to my book club who has graciously picked the next few books so I can participate from a distance.) Friday morning we fly to Zambia and then finish the journey to Namibia via van. We should arrive around dinnertime on Friday.
Hopefully I can post when I arrive to let you all know I got their safely!!
Thanks for all your notes! Missing you already... JB

Monday, October 29, 2007

Welcome to my blog!

Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by for a visit to my blog. Sorry it has taken me so long to get going. Stay tuned for exciting stories about African adventures!!