Monday, October 10, 2011

To market, to market (Life with Bonnie - 10/8)

How do I describe the Ndola marketplace? It’s like a movie. It’s like you would expect a crowded marketplace in a country like this to be. Certain smells are particularly pervasive, especially the live chickens in one area and the dried fish in another. There are flies all over the food, especially the produce and fish. Bonnie and I are the only white people. I hear “misungu!” on occasion as we walk down the street. Men are constantly trying to get our attention, sell us things, carry our bags. This is Africa, man. This is life with Bonnie. 
We get a ride from a friend of Bonnie’s into town from her apartment, stop at an ATM, glance over sidewalk merchandise. I can’t find my sunglasses; I’m hoping they’re in Remmy’s house or the van and I’ll be reunited with them on Sunday. In the meantime, I need something to guard my eyes from the brightness of the day and the dirt drawn to my eyes in gustfuls; wind swirls my hair and dries my eyes with each step. We get to the buses (mini-buses almost like 15 passenger vans, but all shaped like old VW vans, with fold up seats all along the passenger side so you can get all the way to the back) and wiggle our way to the back - me, Bonnie, and Swazi, her African daughter/roommate. I am the “misungu” on the end. Someone squeezes in next to me. A guy with a piece of cardboard and foam comes to the window and Swazi grabs for a pair of sunglasses. “Are these alright?” I am afraid the bus will leave before we finish the transaction and take the first pair she hands out. They are pretty ridiculous and huge, but they will be useful. I pass over 10,000 Kwacha. 
Everyone on the bus finds it hilarious that (blonde-haired, blue-eyed, ever-so-fair) Bonnie speaks Bemba. They laugh hard as she sassily answers a few questions. The men closest to us try to talk to me. I tell Bonnie wryly to tell them I’m a deaf-mute. They start talking to Swazi instead, insisting that Bonnie must be rich. Bonnie says, “If I were rich, I wouldn’t be riding the bus.” I get the sense that this assumption is constant and drives her a little nuts, which is understandable. 
She’s a one-woman machine, Bonnie Scherer. I don’t know how she does all of this, week after week. I don’t know how she is strong enough to be so far from her family, to have come here by herself, lived by herself at first, taught herself Bemba, learned how to get around (all while teaching under pretty tough circumstances). She feeds her class once a week, feeds a family for the week each Saturday, does prayer meetings and discipleship groups and Bible studies. Just hearing about her schedule is enough to make me want to lie down. She has had malaria at least twice since she got here last November, yet she powers on as soon as she is able. It is - I kid you not - astounding. At one point in our trip that day, she convinces a vendor to lend her his bullhorn and says in Bemba, amplified, "Good morning, Zambia! Take care but don't tell!" (one of the political slogans from the winning side of the recent presidential election and pretty hilarious when explained) For the next half block, the other vendors were chuckling and shaking their heads as we passed. 
Everywhere we go involves at least 2 different modes of transport besides walking. A taxi then a minibus. A minibus then a bigger bus. A friend’s car then another bus. It’s not easy. I’m sure it is now that she knows, but to learn it all, without much help, having to always ask. Being street smart enough to not over pay for things. (One look at her and most people try to over charge.) It is mind-blowing. 
I am constantly thinking of Nicole in Uganda and all the things she’s had to adjust to and learn in the last few months and I am prouder than ever. She does have the advantage of working for an organization that did things like orientation and seems to work at helping people adjust to their new lives. I am grateful for that for her. 
Bonnie is like a pioneer. Life with her is not just visiting, it’s living her African life, and it’s good to be here for it. It’s good to experience it, no matter the other things I’m trying to deal with and process (and there are a lot right now). It is also daunting, recognizing how different everything is and how much she continues to shape-shift and sacrifice to make it all work. But she knows this is the life she’s called to. She knows with a conviction that I leaves me a little awestruck. 
We pile off the bus at the market. I’ve been passing it all week long, riding with the FVI team. Remmy told me it’s the biggest market in Ndola and I believe it. Swazi comments to keep an extra careful eye on my bag (an mini-messenger bag that has been supremely useful this trip; I wear it so the bag is resting on the front of my hip), which I am already doing. I’ve got one or both hands on it all the time. We head deep into the stalls in search of dried fish. 
There is a little boy named Joseph than Bonnie met near one of the compounds quite awhile ago. He begs on the streets and lives with his grandmother. I believer he has a sibling or cousin who also live this life. After much work and involvement on Bonnie’s part, Joseph is supposed to go to a rehab program for street kids and then may be able to come to Bonnie’s school. She has also committed to feed the family so they don’t have to beg. This is the grandmother’s biggest challenge: to provide food. That’s why we went to the market, to pick up food for them for the week. 
We get two different kinds of dried fish, dried beans, lots of vegetables (Chinese cabbage, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, funny little African eggplants, peppers), and eggs. Some things Bonnie and Swazi will keep for themselves and some of it will last awhile. Bonnie doles it out in weekly portions so nothing will be wasted or sold by the family. I took a few pictures at the market when we were in the little courtyard where they sell the vegetables (in the midst of the brown stalls and brown dirt, the produce looks beautiful). As I put my camera away, Swazi told me people were getting offended so those were the only shots I took. A bit sad, that. She says that people think if you take pictures, you’ll take them back to the first world and sell them or say, “Look at these poor people, give me money to help them” and then keep the money. Obviously that’s not what I’m doing but that’s what people think. It’s unfortunate. I would’ve loved to get video of the place. I wished, as I walked, that I had a secret camera built into my silly $2 sunglasses. 
The stalls are made of wooden slats, piled up like Lincoln Logs, with a few on top to make the framework of a roof. The stalls are so close together that as you walk in-between, you feel like you’re not outside anymore, but if you look up, you see that the only thing between your head and the sky is peeling, rotting cardboard. I would love to see them set up their booths in the morning, or take everything away in the evening. I know it’s terribly busy in that area around 5 or 6pm because people are headed home from work (we drove thru during that time the other day and it was pretty crazy). I wonder when most people go home for the day. 
After we find eggs that Bonnie doesn’t consider too expensive (she is a serious haggler and makes the most of every kwacha), we head back to the buses. They set a lot of our produce behind the driver and we scoot into the back. It is a serious disadvantage here to have long legs and broad shoulders, let me tell you. Side note: I am VERY glad I could wear pants today, because a skirt would’ve been a serious pain with all of the climbing over seats and into and out of awkward places in vehicles. Most days I wear skirts when I’ll be out and about, tho it’s not particularly necessary in the city, it seems. 
The first mini-bus takes us back into town, then we walk a few blocks to the buses that will bring us back to the apartment building. This time we board more of an actual bus. There are far more seats and the vehicle is higher off the ground. I follow Bonnie forward, and she settles in a fold-out seat across a little aisle from the driver. I scrunch myself and several bags of groceries into the fold-out seat behind her. “No leg room” doesn’t begin to cover it. Swazi ends up all the way in the back, still with two flats of eggs balanced in her arms (4 dozen eggs, ish?)Finally, we are back near the apartment, and I maneuver my way out to the street. 
We take our tired arms full of bags (and eggs, in Swazi’s case) to the apartment, up the elevator to the 4th floor, down the long hallway to their door. Bonnie has quite a little escapade trying to find her keys, balance a giant bag of tomatoes and another of eggplants, and unlock the security door, not bothering to hand me anything to hold or put anything down. (She did set down the sack of potatoes). The security door lock is inside the grate of the door, so you have to reach in and unlock it backwards, after you unlock the regular door inside. It’s quite a procedure. 
We dump all the food on the kitchen counters and get ourselves something to drink. Now Bonnie & Swazi will divide the food up so that there enough meals for the week for Joseph’s family, store what’s left, and take this week’s food out to the compound. 
It’s not even noon. I am ready for a nap. 
TILWB, man. This Is Life With Bonnie.

Fri Oct 7

**Will post about Thurs Oct 6 - an incredible, exhausting, sad, good day - later.**

Friday morning when I woke up, I felt like my head was full of lead. When I wake up with a headache (not an uncommon occurrence), I get an inkling before I even move that pain is forthcoming. Once in awhile, as I sense the lurking pain upon waking, I think, “I shouldn’t get out of bed today. It will be bad if I get up. I shouldn’t move.” This once-in-awhile feeling usually involves a bit of dread about what might happen next in my day. Unfortunately, more often than not, my psychic powers are correct and a less than awesome day is ahead, and not just because I’ll be fighting a headache. However, to stay where I was this morning was impossible, as I needed to get up, shower, have breakfast, pack up, and head over to Bonnie’s, where I’m staying for the weekend while the FVI team goes on a retreat with the Zambian pastors/project managers. I was going to school with Bonnie (the school is small and they share rooms, so she doesn’t teach until noon) and maybe to her church prayer meeting in the evening. 
We had water that morning at Remmy’s house, but it was cold. I wanted to wash my hair but after turning the water on and being all set to get in the shower, I couldn’t bring myself to shove my splitting head under icy water. I got dressed without the shower and took an Aleve. We ran out of drinking water the night before so the headache was probably mostly from dehydration. What can you do? 
As I sat quietly eating bread & butter for breakfast, attempting to will my headache away and hoping I could get excited about my day, everyone else got up from their 7am meeting in the living room and said it was time to go. Of course, it was a half an hour sooner than I’d been told we were leaving, but I wasn’t exactly surprised (again, what can you do?). I decided to take a few minutes to check my email anyway since a few people still needed to get dress and pack up and I could pack myself very quickly. 
To make something awful and frightening very simple, I will just say - I got an email from a friend of mine (one of my oldest friends, who I grew up with, who is only 26) that he has pre-Hodgkins Lymphoma. It is very, very early and it is wonderful that it’s been caught now, and 90% of the people who have it apparently get totally cured, but it was definitely a shock to my system I was unprepared for. Another of my oldest friends was killed in an accident less than 10 months ago and the idea of this other friend being sick was momentarily terrifying. 
Needless to say, we did not leave on time. I let myself be really upset for a few minutes and then pulled it together enough to pack and go to Bonnie’s, but the news was all I could think about for the next 24 hours at least. I was able to get online and got a message from my friend’s sister, another close friend of mine, and she reassured me that her brother is doing okay and catching it so early is excellent and he’ll probably be fine, etc. So. That is good. 
I have to say, other friends of mine have gotten cancer this year, too many (any is too many, of course), but so far, everyone is doing well. It’s tough stuff, tho, and I am sick of it. I am so sick of cancer attacking people I care about and loved ones of my loved ones. I really am. 
You see what I mean about my psychic powers and how I shouldn't have gotten up? :>P 

After a little time for chatting, Bonnie and I took a taxi to her school - Lighthouse Christian, a little primary school in a converted house, with a yard. There is much work that could be done on this school and they are lacking in a lot of resources, yet it is SO much nicer than any of the other schools I’ve visited in Africa. They may not have toilet seats but hey, they’ve got toilets. (Inside!) They’ve got hand-made charts on the nicely painted walls. They’ve got playground equipment and a kitchen. 
The kids are incredibly loud and pretty wild. And I know that Bonnie has been working hard with them this whole year - loving on them and teaching them as much as she can in her limited time with them each day, writing on the board (no textbooks) from a low chair or the ground. Her class meets in the preschool room, so the tables and chalkboard are low to the ground, the chairs are plastic. Her kids are in 3rd grade. One girl in particular is far too tall for the chairs (but she still managed to write me a little lovey note in the midst of her work, as did 3-4 other girls in the class; they are hilarious notes, sweet and ultimately silly). 

The kids took all our bags on the way in and out of school, hung on our hands whenever they could. It's very interesting to me how all the other kids I've interacted with in schools have been quite shy about touching me, but these kids would do anything just to touch my hand - not even shake it or high-five, just slip their hand by mine on the way to class. Then they all had to hug me at the end of the day and took our stuff and walked us out to the road so we could catch another taxi home. When you pile in with others as we did that time, you can get bus fare, which is nice. Packed but nice :>) 

Had a quiet evening at home with Bonnie and her "daughter" Swazi (who is in college and super sweet). That was good. And that was Friday... 

Wed Oct 5

It’s Wed but I keep thinking it is Thursday because this breaks the pattern (the last 2 weeks, I’ve arrived from somewhere on a Wed - this week it was Tues). 

I had an okay sleep which resulted in today NOT being quietly miserable as yesterday was. Got up, had breakfast, and off we went. We visited SIX different churches/projects today, which was nutty, and tomorrow we’re doing it all over again. Whoa. The last 2 churches we saw today are sort of sister churches - the pastor started at the old church, helped with orphan care and such, then moved to the new church (which they are still working on), and (I believe) helped set up the school they have in the church and is also working on orphan care there now as well as the things he did at the old church - and we also stopped for a few minutes at this pastor’s house (he’s got 12 kids! we only met a few :>). The last 2 stops (the old church and the house) were unexpected additions to the day. 
Fibion and Becky got in around 10am from Zim after nearly 24 hours on the bus. They came back to the house and rested/washed up while we hit a few more projects (3!!!) before going out to lunch. I had a burger, forgetting that I find African burgers really weird and not particularly enjoyable, but the chips (fries!) were good and so was the mango-chocolate milkshake I had with it :>) Super healthy, I know. 
Life here is strange sometimes. And by sometimes, I mean all the time. The juxtaposition of old world and new is often shocking, laughable, gut-wrenching, bizarre. 
Last Thursday, we spent time with the Perrys, a family of 5 who are living on a pension of $20 a month. (Let THAT sink in for a minute.) Then we went back to the Kings, where the Tv was on (and much flipping thru the cable channels occurs among the kids) and had a big dinner and slept comfortably in their cottage. Saturday I went to the dam with the Kings and watched them waterski and tube, went on a few boat rides, hung out and drank Coke and Fanta out of glass bottles on a dock. Today I taught head-shoulders-knees-and-toes to a group of kids who think that seeing their own picture on a digital camera is the FUNNIEST THING EVER. It’s pretty mind-boggling, how all these things happen side-by-side-by-side, all the time. 
It is an honor to meet the heads of the projects here - income generation projects that help the church AND the local community (hammer-mills to grind maize, raising chickens, brick-making), primary schools in churches that don’t charge the kids fees and feed them some lunch when they can, too. It is absolutely thrilling to see that things are happening, that the local church is taking the initiative and working hard and making things happen. I know there are challenges and that nothing is perfect, but it is just so. good. to see that some things are working, that progress is being made! I can’t even tell you. 
**What I would give to see the church in America as a whole take this kind of care and time and dedication to fix some of our problems. But that’s another story.**
It’s hard to describe the whole day - we just went so many places and even with pictures, certain things are already blurred together in my mind. So much, so fast! 
At Hope Chapel, the husband is a pastor and the wife is a teacher and they run this school for 1st-5th graders. We got to visit the classes and each time, the kids would stand up. The first time it happened, Remmy said, “You have to greet them”. We’d said hello but then Ryan said, “Good morning!” and they said, “Good morning!” “How are you doing?” “We are doing well, sir, how are you?” “We’re fine, we’re well. Thank you.” then... “You can sit down.” Each class varied a teeny bit in how they said it but overall it was a very impressive display. The 1st graders were my favorites just because they were so excited about things, totally ready to go, ya know? Cracked me up. 
The couple that runs the place has a daughter named Abigail and the wife said to me as we were leaving (she and I were the last ones out and had talked a little - she’s a very nice lady), 
“You should meet your namesake.”  
“Yeah, that would great. How old is she?”
“14. And very fat. Like you.”
“HA!” (shock!!!) 
“And jovial.” 
“... well, I guess I better meet her!” 
I told Ryan in the car and he said that’s a huge compliment here (?!). I still honestly don’t know how I feel about it, because I have no idea what it actually meant, ya know? And this woman who said it was shorter than I am and quite well-rounded, if you get my drift. And you know - no mom would EVER say that someone in the States. At least not anyone I know. 
After visiting another project, we went back to Hope Chapel so we could be around for lunch. Ellen and I took turns trying to stir the sudza (a grits-like substance that is the main subsistence dish around this part of the world) they were serving for lunch. It was in a big black cauldron and you use big wooden paddles to stir it up. It takes two people, and a third to hold the pot if possible. There will be pics up on fb later, but for now, I’ll just say, it was flippin’ HARD. These 2 women who were working on it must have the strongest arms and backs in town. I literally could not flip the stuff around/over and stir it the way that this African woman was doing it, and I am not a weak person. Crazy. 
The kids sang to us while they waited for lunch and then Ellen helped serve up a few big bowls of sudza (it’s called something else here in Zam) while we got a few pictures. This particular photo-op was at the request of the people-in-charge, which I thought was nice of them (if a bit odd), to include us in one of their acts of service, and the kids ran inside with their lunch (they share from a few main bowls that the older kids carry inside, little ones running behind). It was a cool experience overall. I liked the building itself and the people who run it seem great. There was a Samaritan’s Purse box in the office and I asked if SP had been there; they have, at some point, but that was all the information I got. 
Overall, a good, slightly crazy day. When we got home tonight, the water at the house wasn’t working and still isn’t now (2315 - they run on 24 hr time here ;>). So even tho all I wanted when we got home at 7 (“19” to be Zambian about it) was a shower and sleeps, I instead took a kind of weird sponge-bath with various kinds of wet wipes. Lol. Biore for the face, antibacterial wet wipes for feet and hands, baby wipes for the rest of my dusty, dirty self. I never thought I’d be so grateful for all of Ellen’s wipes but am I ever! 
Hoping the water will be back in the morning and I can get a proper shower. I maintain, now and forever, that I would SO much rather have running water than electricity. Ah well. 
Another 5 or 6 projects tomorrow and then on to Bonnie’s on Friday, fly to S. Africa Mon, Zim on Tuesday. Fast Times at Ridgemont High, folks. 
Thanks for prayers and keeping up on this - spread the word about Forgotten Voices and also about Green Island Arts! And comment if you like a post or have questions - I love hearing from home and knowing people are reading. You don’t even know how great it is to hear from friends at home these days. 
Only 3.5 weeks til the Ems come - hurray!!! (Wow, I’ve gotta lotta work to do between now and then - better get rested ;>) 

To be perfectly honest... (Tues 10/4)

Overwhelmed tonight. 
We got to Zambia this afternoon and by the time we got to Remmy’s house, I was super exhausted. Despite my cushy hotel bed and lovely linens last night, I don’t think I ever fell into a deep sleep. When I woke up I had an inkling of a wicked headache to come, and sure enough, when I stood up, my head was throbbing. I slept as late as I could (810am), after which I needed to get up, get ready, repack, and go get breakfast. By 9, I had had an espresso and taken a few ibuprofen which eventually knocked the headache out of me but I just had an off feeling all day long. Being tired really does turn me into someone else and flying generally doesn’t make me feel so hot either. 
After stopping at Remmy’s for awhile, we went out again, to visit TICA (the theological college here in Ndola) and get a tour. I should’ve stayed in the house and taken a nap, but I wanted to see the place and figured I’m here for a reason (and moreover I didn’t feel like “wow, I know these people I met ten minutes ago well enough to come to their house and collapse”) so I went. I was yawning the whole time. Then we came back and there was a meeting w/ the board at 6, during which time I was trying to get online to find Bonnie’s phone number, which I stupidly hadn’t written down sooner. After the internet not working and finding that my dad (thanks, texting from Africa) couldn’t get ahold of Bonnie’s mom to get B’s number that way, I gave up for the evening and sat in on the board meeting (again, should’ve gone for the rest). I had a hard time focusing, tho, and felt like I was going to fall asleep on the couch in between a member of the board and Ellen - oy! 
Finally, Ryan said, “why don’t you try again” so I got online and the internet worked long enough for me to get her number. Which we tried to call, but the woman on the other end said it was the wrong number. So then Remmy tried again to dial her number, and this time no service. After a third time (and this is after double  and triple checking her number on my fb and Remmy’s), we finally dialed the right number! ...No answer :>P 
Awhile later, Bonnie called and we talked for a few minutes and I found out she’s not going to Lusaka this weekend, tho she does have a friend coming up from Lusaka now and has multiple meetings/projects to attend to. I said that was fine with me as long as she didn’t mind me tagging along and we’ve decided that I’ll come to her apt on friday morning and go with her to school. (She teaches in the afternoon.) The FVI team heads out for a retreat that day at noon and comes back on Sunday (we fly out on Monday and I get back to Bulawayo on Tues). 
I think what’s hitting me right now is mostly the loneliness of no quality time with anyone close to me for weeks while I’m extremely far away and largely cut off, no words of affirmation, forget about physical touch - DK and I were discussing the 5 love languages earlier and I just re-read that book last week and then gave the copy to James, who GG had sent it for, so it’s all on the brain. Anyway. It’s actually pretty exhausting to be traveling on a team with 3 people who all know at least one (or two) of the other people really well, and then there’s me, and it was okay before because we were traveling to a lot of places I knew and always staying with people I knew, but now I’m totally off my turf and unsure of myself and feeling useless and alone. Yippee, right? :>P 
I’m sure it’s largely a matter of needing a really solid night’s sleep, so I’m praying I can get that tonight. I really want to absorb whatever I can this week and learn what I’m supposed to learn, because I went thru a lot to come on this leg of the trip and a heck of a lot of money was spent on the ticket and all thru this evening, I’ve just been thinking, “Why am I here right now?” 
I really hope I figure it out. I'm pretty sure I will.
From Zambia,
-the extra wheel

"I just need to get a picture..."

The weekend, the weekend. Madness.

Saturday, the FVI team had a retreat with their project leaders in Zim, and the Kings offered to take me out with them to the dam where they keep their boats. I opted for the family day, since I won't have another one until possibly Thanksgiving! It was fun, but I was pretty beat by the end of the day. The previous few days with FVI had been awesome and exhausting. I stayed home that night instead of going out to a concert w/ Tez and the kids (despite an elaborate matchmaking scheme that Tez had cooked up regarding me and a certain dude from Swaziland I met the week before at Ruth & Brad's, who also happens to be a friend of the Kings - fate?! I think not. Also, Warren wants the lobola - bride price - if they made the match, which made me laugh :>) We watched "Dan in Real Life"  - one of my favorite movies - and enjoyed the night in, out of the rain. (RK and DK had spent like 2 hours dropping the pastors off all over Bulawayo in rain, lightning, and increasingly awful road conditions - also, people were out in the road walking, people were driving with no lights on, etc etc. Crazy times.)

Sunday we went to Beki's church and had a good meeting w/ some of the elders, who seem to be good men who support Beki, which is nice to see. We then picked up Fibion and saw his house, which is in the process of being built (pretty far along, the plumbing is in and working!), and went to get a pizza, since it was 4pm and we hadn't eaten since breakfast. We had tea Beki's church but a few biscuits and tea doesn't get you terribly far, ya know? Pizza was good, only had a slice because my parents called (they were at church, it was 10am in MD!) for the first time, so it was nice to chat with them a little, even if I was sitting in a van full of people on the street in downtown Bulawayo :>)

After we dropped Fibion off again, we headed out to James' place so I could visit with him a little and they could all see him again and I could give him some things from my mom and I for his fam (James is a very sweet-natured pastor who lives and has a church near the Kings; we met him on the last trip and my mom is very fond of him, to say the least. I think in her heart, he's her African son). Also, we needed to get a picture of a transformer, a water well, and a particular roof over at the high school that my family had visited on my previous trip and became invested in seeing fixed.

We went to James' place and had just sat down when an old man from his church came by and settled in, asked us to sing for him, sang a few bars for us, and preached to us a little. He was sweet and we listened for quite awhile, but dinner was waiting at the Kings within the hour, and we still needed to go get a picture.

**It started raining on Sat, with lots of thunder and lightning. Warren almost got hit by a strike while out of the car on the way home from the dam. A bolt of lightning hit a power pole right in front of the car, the thunder hit at the exact same moment so the whole thing felt like a bomb had gone off in front of us, and then Tez yelled "Where's Warren?!" He was behind the car, and fine, but had been kneeling with one leg on the trailer hitch. As he got back in the car, he said, "I got shocked, man. 240 volts! Whoa." !!!!! Only Warren King would react this way to nearly getting electrocuted :>P The rest of us, who'd been in the car, had practically peed our pants, lol. Insane. All this to say - the lightning and off and on rain were pretty intense for the next 2 days, thru when we left on Monday. The lightning here jumps around like CRAZY and splits the sky something amazing.**

It was raining as we piled into the van with James now in tow. When Ryan asked how far the high school was, he said, "Not very far." Which it technically probably isn't, but when you're driving in rain on already-rutted, now very messy roads, these things take time. We drove up out of James' place (where his garden is AWESOME, I gotta say; super exciting - none of it was there when we were there before and he's got a great water tower now, too) and along the road back toward some more buildings. We stop by someone's house. The guy there doesn't have the keys but someone else should. He (the man) gets in, some kind of administrative guy from the school. We drive some more. A woman gets in. She doesn't have the keys either. She knocks on someone's door, again down the road (we are sitting 4 to the middle seat at this point, me Ellen man woman). The guy w/ the keys isn't home. Maybe he's at the bar, says the neighbor. We got to the bar. The man and woman get out (in the crazy wind and some rain, mind) and go searching for the man at this... plaza with bars, which was packed. (Lots of rugby and soccer games these days.) They come back 5? ten? minutes later. He's not there. "Let's go back to where we were..."

This is when Ryan wisely pulls the plug on the whole operation :>) The school will be OPEN in the morning, so he and I go back then. We drop off the man, the woman, and James at their respective residences or driveways and head back to the Kings. An hour and twenty minutes later - no picture. TIA. RK said he could feel it coming as soon as I said, "I just need to get a picture..." Oh well.

Monday morning, RK and I drive to the high school (again w/ the rain). We pick up James on the way, run into the school. The headmaster isn't in yet, but we get seated in his office. Then a woman comes in and says, "Sorry, he's not in yet, what do you need?" We say we just need a picture ;>) She says, "It's raining." We say, "It's fine. We're adventurous. You can just point us in the right direction." She says, "No, it's fine. I'll come with you." I don't think she actually sighed out loud, but it was definitely there internally.

Awesomely, it only seemed to really rain hard when we were in the school offices. We went out and got our pictures, and just when we thought we were all set and going make a clean break, we see the headmaster has made it in. This extended our visit considerably, BUT it meant that we learned some neat things about how the school and it's graduates are doing. I really like this particular headmaster, even though he totally didn't remember me and directed all his comments to "Brian" (RK). I'm just glad things are going well. They do need prayer that they can get a kind of sciences/math accreditation; right now they can only pass students in A levels regarding arts - it's complicated. But the headmaster feels the school is doing well and keeps track of all the students who pass A-levels, which is super cool, and he's got some very successful people on that list. So. Exciting :>) The home ec teacher says she is still waiting for sewing machines from my mom! (Sorry, Geeg - apparently when you said you would try to work on it, they considered it a promise. Maybe next trip we can make something happen? :>)

We got out of the school right when we needed to, dropped James off and I said a tough goodbye to him (love this man and his servant heart!), packed up at the Kings and went to have breakfast with Denis at "his" cafe. Post-food, the men were having their usual intense wheeling-dealing-business session so Ellen and I walked up to the street to a super fun gift shop where I got a few neat beaded things. Then we were off the airport.

We flew without incident (that time) to Jo-burg, hit our AWESOME hotel, hung out, enjoyed the wireless access. Had dinner at "Rosie O'Grady's" Irish pub (yes, in s. africa), etc etc.

And that gets us thru Monday of last week.... :>)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fri - 9/30

Went to Mtshabezi Mission today. It was interesting and kind of a strange day. Good, tho. 
Got to the area in the morning and then took a long [bumpy**] ride to a high school a ways away, where it was parent-teacher day (Consultation Day). We got there just before 11am, just in time for tea, which didn’t actually involve tea but did involve bread and butter. Silly me, I only took one piece - I didn’t realize that it was our lunch ;>P Lesson learned: got ahead and take two pieces of bread. After tea, we split up and followed students around from room to room, teacher to teacher, learning about their progress. 
I got to meet Peterson on the way home, and there was this moment when Ryan had his arm around him, and raised his eyebrows at me, “pretty great, right?” and I teared up a little and had to look away for a second so I didn’t start weeping in the road. Here is the boy whose family started it all. My broken bleeding heart went out to a little girl and her mother, HIV killing them hour by hour, many years ago, and here I stood with the boy who was left behind when they were gone. Here I stood with Peterson, the future of the Mpofu family. I look at the poverty he is living in, with his grandfather and cousin and neighbors. I look at how small he is for 14 and how destroyed his teeth are. I think of how he lived mostly alone for a year after his mom and Prudence passed away. And I am amazed. 
I am amazed that this boy is still here. He is fighting for his life, but living his life. He, too, has HIV but the clinic nearby supplies his medicine and he is healthy for now. He walks 6 miles to school on probably the worst road I’ve ever ridden over (worse than the road to and from Morning Star - it took 45 minutes to traverse one-way in the van from the main road, a distance of only 12 miles or so). He plays soccer and rides his mountain bike. He lights up at the sight of Ryan. He plays with his cousin and neighbors and friends. He takes in all the adult talk and the child play around him, arms full of supplies, until finally we say he should put the things away so he can play, and then he jumps into soccer with Ryan. 
We only stay 20 minutes and that is tough. The other little boys are hilarious, one in particular is a major clown - his name is Shepherd. After I take a video of Denis K and Denzel (the cousin) kicking the new soccer ball DK brought around, I show the boys the video and they think this is the funniest thing they’ve ever seen. Denzel, tho very small, has an enormous barking HA HA HA HA HA!!! laugh that I love. I couldn’t get it on video, tho, because it only came out when I was showing them the video on the camera! I got a little snippet of it when DK took a silly picture and then let them see. I hope to meet them all again, those boys. The other boy present was named Noel (pronounced more like Noelle) and seemed to also b having a blast but was a bit more quiet and shy. Hard to tell how old they all are, because you don’t know who has been sick and who is young. I’d say Shepherd and Noel were around 8 and Denzel maybe 6. I could be way off. I’ll put pictures on facebook when I can so you can see them all. There are a few pretty great ones of the group from today. 
I got to meet Neatness that day as well, before we had left Mtshabezi, which was a much bigger pleasure than I could’ve anticipated. Most of the kids (and by that I mean, all of the kids) we meet who are of high school age are pretty shy. They generally won’t engage in much of a conversation, just smile or giggle and avert their eyes and walk away when they can. But Neatness was all about talking to us and having a good time. She is incredibly confident and spunky, has gumption and spark to spare, and I love her. She is my new African sister. She took my camera to look at a picture of the 2 of us, and then clicked thru ALL my other pictures! “Who is this? Who is this?” Meanwhile Obert is saying, “Okay we have to go!” for the third time from the far side of the van. I told N that my parents know who she is and pray for her, and then she saw pictures of them on the camera; when I got in the van, she said, “Say hi to your parents and your nieces and nephews, send them my love” or something like that. !!! 

(More on Neatness here:

This girl is amazing. She gave me this hug when someone started to take a picture and I didn’t want to let her go. The sweetness of Neatness! :>) It’s magic. I know a lot of people love her from the video she did and hearing her story, but now that I know her, I want to actually hang out with her and have her meet my family and friends. She’s THAT great. When we were talking to her about these crazy study days she’d had recently to get ready for exams (huge deal here, basically determines whether you graduate and go on to university or not), she said, “yeah, when I got sick, I was so tired, I thought about quitting, but then I didn’t. Winners don’t quit!” ?! I told ya - amazing. She’d been studying for these exams 7am-9pm for awhile. UGH. Anyway, she said she still had a bit of a sore throat but she was alright. Again, it’s hard to go, especially after such a brief visit. But I’ll see her again. She wants to come visit the States sometime, and I’m pretty sure she’ll manage it somehow - I sense that she knows how to put her mind to things and get it done, which is pretty extraordinary. 
Gotta go! 
**If a ride is NOT bumpy, I will tell you :>) I may or may not say “hurray black top!” whenever we hit a real road - even if that real road is one lane with crumbling sides, which it often is, and the driver has to veer to the left, half off the road, to let the occasional other cars go in the other direction. As far a driving on the left is concerned, I don’t drive here, but after 2 weeks as a passenger, I’m pretty well adjusted to it. To the point that when we watched “Dan in Real Life” (one of my faves) the other night at the Kings and there was sky-high shot of Dan’s family driving in their station wagon on the highway, I thought for a split second, “Why are they driving on the wrong side of the road?” :>) 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wed - 9/28

In summary: 

Up and pack for 2 weeks away, lunch, bumpy drive to Bulawayo w/ Chris, Diamond, and Bianca, drop Bianca at home, drop Diamond off at his friend's to prepare before he takes his driver's test (3rd time's the charm, eh?), stop at Denis' and get online - hurray! Ryan comes, off to a meeting with ladies at City Presby - their project is outside the church and sounds great. Glad the FVI team got here safely. Coffee with RK and Denis Paul at crazy euro cafe called Middy's (see pics later). The Kings for dinner! Hurray! Kids look the same, but taller - esp the 2 little ones. Callum talks now (he is 3, was 1 when we were here before) and is extremely loud and fidgety. I will work on this ;>) 

As I try to take in the enormity of the work that needs to be done: 
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. -2 Thes 3:5

May He indeed. 

Tues - 9/27

Tuesday was a quiet day to start. Drove out to Lukudzi Primary School with Chris (“here we go, bumpy ride!” - a Joel & Jenn saying from when the girls were little - is my rallying cry whenever I have to get into a car to go to or from Morning Star - bone-jarring rides) to drop off one of the supply boxes and to check out their water supply. They have Foundations for Farming (Farming God’s Way) set up in a big garden, and thought they might need to put water from this stream over some massive boulders/a hill to get it to the garden, but they can actually use a watering hole they already have very near the garden, and use a much smaller pump. So that’s great for them. The Headmaster is a very nice man who was wearing a black suit coat and dark pants and shirt and tie and tie pin, even in the high 80s heat. I love it :>) 
On the way back to MS, we stopped by the side of the road to talk to a few people (Patson, who runs Young Life in the area, and another man who is somewhat a patron of the area, who shall remain nameless) and dropped off another box of supplies at Matopo Primary (which is quite close to MS). Had a nice lunch awhile after we got back, and then I read for a bit, then went and helped Norma and Bianca sort out the sewing room, then went back to my book. After a little while, Norma (who had disappeared for awhile - she does this often, as she gets distracted in turns by the million things she has to do) walked by my door and said something like, “I’m just going to take my bike out to the corner to see about the fire.” 
I had been smelling woodsmoke all afternoon, and it seemed to be getting a bit stronger in my room, but I didn’t think much of it at the time because out here, with no electricity, you will often smell a fire going in one of the wood stoves - used for cooking and heating water or any number of other things I’d imagine. So when N went by and implied that there was a wildfire that she’d seen when she walked up to the area we’d walked to on Sunday afternoon, I just kinda thought, “Ugh, bummer.” and went back to my book as she rode off. It’s very dry here, the rainy season is still 2 months off, and fires happen all the time. You can see the blackened earth all over as you drive thru the countryside. People start the fires deliberately much of the time, of all the stupid things in the world, out of boredom or spite or what have you. Again - UGH. 
In maybe 10 minutes, Norma came flying back into camp, hopped off her bike and kept right on moving. She stopped at Chris’ office (hut, of course), and said that it was closer than she’d thought, that it was right up to such-and-such, and that they’d better get the water containers ready, just in case. I think this was also when she called up to Shumba Shaba (1 or 2 miles away) to see if they could see it/if they could send a few people down to help if it got bad/see how they were. 
Within another 15 minutes, the fire was at the outer gate of Morning Star and everyone was fighting it for all they were worth. It is still surreal to me that I was there and part of it and that the Fergusons have had to do this over and over again in their lives. Another few minutes and it would’ve taken Diamond & Caroline’s house (they’re the main staff at MS, kids are Prince & Squeaky). Poor Caroline said later, once it had been redirected, that she was trying so hard to figure out what she should take with her and if she did get away with anything, where would she put it?! It’s not like there’s a river nearby that we could’ve crossed to get away from the fire if it took the camp. We would’ve just had to literally run for the hills (further into the hills, to be more precise). Totally nuts. There were a few minutes where I looked out to where the fire was and the smoke was impossibly thick, and I looked up in the other direction, to where the sun had been shining a few minutes before, and it was just this deep orange ball hanging in a haze of smoke that seemed miles deep, SO far away from us... At that moment, I wished that I had my camera but I didn’t want to take time to go get it in case someone needed me (I regret this now and wish I had pictures of those few minutes); at the same time, I was thinking about what I absolutely needed to grab if I was going to have to run, if the thing took camp - laptop/passport/binocs/camera/Squeaky. Not in that order. Just what to grab. 
I don’t think it would’ve taken camp because so much of the ground is just plain ol’ dirt and the buildings are made of concrete/cement (never know the difference). However! There is dried grass in patches and quite a few trees and bushes throughout the campus, and everything is surrounded by more dried grass/bushes/trees. Oh yeah, and all of the dozen buildings have thatched roofs. :>P
Now lest anyone have heart attack, or think that I was some kind of crazy hero in this situation, I must say that it was the men who really FOUGHT THAT FIRE. Chris, Diamond, and 3 other staff guys, I think a few from MS and one or 2 from Shumba Shaba. They fought and fought and fought that fire around Morning Star until we were pretty much safe (as safe as we were going to get at the time), and then they came back and got lots of water and juices, etc, and filled up 3 water barrels, and drove off again for another few hours to fight it where it had moved to in another direction. Basically for 6 hours - 430-1030. I was pretty much done and dragging my dried out self around to shower and get dinner by 8 or so, as were Norma and Bianca. N & B had gone out with shovels to put out what they could while it was really nasty, shoveling dirt wherever/whenever they could. At the end, N was finding the horses and bringing them back from the farthest corner of the paddock to get their dinner, then returning them to their fire-free area behind camp. I didn’t see much else that N&B & Caroline did because I was the one standing by the spigot, watching Squeaky and refilling the giant water barrels every time that Chris brought me empties in the truck. We’d haul the (wicked heavy!!!) full ones into the back and off he’d go again, scarf around his neck/mouth, while I started the filling once more.
**You can pray for Chris - he’s been having lung trouble lately and 6 hours of smoke inhalation most certainly didn’t help. For reasons I won’t pretend to understand, he needs a clean x-ray to get his visa/residency permit trouble sorted, and right now, he doesn’t have a clean x-ray :>( So please pray that he’ll get well. I think he feels pretty much okay? but the whole thing is no good.**
The camp continued to reek of smoke even as we went to bed that night. It had mostly cleared by morning but 2 fires managed to restart/keep burning thru Wed morning. For now, tho, MS is safe and everyone is well, and even the neighbors’ houses were missed because of the weird pattern the fire took (it was very windy, which is part of why it got to us so stinking fast). My eyes were killing me after 2 hours, and I wasn’t even in the thick of it - I don’t know how the men did it, really, but they HAD to, so they did, you know? If I’d had to be out in the worst of it, if someone else had been on refill duty or something, or if it’d gotten worse and I’d had to tell Squeaky to stay while I ran out to join the rest, I would’ve. But I’m glad I didn’t. I will say that much, for sure. I’m glad I didn’t, because it was nasty out there, and I don’t know how Chris made it thru, especially. I was close enough as it was. 
After the worst of it was headed away from us, and the men had refueled with water and packed up drinks and buckets and water cans and driven off to keep fighting, Norma grabbed a shovel and a flashlight (torch) and I’d grabbed water and a headlamp, we headed back out to where she’d been fighting to put out any of the small flare-ups we could. Maybe 45 minutes of that? Tromping around on black and white ground that crunched like frost under my sneakers, trying to avoiding getting a thorn or stick in the eye in the dark... Following Norma is dangerous enough in the daytime! Forget about in the dark, surrounded by small fires ;>P After playing Smokey Bear for a time and doing what we could, 
Squeaky was an excellent fire fighting assistant, turning the water on when I’d gotten a barrel under the spigot, dragging empty barrels around as needed, always keeping track of where the barrel caps were and setting them aside/fetching them. She’s a pretty awesome 3 year old, I gotta say. I’d periodically walk out to the road to see what was going on and she’d always come with me. When I start to walk away and she’s nearby, I don’t even need to look any more really, I just hold my hand out facing backward, toward her, with my fingers spread very wide and palm open, and she giggles as she races up and takes my hand. Couldn’t love it more, having such a pleasant  shadow about :>) It was good to have a purpose other than just filling water jugs, too. It was good to need to be calm so she wouldn’t be worried, and to take care of someone else while I filled and waited and tried not to worry. 
I was never insanely worried. I had those few moments when the sun got blocked out and the smoke just burned, burned, burned in my eyes and throat, and you couldn’t see much anymore, when I was watching and saying “oh my word. oh my word.” and prayingprayingprayingpraying “Lord, please don’t let the camp go up, please keep Diamond and Caro’s house safe, please please please please please no one else is coming. No one else is coming....” 
It’s a strange thing to be in a place where there is truly no back-up in a natural disaster or major emergency. Thinking about the whole thing the next day, I realized that perhaps the biggest difference between America and Zimbabwe (and Africa in general) is that it is so easy in the US to pretend that we’re in control. We’ve got 911, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacies, fire departments, police departments - all these resources that help us to confirm that we are, in fact, not living in a chaotic, harsh world where anything can happen at any time. No, no - we are in control. We are "safe". Here, you have no such illusions. Things don’t go according to plan. Cars break down and you wait for your friend to come get you - no GPS so it takes some time for your friend to find out, out on the dirt roads, out in a poor suburb. Fires start and you fight them. Floods happen, you go clean up. Someone falls at a dam, you get to them, you wrap your shirt around their bleeding head, pick the parasites off their skin, wait for the others to come, carry them the few miles out. These are things that have happened to me in the last few days, or others in the last few years. Life is crazy and free and anything can happen and there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO but trust God. Nothing. You either believe that nothing can separate you from the love of God - neither death nor life nor angels nor demons nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height/depth/any other created thing - or you don’t. It’s that simple. Around here, you have to believe that each disaster averted is God’s hand and when something hits you, there’s a lesson somewhere. These are things I think in the States, but it’s so clear here - there’s nothing in the way of seeing God in things. There are no illusions that I have control over anything that happens; it’s so painfully clear that everything that happens each day is totally out of my hands. And ya know what? It’s all good. 
As I gaze out at the blooming purple jacaranda trees and the crazy Matobo boulders, I find it almost funny how at home I am out in the bush at Morning Star, and in Zim in general, and I wonder if, at some point, I will come and stay with no departure date. I miss everyone at home, I do - but mostly I want you all here, rather than wishing I were there. I miss phone calls and hugs from Adam’s kids. I miss my dogs. I miss being able to Google random things I wonder about throughout the day, or shoot off an email when I think of something important (or funny or whatever). But at this point, I honestly don’t miss as much as I thought I might. I’m excited to keep traveling with Forgotten Voices for the next 10 days and then have another month here. I’m excited for the Ems to come. I’m constantly thinking about the trip after this, dreaming about what’s possible and who I want to bring next time...
Look out, world. Here I come. 
-the african queen

Mon - 9/26

There’s a reason I said I’d write every day - experiences are piling up this week and I don’t know how I’ll even get it all out at this point. But try I must. 
I spent most of Monday working on organizing school supplies. A group that came thru MS recently left supplies for the 6 primary schools in the area, and everything was sort of vaguely divided up, but it wasn’t all that even, a few things needed to be repaired or removed, and there was an additional suitcase of random supplies that needed to be sorted/looked at. So I took much of the day to read/repair/sort children’s books, do puzzles with Squeaky (to make sure everything was there! Then I’d repair if need be or set aside if pieces were missing - Squeaky got a nice Halloween puzzle missing 2 pieces and Prince got a 5 foot Superman puzzle with a hole in it), sort thru folders, paper, notebooks, etc. It was good and it all got done that day, which meant Chris could start delivering them the next day. 
Bianca came out Mon-Wed which was great. I’d met her the last trip and loved her then. She’s extremely fiesty and sassy, a dressmaker who comes out to run the ladies’ sewing group with Norma (she is the pro). Monday evening I made the silly mistake of starting a book called “The Bone Garden” because it had a character in it from a Tv show I love (Dr. Maura Isles who I know from Rizzoli & Isles). Unfortunately, Dr. Isles was only in the book for a few pages, if that, and the book itself was full extremely disgusting medical descriptions of scary things they did in the 1830s, but the story (which also took place in the present) was really good, so I got sucked in and didn’t put it down until 2am when I was finished :>P Worst of all was the fact that around 1130, I heard a noise like a bell ringing outside my hut (each of the buildings is a short walk from the rest, which means you don’t want to investigate anything strange yourself and you can’t ask anyone what the heck is going on, either!) and was really creeped out - mostly because I was reading about a dastardly killer and gruesome murders in 1830s Boston, while I was alone in my hut in the wilderness, haha. Silly me, eh? The cowbell continued thru the night, creeping me out and keeping me from the loo til morning. The next day I found that there was indeed a giant steer wandering around camp for HOURS after we were all tucked in. Norma said she’s spent too much of her time chasing cows already in her life (thoughts of Anne Shirley and Rachel’s cow!) and since we were all in bed, she left it. Ridiculous all around. But it was NOT a murderer or ghost, so I had that goin’ for me ;>) Stupid book, haha.
So that was Monday... (bum, bum, bum!!! suspense! read on!)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sun - 9/25

Chris and Norma finally arrived at Brad and Ruth’s a little after 2pm on Saturday. Hurray, hurray!!! was the shout all around. ...okay, it was mostly just me, but everyone was happy they made it :>) They had Pumba with them, their American Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Their other dog, Mafuta, who I LOVE, had stayed at Morning Star for the 2 weeks they were gone because she doesn’t do cars. “Futi” is a rescue dog who is very nervous about things and was obviously abused before she was rescued. Mafuta - which means “big” in Ndebele - is anything but. She’s very low to the ground and long and rather sausage-shaped (her back legs are all rabbity-hind feet), but she’s got the face of Murray from “Mad About You” which is probably part of why I love her so much. (Black-lined bashful eyes and a long nose and half-floppy/half-perky ears.) That and I just want to love on her because she’s so sweet and shy and nervous.  She doesn’t follow us inside the way Pumba does, just stays outside or goes to her bed in another room, doesn’t ride in cars, doesn’t jump up or want to be in your lap or allow you to pick her up. She’s a very sweet dog, Corgi and something, and when she’s happy, she’s got that little dog JOY that reminds me of Midget (who I miss an extra lot lately - it was strange to be taking off on such a big trip and not have her following me around while I packed and then not having to say goodbye to her before I leave. sad). It definitely helps to have such a nice dog around. Pumba’s alright but he's not really my type. He does crack me up, tho, because much like Joel's cat Shadowfax, he loves to roll in dirt and then wanders around covered in dirt and grass and hay (his coat is pitch black, so no camo, haha). 
Anyway! We got to Morning Star last night and unloaded the (packed!) car. We’d left a big steamer trunk at R & B’s to fit my suitcases in the back of the truck. C & N had brought back 2 big steamer trunks that had been stored elsewhere for the last 3 years; today we discovered that the one which stayed in the trunk had some of their camping gear inside. I know that feeling of not really being sure what’s in a box, just knowing it’s not vital to your existence or you would’ve had it with you all this time. I’m pretty tired of moving myself, but I have no clue when I’ll have my own place again - hopefully sometime in 2012. 
We had a simple dinner of sandwiches and crisps. It’s been a very cold weekend for here this time of year and because it was cloudy yesterday, the solar panels hadn’t heated the water enough to take showers. Norma built a fire so we could take showers in her little bathroom, and it was steamy boiling hot water - for a few minutes and then got colder pretty quickly. The bathroom in question is new since I was here last, and quite nice overall but the showerhead is at least 7 feet in the air AND I was trying to keep my hair dry last night so some serious contortionism was required to get clean and stay warm at the same time. (I felt like a midget and it reminded me of when the Little Couple talked about how hard it is for them to take showers in a normal shower - running between drops! ahh!). Tonight was a little easier, because Norm stoked the fire right before I got in, but still, the temp dropped pretty fast once it went down and the last thing you want when it’s this chilly and you’re basically camping is to be wet and COLD. 
Thing about Morning Star is that it’s got a lot of buildings, all thatched roof, and some are more secure and air-tight than others, but there’s no heating in any of them. So right now, in my “cabin” (hut), there is only a slight draft, but it’s quite cold and I’m sitting here under several blankets, wearing about 3 layers. 
The best improvements since we were here before are the addition of solar battery powered lights in almost all the rooms (so you’re mostly dealing with dimmish blueish LED light but it’s electric light gosh-darn-it! absolutely magical :>) and the addition of a new bathroom on the girls’ “dorm” where GG and I stayed last time (two showers and a toilet and sink) and C & N’s bathroom, with toilet/shower/sink and room left over for storage of any number of things. Funniest thing about the showers is that they’re all made of big rough stone, so your feet get a bit of a scrub, and if you lean down to fetch the soap without thinking, your bum will get pumiced as well! :>P  TIA, man, and I love it. 
Today I was woken at 545, having not slept all that well to begin with, by the maniacal chattering of the birds. The birds here, even in the city, are insanely talkative and LOUD. In the dim light, I half-staggered to the loo and back, put in my ear plugs and on my sleep mask, and willed myself back to sleep for a few hours. (Side note on birds: the other day, I heard a rooster crowing at 330pm, and he was answered by an owl. There are some confused birdies, folks.)
My sleeping habits are already hiLARious altered from what they are in the States. I have rarely gotten to bed/sleep before 2am basically this entire year. If I have to get up early for something specific, I have managed an earlier bedtime some of the time, but as soon as the commitment is over, it’s back to the latest nights. In the 2 weeks before I flew out, it was more like 3 or even 4 before I could manage sleep. I was just too keyed up and stressed and there was a TON to do. But I’ll tell ya, not having electricity can really make you ready for bed earlier better than anything else. Last night, we had dinner and then Norma was getting me set up to get a shower (fire-building etc), and I was yawning a lot and thinking, “please let it at least be close to ten so I can go to bed soon”, looked at my watch - ....815. OY. I was completely pooped and ready for bed by 9, but I made myself stay up and read til 10 so I had a better shot at staying asleep. I ended up having a bunch of weird dreams throughout the night and not even knowing what to do with myself when I woke up. 
Today was a quiet day at MS. Denis and his daughter Kayla and their friend came by for a while around 10 (Kayla is WAY taller than 2 years ago and very slim, built like Denis, inc. wicked cheekbones; she is losing teeth and remains unshy; she’s about 7). Denis has multiple businesses but one is a lodge just about a mile away called Shumba Shaba, which is really incredible. The cabins are built into the mountainside and have an amazing view. He’s a friend of Ryan K, and was our guide when we went to Vic Falls last time, and drove us around/facilitated our visit in many ways before. Good man. 
C & N and I spent much of the day unpacking and getting ourselves sorted, which was good. N and I made lunch and eventually the sun came out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky - hurray! - and it got much warmer and nicer, so N and I went for a “walk” (Death Hike, more like - Emmy and Rach know what I mean) with the dogs. It was hilarious - she kept veering around and circling back on where we’d been and taking me up and down crazily steep boulder faces, and then thru tangles of thorns and vines and roots, etc. I was not entirely prepared, haha. Should’ve worn an older shirt :>P But it was beautiful, of course, and got to see a couple of great vistas and things, and got a good workout. The dog joy was in full force, since neither of them have gotten much running around time lately. Always makes me happy to see a dog happy. (I’m such a sap :>) 
Managed to get online for a few minutes after dinner, but N’s comp battery doesn’t last long and the internet connection comes and goes like crazy, very unreliable, so I was only able to read some of my emails and shoot off a few lines to the parents and RK. 
All is well, tho. May get to visit a few schools this week. I think we will visit 2 schools once the Ems are here, so I need to pick the second one (already planning to revisit the school - Sigiti - which GG and I worked in before). That way we can spend 3-4 days in each school. In between, we’re planning a trip to Vic Falls, the Boma (World’s Best Restaurant), and Botswana for a safari day - exciting stuff all around! Starting to make a list with Norma of what the Ems can bring (so far, dice and flash cards). Tomorrow (Monday) working on sorting supplies and planning and getting ready for various activities the rest of the week. 


Sat 9/24

It is Saturday at nearly 2pm, and Chris & Norma should arrive any minute! They finally got thru the border from Zambia this morning. 
Meanwhile, I’ve been with Brad & Ruth, who have been very nice. Yesterday was an odd day for me, but overall a good one. We spent the morning at TCZ (Theological College of Zimbabwe). There was a service for an hour but mostly all 3 of us were on the computer. Ruth had an interview or two to do with people, as well. It was nice to be online and be able to post blogs and shoot off a few emails and drop the occasional wall post, but it was also frustrating because there is a 6 hr time difference and everyone at home in the US was in bed. (Curses.) I don’t know when I’ll be online again, either. But it was still nice. I even got to watch the season premiere of Castle! Granted, it was pretty terrible (bad writing, lame plot, overused themes, extra-terrible acting on the part of Beckett), but it still let me feel a bit connected to my own culture for 45 minutes. Don’t know if I’ll get to do anything like that again or not. 
I read the plot summary for the season premiere of Grey’s Anatomy and I really think I give up on the show. It’s been a guilty pleasure for a few years now, but the second half of last season was pretty awful, and they are making extremely blatant choices to promote abortion on the show now; I just can’t stomach it any more. The producer is downright evangelical about abortion at this point - it’s shown up on Grey’s a good bit, but Private Practice (same producer, spin-off series) is LOADED with it. It makes me ill. So I think I’m done. It’s a bummer. But it’s just a show, and there are better uses of my time. (just needed to get that off my chest! :>) 
Back to yesterday! After a very warm morning in a little office with 3 computers going (sweaty!), we came back and had tuna sandwiches for lunch at the house and then Ruth & Brad went off to some kind of junk sale, where they bought steel for building out at Ebenezer and very luckily, a desk! They’ve been slowly accumulating furniture in their (enormous) rental house here, and I know they’ve been looking for a desk, so that’s exciting. I stayed home and read a book, cover to cover, until about 7pm! It was nice, tho, to just lay around and rest and get totally caught up in the story. I did skim a bit, but not too much. It was just silly Brit Chic Lit but I liked it alright. Good escapism reading. 
The electricity at R & B’s is very unpredictable (at least when you’ve just arrived! they know the system). It’s always on on Wednesdays, I believe, but after that, it’ll go on and off for half days at a time. We had none on Thursday evening until about 930 (Settlers of Cattan by candlelight!), then we had it yesterday evening thru now, but it’s supposed to go off again tonight and turn on again tomorrow evening. I  have no idea what Monday and Tuesdays are like. I guess it’s a lot of “well, we had it this morning, so we won’t have it tonight” and vice versa. It’s strange, too, because I know the whole city isn’t like that, but I guess there are areas that have it off and on and then others just have it?
I was talking to a man at TCZ this morning and he asked me what America is like. I said, “Big. And fast.” He laughed (he laughed a lot of things, very cheery guy :>) and we talked about what’s different here. I said we have electricity all the time - yes, even in rural areas, we’re very wired there. And ‘tis true. 
It’s a little shocking how much I want to check my phone for texts or just get online and check my email. I am remembering now how hard it was in England not to have a phone (the pay phone system was a mess at my school); I did end up getting one there within maybe 2 weeks because I just couldn’t stand to be so totally disconnected. I didn’t have a computer at the beginning of the semester, either,  and there are far fewer computer labs on non-American campuses. I am thinking about trying to get a phone here, but I’ll talk to Chris & Norma - and Ryan next week - and see if that would be reasonable or silly. There are rental phone plans, so it’s a thought. It would be really great to have a phone while I’m in Italy, too. I am FINALLY beginning to see advantages to smart phones, like having the internet at your fingertips at all times (which truly is useful when you are traveling) and having an international SIM card option so you can make calls from overseas. 
I got quite lonely yesterday after being online while everyone at home was asleep. I kept hoping that my dad would wake up wicked early so I could call him on Skype. Alas, it was not to be. It’s been okay to be w/ total strangers for this first bit but I am certainly ready to see Chris and Norma and be at Morning Star, and I know it will be delightful to see the Kings next week, and even more Ryan and Ellen. To see Africa through Ryan’s eyes... That’s what I would like. 5 more days or so and I’ll be traveling with Forgotten Voices, travels many years in the making for me. I am very excited, to put it mildly. 
For dinner yesterday, Brad made salad and grilled squash and chicken kiev - all delicious - and we sat around in the living room eating with plates in laps and watching a BBC show called “Gavin & Stacey” that they love. It was quite funny and VERY British.
They’re here! They’re here!!! Off I go! :>D