Thursday, May 27, 2010

Winning battles and losing wars...

Winning battles and losing wars…

This last couple of weeks has been rough. Things have become increasingly frustrating and defeating and have left me wondering how anything gets accomplished here. This isn’t to say that people are lazy or unmotivated. No, that’s not the problem at all. Zambians are extremely hardworking, resourceful and generally want to change things for the better. But it seems like anytime change is possible, there is a whole system of things that comes to bring everyone down and prevent that change from happening. For instance, you try to organize a meeting with the women in your neighborhood to teach them about their health. On the day of the meeting you get a call at the last minute that you must come and work that day (without extra compensation of course) even though it’s your day off. The next time you try to have the meeting, your child is sick so you spend the whole day at the hospital and have to cancel the meeting again. The next time you try to hold the meeting, it rains and your neighborhood floods so no one will come to the meeting. So then you give up. Whether it is employers, friends, family, weather, the busses, money, health, there are extraordinary hurdles to cross to achieve anything. Saving money is uncommon in this culture because as soon as someone knows you have it, they will come to you and ask for it. Staying healthy is challenging because people are sick all of the time, they live in close quarters, usually have inadequate nutrition, and can’t afford adequate health care. So what happens? Life goes on, and each person is a little more defeated than the day before.

Learning these things is part of the reason that I was interested in coming to Zambia for more than just a three week vacation. You can hear about the struggles of people and you can witness them once or twice, but until you live it, it’s impossible to understand. Even I don’t truly “live it”. As an American, I have options. Access to money, health care, advocates, and an escape when things get too tough. Here, it’s a daily fact of life that life is tough. And though it is rare to find people who dwell on the difficulties of life here, it is extremely common to see people held back by them. I have now been here for four months and am starting to understand how difficult life and change is here. I am also beginning to see how the people have to have joy-because it is the only thing that they have and one of the few things in their lives that they can control.

Here are some more examples of how life is difficult here. The patients at the HIV clinic are usually given an appointment for a Tuesday or Thursday to come and see the doctor. The clinic is technically from 2-4 pm on those days, but many patients usually arrive anytime after 8 or 9 in the morning. On Tuesdays we always have a meeting from 9-10 a.m. so sometimes they wait for 2 hours before being seen. If they arrive anytime after 10 a.m., we may or may not get to them before 2 p.m. Because they don’t have actual appointment times, they have no power to ask to be seen within a reasonable amount of time. It’s generally first come, first served. The way we track this is by stacking their patient id cards on the bed that serves as our “desk” in the clinic. Many times the cards get mixed up so you next know who has come first or how long they have been waiting. And it’s not uncommon to have the patient answer to the wrong name without you realizing it until halfway through their examination. Once a patient actually gets into the clinic, the doctor may or may not be there. You may or may not be able to find their file after 20 minutes of searching. If they are lucky, the patient’s records are found and they will be seen by the doctor within 20 minutes of sitting down in the clinic. Many times, the doctor isn’t even there, or when he is, he is seeing patients for the private clinic next door and is unavailable. There is no possibility of privacy, because there are usually other patients and staff members in there to hear everything you say, and even translate if necessary. If you need labs, you may end up waiting another hour and they have to have them redrawn because there was a lab error, they didn’t collect enough blood, or the patients information was incorrect. Or the lab results may never arrive from the central laboratory. Once you have been seen by the doctor, it is up to the pharmacist to dispense you medicines-if the clinic is lucky enough to have the right ones. Many times we have to substitute medicines because we have run out. This adds confusion to an already complicated medication regime and increases the chances that they will take their medicines improperly. And we lack many basic medications requiring the doctor to write one and give it to the patient to go somewhere and pick up. Once you get your medicines, you must see the social worker for counseling. This is a requirement for every visit and usually requires more waiting. This is a process that repeats itself every 2-4 weeks for children, and every 2 weeks-3 months for adults. For each patient to come to the clinic, it becomes a day long affair, requiring mostly sitting and waiting outside with no food or drink.

To culminate experiences like this, when children come in acutely ill and in need of medical attention, we have nonexistent resources to treat them. The private clinic whose building we are in, won’t treat them or give us their supplies so they are usually referred to another clinic. If they need hospitalization, it is up to the second clinic to refer them there. A situation like this presented itself just last week. A HIV+ mother, dedicated to providing care for her HIV+ children, brought her sick toddler to the clinic last week. Boyd was a quiet, two year old boy who was only diagnosed with HIV in February. He had come in to the clinic many times and was doing well on his HIV medications. He was brought to the clinic by his mother because he was febrile, lethargic, and not eating well. With our limited resources, he was seen by a nurse practitioner (there was no doctor available to see him), diagnosed with measles, given a prescription for the mother to fill, and told to go to another clinic for further care. The mother took her child to that other clinic the same day but they were too busy to see her so she went home despite how sick the child was. The next day she brought him back to the clinic and given his serious condition, was told to take him directly to the hospital. No transportation was provided or basic medications were given to the child. On arrival to the hospital on Wednesday he was admitted in critical condition. At the same time, her youngest child, an infant (who had been very sick also though we did not know this), was admitted to the hospital with same illness. The baby died on the same day of admission. Two days later, Boyd died also. Upon arrival to the clinic the following Tuesday I was told the news. The mother was there asking for help with funeral expenses. When I asked to see her, I was told “But if she sees you, she’s going to break down again”. Crying is generally unacceptable in this culture, where life is tough every day. For the clinic staff to see someone crying is an uncomfortable situation that they would rather avoid. Coincidentally I had just been reading a previous volunteer’s blog on this exact situation where a patient had died unexpectedly and she started to cry. The clinic staff quickly became exasperated with her tears as they indicated to her that there was no reason to cry. Regardless of the cultural norm, I wanted to see the mother and give my condolences. As soon as I walked in the room I started to cry. She sat by herself looking dejected and alone. When she saw me she also started to cry and could only say again and again the name of her deceased son. After a few minutes of just sitting and crying with her she started to speak in her native language, nyanja. I couldn’t quite make out what she was saying so I asked her to say it again. The gist of her statement was “I have to buy two coffins. Not one, but two.” The weight and gravity of that statement was hard to comprehend. I can’t imagine losing even one child in a lifetime. But to lose two in the same week, how do you survive such grief? Ultimately I am not going to know what will happen with her. The clinic has moved on after providing her with a measly $50 for the two coffins and she informed them she was going back to her village. As I return to the clinic this week I am sure that life will continue on as it was before and this family will likely not be mentioned again.

And so I will also continue on. Not only on this blog, but also with my work and life. But I won’t be forgetting Boyd or his mother and the grief on her face she cried over the coffins she had to buy and the children she lost.

In other news…the clinic has been approved to receive a large grant from the Elton John Foundation and is going to lead to a lot of changes for the clinic. First, we will be renting space across the street from the clinic where the social work and administrative offices will be located to help free up space in the clinic for the medical side of things. What this means is that patients will check across the street, come over to the clinic for their medical visit and medications and then cross back over the street again to see the social worker and get transportation money. If there are any questions with medications, patient information, or anything else, the social workers will have to come across the street for clarification. I predict there is going to be a lot of running back and forth and a lot of confusion. They are also planning a big kick off even the first week of June which will be held at a graduation party for a large number of soccer camps. The clinic is expected to test hundreds of teenage boys and girls on this day! Yikes….let the craziness begin.

At the House of Moses we have had several visitors come and go. Some have stayed for just a few days and some have stayed for a few weeks. It always add some excitement to life to have new visitors and come and join us “long termers” here. There are 5 of us who are staying here for a long time. Sandra is the one of the directors for the organization that runs the orphanage where I stay. Don and Jane are here this year to manage and organizes and visitors/teams that come and stay. Kevin is a Canadian who has been here just as much as me and is planning on staying for a full year. He does construction and IT things here. I am counting down the days now…only 23 left until I leave. From each moment to the next my emotions waver between sadness to be leaving and readiness to go back to the culture and people I know. I am also still working on the medical records revision (my ONE accomplishment here) and might have them finalized and printed by the time I go. I guess it would have been good to have the project completely finished, but I guess you can only do so much.

I have also been staying busy with church and bible study. In addition I can usually be found several days a week at the Murray’s house nearby. They are the American missionary family who I go to church with and who always feed me amazing food. I am usually there to tutor their gardener who, though he is older than me, is just completing his 7th grade course work. I was asked to help him with math and English. I am definitely not the best English teacher as I am usually having to learn what he is working on at the same time as him, but the math part is fun and I am actually seeing him make progress! I am also going to plenty of movies (at $2.50/each it’s a great deal!), got to see a Michael W. Smith in Zambia, and am continuing to read a lot of books.

And to end on a happy note…my friends, Dave and Stefanie, have arrived from America to adopt a baby! It has been great to see them spend time with each potential child (they have narrowed it down to just a handful or so) and to picture them as that child’s parents…any of the children here would be lucky to have them. It’s a blessing to get to witness this experience though I don’t envy the tough decisions they are having to make or the headache they will encounter trying to maneuver through an inexperienced Zambian adoption system.

As I have written before, the internet has stopped working on my computer, so it is extremely difficult for me to post blogs. I am hoping to send one more before I go, but be assured that if that doesn’t happen I will send a “final” farewell blog on my return home.

Best wishes to you all…and may you find joy even on the most difficult of days.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cape Town blog

Traveling is fun and it’s a blessing. But at times it can also feel like a curse, especially when things don’t work out right. And this is often the case when there are so many details, restrictions, and schedules to consider. So when I decided to finally take the leap and get over my fear of traveling alone, I started to make plans to visit Cape Town and see a little bit of a different kind of Africa than Zambia. Of course, my internet is rarely working and then when it did, the website that I tried to use to purchase airline tickets kept jumping the price up by almost $300. Feeling that maybe this trip wasn’t meant to be, I mentioned my troubles to a friend who has a friend who works at Zambezi airlines, one of the major airlines that flies to South Africa from Zambia. When he offered to try and arrange my tickets for me, I agreed. Two days later I get a call that my flights are booked, but payment was due at the airport….immediately or I would lose my flights. And it had to be paid in cash, not by credit card. American dollars to be exact. Unfortunately, it was 4 pm on a clinic day and I wasn’t even going to be back to the House of Moses until later that evening. In addition to this, I didn’t know how much money I had in American dollars, but I knew that I didn’t have enough. So I had a friend dig through my stuff to find my “secret stash” at the House of Moses to find out just how much I had, then I went to an ATM by the clinic. After withdrawing the money in kwacha, I then went to the change bureau to switch my money back to dollars. Anybody will realize this penalizes me twice-first, the ATM fee my bank will charge me for a foreign transaction and then the poor exchange rate the bureau charges to change the Kwacha back to American dollars. Ouch. But after all that I had enough money and was able to connect with lady at Zambezi airlines who booked my ticket for me. She lives near me in Lusaka and agreed to drive me to the airport to pay for my tickets when I returned home that evening. After picking me up she took me to her house, where she told me that she had already secured the tickets without payment and it was okay to wait until the next day to take the money to the airport, but I didn’t need to be there for that. All I had to do was give her my money and she would take care of it the next day. I was a little worried about giving so much money to a complete stranger, but as an employee of the airlines I was going to be flying on, I figured it was okay.

So then I started to plan…what would I do, where would I go, and most importantly-what would I eat???? My friends had just gone to Cape Town two weeks before me and had many great recommendations about where to stay, where to eat, and where to great coffee. They even loaned me their guidebook. Friday morning, I woke up nice and early to catch my 8 am flight. After taking off from Lusaka late, I arrived in Johannesburg late which reduced my layover time from 1 ½ hour to just an hour to take the shuttle from the plane to the terminal, pick up my bags, go through customs and check in at the other airline I was going to use to fly from Jo’burg to Cape Town. I arrived at the check in counter 10 minutes before it closed (thank goodness my bag was one of the first off the plane, and the passport line for me was short and quick) and made it the rest of the way without difficulty. I arrived in Cape Town on a beautiful and sunny day. Once I checked in to my hotel, I took a long walk down to the Victoria and Albert waterfront. I walked around a little bit, but it was starting to get dark by then so I had to make my way back up to the hostel where I was staying. Along the way I picked up some delicious shrimp pad thai for dinner, cookies, and wine and then holed up in my room the rest of the evening watching a movie and reading a book.

The next day I went and had a delicious mocha at a local coffee shop here and then took a taxi to Canal Walk, Africa’s largest mall…It’s not quite as big as the Mall of America but I still managed to spend 6 hours there shopping without stopping, and could have spent more time there if I had it. I managed to pick up some clothes for the cooler weather in Zambia as winter approaches as well as some other things that friends from Zambia requested. Dinner was an amazing avocado and bacon pizza…yummm.  I could have eaten the whole thing if I hadn’t forced myself to stop. Seriously.

On Sunday I was hoping to find a church to go to in the neighborhood where my hostel was, but the only one I found was an Afrikaans speaking church and I figured that wouldn’t be very helpful for me. Instead, I went back to the coffee shop and had another delicious mocha and spent some quiet time reading. After this I walked back down the Victoria and Albert Waterfront and did some shopping down there. My greatest find was a store down there called Melissa’s which had the greatest looking food and goodies…I had to buy a few things there just because they had my name on them =). After shopping for a bit, I then headed out to Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, and other political prisoners where held until the 1990’s. For such a touristy kind of thing, the trip out to the island was well worth it and I actually enjoyed the experience. It starts off with a 20-30 minute ferry ride out into the harbor, then a bus tour around the island to show you the different parts of the prison and other buildings there, including a leper’s cemetery, followed by a walking tour of the main prison itself led by a former political prisoner. The views of Cape Town and Table Mountain were also beautiful from the island and we were able to get some great pictures. After returning to the mainland I headed back to my hostel for the evening.

Monday was spent on a day long tour of the wine country. I (along with 7 other passengers) left around 8:30 in the morning and headed into the Stellenbosch region of South Africa, which is like Napa Valley in California. We arrived at our first winery around 9:30 in the morning and sampled 7 different types of wine and champagne as we were taking on a tour of the facilities and the grounds. It’s fall here in South Africa so the leaves on vines are turning pretty orange and red colors and the air was cool and crisp. Our next stop was at a newer winery that was only about 10 years old. It was a very beautiful place and had great views. At this winery we were able to sample chocolate, olive oil, and kalamata olives in addition to 5 or 6 wines. I picked up a delicious white wine to bring back to America with me. Our next stop was lunch where I had the most delicious mushroom risotto and a full glass of wine. From there we went to two more wineries that were so pictures            que I was tempted to move here for good…The scenery is made of up vineyard after vineyard on rolling hills made up of golds, greens, reds, and oranges followed by the stark contrast of the mountains behind. At the last winery we went to we were also able to try many different types of cheeses-like brie, goat cheese, and gouda…I was in heaven. For all that I love about Zambia, they seriously don’t know what good cheese is. By the end of the day we had sampled 25 wines, and I had purchased 3 bottles to try and take back with me to Zambia.
Today, I am sitting in the airport in Cape Town as I wait for my flight to start boarding. Arriving here, I found out that my flight had been cancelled and rebooked for an hour later. Which thankfully works out just fine because I had a five hour layover in Jo’burg on the way back to Zambia. If the rest works out well, I should be arriving Zambia around 9 pm tonight.

While it was a nice treat to get away from Lusaka for a weekend and I loved seeing the water again…this detour has reminded me just how short my time in Zambia is. I only have 6 weeks left and that makes me incredibly sad. I already wish I could stay longer but I know that this isn’t an option. And the thought of leaving my baby behind really breaks my heart. He has just been released for adoption which makes me wonder again why I didn’t go through the adoption paperwork before I came. But at the end of the day, I trust that God had a really good reason for telling me that it isn’t my time to adopt.

Well, I guess that’s all for now. I hope to send off one or two more updates before I return. Until next time…


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Another blog post!

Wow! You should all be so proud of me-I am blogging again and it has been less than two weeks! Things are getting progressively busier here-I am consistently spending 3 days a week at the clinic, 2 days at House of Moses, am tutoring 2 afternoons a week, plus church, bible study, meetings, etc. It’s great! I love to be busy and even though the definition of busy means something different here-I like having something to do everyday.

The clinic is changing again-one of the volunteers has left to continue her medical student elective in Denmark before returning home to New Zealand. She was a great volunteer who was smart and fun to hang around with. I am definitely going to miss working with her. And then this week the other volunteer has gone on vacation to South Africa so I am the only volunteer at the clinic until she returns. On the plus side, she is letting me house sit for her while she is on vacation so I have cut my commute short by about 2 hours a day! She lives within walking distance of the clinic in a cute little apartment. The clinic work is continuing to get better all the time-I am getting to know and recognize more of the patients as they come back for repeat visits. I had a lot of fun this morning playing with a little girl whose name was Alice. She is an orphan who is being cared for by an extended family member. Last week she was so sick-her whole body was swollen and covered in a rash and she a really high fever. She could hardly move. In America she would have been quickly admitted to the hospital for treatment but there are limited resources for that here, especially when you go to a free, government run clinic. She was given massive amounts of medication and when she came in this morning for a follow up visit she was back to her normal smiling self. The rash and swelling were still present but they had improved so much over the previous week. She spent half of our visit playing with my hair and kissing my hand-it was cute and rewarding to see the improvement in her condition.

Yesterday I got to take a 13 year old to the eye doctor for a follow up visit. Zelia has had HIV her entire life and when she was younger her treatment was not managed properly and she got very sick. One of the illnesses she had was an eye infection that was not treated and led to blindness in her right eye. The eye has a cloudy appearance to it and looks different than her other, normal eye. Last year one of the other former volunteers from the clinic arranged for her to be seen by an American eye doctor and they arranged for Zelia to receive a contact that would cover the cloudy area over her pupil. Unfortunately the other volunteer left before the contact arrived, and the orphaned girl did not return to the clinic for the contact. The American doctor is leaving Zambia for another country and contacted my clinic to see if we could bring her in before he left so I volunteered. I got to spend the day with Zelia and one of her caregivers as the doctor showed her how to use her new contact. She was excited to see the difference. Here are some pictures for you to look at.

This Friday, I will be going with another girl from that same orphanage back to the eye doctor so that she can be fitted with a prosthetic eye. Teresa is 8 years old and was abused by her stepmother. When Teresa was 6 years old, her stepmother punished her by “removing” the eye. I am not sure that I want to know the rest of the details but I will be excited to see her receive a new eye and for both girls to be given the chance to feel as normal as possible. I will try to take pictures and post them for you also.

The House of Moses is also undergoing a lot of change-many new caregivers have been hired or switched around between the other houses for the older children as a way to help distribute the skilled caregivers and new caregivers. This means that I miss seeing some of my friends, but I also get to make some new ones. We also have had a husband/wife team arrive this week and they will be here for the next month. So now there are 5 Americans at the orphanage. The next visitor arrives in one week, and then more arrive in May. The home is slowly filling up and will soon be bursting at the seams with visitors. My baby, Matthew, is doing well also-he is walking most of the time now and is putting on a lot of weight. Pretty soon he is going to be a really chubby baby! The other children are also great as well-I just discovered that one of my other favorite babies can walk-although I don’t know how because never moves from wherever we put him. But the other day he just got up and started walking it was so great to see. He is also a very skinny baby so he doesn’t even look like he could be strong enough to stand. We have also taught him how to blow kisses. So when you walk in the room he will put his hand to his mouth and go “bwa!” with a big smile on his face. I will try and get a picture for you also.

Well until next time!


PS-Here is the link to my photo album on facebook I just posted some new photos!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The month of March

Hey All! I can’t believe that it has been so long since I blogged last. Yikes. It’s crazy how time goes by. I have been here now for two months and am still going strong. I have acclimated to the weather, food, people, and even the buses. The hour long bus rides (each way of course) aren’t so bad any more. In fact, it’s a great time to think, pray, people watch and do Sudoku. I have been doing a lot of Sudoku lately and am getting better at it. And many Zambians are used to seeing me on the buses and streets so I am not getting as many people yelling at me as I pass them. In fact, I probably only got called Mzungu 5 times today and maybe only 5 times the previous two days. When I first got here, it wouldn’t be unusual to hear comments that like 10 or 15 times a day.

The clinic has been a bit of a struggle lately-there have been two new people who have started: a new clinical officer (like a physician’s assistant) and a new nurse practitioner. When you add this to the already existing clinical officer and 3 volunteers, it adds up to a lot of people to see just a few patients. Adding to that has been some very slow clinical days and a lot of outreach cancellations. This has led to more downtime than anticipated which isn’t so good for the other volunteers who are only working at the clinic two or three days a week. I am lucky to have the House of Moses to keep me occupied.

Two weeks ago I had the chance to visit Livingstone and Victoria Falls again. I went with one of the other volunteers, Rebecca who is from New Zealand. She is a medical student spending 6 weeks in Zambia trying to get some good clinical experiences before returning home. We took an overnight bus after clinic one day and arrived in Livingstone just before 3 in the morning. We went straight to our hostel and fell fast asleep. The first day we went and did the gorge swing (like bungee jumping except at the bottom of the descent you swing sideways instead of bouncing up and down), saw the falls and then went on a sunset cruise on the Zambezi river. This is something I have done on every trip to the falls (this was my third time) and it’s my favorite thing to do. That evening we had a delicious dinner at the hostel and just relaxed. Saturday morning we had breakfast on Livingstone Island which sits in the middle of the Zambezi River and even got to swim on the edge of the falls. It was quite exhilarating and refreshing. That afternoon we went on a game drive and got up close and personal with a solitary male elephant. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, swimming, and eating great Western style food. Sunday we returned to Lusaka on the bus.

In other news, Sandra has arrived from America. Sandra is one of the founders of the orphanage where I stay and she comes every year to manage the teams who visit from America and to implement new projects and such for the orphanage. This time she brought with her a friend. Rebecca is 18 years old and from New Jersey. She will be here for 6 weeks and will be working with some kids from the House of Martha (for the older children) on reading comprehension. So far life has changed a lot in the last week with the new additions to the house, but it has been great to start talking about the changes and new projects that are coming this year.

Well, I hope that you are all well with everyone back home!


Here is the link to some photos that I have posted on facebook. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tales from the home front…

Well here is blog entry number 3…4…5? I don’t remember any more although I do know that it has been two weeks since I wrote last. Which I didn’t think you would mind because not much happened the week before last, unless you count me getting pink eye for the second time in a week immediately followed by food poisoning newsworthy. All I did during this time was read and lay in bed…The first day was hard and I really missed home, questioning why I was supposed to be here. While I have never doubted that God specifically called me to come to Zambia, I haven’t felt like the rest of the details were as obvious-Things came together really easily when I was planning my trip, but as far as my day to day activities here in Zambia…I feel like there has been less direction and inspiration. I am having a great time but I often find myself asking “Did I really need to come all this way just for this?” or “What is so important about what I am doing that God guided me here?” I also thought that I would be a lot more connected with God because Zambia has been a place where I have traditionally been so encouraged and uplifted, but I am also finding that it takes work here too, just like at home. I wasn’t expecting that and I am adjusting slowly, slowly…

            So after five days in bed, I jumped up ready to be active. I was with the clinic that day and we did an outreach in Kanyama. Kanyama is the poorest compound in Lusaka and also the biggest. It also has a bad track record for flooding and big, deep puddles covering the already poor roads, so after getting lost several times on the way and driving through some really deep puddles I was excited to reach our destination. The excitement was short lived though, because we quickly realized that we had forgotten all of our supplies at the clinic…Oops! But have no fear because the time was spent wisely as Anna, Sabrina, and I got a good lesson on the differences between friend relationships and dating relationships in Zambia. For example, if a guy in Zambia is just friends with a girl, it is not uncommon for him to hold her hand as they cross the street or for the them exchange text messages that say things like, “I miss you. When can I see you again?” So the next logical question is what would a guy do if he liked a girl. Simple, according to Justin and Fernando: You simply stop hugging her, holding her hand, and sending her sweet text messages. Instead your behavior becomes more formal and polite. And that is how the girl will know you like her. Hmmm…Needless to say to Anna, Sabrina, and I were laughing at the contradictory messages these actions send. It took awhile for the supplies to return from the clinic, but once we got started the outreach went fairly quickly. We only tested about 40 children and then went home for the day. Thursday was another clinic day though I don’t actually remember what happened…

Friday was a busy, busy day. In the morning the head nurse, Irene, and I, went to the Bill and Betty Bryant Nursery in Garden. This house holds the toddlers from about 1 ½ years of age though 4 years. I went there to learn more about their routine, structure, needs, and record keeping systems as I continue to modify their existing practices. It was so nice to see some of the kids that I have known and seen for the last two years. Although it is also remarkably sad to see how many remain. I wonder what the future holds for them…I wish that there was more literature available written by orphans so that I could read about their experiences. I know that it is exists, so if anyone can recommend any good books that would be awesome. In the afternoon I went to a coffee shop to meet with Dr. Sue Gibbons. Sue is a psychotherapist and had given a 5 or 6 week class to the caregivers for Christian Alliance for Children Everywhere two years ago when I was visiting. She was generous enough to give me her research, outline, notes, and powerpoint slides! So sweet and helpful…now I really need to get down to business though. I am supposed to give the first presentation in like 3 weeks and I will have to admit that I am lack motivation and discipline to get the work done. It is a lot easier to just read, go to the clinic, or hang out in the nurseries instead of working on a slow internet. Then on Friday night the House of Moses held an overnight prayer meeting in the new Bill and Betty Bryant Nursery that will be finished in a few weeks. I didn’t get to bed until 5 am Saturday morning…

Waking at 8, I got ready and made my way to Dr. Tim’s house for the retreat that was scheduled that day. More kids from the clinic came and had another great day with skits, dancing, puppets, swimming, and talking. This time the discussion was on sexual health and it was a good discussion on the basics. I also got to meet Dr. Tim’s parents who had just arrived from Minnesota. It was Dr. Tim’s parents who started the charity clinic I am working for in Lusaka.

Sunday morning I went to church with Alice and really enjoyed it. The choir was great and it was a very nice blend between Zambian and Western church styles. I look forward to going again. That evening I missed the opportunity to talk with friends back home because the internet was down but was excited go to dinner at Dr. Tim’s house.

Monday I was at the House of Moses, looking through the information that I was given by Sue and then rounded out the day watching the movie “It’s Complicated” for $2.50. Zambia is not always a cheap place, but for movies it top notch!

Tuesday was another clinic day, and was met with the arrival of a new volunteer. She’s really nice and is from New Zealand, so she brings a fun accent to spice things up. The downside is that not there are 3 volunteers all trying to do stuff on each patient, not including the clinical officer’s and pharmacist’s duties. It isn’t necessary to have all of us there doing the same thing so I am hoping that we find a good way to distribute the work that we are all eager to do and still manage to stay busy. We can only do so much with each patient…

Tomorrow is another outreach day in Kanyama. Thursday is another clinic day, and then Friday I am back at the House of Moses.

Other than that, I don’t have much to report. With the exception of the day I talked about at the beginning, I don’t miss home much. People some, but not really much else. I really do like it here. There are definitely things that I dislike and will never get used to, but overall it’s not bad here.

Well, I am super tired and ready for an early bed time…so until next time. I hope that you are all well and having lots of fun!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pink eye for a pink day!

Hey all! Happy late Valentine's Day to everyone. I hope that you all felt very loved where ever you were. I can tell that the Zambian's definitely felt the love too. I was surprised to see how big the holiday was in Zambia. I went to Arcades Shopping Center, one of two outdoor shopping malls in Zambia (the shopping malls are primarily targeted for Westerners/Foreigners and well off Zambians) and it was packed. There was like a mini carnival happening there where kids could play on a bouncy house thing, zoom around in kid sized cars, they had some people juggling and doing trip with fire and balancing things, as well as a couple of food carts. This was in addition to the weekly Sunday craft market where most of the westerners buy their souvenirs. The highlight of the day was the wicker love seat they had parked outside of the supermarket with a massive display of heart shaped balloons behind it where people could take Valentine's pictures. I celebrated the day in much less style by developing an eye infection that turned my left eye pink. Thankfully, I happened to be going over to Dr. Tim's house that night for dinner and he was able to evaluate my eye to make sure it wasn't anything serious. We had a good dinner that night-He made turkey, potatoes, green beans, sweet potato pie, and much more. It was delicious! Before I go further, let me go back to where I left off last time I wrote.

Last Wednesday I spent the day working on the new record keeping system for the House of Moses and then walked over to the bible study that I have been attending. It would a good discussion on the necessity for Christianity to be rooted in the resurrection of Christ-and how without the resurrection Jesus and his death means nothing for us. Important stuff!

Last Thursday I was at the clinic and we had a busy day from the time I got there at 9:30, until we left around 5:30. With the exception of our lunch from 12:30-2:00, we were seeing patients whole time. To put this in perspective, let me tell you the following things:
1. The clinic hours are actually only from 2-4 pm and only 10 patients are scheduled to be there on any given clinic day.
2. By the end of the day we had seen between 20-25 patients.
3. The clinic is housed in a room that is approximately 12 feet by 15 feet. In this room there are two computer desks, a patient bed, 6 chairs, two filing cabinets, a step stool, mini fridge, and medication cabinet. Not to mention the clinical officer (like a physician's assistant), program manager, 1-2 social workers, 3 volunteers, a pharmacist, a receptionist of sorts, and 1-5 patients. There also 2 doors to the room. What about privacy and confidentiality? Pshaw! Impossible!
4. I am also working closely with the clinical officer-I start the patients by examining them, doing an initial history or some blood testing, appointment making etc. I can start patients but can't finish them and we usually can't communicate very well. The problem with this situation is that the clinical officer kept disappearing when there were patients to be seen, or if he was around, I couldn't keep his attention long enough to ask a question AND get an answer. It was frustrating! So the patients ended up sitting around, for much longer than they had to, which just added to the chaos!
5. The patient files are always difficult to locate-the office assistant doesn't do her job well and they end up piled in the most random locations, and never where they should be. This usually leads to a 5-10 minute search by multiple people, which eats up a lot of time that could be spent on better things.

So for all the griping I just did, it wasn't that bad-just so that you all know some of the things that I am experiencing here! I am pretty easy going on most things, so that helps, but sometimes....

Friday I was at the House of Moses and was able to make some revisions to the records that I created after discussion with Irene. Then in the late afternoon, one of the employees here dropped me off at Arcades where I was going to meet Ntula (the clinical officer from the clinic) and the other American volunteers before going out for the night. It was an interesting night of some African clubbing (must better than American clubs, I have to say!) before the other volunteers and I crashed at midnight. We have been going to bed around 9 or 9:30 so midnight was pretty late for us. I stayed at their place and the next morning went back to the House of Moses on the bus. This was quite the ordeal because I got lost on the way to the bus station (it was supposed to be really easy to get there, but I messed it up). It should have only taken maybe 10 minutes to get there and I some how bypassed it altogether and ended up in an uncomfortable part of town before finally making it to the station 45 minutes later! It was stressful because I was harassed a lot (a female Westerner by herself is just asking for it!). The once I got on the bus and it started to move, it got pulled over by the police because it was overloaded and we all had to get off! Thankfully a gentleman was kind enough to explain what was going on and helped me get on a new bus. All in all, it took me more than 2 hours to get back when it should been less than an hour.

Later that afternoon I went over to Ruth's house to meet her family. Ruth is one of the staff at the House of Moses and does the laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. She has been here for a long time and is always a welcome sight when I visit. She is a woman of strong faith and is the sweetest person ever. Her family lives just behind where I have been going to church in a small house. It was nice to meet her family, but I was so tired after the events of the morning that I didn't stay long. I have never been very good at figuring out social expectations in a setting like this one-especially because it's a different culture. I hope they weren't expecting me to stay for a long time! It was also a really hot and sticky day (the hottest one so far-maybe 85-90 degrees with alot of humidity. The rest of the day was spent veg-ing out and resting.

Sunday morning I woke up with pink so stayed home from church and instead got a lesson on how to hand wash laundry. Let me just say that I suck! Janet was helping me and it was so embarrassing because I would wash something and then she would rewash it for me. There were a couple of things that she didn't rewash and there was a big difference afterwards when my laundry came off of the line. After that was my trip to Arcades and so on...

Monday was an outreach day for the clinic. After initially starting off in two small cars, we ended up switching to a bigger one and all cramming into it. We got lost all along the way, and there was definitely no way that we would have made it through those huge mud puddles if we had stayed in the smaller cars. Upon arrival to the clinic where we were going to test, we discovered that we had left the testing kits back at the office! So Ntula and one of the other American volunteers, Brook (he's a guy, fyi!), went back to get it while Anna and Sabrina (the other American volunteers), Justin and Fernando (the social workers), and I waited in the clinic. This waiting period led to hilarious discussions on the proper social protocols for dating couples in Zambia: most people (including the parents) won't even know they are dating until they get engaged, it's acceptable for guys to hold hands in Zambia, and a guy will be affectionate with you until he likes you and then he backs off-that's how you know he likes you. At this point Fernando asks Anna if she has a boyfriend which was quite hilarious because Brook is her boyfriend and they are definitely affectionate in a way that wouldn't be if you were only friends. I know this was one of those moments that you had to be there for, but it just goes to show that lines between friends and more than friends are difficult to determine in a cross cultural situation. Then it also came that Fernando still doesn't know the names of the volunteers-even though we have all been here for almost 3 weeks! Funny stuff! Anyways, eventually Brook and Ntula returned and we tested about 50 people with several positive results discovered.

Tuesday was a better day at the clinic, just as busy as last Thursday, but we had a better rhythm this weeks so it wasn't so frustrating.

And now, here we are at today! I had a meeting with Irene, the head nurse, today and discovered that I am not supposed to be posting pictures of the kiddos here on the internet, so I am sorry to say that you won't get to see lots of photos anymore. I will still be able to post photos from the clinic though, so you can look forward to that!

On one last note, thank you to everyone who has posted a comment on my blog. I don't know how to respond to them individually but I have read them and appreciate it! Thank you!

Until next time!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pictures for my last blog

The first picture is of a boy at the Farm

The second picture is of the Lusaka City Market, the 3rd picture is of John Lenge compound where we did the outreach last week, the fourth picture is of Chilala who is wearing Alicia's glasses (and was so excited about them),  and the last picture is of a very excited girl from the outreach.
February 10, 2010

It’s Wednesday and I am at the House of Moses today. When I woke up this morning it looked like it was going to be another sunny, beautiful day but as the morning progresses it’s getting windier and cloudier. Yesterday was gorgeous-hot, bright blue skies, a nice breeze. It hasn’t rained since Friday or Saturday of last week which is good for the poorer neighborhoods in Lusaka that were starting to flood after all of the rain last week. The House of Moses is buzzing with activity. Rumor has it that some Minister (maybe the Minister of Community Planning, whatever that is) is coming to visit today and may give the organization a huge donation. All of the staff are working hard to clean the house and the yard as well as dressing the kids in matching outfits and doing their hair. I was hoping to do some research on the internet today but it seems that every time I carve time out to do it, the internet has problems. So instead I am going to be creating new record keeping documents for the kids here. The current system involves different bits of information in a million different places, nothing really comprehensive. But before I get going with that, I thought that I would take the time to talk about the week so far. Last Sunday I didn’t do much- just read a lot and played with the kids in the downstairs nursery. I also finished my laundry and cleaned my room. It was a very relaxing day. Sunday I went to church with the Murray’s (the missionary family who live nearby) and then went to their house for lunch afterwards. It was delicious and I got to try some fritters for the first time. Fritters are deep fried balls of dough (like a doughnut) and they were delicious! The rest of Sunday was spent doing a little research on the internet. When I arrived in Zambia, I was given the challenge of helping to figure out how the House of Moses can become a model orphanage for all of Africa. For the two weeks that I have been here, I have been constantly pondering what that means, what it would like, and how we could do that here. I have been searching the internet for a definition of what that would mean-certain standards, models of care, definitions, etc. but so far haven’t really come up with a good idea of what it would mean to be a model orphanage. Either no one has done the research to determine what standard orphanages should try to follow, or the research is inaccessible because there isn’t one definitive study that answers the question. While I think that the House of Moses does a fairly good job as an “orphanage” it is not perfect and could make some improvements. The kids still spend too much time in their cribs, and like any orphanage, individual attention is pretty nonexistent. Every day that I am here and walk into the nurseries, I am encouraged to keep up the search because these kids need it. And they deserve it.
On Monday, I went with the Murray’s to another missionary’s house to watch the Superbowl. I normally don’t care about watching any sport, especially football, but the Superbowl is different-it’s more about eating junk food and hanging out with people than about the actual game (oh, and I really like to watch the Superbowl ads). In the afternoon I returned to the House of Moses and continued to work in the afternoon.
Tuesday I went to the clinic for a Tiny Tim and Friend’s meeting in the morning. I got there using the bus (by myself!) for the first time and got to sit next a very friendly lady who was reading the book, The Alchemist, by Paul Coelho. It took me about 1 ½ hours to get to the clinic. The rest of Tuesday was spent seeing patients (I think that I am getting the hang of the assessments, charting, and plan now) with Ntula and meeting a new potential volunteer named Sabrina. She is a nurse from Michigan so we got chat a little bit during the lunch break. After clinic was over for the day (or should I confess, I skipped out on the last 45 minutes), I went with two other volunteers, Brook and Anna, to the Lusaka City Market and Soweto Market to get some supplies and groceries. On my previous trips to Lusaka we had essentially been strongly discouraged from going to either market due to safety concerns, so I was excited to see what the infamous markets were like. They weren’t anything different than the markets in the rest of the world-people see the color of your skin and want you to buy a lot of stuff from them and sometimes will harass you a bit. I didn’t really feel concerned for my safety, but I don’t think that I would go there alone. It was just a little intimidating. I would have taken pictures but that would have just been asking for me someone to try and steal it!
And now, here we are at Wednesday! I am still healthy, enjoying eating n’shema once or twice a day, and just feel really blessed to be here. Oh, and I also got a little bit of smile out of my boy, Matthew, today! Praise God! I am still trying to keep my eyes and ears open for the things God wants me to see, and the ways that He wants me to be involved here in Lusaka. I hope and pray that the rest of you are doing well! Until next time and in God’s great service…


Saturday, February 6, 2010

One week down!

UPDATE: My internet connection is having problems posting pictures to this blog so look for them on Facebook if we are friends. I will try to post pictures on here as soon as it lets me!

February 5, 2010

I can’t believe that I have been in Zambia 8 days already and gone for 10 days total. The time has flown by this past week and I have managed to keep busy. I last wrote the day I arrived so I will fill in the rest of the details from there. I do apologize because this is likely going to be a lengthy post. You have been warned!

So to start where I left off. Shortly after finishing my last blog, I ended up falling up asleep for the next four hours and waking up just in time for dinner. Thankfully, I still managed to sleep all night long and woke up around 5:30 or 6:00, when the house really starts to come alive. That morning (Friday), Dr. Tim sent his driver to pick me up and take me to the Tiny Tim and Friends clinic downtown. Dr. Tim was seeing clients that morning so he left it up the guys who typically run the clinic to show me around. Justin and Fernando are the social workers, Ntula is the clinical officer (physician’s assistant), and Phridae (pronounced Friday) is the program manager. I don’t think they knew I was coming or what to do with me so after sitting for a couple of hours while they worked, I ended up leaving and catching a taxi back to the House of Moses. The morning was fairly difficult because I am not used to sitting around doing nothing, sort of ignored, while other people work around me. The guys were nice enough, but it didn’t leave the greatest impression on me, and I was kinda worried about what the experience was going to be like. After returning to the House of Moses (HOM), I had a yummy lunch of nshima, and then took another nap and then just read the rest of the day.

Saturday morning, Dr. Tim sent his driver to pick me up and take me to the Farm for an HIV outreach. The Farm is not only the home to Dr. Tim and his adopted son, “Tim”, but also home to 8 or 9 orphaned teenage boys with HIV, and an actual farm that will be used to help supply income to the clinic. The outreach was designed to help bring the kids from the HIV clinic to a place where they could have fun for the day, watching skits and dancing, eating good food, and hanging out with other kids like them. It was also a day where the clinic could reinforce consistent medication administration, talk about psychosocial issues and do some risk reduction education. It was a long and busy day but it was also nice to get out and see another side of the organization. It was also a good day because I had the chance to talk to Justin and Fernando and get to know them a little more. Here are some pictures from the outreach of the skits and dancing. 

Upon returning the HOM I was able to connect with some missionaries who live nearby and received an invitation to church from them. So the next morning I was picked up by Tracy Murray and 3 of her children and we drove the short distance to the Baptist church. I went to a bible study before the service and had a good discussion about fasting. The church service was great also and afterwards I walked home getting lost along the way. The rest of the afternoon was spent reading and relaxing.

Monday morning I met with Irene, the head nurse from the HOM and we had a good, long discussion about the work that I am going to be doing here. I also had the chance to ask lots of questions about how things are done and to look at the records they keep of the children. I tried to learn as much as I could about the organization so that I could then figure out where their needs were and how I could have an impact on them. I spent the rest of the day talking off and on with Irene, hanging out in the nurseries, and researching child development etc. Most of the day was rainy and gray, just like Seattle, so I wasn’t feeling homesick at all!

On Tuesday morning one of the teenagers from the Farm had offered to meet me at the HOM to show me how to use the bus system but it was pouring rain that morning, so Dr. Tim sent his driver to pick me up and after making a few stops we made our way to clinic. The drive in to town was good because I was given the opportunity to ask Dr. Tim lost of questions about how he got to Zambia and get a better idea of what his organization does. We also picked up two of the other new volunteers, Anna and Brook. After arriving at the clinic, we had a meeting with all of the staff and the volunteers about the clinic and then had the chance to relax in the office, learning about their charting and filing system (which is quite the disaster!), and then in the afternoon I worked with Ntula seeing patients.

The next day, I was picked up by Dr. Tim’s driver again and driven to the clinic where the staff of TT&F was preparing to go out on an outreach. This outreach was different than the one on Saturday because it involved the staff and volunteers going out to a predetermined location (school, daycare, orphanage) and testing anyone who signed a consent form for HIV and then doing posttest counseling. These outreaches typically have a 10% HIV positive return and these people are then referred to Tiny Tim and Friends for more conclusive testing. The test kits in the field have a high false positive potential, so another more accurate test is always done at the clinic. Most of the people tested are children. On this particular day we tested 90 people with 8 positive results. The posttest counseling was done by Justin and Fernando who counseled the negative people on risk reduction and prevention strategies and then referred the positive people to clinic. I have included a picture of the compound where we were doing the testing. The rains continued all day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Felt just like home and there were even some moments when I was a little chilly!

That evening, I walked over to the Murray’s house for a cell meeting (bible study). Afterwards I had the chance to talk with Tracy and her husband, Mike, as well as 5 of their children (they have 8 total, but 3 of them are in the states). They are a fun family and have a huge library of books that I was able to borrow from to supplement my own meager supply.

Thursday was spent at the clinic again and I arrived there earlier than I needed to so that I could read about pediatric HIV treatment. Phridae was quite unhelpful in locating it for me and wouldn’t let me look for it either, so I ended up sitting for a while doing nothing. Very frustrating! After a while I begged him for anything to read and he managed to find something to help me pass the time (and to get me out his hair!). Time passed slowly, but eventually patients started to arrive and I was able to start seeing them. The Zambian system for health care is very interesting because the Tiny Tim and Friends “Clinic” is really one office (in an unrelated medical clinic) about 10 feet by 14 feet where the 4 guys work, plus an office assistant and a pharmacist in addition to any volunteers and patients. It is an extremely crowded space and there is no ability to provide privacy or to move. The organization is just too small to provide care for their patients and afford a bigger space. I hope that in the future they will have this very important need met! With my next blog post I am going to post a photo for you all to see just how crowded things are. After finishing at the clinic Ntula offered to show me how to get back to the HOM using the buses. It was easy, and I probably could have done it by myself but it was definitely nice to have a Zambian show me what to do. We ended up stopping at Arcades (the other shopping mall) to go to the grocery store and then continued on.

Today was the first day this week it hasn’t poured rain all day and I actually got to see some sun and blue sky. It might have been short lived, but it was still there. I spent the day at the House of Moses hoping to continuing working on the presentations they want me to do, but the power was out much of the day and even though it’s back on now, I still can’t manage to get on the internet. Instead I spent much of the day in the nurseries or playing with my friends Matthew and Gabriel. Matthew is my chosen boy this time (although I don’t really feel like I chose him, even from the beginning he would come up to me begging to be held). Gabriel is more than 3 years old, a big kid for the House of Moses, but I don’t think they are going to move any more of the children to the Bill and Betty Bryant Nursery until they open up the new house. So in the meantime, he is the oldest and biggest kid here, although he doesn’t talk. He is good at making some sounds, but developmentally he is probably the equivalent of a 12-16 month old American baby. Here are pictures of Matthew and Gabriel. Both of them look super sad in these pictures but they were actually quite content when the pictures were taken.

I am enjoying everything here so much and am so grateful for the opportunity to come here and see things from a different perspective. I continue to feel confident in God’s call to have me here and am excited for what I will get to learn and do.

Here are some prayer requests for this week:
1)     Continued inspiration and direction as I plan some presentations for the staff at the House of Moses. I have about 4 ½ hours worth of time to fill on stimulation, development, hygiene, health, etc. I particularly need help figuring out how to take this information and somehow have an impact on how the caregiver’s work with the children.
2)    Continued prayers for health and safety. I haven’t been sick yet and or felt like I was in an unsafe situation and I pray that I don’t have to deal with either situation.
3)    Prayers that I will continue to develop and form connections with the people here-including the staff at the HOM, the medical clinic, and beyond including both Zambians and non-Zambians.
Well, that’s the main gist of it for now. For those of you who have continued reading this far, BRAVO! That was a lot to read and I appreciate the time it took you to get here. Here are some of my discoveries for this week:

1)     The police in Zambia actually own a hybrid Honda Civic…wonder how much that cost!
2)    The supermarkets have sanitizing wipes to clean off your shopping cart. Such a Western thing!
3)    Using the bus system in Zambia is easier than I thought, yeah!
4)    I have learned how to say “I want a lot of nshima today” in Nyanja. It goes like this: “Nifuna nsima yambili lelo”
5)    There is a frog living in the bathroom where I shower.
6)    The washers at the HOM do not wash well and the dryers do not dry well. Hmmmm….Maybe I should be hand washing my clothes and hanging them to do dry on the line?

In God’s Great Grace and with prayers to you all for a great week ahead!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My departure and arrival

I feel like I should be talking in Captain Jean Luke Picard’s voice…These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise…who seeks out strange new worlds, new life and new civilizations. To boldly go, where no one has gone before…Dah, dah…(imagine theme song playing here). Wouldn’t it be nice if we could always have our journeys start with such a proclamation? Well, in a way, I have. God has spoken to me and paved the way for me to be here, and proclaimed it to me in a way that I couldn’t ignore. And for the most part, once I accepted that this was going to be a part of my life, I have been joyful, excited, and eager to participate in this journey. I was a bit sad yesterday afternoon as I was saying goodbye to my parents and brother as they dropped me off at the airport and I sat thinking about the small parts of peoples lives that I will miss out on. Like watching my nephew start to crawl, or getting to talk to my niece and sing songs to her as she goes to sleep. So I started to journal as I sat out by the gate waiting to board the plane. After even just a few minutes of writing about what I was feeling and reminding myself of God’s great plan for me to be here, I was joyful again and the sadness had departed. Sure, I am going to miss my friends and family, my apartment, car, and certain foods/drinks. But it’s not like I am taking it out my life and replacing it with nothing. I am replacing friends and family back home with friends and family in Lusaka like Christine, Ruth, Matildah, and Chilala. I am leaving an apartment and gaining a house filled with babies (which is a good thing), and I am trading comforting foods for new ones that are probably healthier for me anyway. And I am replacing the gray skies and rainy winter with toasty, humid sun in Lusaka (also a good thing!). And I will be filling my life with things that I never knew I had a place for.

Some great discoveries that have already happened:
1.    Don’t die, because my niece will never forgive me. My sister and her 3 year old daughter were a watching an episode of ER yesterday, where Carter was working in a medical clinic in Africa. Halfway through the episode the clinic is blown up and my niece thinks I am dead. And even though my sister told her that I wasn’t dead, that I wasn’t actually there she was still so mad at me that she wouldn’t even talk to me on the phone yesterday. Next time, I will try not to die.
2.    I made it all the way to the airport gate before I realized that I forgot to put my makeup on. Now, for those of you who know me, I am not usually obsessed with perfect makeup and hair. But I almost always wear it, especially if I am in public. So the discovery of not having makeup on and being in public places all of the world was annoying. But on the plus side, it’s the only thing I have discovered that I didn’t do before I left!
3.    Last year when I went through Heathrow Airport to Zambia, I discovered that one of my favorite noodle restaurants was in the newly built Terminal 5 (where international British Airways flights depart). I had forgotten about it until landing in London today and I am super excited to grab a bowl of great noodles before getting on my next plane. It’s called Wagamama and it is a chain restaurant in London, so if you are ever here look one up and give it a shot. Yum!
4.    I am too chicken to beg for an upgraded ticket to first class because I am on a missionary fare. This was the big joke at one of my going away parties and I had been thinking about what I could do to see if I could get a seat that actually lays down in first class. But when push came to shove, I was too chicken. Except for when it came to my overweight suitcase. I was weighing in at 27 kilos (about 60 lbs) and the weight limit was 25 kilos. But thankfully the guy at the check in counter was gracious and waved it through, saying “You’re probably going to Lusaka to do some good work with kids or something, huh?”. To which I sheepishly replied, “Yes and this bag is overweight because of donations for them…” and then I batted my invisible eyelashes at him (invisible because they are super place if I don’t have mascara on) and he waved me on.  So thank you to Jean and Larry who gave me the bigger suitcase that I was able to pack full, Don Van Nimwegen and his daughter Kat (and boyfriend Tom) for helping me get the donations needed to pack it full!
5.    Other discoveries are that dollar stores are nowhere to be found when you want one. Especially near Northgate and Southcenter.
6.    My family is super cool. And very handy to have at the airport when you have five bags to juggle with a collective weight of 75 kilos (or more than my body weight in pounds).

I suppose that this is enough discoveries for now. As for me, I am going to continue drinking my mocha and eating my sandwich from Pret A Manger (similar to Starbucks) and try to stay awake for the next five hours while I wait for my plane to take off. Here I am bright eyed and bushy tailed in the airport.

January 28th 2:15 pm
I arrived in Lusaka 8 hours ago and have managed to keep myself pretty busy until now. It was an amazing treat to listen to many of the Zambian women who work for the House of Moses (HOM) singing praise songs in their amazing harmony this morning after my arrival. It was another great sight to see half of the women running out the doors of the HOM to watch the Zambian national soccer (football) team driving by after being defeated in their attempts to make it to the world cup. So far I have made it in to the shower, unpacked my bags, been to the grocery store, and filled up on my first meal with ‘nshema, the staple carbohydrate of the Zambian diet. It was delicious with a bed of cooked greens and okra, but I declined to add the caterpillars to the meal. I’ve already tried them and will gladly pass on them for more ‘nshema.
    The weather so far isn’t bad, a little on the warm side for most Washingtonian’s, but pleasant and not super muggy. I’ve been told that today is a little cooler than it has been because it just rained and helped cool things down. There is a nice breeze blowing too through the open windows. Tomorrow I start working with Ireen, the head nurse at the HOM, and will possibly head out to the pediatric HIV clinic where I will also be working. I am excited for both opportunities and have a lot to learn in the process. For those of you who have been to Zambia before here are some new discoveries. By the way, I think that I will try to finish off every blog entry with at least a couple of discoveries to show you all back home the new things I am experiencing or seeing.

1.    It’s nice to know people. Especially Alice Botha who was sent by Sandra to pick me up from the airport. The visa requirements have been changing and I was fairly confused as to what I was supposed to do since I am going to be in the country longer than my visa allows, but with Alice there to meet me, we just walked right up to the front of the queue for VIP’s/Diplomats and cut in front of everyone and got my visa approved. Too bad it doesn’t matter who you know when it comes to getting your luggage. After speeding through immigration, we then spent the next 15 minutes waiting for my luggage to appear. Thankfully it all appeared and we were still on our way within a reasonable amount of time.
2.    The staff (Christine and Ruth) put me in the smaller dorm to sleep in since the girls dorm is very big. The downside of this is that it is in between the washers and dryers that run 24 hours a day, the kitchen, and the nursery with the older children, who cry 24 hours a day. We’ll give it a shot to see how sleeping goes, but I don’t know how it will go. It will be nice to be in the smaller dorm because it is brighter and has beds that are not bunk beds so I won’t have to worry about hitting my head during the night. It also comes complete with a gecko for my mosquito eating enjoyment.
3.    Shoprite (the grocery store at Manda Hill) has brie cheese, cream cheese, red curry, pad thai, and just about every other food I thought that I was going to have to go with out. Sure the prices are spendy for those specialty items, but it’s nice to know that if I am absolute dying because I am craving a particular thing, I could always buy it at Shoprite, where the prices are at least cheaper than Spar (the other grocery store).
4.    Speaking of Manda Hill-the shopping mall is undergoing major renovations. They are turning half of the parking lot into a sketchy looking multilevel parking garage and adding more store space to the other side of the parking lot.
5.    Jeffrey doesn’t work for the House of Moses anymore. He was the driver for my first 3 trips so it is a bit sad to be here and not see him, but alas, he has moved on and Tom is the driver now. It’s too bad they won’t let me drive…
6.    It’s much harder to stay awake when you don’t have a team of people to keep you awake. Everyone pack your bags and get over here! Come see what great things are happening here in Zambia! The REAL Africa or so I was told this morning!

Here is a photo of my new living space. I will probably switch over to the bigger dorm when the teams start coming, but for now this is super cozy!

Much love!


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Last letter before I go...

Hi all! Wow the time has flown by, especially with the holidays last month, and I now leave in 3 weeks! For the many people who have asked, no I haven't left yet. I leave on January 26th. That's just 3 weeks away! I am so excited to go and have been so amazed at all of the different ways God has made this opportunity happen for me-from work letting me go, finding organizations to volunteer with, funding, support, and so much more. It feels great to be in the center of God's will.
Alot has happened since my first letter-I have been busily organizing and completing my paperwork for graduate school (I am hoping to start next fall), cleaning out my apartment, and celebrating the holidays with both friends and family. I have cleaned out my apartment and found a really sweet, older couple to rent it out for a few months while I am gone. They are older-probably in their mid-70's on extended vacation from Nova Scotia, because "well, you can't stay there all year long" according to the husband. Their plan is to stay until the end of March when their visa expires. I move out this Sunday, and my friends Jen and Andy have graciously allowed me to come and stay with them until I leave. I also think that I have found one or two good homes for my plants and have made two trips down to my parents hauling extra stuff that will be stored there while I am gone.

I have also been busy finalizing my "job description" for my volunteer work with Alliance for Children Everywhere (ACE). I will be working with their head nurse and staff in education, compliance, organizing, and working as a nurse from time to time. I will also be excited to be there while they open up a new house for the Bill and Betty Bryant nursery kids-It's going to be close to where I am staying so I am hoping to visit regularly.
And now I just want to send a big thank you to each and every one of you who has asked me about what I am doing, encouraged me, supported me, and given me material donations to take with me. Thank you also those who have committed to praying for me and donated financially. I really do appreciate all of it-and really hope to stay in contact with you while I am gone. If any of would still  like to donate financially-it's not too late. Just go to the ACE website (see below), click on the DONATE tab, and leave the drop down boxes blank. Under comments, write "For Melissa Sanchez".

Here are a few ways to get a hold of me:


Skype-look for me using my email address


And here are the websites for the organizations I am volunteering with:

In God's Great Name!

Melissa Sanchez