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!



  1. Your niece is still not happy with you. And now I have to read the little description that comes with each episode of ER to see if it is one that takes place in Africa. Even thoguh I have seen every episode about 5 times, I don't like doing that because it kinda ruins it for me. I forget what happens and I like to be surprised.
    Noah is not crawling yet but he is trying real hard to flip from back to tummy and he is almost sitting up on his own now. He can stay that way for 3-4 seconds and then he begins to lean.
    Have a safe trip and I am serious. DON"T DIE!

  2. Congrats on the "invisible eyelash batting" trick! I am glad your luggage all made it through. And yay for an emergency source of cheese! Blessings my friend!

  3. Hi Melissa, this is Arianna. You are so busy! I don't see how you can fit so much into one day. I do school work, then I am dead. (don't die) ;o)
    The House of Moses, is that the hospital? That is a nice name. I think that you love God very much. I love God too and I am trying to read the whole bible in a year. My favorite chapter is Psalms because of all the pretty songs David sang to praise God. Your room looks so cute! The netting on the bed? Is there Maleria there? I feel sorry for all the poor children with HIV. Keep up the good work and I will have you in my thoughts and prayers. By the way, you look pretty with no makeup.

  4. Hey Melissa, I really like what your doing. If I could one day go on a missionary to Africa some day, I would be so happy. It seems like such a exciting and life rewarding oppertunity to go help others. I am glad God helped you with all your issues and were able to go to Africa. I hope you have fun, Godbless.

  5. Hello Melissa, this is Polina. I read your departure and arrival section, and I am very glad that there are wonderful people out in the world helping kids and doing great things, like yourself :) I hope that God gives you the strength and patience to keep working hard. I would want to go to Africa one day, and see the different culture and lifestyle they live in. Have you been to a safari or zoo yet? That would probably be one of the first things on my to-do list (that is "if" I go to Africa). When I grow up and get a job, I would want to go on missionary trips to help kids. I wish you the best in everything Melissa! God bless you and your great accomplishments. :)

  6. Melissa!! We are so glad that you made it safely to HOM and are getting settled.
    Good call on the caterpillars :)
    Listening to you talk about all the familiar faces makes me even more excited to come to Lusaka!!
    Our prayers will continue to be with you!
    Stef (& Dave)