Thursday, August 16, 2007

Some After-Thoughts

I am now back home in California and beginning to adapt to my surroundings once again. It's always an adjustment to return home after experiencing such life-changing events in Africa. How are they life-changing? Well, some of the things experienced and witnessed there cut through the core of my being, forever piercing my heart. The children touch my heart like nothing I've ever felt before. The people I met in Zambia are the most generous I've ever met, despite possessing not even a fourth of what an average American possesses. Makes you realize what's really important in life. They take time for each other. They stop to listen to your problems. They share your heartache and pain, your losses. They understand what it's like to struggle. Their laughter is contagious. You can't help but to cry when they cry. A hug is worth a thousand words. Their deeds are couragious. I admire them greatly. They've taught me so much. As the next days goes by, then the months and even years, I pray that the impressions that have been left are never forgotten. I pray the burdens I felt for the people never leave me. I pray the compassion I feel for the children only grows stronger. I pray peace, blessings, and more blessings upon the people of Zambia. I pray the children never hunger again. I pray the people be healed of their diseases. I pray people around the world join hands to help in any way they can. I look forward to witnessing prosperity spread across all of Africa. I look forward to orphans growing up to be world leaders. I look forward to seeing a new hope, a new fate, a new Africa.

God bless!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Almost Left Behind

Alright, so I ran into a few problems at the Lusaka airport before flying out to go unpleasant surprise, I must say. For the sake of revealing my emotions about the situation, I am going to copy what I wrote in my journal, as it is now a few days later. We tend to settle down once things are resolved, but I want to paint a picture of how I felt immediately after "the situation". So here it goes.......

"Wow, did I ever have an experience at the airport! I just barely made my flight. It was a bunch of b.s. in my opinion. When I went up to the immigration counter, the lady said I over-extended my stay and need to pay a fee. My passport said I was to leave Zambia July 27th (as if I'd only stay 11 days and tell them I'm leaving July 27, even when my flight itinerary clearly says I'm leaving August 8th). I couldn't believe it! I was upset, so I asked to speak to the manager. She pointed me toward a man who then proceeded to tell me that I must've told them July 27th as the leave date when I entered the country. The only option was to pay over 1 million kwacha (about $300 USD). I didn't have that money. I was so broke at that point; I only had 5 one-dollar bills in my purse. He gave me no alternative but to go to court. I asked to use the phone, so one of the immigration ladies took my passport away from me and escorted me outside of the airport to the business office to use the phone. I called the Director at the orphan day center (Angela) and luckily she picked up. I explained the situation; she said she was on her way. After speaking to her, I was escorted back through security. The lady snapped her fingers at me and barked out orders to "go stand there." She was really working my nerves. I managed to keep it together, though. After giving her an evil, dirty look, I realized that I needed to remain cool, calm, and collected. I took many deep breaths and reminded myself that everything happens for a reason, even the mistreatment I was experiencing; maybe I wasn't supposed to board that plane for some reason. My heart was racing a mile a minute - partly because I was so angry at how I was being treated for something I didn't do; partly because I didn't know what to expect the outcome to look like. Angela arrived shortly and walked through security with an airport staff who happened to be her niece. She was very kind, and I really felt she was trying to help resolve the situation. She asked the manager guy to see a copy of my immigration card (the one I supposedly wrote July 27th on). He took us back to the closet where all the yellow cards are stowed. It was a complete mess! Total disorder. Many cards lying on the floor. So I asked him how he could prove I wrote down the wrong date. He said he'd have to "look" for it and wouldn't be able to find it before my flight departed (which, at this point, was in about 25 minutes). Hmmmm, no kidding! What a complete joke! I was ticked off because although Angela brought all of the money and came to my rescue, I didn't want her to pay. That's a whole lotta money! Many Zambians don't get paid that much in a whole year!! Simply upsetting. Angela was very calm, however, and advised me that the best thing to do is just pay so I could be on my way home. She told the manager guy, though, that she'll be back in a month and wants to see a copy of my immigration card for peace of mind. I asked him if he'd reimburse her if there was a mistake on their part. The answer was "no". And Americans complain that customer service is bad in their country. Anyway, to make a long story short, after hearing 'Passenger Holland, please board Kenya Airways for departure' about 3 times, I found myself running through the airport, running across the runway, and sprinting up the stairs to board the plane. They shut the door behind me. I barely made it. The good news is that I made it."

Wow, what a journey it's been. I really feel fortunate to have been helped in that situation. I really owe Angela. It's a bit of a frustrating situation to not be able to repay a person right away for such a great deed. In fact, I don't get paid until end of September. Things are really tight, but this situation keeps my on my toes of faith day by day. I like to think of it as spiritual boot camp. This is nothin' compared to what is to come in the future. I'm reminded of a verse in the book of Jeremiah that states, "If you race with men on foot and they've wearied (tired) you, how will you contend with horses?" I think it's in chapter 12?

Anyway, so here I am....home sweet home. I'm in Minnesota now. I arrived last night. Both of my pieces of luggage are missing, but I'm hoping they'll show up soon. It feels good to be home. I can't wait to see my family! They live a few hours from Minneapolis, so as soon as I get my luggage, I'm boltin' up there. I also have a friend who flew in to Minneapolis yesterday from California. He's going to help me drive my car back to California. So that was a pleasant surprise. God continues to take care of His children - no doubt. Although my statements above about the mishap at the Lusaka airport sound a bit disheartening, I am humbled by the fact that it really doesn't compare to the apples that so many around the world are given in life. I must say, I'm really blessed. I thank God for His favor upon me. I also want to thank each and every one of you who've journeyed this path with me to Zambia and back. It's been more than words. My experiences in Africa this trip have been a tremendous blessing! The people, the challenges, the joy, the memories - I'll cherish them always. And I'm looking forward to doing it again. I'll be going back next year for 6 weeks, instead of 3. I've already decided. I'm going to begin fund-raising now. So anyone who'd like to support me in my upcoming journey back to Africa, please do so on my website. I pray for each person that's supported me and continues to support me - that blessings will come showering upon you, because I know how much your generosity has showered me with blessings. Thank you!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Just a Few Days Left

On Friday afternoon I had the opportunity to do a home visit to a young boy's home whom I visited last year. I wanted to follow up with the family and see how things are going. This boy stays with his grandparents, and there are 7 children who reside with them. Most of them sleep on the concrete floor in their tiny home. I asked the grandma what their greatest needs are as a family. She said her husband works, but it's not enough money to feed them for the whole month. They usually run out of food by the end of the month. She would like to have enough money to afford to start her own business (such as selling tomotoes, popcorn, or kapenta) to help generate income for the family. Their youngest son, only 12 years old, recently had to drop out of school because they couldn't afford the monthly school fees of 10,000 kwacha (only about $2.50USD). He now goes to the water well and helps people draw water from the well to make a little bit of money for the family. Still the family is in need. Not all members have a blanket to cover them at night (and the evenings get quite cold). This is just one example of the thousands of families who survive this way in Lusaka. Imagine! I gave the grandma all that I had in my pocket (a lousy 4,000 kwacha - just over a buck). She was grateful; she said she will buy vegetables for the kids that day with the money. She wished many blessings upon me as I left. I told her I'd be back next year to visit her. My plan is to ensure that her 12-year-old son is back in school, so I'd like to pay for his school fees. I also want them all to have blankets. We'll see if I can get this done before I leave.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit my good friend, Salome's, family. I had hoped to visit her mother and siblings last year, but it didn't work out. As much as my schedule is tight, I needed to make time for the visit. Wow, was I blessed! I shed tears as I told them about the girls I was working with in my workshop; I shed more tears as her mother told me stories of her own; and I shed even more tears saying good-bye. Only a few hours with this woman, and I realized what an amazing woman she is! Now I know why Salome is so incredible! Her mother spoke some very powerful words into my life, and I will cherish them always. She calls me her daughter, so I guess that means I have 2 African mothers now. How blessed I am!

Okay, I have many more words to share but so little time. I have to log off now and get other things done. Not sure if I'll have time to blog again before I depart. I'll try. I will be arriving back to the states Thursday night. Can't wait to share all the incredible stories with so many of you in person. God bless!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

End of Workshop with the Girls

I finished up my workshop yesterday with the larger group of girls. They drew pictures and discussed a time when they got angry. They also shared how they can appropriately deal with their anger. We ended the session with the girls making their own sock puppets. I sewed on buttons for the eyes, and the girls used markers to draw the nose, mouth, body, etc.. I was hoping to have the girls do a puppet show, but we ran out of time. So, instead, they used the sock puppets with one another to express different feelings and emotions (i.e. sad, lonely, excited, depressed, happy, angry, etc.). It went well overall, although I noticed I was having a bit of difficulty again handling the larger class size. It got a bit noisy and disorderly at times. I'm learning.

On Monday evening, an UNZA friend accompanied me to a Rotary Club meeting. I met the president there, and he shared a bit about their club. They have about 32 members, and there are 6 clubs in Lusaka. This club in particular has a few projects going, which he'd like to discuss with me in more detail sometime this week. One project is building a school for the deaf, and another is building water wells in some of the outside provinces. I'd like to see if there's a possibility of any clubs in California to help them with their efforts here in Zambia. That night at the meeting I was informed that they had planned to have a business meeting, so there wasn't enough time to have me as a special speaker. However, the president gave me a few minutes to introduce myself and inform them of my relationship with Rotary, as well as what I am doing in Lusaka. I passed out some of my business cards and hope to make connections with the Rotarians. I was told that they'll be attending a conference in L.A. next mid-June. It'd be nice to join them there. The president gave me their Rotary flag/banner. I would've liked to have given them a flag in exchange, but I promised to be back next year. I will present them with one then.

Last night we had a famous Zambian reggae artist and his wife, who is also a famous musician, over for dinner. His name is Maiko Zulu; her name is Sista D. It was great learning more about their journey as artists and what they are doing for their community. Maiko has been personally involved with Kondwa, and both he and his wife have been promoting children's rights. They've done a concert in London to raise money for the kids; they've also performed in West Africa and some southern African countries. I think Maiko's music would do quite well in the Bay Area, particularly Berkeley, Oakland, and even San Francisco. Maybe a possibility to have them visit the US to spread their good message, their voice for the people, women, and children.

This morning I will be meeting with my professor from San Jose State University who is here in Lusaka. He will be introducing me to a woman originally from Minnesota who has set up a program here in Lusaka targeted at street children. She is a social worker and has dedicated her life now to helping the kids here on the streets. There is a vast number of them, and it is no easy task to tackle. I'm looking forward to meeting her and learning more about her approach to helping them and the community.

Thank you everyone for your ongoing support! I'm pleased to say that I am still in great health, despite the adjustments my body has had to make to a bit of difference in diet. The dust and diesel here also take a slight toll on the body. I'm holding up very well. One more week and I'll be at the airport getting ready to return home. Have a great week everyone!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Only One Week Left!

Only one week left??! Where did all the time go? I must say that working with the girls has been such a joy! I finished up with the smaller group on Saturday. It was our last day together. I shed a few tears Saturday morning knowing that it would be the last day of the workshop with them, but I was able to pull myself together before they arrived. They finished working on their memory books, which are just beyond words. The girls had all made cards and drawings for me, "Teacher Laurie". One girl wrote, "I love you, teacher. I love my mother, and my mother is dead. I now love you as my mother." Gasp!! Another girl drew a picture of me and titled it "My Second Hero" (being second to the director of Kondwa, of course). Another girl stated in a note to me (word for word), "don't you know that it's easy to buy anything in the shop but it's not easy to buy people like you. You are so difficult to find. So am asking if you can continue with your kind heart." The list goes on and on of all the exchange of inspiring words. I gave out many hugs that day and told each girl individually at least once or twice that I love them. I asked each girl to write down their prayer requests so that I can pray for their specific needs until we meet again. One young 9-year-old who lost both parents and now resides with her grandma wrote, "please pray to send someone to love me when my grandmother dies." Can I even begin to put into words what I've experienced in the last 2 short weeks?? Not even close. I finished up that workshop with a bit of psychodrama. I took a very powerful class in my graduate program that taught us the basics of acting out certain scenarios in our life and changing certain behaviors in the drama. It's quite empowering. The girls took an active role and acted out their "regrets". One girl wish she would have told her mother that she loved her before she died. So she chose another girl to play the part of her mother and another to play the part of her grandma. They did such a great job! They ended with the girl telling her mother that she loved her before she died. Another girl wishes she had taken a picture of her father. She picked a girl to play her father and another to play the photographer. The scene was that of a hospital room where her father was dying. In the drama she took a picture of her father. There were a few other dramas that took place as well. Wow, it's amazing some of the tools that I pulled from my experience and classes at San Jose State.

So today (Monday) and tomorrow I'll finish up with the larger group. I plan to discuss anger and guilt and discuss proper ways to cope and deal with the two. The latter part of the week, I plan to meet with community teachers and inform them of the workshops I conducted, as well as activities and techniques I used. I'm looking forward to getting their feedback. I'm guessing they've have insight as to what may be more effective next time around.....which will be next year, of course. Yes! I've already decided....I'm returning to Zambia next year. I just have to!

Another great weekend spent with Barbara's family. It was great to meet more aunties and uncles, cousins, friends, etc. One of her uncles is seriously and generously considering donating about 5 acres of his land to me to build an office site for any program I'd like to start. Can you imagine? See how things are coming together?? It's incredible! We'll see what the future holds. Oh, and by the way, I'm not sure I mentioned that I am a recipient of a Cultural Ambassadorial scholarship from the Rotary Foundation. They are going to FULLY PAY for 6 months of language and culture training in another country. I petitioned for either Spanish or Swahili. My earliest start date would be Fall of 2008. We'll see where I get placed. Tonight I will be attending a Rotary Club meeting here in Lusaka. Should be interesting.

Well, have to head off again. My time has expired. Have lots to accomplish. Looking forward to sharing more experiences with you as time passes. Have a wonderful week!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad!

I also wanted to wish my dad a very special and happy birthday! I love you, dad! Thank you SO VERY MUCH for being so special. You are very dear to my heart, and I feel blessed beyond words to have such a wonderful father. I love you!!

It's Friday!

Well, got some dancing in last night....unexpectedly. I planned to have dinner with my friend from UNZA and ran into the San Jose and other UNZA group who were going bowling. Turns out there was a bar and dance floor upstairs from the bowling alley. A DJ was playing and there were not many people there. So we had the whole floor to ourselves and danced for about 3 hours. Worked up a was fun! Nothing like dancing with the same great friends here in Zambia. Tonight's another possibility for a lil dancing. We'll see.

I started the memory books with the girls yesterday. Man, I cannot even fathom the things that some of these young girls have endured, the loss they've experienced. Not just one parent dying, but both; not just both parents dead but an uncle, cousin, and brother or sister, too. I simply couldn't even imagine. I'm learning more about how death and grief is handled here in this culture. It's been great encouraging the girls to feel - to feel sadness, to feel pain, to feel loss - and know that it is okay. Some have been told by adults to "forget about it". Their artwork continues to speak a thousand words. It's really great! Can't wait to share some of it with all of you.

Well, I'm off again. I'll be continuing with the memory books with the girls today and will be cooking dinner for my group this evening....spaghetti with some veggies and lots of garlic, as well as some garlic bread. I finish up my workshop tomorrow with Group 2 girls and will then be visiting my friend, Barbara's, family again this weekend. They're always such a joy! Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

End of Week 2 Approaching

Time if just flying much to share with all of you!

On Tuesday, I worked with Group 1 girls (larger group of about 21 girls). We did some finger-painting exercise in which they painted "people in my world". After completing that, they painted a heart next to those they love, a snake next to those they are afraid of, an insect next to those that make them angry, and a star next to those who help them and who they trust. They also did an activity in which they drew a picture of a tree. The roots were labeled with the tribe(s) they are from; the trunk was labeled with people or things that have helped them become better people (i.e. parents, school, etc.); the branches were labeled with positive attributes about themselves; the fruit were labeled with accomplishments they've achieved; insects were labeled with problems/challenges they are facing; and the leaves on the ground were labeled with people whom they've lost in their life to death. I drew one of my own as an example. The girls did a fantastic job! I hope to post a few pictures soon of a few of the drawings.

Yesterday, I began my day by meeting my friend from UNZA on campus. He knows a Rotarian in Lusaka and set up an appointment for me to meet with him at his office. We took a taxi downtown and talked with this gentleman for about a half hour. He said he was the president of the club last year and is the Chair of the Youth Exchange Program. He mentioned that there are about 32 members in their local club. He invited me and my friend to attend the next meeting, which is next Monday evening at 6:30pm. I'm looking forward to meeting the others and learning more about what Rotary is doing in Lusaka.

In the afternoon I worked with Group 2 girls, a smaller group of only 10 girls. I found this group much easier to manage. They were quieter, more focused and engaged, and I was able to connect with each of them on a more personal level. It was truly fantastic! They are SO PRECIOUS! I began the session by having them draw a picture of themselves. I asked them to write any additional information they felt comfortable sharing. It could include their age, where they live, what they enjoy doing, etc. I was surprised how much a picture can reveal about a person. Some girls mentioned wanting to be teachers when they grow up; another a nurse; another an accountant; another a journalist. Some girls even openly wrote that both of their parents died, that they miss their parents so much, that they love their mother very much and hope to see her again some day. They really melt my heart! I felt myself feeling emotions of sadness and loss when I looked at their pictures. Wow, they just bless me beyond words! Next, I had them draw a picture of their hero, whether they are alive or dead. Many drew pictures of a parent who had died; others drew a picture of an "auntie" or uncle who takes care of them now; and a couple drew a picture of the Director of Kondwa. No surprise to me, as I consider her to be one of my heroes as well. A truly amazing woman! That activity was really great, too. Each girl came up to me individually to share with me why the person in their picture is their hero. After taking a break to drink tea and eat bread, we moved on to another activity. This time I wrote down a wide range of emotions individually on a piece of paper and folded each of them. Each girl picked a piece of paper and took turns acting out that emotion for the rest of the class to guess. We then openly discussed when we felt that emotion and why. We talked about feeling lonely, sad, depressed, angry, as well as happy, excited, proud, and loving, among others. The girls really seemed to enjoy that. I was happy to see how much they participated. Next, I utilized the finger puppets again. Each girl took a finger puppet, got into a small group of 2 or 3, and picked an emotion/feeling to act out through the puppet. Each group then got in front of the class to act out one of those emotions with their puppets. They did a great job! We ended yesterday's session with about 5 or 6 songs. What lovely voices they have!

So this afternoon, I hope to begin working on the memory books with them. The memory books touch on some deeper issues that will most likely surface some sad feelings. So I'm going to test the waters a bit, but encourage them to only write about what they feel comfortable with. There is also lots of space to relive many happy memories. I anticipate this book taking a few sessions to complete. I will inform you about how that goes.

Last night, our group leader invited a young man from the Congo to join us for dinner and share his story about his country, his family, current conditions of Congo, how he fled his country and ended up in Zambia, his current challenges, etc.. Wow, what treacherous experiences he's endured, what disturbing things he's witnessed with his eyes. I thought to myself, "If I were walking down the street and passed by this young man, I would have NO IDEA half of what he's endured." Think twice about those you meet and encounter. Hold back preconceived notions. You never know what you'll learn about another and about yourself. It was great to have him over for dinner.

It's about 11am here right now. I decided that it's best to head to the internet in the mornings to blog. My workshop starts at 2pm and ends at 5pm. By the time we get back to the guest house, it is nearly dark. Then we have to prepare dinner and clean up, which takes a good couple hours. By that time, it's not the best idea to walk 45 minutes to an hour in the dark. So I decided....walk in the morning to the internet, walk back, then do the workshop in the afternoon and not feel rushed at dinner time. It makes good sense. Tomorrow, however, I will be accompanying my professor who is here in Lusaka to a compound (slum) that I haven't yet visited. I will also meet a woman from Minnesota who does work with street kids here. Looking forward to that.

Thanks again, everyone, for those staying in touch with me as I'm here in Zambia. It means a lot. It's really great to log on and have comments to read and respond to. I'm pleased to inform you that I'm in good health, even though the change in diet takes a bit of an adjustment for my body. I'm holding up pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. I'm also learning to be patient with "inconveniences", as it may be termed. I spent nearly an hour on Tuesday night scrubbing 6 pairs of socks and underwear. Imagine. Ha, and they're still drying. It's been great! I'm no longer "expecting" a warm shower in the morning, although this morning was a great surprise. It hasn't been warm in a few days; today it was warm. It was nice! And I get to sleep in a great little mosquito tent-looking thing, although I've only seen about 2 mosquitoes since I've arrived. I have to purchase one of those things for next year's trip. They're great and pack up so compactly!

Okay, guys....time for me to walk back to the guest house and prepare for this afternoon. Enjoy the rest of the week!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Beginning of Week 2

Didn't make it out dancing over the weekend...had too many things to do. Maybe next weekend??

Friday night I was in charge of helping another make dinner for our group. Well, I was running late because I had to walk back a few miles from where I was. But it was great to have my UNZA friend, Salome, join us. She pitched in a cooked the chicken, which was fabulous. She taught me a bit about the traditional way a woman is to prepare the chicken for the man and the family. Quite interesting. I have yet to master it. There is even a particular way to cut the chicken. It was interesting prepping dinner in the kitchen....we had no running water for a few days. Imagine how my body felt not having a shower for a few days. When we finally did get water, it was freezing cold. I took a deep breath and endured a very cold shower. It was just nice to be able to wash my hair. We now have water and even warm water, so that's just a blessing.

Saturday I joined an UNZA group back at Kondwa. They were there playing with the kids and helping out where needed. I walked a couple miles to UNZA with my friend, Kabanda, and we joined the rest of the San Jose State and UNZA students for a BBQ at a friend's house in a different part of the city. Both Zambians and Americans brought traditional cultural dishes to share with everyone. Just before it got dark (which is about 6pm here now), the power went out. By that time, it was time for me to get back. My Zambian friend's (from Minnesota) family was waiting for me at their home.

What a great pleasure to meet them! Barbara's family is just great! Her parents call me one of their other daughters. They are so hospitable. After eating dinner and visiting a bit, I went to sleep. My friend's mother woke me up for church and had a warm bath prepared for me. It was my first "sponge bath", as they do not have either a shower or bathtub. They simply connect a hose to the faucet and run the water into a bucket. That's they way they do it. So first time for everything. Church was just great. Everyone was sooooo very nice! I'll probably visit again next week. Later in the afternoon I was given a brief lesson on how to cook nshima, the staple food here. I need more practice.

Today I visited an orphanage called House of Moses. I was in a room full on infants to 18-month-olds. How precious! I helped feed them and held them until they fell asleep. I was told that many of them are abandonded and some are left at the gate of the orphanage. They work with social services to place them for adoption. Again, I'm thinking....."some day".

Today was my first day working with the girls on griefwork. I was fortunate to have a great Canadian girl help me out with the activities. She helped me with the assessments while I conducted and facilitated some activities. I utilized the finger puppets, some stuffed animals, crayons, and paper. The girls talked about what it feels like to be sad, scared, and happy. They drew pictures as well. I was surprised how open they were about talking about the issues that bother them. They openly talked about being sad when they father or mother died. They talked about being scared at night when it's dark outside and some have bad dreams. The girls were great and sang a handful of beautiful songs at the end of the session. What a blessing they are! I will be working with the same group tomorrow afternoon....about 20 girls ages 9 to 11. They have such beautiful smiles and are anxious to show me their drawings and receive praise from me. I am so happy to work with them! I've prepared memory books for them to work on. So I hope to start that tomorrow. I want them to have something to hang on to with words, pictures, etc. about the loss of their loved one....something great to remember them by. Keep them in your prayers.

Thanks all to those who are staying posted with my blogs. I apologize for not being able to blog more often. The internet here seems to take foooooooreeeeeever. Lol. Things we take for granted.

Take care everyone!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Weekend Approaching

Well, I just typed a blog and got booted off twice. Let's see if it works this time.

Can't believe it's already Friday. A member in my group and I are in charge of cooking tonight for my group, so I'll have to head back soon. A few of us walked a few miles to get here and need enough time to get back to prepare dinner. My group will be heading off early to Victoria Falls, but I will be staying behind. There's talk about going out dancing tonight with San Jose State and UNZA students, so we shall see what the night brings.....I'm hoping for at least a shower. I haven't had one in a couple days. We didn't have water yesterday or this morning. Luckily, I was able to wash a bit of clothes out by hand before the water went out. I got word that UNZA is out water for the next couple days. Ouch! I'm holding up just fine, though.

The weather here is great! It's been very pleasant during the day and a bit chilly at night. I'm beginning to learn the local language here, Nyanja. I had my first language lesson yesterday. Our teacher at Kondwa was fabulous. We've been practicing a bit. We often butcher the language, but we have a great sense of humor about it all. My group is really great! Did I already mention that??

I hope to blog more early next week, if not sooner. I'm looking forward to reporting back what occurred during the time with the girls I'll be working with next week. I'm looking forward to it. I can really see myself living here, even if for just a short time. I'd like to spend more time here learning the local language and helping the communities, particularly the orphans and the teachers in the community. Who knows?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I've Arrived to Zambia!

Well, folks, I'm in Zambia, and I couldn't be happier! It has been so great to see the same children and staff at Kondwa. All look healthy, and they are SO well-behaved. I'm really impressed! Things have changed a bit for the better at Kondwa. I was able to visit the site for the building of the primary school. They are just waiting on funds to arrive before building any classrooms. I think I may have to put some of my fundraising skills to use when I return.

So the many flights went well, despite the fact I had swollen legs and ankles for a few days. All that time up in the air really wears on the body. I flew from Minneapolis to Chicago last Saturday and into London Sunday morning. While in London, I had a 12-hour layover, which wasn't so bad. I was able to take the tube into the city and met a friend at one of the stations for a bit. He was a gentleman and accompanied me back on the hour ride back to the airport later that evening. Then I was off to Nairobi and finally Lusaka. I heard my nickname, "Red", being shouted at the London airport - it was Sandra, a girl from the San Jose State group that was on last year's trip. I ended up being on the same flights as the San Jose State group. It was great catching up with them. I arrived Monday morning to Lusaka. I was kindly greeted by my friend, Barbara's, brother and his 2 friends. They were holding a sign with my name. They helped me with my luggage, brought me to the grocery store, and accompanied me to my guest house. Barbara is a friend from Minnesota who just so happens to be from Lusaka. So it's been a pleasure meeting her family. They've been so great! They lended me a cell phone, and check in on me to see that all is okay. I plan to spend the weekend with them.

My group (6 other women from Arizona, Idaho, and Canada) are WONDERFUL! What a fabulous group! They are really great. Our accomodations are just fine, too....even a warm shower! We eat breakfast and lunch with the kids at Kondwa - porridge for breakfast and nshima for lunch. We have a kitchen to use at the guesthouse, so we take turns cooking in the evenings for the rest of the group. It's been really nice. My group will be taking off to Livingstone / Victoria Falls this weekend, but I'll be staying behind to catch up with friends and spend more time at Kondwa. Some students from the University of Zambia will be doing an activity (soccer, etc.) with the kids at Kondwa on Saturday, so I will be sure to be there for that. I'd like to spend as much time as possible with Barbara's family, too.

Next week I will be working with 2 groups of girls ages 9 to 11 in the Ng'ombe community. I will be doing various art activities with them, as well as additional activities that help the girls to deal with anger, grief, loss, etc. I will be doing afternoon sessions with them Monday thru Friday and additionally on a Saturday. A couple members of my group also have a counseling workshop planned for 37 teachers from the area community schools. I will assist them for 3 days in teaching the teachers various interventions that can be utilized in the classroom. I STILL HAVE MONEY TO RAISE! If you are able to assist in purchasing additional supplies that I need for activities, please donate on my website.

Although the culture tends to be more laid-back and slower-paced here, I feel there is not enough time to accomplish all that I'd like. So many people I want to spend one-on-one time with. I was able to do that with a few students from the University of Zambia (UNZA) but have many more to visit with. I think they are all planning a get-together on Saturday. Can't wait to go out dancing again!

I'm already looking forward to next year! I really hope some friends will join me next summer....Nicole, Kanika, and Zakiya?? I keep thinking of you ladies! You'd really enjoy being here, and I think you each have wonderful gifts that would contribute to the children and community here.

Thanks so all who've supported me in getting here! MANY MANY THANKS!!!! I've not been able to quit smiling - just thinking that, "here I am again". It's great! Hope to hear from you all soon. Please leave comments. Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Departing in 3 days

Wow, I am once again amazed at how my fund-raising has been such a success! About a month ago, I was beginning to wonder if I'd make it to Africa this summer. I had $1,800 left to pay on the balance of my airfare, and I had no idea where it was going to come from. People kept asking me, "How will you do it, Laurie?" "How"? "How"? It was difficult for me to remain focused at times, yet I knew it was meant for me to return to Zambia this summer to work with those beautiful children who bless my heart so much. Well, sure enough, an anonymous $2,000 was given to me in the form of a check. It cleared my account the EXACT day the balance of my funds were due to my travel agent for my airfare. Coincidence? Hmmm.....I think an ounce of faith has something to do with it.

So here I am....ready to embark on another trip, anxiously waiting to be greeted by the sweet smiles and hugs of those young Zambian orphaned children. I will be departing Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon; layover in Chicago; 12-hour layover in London; layover in Nairobi, Kenya; finally arriving in Lusaka, Zambia on Monday, July 16th. I hope to visit an internet cafe as often as I can while there to keep you updated. A friend lended me a camcorder, so I'm excited to get some great video clips to share with all of you.

Thanks again to EVERYONE who has supported me financially! I'm truly grateful! I would not be able to make it to Africa without each of you.