Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mother's Day in Mulenga

Just putting up one of my favorite photos from the past week in Mulenga...this is Easton with Peggy and Hellen, two of his newest friends in Zambia. I love this photo, it makes me feel good about all that we went through to get our kids to come to Africa and be with us. It is the realization of a dream for me to see my boys in the streets of Mulenga. I don't know if I even dared to dream this type of photo up, yet here it is.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Different Side of Zambia

Well, we've seen a whole new side of Zambia this weekend. We left Kitwe on Thursday after some fond farewells to our hosts, Uncle Eddy and Aunty Sue, at the guesthouse. Uncle Eddy presented Jason with a traditional African shirt complete with silver trim and front pockets, and Aunty Sue's daughter made me a welcome mat for our front door that says "Welcome to Zambia" in the colors of the Zambian flag. I love's awesome. We set out with our friend, Blessings, and drove the 10 hours to Livingstone. It's very touristy and busy...expensive compared to the way we have been living, but also really, incredibly beautiful. We rented two tents with cots and bedding so Jason and Blessings shared a tent and the boys and I shared the other. I was happy to share with Easton as it gets really chilly at night here. The tents are great though and we wake up to the sounds of monkeys jumping through the trees above us, the roar of Victoria Falls in our ears and many other amazing animals and birds waking up around us. I love it here, I love waking in the night and remembering where I am and just being so incredibly thankful for the life we're living.
On Friday morning, we set out to the Victoria Falls with Blessings, before he set off back to Kitwe. We had a great time just hanging out in the absolutely drenching mist and walking the many trails and viewpoints surrounding the falls. The water is incredibly high, the mist like a garden hose being poured out over you and the trees and foliage lush though we're well on our way to "winter". Blessings left us early and it was hard, as always, to say goodbye to such a good friend. What an incredible time we had with him and Towela. They just feel like family and leaving for an indefinite stretch of time always hurts. He left us at the falls and we continued around the area for a while until we spotted zebras grazing on a nearby lawn. We asked the gate guard at the hotel grounds if we could possibly just step in for a photo and she was very agreeable. Once in the gate, Easton and I snapped a few pics of zebras who are being grazed on the grounds but are still very much wild. I struck up a conversation with a man nearby named Webster, who it turned out was the veterinarian of the herd. We began to chat and he offered to show us the three giraffes on the grounds as well, in the back acreage. I sent Easton for Jason and Aidan, who were still in the market haggling with vendors, and they joined us for a long walk into the brush of the acreage. Webster whistled for the giraffes and after a short wait, a young female loped out of the brush before us. It was incredible. She was beautiful! Aidan's favorite animals are the giraffes so to even see one without a fence was quite amazing. She came slowly towards us, wary, but trusting of Webster. She stood just near us and we were able to snap some beautiful photos of her. Her mother came next, fully pregnant and due next week with yet another baby, she was tired and walked timidly towards where we stood. Suddenly, we found ourselves standing a few feet from two giraffes, who seemed as fascinated with us as we with them. Webster told us all about them and their quirky personalities and likes, it was as though we were meeting his family. We stayed for almost an hour, just interacting and watching these gorgeous creatures. At one point, standing in front of the mother for a photo, I felt her whiskers graze the back of my neck and a warm puff of breath. She was fully inspecting me as I stood there. I was very surprised but also really amazed that she would come so close. After we felt we had taken enough of Webster's time, we walked with him back to the gate and offered to take him for a drink as a thank you but he turned us down. What a beautiful experience and literally, it is typical of Zambians to show you what they are most proud of and care most about. We could not have asked for anything better. We taxied back to our lodging and spent the evening out on the Zambezi river, with hippos, crocs and impala parading out in front of us. As we left the wharf, the Victoria Falls were launching mist high into the air and the rainbows above it turned the mists pinks and greens, as though lit by some interior spotlights. There is nothing but nature here surrounding the falls, no guardrails save a few timbers, stones paths to follow, dirt paths to avoid that lead straight to the edge. It's no North American tourist trap with safety intervening on the natural beauty. The sunset, as all African sunsets are, was even more spectacular from our river vantage point and we had a great time with the boys and fellow passengers, enjoying the views.
Today, we went for the adventure. Jason fulfilled one of his longings by bungee jumping off the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe, over the river. He pulled off the best jump of the day with a gorgeous swan dive that I think most people think they are pulling off when really they are falling forward in a crouched variation of the cannonball, once their feet leave the platform. Jason was fearless, which was incredible as I was scared just watching and Easton couldn't bear at all...having left the bridge to wait whoever returned to him in the above cafe area. Aidan and I took a zipline from Zambia to Zimbabwe, literally. It wasn't scary although the idea of flying above the river with my son did strike fear in my heart pre-launch. It was a beautiful view and we loved it, though it went far too quickly. The scariest part for me was getting Aidan and I off the zipline and having to walk under the bridge back to the stairs up. We did well and we were pretty excited and proud of ourselves. Tomorrow, we leave Zambia, though truly, having been here for a few days feels like we have already left the bit of Zambia that has captured our hearts. I was completely flattered today when one of the crew at the zipline told me I had a Zambian accent! We'll fly to Johannesburg and then we are in the final days of our time in Africa. I can't think too much about it yet, I imagine when I'm on a plane heading towards Senegal or Washington, DC, it may hit me. Until then, I'm just taking in every possible minute left to us.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

If You Could Only See What We See...

Holding On to Nsosi

On Tuesday, we visited the communities of Chitobe and Kamakonde. These two communities are quite close together and we observed, once again, that when the pavement ends and the roads get really rough, that’s when you know you are getting close to the communities we serve in. We started our day in Chitobe with the care workers and we were supposed to visit three different families of children. When we arrived at the home of the first child, the other children we were going to spend time with were also there. It meant we could visit with all of them together and gave us time to play some games and just be with them for a little bit longer, not having to walk to each individual home. The first little girl’s name was Treasure. She was wearing a worn out dress, inside out and unzipped down the back. She was really sweet and a bit timid around us but by the time we got to playing games, she was smiling and enjoying herself. She lives with her grandmother in a small, cement blocked house with no door or window glass. A threadbare chitenge, or Zambian cloth, waved in the doorway and provided minimal privacy. The yard was bare and swept clean and when we entered, the grandmother and her neighbour were sitting under the trees in the shade with the kids running around the yard. I’d seen Treasure and another little girl, Grace, earlier in the day when we arrived at the community. They seem to be good friends and sit close to one another. Grace is half of Treasure’s height but is clearly the bolder of the two. She came and sat next to me on a small wooden bench that I was teetering on, praying it didn’t collapse under me! Grace’s mother turned out to be the other woman in the yard, visiting with Treasure’s grandmother. They were friendly and open, telling us that they were discussing the recent death of their neighbour next door, who had passed away earlier in the week from malaria. In the yard of the deceased woman, sat three or four teenaged kids, and it made me wonder which of them, if not all, were now orphans and in charge of the household. In front of me was a small girl with nearly half her hair gone. She had scar tissue along the front half of her scalp and when I asked the care workers what had happened, they explained that her mother and father were very careless with her and that she was burned by a pot of water being poured above her and spilling on to her head. When I asked her name, she told me it was Mumbi. She had two teeth missing and a quick smile and beyond her ratty clothes, I could tell that she was just a gem. Personality oozed out of her and she was quick to smile at anyone, include her friends and take on any game we started. I have a beautiful photo of Towela, from the service centre, chasing Mumbi in a game and they both have the widest smiles on their faces. This is what I think is so beautiful about the way that the care workers build relationships with their kids. It’s genuine love for these kids that motivates them to keep going – to be the ones who love the kids and teach them and guide them as they grow. It’s not about feeding kids, although that is one of the three essential services that the community organizations provide, it’s about providing holistic care for the children and building into them a sense of how God loves them by exemplifying it in daily life. As we came to the home, we had passed a small girl, just a toddler, who was crying in the path. Towela had picked her, called her Nsosi, having known her, and comforted her as we walked towards the home we were to visit. Once the games started, I pulled out my camera but noticed Nsosi sitting in the dirt exactly where Towela had placed her, with her back to the games. Being too little to play, I picked her up in my arms and she sat with her legs around me, face to my chest and rested there watching the others play. Her foot had a large oozing wound on it from the top of her foot onto her toes and her fingers also had the same wounds. It seemed to me that she had been burnt but that the scabs had been rubbed off or never fully healed. It was obviously painful as she flinched when I held her hand up to have a closer look. I asked what had happened and was told that she too had been burned by boiling water. I just held her for awhile and sang to her and she dozed off and on in my arms while the others played around us. When it was time for us to leave, Towela carried her back to her home and it was then that I realized that Nsosi and Mumbi were sisters. Both burned by hot water. When we arrived at their home, I could see clearly what the problem was. Her parents were both in the yard, drinking some homemade alcoholic concoction and beckoning us to come and sit with them. The girls ran in and we just carried on. It was hard to leave two little ones in the “care” of ones who seemingly couldn’t even care for themselves. The home was in disrepair beyond what we had seen anywhere else and the fact that both parents were drunk, reminded me how incredibly vulnerable children are even if they have parents in communities like these. The parents themselves are incredibly vulnerable in a state like this...inadequate shelter, no sense of purpose beyond numbing the pain of life, no hope of employment or improvement of their lives...I can’t imagine how they get out of bed each day other than to grasp for some fresh air, free of the home falling in around them. I’m not making excuses for them, I just see that basic things are beyond their capacity, and they are falling further and further behind. I don’t understand for a minute how one child being burned wouldn’t shake you from the numbness and make you want more out of life, but both of your children? I can’t imagine. I’m not just saying that. I can not imagine. All I know is that life in these communities is difficult at best. At worst, it’s unimaginable. When I get to the point where I think, it’s not so bad...this is manageable...that’s when it’s time for me to pack my bags, go home and not return. I’m not there yet. Not even close.

May 05 Entry - Finding Our Way

We’ve been in Zambia for just about two weeks now and I’m just now getting to the place where I feel like I recognize the country again. Driving up to Luyansha from the Zimbabwe border, Zambia presented a new and different face to me. I’d never been along the southern border so the roads and villages were unfamiliar to me. As we got closer to Lusaka, the landscape began to take on familiar form although arriving in Lusaka, I felt like we had arrived in South Africa. There was a new strip of development in Lusaka that took me completely by surprise. A new mall, lit up billboards, casinos and hotels line the road along the approach to the airport. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Brand new trucks driven by a variety of ethnicities also made me wonder if we’d taken a wrong turn at the border. When I was last in Lusaka, in 2010, there was no evidence that this type of growth or investment was on the horizon. Now, Zambia seems poised to be the next developing country in Africa, with investments from the Chinese and South African governments beginning to stimulate the economy again. While these are good signs of growth, I know that it will take a long time for the benefits of this input to trickle down to communities like Mulenga, Zimba and Amulo that are still at trying to reach the place where they can begin to see the changes in their own lives. Even so, it’s encouraging but strange to be in Kitwe and seeing white person after white person make their way through the gas station where we are stocking up on supplies for the evening. I wonder what impact they are having on the economy in their brand new trucks and real estate investments here in the city. I try not to feel resentful of the white people who come and profit off of Zambia instead of pouring into the lives of those who need so much more than a stable economy. It’s an uninformed reaction, I have no idea why these families are here or what they are doing. I try not to project my own disillusionment onto others but I have to admit, it’s difficult at times. Much of it stems from my own inability to provide relief and restoration to so many that I meet. I lump everyone else in with me when I think of the collective “we” that have not risen to the challenges that Africa holds in front of us. How do we sleep at night? Shamefully well, I’m afraid. Even here, it’s hard to keep focused on the challenges. We need to rest our minds and hearts from the things we hear and encounter – it’s then I feel the weakest. I know that gogos have been going for years on so little, caring for so many with such limited resources and without rest. I’m beginning to understand that my life in Canada is different and in many ways, cannot compare with the lives we encounter here. I have been trying to reconcile the disparity since my first visit to Zambia. While here, though, it’s difficult to come home to a room with a bed and a lock and a toilet that I don’t have to go to out in the darkness. We’re paying $12 a night for the four of us to stay and it is basic and sufficient and yet it feels so much more than what we’re seeing in our daily visits and walking through communities. I know at the end of the day, hot and tired and thirsty, that there is a little money in my pocket for food, a safe place to sleep and clean water to drink. It’s enough to make me feel like we are living well above everyone else – and that’s enough to bring tears of gratitude and guilt, every night as my head hits the pillow.

Traffic Jams and Chimpanzees

This weekend, after dropping Cathy to the airport in Ndola, we had two free days to spend around the city of Kitwe. Saturday, we decided to go check out a chimpanzee refuge that we had heard of from Uncle Eddie, where we stay. We planned to drive out early and spend the day there. We headed to Chingola, about 52 km north of Kitwe and thought we’d have lunch there and then head out towards Sowesi and into the bush where the refuge was. We got about halfway to Chingola and arrived at the crossroads to Mufilira and the DRC border when traffic came to a standstill. A few days earlier, we had passed the scene of an accident on the bridge there over a small river where a semi-truck had been hit and overturned into the water. Today, a crane stood on the bridge, attempting to lift the disabled truck and trailer back onto the roadway. Unfortunately, this is the only way north and by the time we thought of turning back, we found ourselves in one of five lanes of traffic jam on a one and a half lane road bottlenecking at a small bridge. I’m not sure what the weight restriction would be on a small cement bridge over little more than a creek but what I was thankful for was that we were not parked on the bridge with the numerous semi trucks on their way to the border, filled with fuel, acid, and copper ore, not to mention the crane, the truck bed that was waiting to receive the disabled truck and about 200 curious bystanders.
After several failed attempts, despite the advice of 200 intervening bystanders, the crane operator decided that his crane was insufficient for the task. As it was blocked in on both sides, the traffic police were called in to restore order. At one point, there were two middle aged women wearing traffic vests, standing in the midst of hundreds of vehicles literally a kilometre in both directions, given the task of moving everyone out in an orderly fashion. Add to the chaos, many men who felt it was their gift to these women to tell them how to do their job. At one point, a man with a very large rifle showed up, stood in front of our van with the women and engaged in loud conversation with everyone around him. I’m not sure if he was protecting the women or threatening them, all I know is I kept my eyes on him and was ready to hit the floor should he swing in our direction. Enter the hero of the situation. A young man in a green and white striped shirt, tall and thin with glasses, he was. He spoke to the women and I assume he told them to keep all traffic still while he went and sorted things out. He walked ahead of our van and about 15 vehicles in front of us, including an ambulance, and motioned for our convoy to follow him. What happened next was amazing. This young man, motioned and cajoled, threatened and reasoned with driver after driver to clear the way for one lane of traffic to be opened. He convinced truck drivers and taxi van drivers alike to pull aside and clear the way for our convoy to move through. It took the better part of an hour to get through but we finally wound our way across to the far side of the traffic jam where the road cleared out in front of us. At the end of the traffic jam, stood the young man in the green and white shirt, we thanked him and continued on towards Chingola. I wished we had had some money or a Coke or a medal of honour to give to the young man. He was bright and assertive and had the capacity to take charge of a chaotic situation. How good would this guy be in the work force? I hope someone other than some foreigners took notice of the young man in their midst. We drove on toward Chingola, whose claim to fame is the world’s largest open pit mine. Can I get a woo hoo, please? Chingola is a mining town through and through. It’s rough and tumble, filled with loud, gregarious miners, Chinese investors and lots of rowdy taverns cranking out the music through crackling speakers. It’s a noisy town and we headed west through the roughest part of it. We passed through the shadows of two large mines, crossing over a road that is only used by the huge Tonka trucks of the mining industry. We crossed as one approached and our little Toyota was dwarfed in its presence. We follow the signs (or sign as truth would have it) to Solwesi. We turn off and begin a climb up a long hill and into the bush. We pass several small cooperative villages where there are roadside stands selling charcoal, sugar cane, beer and whatever else they can. We drive for about 20 kms, the distance we were told that the refuge was from the turn off and finally, stop in to one of the co-ops for some Cokes and cookies (staple diet of the African traveller) and directions. The lady tells me that it is still 19 km to the turn off for the refuge and then it is 15 km into the bush from there. I chat for a little bit with the lady behind the counter, meet her daughter and her mother, also behind the counter on the floor. Once our conversation wanes, I thank her for the help and get back into the hot van. It is now 3:30 and we’re not sure the refuge will even be open when we get there but we’re all in for the chance so we press on. Sure enough, 18 km on the odometer and we see the first and only sign for the refuge telling us we have 1 km to the turnoff. We get to the turnoff and get off the tar road and into the bush. A small sign assures us we’re heading in the right direction and we’ve got 15 km to go. At the 15 km mark, bouncing and jostling along, we are seemingly not any closer to any type of refuge, building or outpost. We continue on, at this point, why would we turn back, and in just a few minutes come upon a gate over the road and a guard shack. We have arrived. We pay our entry fees and then are directed to the office. We joke that it is only another 15 km into the bush. It was only about 3 kms but we were all pretty relieved when we pulled in. We are invited into the office, a sea canister cum office with photos of all the chimps living there on the walls, named. We are directed back to our vehicle and shown the way to the first enclosure – a small acreage enclosed by chain link with signs warning us to be wary of chimps throwing rocks. Very reassuring. We pull into an empty parking lot without much optimism of what we were about to experience but nevertheless, we have arrived. We pile out of the van and are met by a young man named John. He shows us to a cage with two large chimpanzees inside and one smaller chimpanzee outside of the enclosure. He calls to the chimpanzee, named Chris, and beckons her to come sit with us on the bench. She does, cajoled by John and some peanuts, and sits beside Aidan on the bench. We are already impressed and soon begin to really enjoy our time with the chimpanzees.
We cross over the path to a small building with a stairway to the roof. On each side of the building is an enclosure of several acres each. One small chimp family of 14 lives on one side, another chimp family of 12 lives on the other. We visit the first family and are welcomed by several large chimps, the biggest of whom starts throwing dirt and rocks at us and making funny gestures in an effort to win some peanuts. John gives the boys some peanuts to feed the chimps and soon the chimps are going all out making noises and gesturing with their old man hands for the peanuts. The boys are loving this and we’re all laughing. The chimps seem just as fascinated with us as we are with them. We follow John to the stairway leading to the roof and we climb up to call the other family of chimps in from the bush. He calls them by name and they begin to make their way towards us. A small family of three, father, mother and baby, stop just shy of us and begin to groom each other, uninterested in peanuts or us. We watch for awhile and then John sends us on to the next enclosure, 1 km down the road. We arrive there and are met by James, who leads us to another building. Inside is Mila, a grandmother of chimpanzees, in her 50’s and rescued from a life of entertaining her owners by smoking cigarettes and drinking tankards of beer. She’s a hard looking old girl and she is locked in a cage because she’s too smart for her own good. She is an escape artist and made several ladders out of wood and climbed out of the enclosure surrounding the acreage. So, here she sits, still trading cheap tricks for peanuts, which she cleverly spots in Aidan’s hand, though James is treating her to fresh fruit. She claps her hands twice like a Zambian umbuya (grandmother) and holds out her long black hand to Aidan for a treat. He complies, a few times, then James tells her she is finished. Each time he turns away, she claps her hands and holds out her hand to Aidan again. Finally, we leave her with fruit and a large tankard of water and head up to the roof. James calls several chimpanzees from the 60+ acre enclosure. We hear them before we see them, screeching and calling as they make their way in from the bush. First is Mike, a grandfather of a chimpanzee with grey hair and droopy eyes, followed by his females and offspring. There are chimpanzees large and small. We throw down fruit and they race for it, catching much of it midair and eating quickly. More chimpanzees are now coming in from the bush, there are more than 60 in the enclosure, and as more arrive, the louder it becomes. Chimpanzees of all sizes find a small place to sit, careful not to offend the alpha males, but still close enough to catch a rolling fruit or wayward toss. After about 15 mins, the alpha male extraordinaire shows up. His name is Zabu and he is scary looking – scarred and rough skinned, huge hands. All the other males, including Mike, defer to Zabu and even as we toss fruit, he collects most of it and no one objects. Mike slyly sits beside Zabu’s left side and holds out his own left hand in an effort to divert a little fruit his way. There’s Darwin who climbs the side of the building and poses on his back like a model for any attention that may result in food. There’s Marcia, who is shy but sneaks in from the back of the pack and snags fruits that roll into the bushes. There is Debbie and Donna, and other females carrying little ones under their bellies. We stay for a long time, almost an hour, feeding and photographing and enjoying the chimpanzees here. As the sun sets, we realize that we need to begin to retrace our bouncing, jostling path out of the bush and back to the tar road and home to Kitwe. It was a long day but it was also such a good day, where long waits and lengthy travels resulted in a surprisingly satisfying interaction with nature. We arrived home late, after a dinner of orange juice and chocolate bars on the way. Honestly, we’re not going to get any parenting or nutrition awards for our travels – we often find ourselves at the mercy of a roadside stand or empty shelved merchant. I was proud of the fact that I had procured orange juice instead of the standard Coke and recognizable chocolate bars for each of us. At the end of the day, we fell into our beds, too tired to scrounge up a supper out of our dwindling supplies and happy enough not to care.


Every time I come to Zambia, I have one selfish goal in mind: I am always hopeful for just a few moments to share with my little friend, Eva, who I met in 2009. Eva and I met by a chance encounter, she was one of so many children in Mulenga, curious about a group of white people gathering at the school. She was peeking around the corner of a wall just as I caught her eye, I reached out to her and she climbed into my arms for the day and into my life forever. We spent a whole day together that day with only one word being spoken from her lips: "Eva". It was enough to cement our friendship and we spent a lot of time together on that first trip. When I know I am returning to Zambia, I get very nervous thinking about seeing her, wondering how she is, knowing how vulnerable she and her little family are in the community. I'm afraid to think she will be moved away or sick or gone when I come back. I have to be honest and say that the little time I get to spend with Eva each time I come, is worth every penny I spend to get to her. Thankfully, so very thankfully, I did get to spend time with my dear friend, Eva, in Mulenga this week. It was such a beautiful time and I felt very fortunate to have had the chance once again to have a place in her life. Mid-morning, I was sitting in the school in Mulenga, having been there all morning teaching kids and helping with lessons. Easton and Aidan were put to work by the teachers as well, correcting work and consulting on lessons. It was so fun. The school room is one open room but the classes were divided by age into four classes, each seated to face an opposite direction. The eldest kids, and smallest group, were nearest the door, the smallest kids faced one wall, the middle kids another and yet another group faced a blackboard towards the centre. The benches and desks were filled and small children wandered in and out of the room as well. The class I was teaching was practicing their handwriting, copying the letter "R" over and over in their books, sharing pencils and erasers amongst themselves. I scanned the room for my friend, Eva, who would normally be in with this age group. I asked Olantah whether she was sick or had stopped attending and she wasn't sure. Immanuel, who normally teaches this group, told me that she was going to another school. I assumed that that meant she had gone to another community but the girls told me she was still around and that her elder sister, Natasha, would be at the care point at noon. Moments later, through a crack in the wall, slid a photo of Eva and I together that I had given to her mother, Dorothea. I looked through the window and there was Dorothea, holding her littlest son, Calebo, who she had been pregnant with on my last visit. I went outside and she greeted me with a huge hug and smile. I met Calebo for the first time and asked after Joshua and Eva. She told me that Eva finished school at 14:00 or two o'clock. We were due to leave Mulenga just after noon, so I was disappointed thinking I would not have time to see her. I chatted with Dorothea and was happy to hear that she and the children were doing fairly well. The kids were still part of the care point and so received meals at Elizabeth's home daily. I told her that I left a parcel for her at Elizabeth's and she was excited to see the latest photos, including one I had taken of her and Joshua and Eva on my last visit. We parted ways but it was so great to see her smiling and looking so well and happy. I know that her life is very difficult and that as a mother now of four children, it is going to be difficult for a long time, but it was good to hear her encouraged and hopeful and happy. A few hours later, at the feeding point, Immanuel asked Natasha if she could take us to Eva. I wasn't sure there was time but Blessings and Towela were more than happy to accommodate my request - they kept telling me to make the most of my time in Mulenga as they know how I love the care workers and kids in this community. So, with Easton in tow, we followed Natasha up to a local preschool and Immanuel introduced us to the teacher there who went and got Eva out of class. Immanuel remarked that Eva was always quiet and that even in class, she was sitting alone with her arms crossed in her lap, away from other kids. Eva is always on the periphery of what is taking place...although she loves to play, she's often so quiet that she goes unnoticed. Even at home, Natasha tells us that Eva is the quiet one. True to form, Eva peeks out the door to see why she is being summoned and then walks quietly over to me and takes my hand. I ask if she remembers me and she says she does. She is looking at Easton and I introduce them, Easton taking her hand and shaking it and saying "Mwashpukani". I kneel beside her and chat with her but her answers come mostly with a lift of the eyebrows or a quiet "Emkwai" of agreement. She has grown a lot and I notice her new teeth. She smiles a little but mostly she just holds my hand and listens to me. After too few minutes, I ask Easton to take our photo and she gives her sweet little half smile. I take a photo of her and Easton together and she is still. When I say goodbye, she hugs me hard and I kiss her head and that has to be enough for me to walk away with for many months or more. She stands with her teacher and waves goodbye and then watches us walk away with Natasha. Once again, I hope that all I say to her will remain with her while we are apart and be enough to remind her that she is loved and missed and prayed for by me, even while we are so far apart. Towela reminds me that although she is quiet, that our visit will be all she talks about at home for days to come. I know her mother will remind her that she has someone who loves them in Canada. I have to learn to trust that distance and absence won't erase our friendship in her mind or mine, that we will remain friends over the year and visits to come.

Back to Amulo

This morning, Blessings and Towela picked us up and brought us to Amulo. Amulo is a community on the outskirts of Kitwe with a high population of vulnerable children. Amulo is in the shadow of a large copper mine, tucked into the backyard of mining houses and the working poor. Once again, you leave the tar roads to get to Amulo, wind through rough roads that we call "dancing roads" as they make you dance around the vehicle whether the music is on or not. I joke with Blessings that I'll be dancing like an African after all the dancing lessons I've had on these roads. We arrive in Amulo and make our way to the building that now houses the care point. In August of 2010, when I first visited Amulo, this building stood empty but it held promise. It was cement blocks with a tin roof and was divided into several rooms inside that could be transformed into classrooms. Today, I saw the fulfillment of that promise. The front steps were covered in plants and were the first evidence of life within. As we entered the first small room, adjoining it was another small room lined with benches and filled with children and their notebooks, waiting for their teacher to arrive. Imagine children coming early to school and waiting for their teachers! Another room housed the brazier and charcoal on which a few of the care workers cook, under the watchful eye of Maggie, the woman who supervises that the meals are enough for the 50 children but also that they provide good nutrition. Maggie and the care workers are well aware that the meal they provide each day is often the only meal that the children can rely on. Down a dark hallway, another small room is lined with benches and has a chalkboard and it is in this room that the older children are taught. We are welcomed by Godfried, who is standing in as the community based organization's coordinator while Pastor Boyd, who usually leads it, is away at seminary training. Godfried and I walked the community together in 2010 and he is a grandfather to all the children of Amulo and a friend of all. He is friendly and wise, he speaks with great care for all those he visits, whether a patient or child. Today, he leads the care workers in a Bemba song that he has adapted the words to welcome us to Amulo to walk with him. It's the sweetest thing to be sung to by this man. I know he is so sincerely thankful for the visit and considers it an honour to have us, though we see it as the same for us to be with him. Introductions are made and we leave the boys at the school to join in with the teachers there, knowing full well that they will be safe and looked after. Jason and I join several care workers and we walk through the community and hear the challenges and accomplishments of the area from those we consider the experts on what is happening here. Our first visit is to the home of 13 year old Memory, and her mother, Precious. Memory is home but is bathing when we arrive so we sit with her mother for a while. She tells us that it is just she and Memory, as her husband has passed away. Having been widowed, with a child, she is incredibly vulnerable. Two women on their own are targets for those who would abuse and exploit them. Precious' mother lives relatively nearby but as they own their home, it is important for them to stay in it and keep their small plot. Precious' mother provides some food for the two of them but it is not enough to sustain them. Memory joins us in the small living room and she is shy. She speaks quietly and acknowledges the care workers when they tell her that she is supposed to be in school. She explains that she is not feeling well but they challenge her to go to school as often as she can and also to attend the meal. She nods although I am not sure she would go today. We stay for awhile and pray with Precious and Memory as we leave. They ask us to pray for provision of food and safety for them both, and for good health. From here, we walk to the home of a small 7 year old boy named Gift. Godfried sweeps Gift into his arms and although Gift is blind, it is clear that he responds to Godfried's voice, he is smiling. Godfried explains that Gift became very sick when he was about 2 years old and became paralyzed and blind. Now, he has trouble controlling the movements of his limbs and head and he grinds his teeth so violently that they are jagged and broken. We sit with Gift and his father, who also cares for three other siblings in the house. The father is kind and gentle with Gift but he expresses his worry for this son who can not eat well, doesn't walk and needs a lot of care. When we ask if they do exercises with Gift, the care workers and father both explain that they spend time working Gift's limbs and it seems to be having a positive effect on his abilities to move them. In this home, the care workers come and offer beautiful respite to a father raising four children on his own.
We visit just a few more houses, the one that stands out to me was the home of Kelvin and George. Kelvin is five and he meets us in his yard. He is the size of a small toddler and I ask several times about his age, he is so small. I lift him into my lap and he is light as a feather, despite his distended belly. His belly is hard and his limbs are small and thin. His younger brother, George, is three and small as well. He is unwilling to look at us, hiding his eyes in the care workers' arms and crying. Kelvin is quiet in my lap but as I take photos of other children, he is smiling, being privy to their pictures displayed in the back of my camera. He smiles and it only affects his lips. His eyes are wide and his lashes are curled right into themselves, they are so long. His body is covered in the downy hair of one malnourished. He holds one of my hands in his and his grip is strong for such a small appendage. We sit together for a while, as care workers listen to the grandmother tell of the boys' mother who disappears when we arrive, as she has spent the morning making and drinking a local home brew. The boys come to the feeding program though they don't attend the school yet. Again, these are some of the children that reinforce the urgency of such a feeding program - they may not eat in a day if not for the care workers preparing them a meal.
On our way back to the care point, we pass a house that I recognize. In 2010, I sat with Godfried and a grandmother here who was caring for her 10 month old grandson, as his mother had passed away when he was just 10 days old. When we visited them, I was so affected by the grandmother, herself only 35, having to care for the baby of her own young daughter. I couldn't imagine the grief she was feeling although it was evident in her very movements and expressions. The father of the child only came once to see the baby but he did not offer any help and never reappeared. Today, Daliso is a beautiful, healthy looking boy of almost three. He is walking around in his little polo shirt and shorts and chattering away when we arrive. Since that day in 2010, when I sat with little hope to offer this grandmother, I have often thought that perhaps Daliso had passed away, so small was he and undernourished when I was with them. I remember feeling sick and sad that I couldn't make their lives any better for them. There was no food, no money and not a lot of hope. Even then, the grandmother said that she was grateful for Godfried's visits and that she was interested in becoming a volunteer with him as they began their community based organization. Today, she is just as lovely and she was smiling and she told me that she has been volunteering as a care worker since 2010. This is the change that we hope to see in of the many examples that gives us hope that the beautiful work of the care workers is substantially changing lives, one by one, just by sheer love. As we drove out of Amulo today, I honestly felt so much joy. I am so proud of the work that is being done by Blessings and Towela as part of Hands at Work, training and recruiting care workers, providing training and then guiding and supporting community leaders to serve their own communities in such humble and beautiful ways. I feel proud to say that the care workers of Amulo see our family as friends now and that we are connected in such a way that I know that when we return we will be welcomed back to our home away from home in Amulo, Zambia. I'm not sure that Amulo is even recorded on a map, but I do know that it is forever imprinted on our lives.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

If you could send out a prayer or some good thoughts for us tomorrow, we're spending our last days in Mulenga. Please pray that I will be able to locate and spend time with two very special people ~ Loveness and Eva. I'm praying that I'll find both of them early enough to arrange time to just sit with them and their families for awhile. I'd hate to leave without having that time with both of them. Thanks! P.S. -Sorry for the lack of photos...still trying to find a reliable way to upload quickly! Photos to follow! Much love, SVB

Zimba - May 11, 2012

Zimba - 2012-05-11 We’ve begun to observe that working with the poorest of the poor, often means working beyond where the pavement ends. Today was no exception. We drove to Mufilira on the D.R.C. border and when the pavement ended, drove on some more until we reached the community of Zimba. I first visited Zimba in 2010 with George Snyman, Lynn Chotowetz, James Tembo, Blessings and Towela. Today, Blessings and Towela brought Cathy, Jason, the boys and I to Zimba and it is a community that is undergoing incredible transformation. On my first visit, Hildah, the “Mother Theresa” of Zimba, met us in her yard. She was tired but excited about the possibilities of partnering with Hands at Work to recruit and train volunteers to help her care for the orphaned and vulnerable children in her community. Even at first glance around the community, we could see that it was an immeasurable need. There were children everywhere but most were afraid to come out to greet us. Many were dressed in threadbare clothing, most were unkempt and dishevelled and looked liked they lacked a caregiver. Some were sporting the large swollen bellies of hunger and/or worms. Many were curious but lacked the energy to come out to see what was happening. It was an unusual response as in most communities, the children gather to see any visitors and follow along looking for adventure. As we walked in the community, back in 2010, we passed a small building that advertised itself as a child rearing advice centre with an open door for those who wished to ask questions on rearing children. We heard from Hildah as we passed that the building had stood empty for years, no one could ever remember anyone manning the post or accepting parents and children to ask questions. Across the large yard of this small building stood a decaying brick building that once housed the police court proceedings. Again, the building was standing empty except for the left behind furniture of the court. We carried on and visited a small girl named Charity, who was three at the time, and her grandmother, also named Charity, who was her namesake’s only caregiver. Little Charity was listless and detached and incredibly tired for a child of three. George sat with her on his knee for the length of the visit and she was pretty unresponsive to his voice or gestures. While we visited with these two, a group of children began to timidly gather around us and after a long while, we were finally able to engage with them, finding that many of them didn’t know their ages, didn’t attend school and were often unsure of when their parents would come back from the fields or the cities to care for them. Fast forward to today’s visit – we arrived in Zimba and find Hildah and several care workers in the building that formerly claimed to house the child rearing advice centre. They are cooking for 63 + kids and those same children are in the courthouse turned schoolhouse across the yard. We peek into the dark building and see benches of children, row on row, and children sitting on mats on the floor. There are two simple blackboards, three teachers and the kids are engaged in the lessons they are learning. In the kitchen, several small children, mostly toddlers, sit around on a mat while the care workers make the noon meal. They do this seven days a week, not stopping on the weekends, knowing that they often supply the only meal these children eat. Today it is nshima, cabbage and sausages. The small children are fed first while the older ones are in school and then round two is to feed the school aged ones next. While we are there, we play with the kids as they get out of school. There are skipping ropes pulled out, a soccer ball and a couple of Frisbees. The kids are energetic and curious and even though many of them still are in questionable health and various states of dress, they are happy and seem to be thriving. The children’s faces tell the stories of lives transformed by the love of the care workers. Small children clamber to be held, to sit on a knee, to just be talked to, while the older children laugh and play games, run and shout, dance and jump. What a difference from my last visit. I was so afraid for the children of this community when I was here last, I knew objectively that rallying volunteers, raising support, developing a care plan and then motivating care workers to feed children and provide schooling can all take a lot of time. Hildah apparently felt the same urgency and put her mind to get it done. Today, Charity is a thriving five year old. She is tall and her eyes are bright, she has weight on her frame again and she’s mischievous and playful. She runs from Blessings to Towela, to Aidan and to Cathy...hugging, laughing, pulling, playing. Then on to me and Easton and whoever else catches her eye. She’s proof of a life transformed. She now lives just down the road with Hildah as her grandmother was unable to keep caring for her. Hildah asks me to take Charity’s photo so she can have a picture of her. I am happy to comply. The girl in today’s photo doesn’t bear much resemblance to the limp, listless girl in my first photo of her. Thank God for Hildah, for Hildah is how God transformed Charity’s life from lacking to loved.

All Good Things...

Yesterday, we put our friend, Cathy Johnson, on the plane for her return journey home. She's spent the last three weeks with us, for which she deserves a medal of honour. She arrived in time for the celebrations held in Zambia, found her footing with three African roommates right out off the bat...sleeping with the light on and all that goes on with three Bemba speaking women and a baby sharing a room with a Canadian. Cathy fits so well in Africa it was hard at times to remember that this is her first time here. She got very, very sick after celebrations, while we were at Kachele Farm, one of a few people who got hit hard by some virus or bug. She spent days, in and out of fever, throwing up and all that glamorous stuff that goes along with it. We nursed her back to health as best we could with Kraft Dinner from home and copious cups of tea...but truly, I think she just willed it away. Cathy walked through communities like Kamakonde, Racecourse and Mulenga with us. She fell in love in Zimba with the care workers and the children and I could see that the way she moved about the care point with chidren in her arms and at her feet, that this is not going to be her last trip to Africa. I'm not sure she knows that yet.
Best of all, Cathy became Easton's best buddy on this trip. She taught him how to paint beautiful watercoloured pictures and journalled with him. She watched numerous Harry Potter movies and read alongside him. They became fast friends. He was very sad to see her go yesterday.
I spent several years sharing a cubicle beside Cathy. I knew we were kindred spirits in a dark humoured sort of way. We've laughed together, groaned, lamented and exhausted ourselves together in a work environment that at times was comical, most times dysfunctional, several times intolerable and finally, we left it within months of each other. Cathy's testimony a few years ago broke through something in me - a grief that I had been carrying since leaving Reno, and allowed me to finally get back to living. She's artistic, sarcastic, smart and clever. She's braver than many women I know and lives it out in a way that makes me wish she would write it down as a road map for others to follow. She's at home with sinners and saints and can cross the bridge between cultures seamlessly. It's really been amazing to have her along. It reminded me too of my first visit to Zambia, the way I saw it with fresh eyes. For that, I am so very thankful. Most of all, she's a great travelling companion.
So, Saskatoon, I'm returning to you our friend, Cathy. She's different, enhanced and alive. For those of you who she works with at AIDS Saskatoon, she's better, more focused and full of ideas of how to take what she's learned here and apply it at home. We'll see you in a few weeks, Cath! I can't wait to catch up with you.

At Home in Mulenga

Oh friends, I'm sorry it's taking so long to get anything out to you. Time is flying by us in Zambia and every day I try not to be bitter about the fact that we should have just come here in the first place. It's home to me. I'm not saying I would have missed our time in the communities of South Africa and Zimbabwe, I loved it all. What I am trying to say is that I don't know that I could ever spend enough time here in the communities of Zambia, particularly Mulenga. I love the people, the kids, the market, the dirty streets, the clean swept yards, the impassable roads, the fires burning, the taverns pumping out loud music, the women selling kapenta (small fish) and tomatoes, spinach and sweet potatoes from their stands, the broken houses, the indescribable lack of adequate toilets, the school house, the sugar cane, the shanties leaning this way and that like an image in a funhouse mirror. I love the hedges with their gluey branches, the village chickens that meander throughout scratching for something to eat, the entrepreneurs of Mulenga with their cell phone charging shack or tyre repair shop in the yard, the man who makes and sells cooking pots in all sizes, the woman who tries to teach me a little more Bemba each time I pass her house. Most of all I love the care Elizabeth, who serves 100 kids per day making shima and kapenta and cabbage or shima and cabbage and sausage, or shima and soup...every day. She smiles more than when I first met her and she's lost the hard look in her eye that was distrusting of anything or anyone unfamiliar. I love that when I show up in the skirt she gave me last time I was here, she gets teary eyed and holds my hand for just a few extra seconds. Care workers like Cynthia and Gitness, who I've stayed with and shared meals with and slept overnight with. They've moved into leading roles in the community and watching children clamber at them as mothers moves me to tears. I remember crying with Cynthia as she wept over a husband who left her years ago because of an inability to conceive a child. His loss. Literally. Here is a beautiful woman with children all around her who call her mother. She is a mother to many children in Mulenga, not by biology but by love. She knows the names and needs and living conditions of these children but also their favorite game, their grades in school and where they sleep at night and probably what they dream. Gitness too, is more and more beautiful each time we meet. This time was the most fun, she saw me and her first words were, "Welcome home!" She laughs easily now and her smile is contagious. She used to bring up the rear when care workers walked together but now she is front and center, leading the way into the homes of the community. She still hobbles on her once broken foot but she continues to walk miles a day to visit the children of her community, without complaint. I know the room she stays in is often shared with any woman that needs a safe shelter or some medical attention. She sleeps on a small wooden couch in a small cement room. If someone needs that couch, she will sleep on a small sofa chair sitting upright. I've only been to her home once when it was just she staying there. That's her nature. This morning, it's Sunday, so we drove to Mulenga to hear our friend, Blessings, speak at his church. We drove into the community and made our way to the building where I had last attended Blessings' church. They had met in a school classroom with another church in the adjoining class. The walls didn't reach the ceiling so each church congregation sang louder and louder and prayed louder and louder. Why they didn't just join together is beyond me? This morning was no different although I warned Jason we should peek in and make sure it was Blessings' church before entering or we'd spend the entire service with the wrong congregation. Sure enough, at the first room, there was no sign of Blessings. Next room? No sign of Blessings. We were sent to a building behind the one we were in. Two more churches? No sign of Blessings. We did see our little friend, Peggy, outside so we stopped and chatted with her for a minute but she agreed with everything I asked so I didn't think she was a reliable source...she just seemed happy to be with us! We left her there and then started up the road to see if maybe they met in the Mulenga school. On our way, we passed Dickson, who was our driver, when I came with a team. It was great to see him and he was happy to see me. He is doing well, working at a steady job and his family is well. It made me really glad that we had come as every time I come, I look for him and haven't been able to see him, only speak on the phone. We headed along the road and then heard my name being called. It was Kennedy. I can't say too much about this boy other than I feel he is part of my family. He feels it too. Today, he was very hungry and looked extremely tired. He's not doing well - for many reasons. Life is hard when you're a boy and trying to be a man but without any guidance. At 14, he's as small as Easton and he's struggling. He hasn't been attending school - it's a long way to the school in Kitwe area and he doesn't eat well or take care of himself well. I challenged him last week to go to school. I asked him this morning if he had been to school this week and he said that he had. I believed him. He also told me that he was very hungry. I could see that that was the truth. I had brought along some soup and carrots from the market so I passed them to Kennedy and sent him home to his grandmother. I'm not sure where life is going to take Kennedy but what I do know is that he knows we love him and that we are proud of him. I'm just not sure it's enough. I'm sure it isn't. Some day, I'll be able to write Kennedy's story without crying but for now, I am just going to ask you to pray for this boy. He's absolutely gorgeous but he is now fragile and more vulnerable than ever. I am afraid he may not be here next time I come back. I pray I'm wrong. As we carried on, we stopped by Chrispin's stall in the market and greeted our friend. He works hard and does his best to support his family. He's always free with a smile and happy to see us. I am hoping this week we can sit with him for awhile and catch up on life together. We left Mulenga without having gone to church but I feel like we were still there to connect with God and with those we ran into. I always feel at home in Mulenga, although I still stand out as a mzungu with my white skin and odd words. It's those who see past those things that really make it home. No wonder I feel so homesick when I'm away from Mulenga. It gets harder and harder to leave each time, not knowing when I'll be back.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Few words

We've had an amazing first few weeks here in Zambia...I'm definitely feeling at home here. The boys are doing well and keeping up the pace. I'm definitely feeling time slipping away on us here in Kitwe. There is so much to say but so little time outside of communities right now so I will just leave you with the promise that the stories coming out of the northern copperbelt region are worth waiting for. We've been heartbroken, welcomed, loved, and encouraged. We've laughed, we've cried, we've been lost and found and we've reconnected with people we love very much here in the communities. I can't wait to share it all with you but wait I's late and tomorrow is another early start but I promise...I promise...that what comes out of Zambia will be worth the wait. Love and miss each of you!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

An Update from Zimbabwe - April 21st

This past couple of weeks has been exciting, new and challenging. At times I forget that when I agree enthusiastically to add Zimbabwe to my itinerary that I am bringing along three others with varying degrees of willingness. When we were leaving South Africa, packing up our belongings, Easton asked if we could just skip the rest of the trip and head back to Canada. He figured if we were moving on, we may as well just go home. Zimbabwe held nothing for him...sporadic electricity, questionable bathroom facilities and intermittent running water? Hard sell. Harder to sell? No Nintendo DS, more math homework than he cared to think about and staying with a family of people we don’t know. I have to say, if all of us were a bit homesick at the outset of leaving South Africa, we hit the wall here in Zimbabwe about day three. We miss our dog. We miss our home and comforts. We miss our neighbours and kids on the street and work and pizza and flush toilets. Jason admitted that his worst homesickness stems from missing the Stanley Cup playoffs. I remind him, ever so gently, that his team never makes it anyway but it doesn’t seem to help. The way the Wings have been playing, I might be better off missing the playoffs. So, we had a rough few days, talking each other down from the ledge of despair. Days are always easier, we stay busy, walking in the community and doing home visits, learning and seeing new things every which way we turn. Now, a little more than a week later, we seemed to have put that wave of homesickness behind us, at least for the moment. Travelling into the Honde Valley reminded us how very unique our experiences are here. We are doing our best not to wish it away and long for what’s next. Our time in the homes in Pimaii showed us very clearly how lucky we are in that we have such a home to return to and long for. Here the people long for the promises of independence to come to fruition or they long for the kind of days where there is a luxury to wallow in longing. Often, they’re just too busy trying to survive. As one gogo pointed out to us, her life is like that of her chicken. Outside the door, followed by hungry chicks, was a mother hen. The gogo watched it scratch in the dirt trying to stir up something edible for the line of chicks in its wake and said she felt like that was her life as well: trying to make something out of dirt for her children and grandchildren to survive on. I have never known such a struggle to feed my kids or just to survive. I have to say, I’m so proud of my boys. Home visits can be difficult and awkward and uncomfortable. It’s hard to sit still in the face of such pain and need sometimes. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that each story is unique – they all contain common denominators of struggle and hunger and loss. I wonder at times how much Aidan and Easton can process, when we speak of it later, sometimes they just shrug it off or seem to have figured it out pretty clearly in their minds that this is the reality here. I watch them interact with gogos and small children alike, finding ways to communicate that surprise me. Aidan has grasped the Shona language nicely and slips easily between the words he knows in Shona and English. Easton’s specialty is body language, he finds ways to wrangle himself into the hearts of gogos and small children alike. In the midst of culture shock, hyper attentiveness and homesickness, the boys have both proven themselves to be generous hearted and loving. Aidan, car sick and tired, plays game after game with any child that asks. He entertains Shamah, Farai’s 5 yr old, on the long car trips and sidetracks her while waiting yet again for everyone to finally be ready to move by playing clapping games and making faces at her. He’s become one of those junior high boys that always impressed me when I was a youth leader...the ones that you tell their mother how amazing they are and the mother shakes her head and wonders if we’re talking about the same boy. I get it now. I’ve seen my son in light of who he is apart from me. He is generous, tireless and kind. He gets cranky and hungry and homesick but will still give his best to others. I love that in him. I’d be proud of him if he was just in my youth group. The fact that I get to live with this kid? I can look past dirty socks trailed throughout the house, snarly morning faces and stinky hockey equipment and see how fortunate I am. Easton, with all his quirky moods and non-stop chatter, has firmly embedded his place in my heart with his passion for life. He may be the one in our family who has had to endure the most attention, wanted or unwanted. There have been times where all he longed for was time alone so sought out a seat in a hot van to lay on when someone asks to see him so we drag him back out on display. He’s been a surprisingly good sport but there have been times where I’ve known we’ve pushed his limits asking him to play just a little longer, put up with a few more questions and to extend just a little more patience with those that touch his clothes, his hair, and his skin. I have asked more of these boys in these past months than I thought I would and at times, I wonder how much is too much. Yet, in the light of the things we’re learning and experiencing and seeing, I know that they are capable, they are soaking it up and they are showing character I hadn’t thought existed in ones so young. Did I believe they had it in them? I had hoped they did. Now I know they do. I know that before we came, I struggled with at what age the boys would be ready to handle all that they would see and experience. I asked George and Lynn once how old they thought the boys should be before coming to Africa and being exposed to such things and George challenged me, as he’s done so often by asking me at what age I brought the boys to a mall and exposed them to materialism and consumerism? With that still stinging in my soul, we’ve come. We’ve exposed them. We’ve infected them with the knowledge that life is not fair. All is not well. “Over there” is right here. “Those people” have names like Dumisile, Prince, Simba, Clifford and Bo. The idea that there isn’t anything that can be done is a lie. That people are doing it. That lives are changing, one by one. Communities are being transformed, one by one. We’ve seen the ones that are being changed and the ones that are changing them.

Welcome Home

This about sums it up ~ when we arrived in Zambia, one of the care workers here greeted me by saying, "Welcome home!" I am so happy to be in Zambia. It's changed and grown and stretched while I've been gone but what stays the same is the warm welcome back I receive every time. We're staying at Kachele Farm until this weekend and then will be in Kitwe for the duration of our time here in Zambia. We're taking every opportunity to spend time in the communities, particularly Mulenga, where we have so many friends and loved ones. We're all well and healthy, surviving the 25 hour road trip from Zimbabwe. We miss our Zim friends very much already. There were many tears shed saying good bye. I hate good byes particularly when the return visits are so few and far between. I know though that we have a home in Zimbabwe always and that we take with us a lot of wisdom and love shared. Despite sickness and inconvenience, rough roads and homesickness, we're very grateful for every day we have here!