Wednesday, October 29, 2008

festival recap

here i am again with another update!

last friday we held our indpendence day festival at the mango tree. we had well over 300 people attend (mostly kids and teenagers). it was a beautiful day, but very windy so our balloons and streamers didn't last very long. a few popped balloons can't dampen a zambian's mood on independence day so it didn't bother anyone.

the festival started 2 hours late, which isn't too bad for zam-time. again, no one seemed bothered by this. we had the local theater group perform some drumming and dancing routines which starr is now a member of. she was dressed in full costume dancing and singing with the rest of them. it was fun to watch!

we had all kinds of games and competitions and that was the main highlight. we watched kids try to eat fritters (it's like a donut) that were dangling from a string. it proved to be very tricky! we also watched kids bob for apples, eat bananas with no hands and more! my favorite was watching the older boys chug a coke and eat a bowl of rice as fast as they could. it was very messy and kind of gross, but extremely entertaining. my good friend eustace won that competition and we were all very proud of his eating skills. haha!

the other main event was the miss mango tree pageant. we had 7 contestants in their mid-teens who proudly strutted their stuff and gave speeches about how they would help the mango tree. a winner was chosen by a group of judges (including myself) and now part of her duty is to start a club for orphans at the mango tree. we even made a sash that says "miss mango tree 2008." the winner, a girl named moriah, was extremely happy to have won. you could tell it was a very special moment for her!

all in all, the day was a success! we were all very tired by the end of the day! it was great to see so many people at the mango tree again, especially children!

tomorrow is the big day here in zambia. it's the presidential election here. it's kind of funny that zambia and the u.s. are both dealing with this election within a few days of each other. helps me relate to the zambians here, actually. please pray for peace for this country! i've heard a few people talking about some concern over the elections and the possible results. in 2006 there was apparently some corruption with the ballots and some fighting broke out in lusaka. hopefully things will go smoothly this year and we won't have any problems. again, please be praying for this country for the next few days! pray against corruption and for honesty and truth to be present through this election.

i love you all so much! thank you for your prayers and support. God is doing good things here, in His timing.

grace and peace to all of you!

*i tried to upload some pictures here but it wasn't working. sorry!*

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

love conquers all

well no news on the situation with clement yet. i came to town today because i was told his hearing was this morning. of course when i got here i found out that it wasn't. ahhh life in zambia! i'm really not surprised anymore nor am i frustrated. i'm adjusting well to this. haha!

since i came to town i have to kill a few hours so of course i hopped online. i figured there's always a few things i can share with you anyway.

one of the employees at the mango tree, named agness, has 2 little girls. gracie, her oldest, is 2 1/2 and she's scared of white people. i'm told beth had trouble last year befriending her as well. being the lover of children that i am i was not happy with this situation. so i've made it my goal to win her over while i'm here. yesterday i started to have some success! she let me play with her a little and when i started to tickle her she laughed! oh what a beautiful sound! then she couldn't get enough of it. it was a special moment for me. i bought her a sweet, which always helps to win the kiddos over. haha! i felt like i conquered the world. it was a good feeling!

yesterday i spent the afternoon in the village making decorations for the independence day festival on friday. friday marks 44 years since zambia's independence from britain! we made paper chain streamers out of construction paper and i figured out how to make these swirly-twirly streamers by cutting the paper a certain way. all of this though didn't have me as excited as knowing who was helping me. you see there's this young girl (roughly 13) who comes around the mango tree sometimes. she is very dirty and is always begging in the village. she has epilepsy and the school won't let her come. her mom deserted her and her father neglects her. have i written about her before? i can't remember!

anyways, yesterday she was nearby where we were making the decorations and after some gentle coaxing she came and sat with us. i showed her how to cut the paper into strips. she did a good job and i could tell by the smile on her face that she was having a good time. it was nice to be able to include her in something and help her feel loved and accepted. i know she doesn't get that at home. i'm told she's tried to overdose on her epilepsy medicine before because she wanted to end her life. she walks around all the time saying that no one loves her. it breaks my heart because God loves her! so i'm doing the little bit that i can to help her feel it.

as for my sickness i can't say that it's over. my doctor called me yesterday and thinks maybe i have some sort of worm which is really creepy and gross but i guess it happens. i was able to walk into a pharmacy and get some medicine he recommended so hopefully that kills whatever it is that's ailing me! thanks for your prayers!

the next few days are going to be busy with independence day celebrations so i won't be back to town until next week. i hope you all have a great week!

love and blessings from zambia...

Monday, October 20, 2008

learning the zambian justice system

my heart is full today. my email inbox was flooded with words of love and encouragement from you. it's hard to put words to it. you have blessed me. i especially needed to read those today after the tough weekend i've been through.

on saturday morning i was woken out of a dead sleep at 7am to my ringing cell phone. because of my stomach pains i slept pretty miserably and finally in the wee hours of the morning drifted off into dreamland. the phone call was from my friend peter who told me that i had to get down to the mango tree right away because they had a criminal case. he didn't want to tell me any more but i pressed him for the information because if i was getting out of bed on the one day i get to sleep in, while being sick, i wanted to know it was for a good reason.

it was a good reason. he went on to tell me that a guy in the village broke into the mango tree and stole some food and drinks from the restaurant. he broke a window and managed to squeeze through the bars to get in. they figured out who it was, went to his house, and discovered some of the missing items. he was nowhere to be found. so then i was told that we had to go into town to pick up the police officer and bring him back to the village. yeah that is so africa. haha. on our way out of the village i started feeling really really bad and i ask them to take me back to my house where i got really sick. i told them to go without me so starr went with them.

it turns out they found the guy. his name is clement and he's in his early twenties. he's been hanging around the mango tree more since starr and i have been here. he's a nice guy but he's got major issues. the night he broke in he was drunk and high off marijuana. they all say he's a little crazy in the head, but i don't know. all he talks about is america and how much he wants to go. now i'm told he'll probably spend the next 5 years in prison.

i came to town today with a couple of the mango tree employees because they had to make statements to the police. i asked the officer how long he will probably have to serve in prison and when he told me 5 years i almost had a heart attack. "5 years?!!?" i yelled. "are you serious?" he told me that they take theft very serious around here. i asked if there was any way we could get his sentenced reduced and the officer said probably not but i could try appearing before the judge during his sentencing. it just breaks my heart that he could spend 5 years in prison. i've seen the prison here and it's awful. i wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

not to mention clement has a baby and his girlfriend has another one on the way. i want to be able to show him some kind of mercy and extend some kind of grace. it's really hard to know when to step in and when to just let the chips fall where they may. since i've been here i've been reading through the gospels again and all i can hear are the words of jesus regarding forgiveness and pardons.

please pray for us as we deal with this situation. pray for wisdom for us and for the judge. pray for clement that God would minister to His heart and use this situation to draw Him closer to the Lord. pray for his mother as well. we saw her at the police station today and i know this is really hard on her as well. we're going to try to visit him today before we leave town.

as for my health i am still not fully recovered. the past several days have been really hard. i've hardly eaten anything and the stomach pain is intense at times. today is much better than the last though so hopefully this thing is working its way out of my system.

i love you all so much. thanks for your prayers and all your love.

Friday, October 17, 2008

woozy doozy

i came into town today with annie, one of the employees of the mango tree, to try and purchase some prizes for our independence day festival. unfortunately i woke up this morning feeling rather ill. my stomach has been in pain since last night and i have no idea why. i fought off the urge to stay in bed so here i am in town. i'm still not feeling like myself. i haven't eaten anything today for fear of not keeping it in. it's extremely hot today with not much breeze so i feel really whoozy. at least i can sit down at the computer for a little while so i don't pass out in the street.

i'm glad it's friday which means i have the weekend to rest and hopefully rid myself of whatever is ailing me. i woke up last night just totally sweating which is kind of unusual. i took a sleeping pill last night to help me fall asleep so when i woke in the middle of the night it was all i could do to roll over and reposition myself. those sleeping pills knock me out hard!

in other news things have been going really well with starr. she met the headmaster of the local high school here and he invited her to come train their guidance counselors in drug and alcohol recovery programs. she was then asked to speak to all the students regarding overcoming addictions. she's been doing that for the past several days and will continue to do so next week. tomorrow she is meeting with some of the girls one-on-one to discuss some of their problems. the students really have taken to her and it's been so encouraging for starr. God is truly stretching and teaching her new things and it's fun to watch. continue to pray that God would speak through her to the students!

we only have 5 weeks left in country and about 4 left here in the village. it's crazy how fast time has gone by. part of me doesn't want to leave. every day i feel more comfortable and at home here. it takes so long to get things done here so just when we're about to go we start to make more progress. it makes it hard. on the other hand i desperately miss my community back home and can't wait to see everyone again. i can't wait to eat thanksgiving food... mmm... makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

there are a lot of you that i haven't heard from much since i've been here and i just want you to know that i miss you. i'd love to hear about your lives and how things are going with you. it can be kind of depressing to check your email and find 1 or 2 personal emails amidst all the spam. i know you haven't forgotten about me and you are all very busy, but i need you! you are the ones who shape the story of susan and without you my journey wouldn't be the same.

i love you all so much.

until next time...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

you know you're in zambia when...

so i decided to make a list. a you know you're in zambia when list. i realize that all of you won't get this or even find it funny, but that's ok. i made it for me. so i can look back on my time here and laugh at the things i went through.

so here it is:
you know you're in zambia when...
  • You’re bike riding to the village and all you hear are little kids yelling “HOW ARE YOU?” because it’s the only thing they know how to say in English.
  • Everyone laughs when you speak Bemba correctly. (I’m told they’re laughing because they’re happy I’m speaking their language).
  • You’re bike riding and have to move off the road to let a semi pass you. (It’s totally safe, mom, don’t worry!)
  • Just when you’re about to use electricity, the power goes off for 2 hours. (Yes, this happens every day but you never know when).
  • You find Pringles in a store in town and it makes your week.
  • You wake up tangled up in your mosquito net… again.
  • You patch holes in your room with duct tape to keep out any unwanted creatures.
  • You find a hole in the patch of duct tape, which was probably eaten through by some unwanted creature.
  • Doom is your greatest weapon against bugs of which you’ve never seen the likes before.
  • You’re dreaming about the next bottle of cold Coca-Cola you can get.
  • Meat becomes a delicacy only to be eaten once a week when you get to town.
  • The only way to get money is to beg your relatives to send some via Western Union.
  • You see the arm of a porcupine sticking out of a cooking pot and learn it’s dinner. (No, I did not eat it!)
  • You discover Solitaire on your iPod and play it for hours over the weekend out of sheer boredom.
  • Washing your clothes by hand actually becomes fun.
  • You discover a lemon tree at your friend’s house, take a bagful home and make lemonade. (This was actually quite delicious!)
  • You walk around barefoot outside for 2 minutes and get bubblegum stuck to the bottom of your foot.
  • You make babies cry because they’ve never seen a white person before.
  • You are bored enough on a Saturday night to make this list.

this does not encompass everything, but it's a start. i wanted to give you a glimpse into my life here.

as time goes by

This past week went by very fast! There was a lot going on so I kept very busy which usually makes time go by quickly. It’s hard to believe its mid-October already. I feel like this month just started. Before I know it my time here will be up and I’ll be headed back to the good ‘ole USA. Can’t say I’m not looking forward to returning home to my friends and family. I’ve missed social interaction. Sure, I have it with my Zambian friends, but the language barrier makes it hard at times. Starr is very good at making friends here so I’m trying to learn from her. Thank goodness for a cell phone to be able to keep in touch at home. If I didn’t have that you can bet I’d be going a little crazier.

Anyways, back to this week. I’m helping the staff of The Mango Tree plan a festival for Zambia’s Independence Day on October 24th. Last year when Beth Trevino (oops, it’s Goodman now- congrats!) was here she held an Independence Day Festival and it was a big success. I’m told almost 500 people showed up to participate in games, competitions and even a Miss Mango Tree Pageant. So I have big shoes to fill, but I’m doing what I can to make this year’s a success as well. I bought some material in town and made a banner to hang outside the Mango Tree. I also created all kinds of sign-up sheets for activities like apple bobbing, eating contests, sack races, etc. There will be prizes and all sorts of fun things. I’m looking forward to it! It also generates a lot of money for the Mango Tree because people buy food while they are hanging out there all day. It’s also good advertisement for the center and a good way to let people know what’s going on there.

I also spent a considerable amount of time this week working on helping a family back in the States adopt a little boy from the village. Things obviously don’t happen easily around here so it’s been a big of a struggle but I’m praying we make some headway this week!

When Starr and I went into town last week we met up with 3 girls who are in the Peace Corps. They invited us to lunch and we had a good time sharing stories of frustration and laughing over silly Zambian things. One of the girls was telling us how her daily routine involves biking about 30km. Starr looked at me and said, “I’ll never complain about our bike ride again!” We certainly appreciated our circumstances after hearing that.

Things are going well with the Mango Mobile Taxi Van. They’re making profit, which is good, and things seem to be picking up. They’ve had several churches and clubs renting the van for day trips and such which helps as well. I’m proud of the way they’ve been handling things so far. Hopefully things only improve from here on out.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement over the past 7 weeks. It’s been hard at times and even very lonely but God is with me. I’m learning to depend on Him more and more. He is my ultimate source of comfort and joy and each day I try to rest on that. I pray God would continue to bless and watch over each of you during these crazy times we are living in. Remember to press into our heavenly Father when you need strength, wisdom and encouragement. He’s standing there just waiting for you to call out to Him.
Much love and peace from Africa...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

weekend recap

I’m going to do my best to recap this past weekend for you all, but whatever I write won’t do my experience justice. Trust me on that.

On Friday around noon Starr and I were all packed and ready for our trip to Nbwalya. Our ride arrived several hours late (obviously) so we were more than anxious to hit the road. Our transportation was a Toyota Land Cruiser, very similar to ones you see in movies crossing the African bush. When I looked at the vehicle I said to Joyce, our host, “It’s full. Where are we supposed to sit?” She just smiled and said, “They’ll make room.” Before we knew it we were heading down the road, all 12 of us piled into this vehicle that I’m sure was not intended for that many people. Starr and I were crammed in the very back with 4 guys. We were only on the Great North Road for about 10 minutes before we turned off onto this dirt road. Little did I know that I wouldn’t see pavement again until our return on Sunday.

Before I agreed to this trip Joyce told me that it would be about a 2-3 hour ride and somehow I forgot to convert to Zam-time because it actually took us almost 5 hours. The entire ride was on dirt roads, which were more like a glorified path than a road. We climbed several mountains and passed through what in the rainy season will be creeks and rivers but now are just deep gulleys that miraculously we were able to cross. It was a 4-wheeling experience for the record books. There were moments where all I could do was laugh. It was that or cry so I went for what seemed to be the better option at the time.

Once we got closer to our destination everyone in the vehicle kept telling us, “This is the real Africa.” I soon learned what they meant by that. The closest town to this village is the same one that I go to weekly to access internet. For me it’s only a 30-minute drive. For them it’s 5 hours. Sadly enough few vehicles travel that road and in the rainy season they can’t because of the gulley’s turned creeks and rivers. That means these people walk 4 days through the bush to get to town, the hospital, or basically any civilization all the while having to avoid lions and elephants and every other creature you can imagine. Real Africa, indeed!

We didn’t see any lions or elephants on our journey into the village of Nbwalya. We saw a lot of impala, but they’re basically a small deer so it’s not that exciting. We finally arrived at our destination where we first stopped to greet the chief of the village. After that Starr and I pitched our tent and ate some much needed food, nshima of course! Nshima is the staple food of Zambia. It’s like a cornmeal-based food that they mix with water and cook until it gets really thick. You eat it with your hands and roll it up into a ball, then use it to scoop up other food on your plate. It’s actually pretty good and it definitely fills you up!

We attempted to get some sleep that night only to fail miserably due to the celebration in the village. There were drums playing all night and drunk people wandering around making lots of noise so it was a little bit frustrating. I think I might have gotten 3-4 hours of sleep. Anyways, the next morning Starr and I went out with some people on the back of their truck to go see some animals. After a bumpy 2-hour ride we only saw a couple zebra and a ton of baboons. It was a little bit disappointing but we made the best of it.

Once we got back we attended the Malaila Ceremony which was why we came. It’s a yearly celebration honoring the chief. There was dancing and singing and speeches… everything you would expect at something like that. It was very very hot and very very windy so dust was flying everywhere. Surprisingly, the ceremony wasn’t too long and afterwards we headed back to pack up our things to leave. The original plan was to leave right after the ceremony and get home early Saturday night. After packing up our belongings and our tent we were told that we couldn’t leave today because our driver was sick and needed to rest. Normally this wouldn’t have been a big deal except Starr and I only brought enough water to last until Saturday. Remember, we are 5 hours from civilization in a village that has no shops, no market, no nothing! I got very very worried. We were already so tired and so thirsty and were trying to conserve our water as it is. I have never felt so thirsty in my whole life. Our water of course was warm from the heat so it didn’t quench our thirst. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I just broke down and cried. I felt so stranded and the situation seemed so hopeless. They tried to find us a ride in other vehicles going back to town but no one could take us. We would have to stay another night.

Thanks be to God though for His faithful provision. There is a young German missionary couple that lives in this village and they use filters for their water. They were able to fill up some of our empty bottles with their filtered water. So we made the best of it, setup our tent again and prepared for another night. Around 9:30 the next morning we headed out in our Land Cruiser again for the journey back. We finally arrived back at our house sometime mid-afternoon on Sunday. We were able to take nice long showers and clean ourselves from all the dust and dirt that had made it’s way into every crevice of our bodies. What a relief!

I wish I could go into more detail about the village of Nbwalya and the needs of the people there. Maybe I’ll write more later about that. I thought where I was that people were suffering, and they are, but it’s much different. The conditions they face there create a lot of problems and it is so heartbreaking to see. Despite their circumstance, the people were beautiful. The children really touched my heart. I had fun filming them and seeing their reactions when I played it back to them. I was able to share some food with a few of them and see their faces light up at the sight of my crackers. The Lord showed me a lot through that and He’s really been speaking to me about “the least of these.” I know that when I give them food or water or love that I’m giving it to Jesus, too. Ironically enough in my quiet time with the Lord this morning that was the next chapter for me to read in my journey through Matthew. Go check it out: Matthew 25:31-46.

Remember to love those around you today, because in doing so, you love Jesus.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

lions and tigers and bears... oh my!

so i came to town today to meet with a child welfare officer about a little boy in the village getting adopted by my friend katie's family back in the states. so of course i make the trip into town and the trek "up-town" (and up a little mountain, no kidding) to meet with them. sure enough when we get there they tell us that we can't meet them today because they have all these meetings about the upcoming election. come back next week they say. so frustrating! it's so hard to get things done around here.

but alas it's not all in vain! while i was in town i stopped to visit a friend of mine named joyce who runs an ngo called PVCW (program for vulnerable children & women). she tells me that she was just trying to think of a way to get in touch with me because she wants to invite me to attend this special tribal ceremony in nabwaloya which is a valley over the mountains. the ceremony is very traditional with dancing and speeches and i get to meet another chief which is a big deal around here! we leave tomorrow morning and return saturday night. the coolest thing about this is that in the valley there are all kinds of animals... lions... hippos... elephants! every animal you would want to see in africa i'm told. how sweet is that!?!

so in the middle of all this stress that i'm in God says, "take a break... relax... enjoy my creation for a couple days." it couldn't have come at a better time. i called starr and at the mention of lions she said she was in. haha. so now we have to pack and figure out what we're going to bring. they said it's really really hot in the valley. i'm not sure about sleeping arrangements either. she said we should bring a tent which we can cause a friend of mine in the village has one. we don't have any sleeping bags or mats though cause we sent them home with the rest of the team. so i need to figure out what we're going to sleep on. then she tells me that there are all kinds of lodges (like a hotel but in the bush) that we could stay at but it will cost more money. so i'm not sure yet what we're going to do. sure i'd rather stay in a nice comfortable lodge with a bed but i need to figure it out.

either way i'm going on a trip and i get to see amazing animals and experience some traditional zambian culture. i promise i will take lots of pictures and video so i can show you all when i get home. i'm so excited!

i'll update you all next week after i get back!

the weight of the world

it's been a week since i wrote last and i meant to be more productive and type this blog before i came to town so i could just paste it into blogger, but that never happened. so this is all coming to you live folks...

i feel like i should probably update you all on the situations going on at the mango tree. after a lengthy staff meeting a week and a half ago where we had to discuss all the backbiting going on i was exhausted. sitting on an extremely hard wooden seat for 3 hours is hard enough, let alone having to hear in detail account after account of alleged rumors. i feel like we made some headway although it was clear not all the issues were dealt with. last wednesday francis told me that after thinking about my advice he decided that he should stay at the mango tree. he realized that no matter where he works there will be people who will gossip about you. you can never escape that unfortunately. i was glad that he decided to stay but i know that's not the end of it.

we had a meeting on monday with the executive committee where we discussed all kinds of business related things. being that i was in the business world for 6 years you'd think i'd be used to this sort of thing. well i've never had a group of 12 grown men turn to me and say "so what should we do susan?" ... *sound of crickets* ...

oh my. you wanna talk about pressure? the problem is we have this van now generating income but there's so many places the money needs to go... salaries... loan re-payment... painting of the van... change of ownership... taxi registration... the list goes on. it's the end of the month and people want their salaries but the van's only been operating for 2 weeks so we have less than half of what we need to pay for everything. thankfully once we got to this point in the meeting the sun was beginning to set and i still had a 2 mile walk back to where i'm staying, so i graciously said, "can we reconvene next week and discuss all of this. i don't want to walk 2 miles in the dark." thankfully they all agreed. now you see why i keep praying for wisdom! lord have mercy...