29 September 2011

The day we almost quit

Not that we’re on payroll or anything so we don’t actually have that power.  But we seriously did almost cry at the time and then we really were upset about it after it.

It was ante-natal booking clinic, meaning new mothers around 20 weeks gestation can come and establish ante-natal care.  They get a “safe pregnancy" card and number and free HIV testing and a load of education! 

Today wouldn’t have been nearly as frustrating if the lady we worked with (I think her name is Maria, but that’s another of the million words that start with an M, so I could be wrong) wasn’t so condescending.  She talked to us as if we were stupid and got angry when we didn’t spell things correctly. 

I’m sorry, but when you have a name like Febbie and your husband’s name is Savion and you’re from Nashaiti Farm, I’m probably not going to spell it all right on the first guess. 

I'm starting to have a hard time because I can’t effectively communicate with most people here.  It’s beginning to get frustrating that everyone assumes that we should speak Lamba.  Or Bimba.  Or whatever dialect they happen to be speaking.  I wish I did.  Honestly.  But English is the official language of Zambia.

It’s unfortunate that most people sitting in the room for health education weren’t educated past primary school here (which is what the government pays for) so we couldn’t communicate with them.  So it’s not their fault they don’t speak English.

They were never given the opportunity.

Despite our frustrations, we worked hard.  She was actually surprised at our efficiency.  What we lacked in language ability, we made up for in speed and accuracy.  It made me think of my encouragement note of the day: Matt 5:16 “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Thanks Geneva!)

Dear Lord, this is ALL for you.

When it came time for her to teach about HIV, she tried to pass the duty off to us.  We know lots about HIV (we’ve learned even more since we’ve been here) but we can’t do it because we can’t speak Bimba and the people here don’t understand our English, even when we make the effort to slow down our talking and avoid contractions and slang.

So she taught about HIV in Bimba (I’m not exactly sure how different Bimba and Lamba are, but I know the phrase “how are you” is basically the same)

I actually think all the education and record keeping is wonderful, and I am super glad that they have all of this in place, but for the record, it's really difficult to be in charge of giving someone their safe pregnancy number or official card complete with their name, age, tribe, occupation, parity, gravity, etc.

[safe motherhood record and example of “medical records” books]

But, then the nurse midwife came in, and like rain sent from the Lord, the day began to get much better!

The midwife, Rose, talked us through how to examine the mothers here and then let us do it.  She didn’t assume we would know anything, and she didn’t talk down to us.  It was more like working with a colleague, which was such a relief.  

And it was SO fun to put my hands on the mothers and feel their belly and measure an estimate of gestitational age.  I didn’t get any outpatient OB on my OB/Gyn rotation, so I loved actually trying to feel the direction the baby was in the woumb. 

In America we’d just use an ultrasound machine to cheat and tell us exactly where the baby was. 

Most mothers here have absolutely no access to an ultrasound machine.  The nurse midwife needs to be sure that the baby is actually presenting cephalic (head down) and not breach because if the baby is breach the mother might need a c-section, which would require a several-hour ride to a bigger hospital and more equipment, which is a lot more expensive and potentially unaffordable.

We finished ante-natal clinic really late in the morning (it was about 1:30!) so Frances and I hurried to our “spot” under the tree to eat lunch and reflect on the morning.

[eating in our spot]

We both talked about frustration and being on the brink of tears when we were made fun of this morning for not being able to spell and speak in Bimba.  We also talked about how much fun spending time with the Nurse Midwife, Rose, was and how we would love to work with just her and with Lamb for the rest of our time here!

We also got a bit of a sugar from our fruit snacks and began to feel much better about the morning.

And then, some of our favorite people showed up in our transport bus! (which I still need to get a picture of so you know exactly what kind of “bus” we’re talking about…it’s most like a 15 passenger van in America, but they’re much lower to the ground and people here are impressive about the number of people they can pack into one)  Brother Bob, the 77 year old westpoint graduate/electrical engineer-turned-missionary, Joseph, the fancy pastor/ politician who has a lot of power in the community, and Henry, our supervisor’s “son”/assistant.

It’s always fun to talk to people who are fluent in American English!

Henry snapped photos of Frances and I in our favorite tree, which we learned was a mango tree, which made me love the tree even more, if that’s possible.

[tree shot]

He also snapped photos of us in front of the sign for the clinic:

[Mushili Rural Health Center]

He ALSO is very up to date on culture, so he mentally jammed with me to P Square’s “No One Like You” (Ryan, it’s # 2 or 3 on your CD) and 2 Face Indiba’s “African Queen,” one of the biggest hits this continent has ever seen.

It’s really a fabulous song, selected lyrics are posted below for your viewing pleasure :)

“and you, you are the one that makes me smile
make me float like a boat upon the Nile.

oooo ooooo yaahhh yahhh oooo

you are my African Queen and I know, oh yes I know hhn
you are my African Queen and I know, see I know
See I know what I am feeling in my heart and in my soul
oh I know that it is love
And I know that this love was surely sent from up above
Cause you're the only one I think of

and you are my African Queen, the girl of my dreams.
   you take me where I've never been
   you make my heart go ting-a-ling-a-ling, oh ahh
   you are my African Queen, the girl of my dreams
   and you remind me of a thing
   and that is the African beauty yahhh

You really have to love the part where she makes his heart go “ting-a-ling-a-ling.”  If you’ve never heard the song, you should really just download it and listen to it every time you read my blog to put you in the right cultural mindset.

We were scheduled to go home in an hour anyway, so the van took us back in an attempt to save some gas.  We were quite thankful!

Frances took a nap, but I went outside and tried my skill at sketching the landscape. 

Turns out I’m not that great.  But in the process, I developed some new friends.  4 cute kids braved the culture gap and made their way over to the “bleachers” I chose to sit on while drawing.  I smiled.  They smiled back.  I waved.  They waved back. 

I began to notice a pattern. 

So I leaned back against the bleachers.  They did too.  Man, this has potential to be funny.  I jumped down, with my eyes on them.  They seemed to pick up on my game so they jumped too.  I laughed.  How fun!  We continued our game.  In the process I made them skip and twirl like a ballerina and jump up and down.  It was great fun!  I gave them all high-fives at the end of the game.

They all gave me huge smiles. 

Finally!  It had been way too long since I’d made friends with a 5-year-old whose first language isn’t English!!

I went back in to get Frances for our daily walk.  It looked like rain, so I left my sunglasses inside.  We walked for about 45 minutes down the road.  We passed Joseph’s house (who owns the store that sells Coke Zero and the Eat-Sum-More cookies that we irresistibly inhale) (the same Joseph from earlier, whose wife is named Mary.  How Cute.  She also insists on doing that French thing where you touch cheeks and kiss.  I love it)

We walked past the well and I wished I had brought my camera to take pictures for you, but then I thought it might rain.  But it’s dry season, and rainy season doesn’t start for another month and a half.

It can’t come soon enough if you ask me because all the dirt here flies in my face (I’ve taken to wearing huge sunglasses that make me look like an insect which you can see in some of my photos, but they legitimately help keep the dirt out) and it also flies in my nose.

Which turns my boogers brown.

Which I just blogged about.  

I’m sorry, but I had to remember how dry “dry” season actually feels.  I’ve had a hard time keeping my hands and face hydrated here.  So if I have to remember it, you should too.

Anyway, we decided to turn around because we didn’t want to run into darkness because neither of us want to be bit by a mosquito and get malaria (even though we’re faithfully taking our malaria prophylaxis).

We got about 25 minutes from the mission before we started to get wet.  It was actually raining, and having left everything important at home, we loved it!  It was refreshing and it brought out amazing smells of magnolia flowers.  (it took us forever to realize it was magnolia and not honeysuckle, which we both love, but we never found because it wasn’t honeysuckle!)

It didn’t rain much, just enough to cool things down a bit and make the dust cling to the dry, cracked ground.  We ran into Henry and Brother Bob right outside the mission so we sat talking to them for a while.  We talked about other places in Africa, how different culture is, Victoria falls, and the word for Lamb in Bimba, not Lamba.  We still don’t remember it.  It starts with an I and it has two Ms in it….

We really have to start writing it down, especially since we love working with Lamb.

We ate leftovers for dinner made possible with our refrigerator and microwave that I’m SO thankful to have!!

We also processed a lot of heavy, deep stuff tonight.  Frances blogged about yesterday and about how hard life is here.  How we see people walking around in one shoe, which we think is crazy and that something bad must have happened (like an alligator attack) for them to be walking around with one shoe on, but the people here are so thankful for JUST ONE SHOE. 

And so often, I’m not thankful for my 20 pairs of shoes.

And how hard it is to get an education here.  People have no money.  If you’re born a poor farmer, you can’t get student loans for high school and college to change your life.  You don’t have that option so you just remain a poor farmer, living year to year, and barely knowing English.  Which makes health education efforts that much more difficult.

And how hard it is to weigh a kid, find out he’s dangerously below the growth curve, but be unable to do anything about it.  I can’t change it. 

Figuring out that I, in fact, can’t change the whole world is hard.  I want to.  I want to provide opportunity.  I want to help.  And I don’t think I’m making much of a difference. 

I want to feed the children, save babies from being born with HIV, give two shoes to people, help educate.  I can’t do it all.

But I can remember how I feel right now and I can change my attitude.  I can change the way I see things, the way I buy things.  I can change me and I can pray.  I know God loves these children, these people.  I know he is compassionate.  Even when, especially when, these things bring tears to my eyes.

One of my best friends, Charlotte, sent me comforting words: “Remember that this is how you'll learn how to make a difference. The sadness that you feel will motivate you in the future to find better solutions in prevention and education. I know it's hard now when you see it right in your face and can't do anything to help that kid, but like you said, Jesus didn't heal everyone from their sickness, He was much more interested in people's hearts, and sometimes the sickness has a purpose that you can't see.”  She reminded me to thank God in all circumstances and challenged me to thank him FOR this hardship, it's growing me.

God, make me more like you.  Let me trust you with control of their lives.  It’s hard.  I can’t.  Grow me into more faith, more trust, in you.

As I cry myself to sleep tonight.

28 September 2011

The Day Muzungus were at Mushili

 Here, not only do chickens cross the road, but they also chase people.

I woke up tired this morning but I think it’s because the dogs were barking so loud last night that I thought someone was coming to attack us, which made me run through all the places I could hide or escape to in the event of an actual attack, which kept me up way later than I should have been.

Frances and I continued our boot-camp running, getting stared at the whole morning.  I called it an early day, just in time too, because after I broke off to go home, this chicken started chasing Frances down. 

I showered and ate a good breakfast, excited to get to work for Children's Clinic!

[well balanced breakfast]

We arrived at Mushili via truck, which is probably my favorite mode of transportation.  The Land Rover was the smoothest ride, but it was also quite loud.  When we arrived, there was a sea of children and parents waiting for us under our favorite tree.

We jumped right in and started conducting Children’s clinic under a tree.  How legit is that?!  One of the things I thank God for constantly is shade.  I love shade.  Not only does it keep you cool, but it also keeps me from getting sunburnt.

Along with the 10 gallons of sunscreen I put on every morning.  I only brought one whole bottle, but I don’t need to worry about running out because Frances bought the entire sunscreen section at Target.

When we started the morning, my job was to help put the kids in the scale.

[scale picture]

Some kids loved the scale, others hated it.  I kept thinking that if these kids had swings, they wouldn’t cry in the bag, they would just enjoy it like a swing.  Most kids were pretty chill, which is more than I can say about being put in a bag.  One day I’ll get a picture of a kid in the bag on the scale, because they look precious, but since I can’t exactly speak the language, pantomiming “Can I take a picture of your kid?” while a hundred other parents are patiently waiting to put their kid in the bag didn’t exactly seem like the best idea. 

After a while, someone from the community took over my job, so I took over marking the child’s weight on their growth chart, which was not nearly as fun, but probably more rewarding.  It was also heartbreaking because so many of the children lost weight, and it’s not even rainy season. 

Rainy season here is when the kids typically get a lot more communicable diseases like cholera and dysentery.  And then they drop weight.  Weight here is a good predictor of health status, much more than in America.

What can you do for a child who drops 3 kg (6 ish pounds) in one month?  What do you say to a mom who probably knows that (all the children here are carried around on their mother’s backs tied on with a cloth) her child is losing weight?

Dear Lord, protect these children.  Keep them safe.  It’s out of my control.

When all the children were finally weighed and Frances was done marking them on the appropriate government documents, we assisted Lamb with shots. 

His name isn’t really Lamb.

 Lamb is the English translation of the Lamba (the dialect spoken here) word that his name is.  If I had to guess, I think his name starts with an M, but most of the words we know in Lamba start with an M, so maybe I’m thinking of something else.

I took a picture towards the end of clinic when there were only about 20 people left.  Next time I'll be brave and take one earlier! We wish we could have ALL our clinics under the trees!

[end of clinic]

This time I gave all the injections and Fances gave all the OPV (Oral Polio Vaccine) drops.  It’s surprisingly harder to aim medicine at a child’s mouth than it should be.  And now, someone else understands that!

I got really good at giving injections.  It wasn’t exactly fun, but it was a good feeling to know with every shot I gave in the thigh I protected the child against 5 diseases! (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, and Hib) They’ve been giving the 5-in-1 shot here for about 2 years now.  Before that, it was 3 separate injections like it is in America.  With every shot I gave in the arm, I protected the child against measles.  With every shot I gave on the left forearm, I protected the child against disseminated TB.  That shot leaves a scar on the child’s arm, which is much better than a child dead from TB.  It’s a good way to make sure the child is immune.

Frances found that waiting until after the injection when the child’s mouth was open, screaming, increased the odds of making the shot into the child’s mouth. 

We gave 32 injections into a child’s thigh, using up our entire stock of the 5 part vaccine.  We had EXACTLY enough vaccine for each child, so no one had to go unvaccinated this week.

Clearly, God was with us.

[exactly enough: 2 vaccines and 2 Clinic Cards]

With 3 people dividing all the work, it took us nearly 4 hours to complete everything.  There were exactly 100 children.  Plus some kids that weren’t there to be weighed.

Good thing I put 2 slices of cheese on my sandwich today :)

When the work was finished, we had to get the scale down out of the tree.  I’m not sure how the scale got up there because it was hanging when we arrived.  Frances offered to climb the tree, but she couldn’t get up to the branch where the scale was tied to.

So I had to break out my mad tree-climbing skills.

This isn’t my first time climbing a tree in Africa.  For the first story, you can read here: http://shanhelster.blogspot.com/2009/05/childhood-calls-me-here.html


This time I wasn’t in a skirt though, which made things easier.  I got heckled by some people walking by, so it was harder to get down, because they stopped to watch.  But I made it and I didn’t fall like they were worried about.



After we ate we got to talk with the Lab tech, Pooley, and Lamb.  We found out that some people here work for days to make charcoal, load it up on their bikes (I’ll try to find you a picture, there’s like 8 huge bags of charcoal strapped to a bike) and then walk their bikes to market to sell their charcoal for a total of 12 US Dollars.  Then they have to feed their family on that for weeks at least. 

It’s hard for me to eat all my meals in a day for less than 12 dollars, let alone a whole family!

Life here is hard.

Painful.  Beautiful.  Full of Love.

It’s going to be hard to return home.

We also talked about recent outbreaks of diseases in America and contrasted them with what was a problem in Zambia.  They have a much bigger problem with infectious diseases than we do.  Lamb was shocked that we didn’t vaccinate our children against TB.  But the shot isn’t great, and we don’t have as big of a problem with TB in America.

And we have a hard enough time vaccinating all our children against measles.  Lamb thought it was fascinating that America has had recent measles outbreaks, because with recent vaccination efforts by the WHO, USAID and UNICEF Zambia has seen a huge drop in the number of cases of measles.

We found out that usually Lamb runs the entire Children’s clinic all by himself.  He usually doesn’t finish until late in the afternoon and then all the mothers have to walk home late.  He usually skips lunch.  The clinic is severely understaffed, but at least they have staff at all.  He said he wishes we could stay and help him, and we do too!  They have a two “Children’s Weeks” a year where there is a huge effort to vaccinate all the children in Zambia.  We wish we could help him with that, but it’s not until November. 

By then it’s rainy season and the mosquitoes and alligators and hippos and cholera gets bad, so we’re kinda glad we’re not staying until November.

By the way, I think USAID is one of the coolest organizations.  They’ve been a joint sponsor for most of the major health prevention efforts in a lot of countries, including Zambia.  There are posters up all over the clinic with USAID and UNICEF logos on them.  They both support the Ministry of Health in Zambia, and they’re a huge reason why people are able to get much needed medicines and vaccines here.  They also help fund education efforts, which are almost as hard to talk about as health.  Public school is only offered until 7th grade.  After that school is incredibly expensive and overcrowded, most people can’t afford to go, and those that can face enormous obstacles.

It makes me proud that our country has organizations like USAID that helps care for needs around the world.

We didn’t work too hard in the clinic in the afternoon.  We got started late because of our intense conversation about health and the economy in Zambia (which was fascinating, and we learned a lot!).  Plus, we worked extra hard yesterday!

[chickens inhabit our clinic's courtyard]

When we got home I worked on some school stuff and took a quick nap before cooking dinner.  We got creative with Rice and Beans.  We used a recipe my mother uses all the time (I love you mom!) and added a bit to it.  Basically, we added baked beans to ground meat, but our ground meat was soaked in some kind of spices at the store we bought it from. 

It tasted SO much like the flavors in Cameroon, I almost couldn’t eat it!

We added tomatoes and onions, since they’re so abundant here, even though our meat already had tomatoes and onions in them.  We figured a few more veggies would be good for us.   

I wore an apron that wasn’t nearly as cute as my apron back home, but it worked just fine.


After dinner I indulged in one of my favorite new treats, cookies called Hit!  They’re chocolate cocoa flavored cookies with vanilla cream in the middle, bigger and softer than an oreo.  These things are so tasty, Frances and I are limiting ourselves to one each day so we don’t eat them all.  We’ve been looking for them all over town, but the only cookies we’ve found in town are cookies called “Eat Som Mor” which are shortbread cookies.

They’re surprisingly addicting and apparently that’s how they got their name. 

It says that on the package at least.


Aparantly word got out that there’s Muzungus (White people) at Mushili (The Rural Health Center).  They joked that’s why the clinic was so busy this morning.  

This place is so beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.  So full of love and hope and pain and suffering. 

All I can do is pray.  And I’m thankful our God listens.

Can you hear when we call
There were we fall
Standing our backs against the wall
At the Top of our lungs how far we’ve come
Were pain and love bleed into one
All that we need its so bitter sweet
The pain that opens our eyes to see
Baby when all you see is darkness
Coming down now
We all need forgiveness
Coming round now
Mat Kearney “Down”

27 September 2011

The day we ate yogurt Carrots and played Cards

Thankfully, Frances found out about the carrot chunks in the yogurt before I did.

We started the morning out with a run at 7 am.  Last week we never ran before 8 am, so this was a new experience for us.  One hour means the difference between 5 people staring at you and 150 people staring at you.  I did a few rounds of lunges, pushups, and dips before I couldn’t take the gawking, giggling kids anymore and went inside for a shower. 

Note to self, my runs go better with 5 children clapping and cheering than 150 children seemingly laughing at you.

I ate oatmeal for breakfast.  Since the oatmeal here is more of the consistency of grits in America, Frances decided to have toast and yogurt. 

Before she found out the yogurt had crunchy carrots and not just carrot flavor.

[carrot chunks]

Carrot and pineapple.  Who thought of that combination?!

She’s still alive, so it must not have been too bad.

This morning we had ante-natal clinic.  There were about 8 mothers-to-be who came in for a routine check-up.  We took BP, weight, felt for the position of the baby, and gave the mothers vitamins and education.  I love love love health education!!

During lunch Frances and I took a walk to town.  Town is pretty lame.  The only thing they sell in town is food and beverages.  Every other “store” is a Tavern.  People have to walk (or take a bus) all the way to Luanshya if they need something.   The clinic we work in is actually considered a “Rural Health Center”  because it’s so far away from town!

All sorts of people greeted us on our walk.  Children ran down driveways just to ask “How are you?”  It wasn’t enough for one of them to ask, they all had to.  We usually responded “We’re good, how are you?” but the kids didn’t accept that.

The only response that seemed to appease them was “fine.” 

They would keep asking until they got a “fine” then they’d giggle and run off again.

We also played cards.  Since I’m so pathetic at the game we played yesterday (maybe it’s called slap-jack?) we decided to play speed today to give me a fighting chance.  Frances can shuffle cards really well and she says it’s because she has a mean grandmother who used to make her practice it.  I didn’t have a mean grandmother and I’m therefore pathetic at cards.

I finally won a game of cards.

In the afternoon we worked in the medical records/ triage room.  It’s crazy ridiculous.  We plan on renovating it.  Pictures will follow.

We got proficient at taking Zambian vital signs:

Axillary temperature and weight.

That’s it.  That’s all you get to diagnose the problem.  You can take a good history and physical exam (which is supposed to be where 90% of the diagnosis comes from).  Then you can order a few tests: CBC, malaria, TB and HIV. That’s about it.  This is where I feel like 90% of American diagnoses come from.

While taking weight, I got to hold a sick mother's precious sleeping baby.  It was the highlight of my day to hold the little, chubby peaceful child in my arms.  So cute!!

Then we organized half a million medical records.  They kept telling us how hard working we were.  Really, I think it’s just that we’re so efficient that it looks like we’re working hard.  We’re not used to these 2 hour lunch breaks in America.  We would have kept on working until our ride came, but they kicked us out at closing time telling us to stop working so hard!

Since we had not defrosted any of our meat (we didn’t think that far ahead this morning...we were too busy avoiding carrot chunks and staring children) we decided on a semi-traditional meal.

We cooked spaghetti and eggs.    A few of you know that this was one of my favorite meals in Cameroon.  I'm not entirely sure that it has it's origins in Africa, but I ate it there first, so that's the continent I associate it with the most.  I don't really know why, but I love it.  I occasionally cook it in America.

But we decided to throw in a few frozen veggies, making it more like pasta primavera and eggs.


It was actually quite delicious and the veggies made me incredibly happy!

We’re getting to bed early because we have children’s clinic tomorrow!! We love it.  I’m going to try to take my camera and sneak a few shots for you!

26 September 2011

The day that was Indescribable


The elements of today [Sunday] that I would want to picture and write up on a blog are unwriteable.  They are unable to be captured with mere words and painted with black letters on a white computer screen.

The best way I can describe it is:

You know how sometimes at church when you’re not worried about anything because it’s been a pretty good week and you’re not distracted by anyone around you coming in late or catching up on the week or what people are wearing and you can really hear God speaking to you through praise and worship music and you can actually feel his presence and it is so peaceful and real that it almost brings tears to your eyes.

It’s just naturally like that here.

Because you’re not distracted by the band.  There isn’t one.

And you’re not distracted by your clothes.  Because you aren’t wearing the latest fashion, you don’t match and no one else does either.  And no one cares.

And out of the peace a single voice starts a song, and then the others join in with perfect harmony.  The only sound other than voices is the swish-step-swish-step that the choir is making.

There’s just this peace.  And this raw, unprocessed joy where you can actually feel God is there.

And I’m not saying that having a band is wrong or dressing nice is wrong or that American Church isn’t doing things right.  Because church is so complicated and so shaped by the culture that you’re in.  And so personal.  And there are a lot of great things about church in America.

I’m just trying to depict the difference in a way that makes sense to me.  In the only way my brain can wrap around it.


Being obviously and unmistakably new we got to stand up and be introduced to the entire congregation.

We got to shake everyone’s hand.

The sermon was on one of my favorite topics: The fiery furnace in Daniel 3.  I had a bit of trouble because the pastor spoke in Lamba and there was a translator who didn’t speak English very well, and off and on the pastor would switch to speaking English but I wouldn’t catch it until the translator spoke Lamba and I realized I completely missed what the pastor was saying.  But parts of the message hit home.  The pastor talked about people who sit in church and don’t change their hearts and compared them to Nebuchandezzer who kept saying people should worship Daniel’s God off and on but don’t actually take God into their hearts and change them, which I thought was interesting.  He also talked about how God is always with people in the fiery furnace, but he doesn’t always choose to save them.  He actually used the phrase “go hungry” which I’ve worried about a few times since we’ve been here.  Then he talked about people who studied the word of God and put the word into their heads, but didn’t put the word of God into their hearts.

How many times do I read and study God’s word, and I understand what it says, even memorize it, and forget to put it in my heart?

Mmmm. Food for thought.

The rest of my day I ate and slept, but you didn’t come all the way to my blog to read about that.

Except that I did eat peas.  If you know me you know how much I hate peas.  I love love love vegetables.  Every one except peas and maybe lima beans.  But I was so hungry for vegetables, that I ate peas.  I never would have thought that I would be missing out on vegetables in Africa.

Oh, and I guess we ate Christmas Dinner.  I thought our supervisor was joking with us when she said that what we were eating (rice and fried chicken) was like a “Christmas Meal” for most people here.  Not, a joke really, but more of an exaggeration of sorts at least.  I didn’t really think much of it.  Rice and chicken instead of Nshima (cornmeal-ish) and fish didn’t seem that different to me.

But then Henry, our supervisor’s “son”/ tour guide/ security guard/ assistant came in because there was some kind of misunderstanding over a camera.  But I’ll never forget what he said:

“Looks like I missed Christmas Dinner.”

Fried Chicken.  Rice.  Peas.

Christmas Dinner. 

It made my heart want to sob.  That isn’t Christmas dinner to me, that’s “I’m in a hurry and have to grab some fast food so I guess fried chicken and fried potatoes will work.” 

I only really eat rice when I’m working really hard to stick to a tight budget and I have a new recipe I want to try.

The majority of people in our village can only afford to eat rice once a year.



Children’s Clinic Outreach Day

Again, It’s really hard for me to describe in words what all is spinning through my head right now.  I feel like my blog just isn’t doing justice to the experiences we’re having here.

Maybe if you were to take your computer outside and read this sitting in the dirt.  Or in a plastic folding chair under a tree, because people here don’t like to let you sit in the dirt.  And you can sit reading it with a cup of instant coffee and fake creamer or a cup of water that you boiled and then filtered.  Maybe then you’d get a better idea of what life is like here.

Because it really isn’t all that different, but it kinda is. 

And that might be the best I can explain it right now.


Today we left for the clinic around 8:45, and it should have only taken 10 or 15 minutes to get there.  But our driver today had to personally greet every single person we passed by on the road, plus make a stop to figure out why the air con (what they call A/C) was on, because he didn’t turn it on.

I was just hoping the outreach team didn’t leave without us.

But I shouldn’t have feared. 

Because this is a developing country and nothing starts on time.

When we arrived at the clinic around 9:15 the outreach team still had to get the vaccines ready to take with us and the paperwork and the scales.

We all piled into a little truck.  The front seat had room for 3 of us, and being from America and “fragile” we got to ride up front in the truck and several people rode in the bed.

I really hope I don’t come home with some kind of complex.  Here, everyone waves to me, everyone goes out of their way to greet me and drive me places.  People practically treat me like a princess.  I feel like I live in a palace because our home is so nice and huge and modern compared to everything else.  And it’s not like I deserve to be treated this way, I just am.  I feel terrible about it sometimes, but that’s just the way life is.  So I’m starting to work on my “beauty queen wave” like the royalty in England do.

I’m just saying, if I come home acting like a Zambian princess, you have my permission to slap me a few times.

We started out toward our first outreach site by traveling back up the 10 kilometer dirt road.  But Frances and I, on our many adventures, have been to the end of our dirt road.  It runs into a river.  We haven’t seen any other roads that split off of it.  Where could we possibly be going?!  Unless this truck turns into a boat like one of those awesome things they have in Northeastern sea towns (I think they call them duck trucks) we’re not going very far.

But again, I was thinking like an American.

Why would we need a dirt road when we have dirt footpaths?

At this point, Frances and I have traveled up and down our 10K dirt “driveway” as our supervisor fondly calls it at least 20 times, and I have never even considered that one of these paths could fit a car on it.

So, we embarked from our bumpy dirt road onto an even bumpier (is that even possible?!) footpath.  And we were in the front of the truck. 

I can’t imagine the people in the back.

For future reference, dirt roads are best traversed when you don’t have to pee.  I’d advise using the bushes if you have to just to avoid all the discomfort of traveling with a full bladder.

Oh, and if you can take a Range Rover, I’d recommend that too.  We rode in one once and it was the least-bumpy experience we’ve had thus far.  It’s like they were made for dirt roads or something!

We traveled for at least half an hour on the dirt footpath, but we were going slowly so as not to blend all our organs to mush, or loose vital car parts, I feel like we only traveled 2 or 3 miles.  Which is a far walk, but I felt like when they said we were “going out into the bush” we would be going farther.

It made me think of this one small, one-stoplight town I know of with two Family Dollar stores at opposite sides of town.  I couldn’t really figure out why one wasn’t enough, but I guess if you’re walking into that town, traveling another mile with hands full of goods from the Family Dollar store is a lot.

Which I suppose is the equivalent to walking 3 extra miles with a child, who might be 15 kg strapped to your back.  If you’re walking 10 miles to get somewhere, an extra 3 is a big deal.

We set up the clinic under a small straw-roofed hut.

Straight out of what you might find in a National Geographic magazine.

I’ll really have to bring my camera next time and figure out a way to stealthily take pictures. Because I don’t want to be rude, but I just really feel like these are memories I’ll want to have forever.  Especially when I get Alzheimer’s and can’t remember it perfectly, I’ll need the pictures I took.

AND there were 2 precious little girls in black TOMS!  Which I feel I definitely need a picture of while I’m wearing my black TOMS!

We did a lot of the same things we did at the last children’s clinic: weigh children and vaccinate them and educate the mothers if the child is losing weight.

Except that instead of weighing the kids in a cloth blanket, we used a fabric grocery-style bag (think fabric Kroger bag that we use to hold a lot of groceries) that had leg-holes in it.  But that made some of the kids cry which made me sad.


The rest of the day wasn’t worth documenting.  We rode home on a really bumpy bus.  I felt exhausted and took a nap. 

I think the fun of being in a new place is starting to wear off and I’m starting to feel a bit homesick and frustrated by life here.  Maybe tomorrow will be a better day. 

It's another ante-natal (pre-natal) clinic day.  And we've decided to go "exploring" in town during our lunch break, which I'm super excited about.

Look forward to fun stories.  Keep praying.  I love you all!


Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
Incomparable, unchangeable
You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same
You are amazing God