Wednesday, August 13, 2014

First Day of Kindergarten

Jude had a really great first day of Kindergarten... right up until it was time to actually do school.

We did our usual Monday morning run to Etown to visit the Chiropractor, and then I dropped him off at Renee's house to play while I did my grocery shopping. Renee does therapy with Jude four mornings a week. Three of those mornings are at our house, but on Mondays he gets to play at her house. 

Jude has quickly gotten used to Chiropractor visits and does really well there, and he loves going to Renee's house.

After lunch, it was time to start our school. I've planned to spend about two hours in the afternoons working on school with him, with a potty break in the middle. Two hours may not seem like very long, but it's intense, one-on-one, non-stop school work. When he went to preschool last year at the public school, he was there for four hours and I figured up that he got less than 30 minutes of actual instructional time. And when you add the three hours he spends in one-on-one therapy every day, we're more than satisfied with his "course load" for Kindy. We've taken a break this summer, but in the spring we were doing school work for an hour at a time and he loved it. 

I took the above picture to compare with his first day of preschool picture from last year, but I also wanted to start a fun new tradition in front of our lockers:

About the t-shirt: Let me tell you a story about a little girl about 25 years ago who had a Batman t-shirt that she loved. Said little girl really wanted to wear her Batman t-shirt on her first day of Kindergarten, but her mama (understandably) wanted her to dress a little cuter than that for the first day. When she got to Kindergarten, half of the class had on Batman t-shirts! So when that little girl grew up and saw this Batman t-shirt, she knew exactly what her son was going to wear for his first day. It's the cirrrrrrrcle of liiiiiiiiiiiife! (Please don't think that I was somehow scarred or affected by this event. I only know this story because my mom told it to me. I don't even remember it happening. But my mom has never forgotten it! Jude's shirt was as much for her as it was for me.)

His first day of school was ROUGH. He yelled/cried through the whole thing. (If you've been around him much, you probably know what I mean when I talk about his yell/cry. It's a loud AAAAAAHHHHHH that basically means, "I don't like this." The good news was that he still did everything I wanted him to do, even though he was yelling/crying the whole time. He's great like that.

I can't end things there, though. I have to add that the second day of school was a million times better. He didn't yell/cry even once, and he actually seemed to enjoy the activities. So please don't worry that I'm just torturing him and/or myself with all of this. I'm sure not every day will be awesome, but I'm also sure that not every day will be like the first day.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Charles 6 Months Later

I thought somebody might be interested in seeing how Charles has grown in the six months since we got him. Everybody's been commenting recently on how big he's gotten, and they are right! What I didn't realize until I looked back at these pictures from the day we got him was how much his face coloring has changed. I didn't know that would happen!

Oh Charles. You make our lives so much more wild. And chewed up. And peed on. And barked at. Let's hope that this winter, you also learn to make our lives much more rabbit-y.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Teaching in the Lower Shire

On Monday morning, we woke up at 4am to drive 4 hours south to the Lower Shire (which they pronounce shear-ee) Region. The land around Blantyre and Zomba is on a plateau, and when you get just south of Blantyre, you get to the edge of the plateau and can see the Lower Shire Region for miles and miles. Well, at least that’s what we’re told. As we were driving down the plateau, there were clouds so low that it caused a very dense fog, and we couldn’t see anything.

This is how Michael rode the whole 4 hours from Zomba to the first village, because there were already 5 in the cab.

But as soon as we got to the bottom, we were finally below the clouds and could see the wide, flat plains. It’s called the Lower Shire because of the Shire River which runs through it. Our plan was to drive all the way down to a village on the outskirts of Nsange (4 hours south of Zomba, almost at the very bottom of the country), then drive back up north 2 hours to stay at a rest house in Nchalo. The next day, we drove to another village that was only about an hour south of the rest house. On the third day, the village we visited was only about 30 minutes south of the rest house. And on the fourth day, we only went about 15 minutes away. It may have made more sense to stay a little farther south, but good rest houses are hard to find in the Lower Shire, and Eric knew that Sarah’s Nest was a good one.

In each of these villages, there lives a regional coordinator for the EurAfrican Baptist Mission, which is the mission that Eric started. The regional coordinators regularly visit the churches in their regions, and they communicate with the churches when Eric needs to spread the word about something, like this week’s schools or the day camps they will be doing in a few months.

The first village we went to is on the northern outskirts of Nsange. As we drove through the village to get to the regional coordinator’s house, kids ran toward the truck pointing and excitedly shouting, “Mzungu!” (“White person,” or literally “miracle worker.”) In the third village, the kids actually started chanting “Mzungu! Mzungu!” as we drove by. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY stares at us.

Women and children hanging out and cooking in front of one a regional coordinator's house.

In each village, we quickly drew a large audience of children who would stare at us and giggle. In the first village, I made the rookie mistake of thinking that if I interacted with them a little then the mystery of the mzungu would lessen and they’d go play. That drew more and more kids. They just kept coming from every corner of the village. The teens were more shy, but even some of them couldn’t resist the urge to go see and try to talk to the mzungus.

Kids in the first village we visited.

Kids in the first village we visited.

Josh entertaining kids while Gama taught the pastors.

Finally I just had to learn to ignore them, and especially not to take pictures of them. They would eventually get bored and go play, though a small group of the most curious kids would still hang out nearby. Usually after lunch we would interact with them for a while. Josh tried to teach them songs, Stephanie tried to tell them Bible stories with her limited knowledge of Chichewan, Eric chased them like a zombie, and I took pictures of them.

Josh teaching in the first village.

Josh teaching in the second village. I'll never complain about uncomfortable church pews again after sitting on these for three hours! 
Josh teaching in the third village.

Josh teaching in the fourth village.

After Josh would finish teaching (he taught for 3 hours straight every morning), we’d eat lunch, which a few women had been working on since our arrival. 

The women fixing lunch in the first village.

The women dishing out lunch in the third village. Everybody got a huge portion of rice and nsima.

Lunch was always rice and/or nsima (cornmeal cooked into a texture between that of bread and mashed potatoes), beef, and cooked cabbage with tomatoes. They’d feed us inside a house each day because apparently everyone would’ve been too interested in watching the white people eat if we’d eaten in plain view.

The regional coordinator's house where we ate lunch in the first village.

Lunch every day. The mushy stuff on the left is nsima.

The regional coordinator's house where we ate lunch in the second village.

The regional coordinator's house where we ate lunch in the fourth village.

After lunch, Gama would spend an hour talking about church planting and preaching, and then we’d load up to head back to the rest house in Nchalo. 

We have had an incredible time here. We are so thankful that God worked it out for us to come, and that our parents were able and willing to keep our boy this whole time. For as great as this has been, we miss Jude so much, and we are so, so ready to get home to him! Please pray for us as we travel home over the next two days. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday in and around Zomba

You know how I've mentioned a couple of times in the last week about climbing a huge mountain to go to church in a village today? Well, after Eric and I were both sick yesterday from drinking the lake water, we called off the trip up the mountain for all of us but Josh. He got to hike up there with two other men, and you REALLY want to go to his blog to read all about his adventure.

I, on the other hand, got to stay at home and do laundry. By hand. In tubs. With water from jugs because the water is out. Let's just say that I can't make any guarantees about how clean our clothes are, or how well the detergent got rinsed out.

Then after the laundry hung on the line all day, I got to bring it in and iron it. All of it. Even our underwear and socks. Why? Because there's a fly here that lays eggs on damp laundry, and if you don't iron your clothes, the larvae will hatch and burrow into your skin and grow until they get big enough to come out. Do a Google image search for putzi fly if you're really brave.

Anyway. That's not nearly as interesting as Josh's story today. Go read it.

Two Nights at Lake Malawi

Thursday morning, we drove about 3 hours north to Cape Maclear on the southern coast of Lake Malawi. The lake runs almost the entire length of the country, and is incredibly beautiful. We spent two nights at Cape Mac Lodge for a little R&R between Josh’s time teaching in Zomba and in the Lower Shire.

On the way up, we saw some monkeys on the side of the road! I saw a big baboon before these, but we were going too fast to get a picture. When I spotted this little monkey family, Eric stopped so I could get some pictures. Can you see him sitting in the Y of the tree? There were more on the ground.

We spent the afternoon relaxing after the rough drive. Most of the roads, even the main roads, are just dirt roads, which makes travel pretty bumpy.  The place where we are staying is on the beach, but surrounded by a village, and the whole beach is full of village kids playing, women doing laundry, and men trying to sell things to white people.

I went briefly out to the beach, and was immediately approached by a man trying to sell me things. I kindly told him I didn’t have any money, and he went on. Then, I was swarmed by little boys that were probably between the ages of 5-8. Only the oldest two had anything on (and just underwear briefs). They wanted me to take a picture of them, and I made them squeeze in tight so I could get one of them from just the waist up.

This is the plague of being a mzungu (white person, literally “miracle worker”) here. There is no blending in or going unnoticed like we could do in Moldova.

On Friday, we took a small boat out to an island in the lake where we snorkeled, and then the man leading our little excursion, Isaac, cooked us a lunch of rice, potatoes in tomato sauce, and grilled fish over an open fire.

I feel the need to also mention that I’d made some homemade sunscreen for this trip out of only coconut oil and carrot seed oil. I read that coconut oil has a natural SPF of about 5, and carrot seed oil of about 40. I was really excited about my sunscreen, and put it to the ultimate test that morning. Sadly, it failed. It may or may not have done better if we weren’t in and out of the water (I did reapply), but I got burned to an ever-loving crisp, and so did Eric, who tried my sunscreen that morning, too.

On the way back to the lodge, Isaac took some small fish he’d brought and we went to find some eagles. He would whistle and then throw the fish, and an eagle would come out and swoop to get it. It was really cool.

We rode along the beach for almost the entire length of the village on the way back, and it was neat to see everybody out on the beach. There were lots of naked kids. Jude would fit in well here!

After we got back, we ordered a pot of coffee and drank it out in the lawn. That's kind of a mundane detail to include, but I just love the picture I got during that coffee break:

Then, Stephanie and I walked through the village. There are several souvenir booths set up along the way, and after much indecision, I finally got Jude a couple of souvenirs.

That night after dinner, I got really sick. Not puking sick (though I did feel like I could a few times), digestively sick, if you know what I mean. All night. I had choked on my snorkel a couple of times, so we think maybe drinking the lake water was to blame.

Sunburned and sick, I loaded up on Immodium and we made our way back to Eric & Stephanie’s house in Zomba. We are pooped, but so grateful for the chance to spend some time at the lake. I took a few pictures through the window on the drive back.

A fairly typical Malawian house. Nicer houses will have metal roofs.

Driving through a village on our way home.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wednesday in Zomba

Today Josh wrote a nice post recapping the last 3 days that he’s spent teaching the pastors here in Zomba, and he shared several pictures that I took. He also presented a couple of different ways that you could join in on what God is doing here, in addition to the information I shared yesterday about helping feed the orphans. You really want to go to his blog and see his post today, too.

Yesterday evening, someone brought us over a serving of the food served to the pastors staying at the church. Just like how in Moldova no meal is complete without a generous helping of bread, in Malawi no meal is complete without a generous helping of nsima (pronounced “see-muh,” the n is silent). Nsima is finely ground cornmeal that is boiled into a mush. It’s kind of like white rice in that it’s completely flavorless on its own. You eat with your hands, and you roll bites of nsima into balls and dip it in the sauce that the meat is cooked in. We also had some beef and a bit of shredded cabbage cooked with tomatoes. 

After that, Eric & Stephanie took us over to where they have laid the foundation for the dormitory for the Bible school that Eric wants to start here in the next few years. It’s right behind the church, just up the hill. If you haven’t already read Josh’s post for today, then click over there to learn more about this project.

I had a fun day today while Josh was teaching. First, Stephanie and I made several sock puppets. The churches that have been planted here by Eric and his team of Malawian leaders (around 200 churches), are divided into 8 regions for organization and communication purposes. A team of church leaders from each of the 8 regions will be traveling around their regions in July and August putting on evangelistic day camps, and they will be using the puppets for these camps.

She wanted them to be simple puppets made from simple supplies that more churches or groups could duplicate easily if they wanted to, so that’s what we did. I didn’t get a picture of them, but just picture your basic sock with googly eyes and felt ears, nose, and tongue.

I went over to the church to take a few more pictures of Josh teaching. It was great to get to hear the men asking such thoughtful questions and thanking Josh for coming. 

After I left, I wandered around the side of the church and found a girl splitting wood. I asked her if she was cooking lunch, and she said yes and invited me around to the back of the church to see where they were cooking.

The women were sitting on rocks watching big pots of food boil. To cook, they take 3 big rocks, build a fire between them, and set the pot on the rocks over the fire. Today they were cooking cabbage, beans, and rice to feed both the pastors and the orphans.

Notice that the women are using cabbage leaves as pot holders

Definitely Mrs. Gama's first selfie; she was so embarrassed

I was really impressed by the girl’s skill at splitting wood, and as I was taking a couple of pictures of her, she invited me to try it. It was SO HARD! I told her she was much stronger than I. First, the axe head is welded to a solid metal pole and is super heavy. Then you’re trying to swing it and land it in the exact right spot with enough force that will split the wood. I couldn’t do it, and they all laughed at the silly white woman who couldn’t split wood. I asked her to take a picture of me trying it, and although she was pretty inexperienced with a camera, she did get one.

One of the women there had a tiny baby and a toddler, so I took the opportunity to ask them to show me how to carry a baby like they do. It seemed fairly self explanatory, but I didn’t know if there was some trick to it, and I sort of just wanted a chance to snuggle her sweet 4 month old little boy. They happily put him on my back and tied us up, and because it’s winter here and ONLY 80 degrees, they also had to take a heavy blanket and wrap around us over the wrap that was supporting him. 

I bounced him to sleep and stood there for a bit enjoying hearing his sweet little snoring and feeling his squishy little body up against my back. I joked that I was just going to walk off and take him home with me, but I eventually gave him back to his mama, since it became time to serve lunch.

The pastors waiting outside the church for lunch

Women dishing out the rice for lunch

Tomorrow we leave to spend 2 nights at Lake Malawi for a little downtime before climbing that mountain on Sunday and then leaving early Monday morning for the Lower Shire.