Monday, February 23, 2009

Hello!!  Here's a quick update of what's been going on this past week:

A team arrived this past Thursday with two men, two boys (mid 20's and 16) and two girls who are 15.  The guys went right to work Friday morning, building the halfway house for the children who are 18 so that they can start to transition out of the children's home and learn to be more independent.  It's nice having more people here, but we thought that the girls were around my age so I was really looking forward to that.  They will only be staying until the middle of next week, and then I don't know when the next team is coming.

Saturday we were able to pay to use the track to practice for this coming Saturday's competition.  We arrived at 8:30 and got started.  The kids hadn't been practicing long distance running, so the ones who are in the long distance events had some trouble.  We aren't even sure that they are going to qualify for those events.  Most of the kids are really good at sprinting and/or the field events, so they should qualify and hopefully place.  We didn't get back until about 1:30 and with the sunny, cloudless sky we had, everyone was exhausted.  My face, neck and feet got pretty sunburned (even though I put sunscreen on!) so I had to take leaves from the aloe plant behind the children's home to smear all over me!  It was a fun day and everyone is really excited for this Saturday!

Sunday morning I went to go play soccer with the girls again and was glad that we had some cool air to play in.  On Friday a few of the older guys were asking me about soccer, like what position I played, and how long I've played, so now they want to play against the girls some Saturday.  The warned me that they play really rough, but I think I can handle it!  The other girls are scared because they agree that the boys play too rough and that they will just laugh because we will lose, but I told them we just have to keep practicing every Sunday!  Later Sunday afternoon two of the children took me and the volunteer who's around my age horseback riding.  Something was wrong with my horse because it didn't want to move!!  The boy who was leading us gave me a whip to hit the horse and make it go, but I was really afraid to use it and that I would get thrown off!   He kept telling me to hit the horse, so finally I did and it started moving.  As we were walking, it kept going onto the side of the road to eat grass, so I kept falling behind.  The boy was looking out for me though, and kept coming back to help me out.  We ended up turning around earlier than they wanted to because I was getting too scared, but I told them I would definitely go again sometime as long as I had a different horse!

That's all I have for now.  As always, please pray for these children!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gary and Rebecca have two dogs here, a male and a female. These dogs are HUGE dogs, so they make really good guard dogs. The male one, Mordecai, has been limping since I got here so Rebecca decided to take him to the vet this past Saturday. This vet was recommended by a friend, but about an hour and a half away in Kasane, Botswana. We were on the road by 10, hoping and praying to be able to see some cool animals along the way. Right after we went got through the Ngoma boarder in Botswana we entered Chobe National Park, the place where I might be able to go on safari, and saw two elephants right on the side of the road. It was so awesome because they were about 10-15 feet away from the car!! After stopping for a few pictures, we continued through the park and saw two warthogs and a sable, which was beautiful! Rebecca said that usually you can see giraffes, lions and zebras, but since it’s the rainy season the trees are covered and there’s a lot of grass everywhere. It also didn’t help that we were driving through so late in the day, when it was the hottest, and the animals were at watering holes. But I’ll have to decide if I want to spend the money to go on safari through that park since I might not even be able to see much, if anything.
Anyway, we made it to the vet and found out that Mordecai has hip dysplasia and Rebecca is trying to decide what to do with him since she can’t really afford medicine to keep him pain free. It’s sad because he’s only a year old and she wanted to breed him with the female so they could sell the puppies for money for the Mufuta feeding center they have, which I haven’t been to yet, where they have food for kids in the area and are hoping on opening a pre-school soon. She said that she planned on breeding the dogs so it could be something that she felt she was doing to help the center since she can’t really donate her time. Luckily, she can contact the person who sold Mordecai to her and she can either get another dog or her money back, but it still means around another year before she’ll have any puppies to sell.
To complete my adventure in Botswana I had the pleasure of talking to the vet and his weird ex- wife, who was visiting from Sarasota, Florida. The vet was an older white man who knew everything about everything. He was very full of himself, saying that he was single-handedly saving the wildlife here because he operates on them for free and spays and neuters pets in the area for free. Then he told us that we could pay for some medicine that would re-grow Mordecai’s cartilage…….He then had his ex-wife come out, who looked really out of it. She started talking to Rebecca and I about what was going on in America and how the women in Florida were planning a revolution and that 9/11 was a lie (apparently 4 of the richest families in the world planned the whole thing just to hurt people). She said she didn’t like Obama and that she believes that the end of the world is near. It was definitely an interesting afternoon!
We got back late afternoon and that night we decided to watch Wall-E with the kids, which was pretty much a waste of time. They didn’t really like it because they didn’t understand it. I think the movie was about 5 minutes in when they started asking me what everything was (the robot, the spaceship, etc.). They have never heard of that type of stuff, so they didn’t know what was going on. I’ve come across a couple situations like that this week; one boy was doing spelling words and asked what coast meant. I started saying something about the beach, then realized that he had no clue what I was talking about, and it’s not like I could say “It’s what you do when you drive a car on the highway…” either. I also went to sing “Hurry, Hurry Drive the Fire truck with the younger kids, but then realized that they didn’t know what that was. But I have also had times where I didn’t know what they were saying too, like in the classroom when that same boy was asking for t-pex (sp?) and I kept saying “What??? What??” and finally he was like, “WHITE….OUT”.
We’ve had a lot of kids sick the past week with the flu, so that’s probably going to be a problem for another couple of weeks with 60 kids! Another handful of kids are complaining about injuries because they have been practicing so hard for this competition, but the men who are training these kids don’t have them stretch before or after they run! They also will practice for a few hours without drinking any water, which doesn’t help either since it’s been so hot lately (Sunday afternoon I thought I was going to die when I was playing soccer!) Rebecca is going to talk to those men, who believe that the kids have to warm up their muscles before they stretch, and tell them to make the kids stretch first. Hopefully that will fix their problems!
One last thing that I haven’t mentioned in any of these blogs yet is that at the end of March I am going with Rebecca (and maybe one of the older girls here) to Cape Town, South Africa! Rebecca had asked me the first week I was here if I would be willing to go with her, since it’s hard for her and Gary to be gone at the same time. She is going down there to have some surgery done and needs someone else to go to do the driving and just to have another person while she’s going through surgery. We will be gone about 2 weeks, but 6 days of it will be driving. The girl who might come with us has been having some really bad headaches and has low blood pressure, so they want to take her to a doctor down there. I am excited to go, even though the 30 hours of driving will be boring for the most part (we are driving all the way through Namibia, through the Capital, Windhoek, and then down through South Africa). While we are there I will be able to do some sightseeing, so that will make up for the driving! Well I feel like I have rambled on and on, so I’m going for now!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Quick update:
I just found out today that the email address I gave you all was not the one I was checking everyday!  I was a little confused when I saw that I wasn't receiving any emails from anyone, but it turns out that I had a lot.  Apparently, the VOLS email had not been working for some time, so the Minks just had me use their email, not knowing that I had told everyone to send email to the VOLS address.  I didn't even realize that the address' were different until yesterday.  Today we were able to log on to that account and I have been trying to reply to everyone that wrote, but it will take a few days.  From now on, would you please send emails to (and still put my name in the subject!)  Thanks, and sorry for the confusion!!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

So right after I said that it rained here every day, it stopped for a full week.  It was nice to have sunshine every day, but it got so humid!  It finally rained again yesterday, which brought us some nice cool air!  Luckily, it only rained for about 30 minutes so the river didn't seem to raise much.

Last Saturday I drove Rebecca and some of the kids into town; Rebecca had some stuff to do and the kids wanted to go shopping.  I had to drive because Rebecca has some back problems, and they were getting really bad last week.  It was weird (as a little scary) to drive on the left side of the road, but I made it without crashing or hitting anyone!  Once we got to town, we all went our separate ways.  One of the boys had hurt his ankle, so he couldn't play soccer with all of the other guys that day, so he came to town too.  Rebecca told him to stay with me and "escort" me around.  I first went to the bank to deposit something for Rebecca and I felt so awkward.  I stood in a long line for about 30 minutes waiting- the whole time feeling like everybody was looking at me because I was the only white person there!  Of course the boy escorting me waited outside…being about 14 or 15 years old, I think he was embarrassed to be seen with me!  Once I finished at the bank though, he actually started walking WITH me and talking to me.  He took me to the open air market here, which mainly contained sections of food, clothing, and people braiding hair.  They had a fish section which contained mostly dried fish (a fish cut in half, gutted, laying open, and flat).  When I asked what they eat that with, he said shema, which is something like rice, and the staple here.   After that he showed me the grocery store here, which had a lot more American products than I thought it would.  Then we went to some clothing stores just to look around, but it was too hot and crowded in there to look around for long.  It was fun going into town, but I was definitely glad that I had an escort!  Later Saturday night we went to the children's home and watched "Kung Fu Panda" with all of the kids, who really loved it.  Every Saturday night they have some activity going on, but for the past two weeks we have just watched movies.

Sunday I got up early to go play soccer with the girls.  We had to wait a little while for a ball because the boys didn't want us to use their ball.  After we finally found a different one to use, they stood at the fence and watched us the whole time!  We played for about an hour before Church.  It was really fun though, and now some of the boys wanted to play against us this weekend, so we'll see if the girls actually want to play with them!

We finally started training the children for this track and field competition on Wednesday, and today was the first day that they used the equipment.  A few of the teachers are coming back tomorrow to train with the children all day, so hopefully they will be ready on the 28th!  It would even be great if they won a few events so they could participate in Windhoek and then in other countries!  I am still so surprised at all of the opportunities the children have for living in a children's home!  Rebecca has said that in the past, other schools in the area don't usually participate in events, so when there is an art competition, or singing competition, these kids here come back with at least 3rd place!  There are about 4 or 5 boys who found out last week that two soccer teams want them to play on their teams.  The details are still being worked out, but I think the plan is that they will go and scrimmage with both teams and then decide which one they want.  There were about 10 girls who were able to go to 9 different states to sing at Churches and talk about their lives here.  A few children are actually waiting to hear back about going to school in America next year.  Recently, there was a song writing competition about drunk driving, and apparently a group of girls here who entered were the only ones from this region, so they will be invited to Windhoek to participate in the country wide competition!  There are just so many good opportunities for these kids, which could help their future, so it's nice that they can participate!  As always, please pray for the kids and this orphanage!

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Friday, February 6, 2009

This week I started helping a 17 year old girl here with pre-school.  She will be turning 18 soon and wants to become a teacher, but she doesn't have any experience.  Once she turns 18 she will start getting paid for the time that she is here, but it will also allow her to keep on living at the orphanage.  We only have 3 children in that class (the 2 year olds), but it can still be tough!  I have also started going to the classrooms of the older children after their morning break is over.  The system here is so different!  Every child works at their own pace to get through each subject every day.  They set goals for themselves every week and have to complete them.  There are 2 teachers in each classroom, but they just go around and answer questions.  Once a student completes a couple pages, they have to go up and score it themselves with the answer keys.  My job is to make sure they correct it and to record their test scores.  It's still a little weird to me that the teachers don't actually stand up in front of the class and teach each subject!

So far, I think it has rained here every day!  For the first couple of days it only seemed to rain at night, but now it has been happening in the middle of the day- Florida style.  Last Friday night we had a big storm- the thunder was so loud and the lighting was so bright, it was scary!  All of this rain is making the river behind us rise pretty quickly.  Rebecca is scared that it will flood here like it did a few years ago.  It was so bad that the teachers and other people who come to work here have to drive on the main road, but once they got to the turn off for the orphanage, they have to take a boat across part of it!  We are praying hard that we won't get flooded-especially because there are crocodiles in that river!  (I haven't seen any yet, but one of them took Rebecca's dog a few years ago!)

I am staying with the Minks since there aren't any other volunteers here and I didn't want to stay in the volunteer bungalow alone.  They are really nice and have really made me feel like part of the family.  They have their own children who are grown up and living in America, but they have 2 adopted sons from Ghana with them, which is where Gary and Rebecca were at before they came here.  One of them is 17 and the other is 12.  For Christmas they got a Wii from a friend, so in my down time I've been playing that with the 12 year old!  The Minks are really into playing card games too, so almost every night we've played a card game.  Some people were asking me what I would be eating while I was here, and I just wanted to let you know that we've eaten mostly American food.  I have tried some African cuisine, like antelope, but the Minks mostly have American food…like tonight, Friday, is pizza night! :)

Wednesday I went to a Bible study with Rebecca.  She meets with 3 other women in town, who are all white Africans.  They all speak Afrikaans, which they told me is more like Flemish than Dutch.  After the Bible study was over, we had to drop one of the lady's off.  She lives about 20 minutes outside of town in the "bush".  We had to pull off to this little dirt road surrounded by trees in the complete dark, which was a little scary!  I learn later that she doesn't have water or electricity, so living that far out is all she can afford.

Since the children have been doing well in school, Gary and Rebecca decided that they can compete in a track and field competition with different schools around here.  We have split the kids up into 3 teams and kept trying to start practicing the week, but the rains kept coming.  The competition is the 28th of this month and none of these kids know how to do any of the field events, so we'll see how they do.  We do have some fast runners though, so maybe we can win some races.  I guess they will start training next week as long as it doesn't rain, and as long as they get all of the field event equipment that they need. 

That's all I have for now!  Please continue to pray for the children here!!

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

I am finally here!!!  (well, I have been since Thursday afternoon)  I landed in Johannesburg on Wednesday and on the drive to the Bed and Breakfast, I noticed that this town in South Africa looked a lot like Florida- there were palm trees and stores cluttered together everywhere!  Not what I pictured it looking like, but this is a big city in Africa, so I'm sure outside of Johannesburg it is more rural.  The Bed and Breakfast that I stayed at was beautiful!!  I had to order take-out for dinner, so of course, I ate sushi! :)

While landing in Zambia on Thursday, I was looking out of the window and saw what I thought was smoke from a big fire but it turned out being the mist rising from Victoria Falls.  After getting my bag and visa, I met Gary (one of the missionaries) and we headed out to go see Vic Falls.  Luckily, I took Gary's advice and rented a poncho before walking through because we would've gotten soaked!  We saw people come from the path who were completely drenched, and some people who were just in bathing suites.  The falls were beautiful though, and it was neat being able to see the flat land stretching far at the top and the water waaaaay below.

On the way back to the orphanage, we stopped to pick up two of the girls who were visiting family in one of the villages.  I would never remember where she lived though, because the "villages" were really just clumps of 4-5 huts along the way.  Sometimes there would be just one village and then you'd have to drive farther to see another one, and other times the villages would be about 20 feet away from each other.  Gary said that it took them a long time to figure out where her family lived at first; they had to ask many villages before finally finding hers!

I have met all of the children and am still trying to learn their names (it will take awhile with 60 of them).  A lot of the little ones were excited to see me and ran up to give me big hugs, but most of the older children were either too shy, or didn't care.  I am still not sure what I'll be doing while I am here, I am the only volunteer until about mid February, so there are lots of things that need to be done.  I think I will be teaching pre-school early mornings and maybe helping out with the older kids school until lunchtime.  Today I was playing with the younger children a little bit and we took playdough (or claydough as they called it) and were making different things out of it.  It was really interesting to me to see the older kids come over and start making animals for the younger ones.  The thing that was even more interesting was that they were making elephants and buffalo, whereas children in America tended to make shapes or snowmen. 

The last thing I am going to say before I go is to keep all of these children and ESPECIALLY four of these boys in your prayers.  The day I arrived here, an incident had occurred that put these four boys at risk of becoming HIV positive.  I went with Rebecca yesterday to get them tested and THANK GOD none of them were!  But they have to come back to get tested again in 6 weeks, then 3 months, then 6 months and then finally a year to make sure they still don't have it.  Rebecca said that hopefully at 3 months if they don't have it, then they probably won't have it at all.  The boys, who are all about 6 years old, were all so brave getting their fingers pricked and don't really understand what is going on.  Even today one of the boys asked, "Auntie Sarah, why did yesterday we get blood from our fingers?"  There is no way I can understand what these kids are going through and I feel bad because my life has been so blessed compared to theirs.  Please pray for all of them!!