Saturday, November 29, 2008

Back in Zambia

I was back in Zambia this week for a workshop with all the Hands at Work service centers. These are the guys who support the community-based organizations (CBOs), which are made up of volunteers who care for patients and orphaned children in their communities. The service centers help support the CBOs with things like finance, reporting, proposals, and encouragement. They also go into new communities where HIV rates are high and resources are minimal and challenge the churches to care for needy people in their communities.

Bernard, a Hands volunteer from Germany, spent time with Stuart and Innocent from Zimbabwe and Carlos and Ricardo from Mozambique

Me helping Pascal and Erick from DRC with their computer


It was a hard week. I went with Marc, Lisa, and Bernard from Hands at Work "hub" in South Africa. We presented and work-shopped and discussed...the days were long. But, it was awesome--a huge priviledge--to spend time with this group of people. They make practically no money in this work, but they believe in it and they believe God has called them to it. And they rely on God (they have to) to get them through heartbreaking work on a daily basis.

We also had lots of laughs. We especially enjoyed a reenactment of the trip the Moz and Zim guys made to get to Zambia for the workshop. Let's just say it involved a missed bus, a ride from a drunk truck driver, elephants on the side of the road, and knocking on the door of a very surprised friend at 1am asking for a floor to sleep on for the night. (A few minutes after the drunk truck driver barely missed hitting some elephants on the road, he yelled, "Shut the windows! There are elephants!" Actually, a few times when I was giving presentations, my screensaver of my safari photos came up, and every time someone would yell, "Shut the windows!" We laughed a lot.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

A day of Thanks!

Brooke's plate (too much green)

Last weekend we had the opportunity to hook up with a few of our friends (mostly Peace Corps) for an early Thanksgiving. We started planning for this Thanksgiving extravaganza when we were still in Zambia, which is interesting since that is where Brooke will be for Thanksgiving this year. Some of you will remember she was in the Northwest province last year while I celebrated Thanksgiving with a bunch of Hands at Work volunteers and this year she is helping facilitate a workshop on all kinds of fun things like monitoring and evaluation, writing proposals and reports, all about the ins and outs of microsoft excel and word. Sound like fun!

I think that someone should invent a font that is called the sarcastic font. Then when writing you could just change the font to sarcastic font and everyone would read whatever you wrote in a sarcastic tone. Not sure which of our avid blog followers would be willing to take that on, but I'm sure it is a million dollar idea. You could create all kinds of fonts for the tone you want to express. Angry font, loving font, sarcastic font, the possibilities are really endless. Just remember who to thank once you make it big time. Ideas are the mother of invention.

Anyway, we had an excellent time hanging out, cooking, eating, drinking the occasional beer or glass of wine, and playing football. The only thing that was missing was the Lions game followed by the Cowboys. Man I miss watching football on TV.

One of the highlights of the day was just before we ate we decided it would be good to go around the room and say what we are thankful for. The most common theme was that we were thankful that we had found each other and thought of each other like family. We were thankful that even though we weren't with our real families we still had people who we could get together with that made us feel at home.
Too much eating!!!



Brooke going out for a pass from Quarterback Kristy



Brooke after her touchdown catch



Marc and Lou trying to get the ball back after a terrible pass, but then realizing there were massive dogs on the other side of the fence!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lesotho

Jed and I went to Lesotho on Saturday with Marc and Kristal. Our best buddy Marc is going home to Canada in a couple of weeks, and we're going to miss him so much! Our long weekend away was our last hurrah with Marc (although we're betting he'll be back here before we leave). We had such a nice time.

Brooke and Kristal planning for the weekend

We left early Saturday and drove almost 10 hours to a backpackers near the Sani Pass. We spent the night at the backpackers and then left Sunday morning for guided tour into Lesotho. We signed up for the 2-day "cultural experience" tour, which wasn't exactly what we had been hoping to do, but it was the only option. (We've all had our fair share of cultural experiences lately...we were really just hoping to relax.) So, our guide Christeen drove us in a 4x4 Land Rover up the Sani Pass. It took about four hours to cross the border and get to our final destination. Along the way, she told us about the history of the mountains and we stopped often to admire the views.

Jed and Brooke in the Drakensburg Escarpment
(the road we drove along is in the background)


The Twelve Apostles


The view looking back into South Africa as we got close to Sani Pass


The Lesotho flag at the border crossing,
the most relaxed border crossing we've ever experienced


Our destination was the home of Ndodi Thabiso, a warm Basotho man with a lovely family. Thabiso lives in a village of about 200 people in the mountains. The village is isolated, and the people practice subsistence farming. When the crop is bad, like it will be this year, they don't have many options. They have already started rationing their food in preparation for the poor crop they're expecting in June. The huts are round--made of stone, mud, and dung--with thatched roofs, and for some reason all the little boys we saw had shirts but no pants. This little village actually does better than some of the others because they've gotten involved in tourism. The community gets a little money for accepting tourists (very regularly), showing them handcrafts and traditional dancing (which was very cool). We also got to try traditional homemade beer. It was thick and sour and whitish-colored. (Yuck!)

The next morning we went on a three hour pony trek. Basotho ponies are bred to be small and handle the steep mountain climbing. Jed nicknamed my pony ZigZag McGee, because he was so stubborn he didn't want to go straight down the hills.

The pony trek was beautiful, but man, are we sore!


A village


On the way back to South Africa, we stopped at the highest pub in Africa. It was cold and foggy. I enjoyed my first-ever mulled wine. Delicious!

Kristal and Jed kicking back in the highest pub in Africa.
(Notice the lady sleeping in the background...apparently a bus full of elderly French people broke down on the way up the Pass and they had to walk up the hill to the pub to wait for another bus to pick them up. They were so sweaty and tired and hilarious!)


We spent Monday night back at the backpackers, eating pizza and trying not to talk about work. We managed pretty well actually...it was great to enjoy some time away and be a little silly.

Kristal, Marc, and Brooke brushing their teeth


We stopped at McDonald's on the way home, a highlight of the trip...the closest McDonald's is over 3 hours away, so we don't get it very often!

Well, today all four of us are sick with stomach cramps and diarrhea...giardia maybe? (Awesome!) Most likely, it was some bad water we drank. (It started before McDonald's, so thankfully that's not the cause.) But it was worth it! We had a great time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cutest dog EVER!

By request, here are a few pictures of our Buhle ("Beauty"). I was a little worried when Hands said they wanted a Rottweiler, but she's the sweetest dog in the world. (Don't tell the burglars that though.)

8 weeks old


1 year old



She got zapped by the electric fence again this week, the day after her first birthday. (That actually hasn't happened for a long time...they recently moved the fence, so she's still getting a handle on the new boundaries.) They say it takes two years for Rottweilers to really "grow up"...sounds about right.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Back in SA

We made it back to South Africa. Kristal and Marc picked us up in Nelspruit and we ate pizza together. They brought us flowers and had cleaned our house...they made us feel so missed...it was wonderful. Today we're relaxing in the cool, cloudy SA weather, cleaning, doing laundry (in a machine!), watching movies, appreciating the things we missed liked the best dog in the world, hot showers, Pepsi Light, and our pillows.

We've been reflecting a bit on our time in Zambia, too.


Things we will miss:

  • Lawrence, Luckson, Joseph, Emily and Alisha and all the CBOs
  • Eating with our hands (only me, not Jed's not such a fan, maybe because of the germ factor)
  • Walking everywhere
  • Enerjelly jubes (which they have in SA, but I was introduced to them here)
  • Roommates who cook us dinner every other night
  • Being so close to town
  • Grace Kunda
  • Walking at night
  • Feeling “safe”
  • Arteco
  • The Internet cafĂ©
  • 40-in-1 movies on the street

Things we will not miss:

  • Hand-washing clothes
  • The heat
  • “Spider-scorpions”
  • Boiling our water
  • Pineapple squash juice
  • Hungry Lion chicken
  • Eating fish with the head still on (and the tails and the fins and the scales)
  • Being offered 100 billion Zim dollar bills for a “special price”
  • The street vendors’ Mopani worms
  • Negotiating a price to get home after work every day
  • Taking malaria medication and corresponding “Larium dreams”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Luanshya

We made it back from Luanshya yesterday. Things there went very well. We spent a few hours with James from Mulenga. James is supporting twenty orphaned children in that community with a meal a day, and he's recently mobilized 15 volunteers to start visiting their sick neighbors. It's awesome! He's doing GREAT work and he has such a humble heart. Then we spent a day and a half with Pastor Jacob, Thomson, and Paul in the service center, creating budgets, talking about their struggles, and helping on the computer. I'll be back there in two weeks for a workshop with all the service centers, and I'm excited about that!

Alisha's sick today...sounds like it might be food poisoning. We suspect the Hungry Lion (fast food) chicken we all ate yesterday, although Jed and Emily and I escaped unscathed. I think she'll feel better soon though.

We're wrapping things up in the office today and tomorrow morning and leaving for Lusaka tomorrow afternoon. Our flight leaves at 7am on Saturday. Looking forward to getting home to the Farm.

It was a little torturous being away from TV and Internet on Tuesday. We got our election updates from Emily's brother in Indiana and Kim in Egypt. We're a divided household this election, but I'm confident Jed will learn to love Obama! :)

By the way, the congressional delegation's trip to ACTS has been canceled. Too bad!

Love to you all,
Brooke

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Training Day(s)

So I promised Brooke that I would post again. I know I don't do it very often. It just gets difficult at times. I just never know what to post about. Luckily, over the past two days we have been doing training for the CBOs and the staff from Hands at Work in Kabwe for the past couple of days; so thankfully I have something to write about.
From Zambia

On Friday, we had the opportunity to have 6 CBO managers into the office for training on proposal writing, reporting, and income generating activities training. Brooke focused on the proposal writing and reporting while I had the pleasure of teaching all about IGA! Unfortunately, the internet cafe closes in 5 minutes. So this is all I can write for now.
From Zambia

Tomorrow we leave to go to Luanshya, just a bit further north in Zambia. We will be there until Wednesday, learning about the project, and spending time with the people there. We wish we could have had more time there, but on Saturday we head back to South Africa. We found out today that there is going to be a congressional delegation at the ACTS clinic, which is just across from our NGO in South Africa. They are going to be there on Monday, November 8, and Peace Corps has asked us to go meet them! Exciting stuff. Hope everyone is doing well back in the US. We miss you guys, and once we are back in SA, hopefully we will be in better contact with all of you.

-Jed