Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Malaria Monday and Tonga Tessa Tuesday

Here is the blog post I promised. Luckily my malaria medicine/Africa itself makes it harder for me to sleep the entire time so when I wake up early or cannot sleep at night I have something to do. This week we moved into different therapy groups. I am now in the feeding/swallowing group with Dr. Weaver. So far I have enjoyed working with the different tools we have and learning about infant swallowing but I do miss my toddlers. That is something I never thought I would say haha. In the morning we work in Haven 3, the “sick house.” Our first session is with a group of babies who I do not know what their illness is. In the second session we work with a group of babies who have TB. Honestly, it might sound scary to some people but the fact that these children have diseases I am not used to being around never even crosses my mind when I am looking at their little faces. Our last task in the morning is to go over to Haven 1 and find a baby to do language stimulation with. Our afternoons consist of more feeding class with some babies in Haven 1 and then time to do individual language therapy. This is one of my favorite times of day because I am able to work with Wesley or one of the other troublemakers that have captured my heart. That is a quick overview of my day-to-day activities for this week in therapy. By the time we arrive back to the houses it is dinnertime, which I am always excited about. Walking 6 miles a day makes me very hungry!

The past two nights have been exceptionally fun and a time to learn more about the Zambian culture. We typically have some time to play my drum; I am determined to be awesome before I return to the states! Then we have choir practice with our night watchmen Webster. We have added some more people to our group from the original few so that we will be able to sing in front of the college students one Sunday. We typically go over the first song that Webster taught us a few times with him patiently coaching us through the different harmonies. This is a very interesting time for me considering I was never in a choir; luckily I like singing so it is like a dream come true, sort of. It always sounds so good whenever Webster has finally taught all of us the different parts. Last night we were able to learn a new song too. For all the people that have been to Zambia before this will be a familiar tune. It was Wabuta Wabuta. I was very excited because I have been hearing Cassie sing this song to me for the past 2 years; it was about time for it to have some meaning for me too. Yet again Webster patiently taught each of us the different harmonies group by group. It is quite difficult to learn all the parts when you can hear the other parts singing as well but we finally got it worked out about 45 minutes later. I wasn’t complaining, I would much rather be learning Tonga songs than building card houses or whatever else we do to pass the time! Then the fun part came. He had to teach us how to say one of the super long words. The problem with this was that it began Nguto. Now in case you have forgotten the English language, the letters ng never begins a word. Ever. So we each had to be taught how to make this sound and transition it in the sound. Everyone else could do this pretty effectively, except me. So I was able to have individual Tonga speech therapy lessons with Webster trying to say this sound. We worked on it for quite a few minutes before he decided it was good enough but he was doing everything to get me to say it. I was saying the sound in different words and in different positions. Who knows what all he was making me say! It was fun though. Hard but fun. It was like a little insight into what the clients feel like whenever we are working with them. Right after this we began singing again and had another blackout. None of us had flashlights but we just kept singing away until Webster pulled his out, since he is the night watchman. So we were just singing up a storm in the pitch dark, praising Jesus in some Tonga songs. It was so cool. After our choir lessons Ben, Ian, and I have been staying around to talk to Webster and Justin. I believe that Webster is one of the funniest people I have ever met in my life. On Monday they asked us many questions about the United States and the weather. Webster decided he could never visit because it would be too cold. After our talk on Monday I asked them to give us Tonga names. My name is Choolewa with the nickname of cho cho; this word means luck. Ben and Ian were given names too; Chipago, which means gift and lowando, which means journey. I did not spell those words right but I mean you will not be able to pronounce them anyway. Last night we had Webster teach us more Tonga words and we have begun writing them down. It is hard to say some of them and we were told we have a very funny accent but I like trying. Tomorrow I have feeding therapy again and then that night some of us are going to Wednesday night church with one of the girls from the college we have met named Grace. I am excited. Until next time. Over and out.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Walking A Mile in Someone's Shoes

This past weekend was the most amazing time of my life. I was able to experience so many different aspects of the Zambian culture. So here it is, my life in Zambia for the weekend. On Saturday morning we woke up to have breakfast at 8:30. Then it was time to pile into Khaki Jacki and head an hour away to Choma for the market. We were piled in the back of our car like sardines but it really was not that bad, like a little party. Upon arrival in Choma we went to the post office to send out postcards and then were able to go to the market. I teamed up with my trusty market sidekicks Ian and Ben since we had such success in Kalomo. We added Ashley to the mix of our group as well and off we went to find chitanges.  We wandered around the market to see all of the different things. It is so different being there. The Zambian people do not really care about trash everywhere so it looks more like a 3rd world country. The craziest thing is to see what everyone is selling just to get by and be able to pay for daily living. I might have gone a little crazy on the buying chitanges when we were at this market. We wandered around and found some really awesome patterns and stuff. I am pretty sure I bought like 8 different fabrics. The best buy of the day was the gold mine that Ben found in the fabric store. It is a cream colored fabric that has huge crawfish on it and is then outlined in little crawfish. It is absolutely hideous but amazing. Thanks to Ashley telling me it was only 3 dollars and Ben saying I needed it since I was from Louisiana, the crawfish chitange was bought. So yes. Be prepared. It is amazing! After our time at the market, we were late for meeting up at the Spar (grocery story). Luckily everyone was still there so we ran inside to find some awesome stuff. Good news. I found ice cream. That is all I wanted in the world. All of us got chocolate except Ben who got banana. It was decided by all that banana was better. But I was so happy that I finally had some ice cream. Our entire group had a picnic in a park thanks to our wonderful leaders. Unfortunately the combination of ice cream and finding a random birds talon next to our picnic made for a lack of appetite but it was still fun. No worries everyone, many pictures were taken on these adventures. It was then time to go into the craft fair. There were so many cute and awesome things. Good news, I bought a drum. It is amazing. I am only allowed to play it at certain times and in certain places. We rushed back to Namwainga to go to a Zambian wedding!

The Zambian wedding. So we arrived to the wedding and all sat on the front row. They were having it in the auditorium and it was all decorated and changed for us to celebrate. Whenever the flower girls and then the rest of the wedding party entered they danced down the aisle. It was amazing! I wish I could dance like them. One day. The bride then came in; her dress matched the groom’s shirt. It was a floral print with purples and greens. The bride and groom were not allowed to smile throughout the wedding and the bride looked down the entire time. It was such a different atmosphere for them than in American weddings. Everyone else was celebrating but they had to act somber. Once the ceremony was over the party went to take pictures so the people in the audience started dancing in the aisle. No worries, I eventually joined once other people in the group did. It was so much fun. They are amazing dancer. I have no idea how they move. The party came back in and had solo dances; everyone except the bride and groom of course. The ceremony was quite long but I did not mind. I thought it was so interesting. Unfortunately we had to leave for dinner.

After dinner we had a drum party time. It also included creating an amazing rap….and by amazing I mean not. But it was fun. This then brought the night watchmen over to us. From the night watchmen Justin and Webster a group of us (Cari, Ashley, Anna, Kara, Ben, and me) taught us a Tonga song. In English it talks about walking with Jesus, sleeping with Jesus, praying with Jesus, and sitting with Jesus. Webster taught us the 4 different parts of the song. It sounded so beautiful. We stayed out there for about 2 hours learning the parts. It was a wonderful end to our evening.

On Sunday we again went to church in Namwainga. During the service I held Katy; it was precious. She fell asleep in my arms and I sat there with her the entire time. She did end up drooling all over my shirt but it was precious. She is a sweet little girl, even if she will not talk to me. That afternoon it was time to start my capstone project. A group of us headed to the Haven to work with the babies. I found some of the babies that were in my age groups, which was good. I have a lot more work ahead of me but it will be worth it. After working with the babies, and yet again playing with Wesley J it was soccer time!!! A group of us played soccer, which is always a good time. I love playing with the Zambian people. One girl that has played with us before named Grace came again. She is really sweet and funny. It was a good time. That evening we went again to church and sang with the students. It is always awesome to listen to them sing. For the rest of the evening, Ben and I decided to make a house of cards. Really exciting I know. After way too many hours put into building our 3-story card house, it was finished and we were proud. Many pictures were taken and then it was time to destroy it. All in all I would say we had a pretty exciting weekend! I will update again soon….hopefully! Keep all of us in your prayers!

Tessa's overview

So yeah. Apparently blogging is not my strong point. Sorry to the few followers that I actually have; I will try to do a better job. Alright, moving forward. Last week was my first week doing therapy in the Haven. I was in a group that completed language therapy with the toddlers and then the babies. I also had the chance to work with Rita, a girl with Cerebral Palsy. The children in the morning were really cute but did not talk very much. On Friday we finally pulled some words out of a few children. Good news! I got Katy to say hippo, monkey, and bye. I felt like that was good progress and hopefully she will start opening up more for me. Working with the little babies was slightly stressful and sometimes difficult. I like this child named Reuben. He is a happy go lucky boy that just smiles a lot and sticks his tongue out. Adorable. The children I do not like are the criers who cannot handle laying down on their tummys. It is important for them to be able to do this so they can have better trunk and neck control. So Peace and Dorcas are on my bad list. In the afternoons I worked with Rita. She was a sweet girl that I pretty much just talked to for an hour. I would talk about the day, sing to her, and then tell her how mad I was at Katy.  For the last 45 minutes of the day at the Haven we were able to pick any child and do language therapy with them. I will forever and always go to Wesley, my favorite child. He is about 16 months old, gets into everything, is a trouble-maker, and has the biggest brown eyes I have ever seen in my mouth. I am bound and determined that he is going to say Tessa before I leave here. On Friday I sang a song with him called “Mango Tree.” This is a song the aunties sing with the children and taught us one of our first days here. It goes liked this “Mango mango tree, yes mango tree, Mango mango tree, yes mango tree” “we sleep under the mango tree, we dance under the mango tree, ect.” Ask me to sing it to you sometime. It is pretty great. So Wesley and I sang this song but we only danced under the mango tree. It was the most adorable thing ever because he was totally shaking it. After Mango tree we sang the “shake it” part to “Hey ya” and filmed Wesley shaking with us. Adorable. That is a short overview of my therapy week last week. I had a lot of fun and the children are completely adorable. I am going to add another post later tonight about my weekend because we were able to go to a market and a wedding, which was awesome!!!!

My partial Post

Well it has been a few days yet again since I have updated this. I am currently writing this blog while on cough medicine so if it gets a little foggy in there I am probably about to fall asleep. No worries though, I am not ill just have a little cough from the allergies or something. Anyway. We finally have a schedule for the Havens so we have officially been working with the little ones for a few days now. I have been in all 3 Haven’s and seen many children. For those of you who do not know, the Havens are the orphanages where all the children under 4 live at the Namwianaga mission. Haven 1 houses all the infants until they are about 18 months or somewhere around that. Haven 2 houses the toddlers. Haven 3 is for the medically fragile children who could possible have HIV or TB or diseases along those lines. We have worked in all 3 of those places now. The first few days we just took baselines of what the children were able to do. Most of them are lower functioning than I would have figured. Most children are not talking to us right now. In the mornings I work with the toddler language group. I typically work with a little girl named Katy. Now Katy had a special place in my heart before I even left for Zambia. This little girl’s picture has been hung up in my dorm room for the past 2 years thanks to my roommate Cassie. Cassie was able to go to Zambia 2 years ago with Harding during a semester and Katy was the baby she was assigned to take care of. Upon my arrival at Haven 2 it was my mission to find this child and I succeeded. She is so big and beautiful; it is amazing. The only problem is she will not talk for me! At all! Now I could understand if she was completely nonverbal all the time but that little toot stands outside of the window whenever I am doing therapy in the afternoon and shouts at people when I am not looking. I have heard her say another girls name as well as words that I guessed were in Tonga. I was like, you little jerk, you have been holding out on me. I typically tell these frustations to the child I am in therapy with at that time. A sweet girl with Cerebral Palsy that is completely nonverbal.

Everyone I feel should know that I have now named every day of the week so that I do not lose track of what day it is, because it is quite hard. Monday of course is Malaria Monday because it is when I take my medicine; this is the only way I will remember to take my weekly medicine. Tuesday is Tessa Tuesday. Wednesday is walking Wednesday; this means you always walk to the Haven’s no matter what, which equals around 6 miles for the entire day. Thursday is thumbs up Thursday, so every photo must incorporate that. Friday is Freestyle Friday, so you must make up some freestyle raps while walking to the Haven. Saturday was Super Sweet Saturday. Sunday was Soccer Sunday. Those are the days that we made up for this past week. I am just excited that everyone joins in with me on my silly things like this. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My first 3 days have taken my breath away!

Good news! I have made it to my final destination! I am sorry I have not been keeping up with my blogging. I have been having way to many awesome experiences and no time for the Internet. We made it to our final destination via bus/van. At least that is what I called it because it was a mixture of the two. We stopped at this place called Tutors to eat for lunch. It is apparently a hotspot for Zambians to eat. It was the first place we also had to pay to use the bathroom. That reminded me of Mexico. I ate fried chicken and French fries; it was quite delicious. After we ate we all piled back up onto our bus/van to find out that it would not start! So we yet again had to get off of the bus and start pushing it to start the bus. It was crazy and the place was starting to become busy with Zambian buses. After we, and by we I mean the pharmacy students plus like 3 people that did not include me, pushed it a few times, it started. Thank goodness, I was so ready to stop traveling. After some more reading and such we finally made it!!! We ate dinner at the mission, which included a famous Leonard, our cooks, cake. It was an amazing chocolate cake. Some of us wandered around and found a soccer field! I informed everyone that I am a walking GPS so my new nickname is Tom-Tom. Goody. We watched some of the college kids play soccer. They were amazing!!! I want to play with them so much. I had my first fright of the trip. I was walking from one of the houses to the next with Ben and I looked down only to find a frog. I freaked out and ran the other direction, plus was laughed at. Then I was on edge whenever I walked to the house and while walking by a bush/leaf I heard it rustle and freaked out. This is when I actually screamed. Ridiculous. So yes there was my first scare of Zambia from a frog. That night we just all hung out and chilled. It was fun. I am sleeping on the top bunk of my room, which is a ton of fun. I also have a mosquito net that is around me whenever I am sleeping to try and protect me from creepy crawlies.

The second day outside of Kalomo began with a lovely breakfast and then a journey to the Havens. All of us piled into Khaki Jackie, and I had to sit around everyone’s laps. It was like I was crowd surfing. Check that one off the life list. The Havens are the orphanages where the babies, toddlers, and then children live. I could not wait until I could hold all of those precious little babies! Whenever we walked in we met all of the Aunties. The Aunties are all the ladies that take care of the babies in the Havens. Cari, Ben, and I walked into one of the rooms with the babies and there was one left in his bed in that room. I walked up to him and picked him up. He was a little chunk named Wesley who stole my heart the minute I looked into his huge brown eyes. I am already in love with him. I held him and stood him up and then sat with him. After all of this I tried to put him back into his bed to move over to the toddler house and share the love but he started crying and I could not let go yet. Bah. So I held him a little longer and then finally had to let go. Whenever I went to the toddler house they were all eating so I did not get to find Cassie’s baby Katy. I am so ready to see her though. I am pretty sure she is there because I saw her name on the wall. I went back to the Haven and held another baby named Wilma until she fell asleep. I then changed my first Zambian diaper/outfit because my next baby was soaking wet. I also was able to feed her the bottle. Sadly then it was time to leave the babies so a group of us walked back to our houses. I was able to use my TomTom skills. That afternoon we were able to go to a market in Kalomo. Ian was my market buddy. We walked around looking at all of the different things the people were selling. This was the first time I really felt like I was in a 3rd world country. It was so disheartening to see how desperate the people were that they would sell virtually anything to make any money. It was so sad. Ian and I looked at the chitange’s, a fabric they sell there, and tried to find some we liked. It was interesting that everyone kept shouting Madame to me or asking if Ian was my son. I bought 3 different fabrics; Ian and I make a good bargaining team. That evening we all hung out again. We played card games and had our first blackout; so we got to use the headlamps. Score. Also in case you were wondering the stars are amazing.

Today was Sunday so we attended our first church service. It was so interesting to hear them sing. It was so interesting. We all piled in there and sang with them. They sang some songs in Tonga and some in English. After church we had to go back to cook lunch and clean up afterwards. After some organizing of stuff, I really wanted to go play soccer…so a bunch of us did. It started off just 8 of our group playing and as we kept playing Zambian students began to show up. It was so much fun to play with all of them! I must say though, it was very interesting playing soccer in a skirt. While we were playing, I definitely played around or took the ball from some of the Zambians a few times. Not gonna lie, it was awesome! I would love to play soccer every single day while I am here. Alas that cannot happen but I will be playing as often as possible. We went to a service tonight filled with singing and then a sermon. Afterwards 7 people were baptized!!!! Everyone came over to where we are living to baptize them in a tub in the backyard. It was so awesome whenever a group of guys started singing after they were all baptized. We went around and shook their hands. It was so different from how we do things but amazing. Afterwards we had our own communion because we had missed it in the morning. All in all, I would say it was a very amazing day. I have had such great experiences while I have been here for 3 days I cannot wait to see what is in store for me over the next few weeks!!! Oh mom, this is for you, I have not showered today. We can only get hot showers in the afternoon and I do not care enough to wake up and take an ice cold shower in the morning. Knew you could appreciate that.

Good news, as of right now, I am still regular :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Well...25 hours later

I have officially made it to Zambia! My first day of travel was only within the United States. We started off driving from Searcy to our flight in Memphis. After some delays checking in and a minor mishap with some tickets, we made it to the flight only to find out two people were booked for the same seat! We could not leave our fearless leader Dr. Weaver in Memphis on our first leg of the journey! Luckily after some searching through tickets we found the person who was standby and kicked her off! Haha. So about 25 minutes later we were off to Chicago. In Chicago I ate some pizza. Fitting, I know. After boarding the flight we were informed that some weather gadget was not working and they were trying to fix it, aka another delay. The good news was, we had a very entertaining flight attendant man that shared his food and sang to us. The bad news was, I was stuck in the middle seat between two old men I did not know. Always my flight luck. An hour later we finally got to leave and had a smooth flight to D.C. Upon arrival we waited for an eternity for some hotel trams and finally got to rest after day one of travel.

Day 2/3 This day began with yet again another long wait for a tram to the airport. Luckily, I am not one to freak out, and I associate myself with those type of people as well. When we arrived to the airport we waited in line forever! But we made it through security with little problems and boarded our 13 hour flight. Lucky for me I was sitting my Anna, another girl who is entergetic and easily distracted like me, so we easily entertained ourselves. Unfortunately, I did not sleep at all...I did get to watch 4 movies, so that was nice I guess. And walk around the cabin a lot. I get a little stir crazy. The only sad part of that entire trip was discovering we could chat with other passengers 30 minutes before we landed. So sad. The next flight was not quite so nice. I was stuck in the back by a smelly man that decided he did not need to turn off electronics ever and that making a phone call while landing is a wonderful idea. I mean I know that nothing happened obviously but I was already on edge and that just made matters so much worse! Luckily we only had one other 1 hour flight and then we were on land!!! YAAAAY. I wanted to kiss it I was so glad to be off of planes. So yes. Now I am here in our hotel. Tomorrow we head for our final destination. Here is to no car sickness and safe travels! Until next time. Much love!