Sunday, June 19, 2011

Want to See Africa?

I've been pretty heavy on design/how to posts lately. Which is good and my favorite thing to write about! But, most of my projects are done or not yet to a before and after point yet. So, I thought I would show you Africa! Very very grainy pictures of Africa! 

It seems like so long ago that I was there! Probably because it was! I went between my sophomore and junior years in college in 2003. I had something happen during my sophomore year of college that was really hard to deal with. I felt like it shook me to my core and made me wonder who I was and who I would be after it. I didn't know what to do with those feelings and felt like I just needed to get away. I felt like I needed my life to not be all about me and how bad I was feeling. My parents had both gone on working missions trips oversees (my dad to Surinam and my mom to Scotland one year and Germany the next) and had been trying to persuade me to do the same before I was out in the real world full time! 

I finally gave in. I looked through the catalogue of trips, and picked the most difficult trip I could find. I still have the description somewhere... It described a trip to Mozambique, Africa to build a rescue unit. This unit would be in the middle of the African bush and would give medical care, seeds for growing food, and education on disease prevention. While building the unit the team would stay at an orphanage where there was no running water or toilets, bathing was done out of a bucket, and you would live in tents. The trip would begin by flying from Florida (where there was training on what we would need to do/know) to Ethiopia. From Ethiopia we would fly to Malawi and then drive through the mountains and bush to Mozambique. The travel alone would take a week each way. 

Did I mention I was a fashion major in college at the time? I hadn't worn my hair in a ponytail since I was old enough to do it! I wouldn't even go down to the mailbox without my makeup on! I didn't own a sweatshirt. 

I was a brat.
Case in point.

So, I signed up. And I went. The trip began the week after my sophomore year ended and I got home the day before my junior year ended. Here are some pictures in no particular order. I brought 5 disposable cameras with me (my biggest regret). 4 of them must have gotten damp or something because the pictures are really dark.
Washing my hair out of a bucket in Florida
Putting up rescue unit walls
Embracing being absolutely filthy. Absolutely exhausted after a day of building!
I spy Erin! This is how we got around. Hanging on for dear life on the back of a truck!
The most beautiful sunset you'll find anywhere... 
You can see my tent to the left. This is the orphanage and me holding one of my favorite babies. 
Also the most beautiful cloudy skies you'll ever find! Us on top of the unit.
Our homemade ladder, and me doing my favorite thing... Painting! 
A giant spider. I saw lots of spiders, snakes, crocodiles, monkeys, and hippos!

Time out from the pictures for a minute so I can tell a story! See that spider? Spiders were all over the place!  Taking malaria medicine can cause some strange side effects. Mostly with sleep. I became the crazy tent-mate and would talk, yell, and cry in my sleep. One night I sat straight up and screamed (I've been told. I don't remember this!). I remember waking up during the night and feeling my heart beating in my left eye. It hurt
so bad! I put my hand up to my eye and my hand was wet. I tried to look in the mirror I had in my bag, but it was too dark and I was too tired. I fell back to sleep. As the sun was rising I woke up again. The pain in my eye was horrible. I tried to open it and I couldn't. I looked down at my hand and it had blood on it. I crawled over to my mirror and looked. My eye was gross, puffy, bloody, and swollen shut. I got out of my tent and woke up the head of the orphanage. As soon as he saw me he said we needed to find a doctor. His wife, Charity, needed medicine so I could go with him into the city. We got into his truck and went to a local doctor who told me that I had a foreign matter in my eye. That a spider had probably bit the lid and that I needed medicine he didn't have. This was confirmed when we got into the city. It was so strange being back in a city with electricity and lots of cars. It was also strange that every business closes for hours in the afternoon! After going to both of the pharmacies in the city we discovered that they only had my eye ointment, but not the antibiotic I needed. I would have to go the summer without it. This meant that my eye didn't hurt as much and would sometimes open, but anytime it got dust in it it would turn red and swell shut again. I couldn't see out of it for most of the summer and riding on a truck that had no wind protection down dirt "roads" meant it was constantly swollen shut.

Before I went to Africa I was a nanny for an eye doctor. Due to a mail strike, the head of the orphanage could drive out of the country and send mail, but I couldn't get any for three months. That was hard. Super super super hard! But, I wrote my parents asking that they make an eye appointment for me for the day I got back into the states. Fortunately it just took antibiotics and more eye ointment to fix my eye and it's pretty much fine now! It still is super sensitive to dust and things like that, but it always stays open! When we were shopping on our way home in Ethiopia I wasn't allowed into several shops because they were afraid I would get them sick. It was really scary and frustrating. 
The head of the orphanage's son. And my barely open eye. 
Gross eye again and another sweet baby.
Beautiful Malawi.
The finished unit and the people that will benefit from it! (I'm toward the back on the far right). Most of their parents had died from AIDS, so there were primarily children there. 
The beautiful orphanage I had the pleasure of living at.
The foundation for the unit.
We did all of our cooking here.
Children at the unit. The one on the far right in the middle came to see us every day that we worked on it! 
Look at that sky! The orphanage again! We also built the very shiny silver building on the far right. It was eventually to be another dormitory. The little open hut on the far left was our kitchen.
The tin building 
This family was amazing. They are all siblings. Their mother had just died of AIDS and they were left on their own. The little girl in the purple visited us a lot. They was the reason I went to Africa. Life is so over the top in America that you lose sight of what is important. And what "having a bad day" means to someone else. 
My bathroom.
More of my favorite babies and my disposable camera
In the big roundhouse on one of our last nights. I'm toward the right in the middle in blue.
African church services are so fun!
This picture always makes me cry. The day we left some of the kids were walking to school. We said goodbye to them and then we went down the driveway for the last time. This was taken a few days before we left. On the day we left, the sun was just coming up and the kids and adults ran down the driveway behind us waving and shouting goodbye. 
Inside the tin dorm sawing
We then went to Ethiopia to debrief from our trip and adjust to what going back to the US would be like. While there we stayed on the floor of a school gym. We still didn't have showers or anything, but I did finally wash my hair and take it out of the bandanna! This was before a dinner where we were supposed to dress up and look presentable and not filthy!
Everywhere you drove kids would run after you and wave!
Driving home...

Coming home was amazing and horrible! I still hadn't showered, and doing laundry by hand with a rock can only get you so clean. I was so smelly on my flight I'm sure! I didn't know if my family would be there or know where to find me since I hadn't spoken to, or gotten letters from them the whole summer. Food and ice were soooo amazing! Showering was amazing! Getting into the US was hard. I had a layover in Newark, NJ before I flew on to Chicago. I hadn't read the news all summer. I guess there was a big blackout all over the US. I went to buy a newspaper and magazine. I got in line behind an obese woman who was cursing at her husband and slapping her kid. It made me so sad. This was America. We have everything at our fingertips and this is who we are?! I didn't want to be American. I didn't want to be back. I was so glad to see my family! But so sad to have finally found myself, found God, and found another family in Africa. I got back and felt like I had to find myself all over again. I remember getting back and sitting in class just staring ahead wondering why I was there. Why I was building a powerpoint instead of an orphanage. Why I opened my closet and saw so many options. I cried a lot. I struggled with depression, honestly. My mom took me to a doctor and I rambled on about my identity crisis. I declined medicine. Eventually it did get better, but it was hard to adjust! 

A few months after I got back I got this via email:

thank you for the mail. But there is bad news here
that Charity ****** is no more, she just could not
make it. She passed away last week on friday  night.
I can not say much right now as things are not in good
shape. Simon and Little ******* will need your
We have been shattered by her sudden death.
God bless 

 That was hard. Let me introduce you to Charity. And her husband Simon (the head of the orphanage). And her little boy. 
This was one of the only pictures I could find of the three of them together. Charity was sweet, kind, and quiet. Their love story was amazing. I've never seen a man love a woman as much as he loved her! The orphanage had dirt ramps that went up to each building for Charity's wheelchair. She struggled with bedsores (which was what Simon got medicine for the day that we went into the city). I guess one of them got infected and she died suddenly. We bonded very much over our mutual love of babies. She wrote me the sweetest letter shortly before she died telling me that I was meant to be a mother, and was making a mistake going into fashion. That I should teach. I attempted to switch my major after getting the letter, to education. I was told I was just a class and an internship away from fulfilling my major and that I should move my business minor to a major. I did that, but have always felt that selling stuff to American's that have more than enough is a mistake. Charity was an amazing woman. She was buried in Kenya where she grew up. 

Today I wear this (from the Vintage Pearl):

It helps me remember to not let me trip be in vain. To not be so self absorbed. To remember that life is so much bigger than me.

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