Fun in Livingstone

After 5 and a half weeks working at The Havens in Namwianga we stayed in Livingstone before the group returned home.  The first night, Sunday, we held the first annual HIZ-Path banquet at Olga's Italian restaurant.  The next day we visited Victoria Falls during the daytime and "shopped" at the markets there.  Then we went to The Royal Livingstone for High Tea.  Tuesday we spent the entire day on a safari on and around the Chobe River in Botswana.  Wednesday morning four of us took a 30 minute helicopter ride over the Victoria Falls area and shopped downtown before going on the Lady Livingstone for the sunset cruise on the Zambazie River. Today, Thursday, we will shop a little before Beckie takes me to the airport. I will fly to Johannesburg to meet Coy and we will begin Phase II of my African Adventure! (The remainder of the HIZ-Path group will fly out Friday morning.) Hukana Matada!

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The Protea

We left the Havens and Namwianga Sunday afternoon after church and lunch and drove about two hours to Livingstone.  Right after we  checked into the Protea, Beckie and I drove "Khaki Jackie" a few miles down the road to confirm the safari and sunset cruise.  We saw giraffes, baboons, monkeys, and zebras in protected areas around luxury hotels and spas.  The rugged, dirt road leading to these resorts reminded  me of the roads back home in rural Woodruff County, but the destination was totally Out of Africa!  Most of the hotels here are gated and guarded by men who look like they are police. The lobbies are all open air --  no doors. The landscaping is beautiful with tropical plants and large fountains. The service is excellent and the staff seems to go out of their way to greet us. To those of us who have been in partial isolation for 5 weeks, this is luxury and we are getting used to it very quickly!

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Last Morning in Namwianga

Today is the last day at Namwianga -- and the last day for early morning coffee on the verandah of "Miss" Ellie's house. The last day for a moment of solitude before a busy day. The weather is perfect with an occasonal gentle breeze. I am trying to capture the fresh dry air, picture-perfect sky, bright red, purple, and white flowering trees and bushes just a few feet away, the birds singing,  the neighbor's chicken and an occasional rooster's crow, and, the low rumbling of Leonard's deep voice as he prepares breakfast in his kitchen just beyond the varandah. Truly no worries. Peaceful. 

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On our last night in Namwianga we were served potjie (poi-key) which, according to Sue & Rod,  means "little pot". According to Wikipedia,  a potjie is a social activity, with guests generally engaging in fireside chitchat while the potjie cooks, typically three to six hours.  We were certainly social throughout the afternoon.  Our potjie was actually a stew made in a large dutch oven over an open fire for most of the day.  Sue included "beef", pumpkin, miniature ears of corn, carrots and spices. After we ate Rod told us the beef was wildebeest! Delicious! I had two helpings plus homemade shortbread.  Great food!  

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Zambian Names

One of the things I did today -- the last full day at The Mission -- was to help Beckie and Dan enter names into the comouter and grade tests for 107 students. They taught an introductory speech, language & hearing class at the Namwianga College for two weeks. The names of the students were fascinating.  There's the regular, Perry, Fred, Kenny, Owen, Olivia, & Ruth. And then, there's Given, Tryness, Carnegie, Doka Doka, Origin, Biswell, Cryda, Kindred, Busiku, Rayton, Chondonda, Webbester, Chipango, Decent, Friday, Lucky, Solami, Epherson, Mercy, Keeby, Patience, Tedious, Chaba Chewe, Otan, Modester, Dorcas, Precious, & Pilot to name a few. The last names were difficult--  Mayoba, Kalalambili, Chikange, Ghibondo, Mang'wato, Mudenda, Nyengela, Siamwaampe, Sichoombe, Simuzingili, Sishwashwa, etc I'm glad I don't have to call the roll.

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I copied this from the movie script, "Morning Tears from a Place Called Heaven". Near the end of the story a friend is talking to Kathi Merritt and describing the impact she has made with her work with orphaned Zambian children: "At the dawn of each new day heaven cries for us.  The tears fall to the earth and rest on the blades of grass and the pedals of the flowers. Before anyone from the village has time to wake the dewbreaker will go forth and make a path for the people in the village so that they can stay dry from the tears. The dewbreaker takes the responsibility of brushing back the tears of heaven so that others may not be burdened and can walk peacefully through the path made. ... You are the dewbreaker.  You have soaked up heavens tears for the dying children of this land. You have gone before us and made clear a path for us to follow.  As like every morning there will be tears from heaven tomorrow.  But they will be tears of joy in the lives you have saved and no longer tears of sorrow.  God bless you child.  God bless the Dewbreaker." And God bless Kathi and the hundreds of children she has saved.

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Never Say, "Goodbye"!

We knew it was coming and we thought we were prepared ... and maybe we were.  After twenty-one days of therapy we are just now getting used to the customs and expectations and therapy style. We are experiencing progress in many of the children and even though we don't see progress in some, we know the children have benefited. The morning sessions were somewhat subdued.  Not much singing and  babbling.  Everyone was engaged in taking more pictures trying to capture every nuance. The afternoon sessions went as scheduled. Then we presented each Haven with a beautifully decorated cake and took more pictures. We didn't really say goodbye because tomorrow most of the students will return for therapy or to hang out with the babies.  I think we will never really say goodbye. 

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Beckie & Dan

When I entered graduate school at OLE MISS I kept hearing stories about Dan and Beckie.  They were both finishing their degrees off campus as I had just begun.  I think we met once while in Oxford.  But we became friends when they began working at Harding University back in the late '70's. They have been gracious to me all these years and have included me in some of their ventures. I have truly enjoyed spending time with Beckie and Dan here in Africa.  We've been reminiscing about OLE MISS and sharing stories about our families, trips ee've taken over the years, and crazy experiences we have had.  We have laughed and truly enjoyed each other's company.  It's been good. I am grateful for all the time and efforts Beckie and Dan have given to this Zambian project. HIZ-path is a success. People are hearing about it all over the United States and some are already on the waiting list to come here next year! I am glad I had this opportunity. Beckie has done a fantastic job managing all of us, planning & arranging events, getting necessary documents, making sure she has "crisp bills", caring for various issues and sicknesses we've had,  making sure she has enough quacha, emphasizing the rules, etc.  She seemed to know what the group needed before the group knew. Her intuitions and planning are a result of years of experience and learning from all the right people. Today Dan was reading quotes from  Earnest Hemingway.  He particularly liked this one; "All I wanted to do now was to get back to Africa.  We had not left it yet but when I would wake up in the night I would lie listening homesick for it already."

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Early Morning Coffee

Every morning that I have been here at The Mission I have enjoyed my hot coffee while sitting on the verandah of "Miss" Ellie's house. The mornings have been a chilly 39 degrees here lately. The yard is beautiful with brightly colored tropical plants.  And it is quiet except for the unfamiliar sounds of a few  birds.  By the time I arrive Dan has already made at least two pots of  African coffee. He always greets me with a warm and chipper "Good Morning" as we enjoy our coffee and try to get access to the internet. There are only three mornings remaining. I will fondly remember these times.

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A Movie Script ( for real)

"Morning Tears From a Place Called Heaven" is a movie script written by Jase Kumalo in 2004. It is based on the life of his mother, Kathi Merritt who is originally from Nebraska but has made her home in Namwinanga Zambia for the past 30-plus years.   Jase, also known as "Jason", is in film production in Los Angeles, California.  I Googled  him and discovered that some of his jobs have included key production assistant, production assistant, set production assistant, camera and electrical department, etc. for the following movies:   Funny People  The 40 Year Old Virgin Step Brothers   Charlie Wilson's War Hangover II Bad Teacher Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides Due Date Valentines Day Kathi and I have visited numeorus times throughout my stay here at The Mission.  Today she stopped in at Haven 2 and we engaged in another conversation about her life.  I am fascinated with her remarkable story and told her once again that a movie should be made about her life.  She told me that her son wrote a script some time ago but didn't do anything with it.  Of course, I got excited about it and asked a few more questions.  Kathi offered an opportunity for me to read it.  So she went home and quickly returned with the original script.  I  read all 143 pages within two hours, including the few interruptions.  "Morning Tears From a Place Called Heaven" definately  has potential! It is a story "inspired by" his mother's life, but it is not exactly as things happened, but  its pretty darn close! Jason told his mother that he wanted Helen Hunt to portray her but that was some time ago.  He may have changed his mind by now.  I'm curious so I e-mailed him.  I wonder if he will respond!

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What will I tell them?

Here near the end of our time at The Mission I wonder what I will tell people about this experience.  Will they understand the overwhelming needs of the people here -- the orphans, the HIV/AIDS crisis, the water supply, dependable electricity? It's like explaining The Grove at OLE MISS.  You can use creative, descriptive words and even show pictures, but until you've been there, you will never really understand it until you experience it. The things I will take home with me and share with others are: *the eyes -- especially the eyes of all of the infants and toddlers, happy and sad *witnessing the anticipation from the toddlers who crave attention *hearing the sounds of laughter and squealing with delight *the feeling you have when, after hours and hours of language bombardment, your "baby" responds with a sound or utterance of some sort *the smell of fresh powder on the babies after their bath *the secrets these babies hold *the feeling of exhaustion from almost constant face-to-face therapy -- "bah, bah, bah, mah, mah, mah, dah, dah, dah..." *the mischievous grins from some of our babies *the rhythmic movements the babies make when we sing and recite nursery rhymes *experiencing our toddler's first steps  *the discovery of babbling we didn't know was there *comforting a baby suffering from an earache *the feeling of contentment knowing you have contributed something, no matter how small The things I will tell people are limitless.

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What have I given?

Coming on this mission was risky.  I was out of my comfort zone on many different levels.  I have spent my professional lifetime as a speech-language pathologist in public schools -- the 5 year old children and older population, not  infants and toddlers. But I do know about speech-language development. Very early in this experience I wrote my family and expressed my feelings of inadequacy and questoned what I could possibly give the "babies"  at The Havens.  Of course I received encouragement, but it was my daughter who "laid it on the line": "Mom!!! How could you say that?! You are far from worthless and don't you dare trick yourself into thinking so. Of course you are out of your element!! You're in Africa!!!!! Most people would love to be in your shoes. Most people will NEVER have the chance to go to Mexico much less Africa!! Some people can't see a world outside of Searcy and Augusta Arkansas! And here you are experiencing a gift that is rare. Don't think about how lonely you are. Don't think about your Miller Lite haha ;-). Don't think of the things you THINK you're missing out on. Think of all the lives you are touching. Think about the lives of those kids there and the lives of your "teammates/coworkers you are influencing every day!  Every one of those kids will remember you until the day they die. These moments are rare. Embrace them.... From The frustrating ones, the sad ones, and the 'helpless' ones - to the happy ones, the funny ones, the exciting ones, and the ones that will NEVER leave your heart! ...   I'm not the best advice-giver in the world and I have not walked in your shoes....esp in Africa! But I do know YOU and what you're capable of. Never regret this experience because at one point.....this is exactly what you wanted...Don't wish it away. Don't get sad because that's the same book Mary-Katherine loves. Be happy that her favorite book is being shared by a less fortunate child YOU have the opportunity to help. You are such an amazing woman mom....and you forget that sometimes. NEVER FOR A SECOND FORGET HOW AMAZING AND POWERFUL YOU ARE. These kids and Harding students and teachers are touched by you every moment you speak. Every time you laugh, every time you blink an're that powerful. You move people and change lives more than you know and more than you'll ever know....and you don't even have to do anything! Imagine what you're doing when you do something! Woah! ...I'm so happy you're over there....but I am sad you are gone don't get me wrong....but when I think about the big picture.....I'm so glad you get to touch all the lives of everyone around you. Be happy!!!! Smile! Breathe!! And remember everything I just said. We love you mom. I can't wait to hear from you again. Dad is gearing up for his trip over there!! Yall will have so much fun together! But don't wish it away....that day will come faster than you know....enjoy all these little experiences most people will never  have the chance to be exposed to. I miss you!!!!!  Have a greeaat day momma!!  I love you!" WOW!!...out of the mouths of babes....Thank you, Amanda!

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Rod & Sue Caulder

Rod and Sue are missionaries originally from South Africa. They have three children, two boys and a girl. Emily is sixteen years old and has been attending Harding Academy but she's at Namwianga now. Her older brothers are enrolled in college in the states. Rod attended Abilene Christian University where he received a graduate degree in bible (and he is reportedly a very good Bible teacher).  He and Sue went to Namwianga where they served as house parents at Haven 1 for a few years. Rod also taught at the school. He is also a handyman and seems to be able to fix about anything.  He can build fires, transport people, and answer about any question you may have.  A group of people from Canada convinced Rod and Sue to leave the Havens and start a small orphanage and farm in Seven Fountains, which is a village a few kilometers from Namwianga. The orphanage worked well for about 6 years. The Caulders decided to come to Harding University as Missionaries in Residence where Rod taught Bible. This job only lasted nine months because their visa was denied on a technicality. And in March 2012 they were given one week to leave the states. The Caulders returned to Namwianga. Rod teaches Bible and agricultural at the college. They are currently applying for visa approval to return to the states and teach at Harding University. Rod and Sue are very knowledgable about customs in various countries. Sue is a "take charge" person.  She has knack for managing large groups, including cooking, buying supplies, planning transportation, managing the housing at the mission, and whatever is needed. Her organizational skills and thoughtfulness of group management seems to be her forte.  Our stay here at The Mission wouldn't have been the same without them. They are very much appreciated.

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"There are over  1.3 million orphans in Zambia. ThenNamwianga Mission supports orphans in caring for newborn and medically vulnerable children with emphasis on returning children to their home at the appropriate time." (from website) Steven is our newest. He is the second baby received at The Havens since we've been here.Steven is the seventh baby to a mother who is dying of cancer.  All we know is HIV negative,  inoperable cancer, and an inability for the family to care for this newborn. What a lucky baby to have the opportunities to thrive at The Havens!

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Rod & Sue

Rod and Sue Caulder are missionaries originally from South Africa. They have three children, two boys and a girl. Emily is sixteen years old and has been attending Harding Academy but she's at Namwianga now. Her older brothers are enrolled in college in the states. Rod attended Abilene Christian University where he received a graduate degree in bible (and he is reportedly a very good Bible teacher).  He and Sue went to Namwianga where they served as house parents at Haven 1 for a few years. Rod also taught at the school. He is also a handyman and seems to be able to fix about anything.  He can build fires, transport people, and answer about any question you may have.  A group of people from Canada convinced Rod and Sue to leave the Havens and start a small orphanage and farm in Seven Fountains, which is a village a few kilometers from Namwianga. The orphanage worked well for about 6 years. The Caulders decided to come to Harding University as Missionaries in Residence where Rod taught Bible. This job only lasted nine months because their visa was denied on a technicality. And in March 2012 they were given one week to leave the states. The Caulders returned to Namwianga. Rod teaches Bible and agricultural at the college. They are currently applying for visa approval to return to the states and teach at Harding University. Rod and Sue are very knowledgable about customs in various countries. Sue is a "take charge" person.  She has knack for managing large groups, including cooking, buying supplies, planning transportation, managing the housing at the mission, and whatever is needed. Her organizational skills and thoughtfulness of group management seems to be her forte.  The Caulders certainly enhanced our trip!

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New Baby

There are over  1.3 million orphans in Zambia. Namwianga Mission supports orphans in caring for newborn and medically vulnerable children with emphasis on returning children to their home at the appropriate time. Steven is our newest. He arrived yesterday. He is the second baby received at The Havens since we've been here. Steven is the seventh baby to a mother who is dying of cancer.  All we know is mother is HIV negative,  inoperable cancer, and an inability for the family to care for this newborn. What a lucky baby to have the opportunities to thrive at The Havens! My hope is that we leave The Mission Friday without experiencing a death. I'd much rather deal with a new life!

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I have refrained from writing about how much I miss Coy because it would make missing him worse. We are approaching our 38th wedding anniversary. But we've  been together since 10th grade, so I guess you could say we've been together 44 years! The point is we have not been apart in all these years except when I have been away on business or with family or when Coy has elk hunting, which is about ten to twelve days -- the longest time we've ever been apart. So, this trip to Namwianga has presented the biggest challenge ever: being way from Coy for 5 weeks AND having limited access to Internet & phone services.  I have tried my best to focus on therapy and enjoy the experience, but my heart is with Coy. I do look forward to "Phase II" of my African experience: the safari! I look forward to seeing Coy in J'burg soon!

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Kasibi The trip to Kasibi was an adventure. Kasibi is a small village with a church-- nothing else: a few huts visible from the road and a church where Leonard serves as an elder, so we call it "Leonard's church".  Kasibi is located deep in the bush, which means "back woods" or "in the sticks" to us.  It was about a 30 minute ride in a 4-wheel drive going very slowly over dusty, rugged terrain. The church building was concrete with tin roof, like almost all buildings here.  (Wood is not used because of the termites.) The church is about the size of our kitchen and dining room.  The women sit on one side and the men on the another. We sat on rugged benches with no backs.  There was prayer, praise, singing, communion, collection, and a sermon that was translated into Tongan....three hours worth. Hard bench got harder! The students knew they were going to be  invited to sing so they were well prepared.  They had been practicing for weeks. It was a proud  moment for their choir director and was well received.   After the service we walked down the dirt road to Leonard's house and ate fried chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, roll, fruit, and snicker-doodle...not what I expected.  I drank a Sprite...probably the best Sprite glass bottle. Cold. After lunch the local village band played songs using their homemade instruments. The villagers danced in a circle around the band and so did we...however my hips have never moved like the village people -- don't think they can! Frankly I was scared to try...thought I might throw my back out or dislocate a hip joint.  The dancers typically tie a chiatange around their lower waist for dancing -- it accentuates the hip movement. I think it was strange to go from structured worship and praise to the sexual gyrations after church. All of us white folks were too stiff and had little beat. One woman danced as she nursed her baby!  We took lots of pictures.  I was particularly glad to get a picture of Leonard and his 100- year old Dad.  (He has been 100 for several years now.  No one really knows how old he is, so they all say he is 100.) The Kazibi field trip was one of the highlights of our visit here at Namwianga. 

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"Miss" Ellie

Miss Ellie's Zambia home is The Hamby House.  It is the hub of action. Things "just happen" when she is here in Namwianga, or anywhere for that matter. I've been hearing story after story about Miss Ellie so I was eager to meet this fascinating, spunky 74 year old woman. She has a sharp mind and quick wit and she is an astute business woman -- a move and shaker, a real matriarch. Miss Ellie  and her late husband, Kelly,  built their house in Namwianga and nurtured this village. (yes....Kelly & Ellie!)  They ministered to and are devoted to the people here.  Miss Ellie is a widow.  Her husband died about 6 years ago. They have two children who are now, of course, are grown. When Miss Ellie arrived here Thursday it was like a scene in the movies when the boss lady returns home after a long trip. Servants brought in boxes, suitcases, packages, groceries, etc. Dinner had been prepared and we were all anxiously awaiting her arrival. The villagers busied themselves preparing for Miss Ellie's stay.  Fences were painted, trees trimmed, trash burned, lawns manicured, etc. The medical mission is about to start and there will be about a hundred  people here so things are really different around here.  Miss Ellie is a professional photographer.  I googled her: "Eleanor (Ellie) Hamby has been photographing people and wildlife all over the world for many years. Her specialty is capturing the faces of people and particularly the Tonga's of Southern Zambia. She has had solo exhibitions of her photography in the United States and Africa and does numerous speaking engagements concerning her photography. Her photos have been on the cover of magazines and she has had extensive newspaper coverage in Zambia and the USA of her photography. Ellie's love affair with the faces of people began many years ago. Her late husband, Kelly, and she traveled to over 80 countries and lived in Zambia, Africa for six years. She always travels with her camera at her side, relying on her camera and her sense of capturing, through the lens, a person's emotions. Ellie feels a face expresses the hardship or hope in a person. She sees in each expression a whole spectrum of emotions: happiness, joy, toil, sadness, hopelessness, and contentment. Sometimes an entire life story can be glimpsed by the expression in a face." She is a legend.  Her photos are sold in numerous places throughout Zambia.  I purchased numerous items featuring her photos -- postcards, note cards, and various sized photographs.  I am excited to be with Miss Ellie, the only true adventurer I know. 

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Jordan's Rock

Jordan's Rock is a large outcropping of smooth rock amidst tall brown grass and a few trees. I understand it has been used for hundreds of years and the missionaries used it back in the 1930's.  At that time there was a creek close by which was used for baptism but the riverbed dried up so it is primarily used as a place for celebration.  Ian's birthday is June 9.  Each year that Dan and Ian are here, the team celebrates on the rock -- Jordan's Rock. This year was no different.  We had a fire and roasted hot dogs and fixed s'mores. Of course, Leonard prepared a fabulous birthday cake which we carefully transported.  We took pictures, ate, laughed, and visited... And Miss Ellie was in charge.  Our 24person transport bus made it most of the way but the plowed, hardened ground prevented us from driving all the way to the rock. So we had to walk over very rough terrain for a short distance but it was worth it.  The sunset was beautiful.  As the fire died down the students sang a number of songs and Mr. Merritt closed our celebration with a prayer. Ian wouldn't have had it any other way (except for his mama to have been there, too.)

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Sibajene ( pronounced "See bah Jen a", or JJ for short)is one of "my" babies. He is about 20 months old and intrigues me because of his quirky, mischieveous little smile that he allows to express occasionally. He knows more than he expresses. After 13 hours of individual "in your face" therapy, JJ imitated the therapist yesterday. A miricale! I almost cried! Babbling. Good sounds!

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"Bah" Leonard

Bva Leonard Sichimwa (pronounced "See chim wah") is our cook. (To pronounce the word "bva", combine the /b/ & / v/, but it sounds like "bah" to most of us.  "Bva"is used as a sign of respect like our use of "Mister".)   Leonard's business card reads, "Senior Chef Zambia Medical Mission". But he is our chef, too.  Years ago Leonard was originally hired as a security guard, probably because of his macho presence. But the job did not suit him because of his kind heart and gentle manner. He is about 6 feet, 4 inches and muscular. He once picked up a railroad crosstie single handedly which earned him the name, "Rambo", although his is far from Sly Stalone.  But this gentle giant is kind and patient as he quietly goes about his business trying to accommodate his customers.  Leonard lives in Namwianga but his  hometown is Kisibi, where he serves as a village elder.  His mother died a few years ago but his father is still alive, although no one knows how old his father is-- maybe 100!  Leonard's first wife died a number of years ago. They had 2 children. His current wife teaches at the primary school.  They have about 3 children.  No one knows Leonard's age but I guess early 70's. Leonard's son, Harold, is his assistant.  Our favorite foods they prepare are: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cream gravy, chicken spaghetti, taco soup & cornbread.  And the cake, chocolate cake, banana cake, all of which are elaborately decorated. Many times Leonard uses icing to write messages on the cakes. Messages like, "Welcome HIZ-Path.", "Welcome Home Miss Hamby, Kel, James.", or simply "Chocolate Cake."  or if Leonard adds extra chocolate he writes, "chocolate T Cake." (note the period at the end of his message)! His other main dessert is banana pudding. Miss Ellie reportedly taught Leonard how to cook which explains the traditional Southern meals.  Each Thursday Leonard prepares an authentic African meal which consists of pan fried chicken (which is very tough), cooked cabbage, rice, rape, and, of course, Sheema and sauce.  He is proud to serve us and we graciously oblige.  We have been around Leonard about 3 weeks.  He is reportedly in pain and is on medication for neuroapathy so he has relied heavily on Harold to help meet our needs. Now that Miss Ellie is home his spirits seem to be  lifted. She will see to it that he gets the proper medical treatment -- and pronto! We all love and respect Leonard. He has invited us to his church tomorrow. That experience will be a Blog in itself!

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The electricity goes off each Tuesday evening for about 3 hours. But sometimes it goes of on Thursday or Sunday. I try to keep my I-pad charged and my flashlight handy at all times. They are just as important as my passport and yellow fever card.  For the people who live here, it's a way of life. I somewhat enjoy hearing the kids scream when the lights go out. They settle down quickly and busy themselves with games and singing. The first time I experienced the power outage was our first night here at the mission.  I unpacked using my headlight and began feeling an overwhelming feeling of homesick. So I called Coy to let him know we had arrived safely.  Big mistake. I cried when I heard his voice and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't keep my voice strong.  Last Sunday just as we approached the church the power went out so we stood in the light of the full moon.  Shortly everyone entered a dark building and filled it once again to capacity.  The white people had flashlights. Business as usual. I am used to the power outages now. I am prepared. 

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Caring & Sharing

Per Beckie's request all of the female graduate students & supervisors (about 20 of us) held a "care and share meeting" at our house.  We were free to say whatever was on our hearts and minds and we each were asked to share "one thing" that was special.  The words and stories  flowed. (and,  no one could limit their response with ONE thing)! Although the stories were different and unique and  humorous and touching there was one thing that was consistent-- we all celebrated the little things in "the babies" we serve:    *a smile    *grasp with 2 hands    * a look    *laughter    *an anticipatory response    *a gesture     *a sound or a word    *a step Little blessings. Big impact. Lucky babies!

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Victoria Falls

Taking advantage of the full moon and with about half of our therapy time remaining,  we took a break and made a quick trip to Livingstone to view the lunar rainbow at Victoria Falls in Livingstone.   Victoria Falls is one of the seven wonders of the world! It is also called Tokaleya Tonga: the cloud that thunders.  On one side is Livingstone, Zambia & the other is Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  According to Wikipedia, "It is much larger than Niagra Falls. While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is claimed to be the largest. This claim is based on a width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft)[3] and height of 108 metres (354 ft), forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world...There are no mountains, escarpments, or deep valleys which might be expected to create a waterfall, only flat plateau extending hundreds of kilometres in all directions. The spray from the falls typically rises to a height of over 400 metres (1,300 ft), and sometimes even twice as high, and is visible from up to 50 km (31 mi) away. At full moon, a "moonbow" can be seen in the spray instead of the usual daylight rainbow... David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, is believed to have been the first European to view the Victoria Falls — which he did from what is now known as 'Livingstone Island' in Zambia, the only land accessible in the middle of the falls. David Livingstone gave the falls the name 'Victoria Falls' in honor of his Queen..." So much for the history lesson!  Here's what I will remember about one of the Seven Wonders of the World:    *the Japanese guy who stood in front of the audience and directly in front of me for about 95% of our viewing!     *the Japanese couple standing in front of everyone (not related to the inconsiderate young man who blocked our view). They couldn't operate their camera, so they read their manual using flashlights.      *the young couple from who-knows-where (again standing in front of everyone) making out. Excessively.  Seriously, I will remember the breathtaking beauty and mighty power, the soft mist and perfect weather, the bright glow of the biggest full moon Ive ever seen, and the most spectacular, ever-changing giant moon bow. I will also remember calling Coy to have him hear the roar of the thundering waterfall in the background  ... and wishing he was there, too. Livingstone wrote of the falls, "No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight."

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Zambia is plagued with HIV/AIDS, in fact its an epidemic and the prevalence seems to remain at critical levels.  As I understand it, the  primary means of HIV transmission here is through heterosexual sex and mother-to-child transmission. There appears to be a stigma and much misinformation about HIV/AIDS that prevents people from seeking treatment and care.  This is complicated by a lack of information and the availability of treatment services...and years of customs and traditions.  There are billboards along the highways, especially  near the towns warning the public about HIV/AIDS and encouraging abstinence.  One sign states, "We're all infected until we're tested." When we arrived at the airport, of course we all had to use the restroom.  And right there in the airport facilities are free condoms -- a big box!  In Hawaii people are presented with leis and in  Zambia we are greeted with condoms! What a cultural difference! Last night at church Mr. Merritt preached and the topic was ... abstinence. Since AIDS is so prevalent, educating the public is critical even in church.  Mr. Merritt was explicit in his presentation and warned the men that circumcision is not protection, which is a common belief. He captured the audience's attention using two different colored marbles and placing them in a bag.  He required each of the twelve male "volunteers" standing on stage to draw out a marble.  If it was red, then they were dead and if it was white it was alright (he didn't use those words but probably should have). Then, those men remaining had to draw again and again until all were "dead".  Probability proven. Point well made.

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Today started out as a typical Sunday morning in Namwianga.  Following church and lunch  everyone was on their own until the 5:00 dinner time.  Some slept, some read, some worked, some played,  and some got lucky enough to access the internet.  I was strolling around the yard searching for pictures to capture with my camera when I noticed the excitement in front of the main house -- "The Hamby House" - the house with the verandah on which we eat each meal.  The headquarters.  A shipment from the states arrived with much needed supplies for the clinic and the Havens. It was a big deal and it took almost all afternoon. About twenty-five men came to help unload and deliver the goods. And a policeman showed up to supervise. He rode his bicycle from Choma.  No gun.  There was the usual bit of confusion and organized chaos, but all went well.  It was a good day! 

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Mrs. Mono

Mrs. Mono is gifted.  She is a seamstress who can literally  make anything. I have been hearing about her talents over the years from Dan & Beckie and the students  so I was sure to purchase something.  Mrs. Mono lives next door and was eagerly awaiting her potential customers. Beckie and I were first.  We  got first pick of her goods: purses, wallets, headbands, aprons, rugs, covers for i-pads, and if she didn't have what you want, she will make it for you to perfection -- and in record time! Mrs. Mono certainly lived up to and exceeded my expectations ... and her salesmanship abilities match her sewing talent! When she was  very young Beatrice Mono's mother sent her to sewing school for two years. Her first job was making uniforms for the school children. She uses a 1950's sewing machine which was originally purchased for repairs of the tents for the medical mission. Mrs. Mono admitted that she sleeps very little and prefers to sew at night so she can work uninterruted.  Some of her profits go to The Mission and some help send her family through school.  Mrs. Mono's husband is a teacher but we didn't meet him during our stay.  They have four sons and a daughter.  Two of the sons went to college and one son is married and has a child. The family also raises chickens and grows tomatoes, so they certainly have an entrepreneurial spirit! For the first time since Beckie has been coming to Namwianga Mrs. Mono invited her for dinner and I was invited! Wow! Dinner out on Saturday night! Our hostess gifts for  Mrs. Mono included  a small calculator and a collection of buttons. I also presented her with a silver metal fish with the engraved words, "Jesus said, follow me and I will make you fishers of men". I explained that my father designed this little fish, had them mass produced, and gave them to many people.  I told her it was an honor for me to give her one -- the first in Africa!   Mrs. Mono's table had been set and was covered with a white lace cloth. I felt that she was proud to unveil her specially prepared food but I think she was more proud to have us sitting at her table. The meal began with the traditional hand washing. Mrs. Mono placed a large empty bowl in front of me, and as I sat at her at her table she poured warm water over my hands and then Beckie's hands. She asked Beckie to offer a prayer then she served pan fried chicken, rice, potatoes, a sauce for the rice, slaw with tomatoes, and lemonade. As we enjoyed each other's company I sensed the deep respect that each of us share.  Mrs. Mono expressed her gratitude to Beckie for making the efforts to sell some of her products. She repeatedly said, "You are blessed."  After dinner Beckie was presented with a beautiful hand made skirt and she gave me one of her famous purses.  We assured Mrs  Mono we will visit one more time before we leave The Mission.  I have a friend in Zambia!

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For two weeks now all I've seen of Ruth is flat affect. At first her cries were like a water faucet- on about as fast as off. But mostly she has no response. Yesterday the girls brought a plastic container with different shaped blocks. We bombarded "the babies" with speech. Then we decided to see what would happen if we placed the toys in the center of their little circle and say nothing. Suddenly Ruth made a sound, then more and more-- no distinguishable words, but clear intent! We quickly discovered that Ruth is possessive. She wants the toys -- all of them. It was an amazing thing to watch.  Then, Ruth stood up and took a few steps independently! Oh My, the secrets these children hold! 

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Mr. Phiri

Mr. Phiri (sounds like "Peiry")  is a very humble and  important man.  You can see it in his posture, his dress, and his confidence. He is well educated. He was educated in the states and has a Masters Degree in linguistics.  According to those who know him, Mr  Phiri always seems to have a smile and never seems flustered. He reportedly does well delegating responsibility, which, to me, indicates a natural leader. Mr. Phiri  is superintendent of The Mission, which includes the schools, clinics, and hospitals. He knows a lot of people, understands the law, and has much respect for those who help The Namwianga Mission.  He owns and operates a farm near Choma, is in charge of the water supply, the radio station, and runs the farm at The Mission. Needless to say,  he is somewhat of an entrepreneur.  As busy as he is, Mr. Phiri almost always makes time for Ian, Dan's 15 year old. Ian reports that Mr. Phiri is easy to talk to and is interested in and helped him with his Eagle Scout project.  Ian says, "...he does what he can to help". Mr. Phiri is held in high regard. He is definitely "a mover and shaker" -- a major influence in this community. And, he is a promoter of speech-language pathology in this area! And, as Beckie says, "He gets it"! On their exploratory trip to discover the possibility of services in Zambia, Dan, Beckie, and Sarah met Mr. Phiri in the fall of 2007. Following introductions and a welcome dinner at "Miss" Ellie's house on their first night, Mr. Phiri reported that he thought the possiblity of services for the infants, babies, and toddlers is a "gift from God". Mr. Phiri's team had been told they must come up with a new program and they had  exhausted all of their options. Speech-language therapy at The Mission seemed to be just what they needed. That year Mr. Phiri accompanied Dan, Beckie, and Sarah to Lusaka to meet the Minister of Education (they were even interviewed on the Zambian TV). Since then Dan and Beckie have maintained and deepened their friendship with Mr. Phiri.  I was honored to have met and visited with Mr. Phiri at breakfast yesterday. 

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Last night after dinner Dan, Beckie and I got to talking to Kara about The Rebels and Oxford in general.  Kara's boyfriend is from Tupelo and is a die-hard Rebel fan. So she wanted to know more.  Bless her heart. She was bombarded with information. So topics were rapid-fire and ranged from Hugh Freeze to The Bottletree, to Double Decker, the Rebel Yell, and.... The Grove, ETC!.  We talked on and on into the night. Poor Kara. 

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June 1, 2012

Today is our granddaughter's first birthday! I am a little sad that I won't be there to celebrate (and see her little brother...yes, she really DOES have a little brother 11 mo apart!). While here at the Namwianga mission I have thought of her often.  I have also thought of how fortunate I have been to have been blessed with a rich childhood.  I say "rich" because the words, the language, the experiences, the constant love and support  our parents gave  my brothers and me was more than enough. The same is true for my husband.   How lucky, we are. So what an inheratance! I am now witnessing "the richness" in our grandchildren.  I feel so much pride when I watch our son interact with his daughter. I don't tell him much. I don't have to.  And I couldn't ask for a better daughter-in-law. She is such a natural, so carefree, happy, and spontaneous.  She has also been blessed with a wonderful, supportive family. What blessings!  So, Mary-Katherine, a very happy birthday! And, on this day and every day, "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." Much love, MeeMe

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Yesterday I worked with Leah.  Up until now she was a somber least with our group. We sat in a circle facing each other singing songs, playing and talking. I decided to pick her up, put her on my knees and "get in her face".  She watched intently as I produced reduplicated syllables and non-speech sounds like "blowing raspberries". She seemed to like it. When I repositioned her to face the group of clinicians and her peers, she clearly indicated she wanted face to face time. So that's what she got! And, lo and behold, a smile then a giggle, then more and more. Happy Day! Smile! Imitation! A positive response! As Carla would say, "Now, THAT'S what I'm talkin' 'bout, girlfriend!"

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Abdominal Pain

I started feeling "it" Sunday night but just a little, so I convinced myself  it was my imagination. Then Monday just a little more abdominal pain. Generalized abdominal pain. Uncomfortable.  No diarrhea or nausea or vomiting.  Just pain.  This morning I woke up with the pain but thought it would go away w a little breakfast or the walk to the Havens. I even did a few stretches  trying to work it out.  But it progressively got worse no matter how hard I tried to deal with  it.  I ended up laying on the Auntie's sofa during therapy and trying to relax or sleep. But one wave of cramping after after a other. By then I was feeling 9 months pregnant with a 10 pound baby & constant twisting pain!  I rode home in the jeep instead of walking the mile home and I felt every bump in the road and by then, extreme pain. Sometimes I held my breath. It's the worst trapped gas ever! Gas-X was ineffective. As soon as I got home I took Pepto-Bismol & laid in my bed. It really didnt feel that much better when lying on my side. No relief. The pain was similar to getting out of bed the first time after a C-section.  Pain.  Then chills & fever. Luckily there was a Sprite in the ref.  Beckie brought lunch & dinner and hung out at the house w me, although I wasn't hungry & I slept most of the time. She appeared to be on high alert.   By 11:00 p.m. I was feeling much better. Pain gone & wishing I could eat. 

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Roy & Kathi

I have always been interested in the lives of other people.  The Roy Merritts are no exception.  Roy's father, Dow, and his wife, Helen Pearl, were "pioneer missionaries". Roy was born in 1944 and grew up on the Namwianga Mission.  He attended Harding University in the mid '60s and returned to Zambia in 1968 and has been here ever since.  He married Kathi in '93 and had one child; however they have many, many Zambian children.  Following the death of her husband Kathi settled here. Her former husband was Zambian and they had two children who now live in the states.  Kathi  is the ultimate caregiver.  She has mothered and nursed "'many' and 'very many'" orphaned Zambian children.  And, although she says she's retired, she continues to work tirelessly.  This couple dedicated and invested their lives in the people here and it is evident. Roy wrote a book that was published in 2001 and entitled, Potholes:  Ups & Downs on Zambia's Mission Road. His book is very interesting and quite poetic. Good read. 

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I will admit, I can't live without the Internet -- a consistent, reliable Internet.  I find it frustrating to have the promise of Connection but end up staring at a little round disc in the upper left corner of my screen and hoping that THIS time I'll be able to send or receive mail. For 2 days now the message says "sending 1 of 5". I begin to wonder... Will Draino help this clogged system?

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This is the second Sunday we have attended the church here.  I don't know how many the church seats, but it's full -- Sunday morning and  especially Sunday night. My conservative guess 200, mostly young people. I've never been around so much singing! I'm amazed at the number of songs that are sung in each service - about 15, not counting the songs that are sung twice!

Then there's the preaching.  Unfortunately, I only understand  about one of every eighth word, so comprehension is marginal at best.  Tonight I thought I was hearing  the word, "sparrow" over and over.  I later discovered the word was "inspiring".  Kind of messed up the message.

During the prayer, the people don't just continue siting upright and bow their heads, they bow their upper torso. This makes us white people really stand out. 
During the alter call one young man stepped up and went on stage.  "The Old Man", Mr. Merritt, went up onto the stage and quietly talked with him, then offered a prayer for the safety of the young man's family. I wish I knew the story. 

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Spiders. We all know that Africa has bugs and spiders and lizards, and snakes, etc. I knew the girls going on this mission would be frightened so before we left so I prepared a Social Story and made several copies to share. Several girls read the story. Some disagreed, especially about the part that says something like, Spiders won't hurt me! I have seen several spiders but so far nothing has scared me. besides, what good will screaming do? As I get ready for bed tonight I think I'll read the story again (therapy)!

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We ate bobotie for lunch today. Its a South African dish made with ground beef, spices, raisins, onions,  an omelet-like topping, and garnished with lemon leaves served with a side dish of chutney. Sue, the woman who made the dish, said it is a Malaysian dish, meaning it was adopted by the Cape Malay community of So Africa. Sue's husband, Rod, gave us the history of the dish.  We also had curried rice, green beans mixed with mahsed potatoes, spiced pumpkin, and pumpkin fritters.  What a special treat! I need to walk...too full to run!

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Signs of Gratitude

One of the things I notice is some Zambians place their hand over their heart and bow slightly indicating "thank you".  Maybe it is also a sign of deep respect and being humble.  Sometimes the night watchman will greet me in this manner.  I am reminded of the gestures of southern gentlemen. They would tip their hat and slightly nod their head . My daddy and Mr. Tom Stanley did that.   Yesterday we went to Choma to experience the market and visit the museum. Part of our "field trip" was picnic on the grounds of the museum.  The weather was ideal, in fact, it was perfect.  Each of us were provided with a soft drink, rotisserie  chicken, "chips" (French fries), bread, & cookies.  The chicken & chips were wrapped together and included ketchup and a plastic fork.  Beckie purchased an extra order in case someone was extra hungry but no one wanted it.   Beckie intended to give the extra chicken & chips to the guard at the museum gate but he wasn't there. She noticed a woman going through the trash and offered her our leftover lunch. The woman immediately engaged in the traditional Zambian handshake thanking Beckie for the food.  And, in the blink of an eye, the woman fell to her knees in front of Beckie. I didn't witness it but I know it was the deepest sign of gratitude anyone could offer.  Beckie fought back the tears.

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Typical day

One of my favorite times of the day is sitting on the verandah in the early morning drinking coffee, checking my e-mail &reading and writing.  The time I like least is after dinner because there's not much to do. We usually talk and plan. It gets very dark and seems very late but it's only 6:30! I usually spend my time reading and writing. And, I am usually exhausted. Some of us supervisors try to leave the students to themselves at night as they play games or cards.  Sometimes Webster, one of the night watchmen, teaches the students songs in Tongan.  It's truly a win-win: Webster wants to be a choir director, and the students are eager to learn.  One night they practiced on our porch. I felt that I was being serenaded. Beautiful music! 

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There's a fire!  After dinner the students were washing dishes and others were engaged in other activities.  I sat on the verandah trying to access the Internet.  I noticed what I thought was the glow of the sunset. The thought of taking a picture was on my mind but I was about to be connected with the illusive Internet.  Suddenly I heard the unmistakable sound of fire eating dried grass, brush, and trees.  Zambians are notorious for burning but this was a little too much and way too close to one of our thatched roof houses.  What a sight! Everyone was scrambling and some were near panic.  The students started brining buckets of water to fight the fire.  I wonder if the one Zambian man who initiated the burn was glad for our help. PS I'm trying to figure out how to post pictures. More to come!

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Therapy -WEEK ONE: we assessed 78 infants & toddlers, found out a little background & started therapy. My particular schedule is: 9:30-10:30 (language therapy) we work with 7 toddlers ranging in ages 16-20 months  10:30-11:30 (language stimulation & trunk control) we work with 4 babies ranging in ages 5-9 months  11:30-12:15.(language enrichment) we work with 5 toddlers ranging in ages 27 months to 3 years, 8 months Return to "camp" for LUNCH  Then from 2:30 - 3:30 we work with 4 toddlers ranging in ages 13 months to 21 months From 3:30-4:15 each graduate student works with one baby they have chosen as a particular interest.  The other language groups are supervised by other very competent SLPs, including those proficient in feeding and swallowing.  This kind of therapy may appear laid-back, but it  is very demanding.  There are very few materials so we all have to be creative. Of course there is lots of "face to face" time where we are trying to elicit something, a movement, a gesture, a sound, or even if the baby is able to suck a bottle with minimal leakage.  So, Week one was intense and successful. We all walked away learning something new and the babies certainly will benefit.  Yesterday the assistant to the Minister of Social Welfare visited The Havens for a surprise inspection.  She was escorted by a policeman.  The facility passed the inspection and stands as a model for others. We heard that our involvement and work was impressive to the official as well.

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  Last Sunday I thought I'd dress up, so I wore a Chitenge  (and, yes, I wore leggings underneath. Chitenge is traditional dress for women in Africa. It is simply a piece of fabric wrapped around the waist and tied. So, "when in Rome..." I bought several pieces of colorful fabric in the village and selected one to wear on Sunday. And I wore it proudly. I've worn a Chitenge every day.  One day while at work at The Havens it almost fell off so I asked one of the Aunties to tie it for me.  As she began tying she realized I'm not as thin as she thought, so she had to tie it differently. I started teasing her and laughing. The other Aunties watched and laughed as I clowned around. I pretended to be Scarlet in GWTW. I couldn't breathe very well & I walked,like a Chinese woman. I enjoyed sharing the laughter.  I am so ready for pants! 

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Names.  One of the first things we do when we have a baby is use her name. Names here are interesting.  Sibajente (See bah Jen a). Twapagwa. Botias, Chilala. Chabonwa. Chileleko. Do you notice a pattern? The language here typically includes vowels are at end of words, especially E & A (long vowel), so Matt is "Mattie" & Kurt is "Kurtie" But then there's Ruth,  Paula, Mary, Robert, & Macus. And THEN we hear the Aunties call  Sibagente "JJ" or "Seebah"! No wonder the children dont respond when we call their name. When the native names are translated to English, we have "Cabinet", " Pencil", "Bicycle",  "Blister", or "Cedar" so the Aunties give the babies an English name.

So far there's no baby named Dixie!

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The Havens

Stats. I am NOT a numbers person! But I became obsessed with finding out a few things about The Havens, which is the orphanage in Nanwianga. There are 3 buildings full of infants and toddlers who have been abandoned or are without parents--(these numbers will change tomorrow!); so, today, Haven 1 has 31 new borns and infants; Haven 2 has 27 toddlers, Haven 3 has 20 babies & toddlers who need medical attention. 

Almost all of the parents of these children have HIV, both positive and negative. A very large percentage of the mothers have died, many during childbirth. Some of the mothers who died were positive for HIV, some had TB, retained placenta, malaria, cancer, and other reasons.   Many mothers were reportedly mentally ill; i.e., "she got mad". Sometimes the infant is dropped off at the Haven because the family simply has no means to care for the baby. There may be 10 children in one family. Sometimes there is no formula and peanut water or a wet nurse is used. 

 I find myself telling the babies, "You are so lucky." There are a few times when the family returns to the Haven to get their child. So what a great start these babies had! They are well fed.  Their diapers are changed, they are bathed, and vaseline is applied to their faces to protect them from the dry air. 

In the scheme of things, we play such a small part of these children's lives.  I'm glad to be involved.

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First Day of Therapy

Today is the first formal day of therapy! Yesterday our team assessed 78 infants and toddlers. The assessment included an observation of basic things:  sucking,swallowing, & feeding, trunk control, eye contact & ability to track, responding to name and sound, imitation of movement and sound or speech, and basic cognitive abilities.  Instead of using formal standardized assessments or checklists, we relied on things we have learned and experienced. The graduate students were assigned their "clients", although the word "clients" seems odd in this setting because they are more like "our babies".  The evening was spent planning for tomorrow's sessions. 

One of the exciting moments for me yesterday was discovering that several of the nipples used on the bottles were cracked or had wholes in them.    One of our leading team experts in feeding and swallowing showed the Aunties what to look for and explained why it is so critical to have a "good" nipple.  This simple observation will make a profound difference in the infant's sucking/swallowing abilities, nutrition, and overall health. What a revelation! 

Yes, we really do take things for granted!

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Confidence. Auntie Jennifer said in the children's  bible class she conducted,  "Hold up your hand! Hold up your hand with confidence!" I thought about that for a while.  It takes confidence  to raise your hand. It takes confidence to volunteer.  And it takes courage to give the impression that you have confidence.  One of the veteran students on this mission said he walks through the airport and through customs like he knows what he's doing.  That's confidence. I will take his advice and approach this day with confidence!

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Stories. I love to hear stories expressed by those who have the gift of oral expression. Some of us just tell stories and get the message across. Others totally captivate the audience and embrase us with their words.

While here in Zambia I am exposed to so many stories. I want to remember them all. Yesterday we listened to Dr. Weaver and Dr. Tullos tell story after story. The words flowed and my visual imagery was working overtime. I found myself like a little girl sitting at the feet of wise people. Good storytellers.

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Almost everyone loves babies. The students who have been to The Haven tell story after story of The Babies. The students traveling with us talk with anticipation of working with The Babies. So finally we met The Babies. And there are plenty who are taken care of round the clock by The Aunties.

There are babies who, when you meet them, you instantly form a bond. There are babies whose eyes reflect hope and joy and love. Other eyes reflect sadness. But all eyes are on us and every baby seems to say with their eyes,"Pick Me!"
Two of THE most precious babies are far away in Baton Rouge, LA. MK & TG are our grand babies. These Babies have two awesome parents who love each other and their children. These babies are constantly bombarded with love and surrounded in a nurturing, loving environment. The world should be filled with such.

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Lesson One

Today is Saturday, the second full day in Zambia. The trip was exhausting, but it is clearly what I expected, so I was prepared. I watched 4 movies in between napping and eating and walking the isle, so I was entertained. We stayed in Johannesburg the first night and quickly learned to wait. And wait. And wait. So, I am trying to learn to be patient but it is hard when I expect speed and efficiency. I now understand "WTA" - "Welcome to Africa"! LESSON ONE!

The next morning we flew to Livingstone, Zambia. Before the plane departed, the flight attendant sprayed the cabin with something. It reminded me of the days my brothers and friends and I ran behind the truck pulling the contraption emitting "mosquito spray" (I think it was DDT!) When we arrived at the airport, we went through customs again. Guess what--we had to wait and I thought I had learned LESSON ONE!

We were met by Rod and Sue Calder and escorted to Nanwianga. Their daughter, Emily who had been in school in Searcy, traveled with us. The Caulders even had iced cold drinks for us! The Caulders live and work at the mission and gladly gave us a warm welcome.

The bus ride to The Mission took a little over an hour and we arrived just before dark. We met Leonard the head cook and enjoyed a dinner. Following dinner we went to our assigned living quarters. There are 6 supervisors, including me and 18 students, some of whom are from Abilene Christian. Shortly following our arrival the electricity went out and remained out for a few hours. We unpacked in the dark but I was prepared with my flashlight and headlamp!

Throughout all the hustle & bustle of preparing for this trip I wonder if I will ever really learn LESSON ONE : wait & have patience!

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I took my first anti-malaria pill today!

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Say it from the heart


In preparing for my African adventure I am grateful to have been immersed with the advice from so many people. Advice can be a good thing and it is everywhere. Sometimes we seek advice and sometimes it just comes so naturally. Giving advice is an art and it can be magic. The best advice comes from the heart.

This past weekend I was given the best advice so far ... and it comes from a very wise 10 year old boy who is truly an expert: “Hey, “Miss” Dixie. Watch out for snakes and if you get bit, don’t panic.  Try to stay calm.  Don’t run because the adrenalin will increase your heart rate and you will die faster…. And don’t swim with the hippos. They can bite you in half!”  

I will remember these words.

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Shanti Namaste

One thing is for sure:  I am preparing both physically and mentally for a trip to Africa!  This includes Yoga, which has been around for thousands of years, but I’m just now discovering it! The word, “yoga”, means “to unite”, as in, uniting all aspects of our being (body, mind, emotion, and spirit).  My doctor prescribed it many years ago, but I didn’t heed his advice. 

If you know me well you will often hear me say, “just breathe!” Well, I am taking my own advice and I’m taking it seriously. I recently read “how we breathe is how we live our lives”.  If that’s true, my stress-filled, fight-or-flight adrenaline non-stop day is compounded by poor breathing, robbing my energy, and negatively impacting my mood and mental alertness!

Oh well.  I am making great efforts to breathe properly, improve my posture and flexibility, grow stronger, and … I am learning to relax. So here’s to Downward Facing Dog, Cat and Cow, Plank, Boat Pose, Sun Salutations, Bridge Pose, Corpse Pose, and all the rest!

Shanti Namaste (and thank you, Teresa!)

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Elk and Zambia? Go figure!

I first met Dan and Beckie while in graduate school at OLE MISS back in the 19??. We have worked together and continued our friendship throughout all these years.  Some time ago Beckie shared the marvelous story of how speech-language services through Harding University began in Zambia. She is a wonderful a storyteller -- much like our colleague Sue Hale and mentor, Gloria Kellum, all of whom I hold in high esteem. Beckie always encouraged me, saying  "come join us" and my response was always, "yeah, right!". Well here's how it really happened:

Through our active involvement with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), we met Stan and Jacqueline Burger, owners of Stan Burger Safaris in South Africa.  About a year ago they visited our mutual friends, Cheryl and Bert Haralson, in Augusta, AR. My husband and I were invited to join them and share memories of Cheryl and Bert's  recent African hunt (at the Burger's Safari).  On the way to Augusta I jokingly told my husband that I looked on a map and discovered that Zambia is "just this far" (holding up index finger and thumb indicating about an inch) and, "wouldn't that be funny if I went with Beckie and Dan to Zambia, then went on to South Africa to hunt?" (mind you, I have never killed a big animal...only a turtle and a snake).  Coy turned to me and said, "you wanna go?....think about it....seriously."

So a few weeks later, we were highest bidder at the annual RMEF convention ("Elk Camp") for Stan's hunt and I volunteered to supervise graduate students as they provide language stimulation/enrichment and feeding to the children in Namwianga, Kalomo ZAMBIA!

"Lord Have Mercy" (something my Daddy frequently said, with a long southern drawl...."Loooord Haaaaaave Mercy!")

This was NEVER on "my bucket list"!  I NEVER wanted to travel outside the country again! ... "there are too many things in the United States I want to see!" ....  And here I am....can't wait to go to AFRICA (even though the most challenging thing for me is being away from Coy for 5 weeks while I am supervising students).

Coy has delighted in teaching me all about fire arms and hitting the target! 

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The Beginning

"Amogelesega mo Afrika!" ("Welcome to Africa").  Jacqueline Burger and I review details of our trip to Iwamanzi, which is in the North-West Province of South Africa. She and her husband, Stan, will guide my husband and me on a hunt. Stan has already given me confidence with his encouragement.  My plan is to share in the "first blood" tradition in which I will honor both the zebra and its Creator.

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I am a school-based Speech-Language Pathologist with 36 years of experience and I am about to embark on the experience of a lifetime!

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