Sunday, June 11, 2017

Zambia - Traveling Home

Saturday, July 3rd
We arrived in Dubai around 9:00am.  We took about a 3 hour nap and ate at the hotel.  Allison and I decided to venture out to pass the time of our 20 hour layover.  We got a day pass on the metro and rode it all the way to the beach.  We had to change trains and walk about 2 blocks.  It took us about an hour.  We were pretty proud of ourselves for navigating successfully!

The beach was pretty, and we ended up finding a spot in front of a hotel to go down to the water.  We stuck our feet in and took a few pictures.  The water was hot!  We didn't stay long because the humidity was AWFUL.  We were literally dripping sweat!  Dubai in the summer feels pretty disgusting!

We tried to rinse our feet off at a shower, but it required a hotel token, so Allison decided it was a bright idea to use the toilet sprayer to rinse hers off. I was laughing so hard, but I was not that brave!  Yuck!

Our train ride back was rather unpleasant as we hit rush hour and became smushed like sardines.  Thankfully we were on the car for women and children only!

We made it back in time for dinner, a shower, and time to pack up.  We headed to the airport around 11:00pm, found a quite little spot to sit, and enjoyed our hour of free wifi.  Delirium quickly set in, though!

The flight back was fine, but it always seems longer on the way back.  It is a great time for reflection, however.  I am thankful for such a wonderful, heart changing week and for the relationships formed over the past 3 times of going.  God is working in mighty ways, all around us and across the globe.  I am glad that I got to see a small part of that.

Zambia - Friday and Saturday

Friday, July 1st
Friday was our last day at school.  We only stayed until 11:00 so we could make it to the end of Camp Life.  My teacher wasn't there because he had to take exams.  He is in school for 4 years to get a degree in special education.

After taking some group pictures, we had morning assembly.  I love hearing their singing voices!  The Grade 5 class even did a special dance for us.  It was good but funny because it was tribal, so there was a lot of hip shaking going on that probably wouldn't have passed at my school in the US! :)

After assembly, I had a chance to do one more activity with each class.  I read the book "You are Special", and we had a discussion about how God made each of them to be unique and special, how much he loves them, and how much they are treasured.  They can never hear this too much!  Often times, they hear things at home like, "You aren't worth anything" and "You can't stay in school or be what you want because you have to help the family."

After the story, I had them draw a picture and tell me why they are special, one thing they want to tell me about themselves, and one thing I can pray for them about. Many of them have a very hard time opening up.  They don't talk about home much, and that's okay.  They know school as a separate place, a safe place to be a kid!

Saying bye is always hard, but I know God has plans for them that are beyond what they can imagine. I looked them each in the eye to tell them that I loved them and would be praying for them.

We loaded the bus at 11:00 with lots of tears in our eyes.  We also go to bring one special little one with us.  His name is Lameck, and he is in Grade 4.  His teacher this week was Michelle.  She noticed that he was holding his paper up to one eye very closely, about 2 inches away, with his head tilted to read.  He was very smart, but he was having difficulty seeing.  One eye looks off, and he just looks very distant.  Her heart quickly became very burdened for him.  She begged for something to be done.  They talked with the field worker, and she said they had tried to take him to get glasses, but it was too expensive.  It was clear to us that it was more than needing glasses.  

Because our God is awesome, and plans things way ahead of our knowledge, Karen's husband Dan happened to be at Camp Life looking at children's eyes on Friday afternoon.  He is an ophthalmologist in Palestine!  Karen said he could look at Lameck if we could get him there.  This required the field deputy to go to his house, find his caretaker, and get permission.  It all worked out, so Lameck got to ride with us to the Tree of Life on Friday afternoon.  Dan checked him out, and he said it was cataracts.  If he can have surgery, he will be able to SEE again!  Praise the Lord!  The next step will be raising the funds and scheduling a surgery.  I can only imagine the science when he is able to see again.  To God be the glory!

Once we got to the Tree of Life, we went to the last session of Camp Life.  There are hundreds of kids and adults packed into one room praising God with all they are.  It's a sight to see!  Greer and Teddy also take this time to pass out "blessings" to the kids, which included bracelets, candy, and a backpack.  They were so excited!

After camp, we headed back to the hotel to let most people pack up, and we had our last session.  We each shared our word of the week, how God showed himself, and our biggest takeaways from the week.  It was a special time!

We went to the Legacy Center for dinner that night.  After dinner, the Tree of Life kids performed.  It was beautiful!  We said goodbye to most of the girls.  Kathlin and Karen were heading back.  Lizzie and Amy were doing Victoria Falls with their girls.  Allison, Tia, Diana, and I stayed an extra night.  We went to dinner at Orange Tree with Kathryn and Alicia and Amanda.  Tia had to go back to the room because she wasn't feeling well, but dinner was nice and we got to sit outside with a little fire heater by our feet.

The girls were exhausted from 4 weeks of camp, and it was finally break week for them!  Amanda came back to the hotel with us for a sleepover.  It was nice to have a little more time with her!  She's one of my favorite people ever.  The girls there work so hard, and living there is not easy.  I know it is nice to see familiar faces and hang out away from it all.  It was a fun night!

Saturday, July 2nd
We slept in Saturday morning and had a relaxing breakfast at the hotel.  Tia was also feeling better which was an answered prayer!  We lounged around and packed until around noon when we had to check out.  After that, we went to a store called Nzito for a little shopping.   I got a wooden heart to hang on the wall.  We sadly had to take Amanda to the airport and say goodbye.  She was meeting her mom in London for a few days.

After dropping her off, Alicia took us to the Tree of Life so Tia and Allison could see their kiddos one more time.  I went with Allison to see Paulina at Heart House.  We got to see the new clothes she had just gotten, and we taught a few of the girls to play games.  We had some cards with us that had scrabble letters on them.  We improvised and showed them how to play "spoons" but use some magnets from the fridge as the spoons.  They LOVED it!  I was honestly surprised at how fast they picked it up.  Games are sometimes difficult for them to grasp if there is strategy involved, and but they laughed and laughed and laughed.  They also had a memory game there that was unopened because they didn't know how to play.  We taught them, and they were so great at it!

After a couple of hours there, we headed back to AmCom to pack up the car and eat.  Alicia picked up Nando's Chicken for us.  We ate with Kathryn and Alicia and then had to pack up for the airport.  They drove us there, and we said more hard goodbyes.  I admire them and their hearts for the Lord and these children so much.  It's always hard to say bye!

Diana, Allison, and I flew through the night and landed safely in Dubai after an hour delay.  Our plane was late, and they were very inefficient in getting us on.  The Houston people were late, but luckily they held the next plane for them, and Tia made it!

Zambia - Wednesday and Thursday

Wednesday, June 29, 2016
It was another full day at school!  I taught the math lesson then watched as Wilson taught the same lesson.  He really picked up on a lot of the things I was showing him!  He did a wonderful job working out examples at a slower pace instead of just showing one on the board.  He also walked around to do some re-teaching instead of just marking the answers correct or incorrect and moving on to the next student.  I was so proud of him!!

I have loved getting to connect with kiddos this week, too.  Since I had 4 classes, I didn't feel like I could get to know them as much, but there were a few that God laid on my heart.  There are just these small moments when you look into their eyes and know that God has connected you in that time and place.  I would squeezed them tight and said, "You are beautiful.  You are special.  God loves you."  I encouraged them to stay in school and to work hard.  Those small moments are big, and they are rich.  Those moments will last a lifetime.

After school, we went back to the hotel to change then went to the Legacy Center for Education Night and dinner.  I got to hug Mariah for a minute which was great.  It is also fun to sit with our education staff friends who live there full-time.  I love the fellowship!

Thursday, June 30, 2016
It was a great day!  I'm so proud of the way that Wilson is teaching and for the care he is showing for his students.  Sometimes the amount of things I want to show them is completely overwhelming, but I have to remember what is most important and appreciate small steps.  One of our teachers, Karen, explained what God had been teaching her one day, and it resonated with me.  She said that we worry so much about our plans, and we can have the BEST plans in the world, but it isn't about that.  It's so much more.  We are called to loe.  The thing her teacher picked up on the most was how she interacted with the kids, and THAT is what it is all about!

We ended school early on Thursday so we could celebrate with all of the teachers.  It was such a special time!!  At the beginning of the week, Tia had given us all attributes of God to be looking for this week.  They included peace, near, faithful, loving, merciful, etc.  During our celebration time on Thursday, we went around and said what that attribute was.  Then, Tia took a polaroid picture of each of us, including the Zambian teachers.  She didn't tell us why.  We then had to write one word that would describe our partner on the picture.  I wrote "caring" for Wilson, and coincidentally, he wrote "caring" for me, as well!  We went around the room and shared why we chose that word, and the tears were flowing!  It was so sweet to hear everyone affirming each other and to hear what things they observed about each other.  It was a beautiful picture of God's love. I explained how I had noticed Wilson's gentle spirit and care for the kids.  He didn't just care about academics, but he also cared about their lives.  I saw growth in how he worked with kids who struggled, and I believe the kids know he is genuinely invested.

After we shared our words, the Zambian staff served us traditional Zambian food.  It was a meal of nshima, Chinese cabbage, and some kind of meat in a "soup".  You are supposed to eat it with your hands.  I think they got a laugh out of seeing us try to eat it.  I was able to stomach some, but it was definitely not my favorite! :)

Karen asked her teacher to show her how to eat it, and he pulled up a seat and started eating off of her plate!  It made me smile!!

We also gave the teachers our gifts.  We gave them 2 composition books, dry erase markers, pens, a certificate, and a Teach One shirt.  They LOVED the shirts and certificates!  We were also surprised when they brought out gifts for us!  It was so sweet!  They had them wrapped in construction paper.  Wilson gave me a necklace made of dyed beans.  A lot of the girls received chitenges or necklaces.

After our celebration, we headed back to the Legacy Center.  We had a little time to visit houses and take a tour of the Tree of Life school and new secondary school.  I was able to see a lot of the students I had in Teach One 2013!  That was so good for my heart!  They remembered me!  I visited Teacher Mwangala's room, too.  She is as beautiful as ever, and she continues to be a great teacher.  I also ran into George from 2014!!  He was the one who stole our hearts at Kamanga!  I loved seeing his smile!!

On the playground afterwards, I heard one of the boys say something to a group of boys about "Teacher Ashrey".  When they saw me, they said "Oh!!  Teacher Aaaaassshhhhhrrreeeeyyy!"  It melted me!  This was how they said my name in 2013.  It was just a simple reminder of the impact we have, even if only for a short around of time.  I needed that reminder.  My God is faithful.  I loved giving them all hugs!

Thursday night, Amanda came for dinner at our hotel and brought another girl who works on staff, Kylee.  After dinner, we decided to sit outside by the pool and talk.  It was me, Amanda, Kylee, Tia, Alicia, Allison, and Kathlin.  At one point, Tia went inside to get a blanket.  While she was gone, we moved couches so we wanted to be sure she saw us.  Allison and I looked up and saw a lady wrapped in a blanket looking around and both thought it was Tia.  I waved her over and called out her name.  Amanda quickly said, "Umm...that's Asian Tia!"  It was definitely not our Tia.  We died laughing and literally could not stop for a few minutes.  It was the kind of laughing where you cannot breathe and tears roll down your face, the soul-refreshing kind.  Once we composed ourselves, we looked up to see the real Tia trying to get out the glass doors, going from one to the other, giving up.  This only made us laugh more.  Amanda finally sent in the waiter to rescue her.  It was just too funny!  We now affectionately call her Tia Chong.  :)  We sat outside and talked for awhile, enjoying the beautiful night and company.  Those are the small life moments that matter, getting to know people better and laughing until it hurts.