Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Long Overdue Update

I didn't mean to be silent for so long! I was able to revisit Zambia July-September of 2014 and I wanted to share a bit of my experience. It was such a beautiful time, to go back and see the City of Joy after a year and half away! Nothing can replace my love for the girls and the community in Mazabuka.

Meeting the newest girls and reconnecting with those I already knew was wonderful. I was able to see my friends in the community and spend time with the other volunteers who where there this time around. The placement overall seems to be doing well, with quite a bit more financial support (thanks in part to Calvin, Rena, and Cody who were there in 2013-14)

The girls still struggle with studies but we did our best to tutor and support them, including hiring one of the local teachers- my friend Matongo- to tutor one of the examination classes. Twelve of the girls from COJ were confirmed while I was there! I was asked by Charity to be her sponsor which was a great blessing. I still wear the beaded bracelet she made as a thank you.

My friend James provided a donation that we used to plaster and paint three sections of the outside wall. Two were trees using handprints for leaves. The center section reads "As you grow older you'll discover you have two hands. One for helping yourself and one for helping others." I thought it was a fitting message to have displayed in a place so filled with the Salesian spirit. Painting the wall was a project I was never able to complete in 2012/13 so there was some great satisfaction in doing so.
There are more stories and pictures than I could possibly fit here. In large part, I appreciated this visit because it reminded me that my beautiful second home is only a flight (well, maybe 3!) away, that life continues just fine without me, and that my friends are always willing to welcome me back with the same love and joy. I even remembered most of the Tonga and Nyanja I learned!

Naku yewa, Mazabuka. Meaning, I miss you Mazabuka.

Even though I can't always be there, I know that my caring for the place so deeply is felt and appreciated. My heart no longer aches to be there though I look forward to the time I can see the girls again.

I've found ways to become more involved with the community and needs here in Dallas, TX. I am mentoring a Burmese family through the International Rescue Committee, and recently became a Dallas CASA (court appointed special advocate) for the foster care system. It means so much to me to be involved in humanitarian work.

A high school friend and I reconnected at the end of 2013 and got engaged in January! We're planning an October wedding. Eric is such an amazing source of encouragement and strength for me. I'm so excited for this next stage of life and to have someone to share my adventures. We've talked about visiting Africa and the community of City of Joy in the summer of 2016. I hope these plans will be blessed!

With love and prayers always,

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A way to support

Dear Friends,
I wanted to share the link to a cause that is very dear to my heart. Calvin Frith is a volunteer through the Salesians in Australia and he is doing amazing work at the City of Joy. I would love for you to visit this link and take a look at some of the projects he has underway:

And if you feel the desire to contribute financially you have my thanks as well! I know what a difference hard work can do at the site and Calvin is putting in a lot of sustainable infrastructure that will benefit my girls for years to come! I will try to post a few pictures of him with the girls, but you can find them directly at the link!

Currently I am working in Dallas and praying that God will give me a way to return to my beloved Africa!
Love and prayers,

Monday, February 25, 2013

Re-Entrance into the Western World

Rome, Italy

San Gimignano in Tuscany on a trip I made with my
 brother, Dominic.
I read somewhere that Pope John Paul II never saw a crowd but a gathering of individuals. I used to have no idea how that could be possible, but somehow I’m starting to figure it out because when you
try to see other people within the light of charity (love without limitations) and imagine the world from their perspective (thanks, UD psych), suddenly all kinds of beautiful experiences emerge and
unlikely friendships are formed.

One Italian woman I met the other day congratulated me for having gone to Africa and I really didn’t know how to respond. It was like being praised for receiving an undeserved gift. If you could meet Rachael or Shevan, Alice or Christine, Susan or Charity, Astridah, Maureen, Chewe, Doris, Lulu, Orian, or any of the other 17 girls, you would instantly see how fitting the name City of Joy is, and the ability that love of God and neighbor has to ‘rub’ all kinds of emotional abandonment and pain. I think that in developed countries, our poverty is not recognizing how central love is to who we are- and its difficult in the face of so many confused expressions.

The only reason my heart is still in one piece after leaving Zambia is my certainty that I’ll be back there before too long. Until then I’ll have the girls’ farewell song to remind me how important prayer is in remaining close to those you love; “Oh, we’ll miss you when you go.  Remember to create one union with the Lord.”

I have so much more to tell but I’ll be home in just 4 days!

Until then,

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Long Overdue Hello

Kids at Oratory

City of Joy Mazabuka, Zambia

One of the many stunning sunsets I've seen lately.
I’ve had so much to think about lately that I’m just managing to get something written! The new year has already brought so much life with it. From the girls starting to school, to learning to slash grass, to new volunteers arriving, I remind myself every day to enjoy the unplanned adventures such as getting caught in the rain or a two hour business meeting on tenders. I’ve left age 22 in Zambia! It was a memorable celebration with friends and then with the girls who sang songs for me and had the sweetest words of gratitude. I even got to drive a car for the first time in six months - on the left side of the road!

They like to see how many kids I can carry ;)
As I get more used to being here, I more and more realize that my reaction to age, background, education, and culture have really colored my interactions with people - and I think that’s another thing I’ll leave in this country. There’s just so much to learn about people when you manage to overlook those things. I’ve laughed with 70 year old women, talked to politicians and bishops, had hours of conversation with a 38 year old Zimbabwean, and spent most of my time with people who are under the age of 18. I think the main difference is that people here are very humble and (at least when talking to you) don’t attempt to make themselves superior to one another. I remember my friend Katherine (who is volunteering in Haiti) saying that she was excited to focus on people not for what they had but for who they are - and it’s so amazing what happens when you are given the chance to do that.

Hands (obviously) I may be getting darker, but I'm still pretty white.

This week I was able to revisit Victoria Falls with two friends who moved down to Livingstone. It was such an incredible experience (since there was water this time). We got soaked from the spray and saw more rainbows than I’ve ever seen in one place! I imagine that heaven is somewhere near as beautiful. The few days away has given me a chance to refocus on spending my energy on the girls here at City of Joy. I have only 10 days left in Zambia, and as excited as I am to visit my brother Dominic in Europe, and to be home, I’m not ready to leave this country behind. I don’t know where life is taking me next, but I hope that I will remain connected to Zambia somehow. Sometimes I have brief moments when I remember my first impressions and challenges, but most of the time, I feel completely at home digging up onions for supper, catching rides on the road, speaking my few Nyanja or Tonga words, and I forget that I stand out so much here. I’ve even given up cooking American food most of the time which means I’ve mastered nshima, cabbage, and soya. I take it as huge complements that I’ve been praised for cooking nshima, told that I’m becoming a Zambian from the sun, and given a Tonga name- Luendo. It means Journey, because I don’t like to sit still ;)

How often do you get to see a double rainbow?! (Victoria Falls)
I’ll be sending one more email from Europe, but I hope that I see each one of you soon after I get back to the USA on March 1st!

Boys at Oratory

With thoughts and prayers from Maz,

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Blessings

Mazabuka, Zambia

Cassie's hut where I spent Christmas!
My dear family and friends,

A cow head that was sitting outside my house. I'm here with my
friend Dana. I definitely don't have the courage to eat THAT
Merry Christmas from Zambia! I hope that these days are filled with peace and every blessing for you as we celebrate the birth of Jesus! Being here in a culture that doesn’t celebrate by giving gifts, I am definitely removed from the commercialism of the holidays, but it also makes me really appreciate the genuine love and thoughtfulness behind the gifts I have been given in past years. I spent the better part of last week with my Peace Corps friends in their villages (without electricity or running water) and it was definitely a Christmas that won’t be easily forgotten. It was full of new experiences and not at all like the Christmas we have in the States! I was in Lubombo for Christmas day which started with Cassie and I walking through rain, knee-deep puddles, and fields of maize in order to get to church. After waiting 1.5 hours it finally got underway and afterwards we were fed nshima and chicken. I was ‘nakuta maningi (too full)’ that day because we rushed back after that to have lunch with our other friends. After a soccer game involving the village headman and several other important people, we spent the evening dancing in and around the streets! Life in the village is simple but beautiful in its own way. I’m keeping this short because I really just have to add that I am so so grateful for each one of you who has made 2012 such a memorable year! Here’s to 2013!


Some of my American friends: Matt, Ty, Cassie, (and thats me).

My ride back into Mazabuka from Chikankata. Before it ended up
being 22 people, 2 large suitcases, and two live chickens. I had to
put my backpack on the roof of the truck because

there was no other place!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thanksgiving, Inswa, and Getting to Know Zambia

City of Joy, Mazabuka, ZAMBIA

My dear family and friends!

I hope that you had a great Thanksgiving celebration at home. It (surprisingly) doesn’t get a lot of recognition here, but at least the sisters commemorated the day by serving chips and ice cream at lunch. Our City of Joy is becoming quieter these days because the girls are starting to leave for holiday- to visit family or former homes for the next month. My days will be pretty free after Friday, and I will have time to sleep in and work on a few projects around here. I’m not sure what the Christmas season will bring, but the Peace Corps volunteers will be nearby so I may have a little American celebrating! I’ve been thinking a lot about my position and work here. Because the community is relatively new (2008) and still developing, it seems that the focus of the volunteer is largely up to their personal ideas and strengths.

While I was helping a good bit with school, lately I've been more intent on just spending time with the girls and getting to know them individually.  Usually I try to join in on their activities and interests, which involved planting grass and maize and catching inswa this week!  It's a ground termite that flies out after a big rain.  The first time I saw the girls collecting the insects off the ground I lost my appetite, but fried with a little salt they're actually pretty good (much better than the charcoal-like caterpillars) and taste a bit like peanut butter.

A few of the inswa we collected to eat.

Now that it's the rainy season, it's cooler at night and often cloudy during the day which is a nice break from the heat of the past few months!  When the rains come it's like being in Texas - sheets of water and rivers forming in the sandy roads.  The girls are becoming more comfortable with me, asking questions or sharing stories from school.  I think that the presence of volunteers here is essential because it's proof to these girls that someone loves them and care about who they are and their choices in life.  There's a sad history of abuse in Zambia and teaching the girls that they're worth something will hopefully continue to improve things.  There are a lot of assumptions about 'muzungus' around here that I'm learning to live around.  That I have money to hand out.  That I don't know how to cook.  Or work. 

Learning how to plow with cattle!
It's really sad to me that experience has taught Africans that their stereotypes are often based in reality.  Because of that, I enjoy surprising people and helping with work, although I don't like doing it form them because that creates its own problems!  I was helping Christine to weed her portion (grassy area) and as I was cutting out the long grass runners wondering why I hadn't done it before at home.  Then I realized we have lawnmowers.  I think that culture shock will hit me harder when I come back to the States!

Planting- back row: Florence, me, Susan. Front: Maureen, Mami
Agness, Mami Bertha
One of my new favorite creatures is the chameleon. Seems to have some similarities to the Texas armadillo because I’ve seen it as often dead in the road as not! If you’ve never seen one walking go look it up on youtube. Weirdest thing ever. Much friendlier than the cobra we (and by ‘we’ I mean 3 men) killed on my porch a few weeks ago!  I’ve decided to work on one language instead of the 72 here in Zambia, so now I know a few short sentances in Nyanja. Laylo cu zizila (i=ee) means ‘today is cold’ and ooinda cuti? is ‘where are you going?’ Tien cu nyumba (lets go home) and nifuna kapinga yambili (I need more grass) have been useful a few times : ) Hope all is bwino. I’ll write again at Christmas time but know that you are in my prayers throughout this season of Advent! Please keep us in your prayers as well.

Ni nda tozaonana (I’m going, see you!)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Falling in Love with Zambia!!

The last few weeks have flow, largely due to having my friend Katie
here! It’s great to have her here sharing the workload and whatever
observations or stories we come up with during the day. I was
definitely missing a lot of the humor from back home too!

A typical Friday lunch of nshima, capenta, and veggies
Things are still pretty routine with the girls in school, but final
exams start soon so that will be changing. I always welcome the weekends here, because it’s a break in the routine, and as exciting as it is to share my learning with them, I don’t think teaching is something I could do permanently right now. Most days are good- when the girls pay attention- and the others are giving me a crash course in patience.

I’m falling more in love with this country and some days I just have
to stop moving for a minute or two to remind myself how beautiful the
land is. I don’t know if I’d ever feel ready to leave it permanently and that’s also because of the people. I get asked all the time ‘how
is Zambia/Mazabuka?’ It makes me feel as if my opinion of this place
really matters! When I bought ‘airtime’ to call home, the shop owner
caught me the next day and asked ‘did it work?!’ I really can’t
describe the openness and genuine character of the people I’ve met
here. Spending this last weekend mostly with the oratory leaders (most
are 24/6 years old) has made me truly appreciate my experience here in
a new way. I know that their attitude towards life and one another
will give me a new perspective on many things. Unlike the lack of
personal space in Italy (yikes) here it seems to be more from the
sense of community everyone shares. public transport is overcrowded
and it always looks like someone is going to fall out of the bus! But
I'll enjoy seeing it until the time I have to use one ;)
Last week Katie and I finally made the trip to Livingstone and
Victoria Falls, 4 hours south of us. While I was waiting outside the
bank for Katie, a man came up and asked ‘are you waiting for me?’ then
went on to tell me how welcome I was and that he hoped I would enjoy
my visit- a good first impression of the people there! I was also able
to accomplish all three of my African goals in one day! Starting in
the morning with a walking safari where we saw giraffe, a warthog
(Pumba), impala, a bushbuck, white rhinos, buffalo, monkeys, and
elephants! We got dropped off at the falls and spend hours hiking
around admiring the gorge and ‘boiling point’ (at the bottom). Since
it’s the dry season, there’s not a lot of water falling, but the placeis still incredible. As soon as we got back to the hostel, I literally
ran to join the elephant back safari! Not as much wildlife this time
(besides rogue elephants and a lion), but it was amazing to be riding
 such a massive animal, walking through deep rivers like it was
nothing! Afterwards we had a chance to feed them. New friends were
everywhere, from my bus companion, to the safari driver, to the other travelers. I was blessed to meet a beautiful family from Australia who
were incredibly supportive of my time here- thank you Toby and Esther!

Feeding Matinta, the elepant I rode.
The name basically means that
the person (or elephant) is the only boy in
 family of girls- or the
other way around!
Standing in front of part of Victoria Falls
Our visit to Chimungalu with some of the children there.

The week we got back, the sisters took us on an afternoon outing to Chimungalu, a village that is definitely part of 3rd world Africa. It made me even more thankful for the running water and electricity here! The men and women working/volunteering there have my respect.

On Tuesday the Irish sisters had Katie and I over for supper and besides having a night out, it was great to hear their stories and perspective since they’ve been here for 14/40 years! Wednesday we celebrated Zambian Independence and next year is their Golden Jubilee. Katie and I must have been greeted 100 times by people excited to see us celebrating in Zambian chitenges! I still have so much to learn here, especially the language which I’ve been pretty slow to grasp.
Maybe next time I’ll finally have a sentence or two memorized to share. ;)

I would love to receive emails from ya’ll, especially since I’ll be on
my own again for the month of November. Hope that all is well!

Until next time, my thoughts and prayers are with you from Zambia!