Sunday, August 31, 2008
“If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awake - Aye, what then?” -Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.” -Abraham Lincoln
“Anywhere is walking distance, if you've got the time.” -Stephen Wright
"He that raises a large family does, indeed, while he lives to observe them, stand a broader mark for sorrow; but then he stands a broader mark for pleasure too." -Benjamin Franklin
Thursday, August 28, 2008
today fred and i took a 5 minute drive down to the beach closest to us in san antonio, the area where we live. the beach is called playa de los cancajos, named after the community itself. it's the second largest community on the island and it started to become a tourist attraction almost 30 years ago when they began building the island's first hotels in this area. the town is filled with apartments and hotels that line the coast, and restaurants and shops to keep the community hopping. the beach is quite small, in comparison to those that i am used to in southern california, but it is beautiful, clean and quaint. la palma is a volcanic island, as are the other 6 canary islands, so the sand is black and the rocks in the water (and those that are used to build walls along buildings and paths) are all black lava rocks. it's such a pretty contrast with the bright blue water.
after we got an ice cream, we stopped in the tourist office to ask about any job opportunities that might be available for me, the non-spanish speaking american, haha. the guy was nice...and honest. he showed us a website that we can refer to for job listings, but said that tourist season is winding down right now for the summer...and will probably pick up again in november. so we will see! but until then, i have decided (along with fred's encouraging) to learn spanish! i will for sure keep up my swedish as well! today is my first day with spanish. i found a link online to help me with the basic phrases and such...then i will move on to fred's spanish grammar books. he has learned quite a bit over the past few years (having played 3 years in spain already), so i'm lucky to have a live-in tutor :) we'll see how it goes! here is my sentence for the day: 'la carta es para concha.' translation: 'the letter is for concha.' always good to know.
it's day number 3 here in la palma and i'm feeling so good about getting back into my groove in the kitchen. i bought a cookbook before i left sweden . i think i mentioned it in my last post. it has a 6 week menu plan for both lunch and dinner, so i've been using it as my guide. it's sort of fun, and somewhat 'disciplining' to follow a set schedule. the 'old' me would go off course and find a new recipe online at rachael ray or epicurious or something and get distracted. but alas! i am happy to say that i have completed recipe #4 and am right on track. today's recipe was called 'kyckling med bönor & grekisk sallad' (or for our english speaking audience, 'chicken with beans & greek salad'). i'm struggling a bit to find all the ingredients i need here (especially at our small, local market), but i am facing the challenge and doing my best. i made a few variations (i.e. gorgonzola instead of feta, parsley instead of mint, yellow onion instead of red), but it pleased the crowd that is fred and i. i don't want to make this blog about food, as i have one of those already , but there's not a whole lot going on in my days right now and i want to stay in touch with all of you, so this is what today's post is about! ¡Buen apetito!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
so today is my first full day on the island of la palma, our new home in the canary islands. while i was in africa, fred got an offer to play here this year, and he took it. he was gone before i arrived home to sweden. he's been wanting to play out in europe again after being home in uppsala last year. this offer came so fast and it was nearing the end of the summer, so he was thankful for the opportunity. as for me, i am happy to be wherever he is, unabashedly cheering him on. uppsala has become home to me over the past year though. there was never one thing that i didn't like or enjoy about living there. i fell in love with the friends and family i met, the beauty, the culture, the language, the food...everything. i quickly got used to the 'colder than san clemente' temperatures and life was indeed swede. but life is also surprising. we don't always end up where we expect, with whom we expect, doing what we expect. these past 2 years have proven all of those to me...at a rapid pace. in no way am i where i thought i would be, with whom i thought i would be, doing what i thought i would be doing...and as much as i miss certain comforts of home (both in san clemente and in uppsala) i wouldn't change it for the world. life is about challenge...about growth...about learning and discovering. it's also about loving...and that is what i feel i am doing here in la palma. more than any reason for myself, i am here to support fred. as much as this was his desire to be here, that desire came more from a professional and financial ambition. everything about the social atmosphere at home in uppsala was comfortable...and a lot of that is what we both miss when we're away. but if we do this together, we're not alone. if i am here to support him in this transition...and he is here to support me, i'm pretty sure we'll be ok.
we were talking today about some things i could get involved in. i don't want to sit home all day while fred's at practice for 2 and 1/2 hours in the morning and the evening. so i'm going to be sure i go with him a few times a week and swim or run laps at the pool or track where he practices. i also really want to work! i'm hoping to find somewhere that needs an english speaking person...maybe some place touristy? english isn't very common anywhere in spain, so in that way i'm sort of out of luck...but maybe being here on an island, with a possibility of more tourists, i might be able to find something. who knows? that is what i am hoping. now i have to begin the search! if not, i thought i could look for something to do online. i still would love to keep selling my cards (so all you readers keep that in mind and send me your requests!). i think back to how happy i was working at proud mary's a few years ago. i just loved being a waitress...i was totally in my niche. working in a place where i knew and understood the people and loved what i did...that is something i would love to find again. i know the good Lord has a time and season for everything...so i pray i have the eyes to see what He has for this season of my life.
as for la palma! it's been a great experience so far...and it's only day 2! yesterday i arrived in the morning, right before fred left for practice. i spent the late morning unpacking, sweeping, mopping, getting organized...just making things feel like home. i can never really settle in until i do all those things that make my mind rest a bit easier. when fred came home, we headed out to a few stores to get a few things for the house. we needed a lot of little necessities (i.e. trash cans, hand towels, floor mats, batteries, etc.). we grabbed some spanish take-out from a place fred's been frequenting on our way home. lunch was paella, pimientos rellenos de bacalao, and croquetas de bacalao. it was so fun to eat spanish food again. though it's not my favorite, there were things i've missed since we lived in huelva two seasons ago. i took some pictures of our place yesterday evening when fred was at practice. that's what you see above. it's really nice to be close to the ocean again...i've missed the salty smell in the air and wide open blue. so different from home, yet a sweet reminder. today we drove into santa cruz, the capital of la palma. we live about 5-10 minutes away. we walked along the main shopping street (which isn't all that much...but i love the cobblestone roads and all the trees and old buildings) and then we stopped for lunch at a little café. fred and i shared our usual ensalada mixta and we each got a bocadillo (small sandwich on a baguette). mine was with smoked goat and manchego cheese. so good! we walked around a little more and i spotted a natural foods store! it was super small, but they had a lot of things i know i will go back for. we left with bulgur, barley and organic peanut butter. i've been so excited to get back in the kitchen. i bought a cookbook in sweden before i left that was recommended to me by a friend. i love it! it's called 'klaras goda GI-dagar'...and it's all about foods and meals that have a good GI...which is what fred is all about...and me too! the cookbook has a 6 week lunch and dinner menu plan. i really want to see if i can follow it and make all the meals (these are the sort of things that excite me, haha). so tonight i will walk to the market when fred is gone at practice and i will buy all the things i need for dinner tonight and lunch and dinner tomorrow. i just finished writing my list and looking up all the ingredients in spanish. i will have this down in no time, i am sure, haha. wishful thinking, but we'll see! i'll try to get some pictures up for all of you to see too...as grandma says, 'every plate is a picture'...
ok, time to fold that laundry and make some rooibos tea. grandes abrazos cálidos de la palma!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
this is my journal entry from august 11th, the day before venessa and i left namibia. i decided to type it up for all of you instead of scanning the page. ndamangululwa had me draw pictures all over it, so it's not entirely legible for the common eye, haha. here it is...decoded.
august 11, 2008
psalm 34:8 ("Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.")
isaiah 55: 6-7 ("Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.")
matthew 17:20 (He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.")
this morning we all went to church. the walk there is about 30 minutes, but it doesn't feel that long when you're walking in beautiful white sand among good company. it was hard on my heart to be in such a beautiful place...where the people face such poverty. there is trash everywhere and the habit of the people is just to throw their trash anywhere. venessa and i felt so criminal throwing her fanta soda can or the wrapper to my Jungle granola bar in the bushes...but the girls said it is just how things are.
we left for church at 8am...maybe 830...and arrived at around 9. there were a few groups of people praying and reading bible verses. the actual service didn't start until around 10. i was having a pleasant time observing all that was happening around me. a sweet woman was leading a scripture reading in front of where we were sitting...she started speaking english so venessa and i could understand. i guess it was obvious that we didn't speak oshuwambo, ha. she was speaking about 'boasting in the Lord' because of all He has done for us. it seemed ironic, yet so humbling, to hear these words from someone who seemingly had so little. there was lots of beautiful singing during the service. theses people sing so so loud...but it's somehow some of the most amazing singing i've heard. if you are singing from your heart, i guess it's obvious...these people definitely were. they are so full of gratitude and so in love with the Lord. the speaker was a nigerian doctor. the pastor was performing a wedding somewhere. i really enjoyed the message. it hit home for me. i wrote a few verses above of one's that he spoke on. funny how we can be so far removed from our 'home'...in such an unfamiliar place...with unfamiliar people...and find such common ground through scripture. the service was so long and i prayed the entire time that my hunger and thirst would go away. i felt bad focusing so much on myself when these people were so focused on greater things. the service finally ended at around 1pm. maggie sang like an angel. she led some of the songs in the youth choir and i so badly wanted to record them singing and take it home with me. venessa finally got to pee (we made great use of the church restrooms today and yesterday). we stopped at a market on the way home and we all bought drinks. i got my usual powerade and bought the girls a loaf of bread. venessa bought her usual fanta and drinks and chips for josephine and ndamangululwa. maggie had to stay at church a little longer for a youth meeting afterwards. she was there for about 3 hours. we've been surviving on bread and peanut butter and pap. pap is the cornmeal dish they eat every night. it's made of dried corn grain that they wash and lay out to dry before they grind it real fine. then they make the pap...prounounced 'pop'...it's similar to a thick, sticky mound of cream of wheat or oatmeal. they pick off chunks with their fingers and dip it in this spicy soup called chakalaka (i brought some home with me). we had pap every night...though i only had a few bites out of respect. it's not my thing...though i was grateful and honored to be a part of their lifestyle. a lot of times the sand blows in it when it's laying out to dry...so it's no surprise when you come across many grains of sand while eating it. i've been taking bites of my Jungle granola bars throughout the day. i had a whole one on the walk home from church. that was a splurge. i was so full afterwards. i'm saving my other powerade for the bus ride home tomorrow. we haven't had lunch today, but we will probably have pap or bread for dinner. i love the bread. i hate that venessa and i are always thinking of food...all the things we can't wait to have when we get home...i feel so selfish. i'm going to try not to think about it anymore and distract myself by thinking about all the things i'm going to miss when i leave HERE. my phone ran out of battery yesterday right as fred sent me a message. i couldn't even open it before it shut off. i wasn't worried about charging it before we got to the hostel tomorrow night, but venessa said that fred would probably be really worried. she has a good heart. fred would like her, haha. the lady that lives next door to us had electricity, so my phone is over there charging right now. she let me unplug her refrigerator (very rare to find someone here with a refrigerator!) just so i can
charge my phone. big hearts these people have. ok...off to take pictures of the girls!
so that was written on our last day in ondangwa, the day before we left namibia. i arrived home on wednesday the 13th...3 days ago...and my heart misses all that i experienced when i was there. when i was away from home i dreampt of all the things and people i left behind...and now that i'm away from namibia i am dreaming of all the things and people i left behind. my heart is restless. i have lived and continue to live a life that is blessed more than i deserve. i am constantly given so much more love, support, protection, encouragement, and gifts than i feel worthy of. i have no idea why, but i am grateful. i hope to give it all back in any way i can...10xs over.
before we left on monday morning from ondangwa, maggie read venessa and i psalm 91.
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. [a]
2 I will say [b] of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."
3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-
10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."
as i read that again and again, i am in tears. how gracious they have been to us...to lend us their home, their bed, their hearts. bless these sweet girls.
so i've been meaning to catch up on my blog and share with you all a little bit about the week venessa and i shared in ondangwa. we arrived home on wednesday and though it felt glorious to be clean again, take a shower, wash clothes and rejoin the comforts of home...i miss that place. i miss the dirt on my feet, the ink drawings on my arms, the chai tea maggie made us every morning, her 'super dad' mug, the white sand, the hearts that taught me the meaning of living and loving, the eyes that gave me a deeper understanding of JOY and HOPE. there really are NO words that can sum up all that i brought home with me in my heart. but above is what i came up with in my quiet moments last week.
just a little background information...we stayed with a 'family' of 3 young girls. maggie (20), her sister josephine (16) and their niece ndamangululwa (6). they live 4 hours from the village where they were raised, where their parents still live, all so they can be near a school so they can learn. they have a passion for learning like i've never seen before. they stay up in the wee hours and read (the same materials) by candlelight...every night. little ndamangululwa's father died of AIDS and her mother (maggie and josephine's sister) is infected. she lives and works in windhoek, the capital (9 hours south), but was admitted to the hospital during our stay (maggie received a message while we were there). she is usually able to visit the girls every 3 months or so, but it is never discussed each time she leaves as to when she will come again. sometimes there are things that are better off not knowing. these 3 girls are earthbound angels. they have hearts that are far too big for their bodies. venessa and i are so blessed to now call them 'sisters' in our hearts.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
sometimes when we are exposed to so much of something we aren’t used to…and all at once, we need time to let it soak in. as a woman who finds herself in the kitchen quite frequently, i find a comparison with that of sifting flour. if you pour too much flour in the sifter all at once, you need time to let it sift through slowly…a little at a time. or as with tea, after you pour the hot water over the tea, it’s only best when you let it seep for a while. as with our hearts, venessa and i needed a day to let things seep in. we had planned to visit the baby haven yesterday morning, but when the afternoon came, we both felt that a day off might be better. venessa felt that maybe we were both a little depressed. i, being the uber optimist, thought that maybe we were just ‘drained’. either way, our hearts were heavy. though we’ve been to the haven every day to bring these children comfort and love, we leave every day feeling that it’s simply not enough. i guess it’s in our human nature to be more impressed with physical results…ones that we can see. maybe if we were to paint a wall or build a shelf we would feel like we were actually offering something of ourselves. but each day we return, the walls are the same and the babies are still sick and without hope beyond these next few years. we haven’t done anything to change their situation. we’d like to be there to walk them to school or make them lunch…but the truth is, they already have that. they have someone to fill those roles. the role we are filling, providing arms to hold them, lips to kiss them, words to comfort them…that is what they are lacking. when we thought about this, we felt that maybe our time here is not in vain after all. we are all created with a different purpose and abilities. some of us have money to donate, hands and equipment to build, tools to teach…and some of us simply have hearts to love and time to offer. that is why we are here. our offering is our love and our time.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
yesterday most of the kids were at school. when venessa and i arrived, the 3 babies who stayed home were all sleeping. i quickly grabbed by camera and tip-toed in their rooms to snap a few pictures. baby grace is an angel, for sure. no doubt about it. by the time i made it festus' and amadhila's room, they were wide awake. venessa grabbed festus and i grabbed amadhila. all of our hearts were happy once again. the few hours we spent there were pretty mellow. i'm not sure i ever put amadhila down...and same with venessa and festus. it was nice to have one on one time with one child, to give them that sense of significance they've never had. but at the same time, we missed the energy and joy that zolani and sindiswa and chubby little martha have brought to our days. they were definitely missed. it was nice to hang out with lydia and esther too. lydia is 10 and esther is 13. both young girls heard about the baby haven through friends and came within this past year to help. esther now lives there with lulu (the sweet woman who runs the haven) and is with the babies full-time. when asked if they think they will stay there for a long time, they smile and say 'mm hmmm'. obviously they find joy in helping these babies as well. what a rewarding, but challenging, experience it must be. but also, i'm not sure they have many other options as to where they could spend their time. at 10 and 13 years old, they have taken on so much responsibility, as most children their ages have. during our visit, esther took down the dry laundry from the clothes line and folded it all. lydia was doing dishes as we arrived. they loved borrowing our cameras and running aorund the haven taking pictures of us, the babies, their neighbor friends and even the bathroom, the walls, etc. if it gave them a few minutes to feel like a kid again...to have the excitement of a 10 and 13 year old...to run around and be carefree and take pictures of things that made them happy...i am satisfied.
when we left the haven, we returned to the hostel, checked into our dorm, got a load of laundry in the wash and made our way up to the bar for our nightly windhoek draught beer and chicken a' la king. we've been 'regulars' for the past 3 nights and our routine is to split dinner and a beer. the young kid behind the bar finds it quite amusing that we ask for 1 beer and 2 ice cold mugs. the beer only fills our glasses about 1/5 of the way, which is just funny, but it does the trick. venessa and i have had such a routine here...but it feels kind of nice. we were laughng yesterday when we left the internet cafe. if someone were to follow us around with a video camera for the entire day, not much would change the next day. we get up at around 645, check out of our rooms and put our bags in storage by 745, get to the mall by 8, say hello to our favorite waitress and have a breakfast beverage and/or breakfast at our favorite spot (in's wiener), walk to the internet cafe, pay for 1 hour, then get up at the same time and ask for one more hour, pay exactly 76 rand when we are through (9 rand goes towards a cold beverage for us both), and we walk out the door, venessa with an orange fanta in hand and me with a minute maid. back to the hostel we go, then off to the baby haven, then home to the hostel again, check in our room or tent for the night, go to the bar for our 1 beer and entree and back to our rooms to load pictures and get ready for the night. we're in bed usually by 9. then in 9 hours it all starts over again. it's all sort of sweet.
we'll be making our way to the haven again this afternoon. hopefully we'll be able to see more of the kids today. either way, we go with plenty of love to give.
Monday, August 4, 2008
so we seem to have a routine going here. every morning we've been waking up at around 630 or 7, probably because we've been old ladies and going to bed around 8. it's been nice to go to bed tired though...and wake up feeling an energy to get going. we're lucky if we get a warm shower...but then again, those ice cold ones are a bit refreshing. life is clever about reminding us of how much we are blessed. we're usually out the door at around 8. there's a 'mall' about 15 minutes walking, and a little cafe inside has been our favorite breakfast spot. i've been the moccachino queen and venessa's hooked on the toasted ham, cheese and pineapple sandwhich. their wheat bread is out of this world. the fact that the cafe is called 'in's wiener' also brings a smile to our faces so early in the morning. afterwards, we usually find an internet cafe (this one today made a good impression yesterday)and we spend about an hour or so updating our blogs and trying to upload as many pictures as the time allows. it's been such a great way to bridge the distance between all of you at home and in far away places. if anything, it's been a great way for us to get our experiences written down. though we know we'll never forget the days we've spent here, recording the feelings and happenings as they are fresh proves to mean so much more.
so! yesterday afternoon we made another visit to the baby haven. to be honest, i think venessa and i were both feeling somewhat drained from the day before. i felt so bad saying that my back was sore, but it was. we couldn't go the day without seeing those precious babes though. as the good Lord would have it, the day was a much more mellow one than the day before. the kids were in a more cuddly mood and simply needed to be held. martha and mercy were napping during most of our visit. festus wasn't feeling well at all. he is the 5 year old that looks as if he's 2. i held in my lap for the first half hour. it broke venessa's and my heart to see him so sad and tired. though he normally doesn't 'do' much anyway, he has always had a smile. yesterday he was covered in sadness. he looked so terribly weak. it was heartbreaking. i held sindiswa for the next 20 minutes. even zolani (our little R&B dancer) wanted to rest by our sides. baby grace is 3 months old and it amazed me, as she lay next to me on their play mattress outside, how calm and content she was. most babies have to be entertained every second...they want to be held, fed, spoken to...but baby grace just lay there with the sweetest smile on her face. she was simply happy to be. big lessons learned from small sources.
we had a chance to speak with lulu, the angel woman who runs the baby haven. i asked her a little bit about how long each of the children have been there. she said the baby haven usually has around 10 children. it all depends on who arrived and who gets adopted. most of the children who are really sick have lesss appeal to those wishing to adopt. she said most come when they are babies, but a few (such as festus) come when they are infants. festus came with his younger brother, but he passed away within this last year. they were both brought to the haven by their mother, who passed away in february from AIDS. that festus has made it this long is a miracle. but to think that his time may be drawing near is unbearable. he won both of our hearts the day we arrived at the haven. there was also a little boy there yesterday who was brought earlier in the afternoon by the police. he was found wandering in the streets. if his parents claim him missing, he will return home with his family. if not, he will stay.
we arrived to the haven feeling physically drained, we left with empty hearts. these children have brought us so much joy...and i am constantly learning just how fragile my heart is.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
yesterday venessa and i returned to the baby haven and stayed a bit longer than 10 minutes. we were there for a few hours, which was such a blessing, and quite all we were able to take physically. the kids found a strange fascination with beating us up and ripping our jewelry off our bodies. we have bruises today to prove it. and i will for sure be returing today sans the earrings and venessa without her necklace. we learned quickly what draws attention to their tiny hands.
despite the bruises, our hearts were so happy to be there and love on these kids. there are 7 children at the baby haven right now and they vary in the ages of 3 months-5 years. in just a few hours, we learned so much about their personalities and quirks. martha is the chubbiest baby ever and sat on my legs and farted. i didn't have the heart to move her away. venessa and i wondered who was in need of a diaper change...and in a matter of minutes she returned with a clean pair of pants. the mystery was solved. zolani is a dancing machine. he has moves that would make michael jackson blush. festus is the oldest one in the haven. he is 5 years old, but looks no older than a 2 year old. we're not sure if this is because of AIDS or polio. all of the kids had recenlty been given a polio vaccination, but i'm not sure if he already had it or not. he can harldy crawl, let alone walk. but he has a smile as bright as the sun and a sweet, sweet heart. sindiswa could very well make a fabulous monkey. she wanted to 'climb' on my back for the entire 2 hours. all of these kids are so beautiful and unique in their own special way. they are individuals. it was definitely heart-breaking to see the conditions of how these children live. they play on an old dirty mattress and find amusement with whatever is on the ground. festus was entertained for almost the entire time by half of a piece of a plastic fork. but he was happy. when we were there a lady arrived with a bag of rolls and a tub of potato salad. she visits once a year and brings whatever she can. she was there and gone and in minutes these babies all had a roll in hand and crumbs on their faces. in small but mighty ways they are being provided for. when our taxi arrived to take us back to the hostel, all the kids blew kisses to us and waved goodbye. we told them we'd be back today, but i'm not sure that they understand or believe when people say that. i gave them all a kiss on the forehead and it nearly broke my heart when zolani said he wanted to come with me. it takes some of us a lifetime to find love or let alone be satisfied with the love we are shown...but it took these children 2 seconds to welcome us with hearts bigger than the ocean. it's an incredible thing...the love of a child. and especially a child that's days are numbered far less than what they deserve. their joy is my strength.
the website for the baby haven is here: http://babyhaven.blogspot.com/
Saturday, August 2, 2008
the thought of even beginning to wrap up my first day in africa is crazy. i finally arrived in windhoek (namibia's capital) yesterday morning at 8am. venessa was there to meet and greet me. to see a friend i've missed for so long...and to meet her in this far away place that has grown so dear to us in our dreams...is just so special. the day of sleep i had missed (8 hour overnight layover the night before in the joahnnesburg airport: no sleep) and the tiredness i felt completely escaped my mind and body and i was simply HAPPY. the fact that my bag didn't arrive didn't matter either. the airport told me that it would arrive on the next flight and it would be delivered to our hostel later that afternoon. that was good news. so...the journey began. venessa's taxi driver friend, ronnie, drove us to the 'cardboard box' hostel and it was there that i was greeted by the super friendly staff. the 'man of the house', chad was a big teddy bear of a fella. he went to shake my hand and i returned it with a hug. hugs are better (if you know me, you know i am no hand shaker). the way the hostel is set up is with 3 sleeping options, all depending on what is available each night. type a: 4 bunkbeds, 8 people. type b: double bedroom, 2 people. type c: tent! we were given the first option last night. it was simply nice to call somewhere 'home' for the night...to have a place to sleep. we met 2 young girls about our age who are here from canada and also a newly wed couple from new zealand. they were doing a 3 month african honeymoon adventure. we all have a story to share.
right after we checked in, we went for a walk to 'the mall'. it is nicer than i expected...funny how we come assuming things to be so different than they really are. i am learning to have an open mind about it all. i assume nothing. we started out with lunch! we were both (by well-fed american definition) starving. grilled cheese sandwiches it was. the wheat bread was so good. after lunch we found an internet cafe. venessa's been trying to upload some of her pictures from her last week in ondangwa. she took a bus 9 hours north of where we are in windhoek to visit a 'family' of 3 young girls that she heard about through our friend gracie (a fellow american). neither of us has met gracie in person, just by email. venessa 'met' her first through a friend and she told venessa about some trips she had made here...both with an organized group and without. she had just been here before us for 3 months on her own. she spent most of her time in the north with these girls, but was also at the cardboard box hostel as well (hence the reference). so! after many minutes and not much success, venessa was able to uplad 3 pictures. we figured we would be able to try again at another cafe that might have faster internet. venessa showed me her pictures on her camera and they are just beautiful. straight out of a catalog. these girls and the other sweet faces she met are the most radiant ones i have ever seen. you can SEE their joy and gratitude for life in every smile on their face and twinkle in their eye. i thought about each picture, 'THIS is happiness.' the family of 3 girls is made up of a 20 year old and a 16 year old sister (maggie and josephine) and their 6 year old niece (ndamunugululwa...my goal before the end of the next 2 weeks is to learn how to say and spell her name by heart). these girls live about 5 hours from their parents so they can be near a school where they can study. venessa says they have such a strong desire to learn and they devote so much time to reading and studying for their classes. during venessa's visit, maggie and josephine's father had someone drive him to see his daughters and bring them a basket of one apple, one orange, a small piece of goat meat and what little money he could give as well. this was heaven to these girls. fruit is a delicacy. he couldn't stay long, as the driver had to get back, so venessa didn't even meet him. in the time that she went to the bathroom, he was gone. those few minutes he had with his girls...and that they had with their father were savored, i am sure. ndamunugululwa's father died of AIDS and her mother currently has it. she lives and works in windhoek, where we are now, and is able to visit every 3 months or so. she visited while venessa was their last week and she had just had treatment, so she was not feeling well. but i am sure she was so happy to be with her sisters and daughter. venessa said their goodbyes are very non-emotional. the sadness can be seen deep down, but no emotion is shown. there are no questions of when the next visit will be. it's just goodbye. as they were walking away from the car, venessa said ndamunugululwa kept looking back and held her hand even tighter. i would be a wreck.
so, we'll be here in windhoek for a few days this week and then try to get back up to ondangwa towards the end of the week to see the girls again. i feel like i already know them. i already love them so much in my heart.
yeserday afternoon we called our taxi driver friend ronnie again and he took us to the baby haven. ronnie didn't know exactly where it was, so we stopped at a school and asked the reception desk. they had no idea. as we were getting in the car, a young man told us that a little girl said she knew. she was standing behind him, acting a bit shy. we were so grateful and thanked her so much. sometimes the answers are where you least expect them.
sure enough, we drove where she said and there it was. a light blue painted building with the huge white painted name 'baby haven' in the front. ronnie waited for us while we spoke to the staff. there were 2 ladies and about 5 babies there...and a tour guide with 2 guests. the women said we could call tomorrow and speak to the 'woman in charge', lulu (coincidentally fred's nickname for me), and decide on a time to come back today. in the 10 minutes we were there, i met and fell in love with a sweet 2 year old boy named ahmandilla. i held his tiny fingers while he made big steps, i picked him up and we danced and sang songs (do do do do...) and i kissed his sweet face. when it was time for us to go he would not let go of my fingers. i didn't want to let go either. but knowing that i will see these precious babies tomorrow gave me the strength to say goodbye 'for now'. there was a baby of about 8 months named grace and a little boy that was 5 years old, but was the size of a 2 year old. another little boy had a noticelably smaller head than that of a healthy growing baby boy. despite all of this...these children were so very beautiful. i don't know how i will be able to come home empty handed. one thing is for certain, my heart will be so so full of love and memories. i know it already.
last night we went to joe's beerhouse. venessa had heard about it and the lady at the front desk of the hostel recommended it as well. it had a very islandy feel with hanging plants, a fish pond and trees everywhere outside. we sat inside under the pretty lanterns instead. though it's been warm during the day, the evenings get a little chilly. we sat on bar stools, ordered 2 'windhoek light' beers and shared a burger that was stacked about 8 inches high. both of us were so full. but we shared a hot chocolate to end the night on a sweet note. the price of everything is so cheap. our money is going a long way.
when we arrived home, it was only 730! our day seemed to last forever. my tiredness was getting the best of me though. my bag still hadn't arrived. venessa loaned me her face wash and i brushed my teeth and crawled in bed. i wanted to write last night, but i knew it would have been more successful with full brainpower today. i had all of you readers in mind :) abut 10 minutes later, the receptionist brought the 2 canadian girls to our room and while she was there i asked if my bag had arrived yet. she said yes. out of bed i went! i was elated. but at the same time, just minutes before, i lay there thinking how 'possible' it is to live with very little...so survive with simply the shirt on your back and a smile on your face. i hadn't thought of my bag the entire day. it was a good lesson to learn. i am blessed with far more than i will ever need.
before we brought my bag down to the room, venessa and i made use of the available internet in the hostel reception. about 20 minutes later we decided to hit the hay. when we go to our room, the door was locked. the key was on my bed. i guess i just assumed the canadians would still be there getting situated. as mentioned earlier, i now assume nothing. the receptionist said there was no spare key as all the beds had been rented out. venessa and i went out and looked the windows of the room. they were open, but lined with bars. my arm would fit, but unfortunately, it's not 10 feet long. we had seen one of our roommates leave earlier who said he wouldn't be home until late tonight. the possibility of sitting outside by the pool for the next 5 hours was becoming more of a reality. then a miracle. another woman was there that know where an emergency spare was. we were saved. and the gratitude continues.
as venessa and i laid in bed, we talked about a few things...as girls do. except i was too tired to listen or think and in the middle of what i was saying to venessa, i began talking to an imaginary flight attendant...asking her if she needed my boarding pass. SERIOUSLY past the point of exhaustion. i was delirious. it was then that we said goodnight. after we laughed to the point of tears.
morning came and the sun was shining bright. i took a warm/cold shower and was so happy to be clean again. we were out the door and on our way by 8. the mall opens early, so we had breakfast at the same place we had lunch yesterday. we shared muesli and yogurt and toast. venessa and i are big on sharing :)
now we're here, at our familiar internet cafe, blogging away. we'll call the baby haven in a little while and be there today for the afternoon. i'm anxious to see my sweet friend ahmandilla again and to see how we can help. throughout my life and experiences i've had along the way, i've learned that TRUE joy...true fufillment...comes simply and genuinely from loving people. it is my passion and my purpose. it is the fire that fuels me. i am blessed to be right where i am. much love to my dear friends and family...and that fiance of mine that i love so very much. bless you all.