Back from the Bush

We're still processing all that we experienced and learned over the past month, but I wanted to let you all know we're back and we're well. There's no way to describe all that we did, but I'll do my best without boring you too much.

For 12 days or so we spent the mornings meeting with whoever would talk with us in the market-places and inner-city neighborhoods of Lusaka (the capital). We were assigned a different topic each day, (like health-and-medicine, witch-doctors, life-stage ceremonies, etc) and in teams of 2 with a translator, we just talked. Africa is like that...you can go to a neighborhood and perfect strangers have the time to sit down and talk for as long as you want! It was a great chance to "pick their brains" on how they experience life, how they think, etc. In the afternoons, we had lectures and forums from Zambian church leaders on different topics to prepare us. We rode the local transportation, ate local food in the markets, and attended local churches. We tried caterpillars (disgusting!) and whole minnow-like fish (Anya says they're great, but I chickened out, after the caterpillars were so bad!)

We then took a bus 6 hours north, where we lived in a bush-camp for 12 days (think canvas tents, long-drops, and no electricity). While there, we met with the local government officers, the village chief (the men) and his wife (the women) and spent time visiting in town (a very small town) and villages, in order to compare it to our time in the capital. We also lived with a local family for 3 days, doing exactly what they did. Many of our friends harvested peanuts, corn, or sweet-potatoes, but we ended up in the small town with a family, so we had electricity and indoor plumbing (though the water was only on for 45 minutes per day and the toilet had to be flushed with a bucket of water!).

We ended our time with 4 days at a resort back near Lusaka, where we debriefed and had language-learning lessons to prepare us for our next step of language school. So that's the detail of it all. Now for the emotion...

We had a wonderful time with all our dear friends from Virginia (there were 71 of us!) and we had a great bonding time with several of our Zambian helpers as well. Zambia is wonderful, the people are wonderful, and we were truly blessed by it all. Highlights included the chance to really see Africa through adult eyes, the exercise and sun exposure walking all over the country, and even helping to lead a former witch-doctor to Christ! Several times I had to pinch myself as I wondered if it could possibly be real. Chad also LOVED the time goofing off with the Journeymen (fresh out of college and here for 2 years).

I (Miriam) had moments of tears over the overwhelming task of carrying Isaac everywhere we went, including into the projects and villages, and washing out cloth diapers. To anyone going to 40/40 with a baby, it's worth the cost of disposables (available but expensive) to avoid daily diaper-washing. Of course, with the change in my diet, he was pooping 4 times a day!!!!! I also had to come to grips with loosening my standards of hygiene and child-supervision. The minute I sat down, someone would whisk Isaac away to show him off to their neighbors (they don't see many white babies!) and he would be gone for 20 minutes, out of sight, with perfect strangers! I just had to pray and trust, and keep smiling. I also got daily tongue-lashings from every woman under the sun for not having him in a stocking hat and booties and double-wrapped in blankets (in the 90 degree heat) because "he's cold!". How their babies survive heat-stroke, I'll never know! Again, I just smiled and let them scold me. All in all, Isaac did get two nasty colds and reverted to waking up to eat twice a night, but other than that he survived. And think of the bragging rights...he's been in 3 states, 5 countries, ridden around Lusaka in a 12-seater minibus with 18 other people (yes, sitting in my lap), and around the bush on the back of a flat-bed truck before he was 5 months old! What a life!

Now we're back in Lilongwe. Our crates have arrived (a miracle, I'm told...mission record for speed!) so we have to get them out of customs and unpack next week, and then off to language "school" to learn Chichewa. It'll be great to get a routine, to really settle in, and to figure out our city (I think I know Lusaka better than Lilongwe--I need a 40/40 here now!)

Thanks for all your prayers!

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