Friday, July 18, 2008

my Zambian adventuress - Part II

I have been keeping up with the 2008 Zambia Medical Mission (ZMM) by blog. There have not been any pictures yet, but I am expecting some any day. There have been several audio blogs from various team members in their own special areas. I encourage you to keep up with the mission - you won't be disappointed.

I got you as far as Lusaka and staying in the Lodge and finally getting clean. I will try to get you started on the mission. (I am away from home, so I don't have access to my pictures right now. I will post some pictures when I get back home. I know these blogs are lengthy, but I hope they are interesting.)

Before we left Lusaka, we had to go to the Nursing Council and interview so we could obtain our nursing licenses. The license used to be good for two years, but now you have to get a new license each year. They interviewed us one at a time. I was quite nervous this first time. They had received my US information, license, school information, etc. and already had a folder on me. They asked things like what kind of nursing I did and wanted to know what I thought I could bring to Zambia. I told them that my specialty was surgery and that while I wouldn't be doing any of that, I felt that I could offer compassion and good nursing care to people who seldom get to medical treatment. I also told them that I was hoping to learn from my experience in Zambia because I would get to see disease processes that I don't normally see in the States. I also told them that I was here to serve these people because Jesus loves them and Jesus loves me, so I wanted to help someone the way that Jesus would help them if He was here. They must have approved because I was granted my license for Zambia. They were very nice and personable. Now I look forward to talking with them when we interview.

The trip from Lusaka to Namwianga - where the mission is - takes about five or six hours. I am not really sure which. When you are little you ask, "Are we there yet?" and "How much longer 'til we get there?" The answers to these questions in Zambia is, "We are just near." That usually means that it is going to be a while. We made one short stop a little way outside of Lusaka at a place called Kafuwi. There are wonderful wood carvers there. I bought a few souvenirs and took some pictures (I will post them later). I sat in the middle of the front seats on the way to Namwianga, taking pictures of everything I saw. When there wasn't much to see, we were singing church songs. I was having a great time and so excited.

We arrived at Namwianga during the supper meal. It was already dark and quited cool. We unloaded our luggage and went to the Hamby's back yard and were served our supper. We got lots of hugs and wonderful greetings from the "advance team" and our Zambian hosts that had been waiting for us. I was so happy... I cried, of course.

The advance team goes about two weeks ahead of time to work through the logistical part of the trip and to get the medicines ready and all of the katundu (stuff) out that everyone needs. That means everyones' stored items, like sleeping bags, torches (flashlights), clothing, if it is something that we need every year - we just ship it over and store it until the next mission.

The main team - everyone who wasn't nurses or advance team - came in the next day. I asked if I could go to the airport to meet them and they let me along for the ride. Remember, my family (Michael, Jan/Mark/Jace/Lane/Katie Miller, Jill & Brooke Whitlock) were all coming in on this flight. Cindy Robinson and I rode together on one of the buses. The ride to the airport is two or three hours, so we did make a "geography stop." Now, you can be timid if you want, but sometimes the best way to deal with new experiences is to just dive right in there - especially if you get a chance to do it with just one or two, the next time is usually with 100+. I guess I should explain geography stop. It is when you need to stop to use the bathroom, but there is no bathroom and there is nowhere to stop... so, you just pull over to the side of the road. The women exit to the left of the bus (we don't have to cross the traffic - remember we are driving on the opposite side of the road), men exit to the right side of the bus and cross the road (vehicles do not stop for pedestrians). Men and women are separate. Nobody watches or looks at anybody else. All of the women look for trees, or tall grass. Just take care of your business (don't forget your Kleenex and hand sanitizer) and head back to the bus. Everyone knows who they were sitting by, and no bus leaves until everyone is back on board. Having that behind us (no pun intended), we traveled on to Livingstone to the airport. You can tell when you get close to Livingstone because you can see the mist from the falls. Victoria Falls is called "The Mist that Thunders" because you can see the mist from far away and you can hear the falls before you reach them. The falls are half in Zambia (Livingstone) and half in Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls). I will tell you about the falls when I talk about the trip after the medical mission part.

We were supposed to stay inside the terminal, but I found this really nice, nice airport man who took me right out onto the tarmac to take pictures. I thought Ellie (Hamby) was going to faint! She was afraid that I just ran out there - she probably had visions of me being carted off and deported. Anyway, I got some great pictures of the plane coming in and landing and everyone getting off. Boy, did they look tired! I know that is exactly how we looked, but after my shower and rest it seemed a little more distant. We got all of their luggage out and then the fun began.

You just can't imagine what it is like if you haven't been there. Usually when big groups get together for anything there is just chaos, but not so with this group. I told you about the advance team. Well, everything was ready: there were sack lunches and drinks for the group that just landed; there were vehicles designated for luggage and for people; everyone was given their housing assignments (and their shipped items were waiting for them there); there was a schedule of not only the rest of the day, but for the trip. If you needed to know it, it was on paper and in your hands. Before we left the airport, there was more hugs and greetings and some picture taking. We got pictures of our family all together with our ZMM matching shirts on.

We got back to Namwianga, got settled in and had team meetings. The next day we went to church. There are several choices for church. I stayed at Namwianga and went to church in Johnson Auditorium (George Benson Christian College is the college at Namwianga, there is also a secondary school there). The service there is mostly in English, with singing in English and Chitonga. The men sit on the left side, the women sit on the right and visitors and young people sit in the middle - mostly. This is their culture. There is a separation of men and women for most things. Church was really wonderful. The singing was great and different. They really lift their voices. They just don't hold back. I think they each would sing the same if they were the only one singing. Here if you are in a small church, you sing with a small voice - like you don't want to be heard (in case you are off key or something). They are just singing for God and they want to be sure He hears them. They have a harmony unlike others I have heard before. I think there must be one or two Zambians somewhere that can't carry a tune, but I have yet to find them. I love just listening to them sing.

If you want to venture out a little, you can travel to one of the village churches to visit. Some are close enough to walk to and some are further and you need a vehicle of some sort to get there. Some of the village churches have visiting Americans preach while we are there, but have translators - so the services are a little longer. Also, unlike here in the States, you don't know exactly what time the service will start because Zambians don't wear watches. Time is not a big issue to them. I think if you are a type "A" and have issues with punctuality, you might really have some problems with living on Zambian time. They get everything done that needs to be done, but they don't hurry or watch the clock like Americans do. I have heard that worship at a village church is a wonderful experience. Doug and I had talked about doing that this trip.

Later that evening, the Church (the people, not the building) threw us a welcoming meal and fellowship in Johnson Auditorium. It was wonderful. The benches were moved all around the room and there was quite a feast, and more cake than I had seen in a while. Everyone was there. We mixed and mingled and got to know people. There were several groups that sang songs: from the secondary school, from the college, a group from the church, women from the church, they asked the McCoy family to sing (Burl & Jan, cousin Debbie & her girls Molly & McKenzie - not the usual family, but they sounded great!), and then the large group from the States. It was very moving... I cried. At this point Dr. Ellen Little said maybe your malaria medicine and your antidepressant are working against each other. But I got better over the next few days.

We headed out EARLY the next morning. Out loading before 5:30am and on the road by 6:30. I found my friend Carol Higdon and we sat together on the bus. We had some talks previously about my fears and what the team expectations were for me and my job. The night before, I was just so terrified. I really just was afraid that I would not be able to do this diagnosis (even though we were using a protocol set up by a physician) and prescribing treatment (even though we had an extensive formulary). You know there is a reason that nurses aren't allowed to do this in the States. Carol and I hit our knees and prayed about it. She prayed over me and for me; for God to use me, my knowledge and compassion to do His will. Well, here it was time to go and I was nervous, but generally feeling better.

We stopped on the way to pick up the rest of the Zambian nurses/medical officers (the equivalent of a P.A. here) and then we were on our way. Each physician, nurse, dentist, optometrist and other medical person had our own individual nurse/interpreter. They were there not only to interpret, but because they are the real experts at the conditions that we would see. Each nurse works in a clinic or hospital and sees these illnesses/complaints on a daily basis. They take their vacation to come and work with ZMM to help the people that don't have access to the clinics because of where they live. They are true heroes. We could not even begin to do any of this mission without them. We bonded with our Zambian colleagues and were truly sad to part by the end of our mission time.

There were quite a few Zambian nurses and medical officers on my bus, so there was a lot of singing on the way. Carol and I took turns singing and talking about the days ahead. We had a song book, and tried to keep up, but some of the songs have different melodies so we did o.k. about half of the time.

We drove on the paved road for a while and then we ventured off into the bush. The places we visit are remote. If they were not so remote, the people would be able to get to a regular clinic area to be seen. Many of the people that ZMM sees, only see physicians once a year - when we come. We set up our clinic sites at schools because they are a common place, known to the people and between villages. They have buildings and bathrooms (such as they are - usually walled, but only a hole in the ground - I will explain more later). There is no electricity, so we can only have clinic during daylight hours.

We would be driving along and Carol would point out someone walking through the bush. Once, I looked out of the window and someone was so close to the bus that if we had hit a rock and moved just a bit - we would have run them over. Each person we saw was smiling and waving, just like we were old friends. Carol said we would see them again because they were headed to the same place we were going. They were coming to see us! I said, "Really?" She said I would see. Well, I don't know how long we were on the buses - one or two geography stops worth... We had trouble with a tire once, and something else, but we weren't stopped long. Finally we got to the clinic site and I could hear the people before I could see them.

When I got off of the bus I saw something I will never forget. There was a group, a fairly large group of women and children walking, dancing, singing, praising God because we were there to take care of them. I can still see it and feel that feeling. Of course I cried this time - so did everyone else who had never had this experience! We took pictures. We clapped. We hugged each other. We cried. We prayed and gave thanks. There just really aren't words to explain exactly how it felt.

Finally, we got a grip on ourselves and moved on to start unloading and setting up the clinic. We try to get started as early as possible and work until we lose our light. Generally, we treat ~ 18,000 people over five to six days of clinics. So we see around 2000-3000+ people a day. We don't want to turn anyone away, so it is imperative to get as many working hours in as we can. It was probably between 9 and 10:00am by the time we got set up and started. We moved all of our supplies into our areas. You could tell who the people where who had been before. They moved like a precision machine unloading, setting up, getting medical supplies to the different areas. Beyond that sight was a large crowd waiting to be seen. Some walking for days to get there; some with every worldly possession they had. They had to be able to feed and house their family while they were there. Waiting... everyone was waiting on us. While we set up, Darrell Conway and his interpreter were sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

There is a starting point for the clinic. The people are all gathered and then separated: Men, Women and children. Then separated further: eyes, teeth, medical, spiritual. Then medical is separated further: needing to see physicians and nurses, or needing wound care. Some needed immediate care. Many needed all of the services - they were sent to the place they needed most and then redirected to the next area. There is an area where vital signs are taken, babies weighed and the ailments written down. Then they are taken to the areas where they will be seen. Each area has a way to mark who has been seen so we don't keep seeing the same ones over and over while others are missed. In each area, there are multiple team members to make sure that things run smoothly and that no one is left out/overlooked. From the treatment areas, the people are taken by the pharmacy and then offered spiritual counseling.

No one is forced to talk to the spiritual people, but it seems that most want to. Many are wanting Bibles. We carry Bibles in Chitonga for the people, but it is hard to have enough to pass out. We make sure that church leaders from these villages have them first and then give others away as long as we have them.

When we (nurses/physicians) were ready to get started, we stopped for a moment to discuss what we would see, go over the formulary one last time and spend a moment in prayer. We kept this routine daily. I am sure the other areas were doing the same things. I set up my table right next to Carol Higdon's. She told me that if I had any questions about the diagnosis, that my Zambian nurse couldn't help me with or if I just wanted a little help, she was there for me. And she was. There we were, all in one room - with our little tables, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, gloves, wipes, vitamins & pain relievers, note pads, suckers (for the kids) and a few other sundries. The pharmacy was in the same building and the physicians were around the corner. We were off to the races.

The patient flow person sent my first patients in. I made it through that morning just fine. I had my protocol, my formulary, my nurse/interpreter/friend, and Carol near by. Most of all, I had God - and He was the One in control. I listened to hearts and lungs, looked in throats and ears (saw some really yucky ears!), felt of tummys and arms & legs and looked at rashes. I gave out vitamins and pain relievers, worm pills, a few shots for STD and wrote a lot of prescriptions for malaria medicine, antibiotics, creams for skin rashes, blood pressure medicine, etc. The littlest children were very afraid of the Makua (not sure about the spelling, but it means white person) because they had never seen one.

There is no stopping for lunch or tea. We still get lunch and tea (while we are working), but we stagger it so that people are always being seen. I saw my first baptism on my way back to work after my lunch break. They teach, then baptize, then teach the onlookers what they did and why. It was a reminder that Jesus took care of the people's physical needs like we were doing, but He also took care of their spiritual needs which is the main reason we have the ZMM.

The afternoon was filled with more of the same. I remember toward the end of the day, looking out at the lines and thinking, we are never going to get done, but a little while later, they said we were seeing our last patients for the day and told where to take our medical supplies until tomorrow. Just like that, we were done for the day. Generally, I felt very good about the first day when it was over and I was tired, but it was a good tired. I felt like I had done something to help. All of the patient's that I had seen were very respectful and appreciative - something we see little of in the States.

After we finished putting everything away, we made our way to the fenced in (with elephant grass) area where a hot supper was waiting for us. Also, warm water to rinse our hands after the hand sanitizer. We went through multiple bottles - big ones- of the hand sanitizer on this trip. You can't have dirty hands and help people get well. Also, no one wants dirty hands when you have to eat with them. I don't remember what the meal was, just that it was hot and good and just what we needed. We discussed how the day went, how many people had been seen and where, baptisms, sang some songs, chatted, chowed down and relaxed a little. We had a nice fire to sit around and when all the eating and talking was over, we made our way to our tents for the night. We lived in a tent city. Constructed during the day by the A-team (advanced team). We had an address - row & tent number because there were about 110+ tents for all of the 200+ team members.

I was in a tent with Jan, Katie, Jill and Brooke. We affectionately became known as the laughing tent. We love each other, get along very well and we love to laugh. Anyway, when you are just exhausted, sometimes you get a little simple and everything is funny. We laughed and giggled and snorted (at least I did) and generally had a great time. Mark, Jace, Lane and Michael were in a tent together, too, but they mostly slept and snored (at least Mark did). We had all the luxeries of home... we had all that we had to have: a sleeping bag, a pillow, our little suitcase/bag with something to sleep in and clean underwear, hopefully some clean clothing for the next day and most important our wet wipes - to bathe with. One night we did get a pan of hot (boiling hot) water to wash our faces and hands with and then our feet. For the brave people, there were grass enclosures that you could take a pan of water to and really wash off. I just have this fear that someone else is going to wander in while I'm al naturale (naked). Who knows, some day I may venture out a little and try that. I have camped many times over the years and with a good wet wipe or a small pan of water and no rinse soap, I can go for days. If you can stand the way you feel that is the key; we all smell the same after a couple of days anyway. And I couldn't feel much dirtier than I did when I got off of that airplane!

We made one more stop to the bathroom before we turned in for the night. There were no clouds. We could see our tent city, and the camp area where our Zambian patients were resting. We looked up and saw the Milky Way, the Southern Cross and at least a million more stars. I don't know how anyone can look at creation and not believe in God.

When our giggling played out and we finally got still, I remember thinking how great it was that I was in Zambia, with my family... and how pretty the Zambian nurses sounded singing by the fire. In the distance, I could bearly hear Darrell Conway and his interpreter talking to the people where they were camping. I was warm and sleepy and safe.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hawaiian Falls

We really enjoyed Hawaiian Falls! I promised you a few pictures and here they are.
If a picture is worth 1000 words, then this ought to say it all. I hope you enjoy seeing our day.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

short vacation from blogging

Hey there,
Well I am sure that there are one or two fans of my blog - for whatever reason - who may be disappointed by this blog. It is going to be short and sweet.
I am in Dallas, at the DFW airport Hyatt Regency Hotel specifically. We are in a very, very nice room that Doug got from for $45/night. We are here with Nichole, Paul and my grand kids Parker & Ally to spend a couple of days having some fun. We owe Jess Madison (one of Doug's "firefighter buds" a debt of gratitude for helping us stay in some really nice hotels for really cheap. Thanks Jess!
We are going to a water park tomorrow in The Colony called Hawaiian Falls. We actually went there Father's Day weekend with Jess and his family. We thought it was great fun and a good price too. We called Nichole on the way home and suggested this trip. I am sure that they will enjoy it as much as we did. I will let you know how things went and maybe I will have a picture or two to add in.
Hawaiian Falls has three parks total. The one we are going to, in The Colony, one in Garland and one in Mansfield. It is just the right size. They have good rides and not so many people that you spend your whole time waiting in line. Also, they have these cabanas you can rent and they come with complementary drinks (cola) all day long and pizza for one meal. Oh yeah, there is a "cabana boy" that comes with the cabana. He goes and gets your food and drinks for you all day.
I could tell you a lot more, but this blog is getting away from the "short" part that I told you about. So, I will enclose the link instead.
I will resume my Zambian adventures in a couple of days. I think it will be too hard to get much done in the hotel. We probably aren't going to be here much anyway.
We will be going to spend some fun time with Maui in a few days. I don't know if I remember the last time we were able to spend more than a couple of days with her in Clovis. Usually when we are there, the whole family is there - a holiday usually. There isn't anything wrong with that, in fact it is quite fun (and loud), but we are just rushed and there are so many of us. I know Jan, Jill and Jayne all like to have their alone time with Maui so they can really visit and be relaxed. Doug has been wanting to do this for a while. Since we decided not to go to Zambia until next year, I can't think of any place that I would rather spend time... except the two days with Nichole's family and maybe a day or two in Red River - if it works out.
I will get back to you.

Friday, July 11, 2008

my Zambia adventures - Part I (continued)

We left Atlanta for Johannesburg, South Africa - our plane a South African Airways Airbus. An Airbus is a really big air plane... It's like a 747, but it doesn't have an upstairs. I haven't ever been on a 747, but other people who have been on the ZMM have - and that is what they told me.
There are three sections on an Airbus: First Class, whose seats have plenty of leg room when they are just seats and then they fold out into nice reclining sleepers for overnight comfort. The second and third sections are regular seating. They are not really bad, but there isn't much leg room - even for me and I have short legs. If the person in front of you decides that they want to lay their seat back, then you have a hard time. Also, your TV/movie screen is on the back of their head rest, so it makes watching TV/movies/ playing video games a little difficult. There are a left and right side with two seats each, then there is a middle section between the isles that is five seats across. That is where we sat. I had an isle seat. My favorite place to sit, when I fly, is by a window. On an overseas flight, the best seat is definitely on an isle. I would rather let someone out than to have to ask to be let out - especially as often as I visit the rest room.

The attendants were nice and surprisingly, the food was good. I first had hot tea on this flight, but not with milk in it! Tea and milk just didn't sound good (it sounded like milk and Pepsi - Laverne - from Laverne & Shirley drank that - YUK). I tried to watch movies, but I kept dozing off. I would wake up and try to back up the movie, but I had a hard time ever finding where I had fallen asleep. When I would find the right place... I would just fall asleep again. I give up. I don't understand how people have such a hard time sleeping on an airplane, especially one that flies for 17 hours. But two of the nurses that I flew with didn't sleep at all.

We were given this little packet with a travel toothbrush and toothpaste, soft socks and an "eye mask" (to make it easier to sleep). I think there were even some earplugs in it, but I am not sure. We had a little baby pillow, a red and yellow striped blanket to cover up with, and earphones (that went with the TV/movie screen) in the seat in front of us - all the creature comforts you could ask for. We weren't supposed to keep the pillow, blanket, or earphones - but I made it home with a blanket (another nurse confiscated it for me - I did not ask her to).

We were served meals according to the time of day where we were currently. We were served lunch on U.S. time. We had snacks between the meals, I guess so we wouldn't starve to death while we were transferred to African time. We had those nice little airplane towel packages, after meals and snacks, to clean our hands with. We all confiscated as many of those as we could - they were our "bathing towels" until we got to a real shower. The attendants turned out the lights when it was supposed to be night in Africa. It makes sense. It also helps with the jet lag - at least going over. In the morning before breakfast was served, the attendants handed out "hot, moist, real washcloths to clean our faces and hands with. Now THAT was a luxury! I almost felt clean at that point - almost.

We got up and walked around every now and again during the flight. Of course, we got up to go to the rest room, but we made sure that we moved around enough to get a little "exercise," so we wouldn't get cramps or get a DVT (deep vein thrombosis - blood clot) in our legs. On the way back, the walking around would provide a lot of visiting time, but we were the only ones we knew on the way over - and we were sitting all together.

I wanted to see the coast of Africa as we came to it, but I never got to see that. It was dark when we came to it. I was actually in the rest room when they announced we were beginning our descent. I will tell you that caused a variety of emotions in me. I was somewhat afraid because there are no seat belts on a toilet and there is only about 8 inches of space on any side of you. If you crash... who wants to be found in that position??? I was excited because we were finally in Africa - I had never been to Africa before - but now I was in Africa! We made it. We were safe. I was really in Africa. I was really going on the medical mission. I was happy. I was relieved. I was scared - again. I was crying - again...

Yes, I said I was crying again. I cried when I left Doug, because I was going to miss him. We had just passed our 25th wedding anniversary three days before. I had never been away from him for more than a week, but I was going to be away from him for 18 days this time - and across an ocean. I cried when I got on the plane at DFW. I was not scared about the flying. I realized how scared I was that I wouldn't know how to do the job I was supposed to do. (I will talk about that in another post.) When I say that I cried, I don't mean BOO HOO HOO!! WAAA!! SOB SOB!! I mean that choked up feeling, when your lip is quivering and you have the tears in your eyes. The tears aren't flowing, but you can't get your eyes dry. Your nose still gets a little runny and you have to sniff a lot. You get that goofy laugh/cry sound that comes out, and you can't really talk or you really would "cry."

When we landed in Johannesburg, we had our carry-on luggage with us in tow. Our other luggage was transferred per the South African Airways for us since we wouldn't have to clear customs until we arrived in Lusaka, Zambia. We had to get our boarding passes for Zambian Airlines and then we went through another baggage x-ray, empty your pockets, show your passport and boarding pass area. Then we had to find our way down to the Zambian Airways gate. We had a little while to look around some of the duty free shops in the terminal, but I didn't buy anything. I didn't have a lot of money and I didn't know what I would need for later, so I just window shopped. When it was time to board our flight, we had to ride a small bus out to the airplane. We got settled into our 727 and, after take off, were served a nice sandwich "snack." We were in the air a little over an hour and then we were on the ground in Lusaka - the capital of Zambia. When we got off the plane, there were three nurses - in our "matching t-shirts" waving at us from the terminal balcony. Oh, there I was again... crying. But I was happy - happy and scared. Thankful to God - and scared.

We got in line, got our passports and shot records out, and went through customs without a hitch. When we got to the other side, the nurses were waiting for us. Elizabeth Halale (the lead nurse at Namwianga Rural Health Clinic and ZMM), Michelle Drew and Carol Higdon (who I will definitely write about later). Our luggage did not arrive, but it would be there later... or tomorrow... or well, it should be there - we will check on it. We left the terminal, met Donald (he was waiting with the "people mover" van) and headed out to the Lodge for our night's rest.

On the way, we stopped to by some onions - not two or three, but the biggest bag of onions that I have ever seen. We just stopped on the side of the road so Donald and Elizabeth could bargain for them. While they were negotiating onion prices, I was hanging out of the window taking pictures of some women with babies on their backs - tied in place with chitanges. Wow, it was just like National Geographic!

They all wanted their pictures taken and of course, I was happy to oblige. They were so happy and full of smiles. My camera is digital, so I would take a picture and then show it to them. They were fascinated. The only problem with that was that they wanted to keep the picture and I didn't have a picture to give them. I think it would be really fun to take gobs and gobs of Polaroid film over there, take pictures and just give the pictures to them as they develop. I honestly don't think there is enough film to do that. They just love cameras and having their picture taken. They are amazed when they look at the image. I guess they either don't know what they look like or don't see themselves often because their friends/family point them out in the picture and they just don't believe that it is their own face.

Once we had the onions, we were off to the lodge. It was just beautiful! A large, round, brick building with huge thatched elephant grass roof, a pool, and several other, smaller round buildings (also with the thatched roofs) that we would sleep in. We put our bags away and then went to eat dinner. The room we ate in had a loft and had painted scenery on the large rounded walls. The meal was quite good and we were soon ready to turn in - after a shower!

Shelly Logan and I shared a room, and Linda Knoll and Liz Eaton shared a room. Thank goodness each room had it's own bathroom or I don't know what we would have done. We were so desperate to be clean! This lodge had excellent geezers (that is what Zambians call their hot water heaters) because Shelly and I both got showers and washed our hair and didn't run out of hot water. It's a good thing the water was hot though, because the room wasn't. There was just a tiny electric heater for our room. We knew it was winter - so we had brought sweats to sleep in. The room was clean and the bed was soft. I made a short phone call to Doug to tell him I had arrived and was safe. I found out that Michael had gotten off without any problems and that he had ridden with the Abilene group in one of the church vans. We turned out the lights and that was it until our alarm went off the next morning.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

my Zambia adventures - Part I- BACKGROUND

The last couple of days I have been feeling a little "down" I guess is the word I am looking for. We were supposed to leave for Zambia yesterday morning and arrive today, but since we didn't go that is where my focus has been. I am o.k. and will be fine in a day or two - it's just the realization that the time has come and gone and we really didn't go this year.

We will go next year and that will be a great time for us all. Doug and I, Michael and Michelle, and Doug's sisters Jill and Jan (and some of their families) will be there together. Our money is already moved over to next year. All we will have to come up with is the extra that it will cost for fuel by then...

I told you that I would write about some of my adventures on the two previous ZMM trips that I have been on. My first trip was in 2004 and my last trip was in 2006. I had been on the every-other-year plan. I never dreamed that I would go on any medical mission, yet alone to Africa! I always thought that missionaries were just a really different breed. Why would anyone want to leave all the comforts of America to go live somewhere where they speak a different language, eat "weird" food, "outdoor" plumbing (or no plumbing), no air conditioning, what would you live in?, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Then along came the Zambia Medical Mission and a group of people from our church, Hillcrest Church of Christ. They came back with stories and pictures - good ones - interesting ones. That's cool, but not for me. Then came along Starr Ferguson. I had gotten to know her through my sisters-in-law, some fun craft nights, Motherly Love, and our sons friendship. Starr started telling me how wonderful it was and saying that I needed to go. She didn't give up! I'm talking look you in the eye and tell you how it helped them, how it made her feel, and that I could really make a difference - me! Well, it went from, "I'll think about it," to "I would like to do that sometime," to "Maybe next year," to "Michael you and I need to make a decision and stick to it... Let's go this year." Next thing I knew, I was writing people letters to ask for money and trying to learn useful phrases in Chitonga.

I was able to get the time off from work and we managed to finish paying for our tickets (with a small loan from the credit union) and we were packing our bags to go. We had classes at church to prepare us for the more important cultural differences. We learned songs (or at least how to pronounce the words we were reading from the song books) in Chitonga. We bought sleeping bags, batteries, flashlights (torches), all of the little stuff you need for "camping out" in the Bush of Zambia, and sent it over on a container by ship to be there when we arrived. I was set to go the day before Michael left. I would travel with other nurses to Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. We would interview with the Nursing Council and gain our nursing licenses for Zambia. Michael was traveling with the "big group" and would fly into Livingstone (named after "David Livingstone... I presume"). I forgot to tell you, one of the other big things happening was that Doug's sister Jan (and her whole family) and his sister Jill (and her daughter Brooke) were also going this same year. I was going to be a "family affair" to remember.

The day before I was supposed to fly out from DFW, Doug and I were going to drive to Dallas and get a hotel room for the night and then get me to the airport at 4:30am to check in for my 5:30am flight. I was so scared! I mean really terrified - worse than getting married for forever - worse than having a baby - never been that kind of scared in my life! I was so scared I was sick. I prayed to puke so I could get rid of that feeling, but no such luck. My parents came over to tell me goodbye. I remember them being there... that's all. I couldn't concentrate or carry on a conversation. Doug tried to tell me later that night that he "probably should've gone this year." I told him that really wasn't helping me any at all. Finally, he packed my last couple of items for me and put me in the truck around midnight. Now we were going to have to hurry just to get there. No sleeping before the trip. No shower before the trip (I'll never do THAT again). Poor Doug. By the time we got to the airport, I was writing out lists of the bills for him to pay (not his regular job) and I had him nervous too! I'm sure he was thankful that he couldn't go to the waiting area before boarding.

I flew out of DFW by myself - alone! I had flown alone before, but I had to meet up, in Atlanta, with the connecting flight to Zambia - the only flight out each day. If I missed it, I would have to wait until tomorrow (I won't go into all of the problems that would cause) - you're welcome. I was meeting up with three other nurses that I had never met - all of us "first timers" to Zambia and the ZMM. Thank you to whoever had the idea of matching team shirts. That is how we found each other. We all hit it off right away. We made our flight. We were on our way...

Tune in for part II.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


It's Sunday afternoon here - well, evening really. 6:08pm to be precise. The temperature here is 86 degrees. I have been inside all afternoon, it is a bit overcast outside but probably not unpleasant.

Michael arrived about 9:45ish am CDT which was about 4:45ish pm South Africa time - they are seven hours ahead of us.

In Johannesburg, South Africa it is 1:08am (tomorrow) and the temperature is 41 degrees (according to my weather channel desktop application). He left yesterday from DFW airport at ~11:50am. The last word I have from him is a text at 2:11pm CDT that he had just landed in Dulles in D.C. He had not met up with Michelle yet. Once he saw Michelle, I had no chance to get any kind of reply, repsonse, etc. He hasn't seen her since early March and even though he talks to her several times a day, I know that heaven and earth faded from view once he laid eyes upon her. To say that he loves her is an understatement. Actually, we all love her, but we do still know our surroundings when she is near. Once he is sure that she is not going to disappear, and that she is going to be with him for the duration of the trip, he will get his bearings again.

Doug and I are not going to Zambia this year after all. We are both at peace with this decision, so don't feel sorry for us. Maui (Doug's mom) was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gherig's Disease about this time last year. She has had some changes since spring break and Doug just doesn't want to spend so much time, and such a great distance away from her. I agree with Doug. Maui has been my 2nd "mom" for 29 years now. She treats me like she treats her own children and always has. She came to help me after I had my babies (one mom is good - two moms are better). My mom couldn't take care of my kids when they had Chicken Pox because she has never had it, so Maui came and stayed for almost three weeks. I don't know how to relate to people who don't like their mother-in-laws because my has always been so wonderful... but I digress. I feel like I should be here for her - and I want to be. There are other reasons why we are not going this year, but I don't want this blog to be a big list. Let's just say that God has put overwhelming evidence in front of us to confirm that this is just not the year for us to do the ZMM. We have trip insurance so we are out only a small amount and we have just rolled the rest over to the 2009 mission.

I will probably not "hear" from him while he is gone. I might get an email from him if he can get access to the computer when they have down time at Namwianga. I am o.k. with this because I have been two times myself and I know how things work there. Also, Michael has been twice before. I know he will be fine. I will keep up with the ZMM mission group via the blog site If you would like to keep up with the mission and pray for its success, I would appreciate that, too.

Well, I had to stop for a while and go to work. I am back home now and will just stop the blog here. Maybe tomorrow I will write about what Michael will be doing while he is there. In the next few days I will write about some of my adventures on my last two trips and post a few pictures for you.

It is currently 5:48am in Johannesburg and 39 degrees. He will leave there in about 5 1/2 hours for Livingstone, Zambia. He will arrive in Livingstone around 1:00pm and then take a 3 1/2 hour bus ride back to the mission at Namwianga. He will get there in time to clean up before supper. He will be tired, but happy to be at his 'home away from home', where familiar faces will greet him with big smiles and warm hugs.

Leza amuleleke! (God bless you!)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Check out my Slide Show!

4th of July

Happy 4th of July! This is always a good day.
We will be off to our annual 4th of July parade for the "Hillcrest edition" - that is the edition of Abilene that we live in. It takes in most of the ACU hill, or "holy hump" as some call it. It just so happens that it starts around the corner from where we go to church - Hillcrest Church of Christ. I think it was the creation of Liz Rotenberry, Linda Light and Star Ferguson.
It is always a lot of fun, doesn't last too long and ends with a visitation time combined with lots of homemade ice cream and cookies. Almost everyone wears red, white and blue - and waves a U.S. flag. We are a patriotic bunch. Those who want to be in the parade can walk, ride a bicycle (or 4-wheeler like Doug & I will), drive an old car or truck, or ride on a flatbet trailer sitting on an old couch! ha, ha...
We always have a police car - driven by our very own neighborhood policeman, Berney. And what parade would be complete without a firetruck and firemen? Certainly not ours - station #5 will be there with lights flashing and an occational honk. This year the firemen and policemen, along with their families, are the "grand marshals" of the parade. Liz has guaranteed that there is a place for Doug and me (on the 4-wheeler) and balloons for us to attatch to our "ride".
Sometimes Ally and Parker are in the parade. They will not be here until later in the day, so this year we will parade without them.
At last years parade, Paul (my son-in-law) was home on leave from Iraq and it was especially wonderful to all be together. You just better understand what celebrating freedom means when you actually have a family member fighting for your country and everything you believe in. This year he is home from Iraq (he got home on Christmas eve) and we are thankful for those who are fighting overseas, but most of all thankful that he is with us and not having to be there right now.
We really don't have any other plans for the day. We may go out to the farm for a while this evening. We might even find a little time for some fireworks. We have friends, Robin & Brenda that live close to the park where the fireworks display will be. Last year we sat in their front yard and watched the show - while we battled "killer mosquitos". I hate those little blood suckers! I know God had a purpose for everything He made, but I sure can't figure out what good purpose they have.
My main goal for today is to get Michael finished packing for Zambia. We will leave at 5:45 tomorrow morning to take him, David C., H.G & Ronnie M. to DFW airport. Michael says he is fine, but I think he is a little nervous. He is going by himself this year. He is perfectly capable of that, and this is his 3rd trip to Zambia, but he hasn't seen Michelle since spring break and he won't meet up with her until D.C. - so he is anxious to get there! Also, he isn't sure who he is going to be staying with while in Zambia. He is hoping for a familiar face.
I will close now. I have to get ready for the parade!
I hope you all have a safe and happy 4th of July. Remember to pray thanksgiving for our freedom AND remember to pray for the safety of all of our soldiers!