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.

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