Everyone dies. Not everyone truly lives. -William Wallace "Braveheart"

Monday, August 25, 2014

Movin' On Up...to the Volunteer House

On Monday I was able to move into the volunteer house and learn more about what I would be doing for the next month. I met my roommates: Lena from Sweden, Maria from Sweden, and Florence from Belgium. There were volunteers from all over the world, Australia, the UK, the States, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Netherlands, Norway...everywhere! It was like getting to travel all over the world at one time. We would sit and talk about the differences in cultures, by the way, apparently PBJ's seem weird to everyone but us and people in Europe eat baked beans on toast for breakfast.

The first two days were orientation. We were given information on local safety, traditions, and etiquette as well as instructions for the schedule and getting everything assembled each day for our respective projects. The third day, myself and the other medical volunteers set off for morning projects. Some were taken to various clinics and some were whisked off to different villages for home-based care. I was sent to Libuyu Clinic. At the clinic, we took vitals, weighed babies, filled prescriptions, and kept the books.

At 11:00 the bus came to pick us up and take us back to the house for lunch. After lunch, we got the supplies together that we wanted to use for our afternoon projects. Paints and brushes for Art Club, jump ropes and balls for After school, books and letter flashcards for reading club...I LOVED afternoon projects! The consisted mainly of after-school clubs for the kids. Math Club with the 7th grade boys was my favorite. It is so rewarding to teach a concept that no one seems to be grasping, and then all of a sudden you explain it a certain way and it clicks. The kids there are so eager to learn. They are so happy, despite having nothing. It changes you. Things that you would normally complain and fuss about at home, don't seem like such a big deal after being in Zambia.

I haven't told anyone about this because it makes me too emotional, but one day, while I was volunteering at one of the clinics, I was playing with a precious little 4 year old boy. His father walked up to me and asked where I was from. When I told him I was from the U.S. he said "Please take my son back with you so he can have a good life...Please" I went back to volunteer house that afternoon and cried. It was the hardest thing I experienced while I was there.

The children in Zambia are so sweet and friendly. They call us Muzungus (white people). When we would arrive at the school they would run up shouting "Muzungu! Muzungu! How are you?" and hug you, and hold your hands. When the volunteer bus would drive down the road the children would skip behind it and sing the "Muzungu Bus song."


ZAMBIA

I FINALLY made it! It took 40 hours to get here, but I made it!
On my way to retrieve my luggage from baggage claim I broke my main pair of shoes. I had pretty much planned on wearing them with everything, so I'm pretty bummed. I was met by the driver who informed me that we were waiting for one more person. We waited for over an hour, but she never showed up.

At Livingstone Backpackers I am informed that I won't be able to stay at the volunteer house until I "officially" start volunteering on Monday. They place me in a 4 person bunk by myself and I get settled in.

The first thing I want to do when I arrive is hop in the shower. It's a strange setup with an open air unisex bathroom and nowhere dry to get dressed after showering. The shower is FREEZING! Painfully cold! I think about complaining, but then I feel a sudden wave of guilt. I should be happy that I have the resources to get a shower. Most people in Zambia don't have the luxury of a formal shower.  So, I grit my teeth and bare it...literally.

After thawing out from the shower, I decided to walk around and explore Livingstone. I needed to change money and grab a few things from the store. Livingstone is pretty small. Everything is in walking distance to the backpackers, which is nice. I immediately felt safe and comfortable in Zambia. The people are so warm and friendly. Some people just want to sell you things and can be a little relentless, but it is next to impossible to pick them out of the crowd because everyone treats you as if you are their new best friend. I may have felt a little too comfortable.

One night at about 10:00pm I decided to go meet up with some friends at a bar about a mile away from the backpackers. On my way out one of the guards (a local) at the gate questioned me "Amanda? (looks down at his watch with a concerned look on his face) Where do you think you are going so late? No...not a good idea." "I'll be fine," I assured him tucking my small purse into my jacket and zipping it out of sight. "See." "I don't like this," he said as he opened the gate. I still wasn't worried. It wasn't until I got to the end of the dirt road where a couple guys were sitting hanging out that I got worried...not scared of them, but because of the question they asked me. They looked at me as if I was an alien and asked "Are you okay?" "Yes?" I said unsure. I picked up the pace after that. Apparently walking around after dark isn't such a good idea haha. I made it fine though, in case you were wondering.

It was lonely the first 2 days in the room by myself. I wished that they would stick a couple of people in the room with me, but no such luck. On the third day, I met a group of five traveling from Australia. We clicked immediately. I only got to spend five days with them, but I actually got a little emotional when they left.




Sunday, June 29, 2014

Frankfurt

I landed in Frankfurt with the intention of catching a train into town, but it was proving to be complicated. I needed to put my carry-on bags in storage, but couldn't get clear directions on how to get to storage, I would stand in one line, get to the front and explain what I wanted to do, be told I was in the wrong place (even though I wasn't). I finally decided to kill time in the airport. I went for a walk for, what seemed like, 2 hours. I looked at my phone....it had only been 15 min. I realized then that there was no way I was going to make it 13 hours. I pulled up my big girls pants and finally found customs, the baggage storage, and the train. After I payed to store my bags the attendant informs me that it is a national holiday in Germany and that everything is closed. At least I can stretch my legs and get some fresh air in my lungs before my next 10 hour leg. 
I get on the train, not sure where I'm wanting to go when I see a large blended family staring at the train map. "Hmm," I thought to myself,"they look just as lost as me." I inched closer...they were speaking English. It was my lucky day. I struck up a conversation with them. They were from Washington state and had 2 sons of their own and 3 adopted Asian girls. The trains were confusing, and it didn't help that each town sounded remarkably similar to the one before it. At one point we realized that we had reached the end of the track and had to hop off that train, figure out where we were, and catch another, but we eventually made it. They told me I was welcome to join them and I didn't hesitate to accept the offer. We walked around town and took some pictures, then grabbed a bite to eat. I had some sort of a schnitzel. Their flight left much earlier than mine, so we parted ways after lunch. 
I thought I would continue to explore Frankfurt on my own, but once I was left alone with my thoughts the lack of sleep caught up with me. I sat down to try to find a wifi connection to call home, but no such luck. I woke up on the stairs to some museum and came to the conclusion that I should probably go back to the airport and find some vacant chairs to crash on, so I didn't look like a vagrant. 
I had even more trouble getting back to the airport, but eventually made it with 5 hours to spare. 
As I boarded the plane, I was informed that they were changing my seat so that I would have 4 in a row to myself...SWEET! I slept much better on that flight.

And the Jouney Begins!

After much difficulty checking my bags (called Lufthansa and was told I only got one bag, stayed up until 2:30 am repacking, went to check my bags at the airport and was told it was too heavy, but that I could've checked 2 bags....) I made my way into the airport in search of a little something to take the edge off. I sat down at the bar and spent about 10 minutes looking at the drink menu just to be told that the drinks started at $13!!! Not willing to spend that much on one drink I plotted my escape with the intent of sneaking off quickly to avoid embarrassment. I succeeded and found another bar where the drinks were a little cheaper. When I reached for my phone to check the time I realized that it wasn't there. If you are thinking it was back at the other bar...you are right. So, instead of avoiding embarrassment, I doubled it. I had to sheepishly approach the woman I had run from and ask if she had my phone. Thankfully she did and I boarded my flight to Germany. The flight was packed, but I sat next to a really friendly woman named Sue who was on her way to Paris with her yoga group. She had the ingenious idea to pre-buy mini bottles of alcohol at the duty free shop to add to the airplane soda. It turns out, however, that on Lufthansa EVERYONE gets free drinks....even us measly coach flyers :-) Great Success!!!
I couldn't sleep at all on the plane, so I watched Mitty and American Hustle instead.