Wednesday, December 31, 2008

drumroll please

My last set of Lily photos. Wow. You can let out your breath now. (see post below)

Sheila was practicing her America's Next Top Model poses. I was supposed to be Mr. Jay. Neither of us were very good.

(On a side note, that was my first time to try to post a photo on here since I got back to the States, and it just blew my mind how fast that happened. I think I'm going to post a video now, just for fun.)

Note: Children were wildly entertained in the making of this video.

Monday, December 29, 2008

i do believe it's true

that there are roads left in both of our shoes

Well, I'm back in America. I made it safely (and so did my bag) after what may have been the longest 3 days of my life. Christmas went well, Sheila's wedding went well, and now I think I can breathe a little.

I'm not sure what the future of this blog is going to be. I do have more pictures and videos that I'm going to post, hopefully sometime in the next couple of days, but now that I'm back to everyday life I don't know what I shall find to write about. There are definitely fewer wild animals in my life now, although a couple days after I got home I saw a bat and last night I killed a really large spider in my house, which is exactly the kind of thing I was trying to leave behind.

As you hold your breath in anticipation of my photos, I will share with you a mental list I've been making of Things I Appreciate About America:

1) Chickfila (duh)
2) Unlimited text messaging
3) Febreeze
4) Pumping my own gas, or, being able to get in and out of the gas station in less than 20 minutes
5) Water pressure
6) Swiffer Dusters (there's a new swiffer 360 that I got inappropriately and pathetically excited about)
7) A quick and reliable postal service (Christmas cards I sent out the Saturday after I got home got to people BY Christmas! What?!?)
8) A semi-accurate weather forecasting system
9) Sheila, Casper, and Flood
10) Cheese


The fact that it just turned 10 o'clock prompted me to add to this post Things That I Hate About America:

1) My parents' cuckoo clock

*End Edit*

Friday, December 12, 2008

all things go, all things go....

Including Katie, who left on Tuesday. She really wasn't ready to go, but finally I was able to make her understand that it was God's will. See photo below.

Carissa left last week, Aislinn left Friday, Jonny leaves Monday, and I'm heading out on Tuesday. It's really time. I can't believe after all the months of praying, and planning, and then finally being here it's time to wrap it up and move on to a new season. It's a strange feeling, being ready to see family and my friends but not really feeling ready to leave. Several of the kids have already left for the holidays to be with family or their sponsors and it's been a little surreal to have to start saying goodbye. I said bye last night to Sandile, who might possibly be the sweetest child on the face of the earth, and it just womped, to borrow a phrase from Katie.
This week I went on a couple of hospital trips and went to Grey's for the last time! One of the nurses there that I was terrified of the first month I was here was showing me pictures of her new granddaughter and gave me a big hug. We exchanged email addresses and I'm hoping to keep in touch with her when I'm gone. I can't believe that I've been there so much that the staff and I know each other's names and a little about each other's lives, but it's been cool to be able to connect with people like that.
One thing that I'm pretty sure I won't experience back at Vanderbilt: we were waiting outside for one of the kids to see the doctor at the TB clinic at the hospital in Durban, and all of a sudden we saw a monkey run by. And then another, and another... all in all we saw about 30 monkeys including a bunch of mothers with babies holding on to their stomachs! They were just running around the waiting area and on the roof of the clinic. The best part was the kid behind us that completely freaked out... he got so excited and was jumping around and shouting.
I leave South Africa on Tuesday, will debrief in Pearl River, NY for about a day and a half and I fly into Jackson at 11 pm Thursday night. I would really appreciate prayers for safe travel and just for me as I move back into life at home and leave behind things that I love.
See you stateside.....
love means going this far
even when the ending is only the start.....

Monday, December 1, 2008

winding down

My AIM coordinator Naomi came to debrief me this week, because in two weeks I'm going home.


We talked about a lot of things like strengths and weaknesses (for me: teaching children anything. Especially math. I mean, you carry the one. I don't know how else to explain it.) We also talked about the things that I've learned while I've been here and the one that stands out to me more than anything was that God is faithful. He put this in my heart, He provided the way to go, He led me to this place, and He was alongside me all the way even when my purpose here didn't always seem clear to me. I look back at my time here and the fact that there truly are real dangers living in South Africa, and He has had His hand over me. I think this was due in no small part for the people at home that were constantly praying for me, and I can't even explain how much it means to know that.

This has been the one of the toughest things I've done, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I leave you with this (one of the reasons why I wouldn't trade it):

I love that little nut.

Monday, November 24, 2008

South African Wildlife Report

The past couple of weeks have been like Wild Kingdom around here; namely, the insect episodes. Because of the nonstop rain over the past couple of weeks, our house has become infested with ants (small ants, huge ants that move like spiders, flying ants), crickets, roaches, and today I used a clothespin to grab a praying mantis from my curtains and drop it out the window. Outside (and occasionally inside) it is like the plague of frogs, accompanied with foot and a half long earthworms. The flying ants came out in swarms one morning, and the kids went nuts because they love to fry them and eat them. I actually tried one and it wasn't bad. It kind of tasted like a peanut, if peanuts had wings that get stuck in your teeth.

On the Lily road the other day, Lani and I saw a dung beetle rolling dung and then a mongoose within 30 seconds of each other. And the kicker: the staff at the community center killed a black mamba behind the vegetable tunnels. Ugh.

Speaking of wildlife, to close this fascinating update I would like to leave you with a couple of quotes that were spoken in my house over the past few weeks. The speakers will remain anonymous, to protect our last shreds of dignity.
"Does this mean I have to take three baths this week?"
"Is it cold outside, or should I shave my other leg?"
"I always get him confused with Tiger Woods." (in reference to the future president of America).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

what a bad blogger i am.

Wow. Spent a lot of time the past few days sitting in the hospital, about to do a lot more of that coming up. Thank goodness for the other volunteers who chauffer me and keep me sane!

I leave a month from tomorrow, which I can't believe. Now that I'm coming to the close of my time here I have to wonder, has God been glorified in what I've been doing here? Am I learning the things I was sent to learn, am I making the most of all my opportunities? Prayer for this last month will be appreciated, for sure.

Let me close this very brief update by saying firstly, the weather in this country is insane. It's still been cold, even though we're approaching summer, but all of a sudden it's been super hot in the mornings but then around 2 or 3 in the afternoon the clouds come rolling in and it rains and gets really cold again. Secondly, the kids made their Christmas lists and by far my two favorite requests were by Menzi, who requested the ability to fly, and from Musa, who asked for a sheep. Yes, a sheep. Although neither of those are going to be filled (hopefully, the last thing we need is another animal around here) they did provide a lot of entertainment for all of us.

33 days till Chickfila!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

an other people's picture post

I always talk about how busy I am here, so I thought I'd post some pictures to show some of the more entertaining times at Lily (borrowing photos belonging to Katie, Aislinn, Rosa, and my parents). Hope this works!


We slide:

We save the world:

We are stylish:

We are bad news bears:

We look awkward:

We compete in athletic events:

We bust a move:

We watch rugby:

We are ladylike:

We work it:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

the times they are a changin

So a lot has happened this week both home and abroad. (not sure which of those is which...) This past week we had another Lily clinic, where both the doctor from the CDC and an ENT from Grey's came out to see the kids. 24 kids had to see the regular doctor, and 19 more had to see the ENT so needless to say it was a little chaotic. Tuesday I was at the hospital to drop off files and pick up some medication prescribed by the ENT, Wednesday was regular hospital day (meaning 7am- to 3pm!), and Thursday we had to go back to the hospital to sort out a problem with one of the medications. I have lots of friends at the hospital now which makes it a lot easier to get things done! People see me coming and know I'm about to ask for a favor.

One of the babies, Mpumelelo, just turned two and has started coming to nursery and he has a little backpack and everything. My roommate and Katie agree that he has busted out of anonymity to be one of the cutest kids in the nursery. He walks by the office every morning and waves and grins at all of us, and he comes to our Sunday School now and just dances his little heart out with a huge smile on his face. It's been so much fun to see the kids grow and develop, to see little personalities and senses of humor and attitudes come out.

These past couple of weeks have been busy for my friends at home too! Josh Casper and Hannah got engaged, and Sheila and Leo got engaged! I haven't gotten to meet either Leo or Hannah (but we're friends on Facebook. You know, where it really counts) but I love them both already. Hooray for love!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

hello loyal readers

Mom and Dad just left a few hours ago and I'm sitting in an internet cafe in Durban. It's amazing to me that they've already come and gone! When we said goodbye at the airport earlier I realized I'll be home exactly two months from today, which is hard to believe. The next few weeks are going to fly by and before I know it this experience that I have been planning and living in for so long will be over.

We had such a good week while they were here though! They were able to meet a lot of the kids and house moms, which was great. Sunday we took two of the younger girls to Tala, the game park that borders Lily. They immediately started naming the people in car, pointing to me and saying "sister", pointing to Mom and saying "mother", and pointing to Dad and saying, "Grandfather!" They continued to call him that the rest of the day and my favorite moment was when Amanda, the 5 year old with us, decided she wanted to sit in Dad's lap for the rest of the trip and shouted out to him, "Grandfather, I'm going to sit on you!" I would hope that any friends and coworkers of my Dad would be thoughtful enough to remind him of this frequently. Even use his new nickname, if you like.

On Thursday we got up early and went to Hluhluwe and Imfolozi, the game preserves near St. Lucia. We saw elephants, rhinos, zebras, water buffalo, baboons, monkeys, wildebeest, warthogs, giraffes, crocodiles, antelope....and the most exciting, lions! We saw a male with 2 females and 3 cubs! That was by far my favorite thing and it was the last animal we saw as we left the park. Because it's spring here, all of the animals had babies with them too which was really cool to see.

Things at Lily have been going pretty well. As far as the medical side of things we have really gotten through the most hectic part of October. We have one Lily clinic coming up Monday and a trip to the hospital on Wednesday, but other than that it all looks ok. The kids have been most healthy too, a few ear infections and coughs but nothing more serious than that. I spent one long unpleasant day in the hospital a couple of weeks ago, but every day I spend in the hospital makes me more and more grateful for our American hospitals. Every time I go, I meet a nurse or someone that wants to know how they could come to America to work. The nursing staff in the CDC at Grey's all says they're coming back with me when I leave in December!

Monday, October 6, 2008

a long week already....

Today we had a 5 hour long Lily Clinic! The doctor had to see 24 kids. We have a hospital trip tomorrow with 3 kids, Wednesday with 2 kids, and Thursday with 1 kid! It's going to be a long and busy week for me. Hopefully Friday I'll find a little time to clean my house because on Saturday my parents are coming! That has really made me realize how quickly the time is flying by, because I remember reserving a place for them to stay the first week I was here and now it's already time for them to be here. I'm looking forward to it a lot and I'll get a couple of days off next week to spend with them, so I'm excited about that.
This week 3 of our kids went to live with families through a program called Focus on Ithemba (Focus on the Family in South Africa). They were dropped off on Friday and Warren, our manager said about the oldest boy (who's 13): "He's the happiest child in the world right now, because all he's ever wanted was a family." We're going to miss them a lot but this program puts them in a home with a mother and father, gives them a good education and pays for them to go to college.
We all got some really sad news this weekend, though. Joerg, a volunteer from Germany who my time here overlapped with briefly, was killed last week when he was hit by a train. He had been back in Germany since April; he was 21 years old. Please lift up his family and friends in your prayers.
Literally an hour before we found out I had just finished reading "Where Is God When It Hurts?" by Phillip Yancey. The news was just a reminder that this world is broken, and our lives our fragile. But Yancey says at one part in the book that he "believes in the fairy tale", that God is going to restore this world to what it's meant to be.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


So, my trip to Lesotho was great, and there were a few surprises along the way including a snowfall that kept us stuck in Jayne's village for a couple of days. It was really cool to get to visit Jayne and see what she does. She moved into a village called Molumong in the mountains of Lesotho to improve her Sesotho skills, but she really saw the need there and felt like that was were God was calling her to stay for now. So she's helping form a support group and linking them with the local clinic and hospitals. People are hearing about her and come knocking on her door to be tested for HIV. She's also leading workshops and reaching out to previously unreached people, like the herd boys who spend days and days alone herding sheep and cattle. Once she has the support group to a point where she feels like they are self sufficient, she's planning to move to another village and start over. She talks to the people in the village about Jesus every day. She's living in this little house with no electricity, no running water and I think she's one of the most content people I've ever met.

For me, using the village outhouse would take some getting used to...especially in the snow! I had a really good time visiting her though, even when we rode horses into another village to check on a patient. I hadn't ridden a horse in about 10 years and even though it was better than I remembered I suffered for it for a couple of days every time I tried to sit down. One of the local women who didn't speak any English taught me how to make Basotho steamed bread with a lot of hand motions and just talking to me in Sesotho anyway (since I've been in Africa I've learned that a lot of things Americans get stereotyped for are not only American things, such as telling someone who doesn't understand your language the same thing over and over again, just louder). On Sunday there was no church because of the snow and a leak in the church roof, so like good missionaries we skipped church and played cards all afternoon. Jayne and I played with 3 of the guys in the village, only one of whom spoke English, but I'm pleased to report that trash talking and bragging transcends cultural boundaries. I would also like to report that I am the reigning Molumong Crazy Eights champion, much to the dismay of several Basotho men.

I posted more pictures of my trip to Lesotho and the kids at Lily.

Here's one of my favorites videos I just took a few days ago. Enjoy! Bonus points if you can tell which verse is in English ;)

Saturday, September 13, 2008


My plan last week was to post a little video that I made with one of the kids saying hello and giving a short update on everything. However, I waited for an hour at the internet cafe for the video to upload and realized it just wasn't going to happen. So I haven't been totally neglecting this blog.

The past week has been pretty hectic. Monday was Lily clinic, or was supposed to be, but the doctor didn't show up. Again. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we were all at the hospital. Wednesday, because the doctor didn't come Monday, we had so many kids and house parents who had to go that we had to take the big bus that we use to take the kids to school. Needless to say that was a long and hectic day for me. Thursday we went to Northdale, my most hated hospital here. We have a little boy here with what seems like recurrent UTIs, but urine culture have shown no bacteria in his urine but they have shown blood. Since Northdale is our regional hospital, that's where we have to take him to try to get further tests done or xrays of his kidneys. However, his doctor has decided that he got an infection from swimming in a river. I said, there are no rivers where we are. It would take him at least an hour walk to get to one. The doctor's response? "You don't know anything about little boys." And then he prescribed him an antibiotic and tylenol. The local doctor has even written a letter to the hospital stating that he felt the child needed xrays and an ultrasound but they've pretty much ignored that. I'm going again on Monday with him and we'll see if we can make any more progress. I think I surpised the doctor last time because he's not used to having anyone question him or argue with him, and I have no problem doing either. Ha.

Tuesday I'm leaving for Lesotho with Pieter and Larensia, a South African couple that I met through my former roommate Ana. We're going on a very short "mission" trip to stay with Jayne, an American nurse through AIM that's the head of their HIV initiative in Lesotho. I'm pretty excited about it even though I realized I have no clue what I'm going to be doing while I'm there. I'm really looking forward to seeing another side of HIV ministry.

A church from California that sponsors Lily recently donated money for them to put in in-ground trampolines. This has provided endless hours of entertainment for the kids, not only when they jump on it but when we do too. One of the girls told me I was too old to jump on the trampoline and I was going to break my bones. And this was even before I turned 25.

My favorite things I've heard this week:
"Miss Sarah, how old did you turn on your birthday?"
(GASP) "You're joking!"
said to me by a 4 year old girl

"Oh! You're so beautiful!"
said to me by a 7 year old boy one rare day when I wore a skirt

"Miss Sarah, I love you!"
that's my favorite

Saturday, August 23, 2008

grace my feet, faith my eyes....

One big difference I've noticed between hospitals at home and hospitals here when I went to visit one of our kids in the hospital is how they treat the parents. There's a room on some of the wards for the moms to sleep at night (the kids are in rooms with 6-8 beds in them). I had to laugh when I noticed this schedule on the door of the moms' sleeping room:

4:30 am- Wake up and make sure you are groomed neatly
5:00- Attend morning devotions with staff
5:30- Clean your sleeping area and make sure the bathroom is clean
6:30-Feed your baby
7:30-Bathe your baby and assist nursing staff with caring for your baby
9:00- Bond with your baby
10:00- Tea
10:30- Doctor's rounds. This is the time you are allowed to ask about the condition of your baby and if there are any changes if the doctor is not too busy.
12:00- Feed your baby

And so on and so forth, including a 9 pm bedtime. Maybe my friends at Vanderbilt should try it and see how it goes over?

In other news, we found a spitting cobra at Lily this week living under the steps of House 10. Not cool. What's even less cool is that he was small, which means he has a cobra family somehwere.

I've added another one of the kids to our chest physio program and he actually loves it. He's been entertaining me every day, especially with his attempts to blow up a balloon. When I was doing chest percussion he said he was going to take a nap because it was very relaxing. He's a trip. This now makes 6 kids who need chest physio three times a week at minimum, and some have been requested to have it every day. I feel like a respiratory therapist all of a sudden!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I got to go on holiday for two weeks and it was wonderful and exactly what I needed. We started off in St. Lucia, a little beach town where they have lots and lots of hippos. There was a big beach that divided the ocean and an estuary and you could walk down there and see a huge family of hippos sleeping along with a few crocodiles. Around 5 pm or so they would all wake up and start swimming around so they were very entertaining to watch. I couldn't believe how incredibly big they were and how cool it was to see them that close out in the wild. While we were there we went to a game reserve called Hluhluwe, and we saw a huge herd of about 28 elephants (including some really small babies), along with rhinos, giraffes, baboons, zebras, impala, wildebeest, kudu, water buffalo, warthogs and lots of birds (which were not that interesting).

After that we went to Swaziland, which was pretty . We had rented a car and it was so nice to have a cd player and air conditioning! We were able to go hiking by a river and waterfall, and we saw monkeys there too. After Swaziland, we flew to Cape Town which was incredible. Not only did Cape Town have fountain drinks (!) and Haagen Daas (thank you God for midnight cookies and cream) but the scenery was amazing. Hiking up Table Mountain one day gave us views of the whole city and also reminded me how out of shape I was. Cape Point was beautiful too and we stopped on the way down at Simon's Town where the colonies of African penguins live. The beach was so beautiful and the penguins were so cute! They're used to tourists so they didn't pay any attention to us at all and just waddled and swam around. The next day I was able to see some friends who work with a ministry in Cape Town who had visited Lily, and we went out to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was in prison for over 25 years. I stayed with Naomi, my AIM missions coordinator and on Friday she took us to Hermanus, one of the only places in the world where you can see whales from land. We sat out for about three hours just watching the whales swim and splash around (and possibly, ahem, make little whales).

It was so restful to go on vacation for a while. It was almost exactly my halfway point here and I couldn't believe how nice it was to relax and know that I could sleep through the night or get in the shower (which was also a treat) and no one would come knocking on the door. Sometimes it's hard in the middle of something to see how much it wears you out but I was definitely getting worn out. I missed the kids so much while I was gone though! It was a very small taste of what it's going to be like in December. It was so good to see them all when I came back. They were so excited to see me (especially the ones who thought I left forever without saying goodbye) and the house moms were all sweet and gave me big hugs and told me they missed me. It was like coming back home after vacation and I can't really imagine what it will be like to leave for good.
This week has been good and busy again as usual, so not much has changed! I've had some kind of stomach virus the second half of the week which helped me kick that annoying eating habit I had for about 3 days. I'm feeling a lot better today though and my appetite has come back with a vengeance. Otherwise things are going well and I posted some pictures from the trip:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Miss Sarah, how old are you?

24? But you're so short!

I have not been the most diligent updater lately. Things at Lily have been so, so busy and every time I've sat down at an internet cafe I couldn't narrow down what I wanted to talk about enough to write out a blog. Natalie and Ana have both left now and I'm definitely missing my friends! It's such a strange feeling to have almost everyone leave who was here when I got here. Right now there's 3 female volunteers and one male volunteer, and two more girls will be coming in the next week. Which leads me to an interesting question: Why are there so many more single women than men doing mission work? John (the new volunteer) and I had this discussion a couple of days ago after I commented that the guys' house has been empty or only had one person in it for about 4 months (and when Rapha first came last summer he lived in that house alone for 6 months) and the girls have been sharing rooms because there were more volunteers than rooms in the two female houses. I was also looking at my last newsletter that AIM sent me, and out of the list of long-termers they sent out in July, 4 were single women and there was one married couple. Of the short termers, about 11 were single women and 5 were single men. Josh Casper and I had this discussion after he came back from India, and I would like to hear opinions on it, because I really don't know why it is that way.
Right now things are going pretty well at Lily although I'll admit I had a couple weeks where things were pretty tough. I was so busy doing things that I'm not really trained or prepared to do (such as, trying to figure out of the 70 kids on ARVs, which ones need to see the doctor or have their blood drawn or get their blood results which months) and I was completely exhausted. I had some weeks where I was so busy doing things or going to the hospital all day every day that I hardly was able to see the kids at all. I've really had to think about what I'm doing here and what God is using me for. I've been praying about it a lot and I think that God is giving me grace for each day. The perfect timing of letters, phone calls, and emails from family and friends at home was always exactly what I needed.
I also just got to watch a video from home and it was so great to see everyone's faces! It made me miss everyone at Vanderbilt so much. So I just wanted to say hi and I love you to Tracy, Karina, Marcia, Ben, Rhonda, Miss Ellen, Rod, Karna, Beth, and Teren and everyone else from work! I miss y'all! Also, I got to see the beautiful faces of Esther, Laura, Casper and was serenaded (for a really long time) by Aboye. It was pretty much perfect.

In the past couple weeks, some of my best/funniest moments with the kids have included:
- Asking Musa, "What have you been doing today?" and him answering in a panicked voice, "To who??"
- Having my sassy little girl run back to give me a hug after chest physio.
- Having one of the toddlers who hates me because I held her while the doctor examined her NOT scream when I came in the room.
- Two of the preteen boys asking me what 'menstruation' was and when I gave them a (very basic) answer they said that wasn't what the Grade 7 boys told them and they were going to have to think it over.
- Aphiwe showing Natalie his drawing and telling her to look at his "very very very good job".

I'm about to go on holiday so the next time I blog I should be able to talk about Cape Town and St. Lucia, along with my attempts to learn to drive a manual car. Ick.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

my lyrics are bottomless...

A short update, since I'm very tired and have limited internet time at the cafe! This was another busy week, surprise surprise. We had another late night trip to the hospital with a child who had a severe allergic reaction to something that we haven't been able to figure out and threw up the benadryl I gave her (right on my pajama pants, btw). It was actually a blessing because there had been a worker's strike that day, ie. there were no taxi drivers, ie. no one had transport to the hospital and almost no one was in the emergency room. Also we were supposed to be at a goodbye dinner an hour away and ended up not going because of the strike. The doctor examined her for approximately 15 seconds before diagnosing her with an allergic reaction and prescribing AN ANTIBIOTIC AND TYLENOL. Please see earlier posts to understand the irony of this. I finally just asked him for a benadryl injection, we got it, and went home.
I posted some more pictures!

Monday, July 7, 2008

A little video action (hopefully)

A couple of weeks ago Natalie got this video of me playing with one of the little girls that lives in the house next door to me. She used to be extremely withdrawn and closed off and it's been amazing to watch her open up. Anyway, I loved seeing her laugh like this. I have no idea if the video will work.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

to recreate us....

all things go, all things go....

What an insane couple of weeks. Thoko went on vacation and I am amazed at her organizational skills. She got so much stuff ready for the doctor to come out and do Lily Clinic last Monday and then because of some mix up the doctor didn't come, which led to a lot of confusion on my part about who needed medication and who didn't. Straightening that out ended up being a several day ordeal. Then Warren and Sungmin left for a mission trip to Zambia, but for the most part it's been really smooth sailing since they went.
This week literally flew by. When I realized last night that this Monday is time for the Lily Clinic again I couldn't believe it. We had a couple of hospital trips this week (including one where we waited for an hour and fifteen minutes just to get the file so we could proceed to the waiting room) and miraculously, we've only had one trip to the doctor. I am completely amazed at how many of the kids can be sick at the same time and none of them have the same thing. They are really good at giving me variety. In the past three weeks we have gone to the doctor for pneumonia, bronchitis, tonsillitis, an ear abscess, scabies, infected excema, septic ringworm....and the list goes on. If I could just give out antibiotics here we could probably skip going to the doctor most days because for almost anything they have they get an antibiotic and tylenol. I think they would probably prescribe amoxicillin if their limbs were falling off. (on a side note, the local doctor is incredibly generous with us and sees all our kids for free and gives us medicine for free, and the staff treats us and the kids with complete respect which is not the case everywhere. they just really like antibiotics.)
When we were at the hospital this week for the diabetic clinic, I went in with the child and her house mom to talk to the doctor. I was wearing a MSU tshirt, jeans, and running shoes, and at the beginning of the meeting the doctor asked me if I worked in pediatrics, which I thought was a little odd but I told her that I did at home, but I was a volunteer at this NGO and that I lived there. A few minutes later she asked me if I would calculate the child's BMI for her. I was completely surprised but thought, I pulled out my post it notes (always handy) and my cell phone and worked it out. Then a few minutes later she was reviewing the child's insulin dosage and turned to me and asked, "Is Humelog the same as Actraphane?" and by this point I'm thinking, what in the world is wrong with her. Then before we left she asked me again if I worked in pediatrics and I said again, no, that I lived with them at the NGO. This time she got it, I guess, and told me the whole time we were in this meeting she thought I was one of the other doctors. A very unprofessional looking one, apparently.
A few weeks ago I wrote about one of the kids who has been having these panic attacks where he looks like he sees someone coming at him. Since then, he's being doing really well and has been happier than I've ever seen him. He sat in my lap one Sunday afternoon for about an hour AND didn't pee on me again, which was nice. He's been playful and laughing and even talking a little bit, which he wasn't doing before. I was also weighing him the other day and I was kneeling in front of him taking his shoes off and he leaned forward and wrapped his little arms around my neck. So cute.
We have another baby girl here who is very developmentally delayed but has been making a lot of progress. She's over 3 years old but she still isn't walking or talking. In the past week, she's started pulling herself into a standing position and her house mom told me yesterday she was standing in front of the tv and was completely shocked to hear her say "hey hey.....suga!" (which means, move!).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

oh the sweetest winds, they blow across the South

So I don't have much time to blog but I wanted to share this real quick before I forgot about it. The other day we took 26 of the kids who had gotten our homework club and reading prizes to see Prince Caspian at a movie theater about 45 minutes away from where we live. Afterwards we got KFC (THE most popular chain in South Africa) and the kids were enjoying themselves for sure. One of the grade 1 girls had thrown away her box but still had a half eaten, greasy piece of chicken she wanted to take home with her. I was standing around talking to one of the other volunteers when I felt my purse moving. I looked down and she was putting her piece of chicken in my purse! She was completely baffled as to why I did not want to carry an unwrapped half eaten piece of fried chicken in my bag for her. It's hard to tell them not to do something when you're laughing so hard.
I can't believe we're more than halfway through June. The time is going by so quickly, it just blows my mind.

Friday, June 6, 2008

miss sarah, you shouldn't be cold... you have hair on your arms

...but I am, in fact, cold. It is winter here now and at night and in the morning it is COLD! We visited our social worker's house last night and she has a space heater and none of us wanted to leave.
I was going to update last week but I realized that I did almost nothing except sit in the hospital all week, so there wasn't really anything exciting to tell about that. We did have a going away party for Simone, one of our volunteers from Germany who had been at Lily for a year and went home on Sunday. I can't believe she's not here anymore! I miss her a ton already.
This week has been a tough one. On Sunday after we dropped Simone off at the airport, we went to eat in Durban and a girl came up to our table with her baby asking for money. Ana, my roommate, asked if we could buy her something to eat instead. She told us her name was Mary, she was 16, and she had been homeless for a long time. She said her dad was dead and her mother was also homeless but she didn't know where her mom was. She ate with us and we talked to her about her life and basically told her that God loved her and cared about her, even if it didn't seem like it sometimes. I was so impressed of how well she was taking care of her baby when people in better situations than her are abandoning their babies here every day. We left her with a prayer and our phone number and I have been thinking about her every day.
One of our toddlers is also having these panic attacks. His house brothers told me that he sees someone that they can't see, and just screams and shakes and cries. I don't know what happened to him before he came here but he's been really really traumatized, and when I went to check on him the other night it was heartbreaking to see the terrified look on his face. Whatever is frightening him is evil, any way you look at it. I just held him and rocked him until he fell asleep and then his house mother and I prayed for him and that God bring peace to his little heart.
Yesterday Natalie and I went into the township visit a family in the community who's son just died of TB. He was the best friend of one of our staff members, who asked if we would come. In the days before the funeral, people come to visit the family and pray for them and give a little money (about a dollar fifty) for funeral expenses. We were invited to the funeral today, which is pretty cool that we would be invited to a Zulu funeral by people who hardly know us. When there's a funeral they put these big colored tents so everyone knows where it is, and we see those tents at least once or twice a week. People are dying here right and left. The impact of disease here is mind blowing, and there was an article in the paper this week about how the denial of the South African government about the realities of AIDS has led to skyrocketing infection rates. The whole country will have to change its mindset for the impact to slow down.
On a lighter note, I would like to give a shout out to Margaret Cole's Sunday school class, who I am told are faithful blog readers. This story is for them: One of our first graders is a very adorable, very mischevious little man. A couple of weeks ago he had his finger smashed really badly so we took him to the doctor to see if he needed stitches, so of course the kids are all in an uproar because there's excitement and blood and a trip out of Lily! Our victim was all tears and wails until we got halfway down the road and he got more interested in seeing everything around him. He didn't even really cry at the doctor until he had to drain his finger with a needle. It was the middle finger on his left hand and the doctor put this huge white bandage on, like the kind you see in cartoons, and we headed back home. When we got back, all the kids had to be in their houses for lunch but they were all, literally all, pressed up against the windows to see what had happened to him. Never the one to miss a moment for glory, he paraded back to his house with his hand high up above his the process giving the entire children's village the finger. He milked that injury for all it was worth for about 4 days, until he forgot about it completely.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

long time gone...

Greetings from an internet cafe, finally. We haven't had internet access for a couple of weeks here at Lily, so I haven't been able to email anyone or blog for a while. That has been minor though, compared to our lack of running water this week. Off and on for several days, we haven't had running water and we also ran out of our reserve supply that we keep here. On Tuesday, the water company was supposed to send a water truck to refill our containers but that didn't happen. It's amazing how much our lives revolve around water and how much it stinks (literally) when you can't get it! It's been really nice that we haven't had any power outages lately though.

It's been a busy couple of weeks. Between working towards getting the community clinic open, doing homework club (which I taught my first session of this week and I must say that elementary school teachers deserve medals of honor. or straitjackets. maybe both.), Bible studies, devotions, food distribution, hospital trips, and random injuries around here there's been a lot going on. We had an emergency trip to the hospital on Thursday morning around 3 am with our diabetic child, who got admitted to the pediatric ICU. We had an emergency trip for stitches for a cracked wide open head. It's been really interesting to see the health care system here; how it works and the differences between here and home. I'll say this much: it's good to be a nurse at Vanderbilt.

I started getting mail last week and it's been so fun! I got letters from my Aunt Gayle, my mom, and my grandfather and packages from Mom, James, and Lauren with candy, candy and more candy plus RANCH DRESSING! Packets, at least. It was pretty awesome. Lauren made me a belated Easter basket and it had a little stuffed rabbit. I asked a couple of the kids for suggestions about what to name it (I'm not really good at naming things) and the two suggestions I got were "Rabbit" and "Thandeka" (the latter was made by Thandeka, surprisingly enough). I think I may have to come up with something on my own.

On the Animal Kingdom side of things, the past couple weeks I saw rhinos again, more warthogs, giraffes (cool), owls (also cool), monkeys (very cool), more bats (very uncool), and a spitting cobra (very VERY uncool). All of these things I saw either at Lily or within a couple miles of Lily. I don't think I've ever coexisted this closely with this much wildlife. Not really sure how I feel about it.

I posted more pictures today:

Friday, May 9, 2008

Another eventful week at Lily...

The past two weeks have really been great and have flown by so quickly. The team of doctors from the UK was here and hopefully have made quite a bit of progress towards getting the medical clinic open. It's so involved, and mostly because of red tape issues. They're also opening a clinic in a rural village in India, which got me thinking about my next adventure...hmm...
This has been a week full of beauty. First of all, I saw the giraffes for the first time! They were on the hill across from Lily and I saw them two days in a row. I didn't realize at first that when they said Tala borders Lily, it really borders Lily. There is a barbed wire fence separating us from the animals. So if the water buffalo want to come in, they probably could. Let's hope they stay happy where they are.
Another thing I love here is the sunrises and sunsets. They're beautiful, every single day without fail. And at night, if it's not cloudy, you can see the Milky Way really clearly all the way across the sky. It's amazing.
So one of my friends asked me this week what a typical day for me here is like, so I decided to tell him about how this Monday went (as follows): A typical day means don't expect anything. For example, at 8 Monday morning, as I was mentally planning what I was going to do for the day, someone came knocking on my door asking when I was leaving to take a child to the hospital for surgery I had no idea about? So then we left in a hurry and got about 50 feet before we realized something in the engine smelled like it was on fire. We worked that out (as only 2 of our 5 cars were working) and got to the hospital where we then waited two hours to see the doctor who decided not to do the surgery that day but to send us for a hearing test instead. We were told to come back in an hour, which we did, to find that they were at lunch for another 45 minutes. Then after the hearing test we went the pharmacy where I waited about an hour until they told me they were out of some of the meds I needed, did I want to come back tomorrow? Because tomorrow they were pretty sure they would have one of them...but the other one they didn't know when they would have. That would be a typical day. Ha.
Africa definitely teaches you flexibility. And how to wait. (my waiting skills have been improved by the fact that this week I finally learned how to play Sudoku and I am officially obsessed with it. )

Saturday, April 26, 2008

miss sarah, why are your cheeks always red?

So this week, my nursing responsibilities kicked in full force. Besides two hospital trips and a day spent organizing in the clinic, we had Lily clinic on Monday where the doctor from the hospital where we take the kids comes to see the kids so we don't have to bring so many. She checks them out and draws a lot of blood. I drew blood on a couple of the older ones, and I realized how long it had been since I had done that! It was so strange. Then in the middle of holding one of the little ones while the doctor was drawing blood I looked out the window and saw a warthog running along the fence. We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
I also did chest physiotherapy with Simone, one of the other volunteers, on a couple of the kids who have lung problems. She and I also spent an hour and a half with one boy who had sand thrown in his eyes (and was more than willing to tattle on the other boy but somehow failed to mention that he himself had started it) trying to rinse his eyes out and get drops in them. I cared for one sore throat, one sprained ankle, one bumped and cut head, one hurt rib, and applied about 15 bandaids. Next week a team of doctors from the UK who came to Lily in the fall will be here again and be working in the big clinic for a couple of weeks.
Also, it's starting to be wintertime here and it came out of nowhere. It was nice and sunny one day and the next two days straight it rained and was in the 40s. Now it's warm again during the day, but cold at night and in the morning. I had been warned, so I brought plenty of warm clothes but I guess I didn't really believe them because I definitely wasn't expecting it to be this cold!
No snake or bat sightings this week, so I chalk this one up as a success!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

miss sarah, your eyes are the color of a frog....

Oh the glory that the Lord has made

I've been at Lily for 4 weeks now, which seems unreal. I'm definitely starting to settle in and get used to my surroundings, and I'm doing my best to learn about 120 Zulu names along with some words that I've found are important (such as, stop! Come here! Go! Move! Sit Down!no! As anyone who works with kids may imagine).
In the past week or so I have had not one but two run-ins with the law. The first one was being threatened (along with Naomi, my AIM coordinator) by the Lesotho border guard to be thrown into prison for taking a picture of the 'Welcome to Lesotho' sign on the side of a metal shack that was apparently a government building. My bad. The second was when one of the Lily vehicles broke down on the side of the road on the way back from church and a policeman stopped and gave us a ride back to Lily. Dave, who's in charge of the Lily Community Center rode up front while his daughter Jordan, our manager Sungmin, Naomi, my roommate Lani and I rode locked up in the back of the police truck. It was pretty amusing and hopefully my one and only ride in police custody.
Out of lack of interesting stories, here are things I appreciate much more after being here for a month (in no particular order):
two ply toilet paper
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
living in a place without roosters
fabric softener
milk that doesn't taste weird
cheese that doesn't taste weird

I really, really would like to post some pictures but it's not working! Sigh.

and the complications when I see His face in the morning at the window

Saturday, April 12, 2008

i finally made it to an internet cafe!

Keep me responsible, be it a light or heavy load

The past few weeks and days have been a pretty overwhelming range of emotions. There's the usual ups and downs of settling into anything new. I am very blessed to be where I am and the support that I have, but you can't help feeling loneliness when you're separated from everyone who knows you best. I've only been gone a few weeks, but it's amazing how isolated how I feel from everything going on at home. Everything I can possibly feel, I think I've felt over the past weeks. I've been excited over being here and had a strong sense of purpose and love for the kids at Lily. Frustrated, when I was trying to care for a newly diagnosed diabetic child discharged from the hospital with no testing supplies and no instructions. Elated, over the unbelievable beauty of the sunset in Natal.
God has been gracious to provide me with strength and comfort and in the times I've been struggling. The morning after I spent 5 hours just trying to check a child's blood sugar while feeling miserable because I was getting sick and feeling completely alone, one of the children knocked on my door. She had drawn me a picture and written me a note that said (this is an exact quote), “I love you sooooo munch. You are a good nurse. You are a girl. God bless you.” It was so sweet, and funny. And a reminder that I wasn't here so that I could be comfortable or relaxed.
I was in Durban for the first time the other day on a hospital trip for one of the kids and we drove down this side street and right past a squatter camp. Durban is a fairly modern city with huge shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, etc. And right in the middle of this there was a squatter camp, metal shacks propped up with tires and bricks holding down the “roofs” so they wouldn't blow away. No electricity, no running water, no anything but makeshift shelter. Three children were walking over piles of garbage with bare feet. I looked on the other side of the road, and there were these huge mansions up the side of this hill that could see the camp from their front door. I couldn't believe it. I started to think about how in the world these wealthy people could possibly live their lives that way, and then I was completely ashamed of myself.
Because it struck me that I was just as aware of these needs when I was sitting in my apartment in Nashville. I knew they were there. Just because I didn't see them out my window every morning didn't mean I was any less informed. I didn't need to see the destitution in the township of Mophela to know that it existed. I didn't have to see children walking in piles of trash to know that it was happening. I can criticize someone else and say with my head that they have more responsibility than me to care for the poor at the end of their driveway, but I know in my heart that the burden to care for the children of God is mine. Yours and mine. To bind up the brokenhearted, wherever we find them.

On a somewhat lighter note, I am learning to take certain things in stride since I got to Africa. Daily power outages? No problem. No shower? At least I have running water. Frogs in the house? They won't kill me. And the bugs. Extremely noisy crickets like to hide under our furniture. I kid you not, the other day I saw a beetle that was literally the size of a small turtle. At least it was outside and not in. And this morning I was attacked by ants that looked more like small spiders. But umm, one thing I will not be adjusting to is bats. Yes, last night I realized there were bats. Flying very low. Over my head. I have not run that fast in a long time. So at least I'm exercising!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Week 2

Well, I have made it through my second week in South Africa. I have definitely had several "This Is Africa" moments since I've been here. First, going to the game preserve next to the park and seeing a rhino walk in front of the car. Second, going to the hospital for one child to have blood drawn and prescription filled and waiting for 8 hours. TIA.
I am finally learning some names and I am really starting to connect with some of the kids. They are so full of life and so funny. Also, so naughty. I have learned that VERY quickly. But I love them all already.
The area that I am in is so beautiful. Huge, green hills, beautiful sunsets, and at night you can see tons of stars. It's such a contrast to all of the poverty and suffering that you see in the area where we are; many of the children here are such an example of the toll that sin has taken on the world. But it's so beautiful to see the love here at Lily and the kindness of people from the community who work here. I have already seen how hope in Christ is making a difference to people in this area, even in circumstances that I cannot fathom living through.
So several of you have asked for my address here. There's two, one for letters and one for anything else:
For letters ONLY: (I've been told nothing else would actually make it to me)
Sarah Underwood
c/o Lily of the Valley
PO Box 508
Cato Ridge, 3603
Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

For anything else: (this is the main Lily administrative office in a bigger town)
Sarah Underwood
c/o Lily of the Valley
PO Box 185
Gillitts, 3603
Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

Thanks again for all the prayers and encouragement since I've been here. Hopefully I can post some pictures soon!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hi to everybody! I made it safely with all my luggage to Lily in Mophela Township outside of Pietermaritzburg in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. I got to spend a few hours with Rachel, my sister, in London during my 11 hour layover which was a lot of fun even though the weather was completely bizarre. Harry Potter alert: There is, by the way, a Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station. I got about halfway through but then decided since everyone had been so supportive I had better go on to South Africa :). I have photographic proof of this for those of you who doubt me!!!
The first interesting thing that happened when I got to Johannesburg is that the customs official and I had the exact same birthday. He got really excted about it! I think he was the first friendly customs official I have ever met. The area that Lily is in is very rural. As we were driving up the roads turn to dirt and we were met by about 30 children running alongside the van. A lot of them knew my name already and were yelling "Miss Sarah!" and waving.
Lily has about 20 houses with 114 children total living in them. The permanent house mothers are hired from the community, and raise these children together. The children call them their "ma" and the others in the house with them are their sisters or their brothers. It seems like a really stable situation for them, especially considering the situations some of them came out of.
My internet access is going to be more sporadic than I thought, so I think what I'm going to do is type blogs on my computer and then post them when I can. So if you see I've posted a new blog, check and see if I've put more than one!
And now to leave you with a typical story: my first day here I was walking around and a few of the children were yelling my name and waving me over. So I was over talking to them and they asked me what my last name was. I told them and they gasped and said, "Sarah Underwear?". So it took about 30 seconds for that elementary school nickname to follow me halfway around the world. Hah.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

i lost my driver's license again

This time, in Walmart. Ugh, walmart. I haven't been in there for so long but my mom and I spent 3 HOURS there yesterday getting stuff I needed to take with me...I got a long list of suggestions from the people at AIM last week and I was not exactly prepared. Also, I wanted to get some medical supplies to take with me based off suggestions from the nurse who was there before me (also named Sarah). I bought gauze, antiseptic, bandages, tape, and alcohol pads, my favorite.
BUT when I got home I realized my driver's license was gone. Again. I usually am not a loser (of things) but my Tennessee driver's license escapes me on a regular basis. Naturally, it took me about 20 seconds to be convinced of the worse case scenario. I have lost it. It is gone forever. I will not be able to get a new one, because I no longer live in Tennessee. All of my paperwork is based off of my TN license number. I will not be allowed to leave the country because I don't have my identification (somehow, in this scenario a US passport was not sufficient). Etc. Etc. My mom calmly suggested I call customer service at Walmart (where I had my license out, because I was having to return stuff for my mom, who has returned so much stuff to Walmart without a receipt that she has been blacklisted and can't do it again for 6 months or something like that. They probably have a picture of her face behind the cash register.) where they informed me that it was sitting there waiting on me. Thank God. Again.
Another exciting thing about this week, which I keep sort of forgetting about, is that I'm going to get to spend Saturday in London with my sister! Rachel's in school right now in Swansea, Wales and I have a 9 hour layover so we're going to see the sights. Or at least a few of them. I've never gotten to see London so I'm pretty excited. And in true good sisterly fashion, the very first place she's taking me is Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station so I can get my Harry Potter fix for the next 9 months. Hooray.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

t minus 5 days...

i'm looking forward, and looking back

That is the main thought going through my head right about now. I am five days away from moving to Africa. Almost everything is done, except for the small issue of packing. I really should be more concerned about it than I am, but all I'm thinking about is eating. Hibachi, pizza, Cock of the Walk...I'm not sure that should be my main focus before I leave for a 9 month mission trip, but I just love to eat! My roommate at orientation, Lydia, was going to the southern Sudan and was going to be surviving on lentils, beans, and rice for the next 3 months. I'm not sure what I'm going to be eating but I think it'll be more variety than that. Regardless, after this last week of gluttony I'm saying goodbye to all my horrible night shift eating habits!
This has been an emotional week. Today was my last Sunday at Grace Bible Church till Christmas. Tonight was my last night to work at MHBC in the nursery which made me a little sad (but my favorite snuggle buddy Sarah Marie was there!) I have said goodbye to my dear friends and have had the beast of bad timing bite me in the rear. This process has been long and oftentimes frustrating, and I think God is teaching me more and more about patience and trust. Neither of these are particularly fun lessons to learn, and I'm pretty sure I have more coming to me in the next few months.
A year ago, I was at the Vatican on Palm Sunday and got to hear the Pope speak. It is amazing to see what direction my life has taken since that time and how quickly it has flown by. Standing outside St. Peter's Basilica hearing everyone wishing each other God's peace in so many languages stands out in my mind as one of the most beautiful experiences in my life. (I took that picture to the right on that same trip- that's the Berlin Wall behind me.) I'm so excited to be heading to Africa, but sad for the things I'm leaving behind.
Thank you, everybody for all the love you've shown me. That has been the best part of this journey so far.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

4 weeks!!!

A post for good measure, seeing as I'm a short month away from leaving. Since my last post, I have applied for my visa (much more trouble than I expected), signed my missionary service agreement (found that notary!), and biggest of all, raised nearly all my support. My friends, my parents' friends, and my church family have given to me so generously; I came home from Nashville and it was all just waiting for me. I have completely forgotten about renewing my BLS and PALS until I read my last blog, so this thing has been useful after all.
The reality of being away from my friends, family, home, and Chickfila for 10 months is starting to sink in. I think James and my mom are both going to visit while I'm think they can get a number one with a sweet tea through customs?

edit: Thanks to Becky Smith, I can now add links to other blogs. Let me know if you want to be added!

Friday, February 1, 2008

just to update

As most of you know, I'm home, and things are going well. I started working at the childcare center at my mom's church, which has been so fun. It keeps me busy but is still flexible and not stressful at all. It's nice to have a few weeks to be around healthy babies that just want to snuggle! They don't cry when I come near them or anything!
I spoke to my church, Grace Bible, last Sunday and it went so well. (I think, I don't remember anything I actually said). But my church is going to give me a huge chunk of my support, which was so encouraging. God is faithful. I can see the finish line now!
So what I have left to do is: send in my application for my South African visa, which I know I need to do but I really don't want to get passport photos taken; send in my missionary service agreement, which involves me tracking down a notary; figure out what date I'm actually leaving; get my anti-malarial prescription filled; renew my BLS and PALS so I don't have to worry about that when I come back; raise about $3,000 more dollars; decide where I'm applying to grad school; and actually apply! That's all!
Other than the first thing, I'm probably not doing any of that this week because Sunday I'm going to Nashville! So if you're there, and you're reading this, I want to see you! I'll be there for about a week so I will have lots of lots of times I'll need to eat.

Shout out to my LOST friends: Umm....last night did not answer anything and really stressed me out. The Oceanic Six? SIX?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

still here...

I'm in Mississippi for the next few weeks (and will be back and forth between Nashville and Hburg to see those that I love) and so far I have been moderately productive. I spent several hours the other day writing thank you notes (which I am NOT complaining about) and filling out financial report sheets. I have a long way to go but it's been really encouraging how supportive everyone has been.
However, as soon as I got home after New Year's I promptly got sick, so I haven't been as productive as I'd like. I'm reading a lot, and drinking a lot of hot chocolate. Life is rough.
Otherwise, I'm trying to sort out all of my paperwork for South Africa like my work VISA, even though I'm volunteering, and an international driver's license. Look out, world. My departure date is still up in the air too, because there's only one orientation session in March and it's 2 days after my parents are leaving to go visit my sister Rachel in the UK, which means the last couple of days I'm in the country I'd be here by myself! That would be pitiful! So we'll see what happens....