Since I did this, I would like to update my blog on a daily basis this week using my journal as a guide. I will start with Day 1-2, which was our traveling.
To start, let me just note that I am so blessed to have an amazing family! The night before I left, my family took me out to dinner to send me off. It was so nice. A few days earlier, the girls from our "Girl's Night Out" (which includes my mom, sisters, and a family friend/cousin) all gave me useful items to take to Africa, which was so nice. I honestly felt like I was leaving the country for 10 months instead of 10 days, but it was great to hug everyone good-bye and share my excitement with them before parting ways.
One of the most thoughtful gifts I received was a darling journal that my sister made for me. Her kids (Dom, Sophia, and Beau) all drew/colored me pictures, and she decoupaged it with a map of Africa on the journal. They all also wrote me a little message in the notebook. This journal is precisely what I used to write down my thoughts all week!
The journey started on Thursday morning. Everyone on the team except Chalise, Tyler, Leslie, Katrina, and Sheila met at my house in Morton at 9am. From there, we drove to Bloomington airport. Leslie, Katrina, & Sheila met us there. Since it was morning and we had plenty of time on our hands, I stopped by the little coffee shop and got a mocha. I started chatting with the barista and told her about our trip... she told me I looked familiar and I told her the same. After giving me my coffee, I went and joined our group. About 5 minutes later, she came bounding up to me with news that she texted her friend about me and found out that I was in her friend's class at school-- small world! We are now Facebook friends... you never know who you're going to run into at the airport, I guess! =)
The plane ride from Bloomington to Atlanta was pretty short, just a couple of hours. However, I found it necessary to drink a lot of water on this flight, and so about 15 minutes before landing the pilot announced that we need to go to our seats and buckle up. Well. For some reason, I didn't take this cue to take care of my full bladder, and soon thereafter I was in some sort of desperate pain. I kept thinking the plane would soon land, but it didn't. I was in terrible pain, and my eyes kept watering. I looked back to the bathroom at the back of the plane, and I even had Tony switch me seats so I was sitting by the aisle and could bolt to the back ASAP upon arrival. The plane finally landed, and I peeked around the corner of my seat, starting to stand up... and my attempt was promptly met with the flight attendant shaking his head "no" and motioning for me to sit back down. Defeated, I slumped into my seat, trying not to envision what peeing my pants on an air plane would look like. About 5 minutes later, I couldn't handle it any longer, and I got up, bolted to the back, and pointed to the bathroom door.
"I'm sorry," I apologized. "I'm having bladder issues."
That's all I said... and somehow, it worked. I mean, really... we were on the ground, completely landed... what was going to happen? The only reason I could foresee needing a seat belt at that point was in case we crashed into the airport, which was highly unlikely and did not occur, so I was glad to be able to take care of business. The only other time I had felt such pain in my life from a full bladder was another time that ended up being a lot more disastrous, in which I will not describe at this time, but nonetheless, it did bring back painful memories that I was glad to be able to solve.
Once we made it into Atlanta airport, we stopped at the very cool food court and grabbed a bite to eat. We had a relatively hefty layover, plenty of time to enjoy a late lunch, charge needed technology, and make it to our gate to board the big plane to Johannesburg!
We all boarded, and the plane was HUGE! This was my first international flight, and after 5 minutes of sitting there, I knew I would love the flight. There were 3 rows of seats, which was unlike anything I had ever seen. I was seated in the middle seat of the middle section, right in between Katrina and Leah. In front of us were TVs with a touch screen including a wide selection of movies, music, and games, all free and complimentary to the flight! An hour after takeoff, we were served a very nice dinner. I made it my personal goal to stay up almost the entire time so as to counteract jet lag. I achieved this by watching 3 excellent films, 1 which was an independent film. I'd like to note that independent films are often hidden treasures. The one that I watched was!
Anyway, I stayed up most all night. I think the only other person who did this was Kent. Every once in awhile, we'd look across the way at each other and wave, while others next to us were sound asleep.
We arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa at about 5pm on Friday, which was actually 9am our time. So it was essentially as if I had pulled an all-nighter. After checking into the VERY nice hotel that we stayed in overnight (very bright and modern-looking), we cleaned up and ate dinner. We split into 2 groups, and those I ate with dined at a restaurant called Tribes. It was tasty, and I split ribs & chicken with Heather. Also, I ordered dessert, which consisted of a chocolate bucket with chocolate mousse inside. It was amazing.
After dinner, most of us were ready to call it a night. I was especially glad to be so tired, because I went right to sleep and slept until morning without a problem. Breakfast was equally amazing, provided by the hotel in the Flag Cafe. The orange juice that I drank was possibly from Heaven. It was the most amazing OJ I had ever experienced. We had an hour to kill, so we spent those out in the warm sun by the pool... relaxing. After that, we checked out and rode back to the hotel to board our flight from Johannesburg to Ndola, Zambia.
It was a couple hour flight. The airport here was a bit more primitive; upon arrival, we paid our visa entry fee and went through customs. They searched all of our bags and found a bunch of t-shirts we were taking to give to the kids. This seemed to be our only problem; we were told we had to claim these as gifts. Luckily, our driver, Ramseys, had an "in" since he was familiar with the individuals performing our customs search, so that made everything run a bit smoother.
Dru, John, and Tyler were all there to meet us at the airport outside, so after we all made it through customs, we took our bags and loaded up the 3 vehicles there to take us. Dru brought her car, John had his Noah, and Ramseys had the bus. Heather, Sheila and I rode with Dru, so it was nice to be able to talk with her and ask her questions on the way to Kitwe. It was about a 2 hour drive from Ndola to Kitwe. I used a lot of this time becoming accustomed to the fact that cars drive on the left side of the road, and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. Crazy!
We arrived at the New Life Center in Kitwe, which is a little over a mile away from Lifesong school, where we stayed all week. This place is situated on a big piece of land with green grass, trees, flowers, and a fence that surrounds it with security by the front gate and dogs that bark. There's another building, a house where missionaries live, and a smaller house the boys stayed in. The girls were fortunate enough to stay in the bigger house with a nice-sized kitchen, living area, and several bedrooms. We found out later that this guest house was built by the missionaries' son.
After unpacking and getting settled in, Dru and John gave us a quick rundown of the week and how the next day would go, and then we were left to enjoy some beef stew and relax. We spent the rest of the evening chilling out, planning for the next day's VBS, playing some games, and heading to bed early. I was all about taking pictures, so I made sure to document anything outside that I could before daylight came to a close. Unfortunately, I had a bunch of pent up energy inside, so it felt good to get outside into some fresh air. Upon one of my walks, I met Watson, one of the Africans who lived on the property, and he was so sweet to me. He told me his youngest son went to Lifesong, and also welcomed me warmly to his country and told me it was a neat opportunity to experience Africa at such a young age. "You will see why God has brought you here," he told me, "and you will want to return soon!"
He was right...
I'll be back tomorrow to tell you about our experience at church on Sunday and Day 1 of VBS.
Love you all!