I meant to write this weekend, but it flew right by me. I have some time this evening, so am excited to tell you all about Friday & Saturday of our trip.
Friday was the last day with the kids. On this morning, we received a ride to school, and sang with the kids, as usual. Then, John announced to the kids that the "visitors" were going to be preparing something for them while they ate breakfast. Upon this announcement, we went into the school and organized the t-shirts we brought for them in piles by size. After breakfast, lines of kids came into the school and we helped them each put on a brand new kelly green t-shirt.
Dru told us that they will consider this their school uniform. Most surrounding schools have uniforms, so she said they would be thrilled to have a matching t-shirt that they can all wear together.
After that, we had some time to hang out with the kids and say personal good-byes if we wanted. Karen and I got a picture by some flowers, and then I hung out with her for a few minutes, just her and I. I let her use my camera, and she loved taking pictures of me and telling me where to stand. =)
On this trip, my mom had given me 10 envelopes... 1 for each day. I was supposed to open one every day I was in Africa. Every card had a piece of candy with it =) and often included would be a little card of encouragement to hand to someone else. I still had one with a frog on it that said something like "You are special because God loves you." I gave this to Karen.
The kids had prepared a special program for us, so we went to the soccer field to watch it. Some of the groups of kids sang, while a lot of the individual kids recited poetry, using dramatic hand motions that they picked up on from another poet who had visited the school. At the very end, they showed us some more traditional African dancing fully equipped with a drumming by Grace, and then we all stood up and joined them in the middle. It is during these times that I am so glad that my purpose is to "capture," because then 2 things happen:
1. I am not required or even expected to participate, and
2. I end up with a LOT of useful footage. =)
Anyway, it was a fun time. After the program, we presented a few gifts on behalf of other organizations or generous people from the States, including brand new soccer balls, a playground, and supplies. The kids were so thankful and excited.
Our final good-bye was after this. It was definitely bittersweet going around and hugging all the kids... so, so very sad to be leaving them, but not without a flicker of hope in our hearts for these orphans for a bright and promising future being able to learn about God's love.
We left the school and returned to the guest house to pack for our 2-hour drive to Nsobe Game Camp. We arrived there in good time, and even had some daylight left to enjoy the beautiful scenery. This place was set back quite a ways into a very wooded area. The scene reminded me a lot of somewhere back in the states, even Illinois. But shortly upon arrival, we spotted monkeys, and then I was reminded that I was, indeed, in Africa.
Most of the team paired up and stayed in tents overnight; the boys, and then 3 of us girls had the good fortune to sleep in a chalet. My 2 room mates were scared of getting eaten during the night by a wild animal, so they slept together on the lower level, and I slept upstairs in the loft by myself in a twin bed.
We put our order in for dinner soon after we arrived. As we were on a search for monkeys, Dru came flying up to us and said, "I just got a phone call that giraffes have been spotted!"
I was beyond excited, and with camera in hand, I started walking VERY quickly down the dirt road that would supposedly lead me to these tall creatures. I even ran at some points. Eventually, off to the right, there was a big open, grassy area, and sure enough, there were giraffes out there walking around. I was able to get in pretty close with my 70-200mm lens, and it was SO cool being able to photograph these beautiful animals!
At one point, I was standing there taking pictures and I felt a pinching sensation on my leg. I slapped my leg, assuming that some sort of bug had just bit me. Before I could kill whatever insect had done so, I felt another bite. Soon, I felt like both of my legs were getting attacked by a stinging insect. I looked over to see that Holly was having the same problem. Fortunately, one of the missionaries who lived nearby knew exactly what had happened-- we had stepped in a line of ants, and they had crawled up our legs under our pants. Her house was nearby, so we both ran into it and took off our pants. She said the only way to completely get rid of them was to turn our pants inside out and make sure they were all gone. Between the two of us, I think we had about 8-12 ants that we had to terminate. It was not a pleasant experience, but I'm just glad we were able to resolve the situation without too much of a scene.
We enjoyed dinner at the restaurant. I ordered chutney apricot chicken, and it was terrific. I loved every bite of it. I also had butternut soup, and chocolate cake for dessert. After dinner, we enjoyed sitting around the campfire and talking for awhile. It was a beautiful evening!
Saturday morning, we were ready by 7am for the game drive. We all loaded into the back of this jeep-like vehicle and sat on benches. I scrambled to an edge, knowing that it would get me the best pictures possible. The ride was SO beautiful, and the morning was perfect weather. We stopped at this secluded area out in the woods where there was this "outdoor" house. Basically, imagine a living room equipped with furniture and everything, but instead of looking out a giant window, one whole wall of the house is just open to the outside. I sat down in one of the chairs and enjoyed the scene in front of me. There was a separate building with a bedroom in it and an outdoor bathroom. I thought it was pretty cool, and I'm not even an outdoorsy person.
Upon arriving back, we had an AMAZING breakfast with fruit, yogurt, cereal, eggs, and meat. We then packed up and had about an hour before we were going to take off for the airport. I sat in a lone chair out in the middle of the grassy area and read a book in the rays. In hindsight, I'm glad I did so, because it was a chance to enjoy something I knew I wouldn't be able to experience for a very long time, which is the sun's warmth. There is something so therapeutic and relaxing about the sun...
We drove to the airport, got checked in, and then met John, Dru, Tyler, and Ramseys back outside for awhile, since we still had quite a bit of time before we had to leave. From there, we said our final good-byes, and boarded our plane back to South Africa.
Our long, 16-hour flight from South Africa to Atlanta, Georgia was actually not as painful as I thought it would be. My row mates were Heather and Holly. I knew I needed to sleep at some point on this plane ride, so I decided to try the floor. I laid down right beneath their seats by where their feet were. It was close quarters, but I'm used to sleeping that way; every night, I surround myself with pillows and blankets. I thought it would be effective, but I didn't expect to sleep 7 hours! Which is what I did. I couldn't believe it. My head phones ended up breaking, and my ears must be broken because I can never use the little air buds, so I was without movies and music, but I was actually kind of glad. I used the time to think, pray, and process.
We ended up arriving at Bloomington airport at a relatively decent time. By now, I had been up for about 8-10 hours but I was still feeling pretty good. Unfortunately, Leah was not feeling so well. I also forgot to mention that the night before at the game camp, Kent was feeling under the weather, as well. So I'm fortunate to have escaped whatever it is they came down with. Anyway, I got home in enough time to shower and make it to church for 2nd service, so I did. My mom ended up coming home right before I left, because she thought I would just be getting home and was going to bring me lunch. She was so excited to see me and drove me to church.
It was so nice to see everyone, especially family and friends. I was really encouraged that so many people came up to me and knew exactly where I had been, asked how my trip was, and said they had been praying. As I found out, our elder had announced our trip twice over the pulpit, so my church had been very much aware and prayerful! It had also run in our Barnabas Group Prayer Team e-mails. I can say that we all definitely felt the prayers, as our trip was hugely blessed, ran smoothly, and for the most part, we encountered no major problems with injury or health.
After church, I ended up being SO completely tired. Of course, my mom had planned for my whole family to come over for dinner to hear all about my trip, so I took a 2-3 hour nap and then woke up to join them. It was fun being able to tell stories and show pictures. After they left, I was just getting ready to crawl back into bed and I received a phone call, telling me that I was supposed to be at my 3rd shift job that night! I had no idea that I was scheduled to work; I thought I was off until the next day. So I pulled back the covers, got into my car, and drove to work. =) It wasn't too terrible, since my job allows me to sleep, but I was looking forward to spending my first night back in my own bed.
I am sad to come to a close with recounting my Africa journey, but I will say that I am sure many more posts will reflect back on my trip and thoughts/encounters that I had along the way. I will most definitely post the video(s) when I finish.
Currently, I am trying to avoid the flu, which is seeming to go around like the plague. It has swept through my entire family, and I have somehow dodged it so far. I am taking probiotics every morning and am trying to drink lots of water. =) We are terrified of the flu bug in our family, because most of us get it really bad and a lot of times have to go to the hospital in order to bounce back. In fact, my sister just went through that a couple of weeks ago, so I am hoping to steer clear. I have also spent 2 nights in the past week taking care of a sick resident all night long, so that has not helped my efforts any, but at least I can be thankful to have a bed to sleep in and a warm house to recuperate in if I do get sick. Children in Africa fight malaria and other deadly diseases all of the time without so much as a pillow.
Love you all!