Thursday, August 11, 2011

Africa Journey: Background & Traveling

As I did last year, I will ty to post my story of Africa into sections. This first one is quite large because it includes a little bit of background, plus all our travel days and time in London.



This is the story of my second journey to Africa.

The first one took place in January 2010. I was absolutely elated to have the opportunity to visit this continent and particularly the country of Zambia. In revisiting some of my older blog posts about that trip, it is interesting to read about my first-time impressions of Africa.

During that trip, our team of 12 was led by a missionary lady named Dru as well as the principal of the school at that time, John Mumba.

We had the experience of attending church, going to the market, putting on a VBS program for the kids at Lifesong School during the mornings of that week, helping them in the classroom, visiting the compound, and seeing animals at a game camp.

It was amazing, and I knew in my heart that one day, I would like to return.

That became a reality when I heard about another team that was traveling to Africa this year. There was a team of 8 who came down for a total of 2 weeks, and did some exciting things the first week (like bungee jumping!) A second team of 3 arrived that next weekend, so there were about a dozen team members to help start that next week of VBS off well at Lifesong School.

My team of 4 arrived on Tuesday, so we were there to help with VBS for the rest of the week. Traveling with me included my friend, Heather, and my 2 cousins from Arizona, Whitney & Kailey. The other two teams would be leaving on Saturday, but our stay was a bit extended (thankfully!) so we were able to experience a quieter life in Africa during the last few days.

My good friend, David, and another friend from Indiana, Luke, live together on the school grounds and help to run Lifesong School Zambia. David helps run the school and aids with the business and the accounting end. Luke runs a strawberry farm and handles the business end of it.

The VBS topic this time was “How to be a Truth Seeker.” After having spent a year down here, David has found that telling the truth and not stealing is a huge deal for the kids, so this was the perfect topic to discuss.

The climate was so different this time. The last time I was here, it was rainy season, so everything was lush and green. In fact, I remember thinking that right at first, it didn’t seem too much different than Illinois. It was a bit humid, and rain would roll in and downpour, and then clear off and be sunny in the afternoon. There were a lot of trees, grass, and greenery all around.

This time, it was more of an “African” feel. Since it was dry season, the fields matched the color of the dirt road with more of an Autumn-time look. Leaves were falling off trees, bushes were dead, and the weather was 70s and sunny during the day (beautiful!) but cooler in the mornings and evenings. The air smelled like Fall.

Sunday-Tuesday: Traveling & London / First Day in Zambia

Our journey begins on Sunday afternoon. My dad was kind enough to drive Heather and I to O’Hare Airport in Chicago. We all 3 crammed in the front of his truck cab, since the Tahoe was unavailable.

We made good time and made it to the airport without a problem. Checking in went smoothly until one of my bags was 4.5 lbs. overweight. We opened it up and checked the weight of my Bible—it was 4.5 lbs.! After doing some rearranging to make it work, we passed through security and headed to our gate.

We grabbed Starbucks and some snacks and waited for my two cousins flying in from AZ to meet us there. We boarded our 8-hour flight to London.

The flight was pretty uneventful. We all tried to sleep, but it was hard since it was technically still pretty early for us. I don’t think any of us got too much sleep.

We arrived in London early Monday morning at 8am. It was 2am our time, so we were pretty tired! However, we had a fun day planned for our 12-hour layover, so we carried on.

Our first order of business was to find the underground train system and purchase one-day tickets for Piccadilly Line.

After doing so, we took the bus into London and our first stop was Buckingham Palace. On our walk to get there, there was a park nearby with all kinds of unique park deck chairs sitting around the grassy area. I loved it!

As we neared Buckingham Palace, there were swarms of people. Come to find out, they were having a Change Guard Parade on this very day at the very time we arrived! It was exciting to be in the heat of one of the downtown London events, but we had to keep moving so we could see everything on our list.

Next, we walked some more and stopped at a pub for lunch. It was a real cute little place and our waitress was so sweet. I loved her British accent and unassuming manner.

We continued on to Westminster Abbey—it was absolutely beautiful! There was a gate surrounding it, and you could walk right up to it. It was probably my favorite place of the day… it was just so cool to see in person.

At this point, we were running out of time so we made an executive decision to run by Harrod’s on our way back to the airport. There was a Starbucks across the street, so we grabbed drinks, only to find out we couldn’t bring drinks OR luggage into this huge department store. I had to check my luggage piece in next door, and we quickly drank our Starbucks drinks and headed inside. Whitney could bring in her backpack as long as she wore it on the front instead of her back. It was a funny sight!

We whizzed through the women’s shoe department for fun ☺ and checked out the food court. It had all kinds of delicious cupcakes, baked good, pastries, rolls, and desserts. They all looked amazing and I would have purchased one, but we needed to keep moving so we could get back to the airport.

Riding on the train was fun. We spent most of our day on Piccadilly Line, which took us where we needed to go. There were always multiple stops where people got on and off. The automated voice would always come over the intercom in a British accent and say, “Mind the gap between the train and the platform,” whenever people would enter or exit.

The day was mid-70s and sunny, and kind of hot as we were rushing from place to place through lots of crowds. Since none of us had much sleep in us and had to stay fairly alert and energetic, it was an exhausting day, but fun nonetheless, and I’m so glad we were able to experience London during our layover!

We made it back to Heathrow Airport in London and had to check in Kailey and Whitney and then continue on through security. We had a slight headache with our tickets, which would not go through at security, so we kept getting them “confirmed” at the ticket counter and finally they worked. After going through the whole security process, we
found each other and sat in the seating area by all the shops and restaurants. At Heathrow, they don’t give you a gate number until 1 hour before your flight. You sit and wait in the main area. However, once you do know, it behooves you to get moving because in our case, it took us a very long time to actually get to our gate! Up several escalators, through long hallways, around corners… we finally ended up in a big area on a top floor surrounded by glass windows that stretched from floor to ceiling.

We were among the last to board the plane, and ran into a slight difficulty with Whitney & Kailey’s luggage. After clearing it up and finding out we would need to check on it in Johannesburg, we boarded our next huge plane for a 10-hour flight.

The goal was to sleep on this plane. As I have tried in the past on international flights, if at all possible, I like to sleep on the floor. I did it again this time, and I think I may have grabbed a couple hours of sleep. Otherwise, it’s more of a blurry drifting in and out of consciousness.

As it was nearing time to land the plane, I started to feel sick to my stomach. I was going on night 2 of very little sleep, and we had just eaten breakfast but I still felt hungry afterwards. Now the nausea was kicking in, and I started to panic.

The plane started to descend and we were advised to take our seats and buckle up. Right before the plane landed, I panicked and ran into the bathroom. The flight attendant saw me and banged on the door, not too happy with me that I did that. She told me that I needed to return to my seat immediately. I obliged, but was feeling so sick at this point, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. My throat and heart were both burning. I just put my head down and endured the descent, making Heather switch me seats at the last minute so I could run back ASAP upon landing. I did so, and fortunately never got sick. However, I felt pretty nauseous for the next 45 minutes, even after deplaning, walking through Johannesburg Airport to figure out the luggage situation, through Passport Control, and security. I finally started to feel better after awhile and ate a granola bar before boarding our next fight.

That flight took place on a smaller plane that would take us from Johannesburg, South Africa to Ndola, Zambia. It was about a 2.5-hour flight, so not too bad. We were bused to the plane and upon arrival, to the airport.

Ndola’s airport is pretty primitive. However, I remember from last time that you have to fill out a form with information on how long you are staying and what you are doing. There is also a $50 entry fee for entering the country. We went through this slow process, claimed our luggage that was piled on the floor by the front entrance, and were on our way. The security at the door checks through your luggage upon leaving. As that was happening, an African man walked up with a sign that read, “Taryn & Heather.”

“That’s us!” we told him. He advised us that the person coming to “fetch” us was running late, so to follow him. As we did so, David pulled up in the little Noah vehicle and shouted to us. He might have been running late, but as usual we were the last ones to complete the process in the airport so it ended up being perfect timing!

He drove us back to Kitwe, which took about an hour. He dropped us off at the New Life Center where we were staying so we could shower and relax. We ended up taking a short nap until a few of the girls from the team arrived to shower and get cleaned up. We headed back with them and some of the guys for Lifesong School, which is where we ate dinner as a team.

The boys cooked us a wonderful dinner, and even had a candlelit setting inside the school. It was the perfect touch to a tiring 48 hours of traveling! After plane food, the stir fry, peaches, and cookies tasted delicious.

Every evening following dinner, we had a nice time of worship with guitar music played by Luke, and then one of the guys would prepare a devotion. I loved this part of the evening. The first night we were there, Drew talked, and he read from the New Testament and showed us how it connected back to the Old Testament. We read about the curse of man, and how we are born with sin and automatically under the curse of it by default, and only by Jesus’ blood and God’s good holiness can we escape it.

It made me think of Africa and how it seems to be under a curse of sin—there are always consequences of sin, whether they are seen right away or come to fruition later. Sin is pleasurable for a season, but wreaks havoc in the end. The good news is that regardless of the size of the problem, Jesus saves.

The other night, I read the parable of the men who were hired by a master to work in the field. One was hired at the beginning of the day, one during the middle and one at the end. They all worked in the field for different amounts of time, but the master still paid them the same. Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven to it. It seems unfair, really—why should the worker hired at the end be paid the same? It’s a legit question, but a very human one, nonetheless. It’s very self-focused. Jesus saves all—whether you have sinned a lot or a little… whether you come very early in life or not until the very end.

That’s the beauty of Jesus. My prayer is that this saving Light and Love from above can continue to glow at Lifesong School.

That evening, after devotions, David took us girls back to our little house. We were all very tired, and it felt wonderful to sleep horizontal!

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