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12.16.2011

Rwandans....

I'm just attaching a hilarious letter our friend wrote to us. We love getting things like this and this is completely normal "English" for Rwandans. Awesome....






Dear brothers i Christ Jesus,let me wish you nice and sweat trip in Tanzania because Heavenly Father Has Anointed you i hope you are my witness,few people get such opportunity to travel and i personally that God for that,simply because this  has taught me the good habit to save money so that i may travel in future,this the good example i learned from you and i appreciate,may my Heavenly Father GOD bless America , Jarod and Sarah.see you no doubt.bye

11.26.2011

You might be a PCV if...

This is a list another PCV posted on their blog. We laughed out loud
on almost everyone since we can actually relate to ALL of them!! Jarod
edited it a little for the one that didn't fit our lives or were not
so appropriate for readers! :) We hope you enjoy it.


You might be a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda if…
1. You refuse to walk outside in even the slightest drizzle
2. Pooping is your biggest accomplishment for the day…or the week…
3. 6:30 a.m. is sleeping in, and 9:30 p.m. is a wild and crazy night.
4. And for you, it is somehow easier, in the life, to become
accustomed to speak English like this.
5. You refer to people as "that one there" and it no longer
feels even a little rude.
6. You even occasionally refer to yourself as "this one here"
and it just feels so right.
7. Your tailbone has been ground to dust thanks to hard benches
and five-hour ceremonies.
8. You think that women look drab if they are wearing few than
four distinct colors.
9. You can carry on an entire conversation using grunts and
"mmmmmm" noises.
11. You text while riding motos.
12. Text messages from MTN make you sad, because for a second you
thought that you had friends.
13. All your socks have a permanent burnt sienna hue.
14. You put on the good-smelling sunscreen to disguise the fact that
you haven't bathed in several days—and that's basically the only time
you wear sunscreen.
15. You become fiercely territorial when there are unidentified
abazungu (white people) in your village.
16. Rather than kill all the creeping and crawling critters in your
house, you name them all and invent elaborate soap operas about their
lives.
17. There's no such thing as too much shine.
18. The majority of your budget goes toward buying toilet paper,
candles, and phone credit.
21. You know that there's always room for one more person on the bus.
22. But you have still elbowed someone in the face in order to get
on the bus before them.
23. You feel no remorse about elbowing people in the face while
boarding buses.
24. The tall people in Kigali scare you.
25. You are not even a little freaked out when the village crazy
runs up to you and tries to steal your umbrella from right out of your
grasp.
26. You are at least one hour late to everything…and are still the
first person to arrive.
27. You pray your god in bed on Sunday morning.
28. You recognize the four major food groups as salt, sugar, starch, and oil.
29. Your pillow, mattress, sheets, and hair all have scorch marks
from reading in bed by candlelight or from drying them by charcoal stove.
30. You vow to never trim your toenails by candlelight again.  Ever.
32. Standing in your yard, staring at the road, is a perfectly
acceptable way to pass a Saturday afternoon.
33. You can open a Fanta bottle with virtually anything and everything.
34. You can eat a jar of peanut butter in two days.
35. You have a major existential crisis and seriously contemplate
quitting Peace Corps when you realize that you are out of
peanut butter.
37.   The only snap, crackle, and pop that you hear is the sound of
insects exploding in your candle's flame.
39.   You walk around your house with small objects balanced on your head.
40.   Your first reaction to MTN's free calls after 11 promo was "if
anyone dares to call me that late, I will end them."
41.   You cry at the sight of Cheez-Its.
42.   You find it easier to agree with people that "it is the change
in the climate which has made you so ill."
43.   You hate the dry season, until the rainy season begins.  Then
you hate that too.
45.   "It it's not oozing pus, it is not a problem" is your personal
health motto.
48.   The preschoolers in your village are all trained to hug you.
49.   Hugs become slightly awkward because you failed to realize that
preschoolers grow quickly, and that many of their faces are now
uncomfortably level with your crotch.
50.   You no longer give clothing the sniff test, because you know
that you're going to wear it anyway.
51.   You refuse to reply to anyone that screams at you from beyond
your response radius.
52.   Depending on your mood, your response radius can extend for your
entire district, or only as far as your arm hair.
54.   It's weird to see grown men walking beside each other and not
holding hands.
55.   You no longer believe that rabbits are cute.  You believe that
they should be roasted on a stick.
56.   You sometimes play your radio very softly so that the neighbors
won't know that you're home.
57.   You are always the sweatiest person in the room.
60.   You look at a plate of greasy, salty fries and think, "this
needs mayonnaise."
61.   You have found mold in very improbably places.
62.   You frequently eat an entire pineapple and spend the rest of the
evening poking yourself in the belly and singing the SpongeBob
SquarePants theme song.
63.   You are determined to streak the tea fields.
64.   You do a double-take when you see someone carrying a backpack on
their back instead of on their head.
65.   You talk to goats.
66.   Chamberpots are suddenly very practical.
68.   Everyone knows your routine.  And everyone comments if you
deviate from it.
69.   You no longer look at the menu, because what you order is not
likely to be what you get.
70.   You talk about anything on a bus because no one can understand you.
71.   It's extremely embarrassing when there's a surprise Ugandan on
the bus who can understand everything you say.
72.   You have come to accept the fact that, just because it claims to
be an internet café, that is no guarantee there will be an internet
connection.  Or a computer.
73.   Your favorite game is to see how many Disney lyrics you can slip
into everyday conversation.
74.   Your most reliable source of protein is the fruit flies that
drown in your coffee.

11.25.2011

Peace Corps Life...as a married couple

  • How long have you been married?
  • Two years this week.
  • How many children do you have?
  • None.
  • Why?
  • Because we are practicing family planning.
  • Why?
  • Because we don’t want children just yet.
  • Oh…you must be stagnant!

They say the first few years of marriage are sometimes the most difficult. But what if the majority of those first few years are spent in a 3rd world country in the middle of nowhere, with no electricity or running water, nobody to speak English to, no comfort foods available at the local grocery store, no friends or family to talk to when you are having a bad day, what then? What happens when everything familiar to you is stripped away, when nothing makes any sense anymore, when you can identify with absolutely nothing, nothing except for your better half?

Most of you would probably say that serving in the Peace Corps as a married couple would make PC service much easier. And although I have never served as a single person, I would have to say you are probably right. You can never put a price on having your own built in support system with you 24/7 or hanging on to the single most important thing to all the while leaving everything else behind, especially when that one thing speaks discernable English to you. Not to mention is also beautiful and shares a bed with you. Who can argue with that?

There is no doubt that serving as a married couple has its benefits. To be honest, I would have it no other way. And to be even more honest, I am not sure I would make it two years at our site alone. Two years of odd lip smacking sounds, an array or grunts and weird moans reassuring someone that you are listening, the strictly observed, prompt and punctual meeting times (yeah right), the extremely accurate estimate of all distances and time frames (please), the ever so pungent smell of the breath of your translator beside you during some Rwandan gathering, the discouraging 2 hour hike straight up the mountain just to catch a bus another 1 ½ hours to the nearest PCV, not to mention an endless line of awkward situation waiting to unravel themselves on you around every corner…yup, not sure I could handle two years of that alone.

But I would be lying if I said that serving as a married couple is a cake walk. On the contrary, it has its share of difficulties, frustrations and hard times. Married life here in Rwanda is so unlike anything we have ever known before. In Rwanda, more specifically in Banda Village, gone are the days of 8-10 hour work days, fighting the traffic rush home just to spend a few evening hours together, have dinner together and hear about each others day. Yes, those days are long gone, vanished, lost in a hazy memory of amazing food, restaurants, movie theaters and countless other entertaining past times. You can all identify with that. Now, it’s all us all the time, every meal together, mostly every morning, afternoon and evening together. Peace Corps life has brought on a whole new dynamic to our marriage. But, it’s only natural to cling to what is familiar when everything else is taken away, right? Who wouldn’t do the same? However, there is no doubt this 24/7 close quarters living has brought on its own new share of frustrations. I mean let’s be honest. One can only handle so much Jarod before they are ready to spontaneously combust. There are times when Sarah flat out says, “I need a break from you for a while.” At first this was tough to hear, but I have come to understand her more over time. There is no girl time here, no girl talks, girls night out for pedicures, dinner and a movie or whatever it is that girls do on girls night out. And I clearly don’t fit that role well.

Also, the necessity to cling to what is familiar (in my case my wife) can lead to a sense of identity loss. Sometimes you feel you are slowly morphing into one blob together, your independent self and identity slowly fading away. I understand well that being married requires a giving of yourself, compromising, sharing and in some ways even meshing into one person. However, married life in a PC rural village takes this concept to a whole new level. This has been something we both have had to learn throughout our PC experience, to live with, deal with and make the best of. It’s usually a simple as one of us taking off for the morning or afternoon somewhere in the village, spending some time alone. Other times it may require man time, wielding a machete on some tree branch for me or a girl talk for Sarah. Either way, we have learned over the past 19 months (and 3 years of our marriage) to handle these issues.

Another frustration of being a married couple in PC is the exclusion that comes along with it. This one is tough to explain but there is no doubt we are in a different category as a married couple and therefore, in some ways (that we don’t necessarily love), treated differently. Whether it’s not being invited to a party or get-together, not being included in a conversation or not being invited on a trip, the “their married” card definitely comes into play at times. And, I am fine with that. It’s true. We are married, happily. This has just been tough learning to deal with and accept because back in the US, we both had many friends, single or married, that we were able to frequently hang out with.

All in all, as I mentioned before, I wouldn’t trade life in PC as a married couple for anything, except maybe some boneless asian zing wings from Buffalo Wild Wings, just kidding, but seriously. The benefits of having the love of your life with you in such a unique and special place, sharing each and every experience with you, not knowing what each new crazy Rwandan day will bring is priceless. Knowing that no matter how many eyes glaze over as I recount stories of our life in Rwanda, our experiences, our encounters, Sarah will always be able to relate and understand. We will always have our memories here, experiences, and awful days in Rwanda that we will never forget. That can never be taken away from us. And that is something special. 

9.20.2011

Books!!!!

Hello everyone! Just wanted to update all of our followers. We are so very close to reaching our Book goal. We had total (for all PCVS) about $3500 USD to raise and just finished with that! Our part was about $550 USD for this project. So that project is completely finished and the books are being shipped as we speak!!!!! Yay. That’s wonderful news. From that shipment we’re receiving about 500+ books for our village.

 

Also, we are working with a second organization called International Book Project. Jarod and I have almost met our goal and currently have raised $1520 USD. We need approximately $785 USD to complete the project! We definitely want to see this happen in the next month. I know we can do it!!! If everyone just donated $20-30 USD we can do it so quickly. We will get about 1500 books from this shipment and have officially started an incredible library for our village. Please help us to reach these goals! It’s just a few dollars if everyone contributes.

 

If you want to donate online, go to https://npo.networkforgood.org/Donate/Donate.aspx?npoSubscriptionId=1002441, You should click the radial button under Dedication for “on behalf of” and type “Sarah Ring, PCV – Rwanda” in the field.

 

Blessed to be a blessing,

 

Sarah Ring

 

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"

 - MLK Jr.

 

9.14.2011

Nanny and Papaw

Today I want to write about my nanny and papaw. They have been on my mind and heart so much lately! I just wanted to tell the world how I have the BEST grandparents in the WHOLE entire world. They are so loving and supporting of everything I have ever done.

When I was a child, I looked forward to seeing them every time we headed that way because I knew they would hug me, kiss me and listen to EVERYTHING I had to say. Even the boring elementary and high school stuff that no one cares about! They listened and laughed. They came to every single ballgame they could drive 3 hours one way to get too. They were at every birthday and my nanny baked me the best cakes ever! My nanny  baked my wedding cake. They bought me gifts. They wrote cards. And more recently send the best packages anyone could ask for. Every time we open a package from nanny and papaw we're giddy like kids because it literally feels as if we're with my grandparents for a short time. They somehow put all the amazingness that is "grandparents" into every single box!

They pray for us, they miss us and are SOOOO happy every time we call. I can't even begin to describe how much they mean to me. I miss my nanny's beautiful smile and laugh and cooking! Oh tuna sandwiches and cake scraps with icing!!!! I miss my papaws amazing hugs and never ending questions about life and his advice he loves to give. The way they were so supportive of Peace Corps knowing and trusting that God knew what he was doing sending us here and why we have to do this (not just because we felt it was God's will but also because it will be placing in the right place for the next step).

In short, I miss you guys so much! You are the most wonderful people I know and you mean more than I could ever describe with such a small vocabulary! No words describe your wonderfulness and I can't believe God has given you two to me. I love you more and more everyday and appreciate all the things you've taught me through my life!

I love you guys and just wanted the world to know how amazing the two of you are and make em all a little jealous my grandparents are the best ever. :)

Ps....I'll update more about my Thailand trip soon. Promise!

I love you two. More than you know.
Sarah

9.01.2011

Thai massage...

It's me again. Just writing to update you all. So I went yesterday to get my 5 dollar massage. It was well interesting to say the least.  At one point she was on top of me and at another I was on top of her. It is a "Thai" massage for a reason. Not to be confused with the relaxing Swedish massage. Instead this combines flexibility and sheer power. I kept thinking to myself 'I wonder if Jarod would like this' and then my leg would be above my head and I would reassure myself that answer to that would be no.

First of all, you are on the floor on a mat. Then, you put on pajamas and she enters. Oh boy...she doesn't stop till 60 minutes have flown by. She started with my feet and not just massaging but shoving her thumbs into your nerves in your foot and then slowly presses as hard as she can up the sciatic nerve to her groin area. Mostly as far as she can possibly go. Then she starts bending your legs all over the place and putting you into positions I didn't know were possible! At one point she was super quiet and stopped moving so I peeked my eyes open and she was holding the curtain open to the next massage room, where my friend is laying naked getting massaged, talking to the lady! It's funny because Thai people are super quiet and very respectful, but apparently talking in a massage is not bad. Then, she flipped me over and this is where it got crazy. I thought surely I'd wake up in another room but no, she didn't throw me anywhere it just felt like it. So, she starts crawling, that's right crawling up your calves to your hamstring. Then, once shes worked her entire way up to your butt, while sitting on your legs with all her weight she gave me a very thorough butt massage. Then, she stood, yes stood upon my hams. Grabbed my arms and yanked. Pretty sure my spine cracked about a billion times. I was just thinking over and over, 'lady don't know if you know about that thing that holds the back up but my doesn't go any farther than that.' Then, she pinned my arms behind my head and was laying on top of me while I was in a seated position. Then, she took my arms and counted to 3 slowly while barely swinging me to the side and then all of a sudden, 3 meant go and she slung me to the side so that my side and back cracked like an old can. After this, she somehow worked me up and under her until I was dangling in the air while her knees pinned my arms behind my back my head was basically laying on her chest. Then, the best part of all as she was working me back down with her feet, her toes caught my pants and pulled them down. That's right, totally bare butt sitting on her feet. It was so funny. I tried not to bust out laughing because all around me people were less than 2 feet away being massaged in a relaxing way while I was being contorted like a tortilla! Finally, I gave a little giggle and she did too so I felt a little more normal.

It was truly one of the oddest experiences of my life. I didn't know that at the same time 2 of the other girls on the trip were getting the same massage on the other side of town so we can came back laughing and totally enveloped in this whole 'what the heck just happened to me' bubble.

To make my massage even better, when me and the other 2 girls (there are 5 of us total) that were in the room with me got through, they explained how their "relaxing" normal massages went. Here in Thailand, apparently nothing is too discrete and they pull the sheet ALL the way down and massage your breast and the butt. It was all in all a really funny and interesting day.

Then we watched another movie. :) Yay!! Tomorrow we're off to elephant riding and river rafting. I'm attaching some very very basic pictures I found of a Thai massage. Keep in mind it is MUCH MUCH more extensive than this, but this is an example!

These are pictures I found on the web and are not anyone I know. And aren't nearly as extensive as what me and the other 2 girls got yesterday!

8.31.2011

Thailand!

Hello and greetings from Thailand! I arrived here on Sunday and have been having an amazing time since the place touched down. First of all, it's insane being in a developed country. I mean, starbucks, mcdonalds, dunkin donuts, burger king, auntie annes, etc etc. I have been in food heaven. Not that I really ate those things before but man...18 months without and that stuff looks pretty darn good!

We started off in Bangkok for 2 days and well I did what you can all expect me to do. I immediately went and saw Harry Potter in 3-d at the IMAX. Then, I saw Transformers 3 in 4-D which was AMAZING!!!! 4-D is the coolest experience. For those of you who don't know, its like 3-D but also has things that blow at your and your chairs rock and jirate as you're watching. Its quite the experience. We ate a lot of food and then headed out to the night train to Chiang Mai.

We arrived here yesterday around 2. I of course proceeded to do exactly what you'd expect. I went immediately to get a haircut from a professional and then a pedicure which sadly, was embarrassing. First of all, she had to empty the bowl 2 times. Then, she scrapped the skin from my heals for what only felt like 5 hours. Then, I had to watch in horror as my nasty old feet skin was lying in a pile on the floor. Ewwww. It was well well worth it and I'm starting to feel human again. However, I get a little overwhelmed in the huge grocery stores because I don't know what to buy...there's so much!! And its SOOOOO cheap. I mean, 1/2 to a 1/4 of the prices in Rwanda for the same things or even better that it is here and not in Rwanda.

Today we visited about a million temples which was fascinating. Buddhism is the religion of 95% of Thailand. It's such an interesting religion. We women, are considered unclean so every time we pass a Buddhist monk/priest we must step off the walkway and let them pass. We aren't allowed to touch them and we aren't allowed to enter many of the temples. There are signs everywhere that say "no women allowed" which is fascinating coming from the American culture. Everything is so old too. I mean, the building we last looked at was built in 2445 B.C. So amazing.

It is so interesting because one of their life laws is that you can't kill living things, so they are very very peaceful. They (Thai people) speak very softly. They are not loud ever. They don't shake hands but bow gently to one another. They have cats and dogs EVERYWHERE that are fat and happy because not feeding the strays would be killing. You must take your shoes off to enter most places so outside every door is a neatly stacked row of shoes that no one touches. Then, you walk all around the temples and houses, etc without shoes and everything is super clean for that reason. The Buddha is represented everywhere that we've gone and people burn incense and put flowers on the Buddha's and things such as old trees etc. One tree was planted in 1747. That's older than our country! Wow!!

We are here for 4 more days and I couldn't be happier. Well, actually I could. I miss my amazing husband and can't believe he isn't here to experience this with me. Hopefully, we'll come back soon!! I think he'd love it. After lunch today we're going to get the famous Thai massages that cost 5 dollars for an hour. That's right. 5 dollars. Woo hooooo!!!!!!

Love you all and look forward to hearing from you.

Sarah

7.22.2011

words from the heart

It's me again…the tall thin one…with a beard.  I feel like all of my blog posts are just about our experiences and the activities we do.  We explain about our life in Rwanda and all the weird things that we encounter.  But I don't think I have ever really taken the time to just explain how we feel about them and our life here…so hear it goes…hang on to what you got cause I am not sure where I am going with this.

So…I always wondered if living in a third world country for an extended period of time would change who I am.  I always thought it almost had to but honestly, would it really and if so, would it change you in a good way.  Would you see the world in a different light, be inspired by those that are less fortunate, have your eyes opened to things you never noticed before or understood, develop a passion for things you never knew you were passionate about.  Or, would you become so jaded by the things you see everyday, the unreliable, frustrating and sometimes corrupt system you live and work in, the sickness, disease, poverty, malnutrition and death you experience on a continual basis, the stares and looks of others insinuating you don't belong here and we don't want you here.  These are the things I thought about before coming and 16 months into it, i am still not sure how I feel about all of it.  

I recently read a book called "The hole in our Gospel" by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision and I would encourage anybody who considers themselves a Christian to read it as well.  He talks mostly about the mandate for the Church to stop just going to church but to actually be the hands and feet of Christ.  He talks about the cry of our world and the need for us to reach out to others, our neighbors whether that be across the street or across the Atlantic.  We have for so long put so much emphasis and effort into "converting" others and "reaching the lost and dying" but I feel we have done so in an ineffective way.   Christ didn't change the very foundation of our world by strictly preaching the gospel, verbally that is.  He was the gospel and embodied it.  Others didn't come running to him because he told them they were dying and going to hell unless they repented of their sins.  They ran to him because they saw something attractive and appealing about and in him.  I truly believe there is nothing more attractive in Christianity than physically showing the love of Christ.  And how do we do that…by simply loving others.  Sadly, there are few other things about Christianity that others admire and most if not all would say they don't see these characteristics in Christians.  Instead what they see is, judgmental, self-righteous, close-minded hypocrites.  This is truly sad and I hate to say it but, it is the truth.  

Christ didn't come to be served but he came to serve…heal the sick, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, take in the stranger, set free those that were bound and the list goes on and on…but this list has one objective - to serve.  These are the things that are attractive to the world but unfortunately they aren't seeing it in Christians.  This should be a wake up call to the Church.  To be honest, I am not so sure any more that someone can even enter heaven without making an effort to love and serve others they way Christ did.  There are many scriptures in the bible that talk about the role of the church in serving others.  About, is this not the type of fasting I have chosen for you…to break free the chains of the captives…feed the hungry…etc.  When reading these types of passages, it seems clear to me that if you don't strive to do these things, you are failing in your job as a Christian and I feel these passages make that clear.  I truly believe that many times the biggest sins are sins of omission rather than commission and I feel that we have so often omitted the presence of servanthood in our Christian walk with Christ.  It seems that if we really wanted to be like Christ that we would want our hearts to be broken by the things that break the heart of God.  Surely this would cause us to jump into action and be the hands and feet of Christ right…or would it?   This doesn't sound like a pleasant and comfortable way to live.  It actually sounds like the opposite…it might even be painful and cause our hearts to be overwhelmed with grief…but maybe they would be overwhelmed to the point where we couldn't just sit by and watch as thousands of children die daily from 100% preventable diseases like diarrhea and malaria.  

Anyway, the book explains it so much better than I ever could and puts things so much more into perspective…read it if any of this is interesting to you.  So, back to where I left off about how I feel about our life here and how it has impacted our lives.  It's really weird and I don't know if I will fully know how it has changed or impacted me until I return.  I don't think we can even explain most of it…it is just something you have to experience for yourself.  That is why I am so excited I have someone to share this experience with.  Otherwise, I would return home in a year, tell friends and family all about these amazing experiences I had in Africa and watch as they slowly become uninterested and unconcerned.  Not because they don't care but because they can't relate at all to what our life is like here.  That has been one of the tough things about re-integration into life back home for PCVs since PC started 50 years ago.  

So, I hope this has made since to you and maybe even encouraged someone to be more the hands and feet of Christ as He desired for us …whoever you are reading this.  I had no idea where this was going to go but just felt like I should write a blog that dealt at least a little bit with my feelings.  Anyway, remember, going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than being in a garage makes you a car!

Jarod

Books For Banda!


Greetings from Rwanda,

I hope you are doing well.  Jarod and I are still enjoying our time here in Rwanda.  It is truly an amazing country and I wish you could have the chance to visit it sometime.  The reason I am writing is to see if you would be interested in playing a part with our current project. 

The village we live in is a very remote and rural village and because of its isolation, has very little access to many needed resources, one of which is books.  We are in the process of trying to raise money to send a couple thousand books to our village to start a community library.  The people of Banda Village are so hungry for knowledge and since the official language was recently switched to English, books in English are very necessary.  If you would like to help out with sending some books to Banda, please read below.  We are using two different organizations which have worked with sending large shipments of books to Africa for many years now.  The first is called International Book Project and the instructions for how to donate are listed below. We need to raise about $1,500.

The easiest way to donate is by sending a check to the address below. Just make sure that it says “Sarah Ring, PCV –Rwanda” on the memo line.

If you want to donate online, go to

You should click the radial button under Dedication for “on behalf of” and type “Sarah Ring, PCV – Rwanda” in the field. That stays with the donation and it will be allocated accordingly.

If you have any questions or want to make sure your donation is correctly allocated, you can email Rachel Lewis.  Her contact info is below. 

Rachel C. Lewis
Executive Director

International Book Project
1440 Delaware Avenue
Lexington, KY 40505
859-254-6771
Skype: Rachel.C.Lewis
director@intlbookproject.org

Facebook: Become a Fan

The second organization is called Books for Africa and the information to donate there is listed below as well. We are working in collaboration with 13 other Peace Corps Volunteers. The total project goal is $3500 but we only need about $500 to complete our portion of the fundraising. The project is called: Ubwonko Bwiza: Books for Rwanda’s Future project.


Books for Africa,



7.19.2011

RUN RUN RUN

Hello Everyone…Jarod here.   Just wanted to give you a quick update as to what has been going on in the last couple months since we haven't posted.  Sarah has already taken care of the blog about our crazy dog Zuba.  I will tell you a little about the Kigali Marathon we recently participated in.  Before you gasp in amazement at our sheer strength, motivation and endurance to run a full marathon, let me first say we participated in the relay part of the race…a team of 4, each running 6.5 miles.  Now you can say, "ohhh okay that makes since."  

For some odd reason, Sarah and I both ran the last leg of the race.  Unfortunately, by the time we were able to start our run, most of the other runners had already finished.  So unlike the usual bursting off the starting line with hundreds of other runners, Sarah and I both set off for our journey alone, she about 20 minutes ahead of me.  I was serially the last runner to leave the stadium.  Unfortunately by this time, almost all of the road markers and signs directing people where to run had been taken down.  So, right out of the gate I made a wrong turn, ran all the way around the outside of the stadium then left the parking lot only to stand at the road and ask everyone walking by which way to run.  After about 30 seconds of waiting and asking, someone finally said, run that way.  At this point I was already feeing like quitting thinking about the rest of the run.  This happened again at least 2 more times throughout my run.  I seriously just wanted to stop and say are you kidding me…skip this or in the famous words of my uncle Roger, "Pooie with it!"  Sarah had many of the same problems and spent some time running the wrong way as well.   Well over an hour later I arrived back at the stadium entrance only to be greeted with one of the volunteer race supporters who asked me to carry around the flat Kennedy poster on my last lap around the track to the finish line (this poster was brought along to signify the celebration of 50 years of Peace Corps).  Sadly, at this point I felt like I was going to die but told her I would be happy to do it.  This proved to be a little more difficult than what I expected since the life size poster acted as a wind sail as I ran my last lap spinning and hopping around the track like a little fairy trying to keep the poster up as I ran.  Finally I crossed the finish line, the last person to finish in the relays, as everyone cheered and congratulated me.  It was during that short but seemingly forever long 6.5 miles that I learned the reason I don't run…because I hate it.  There was a 73 year old man and another with only one leg running the half marathon (13 miles) and I am almost positive their 2nd lap was much quicker than my only lap…sad I know.  It turns out walking up and down mountains at 7500 feet in elevation everyday just isn't the same as actually running.  Next time I will know.  

Anyway, it was a fun day and I am glad that we participated.  Peace Corps had over 50 people between staff and volunteers running that day.  It was great and as much as I didn't enjoy that run, I would probably do it again if I had the chance.  

7.18.2011

Zuba

Zuba and I napping...



So I know I know! It's been over 2 months since we've posted anything. AHH. Sorry. This post isn't anything too special but wanted to update everyone on our amazing pup. I love him and he's brought so much joy to our home living in the middle of nowhere!!!


He's like any normal pup....eats and sleeps. ALL DAY LONG!







This is a pic of zuba waiting for his food to cool. I cook corn flour everyday and mix it with these nasty disgusting little fish things and it sets up on top of the shelf while it cools. He's trying to figure out a way to get to the top of the shelf...to that little pink bowl. :)









We recently had Zuba neutered. It was a horrific experience for all of us!! They didn't put him to sleep so we held him down while they inserted a needle into his peepee. He yelped and yelped and I nearly cried!! But, all was well and they successfully removed his lone ball. That's right...he only had one...him and his dad make a true pair....for those of you who know what I'm talking about!! We had to create an "Elizabethan collar" for zuba to avoid licking and snagging the stitches. This is the best we had. Poor thing. He just couldn't see anything. He ran into everything for about a week. It was also cardboard so it smelled to high heavens!! We literally gagged when he came around.Thankfully, all is well. He's healed up and just a mischievous as before!!



The church should get a kick out of this picture! First of all, they sent the most AMAZING package recently. It had a FOUR pound jar of peanut butter. Unfortunately it was consumed within a week as we were feeling so deprived! After we finish peanut butter....zuba gets to lick the container. We left it outside while we went to work for him to play with and when we returned...this is what we found!! He had it stuck on his face. He didn't even hear us walk up because he was still just licking away. I guess he was also feeling a bit deprived of his yummy peanut butter so he was just enjoying life inside the container.







Finally, this is our pup now. He's just a sleeping away. Something he's very good at. Here he's sleeping on 2 normal sized pillows. His bed I whipped up. :) He's a big big boy so far. He's around 6 months now and weighs well over 30 pounds. We're wondering about the return home trip with him...but will figure it out soon!

4.28.2011

Just another day in paradise!!!

So let me preface this last part of our journey by saying we are generally positive and easy going people.  But we had been traveling over land for nearly 3 weeks on not so great transportation and we were just ready to be home.  So, please do not judge us for the things I am about to talk about.  Remember, we were so ready to be home, on a time crunch, in a country we didn't know or speak the language, only eating about 1 meal a day at best at this point and just flat our tired.  So, I will proceed...

Our bus arrived at the Tanzanian border around 4am but since the border didn't actually open until after 6 we had to wait around and sleep.  Once the border opened we took care of all the customs stuff and made the remainder of the short ride to a town on the Tanzanian border called Mbeya where we were told to catch another bus from.  Luckily, on the bus was another American couple that were missionaries and had just moved to Tanzania and were living in Mbeya.  They invited us over to grab some lunch for Easter Sunday and then we could go back to the bus park and figure out the rest of the trip.  After grabbing some food, the husband and I went to the bus park to see what bus we needed next.  Now, we knew the trip would have to be made in around 3 days but we were not prepared for the onslaught of busses, bribes and lies we were soon to encounter.  The bus workers told us there was no bus going anywhere remotely close to Rwanda and that we would have to take a bus to Dodoma first and catch a bus from there.  We had arrived at the bus park around 10am but unfortunately there were no buses running anywhere after the early morning hours and the bus people told us we would have to wait until the next morning.  This missionary couple turned out to be a Godsend and said we were more than welcome to crash with them even though they had no furniture yet since they had just moved there.  But, they had some friends that loaned them a  mattress which was really comfortable.  We cooked tacos that night and I promised her no matter how much she cooked, nothing would go to waste.  No lie, I ate 8 tacos and threw in the towel with 2 remaining...I was defeated.  But, she didn't seem to mind that I didn't hold up my end of the bargain too much.

We got up at 4:30 the next morning and headed to the bus park.  The bus left at 6am and 12 hours later we arrived in Dodoma...no worries there.   We actually found a fairly nice place for cheap to crash for the night that had a hot shower and comfortable bed, no complaints there.   However, we searched the entire night it seemed to find some descent food to no avail.  We even hopped in a taxi and asked him to take us to the town center because we assumed there would be some descent food joints.  He pulled into some dark back ally with one tiny local food joint and said, "this is town center...look there is a back."  We gave up and decided we weren't going to find what we were looking for so we just had some simple local potato and egg type omelet.  The next morning we would start the next part of our journey.  A man at the bus park told us there were no direct routes to Kigali but that we would have to take a bus to Kahama where the bus will stop and you sleep for a few hours.  Tanzania has a law that no buses can drive between the hours of midnight and 4 or 5 due to recent hi-jackings.  Then the bus would go to Kigoma and finally catch a bus from there to Kigali all in the same day.  We were simply at their mercy and had no idea what was right and what to do or how to get there.  All the things our friends had told us about the trip back didn't seem to be holding up or work out.  So, we had to say okay...we'll do it.

The bad thing was the bus didn't leave until 11am which was a whole morning wasted of not traveling.  We had allotted 3 and 1/2 days to getting back to Rwanda and it was starting to seem that wasn't even going to be enough.  So, we took off on the bus at noon (an hour later than scheduled) for which I was under the impression would arrive around to Kahama around midnight and stop for the 4-5  hours of no driving.  We made it to Kahama at 7 and only 7 hours of driving.  They then told us we would need to get a new ticket for Kigoma and that bus would leave at 6 the next morning.  Here we were again in a place we had no idea about didn't know we would be staying the night in the town and have to find a place.  We had no idea were to go so we asked a taxi driver to take us to a guest house that wasn't too expensive.  We hadn't planned this expense and were getting very low on local currency until we could find a currency exchange.  We negotiated the price for 2000 (about $1.50) shillings and he drove us literally 30 seconds around the corner to a guest house.  We went in and the lady instantly said, we are full and have no rooms.  So, I asked him to take us somewhere else that he knew of.  He then turned around and drove another 30 seconds or less to another guest house and said the price would now be 5000.  I was in no mood to be taken advantaged of at this point and I told him that was insane and I wasn't paying that, he only took us another 30 seconds down the road.  I said I would give him 3000 and he demanded four.  I seriously almost just walked off without paying him but Sarah said just pay him, I want to go to bed.  I had the biggest urge to just wad the money up and throw it in his face.  I told him he was just taking advantage of us because we were white and that it was wrong.  I gave him his 4000 and stormed off.

We then entered our wonderful room that was supposed to be fairly nice with "hot water" and what not. Well, the room was a complete dump.  There was no "hot water", no shower head, no light in the bathroom, the toilet didn't flush, the sink didn't work, the fan was broken and the mosquito net was ripped to shreds...oh joy!  At this point, I wanted to just cry and we both just wanted to go to sleep without eating again and forget the day.  But I was very hungry so I found another egg and potato omelet thing to get me by for the night.  Sarah chose not to eat another grease filled meal.   But, the good news was were were going to make it to Rwanda the next day.

So, the next morning we get up again at 4:30 after Sarah had a dream that the place we were staying was a holding place to keep Peace Corps Volunteers to murder them and steal their American stuff.  We hopped on the bus the man told us to and headed for Kigoma which was supposedly the best and only way to get to Rwanda.  This bus seemed to have some internal desire to set the Guiness world record for the most people crammed into a bus over capacity.  So, after all the seats were filled, people continued getting on until there were literally no places to even stand.  There were probably close to 40 people in the aisle.  We started on our journey and were told the bus would arrive to Kigoma around 2pm and then we could catch a bus to Kigali, home sweet home from there.  At this point, people are laying on top of others, each person just trying to find his own little space to get comfortable for the ride.  It was at this point that I was about at my breaking point and just ready to be home.  For 4 days now we had basically had no sleep, no food, nobody to tell us the truth it seemed and just wanted to get home.  I begin to think about verse in the Bible where God said He would never put more on us that we could handle.  I then started to wonder what the definition of the word handle was.  At this point it seemed to me that if you didn't physically die, you were technically "handling" the situation since you really had no other choice but to live with it one way or the other.   But, I reasoned that this was my limit of handling and told God I could take no more.  Then Sarah said, why did you say that?  Now we are going to go backwards somehow.  It was in that instance that we passed a bus that read "just another day in paradise" on the back windshield.  It seemed that I had found a new breaking point because I literally was about to go crazy.   I decided there was no other phrase in the entire English dictionary that could be more incorrect of more the opposite of what that bus ride was going to be.  But, they seemed to think the words, "just another day in paradise" were appropriate.

After a couple hours of driving we turn off the main road for a bumpy dirt road heading to Kigoma.  By some act of God the man sitting beside me spoke English and when I told him we were going to Rwanda he was curious why we were taking that route.  He was from that town and said he didn't know of any buses heading from there to Rwanda.  I told him what the bus worker had told us and then we both decided he had lied to us just to get our money.  Now it was at this point that Sarah had her breaking point.  We told him we had to get to Rwanda today because we had now spent 5 days traveling.  He said we would need to get off the bus and go back to the turn off where we could then get a taxi to the border.  We were both pretty ticked off and demanded they let us off the sardine crammed bus.  We would walk back and find a ride.  They told us it wasn't safe to walk back on the lonely dirt road so we must go to the next town and catch a bus back.  After an hour on the dirt road we reach a tiny  town and got off the bus.  We luckily talked the driver into giving us some of our money back since we paid for the full price to Kigoma but weren't going even close to there.   We waited for over an hour before the next bus arrived.  But, when it did it was already packed.  We didn't care and would have ridden on a pogo stick at this point.  I kid you not when I said we crammed 30 people into a 12 seater mini bus.  There were 7 of us standing in the doorway and this ride went on for an hour.  Sarah and I were bent over at the waste, standing, leaning on top of everyone else.  It was crazy, horrible and awful but normal for most Africans.  We finally make it back to the turn off and there we see it...with what seemed like a light shining down from heaven and angels camped all around singing...the sign...RWANDA...this way!  

We then found a 4 person taxi and he instantly wanted to rip us off but we knew the fare and called his bluff.   He told Sarah and I to get in the front seat.  Okay, no big deal we always can fit one or two extra into each vehicle...right?  Well, the people continue to get in until there were 9 people in this car.  He even put a man between Sarah and himself.  He was literally straddling the gear shift, sharing part of our seat and the other with the driver and the clutch, brake and gas pedals.  So yes, 3 grown men and Sarah in the front seat and 5 people crammed in the back.  Then after about 20 minutes of driving we notice a head sticking up from behind the luggage in the back.  We had no idea when and where this guy got on but this brought our grand total to 10 people in the 4 person sedan.  It was miserable and it seems that after about 30 minutes I had a freak out claustrophobic moment.  I couldn't feel my legs and I couldn't move or breath very well because Sarah had no where to sit but on top of me and she couldn't move either.  We finally hit a check point where the extra man in front got out and started to walk.  The driver paid the officer a bribe and we continued on our way and stopped to pick the man back up on the other side of the checkpoint.  Not 15 minutes later, we hit another larger checkpoint with many officers around.  The man in the luggage and the same extra man in front get out and start walking this time as the driver is clearly over his persons limit.  So, when the officers see us they instantly assume the driver had ripped us off so they want a larger bribe to let him through.  This was another point where we wanted to just scream and/or hi-jack his car and just drive ourselves.  The driver was taking forever negotiating his bribe.  Sarah and I eventually were so sick and tired of this corruption we started laying on his own car horn telling him to come on.  Finally, he paid the bribe and we were on our way.  I asked him if he paid his bribe to the cops and he said yes but he paid little like he had done a good deed or something.  At this point we could literally smell Rwanda...it was just around 20 km away.  I will never understand the logic behind the choices of many Africans but then the driver decided to go 5 mph down ever hill.  Going up the hills and on level surfaces were fine...he booked right along but when it came to a down hill, he pumped his breaks and just putted along.  I asked him what he was doing and why he was driving like a snail.  He said the road was bad and he was  being safe even though there were no people around and the road was great...I still don't understand it.  Then, against all odds and everything that had happened on these 5 days of hellish bus rides...we see it...the border radiating with glorious beams of light and a hoard of angels welcoming us in the form of police officers that were not corrupt and people that actually spoke a language we could communicate in.  I can't tell you how excited we were to be home.  We got out and Sarah was doing nothing short of running to the Rwandan side.  The guy with us said, your wife is going very quickly.  I told him yes, she is very excited to be back in Rwanda...home.   187 hours of bus, train, car, truck, bike and boat rides later...we were home!!!

I never realized how uncorrupt Rwanda was and how corrupt so many other countries are.  We were so grateful to be in a safe, amazing, helpful and friendly environment where you are not constantly taken advantage of and lied to.   We love Rwanda.  It is an amazing country and with that...we are signing off.

oh transportation, what you do to me.

So...now that we've made it to Malawi, we are super excited to meet a friend that we knew from the states. She lives in Malawi and is a PCV. We met up with her and had some wonderful food and hot showers at this really nice backpackers place. It was wonderful to feel clean and sleep well before we started our journey. The next morning, our friend who will remain anonymous, said that in Malawi the bus system is really non-existent and they all hitch-hike.  I was really uncomfortable with this, but she said that during their PST they have "supervised" hitching lessons where their teachers write the number of the license plates of the cars they get into to make sure they get to where they're going alright. I was not comfortable with this, since in Rwanda we aren't supposed to hitch. She assured me PC was aware of it and totally cool with it in Malawi. We were picked up pretty quickly by this awesome British couple who have lived in Malawi for about a year and a half. They were 6 months pregnant and loving life while teaching at an international school in Malawi. We had a wonderful time chatting and getting to know them as we headed down south to a friend of our friend's site which is right on the periphery of a national game park. It was really cool because we took our first bike taxi's to her site. We rode on the back of a bike while a man peddled us about an hour to her house. It was really nice to see another PCV living in such a similar way as us with no electricity and no running water. We really enjoyed her site. The next day we went to the game park and ate lunch, lounged at the pool (which was awesome!) and saw some impala, warthogs, hippos, crocs, and really freaky looking birds. It was truly a relaxing day.

The next day we started our journey north to Nkata Bay, which is a really beautiful spot on the lake. We took the bike taxi's as soon as the sun started peaking and they could see. We waited for about an hour for a bus to come by. After we got on the conductor told us it was going to be about 4 hours longer than it should take so we only stayed on the bus for about 30 minutes before ditching it to find a faster ride. Generally, it wouldn't have been a big deal but we were hard pressed for time since PC is not lenient in any way about their vacation days and time away from site, (well PC Rwanda that is). So, we ended up catching a minibus which assured us he could get us to Lilongwe by 12:00 pm which was a fairly decent estimation with approximately 2 hours for something to go wrong. We were happy and jumped on. The place we were going up north had one bus leaving at 12:30 and we had to be on it or spend another night in Lilongwe. So, we arrived in Lilongwe at 1:00. :) So apparently he needed 3 hours beyond the actual time it takes for stopping and picking up every single living thing that was standing on the side of the road. Thankfully, another bus just happened to either be delayed or leaving. We jumped on and paid the fare. Then, Jarod walked around and realized another bus was actually full and pulling out of the parking lot so we asked for our money back from the first bus to go jump on that bus. He was not happy and refused to give us our money back (please keep in mind we are learning lessons with every step of this journey). Many Malawians got involved and demanded he give us our money since we hadn't gone anywhere and he lied because he said the bus was leaving but had less than 5 people on it. He finally gave in and we sprinted across the bus park to the bus that was "pulling out". As we were waiting for them to actually pull out, we sat for about 45 minutes. African conductors know nothing of time or can't actually tell the truth if money is involved.  But, we finally were on our way. It took about 3 hours past the amount of time it was supposed too and we arrived in Mzuzu around 8:00 pm. It was pitch black dark and the mini buses that are supposed to drive people to and from Mzuzu to Nkata Bay (about an hour away) had all stopped for the night. Awesome. So we sat there trying to figure out what to do. In the mean time, we were told Mzuzu had a foreign currency exchange and were planning on changing over some money and were literally almost out of money. A taxi driver was telling us he'd take us, but was demanding literally every penny of the currency we had left. We didn't know what to do. So, we walked over and sat while we tried to figure out what we needed to do to be safe but also arrive at our destination. We decided to just take the taxi and pray that the backpackers place we were going accepted American currency.

Around 9:15 ish, we arrived at our place we were staying. It was a little bit of a frustration seeing how the management couldn't seem to remember our reservations and hadn't reserved the chalet on the lake we had asked for. We were stuck in a room that had spiders and cobwebs everywhere. We both wanted to cry but decided whatever...we'd get over it. Jarod and I are not high-maintenance so obviously the place wasn't so good. The owner was what can only be defined as "white trash". Those are other peoples words but I definitely agreed. The food wasn't so good. The showers were mediocre at best. The place was throwing an "Easter bash presented by Black Magic Entertainment" which was planned to be 3 nights lasting from 9 pm to 9 am. We were told it was basically an all out orgy and every single place on the campus was being "sexed" in. Jarod and I wouldn't have known because we're old people and went to bed at 9:00.  The next day, we wanted to do excursions but all of them had to have 4 people to go and we seemed to be the only guests actually checked in or on the grounds at the time. So we lounged around on the dock all day and tanned, which was really nice and relaxing. The next day, some other guests took us to this really awesome place on the other side of town which was so cool and we hung out there and had an AWESOME time for the remaining day.

That night, we caught the first of our buses home. We started at 12:00 am on a bus which was really nice but it was only going 6 hours. When we crossed the Tanzanian border we tried exchanging money but the forex was out of Tanzanian shillings. There were people selling money standing around and generally they can be bargained with for good deals. Jarod was in the middle of bargaining when the bus started leaving him and he had to run to catch up with it...once he got on the bus we realized we had been ripped off and lost about 20 bucks in the exchange. Again I say, we're learning lessons all the time and figuring out that we're idiots when it comes to traveling...but we're getting there!!

Now, Jarod will finish our fantastic trip with all the good news. :)

planes, trains and automobiles...except for no planes...and buses suck!

Continuing from Sarah's last post, we make it to Lusaka (the capital of Zambia and the 2nd leg or our African journey) around 7pm and meet up with our Peace Corps friend there in town.  Lusaka, to us, seemed like such a nice place and was kinda like a mini South Africa which is like a mini LA or so forth...you get the picture.  There were grocery stores, endless fancy food restaurants and shopping malls.  We hit up one of the nice sandwich shops before heading to her house for the night and it was AMAZING!!!!   The next morning we were heading out on the -what we thought would be a short bus ride to Livingstone, the site were the beautiful world renown Victoria Falls is located.  That is when things started to get a little crazy.

So, we get up at 5am the next morning to start our what should have been 5-6 hour bus ride to our destination.  After making it a little over a third of the way in an SUV with some friends of our friend, we had to hop on a bus for the rest of the trip.  The driver said it would take us straight there in around 3 hours "or so".  Yea you should never ever ever trust the words of an African bus conductor unless you are in Rwanda, then they may actually be telling the truth.  We get in and the driver starts poking his way along at a snails pace which is rare for any African bus driver.  We also stopped about every 2 minutes for anything standing on the side of the road to see if they wanted to be squeezed on the bus.  And, at every town he would stop at the bus park for 45 minutes or so to just hang out.  It didn't take us long to realize we weren't going to make it there anytime soon.  And, if there is one thing I have learned really gets to me it is feeling helpless in a situation and not being able to control anything...and also inefficiency and time wasting.  So, unless you were there you can't really know how I got to this point but I was about to flip out.  I have never in my life felt so anxious and helpless.  I couldn't sit still and wanted to just get off and start walking because I felt we could get there faster that way.  Sarah was also started to get a little anxious as well and said she felt like holding a gun to the drivers head and saying, "DRIVE and don't stop for anything or anyone."  So this frustration and anxiety made the next part of the trip really tricky.  About 8 hours after getting on this bus, the driver and conductor stop on the side of the road and decide they are done driving for the day and the rest of the people in the bus can find their own way the remaining 100+ kilometers of the way.   As you can imagine this outraged us as well as the other 15 Zambians with us.  We demanded they give us at least a portion of our money back to make it the rest of the way or continue driving us but they had no interest in either.  At this point, I was becoming lethargic but Sarah had had enough and I must say got worked up and very confrontational (for probably one of the first times in her life outside of with a family member) and threatened to call the police to which the man said, "call the police, it's no problem, tell them to come" almost as if he was taunting us.  This also enraged the others even more and several men went to find the police.  I had to keep Sarah from stealing the keys from out of the ignition which she kept saying she was going to do until they gave us our money or drove us there.  Her exact words were, "he has our money so I am gonna keep his keys." At one point I mentioned jokingly to the others, there are 17 of us, we should just slap him around a little bit thinking nobody would hear or understand me to which a lady turned around and said yes, we should just slap him around a little bit, then he will cooperate.

Then, we notice the driver and conductor wanted to make a run for it but all of our things and bags and luggage were still in the bus.  So, all 17 of us run and jump in with the driver as he starts to pull away, leaving the 3 men that went to find the cops.  After making it less than 2 km down the road, the cops pull us over with the 3 men in the back and everyone starts to applaud.  At this point, things are just starting to get crazy.  The police officer seemed to have our back and argued our case but seemed to be lacking on the actual taking action side.  He told the man to give some of our money back or take us the rest of the way...the man refused.  Finally he says he will pay another bus to take us the rest of the way which didn't work because he tried to give every bus that came by very little money for 17 passengers (which they didn't have room for anyway).  At this point all of us passengers had formed a sort of bond together against the bus people.  So, when one bus said they had room for two and they tried to force the two "white people" on the bus, we refused and said we are not going without them...it was great...lol.  Finally, a bus/cargo van came by but Sarah was skeptical.  All of the windows in the back were blacked out and Sarah instantly said, "I am not getting in that bus.  That's a murder bus...my Dad taught me all about those.  Bad things happen to people in that kind of bus."  But,  it was our only option.  So, all 17 of us piled into the back of this cargo type bus/van without any seats and an hour or so later made it to Livingstone.

The rest of the time in Livingstone was amazing.  Our backpackers place we stayed at was amazing, clean, hospitable and friends and the food was amazing as well.  We went to Victoria Falls (locally known as "the smoke that thunders") which is just beyond words breathtaking.  Right now is the end of the rainy season so the falls are at their biggest and the word thundering is very appropriate for the sound it makes.  Here are just a few facts to put it into perspective.  Victoria Falls is nearly 2km wide (over a mile), around 350 feet high, sprays a mist over 1500 feet into the air and raise the water depth by nearly 20 feet when the falls is at it's peak...which it was.  The sad thing was, it was nearly impossible to see the entire thing because of the insane amount of mist/smoke it produced.  Once you enter the park they give you not one but 2 ponchos to wear...this should tell you something.  The remaining time we walked in what seemed like a monsoon as we were pelted with rain and wind produced from the shear power of the falls.  At some points we were probably a 1/2 a mile away and still being rained on.  It was truly amazing and beautiful.

Then one of the funnier moments of trip is when a baboon jumped down off the roof of a building at the park entrance when moment Sarah stepped away from her table and snatched her pineapple fanta bottle.  Then he proceeded to jump back on the roof, hold it between his legs, twist off the top and drink it right there in front of us, then throw the bottle on the ground.  Those dudes were crazy and were really walking a tight line between interesting and fun experience for tourist or just straight up annoying.  Anyway, we jokingly asked the lady in the store if we get a refund since Sarah had just opened the bottle.  She laughed and said no.  That happens all the time.

Later that day we went on what was probably the coolest part of our trip - the lion walk.  They have a rehabilitation center for lions there and after they become sexually mature, they place them back into a reserver were people will see them on safaris.  So, by interacting and being with the lions, you actually take part in the rehabilitation process.  This was really cool and we were able to spend nearly 2 hours just sitting, petting and playing with two lions.  They told us they were cubs, only 2 years old.  What we didn't know is that lion cubs are huge.  They probably weighed around 200 pounds and definitely could have had us for an appetizer that day.  Fortunately, they were really friendly and didn't mind us chilling with them for a few hours.  We will try to get some pix of this posted soon because they are amazing!

The next day we just hung out around the city and had some amazing food.  Then we hopped on the night bus back to Lusaka (which was the Mercedes Benz of all buses, literally, it was a Mercedes Benz Bus) which praise God actually took us there in a descent amount of time.  We arrived back to Lusaka around 2 in the morning and then got on the 5am bus from Lusaka to the border of Malawi.  This bus was not too bad either and made it in a descent amount of time.  After going through customs we got another bus and 2 hours later we were in the capital of Malawi to begin the third leg of our journey.   Sarah will take it from here...

Adventures in Africa...or so it seems

Hello hello. So it has been a while but we have been on vacation for 3 weeks and writing blogs just hasn't been a priority! So, we're going to write at least 4 about our 3 weeks and then post pictures at a later date since we can't do that from here. Oh my, where to start...

Our journey began with a 30 hour bus ride from Kigali, Rwanda to Dar-Es-Salam, Tanzania. It was a pretty decent bus ride. We were fairly comfortable. As we crossed the tanzania border however, the bus stopped and loaded about 30 passengers past the limit that all stood in the isles. It became very hot and stuffy but mostly I simply felt bad for the people who were standing for upwards of 15 hours on this trip. We arrived in Dar and proceeded to find our hotel. It was naturally full and we had to find another, it was an ok hostel that had 2 tiny beds in the room and the semi warm showers down the hall...no big deal because we were heading to Zanzibar the next day and were soooo excited!! We caught a ferry (about an hour and a half to zanzibar) and were greeted with the first of many many troubles on our trip. As we got off the ferry, the "immigration" officials grabbed every single white person and pulled them aside to ask for their "WHO" cards. These are the World Health Order cards that every person is supposed to carry with them upon traveling. We were told, by Peace Corps that we would not need a WHO card therefore did not have ours with us. We, and by we I mean me, kind of freaked out because I didn't know what they would do if we didn't actually have a WHO card showing we had our yellow fever shots. Thankfully, another PCV was also going to Zanzibar and had an extra with a yellow fever stamp on it. So, we snuck into the line and I flashed the card and then handed it behind my back to Jarod who then also flashed the same card. I of course, being the goody goody was freaking out and by the time we actually walked through customs was shaking like a leaf and feeling like I was going to throw up! I am a terrible liar and not good with authority because my father put the fear of Jesus and the law in me! As we walked through customs, this little tiny 5'0 ish man is holding a sign (in the pouring rain) that says Rings and its all washed out and we could barely read it but well he was adorable and caught our attention. He walked us to his "taxi" which would take us to the hotel we were staying in. We hopped in and he reversed, as he is straightening the car he slams into the side of another car. We were fine since we were traveling 1.1 miles per hour. It was funny because we got out of the vehicle and waited for them to straighten it out, then we hopped in and he literally drove us less than 15 seconds away. We could see the hotel from where we got off the ferry. It was hilarious!

Once we arrived, we checked in and since we were the only guest at the hotel we were upgraded to the terrace suit that was much nicer than the one we had booked. Thank you Jesus! They had free amazing wireless internet and we skyped with friends and family the whole entire night. I didn't even go to sleep it was so amazing. Thank you everyone who got online and chatted with me!!

After that, we got a "Dhala Dhala"(a local open bed with a tiny roofish thing truck) to our hotel on the other side of the island. It was amazing. They had our suit all set up for our anniversary and catered to us for 4 days!! Lobster, crab, fresh fish, etc etc. It was wonderful. The 2nd day we went snorkeling and decided to apply the sunblock outside in the "windy conditions" it warns against on the spray bottles. Point well taken mr sunblock company because we had streaks across our backs where the sunscreen grazed before being blown away by the wind and leaving us with what only felt like 1st degree burns. Thank you Zanzibar for being so beautiful...thank you Sarah and Jarod for being so dumb....we enjoyed Zanzibar through the windows as we lounged on the beds (on our stomachs) and moaned!! We unfortunately had already booked beach side massages that were none other than the best torture of my entire life. I was crying with pain and screaming with excitement as I had my aching back massaged and listened to the waves crash. Haha. But, it started clearing up before we left and we were off to the next part of our journey!

We rode the train from Dar-Es-Salam, Tanzania to Kapiri Mphoshi, Zambia. The train was wonderful. We met a couple of awesome scottish dudes who were traveling to the same place we were as well as an awesome Belarus man also traveling to the same hostel we were. Woo hoo! They were hilarious and had us laughing our butts off for 48 hours. It was great.  Sleeping in an actual bed while traveling makes all the difference in the whole world and it was nice. Beds, food, a shower...it was good!!

So far so good....but wait it's coming...

Jarod is going to pick up from here!

3.20.2011

Who are you...

When every single thing that makes you, “you” is stripped away- who are you? It is a really hard question to answer. Many of you are thinking of who you think you are and assuming you’d probably be pretty much the same, after all, most people think it isn’t things or people or places that make you who you are, but you’re wrong.

 

Unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t know. You can’t guess. You can’t even imagine-as an American it’s the most foreign concept you can think.

 

Think about it.

 

For one week…what if I took your family away? Everyone. Every single person except your significant other.

 

Your friends. Not only your closest friends but everyone, including all acquaintances and co-workers. Everyone you know. Gone.

 

Your church. The worship. The fellowship. The preaching. Gone.

 

Your job. You have absolutely nothing to do. No job description. No way to fill your time. Nothing.

 

Your electricity. When you want to watch something or cook or fix your hair to go out or simply sit on the couch and read a book…you can’t. It’s gone.

 

Your running water. What if you want to take a relaxing shower or bath to fill some of your newly freed time, but you can’t unless you draw water one bucket at a time and walk it to your house. What about using the bathroom? Washing your hands? Or dishes? Or bathing your children? Gone…

 

Your grocery stores. Where will you shop? How do you get the most basics? Where can you find your comfort foods? Gone…

 

Your car. With all the newly freed time you have, it’s ok because you have the whole day to walk someone instead of popping in the car and getting there in minutes.

 

Finally, on top of all of this I took your language. Everyone I’ve taken from you has been replaced by someone who doesn’t speak your language. They just stare at you while you’re trying to communicate your most BASIC needs (because after all what else is left at this point but the basics)?

 

How hard would life be for one week? One month? 3 months? 9 months? Or year and one month?? That’s where I am. Everyone I talk to keeps saying “you sound sad”. I’m not sad. Everything feels out of my control. I feel like a lost emotional child who can’t figure out where everyone and everything went and left me. I chose this life. I chose Peace Corps. I chose to leave my family, friends, church, job, electricity, running water, etc etc etc. I chose this.

 

Yesterday I went to the post office to check for packages and surprise we had 2. But, then because it was raining, naturally the post office workers didn’t come to work. So, I stood there knowing I had a little piece of home right there behind the wall I was staring at but had to go all the way back to my village empty handed. Something like this wouldn’t have bothered me before but here…it was a deal breaker. I sat in the truck crying like a baby while Jarod and my supervisor went around town buying our groceries. I just sat there. Little things that couldn’t matter in the big picture…totally spin me out of control now. I hate it. I don’t like the person I am without everything else. So I’m figuring it out.

 

That’s where I am right now. I’m not sad. I’m just trying to rise to the occasion…

 

sarah