Friday, October 24, 2008

My, how the time has flown...

Yesterday, I was cleaning out and organizing some of the things that I left here at the Schwertfeger's last year when we went back to Zambia. I found a journal from our first year in Africa. At the beginning of the journal was an entry and a "poem" that I faintly remember writing. I had almost forgotten the transition that came from adjusting to life in a third world country. It seems humorous to me now. There are so many things that I thought were strange. At this point, they seem absolutely normal. The reality of Africa is a good reminder to me today, as I sit in my American living room with everything I could ever need at my fingertips.

Dated September 14, 2006:

"How different I am in such a short time. Nothing like being in charge of an orphanage to help you grow up pretty quickly. My concerns have changed, and I am constantly fighting any urge to have concern for self. Instead, I'm attempting to put those concerns toward Jacob and the kids [in the orphanage]. My dreams these days are haunting; refrigerators with too little food. Fields with too little green. Not enough clothes for the orphans. Not enough milk for the babies. Not enough. Never enough. But I know that there WILL be enough. That the Lord gives us free access to his "storeroom" when we use it for His glory.

(A prayer that I wrote under the journal entry:)

I pray against the spirit of scarcity that has come over me. I say, Jesus, that because you have died...there is always enough. Oh Lord, I give up my rights, my possessions, my heart. Strip me clean, O God. All of You is more than enough for all of Africa. All of this is Yours to do with as You please. I give up my heart, my mind, my personality, my opinions...I have no rights except to trust in You. No choice really. Hide me in the cleft of Your rock. In you. Make me strong and courageous.

(I continued on to write down some of the things I'd been through in a short 3 week period. Please excuse the terrible form and nieve ramblings. It was so real to me two years ago.)

I am a spider killer and an ant destroyer. Stink bugs tremble at the thoughts of my mighty flick.
I am a bush fire fighter and a motorcycle mama.
I fear no buzzing bees or screeching owls.
I have named the rats that scamper across my ceiling.
I make tea on the fire when the power goes out and I bathe in the bucket when the water pressure is low.
I can carry babies on my back and push start the truck.
I am getting stronger everyday.

I can climb into a Land Rover while wearing a floor grazing skirt.
I can shop for 55 children and sell oranges by the bushel at the same time.
I am a shrewd business woman in the market.
I buy tomatoes, onions, and nuts from the same smiling, toothless women every week.
I have learned to use the bathroom in the same room as my new husband even though only a bamboo wall seperates the bathroom from the bedroom.

I have seen women in silent labor and HIV patients with 105 degree fevers.

I have had malnourished children melt into my arms. I have had others scream with fear because of my white face.

I have seen more pussing, oozing rashes than I ever wanted to know about.

I have been the sword bearer (or rock finder) for my husband as he pelted the 5 foot cobra that slithered in front of our feet.

I like nshima, cabbage, and chicken more than hamburgers and apple pie (mainly because I don't really like hamburgers and apple pie).

I have dressed the body of a child who died during the night.
I have delivered that baby to his family and listened to them weep.
I have wept to myself, thinking, "What else can I do?"
And I have decided. I can love the ones who are still hanging on. Strapping them to my back while I work and laying them on my chest while I rest.
I can teach the good women who love them about dehydration, sanitation, and loving attention.
And they will teach me:
How to build a fire and cook on it.
How to polish a dirt floor smooth.
How to work harder and carry more than the men.
How to balance a 5 gallon bucket of water on my head.
How to make empty candy wrappers into a wreath to hang on the door.
How to sing for joy because of having just enough. Food. Water. Shelter. Happiness.

(End journal entry)

Obviously, Jake and I are no longer working at the orphanage. The wonderful Jaime took for a year and now the Zambian supervisors are caring for the kids.

Everyone always wants to know what we do in Africa. It's so easy to give pat answers: "Oh you know, we do administrative work. We minister in the bush. We teach people stuff." After re-reading this journal entry, I'm convinced that I've learned way more from Zambia in the last two years than it will ever learn from me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I're going to fall over from the shock and awe this post will produce.


A picture of Sunda on her first day in America...with her new baby doll!

Mama's hair handiwork

Sunda and her "Uncle C."

Painting pumpkins.

Honestly? I now feel like a REAL blogger and a proper mother since I have summoned up the effort and the courage to post pictures. It is a big step for me.

Gotta go, it's family game night. Pizza and Yahtzee with the Schwertfegers...can't beat it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wife, Mother, and Hairstylist

I posted before about the drama involved with managing Sunda's hair. I mean, I rarely write about things like this...and never more than once. So, you know it's serious.

I have been stressing myself out about this hair since we've come home from Africa. I scoured the internet and didn't really find the answers I was looking for. I didn't need a guidebook...I needed a guru. So...

On Monday, I took her to a beauty shop that a friend at church recommended, and the wonderful stylist there showed me how to properly comb out, grease, and twist Sunda's hair into ponytails that will prevent the mess that her hair was when I walked into the place. When I expressed my immense gratitude for the help and advice, one of the white stylists said, "I thought it looked cute when they came in." The stylist that helped me said, "That wasn't cute...that was a MESS." Well. At least she called it like she saw it.

Needless to say, and to my shame...Sunda was a little less than well-behaved at the salon on Monday. And when I say a little less, I mean that she was kicking, scratching and screaming her way out of that chair. I was instructed by my wise hair sage that the right thing to do was just to teach her that she could not get her way out of getting her hair done. No way. No how. I will spare you the details of how you discipline a child who attempts to kick the hair stylist.

The simple and do-able style that I was taught on Monday has to be redone every couple of days, so today I embarked on my first challenge. A wide tooth comb. A tub of vaseline. A million rubber bands. And a sea of kinky black afro.

Guess what? I DID IT. The process wasn't pretty. And I pretty much didn't accomplish anything else all morning. She may have won a couple of battles in the whole process. But I definitely won the war. And when she started to act up I took care of it immediately. (It's amazing how a little hair pulling and a required 20 minutes of sitting still can transform a wonderfully easygoing, well-behaved child into a specimen fit for Nanny 911. I will never judge again.)

Bless her heart. She's learning. And so am I. You may wonder: "Why is she torturing that poor child? Can't she just cut it short and wait until she's older?" I assure you that speaking with anyone who shares my daughter's hair or skin color will convince you otherwise. It's important. For identity. For self-esteem. (Also, apparantly, for learning how to be a better Christian, as it takes MUCH PRAYER.) And I have promised myself that even though I have already spent more time grooming Sunda than I have spent on myself in the last 6 months, that I will do whatever it takes to make her LIFE, and the struggles that may come with it...easier. Because she deserves that.

Sunda is running a fever tonight and is not happy. So, sadly, no pictures for your enjoyment. Soon. As soon as my parts get straighter and I can get the barrettes to stay in. I'll be sure to remind her of this when she's eighteen, don't worry.

Maybe once I get really good I'll blog a whole SERIES about doing kinky hair. Probably not. But you'd read it...right? Yeah..right.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Important Request

Hey guys,

I have a really IMPORTANT request.

There are so many wonderful friends that have been commenting on our blogs that we don't have contact information for.

Can you email us your information so that we can get back to you????

Our email address, for everyone's purposes, is:

Thanks so much!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Take Me Home, Country Roads....

If you've grown up in the hills, you don't realize how much you miss them until you come back. On our way back from the D.C. airport, Jake and I were practically speechless as we realized how much we have missed the changing of the seasons, the endless fields of corn, and the rolling hills. Breathtaking. And everything looks so green compared to the desert wasteland that is Zambia this time of year!

We've been home since last Wednesday. A more joyful homecoming has never been seen! Sunda did fantastically and is already so attached to Jake's mom, "Nene", that I worry about tearing them apart in January. In our first 5 minutes in the house I burst into tears as I watched Sunda crawl around on the carpeted floor and open a new toy. It just seemed too comfortable to be true. A carpeted floor. A couch. A place where Sunda could play and not come back with stickers in her shorts and sand in her hair. The little things mean a lot sometimes.

It has been busy weekend and today Jake, Sunda, and I are just taking it easy. Nene and Pappy have gone to work today and Uncle Cody to school. Pretty soon Jake and I will be spending our days on the phone talking to supporters or driving around to meet with them. So, we're lounging in our jammies, amazed at how many channels are on TV,and periodically putting Sunda in a warm bath to play...just because she can!

I feel like I'm the one whom this transition is taking the hardest toll on. Sunda has adapted beautifully, as most kids tend to do. And Jake is so easygoing he just flows from place to place like there's no change at all. To me, I almost feel guilty being so comfortable. After 5 days of visiting, I feel like I should be doing something productive. I'm itching to be of use, somewhere. It's a different kind of busy here in America. A different kind of difficult. I can't really explain it right now.

All I know is that I had Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast, and there's a box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese waiting for lunch! Yum! (Don't judge me...I'm on vacation ;) )