Love in the Time of Cholera

I shouted, “Save yourselves!” as my parents and in-laws boarded the plane back to the States.



This is it. This is the real life version of my favorite computer game growing up, the Oregon Trail. Sadly, that is my only point of reference when it comes to Cholera, that, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s version.

So what happens during a cholera epidemic? Good question and one that I asked Google because she knows everything. Yet all she churned out were facts because it’s not fairly common in this day and age for a cholera epidemic to occur. What I wanted was a series of events to expect, how to brace myself for this.

I didn’t have to wait long to figure out what would happen.


First, street vendors were cleared by the thousands, wooden stalls turned over and burned. Military roamed the streets patrolling for any illegal vending on the streets. Zambians livelihood and means to an end were suddenly striped from them. How were they supposed to support their families if they couldn’t sell? People walking the streets would be handed brooms and shouted at to help clean. So, you might be on your way to the bank and find yourself at the mercy of the military ordering you to pick up trash and clean for an hour. I must stress, this is only done in certain areas of the city. I have yet to be demanded to clean the lands and be dubbed the Litter Queen.

Secondly, bleach, hand sanitizer and water were bought off the shelves…so much so that for Wesley’s birthday, I bought him two small bottles of bleach I found because he was frantic we would be without. (He’d come home in a panic one day and went down a dark series of events spiral, hyperventilating, which I simply attributed to his lack of not having eaten lunch, so I jammed a sandwich in his mouth and calmed him down.) We haven’t used the bleach once, btw.  However, everywhere we do go, we have to have our hands squirted with bleach; the movies, restaurants, grocery stores, etc.

Thirdly, fresh produce was being taken away from grocery stores after being found contaminated. So much so, that whole supermarkets and restaurants were being closed down because of coming into contact with contaminated water. Thank goodness for our friends having left Zambia 😉 and leaving us a hoard of canned food and our own stock from our move here. We were ready to hunker down and eat baked beans with corn and mac n cheese for months if need be!

As for my school, we were closed for a 6 days but we weren’t allowed to gather in groups of greater than 5 people when we were at school. (The governments way of ‘protecting’ us.) We had to continue lesson planning and sending lessons to our parents via WhatsApp and email. So, when I wanted to let my kids keep playing outside and exploring, I was forced to create lessons for working parents to accomplish when they came home after a long day of work.

Once school was opened, parents weren’t allowed past our gates but had to leave their kids to walk to class on their own. (Which as you can imagine is a dream for teachers and a nightmare for parents!) Haha! Being a teacher in the ELC we have to have a bottle of bleach, hand sanitizer and a water and soap station for our kids to use. I mean, we kill the crap outta germs down there! As I like to tell my kids, we aren’t giving the germs any strength to make us sick. So it’s been really funny because my boys will squeeze hand sanitizer and making destroying sounds will say things like, “Take that germs!” and “Not today germs! I’m the strong one!”

All in all, Cholera has affected us but merely only through the ripples of its destruction. Though I sit comfortably in my house, taking the necessary precautions, just a few kilometers away there are riots, burnings and marches because people lack enough clean water and because their livelihood and stalls have been burned down to the ground.  I mean basic clean water! I couldn’t believe it! We were sitting in a staff meeting (breaking the more than 5 rule) and one of our HOD’s pipes up that theres a riot nearby and that we should avoid certain routes. Our headmaster then paused and said, “Can we just take a moment to take this in? We have parents upset that they can’t dump off their kids on us at school while whole families are losing their children to Cholera due to the lack of clean water.”

Even now as I write this, I get frustrated about how I was sitting in a room full of healthy and wealthy families thinking about all the info I had grown up hearing, people advocating for water wells in bush villages, people dying by the masses in poor countries, a lack or resources getting to countries in need but that was all distant for me, something I could do nothing about. Yet, there I was, just down the street from it all happening in real time affecting my, now stupid and meaningless, trip to the grocery store.

I mean 3000+ people were diagnosed with Cholera and 70+ deaths have occurred. It’s ridiculous because people don’t actually die from Cholera but really dehydration and the lack of clean water. I will say, that in the months following the outbreak (which officially was back in October), the Ministry of Health has been working hard to get large green containers with clean water to rural parts of the city. They have shut down establishments known for unclean sewage systems, cleaned the streets and the numbers of affect people have gone down significantly, though we are still not out of the woods yet. It really just goes to show you how slowly a country can respond when there is a lack of resources and education.

Though we still haven’t figured out how we could help our community, we aren’t sure where to start really, we make sure that our co-workers and friends, who might come into contact with these affected areas, are being well cared for.




4 year olds vs. 14 year olds

What’s the difference between 4 and 14?

Mathematically, 10 years.

Physically, anywhere from 3-5 feet with a few more pimples and unwanted hairs.

Emotionally and mentally? Well that’s when life’s rollercoaster really starts throwing those lemons at you and those lemons ,when we were 4, seem so much more sweet and manageable than those lemons we got dealt with at 14.

By day I am a professional nap-time supervisor, number counting queen, painting guru, toy sharing master and kindness regulator. By night I am a cell phone provider, 8 ball question answerer, chastity belt fastener, and kleenex giver for weepy eyes. Are you jealous of my job yet? It can be a bit of a whiplash going from teaching Reception (4-5 yrs) to being Girl’s Head of Hostel (14-17 yrs).

One evening, however, both those worlds collided when one of my Hostel girls confessed to me that she was really depressed. She dived into her horrific world of verbal and emotional abuse from adults she should have been able to trust as well as sexual abuse from her older sister starting when she was just four years old. She explains her parents divorce, when she was seven, stopped the sexual abuse but then brought on her moms threats of killing her in order to get back at her dad. Stage left, a few years later enters Step-mom, who basically sounds like the horrible step-mom from Cinderella and pushes her away while giving her son everything, pushing her further away from her dad.  Fast forward, I’m staring at this beautiful girl who becomes blurry as I continue to listen to her story of not feeling wanted because she never talks to her murderous mother or abusive sister, and she hardly talks to her dad who can’t be bothered with her problems (hence why she’s a boarding school) which brings the final act…

“I took some pills yesterday to just end it.”

Keeping calm, I asked her more specific questions. What kind of pills did you take? Allergy. How many did you take? 19. How did you feel? Well I felt a bit weird but I’m not sure my body didn’t really seem to care and bounced back. So then I took some pain killers, about 5.

Twice. She tried twice.

I don’t think I’ve every shot up the God-line faster in my life – “Dear God, give me the right words she needs to hear. Help me comfort her and make sure she knows she’s loved. It’s in your hands.”

No matter how much training I may have in working with older students, phrases such as, “I think I’m pregnant” or “I lost my virginity last night and I didn’t really want to” or “I feel worthless, like life’s not worth living” still rattle me to my core. All I can see are sweet, young faces who have barely scraped this adventure we call life and yet their experiences are so deep and myserteous, they have no idea how to navigate them.

At this point, I look at her, grab her soft hands and tell her, “I’m so glad that it didn’t work and you are still here with us so that I can tell you that I care about you.” I have tears streaming down my face, I continue, “You are wanted here.”

She looked at me and asked, “But why would my sister do those things to me? Why? I didn’t even know what she was doing was sexual. Why would she do that?”

Thank God for training because my initial answer would have been something along the rated R lines cussing out the sister but I’m a professional and I know better now, so I simply say, “I don’t know why and we may never know why but what I can say is that it’s not your fault. None of that is your fault, you didn’t deserve any of that, not one bit.”

We continued to talk for a little bit and I ended by giving her a big hug and telling her that if she ever needed to feel wanted, she should come into my Reception class because they are forever calling and wanting someone to look at what they have drawn, built, written or to give you a hug.

I immediately went up to find Wes and gave him a big hug as I burst into tears. I explained to him my recent conversation and with pain and frustration at how at the tender age of four this girl has been tossed into a sh*t storm. In that moment, I realized how Jesus must have felt when he died for all of our sins so that we could be saved because I wanted nothing more than to take my poor girls crappy life story and wipe it clean for her. Lucky for her, someone more qualified already beat me to it.

Needless to say, the next day, instead of having my kids run up to me to give me morning hugs, I quickly went to them and made sure they knew they were loved by me.




In the Bush[es]


View from the front porch

We had the privilege of going out to Kafue National Park to visit our Ozzie friends, Jodi & Jason Moodie, who live in Itumbi Palace, where they help run an orphanage called Kidz 4 Him. You might remember that in a previous blog I mentioned we met a wonderful young couple out at Riverside who lived way out in the Bush (or the Bushes as my mother likes to say). We clicked with them and every time they came into Lusaka for supplies, we would spend every evening with them. Plus, they have two of the cutest kids, Joella and Jackson. After several visits, they invited us out to their place anytime we liked. I was very keen to go and said they would definitely be seeing us. One thing I have learned in the many  years of living far away, is mean what you say when you say, “Yea, I’ll come visit you!” The worst thing you can do is get a girls hopes up by saying you’ll come, just to shut me up, and because it ‘sounds good in theory’. No thank you! So, when I told Jodi we were coming, I meant it and upon our return to Lusaka, we immediately planned a trip.

Originally, Wes and I were going to go just us and maybe the Sandefur’s. However, we had two missionaries, Mark, who is interning at the Eye Hospital for a month, and Robert, who is in his Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery residency. Wes thought it might be neat to do an outreach clinic when we go down. Early Friday morning, seven of us piled in to a mobile dental clinic, sponsored by International Caring Hands and Riverside Farms Institute (our favorite weekend getaway), and started driving to Kafue. Fortunately, the truck is huge and can squeeze all of us in but unfortunately there is really only seats for six, so I was placed in the front, on a short stool, in between Wes (who is driving left-sided wheel) and a very sprawled out Robert. So, for three hours I got to work on my core muscles as I balanced on the stool and moved my cheeks from side to side to relieve my sore butt bones and no, not to pass gas. I’m a lady, I don’t do that.

With shooting pains soaring up and down my back, I thought I was turning into the Hulk with how much contortion and grunting I was doing to relieve myself. We finally got to Kafue only to be greeted by dirt roads that had seen care once in their life…when they were made. I heard the voice of an angel when Mark asked if I wanted to switch seats. My Hulkiness subsided and no one became victim to its wrath as I moved to the back bench. We endured this rough terrain for another couple of hours, having had only a few minor slips as Wes caused a rubber guard to fly off, which they retrieved and also causing Robert to bounce so high he hit his head on the roof. Other than that, we we came out scotch free, though our eggs came out scrambled in the back.


Jason and Jodi greeted us to their amazing property that over looks the Kafue River. After about four years of living in an old RV, they finally built their house which is a darling little place I deemed the Moodie Manor. Jason showed us around the property where we saw their huge garden, chicken coop, outdoor shower and toilet, and we walked down to his parents property where the orphanage was with a garden and a small house for the Senior Moodie’s, Rob and Sheree.


Church grounds

On Sabbath, we walked to the local church where the service was good, the singing in Tonga, and the people were lovely. We enjoyed a delicious lunch provided by Jodi and Sheree. While a migraine thrust its self upon me, the rest of the crew went on a beautiful hike along the Kafue River. And before we knew it Sunday arrived and out the door the dental crew went at 6:30am. Having started preparing the breakfast at around 5 for all the hungry guys, Jodi and I were exhausted by 7am and enjoyed a Cuppa (as they call it) and chatted away for a couple of hours. We then decided we should probably prepare a simple lunch for the crew, so with Joella’s help, we made PB&J’s and walked them down. All the while, my poor friend Jodi felt weak and achy. When we finally reached the church grounds where the truck was parked, Jodi was panting and sitting down by a tree. We decided to test her for malaria and sure enough she came out positive. So we quickly grabbed some anti-malarial meds and took her home to rest. I then assumed farm wife life. This entailed taking care of the chickens; feeding, putting them in, etc. Also grabbing veggies from the garden, hanging out the laundry, sweeping the house, oh yea, and taking care of a three and 8 month old.

If I thought I was ready to have kids, well that short four day trip told me, “Nope!” (Sorry Bill…) I was exhausted! However, I can’t complain because I wasn’t the one in bed with a temp of 39 C and achy with Malaria. So, I sucked it up and went on learning new tricks of the Bush trade. I learned how to make fresh almond milk, avocado leaf tea, a bubbles & squeak (breakfast scramble), raw peanut butter & cocoa bars, how to use beet root in sandwiches, a sago fruit salad, how to raise chickens, and a whole lot more I can’t even remember! And then after all that learning, the hungry boys would come home and I would have to feed them and feed them and feed them.

While Jodi was lying sick in bed, and while I was rummaging about doing farm duties, the dental crew was working hard. Altogether, the pulled about 150 teeth and accomplished several fillings and localized cleanings as well. The days seemed to have an inconsistent flow, so to fill the time, Wes taught everyone the glorious game that is Kan Jam (thank you Speyer’s)! When the sun came down, they would pack up and head back to the Moodie Manor where I would try to have supper ready. The evenings were filled with my feet up, begging for a foot rub while the boys gobbled up every last bit of food and then do some honey harvesting or croc wrestling. Haha, I only kid about the later, but it could have happened…

All in all, a terrific trip was had, even though life threw some curves balls, we were able to manage and enjoy our time out in the Bushes.

Wait God, there’s other missionaries?

Did you know that there are other types of missionaries? I KNOW! As narrowed minded as I can be sometimes, Adventists aren’t the only ones with a purpose to serve and have the gospel reach the far corners of the Earth.

How did I come upon such delicate information? Well, we met some other missionaries that weren’t Adventist and they were awesome!

The other day I had the privilege of meeting a couple, Joel and Sue. They crossed paths with Wesley and had been trying to invite us out to their mission compound for the past few months. We finally made good on their offer and went out to the community of Flying Missions Zambia where they work. FMZ is a wonderful organization that flies out doctors or missionaries to remote parts of the country to do work. As they were showing us around, Joel and Sue, mentioned that they might fly out doctors anywhere from one to three times a week to remote places. In fact, there is currently an orthopedic surgeon who flies out every Thursday, to various clinics to do surgeries and flies back on Saturdays. Joel and Sue have been with FMZ for almost 20 years, first in Botswana, then here in Zambia. They raised their two, now grown, boys in Africa and have the biggest heart for missions and Africa.



As we were walking around the grounds, we came upon another young missionary couple, Chelsea and Shane, who were staying in the guest house on the property. They were also missionaries from yet another organization called Overland Missions who had arrived to Zambia around the same time Wes and I had.


Overland Mission: Any Load. Any Road. Anytime.

I don’t know about Wes but for me, when I saw another young missionary couple also giving up their life of comfort to live as missionaries, it affirmed our work here and that we weren’t altogether that crazy for picking up our lives. But I can’t compare our mission post to Chelsea and Shane’s. No, we definitely have nothing to complain about when it comes to our living situation. They live out in the Gwembe Valley, deep in the bush next to the Kafue River where they currently live in a tent while their house is being built. They have integrated themselves in to the local village culture by eating n’shima with the locals, taking trips out the remote parts of the village to start small groups and just dwell among the people and talk God. They come into the city about once a month to stock up on goods and restore some mental health after being out in the bush for so long.

After we all walked the grounds together, surveying the massive hanger with planes and offices, walking the runway and rest of the property, we sat down to have coffee. Yes, coffee. I panicked a bit when they asked if I wanted some, to which I quickly shot up the God-line, “Do I want one Lord?” And I was comforted by the thought, so I had my damn cup of coffee and wasn’t judged for it! We sat for about an hour, just talking about our young less-than-a-year experiences while also listening to the veteran’s stories over some delicious cookies and brownies. During our conversation, yet another missionary couple from Switzerland joined us, Salome and Mattius, who I bonded with over our love of all things chocolate, Toblerone and cheese.

Showing no signs of stopping, Sue invited us all over to their house for some grilled cheese and “tomato soup”. (I put it in “” because it’s no Campbell’s over here but it’ll suffice.) We continued to talk and get to know each other and I found that I was really enjoying myself. Words like “blessed”, “Lord’s calling”, and phrases like, “Being called to missions”, and “God answering our prayers,” were flying around the room. Normally, I would try to bat those phrases down, having been jaded by an over usage of them from ‘throw-our-beliefs-at-you’ Christians, I was instead comforted by them. I found myself using these words because I wanted to and NOT because I felt like I had to use them to show I was one of them.

Wes and I walked out of there with our spirits lifted and our souls little more filled in our mission here. We may not be the type of missionaries that preach or comfortably use God-talk all the time but we know our actions and hearts are set in the right direction and most of all, I know that God is with us in all that we do. I also know that God is amazing and can use any type of person for his mission, as was represented in our little gathering. Among our group was a technician, mechanic, pilot, organizer, preachers, teacher and a dentist, all of us called to missions.

P.S. If you are curious about either of those missionary organizations, please click the links to learn more because they are both doing great work and are filled with awesome people.

Flying Missions Zambia

Overland Missions

Ready to Get Dirty

As I write, we are flying over the Horn of Africa, back to Lusaka after a month of our first annual leave. After an adventurous night in Dubai, I’m a current cocktail of sleep deprivation, a bit of fear every time I go to pee in the closet-sized toilet that the airplane will hit turbulence at just the right moment, excitement to finally unpack into our new home, RLS, topped with two shots of espresso and hunger.

Visiting home was much anticipated for Wes and I. We weren’t sure what to expect on our first visit home since moving. It’s weird being on “vacation” at our old home when for everyone else it’s just a normal day. Being home, Wes and I had to figure out how to fit into everyone’s daily life when it had become normal to not have us around. Not altogether as bad as it sounds, just a tough reality. It was packed full with weddings, family gatherings, girl trips and golf trips.

Honestly, I think I was way more excited to be home in California than California was excited to see me. For example, I simply stared at the Starbucks menu just to remind myself of the options I had even though I’d been there millions of times before. It was more to soak it all in, pick up every tumbler, fruit snack and remember not to take it for granted. Then when I beamingly gave my order to the barista (High School Musical style where everyone joins in on my excitement) and eagerly said it’d been months since my last Starbucks, it was met with a pleasant but annoyed smile that mentioned to move along, peppy. Little did they know that I live in one of the few countries that doesn’t boast a Starbucks and probably never will. C’est la vie. I also danced my way to DSW three times, each time resulting in a new pair of shoes. Sadly, Target and Barnes & Nobles were only visited twice but several things were purchased as I sang through the isles!

Wes did have an interesting encounter on day four of our return to the states. Just as Wes was leaving his parents’ house on Lawton, he was surprised by the flashing red and blue lights of not a Fourth of July parade but rather the police. Confused, he pulled over and prepared the required documents for the officer. When the gentleman came to the window, the officer asked Wes, “Wanna tell me why you were driving on the other side of the road?” To which Wesley, relived, confessed with a laugh, “Well, sorry, but yes, I currently am visiting from Zambia where they drive on the other side of the road.” To which he produced his National Zambian Registration card and handed that to the officer along with the other documents. The officer went back to his car, probably to have a laugh and returned to Wes to ask more about his reason for being in Zambia and reminded him that, “Remember, we drive on the right side of the road. Have a good day!” And with that, Wes was let off with a warning.

Besides accidentally turning on the windshield whippers instead of the blinkers, it was fairly easy being back home and getting into the swing of things. People kept asking us if were experiencing reverse culture shock and the truth was, not really. We knew it wasn’t permanent, so I don’t think the shock hit as hard, though both of us did agree, it was hard to do the Third World to First World jump. I was surprised by some of my initial reactions to things I used to find normal. With the risk of sounding ‘holier than thou’, it was hard to hear complaints of insignificant sorts, people stuck on their phones/obsession with perfect picture taking and seeing how much waste of food, clothing and other items there was. The idea that there is always more from where that came from is easy to take for granted. I even found myself reusing Ziplocks at my parents one day, only to find them in the trash hours later because there were plenty of clean ones available. Or even saving our leftovers from eating out (however small) to hand to a homeless guy rather than have it sent to the back trash can.  Now, I don’t expect my parents or everyone to become scrappier savers, I simply took it as funny that I had taken my survival skills and applied them to a situation that didn’t require it.

Continuing with my survival skills, no spider was killed under my watch while I was back in the states because those are precious and helpful in Zambia. They eat the Malaria infested mosquitos and other insects. So, there’s a win for me and for all spider-kind. Bottom line, it was interesting to see how, in just seven months Africa had already changed our mentality. You can’t live abroad and hope to stay the same, it just isn’t realistic, especially not in a third world country. Africa, in all its beauty, simplicity and splendor is still very broken and hurt. In order to cope and live here, you have to adjust your thinking but also realize that kind of thinking doesn’t apply everywhere.

Though it probably felt too short a trip for our parents, Wes was eager to get back to the clinic to start working again and I was ready to start my new chapter at a new school. Plus, the first seven months of our time here merely felt like a movie trailer, just barely getting our feet wet with excitement for the next five years. Now’s when we start to buckle up and dig in and get our hands dirty, for a lack of better terms. This is when the hard times will hit, me with a new job as girl’s dean and Reception teacher (Pre-K), and Wes as full-time dentist and director of the dental clinic. We’re excited! We’re scared. We’re hopeful. And we’re ready to nuzzle in and start making changes, one long, slow… very slow change at a time. As is the Zambian way, but hey, we’re here for the long haul, so bring it on!


Empathy & Kindness

This last weekend I had the opportunity to write public speaker to my ‘missionary card’. You’d think that I would have already fulfilled this quota early on since I’m a lover of words and my own voice. However, this has not been the case until this last weekend.

Wes has already checked this box off by having done a couple of TV show interviews on dental basics for the Hope channel here. (Tune in grandma!) He’s even gone out on a few outreaches to pull teeth in the bush! However, I had not…yet…

The opportunity arose when my teaching assistant, Mavis, asked me one afternoon if I was a good public speaker. Side note: she is an Adventist. Immediately my ears perked up but with caution because I was weary that a sermon would be asked of me and I couldn’t fathom the idea. As much as I love talking, talking about Christ is difficult for me because I feel unqualified and I’m still trying to figure it all out in my head as it is. Fortunately, she did not request a sermon from me but to simply talk about empathy and do an activity with the congregation. This I could do.

So, Sabbath afternoon, we went first to Brentwood Church, our ‘home’ church here at around 10:45. We brought along with us Iris, a volunteer who just landed the day before, who will be volunteering around the different clinics for a month. With a one hour song service and a one and a half hour sermon under our belts, we went to grab a quick bite before the afternoon service I was partaking in over at Woodlands Central Church.

Not having done this sort of thing before, I wanted to make sure we arrive right at 14:00 so that I could be ready. I should have known though, TIA, (this is Africa) and the program didn’t really start until about 15 hours…

Not phased in the least, we sat and waited for the program to begin. Here’s the difficult part, there is no bulletin to see where you are in the program, or to gauge how long you’re going to be sitting there. So, we just sat and wondered when my part was up. But the nice thing was, the program was all put on and done by the special needs department. There was a lovely signing choir, a sermon given in sign language, a presentation and song by an albino musician, and a kid’s choir that sang and signed (plus another three sermons).

An hour later and I still hadn’t been called up to do my part but I figured it couldn’t be much longer. Finally, our wonderful school counselor, Jenn, was called up and gave a beautiful presentation about the importance of empathy and how we can show it to each other and towards the specials needs community. Then I was up. I was going to do an activity that I’ve been doing with my first graders which I’ve dubbed the Kindness Circle. In first grade, we sit in a circle and share one nice thing about the person to the right or left of us. Mavis had asked that I do this but with the deaf choir for the program. I was a bit nervous, not having really worked with the deaf before but I was really excited to try it out.


I introduced the exercise to the audience and then sat back and watched the magic happened. From one end, they began signing to each other (with one gentleman translating what was being signed) and you could just sense the appreciation grow at each turn. Simple compliments dug deep and acceptance and admiration began to flood the small group. We’d not practiced or done the activity together before, so it was raw kindness and not at all rehearsed. I was lucky to have had one of my little first graders present who I asked to join the activity and to see the curve of kindness reach her and receive a compliment from a complete stranger, it showed that kindness knows no boundaries. As he signed to her, she smiled meekly and thanked the gentleman with a hand gesture of thanks she’d picked up from the rest of the group, all the while beaming.

I felt so fortunate to have been a part of the program that praised special needs and lifted them up in a community and country that provides very little for them. Special needs isn’t really considered anything here other than a burden to your families. No special programs are provided, no education past a certain point can be obtained for a special needs person and there just isn’t the knowledge and love for special needs here in Zambia. But at Woodlands Central Church there is a fabulous place for them to come and worship. And come and worship they do!

If you’d like to know more about Albinism or Special Needs here in Africa you can visit the African Albino Foundation.



We’re missionaries?

“So what brought you to Zambia?” is a very common question we get asked here, seeing as how there a so many people from so many different backgrounds living here, to which I usually respond, “We’re missionaries.” Then I go into my whole spiel about how as a teacher I can’t even begin to tickle the amount of debt to pay off my husbands loans and yada yada… Which if you know me is a pretty typical response for me to make a joke out of my situation because I’m not a serious person.

This response usually brings more questions such as,

“Oh, so do you preach?” -No

“Do you run a church here?” -No

“Do you live in the bush?” -No

“Are you helping run an orphanage or clinic?” -No, not really.

So, I guess that means we aren’t your typical missionaries of the ye old days…Nor do we fit the bill for other people’s current ideas of a missionary apparently.

This all spurned because during our time here we have met countless amazing people from all backgrounds, other missionaries, embassy workers or not. But this last weekend we met an awesome couple from Australia who moved here to Zambia 6 years ago to start an orphanage in the bush. I mean how cool and amazing is that?! To top it off, they are the most humble people, who have two adorable children (whom I’ve adopted as my niece and nephew) and not to mention, they make the best honey in Zambia. After having spent the evening with them, doing the mandated introductory stories of how we ended up here, on our way home from Riverside Farms Wes asked me, “Why are we here?”

Now, I was taken aback because I feel like this is a question was out of character for Wes. He’s been a solid rock from the beginning about coming here and never wavered on our decision where as I was as shaky as Jonah going to Nineveh. (I have since been convinced and am loving being here, for the record.)

“What do you mean?” I asked him. To which he responded that after hearing my joking answer to the question several times over the past few months, he wondered if we truly were here to simply pay off his loans or to do God’s work. Now granted, God’s work is everywhere but looking at the wonderful couple we’d just met who gave up the comfort of their home and uprooted themselves indefinitely to start their orphanage, seemed like much more of a sacrifice than what we were doing. I mean, shoot, I’m working at a top international school, surrounded by people with loads of money and comfort. So for me, my life isn’t bad at all, whereas Wes does have the more typical missionary position as a dentist serving people of all backgrounds. Still, he’s got an awesome clinic that runs well here in Zambia.

So which one of the two of us couples is more of a missionary? To answer this, we must ask ourselves, what makes a missionary? The sacrifice? The struggle? The demographic we serve? Giving sermons at our churches? Living in a mud hut? Playing the piano for sabbath school? Partaking in Bible studies? Because if that’s the case, heck, we only check off two, maybe three. Does that mean we should be doing more or that we aren’t missionaries? I struggle with this because do we change who we are because we need to fit the mold that is “the Missionary” or do we simply continue our journey here and show the love of God through our actions rather than our preaching words.

The answer is, I still don’t know, honestly, I don’t know. I could argue both sides. God didn’t put a definition of missionary in the Bible…well maybe He did but it isn’t nicely splayed out like Webster’s, so I can’t find it. What I do know is that God and many disciples met the people where they were at and simply were. Unfortunately, or fortunately, for God, I tend to push back on social norms, so for now I don’t fit the typical missionary bill and I might never, or I might conform to meet the people or I might just convince those around me that wearing pants to church isn’t the worst thing afterall… We’ll see.




Oh hey, I’m back!

Whew! It’s been a minute since I last wrote!

Since my last post, I have been working at the American International School of Lusaka in the 1st grade as a long term sub for a teacher who left on paternity leave to the states. I don’t know why God does it, but he keeps handing me positions either in the very young category or the ‘acting  young but look old’ (high school) category. The only difference between the two are that one group is cute and cuddly, while the other…not so much.

I do enjoy the school very much and have enjoyed the chance at working in a non-denominational institution. I didn’t think that I would really notice much of a difference between having worked at and attended church schools, BUT there’s a difference.

I don’t start my mornings with prayers…so it’s weird for me because that was kind of how I would calm the class, prepare them for the day and let them know we are starting. Now? We do a version of prayer by sitting in our desks and sitting quietly and calmly with the lights out. We close our eyes and I take them on a journey through the woods, or the beach, etc. You might even call it morning meditation or mindfulness. And since I can’t openly pray for them, I compliment them each, one at a time, in the morning during our center time. I give them a sticker and tell them how awesome they are. It’s been pretty interesting to see how they react because even my ‘coolest’ kid who acts too cool for school, he’ll remind me that I need to give out my compliments. I’m hoping it will be infectious because first grade can be rough. It’s life skills down here! There’s still manners and emotions and attitudes being learnt at this stage. Math, writing, reading, and science are just mere fillers of the day. When something ‘bad’ happens to one of my kids, it’s like their whole world is ending. It’s frustrating yet endearing to see how much emotion they can go through in the span of just a few minutes. They can be in tears complaining about so-and-so not being their friend, to accepting an apology, to hugging it out, to saying they are best friends now. We as adults could learn a thing or two from that! Haha!

Incredible really… leaves me flabbergasted every time!

Other than that, they really are cute and they come from all over the world, Jordan, Denmark, Germany, England, America, South Africa and Zambia. I’ve got loads of accents and backgrounds coming at me and I love it! However, it can be a challenge when teaching them to read and write because how do you explain that the word ‘letter’ isn’t spelled ‘letta’ to a British kid. (You might have to say it out loud to hear it…) I usually let it be when I realize that I can understand their version of writing with their context. Right now, I just want them to write, because the spelling will come laAdmin-Baobabter with more reading and exposure to words.

Now that I’ve throughly bored you with first grade talk, I would like to say that I have accepted a teaching position at yet another school for the following school year, Baobab College. Now, it’s not an actual college that we in America would understand it to be, but it’s a British school, and everything over there is deemed a college apparently. The position is for, yet again, a ‘key stage 1’ grade, meaning either Kinder or First grade. Their terms are all different and they call periods at the end of sentences ‘full stops’. It’s all very Harry Potterish and I’m super excited. It’s a beautiful open campus with 3 futbol fields, tennis courts, outdoor basketball courts, olympic swimming pools and 3 different play grounds, complete with some peacocks that roam the grounds. There is also a girls dean position open which would include housing for Wes and I that we have decided to try out for a year or two. Plus we’d have full access to the cafeteria when ever we’d like for only K25 ($2.50) which Wes loves!

Other than that, life here is pretty same old same old. I still haven’t been bitten by a snake, or lion for that matter. I have seen some baby elephants. No, I haven’t been met the president of Zambia, only seen him drive by a few times. Yes, I do make a fresh batch of bagels every Sunday because I’m a true Spaniard and I require my daily bread and Jesus of course… And NO, OUR CONTAINER STILL HAS NOT ARRIVED. However, it is in Tanzania waiting for us to get a number thinging for customs clearance.



This last week I had the great privilege of greeting my “first” guest and one of my favorite people, Terra, here to Zambia even though she’s been here more times than I have! I crammed in a multiple choice test and 4 essays in two days just so that I could hop on a bus down to Livingstone asap to greet her and her padres.

At 3:30am Sunday morning, I got up and had Wes drive me to the bus stop downtown, aka, the sketchiest time and place to ever get on a bus BUT I’m all about experiencing everything at least once. Just picture florescent lighting scattered with personal fire pits for warmth, add a dash of chaotic voices yelling at you and grabbing your stuff and nondescript buildings that are supposed to sell tickets. This is the “bus station”.  So, once we found the bus service we wanted, I stood in line to get my ticket after several people tried to pull me to their “stations” as Wes parked the car. I got my ticket for K140 ($14) only to have Wes come up to me saying that someone had put a lock on the car and required K60 to have it taken off…of course. Muzhungu’s for the win!

I got on the bus about 5:30am, leaving Wes behind to work while I played, and took off for Livingstone. The bus ride included several pit stops to pick up random people on the side of the road, running over a green mamba and nearly crushing a chameleon. Thankfully, I arrived alive, contrary to all the current bus accidents recently (don’t Google it), at 2ish and couldn’t have been happier to see my beautiful friend waiting for me. I probably smelled rank but she still embraced me. She had a wonderful week planned for us complete with viewing the falls from the Zambia and Zimbabwe side, playing, feeding and walking with lion cubs everyday, a jungle cruise and having high tea like old English travelers like from A Little Princess or Tarzan at the Royal Livingstone.

We stayed at Mukuni Big 5, which is owned partially by a white Zambian named Basil and the Mukuni village chief aptly named The Lion King. Yes, as in the Lion King movie which he claims was named after him. However, I’m gonna bet that there are about a 1,000 other Lion King chiefs spread out all over Africa. Basil also happens to be best friends with Terra’s dad, and is one of the most fascinating men I’ve met. He has several amazing stories from fighting in the Rhodesian war, having lions, warthogs, baboons as pets in his house, as well as defending his property in Zim from the government that wants to take white farmers land without permission and usually with gun force. Needless to say, I’ll be keeping in touch with him and hopefully jotting down some of his stories.

After Terra and I painted the town red and gold and green and orange and yellow, it was time to pick up Wes the following Friday from the bus station. Wes had to work that Friday, so he took a later bus at around 2:30 and was scheduled to arrive in Livingstone around 8pm. We arranged a taxi to take us down to the “station” and we began to navigate the many arriving buses scouting for the giraffe at a horse party. Instantly we were bombarded by people trying to get us to buy bus tickets, offering taxi rides and other nonsense. I simply told them I was looking for my husband who was arriving. For some reason this spark a huge rumble because before I knew it, everyone was shouting, “She’s looking for her husband!” At about 9 and still no Wes, I promptly went to the bus booth to ask if they knew where the bus was to which the guy replied, “Oh if they don’t make it to Livingstone by 21 hours, they stop where ever they are for the night until 5 hours.”


Say what?!  What kind of rule is this?! I quickly asked if they had the phone number of the bus driver. So the guy then proceeds to walk around the area inquiring for the number which seems unprofessional and unorganized but TIA. All the while, I’m panicking because I have no idea where Wes is, what’ll happen to him if he stays the night on the bus, and about a million other thoughts. 20 minutes later, the guy gets ahold of the bus driver saying that the only ‘muzhungu’ on the bus got on a taxi to Livingstone. A bit of relief flew over me only to panic again realizing that now I have no idea what his taxi looked like, if he was planning on coming straight to the bus stop or to Mukuni Big 5. Oh and if you’re thinking, why don’t you just call him Briana…yea that would only work if his phone wasn’t dead. So I’m navigating this situation blindly, trying to guess what Wes would have done, getting into his head which isn’t easy. So for the next hour, Terra and I walk around to the arriving minivans and taxis looking for Wes, all the while, everyone is shouting, “She’s just looking for her husband!”

At 10:15pm, we are about to go back to the lodge, thinking he went straight there, only to have a van pull in and I see a pale figure clamber out of the front seat. Never had I been so happy to see him in my entire life! Truly, I could have been so pissed about his phone having died, not warning me his phone was dying or the fact that he hadn’t communicated with me in the last 6 hours, no, I was just so happy that nothing had happened to him and he was there in one piece. Apparently, on Wes’ end, it was theorized by the several stranded passengers on his bus, that the driver had a girlfriend in one of the towns, so purposefully went slow so that they’d be forced to stop there at 21 hours. This unfortunately screws the passengers and Wes had to pay and extra K50 to get to Livingstone in a taxi. So overall, if you calculate my trip with the lock and Wesley’s trip with the added taxi, his trip came out $1 cheaper, although his trip was about 4 hours longer than mine.

All in all, a terrific trip to Livingstone with great friends, old and new, human and furry!

*Check out my Livingstone pictures!

An Eggplant & God

Friend and Sister, that’s what I was called today on two separate instances. The first came from a stranger and the later wasn’t from my brother. But let me back track…

I woke up this morning and watched an episode of Chelsea that I had downloaded from Netflix. I like to wake up to a good laugh and she always delivers. I then meandered over to the kitchen where I made myself some toast, in the oven old fashion style, and slathered some PB & J on those suckers and devoured them while I wrote a paper on the factors that will increase genome-wide association studies on connecting genes to mental health, you know the usual. And then I tried to connect to the internet…

Radio silence.

I tried loading up my email and was greeted with slowness. Page after page went blank as I tried to refresh them. What does this mean? Maybe Facebook has figured out a way to be better than the internet…refresh…no such luck. I guess Mark Zuckerburg isn’t quite the genius we all thought he was. Not even the coveted Pinterest would load and that’s when I remembered, I have to reload our wifi. This foreign concept that I must load money onto a SIM card and then buy a monthly bundle of either 10GB, 20GB, 30GB, or 40GB. Not even the sounds of John Mayer and Billy Joel could calm me of my panic. I didn’t have the foggiest idea how to do this? Was I back in the dial-up era? AOL? AIM? What was going on here?!

I digress, it wasn’t all that bad, just that I inherited my grandmother’s gene to exaggerate. So, I made my way to the Makeni Mall where I explained my situation to the nice gentleman at the magical land where I can bring devices and they fix them with a simple flip and switch. However, as nicely dressed as we was, he didn’t seem to know what to do either. Terrific. So, I told him I would be back and went grocery shopping while he figured out how to work the device his company sold me. I went into Pick N Pay where I bought some groceries, they didn’t have eggplant (just wait), and essentials only to have them take back the shampoo at the check-out because it was 30k ($3) more expensive than I thought and I wasn’t about to over pay. Wesley’s got me on a tight leash with our budget.

eggplant-06I then took out my groceries to the car and walked to the other market, Food Lovers, to see if maybe they had eggplant. All I need is an eggplant, so I strut in, don’t grab a basket or cart, and feverishly turn my head looking for those plump, purple veggies only to be knocked out of my hunt by a gentleman stocking the produce. “You don’t need a basket? Why don’t you need a basket?” I turned and still walking forward responded, “I know what I need and I won’t’ need a basket for it. Thank you!” I chuckled and kept walking on only to be pursued by said gentleman. “So no basket? Okay, will you be my friend?” I paused for a second and looked back to see if I’d heard right. How did he get from basket to will you be my friend? He continued, “Yes, be my friend, why don’t you?” I kept walking, looking for my eggplant and proceeded to take a “phone call” but exited sans eggplant for my curry.

I don’t have a moral of that story, other than it’s happened to me about three times to be someone’s friend while I’m shopping. I guess I need to work on my RBF.

Now, I’m back at the magical wifi store, the guy still can’t tell me what’s wrong but promises that it will work. I ask for his phone number in case it doesn’t so that I can continue bothering him about it while he’s off the clock. Awesome. I walk out and pass by a couple of nuns. I double back and approach them because I want to know if they work at a school that I’ve been trying to get ahold of. Mind you, this is a shot in the dark here considering half the country is Catholic but hey they looked harmless. So, I asked them, “Hello, sorry to bother you but are you ladies from the City of Hope?” To which they replied that indeed they were! Wonderful! I was so excited at my spontaneity and luck that I completely forgot what I was bothering them for, so I quickly regain my composure. After all these were just nuns, but even I felt like they were sacred and just a direct phone call away from the good Father’s listening ear. I proceeded to tell them that I have a friend, Lauren, who is a brilliant pediatrician here in Lusaka and is going around to different schools giving lectures on nutrition and health for students and parents. I shamelessly continued to plug Lauren’s good work when a young man came up to the group of us. He shook each of the sisters, greeting them with Sister [insert name] and then turned to me, did a once over and took my hand and called me sister as well. I didn’t bother to correct him because call me crazy, but for a split second, I felt holier. After all that, I got Sister Celeste’s phone number and we’ll be in touch.


Moral of that story, don’t be afraid to talk to nuns, they can make you feel pretty holy.