Monday, February 17, 2014

A Day in the Life

Sunday, 5:30 A.M. My alarm clock goes off at least 3 times. I groggily roll out of bed and wonder why I decided to stay up late reading the night before. I wake up my roommate (who's temporarily bunking over me on the squeaky bunkbed that I don't even hear anymore) and remind her that we're both on at 6. I'm up by around 5:40.

5:45 I stumble into the shower, that magical thing that transforms me from half-asleep to mostly awake.

5:57 I run around the house in a rush attempting to get ready for work and vow to get up five minutes earlier next time.

6:05 I'm not very late this morning. Woohoo for African time - I fit right in here. Alyssa and I join Joy, who has worked since 7 A.M. the morning before.

6:10 We start changing and dressing the babies as they wake up. Sunshine gets porridge (baby cereal for those in America) which I think sounds English and reminds Alyssa of being poor. (Porridge....poor-ridge...that's my philosophy....they just sound alike!) The rest of them clamor hungrily for their bottles. I can tell almost all of their cries apart, except for the two "Smalls" - as we call the preemies. Sunshine has a toddler wail. Squishy goes, "AAAAAAAAHHH!!! GAAAA!!!! DAAAAA!!!! WAAAAHHH! PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEE!!!!!" Princess has the most distinct cry....she starts hyperventilating and making distinctly squeegee-ish sounds that are punctuated by loud, shrill royal demands. Little Guy has a dull roar. The Smalls are both high, squeaky and LOUD.

7:00 The babies are mostly fed and changed and Joy goes off shift (or "knocks off," as they say here) to hopefully go sleep. SLEEP, GLORIOUS SLEEP!!!!

8:30 I go around straightening up to prepare for a visitor.

9:00 No visitor. I'm on preemie duty, so I feed and rock the Smalls.

10:00 Still no visitor. By this point I'm rocking both Smalls and they've both fallen asleep on me. I wish I would have been able to get a picture. They are darling. Alyssa and I are the only ones on shift, as Cintelle went home for the weekend (she lives about an hour away, I think). Despite the fact that we have one less person, things are going smoothly and the babies are pretty happy. Alyssa and I flit back and forth around the home, discussing Adagio for Strings and the U.S. economy. I love the caregivers to death, but it's kind of fun to have the home to ourselves on this quiet Sunday morning. I reflect on how much I love this job, how much I love being here, everything about it. (Even getting up at night is getting easier.)

11:00 I've decided our visitor isn't coming. Oh well, "this is Africa," (or TIA), as they always say around here. I rock some babies some more. They're happy...very long as I don't put them down. Heather pops by to get some things from her fridge, that is still here even though they moved out (they're getting another, but don't have it yet). I make lunch for the toddler and try to convince her that bananas are food.

12:00 I go into OH MY GOODNESS mode! Volunteers are coming in 45 minutes. The sink is full of dishes, we have hardly any filled baby bottles left. There are toys strewn across the floor along with burp cloths and blankets. Two baskets of wet, day-old laundry sit waiting to be hung out. I haven't changed for church, the high chair is covered in sticky banana, babies need nappies changed, supplies need to be stocked for our lovely volunteers, and neither of the babies who are going with us to church have had naps. Not because they wouldn't take them, but because I just plain forgot to put them down. Squishy goes to sleep right away. Sunshine is having none of it, so Alyssa gets her up. Probably a good thing she didn't fall asleep anyways. I run around picking things up. Alyssa packs nappy bags for church. I go get Joy to make bottles for us (caregivers have to do this). She comes up, looks at the sink full of dishes, asks if I washed the bottles so she can fill them. (Joy is seriously, like the hardest worker ever. This in addition to having awesome hair and loving to pick on us.) I apologize. Oy vey, where is my head today? Somehow we all manage to get everything essential done.

1:00 Volunteers show up. I give them a brief rundown (the one lady got the full tour last week, so she knows what she's doing) and drag the other rocking chair into the living room so they can hang out and rock babies together. Four volunteers + four babies = eight happy people. These ladies are all so sweet! They come from a local Afrikaans church.

1:10 I strap Squishy into the carrier (baby sling - not carseat) and seven of us grab our stuff and pile into the Drews' car to leave for church. Most people don't use carseats for babies and children here, and I can't often get enough wiggle room to even grab a seat belt. I'm enjoying my African freedom and praying for safety. =) It's only about a 5-10 minute ride.

1:30 Church is about ready to start. Children of all ages and colors run around outside as their parents stand and chat in the warm African sunshine. Gradually we all make our way inside the Lutheran seminary that Living Hope Church rents out on Sunday afternoons. (No, we're not Lutheran....there are really strange pieces of artwork on the walls though, including a very angry looking portrait of Luther.)

Living Hope church is a wonderful panorama of human color. Black people, white people, colored people, and even some who I think might be Indian. ("Colored" is the word for biracial here, and no, it isn't offensive. Neither is the term "black." It's just what people are. Actually, I think THEY think that our American custom of calling people "biracial" is kind of funny.) There are many refugees and immigrants from surrounding countries - Zimbabwe, Zambia, the DRC, Malawi, and probably other places I can't remember. We all are brothers and sisters in Christ and I am enjoying the unity I find here. <3

We sing...hymns and praise songs...many of them ones my home church would recognize (like "10,000 Reasons" and "The Love of God" (a universal favorite here) in addition to some new ones I'm learning. All in English, unfortunately! Squishy is content in the front pack as we bounce back and forth to the beat of the bongo drums and Auntie Patricia's tambourine. They introduce the new visitors as he starts to fall asleep. Every time they clap and cheer for a visitor, he jumps and wakes up!

Soon the sermon starts. I feed Squishy....and by the way, I'm wearing a bib too, a yellow receiving blanket to match my shirt, because he's a projectile vomiter...Joy looked at me this morning and said, "You're wearing that? To church?" Yes, I am indeed! I've been trying to wear that yellow shirt to church for several weeks now. It sometimes doesn't even make it there before it gets puked upon.

He's happy now. Actually, almost too happy. I'm starting to think I shouldn't have put him down for that nap before I came...he'd be asleep by now, otherwise. He's quiet, but soon bores of chewing on the pink rubber car in his diaper bag, the one that, thank goodness, doesn't actually squeak like it's supposed to do. (Mental note: Pack more toys as he has started actually playing with them instead of completely ignoring them.) That is not exciting. Eating my bulletin is, but in the interest of him not swallowing an entire sheet of paper, I remove it. All of a sudden he remembers he has fingers, and fingernails, and knows how to use them. He gleefully starts scratching and pinching my arms as I try to hide them behind my seat. He's still quiet though, for which I am very thankful, as it means I can stay in and listen to the rest of the sermon. I try to distract him from my very scratchable arms with the pink rubber car, and the bottle he no longer wants. Or maybe he does. He can't decide. I make a mental note to hunt down the nail clippers, later.

3:30 Church is over. I can't believe he sat through the entire thing! I decide I'm using the carrier, again, as he seems to like it. We mill around outside for a while and figure out rides to the Communion service at the Macks' house across town. I hand Squishy off to Auntie Linda who is headed back to the baby home for afternoon/evening shift. Sunshine is coming along to play with the kids at the Macks', and she rides with her Christmas host family.

I hop in a car with Akani, Lerato, and one other young man. My goodness, space, I can't believe it! Not for long! Akani bought this car "because it can fit four people in the back seat." We stop at Akani and Lerato's "flat" (apartment) to get food for the potluck dinner. ("It has chicken liver in it. Are you going to eat it? I still need to make you chicken feet...") We stop at a street corner and pick up a guy who goes to church. Another one is behind him, but he says he'll call a taxi - there isn't room. "No, no, hop in, there's room!" we say. (And yes, there is always room for one more. Or two or three...) Somehow three grown men, and me, manage to fit in the back of Akani's car. But we laugh and the men tell stories about how many people you could fit in a bus in the Congo. "We'd fit way more than this. And then everyone would hold their luggage on their laps!"

4:15 (approximately) We arrive at the Macks'. People are everywhere. I sit and chat with some friends. Alyssa gets blissfully lost in political conversations. Poor girl, having me for a roommate. I'm happy to discuss the economy or government with her, but mostly I say "Huh?" and she has to explain things. We don't always agree on things (like the obvious wonderfulness of Walmart...LOL.) She's in her element here. I have no idea how she finds all these people to discuss things with, but she is as happy as a clam.

5:00 Suppertime! There are about six different variations on rice, and I try them all. I never did find the chicken liver in Lerato's rice, so I think she was teasing me. I did, however, get a full dose of curry. I like it. Not as much as hot peppers, but I enjoy spicy! There were also DELICIOUS fried dough balls. I was sad to see they were gone before seconds. =( Alyssa and I sit at a table and try to pronounce people's names correctly.

After everyone is done eating, the Communion service starts. This is different from how we do communion at home. Megan's uncle preached a message, we sang more songs, and all shared prayer requests (which I only kind of understood) and prayed together (it is so beautiful to hear someone pray in their native tongue). Then we took Communion. The whole thing lasts until about 6:30 or so...I think. Afterwards we hang out, try to figure out who is riding with whom, find nappy bags, missing bottles...etc...etc...

We catch a ride back with Donovan and Heather (plus three toddlers), enjoying lively and interesting discussion on the 20-30 minute ride back home, about a number of subjects. Somehow we don't manage to get home until about 7:45.

7:45 I'm on night shift, so I run around looking for all the things I need...pillow...toothbrush...laptop....I sit down and read the (short) chapter from my assigned reading that I've only now started working on...

8:00 Night shift starts. I drag a mattress from the newly set up guest room into the living room. MATTRESSES, GLORIOUS MATTRESSES! I cannot tell you how happy and joyous they make me!

I stay up too late on the computer. Babies cry. Babies decide it's time to wake up. I feed them, snuggle them, rock them back to sleep. Time to do my Bible reading! The preemies snort and snuffle and worry Linda and I. She nearly breaks her phone jumping up to get to them. Thankfully, they're just congested. I think I finally fall asleep around 11 or 11:30, and sleep in brief intervals throughout the night. Squishy sleeps through the night! Hooray! Sunshine wakes up and screams intermittently - unusual for her. Double Trouble (Princess and Little Guy) decide 4:30 A.M is a perfect rising time. I knock off at 6 and go sleep in my pleasantly quiet room...and that's the end of my day.

Did I mention I love this life? I have no idea how I'm going to leave. Five months seemed like forever. Everyone else thought it was a very long time. "Wow, you're leaving for five months, you are so brave." (Ha ha. If they only knew all the things I was scared of.) What I've learned? Five months is just a tiny drop in the bucket of my life. Five months goes FAST. Five months is so little when all my heart and soul wants is to care for orphans full home work...whatever...for the rest of my life. Five months is long enough to make many friends, and too short when it comes to saying goodbye. Don't get me wrong, I miss home, my family, my friends, my "little sis," Ranch dressing, the Ohio landscape, snow (oops, that one got in there by mistake, I don't miss the snow!), chocolate chips, having a car, the country, my church, my soft and comfy bed. But I wouldn't trade my time here - with its crazy swing schedule, sleepless nights, cranky babies, crowded living quarters, lack of transportation - for anything.

Please be praying that God reveals the next step of His plan for my life.

This is already a long post, so I'll include pictures in the next one!

Love to you from Africa,
Auntie Abbie

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