Friday, March 16, 2007

One Month

Afrikan Adventure: Where do we go from here?

Greetings and Salutations dearly beloved! Or as they say here in the motherland, “Muli bwanji.” Four weeks have come and gone and my Zebra riding skills still aren’t quite where I would like them to be!

So with orientation over this past week we said goodbye to the Ripley family (the team leader and family who are back in the states for several months) and hello Shannon, not me, but a new Shannon. She is here for three months to shadow the medical team. As you may have noticed, her name is the same as my name which creates confusion all around. Therefore, I have taken the name Shakira-Sholonda Jackson to avoid confusion…it really just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it!? Okay, perhaps that has not happened, but maybe it should.

This past week I had the opportunity to tag along with the Cross Project Team who works in HIV/AIDS ministry. I attended their team meeting, sat in as they wrote the curriculum for that weeks class and then attended the class with them. There is talk of starting a more youth oriented aspect which I am very interested in. Also this week I visited a couple of the community schools. These are schools in the compounds (aka the poorest parts of the city) that the local compound church helps run. There is typically about five different grades all being taught at the same time in the same room…pretty crazy.

On Saturday we had our little kids club and I learned a new game along the lines of “Duck, Duck, Goose” except you take a ball and chase the person you choose around the circle and try to peg them off with the ball. Pretty entertaining, I must say.

With my first month past here I have hit a bit of a funky state of frustration and discouragement. I am in a place where there is so much need and yet I feel helpless and like I am not doing anything right now. It is like I am in some strange warp, stuck behind barriers, both physical and cultural. I miss my home and the things I know, the people I love, being able to get to the places I want to go, being able to walk around by myself, and swimming in the public pool. Well, maybe not the latter! I am told this is a normal thing that happens to everyone and so I’m sure it will pass. God has brought me here and will continue to guide me. There is much I have to learn.

I hope you are all well. Let me know what you are up to these days…and feel free to send pictures so I can put you on my wall of fame!

God Bless,


“And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:15

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Week Three

African Adventure: The Graduate

Three weeks have past and things are rollin’ right along. The three months of orientation was condensed into three weeks due to the fact that the director and his wife who lead it are leaving for the states this Thursday. It may sound like I’m getting jipped here with only three weeks but I they don’t call me “sponge-brain square pants” for nothing…actually no one has ever called me that. So I am a proud graduate. I’m actually kind of glad now I can get out and do and see more instead of sitting in a classroom. Put more focus onto learning to carry massive amounts on my head. We still covered all the material there was to cover, we just had orientation five days a week instead of the three they usually do.

The weather continues to do bizarre things and the power continues to go out. When my mom told me to eat carrots because they would help me see in the dark I really should have listened. I think it was out almost every night last week. And since we are on a water pump when the power goes out we have no water either…leaving for a smelly environment of no bathing.

So I have joined the church choir! This past Saturday I and another girl on the team went to choir practice. It was so much fun, what a crazy gang. I brought my guitar and we taught them a new song which we sang on Sunday. This Saturday I am hoping to go to their youth meeting. I was hoping to do this this past Saturday but not having my own vehicle and living half an our outside of town presents it’s challenges with transportation. On Saturday’s we have also started a little kids club in the neighborhood. So we had about 15 kids show up and we talked about creation of the world, played a little game, sang a couple songs…it was pretty cool. So hopefully that will continue to grow.

This past weekend I also had my first experience driving here in Zambia. Yes, that’s right, yours truly behind the wheel! Just when you thought the streets of Lusaka couldn’t get any more reckless!! Actually it went quite well. It’s bit of an adjustment driving on the other side of the road and having to hold your cell phone with your other hand while driving and reading the paper. Just kiddin’. I found the hardest part was judging where I was in the lane and how much clearance you have on the passenger side. Only three pedestrians and one goat were injured.

So now with orientation over I am having the chance to shadow some of the ministries of Action Zambia to see where I think I could fit into. This week I am “shadowing” the HIV/AIDS team who provide education and resources to HIV teams and do a lot with training churches in how to respond to this epidemic. . The church in the past has been one of the worst contributors to stigma and ignoring the problem so this team is trying to work with local churches to help change that. One of the big philosophies of this organization is working through the local churches to bring lasting changes to communities as opposed to us foreigners just walking in, putting bandaids on the problems and leaving with no one to carry on the work. The HIV/AIDS team is looking to do more of a focus on youth and develop that area so I think that would be a really cool area for me to get involved with, although challenging. So I am excited about that possibility.

So that has been the week in an electronic nutshell. I am hoping to get my recording stuff up and running this week once I can get a proper power converter and hopefully start recording some stuff. Thanks for all your support, prayers, and encouragement. I couldn’t do it without you!

Love to you all,


Ps. I ate fried caterpillars this week. I liked them. I also have acquired a taste for tea and drink it by the barrel cause coffee isn’t as popular.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Week Two

Afrikan Adventure: Settling in

It has been a fortnight (also known as two weeks) that I have spent here in the heart of Sub Saharan Africa. Things are going well and I am lovin' life in Zambia! It has been a bit of an adjustment to slow down the pace of life a bit. Everything around here seems to take a little longer than it did back home and it's interesting to adjust to a very task/time oriented culture to a culture that is more relational and less concerned with getting things done. I felt that the year leading up to me leaving was a big lesson in being patient and now I see why! A case in point: on Monday I went down to immigration to get my work permit with the help of one of the guys from our team who deals with this stuff and knows what to do...good thing cause I would have been completely lost and probably ended up in the fetal position in the middle of the floor. We first had to go to this little room where our file was kept. The filing system was quite complex. Basically it was just stack upon stack of file folders stacked all over the room in a seemingly random-like fashion. Upon retrieving it they handed me the work permit (looks like a passport book) to make sure the info on it was correct. I noticed that my birthday was wrong and so I told them and immediately thought that that may have not been the best idea as I feared they would not let me take it that day and make me come back another day. They took the permit and left the room, then came back, helped a couple other people, talked on the phone, finally came back to me, made me follow this guy up to another storey of the building into another little room where a woman finally could change the date and then back down to the first little room. Then back up to another room where we had to get them stamped or something like that. I gave mine to Luke, another new guy here, who eventually basically had to physically section off a piece of the desk so he could get served. All in all in took a good couple hours. But I got my work permit and therefore I can stay in the country!!

Orientation continues to go well and we are making good progress and due to an accelerated pace we should be done by next week. The couple who is teaching it is leaving for the states for a few months so we are trying to get done before they go. Yesterday I had a true cultural experience of attending the Tuesday Veggie Market where all these little stands (or actually just on the ground) cram into this one area and you can get all these fresh fruits and vegetables. The place is packed out with people so you can barely walk and each vendor has a little scale and you tell them how much you want in Kilograms and they weigh it out for you. Most can pretty much get it right on by feel. A pretty cool experience.

There are certain times here that I have really felt I am in Africa. A few examples...
1. we bought our bread from a casino...and it was shaped like a crocodile
2. you stop in the middle of the street to buy a newspaper
3. at major intersections guys come up to your car to try and sell you stuff from nail clippers to fruit. My favorite item, however, are the real live puppies they try and sell.
4. the driving here is insane, all rules of the road go out the's no holds bar...although I often wish I had some kind of bar to hold on to!

In other news...I am hopefully going to be starting a girls choir with some of the girls in the neighbourhood (grades 10-12) where I'll teach them some English songs and they can teach me some vernacular songs and we'll do a little Bible study as well. So I'm super pumped about that. If I can get the notice out hopefully it could start this Friday afternoon. I am also hoping to start getting involved with the youth group at a church I have attended the past two Sundays which meets on Saturday afternoon as well as getting involved with the choir. So I'm stoked about that too! Once orientation is over I'll have more of a chance to figure out where I fit as far as different ministries here. One that I am really interested is the HIV/AIDS team which is hoping to be able to start a focus on the youth which I would love to be involved in.

So that's pretty much life in the last little while. The power went out for the seventh time tonight. And the weather has been overcast and rainy...reminiscent of my mother land. Thanks for all your support and encouragement.
Peace and Love,

Week One

Afrikan Adventure: Life on the Farm

Week one has come and gone. I arrived here in Lusaka with a pretty severe case of jet lag that had me wondering if I would ever be "normal" again…although if I was ever normal to begin with may be debated. I think I am back to my usual schedule of really waking up at about 10pm and not being tired when it's time to sleep. I think I may be part bat. It's that and the webbing under my arms that makes me think so.

It is a bit of a strange feeling to be back here in Zambia and have things be familiar yet already this is such a different experience from my last trip. I live out at the ministry centre called "The Farm" which is about half an hour outside of the city centre in a much more rural area. You go down this red dirt road that is sure to give the best of suspensions a run for their money. At the farm there are four other "single" girls, like myself, and then the director and his wife and two 5 year old adopted Zambian children. There is a main house where we cook and eat together and we take turns cooking dinner…although in my case I'm not sure if that is what you would call it.

Currently I have orientation five times a week. Tuesday through Saturday from 10-3 and two of those days we do language class in the afternoons which is cool. Muli bwanji? Or in my native tongue meaning, "How are you?" We are coving tones of great stuff issues to do with cultural integration

The big thing right now is to just settle in and engage with culture and start building relationships. On Saturday Megan, one of the other girls here, and I got together with a group of kids from the surrounding neighbourhood. She had invited 6 and about 25 showed up so that was great. Next time I hope to bring out the ol' guitar and do some singing.

We had an awesome rain storm last night. Rain and wind like nothing else. It even started coming in under our the door of our hut so we had a little flood on our hands. Luckily some quick maneuvers got our electrical devices out of the way in time.

The past couple of days I have been helping some of the workers clear out this area in the back of the property so we can use it as an amphitheatre or sorts for different occasions. So that's been fun to get my hands dirty and a little physical activity after sitting in class all day. Although you never know what you're gonna find out there. I picked up a concrete slab (yes, I have developed superhuman strength during my short stay here) to find little snake underneath. We also saw a wolf spider as we cleared things away.

So that's basically what life has been like my first week in Zambia. I'm excited about the time ahead. I'm really hoping to be able to make some good Zambian friends and really get into the culture. I didn't come here to live a Western life in Africa, which being in the capital city is easier than one might expect. I'm also looking forward to where God leads me as far what I'll be doing here. So you can keep those things in your prayers if you like!

The power just went out. It's my first power outage here!! Just thought you could share in my excitement! Well, I better put an end to this now before my battery dies. Thanks for all your support and prayers!

Sincerely from a very dark room,



Afrikan Adventure Commences!

I have successfully made it to Zambia!!! As did all my luggage...intact! It was a seemingly long journey. My flight from Toronto to London was good. I arrived on the plane to find a big, burly, bearded man who didn't speak English sitting in my seat. So I decided not to fight the matter and take a different one. All worked out fine. Then I had a lovely 12 hour layover in the London airport. I was told I couldn't get out of the airport without a visa...although I think that was wrong. Oh well. I spent many hours sitting and staring, walking and staring, staring at a book, staring at the clock...etc. Finally the flight from London to Lusaka arrived and I even managed to sleep and tiny bit on the ten hour flight. Although, note to self...stop eating the airline breakfasts! Things are sitting heavy in my stomach right now! I made it through immigration and customs fine and am now at "The Farm" which is the Action Zambia's property where I will be living in a hut with my friend Stephanie. How great is that...I live in a hut in Africa! We started orientation this morning right away and are just breaking for lunch right now. This still feels very surreal. Am I even here? It's pretty exciting. I'm a tad on the tired side right now, but my good friend caffeine will help get me through the day. Just wanted to let you all know that I'm alive and made it here safe and sound.

Reporting from Zambia,