Sunday, August 9, 2009

We Both Go Down Together...

I am writing to you with an extremely sore, bruised and cut up body, which is result of my adventures, and quite possibly the best day I've had here. I thought my African prime had come to an end, but yesterday proved that that statement was not true.

Friday night I set up a movie night for me and 6 of my beautiful teen/preteen girls, where we watched Prince Caspian and ate way to much junk, and just had a blast. At the end of that, one of the moms called saying they had room for 2 more to go to Bab's dock the next morning. I had wanted to go back, but never really got the opportunity, and there it was.

Bab's dock is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. It's an hour away from the ship on the bumpiest road ever, but once you get there you go to a dock and get on a boat. It's a motorized canoe that you ride on to get to the actual Dock. You ride through these beautiful trees that have formed a tunnel, and pass tons of palms and it's quite the site. Eventually, you reach this huge lake and it has a floating dock- our destination. They set up mattresses(pool kind) on the ground with umbrellas, there's hammocks, and the cost is just lunch and the boat ride. They make this incredible Hibiscus juice called Bisop, which I was extremely happy to have again.

Now let me take you back about a month to my first trip at Bab's Dock. We went with the Academy, and I came upstairs, pumped for a great day, and see grey sky staring at me. My heart sank, but the leaders said we'd still go anyway because the locals said it'd pass. We got going- I was in the car with 2 moms(one whom I have become friends with since) and a few kids and another leader. I got slip from my group, but that was okay for a day. We got rolling, and it started to drizzle. I thought, well.. that's not too bad.. it could be worse...

We arrived at the little dock, and loaded kids up and there was a tad of sun, and we began to feel some hope for the day. 2 boats went, 3 boats went, and then, with 9 adults left at the little dock, and all of the kids over there, we waited.. and waited... and waited... Eventually Olly, one of the dad's, phone rang. His wife was on the big dock already and was wondering where we were. She told us that she found out the engine on the canoe died. We were all thankful at that point that all of the kids were on the other side- especially since we had preschoolers with us that day as well.

We waited for over 30 minutes to 45 minutes, and one of the moms said 'why don't we pray- we're all Christians here...' So we did, and about 10 minutes later, this dugout canoe pulls in with a man on the end using a large stick to drive it along. We all looked at each other, and one grandmother said 'oh, that's not for us...' and another says, 'Oh, I think it is...' Haha! Alas, it was ours.

We got 5 of us in there, and we started to sink. I almost had a panic attack because my mom's camera and my book were in my bag, and I really just didn't wanna go down like that. Normally, the water levels are pretty low, making the dunk not so bad, but they'd gotten more rain in the past few days before we came than they had in 10 years, so as you can imagine.. it was deep. So, they took the 2 men out of the boat, we stabilized, and then we went. But, but this point, it started raining much harder.

It was me, one of the girls who lead the little kids, and Anne, the mom I was talking about earlier. We were just trying to stay balanced, but at the same time had some quite funny conversations. My most memorable one was when the topic of makeup came up. It went something like this....I said 'Man, it's really starting to come down', and Anne said, "I know, my mascara is beginning to run, of all days, I pick today to wear mascara, what was I thinking?"(add a British accent to that:) ) I was not expecting that at all haha:) It was so funny. I later learned that she was much funnier and light hearted than my first impressions led me to.

That takes me to another point- FIRST IMPRESSIONS HERE HAVE BEEN WRONG EVERY TIME!! The end.

Hah.. now back to my story.. We finally hit the lake after me turning around multiple times and getting yelled at by Bethany because I almost tipped us, and by this point.. you would not believe how hard it was raining. It was so hard I felt like it was going to pierce my skin and I was wondering if it was hailing.. it was awful. I just couldn't stop laughing, I found it extremely funny that we were in this situation, and frankly thought God had a pretty good sense of humor:) When we got to the dock, I looked and 1/2 of my body was soaked and 1/2 was basically dry. When we pulled in, I quickly yelled for Holly to get my bag- my number one worry, and then we all safely(barely) got out of the canoe. I felt bad because some people came over in their dry clothes and were going to change, but I just wore my bathing suit over there hah:)

After we got there, and ate something quickly, I just went for the water. I was amazed at how much my adventure level skyrocketed this day. I kayaked and played with the kids and swam. It was a great day.. no matter how miserable it seemed. But, the car ride home and getting back on the ship was not very fun. We were all freezing and it poured harder than I've ever seen. I walked from the car to the ship slightly damp already and was soaked from head to toe- dripping. I got inside not even thinking, and froooze because the AC killed me.

But, I went back yesterday. The sun was out, the company couldn't have gotten any better, and it was just picturesque. I played and played with my kids and it was just nice to know that we had one last day together just having a blast. I may bet to babysit them again, but the're starting school tomorrow, so chances are we won't have a chance to just be crazy together much longer.

Today I was wiped out. I went out to breakfast with some friends, which was beautiful, and came back for ward service, which was the best one yet, and near the end, I kinda crashed. I came back and napped for an hour, ate something slept for another 45 minutes, then for another 1/2 hour... I had a headache and ever since I've been sick I developed this cough.. no good. Hopefully I can push on and be dandy and get home without any more sickness.

5 days and I"m on a plane. Please just keep us in your prayers. The idea is growing on me, but the reality that certain people will not be around and my friends are going through some of their biggest life moments when I'm not there is hurting me, but I know that it's happening for a reason. I also know that we'll have a ton to share later. My friends here, however are in ABSOLUTE denial that I'm leaving. I'm glad to know I'll be missed, but I don't want them to be depressed and think its over.. I'm having everyone write in a book, so hopefully that'll help with closure a bit.

Anyway, I'm going to go do some stuff for my Vocal teacher, and then go have dinner, get my dress that was made for me(my other one came last night and is beautiful), and do more stuff for Lynn.

I love you all! Write me a note! I wanna hear from you!

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's been a while....

Hello out there!! I was planning on writing today despite current circumstances that have me in bed, but alas, I'm updating. I'll prolly update on a few big things a post, so there might be a few posts coming to you today/ in the next week:)

My most recent adventure, and one I hope to never revisit, began at around 1 am last night. I layed down after watching movies all evening with my good friend Kathleen since it was our last weekend that she isn't working, and I felt a bit strange. I thought maybe I just ate too much junk, and it would pass. I fell asleep, but was woken up by this pain. Slowly but surely, I came down with GI virus. It was no good. I was out of my bed at least once an hour, which was not pleasant for either me or my roomates as they could hear me just gagging away. After about 7:30, my body decided to let it rest, though I was, and still am battling a fever. I went to the nurse, and she told me about the virus, and how it's been around the ship, and I shouldn't eat today, but drink a lot. She seemed concerned, which made me concerned about my condition, but she said as long as I don't get worse, I should be fine. I'm feeling much better now, and my boss let me off for the remainder of the day, Thank goodness. I thoguht I could handle it, but I think that would've been bad. I don't think I'll be eating Mexican again for a good while after that fiasco.

Things around here have grown on me over the past few weeks. I remember talking to people back home before I came about how it could happen where I'd come for more than just a few months- more like a year or two, but how I just couldn't see how it'd work out. Well, as time has passed, I've gotten to really know a few people, and I've come completely attatched with a few kids and families I've met here. Now, I honestly can't imagine what it's going to be like to leave this place. Leaving my kids behind is going to be impossible, and leaving all of the people I've met and experiences we've had together will be really painful. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Some of the families I've met are expecting to stay for at least another couple of years. One was scheduled for 2 years and I think they're now on their fourth year. Another has been here for a couple years and I don't see them going anywhere soon.

So, for those of you(which is a lot of you) who I havent been able to talk to lately and have heard- I'm considering coming for either a year or two years. I'm really praying that God will bring me here with my family, at least for a year of it. Like, if I come for 2 years, and my family was here for the second year, it'd be completely worth it. It's all still very up in the air, but I feel like I'm supposed to come back. I'd teach drama, and do another job. Teaching drama, and music, etc. is considered a 'minor' job, so I'd need a major job as well, and sales(the cafe) has already told me they'd be happy to have me. Human Resources are on my mom trying to get her to come. My dad likes the idea, and so does my mom, but we just don't know how it'd all work out- with the house and all of our lives back home, family, etc. But if you could just pray for us, I'd deeply appreciate it. Please pray that God would show us clearly what he wants for us, and if possible quickly so that we can begin making fund-raising plans if we all come together, or if I"m alone, or make it known if I"m not even supposed to come back, and help me meet these people again.

Two of my girls are just extremely wonderful and it's so funny because they've asked me maybe 3 times this week if I'd come visit them in England when they go home(which may be a while). I told them we'd see, but they should definetly come visit me in DC. Their little brother, who is 6, also wants me to stick around. They are just so convincing:) They have told me that I must come back and teach them and babysit them:) I would LOVE to hah, but we'll see where God leads me.

On our final day of summer program(which was friday), I made a video of my kids. I had them say their name, age, grade, country, and anything else they'd like to say. Most/all of the girls said that I have to come back, I can't leave, and I need to teach them next year. While filming, I seriously almost cried. I also had them sign a paper for me to hang in my dorm room, and some of those children are the most encouraging people i've ever met. One of my 11 year olds wrote to me about how God will be with me on my journey, and a few of them, again, wrote about how they want/need me to come back.

One of my girls, my 13 year old norwegian from the most beautiful family I've ever seen(all blondies with blue eyes- picturesque), is quite the little actress. When we first got here, there was a film festival, and she and her friends made these amazing little movies. One was polly pockets, one was a news cast, and I forget the last, but they were completely brilliant and incredible! She's just got an extremly inventive and creative mind. She has these great plans for a play, but the teacher is off ship because she's having a baby, but it's not going as planned, so she's coming back maybe after the baby is born. My girl, Linde, was telling me the full plan, and how she needed her teacher back and I said -you realize.. if I come back, I have a lot of experience- then I listed what kinds of classes I took, and she absolutely lit up. SHe was like 'you have to come back so we can do a play, Miss Michelle!!' We sat there for probably 45 minutes just going on about her plans and just talking about everything . She is also addicted to twilight, and got the song book, and asked me to learn a song. I gave up on the one she asked me to learn, but learned one I liked better, and she was so floored with excitement when I showed it to her:) If I do come back, I need to bring her more music. Living here, you only get mail so often, and it's extremly expensive and takes a lot of time, so hopefully I can help introduce some new music to her. SHe's taught me a lot about music and persistence with learning it. Neither of us are good at reading it, but once we get the hang of it, we run with it.

Anyway, feel free to comment if you wanna say a word:) My goal by letting you all know about my hopes to come back, is that you'll help me remember that I do want to come back, and I have a passion for these kids, and not let me forget my dream, or let go too easily. I think that if I got the chance to come back, yeah, it'd be hard to get into the groove again when I come home, but I"m going to be fresh out of college, with no ties quite yet, and it's the perfect time to decide if I'd like to persue teaching, or something medical, and gives me time to explore those options in a place where people want to help you figure these things out.

The end.

<3 Michelle

ps.. sorry if that was semi- incohesive- i am still in fever land.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Best is Yet to Come!!

Okay- so here's the deal. My job is currently taking up all of my spare time, and when I have a second, I'm sleeping, eating, or doing something to keep me sane:) I'm doing great, but until Friday night hits(a night that shall be quite a sad one since my job with the academy is up and Holly is leaving) I have no time.

Expect an update at least one a day for the next week.. I hope:)

<3 Michelle

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I am not forgotten, I am not forgottenn:)

This is just to let you know, I haven't forgotten about the blog:) I'll update with a few quick thoughts, and over the next few days/week update about what's been going on over here.

I'm just really amazed by how much I've learned since I got here- about myself, about the world, about God, about relationships, etc. It's pretty incredible. I feel like a different person in a way. I found like I've found my spark as I told someone in an email earlier this evening. I've got my little burst of light that has been waiting for so long to come out. I'm just praying that when I get home, I don't just fall into the motions and rut that school and life at home can be, but rather take it all, and run with it. Do what I can to help people, and not be so lazy.

As I reflect, I realize I don't like the person I was at home. Sure, I was okay by many people's books, but was I happy- honestly? No. I found that I needed people more than I should've maybe, and I was kinda stuck in this place that was no good. But here, I love to have alone time where I can just read, or write, or reflect, which happens maybe once in a blue moon. At home, I'd kinda freak out if I had a lot of alone time, but man do I wish I had it now:) Also, I was alway just 'okay'. Never 'great' or 'incredible' like I've felt here. I was always 'okay' but never 'happy' but never realy 'sad' either.

Sure, I have my moments here, as all of us do. When I'm faced with something difficult, I just kinda gotta take it in my stride, and pray about it, and have faith that God will help me out. That's something rather new for me. The trust thing is still in the works, but I at least have faith that God will take care of me.

I've been having an incredible time, and I can't wait to update with stories galore of some quite hilarious adventures I've had in the past week and 1/2 or so:) I will soon do that, so be on the lookout:)

<3 Michelle

Monday, July 6, 2009

Not gonna lie...

Not gonna lie, I've been feeling really down lately. Be it because I no longer have a clue what I want to do with my life, whether I realized that a lot of my friends will be gone here before I know it, because I had a dream the other night about summer at home and all of the good stuff going along with it, because I've lost most of my ward family, or because I'm just in a mood, I do not know.

I kinda have a feeling it's all of those things. Things have also been happening at home, like a friend from high school dying suddenly, and a good friend from school getting in a car wreck, as well as my dad having surgery soon, so it's hard to be away. i know that I'm supposed to be here, and that what I'm doing is going to basically steer me in the direction I need to be in for my career and such, but for the first time since I got here(other than when I was sick) i am officially homesick.

Call me crazy, but I am. I talked to my mom last night, and just to hear them was nice. I heard my nephew in the background, and just about lost it. I've never been away this long- ever. Especially from Jordan. I'm also starting to miss friends. I have this small fear that I'm growing apart from a lot of people, and that when we all get back we'll have nothing in common. I'm fairly certain that's just a bad thought, but it gets to me.

PS- those of you around home, I'm hoping to have a coming home party around August 22nd or so? I was thinking about the 16th, but I don't think I'll have recovered all the way yet:)

Anyway- I am supposed to be at lunch now, but wanted to just expel my thoughts on those things.

As I fell asleep last night, I was not happy, but prayed that if I dreamed of home it'd make me not miss it so much, and lo and behold I had a nightmare.. buh. Not exactly what I was hoping for. I'm very tired today, but hopefully things will be chill. We went to the hospitality center with our kids, and had fun and I got to see some of the kids from the ward again, but of coarse right when I got there, Geraldo and his mom were headed to the ship:( I don't know if they're going home today or not, but if so, at least I had yesterday with him.

My tummy is a grumbling, and I normally don't post frequently, so yeah:) Maybe I'll make a better habit of it so posts aren't novels anymore;)

All my love
and please keep me in your prayers!! Especially now!
<3 Michelle

Saturday, July 4, 2009

C'est Bon!

Bonjour mon amis! Ca va?

Hah. My french is getting a little better, but not too much:) I need to work on it:)

First of all, Happy fourth of July! I think most Americans do miss home badly today due to lack of hot dogs, hamburgers, fireworks(mainly those!), and family, but today was pretty cool despite the longing for those things. I spent my day at an orphanage, which is always tough, but worth it. I saw one of the little guys from last time who was about Jordan's age, and the last time he was happy and running around and wreaking havoc, but this time he was just clinging to the workers. I looked at him, and his arm was clearly burned around the middle of his fore arm, and his hand had skin hanging off(sorry for graphic content). I saw him and my heart sank. A nurse looked at him(seems like every time I go someone is sick or hurt, but at least we can help) and she said that they were dealing with it really nicely, and if they kept up the treatment, it'd heal up really nicely.

Later, I came back, ate, napped, then went to the US Embassy. We had a potluck, which was really amazing and great food. Unfortunately, I was dehydrated aand my head was killing me. I drank a ton of water and took some meds, and by the time I got back and layed down, I was all better. Funny story- I poured myself and a friend some water, and I sat down, reached for my cup, and BAM- the water spilled all over my skirt. Luckily it wasn't that noticeable, and actually made me feel much better since I'd been out in the heat all day- nice personal AC:) Also, the African fabric I was wearing was nice and dried quickly:) After that I got to do coffee for people, which always makes me happy:)

Now backtracking a bit... Ward updates. Edoh, David, Bligone( another kiddo in that ward) and all of my other new friends have gone home. My ward closed down for a while, and we were getting rid of patients so that we could make more room for others(of coarse they were all ready to go, or we moved them to the hospitality center), so I kinda have been displaced, not to mention the sickness that took me out of the game for about a week threw me off, and I haven't been to the ward in a while. It was a needed break for me to realize 1) why I go, and 2) how much I miss it and need those connections. When I visited Maome's mom(the only one left from the beginning), she was so excited she was shouting and jumping:) I haven't been back since, but I plan to very soon to get my head back on track.

Last Friday, I woke up feeling a little weird. I got ready, got to the Academy, realized our planned field trip was not happening, so I asked to go down and change, and while I did I realized how tired I was and how much my throat was killing me. I went to Starbucks on my way back and got some chai to help soothe my throat, and went on with the day. Around lunch time, I realized how exhausted I was and how I probably should take the rest of the day. In the afternoon we have more teachers because the preschool gets out at noon, so we weren't short staffed, and they told me to go take care of myself. So, I went and napped and hung out. Hannah and I watched Anne of Green Gables, the Sequel that night(which is 4 hours, but wonderful- and the last 10 minutes wouldn't play.. KILLER... GUHH!!), but by the time we finished(at 1am) I'd had 4 cups of tea since dinner, and I was dying for sleep. At that point, I knew it was more than just a sore throat.

Saturday, we woke up at 1:30.. why Hannah slept that late as well, is beyond me- I at least had a good excuse;), then ate lunch. I came back after lunch, and layed down, and that's when the rest of the symptoms started to hit me. I was incredibly achy, I had a cough, and I had a slight headache. I was not feeling so good. I ate dinner like a normal person, happy that my appetite was fine, then watched a movie and went to bed. I was invited to church, so I thought about getting up with the girls, but when I got up at 10, I started to read, and felt 1/2 decent. Then, as time went on, I started feeling worse and worse. I tried to wait up for the girls so I could eat, but I fell asleep. I fell asleep around 12ish and woke up off and on until 5pm- hardly able to move due to such an achy body, and I got up once to goto the bathroom, but barely held myself up on the way. I got on Facebook(God bless Facebook), and imed Hannah, who was up at work so I knew she'd be on, saying I needed help. She couldn't do anything, so I asked her to get our other roomate as soon as possible. I needed the nurse. The nurses are all working and there's no crew nurse on weekends, so no one could come make a house call, which is semi- problematic when you can't move out of bed.

After a while, Emily came and helped me over to the ICU, which was basically the waiting room for me, since there were no patients, and one of the nurses came to me, took my temp and told me to just go back to my room and goto the nurse in the morning. She drilled me and asked if I had any stomach symptoms and if I was taking my Malaria meds, and I said I'd been on my meds regularly, and no stomach problems really(except for 0 appetite). My temperature was high, and my nurse friend, Kathleen, said that my temp had to have been higher than just 100 because of the way I was reacting(chills and hot and cold sweats to the max) and also because my temp was only 1 degree colder the next day and I was drastically better.

The next day, after fighting through the night and finally eating something that Em got for me, I got breakfast in bed( thanks to my looovely friend Emily:) ) and then went to the nurse. She told me I had the Upper Respiratory Virus that everyone else had(the one I said I had escaped the last time I posted) and I just needed rest. At that point, I was getting bored, but fell in love with my book, and sleep, and fared well. The next day, after taking the German equivalent of Nyquil(which serriously felt like taking a shot of alcohol(bleghh) and put me to sleep for over 10 hours) I felt worlds better. I skipped work again because they were on a field trip, but it was a good decision, and just relaxed and did some things that needed to get done for the program, and myself. Now, I still have a cough, but hardly a sore throat, no congestion really, no aches or fever- which is totally a blessing. I will never take my health for granted again on this ship. I do still have low energy, but that'll get better with time.

Now for what I want to do with my life. I have no idea. I thought I did, but I do not. Things I've thought about were a nurse(which I'm not sure that I"m cut out for), or some kind of volunteer with another job teaching or something. My friend Kathleen told me that I'd be an incredible Child Life Specialist, and it's something I'd like to look into. It's basically a person who helps the family and child understand what is going to happen, helps the child cope, and helps to entertain the kids in the wards. I'd get to do some medical stuff, but nothing too crazy(just learning), and help kids. I know I want to be with kids. Adults are cool, but kids have my heart-always have and maybe always will. Anyone who knows me, knows that if a baby is around, my attention is on them:) I feel like I've gone through everything I have medically for a reason- and I think that reason is to help other kids through similar(or different) problems and fears that I had growing up. My situation was a pretty sweet one in the sense that everything went well and I hardly remember anything- great nurses and doctors, staff, my parents were great, and things just were good(mostly;) ). If I can help other kids have an easier experience and come out happy with their experience, I'd be happy. Also, getting to hang out with kids- soo much fun and wonderful job. If I got paid for this.. HOLY MOLY I'D BE IN HEAVEN. Now, there are some problems, such as you have training and an unpaid internship, but I have faith that if that's what's supposed to happen, God will help me there, and my family will support that. I think since I stepped foot in a ward, and my mom saw me, she knew something was going to change, and has been semi- prepared to help me through(I hope:) ).

I'm also hoping to find a sweet job at a coffee shop next year:) I'd love it. Starbucks, or something else that's got a nice atmosphere would be wonderful:) Working at Starbucks, getting free coffee, then going to study- what could be better? ;)

I'm also trying to think of volunteer positions around the area with kids. If anyone knows of any orphanages or places that need help in Baltimore, please let me know. The sooner I get hooked in with someone, the better. I have never ever been happier than I am here- and it's because I feel like I'm needed and I make a difference in people's days/ lives. Nothing is more satisfying, so if I could get linked in ASAP at home, that'd be good for transition- something to look forward to. Honestly, at this point, I'm not wanting to come home and go back to school, but I know that having my degree, and my program will ultimately help me in my job. I talked to Kathleen, and I told her that Actors are amazing people when it comes to relatablilty. Their job is to think about what if they were in this person's situation, how would they respond- constantly putting themselves in someone else's shoes- what better person to help others, no? I think it's a skill God has put in me to find some joy in helping others, cheering them up, and relating with them.
The summer program is going great by the way. It's much more chill than I thought. It's basically just us getting to hang out with the kids while their parents work- so we go on trips to pools, etc, and have a ton of fun. We played with Jello, made slime and bouncy balls all in one day this week!! :) The people I work with are great, the kids are amazing, the families are great:) It's interesting because I never can escape work, but I don't mind:)

Anyway- my brain is fried. If you want to call me, please do. I'd love to talk. I've only talked to my family and maybe 1 other person in the past month.. it's getting lonely. I love it here, but there are times where I just wish that I could go home to talk to certain people ,or see them, or just share these experiences with you guys. I never wanted to go home more than I did when I'm sick, and I'm just praying I don't get sick ever again on this ship.

Alright- well I hope to hear from some of you soon. I hope you read this all, because I put a lot into it:) I love comments and messages and emails- so please please please feel free to put your 2 cents in...PLEASEEE????

I love and miss you all!

The first one is Geraldo:)
The second is me and Julian.
All of my pictures I have are on Facebook- so take a peek, and keep looking for new ones(coming soon)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Don't Stop B-b-believin'!

I realized today that it's been just about 2 weeks since I updated on here, and I apoligize. For those of you on my email list, you know that I've had a rather tough couple of weeks. I would like to say that I was just too busy or too lazy to update, but honestly, just having to think about some of the things that have happened are just too much, but i'll do my best to fill you in.

Where did I leave off?... I'll start with some patient updates for you:) My little man Geraldo(who pictures of can be seen on my facebook) quickly became one of my favorite people here over the couple of weeks I got to spend with him. He was released 5 days after their original date they'd set for him, but he's not at the hospitality center. I made them bracelets, and his mom gave me one in return, which I love:) I got to work the afternoon he left, and one of my co-workers said 'They got a hold of you, right?' and I was like 'who?' then she said 'D ward'(the ward I spend my time in) and Iwas like 'no.. CAN I GO?' and she was like 'quickly.' I ran my tail off, got to the ward, and the girls were like 'Michelle, you JUST missed them.. run to the aft gangway... RUNN.' So I ran and ran, and got lost ,and ran some more, and made it down to the car and there they were- Geraldo and his mom. At this point I didn't know he would be at the hospitality center. I said goodbye, with tears in my eyes all the way back to work. I got to visit him on saturday, which was a nice surprise for his mom, I think:) I also made friends with Julian and Chisom(who I mentioned before) and those pictures are all on facebook:)

I've made some new friends in the ward as well.. Edoh is 3 1/2 and very funny. I play with him and make faces and he imiatates and we just goof off. He likes to talk, but I have no clue what he's saying, but it's funny and I try not to let it get to me that I have no idea what he's talking about hah. David is a 10 year old who loves to make faces as well and he knows just a little bit of english so he says 'Good-bye' to me every time and 'welcome' :) Maome( the little 3 month old I talked about before) is still here, no surprises there, and her mom and I have little inside jokes even if we can't talk.

In the corner for 3 days was a little girl. The first time I saw her, I knew she was very sick. She had very little hair, and what she did have was spotty, she was so thin I could see her bones, and she wimpered the whole time I was in the ward. One day, her mom was in the shower, and so I sat with her, but was scared to hold her becuase I didn't know what kind of surgery she had and I didn't want to hurt her, but she just looked at me with these sad little eyes and just wimpered. She died 3 days after I met her. I can't even tell you how hard it was- especially because I'm friends with a lot of the nurses now(spending so much time in the wards has given me instant friends). I was working and I asked my friend how the baby was, and she just had this look and I knew it wasnt good.. she told me, and I had to keep it togetehr becuase I was working. Later, at lunch, I saw my friend Kathleen who worked iwth the little girl pretty closely, and I was like 'man it's so sad' and she was like 'yeah I know... I wonder how she's doing' and I was like 'you don't know' and so I told her, but man.. it killed me. She started crying, and I just...I'm glad she knew before she got to work an hour later, but i never like to be the bearer of such horrible news.

All of this has made me so thankful that Jordan is so healthy and wonderful and grateful. I know that could change at any moment, but this baby was 1 1/2 years old, and never had a good life because she was always sick. Her mom was detatched, and everyone knew it was not good. The doctors talked for like 20 mintues to decide what to do, but I believe deep down we all knew that night she wasn't going to make it. I almost started crying so many times that last night I was in her ward. When they were moving her to the ICU, I just went over and looked at her, and said a little prayer, knowing in my heart it would be hte last time I'd see her.

This whole experience has been so wonderful, but so challenging. Things like this make me wonder why GOd could take such a small child out of this work, but then again, I know it's so much better for her because she'd have had so much brain damage and health issues, she wouldn't have had a good life- especially here in Africa. If she'd lived back home, maybe things would've been different from the start, but that's not how it is. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be cared for the way we are in the US. We never realize how lucky we are until we see a life slip through our hands because of differences in society.

Other things that have happend are my camping trip. Man that was crazy. Got burned, got to go swimming, lots of fun, no sleep hardly because of a thunderstorm, bugs attacking us at dinner, etc. IF you want more stories, let me know. I have a ton, but jsut don't feel like typing them all out right now.

I've also seriously been considering what I'm supposed to be doing with my life in the future because I am certain now that the path I originally picked is not really for me. We will see. If you'd like to talk about that little problem, I'd be more than happy to talk... I could use a few people to talk that out with, but don't feel its really necessary to type it out here..

Anyway, I've had a few stomach things(which are not rare around here), but I'd avoided the nassty flu that attacked the ship. They were scared it was the swine flu for a few days, but it was a strain that is uncommon and pretty serious, which was even scarier for some people.

The summer program has begun, and I thought it'd be more stressful, but really it's just organized play time:) I love it. I thoguht i'd have more to do, but really, it's not that bad. Just song stuff I gotta do, but you know:) oh.. also I was on a worship team this weekend... talk about intense.. we had a 2.5 hour rehearsal lastn ight right before the service, and an hour the night before.... UMBC IV kids.. I thought of you and how much I miss our 20 minute rehearsals:)

Anyway, off to dinner!


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And The Beat Goes On...

I thought it was about time for another update. I've been meaning to, but either I just didn't find time, or when I went to do it, I just didn't feel like it:)

Quite a lot has been changing and going on around here. The coolest moments thus far involved patients. I 'adopted a patient' to visit in the ward and his name was Leonard. To my surprise, he had a cleft lip and palate, just like me:) He is a year and 1/2 and quite adorable. This little boy never talked to me, or at least to the extent of his vocabulary, but his eyes could tell a million words. I quickly became friends with his mother, and a few others in the ward. There was a 1 month old whose grandmother took care of her becasue her mother died at birth who also had a cleft(and quite a cute little one as well), then there's Geraldo who had a condition where his brain was exposed in the front of his head, and they had to go in and fix it so he didn't get miningitus or a head trama, and there was a little little girl who is 3 months, but looks like a new born, who had a massive tumor about the size of her head. She almost didn't make it through surgery, and had a few close calls following, but she's still hanging in there, and her mother is amazing.

The funny thing about all of these people- they don't speak english. I've had the chance to talk to the grandmother a little bit and convinced her that cleft lips happen all over the world, they are common and treatable, and they are not the result of witches. She was amazed and very excited about this and she passed it on to Leonard's mom, who spoke a language most of the translators did not. We mainly speak through smiles and hand gestures, which is dfficult, but very cool as well:)

Yesterday, I was at work and there was an announcment over the intercom(they don't use it too often so you know something was up) and asked all availible workers, or anyone who could be spared, to head over to the hospitality center(which I mentioned before I belive in my last post) because screening was going on. Now, screening is normally an ordeal in itself just getting people through, figuring out what is wrong with them through translators, and then sending them to the right people to schedule surgery, if it is necesary. The problem was that so many people came in with the same problems, that our schedule filled up, and we could no longer take patients, so we said no to more that 3/4 of the patients who came to screening(1,000 showed up).

I worked as an escort, which means that once the nurses or doctors told these people we couldn't help them, I had to take them to the gate. This seemed like an impossible task for me. After the doctors told these people ,who waited for hours, or days in some cases to be screened, that they would not be able to help them because it was medical and needed proper treatment, it was neurological and we do not have a brain surgeon, it was a hernia and we had to many adults coming in with those, or it was cancer and we coultn'd handle it, I had to walk them out. Some held their head high and walked out strong, and some were sobbing and didn't know what to do. I offered most of these people to goto the prayer station, and most of them said yes they needed prayer- again.. in a diferent language:) I learned quickly what pray in french was:)

I watched some of these people's hopes crash down, joy shattered, and dream of a new life ruined. It did make the ones who were on the wait list(of over 400 children), or those who were asked to come for surgery a great joy and it really excited everyone when that did happen, but man was it hard.

I left knowing I needed to get back and lay down because more than one part of me was shutting down, i shoved lunch down my throat and slept. After dinner, I went down to the ward to see my kids, and of corse on maybe the hardest day yet, 2 of my little ones were gone. Actually 3, but 2 I was close with. The third's name is Chisom, who is 10 and he has a facial tumor. My heart sank. At first I thought I was in the wrong ward, so I looked in the corner where I knew Geraldo would be, and he was there:)

I ended up sitting with his mom who pulled me over to sit with her, and held him for about an hour. I'm learning i have this gift of putting babies to sleep:) Almost every time I held the 1 month old, she'd fall asleep, and Geraldo was out like a light within about 10 minutes of me holding him:) I savored the moment, becuase you never know when they'll no longer be there(though there will always be babies in the ward, certain ones just really have my heart:) ) I walked around after i passed him to his mother and said hi to some of the other familiar faces in the ward. I was originally going to make bracelets for Leonard's mom, him, the grandma, geraldo's mom, and the 3 month old's mom, but it was too late. I'm still going to do it for those left, and I've decided to keep visiting every night until they are all gone. It's bittersweet becuase it's a greeat sign that these little ones moved out, but it's hard because I didn't know, so I never really got to say goodbye.

Other than that, work is going well.. I LOVE making coffee:) Might be something I'd like to do when I get home. It's really tough here, but I'm really learning how much I love visiting patients, even if we can't talk. Just sitting there and looking at these little ones will make most any heart just melt.

I got to goto an orphange, which was quite interesting, but I loved it. I woke up late and almost missed it, but luckily my mom was there and got me up just in time:) I found myself with an attatchemnt named Joey who was probably about 4 years old- what a trip:) He tried jumping in the car when we left:) THe saddest part though was that 6 of the kids- including a baby- had malaria. Most of them will probably survive, but chances are that at least one will not. The day we went, one girl looked especially ill, so all of the nurses went and checked on her, as well as the dr we had with us, adn they said she definetly has full blown malaria, and she was absolutely buringing up. It was very hard to watch.

I"m going CAMPING this weekend with probably about 30 people:) It'll be great fun:) My roomates are absolutely wonderful and we've clicked extremely well- we have a great time together:)

If youd' like to call me sometime- my number is-1 954 538 6110 extension 3433.
I LOVE getting emails and messages, so message away- I've talked to other crew members and it's pretty much agreed that the best part of the day is getting emails from people we care about, and boy is it true. It's really sad, though, when I get online and all i have is junk mail- so please- email me:):):)

Alright, until the next update, as they say here in Benin- Au Revoir!!:)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Great Adventures.. so far:)

Hello everyone!! After two crazy long flights(from Dulles to Francewas 7 hours along with a 1 hour 40 minute delay, and Paris to Contonouwas about 5 hours, but we had yet another delay) we got here finallyaround 10pm local time(or 5pm your time). The delay in Dulles, as someof you from MD can remember, was because of a sudden storm, and theParis flight, well apparently these things happen often coming toContonou.

We were lucky that our second flight was much more comfortable andentertaining, so our sanity was somewhat in tact. We arrived in Parisaround 9:30 local time, so that means it was 4:30 in the states..willld:) We found a nice little coffee shop with couches, and parkedit:) There was quite a barrier of language at the airport, and I knowun peu Francais, but not enough:) Hopefully I'll learn quickly. Thereare french classes on board, so we shall see:)

A job update- I am now working in the STARBUCKS on board for the first3 weeks. The starbucks was in DESPARATE need of workers- andconsidering this is a hospital ship, it's pretty much needed to havecoffee:) I'm actually really excited. My mom said I get to also makefood(waffels and crepes, etc) depending on the days. I'm actuallyreally excited because I wanted to work in the kitchen near thebeginning of the process, but I was asked to choose- the kitchen orthe academy, so I chose the academy, but now I get to work atstarbucks, the snack bar and the ship shop. Much better in my opinionthen organizing school suplies for 3 weeks:)

My roomates(all 5 of them) are great, and the space is tight, buttotally feasable. people made it out to be really too small for ourown good. Showers are only 2 minutes.. but they're fun:):) Haha.Shower on, shwoer off, soap up, shower on, done:)

I got to the ship last night with a little bit of energy, and thenthey gave us dinner, had us do some things, I got to my room(I hardlyremember any of this), and got my things together, showered, and fellinto my bed:) I slept really well from about 11:30 this time to 4:30,woke up, but then fell asleep after a few minutes of restlessness. Iwas fortunate enough to not feel the ship while I slept(there is quitea rocking going on... it's rockin;) ), but some of my friends were notso fourtunate.

Got up in time to eat food and get to our tour. A man interrupted ourtour(the Hospital Manager- Bill) and told us that he was interested intaking us to the warehouse. So, we trucked through our tour, and 6 ofus went with Bill:) He took us to the warehouse that they took apartand made into a type of ward for people that were either waiting for,or recovering from surgery. There was one ward for VVF patients(lookit up;) ) and one for a mixture of people. They have an 'alaska tent'-a 2500 dollar tent meant to insulate- for various reasons, they have acooking area where a native woman is paid to cook three meals a dayfor these people and their caregivers, and then the 2 wards, abathroom, and a shower. It was quite nice. I mean for Africastandards- to some of you, you cringe a little, but I really enjoyedthe trip.

We went through the wards, and the VVF women were out and about themain area(no ac there, but it doesnt get overly hot..i mean its hot,but tolreable with water's help) and then in the next ward, we metsome of my favorite people thus far. There were a few children in thisward, and man.. so cute. One little boy's tendons shrunk, so thedoctors went in and fixed him up so that he can walk again. He wasunder one of the beds(the beds have a top mattress, then a bit ofspace then another mattress on the floor, which are for the caregiversof the patient and there was also a mosquito net above the beds thatcovered both the patient and the caregiver. If the patient wereexposed to malaria before surgery, they would not be up for surgery,so they do all they can to prevent mosquito bites.) Bill said,"watch... come on- walk for us!" to the little boy. He got a huuuugegrin on his face, and pointed to his walker. We gave it to him, andwith the biggest smile, he walked. We all cheered and clapped forrhim. It was a nice moment. his friends were around and his caregiverand they were all excited for him. He couldn't be happier. There was alittle kid who looved me there and kept walking around and followingus with a big smile on his face.

Then we met a little baby. None of us saw the little one until billsaid 'and then we have some of these'. She was just on the bed- alone-and he pulled up the blanket. She had a cleft lip and palate. He toldus a story about one child that came in malnourished, and they gotback to health and he was able to have his surgery for the same thing,everything went great, and then word came back that he died a fewweeks later. He said it was either starvation or he was buried alive.In that culture, it is thought that you are witched if you have acleft, so he was hoping this little one would be okay. it was atinnnnny tiny baby, and looked like he needed a little bit ofnourishment. Later the mother came in and watched over the baby. Aswe walked out, a little baby caught my eye in the main area. A verrryshort little thing, and I looked at her, and noticed why she wasthere. She has a huge tumor in her face, almost the size of her also looked like there was some kind of bodily malformation. What Iloved is that it didn't stop her mother, and it didnt stop me fromloving that little one. I wish I could speak their language, but Ijust can't. Bill told us that some locals speak french, but thenthere's fawn, and then there are 50 ther LANGUAGES, not dialects, butLANGUAGES around this area( we are 30 minutes from Nigeria). Mostpeople don't come from this city, so we have tons of languages.

Afterwards, we drove around the city and looked at all of thedifferent places. It's remarkable how you can go from well- off topoverty in one block. We drove through the marketplace, and went allover the place. The main mode of transportation in this area is'jimmyjohns'. They are moped-esque, and we've been warned not to doit. They use them as taxis as well. Apparently if you pay the drivertwice the pay, you get to drive. Insannee! These thigns infest thestreets. If you think driving in Baltimore is bad, you've got anotherone coming. I really thought we were going to hurt someone on the waythere in our land rover.. crazzzy. Apparently people from the crewhave gotten VERY badly hurt in the past, and its just not good news.Contonou is just like most citys, but the amount of people selling onthe streets is much more than the US, there are many people on thestreets that have disfigured bodies, and health problems. The thingis- most of these thigns could've been prevented wit hjust a littlebit of care- but they do not have that here. The embassies, thegovernmental buildings, and the president's offices were beautiful andwell built, but then across the street- things were falling down allaround.

Eventually, we stopped at a hotel, where you can swim for $5 and getpizza and hamburgers. So, we ate there. Somethign felt wrong about it,but I think it was just that I'd seen all of these people in despair,and for me to be at a beautiful hotel seemed wrong.

We got back from the trip(about 3 hours long) and I got back, triedthe computer, when things were too slow, I took a very logn nap. Itwas nice, but man. I didn't realize how tired I was. My mom pulled meout of bed for dinner, I tried my own computer.. nothing:) and then wemoved supplies from my room to the academy(3 floors), I found outabout my starbucks job, and then here we are:) Ours is the FIRSTstarbucks in Africa:):) That's cool- no?

That's a lot, but yeah:) There's so much more I could talk about, butanother time maybe. The girls invited me to watch the Sound of Music,so I may go find them:)
it may be a bit until I update, but then again, maybe not.

This will be the same post as my blog- just FYI:) Later, I'll probablyupdate alternating and put different stories on different sources;)

My blog is

If you would like to have my phone number- email me, and I'll send it to you:):)

If you have any questions, or want to hear more about something- shootme an email back:)

I love you all and hope to hear from you soon!!#-Michelle

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Only One More Day

Hello Friends!

I'm progressively getting more and more nervous, but nothing has quite sunk in yet. It's starting to hit me that I've said goodbye to all of my friends since i havent gotten to see many since I left school, and even more so that some of them won't be here when I get back because they're moving or studying abroad. But, I'm pushing through and getting excited, but also more nervous.

My things are almost all packed, and I have 2 more errands to run today, but after that I should be pretty much ready to go. My mom still has a lot to do, since she is working full time this week and all, but she has tomorrow off, so hopefully she'll get it done quickly. We leave at about 2pm tomorrow to get to the airport by 4 and take off around 6.

I thought I'd give everyone the run down of what I'm doing this summer:

1st – 14th JuneAssistant to the Principal- Helping with end of year events and admin tasks
15th – 21st JuneSummer Program Orientation and Preparation- Planning with the rest of the team for the Summer Program
22nd June – 31st July Summer Program Assistant- (K-4 grade!)
1st – 9th AugustTeacher OrientationAssistant to the Principal
10th – 14th AugustFirst Week of SchoolAssistant to the Kindergarten Teacher.

Sounds crazzy, but awesome at the same time, no? I'm excited because I get new jobs throughout the summer, so if something is dragging me down, I get to move on:)

I'm trying to take today to relax a bit, though I know that probably isn't going to happen. I"m already up and running and it's 7! I NEVER WAKE UP THIS EARLY. Well, taking my sister to work definetly was the reason for me getting up this early, but also I'm going to breakfast with one of my friends, so that's another one:):)

For those of you out there who are my prayer peeps, please just pray and pray for us through these next few days especially. I know the transition is going to be tough for me, but if you could just pray that I stay calm and don't get overly anxious and scared, but I'm more excited and ready than anything. This is going to be an adventure of a lifetime, and I'd hate to see what has happened in the past happen again. In the past, I've let my nerves get the best of me and shut me down- I wasn't the Michelle that I know. If anything, I'd rather be overly enthusiastic than overly mellow- even if it is a tad more annoying, at least I'm feeling the right emotions:)

An update: I am fortunate enough to be recieving Independent Studies credits through my trip. I contacted the Africana Studies department at UMBC, and they said that I could indeed get credit if I write a 25-30 page paper. At first, my heart lept because...well.. I've never written a paper that long in my life. But, it will be a crazy amazing opportunity for me to research Benin further and write about something I truly love and care about for my culture credits(wooooo!) than sit in the Human Geography class I was originally registered for next semsester, and not be motivated in the least. I'll be sure to make the paper availible to all of you once it's written(next semester- probably december).

Things keep fallign into place, and I know that things will work out for the best. I've been watching some of my friends go through things with their trips for this summer or the fall, and I can see how much God has watched everyone's backs- when one door has closed, another, even better door has opened. I have faith that that will happen for me!

Now that I've written a novel, I think it's time for me to get off and officially start my day:)

I have an email list for those who would like more updates. I'm thinking that they'll be different than this blog, so if you'd like to be on it, just either comment on this wall, or email me at Those of you who ARE on the list should've recieved an email from me this morning(if you didn't get an email, but you were hoping to be on the list and I just missed that somehow, do the same as above).

Thank you all for reading and I will probably post with stories tomorrow sometime. If not, I'll post in the next week:)


Monday, May 18, 2009

Before the Storm

Hello friends!
I am finishing up my semester over the next 2 days, and it is finally beginning to sink in that I am going to AFRICA in a little over a week. That's crazy. The way everythign has fallen into place so quickly and smoothly is just a blessing and incredible to me.

I've done most of the shopping(and feeling awful about how much money I'm sucking out of my parent's pockets), but I have a lot of organizing of the basement and all of my things to do. I also need to finish my final paper:) That comes first right now, unfortunately. The basement holds all of my things from college, and is a huge mess right now- my project for the next few days/ week:)

I decided to move home earlier than I really needed to because I just really wanted to get as much time with my family- especially my nephew Jordan- as possible. The more I can soak it in now, the better, I think:)

Saying goodbyes over the past few days to school friends has been hard- especially those who are moving away, or leaving me until the winter:( But, I know that things are going the way they are for a great reason, and i'm goign to have an incredible time, and my friends will be having a great time during the semester when I'm back:) I know that we will all grow so much while we're apart and coming back together will be that much more amazing. Our final semester will be killer:) It's just hard to grow without those who have been by my side through it all.

Fundraising has been going better than I thought, but I'm just hoping that everything is covered so I'm not placing even more of a burden on my family(they paid for all of my supplies and clothes.. which was a LOT.. I just dont have the proper clothes for Africa:) )

Please just keep me in your prayers. I am incredibly excited,but know things will begin coming my way to challenge me, and I know that there will be huge ups and downs, but please pray that through it all, I keep my head held high, I don't get overly discouraged, and I just take everything in my stride and know that God is teaching me lots of amazing things.

I should really go take everything I moved home today downstairs so that I can organize and begin working on my paper which needs to be done by wednesday morning:) Pray for that too:):)