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:):)