We took the girls to Mom and Dad B’s house Thursday morning and set off for Tampa. D and I ran some errands and had brunch at Sophie’s (a darling little French patisserie in Hyde Park). Then it was off to the airport! D helped me check my bags and walked me as far as he could before we had to do our hugs and kisses and say our goodbyes. As I people-watched in the security line, a familiar face caught my eye. It was my friend L! Back in our before-kids years, D and I were active with our church’s youth group and taught a high school girls’ Sunday School class. We adored L and her twin sister N. They come from a sweet, sweet family that we grew to love—and still love! N worked as our nanny for several years before she got married (their brother’s wife is our current nanny!). We keep in touch through Facebook and our mutual connections, but there’s nothing like catching up in person! Turned out L was on the same flight as me to Atlanta! Due to our flight being delayed, we ended up having about 3 hours to chit-chat. So fun! I want to add that L’s husband is currently deployed in Iraq (before he was sent to Iraq, he spent a year in Afghanistan). She was on her way to do some preparations for their family’s move back to the base in anticipation of his return in a few months. They have two little girls, and her husband hasn’t seen their youngest since she was just days old! I can only imagine how hard that would be! Our soldiers and their families sacrifice so much to serve our country and protect our freedom. Please do not take them for granted. Please don’t miss opportunities to thank them! THANK YOU J and L!
Me and L at the airport in Tampa:
Once we landed in Atlanta, I only had a few minutes to run across the airport, claim my bags, and meet the rest of the Wiphan team at check-in. I got my exercise! Probably good to get my blood pumping before sitting sedentary for 16 hours on the flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. The only person on our team that I knew before arriving at the airport was A, so I enjoyed meeting everyone else. Such a neat and diverse group of people! It was so cool to see each person find their niche over the course of the trip.
A few of the ladies in Atlanta before the flight to Johannesburg:
The flight to J-Burg was L…O…N…G! I sat with G and N, a husband and wife on our team. I watched Soul Surfer (GREAT movie) and Casablanca (one of my favorites!) and tried to get some sleep and acclimate my body to Africa time. I made the mistake of leaving my Ambien and my travel neck pillow thingy in my big carry-on which was shoved up in the overhead bin several rows behind us. So sleep wasn’t easy. Mostly just rested with my eyes closed and tried not to flop over onto G's shoulder--THAT would not have made a good first impression with N! And then there were the stiff legs. . . anyone whose flown across the ocean in coach knows what I'm talking about. You try straighten out your legs under the seat in front of you (but of course that’s where you’ve stashed your shoes and laptop bag) so you squeeze them in around all your stuff, as you think about all the stories you’ve heard about deep vein thrombosis and blood clots. Reminding myself that “When we land, we’re in AFRICA” made any discomfort bearable, though. Could not wait to get there!
It was already dark and COLD when we landed in Jo-Burg Friday evening. So cold we could see our breath! We’d checked our luggage all the way through to Ndola and packed most of our clothes and overnight necessities in our carry-ons. We stayed the night at the Birchwood Resort. After we dropped our carry-ons in our rooms, we walked over to the local Spur Steak Ranch restaurant for dinner. The Spur is a Native American-Brazilian-Peruvian-Australian Outback?-themed steakhouse chain. The décor was a bit confusing but the food was good! Many of us sampled the monkey gland sauce that South Africa is known for. Yum! ;)
After dinner, we were able to hop on the internet and check in with family before crashing. I slept so good that night! We had to get up VERY early Saturday morning. It was hard to move from the warm covers into the frosty room, but knowing I'd be in Zambia by afternoon was a great motivation to jump out of bed and get going! The Birchwood had an impressive breakfast buffet. I made myself a traditional English breakfast—egg, baked beans, broiled tomatoes and toast. A sentimental meal that I rarely eat but always enjoy! After breakfast, we checked out of our rooms and boarded a shuttle for the airport. As we checked in for our flight, the clerks required us to weigh our carry-ons (they weren’t weighed in Atlanta). Most of them were too heavy! Much of the weight was coming from the 23 laptops (which we did NOT want to check) and related computer equipment we were taking to set up the typing and data entry lab at Wiphan. We scurried around re-distributing the laptops and contents of our carry-ons and ended up checking some more bags. To add to the excitement, we had one team member got sick and another realize he’d left his brand new iPad at the Birchwood. Nausea medicine was located and calls were made to the hotel to try to locate the iPad (a miracle) and get it to the airport in time for its owner, B, to make it through security and board our plane (another miracle). God showed our team favor that morning. Our sick member’s nausea went away before we boarded the plane, we eased through security with all the laptops in tow, and just as they started loading the shuttle from the terminal to the plane on the tarmac, B—iPad in hand—arrived at the gate! Whew!
Some of us in the Jo-Burg airport terminal: As we left Jo-Burg, the landscape below changed from concrete to red earth:
After a short 2.5 hour flight, we landed in “Real Africa” (that’s the Zambians’ slogan for their country) on Saturday afternoon. As I stepped out of the plane and onto the tarmac, I took a deep breath. Africa! That familiar “Africa” smell of dirt, diesel fumes, burning wood and body odor is so distinct. And so comforting to me!
The Ndola International Airport had a typical small African airport motif. Love it! A perfect point of entry into Zambia! We walked from the tarmac to the visa line:Then on to the baggage claim and customs:
Then out into the parking lot where we were greeted with big hugs from K and L of Wiphan Zambia. We crammed all our bags into a couple of vans, squeezed ourselves in and drove through Ndola and on to the Castle Lodge.
We were only at the lodge long enough to move our bags into our rooms and freshen up. Then we loaded back up bound for the Sinia school, where they were to be holding a graduation ceremony for recent graduates of the widow program’s jewelry making and hotel and catering programs.
As we approached the school, women and children lined both sides of the street waving flowers, singing and cheering. Many of them formed two lines leading from the vans to the room where the graduation was being held. They sang, danced, waved flowers, hugged and kissed us as we walked through the middle. It was so overwhelming and incredibly humbling. It is something you’d have to experience to really understand. There just aren’t words. This video I took with my camera gives you a tiny glimpse of it (please scroll down and pause (II) the background music before playing):
But to be there in person was just so much more amazing!
The graduates sang and danced in celebration: K assisted in handing out certificates:
It was clear that they were proud of themselves and their accomplishments. After the ceremony, we had the opportunity to fellowship with the graduates and congratulate them. Many of them wanted their pictures taken with the folks from Wiphan USA. So sweet. We had fun taking pictures with them and getting to know them. Their testimonies were incredible—these women have overcome so much and have worked so hard! Those certificates, and the knowledge and the skills they represent, provide so much opportunity and can open so many doors. Every one of the 14 hotel and catering program graduates had already found employment in Ndola. This is how Wiphan is changing these women's lives! Awesome!
It didn’t take long for word to spread through the compound that a bunch of muzungus with cameras had arrived at Sinia. Scores of children and young adults soon showed up requesting that we take their pictures, too. Like the paparazzi in reverse! Get spotted with a camera, and you’ll soon be surrounded by a mob of people wanting to have their pictures taken!Silly: Sweet: Precious children: That's all for now. More to come!