Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Broken is hard to fix.

"We write to patch things up,
maybe not to agree but to proclaim love.
Let's look ahead and then we'll see the One
whose glory never ends.
And based on that we'll see,
there'll be room for change, but gradually.
I know to have something like this
broken is hard to fix."
Embers and Envelopes, Mae

Today, I woke up to a white envelope shoved in my mail box. (I have one of those annoying mail boxes that are just a slit in the side of your house. And I want to seriously patch that hole up and get a real mail box.) I knew I had a letter coming but I hesitated before I opened it.

And this is what was inside:

It's my new prayer card for Roza.

I get these random urges to adopt a child right. now. Seriously, if I had the money and the marriage experience under my belt I would be the first person in line. I don't think it's possible to want to adopt more than I do. When I get these urges I forget that I've only been married for five months and I'm only 22. I just don't care. I feel the need to do more with my life, right now.

And things like this come and reopen my healing heart. Or the dreams I get on a weekly basis. Is it a coincidence that I had a dream about Roza last night and then received this in the mail? In my dream, I was holding and rocking her and crying. There was a lot of crying.

I miss that little girl. So much.

This morning while I was getting ready, Evan turned his itunes on and I heard the most beautiful lyrics. I tried to memorize them but now I have forgotten. I am pretty sure it was a song by Mae, so I went through all the Mae songs I know looking for the lyric. And then I found this one. "Let's look ahead and then we'll see the One whose glory never ends. And based on that we'll see, there'll be room for change, but gradually." How could it not get any more perfect than that? There will be room for change, but gradually? Clearly this feeling isn't going to go away within a week. Or a month. And I'm sure every single time I go back to Ethiopia, I'll be hard. But there is One whose glory never ends.

It's going to be okay.

I love you, sweet girl.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tonight I...

I ended up getting off work an hour after I was suppose to because I was so. insanely. busy. Which was good. But anyway, my feet have decided they hate me, and my knees are black and blue and have carpet burn from crawling on the ground straightening dresses. Who knew? Also, I somehow pulled the muscle in my left thigh and I pulled my neck muscle while taking off my shirt tonight. I am falling apart at the ripe old age of twenty two. Lucky me.

But enough complaining.

I saw this amazing creation on a blog a while ago and completely forgot to bookmark it (which means, if you know the blog, let me know so I can give proper credit.) And I fell in love and had to make it for myself. But since I lost the blog I kind of had to make it up but I think it turned out great.

I am so excited for Christmas and putting up Christmas decs so this is just the beginning of hopefully tons of fun Christmas diy's.

So this is just a preview of what I made. I took many pictures before, during, and after buuuuut I can't find my camera cord and I have a feeling one of my dogs ate it. Just kidding, but probably. So I will search tomorrow and try and find it. And post more tomorrow.

But here is a quicky quick preview of my new, most favorite thing in my whole house. (Just kidding, but seriously.)

Yeah, I'm in craft love with it. And I'll probably make a bunch more tomorrow. I think these will make perfect Christmas gifts to my family because hello it is cheap and so, so easy!

More will come tomorrow! Goodnight, all!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Let me tell you what I'm thankful for.


Plus a list about 912401 miles long. But mostly, I'm thankful for Evan.

This picture is hilar! I freaking laughed so hard because I forgot all about it. By the time we landed in Kenya we hadn't showered in over 24 hours. Gross, we know. We had been walking around Addis for an entire day, which is not the cleanest city in the world, and then we sat on a plane for four hours, and ew. We were just pretty gross. Oh, want to hear the grossest part? I only just admitted to this like 2 weeks ago because I knew it was nasty but I did not care at the time. Ok. Anyway, I threw my toothbrush away in Ethiopia. Brushed my teeth before we went to Addis and that was the last time I brushed them for 2 days. Told you I was gross. I did try to put toothpaste on my finger and pretend, but that just didn't work that well. So I'm kind of lucky Evan got that close to me considering I hadn't brushed my teeth or hair and hadn't showered in two days. Meh. Whatevs. Evan's beard was basically the same amount of grossness so we were evensteven.

Annnd that was a picture caption. Prepare yourselves for a long and sappy post.

Tonight I came home from work and kind of had a meltdown. I just finally succumbed to all the stress I've been dealing with for the past month and sat in my bathroom and cried for a good twenty minutes. Evan had no idea what was going on so when I came out, all red-faced and watery-eyed, he was like "OMG! What is wrong?!" And then when I proceeded to be a whiny girl who couldn't hold it together he just pulled me onto his lap and told me how much he loved me. He didn't really try to make everything better, I mean he tried to figure out what was wrong, which I just sat there in blubbering silence while he guessed everything from A to Z, but he didn't sit me down and interrogate me about what was wrong. And when I'm upset I like to be silent. And he gets that. So he asks yes or no questions and let's me talk on my own time. Which I appreciate.

But now, he has this new thing. He has now decided that he must find a way to make me laugh, or at least smile when I'm upset. He acts like such a fool, I can't help but smile. Usually he starts off with something like "You're so angry. I can tell you want to smile, though. Don't you?" Yeah, I'm three-years-old, please excuse me. And then I do and then he tackles me and tickles me until I am laughing and he has won. And tonight he really went all out with his silliness. He was making faces, talking to the dogs, talking like the dogs (our dogs have voices), and making fun of me. He completely lightened my mood and even though I was still upset and really wanted to pout for a good 24 hours, I couldn't help but be thankful that he was there to lift my spirits.

And then, I get to have a husband who loves the least of these and wants to love the least of these for the rest of his life. I don't think there would be an "us" without this in common. It is one of the strongest parts of our relationship because we are both so passionate about it. And I have gotten to go to Africa twice with him and watch him adore those kids. Twice. And he acts like such a good dad. It makes me so so sooooo excited for the day I get to see him with our kids. And the other days when we get to go back to New Hope and love on our Ethiopian kids some more. Because he is so good at it. I cannot even explain how much I love watching him with those kids. It just warms my heart.

Ps. Billings is getting a Sonic! About 900 miles from my house, which will hopefully deter me away from there. But exciting nonetheless!!!!

Evan is also one of the funniest people I have ever met. And I think laughter is the best medicine. Not only can he make me smile when I am being crabby pants (see above) but even when I am not crabby I am usually writing down every other word because he's just stinkin hilar. He also really likes to make fun of me, and it's usually pretty funny, so I usually burn 5 to 3000 calories a day just from laughing. Which is good because my current in-take is like 20 thou.

I think my current all time favorite Evan quote is this one:

Me: "What do you want for lunch?"
Evan: "I don't care. It's your turce. ..........Uhhh...I was going to say turn, but I said choice......so turce."

My favorite part is how he explained it. I think I laughed for a good hour that day. And pretty much every time I think of it I laugh out loud. Not LOL, laugh out loud. There's a difference people.

Evan never ceases to make me smile when I am going through a lot. Which is lucky for me because sometimes I go through a lot, a lot.

And so this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that God gave me such a wonderful husband. That he loves me even though I'm kind of a brat and I'm kind of needy. And also indecisive. I'm thankful that he would do anything for me, including going to three different stores to try to find coconut flakes for Grandpa's birthday cupcakes. Or how about when I decide I want some snacks at like 1 am? Good thing we have a gas station one block away, right? No. More like, good thing my husband lives to make me happy.

Which he does. And he definitely does not get enough recognition for that.

So, Evan, I love you. Thank you for being you. You are perfect.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why I was sent to Africa #2.

As you remember, yesterday I posted part one of why I went to Africa. Read that here. I've been putting off talking about it to everyone just because and I even forgot about it for a while. I have to talk about it. I have to tell it. So here's part two. (Also if you didn't read part 1, part 2 won't make any sense. Just FYI. =])

The purpose of my trip was so that I could see how these kids are a family. These forty-some orphans live in a two bedroom house and sleep at least two to a bed. Many of them have grown up together. They have been together for years. They are a family.

And with that, I knew that I would never adopt Roza.

I knew it wasn't something God was saying, like, "Wait, because you're only 22 and you only have 30 dollars to your name and you need to spend time with your new husband." (30 dollars is a bit excessive. It's more like 20. Just kidding. But seriously. I need a pay check sometime in this decade.)

It was more like, "You can't have her. She has a family. And it's not the family you have. But this is where she belongs."

And I lost it. I was so, so angry. I always wondered how we would take just one kid. We knew them all but we would be like, "Sorry. Roza is our favorite. We like you guys, too, we just like her more. I'm sure you'll find forever families someday....good luck with that by the way." Uhhh??? No. That was really the only thing that was holding me back. That if Mr. Ethiopian President had come to me and asked me if I could adopt Roza right this second, I would have said, only if those other kids can have homes, too.

But I was so mad. How can living in a space for not forty people who shower once a week and who eat meat twice a year and who change their clothes once a week and who only get new shoes when we come be better than living here? How is it FREAKING FAIR that I have a house that is plenty big for 3 or 4 people and I have clothes that could give me a clean pair for at least a month if not two? How is that fair? How come I get a hot shower multiple times a day and fresh, cold, clean water whenever I feel like taking a drink? Why do I have a freezer full of meat and a fridge full of 49 different foods? How. Is. That. Fair. ?????

I was so irritated that I just wanted to go home. I didn't know why I had come if I was just going to find out that I couldn't bring her home. Not next year, not in two years, never. And I didn't know why I had come. I know I've probably said that 50 times in this post but I really want to reiterate that point. I love Africa. So much. For a long time I've wanted to move there. Live there. Screw this freedom and fast food crap. Clean water? Hot showers? Blah. Let me move to Africa. And there I was sitting in my hotel room, sulking, pissed off at everyone for no reason, and wishing I hadn't come. I was listening to Evan talk about the next time "we" came and all I could think was, "We? There is not going to be a 'we' next time. You can go. I'm not coming back." Seriously. I was having that hard of a time dealing with this. And coupled with a few other problems which are not important. And those thoughts and feelings were not me.

I finally realized that it wasn't God keeping them there to spite me. He had given them a safe place to live. Shelter. Food. Clean water. Showers. Appropriate adults to educate them. He had given them the essentials to survive. Everything else is just icing on the cake. You can eat cake without the icing. It just sometimes tastes better with it. But you'll survive without it.

And so I spent most of my 15 days at New Hope confused and upset. I mostly stapplegunned myself to Evan's side because when Roza was with us, it was almost like we were a family.

I still wanted to pretend. Even though I knew it would never be a reality.

Evan and I talked about it halfway through the trip. And we came up with a solution. I can't remember now, but I think that he might have even brought it up to me. We decided that if we can't bring them home now, or even in the near future, we can support them through college. How great would it be to help them get to America, go to school, and for us to help them? Whether or not that will be financially or supporting them with a house to live in, we want to be there.

It's not the same. I understand that. It breaks my heart that I will not bring home that beautiful little girl. But at the same time, I hope that a door opens when it's time for her to go to college. I hope that her English will be good enough and I hope that she'll want to come here. That she'll want to become educated and then go back and help her people. And we'll be there with her every step of the way.

We also realize how silly it sounds that we, at 22-years-old, would be adopted parents to an 8-ish-year-old. "Hi, I'm 21, these are my parents. They're 35." It would be weird. But it doesn't really matter. I'm so thankful that I have hopes and dreams and aspirations for my life at such a young age.

I'm still trying to work through this. It might sound funny that this is such a big deal to me. It's not like we had the adoption papers in hand and were going to pick her up. But that's what it feels like.

So, for now, we'll just pray that we'll get a chance to bring home another baby someday. And Roza and Derartu in the future.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why I was sent to Africa #1.

Disclaimer: I wrote this as one post and realized I would never read something this long so I'll be breaking it up into sections and sharing it daily. Because I would prefer for people to read my blog, not skim over it. PS. To all of my readers who write long blogs, I read them. Promise. =]

In my first post about Africa I mentioned how this trip was completely different than the last and how I didn't know how to process it. I've been trying to figure it out for the past three weeks and I'm still having trouble dealing with it. Don't get me wrong, this trip was amazing. I think going to Africa and visiting those kids will always be amazing. But this trip was just so different from the first trip that I wasn't prepared for that. I was completely taken aback like the third or fourth day when I realized my purpose for going. But before I get ahead of myself, let me give you some back story.

Evan and I were dating when we went to Africa in 2009. I knew I was going to marry him but we weren't engaged so we weren't really talking about it yet. I watched him love on those kids and play with Roza like she already was his daughter and I could not stop thinking about adoption. I talked to everyone I knew there, here, anywhere, about adoption. I was completely consumed by this idea and I could not stop thinking about it. It didn't even matter that most adoption agencies require you to be married for minimum of one year before you can adopt. Or the fact that adoption costs like 30,000 dollars. Or the fact that it takes forever to get the child home. I didn't care. I had tunnel vision and the only thing I could see was us. adopting. Roza. And that's the way it was going to go.  I have written about it on here countless times and Evan and I would tell everyone how we met a little girl in Africa and we were going to bring her home.

For a long time, people just kind of accepted it as "They just got back from Africa so of course they think they want to adopt but we'll see what happens when they get married and have kids of their own." Or something along those lines. The night before we left someone said to us, "Oh you really do want to adopt?" Chyeah. Have you not been listening to anything that has come out of our mouths for the past 18 months? Probably not. Because we are broken records. And we are 22. Twenty two-year-olds should not be adopting 8-year-olds. But that's beside the point.

[Before I get too far, let me explain something. The kids at New Hope are currently (and were, when we were there in 2009) not adoptable. The orphanage went from being thisclose to getting shut down, to being a pride to the government. However, they are still trying to get back on their feet and make things work. The men who run the orphanage want to keep the kids there and keep them as a family. Making them adoptable would mean getting more help from the government and basically turning the orphanage over to the government to let them make all the necessary decisions. It's basically a ton of work. And they have yet to complete this process. Whether they will in the future is another story. So, we have known for a long time that the kids aren't adoptable and we have just had to hope and pray that someday soon they would be.]

Evan and I love Roza. We connected with her more than any of the other kids, even though we spent time with other kids, as well. We just bonded with her and fell in love. A lot of people want to adopt but to actually know a child, it becomes something real. Something you can almost touch. Yes, even at 22.

So Evan and I were like the first people to sign up for Africa round II. We went to all the informational meetings and started countdowns and raised money. I put almost 100% of my tips into my Africa fund so I could pay for my own trip. And we were so excited.

Everyone asked us if we would get to see Roza again, to which we always replied with smiles that covered our entire faces and excited affirmations.

The entire trip to Africa we would look at each other and be like, "We're going to see Roza tomorrow!!!" It was a nervous excitement. I knew she'd remember us, I mean we were her people. Of course she would. But would it be different? How would we greet her? So many questions were running through my mind I tried to just act cool and pretend like I didn't want to snatch her up and run all the way back home.

We were both shaking on the first bus ride out to the orphanage. We turned the corner and there were all the kids standing in rows according to grade, with the two littlest girls out front. They were singing songs and holding wilted flowers that they had hand picked from their garden. I couldn't see Roza and I didn't want it to be obvious that I was overlooking all the kids to see mine. So I just kind of stood there until all the kids came and hugged us and then there she was.

We hugged. I kissed her. I probably cried, I can't remember now. And we picked right up where we left off. We held hands as she took me on a tour of the new and improved property. It was like a dream. I was back in this place that I had been looking forward to for 18 months and here it was. I was so happy and my heart was so full. I can't really explain it, just my heart was full.

Evan and I couldn't stop smiling because that was our baby. We told all the new members of our team that she was ours so hands off. Just kidding but seriously. We introduced her to everyone and showered her with love and kisses. Constantly. Because now that we were veterans we were all too aware of how short the trips really are. Fifteen days? No. More like six hours.

And so this time, I made a goal for myself to get to know more kids. I spent the majority of my time with Roza last year and I probably knew the names of 10ish kids. Ten out of 40? That is not good. Bad Larissa.

So I forced myself to learn names. Learn faces. Over and over again. And to mess up. Because it made them laugh. And it's how I learned. I spent time with more than six kids. I sought out kids who weren't getting enough attention because I didn't want anyone to be left out.

And by doing that, around day two or three I learned the purpose of my trip. It wasn't to dig up weeds. Or teach volleyball. Or hang up alphabet posters in classrooms. Or carry around cinder blocks. Or paint the stairs. Or cut angle iron. Or sand angle iron. Or learn 10 new Amharic words. Or to build a new building so they could have a better life.

No. None of that.....



Thursday, November 11, 2010

My most favorite thing.

I think, if I could pick one thing, one favorite thing, in the whole wide world,

right now....
that thing would be singing with Evan.

Ps. I edited that picture. Montana isn't that vivid. Sorry to fool you.

We went to a karaoke bar with a bunch of our friends tonight and it was so fun. Seriously. I missed my friends so much. I loveee being away, being out of this way of life, but I love my people. And my people know who they are. And my people: I. Love. You.

Anyway. When we dropped Jam off at home we blasted one of my favorite life songs "Self Conclusion" by Spill and it was probably half over by the time we pulled in the garage. I made Evan finish the song, which we conveniently turned into a duet because we are bomb dot com at duets and then I made him play Lucky, which is our other favorite love song right now. 

And we sang to each other.

And at that moment in time, I was so in love. And so happy. Like there was nothing wrong in my life. My tummy didn't hurt, I wasn't tired, I wasn't worried about finding a job, or having enough money to do the things we want. I wasn't worried about it being 5 hours past my bed time and me being tired. I was h-a-p-p-y. Which is something I want to hold on to and not let go when I come across that feeling.

Don't get me wrong. I get that feeling a lot. I live a wonderful life. I am so in love with my life, it's kind of sick. I love my husband. (And I love saying that.) I love my friends. My family. My in-laws. My job? Ahahahah joke. 

But serious. I have an amazing life. And tonight, sitting in my car, singing with the love of my life, I was honestly happy. I was away from every thought that pounds through my head throughout the day, from the demands of my day to day life, and from every problem that has no solution. I was with him. 

And for that I am thankful.

And now my heart is full. And happy.

And my eyes are tired. So it's time for this one to go to sleep. And dream happy thoughts. =]


Tuesday, November 9, 2010


This is probably not the conclusion of me talking about Africa. I just feel the need to talk about the final part of our journey. It was.....how do I say......terrible yet amazing? At the same time.

I have to start at the beginning. Which takes us back to Ethiopia. We got to the airport at the crack of dark which is like 6, 6:30 tops. Our plane didn't leave til 1. ONE A.M. Rough. So we get through security and the KLM lady was like, "What airline are you waiting for?" Us: "Kenya Air." Her: "Oh my. You're early." Yeah, thanks. So we all plopped ourselves down on the hard, dirty ground and waited. For. Ever.

We finally got the idea that we should get in line so we didn't get stuck behind the 400 other people on the plane. So we did. Probably about thirty minutes early. This guy sees us in our big long line and decided he was too good for the line so he cut. In front of all of us. He didn't even us the first class line. He just walked around all of us and stood in between the line and the counter. Rude people know no boundaries. Our fearless leader, Ron, told this man what was up. And let me tell you, I feared for my life. He was a big guy. And he looked hungry. Fat people are usually rich in other countries. They can afford to feed themselves, therefore rich.

Our plane went in a circle constantly. It went Nairobi to Addis to Djibouti to Nairobi. That's all. Over and over and over. So I jokingly said (about the fat guy) "He's the king of Djibouti. So he can cut." (FYI. Djibouti is pronounced Ja-boo-tee. We think it is a fine name for a rapper.)

Anyway, we finally board the plane and Evan and I were in the very back. Like there was one seat behind us back. Ug. And guess who I see coming my way. The king of Djibouti. FML. Seriously. FML. I knew he was destined to sit next to me. So it went King of Djibouti, me, Evan. And I hated my life.

The arm rests on planes are like this: l l right? Well his were like this: \      / . And so I basically had to share my seat with him. And he kept touching me. And he kept doing that thing you do when you're falling asleep where your muscles relax and fall and then you wake up? Most people do it with their heads. He was doing it with his hands. And they kept falling on my lap. LAP. I am not a touchy feely person, so I was not impressed.

Not to mention the fact we were in the back of this freaking 200 degree plane and we had to sit in Djibouti for 45 minutes while people got on and off. Obnoxious.

I was pretty pissed at Kenya by the time we actually landed in Kenya.

Then, we had to pay for a visa. Ten dollars. The ten ones I gave the man were not good enough. He rudely said, "Give me something else. I'm not taking this." Oh okay sir. It's MONEYYY.

By now, I hated Kenya.

Don't worry it gets better. We exchange money and I was dying of thirst thanks to the hottest plane ride from hell. We exchanged one hundred dollars and got back seven THOUSAND shillings. Score! I was like this place is amazing.


I found a vending machine and tried to purchase a water. A WATER. That is all. The smallest bill I got from the rude money lady was a 50. The cheapest water was 60 shillings. So I put in a hundred. It spit me back a million coins and was like "please give correct change." So I gave it correct change via all the change it spit back. And it still said it was wrong and refused to give me water. I wanted to kick the stupid machine and scream. But I couldn't because my mouth was so dry.

Then, our tour guide forgot about us. So we were stranded at the airport. With 7000 shillings. With no where to go.

Finally. Finally I got something to drink. Finally. Then we found our tour guide. Who also came with a van. A VAN! For 16 people. And all our carry ons. I luckily got a spot towards the front so I was not smashed between six people in one of those teeny tiny back seats.

This really does no justice to how tight it was.

You can kinda see Andrea's backwards facing head. She was on a cooler. Not a seat.

We pulled out, which was another challenge, and he tells us to get out because another car had come to take us away. So we piled into two cars and off we went.

Ahhh! New car! Much better!!
On one side of our car was a field covered in mist and morning fog. All of the sudden Evan wordlessly shoves a fing in my face and I turn to see giraffes, WILD giraffes. Just hanging out next to the airport. Amazing. I was finally not so pissed at Kenya.

However, we did have to stop at a gas station and wait. And wait. And wait. Because we needed a different driver. Our new driver was only good for like 20 minutes. So we waited for probably close to an hour.

We finally got a different driver who took us to breakfast at this adorable little cafe. It was pretty much the equivalent of Starbucks but it was delish. And the closest thing to American food we'd had in two weeks.

After lunch (and another! driver change) we ventured to the elephant orphanage. I was so, so excited for this, so it was kind of a let down when we didn't get to touch or feed or even get that close to the elephants.

This is the babiest elephant that they can let out. Heshe is adorable <3

All they did was play in the mud and push each other around. For like an hour...

The little babies had to go to make room for the bigger babies...

Here come the bigger babies!
Now, I love love love elephants. But I was seriously hoping to feed one. Or touch one. We were "allowed" to touch them but only if they came to you. Which they did not. They were more concernicus with the mud. They were super cute and I heard amazing stories about how they were rescued from poachers, or wells, or whatever. But they didn't do anything. It was fun for 15 minutes. And it was also not worth 500 shillings. (Ok that's like 6.50 USD. I guess it was not that much.) The orphanage also had rhinos, but whatever. Those weren't that great because they were in intense cages so you could hardly see them.

However, I did learn that the elephant trainers get to sleep with the elephants every night. Jealous, much? Yeah. I want that job.

However, I will require a more comfortable bed. And some sheets or a blanket or something. And a night light.

Next, we drove to the giraffe place. I was not looking forward to this place because of how the elephant orphanage was. I expected it to be just like a zoo, and a lame zoo at that.

FALSE. Giraffe place was amazeballs. By far the best part of Kenya. (Minus the Jacaranda...) Anyway. The giraffe place is just built right on Kenya's national park and the giraffes are just free to come hang out. Not only did I get to touch a giraffe, but I got to FEED one. And by one I mean like six.

This was my first time. I thought it was going to bite me and then it had a cat tongue. Weird.

Yes, that sure is just what it looks like.

A baby!! (Oh, and Evan.)
Fact: Giraffes tongues (and maybe spit, too?) are a natural antiseptic. That's why they let you feed them. And feed them out of your mouth (see picuture 3). And they give you kisses. Awwwww.

Fact: The giraffes live here and here is also part of this mansion called "Giraffe Manor." It's seriously the biggest house I've ever seen. Google it. It costs like 360 USD to stay there. One night. Per person. Yikes! But they open all the windows and the giraffes stick their heads in and it's pretty awesome. And if I was a millionaire you better believe I'd be all over that. However, I am not. So I must resort to dreams.

And this pretty much ended our amazing adventures. We finished by going to Kazuri, a bead shop. It was cool, but the jewelry was not me. And it was expensive. So I passed.

Then, we went to Karen Blixen's house slash managers house and toured them. We ate at one of the restaurants and it was so. good. My steak was sub par because you should probably never order steak in another country but that was my bad. So I probably ate ostrich or wildebeest (yeah, apparently that's how you spell that.). I don't know. Nor do I want to. It was pretty tough and chewy. If it's possible to be both? I just wanted something non vegetarian so SO bad. My mom got these amaaaazing nachos. I think they were called cachos? I can't remember now. But they have guacamole in Kenya (and the best avocados I've ever had in Ethiopia, if you were wondering) and I was in Heaven. I loveee guac. And those nachos were bomb.com. Plus I had fresh squeezed juice and I was a happy camper. Minus my mystery steak, but I gave most of that to Evan. So whatever.

Karen Blixen's house was....................................................................................neat. I suppose I should watch the movie because I know nothing about anything. So it would probably mean more to me if I could see the movie and what she did. Rather than pretending to love it while I walked through her house and see her nasty outhouse toilet. (It was super gross.)

And that was that. By the end of the day, I decided Kenya was alright. But most of my day was not great. However, Kenya has the most amazing tree I've ever seen: the Jacaranda. A. It is the funnest name to say. B. It's amazingly gorgeous.


Aren't they just lovely? I'm in tree love. And it's purple!!! Favorite color, win win! I'm definitely going to need to plant my own indoor Jacaranda bonsai tree. It's going to happen and everyone is going to be jealous.

Kenya was also weird because it was so Americanized. It could very easily have been a city in America. I didn't see a poor part of town until we were leaving. There weren't cows and donkeys crossing the road at will and there weren't a million people begging on the sidewalks. Everything was nice. It was clean. There were gigantic mansions everywhere. People were driving Range Rovers (and I was drooling), BMWs, VWs, Mercedes, and tons of expensive not-your-average-third-world-country cars. However, when we did drive past the slum, it was def third world. People living in gutted out cars, tents, shacks made of tin and cardboard, and very very poor conditions. And apparently that's how it is there. It's either shanty town or a mansion. There is no inbetween. It was so different from Ethiopia and it was so different from how I pictured the rest of Africa to be.

I definitely expected it there to be much more poverty than we saw (and maybe we just weren't in the right part...) and more people on bikes. I don't know where this preconceived notion came from but I was pretty sure everyone rode bikes in Kenya.

And I didn't see one bike. So that's that.

Also, the Nairobi airport suuucks. Seriously. I think I hate it more than Dulles. It's like one long hallway with a million people and a million duty free stores. But at least it is smoke free, unlike the airport in Addis. And probably another reason I was so cranky when I got to Kenya.

And I think it's time to probably stop talking because no one is going to read this far annnnd now I'm just rambling.

P.S. I didn't take a picture of dindin. It was delish. But we were too hungry to wait for pictures. And I am seriously pooped. It's bed time, I have an interview at 10 am. Fingers crossed!!!


You know what I hate?

Answer: Grocery shopping.

I about had thirty different anxiety attacks in that stupid store.

First of all, people really need to learn how to park their cart. Like don't leave it in the middle of the aisle and go wander around. I don't care if you suddenly remembered you needed something from aisle 3 and you're now in aisle 10. Take your cart and go back. It is completely unnecessary that you take up as much space as three people would.

Second, if you're going down an aisle, stick to one side. That way, when you stop and get something you won't be in my way. There is nothing more annoying than waiting for you to decide which pickles you want while I stand and wait for you. At least have the courtesy to be aware of your surroundings and move if you're in someone's way. I swear I know what kind of pickles I want and I'll be out of your way in two shakes. Thanks.

Third, control your homies. Don't let your offspring run around knocking things down and running into me. And if you're taking your 300 year old grandmother shopping, good for you, but don't let her and her electric wheel chair take up the entire aisle. And because you're moving at about half the speed of a snail, get out of my wayyyy. I walk at a slow run and you are seriously crimping my style.

Fourth, if we get in each others way, say excuse me and get on with it. Don't be rude and glare or make some noise under your breath. I can hear you. And I can see your evil, ugly eyes.

Fifth, if I'm a pedestrian, I have the right away. If you reaaallllyyyy wanted that parking spot then you should have gotten here earlier. You do not need to run me down just because that spot is the closest one available to the door. You probably need the exercise anyway. But mostly you need to let me get out of your way before you gun it.

Sixth, put your damn cart away. My gosh. You just walked around the store for an hour, do you really think that walking that extra ten feet is going to kill you? No. It's not. But I am, if you don't put it away and the wind blows it into my car.

Ug. But I think I got enough goodies to make dinner for the rest of the week.

AND my mother's famous, amazing dumpling soup. Hallelujah! I'm so, so excited! Plus it's cold out which is def soup weather.

Now I just need Evan to get off work because I'm staaaarrrvvingggg! And I'm making garlic chicken stir fry and it smells amazeballs.

Picture to *maybe* come later if I don't inhale it first. =]


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Just a few pictures I found...

The last night of africa last year the power went out at the hotel. So we ate dinner by candle light. So romantic. But look at these adorable pictures I found via my friend Laura:

We look so, so young. He's so handsome. I love him. <3


Saturday, November 6, 2010

The moment of truth

Before we left, we heard it from everyone. "You're going to Africa?! Aren't you afraid you'll die? What if the plane crashes?! What if you get shot!?!" People came up with the most colorful predicaments that we were just bound to get ourselves into. And my answer? No. I'm not afraid. I'm more afraid of the pain of dying. I know where I'm going. =]

Everyone wanted us to know how dangerous these places are. How many bomb threats were being heard in London. In Uganda. In Sudan. In Somalia. Everywhere around where we were going. Everyone was afraid for us.

I've been all over. I've been to Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, and Africa. And before this trip, I had never felt unsafe. I had never come in contact with anyone who wanted to harm me (that I know of...) or who intentionally was out to get me. We'd see fights, we'd get lost in the ghetto, we'd see some things that I could have done without, but we were never in any imminent danger.

Until this trip.

It was maybe the second or third day at the orphanage. We were working on the water tower when there was a big commotion on the street (and I'm the worst with distances so I have no idea how far away it was. It was close. But not that close. I don't know.) and we saw people running away, people running to the spot, and lots and lots of yelling. I don't remember exactly what I was doing but I was pretty oblivious to the whole thing. All the kids and a couple people from my team noticed the commotion but I was just lateedaaaaa off in my own little world.

Probably 15 minutes later I realized what was going on and asked Steve, one of our guys, what had happened. His response, "Didn't you hear the gunshots?"

Um, what?!!

In my mind, I have no idea what actually happened. My mind has completely erased those moments from my mind to protect me. (Jamie will love this because we talk about this all. The. Time. =]]) I have no idea if I did hear the gun shots and just didn't realize what it was or if I was completely oblivious to everything going on around me. I know, now, that I am being protected far more than I can even begin to understand. I am the biggest baby ever when it comes to death and dying and pain. I hate scary movies. I hate being afraid. I think the subject of death is so interesting, but I'll think too much about it and keep myself up for weeks over analyzing everything.

So I know God was (and still is) protecting my over active imagination. 1. He erased those moments from my mind. 2. He kept us safe from what could have become a horrible situation.

This whole event happened probably 30 to 45 minutes before we left the work site. By the time we were leaving everyone knew and was talking about what had happened. All we knew was that there had been 4ish gun shots. No one knew why. From our spot we could see a group of people congregated around what appeared to be a body lying on the road.

We loaded into the bus and prepared ourselves for who knows what as we drove a few feet up the road. We were stopped by some military men. A pick up truck with several more military men drove up and stopped beside our bus. They got out and a few seconds later brought over three men and threw them in the back of the bus. They had parked between the man on the ground and us so we could no longer see the body. Then, they threw the body over the side of the truck and drove off. This was apparently the police and their way of taking these men to jail. We moved along and everyone was quiet. I was afraid because as far as I knew, this man had just been shot and killed a few feet from the orphanage.

We got back to the hotel 15 minutes later and everyone had forgotten about the entire incident. We met for dinner and someone brought it up again and we all began to talk about what had happened to process through it.

Dawit told someone the full story so that was passed along and the rumors were quelled very quickly. Apparently there was a tribal dispute (over land, most likely) and the men began to beat each other up. They were using sticks and clubs and rocks and anything they could get their hands on. The military fired warning shots into the air to break up the fight and the man on the ground was badly hurt, not dead. And no one had been shot like we had all previously thought.

Then we began to talk about how we had each felt. Dona expressed her thankfulness for the fence that we had built last year. If the shots had been fired from non-military people the men could have started running through the fields and into our compound. Our compound with 40 some kids, 16 Americans, and 10 other people. But we put up a barbed wire fence around the entire compound. That fence is a hedge of protection and it would have been especially protective if we had been bombarded by these blood thirty men.

Someone else expressed how thankful they were that they didn't hear the shots. We were all pretty much in the same area. There really is no reason some of us would have heard the shots while others didn't. But clearly some of us would have reacted differently if we had heard them.

This was the first time that I had ever felt like I was in danger. Like what I am doing is good because clearly someone is trying to knock it down.

But then I realized that the danger wasn't even that real. What we all assumed had happened, didn't, and we were set straight. Once again, there's that little tiny footing Satan gets and uses it to just pull us down.

I remembered to journal about this that night so I would remember the many ways God had protected us; but then I completely forgot about this incident. We drove past this spot for at least another week, twice a day, and it never once came to my mind.

So, to answer all those questions, no. I'm not afraid. God protects me. And He's got tons of angels watchin over me.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

A letter to my 16-year-old self.

Danielle at Sometimes Sweet wrote her younger self a letter and I love love loved this idea. So, I'm also going to participate. Even though I feel like I was 16 like three days ago.

image via vi.sualize.us

Dear 16-year-old Larissa,

Oh how your life is going to change in 6 short years. You have spent most of your life without solid friendships. The friends you have now, they will be your best friends through the rest of high school. Cherish them. Don't blow them off for your boyfriends. None of those relationships will last longer than 5 months anyway. These friends will be there for you through death, love, tears, laughter, the good and the bad. Don't take them for granted and don't get mad at them for the little, annoying things they do. Love them. Because one day, they'll be gone. At 16 you're probably just starting to date your longest high school relationship. He's going to treat you like crap and you are going to like him far more and far longer than you should. Go ahead and just end it before it gets too out of hand. You will save yourself so much heartache. Plus you're 16. You don't need a boyfriend.

Don't be too eager to get a job. You have the rest of your life to work. Spend time with your friends. Go to school events. Hang out with your family. You are going to hate your job 2 weeks in and your boss is a creep. Also, you're going to feel the need to fit in at this job. Don't lie to your coworkers. Be yourself. It's a good thing you don't drink. Speaking of drinking, your mom is not going to believe that you don't drink. Don't fret about making sure she knows the truth. The more you fight her on it, the more she thinks you're lying. One day she'll know that you weren't.

Younger self, don't stop ice skating. Don't stop playing the piano. Don't stop playing volleyball. Go out for track. Go out for tennis. Try basketball at least once. Work hard in gym. Your body was in the best shape of its life and you have no idea how much you will miss it. You are somewhat aware of how much you love piano. But you won't be completely aware until you stop playing it. So don't. If you stop taking lessons, at least practice a few times a week. Buy new music. Write your own songs. Enjoy it. And do not stop playing.

You are going to hate your brother. Don't. He is your only brother and in 6 years, you are going to love him. Enjoy him now. Love spending time with him. Be thankful that you can drive him to school. Talk to him. Get to know him. Don't wait until you're 22 to figure out who he is.

The same with your parents. They are only looking out for what is best for you. Listen to them and let them say "no" to you. Yes, it's annoying when you don't get your way, but you're 16. Grow up and get over it. Don't waste too much time being mad at them. Before you know it you'll be moving out and it will break both your hearts. (And by both I mean all three of you...)

Be thankful that you don't have as colorful a story as some of your friends. Be thankful for your religion, your God, and your parents. Be thankful they raised you in a Christian home and don't throw that away because you go to a Catholic school. Be thankful for the solid footing they gave you and tell them how much it means to you. Don't try and make your life story something other than it is. You are so, so blessed with the life you were given. And you will only realize that as you look into your past.

You have so much to learn. Don't try to grow up too fast. You're only 16 and you have so much living ahead of you. As you watch lives crumble around you, be thankful for what you have. Don't ever think you're saying "I love you" too much. Don't drive so fast and don't be in such a hurry to grow up. You'll be grown up before you know it and you'll spend several years wondering where the time went. You're going to do amazing things. Don't get too down on yourself because you are beautiful. Remember this quote and repeat it to yourself everyday: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Ohhhh if I could only go back in time and tell myself all these things. I would save myself from so many heart breaks. So many tears. But I guess that's how you grow.


A not-so-depressing Ethiopian story.

I sort of realized tonight that all of my stories have been so sad. I want to stress that not all of Ethiopia is this heart breaking place where people are dying every time you turn around. Not at all.

It is wonderful. It is beautiful. It's so, so, SO similar to Montana (give or take a few degrees closer to the Equator...). I love it there.

And not all of my experiences have made me want to just sit down and cry my eyes out because my heart is breaking for these children. I have had some amazingly, wonderful, hilarious moments with those kids.

And tonight, I remembered one and I felt like I should share it. Because it's hilarious. And it's not a tear jerker.

One afternoon, like most of my afternoons, I was sitting in the dirt with the kids. A lot of the work we did was construction and I can only handle so much of that before I am just standing around, useless. So I gave up about half way through each day. Anyway, one day I sat down with Kababosh and Roza and some other, older girls and we had a big long conversation. They were telling me all about school and their friends and all their favorites. You know, colors, animals, foods, etc etc etc. The things we can actually talk to each other about and understand.

Kababosh started telling me to not cut my hair. They had just looked at wedding pictures of me and fallen in love with my long hair. She kept saying, "Your hair? No cut. You go America, no cut." I kept saying, "This hair *points to head* real. This hair *points to pictures* fake. I no cut. I want long hair."

Um yes. Apparently, when the people you are conversing with the most speak minimal English, you forget how to talk. So I began to speak in fragmented sentences. It's great.

Anyway. Kababosh and Roza started playing with my hair. Kababosh was wrapping it in a gigantic bun on the top of my head while Roza was rubbing her hands over and over and over on one single spot. So I had this horrendous bun and this really smooth, shiny patch. It was great.

But they sat there the whole time and said, "Conjo! Conjo! You are sooooo beautiful!" (Conjo means beautiful in Amharic) and I loved it. Because no, I wasn't very beautiful in that moment with my hair all pulled back and not brushed. Here, let me show you a picture.

Yeah....no conjo.

Anyway, we were having a blasty blast just having girl time when Kababosh decided she needed to say, and I quote, "You go America, you have Ferengi baby. You Ethiopia come. Evan Ethiopia come. Ferengi baby Ethiopia come." (Ferengi is what they call white people. Habasha is what they call themselves.)

I about lost it. This little 11 year old girl was telling me that Evan and I needed to have a baby. And then bring it back to show her.

About 10 minutes later when I stopped laughing long enough to speak, I told her that she was my Habasha baby and that I didn't need a Ferengi baby. She said no.

This was definitely one of my top ten moments of the week. As if I don't have baby fever enough at home with all the great mommy blogs and cute, adorable babies and pregnant moms floating around me, I go to the other side of the world and get it there, too.

Oh well. It makes for a good laugh. =]

One day, I pinned my hair back, kinda, and I burned my head reaaaal bad. That's why my bangs are out of control in that last picture and I practically have a mullet. That, and the wind was blowing 100 miles per hour. Rough.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Okay, so that's not his real name. But he's my little Zelulu. Zelala. Zelumlum. Zelalum. I adore him.

Last year, I bravely asked one of our leaders if any of the kids had HIV. I mean, we were in Africa, we were bound to come in contact with at least one person who has HIV. And I didn't know the orphanages policy on children with HIV. Nancy told me that yes, one student had HIV. She didn't know who it was and for most of the trip we thought it was another boy. Towards the end of the trip I found out it was Zelalum. The entire trip we had not connected but I still wanted to get a few pictures with him so I could show people that HIV isn't something that's plastered across your face.

This trip, he was one of the first kids I gave a hug to. I was actually really nervous to see him. Because I was worried he wouldn't be there anymore. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to take care of HIV in Africa? Medicine is impossible to come by if you can even afford it. And guess who I saw as I got off the bus? There he was. Standing in line next to his sister, Kababosh. I gave him the biggest hug and kiss and from then on we were inseparable.

The entire week he would come to me and help me with whatever work I was doing. He would carry my backpack to the bus every afternoon. He would hold my water bottle in the shade to keep it cold. He would hold my hand whenever I went anywhere.

If you just saw him on the street you wouldn't know that he has HIV. However, he does have some very different features that may or may not be from the disease. Zelalum's face is different than any of the other childrens. He has blisters on his hands. His eyes are more yellow than the other children's and his skin is different. But you can attribute any of these things to the lack of nutrition, or unsanitary conditions he lives in. Or maybe the fact that he has any number of other diseases.

But now, Zelalum is getting medicine. He's doing much better even though this medicine is what we no longer will use. (That's what I was told, I don't exactly know what that means.)

He looks so, so good. Check out these before and after pictures!!

He doesn't even look like the same kid! But he's so cute. I love him.

A few days after he really started connecting with me, he stole my camera during one of his recesses. I was helping Evan cut some metal pieces while trying to keep a million children away from the saw when Roza came up and asked me to come with her. Evan was irritated that I wasn't helping him but I just ignored him and went with Roza. She took me to Zelalum who had hand written me two letters, one for Evan and one for me. It was the sweetest thing ever and just broke my little heart. I told him I would read it later but I gave him like 50 hugs and kisses right there and thanked him over and over again. I went back to Evan and we read our letters right away and just about couldn't work the rest of the day.

They basically said the usual. I love you so much. Thank you for coming. I will miss you. But usually you only get letters from the children you sponsor. Not from other kids. Unless they're asking you to send them to school. This was just because. Just because I had picked him out and loved him.

It makes my heart swell.

And that night, when I got back to the hotel and looked through the pictures on my camera, I came across these.

So. Cute. I have a bunch of him and different kids. But I love the ones of him and Roza the most. He is suuuuch a sweet boy.

And I really hope that these kids can one day be adoptable. Not for the fact that I want to take them home. But so that Zelalum has a chance at good medicine. So he can have a normal, healthy life. Because he deserves it. He's such a sweet boy.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The BEST dinner. Ever.

Living in Africa for two weeks reaaaaally makes you miss good ole American food. Last year, only a few days before the trip ended we found ourselves craving pizza and mayo and pickles and chips and salad and fruit etc etc. This year, we knew how long it would be without a cube of ice or a piece of real grain fed beef or a tiny speck of processed, sugar infused, carb loaded deliciousness.

And I am pretty sure we worked ourselves up to fail. Because by day two we were already craving Mackenzie River. And Wendy's. And Olive Garden.

It was bad.

I even started to miss cooking. I was planning out meals that I wanted to cook for months to come. I was day dreaming about grocery shopping and doing the freaking dishes. I was sick. I was planning out meals I didn't know anything about but I wanted to cook some AMERICAN food so bad, and eat some freaking green food, that I could hardly stand it.

So Evan and I went grocery shopping yesterday. I really need to a) learn how to manage this daunting task (because we spent one hundred and thirty three dollars and got nothing besides a jar of pickles and tempura batter. We didn't even remember the veggies. Seriously.) and b) learn how to plan my meals out for a week.

The only problem with this is I have this fear that what sounds good now will not sound good on Thursday when I am planning on making it. And I don't know how to shop to have enough food in my house to have a back up plan or two. And I know that this is just a big dumb irrational fear because I have planned meals out days in advance before only to find myself so excited for that meal that I do nothing but drool over it for days. So there really is no problem there. It's just that I need to learn how.

Anyway, I'm a proud, proud member of thenest.com (which is like thee best website, ever. For everything you ever need to know about anything and some of the best people you've ever wanted to hate if you love looking at beautiful houses.) and in one of the e-mails I recently received were some easy peasy slow cooker recipes. I am not a fan of stews. My parents loveeeeed making stews when I was a kid and I dreaded those nights. The meat was always really chewy and would get stuck in your teeth and they used the biggest carrots anyone has ever seen straight from their garden and it was all around just gross.

But I found this recipe for "Sweet and Sour Beef Brisket" and I think the picture is what did me in. I decided we needed to have this for dinner and boy did we.

Ask Evan. It seems like every time I make dinner I say that this is one of the best meals I've ever had.

Like Thai Coconut Curry. Or Pizza Fondue. Or steak. Or burgers.

But this beef brisket was seriously 100% hands down the best stew I've ever had. And one of the top 3 things to come out of my kitchen.

And, one of the best parts was the fact that it started cooking at 1 so I had to suffer through the smell all afternoon. I kept opening the lid and tasting it, pissing Evan off, but I couldn't keep my hands off of it. It was that good.

And I don't get that excited about food.

I also made mashed potatoes with garlic, cream, and onions. And those, my friends, were ahhhhhmazing as well. I love mashed potatoes but my parents are lazy and they're the box o' potatoes kind of people. And they are surely missing out.

And now I'm pretty sure I just want Evan to go find himself a real job so I can just stay at home and cook dinner all the time.

And I want to plan out my next meal so I can continue to wow my pants off. 

But we had some wine, we are being overcome with jet lag, and we gorged ourselves so full that our eyeballs are popping out, so I think it's bed time.

And yes it is 8:41 pm and yes I will probably wake up at 6 am. But that's okay. I like being an adult. =]


Aragu and Dechesa

Look at these two beautiful faces:

When we arrived at the orphanage on the first night to meet all the kids, we knew they would be getting three new kids sometime that week. We had no idea how old they were, their names, their story, or anything.

It was hard for me to accept, as bad as that sounds. I wondered how these kids would fit in. If they would be accepted by the other kids. How they would fit into our little family. You see, we all have bonded with certain kids. They just kind of form a bond with you. And it's not like you don't get to know all the kids, because you do. But they just pick someone out and stick to them. It's not really even your choice. It's theirs. And that's a lie because it's God's. He matches you perfectly. And it's amazing.

Anyway, I was worried that these kids wouldn't be accepted and that they wouldn't thrive there. But I asked several kids if they had met the new kids yet and they had. And they liked them. A lot.

When we were there last year, this little boy, Dejenee, had been accepted into the orphanage when we were leaving. But he was a school kid. He was going to school with the orphans. (New Hope is also a school. There are 40 something orphans and 103 students. The orphans also go to school, but the students do not live or eat at the orphanage.) So the kids all knew him and it was a pretty seamless transition. So it was hard to imagine how three complete strangers would fare.

Toward the middle of the week I spotted a little family sitting on the bench just inside the gate. There was an older woman holding a baby and two young children sitting beside her. They didn't smile, they didn't watch, they just kind of sat there. I didn't even think that these people might be the new orphans but I watched as two members of the team and Dawit greeted the family and hugged and kissed the kids.

The three kids were suppose to be 8, 6, and 2. But there is no way they are that old. Clearly the kids are malnourished but they're short. Malnourished kids tend to still grow length wise. Second, the kids are developmentally not that old. Dechesa plays like a toddler. Not a 6-year-old. But they don't keep track of birthdays and they don't have public records so it's impossible to know, without a wrist x-ray, how old these kids are.

When the leader of our team found out that the orphanage had taken in a two-year-old, he lost his mind. The orphanage is not equipped to take care of a baby. That would require another full time employee. The house mother has her hands full with the 40 "older" kids she has now. A baby is a full time responsibility that the orphanage just can't handle. So Ron lost it. Apparently the government went from being thisclose to shutting them down, to practically instilling the fear of God in them and forcing them to take these three kids. Ron told Dawit that they cannot take this baby.

Now back to the kids...

They came in and got new clothes, new shoes, and tons of love from everyone. They were adorable and I wanted to scoop them up and never let them go. And they surprisingly fit right in. One girl, Fasige, took Aragu right under her wing and walked her all over the compound. She held her hand and didn't let her go. Sweetest thing ever. Dechesa is a boy so of course he just does his own thing. He didn't need a friend right away.

But then a few days later I found out their story. We arrived in Ethiopia on Monday. The previous Thursday or Friday, their father shot their mother.

In front of Dechesa.

Apparently there are nine kids in the family. Aragu, Dechesa, and Mulu (the baby) are the three youngest and the only ones accepted into the orphanage. The only ones the government wanted New Hope to take. The rest of the kids live with their grandmother who cannot care for them. Because New Hope sent the baby back to her they have chosen to support Mulu with clothes and food. When she turns 4, they'll bring her back. But until then, they'll just make sure that she's cared for, well fed, and clothed.

But can you even imagine? Probably not. These poor, poor children. Dechesa didn't really connect with anyone. The boys usually don't. They kind of attach themselves to a man and help him with construction. But that's a boy for you. Maybe Dechesa was too young. But he didn't want to be held, rocked, read to. Nothing. And he loved to hit my hands. I'd try and give him high fives and he would just punch my hands over and over again.

I am so, so, so worried for the repercussions of what that little boy saw will have on his life. I cannot even imagine.

And I'm sure home life wasn't very good before that happened. So who knows what else he's been subjected to.

He needs to be loved. Hopefully New Hope can take away all his hurts and fill him with love. And hopefully he'll be completely different when we go back.

Aragu and Andrea connected during our trip. Which was really special. But one day, on their Sabbath, we were watching a video and I was standing next to the door. I felt a tap on my arm and I looked down and there was Aragu, standing behind a child, and peeking around the door. I waved for her to come to me and she stood in front of me for the rest of the video, holding my hands and wrapping them around her.

That day we went to Gouder Falls and took the kids on a little field trip and she hung out with me the entire time. She sat on my lap on the bus and wrapped her skinny arms around my neck. She held my hand down the road as we walked and sat in the shade with me. I had brought a water bottle along and she carried it for me and would carefully pour it into the hands of any thirsty children.

Aragu continued to come up and give me a hug and kiss and wave to me whenever she saw me, but she never spent as much time with me as she did on Sabbath. It was one of the most special days I had.

But I cannot stop thinking about these two beautiful kids. How hard I pray that this terrible bump in their road of life will make them into two strong and courageous people who will be able to help others. And that they won't relapse into the same type of people as their father.


Monday, November 1, 2010


While I was gone my father had some major bonding time with my kitty. He kept her at his house so she wouldn't be lonely and I'm sure my other cat Lila that I pretty much gave to my dad because he thinks she's his daughter was not a happy camper.

Anyway, my dad gets all sorts of excited about cats. He's like a crazy cat lady but a man....so.......he took a kajillion pictures of Sybs and sent them all to me this afternoon. And this one is just adorable. I love it.

She's so stinkin cute. And she grew so much while I was gone. She's all fat and big now. She's almost bigger than Snap but Snap loves it because she's more of a playful size. Also, she's now obsessed with us and cuddles with us all the time. Like last night. I was laying on my bed reading and she just hopped up and curled up in my arm. Sweetest cat ever. I think she's half dog.

Oh, and if you're wondering what exactly is going on in that picture....my parents loveeee old farm equipment. They own like 5 different things. And that is a tractor. My dad works for the city and one day he was driving around and found it in this lady's yard and just went up to her and asked her if he could buy it. She said yes and he made my brother and I come haul it home for him. My mom has this gigantic rose garden in the front yard and they argued for like 3 hours about whether or not it should go in the garden. We put it in there anyway because she wouldn't make up her mind, and it actually looked really good, but then she threw a fit so now it's just chilling in their flower garden in the back yard. So no one can see it, but whatever.

My parents are the coolest. I adore them.


The Butterfly Effect.

I've never seen the movie "The Butterfly Effect," and I never even knew what it was about. The very first real day in Africa we woke up and did group devotionals. Our leader found a great journal that had great prompts, stories, questions, and tons of journaling space for us to use. The very first day was talking about the Butterfly Effect and how "if a butterfly flaps its wings in England, does that change the weather in San Diego?"

This is basically asking if and how the smallest actions impact the biggest changes in our lives.

I'd never heard of this before (used in that terminology of course I've heard about little actions impacting yada yada yada) and I was absolutely enamored by this subject. To think about the little things that we do, or that happen to us, and making every thing, even the little tiny ones into something great, just blew my mind.

So that first day we drove out to the site. We'd gone to say hello to the kids the night before so this day, it was a Tuesday, was our first real day on the job.

The first thing we did was pray around the perimeter. This was absolutely the best idea I've ever heard of and I was amazed at how it made me feel. We split up into two groups and my group kind of walked around and stopped at "monumental" places and prayed, and every once and a while would stop along the fence. There were 3 of us in my group that had been there before so we also took this time to explain to the new members all the new things and give them little stories about the different areas of the site.

One of the first places we came to was the water tower. When I went last May, the orphanage had to haul water from town. They didn't have a well or a pump or anything and they had no way of getting water on their land, aside from going into town and bringing it back. At the bottom of the orphanage, connected to the land on the other side is this little pond. The water that fills the pond is run off from the bathroom (which is dumped into a hole-in-the-ground-septic-system), from the laundry, and just dirty old ground water.

Last year we built a fence around the property and when we got to the pond area we came across plenty of people using this water. They were filling their water jugs, bathing, or leading their animals to drink. At first I was absolutely amazed that this was being used. I guess it made sense, because it was free water and I'm sure filling up a jug in town costs money. Anyway, when a person would fill up their water jug, they would put a piece of cloth over the opening as a kind of filter system. For grass and leaves and maybe a little dirt, perhaps, but not the dirty, parasitic, bathroom run off water.

It was one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

The first picture was taken early in the week. If you look close enough you can see how dirty the water really is. Of course it's brown and muddy on the ground but you can see it in his little green bucket.

The second picture was taken after a group of us watched probably 20 people come drink this dirty water. Obviously it was a little late do make any major changes so we simply found some rocks and created a filter system. We put the rocks up the "creek" of water that ran down the hill and then made a tiny pool for the water to run into. That way the water would be a little cleaner and it wouldn't mix with that big nasty pool of dirty water. So, the second girl is actually taking from the little "filtered" pool. And no, it doesn't look any cleaner. I'm sure the only real difference is that the cows weren't drinking out of that side.

So basically, after we left our church set in motion the project to build the orphanage a water tower. Teams came out all through out last year, from the time we left to now when we came back, and dug a well, built a tower, and created a community water system.

I'm really pissed at myself because I didn't get a picture of it and I kept telling myself I needed to. They set up a community fill station where there is a little .....I don't even know what you would call it.....white box water holding thing that has several hoses. Twice a day the guard (everyone has a guard and every guard has a stick) unlocks the gate and fills the water buckets of the neighbors. The well is clean drinking water and I'm pretty sure it's free.

So they went from having to use parasitic pond water to clean, healthy water in less than a year.

And the most amazing part? While we were praying a butterfly landed next to the "white box water holding thingy" and flapped its wings.

This water is touching the lives of so many people. The orphans now have clean drinking water whenever they want. Before, the government would randomly shut off the water. Major holidays, or some times for no real reason whatsoever, there would be no water. Now, the orphanage has control of their own well so they don't have to abide by the city water program. They also can give clean, fresh water to people around them and reach out to the community.

Absolutely amazing.

A few days into the trip I took a trek down to the water hole to get a picture of it this year. And look what I found...

 It's a butterfly!!! If you can't see it... look in the middle of the right hand side. It's resting on that piece of wood next to the piece of grass.

Butterflies were seriously everywhere this week, but these were my two main moments.

 This is the water pond now. The cows that were grazing in this field were gone so the grass is very overgrown. But look at how dried up and unused the water is. I guess it should be the opposite, since no one is using it, but it's not. It's drying up and people are rarely using this water. We did come across one lady filling a jug down here and we asked her why she didn't use the clean water. She said she was just getting this water for laundry and to water her crops. She uses the clean water to cook and drink and couldn't stop thanking us.

And here's a picture of the water tower. Our project was to make it into a building so we added the cinder block walls and some steps and a second floor (cinder blocks came later as well, this is like day 3 or 4) and a set of stairs up to the second floor. They plan on putting a library in the lower level and perhaps an apartment or classroom on the second level. When we left the entire first floor was finished and some team members built book cases and shelves for the library. The second floor was about 2/3 of the way done so the orphanage and SDA people we left will have to make sure that gets finished.

This is the longest blog post ever. And I better stop now because I could go on and on and on. But seriously, it is so amazing to watch how the little things people have done, have been multiplied and have touched the lives of so many people.

Also, you can see this water tower from the town (Gouder) up the road. It's like a beacon of light, or clean water, for a lot of people.