Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dr. Livingstone, we presume?

We've spent the last few days in the town of Livingstone, the home of Victoria Falls with a small MWB group. They just arrived in Zambia the day before we left to come here, and it's been fun getting to know a new group of people. Being here has been the 'vacation' portion of our trip and really has given us some true National Geographic experiences! On our first full day here we jumped the border from Zambia to Botswana and visited Chobe National Park for a full day game drive. The morning was spent on a boat and the afternoon was on land in a safari jeep. There were times, like when three elephants walked right behind our safari jeep that we seemed to be having our own Planet Earth experience. Whether it was the giant crocs, pods of hippos, or giraffes and zebras, we seemed to find something exciting around every corner. Definitely not a zoo-like experience. This was the real thing!I'm not sure if we enjoyed our time in Botswana or the day at Victoria Falls better. The falls are simply beyond description. I like to call it a total sensory experience: the sound of so much water, the drenching spray falling on you and the visual beauty of the water and rainbow it creates with the light. We have some pretty fancy photographers in our group and they needed almost a whole day there to capture the beauty. On a side note, Nate has loved a few of the free camera tips he's been able to glean from them. You can check out a few of his pictures at There will be more coming, for sure. This was my fourth visit to the Falls, but I never get tired of it. I decided to finally hike to the bottom of the falls (something I'd never done before for some reason), 687 yards to be exact, to the Boiling Pot. I did pretty well until the 'trail' got rocky and wet. I'll take one or the other, but I felt like my more clumsy side was coming out with the combination of the two. That aside, it was amazing to see what's at the bottom of all that falling water and the current it creates.
Today we fly back to Lusaka and work diligently to soak in every moment of the remaining days we have here. Whether it has been in a village, at a funeral or on a sunset riverboat cruise on the Zambezi, we have found ourselves counting our blessings for the time we've been able to spend here. The gifts we've received in the form of nature's beauty and invaluable life lessons are certainly to be with us for many years to come.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hello from Zambia!

We have been busy and our days have been full. On a truly sad note, last night a dear friend of mine here and many of us who travel to Zambia, died. Violet has been a friend for four years now, and I’ve come to know her well. She got my laundry cleaner than any washer could and she’s the hardest worker, man or woman, I’ve ever known. Her hands alone show what kind of a life she’s lived. It certainly hasn’t been easy. After having morning prayer with the Chikusu family at six o’clock, Nate and I went with Kathy to visit Violet at the hospital a few days ago. I could tell then that her death was not far off. She leaves behind a six year old son who will now be raised by relatives. This will be my second Zambian funeral in the few visits I’ve had. Death really is around every corner. It personalizes the way AIDS has affected people in a way that the media could never convey through television or print. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from Violet about happiness in the face of true adversity, having a relationship with God and a mother’s love for a child. She will be far more than a memory for me.
Yesterday we had our first village experience of this trip. Nate and I absolutely loved it. It was great to be a part of the MWB team. They ran a ‘kids camp’ full of activities for the children of the village. We also had the team working with Zambian nurses who were running a medical clinic. I’m not sure there’s anything better than the smile of a Zambian child. Being there was such a great reminder for us both that happiness is not based on circumstances. These children have a light and spirit about them that truly is not based on the homes they live in or the things they don’t have. We didn’t need to bring them clothes or food because just our love and friendship and time was enough.
Sometimes I think we get the idea that the problems of AIDS and orphans and poverty is just too big for any of us to conquer, but our activities yesterday reminded us that it really is all about one child at a time. The problems we see really are too big for any of us to fix, but if we can do something for just one child or if we can lift just one person, we have done enough. And, really, we are the greatest beneficiaries of any work that we’re doing here. For all that we ‘gave’ yesterday in time and love, we came away from Meya village feeling incredibly lifted (and exhausted!).
Church today was, as always, a great experience. It was great to reconnect with the members here and see old friends. Thing are kind of up in the air about what the next few days will be like, because along with the entire team that’s here, we’ll be attending Violet’s funeral, whenever that is. Originally, after we left Mike and Pam’s house we were supposed to stay at the backpackers lodge, but Kathy is having us stay where she does at the Chikusu house. My family knows that I couldn’t be happier about that one! It’s a special experience to be here and live with a family, especially them. While they are now dealing with the funeral plans, it will be a bit different around their house, but we’re still loving it. Lunch today is at Mike and Pam’s. Pam is literally recreating CafĂ© Rio. We are just spoiled!
Later today we’ll visit the homes of some of the MWB staff and the cemetery. The cemetery is a powerful experience in itself. It truly puts a face on death here. I remember hearing at one point that they were burying about 500 people each day in this one cemetery. It keeps filling up, and they have to acquire more land. We are here, and I continue to return, because of the children that are left behind from those deaths. Even from the States, we can all do something.
We find ourselves being continually reminded of our blessings and that where much is given much is required. We are excited for this new week and the experiences ahead of us. We’ll try to keep you updated!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Muli Bwangi!

For those of you non-Nyanja speakers, that's "How are you?" We'd love to answer our own question there and tell you that things here are GREAT! The 36 hour travel wasn't too bad. This was the first time I've flown to Zambia through London, and I liked it. Our arrival came as a bit of a surprise to all, because through a confusion of itineraries, they were expecting us on Tuesday, not Monday.
I didn't worry too much when no one was there to pick us up at the airport, I just figured everyone who could was off doing MWB work. No big deal. We changed money, got a taxi and showed up at the Chikusu's home. You can imagine what a surprise we were to Kathy. Because there wasn't any room that night at the backpackers lodge we stayed at the Chikusu's. They are my Zambian family. I've lived with them each year I've been here, so it's just like being at home again. Tuesday was a pretty relaxing day, which was nice. Yesterday we moved from the Chikusu's to Mike and Pam Headlee's house because they're out of town with Kathy for a few days. We're having a lot of fun playing 'house' in Zambia. It's kind of like we REALLY live here! Nate has been working with Innocent, the country director for MWB, on accounting stuff and me, well, I'm just playing house like a good Zambian wife does. Yesterday while they worked in the morning, I baked cookies and surfed the net. I guess the latter of those two isn't so Zambian though. I stayed busy though, really I did! The recipe for my most successful chocolate chip cookie making in Zambia yet was a good one. Everyone loves the chocolate chips here.
Cooking ANYTHING here, even cookies, is such a long process. There's no garbage disposal, the trash is outside, no dishwasher and sometimes not even warm water to wash the dishes. Space is limited, but everything culinary is still possible, just not as easy. After Nate and Innocent finished working, we headed off with Innocent to go pick up three more kids that are being placed at the Children's Resource Center. Three more! That makes 24 people out there, I think. Funny how parents of just a few kids wonder if there's enough love to share.
There's always enough! We watched as Innocent and Josephine gathered clothes and bedding for the kids and then placed them with the other kids out at the CRC. Nate absolutely loved seeing the kids. And, of course, he got some great pictures. I can't believe how much the kids have grown in a year. Part of me pictures them at their age four years ago when I met them for the first time. They've grown so much. Evans, one of my dearest 'little' boys is now 17, all muscular and finally has a deep voice. I can't believe it. We caught up with the boys at their school playing soccer and one at a time during the game they all ran over and said, "Hi Auntie Dianna" and gave me a hug. I love being back here. Today Nate and Innocent are back at Quickbooks training and, well, I baked a pie. Before Pam left she told me three separate times, "Those pie shells are fresh, bake a pie." You have to know Pam Headlee to know that making pie crust is the least of her culinary accomplishments here. The other night she made us baked ziti, a delicious green salad (with pretty much everything in it from her garden here), steamed green beans, and peasant bread. Oh, and I can't forget the carrot cake and delicious fruit salad for dessert. At home I make a mess a lot of the time in the kitchen, especially with pie crust, so I figured that since she did the hardest part, I could fill it. Maybe I'll post that recipe too, if it turns out! This trip isn't like the ones in the past have been, but it's still wonderful. On our first night here we ate dinner with the big expedition team that's here, and Nate asked me if I missed being a team leader. I would go back to leading a team in a heartbeat, but I love what we're doing here. No, I will not be baking the whole time I'm here, I actually do have some 'serious' responsibilities, it's just that the first few days are slow. This different experience is just allowing me to take in being here, which I tend to miss out on a bit because I'm working so hard to make sure everything with the team is running as it should. For our families especially, we are healthy, happy and safe. Nate loves it here. He can't believe how happy the people are. I am grateful to have him here for so many reasons. I think one of the best ones is that there's something special about being able to be with someone who is seeing it all for the first time. It reminds me even more what a blessed experience this is. We feel blessed beyond measure to have this time and are reminded each day with what we see and do that we have much to be grateful for.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A new career?

Believe it or not, it's the moment they've been waiting for. My students finally got to meet Mr. Boyce today. If you think that Nate is no big deal, the kids in room 9 would definitely disagree (of course, I would too!). I used the excuse, "Mr. Boyce is an accountant, and it's the busy season," for about four months. But since then, they've been hard to please. I was able to go from that explanation to, "Mr. Boyce is studying for a really long (CPA) test," but they had a hard time understanding why in the world a grown-up would be taking tests still.
Without any prompting from me, a couple of my students recently wrote him letters. My favorite one said, "When are you going to come see the class and me? I have been looking every time the door opens to see if it is you, but it's not." Good job, start with guilt and work from there.
It's been funny how much my students have come to like Nate without meeting him. About mid way through the year I was teaching the cursive letter 'q' and a student asked, "Mrs. Boyce, how does Mr. Boyce write his q's?"
I have no idea how Mr. Boyce writes his q's. He's a printer, not a cursive writer. But I couldn't tell them that. I have them convinced that they have to know cursive to get to fourth grade and survive in the real world. Ever since then the question has come up with every cursive letter I've taught. I'd say, on average, someone in my class asks a question about Mr. Boyce at least five or six times a week during a lesson. If it's a story we're reading where the family is eating Mexican food, you can bet some little darling is going to ask if Mr. Boyce likes Mexican.
You can imagine how surprised the kids were when they walked in from lunch and there he was, the infamous Mr. Boyce with brownies just for them. Nate answered all of their questions, from things like, "What's your favorite month?" to "What kind of wild animal do you like?" And then, of course, he had to show them his cursive. That brought on all kinds of requests to write certain words. He writes 'Mississippi' really well, by the way. I'm pretty sure Nate's not jumping the accounting ship for the chaos of the elementary world, but it was great having him there. It was the highlight of our day and definitely a great memory for this last week of school.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Weekend Fun

Thanks to Andy and Marissa for finally getting married, because not only did we have a GREAT time celebrating with them, we had an awesome weekend in the bay area! It was really fun for Nate to be able to see many of his old San Jose friends and walk (or drive, I guess) down memory lane. It's hard not to be nostalgic about a place that has so many memories of good times and friendships. Nate's a great tour guide. He pointed out all kinds of places: where he used to live, his favorite restaurants and hangouts,and even swung by the headquarters for Yahoo!.

It was difficul
t just for Nate to decide where we should get lunch on Saturday because he had so many places to choose from! He picked a good one though, because we ended up at the Sonoma Chicken Coop. Nate's chicken carbonara and my quarter chicken with barbecue sauce were delicious. Simple food, but, oh so good! Just from that stop alone, I've realized that Sacramento really has some work to do when it comes to good eats!
Nate and I both agree that living in Utah during college spoiled us in at least one way: there's a pretty good milkshake to be found within a 5 minute drive from wherever you are. It's kind of like how I can drive past eight Starbuck's on my way to work, and it's only about a ten mile drive. Milkshakes can be found just about everywhere in Utah. It's just not the same here in Sacramento. As much as we've tried to settle for mediocrity, Dairy Queen blizzards and Wendy's frosties just don't cut it. Thanks to Nate's need to be reminiscent, on Friday night we hit the Palo Alto Creamery after a delicious dinner with Andy and Marissa's family and friends. What you can't see in this picture is the most amazing extra thick pralines and cream milkshake EVER! We also give two thumbs up to the banana cream pie. Wherever you live, it's worth the drive. We haven't made out last visit there yet, that's for sure!

On Sunday we headed up to Burlingame to go to church and spend time with one of Nate's BYU roommates, Russell, and his family. I feel like Russ and Betsy are infamous because of all the great, adventurous stories I've heard about them, and just their blog alone shows what a good time they are. Up until this weekend, my time spent with them was as long as it took for them to hug us and say hi at our wedding reception.

So, after church Russ made biggest sandwich I've ever seen, packed some snacks and we headed to an afternoon at the beach in Half Moon Bay. The weather AND company couldn't have been any better. We talked, laughed, played horseshoes and, I discovered I'm a miserable bocce ball player when it comes to having to throw that heavy ball farther than about ten feet. Thanks again Russ for taking my spot. I was totally dragging my team down!

All in all, it was a weekend full of memories, new and old, and fun. Nate and I just kept talking on the long drive home (an hour just from Half Moon Bay to Berkley!) how blessed we are to have so many friends that have entered and really affected our lives for the better. There are so many of them for each of us!

Stay tuned for more adventures. We leave for Africa in less than two weeks. Hopefully we'll really make this blog useful and be able to fill you in on our excitement and work there!