Friday, February 24, 2012

Rahim, Rahman & Careen

Twins, Rahim and Rahman left Cradle of Love in December. Their father came to pick them up and take them back to his village quite unexpectedly. Though we were happy to see them go to their family, it was hard let them go because they were both so special. Rahim was an incredibly bright boy and he was a funny character. One time when he had just started to potty train, one of the nannies, Francisca, came into the play room and told him it was time to go sit on the potty. So he stood up, dropped his pants, looked around at all of us, waved goodbye, and shuffled out of the play room with his pants around his ankles and a proud look on his face...headed to the potty. He was just a super funny kid! His twin, Rahman, was way behind him in development. He learned to walk while I was here and also started to try talking. He would always walk around with his hands in the air as if to say "I'm innocent!" Rahman's smile was big and beautiful and it was enough to capture anyone's heart. I hope they have adjusted well to their family life and are growing strong. They are missed here.

Careen was like the little police here. She was always running around making sure no babies were fighting and if they were, ensuring that the kids in the wrong were saying sorry to the innocent ones and so forth. Her Swahili was much better than her English and she would spout off her lectures and chastising to the toddlers in Swahili if they were being naughty. She was a very good helper with the little ones and it was always so sweet to watch her entertain the babies lying on the mat. During my first couple of months here, Careen would throw the biggest temper tantrums! They were awful. But, as the months went by and the older children left, it was amazing to watch her mature and take their role as a helper and teacher. I ended up really admiring Careen a lot. 
Both her and Rahim were the two children who would give me new hairstyles after supper every night. I miss getting my hair done by these two. Careen would always check to see if she was pulling my hair too hard and tell me not to cry and let me know I was looking beautiful in Swahili as she yanked on my hair and twisted it around. Such a sweetie!
Careen is now living in Dar es Salaam with her adopted family. I hope she, also, has adjusted and will grow and flourish with them.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Saying Goodnight

The other night, Jackline broke my heart. Nanny, Stella, announced that it was "kulala" time and everyone scurried into the bedroom to either stand by their bed patiently or run around in between the cribs to make me chase them. After tucking in Kurwa, Dotto, and Witness, Jackline asked me for a kiss. I told her to climb into bed and I would kiss her goodnight. She did what I asked, and then gave me a juicy watermelon kiss..(they had had watermelon for snacky time and she had just finished). I then proceeded to untie her mosquito net and drape it around her crib. As I continued to tuck more babies in and kiss them all goodnight, I glanced over at Jackie because she was still standing up looking at me. I asked her to lie down because it was time to sleep, but she didn't move. When I was finished tucking Amani in, I came back over to Jackie. She was standing against the side of her crib, blue mosquito net plastered to her face as she leaned into it. Her eyes were red as tears silently streamed down her cheeks. She had been watching me for the last few minutes. I asked her what the matter was, but she didn't have anything to say. She just wanted another kiss. With that, she silently laid down on her tummy and waited for sleep to come.
Jackie is almost three years old. She's a smart girl. She knows her ABC's and 1,2,3's, she has a pretty good grasp of both English and Kiswahili, and she's a big helper with the younger babies (or can be when she wants to). She's a tough girl and can be very defensive as many kids learn to be, growing up with so many "siblings". Tonight, I saw a sadness in her eyes, though, that I had never seen before. It was a mature sadness, like she knew or realized something. Is she realizing she doesn't have someone just to herself to love her? When will she realize that she is an orphan? Does she already know? She, along with 48 others in this baby home, crave love and attention 24/7. All her little life, she's had to fight for it. She knows how to get attention when she wants it. I wish so badly that I could sneak into some of their little minds sometimes and understand what they feel and listen to their thoughts. They may only be 1, 2, and 3 years old, but there are a lot of things being processed in those young minds.
With more than 30 children wanting you to lift them into their cribs, tuck them in, and drape their mosquito nets around them every night, it's sometimes easy to fall into a pattern and complete the process as somewhat of a chore. Over the last couple of weeks, though, saying goodnight has become something different for me. It's special. When snack time is over, Kurwa comes straight to my lap and holds my hand until it's time for bed. Then she pulls me into the bedroom and over to her bed so we can hug and chat for a minute before anyone else gets my full attention. That means the world to her! All of them call out for their bedtime kisses and love that one moment when my attention is all theirs. Saying goodnight is sad, since there are no bedtime stories, long cuddles, and puppet shows like I received when I was their age, but it's still a very important time to these children. When I tuck them in, let them know I love them in any way I can, and they say they love me too my heart swells up and it gives me a sense of peace like I've completed my task for the day. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Safari with Auntie Karen

There are a lot of elephant pictures because that is most of what we saw. Hundreds and hundreds of elephants...everywhere! It was great. I have more pictures that I'll try to upload in the next couple of days as well as share a little more about the safari. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

First Steps

 One-and-a-half year old Catherine is very small. She has fetal alcohol syndrome and is behind in development. Catherine has been watching other children learn to walk all around her, but never been strong enough to do it herself. During the last few days, she's been standing herself up and balancing on her feet but never taking a step.
Today, she took her first steps!!! It was so special! Catherine was so proud of herself and smiling so big. When she wasn't smiling, she would suck in her cheeks as she concentrated. So cute.
This made my heart very happy and proud because I've been hoping she would start walking before I have to leave. Yay for Catherine!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mt. Meru Summit - Day 3

We woke up at 12:00am Thursday morning to start our trek to the summit. To begin with, I was really excited and for the first hour or so it was great! The stars were incredible! The only time I've seen that many stars before was when we climbed Mt. Sinai in Egypt. It gave me that same amazing reminder of how great our God is. It was hard to take my eyes off the stars, but when I would trip on a rock and hurt my toe or ankle, it would remind me that I needed to keep my headlamp on the trail to see where I was going. After the first couple of hours, we were getting really cold. Lilli, Sarah, and I didn't really come to Africa prepared to climb a mountain...we came prepared to play with babies in the hot African sun... so we just had layers of scarfs on, African fabric, socks on our hands, hoods, capri pants over leggings and socks, khakis, etc...we looked pretty funny. The rest of our team from Australia looked extremely hard core with their fancy gear, not to mention our guides who looked like they were about to climb Everest (minus the crampons, ice-axes, and ropes, of course) We were a motley crew. As we got higher, the three of us were starting to get super cold. The hiking movement was not enough to keep us warm and the wind would just bite right through my layers. During the first two days I was thinking to myself that since this was so great, I should climb every mountain in the world! My thoughts during the freezing night hiking to the summit were quite the opposite, though. I was beginning to wonder why anyone would ever have the desire to climb any mountain and put themselves through this torture. The climb seemed to be straight up a lot of the time and we were just this long, shuffling train moving inch by inch in the dark. When it wasn't straight up, we had to give our poles to our guides and sort of rock climb sideways. This was difficult since our fingers were numb and our sock gloves were extremely inefficient. It was hard to find steady hand holds and places for your feet. It was probably good that we could not see how high up we were or see the drop offs on either side. It was a very long 6 hours. (I am probably making it sound more dramatic than it really was...) As soon we we could see the horizon, though, we realized it was worth it. The view was spectacular and we hadn't even reached the summit yet. The picture above is Kilimanjaro with the sun starting to peak out and say good morning. Sarah was feeling very tired and nauseous due to the elevation and I was so cold I had lost motivation. Our fingers were swollen, fat, and red and I could barely take my camera out to take this picture. This is when Samson came to the rescue. He pushed and dragged Sarah and I up to the top for which we were very grateful! The view was spectacular! We signed the book that is kept in a metal case up there, took pictures, and started the dreaded descent. (I was dreading it because I figured if I could barely get up, then there was no way I would be able to get down...) BUT the descent turned out to be the best part of the whole trip! The wind was still blowing, but the sun was getting warmer by the second. So warm, in fact, that we had to take layers off! The view changed with every step/slide and it was truly breath-taking. It was really fun and it was also a big blessing to experience hiking with such an incredible view of God's creation all around us. I don't think the hike up to the summit was actually as bad as I made it out to be...I was just cold and tired. I have re-organized my thoughts again and decided I definitely want to climb more mountains, but not every single one in the world...and not Everest.
                                   The sun is rising! Facing it, the rocks are beginning to have a warm, golden glow!

                                                                          Sarah taking a breather
                                                                      Mt. Meru's shadow over Arusha
                                                                        Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance
                                                                   Champion Lilli with her sock-gloves
                                                                              View from the summit
                                                                          Ibrahim, one of our guides

                                                                                    We made it!
                                                                 Sarah leaving her mark in the summit book
                                                                                  I love these girls!

                                                                            Our ranger on the descent

                                                                    ash cone left over from the volcano

With legs like jelly and with blistered feet, we arrived back at camp. After a quick lunch, we packed on our backpacks and spent the rest of the day hiking back down to the bottom!
Sarah and Samson