I apologize for not keeping up on my part of the blog. After the last one, I kinda needed a break. I also want to thank everyone for the kind emails, messages, thoughts, and prayers you've sent me over the last two weeks (especially my mom for crying with me on the phone as we talked about the death of a baby). We were going through a lot of difficult stuff around here and it was very comforting to know there were people there for me. Thank you.
I do have some good news. Remember Jacabo, the 14-month-old with Infant Depression who was breaking my heart because he was just so sad? Well, we got him to smile!!! Actually, we've gotten him to smile a few times! I have been working with him a lot in "therapy" and I also told all the new volunteers what they can do to help (extra love, cuddles, kisses, and energetic play), and he is doing so much better. He is definitely not "cured" or even up to a normal level of happiness, but he will smile on occasion. Yeah Jacabo!
I also decided to take the advice of many of you who emailed and messaged me, and I involved myself in a little "self-care." Emma, another long-term volunteer, her boyfriend who is visiting (I'm jealous), and I all went to Malaika for the day. Malaika is a beautiful, new hotel right on Lake Victoria. It was great just to relax and enjoy the company of my new friends. After that, Emma invited me and a few other volunteers on a "sunset cruise" on the lake. When I heard "sunset cruise," I imagined one of those large, two-story boats where you mingle on the top deck, sipping cocktails, and eating fancy finger foods.
Silly me. I had forgotten I was in Africa for a second. The boat we went on was the same size as the little boats we take ocean fishing in Mexico or the one that picks us up in the lobby at the Marriott in Palm Springs. In case you are still unaware of the size I'm talking about, there were seven people on this boat and that was plenty. I also later found out that the boat was built by a couple of our askaris (the guys who guard our house). Hmmm...I've never known anyone to actually build a boat, so for a moment, I was a bit concerned.
Though I had my reservations about the boat when I first jumped on board, once we set off onto the lake, I couldn't have felt happier. Between the rush of the air blowing in my face, the beautiful sunset over the largest lake in Africa, the great company, and just being on the water, I felt amazing. I actually felt like I was home. The other volunteers kept laughing at me because I kept saying, "I'm so happy! I'm SOOO happy!" It makes me smile just writing about it. AND it was only $5 for the ride AND the guy said we could call him any time for another ride (day or night!). I might just have to participate in a little Californian behavior...and go tanning on the lake! Mom, I wish you were here. He also said he would take me fishing! What a treat! Dad, I wish you were here. :)
After our sunset cruise, we docked at another local hotel/restaurant/bar and were invited to a private event held by the owner and our boat driver, Tim (a German guy about my age). They had just been hunting and had prepared a huge meal for us and about twenty of their friends. The food was excellent. There were two big pots of this meaty stew with carrots, onions, potatoes, etc, and rice. I later found out that the meat we were eating was Impala! Only in Africa...(and man was it goood!).
As we were feasting and listening to stories from other volunteers from around Mwanza, Tim asked if we'd like a drink. I was about to decline considering I'm not a huge fan of alcohol, but Tim and his friends insisted they could make me a drink where I wouldn't be able to taste the alcohol. About a half hour later, Tim came back looking a little tired and holding three huge coconuts. He had just climbed a coconut tree, in the dark might I add, just for my drink! He then mixed the drink inside the coconut using the fresh coconut milk. Deeelicious! I've never had a better drink (of any kind)! Paradise!
That night was so fun. For the first time, I began to feel like I lived here, like I was a part of something - rather than just a visitor to Africa. And I loved all the people I met. It was really cool to be surrounded by people that all have the same passion for Africa as I do. All of them came here looking to make a difference and finding out that they were actually falling in love with Africa. Many of them are here for the second or third time like me as well. We had conversations about everything from our names to what Africa needs in order to be improved and what we can do or are doing to help. I loved these conversations! I didn't get any shoulder shrugs or conversation ending comments like, "Yeah the situation in Africa is never going to get better." The responses I got instead were passionate and well thought out. These people really care about the people here, and more than that, they have their hearts set on helping them. There is something about being surrounded by people with such passion for making a difference that is so exhilarating. I found them. I finally found people like me, people who can never have enough of this wondrous place.
I have much more to write, but I'm running out of time. More to come asap.
Sending love from my happy place,