Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Africa Story - Part 2

* I've scanned a few photos from my trip without people. If you make it to the end you'll understand why.*

I've had this one written for awhile but keep forgetting to post it. Again, it's turned into a little novella. If you haven't read part one about my first adventures in Zambia, you can find it here 

The Indian Ocean

Part two began when I was doing my year of teacher’s college. I can’t remember how exactly it started but I was contacted by someone from a missions organization to ask if I’d consider leading a trip to Uganda that summer to work with orphans. Africa and orphans. I was in! A while after committing to the trip we were told that trip was no longer going to happen and we were going to Madagascar instead with a focus on teaching English. I was disappointed as neither the location nor the description held the same interest for me, but I sucked it up and decided to stick it out. There were two teams going; a French speaking team from Quebec (Madgascar’s official languages are French and Malagasy) and my team comprised of five of us from the rest of Canada. All the girls were great and I was looking forward to getting to know them more overseas.

But when it came time to go, I can’t say I was all that excited. I was nervous about leading, not too passionate about what we were doing and had recently started dating a guy I really liked (yes, he’s the one I ended up marrying!) so spending two months apart wasn’t at the top of my list for summer activities. We boarded the plane and were off. We spent the first week living at a small motel on the ocean doing missions training, then we got paired up with someone from the French team and were off on our first adventure. We travelled hours and hours by small boat up a canal and lived for several days in very remote villages. We were also with students from a Bible college who were training to do evangelism. Our little team was awesome and we had a lot of fun together, meeting with people in their homes, putting on little workshops for youth and just living life together. I remember eating a lot of rice and fish, pretending pineapples were chocolate and belting out Celine Dion of our Malagasy friends’ favourites. We slept on the floor of a raised hut and were awoken early each morning by the roosters living under us. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Our trip up the canal
When we got back the French team left to go back to the capital city and we stayed in a small town where we spent the remaining six weeks. We stayed on site of a small children’s home which was awesome. Our mornings were spent teaching English to local people in little make-shift classrooms, and the afternoons we hung out with the kids. We taught them Dutch Blitz, played soccer, danced and did our best to communicate including lots of hugs.

I really enjoyed teaching English but after a few weeks I got really sick. What started as a sore throat turned into a really bad infection. The entire back of my throat had turned white and swallowing was really painful. I had a doctor come see me and after some failed antibiotics, I went daily for injections in the backside. One of the girls from the home always accompanied me and found it very amusing. I never found at what is was as the best translation I could get from the doctor was “sore throat.” Eventually it got better but put me out of commission for awhile. I cancelled my classes and my team did their thing without their leader...they were more than fine!

I struggled a lot on the trip, not just physically. Reading back through my journal I really questioned why I was there and often felt like a very inadequate leader. I also had no access to email and only heard from people at home via the occasional and very welcome letter. And remember that guy I was dating? Well I heard nothing from him almost the whole time, which of course gets the female brain going to all sorts of places. Turns out he was questioning whether we should be together and was processing it all (yes, sometimes the female brain can be pretty accurate). Eventually he came around and I received a bunch of mail via courier near the end.

The village where we spent a week

I had a lot of great moments. I loved teaching English, adored the children and our team was great. I credit that experience and teaching in Zambia to pursuing my specialist in teaching ESL. And although each day was tough, God and I were pretty tight. I relied heavily on him to get me through each day and he did.

One of the toughest parts, however was when we got home. Several months later we found out that the missionary leading us for the first few weeks, was having an affair with a Malagasy woman who he later married. But a million times worse was that we discovered there had been abuse of many kinds going on in the children’s home. The “parents” were quickly removed. It became clear why the children had clung to us so much and why they seemed so devastated when we were leaving. The show that was put on for us was about to end and reality would return. I shed many tears for those kids. In a way the whole trip felt like a bit of a scam but I was glad we could provide some relief for the children for a few short weeks and that the abuse was discovered.

Madagascar is a beautiful country with a unique mix of African and Asian cultures. We also got to spend a few days in Mauritius which was a tropical paradise. I doubt I will ever get there again but it was a unique experience that helped me grow, and for that I
am grateful.

1 comment:

the smiths said...

Wow!!! So much life experience ... and so much heartbreak. Thanks for sharing!