Monday, March 31, 2014

Tanzania Tour Recap: Day 7

Here's my journal entry for day 7 of the trip. It was the hardest day.

Day 7- March 14

We just got back from 229. We have several free hours this afternoon, and my VBS ministry team met last night, so I have lots of time before dinner. I am going to write down everything I remember about the day.

When we met for devotions this morning, our trip leader told us that the project director at the center one group would be visiting today was murdered a few weeks ago. Some people went to his house and beat him to death. There are a couple of rumors as to why it happened, but it doesn't really matter. The fact is, he was murdered. Recently. And this project is currently without a director. We were feeling pretty somber as we drove to the center (my bus was the one going to 229- the one with the murdered director.) We arrived to the biggest church we have seen. It wasn't complete, but it was a tall structure, the closest to a (small) American church I have seen. Except it was made of the same tan African bricks we have seen everywhere else. The kids sang some songs for us. When it was time to sing, they all went out of the church, then filed back in led by a little girl with a big voice singing a hallelujah song. I later found out her name was Jacqueline. She was so talented! The pastor for the church also led us in a moment of prayer for the family of the project director who was killed. He said the director was attacked on the 13th of February, then died in the hospital a day or two later. They just buried him on the 20th. It was really sad.

After the music, we toured the project. There wasn't much to see yet. They are still building classrooms and offices, and a library. They also need to build a "dining hall" and a new kitchen, because the kitchen they recently constructed is too close to the road, according to the government. Everything was very hilly- like, to see the classroom they're building, we had to walk to the top of the hill, and then basically peer down into a pit thing. Most of us didn't see it up close. We visited a classroom that was full of little kids, and we sang for them, like "head, shoulders, knees and toes." We were cracking up, but they just stared at us! And we toured the craft room, where the sewing and knitting takes place. I was accompanied by Witness and Faustina, who grabbed my hands as soon as we got off the bus, and stayed with me the entire day. Faustina speaks very good English (she said her sponsor lives in Korea) and Witness knew a few words and phrases. They were both 15 years old, and seemed to be the best of friends. Faustina helped a lot with translation for Witness and I. Faustina also insisted on carrying my backpack, and had a lot of fun using my camera!



The girls with their friend Sarah

Knitting machine demonstration

On the way back from the walk around the compound, we played "simba and swala", or "lion and gazelle." Sean taught it to everyone to show how important community is. Basically, everyone stood in a big circle, and one person was the simba, and one was the swala. The simba's job was to chase the swala. The swala could run out of the circle, and our job as the community was to protect him and block the simba from running through. It was a good game to play in a group, and it taught an important lesson, too! After that, we all split up for individual free time. We could play outside or do things inside the church. Witness, Faustina, and I went inside the church to draw and color. We also distributed stickers and looked through the photos on my phone.  After a little while, I got my notebook out and started doodling in it. I drew mountains, and asked Faustina what the Swahili word was. We just kept going and going, making page after page of pictures. More kids gathered around, guessing my drawings as I went, and then I'd tell them the English word. Even some of the church elders came over and took an interest in it! One in particular hung around for a long time, guessing what I was drawing as I went along. Faustina helped me write the words if I was struggling to understand them, but after a while I got pretty good at guessing the spelling. Fortunately in Swahili, the letters make the same sounds every time. So I got pretty good at it! I ended up with a small crowd of kids, some project staff, and Robert (from my family group) who was taking pictures. He got a kick out of it!  We also learned that apparently no one in Tanzania knows what a bear is. I drew a bear, and they all guessed "simba." I tried explaining bears to them. I talked about panda bears, thinking maybe one of the adults had read or heard about them, since sometimes they make international news. Grace even dug around in her bag and found a little eraser that looks like a teddy bear, and they still didn't have any idea! Later I asked Philbert, who is educated and speaks amazing English, if he knew. Nope. So I will have to tell my sponsor friends back home that they should write letters to their kids explaining what bears are!

Part of the picture dictionary

The beginnings of a meeting of the nations, regarding bears

After quite a bit of play time together, we gathered at the front of the church to hear the presentation about the project. It was interesting to hear some of the statistics and things about the projects, like 90 of the kids come from Muslim families. They also told us that they divide the kids into four age groups, like Sunday school classes. Kids aged 2-5 are the "love" class, 6-8 are the "trust" class, 9-11 are the "peace" class, and 12 and up are the "gift" class. They also told us that the church started in 1999 with about a hundred people, and now they have over a thousand members! Some other statistics: there are 5 children without sponsors at 229. Seventy six of the kids live with both parents, 124 live with single parents, and 31 live with guardians. They teach tailoring, cooking, singing, and playing musical instruments to the kids who are interested, and currently they have one cooking student.

After the information about the project, a few kids came up to give their testimonies. One little boy was too nervous to finish his. Another was given by the little lead singer of the choir. The third was from a girl of about 12. Her name was Innocent*, and her testimony was the hardest thing I think I have ever listened to. I know that Margaret filmed all the testimonies, and part of me wants to hear it again, or play it for other people, but a bigger part of me is afraid to.

We had another half hour or so of free time after that, so we drew some more pictures for our dictionary, and then we joined with a group of girls and my fellow travelers playing the hokey pokey and "red light, green light." It was a lot of fun. It started sprinkling right around time to head to lunch. We served the kids, and Faustina and Witness saved me a seat. Sarah, their friend who spent a large part of the day with us, sat on the other side of Witness. I just picked at my food. I felt guilty about it, but when I put some of it in my mouth, I just couldn't get it down. I might have been able to eat some watermelon, but by the time we got our food, they were out. And that's ok. The kids need it more than I do. As we ate, Faustina kept offering her food to Witness and Sarah. She ate some of her rice, then offered her watermelon slice to Sarah. She did it in Swahili, but I was able to figure out what she was saying. Then she ate a few more bites of rice, and offered her comically large chicken leg to "Witty." Then the beef pieces, a few at a time, and the chicken pieces, a few at a time. Sometimes they hesitated, but they accepted it all. In my stupidity I thought to myself "hey, maybe Faustina doesn't like the food either." Sarah and Witness kept packing away the food. Finally, Witness just had her chicken wing left. Witness had been carrying around this old purse all day long- she never set it down. It was holding up pretty well, but it was definitely secondhand, or third or fourth. So Witness picks up her purse, pops open the front pocket, and plops the chicken wing right inside. I had to look away and put all my focus on not crying. I was just stunned. Witness isn't a skinny as some of the kids we have seen, but that doesn't mean she's not hungry. Or that she doesn't have siblings at home who are hungry. Faustina knew this. I did not. And I spent all day with the two of them, thinking everything was fine.

They made us a welcome banner!

We all ate in the classroom on the hill, since they don't have a dining hall yet. It was jam packed! And a project staff member had taken videos the entire day, so they projected those onto the curtains at the back of the room! 

We finished with a Bible story and prayers, and headed to the bus. We took some group photos before we left, and I hugged Witness and Faustina. Faustina kissed me and said "I love you" and off we went. I was very quiet on the bus ride home. I will never, ever forget those girls.

Faustina is holding the picture we colored together, my good purple pen, and some note cards we wrote on during the day

One neat thing about the day was that Jeanie found a little girl to sponsor. If a neighborhood child is hanging around the center and you make a connection with them, they will register the child on the spot if you want to sponsor them. So now Jeanie has Nasma. And it was really awesome that Jeanie had an extra gift for a home visit, which we didn't do today. So she was able to send home a pretty, wrapped gift to Nasma's family. I bet they were really happy when she got home that afternoon. We're hoping that Nasma can join in our fun day next Monday, along with her other sponsor child!

Fau tried to get some pictures of Jeanie and Nasma, who were invited to present our gift to the project

Cell phone service was out last night and this morning up until time to get on the bus. I was able to send texts (it said they went through) but I never heard anything back. I knew something was wrong because I wasn't getting any responses, like when I texted my mom to tell me that the project director had been murdered. Shortly after I started writing this journal entry, I texted her again, but then I just had to call. I had to know that she was getting the texts, and I was just feeling really broken after leaving the center today. I held my breath as the phone rang, and she picked up and said "oh my gosh!" I started talking really fast, apologizing at first because I hadn't wanted to use the 15 minutes of international calling time unless there was a real emergency. But I just broke down. I told her about the project director, and Witness being hungry, and Innocent's testimony. And I cried. We talked for 6 minutes and 21 seconds. I'm so glad I called. Now I am tired and sad. I would like to cry and take a nap. I think that in some ways, I was pretty well prepared for this tour. I have poured so much time and energy learning about poverty, and the situations in which sponsored children live, that I wasn't as shocked about some of the stuff. I mean, it's like finding the final piece to a puzzle for me, and seeing the entire picture with my own eyes. Or the difference between a teacher who has thoroughly researched a time period in history, and one who actually witnessed it. I also know, based on the stories I've heard from my fellow travelers, that some of them have seen or heard more difficult things. There was one night that several people broke down crying just remembering a testimony they had heard at another project. Or maybe they visited some homes that had particularly sad stories attached to them. But this is the day that's finally broken me, I guess. I felt it coming when we got on the bus. And now I don't really know what to do with it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Do you know? The story of Christian.

I didn't get the pleasure of meeting Christian* on the day we visited TZ 341. I got to hear about him before, during, and after dinner that night, though. And as soon as I heard his story, I knew that he needed his own post when I got home.

My friend Barb met Christian while we were spending time with the kids after arriving at the center. This was the day that we all had tea together in the morning (or second breakfast, as some of us called it.) Barb and Christian really hit it off, and he became her "buddy" for the day. The great thing about the tour was that each day, at each center, all of us connected with at least one child, or maybe a small group of them.

When it came time to do our home visits, I heard that one group would be visiting a two-parent family, one group would be visiting a single-parent family, and one group would be visiting a child who was living by himself. I was sent with the single-parent family group, and Barb (and a few others) was sent to the home of the child living alone. Barb told me later that night when they got to the home and realized that the child they were visiting was Christian, she felt like passing out. It's startling enough to realize or hear stories about these kids facing hard circumstances, but when you learn that the child you've connected with is actually living that life, it feels like a sucker punch to the gut (something I would learn later in the week.) Christian is currently 15 years old. He has been living on his own for about three years- his parents just up and left him when he was 12. Someone told me that he has other siblings, but they are older and don't live at home anymore. So Christian comes home from school, or the project, to a tiny, dark, empty home. Most of these homes are between 1 and 3 plain rooms with dirt floors. They didn't see furniture. There were no windows. Just Christian. Tanzania is very dark at night. Christian's home would be even darker. Another one of our travelers, Grace, gave Christian the headlamp she brought on the trip and carried in her bag, to help him at night.

Barb said that when they asked Christian if he had a sponsor, his answer was "yes." And when they followed up with "do you receive letters from your sponsor?", the answer was more hesitant. I heard that Christian sort of looked around for the letters (or letter), but couldn't find them. To some, it was painfully obvious that Christian's sponsor didn't really write to him. If he's been sponsored for a few years, and only received one or two letters at the start, no one can really blame him for not knowing where they are. It was obvious that his sponsor was not a part of his life. It appeared that Christian received the benefits from the financial aspect of sponsorship, but he wasn't receiving the most valuable part- the encouragement and love from a sponsor. (It is possible that there were letters in the home, but as someone else pointed out, it was pretty small and rather bare.)

I had told some of the other folks on the trip about the correspondence program (several hadn't heard of it, and were kind of blown away when I told them about my 15 kids- until I explained that I was a correspondent for most of them!) I know that on the trip, Barb talked about maybe becoming Christian's correspondent, if his sponsor is willing to relinquish that to her. Our team leader is working on looking into that, along with a dozen other questions we've sent to him! And I think it would be great if Barb can take over as correspondent for this sweet boy that she connected with.

I was pretty mad when I heard that it seemed Christian didn't receive letters from his sponsor. Or maybe frustrated is a better word. I explained later in the trip that the letter-writing aspect of sponsorship is something I really struggle with in my advocacy. I'm passionate about Compassion because I know that they are changing the world. And I know how important letters are. I'm absolutely thrilled when one of my friends decides they want to get in on this, and sponsors a child. Sometimes they sponsor the kids I share on facebook, or sometimes I'll see a post from a friend, announcing their family has decided to sponsor, and later find out that my frequent posts about my kids helped spark their interest in sponsorship. And that's great, and I'm thankful I can be a part of that. BUT. I also know that some of those friends don't write to their kids. Or they don't do it nearly often enough. Or they did it at first, and now they don't. When I hear or see them joking about it (like "your new correspondence kid is probably my sponsor child, I haven't written in so long!") I get mad and I want to cry. I'm mad at them for not understanding what a big deal this is to the kids. They are not nameless, faceless people on the other side of the world. They're individuals with personalities, hopes, dreams, aspirations, fears, problems, worries, challenges, needs, and prayers. When they receive encouragement and love from their sponsors, they shine. They blossom. They excel. The children who are receiving letters and love from their sponsors are the ones growing up to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, and politicians. They're going to college and they're entering the leadership development program. They develop servant's hearts, and gain a desire to help and love others, because of the love that's been shown to them.

Since Christian doesn't seem to have a relationship with his sponsor, do you think they know what he's going through? Do you think he opened up to this person and said "please pray for me because my mother and father decided they didn't want me anymore, and moved away"? Probably not. And maybe they're the kind of people who wouldn't care that much if they did find out. Maybe it wouldn't compel them to actually write to their sponsor child every once in a while. You can literally type up a letter using the online tool and have it sent in a matter of three minutes. The excuse "I don't have time" is bullcrap. And I want to use stronger language there. It's just crap. People who have smartphones and post status updates on facebook and take pictures for instagram and play Candy Crush are people who have time to send two paragraphs online to a sponsor child. "Dear Christian, how are you doing? My family and I are fine. Easter is almost here, and I'm looking forward to celebrating it. We go to church on Easter Sunday. What do you do for Easter? The weather is getting warmer here, and I'm enjoying it! I was tired of the snow and the cold. How are your studies? I want you to know that I'm praying for you. I enjoy reading your letters, and I hope to get another one soon." There. There's Christian's sponsor's next letter. And it took me one minute and 15 seconds to type, because my computer connection lagged for a moment in the middle of the word "weather." How hard was that? It doesn't matter what you're writing, it just matters that you write.

As the buses full of our sponsor kids were pulling away from the hotel on our "fun day" with the kids, I took a moment to talk to my friend Joyce. She told me that she had spent the time talking to Compassion staff from some of the centers that were represented, and asked them what do the sponsors need to know, and how can they pray. What can we write about. She told me that they all said to pray for the kids, and share that you're praying for their families and their centers, too. But just write. Please, for the love of God, write. There are kids at the centers who don't get letters, and they are devastated. They pray for those letters, and when those letters don't arrive, they start to wonder if God answers prayer. They think they are unloved. That there is something unlikable about them. That they are alone. They feel like outsiders and it hurts. Joyce then told me something that may sound shocking at first, but I'm inclined to agree with her. She said, "I'm still going to talk to people about Compassion and sponsorship and everything about the program. But if someone tells me they're wanting to become a sponsor, I'm going to say 'if you're not going to write the letters, don't do it. Or tell Compassion right away that you aren't going to write, and to find a correspondence sponsor for your child.'" And I think she's right. We focus on getting kids sponsored, which is really important, but if my friends aren't going to write to their kids, and they're not going to take the step and give up the letter-writing aspect to someone who is ready, willing, and able to do it, I don't want them to become sponsors. I don't want to cause any more hurt or disappointment in the world. I don't want to be angry with my friends for not being willing to do something so simple and important.

I can't stress this enough. And at this point, I don't really care if people think I'm acting like a bully. Write to your sponsor kids. If you aren't writing to them, for all you know, Christian could be your sponsor child. Or your child could be living in another bad situation. They could have lost a sibling to illness. They could have lost their home to natural disaster. They could be having a medical issue of their own, like when Said fell off a bus and broke his leg and had to have surgery. Or my mom's sponsor child Jessika, who had surgery. Or Junior in Honduras, who was finally able to get surgery to have his strabismus corrected. You don't know if you don't write to them. And if you aren't writing, the good that you're doing is so severely limited. Please write to your kids, or try to find someone else who will. Those letters mean the world to them.

*Name changed to protect his privacy

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tanzania Tour Recap: Day 6

Here's the next installment of my Tanzania journal!

Day 6- March 13

Last night was miserable. Just miserable. I felt a little weird when I went to bed, and I woke up at 1:30 feeling horribly sick. I think a lot of it was nausea, but my stomach was really hurting. I mean aching. For me, a stomach ache usually means nausea or queasiness. Not a feeling like I am being stabbed. And I know this is gross, but it's part of the experience- I was having these horrific burps. I mean, the nastiest thing I have ever had going on with my mouth. I was pretty sure I was going to throw up. Back home, when I think I'm going to be sick (in the middle of the night), I grab my phone and purse and head to the bathroom. Maybe a bucket with a grocery bag in it, if things are serious. I turn on the light in the bathroom and camp out in there. Let me describe the process of preparing for digestive armageddon in Tanzania: clip mini flashlight to shirt strap because of sporadic blackouts. Grab phone, hard candy and meds. Put on shoes, because of scary bathroom. Wrestle with mosquito net. Find gallon plastic bag in suitcase, because there are no garbage cans here. Get to bathroom, drag rug from bathroom door area over by toilet so there is a semi-safe looking place to put phone, bag, and medicine. Thankfully, I had a Sprite left over from the day before (with the bottle cap just resting on top since none of the bottles have screw-on caps.) Those vile, disgusting burps just kept happening. I texted my mom and she started spreading the word that I really, really needed some prayer. In this case, the time difference was a good thing, because everyone was still awake back home- it was only around 5:30, I guess. I heard from Jess and Pat, and Denise, too. And a quick message from Melissa. From 2 to 4, I sobbed, cried, prayed, rebuked the devil (not even kidding) and sang worship songs. I set my iPad up to play through all the Christian artists, and just sat on the bed and rocked back and forth and cried. I couldn't even lie down. By 4 in the morning, I was able to recline some (I'm so thankful that my room has two beds, because that means three pillows. Not four or two, but three. And that works way better than one.) But even though I could recline a little, my stomach still really hurt. So I was a zombie this morning, and very wary of eating. I took some saltines and a cereal bar to breakfast, and just sat and nibbled on my own stuff (someone was amazed that I had saltines, until I 'fessed up to bringing them myself) 

We headed out to 813, which was a very big center. It's also the one that had the CSP. The mamas and babies were so cute. It was funny that all of the babies were wrapped up so heavily. They had long sleeves and pants, jackets, blankets, and all these other layers, plus the cloth that they were wrapped up in and strapped to their moms' backs. Oh, and hats! They all wore knitted hats. I got to talk to a pretty young lady in a really gorgeous dress. I thought she looked like the rainbow fish! Her name was Angel, and her baby's name was Karen. I was very happy to tell her that that's my mom's name. Karen had little hair puffs and was smiley and cute. She was a little over a year old. There were 15-20 moms and babies there, and I counted 6 kids named Happiness (or Happy.) 

I knew it was baby day because these were stacked on the table at breakfast!

Angel and Karen

The moms gave us blue and white scarves they had made. They feel pretty amazing- they're really well made, double layered and everything. It's just an added bonus that they're in UK blue and white! We toured the CSP aspects of the project, which was neat. I always thought that a CSP program was separate from a child development center, but it's just like a bonus program that the center offers. Most of the work with the moms is actually done in their homes! Anyway, I hear that this center had the best bathrooms of any of the centers we visited. They were still the kind of toilets that are installed in the ground, but they had cement floors, and toilet paper was provided. I wasn't super happy about having to give in and try one, but I guess it's impressive that I've lasted this long without having to go at a center or  in a bush by the side of the road, like almost everyone else on the trip! The CSP participants also had a tree nursery, and they grow many kinds of fruits, like bananas, papaya, mangos, and even grapes! I'd never seen a grape vine before, and I can't say I expected to see one in Africa. There was also a eucalyptus tree and some herb thing that smelled familiar, but we never could place it. 

When we went for our home visit, my group went to a sort of compound. They had a really nice place with a few rooms, and real (but old) couches. We visited a grandma, a mom, and the baby, who was the star of the show. Grandma said that Grandpa doesn't live with them right now because he is away doing "small business." Grandma (Rebekah) sells chicks in the market sometimes. The mom was 19. Her boyfriend is also in another city working, but they plan to get married. Rebekah said that she and her husband (I think they were married) had slowly built their home from the ground up, and it had taken them over a decade to get as far as they had. They said the baby was 6 months old, but she was sooo chubby. So many of the kids here are skinny- you can definitely tell that they are taking good care of her, and being part of the CSP is paying off! They had her in a beautiful white christening dress that looked like a tiny wedding gown....and fur pants. I don't know if they're trying to make the babies as warm as possible so they grow up used to the heat, or what. But it was hot today, and looking at that baby in her fur pants and knit cap made me feel a little woozy. We had a good visit- the family shared a lot with us, and they were really sweet.We wrapped up a little early, so Lee and Robert decided they were going to climb one of the giant rock piles behind the family's home. I can't even explain these things- they have to be some kind of natural wonder. Pando said they have no idea where the rocks came from, but they are GIGANTIC. Pictures don't do them justice. And the way they're piled up is really odd, like God was playing with them and then left them there. Keith went with them, and tore his jeans. Oops. They made it to the top really quickly. It was pretty amazing! 

These kids were playing farmer by "planting" a broken tree branch they found! It was ADORABLE. 

While touring the center, we saw the chicken house (a building as big as some of the classrooms we've seen, with tons of roosters, hens, and chicks.) It's so awesome that the center is able to work with that flock and generate income. A huge part of the CSP is just teaching the young women self-reliance and skills that they can turn into a business. Like the girl we visited on the home visit- she learned to make soap at the project, and now she's trying to save up some money to open her own shop, and make and sell soap! It's incredible! We visited a big room where they demonstrated the sewing machines and knitting stuff again. They also do batik at this center (or batika, as they called it.) That's fabric printing that I believe originated in Indonesia. We were able to buy some of their products, too! I got a batik wrap (not the size I had wanted, but I like the design) and a sweater for Anell! It is soooooo cute! They didn't have change, but I hadn't planned on asking for any, because the money goes back into the project, which is fine with me! 

We went back to the church to have lunch. I mainly ate fruit, because I'm kind of getting tired of rice. I'm trying not to be picky, but it really is becoming a challenge to eat. I sat with Emily and Keith, and later we were joined by Jeanie. It was funny because Emily was talking about her nerdy boyfriend (they have a Lord of the Rings joke regarding saving up for an engagement ring) and I told them that we played songs from LOTR and Star Wars at our wedding. Keith was like "wait, you're married?? How did I not know that? How have we been travelling together for four or five days now, and I didn't know that?" I think everyone else knew....anyway, I thought it was funny. 

A tiny girl named Dori came and sat with us, between me and Emily. She wouldn't answer any questions, even when Keith asked in Swahili (like "do you want something to drink?") but I finally got her to write down her name after I wrote mine down. She just wouldn't talk. I'm guessing she was about 7 or 8, but the kids here are so small that sometimes it's hard to tell. She's the size of an American kindergartener. The project uniform was a white shirt, a purple jumper, white socks and black shoes. Dori's jumper was broken (one strap was completely ripped off) and there was at least one large hole in the skirt part. And there was a big tear in the shoulder of her shirt. And holes in her shoes. She sat quietly eating her food, listening to us talk, even though I'm sure she had no idea what we were saying. Emily and I took turns covering her in stickers, and talked to her. We took pictures of her eating, and showed them to her. Sometimes she showed a small smile. I put a sticker on her leg- she looked at it and immediately crossed her legs so I could get the other one. Emily put one of the foam airplanes she brought together for Dori, and after some coaxing, Dori would throw it for Emily to fetch! When Jeanie moved away to try to hear the pastor's remarks (it was raining again, and so hard to hear), Dori nicked her soda bottle, which was half empty. She went to work drinking the rest of the orange soda, and when there wasn't much left, she'd carefully add water to make it last longer. Dori indicated that she wanted to use my camera, so I showed her how. When we stood up to sing, I noticed she was still sitting down taking pictures. I picked her up so she could have a better view. She is skin and bones. I had touched her shoulder earlier while putting a sticker on her, and it was seriously like there was just bone underneath her shirt. Even though I picked her up to see the stage area better, she still just took pictures of random stuff behind us. They called the moms and babies up to the front, and then asked us to come up as well, so we could pray for them. A church elder then prayed for us, and it was really beautiful. I wish I could record all of their prayers. 

Dori sidles over to check out Emily's hair

When we were done, it was time to leave. I looked around to try to find Dori. She had moved closer to the stage area with her little classmates, and they were picking up the half-finished bottles of soda others had left behind. I started walking up to her to say goodbye, and she just held her arms in the air and smiled. I picked her up and hugged her tight. I kissed her cheek and told her I loved her, and that she's beautiful and special. Emily took a picture for me, and when she asked Dori to look over at the camera, she pressed her cheek to mine and smiled. That's my favorite moment of the trip so far, I think. 

We're back at the hotel, and have some free time before dinner to meet with our VBS groups. My team is going to do some sample crafts, so they know how to instruct the kids, and we have a finished product to show them as a demo. After that it's dinner, shower, and bed. I hope they put out salt for the fries tonight (or "creeps.") I'm starting to kind of hate rice. And I know I'm not the only one. It really does get hard to swallow after a while. Like you put it in your mouth and then your body forgets the whole chewing and swallowing routine. I don't think I'll have much else to say tonight. I need to get to sleep after dinner and make up for the rest I didn't get last night. Tomorrow we're going to a center that's pretty close by (the guide says "within walking distance", but I'm pretty sure we're taking a bus) and then we'll have the afternoon to do more VBS planning. It will be our last night at this hotel. Saturday morning we're checking out and heading to Katesh again to do VBS, then we'll be at the tented camp!!