Friday, July 23, 2010

The L's stand for Love

My love for all things LL is long running and well documented. He is, in fact, the reason I totaled my first car. But I can honestly say, while I am alone in my room and staring at the wall, in the back of my mind I hear my conscience calling....and it's saying that I have never loved LL more than I do right now. At this very moment. I do need love.
Blaaaaawwww- How ya like me now?

*You may need to wait a quick second for the video to load or buffer or some such computery geek thing, but put the time in. You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wisdom of the Ages

(You are right Scott...I WILL NOT BE CENSORED!)

Before I left for Africa, I had a conversation with a friend/coworker that went a little something like this.

"Did you remember to pack condoms?"

"You're kidding, right?"

"Hey- I know you're Mormon and all that, but stranger things have happened."

"Yeah- I'm fairly certain that at no point in this trip will I be in need of condoms. I'd pretty much bet the farm on it." After 31-ish years of rampant Mormonism, there are some things that you do know for certain.

"Whatever...I'm just sayin'."

Little did I know, stranger things did in fact happen. I'm just sayin'.

 the picture is apparently 'in bad taste' but you probably need a little more in your life if this is what you choose to get worked up about. How do you suppose we got Simba in the first place! If you want to see more Africa pics along with funny commentary, you should probably be my friend on the great FB. Which you probably should be anyway.....cause everyone needs to see my face a little more often than they do.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


This is Africa.

After the first week working in Africa, which included a veritable baptism by cement (I still can't bring myself to write about cement day, yet), the team headed off on safari and a much needed respite from our labors. Only this break didn't include swanky hotel rooms and room service. It involved tents and driving around the dusty, bumpy savannah, in search of the ever illusive rhino. Okay- so the tent wasn't that bad...

Honestly, I would put my name on the rolls of the hard-core campers if this was the way tent camping normally went. However, this was definitely not like any tent I had ever seen before. And while we never did catch a glimpse of a rhino, we did see all sorts of wild things.

It is quite an experience to see so many animals, so close, and so free. It's what we all imagine when we think of Africa. Scar and Mufasa's eternal and fatal struggle for power over the Pridelands. But it also made me think about whether or not this is really a full and complete picture of Africa. As Brittany and I walked to our 'tent' we commented on how the sky just seemed so much.....more.... than the sky that we see from home. The sunsets are the sort that you normally only see in your dreams. The horizons go on forever. And even the graphic, in your face reminder of exactly how the food chain works is awe inspiring. But if this was our first and only encounter with Africa, we would have gotten just a fraction of what this land holds. Cheated of the most precious and valuable thing that Africa has to offer. Her people.

Even though he may not get sweets often, one little boy unwrapped his candy, took a lick, and passed it along to his friend so that they both could have a treat. Isaac, knew that he could help the children in the slums of Soweto, by giving them a safe place to go to school. Another young man sat on the rooftop of his crudely made home to work on his studies. He had to use the last precious moments of daylight before he had nothing left but the darkness. And then there was the man who happened by a group of overwhelmed wazungu, all of which are nearly enveloped in concrete, and jumped in to help...just because it looked like we needed it.

It's the people that make Africa amazing. They are kind, hard working, thoughtful and self-less. But perhaps my favorite thing about the people is their curiosity and their loving nature. Whether it was the kids sneaking up next to you and softly pinching the skin on your arms, just to check if you feel the same way they do, or the chorus of, "How are you?" as they ran alongside the vans...their smiles and eyes are forever burned into my heart. As cool as the safari and the animals are, they are not what makes Africa great. Not by a long shot.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Expect it to be Everything

Aerodynamically, the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway.-Mary Kay Ash

Apparently no one told a group of stay at home mom's/wives, students, school teachers, wine distributors, health care professionals, event planners, and children that we couldn't go and build a school. So we went and did it anyway.

Well, we got a good start on it at least. I am sure that past groups felt like they had the best mix of people possible. This year was no different. It felt like we had the perfect storm of volunteers.

Each person had their own reasons for taking on the task of helping children in a far off corner of the world. I was hoping for some perspective. I had gotten into the habit of letting circumstances, work and people determine my level of happiness. Those outside forces obviously, weren't very concerned that I stayed on the sunny side of things. So, I left for Africa with a heavy heart. Not because of any one horrible thing...just the sum of many little things. I wasn't particularly happy and wasn't particularly happy with the person that I was becoming. The thing that worried me the most was that I wasn't smiling nearly as much as I used to, and more than a few people had mentioned it. As we left the plane and transferred into the bus that would take us to the Amani Centre, I was worried. Horrified almost. There was exuberant harmonizing of both church songs and boy band songs coming from the back of the bus. I was certain, and fairly upset, that I had unwittingly signed myself up for some coked-up version of EFY-goes international.

That first day brought with it a lot of visits. Visits to schools and orphanages where World of Difference had already been in years past. One school in particular had Gordon B. Hinckley's now famous "Be's" painted throughout the hallways. It was a surreal experience to walk through the halls of an orphanage on the exact opposite side of the world and see the words of the prophets standing as a reminder of how to be just a bit better today than the day before.
The kids came out to sing and dance, as is the Kenyan way, to welcome visitors. It was sweet to see the excitement on the faces of the returning volunteers, and the children in the orphanages, as they were reunited.

But there was no getting past the reality that these sweet kids lived a reality that most of us could not even imagine. Typically each bed slept 3 kids....and they are stacked three high. The conditions of the orphanage certainly left much to be desired if measured by American standards, but the kids at this particular orphanage could not have been happier. They have learned how to play instruments and dance, so that they would have a means to make money...and were as tight as any blood related family I have ever seen.

Laura, one of the women in our group, was talking to a young boy at the orphanage. As they were talking, she wondered about what it must be like for him not to have a mother to run to when he got hurt, or any siblings to conspire and make mischief with.

No sooner had the thought crossed her mind, than the young boy looked at her with the excitement that only a child can muster and said, "Oh- do you want to meet my brother?"

Of course she went to meet his brother, and it all became clear. This boy was obviously not introducing her to his actual brother...but a fellow orphan who he loved so much, he considered a brother. That feeling seemed to permeate every place we went. They may not have the comforts, luxuries and families that we do....but they have a degree of love, peace and happiness that I can only dream of.

At our first team dinner, we debriefed what happened that day and made a plan for the coming days. Brie, who had a cousin that had been on this trip many times before had been given the advise, "Expect it to be everything." It seemed like a pretty bold statement at the time, but over the course of the next two weeks, I realized that statement was one hundred percent accurate. It was everything. It was exciting, sad, intriguing, healing, exhausting and exhilarating. In the end, I came to wonder who actually benefited more from this trip, the Kenyans who simply needed to expand their schoolhouse, or the Americans who have much more stuff than we need, but still can't manage to find the happiness we desire. I may have come to Kenya with a bit of a heavy heart, but I certainly did not leave that way.

**Being that I lost the memory card from my camera with the first week worth of pictures on it, most of these photos are lovingly stolen from Scott and Brittany