March 15, 2013

Looking Back

Today, I had the amazing opportunity to go and talk to a super cool group of third graders about life in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Helping kids understand why we should care about Africa is one of my biggest passions in life. 

We used statistics and fractions to figure out what percentage of the class would be able to afford to go to school in Africa.  We talked about access to clean water and I made those kids haul gallons of dirty water around.  We talked about malaria and poverty and family roles.  We talked about how beautiful the cultures and the people are.  We learned a traditional harvest dance (and shockingly, they did not make fun of my uncoordinated, old lady moves!)  We finished up by sharing a meal of rice and beans. 

They soaked it up!  And I learned that I could NEVER be a teacher.  I felt like I needed a nap when I got home and I reminded myself that I really need to figure out a way to send my kid's teachers to Hawaii on a month long sabatical for doing what they do every day. 

I got to wear the dress that I got in Congo (because I firmly believe that if you are going to teach about Africa then you should dress the part)...

...and it made me think about the day that I got that dress.  It was on the third day that I was in Africa picking up that little bundle of joy we had just adopted.  I wrote about that day back when only about 6 people were reading here so I thought that I would just share a bit from that post because I never tire of a story that involves both poop and translucent boobs...

(From March 2010) Miles has a bad case of giardia (parasites) from drinking bad water his whole life. It took the lab 4 days to figure that out for some reason and it has so far taken the pharmacy 4 days to get the medication ordered. Collecting all those poop samples has been the highlight of motherhood for me, let me tell you! Lots of dry heaving was involved. Hopefully we'll finally get to start treating it this afternoon so the kid can stop exploding. And by exploding I really do mean exploding. As in- it's about 8 AM and he is already on his 4th set of clothes for the day. This is a problem that Miles has had since the day I met him. It is much easier to deal with here in the US where I have a washing machine and running water. In Congo, these spontaneous poop combustions were a nightmare- except for one time that turned out to be the most humorous part of the trip...

Did you notice the fabulous Congolese dress I had on in the pictures of my visit to the orphanage? The dress was bought out of serious necessity! When we went to the market to buy the beans to take to the orphanage, Miles had the worst blowout in blowout history in the taxi. Unfortunately, he was on my lap when this happened. To say that I was covered in poop would be the understatement of the century. It went from my knees to my chest and soaked all the way through my clothes. Yep- I was knee deep in it. I had a change of clothes for the baby, but nothing for myself. After about 3 minutes in the heat, flies were beginning to swarm all around me. We were at a food market and there was no clothing to be bought. Once the driver got a good look at me, he drove us to the closest street vendor selling dresses. I walked up to the lady selling her wares in all my poopy glory. I could see in her eyes she didn't want me anywhere near her goods.

I made some gestures to her that I obviously needed to get something to change into. She grabbed something off her display and drug me by the hand back into this abandoned building. She took me into a room the was all empty and concrete and shut the door. This was maybe not the smartest move I ever made, but seriously- a girl covered in flies and parasitic diarrhea will do whatever necessary! Once we were in the room together the woman just kept staring at me. She didn't say anything- obviously she knew it wouldn't do any good to talk to me since we didn't speak a word of the same language. This staring at each other game went on for a good while.

Finally I didn't know what else to do, so I just stripped. When I say stripped, I mean everything- because I was poop soaked all the way through my skivvies. Then the woman made some sort of gesture with her hands that alluded to "the girls". I'd like to think she was paying them a compliment, but more likely she was thinking something like, "Wow- I've never seem anything that white. Those are so white you can almost see through them!" or "Man- those things are seriously droopy! Poor, stupid American!" Once I was naked, more staring. Really- when someone is staring at you naked, 5 seconds can feel like an eternity! I was starting to think, "Ummm, maybe getting buck in an abandoned building with a strange lady in Congo was NOT the right thing to do."

So after standing there completely exposed for a good while while the lady took me and all my lily whiteness in- she finally slipped the new dress over my head. It was enormous, but after the whole experience, I didn't really care or want to try to bargain for a smaller one. And that is the story of how I came to be the owner of my native Congolese duds.

It is like that nightmare where you are standing naked and people are making fun of you. Only add in the third world and tons of poop and that about sums up the experience. Yep- good times in Africa!

This week I'm also posting over at What To Expect- hop on over there and take a peek!

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