Walk a mile in my shoes
The question was a simple one: Who would like to shadow an Arise Africa child sponsorship officer and be a CSO for a day?
Lara and I were paired with Susan, who is one of the CSOs at the Dotroda school west of town. Alissa told us that we needed to get up before the sun in order to be at the bus stop by 7:00. We set the alarm for half-past twilight and hopped right out of bed when Lara’s phone started to chime.
Actually, we didn’t.
Instead, we looked at Country Director Megan quizzically when she barged through our door, wondering why we weren’t ready to go to the bus stop at 6:45? I have never dressed so fast in my entire life. In a matter of minutes, I managed to brush my teeth, put on deodorant, cover my funky hair with a hat and fill two bottles full of water. Dotroda, HERE WE COME!
Fun fact: I often call this school Dorota. Then I pause, knowing that Arise Africa wouldn’t name one of their schools after Blaire Underwood’s maid on Gossip Girl. After a few minutes, I work it out. Dorota quickly morphs into Dotroda and all is well.
We leave the complex at 6:45. By 7:30 we meet up with Susan and hop in a mini bus (read: it’s a van) with 17 of our closest friends. Lara leans in to whisper, “I wish I had even half a cup of coffee.” I hear you, sister. Except replace the word “coffee” with Dr Pepper. And add a bowl of Cheerios to the list.
It’s important to know that each mini bus has a conductor who basically sticks his entire torso out of a moving vehicle’s window, hoping to entice another passenger to join the party by whistling at crowds or street corners. When our conductor pounds on the roof of the van, signaling the driver to stop, we are totally surprised by his decision to add yet another adult human being to our masses.
Really dude? This nice Zambian man to my right’s butt cheek is halfway on my lap. And I’m halfway on Lara’s. Have you thought through this decision?
Lara happens to be sitting on the makeshift wooden chair that is in no way part of the original schematics of this particular Honda Odyssey. The conductor instructs the woman to sit in the row in front of us and then climbs in himself. HE doesn’t have a chair. He shuts the door before bending over Lara’s lap as if she’s giving him a spanking.
I’m going to let your imagination go where it wants to go after reading that sentence.
I begin to laugh so hard that the bench shakes. Everyone looks at the crazy white girl. In my defense, let’s recap: Lara’s personal space is being invaded by my butt and the conductor’s crotch. Jesus take the wheel.
One wrong turn, one illegal jump of a road meridian and 30 minutes later, our conductor launches out of the moving van as if he’s trying out for the Zambian X-Games. Although Lara is thankful to have her lap back, we are concerned for his well-being. Did he make the jump? Did he drop and roll at the end? Would he medal if given the proper training? We many never know.
We reach downtown one hour into our journey. It’s time to get off this particular mini bus and switch to one going toward Matero, so Susan chooses another among dozens of mini buses at the depot. We follow her serpentine style. She’s the mother hen and we are her little chicks following behind as she whisks past people selling cell phones, candy and hair extensions.
Luckily, I didn’t need any new polyester hair. My weave is holding up nicely in the Zambian heat.
Susan chooses a bus in the back of the pack, wiggles her way into the last row of seats and settles in for another 45 minutes of intimacy with complete strangers, swaying to the smooth sounds of Zambian’s version of Lite FM. Delilah would be so proud.
At 9:15 we arrive at the school’s neighborhood and we schlep our stuff to Dotroda. The kids are gearing up for testing and we find Chris, Joseph and David in the shipping container (read: office) doing a devotional. At this point, I was nursing a caffeine headache and Lara was suffering from thigh violation. We needed Jesus and we needed Him bad.
Chris quoted 9,000 verses in five minutes and Joseph brought the Word. David schooled us and Susan inspired everyone in two sentences. It was clearly evident that these blessed individuals know what they are doing. I’m so glad they are in charge of these sweet children running around like banshees outside.
The next item on the agenda is chopping vegetables. You’ve never lived until you’ve used a dull knife to slice and dice what looks like collard greens, but is called broccoli for some reason, for a solid 30 minutes. You’ll also never feel like more of a weakling when you see a Zambian woman who could be your mother chop four greens to your one with the same knife. Bless it.
At 10:00, we leave the school with Joseph to pick up a kid named Daniel to take him to a good hospital we trust. He has an open wound on his leg. Joseph introduces me to Daniel as a “ghostbuster” and I beam because that means Joseph reads my blog. (HEY JOSEPH!!!) He arranges for a taxi to pick us all up from Daniel’s house. We pile in the car and I hand out Dum Dum lollipops and call it brunch.
We arrive at the hospital 45 minutes later, only to find that the gaping hole in Daniel’s leg can not be treated. The normal doctor we typically see isn’t in today. So we talk the nurses into at least dressing his wound before we hike over to the clinic. While Daniel waits his turn, he has the distinct pleasure of witnessing another kid having blood drawn. Consider his mind blown. This should be fun.
We get back into a cab and head to the clinic. On the way, we pass a lake and Lara asks its name.
Joseph: “That’s sewage.”
Good. To. Know. Put away the bathing suits, ladies.
An hour later, we arrive at the clinic where more Arise Africa kids are in the waiting room to be immunized. Daniel sees a nurse, a doctor, an XRAY technician and then the doctor again. The good news is that he’s okay. The bad news is that the wound needs to be thoroughly cleaned. Dr. Michael keeps squeezing the wound together and letting it bounce back. I tap out and count on Lara and Joseph to step up at this point. Daniel would like to murder the doctor. At this point, I would too. Can I get some morphine for us both over here?
At 1:15 we get into another cab to head back to Matero. Daniel is irritated with us all. A cotton candy Dum Dum doesn’t help at all. Neither does the fact that the taxi smells like Fritos and Zambian Acoustic Sunrise was blaring from all the speakers. Joseph receives a call from Chris asking for a favor. Could we run by Ms. Kaliki’s “house” to give her a message?
Running by Ms. Kaliki’s house was more of a drive by. She lives in the lumber yard, therefore, every mini bus in the greater Matero metropolitan was driving on Ms. Kaliki’s street. Joseph instructs the driver to start shouting, “KALIKI” out the window when we get close. Her sister scrambles up and begins running alongside the car (at a comfortable speed) and Joseph relays the message. Then Daniel’s grandmother starts waving to friends from the front seat because she is practically a celebrity riding around in a taxi. It’s like she’s the queen of a homecoming parade. A hot, sticky homecoming parade.
When we return Daniel and his grandmother to their house, we give his mom the rundown on how she needs to treat Daniel. Then Joseph suggests we pray for the family. Daniel’s mom gently nudges him in our direction and the kid…melts…down. He does NOT want to pray with white people who squeeze his open wound and then douse it with iodine. No thank you. Lara prays anyway as Daniel weeps tears of terror. Hey Jesus? Could you take that wheel again?
It’s 2:00 in the afternoon and we finally get back to Dotroda. You know, the place where Lara and I were supposed to work all day long. Chris, David and Susan are really cool about not having hard feelings that they had to feed 100 kiddos by themselves. We decided that the best plan of action was to buy a Coke from the stand next door and drown our sorrows in sugary goodness and beef jerky.
It was a game changer.
We discussed life, love and how we can find Joseph a wife once he moves to Zimbabwe to go to the university. I have it all figured out. We’re going to do an African version of The Bachelor and it’s going to be epic. Get ready. Chris is going to be season 2. I can’t wait.
An hour later, we squish into a mini bus headed for downtown. When we make the switch at the depot for a reason with which I am unclear, Lara and I are escorted to the front seat with the driver while our friends giggle behind us. Joseph and Susan let the driver know that we are looking for husbands and Alfred is GAME ON! He offers Lara 15 cows and two mini buses as a dowry.
She’s practically engaged! We take a selfie to celebrate.
At 3:45 we connect with our last bus. Susan’s lap is violated this go around with a lovely woman and her baby. I sit directly behind her. The conductor Jimmy gave me approximately 23 fist bumps in 30 minutes. How do I know his name is Jimmy? Because he gave me his phone number. It’s not 15 cows and two mini buses, but I still feel loved and accepted.
By the time Alissa picks us up at the bus stop corner and drives us back to the complex, it’s 5:00 in the evening. It feels like midnight.
Susan travels for two hours a day to get to Dotroda school.
Chris is intentional with discipling each and every one of those children.
Joseph took an entire day out of his schedule to help Daniel.
It’s important to know that Daniel is not sponsored by Arise Africa. He doesn’t even go to the school. He’s just a seven-year-old in the community who had a need. So Arise Africa stepped in and did something about it.
It was a privilege to walk in each of their shoes today. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” — Mark 10:45