Friday, August 26, 2016

Miscarriage: My Story

"Take one breath at a time, one day at a time. It wonʻt always be this hard"

Where to begin...

I have started and stopped this blog about a thousand times because I know it is going to be painful. However, I hope that somehow and some way it will help someone else go though this incredibly painful experience. I have learned that by being open and honest about my feelings and what I have gone through, I have made friends I didnʻt expect because our trials have brought us together. It has helped me grow and help me process. I am being honest that this is not my most faith filled and positive experience. It is honest and raw, the way it really went. SO, here goes nothing.

Iʻve been spending quite a bit of time in therapy (which by the way, I still think everyone should go to) and we talked about how it has been a long time since I blogged. And it was the last time I was stuck in bed for open heart that I took to the computer and I felt like it was a great way to get out some of the difficulties I was going through and process it.

Well, here I am back in bed. For those who donʻt know I had some pretty major back surgery back in June on two ruptured discs. It has been challenging, but it has given me time to stop and process and restart this blog. 

So, I really wanted to talk about one of the most difficult parts of my journey. The one that is rarely talked about, frequently suffered in silence, and unfortunately very common.  

Here is my story, and some perspective for those who have miscarried and are going through it, those who may go through it in the future, and for those who never will experience it - but donʻt know what to do or say to those who are living it. 

On February 22 we officially got the news that we were pregnant! I actually had a feeling at like week 2-3 (which some people say is not possible), but I knew pretty instantly that there was a little spirit in there. We were overjoyed. Over the moon! We found out in front of the health department and screamed and held each other. Something I would never forget! It was seriously a miracle because doctors had said it would be pretty near impossible for me to get pregnant without help. So, they told me to go ahead and go off my birth control when we got married because there is no way my body would ovulate right away. Guess again! More reading has said that women with PCOS are most fertile the minute they go off birth control because your body is working hardest to remember what it should do on its own.

We wanted so badly to get pregnant! We are both so ready to be parents. We believed that this was an incredible miracle and although I was on a ton of medications and dealing with ongoing heart issues, God wanted this baby here -- because why would I get pregnant in the first place if he didn't? 

So here is the one picture I have during my short pregnancy. It hurts my heart to look at this because I really was so happy. I know with everything in me the reason I have been protected, safe, and lived through some scary experiences is to be a mother. This is a face of a girl who sees a future of excitement. Of baby clothes. Of Firsts. Of play dates! And Disneyland. Of gymnastics and dollies and all things girly (which also, strong intuition that this baby was a girl. Both Devin and I knew).

I started going pinterest crazy! I told more people than I should, because once again I thought there was no way I was losing this baby. And, I knew that if something should happen, they would be the people I would feel most comfortable telling the other side to I went ahead with it.

I got maternity clothes, bought "What to Expect When Youʻre Expecting" and "Dude, youʻre gonna be a Dad!" for Dev. I signed up for every app there is and countdowns. I can honestly say that next to my wedding day, it is the happiest I have ever been. Happy that with this incredible man, pregnancy was easier than I thought! I thought maybe for once, God was going to let me do things the easy way when it comes to the functionality of my body. 

Unfortunately, I  was very wrong. 

On the Sunday of our 9th week Devin and I both woke up and something felt different. I have never seen Devin sleep in that long ever. We hardly talked. No appetite. And I felt empty. 

Then the cramping started, and it wasnʻt the normal uterine cramping I faced. This was the clear through the back, take your breath away cramping. I called my mom in a panic and I could hear her nervousness in her voice although I know she was staying positive for me. 

I laid of the floor and tried to tell myself it was probably normal. But then the clincher for me was when Chloe (my puppy) who since the instant I was pregnant was very, very careful around my tummy. That morning she came running in with her toy and used my tummy as a spring board to jump onto the bed. I knew she wasnʻt there anymore. That spirit, that life, my little blueberry, my sweet girl.....was most definitely gone. 

I was in agony the next two days while I passed the embryo that I had to watch. It was traumatic. I have no idea how that canʻt be called life? With itʻs heartbeat, growing fingernails, and brain. It was humbling to see life like that.

I laid on the floor alone, bleeding, and empty. I felt so alone after having a life with me for those nine weeks. Many would say, "oh you were only nine weeks at least. Can you imagine longer how much worse it would be? Nine weeks you arenʻt even attached yet." (This goes in not good things to say category) Let me tell you, I was attached. That was more than "tissue". That was the start of a future and family, and all my dreams coming true. 

The next few days were so strange. Devin and I were so devastated. If you know my husband, you know he has that sweet smile on his face just about always. But we cried and we held each other some more and cried. 

The packages I ordered of baby clothes and cute maternity outfits mad me furious. I threw them against the wall. My stupid apps I signed up for sold my email so that every day since I get a new email from some company saying, "CONGRATS! Youʻre 6 months and 3 days along!" And all I want to do each time (and a lot of times I do) is yell "shut the hell up! And stop sending me these!"

Everywhere I turned was a baby, a pregnant woman, and pregnancy announcement on Facebook. I definitely took a hiatus and it is still hard for me. Yesterday I counted 6 announcements and 32 baby pictures. I counted because I wanted to show what happens when something is so glaring in your face...that you canʻt ignore the woman on the street with the big belly. Every time I see a new announcement I try to tell myself to be happy....and trust me, you are happy for them! Itʻs just this dichotomy of happiness for others and a punch in the gut of what you donʻt and canʻt have right now. A reminder of what isnʻt. And itʻs a stab in the heart....and let me explain why. 

1. One of my fundamental beliefs is that we were put on this Earth to create families. It is one of the most incredible gifts I believe we are given - is to create life. I mean, how amazing is that? Especially with someone you love...nothing is greater in my mind. In fact, it is incredible, yet so basic. So basic that we are taught how careful we have to be not to get pregnant. That it just takes once! Yes I learned that. But what miscarriage and infertility has taught is me is how incredibly UN-basic it is. How fragile life is in the beginning. And you begin to hear people all around you complaining about how miserable pregnancy, motherhood, and raising kids is. And all you feel in your heart is the ache to switch places. Yes, I was incredibly morning sick, my legs ached, my back hurt, and coming off medications was hell. But for once my illness had a purpose! Iʻm not saying you canʻt ever have a bad day as a mother, to complain. But what I hope this blog does is help remind people who incredibly blessed and amazing it is to have that opportunity. To have it come easy if that is how it happened for you. Because there are more women than I had any idea of who struggle every day with infertility. With the heartache of staring at a stick for 30 seconds waiting and hoping only to get a "not pregnant" over and over and over again. Feeling like a failure every month when you get your period, because it is a sad reminder of an empty uterus. Of nothing there. Of women that take ovulation tests like they are an addiction. And count days, and take temps, and agonize of symptoms, and track every detail of the most intimate parts of your life. SO when people make flippant comments about how easy getting pregnant was for them, and why itʻs taking so long for you really hurts. 

One example of a completely innocent comment sent me into a full blown panic attack. 

I was at the doctor to find out whether I needed a D and C. I was already terrified and then when I got there, I ran into a couple I know who congratulated me because they heard the good news, and I had to awkwardly tell them I was there because we had lost it. Rough start. The lady called me up to the counter and said in a regular speaking voice in front of a very small waiting room "Now, youʻre here for the miscarriage, right?" and looked at me like she was dealing with someone with a fever. "Yes" I replied as I watched eyes look up from their phones and magazines and quickly look away. I pulled my jacket quickly around me and walked to my seat trying not to make eyes with anyone. 

This was one of the only times I didnʻt have someone at the doctor with me because of scheduling issues and I was very scared. The next girl that came through the door was probably 8 months pregnant and instantly tears welled up in my eyes. I pulled it together and waited for my name. A few minutes later the nurse comes in and says, "Chelsea..." Myself and the pregnant girl stood up at the same time. The nurse then looked at me and smiled and said, "sorry, other Chelsea." The girl then says, "You can go if you want! But I am certain you donʻt want allll of this" as she rubbed her cute her belly...

All the eyes that had heard 5 minutes before that I was here for a miscarriage again looked up from their phones, with all of us knowing that one cut deep - out of innocence. I was heart broken.

I went into the bathroom sobbing and unable to catch my breath.

Ugh. It was awful. And I donʻt blame her! It was totally innocent like I said. But sometimes innocent comments like, "when are you going to start your family already?!" can cut so deep. 

2. One thing I really didnʻt understand about miscarriages before I experienced it myself, is what hell it is on your body, your hormones, your emotions, and your mental health. Let me break it down for you:

If you miscarry in the beginning (really anytime) you experience the lovely symptoms of your first trimester which is the crappy part of pregnancy. Morning sickness, cravings, weight gain, emotional and hormone changes...all that fun stuff. I still look like a swollen balloon. Granted some of that is meds and surgery, but I just felt like I never let go of that extra water weight I stuffed on. 

Then you get to experience labor and contractions. And they hurt. And your uterus feels like, man, I donʻt know! Like your gonna lose it on the way to work or something weird like that. And you bleed like you would not believe. Itʻs terrible.

And then you get to experience postpartum depression, with no cute baby to come home to. So you are dealing with loss, sadness, anxiety, and depression like I have never experienced. To be honest, I got to the point of feeling like I no longer wanted to be on this earth. I know enough about depression to know that was not me talking, and I have been completely open and honest with my family about this to keep me safe. It has been so hard to tell my sweet hubby that, because we just got married! And Iʻm having these thoughts?! I did not want him to think this was about him. These were my stupid hormones talking. And it is so real. If you want to know just how real postpartum depression is, read this tragic story about the Emily Effect. It is so horrific and heartbreaking and incredibly moving. I hope we can take the stigma out of this and understand how real it is.

I have not been myself since. I am trying, but am still so closed off to friends and family. I feel like an outer casing...a shell with nothing inside. I still have little interest in so many things I usually do. My head is foggy and cloudy. I canʻt shut off my brain and the demons telling me I am worthless. I hardly sleep, scared of my dreams. It has been hard to get out of bed. I have lost my faith and my footing for some time, and am slowly bringing that back. I had so much anger and frustration with God. Why couldnʻt he stop this? Why couldnʻt he intervene? I definitely had so much entitlement that I should be immune from this.  I have never ever felt like this, in any trial I have faced, but this was different. This has been a special kind of hell.

Something that has really helped build my faith back in God and brought me closer to Him was in this talk found HERE. Whether you are mormon or not, this can really help you come closer to God and help bring some perspective. Something I have really needed during this time. 

"Your illness is not your identity. Your chemistry is not your character." - Pastor Rick Warren

3. The last thing I wanted to talk about is that if you are going through this, you are definitely not alone. It may feel like the loneliest experience you will ever go through, but you have so many people that have gone through or are going through infant loss. I found that there are so many support groups and people to talk to, but you have to  be open enough to share your story as well. I know people have gone through much worse than I have. Had still borns one right after another. I know that we each have our personal crosses to bare, and this was definitely mine. It felt like the heaviest I have had to carry in some ways - probably because it is the thing I want most in life. 

To watch it slip through my hands and to have to walk into the dark not knowing what life is going to hand me is terrifying. Doctors have warned me that this is going to be a very difficult journey. That my heart, my meds, my PCOS all complicate things very much. That I have a very low chance of carrying full term, of having gestational diabetes, of passing on defects, and a chance of having to do in vitro. It scares me so bad!

But all we can do is try again and have faith. Knowing that we may have to do this again and again, but that we will get there! There are so many strong women that have gone through this and have their families and give me hope. Am I excited about it? Not so much - at least not the journey to get there. To those who get to just get pregnant and have easy and healthy pregnancies - ah! To be you. You are blessed! But we are just going to put one foot in front of the other and trust that the Lord has our best interest in mind. 

So there you go. A brutally honest and open letter about what this has been like in the moment to go through a miscarriage. I know I will heal, I know it gets better, and I know that although I will always feel like I lost a piece of my heart when I lost her, she is with me. Helping me heal! In fact, the other day I had such a beautiful experience. I woke up and I felt her laying on my chest, comforting me. It was so clear! And something I could never fully explain, but I knew it was her. And it was so peaceful, and so beautiful. Something I will take with me forever. 

My husband and I have become insanely close during this experience and he has been able to heal my heart and fill in the gaps where I am lacking with his faith, like caulking fixing me piece by piece. If you go through this, donʻt let it be a stumbling block in your marriage, but a building block. We know we will have kids later, you donʻt have to tell us this. And maybe when we look back we will have a little more understanding. But for right now, it stings. And my wounds are fresh and healing them sucks. And although I have had negative experiences, I have also had some positives. And it has made me a very sensitive person these days. As I look in peopleʻs eyes I wonder what heartache they are facing, because we just never know. And it makes me want to be more loving and more kind to everyone around us. 

Thanks for reading and for being my online support. I canʻt tell you how much it helps me to know you are there. 

More soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

So very much to say....But mostly my Dev

I donʻt really know how to explain how our first five months have been without just giving you word vomit, so Iʻll sum it up in one word......


But despite many tragedies, health issues, family trials, leaning on the atonement, dealing with  sudden depression and anxiety that I am dealing with, excitement of moving in together, getting just settled into marriage. Itʻs.... a lot.

And without boring you with some very personal details, we have been through much more than your average newlyweds. 

However, I will tell you, marriage is sooooooo freaking fun. Because even if you have the worst day ever  --,you know you have this cute mug to come home to - to sloth, play cards, go shopping (when heʻs feelinʻ it...that trooper), and Netflix. Ya, and if you wanna eat out....letʻs go! Cuz you do you boo, because your married now, and that newly wed card is a great one to throw down. 

But as I had said before, we have been through a lot and although having so many difficult circumstances up front really sucked, it also really brought us so much closer together in many ways .
The champion in all of this, is my sweet Devin. Good pick right? He might be a little embarrassed I am posting about him, but I canʻt help it. 

Well, if you donʻt know me, now you do. And one thing that will become pretty clear is I am emotional girl. I know what youʻre thinking "all girls are emotional"! Well, I have an extra dose of  hormones raging through this body that make my tear ducts free to flow for appropriate, and what would seem inappropriate times to cry.  I cry when I am mad, scared, angry. in love, happy, sad, excited, depressed, anxious. And Devin did not grow up in an emotional home, but boy did he marry an emotional girl! And he is being so patient. Some days there are legitimate reasons to cry...and other days itʻs like....come on Cheltz. No matter what emotional rollercoaster I decided to get on that day, he just works like the perfect teammate balancing out what I canʻt handle, and holding me up where things are so heavy. 

I love this picture so much because it shows what a good dad he is going to be! Not because our little Olive girl has some stranger danger fears (she warmed up to us I promise! ) But more that he just rolls with punches. Kids love him...Heck! Everyone loves him. But anyway, I love his cool presence that he relaxes my high maintenance personality. He is down for anything....including DisneyLand! Cue cheesy DL pics:

He just was like a little boy and it was so fun to watch him go for his first time.He loved the food, for sure, and maybe not the Micky and Minnie hats, but thatʻs what I love him for. He let me live my childhood at the same time. Even though we were hot and tired, we felt the magic for sure!

So, I know Dev hates kissing pictures, and when I talk about his soft side. But this boy is so tender (do we hate that word? yuk..) kind, generous, beyond all belief, and always has everyone elseʻs interests in mind. I was so attracted to that, and I have been so much more in love with him as I watch him in adoration. I love his gentleness and those sweet kisses he surprises me with that I will never ever turn down.

And well...just saying. His prettyy dang hot. But more than that he has brought me close to God, built my faith, dried so many tears, makes me feel incredibly loved and cared for. You will never hear a mean word about myself and those he loves cross his mouth. Heʻs a team player and will always put others welfare above his own. And well, I just love that Tavanā boy so much. 

All I can say the wait was worth every minute. 

Thanks for choosing me Devin Matauaina. I love you dearly.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cultural Exchange: I Am Not A Tourist

So many things have been on my mind lately. It’s like every day is your own personal enlightenment when you come on these trips. Each day I learn so much about this beautiful land, God, and mostly myself. I have come to a lot of realizations that I would not trade for anything, and maybe this post may not be interesting to another person out there but a reminder to myself of some things that really have changed my thinking

.1. Development – mostly of myself and not Malawi.
 I have always loved development and humanitarian work. Anyone who knows me knows that. My first experience in Kenya was vastly different than the one I am having now. I was 16 then and seeing that kind of poverty was a difficult and jarring experience despite one that I will always cherish and love and think about daily. I came back from that country kind of bitter about a lot of things....mostly of Americans and that it all seemed so unfair. I got caught up in what I feel like many do when they travel to these countries – feeling like we need to find a way to help. There is so much injustice and sadness in the world. Questions of why so many lack when we have so much excess? It was hard for my young mind to wrap my head around. Many years of study and lots of different experiences in different countries has helped me to understand much more. There is an incredible amount of poverty and hunger and violence and very awful things, but there is also an amazing amount of goodness. And although many lack in comparison when it comes to temporal welfare in terms of what we (as Americans) may believe a person must have to be happy or comfortable, it is simply not the standard and many times not the necessity.
      I remember driving around Nairobi overwhelmed by what I thought many lacked and thought, “this is so sad....look at how little there is.” Now I understand. There is little in terms of “things”, but I can tell you that these beautiful people often do not lack in happiness and that happiness comes from the outpouring of gratitude for what they do have. They also do not lack the spirit of God and goodness. They do not lack the ability to help one another. They know who they are. They are incredible. The media can paint such an awful picture of Africa - the protruding bellies, the flies, the orphans...they fail to capture the real Africa. The part that my soul delights to be in – the generosity and great attitude that I wish I could bottle up and give to so many in America, the part of our country and culture that maybe we could work on. This is the Africa I wish I could paint. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot that of good to be done, a lot that can be and should be fixed – but often we hyper focus on the wrong instead of the right. And Africa, especially Malawi, is getting a lot right.  
2. Expectations – lose them
      Something I have found myself doing on this trip is letting go of a lot of expectations – of people, places, etc. I have really realized that when our expectations fail to be met, that is when frustration comes. This might be a “duh, Chelsea...” moment, but just something I have really grasped on this trip. For example, having internet. Nothing like not having internet to make you realize how much you use it....that’s a side note. But I came with the expectation that I would absolutely and rarely have internet, so when I got it, it was a pleasant surprise! Lots of really funny things have also happened and I keep finding myself saying, “I don’t know why I expect anything less – of course this ridiculous situation would happen to me.” And we can laugh about it. I don’t want to lower my expectations of everything and every one, but I realize I expect a lot out of people and out of situations. Not everyone I work with or spend time with is going to have the same outlook I do on life, or be able to handle things the way I think they should be handled. But expecting someone to be at a certain point in life will only bring frustration. Changing those expectations slightly has really helped me to have a little more patience and a lot more understanding in lots of situations. I am learning to drop some of the unrealistic expectations I have for life, myself (which is the area that needs the most work), and situations – there is a lot of peace that comes with this.

3. A Tourist – I don’t want to be one.
      I am sure this one could be pretty confusing considering I love to travel so much. However, I am realizing more and more how much I don’t like being a tourist. Don’t get me wrong, I really, really, love seeing beautiful things in beautiful places and hitting all of those places on the map that you absolutely have to see when you are in the country. However, I would a million times rather be living with the people, like the people in the country and be a foreigner learning one on one from them rather than watching from afar. My happiest times in places have not necessarily been with a tour guide having people treat me like a tourist – but washing dishes with the hardworking and incredible women with no verbal conversation because of the language barrier. I love this cultural exchange of ideas and mutual respect – I am not here to teach anyone anything, but learn from their ways of life as I exchange understanding of the way I live. You want to learn about Malawians? You do it by jumping in with both feet and living life in their shoes. It’s going to take some cultural faux pas. It is going to mean getting laughed at by 30 kids and stared at by pretty much everyone you walk by. You’re going to look dumb. But you will learn so much in the process - it’s like drinking from a fire hose. How happy it makes me, and how much love I feel for each person I interact with during the process.

4. Perspective – get a different one.
      One thing I have loved about working in the group I am in is how beautiful and different each person’s perspectives are. Many have a different major and different life experiences to form many awesome perspectives. It has taught me a lot to stop being stuck in the way I see things and stop to hear and see things a different way. How beautiful it is that we are all so different – thank goodness. I think it is funny to see us all put in the exact same situation here and see us all react so differently. I have learned so much and am continually being able to change my perspective and perception of a situation...this really enhances your experiences ten fold. I feel so blessed to be working with incredible students.

         5.     Opinions – you don’t have to agree.
       Another really beautiful thing I am learning is to appreciate lots of different opinions and ideas. I     guess throughout my life I have always had a hard time really forming an opinion and being OK that mine might differ from yours. I guess I had this idea that I couldn’t have a strong opinion about something without offending another. I just never, ever, wanted to be that person that acted like “I want everyone to have an opinion and voice it, as long as it agrees with my own” – so I just would not voice my own unless I was 100% sure it was the same as mine. This would take care of that awkward moment where I wouldn’t see things eye to eye with another person. However, I am at that happy point in my life where I finally see clearly who I am and what I value and I am OK with knowing that it’s alright to not agree with everyone else...imagine that. I can tell now that what I was really having a hard time was not that people had different opinions, but when we tear down another just because they don’t agree. I am happy knowing that I can appreciate different lifestyles, different opinions, different frustrations and still have my own. All people really want is a listening ear and a mutual respect. Isn’t that amazing?

Sometimes it takes me 25 years to figure things out – and that’s OK.

All I know is that my soul is happy and this is where I should be.

As they always say in Malawi, “God is good”.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Simple Things...and other thoughts

Since I last posted we are back at SAFI again! I felt like I had been traveling non-stop for more than a week, because I kind of had been. Since I left on Friday the 9th for St. George and didn't stop traveling until Sunday I was pretty pooped. I am so beyond grateful for that extra night over at Korea Gardens especially since it has been a little crazy. Also, After being at SAFI one night, I can see now how Korea Gardens is such a luxury! Hot showers and softer beds as well as a restaurant - which means Coke Light which is ice cold.

It's all in your perspective and expectations. One thing I have really wanted to get out of this trip is getting back to a more simplistic lifestyle and remembering to let go of excess. It has not disappointed. When I travel, particularly developing nations traveling, you truly learn the meaning of letting go of the comforts of life for the greater good. Some things are definitely easier than others to do without, but you appreciate little things so much more. You also learn to make good with what you have, and I so often forget that at home.

One thing I am so incredibly grateful for is getting a different mattress! The mattress I had before was so thin and badly damaged that I would equate it to sleeping on top of maybe a blanket or two folded in half. That on top of essentially just slats of wood were definitely not very comfy. Mostly it hurt my back because of getting stiff from my surgeries and my hips from laying on my side. I was OK, and I knew I was going to live through it - especially when I know many of the children that I work with probably don't even have a blanket. It's hard to be too uncomfortable when you consider that. However, we found an extra mattress that was super thick and able to go underneath. I thought I had died and gone to heaven last night! I slept like a rock. Like I said, it's those little things you're grateful for...or actually, a really big thing.

One thing I don't know if I will ever get used to is the bugs...AKA mammals because they are so huge! In all my travels, I never really saw bugs. I always thought I would, and prepared myself for it, but never really dealt with them.  I kind of assumed it would be the same here - but I was hugely mistaken! Our personal favorites are the giant wasps that sound like lawn mowers and are the size of (what feels like, but an exaggeration) a small bird. Poor Danielle in our group came into my room in a panic and asked me to help her kill a few one night. Mind you this was after an extremely long and funny day and she had just helped me clean up the bathroom I just flooded with my first shower. Go figure. Anyway, I wish there was some kind of security camera to watch back as we run and scream through the halls like crazy Azungus. I don't think either one of us was proud of the language that was unintentionally used and saved for great distress, and how ridiculous we both looked with our brooms, shoes, and "doom" bug killer spray. I will say that I killed - count them - 8 ginormous wasps. I can barely do it because of how loud and big that crunch is, which has led to unfortunately beheading them because I felt like it was less suffering for the poor thing and somehow less gruesome. The thought of it really gives me the "willies". We also saw a giant tarantula, leaf bug, frog, and lots of lizards. I don't mind the frog...but that's about it. I stop there. It's amazing how safe your little bug net can make you feel and how small comforts of home like a fleece sleeping bag cocoon gives you some piece of mind that it may keep bugs out. I am covered in mosquito bites that are finally healing up, but definitely not normal bites on me. Must be allergic to them here. Always a good time in Malawi!

There have been so many funny things that have happened here and I wish I could bottle them all up, but one in particular happened yesterday. Obviously we are always looking really crazy and funny here, especially with the kids. They think everything we do is absolutely ridiculous...because it probably is. Especially when we try to speak Chichewa, which I suck at, can be really entertaining. Anytime you just walk anywhere, or show your face kids are laughing at you and yelling "Azungus!!". It doesn't bother me at all, maybe because I have missed it so much and longed for it for so long. Also the kids are just so darling to me....but I can see for how some of our group it could be frustrating to be on display all of the time with such a huge language barrier. Now the teenagers, well, maybe they don't like us quite as much as the kids? Or maybe they want to be tough? I don't know, but I will get them to warm up to me if it kills me! But yesterday I was sitting in the dirt with the kids drawing pictures and learning Chichewa and teaching English. It worked really well! One of the teenagers came up in between and wrote a word in Chichewa in the dirt...duh I should have known better. But I kept sounding it out and trying to say it and the kid's faces got worried. Obviously I stopped saying it and moved on. When Calvin came later that night, I just wanted to ask him what I had been saying over and over. He said, "come again?", so I sounded it out for him...multiple times. He then proceeded to tell me what I had been saying, and of course it wasn't pretty. The big topper of all words. Dang teenagers!! But, hey, at least I won't fall for it again.

We also did bubbles last night which are a huge hit. There was one little girl in the group that is maybe 2 that seriously thought it was the funniest and most fun thing she had ever seen. Every time I blew a bubble and everyone ran after it, she went into the deepest belly laugh I have heard in a while. Pure joy and the cutest thing in the world. We are going to try and make giant bubbles with dish soap one of these days and I think they will love that!

Finally, we went to church in Lilongwe and it was amazing! The spirit was so strong and it was so amazing to partake in the goodness that came from that chapel. They have a few missionaries out, and one who has one of the strongest testimonies I have ever heard, is preparing to leave. He is so excited! And it is great to remember some of the basics of the gospel that I sometimes take for granted. Maybe the difference of language and culture helps to break down some of those cultural barriers we have. I loved it so much.

So this week the families should be back from the holiday and the elections so Macie and I will be able to really get started on our project. We have a lot to do but are kind of stuck til the families are home. The elections are today and they are saying that there could be some violence of Joyce Banda wins again. They said the only way she could win is if she rigged the elections, which it sounds like she is doing. Malawi is a very peaceful country, but nothing like political uprising to change that. We will be in country so I don't think we will run into it even if it happens, but it will be interesting to see. We were so lucky to be at that political rally, and people here are very educated on politics! It's an interesting time to be in Malawi!

More soon!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

That African Life

Gosh, there is just so much to write, so much to say....

Things are so amazing here. It is crazy how great my body feels too! I guess it just knows I love it here so much. I also think that somehow the time change is better for me. I am such a crazy insomniac at home and usually my day feels like night because I am so tired and my night feels like day. So maybe that helps? I am not sure, but I will take it!

My days are all mixed up, but I got to the school Thursday after a long day of travel and I was just so happy to be with the people and my team. Speaking of the team, I absolutely LOVE them. I was worried, as always, about group dynamics. I had nothing to worry about because they are all so great. I felt ok being alone for those few days, and so happy to have an extra day to just rest and get used to the time change, but so happy to meet everyone!

Getting to the school was so fun as well to get a tour and meet all the kids. Here they call white people Azungus", in Kenya it was "Muzungus", but it didn't change how excited they were to see us. Azungus are not as normal in the rural areas as in Llongwe in the city. There were lots of introductions and lots of excitement. I feel bad because I am already so bad at names, let alone Chichewa names and learning the language....I definitely was not blessed with the gift of tongues.

This picture was on my tour at the school - it is so beautiful! This is where they teach fishery, and Gloria (in the picture) teaches it. She is one of the brightest young women I have ever met. She studied at the university here in Malawi and has come very far in her education at such a young age. 

This is Alisha in our group with one of the cutest babies!
 I love Alisha, I'm so lucky to work with such amazing people.

I am so in love with this place. I can't tell you that happiness that I have in my heart. I barely can contain it! I'm so in love with this place and cant believe I am here. 

I was only at the school one night and then we were headed back to Llongwe and Salima for the weekend. It is a holiday here because they are holding national elections. It is huge here! People are so excited and rallies are happening all over. 

In the middle of writing this blog we ended up actually going to the rally and sitting on the stage with the president of Malawi. Nobody knows how this happened up it was actually one of the coolest things that I have ever done!

This is Calvin - our driver, bodyguard, and confidant. He is honestly the best! We are so grateful for him!

This is completely out of order because I have been working on this blog post for so long...but this weekend we went to Lake Malawi. It is so incredibly beautiful! I still can't believe it is a lake and not the ocean.

This is a tropical fish farm, they send fish all over the world.

This is Salima, the town where Lake Malawi is located. 

Alright, this is getting lengthy...I'm out.

More later!
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Welcome to Llongwe!

I can't believe I finally made it. Truthfully, that journey and those 4 plane rides are a blur because of how long and how tired my body is/was. It's all worth it.

I just love Africa so much! The sights, sounds, smells, foods are all so familiar and something I have loved and longed for. Malawi is much like my dear Kenya, however, I feel much safer here. The poverty is great, much greater than imagined until seen....but I don't see the inequality of rich to poor like in Kenya. I think this makes people less desperate and Malawi lives up to it's name, "the warm heart of Africa". I feel very safe!

In the last 48 hours, the following happened:

- I flew into a very small airport in Malawi....very small. A sweet girl who was a passport or customs agent noticed I was alone and in the back of the line. We made small talk and she instantly became my friend. This led to her sweeping me to the front of the line and right through where they stamp your passport and get your visa....without stamping my passport or giving me a visa. For some reason I don't think that is allowed. Despite her generosity, I ended up waiting through the line - I guess I didn't want to get arrested and deported for some reason.

- Our guide and BFI worker Calvin (the nicest man on earth!!) picked me up at the airport. He had a giant sign for me waiting and I kind of felt like a big deal. The look of relief on his face was pretty great when he realized I actually made it. Poor thing waited FOREVER for me - thanks to the customs incident. I was so exhausted by this time from my flight, but so excited to see Llongwe. He was so kind and so excited to show me his city. We went to the grocery store and then walked through the markets...and the red light district. They call it Devil Street...this may have been the only time I got a little nervous. The sights and sounds of the market and yelling out "Muzungu!!! Muzungu!!! (white person) How are you?! How are you?!" brought back a giant flood of memories. How I love this place. I'm quite the spectacle I tell you. However, in the city they are a little more used to Muzungus. Calvin was very, very, grateful that I have learned through my travels, believe it or not, how to say "no" kindly, not give money to every beggar, and not get jerked around. He said, "I feel so much better that a muzungu knows how to deal with the city. It's very stressful usually!" I'm grateful too. Eventually after a lot of walking and traveling he noticed my yawning and exhaustion. He took me to the hotel and I completely passed out and slept for a good 5 hours. My poor legs and feet were soooo swollen from the flight and my heart. Sitting for that long in a cramped place is not chill. I have never been so happy to stretch out and sleep!

- Much to my surprise and hilarity, I am staying at Korea Garden Malawi. I didn't know there were very many Asians in Malawi! Haha.

- I am not sure what my expectations were of the hotel, but all I can say is that I am brave. It is pretty funny, despite many third work excursions, to figure out my room, the shower, and the bed...or lack thereof. I was glad I had to take off my glasses in the shower room so I didn't have to see what was around me. The windows are all open all the time with a little curtain and the walls are so thin I can hear EVERY single word and every room. Thank goodness for Ambien. There are gold, silver, and bronze rooms. I am in the bronze haha...and 21 dollars later I have a place to stay! I could even hear Malawians come to see the rooms to decide if they would lodge there and they even rejected my room...hilarious. I love every minute of it truly!

- I accidentally blew up my surge protector. Like almost started a fire, blew up... sparks, smoke...the whole shebang. No pun intended.

- I ended up needing to stay an extra night at Korea Garden because of transportation. I will meet up with my group at the school later - I'm kind of glad for the extra time to rest and just chill. I think people are pretty surprised to see a young girl alone in the city. I've gotten to know all the waiters and house keeping! American candy and an easy name (because of the Chelsea Soccer/Futbol team...everyone knows and remembers it) goes a long way. I love getting to know them and everyone is so friendly.

Life is so good! Right now the wifi is much better than I thought and I am thinking in the city and even at SAFI I will have pretty good connection. Pictures might be hard except for Facebook and Instagram every once in a while.

Well, more adventures later! Can't wait to meet up with my team tomorrow!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A (Mended) Grateful Heart.

My little heart is just so happy tonight.

Looking back I just can't believe how far I have come and how life's most difficult moments have woven together into one big amazing miracle.

I can scarcely believe or have the words to describe how many promised miracles have come to fruition. All I know is that many forces guiding my life have created opportunities through (what seemed to be) impossible and devastating situations to be stronger and and still succeed.

I got my grades back today and looked at my graduation map online to see and have an idea of how close I am to graduation. It's such an overwhelming feeling to see that I have been able to do well in school and see the finish line of a huge goal I will accomplish despite these overwhelming health problems. I could have never done that on my own and I am so grateful to a loving Father in Heaven, amazing family and friends, and (somehow) a will power to not give up. It has taken me a while, but I am actually going to make it and I am just so happy and full of gratitude. 

I also went to Dr. Hwang recently and he gave me an enthusiastic bill of health! I think he was just as relieved as I was to see how far I have come, and pretty happy with himself because of the interesting case I was. I walked out with my head held high and happiness in my mended heart because of how well I feel. I haven't gone this long without having a single issue in I (literally) can't remember how long. I appreciate this body and every day I wake up feeling better more than I can describe. 

And finally, I can't believe how incredibly perfect this internship in Malawi has worked out. I am just....speechless really. Tears really can't be stopped because of the gratitude I feel. My passion and dreams of traveling to work in development kind of feels like when you watch those shows and people making it through on American Idol...haha. That's the only way I can describe getting this internship, the scholarship money to go, let alone working in Africa (where I love so much) and being healthy enough to do it. 

There are no words.

Those who have been through thick and thin with me and watched the process unfold have a sense of what a miracle it is to see where I am at today.

Life has a way of just really working itself out when you stick to your goals, stay faithful, and never give up. Doesn't mean it is easy and it usually takes way too long...but it really does work out.

The internet is supposed to work sometimes, and my internship requires emails and updates - so I'll post  what's going on for the next 3 months while I'm gone. You know if you read, it will always be interesting if I'm around...I always get in the funniest situations.

Also this is Macie, my research partner in Malawi.
I just can't tell you how blessed I am to go with her. 
She is so amazing and we work so well together!
Like I said, things just work out :).
10 DAYS!!!