This morning we woke up with a bit of a later start. We finally had a bit of a chance to sleep in, and most of us took great advantage of that. It was a beautiful, sunny morning with a bit of a breeze to cool us down. Breakfast was at 8:00, and today was Eva’s birthday which made the day special. She was gifted with a pink birthday sash which she proudly (or sheepishly) wore for breakfast. We sat down to scrambled eggs, toast, bananas, yogurt, and of course, chips. After we enjoyed our breakfast and some good coffee, we hopped into our trusty bus and headed off to the Stephanos church. Our bus jiggled and wiggled its way through the pothole-filled road, and we got to church in about an hour. It was a blessing that we had no rain today because otherwise we wouldn’t have made it to church.
We all sat down in church, men on one side and women on the other, and waited for the service to start. The kid’s choir began singing and it was the best singing we heard this whole trip. The kids had passion flowing throughout the church, many of us had goosebumps and tears in our eyes. Gerrit preached a very simple, straightforward sermon which we all enjoyed. After that, we left for our lodge with a few of Gerrit’s kids to freshen up before we went for a visit.
Gerrit and Gretchen had us over for cake and coffee for Eva’s birthday, and Gretchen went all out. She made two cakes, had candles, a present, and decorations all set out. She said she wanted it to feel a bit like home for Eva, even though she was so far away from everything. Gerrit and Gretchen really made it feel like home for everybody this trip, their hospitality never went unnoticed. Whether it was bringing coffee out to the field, trucking us back and forth, or having all 13 of us over for supper (twice!!). Their kindness and love was noticeable in everything they did for us, and it made the trip that much better.
Now, here is a short description of everybody on this trip.
Gerrit is finally over his jetlag. He slept until 4:00 in the morning and called it a good night’s rest. Gerrit is happy to eat any food that gets put in front of him and will have a story to tell about anything and everything. He will leap up to help with anything, and Gerrit loves connecting with the kids.
He was going to propose to Hannah on the trip, but when we hid the ring, he was at his wit’s end. How romantic would it have been!? Colin was willing to work through anything, but also spend time with the kids. You would often see him with a soccer ball and a trail of kids behind him. Colin also believes that the Coriolis effect isn’t real, which we haven’t had the chance to test because our bathrooms have been holes in the ground. And Colin, why do you have a big coffee stain on your shirt?
Hannah is always hot, and then hot again, and hot again. Or wait, maybe she was just missing her mom. When Gerrit brought coffee and cake to us in Nsanje, she started crying and said, “It tastes like my mom.” and then later we heard her say, “my mom doesn’t even bake this!” Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit! President was unfortunately not Hannah’s game, but she does have amazing photography skills which we all appreciated! And Hannah, maybe stop pestering Mitch so much next time ;)
Jason controls our Wi-Fi and connection to the rest of the world. In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… hotspots off! Him and Steven have a strange bromance going on, but it’s entertaining for the rest of us. He will never stop talking about the good food back home and thinks fake accents will help people to understand him. He also has a strange love for sour apple lollipops. Jason is very positive, with a lot of sarcasm and adventurous thinking to make our trip a great time.
Quiet in the morning, and as the day moves along, he gets louder, and louder, and louder. Then, he’ll start giggling (screeching?). But… things get very serious when the bugs come out to play. He even sacrificed his boiling hot coffee over a bug. Unfortunately, he missed his target and coffee ended on a fellow team member’s shirt. The timely rain in Nsanje led to snow angels and a downward dog performance. Everybody else’s morning routine was cut in half, but apparently Steven’s tripled in length. Steven also went up in front of a crowd of 300 kids and told the Creation story. Nobody could’ve told it better than Steven.
Ruben kept the girls on the trip entertained with his relationship drama. He is very fashion-forward and proved this with his socks that match his colour card. His favourite animal is a giraffe, and bought one that’s five feet tall and named her Stephanie. Unfortunately, Stephanie’s life was cut in half (literally) so he had to buy another one, Stephanie 2.0. He managed to avoid the irrigation project all week and kept his feet dry on the safari. Ruben wow’d us with his presentation about hygiene to the middle-school girls, he did better than any of the girls could’ve. Ruben showing snapchat filters to the children at the school, was a highlight for them all.
Our Mexican teammate who we affectionately began calling ‘Jensche van de Lohman’. During this trip, he came to the realization he wanted a Dutch wife who would cook him good food. Jens is like a multi-tool, he will do whatever job has to get done and it’s always with a great attitude. He discovered the only way he could sleep was with Marc beside him. Right from Day 1 he was down for adventure. He won over the locals and overpaid to rent a dirtbike. As a Mexican (Dutch), Jens was bragging about how much sun he could handle. Guess who was the first one puking from heat exhaustion.
Marc has the most passion out of everyone on this trip. You can always count on him being the first one on the field and the last one out. He became the top customer at Pina Kuwa, the irrigation store in Nsanje. He also must really not have liked breakfast because he was always late. Marc won over the elderly at the centre by imitating their high pitched woodle. And also, Marc’s been talking about moving out here all week. Sharon, we promise that Nsanje is beautiful.
Corianne, thank you so much for organizing the details of this trip – from babysitting, checking in, packing suitcases, and organizing activities at the centre for the kids. She thought of everything and took care of everyone. She was voted most likely to be handing out snacks and least likely to put up with any of our bologna. (Steven, shut up and quite rocking the boat. Peter, take a photo of us. Mitch, quit being so gullible.) Just in case it wasn’t clear, Corianne, you are very much appreciated - thank you for all you have done for us.
Pete has a kind heart. He looks out for everyone, especially his dear wife. He has a very witty sense of humour that is filled to the brim with puns. Pete will start a conversation with any stranger and makes everyone feel comfortable in the group. He wants the irrigation system to be a success and every idea in the book will come out. Any new idea comes out like this, “Hey guys think about it like this…insert idea…Or what?” Pete is a great bargainer and got more than what he bargained for when he had to hop into the murky swamp waters.
Where’s Breanna? Has anybody seen her? Oh, she’s just late again. If you can’t find her, she’s either still sleeping, singing, or blogging. As long as there’s no Wi-Fi. She said, and we quote, “I’m going to miss nsima and beans.” Breanna had many kids hanging off her arms and would shed a tear from time to time. (She cries as much as it rains in Africa.) When the girls were being ‘kidnapped’, she hid her fear by singing Amazing Grace. She still refused to admit she was ever scared.
Mitch thinks he’s too good to write the blog but was told by multiple people he still had to do it. Somehow, he still managed to get a scribe out of it. The wheels in his head never stopped turning as soon as the plane hit the ground about how to solve Malawi’s problems in a week. He showed his true African side when he hopped in the croc-infested waters and shouted, “1, 2, 3, pooosh!” This was when he was pushing a 15 passenger, double-decker, archaic, wooden boat through massive reeds. He doesn’t miss a game of cards and has the second-most unique laugh of the group. He impacted everyone in the group when he insisted on meeting his sponsor kids and visiting their home. Also, we’ve learned not to bring up disgusting topics while Mitch is eating, never mind that his new favourite dessert is rice, Nutella, and bananas.
For Eva, this was an extra special trip as this was her very first-time leaving home and going on an airplane. We may have not found one on the safari, but we have our own spotted lizard – maybe someone should teach Eva how to use a mosquito net? She said she’s not homesick, but if the wifi was on, Eva was busy connecting with everyone at home. Eva loved all of the kids and took a lot of pictures with them. We are also very thankful that we could have cake, sprinkles, and soup today at the Oomens, as a celebration for her birthday today!