GO Mamelodi Mamas

I'm down a Mama this year, but Lori's traveling with me in my heart. The new Mama to my duo is my neice Katie, who's coming with CSM for week 2.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Can't come up with a title....

Computer trainees showing off their certificates

Kim Thurston meets Julia, the recipient of their donated PC

Brook looks awfully at home with a baby on her back, African style

Today was another great day, although I’m fighting hard to stave off a cold, so I’m doing some quick blogging after dinner and heading straight to bed. I spent the morning training Pastor Titus’ wife Eleanor on email, which was great as she’s such a dear woman and so fun to be with. Internet is now working throughout the campus, and Scott Newberry has the internet phone installed and working in Pastor Titus’ office. Scott got 2 of the same Cisco phones donated, the $500 ones like we have at my work, so one is going in Pastor Titus’ office in Mamelodi and the other goes in Pastor Tim’s office in Cincinnati! It’s brilliant, they can now talk to each other for free, Titus has a Cincinnati phone number in Mamelodi, and calls to other land lines or cell lines are less that 2 cents a minute. That is fun geeky stuff!!

I spent the afternoon out in the township helping play with kids at the tent clinic setup by the medical team. It was so great to get off of campus and out to the township, and playing with kids is a real service to the health care workers, because the congregate in droves and need to be kept away from where patients are being seen. We visited a crèche (pre-school) right next to where they setup and it was one of the most precious yet heartbreaking thing you can imagine. There must have been 30 or more kids in a one room house with 2 very loving ladies watching over them. They are dropped off starting at 5 am, and may not be picked up until 7pm, but these dear ladies take such loving care of them. The postponed nap time slightly to let us play with them, taking pictures and showing them to the kids is a huge hit, so I have quite a few delightful photos, as you could see below! Getting them down for nap time was amazing, so I included a photo of that, they lay right up against each other, one child’s head at the next child’s feet, and so on until they are all laying down. Yet another reminder of the many things to be thankful for. But the ladies who care for them love God and do the absolute best they can in the circumstances, and we were able to leave some books, toys, and a ball for them to have.

Tomorrow is our last work day, and it is going to be heartbreaking to leave. I have watched our helper Themba truly blossom, filled with grateful awe of the way we have empowered him. He is putting my name as a reference on his CV (resume), and I really hope I can be of assistance to him going forward. Our other helpers have been a treat as well, Khensani, Alice, Salome, Jeaneth, and of course Billy. I’m grateful for email, and the access they’ll have at Charity & Faith, but it won’t be the same. I’ve also become awfully attached to a young man named Free who works at Charity & Faith caring for the property, along with Little Titus (who’s not so little, but needs to be differentiated from Pastor Titus! He was in Cincinnati and played a whopper of a game of whiffle ball in my backyard. One of the new houses being built is on the campus of Charity & Faith, and he will be moving into it as primary caretaker, a wonderful man as well). Free is 22, and he has been on his own since his mom died when he was 15. But he is a joyful man, full of grace, who I believe is a preacher at heart, the way he has expounded to me on several occasions with unbelievable depth of understanding of the grace of God and the complexity of life on this earth. I helped him learn to use email a day or so ago, and he has been so excited to be online, and catches on so quickly. He told me today he is going to try to build a computer from scratch, so we’ve been feeding parts to him as they come available. I have no doubt that one day he’ll email me from his very own computer, although he currently lives in a shack with no electricity so the crank flashlight and radio that someone gave him late last week are his current high tech toys.

We had a kinda tough day yesterday, as several things were stolen from the computer training room and from the business team seminar room. It’s a bit hard on us for the reality of the people we are trying to help stealing from us, but it is a stark reminder of the reality of the situation here. People are so desperate for survival that they use any means of getting things of value. Little Titus has been very patiently counseling us on how to better secure the training room when we have it full of people, and offering us grace for wanting to trust in an environment where that is so unfortunately not possible. He explained how many, or at least some, of the people who come asking for training are probably really just casing the place to come back later and take what they can. We need to all be praying very hard for their safety and security after we leave, as that is apparently when a lot of that will come to a head. That also makes me sad, that our coming to be a blessing to the community creates post-trip problems for the people left behind. Another grim reminder, but it fills me with determination to keep pressing ahead for change, knowing that it won’t come quickly, but I truly believe change is possible to better their circumstances. Especially since all things are possible with God, and these folks here are filled with love for our Father and Saviour.

So this may be my last posting from South Africa, we have our celebration at Charity & Faith tomorrow night, and then leave for the airport Friday morning for our 2pm flight. The CSM kids come back from camp tomorrow, and the big joke is that the 2 weekers and the CSM-ers fly home on the same flights, so all bets are off as to whether or not our flights ever make it!!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Just photos tonight

Here's a bunch of us that hung out on host family night......left to right is Simphiwe (the IT lead), Katie, me, Khensani (our overnight host), Cynthia (my interpreter from gardening last year, she and Khensani are best friends....Wendy, she says hello!!), and Salome (who works in the medical transcription/billing business and has been helping us this week). Great bunch of people!

Morning of host family visit, Khensani is holding her neice who I only know as Boo Boo!

My buddy Mel (Weehu) from last year

Thogo, who hosted Lori and I overnight last year.

Lot's of good stuff going on....

Wow, the last posting was chuck full of rather emotionless facts and events, and no stories, so I’ll try to make up for that tonight! Couple of facts to just get a few details out of the way….

KATIE IS HERE!!! She got here yesterday (Sunday) afternoon. After 2 days in the Dubai airport (interrupted by a brief stay in a Dubai hotel). I’ll let her share all the gory details of how it can take 84 hrs to get from Cincinnati to Pretoria, makes my measly 60 hours pale in comparison, and it makes the usual 24 hours for the trip sound like a cakewalk! One of her first questions for her leaders when she arrived was if she could still stay with a host family in Mamelodi, so we made that happen. Pairing up people for the host family visits was one of my responsibilities, but before Katie arrived I’d already decided I was going to hand off the actual ‘matching ceremony’ to a trusted friend and head back to the hotel, ‘cause I’m kinda exhausted, and I could hang with both Katie and my roommate Beth who was sick as a dog for almost 2 days, but appears to be on the mend now. When Katie said she wanted to stay with a host family, I decided I could head back to the hotel, check on Beth, and bring Katie and one other new arrival back to Charity & Faith just in time to head out with a host family. We got back just as the purely chaotic phase of getting people matched up was ending, and Khensani, one of the girls who had been helping us with IT training, caught me on the way in the door and said that she didn’t have anyone to stay with her and would we want to. It was perfect, she’s a fabulous girl and I knew we’d have a great time, so Katie and I headed out for Khensani’s house. She’s in her early 20’s, and a whole bunch of her friends, including Cynthia (her best friend and my interpreter from gardening last year….Wendy, Cynthia says Hi!!) were getting together for a party at Pastor Moses’ house. Simphiwhe, the South African lead for the IT team, was there, I absolutely adore him and Katie knew him as well since he was in Cincinnati in May. Anyway, great get together, fabulous people, nice night at Khensani’s house….it was cold (and no heat in these houses), but we piled on the blankets and slept like logs. The incredible beauty of the statement made when 250 some mostly white Americans stayed in the township, where most people from outside are generally afraid to go, let alone spend the night in the township, rarely fails to bring tears to my eyes. And I’ve never felt safer; the township, like most places, has it’s dangerous places and ways, but the people who accompany us would truly lay down their lives for us rather than let anything happen to us. And the joy of having this experience with Katie was so fabulous, to enjoy the unbelievable hospitality of people with whom there is this bond that goes deeper than words can express, to laugh and dance and pray and many of the questions you’ve ever wanted to in order to better understand each other’s lives….

Today, we had an opening ceremony attended by one of the ranking government members (Minister of Social Affairs or some such title, a member of the president’s staff) who is best in a position to open doors for funding for many of the initiatives that are going on out of Charity & Faith. Honestly, I was prepared for it to be a boring morning of boring speakers (it was last year!), but this morning, time will tell, but I honestly felt like I was watching an important part of South African history unfold before my eyes. It is easy to forget that South Africa is only 13 years into its free, democratic society, and what an incredibly pivotal time this could be in their history. When Pastor Titus introduced the Minister, he mentioned that there had been some conversations about the potential of them renting out the 2nd floor of the hospices for government offices. When the Minister spoke, he boldly stated in front of several hundred people that he wanted to make that rental arrangement happen quickly as it would position his people, who are scattered and distant, in a perfect position to be located in close proximity to the community they need to serve. He essentially made 2 or 3 other promises for getting funding where it needed to get to allow the church to serve the community in lifting them out of the desperation they are currently in, including that the staff of the new orphanage (which was officially opened this morning at the end of this ceremony) should be paid for by the government, and inferring that he was prepared to bring all his resources to bear to assist in getting a larger plot of land where the homes we are building could be located. He has been stymied by governmental red tape over control of the land up to now. This trip, we are building 8 houses, but they are scattered all over Mamelodi as, for reasons I don’t understand, land is currently not available at any price in this area…Titus’ dream is to be given access to a piece of land where essentially a new subdivision could go in, building materials wouldn’t have to be scattered all over town, and we’d gain many efficiencies in building. And people could be placed in homes at a faster pace than we are currently able to achieve. So the Minister made some truly amazing statements, if he can make happen even half of what he promised this morning, lives will change, people will be served, burdens will be eased. And how can you not buy in to this vision….the orphanage is to be populated such that there is a mother and/or father figure living with the children on each floor of each building (this building is one of 4 or 5 planned), restoring some semblance of family life to these children who’s plights are sometimes incredibly difficult to imagine. And adjacent to the orphanage is planned an old age home (we’d find a more politically correct name for it, but it is what it is!) bringing grandparent figures into the lives of these children, and bringing children into the lives of these aging and many times very lonely elderly people. How can a government not want to do everything it can to make this happen, and for that to serve as a model for what can occur in every community? And another beautiful statement by the Minister was that the government was not suited to have the on the ground support for the many, many poverty relief and social service programs needed, but the churches were the ideal vehicle for that. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

Here’s a cool story from last Thursday I have not previously told…..our IT team has had enormous support for the Charity & Faith people, which is amazing as this kind of volunteerism is totally new to them. We’ve had at least 10 people who have been with us every day and without whom we would have not accomplished nearly as much as we have. Khensani, who Katie and I stayed with, is one such person who has been helping with training, so it was a particular joy and honor to be in her home. Another such guy is name Themba, who I had not gotten to know much, but he has been working diligently with Terry Phillips on the infrastructure team getting the network back in order. Thursday night we had a celebration and baptism service, followed by dinner at Charity & Faith, and a chance for the people leaving for home to say goodbye to many of those they have grown to know. Themba came up to me, thinking I was going to leave, and said, I kid you not this is exactly what he said: “ I thank God that you listened when He told you to come to Mamelodi, for I think you have changed my life.” OK, you just don’t hear that everyday, and I don’t think I could ever tire of it. And believe me, I’m taking every opportunity this week to get to know Themba better and to learn if there are any particular ways we could serve him.

Here’s another cool thing I’ve neglected to share….. It’s all been really good, but I’ve just been so worn out, I haven’t been able to recollect things in the frenzied moments I’ve been blogging. And I confess I’m really tired of taking 300 people with me everywhere I go, pretending I care that they forgot to bring their special loofah with them, and honestly (Wendy, this one is crying out for YOU to pray for me over…) people have been bugging me!! So after dinner tonight, I ditched the planned programming and came to my room to listen to music, and blog, and hopefully still have time to stare at the wall for a short time before I go to bed EARLY. I could say blogging is about keeping you up to speed with what’s going on, but honestly there’s a big part of it that’s about making sure I’m processing what’s going on around and to me, and while I’m doing that listening to how God might want me grow or serve Him. Anyway, back to the other cool thing, and I especially wanted to share this since I know that Dave Thurston is reading my blog. Dave’s wife Kim is on the trip, with her sister Kirsten, who was in my pledge class for my sorority in college….put that down as something I never in a million years thought would happen, I would meet up with a sorority sister I hadn’t seen in 20 years on a mission trip. Anyway, I happen to know just ‘cause I helped ship the computers to Mamelodi last fall that Dave and Kim donated a brand new, never opened computer and printer to Charity & Faith. I was working with Julia, Pastor Titus' admin, last week and don't ya know, that computer and printer are on her desk. I told her I knew who donated it, and that one half of the couple was going to be here this week, so I can’t wait to take Kim to meet Julia, who is such a fabulous lady and really is the glue that holds this place together, she’s so anxious to say what a blessing it has been in person to the ones it came from….

Alright, just realized it’s after 10 and I’m writing this offline, was gonna go down to where the internet is to post it, but I risk running into some of the crazies and I really want to go to bed early, so I’ll post it in the morning.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Game Park and Shopping Day

It's been a couple days since I've had a chance to do this. We had our last work day for last week on Thursday, with a great celebration service at Charity & Faith Thursday night. A whole boatload of people got baptized, think it was around 43 Americans and 11 South Africans......it was really chilly outside, but the baptismal water was heated, and there were portable heaters scattered about so people stayed reasonable toasty for the most part. Don't know if new Mommy Dana will be seeing this (or maybe someone can tell her!), but her friend from last year Ashley was at the celebration service, I told him she said hello. Friday was an adventure on many levels....the majority of people went to the apartheid museum and then to the airport to fly home. The 2 weekers (minus a few of us) took a bus to the apartheid museum, but the less than brilliant bus driver got lost, stopped on the freeway, backed up on the freeway, and in a final moment of brilliance attempted a u-turn through the median where he got the bus stuck on some shrubbery. They spent several quality hours on the median trying to get the bus un-stuck, and then waiting for the replacement bus. After our eventful extended trip getting here, everyone was well versed in exhibiting flexibility, so they took it pretty well....and it's extremely well documented on film and video!!

Speaking of bus problems....the CSM kids had a little bus issue on the way to Columbus on Thursday. Their bus broke down on the way to the airport, so they missed their flight out of Columbus and ended up on the same extended itinerary flying standby the whole way through Dubai to Johannesburg. They've had a tougher road getting here, 6 arrived earlier today, 8 arrived this evening. Unfortunately, Katie is not one of them, she's still in Dubai, although apparently they've been having a good time, got checked into a hotel outside the airport and maybe even had a little desert excursion!! I've heard she's fine, which I had no doubts about and haven't been worried about her, but I"M READY FOR HER TO BE HERE WITH ME!!!

I stayed behind at the hotel on Friday to work on host family pairings and brace for impact for the newcomers....about 200 some arrived late Friday, we eventually we got them all checked into hotel rooms! Today was the game drive and market shopping....it was an incredible day....I've included a few photo highlights.

Tomorrow is church (which will be a blast), and host family stays overnight, so I'll be absent from blogging for another day or so.....back to work on Monday.....

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

It's Picture Upload Day!!

Billy with the Bronson Arroyo hat on, with Terry

Me and my host family, Rose and Bindo

Mike Firesheets, the imaging king

Loretta and Krista prepare for training

Theresa, trainer extraordinaire in action

I've taken very few pictures so far, but I've uploaded none, so today's the day! Happy 4th of July!! We had a good workday, followed by a 4th of July dinner event at the hotel. Ok, the speakers were boring, and the hotel's valiant attempt at hamburgers and other American food was just a little off, but we all lit sparklers when we closed....apparently no pesky fire codes prevented such antics!! I wish I had pictures of that, but I'll have to sponge off of others for the best photo ops, just like I always do!!

I'm still the president of the fan club for my IT team. The rewiring project in the adult education center finished just in perfect time for the 10am training class, simultaneously with the electricians finishing the upgrade to the power. It was a picture of perfect choreography. We had an amazing day of classroom training, 2 sessions of 60 people for basic computer skills, and our 4 trainers (Loretta, Krista, Kayanna, and Theresa) are such a dream to see in action. My big contribution to the event was to sneak over to Pastor Titus' office and use Julia's computer and printer to print the certificates for the trainees. You should have seen them flock to the trainers for their completed certificates....certificates are in hot demand to prove training for job skills. I'm not sure if the trainers or the trainees had more fun.

Lori, this one might be just for you (have I mentioned I REALLY miss having you here with me?!), but my favorite teenage boy from last year, who I didn't know his name, but you gave me the picture of him with Kyle Aukerman to find him (My favorite line from him when I sat next to him at the opening ceremony, when the dancers came up to perform and I said I wished I could dance like that, he looked at me earnestly and said, "You can, it just takes practice!!)....well he came to the the first training session. No emotional reuinion, but I gave him the picture. He said he remembers me, he's not going to camp, but I told him Kyle would be here next week. His name is Weehu, but he says to cal him Mel. Love it, feels good.

The infrastructure and deployment teams got the relocated kids computer lab about whipped into shape. They're chasing a fault in the stretch of the network between the adult education center and the school which still has the network down, so it was a kind of downer end of the day, but they immediately jumped on the internet phone back at the hotel to have a brainstorming call with both Scott Newberry and Tim Bankes (can't wait 'til they're here!!) Watching this team work is a thing of beauty, I'm confident they'll sort it out.

So here's the crazy story of the day, but it's really from last night.....I was just finishing up my blog post last night, Claire had come in to check in with me, and her phone rang and she went pale as a ghost (team leaders have local rented cell phones). Word was that one of our friends, who is diabetic and was already asleep, was seizing and her husband couldn't wake her up. We got the room numbers for the doctor on call and a couple of nurses, a couple of folks went out after them. I grabbed a couple of the other members of the leadership team and we prayed for her big time. A little bit later someone walked in and said everything was fine, so I kinda figured it was a miscommunication somehow and things really weren't that bad. Turns out, they were that bad....she had crashed and her sugar level was 22, which my nurse friend says is usually an instant ticket to coma, and had she been alone, likely death. The folks who responded pumped her full of glucose and assorted foods and drinks, and she stabilized fairly quickly. Word is, they could laugh even in the midst of things, as the doctor who responded admitted he had just taken his Ambien, so they all chuckled that she better come around fast 'cause she had a urologist drunk on Ambien looking out for her (they also said the doctor was fabulous in his care for her....). I talked through the whole thing with both the husband and the wife today (she was as strong as an ox today, you'd never know anything happened), and separately, both of them, when they heard we had started praying for her said, "That's probably why she woke up." Her husband had been shaking her and slapping her back fairly strongly without her responding at all, but several minutes later she just woke up on her own. I'm not here to say for sure whether our prayers were the cause of that, only God Himself knows, but it surely does make you hope so, and I am here to say I hope that's always my first reaction in every situation, to place it firmly and immediately in God's hands and acknowledge His mercy and grace.

Tomorrow is the last work day for the 1 weekers, and we have a celebration and dinner at Charity and Faith at the end of the day, so I don't think you'll hear from me tomorrow. Katie arrives on Friday night, I'm pretty darn excited about that!!


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I have the perfect picture to load to the blog, will have to see if I can get it up, intranet is still a little hard to come by. It is a picture of Billy and I, Billy is a Charity & Faith guy from here who helps with the IT stuff (he says Hi to the IT team that came in October, "old" Scott, Todd, Greg, Dave, and he can't wait to see Tim next week!!). Billy is wearing a Arroyo Bronson hat from the Reds' giveaway, complete with blond hair hanging out the back!! Priceless stuff.

We had another great work day, I really have the best team in all of Mamelodi. But there are some really cool things to share today, first crazy example of God showing up in fun and amazing ways, so small yet so HUGE .....We had electricians working in the adult ed center where we were, doing a much needed and much appreciated upgrade to the electric feeding the area. They accidentally drilled through one of the network cables, which isn't hard to imagine if you see the wiring around here!! So everyone panicked when the intranet that we worked SO hard to get back operational went out again. But as the guys started tracing wires to see what else was there, they found a spare CAT5 line run in the same conduit which was just the perfect length, but unterminated. It's not like the whole place was perfectly wired for redundancy, that was an unbelievable find!! They spliced the ends and we were back in business in short order. The second thing was when a guy needed to cut some metal for a cover, and he went off in search of tin snips, which anyone who has been here knows that tools are not easy to come by. Don't ya know, he walked out the door outside smack dab into a guy unwrapping a brand new pair of tin snips!! Stuff like that happened all day today.

The weirdest one, I may think so because I was part of it, had to do with a visit to another adult computer education center in Mamelodi. First another missionary from the US stopped by Charity & Faith, someone who used to live in Mamelodi, Tim and Claire had talked to him on the phone before, but never met in person. He was in town only for the week, and heard we were there doing stuff with computers. He was aware of another church in Mamelodi, just a mile or 2 from Charity & Faith, which was putting on a successful adult computer education training program which he thought we might benefit from seeing. They were graduating people who were being successful in finding jobs, something we wanted to learn how they were doing. So Tim and I took a little field trip over there this morning to meet the pastor and the 2 American missionaries who had launched the training program. When we met the young American couple, and they heard we were from Cincinnati, he couldn't believe it....he graduated from University of Cincinnati before going on to do graduate work in Texas, and when they left South Africa at the end of this month, they were very likely moving back to Cincinnati.

OK, God, you've got my attention. What can I do for You tomorrow?

Love to all,

Monday, July 02, 2007

Too tired to say much

Hey all-
Well, I'm exhausted, so don't know how good this post will be, but I'll fill you in on a few details. I did make it to Mamelodi.....I was with the first 17 who made it out on the 4:30am flight from Dubai to Jo-burg, got to the hotel a little after 1pm local time (but there was a 2 hr time change, so it was another healthy 9-10 hrs in flight, this time in coach with the commoners. The remaining 27 people were on a 10am something flight who got in about dinner time. We joined up at the hotel with the rest of the team, everyone else was just getting back from the safari and shopping, but since we're 2 weekers, we'll still get to do that next weekend, so I guess if it had to happen to anyone it was OK that it happened to us. I took off my socks and said to myself, "Holy crap, my ankles are as big as Dana's"!" (Dana was at that point 8 14/15 months pregnant, and should have delivered Bucky today if he hadn't already come out to play!) Sunday was church, which of course was fabulous, hanging out at Charity & Faith in the afternoon, then another 3 hour sorting party getting everyone paired up with their host families and out the door. I had a fabulous evening with a woman named Rose and her daughter Bindo. We had a braai (SA-style BBQ) at another home with a bunch of other hosts and their guests, it was a really fabulous time. Today was our first workday, and the IT team had a really fantastic day....we got internet working again in the adult education, and found the electrical issue that is the biggest issue in why the rest of the campus is not interneting. Electricians are scheduled for first thing tomorrow morning, which is amazing how that worked out. We've got training lined up starting tomorrow, and lots of Charity and Faith people working with us to help and learn, so it's all really really good. We have very limited internet access at the hotel this year, so I'll try to get updates done while I'm on campus this week.

One fun story to close with....I was pretty task focused today, lots of behind the scenes stuff, but while I was waiting I peeked into the room where the kids program was going on. There were a million kids in there running around, but no one near where I was, until out of the blue this little boy runs straight up to me, shows me the picture he just drew, gave me a big hug, and ran back away just as quickly. It fueled me for the rest of the day.
Love reading your comments (but who is flashohio??!!)
More when I can

Friday, June 29, 2007

tanWell, it's Friday night about happy hour time, and I just had a meal (I'm not sure which meal to call it!) in an Irish pub listening to Euro-disco in the Middle East! We've had quite an adventure in travel, I've got a lot to tell already...it all started Wednesday about 7pm when our trip project manager Christy pulled me aside just as the sendoff service for us started and told me "Don' t tell anyone yet, but Jet Blue just cancelled the first domestic connection for the 2 weekers." Well, that would be my first leg! After much deliberation, it was decided we would still board the bus for Columbus at 2am Thursday morning, and put our 44 sad faces right in front of the Jet Blue folks and see what they could do for us. So we arrived at the Columbus airport at 4:30am Thursday to continue the negotiations in person! We clogged up their checkin counter for several hours, but finally got boarding passes for a flight for JFK that left at 11 something in the a.m. (our flight out of JFK was also at 11 something in the a.m., so it was clear from the start that we would miss that). That flight was oversold, and since our earliest connection possibility was 11 something in the p.m., and we'd be sitting in one airport of another for the entire day, 8 of us volunteered to take the 2:30pm flight to Jet Blue, so I now am the proud owner of a Jet Blue voucher for $150 I'll probably never use! That turned out to be a fateful decision, as the 2:30pm was postponed to 3:45pm due to the schedule being backed up, which was then postponed to 5:30pm. Despite the agony of not having slept all night, and when we did sleep it was a nap here and there on the carpeted concrete of the terminal floor, the 8 of us had an absolute ball together. I can truly say these were people I'd do a lot for in any circumstance, we stayed calm and made the best of a nasty situation, and laughed A TON!! We were calculating our average miles per hour....after 17 hours of only traveling 90 miles from home, we were pretty sure we could have walked....by the time we actually took off, we were pretty sure we could have crawled the 90.1 miles (the distance went up from 90 miles to 90.1 miles to account for the trip down the jetway and back from boarding and de-planing!) We also found our own flat Stanley, who we have plenty of pictures with.

We boarded the plane around 5:30pm, but as we begun to taxi were informed that due to weather we were going to sit on the runway for a bit. That bit turned out to be an hour and a half before they finally decided to have us get back off the plane, and at this point our stiff upper lips faltered. It took everything we had not to cry or turn nasty, and the saving moment was when Terry Phillips (the only guy who had spent the day with 7 fabulous women), unknown to us, hunted down the Starbucks people who had taken great pleasure out of sampling us with every single flavor of frappacino Starbucks makde, and delivered a tray of the undisputed group favorite, rasberry mocha frappachino samples! I swear to you the care of him trying to still make the most of it out of a miserable day was the only thing to keep me from going right into the abyss of despair! We did reboard the plan at 8pm, but having talked to the travel agent to get names of hotels in both Columbus and New York....we were sure we would spend the night in one of those 2 cities. See, while we were working on getting to JFK, the 36 people from the earlier flight were trying to boost our way to the top of the waitlist for the 11pm flight from JFK to Dubai. If the plan did take off by 8:30, we had a chance of sprinting from Jet Blue to Emirates at JFK and re-joining the rest of our group. But at this point, none of us were feeling terribly optimistic. Right before we had boarded the plane, we prayed as a group, honestly, mostly as a desparation move to keep us from losing our cool....but I think there must have been something in those prayers!! By the time we landed in New York, we learned that the rest of our crew had negotiated likely enough seats for all of us to make the flight to Dubai, they had our luggage with them, and if we could race across the airport to the Emirates counter we could likely make that flight. While I waited with the last couple of us at the counter, I clearly thought to myself.....I know I complained a lot about that seat I had last year on the way to Johannesburg, last row on the aisle in front of the bathroom (that was a truly miserable seat), but at this point I'd be so glad for that seat!! Here's where you know God is kooky....I got a seat on the aisle right in front of the bathroom....IN BUSINESS CLASS!!! The last 6 seats on the airplane were in business class, and here's where it was a really, really great deal to be close to last!!

Beth Skillman, who sat next to me, called them our 'pods of happiness', and I'm telling ya, they were! I've traveled in business class before, but nothing like business class on Emirates!! First we figured out that the seats had automatic adjustments to almost everything, including fully extending to lay flat to sleep, it was practically a twin bed which automatically adjusted to a chair. THEN we realized they were also massage chairs (the full lumbar cycle was the absolute best!!) We had our own noise-cancelling headphones which drove the 21" plasma screen on the seat in front of us. Our meals had multiple courses, and there was a red rose on the tray of each meal delivery. After dinner and I movie, I actually got something like 6 hours of sleep for the first time in 2 days!! It was heaven!! In fact, with the cabin lights dimmed, there were fiber optic lights in the ceiling of the plane that made it look like heaven!!

So we landed in Dubai about 9pm local time, and we're again waiting in an airport to see what flights we can get on. But this is an amazing airport to be in...makes me really want to visit Dubai on vacation. The long flowing robes of the beautiful people, the amazing open 24 hr. shopping mall in the lower level of the airport, and pictures of the island they built in the shape of a palm tree and the worlds tallest building....you truly feel like you're in a different part of the world, and it's amazing. There are 2 flights to Johannesburg, one at 4:30am and one at 10:30am, and rumor has it some of us will be on the first one and the rest of us on the second. We think we're in hour 42 of travel....it's about a 9 hour flight to Jo-burg, so the grand total will be a big one, but we'll be there and be ready to roll!! While we're in Dubai airport, we're thinking we'll find the middle eastern flat Stanley, 3-D Ali!!!

So that's the report so far....the next time I write we should really be in South Africa, and ready to roll. We should be there mid afternoon on Saturday, but all of us have as our primary goal to be there in time for church on Sunday, it's a can't miss, despite my lack of cardio training prior to the trip!!