A few weeks ago my husband and I, Megan, and one of our fearless staffers, Kochelani packed our cars and took all the Arise Home kids camping.
This trip had been in the plans for months. With the generosity of many Arise Home sponsors who helped fund the trip we are able to make it happen. We had strategised how to purchase and get 9 sleeping bags, headlamps, tents, life jackets, and many other camping supplies to Zambia. We had borrowed items from generous friends in Zambia too. It was a pretty big undertaking to pack in itself! Megan wrote out and categorized every single item we would need for food and the grocery store trip took two full carts. It took many hours of planning and packing.
I quickly learned that my theory was like a boy scout, which was to be prepared, FOR ANYTHING. Let's be realistic, we are going camping in the bush in Africa with NINE kids. You need alot of stuff when camping and you need to pack things you could even possibly need. I don't care what happens, even if Zombies come, I want to have planned for it. Megan and Asher are minimalists when it comes to camping. They didn't want things like ZIP LOCS! People you can't have enough zip locs on a camping trip. During the packing procedure I found myself secretly sneaking in things that I was concerned we might need. And when they found one of these items they would snarl and make fun of my over packing. I was told I was a hoarder, and many other mean words. I was teamed up against them multiple times but I didn't let it phase me. I knew the joke would be on them when we are in the bush needing a shovel and I had packed it.
We started the staging area of all our supplies at the house we were staying at.
Here is Megan and Asher probably unpacking very necessary life saving items:
Asher worked with our gardener, Moses, to pack the roof rack on the Land Cruiser. We needed as much space inside of the car because we had 13 people going.
After our packing we went to the Arise home and picked up all the kids. They were ready!
For SOME reason, our house moms, mamma Dailes and Mamma Aqualine, were very excited to see us go!! They had all the kids packed and waiting when we got there. We all said our goodbyes and I asked them to not throw any parties in the Arise Home during our vacation. No Keg stands you hear?!
During our drive we encountered many things the kids wanted to ask about. I think every single adult answered about 100 questions. In Asher's and my car we talked about the different factories we passed. The kids were excited. We had Texas country music blaring as we cruised through southern Zambia. The kids learned Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas From the Family" before I caught on to change to track. We learned about how to count kilometers and how far we have gone. We learned that unfortunately somehow someone had donated a book of riddles that has been in the library in the Arise Home. Fred has read this book of riddles from cover to back about a thousand times and has every single one memorized. EVERY SINGLE FREAKING RIDDLE. For example try to solve this one:
Question: The person who buys me doesn't need me, the person who makes me doesn't want me, and the person who uses me can't appreciate me. What am I?
think about it...
wait for it...
do you know it?....
ANSWER: A COFFIN
We also drove on a particular part of the road that went up in the mountains and then low in the valley. The kids had never felt their ear pressure and we found ourselves trying to teach them how to pop their ears. We also saw many wrecked trucks on this stretch of road which made the driving a bit stressful!
The last part of the road was a 12 kilometer dirt road that was brutal. It was in bad shape to say the least. Megan drives like she has lived in in Zambia for ten years, (because she has!) and is being chased by the police which makes keeping up with her, well bumpy and uncomfortable, no actually BRUTAL. At one point we had gone three kilometers on the road and I asked Mukonda how far he thought we had gone and he said nine. We all groaned and laughed out loud when I told him only three.
We finally got to the lodge and camp grounds. My tailbone was aching. The kids piled out of the cars and ran straight to the river. One of them looked at us and said, "I never thought I would get to see something so pretty like this in my life." (then our hearts melted and I possibly got a tear in my eye)
We worked on setting up camp as fast as possible to beat the setting sun. We had a boys tent, a girls tent, and then a two person tent that Megan and I gladly took.
Alliness, Dorothy, and Nelly outside their tent:
Boys being awkard in their photo for the boys tent, I promise they like Asher:
After we had our tents set up we ran up to the main lodge to watch the sunset.
Megan and the kids:
Armon and Asher discussing life:
We also learned to use binoculars. Stella and Mukonda.
It is hard to not thank the Lord for all our blessings in life when you see this
That night we made a quick dinner and hit the tents for some shut eye. Megan and I got in our tent and quickly realized that camping is loud at night. We had guinea foul nesting in the trees above us and they are the most annoying animals ever. Luckily I was prepared, due to Asher's snoring at night I have earplugs with me at all times. I popped those puppies in and left Megan wide awake wishing she had packed some. Be prepared Megan, just be prepared.
The next morning we woke up to many guinea foul kackling and monkeys everywhere. The boys were throwing frisbees to keep them away from the food. Asher quickly came to our tent to tell me how terrible he slept. He asked if I had heard the loud music playing across the river? Nope. What about the guinea foul that are awful? Nope. What about the car that started at the main lodge at 2:30AM? Nope.
We got coffee and food going for the adults, because well they were struggling for good reasons.
The river had steam rising off of it which was really pretty:
The kids got the campfire going and heated up the syrup.
Then we hit the river to go fishing. The kids had never been on a boat and LOVED it! We had two boats and great guides. (or so we thought!)
Asher and Kochelani's boat:
Our boat with Enny, Alliness, and Fred:
Unfortunately the fishing was not good. Nobody caught anything! The only person who got a bite was Megan. The kids were great about it but started losing interest, who can blame them? We headed back and had a late lunch and hit the pool for the afternoon. We don't have any pool photos because I slept in a lounge chair and was thankful nobody drowned.
After an afternoon of hanging out we hit the water again on a big boat all together for a sunset cruise. We were so excited to show the kids some wildlife. We grabbed a cooler of sodas and life-jackets and were ready.
They were tired of me taking photos at this point:
We saw tons of hippos:
I think it goes to say that Freddy does love him some Fanta:
And then we saw the most incredible herd of elephants swim across the river right in front of us! It was awesome!
Asher, Alissa, and Fred:
Megan and Kochelani:
Armon and Asher:
Hope, Enny, and Asher:
We ended our river cruise with another incredible sunset:
We made it back to camp and got working on grilling burgers for dinner. We had an issue with the charcoal and suddenly realized we needed a SHOVEL to transfer coals from the campfire to the grill. hmmm sure glad we had that!! I was very humble and didn't rub it in at all :)
We brought some glow sticks and glow in the dark balloons which everyone loved.
Dorothy and Enny:
After dinner we hung out around the campfire and played with the balloons:
We went to bed that night with full stomachs and hearts.
There was a proposal made to me of possibly sharing one ear plug with Asher. That way each of us could have one ear plugged and the other smothered on the pillow. I thought about it briefly and decided that we had only been married for 6 months and I didn't feel it necessary to sacrafice so much that early on in the marriage. If it had been like 5 or 10 years, maybe the story would be different.
The next morning Megan and I woke up to Asher in our tent asking us how we slept. I explained I slept like a rock. He was not impressed and began to describe his night. Apparently Fred is quite the cuddler and likes to spoon with you. Asher said he woke up in the middle of the night to find Fred asleep with his face inches from him. Fred had on his glow in the dark glasses and headlamp glaring in Asher's face. It was time to go home!
We got the cars packed and used many ZIP LOCS to bag the extra food. The kids begged to stay longer. The adults were ready to get home! We jumped in and made the drive home. And every single adult answered 100 questions again. Fred worked on his riddles a bit more and drove me to the point to pay big bucks to use my American cell phone and google search for new riddles for him to learn so we didn't have to hear the coffin one again.
This trip reminded us of how far our kids have come. They were polite and listened to us. They said please and thank you constantly. That is a big testimony to how incredible our Arise Africa staff is. Megan and our house moms have worked so hard at raising them and it showed! They were literally "bug eyed" at all the new experiences and things they were seeing. It was SO thankful for this time and opportunity to expose them to their beautiful country. Being with our Arise Home kids and getting to watch them experience "normal" things like all kids should, is priceless. They didn't have these positive experiences for many years before moving into our home.
We take it for granted in America how much our kids get to see and experience growing up. I never thought twice about going to ranches, lake houses, vacations, and beaches as a kid. Our Arise Home kids only get this opportunity if we have folks who are willing to financially and time wise help us make it happen. We are so blessed to have supporters who see the need for this and help us make it happen.
Thank you to all who made memories and a trip of a lifetime for our Arise Home kids!
- Alissa, Asher, and Megan