Twas the night before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Every creature was stirring, including a mouse.
Our makeshift stockings were placed behind the door with care,
In hopes that no cockroaches would find them there.

Both Candace and I nestled all snug in our beds,
While appalling karaoke, sung in the street, assaulted our heads.
And at 2am I, almost asleep, on my leg felt a tap,
Had that mouse really just jumped and run down my lap.

When realising the rodent was sharing my bed there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed, switched on the light, and Candace yelled “what is the matter?”.
Away to her top bunk bed I flew like a flash,
While the mouse disappeared in an equally petrified dash.

The light of the morning beginning to show,
Made us realise the time till we must rise was only 2 hours to go.
When, finally it was our time to appear,
Two sleep deprived women walked to the children’s home at 5am ‘oh dear’.

Making a lot of pancake batter, so gooey and thick,
35+ children smelt it at once, and forgot about St Nick.
More rapid than eagles on their varied sized legs they came,
We trembled, and shouted, but them we could not tame!

“Now steady! now, careful! now, tongues off the spoon!
Off, counters! Off, ceilings! Go back to your room!
To the frying pan all of these pancakes must go!
Now flip them! Don’t burn them! Ouch that’s my toe!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
Our children flew around the kitchen, as a bird does the sky.
So pancakes were flipped, flopped and eaten,
And not even one child needed to be beaten.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard from next door
The scuffling and pawing of hands on the floor.
As I poked in my head, and was walking around,
With presents in arms, from behind the Christmas tree they bound.

Covered in wrapping paper from head to foot,
They held little bags in which their presents they put.
A few special Toys no child would give back,
For today, just one day, there was nothing to lack.

Their eyes-how they twinkled! For excited they were – very!
As they sat to watch a Christmas film, cheeks red as a cherry!
Little mouths smiled, and hearts all seemed aglow,
As they watched “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and saw all the snow.

The need for some quiet, some space and a wee,
Turned Candace and me back home to make tea.
We then opened our presents, ignoring the fact we were smelly,
Sat, ate, and laughed till no more chocolate could we fit in our belly!

Then, from the ministry director, we were offered…well shucks,
A free Christmas coffee from a nearby Starbucks!
A cup of that coffee, and my tired head felt like led,
Soon gave me to know I must go straight to bed.

An hour of a nap, well it sure did work,
In filling me back up and sending Candace and me with a jerk,
Back to the children’s home where they froze,
As out of our bags the lice combs rose!

We sprang into action, with a scrape, pick and whistle,
Finishing our Christmas day leaving lice all a bristle.
But as we tucked in the children, and walked out of sight,
We could contently say “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

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The beautiful sunset on a 30+ degree Christmas Day.

 

 

 

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So what do you do in the Philippines?

How amazing that I have only been here in the Philippines for 2 weeks and yet it feels like I have been here for months. What a blessing to have met such amazing people already, formed such close friendships, become a part of children’s lives and seen really crucial areas of need where my strengths can be used.

The set up for Kids International Ministries is completely different from that of Door of Hope in South Africa. My time is predominantly mine to do with as I see useful, you’re given the opportunity to find your feet, explore the different projects and ministries that K.I.M have going on, and gradually find your niche.

Community Feeding is done every morning from 9-11 in different areas around and inside Manila where food is taken to those living in slums and a bible study is done with anyone who wishes to join. Whilst that is going on the volunteers tend to play with the children. It’s amazing how friendly and happy children, in such dire situations, can be. I’ve been to various places with the feedings and they’ve all been amazing to meet and run around with the children.

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During the day I spend my time either at the ‘Children’s Home’, spending time with the Community girls if they are around, seeing the girls from the JAZ Home or whatever needs to be done around the KIM Centre. The Children’s Home is where abandoned or neglected or orphaned children live and the age range varies from a few months old to 23 years old. Most of the children go to school during the day, and then spend the afternoon playing with each other or with volunteers who can go the home at any time. Some of the children are siblings, some are alone, some are up for adoption, some are not, some have simple background stories and some have some of the most heart breaking and traumatic stories I have ever heard. The variations between children are enormous, but ultimately they all need the same thing, patience, affection, structure and love. I love spending my time with the older children but also with the beautiful babies up in the Nursery. Nothing makes you feel better than baby cuddles.

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The Community girls live around the area of the centre and come to the centre every Saturday morning to swim. They also have a bible study here once a week. Gradually the girls have started learning my name, but Naomi is pretty tricky to say at the best of times let alone if your first language is not English. So we’re shortened it to Mimi. ‘Tita’ is Tagalog for Aunt and is a sign of respect which all the children use for those older than them, therefore I have become Tita Mimi pronounced tea-ta me-me. I’m still getting used to that!

The JAZ girls are the girls who have come from seriously abusive backgrounds whether it be mental, physical, emotional, sexual…they all need a place of safety and security which is what they get at the JAZ Home. I have had the privilege of spending some time with some of the girls so far, shopping, hanging out and making Christmas decorations. It has been wonderful to meet and get to know some of them and I look forward to being able to do it more.

In other news I now have a roommate which is fantastic and has stopped me from being melancholy about being away from family for Christmas. Her name is Candace, she is from Mississippi and is 20, same as me! This is her third time back to the Philippines and her passion for working with the children at the Children’s Home is very inspiring. We are very similar in some ways but still have our unique traits which means we get on brilliantly. She has introduced me to a new TV show so any night we have free, it’s junk food and Criminal Minds night.

So that’s what I’ve been getting up to so far. Amongst other perfectly normal things, killing cockroaches, chasing mice, doing laundry during a Typhoon, rubbing cream on numerous spider and mosquito bites, eating my body weight in Oreo’s because I was so excited that I found them…you know, all those normal things!

Thank you for the continued prayer and support, I intend to do a Christmas blog post in the next few days mentioning a bit about Christmas here. But until then, happy Christmas is coming, lots of love from 31 degrees C !

xx

 

 

 

Arrival in the Philippines

Well I have made it to destination number 2, and I am all in one (slightly crumpled) piece.

The flight from Jo’burg to Singapore went well, I only slept for about half and hour of the 10 hour night flight, but am catching up on sleep now. Then after my 6 hour layover in Singapore I caught my 4 hour flight to Manila arriving at 4 pm Filipino time,  8 am English time and 10 am Jo’burg (my body clock) time. Immigration was very straightforward, and my bag arrived after waiting about 2 minutes, praise God. I met the people picking me up straight away, which was such a surprise as I didn’t even know who I was meeting, and we set off at about 4:30pm for the 20-30 min drive back to my accommodation.

6 hours later at 10:30 we pulled into the Centre where I am staying. You guessed it, the traffic in Manila is about the worst I have seen anywhere. Well it couldn’t be a flawless trip to the Philippines could it. On the plus side I got to witness the type of driving I grew up with in Senegal. It truly is amazing how cars manage to turn 2 lanes into 5 if you really try. Finally I flopped into my new bed, a double, in my room, which I have all to myself and slept for 12 hours.

I’ve been getting to know people over the past few days and getting acquainted with my surroundings. It’s very different from South Africa, but there is nothing wrong with that at all. It’s exciting. Surprisingly so far only 1 person has identified me as English, I’ve had American, Australian, South African…am I missing something here?

I start work tomorrow with the children doing feeding outreach at a place called ‘Tent City’ about and hours drive north of Manila. I hope to write again soon to keep you all updated. Salamat (which means thank you in Tagalog the Filipino language) everyone for your continued support and prayer.

Lots of love, Naomi x

Flights Finished (almost)

Hello everyone,

Can’t quite believe that I am leaving the wonderful city of Johannesburg in 5 days. That being said I am gearing up for the next stage of my adventure in the Philippines, and can’t wait for all the new experiences I am going to have. Especially as the rain has started in South Africa, time to move on I think!

Just to update you all, I have now got all my flights booked (except my one home), but would really value prayer on Visa particulars to be sorted out and finalised. I fly out this Thursday around midday English time so would also appreciate prayer for a smooth flight and no troubles as with the first part of my journey to Jo’burg.

I am hoping to write a few more blog posts before I leave, but just want to thank everyone for the incredible support, encouragement and messages, they have all been great!

Lots of love,

Naomi x

One, two, three, BUNGEE

Well on Saturday the 14th I successfully managed to tick off one of the top 5 things on my bucket list. Dal and I decided it would be a great idea to throw ourselves off a small platform suspended in between two 100metre high towers. For years, ever since my Auntie told me she had done a bungee jump, I had wanted the experience of falling through the air (and surviving). So for the morning leading up to when we were going to jump, I wasn’t nervous just excited. In fact even once we had taken the lift all the way up the side of the tower I was still looking forward to the jump. We had paid a little extra to have photos taken when we were up there, which turned out to be a great way of distracting you from looking down and just focusing on the camera. I was the first one of our group to go so thankfully got it over and done with quickly. After walking across the rickety little bridge to the platform I still had managed to not look down. The men up there who hooked you up and did all the safety checks were fantastic. They were so funny and really helped to relax you. Our conversations ranged from Lady Gaga, to why I didn’t have an African husband yet, to what I was doing in South Africa and finally to me being white. This was the funniest part, as everyone got involved in offering their ideas as to which colour my skin turned depending on how I was feeling. For example if I’m cold my skin is blue, if I’m embarrassed my skin goes red, if I’m ill it can go green and so on and so forth. It was so funny in fact, that when they said “Ok stand up you can jump now” it hit me what I was about to do and I froze. Thankfully they already were helping me move forward, as they make you close your eyes before you get to the edge, and my body seemed to go into automatic. It was a moment of matter over mind as my brain was screaming at me that this was insanity, yet I felt my toes poke over the edge and my arms stretch out in front of me into nothing ready to fall. I think I uttered a few pathetic sentences of ‘no wait’ and ‘I don’t think I can do this’ and then they shouted their signature sentence of ‘ONE, TWO, THREE, BUNGEE!’ I felt them let go of my arms and without even giving myself time to protest I let my body fall forwards head first and gravity took over.

I can safely say now that the feeling of falling without anything holding you back is the most terrifying and exhilarating feeling I have ever experienced. Everything in your body moves down towards your head, and even though I was well aware that I was going to spring back up, my body instinctively began to uncontrollably shake. I kept my eyes closed until I felt the tightening around my ankles, the sudden jerk of being pulled back up, and then I opened my eyes. What a view, everything laid out beneath you and nothing to block the sight. Then again the bungee rope went slack and I went shooting back down towards earth. This happened a few times and by the time I was used to it it was time to be lowered to the guys waiting below. Feeling hands grabbing me and being laid on the ground was wonderful. Admittedly I felt sick for about 2 hours after, but what an experience. Not only proving to myself that I could do it (and that I have excellent bladder control) but after the initial shock of falling it almost feels like floating through the air, before all the blood rushes to your head and you think it might explode. I am now the proud owner of a certificate which confirms I have completed the Soweto Towers Bungee Jump, and despite all the horror stories I was so kindly told before I jumped, my health has never been better.

 

A breakfast like no other

A few weekends ago, I happened to be off work on the right day. A South African lady, who I have mentioned before, who volunteers in her free time at Door of Hope, was taking part in a swimming race at a dam. She offered to take anyone who was off with her on the 2 and a half hour drive north of Jo’burg. As the dam is at a very large and fancy resort with 4 hotels, one of which has a water park. Once we got over the 4:45am start, Tania, Del and I couldn’t wait to go, see her race and then spend the day lying on a fake beach in the sun.

Despite a slight detour on the way, we arrived at the resort in good time. After being bussed to the hotel which the dam was attached to, we walked through the main lobby to be presented with what I can only describe as what food heaven must look like. Every type of breakfast or brunch delicacy that you could wish for was laid before us on numerous white tables shining like beacons of joy. Let us pause and bare two things in mind. Number 1) None of us had eaten more than a stale cinnamon bun since 6:30pm the previous night 2) for those of you who are not aware of this side to my personality, my love of food is in my top 3 big loves, after only God and family. Perhaps now you can understand the reason for the intensity with which I describe the glorious scene of food which was before us.

Heart wrenchingly we took ourselves away from the buffet, helped our friend get ready for her race, watched her set off and then realised in was 9:40 and the buffet would still be going. After returning, we paid and joyfully entered the wondrous kingdom of never ending breakfast.

This is where we take a moment to savour how well everything was going, until our food paradise came crashing down.

The perfection began to crumble as soon as the waitress uttered the words ‘Just wait to be seated.’ Now this in itself was no trial, I had waited enough time already to be more than happy to wait a little longer for my heavenly breakfast. Less than 3 minutes were spent waiting and the women informed us that there was a table available. We were asked to walk to the other end of the dining space where another waitress would seat us. Again, not a problem as we were able to walk past all the wondrous food and plan what we were going to have for our first, second and third course.

Imagine then our horror as we reached the waitress and were not only led away from the food, but actually led out of its sight. Perplexed and bemused we were taken around a corner, past some construction work, down a flight of stairs, around another corner, and brought to what I can best describe as either the knock of version of the heavenly upstairs buffet or the place they brought people to eat who they decided they didn’t like. A sea of unoccupied tables lay before us, most only partially laid, with no more than 10-15 people dotted around the large space. Seated at a table which was missing cutlery and cups we were informed that the dark area behind us, up against the wall, was where we would find our food. Quite a contrast from the white and shining food beacons we had previously seen. We were also informed tea and coffee would be brought to us at our table so not to worry about trying to find it.

After gathering our missing cutlery from other tables around us, we braced ourselves and went up to get our much needed food. To our dismay we were not the only hungry residents who were attending this buffet breakfast. On the far left we had mini pastries, bread rolls and condiments. In the middle we had an omelette/various types of eggs station and a plate with a lot of pancakes on it. Continuing on came silver dishes containing various types of fish stews, curries, potatoes, tomatoes, sausages and bacon. Finally we arrived at the fruit, all sliced and waiting to be eaten. How delightful you might say, what a spread, everything you could wish for and yes I agree this would have been a breakfast fit for a king. However, this lovely spread was served with a splash of wasp, a dot of fly, a sprinkling of ant or à la insect we could not name. Still tempted?

Well irrespective of this we picked around the insects, got some freshly cooked egg concoctions, pancakes with honey and various other things. Famished we returned to our table. Soon the previous problems were forgotten as we tucked in to our much needed breakfast.

Not 5 minutes had gone by before the next attack was unleashed on us. Eager to eat my warm pancakes I opened my little honey packet and poured it over. One pancake down I briefly paused to take a sip of my water (the only beverage we could get which wasn’t also being occupied by wasps) and no sooner had I taken my eye off my honeyed pancake, than a fat old wasp landed right on it. Naturally my instant reaction was to swipe whatever was on my pancake off, until I realised it was a wasp. My next reaction was to shoot my chair back significantly from the table as Tania attempted to dislodge it with her napkin. I may as well have put up a sign saying ‘Honey available, wasps land here’. What followed was a hysterical, exhausting and indigestion filled 20 minutes of wasp battling. Napkins, knives, phones, hands, plates and cups were all used in the attempt to rid our table of the wasp attack. When we finally removed the wasp from my pancake, I proceeded to shove the whole thing in to my mouth in an attempt to remove the source of the wasps’ attention. The honey packet, the honey on my plate and now the honey on my lips, were however still just as good a source. Jumping up from the table, ducking, shouting, laughing, throwing ourselves around and even carrying the empty honey pot over to another table (with 3 wasps attached to it) was the spectacle which other diners and staff witnessed.

I don’t know whether you are familiar with the term ‘cut the head off the snake and the body dies’ when it comes to battles, however the inference is that if you get rid of the leader the rest of the army will fall. Well we unintentionally did that. In a final act of desperation, Tania whipped her napkin through the air catching a wasp and then launched it onto the opposite table. We waited a moment in terror for a very angry wasp to emerge from the napkin, but no wasp came. We waited and still there was no movement. Almost as suddenly as they had come the wasps left.

After our near death experience we decided life was too short to not get the food we originally saw in the previous dining area. So we walked back to the previous buffet, filled our plates (not a single spot of honey in sight) and returned to our table to try and enjoy the little bit of time we had left to eat. As we finished our food and got ready to leave, we suddenly realised we had never gotten our tea or coffee brought to our table. After we asked for it and got it, let’s just say I really wished we hadn’t.

Our breakfast goes down as the most hilarious and traumatic breakfast I have ever had. Despite the insects and not eating where we hoped, we still gratefully ate our fill and started what turned out to be a fantastic day with more laughs than I’ve had in ages.

Party Time

Today one of our gorgeous ‘Big Baby’ boys turned a shiny 1 year old!

1 year ago today, a mother gave birth and decided for whatever reason that she could not keep her little boy. I will not be able to understand what she must have gone through to give him up, and it is not my job to comment or pass judgement on her decision. However, I can say now how miraculous and wonderful it is that this little boy had 14 Mummy’s cuddling, kissing and fussing over him on his 1st birthday, not to mention all the other people who were there too.

As the home mainly depends on donations, parties tend to be for more than just one child at a time. The one that occurred just before I arrived was for 3 children who all had birthdays around the same day. However, today a company came in with the biggest birthday cake I have ever seen just for our little man, with football goals and plastic football players all over it. It even rivalled some of my Winnie the Pooh cakes from previous birthdays. They had party hats, crisps, party bags, cupcakes, fizzy drinks for the adults, party whistles and a big number 1 candle. Their generosity meant that there was enough food and cake for the older Big Babies to have, the toddlers to have, and for the staff to have too, with some left over!

Admittedly the birthday boy was fairly overwhelmed with all the people and noise, and sat in his high chair looking like someone was putting him through the worst experience of his life. However, for the moments where he smiled, or laughed, or smeared icing all over his face, or tried to bite the head off one of his footballers, it made all the effort and generosity that had gone into JUST HIS party, so worth it.

He almost certainly won’t remember his party, but that in no way takes away from the incredible gift that it was for him to have one. For people to provide one, for us to be able to share it with him and for him to be alive, happy, healthy and to know in later life that he was so loved for it, is the most important and precious thing.

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