Well, we've been back from Vic Falls for over 2 weeks now, and things have really picked up. I am staying really busy with my volunteer work, the kids are back into the swing of school and, all in all, things continue to go quite well. Below is a VERY basic rundown of some of the projects that I am volunteering with - if you don't have much interest in the work bit, and would rather see pictures from Halloween and school parties, just scroll down. But for those of you interested in the nitty-gritty, I'll outline the projects below - in a very simplified, hopefully brief, manner. Suffice it to say, I'm staying busy, learning a lot and am finding the work interesting (so far!)
-- Zvitambo research project - I am working (volunteering) with a research team (headed by Johns Hopkins University) looking at the relationship that Environmental Enteropathy has on stunting and anemia in babies under 2. Basically, the study is comparing various nutrition interventions as well as WASH (sanitation) interventions on decreasing or eliminating stunting and anemia in babies (both are HUGE problems here in Zimbabwe - up to 35% of babies in the region suffer from severe stunting!) I am learning SO MUCH about mother/child nutrition in the developing world (not to mention the research process itself) and can't wait to implement some of what I am learning into my curriculum. I have also been given a lot of reading to do on past studies (mostly regarding HIV/AIDS, nutrition, breastfeeding, etc.) which I am also finding fascinating. The study is just getting off the ground and it's really interesting to see the work at this stage (I'm also having to re-learn 'research speak.')
--CARE gender assessment. I am also volunteering with the NGO, CARE, as they assess gender issues in rural Zimbabwe. Most notably, they are looking at adolescent girls and their attitudes/choices around sexual behavior as well as female heads of households (up to 80% of households in certain rural areas are headed by women and they contain, on average, 2.6 dependents IN ADDITION to their own children.) They are trying to gather statistics and are interviewing girls/women about current gender attitudes- especially around gender equality, empowerment and sexual decisions. (One sad side note - the HIV rate, which had been on the decline in recent years, increased almost 2% in 2010!) Again, I'm finding the work incredibly interesting and eye opening.
--Emerald Hills Children's Home. I mentioned this home in a previous post. I continue to guest teach about once a week and am going to help out at a couple of upcoming fundraisers. The kids are great - they always welcome me with big hugs and high fives. They are eager to learn, rambunctious and sweet. I don't know their personal stories, but all of the kids are from broken homes, some have lost one or both parents, most have been badly abused and several are HIV+. The state welfare system has placed them here. The resilience of these children, despite their harrowing stories, is very inspirational.
Between these three projects, I've got something to do every day and will be kept busy for sure. There are a couple of clinics that I'd like to visit, as well, when I have the time...
NOTE - if you have skipped ahead, the kiddo part of the post starts now...
A week ago Friday was UN day at the school. The student body represents over 70 countries and this was a chance to highlight the diversity of the school. There was a presentation including songs, dancing and a flag ceremony, followed by a huge picnic and food fair - with eats from all of the represented countries. The U.S. booth contained wings, hotdogs, burgers, chips, etc... no wonder we lead the world in obesity :) I got most of my yummies from the Asian tables - sushi, satay, noodles, curries.... YUM! For their part, the kids were told to dress in the colors/style of their country. Here is our brood representing America -
Many of the kids were dressed so nicely in their sarongs and robes and kangas. And the Americans? Mostly in shorts and slogan laden T-shirts. Ah, the culture that is America..
A few uther scenes from UN day:
Zavi and Eliza watching the presentation
Grade 2 song ('Peace and Love')- the photo is dark, but if you look carefully, you can see Miles in the lower, left side
Zavion rocking out! (to the international sounds of MC Hammer, Justin Beiber and Katy Perry- yuck.)
People milling about. I should mention that Katy, as president of the PTO, worked hard to help put this on - good job!!
Halloween isn't really celebrated the way we do it outside of the U.S. If we tried going door to door trick or treating around here, people would think we were crazy. Luckily, though, there is a large American expat community here and there was a big Halloween party at the Marines'. We all got dressed up, loaded up on candy at the trunk or treat, got scared in the haunted house and enjoyed a nice night out :) We brought along Shepard and Panache for their first taste of Halloween :):) The pictures are mostly too dark, but here are a few -
Zavion as Anakin Skywalker (but he preferred to pretend he was Luke because 'Luke never turns bad.'
Zavion Skywalker, Princess Eliza, Shepard Iron Man and Panache Wizard
Tracy 80s rocker and Katy geisha girl
Joined by Vampire Miles and Ghost Vaughn
Trunk or treat!
A little nervous in the haunted house. At one point, someone pretended to chop my head off with a pretend cleaver. After we came out, Z said, 'Mommy, I don't ever want you to get your head cut off again!'
FUN IN THE POOL
We recently had a heat wave here - the highest temps since the 1960s (mid 90s and not humid, so really not that bad, but hot enough to enjoy some pool time!)
The kids love being thrown by Daddy/Uncle David
And the biggest news of the week (for this Mommy, anyway)? Little Zavion is now swimming without floaties!! Underwater, arms moving and feet kicking and everything - all the way across the pool. Proud Mama moment :):) Here he is...
Warming up after pool time.
Lots of other stuff going on - Zavion and Eliza are going to pirate camp one day a week and ooey gooey science another. The kids love feeding the chickens and collecting eggs (as well as saving a baby bird and keeping the chickens safe from Mambo,) playing tennis, swimming, playing make-believe, etc. The adults have been working, playing ultimate, tennis, doing lots of walking, and refereeing cousin battles. I'll leave you for now... with these photos of one of our nighttime dance parties :)
Until next time....