May 31, 2011

where YOU lead: the gigglers

we worshiped with the church here in namwianga on sunday, and afterward i decided to spend my afternoon flippantly. i rewarded myself for these past weeks’ work by taking my 2nd hot shower of this trip, and i even went as far as to straighten my hair. sheer frivolity.

my schedule for therapy this week includes the following:

9:30-11:00 our group conducts language stimulation therapy with toddlers from havens 2 and 3. we sing songs, read books, and encourage production of language through activities such as playing on the playground or having “tea time” where the toddlers drink warm milk.

11:00-12:30 we engage in one-on-one language stimulation with the older children from haven 1 which range in age from 12 to 18 months. we sing and play, encouraging the production of speech through imitation and repetition.

2:15-3:30 we engage in one-on-one language stimulation with the toddlers from haven 3 through the same previous activities.

3:30-4:15 we work on language production with the child of our choice for the remainder of the day.

i am loving these children, and in the coming days i will be giving you the lowdown on each child and his or her personality. they have stolen my heart and make me smile and laugh on a daily basis.

there are 2 other zambians who have stolen my heart and make me smile and laugh on a daily basis. the first is our neighbor, mrs. mono, who is a seamstress who will sew anything that you want to have made. tonight i went to her house where she had made me a beautiful quilt with chitenges i purchased in the market. she makes bags, wallets, scrubs, placemats, and just about anything you could think of to have made.

the most touching part about mrs. mono is that she put all of her children through college, which is rare for zambians to attend, through her sewing. she will sew all through the night because she loves the people she is sewing for and because she loves her family. whenever you go over there she giggles and hugs you and gets embarrassed when you tell her just how beautiful whatever she made you is. she is just as beautiful as the prettiest quilt she could ever make.

the second is our night watchman webster. for the past two nights he has been teaching us hymns in tonga, the language here, and we will eventually be performing for them for the church here in namwianga and in a town called kasibi. whenever we sing a song well, webster giggles and shouts, "ooooooh, that was niiiiiiiice!" he is the most energetic and smiley man i have met here, and he is one awesome song leader.

webster lives in a one-room house out in kolomo, the town closest to us, and one night last summer he got very sick. dr. weaver and dr. tullos drove him to his house in the middle of the night on the streets here which don’t have any lights, and after they arrived to his house, they realized they wouldn’t be able to find their way back to their houses. webster, while physically very ill, bent down and removed his shoes and placed them on his brother’s feet so that he could guide them home on his bicycle which didn’t have any pedals.

despite poverty and working all night long to protect us, webster is always smiling and laughing and encouraging us. at 29 years old he has dreams of being a preacher and a song leader, and we love being his guinea pigs in his provisional singing class. zambia needed a mrs. mono and a webster, and so did we.

May 28, 2011

where YOU lead: here in this place

we worked intensely this week and completed our first week of therapy, and the children are already making progress in every area. our babies with TB and HIV started gaining more control and strength and started being able to feed without any leaking or spitting up. our toddlers started talking, singing, and following directions. we are all so excited and happy about the improvement they’re making.

today we drove into a town called choma which is approximately 1 hour away. we shopped in a market for chitenges, and kara and i, with the support of brian and justin, had excellent success, paying only 7,000 kwatcha (about $1.50) for each one. we stuck out like sore thumbs as we were the only caucasians to be found. our favorite things said to us today were, “white people, t-shirts!” and “you are american. come here!”

we went to the choma museum where we bought handmade souvenirs including spears, bowls, paintings, animal figurines, and all kinds of other things. on the drive back i was proposed to in the car by a zambian on the side of the road. it was very tempting as our car was temporarily stopped and he took one look at me and yelled, “marry me,” but i decided that wasn’t the best plan of action at this point in my life and had to turn him down. brian was extremely amused.

when we got back to namwianga we attended our first zambian wedding. two members of the church were getting married, and our group was invited. it was one of the most awesome experiences of my life. the bridal party danced down the aisle with various dances in order to start the celebration. the bride and groom wore a matching shirt and dress made of the same patterned and colorful fabric. people kept cheering and dancing in their seats and in the aisle to rejoice for the new couple. and just when you thought the dancing and celebrating was over, it would all start back up again, and a group of us got up and attempted to learn their wedding celebration dances with them, which only made the fact that we are caucasian americans more apparent. we stayed for 2 and a half hours, but the excitement lasted for the rest of the night.

i love embracing this zambian culture. i love the singing. i love the languages. i love the dances. i love the weddings. i love the food. i love the temperature. i love the people. i love the children. and i love discovering GOD here in this place.

May 26, 2011

where YOU lead: the daily routine

the ladies of my house and i wake up every morning at 6:30 or 7:00 to the coldest shower known to man. we have a bathhouse a few yards from our bunkhouse where we wash one limb at a time in the waterfall of ice. we come back and dress in skirts to our ankles and plain t-shirts that can be spit-up or who knows what else on in order to properly play with our sweet children.

we all eat breakfast together at 8:30 every morning and are ready to start the day at 9:00. we have a cook named ba leonard who is a local zambian and cooks all of our meals and runs the grounds. we have workers who clean our houses and do our laundry, and when they clean our laundry it is paraded on a clothesline for all of GOD’S creation to see. we also have night watchmen who guard our houses at night, killing snakes and scaring off robbers, and our door is secured with 3 locks and an iron door.

the haven where we work is 1.5 miles away, and a group of us walk 6 miles a day to and from in order to get to work and get in our exercise. when we arrive at the haven, we all have different schedules and targets for therapy. there are 3 different therapy groups that will rotate throughout the next few weeks. my schedule for this week includes the following:

9:30-11:30 my group feeds infants with HIV and TB in the 3rd haven. we put them on their stomachs on a rug for tummy time in order to establish better trunk control and muscle strength. we stretch their tight arms and legs and rub their backs as excessive tightness is a result of their diseases. we then do 10 buccal rubs on their cheeks with our fingers, lip stretches right above their lips, and c-stretches placing 1 finger in their mouths and moving the other finger in a c shape on their cheeks as the diseases also affect the muscles used when feeding and swallowing. we then sing to them and feed them and just love on their little selves as much as possible.

11:30-12:30 we interact with healthy babies from the 1st haven and try to stimulate their language as much as possible. we encourage imitation and as much production of expressive language as possible. and ultimately we just hold them and love on them, trying to fill the void of the mommies that they don’t have.

At 1:00 we eat lunch and rest for about 45 minutes from all of our playing and walking in order to head out again at 2:15.

2:30-4:15 we feed the healthy babies from haven 1 who are having difficulty with feeding and swallowing and use the same approaches as we did in the morning, and we have interaction time just like we did in the morning as well.

we all come back and eat dinner at 5:00. we are very tired at that point and just ready to relax. we play games, read books, and just talk to each other at night, enjoying this time of no distractions or other obligations.

we are realizing how important our job is. every summer an infant has died in the haven, and it’s up to us to help prevent that loss. and while we ourselves are not enough to prevent it completely, we have the ability to make a huge difference. many of the older children at the haven are alive today as a result of our past efforts.

the average life expectancy of a zambian is 39 years. in this country a bicycle is a symbol of wealth. and in this country it used to be that when a mother died, her infant was buried alive with her as his fate would be better to suffocate in the ground than to die slowly from starvation.

we are becoming the change we wish to see in the world. to show that just because a mother dies, a child doesn’t have to. to increase the average life of a Zambian child and the quality of that life. and ultimately to practice pure and undefiled religion in caring for our orphans.

May 25, 2011

where YOU lead: the sick haven

yesterday we were working in haven 3, which is the haven with babies and toddlers diagnosed either with failure to thrive, TB, or HIV, when an episode of sheer hilarity broke out. 4 little toddler boys had just finished their bathes and had broken free of their auntie’s grasp. they ran completely naked all throughout the haven hugging all of us with their naked, little selves and giggling the whole time. it was one of the most adorable scenes of my life.

when walking into haven 3, a lot of different thoughts enter your mind. you know that you are about to enter a house full of sickness and disease. you know that you will have to take precautions not to get the disease yourself. you know that you are about to enter a house where there has been death and where death will come again. you know that you are about to witness innocent and pure little children who had no choice in receiving their illnesses. and you know that at any time a healthy baby or toddler could be moved to the sick group.

and then you think about what if you accidentally sent one of the healthy babies or children into the sick haven. what if you got 2 of them mixed up during community playtime and one of them was put among the diseased? what if a healthy baby entered into a sick haven?

and those thoughts have made me learn something new about my GOD. because my GOD took HIS only SON and sent him to the sick haven. HE took a perfect and innocent baby and put him in a world full of disease. and instead of trying not to catch our diseases, JESUS took on the illnesses of us all. HE knew that it wasn’t the healthy who needed the doctor, and HE humbled HIMSELF to the point of taking on our iniquity.

HE became cursed. HE was despised. HE was rejected. HE was considered stricken and afflicted. HE was one from whom men hide their faces. HE was familiar with suffering. and HE was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

and because HE entered the sick haven, we may live.

May 23, 2011

where YOU lead: the least of these

today i worked in the haven with sick infants and toddlers for the first time. children in this haven have various diseases ranging from failure to thrive to HIV. i was initially nervous working with people with these diseases as i have never done that before, but today my heart was stolen and my fears were completely erased.

as I worked, matthew 25:35-40 came into my mind: “for i was hungry and you gave me food, i was thirsty and you gave me drink, i was a stranger and you welcomed me, i was naked and you clothed me, i was sick and you visited me, i was in prison and you came to me’… the KING will answer them, 'truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to ME.' and at the end of a long day’s work these are the words on my heart…

the least of these

today i met the least of these
as i sang to 2 twins with no mommy,
and as they sat and cried
as i said goodbye,
i knew that things would never be
the same for me.

today i met the least of these
as i held a baby girl who had TB,
and as i saw the rise in her chest
as she gasped for every breath,
i knew that things would never be
the same for me.

today i met the least of these
as i played with a little boy with HIV,
and with every beat of his heart
i felt my own break apart,
and i knew that things would never be
the same for me.

today i met the least of these
and it made me fall straight to my knees.
the pieces of my heart rearranged
and i will be forever changed,
and i know that things will never be
the same for me.

May 22, 2011

where YOU lead: the happiest place on earth

yesterday afternoon we lost all electricity which is a normal occurrence here in africa. in america, we get upset if our high-speed internet access is running the least bit slowly. in zambia, the electricity can go out for days and sometimes months on a regular basis. yesterday we spent hours in complete darkness, and yet the zambians continually find pleasure in spending time together despite the darkness…making this the happiest place on earth.

this morning we got up and worshiped with the church here in namwianga. the building was tiny and completely packed with 406 people. despite their poverty, the zambians gave approximately $600. in the morning service about 10 people responded for prayers regarding everything from troubles in school to various illnesses, and people were ready and eager to pray for them. they sang their own version of “amazing grace” which completely blew our version out of the water…making this the happiest place on earth.

this afternoon americans and zambians united on the soccer field for an hour-long game of soccer. the americans from our group played in their nice, american tennis shoes. the zambians played in their bare feet, and they laughed and enjoyed every minute of feeling the grass between their toes and watching us attempt to play their sport…making this the happiest place on earth.

this evening 7 zambians were baptized into JESUS CHRIST for the remission of their sins. the entire congregation surrounded the baptistery which was a big cattle trough full of water in our backyard. all of the members sang african hymns on the way to our house and during the baptisms, and when the baptisms were over, they sang an african chant congratulating those entering into GOD’S kingdom. it was the most rewarding celebration i’ve ever attended…making this the happiest place on earth.

despite poverty. despite malnutrition. despite disease. despite darkness. despite need. despite want. despite loss. despite nothing. and despite everything. this is the happiest place on earth.

"clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'GOD opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of GDD so that at the proper time HE may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on HIM, because HE cares for you. be sober-minded; be watchful. your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. resist HIM, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." 1 peter 5:5-9

May 21, 2011

where YOU lead: GOD has smiled

we ate our first african meal on thursday night in lusaka at a restaurant called rhapsody, and naturally i went with african spaghetti as you just can’t go wrong with spaghetti. it was wonderful, and after eating we all immediately went to sleep for 10 hours.

we woke up on friday morning to a 6-hour-long bus ride from lusaka to namwianga which was filled with reading, sleeping, and singing. we ate at a place on the side of the road called tooters, and it might have been the best version of fried chicken this side of kfc. our bus then broke down there, and we physically had to push it and jump it to get it to start. it was an incredible bonding experience.

we arrived at namwianga where we got our rooming assignments. i’m living in a tiny little bunkhouse with jill and cameron where we have 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom to ourselves. our beds are covered with mosquito netting, and our walls are decorated with wall spiders who eat the mosquitoes. we love our little house!

although it’s supposed to be dry season, it decided to rain last night here in africa. and not only did it decide to rain, but it also decided to hail. i’m not sure how to put into words the feeling of living in a tiny african house, reading your book on the couch, and listening to the sound of an african thunderstorm. it was one of the most beautiful feelings in my life.

last night leonard, our cook, made us grilled cheese sandwiches and baked us an amazing cocoa cake from scratch. our group played board games together and gave every member of the group a nickname. dr. weaver says that if i had a tribal name it would be “laughing with grace” because my boyfriend, whose last name is grace, is here working with me and constantly making me laugh.

this morning cameron, jill, and i braved the world’s coldest shower. our showers are solar-powered and therefore freezing at 6:30 in the morning. we showered with the toads and the spiders and suddenly were totally wide awake.

we then journeyed to the haven where we will be working for the next few weeks. it is made up of 3 houses: 1 with healthy babies, 1 with healthy toddlers, and 1 with babies with various diseases. this morning we visited and played with the healthy babies and had a blast. my favorites are named lucas, maureen, and reuben. i held each baby and sang various songs to them while just loving on them. maureen’s favorite song was “GOD has smiled on me,” and she would smile and giggle every time i sang it. she would cry every time i put her down and instantly stole my heart. there’s a little baby named memory who is a little trickster, and he was constantly trying to steal my camera and my hand sanitizer. pictured above is my boyfriend brian holding a little girl named peace and me holding lucas, and we all enjoyed going throughout the haven holding and playing with all of the babies. there are just no words to describe the experience!

we ended today’s big events with the kalomo marketplace where we purchased chitenges of different colors. chitenges are long pieces of fabric that are tied around your waste into a skirt, and i bought 2 and will be sporting them as soon as possible. for the rest of the day we will be eating dinner, playing games, spending time together, and getting ready to worship our LORD in the morning.

at the end of the day, i am overwhelmed by only 1 thought: “GOD has smiled on me. HE has set me free. GOD has smiled on me. HE’S been good to me!”

May 19, 2011

where YOU lead: the blast off

"it's a dangerous business, going out your door. you step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might be swept off to." bilbo baggins, the fellowship of the ring

approximately 48 hours ago i began what is already turning into a life-changing experience. i boarded a plane with 10 other master's speech-language pathology students, 3 SLP supervisors, 3 pharmacy students, 1 pharmacy supervisor, and 1 of our professor's sons named ian whom i affectionately call "it." we boarded our plane in memphis with eager anticipation and excitement only to be told that the leader of our pack, dr. beckie weaver, didn't have a seat. it turned out that a woman had boarded our plane accidentally, and of all the people they could have tried to kick off, they had the audacity to approach dr. weaver.

we all made it onto the plane, however, and flew from memphis to chicago to d.c. where we spent the night. on our flight from chicago to d.c. we met the most entertaining flight attendant i've ever met in my life. he fondly called himself "karlitos" and wore a llama pin as his emblem. he sang for us, offered us free gifts, and escorted us off of the plane with napkins containing every possible means of his contact information including his facebook and twitter. we thanked him and then kindly threw his napkins into the trash when he wasn't looking.

this morning...well, i'm not really sure at this point when this morning was...we boarded ethiopian air to fly 13 hours from d.c. to addis ababa, ethiopia. naturally upon arriving in ethiopia, i immediately thought of acts 8 and the ethiopian eunich, wishing i, like philip, could inspire others to ask the question, "what prevents me from being baptized?"

seeing africa for the first time was the most incredible feeling! stepping onto african ground to be surrounded by trees straight out of "the lion king" was unreal. meeting african people so interested in and encouraging of you made the thousands of miles so completely worth it.

since i am in the habit of never meeting a stranger, i made 5 new african friends on our flight from ethiopia to harare, zimbabwe to lusaka, zambia. the reason that i titled this post "the blast off" is because 2 of them were little, toddler brothers who kept calling our flight "the blast off." the other 3 were african women named sandra, christine, and ethel. sandra, a woman in her early 30s, was from zimbabwe, and when i told her why we were coming to africa she asked, "why are you not coming to zimbabwe? we need you there!" christine, an older woman, works with children of various african nations and was thrilled to hear of our work, and ethel, an african girl around my age, and i sang american pop songs together on the plane and exchanged email addresses before the flight was over.

we finally arrived in lusaka to a huge zambian bus that took us here to our hotel. we are all happy to be on the ground and glad for this night of rest, but we are all eagerly anticipating leaving for namwianga in the morning! thank you for all your prayers for our successful "blast off!"

May 16, 2011

where YOU lead: the night before africa

"for attractive lips, speak words of kindness. for lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. for a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. for beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day. for poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. people, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms. as you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others." audrey hepburn

in titling the posts about my adventures in africa, i was blessed with the strangest source of inspiration. i love music and naturally thought some clever lyrics from a devotional song or a song about africa would come to me, but instead, the song that kept playing in my head...was the theme song from gilmore girls. the lyrics are not spiritual in nature and don't have anything to do with africa, but when you twist them to be about GOD and following HIS will, it is quite amazing what they create: "where YOU lead, i will follow, anywhere that YOU tell me to. if YOU need, YOU need me to be with YOU, i will follow where YOU lead."

when it comes to the journey that i am about to take, there are no more appropriate lyrics to be found. the fact that GOD led me to harding university, to be blessed with a previous international experience, to fall in love with the field of speech pathology, to work with children on a daily basis, to take 3 incredible missions classes, to be in 1 of the 1st classes in an upcoming program, to be in the 3rd group to ever have this opportunity, and to be able and willing to go is nothing short of providential. i truly believe that i was made for such a time as this.

i believe at this time in my life:
while i'm in grad school. while i'm unmarried. while i'm young and love to travel. that i was meant for this work. to be holding, feeding, changing, treating, and loving on orphaned babies with various diseases in a home called the haven. to play with, get to know, and love older children in their home called eric's house. and to grow as a speech pathologist and more importantly a daughter of GOD at the namwianga mission site of zambia, africa.

when you tell people that you're about to move to africa to be a medical missionary for 6 weeks, you get some pretty interesting reactions. in the past week i have been told not to die, to come back, not to drink the water, and to wear gloves. and trust me, those thoughts were definitely my initial reactions, too. but as you individually prepare to live in africa. when it's you that's actually going. when it's your life and your path. when somehow you find yourself boarding a plane in 24 hours. as much as you want to prepare for all of the physical changes and precautions. as much as you want to be afraid of all of the crazy things that might happen. and as much as you want to question if in fact you really are ready. the only thing that you can focus on is your heart.

when you're packing to live in africa, you pack things that you have never purchased before in your life. you soon find yourself researching the best antibacterials and discussing the pros and cons of imodium. your suitcase becomes a living pharmacy. you become a pro at listing off the different medications that you're taking all at the same time. you find yourself bragging about how you suffered 5 shots in 1 sitting. and soon to use bug spray with deet or to use bug spray without deet becomes the question.

hands down, my favorite purchase for this adventure is my headlamp which i have affectionately named "lolita" because i love to name my possessions and because it totally sounds like a light's name. it's orange and white and produces 3 different types of light including night vision which i fully plan on using on a regular basis. and as i visualize myself walking in africa by the light of my handy headlamp, i can't help but realize that the concept of my headlamp defines my whole journey.

here i embark on an unknown adventure, unable to see the path ahead of me. but just as my headlamp will physically help me to see exactly what i need to. indicating exactly where i need to go. identifying only what's just ahead. emphasizing every moment and every step. guiding my very direction. i believe that GOD will light my heart and my steps just like my headlamp. seeing exactly what i need to. indicating exactly where i need to go. identifying only what's just ahead. emphasizing every moment and every step. guiding my very direction.

for this adventure i'm trading my favorite pair of coral heels for my chacos and toms. i'm trading my pants for some shin-hitting skirts. i'm trading my makeup for moisturizer with some serious spf. i'm trading my perfume for some deep woods off. and i'm trading my multi-vitamin for anti-malaria medication. but ultimately i'm trading my pride for some humility. i'm trading my luxury for some discomfort. i'm trading my planning for some uncertainty. and i'm trading my put-together life for a broken heart.

i will be restoring, renewing, reviving, reclaiming, and redeeming only to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. and my prayer is that GOD will help me bear the pain as HE breaks my heart.

to read more about where i will be living and working, go
here. if you would like to pray for me, i have 2 requests: 1) that my team and i will remain healthy and safe in order to fulfill our plan and purpose effectively and to physically return in the same condition in which we left and 2) that our doubts and fears will not inhibit our efforts and that we will not return the same people emotionally and spiritually. thank you for caring about my journey, and i promise to write as often as i can.

May 15, 2011

adventures in europe: england

i wanted to get one more story of prayer from europe in before i start writing about my adventures in africa. this last one took place in london at the end of my semester abroad.

i had traveled to london at the end of my 3-month adventure in europe with 3 of my good girl friends. we were going to spend 3 days in london before flying back home to america. we were also going to be meeting up with the rest of our friends to celebrate my 20th birthday at the hard rock cafe on that first night. i would also be reuniting with my travel buddies, my identical twin best friends haley and holly, because we would be flying home a different way than everybody else.

london has 5 airports. the rest of my friends were all going to be flying back to detroit before meeting their connecting flights to their appointed cities, so they would all be traveling out of the heathrow airport. but because the twins and i were flying back to alabama, we would be traveling a different route and departing out of london city airport. so in other words, it was imperative that i quickly meet up with the twins.

for whatever reason we hadn't come up with a plan of where we would meet or how we would even get to the airport which is in the dead center of the city. because of the time of our flight, all of the subways wouldn't be running in time to get us there. a taxi cost approximately $20 per 3 blocks. and my hostel and their hotel were several miles apart. so we would have to meet up and soon in order to figure it out.

the problem with meeting up with haley and holly in london to devise our departure plan is that london is a really big city. and with no cell phones and only facebook messages, timing in our communication would be everything. and as the first day was coming near an end, i began to feel overwhelmed at the thought of finding these girls in one of the biggest cities in the world.

so on that first night in london, headed to the hard rock cafe to celebrate my birthday, i felt more nervous and anxious than excited. and so as my friends and i got off of the subway and walked the few blocks to the restaurant, i started praying: "LORD, this is going to seem really silly, so get ready. but i am really nervous and anxious about meeting up with haley and holly in time to come up with our plan to get back to america. i really need to get back to america. so as crazy as this is, i need to see haley and holly. so LORD, if you could please just work out a way for me to see them immediately, i would be really grateful."

right as we were approaching the door to the hard rock cafe, i said my amen. as i grabbed the handle of the door i realized that people were on the other side of it, so i decided to stand back and hold it open for them. and when i opened the door, the people on the other side...were haley and holly.

May 4, 2011

adventures in europe: poland

on that same first free travel adventure, my friends and i decided that we really wanted to visit auschwitz. we had studied and learned a lot about the holocaust and had just watched the film "life is beautiful" with the rest of our group. we knew that it would give us an appreciation for life that we had never experienced before. the only thing about auschwitz is that it's located in poland, which is rather far away.

we had traveled from florence to venice to budapest to vienna, and now we were planning to take an overnight train from vienna to krakow, poland, the city closest to auschwitz. typically we would have purchased a couchette like we did before, and we would have just slept in beds on the train until we arrived in krakow the next morning. but all of the couchettes and seats on the train heading straight to krakow were booked, and our only option was to purchase seats on two separate trains, making the a switch from one train to the other at 4:30 in the morning.

so at 4:30 in the morning, our train would arrive at some tiny polish town's train station where we would get off and get on another train to krakow. the other problem that we didn't realize was that when we arrived at our tiny polish town's train station, we would have exactly 7 minutes to locate and board the train to krakow.

so we left vienna that night carefree and excited, but as we traveled in the middle of the night to poland, i decided to review our train book and discovered that we would have only 7 minutes to make our change. i also noticed that the town we would be arriving in was called katowice and that i had never heard of it and didn't know anything about it. and as our arrivals and departures through various towns began to be delayed, i realized that we wouldn't be arriving in katowice at 4:30 in the morning.

as a general rule, the farther east that you travel in europe, the less english that is spoken. another general rule is that the smaller the town, the less english that is spoken. and as we approached katowice at nearly 5:00 in the morning, a sick realization hit me: my friends and i were about to be stranded in a tiny polish train station, in the middle of the night, where possibly no one spoke any english, and where there was no train for us to board.

and sure enough, with one step off of the train, all of my fears were realized. i stepped off of the train into a living nightmare, the single creepiest place i had ever been in my life. strangers were scattered on the platform just staring at the 6 cute, american girls who had just arrived. and there was not a single train waiting for us in the tiny station.

you had to walk up and down stairs to actually get to the train platforms, and so we went downstairs to find the information desk only to find that there was no information desk. there was a ticket counter, however, and so we all walked rather quickly to the woman shielded behind the metal bars enclosing her counter.

"yes, ma'am? we're looking for a train to krakow that was supposed to leave at 4:37. our train arrived here late, and we need to get there as soon as possible. did that train leave already, and do you know when the next one is coming?" i said as calmly as possible. and then my next fear was realized: not a single soul in the station spoke a single word of english.

panic started to set in as we girls realized that we were completely helpless in the scariest place we had ever been in the middle of the night. we started running down the long hallway and up and down stairs to various platforms in search of the train. but there was no train to be found.

so we finally chose a platform randomly and walked up the stairs to it to just stand and wait, and i began to pray. this was my exact prayer: "dear LORD, this may be really silly. but i am really scared. actually, i'm pretty terrified. and in this moment there is only one thing that i truly want, and that is my train. i don't want the next train. i don't want a train a few hours from now. but i want the 4:37 train that we just missed to come pick us up and take us safely to krakow. i know that's crazy, but..."

my prayer was interrupted mid-sentence by my friends getting my attention. i looked up and realized that a train was coming on another platform. we went downstairs and then back up the stairs to that platform. and upon walking up and seeing the electronic sign beside the train indicating where it was going and what time it was to depart, i read the following words: krakow 4:37.