Mumps, Pajama Bottoms & Compton’s Encyclopedia – Chris Cheek, Long Term Volunteer

We are up to nine of the 38 toddlers & one auntie with the mumps.  As I write this it is one of the sentences that will fall into the category of “things I never thought I would say.”  With a three week incubation period I think with the worst case scenario we would be looking at almost 12 weeks of quarantine from the baby home. The reason this is so crucial is that our youngest have very compromised/weakened immune systems. Where as when my boys were little I was ok if they got mumps, measles, chicken pox because in most cases it would run it course and be over without major complications. With our babies they are at such high risk we must take all precautions. So for the next few weeks, no rocking the little babies for me. We just need to go three weeks and no new case and I will be back in the rocking business.  Sure do miss rocking the little ones.

We have a great system in place at the toddler home for the ones with active mumps. We have 6 bunk beds in the bedrooms. Now that is a scary thought alone, twelve two year olds in the same bedroom. Keep in mind we have four bedrooms so we could have 48 two year olds living in this home….Eishhhh!  So we have moved the nine to one room. They have their own special play space, they eat & take their showers separately from the others in our great plan to contain it to as few as possible.  We also had a plan to keep the mumps at Emseni (the three & four year old home) and now we have 9 with the mumps at the toddler home. As Janine so often says, “a plan is just that – a plan.”

Monday, Wednesday & Friday are the three days that the bread truck delivers the bread. As I wrote some months ago, the bread truck driver also sells the paper.  He typically arrives a little before 7am. I’ve had to be very intentional about being dressed those mornings because I’m having pajama bottom issues. I have lost 40 pounds since I arrived in Swaziland. Of course all of my clothes are sized according to my arrival weight.  Now here is were my PJ bottom problem arises. They are comfortable to sleep in because they are big & sloppy. But when I stand up they fall down around my ankles.  This in itself is not a huge problem as long as I stay in my room.  This past Wednesday at 6:30 I was reading when I realized the bread truck was here & unloading. I looked out my window & knew if I waited until I got dressed I would miss getting my paper & I love reading my paper. But with that came the risk of my pjs falling down. The challenges I face…but I took a huge chance, grabbed my money & the waist band of my pjs and off I went down the hallway.  Mission accomplished. I got my paper & kept my pjs up while laughing at myself running down the hallway toward the kitchen holding my pants & what it would look like if they had slipped out of my hand, falling to my ankles causing me to trip & hit the floor.  I can only imagine what a sight it would have been.

My Google – we have a 1973 edition of Compton’s Encyclopedia. That was the year before I graduated from high school. I am having so much fun reading through the volumes. My first shock was how dated the pictures look. Then last night I was looking at the section on photography, darkroom techniques, phonographs, recording on tapes and I realized, I can do all of this on my phone.  It really doesn’t feel like it was all that long ago, but when I do the math, it was almost 43 years ago when this edition was published.  The lesson I’m learning from this is, as frustrated as I was when I first moved here with the lack of internet, had I had Google, I most likely would have never pulled these volumes off the book shelf.  I would have completely missed the memories of what the world was like in 1973.

Each day I find myself becoming more & more comfortable with a different pace of life, insights into what is truly important and the awe & wonderment of the world we live in.  There are real struggles here at a level we can’t imagine in our day-to-day life in America. I see it & experience it every day.  In these overwhelming circumstances; droughts, HIV/AIDS, TB, hunger, 70% unemployment, abandoned babies, I keep receiving amazing gifts of insight, freedom from things & living life simply.  If I left Swaziland today I would leave with the gift of gratitude; gratitude for children with the mumps, pjs that are too big & Compton’s Encyclopedia.  Gratitude for living out in the bush, on a farm with 100+ children in a community of 280 Swazi’s that every day enter the gates of Project Canaan, a place of hope, a place where I hug babies & play in the yard.

The journey continues…..


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