Sunday, March 30, 2008

Letter/Pics from Jesse in Namibia!

How are things?
I just got back from our travel seminar, which was really cool. We started off going out to the coast to the town of Swakopmund, which is an awesome place. The ocean was so cool and the sunsets were amazing! After a couple days there we went off to our rural homestay, which was by far the best homestay of the trip. There was no electricity or running water and we cooked all the meals over the fire outside. It was crazy! The really different thing about the homestay was that the houses were made out of a mixture of cow dung and clay! It didnt even smell bad or anything. I rode in a donkey cart over the weekend too, and that was cool! Im having the usual issues with uploading pics, but ill try to get them up soon. The family I stayed with had a two year old boy who was awesome and he kinda reminded me of Aaron, which in turn made me a little homesick. It was super cute when he would help heard the goats and cows that would randomly wonder around the yard and walk up to the house. Fences are not used as much on this farm as they are back home. It was really an amazing trip.

Speaking of amazing trips, my malaria medicine is making me halucinate a bit. The horizon was flashing like crazy one night while we were sitting around the fire and the dreams have all been really weird.
After the homestay we drove to etosha, which is the big national park here. It was really cool and I saw all sorts of animals. Kudu, Impala, Zebra, Warthog, Giraffes, Elephants, and even lions! It was crazy seeing the lions. We never really got a good view of the elephants though which was kinda dissapointing.
Were going back out to swakop for spring break today, which should be fun. We about to leave really soon!
Love Ya! Tell everyone back home that i love them and i miss em!

If you would like to read more about Jesse's adventures in Namibia, feel free to visit his blog here

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter!

Easter back when we were "only" a family of 8! The kids had lots of fun decorating Easter eggs today! They were speedy too--I think they did them all in about 10 minutes. Janaya is the queen of cupcake baking. Seriously, her cupcakes are amazing! Especially the frosting...I usually hate frosting but the kind Janaya makes is delicious. She even decorates the cupcakes with her own creative designs. She's a talented girl-- And as you can see, she started young: Beautiful Boys...
And here's a little video of Tekle and Aaron answering some Easter trivia

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eyes for You

My Mom asked me to visit her preschool class on Monday and teach the kids some new songs. Aaron is in her class and the first thing he did when I got there was walk around and introduce me to every single kid. He made sure to clarify which of his friends were from Ethiopia.
"And this is Hawanni, she's from Opia too!"

Aaron was so excited to show me around his class! There were a few times where he would instinctivly run at me with his arms raised to be picked up, but then remember his friends were around and change his mind. Although, he conveniently decided that it was ok for me to carry him when we walked up 4 flights of stairs to the gym!

One thing I noticed throughout the day is that even though I had lots of fun with all of the kids in the class, Aaron was the one I paid the closest attention to. When the other kids showed me their drawings I smiled and told them how great they were, but when Aaron showed me his I really looked and genuinely admired his dinosaur. When everyone was requesting songs I had to supress the urge to call on Aaron every time, and when he interrupted my Mom while she was teaching, I just brushed it off and thought about how cute it was that he had so many brilliant ideas.

This realization made me think about all the kids who don't have that adoring figure who looks into a room full of children and yet only really see that "one". So many kids in this world are perpetually a part of the masses. Some have their physical needs met, and even people in their life who treat them well, but no one who looks at them and thinks "wow, this kid is incredible". Everyone deserves to be individually adored for all those little things that make them who they are. They need someone who notices when they are having a bad day, and celebrates with them when they are having a good day. They need someone who advocates for them when situations become more than they can handle, and loves them unconditionally through every mistake.

There are a handful of children in my life who I like to call "my kids". All of my siblings of course, and a few of the Dinomights that I have special relationships with. I love them all so much and they bring me an immense amount of joy. But today I'm thinking about those children who can only imagine a love like that; from the 7 year old girl living alone on the streets of Ethiopia to the 18 year old boy aging out of the foster care system here in the United States, there are millions yearning to be somebody's "One". As I think of all of those waiting, I wonder what I can do to give more kids the opportunity to feel what it's like to be completely and totally delighted in for exactly who they are...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Dinomights Then and Now

Jesse and Kelsey, bottom right

The first time I saw this picture, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. Seeing everybody I grew up with brought back a flood of happy memories and I couldn't believe how little we all were! I showed it to a bunch of other Dinomight alumni, and everybody had the same reaction, saying something along the lines of "aw, the good ol days...".

One of the most beautiful things about Dinomights is that even though many players deal with a lot of issues throughout their childhood--instability, dysfunctional home situations, a very flawed educational system, poverty-- being a part of the program gives kids happy memories and a secure place to be a kid in the midst of the stress.

It's cool to think that my sibling's memories of their own "good ol days" are being formed now. I know the friendships they are making are going to be so important to them in the long run. The games, tournaments, summer camps, special activities, Bible study, and even the 6:00 a.m. Wednesday morning practices are all going to be things they happily reminisce about someday.

Yesterday we went to the first game of Tekle's hockey career. He plays for the "mini-mites" and the kids actually just scrimmaged each other, but for them it was a BIG DEAL. Mini-mights are a hilarious age to watch because when one falls down the domino effect follows and pretty soon you see a pile of kids on the ice.

I was so proud of Lacy when she decided to help out with the little girls at the game. It was really sweet to see her happily sharing advice and giving little motivational speeches as she tied the girl's skates. Lacy also assigned herself the job of keeping the kids hydrated while they were playing, and she did a great job squirting water into their mouths (do you have any idea how complicated it is to drink from a water bottle when you have a helmet on?).

I love seeing the program come full circle--Lacy's a player, but she is also a leader for the younger generation of Dinomights. The program has been a huge part of our family's life since it began in 1995--Peter and Jesse were on the original team, I was one of the first girl players, Isaac played, Janaya, Lacy, and Tekle are all current players, and I'm sure someday Aaron will be out on the ice proudly wearing a Dinomight jersey too!