November 24, 2008

tonight's feature...MADAGASCAR!!

Staying at a church for a couple nights after we flew in from our total of 24 hours in Boston was suprisingly relaxing- it was fun to have everyone together and not feel rushed in our daily schedule for a change. After all the kids hard work prepping for Boston, and after doing such a great job we suprised them with a movie night. The church that we were staying in even had a movie room too- it could not have been more perfect!

We let the kids eat their dinner infront of the movie (but half of them were so excited and entranced with their first movie in America that they forgot about the food!)- it took me back to the days of being allowed to eat a t.v dinners infront of the t.v...that's one of the other great things about this job- it has refreshened so many childhood memories, and the simplest of times that at the age of 8 were such a treat and an exciement.

Halfway through the movie we stopped to hand out popcorn to the kids, and their first soda as a treat- followed by a dance party and cheering they were so happy.

We ended up watching Madagascar- the movie was really funny, but I think that the kids hysterical laughter was what really made me laugh the hardest- at points it was hard to hear the movie anymore because they were laughing so hard. Scovia (the same girl who sits with me on the bus) sat just ahead of me- and every couple lines of the movie kept saying "Ma ye! Ma ye!" which translates to "Wow! Oh my!" and then would burst out laughing. A host the other day asked one of the girls, Lydia, what her favourite part of America was to which she quickly answers "Madagascar!"

Greenbuild 2008 with Desmund Tutu

It is amazing to step back and look at just where life takes you- from singing for 30,000 people in Boston, to unloading bays of sound equiptment once again to set up for a concert and sleep over at a church for a couple nights on parts of a couch the next evening. A few days ago the choir was in Boston to open and close for a speech made by Desmund Tutu at an environmental conference. The morning that we sang I had to remove myself from that moment- from the hundreds of cable wires of sound equiptment, people a buzz in every direction escorting Desmund Tutu, and just think how amazing it is really that these children who walked confidently behind me to the dressing rooms were being treated as celebrities- given the nicest hotel on the waterfront, privately catered meals and snacks were now being beamed over by crowds of people wanting to have their picture with them and media cameras and crew teams praising them for how beautiful and talented they are. Women were crying when they found out that these kids- the ones they were so taken by, are some of the neediest in Africa - and in that moment to step back and see just how much bigger this experience is than I could ever imagine.
The children behaved very professionally and pushed aside weary eyes from our red eye flight to Boston and didn't complain as they poured out all their energy into soundcheck and the performance the following day. The couple of songs the choir performed was not only performed for 30,000 people, but as we found out when we arrived- broadcasted to 80 countires as well! There is also a clip of our kids (well one of the screens our kids were video streamed onto at the conference that is) on you tube- check this out!:

...or if that doesn't work then just search Greenbuild 2008 and you'll see them!

I wish that I could have heard Desmund Tutu speak but unfortunately we had to be backstage and the echo of the room made it sound as though there were 10 Tutu's speaking- I know Steve caught more of the speech though- so I encourage you to check it out on his blog site if you want more than I could hear his voice backstage and walked by him...I'd say came close to brushing shoulders really:)

November 10, 2008

Happy 22nd...

There is something uniquely special about birthdays- it is a funny thing I find- to stop and think that it is really just another day of the year, but only because people go out of their way to think of you and remind you of that, does it become something special.

This couldn't be more true of my birthday last week- Angela had a really generous host who offered her the car for the night, and so I got a call from Sarah saying that the girls from the team wanted to take me out for my birthday once the kids were in bed and would pick me up before 8! They had planned to take me to historic St. Charles- something that they knew would be just my kind of place to visit- so still a suprise to me where we were going, we drove down cobblestone streets to a cutely lit restaurant for desserts. It was the first time that we'd been out together after the kids were asleep since tour started and it was just such a genuinely fun night out- I haven't lauged so hard that I was crying through half the night in awhile- I left that night thinking that it was one of those times where you feel like you couldn't get happier. You know that feeling? There are few things better than that.

On the actual day of my birthday I was greeted in the morning by Andrew with an eggnog chai- I think that Christmas lights and everything Christmas in the malls already is still slightly premature but the Christmas drink menu at starbucks? Not at all- I would not object if the christmas cups and menu appeared mid October.

It was a busy day for me full of teaching english and running rehearsals, but at the end of the day the team brought of cupcakes from the cooler in the bus that they'd been keeping a secret from me- I was definately suprised by the gesture and all the cards the kids had made for me. Here are a couple of my favourite quotes from the kids cards:

" Happy Birthday Auntie Laura! I love you love love love you sooooo much! I am very excited for your birthday and am going to buy you a car. Byeeeeeee" -Julius (age 9)

"Dear Auntie Laura, Happy Birthday to you! When I first met you I thought I saw an angel, but then I realized it was the beautiful Auntie Laura! You are so beautiful. I love you. Please buy enough cake for us to celebrate. When we are done celebrating we will spill water on you (this is an ACC tradition for the person celebrating) You are like gold. Gold Auntie Laura. God's love, -Nelson (a charmer at age 10)

My host found out it was my birthday and stopped on the way home to treat me to a chai latte and cinnamon crunch bread from a delicious chain here in the states called Panera bread. That made for two chai's in one day! That night the girls made me a cake with the host and served it to me hot out of the oven and sang as Gladys dished out big scoops of vanilla ice cream on each piece.

There will be a time when each special day, holiday, and traditions made with family must be celebrated at a distance and with others- but this new little family of mine- of 22 kids, 6 North Americans, and three Africans made that day very memorable- and thank you all from home for all the ways that you thought of me and for your well wishes!

St. Louis, St. Peters, St. Charles???...and now Columbia!!

I have just finished my last sip of tea here- I would get up to make some more and then settle in to write this entry but you see I am already quite cozy under four big blankets in a huge king sized bed...and to top it off if I made more tea it would mean that I have used up this family's whole supply! What can I say? It's just that the British in me is so relieved and excited to see a kettle for making hot water instead of a microwave!

This past stay has found us at "The Crossing"- a church in Columbia Missouri. We had our largest audience attendence to date at our concert here- it was really fun to see the kids so happy by a crowd that was so excited to see them perform. We had to delay the start of the concert by almost 20 minutes because there were so many additional people that still needed seats so the entrances to the show wouldn't be completely blocked and the kids unable to even enter to where the performance was- it was awesome.

The morning after the concert the kids slid down to devotions- I kid you not, there was actually a slide in this church that took you from the top floor to the bottom...and naturally all the chaperones took this route downstairs during the day too!

That night the church planned a Thanksgiving dinner for us- turkey, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, rolls, and two tables full of desserts that all the host families had done.

Before dinner the church had planned a craft for our kids and the childrens department to decorate and stamp their own canvas bags- I think half the paint ended up on the kids hands and half to the bags but they had a great time. This is Gilbert showing his new colour scheme for US Airways- I agree, grey was never too exciting. It is always nice to have the opportunity to all come together to share dinner as that doesn't happen often. Over dinner the children's director presented us with a book all the kids in their classes had made- each page highlighted a different things that start with a certain letter and the pages were all illustrated by the kids. They had worked on it for months- and it will great for the kids to have to read through on the bus now, and to remember these people by.

Certain places are starting to blur together- I believe we covered four differnt towns that started with St. in the past week, and I am thankful to finally be somewhere distinctive like Columbia! Beyond that I will remember this place for their generosity and willingness to serve us in every way we could- it has been a great stay. But now- whether this is good morning to you or mid afternoon it is goodnight and time for this king sized bed for me!