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Monday, October 22, 2007

The Neglected Blog

Hello there one and all! Okay, it has been months since I've updated the blog, but I have a great excuse: I'm a procrastinator. Hmmm, that wasn't nearly as impressive of an excuse as I hoped it would be. I guess I shouldn't have procrastinated about my excuse either. Alright, let's just move on from this. It is now water under the bridge, in the past, bygones are bygones, you forgive me and I forgive you...

And now for a cool video about what we've been up to these past couple of months!

[Video Unavailable.]

Okay, okay - I procrastinated about making a video as well. It's this whole pregnancy thing. If it doesn't involve food or napping, I'm not very motivated. It's a great excuse, almost as good as the tumor, but not as depressing. I'm four and a half months along now and I got myself a little bit of a belly going on, which is pretty exciting. The baby hand-me-downs are already starting to roll in! Some of the stuff I had no idea even existed let alone what they are supposed to be for. The other day I received a device called an "electric sterilizer starter kit." At first I thought it was for if you decided you didn't want any more children, but when I opened the box I discovered it was for sterilizing bottles. Boy, was that a relief!

It's been a lot of fun being pregnant. First off, I haven't had any morning sickness. Second is all the physical labour I get out of now. It cracks me up all the things that people advise me not to do. "Don't walk up the stairs too quickly," "Don't stand too long," "Don't sit too long," "Don't eat sandwiches with mayo on them," "Don't lift the dish soap, it's too heavy for you," and so on and so forth. I don't know where people come up with these things, I don't know if they know either. But at the end of the day, I get out of a lot of chores.

Another fun thing has been the kid's club we work with on Saturday mornings. Each week I get great questions and great advice! Kid's always want to know whether the baby is a boy or girl. I tell them I don't know. Then they ask how will I know to which I say that the doctor will tell me when the baby gets big enough. Then they ask how the doctor will know. Then there is a moment of silence after which I offer them some gum. Problem solved.

A 6-year-old boy at the kid's club excitedly informed me of a great trick his mother could do while she was expecting his little brother. She would put a Malteser, a small round chocolate candy, on her belly and the baby would kick it off. The boy described in wonderment how they would watch the chocolate ball fly across the room. I have a few more months before I will be able to try that out for myself, but I'll let you know how it goes.

Another 6-year-old asked me how I was able to keep my stomach from eating the baby. Now there was a terrifying thought! She was pretty concerned about the welfare of the baby and myself. I was able to calm her down explaining that the baby has a separate room from my digestive system, but has access to get food from it whenever it wants and also dispose of its own wastes as well.

In other news, LifeFORCE has started up again! HOORAY! We have two teams training here in the UK this year. One we'll be sending to Eastern Canada and one will be going to Malta and Spain. Plus a team from our Canadian training base will be coming here from January to May. This is the first week of training and we've got a great group of people (excuse my boasting).

As for Project Gambia, that's still on the go as well. We have three schools registered for the program. We'll be starting the training with them in December and the first group will be going to The Gambia in early February. It looks as though Danny will be going with the first group, but the other two groups go in March and April, right around the time I'm due - so he is GROUNDED! Yeah, I'm always spoiling his fun! I'm a little sad I won't be able to go myself, last year was so incredible! But I have new adventures to look forward to (like poopy diapers. Joy.)!

There's lot's of more things I could write about, but I can't remember them right now. I made a list but that giant procrastination monster must have eaten it. Pesky thing.

Here's a random thought though that I'll leave you with in closing: With the Christmas season quickly approaching many children have the new video game console by Nintendo at the top of their Christmas wish lists. This lovely little device is called the Wii, which is pronounced 'wee.' So heads up to all you folks working as Santa Claus in the malls this year: When a child sits on your knee and tells you in all earnesty that they desparately want a 'wee,' don't panic. Chances are you won't have to use the spare pair of Santa trousers that day.

Until next time, take care and God bless!
~Alycia DeLong

Friday, August 10, 2007

SURPRISE!

Well, well, well. Do I have some pretty big news. And what a surprise, I've made a video about it!



Yes, 'tis true - I peed on a stick. Uh, wait, that's not what you want to hear. Okay, I am pregnant! Danny and I are going to be parents. We will bring up a child, a child that could some day be Prime Minister, or Govenor General, or Manager of some fine eating establishment!

Now, as word has spread around I have had quite a few emails of the usual 'congrats,' 'well done,' and 'that poor child doesn't know what they're in for,' along with questions. Questions you may be thinking right now. So to help with some of your inquiries (and keep my email from getting over-run with the same questions) I've made an FAQ board that will hopefully help!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. How far along are you?
- About 9 weeks so far. The baby will be about 2.5 cm, according to the book "What to Expect When You're Expecting."

2. When are you due?
- Should be around March 13, 2008. If I play my cards right though, I could maybe make it happen on March 9 which just happens to be our 7th anniversary and Danny's dad's birthday. How convenient would that be! And we know that pregnancy, labour, children and convenience are four words that go together like peas in a pod - like ferrets and oversized trousers.

3. Where will you have the baby?
- Most likely in a hospital. I've heard of other people having ones in cars and Walmarts, but what can I say? I'm a stickler for tradition.

4. I meant, are you going to stay in England to have the baby or come back to Canada you idiot?
- Oh, well if that's what you meant, that's what you should have said.

5. Are you going to anwer question four?
- Okay, okay. Well, at the moment we are kind of leaning towards staying here, though honestly we would rather be home. We have a lot of commitments here such as the Project Gambia thing and there are 2 LifeFORCE teams training at our UK base this year. There are some nice perks to staying here though. I'm actually covered by the British health system now so I get all the benefits that any other pregnant lady would. I get free prescriptions, dental work, and anything else a doctor prescribes for up to a YEAR after the baby is born! Yeah, that's a pretty sweet deal! I'm totally going to try and get some doctors orders for a massage! Okay, that might be pushing it. Another thing is that the hospital that is within walking distance of us has a beautiful maternity clinic that is just over 5 years old. Mind you, I'd still like to come home. I've had this craving for perogies and they don't sell them here. I had to make my own batch. They were okay. I do miss those Cheemos though...

6. What are Cheemos?
- Cheemo is a company that makes quality frozen perogies in two popular flavours: potato and cheese and onion and potato. They are available at Safeway and IGA.

7. How do you know so much about Cheemo perogies? Nevermind. What's happening with Project Gambia now?
- We have 3 schools signed on for this coming 2007/2008 school year. We had more, but we actually put some on hold until next year. It was hard, but we really can't do it all. In fact, we're not even planning on doing all of these three (me especially). Mind you, it hasn't been hard to find people to step and lead these groups through the program. Everyone we talk to about it wants a piece of the action! So we've set it up with three schools and three local churches that can partner up to do it together with a bit of guidance from us. We already have the curriculum and the contacts, they just have to put it into action. Plus, we always wanted it to be about the churches and the schools connecting, not just Danny and me connecting with the schools. We hoping to do a week-long pre-visit with the different church leaders before they take their groups so they can be more prepared for the journey when the time comes. Did I say 'we?' I meant Danny. I'll be sitting at home unable to lift myself off of the couch due to the substantial girth that will be anchoring me down at that point. The saddest part about that picture is that I'm still excited! (Those of you who are veterans of the whole pregnancy thing feel free to laugh out loud at my delusions. You're right - I have no idea what I am in store for).

Danny met with the British board members of the New Life Schools (those are the schools we worked with in The Gambia) in Newark yesterday and we found out some very shocking, and even upsetting, information. We thought that the school probably had around 700 students, well it's more like 1100! About 300 of the students are able to afford the costs of schooling and about 300 who are sponsored. The school is educating the rest out of the kindness of their heart hoping and praying that they can find sponsors for the remaining 500! Well, let me tell you - we are going to push the sponsorship of students a heck of a lot more! We had no idea it was that intense! Plus there are teachers that need sponsoring as well. Another thing I guess they said was what a boost our group's visit was to the schools! They are still over the moon about it! Danny said they just went on and on about how much they appreciated the group! I can hardly wait until next year when...uh...I wave goodbye to all the students from the airport as my slobbering baby fills another diaper. Yeah, really excited.

8. How are you feeling now? Have you had any 'morning sickness?'
- I feel great actually. I get to eat all the time! Luckily for me I haven't had any sickness whatsoever. It's also lucky for you as you all know how descriptive of a writer I can be.

9. How is Danny doing?
- The NFL season has started, so I'm not really convinced that all his excitement has been solely due to the news of the baby. I'm trying to convince him that the names of his sports heroes are not options for our baby's name (ie. Ladamien Tomlinson, Priest Holmes, #99, etc.)

10. Have you thought about names yet?
- We sure have! But we have a while before we have to commit to anything. We asked the kids at our kid's club for their input. Many of them came up with names that would be okay for a baby, but better for a pet dog. One kid actually prayed, "Dear Lord, thank you for Danny and Alycia and I pray that their baby isn't a stupid one." Amen.

11. Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?
- Well, as any parent-to-be would say, I just want a healthy baby. However bearing in mind that present babies become future teenagers, I WANT A BOY!!!!!

12. How can I send you and Danny a financial gift in light of this great news?
- Well, since you asked, there is a convenient way. You can send a donation, check or cash, with an attached note that states it is to be passed on to us, to:

LifeFORCE Teams International
#8 - 3530 11A Street NE
Calgary, AB
T2E 6M7

(checks can be made out to LifeFORCE and all donations over $20 are tax deductable.)

13. Has anyone really asked you that question?
- No, actually. I made it up. Sorry. To be totally honest though, I would like to get a filing cabinet so that we can get more organized around here before things get really chaotic! Plus I have had a few comments from people hinting that I should start putting money away now to pay for the therapy my children will probably need later.

14. Is this update almost done? I'm tired and hungry and CSI is on in 4 minutes.
- Alright I can take a hint. I guess I'll end things here for now. I do have an appointment on August 30 and they'll be doing an ultrasound. It will be our first picture of the little gaffer! Mind you, I guess I could just copy one off the internet because, let's face it, who could tell any of them apart?

So until next time, wherever you are, whatever you do, take care and buy Cheemo perogies. You'll thank me later.

God Bless,
~Alycia DeLong (& Co.)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Blog Creature No Longer a Threat, Experts Claim

Lesson One: Never listen to the experts.

Hello there, it's me - the Creature from the Blob! I mean blog. (Mental note: cut down on deep fried cheese.) This is a very special blog, however, for this is the blog I've been eluding too for weeks now! This is the blog that you have been waiting for! The blog that you have been obsessing about, checking the site night and day, day and night, without sleep, without food, without even BLINKING!!! But now, ye weary reader, with your blood-shot eyes and weakened limbs, behold! I bring forth BLOG!!!!!

You know, that still doesn't convey the feeling of drama I was going for. Maybe if I had a symphony playing in the background. With a choir of opera singers. And some timpani. Yeah, lot's of timpani! (Bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bommmmmm.)

Project Gambia - Wednesday - Visit to Kitosilo Village
(Choir: "Ooooooooo Ooooooooo Ooooooooo..." Bom bom bom bom bommmm)


Our group had seen a lot that week. On Saturday, they'd seen how people lived when we visited Adam's home. They were shocked to find families living in houses made of corrugated metal, not much bigger than than the sheds in their own back yards. Open sewage ran on either side of the roads paved only with sand.

Then at the schools there was further heartbreak to see the condition students were faced with: no school supplies, broken desks and chairs, dull and dirty classrooms. Already their minds were filled with pictures they would not soon forget - but there was one more thing they had to see.

I'm not sure where to begin in describing Kitosilo village. Danny and I haven't seen anything like it since we visited the garbage dumps in the Philippines years ago. That's basically what Kitosilo is, a village around a garbage dump. The shelters that people live in are made from what scraps and materials they can find in the waste. There is no electricity, no running water, however there is a well in the village. Actually, to be honest, I don't think it is quite as bad as what we saw at the dump in the Philippines, not that it makes it any better really. I might as well say that one patch of sky is a bit bluer than another patch of sky. In the end, they are still both sky blue.

When we arrived our group was instantly greeted by scattered, sandy huts and the smell of burning garbage. A group of small children quickly ran up to us to shake everyone's hand. They were all under the age of six, and all dressed in pieces of ragged clothing. As we were led through the maze of houses, garbage, pigs and trees, more and more children began to chant, "Tobob nundid!" which means, "The white people are back!" Danny and I had visited them in November when we first came with British friends who built five schools in the Bakau area. They are basically the only white people who ever visit Kitosilo. The group had brought bags of linens, clothes, first aid kits, and other treats to hand out to people and it didn't take long to spread it out around the area. As soon as our arms were emptied of our donations, they were full of tiny hands of children wanting to be our friends. Every person on the team, whether they liked children or not, now had 4 or 5 kids latched on to them. Nobody cared. The children were so gentle, not grabbing, but kind. They all had huge smiles on their faces and proudly paraded us around their village, wanting to give us a grand tour. Our group were so amazed and even amused that these children would come up to strangers and act as if they'd known them their whole lives. Then we told them, they did know them. Many of these children were students at the schools they had just visited that week, only without their school uniforms on. This is where they lived.

There was no time to let emotions overwhelm, however, for we now had over a hundred children following us. Workers from the New Life Children's Centre were about to start their activities* and we were to take part in all the games. Everyone was split up and soon everyone was involved in races, songs, dances, skipping, and lots of laughing.

Then it was time for everyone to settle down and gather a story. Everyone quickly rushed to sit in the shade, they had a special guest speaker today - Mr. Danny DeLong. They listened attentively as Danny acted out the story of him skydiving, an illustration he uses to portray the concept of faith. They laughed histarically as he flailed his arms around and screamed pretending to have just jumped out of an airplane. At the end, one of the school workers came forward, they all bowed their heads and he prayed for the children that they would remain safe and healthy, and know that God loved them.

Many of the members in our group, students and staff, were in tears by now, and the children couldn't understand why. They asked the school worker why was our group so sad. Danny graciously replied, "They're not sad, they just are very touched because you are all so beautiful and you have been so kind to all of us. Thank you very, very much!"

It had taken three vehicles to transport all of our group to Kitosilo village that afternoon. On the way back to the hotel, all of them were silent.

The following day we had off and had signed up to take a tour of a historical site where the beginnings of slavery had rooted. In fact, the book "Roots" takes place there. We had a tour of St. James Island and went through all the museums.

Friday morning we boarded the plane and flew home. It had been an absolutely phenominal week that no one would forget.

And that, my dear reader, was Project Gambia.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, and write your many encouraging words to us. Don't worry though, this is not the end! We have at least five schools who want to take part in the program next year - so there is many more adventures to come!

Until then, take care and take a moment to be thankful for all the riches you have that others don't.

God bless,
~Alycia DeLong

*New Life Children's Centre run activities for children in Kitosilo village every Wednesday afternoon. Through this program they also try to find children who can't afford to go to school and enroll them in the New Life Christian Sponsorship program. There are over 500 children now being sponsored. They receive support for their school fees, supplies, uniforms and lunch everyday.

Project Gambia - Kitosilo Village


Monday, June 25, 2007

Honey, I Shrunk the Creature from the Blog

Heh, heh...okay I am running a bit dry on "Creature of the Blog" saga titles. However, this title does give the impression that this update is going to be shorter than the others. Sorry to get your hopes up.

Actually, this one is going to be shorter in words because I've got two - yes two - new videos! Since I'm spending all my time putting together a big presentation of the entire Project Gambia week for the school, therefore constantly neglecting my blogging duties to the public. So I said to myself, "Alycia, you good-looking fool, you could kill two birds with one stone!" Boy was I wrong! I killed no birds and broke two windows with one stone!

Then I said to myself, "Alycia, you stupid good-looking fool, put the videos on the blog!"

Aaaaaaahhhhhh...

This first video is a compilation of our visits to three schools. During the training time, our group had split into three divisions: Teaching, Music/Art/Drama, and Sports. Throughout the day we ran all kinds of activities for the students who ranged from age 4 to 24. In The Gambia, most kids cannot start school until they can afford it, so in one first grade class you can have students who are six years old to students who are ten.

In the clips of the last school we visited on Wednesday, Half Dye, you can see that the classrooms are quite colourful and the desks are relatively new. It was really exciting for Danny and I to see this because when we first went back in November, the work had only begun. Half Dye is a school with four classrooms, at least 30 kids per class, and two teachers, sometimes three. We had just started to paint this place in 2006. Then a school in England moved to a new building and donated everything old to the ministry in the UK that built the schools in The Gambia. And boy, those people - Christians after my own heart!!! They didn't even let a paper clip go to waste! Let's see a quick before and after picture: (Note - If you're not seeing the full picture click on it to view it, then click "back" to return here.)

Before

This was just after we'd painted, but you can still see the state of the desks and chairs. Most of them were broken with sharp pieces of metal sticking out.


After
This is what the classrooms look like now. Yes, that is me. I'm in the middle of doing something deeply educational and enriching for the children.

Now, without further adu...ROLL THE CLIP!!!!

Project Gambia - School Visits

This next video is of the team on Tuesday afternoon where they took on their a painting project of their own. Even though school had ended, many of the students stuck around wanting to play. This is not uncommon here as there isn't much to go home to, as you will see (an ominous hint of what is to come in future blogs, perhaps?). I'll just shut up now and let you watch the show.
Project Gambia - Painting Day

I hope you have enjoyed these videos. I do have a lot of fun making them (hair-pulling-sweat-staining-swear-wording fun). I just can't wait until the next blog, it is going to be sooooo good! I just can't hold it in, I have to let a little bit slip:

On Wednesday afternoon after school we took the group to Kotisilo village. It is a place where many of the young students from the New Life Schools in Kanefing and Half Dye live. All of the children were ecstatic when they saw the huge group of white visiters walking through their village to visit. And we had many donations of linen, clothes and first aid kits to give out. The entire village couldn't believe their eyes, and our entire group couldn't believe theirs. Of all the things they saw this week, that day was the most incredible...and you, too, will see why...

Well, I have to run. I have lot's of work to do with this still. Feel free to watch them again and again and again!

God bless and take care,
~Alycia DeLong

P.S.- I am so EEEEEEEEEEEEEVIL! Muu wah haa haa haa haaaaaaa!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Spawn of the Creature from the Blog

We now return to our previously scheduled program already in progress.



"Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?"

"Frankly my dear, I don't give a..."

OOPS! Wrong channel! Hey there, hi. Wow, that was close. Sorry about that. Is my face red! One might say its 'Scarlett'! Ha ha hoooo! Yeah, that was good.

Let's pick up where we left off in The Gambia - Sunday morning...
It was a beautiful morning. As the sun rose over the horizon, so did the temperature. Nevertheless, by 10am we were packed into the vans and off to our first destination of the day - church.

Now, let me just explain something about church in Africa. Right this moment, anyone who has been to a church service in Africa has stopped reading this and gone to make themselves a sandwich because they know this is going to be a long story and they better pack some sustenance before I take you all on this journey. You may want to grab something as well. I'll wait until you're back.

Welcome back. Church services in Africa are long. They are so long they will make a class on the history of Greece seem like a jog across the street. As well, African church services are very loud. They are so loud they make a crowd of Liverpool fans seem like distant bleating sheep. And lively! African church services are so lively, they make squirrels on an electric fence seem like...actually, that isn't a very pleasant analogy, is it? Maybe I'll just stick with the basics. It was pretty lively in there with a lot of singing and clapping and dancing and drums and more singing and clapping and dancing and drums and you get the point. Moving on.

Our entire group decided to come to the church service, even though we had made it optional. Since most of them weren't church-goers as it were, we didn't want to force them into it. But they were all eager to have as many experiences as possible! Well, we were all blown away by the singing and clapping and dancing and drums at the beginning of the morning's service. It was very exciting, and very moving. After spending the previous day with a local Gambian family, our group saw many families, who lived in the same conditions as Adam's family, but they were singing and dancing as if they had just won a lottery! Even the children were so excited and so sincere when they sang songs about Jesus' love and the hope they shared. The entire church opened their arms to our group. They had prepared special presentations of songs and dances. Our pastor gave a sermon, which was only about 30 minutes but it had to be translated so it doubled the time.

Overall, the service was only about two hours, which I think is a record in African church services. I've heard stories about services averaging at about four hours and peaking at seven hours! When we told the group that, they were pretty grateful for their two hour experience!

Now I know I've gone on and on about church services in Africa being long, but they have something the majority of our churches in the "civilized" world are missing out on - community. Coming together on Sunday morning is a huge event to these areas in the week. People get up and share testimonies about the things God has done for them that week. They share their struggles and ask for prayer. They'll lead everyone in a song about God's faithfulness and promises to encourage each other. Every single one is struggling for survival, but every single one of them is thankful for the things God has given them in this life and the promise of the next. It goes so much deeper than just a weekly meeting and greeting. Sunday morning is a huge celebration: God has brought them through another week together.

That afternoon our group went to a quiet little place called Lamin Lodge for lunch and a time just to relax. We reflected on the morning, talked about the upcoming week, enjoyed a short boat trip and tour of the area, and tried to keep the monkeys from stealing our Cokes. They sure were cheeky monkeys! (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) By sunset we were back at the hotel, our skin various shades of brown and red. It would be an early night tonight. After all, it was our first day of school tomorrow!

And now...

HERE IS A NEW VIDEO!!!!






This is of Saturday when we went to Adam's house. I was going to put pictures up, but I don't want to give away the rest of the story! Muwaaa haaaa haaa haaaa! I am sooo eeeeevillllll!

Take care and God bless,
~Alycia DeLong

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Return of The Creature from the Blog

I'm baaaaaaaack!

Miss me? Have you all been sitting on the edge of your seats, checking ever few minutes to see if I have written this update yet? Well, I haven't. I just wanted to see if you cared.

Sincerely,
~Alycia DeLong

(Tee hee hee! Danny, come look at this! Everyone thinks I'm gone but really I'm still here. I'm just typing really really quietly! Good one, eh? Danny? Where are you going?)

Okay, I'm still here. And I am writing the update, or have written it. See, to me I am writing it because this is now for me but for you I already have written it because for you it is the future to me. It's now for you but to me, the past me who is writing this, it is the future.

Great Scots, I think I've disturbed the space time continuum. I'd better just get on with the update or else I might give the past me and the future you headaches.

Let's see, where was I? Oh, yes - the misty morning of April 20th. The 28 of us flew from Manchestor airport and about five hours later were greeted by the sweltering heat of The Gambia. We settled into our hotel and had our very first meeting that evening to brief everyone about the week. We had hit our first glitch in the schedule. Originally we had planned to go to the SOS Orphanage for infants, children and teens but our contact there had quit and neglected to tell anyone about our visit. With one quick visit though we had put a new plan together. We would spend the day with a local family only a few minutes from the hotel. It was going to be so exciting! In the morning we would take a few of them to the market to help buy groceries with our hostess, Adam (yes, Adam is a woman with a man's name. Incedently, one of our taxi drivers was a man named Sarah.) and then the rest of the team would meet us at her family's home for a meal that we would all prepare together. Everyone was excited about the new plan.

Saturday morning a few of the students and teachers came with me to Adam's and together we all went to the market. Soon after entering the market, I guided our group back to the road to wait outside. The combination of raw fish, sun-baked goat meat, and flies was aiming to turn their stomachs off from food for the week. (Oh well, cheaper week.) Unfortunately they didn't find much sanctuary even outside the market as open sewage trenches line both sides of the roads. I went back in to continue on with Adam. What a soldier I am, I know. I rescue my fellow troops and head back in to the battle. On a totally unrelated note, I wasn't hungry very much that day either. Must have been the heat...

The rest of the group joined up with us at Adam's and very quickly mingled with her family and many children who had also invited themselves into the party. Adam's family shares a small compound of one to two-room shelters made of concrete and coregated steel. Besides her own children and grandchildren, both her brothers-in-law and their families also live on the compound. Together they make various crafts and carvings that they sell to tourist's to support the family.

That day we all experience what life is like for a Gambian family. Repeatedly the students and staff made comments about how shocking the poor quality of living was. There was no running, limited electricity, they didn't even have the proper tools to use when they made their wood carvings. They were using kitchen knives! When we tried to help peel potatos for the meal there was only one knife. Eventually, some one was able to borrow a peeler from another neighbour. That was how it worked here. The community all helped each other. Being some one's neighbour meant a lot more than just sharing a postal code.

Everyone at Adam's and in the entire community welcomed our group with open arms, as if we were some long lost relatives! At first our team weren't sure what to make of all the attention and affection. By the end of the day they all saw that these people were sincere and in fact, very grateful to us that we would come and visit them.

We took a little detour on the way back to the hotel and stopped off at a place called 'The Crocodile Pool' and guess what we saw there? That's right! A pool! But we sure couldn't go swimming in it! Whatever film was left in cameras was completely used up on the many photo opportunities there.

That evening we met as a group again. We were all pretty exhausted from all the sights and smells we'd taken in that day. Everyone had had a fantastic day and already many of them were moved after seeing the poverty that Adam and her family lived in. It had been a shock to all of them. However, they were more shocked when we told them that actually, according to the norm around there, Adam and her family would be considered middle class. They'd been able to send many of their children to school.

The worst was yet to come...

And that is where I leave you for now! Muuu waaah haaa haaa haaaaaa!

I just love cliffhangers, don't you?

Until next time, take care, smile, and thank God for the many blessings He has given you! I know 28 people who are doing that right now (including me)!

God Bless,
~Alycia DeLong

P.S.- Get out the Popcorn! It's movie time! Does tea and popcorn mix?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Creature from the Blog

Hello? Hello...hello...hello...hello...

Is anyone here? here?...here?...here?...here?...

Wow, it is pretty dusty around here. This poor blog hasn't been kept up very well at all. It looks abandonded - it's like a ghost blog. Spooky.

Alright then, let me
just sweep up around over here and here and a bit more and there. That's better. Okay, to business now.

Let's see, my last blog was February 8th and it is now, YIKES! MAY 29th! Well, thanks for all you emails of concern, the phone calls and letters begging me to come back and light up your day with my clever and witty anecdotes. Yes, thank you - Dad.

I have missed you all, too.

So let us go back to February and try and fill in this gap...

Well, the biggest thing that has been happening for us is a fun little thing called PROJECT GAMBIA. As you may or may not recall, a while back Danny and I had this hairbrain scheme to take a bunch of high school students on a trip to Africa, on a "mission" if you will. We had it all laid out: 8 sessions of preparation, 1 week of "mission" (if you will), and 3 sessions of local follow-up. It was a grand idea, full of potential...

Well, it happened. Boy oh boy, did it happen!

On February 2nd we had our first Project Gambia Session with 19 students and 5 staff from Manor Foundation Business, Enterprize, and Sports College (yes, that is the school's name. You should see there letter head, it's like 2 pages long). Over the course of the next 12 weeks we ran classes about poverty, prepared the group for the week in The Gambia, fundraised, filled out risk assesment forms (which I purposely neglected to ask for Danny's input there), met with parents and staff, fundraised, collected a wide assortment of school and sports supplies to donate, more meetings with local council bigshots, newspapers, schools, and churches, fundraised, applied for grants, was rejected for grants, fundraised, booked flights, arranged for extra luggage, booked lodging and meals in The Gambia, made many other calls to The Gambia, plus the other LifeFORCE stuff (ie. the team's trailer burning to the ground with the set, props, sound and media equipment, and all their luggage was an issue that required immediate attention).

Oh yeah, we did a bit of fundraising as well.

It was a crazy couple of months getting ready for just one week in The Gambia! Let me just say though that the school, (deep breath) Manor Foundation Business, Enterprize and Sports College (gasp), was absolutely incredible with all the work that they did! They blew everyone away with the funds they were able to raise, including themselves! Usually in a YEAR they raise about £2000 ($4000 CA approx.) for charity. But when all the numbers were added up from all the pledges, donations, carwashes, bake sales, dances and raffle tickets they had raised an impressive £11,000!!!! And in only 12 weeks!!! Even they couldn't believe it! It was as if somehow the money was magically being handed to the project, like some higher power was guiding it the entire way...


The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.
Proverbs 10:22

Yep, it is a mystery. Anyway, soon it was time for the big trip to The Gambia itself. It was a dard, cold, and misty morning at 5am as we left for the airport on April 20th. There were 28 of us all together, 24 from (big inhale) Manor Foundation Business, Enterprize and Sports College (what exactly does one study there), our pastor and youth pastor from our church here in Walsall, Danny (what a hunk he is, if I do say), and yours truly (what a babe if I do say).

Look at how long this update is already and I am just getting to the good part - our week in THE GAMBIA!!!

It's kinda weird how it's not "GAMBIA" but it's "THE GAMBIA," eh?

Well, I don't know about you but I finished my cup of tea about a paragraph ago. So how about we all just take a break for now from this little adventure? Leave some surprises for next time?

I'll leave you with this sneak preview:

Amazement. Joy. Tears. Change of hearts. Change of lives. Crocodiles.

Yes, crocodiles.

Until our next cup of tea, take care and God bless!

Sincerely,
~Alycia DeLong

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I Haven't Thought of a Clever Title for This One

Hello and happy February to you all!

Danny and I are back in England now. We've been back for almost 2 weeks and it has been full speed ahead with all our programs. On Monday we start with our new program, Project Gambia, in which we are educating and equipping a group of teenagers from a local high school for a one-week trip to The Gambia (that's a tiny little country in West Africa). We have 8 weeks to get ready for it. In fact, I don't really want to talk about it at the moment because I've just spent the whole day filling out grant applications and proposals in monotonous detail. It took the fun right out of Project Gambia. Tomorrow I'll be excited about it again, though.

Hey, it snowed like crazy today! Outside is a winter wonderland, the trees are blanketed with a coating of marshmallow, the temperature is a mild minus 2 degrees, perfect for all kinds of outdoor winter fun! Oh wait, I've been inside filling out forms, writing letters and making up projected budgets. Life is so unfair.

Speaking of life being unfair, here's a funny story. I actually wanted to tell you this right from the beginning but, well, I've always had a problem with procrastinating (in a related story - note the last blog entry was like a month ago).

So right now there is a LifeFORCE team travelling the UK. They trained in Canada and now they are doing their mission here. We set up the schedule for them, but we aren't leading the team ourselves (woo hoo). They track around the West Midlands in an eight passenger van with all their luggage, props, media and sound equipment, set and curtains all packed up in an amusing little camper from the late 70's hitched to the back. Anyway, after a week of programs in the lovely little town of Kidderminster, the team packed up the set, the sound and media equipment, the props, and all their belongings except for an overnight bag into the camper last Sunday evening as they were going to be leaving for their next destination early the next morn. They precariously arranged everything into the camper, parked it behind the church, and then proceeded to the pastor's house for tea and crumpets (because that is what you always have here in England, as we all know). A few hours passed and the team decided to return to the church to meet together before the next morning's departure. Upon their arrival to the church they were greeted with a number of firetrucks and police cars lined up and down the street. Smoke billowed from behind the church. They got out of the van. They walked down the sidewalk, around the corner of the church and found...

THE CAMPER WAS ON FIRE!!!!!!

Yeah, the whole thing and all their stuff torched! Apparently, some one (or ones) had broken into the camper, stole all the sound and media equipement and then, to add insult to injury, lit the thing up! The back windows of the church were cracked because of the heat and the firemen said that 10 more minutes and the church would have been gone too! So far, the story has made a couple of papers and the news on the radio!


Take a look at this!








What's Left:

The worst part about it is that nobody had any marshmallows on them at the time of the fire.


Donations of money, clothes, shoes, jackets, and suitcases have already started coming in and the team has handled the whole thing really, really well. In the meantime, though, there are a lot of things to sort out. Most of the teams passports did not survive the fire. They've all been cancelled now but we have had to start the process of replacing them. We also have to get a new set, new props, and new sound and media equipment. Not to mention new means of transporting it around!

On that note, I think I'll go back to filling out grant applications for Project Gambia again.

Until next time - God bless, take care, and remember: Never leave home without a bag of marshmallows.

Sincerely,
~Alycia DeLong

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Happy New Year

"Let old acquaintance be forgot..."

What does that mean? I always figured it meant you no longer associate with anyone over the age of 55... Are those even the right words to the song?...

Okay, I went off track pretty early this round, but no matter. I really have nothing to talk about right now. I am on holiday. Yes, a big H-to-the-O-to-the-L-to-the-IDAY.

Dream Scene...
It's the final round in Wheel of Fortune. Pat Sajak turns to me and says, "The category is event. You have R S T L N E. What letters would you like?"

I examine the puzzle: _ _ L _ _ _ _

I say to Pat, "I'll have an H, a D and a Y. And I'll skip the vowel. I don't need it (I am that good)."

H O L I D A Y


Actually, I happen to be in Canada at the moment, treasuring precious moments with loved ones. Like Dairy Queen and Tim Hortons. Aaaaah, it's good to be back.


You're probably thinking, 'I wonder when they go back to
England?'

Gee, thanks. My Christmas was fine, and yours? Oh wait - that wasn't the question. The question was when do we go back. Or as I like to interpret it: 'I can't stand that nerdy Alycia DeLong and her lame sense of humour. I hope they leave the country again soon.' Well, EXCUUUUUUUSE ME!!!!

Do you know what I love about Canada? The sarcastic wit. There's really nothing like it anywhere else in the world. That and poutine.

Oooohoooo, here's something important. As you may or may not have heard, Danny's dad, Dave, underwent major surgery for a cancerous tumor in his stomach. The doctors actually removed his stomach completely on December 11 and he has been recovering steadily ever since. He is now out of the hospital and doing miraculously well, and I'm not just saying that! To look at the guy you'd never know that he has no stomach (unless you look at him whilst he is connected to his feeding tube). He is pretty thin at the moment but other than that he looks great!

Now I know you're asking, "How can a person survive without a stomach? How do they even remove a stomach?" Well, I don't know. I don't want to know. If you, however, really want to know, I'd recommend googling it. That's what it's there for.

Okay then, well I'm off to hit the hay now. I have a busy day tomorrow of sleeping in and catching up with my old friend Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

God Bless you all this new year and may it be filled with many familiar comforts and new surprizes!

Sincerely,
~Alycia DeLong

P.S.- We fly back to England on the 24 of January. (Thought I forgot, didn'tcha?)