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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday reflections


After a wonderful first week of school, I was ready for a weekend of taking it easy and enjoying time with friends.  Today was such a wonderful day that started off with church.  The sermon spoke to my heart as the pastor spoke on the times in our life when we are pushed out into the unknown.  It is in these times that there are valuable lessons to be learned and a purpose that awaits us. He said when we do this it is scary, for we have no idea what waits around the corner.  It felt like affirmation to hear his words and I left greatly encouraged.  I felt tears rush down my face as we sang one last song after the message. They were not tears of sadness, but rather tears of overwhelming gratitude and thanks.  Thankfulness for this opportunity to be amongst such beautiful people, for the 19 students I have the privilege to teach, for the changes I feel already taking place in the way I think and approach people and situations, and thankfulness for the amazing friends and family I have who are supporting me.  I honestly am so overwhelmed with the love I feel from those of you at home who have done so much whether it be a kind message on facebook or via email, a donation to support me financially, or a prayer that I know does not go unanswered. I truly feel undeserving of the love lavished upon me, but I welcome it with open arms.   

Hungry?

I definitely did not eat this, but had to share it with you.  Street vendors hold these up and sell them on street corners.  I am fully confident that I will never eat mice on a stick.  However; it is definitely worth taking a picture of!  

This is a picture of myself, Carson, and Michelle (roommate) after church today.  These girls constantly make me smile, laugh, and enjoy life.  I know we will have many wonderful moments together throughout the year!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Here's my class!

So I'm pretty sure some of my students were afraid they would blink.  That is why two of them are holding their eyes open!  This is my class minus two that were absent today.  I am truly enjoying getting to know them and I am starting to see the things about each of them that are so endearing and that make them unique.  The little one that is all the way at the back corner of the carpet, kept staring at me today.  She then came up and told me that my eyes look like cat eyes.  I'm taking it that she said that because they are green.  She also gave me a hug at the end of the day and then came back a few minutes after school dismissed for another one because she has quite a commute and said she wanted another one before  heading home.  Today we did a writing assignment where we drew a sketch and wrote about something that makes us happy.  When I went over to Esther, the little one on the red square in the picture and asked her what makes her happy, she smiled up at me and said, "you!"  She then wrote about how I make her happy because I teach her a lot of new things and that she's "prawd" of me.  I've had so many moments like these in the past few days that have filled me with joy.  I can tell that being around these little ones and learning alongside them and from them will be invaluable. One last little comical story and one of those, "Oh yeah, I'm in Africa" moments happened today when we had computers.  We have computers one day a week, which amazes me because I wouldn't have thought they would be available. There's definitely a mix and match of computers, but they are computers none the less. As we were figuring out how to turn on our monitors and how to find the paint program, the power went out.  We finished computers by talking about how to use them, but not actually practicing!  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Toothless smiles

I begin this blog with a smile on my face and exhaustion setting in.  I won't be able to write much, but wanted to give a quick update on the first few days of school.  I will do my best to post some pictures shortly as words cannot describe how adorable my class is!  I have so loved seeing my students walk in with smiles on their faces and their school uniforms on.  There has been so much excitement and eager anticipation and I cannot help but get caught up in it myself!  We did a math lesson today and I heard comments at the end of "This is easy!  I thought it would be hard!" When we talked about what it means to be respectful, one student said, "being polite and positive."  I think I am most appreciating the smiles, hugs, and joy that these students have.  I know we are all a bit tired as the holiday has now ended and we're back to learning, but we will soon be in a routine and I am confident we will enjoy learning alongside one another.

I'll leave you for now with two cute stories.  One is of a girl in my class who has three front teeth missing and said she just lost another one last night!  She definitely has a toothless smile and it's too cute for words! The other is of a little boy I was reading with yesterday.  It was a picture book of a dad and his son fishing. There was an illustration of the two of them in a boat with all of their fishing gear and their rods in the water.  They had on matching fishing hats.  I asked this student if he knew why they were wearing hats.  He said of course he knew.  It was because when you go fishing, the fish like to jump out of the water and land on your head.  Apparently the hat protects your head from getting hit by a fish!  And all along I thought it was protection from the sun...silly me!

Thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement.  It means so much to me that you are reading this right now and that you are a part of this adventure with me.  I am excited to share more with you as this year progresses!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Saved by the bell

















 I have spent the past few weeks setting up my classroom and attending meetings in preparation for the school year.  I have the same feeling I do every year before teaching and that is one where I don't completely feel ready.  There's always something else I can do and the list continues even when I think I'm finished.  What I love though is that as a teacher, you get to stop preparing and start doing.  This will happen for me tomorrow when I meet my students for the first day of the school year.  Although I do not feel ready, I do feel excited.  This is why I have spent time preparing and although the entire time I've prepared the room has felt empty, it will feel empty no more.  I now get to do what I love doing and I wait in eager anticipation for what lies ahead in this school year.  Today as I put my final touches on my lesson plans and walk down to my classroom to do one more final check (yes, that's right...walk to my classroom!) I feel so blessed to be here and excited for the privilege to teach this group of students.  I know they will leave their imprint on me as many before them have done.  I learn so many lessons from my students and I experience so much joy because of them.  It makes me so happy to think not only of the students I will get to meet tomorrow, but of the students I have had the privilege to teach.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pictures to go with the last post

So when I blogged last night, I was regretting not taking my camera to the village.  I had no idea that after I finished working in my classroom today, I would first visit the crisis nursery to play and hold some adorable little ones and then come home to go back out to the village.  I cooked again tonight and made porridge with ground nuts.  Today I brought my camera with me, so here are a few pictures.  




Monday, August 15, 2011

Hospitality and Nsima

There are many things about Malawi that I'm coming to love.  One is the sincerity and the kindness that is shown by the people here.  Malawi is known as "the warm heart of Africa" and the people sure do live up to that reputation.  There seems to be a priority on relationships and valuing people.  It feels as though people are not in as much of a hurry and time is taken in greeting others and asking how things are going with them and their family.  They are also extremely welcoming and hospitable.

Last week I experienced this when visiting a village where a friend who works at the academy lives.  She welcomed us in and offered us a place to sit.  She then started to cook.  I asked if I could help her make dinner.  She invited me into her kitchen where I sat on a stool in front of a small bowl that had a tomato and onion soup cooking in it.  The soup was being heated by coals that sat in another small pan on the ground.  We cooked the entire meal over these coals and used multiple pans to cook vegetables and hard boiled eggs before getting to the nsima.  This is a staple that is made of flour and water.  I stirred the water that was almost to boiling as I took my other hand and scooped handfuls of flour into the water.  We then put the lid on and waited about 15 minutes before taking the lid off and adding more flour.  I then stirred and stirred as my arm became more tired and the nsima became thicker and thicker. I had to hand over the spoon as it because too tough for me and I have absolutely no experience making this! When it was finished, I scooped spoonfuls onto a plate for serving.  It took us over an hour and a half to cook and I thoroughly enjoyed it because we sat and talked while cooking.  Once everything was ready, we sat down and shared the meal together.  The nsima is eaten with your hands (well, actually just one hand, but I kept forgetting and used my left hand as well) and you take a bit of it in one hand, roll it into a ball, and then use it to pick up the other items on your plate (such as the vegetables, soup, and the fish).  It was such an honor to be welcomed in and to share in such a wonderful meal.

As hugs were given and I got into the car to come home, I found myself leaving with more than just a wonderful memory.  It hit me that I had so enjoyed my time because it was just that, time.  There was no rush and every moment was enjoyed.  The conversations were meaningful and the whole process of cooking together and eating was savored.  It made me think of my approach all too often in life.  I am so task oriented and I love getting things accomplished.  It hit me that I have missed some wonderful opportunities to enjoy those around me because I've been distracted and focussed on what I want to do. I want to be more mindful of my time with others and to set aside my agenda.  What a true blessing it is to spend time with others and to truly enjoy company and conversation.  I know I have a long way to go in this area, but I am thankful for such an amazing example.  It makes me think of the saying, "actions speak louder than words"  because actually experiencing this will be something I will never forget.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sights

I had the best of intentions of blogging yesterday and sharing about my wonderful birthday the day before. However; I ended up with a stomach bug and was sick all day yesterday.  Luckily it was a quick one day deal and I'm feeling much better today.  I kind of figured I would get sick at some point, so this feels a little bit like my initiation and I'm glad it's over!

To say I had a wonderful birthday would be an understatement.  I figured it would be a low key day seeing at though I'm in a new place with new faces.  However; my wonderful roommate made my day so special from start to finish.  She made me breakfast in the morning and gave me a purse as a gift (I've been wanting one as I didn't bring one with me).  We then went to a wonderful place for lunch and met up with some of the gals from ABC.  I had an absolutely amazing latte with perfect foam and a grilled chicken salad that was to die for. It was also wonderful to share a great meal with such wonderful people who I know I will become close with over this next year.  Michelle then surprised me with a pedicure (never in a million years would I have thought this was what I'd be doing on my birthday in Africa) but it was so nice as I watched the water turn a brown color from my feet.  We then went shopping in the market and this was by far my favorite part of the day. I feel as though there is so much to take in and I'm just trying to keep up.  After parking, I started to follow Michelle, but there were so many people and so many turns to take, that she eventually had me lead the way.  There were all sorts of fresh produce booths and lots of small stands where there was one man sitting inside, surrounded by gadgets and toys.  We proceeded to take a few sharp turns and walked down narrow passage ways that took us out to a section that had fabrics.  It was so neat to look through all of them and to speak with the women who were selling them.  I love how they try to pick out what you might like and hold it up to you.  I ended up purchasing three patterns, one for a skirt and two for shirts.  It was a wonderful overwhelming feeling with all the sights, sounds, and smells.  I cannot wait to go back and experience it again!

I'm sorry I do not have pictures to post.  I am working to be sensitive and also want to make sure I'm taking the time to become familiar with the places I'm going and the roads I may soon be driving.  I will try and get pictures when the timing is appropriate.  There's so many beautiful images here that I would love to share with you!  Until then, I will do my best to put into words just a fraction of what I see.  It truly is an incredible place and I still cannot believe I am here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Duplex




 I’ve been meaning to post pictures of the place in which I am living.  I am still in shock over how nice it is and of the beautiful sunset I see out my window everyday (I’ll try and get a better picture of this to post!) I am enjoying hot showers, cooking with my wonderful roommate, and lesson planning at my dining room table.  There's even a garden in our backyard and I went out yesterday to pick lettuce for our salad.  It's currently winter so it becomes cool in the evenings and it's absolutely glorious!  Today's temperature was 72 degrees F.  I am soaking in the sun, but must admit, I actually am missing the rain!  I've been told there are incredible thunder storms here in November and I can hardly wait for those.  Call me crazy, but Seattle must have worn off on me!

I am busy setting up my classroom and getting things accomplished.  I'm hoping to go tomorrow and apply for a drivers license. The thought of driving is a scary one for me, but I'm hoping that after riding as a passenger for a while longer that I'll be ready to try it on my own.  I'll let you know how the process goes!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Time Differences

I chose this title for multiple reasons.  The most obvious being that I am working to get my body on Central Africa time, which happens to be six hours ahead of Eastern time. I have been told to give it about a week. I know I'm doing much better, but it is still difficult to go to bed even though I know I'm extremely tired.  I'm guessing once school starts and I'm waking up super early and working all day that it won't be a problem at all to go to bed!

Another reason for the title is that I'm realizing the majority of things take longer here than in the states.  A prime example would be my trip to the post office.  I went to pick up two packages that I sent myself a month ago from Washington containing classroom supplies.  First I was told by another teacher that they may not be there because sometimes it takes mail months to arrive. However; we figured we would check. We arrived around 12:30 yesterday afternoon and were told by the man at the counter that they were on lunch and to come back at 1.  We left and came back, however I was told that when they say 1, it could be 1:30 or even later before they return.  Luckily for us, the same man was at the counter and when we told him it was 1:10, he said ok and took my papers to look for my packages. Through the window I could see packages stacked in the back and I have no idea how things were organized.  We waited for about 45 minutes before he came back and started flipping through a notebook that had pages upon pages of numbers written in it.  Because there's no computer system, everything's done by hand.  Apparently one of my two boxes had been found, but not the second.  Someone else then went back to look and I waited some more.  Thirty minutes later I was told it wasn't there.  I was able to take the box that was there after it had been opened, inspected, had paperwork filled out on it and finally, after I signed for it.  We left the post-office at 2:25.  I was so happy though to have the supplies that I had sent over and I now know to just plan time when I need to go do something.  The best part about it all was that today I found out that my other package is already here and was actually at the school campus waiting for me. I think I will have to repeat the phrase, "Good things come to those who wait" a few times in the next year!

I will try to post pictures very soon.  I've been busy meeting staff members, getting adjusted, and starting to set up my classroom.  Thanks for checking back, I have so much to share and I'll do my best to keep posting!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Safe and adjusting

I apologize for a long overdue blog post to let you know that I have arrived safely.  I managed to quickly get on facebook after arriving, but didn't quite have it in me to blog.  I've been meaning to write for the past few days, but with the six hour time difference and the overwhelming welcome, I haven't had much time on the computer.  Travel went so incredibly smoothly, I wondered why I spent so much time worrying.  Our flight from D.C. to Ethiopia was the longest stretch, but as comfortable as it could be.  This was my first time flying internationally and I was amazed at how big the plane was and how accommodating the flight attendants were.  I watched a few movies on the screen that was on the seat back in front of me and was pleasantly surprised that I could pick the movies I wanted to watch or play a game.  I also ate the first meal served, which was chicken and rice and later wandered up to take a veggie sandwich that was in a basket for passengers to take as they pleased.  It was so interesting to walk around and to see people sleeping, stretching their legs, eating, and basically just making it through the 12 hour flight, just as I was doing.  It was a completely new experience, but I rather enjoyed the diversity on the flight and everyone was very pleasant.  I had been a bit nervous about making it to my connecting flight in Ethiopia.  However; I met a very nice lady about my age that was from Malawi.  She had spent the past four years in the states attending school and this was her first visit home.  She helped me find our gate and it was so nice to talk to her about her Country.  She told me that the people are kind and that I would love it very much.  My final flight was smooth as well and the one that I did the most sleeping on.  It was about 7 hours and I sat next to a man who had actually graduated from African Bible College.  He had nothing but wonderful things to say about the campus, the community he formed there, and the education he received.  This was very encouraging to me.  Once I landed in Malawi, it was a quick check through customs where I then grabbed all three of my bags and headed out to meet two of the staff members from ABC who picked me up.  I was so happy to meet them and to finally be in Africa!


When we arrived at the campus, I was amazed at how many buildings there are and how nice everything is.  There is the college campus and dorms, the academy, the gym, the dining hall, basket court, swimming pool, and staff housing.  I was brought to the house I will be living in with my roommate, Michelle.  She was at an event so she was unable to pick me up from the airport.  As I walked into my room, the first thing I saw were beautiful roses, a note, chocolate, and a picture of last year's Kindergarteners, some of which I will be teaching this year.  I couldn't believe that she had thought this far in advance as to take a picture with my name on it!  I was completely amazed and thankful for her kindness and her warm welcome.  In the past few days, she has been such a huge blessing to me as she's shown me around and shared with me about life here.  This is her fourth year and I am so thankful for her.  We have already enjoyed cups of tea and wonderful conversations.  I know this year will be filled with many more and a lasting friendship.

As I know I could keep typing, I think I will stop for now in order to get some sleep.  I will write again soon though as there's so much to share.  I am hopeful for this year and thankful for all that is to come my way.  I am a bit overwhelmed with the newness of it all, but taking it one step at a time and soaking in all the joys that have already come my way.  This truly is a beautiful place that I get to be a part of!