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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Conferences


This past week we had optional conferences at the academy.  I met with parents after the first term and now that we have just finished the third term, this was an optional time to check in and follow up with student progress. 
            I was very impressed after meeting with parents at the beginning of the year.  I wasn’t sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised when in most cases, not only one, but both parents had shown up for conferences.  There were many fathers who made it in to discuss their child’s education.  What stood out to me was the involvement of both parents and the high standards for respect and hard work in school and at home.  Many parents asked what they could do to further support the learning that takes place in the classroom.  I was greatly encouraged by the teamwork and commitment I felt from these parents.  I love coming up with ideas together on how to support their child in school and at home. 
            I had ten parents come in for optional conferences this past week.  Once again, I enjoyed my time with each set of parents.  I feel so blessed to have this experience and I did my best to convey my thanks for all of their support this year.  I have learned so much not only from my students, but also from their parents.  They have shown me that family and education are two of the most valued areas of their life.  I attribute a majority of the growth and success in our classroom to the love and support of the parents.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sorrow for Malawi


Malawi's President, Bingu wa Mutharika, was buried today.  Thousands of Malawians traveled to Thyolo for the service that took place at Ndata farm.  He died at age 78 of a heart attack.  He was Malawi's President since 2004.  Malawi's Vice President, Joyce Banda, was sworn in as Malawi's first female president on April 7th, the day Bingu wa Mutharika's death was officially confirmed.  

Today was a day of mourning and remembrance here in Malawi.  My heart goes out to the people of Malawi and to Mutharika’s family.  My prayers are for the nation of Malawi and for the new leadership.  

Cape of Good Hope

On one of our perfect weather days in Cape Town, we drove out to the Cape of Good Hope.  The drive alone was gorgeous.  There are many sights to see from rocky mountain tops to beaches and open sea.  The colors are stunning from the greens in the vegetation to the blues in the water.  We took lots of pictures and enjoyed walking around and exploring.  One of my favorite parts of the day was seeing the African penguins!

A view on our drive

There are many wild ostriches at the Cape.  It was incredible to be so
close in proximity to them.  
Carson and I 


The view from the west, from the coastal
cliffs above Cape Point.  

A view from the hike up to the top.  

Near the lighthouse at the top is this
sign showing locations in all directions.  

It was amazing to stand up top and feel the wind and take
in such incredible views in every direction.  

On our drive back down, we passed a beautiful town.  I absolutely loved the colors in this view.  

My absolute favorite animal.  I never thought I'd see African penguins.
It was so neat to see them in their natural habitat.  

We were able to get very
close to the penguins.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Robben Island and Table Mountain

I returned from a week in Cape Town and I can't begin to describe what a wonderful trip it truly was.  I figured instead of writing a lot, I would write a post of each of the highlights with a brief description and some pictures.  The trip was the perfect combination of relaxation and sight seeing.  We were able to hit many of the "must see" spots and I now know why so many people recommended visiting Cape Town.  I would've missed out for sure if I hadn't have made it.

We arrived late Friday night, which ended up working out perfectly because we woke up to rain Saturday morning.  We took it easy Saturday and when the sky cleared a bit, we took a nice walk on the beach.  There is an absolutely beautiful view of the water from the place we were staying and I loved falling asleep to the wind blowing and the calming sound of the waves.  After a restful day on Saturday, we headed out to Robben Island the following day.  It wasn't clear skies, and it was surprisingly chilly, but it was incredible to see such a historical sight and hear the guides as we toured cells and the grounds.  We came back and did some shopping and drank lattes.

On Easter Sunday, we headed up to Table Mountain.  The weather was better than the previous day, but still a bit cloudy.  We were able to see around the patches of fog and the ride up to Table Mountain in the cable car was beautiful.  We walked around up top and saw incredible views.  It is absolutely gorgeous!


Here's the gorgeous view from the place we were staying. 
Robben Island Maximum Security Prison

Here is a mat at Robben Island that the prisoners slept on.  

Here's a picture of the prisoners working during
the day in the guarded courtyard.

Nelson Mandela's cell 


The view of Cape Town from the boat
on the way back from Robben Island.

The cable car we rode up on to the top of Table Mountain.
Once inside, the floor spins so that you can see a full view on your ride. 

The cable car close to the top of Table Mountain. 

The view from up top

The view as the clouds were burning off. 

I decided to get on the opposite side of the camera.
 Carson and I really enjoyed this day!   

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Smiles to go

I had every intention of spending the day mainly packing and getting ready to leave tomorrow for Cape Town.  I'm beyond excited at this point and greatly looking forward to the sights we will see and the incredible experience that I know awaits us.  However, as I was doing the typical laying out of clothes I want to take, I was asked to take a few pictures out at Chinsapo for The Chisomo Idea.  I never pass up an opportunity to go out to this village as the people are so welcoming and so filled with joy.  I love seeing the dirt fields and I know there will be tons of kids playing soccer, no matter what time we arrive.  With fuel being an issue, we took public transport.  This meant another ride on a mini-bus (actually 4 mini-buses total) and since we had to take a mini-bus instead of driving our own car, we added over an hour to our travel time.  I cannot complain though, as arriving there and being greeted by many smiles makes it worth it.  As we walked into the village, the children ran out of their huts to see me.  They waved and smiled and I found myself unable to stop smiling in return.  It's incredible what that many little smiles can do for you!  I came back to pack much later than I had planned, but I did so feeling thankful for the chance to see so many wonderful people.  I know you can't actually "pack" smiles, but I will hold them close to me tomorrow as I travel and in the days of vacation when I am absent from these beautiful people.

I will leave you now with a picture of me with some of the kids.  I realize I don't post a lot of pictures of myself since I'm usually the one taking the pictures.  I hope this brings a smile to your face too!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Perseverance and rest


As I sit here, finishing up report cards and listening to the rain pounding on my roof, I am so thankful for a break.  Friday was our last day of school before Easter break and we now how two weeks off from school.  It’s so easy to go through the motions and not realize that you are tired or how good it would be to rest.  Because life is so different here, I tend to think I’m exempt from needing breaks.  However, I can feel how tired and emotional I am. 

I just purchased my plane ticket to fly back to the states on June 26th.  With this concrete date come many mixed emotions.  I knew when coming here that it would be hard to leave.  I also knew my time here would change me more than anything I could do.  I have had to hold onto my experiences tightly, but hold onto the place and my future plans loosely.  I feel at peace about coming home.  A lesson I’ve learned repeatedly is that I must be content in the place where I am.  There’s so much to do in the present and yet how often I look at what is ahead.  Just as I know I must finish out the school year here and stay engaged in the relationships I have made, I must be confident that there are relationships and tasks and blessings that await me as I return home.  This is much easier said than done, this being present and content in the moment.  It’s almost as if when I bought my plane ticket, a little piece of my heart and mind returned in that instant.  I’m thankful for this break because it is causing me to evaluate my approach and to remind myself that I must persevere and enjoy each and every day that I have left here in Malawi.

On Wednesday, I will be flying to South Africa to spend 8 days in Cape Town.  I am going with my close friend, Carson.  We have been looking forward to this trip for quite some time.  It will be so nice to get away and see some sights.  With the fuel shortage here in Malawi, I have only made it to the lake for a day trip.  Other than that, I haven’t done any exploring or sight seeing.  I have no doubt we will see amazing sights and eat wonderful food.  I will blog when we return and I will take plenty of pictures. 

This trip is such a blessing because my dear friends from Issaquah (in fact the same ones who swam to help me raise money) have a place in Cape Town and they have graciously offered it up for us to stay.  With lodging being so expensive, I wouldn’t have considered going to Cape Town if it weren’t for this generous gift.  I love this too because it will make me think of home and it reminds me of what a small world this really is.  Before leaving for Malawi, I went over to their house for dinner.  They showed me pictures of their last trip to Cape Town.  It was so nice to see pictures and now it makes me even more excited to know I will have a chance to visit a place that is so close to their hearts. 

I will take this vacation and break from school as a time to rest.  I want nothing more than to finish out this school year strong and to enjoy the multitude of blessings God has placed in my life through my time here.