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Monday, May 28, 2012

Senior Safari

The senior class at the college has consistently impressed me throughout the year.  College is quite challenging, not only academically, but also financially.  It also takes a sacrifice to leave family and loved ones for many of the students.  It is a huge accomplishment to graduate with a degree anywhere in the world, but here in Malawi, it seems there are so many hurdles in the way that would hinder this from happening.  These factors among others make graduation a very special time.  We’ve reached that time of year for baccalaureate and graduation.  The senior class has been fundraising and planning for a senior trip in order to celebrate together all their hard work and accomplishments.  The senior trip took place last week and it was a trip to a safari here in Malawi.  The senior class invited a few staff members to join them on this trip.  I felt so honored to be asked to attend.  I have gotten to know many of the seniors throughout the year through sports or outreach.  They are an outstanding group of individuals. 

Of course I absolutely loved the safari, as it was something I had hoped to do when coming to Malawi.  However the trip was so much more than seeing incredible beauty and amazing animals.  I enjoyed seeing the seniors interacting.  They have invested in each other over the past four years and this was so visible through their interactions, their laughter during meals and their fellowship in the mornings and evenings as they sang songs together and talked over scripture. I know for these students this was a trip they will never forget.  I know this is true as well for myself.  I will keep these seniors in my prayers as they head off to use the degree they have earned and as they carry the relationships they have formed with them wherever they go. 

Of course I used my camera throughout the trip.  I captured some wonderful group shots that I will contribute to a CD for each of the seniors.  I also loved using my zoom lens to take some shots during our safari.  Below are a few of my favorites!  


Friday, May 25, 2012

Teacher appreciation

This week was teacher appreciation week at school.  I felt as if this was backward as I feel so appreciative and thankful to my students and their parents.  I have learned a considerable amount from them this year as they've shared their cultures and backgrounds with me.  I was overwhelmed by the cards, gifts and flowers.  I think my favorite part of the week was watching the students come in with their ways of showing their appreciation.  The smiles on their faces are just priceless!  There's this pride and determination when they walk in holding something and march right toward me with that smile.  It melts my heart and makes me feel so blessed to be the recipient of that kind of love and admiration.  I couldn't capture on camera the many hugs and smiles received, but I did get pictures of two of my students with their gifts.  I am one thankful and blessed teacher, there's no doubt about that!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My dear friend, Sarah just celebrated her birthday.  Her very thoughtful husband decided that as a gift, she should get a weekend away to relax.  Instead of going as a family with the two girls, he decided that Sarah and I should go for some R & R.  We packed up and drove Saturday morning to the lake.  We came back Sunday around 4, sun-kissed and rested.  We stayed at the Safari Beach Lodge.  It was rustic and peaceful.  We did lots of sitting in the sun by the lake, reading and talking.  The place was absolutely beautiful, as you can see for yourself.  I am so thankful for Sarah's friendship and I greatly enjoyed our weekend away!  

Here's our room and our bathroom is the hut off to the side.
Here's the queen bed in our room.

The other bed and a picture of the sliding doors. 
The view from our porch. 

The pool at the lodge.  

Fishing on the lake.  
There were kids swimming and playing nearby. 

The view of the sunset from our room.  

Absolutely stunning!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Houses on the hillside.  I passed these about 3 hours outside of Lilongwe on my way to Zomba.
Vegetables are typically sold in this fashion on the side of the road
or in the market.  

I was surprised to see this many baskets in one truck!   

Women getting water at a well.  

Trucks such as these often carry people and food.  

This is a normal sight as many things are carried on one's head.  

As the public transport near a market waits to leave, many street vendors will
approach passengers and sell goods through the windows.  

This is at a market.  The clothes are hung or displayed on the ground.
The colors and patterns are beautiful.  

This is a market.  There is food being made and sold as well as clothes and produce.  

Bikes carry so much more than just people!
Women, men and children all carry heavy loads on their heads.  This never ceases to amaze me!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Interwoven cultures

We are in the middle of a unit study on the continents.  As I was introducing this unit, it struck me the diversity that exists in our classroom.  The only continent not represented in first grade is Antarctica.  Students have enjoyed sharing their traditions and facts about the continent in which they are from.  This beauty of cultures mixed together has been something I have thoroughly enjoyed this year. 

There is one student in my class in particular who has truly welcomed me in and shared with me their culture throughout the year.  I feel very blessed by this family and have learned so much from them as they’ve shared traditions and stories with me.  Fatima is from El Salvador and her husband, Sundeep was born in Springfield, IL, but his parents are from Northern India. They have graciously invited me to their home and also to dinner on multiple occasions.  I love seeing the differences in culture that these two bring to their family.  There’s something so beautiful about seeing them live here in Africa as well.  They have truly embraced life here while weaving in their traditions.

There was one night in particular that I was invited over for dinner.  Fatima’s father was here in Malawi for a visit.  When I arrived, the amazing aroma of homemade Pupusas cooking in the kitchen was a huge reminder to me of how much I love this culture and the food.  Fatima has brought with her the ingredients needed that are not found here in Malawi.  It was incredible to watch her cook, as she had this down to an art.  She taught me as she worked and allowed me to make some alongside her (although it took me so much longer and mine didn’t look like hers!)  She had invited 4 other couples over, all of Spanish decent who have come to live in Malawi.  I stood off to the side for a few minutes, taking it all in.  Watching as the women cooked and caught up in Spanish, the children ran outside, and the men sat out in the yard catching up.  In that moment, I forgot I was in Malawi.  I saw such traditions and culture and it was a treat to take in.  This reminded me of friends from home and my Spanish-speaking students.  The food was incredible and not just because I hadn’t had Mexican food in 6 months.  The entire evening was one that will remain as a favorite from my time here in Malawi. 

Culture is so important to one’s sense of self. It is however; beautiful when shared with others and even more so when interwoven with other cultures.  I have never experienced so many cultures brought together in one place as I have in this year in Malawi.  I believe this is a new awareness and appreciation that I will take with me as I leave Malawi.  I pray I never lose an appreciation for those around me and that I would never take it for granted when others are so willing to share who they are with me.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Return trip scheduled

I still cannot believe that it is May.  My time here has gone by so quickly and yet when I think about all that I've learned and experienced, it feels like a lifetime. I just recently purchased my plane ticket to fly back to Virginia.  It was difficult to make the decision to stay here a second year or return home.  However; after much prayer and thought, I feel very at peace and excited about heading back to the Seattle area.  I have soaked in my time here and the many experiences I've had.  This year has been so much about personal growth for me as my eyes have been opened to another culture and to a people who have truly welcomed me in and become a part of me.

I will leave Malawi on June 26th and fly to Virginia.  I will spend about three weeks there visiting with family and friends.  After that I will head back to Washington.  I feel so blessed to not only be able to return to the same district I have taught in, but also to the same school.  I am looking forward to catching up with staff and students.  It is such a wonderful community at home and I have missed them greatly this year.

Although I have a plane ticket and plans, I still have two months here that I do not want to take for granted.  Every day is a blessing and I am incredibly grateful.  I know I will go through a mix of emotions as my time here comes to an end.  I am getting used to the fact that my heart will always be missing a place and the people that I love in that place.  The missing is worth it because my life is so richly blessed.  For now I am missing those at home that I love dearly.  In a few short months, I will be missing those here in Malawi that I have come to love.  I am really working to stay present and appreciate those I am with at this moment as I know this will be an ongoing pattern in my life.