Showing posts with label HOPAC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HOPAC. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


One of the biggest lessons God has had to teach me over, and over, and over again throughout my life (and that I have often utterly failed at) has been how to rest in Him. No, this doesn’t mean doing nothing. But this does mean not striving for His love that He’s already given, not trying to earn what I’ve already got. And it also means not filling my schedule, my life with so much “good” that I miss out on what He’s got for me that is “best.”

It was about the time in college when I got mono at Urbana 2003. How I got it, I have no idea (and no, I wasn't kissing anyone!) But how I made it WORSE? That I know. I ran on adrenaline… kept going to classes, pushing myself to do one… more… thing. Because that’s what I was supposed to do, right? I knew how to overcome, and there wasn’t much that could slow me down. 

But God could.

And He did.

And my trying to push through this exhaustion made the illness last for over six months.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. - Ps 23:2-3

God used this time to show me things in His Word I’d been too busy to notice before. In fact, I’d been too busy, in general. Sleepless nights, restlessness, and darkened days when all I wanted to do was sleep (my poor roommate! It’s amazing we’re still friends) gave me lots of time to think, and pray, and read, and learn. And the more I struggled to “do” – reschedule my next three years of classes at Hope, start a Spanish minor (I’d need that for missions, right?)… the more God chuckled, lovingly and knowingly, and allowed my plans to fail. Over and over. As did my energy levels. And my understanding of what living for God meant. I was too busy trying to be everything for Him that I missed the fact that He was already everything I needed. So I slowly (and oh so painfully) learned to slow down. To rest. I took time off classes, and read the Narnia series for the first time - all the way through - just to make myself stay in one place and rest. I started asking God at the beginning of the day to lead and guide my time, my directions. And He did. And often, it looked like slowing down, like listening more and doing less. It looked nothing like what I thought I was supposed to be doing for Him.

Fast forward a few years to Tanzania. I’d learned a lot, but the mission field (which is everywhere) is a tough place to accept you can’t do everything. When you’re constantly surrounded by evident needs, and you see amazing people doing incredible things every day to meet just a few of those needs… it’s hard to be ok with going home and just sitting at Jesus’ feet. Or making a good meal from scratch and getting a good night’s sleep. In fact, it’s hard to sit still at all.

And so, that first year overseas, I nearly burned out.

Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Mat 11:28-30

It got to the point where sometimes I wished I’d just get so sick that someone would have to send me home (from school, from the field?) so I’d be forced to rest, really rest. Because I didn’t know how to give myself permission to do so. I was fueled by guilt, by trying to match those around me (who apparently had WAAAY more stamina for teaching PLUS everything else than I did). I knew it was too much, but I didn’t know how to stop. I was filling my life with so many good things, that I had no time for rest. And apparently, that was important for sustaining. I was barely surviving, let alone thriving!

I heard God whispering, “Crystal, I called you here to teach. You’re doing that well. It’s ok if you don’t spend your evenings in outreach and Bible Studies and other “ministry.” Your ministry is to these kids… and that is enough.”

So I dropped pretty much… everything. The attempts to connect with after school ministries, the small group Bible Study from church… Everything besides teaching, dancing with middle-schoolers, and living in a tough place… which was enough. For me. I couldn’t handle any more, and, thank goodness, God didn’t expect me to. He didn’t even want me to. I was doing what He put before me- and that was enough. In fact, doing more was disobedience and sin, and it had taken its toll.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. – Mat 6:31-32

I’d trained myself from an early age to fit things into the schedule. Is there time in the day? Then fill it with good. I used to think that sleep was wasteful – that if I could survive without sleep, I could accomplish so much more! I’d long-since dropped that idea before heading overseas, thankfully. But the waking hours were still fair game to fill to the brim. Which was fine… for a day. Maybe a week. But a month? Year upon year? Teaching overseas and cooking from scratch and making sense of life in a different culture and language, moving and living with (amazing) roommates I’d never met before arriving… then spending springs and falls prepping for summer grad classes on a different continent… only to start all over again… I didn’t realize just how much wear and tear it was taking on me. 

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. – Ps 4:8

I loved it. It wasn’t always easy (following God never is) but it was without a doubt what God called me to – and I would do it again in a heartbeat. But I’d do it differently. I’d take more time to write. To enjoy sitting under a banana tree, or on the front porch taking in the Indian Ocean breeze instead of fretting that the power was out – again – just as we were getting ready to make dinner. To not worry so much about what I wasn’t doing or couldn’t do, but give thanks for the opportunities God gave me in the classroom, in the ministry He had put in front of me. To stop living in a sense of guilt, but to embrace a sense of God’s grace and the Truth that I am enough. Already. That yes, there are huge needs out there, and they need doing. But that I’m not God – and that He is.

That I am enough.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Can We Keep It???

I’m sure that in homes around the world, this is an anticipated yet dreaded question of every parent, ever.  Somehow, as a teacher, I just didn’t see it coming.  But when I moved to Tanzania, all bets were off.  Give kids a playground with wildlife galore, and you just don’t know what they’re going to find!

Here are a few of the “Can we keep its?” I’ve had over the past 3 years.
Aren't I just so CUTE??  Well, yes, and whiny... 
But look, I promise I'll stay right here in this basket.  For 2 whole seconds... :)
This was Sam.  He lived in a box.  In my classroom.  Until the kids who found him forgot him on a hot muggy Dar Friday afternoon when they left for the weekend.  Not knowing what else to do, I brought him (hypothetical "him" of course) home and let him live in my shower for the weekend.  When he started biting (he was old and cross) we promptly let him go - we had just finished a set of rabies shots and didn't feel like starting over!
a puppy (sorry, no picture)

5 kittens (again, no picture... they were hidden away.  Mama escaped from the horde of primary HOPAC kiddos who rampaged her hiding spot during break time with excited shouting...)

hedgehog #2 (quickly released before picture-taking (and forgetfulness) could commence, for it's own good… see above)

geckos were never a question – they are just permanent, well-welcomed residents of the classroom, and require no work other than avoiding their leftover droppings from the night before.
George.  Seeing as we couldn't get him to eat, we were glad when he decided to take a break from the classroom.  We had a lot of fun with him though, and even got to see him molt!  And he was my kind of pet... replace his little leafy branch in a plastic bottle every day and we were done!
chameleon #2 (went home with a kiddo)

And last but not least... Hedgie! 
Seeing the kids all sitting quietly like this during break? 
I knew SOMETHING was up!

I’ve been a bit more willing to take on pets here in Musoma (read: for a week at MOST!) because:
1) the pets the kids find generally aren’t going to make me stuffed up.
2) they are VERY low maintenance.
3) I can just as easily release them and they’ll be fine.
4) they are HEDGEHOGS and CHAMELEONS - if they run away, oh well!?
5) these are all pets that the families here already have, so I have experienced people to turn to for help and directions – and weekend housesitters.
6) Did I mention low maintenance, and hypoallergenic?

Then again, after we let Hedgie go on Tuesday, I decided it might just be time for a pet break at school - and home.  Looking forward to a bit less craziness in the weeks to come... (one can always hope, right?!)

And because I'm a teacher, this is the song that goes through my head every time I hear, "Please, Miss Crystal, can we keep it!?"

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Few of My Favorite... People

30 May 2011

This past weekend, HOPAC put on our own rendition of selected pieces of The Sound of Music.  We called it "A Few of My Favorite Things." (And depending on what version of English you speak, you may feel the need to add a U into that "favourite" word...)  It not only served as a fundraiser for our new playground, but it was also a wonderful chance for amazing people from the whole community to work together in a joint project.  Think kindergarteners, high-schoolers and graduated students, parents, teachers, principals, and even our director all on stage at the same time!  It's been a long process and a lot of work (everything really worth doing is!).  But when it all came together on stage... it was totally worth it.

I got to help choreograph the "puppet" scene from when the Von Trapp kids are putting on a show for their father.
Cue the music... ♫ Odl lay hee hoo! ♫
                                               and the kids...
                                                                and off we go!
Here's a snapshot tour of the amazing performance they did.

the lonely goatherd... one of my great 3rd graders!
yodeling like a pro... puppet!
the goats arrive...
all the people around the town hearing our yodeler call
♫ A prince on the bridge of a castle moat...
Men on a boat with a load to tote...
Men in the midst of a table d'hote...
Men drinking beer with the foam afloat...  ♫
a little girl in the pale pink coat arrives... and hears... and answers... :)
but soon her "mama with a gleaming gloat" catches ear of something...
and isn't happy!
Now imagine getting a third grade boy and a fourth grade girl to dance together.  I'm not sure the word "cooties" has entered the HOPAC school vocabulary, but the concept is definitely there regardless.  My remedy?  "I promise that if you only touch arms while you skip around each other, you have my full permission to run off opposite sides of the stage afterward!"  It worked, they looked great, and I'm pretty sure they even had fun along the way!  Just don't tell them I said that... :)
♫ Happy are they lady ho lady lee ho, ho lady ho lady lady ho
Soon the duet will become a trio, lady odl lay odl loo! ♫
Yes, this was the night when one of the eyes fell off the goat mask. 
A sad moment for the imaginary goat... but lots of laughter for everyone involved!
This was definitely a new experience for me.  I've done my tiny bit of acting - a line or two of speaking, a front-walkover and the splits, in seventh grade for Bye Bye Birdie - and that was enough.  I was excited to help choreograph this because, as you know, dancing is something I love.  In the midst of it all, I discovered two things: 1. While I have a pretty good idea of how to teach dance and body movement (think being limp like a puppet), I realized I know NOTHING about acting.  Or teaching kids how to work on stage.  And 2. Theater is not my thing. As in, it's definitely not a life-giving activity that I feel energized from afterword. 

The good news is, I got to see my kiddos do a great job on stage.  I worked with some amazing people, made new friends, and had a lot of fun along the way!  And most importantly, we made some great memories before I head off to my next adventure... ones I will remember for a long, long time.

For those of you who aren't quite as keen on yodeling, I've included a few other snapshots from the play (with special thanks to Gil Medina for sharing these since my own camera died...).  Or, you can go on my FB and see the whole album linked there.  Enjoy!

The nuns
My dear friend Grace, our very own Maria!
Our very NON-Austrian collection of children! :)
The lovely Liesel and Friedrich (Lauren and Isaiah) in...
♫ 16 going on 17 ♫
The amazingly TOUGH musicians... half of whom had a fever and the flu all day Saturday and stuck it out for both performances anyway!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mr. Falker Fashion

16 May 2011

Many of you know my passion for kids books.  I really don't see how you can go wrong with them.  They appeal to all the senses, apply to life, and are written simply with great value! (At least the good ones are...)  I've been adding to my "classroom collection" since I started college, with many thanks to garage sales, Goodwills, and other fabulous finds for $.50 or less!  I've collected quite a number.  Of boxes.  Which was great for NC.  But when it came to deciding which very few favorites my weight allowance would allow me to bring to the Land of Tanz... it was a sad day indeed. :(

My kids always laugh when I start reading a book.  It seems like more times than not, I introduce the current selection as "this is one of my favorites."  Or at least, "this person is one of my favorite authors."  It's almost become a joke.  Miss Lucas has a hundred favorite books! (Maybe I should start making a list)... But then again, I'm only reading the best ones aloud... so maybe what they're saying is true.

Recently, we started an author study of Patricia Polacco.  Yep, she's another "one of my favorites."  But, you have to understand.  She writes and illustrates beautiful picture books that deal with big issues... things that are insightful and deep... books that are just as great for adults as they are for kids.  All from her own experiences or those of her family.  Want to look at life in concentration camps?  Or the emotional difficulties of dyslexia?  Supporting friends through trials like childhood cancer?  Traditions handed down throughout the years?  Yeah.  She's got you covered.  All at a level accessible to kids.  What was the quote I once heard in Writing Children's Lit?  Something like: The hardest books to write are those made for children - because you have to take all of life, the whole story, everything, and put it in just a few words and ways that the smallest child can understand.

Back to Polacco.  We read through the book above and came across the following word picture from the story:

"Then, when Trisha started fifth grade, the school was all abuzz.  There was a new teacher.  He was tall and elegant.  Everybody loved his striped coat and slick gray pants – he wore the neatest clothes." 

In an effort to get my kids connected with the story, I had them draw their own image of Mr. Falker before seeing Polacco's illustration in the book.  I learned that grade 3 fashion, or elegance and "neat clothes" in their eyes, have a whole different meaning than what I might have imagined!  Here are a few of the examples...

the short pants and hat look... with tassel on top!
mohawk... and goatee perhaps?  only COOL guys teach math!
gotta have the glasses...
it's always revealing to see what kids pick up from class!  Evidently, we read a lot of books... do a TON of math... and our clock only has seven hours on it!

is this a hippie Santa Clause?  You've got to love the flower coming out of his head!
and my personal favorite... pants with rockets attached...  and hair that's ready to take off!
I'm thinking that next time I need fashion advice... including "neat teacher clothes" ... I just might head elsewhere to find it!  But regardless, I'm always thankful for the never-ending creativity with which my kids keep me laughing... :)

Friday, April 29, 2011


Some days, (ok, most days), my kids just make me laugh.

With the excitement of the new playground, our kids are discovering all sorts of new joys of childhood.  Many have never been on monkey bars before, and in our new set up, hanging from your hands is the COOL thing to do.  You can hang on moving monkey bars, hang from circular handles, or hang (and jump onto and off of) ziplines as you play.

If you look closely, you can see all the different kinds of blister-creators on our playground. :)
The funny thing is, our students' hands weren't quite ready for this new adventure.

On Wednesday, I had two students come up to me very concerned.  They had blisters on their hands from the playground!  After reassuring them that this was normal, that they were going to live, and that a band-aid wouldn't help, (and listening to their woes, of course), they happily skipped off to play again.  On the monkey bars.

Several minutes later, they came back.  With rips.

As a gymnast growing up, I had to laugh.  Rips (and bruises) were always just a part of life.  But for these kids, this marks a brand new adventure.  "It stings!"  "Ouch!"  "What do I do?!"  "Can I have a plaster (band-aid)?!"  I sent them to wash their hands - again; gave them an alcohol swab with a warning that it would hurt; and let them all try plasters to prove it just won't work.

(Sometimes, kids insist on learning things the hard way.)

Later, one of my kids came up to me and said, "Look, Miss Lucas!  What a rip-off!"  I had to think for a minute before realizing she was referring to her newly acquired sore on her hand... and not something she had just bought from the local duka!

We've had a talk in class about the crazy things that happen on the new playground.  We've even brainstormed and decided that sometimes, it's a good idea to play for a little while on the monkey bars, then wait till the next day to play again.  It's called creating callouses, I explained, and allows your hands to develop tough skin so you can play for longer in the future.

It's a work in progress. And I'm once again reminded that my role as a teacher does not just include teaching math and writing.  Instead, I can add counselor, health-care provider, encourager, something-in-my-eye removal specialist, science expert wanna-be, professional hugger, "second mom", and many, many more titles to my resume!  All in a day's work :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Creativi-What? or Thoughts from a Third Grade Teacher

21 March 2011

Sometimes, I wonder if I should stand in awe of my students’ ingenuity… or simply be annoyed at their way of getting around the rules!

For instance, I walked into my classroom after school today and noticed this new desk-accessory – a water bottle lid rigged to catch pencil shavings at the student’s desk.  This MOSTLY makes me laugh, because:
1. I have to wonder when she found time to do this.  During class, I’m guessing?  Or where she got the tape.  (We have a serious shortage in grade 3…)
2. Really, this is a great idea.  And totally something I would do (though for some reason, making a pencil-shavings collector for my desk isn’t high on my list of things to create at the moment!)  Use whatever’s handy, and make it into something useful, creative, crafty, and cool. 
3. BUT… at the same time, students aren’t allowed to sharpen their pencils during class because:
     a. they make a mess of the shavings, and
     b. I don’t want kids up out of their seats or distracting anyone else. 

Most of these reasons are taken care of by this unique new design.  So... what to do from here?  Do I have everyone make pencil shaving holders?  Or just wait till someone else makes one, and then someone else… and pretty soon no one has a water bottle cap, but everyone is taking class time and tape to make their own personal pencil shaving holders?  Or do I say it’s not ok – shut down the ingenuity – and avoid any potential problems that might come my way?
My kids collecting data for our transportation unit outside HOPAC today.
How many dala-dalas, bajajs, *lorries*, bicycles, and cars do you think
pass by here in a 5-minute time frame?  Try over a hundred!
It’s a little thing.  And you probably have an answer that totally makes sense of what I should do.  But these little things make teaching a very thought-provoking process some days.  Because these kids are amazing.  Talkative... a little crazy... and most days, they make me laugh instead of cry… but AMAZING none-the-less.  And I don’t want to dash their creativity.  If that means finding ways to relate spellings and Bible verses to patterns and symbols for the mathematically-brilliant-but-linguistically-challenged child in my class, let’s do it!  Or if that means one of my artistic kids is busily drawing pictures of the Bible lesson I’m teaching on the back of her Bible verse cards at her desk, I’m - *deep breath* - willing to give it a shot.  But sometimes, even when these things aren’t inherently bad, and aren’t causing a problem at the moment… I know what can come out of it.

Take K'Nex.

My kids are EXPERTS at K’Nex.  Especially my class this year, who will all grow up to be super-duper-spacial-dimensional thinkers and designers of the Spaceship that will allow people to live outside the Solar System some day...  Or who will make reliable electricity and internet for Tanzania sustainable...  Or something else completely mind-boggling and awesome like that.

During personal best center time on Fridays (yes, Stocks friends, I actually brought it to the Land of Tanz!), my kids are always making some new creation, and every week they ask to save it till the next week to continue their creative process.  Harmless, right?
A few of the quick-creations my kids have made as of late...
Then again, I’ve tried it before.  Leave a K’Nex creation on the bookshelf, and pretty soon there are tiny pieces all over the floor, in the corners of the classroom, and under the bookshelves… never to be found again.  Or I put them in my store cupboard for safe keeping, where I am assured of stepping on them or hurting myself as I get materials out for class.  While I don’t want to squash the creativity of my kids one bit, I also want to have a somewhat orderly and less-distracting classroom!

So, I’ll have to keep striving to find a happy medium.  Like nixing keeping the K’Nex creations, but asking one of my budding architects to make a home-made 3-D scale model of the Israelite’s Tabernacle to share with the class instead.  (Pictures to come next week, hopefully!!!)  Or having them build their own cars out of Legos to race (for a day) at the end of our transportation unit this next week.  We’ll see how all this goes!

Each day is a new adventure.  Pray for wisdom in teaching as I keep plugging away and learning new things that work – and DON’T – in grade 3 every day!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Welcome to My World

17 Feb 2011

This morning, after a long weekend away from school, we resumed our regular daily prayer time to start off our day in Grade 3.  Here are just a few of the prayer requests – and praises – that came up. 
Sending friends off with prayer... and morning prayer times in groups
  • Pray for our Bibleless People Group (we go through one each week with the Akebu to Zapotec Book for Bibleless People Groups book, by Wycliffe), and that they would send someone to their language to get the Bible translated so they can read it.  And that they would want to know Jesus.
  • Praise because I got to go to Zanzibar over the weekend and it was really fun!
  • Pray for India.  You know how we talked about social classes?  Well, the people there aren’t fighting other people or other countries anymore but are fighting each other now.  Like a civil war.  (I learn a lot about the world through our daily prayer time - though it's always good to go check my facts afterwords!)
  • Praise that my mom got back last night safely.  And pray because she leaves for the UK tomorrow morning, because our house (missionary family from the UK) got flooded and the people renting it are moving out.
  • Pray for my mom – her toe is still hurting and now she’s hurt her ankle too.
  • Pray for the people in the blast last night when bombs accidentally went off in Dar near the airport.  Someone my dad knows was at work when it happened, and his wife and kids ran away when things exploded, and now the guy can’t find his family. 
  • Pray for peace of people in charge.  And good decisions.
  • Pray that people wouldn’t use bad words.  (We’ve been discussing the 10 commandments this week…)
  • Pray for the kindergartners for their assembly tomorrow.
  • I have two; a prayer and a praise  (Holding up to fingers to show intent clearly.) I pray for the Bibleless People Group (this one usually gets offered up several times a day).  And praise that we can read the Bible in our own language.
  • Pray for Egypt, especially the believers there because they're having a hard time.
  • Praise that my little sister slept through the night last night!  And that she’s learning to make silly noises.  Not talking really, but her own kind of talking.  It’s really funny.
  • Praise for RAIN, and pray that we’d have better power now that it’s rained.  And pray it keeps raining, except not when we have swimming.
  • Praise that the cut on my leg is feeling better.  And, Miss Lucas, can I get a plaster (Bandaid) for my finger?
  • Pray that Miss Lucas’ back feels better.  Oh, wait, praise because it is!
  • Pray for all the people in the world who are hurt or sick that they would feel better.
  • Pray for the auditions for The Sound of Music because they’re today and I’m really nervous.
  • Pray for our car (dubbed “The Beast”), since it stopped working yesterday and my mom doesn’t like driving a manual, which is the kind we are borrowing from someone today.
It’s funny to read over things like this.  These are regular 8 and 9 year old kids, with real hurts, real fears, real joys… and a very real global perspective.  They love going on jumping castles just as much as the next kid, and could probably play soccer barefoot with more skill than most kids in the United States can play with their shoes on... but they are also the first ones to help their classmate to the nurse when they fall down, or to share their extra books with a local school that has none.  They watch the Disney channel and have sleepovers for their birthdays just like anyone their age in the States or the UK, but they also “get” that there’s a life out there much bigger, much wider in scope than they understand.  And they get that these things might affect them, or might not… but most are not na├»ve to the fact that there is SOME sort of life outside their own little world.  Their parent’s home country might be having troubles, or their own family may need to go on an extra furlough this year due to a lack of funding.  One day at a time, we get to lift these praises, prayers, hurts, concerns, and laughter up to the Lord, together.  And as we do, we learn about faith, trust, frustration, and relying on each other and on God to make it through, whether life that day is “great” or in the pits.
This is grade 3.  Welcome to my world!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Musings for the Moment.

3 Feb 2011
  • Violence in Egypt is a heck of a lot more real when living in a “neighboring” country.  I’ve heard all these descriptions on the news before, but now that I’m actually here and I know how quickly things can escalate since public pressure is the only way to get changes made, it’s a whole different perspective.  PRAYING!!!!
  • My kids are great.  And, yes, driving me crazy.  It is February, after all.  But they're making me laugh hard along the way with memorable quotes! 
  • I don’t know how people are surviving Dar heat right now with hamna umeme (no electricity) every other day, and then none on the alternate nights as well.  We NEED Rain!!!!!  SO thankful for the amazingly unexpected blessing of living near the power plant and having continuous power at our new house… I know I could do it, but I’m thankful for a fan at night, a fridge that stays cold, and an electric stove that works whenever we want to eat! 
  • I wish I could get as excited about everything I teach as I do about some of the subjects!  I try to give every topic equal opportunity for passionate learning excitement, and I’m good at making it look like I love it… but it’s just not always very “real.”  I’m having a blast teaching about the body right now… wish I loved teaching electricity this much!  (Anyone want to come guest teach?)
My kiddos on "Brain Day"
  • Today I was reading the story of Moses, and threw out the pre-made Bible lesson plans completely.  (Yeah, this is another of those topics I really do love!!!)  I acted out (with emotion) the burning bush scene as I read it, and we contrasted the reality of the Scriptural story to the movie (which was a few of my kids’ only experience with the story before today).  By the end, when I closed my Bible, my kids begged, “Miss Lucas, we still have 25 minutes of school!  Please keep reading, we want to hear more!!”  This, after sitting still on the carpet listening to me read for about 25 minutes.  I love my class!!!
  • I wonder if all this passion and excitement (feigned or otherwise) is why I come home so exhausted every night???  Or maybe it’s the heat.  Or both :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Normal Day in Dar (aka. International Living 101, according to Crystal)

16 Sept 2010

Today was a fun, fulfilling, laughter-filled day, but it started off pretty much the same as usual.  Kids came into my classroom from eleven-ish different countries, some of whom have parents who met on the field from different parts of the world.  I tried to greet a first grader with “Good morning!” in Danish… to no avail.  She didn’t even realize I was speaking her language!  When the bell rang at 7:30, I gave my kids directions to sit at the carpeti in Swahili, and we got going with our normal routine.  We started the school day with prayer and remembered our Tanzanian government as we head into elections… the Bibleless People group of Dongshiang in China… and our primary principal who will soon be coming from the UK… as well as the various hurts and travels of kiddos in my class and their families.  Then off to math, where we discovered Miss Lucas is NOT as adept at teaching rounding in one day as she had hoped she might be!

Break came, and I tried to get some work done.  But one of my kids came in and explained how she and her twin brother often travel to Johannesburg over Christmas with their aunt to visit their grandmother.  I also heard that they had gotten a Wii for Christmas with Super Mario Brothers Racing but the Wii never actually worked.  She came in a few minutes later to tell me matter-of-factly that her brother had called her something-or-other at recess, which in the language of Afrikaans (spoken in S. Africa, which is where they're from) means something really bad.  New knowledge for Miss Lucas for the day!

A Tanzanian student in my class who had gotten beat up over the summer when he refused to give his bike to some older kids on the street, and who has been in and out of my classroom all term thus far due to surgeries for his broken arm and physiotherapy, got sick once again from the antibiotics he’s on and had to go home.  He excitedly told me he should be here every day next week!  Poor kid.

At the same time, my Spanish-speaking student from Guatamala, who just arrived recently, greeted me in Spanish on her way in the door from break.  I discovered the only response to "Como esta?" I could think of was "Nzuri!"

The day continued as I learned that black markers really don’t work on overhead projectors… that old English, albeit in the chapter book Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, is really difficult to say and even more difficult to translate as you read aloud to third graders… and that the homemade noodles my friend made (who is from Germany; who lives and works in Mbeya, Tanzania; and who was staying at our house, yay!) are just as good for lunch left-overs as they are the first time around.  I struggled to find a map of Europe that would work for my Medieval Times activity, and realized that the new password on my school computer won’t let me access school email… again.

Meanwhile, another “Knight Support” fire truck arrived at HOPAC to help fill the pool so we could start our class’ weekly swimming lessons – hopefully soon! (Knight Support is our guard company for campus.)

After school I headed out to the Danish Hair Design place with friends to get my hair cut.  I thought the place would be run by wazungus (white people) because of the name… but it turns out the owner was born in Tanzania and raised in Denmark.  She came back to the Land of Tanz a few years ago with her family and started this great place.  Of course!  As usual, a mix-up came when she realized the person who had been told that there would be FOUR people coming had only written down one… but the lovely owner rectified the situation and fit us all in anyway.

Off to home.  My roommate Kate decided to quickly whip up some calzones for dinner.  Everything is made from scratch here, so I started cutting up the veggies and we put tomatoes on the gas stovetop we bought recently to prep the sauce.  Good thing, since a few minutes later the power flickered and then went out.  We grabbed the kerosene lanterns that are always kept handy, used the “torch” or flashlight to grab the matches, and got the flames burning within minutes.  Marie’s Swahili lesson with her Tanzanian bajaj driver continued on in the other room, and Kate and I kept on making dinner.

Except, of course, that calzones usually need an oven to bake.  And ours happens to be electric.

Yes, Kate is actually using a coke bottle for a rolling pin.  You get creative when you need to!  I should also add that this is NOT Kate's regular hair-do... the stylist got a little 80s when she styled Kate's hair at the end!
Instead of heading over to our neighbors who have a gas stove that actually WORKS (unlike our other neighbor's whose oven keeps breaking...), we thought for a minute.  Kate knew of a recipe where you could make cookies on a frying pan – THANKS International Wycliffe Cookbook! – and realized if we made little calzones we could do the same thing.  Sure enough, the “hot pockets” were fabulously delicious, and we whipped up some frying pan cookies with dried apricots (instead of raisins) to add to dinner as well. 
Light's out pictures never give a good perspective.  At least you can see that the kerosene lamp is going behind her... because the room was otherwise pitch black!  Thanks, Tanesco (our trusty local power company) for another great adventure!

Making Frying Pan cookies with cut-up dried apricots instead of raisins... which we didn't have.  They were AMAZING!!!

We had to laugh as we realized we could totally make this meal "out in the bush" - with flour, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and a bit of sugar!  Another useful life skill added to my resume.  Go Team Creativity in the kitchen!

As I cut up veggies in the dark with the amazing knife our fourth housemate brought from Alaska after getting my hair cut at a Danish hair salon by a Tanzanian raised in Denmark… as we listened to Swahili in the background of the African-made kerosene lamps… as we fried calzones and cookies on an American-bought frying pan and a Japanese gas “cooker”… and as we laughed at the adventure and our quick transition into cooking without lights or oven, never thinking this should be a stressful situation… it dawned on me.  Life here is never boring.  It’s always an adventure.  And my life is truly better because of its daily international perspective!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Siku ya Kwanza ya Shule... aka The First Day of School :)

It's not QUITE that time yet, but it's getting close.  Just one day, the weekend, and it's here.  While I wasn't overly excited about the prospect of school starting next week a few days ago (it's been a crazy-busy - while spectacularly fun - summer, and I was ready for a bit of a rest!), I'm starting to get ready.  The bulletin boards are going up, the beginning-of-year letter to parents is printed, and the schedule is almost in place.  Somehow after so much travel this summer, all this routine is turning out to be comforting in some strange way.

It's also funny to think about this being my fourth year of teaching.  My first year, and well into my second, I needed people to keep reminding me that "it's only your first year - it's ok to not have it all figured out."  Well, that's good to know... since I still don't have it yet!  But at the same time, it's nice to have SOME experience and understanding of what is coming.  It's also nice to know that I've done this before and will most likely survive the upcoming school year... and the fact that I'll be teaching a familiar curriculum this year instead of learning about Medieval Times and Ancient Greece just ahead of my students is pretty great as well!

Lastly, this is a big thank you to the unknown friend of a friend who pointed me to, where I can finally get my daily supply of comics even this far from home.  Thank You!!!  Somehow, Zits always hit home for me and it makes me smile to realize it's fairly applicable the world around.  Turns out that kids are kids... and adults are adults... and people are people... we might have some strange ways of doing things, but in the end, our expectations and feelings end up being a lot the same no matter where we live, what we eat, or how we get to school or work each day!

Teacher Retreat


Today was our first official day back for teacher training.  At HOPAC, we get to spend this first day on a retreat off-campus.  It was a hugely needed, refreshing time to worship together, play fun get-to-know-you games, pray for our students and other teachers, and just enjoy the view of the beautiful Indian Ocean!

Our speaker, Danny, focused on leadership, and really made us think about how we are using our leadership in the classroom and as a staff.  Are we leading our own small group for the purpose of accomplishing our own task?  Or are we really looking at how we can help EVERYONE out to accomplish our ultimate goal and purpose here at HOPAC?  In a place where I often feel more than disconnected from the secondary section of school, this was a good reminder to me to be encouraging others, and not just assume that we are each going to be doing our separate things... even though sometimes it feels like it!

Danny gave us a few quotes on leadership that I thought were interesting.  I'm missing massive portions of most of them... you know how copying from a powerpoint goes!  But I thought this one, in particular, was interesting...

"You speak of Caesar, of Alexander, of their conquests and of the enthusiasm which they enkindled in the hearts of their soldiers; but can you conceive of a dead man making conquests, with an army faithful and entirely devoted to his memory? My armies have forgotten me even while living, as the Carthaginian army forgot Hannibal. Such is our power.”

“I know men and I tell you, Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love; and at this hour, millions would die for him.”
“I search in vain history to find similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach the gospel.  Neither history nor humanity, nor ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or to explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.” - Napoleon Bonaparte
Here are a couple more: 
The ultimate measure of leadership is in the changed lives of people." - Bill Pollard
And something to think about...  
Leadership is not a position but a responsibility that is conferred on a person by those whom he or she leads.  - Don Page
 Basically, leadership God's way comes from the bottom up - putting the towel (washing feet) ahead of titles... serving before sitting on top.  Pray that this truly continues to happen - and happens more and more each day - this year in my classroom, at home, and everywhere God might place me!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Today’s the day, it seems.  The final Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups came out of the freezer and will soon be in my mouth!

I brought three with me when I came.  The first went quickly, the second a few months later… but recently I discovered the last one in the freezer.  And it’s been sitting there, waiting for the stressed-out, traffic-laden, 3rd to last day of school craziness day… just for me.  I’d eat a Twix bar (which we can easily get here) instead, but I finished the last one of those off last night after the excitement of Greek Day in grade 3.

Perseverance.  I need serious perseverance...

Is it really only Tuesday? 

A few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure I was ready for my kids to go.  I still don’t want to lose my kids – especially the ones who are leaving HOPAC permanently in a few days! – but at this point, I’m not sure who is more ready for “summer” break – me, or the kids!  It’s that time of year… :)

Perseverance produces character, right?  And character, hope... I'm hoping that all these chocolate bars are producing some serious character in me this week...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rats! And other adventures in the third grade :)

6 May 2010

A recent post on my FB page stated:

Another adventurous day in the third grade: Getting drenched on the way to school, watching a rat fly out of a student's cubby where it had been making a nest, students having giggle fits on the carpet for no reason, and finally, the great chase (and kill) of the rat around the classroom with some helpful secondary students in tow! I now have a much cleaner classroom and, I think, a lighter heart. :)

You've got to love the laughter and fun of random events. Here are a few pictures of the crazy time we had!!!
It started out oh so simple.  Take out a few things to get the rat.  But wait, those shelves are HEAVY! 

Watching the rat run back and forth, back and forth... and chasing after it (a bit like rats!) ourselves!


...and forth... 

Finally, our expert HOPAC rat catcher caught it under his foot by the tail.  The only problem was that the rest of the rat was under the bookshelves, and for some strange reason, decided to stay there.  Eventually, our little four-legged friend got away, and went behind my computer a few times before getting caught in a similar fashion.  

Thankfully, the service learning class had taken my kids outside for an extra game time (in exchange for the 8th grade rat catcher) before all this ensued... so no screaming occurred during this whole incident.  I did have a few students get "injured" outside while playing games (meaning they needed a "plaster" - or band-aid, as we'd say in the States...), who decided to stay and watch the fun.  But mostly, it was a secondary fiasco in the grade three classroom that rainy afternoon.

Our expert rat catching team.  Complete with lots of smiles and laughter to go around!! 

Uh, this is the part where I'm supposed to say that no animals were harmed during this incident.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps!), I cannot tell a lie.  The rat died.  (Ahh, let's all give a mournful sigh together.)  My girls were afraid to hear a final squeak, but our expert was too good for that, and we were all spared such a tragic ending.

Despite the rain, the whole group took the rat out to be "buried" on HOPAC's campus somewhere.  I didn't see any reason to follow.  My class was coming back in a minute, it was pouring - HARD, and I didn't feel the need to mourn this poor rat who had sought shelter from the rainy day in my student's paper-filled, messy tray!  

The group came back laughing.  And told me they had tossed it over the wall.  (WHAT?!)  Where people routinely walk by on the outside.  (Uhh...!)  "But we didn't hear anybody say anything - just a thump when it hit the ground... so we don't think it landed on anyone's head" said one student who had been worried about the final mouse squeak.  

What a change in perspective.  At least I can sleep better at night! :P