Showing posts with label climate and culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label climate and culture. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Crossing Cultures

Who would have guessed that moving to Tanzania and back again was only the beginning of my international life?
In the Amsterdam airport, on my way to Kenya for the first time, in college, 2005
Chacos on my feet, camera in my backpack... I was off to capture the world (and learn a ton along the way!)
I never. Ever. EVER planned on or even conceived of meeting and marrying a Korean. Ever. Especially after living and teaching Kids from around the world in East Africa for four years! But God has a sense of timing, wisdom, and humour that I have yet to figure out.

And so, while I was once worried about coming back to the States and to no one who could understand my weird Christian world-perspective or grieve and rejoice with me about events around the world, I've found my life to be anything but. And while cross-cultural marriage has its challenges (much less than expected, to be honest, in the case of these two crazy world-travelers!!!), the perks of joining with another international for life, and of having an incredible multicultural community in part because of it, makes my life richer and more thankful. Who knew I would have the chance with my husband to touch and shine light in the lives of people from every continent* around the world without setting foot outside of good ol' Dutchland, West Michigan?

I get to tutor kids from overseas and whose parents are internationals. I think missionary and third culture kids are some of the coolest kids out there. We're surrounded by cross-cultural marriages in our church and at our dinner table. 

Who would have guessed our wedding party would have people representing every continent* without even realizing?

Our wedding 'guestmap' :)
And then there are the (completely regular) days when I sit at our dinner table as the only "American," among a Korean, a French man, and an Egyptian straight in from overseas. Or with a Korean, Bulgarian, a Nepelese man, and a Malaysian. 

Notice the continuing Korean theme? Yep, this guy's pretty much my favorite. :)

Picture taken by Samara, budding photographer, age 10.
I've tried more new foods since returning from the Land of Tanz than I did while there. I know what celebratory Chinese New Moon cakes taste like, what traditional red bean tteok treats look like for Korean thanksgiving, and that Bulgarians make the best cheesy bread and salad on the planet. I know that Malaysia knows how to make some seriously cute wall-hangings of monkeys for the upcoming Chinese New Year's "Year of the Monkey," that Koreans say "Kimchi!" instead of "Cheese!" when taking pictures, and that little girls from Bulgaria, Iran, Mexico, Uganda, and Australia all equally love to sing the "Let it go" song with the same exuberant gusto and sweeping elaborate gestures as their American counterparts.

There are the days when I connect with dear-to-my-heart missionary friends from the Land of Tanz and my heat aches for the people I got to serve with there. I still want my kids to grow up overseas, if even for a short time, and I wish the country we live in wasn't so bent on individualism that we'd get excited for a neighbor willing to trade ingredients and share household items when needed.

But I have no doubt that this is where I'm supposed to be. That God's crazy, out-of-this-world plans were established for me long long ago, and that they are better than I could ever have imagined. And so we set out on our knees with prayers for wisdom, grace for ourselves and each other, and a lot of thankfulness each day as we cross cultures in our home and beyond... and know that none of these opportunities, connections, or relationships would be possible without Him.

*(minus Antarctica, of course!)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Catching Up

It’s a little strange to realize my last blog post was made while I was still in Tanzania. Since then, I finished selling and packing all my things in Musoma, made my way through Nairobi, said goodbye to some dear friends, laid over with a friend in Italy, got stuck in London overnight, and eventually made it “home” to Kalamazoo. I got to connect with a dear friend who I taught with in Dar (now in Minnesota), meet my niece and spend time with my brother’s family, connect with friends new and old from around the world, move up to a place I’m staying in Zeeland, MI through December, and try to take a deep breath as I continue to acclimate to the world of America.

WAY too many people and places are missing from this picture...
these are just the ones I could find quickly :(

I feel that I'm not only continually catching up with people around me these days, but also catching up on all that has changed while I was gone - and the big and little ways that I changed along the way, too. I'm catching up with what's new in Holland, MI since I was a student here 8 years ago, catching up with how to cook from scratch when you can't just go buy 2 kilos of tomatoes, 3 carrots, one onion, and a fresh pineapple at the local market, and catching my breath a bit after "running hard" in serving for a long time without a lot of good breaks along the way.

This still feels way more normal to me than Meijer or Family Fare...

It's been interesting this time around to realize just how difficult the transition back has been for me. I don’t remember it being this difficult last furlough in a lot of ways. Perhaps I’m just more tired, emotionally and physically, after living in a place that I loved, but was often far from easy. Perhaps I've gotten so used to life in Tanzania that it became second nature, and the switch to the American system of, well, everything is just that much more difficult. Or perhaps actually selling everything and leaving East Africa/moving to the US this time has been more wearying than just leaving my stuff there to go back to. Whatever the reason, I’ve been pretty worn out, but ever-thankful for friends in the States and in Musoma for their continued prayers and support, and to family for “getting” that this whole reverse-culture shock thing is actually very real – and normal. And I’m thankful for a God who remains the same no matter what continent or country I find myself in.

The things that made the cut to come back to the States-
so glad it all arrived with me! At Chicago O'Hare
So today, as I begin my new online class, I think of a previous fall season 3 years ago where I was taking on a much-heavier load. I’m not sure I’m excited to jump back into student-mode again, but I’m thankful for the chance to renew my Michigan teaching license and to learn more about children’s literature. I’m thankful for the amazing ways God has provided, sustained, and encouraged me through His Body in community and through faithful friends and churches in the States over the past five years, and as I pray about what’s next, I’m growing in my ability to trust Him even in the midst of unknowns. And most importantly, I know that I’m not alone in the midst of any of this – thanks to incredible people surrounding me and an even more incredible God who will never let me go.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Always Changing

Things at the learning center—and on the mission field—are constantly changing. It’s a hard reality of life here—the friendships we gain grow quickly and deeply, but the frequent hellos and goodbyes tear at your heart just that much more.

Last term two families on our team returned to their home countries of America and New Zealand. Others in our community went to Australia and America on furloughs with plans to return. Recently, with the announcement of another family returning to the States soon, one of our students cried,

"Why does everyone we love have to leave?"

I feel it too! Couldn't resist taking a picture
with this shirt I found at the local market...
it describes our lives to a T!

Even my classroom changes a lot from month to month—and from day to day! Depending on parent volunteers at the learning center, I might have an American 3-year-old joining in, or a second-language 5-year-old Dutch student whose Swahili far surpasses mine (hmm... make that third language!?). My students here in Musoma come from New Zealand, America, Australia, and the Netherlands. We learn more about each country and culture all the time. We’ve been known to count in English, Swahili, Dutch, Spanish, German, and French for morning routines, and have to translate between American/British/Australian/New Zealand English (and vowel sounds!) on a regular basis.

I explain terms like “porch,” "gym," and “Easter Bunny” while my students familiarly use terms like amoeba and bilharzia, monitor lizard and dengue flour, know the potential issues with drinking (or touching) unclean water, and can quickly write the steps to how to get to Australia from Tanzania for their second grade sequential writing assignment. We read ABC books not just about super-heroes, but about countries where our parents come from. We celebrate not only Christmas but Australia Day, ANZAC Day, American Thanksgiving, the Queen’s Birthday, the other Queen’s Birthday, and have both Christian and Muslim holidays off from school according to the Tanzanian holiday schedule.

Lately I’ve been musing (a bit miserably, I'll admit); “Nobody ever told me I’d have to leave family twice!” (I knew I was leaving family, friends, etc when I came... I just didn't realize how hard it would be to leave here when heading back!) I do know how transition works, so the statement might not be exactly true! But on the flip side, as I am now the one preparing to go, I realize just how much God has provided “family” for me here in Tanzania – dear friends that I can go laugh or cry with at a moment’s notice, call early in the morning about a break-in, or commiserate over the abundance of malaria cases or lack of electricity as of late. Just as I’ve turned to Mark 10:29 for comfort so many times while missing family events in America, I now turn again to this Scripture for comfort as I leave the amazing family I’ve gained here, trusting God has great plans for me in whatever - and wherever - is next!

"I tell you the Truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age... and in the age to come, eternal life."
- Mark 10:29-31

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tis the Season... wait, which season?

Weather and seasons are usually a big part of Kindergarten learning. Teachers don’t talk about the ins and outs of how and why, of course, but acknowledging the (usually) ever-changing conditions outside the window and dressing a little bear in appropriate clothes for the weather during calendar time are essential.

The typical Kindergartener will sit on their carpet square listening to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and talk about how, while we don’t have food falling from the sky, we do have lots of kinds of weather.

The End.
This routine works really well when kids are living in one country and staying there. But this term, with 2 American students and 1 Australian/American planning to return to Australia, all living near the Equator, it gets a bit more tricky. I never bothered doing a dress-the-weather-bear bulletin board - he'd wear the same thing every day! The big question of the day during calendar time is whether it's sunny, cloudy, or partly cloudy - and we've had to add on to our weather chart this term thanks to the abundance of sunny days! (We opted to use the "snowy" category, with "warm" colors, to catch all the extra days...)

But then, last week, we came to the calendar/seasons unit in our math books. I could have had each kid do one set of seasons, but after a unit on the Solar System and talking about hemispheres anyway, I wanted to bring in the various dimensions of the world’s weather. These kids know more about time zones (we talk to grandma as she goes to bed and we wake up) than many middle schoolers in the States, so I figured we may as well keep going with our world-view-perspective!

I pulled out the A3 Paper (big pieces, for those of you Americans who don’t know what it is) and taped two together. We got to practice capitalizing names of months and using rulers (quite a feat for 6 year olds!) as we set up the posters...

...and then, we read some books.

The Year at Maple Hill Farm isn’t my favourite for describing seasons in America, but it does give some great descriptive words for what the weather is like on a farm. Thankfully, my colleague Lyndy has collected some books from other hemispheres along the way, so I also had All Through the Year available, which looks at the seasons in Australia. And as we live in Northern Tanzania much of the time, I thought we might just be able to pull off an equatorial perspective as well.

As we read, I had the kids draw pictures of the weather in that hemisphere country for each month. The first two were easier, but Tanzania was tougher. For one, the seasons in Musoma aren't clearly defined - a long and short rainy season, with dry in-between, and sometimes it's warmer and sometimes it's cooler. But no one ever really seems to know if rainy season has arrived, or if it's just a random afternoon shower!

I'm pretty sure no one has written a book about equatorial seasons, as it would be almost the same picture on most pages. A bit of rain here, a bit of dry season here, maybe 10 degrees warmer or cooler - if you're lucky, you might get to wear a jacket once or thrice! But if anyone out there knows such a book, I'd love to add it to the library!
Our Masterpieces: Northern Hemisphere on top,
Equatorial in the middle, and Southern Hemisphere on the bottom!
So as it warms up in America, cools down in Australia, and stays about the same here in Tanzania, we'd like to wish you all a...


Photo Credits to... myself, Amazon, and

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thoughts from Summer

In case you haven't caught on yet, I use writing as a way to process life... faith... whatever happens to be happening around me. Not to say I haven't had anything to process the past couple of months - I just haven't had a chance to post it!

This summer I wrote a series of "journals" as I transitioned and traveled, took classes, saw old friends and made new, and came back to Musoma exhaustedly trying to finish my masters courses. They're unpolished, unedited, and admittedly way too long... but I thought the chronology as I transitioned time zones, continents, cultures, and oh so many other things provided a bit of perspective of my summer 2013.

24 June 2013 - Nairobi, nearing the airport...

Things that still amaze me when I leave East Africa:
  • The concept of drinking out of the faucet – I balk every time and have to tell myself it’s ok…
  • Not super-washing and super-drying every piece of fruit and veggies…
  • Eating salad.  Every meal.  Every day. 
  • Cereal!!!
  • Strawberries.
  • Cold weather.  (I seriously should have packed more warm clothes!!!)
  • English. Church. Sunsets at 10pm, instead of the usual equatorial 6:30…

27 June 2013 Transitioning to Germany

It never ceases to amaze me… this trouble with transition.

I tend to think, somehow, that I should be good at this by now.  But then, I move someplace else (maybe moving isn’t quite right – but after this past year, I consider anything over a couple of weeks a move), and hit that moment when I hate everything and can’t figure out what’s wrong with me… then realize that yep, I’m normal.  And that this too shall pass, though perhaps not quite soon enough.

Another continent, another country, another culture.  As much as I love traveling (and I do, honest!) and realize the amazing opportunities that God is letting me live out, sometimes I wish for… consistency.  Normalcy.  Non-change-ability.  And then I remember.  That Book that I follow, that good God I lean on not enough but more and more every day… He never promised consistency.  Or comfort.  Or security, or sameness.  EVER. 

But after sitting through another day of class on the exposition of Romans?  I remember that He DOES promise me the seal of adoption.  Freedom from fear, love that knows no bounds.  Inheritance, glorious inheritance with a deposit of His Spirit in my life in the meantime.  And for this, I am grateful.

Because I’m certain that having a house in one place wouldn’t promise me an eternal inheritance.  And it certainly wouldn’t guarantee adding to the number of those who have this knowledge and faith and belief in East Africa through the Word of God in their language either. 

And so yes, I wish I knew every language on earth.  I wish the Tower of Babel never happened, and that I could sit down and have real conversations with people I meet.  I wish that I wasn’t “alone” on this journey, that transition didn’t always mean all new faces, that I would learn to trust more and worry less.  I wish a lot of things.

But more than that, I wish for the time when no one would need to tell his neighbor about the Lord, because they would already know.  When every tear was caught, every word held close to a heart that cared, and that we’d GET this and understand it and live it and be it.

I wish…

I wish for the life I have.

28 June 2013 More thoughts on Germany during class (ahem!)

That moment when…
  • You realize there are a certain set of words you should know in every language.  Even before “please” and “thank you” come a more critical set of vocabulary: “toilette,” “dame,” and “mann.”
  • You remember why introducing the world to stropwaffles is a very good thing. 
  • You pull a tank top out of your suitcase, and your housemate rightly comments, “Wait, that used to be WHITE?”  Oh, Tanzania.  Apparently my clothes don’t look quite as good as I thought when compared to the outside world!
  • Amazing joy collides with sadness in hearing my niece has been safely born – half a world away.
  • You wonder why you decided taking classes was a good idea on top of everything else!
  • You meet up with people who think having guards at a school is normal, and say things like, “Of course you'd never stop and stay in the case of a car accident..."

14 July 2013 Finishing classes in Germany and getting ready to travel to London to visit friends and study

How to know you’ve been living in international environments:
  • You realize the reason you can’t find a shampoo that works well is that you need a different kind depending on what continent you’re living on – and have valid proof of this from the past three years.
  • You get excited for things like being able to open your mouth in the shower and breath normally.
  • You stock up on cadburry chocolate whenever you have a chance, and ask someone to drive you to a neighboring German town where they sell little bags of chocolate chips.  (The driver wanted some too!)
  • You get REALLY excited when you realize you’re actually in a country where you can read the signs – in your own language.  It feels a bit spoiling!
  • You have sim (cell phone) cards for multiple locations and are glad whatsapp works for all of them.
  • You have every phone number entered into your cell with country codes added so they’ll work no matter where you’re on earth you’re calling from.
  • You stay at someone’s house with no top sheet and nod, realizing that’s pretty normal “in this area…”
  • You think it’s weird that you can throw away all trash into the same bin in London, and look for the gelbesack to put your containers into…
  • You hear someone mention that they can tell if someone’s from Italy or France based on the way they dress.  And you start wondering… where would someone say I’m from based on clothing??
  • You think things like, “I’ll already be on the continent… I may as well layover in…”
  • You know what amazing products are cheap in various parts of the world, and seriously think it’d be worth going to said places to get the cheap prices – and visit the people you know there, of course!
  • You get weirded out by drinking tap water, and consistently remind yourself that if the fruits and vegetables still have water on them after washing, they’re still safe to eat. 
  • You find yourself moving from a question on how you dry your clothes in Tanzania to a description of mango flies…
  • You realize that discussions of health-related issues are way more natural and normal around the dinner table – even with people you’ve met recently – then perhaps they should be!
  • You regularly carry self-test kits and meds for malaria and other common East African diseases whenever you travel.
  • You plan to get extras of meds when in Nairobi (10 hours from home) because 1. They’re cheap, and 2. They’re better quality (and more available!) than in Tanzania
  • You lament at your keyboard’s lack of British Pounds and Euros key options for working out travel budgets.
  • You have your picture file sorted by continent, then country, then city…
  • You are constantly using your currency converter, and are adept at calculating at least three country currencies in your head.
  • You’re adept at using both British and American English terms in your classes interchangeably… and after using a British term (which is most natural), you quickly add the translated version for your lone American student…
  • You give your students an example of the importance of standard measurements: “When I was living in Tanzania, and my brother was in America, and he was getting married in Colombia… I could send my measurements to America AND Colombia and they were the same on all three continents!” 

21 July 2013 Church in Bristol
Worshipping today in a church in England with an Australian pastor and new friends from around the world made me feel at home.  I wouldn’t often say that new situations feel comfortable, but this one certainly did.  I could worship, be myself, not think about how I was coming across or how a message was going to be perceived culturally.  It was in English.  I was a guest.  And oh, did I realize how much I missed just being in God’s presence letting my heart cry out to Him!

1 August 2013 Leaving London

I sit looking around a room I’ve called home for the past three weeks in London, at bags I still need to pack and weigh and hope they make the cut…
     at the latest cable (wire) I finally got that still doesn’t let me skype on my computer properly…
     at the two pair of sunglasses I finally purchased today after a hard search, in two sunglasses cases so hopefully this time they’ll survive in the Land of Tanz…
     at the LTPro (London transport) app on my phone I won’t need after tomorrow early…

and I remember what it means to have everything change.  again.

     Tonight is the last time in a long while I’ll take a shower and breathe through my mouth, willingly allowing drops of water to enter my body without fear of infection.

     Tonight I eat my last Subway sandwich and cookie (white chocolate macadamia nut, of course!)

     Tonight I stare outside one last time at the light filtering through the window at 9pm.

By tomorrow evening, I’ll be in Nairobi, on my way to Musomaland.  I’ll slowly switch out of my western clothes, my western mindset, my western way…

I’ve learned a lot along the way. 
   Things like – how much influence Britain really has on the Land of Tanz. 
   Things like – American credit cards – even new ones – don’t have chips in them that allow them to work at most British shops.  (Credit card discrimination, my friend announced, and I tend to agree…)
  • I’ve learned that British lemonade has fizz.  Every time. 
  • where Ziplock bags and  surge protector/adapters can be purchased (key items on any missionary’s shopping list!)
  • That it really does get sunny and hot in London.  Sometimes. 
  • To relish every shower where I can leave my mouth open.
  • To relish every consistent shower.
  • To relish premade foods.
  • To relish the times I get in the places where I am… and to look forward to the next thing while softly mourning what’s done and gone...

4 August 2013 (in the Mayfield Guesthouse in Nairobi, Kenya)

Affects of Transition:
  • Dreaming you can convert between F and C quickly without a second thought.
  • Waking up completely confused where you are
  • Speaking the wrong language in the wrong country – always.
  • Putting every new phone number into your phone using the country code, so it’s viable no matter what country or continent you want to use your phone from
  • Meeting people you love from the country you just came from as they head back there from where you’re going… randomly in a guest house…
  • Being thrilled when people get whatsapp so you can keep in personal touch (not FB) with them – for free.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Banana Week

It’s banana week at our house. 
A few weeks back, one of the bunches of bananas on the banana trees in back of our house dropped.  Ronit and I had big plans for these bananas – we tend to use whatever we have on hand pretty well.  So when they went missing, we were pretty bummed.  And confused.

After a bit of inquiry, we discovered that one of our guards had helpfully put the bananas in a cardboard box, tied it closed with copper wire, and put it in one of the back storage rooms on the property.

When he heard we were looking for them, he brought the box up to the house, explaining that you should always put bananas in a cardboard box to ripen quicker.  “Right,” we said, nodding our heads.  Inwardly, I likened it to an old Tanzanian-wives-tale, like the one where I'm not supposed to drink cold water on hot days because it makes me cough. I'm sure it had nothing to do with allergies!?

All I could think of when I saw the copper wire was how people steal
copper off irrigation systems in the States to sell it for money! 
If they only knew how many boxes of bananas were sitting wrapped
with copper wire in Tanzanian backyards...
I'm assuming the newspaper is also critical to the ripening process?

My roommate and I laughed, took a few pictures (because that’s what we do), and left the box covered to see what would happen.

A couple of weeks later we started smelling a mysterious banana-like smell from the entryway where we had left the box.  We checked inside, and whala!  The bananas were ready!  Turns out that bananas really do let off a ripening agent-something-or-other-that-does-something-so-they-ripen-and-apparently-you-can-put-other-fruit-in-the-box-to-ripen-too-and-I-should-look-up-why-this-is-but-will-refer-you-to-knowledgeable-chemist-friends-instead-because,-well,-I’m-too-busy-cooking-with-bananas.

Suddenly, all our plans for Sunday-afternoon cooking changed.  Pumpkin bread for morning routines was cancelled, and banana bread subbed in.  We found a Betty Crocker Pound Cake Mix (a treasure in these parts!) in the freezer and came up with a banana-maple syrup topping for it.  Making pancakes?  Add a few – or ten – bananas to the mix!  And I’m pretty sure that banana chocolate chip bars will be on the dessert/snack menu for sometime this week – sans oats, since oats are so expensive here.

yum! :)
We started wondering in the bustle of banana-cooking what would happen once these bananas were gone.  After all, we had managed to use nearly half the box in 30 minutes time!  And then we remembered the trees out back, with another five bunches worth of bananas slowly getting ready to drop… and simply smiled as we thought of all the banana weeks to come.


Friday, October 19, 2012

In the Kitchen... RiverValley Language Camp Style

(I wrote this a few weeks ago, but haven't had a chance to upload it till now.  Hope you have as much fun reading as we did cooking!)

Along with the idea that language is culture and culture is language, there are a LOT of traditional dishes here in Tanzania that us outsiders simply never grew up making.  Chapatti, for one.  Pilau.  And a good portion of us didn’t grow up chasing chickens around the yard to fry up for dinner.

So this week, the teachers came in full force.  We spent all of yesterday at the market bartering and buying the best produce we could with the money we were  given (using our best Swahili skills, of course! :P)  Then today, we brought out the charcoal jikos (stoves), the live chickens, the rice with stones in it, the coconut shredders, the strainers, and all the rest of the produce.  And, little by little, we spent the morning making, preparing, using our Swahili (a bit), learning, and laughing as we tried to imitate the skills our teachers have been using since they were little kids. 

The highlight of the day for some people was the killing of our lunch meat.  I am more than willing to let others do this for me, though I helped with the plucking of feathers process after they were dipped in boiling water.
For me, though, I was most excited about learning to make chapattis.  I’ve watched people make them many times but I’ve just never done it.  Today… was the day.  I even realized that touching the chapattis in the pan over the burning white hot coals isn’t as dangerous as I expected! 

I’m not saying I’m going to start a business… and I’ll probably still buy my chapattis from here on out.  I’m also very aware of how many typical things we DIDN’T do today that most Tanzanians would do… including hauling water by bucket from the nearest river and (hopefully?) boiling it before making everything.  Even without the extra steps, we were all sunburned and exhausted by the end.  But we thoroughly enjoyed our meal, our teachers thoroughly enjoyed laughing with (at?) us throughout the day, I learned that I really DO like banana desserts (sometimes!), and I’m proud to have acquired a few new skills in my toolbox to carry with me from here!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cultural Confusion...

I’ve written a lot on here about cultural differences and experiences I’ve had along the way in my international travels.  However, such confusions are certainly not limited to crossing country borders.  When I headed to NC for my first teaching job, I truly felt like I had entered a whole new land of language, culture, and understandings from what I knew as well.

My assistant was a great help that first year in helping me transition – and helping the kids to understand me.  I soon realized that the word “ten” was not a good example of the short “e” sound, as they all said “tee-in” every time.  And she helped translate for the kids when I told them we’d have popcorn and pop one day for a movie time… they stared blankly until she explained I meant “soda.”

The pointer wasn't quite this big,
thank goodness!
The best one, though, was one day when we were talking about teeth health.  (One of the perks of working in an elementary classroom is teaching not only reading, writing, and math, but also doing mouthwash every week with your kids and celebrating dental health week, drug awareness week, having a leprechaun visit your classroom once a year, and other random adventures!)  I pulled out my folder of materials I got from my mentor teacher and a big plastic toothbrush I got from the Dollar Tree to use as our pointer for the week, and started sharing about dental hygiene.  We had already discussed all the super-boring foods that are GOOD for your teeth, and then moved on to brainstorming some really great foods that taste amazing but are sure to rot your teeth along the way. 

After “candy,” “SODA,” and “chocolate” had all been mentioned, we hit a lull.  I thought for a minute myself, then excitedly shared my own.  “You know what one of my favorite things to eat is?  It’s SO bad for your teeth, but oh, it’s so delicious!  Elephant Ears!!!”

You would have thought a bomb had gone off in my classroom.  Every kid sitting criss-cross on my carpet jumped at least a foot off the ground and stared at me as if I’d gone crazy.  After a communal gasp, they all turned to each other and started twittering about… something. 

I was clueless.

Once again, my amazing, faithful assistant came to the rescue. 

“Wait a minute, friends.  Elephant ears are kind of like funnel cakes.  You know, like you get at the fair.  Except they don't have elephant ears here in NC, only up North.”

Relief.  Relaxed shoulders.  An unusual stillness and peace at the first grade carpet descended.  And one lone student raised his hand.

“Miss Lucas, you had me worried!  I was so scared.  I thought you meant you really ate elephant ears, like the ones we saw on the elephants at the zoo last week!”

Oh dear.  Glad we cleared up another misconception – and that yet another element of cultural understanding could unintentionally be brought into the first grade curriculum!

Photos found at:,, and

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Happy Morning!

Sometimes, there are pluses to wintering in colder climates.  Let me give you an example.

In Tanzania last year, I found these really cool mugs.  The deep, thick, holds-lots-of-liquid kind of mugs.  They went with the beautiful blue-green and brown plates that I found for cheap, too.  And I really wanted to use them.

The only problem is, I don’t drink coffee.  And though I’ve been reminded numerous times that drinking hot liquids is especially important when it’s hot outside (???), I haven’t quite gotten to that point yet.

But there’s still something to that idea of waking up and huddling around a mug.  So I did it anyway.

With juice.

Yes.  with cold juice, straight out of the fridge.

It was my way of imagining it was snowing, cold, getting to the point where we’d need to build a fire… even though the fire was in the sun blazing just above our heads. 

But now, it turns out, it really IS cold!  (It's actually snowed a few times!)  And though I still don’t drink coffee (I’ve gotten close a few times on furlough...), hot cider is readily available AND enjoyable for consumption.

So these days, you’ll find me waking up to a mug once again.  But this time, the mug tends to hold something warm, not cold!
Happy Mornings!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's Christmas!!!

Ok, maybe not.  Quite.  Yet.

But, it's cold outside.  Freezing even.  And for me, that's enough reason to celebrate Christmas.  No questions asked.

Because, you see, I used to be normal.  (no laughing, please.)  Seriously.  I thought that days like this

were cold,

and days like this...
were hot.

Then I moved South.  And things got interesting.

I still knew the difference between hot and cold.  It just seemed that no one else did.

My picture, on the front page
of the newspaper...
for going to school in the "snow"!
People would laugh because I wore sandals in the "winter."  You have to understand that this winter was spring-weather for a Michigander!  I made a deal with people that if it ever actually froze... you know, 32 degrees F... then I'd wear shoes.

I think it happened twice.

Later that winter, come spring time, my body seemed to rebel.  “It can’t be spring yet!  It hasn’t really gotten cold!”  My internal system kept waiting… and waiting… and bummer of bummers, no winter came.  Only heat, humidity, and lots of air conditioning galore.

Enter the Land of Tanz.  By my second year in Tanzania, a bunch of us were really starting to adjust to the temps.  (Think 80s and 90s with 95% humidity!)  One day, it started raining, the humidity levels dropped a bit, and we actually grabbed BLANKETS to wrap up in.  (Note: we usually don’t even use a top sheet to sleep with – it’s too hot.  And here we were grabbing blankets that we had only ever used when traveling to cold parts of the country.) 

We. were. FREEZING!!!  In honor of this moment, we decided to check just how cold it really was outside.   And as we glanced at the thermometers on our computers, our jaws dropped.  Here we were, perfectly reasonable individuals hailing from Michigan, Minnesota, and ALASKA… and we were freezing at …  83 degrees.  Yes, you read that right.  83.
Another time, when my housemate and I were traveling to a
colder part of the country.  We were FREEZING!  And yes,
the temp was about 55 degrees...
I have absolutely no doubt that God used NC to prep me for Tanzania.  I just think that He might have forgotten to prep me for coming back!

Because lately, we’ve been having a lot of rain.  Cold, blowing rain.  Rain that I really thought could turn into snow or ice at any moment.  We've even had a day of snow!
me enjoying the wonders of fleece (aka staying warm) as I write more papers... :)

So as it gets colder out, my body, which at one point thought that it wasn’t time for spring until it snowed… has been ready for Christmas since October.  And I'm SO excited that the official season of celebrating Christ's birth has arrived!!  Along with lights, cookies, Christmas movies, family and a very thankful heart!  :)

Happy Almost Christmas, all!!!