Monday, February 19, 2018

Hearts, questionable activities, and a busy weekend

This week has been interesting. Valentine’s day was a lot of fun with cards appearing all day on my desk from different students. The kids had a lot of fun showing their appreciation for friends and teachers, and there was a nice air of brotherly love going around. Sadly, they did not put the same enthusiasm into their work, so we have been trying to get back on the right foot ever since.

I was on this weekend, and in addition to dealing with the usual supervision things, I found that someone had pooped in the trashcan in the hall bathroom, and some has been emptying out all the hand soap and filling the dispenser with water. What even?

Oh the good side of things, my two kids who are on probation are going to be able to stay in 7th grade, and thought it stormed most afternoons, I’ve found a low-impact workout that I can mostly do (who knew how much you use your tendons for lunges?) when I can’t bike. Oh, and here is the bike:

It’s nothing fancy, but I am very grateful for it. Even though it does take up a lot of room in my kitchen…

Half-term is Friday and Saturday of this week, and it’s midterm marks time, so my kids have several tests and a leaf collection project due this week. Should be interesting!

If you think about it, please pray for the kids. There has been a lot of immature and plain mean behavior lately--more than usual. Pray for us that we will with grace dispense justice, and that we will help root out these character flaws in our students.

Parting shot: I got a big kick out of watching some first and second graders play doctor while on Sunday morning supervision. There was a dramatic death scene, ‘shots’, and careful knee reflex checking! I love it when kids play imaginatively like that.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A tale of two chairs and some little girls indulge in hearts

In the 8 years I have taught in this classroom, my main chair at my desk has become progressively more and more shabby. And, I can tell you from long experience, marathon marking and report writing sessions in it were not comfortable affairs!

The goods from the fall container just arrived and are being distributed, and LOOK! The lovely folks at Subury sent me an office chair! It has some miles on it, but it is sooo much better than the one I had. A little cleaning and Fabreeze, and it’s good to go. It is truly the little things in life that make all the difference.

I was touched when the headmaster found and refurbished a bike that was tall enough for me. I’ve taken it for two test runs, and it has been exhilarating to have a physical outlet again, and to not feel earthbound. Five months is a long time to feel like that…

On Saturday, as I have grade 3 and 4 girls, we made Valentines in craft. Because if you know anything at all about that age group, Valentines are right up their alley! I have such good memories of making Valentines with my siblings as a kid; I wanted these girls to have some of that too.

Last week was extremely challenging; many of my students are struggling to adjust to grade 6, or they probably really shouldn’t have passed grade 5. I was in a lot of pain from my shoulder (stress is NOT good for it), and there was a lot of immature behavior on top of the other issues. On the other hand, there were some little successes that showed that the battle is not in vain. Prayers for patience, strength, and wisdom for me would be appreciated! I am so thankful for the rest I got this weekend; it has been a long time since my soul found such peace. Okay God, I can do this week—but only with You!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Life is sure full of interesting sometimes...

So, as I write this, I am currently without a working toilet in my house because over the last 8 years roots have taken over my soak-away system to the point where nothing was going down anymore. A valiant crew of plumbers worked all morning on it, and had started to make a little headway apparently, but it's going to be a huge job to get it all sorted out. So, until then, I'm trekking to the guest block to answer the call of nature. I'm really praying it is only another day or two--who knew how beautiful flushing toilets really were?

My infected toe is improving a bit with my regimen of saltwater soaks and antibiotic ointment. It doesn't hurt as much to walk around, and so I'm optimistic and praying that it will soon clear up. Having spent several years suffering from toe issues, I'm being aggressive now!

On Sunday I did something I haven't done for 12 years--rode a bike. I'm trying to find a form of exercise that won't strain my tendinitis, and so I went into the bike shed and found the biggest bike I could. Sadly, it was still rather too small for me, so the strain on certain muscle groups was pretty intense. I thought I might die before I made it back down the long end of the airstrip, but I didn't fall off which I had sort of been afraid I would, and I got a good work out! Today my ankle has been sorer than usual, so I stuck with housecleaning as my cardio. There was quite a bit of dirt tracked in by the plumbing rescue squad...

Parting shot: One of my favorite projects to do with my kids is these mobiles that remember the good things from the year past and set some goals for this year.

Monday, January 29, 2018

How do you eat an elephant?

I, like I suspect pretty much every adult who works with children, have a stock of phrases or saying I pull out at all applicable occasions. Some of them were handed down from my parents, who learned them from their parents, and back in a chain probably to the dawn of parenting. Some of them are things I’ve picked up over the last few years, and some of them like one of my current favorites, “Head. Use.” is the product of my own crazy teacher mind. Another thing I’ve said a lot to my students over the last year or so, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is of course, “One bite at a time,” meaning that big tasks are possible if you tackled them bit by bit. Well, this year I’ve got more than one elephant sized challenge in my classroom, and I’ve had to remind myself about this truth many times over the last few days.

This year I have two students repeating grade 6; one is taking it well, and one isn’t. I have at least three if not four students with significant learning challenges. One of my students is very intelligent, but his brain is wired in a way that makes being a student and a part of a classroom community very difficult. One of my students who can least afford it missed the whole first week of school. One of my students is convinced she is the center of the universe, and my primary job is to attend on her highness. Two of my 7th graders are only in 7th grade provisionally, and they had a pretty unimpressive first week of school. So yeah, I have more than one elephant sitting at my table.

But this I know. God has asked me to be here for this last year for a purpose, and as much as I don’t feel like I have the energy to tackled this many elephants at once on top of trying to wrap up my time here well, this is not an accident. While I can’t ‘fix’ all these kids in 9 months, I can make a difference. I can teach them to be more responsible, better students, and help them to grow. So, while I almost had to breath into a paper bag a few times last week as the enormity of what I have taken on would suddenly become apparent, I’m going to do the best I can do…which is all God asks of me. Okay elephants—one bite at a time!

Quick health update: The brace is helping, but these last two weeks of prepping for and starting school have been hard on my tendonitis. And, the shoes I was wearing so I could have the arch support insoles, irritated my big toe, so it got infected. I’m trying to get that cleared up again since I have a history of bad infections in that toe, but it’s going to be hard to balance having arch support and letting that toe heal. I’m thankful that I was off this weekend and so could attend to my foot problems a little more intentionally than I would if I was on duty. So, please continue to pray that my tendonitis will heal, and that I’ll be able to make do with the shoes I have out here.

The bathroom renovation project continues--can't wait to have working bathrooms at Upper School again!

Students hard at work.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Term 1, 2018 is officially started!

Just a few little bullet points as I need to get to bed--I have school nights again.

* I got hit by a nasty 24 hour bug of some kind last week; thankfully it wasn't malaria. While that was going on, I had the constant companionship of a very warm, concerned cat. This was great until the fever broke!

Once I could function again, I spent most of Friday and the weekend getting my classroom ready for the kids to arrive on Monday. Fresh bulletin boarder--makes the room look wonderful, and a lot more hassle than one would think.

The kids started arriving on Monday, and to me surprise and delight one of my students remembered my desire to taste properly crispy caterpillars, and brought some for me! My heart is warmed...but I don't need to eat too many more caterpillars!

First full day of school tomorrow--I'm ready to be down to work in earnest!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A quick trip and school starts soon

Since the start of the 2018 school year was postponed, four of us single ladies decided that if we had potentially three more weeks of cooking for ourselves, we may as well head to Solwezi for a supply run. So, we gathered up lists for others on stations, wrote our own, and set off in the Patrol Sunday morning. There were some pretty awful parts on the sea of mud road before we reached the pavement, but with four-wheel drive, 8 years of experience driving on rainy season roads, and a lot of prayer we made it through. At one point there was huge piles of ‘gravel’ down the middle of the road and a truck stuck in the detour down each side. I had to off-road on the raised bank above the road; thankfully there wasn’t anything unpleasant lurking in the grass! We bought non-perishables, then headed back to the lodge to enjoy a lovely supper and a quiet evening. After breakfast we were greeted by this:

We’re still not sure exactly what happened, but obviously we couldn’t head into town like that! So, the cook and the gardener at the lodge changed the tire for us; thankfully we had all the tools in the car, and the spare was in good shape. That adventure over we went into Solwezi do visit a hardware store and get our perishable items. We checked the air pressure in our tires before leaving town (a good thing too—the spare was pretty low!) and headed back up country. The sea of mud road was actually a little drier than the day before, so we made it through with no problems. I have to admit I was pretty thankful to be back—as much fun as driving over swiss cheese roads and in hubcap deep mud is!

Today I helped with the Upper School bathroom renovation project; I finished the first coat and put the second coat of paint in the boy’s bathroom. I managed to not make too big of a mess, but my hands looked almost as Pollockesque as the vehicle had after driving to town.

Just as I was finishing up, I caught these rainbow clouds over Upper School; while there are frequently rainbows in the east this time of year, this delicate shimmer in the clouds to the west is more unusual.

School opening update: The government passed on a few days ago that private schools can open earlier, so we are looking at having our students arrive on January 22 and have classes start on the 23rd. I started working in my classroom today, but there is quite a bit more to do before the 2018 school year can start! Prayers for wisdom as we re-arrange our first term schedule, for the health inspection we need to be cleared to open the school, and help to finish up the big projects we started would be appreciated.

Parting shot: A little view out the window of the mission plane when I flew up to school a week ago.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

January 2018 Update and an Announcement

Dear friends and family,

I had originally planned to write a newsletter at the end of third term last year, but as I have some important updates to go give you I decided to wait until the new year. And then I found out that this year was not going to be starting as planned, so maybe it’s a good thing I waited! I was able to spend December in Texas; it was a wonderful time with family and friends, and I am so incredibly thankful to the Lord for making it possible. There were also several things I needed to do while I was Stateside, one of the most pressing of which was related to some ongoing health issues I have been having.

As you probably remember, I have been dealing with chronic pain in my right shoulder for the last three and a half years. While I was home I had two massage appointments to work on the big knot that spasms and causes me so much discomfort. Because I missed one of my appointments and had to reschedule, I had an appointment with a professional who because of her personal experience was able to more precisely diagnose the source of the pain and show me a new stretch to combat the issue. So, while my days of shoulder pain are not finished, I am encouraged to have more information and a practical way to work on managing the issue.

Another major struggle for the last four months has been an injury to my left ankle. When I wrote my last newsletter I was already dealing with it, but I figured it was a sprain that would clear up in a week or two and so didn’t mention it. There was no definite moment of injury, but a week before third term started it became extremely painful for me to walk. Being a teacher at a boarding school I couldn’t really do anything about being on my feet all day, so I toughed it out for two months before seeking the school nurse who gave me a wrap and had me take ibruphen to deal with the serious swelling I was experiencing. Since my ankle had only improved slightly, I had an appointment with a podiatrist right before heading back to Sakeji. Sadly, the news isn’t good. I have posterior tibial tendonitis, which means that I have almost worn out the major supporting tendon in my left foot. Some of the damage to the foot is unfortunately going to be permanent, but with a major brace and arch support there is hope for healing and a mobile life going forward. It was a pretty hard thing to hear and deal with, but the brace is already making a big difference in the amount of pain I deal with day to day, and I am hopeful that I will be able to take my much-missed daily walks again.

While I had a good trip back to Zambia, I arrived only to find that schools were not going to be opening in January because of a Cholera outbreak in Lusaka. At the moment the boards or education and health will be reassessing the situation on January 30th; we are praying that we will be able to go ahead and open the first weekend in February. If we are able to start school right away, we will have to extend two weeks into the holiday which will make what was planned to be a 10 week term a 9 week one and cut into the April holiday, but it seems to be the best way forward at the moment. So, prayers for wisdom as we await the government’s decision and try to prepare as best we can.

And now, I have one other important thing to share with you. After much prayer and seeking the Lord’s will over the last three years, I have decided that 2018 will be my last year at Sakeji Mission School. Just as it was absolutely right for me to head out on faith in 2010, is now time for me to again step out in faith. I do not know exactly what the Lord is calling me to next, but as I continue to pray over my future I have some ideas of what I want to do when I return to the States permanently in December. There are many circumstances that have lead to this decision including my health issues and the closure of my home church sometime this year. I am thankful for my time at Sakeji; while it has been far from easy, I have learned to much about myself, the Lord, and life in these years. I look forward to the next adventure He is calling me to, and know with confidence that He has prepared me through my time in Zambia.

So, please pray for healing physically, pray for wisdom to leave Sakeji well, and pray for strength and help during this time of transition as I have many decisions to make, many emotions to sort through, and many ends to tie up. I have a lot of big challenges facing me in my classroom this year, and I feel that I am specifically called for one more year to help certain students with big challenges of their own. I know that my God is faithful, and that He has been and always will be right beside me as I continue the adventure of a life lived for Him. Thank you so much for all your prayers, support, and encouragement over the years. As we go into 2018, may we each become a little more Christlike, and serve Him with all our hearts wherever He has called us.