Monday, April 16, 2018

A flood, plans change, much is accomplished, and a grueling drive

Well, I guess Zambia wanted to make sure that I would never forget my last shopping trip! Where I live upcountry there has been a lot of rain over the last month, and particularly the first week of holiday. So, it was with some trepidation that I planned a trip to Kitwe for shopping, dentist, visiting, being off station, and bringing three other people who needed a ride up. We were supposed to leave on Tuesday, but I woke up around 4am on Tuesday morning and lay awake listening to two hours of steady, heavy rain. It had been raining when I went to bed, and I was getting pretty concerned about the state the roads would be in. Remember, I live 67k down a dirt/clay/sand/undrained and poorly maintained road from where the pavement stops. So, when I loaded the car in the rain and picked up Ruthie and Anna, I wasn’t too optimistic about our chances of getting out. Sure enough, the ‘road’ was a river pretty much all the way to the main road, and I took one look at the lake on the plain and knew we wouldn’t make it. So, we turned around, made a hot breakfast, and spent a lazy day waiting to see what the weather did. We found out, that over 4 inches of rain had fallen on our already saturated ground. This is what the river just below the school looked like when we came back; I've never seen it so high!

Wednesday morning it was clear, and it hadn’t rained in the night, so we went for it. It took a about 12 hours, but we made it safely to Kitwe and to the Fernandos. Ruthie got a picture of what a good section of the road looked like:

We were welcomed with a delicious meal, cleaned up, and fell into bed. It’s almost as tiring to be a passenger on these roads as it is to drive them! During the next two days I got my dentist appoint, we did a lot of shopping, enjoyed eating out, delicious Sri Lankan food, and visiting with Fernandos. The night before we left we sang by candlelight as I did my best to play by ear on their old piano. I’m so thankful that the Lord has brought such wonderful people into my life!

Saturday morning we loaded up the car, said goodbye, and headed to Chingola to pick up the three Ronald ladies.

Once there we left a few things to come up on a truck, did a masterful job of packing everything and 6 people into the Patrol, and headed out.

However, the trip up country was rather eventful. First, we got stopped at a police checkpoint minutes down the road and were informed/realized that our car’s fitness (inspection) was out of date. Oopps… The lady had heard of our school and let us go—much to our relief! Then, once we left Solwezi, we started to hear what we thought was the back right mud flap scraping on the potholes, but quickly realized was actually the tire. And it was starting to shred a little. So, we pulled over, shifted as many heavy items onto the left side of the car as we could, and I resumed driving favoring the right side as much as possible. This significantly slowed our progress down, and it was full dark by the time we finally hit Mwinilunga where the pavement ends. I got out, locked my hubcaps, and began the worst part of the drive in the dark.

The last 67 kilometers took just under three hours and was one of the most stressful driving experiences of my life. As there are not lights by the road and very few villages would have much electricity, I was driving with just my headlights. I had a very heavy car, and it was already 8pm. Soon, the road got wet, and then it started raining, which lowered my visibility to about two feet or so. And then the mud got bad. So bad that the truck was stuck at least two times, but was able with the aid of low four wheel drive to get us out. Once we hit the last plain before Sakeji, we found more huge puddles, so Pam and Anna got out and walked some of the worst ones so I could see where the best place to drive through was. In all, it took us just under 3 hours to drive that last stretch, and I was absolutely exhausted from the mental and by then physical strain of driving. We got the car unloaded in the misting rain, and then I took a blessedly hot shower and fell into bed.

I am so thankful for the change to get supplies, that the car made it back up with only minor damage to the tire, and that I didn't get us terribly stuck in the mud. All the crazy road trips I've taken before, and especially in that vehicle, were preparation for the greatest driving feat of my life. I can't say that I'm sorry I won't have another chance for such an exciting road trip, but boy have I made some memories... I'm enjoying some quiet as I recover and keep working on things in my house!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Quickly

I am heading down to Kitwe early Tuesday morning with two friends for some shopping, a visit to the dentist, and to spend some time with friends. Prayers for safety on the road appreciated! I'll be returning on Saturday and bringing up three other people, so it will be a squishy ride, but there will be another driver to help with the long trip.

Until next week!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Term 1--Survived!

I had a blog entry all typed up…and then exam/report/last week of school hit and my life pretty much ceased except on the marking front. I somehow managed to give and mark all my exams in 4 days, while still fulfilling all my regular duties, and then on Saturday I finished the last bits of marking and my report cards.

Last week was hard. Most of my weeks are hard, but this one was a grinding, exhausting struggle. Not only did I have an enormous pile of work to go through, not only was I even more short on sleep than usual, not only was there some extra things that had to be worked around, but I found out on Tuesday that there was a major problem in my classroom involving lying, cheating, and bullying. It was a pretty staggering blow to receive right the last week of school, and to find out it had been going on for a long time, but the kids kept quiet until the end of term. So, there was a lot of investigating, I got the headmaster involved right away, and the end result was repentance on the part of a few of the parties, but a situation that needs much prayer for the heart of another. On the one hand, I really wish this hadn’t come up when it did—or at all! On the other, maybe this was the Lord’s timing too. I chance to teach my students in a very practical way how to apply the very concepts we have been studying this term—craftiness, the burden of guilt, forgiveness, reaping what you sow. This was a chance to model to my students that I actually practice what I preach to them, and that when mistakes are made, the most important thing is what you do with them. I always tell my students that the real ‘test’ will come after hearing a lesson, and boy did it ever! I hope and pray going forward that my classroom will start next term off from a better place, and that this will be an important learning experience for everyone.

We continue to have heavy rain; we were afraid that the airstrip would be too flooded for the student’s flights to make it through, but God gave a dry night and safety with all the flights. Very few parents came up for end of term, so while I would have liked to have spoken to various ones, I had a chance to get a lot of work done on Friday afternoon. All this rain has meant we've had some lovely rainbows though...

Now that term is over, my first goal is to catch up on some sleep, finish my taxes and letters, and then to start working through plans for a trip to Kitwe. I am so looking forward to having a month to relax a bit, regroup, make plans, and get some solid work done on the ‘leaving well’ project. There are things that need sorting, resources to leave organized, and always all those odd jobs that just had to wait during the term. I’m hoping the rest will help a bit with my physical challenges, and I know it will help with my emotional and mental strain! Huzzah for term break, and I hope you all had a blessed Easter!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter

I overheard a conversation this morning where someone was wished a "Happy Easter!" to which they replied in all seriousness, "What does that even mean?" The first person responded that we are happy that Christ rose from the dead and then moved on, but I've been thinking about it a lot today.

For the group of people I'm currently living with and around, Easter means being at church all day and maybe, if demanded, singing an Easter song or two. From my 'wild' church background, Easter Sunday was an exciting time of joyous worship, a new outfit, an Easter egg hunt, and a big meal that figured ham prominently. Easter was special; the culmination of the story that started at Christmas, and the reason why Christians could have joy no matter the circumstances. It was something to look forward to, not just for the eggs and new dress, but for the atmosphere of joy that was usually only matched at Christmas time. As a musician, it was a chance to do something special to show my gratitude for so great a salvation provided for ME.

So, what does "Happy Easter" mean?
It means that we are happy that our Savior rose from the dead; if Christ is not risen, then we are still in our sins.
It means that today is special; a day when we particularly rejoice through song, sermons, and activities because we have a hope and a future.
It means that a sacrifice had been made that was once for all, and that was good enough to satisfy the just wrath of God. No longer would sin be just covered over for a time. God's plan of redemption came to fullness on that Sunday morning, and for the first time in history His people could be forgiven fully.
It means that every Sunday and every day of the year we can have joy because of Easter.

It means that I will rejoice and celebrate this happiest of days, and I will look forward to celebrating it in heaven where I have a feeling Easter is a bigger party than Christmas. The great stoop of God becoming flesh is trumped by the just Son of God dying for the unjust. The angels stand amazed at this story; why wouldn't we? Easter is the first taste of the redemption of all creation that is coming; how can we stay silent?

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Birthday Party and Some Student Art

Sorry for the lack of update last week; I struggled through that week and there really wasn't much to say about it. This last week was birthday party--a three day trial for teachers, and an interesting study in the absorption and reaction to sugar in children. The theme was Zambia, and my table's cake was a pineapple. No, I didn't make it; I was waaaay too busy on cake decorating day!

There was some lovely art as always decorating the dining hall; this is one of my student's pastel drawing of a lion.

This week in history class we tried out hands at writing in cuneiform; I am so fascinated by how intricate this photographic writing packed on little clay tablets was!

For St. Patrick's Day on Saturday, I made Celtic knots with my 3rd and 4th grade girls. It was a stretch for a few of them, but I was pretty pleased with the results as a whole.

Last week one of the 4th grade girls broke her arm; it's been a bit of a process, but as of today she's all casted and ready to finish off the last two weeks of school. It's really amazing, all things considered, how *few* injuries we have!

If you think about it, prayers for this weary, battered teacher as she tackles the last two weeks of a brutal term would be appreciated. I have so many challenges in my classroom right now that I feel overwhelmed and inadequate on a minutely basis; there is just so much need. I know I could never be all even one person needs, but it's hard to know where to lay down the sword in this oh so important fight for these young lives.

There is also a lot to think about in the next month--my taxes (always a fun challenge for someone living overseas and being self-employed!), buying my ticket for my trip home for my sister's wedding, a much needed trip to town to get new shoes, and continuing to think and plan for the future. I'm trying to be wise as well as trusting of the Lord, and once I have a free minute to think about something other than my students I expect things to hit a little harder.

Parting shot: Some more of the string art Ruthie and I did with the kids over half-term; a few more were finished up this weekend.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

I life my eyes unto the hills

Last week was the kind of week that makes you reconsider your vocation, throw around the idea of changing your name and running away to a deserted island somewhere, or wonder if there would be enough parents or teachers on the jury to acquit you. A week where I was lied to by my students, stolen from by my students, had an unknown number of students cheat, had every last nerve and a few I didn't know I had stood on, endured way too much pre-school level behavior from my middle schoolers (you don't want to know), and basically was worn down till I wasn't sure I could face a weekend on. I spent almost the whole weekend supervising kids (thank goodness my longest weekend is on is now over!), and as I was taking my laundry home to hang it up Saturday evening (because I didn't have time before), I looked up and saw this:

One of the reasons I love my exercise time on the airstrip so much, is the wild skies here remind me to look up and marvel at the greatness of our God. While I love East Texas passionately, it is rare to get the kind of sweeping views of the sky and the fantastic cloud sculptures at home that we get out here. Looking up is a physical and a spiritual reminder that there is more to life than what is on the ground and bogging me down right now. It is a reminder that I serve a God who paints the sky with fire--because it's beautiful. I serve a God who sweeps the sky clean after a storm and adorns it with a double rainbow. I serve a God who is so much bigger than me, that whatever I've got on my plate, I can bear because of Him. Thankfully 'Jonah' weeks come to an end, students adjust their behavior, and teachers get a bit of desperately needed sleep. As we go into the back half of this very trying term, I'm going to keep working on looking up--looking above my struggle at my Savior who said that His yoke was easy, and His burden light. The One who has promised to never leave or forsake me, and who wants the best for these kids more than I ever could. Excelsior!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Half-Term

It was a busy week leading up to half-term; my students had their science exam and half literature exam (I give them two shorter ones and average them). It rained for early morning swim, but that did not diminish the kids enjoyment of the novelty of jumping in the dam before breakfast, and it rained after tea so they had to play up at the school for the morning instead of going swimming as usual. We served lunch in the covered play area; loud, and it did require a lot of taking balls away while we were eating, but a much better space than the chotas down at the river.

On Saturday Ruthie helped me do string art with the 5-6 girls; it turned out really well!

I got some relaxing done over half-term (naps are the best) including the leaf projects my students did to finish off our botany unit.

Now it's back to schoolwork again; hopefully the kids get back in the groove quickly! It's hard to believe we're past the half-way mark for term 1...