Monday, May 21, 2018

Sick, encouraged, and very busy!

I had every intention of updating last week, but what with having a lot to do to get ready for the week and having a cold I was trying to get over, it just didn’t happen. I’ve been super busy these last two weeks trying to get everything in motion again, trying new things in my classroom, trying to get curriculum and projects solidified for the person coming after me, and trying to get better. At the end of last week the cold blossomed into a full blown sinus infection, which if you’ve never had one, really takes it out of you. Thankfully I was off this weekend, so I holed up in my house drinking fluids, resting, and irrigating my sinuses, ‘cause I ain’t got time for that. It seems that my strategies are working, as I feel much better today. In fact, I cycled over to the farm to take my turn picking up the fresh milk, and I managed to make it up the big hill on the way back without stopping!

Last Friday we had a tea as the whole school—workers, staff, and students, to celebrate and thank our workers. We also wanted to honor the retirement of a long-time kitchen worker. Lots of the kids formed long lines going around and shaking all the worker’s hands, and the oldest kids helped serve.

For the first two weeks of school we had a couple visiting who were a huge blessing; Josh took a week of special assemblies and spoke on Sunday evenings, and Keri who has training in special education and support needs was able to give lots of practical suggestions and advice and gave us some tools to help our students in areas where we are weak. She spend time in our classrooms, took kids out individually, and was a huge encouragement. There are still many things that need work, but I feel more equipped to finish this year now.

One thing I’m working on with my kids, is having a growth mindset. The first week of school they each colored 2 pieces of this poster, and then a couple of them helped me with the final assembly. They did a great job, and it was a handy object lessons for accomplishing big things.

On that note, I’m doing the Do Hard Things conferences/book with the seniors for Sunday school, and am praying that it resonates in their hearts. The first session went well, and I’ll be doing the next one in a few weeks. One hard thing that I’m working on in my classroom right now, is trying to replace a negative habit of calling others out and laughing at them with more positive things. It’s going to take a while to unlearn something they have been doing for years, but I want my classroom to be a safe learning space, where my students learn to respect and value all kinds of people. It’s not all the three R’s in the classroom…

Parting shot: I've seen more flat spiders in my house this term than I have in a long time. I rather like them as long as they stay on the wall and flat. It's when they're on the floor (and almost impossible to see) or rising up to scuttle faster that they creep me out a bit!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Close encounters of the snake kind, a new term, and 24 hour power again!

Well, the students are back, and term 2, 2018 has started! I was missing 6 students on Saturday, so we just talked about a few new things I’m going to be trying, did the “Span the greatest distance” activity, and started work on a big poster project. I am going to be trying to do quite to teach my students about and encourage having a growth mindset this term; I can’t wait to see the finished project! Today, Monday, was our first full day of school, and things went pretty well. I'm super excited about several of the topics we are learning about this term, and hope the kids will be too!

This afternoon while I was coming back from my bike ride on the airstrip, I turned the corner of a road on the edge of station and found a large cobra crossing the road just beside me. It looked pretty surprised to see a person on a bicycle coming through, and I was pretty surprised that that stick that looked rather snakelike was actually a snake. I decided the best course of action was to keep going, and I assume the snake carried on with his day after I passed. It sure got my heart rate up though! I'm so thankful that the snake wasn't aggressive, and I didn't have to find out if I can cycle faster than a cobra!

A huge praise around here is that the hydro station that has been offline for repairs for the last 3 ½ weeks is finally back up and running again! Having power 24 a day is a pretty big deal… It means that the kitchen can operate normally, teachers can photocopy at any time, and laundry can run when it needs to. It's amazing what a difference having constant power makes!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Last Quiet Before the Start of Term 2

There is really very little to report about last week, but I’m okay with that! There has been no sign of the mouse returning, so I’m hoping he either decided to find a less painful food source, or he died of his wounds. The weather has been lovely; breezy and with a hint of coolness even under the heat of the afternoon that says dry season is well and truly started! My propane tank at long last ran out, so I had to scrap a batch of bagels and there was a weird loaf of bread (popping yeast doughs into the fridge will only get you so much wiggle room). I took a load of yarn to the craft container and took care of the watchman for a few days while the cook was away. I also learned how to change a bicycle tire and inner tube as my back tire was not only punctured, but the tire itself was finished.

On Wednesday I tagged along with Ruthie, Anna, and Jill to help with an activity at a local orphanage. Coloring and activity books are something we take for granted, but explaining how to do mazes to kids who don’t have a lot of English is an interesting challenge!

Something that has made life rather interesting has been that our hydro power station is still waiting for a part to repair the flood damage sustained the day we originally tried to leave for town. So, that has meant having to run our big and small generators for 240 power—fridges, most appliances—in the mornings and evenings. Thankfully there is always 110 for lights and electronics, as that comes from a solar charged battery array. Prayers that the part will come in and make it up country soon would be appreciated—this could make term quite interesting!

Parting shot: On Sunday I spent some time enjoying the river sans students and saw some beautiful dragonflies. The kids arrive back on Friday, so the process of battening down the hatches is beginning!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Most creatures great and small can stay out of my kitchen, thank you very much!

For most of the last two months, I’ve been fighting a bushy tail mouse in first my pantry, and then rampant through most of my other cupboards. The cheeky thing is the size of a chipmunk, and it has happily pooped and nibbled its way through way too much of my kitchen. I have had to keep my silverware, utensils, and kitchen linens in the dining room for the last month, and I have tried various do it yourself poisons and traps. The only thing with the traps was the mouse is big enough to get the goodies without setting the trap off, and I wasn’t sure that the traps were big enough to kill it. Well, it came to a horrifying climax on Friday of last week.

I set the traps as usual, and shortly after going to bed I heard a SNAP. Only, it sounded like a something was in it snap. So, I got up and investigated. To my horror, when I opened my pantry door, there was the mouse very much alive with the trap on its face, on the eye level shelf where I had often seen it. I quickly found a pan to put over the mouse so I could think. Now what? I couldn’t just leave it there with a trap on its face all night! So, I decided I would take the pan off the mouse, sweep it in, and then take it outside and …deal with it. So, I grabbed something to scoop the mouse into the pan, lifted it-

and the mouse free of the trap bailed off the shelf, hit the floor at my feet, and whisked out of sight at the back of the pantry.

Great. I looked at the trap and saw a good bit of blood spatter on it; not too surprising, but also not great. I now have a maimed mouse, that I can only hope will go outside and die of its wounds and trouble me no more. Yes, it has been tormenting me for weeks, but nothing deserves to suffer and have such a messy end as that!

After the mouse trauma, I was looking forward to a quiet Saturday. Oh no—a snake, I suspect harmless, got into my house and I had to deal with that. My cat engaging it in the hallway alerted me to its presence, and with the creative use of a bucket and the blunt force of a broom I ended that snake’s home invasion career. No more critters for a while, please!

Parting shot: A beautiful sunny afternoon of the type which is becoming more common now that dry season is finally on the way! And, isn't my avocado tree looking good?

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!