Saturday, September 28, 2013

Never a dull moment...

My kids were peacefully taking a math test yesterday morning, when some interesting sounds started to come from the classroom down the hall. First, there was a sudden cacophony of voices and scraping chairs that signaled some reason for alarm. As the kids continued to chatter loudly, there came some loud smacking sounds followed by a high pitched "Squeak! Squeak!" More smacking, more squealing, and then things settled down. Turns out that a mother and a baby bat had fallen out of the ceiling tiles, and Janette was dispatching the mother. At tea time, I found a knot of fourth and fifth graders surrounding one student holding a tin containing the baby bat. I confiscated it amide cries of, "Are you going to take care of the baby bat?" Oh yes, that bat will be taken care of... What they didn't see was me dumping it unceremoniously in my garbage pit. You never know what you will have to deal with as a teacher in the bush!

Friday, September 27, 2013

September 2013

Dear Friends and Family,

This letter has been rather longer in the writing than I had originally intended; I had forgotten how tied up I get by the beginning of term! The kids and various staff members who were traveling all arrived back safely, and the final term of 2013 is well and truly launched! Sometimes I forget what a blessing safe travel is—arriving in one piece with all my luggage is not a right! We have three young people helping out this term as well as David who is filling in for another staff member. I can’t get over how much some of the kids had grown since I left, and it has been very good to be back with my students. It’s encouraging to see the progress that some kids have made, and it’s nice to have new strength and perspective to tackle long term issues.

Two major events this term are that my seventh grade students will be writing their national exams in mid October, and the ninth grade students will also be writing their national exams a little later this term. Many of them are really stressing about these tests because they get a lot of pressure put on them by their parents and because there is a limited number of time you can take the exams before you are failed out of school. Our students always have some of the top marks for the province, so we are working on teaching them healthy ways of dealing with pressure and constructive test preparation. Jill and I are also working on the end of term program. We are starting to teach the songs to the kids and will soon be holding auditions for the speaking parts and starting to source props. While December seems a long way away, I know that it will be upon us all too soon!

We had a few good rains last weekend for which we are quite thankful. The hydro station upriver has been switching off at night to allow water to build up, and is often off during the day as well. There are still dry wells in the area, and we are praying that this rainy season will make up for the last two years of drought. Because of the rain the grass is already springing up and the dry, dusty earth is slowly changing into its verdant splendor. The hall renovation project is continuing; the last roofing sheets were put on just in time for our wet weekend. Now the interior wiring and prep for painting are going on. It will be so good to be able to use the hall again—music classes are sharing the art room and assemblies are on the quad right now. So far the rains have not come in the mornings, but the day is coming when that won’t be an option.

I have been fitting back into my busy routine here and trying to keep my many projects going and organized. I’ve been sorting through things in my house as well as doing some organizing for birthday party, choosing music for the Christmas music assembly, and starting to learn the music for the program. God has been so faithful to provide strength for my every need—while I’m exhausted by the end of the day, somehow I manage to get most things done. I am so thankful for this summer in the States where I could rest, recharge, and deal with some issues in my life that are needed to be addressed. The time away has given me a new energy and love for my work here at Sakeji, and it is truly good to be home in Zambia again. Thank you so much to all of you I got to see while I was home—your encouragement and fellowship was such a blessing. Thank you for all your prayers and the support you give me and the work at Sakeji in so many different ways. May He find us faithful wherever He has called us to be!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Beauty despite the dust

Things remain very hot, dry, and dusty around here, but there are some beautiful trees that flower at this time of year and give the eye relief from the depressing browns and reds of the parched earth. I have been enjoying this Flamboyant tree for the past week--I love the splash of scarlet!

The purple of the jacaranda trees is another thing I love about this time of year--they remind me of the curtains of wisteria that grace East Texas in the spring.

The life of a teacher is seldom dull--last week I had a kitchen full of kool-aid dyed yarn from handwork. Talk about an interesting combination of smells... The kids love doing this activity, and I enjoy watching them get to experience a little bit more of the fiber process. I also love how easy this is to do, and that the sun takes care of all the heating for me!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fire and Rain

The other night while I was watering my strawberries, I heard what I at first thought was rain pattering across a tin roof. I soon realized that it was the opposite of rain--there was a huge fire up on the far side of the airstrip. I went up to check it out and was treated to an awesome sight-

Standing on the end of the airstrip I could feel the heat even though there was no wind. While it was a little scary, there was something exhilarating about the flames leaping up into the night.

The hall project continues--the roofing sheets are being put on, and I'm getting very excited to see the finished product!

Last night there was a lot of thunder and we started to get our hopes up. Sure enough, there we got rain! Now, if you have never experienced the terrible dust and barrenness of dry season, it is probably hard to understand why we were so very excited for our first proper rain. We went outside to smell the delicious smell that comes off the earth with the first rains and rejoiced that the dry season is coming to an end. The smell of rain is one of the things I love most about Africa--there is nothing quite like how clean the air feels here. Hopefully we'll get a lot of rain this season to make up for the droughts we've had the last few years. Water is such a precious gift; how often we forget that.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

In brief

I plan to write my next newsletter once the kids get back to school on Wednesday of this week, but I just wanted to say that we have had our teacher and staff meetings, I am deep in planning out my semester, and that things are starting to come together for third term. Our three short termers arrived safely as well as all the staff members who were away on furlough. The truck with the bulk of our container boxes on it arrived safely on Friday, and I had fun unpacking my three boxes. Especially fun was the box of books I had ordered for my classroom--there were some surprises in there, but I was really excited to find that what I needed for this term had arrived on time!

I am quite over my bit of jet lag, and now my body is trying to get adjusted to the massive altitude change. Being at 4,600 feet means that walking uphill, quickly, or carrying things leaves me gasping, but I hope to take some walks on the airstrip to help with that. Tomorrow I'll be getting my classroom all set up so that I can enjoy planning from my house on Tuesday. I love these quiet days when I have time to work on little projects, take care of my house, and cook my own meals. However, I'm also excited to see my students again!

Right now the hall is still roofless, but as the last of the sheets have finally come in we are hoping that this renovation project will be finished in a timely (and before the rains arrive!) manner. I can't wait to see the finished product, and look forward to using the nicer space. It has been a big project, but it will be worth it as we use the hall daily and it is a focal point of our end of terms.