Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A mushy post about family.

News from home has me shaken up. It seems like as soon as I have gone, there are little crises everywhere. And nothing that I can change from here. It’s so frustrating. I want to be with my family to support them through illness and heartbreak. As a write this, most everyone is on the mend, but this past week has been very hard as I balanced the start of school with my fears for my loved ones at home. I especially broke when I found my little brother was suffering (I call him my little brother, but truly he is twenty years old and about a foot taller than me.) I always though, prayed, or believed in my heart that after the death of our oldest brother, God (or whatever you believe in) would let me be the messed up child with depression and broken love entanglements, but that my little brother would be protected from all of it. That kid deserves the world. He is such a good boy. He is honest; he tries hard, does well in school, honors our parents, and shows kindness without having to be asked. Why does his heart have to be broken? Why does he deserve that? But I know to ask why when there are moments of pain means that you also have to ask why for every moment of happiness. Life comes as it does, and we cannot change it sometimes. I’ve sent messages to my army of family friends back home to support my folks and my brother, and bless them, everyone has stepped up. The showing of love from people who don’t owe us anything, but with whom we share bonds of familiar friendship is humbling and gives me great strength.

Dad, My Loved Step-mom, and I around my university graduation

My roommate calls these fears and worries a wicked earthworm (her term for the devil’s temptation, I think,) calling me away from my calling to teach here in Africa. It is safe to say that I’m firmly rooted here now, and committed to the work (though I haven’t learned my students’ names just yet!) But there is a lot of I would for a teleportation device, just to go home and give love and comfort as best I can. Somehow phone calls and text messages don’t seem like enough. I want to give hugs and bring orange Jell-o to my stepmom when her stomach hurts; I want to randomly drive my little brother to Hershey Park to distract him. But these a sister cannot do from Uganda. So I call our army of friends, and they have come, and I am humbled and amazed. My family is so loved, and not just by me. Though they would never admit it, I think it is a feather in the cap of my parents, who raised us right. My brothers and I are decent people (or so I like to think!) and I’ll never forget the sacrifices that my family made to form us that way. 

A particular shout-out to my step-mother, who was a comfortable mother of one before she married my father, then gladly welcomed his three (!) children into her home and has raised us as her own ever since. She was not obligated to do that. She did it selflessly and out of love. She supports me even now and gives me love and strength every time I talk to her. I didn’t understand it when I was young; I fought her and was a wicked child. But I understand now. Family isn’t easy. And we are all blessed to be loved. My mother too- she has struggled with her own pains and sufferings in life, but has always fought to be the mother that is in her to be. She has learned to be a good mother to adult children. And that’s not an easy thing! 

LIttle brother and Mom

So. All this just to say that I love my family and I am thinking of them as they go through rough times far away. If you know them, please shower them with love. My Facebook messages never feel like enough to show the squishy love of my heart.

Lots of Love,


PS- My friends, this all goes for you too! You are each and every one special and precious people to me. Thanks for being there, and being you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Outside and inside my own head.

It is definitely fair to say that the school year is officially underway! Teachers have been in preparation for the last two weeks, and the students arrive for their first day on Friday. I have to say, it’s exciting but also a little overwhelming! For those in teaching, you’ll understand what I mean when I say I have four classes, and four preps! I will be teaching seventh grade geography and all of the high school English classes except for tenth grade. Our first term- that is the academic year leading up to Christmas, has sixteen weeks, and I have so much material to squish into it! My world geography curriculum has a total of twenty-three chapters. Imagine trying to teach Europe and Russia in a week! Fortunately, I have great friends and resources all over the world, and I’m sure that I’ll figure something out. The English classes should be a blast. I’m beyond excited to teach Jane Eyre to an international group of students, especially in a Christian setting where we can examine Jane’s relationship with God, which if you think about it, drives a lot of the novel’s later action.

I have also been having meetings with the Hon. Reverend Can. Dr. Hamlet, who is not only a spiritual advisor to me and a dear friend to my family, but is also instrumental in the library project. I am so excited to see literacy in Kanungu (my village) move forward! I dream of the ones who are young now being able to apply to university anywhere they want in the world. These kids could go to Harvard or University of Pennsylvania- if they had the early education that they so deserve.
 Primary School Students in Kanungu District 

As surrounded as I have been with fellowship and community, I have also enjoyed the quiet time to examine my new life and the true miracle that it is. I have told my new friends the story of when I first came to Kanungu- in the summer of 2011 I stood on one of the hills overlooking the whole village and realized with a shock that went through my whole being, that two years ago nearly to the day, I physically could not walk. In 2009 I spent six weeks in hospital, and when I first arrived, the emergency room doctors told my mother to call a priest. No lie. And in the time I spent in those sterile rooms in such pain, I was completely accepting of death. The fact that I am here now, doing something that I love and that is so dear to my heart- teaching- I can’t even describe it to you in words. There have been a few instances in my life that have convinced me that I’m living on gifted/borrowed time- the death of my older brother in 2006 (he was the best of us, and in dark times I still struggle with why,) the death of my dearest friend, and my own illness- sometimes I just can’t believe that I am here. And my family loves me. And my loved ones believe in me. How can that be possible? Not to get overly religious for my non-religious friends and readers; but from this I can only see grace. How else is this possible? When I was ill I remember my mom taking a picture of my swollen and wretched body, and sending it to her friends because she was just so delighted that my broken frame was able to sit up in a chair. How did I get from that to this? It’s a mystery. And a miracle.

 My Village Family, plus our friend, Will

My students come on Monday, and I know they come from stories as vast and various as my own. I have been surrounded with such a fine community of people, and I hope to be the positive influence on my students that others have had on me. I read a proverb somewhere (and if anyone can cite it, please let me know,) that said, ‘When a man dies, it is not only him who dies, but the whole library within him.’ I look forward to being a part of the libraries of the people I encounter, as I have loved the attachment of their stories within me.

More next week, when the next adventure begins!

Much Love,