Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A smattering of religious musing and falling in puddles.

This week is secondary Spiritual Emphasis Week here at my Christian international school. What that means: Every day this week the teachers and students of the middle and high school grades gather together to sing (or in the case of some students, cross their arms and look embarrassed,) and listen to a sermon that is focused on relevance to their lives. Today was pretty cool- the kids were given paper, markers, nails, and hammers, and were invited to literally nail their fears, imperfections, and sins to the wooden cross erected especially for this day. The point was that Christ has already died for all of these things; literally to save us from ourselves. To me it was an impressive painting of humanity. If you think about it, it can be a difficult thing to stand up, and by doing so readily admit that one has in fact screwed up somewhere along the line. As far as the kids were concerned, I think it was a powerful thing for each one to see that humility in their peers. The same can be said for the teachers, who almost all went up. Some took a great sign that it began to rain at the end of the service, seemingly offering everyone their own personal veil of white noise to contemplate the cross and what they might offer up to it.

It has been interesting here, being around others with similar and different views of faith, and of a general way of life. Some of my angsty high schoolers profess to be atheists, but still come to youth group on Fridays(?) Some were raised Christian but struggle with what seems to be a lack of personal relationship to their faith.

As for me, I’m always figuring. I think when you stop asking questions, faith stops. For the most part I fit in well enough here, with two exceptions (excluding completely semantic differences in rules. If we were speaking in terms of Judaism, I would say I have issues with Talmudic interpretation as opposed to theological Torah-based disagreements- some rules I still just don't get.) My Catholic upbringing let me pray to/through Mother Mary, which the ‘Born-Again’ sect (what is another word for that? I dislike that term immensely-) does not do. Also, probably because of my Catholicism, I am pretty hesitant to attribute every bad thing that happens to the devil. The way some talk, the dude walks around here tapping people on the shoulder (and of course if you believe that, it’s totally fine by me.) I’m more interested in recognizing that as human beings, we create a lot of our own problems, trespasses against faith and against other people. 

But, in true Muzungu Princess style, heading back to class after that impressive sermon, I promptly hydroplaned my sandal on a puddle and went flying to the cement. The students behind me (they were my own anyway,) instantly cracked up, and I skinned my knee (insert sympathy here, if between giggles you can muster any)! Still, at least I avoided the mud and saved my laptop any undue damage. So now all the boys laugh when they hear about it, and I have no problem admitting to my own mad skills at falling down in Uganda- and all the girls give me an apologetic ‘awww’ when they see I actually did rip some skin off my knee. Cool kids have battle scars. What can I say.   

I promise I have fun stories too, and will share them soon- I've just been a little swamped with accreditation work for the school and the usual teaching job stuff- grading, lesson plans, etc. Oh, and my formal observation today. Yes, even in Uganda. So teacher friends, there you go. And of course, my principal intentionally picks my most difficult class ;) But we wouldn't be in the profession if we couldn't get it done!

Lots of love,


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Presently putting off marking papers.

Has it been that long again? The middle of September!? When did this happen?

Really I have papers to grade, but I have so much to tell you!

School here is in full swing, and all of my classes are crazy busy. My seventh graders are exploring culture as part of human geography, my ninth graders are plotting their own revolutions and writing their own manifestoes after reading Animal Farm, my seniors are working on college applications, and my eleventh graders are just beginning The Great Gatsby. I’m very excited to read Fitzgerald in the context of a Christian school. You know it’s going to be a fabulous mash of opinions, and very different from the passive acceptance of immorality found in some schools back home. My students are (mostly) curious, and it can be a lot of fun to engage them and discuss whatever the lesson happens to be within the context of their myriad backgrounds. Needless to say, every day is an adventure.

Our girls' soccer team rockin' out at their first game!

Speaking of, teacher friends- if you have any lesson resources for the following (as I am teaching them in East Africa with- you might say- scant resources,) please be welcome to email/facebook/ teleport them!

  • ·         The Great Gatsby
  • ·         Romeo and Juliet
  • ·         9th Grade Poetry (Western Lit)
  • ·         Frankenstein (though I do have some cool ideas there already.)
  • ·         Middle school world geography- I’m using the Prentice Hall World Explorer: People, Places, and Cultures textbook… and have no access to online tools, though I have sent the company my begging email. My seventh graders can’t sit still! So any geography activity ideas are greatly appreciated.

Our puppy, Simba, has put on a little weight since we adopted him last Saturday. He can’t get close enough to his mommies when we’re home from school, and he is always hungry. Simba may be as young as four weeks though (the shelter found him abandoned without a mother,) so he only eats warm milk mixed with either porridge or cooked rice. He is a little goofball though. Not quite strong enough to keep from falling all over himself just yet, though he can climb steps now.


I’ve also had the change to meet some new friends and hang out with some old ones- there always seems to be something to do (and if you know me, marking papers always finds its way to as near to the bottom of the list as possible!)

I had been worried about my beloved Kanungu for a little while, but was able to meet up with one of the directors, and over lunch he allayed my concerns and I’m more excited about the library than ever. I also managed to quote the Bible in that conversation in relation to my concerns. It was a little strange. Like having the ultimate citation/evidence to back up your point, but I’ve never been one to preach. Don’t worry all; I’m not going off the deep end. Kanungu just deserves the best, most pure, and most moral aid possible. There is so much need, and so much ability to give. It is a great challenge and a great source of hope for me and a community of children and young adults. As always, still working on getting proposal approvals and financial data, so when I can call on you, my dear friends, for support, I’ll have lots of lovely information to share.

Some of the students our library will serve someday!

That’s all for now, though the adventure continues! As does my pile of grading...

Lots of Love,


Monday, September 3, 2012

Life in the city.

Has it really been so long since I've posted? Sorry sorry!

The school year is well underway here as we enter our third week, and I have for four classes, a month's worth of unit plans prepared. I've joined two committees here at the school, so I expect there to be plenty of long days ahead. But they should be fun, and definitely enlightening. I've also be nudged about helping out with the Taekwondo club. We shall see. I nearly did pack a dobok, but I won't dare risk having my rank shipped to me. It is a too precious piece of a former life- my mentor, the late great Grandmaster Wilson who honored me with it, and the people I trained and trained alongside for a decade of my life. Like I said, we'll see what happens as it comes.

My 12th graders have handed in their first formal grade- a piece of personal travel writing. Though they've been through peer editing I haven't seen any of them yet, so I'm quite looking forward to seeing what my kids can think up. Also, one of my 11th graders asked me to read and give some feedback on his "scribblings"- a young man's work in poetry. I'm pleased that he asked me (the boy likes to be stubborn in class,) and I think the work has a lot of potential in it, too. I'll have to see what poets he has already read. I've been scouring the two major (and basically only) bookstores in town (each the size of a mall's  Waldenbooks, if you're old enough to remember those,) for local literature. I'm loving the books written by East African Authors, though there's are so few of them.  Those plus a few international books that were probably tucked away in the dustiest corners of US bookstores so we never saw them make me think that I need to compile a reading list for you all. More on that to come.

I've managed to add some liveliness to the walls of my classroom since this picture was taken...

Now that school is getting into a rhythm for me, I'll also be getting back in touch with my contacts for the Kanungu library project (aka Uganda CHEER). I'll be so excited when I can post more info for you all- and I hope it will be soon! I just need like- to get over the need for sleep. Those hours can be much better used.

Socially things have been busy too- if I'm not hanging out its my housemates I'm seeing friends from Kanungu, and still meeting all sorts of new people.  Kampala is a melting pot like I imagined New York City to have been at the turn of the 20th century. There are people everywhere, and almost everyone is in the process of entrepreneurial creation. From small shack shops to large development and commodities corporations- there's something happening in and under every footstep.

But I bet you want to know about the goat races. Yes, indeed. The Royal Ascot Goat Races. Basically people pay a lot of money to see and bet on these goats that are chased around a track by a wall of foam mattresses so that they don't stop to graze or turn around completely. But people made a lot of money. The smallest purse on any of the races was 2million Ugandan shillings- one thousand US dollars. On goats! No wonder they call it the most elite social event of the year. I feel really bad because a friend of mine had a goat in the second race that could've won- but just as it reached the corner I was watching from, it's tied on tarp racing colors came loose and tripped him completely. Poor fellow went all the way to his knees before getting up again.
But that's why I'm not a betting gal.

The VIP (much more important than me!) tents.

A practice round.

Yes, they are being chased by mattresses to make them move!

My friend's goat is in the lead here, but tragically his colors fell off and he tripped into a loss.

In other news, a care package from my mom came this past week, filled with goodies including enough Nutella for the Third Army and a brilliantly chosen box of Carnation instant breakfast powder. Healthy and sustaining chocolate milk in the morning. I win.

So that's me for the moment! I promise I'll get into more detail when I find out which rock my free time crawled under to hide. 

Much Love!