two by two

September 30, 2011

We felt oddly normal, this afternoon. After our weekend small group, we had a ladies’ potluck. At one point I walked into the garden to chat with my coworker, telling her how cute she looked in the middle of the roses. When I asked if I could take her picture, she responded by pointing near her feet and asking me if I could get the ants with my camera. I told her I thought I probably could.
It hadn’t occurred to me beforehand but, doing so, it felt like the most natural thing in the world to enjoy the sight of those little ants as they carted their picnic treasures back to the nest. I guess sometimes it takes the humdrum pleasures to remind you that the simple things are important too: at times, perhaps, more so than the “majors” or life . . .

a show of talent

September 26, 2011

I got to go on a field trip today. It took a while for the event to take place, thanks to security/rescheduling issues, but I am ever so thankful that it did happen, and that I got to be there. It was a talent show put on by a local orphanage, with an amazing display of talent, as well as an inspiring message by the young woman who started this, and several other, orphanages in the country. I photographed and watched with the general [profound[ reaction of, “Wow!” And this is definitely a case in which I shall have to show you more than just one photo :-)


September 21, 2011

When asked, “How was your week,” I have been simply replying Well . . . it’s been a week. Which has been a surprisingly understood sort of comment around here. We are all tired. Understandably so. When you live in a setting and time such as we do, life takes on a bit more of a demanding nature than you’d think. Even the normal challenges–the fits of little 3-year-olds not yet ready to be away from home all day, for instance–eat up a few ounces more energy than those of us used to children are accustomed to. But you have to laugh, when all is said and done. You have to just carry on with lessons planned: with stories read, hokey pokeys danced, barnyard animal noises noised . . .
And suddenly, a week is done. Our weekend has come, and I sit with my housemates now, relaxed and calm–but with the uncertainty that comes with knowing security changes day to day, moment to moment, and we never really know what the day will bring.
But then again, no matter where you live, or what your work, you never really know such things.
Last night we had a staff meeting, in which I felt the privilege of sharing life with good, like-minded people. We ended with a “labyrinth” exercise, based on a monastic tradition from the Middle Ages. Before beginning, we read about how, “In the noise and rush of life today, the labyrinth appeals to many as a respite from daily cares and schedule overload, affording a window for contemplation.” And it was. It was a time of renewing, of centering.
Wishing for you all the blessing of being able to also “come, by yourselves . . . to a quiet place” [Mk 6:31].


September 15, 2011

Tonight I alternate between joining my housemates in song and being distracted by the need to write. Because I do. Need. To write.
My emotions have been all over the map these past few days, alternating between fearful anxiety and deep calm. Not surprising, considering I have just weathered my first experience of non-practice emergency: ushering children into a safe room and waiting out the storms of bomb and gunfire explosions.
During the two days since, I have tried to concentrate as usual on my lesson plans and workday duties. But I keep returning to a need to settle my heart: to somehow soothe my soul, though not knowing how.
Tonight I think I have stumbled into the answer. It lies in letting go, if only for this moment. In not doing what is on my to-do list, if only for this one night.
So I let go of the expectations and I soak up my immediate surroundings. Two incredible musicians are sitting nearby, one playing violin, one on the guitar. I sing along with them, when not typing. Tomorrow will bring a new set of duties and demands. But tonight the need is to sing songs of gratitude, and of praise.
Like this kite that had caught on the balcony of my house. Its string held it fast, as the wind blew it back and forth, up and down.
I am suspended. Held firm, by a cord that may appear tenuous but that holds me securely. Blown here and there, up and down . . . but held fast.

on the wall

September 13, 2011

So you know how I mentioned that love of being a “fly on the wall” in my last post? Well I had to notice the irony when, since then, I was asked to play an official role in exactly that capacity: recruited as school event photographer has left me with the delightful job of standing in the background and taking note of things, both literally and figuratively speaking.
Yesterday we had a rather important visitor, here to visit some of our classrooms, to read to the children, and to sign and donate a book for the library.
At the end of the visit, I had the happy surprise of a personal hand shake and gift of a military medal . . . I guess even a fly on the wall doesn’t go completely unnoticed :-)

in the extremes

September 9, 2011

I live in a land of extremes. Now I knew this as a fact well before arriving. But I could never have prepared myself for the reality of the fact as it relates to life . . . to my life, at least. This morning a question posed by a friend struck a strange chord in me—a chord that I am realizing is indirectly, but strongly, related to this “extreme” reality.
“What do you find beautiful there?” she asked. And it took me a while to answer, as I realized that I have been caught up with the great differences—with the ways in which my transition has felt slow and painstaking. This is due in part to my previous experiences with such opposite cultural and societal tendencies than the ones I find here. It is also partly due to the simple stresses of trying to figure out a new job, and trying to do it well. The internal stress caused by this preoccupation has stunted my usual joy in observing my surroundings. I love to be a proverbial fly on the wall, taking note of the details, and storing them up internally so I can later spit them out again, figuratively speaking, in the form of some creative outlet, be it written, photographic, musical, painted . . . danced, perhaps.
So what do I find beautiful here? I have given a bit of photo hints to this already here, as you may have noticed.
I find the roses beautiful. I find the view from my rooftop beautiful. The kites are oddly beautiful, lovely in the way one finds them everywhere, caught and suspended in the most unexpected places.
But the most beautiful thing to me at the moment, in this land in which at times [like now] we are unable to step foot outside the gates of our school compound, are the people. The children are beautiful. My students are beautiful. My coworkers are, truly, beautiful. Like one of my housemates who arrived late, delayed by a sudden surgery. And now, the day after several days of travel, she is hard at work in her classroom, happily readying for tomorrow’s arrival of her second graders. She has been losing track of time, and I keep having to return to tug her away for meetings and meals.
Beautiful, working hands.

recessed creativity

September 6, 2011

So last time I copped out of posting a photo with the excuse that I’ve been taking too many photos for work already. But today I am reformed from the error of my ways. Thanks to those work photos, I’ve spent some time capturing students in front of the backdrop of the bare walls outside the playground area. This morning I made the not-unpleasant discovery that my bare wall space is rapidly disappearing. I guess recess just brings out the best in creative youngsters . . . and, well, it worked for me too :-)

all manner of things

September 4, 2011

“I hate to break it to you,” he began, “but today is not the defining moment of your life. The defining moment of your life will come when you reach Heaven’s gates.”
I went to a service today at the nearest army base—the first Sunday service I’ve been able to attend in months, due to the practicalities of where I live. And it struck a chord in my being, bringing me back to the heart of things. It reminded me that my daily stresses of lesson plans & checklists, of classroom disciplines & security concerns, are not “the end of the world,” as the expression goes. For the truth of the matter is that there is an end of the world that is infinitely more crucial . . . that is, in fact, the crucial truth. Of this truth I have no fear. It’s a done deal, and I’m holding the trump card.
As Saint Julian so beautifully penned it, “All shall be well, and all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.”
Incidentally, I am in the middle of an approximately 400-photo project for work. So taking a photo for fun today did not rank high on my priority list ☺