October 31, 2011
What do you do when life as you know it is both unreal and too-real, at one and the same time. You wake each morning with a mile-long to-do list, running from one thing to the next, lost in the flurry of deadlines to be met and people to respond to. You crawl into bed each night exhausted, gathering up the fortitude to do it all over again the next day. You “yes,” and “sure,” and “ok” your way through the moments, till moments become hours, hours become days, and days become weeks. And here I find myself, months into this role and this place, with no clearer sense of my long-term path than when I began.
I had assumed, based on my past patterns in settling, culture-hopping, and decision-making, that by now I would have a sense of either clear belonging or, alternatively, clear not-belonging. But I do not.
I do not feel at home; but nor do I feel a pull towards any other specific place to be at home—at least not any place that resides in my current frame of experience or vision. I have longings, to be sure. They are vague ones, however: longings for some dream-like, intangible something.
I wonder, now that I think about it, if a removal out of my current “daily” would allow for some sort of clarifying process. Is the frenetic pace of each day blocking my field of vision? Not in a bad way, I don’t think; it is a good thing—a healthy thing—to have work that is engrossing in such a way that you lose yourself in the tasks and people you are faced with.
But in order to thrive in such work, there is an almost universal need, I think, for a sense of the bigger picture—an underlying awareness of your unique role in a greater, more significant need that someone, or something, in the world needs filled. Once this significance-need is met, there is a great deal of tolerance for work that includes even the most menial-feeling sorts of tasks.
And there lies the question: do I see that bigger picture? Is it the one I am in? Or is this perhaps a training ground for another bigger picture I cannot yet see? I can only trust that time will tell. That He will tell, in time.
This morning, before the madness of the day began, we had a reflective meeting. It was very brief—less than 15 minutes. But they were 15 minutes of significance. We listened to a song, while watching some images to go along with it. One image, of a solitary Baobab tree, hit some deep place of need within me. My throat tightened, my breath shortened, and then a tear rolled down my cheek. I wished for the time to “complete the thought,” in a sense, of the tears that needed to flow. There was no such time available, though: the day’s professionalism was drawing nigh. But in the darkened room, for those moments, I felt that longing and I claimed it as my own. Sometimes all you need is the longing—you needn’t fill every desire in life, or have all your needs met. But you have to feel the longings . . . in some seasons of life, it is the longings that hold the stuff of life.
I did not take any photos today. But I was reminded of one of my own Baobab photos—so that is what I post here for you now. If you have seen this photo already, you shall have to forgive me for the repetition ☺
October 26, 2011
Living in a war-torn land is one thing; Teaching young ones who have grown up one is another altogether.
Yesterday, in the midst of my frazzled-teacher, multi-tasking state, I pulled out my most recent stack of returned assignments. I was prepared to “get ‘er done” as quickly as humanly possible, so as to move on to the next task on my to-do list. But that was not to happen:
I started to quickly read the first one, then stopped, stunned. I read more slowly, digesting the words. I finished, resolving to be more attentive to, more patient with, this student in the future.
And I moved on to the next, grateful to continue to more “normal” 12-year-old fare. But no. No normal here.
Page after page, student after student, I was forced to realize that in this place, in this school, there could be no “normal” when it comes to the question of “life problems.”
I had assigned them a project, as part of our “Creative Problem-Solving” unit, of writing about a problem in their own lives that they could take steps to analytically examine and move towards solving.
They wrote of longing to leave this country, their home, in hopes of a better place to belong: “ . . . so we can have a good life.”
They wrote of not understanding why they could not go, and of why the rulers did the things they did in this land.
They wrote of not knowing why some in their family did not want to leave.
They wrote of lives in which what is known is that which needs to be changed.
I took no photos to illustrate this post. No pretty pictures here. But I will say that I did take snapshots of beauty as well: this time the beauty of a library full of cat-in-the-hat-hatted preschoolers, listening eagerly to story time. Life may be hard. But it is still beautiful.
October 24, 2011
It may be cold and wet [hail yesterday, thermal layers & winter-coat chilly today], but weather has never hindered the kiddos I’ve been around. And this part of the world has given me no reason to think any differently about the nature of childhood. This afternoon, come recess time, the young ones were enjoying our little outdoor plot . . . I just wish I could add a beach and some warm sunshine to this sandy spot :-)
October 23, 2011
Today we have a new art display in the library. Something that has always been meaningful to me is encouraging young artists, and putting their work on display, as much as possible. And, in this place now, I am finding it to be especially inspiring: these Grade 6 creations remind me of the crucial need to seek out and celebrate beauty–just for beauty’s sake–even [and perhaps, because of] when one’s life is one of daily uncertainty and, sadly, wartime fear.
October 19, 2011
Our creative Grade 5 teachers assigned a project recently that just appeared, completed, hanging from the ceiling of one of the classroom buildings. The handmade mobiles looked delicate and lovely, hanging in the morning light when I noticed them first. Then, upon closer look, I smiled at the eclectically inventive nature of the works of art . . . anyone missing their scissors? Or a set of keys? :-)
October 16, 2011
It was another one of those days. Another stop-in-my-tracks-and-gasp sort of sunrise. So once again I made a run for my camera in the early hours of the morning and tried to capture that moment before the sun’s face peeked over the crest of the mountains. And once more, I wasn’t quite fast enough to beat the sun . . . but here it is anyhow :-)
October 12, 2011
In the series of What do you find beautiful there? . . . I offer you today’s captured moment. This morning I woke up to an amazing display of sun-on-snow that I have not seen much of. Oftentimes, during the day, the haze covers over such clarity as this. But today, at 5:30 this morning, there they were, in all their glory. I saw them. I went to fetch my camera. I took my camera back. Then I returned for one more glimpse before full daylight faded them away. Glorious.
October 7, 2011
Praise be to the One who delights in giving precious gifts–treasures that we could never deserve but that are given generously . . . freely.
After small group this morning I felt the “should” of getting busy with preparations for the next day’s lessons. But I was not ready for it. Instead, longing for beauty, I grabbed my camera and headed for the rooftop. Those of you who have known my blog for a long time may recall the fact that I find “working” clotheslines beautiful in their functional simplicity. So today, on the roof, I spied my bit of beauty in the form of this clothesline.
Then, walking back, I was snagged for a spontaneous outing. Schoolday preparations were set aside for this one afternoon, and instead the day was spent soaking up new sights and sounds:
A market of handicrafts, and of people watching . . . a few satisfying purchases . . . socializing over coffee with some very good folks.
A gift of a day. Wasting time? Perhaps. But time well spent.
October 5, 2011
October 2, 2011
As we neared the end of our weekend, and the afternoon turned to evening, I looked up at the setting sun. It had definite stunning-potential, so I asked K is I could pull her away from lesson planning for long enough to take a photo walk with me, up to the roof of the tallest building of the compound.
My assumption was that in the 4 minutes it would take us to get up to that spot, it would be prime sunset time, photographically speaking. But when we stepped over the rim, onto the top, I realized I had underestimated the speed of the sun: it had already dropped below the edge of the horizon. We stood on the roof for a few moments, soaking up the beauty of it, anyway. Then, before descending, I figured I’d take a quick shot while I was there, so as not to feel that the mission had been pointless.
Uploading my photos just now, I was quite surprised to see that this quick “aftershot,” as it were, was actually quite lovely . . . or I thought so, at least :-)