April 29, 2012

I had to hand it to her: it was a portrait of stoicism, really. To wait out her full bladder till she could not even limp her way to the toilet without an incident. And to steadfastly refuse to admit to any need to go, throughout the afternoon.
“All 1st graders really need to learn is how to read!” exclaimed a coworker in one of those teacher-ranting sessions this evening. Fresh from my day with one classroom of high-maintenance first graders, I begged to differ: “Actually, I think the ability to ask to go to the bathroom is another relatively important 1st-grade skill . . .”
But I really couldn’t blame the girl. I had difficulty forcing myself to use that odor-heavy room myself. And I was tempted to ask them if they knew they were supposed to use the toilet and not the bathroom floor drain at one point in the day. But they were still giggling from their classmate’s mishap at the time, so I figured I’d best refrain from any suggestion that might perpetuate the downhill spiral of classroom behavior . . .
Yet the little one herself seemed unfazed by it all. When she told me about it, she handed me a phone number for her mother and calmly instructed me to call her mother and ask for clean clothing. It was near enough the end of the day that she didn’t actually miss all that much, and we only had one lesson disrupted, which was one that I didn’t miss too much. Social Studies was never one of my favorite subjects, anyway :-)
Just another day of normal childhood adventures: the everydayness of which I will never again take lightly . . .

…to the hills

April 27, 2012

I was, quite frankly, as annoyed as a spoiled child. Mad at the weather. I had set my heart on being able to sit outside to do my prep work for the week. Home from Funday School, I had happily noted the sunny skies. And then, just as soon as I had planted myself in the sunshine, clouds rolled in and rain began to fall. Intellectually, I know I should be happy about the rain. We have too much dust and too little rain, generally speaking. But I was not happy. All I had wanted was this one afternoon of freedom to be outside. Freedom before the next week of challenges, known and unknown. Before the next week of life as I have grown to know it here in this land of never-to-be-predicted.
And when I recognized my train of thoughts, it hit me that I would do well to take to heart what I had just this morning been teaching to the Funday School children: God gives us what we need, and what is best for us. He doesn’t always give us exactly what we ask Him for . . .
So I lifted my head, and I shot up a prayer of “Ok, God, show me what you have for me this afternoon, then. I’m sorry . . .”
Lifting up those eyes, this is what I saw. Ok, got the message, Lord. Yes, this is what I really needed: a reminder of Your sovereignty. Of Your beauty.

bird’s eye view

April 26, 2012

I guess you never know when you’ll end up hobnobbing with a bunch of government VIPs at a party. In a home where exotic birds run free. And the walls are covered with copies of famous paintings redone with family members’ [and ex-wives’] faces. And the backyard is a habitat for deer, mountain goats, pheasants, and horses. Tonight we roamed this home in a sort of shell-shocked daze, marveling at the fact that just a few blocks from where we live, this secret garden of sorts was hidden behind the high walls that guard peoples’ homes in this city. You just never know . . .

reading right

April 23, 2012

Yesterday was a pretty eventful school day, all things considered. A school-wide photo being taken for the presidential library, for one. And a visit from the mayor, in honor of Earth Day, for another. Considering our area’s significant weakness in the area of environmental stewardship, it was really rather impressive to have tons of media coverage here surrounding the reading of a picture book about local trash issues. Doing my own bit of media coverage, photographically, I was a bit distracted by my job at the time. So today, back in the building in which we held the reading, I actually looked at some of the posters newly up for display while in between classes. I had been staring at one, with some confusion, for some time, when I had a moment of embarrassed realization: it illustrated the planting of a tree, with a series of cartoon drawings and captions. Not being able to read the language, I was trying to figure it out by the pictures and finally realized the source of my confusion. It hadn’t occurred to me that “reading” an illustration would be the same as reading text, requiring me to work backwards from my natural inclination. I had to look at the pictures from right to left. And with multiple rows of drawings, I was for a moment wondering if I needed to look from bottom to top as well . . . thankfully, no, so I didn’t get irreversibly discombobulated :-)


April 17, 2012

We had a thunderstorm this afternoon. Not the sort of thunderstorm that comes with buckets of rain, like in some parts of the world, mind you; here it is more likely to bring swirls of dust than the needed rain. But it did come with some pretty impressive flashes of lightening. While on after school duty, I was watching this lightening and wishing I had my camera on hand. When I looked back down at the children, after a loud clash of thunder, I saw another teacher over with one of the little ones, comforting her. “It’s ok,” she reassured the terrified preschooler, “we don’t need to go into the safe room. That was only thunder.” In an instant, I realized what was happening, and my heart ached for these children. They do not know a thunderstorm. They do know gunfire. And they do know bomb blasts. So when they hear these sounds, all they know to do is to prepare to take shelter, and to fear for their lives.
When I was a child, I loved the sound of an approaching storm; it filled me with awe and excitement at the power of the natural world. But when I was a child, I knew nothing of war. I knew other sorts of hardship, to be sure. But this? This is a sort of evil that terrifies me now, as a world-savvy woman in my thirties. I can only imagine what it does to the heart of a five-year-old. Lord have mercy on us all as we endeavor to love this land, and its children. Children with lives that carry on. Children who spend the next day back to school as usual, and to after-school basketball games. Children with a future.


April 15, 2012

Hour three. Three and a half, rather. This is what it means to live here, I suppose. A home in which we smile at each other and say “Here we go!” when the siren goes off. We’d been listening to the gunfire and rocket sounds for half an hour already, so it’s no surprise when the blasts grow louder, the siren sounds, and we head into the safe room. And here we are still. Students, teachers, administrators together in a stone-floored hallway, biding time as best we can.
Strangely enough, it is in the midst of this that I have a life-impacting conversation with a coworker. Somehow I have never asked her about her children before. What better time than this? So as we wait out the storms we have a teary-eyed conversation about the miraculous way she and her husband found their children: these beautiful youth were almost literally dropped in the laps of this couple. The two were open to providential leading each time an infant was brought to them. And now their family shines bright joy to all around them, parents serving in the work they have been called to, and two teens showing bright promise already in their young lives.
What is especially blessed to me in this conversation is that I have always had a dream of adopting yet saw it as out of reach, or at least far-flung from my practical capabilities. So to hear of such miraculous provision simply serves as a timely reminder to me that the desires placed in our hearts and there because He has placed them there. And He intends to fulfill every good thing in our lives, no matter the apparent obstacles in the way.

consider the lilies

April 13, 2012

Consider the lilies . . . or, as the case may be, the tulips and the crocuses. That is what I was considering. Focusing on rather intently, as K and I balanced the bouquets on our laps, as gingerly as possible considering the fact that we were bumping along the decidedly unfriendly dirt roads. On our way back from the morning small group meeting, we had been entrusted with the delivery of flowers for the afternoon’s engagement party.
We chatted in snippets, between conversations with the driver about others needing to be fetched, and texts to coworkers about party logistics. It seemed ironic to me that I was sitting with one newly-engaged couple, on our way to celebrate with another. And it seemed fitting that our momentary existence, in the midst of grand-scale issues, was caught up with momentary concerns and ultimately insignificant frustrations. At one point I asked K about one aspect of her plans for next year. When she hesitated, I quickly added that she of course did not have to answer me. She laughed and said she didn’t mind answering at all–she had simply been focusing for a few moments there on keeping the flowers steady as we bounced over some larger potholes. So we continued to talk, and to muse on life as we are leading it as well as on the discussion we had just had, about the lilies of the field and the birds in the air . . . and the worries that we so easily allow to crowd out the truth of His provision, and of His providence. “Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
Yesterday we held a Student Art Show, celebrating the talented youth that we have here, and the work this school’s art program has encouraged them to create. Yet another in the series of “this is why I am here” moments for me, to be sure. Yet another privilege, to be able to participate in such a rare and lovely event for this land and culture. They displayed works of darkness and of war-embittered souls. But they also displayed works of hope that challenged our misconceived notions .” . . . yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are”

painting Spring

April 12, 2012

I had intended for my Grade 1 students today to use the “Paint” computer program to make a Spring picture. I had not originally intended, however, to have a Grade 8 class do the same. But during a shortened class period, on a day in which they had no deadlines to meet, it seemed appropriate for me to invite this group of largely boys to do their best at artistic rendering. I was pleasantly surprised by the results. One, in particular, completely impressed me with his creative choice of a kite-flying detail. And it was a good lesson for me today as well: this particular student has been one of my most sullen and argumentative ones over the past week, requiring several disciplinary actions on my part. So it was an unexpected pleasure to have an interaction of happy artistic encouragement with him . . . and a fine way to end this school week :-)

mind the gap

April 8, 2012

How does she do it? How does she bring out the deepest parts of my hurts, and of my joys, with those wide, bright eyes? Sitting face to face in the metro bustle. We snag snippets of conversation between stops
We are, in many ways, simply passing the time. Wandering through the city and choosing sights to see. We walk from one painting to another in the gallery, asking each others’ favorites, and laughing at our reasons. Then she starts a game of “Find what Anna would do” with the prints, guessing a spot of any given painting that would be my inspiration if I were taking a photo and writing about it, as I have a rather obvious habit of doing. But oh, how far from wasted is this time of unproductively! It is life-giving, soul-feeding time. It is time that will carry me through long stretches of stresses and challenges in the life I lead now.
We both cried in the middle of our Metro conversation: one beginning and the other following suit as we spoke of members of our family. It no doubt made those with us uncomfortable. But it should not have. It was the most normal, natural thing for us to do at the time. Just have a good sisterly cry, then hoist up our backpacks, hop off the train, and head to the next line, on with our plan for the day. A day well-spent. Time well-wasted. Life well-lived.

back in schule?

April 4, 2012

I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of the fact that the reconstructed schoolhouse we visited bore a sign reading “Anna eats an apple.” It did not, I must say, make me wish I was back in the classroom this week . . . as much as I love my own “schule,” this week away from it is not too long in the slightest :-)