Thursday, February 25, 2010

Leaving

Jan 25

Walking to church was like torture, like we were walking to a funeral of someone very close to us. The funeral of our experience. I really wish we could have just packed up and left in the morning and not have drawn out the process any longer than that. We went to church, though, and it is always such a blessing to be involved in the Amharic worship services. The people that worship there belong to a spiritually fervent community who truly seeks to praise God and continually seek him. I have loved the moments where I can enter into prayer in my own language and in my own heart while at the same time, those around me are praying and singing in a language foreign to me, yet God hears us all. I have also loved the moments when I am able to pick out the melodies of their songs and hum along (or even sing along if I can recognize some of the words). The church services are very special.

Today, the kids were all writing us goodbye notes during church (or we were writing what they were telling us to write), and after we performed the congregation prayed for . Some of our team members lost their composure completely and wept before the body of people in front of us. When the kids saw us getting emotional, they started to realize what was happening and also began to weep. We left before the service ended. We tried to slip out, but as the last of us were leaving, some of the kids began to follow us with tears streaming down their faces. Up until that point, I had managed to hold back tears in this very emotional situation, but when I saw that even the smallest children knew what was happening and were crying, and then that some of the older kids who had managed to maintain their composure so far were also weeping and following us, that is when I lost it, too.

When I was walking out of the sanctuary , Jiji handed me a note she had written to me, and I was so touched. I didn't want to read until I got back, as not to draw out our goodbye, but when we were walking I back on the road, I turned and saw that she, too, was following us and began to weep. I tried to just keep walking to discourage her from following. Tesfu, one of our littlest guys, started running to catch up with one of our girls who had built a strong bond with him. I had to stop and catch up with Jiji. I welled up with tears and called her name. The only thing I could say to her was, "You weren't supposed to follow!" I saw she was crying, too, and held her hand (Ethiopian sign of friendship) as we walked and wept together silently the whole way back to the compound.

Heidi and Tesfu


When we reached the dining hall and were saying our last goodbyes, I made sure to tell Jiji that she is so beautiful and smart and to never forget it. She hugged me tight and wept more heavily. At that moment, the memory of our first meeting flooded into my brain-- she had told me I looked like her mother. It is such an honor for someone to bestow that kind of comparison upon you, especially such a beautiful, talented girl on the other side of the world with whom you never knew you would connect so deeply. I am pretty sure I learned that her mother had died, and I wanted to just take her home with me. I will never, ever forget her.

Jiji


I had to leave her and the other children that had followed us back who were also crying and lovingly clinging to our team members because I knew it had to end at some point. I went into the commons rooms and as I wept harder than I had the whole trip, I watched out the window as a few girls lingered back, wiping tears and snotty noses and giving big hugs. It was heartbreaking.

Heime


Sara


Bechernet



After lunch the rest of the church returned, mostly made up of the older kids and young adults. I knew I had to say goodbye to Dembelle, Birhanne, Ahsenofi, Lemlem, and Alemnesh. For the first time, I saw Dembelle and Birhanne cry-- that was extremely hard for me. I was very blessed when, after saying goodbye with a hug and an encouragement to practice guitar, Ahsenofi presented me with a bracelet that he had made for me. The boy is definitely one of the coolest kids I have ever met, like if I was 16 again, I definitely would have had a major crush on him. I know he will do so well in the world and hopefully will be given the opportunity to come to the US for college someday. His English is one of the best I head all trip. I pray those things for him.

Teammates and Ashenofi


I am just extremely grateful for the time that we spent loving those kids and them loving us back. Seeing the love of God move through people and relationships like that is really amazingly moving. Most of the kids hardly spoke English, yet strong, presonal bonds were formed through actions of love and care. That is how the ministry at Project Mercy works, though-- there is no outright, direct evangelistic proclamation of the Gospel message, preaching (except very much so at church), or Bible-thumping at Project Mercy. Christ's love is evident through people and their actions and words. That gives God all the glory and the power in moving in that way. With Project Mercy being situated in a Muslim community, showing the love of God creates the relationships and the opportunities for the proclamation of the Gospel. American evangelism could learn a HUGE lesson from these people. It's so beautiful!

Lynne and friends


Snafikish


Salem

Last Hurrah

Jan 24

The past few days have been a little rough because I have tried to limit the time I am spending interacting with the house kids even though my instinct is that I should be taking advantage of any time I can have with them. Yesterday was kind of low key for me. I woke up tired, not really wanting to hike, but I went and hiked with the team up to the Orthodox church on the mountain, and I came back down with a few people from the team while the rest of the team kept going up. The descent was very slow and relaxing, which was perfect for my lethargic self that day. Our guide was very patient with us when we even stopped to talk to some local children and students of ours for about 10 or 15 minutes. I could tell our guide wasn't really thrilled about having to escort us down the mountain, so I thanked him sincerely for his patience when we returned to Project Mercy.





When we got back, I wrote a letter to Joe, read in our textbook, and tried to take a nap, which didn't really work. I was planning to go play with the house kids in the afternoon, but after lunch I ended up practicing skits and music for the Show (our team talent show, which was last night), then I found Ashenofi and gave him a music theory lesson until dinner time. Like I said about teaching guitar, being able to give Ashenofi a lesson in music theory was so rewarding and fun for me. Unfortunately, I will not be able to follow up with him and help him develop a deeper understanding of music since I am leaving tomorrow. Also, since I spent all of that time in the afternoon with Ashenofi, I didn't get to have that last hurrah of a day with the other kids on the compound. In some ways that made saying goodbye a lot harder, but in another sense it made it easier.



The Show ended up being really fun, and I was impressed by all the tasteful humor. No one's feeling were hurt, which was the one fear of the girls on the team in regards to the boys, and people were very considerate and light-hearted. I was so glad we were able to tap into that healthy humor. Many jokes on the trip had been taken too far and people had been offended, but we were able to end our time in Yetebon with a bang. Being able to have the show our last night there was really a blessing and a great time for reflection on some of our memories before we left. It provided the needed closure for our team.

The girls performing our Yetebon rap.


Another wonderful time of closure occurred on Friday night when we were able to have a big bonfire with the house kids and our team. We sang and acted out ridiculous songs, played games (Ethiopian musical chairs mixed with Red Light, Green Light), and closed the night with worship songs. We sang Blessed Be Your Name, which is a song that some of the house kids learned to sing with us. Then, the Ethiopians sang some songs to which we could hum along. We ended up praising God with all our joy and dancing around the fire while singing a wonderful Ethiopian worship song.

It was a beautiful time commending our month that we had been able to spend building relationships with each and every one of those kids. Some of the older students are really showing leadership potential and act as the caretakers of the smaller ones. It really is like one great big family, and we got to be a part of that family for one month, even when we didn't speak the same language or sing the same melodies. The Universal Church is an amazing thing.

Moment of Fulfillment

Jan 22

I feel very privileged that I was finally able to teach Ashenofi some guitar this week after telling him I was going to teach him day after day and then being sick or not able to teach him. It was really rewarding to be able to teach music int his setting, especially after feeling so drained from having to think like an El. Ed. major all the time :) I have noticed myself, in general, though, starting to withdraw myself from the kids more as we are getting closer and closer to leaving. I am definitely ready to go home-- I feel as though our main ministry is over (teaching) and that our time and purpose here has been served.



One thing I have decided I am most grateful for is our team dynamics. I am especially grateful for having Megan as my roommate-- today, I had a moment where I just didn't want to be around people at all, but Megan came in the room and I thanked God for her because she was the one person I felt like I wanted to be around.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ready

Jan 21

I am thankful to be healthy and able to teach, type, and play as normal! I am praying for my roommate, Megan, now who seems to have contracted whatever 4-day sickness that ailed me. It is terrible to be sick with that stuff, and I am praying for her speedy recovery.

Today was our last day of teaching (1/2 day) and yesterday was our last full day. It was bittersweet because teaching is fun, but teaching here is a little more stressful. I'm glad we only taught the 3rd graders yesterday and not today because our 3rd graders were just so out of control and crazy yesterday. I wrote down all of our students' names since we took pictures of all our students; I really want to remember their names so I can tell stories about them when I get back.

I feel like I am ready to go home, despite how much I really enjoy being here. This was a short-term trip, and I had prepared myself to anticipate a short-term trip. This trip at times has been exhausting, energetic, invigorating, reflective, mournful, solemn, cheerful, celebratory, overwhelming, slow, fast, in-the-moment, flexible, and worshipful. The past few days seem like a whirlwind since I have been sick, we have had days off, classes off, all mixed in with teaching and preparing for American Day. We are going to sing some traditional American songs, talk about American football, American Christianity, American college life, and do some skits for the whole school.

Today we had some unexpected guests from the TOMS factory! Wow, not only was it an exciting surprise to have one of the co-founders of the company and his team members eat lunch with us and talk with us, but it was even more exciting because of how much my family has invested in the company and its mission to bring shoes to the world. (Check out www.tomsshoes.com)it is also awesome because I decided before we left that I was going to use my Toms for my everyday Ethiopia footwear, and the team was fascinated with the fact that I had brought their product here, while at the same time they are looking in to placing a manufacturing plant here to provide not only shoes but also jobs for the community. So cool. It was great to see and get to know the faces behind the company. I will definitely remember this day for a long time.

http://www.tomsshoesblog.com/home-from-ethiopia

Night time around here has been especially meaningful as we visit with the kids during dinner, pray for the needs of Project Mercy, other teams, other countries and our own team after dinner, prepare for whatever each day holds (teaching, homework, American Day, etc) and have quality conversations in bed as we await the next day and become anxious about going home.

I will miss the food here! I look forward to the predictable soup and salad meal each night because it is so delicious. Injera and wat and cabbage and carrots...mmm, I will definitely miss the traditional Ethiopian lunches we eat as well. I have already informed Joe that he will have to learn how to cook Ethiopian food for when I return home. :)







Me drinking my VERY FIRST cup of coffee ever...



I will also miss the mountains and the weather... I have forgotten many times that we are returning to Indiana in January ...

Recovery

Jan 20

Lord, it feels good to have a purpose again!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sickness Strikes Part I and II

Jan 18

Part I
It is crazy to think that just after my last journal entry I became very sick, and picking up a pen to write was not an option! I remember wanting to journal yesterday, but I did not have the strength to do so. I remember thinking that the only thing I can do when is let my brain wander while I lie in my bed and let my body rest. When the stomach pain and nausea were happening, the only thing my brain could do was pray for endurance and that the pain would go away. It's amazing how simple your prayers become in moments of physical sickness and pain. We serve a God that heals, and I have no doubt that he has helped me through this.

Saturday (Jan 16) after dinner I threw up until I had nothing left. My body could not handle me drinking water or eating anything more than crackers. I became very weak, and breakfast this morning was the first meal I have had in over 24 hours. I knew that when I woke up today without nausea that I should try to eat a meal to strengthen my body. I think it is working. I feel bad that I am missing out on teaching today, but I know that I need this time to recover completely before I put myself out there.

Part II

After reading the textbook (There's No Me Without You by Melissa Faye Green) today, I realized that reading so much narrative makes me think in a narrative. "Kayla stroked her yellow and black striped blanket, but removed her finger for a moment to scratch her sunburned nose." Another more notable connection I made to the text today was after school when I was talking with Tizita, a girl who is in grade 5 or 6, and she shared with me that her father has died and that she has no mother. Our text is about a woman who starts an orphanage and Melissa Faye Green tells bits of many children's stories and interactions with AIDS, poverty, sexual abuse, and other issues. Tizita continued to tell me that she has one sister who is 18 and lives with her uncle. She sees them about 4 times a year when she goes to visit them in Asau (I think?). It was a poignant reminder that each one of the house kids has their own story about their families and their lives outside of Project Mercy. Each child's story is different, but each story could encompass many different things as the children's stories in the textbook do.

Tizta is sometimes withdrawn and seemingly unhappy, and I wonder why. The language barrier can be both a good and bad thing because it keeps two people at a certain distance (which is helpful for not getting attached when we will be leaving soon), but then again it keeps two people at a certain distance. I would love to be able to get to know all the kids' stories, but I feel very sensitive to the amount of time we have left here to invest in those relationships. I am an odd case when it comes to getting to know people because I am really bad at making small talk, and I like to start in on deeper conversation right away. The language barrier, however, often forces me to live in the small talk stage. You can find out a lot through small talk, too, I have come to find. Another wonder in communication is nonverbals-- I have been extremely blessed by wonderful hugs and generous amounts of laughter and smiles. Tizita gave me a great hug after our chat, which made me feel like she understood that I was trying to show her love through this messy getting-to-know-you process.

I am afraid to invest because of the issue of becoming too attached and hurting myself and the people to whom I am attaching myself, but at the same time, I want those deep relationships with the kids here. How do I finish strong and give my all while keeping that in mind?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mountain Life

Our team at the top of our hike to Fana Falls.




Jan 16

Observations of the Day:

-our tukol smelled really funky after we got back from the hike

-breakfast is delicious, but lunch (always Ethiopian food) is even better, especially after a long hike!

-my legs are very tired

-after the first leg of the hike, my breathing was hardly affected

- I miss Joe and candy almost equally :)


The hike today was a real accomplishment for our team as a whole-- not to mention it was unrealistically beautiful. As I sat and looked out into the mountains, I felt as though I had been plopped into a movie set. It seemed so unreal. The hike presented challenges, leaps of faith (quite literally), and beautiful views. I feel like "beautiful" is such an inadequate adjective. The people that we saw in the mountains were also very beautiful. Their smiles made me smile. They were just as curious of us as we were of them. I also saw two of my students in the mountains, near their homes. It was really cool to be able to see a familiar face up there and to see where our students are coming from. One of our students was caught totally off guard and wouldn't even approach us as I reached out to shake his hand. I bet I would have been overwhelmed, too.

I think one thing the hike further confirmed for me is that the Ethiopian culture is so different. I just keep realizing that through different experiences. The mountains are amazingly, breathtakingly beautiful; also the trails are really difficult to walk and navigate, but it is everyday life for those who live there. I wonder if they realize that the world is not as beautiful as their community on the mountain. I bet is they came to the US they would be overwhelmed by how different our culture is as well. The Ethiopians do not have the farming and agricultural tools and technology that the US has, but if they did, they wouldn't be living the life they are. Their resources on the mountain would probably be destroyed because the amount of land upon which they farm is not proportional to the speed of the farming tools and machines.

Even though I would say that I feel much more comfortable in the Ethiopian culture and living here, I still feel as thought I am a fish out of water. I wonder how I would feel if I were a long-term volunteer-- would I be able to assimilate or would I always be really disconnected from the culture because my experience as an American would cultivate that? I'm guessing it would be a little of both. Coming into this trip I thought it would be easier for me to adapt than it has been.

It could also be because I came in knowing this would be a short time here, and it could also be bcasue I spend most of my time with Americans on this trip. I would love to come here and experience teaching at Project Mercy. Maybe God will lead me here...? Exabier owkal (God knows).

Frustration

Jan 12

Teaching is really frustrating me. It's not that James and I fail as teachers, I just feel that we aren't coming up with creative ways to teach the material we have decided to teach. Also, when we are preparing, it is around other people and we get distracted and end up slacking on our preparations. Neither of us are able to create activities or fun games that are relevant to the content in the books. As I commented yesterday, I feel like I am out of my league and that the methods I have learned are not helping me convey the information we are supposed to be teaching. Also, I am very sensitive to negativity right now, and if I were to engage in conversations going on around me, I would very short and frustrated (and frustrating). Time for bed.

Education Major...?

Jan 11

Today was the first of our teaching days, and I think it went well, although I am finding that I have a hard time being creative with the material we are presenting. I am grateful for the Elementary Ed. majors because they are used to teaching the things we are teaching and have learned about creative methods. I also do not know many songs about the material we are presenting, either, and if I did I would feel more fulfilled, being the Music Ed. major of the group. The content I am used to teaching is so different.

I feel like I have been out of teacher mode, too, for a while now, and today was a warm-up day for me to get back into that persona. I felt pretty discouraged most of the teaching time, but that is simply because my resources are limited and my creativity feels limited as a result. Having the El. Ed. majors share ideas in prep times has been extremely valuable. I know that this experience is an adjustment from teaching children in the States, though, and the language barrier is an extra element of challenge.

Overall, though, today was a good day. I don't think James (my teaching partner) and I had any moments where we ran out of things to do with the kids, but starting off and ending were definitely the hardest moments. Our first group (a class of first graders) was very shy and spoke significantly less English than we anticipated, so we were slow to get off the ground. Our last group (a class of 3rd graders) was a group of three kids (since it was the first day back after Christmas break, attendance was low that day), and we went through our activities much more quickly than with the other classes. Our other 3rd grade class was very rambunctious and less disciplined than the others. I think it was also our biggest group. They ended up splitting into girls following me and boys following James. It is more cultural for girls to be with girls and boys to be with boys. It worked, even though we hadn't planned for that to happen.

I feel like there is no way we will be able to learn all of our students' names by the end of our time here. When we ask for their names, they usually whisper both their first and last names, and we have no idea where each one begins and ends because we are not familiar with Amharic names. When we mumble their names back to them, they are afraid to correct us so they affirm us instead with a humble "yes" even though we know we are not saying it right. It is really hard. I do think teaching will go well, though, and I think they are learning even though they are learning in a completely new style.

All my classes, first through third grade:










Today I realized that even though I love the food here, I really miss being able to go out and buy junkfood. Most of all I am missing candy! One of my housemates has a bag of precious Swedish Fish, which we are rationing. When I come back to the States I am going to buy a bag of Swedish Fish and eat them all in one day. Definitely. I am also going to make a Bosco Stick run at the BP in Upland. I really don't like that I have such an attachment to those things, but it's my culture.



Another thing that happened today was that the memorial service that Randall had informed me that we would be singing at on Tuesday was moved to today! I found out within minutes of us needing to leave, and we quickly picked out two songs and got on the bus. I didn't even have a moment to make myself all nervous by thinking about it too much. :) The name of the game in Ethiopia, though, is FLEX POWDER, which is our imaginary dietary supplement that helps us be flexible while we are here. Ethiopia's concept of time is very different from our Western view of time. I like it so much more most of the time because I generally feel less pressure.

Afterschool, I volunteered to type some teachers' exams. It felt good to be able to help them out in that way because we were able to put our daily exposure to computers in America to use. The challenge was reading their handwriting, understanding what exactly they were trying to ask, and correcting their grammar without changing the meaning/wording of their questions.

Finding time to spend reading my Bible and praying has been really hard because we have been very busy and we are tired from the busyness by the end of the day (I am falling asleep as I write this). There are no excuses, though, because life is always going to be tiring and busy. I am definitely not as busy here ad I am at Taylor or will be in real life. I should be able to carve out time & prioritize here, especially.