Sufficient Unto the Day….

•October 23, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. Living the expat life means that friends come and go at a rapid pace. One of these friends, Holly, was back in Dar on a short visit, and we arranged to meet for mishkaki and chips (beef kebabs and French fries) at a local restaurant (two containers with tables set up around them under a canopy). My motorcycle was hesitating and stuttering and even stopping as I drove over, and I only hoped it would stay running long enough to make it home after dinner.

Tuesday, 9:30 p.m. Despite cajoling and push-starting and muttered prayers, my motorcycle refused to start, leaving me with only one option: pushing it home in the dark. Fortunately, the restaurant was relatively close to home…

Wednesday, 4:40 p.m. Staff meeting ran long, again, and after charging all day, the motorcycle still refused to start. Not knowing any pickup drivers, I called my bajaji driver and attempted to ask if he knew anyone: “Lama, unajua numba ya pickup?” “Pickup…uh…um…gari kubwa….kwa piki piki yangu…not working?” My Swahili was failing me epically, but somehow, he got the message, and arrived twenty minutes later with a pickup following behind his bajaji. Thank God for Lama! We lifted the motorcycle into the bed of the pickup and set off for the KTM dealership on the peninsula.

Wednesday, 5:39 p.m. The guys at KTM kept the workshop open for me, so we unloaded the bike, and they gave me the keys to the Duke 200 that I had driven on loan just a few weeks ago….the last time my bike was in the shop. This time, I only plan to fix the bike to be able to sell it and cut my losses. I’m done with having a bike in and out of the workshop every two weeks.

Thursday, 5:45 a.m. Yes, it took me an entire night to realize that God does indeed provide. All my worrying about how to buy a new bike, what bike to buy, how to fix the bike I currently have, etc. won’t fix anything. I confidently told my mom yesterday that I a knew God would provide, but I wasn’t even considering the fact that when KTM loaned me the Duke, that in itself was God’s provision. He promises to give us our “daily bread” and for today, I have transportation. In fact, I have very nice transportation. Tomorrow’s concerns will wait until tomorrow, and I am sure God will provide for those as well, in due time.

#TIA: Infection Edition (Caution: PG-13 Images)

•October 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Warning: This post contains graphic images. Do not proceed reading if you don’t like blood, gore, and nasty wounds. Continue at your own risk. You have been warned. 

I have been incredibly blessed with overall good health over the last year and a half living in Tanzania. Other than malaria and dengue, I’ve had only a few minor colds, and no serious injuries. Even this my current experience with an infected wound is minor by comparison.

Last Tuesday, exactly a week ago, I was driving merrily on my way to Ultimate Frisbee when a policeman waved me over. I dutifully pulled to the side of the road and stopped my motorcycle. Mistake #1. I respectfully answered all of his questions, and when he eventually asked me to get off of my bike and push it up over an 8-inch curb, did my best to obey. In the process of doing so, my leg brushed against the engine and I sustained a small burn, which of course immediately blistered and stung. Now a little angry, I followed the policemen further from the road as he explained to me that I needed to pay a fine, nearly lost my driver’s license because he didn’t know where he had put it, and then, to top it all off, asked me on a date. Now completely disgusted and angry, I marched back to my bike and drove off to Frisbee (less than a kilometer from where I was stopped). No big deal in the scope of things, right?

I cleaned the burn after Frisbee and then forgot about it. Wednesday and Thursday passed, and it was healing fine–just a small open scrape on my shin. No big deal.

Then, Thursday night, while playing hockey, I was nominated to be goalie and without thinking, put the soaked-with-sweat goalie pads over my open wound (small as it may have been).

Friday morning, my leg started hurting and I noticed redness, bruising, and swelling around the burn. As the pain increased exponentially throughout the day, I recognized all of the signs of an infection and took steps to treat it, requesting antibacterial cleaning solution and burn cream from the nurse at school. By Friday night, I could barely walk, and had to bow out of playing touch rugby.

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Friday

Saturday morning, I had a nurse/friend look at it, and then headed off to the international clinic to get treatment and antibiotics from a doctor. He prescribed both an oral and topical antibiotic, and scheduled a check-up appointment for Wednesday (tomorrow) afternoon. That afternoon and evening, I just laid around the house, too exhausted and in pain to bother moving.

Saturday

Saturday

Sunday afternoon was much the same, except the swelling in my leg (and the corresponding pain) had continued to increase despite the antibiotics. My entire leg was red and blotchy, showing all the signs of cellulitis (which seems to be fairly common here). I used three bags of dog food to elevate my leg, and spent the afternoon sleeping on the couch before moving the dog food to my bed to be able to sleep in the same position.

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Sunday

Finally, Monday morning, I saw some improvement. The swelling was reduced significantly, and with it, the pain had decreased. I kept my leg elevated most of the day at school, and then coached volleyball tentatively that evening. The wound itself didn’t look too much better, but the redness immediately around the wound had dissipated slightly even if my whole leg was still red, so there was some progress.

Monday

Monday

 

Now, today, nearly all of the pain and swelling is gone, and the wound itself looks substantially better. The redness on my leg as a whole has disappeared, and I can walk without a limp again. Now, here’s hoping it continues to heal with only one more day of antibiotics left and less than a week before my dive trip begins over the school midterm holidays.

Tuesday (Today)

Tuesday (Today)

These things don’t happen back in the U.S. At least not very often. Oh well. I guess #TIA.

The Little Moments

•October 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Its hard to believe its been almost a month since I last posted! Time flies when you’re having fun, I suppose!

Earlier this week, I read an (awesome) article by Ann Voskamp talking about the intense life we live in the everyday:

Why in the world disdain the small? It’s always the smallest strokes that add up to the greatest masterpieces.

Because the thing really is: Do we ever really know which mark we make — that will matter the most? The extraordinary things happen nowhere else but in the everyday and today can always be the beginning.

- Ann Voskamp, “Dear You: A letter for all of the hard days”

On my right shoulder, I have a tattoo that says “Live Beautifully.” Its not about the big service projects, the mission trips, or the highlight reels; its is the everyday choice for love, humility, and grace. Its about finding the joy in the little things, and celebrating in the blazing sun and pouring rain.

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Its the little things, people. Even in the darkest night, the lightening bugs flicker their tiny spots of light.

So, a few of the “little things” I’ve been enjoying this week:

    • Spending last Saturday relaxing on the beach with a few girlfriends.
    • Being held and counseled by women at church when I was hurting and felt lost last weekend.
    • Experiencing the joy of friendship restored.
    • Hitting a few sick spikes at volleyball on Monday… and epically missing a jump serve (and being able to laugh about it!).
    • After-volleyball Subway.

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    • Laughing with my students as they beg and plead (on their knees) not to write yet another paper.
    • Hanging out in the quarry with students for service learning every Wednesday afternoon.
    • The news that there is no staff meeting next week!
    • Getting a stop while playing keeper (goalie) in football (soccer) on Wednesday night.
    • Renewing my internet subscription–which means its actually fast enough to stream iTunes radio for a few days.
    • Riding a sweet KTM motorcycle while mine is being repaired.

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  • The chance to take photos for YoungLife Africa.
  • Playing a perfect game as goalie in hockey last night.
  • Driving to school every morning when the sky and sea is bathed in brilliant gold light.
  • Breathing the ocean air… it makes even being stuck in traffic more relaxing!
  • Seeing beautiful faces…and occasionally getting photos!

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  • Going for a run with my dog at night and tripping into a deep mud puddle.
  • Watching the reactions of my students when they realize that, in Shakespeare’s day, no women were allowed on stage–which means that Miranda and Juliet and Rosalind were all boys/men.

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Most of these things, when I look back on this year, will not make the highlight reel. But if the everyday is drudgery, how boring would life be then? For me, I’m going to choose beauty in the everyday…

And yes, this is the post, for all you Facebook followers, that I wrote a few days ago and vanished during publishing. It was better before. :)

But such is life. Live it up!

#Life

•September 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Six weeks ago, when I first arrived back in Dar, I never dreamed that I would feel so completely at home here. Jet lag made for a bit of a rough transition, but now that I’ve settled in, I am enjoying life to the fullest.

School 
As I write this, my tenth-grade IGCSE English Literature class is writing their final paper for the first unit of the year. These are the same students I taught for Grade 9 Service Learning last year, and it is amazing to see how much they have matured. At the beginning of last year, I often felt like I would rather bash my face into a concrete wall than teach their class. By the end of last year, and now this year, I am excited to teach these students, and they are already turning in some excellent work.

In Grade 11, or AS English Literature, it is a bit more chaotic as several students have recently dropped other classes to join Literature, creating a shortage of books. I was able to check out one copy from the school library, and have given another student my own teacher copy–and because this particular book is not available in e-book format (what’s up with that?), am teaching from memory until more copies can be acquired (hopefully tomorrow). But we are having fun nonetheless. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is a great drama to start the year with because of its oftentimes crude humor and scathing criticisms of humanity’s tendency to avoid reality and sacrifice all in the pursuit of power/wealth/achievement.

The A2 English Literature class, Grade 12, is an even smaller class, which enables us to be flexible and creative as we work through Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” As these students move from the AS level in to A2, I am enjoying the challenge of stretching them and challenging them to push beyond their comfort zones. The rigor of the A2 Literature course requires students to build arguments from the text, using not only their own personal response and analysis, but also to evaluate and weigh the opinions of others. In many ways, it feels like teaching a college class, and it is exciting to see students dig in and discover new perspectives.

In addition to these core classes, I am also teaching primary swimming and Grade 9 Service Learning, as well as supervising a group for the Grade 11 Service Learning projects. There is a new aquatics director here at HOPAC who is also teaching primary swimming, allowing the class size to be cut from a 25-1 ratio, which has made those classes so much easier and fun to teach! Grade 9 Service Learning is off to a great start this year. I am excited to co-teach this class with Mr. Kappers once again, and thrilled to be working with students who are inquisitive and eager to learn. The Grade 11 Service Learning assignments were made just today, and I will be working alongside a small group of girls with a local NGO, Changamoto, which means “challenge” in Swahili. It is a rehabilitation center for women dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, where the women are taught to make and sell crafts in order to earn an income. Other things I’m excited about at HOPAC include the upcoming Grade 11 Bonding Trip, starting an after-school volleyball club, meeting with a few girls for a Bible study once a week before school, and YoungLife club.

Extra-curricular Activities
One of my only complaints at the end of last year was that I didn’t have any close friends my age and still felt lonely even after living in Dar for a full year. I did not expect this to change, but have been pleasantly surprised. I have made some amazing friends that I’m able to hang out with multiple times a week, and am absolutely loving their friendship!

My after-school schedule has assumed its own rhythm this year, starting the week by once again coaching the IST girls’ volleyball team each Monday afternoon before playing with a group of adults in the evenings. Tuesdays are my time-out evenings. Of course, that oftentimes means grading papers (I do teach English Literature after all!), but I try to take Amini for a run on the beach, read a book, watch a movie, or just relax on Tuesday afternoons. I play soccer with the HOPAC staff, students, and parents on Wednesdays, and have started playing indoor ball hockey on Thursdays (if I would have known I’d be playing, I would have brought my hockey stick back with me from the U.S., but oh well… such is life!). On the Fridays when there is not YoungLife club, I play touch rugby. The weekends aren’t any slower, with cycling, beach volleyball, underwater hockey, Ultimate Frisbee, diving, and softball all competing for time and energy. It is busy, but I love every minute of it.

I do realize that I haven’t taken any new pictures yet this year, and have hopes of getting my camera out again in the upcoming weeks. The hard part is that I’d prefer to take sports photos, but don’t want to stop playing long enough to take the pictures! At the same time, I am planning to travel to Mafia Island over the October mid-term break for some diving and snorkeling with whale sharks (hopefully I see some!), which should lend itself to some photography. I’m also tentatively planning a trip to Victoria Falls over Christmas, which may or may not include whitewater rafting and bungee jumping (with my GoPro camera, of course!). All that to say, stay posted for photos over the next few months.

5 Questions

•September 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I could start complaining about how I hit snooze fifteen times this morning, or how changing the oil in my motorcycle became a TIA crisis, or how I really should be grading papers instead of reading all of the posts backpiling in my RSS reader, but that’s all rather irrelevant. After clicking through several links in a post by Yes and Yes, I discovered  “5 Questions to Discover Who You Are and What Will Make You Happy.” The title of the link intrigued me, as I feel confident in who I am, and generally believe that I lead a happy existence. But the questions were fun and interesting, so I thought I would answer them here.

1. What or who would you be if you knew you couldn’t fail?

While my bucket list is a mile long, there is nothing I’d rather be doing than what I’m doing already–teaching internationally. Maybe I’d change subjects, or maybe I’d just teaching English Literature alongside History, or maybe just P.E., but I absolutely love the opportunity I have as a teacher to invest in and inspire teens to be more than they ever dreamed possible–to be men and women of excellence. So I’ll teach for a couple years in Tanzania, and a few more back in Indiana, and then I might be off to Japan or Thailand or Bahrain or Venezuela, coupling my wanderlust with the global need for educators.

2. What is your Ninety-Second Personal Elevator Speech?

I’m an adventurer, a wayfarer, and a storyteller. I teach English not just so that students can interpret Shakespeare, but so that students too can become enthralled with adventures, the world, and it’s story. Our stories. And so I teach English with the goal of preparing youth to engage the world outside the enclaves of the classroom and to become men and women of excellence, seeking to instill students with a love of learning for learning’s sake. By inviting students to join me in this grand adventure of life and enabling them to communicate effectively and confidently, I am giving students the opportunity to reach beyond their horizons, chase their dreams, and change the world.

Oh yeah, and I love cycling and volleyball…but I’ll give almost any sport a try! ;)

3. What are your core personal values?

A.W. Tozer once said that the most important thing about a man is his belief in God. My faith is central to who I am, and my life’s motto is to love God and love people. Living with a passionate and an upbeat, fun-loving approach is important. I want to be true to myself and build confidence and trust with others by living honestly and openly. I value close friendships, but also the freedom to be independent. When opportunity presents itself, carpe diem.

4. What makes you genuinely happy?

Walking the beach at sunrise, flying over smooth roads on a bicycle, and exploring new places. Conversations with good friends, students that “get it,” and music that makes my heart soar. Setting the perfect ball, scoring a big block, and helping others succeed.

I want to live a beautiful story, to treasure experience over stuff, and dare to seize opportunities. I want to love God, love people, and revel in this wonderful thing we call life.

5. If money were no object, how would you live your life differently?

I would travel somewhere new every chance I had, and always take a friend along for the adventure…

I would gather a group of students/youth to play volleyball or cycle or surf or ski/snowboard on the weekends (and provide equipment/transportation/food for the day)…

I would drink Red Bull every day instead of just two or three times a week… =D

All that being said, I admit that I did not spend much time or thought in answering these questions. They were answered in a state of extreme exhaustion and high-caffeine consumption. Enjoy. :)

Moments

•August 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

What follows is a collection of moments, glimpses into my life since returning from my summer holiday in the U.S. a month ago. Some are funny, some are serious, some from school, and some from play. This is #life.


He walked into the room, said hi, and sat down across from me. He was average height, dark complexioned – maybe of Arab or Indiana background, had a tattoo on each arm, and dressed casually, yet with a nice flair. First impressions are everything, right? The facts that he was from Canada, was new in Tanzania, and was doing research on business and retail in Tanzania were the only things I knew about him before agreeing to meet for a drink. We chatted about university, skiing and snowboarding, the differences between American and Tanzanian culture, and the impossibility of getting consistent internet service. It was a pleasant conversation, giving no hint of the inked battle taking place on the table. His left arm had a large tattoo in Arabic, translating roughly to “only Allah is god” while my left wrist displayed my core beliefs: “Love God; Love People.” I laughed silently at the irony of it all before continuing to explain what it was that had brought me to Tanzania.


“Alright! Today we are going to start reading and acting out act one of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” 

Within moments, the entire class was doubled over laughing in the embarrassment of reading lines like, “Kiss me, George!” and the irony of playing roles of the opposite sex. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a comedy, and like many comedies, offers a blazing critique of its contemporary culture masked in laughter. Amid the fun of acting out the play, students experienced the “thought bomb” of humor being a prime vehicle for communicating truth and the realization of the extremes that people will go to in avoiding reality.


Floating on the outskirts of the Dar Yacht Club is an abandoned yacht, the “African Rhythm.” The myths surrounding its history are as numerous as the people who refuse to go anywhere near it, but being up for an adventure, a group of five girls decided to swim out to the yacht for some snacks and free diving. We loaded up a surfboard with a drybag packed full of snacks, cameras, and drinks, then pulled on our fins and snorkels for the swim. On the way, people in much larger and nicer yachts invited us to join them, but we paddled on to our destination. Upon arriving, we found that though in disrepair, the “African Rhythm” was a perfect place to hang out, and allowed us to eat, rest, and then dive down underneath to see batfish and other marine life swimming in the shadow of the yacht.


School. Day one.

With a new principal and a new school year, I laid out my clothes the night before with the aim of being professional. Admittedly, I often opt for comfort over professionalism, but was determined to start the year strong. I pulled out my black skinny dress pants from Gap, a v-neck top, and beaded sandals. When I arrived at school, I was confident and ready to start the year strong. About half-way through the day, while making copies in the admin building, I was called into the principal’s office.

“You need to not wear tights to school.”

I was stunned. “Uh, but these aren’t tights,” I started to protest and then gathered my thoughts. “Okay. I won’t wear them again.”

So much for confidence.


I was so excited. We were going diving, and heading out on a deep dive, which, being further from the coast, meant that the visibility and marine life would be better. I had my brand-new GoPro and dive mask, and was ready to give it a try and get some sick photos and videos of the dive. As we dropped into the water and I reached up to turn my camera on, I realized with a sinking feeling that I hadn’t turned the sound back on, meaning that I couldn’t tell, without looking at the camera, whether it was powered on, or even what mode it was in. And because the camera attaches directly to my dive mask, to put the camera in a place I could see it would mean removing my mask, thus removing my chance of seeing anything at all. Oops. Camera fail #1. I continued to attempt to operate the camera blindly (or perhaps “mutely” would be the better term) in hopes that I would get at least a bit of video or a few photos. At the end of the dive, after climbing back into the boat, I checked my camera to at least see how much footage I had gotten…only to see that the battery was dead. Camera fail #2.

The next week, on the yacht swim and free dive, I again had high hopes of getting some cool footage. I had a fresh battery and was ready to go (I still hadn’t turned the sound on, but that was manageable because we were just free diving, and therefore going up and down). I made repeated dives under the yacht, took pictures of batfish and a giant white jellyfish, then took the time to actually check the camera. FULL. What? I make a habit of clearing my card every time I use it. There was no way I could have possibly filled a card in just twenty minutes. So when I returned home that evening, I investigated the matter to realize that because my normal photo-editing and organization software didn’t like the card format, I had merely been deleting the pictures on the computer without emptying the “trash,” thus not truly removing the past images from the card. Camera fail #3.

Maybe next time will be better?


“I’m concerned about your involvement in the church. You seem withdrawn. Let’s meet for coffee and talk about it.”

So we did. Once again, my willingness to invest and be involved in church was questioned. Its happened before, in churches in Indiana, and now in Tanzania. Its not that I don’t want to be involved, I try. Usually, at least.

As we chatted, it became evident that it was not my involvement in question so much as it was the ways I was and wasn’t involved. Lately, I’ve been setting up and running the sound system during services, and have made it a point to attend on a regular basis. But after church, when everyone hangs around, drinks coffee, and “fellowships,” I prefer to just sit on the steps and watch.

Its the same every time.

I hate mingling.

And all churches do it.

This expectation of talking to people and wandering through a large group, just to insert yourself into a smaller group and make small talk.

I used to try and be extroverted.

Now I know its not worth it.

And so I am “uninvolved.”

But its not just churches. Its graduation open houses. Its school faculty parties. Its large groups of people in social settings. Put me in front of a group of 300 people for a lesson or message of some kind, I’m fine. Put me in a small group of 5-10 people, I’m fine. Put me in a crowd where I’m not expected to mingle, I’m fine. Put me in that “mingling” environment, and I’d rather just find a hole to hide in.

We had a wonderful time drinking coffee together, and in explaining this, I once again learned more about myself. Funny how self-realization sometimes comes most when trying to explain something to someone else, and all of a sudden the pieces just come together in your mind and so many things all begin to make sense.


I almost killed a person.

It wasn’t my fault.

I always drive on high-alert here.

There is no place for ADHD when driving in Dar.

Especially at night.

But, as I’m driving along, squinting to see the blackness of the road against the glaring high-beams of oncoming traffic, a man standing on the side of the road with his bicycle looked directly at me then proceeded to run out in front of me.

I clenched my front brake as hard as I could with my right hand, and stomped down on the rear brake. My tires were skidding and the rear of the bike threatened to slide sideways. The man hesitated just for a moment squarely in front of me, then weaved between lanes and disappeared into the blackness.

The thought sickened me. Two seconds slower on my brakes, two mph faster, anything…I would have hit and seriously injured him…and possibly killed him.

No wonder my stomach is a mess and my shoulders and neck are always tight…


Hey, so I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into my life over the last month! It was fun for me to write… and maybe I’ll add more in the coming months!

#life2014

HOPAC 2014-2015: Day One

•August 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Its a wrap. The first day of school is done and over. And all in all, it was far less chaotic than I expected. Maybe its because I’m getting better at planning with the advent of my fourth year of teaching, but I find that unlikely. In all reality, it is simply helpful to be starting a second year at the same school with some idea of how classes and schedules and such should flow. So despite overlooking a few copies, and constantly double-checking class schedules, and learning new names, it was a great start to the year.

A few things I’m looking forward to or excited about (or both!!) this year at HOPAC:

1. Grade 11 Homeroom

This year, I am one of four homeroom teachers for grade 11. We have 35 students in the class, sixteen of which are new to HOPAC this year. Having run the gauntlet of having no idea what the expected structure for homeroom should be last year, I brainstormed a plan for this year:

Mashup Monday What did you do this weekend? Tell a story or show a photo… Prayer Requests and prayer for the class.

Truth Tuesday - Ask me any question.

Wisdom Wednesday Readings from A Life Well Lived, by Tommy Nelson

Throwback Thursday Just like homeroom used to be…a free-for-all

Happy Friday Share a breakfast treat each week

I’m excited about getting know new students and reconnecting with students from last year. At the same time, I found myself missing students from this class who moved on at the end of last year, students who are now studying in Belgium, Arusha, Ireland, and Germany. I’m looking forward to reading through A Life Well Lived and instigating discussion on what it means to live well in 2014.

2. Teaching Familiar Material

I have to admit, I’m pretty thrilled to be teaching classes that are very similar to the ones I taught last year. There were points last year when I felt like the students had a better grasp of the end goal (exams) than I did. This year, I’ve been through it once, I know how the school calendar is designed, I have experienced exams, seen how last year’s students performed, and have lots of great ideas for improving my instruction the second time around. Instead of teaching twelve brand-new texts, I have nine repeated texts, and only three new ones. I’ve already created, been through, and now redesigned a curriculum for ninth grade Service Learning instead of starting completely from scratch. Its going to be a good year.

3. Young Life

Towards the end of last year, I started to be involved with the Young Life club at HOPAC. This year, I’m looking forward to once again being a part of Young Life, and the intentional discipling of students that accompanies being a Young Life leader. And besides, who doesn’t enjoy singing silly banana songs, having fun with teenagers, and sharing God’s stories?! Oh yeah, and getting photos with mongeese (is that the plural of mongoose?). ;)

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I’m sure there are other things that I should be excited about, but those are the things that come to mind at the moment. I just know this is going to be an awesome year at HOPAC.

This is #LIFE2014.

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