Thursday, November 25, 2010

this past week (11/15-11/19) was not our typical week of school. i got to school monday to discover that we were going to have the rest of the week off! tuesday was a muslim holiday, and the local government had cancelled school wednesday-friday so that the students could be at home with their families to help harvest the crops. this was a pleasant surprise, kind of like our own extended thanksgiving break, just a week early! it was wonderful having extra time to relax, read, and reflect on my experiences here thus far but i was eager to get back into the classroom and be with my kiddos.

some exciting things happened this past weekend as we had the chance to go into addis. zondra, taylor and i went into the city with margot and her father, denis, and their family friend colin. the two men had been hiking in the simian mountains in northern ethiopia for a week and came down to visit margot and experience all the various aspects of project mercy. we headed to addis after lunch on friday, and zondra, taylor and i had the privilege of staying at marta and deme’s home! they stayed in yetebon for the weekend and were so kind to share their beautiful place with us. margot, denis and colin stayed at the hilton where we joined them on many occasions. we were spoiled in countless ways, as we enjoyed fine dining, laying out by the pool, and wonderful shopping experiences. there was a bazaar on saturday where many local artists from addis gathered and hundreds of foreigners crowded to see and buy their amazing work! it was really funny arriving at the bazaar, as they were blaring christmas music! i was definitely not expecting this, and it felt rather strange to hear christmas music in such warm weather. i guess i’m so used to christmas in michigan or indiana that i always associate christmas with cold weather and snow! nonetheless, the music was a great reminder of the wonderful upcoming holidays!

get ready for this—on sunday morning taylor and i got to run in the 10th annual great ethiopian run! margot and her dad were already entered to run, and he was able to get each of us the shirt to be able to participate! it was an amazing experience, definitely one of my highlights so far. the course wasn’t exactly what i would call flat, and combining that with the altitude made for quite the run ha! there were around 32,000 participants running and walking in this 10K (6.1 miles)! we all wore yellow and green tshirts and there was so much energy, dancing, cheering, and singing throughout the run—very memorable. we even received medals when we crossed the finish line! way cool experience.

even though i was only gone for the weekend, i was excited to come back to yetebon and be with the house kids and staff in a place that really has begun to feel like home. these people are simply incredible and i so wish that all of you could share in this culture and people; for now i guess you can live vicariously through me!

classes were cancelled on wednesday (11/24) afternoon, as the whole student body had to help harvest the wheat and corn in the fields here at project mercy. it was really neat going down there with the students and watching them work hard and have fun with one another at the same time. zondra and i even helped carry a few loads of corn and wheat—the students definitely found that to be amusing ha. great photo ops presented themselves throughout the afternoon.

a large group of students and adults have been here for the week from CO. noel and tammy cunningham, who head up the cunningham foundation in denver, have been supporting project mercy for years and have blessed this organization in numerous ways. here’s a little promo for them...they also own a restaurant in denver called strings, which i hear has amazing food. it’s been wonderful seeing all of these people serve in various capacities using their God-given talents, whether through the venue of bead making, teaching, photography, painting, teaching computers, and cooking. under the instruction of one of their bead artists, i had the chance to make a glass bead all by myself! let’s just say it’s not as easy as it may look ha.
i didn’t know if it would be possible and i didn’t want to get my hopes up ahead of time, but we were in fact able to celebrate thanksgiving here in yetebon! noel bought all the necessary grocery items in addis (including 2 turkeys from the u.s. embassy!) and all 25 of us feasted together! it was such a nice surprise getting to enjoy little tastes of home! yummo. i will admit that i have definitely missed watching football this season, especially on thanksgiving. to make up for this, a big group of us went out and played volleyball which was a lot of fun. gotta do what you can with what you have ☺

i’m learning more and more what it means to take things as they come, being sure to recognize the little blessings of each day. i see the beauty of exhibiting a positive attitude and truly desiring to display a grateful heart each and every day. the people here exude with joy so naturally and i pray that i may continue to learn by their example.

things i’ve discovered...

- peanut butter m&ms are a delicious treat that i am savoring. mmmm.

- harvesting the fields takes a long time when you are working without machinery.

- listening to Christmas music is a must this time of year.

- my family will be here in 23 days!!!!!!!!!!!!! (as of 11/25)

things i’m thankful for...

- the love and grace that Jesus showers over me daily.

- my precious family and their faithful love, encouragement and prayers.

- the joy and love that my friends share with me.

- the beauty of this place that i am privileged to call “home” for 9 months.

- all of the children here at project mercy—i can’t begin to put into words what they mean to me.

- each one of you—thank you for sharing in this journey with me and being a blessing along the way!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

lots to update you on; it's been an eventful couple of weeks!

on friday (oct 29) i had the privilege of going to butajira with many of the americans from the medical team. this wasn’t my usual trip into town for internet usage, but rather a time of soaking up the local culture by means of the market! i had been to the market once before, almost two years ago when i was here with taylor university, so i was excited to be able to go back and take in all the sights. the market is home to the ethiopians from the surrounding towns and villages who come together every friday, walking for hours to sell food, furniture, clothing, household items, livestock, and the like. thousands of people are present, with our group of ferenges (the word for foreigners) sticking out from the crowds quite nicely. two of the high school guys that live here on the compound took us around and made us feel safe and secure, which we were very grateful for. both times i have gone, i have felt like it’s a scene straight from a national geographic magazine image—the authentic african market is truly incredible to experience. while making our way through the market, i came across some pumpkins and got really excited about getting one. for a couple of weeks i had thought it would be fun to get a pumpkin and carve it with some of the house kiddos, explaining that many children in america enjoy doing this around this time of year, so when we stumbled across them i knew i couldn’t leave the market without one! i sent gezahegn to go get one for me (knowing that if i were present during the purchase, they would rack up the price), specifying that i would like a very orange pumpkin. he returned a little while later with my pumpkin, which was in fact orange, but extremely long in shape! i didn’t think i needed to specify that i wanted my pumpkin to be round (i thought it was assumed ha), but oh pumpkin has lots of character! ☺

saturday morning the medical team saw all the house children for dental check ups and physicals. in addition to perusing all the work that was being done in the tents, i had the opportunity to witness a surgery for the first time! mike, one of the surgeons from america, was so kind to allow taylor and i to witness the small operation. he removed a rather large cyst below the left eye of an 8th grade boy from the school and i got to stand right next to mike as he worked, proving isabella, the nurse, with extra gauze when needed. i was doing good for a while, and then i started feeling really clammy and my head did not feel right so i decided to sit down. i was glad i didn’t pass out haha, and it was really interesting seeing what i saw, but this experience demonstrated that i would not be able to watch a more intense surgery, and i’m a-okay with that. it was super interesting and made me appreciate the work of surgeons and nurses that much more! knowing that these students wouldn’t be able to afford these sorts of treatment (root canals, surgeries, and receiving medicines) makes the work that has been done that much more incredible, as these wonderful people have so willingly given to the people here. the work that they have done is amazing and such a blessing to this community.

my alarm went off at 5:35am sunday morning, reminding me of my early mornings working this summer at the michigan international speedway. thankfully i wasn’t going to work at such an hour, but rather getting up for the hike that we were about to embark upon. there were about 15 of us (with 3 ethiopian guys as our guides) geared up to spend our morning hiking up the mountains; half of us went all the way up to the fanna waterfall, and the other half went to the orthodox church. due to their hike being a shorter distance, those who went to the orthodox church made it back in time for the entire church service. those of us who hiked up to the waterfall made it to church a little later, as our hike took 5 hours round trip. we had such a blast hiking together and being immersed in God’s glorious creation. the views were breathtaking, and all the pictures and memories that were made along the way were wonderful. i couldn’t believe it when i saw a couple of my students way up in the mountains...definitely puts things in perspective when i see how far some of these students walk to school. and they loved helping me along the trail and making sure that i was doing ok...i think they were pretty shocked to see their teacher outside of school ☺

i finally have documentation of me teaching! on monday morning weldon, one of the members of the medical team, was so kind to come into a few of my classes and take hundreds (no joke) of pictures and some video footage! i was thrilled for him to see my kiddos and am forever grateful for the images he was able to capture for me. hopefully some of them will be posted in the near future (and all credit goes to him) so you can finally see what a class of 95 kiddos looks like!

on wednesday morning i had the opportunity to bring tesfaye, one of my 4th grade students, to see jenny, the physical therapist on the medical team. i have been concerned about the way he walks (he walks on the outside of his right foot and the inside of his left...major limping) and wanted jenny to take a look at him and see what she thought. she worked with him for quite some time, noting the lack of strength in his legs and quite a bit of immobility with his ankles. with kidane translating for us, we learned that when tesfaye was 2 years old, he fell off a bridge into a pile of rocks. thankfully he went to a hospital in butajira and they were able to give him a lift of some sort to put in his shoes, but he hasn’t gone back since. he said that for a long time he walked on his knees because he wasn’t able to stand up. his story is heart-wrenching, as i look and see what he has to deal with each and every day. when i asked him how long it takes him to get to school, that is when i about lost it—he walks over an hour each way. i will be working with him everyday after lunch to stretch his legs and hopefully strengthen his muscles, and we have alerted marta and deme of his condition (along with a few others) and need to see an orthopedic in butajira. a little bit of my heart breaks each day because of stories and experiences like this one. i can’t even begin to describe how i take things for when my parents bought me orthotics in high school to relieve my hip flexor problems, something that now seems so minor when i look at sweet tesfaye’s conditions. i pray that the Lord would continue to soften my heart so that i may see people the way He does—as beautiful and special creations of His intricate design.

after lunch on wednesday the medical team made their way back to addis. i never have been fond of goodbyes, and it was especially hard saying goodbye to these remarkable individuals. it’s amazing how close you can bond with fellow believers when you are immersed in a new culture and living in such close proximity each day, serving others and ultimately Jesus. i am confident that the Lord used them in mighty ways as they served with arms outstretched, day in and day out. i was thoroughly intrigued by all of the medical work that was being done and all praise and glory to Jesus for the 800 or so people they were able to see and assist! in addition to all that they contributed medically, they were a true source of encouragement to me as they took time to get to know me and allow me to share about my family, what God has been teaching me while i’ve been here, and teaching. i’m so blessed by all of the amazing people God brings through this ministry.

following dinner wednesday evening, us four girls (zondra, taylor, margot and i...the fearsome four, the fab four, the feregne four...still deciding on our name haha) had a movie night! zondra had a projector brought to her (via the medical team) and we were able to hook it up to her laptop and watch the movie bride wars! we even made popcorn on the stove. yum-o. definitely a fun evening and something we will have to do again.

get ready for this—we now have internet access here in yetebon. i’m still in shock and totally psyched about it. zondra had purchased this device in addis a couple months ago called an EVDO that allows you to pick up a network signal and obtain connection to the outside world! after a whole lot of waiting and trying, we finally got everything sorted out and can now use the internet in the comforts of our own rooms. she has paid for the month of november and we will see how it goes! my next goal—getting skype to work. rather ambitious, i know. ☺

things i’ve discovered...

- men do not wear shorts in this culture. interesting.

- i love hiking. and i want to do more of it.

- my amharic is improving. i’ve been told by multiple adults that my pronunciation is excellent (hopefully they aren’t just saying this to make me feel good ha). nonetheless, i’m encouraged.

- power outages can occur at the most inconvenient times— for example, during computer class when half of the students are using desktop computers. yay for lessons of patience!

- watching people get cut open is not for me; one time was enough ha.


-margot, a 26 year old from scotland, arrived about a week ago and will be here until nov 19. she has her bachelor’s degree and much experience with early childhood development and is using her gifts as she teaches at the kindergarten (taylor is helping her out as well)! i’m really enjoying getting to know her, as well as learning about scotland and listening to her beautiful accent! i’m thinking i ought to delay my arrival in coming home and do some traveling around scotland with her in may...thoughts?? ☺

please pray...

- for the safety of the medical team as they travel back to CA—may they continue to shine brightly for Jesus as they serve back in the u.s. and share stories of all they experienced while here.

- for zondra as she teaches with such passion and care to her 6th and 7th graders—may she be encouraged and know that she is loved and appreciated.

- for margot and taylor as they give of themselves to precious KG students—may they be creative and flexible in their teaching, and may they remain healthy.

- for continued understanding of this culture and these people—may they sense how much i love them and how Jesus loves them even more.

something to consider...

I was encouraged by a friend back home with this excerpt from one of Chuck Swindoll’s books, “...we are where we are:
-by His appointment
-under His care
-in His training
-for His time”