Saturday, March 24, 2012

Georgia, I'm coming home!


my life is about to drastically change. as much as i love my life in pemba and the work that i do, the thoughts of coming home have been dancing in my head for weeks. but as i woke up friday morning and went to my last day of class, and scooted for my last day right past the Indian Ocean, and hugged my friends necks and said goodbye to the kids, i wondered how i could ever leave all of this. i am happy to see all of you and eat desserts and raw vegetables (in that order) but the jolt from the little world i have been living in back into the only one i have ever known is a bit shocking. i am excited to see my parents faces at the airport, dad's sweet brown head so easy to spot. mom's silver gray, that i have apparently inherited, also easy to find. i am excited to reunite with friends and family i have missed so bad that it hurts. but it is all temporary. six weeks temporary. i left the school in good hands with Rodrigo and i pray the rats and mold don't take over my wardrobe.
i am in johannesburg now. i left pemba yesterday afternoon. the flight is fairly uneventful. you stop in maputo and everyone gets off. i went in the duty free as i always do and sniffed perfumes, picked one and doused myself. i know i smell. it is a mixture of body odor, sweat, dirt, Omo, and the faint smell of smoke from burning rubbish. so i covered all that up with Chanel. i am staying with friends of Iris here in joburg until i leave later this afternoon. we went to the grocery store last night for me to pick out something to eat. it was like a dream. all this colorful, fresh, flavorful, clean food! peppers and salads and cheeses and breads and big bins of every fruit and vegetable you could ever dream of. a grocery store. a normal, real grocery store. with more than two aisles and they turn on the lights! and they had prices on the items and they were cheap! i went first for a ready made salad but it was made with iceberg blah. so i put it back and ran to the bags of spinach as if i were on a game show. i grabbed that and then made a mad dash for the cheese, grabbed a roll of goat cheese without even looking at the price just making sure it was plain. the flavored kinds can be good but i didn't want to chance it. then i went on the hunt for tomatoes and found small Roma tomatoes, so acidic and amazing they burned my tongue (no, i didn't try them there, i waiting until we got home). i also got a clear plastic parfait cup of yogurt with fruit on top. i really wanted plain Greek but for some reason i thought we might be in a hurry and i didn't want to make them wait.  plus i could have bought the place out. i didn't even go down the dessert aisles. i made one last look over my shoulder for raspberries but didn't see any. so those are on my list for when i get home. greek yogurt with fresh berries. so yes, i am excited to be coming home. it seems surreal. i asked carla what was going on and to give me the news from home and she replied with something along the lines of, "nothing, just waiting on you to get here so the fun can begin. it is just not the same.". i feel the same way. even though we never talk and we live so impossibly far apart, i feel like every day is kinda Groundhog Day until i see her. my news and my excitement and my milestones and my laughter involve her. yes, i have lived a very full active 6 months, but it also feels like i have lived in a time warp, back in 1950, in Africa, as someone else. it is so hard to explain but that is the best i can do.
this little respite in joburg is perfect. i got a hot shower, had Rusks and Rooibos tea for breakfast and the rest of my yogurt and am waiting on noon to come so that i can eat some more of those tomatoes and spinach. i will leave here around 4. i like the joburg airport. i like the Woolworth's and that pharmacy at the end of the food court. i can get berries and fruit there. i love this about South Africa, they have great grocery stores and even their gas stations have salads and fresh fruit cups. nothing like the sweaty hot dogs you find at the QT. the Woolworth's counter has yummy sandwiches with watercress and sprouts and the like. after perusing all of that i will promptly show up to the Delta counter in plenty of time and follow my fellow passengers to our aircraft and 17.5 hour flight to today's greatest city in the world- the ATL. i've missed her. if you are there, please don't take her for granted. if you live near there, go explore her! or go to Cloudland Canyon or Saint Simons or Serenbe or go eat peach ice cream at Lane Packing Co. or better yet, the flavor of the day at Mayfield Dairy. go have lunch at 211 main every chance you get. go to the Tiger Drive In if it is still open. go to Piedmont Park and take a frisbee. go to at least one concert at Chastain. go have tea at Dr. Bombay's. sweet potato cakes at Ria's. go to Ballard's Backroom. picnic on Cumberland. and then there's always Target.
so i will be arriving at 6:30 in the morning on Sunday and looking forward to driving cars with stereos and power windows and paved roads and seeing all of you!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

class

sunday morning

the power was off all last night. it is not so hot right now so i barely noticed until i realized that i had slept until 8am. i have not slept that late in months. because the power is off the baracca’s cannot blare their music and for the first time in months, was not awakened by michael jackson. at the moment i am having my morning coffee. the fan is blowing. the power came on about 8:30 and i quickly rushed into the kitchen to put the electric kettle on. i cannot find my lighter and i am out of matches, after lighting candles when the power was out last night. so i knew that i could not put the kettle on the stove. the power came on just in time. i keep forgetting to buy matches. they never make the obvious shopping list. no clue where that lighter might be. need to find another one.
i have had some sort of sinus infection for weeks. i am on antibiotics now. i am starting to feel normal.
this week has been amazing in school. rodrigo is the success i knew he would be. the boys love him. the girls too. we have about 75% boys. many of them stay after class to talk to rodrigo and they will all sit and listen as long as we will talk. we are hoping that in this next two weeks we can get some photos and video footage for you. i am going to ask henrique if i can go home with him one day this week. i would love for you to meet his family. i have told you about him before. his father died christmas day. we are still waiting to hear about a huge potential business opportunity but making our plan B. i am going to go into town this week and buy our students “uniforms”. we will be setting them up with shadowing opportunities and they need something to show they are in our program and set them apart. i will be giving an english test this week too. i am trying to establish a system for teaching english to our kids. because we have a good many english speaking volunteers here at any given time, i want to get them involved. i want to create a checklist of sorts on each child. each student has a folder and in that folder i want to put a checklist of what they know and what areas the teacher can introduce to the student. i would then like to provide a variety of resources so that anyone can come in and have the tools that they need to teach any one of our students. that would just include instructions, example sentences, vocabulary and game ideas. i know it can be done. when i am home, i will be looking for more resources. we have a friend of Iris coming while i am gone to teach Character Development for two weeks. i think the timing is perfect and it is a vital part of our curriculum. i only regret not being here to learn from her. 
i went to the beach yesterday. i do not go often enough. it has maybe been a month. i have no idea how i could let that much time pass by. the beaches here are breathtaking. we went about 10am and i packed a straw bag of capalanas and a book and camera and those ugly Target water shoes. we perched on plastic lawn chairs. there used to be 8 there but now there are only 3. i am fairly certain i just stared at the water for at least an hour. i had to just sit and take in the view and didn’t want to be distracted by a Novel. i absorbed and soaked and watched. the water is at least 10 different shades of turquoise blue. the little wooden boats don’t seem real. there are women gathering small fish and snails and mollusks, men with large nets. they are working and i have a two month old edition Vogue magazine in my lap. i admire a Marc Jacobs handbag and i look back up at the women with the baskets on their heads. i am a stranger here. the bottle of pink nail polish on my toes costs more than she made this week. if she even has a job. just an observation and the thought that enters my head. and of course i would never pay full price for nail polish. i got it 75% off when i was with Laura at that hair salon in the mall in Kansas. i saw them in the window. Essie Polish 75% off. 
so now i am getting ready for church and by getting ready i mean writing this and thinking about which of my three skirts below the knee i want to wear to church and reminding myself to pack water and wondering how big the mud puddles are going to be after last nights thunderstorm.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

rainbows in the clouds and rats on the roof

clouds over the base this afternoon



Rodrigo is here and I am excited to see what tomorrow looks like. I know the boys will love having a man in the classroom and a native Portuguese speaker. Many of them met him during is 3 months here and having been asking for him. Just today we were given an opportunity to work with a business here. It is still very much in the beginning stages and I have no idea what will happen but a local restaurant needs help and it could serve as a training opportunity for our students. We are seeking out hands-on ways to apply what we are learning in the classroom. So this may be just what we need. 
It has been hot lately but still not as hot as it was back in October. My tan is fading. I colored my hair this week. I didn’t have plastic gloves so I used Ziplock bags. I feel like a new woman. I am learning more and more how to do my days here and flow with the ever constant changes. It is a bit like living at Camp or in an ongoing episode of Survivor. Living here you do get to start anew in a way. I am starting a new life in a new place and I want to establish good habits. My days are nothing like they were at back in the States. I miss Western church and singing in the car. I miss picking up the phone and processing life with my best friends. I need to do a better job of prayer time in the mornings, or even afternoons or evenings. I find the days go by so fast. I am up early and beat by 9:00pm. My old routines from my past don’t fit in here and I am having to adjust. I find myself occasionally listening to Podcast sermons and we always have prayer on Wednesday and occasionally home group on Tuesday, but none of it is the same. Sunday church is in Portuguese and Makua and we don’t sing JesusCulture songs. :) We usually sing the same song multiple times. It’s great. Beautiful, moving, powerful and hot. But it’s different. I guess you would think on the mission field of all places that you would just live in this constant high, full of the wisdom, power, love and revelation of Christ. But you don’t. I don’t any way. I pray a lot. I pray all day and I am always asking for help and asking the question, why?. (The rats on the roof are making lots of noise as I write this. They do it all night long but I never get used to it and I always react as if they are about to fall on my face). I feel like I am learning how to eat a little better and add more diversity to my diet. I am running and it feels amazing. I am starting to feel more like myself and less like a stranger on a very long vacation. So it feels good. But yet, I come home in 3 weeks. 
When I met with Rodrigo yesterday and I shared with him about my past 5 months and all the lessons learned and our major struggles and successes, I told him that the numbers didn’t matter. I have seen in this past month that if I am here for one child, one boy, to get one job, to create one business to make his life better, then I am pleased. I am gaining more here that I could ever give out. It is a life of humility, living here. And one of extreme gratitude. Just imagine, living among the really poor. I don’t even know where to begin to describe their poverty and as I have said before I feel uncomfortable talking about their poverty. I feel like I want to guard and protect them and give them dignity. The average person here has very little. They have tiny hut homes with leaking roofs and few articles of clothing and are doing well to have three meals a day.  There are certainly different classes here, I saw some of them the other day when the private school in town was letting out. But most of the boys in our school live in a little village, in a little hut and having three meals a day is a blessing. It makes my complaints about the rats and the garden hose for a shower seem trivial. I still have no clue what I am doing. I should have studied more. I should studied Portuguese harder and should study more in my day. I should have gotten a master’s in international relations or global poverty or NGO’s. I know nothing about poverty and economics in Sub Saharan Africa. I feel so ill-equipped sometimes. But every day in class, God shows up. I usually never know what I am going to teach about until the night before and then that usually changes in the morning and usually as I stand before them with chalk in my hand a lesson develops. Every day I dust off my hands and stand back amazed at how it all came together. I am anxious to get started on tangible businesses and other projects and have some real fruit to show you from all our efforts. It will come. I am hoping to be able to even do some filming this week. With Rodrigo in the classroom, I can maybe have a seat in the back and take some footage for you. I want you to meet some of our kids and give you a tour of Pemba. Thanks for hanging in there with me and being so patient. Praying my changed routine means more updates here. 
I love hearing updates from you too! gdavis@irismin.org 
P.S. To the Bible Study and anyone else wondering, Rodrigo is 12 years my junior and in a relationship. ;) 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

a full house

i decided to go ahead and use the Community Health curriculum that i have, even though it is in English. they pause for translation and it kinda works. the first one i showed had the kids on the edge of their seats. we learned about the nutritional benefits of the moringa tree and various ways to build fires with less smoke. we also learned about alternative fuels. it really gave me some ideas on potential businesses and the kids seemed excited to learn. friday i showed The Human Planet. the projector is not working for some reason and so i have to just show all of these on my laptop and at first we were having small groups of like 8 students but now we have over 25!! every plastic chair and wooden bench was taken! so i have got to get the projector working. it works on 110v and we use 220 so i will have to bring a converter box, the computer and projector all in my bag on the scooter each morning but can figure all that out. i plan to meet with rodrigo today and make plans for the next 3 weeks. i had a student show up this week who was so excited and eager to learn. he told me he studied community health for the past two years but something happened and he was not able to take the courses any longer and he wants to do medicine and work in a clinic and could not believe that we were doing this and that it was FREE! he wants to come to all the courses, business and community health and is eager to learn English. so we really have a lot to do. i plan to teach an hour of English and an hour of Community Health for my classes on Monday and Tuesday and then teach an hour of English on Wednesday and Thursday before Rodrigo's business classes. we are also having more interest in our afternoon sessions of classes as well and having more students wanting individual English lessons. these village kids really are eager to learn and start businesses. many of the kids show up an hour late to classes so we have got to work on that. i know African culture is not time-oriented and i am trying to respect that but it makes it hard when students are not on time and make me constantly have to re-teach things i have already taught. plus it just drives me up the wall because i am always 10 minutes early like you are supposed to be. :)

help

Help arrived this week. Rodrigo arrived yesterday and is here  to help teach our business courses. And Ben, another Iris missionary who arrived this week, has offered to help me get some footage of the school for you to see! I cannot wait to show you the sites and sounds of Pemba. I have failed at really giving you a good picture of what it is like and my time even on the internet to come here and write is limited and it is just hard to do. I write you often in my head and soak in sights I wish you all could see. I wish you could meet all the students and cheer them on with me. Some days are hard and the work I do seems like a drop in the bucket and I need cheering on too. Nothing ever goes according to plan and it seems my job is to roll with the punches and constantly think on my feet. We are offering tangible courses and students are learning and I understand that this is a feat unto itself. I am learning that some of my students don’t read and write. I am trying to find more hands on courses and apprenticeships for them. Most days I am just proud of them for showing up and give myself a pat on the back too. 
Life here bares no similarities to life back home. I don’t dress the same, eat the same, talk the same, drive the same, shop the same, sleep the same, bathe the same. Everything is different. I wear baggy linen and tank tops and my hair up in a sweaty bun. I eat a very repetitious menu that I am constantly trying to change up a little. I drive a little plastic scooter on the other side of the road. If I know the word in Portuguese, I use it. I shop at little barraccas and the one overpriced South African market and only purchase food items and phone credit. I sleep in a twin bed under a mosquito net. I take bucket baths and very cold showers. 
My new house has mold and it is making me sick. I painted in hopes to get rid of it but it seems to be in the weak little air-conditioning too and I don’t know what else to do. 
I took the kids on a field trip this past weekend to the Iris Farm for them to see a farm in operation. I took a field trip once to the State Capitol and that and my 4th grade teacher influenced my life in a pretty big way. 
I will be leaving here in 20 days and feel like I have a ton to do before I go and so much to brief Rodrigo on. I am apprehensive to leave my kids and pray that the momentum grows in my absence. I am also elated to come home to all of you. I’ve missed you more than you know. Even my little “cardboard town” of Hartwell. Someone sent me a thank you note with a pen and ink sketch of the Square on the front. I have it in a tiny easel on my desk in my room. I cannot wait to hit the produce aisle at Ingle’s and I am pretty sure I am the first person to ever say that. I cannot wait to see my family and squeeze them tight. Every day I am grateful to all of you for sending me here. You are making a difference. I know these kids are learning something at least. Even if it is to speak English with a Southern accent. I know my life is forever changed and the longer I stay here the more I change and grow and learn. It stretches you here. I will never struggle with all the issues these poor kids do, but I get to stand next to them and watch it all up close, and that changes you. I am praying that time slows down a little when I get home and I can spend time with you. I need you. It is going to be a full six weeks.