Tuesday, February 26, 2013

patience is a virtue. i don't have it so much.

Such a frustrating day. Carmen and Suzanne, Georgia Middle School teachers and Hartwell friends, had both contacted me about doing things with their students. As has Giselle from Cobb County and Amy Eaves in Hartwell (I have not forgotten). Carmen and Suzanne and I finally got something together. We decided that my students would write to their students. A visitor is here from America and is leaving tomorrow. I have sent the letters with him. Suzanne’s students will email me and Carmen’s are going to send PowerPoint presentations about themselves! So I had the task of having my students put pen to paper and to actually write a letter. Something I don’t think any of them had ever done before. I don’t even think any of them had even ever seen a letter before. I am forever just blown away about the things about which they have not a clue. Yet they have endured so much. They’ve seen death and hunger and poverty, but not a letter. I am telling you all of this to vent my frustrations with myself and teaching skills, not with them. 

I began the lesson by asking them what questions they would have for another student from America, if they were here with us. I get blank stares. I ask in Portuguese and I call on someone. He answers, “My name is Anselmo”. Great start. Ok. Next? No one. I call on someone. No answer. They stare at the blank chalk board. I say for the millionth time this week, “How ‘bout” and I add” ‘I have __brothers and __ sisters.’” They nod. “What else?” I ask in English, then Portuguese. Stares. And these are my intermediate and advanced level students. After 15 minutes I give up. I write out the entire letter myself, leaving blanks for them to fill in about themselves. They copy the entire letter complete with the blanks. One of my most prized students even signed his letter with MY name as I had done in the example on the board. Oh my. I go around to each student and help them fill in the blanks. I had gone over every word, giving them the vocabulary in their own language and still they remained confused. I did give them some tough questions about what they dream about and what they fear. Many left those blank. They take the meaning of dreams literally. Many fear cholera and malaria and AIDS. Nothing that our kids in America do. 

After those letters I was so utterly disappointed. I thought we were making huge strides. But I have to remember that this culture doesn’t really write. Their heart language is not really a written one. This culture doesn’t read thick novels at the breakfast table. Their daddy’s didn’t take them to the library before dinner and carry them on their shoulders. He didn’t tuck them in and recite Greek Mythology. I have compete sympathy for them but I don’t know where to begin. 

In the afternoon class I taught the beginner class. Half of them could not read. They won’t tell me that but I can tell. They stare at the board or look at what they’ve copied but I can tell that they cannot read it. How in the world can I teach a third language to a child who cannot read? I learned to “speak” Portuguese based on reading and building sentences from learning verbs. All written. All charts of conjugated verbs. Flash cards. I can’t just hear it and know it, I have to see it written down. Say it 100 times. Use it in a sentence another 100 and then maybe I can get it. So my empathy for foreign language is real. And I know they learn orally. But how to teach it orally is beyond me. I began teaching the beginner class the way I have been for a year now. But these are all new faces. I got blank stares. I get the occasional know-it-all, who completely messes everything up and I have to silence him. Adele starts to do vocabulary with the intermediate group and pulls out the dictionaries. We only have 6 of them. I wave my students over there to look. 6 students or more all around 1 picture dictionary. I have a teachers guide that is only in English. I am following along. Felismina is sitting alone beside me. A nonreader. I cannot even begin to tell you about her life and the things I know. I will save her story for when I see you. It’s horrible. I love her smile. She sits so close. I open the book and it is showing me pictures of large and small, soft and hard, big and little.. A hand, a chair, a book. I speak each word and she repeats. I go over and over and over 3 nouns. Hand, Book, Chair. Hand. Book.  Chair. “an”. “bookee”. “shurrr”. “an”. “buukee”. “shaarrr”. Oh my. Confident that my pronunciation of m˜ao, livro and cadeira is way off, I understand. But I don’t know how I can ever get her to grasp it all. Daily my patience is tried just by living here, but throw in teaching English as a Second Language and I am drowning in it.
Every time I am reminded about the time Catherine, my gorgeous niece at about age 10 was spending the night with me. We were lying in bed in the dark talking about life. I summarized our musings with “We all have our strengths and weaknesses”. Trying to encourage her not to compare herself to others. She replies with, “Yea, like everybody knows you’re not patient”. I stifled a laugh. Everybody? Really? 

So as I sat on that narrow wooden bench today, looking into those precious big brown eyes, reciting, “hand. book. chair”. I kept thinking, “I am patient. I am patient. I am patient. I am flippin’ patient, dangit”. And then I laugh. And she does too. And we hug. And I sweat. And I come home and read a fat paperback at the dinner table and eat cold cucumbers and I thank God that I had time with Felismina today, that I get to encourage her and celebrate those moments when I wave my fingers and she exclaims, “Fingerershes”. So glad she was with me this day and I call her friend. 
But Lord I need some revelation and yes, a little more patience. 

So Suzanne and Carmen, I hope your students enjoy our letters. “We are looking forward to hearing from you”. I was asked 56 times today what this means and 56 times I explained it. Help me, Jesus. 


Monday, February 25, 2013

Pen pals

Never in my wildest dreams while I was playing basketball with Carmen Cooper and Suzanne Milner, as a child did I envision us all becoming teachers and our students one day exchanging letters, from Africa. So neat.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

i live for the weekend.

Saturday again. My day for writing and resting and bathing. I’ve just hung my head over the shower and used the hose to wash my hair and slowly prepare myself for the cold water to clean my body. My hair is still in a heavy towel. This morning I took Scoot to the beach. We went to the little sad hotel. The one with the tennis courts. The place is starting to remind me of Cumberland’s Dungeoness. Abandoned ruins. It is such a pitiful little place. From afar it looks regal and I think it even boasts a 5 star rating. But it is dingy and falling apart and sad. 
There is a small patch of lush greens just off the parking lot. The birds all unidentifiable but their calls are so enchanting. I like standing there, listening. One lone tree boasts a tag identifying its species, revealing good intentions. Centipedes,  millipedes, frogs, preying mantis, spiders, line the pathway through the corridors of the hotel. The lady in the gift shop is in the same position she always is, leaning on one arm, gazing out the door; same stock of goods as last year. Hotel California runs through my head. I head straight for the beach and walk down the saggy faded wooden steps to the beach. I watch the tide and soak it in. The waves crash. I spread my oversized towel and sit with my legs crossed. I pull out my Kindle and read as the tide draws closer to my toes. I watch the tide in between chapters and decide I am only moments away from getting wet. I grab my things and find a broken plastic lawn chair and sit there for another hour, reading, piping in music from my iPod so I don’t have to listen to kids playing in the pool, screaming in Portuguese. 
I have four new books. Carla gave me her library log in information and I can get e-books from her library. I am elated. It took an hour or more and cost me $4 but I have four new library books. Three are kinda boring so far but one is pretty good. A memoir about taking a year off to live in Paris. If you have any must reads please send me your lists.
I ran into the guy taking over one of the hotels earlier this week. I met him on my plane coming over. I offered to help train some of his staff, given that I could bring a few of my kids to sit in on the training. I think I could certainly assist those in training and offer some skills. He introduced me to their HR guy and we exchanged numbers. 
I don’t know what to do with Cesar. I think I told you he didn’t get into university. He seems discouraged and he has a bad home life. He has enrolled in our Iris Bible School. I think he may do well in our Mission School, but I don’t want to corrupt him by throwing him into a life with Westerners. He wants to study the Bible and needs a strong Christian community of adults and peers who love and encourage him. He just told me his dad has been to see the witch doctors for his paralysis. I wish he could just come and live with me, but that can’t happen. I want to work with him on his English and help him for next year’s test. I am giving him a microloan through our lending program. It seems like a drop in the bucket. Most all of what I do seems like that. Just a tiny drop. 
I’m finally in possession of a drill. Thank you Dr. Eric. And can now install my new knobs on my dresser. I am soaking dried beans to cook tomorrow and have on hand for dinners this week. It took me a good 20 minutes to clean them and sort out the rocks and what resembled, but I pray was not, rat poo. I sold my second iPhone. I bought two while in Anderson, SC on a whim while I was home and sold them both to make money here. It worked. Still anxious to get the new bike. Hoping to get a ride into town on Monday. 
I feel like I am coming down with a cold. Going to snuggle with my library books.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

this week in pictures

My gated community

I can always shop. Even in the middle of no where, I will find something. I love these horn bracelets!

Perk #76 of being a missionary in Africa

I love the way the sea changes every day. I could never tire of her.

so now what?

School is rolling along with 100 plus students enrolled. New students arrive every day. But yet Richard and Adele are leaving March 5th. They will be back in June. Andrea fell and broke her arm and is flying to England today for surgery. Pray for her. Both of us are asking why!? It changes everything and puts a lot of things on hold and leaves me, again, alone here. Just when I feel the momentum of productivity, everything comes to a screeching halt. So now what? I do have some help with a new teacher named Manuel. He is excellent but I am not sure for how long he will stay. But he cannot do it all alone either. So it looks like it will be the two of us, plugging away at teaching English every day. Andrea and I have plans to begin to introduce new courses, offer small business loans and a course in money management. But I am just not sure how this will happen now. I can't do both, English and the other. There simply aren't enough hours in the day. 

I am also still anxious to start other small businesses with the students but just not clear how I can do it all by myself.I am taking it all one day at time. Calendars and Planners are pointless here. Everything changes and nothing goes according to plan. It has made me almost too laid back as I know that it will happen, but rarely in my own timing, and never the way I planned. I don't want to lower my expectations too much and I want to remain hopeful and prepared. I am trying to find the balance. 

I met with a guy this week from Baker-Hughes seeking interns. They are an oilfield service company. He asked for three guys to train to run forklifts. They are still working on paperwork and figuring out how to insure the interns but wanted to see if we had young men we could recommend. We do! This could be a great opportunity. 

Yesterday I played tennis and there was a baboon in the tree watching us play. So different. Everything is so different. Even the sun and the clouds and the weather are so so different. Simply no comparison. Baboon spectators. Incredibly humid. So there is the comparison. It's like Georgia in July in the attic. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

lazy sultry sunday

i have a new mattress. it smells like the chemical foam from which it was made. i sprayed it with a de-wrinkle spray i inherited here. the dye from the silkscreen fabric stained my sheets. but now at least it smells like Summer Breeze and less like stinky factory. a few nights ago i heard a ruckus outside my door. i ignored it as i do most of the chaos outside the walls. i later got a text informing me that a snake was coming into my house and the guards killed it. they call all snakes cobras (Portuguese word for snake) so we will never know. probably best.
i still have no motorcycle as i never seem to have time to go to town. shops close for siesta from 11:30-2:00. i have classes. we have 100 students registered. we've divided them into three groups of proficiency and meet twice a day. i may be tutoring a woman in the evenings. it will be good for my Portuguese. i am still trying to get internet. it would change my life.
i found dates at a shop in The Old Town. for $3. i made cashew, date, coconut bars. such a treat.
this weeks lesson involved practice in using the past tense. my students seemed to be tracking as i mapped out an elaborate lesson on the board about regular and irregular verbs and ending in ED. we put them in three categories, those that make a T sound at the end. a D and ED. for two hours solid i tried to teach them that it is incorrect to say walkED, talkED, etc. i showed them the rule about how it is only with words that end in T or D that pronounce the ED. they all seemed to be tracking. then came the quiz at the end. they all failed. miserably. right back to walkED and talkED. i was so frustraTED!
so it is back to the previous chapter and the more elementary book and i will put that lesson back on the shelf for another day. but i did walk away, covered in chalk dust, a little defeaTED. but it could not have been much worse than poor Ms. Manning trying to teach me 4th Grade Math.
i got to talk to my sister and her family via Voxer this week. no words. feels so so good to hear their voices.
hoping to start some sewing projects with the students soon. excited about that.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Saturday morning. One of my favorite quotes from Downton Abbey is a line from the character played by Maggie Smith, “What’s a weekend?”. Privileged Granny doesn’t know the difference between a Thursday and a Saturday. Only the working class would know. I’ve been looking forward to this day in spite of only having a four day work week. This time last week I was recovering from the plane ride from Atlanta to Johannesburg and waiting on my Sunday morning flight to Mozambique. My sweet friends collected me at the airport and took me home to my tidy little house Veronica had so painstakingly cleaned for me. They watched me unpack my new wardrobe and American toiletries and necessities. My favorite new additions to the home are my espresso pot (thank you Lynne) and juicer (thank you Jean). Ruth had asked for earrings and Ali a Tervis Tumbler. I highly recommend the espresso pot. It makes the perfect cup of coffee and is less clean up than even my beloved French press.

The girls took me to a local restaurant. I ordered the overpriced lobster and savored every bite. I promised myself to buy from the fish tree and make at least once a month. Jet lag woke me up at midnight and I finally just got up and unpacked and organized drawers and put things away. It made Tuesday a real blur. I am not sure how the word got out but 50 students were waiting outside the school when we arrived. Praise God I have help.

Andrea came right before I left to cover for me in my absence. Richard and Adele were here as students of the mission school last summer and have agreed to come in three month rotations. Adele and Andrea are organized. Me, not so much. They had prepared registration forms and placement tests! We put students into groups and I am teaching the beginner group. I cannot tell you how incredibly amazing it is to have help! I often left the classroom completely utterly drained and exhausted. But now, with other people there to lighten the load, I can enjoy my much smaller little group, get to know them by name and not feel like I have been standing on my head for hours.

The scooter didn’t start but I expected that. One of my students, Sebastian took it to the mechanic for me where I paid $4 to have it repaired. It broke down before I got to school, less than a mile away. This time I handed it over to Henrique who repaired it for me, but I am afraid to take her very far as she is so so so unfaithful and not trustworthy.

The first 48 hours here had me reeling. It is such a tough transition between these two worlds. The world I know and love is so easy. I cherished every moment, every shower, every meal. Nothing was wasted on me. And suddenly I am thrust into a world that could not be more different. Hot. Left side of the road. Black faces. White girl. Hot. Dirt. Lizards. Roaches. Mosquitoes. Rats. Little bamboo market. Hot. I boarding the plane thinking, “I’m not ready for this”. I hated leaving my daddy’s hug and the endless choices of Atlanta restaurants not far outside Hartsfield Jackson’s International Terminal. But as I lay on my little foam mattress under my net writing this I can’t help but know, “I was made for this”.
Caught a ride to the beach with Ruth and the Babies
I’ve had surreal moments in the past week. I am getting to know my students. They walk me home in the afternoons. I love hearing their sweet accents call me “Tee-cha”. I love that I am about to pack a bag of a towel, book and straw hat and go to the sea today. I am in the very center of where I belong. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


About 75 students have been showing up between the morning and afternoon classes. We are now able to begin dividing them into three levels as I have help!! Three stellar teachers are here with me. Went to town to shop for $1,000 motorcycle. Had to pay the $300 I owed in repairs on the scooter that won't crank. Had lunch on the sea. Hope to get transportation soon. Will take a week to get new documents. Or longer. Never pray for patience, God will send you to Africa.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

so true. thanks mary, and flannery.

choosing yes

As I sit here in Johannesburg, waiting for tomorrow's flight to Pemba, I am enjoying my last hours of internet. I am downloading magazines for the months ahead and looking up recipes. I am looking at favorite clothing and restaurant and destination sites and trying to remember if I remembered to pack this and that.  I'm feeling a little sentimental and missing my family and friends and Georgia. I even read the AJC. 

Then Facebook messages me. 

It's Cesar! One of my favorite students! (they are all my favorites). We have a long conversation in Portuguese. My brain gets tired so I start typing in English. He says he wants to write in Portuguese. I tell him, "No" and that I will help him. I correct his first sentence and then give up. I like his broken English better. He tells me all that is going on. He is on the computer because he is waiting to hear if he passed his exams for university! I try to occupy his time while he waits as I know the feeling of anticipation. We write back and forth. He tells me he wants to tell me something and the conversation goes like this:

Grace Davis
Cèsar Domingos Domingos
I want to follow Jesus but for real.
Grace Davis
this is WONDERFUL!!!
you can do it!
Cèsar Domingos Domingos
I have realised that I have to learn more about Jesus.
Grace Davis
He is very patient with us.
i will tell you all that i know. we can learn together.
i know He is good. i know He is faithful.
Cèsar Domingos Domingos
Thank you for understand me...I will really need yours help!
Grace Davis
i am here for you cesar
Cèsar Domingos Domingos
At the first time I have felt that I can do better.
Grace Davis
with Jesus you can
Cèsar Domingos Domingos
I always thought only in myself but when I met you showed me off the real reason of live.
Sent from Mobile

Be still my heart. Why do I sit here and worry and wonder and dream about new leather sandals and regret not getting to have Mexican with Betsy? I have the best life. I've been given a great gift. I get to befriend Cesar. My little light is apparently shining, along with my new Gogo necklace! So blessed. It is time to go home.
My sweet friend Mary West just posted this. I think she made it herself. She's amazing like that. It couldn't be more appropriate for this very moment. Choosing yes...

Friday, February 1, 2013

i made it

the last 72 hours have been non-stop. because i fly standby, i wound up having to leave a day early because the friday flight looked full. so i lost 24 hours and had so much left to do and people see. a lot of which just didn't get done. mom and dad took me to the airport and once arriving at the gate i discovered the flight was delayed. but i still didn't know if i would even get on this flight. the thrill and expectancy of getting first class had been squelched earlier that day and i was just hoping to get a seat. i waited near the gate for two hours and then they began to show the standby list. i was 9th and there were only 7 seats available. i had to wait until the very last possible second. i was already making backup plans to stay another day in Atlanta and go to dinner with Betsy, when they called my name.  then i suddenly went from thoughts of Mexican food and breakfast in Decatur and the afternoon at the High Museum seeing the Gogo exhibit,  to being strapped into a plane for 15 hours. to be honest, the leaving was horribly emotional and sad for me. i have loved my time home. i cried. the South African/professional hunter beside me said, "you must really love someone". i told him i loved a lot of someones. but i wiped my tears and took out my headset and watched tv. i took 3 melatonin and slept. and so now it is 2:30pm there but 9:30pm here and although exhausted, i am quite wide awake. landing and settling and unpacking and getting back into my life in Pemba excites me. my students are writing me and anxious for my arrival and i am anxious to spend my days with them. i am not quite prepared for rats and 105 degrees, but there really is no way to prepare for that.  thinking of all that, i could get so overwhelmed, the need, the poverty, the overwhelmingness of the job. but God is patient and divided our days into 24 hours and those i can handle. one day at a time. i can do this day. this night i can do with the help of more melatonin and tomorrow i can do as i sit and wait on Sunday's flight. and Sunday i can do as it will be exciting to land in my city by the sea. and Monday will be great because i will get to see my students (and wear my new outfit). He is so patient with me and my shallowness. His patience and kindness leaves me no choice but to trust Him. i am believing Him for great things in this next season in Mozambique and am excited to see what the adventure will bring.  my heart is full. thank you all for your generosity and friendships while i was in the States. thank you for joining me in this journey. it is time to get back to work. to this crazy wild life for which i have been chosen and you've been so kind to join me in. here we go.