Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From the Airplane Window

I flew from Illinois to California a few days ago and had no idea that I would get to see the Grand Canyon from above! I've never had a chance to see the Grand Canyon in person but was delighted to have a peek at a beautiful and expansive part of nature. I have since been in California training with my team. I am learning Arabic, social customs, traditions, and reviewing Teaching English As a Foreign Language (TEFL).

I was challenged today in a cross cultural training session to be like water as I face the stresses of adjusting to life overseas. Water has many beneficial qualities. Water is transparent, flows easily, can bend, fill space or adjust to what it is contained in, and can uphold enormous amounts of weight. The speaker in the session stated that the Grand Canyon was carved out by the force of water. I immediately thought about the view out of the window of the airplane. The deep grooves in the rocks throughout the canyon were so easy to see from miles above, and hopefully some day I will see the canyon from the ground level, but to think that water had such an impact or impression upon solid rock is beyond my understanding. How can something so soft change the properties of something so hard? I am sure there is a geological explanation dealing with erosion and pressure over time, yet I am having difficulty fathoming how the Grand Canyon was formed. (Now I'll have to google the Grand Canyon tonight to find out, right?!) I am not sure how this challenge to become like water will manifest itself in my experience in N. Africa, but I really think that this speech will resonate with me during my time away as well as in life.
This challenge to be like water also makes me recall a passage from Jeremiah 17:7&8 that says, "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and puts his confidence in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

I guess I have always pictured myself as the tree in this passage, but I wonder what would happen if I thought of my self as the stream instead. Which qualities of water will I exhibit most over the next year while living in another culture?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Preparing for North Africa

I have spent the last months preparing to teach in North Africa! I am taking a leave of absence for one year from Bottenfield Elementary School to teach first through third graders in North Africa. I will be teaching math, science, reading, and writing in English! My dearest friends and family have showered me with their kindness, generosity, and support throughout this whole process (i.e. packing my apartment, moving my 'stuff' into a friends basement in the pouring rain, organizing my documents (there was a 'method to the madness' of my filing system, but I have reluctantly been shown a better way...thanks MK :) , countless meals, offers of housing until I leave for training, etc). I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Everyone has been so wonderful and many people have asked how they can help or be a part of my journey. One way you can help is by praying for my coworkers and I as we learn new curriculum and build relationships with the students we will teach.
Have You Ever Thought About Teaching Overseas?!

This is the question I was asked in the fall of 2003 while dining with friends! I was a senior in college and ready to 'change the world' by challenging my students to be leaders and lifelong learners. Interestingly enough I had never considered the possibility of going out of the country with all of the responsibilities that come with entering 'the real world' (i.e. my first car, loan payments, etc.) After applying in three locations in the states I decided to stick close to home and I began working at an elementary school in Champaign, Illinois teaching second grade. I am very privileged to work at Bottenfield Elementary School because many of my students are from families who moved to America to study at the University of Illinois from countries around the world. After two years of gaining experience, much prayer, and encouragement from family and friends I decided that teaching overseas would be a great way to serve others and learn about another culture. In 2005 I had the opportunity to teach English in a small town in Russia for one month. Talk about a learning curve! I taught middle school students conversational english. It was so wonderful being greeted with loud "Hellos!" and questions like " What is Disney like?" or "Why would you want to come here to teach?" from the neighborhood streets which usually led to meaningful conversations that I still remember today. I ate borscht (hot and cold), saw many historical landmarks and memorials. The last week in Russia my team and I even had a chance to tour St. Petersburg and I saw the Hermitage! I decided then that the longer I teach the more I realize how much I can learn and if I ever had the chance to teach in another country again I would!