Thursday, May 28, 2015

May 18, 2015

Today has been incredible. We got to see the Akatim Village School in action for he first time and it has been so inspiring. Lauren and I spent the day going from classroom to classroom to observe the students and teachers in action. 

We started with "Stage 1," which is just first grade. The teacher was teaching the students about length, capacity, and mass, which I just finished teaching my class a couple of months ago. 

In Stage  2, I was nerdishly excited to see that the kids were learning 3-digit addition using expanded form. People need to know that even in these tiny, remote African villages, students are learning all the modern-day skills we teach our children in the United States!

The Stage 3 teacher was lots of fun. He was teaching 4-letter words, which I thought was a little easy but then I remembered English is not their first language! Twi is the most commonly spoken language in Ghana, but nearly everyone speaks English and the students are taught English starting in kindergarten. 

We visited a few other classes and truly enjoyed watching the teachers. They are enthusiastic, and you can tell that most of them love what they do. I realized that I am of course observing these teachers from the perspective of a teacher trained in the United States, so I kept comparing the teaching to what I would be expected to do. I looked for the whole "I Do, We Do, You Do" mindset, but most teachers used a traditional lecture format. The students responded well to it, too. If I tried to teach that way in my classroom, there's no way it would work. Students in the US have gotten used to engaging, hands-on, task-based learning. This isn't a bad thing, but it's exhausting for the teacher. It was different to see students sitting there, focused on what their teachers were saying, learning whatever it is they need to be learning, all because that's their responsibility. There were no bribes or rewards involved; the kids were intrinsically motivated. 

Our last class of the day was KG (kindergarten) 1. Oh my goodness. There are almost 30 kids in the class, so they get to have two teachers all the time. These teachers were phenomenal! They were so much fun to watch! They were singing and dancing and laughing the whole time. What stuck out the most was that they each had a baby with them. In Ghana, teachers bring their babies to school! They wear them on their backs so that they're close and secure, but also so that they realize that they are not mom's top priority. I love this philosophy. I love that the teachers didn't have to choose between their families and their jobs. They just wore their babies, nursed them when they needed to, put them down for naps when they needed to, and it was no big deal. The students didn't think anything of it. I think I'm going to move to Ghana. :)

More tomorrow!

May 17, 2015

The days are completely blending together; time kind of freezes here and you lose track of it. Yesterday we spent the day in Accra, visiting the markets. We sat and watched some guys carve different items for awhile, which was really cool. I bought a drum for Charlie and was actually brave enough to negotiate for it myself. We had red-red for lunch, which is pinto beans in a spicy sauce and fried plantains. 

It is SO hot. Take the last time you were unbearably hot. Now multiply that times 6 trillion. It's hotter here. I've never sweat this much or smelled so bad. But--it's so amazing. It is a gorgeous country, and the people are so kind.

Last night we went to pick up Lauren from the airport, then got on an 8-hour overnight bus ride to Berekum. Yuck. We were stuck in the very back row of the bus, going down pothole-covered dirt roads. I didn't get a wink of sleep, and we arrived in Senase at 5 am. I've been awake for over 24 hours, but it was such a good day. Our hosts made us breakfast, which we ate in the courtyard of their home with chickens and puppies and kittens running around. We had bread with peanut butter, and fresh mangos right from the trees in their yard.

After that, we explored Senase and Berekum. It was so fun to see everything, and it really is beautiful. Then we packed up all our stuff and went to spend the night at the school.

To get to the school, we took a motorized tricycle. We must've looked ridiculous, with three air mattresses, way too many bags, and five passengers. But we made it! The school is in Akatim, about 20-30 minutes away from Senase. We drove up a winding, bumpy dirt road and when I finally saw the school appear, I couldn't believe it. I've seen pictures of this school a million times and just couldn't wrap my head around the idea that I was actually there, in person, in Ghana. We got set up in one of the kindergarten classrooms, then had dinner (jollof rice--my favorite!) After that, we lit some Chinese wishing lanterns that Chris had brought. We released them along with our positive thoughts and hopes and good vibes and all that hippy stuff. Tons of people from the village showed up to help us, which was awesome because it was something they hadn't seen before.

At bed time, we were all so hot that we lay on the concrete floor for awhile, just to cool off. And that was that! Day 1 in Senase/Akatim was a success.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 15, 2015

Three continents in one day--it's as exhausting as it sounds. I still can't believe I'm in Africa. I got here only about 5 hours ago. I left Louisiana and my sweet baby boy about 24 hours ago and first headed to Miami. I had a short layover there, ate some pizza, and got on an 8 1/2 hour flight to London where I met up with Chris. It was so nice to see someone I knew after traveling alone for so long! We chatted for a bit then got on our 6 hour flight to Accra, Ghana. 

And here we are! Landing in Ghana was interesting. We walked down some steps from the plane to a bus, which drove us to the terminal. Oh my gosh. The heat and humidity are atrocious; it's good that I'm familiar with this kind of weather! It took me about 5 seconds to put my hair in a bun, tuck my bangs back with a cute headband Amy made for me, and realize that I will have absolutely no use for my mom's cool foreign straightener here. Anyway, then we waited in line at the immigration desks forever. The guy who helped Chris winked at me because he thought I was his girlfriend. Haha. When we finally got through that, we went and got our bags, passed easily through customs, and headed outside to meet Oliver, our friend who was driving us to our hotel. 

Holy moly. Walking out of the airport felt like we were walking onto a red carpet surrounded by paparazzi. There were soooo many people picking up passengers, and taxi drivers and luggage helper guys trying to get our business. I followed sheepishly behind Chris, totally overwhelmed and fighting the urge to grab his hand like I always do Craig's when we're in a crowd. We found Oliver and got on the road with him. 

That's when I knew I was in for my next adventure. The drivers in Ghana are CRAZY!!!! I don't even know how to describe how nuts the drive to Olivia and Oliver's mom's house was! When we pulled up, Oliver asked Chris if he knew about the electricity issues they've been having the last 3 or 4 months. It turns out the whole country is having problems where the government cuts different neighborhoods' electricity off whenever they feel like it. There's no schedule or rhyme or reason; you ever know when you're going to have electricity and when you won't, nationwide. While we were standing there talking to Olivia's mom, it happened to come back on. 

From there, we went to the hotel we were supposed to stay at. We had made reservations, but they suddenly had no rooms available so we finally ended up a different hotel right around the corner. Now I've never considered myself to be spoiled or a princess or whatever, but I have to admit how shocked I am at what life it's truly like in a third world country. And I know I've only scratched the surface as far as what I've seen. My hotel room is not the kind of place I'd ever have imagined myself staying at. But here I sit, grateful for the window unit AC and the dim light of the tv. 

Chris took me to a little outdoor bar tonight for a drink and it was sooo nice to sit there and have grown up conversation and begin to find myself again. I haven't done anything like that in nearly two years. Even when Craig and I do go somewhere and leave Charlie with a sitter, he's always in my mind and I always know I need to hurry so I can get back to him. Tonight it was just Brittany, the most delicious beer I've ever had (and I'm so not a beer drinker!), an outdoor table with a disco ball lighting up the sidewalk, and music from 2005. And it was awesome. I came to Ghana to use my gifts as a teacher to help students and teachers here. But I think Ghana is about to do even more for me than I could even hope to do for it. I can't wait!

Tomorrow we're headed to the airport early to try to find our lost friends who never showed up, and then it's off to the village! I'll let you know what happens!

Monday, May 11, 2015

May 11, 2015

Everything always happens at once, doesn't it?

Craig's job is really challenging for us because he misses out on lots of family time. He was gone this weekend, which stunk because #1) it was Mother's Day, and #2) it was the weekend before I leave for the next couple of weeks. It never gets any easier for me to be away from him. (I guess that means I like him, which I suppose is a good thing.)

Well for once, the team was supposed to return home at a decent time Sunday night (i.e. before midnight.) To accomplish this, they had an early evening flight and OF COURSE their game went into 15 innings before it was called at a tie. 15 innings?! Now this could have happened any other weekend, and it wouldn't have been a big deal. But their ridiculous game caused them to miss their flight, and now Craig won't be home until late tonight. We will literally have like 6 hours together before he has to take us to the airport.

On top of that, Charlie is sick. His Mother's Day present to me was a 102.6 fever. The poor guy is so fussy and tired and restless. Not exactly the best circumstances for traveling and being away from his mama.

I'm also getting this crazy anxiety about my trip, which is so unlike me, but I'm chalking it up to the fact that I'm a mom now and if things weren't to go as planned, I have lots more at stake than I have before.

Deep breaths, right? I know everything is going to work out. In four days I'll be on 14 hours worth of flights where I plan to get more hours of sleep in a row than I've gotten since before I was pregnant. I just have to make it to that point!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

May 7, 2015

Craig and I were talking recently about how amazing it is how God uses people in each other's lives.

Before Craig and I met, I was looking into going to Africa to teach. I have always been drawn to the idea of working in Africa. But before I could get very far with those plans, Craig swept me off my feet and we got married, moved to Utah, and got lost in the humdrum of everyday life.

After we'd been in Utah a couple of years, Craig met a guy at work named Chris, who had "started a school in Africa." Craig would come home and talk about this guy and his work all the time, and I finally had to tell him that I didn't want to hear it because as amazing as the things this guy was accomplishing were, it depressed me to think that I wasn't doing the things I had wanted to do. Don't get me wrong, my marriage and son are the most phenomenal blessings ever in the whole wide world, but there are still other things I want to do in life. (I think moms are way too often made to feel guilty for pursuing their own dreams and agendas. But that's a whole other topic.)

Fast forward a little and I realized I was wasting my time being bitter, and I instead needed to take action. Instead of telling Craig to stop telling me about Chris and The Senase Project, I started asking more questions. I told Craig that he should tell Chris that I was happy to help him and the organization in any way, just to let me know what I could do. That lead to Chris taking a huge leap of faith in me, and allowing me to start working with the Sponsor a Student portion of the organization. This meant that I would coordinate sponsor/student contact, try to hook students up with sponsors, and so on.  I was so excited to be involved, and so amazed that this guy I barely knew was trusting me.

I told Chris, though, that I would love to help the organization in my capacity as a teacher if an opportunity ever came up. Well sure enough, one did! Not too long after I started helping with The Senase Project, Chris asked if I could help write some supplemental materials to go with the curriculum the school uses. The teachers there don't have many resources, and being a small nonprofit, we don't have the budget to purchase fancy, ready-made curricular materials. That's where I come in!

Now I'm not sure I totally know what I'm doing, but I knew that I definitely couldn't help unless I met these teachers and students, and saw their school in action. I feel like I won't know what it is they need from me unless I experience it first-hand. And so I'm going to Ghana next week. I have no clue what to expect, really. I've travelled internationally before, but never to Africa or a tiny, remote village. I'm a planner, so the unknowns have been hard!

But I'm trying to focus on what I do know. God doesn't do coincidences; there's a reason he moved us to Utah, and a reason he allowed Craig and Chris to connect. There's a reason I've always felt called to serve in Africa, and a reason I'm feeling compelled to do something different with my life right now. The Lord's timing is so perfect and it is beyond comforting to know that we have a Heavenly Father who has already laid out our paths, down to the last stepping stone. I really hope that I'm on the right track, because I know that if it's where the Lord wants me to be, then it's the right place to be. I guess we'll find out!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May 5, 2015

Sooo I'm a little behind on the blog. Like 2 years behind. What can I say, I've been busy! The last time I posted, the hubs and I were about to start undergoing infertility treatments. Since then, we had a successful pregnancy and our sweet baby boy just turned 1 year old last week! Pregnancy did not agree with me in the least (really--I'm a monster when I'm pregnant), but the outcome was so beyond worth it! Hubby also finished grad school, got a grown up job, we bought a house, and I went part-time with teaching.

As for teaching, it's been a rough couple of years. Last school year was rough because of my pregnancy. This school year has just been rough. I haven't enjoyed my job this year, which makes me so sad to admit. Teaching just isn't about teaching anymore, at least in many places. When I don't allow myself to think about all the extras teachers have to do, I love my job. I love the kids, I love connecting with them, I even love the curriculum. But when I think about the 6 billion other things we're supposed to do, with a smile and a happy-go-lucky attitude, all while maintaining a balanced and fulfilling personal life, I get angry and sad and depressed.

I don't know if teaching is for me anymore.

The thing is, I'm so at peace with that. Usually I'd be a huge ball of anxiety, stressing over what I'm supposed to do with my life, how I'm supposed to help support my family, yada yada yada. But I truly feel like God is preparing my heart and mind for something bigger and better (not that teaching isn't one of the biggest and best things you can do!) I have no clue what it is, but I'm thrilled to figure it out with the Lord's guidance.

And I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe, it has to do with my trip to Ghana next week.

Stay tuned for my Ghana adventures!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Make-at-School Mother's Day Gift Idea!

My class made their Mother’s Day gifts this week! This is a project that I’ve done for three years now, and it’s always such a big hit I just had to share. It takes a little bit of effort, but the outcome is worth it, and more importantly, it’s something different that Mom probably hasn’t gotten before. So what is it? Grass Heads! (basically home-made Chia Pets)
This may seem daunting, but I’ve done it with 1st, 2nd, and 5th graders so I know kids of all ages can handle it! Obviously with the younger ones, you just have to model very clearly and be explicit with your directions.
Here is all you need to know to make these cute, springy Mother’s Day gifts:

The Materials
1 knee-high stocking per kid (I get the kind that come as a pair in a plastic bubble for 33 cents at Walmartthat’s around 4 bucks for my whole class)
grass seed
hamster bedding (1 bag was enough for 25 students)
2 googly eyes per kid
1 rubber band per kid
1 styrofoam bowl per kid
8 ounce plastic cups for measuring and scooping
any materials you want to accessorize with (pipe cleaners, scraps of material, etc.)

The Directions
*The kids need to work in pairs to help each other. One student will need to hold the stocking open while the other stuffs it with grass seed and bedding. *

1) Put about 1/8 cup of grass seed in the bottom of the stocking.

2) Put about 4 cupfuls of bedding in the stocking
3) Smush the stocking to turn it into the shape you want.

4) Tie a knot in the bottom of the stocking and cut off the extra material. 

5) Write the student’s initials on the bottom of the grass head near the knot. Hot glue on the googly eyes and have the students create their grass heads’ noses by pulling a little bedding outward and wrapping a rubber band around it.

7) Soak all the grass heads overnight.

8) Put in a sunny spot and water regularly (spray bottles are great for this!)

9) Decorate with accessories, if you so desire. (I had first graders hot glue on “dresses” and stuff. They also like to make things out of pipe cleaners to glue onears, mouths, glasses, barrettes)

10) Send home for Mother’s Day!
I recommend you do this gets messy!
This is a great book to invest in! It has lots of great ideas. I got mine on for just a few dollars.
I will post update pics of the Grass Heads as the grass grows. Like I said, this is just something fun and different you can have your students take home as a gift for Mom on Mother's Day. Have fun! I know your students will!

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