Sunday, October 27, 2013

The lighter side of life

I got to watch the world series today.  It was from the comfort of my own bed, without anyone else helping me to cheer the Cards on, but I still was so excited to be able to actually watch it as it was happening.  I am simply in awe of how far the world has come even in the 12 years that I have been venturing overseas.  I am amazed that I can download and $3 and be able to watch the world series that is happening where my sister lives on the other side of the world.  How crazy is that? 

Its things like these that don't make living here seem so far away.  It makes life a little more bearable.  I am so thankful for the internet.  For the fact that I can have daily communication with my family and friends.  I am so thankful that I am blessed in this way! 

And for grills!  Even in the Philippines...Sunday afternoon is grilling time!  ;) 

Never going to get used to facing poverty

No matter what I will never know what it is like to stare poverty in the face.  I will never know what it is like to not have enough money to buy food for my family, to not live comfortably in a bed within a house with windows and doors.  To be afraid that my child will get deathly sick, and I won't have the means to take care of him/her.  I will never know what this is like.  

I was born the midst of a culture that understands fairness.  In a culture that has pretty much every advantage there is in the world.  I can visit any country that I want to without wondering if I will be able to get in, or if I will have to flee once again.  I can buy anything at the store, or go out to eat when I don't feel like cooking.  I was born knowing as a woman that I have a voice.  I do not have to conform to men and I can stand up for my rights.  Rights that I have always had, I have never had to defend them.  Even when I am visiting places where women don't have those rights, I still do.  I am still able to live my life with a voice.  My voice has never been taken from me.  My voice has never had to be disguised.  I have always been able to say exactly what I feel with little or no consequences.  

How often do I take for granted the fact that I have been born privileged?  How often do I take for granted that I will always have a place to live, and food on the table.  Even if I am in a job change, there are people that will always be able to provide for me, because they were also born privileged.  Yes, we have worked for what we have, yes I have gotten into hundreds of dollars of debt, just to be where I am at.   Never really earning enough to pay off loans that keep creeping up on me.  But, if I am really honest, this is the least of my worries.  

I am able to live comfortably.  I still buy starbucks at least once a week, if not more often.  I eat meat, and fresh vegetables almost every single day.  I have a Kindle, Ipad and laptop.  I live with running water and electricity.  I ride on a bus to and from the mall, where I buy my groceries.  There is nothing in this scenario that says I am suffering, yet I always want more.  

I always want to have the best clothes....and things that will make my life more comfortable.  Why is this?  When did I learn to want more.  When did I learn to never be content with what I have.  To always look for more?  

How do I step back and see just how privileged I am?  

I spent two years in the states.  Two years being somewhat unhappy with my state of life, because life was very convenient.  I was surrounded by family and friends, yet I found just about every reason to complain.  I was able to choose from about 20 different churches, yet I couldn't seem to find a place to "fit in."  

Here I am stuck out in the middle of nowhere and I find myself more grateful than ever before.  The fact that I have internet, running water, and air con.  I am so thankful that I spent the evening just hanging out and talking with a friend.  

Why can't I see poverty when it is staring me straight in the face, everyday.  Why can't I step outside of myself, and see just how lucky I am to have the bare necessities....but really so much more.  

I hate debt, and money....but at least I had the privilege to get an education, and the means to pay it off eventually.  

When I step outside the gate, and look around I see poverty.  I see people working their butts off just to make a dollar, and I think...I will never be able to understand.  I will never see clearly what it means to live their walk in their shoes, and to live in poverty.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Community means taking the good with the bad

I prayed for this... I prayed that I could live in community with people.  Fellow believers, people that I can cook with, laugh with and take pictures with.  I am excited to see how this year goes.  I am not sure that I will be here much longer than this school year, but I am thankful for this opportunity.  I am thankful that I can for once look outside myself and see what it is truly like to just give without caring if you get anything back in return.  Have I ever really done that?  No, probably not.  I am not even sure that I am doing it now, but I sure am trying.  I am trying to understand where others are coming from.  Trying to grasp how we can all be so alike and so different at the same time.  Its funny to me how many things get lost in translation.  How many times I have to remind myself that I am amongst people that are not speaking English as a native language.  There are going to be things that we don't understand.  There are going to be words that are misconstrued and there are going to be times when all I want to do is transform myself into a super hero so I can fly back to the U.S. where things make sense.  Or at least make sense in the way that I am used to. 

Tonight everyone who lives in my section of the school housing were actually in the same place at the same time.  We were all downstairs, doing some form of cooking/eating together, and it was wonderful.  5 people from 5 different backgrounds living in community.  I can't even describe how great I feel knowing that I have people here living near me that value me as a person and as an individual.  I think a huge part of it has to do with the majority being Korean.  There is just something about Asian cultures that draws me...seriously I just want to eat Kimchi all day long!  :) 

We have a bit of drama going on around here right now.  It has the ability to create major chaos into our lives. I hope that it doesn't but honestly there is nothing in the situation that is under my control, and honestly nothing that is of my business really.  Yet we all know about.  That is the part of  community that I could do without.  The fact that everyone knows what is happening, especially if there is drama.  Why can't we just live our lives drama-free?  Why can't we just look and things from others perspectives, and help each other out? 

Because we are imperfect, because we live in a world that is desperate for good.  Desperate to be taken out of the muck and sadness.  Desperate to be shown how to live without hate, without pain and without sorrow. 

If only we could really live our lives that way.  If only we could see beyond ourselves and understand what it means to have absloutely nothing.  I'm not talking about not being able to afford starbucks.  I am talking about not knowing how you are going to feed your family for the next 2 weeks.  Desperation that causes people to do things that are horrible.  Desperation that causes doubt of love, and forgiveness.  Desperation that gives up of ever having hope again. 

How do we live with hope ourselves when the world is crying out to be healed.  When we look at something that happened, and ask God why.  Ask God how that could happen.  How could someone who is already desperate be asked to do more? 

Walking in another's shoes....can we really ever grasp it? 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

New Start

New starts are the same as new beginnings
you never know how it is going to end
you never know how it is going to change

Stepping out and opening up
to a culture to a world that is mixed-up
a place that you don't always understand
a place that is yet to be called home

The beginning is tough,
individual needs and culture come above all else
Fighting to understand what makes a place a home
Fighting to understand how to communicate

There are so many differences
and so much change

Security and safety are there, but not
Vulnerability and love seem to be one in the same
But how do you put your  perspective away and see
someone else's way?

A Korean language journey

Three times a week there is a shuttle that goes from the school apartments/dorms to town.  You can hope on the bus and get dropped off at the mall.  I plan on taking advantage of this bus at least twice a week, just to get out and have some different scenery.  

Today on the way I was in the bus with all Koreans.  Granted it is a Korean school, but it just struck me as odd.  I have nothing against the Korean culture in fact I am excited to say that some of my greatest friends have been Korean.  But there is something about being in the Philippines, and being amongst Koreans.  Two cultures clashing, and bringing in a third to help go along with it.  There are so many similarities, and yet so many differences.  

I am thankful that I get this chance.  I get to break down walls and barriers that are built up because of language and the color of skin (even though we want to all pretend they aren't there...they are!)

Sometimes I don't mind not understanding what is being said.  It creates a safety blanket for me.  I can sit and observe without having to interact.  I get to be around people, but do not have to experience the social awkwardness of trying to speak in another language.  I have seen people struggle as they are trying to speak English and frankly I am thankful that at this point I speak neither Korean or Tagalog.

One day soon I might change my mind, but for now I am content to just sit and observe.  To take in my surroundings and be thankful that God understands us all! 

Emotions are raging...and I wonder why?

Today I got really angry at something that was not even that big of a deal, but do you ever have those days when you just don't want to hear a million explanations of why something is the way it is.  You just want someone to tell you what they want to tell you without giving you a 10 minute explanation of  why it is this way.  

That was me today.  All I wanted to know was what I needed to pay for bills this month.  I didn't need to know who got what money, and why.  I just wanted to pay my bill and be done.  I am still a little bit irritated about it, and I think I may have hurt someone's feelings, but the truth is that sometimes I think we feel like we have to justify every little thing, and honestly we don't.  There is no reason to explain to me unless I ask.  

I know I need more grace for others, because I know that I am not perfect.  I have to say that I am not perfect, and so I continue to learn how to handle things the right way.  Most of the time, I probably handle them the complete wrong way.  For that I am really sorry, and do hope that some day I can change.  Baby steps...a little bit at a time.  


Christmas comes early on this island...

Last weekend one of the things that I found just totally crazy was the fact that Christmas decorations were everywhere.  Apparently they start celebrating 100 days before Christmas.  So...there is Christmas music playing and Christmas decorations around every corner.  I am finding it a little difficult to get into the Christmas spirit.  I love Christmas, but I need Thanksgiving to come first before I can really get into the Christmas spirit.  It does give me a sense of joy though.  Joy to know that Christmas is not going to go by without being celebrated.  

This year I will be in the Philippines....a couple weeks ago I was really upset at the idea of staying in Kuwait for Christmas due to funds, but now...well I am pretty excited about what awaits this Christmas season.  Maybe a trip...and a trekk...and just some good fun!  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Light in a palm tree

I honestly have to stop myself and wonder if I am going to wake up at any minute and be back in my bed in Kuwait.  I have been just walking around so free from the things that were weighing me down.  I am still unsure if all of this had to take place.  How does one really know the will of God?  Can we change the will of God?  Or are we just living life, and we make choices and God is the one orchestrating our choices?  How exactly does that work.  I am sure that everyone has an answer, and honestly I am not looking to get into a debate, I am just curious at this point in time.  

Tonight I am writing this from my room!  For those of you that have never been without internet, well you probably don't understand what a huge joy it is to be sitting in my clean, organized room writing on my computer and enjoying the fact that I am able to just ponder and thing about what is to come.  

My students are amazing.  Today I had to implement the give me 5 rule, but honestly it was not even that big of a deal.  I don't want to just let them get away with stuff because it feels so lax from my other jobs that I have had recently, but I also just feel this huge joy in just letting them be kids.  They are truly super great.  I know it is only the first day, but honestly I just think about things that I have had to deal with in the past I am so very thankful.  

I doubt if I will ever be called a monster or the F-bomb in this school or this country for that matter.  

Today I had a co-worker ask what is wrong with America.  Why is it that you can step into an Asian (mostly Korean) school and find kids that respect you.  Even the older students have treated me with the upmost respect every single time they pass me in the hallway.  What is it that we are or aren't doing in America that is causing this disrespect for all adults, but I hate to admit it...mostly teachers and parents?  

Is it because we have stopped telling kids no?  Is it because we aren't wanting to hurt a kids feelings, so we just allow them to do whatever they want and talk any way that they want?  What is it that is causing our teachers to quit, and our students to utterly fail because they do not understand what the term respect means.  
How do we change this?  

I don't know...honestly I have no idea.  I wish I did.  I wish I could write a book called...The Secrets of the educational guide to respectful students.  That has a catchy title doesn't it?  

My students are amazing!  They make me laugh, and they make me cry.  

I have two girls that can't speak English...really at all.  But I am seeing them as my challenge.  2 out of 10 is much better than 19 out of 23!  

Tonight I am praying that I can hold on to this perspective, this joy, and this view of adventure.  I don't want to lose what I am feeling.  I don't want to be here for 2 months and want to get out.  

Challenge accepted....look to the bright side...see life as the adventure it was meant to be!  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

grammar isn't my strong point today....

Ugghh...just read my latest post, and the grammar was horrible!  Sorry!

A new start....and a deep breath

My first day in a new place, surrounded by people that I have known less than 48 hours (for the most part) and I feel more at home then I have in a long time.  I am not ready to say that this is where I am meant to be, but I am thankful for a little less stress, and a lot more smiles.  I didn't really realize how much I missed walking down the hallway and being greeted with smiles.  Or walking just about anywhere for that matter.  

My first day was nothing like I expected.  The 10 2nd graders met me with blank stares and silent words.  I could see a lot of apprension in the way they entered my classroom, and the way they timidly answered questions.  The confidence was just not there.  There was this underlying timidness (is that even a word) that I have not seen since, Thailand.  So many interactions today reminded me of those first days in Thailand.  Before I knew the culture, before I knew the people, and before my students felt comfortable enough to misbehave.  Still it is going to be hard for me to believe that these kids will ever be to the degree that I have seen in my travels.  

As I looked around my class today, I felt this sense of wonder and awe at the fact that I was placed, here for these kids.  These kids that can pretty much write perfect sentences.  I know that seems normal, but I am telling you when you are teaching kids that don't even know how to put together a simple sentence, it is amazing to see some that just write away.  

Writing is one of my favorite thing, and so to have  kids that love writing I feel beyond blessed.  I feel like it is my special gift.  I get to teach kids that share my passion!  How awesome is that!  

I'm not saying that everything is perfect, there have been some crazy things today, but the thing is that nothing is getting me down like it was before.  I am not wanting to scream and cry right now, which is saying a lot.  I am even still at school and not feeling like bashing my head against the wall.  I am excited to see what these kids will do.  

I am excited to get to know this culture, and learn a lot.  

I am also excited to say that I will be writing my book...I'm going to do it!  This is my on a island in the middle of nowhere...can't get better than that!  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tears of joy and heartache

Here I am...sitting in a classroom that will either be home to 1st graders or 2nd graders.  I entered this country in a Typhoon, the first of many apparently to come.  I am still a little apprehensive if this was the right choice, but honestly I felt like it was the only one I had.  I didn't want to quit, I don't like to give up...but my morals are higher than that.  I need to be able to look at myself in the mirror and be okay with who I am, and what I stand for.  

Since this is a public post I am not going to bash everyone and everything that happened.  But I am going to say that I am not okay with just giving kids A's.  I am not okay with making all kids take the exact same test, and learn the exact same way.  That is not the way this world works.  We aren't all the same.  We don't all have the same brains, and if we did it would be one boring world.  Maybe I am just an average teacher, maybe I don't belong in a private school that has crazy amounts of pressure.  I do know that I am worth more than just being an American face who gives whatever grade the parents want.  I am a good teacher.  I desire to see my students grow and learn more everyday.  

My choice to leave wasn't easy.  My choice to leave in many ways caused me to feel like I was giving up.  Like I was throwing in the towel, and not really trying.  The thing is that I have lived and worked places that made me a miserable person.  I have stayed in places where I didn't agree with the way that they treated their employees.  I know what it is like to go somewhere, and feel like you aren't valued.  I know what its like to have everyone forget to include you in a travel plan.  I also know what it is like to meet the best people in the world, and have great friends.  

So, the choice wasn't easy.  The money was great, the workload wasn't horrible.  But in the end I couldn't stand and watch kids pressured to get A's.  Kids that should have been practicing sounds and letters instead of being forced to learn words like Inquiry and Infer.  

I still am unsure if I made the right decision, but it is done.  

I have found myself at a school in the Philippines.  Smack down in the middle of a Korean community.  There are no taxis around, and the way I will be getting to the store is to take the school provided shuttle twice a week.  So, I will literally live and work with the people.  It is dorm-style housing.  With a common living area and kitchen.  We each have a room upstairs.  

3 years ago I would have died if you had told me that this would be my life.  I would have been so upset, but honestly I am excited to be in community again.  To have people to talk to, and eat with.  I am excited to make it in a place that doesn't have every modern convenience known to man.  Although the internet might not be reliable.  I can handle this for a year.  I can handle what is to come...