28 August 2012

Back at It!

The last time I wrote, in early June, I was sitting in a room in Rome, and wow, has a lot happened since then!  This post is mostly an update to catch you up to what's gone on in my life over the last 12 weeks or so.  So if you're still interested, read on!

Colosseo, June 2012

After leaving Rome, I headed home to central Kentucky.  I even made it home in time for the annual Beer Cheese Festival in my hometown!  Yum!  It was a great way to run into a bunch of people at once to say hi for the first time in a year.  I was in Winchester for a week, then I flew to South Carolina to spend some time with my family.  We had a great time catching up, and I got to help Susan (my sister) get a little more settled in their new home! My dad and I found a great Indian restaurant in Columbia, Mom took Susan and me to high tea at Laura's Tea Room in Ridgeway, and Susan and I even got a special trip to the Biltmore Estate and Winery, provided by the family of one of my Rosslyn students.
Kovachi's, "Christmas in June," and Laura's Tea Room

I returned to Winchester, attended a friend's wedding, and two days later, I headed to the Pigeon Forge area of Tennessee with Candy and Julianne for a few days of some girl-time, great food, and bargain shopping!  Oh, and I can't forget the laughing.  There were multiple instances of laughing so hard we couldn't breathe!  Good times.  :)  They missed their families, but we didn't want to leave!

At our cabin at Oak Haven Resort in Sevierville, TN

After our little trip to Tennessee, I stayed in Kentucky most of the rest of my time back, however I was able to spend a day in Indianapolis seeing my grandmother, cousins, and some high-school friends.  Being able to settle for a few weeks in Kentucky allowed me to catch up with a bunch of friends, eat a lot of Mexican food (Don Senor five times, I think??!), and even participate with the praise team at my church for two Sundays.  I had a surprise early birthday "party" (cake included!), and then my awesome friends had ANOTHER party for me with some former colleagues, so I got to see even more people before I left!  When I left the States on July 25, I headed to Paris to spend two nights there (where it was affirmed that I can't speak French AT ALL!), and then I made my way back to the cool air of Nairobi, where, upon landing, I was greeted with the tune of  "Jambo, jambo bwana..." (listen to Jambo Bwana here!) and my friendly, ever-so-helpful taxi driver, Charles.

Tour Eiffel, July 2012

While I was "home," the weird thing was that it didn't seem weird.  I really wasn't sure how it would be to go back, but in many ways it just seemed like friendships and activities picked up right where we left off!  I was very thankful for this and for the amazing hospitality shown to me by so many, especially the ones who let me crash at their house for weeks on end!  ;)  I'm also thankful for my church family who welcomed me back, let me tell stories of Kenya, allowed me to participate in leading music, and prayed for me as I left again.  They have been, are, and will continue to be such a blessing to me!

Closing prayer on July 22; 3 of us on stage headed to 3 different countries!

One other big event for me was graduating with my master's degree from Georgetown College on August 12!  After working on it for three years, my coursework was finished in early June, but the graduation date made it official.  I received my new teaching certificate yesterday, and now I'm fully certified for eight more years!

Now I'm back at Rosslyn, beginning my second year here, and my eighth year of teaching--where has the time gone?!  The weather here in Nairobi right now is a little all over the place, but tends to be more on the cool, wet side.  I spent Sunday afternoon melting at the pool, but I've worn sweaters and scarves the last two days!  It's a little unpredictable, BUT it's NOT the hot, humid air I left! Woohoo!  One of the highlights for me upon returning to work was one of our staff orientation days when the school took all of us whitewater rafting on the Tana River.  WOW!  I love rafting, and this had to be the best "ride" I've had so far!  No pictures though, which is a bummer.

School started August 9, and I currently have 18 students in my fifth grade class, which is a great size!  If I've counted correctly, those students have collectively lived in at least 23 different countries--amazing!  This is one of the times I'm especially glad that I moved around so much growing up.  While I didn't experience the drastic cross-culture transitions that they have, I understand a little bit about how it feels to not know how to answer the "Where are you from?" question.  I hope I can help them appreciate where they've been by letting them share from their memories and experiences and validating those in the classroom. 

Something that's blessed me as the school year has started is getting to see former students.  I had such a wonderful class of kids last year, and seeing them again warms my heart!  Formerly, teaching 5th grade in the States, I usually didn't get to see students again, since they went to middle school at a different location, unless I ran into them around town.  Here, the middle school is only a few hundred yards away, so I've seen "my kids" often!  On the first day of school, almost all 24 of them stopped in to say hi and give me a hug, and a good handful of them have continued to do that a couple times a week!  Love those kids!!

My kids from last year--now 6th graders!

I'm looking forward to the opportunities this year will bring, including getting a student teacher for the first time next semester! Another first for me will be being able to participate in singing Handel's Messiah.  In October, combined choirs from around Nairobi, along with the Nairobi orchestra, will perform the Messiah for Voices for Hospices, with the proceeds of the performance going to Nairobi Hospice.  Practice for that starts next week, and I'm really looking forward to it!  I've also been given the chance to attend the Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) educators' conference in Johannesburg, South Africa at the end of October, and I'm super excited about that as well!  Until now, the farthest I've been able to go for professional development is Hazard, KY, so perhaps you can sense my joy! Haha!

Our theme verses for our school year here at Rosslyn this year come from Romans 12:9--13.

 "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord's people who are in need.  Practice hospitality."

On one of our staff orientation days, we were asked to think and pray about what stood out to us most about those verses. There are SO many good things in there, but the part that I had to think about the most was "honor one another above yourselves." It's really easy to be selfish, even in the little things that no one else would notice. And honoring other people isn't always something that will be noticed. For example, at times, keeping my mouth shut honors people much more than it could by what I could choose to say. I think selfishness is a very natural human characteristic, which is why for some of us, it's a hard habit to break. I pray that God reminds me of this verse throughout this year so that I can actively honor others above myself.

I have so much to be thankful for right now. As the rain was pouring a few hours ago, I was thinking about how blessed I am to be living somewhere warm and dry, that I have a bed to crawl into at night and blankets to pull over me. I got a message last night that a girl in my class in college was in her last minutes of life as MS finally won the battle in her body. One of our custodians and his wife who were to welcome their first child to the world in the next few weeks lost that baby last week. I have some friends struggling with jobs and some struggling with personal issues they've battled for years, others trying to get out of a hurricane's path. A few friends have lost a parent in the last few weeks or have parents who are very ill. I'm sitting in a city where possibly millions don't have electricity or running water in their homes. There is a lot of heartache around me, and I earnestly pray for God to comfort all of those affected and to give me a thankful heart.

If you've read this far, thanks for sticking with me!  Until next time, God bless!

Night sky above my apartment on my birthday



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