Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My assignment is becoming clearer

I've never been totally sure what I am going to be teaching in Korr in terms of ages and subjects. When asked what I'll be teaching, I mostly just respond with, "Children!" (How annoying of me, hey? hehe) Well today I got an email from Nick, one of the missionaries in Korr...

Lynne [who runs the school] met the headteacher, Lawrence, yesterday and we have a special request to put to you, so please sit down first!!! [Um, gulp!!!]

We have 'inherited' children from the Korr primary school who did not perform well there. They have missed out on the basics. There are about 5 in Standard 7 and 5 in Standard 6 who have failed repeatedly, yet we are convinced that all they need is some real love and proper coaching. This is impossible to do in a large class. Would you be willing to give them your special attention?

YES!!! Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES! I totally have a soft spot in my heart for kids who are struggling. I read this and my mind raced to one student in particular in my class at MySchool. He just was not making progress. Kindergarten, grade one, grade two... school for him is so, so hard, and his confidence is so, so low. It's kids like that who I most like to work with.

Of course, then there are the skills. I have the heart, but not the training! There are no special assesments (not that I'd know how to administer them), I don't know the cirriculum or performance standards, and I don't know where to get them (the "contact us" link on the Kenyan Ministry of Education website doesn't work!). All I can do is the best I can do, I guess!

Wow... Africa. In the desert. Teaching with none of my usual teaching supports or resources. And now the challenge of kids who - for who knows WHAT reasons - have failed their exams. Repeatedly... Here I am, Lord, send me!

I have NO idea how I will do this, but I am SO excited to do it! And terrified. And excited!

Six days to go!!!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

T-Minus seven days!!!

I know, I know, I need to sit down and post in a big way! For now, here's the contents of an email I just sent out to my email list this evening. If you're here as a result of that email, normally there will be different posts here! I just don't have much time right now and wanted to give an update! Ok... preamble over! hehe!

One week to go!!! Seven days! That's IT!!!

I fly out for my orientation in Toronto at 7am on Monday, January 5. While people are getting ready to go back to work, back to school, back to the proverbial grind, I'll be racing down a Vancouver runway at the beginning of what will be the most stretching, exciting, and mind-blowing experience of my life thus far. (Wow. That's even scary and thrilling to write!)

How quickly this has come! There is still SO much to be done - banking, shopping, packing, preparing - but in moments of stillness I try to wrap my mind around what life will be like two weeks from now, settling in in Korr, Kenya. My mind just doesn't bend that way (yet!).

A few bits of fantabulous news I thought I'd share with you:
  • I am only about $1200 away from meeting my fundraising goal of $11,300!!! I am flabbergasted at how quickly and how generously you have responded. "Thank you" is simply not enough to say! I can't wait for the email when I'll be able to say that I'm all the way there! :) In the meantime, if you would like to help bridge that gap, click here.

  • I now have someone to rent my suite while I am gone! WAHOO! This was one of my greatest stresses and causes for concern, but once again, God provided in the perfect way - she's a friend of mine (Vania, whose music I have featured here before, here and here!) who I trust completely, and we have been able to mutually help each other out in such a big way through this arrangement! And the best part? She called me on Christmas morning to tell me that she was going to take the place! :) What a huge, huge answer to prayer (and YAAAAY, God, for answering it even beyond what I was expecting or hoping for!)
Things are definitely falling into place, and God is totally amazing me in all the little (and the big!) ways that he's providing for me and working things out in these final few days. I absolutely can not wait to grow in my understanding of the depths of His love and to learn to share that in any way I can!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

May you be blessed this season not so much with presents as with Presence... of family, of friends, and of Jesus Christ, from cradle to cross and until He comes.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Calling all house hunters!

Live in Vancouver? Know someone who does? Know of anyone wanting to sublet a great suite while I'm away??? I'm getting kinda freaked out here, folks! January 1 is nine days away. I've advertised on craigslist, the AMS Rentsline, housing4students, facebook, word of mouth... I've taken out a 4 day ad in the two major Vancouver newspapers that will run Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday ($154!!! Sheesh!). No bites. I've even lowered the rent nearly $100 to give a god deal. I'll just make up the difference each month at this point if it means getting someone in here!

So here's the info... seriously! Pass it on if you think there might even be SOMEONE interested in living here! And there's pictures at the bottom. If you're not in the market, just consider this a wee tour of my house! Ha! :) Click any photo for a larger view.

Garden Level Suite for Sublet

* Warm, homey 1 bedroom garden level suite for rent from January 1- July 31, 2009. Preference given to those able to commit to full term.
* RENT NOW LOWERED! INCLUDES all utilities, cable, high speed enhanced internet connection, and free shared in-house laundry (email me for specifics)
* Convenient location - right on express bus route to UBC (approx 25 mins), easy access to downtown, very close to three major bike routes
* Fully furnished, including 24" TV, DVD, VCR, with or without all kitchen items and linens
* Land line not available: cell phones only
* Full kitchen, shared use of backyard and own patio furniture, plenty of street parking in a quiet neighbourhood
* Suitable for 1 quiet student or 1 working professional
* Absolutely no smoking (tobacco, cigars, pot, etc) indoors or out; no pets
* Email bygrace253 at yahoo dot ca for more details!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh, Chuck E Cheese, remember the heights from which you have fallen

I don't know about you, but I have many a happy birthday memory from Chuck E Cheese growing up as a kid. Whack-a-mole, ball rooms, pizza, and birthday hugs from a giant mouse (how did that thing not scare the CRAP out of me???) - it was all so innocent and fun.

No longer, apparently...

... Seven officers arrived and found as many as 40 people knocking over chairs and yelling in front of the restaurant's music stage, where a robotic singing chicken and the chain's namesake mouse perform...
Read the whole story here.

(Thanks, Karen, for pointing me to this story!)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Temperatures are well below freezing outside and it has been snowing all day and all last night - that nice, powdery, fluffy snow; not the slushy wet muck we usually get. I've just come back from dinner with a big contingent of staff from my old school. I'm here in my classroom, Christmas carols blaring, miles of paper chains strewn all over the room, a ladder in the corner and a roll of making tape on my arm... The letters from Santa are chilling in the staff room freezer, the gifts are wrapped, the candy canes hung from our art hooks, and the footprints painted, and I am deliriously happy. Santa Claus is going to work his magic here tonight, and I can't wait to see the looks on my kidlets faces when they arrive to school tomorrow to snowy footprints and Christmas magic throughout the room...

More to come tomorrow, I have a note from Santa to write!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The most trivial post in the world

Is it just me, or do the blogger word verifications make more sense now? No more "wwxrpakds" and the like. Now, though still nonsense, they are at least pronouncable.

Why do I even care about this? Sheesh, I'm a weirdo. Go read my Kili post and tell me what to do!

Monday, December 15, 2008

To Kili or not to Kili

This is, indeed, the question.

Folks, I have a bit of a dilemma on my hands. Two of the things I really want to do while I'm in Africa are go on a safari and climb Kilimanjaro. A teacher from my old school did both a few summers ago, and her stories... oh my word! If I though I wanted to do these things before, I REALLY want to do them now.

Camping? In the SERENGETTI? Roars of LIONS in the (hopefully very very farr-off) distance? HECK YEAH! The safari should be no sweat to pull off. Masai Mara, Serengetti, Ngorogoro Crater... I'm hoping to book a one-week or so trip once my official assignment is done at the end of July.

It's Kilimanjaro that's proving a little bit difficult. It's a freaking huge mountain (and I SO want to climb it! Oh my goodness, how AMAZING would that be?). But here's the issue. I have a month off in April when I could do it, but April is the rainy season in East Africa, and, by all Kili websites, pretty much the WORST month to do Kili. So I'm hoping to tack it on to the end of my trip as well. I'm a little concerned about the time crunch. Finish in Korr July 31-ish, maybe a day or two of debriefing in Nairobi, then a week for a safari, a week for Kilimanjaro, and that doesn't put me back in Vancouver till mid-August. That's all fine and good, but, um, this all is going to be a pretty intense experience, and I want to leave myslef enough time to decompress at the end of it before jumping back into the other intense experience of teaching back in a Canadian inner city environment. I'm hoping for at least three weeks, I think, one of which will be spent back in the classroom setting up for the new school year. It makes the timeline very tight.

And then there' s the little issue of training. I'm not exactly in shape now, and I'll be living in the desert for seven months before wanting to do Kili. Not exactly lots of opportunity for hiking out there. I could run maybe (um, among scorpions and puff adders and hyenas?) and work out on my own I guess (core strength and squats here I come!), but I'm kind of concerned about the whole training thing. Kili isn't exactly cheap to do, and if I'm spending a good chunk of my money on doing it, I don't want it to be a waste if I can't haul my own butt up the side of the mountain!

And then again there's the gear. There's a reason you hear talk of the snows of Kilimanjaro. It's COLD up there! So I'll have to be bringing my hiking boots, trekking poles, and all manner of warm winter wollies to sit in an abandoned corner of the desert for seven months. That's some valuable packing space - and weight! - that would be taken up for just a one week adventure.

Hmm... so it is at all feasable? I don't know. Practical? Heck no! But worth it for the adventure of a lifetime? I think so, but I'm not sure...

PLUS, as of yet I don't have a partner that I'll be spending time with in Korr. I'd be Safari-ing and Kilimanjaro-ing all by my lonesome. It's kind of not my ideal. (Unless someone out there wants to take a vacation to Africa in July/August??? Come visit meeeeee!).

So, readers, if you were me, what would you do? Go big or go home, practicality be darned? Be willing to spend the money and bring the gear for the possibility? Or resign myself to the realization that it's just not going to work, and promise myself that I'll get back there one day, which realistically may never ever happen... (and just won't be the same, according to this image)

What to do? What to do? I really want my face beside this sign!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Breathe, Hillary. Just breathe...

I was driving to the fam's house last night for our annual tree trimming festivities and was thinking about my trip. Right now, psychologically, I'm still in full work mode, kind of oblivious that Christmas is coming, still have to organize, pack, and clean my house (and find a subletter! eek! I'm getting worried!), buy a whole bunch of stuff, pack, yadda yadda yadda. Going to Africa really seems like a long ways away.

But then I realized that it's not.


Yep, there it is again - the chest constricting, the shortness of breath... Let's see, what was I doing three weeks AGO? Right. That might as well have been yesterday. And three weeks from NOW? That might as well be the day before tomorrow!

Insert massive panic attack here!!!

Go away for a while. Make a sandwich or something while I regain my composure. Oh wait, that's not gonna happen because I'M MOVING TO AFRICA IN THREE WEEKS!!!!! *Gasp!* *Wheeze!*

In other news, as of last night, I now have $8615 of my required $11,300. I began my official fundraising TEN DAYS ago. Amazing. Even AIM said they were shocked at the result of the fundraiser. Woohoo! God is good!

I've updated my little pie there on the sidebar to reflect the current amount! I love watching that grey disappear! (or watching the pac man grow, as Shelli put it when she was doing a similar fundraising endeavor! I always think of that, Shelli! hehe!)

But now... off to do a million things! I kinda feel like I have so much to do, I don't even know what I have to do! It's list time, baby. Oh yeah!

*Breathe in... breathe out... breathe in... breathe out...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Desert Life

There is so much going on right now - wrapping up the term at school and preparing to "leave the hemisphere" as one friend put it (kinda makes it sound like I'm moving to outer space!) being the obvious big ones - so much I could say, but it seems every time I sit down to blog, no words come. I'm exhausted, honestly, and the thought of creatively putting words to my life right now makes me want to curl up and go back to bed. Not to mention that site visits and comments have all but dried up. Even daily posting for the first part of November saw hits drop instead of increase like it normally does. Busy time of year, I guess, but it sort of sucks some of the fun out of it, too.

I did, however, want to have something new at the top of the page, so I'm directing you elsewhere. I found an article about Nick and Lynn, the missionaries I'll be likely living with in Korr, and about life in the desert where they (and I will soon!) live. I found it really interesting to read a little more about where I'm going to be spending the next seven months of my life!

Click here to read it! :)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Africa Bound

As you probably know, I had my Africa fundraiser on Saturday night. I arrived at the church to set up at 5, two hours before it was to begin, and it was totally dark. We couldn't find the facility manager to open the doors, and I started to panic. We eventually made our way in - thankfully there was another group using the toddler room downstairs! - and got the set up going.

It was slow at first, but more and more people showed up to help: setting up tables and chairs, laying out the letters, prayer cards, candles, donation baskets, etc., cutting up fruit, preparing the coffee station, blending up the mago lassis, picking up the African food, sound checking, fixing the powerpoint, rehearsing the music... it was busy busy busy!

Guests began arriving at 7 and we got the show rolling at about 7:30. We had four musical groups - a group of friends of mine from dancing, a teacher from my school who did some First Nations songs and drumming, a Christmas-themed performance from a friend of mine from church, and a "What white guys think about when they think of African music" set by another group of friends from church. I did a presentatino about how I came to decided to do this, and what I was going to be doing in Africa, and another friend did the financial pitch for me, which was nice, so I didn't have to stand up there and ask on my own behalf. At the end, we had a commissioning service for me and the whole room prayed for me as I preare to leave in less than a month's time. (AAAAAAH!)

My dad counted 74 people, and that was before a few people arrived, and not counting one of the groups who were warming up in the lobby, so I figure we had between 75 and 80 people turn out. I had family, friends from chuch, friends from dancing, friends At one point early in the night, my mom pulled me aside and whispered, "See all these people? They're ALL here for YOU because they love you, and are interested in what you are doing!" There was no need to tell me. I was already feeling overwhelmed with the turnout and the interest in and support of my trip. So overwhelemed, in fact, that when I stopped to think of it a few times during the evening, I actually had to catch my breath or struggle to keep myself from tears.

And then I went home and counted the gifts people gave in support of my trip. Cash, cheques, pledges... and the grand total from gifts received that night and gifts people told me about in lieu of being able to attend?

Six. Thousand. Seven. Hundred. Dollars. (even!)

That's 59% of my budget. In one night. $6700!!!! Oh. My. Word.

It was an amazing night on all accounts. I can not thank the people who were involved - helpers, attendees, contributors - enough. There really are no words. I hope my dropped jaw and bugged out eyes (with little wells of tears) and my feeble little thank-you's communicate more than I feel they do. You are amazing.

I will have some photos available in a few days once people upload them and I can make a set, bot for now, here are two videos from the night: one of the "White Guys in Africa" set and one of an impromptu, pressured-into-it "African" dance demonstration. Again with the white guys theme. I'm pretty sure Africans would be looking at these guys with the same cocked eyebrow (and uproarious laughter) we all did on Saturday! Hysterical! :)

Here are the videos! Enjoy!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Jumping for joy

What a night! I just had my Africa Bound fundraiser, and I'm too exhausted and feeling too overwhelmed with support and love (not bad things to be overwhelmed by!) right now to tell the story, but I'll let these two images speak for themselves. I will tell you all about it - pictures and all! - soon, I promise!

Fundraising Pie Chart as of Friday December 5

Fundraising Pie Chart as of Saturday December 6

Friday, December 05, 2008


I told my class that I was going to Africa on Monday. I'll blog about that over the weekend, but for now, here is one of my favourites of the notes that have come my way over this week (I have ZERO bulletin board space left to display any more notes, and I have a stack half an inch high of cards, notes, and drawings!)

I will miss you so much! Ms Hillary :) I will love you forever and ever, your favirte studint K___ but when I am mad I still love you.

That's good to know. Cause let me tell you, she gets MAD. What a ltitle sweetie!

I had another student tell me today at home time, "We have ten days left with you, Miss Hillary!" Oh my goodness! Her comment shocked me into reality. Only ten days with these kiddos?!? It's not enough! (Argh, I'm getting all weepy!) I'm going to miss them SO much! They are truly a class like no other, and one I will never forget.

I am feeling more and more guilty about leaving them. I know it's for something good, and I know they'll be fine, but wow... December 19 is going to be a hard day to get through.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Makes sense to me!

We're doing a unit on mapping right now at school. The kids are learning about symbols and legends, and today I had them create their own island. They got to plan where the mountains would be, the rivers, the school, the neighbourhood, the parks, etc. It really was quite a fun project! As they were colouring their maps, one grade two girl looked up at me:

"Miss Hillary, look, do you see how I coloured this symbol grey and red mixed?"

"Yes! It looks neat!"

"Well I did it because I thought it would look kind of bloody, and that's good, cause it's the hospital."

Ummm... ok, then! :)


Busy, busy, busy! That's been my life the last two weeks. Between report cards, getting my placement confirmed, filling in all manner of permit applications, waivers, policies, etc, planning my fundraiser, writing and sending out prayer letters, making prayer cards to be printed, getting stabbed in the arm with more deadly diseases... life has been more than a little hectic. So many times I've wanted to sit down and write - reflect about this whole Africa process, talk about my kidlets, ramble aimlessly.... oh sorry, what? ... but I've been TOO. TIRED. and have had NO time! I totally even bailed on NaBloPoMo. (Cause you know, THAT was my biggest priority!)

I have my departure date - January 7 - and time is a-tickin'!

So much to dooooooo!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mountain moving

An open letter to God: :)

OK, God. You've always promised us that with you, nothing is impossible. That if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can say to that mountain, "Move from here to there" and it will move.

Well, I've got a pretty big mountain looming large in my view right now. An $11,300 mountain. And it needs to move by January 6. Which is four and a half weeks away. With that little thing called Christmas in the middle of it.

Even as I type that, I'm getting inklings of, "Not your timing, child, but mine," and "To the creator of the universe, $11,300 is NOTHING." I know you can do it. Somewhere in me is that little mustard seed that tells me that the shorter the time, the better the God stories. I guess I'm kind of at that point where I'm doing something that really CAN'T be done on my own.

So guess what that means? It means you're going to have to come through big time. Make good on those promises. I know you can be trusted. I know you have a plan.

I do believe. Help my unbelief.

Democracy my not-so-skinny white... well, you know

Ok. I don't really talk politics here, well, ever. Maybe three posts in all my blog's history? But this? This is ridiculous. Take a wee boo at what's been going down in the Canadian government the last few weeks. (And those of you who run away screaming at political stuff? Seriously. Read this, and TELL me this isn't MESSED UP.) Are ya ready?

We had a federal election in Canada two months ago. You know, the one where they spent 300 million dollars to basically come up with the exact same government they had before, minus a few seats for the liberals, plus a few seats of the conservatives (seriously - it BARELY changed)? You know, the THIRD federal election in five years? That resulted in yet anOTHER minority government? Well it's about to get dissolved.

So here's the breakdown to show how the minority government works, for background:

Conservatives won the most seats, at 143, so they form the governing party.
Liberals got 77 (the official opposition)
Bloc Quebecois got 49
New Democratic Party got 37
Independents got 2

So the Liberals (who lost BIG time and their leader was pretty much disgraced because he led the biggest Liberal loss... ever? In a long time, anyway), Bloc (whose main goal is to have Quebec LEAVE the country and create a new country of their own - good for a federal party, no?), and NDP together have 163, which is actually MORE than the governing party, hence the minority government.

The danger with a minority government, other than making it very difficult to get anything done, is that if the other parties band together and have a vote of non-confidence in the governing party, then the government is dissolved and an election is called.

Now the Liberals, Bloc, and NDP all have VERY different priorities, so don't usually work well together. Usually. Over the last few weeks, however, they have made an unprecedented coalition to vote down the current government because they don't agree with it's policies and think it doesn't have a good plan for the country. Well, duh, that's why you're not part of THEIR party, dum dums. A non-confidence vote would either trigger another election or cause the governor general to name the coalition to be the ruling party (which is more likely, cause if another election was called, people would MUTINY... and likely elect the biggest Conservative majority EVER cause they'd be so ticked off at everybody else for making them vote AGAIN, TWO months after the last one). Of course, the mutiny might be BIGGER (and SHOULD be bigger!) if the parties that the country did NOT vote for suddenly were APPOINTED to rule the country? Um, hello? I thought we were a democracy?

So basically, if this non-confidence vote goes through, the elected government will be replaced with the election losers, led by the man who led his party to the biggest loss ever. It's a big ol' LEGAL "We didn't win so we're staging a giganto hissy fit and taking power anyway to govern a country that REJECTED us."


I am SOOOO not a letter writer, but I'll be writing the Governor General to say that heck YEAH we'd better get to vote for a new government if this one falls. Dude, I'll send in my ballot from the middle of nowhere in AFRICA for that one.

:end rant:

Monday, December 01, 2008

One Day For AIDS

Click the logo to go to the site
Watch the video and ask yourself: what little bit will YOU do?

Happy Christmas Month!

To celebrate, here's a link to my new favourite Christmas song. Like many things, it only gets better with age. Be sure to listen to the very end!