Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Underneath the stars
Just a simple man and wife
somewhere in the dark
his words cut the silent night

Take my hand for the child
That you carry is God's own
And though it seems the road is long,

We're not that far from Bethlehem
Where all our hope and joy began
For in our arms we'll cherish him
We're not that far from Bethlehem

Let us celebrate
As the Christmases go by
Learn to live our days
with our hearts near to the child

Ever drawn, ever close
To the only love that lasts
And though two thousand years have passed

We're not that far from Bethlehem
Where all our hope and joy began
For when our hearts still cherish him
We're not that far....

We're not that far from Bethlehem

Song by Point of Grace

Sunday, December 20, 2009

On bullets and birthdays

I know I haven't been super active on my blog lately. There are a few reasons for that, one being that coming back from Kenya is proving harder than I thought it would be. Not so much missing it, though I DO, very much. (Huh... just remembered that I dreamed I saw my friend Janet from Korr in the middle of a herd of camels meandering through Gastown last night. Weird). There's just other stuff that I'm not even sure how to talk about, let alone write about. Life is still good, just hard.

Oh, and today marks four months that I've been home! Crazy!

So here are some updates, bullet-style.

* I'm on holidays!!! Good heavens sakes alive, I was going nuts last week. Just super worn out and my brain was having far more malfunctions than usual (hehe). I haven't had an extended period of rest since summer 2008. So yeah, I'm tired! Good thing it's Christmas holidays and I have two weeks off to rest... oh wait, I don't... let me introduce you to bullet number two.

* I'm going to Saint Louis! The AIM Canada office called me about two weeks ago to ask if I'd like to go to Urbana, a huuuuuge missions conference held every three years. They wanted a Canadian rep at the booth for the conference. Five hours a day at the booth, and after that I get to take in the seminars and the city (me and 23,000 other people! Yeah, Urbana is HUGE). So at 4am on December 27 I'm headed to the airport and flying to Missouri! I'm excited! (And for economy rate I get to fly back on business class! Booyeah!) I'll be taking my laptop FOR SURE, because of bullet number three.

* Pictures! Good gracious, I have thousands of photos from my trip I have barely touched yet. And a book I've promised to make about the Tirrim project. And slideshows/presentations about my trip to make. And I was planning on working on all that over the week that I'll be at Urbana. Hmm... maybe I can do both??? I'll have time on the planes and lots of time when I'm not at the AIM booth, right? Ach, I know me. I'll want to jam in every seminar I can to take advantage of being at Urbana. It's been really hard to work on the photos and the presentation this fall because of bullet number four.

* (side note - is anyone getting the impression that these bullets and 'smooth transitions' are more of an excuse to be lazy and not write properly? No? Good, I didn't think so.) Bullet number four. My computer is a dinosaur. And it's suddenly come to the realization that "Hey, wait, dinosaurs are extinct!" It is making every effort to join it's counterparts in extincty-ness, and, despite my best efforts to the contrary, it is winning. It started with all the sites I log into and tell my computer to remember not remembering me anymore. I have to enter my user and password every. single. time. Then Firefox started randomly shutting down on me. Really fun. Mid email, mid reading, mid video - BOOM. Crashes. But the MOST fun is when my computer just randomly turns off. It restarts itself, but it takes forever, and whatever I was working on is gone. See why working on pictures from Kenya scares the crap out of me? No way no how am I going to risk losing ANYTHING (and yes, I have them backed up. Twice. On two different external hard drives. So really I shouldn't worry, but it just makes doing ANYTHING really, really annoying.). And then there was that time a few days ago when the computer crashed totally, didn't turn back on (in fact, I couldn't GET it back on), and started making this weird beeping siren-y noise that took a full 30 seconds to stop even after I unplugged it. Um, hello, Santa? Got any brand new computers in your sack for me?

How appropriate. No sooner had I typed that last question mark and hit "save" (thankfully I've learned to save every three seconds!) did Mr. Compysaurus Rex die on me again! It came to life again, except now I'm the one who feels like roaring!

BUT, in other news... today is a birthday (an anniversary?)! A milestone, if you will! I've been blogging for FIVE YEARS!

Here's my first post! It's riveting. (What can I say, I was a newbie!) :) But five years has brought a heck of a lot! New friends, new jobs, learning to do a little bit of blog designing, stalkers, changing schools, heartbreak, a trip to Africa, lots and lots of learning... it's definitely been fun (well, except for the heart break and the stalker bits!).

So Happy Birthday to HelloHillary! I truly do love this crazy tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful, beautiful life!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I knew it was Christmas time because...

Miss Hillary's class has been working on "stretchy sentences" and "wow words" lately, using a variety of tactics. One is the framework below...

I knew it was Christmas time because
On Monday I saw one...
On Tuesday I saw two...
On Wendesday I saw three...
On Thursday I saw four...
On Friday I saw five...
... and that's how I knew it was Christmas!

The kids have to finish the sentences by picking a Christmas THING, telling what KIND of thing it is, and telling what is was DOING. (Adjective - subject noun - verb phrase, for all you grammar nuts!)

For example: On Monday I saw one green Christmas tree glowing in the window.

I've given the kids licence to be creative and silly, provided the objects are Christmasy type objects and the sentences make sense. And they CRACK me up! Here are a few of the best...

I knew it was Christmas time because...

On Monday, I saw one angry Christmas tree jumping on a nerd.
On Tuesday I saw two live snowballs burying Santa in the snow.
On Wednesday I saw three chocolate reindeer eating each other.
On Thursday I saw four "chuddy" (chubby) gingerbread men running from people who want to eat them.
On Friday I saw five flying snow angels sticking their fingers in their noses.

On Monday I saw one shiny Christmas tree running away from people.
On Tuesday I saw two teeny weeny snowmen melting in a desert.
On Wednesday, I saw three funny, chocolatey reindeer shaking fairy dust to bring Santa to town.
On Thursday I saw four humoungous snowflakes crushing elves.
On Friday I saw four bad Santas stealing presents from teachers.

On Monday I saw oneround Snata laughing "Ho! Ho! Ho!"
On Tuesday I saw two bright green Christmas trees dancing in the school.
On Wednesday I saw three plain stockings running away from Sanata (complete with picture of an angry Santa saying, "Get back here!")
On Thursday I saw four little snowflakes walking down the hill.
On Friday I saw five itty bitty reindeer dancing in a field.

On Monday I saw one glittery snowflake dancing to the ground.
On Tuesday I saw two cheeky red and green mice in stockings nibbling on cheese.
On Wednesday I saw three gigantic Santa reindeer practicing thier take off.
On Thursday I saw four skinny bald Santas yelling at each other.
On Friday I saw five fat tall Christmas trees giving high fives to me.

And THAT'S how I knew it was Christmas.

How do YOU know that it's Christmas?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Heard this on the way home tonight. Haven't heard it in a long time, but sang along to every line and laughed about how very, very true it is. Brad Paisley is a genius.

The video is fantastic. You can watch it here (couldn't find it on YouTube for the life of me).

Someday, I'm gonna be famous.
Do I have talent? Well... no.
These days you don't really need it,
Thanks to reality shows.

Can't wait to date a supermodel,
Can't wait to sue my Dad.
Can't wait to wreck a Ferrari,
On my way to rehab.

'Cause when you're a celebrity,
It's adios reality.
You can act just like a fool,
People think you're cool
Just 'cause you're on TV.
I can throw a major fit
When my latte isn't just how I like it.
When they say I've gone insane,
I'll blame it on the fame,
And the pressures that go with
Bein' a celebrity.

I'll get to cry to Barbara Walters,
When things don't go my way.
An' I'll get community service,
No matter which law I break.

I'll make the supermarket tabloids,
They'll write some awful stuff.
But the more they run my name down,
The more my price goes up.

Cuz, when you're a celebrity, it's adios reality.
no matter what ya do, people think you're cool
Just 'cause you're on TV.
Now, I can fall in and out of love,
Have marriages that barely last a month.
When they go down the drain,
I'll blame it on the fame,
And say: "It's just so tough,
Bein' a celebrity."

So let's hitch up the wagons and head out west,
To the land of fun in the sun.
We'll be real world, bachelor, jackass millionaires [*cough* Jon Gosselin *cough*]
Hey, hey Hollywood, here we come.

Yeah, when you're a celebrity, it's adios reality.
No matter what you do,
People think you're cool just 'cause you're on TV
Bein' a celebrity.

Monday, November 23, 2009


A post every day... or, you know, a two week break with nothin'. Meh, whatever works. I found myself just posting for the sake of posting and realized that I just didn't really care that much. So, yeah. Here I be.

But what I was REALLY going to talk about is pom poms. Sparkly, smooshy, fuzzy little pom poms with which I can get my kids to do practically ANYTHING. (Muah hah ha haaaaa!)

One of the motivators I use in my class are these lovely balls of manipulation motivation. I have a big baggie of them, and when the class does something particularly well - it could be a specific skill they're working on, like walking quietly in the halls, or just in in general good on-task chunk of time - I'll make a big hoopla and put a pom pom into a large jar. The idea is that when the jar is full they get a prize as a class - a movie, extra centers/play time, an extra gym period, that kind of thing.

So one thing I'll always do when I'm away and there's been a guest teacher in the class is (if the note is good) I'll read parts of the note to the class and praise them for a good day with the guest teacher. I've been getting pretty good reports lately, and last Thursday was no different. So today, I was making a big stink about how teachers love to come back to notes about who was helpful, did their work, listened well, etc etc etc.

Oh you guys, I can't even TELL you how much it makes teachers happy to get notes like this from a guest teacher. I am always so proud to have such a great class when guest teachers come in. Teachers looooove getting notes like these!

In the middle of all my oozing, one of my grade three girls pipes up with this gem:

"Then you really should get out more often!"

Allllrighty then!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

She Loves Me, by Jeff Gray

When I got home tonight, I had a fairly large envelope in the mail. It was a book, sent from somewhere in the States, called "She Loves Me" - a collection of observations that kids have of their teacher, and how they know that they are loved by the things the teacher does. It's illustrated by a 14 year old girl who has grown up in Malawi. The book is absolutely beautiful, and it brought tears to my eyes.

And I have no idea where it came from.

There's no return address, and there is just a simple, self stick, hand written address label on the envelope. I can't even tell what state it came from cause the post mark is on the plastic window of the envelope. I didn't order it, I didn't request it. I've never even heard of it!

Any ideas? Email me (link at right) if you know!

How mysterious!

Science World and my Big Fat Hairy Mistake

"This! Is! Soooo! AWESOME!"

Those were the words of one of my kidlets even before we actually started doing anything at Science World on Tuesday. You know a field trip is going to be a hit when...

It was a busy, busy day. We started right off the bat with a workshop on structures. All the kids got to participate in building a giant dome out of triangles and pentagons. There were three jobs - holders, bolters, and wing-nutters. Hmm... maybe I've found a new nickname for some of my most endearingly quirky kidlets! (hehehe... just kidding... maybe!) Poor kids - some had never been to Science World before and our workshop was just off the coolest gallery in the place, with a glass wall. There was so much to take in on the other side of the glass it was hard to concentrate!

After the workshop my kidlets and I rushed off to catch the Omnimax movie, Beavers. What COOL little critters! (And the beavers are interesting, too! Hardee har har...) The theatre was really steep and the kids were a little spooked, especially cause we sat at the top! It took the two boys beside me about five minutes before they stopped clutching their chairs! If you ever want to have some fun, take 6, 7, and 8 year olds to a giagantic Omnimax movie on any kind of science topic. Their comments were PRECIOUS! Kids are such little scientists anyway, they were making predictions and observations right left and center. I seriously need to carry a notebook around with me wherever I go to write some of the stuff they say down. (Leesepea, I don't know HOW you remember whole conversations from your school day... it must be your superpower! By the end of the day, I can barely remember my own name!).

A few great comments:

Upon seeing the sweeping mountains and valley containing the soon-to-be-dammed-up river: "Wooow, that place is so beautiful, I think my eyes are in heaven!"

While watching a bear chase the beavers, climb up on the dam, and break a hole through their house: "Ooooh, come on, beavers! Run! That bear wants to make you into a beaver sandwich! Ruuuun!"

And my favourite, during the beaver-mating scene: "Hey look! They're dancing!"
They were let loose to explore the galleries in the afternoon, and it went really well. They mostly ran from activity to activity, sort of half trying it, never really reading what to do, but enjoying it all the same.

The only downer was a super big blunder on MY part. Holy guilty teacher syndrome, bat man! One of my munchkins lives pretty far from the school, and so it was easier for mom to bring him directly to Science World, so we just met him there. Poor little guy wasn't feeling well so he was having a really hard time enjoying the day. He was complaining of a headache and didn't really want to participate in anything all morning. He curled up and went to sleep for most of the movie, face all scrunched up in pain. I felt so terrible for him. He kinda looked at me like he was doing something bad by sleeping, but I just gave his back a rub and told him to sleep, it was totally ok.

Come lunch time, when all the kids were getting out their bag lunches from the school's lunch program, I realized with horror that I had left this kiddo's lunch back at the school! Aaaargh! I quickly asked someone if they wanted to share their sandwich, and I got out my banana and a granola bar, but I still had to break the news that I had forgotten his lunch. I pulled him aside and apologized profusely, offered him the food that I had, and told him that because I had forgotten, I'd buy him a special drink, did he want Coke or Orange Crush? He seemed to be placated with that, so PHEW! A few minutes into the show (we were eating and watching a science demo show at the same time), he removed himself to go sit in a quieter place. I went over a few minutes later to check on him and he burst into tears.

"[Kiddo], what's the matter? Are you still feeling sick?" He shook his head no. "Hmm... are your feelings hurt because I forgot your lunch at school?" WOAH NELLY, the waterworks started even harder and he nodded his head yes. My heart nearly cracked in two! Of all the kids in my class, he's one of the most sensitive, AND he wasn't feeling well, AND his big mean teacher forgot his FOOD! Good grief, *I* nearly started crying!

"Oh, sweetie, you KNOW I didn't do it on purpose..." Knowing this kiddo and his sense of humour, I tried a tactic to get him to stop crying... "I just made a BIG... FAT... HAIRY mistake!"

I had him at "fat." He guffawed at that, and downright giggled at "hairy." I repeated it again and he was in stitches. He didn't like the sandwich (he had ordered a different kind), so I went upstairs and bought him a bag of popcorn instead. Phew! Crisis averted!

So here's the lesson, folks. With grade two boys, just bust out some fun words like "fat" or "goober" or "snotty pants" and you're almost guaranteed they'll listen to ya!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Take two minutes, would you mind?
It’s a pittance of time
For the boys and the girls who went over
In peace may they rest, may we never forget why they died.
It’s a pittance of time

~ Terry Kelly

Monday, November 09, 2009

Move over, Gretzy, Miss Hillary's class is a-comin'!

Have I mentioned how much I love my class this year? Cause I do. Love my class. They are SO fun! And super adorable. And I SO wish I could show you pictures of their cuteness.

We were in gym today, and we're vaguely doing a floor hockey unit. We do a few passing drills, talk super briefly about a few general rules, and then let them play a game. Of course, they're little, and there's only eleven of them (oh yeah, did I mention I only have ELEVEN KIDS??? I am such a better teacher when I only have eleven kids to deal with, let me tell you!). This makes the gym seem really, really empty, but is good in the sense that they pretty much have no choice but to participate.

I was so proud of one of my girls today - when we first started the unit, she refused to play and just hung back holding the stick limply in one hand. She didn't know how to play and I don't think had a lot of confidence because of it - heck, I can SO relate! I HATED sports as a kid. I had no clue, and so had no confidence at all in gym and in team sport situations. I totally don't blame her! But today she was in there, shooting the ring (we don't use a puck, but a rubber ring thing), passing, stopping, shooting... AH! I was so PROUD of her!

Ah, but where I was really going with this was the goggles. Always safety-conscious, elementary kids have to wear goggles when they play floor hockey. The kind we have are HUGE on the kids, and I totally thought they would all complain, but not ONE of them do. They wear these crazy things and rip around the gym with their hockey sticks, SO into it, and let me tell you, it's all I can do not to totally crack up when an itty bitty grade two boy who's significantly shorter than the net is playing goalie, all gung-ho, wielding a hockey stick that's six inches taller than he is, in goggles that cover three-quarters of his face... and he's actually REALLY GOOD!

If you ever need a pick me up, get a class of grade two and three kids and turn them loose with hockey sticks (heaven help us all!).

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Hooray for a relaxed weekend!

Low key birthday party on Friday night, a bunch of errands and some house cleaning on Saturday, games night at a friend's just down the street Saturday night, a great church service Sunday and lunch with a friend, more household organizing, and a lazy evening on the couch watching Patch Adams. 'Twas grand!

How was YOUR weekend?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Bird's Eye View

UN.BE.LIEVABLE. Since Korr isn't on any map, I never was very sure where to situate it. Since coming home, I was able to pin point it a little closer, using the mountains (hills) around as landmarks, and I actually was pretty close! But this week I was poking around on Google maps again, and learned that YOU CAN SEE KORR on the map! The town, the goobs, the airstrip, the school, the church, my house... even the WELLS are visible! Needless to say, I was pretty excited! It absolutely BLOWS. ME. AWAY. that we can see this!

I've added some markers to show you where stuff is, and to help explain the difference between the "town" and the nomadic villages that are scattered throughout the desert. I've shown our house and the church in one map, and a Rendille goob (village) in the other. You can click and zoom in around each one (click the blue markers to see what each thing is), or click the link below to be taken to a more "big picture" type map. You can zoom in and get a bit of perspective as to where stuff was.

Go to the "big picture" map to explore

Alternatively, here are some links if you want to see...
Tirrim Primary
Tirrim Secondary and the Tirrim Center
Korr Town
The airstrip
View of a current goob and an old site after they have moved
View of a "foor," the camps where warriors stay when they're searching for grazing with the animals

Our house and the church

View Korr in a larger map

A goob (nomadic village)

View Korr in a larger map

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Kenyan Connection

You know how when you learn a new word, you suddenly seem to hear it everywhere? It seems to be the same with going to Africa. Once you've been, it never leaves you (not that you'd WANT it to!), and you find connections seemingly everywhere.

The first Sunday I was back, a lady from Kenya recognized my purseand my scarf, and wanted to know if I'd been to Kenya...

A friend's two roomates are from Kenya and Tanzania, and he's encouraging me to try out my (extremely limited) Kiswahili on them...

I take a break from housework and flip on the TV. The Simpsons is on and, whoop, it's the one where they go on Safari...

I go to the U2 concert and the couple beside overhear me talking to my friends about Africa. Turns out they worked with a Christian orgnaization (I forget which) in Nairobi for two years, and had actually HEARD of Korr...

I meet the members of my new discipleship group last night, and one of them has been to Kenya for a month with YWAM...

These are, of course, just a very few examples. Seems everywhere I go, Kenya pops up in some way, shape or form. Not that I'm complaining, of course. It's definitely not a bad place to be connected to!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Um... thanks?

I really don't know what to do with this.

On my way home from work, I stopped for gas. I also checked for oil, which was a break from usual routine, and so with the second time I closed my door, I locked my keys in my car. Genius, I know. It was just what I needed when I was trying to get home early, get a little bit of work done, and go to bed. (I'm feeling much better today. Still tired, but way better. Don't know what yesterday was all about.)

So I'm at the counter in the station asking the guy for a phone book so I can call a tow truck to unlock my car. A pain, I know, but with my insurance, I'll get it reimbursed, it's just the pain of waiting for a truck to show up. But then a dude in line behind me hears this and asks me, "Hey, what's the problem?"

Me: Uh, I locked my keys in my car.
Dude: Oh, I can help you, I've got a slim jim.
Me: Really? Oh, that's awesome, thanks!
We walk outside to my car, and Dude says: Ok, so my shop is really close, let me just go get it and come back. I'll be about fifteen mintues.
Me: Oh, wow, um... Thanks! Do you have time for that?
Dude: Yeah, sure. I mean, if it takes a really long time, there may be some compensation involved, but I'll try to do it for free.
Me, warning lights going off in my brain: Uh, well, thanks. If you're willing to help, that's great, but if there's a charge, well, uh, I'll get reimbursed for a tow truck, so I'd rather do that.
Dude: Naw, don't worry, I'll try to do it for free.
Me: Uh, ok, well thanks a lot!
Dude: Yeah, don't worry about it, I'll be back in about fifteen minutes.

I go into the gas station and chat with the attendants a bit. They know this guy and say that yeah, his shop is just around the corner. Less than ten minutes later, Dude shows back up again with a coat hanger and a variety of long metal pokey things, none of which are a slim jim, but het, if it gets the job done...

Dude: Yeah, my buddy has the slim jim. He's in Richmond and said no way. If it was me, he'd be here in a flash, but I had to be honest, said I was just helpin' someone out at the PetroCan... said he wouldn't come over, so I dunno if this'll work, but let me give it a try.
Me: Ok, sure.
Dude, after two or three minutes of poking around and popping the lock: There ya go!
Me: Awesome, thank you SO much!
Dude: Here, you can have this, too [the tool he's fashioned to pop the lock]. You'll need it next time.
Me, not really wanting it: Thanks, but you can keep it.
Dude: No, man, you did it once, you'll do it again, keep it and you can use it next time.

I throw the thing in my car, not wanting to get into the discussion that, should I lock my keys in the car again, how am I supposed to actually GET it from out of my car? Whatever.

And then I realize he's not such a good Samaritan after all.

Dude: So how does $15 bucks sound?
Me: Uh, well I told you I could have been reimbursed for the tow truck. [I genuinely had no cash, didn't ASK for his help, and already TOLD him I could have had it done for free]

Dude starts to make protesting faces, and I notice that, as he's got his variety of screwdrivers, hangers, and metal tubes shoved in my window, reefing on them back and forth, he's totally dented up and scratched the metal trim.

Me: Uh, it's all dented here now...
Dude: Ok, well make it ten. Bring it over to my garage, we can fix it... But not for free. [chuckles]

[Side note: Where he pointed to when was was talking about his garage was down a street I drive every single day to and from work, and there's nothing but residential there for blocks and blocks, so it's obviously quite literally a GARAGE that he does work out of. Probably not equipped to fix the damage, not that I'd take it to him, anyway!]

Me: Look, I've got no cash, and I already told you...
Dude, getting angry and swearing under his breath as he storms away: Well thanks for being CHEAP!

Alllllrighty then. Not really sure what to do with that. I mean, I DID get my car opened, and didn't have to wait for a tow truck, but Dude totally thrashed my car. I'd rather have waited an hour. And then I feel like a creep for not paying the guy, but I TOLD him, and he did it anyway.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

How I didn't ALERADY fail the NaBloPoMo challenge

Step one - start feeling a wee tad feverish and more than a wee tad achy at school, and really, really, really tired.

Step two - prepare for a sub for tomorrow JUST in case.

Step three - shiver and freeze and shiver and freeze and shiver and freeze some more all evening long.

Step four - get home and fall directly onto couch under the warmest blanket I have and shiver and freeze and ache some more.

Step five - wake up bleary eyed, certain it's the middle of the night, check email to see about a conference and realize that Oh Crapola, I didn't post, I failed NaBloPoMo already.

Step six - not really care.

Step seven - look at clock and realize it's 11:58pm. Ah HA! Still time!

Step eight - post this silly little list.

Step nine - march myself straight back to bed.

Step ten - goodnight.

Monday, November 02, 2009


So here's a few snippets of what I've been up to the last few weeks...


Went up Cypress with my friend Chris around Thanksgiving. 'Twas glorious to be out in the mountains, especially with all the fantastical fall colours. But good golly, I'm a big ball of wuss when it comes to hiking these days. Something about the no mountain and 45 degree heat situation in Korr that wasn't so great for keeping me in top hiking form. That was pretty much the easiest hike in the world and I was all Little Miss Jelly-Legs by the end of it. But it sure was purdy!

Hot tickets

Last Monday some friends offered me a ticket to go see U2. How could I say no?!? We went, and it was SPECTACULAR. A-MA-ZING. ZING, ZING, ZING! Got some great pics, too! Still in the process of culling out the (many, many, many) bad ones, but here's one that's not to shabby. It's fun, Bono and the Edge look like they're floating!


My costume was rather lame and predictable (woohoo... cowgirl! I had grand plans for a zebra, but that never panned out. I had no time, and frankly, just didn't care that much.) My friend Trudy's costume, on the other hand - FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC.


Fall beautiful-ness. I love it! It's been GORGEOUS this fall. The leaves seem particularly vibrant and colourful this year, the weather's been beautiful, and life in general has just been good. Sorry, no picture for that one. Picture a happy Hillary!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Feast or famine

It's been pretty scarce around here these days. I've missed a few weekends of Watch it Weekends, partly cause I'm busy, and partly cause I'm not sure anybody's actually watching. But I definitely need to get blogging again, mostly cause it's a great way to get my thoughts out. That and it's fun to write.

So what better way to switch from famine to feast than NaBloPoMo? Ah, yes. National Blog Posting Month. The challenge: post every day for the month of November. Why? Cause it's a good challenge, it's fun to read what others have to say, and cause good golly I still have so much to blog about it might get my butt in gear to finish some of those Kenya posts I really want to get written before I forget! So some might be long, some might be short, some that are deep and profound, most that are anything but... but posts there will be!

Happy November! NaBloPoMo, here we go!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

As in, for FREE?

Let me tell you, using a Kenyan cell phone as totally RUINED me for the cell phone shenanigans that go on here in my country. I'm sorry, access fee? Three year contracts? Minute counting? Ridiculous charges? BAH HUMBUG TO ALL OF YOU!

I definitely long for the days of "Buy phone (cheap). Buy SIM card (less than $2). Buy top up card (as much or as little as you want). Phone. For cheap. Run out of credit? Go buy another card. You can buy them anywhere, even Korr, where the nearest network is a three to four hour walk and a huff up a mountain away. Needless to say, I had a little bit of rage at the Canadian wireless business when I got home. (AND? Did you know that, at least with one company, when you answer your phone, it starts charging you from when it started RINGING, not when you actually said hello? GAH!)

However, ease of cell phone use wasn't the only thing I learned when I was in Kenya. I also learned about bargaining and bartering. Oh, yes. Bartering. Not just for Kenyan curio markets, people.

When I got home, I wanted to look into maximizing the value of my cell plan, so I called up Company Friendly, my current provider's competition, to scope out the deals I could get on plans. The guy was really helpful, and told me all the options and all the features I could get on a new mobile plan. Pretty comparable, though it looks like a slightly better deal than the one I had with my current provider, Company Red, who I've been with for over six years now.

I decided to scope out my other options with Red, as I had just gotten whatever to get my cell up and running again when I got home from Kenya, and hadn't yet done a lot of research. I asked about plans and options, and got some dud in customer service who didn't offer any extra info like the Friendly dude did, and for that alone, I was willing to abandon ship, so I called up Friendly again, but this time with a little bit of ammo.

"Soooo, I'm thinking of switching to you guys from Red, but I'm just wondering what kind of incentive you can give me to do that..."

Well, click, click, click, and off I was transferred to the special, "Come on over to OUR side" department, and was lured in with all kinds of extra features and a waaaay better deal that I was getting with Red. Sweet! So I signed up, and my phone arrived about a week later. But, just before I called to activate my new Friendly phone, I remembered a very important bargaining rule: always go back to the Other Guy and tell them what Competition Guy is offering you. Maybe Other Guy can sweeten the deal."

So I called Red.

"Hi! So, I'm a six year customer with you guys, and I'm about to switch to Friendly. I've got the new phone here, and was just about to call and activate it when I thought I'd better call you and see what you're prepared to do to keep me as a Red customer."

A lot, apparently.

They asked what Friendly was offering me - which was a really good deal - and then completely blew it out. of. the. water. They were throwing features and freebies at me faster than I could keep track of them. I made a list (three times I had to ask them to slow down so I could write it down), then told them I'd think about it and get back to them.

Just for kicks, I called Friendly back to see if they could better it.

"Uhhh... wow. We can't even TOUCH that," they told me. Ok, fair enough. I had a 30 day satisfaction clause in my contract, so I had them send me a return mailer and I sent back my phone, called Red, and signed up for a three year contract, which includes the following:

* 250 minutes per month (was 200, but as he was running through my features at the very end was like, "250 minutes, right?" Ummmm... yeeeessss.)
* Evenings and weekends starting at 6pm, not at 9, included
* Free incoming calls
* Caller ID, voice mail, and 2500 texts
* 100 minutes of long distance a month
* FREE Blackberry Flip phone, without a data plan (apparently nearly impossible to get)
* 65% off the data plan fee, should I want one (I don't)

... all for under Not Very Much Money At All... ten dollars LESS, in fact, than when all I had was 150 minutes, caller ID, and evenings at 6pm.

So with all this, now, I'm thinking seriously of canceling my home phone, so I called Red again (gotta always go through the Retention department now) to ask about upping my plan minutes a little bit a month, just in case.

"So, what's the next Retention plan up from mine if I wanted to increase my monthly minutes? I'm thinking of canceling my home phone and want to e sure I don't go over my minutes."

Her answer?

"Well, I could give you 100 bonus minutes a month for the duration of your contract."

"Um, bonus minutes, as in for FREE?"

"Yep. One hundred minutes a month for the next three years. So you'd have 350 minutes instead of 250 for the same price."

"Uh, wow."

"Well, you HAVE been with us for a really long time, so that's why we can offer you that bonus."

I thought that's why I got all that OTHER bonus stuff, but OK!

"Well, uh, sure! Sign me up!"

So, seriously folks. Finished your contract with your current cell company? Call them and tell them you're about to jump ship, and watch 'em scramble! I think I might call them back next month and see what else they'd like to throw in for me!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Watch it Weekends - The regulars

Welllll... it's a long weekend. Does that mean I'm allowed two "Watch It Weekend" posts? Oh wait, my blog, so YES!

I LOVE these kiddos. Khoboso is about three and a half or four, Kulmise (the older girl) is in class two (maybe six? seven?) and Liyoogo, the kookiest, craziest little boy, is about the same age as Kulmi. Good gracious, I love these children.

All three of them live nearby. Khoboso lives just "across the street" and her mom Nabiro works at our house sometimes. Khoboso is the one who was so named because she had finally cooled the burning in her mother's heart for a child of her own. And OH, this little girl is feisty! Every day when I walked to school, I'd be greeted by Khoboso, sca-REAMING at the top of her lungs from 100 meters or more to get my attention - "Hee-la-ree Haf-a-rey-ya! HEE-LA-REE HAF-A-REY-YA!" She's use both my given and and my Rendille name just to make SURE I heard. I'm pretty sure all of KORR could hear! She's sit on my lap sometimes at church, run up to me arms wide when she'd see me coming, and we'd play together often when she was over at our house, which was often. It was for her that I learned the phrases, "goob iro" (go home) and "Madono... Mele... Chirri torro ati igu'da, malinka makilegirdamo." (I don't like that... No.... If you hit me again, I won't play with you anymore today.) Yep, she had a bit of attitude, too! If I played with another kid for too long and didn't give her attention, she'd pout and look at me with betrayal on her face and sometimes give me a smack or two. Ah, but I LOVED to play with her. Colouring, reading stories, and all kinds of wild play! What a cutie! This is her telling me NOT to take away the speaker! See? SASS!

Kulmise was like Khoboso's big sister. She was often at Nabiro's helping to take care of Khobo. Girls are taught to be shy in that culture (Khobo is definitely not within that norm! hehehe!), so she would often cover her face with her arm and peek a grin at me. She knew a tiny bit of English, and helped me learn a bit of Rendille, too! She'd like to poke her head around the corner of my room,too, to say hello and to play a while. Oh, and of course, to get a sweet! Kulmise was often the one to drag Khobo back home after she had dug her heels in and refused to go! (I loved playing with her, don't get me wrong, but if Khobo had her way we'd be playing 24/7!) Here Kulmi is trying on my GIANT rimirimo. See what I mean about the shy? :)

And then there's Liyoogo. He's the kiddo who wasn't breathing when he was born and his parents tried everything, to no avail. Then finally they prayed to this God these missionaries were speaking of, and he started to breathe. His name means "Hands lifted up to God." Liyoogo. Is. Crazy. I love him! He's such a little clown and entertainer. He's the son of Boya, one of our night guards, so he was often around, too. He's in class two as well, like Kulmi. This kid cracks. me. up. I'd often show Boya, his dad, the pictures and videos of his son hamming it up and he'd watch with a big grin on his face and just say, "MADAAKKINO!" (which translates into "wow" or "oh my goodness" or, most likely in this case, something like, "good grief!") *GRIN* I could have posted the pic of him with his eyelids turned inside out - one of his favourite tricks - but I figured I'd spare you! Click here if you're dying to see!

So ANYWAY, the videos. These three loved to come visit me (and I loved to have them!). I didn't have much, but they loved to colour. One afternoon they were hanging out in my room and I decided to crank some tunes and have a party. It started with some groovin' on the bed...

... and then turned to a full-on dance party! What more do you need than music, some sunglasses, and three kooky kids? :) Oops, four! Somo, a traditional boy and a friend of Kulmi and Liyoogo, heard the music and came in to see what it was all about. He was pretty camera shy but still managed to bust a move!

Yep, just another day in Korr! :) (um, except that makes it sound like I'm still IN Korr! Confused with all the back and forth? Vancouver! Kenya! Vancouver! Kenya! Yep, welcome to my brain!)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Watch it Weekends - Singing! All! The! Time!

Ok, so one really big thing I regret is not taking longer video clips. Ten seconds is NOT. ENOUGH. Thirty seconds is better. Guess I'll just have to go back to do it again.

Every Sunday after lunch, the trucks go out to the goobs, filled to the brim and more with people from the church, for evangelism. Everybody climbs off the truck and walks through the village, inviting people to come and hear the Word of God. They sing, give a lesson, and talk together for anywhere from one to two hours or so. If there are sick people in the village, they'll visit them, pray for them, and take word back to Nick and Lynne or hte dispensary if any "dawa" (medicine) is needed. I joined the group one Sunday afternoon. I've already written about it, but here are a few videos.

I love them, because it pretty much shows that the Rendille sing constantly. I don't think there was ever a time when I was in the truck with a Rendille and somebody wasn't singing. Here are just snippets of that Sunday afternoon.

Traditional Rendille mamas sing in as they hop a ride back to their goob.

Judy often runs the kids program. They're singing the song they've been learning for the rest of us.

On the way home in the clattery green land cruiser. We're still singing! :)

A view from the top. Oh, how I miss driving trough the desert on the back of a land cruiser!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

That's ONE way to get 'em to remember me!

Yesterday, our class went on a field trip. We've been talking about the community - learning about different people in the community and how they help with things we need or want, how communities change, roles and responsibilities of different people in the community - so I booked a field trip to the bank.

As we walked there, we were on the lookout for community helpers all around us. "Oop! I see a community helper! Who is it?"


"Hey! I see a way our community is changing! What do you see?"

They're building a new building over there! That house is for sale! They're fixing that road! That store used to be a different one!

They were SO excited, it was really cute! Positively RIPE with learning opportunities, let me tell you!

Once we got to the bank, there were all kinds of other cool things to see and learn. The kids got a tour, learned a little about money and how a bank works, got to see the vault and the crazy thick doors and bolts and alarm systems. They LOVED watching the automatic money counter, and we even got to sneak a peek at the back of the ATMs. Raj, the security guard must have known we were coming, too (or maybe he just has this stuff all the time?), cause he had a magic jumping mouse and some paper to make a magic bird! He totally had my kids entranced while they were waiting for the tour. SO cute!

As we were walking home, balloons and snacks in hand (they gave us goodie bags! So fabulous!), I was thinking about how totally tickled I was that the trip was so full of great learning and fun. Man, teachable moments every step of the way!

And then it happened.

We were all standing at the corner waiting for the lights to change so we could cross the street. The kids were all watching me for the signal to cross. And then I felt a great big ol' raindrop on my head.

Oh no! It's going to start raining and we're not back to school yet thought I.

Um, wait a minute, this rain is kind of heavy. I put my hand up to my temple where I felt the drop. And sticky. And then I looked up to see four pigeons sitting on the wire directly above me.

Oh, yes. I had just been crapped on.

In my hair, on my face, on my neck and all down the front of my new sweater landed this goopy gift.

"Oh, MAN!" I said to my class. "I just got POOPED ON!"

Well, I'm pretty sure there's absolutely nothing more fantastically HILARIOUS to a grade 2 or 3 boy (or girl for that matter) than POOP, espeically when it lands directly on your teacher's FACE. Poor E could hardly walk, he was laughing so hard. Thankfully my support worker had a kleenex on her, so I wiped off the goo from at least my face for the walk home, but there it was, still in my hair and all over my shirt.

Of course, I couldn't help but laugh either (they say it's good luck?!), and enjoy the poop jokes all the way back to school. We started a game of running underneath the trees lining the sidewalk. You know, just in case!

So how do you rescue a really "crappy" field trip? Have the kids add the event to their Writer's Topic Pocket, of course! The next time we do our writing book, they'll have a great topic to talk about! I might even work in a lesson on descriptive writing tomorrow and see how they do with poopy adjectives!

My only regret? That I didn't think to take a photo! *GRIN*

(Thank GOODNESS for my support worker, who got the kids lined up and supervised them in the lunch room for me while I went and stuck my head under the tap and half-laundered my sweater in the staff bathroom!)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

And so I sit on the computer...

Here's pretty much how my internal dialogue is going right now:

I'm really tired. I should go to bed. Ack, but I have so much stuff to do. So I should do my stuff. But I'm too tired to do my stuff. So I should go to bed. But what about all that stuff I have to do? I should do it. But I'm too tired. I really should go to bed. But then all that stuff I have to do will just turn into more stuff I have to do tomorrow. So I should do my stuff. Ugh, but I'm so TIRED.....

And so, my friends, I give you this, the result of neither going to bed nor doing my stuff.

If you already saw this on my facebook or elsewhere, I don't really care. You should watch it again. And shake, shake your booty.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Watch it Weekends - Around Home

Here are a few videos I took of home in Korr... first a tour of my house (don't mind the nerdy Ikea excitement). Ah, home sweet home!

Nick and Lynne love their pets - by the time I left we had two cats and essentially four dogs (two didn't technically belong to us, but were always around and ate at our house), plus one who decided our house was a good place to hang out. This video was taken shortly after I arrived... Tigger, the big pup and Stompy (meaning Stumpy, note he has not tail) were HIALRIOUS to watch. Stompy is such a little bruiser and all Tigger wanted to do was play. There were times Tigger got Stompy's entire head in his mouth, and Stompy would grown and bark and throw a fit, and you'd think he was really ticked off with it all, but he'd run right back in and provoke Tigger for more. Who needs TV when you've got these two to watch and laugh at all day long??? (oh, and 'member the puppy who puked on my lap on the drive up to Korr? That was Tigger!)

And yes, I talked about all kinds of crazy bugs in my house. One in particular was really cool... I'd hear this CLICK! CLICK! CLICK! really loud and always wodnered what it was. Then one day I saw it - it's this crazy beetle that, when flipped over onto it's back, does some kinda crazy flick with it's super-hard body and flips himself back over again. I was poking at this guy for a good half hour, making him do all kinds of tricks. Nick told me later that week as we were talking about these crazy bugs that this dude's got a pretty potent stinger. Huh. Guess I should have thought about that when I went poking at strange African bugs, hey? Thankfully no stings for me!

Finding words

I got an email today from a fabulous missionary couple I got to spend some great time with in Nairobi asking if I had changed my blog address... they had been visiting my blog and hoping to find news from me on how I was settling in and what has been going on in my life since I got back from Kenya, and had not been finding anything! It's true... I've been pretty quiet in these parts these days. It's funny, every time I go to write, it's like I have nothing to say. Or rather, I have so MUCH to say that I don't know how to say it. How do I sum up an experience like this (espeically when there are still so many stories to be told!). Needless to say, it's been a little hard to find words these days.

In some senses, it's kind of hard to be motivated to write after such an experience. It seems like one minute I'm writing about warriors attempting to raid the town and being chased off, shoeless, into the night, and the next minute... what? Gee, I got a really good deal on toothpaste today at Safeway... Woo hoo!

Of course, there's been lots of life happening since I got home. A little TOO much, perhaps. So many fun things to write about! September is always a crazy month for teachers, but this one has just seemed to be EXTRA insane. Here are some highlights, in no particular order...

* The first Sunday back at church was FABULOUS. I got so! many! hugs! I was also wearing a scarf and carrying a bag I got in Kenya, and had a lady walk up to me and excitedly ask me if I had been to Kenya, because she recognized my things as being from there. It was so wonderful to find a Kenyan at my church! I even correctly guessed what tribe she was from based on where she lived! Yes!

* The first time I walked into a grocery store, I just kind of wandered and stared... so bright! All the colours! All the FOOD... and every single person had more than enough to buy whatever they wanted. I thought of the Rendille and the drought and how little people are living on, and definitely caught a glimpse of the injustice of our world.

* I spent the week before Labour Day in my class (which houses more books from my personal classroom library than Tirrim Primary has for the entire school - including textbooks!) getting ready for the school year. Or rather, I spent Tuesday to Friday in my room working. Monday was quite literally spent just wandering around my classroom and staring at stuff. Um, hello, SO not ready to wrap my brain around being back in the classroom!

* I went camping in mid-September with two of my best girlfriends Trudy and Becca down in Washington state. For this backpacker, car camping was a chance to revel in the gloriousness of inefficiency. We packed in Rubbermaid bins and brought everything but the kitchen sink. We roasted sausages and marshmallows on the fire, went for a wee morning hike, sat by the ocean all afternoon, and generally enjoyed each other's company. Of course, it would have been a much better weekend if I hadn't woken up in the tent totally sick Saturday morning. Thank goodness for drugs! It ended up still being a fabulous weekend! (And thanks, girls, for having patience with my wobbly body... and for the lift over the fence... hee hee hee...)

* Spent nearly a week home from work sick, coughing and hacking and wondering how in the world I managed to miss malaria, cholera, yellow fever, hepatitis, dengue, bilharzia, etc etc etc, yet stepped back into Canada and promptly got sick (um, don't get me wrong, I'd rather have a super nasty cold/cough in Canada than any of those other things in Kenya!). By the time I got back to school at the end of the second week, substitutes had had my class for longer than I had!

* Friends and I caught a few fabulous end-of summer activities with friends... a great little community festival called Deep Cove Daze (and buying the exact same statue for my dad I forgot to buy in Kenya from a lady who had a booth with stuff direct from the Masai Market in Nairobi!) and a few trips to the Fair at the PNE - Superdogs, Doc Walker, Chris Isaac and his sparkly pink suit, mini donuts, and the RCMP musical ride.

* I've been totally LOVING my class! I'm still teaching a grade 2 and 3 split, back in the same school I left, and I LOVE my kids! I have a whopping eleven kids in my class. I can't BELIEVE it. It's a regular class, not a special program, nothing. It's an inner city school, though, and the enrollment keeps dropping and dropping. Not sure what the future holds, but for now, my class is THE BEST! Oh and also? I have a nearly full time support worker in my room who is AWESOME. Oh yes, it's going to be a FABULOUS year!

* It is my personal goal this year to be the field trip QUEEN. With only eleven kids, it won't cost very much, and there are SO many fabulous trips that go along with the cirriculum! I don't know what has gotten into me, but I'm all organized and stuff this year and have booked most of my field trips already! We're heading to the bank and the firehall this month to support "communities;" to Science World to build all kinds of wacky structures, play in the galleries, and atch an Omnimax movie; to Hatzik Rock, a First Nations longhouse; to the Planetarium to explore outer space and do a workshop in the solar system; to the Museum of Vancouver to look back on Vancouver 100 years ago and do a FABULOUS program based on a book we're reading in class; to the Greater Vancouver Zoo (like a game park!) to see giraffes and grizzlies and gators, OH MY; to VanDusen gardens in the spring to view the gardens and do a Pond Peering workshop... I tried to arrange a workshop at the Lynn Valley Ecology center, too, but they do'nt book for the spring until February. Hmmm... perhaps I'm a little bit TOO on the ball? *GRIN* I have a hunch there will be some cool opportunities around the Olympics and Paralympics in February, too, and in March or so, I think we should do some kind of ice skating or bowling field trips, too! Hmmmm..... maybe we could go SNOWSHOEING! Sweet! Gotta look into that! The ideas are limitless!!!!! And the best part? I've totally been able to fanangle a deal at a few of these places because of our inner-city school status. I'm SO excited these kids are getting some cool opportunities! And the best part? The community arm of the local high school has a 14 passenger van available for field trips, and my support worker has her class 4, so she can drive it! Ba-BAM! LOVE IT! Now if only I could work on getting those Tirrim kids some opportunities, too.....

Ah, Tirrim. Korr. The Rendille. As busy as I am, and as much as I'm fully back into teaching, the people I've met in Kenya are never far from my mind. As I open my box of new Scholastic books, I think of the library at Tirrim. So sparse, yet so loved. How can I get more books to these kids?

As I'm standing at the photocopier, copying next week's spelling packets, I think of my ziplock baggie of little chalk bits and my one textbook I carried into my English class, and of Andrew, one of my students at Tirrim who so deseperately wants to improve his spelling and his writing, but just doesn't know how. I'm hunting around for a work book that would be suitable to send to him.

As I flick on the windshield wipers to clear the rain, I think of the dust storms in Korr, and the dead animals that dot the desert. More and more, animals ary dying, weakend by lack of food and water. I think of the people who are suffering and pray so hard for the rain to move their way.

As I sit in church and sing, reading the songs off the powerpoint and singing songs I understand, listening to a sermon that doesn't have to be translated, I think of church in Korr. The choirs, the mamas, the beads, the warm wind blowing through the open walls, the songs, the greetings, listening intently to pick up the few words and phrases I can understand, wondering if the sermon will be translated today, worshipping in a spoken language I don't understand, but in a heart language we all share.

Everything I do here reminds me of there. I'm seeing the world through different eyes I'm feeling more. Good gracious, I cry at SO many things now. I feel like I have a much deeper insight into myself and into the world around me. No, I'm not claiming mass amounts of wisdom, but sometimes it just seems like I can see things more clearly than I did before.

Of course, there's also some big questions. How, now, will I live in light of all this? How will I spend my time, my resources? Where is this path going to lead me? Will I stay in Canada? In Vancouver? Will I end up back in Kenya one day? Elsewhere? What is the next step God has in making me the person I'm meant to be? And how do I live TODAY, in this day God's given me, to honour Him and who He's made me to be?

Yep, just a few minor things to ponder as life hurtles by at breakneck speeds.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Ok, I've been sitting on this for almost a month, sworn to secrecy, but I just got the go-ahead and I'm BUSTING to tell everybody I possibly can.....

Soooo.... This is my mom, Patt.

She's awesome... of course, anyone who knows her knows that already! My mom is a preschool teacher. And, seeing as she's awesome, she's also an awesome preschool teacher. In fact, she's won a number of awards for her awesomeness, including a particularly awesome award that they don't even give out every year, only when someone especially awesome comes along who deserves it. (It's official name is the Goldie Maycock Award, the highest honour presented by the Council of Parent Participation Preschools in our Province.)

But right about now, she's packing her bags and will be headed here to see this dude. And why? Oh, because HE thinks she's awesome, too.

Next weekend, my parents are headed to Ottawa so the my mom can accept the... wait for it, the

Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in

Early Childhood Education!

Let's add a few more exclamation points to that, shall we?


The parents in her school nominated her earlier this year, and SHE WON! Not just in her preschool's organization. Not just in the province... this covers all preschools Canada wide. Only 10 people in the entire COUNTRY are receiving this award, and MY MOM is one of them! She gets an expenses-paid trip to Ottawa and, in addition to the awards ceremony will be taking part in seminars and round table discussions, will be taken on some VIP tours of some of Ottawa's historical sites and points of interest, and will we welcomed to a reception at 24 Sussex Drive, the Prime Minister's official residence. (She was musing in an email, "What DO you wear to the Prime Minster's house???")

So, GO, MOM!!! This is so freaking cool!!!!!

Oh, and lest you think this honour will go to her head, here's a picture to show you her silly side is alive and well. (This is her dressed up for preschool's infamous "Backwards Silly Day.")

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Watch It Weekends - Hillary Learns Stones

Stones is a game that a lot of the kids in Korr play. Just take five small rocks and throw them up in the air, catch them, put some down, throw the others, pick them up... sounds easy, right? Wrong! Ann, a girl in my class six class, was playing one day at lunch. I stopped to watch her and was amazed! My particular favourite move was hen she held five stones in her fingers, threw them up, and caught them ALL on the back of her hand. Go ahead... try it! I filmed her, then had one of the students filming me trying it for the first time. It's pretty entertaining. And also? Wow, I squawk a lot, apparently! Ah, good fun hanging out with my kids! :)

There's more Stones fun on my Youtube channel.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Grant and Loki are another of the missionary couples working in Korr. About two and a half years ago, they adopted these two beautiful gilries from an orphanage in Nairobi, and the adoption process has been creeeeping along since then. They have a court hearing tomorrow, September 25, to find out if Kenya will allow them to finalize their adoption. It's a big day with lots of emotion involved. And while I won't get into specifics, I'll just say that the situation really really needs to be absolutely smothered in prayer.

Please, please pray for Grant and Loki, Abbey and Caity as tomorrow, the court determines the future of their family! May God's will be done and his name be lifted up!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Watch it Weekends - Turning Thirty

Two days after arriving in Korr, it was my birthday! There was a team of about 18 Canadian ladies who were in Korr visiting, too, so we wended up driving out to visit a literacy class and see a goob. I couldn't help but laugh at the contrast between my 29th and 30th birthdays!

Kawkawa Work Day Feb 2 129 Playing with the kids from the goobs

There are ALWAYS tons of kids around, and we spent probably a good half hour or fourty-five minutes playing with them. I SO wish I had longer clips, and maybe less of them, but here's what I've got. They're no more than 10 seconds each, most are shorter. but it'll give you a good idea! :)

In the following video at the end, you can see that things were starting to get a little crazy... there were SO many kids YARDING on my arm. Hehehe... I'm trying to escape! :)

This one's my favourite! :)

In the evening, Lynne planned a surprise party for me! We had cake, they sang me happy birthday, and - SO sweet! - they even had gifts for me! It was wonderful! :)

Definitely a birthday to remember!!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Watch it Weekends - Animal Central!

While I was aiting to go to Korr in January, I did a lot of different things, sone if it a little bit of sightseeing around Nairobi. One day I went to the Sheldrick's Wildlife Trust - essentially an orphanage for baby elephants. SO cute. Seriously.

Then I went to the giraffe center. You walk up onto this platform and the rangers give you pellets to feed the giraffes with. The love to eat the pellets out of your hands or....

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stuck in the middle

*tap tap tap* ... hello? Is this thing on? Welcome to the deserted wasteland that is my blog these days!

Wow. Seems I've been running and running and running ever since I got off my plane. Family time, friends galore, unpacking, organizing, setting up my classroom, concerts, the Fair, more friends, more organizing, more unpacking, first days of school, curriculum planning, photocopying, dinner parties, church events, planning a rush trip to Ottawa in October, and this weekend I'm going camping (so instead of blogging I really should be doing a laundry, packing, cooking dinner, and getting some of the weekend jobs done tonight instead. Right.).

Word of advice for y'all... do NOT leave yourself a mere two and a half weeks between getting back from eight months in Kenya and starting a new school year. Ya know, should you ever find yourself in that situation.

But in it all, life is good. I might be wandering around in a semi-fog, but it's a good fog. It's a "holy cow, what life am I living?" kind of fog. The busyness and demands of all the "gotta do's" of teaching are definitely keeping me here by necessity, but my mind and my heart are still very much in Kenya. That's only in one little way reflected even here on my blog - I'm not finished telling the stories (won't you be confused when the post about my holiday to the coast in April shows up mid-October or something!), but then there is the "here-and-now" life, too. Classroom anecdotes, "re-entry" observations, summer events... I'm very much stuck in the middle.

For example, one of my jobs I've got to get done right away quick is to finish (ok, start) my final update letter that I've been emailing out to people over the duration of my trip. I'll be talking about the last two months in Korr, stories about teaching at Tirrim, about the goodbye and send off I got, and talking about how my ministry wrapped up there. Once that is finished, I'll head to the living room and set out all the little bits for putting together the "survival bags" I give my students at the end of the year, then finish off my math lesson plans for school tomorrow. Maybe it doesn't sound like much, but it blows. my. mind. Then, now. Here, there.

I feel such a need to write stuff down as I go, but am finding it hard to just sit down and collect my thoughts. And so I'm quiet, stuck in the middle of two worlds - one that's very far away but still also very much "here and now," and requires a long, slow 'perculating' process, and the other that's hit me like a freight train and requires me to run just about as fast, demanding nearly all my time and energy. And I don't seem to know how to talk about either! Sooooo.... I'll keep showing you videos!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Watch it Weekends - More Mitumba Kids

Three videos this weekend... why not?

The first is of Jaqueline - the amazing nursery school (pre-school) teacher - giving a lesson. That lady has SO much love for those kids, it's phenominal! In early January, which is the beginning of the school year for them, the kids are learning their letter sounds. This video is brought to you by the letter "N"

I went on a Saturday morning to help with the Bible Club. Turns out I RAN the Bible club that day. Good thing I know lots of camp songs that kept me going! We sang for a long time, then I pulled a lesson out of my hat and we did that, too!

King of Kings

Pharaoh Pharaoh

My house loves me!

Wow. I really HAVE been hit with a whirlwind coming back. I've been trying to not be too busy, but even at that, in the last week I've been home only to sleep every day last week. Don't have time for a full update post right now (waiting for my cell company to call me back, emailing the printers back and forth about some cards I'm having made, got to head out to do a bunch of errands, then heading to the PNE later this afternoon... ACK!) I miss the simple non-busy life of Korr! And school hasn't even started yet!

Anyway, there have been many wonderful things about coming home. But there were a few surprises, too. Some of you know that I sublet my suite while I was gone, so I'm coming back to the same home I left. Apparently even my HOUSE missed me! It left me welcome notes all over the place. Here are my "welcome home" messages.

Hello, Hillary! Welcome Home After all that that time blending in with Africans, come blend with me! Love, Your Blender.

Hello, Hillary! Welcome home! It's about time that you got home - I've missed you. Love, Your Clock.

Hello, Hillary! I'm so glad you're home! I missed wearing this nice bedding and having you sleeping in me. Have a great rest - I'll take care of you. Love, Your Bed.

Hello, Hillary! Welcome home! You've put me on the shelf for too long - I feel so empty. Please stay and fill me up. Love, Your Bookshelf.

Hello, Hillary! Welcome home! I hope there's not too much sand in your clothes - that may hamper our relationship. Love, Your Hamper

Hello, Hillary! Welcome home! I'll bet you missed me more than I missed you. :) Happy flushing!! Love, Your Toilet

Hello, Hillary! Welcome home! I've heard the Kenyan drives are hard, but I'm a nice hard drive. :) Glad to see you! Love, Your Computer

Hello, Hillary! Welcome home! I've been here, waiting and keeping cold while you were so hot. Just stay home a while and chill. Love, Your Refrigerator

Hello, Hillary! Welcome home! You've been to so many remote places. It's about time for our relationship to get clicking again. Love, Your Remotes.

Hello, Hillary! Welcome home! I heard you have been "cheating" on me with a bucket. That's ok. I'm glad you're back. Love, Your Shower.
Awwww... ain't it nice to be loved??? :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"So, would you go back?"

In the whole process of coming home, people have asked me a lot of questions. I love answering them! But if there is one question that turns my brain into a big gelatinous pile of goo, it's this one.

So, Hillary, would you go back? Uuuhmmmm, aaaah, buuuuh, errrr..... Pretty intelligent and articulate answer, hey?

Would I do it again? Well, what does that mean? Did I enjoy the experience and would I hypothetically make the choice to repeat it? Yes, absolutely. Are there things I would do differently? Sure. But am I glad I went? ABSOLUTELY YES.

Would I actually, literally go back again to work as a missionary in Africa?

Well... I don't know. I really have NO idea.

I would LOVE to go back and see all the people I have grown to love again. It often makes me tear up when I think that it's possible that I may never see these people again. So, would I go back to visit? If the opportunity afforded itself, Absolutely yes, in a heartbeat.

Would I go back to do another short term experience? Well, maybe. It would be amazing to go back to Korr and live there for a longer +time. To continue to build the relationships I began there. To keep learning the language and the culture. To perhaps set up and run a "gap year" type remedial program where I could take kids out of the Kenyan cirriculum and help them catch up on their skills in math and English. To take struggling kids and give them confidence. To maybe run a Bible and discipleship class. There is so much I would LOVE to do with more time there.

But another short term experience would be a year at the most, according to AIM rules, and I wonder, would it be the most effective thing to go only for a year? If I went to Korr again, I'd at least have a LITTLE bit of a head start with language learning, figuring out 'how things are done,' getting to know people...

If I went somewhere else, it would absolutely not be enough time. I feel like I've HAD the short term experience "for me" now. The lessons I've learned, the things I've seen, the taste of missions. I mean, yes, I did what I could to contribute while I was there, but let's face it, I'm sure that I took away a heck of a lot more than I gave. That's just kind of the nature of short term missions, and that's ok. If I ever DID go back, though, I would want to really focus on and be effective in ministry. And that doesn't happen overnight. You have to learn language, build relationships, get a feel for what is really needed in the area where you're serving, and SO much more. And that takes TIME. I was only MAYBE beginning to lightly scratch the surface of that after seven months in Korr. If I went to a new place, it would almost seem selfish to go for just a year. It's not NEARLY enough time to get anything really effective started. (Yes, I realize that God can do anything with willing people who go for any amount of time, I'm not limiting Him here, but just looking at practicalities!)

So, then, would I go for longer than a year? Again, I don't know. Anything after a year, and fundraising gets to be much more of a bigger deal. There are set-up funds to raise - a house, materials, potentially a vehicle, all that stuff. Then there are month-to-month living expenses. And a ministry doesn't run for free. I'd have to also raise money for whatever I was planning to do. A "Gap year" remedial program? I'd need books, money for salaries, money for materials... a PLACE to run it... It's a lot for just two years. So would I go back for a full term (about four years) and become a career missionary?

All I'm saying is that for anything longer than a short term experience, things get a lot more complicated. There is a TON more fund raising to do and a whole lot more logistics to work out. Now, money is only money. Logistics are only logistics. Support has to be raised. Logistics have to be worked out. But if God wants me back in Africa, He'll work all that stuff out.

And so THERE is the REAL question: Do I feel that God is calling me back to Africa?

Some people come home from short term experiences and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are only home for enough time to get that support raised and get those logistics worked out, and they will be back. They know it.

Others come back from a short term experience and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God simply is not calling them into cross-cultural missions. Maybe they didn't have a good experience. Maybe there are health issues that require them to stay in their home country. Maybe it's just not their gifting. God definitely has a call on their life, but cross-cultural missions isn't it.

I guess I'm somewhere in between. I don't feel a huge pull to go back immediately (yet?), but I also wouldn't ever rule it out. I think there's a lot I would I really love about living and working as a missionary in Africa, should I sense God calling me back there. But I feel like I have to live HERE for a while now and just wait and see. It's not super clear right now, and I'm ok with that. And in the meantime, there's a heck of a lot I can think of to do HERE to support what's going on THERE.

Who knows what God will have in store for me down the road...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Watch it Weekends - Mitumba kids

Two posts today! Look at me go!

Loading video in Kenya wasn't possible. But oh hooray, I'm back to the land of high speed, and hoo-boy do I have some fun stuff to show you! So welcome to the first installment of "Watch It Weekends!" I'll post a video (or two?) each weekend so you can get a better taste of the sights and sounds of my trip. Here's the first one!

This is class four in Mitumba, the slum I spent a few days in in January. It was my first introduction to the fabulous world of African kids singing. I love it! I also love the kids dancing around for hte camera in the back row! Silly monkeys! :)

Hakuna Mungu kama wewe = There's no God but you

Monday, August 24, 2009

The seed and the harvest

I saw this quote at the bottom of Andrea's blog tonight:

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Reading that, it hit me – a “boom, bang crash, open-your-eyes, ah-ha moment” kind of hit me.

I wasn't a harvester.

So much of my trip to Korr was wonderful. Incredible. Amazing. Words can not describe. But there were some things that were really hard. Disappointing at times. Frustrating. Things that caused me to doubt my role, to doubt myself.

- Helping to clarify rules and expectations for teachers based on the needs I saw.
- Revamping (and sticking to) a much needed student discipline program.
- Living in the shadow of two previous short termers who made a HUGE influence and connected in a big way with these kids relationally – the kids talked abut them non-stop throughout my stay (good work, girls! You made SUCH an impact on these kids!).
- Meaning what I say and following though with discipline. It doesn’t always make for warm fuzzies in the classroom. Um, understatement of the century.
- Trying to teach by example what following through on discipline actually means, but often ending up looking like the strictest, most meanie-pants teacher in the school.
- Forever trying to correct a warped view of forgiveness that leaves no room for taking responsibility for behaviour. “Madam, why can’t you just forgive him? God tells us we should forgive others!” Argh! Yes! But God also tells us that our actions have consequences!
- Wanting so much to develop good relationships with the kids but having some kids so angry at me they wouldn’t speak to me for a week, and others who just don’t understand why I have to rock the boat and call kids out on misbehaviour. And then wondering how that all reconciles with the African high view of relationship – doing everything you can to NOT break the relationship.
- Feeling at times like a failure in relationships because of such a gap in what I was expecting and what actually God had for me to do.

And perhaps the hardest thing of all – DEFINITELY the most important - was trying to re-shape the kids’ view of what it takes to be saved. Over and over and over the kids would tell me that to be accepted by God they had to do lots and lots of good things. Noooo! Salvation is FREE! Grace costs US nothing because it cost Christ EVERYTHING! We are loved more than we could ever imagine simply because of who we ARE , not for what we do or don’t do! How I longed for that burden of "good works" to fall of their slumped and sagging shoulders!

I didn't see the harvest of so much of my work there. I may never see it. But I realized tonight that the harvest isn't really mine, anyway. The harvest is God's. He may use someone else to bring it in; He may bring it in Himself. But if I want everything I do to be ultimately for His glory, then I don't have to see the harvest. I just have to plant the seeds.

My eyes were opened to a new way of seeing some of those frustrations tonight.

Seeds of excellence in teaching. Seeds of responsibility for behaviour. Seeds of understanding when it comes to forgiveness and salvation. Seeds of faith. Seeds of truth.

Yeah. Sometimes planting those seeds was hard. It hurt. It wasn't always what I thought my job would be. But it was the job God had for me to do, and He sustained me. He gave me wisdom, He gave me strength. He gave me grace. And tonight He reminded me to trust. To trust Him that He gave me the work that needed to be done. To trust Him that he can take the broken work I did and make it good. To trust Him that He was working before I got there, while I was there, and will continue to keep working now that I'm gone. And to trust Him that one day there will be a harvest.

Thank you, Father, that your vision is so much bigger than mine, and that you are faithful, even when we don't get to see the result of our work. Thank you that You are the God of the harvest.

And thank you for the privilege of planting the seeds.


Wow. I stopped writing just before I hit publish to take a phone call, and when I did, I thought my post was finished. Before making it back to my computer, though, I got distracted by some cards my fabulously thoughtful and wonderful friend Sarah sent me for my trip. They didn't get to me in time to take them with me when I left, so I have the cards now at my house. I pulled one out of the pile to open. Here is what I read. Gee... you think God maybe knew I needed to read this tonight?????
Do It Anyway
By Roy Lessin

Others may not notice your efforts or give you recognition for something you've done. The credit may even go to someone else.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I am pleased by your service and will honor your obedience.

There may be times when a job you've done will be rejected. Something you have prepared may be canceled or delayed.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I see all things and will bless the work of your hands.

You may do your very best, and yet fail. You may sacrifice time and money to help someone and receive no word of thanks.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I am your reward and will repay you.

There may be times when you go out of your way to include others and later have them ignore you. You may be loyal on your job, and yet someone else is promoted ahead of you.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I will not fail you or make you be ashamed.

You may forgive others, only to have them hurt you again. You may reach out in kindness, only to have someone use you.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I know your heart and will comfort you.

You may speak the truth but be considered wrong by others. You may do something with good intentions and be completely misunderstood.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I understand and will not disappoint you.

There may be times when keeping your word means giving up something you want to do. There may be times when commitment means sacrificing personal pleasure.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I am your Friend, and will bless you with My Presence.

Indeed, He will. Indeed, He has.