Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Amazing kids

More examples of why my kids are the best in the WHOLE WORLD!!!

Reason #1: This week the fourth and fifth graders have been coming to our room to read different stories as a part of our book week activities. My kids have been pretty well behaved, only fidgeting a little, which for my kids should count as their first miracle toward sainthood, and haven't bothered the reader at all about being able to see the pictures. The best part though has been after the reader finishes the book every student, with zero prompting, has clapped enthusiastically for the reader. Many even say, "Thank you, name of student!" It makes my heart swell with pride that they know how to be a good audience, how to make others feel good about the work that they do. We've worked on this SO much in the past two years, it's good to see them putting it into practice on their own.

Reason #2: About two weeks ago we were sitting around at carpet time working on our skip counting. We practiced our 2's, 5's, 10's, 20's, 25's, 50's, 100's and had started working on 3's, which by the way are pretty tough. Then I kind of forgot what I was doing for a moment and started saying, "What's 1+1?" "2", the responded. "2+2"? "4" (ha!, I typed 3 there at first and luckily caught the typo before making a HUGE fool out of myself) :) I kept going, "4+4"? "8" No worries so far. At "8+8" I realized my folly. They responded "16" with no problem. Just to try them out I asked, "16+16"? One girl answered, "32". O.k. let's see how far this goes. "16+16"? At "64+64" we had to start writing the problem down, but since we've been doing two digit addition anyway they didn't have a problem with that. The story continues up to them answering 16,??? (can't remember what the rest of the 16,??? is), to get an answer of 32 thousand something. I was really impressed. My six and seven year olds were doing five digit addition. They were carrying digits to the next place value. About the only thing they had a hard time with was saying the answer because we haven't started naming numbers in the thousands yet. As if that wasn't enough when we finished doing that they asked if we could do multiplication. Some of their older siblings are doing it and we've done simple stuff like the five's, ten's, zero's, and one's before. So we did some multiplying by two's, three's, and four's. Once they found out that they can draw pictures they figured things out pretty quickly. They didn't do any by themself but were able to tell me what to do as a class. It was great! And then, the coup de grax, (spelling?), one girl had written about doing division in her journal the other day and so they asked if they could do some division. We did 25/5. And again, once they realized they could draw pictures they figured it out pretty well. We only had time to do one but they, my six and seven year olds, figured out a division problem. They amaze me.

Reason #3: The boys, instead of seeing silly rhymes when they see the girls underpants, turn their eyes and whisper to me that someone needs to sit in a chair. That's a lot more mature than I was in first grade.

And so many other things that they do each and every day that make me smile at what a great group I've been able to work with over the past two years.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

After two years

(A note of farewell to my parents at A.I.S.F.)

After two years it’s quite plain to see
What a change you’ve all made in me

I came here fresh, quite new, hardly tried
You’ve given me a home, a place to abide

I’ve taught your children and they’ve taught me
I hope they remember what they’ve learned, we’ll see

We learned about a’s and we learned about bee’s
We learned to say thanks and we learned to say please

We’ve written books and we’ve illustrated too
The paint’s turned my hands a light shade of blue

We put on some plays, like the Three Bears
We measured the walls and the doors and the stairs

We learned about plants and we learned about space
We learned about Freetown and the happenings of this place

The students enjoy the games that we play
Though sometimes it’s hard to sit still, to stay

The journals they write amaze me at times
The things that they say and the words that they rhyme

There have been times when we like to throw paint
The laughter echoes as the children create

The number one rule in our classroom is this
To love one another, follow this, you can’t miss

Though all are different no one is the same
All have potential to be anything, we claim

I’ve learned a lot as a teacher while here
The lessons I’ve learned I will always hold dear

The children share aspects from all points of the earth
The cultures they’ve learned since the time of their birth

So my thanks I give to each of you now
You’ll be in my thoughts forever I vow

Friday, May 16, 2008

Another suitcase in another hall

The silent slippery sliding sand of time begins with the first, "Hello". Somewhere someone watches us and their only job is to sit in a cold and windowless room turning the sand timers, some big, others tiny, that tell how long we will enjoy the company, or detest the presence, of another person. Some timers are so ponderously large, so slow running that their sand will flow for a lifetime. Others are so miniscule, so fleet, that their sand runs out in the time it takes strangers to pass in the night.

One of the hardest things to do is to say goodbye to someone you care about. There are million dollar card industries which specialize in helping tongue-tied individuals find just the right words, whether they be flowery and beautiful or coming from dogs wearing silly hats and riding red tricycles or, my fathers favorite, thought bubbles of obscenely obese and heavily wrinkled old women in skimpy bikinis, to say farewell. How many movies involve long, drawn out and often tearful goodbye’s? Look at The Lord of the Rings. Adventure. Killing. Elves. Ghosts. Goblins. And then they cap off this epic trilogy with an hour of goodbyes. Bilbo’s mother’s aunt’s secretary makes an appearance just to make sure there is enough closure for even the most devout Tolkein fans.

The cards, the movies, the singing quartet that shows up at your office to embarrass you with an acapella version of Boyz 2 Men "It's so hard to say goodbye" are all testaments to people's inability to gracefully allow the sands of time to run their course. We want to hold on to those we care about. We hold on to relationships even after that friend has boarded the hovercraft or the lover has entered the grave. We stand on the front porch and wave long after the car has turned the corner before reluctantly turning back to the house that will feel like it's missing something we just can't put our finger on.

The past two years of my life are a testament to the idea that the human spirit can endure anything. If saying goodbye is one of the hardest things a person can do, which I've just spent the past three paragraphs definitively proving to be the case, then Freetown has to be one of the hardest places on Earth to live. Two years ago I said goodbye to everyone from college, everyone from my home town, to everyone of my relatives, to my family, to my co-workers, to the garbage man, Bill, who did an extra good job of making sure to put the can back in it's correct spot instead of letting it roll into the road where a stray SUV could run over it. I said goodbye so that I could go on a new life adventure. Teaching in the dark continent. Braving what few others would consider rational. Teaching a pack of unruly five year olds. Madness. But I came. And I thought I was done saying goodbye for a few years.

Few people in the history of the world have been as wrong as I was in making that assumption. Alexander thinking he could take over Russia was a better assumption. Thinking the teachers couldn't see when we stuck earphones up our jacket sleeves to listen to music in class was more correct than my thoughts on leaving goodbyes behind. I have met a plethora of incredible people here in Sierra Leone. People from all corners of this round world. And making friends here is like nowhere else I've ever been. Here in Freetown if you see a person more than once and talk to them on both occasions then they are probably thought of as a friend. Because the nature of the beast is so transient the natural thing to do is make friends in a hurry. Which is great in that meeting people is never a problem and it is hard to feel lonely here. But the sands of time run faster here than anywhere I've ever lived. And so many of that plethora has left me waving goodbye that it is impossible to count.

In fact the problem has gotten so out of hand that I've given serious consideration to spending my evenings at the hovercraft terminal. I could go each night, watch excruciatingly boring CNN reports about market crashes or idiotic multi-millionaire athletes messing up their lives because they're too dumb to realize they're living the dream life, and wait. And after my hours of waiting, after re-reading the same article about when it's appropriate to wear white shoes or which nose trimmer works best underwater, I will get my chance to say goodbye. As people tote their overstuffed bags I will be there waving, with a goofy smile, never missing a chance for closure. Because in Freetown, if you aren't on your toes, someone will leave and you'll miss your chance to say goodbye. If you don't pay attention the sands will slide down until the last grain drops and it's often so quiet that you don't realize that something is missing till long after the time is up.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


So, I've decided that since I have now felt the unbelievable pain of loosing a journal without it being backed up at all that I would try not to submit myself to that again. So I'm putting my journal from 2006-2007 onto blogger with the hope that I don't loose the journal and have blogger also shut down at the same time. Hopefully this way when I loose my old journal, because it is inevitably something I will do at some point, I will have it backed up.

From now on blog entries that begin with a date are entries from the journal that I thought might be interesting reads for other people. I will not be putting all entries on blogger so no worries there, you'll only get some of my dirty secrets.


Monday, May 12, 2008


This weekend I was called an idiot several times. My judgement was questioned. People asked if I'd lost all my sense.

I was actually the one doing most of the name calling.

This weekend was as close to perfect as a weekend could be. Friday afternoon I played tennis with Amanda on a warm overcast afternoon. Friday night I had a number of people over for dinner. Taco salad with fruit and ice cream for desert. The food was good. The conversations were fun. It was a really great night.

Saturday morning I woke up crazy early and went with a group of people hiking out in the mountains surrounding Freetown. It was the perfect morning for a hike. The weather couldn't have been better. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. I was able to meet new people and have good conversations with old friends. I got to chase some kids who had come with us all over the side of the mountain and pretend to throw them into the pools of water that are all that is left of Whale River. We saw some interesting wildlife in the form of chameleons (which I've recently learned can give you the deadly but not often heard of Chameleon disease if they bite you) and giant frogs.

After the hike a group of us went to Burra beach to celebrate Naomi's birthday and spend the night. Burra beach is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world, which is a bold statement but one I will standby for the rest of my life. The emerald mountains fringe the coastline. Flocks of snowy white seabirds call to one another from the sand before taking off to form a dazzling blizzard overhead. The river allows floaters to glide along it's currents or relax in the shallows. The sparkling blue water crashes over the white sand inviting one and all to swim in it's depths or ride it's powerful waves to the shore. A short swim out to Marooned Island with friends yeilded a stunning view of the mainland and gave me the opportunity to have a lesson in floating, which I am horrible at, while listening to the tide scatter the shells upon the sand and watching the cotton-ball clouds lazily pass across a saphire blue sky. Add the pleasant company of friends to this environment and it makes for an amazing weekend.

That's when the names started flying. When my sanity was put into question. When I wondered for the hundreth and certainly not the last time... "Am I really leaving this on my own accord?" The simple answer is, "yes". I'm choosing to leave paradise for the unknown. I'm leaving a life that I LOVE to go off and find a new place for myself in the world.

You see the thing is, there's always a thing, the thing is is that when I made my BIG LIFE GOAL of teaching on every continent in the world, I was coming out of the worst year of my life. I had just survived, yes survived, my first year of teaching. Life was chaotic, I didn't have a place to live. I was constantly nervous, or worried, or frustrated, or... something else negative. And halfway through I threw up my hands and proclaimed to the world that I wanted out. So I started my international search. And I made my BIG LIFE GOAL that I would one day teach on every continent, (excluding Antarctica because penguins are difficult to teach, but adding Space if they ever get this space station up and running and need a kindergarten teacher).

Which has brought me here, to paradise. O.k. not paradise all the time, but a place that I find myself loving. I love the people. I love my students. I love the role that I have found myself filling here. I love the bible studies, the worship services, the weekends at the beach, the football, tennis, and bike rides. I love getting to know new people all the time. I love it here.

And in 48 days I will be leaving. In three months and three days I board a plane for Portugal. A place that everyone assures me I will love. A place who's pictures are breathtaking. A place with 24 hour electricity, paved roads, real restaurants, and countless other ammenities that I can't even think of right now because I've lived without them for so long.

I know, in my heart of hearts, that I am going to love Portugal. I am a person who loves change. I enjoy adventures. I look forward to meeting new people and learning new languages. I will enjoy teaching a new grade and certainly look forward to teaching so much science, (I'll teach science to both third grades while the other teacher will teach both classes social studies). There is a lot to look forward to.

At times though I wonder, and probably will wonder for the next bunch of months, "Am I making the right choice?" It's actually a moot point now as the choice has been made, but I still wonder. I guess the thing to do in this situation is enjoy my time here, make the most of everyday, make sure I figure out how to stay in contact with the people I've met (YAY FACEBOOK!!!) (Liz if you're reading this...JOIN FACEBOOK!!!), and live a life without regrets, which I have always felt are a waste of time.

So while I may be an idiot, while it is probably reasonable to ask whether I've lost my senses, while my judgement should be questioned often, I will stick by my decision and know that whatever comes next is going to be amazing as well.

Life is too short not to take advantage of opportunities that make themselves available. A door has opened for me to go to Portugal. I will stride through it boldly, looking back fondly at the time I have had here in Sierra Leone, but looking forward into the unknown at the marvelous times to come.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Things that make you say hmmm....

So I'm sitting by our school's football field where I am doing the commentating for our Sports Invitational. We had invited four other schools from Freetown to our school to come and participate in an assortment of games for the younger students and a football tournament for the older kids. It was halftime of one of the games and I've just been giving thanks over the PA system to many of our sponsors when I notice a young girl walking across the pitch. This in itself was not a big deal, many students were walking back and forth to get to the refreshment stands or back to their seat. However, this student caught my eye because she had stopped and appeared to be looking at the stone wall that edges one side of our field. There really isn't anything special about this wall and I sort of wondered what she was doing, but didn't think enough of it to get out of the shade and investigate. A moment later she had pulled down her shorts and squatted down by the wall to empty her bladder, in front of almost two hundred watching eyes. I thought it was funny and knew there was nothing I could do short of making an announcement on the mike that our field should not be used as a restroom, but I thought that might be worse than what she was actually doing. One teacher did start screaming and ran out onto the field but was way too late. By the time she got there the young girl had done her business and looked up questioningly at the lady running and screaming at her.