Prior to being accepted into WorldTeach, Marty, my pastor at Parkway, passed out this small laminated piece of paper that had a prayer written on it. I prayed this prayer every night for awhile, especially during my application process and while waiting to see if I would be accepted. Here is what it says:
"I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Some pretty deep stuff. I found this prayer again last week after my FD left. Things were obviously going better, but a part of me kept feeling skeptical about things changing, and I won't lie, I still am. However, I reread this and honestly my world was rocked. I prayed this so consistently, truly wanting all of these things. Truly wanting God to use me. So as I read it again, I realize that this prayer has and is being answered. Put me to doing....check. Put me to suffering...check. Exalted for the...check. Brought low for thee....check. Let me be full....Oh my gosh check. Let me be empty....check. Let me have all things...check. Let me have NOTHING...check and check!
This situation is hard, but ultimately, God is in control. He heard my prayers, He knows what I can handle, and now, He has answered my prayers and is forcing me to grow!
Friday, March 22, 2013
This week is crazy, but before I say too much, I want to say thank you for all of the sweet words and endless encouragement people have sent my way after last weekend’s blog. Things have sort of improved since then, and will hopefully continue to in the future. With that being said, let me fill you in on this week’s happenings:
For starters, this week was a four-day workweek! Gosh, I love those. They are absolutely beautiful. However, with so many grades that I still need to get, it also reminded me of how much is left to do. In this four-day week though, my Field Director finally came to visit my site. I was spoiled with him here because he so graciously cooked a delicious dinner for me (I can’t cook…duh) and I was provided a guest for the first time. While he was here, we discussed all of the situations I have currently been facing with my house conditions and some of my learners. He spoke with my principal on the matters, observed one of my classes, and then provided me with feedback on both. As for my teaching, he provided me with a couple compliments that made me feel like I could continue to teach even after Namibia. He also gave me some great positive feedback on things to improve and suggested a couple volunteers to speak to about getting additional help in certain areas. I look forward to collaborating with them via email and during our mid-service orientation. In regards to my living, things are going to change…Hallelujah! The principal has contacted the Ministry of Works and hopefully within the next couple of weeks I will have a working toilet, bathroom sink, and new windows. He will then get learners into the house to scrub the crap out of it and make it a little bit cleaner. So that is a huge blessing. We are also going to try and reduce the number of students coming in and out of the house. Fingers crossed and many prayers said. I have also taken my own initiative to reducing the students that come to my room throughout the day and have put up a sign with some rules and hours. This isn’t exactly something I wanted to do, but for my own sanity, it is the best way to avoid playing babysitter, best friend, and mother. I want to continue to be seen as the teacher (jefrou) and continue to receive some respect. Yes, I want to socialize and know my students, but I feel the time should be limited a little more.
On top of all of those happenings, Wednesday was payday! However, I still haven’t been paid. Womp womp… Hopefully within the next couple of weeks I will have three checks in my hands. With payday though came a visit to town. I rode in with Bret and a couple of my teachers. We took care of some work matters, got lunch, and then I ran some errands. I then met up with some learners and a teacher at the hike spot and patiently waited in the heat for someone heading to Otjerunda. My coworker and I finally got a ride and got dropped off at one of the kuku shops by the hike spot in the village. There, one of my sweet older coworkers (My Namibian meme) was screaming “Ms. Mac come back,” so I walked to her and she showed me her tent that she sets up to get away from the students. We talked, drank culis (cold drinks aka sprite), and I learned some more Otjiherero. Ja za arikana (leave me alone please). I’m not sure if that is spelled correctly. After almost 2 hours, my teacher told me she had some goat and wanted to braii for me. Of course I said yes because I want to know as much about the culture as possible. So, we quickly brought our stuff to the school and went back to the kuku shop to eat our meat. The goat was a little overcooked and some pieces were a little furry, but overall it was decent. Not something I would need every night, but a very nice gesture. Throughout the night, we talked more, and then another teacher I am good friends with showed up to drive me home.
Thursday was my day off. It was Independence Day in Namibia, and we surely celebrated this country’s independence. You know how? With marking and grading and all things fun! But in all seriousness, I also attended a talent show at the school. Each grade did a performance and some individual students got groups together to sing and dance, etc. It was very entertaining and I have several pictures to share. You can see my pictures by clicking the link below:
Well, only one blog for this week, unless some words or excitement are presented to me this weekend. Next weekend is Easter though, which is the first time I will not be with my family for a big holiday. However, I will be in Swakopmund with the other volunteers and I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better group to replace my family on such an important day. Expect stories, pictures, and ramblings about how good our God is and how sweet these girls are.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Until you have lived in a house with a completely random family from a completely different culture you probably won’t understand the struggles that I face on a daily basis. Each day I am challenged to remain patient, each day I fight to stay here in this country. Living with others is hard. Living with others that do not have the same level of cleanliness and respect for those they live with is even harder. When I was told that I would be moving to Otjerunda, I was told that I would have two roommates. Two roommates that I assumed would consist of two teachers. I was wrong. I was wrong about the two roommates, I was wrong about them being teachers. Yes, I live with two teachers (one that I very rarely see), but I also live with their children, their siblings, their extended relatives, and occasionally one of the husbands. My house is small, small like I can’t compare it to any home that I know of back in America. I have seen kids in college (including myself) live in bigger spaces. And in this small house, I have at least 5 students that are constantly in my way. I don’t mean they are in the house so therefore they are in the way. I mean they are literally in my way. I can’t get into the bathroom when I need to, I can’t clean my dishes because they are slowly playing with the water, I can’t sit in my kitchen without being stared at or bothered.
I am envious of all of the other volunteers. I am jealous that several of them live on their own. I am jealous that their spaces are so big. I am jealous that their roommates are close in age and don’t have children. I am jealous that they can use their common spaces and are not secluded to their rooms. I am just jealous, and I know that I was not sent to this country to have a jealous heart. However, I can’t seem to help it. I can’t seem to shake this constant overwhelming feeling of suffocation. That I am trapped in this room. I do not know how I got into this situation. I do not know why God thought I was strong enough for this situation. I long for home, like deep in my soul long for it. At the same time though, I can’t leave this place. I can’t pack my bags and say I quit because I refuse to fail. I refuse to let Satan win this battle. Unfortunately though, there is no solution. There is no way to fix how I am living. I have addressed the problems and even two days later they are still there. They have not even pretended to try. So for a year, a whole year, I will live like a visitor in someone else’s home. For a year, I will be secluded to my bedroom. For a year, I will live in ways that are unsanitary and that I would never wish upon anyone. For a year, I will be completely out of control, which for me is ultimately the hardest thing ever because I love control. I have been stripped down. I am so incredibly vulnerable that on most given days, I am amazed that I am still here.
Pray for my strength. Pray that I begin to understand. Pray that Satan does not win in the end of my journey.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
I had my first huge teacher fail today. A couple of my grade 8 boys had been asking me to watch a movie for a while. I am trying not to get in the habit of flaunting my computer, but today while I was cooking, I decided what the heck? The boys can watch at least a TV show. I started off with something short (Big Bang Theory), hoping that would be good enough, but not even five minutes in they were asking for fighting. First of all, I am a girl, and even though I love some good action (my girl crush Lisbeth Salander), it is not my first thing to go to. However, I did have Homeland. I figured marines that will do. So I quickly put on the episode telling them that it was about the US marines and that got their attention. However, 10 minutes into the show, a boob was flashed. I had completely forgotten that there was a very detailed sex scene (two, luckily I remembered the second one in time and ended the show completely) at the start of the show. Now granted, these boys are probably at least 17 and have probably seen more boobs than I care to know about, but I quickly went and told them that as their teacher I wasn’t gonna let them watch that. They chuckled a little bit, but being the paranoid person I can sometimes be, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna get fired for allowing my 8th grade boys to see a boob on TV. Oh Africa problems! I clearly need different movies and shows to share with my learners!
Let me start this blog off by just saying my very tiny house currently smells like dead animal. Why you ask? Oh, just because we had a whole dead goat skinned in my house all day and then my roommate cut it all up into pieces to cook after school. No worries though, she gave me some too. Ok, rewind though. I woke up this morning at 6 like I always do and I walk to the kitchen, but before I can get there, I see some furry little stub on top of the cabinet staring me in the face. Now, I’ve never seen this furry little stub before so I quickly go back to my room and grab by headlight. I get out there and yup, there is a tail staring me in the face. Attached to that tail? A naked body with half its legs and no head…yummm! I prefer not to see the meat I eat in full form.
To also add to my day, I was in the office before school started like I always am, and the principal arrives with a work bag/briefcase type thing. Now, I’ve never noticed this bag before, but today it captures my attention. I am not sure why, but to my surprise, it ended up being a Roxy over the should bag. Oh, I got a chuckle about that and I am sure people were wondering why I was laughing. It isn’t exactly funny, but I have to laugh when I see these very American things in Namibia. For example: one of my teachers had on a Pittsburgh Pirates hat, I saw a Zemba in a Steelers shirt, and I’ve heard a Namibian say y’all.
On top of all of that, I had an interesting dream last night. Basically, I was back in America and incredibly homesick for Africa. I was missing the simplicity of African living and the small town feeling and all of the other crazy things that currently I take for granted. I really hope that when I return home I do miss this place. I hope that in some form or fashion this year is embedded into my heart. Into my soul. Now this stuff I can’t make up because I really do live in Africa, but I didn’t get to see how my dream ended because a very loud cow was standing outside of my window and chose that moment to make his morning greetings. The scenario was so incredibly ironic and as I woke to his loud moo, I got a little laugh before falling back to sleep for a little longer.
As much as I miss home and my family and long for the tiny things like Chipotle (where I don’t see the chicken attached and still feathered), I am continuously entertained here. There is never a day where I don’t stop and say this is Africa. I am definitely living an African lifestyle, more so than some people who are actually African. I can proudly come home and say that after this year, there’s probably not much I can’t tackle. I may be girly, but any girl who can pee in a bush, use an outhouse every day for a year, sweat more than should be allowed, and take cold showers, can definitely hang with the big boys.
I spent the weekend celebrating the lives of my precious friends Kristin and Abby. I am seriously so happy whenever I am with my Oshakati girls. The times we have together are fun, adventurous, and relaxing because we are all so comfortable with each other. While there, we had a birthday party, enjoyed some delicious meat, went shopping, headed to Benny’s, and saw Abby’s home.
Other than those fun times, I have been pretty busy the past couple weeks so I don’t feel like my blog writing has been as prominent, which is a little upsetting to me. My thoughts are everywhere, my life is everywhere, basically I am everywhere, and so my writing is everywhere, which again, is upsetting to me. In the upcoming weeks though, life speeds up and slows down at the same time. Next week, my Field Director will be coming to observe my class and take a look at my school. This is definitely coming at a good time because I am still facing some serious struggles with my living situations. Instead of things getting better, they are gradually getting worse (i.e. today a baby peed on my floor because she never wears a diaper). That week, I will also only have to work Monday through Wednesday. Thursday is Independence Day in Namibia. PARTAYYY!! Therefore, we are teaching on Saturday so that we can also take off that next Friday. Bittersweet for sure. The following week is Easter. Words cannot express how ready I am for this weekend. The girls and I are headed to Swakopmund along the coast of Namibia. The town has a German feel and offers so many adventures, new experiences, different food, etc. Let’s just say I am counting down (16 days). After that, I just have to make it to the end of April and then I have a month break. I am ready to recoup, relax with my friends, and most importantly, see my mom and dad. Tears may come. Lots of hugs will be given.
As far as other things happening in Otjerunda, this town is slowly feeling more like home. I don’t have as much of a desire to go to Opuwo anymore. Although I obviously need to go in for food, mail, real Internet service, and occasionally a hot shower, I am not feeling like I need to be there every weekend. I am feeling braver and more adventurous to try things on my own. My independent side is showing up again in Namibia, which is so good because it has been missed. Unfortunately, life in Otjerunda is still pretty quiet, but I think it always will be. Teachers don’t exactly hangout after school, but I am hoping being here this weekend may change things a little bit. Maybe I will see if some of the guys want to watch a movie and hangout.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
This week has been crazy busy. Crazy busy with schoolwork. Crazy busy with life. Crazy busy with planning ahead. Basically, it has just been crazy. With that said, I have so much to do, but I know some people (Mom, Amanda) look forward to my weekly ramblings and I did not want to disappoint by only having one blog, so here goes a bullet list of what’s happening in my Namibian life.
· I am on hostel duty this week. At first, I was overwhelmed with these duties and markings, but then one teacher told me that I don’t need to take it seriously because it’s not in my job description to monitor. I only need to help. Therefore, I volunteered to wake the learners at 5:30 am. WHY? If you know me, you know I am the farthest thing from a morning person.
· Jason Aldean has been playing on repeat this week. I am so glad I am here, but as mentioned before, there are things I long for at home and Mr. Aldean helps to take me home for a bit. Here’s a short list of things I’m missing:
o My family/friends
o Healthy food
· I was supposed to stay in my village this weekend, but since we have no food for the learners they are going home. Therefore, I am going to Oshakati to celebrate Kristin and Abby’s birthdays. Shout out to my Kati girls! Yay for Namibz birthdays and being old J
· I was in the teacher’s office today (Wednesday) and guess what band started playing through the speakers? Backstreet Boys. That’s right! Take me back to my elementary school days.
· Another office story. On Tuesday, I was in the office doing work and a couple of my grade 5 learners were in there. The 2 girls were seriously so fascinated by me. They were touching my hair, touching my skin because it would turn white from my sunburn and then back to red, and they were staring at my feet. Oh my gosh, it was like I was a new toy.
· Also, last Sunday, I baked cookies for some of the other teachers. I also had three of the female teachers, one being my roommate, over for a movie. They chose Crazy Stupid Love. For the most part, they understood it and seemed to enjoy it. Afterwards, I showed them more pictures of my life back home. This led to us talking about men. I have definitely taken for granted the Southern men that I am surrounded by. Their kind hearts, their charm, and their ruggedness that is oh so attractive. These ladies reiterated all things that I have already heard about Namibian men, but basically, they all told me that being single is the way to be here. Men to them are no good; in fact, the word used was dogs. This broke my heart a little bit, especially since some are married and or in relationships. However, it helped me to take a step back and appreciate my potential future relationships back home.
· I did laundry again (aka, I had help doing my laundry) and of course, it rained during the drying process. So, my room is filled with wet clothes. Thanks Mom and Dad for that bungee clothesline.
· I am finally starting to laugh with the Namibians. I know that sounds weird, but with the language barrier, things have not been funny for all of us at the same time. However, we are starting to appreciate each others humor and I have experienced true laughter. The first came from one of my male teachers. Here’s how it played out...(scene: Netball game)
o Teacher: Ms. Mac, do you play netball at home?
o Me: No, we don’t have netball. I never heard of it before coming here.
o Teacher: Oh wow. You all are WAY behind!
· Lastly, my grade 5 has been doing so well! In fact, all of my classes have been going really well. Thursday we have tests again, so I will update on this thought after that.
With all of that being said, it is so easy to get caught up in the struggles, the loneliness, and the work that I am constantly bombarded with, but as I write this and think of how far I have come, how far my learners have come, I get a little choked up. We still have so much to do, but they are genuinely becoming interested in learning. They are paying attention, doing more homework, and asking questions. Oh my heart is happy. My God is good!
Today, my learners began their unit on family. I opened the topic by doing a listening test where they were required to answer questions about my family. They are always asking questions about my personal life, so I thought this would make the assignment a little more fun. I read them a small paragraph three times, and then they answered five questions that I had put on the board. Overall, they did really well. It may have been too easy, but who is to say when the average is a 70 and there are learners that are literally getting zeros. Either way, after our listening test, I allowed the students to ask me questions about my family and myself. Questions were all over the place. I had people asking me if I had a laptop or a car back home. I had another student ask what class I had failed, which I followed up with a “ummm…none.” That was a crazy thought for them too since so many kids (not all) here have failed at some point. The winning question however, was when one of my girls asked me if I was married. I knew where this was going from the start because a couple weeks in I switched my ring to my ring finger, but I let them finish with the topic. After saying “no, I am not married,” a bunch of them asked why I had on my ring. Being completely honest with them, I told them that I wear it on that finger because when I go into town a lot of people come up and tell me that we should date or get married. Well my learners had a field day with that. They were laughing SO hard, hopefully because they thought it was funny and not because I am ridiculous. Either way, the class ended with me asking the learners about their families. I was able to ask questions regarding their tribes, their siblings, their parents, etc. It was incredibly informative, but also heartbreaking too. I learned that several of my students are missing one or two parents (I knew this was a possibility, but it’s different when you hear them say it). I also learned that some students will not see their parents for a whole year! Because I too am far from my parents and family, I understand the challenges that come with them and my heart breaks for these kids. They are so strong. So much stronger than I ever was at that age. So much stronger than I am at 23.
Friday, March 1, 2013
As I sit on Facebook, I see these pictures of all of the things happening at home. People are getting dolled up to go to the rodeo. Others are having a girls’ night on the town. Some are just sharing everyday events. I feel silly because I sit here, living the life I wanted for over a year, and I secretly long for those things a little. I want those moments where I feel truly pretty again; I long for times that were easier. But that’s not why I am here, and I must remind myself of that. I am here to be stretched, changed, and molded into something new. I am here to stretch, change, and mold others into something new. I am here to bring God’s beauty and grace to a country that faces some struggles. He has told me that this will not be easy; he has proven time and time again that worldly issues will tempt me and cause me to struggle, occasionally sinning along the way (always offering me forgiveness). Ultimately though, I think that is ok. I think that it is ok that sometimes I don’t want to be here. I think that it is ok that sometimes I wish for an easier situation. I think that it is ok that sometimes my American mindset gets in the way. In the end, it is how I push through the situation. How do I handle my conflicts? How do I finish my year here?
Although things are hard at times, and will continue to be up until the day I leave, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I couldn’t even picture me sitting at an office job, watching the clock, hoping for the time to pass. I am exactly where I was meant to be, problems and all. This was the life that was chosen for me. The one I was rewarded. The one that God and others around me believed I could handle.
As mentioned in a prior post, I am slowly working towards my in country project. Some of you may have heard or read about my plans, but I will give a quick update. At Otjerunda, my learners do not have the proper living arrangements (heck, they don’t even have the right classroom arrangements). They are sharing beds, sleeping in ways Americans cannot even fathom, and living inside four aluminum walls. With that being said, my goal is to raise enough money to get at least one new sleeping hostel funded while I am here. I have received a gracious donation from my church family, and the school is trying to get in contact with businessmen and companies within country. I am slowly in the process of figuring out expenses, since it will differ depending on who does the building. I could share my own stories about the situations, but as promised, I have a letter from a learner that will shed more light on how they are living. I have also included the official letter that will be sent to businesses in the country.
If you feel called to donate to this cause, whether it is $5, $500, or sweet prayers to our Savior, I want you to know that your gifts will not go unnoticed. Every single word of encouragement, dollar, and prayer has already influenced my time spent in this country. If again you feel called, please make a check out to me and send it to my parents to cash and keep track of.
To end with some words of wisdom, I give you Mumford and Sons:
“Do not let my fickle flesh go to waste, as it keeps my heart and soul in its place. I will love with urgency but not with haste.”
Letter from an 8A Learner (a topic done in class and finished for homework):
To Whom It May Concern:
I am an 8A learner at Otjerunda Combined School. My name is Uno-Boy. I am writing to discuss the needs of my school. In school, we do not have enough food for all of the learners. We eat only yellow porridge without sugar, salt, cooking oil, one to three times a day.
Also, our hostels are not in good condition. Our hostel is too small and we are missing bedding, which means we are sleeping on the floor or sharing beds. There is also not enough storage. They are all broken.
We need new toilets right now. The toilets are full. They do not flush, and we have these toilets for all of the learners (about 400 students).
We are also lacking a kitchen and pots to cook in. We need a dining hall and plates from the government.
Letter sent to companies within country:
To Whom It May Concern:
We are writing in regards to the condition of the hostels at Otjerunda Combined School. Currently, we are housing more than 400 students, 196 male learners and 224 female learners. The current state of our facility is less than desirable and is preventing our learners from receiving the education they deserve, due to the fact that they are not resting to their best potential.
Currently at Otjerunda CS, we have one concrete female hostel and two aluminum hostels, as seen in the pictures. The girls are sleeping two to three to a bed, and others do not even have mattresses. As for our male hostels, we have one concrete fixture and one aluminum one (i.e. see pictures). Like our girls, the boys are also sleeping more than one to a bed.
With the above mentioned, we the staff and teachers at Otjerunda CS, are asking for any help and assistance that may be feasible. Every contribution is greatly appreciated.
Otjerunda Combined School Staff