Thursday, July 23, 2009

Clinton High I come!

After applying to LOTS of schools and harassing many districts with regular phone calls and emails I ended up interviewing at Clinton High School in Clinton, IA and Downers Grove outside Chicago. I can confidently say that I am certain I am supposed to be at Clinton HS! I went to the interview as "practice" for my Downers Grove interview and ended up LOVING it!

I will be co-teaching 3 sections of Physical Science with a special education teacher and teaching 1 section of Biology. They are on a trimester schedule where they have a 5 - 70 minute periods and get a new schedule each trimester. I've never heard of anything like it before, but I'm excited to have the longer periods like I had with block scheduling in Boerne! The science department seems fun, motivated and really cares about kids which is encouraging (and I was promised that they'd try to get me some Chemistry next year...I hope!)

Clinton is a community of about 25,000 people located about 30 minutes north of the Quad-Cities along the Mississippi. It's a blue-collar community with a lot of generational poverty. Now, I know that normally isn't a big selling point, but I'm pretty excited about working in a community like that without having to be in an inner city. I know there will be plenty of challenges but it's so comforting to feel so at peace about this next transition (especially when it's SO not what I was expecting/wanting: 1 hour from home, in a smallish Iowa town, co-teaching physical science)! Thanks for all the prayers as this transition is nearly complete, logistically I just need an apartment! :)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Endings...and waiting for new beginnings...

Being back in the US again is shocking...culture shock is real! Everything uses electricity...garage door openers, phones, escalators, automatic doors, garbage disposals...the list could on indefinitely. No wonder the US is a top consumer of natural resources!

Here are some random observations about being back in the US:
***Radio is a wonderful thing! Free music...lots of it...24/7!
***Hot showers are not in the least bit over-rated...AMAZING!
***Americans own a lot of STUFF. (I'm doing a much better job cleaning out my room in my parent's house out after living in Nigeria for a year!)
***Decorating one's environment is more highly valued than one's dress. (People in Jalingo are much more concerned about being dressed very well!)
***People wear short shorts here...out and about everywhere! How did I forget?!
***I love the entertainment museums, concerts, restaurants!
***People live indoors here. I miss being able to see people everywhere I go. (Granted I'm coming from a city of 150,000 to a town a 2500...that's part of the difference.)

Currently, I'm living in Wilton with my parents and still applying for a ridiculous number of high school science teaching jobs. I honestly didn't think I would have this tough of a time getting hired in the midwest. I've applied to so many places throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa and am still waiting. Yet, the God who has been with me through my childhood, college, first job in Texas, and now serving for a year in Nigeria will surely continue. He will not forsake me! I'm hanging on to Psalm 27:13-14:

"I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

Yeah...I'm not sure if you know this about me...I'm not good at waiting for the unknown. I am an action person. Give me a task, a goal, an idea I will work hard to make it happen, but to be still and wait is very hard! In fact, being in this position right now is MUCH SCARIER than leaving for Africa to spend a year "alone". I'm trying to be content in all situations instead of wishing away this time before getting a job (I'm not being very successful).

I'm missing my day-to-day friends in Nigeria a LOT and looking forward my new beginning whereever that may be and whenever it may begin. Right now I'm in between an amazing experience I had and being excited for the new beginning that awaits me...waiting.

Good bye, Jalingo!

I have clearly been in denial about being home. It's as if by not posting my "I'm home" post, it wouldn't be real! Obviously, not the case.

The last few weeks I had in Nigeria were filled with so many friends! I'm SO glad my roommate from Texas, Angie, came with the group of missionaries from Iowa to work at the UMCN Primary School because she was able to meet many of the people who are so important to me in Jalingo and get a sense of the life that I'm missing during this transition.

My school had a "Send Forth" (going away party/ceremony) for me where the kids sang some songs, did a skit and there were many kind words of appreciation spoken both by them and me with an awesome meal afterwards. There were multiple other occassions where people had spent hours preparing amazing food to share with us as a show of their gratitude for my time here. While I continued to try to find ways to show them how much I had appreciated them.

It was tough in the last few weeks trying to make sure to see everyone one last time. I feel so blessed to have been in such a kind, loving and accepting place for the past year. It's really hard to describe the feelings associated with leaving so many people. I like to speculate that the difficulty I found was because when you are in an intense/high stress situation with a group of people tight bonds are often formed. From my perspective, life in Nigeria was really intense, especially in the beginning, because everything was SO DIFFERENT! However, these people, taught me how to survive in my new environment. While I tried to contribute in my own way, I had to trust them for EVERYTHING! Thankfully, they were ridiculously helpful, dependable and giving of their time, resources and friendship. Hence, I left a part of me with my friends back in Jalingo and definitely brought a part of them with me back to the US.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Transitions are tough!

I'm dreading leaving Nigeria in 10 days! While it should feel like returning home it's weird to feel like I'm leaving home behind. I'm leaving a place where I have an address (even if it is "UMCN Mission Compound, next to ECWA Hospital"), a phone number, a job and friends. I'm returning to the US where I thankfully have a loving family providing me a temporary address, no phone number, no job...yet (though I'm trying to pray with the same confidence that I used when I was stuck in the bathroom earlier this year!) and so many uncertainties.

While I get a little excited when I think about the food, amenities, and National Parks that await my visit upon my return to the US none of those things really make it seem worth leaving Nigeria (not that I really have a choice now!) However, when I start to think about all my fabulous family and friends back home I get super excited to see all of you! You're the best!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pre-Cursor to Reverse Culture Shock

As the team of missionaries from the US came, I realized that I’ve entered this strange place of existence, no longer fully American but not yet fully Nigerian. It’s a unique feeling. I think it’s a good transition to have them here and will help ease the inevitable reverse culture shock.

Here are a few observations that I’ve found myself thinking as a Nigerian:
1. Is that all the rice you’re going to eat?
(I now realize why I have to run twice as far as what I used to and trek all over creation…from eating so much!)
2. You’re walking so fast!
(For the first time, walking down to a little shop, I felt like I was being dragged along.)
3. You’re taking so many pictures!
(I know I still take a lot of pictures, but it’s definitely interesting how certain things don’t seem “photo-worthy” anymore.)
4. Americans are so free and friendly with everyone.
(Compared with meeting Nigerians, Americans that are here visiting Nigeria are so open and “free” with everyone!)

On the other hand I still have my American thoughts as well:
1. Why can’t things be better maintained? It’s like they don’t care…
(It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that maintenance isn’t as simple as it is in the US.)
2. Didn’t we say we were meeting by _________ time? Why aren’t they here?
(I’m not sure my scheduled brain will ever adapt to Nigerian time!)
3. We gave you this thing, isn’t it being used?
(Gifts and donations are so necessary, appreciated and valued. However, sometimes when something isn’t being utilized to its fullest potential, it’s not that it hasn’t been attempted. Oftentimes, there are constraints that are unimaginable.)

Just as adjusting to Nigerian life was challenging at times, I know that readjusting to American life will provide its own tests. I’m thankful that the enlarged perspective that I’ve gained and many lessons that I’ve learned make everything else worth it! :)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Frozen Moments

As my time is winding down, I'm trying to freeze certain moments in my memory so that I can recall them someday to add a little joy to my day!

*Man walking down the street selling bras…and wearing one over his shirt as advertisement
*One man standing across the drainage ditch tossing crates of empty glass bottles through the air to another man who was loading them on the truck…they said they never miss
*Being watched as I peeked around a semi-truck to see on-coming traffic and decide to squeeze between the drainage ditch and the side of the truck and tip toe precariously along until I reach the other end…the on-looker celebrated with me when I made it successfully by.
*Women roasting corn over charcoal fires inside old tires along the side of the road, constantly fanning it to keep it from burning
*A mother alerting her child that baturia was passing so that the child runs out to the road to greet me
*People greeting me by name that I’ve never met before.

This all happened as I was walking home from being ridiculously frustrated with the internet. It's how I forget the frustration and remember the good stuff!

Saturday, May 30, 2009 Nigeria!

While there is a group of us that run early in the mornings here in Jalingo, exercise isn't a high priority for most people. However, I was recently informed of a group that meets on a handball court in the morning 3 times a week for aerobics and encouraged to come and participate, so after my friend and I did our normal morning run this morning, we proceeded to aerobics class!

Now, I've done a variety of exercise classes back in the states at UNI, and in San Antonio, but doing aerobics here in Jalingo was a whole new experience! :) First of all the typical demographic of participant was a 45 year old male in high ranking governmental positions. Then, all exercises were done to Nigerian Praise music outside with many people stopping along the dirt road to watch the spectacle (I'm not sure how much of that was normal and how much was due to my presence.) When we did floor work, we used woven mats made from palm branches, and I was defintely the ONLY person who couldn't touch my "legs" (toes) during the stretching which no one could understand.

It was an enjoyable, energizing, and thoroughly entertaining experience that I plan to do for my remaining Saturdays in Jalingo! :)