Thy Kingdom Come…

One family's journey crossing cultures in pursuit of the kingdom of God

Identity

I wish I had a profound post to share about identity.   So much of our time in Ethiopia has been asking questions about who we are, what we are about, how do we do was we feel God has called us to do?  As we are transitioning away from Ethiopia and back to the US, we will still be asking ourselves those questions – who are we know, how have we changed, what is next for us?

Unfortunately, this post is not prompted by those profound questions of life.   I am writing this to let you know that I am not trying to rent apartments in New York City or have I ever.   Someone, it seems, has taken on my identity to try to scam people out of deposit money while promising them apartments in NYC.   ITS NOT ME!!  Please don’t give any money to anybody who claims to be me online.    As evident from this blog, my online activity is minimal at best and I don’t have any apartments to rent.

Thanks to those people who figured it out and let me know.   I haven’t been scammed out of any money and I hope you haven’t either.

Jon

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Separation

Oil pastel by Grace

Me and Daddy Sometimes Apart – Oil pastel by Grace

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Me and Daddy Sometimes Apart – Oil pastel by Grace

The art may speak for itself but I will add a bit of context.

The travel required, mostly of Jon and very occasionally of me, has been one of the unexpected and quite challenging aspects of living and working cross-culturally.  I’m not talking about the scheduled home assignments when we uproot and travel together, but the frequent conferences, educational meetings, and government inspections that take Jon out of Addis or, most frequently, out of Ethiopia.  If you add to this the fact that Jon has still been expected to be at the hospital immediately prior to and upon return, often taking call the week before or after (yes, in a state of jet lag), this has resulted in 1-3 weeks per month of physical separation.  The remaining 1-3 weeks are characterized by exhaustion and emotional separation.

Some families seem to take it in stride.  Real? A facade? I’m not sure, but for us it has torn us apart and for Grace, especially, it has been one aspect of life here that has become unbearable.

This is something that is somewhat unique to the medical profession and yet other cross-cultural workers struggle with the same work-life balance.  As the art clearly communicates, it’s something we need to work on figuring out better.

Home, a Song by Grace (Home, pt. 5)

It’s been almost two years since I write about the idea of “home” and yet, it continues to be a theme that we question and seek and yet remains elusive.  Grace, especially, has been struggling with this concept, as evidenced in a song she wrote recently.

Home

Until I am 18

I will never be

in the USA

living permanently.

Chorus:

I want my home

I want my home

 I love my home

My home is

not my home

My home is

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Chorus:

I want my home

I want my home

I love my home

I miss Olivia

I miss shopping

I miss McDonalds

I miss Chick-fil-A

I miss my old church, Intown

Chorus:

I want my home

I want my home

I love my home

I’ll miss Tendayi

I’ll miss Sishu

I’ll miss “home”

Chorus:

I want my home

I want my home

I love my home

But I’m 9 years old

9 more years

How will I wait?

Chorus:

I want my home

I want my home

I love my home

I am Grace Pollock

of Atlanta, Georgia, USA

not Grace Pollock

of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Africa

In Teaching…Expect the Unexpected

In my grade 12 homeroom no voting was necessary to determine which student had come up with the craziest hat for crazy hat day.  The student whose crazy “hat” included a live chicken won this distinction without so much as a discussion on the matter.  She had obtained a traditional Ethiopian basket, acquired a chicken (it wouldn’t be that difficult here), made a nest for it in the basket, and tied it in.  When she arrived with her “hat” happily bobbing its head as it looked around she assured me that she had taken measures to ensure that her “hat” wouldn’t poop in my room.  Technically, it did not end up pooping in my room.

It did, however, suddenly jump out of the basket during the middle of another student’s presentation.  We thought everything was fine after a couple of the students wrangled the chicken back in the basket and tied it in, a little more securely this time.  We began to be concerned, though, when the students watching over the chicken announced that it was foaming at the mouth.

My first thought was whether or not all of the students in my class were up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations.  We normally think of the stray dogs running around Addis as being the potential threat but a rabid chicken could also do some damage.

My second thought, however, was that I probably didn’t have a rabid chicken in my classroom but that I probably did have one that was going into shock because of its experience in my classroom.  Some of the students could probably empathize with the chicken, although for different reasons!

At this point we were in danger of veering completely off course and I was in danger of losing control of the class, so I just told the students to take the chicken outside and take care of it.  They did and returned a few minutes later.  I thought everything was ok until the end of class when I checked in with them concerning the matter.  At this point I learned that they had taken it into the teacher’s workroom next door and put it under a box with holes cut into it…without the permission of any of the teachers in that workroom!

Being pretty sure this arrangement wouldn’t sit well with my co-workers, I had to ask them to take the chicken out of the workroom.  Their response to this was to drag the chicken, which had, in the meantime, pooped on the floor, still under the box outside the workroom door.  So, now I had a live chicken under a box and a meter long streak of chicken poop extending out the doorway of the workroom to deal with.

My response at this point was to have the student clean up the chicken poop but she had to take an exam first.  In the end, a teacher with more compassion than I bailed the student out and wiped up the chicken poop and I was assured at the end of the day that the chicken had been taken care of, although I still don’t know how.

None of this was in my teacher training, except maybe the warning to expect the unexpected!

Transition to Grade 12

“I have to go yell at some grade 11 students,” the other teacher called out as she left my room abruptly one morning. As she did so, five or six of my grade 12 students looked alarmed.

“What did we do?” asked one with concern in her voice. I had to remind them that they were not in grade 11 any more and they weren’t in trouble!

There were several comical, yet serious moments during that first week of school during which it sunk in for some of them that they were now in their final year of high school, the oldest and “wisest” group of students in the school who were getting ready to face the “real” world, heading off to university studies, military service, and jobs.

A Visit from Grandma Nea Nea and Papa

We’ve been blessed with another visit from Grandma Nea Nea and Papa.  The pictures tell the story.

Mom did a "Paint no More" party with Grace's class.  She read the book and the kids got to paint Grace and their teacher!

Mom did a “Paint no More” party with Grace’s class. She read the book and the kids got to paint Grace and their teacher!

 

Thanks to Mrs. Flippence, Grace's teacher this past year, for being a good sport!

Thanks to Mrs. Flippence, Grace’s teacher this past year, for being a good sport!

 

Mom went to Hannah's class for their 100 day party. That is, 100 days of school in 2014 since they weren't ready to count to 100 before Christmas!

Mom went to Hannah’s class for their 100 day party. That is, 100 days of school in 2014 since they weren’t ready to count to 100 before Christmas!

I don’t seem to have pictures, but Dad went to all of the elementary classes to do fire safety lessons.  These were a big hit, especially the ones in which he lit fires and put them out!  After that we heard, both around school and outside of school, “Hi Mr. Al.”

And, of course, playing "Three Billy Goats Gruff," under the bridge on the playground.

And, of course, playing “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” under the bridge on the playground.

 

And underdogs.

And underdogs.

 

And trips to the little souk down the road from our house for "chippies" for tea time (our version of morning snack time).

And trips to the little souk down the road from our house for “chippies” for tea time (our version of morning snack time).

 

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Finishing Well

My Spanish classes had an interesting end to the school year. We talked about Holy Week in Spanish speaking countries and the practice of making alfombras de serrín (sawdust carpets) in Guatemala and other Central American countries. We then made our own!

My 9th grade class made first on with symbols from Holy Week.

My 9th grade class made first on with symbols from Holy Week.

 

We had extra sawdust, so they made one the "right" way, in the walkway where everyone passes through.

We had extra sawdust, so they made one the “right” way, in the walkway where everyone passes through.

 

My other Spanish classes didn't want to be left out.

My other Spanish classes didn’t want to be left out.

 

Together, they made a huge alfombra de serrín that said "Congratulations" in Bingham school colors and we put it out for graduation.

Together, they made a huge alfombra de serrín that said “Congratulations” in Bingham school colors and we put it out for graduation.

 

Not to be left out, my 6th grade class had a competition with the remaining colored sawdust.

Not to be left out, my 6th grade class had a competition with the remaining colored sawdust.

 

Divided into 3 groups, they were given a bowl of three different colors and one class period.  They were told to use that to see what they could come up with.

Divided into 3 groups, they were given a bowl of three different colors and one class period. They were told to use that to see who could come up with the best design.

 

There three were the results.  I had lollipops to get rid of, so I just gave them all one.

There three were the results. I had lollipops to get rid of, so I just gave them all one.

Getting Ready for School…The Same or Different?

Mornings at our house are characteristically chaotic and messy. Think of the stereotypical events such as kids running out the door in crazy outfits or mismatched shoes because the parents were too busy to notice such details or the last minute transaction of lunch money, snacks, library books and gym clothes. We’re not quite to the “You’re not leaving that house in that short of skirt!” part yet.

What is different about us is that the lunch money that is handed out is in birr and instead of entrusting the child with $2-$3 the child must be responsible for 20-30 birr (which is actually only $1-$2) and the snack that is packed will be consumed at “tea time,” a morning recess time that observed and much anticipated by, not only the elementary students, but the middle and high school students and staff as well.

When our ride arrives, our guard calls out to us to let us know that it has arrived and we run out to the waiting vehicle sometimes leaving the unfinished coffee behind and sometimes dumping it into the thermos to take with us.

What is different is the vehicle that stops to pick us up. It isn’t a big yellow school bus, but a little blue taxi. Here it is common to contract a taxi driver to pick up students in the morning and drop off in the afternoon, so that’s what we do. Over the rainy season (summer in the U.S.) a new bridge has been completed enough to create a shorter route to school but last year, on the way to school, we would pass the city dump and, depending on which direction the wind was blowing, were sometimes overwhelmed by the smell of burning, rotting garbage. This was a reminder to us of the people who live in or next to the dump and who earn a living sifting through the garbage to find what they can to eat, use, or sell. This year, even with the shorter route completed, we             are still at times overwhelmed by the clouds of exhaust produced by the             countless numbers of diesel trucks on the road. Let’s just say that 90% of the vehicles wouldn’t pass the emissions tests required for our license tags in the U.S.!

We arrive at school and Grace, especially, is excited to find her friends, see what important events have happened overnight and take Hannah to her classroom when it’s time to go to class before she takes herself to her own classroom. I get to attend staff devotions and prayer time, during which we take turns sharing what God has been teaching us and praying for the students, Ethiopian staff, and each other.

And then the day begins!

Addis-wide Elementary Track Meet

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Grace won the ball throw!  And Bingham won the track meet…by one point!

Field Day 2014

Each year, the athletic department at Bingham Academy hosts a two-day community event.  Field Day is a school-wide track and field meet in which all students compete in track races and field events (long jump, high jump, discus, javelin throw, etc.).  Even the KG students do bean bag races, obstacle courses, sprints, and the ball throw.  There are even races for the parents and younger siblings to participate in.  Parents, alumni and the 40+ home school families are invited to attend and participate.

This was our second Field Day and both years I have been impressed by the balance of competitiveness and camaraderie the students exhibit.  They run, jump and throw hard, pushing themselves against one another and then give each other hugs and high fives afterwards.

This year Grace competed in the three-legged race, sack race and the ball throw.  Placing 2nd in the ball throw placed her high enough to represent Bingham at the Addis-wide elementary track meet between 5 of the main international schools in Addis.

Hannah competed in Field Day also.  Her “events” were the bean bag carry, sack race, and obstacle course.  I think she could have also won the pouting contest for her reaction when she realized she wouldn’t get first place in her race.  A new aspect of her personality manifested itself!

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