Today marks one year back in Canada for me. Not a thing I ever really expected to write again. I was bound and determined to stay permanently in Malawi - it is home to me. However, God had a different plan for me these past twelve months.
I also realize that I have not posted on this blog in a very long time! Life has not been the easiest, and I am looking forward to resuming more regular posts in the near future.
So... what happened since my last post, why am I in Canada, and what am I doing?
I returned to Canada for a few weeks over the summer of 2015 to see family, friends, and take part in some mission activities with the Liebenzell Mission of Canada. I also enrolled in an online teachers ed certificate program through the UK, and attended a one week intensive in Nottingham. I spent a week in Zambia in August at the Liebenzell Mission All-Africa Missionary Summit - it was great getting to meet my fellow co-workers, and learn more about the wider ministry of Liebenzell in Africa and the world. I returned to Malawi and moved into my own little cottage, sub-letting it from a co-worker.
My second year as a Kindergarten and swimming teacher for ABC Christian Academy began - and I loved it! I had great co-workers in my fellow Kindergarten teacher from across the hall, and in my wonderful teaching assistant, and a super fun group of five-year-olds!
However, in October, everything started to crumble... my teaching assistant got married (yay!) and moved away (awww...), and was not replaced for over a month, which essentially doubled my workload, and made day-to-day classes much more stressful (and report cards and parent conferences began); my landlord decided to sell the cottage I was renting, so I ended up moving into the big house with my co-worker and her children (fun, but exhausting to move mid-term); and swimming lessons began, where I was in charge of enrolling 150 students, making up classes, assisting in training instructors, and teaching classes myself.
Suffice it to say, my goal was survival until Christmas break. Most weekends in November, and for much of the December break, I was ill. Over the break, we moved again, as the landlord was continuing to make sudden and strange decisions. An already low number of staff became lower in January, when four staff members, for various reasons, no longer worked at the Academy. This meant that I took on more responsibility, again, and foreseeing this as a difficulty, I suspended my teachers ed studies for a year.
In February, both myself and my co-worker / housemate became seriously ill - I ended up diagnosed with a double lung infection and was prescribed bed rest for a week. Instead of receiving support from my supervisors, I was pressured into returning to work early, asked to take on still more responsibilities, and ended up with worsening health.
At this point, the director of the Liebenzell Mission of Canada and I made the difficult decision that this was no longer a healthy environment for me, and that I needed to return to Canada to be properly diagnosed and recuperate.
So, in March, one year ago, I flew back to Canada. My health continued to deteriorate, and it quickly became clear that there was more going on than a residual lung infection. In July, I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition, which is thankfully relatively easy to treat, once it has been stabilized - which is what my doctors and I have been focused on since my diagnosis.
Of course, I have been up to more than just visiting the doctor, and there are exciting plans being made for the future... but I am going to make you wait for those until my next post!
Today I read Samson’s story in Judges, and was struck by how watered-down and glossed-over his story is in my remembrances of Sunday school. He was a gruesome, vindictive rebel – the Nazirite vow that he was born into ordered him to abstain from cutting his hair, drinking wine, and touching dead bodies. Yet at the beginning of his appearances in the Bible, he throws a party for a girl as “the young men used to do”… which means wine. He killed a lion, returned to the carcass and found a hive in it, and proceeded to scoop out and eat the honey – and feed it to his parents! Disgusting and odd. And in the middle of his dramatic life, his hair is shorn. That is all three parts of the vow broken. And then there are the many people he killed, the prostitutes he frequented, his insistence on marrying a Philistine woman, and his other acts that show just how warped of a person he was. Distilling the Bible truth down to these behaviours makes me think that Samson was a psycho/sociopath or maybe just insane. So, this man who was supposed to be living an exemplary life for God is just about as opposite from that as can possibly be. And if we think about the physical descriptions of him, he would look extremely scary – between the seven long dreadlocks and the giant muscles, he probably looked like a Rasta Hulk – minus the green.
And yet, even in the midst of all his human weakness and sin, God found a way to use this man. In Judges 14:4, his choice of a Philistine bride is said to be from God – a method to find “an opportunity against the Philistines”. His first mention of God is to call out and basically complain that now that he has killed all the people, can’t God give him a drink? God obliges and Samson, now revived, proceeds to visit another prostitute.
I find it fascinating and refreshing for my soul to read about the mess that Samson was, and to realize that God still worked powerful things through him. Some days I look at the to do list that seems to be a mile long, see the many things that have been waiting for months for the time to get them finished, and wonder if my life and my work is actually worth it. Am I useful to God – is what I do pleasing to Him and furthering His Kingdom? Today, I know that it is – if God can use the crazy life of Samson to work His will, then He can use my willingness – even in my messy and sinful nature – to accomplish what He wants.
So, today – here is a new post for you on this long-neglected blog of mine. I do thank you for reading and following the adventures of my pursuit of God and His call on my life. And today, I recognize that my ability to write regular posts may not exist right now between the 20 five year olds that demand my energy, and the other aspects of life. But I do hope to see you again here soon. My frazzled first year of teaching is slowly winding to a close, and I have many memories and stories to share – and I hope that next year will have more breathing space for me to connect with you here
So, I've been coming home from school every day with stories for Barb that just crack us both up, and she has suggested that I need to be recording them - and I think they are most likely hilarious enough to share on here! Of course, to protect identities, all tales will be vague... And so begins the adventures of Kindergarten 1, the Noah's Ark classroom:
- A child cut their gluestick up with their scissors. Another one cut up all their twistable crayons with theirs. Scissors seem to be a problem.
- 'Ms. Konig - he karate chopped me and I didn't want him to.'... 'Well, he wrestled me and I didn't want him to do that.'... 'So what happened exactly?'... 'He wants to play karate and I want to wrestle.'
- 'Teacher, Teacher - she poked me really hard with her pencil'...'No I didn't, well, only because he showed me how sharp his pencil was on my finger and I was showing him how sharp my pencil was.'
- 2 of my kids used up entire bottles of hand sanitizer in the course of a day, washing their hands, feet, knees, desks, and more with the contents of their bottles. Augh! Why I only catch these antics after they have occurred, I don't know. All hand sanitizers have now been confiscated and are being saved for when they are actually needed.
- 'Teacher - he said my picture looks like a baby picture'... 'Only because she told me my picture looked like a baby drew it.'
- I sent homework for both the parents and the kids for the first time, and told the kids that they were only to do one page, and to tell their parents that they should read the note explaining which days to complete the homework. Three came back the next day with the whole pack completed...'Mom said that if she had to do homework, I did too.'
- 3 of my kids decided to give themselves haircuts with the scissors their parents so kindly sent in as part of the school supplies. We had to have a lengthy class discussion about what supplies can be used for.
- 2 children disobeyed in a big way, and lost their recess privileges for a week... the first day, I had them draw me pictures after they spent 10 minutes crying, and they drew pictures of themselves crying buckets of tears. When they ran out of space on the paper, they asked for more, and when I said they could use the back, they drew themselves crying again!
- 'Class, how do we sit on the carpet?'... Chorus of 'Criss-cross applesauce, hands in our lap, eyes forward'... while still standing, facing the wrong way, and busy playing with others. Hmmm...
Well, I am sure that that is not a comprehensive list of events that have occurred and made me chuckle in the last three weeks of Kindergarten! But I hope you enjoyed what I did remember and manage to get down!
And because I hate to leave you without any pictures... check out the fantastic cake that was brought in for one of the two birthdays that we celebrated in class this week!
This is the week that the INDEVOURs of 2015 are heading out to their respective placements in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Nepal, Peru, Senegal, and Vietnam. Two lucky INDEVOURS will be joining me in the ranks of those who experience Malawi, and I hope that their placements impact their lives in similar ways to my time on placement last year.
The 8 month placement that the International Development program at the Unviersity of Waterloo requires are some of the hardest and biggest months of growth for most of us who have completed it. Prepare to have mood swings of an intensity you have never before encountered - you can go from loving where you are to vehemently hating it, in a matter of seconds. I pray that for this year's INDEVOURS, they will experience more of the 'loving' than hating', and that when they are able to step back, process, and reflect on their time on placement, they will come to the same conclusion that I did. Yes, as a new program, INDEV has its flaws, but the placement supercedes all aspects of irritation as it prepares new graduates extremely well for work in their field, and gives them an accurate picture of what their future may look like, if they choose to continue in the development field.
And Ian and Alison - Takulandirani! Welcome to Malawi!
Barb and I were blessed to have another housemate, Katie II, for the last few weeks, and she leaves on Monday to head back to the States for school. She has been working with the audiology clinic for about a month, and was able to have quite a few Malawi adventures along the way - outreach up north, and a safari weekend in the south.
She got back from the safari this evening, and walked into the middle of pizza production! Barb and I worked together to invite all the single staff, and make enough pizzas and no-bake haystack cookies for dessert for the whole bunch!
We ended up with about 20 people coming over, and it was a lot of fun to chat and intermittently eat (cooking 7 pizzas in 1 oven takes a long time!!), and it was great for everyone to get to spend some off-duty time together. Once the evening wound up, we tidied, and then sat down to have one last housemate conversation before Katie left. It was lovely having you, Katie, and we are already missing your presence!
On the last night of our orientation at African Bible College, the whole staff went out to the Kumbali Cultural village for dinner. We got to eat traditional Malawian foods including nsima (corn meal porridge), steamed pumpkin leaves, and beef in tomato sauce. We were also greatly entertained by a sort-of singer named Scott Gray, who has written an album of songs that portray the Malawian quirks in a light-hearted manner. I thought you might also enjoy hearing one of his songs - 'Beep Beep... Odi' is about the public transportation system: minibus.
I love my church! The people that make it up are so loving and genuine, and I can't wait to see them every week! We are doing a really great series this year, as our pastor is casting vision for the church. The first three months were about Integrity - or, our personal relationship with God and how that works out in our lives. The second three months were about Family - how we interact in our families as Christians, and how that looks; and the third set of three months, which we are currently in, are about Church - how families and individuals work together to build up the church. It is awesome!
Sunday mornings typically run from 8:30 until 12:30. There is a one hour Renovate Class that happens Sunday mornings before the service, where we learn the foundational truths of the Bible. Then we have our regular service, which opens with about an hour of worship, followed by a sermon that is around an hour long, and we end the morning with some time of talking with each other before heading out.
This week and the last have both been absolutely crazy! I have been putting in 12+ hour days at school getting the classroom ready, going to orientation meetings, sorting through the resources in the classroom, learning the curriculum, and preparing lesson plans. On top of that, both my housemate and I got sick at the beginning of the week, and have been struggling to get healthy again while having very full schedules. To give you a picture of how boring yet busy our life has been, tonight I got home from school at 4:45, which was about an hour and a half earlier than most nights. My housemate, Barb, was feeling well enough to be able to speak again, and with those two things, we decided we must have a celebratory evening! So for dinner we ate instant soup... because it doesn't hurt her throat, and it doesn't hurt my stomach. Oh well! The adventure will continue, and it is going to be amazing!
The first week of school has been a lot of fun for me! Our mornings start at 6:45 with staff devotions, then from 7:00-7:15 the children begin to arrive and play on the playground. We make our way inside and do a welcome routine, and then settle in for the meat of the day: phonics, maths, reading, writing, Bible, science, and social studies. We have taken, on average, 4 bathroom breaks a day... I keep trying to reduce the amount of disruptions these have on our routine, but these little bladders seem to need more time to reacquaint themselves with a school routine. The children also get a snack break and recess in the middle of the day, and head home just after 12:00. My teaching assistant, Miss Moyo, has been a huge help to me - she is already familiar with a lot of the procedures that are in place at ABCCA that I just haven't had the chance to learn - i.e, the ABCCA walk: children stand single file with their hands clasped behind their back, and walk silently from classroom to classroom. I officially have a class of 19 five year olds, and they are full of energy and raring to go! I keep ending the day needing a nap and throat lozenge, but I have been told that after a few months, you get used to this and are able to manage better! I am still working on putting the bulletin boards together in my classroom, and definitely have some more supplies to add to the shelves, but it is almost there!
We learned a Chichewa worship song in orientation this week. I have actually heard it sung before, but never saw the words written out - and having a translation with them was awesome! It even has actions!
I have officially been back in Malawi for one week. As I walked home from preparing my classroom at the school today, I got to watch the beautiful pink sky as the sun set behind the Lilongwe hills, as I listened to the (newly repaired) megaphone from the mosque, calling people to prayer. Stopping to chat with neighbours on the way home, I get to watch a one year old practice running on his wobbly legs - he started walking yesterday, a group of children playing with their dog in the yard, and enjoy the place that God has brought me to. God is good. He whispered to me on Friday night, while I finished unpacking, "I'm going to make this place your home".
I am settling in, finishing up orientation and classroom preparations, and hope to soon be ready to go for Monday morning when the first of twenty little ones that I am being entrusted with, arrive with their parents to meet me. The excitement is building as the stresses dissipate! Thank you for your prayers as I go into this last bit of time before the big day arrives!
Welcome! My name is Katiana and I am a development professional pursuing my dream to live out Isaiah 1:17 to the best of my abilities. I am passionate about teaching and working with vulnerable families and children to improve their lives sustainably.
This blog is composed of my personal opinions, which do not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of institutions or organizations that I may be or have been affiliated with.