..." When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me..."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

So basically, I have been a little to lazy about posting, but I have realized that it has been a month since the last time that I posted. So a quick update:

1. Last week we had our midterm break so we went to a beach close to Lagos. We had Friday and Monday off, so it was a nice four day weekend.

2. Then we came back and worked for 4 days and now we have Monday and Tuesday off because of a Muslim holiday, which I only found out about a week ago, because they wait to determine these holidays based off of the Moon.

3. I have found a church, that I have been going to for almost two months now. I enjoy it, though I will say that the preaching is a little hard for me to understand all the time. Then again, it is much easier to understand the preaching here compared to some of the churches I visited. The people are extremely warm and friendly. Also funny enough couples/families come to church all matching. It is partially because people often buy fabric and then have it made for them. Since the smallest amount you can buy is 6 yards they usually get matching outfits. So Sunday is the day that they all come to church matching. 

4. Lee Anne, Katie and I visited an orphanage for the first time yesterday. I was very impressed with how well behaved the kids were and how CLEAN the orphanage was. There about 22 kids. We are hoping to start getting involved there, and our first event is popcorn and a movie on a projector at our school this Friday. So we are excited about that and hopefully we will be able to become more involved.

5. I now have my Nigerian drivers license and have gone out a couple times. 

Class presentations.
6. Katie and I received a proposal the other week, but this time it included an offer of land. We turned it down without a second thought. But then later that day when someone offered to buy me some chocolate I found that much harder to turn down. Obviously, you can see what I value more :)  
Jewel, Lily, Monica and Marayo enjoying some apple pie!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Moments that make you Smile :)

Jewel and Monica

One of my other students (Jewel) wrote me a note that said, “Ms. Gretchen, you are my favorite teacher in this whole wild world!” I thought is was pretty funny.

         So I am single handily feeding all the little varmints of Nigeria! It started about two weeks ago when I had my students make some seed collages. They turned out very nice, and as any teacher would do, I hung their work around the room. Actually, it was a very nice touch and I was really enjoying having their work up. Then I slowly began to notice that collages were losing all of their seeds. Interestingly though, there were no seeds on the ground. I also began to notice these very small beetles in all of my textbooks. They were very interesting and always seemed to be playing dead. Well, at any rate, we decided that a rat was most likely the cause of our disappearing seeds. So I finally decided we should send the seed collages home over the weekend. Well, yesterday morning, one of my girls walks into class and goes, “Miss a rat!!” I looked up in time to see a six inch tall and half a rats butt sticking out of a hole in the ceiling. As you can imagine, this soon became the story of the morning! When we came in for class today (Friday), I notice some more beetles. So I finally asked Mrs. Joke (pronounced Jo-ka) what they were, to which she says, “Oh they are a beetle from some of the seeds.” Great! So the seed collages were also attracting beetles into our classroom! You have no idea how excited I was to send these collages home. As I am handing them back to my students one of the boys says, “Aw Ms. Gretchen, do I have to take mine home? I want to keep feeding the rat.” Oh my, of course you have to take it home, even if we are in Nigeria we are not having a class rat as a pet!
Tonight we had a dinner together with all the other staff that live in our compound. So Karen brings out some nice pizza and suya (goat on a stick) for us to enjoy. Then she also brings out a Nigerian delicacy. I have to say I am not a fan of delicacies from other cultures. They always seem to be the only thing you really don’t want to try. Anyways, it was basically goat head with some bitter herbs. You just stick your fork in and then play, guess what I am eating. Your options are: nose, eye, teeth, skin, tongue, well you get the picture, basically anything that is in the head of a goat. I am still not sure exactly what part I got, I am thinking it was some type of cartilage though. The Nigerians among us were all in, while the Americans all took one bit, which was more than enough. Ethel, who was sitting right across from me, was just enjoying the food, when she pulls a small part of the jaw bone (with teeth still attached) out of her mouth. Yes, I don’t think I will be ordering this meal anytime soon.
Well, some of you may be wondering how the actual teaching part of my time in Nigeria is going. I will say that I am enjoying it, while at the same time, spiritually it is pushing me to the point of dependence on God. I have known in my head that I am dependent on God, but I don’t always live my life in this reality. So it is actually really refreshing to realize how much I need God and to feel Him close. This morning for example, I walked into my classroom and just realized I didn’t have the strength for the day. I just stopped and prayed for wisdom, strength, patience and encouragement. Then next thing you know, one of my students walks in with a little note for me and some of her hair-clips that she wanted to give me, it was the exact encouragement that I needed. 
This week my prayer really has been for more patience and understanding of my students as individuals. There are about four boys who are constantly in and out of their chairs and shouting out. One of them is Mr. Drama King! Literally, I am drawing on the board apologizing to my students for the poor drawing when Atofarati chirps in with, “Ms. Gretchen it doesn’t matter, whatever you draw is beautiful!” “Ok, thank you Ato.” Then next thing you know he is shouting out, so he gets a consequence, then the waterworks start! “No Ms. Gretchen I beg you! I will listen.” (He can turn on the tears almost as fast as he stops them :)  Five minutes later he has forgotten and shouts out again, and the process repeats itself. While it might sound slightly comical (which it is) it can also be draining on your patience. So this is when I start praying for more patience. Yet, I have begun to think, one of the best ways to grow in an area, such as patience, is to be tested in that area. So maybe God is really listening to my prayers, because I am sure being tested :) 
I am really growing to love my students, and the more I get to know them, the more I am concerned for their salvation. Last Friday we went on a class outing. So I gave my students a lecture before hand, that because they were wearing school uniforms, they would be representing ACA when they went out. Yet, more importantly, because it says American Christian Academy on their shirt, we would be representing Christ and Christians. Well, one of my girls looks down at the label on her shirt, almost as if it is the first time. She gets a frown on her face and says, “But I am not a Christian.” She seemed genuinely upset to have to be representing Christians. It was slightly funny that this was the first time she noticed what her shirt said. Yet, it was also sad. We have a short devotional every morning and Bible once a week. Rida will participate in all of these events because the rest of the class does. She will in fact pray for the class, and contribute answers, yet, she is a Muslim. It made me realize that even my students who are  “Christian” may not have relationship with God. They maybe able to go through the motions without having anything there. So I would really appreciate prayer for their salvation, especially Rida, as I believe she will be returning to India come the end of the term (December). 
Well, this is the end of my long post! I will say, there is never a dull moment in second grade! 

Going on an outing! Left to right:
Angel, Oreofe and Mridul
Enobong and Toba

Building shelters: Lisa, Harris, Rida and Jewel.

Atofarati and Lily
Although it maybe hard to tell, their shelter is an igloo!
Omar, Angel, Toniloba and Olfunbi.

Morayo and Toniloba

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Interesting times :)

“Will you marry me?”
“Um, that’s ok.”
“But I love you.”
“Well, thanks.”
“I am serious, will you marry me?”
“No thanks.”
This conversation took place as we were leaving the market. Don’t worry I did not stop walking, which is probably good, because moments after reaching the car the thought crossed my mind, “what if I had said yes.” I mean seriously, did he really expect me to answer yes? I could image it all, “Why yes I will marry you, now what is your name?” I always find these types of interactions intriguing, because I try to picture the same event happening in the states. It seems normal here to have people shouting oyebo, and not too shocking to have a complete stranger ask you to marry him. Yet, could you imagine this happening in the states. What if people were constantly shouting white person everywhere you went? It would be a much different story. 
Anyways, it has been a good week. I cannot believe that I have already been here a month. While I still find teaching to be tasking, it is nice to begin to get into a routine. This Saturday, October 1st is Nigeria’s liberation day. So we will have next Monday off! Yeah for three day weekends! That however, means that this week I am supposed to teach on Nigeria in social studies. Seriously!!! I will be trying to explain a country I barely know to students who have lived here, either their whole life or at least a few years. Plus it doesn’t help that I still struggle to pronounce the names of tribes, states and foods here. Oh, well. My solution to the problem is to teach about how Nigeria is a democracy, (at least I know about democracies :) and then hopefully bring in a guest speaker :) Oh on another random school related note, I bet you have never attended a school where they buy their own ram and then slaughter it and cook it up to make fresh suya (basically 5 pieces of meat on a stick seasoned with some hot spices). Well, I am proud to say that every Friday ACA does this very thing!
I have also finally gotten all the bookshelves in my classroom, which means I have been able to unpack all the books I brought. Thank you to everyone who gave me children’s books to bring. The students were so excited this morning when they saw all of the books!
This is the building I teach in. My classroom is the
window on the second floor on the right.

The roof right bellow me is my classroom, it is hard to see our
house, but this gives you an idea what is right outside our wall :)

I LOVE the storm clouds here!!

This is the view out of my window. These guys are out
playing almost everyday.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Joy of the Lord is my strength!!

“There's a raging sea 
Katie, Lee Anne, and Heather, going for a walk!
Right in front of me
Wants to pull me in
Bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise
If You want them to 
I will follow You
I will follow You
I will follow You
I will swim in the deep
'Cuz You'll be next to me
You're in the eye of the storm
And the calm of the sea
You're never out of reach
God, You know where I've been
You were there with me then
This is the street right in front of our house, you can see
some shops in the background, where we get our veggies!
You were faithful before
You'll be faithful again
I'm holding Your hand.”
I have seriously had this song stuck in my head all week and feel like it pretty much sums up my thoughts right now. I will admit that teaching has its challenges and that I have felt overwhelmed with the work, at times this week. At the same time, I have also been overwhelmed with the nearness of God! He really has blessed me, by putting me in an environment with amazing people, who are all very encouraging. We have also been invited to a bible study at a South African compound. It is wonderful to be among South Africans again, but even more to have the fellowship of other believers. I also have found a church that I will hopefully be able to attend regularly.
It really is so much fun teaching in a international school. Out of my 21 students they have all traveled internationally and as a class represent 9 different countries. These first couple of weeks we are studying different culture’s: food, clothing and housing. I am having a lot of fun having them bring in things that represent their different cultures.
Two of my students Monica and Lily. Monica (the one in
the middle) is the one who lost her hair in class.
Kyle, throwing away a dead rat for us!
The funny moment in the classroom this week, was when one of my students, Monica began to lose her hair. Now most of my African students have fake braids braided into their real hair, so it looks completely natural, until they all start coming out in  class! I turn around and Enbong is using one strand as a mustache, Rida has some strands for a headband and Mridul is just staring at another strand. As I am trying to figure out where all this hair is coming from, one of the students shouts “Monica your hair is falling out!!” Sure enough she had only a half head of hair left. So needless to say, throughout the rest of the day I was continually returning to the group to make sure they weren’t playing with more of Monica’s hair. They really are a great group of kids!

Monday, September 12, 2011

First Days in Ibadan!

        So how do you pronounce these names?? Ayomida, Atofarati, Toniloba, Oyonfunbi??? Wait, Laurren is a boy? Yes, this is pretty much how my first week of teaching began. Last Monday we had our new student orientation, then began classes on Tuesday. My students have slowly been trickling into class as they are returning from their different countries. Most of them return to their original countries over the summer holidays. Also, tonight was “Back to School Night,” so I got to meet more of my students parents, which was nice. 
As far as everyday life here, the driving is rather intimidating, though what scares me more is that I am beginning to become immune to it. Instead of thinking we are always going to crash or scrape our car against another object, I have begun to think it is impossible to hit anyone.  There have been so many close calls and so many tight squeezes. I don’t know how many times I have thought, “there is no way our car is that small.” Yet, somehow we always fit. Plus, I have yet to see a car accident here and the only rule of the road is, do whatever you want as long as you don’t run into anyone. That includes: driving on the wrong side of the road and turning a two lane highway into a five lane highway. So yes, I will hopefully be getting my drivers license, and driving around under the assumption that it is in fact, impossible to crash in Nigeria ;)
“Oyebo, Oyebo!” These are the shouts of people as we drive or walk past. I feel as though it is already very obvious that I am VERY white. Yet, they still feel the need to inform me and those around them that I am in fact much lighter than them. I do really enjoy the times that we go out to the market. Though I am not very good at bargaining, yet. Hopefully that will come with time! I have found so far that this culture is very welcoming and it makes it much easier to fit in and try new things.
Well, my life seems to be consumed right now with lesson planning and classroom stuff! I do really appreciate those of you who have been praying for me though. I really have found that God is my strength through this time of adjusting and learning how to teach. There have been points that have been overwhelming, but I am continually reminded that I serve a God who is bigger, and in control of my situation. With that comes comfort and trust that He knows best and will not let me be overwhelmed beyond what I can manage.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Safe and Sound in Ibadan!

Just in case you were awaiting the message, I arrive safely in Ibadan, Nigeria. I can’t believe that I have only been here a few days! I feel like I have already known some of these people for ages now! Needless to say, they are all so welcoming to me. I have been told/seen that in Nigerian culture you must welcome everyone upon entering a room. If you do not “greet” they will not invite you into your conversation. Also, even if you greeted them in the morning, if it is afternoon you must start the process all over again.
Well, our work week began on Monday! I am actually working with another 2nd grade teacher, who is about to have a baby any day now. So I will have both classes for this term (through December), then come January they will be split. It has been wonderful to have someone to give me ideas and help me out as I learn more about the school. I also finally have a class list!!! I have twenty students, the majority are Christians, though I do have some Muslim and Hindu students, so you can be praying for them. As far as nationality goes, I have students who are: German, Indian, Nigerian, American/Nigerian, British/Nigerian, Irish/Nigerian and Lebanese! So quit the mix! I also found out that I will be coaching the girls soccer team and possibly to running/assisting in a speech and debate club. 
I also got to go to the market for the first time today! I am glad that I went with two guys, I had no questions in regards to my security :) The market was hectic! It was a good experience, but I will only go on days that I have a lot of energy :) Well, for now this is just a quick update! I do want to say though that I am settling in very well and the knowledge that God is close has been my security!! I have stepped into a school that truly loves God and recognizes His sovereignty! 

~ Both of these pictures are a view from inside the school onto the street. Sorry, not a very good ones, I will try to get a better one sometime.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

         So I have finally given in and decided to join the world of blogs. I have to say that I have put off blogging because frankly, I wasn’t sure I would keep up with it. However, with my new move to Nigeria I feel that this may be one of the best ways to keep up with people. 
Well, as most of you know I have signed a two year contract to teach 2nd grade in Ibadan, Nigeria. I leave this Friday the 26th from Nashville where I will fly to Atlanta. In Atlanta I will meet up with two other American teachers and the three of us will hop on a 12 hour flight to Lagos Nigeria. From here we will take a two hour drive to our new home in Ibadan. We should be arriving sometime Saturday afternoon.  
For the mean time though, I am trying to finish packing and just enjoying my time at home in TN for a little while. Well, actually I have been here for three whole weeks, which is longer than I have been home since who knows when! Surprisingly, we also had one weekend when we were all home and we even managed to fit in some family pics.
I know, my family is great :) It will be sad to leave, but exciting to see what God has in store for me. That being said I really appreciate everyone who is and has been praying for me as I start out on this new adventure. Currently, I would really like prayer for:
  • the trip over for me and those traveling with me.
  • the ability to adapt to my new surroundings
  •         wisdom on setting up and preparing my classroom.