Monday, September 21, 2009

"Be Prepared" and "Lately..."

I feel like I should start every one of my blogs with "Today we had an adventure," but that would get repetitive and boring, and since I'm teaching the kids about writing, I know that would be not entertaining to my audience. See, I'm learning just as much as I'm teaching! Despite the fact that I'm learning about good writing, I feel this entry wouldn't be starting right without those words. So...
Sunday we had an adventure. We got up and got ready to go on a hike with Brett. Preparation consisted of putting on clothes we didn't mind getting wet in, lots of bug spray, and climbed in a car with Brett Emerson, Mark Kennell, and Ryan Richardson. We drove a little out of town, climbed out of the car, and started hiking up a gentle slope of a mountain. The group reached some water, passed it, then turned back to follow the stream close on the bank. As we started on our new path through the corn field, we had a little mishap.

A few Wet Ones later (I come prepared!), we hiked back to the truck to doctor up Bethany's freshly-cut-on-a-corn-stalk foot. She had caught a stalk between some of her toes and sliced up one of her toes really well. I was super concerned about infection, because getting a cut on your foot is not good anywhere, but especially not here in Africa where we wear flip-flops and Chacos when we're not barefoot and it's humid, and muddy, during rainy season! When we got back to the truck, Brett pulled out his first aid kit and I doctored up Bethany's foot- because her foot needed doctoring and I needed busy hands!

Her toe is doing much better now- she has kept it clean and covered (when it needed to be) and open when it has been safe to. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, and we are thankful for that, and the speedy recovery is quite a blessing, too!!

The first part of this post was started on Sunday immediately after the incident. The rest of the post is from today- sorry I don't get things posted as often as I want to, but know I am stockpiling stories all day every day!

Now starts the blog entitled "Lately..."

I miss lots of people. According to my dream last night, I miss American Eagle, too! I woke up this morning laughing at myself because of a dream I had where I came home for the weekend and went to the mall and Starbucks and Jimmy White’s condo for a youth group event (which is funny, because he is a missionary here in Kara, too!). The next morning, I had to get back to the airport for my plane back, but then I couldn’t find my ticket and passport... it was amusing. Then, I woke up sweating, because it’s SO warm at night!!!

There’s my little piece of information about my night last night. Now I’d like to tell you about my days! On Thursday, my girl, Michal, went home with a fever and turned out to have malaria and an amoeba and an infection... she’s a little sick. So, it’s just been me and the boys for the past few days, and will continue to be until my beautiful little Michal recovers from her horrible sicknesses. I told the boys the other day that they cannot continue to use me as a crutch- “I’m a human being, not a chunk of wood, so you can’t continue to use me as such!” The primary words that exit my mouth are, “Read the instructions and YOU tell ME what you should do next.” It’s great... but really, I love teaching. It’s quite fun!! My goal is to have the basics of reading directions and following them, as well as basic spelling down before I let them graduate on to fifth grade. Those of you who know me know that I’m stubborn enough to reach this goal! However, I will most definitely be held up on my feet by our Wonderful Savior, so prayers would be welcome and appreciated.

I’ve loved reading the comments I’ve gotten- Facebook messages and blog comments make my heart soar. My life has taken a turn for the even-more-interesting-than-it-was-before with the way I experience life. I miss Harding a lot, and I miss my friends all over the world. Even today, Aidan wore his Haka shirt that he got from Andrew. And I'm trying to teach the boys to recognize the States and be able to name them on our "Markable Map" (brilliant teaching tool) and I keep thinking about who I know in each state.

Please know and understand I'm not unhappy- I love it here. I love the missionaries, I love the kids, and I love the way I learn so much about the simplest things every day here! For example, did you know that to make brown sugar, you just take normal sugar and add molasses? Maybe you did, but I sure didn't. I've learned that goats are herd animals and Peter Dexter would be much happier with a friend. I've learned that goats really don't like baths, even with 2-in-1 shampoo that smells like cherries. I've watched half of Kingdom of Heaven (we stopped at "intermission" of the director's cut to be continued at a later date). I've learned the difference between all of the blocky states in the Western US. I've re-learned how to write a business letter. And I've learned that I will never be finished learning.

For those of you who don't know, I love animals. Our house at times in the past has been quite the zoo. One constant in the Breuer Zoo has been Chewbacca, our little Pekingese-Yorkie mix who we got when I was in fifth grade from one of my classmates (Adam Thompson!). On Wednesday after team worship, I called my mother and discovered that Chewy was hit by a car that morning. That's not easy ever, but being across the world makes it that much harder. I also got some other news that night, of the personal nature, that made it a hard night. However, enter lesson two... it didn't make it a bad night. Bad events do not make bad nights, they make choices. So, I chose to look at the blessings in my life- we had our first successful ballet/tap class that afternoon, I downloaded chapel, the team loves me and I love them, there are beautiful people in my life here, I have so many opportunities to learn about life, and I have a loving Savior who will never forsake me.

Am I always happy? Do I always have a smile on my face? Am I always a ray of sunshine to those around me? No, unfortunately, not by a long-shot. But, I'm trying. Goodness, I'm trying. Please pray for continued strength as I become the woman of God He has called me to be.

I love you. I'm thinking of you.

This is a picture of Coke's marketing in Kara. This is a man putting up a sign at the bar near our house where we go to get sodas. The man who runs the bar speaks English, which was a cool discovery the first time we went there- we're making friends!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Beginning of This Week

Here is a list of snippets of what we did this week:
We walked to the market and the Miller homestead.
I taught science! We’re learning about the solar system.
I have almost finished my antibiotics for strep.
We had our first almost-whole team worship (Mark was in Accra picking up the team’s future teammates, the Richardsons (Ryan, Beth, Katie, Jonah, and Aaron).
I was kept up all night by a high-pitched squeak our fan was making that I tried to fix with Pam in the middle of the night. The next day, the electrician came and made our fan not squeak. Right after the electrician fixed our fan, Joseph brought us our new goat, Peter Dexter. So, as one sleep deterrent was solved, another one was added- but we do have a goat, which is super exciting!!

Goat story time!
Here is the story of our goat so far. This afternoon, during my class’s French time, my “free” time, Bethany yells up the stairs into the apartment where I was putting the final touches on my solar system powerpoint, “Jacque! The goat’s here!” I kept hearing, “Jacque! The boat’s here!” and I was so confused as to what a boat was doing so far inland, especially at the school house. So, I came down the stairs and Bethany repeated herself (which I understood this time), so I went outside and met our little new addition to the KCA teacher family! After getting Sarah to talk to Joseph and cost, we paid Joseph, and we had a new pet. Of course, all of the kids had to take turns petting the goat- a school day isn’t complete without surprises!

After school, the lady who cleans the school house, Irene, came and we excitedly led her out back to see the goat. Sarah asked her what goats ate, and she told us that they eat the leaves off of corn. We don’t have access to corn (there’s lots around, but it’s not ours), so we tried to give it mangoes and carrots and milk and water, but he kept bleating. Sarah, Bethany, and I tried to take naps/relax, but Peter Dexter (we named him right before our nap-time) kept making noise. At the end of our nap, Bethany and I came down to try to feed PD some more mango, which he would have none of. He kept bleating and bleating, sounding so unhappy! Then, Irene showed back up bearing a gift of corn-husk leaves for PD! He immediately got quiet as he ate his new food. Irene must have thought we were crazy trying to feed the goat mango! She smiled at us, then with an “au revoir” and a wave, she left. I’m fairly certain that she finished her work at the school house then went out of her way to get PD some food- she’s so sweet!!

PD needs a friend- he bleated all night, too. I’m not sure what we’re going to do about it, but I was up two times with him in the night, trying to quiet him. The last time was 5:30 when Bethany and I were both outside trying to make him comfortable. Since our alarm goes off at 6am, 5:30 was not a happy time to be awake and comforting a loud goat. We ended up bringing him inside that second time because the weather was a bit violent, and he’s just a little guy. 

So, now you’ve heard a little about our goat. I’m planning on writing anther post on some deep conversation/thought I’ve been having lately, but I figured you guys needed to hear about our new pet before you heard about anything else! I love you all bunches, and I hope you are all doing well.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

C’est la Vie

Sorry it's been a while since I posted- we were busy trying to get ready for school, which started today. The following post is a post I wrote over the span of Thursday and Friday. Sorry there are no pictures- I have a lot of laminated jungle animals, but not many photos to show off yet :-D. Enjoy reading about my latest life adventure.

Well, I’ve successfully survived my first brush with sickness in Africa! No, it wasn’t malaria, nor was it anything else that would be particular to Togo; I had a virus that gave me a splitting headache (constant. For two days. Including nights. Ugh), a cycling fever, and moderate fatigue for two days. Then, when I woke up the third morning with no headache and was celebrating, I had the beginnings of strep throat! Let me tell you, though, after the headache, strep was a welcome guest! I’m on antibiotics now (which, I feel I should mention, are incredibly easy to get here!), in the process of healing completely, just in time for school to start!

I feel like I should tell you about about the sickness saga. My headache started on Monday evening (after my glorious haircut!) and kept me awake for about three hours before I was conscious enough to go take some advil. That same headache continued through the whole of Tuesday with the same intensity, no matter how many pain relievers I took, with the exception of a few hours that evening during Kennell dinner/meet Lisa time. So, by 5am of Wednesday, after not sleeping for two nights and having this super intense headache for a day, I was a puddle of emotion! I got up to check my temperature because of how my body felt (you know, the achy, hot-chills, complete with tossing and turning and moaning?) and had a fever of 102˚. I decided to try to diagnose what I had by looking in Sarah’s intern book, and it said that a cycling fever, headache, and fatigue were all possible symptoms of malaria. The other girls woke up and I proceeded to cry and tell them my prediction. The next day, when Nicole got to the school, I hopped in the car and we went to the clinic where they pricked my finger to check for parasites (because that’s what malaria is caused by). That afternoon, after I had stayed in bed all day (mostly) because I couldn’t do anything with my headache, Nicole came in and told me it was just a virus. I told her that I almost wished I had malaria because then it could be treated and it would make a good story! She said “what difference does it make if you can’t put the label of “malaria” on it if this is how malaria feels?” So, basically, instead of getting malaria, I got something that healed faster than malaria would have- Someone is looking out for me.

We were supposed to start school on Friday, but a bridge went out somewhere between here and Accra, so the travelers are stuck somewhere that isn’t here. We’ve decided to postpone the first day of school until Saturday, when our beautiful kiddos will be ready to start with bright smiles and lots of energy! I have to say that I’m grateful for the delay; not being able to work for the past few days has taken its toll on my classroom that is still kind of threadbare. My curriculum is ready, but my classroom isn’t quite what I envisioned for Miss Jacque, fourth grade teacher extraordinaire. Hopefully this extra day will let me get on top of my very clean, but very boring room.

I like to look like I have it all together. I spend quite a bit of time attempting to actually have it all together, and I can say with confidence that I never do. I like to be independent, but these past few days I’ve realized I just can’t be. I need people- I have cried about not having my mom to nurse me while I was sick more than once in the past 60 hours. I miss the easy access of communication that comes with a simple phone line, because I miss so many people back home!! 

Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited to be here, still. It’s just one of those things that comes with living life- missing people and places.

Tonight, Bethany asked Nicole if I could go with her for a little bit to use her internet. Because I lost two days of work in my classroom, I chose to stay here at the schoolhouse for the evening. After I voiced my decision, some concern was expressed about my emotional and psychological well-being, which was probably warranted. It’s common for someone who got sick really soon after arriving to soon-thereafter struggle with depression, as a part of culture shock. I was reminded about my incredibly fever-tinted first impressions (and second and third and fourth... it was a long two weeks!) of my beautiful Italia. When I tried to explain what I thought, I was quickly reminded, “This isn’t Italy!”

Of course, I know that. I mean, it would be difficult for me to not notice the differences. Togo is beautiful, full of adventure, cooking, power outages (which should also fall under the category of adventure!), and my new life of being a fourth grade teacher. Italy will always have a grasp on my heart, but Kara has already gotten a pretty good hold, too.

The point I definitely did not articulate well at all is that I think, for me at least, culture shock is more controlled by attitude than environment. I’m certainly not keeping the attitude I should, but I feel like blaming my bad habits on culture shock is a cop-out! I have failures, and I have so many things I would change about so many aspects of me, but those have been the same in lots of places so far in my life. I would be crying about missing Harding if I was in Missouri, New Zealand, or Kara, Togo, West Africa... and have. I would have moments of harsh comments coming out of my mouth, insecurities about my abilities to perform in my new role (whatever role that might be), and things to adapt to in my living space (although in Missouri, lizards aren’t quite as prominent by the washing machine!).

So, if you’re reading this, know I love and miss you. And please pray for my attitude. God’s love is enough to pull me through any trial I might encounter, but I need to make the decision to let Him lead me. Anyway, please don’t be worried about this post, I just needed to get some of my newly developed thoughts out to those I love who aren’t with me here. Keep me and the girls in your prayers as we start on our new journey.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Grand Adventure

I've been in Togo for a week now. So far, the missionaries have driven us to and from their houses and other events. It's been fantastic, because during rainy season, it's muddy and there's always a chance we'll get caught in the rain.

I have a story. Yesterday, we were babysitting at the Emerson's house for their little boys Caden and Corban when it started to downpour. Well, I brought my iPhone to Togo with me which has been super fantastic because I use it as a portable music player that everyone can listen to. Yesterday, before Brett (Emerson) came to pick us up, I had been washing dishes in the kitchen, rocking out to The Last Five Years soundtrack. I had paused the music when I heard whistling from Brett trying to get our attention (our phone doesn't work on a regular basis). I then set my iPhone back down... on the window sill next to our open window (which is kind of a story in itself- our window coverings consist of screens and slanted pieces of glass that open/close, but never completely seal).

So, Bethany, Sarah, and I are at the Emerson's, listening to Tiggy (the Emerson's pet monkey) howl at the storm and watching VeggieTales with the boys when all of the sudden, I realize that not only have we not closed our windows, but my iPhone is sitting right next to one of them. At this point, we're not sure how the storms work with the wind and where water comes in, but it doesn't really matter- my iPhone was in danger and my active imagination was telling me that things were not good. So Sarah and I decide to go back to the apartment to close the windows. We leave Bethany with the boys and the house workers outside (including the night guard- she was safe!), and we proceed to walk to our apartment.

We know the basic path. We've never done the travel, but it can't be that hard! It's fairly easy to explain, so of course we can do it! It's light outside, and we're ready to conquer this challenge. So, we set out.

Our first step was to take a left out of the Emerson's house, a left onto the road, and a right off of that road. Well, we took a right waaaaaay too soon. A few small rivers, lots of laughing Africans, a downpour, a couple of wrong turns, and some laughter later, we found our apartment. 45 minutes after we had left, we made it back to the Emerson's much, much wiser.

In the following picture, you can see that we're each wearing a pagne (pronounced pan-yuh) to be modest when outside of western style homes. The one I'm wearing is the one I got at the market- lots of colors and I love it!!