Living as an Expat

Expatriate~ there are so many tags attached to this identity.

-Foreigner, education, jobs, opportunity, English, different, risk, contract-

Living and working in a country, of which I’m a resident but a not a citizen, I’d like to share some anecdotes and perhaps, a snippet of advice.

~For those who find themselves dancing the Dance of Expat Living      

dancing shoes
Put on your dancing shoes and celebrate this day!

 and for those who share their space.

I nearly arrived in my new town with a removal truck full of random belongings. The telephone conversation with the removal company (RC) several months prior to the move, ran like this:

Me: Good morning Sir. I am calling to follow up on the quote for the removal inventory emailed to you earlier this week.
RC: Ah, yes, we have received it. I have a few questions. What size truck do you require?
Me: puzzled silence
RC: A 1 tonne? 4 tonne?
Me: Ah, 4 bakkie loads please.
RC: Cheryn Sibaya?
Me: Mm, (Sibaya as in cattle kraal!?) No…. (and I calmly pronounce and spell my full name again…)
RC: What is canoe? Is wrapping required?
Me: Canoe?
RC: Yes here on the inventory under lawn mower, ladder and garden tools.
Me: That’s not my inventory!

Well, several weeks later, rather unexpectedly, after a few more similar, delightfully hilarious episodes my furniture arrived. However, with a few extra items, which I dutifully returned to their rightful owners across the border.

 You see life, especially life across the border, is wildly unpredictable.

A stubborn sense of humour and a determination to find the humour will be more valuable than your favourite TV show. Put your dancing shoes on and celebrate this day!  When you don’t know whether to laugh or cry-which will happen- choose to laugh.

When you really need to cry- cry, wipe your tears, stand up and go forth.

 This time will pass. You signed up for adventureLive your adventure-

Arms open and face to the sky-embrace the experience.

Stand strong and tall dear friend.

7599525696_ab84d9a6fa_z.jpg world traveller
A treasure chest of promising experiences are at your doorstep for only  a moment.


Thanksgiving- Fostering a Grateful Heart.

Amidst the end- of- year schedule, our school celebrated Thanksgiving. We didn’t host a the traditional Thanksgiving…

We invited our guests to a Thanksgiving assembly, presented by the students. These guests included the parents, citizens of the community and businessmen who step in, often behind the scenes, to help us in countless ways. This assembly had a two- fold purpose.

Firstly, it was a tangible way of expressing our appreciation and recognizing the role these stakeholders play.

Secondly, the assembly was part of the Values Programme that the school runs.

A side bonus is that from a grateful attitude stems joy and contentment, which literally overflows into other spheres.

Did our practiced assembly come across as superficial? No, because it’s the same giving-heart that has encompassed the year. It’s not a new practice. It’s merely a more public acknowledgement of the kindness and generosity to us.

In closing, how does one instill a life- long heart of gratitude in young children?

A few thoughts, which is by no means an exhaustive list:

~by being thankful in all situations, especially the tough situations.

~by modelling the values you’d like to see in your children, even when it hurts.

~by providing opportunities to express their gratitude.

In a money-hungry, often greedy world, what are your thoughts on ways to instill positive values in children?thank you in languages

looking back

After a decade of rewarding teaching at an established primary school, I committed two years to serving in a foreign community for a very basic salary. I lost all the benefits and perks of a hard earned teaching position in that move. I moved to a town where I was not known and where I knew no one. The respect that I had built up over years of integrity meant very little to this community for they did not know me nor wanted to know me. I was the Outsider. The English Teacher.

The expectations and hopes that I brought with me seemed to matter so very little here. My Suitcase of enthusiasm got lost in transit. My boxes of willingness- to- serve got squashed. My desire to teach well and make an impact faded. I fell into survival mode. Survive till end of the school day, survive till family treats you over the weekend, survive till month- end with what’s in the pantry. Just survive.

Then Something happened. Someone gently wooed me to Himself. He gently held me as I sobbed, dried my tears and listened. He listened some more. He stood with me as I travelled to those Deep, Dark Hurting Places. He wrapped me in His arms. He held me and didn’t let go. He invited me to forgive myself and then to forgive them. Slowly, each moment that I was willing He revealed more of Himself to me. He reminded me of who He was and the authority and rule that He alone carried. He invited me to Trust. I gingerly took the proffered hand and then with more confidence than I knew I had, I held on. With His rock solid grip around me he gently, yet so firmly pulled me up onto solid ground again. I saw the sky. I beheld the beauty. I laughed, sang and danced for the joy and hope that filled me. I had reason to live again. Together we celebrated. I sang and danced to the Hallelujahs of His Glorious Praise.

Although a joyful interlude, the story does not end here. With my feet on solid ground and my Light ever before me I walked into a brilliant adventure in the making. In the months that follow, I will start a new beginning at a new school in a different town. Yet fear and trepidation doesn’t fill my heart as I remember the past for I know the One who leads me. I know that His Spirit is in me. As I allow Him, He will guide, encourage and fill me. I no longer look to man for affirmation. I no longer look to money for security. I no longer look to myself to boost my independent streak. I look to my Creator. For He alone holds the keys to my Future. He alone is my Saviour and my Lord.

Together we are embarking an awe inspiring adventure to the glory of his holy name, Jahweh.

Winning the IT battle

Several months ago I penned (and recently published) the post “Sweet Rewards”

Here are the results…

Stepping out of the Computer Room today, nearly seven months later our school has:

  • An equipped lab with 15 computers.
  • Wireless internet connection
  • Maintenance plan
  • Plans to continue to improve our lab

Best of all:

  • The students are stimulated, excited to learn and loving every minute of learning.

Wait…There’s more! Let the results speak… After writing an external, international exam from Computer for Kids, endorsed by I.C.D.L our students achieved:

  • 6 platinum certificates for the six staff members who are now equipped with the necessary IT skills.
  • 5 gold certificates and
  • 16 silver certificates from our Grade Seven Class of 2015.

-Sweet Rewards-

 

Stay posted to read how we better these results in the new academic year.

winning

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Sweet Rewards

dreams do come trueHurdles now, Sweet Reward later

As newly appointed and enthusiastic class teacher, managing the Computer Room and teaching Computer Lessons falls to me. Enthusiasm, big dreams and vision I have, endless patience with ill -functioning hardware I do not.

In my enthusiasm to certify my students with real world ICT skills I found a curriculum which meets our needs for both student and staff training perfectly. Green for Go from SGB, PTA and all the powers that be. However, a big however, the current hardware and software is just not capable of handling all that I’ll require of it to run with the dream.

This means that my dream needs to grow. With my enthusiasm and dream-fuel topped up in the Boss’ office the dream has wings and is ready to fly!

These however; I slowly learn are training wings. A necessary strengthening process before I am ready to take to the air with my students close behind.

Frustrations come knocking at every turn. Unstable internet connection, few service providers, physical distance from suppliers and of course Africa Time begs us to turn our head, fold up our wings and retreat into the safety nest of mediocrity. Determined, not defeated we raise our chins, sound our call and keep going.

Undeterred we press on, continue calling, continue trying to find solutions. Our vision before us, our promise behind us, we will prevail.

When we do the reward will be sweet, our wings and call stronger and we’ll be flying confidently through the next storm.

Image Credit: A Nerd At Large via Compfight cc

New Horizons

aeroplaneAs I start this, one of my first education blog posts, I consider the key elements required to take a new or developing school to a sustainable high standard of excellence.

These thoughts have been prompted by three vastly different schools (located in two countries and two provinces) which I have recently visited.

The first is a new and developing primary school in South Africa. The school funded and driven by an established business group plans to open its doors in January 2015 with classes from grade 1 to 12. As I sat and chatted with the headmaster, amidst building renovations, we spoke about the need for affordable quality education and the vision of the Group to meet this need with not just one but several private schools in the coming years.

The second school is a small independent primary school established to educate children of its employees. Members of the School Governing Body spoke of school vision and the desire to place the school on the map.

The third is a small independent church run school which seeks to preach the gospel while serving as an English medium primary school to the local community.

Although each have different primary objectives and have varying degrees of funding and resources each strives for excellence. What is the key element that will take these schools and others like it to beyond mediocrity? Will sufficient funding to build state of the art facilities be enough? Will demanding more from the teachers bring change? Will lesson observation or student entrance tests? Will developing, writing and displaying a school mission statement promote excellence?

Maintaining a standard of excellence is a daily decision.  Every interaction,  every response,  every lesson plan, every fundraising venture and  every report comment one of excellence.

Every word– an #excellent word. Every action-an action of #excellence. Every decision made with #excellence as the goal.

All these little factors combined make for a school of excellence. When each small decision is an excellent decision the big decisions are excellent too.

 

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Celebrating Today

School Morning line-up: Army Drill Sergeant or Celebration of a new Day?

Following early morning line-up, the pupils lead down to their respective classrooms for the first period of the day.As I walked down (feeling a little like the Pied Piper with a large following) I heard a cheerful, rhythmic “song” following me. I couldn’t help but smile at the upbeat melody. Knowing that my boys were close on my heels, I turned and saw that a hop, skip and jump accompanied the song. On enquiring to the reason and origin of the song I was told, “We made it up. It’s our Celebration Song.” Naturally I asked, “What are we celebrating?” Barely a pause before, “Today is Thursday,” then, “I’m thankful I could get up today.” What a precious truth. Today is today, a day to be celebrated simply because it is a new day and we are alive to celebrate it.

Breaking routine occasionally and allowing spontaneity pays dividends as this tale illustrates.