Thursday, November 22, 2007

Since I have lost my camera, I thought I would put some pictures of past adventures on my blog. Some other teacher friends and I went to a place called Paradise lost over a month ago. With a name like "Paradise Lost", I was expecting a lot out of this place. Let's just say that I was underwhelmed. It took us about an hour to get there, and there are basically five things to do. Here are the pictures.

Activity 1: ride a camel

Activity 2: feed an ostrich

Activity 3: explore a well-lit cave

Activity 4: walk behind a waterfall

Activity 5: go for a boat ride

Conclusion: Paradise Lost is a fun place with random things to do. I think the paradise is still lost, though. Let me know if any of you know where it went.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

When I asked Bill and Jan Bevins if they would be interested in hiking Mt. Suswa, they jumped at the possibility. So did I! Jan and Bill were two of the people I climbed Mt. Kenya with in April, and I knew they would be up for an outdoor adventure. I was feeling like I had been in the city too long, and being an Alaskan and all, the need to be in the outdoors practically runs in my blood. The hike was mentioned to a few other people at school, and before we knew it, 2 more families were coming as well as some more friends. The number of people in our caravan totaled more than 20, and since there were children ages 10 and under, I figured (and was hoping) we would not all be hiking together.

We left Nairobi at about 8:30, headed in the right direction but all-together uncertain of where exactly we were going. Mt. Suswa is not a national park, and according to the Lonely Planet guide, it isn’t so easy to access. So we drove in what turned out to be the right direction after all. The road started to get a bit rough, so those people in station wagons decided to park their cars and hop on board the two Land Cruisers. 8 passengers inside and 4 on top of each. I am still sore from that ride on top. Add to the equation a few Masai men and women who needed rides up the mountain, and you’ve got yourself some full Land Cruisers. I don’t think that even the soccer moms carry this many people in one vehicle. This is what SUV’s are made for, right?

The ride on top was beautiful. As we drove further up the mountain to get to the trail head, it became apparent that we were inside a huge crater. The giant rock walls rising up beside us provided a nice shelter from the wind. When we arrived at the trailhead, we were all kicking ourselves (not literally) for not bringing tents and sleeping bags. It would be the perfect place to camp. Oh, I forgot some crucial plot exposition for this story. As we were driving up the mountains, some Masai men started chasing after us with what looked like a receipt book. The Masai woman who was with us in the car, told us to ignore him, so we just kept on driving.

When we finally made it to the trailhead, those of us who were more serious about hiking separated from the families. As we began to hike, it became apparent that there was no definite trail. Some Masai boys showed us to a nice view off the side of a cliff. We looked for a trail but found none. Instead of giving up, we decided to descend down this cliff and climb back up the other side. 4 days later, my quads still regret that decision. The challenge was great, the adventure was great, but as the sun got hotter and the amount of water in my bag got smaller, my mood began to swing. As we climbed back up the cliff, we knew the general direction we needed to go in, but for a while we walked in circles. After whacking through bushes, growing weary from the early stages of dehydration, bleeding from all the thorns we walked through, we finally spotted the cars.

We hopped in the Land Cruiser, and began driving down the mountain to meet the other families who had left 30 minutes earlier. As we drove, we got a phone call saying some of the Masai people had barricaded the road so that we couldn’t get back to the road. When we met up with the rest of the group, some of the men who knew Swahili were talking to these men who blocked the road. Now if you recall back in the third paragraph I wrote about a man chasing us with a receipt book. Apparently we were supposed to stop and pay this man, and since we didn’t they decided to block the road. They were demanding a ridiculous amount of money, but it was going to be dark soon. As much as I would love to bring justice to Kenya, I knew I wasn’t the person to bring about that kind of change in this circumstance. I was all for paying and getting out of there! Eventually, that is what we had to do. After we paid, the men “kindly” moved all the rocks so we could get through.

I left town on Saturday ready for an adventure, and that’s what I got. I was expecting one kind of adventure and got a completely unexpected one. I still haven’t climbed Suswa, though! And after all that, my camera is now lost…

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Nothing is perfect. I began this school year intimidated, nervous, and unsure of myself. I think there are many teachers who begin the school year this way, and I was always told to fake it until you feel it. If you act confident, your students have no idea that you are terrified, and let’s just say I’ve become a pretty good actor. It didn’t take me long to “ease” into the comfort of the routine and realize that teaching middle school math, science, and Bible was something I could do. As with most situations, I sought out the comfortable place. This meant I would do everything in my power to work quickly, efficiently (this one doesn’t always go so well for a forgetful person like me), and to do the amount of work necessary but nothing beyond that. The problem with being so comfortable in my teaching is that I was no longer using my gifts of creativity to make my lessons unique and meaningful. My job became a job, and I don’t want it to be that way. My prayer is that God would help me find creative ideas to use in the classroom. He cares about what goes on, and I don’t think He wants me to be happy with teaching at a level of mediocrity.

In high school I was generally a straight-A student. In fact, the only class I got a B in was chemistry. It seems a bit ironic that I am now the middle school chemistry teacher (see paragraph above about being intimidated). I have often felt inadequate in this role, and oftentimes I spend a better part of my day trying to understand the concepts before I teach them. (I do need to give a little shout out to Eric Gibson, the high school science teacher who provides all the tutorials I need before I teach.) I like learning, and I love exploring the intelligent world that God has created. But there are some days when I wish I was teaching something I knew about and felt confident in. I’ve been reading a book called “An Arrow Pointing to Heaven”, which is Rich Mullins biography. Rich Mullins believed that life is a struggle, that there is no way to avoid difficult times. I am realizing that this applies to teaching as well. Teaching is not an easy job, and it is not about finding a comfortable way to do things. Sometimes God asks you to do things that stretch you, and I think this is one of those times. Rich Mullings says, “Don’t resist the work of God by asking for an easy life.” If I were not able to teach chemistry, God would not have put me in the position. Please pray for me as I continue to learn and teach in an area that is not my forte.

If you think of it, be praying also about the decision I need to make about next school year. I am on a 2-year contract at school, this being my second year. In December I have to decide whether or not I wish to renew that contract for another year. I am completely torn and would appreciate your prayers in this area. Perhaps my next blog will be dedicated to my thoughts of staying and going. I have many thoughts about it! Thanks for taking this journey with me, gentle reader.