Parents Evening TCK style

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Parents evening, the name (or whatever it is called locally) still strikes a fear in my heart.  It’s not that I doubt my children’s behaviour or ability – I know they are more than a school grade.  It’s memories of confusion, misunderstanding, frustration and sadness – and I’m the parent.

As the first teacher arrives he tells my son to sit in his chair and he joins me, the other side of the table and he tells him to begin.  My son is confused but also amused and so asks the teacher how he thinks he has done.  They swap back around and I hear reports of the ways my son helps hand out books in class, he gets distracted at times, generally works hard and is a good student.  Presentation is an issue, I explain it always has been and the teacher says he used to have the same problem and it’s okay, he’ll get there.  I ask my son if he has got anything to ask or say to the teacher?  “Thank you.”  My tears well up and the teacher is taken aback, humbled, amazed and appreciative – in all his years….

With that word – presentation, my son and I were both taken back to his overseas school where ‘parents evening’ was held with students and parents all together in a class.  The only foreigners the first barrier was that usual one of what happens here?  Trying to understand the fast speaking teacher whilst rushing through your head the search for the norms and expectations of this setting.  The teacher began picking out the best students and praising them, how wonderful they are, how beautiful their hair, how well they are doing (often they were paid to like this child).  They would then go around the class and pick out the faults of the others, not good at this, bad at that, not trying, no hope, waste of time.  The aim was humiliation – it worked.  As the only foreign child in the class he got no favours, he is disorganised, untidy, his writing is atrocious. There was no use trying to explain dyspraxia and it’s effects (I did once try) or explaining he was really left handed but not allowed to use that here (yep, tried that one too).  There was no mention of his friendships, the things he was good at or his kindness such as the time he took some paper and sticky tape from home and covered the broken window that had been blowing freezing winds and rain into the unheated classroom.  When he left the school after four years all his teacher could say was the general greeting of ‘safe roads’.

That was why his reaction was ‘thank you’, someone who had seen his messiness and untidiness but saw more and focused on that.  A teacher who first talked of his character and then discussed his academic life.  Every time we sit down I feel the need to explain to the teacher first that he isn’t really English, he hasn’t been through the system and has only been here for two years.  My son rolls his eyes at me but they see the funny blonde haired, blue eyed, gangly teen and don’t realise that he’s never learnt those grammatic rules or writing style – but he could do it in another language!  When they do they understand him a bit more and can take the time to explain, maybe it’s just the mum in me jumping to his defence.  But I see the miracle of his determination in sticking at school to become a student who is achieving and enjoying the experience which demonstrates the resilience of so many TCK’s.  Laughing about their history, which to others is a horror story but to them is part of who they are, and also the challenge of what sets them apart.  With his ‘thank you’ I again realise the richness of how he values and sees beauty in simple things that others would take for granted.  How easy it is to focus on the wrong things, to find criticism first or not see the full picture and yet how powerful when we touch a heart by seeing the fulness of who they are.

As a mum, I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the dread of parent’s evening,.  But just as I did as we walked down the dust road, we walk across the concrete play area and I tell my child how proud I am of them.   Each time I say it I see the fullness of their journey and it means just that bit more.  How grateful I am for a God who sits by me and listens as others declare things about me, who stands for me, who sees my mistakes and failures but also sings over me with delight.

(just to add we did also have an amazing teacher at the same school for my other son and both of them learnt well at the school – in the fullest sense).

Flying high when the earth shakes

Flying high when the earth shakes

Yesterday I realised I made an error with a holiday booking, the accomodation was two days less than the flights. That is really not like me! I was glad I discovered it before we left our accomodation, got to the airport and had to camp out for two days but as I looked for an alternative every way seemed a dead end. The airline wanted more to change the flights than the cheap rate I got them for. The accomodation was now fully booked. Every other possibility was coming up at hundreds of pounds, which when you are a missionary family and have spent days trying to save every penny to make a holiday a possibility is VERY annoying! I came up with alternative accomodation but with the same firm but wasn’t what we wanted or what the kids had been asking for, but better than nothing or better than expensive right?
I emailed the firm my proposal.
We had been thinking about what to do for children’s day, but hadn’t really got far with plans. This morning at the kids club we ran out of chairs, table space, crafts because of the number of kids there…. not even all the ones registered! Two weeks before children’s day and I had to tell the kids to stop bringing their friends and relatives! Imagine!
This week we have to get our residency papers in, this in itself is the worst bit of being a missionary here… beyond not putting the paper in the toilet, way worse than the mosquito bites, more awful than being away from family and friends… yes that bad!
So in the early hours as the earthquake woke me up it was just another thing. I lay awake for a while, thinking, too hot, too worried about sticking my leg out because of the mosquitos, listening to the ridiculously loud frogs, the rooster crowing, the ducks quacking.
The earthquake didn’t bother me… I wasn’t afraid, wasn’t worried. The holiday situations didn’t bother me either… I wasn’t worried. When we were once again inundated with kids at kids club I wasn’t bothered….
Perspective… we will get to go on holiday, our forms will be submitted, the kids will all keep coming (and probably bring their friends!) and if it doesn’t? If the earth shakes and the skies crumble? Its all more than okay.

I got an email from the holiday place, they can extend where we are staying for no extra cost. We have an incredible possibility for children’s day which is beyond what we could have imagined and for more kids. The forms are all coming together and …. well we’ll wait and see.
Sometimes its good to remember that its just not worth stressing over, it won’t change because of worry, it won’t alter because of a sleepless night. I know that is easier to say sometimes, but for today I will say it, I will choose to fly and I will choose to trust.

Day Three … Determind to Succeed, Obstinate?

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Day Three happened, just the write up didn’t!  So here it is!

Our two friends come chasing after us, Obstinate and Pliable…. my goodness this could be written about my children!

As we start off on our journey towards the great, others watch us, shocked at what we are doing, what we are trying to achieve.  They think with their best intententions that they need to rescue us, from what? From ourselves of course.  We can’t get to where we are aiming, we can’t reach the goal, the city, the promise, the dream.  We will end up hurting ourselves, we musn’t do it.  We shouldn’t do it.  Not you, you aren’t big enough, clever enough, smart enough, rich enough, brave enough…. fill in your own word.

Here they come, obstinate and pliable.  Obstinate has always been right, probably never listened long enough to hear the people saying that those words aren’t true.  And there, by his side (or hers!!) is pliable, maybe, in fact they are Mr and Mrs.  Pliable, always willing to go along, to say yes or no or maybe or whatever you want to hear or someone else tells them to say.  Obstinate doesn’t have to listen, they know you can’t make it because they are always right.  Pliable doesn’t bother to think whether you can, they just agree with obstinate.  So along they come chasing after you and your dream.  Sure enough Obstinate is bigger than you and your dreams.  Looming over, catching up and taking you over before you can even truly set out on the journey.  You can’t do it, the words echo round and meet up with those doubts of your own.  You look to Pliable, nodding in agreement, but your dreams shout out, YOU CAN!

Your choice right now to turn back, go back and wonder.  Or to wander.

J.R.R. Tolkein with his mind full of imagination said “Not all who wander are lost…” Not all who wonder are either.  Someone sent me a card with that quote on when we first started our life overseas.  Its true, so many times I have not seen clearly the road, or known the way ahead. But I have not been afraid to wander, through the fault filled language, through the panic over health, through the cultural faux pas… its actually fun to wander, normally more fun when you are reflecting than at the moment!

For the boys, what can they learn?  Well a wry smile on the eldest face let me know he recognised his over confident qualities.  He might never have described himself as obstinate before but he knew the cap fitted, well!  He could see the pig headed-ness of obstinate, the unfriendly forcefulness of insisting on being right, being first, being boss.  He saw the negative qualities probably because he had felt them.  But when is obstinate good?  That was more of a challenge to think of. 

Little Pilgrim was also obstinate, determined to press on, despite the arguments, the nagging doubts, the ‘wondering’.  Obstinate allows us to be focussed, to be single minded on what we believe even if no one else understands.  Obstinate allows the impossible to become possible, often in words we cannot explain…. it just is right to us because it is. 

Pliable decided to continue the journey, for once daring to stand up to Obstinate, daring for once to walk towards the things he had wondered about.  How brave, how freeing that must have felt.  To come out of the shadow and to walk, to wander.

The boys wrote down how the qualitites of Obstinate and Pliable were both positive and negative.  Great to reflect on how our qualities are not always negative but can be used for good as well if we choose to use them rightly.  So, the wandering continues, as does the wondering….

Day Four In a Puzzling Place

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the slough of despondency

Day four found us in the Slough of Despondency… the what????  I had loved this book so far because as I read it I only changed very few words as we went along.  The title for this one had me from the start… the what of how to explain that.  Okay, that’s the title boys lets read on and see if we can make it make sense!

Pliable is accompanying us, but as we begin to head towards the gate we discover ourselves in the slough… we begin to sink and can’t find our way out (great time for acting this bit out, with some squelching and some slurping and some sploooshing) Pliable discovers he isn’t that pliable because he is stuck, just like us, stuck in the mud.  The further we walk, the deeper we go, our toes, our ankles, our feet and through to our knees.  Are we ever going to get out?

Well Pliable does but decides this is not a good idea, if its this tough already he’s out of there.  So he gets out and leaves, back to the kingdom.  Little Pilgrim is despondent (see, I can use that word in context too and it does describe that emotion so well).  No way forward, no way back, just feeling like we are sinking deeper and deeper.

Living in a swamp area with ‘roads’ made of mud we could understand the physcial aspect of this part of the journey easily.  I will not quickly forget the day my foot got stuck in the mud road, as I pulled it out my flipflop broke and there I was, in the middle of the road, in many ways free but still affected by my moment in the mud.  My freedom had come at a cost and now I was faced with a new problem, a flipflopless foot (okay that word probably didn’t exist!) and the next step was still in the mire.  So I took it, the filthy mud road squelching between my bright pink nailed toes, the cold goo sticking to my foot, and on I walked.  One foot flipflopped one foot free.  The dripping traitor of the other flip flop in my hand!  The rest of the road was walked hobbling over the sharp stones, embarrassed, amused, aggravated but moving towards my house, the goal in sight.

Its easy to give up as we get that sinking feeling, for my boys to think of the times they’ve chosen to give up as soon as they have to put some effort in.  To stop where we are because the only way forward means more mess before we find another kind of freedom.  Financial, dreams, hopes, health, job, school…. whatever, we’ve all been there and probably will be again. 

Do you know the best thing though, I made it home, how great that fresh clean water felt as I watched that filthy mire filled mud wash away.  I don’t know I learnt my lesson, its part of life here, there will be more mud and more flimsy flip flops…. but I won’t give up this pilgrimage.  I hope the boys remember it might be easier to run backwards, but it feels way better to be closer to the gate and heading towards your dreams and destination.

An Invitation from the Ambassador

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I know already you are impressed, intrigued or putting me as a little bit more interesting than you thought… I got an invitation from the Ambassador.  Sure it brings immediately to mind a big plate of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, little fingers sticking out and numerous appropriate clothing questions and challenges.  

Exciting isn’t it, an invitation from the Ambassador, its real, I received it by email this morning, it makes me feel so happy, important, valued, to be honest it sets me up on the pedestal I believe I should always have been on.  Yes, if I was in the Downton era I would have been one of the ladies, not one of the skivvies.  I would have wandered round the garden with my petticoats swishing over the manicured lawns, stopping briefly to grasp a faint aroma from one of the beautiful roses.  My parasol protecting my delicate fair complexion from the sun.  Sitting at a table laughing (please read that larfing not laffing!) politely at the polite jokes…..  oops distracted!

Anyway I felt the need to share the news of my invitation from the Ambassador.  You may be wondering what it is for?

Finally recognition of the amazing commitment and work, the incredibly wondrous input I give to the world… yeah, that’s just in MY head too I know!  Well its a general send out to all of the citizens here for the Rememberance Sunday service … but he has invited me for tea and cakes afterwards at his residence, really.  

Yes, so its not so impressive but it made me feel special and made me want to go because the Ambassador invited me.  Got me to thinking of who I am here.  There are lots of arguments, discussions and theories about attraction models, not bringing my culture into this culture but in a way I can’t help it.  Just by being me, a foreigner I am interesting to the people here.  They stare. They ask questions.  They advise me how to wash clothes – separating the darks from the whites… because who I am is a bit of a mystery to them.  But it is actually something of interest.  

But who I am is not just a foreigner from England but an Ambassador of Christ.  Who I am does not just talk about the country of my birth but the family of my rebirth.  Who I am is not just interesting because its a place people wish they could live but its about a place I long for them to live in eternity.  I wonder who is feeling valued because this Ambassador spoke to them or invited them?  I wonder how often I forget who is watching this Ambassador?  I wonder if my invitations feel as special?

I wonder if anyone feels like this Ambassador is spoiling them?( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P-nZZkQqTc – for my non British friends who think I’ve finally gone crazy!)