Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Again it's been WAAAY too long since my last post.
Lot's has been happening.  School has started again and with it, my new role as kindergarten teacher.  I'm privileged to have a great teaching partner and we're slowly figuring things out together.  This class keeps us on our toes, but boy are they fun!

I've forgotten how much fun it is to teach kids the beginning steps to reading and writing!  It's so fun to see them accomplish things they didn't know they could do.  It's only week 4 of the school year, but already we're seeing sentences and kids making progress.  Just about all of them now know the words I, am, see, a, like, the, can, and is.  You can actually do quite a lot with just those few words.  We've also been having fun with patterns in math.  In Bible, we're moving through chronologically covering creation, Adam and Eve, and Noah. 

This biggest frustration has been deciding what to teach-- there are so many great ideas and resources for early literacy out there.  How do you decide which ones to choose?  This is the question I keep asking myself.  My desire is to be the best teacher I can be for this group of kids, but how do I choose what's best.  This is where I pray desperately for wisdom that comes from the Lord.  Am I going to get it right every time? Certainly not! Can I trust that my best efforts will meet my students where they are at?  WIth God's help, yes, I believe I can!

One of the great privileges of teaching at an International Christian school is that we can invite the Lord into our classroom.  We can talk about him, sing about him, pray to him, meditate on his word, and we can appreciate his creativity as we look around our classroom and see a snapshot of the diversity of His children.  What a blessing that is!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What's New? and other random thoughts

This blog post is probably going to turn out to just be random thoughts going through my head.  I couldn't really settle on one theme....

It's that time in the school year where everyone is feeling just a bit more tired-- students and teachers alike.  Thankfully, our school here operates on a 4 term school year with breaks in between each school term.  In just a few more days we'll be enjoying a couple weeks of school break.  This break is a short one (2 weeks long), but it's a break nonetheless.  The kids and I are looking forward to some down time.  Unfortunately, Dad doesn't get the break we get. 

We are, however, hoping to get away for a few days during the break.  We're hoping to get away for a short holiday and shopping trip to the town of Lae.  Lae is about a two hour drive by road.  It's one of the places we can actually get to by road in this country and is also a major shipping port in PNG. It's a coastal town (obviously) which in the Pacific means hot and humid. Our organization has a guest house there where we can stay.  The great things about the guest house are 1) some of the rooms have air conditioning.  2) There is a swimming pool at the guest house.  It's a simple oval shaped above ground pool, but the kids love it and it's a nice break from the heat. 

Aside from the guest house, the only real reason to go to Lae is for shopping.  We've been really looking for ways to cut our costs lately.  We've become half vegetarians--half because we eat meat about every other day now.  I've bee challenged in my cooking to find meatless recipes that my family will eat.  It's a challenge when half the family don't really like beans.  Anyhow,  we had some really successful meatless meals and some not so successful ones.  Another cost cutting method some families here use is bulk buying.  I'm told you can save a lot of money by regular bulk buying trips to Lae.  We're going to give it a try and see if it works for us.  I've been doing a lot of research and talking to people who do this.  Honestly, it's a bit mind boggling.  you have to know what stores to go to for which items, which items are worth buying in bulk and which aren't, and then you have to figure out where to store all of these bulk items.  Also, sometimes it's not so much about saving money, but about availability.   For example, our store (yes, there is only one) went for about 4 months with out popcorn.  Chad was able to find some on a trip to Lae which meant we were set.  As I ponder the logistics of buying in bulk, I keep thinking about US history and remembering the settlers who traveled west, lived in the middle of nowhere, and occasionally traveled to town for supplies.  Sometimes I feel a little like that.   I wonder--- how did they know how much sugar they would need before they made it to town again?

The other big thing that's been on my mind lately is my teaching job.  I've been teaching preschool now for about 4 years and really enjoying it.  I teach just 3 mornings a week and that fits nicely with my family's needs.  However, preschool is not what I've been trained to teach.  As we look toward the next school year (which begins in July), there are a LOT of needs in our school.  Also, we've got a couple of people in the pipeline who have experience  and/or training in teaching preschool.  I, however, am trained for teaching K-6.  So, after much prayer, talking with administration, more prayer, more talking; I've agreed along with my current co-teacher to move up to kindergarten next year.  The great things about this arrangement are...
1) I get to keep the same group of kids I've had since last July (they keep me on my toes, but I love 'em)
2) I'll continue to work with my co-teacher and friend.
3) I'll still only teach 3 mornings a week since I'm team teaching
4) I'll still only teach mornings since kinder is half day

But there are challenges:
1) I'll need to learn a whole new curriculum
2) Because our school is accredited K- grade 12 (but not for preschool) there will be new responsibilities related to that.
3) The kinder assignment is only for half the year (the usual Kinder teacher is taking a 6 month home assignment), so I have no clue what I'll be doing come Jan 2013.  It's a good thing God does!
4) It's a new classroom filled with another teacher's stuff.  I'll have to learn my way around.
5) I'm feeling pressure to finish the organizing/de-cluttering I've begun in preschool in preparation for a new teacher.... It's a lot of extra work.

Anyhow, I'm excited and nervous at the same time about the upcoming  changes.  I was feeling pretty comfy in my little preschool classroom.  God is moving me out of my comfort zone and stretching me once again!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Yucky

A lot has happened since I last blogged, we celebrated Jesus' birth, welcomed in the new year, and began a new school term.  In the midst of those things, we've encountered some Good things, Bad (at least from a human perspective) things, and some downright Yucky things...

First the GOOD...

In January Sydney, Calvin and I had the privilege of ministering to hundreds of Papua New Guinean children through a week long Vacation Bible School (Holide Baibel Skul-- in Tok Pisin). Here is a report from the organizer of the event.  God is Good!

We are hearing exciting reports from local valley residents who say their children are singing the Scripture songs and reciting the verses they learned at VBS.  This year’s theme was “Kamap Nupela” (becoming a new creation in Christ Jesus.)    Pray that the children will keep making an impact for Jesus in the local villages!  Here are some final statistics:  There was an average attendance of 540 children per day from 10 different villages.   One hundred forty-five people served in some way at VBS, from baking banana bread (over 200 loaves) to teaching the gospel.    Fifty-five of them were students from the International School on our center, and about 20 were church workers from 13 different churches in the surrounding valley.  Forty teachers attended training events prior to VBS to help them be well-prepared to teach the verses, the gospel and application activities.   We know of about 150 children who prayed to receive Jesus as their Saviour, but there could have been many more.  Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.   God is SO good!
Another GOOD thing that has happened in our family in the last few weeks is that Sydney took another step in her faith and was baptized. She had talked about wanting to do this when we were in the US on furlough, but "didn't want to do it in front of a lot of people."  A few weeks ago in her youth group she came to understand that being baptized "in front of a lot of people" is kinda the point to baptism!  So on Jan 29th (along with 18 other youth from our community) Sydney was baptized by her Dad in the Bae river (it's a good thing the washing of sin is symbolic when it comes to baptism because nothing could get clean in that river!)
The BAD...

We've seen some tragedies recently in PNG. We are mourning with PNG as a ferry carrying several hundred people sank off the coast on PNG a couple of weeks ago.  It is feared that hundreds list their lives in that accident.

Many here are struggling to raise needed support to return and to remain in PNG.  We know that these are uncertain times for many, please know that we often pray for our family and friends in their home countries as well.

Much closer to home... a sweet friend and classmate of Sydney lost her sister this month.  Judy (the sister who passed away) was a young wife and mother.  Judy's parents work with BTA (Bible Translation Association of  PNG) and are among the Papua New Guinean nationals working hard to bring God's word to all the languages of PNG. please join us in praying for Stacey (Sydney's friend) and her family as they mourn this loss.  

And finally the YUCKY...
One of the not  so great things about living in a beautiful tropical place like PNG is dealing with the yucky, but unavoidable things like mice, cockroaches, and rats.  I put them in that order because, while all three of these things are things I wish I didn't have to deal with, their is definitely a hierarchy of yuckyness (I know that's not really a word).  
Mice--we get them in our house sometimes. They are annoying, but they have a certain cuteness to them, so while I don't really want them in my house, they don't completely gross me out.  
Cockroaches-- these are just gross.  Especially when you wake up it the night and step on one in your bare feet. I can't stand that crunching sound! 
Rats-- these are the yuckiest of all!  

Why do I bring this up, you ask?  Well, we recently discovered that our storage area under the preschool building was infested with rats!  The other preschool teachers and I have spent the last few weeks going through everything in this storage area. We threw away lots of stuff that had been chewed on and peed on by the rats, we cleaned stuff up, we re-organized the storage area, and we repacked stuff into rat resistant (hopefully) plastic bins.  In the process of this clean out, we encountered not one, not three, not five, but EIGHT rats!  If that isn't yucky, I'm not sure what is!

So, there you have it... the GOOD, the BAD, and the YUCKY!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Reason for the Season

Isn't this picture just precious?  Those cute faces just make my heart melt! I have photos like this of my kids when they were preschoolers.  Now that I am teaching preschoolers, I thought other parents would enjoy them as well. So, each year in preschool we have the kids take turns dressing up as Mary and Joseph and take photos of them holding "Baby Jesus" (I'm kicking myself that I didn't use one of our dark-skinned baby dolls to be Jesus, but it's still an adorable picture). 

Christmas festivities are in full swing in the Owens house.  We've got the tree, some lights, and many other decorations throughout the house.  I grew up in a home that looked like something out of a Hallmark catalog during the holiday season.  Decorations and traditions are important to me.  It just doesn't feel like Christmas without them.  These traditions are a mix of ones we've been doing since the kids were little and others that we've added through the years. Some of our Christmas traditions are just for the sake of fun, like hiding "Pickles the Elf" around the house for other family members to find, doing fun Christmas activities together each day in December, and having friends over to decorate Christmas cookies. Other traditions in our home are intended to draw our hearts and minds back to the real reason for the season; the birth of Jesus, our Emmanuel. The one I most enjoy is advent.  Advent is not something what was a part of my Christmas traditions as a child, but I'm glad that it is for my children.  This year we're reading through an advent story called Bartholomew's Passage it's one of a series of advent stories written by Arnold Ytreeide.  Some friends of ours introduced us to these books last year while we were in the US.  The book is set up so that you read a few pages each day ending with a short devotional thought.  Our kids have enjoyed the engaging story and look forward each night to hearing what happens next.   

Another tradition we have been doing since we came to PNG is hunting for our Christmas tree.  You see, back in the US we had a tradition of going every year, the day after Thanksgiving, to pick out our tree.  Usually, we did this as a big family event with Chad's side of the family.  It's hard being away from family during the holidays especially when you have such fun traditions that involve them.  So, our first Christmas in PNG we decided to make our own Christmas tree tradition.  Each year, the weekend after American Thanksgiving, Chad takes our little artificial Christmas tree and hides it somewhere (usually in a neighbor's yard).  He also puts a sign out in the yard of the house where it's hidden that says "Christmas Tree Farm"  Then, we load up in our car with Christmas music and hot cocoa (even though it's really too hot for hot cocoa) and we drive around searching for our tree.  It's a silly tradition, but we have fun with it.  This year, we decided to let Dad join in on the fun a bit more by having some friends hide the tree.  That way, Dad didn't even know where it was! 

Last year, we loved being with family for Christmas, but we also love celebrating Christmas here in PNG.  Even here, the Christmas season is busy, but rather than the busyness of going here and there and the pressure to spend money, it's filled with activities centered around "family" and friends and remembering the reason we celebrate.  There's no commercialism here and gift giving is much simpler and creative.  In many ways, it feels the way I think Christmas should be (except for the obvious fact that none of our family is around-- that part never really gets easy, but we do have some close friendships here that are as close as family). 

I pray that as you celebrate this season in your own family that you take time to remember the reason we celebrate, enjoy some quality time with your loved ones, and take part in some traditions, both new and old. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sports day

Sometimes it's ok to be proud....

This past week was "sports day" for the primary school campus here
(grade K-6). It's an all day event with different track and field type
events. The kids complete both individually and in teams.

It's a day that all students are required to participate in. Some kids
LOVE it, other kids, not so much... Calvin fits into the later group.
He's just not very athletic Let's be honest... he comes by in
naturally, just take a look at his parents. Not to mention that he's
got a couple of chronic health issues stacked against him too.

In PE class for the last few weeks, they have been practicing and
preparing for Sports day. Calvin hasn't complained, but I know he
doesn't exactly enjoy it.

Anyhow... Sports day arrived and Calvin woke up in a REALLY crabby
mood. You know the kind of mood where nothing positive comes out of
your mouth? Grumbling, complaining, crying, you name it. That was
Calvin. Now, I can't force Calvin to like sports day, I can't magically
make him perform better in the events, and I can't force him to have a
good attitude. I CAN encourage him to do his best and to have a good

I spent the entire morning as we prepared to leave for school trying to
convince his that it is possible to have fun at sports day, even if
athletics isn't your cup of tea. I encouraged him to try his best and
not worry about how he compares to others and above all...have a good
attitude. It came time to leave for school and Calvin had JUST decided
to have a good attitude... we walked out the door and it was raining.
That means a wet, muddy and slippery sports day. In an instant, all
that convincing him to have a good attitude was undone. As we went to
school, I prayed silently, that somehow he would turn his attitude
around. I had a bad feeling about the day. (Calvin is a kid who feels
his emotions strongly.... happy, sad, angry, grouchy, sad, whatever he
feels, he feels it strongly). I was so concerned that I took the time
to talk to the people who would be helping out his group during sports
day and give them a "heads up" about his current frame of mind.

Due to the fact that I had my own class to teach, I wasn't able to see
much of the sports day events (my co-teacher and I did take turns
stepping out of our classroom to watch our kids a bit). When I did step
out to watch him, I was happy to see that he had somehow managed to turn
his attitude around. Praise the Lord!

At the end of the day, one person from each group is awarded a "good
sportsmanship" award. You can imagine the pride I felt when my son (the
one who began the day in such a negative frame of mind) ended the day be
being awarded the "good sportsmanship" award for his group. Way yo go

Birthday for an "almost" teen

It's been a while since I've blogged... I've been feeling guilty about it.

We're now a few weeks into our new school year and things have been busy.

This week we celebrated Sydney's 12th birthday. She is definitely on
the cusp of the teen years. It's been interesting to watch how "playing
with friends" has been slowly morphing into "hanging out with friends."
It used to be, "Mom, can so and so come pay?" now it's "Can so and so
come over today?" A subtle change that signifies a much more
significant one.

My kids have both gotten to the age where they want to plan their own
parties. This year Sydney recruited a friend to help her plan her
party. I was really nothing more than cook and crowd control. The
party was actually a nice mix of planned games and not so planned time.
One of Sydney's gifts this year was Just Dance 2 (for the Wii) We gave
it to her just before her party and the kids had a great time playing
this at the party. There are some songs we have to deem "off limits,"
but for the most part, the game is great fun and great exercise.

One of the things I LOVE about celebrating birthdays here in Ukarumpa is
the fact that you don't have to have to go to the coolest new place,
have the best goody bags, or spend a fortune on food.

Sydney wanted my favourite black bottom cupcakes, some chips, and bean
dip. That and some Tang to quench their thirst was all they needed.
Simple and easy. Well, I did bake the cupcakes from scratch and make
some of the chips-- right now our store actually has Fritos and Dorritos
(thanks to a recently arrive US grocery shipment), but they are super
expensive, so I supplemented with some homemade chips as well.

The other thing I really like about birthdays here is the lack of
pressure to give the best or most expensive gift. In fact, many kids
don't even give gifts. Those that do, it's often very simple things.
For example, a couple of kids gave her a package of candy from our
store. Others have a stash of small gifts brought back from their home
country. We have a drawer full of small items we brought back.from the
US. When a birthday comes, the kids can shop in the birthday drawer to
find a gift. I love the simplicity of it all.

This year is big for Sydney because she is in grade 7, which means she
moved to the "secondary campus" (this is the middle and high school
campus of UIS). For some, this transition is a tough one. For Sydney,
it's been fun to watch her blossom. She is absolutely LOVING middle
school and it really seems to suit her. With the switch to middle
school, she has also entered to world of youth group-- for Sydney, this
is yet another chance to hang out with her friends.

Sigh... she's growing up way more quickly than I want her to.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Haus Krai

Here in PNG, it seems that the people deal with death much more frequently than we do in the US.  It may be an exaggeration, but it seems like every other week a friend of ours tells us about a death in their family.   

This past week a policeman who lives here on our centre passed away.  He had been living and working here for the past 20 years.  When we first came here we lived right next door to him and his family.  Our children often played with his children.   He will be missed.

He didn't die from cancer, heart attack, or even one of those tropical diseases we deal with here.  He died of an asthma attack.  This is especially heartbreaking to me as I reflect on Calvin's struggles with asthma over the past couple of months.

When my son was struggling with asthma last month, we were put on an airplane and flown over the pacific ocean to Australia, met at the airport by a fully equipped ambulance, and driven to a nearby clean, fully stocked hospital with well trained doctors and nurses.  Our friend, the policeman, was given some basic medicine and sent home, where he later died.  Our clinic here did the best they could (they truly are an amazing group of doctors and nurses), but there is only so much that can be done here.

 It's in times like these that I feel thankful for the medical resources and support  we have here through our organization, but I also feel saddened and discouraged that our Papua New Guinean friends don't have the same access.  In the US, have you ever heard of someone dying because of Asthma?  It's possible, but It's not likely.  Here, we do what we can to help our national friends with their medical needs, but sometimes it's just not enough.  Our organization operates a medical clinic that serves the people who live in this valley.  Often times, people walk for hours to seek medical care at our clinic. We do basic medical care, but have no hospital here.  The nearest hospital, about a 20 minute drive from here, has very basic facilities and supplies.   I've had friends here be admitted to the hospital only to be given pain medication and be told "We don't know what's wrong with you."  I know that medical care in the US has it's problems, but the situation changes my perspective a bit.

One of the traditions here when someone dies is the "haus krai." In English, this translates to "house cry."  Basically, the family and friends construct a large "house" out of bamboo and tarps. The body is placed in a wooden casket and set on a bamboo stand in the middle of the "haus krai."  Family and friends come from all over to mourn and cry over the body.  Often the "haus krai" can last several days.  People, quite literally, sit in the "haus krai" and cry, sometimes in loud wailing, other times in quiet sobs. There's something very natural and cathartic about this process.  Afterward, the body is transported back to the "as ples" or place of birth to be buried. 

Matthew 5:4  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will inherit the earth.