10 09 2011

Camp this year at the school I work at was many things, and ‘boring’ was not one of them. From the ‘night service activity’ that turned out to be a carnival complete with popcorn, cotton candy, Kung Fu Panda 2, to the roasting of marshmallows by bonfire for s’mores, to the water fight and capture the flag game organised by the Student Council, and the requisite camp talks and cabin messes, this was a thoroughly enjoyable, and thoroughly exciting 2.5 days and 2 nights.

The house system of 6 colours was kicked off, and the enthusiasm and friendly competition was a wonderful thing to witness, a far cry from the aggressive chanting and in-fighting that went on when I was in school myself.

During the Talent Show, a group of boys from the senior year danced to a Korean pop song, and I was asked to sit in front to witness it. It was glorious, and one of the many, many reasons why I love this group of students:

The boys also serenaded the girls, a long-time tradition at the school:

After the serenade by the boys, it is customary for the girls to sing a ‘response’ at breakfast the following morning. These senior girls did theirs shortly after the allotted time for breakfast so they could have a lie-in. I can’t find a video of the girls’ response, but will post one when I do.

One of my favourite photos from the whole camp experience was taken on the morning of the first day:

The image of the group of students I am advisor to, except for one who is the Student Council representative of the ‘tribe’, is shown here giving each other massages. True community? I think so.

Habitat for the Simanjuntaks

29 05 2011

16 ICS students from Grades 10-12 and 3 chaperones flew out to Singapore on Sunday May 15, and took a ferry across to Batam, Indonesia, for our week-long build with Habitat For Humanity. The work, as expected, was hard, but ultimately very inspiring. The pictures below were all taken by one of the students – Stephanie Widjaja, a very talented artist and photographer.

Working together to build a home for a family

The work during the week consisted of making rebars (twisting wire around metal brackets that hold long metal cables together for the base of the walls of a house), mixing cement with rocks, sand, and water, moving bricks from their storing place to where they can easily be accessed by the bricklayer, digging a hole for the septic tank, laying bricks to support the tank, and breaking the foundation in trenches to make room for the rebars. All of this was done in the scorching sun, and occasional thunderstorm, in the midst of curious villagers and amused and excited/excitable children.

The tedious task of bending iron to enable the rebars

Breaking the foundation to prepare for building

Kimberley digging deeper

Sam Wong, the leader, straightening one of the rebar rods

All of this was done in the midst of green fields and open horizon, and periodically, we would hear the Muslim call to prayer and various worship songs in Arabic via booming loudspeakers as we laboured in the heat that pounded relentlessly on our backs, and caused sun blisters on some and farmers’ tan on others.

During the day, we would take water breaks, but our work would be interrupted when we had lunch. After eating, we would spend the rest of our time joking around, sharing anecdotes, laughing at one of the team over something they’d done during the work, and massaging each other’s sore shoulders.

Sitting and sharing after the delicious local food

I worked on one house that would ultimately be inhabited by the Simanjuntak family, and to have  contributed to something so permanent and challenging is an experience I will be hard-pressed to forget.

The people of the country that we interacted with, and the Habitat For Humanity staff were endlessly friendly and indulgent of our team’s requests and wishes, working alongside us and arranging for wonderful local meals every night, making a very physically taxing week much more enjoyable than it could have been. The country, and the experience, has touched my heart deeply. Working with Habitat on someone’s home was something I had wanted to do for some time, and this week has taught me many life and practical lessons. The week of May 15-21 in Batam, Indonesia will remain in my team’s collective experience for some time, I am sure. There is something about laughing, sweating, eating, and sharing sunscreen together that brings a group closer.

The team at the end of the week, surrounded by the community

On feeling encouraged about teaching

27 02 2011

At school last Monday, for the early start day, students were asked to write 3 letters of encouragement – one to a friend, one to a member of their family, and a 3rd to a teacher, which would be collected and distributed. This was a movement against the usual lack of gratitude we often demonstrate, and the intentional speaking and writing of encouragement started something amazing this morning. As students’ heads were bowed in concentration over their papers and the occasional giggle was heard, along with affectionate (and not-so-affectionate) nicknames, the task at hand seemed to consume their energy, and letters were written, rewritten, and then separated into sections to be given to the subjects.

I led one of the sessions, the one for the junior class, and the number of letters I have been receiving has been overwhelming. They were full of encouragement, and I have spent a considerable amount of time reading the notes. They would not be sold for much money as works of art; they don’t always demonstrate good penmanship; the torn edges are mostly jagged and uneven; but each and every note is perfect to me. The multi-coloured sheets of torn-up A4 paper are beautiful to me, and I feel impossibly encouraged right now. As I sat there at my workstation in room 528 of the school, some freshmen were giving presentations on the French Revolution for Modern European History, and I felt like I was in my own, separate bubble of existence, hearing the words kind students had written, and which will buoy me up in the times when I will feel frustrated or tired.

The reflection above may have been written almost exactly one week ago, but the thought of the coloured pieces of paper still encourages me and inspires me to work harder at teaching well, and not just plain teaching. I long to be a teacher who makes a difference in the lives of my students.

For now, this image will do, although I had meant to take a picture of all the letters I’d received.

Also, a big Happy Birthday to my sister, who’s 22 today and will be a freshman come September out of hard work. Congratulations!

That choking feeling

2 12 2010

Just got floored with some crappy news, and I feel like I’m to blame. It’s not a feeling that I am entirely at fault, just that I could have kept my mouth shut and then everything would be fine.

But it won’t be, because it’s actually not acceptable to keep my mouth shut when it comes to an issue like the one that had come up.

And now the familiar old lump in my throat is back, and it tastes like bitter guilt.

The only consolation there is is that “always You remain with me” as the song by Christian City Youth on iTunes is saying right now.

Overwhelmed with guilt. Could I have done more?

12 12 2009

At lunch today, I saw the four of them trail behind those two teachers who could be so supportive and loving, and it never even occured to me to pray for them, whatever the meeting they were going in to was going to be about. I overheard as I was leaving that they were in trouble, but I didn’t even consider these particular actions as possible consequences.

I should have been praying. I just should have been praying.

Goodbye Maranatha House

5 12 2009

Today we met for the last time at Maranatha House in the hills of precisely nowhere. The house has been in the service of the church since shortly after it first started, I believe, and has been the place where many youth got saved, where a lot of people grew up (my faith included) and just where a lot of memories were created. Then of course there’s the way God continuously met the needs of the church and provided again and again: cement, mode of transportation, tiles, even… And now, to just reject all of it…

I don’t have words to say how broken, frustrated and upset I feel at the lack of clarity, reasoning and general poor timing of this decision. I feel ashamed.

Goodbye, Maranatha House. Thank you.

And another. And another. And another.

3 02 2009

Dissertation topic is due Wednesday. I’m so dead. I’m stressed about it because I have three related-ish topics that I am fascinated by, but am also quite anxious about who my supervisor could turn out to be. But that is secondary to this: what if I want to modify my topic, or change it completely? What then? And I only ostensibly have a couple of months to write it as there are the other 4 essays to do too (!!!) so what to do first should be my primary concern.

Also need to work out my plans for my Advisory group, and all the various other bigger pictures that need to get nutted out. And then this morning, I was called a youth pastor. Effectively, I’ve laid down SR youth to pick up my ICS youth more than I have before, and I feel humbled and honoured by this thought. If you’re the praying type, I would appreciate prayer for this; it’s an incredible privilege and massive challenge… may I be up to it. Thanks muchly! Over and out.