Things that are not like home

You may have heard about the bombing in a Davao market a couple of weeks ago. While the bombing is no where near where I am, the effects can be felt throughout the Philippines.

I have often thought that I have a false sense of security here because of the level of security I see all around me. As an American I do not expect to walk through a metal detector and bag search just to enter the mall, but here that is normal. There is a list of banned items from the mall, this includes explosives, guns, and hand grenades. I am glad that they are careful to ensure no one brings these items into the mall and I am surprised at how quickly this became this became normal for me. I didn’t even flinch when Margie and I went down town and before we could pull into the parking garage we had to stop for security to run a mirror under the car.

Since the bombing and the recent bomb threats the security has increased even more. There are now check points along the road and I noticed today as we passed through the check point that there was a member of the military with an automatic weapon at the ready. Even in the mall I saw officers with obvious weapons. Do I feel safer? I am not sure if I do or not. The increased security made me think about the things going on in the larger world around me and not just in the very nice little circle I live in.

Here is what I do know. I really enjoyed this trip to the mall and my friend Mariles is an amazing at parking her car! After the football game, aka soccer game, Luchie, Mariles and I went to introduce me to a treat called Halo Halo. Mariles did an impressive job maneuvering her car into a spot in a very crowded area.

Halo Halo is shaved ice with evaporated milk served in a bowl with toppings. There was some bean, coconut, and well I am not entirely sure what I was eating but it was good with the exceptions of the beans.


Learning from the exam

This week is Quarter Final exams, which my American brain has translated into Mid-Terms. Exam time is an interesting time because of all that goes into making them and taking them. The students poor themselves into memorizing everything you have every said to them, while the teacher tries to recall everything they have taught and decide what are the key elements we want to access.

What I have realized this week is that it really isn’t about how much the students will show me they have learned but how much I will learn from the exam. The process of deciding what to put on the exam is the first step of the battle and took a great deal of time. You have to make sure that the assessment has something for all learning styles and is a fair assessment for every student.

The process of grading the test will show me where I have been successful as a teacher and where I have fallen short.  Did I provide what each student needed to be successful at taking my exam? Did I make the instructions clear enough? Do my special needs students have their needs met? Do I need to cover any of the material again?

Two out of three days of exams are done. My first exam was with my fifth grade language class and I have learned a great deal from their exam. First thing I notice is that I gave the right amount of questions for their exam. A couple of students finished a little early and a couple of students worked to the last possible second. Most of the students finish with a few minutes to spare.

The students with time to spare where told to read a book, write a story, or draw me a picture. I received some great pictures at the end of class.

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The most important lesson I learned from their exam time is that my students know that I care about them and that they care about me as well.I hope I learn as much from the rest of the exams.


Bethel is 15 years old

September 7th is an important day around here, it is the day they honor the Founding Father’s of this school and sing happy birthday to Bethel. This year is the 15th year the school has been in operation and let me tell you Filipino’s know how to celebrate!

First classes were canceled and jubilation abound as the day of fun activities were revealed to the students. The morning started with a prayer walk. We walked around the soccer field singing Thank you Lord then we all stopped at prayer stations and and prayed in small groups. Some groups prayed for the students, some for the community, some for the parents, some of the the teachers and staff.

After the prayer we went on to form the number 15 and posed for the picture. Paul Varberg used a ladder to climb a light pole and take the picture. Getting the lower school to form a straight number one was quite the under taking! Eventually all was right and the photo was taken. If you are wondering, I am at the first corner in the five, where the horizontal meets the vertical. I am the first vertical.

And then it was time for games! The upper school competed in volleyball and basketball while the lower school competed in fun games. I was the light in red light green light. The pictures of students walking with great difficulty were taken by the fifth grade homeroom teacher. Ms. Ambal kindly took pictures for me. It was hysterical to watch! They had to walk across the field picking up paper plates and walking with them held by various body parts. None of those parts intended for holding anything!

Recess time and then back to their homerooms for doughnut! Compliments of Mr. Doughnut. They have some interesting flavors here and all the students were excited to have the special treat.

At 2pm there was a assembly with some entertainment and some business. The new PTA Board was sworn in, and the new Student Counsel officers also took their oath of office. I am proud of those officers since several of them are in my 11th grade classes. The dance club treated us to a performance and the school choir gave their debut performance! The assembly ended with the giving of gifts to the founders and singing happy birthday to the school. Then the candles on the cake were blown out and all of the students received a cupcake on their way out the door.

The students headed home allowing the teachers to clean up and slap themselves with a pretty stick or the handsome stick as the case may be. The board, teachers, PTA and staff were treated to a wonderful catered dinner. The auditorium was transformed in a few short hours from the scene described above to wonderful dining hall. There are pictures of the chair covers and table decorations above. I intended to take pictures of the food but to be honest I was having so much fun with my table mates that I forgot!

It was an exhausting day but a wonderful day.





The things I did not realize …

I did not realize how hard it would be to be away from home when family is sick. You cannot go visit someone in the hospital when you live half a world away. I thought I was prepared for such things but turns out it was really hard to hear bad news and not be able to do anything about it.

I did not realize how much I would miss hearing a CT accent. Stew Leonard Jr. was being interview the other night and I just about snapped my neck lifting my head to see who was making those familiar tones.

I did not realize that I would need to be this flexible and I am actually rather proud of myself for how flexible I have been considering my control freak nature.

I did not realize how frustrated I could become with things like poor internet quality. I am a spoiled brat that enjoys having my way of connecting with home work well precisely when I want it.

I did not realize how much I would miss not being home for the start of all the fall activities 

I did not realize how much I would miss all of my kids. 

I did not realize how much fun a game of red light green light can be

I did not realize I could laugh that had having my picture taken

I did not realize how much I would need Margie’s words of wisdom or how quickly she would become a sister and friend.

Roosters crowing church bells ringing and morning musings.

Now that I am feeling better I decided to start my morning walk again. I started walking my second week here but by the end of that week I was rather unwell! I missed a day and a half of school and it took another week for my energy to improve. On Friday afternoon I sent a text to our principal to see if she was game to start the morning walks again. Saturday morning I was out on the field by 5:40am. You have to walk early if you want to walk here because by 6:30 it is too hot!

This morning I took my walk alone. Ninja, the dog, having decided that she really only wanted to come along to go potty, returned home. The sun was up above the horizon and the roosters where letting us all know. I had my sunglasses having learned this vital lesson on a previous walk and I contemplated all that has happened in the past few months. It was a mere 3 months ago that I decided to answer the call I was clearly hearing from God to come here and so much has changed since then.

Today marks the one month anniversary of my arrival here on Leyte. A stranger in a strange land, excited to see and learn everything about my new home. One month later I am able to speak a few sentences in Waray Waray, I have learned how to drive downtown, and I have made friends. I sometimes wish I could fold the world in half and pop to the States for dinner and a hug but on the whole I feel at home and settle in for the foreseeable future.

I need to get ready for church now but I will post more later today of the adventures and activities since I have arrived. Including some lovely photos from our Heroes Day outing.


Rainbow Joy goes to school

Rainbow Joy made it to school on Friday, she has found my backpack a bit overloaded earlier in the week and opted to stay home rather than get squeezed into an over crowded pack!

The first class she met was my CF 7 class, CF stands for Christian Formation and 7 is because they are in the 7th grade. The class is studying wisdom, AKA Proverbs this year. The class loved meeting her and she loved meeting them.  The first thing they did was teach her how to solve “cubes” The girl in the front right is an amazing puzzle solver. She can solve them in seconds without looking!  Next Rainbow Joy read to them from the Bible. She felt sure this is what Thad and Ada would want her to do. They gathered around close to hear what she had to say.

Next we had Academic and Professional Writing with Grade 11. Rainbow Joy was a bit nervous meeting them because they are the oldest students in the school. They look more like grown ups than children. Once she met them it was a different story.


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She spent a few minutes with each group, reviewed their papers, and I think she even had some secret advice for Lance. The students were working on restaurant reviews as in an class assignment to practice the writing tools we learned in class. They compared and contrasted three food places that they had all been to. Ayo which is a little expensive but has healthy food, Jollibee which is a fast food chain for Filipino food and the chain that is  certainly least in my book, McDonald’s. Rainbow Joy was astonished to read how much they like the chicken at McDonald’s!

You may notice the many different kinds of outfits the students are wearing. Some are wearing the power blue uniform others are wearing traditional Filipino costumes celebrating Buwan ng Wika. Month of Language. Rainbow Joy was surprised to see the wide variety of outfits for both boys and girls. The Spanish missed the mark when they labeled the people here as lazy. Waray Waray, the name of the locals from this area, means nothing nothing. What I see in the clothing and in the food, more on food later, is meticulous detail! There is a great deal of lace work and needlepoint on many of the outfits. I see that same level of detail in the food.

Last but certainly not least is my fifth grade Language class. The reading part of Language Arts is taught by Ms. Stong. We are both in the class for the entire two hours and help each other keep order because there are 28 students in the class.

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Ms. Stong also had a couple of friends that traveled with her and she brought them to class. All of the animals agreed that their church friends back home would like to learn about the Philippines and so an idea was hatched. Half of the students will be writing Ms. Stong’s church family and the other half will write Ms. Camarro’s church family. The students are very excited about this project. I have seen the first draft of their letters and many of them have invited you to come visit them. Kathe G. will be looking for volunteers to reply to the letters. If you are interested please let her know.

Rainbow Joy really enjoyed her day at school and is looking forward to her next adventure!