Friday, April 20, 2012

Week in Review

I just wrote a completely different post but as I did the final read through, it sounded vaguely familar. I went back and found that I had posted pretty much the same thing about two months ago. Hmmm - maybe something I need to be paying attention to! Delete and start over..... Instead, it's the week in review!

Last weekend, some of us went to the mall and two of us ended up with quite a bit of time to talk about marriage. Random at Africa's largest mall but I loved it. She told me about how she met her husband. She shared some things she has learned about marriage and what it takes to make it work. She shared what she is still learning. The longer she talked, her determination to be a supportive, loving wife evidenced itself. Just by listening to her, you could tell she deeply loves her husband and wants nothing more than to be the wife he deserves. It was so honest and encouraging - perhaps the highlight of my weekend.

Last weekend was a four day weekend and most people went out of town. As much as I enjoyed the time I spent with people here, there is so much excitement in getting the "I'm back!" text. Sharing stories you've been waiting to tell, catching up with the ongoings back home, hearing about new places, and laughing at things only each other would understand.

Sandstorm hit this week. A neighbor friend took this picture of my building at about 9:30 that morning. No, the coloring is not off or adjusted - it's accurate. It was this bad at work and worse in other parts of the city.

When the maid comes on Tuesday followed by a sandstorm on Wednesday, this is what happens to your home even when the windows are closed. This is how I justify a maid. So gross!

It was a good week for food. Amanda Jones' chicken and rice - one of my personal favorite comfort foods. I got to have Stavolta this week - Twice! Gellato at its best! Last night, Jen made the best grilled cheese sandwich I've ever had in my life. I got Easter Candy and Lucky Charms from the States. I'm telling you, its the small things in life that make you happy!

Which reminds me - I joined a gym this week. *Gulp* Two months until Costa Rica and just an overall need to exercise gave me the final push. Knowing myself, I only signed up for this month to see how it goes and how consistant I am. I'll decide further after that. I'm doing fine with the treadmill but have only tentatively ventured into that other room twice - you know, the one with the weights. I'll get there eventually....

We are four days from Israel! I cannot wait!!!! I've looked forward to this for years - it's a dream come true!

I woke up to this at 6:30 this morning. Great start to my day! Erin is the best sister friend you could hope for!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I've Got a Little Story for Ya, Ags....

I've come to notice that blogging most successfully happens for me on days off. Convenient how I seem to get more done on days off. :) So come Friday morning, I was enjoying lazying on my bed trying to decide what to share with all of you. The choices were between deeper transparency and less revealing surface level things. Since I was having a hard time wording things, I went for the work update you see below. After it was published and shared in the appropriate places, I realized that I hadn't checked my grad school application status in a while. I jumped on to the school's website and was met with these words:

Current Status:Congratulations! You have been admitted to Texas A&M University. We will send your acceptance letter via postal mail.

I could NOT believe my eyes! I was sure that everything was so last minute I wouldn't get in. I can only imagine what my roommates must have thought from the other side of my door. Between the scream, laughter, clapping, and the throwing open of the door, I'm sure they were completely unsure of what was going on. They were so sweet and excited with me. Apparently I wanted it more than I thought!

Then I went to lunch and pedicures with some friends while I waited for America to wake up. Seven hour time differences are not convenient! It was so much fun telling the family about it. They know a Master's degree is something that I've been wanting for a while. I'm so glad I got to tell them because Erin got this in the mail yesterday:
Oh, the lovely maroon and white! I'll be studying Curriculum and Instruction in a completely online program. I'm so excited and cannot wait to get started this fall. Well, maybe I can wait a bit. There are some cool things coming up I don't want to miss. But come September, I'll be ready!

Friday, April 13, 2012


Earlier this spring, I submitted my application for grad school. I have very mixed feelings about getting in. On one hand, this is my ninth year teaching and a change would be nice. I've even seriously considered things outside of the world of education. I feel like getting in to this program would keep me in education quite a bit longer - especially due to the investment of it. I'm not 100% sure that is what I want. However, if I am in education, this is the route I would want my career to take. I know my strengths and weaknesses and this path would be an excellent fit. I would enjoy it immensely. I'm not spending too much time thinking about it. If I get it, I'll go through that door. If I don't, I can look forward to days like today.

Erin often asks me about work because apparently I don't talk about it much. I'll be honest, after nine years, it becomes pretty routine. Even in another culture, kids are kids. Then you have a day like yesterday and it reminds me why I chose to teach.

Yesterday was the best day we've had all year long. I was a GREAT DAY! One of those that even now I look back on and smile. I taught like I used to teach and realized how much I've missed it. Trying new things, adjusting to a new culture, and having extra hands made me put some things on the back burner. Shame on me! Yesterday, we were so engaged with our learning and with each other. We learned and laughed all day. We workshopped ourselves to death and loved every moment of it. It was a day when they actually raised their hands to share their thinking but you could literally see the energy and excitement of what they were about to share in their eyes and buzzing bodies. They were so good they earned "Stinky Feet". For those of you that don't work with little kids, that is shoes off time. Free reward that unfortunately does smell up the room but they LOVE.

While the pictures I have to share are not great, I'm OK with that today. The best parts of the day could not be captured by a camera. They came in the form of begging to be read to from our new read aloud. They were the excited interactions when they got to snort like Mercy Watson or yell like a cowboy. They were in conversations that you just can't make happen. They were in the moments with they FINALLY problem solved instead of interrupting each other. However, here are some shots of the day:

This is the writing notebook of a boy who came in knowing no letters or letter sounds and even less English. His growth has been s.l.o.w. This description says "apple tree big". While it still has a long way to go, in our conference he showed me three letters for three sounds of big and the beginning and ending sounds of tree. He very proudly pointed to the space in his words and said "A meatball space!" with the biggest smile on his face. I'll take it!

In math, we are measuring with nonstandard units. One of their activities was to use basketball player footprints and kid footprints to measure things around the room. They LOVED it! I had a hard time getting focused photos because they were so involved and flying around the room with their feet.

This little guy in the red jacket was so excited after he recorded his first two measurements. He interrupted our group and said this, "Excuse me Ms. Dana. I'm sorry to interrupt but look! I don't think I have to measure everything. Two kids feet is about the same as a basketball player foot. (Holds up footprints to show me.) If I measure with basketball player feet and then count them by two, I know what the kid feet will be!" I love this kid! I mean, how could you not! I told him to test his theory and come report back. His response, "Yep! I was right! My brain is so smart!" Yes it is, lovebug. Yes it is!

Secret to full engagement - make it look like Dr. Seuss! I mean, measuring with wooden block = boring. Measuring Cat in the Hat, Red Fish Blue Fish, and Thing 1 with blocks = so much fun!

My favorite part of teaching science is introducing new science tools. With five year old, you have to let them play with it before they work with it. When they play with hand lenses, they figure out that you can do this:

Then you can see how the blue water traveled up the celery stalk to the leaves.
Nothing innovative and new. Just me doing my thing and them doing theirs. When they are excited about their learning, it doesn't have to be earth shattering activites. When they are excited, they will learn. That is my job - to get them excited and get out of their way. It worked for the day and I loved every moment of it! If grad school doesn't happen, I'm happy in my little room with my sweet kids enjoying each other and learning.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

My Easter Wish

There have been days here that all I want to is to be in Houston. Today is one of those days.

Three years ago, I sat by Erin and Gregg with their sweet new Liz. She was perfect in her Easter dress. I mean, girl could pull off orange!

Then two years ago, I was able to go to worship with this sweet girl....
....and hunt Easter Eggs with this little man.....

Last year, I saw them for just a moment at the end of services. They were precious!
But this year I am here and they are there. I'm thankful for big sunglasses that hide welling tears as I walked home so people couldn't see the fight to not cry. I'm thankful for a good book to distract me. I'm thankful for friends who make plans for us. Because this year, I can't see Liz duck her head and shy-ly smile when I tell her how beautiful she looks in her new dress. I can't brace myself for the attack hugs Bladen gives which already unsteady me even though he is only two years old. And I can't see Ginny.

However, in four hours I will see them. Well, they may be napping but I'll get to talk to their mama and to my mama. Which is balm for a sad heart. Erin will post pictures soon (hint, hint Erin Elaine) and I'll see them in all of their cuteness. And I remind myself they are three years old, two years old, and one month old. They won't remember this.

Because that's what you do when you live far away. You give yourself pep talks, spend time with good friends, worship on Easter Sunday, and look forward to 9:00 p.m.

Saturday, April 07, 2012


On Thursday night, I was able to attend a Seder presented by one of the churches here in Maadi. I'm not going to lie, the Seder is one of my favorite times of the year. When I heard one was happening here, it took everything I had not to geek out on the spot. I've had some pretty great experiences with them and was pretty excited about this one as well. While I could write a whole post on past Seder experiences (because I did and just deleted it - you're welcome), I'll stick with this year's evening. This one had its own significance. You see, living in Egypt just becomes your new normal. It's easy to forget where you are and just slip into your daily routine. That is, until you realize you are where the original passover occurred. It kind of takes your breath away. Nope. Not kind of. It completely takes your breath away.

The thing I love about the Seder is what it meant for years and generations to come. In one night, a feast was established to help a people remember not only what happened but to look forward to a day when redemption would come. Through the remembrances of tears and pain, there was the promise of rescue - the hope to come. Now, thousands of years later, some still wait but for those of us who believe, we have Easter. Our anticipation has been fulfilled and exchanged for so much more. This exchange is the meaning of Easter for me.

Just as Christ took the passover meal and used it to establish a new feast, communion, he does that with our lives. He exchanged his place in perfection to meet us where we are. Just as he turned the bitterness of passover into joyful rememberance, he does this with our individual lives. I know. Just as I've seen his faithfulness to fulfill promises to his people over generations, I've seen him take the hard bits of my small life and turn it in to so much more. For all intents and purposes, this beautiful life I have should not be. If left on my own, I have few ideas of where I would be instead. It's not pretty. Thankfully, he did not leave me to myself. I went from this emmaciated, girl full of pasted on smiles to hide the pain (but fooled no one)..... this:

My life is by no means perfect but it is pretty incredible. It's his way, this story of redemption. This is my Jesus:

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, to grant to those who mourn in Zion - to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit, that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified." - Isaiah 61:1 - 3.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Singapore Pictures

When I got back from Singapore, my computer was not letting me upload photos. So now that it is obviously working, I thought it would be better late than never. If you want to read about it, you can read here and here.

At the Merlion

Satay - So amazing!

Little India (which I now know isn't really that accurate)

The fastest tour of a temple I have ever taken.


Botanical Gardens

Singapore Zoo - AMAZING!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Monestaries Trip

This past weekend, a group from work went east and visited two of the oldest monestaries in the world. Full of history, quiet, and friends ("old" and new), it was a very enjoyable weekend away. The first day was spent relaxing in our room and on the beach. Even though it can be cold, the sound of the waves, the breeze in your hair, and the water coming over your toes is so much calming. Then the next day we saw this:

In a chapel at St. Paul's Monestary

Coptic text written over a painting of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

A balcony at St. Paul's

Jars in the community dining area

The door handles were beautiful.

Outside St. Anthony's Monestary (apparently the first monestary ever), a friend pointed out the moon at about 3:30 p.m. You can thank him for this shot.

Looking up an "alley" at St. Anthony's

In St. Anthony's personal prayer area (I think)

One of the messanger angels with Coptic text

Just above where the mountain spring bubbled up

Open window (obviously)

The beginning of the 750 stair climb up to St. Anthony's cave where he lived alone until he was about 90.

From the top looking down. You can't even see where the previous picture was taken from here.

Randee, Emily, and me just outside the mouth of the cave. Preparing to go back down.

All along the path were crosses. Apparently monks go out of the monestary and into the wilderness for two reasons: 1) for repentance and 2) for silence/meditation. They mark their path with crosses to find their way back to the monestary. This was one along the way.