Saturday, March 11, 2017
Another First Year
Sitting still to write is just not my thing these days. The seasons are flying past in a blur!
My days are longer now than they have ever been and filled with constant, constant, constant teaching. And learning. Paradigm shifting is giving me mental vertigo.
But it’s good.
It makes me feel very alive. Enjoying the deep richness of the sun when it shines. Drinking in the quiet evenings when the crisp air makes the stars twinkle more brightly.
I love being on the front row in the Learner’s Audience! Watching a new concept, a new confidence, a new ability blossom is a teacher’s true reward.
God is good.
I also find myself working to not compare and contrast the last First Year to this. I know that retrospect makes everything rosier.
“Remember walking the beautiful promenade of Red Square? The brilliance of a million lights decorating GUM Department Store? The proud stateliness of The Kremlin? The stunning colors of St. Basil’s? Drinking coffee at Double B? Dinner at Le Paine? Gorky Park with all of it’s chaos?” Flashes through my mind on the dreary days. And always surrounded with laughter and conversation because I never went there alone.
Easy to forget the thick dusty, dirty air. The crowds of pushing people. The undercarriage of uncertainty in everything spoken. The absolute weariness of Moscow life with its long days, short nights and energy draining activity.
America seems so much simpler.
I remember telling someone last spring that one of the first things I was going to do was to get in my car, drive to a grocery store, buy as many things as I could with $100, put all the bags in my car and drive home.
Ah! Such a simple, mundane task in America! An impossible feat in Moscow! Not only did I never have the ruble equivalent of $100 to spend on groceries, but to carry them home! I don’t have enough arms or strength to manage that task. Oy! And who is buying all those bags? Bags aren’t free, you know!
The irony is that American grocery stores with their aisles and aisles of choices overwhelm me now. Who buys all that stuff? I prefer to go to the little Italian vegetable market around the corner from my home. I walk there. It’s only about 10 minutes away. I bring my own bag. Fill it up with what I can carry – mostly fresh vegetables and bread - which usually lasts a week or so.
Another funny thing is where I go when I want to walk just for the sake of it. Milwaukee has a lovely downtown area. Skyscrapers mix with old architecture declaring a storied past. There are shops and restaurants and coffee shops galore! French? Italian? Cuban? It’s there. Not so different than a Moscow neighborhood. Smaller, yes, but still diverse and interesting.
Where do I go? The lakefront. Long, stretches of paths with few interruptions and miles and miles of open, clear water and air. Expansive emptiness. Complete contrast to Moscow’s miles of high rise apartments and congested traffic.
The school where I am teaching appears to be a complete opposite to that which I left behind. Moscow’s elite ambassador/business children compared to Milwaukee’s urban youth. Many children who have every gadget and fashion accessory they want compared to some children from homes without enough of anything to go around.
Yet, the children are the same. They hunger for attention, affirmation, affection. They search for ways to have someone notice their value. They shine at unexpected moments sharing grace and compassion when we least expect it.
They listen to the same music, read the same books, laugh at the same jokes. They are, after all, just kids trying to find their place in the world. And I am just a teacher trying to help them spread their wings.
I am hopeful this first year will really be as lovely in retrospect as my first year in Moscow. I hope I remember only the new friends I have met and the laughter shared.
The frustrations with my limitations, the self-doubts created by my failures, the growing pains – those things I will put in the same box with the other hard First Year memories. I will take them out only to remind myself that I am not alone. It’s like that poem Footprints. In those difficult “I-Can’t-Do-This!” days the strength of my Jesus is made perfect. He is carrying me and helping me to be the best possible version of myself. Through Him, I can do all things. Through His grace, I can manage the heartaches. Through Him I can see the negative actions with eyes of love.
This First Year is almost over.
What do I remember most so far? The chapel service when the Spirit of God moved in and grace filled the air and all of the students felt it. The book discussions where their imaginations took them beyond their neighborhood and into another world. The art work which surprised them and blessed the school. The writing! Oh, the writing! The evolution and growth and expansion of ideas and perceptions.
How I love to unpack their words.
Spring is in the air and summer is beckoning. But not so fast, please. There is more learning to happen this First Year.