Choking up at the end…

Family read aloud time is the best family tradition we have implemented – without a doubt!
Tonight we finished Running Wild by Michael Morpurgo. Both Dan and I couldn’t finish it – we were choking up! So Myron read the last few pages aloud to us. We highly recommend it 🙂

I had heard great reviews about Wonder by R.J. Palacio so I thought I would give it a quick read myself before starting it with our family read aloud time (just to make sure it was age appropriate). Yep it is (and also many tears). And… it’s a book that, in my opinion, every human should read.

On a separate note, sorry we’ve been so quiet over these past several months. Since returning from Australia we have been between READ for Life activities, Myron’s school, studying soil and our heads in books or listening to podcasts. We will try and update you with some of the highlights (and lowlights if interesting) over the coming weeks.

Enjoying a temporary life

For the past four months we have been living a beautiful ‘temporary’ life back in our old home town in Australia. We’ve reconnected with family and friends and even met some family members for the first time. We’ve fished, played sport, enjoyed the beach (although an Australian winter is pretty tough for these long-term equator-dwellers), visited rainforests, been to the theatre, ate some pretty delicious food and read some fantastic books (albeit many of those were children’s books). How awesome are public libraries?

The best moments are not necessarily the deep conversations and moments of ‘connection’, however there have been a few of those, but just ‘being’ together with people we love has been so life-giving.

However this ‘temporary’ life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. We’ve had to work over these few months (got to pay for those grocery and petrol bills…). I’ve picked up a lot of casual teaching work in a few local schools, and that’s possibly been the biggest culture shock of my time here 🙂 The best line I received from a teacher when asking her what strategies I could use for a challenging child in her class was to ‘build relationship with him’, well that’s great for a casual isn’t it!

This temporary limbo life brings with itself the ‘in between’ feeling: can’t put down new roots when they will be uprooted again soon. And difficult to invest in new relationships when we will be jumping on a plane again soon.

But for this week, I’m going to try to fool my brain and continue to enjoy the moments of our temporary existence down under.

Ready or not here we come…

After being ‘locked out’ of Australia and putting our travel plans on hold for one and a half years, we are finally on our way to Australia!

It’s been more than three years since we last visited our friends and family and now the time has finally arrived.

The past month has been slightly hectic (well that’s an understatement). Dan organised the reroofing of our big hut before leaving (what an upheaval and enormous project that was), and of course there’s been lots of handing over meetings, last-minute trainings and Dan has been leading the renovations of a new compound for Myron’s new school to move into while we are away – a mad dash to finish before we leave. 

But we’ve had our goodbyes, which included an incredible acrostic poem/song from the READ for Life/Connect team and cards for both us and our families. 

We are just left with the journey ahead. 

We are excited to see family, friends, the beach and eat lots of cheddar cheese (and prawns) and excited for Myron to create some new memories with our family/friends. It’s been a long time. 

I also want to apologise in advance for… breaking down in tears after visiting a supermarket; freaking out walking past a toy shop, freezing when there is too many choices or being quiet during conversations (when I am secretly just holding myself together). 

Ready or not… hear we come…

Bundle that grass for a strong, new…

Our compound is covered in big bundles of grass. And those big bundles of grass are being re-bundled into little bundles – why? That’s going to be our new roof.

Estimates are we will need about 1200 large bundles of grass for a new roof. We have about 500 (that was two truckloads from the village). While the lads are outside re-bundling, life is still like normal inside. However when the bundles are complete, our current grass roof will be removed and the new one will go up: a little rearranging will be required on the inside, and a few tarpaulins to go around some furniture. The whole process may take about three weeks. Not sure how many of those days we will squeeze into Myron’s bedroom (since he has a floorboard ceiling and our loft-bedroom is directly under the grass roof).

The leaks have slowly been getting bigger in our current roof so… it’s time. And we need to make sure it’s replaced before the next wet season is here.

For those who know our house, it’s going to be an epic job. We literally call our place the ‘big hut’, everyone does, but that’s a slight understatement – it’s a gorgeous double-storey, grass-thatched hut just out of town. And this ‘big hut’ is about to get a makeover.

The ‘large bundles’ of grass waiting to be re-bundled into smaller bundles.
The smaller bundles of grass… soon to be our new roof.

Teaching sacrifices for these tests…

We didn’t have any students sit for mock exams from our nursery teacher training college since we paused it whilst schools have been closed. So thankfully, we didn’t have any student teachers tackle these questions in the mock exams which were set by a national university (mostly be online students). I’m not sure if I personally agree with the answers (or the relevance of the questions to be honest to be a quality early years teacher). But for good humour, here’s a few:

Oh… and this one about poetry for kids is driving me nuts. From a family who has read a poem a day for the past few years… where’s the creativity? The imagery? The description? Where’s the poetry in this?

We want to train teachers who can pass the test, but not teach like the test-answers… the fine balance of creating teachers here.

It comes in threes…

From food poisoning to COVID. Yesterday I was feeling great, went for a walk and then thought this morning: I can handle a short jog. I jogged 5km, then was utterly exhausted for the rest of the day. Was horizontal for most of the day, my fever returned and some small chills, then feeling hot. What is happening?

Just to be safe, Dan tested me for malaria. It didn’t come up straight away, and I’m not sure what happened, but it was put aside and we didn’t look at it until a few hours later. As Dan walked by later… “it’s stuffing positive!” Tested again, and sure enough, I’m positive for malaria.

Four things I’m thankful for:

  • I’m grateful that we had malaria treatment (and rapid tests) in the house. So I started the treatment straight away.
  • I’m grateful for enormous international NGO’s (whom I normally criticise) for subsiding the treatment so it is very affordable.
  • I’m also grateful I’m not on the beach in Kenya feeling MORE sorry for myself with malaria – or even worse, in Kenyan government quarantine for COVID.
  • I’m also very grateful for my husband and Myron for looking after me.

Rose and thorn…

Each evening at the dinner table we used to share a rose and a thorn (the best and worst part of our day). This has since been replaced with three things we are grateful for (can’t keep reminding ourselves about our thorns all the time can we?)

But just for one last time I wanted to share a rose and a thorn in our life right now. The terms ‘rose’ and ‘thorn’ are quite an understatement for these two things, you can see for yourself.

Rose: Myron has been granted his 5-year adoption visa for Australia. This is absolutely brilliant news. We applied in May last year and were told we would have to wait up to two and a half years for an outcome. It means that Australia is recognising Myron’s adoption and is now considered a ‘resident’ of Australia – he can come and go into Australia as he pleases for the next 5 years. We are planning on visiting Australia later this year, and are really looking forward to reconnecting with family (it has been a very long time).

Thorn: Dan and I tested positive for COVID this week. We are both double-vaccinated and not particularly bothered about being sick, however the real kick-in-the-guts is we had planned to have a Kenyan beach holiday with some dear friends of ours at the beginning of the year (we were due to fly to Kenya today). That certainly can’t happen now. We have been sick since Christmas Day (with potentially a range of different things). We had PCR tests taken on Monday and Dan and I were positive, however Myron was negative. We still have a few lingering symptoms and have been confined to the house for what feels like too long. Ironically, we stayed at home to avoid ‘getting COVID’ before we travelled, but at least we were protecting others from us.   

Doubly grateful for water…

And… water came back on Christmas Eve. I can’t express how thankful I was for water to be back for Christmas (some of this will be revealed if you keep reading…)

Christmas 2021 has ended. There were multiple highlights this year, including:

  • A relaxing morning and catching up with family members online.
  • Being able to give presents to about 30 of our neighbours – all the children who completed our neighbourhood schooling in either our class or the two nearby classes. Very thankful to two people who made donations to give these kids some lovely presents – they all received a storybook and a toy (either a toy car or a lego-like set).
  • Being invited at a moment’s notice to have lunch at our neighbours (treated to chicken, rice spaghetti and a soda) – this possibly features on the lowlights list too (more about that later).
  • Watching the children play in a nearby field while Dan tries to get one of Myron’s presents working.

The flipside:

  • Dan attempted to make a rugby-catch game more fair and even out the teams, however a few children clearly didn’t think Dan was making it ‘more fair’ – for their team anyway 🙂
  • Food poisoning which kicked in Christmas night and is STILL LINGERING. Dan and I are having all the classic symptoms: feeling sick, way too many trips to the loo, fever, chills, headache. No evidence or full investigation on the root cause… however I fear it may have been the generous lunch invitation. Boxing Day and today (December 27), Dan and I haven’t been extremely productive. Thankfully there’s not a lot we need to be doing right now. Oh, and why did Dan tell all the kids to make their Lego-like creations and bring them to us a show us? lol, even when we are napping on the lounge, or on Myron’s bed, we still get children coming in and showing off their handiwork: it is lovely to see what they have made though.

The flipside of the flipside:

  • I’m even MORE grateful that water is back. I couldn’t possibly imagine all those loo trips with no water to flush the toilet (and we would quickly be running out of jerrycans).

Here’s hoping that the worst is over and tomorrow we will be as good as new…

Christmas wish

All I want for Christmas is… our water to come back. Water has been off all week.

Thankfully we do have an incredible neighbourhood – the children have been collecting water for us in jerrycans (a task I certainly can’t manage).

But praying it comes back within the day…

World record for ‘no school’

Uganda hold’s the world record for closing schools for the longest period due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This week the First Lady (also the Minister for Education) announced that schools will reopen on January 10, 2022.

All schools were closed on March 18, 2020. Some classes returned for a very short stint this year, only to be closed again, but many year groups never returned at all. The first three years of primary school (P1, P2 and P3) are three of the year groups who never stepped foot into a classroom in almost two years. The majority of those children haven’t read or written anything in that period. These are the main year groups READ for Life supports: we train and mentor teachers to improve reading and writing levels in lower primary children.

This is the calm before the storm… before children return to schools and we find out what the carnage of almost two years without formal education looks like and the triage begins.