Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Just... Teach?

“Just go in and… teach.”

I entered the 3rd grade classroom; class Joy. This was the first day I would have the students for more time than simple introductions, and it just-so-happened to be a double-length class period: 90-minutes. Of course. Ninety minutes with 30 high-energy 3rd grade students who knew only enough English to understand the key words of phrases I said to them—and I had never taught a class in my life prior to this week. Hoboy.

I walked out from the safe security of the teacher’s office towards class Joy. There was what seemed to be a scout perched at the door who, upon seeing my approach, ran into the class calling out “Sir! Sir datang!” Mad scrambling could be heard from the classroom. I walked into the room just in time to glimpse stragglers diving to their seats in preparation for the start of class; falling into an organized order which seemed as natural to them as walking home. I slowly set my books on the table at the front of the classroom, nervousness and uncertainties abound as I tried to think back to my class plan… Thinking about how to manage the class, thinking about what I would say to start class, thinkingaboutthinkingabo-


Um, what?
A student had stood as soon as my books hit the desk, and continued to call out to the class.

“Good morning Sir!”

The class immediately echoed her call, yelling “Good morning, SIR!”

“Um, thank you class. You... may be seated?”

“Thank You, SIR!”

Composition and plan lost in the unpredicted opening to class, I gracefully (I would like to think) stumbled into a lesson on articles and nouns, continuing to prove how I’ve found myself often times forced to learn more-so from failures and mistakes than first-time successes. Three poor explanations and a handful of internal ‘Aiyo’s later—maybe 40 minutes in—I turned to the side of the class to see a student in tears. At this point I had a vocabulary adequate to ask for food, comment on the food’s deliciousness, and follow up with an inquiry as to the location of the toilet. While this may cover a surprisingly large amount of daily speech, it wasn’t particularly helpful in figuring out what was up.

Other students quickly noticed the tears.

“Look! Look! Sir! Look!”

The students zoned in on the situation. One seemed to be comforting him, placing a firm hand on his shoulder in a surprisingly fatherly fashion. Other students quickly were figuring out what happened.

“This! This!”

The students each began to reenact what had gone down. With four students repetitively miming throwing an eraser into the face of the boy, I began to understand a little of what happened.

Even so: It was pretty obvious that I really didn’t know what to do—between spinning about between the many story-telling children and muttering far-too-many a confused “apa?” I wasn’t exactly rectifying the situation. Again, the children knew what to do.

“We go—take them to cikgu, yes?”

“Um, yes! Boleh! Go!”

Two students walked the hurt boy out, and a third student guiding the offending student out the door—who went along willingly, if quite begrudged and unhappy. As soon as the students left the room the rest of the class seated, falling back into their systematic order. They turned to the front of the class, quieted down, and waited for me to continue where I left off.

“Ok Sir! Ok to teach now!”


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Orientation: If I Could Tell You...

Such a journey—such a time. . . Where has it gone!?

I’d love to say that I have written a well-versed and eloquent summary of the past weeks, dancing throughout the events within orientation—noting new relationships, surprising challenges, and joyful discoveries...

I’d love to be able to speak of our journey to Mt. Kinabalu, where time was invested investigating the wondrous, lush jungle landscape: awakening in the morning to the call of a mountain-duck (wat). Holding a steaming cup of tea while watching the early-morning sunrise: a time when the illuminated pastels of the sky danced into a merger with the 
plethora of green life covering every slope-- light flowing from the buttes of the skyline to the pages of a book being read next to me.

Or maybe of the days spent hiking within the foothills of the great Mt. Kinabalu… Meandering on trails softly following streams through the pure LIFE surrounding us on all sides (no, for real. ‘aint nobody got biodiversity like that-there rainy forest). Hiking up trails which would have daunted the most toned stair-master hiker—trails which offered awards of beautiful vistas and lookouts… Though sometimes the offers were rudely interrupted by all-encompassing flowing seas of clouds, adding to the dampness upon our skin that was not yet due to rain. Yet. 

I’d love to tell of our first days within the city of Kuala Lumpur, where we sat down at tables along a street for a meal of various Roti (a street food of such great deliciousness, unbeknownst to us at the time). A meal interrupted by the passing parade and fireworks on the street beside us—a lively parade of costume, shrines, and dancing celebrating the nearby temple. 

Or I could tell of next day, where we went off around the neighborhood on a bit of a ‘worship-place scavenger hunt’: a hunt which had us discovering Hindu Temples and Shrines, a huge Buddhist worship complex, Lutheran, Catholic, and Methodist Churches, Islamic Mosques, Taoist Temples, Chinese Temples, and other worship spaces and places of religious importance. All within a few blocks of the YMCA, where we were staying. 

I’d love to attempt to describe the incredibly vast presence of racial, cultural, and social diversity which
seemed to reflect the religious diversity I would have described. Walking through the streets--bathing in language, showering in any mixture of Mandarin, Japanese, German Malaysian, English, Swedish, Arabic, Indonesian, Tomil, Hokkien, French… The list could go on. Or maybe the cultural diversity could be described by noting the plethora of cuisine options available, from curry-laced Indian food to eight-course Chinese-style meals. From fried bananas on the street to Vietnamese-style dry-noodles inside the center at the base of the Petronius Twin Towers.

I’d probably also speak of the amazing people I found myself meeting and enjoying conversation, time, and space with. Some of these people would have been fellow YAGM-ees, others… of KL and Sabah. Meeting and talking, being on the receiving end of humbling hospitality, being introduced and participating in Synod Assemblies, visiting churches—new and old, joining in for meals, having four-hour long conversations,  or simply sharing time and space within moments of great stress and transition. I’d certainly speak of many, many interactions with quite incredible people. 

I think I’d also speak of a trip to the Batu Caves, visiting the National Mosque, walking through the Islamic Arts Museum, learnings (of many sorts) with and in a class on Bahasa Malaysia, further exploring of the streets (and food) in KL, accidental jogging discoveries, reading thought-provoking history and descriptions in a Malaysian National Museum, making many mistakes / having many learning experiences, visiting islands in Sabah, spending time at STS, walking through markets of fresh produce and hand-crafted goods, enjoying the warmth of Malaysia (namely, showering 2-3 times a day), being continually humbled by the warmth of the Malaysians—their hospitality and helpfulness, drinking coconut water straight from a fresh coconut, eating Durian (if you don’t know what this is, look it up), and so so much more!

So much I’d love to tell of orientation (already over three weeks ago!?)… if only… Ah well.

I guess you can always just ask me? I’d certainly love to share and tell story, assuming you’re willing for me to reciprocate the requests! J

(I promise my next post won't be such an overview, I'll try to be a bit more regular with posts. And for real--ask me!)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"It is strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue

Truly... there is no better way I can express what I feel right now. The last week has been a quite interesting journey-- to enter into the YAGM community knowing few, yet to be faced with goodbyes of friends who seem closer than such short time normally allows. I now sit in an airport one hour away from a flight in which I'll leave behind so much which has made me the way I am-- going forward into the mystery of the future.

I wonder-- in retrospect, how naive will I seem in this moment?

It is strange to be here.