School has started, and I’m teaching English and Creative Arts to 140 students! It is an overwhelming task–the first two weeks, I don’t think I would have made it out the door without praying for God’s strength and support.
As I struggled to create a classroom environment of discipline and positive reinforcement, the Lord blessed me with an outpouring and kindness and hospitality from the surrounding community. Their generosity gave me the strength to push through the hard days until my efforts at teaching with a counterpart began to bear fruit.
The weekend before classes started, I celebrated my birthday by splurging on luxury ingredients like lemons and shredded coconut.
Judy, a home economics teacher extraordinaire, helped me concoct a one-of-a-kind cake.
The next day, a local family serving in Christian ministry and at the nearby hospital introduced us to their brand-new bunnies – who also had a birthday recently.
A terrific storm hit, knocking out the power for days. There was some reprieve when we visited the home of a local principal. Her family runs on wind and solar power! Their backyard overlooks Swaziland.
That weekend at church was the first time I met Talitha, a teacher from George, here to work in the rural area as a Grade 1 teacher.
Then, first week of school craziness: converting the hall into a usable classroom.
For some rest and recovery after our first week of teaching, Talitha and I followed Petra’s nephew Siegfried on a hike to the mountains overlooking Swaziland. He grew up in this area and is now teaching at Petra’s old school. That afternoon, we chopped all the root vegetables we had amassed between the three of us and stewed it for dinner that week in the family kitchen. There’s a beautiful view of the sunset from the roof.
The next weekend, Talitha’s housemate invited us to visit her family’s sugarcane farm. They treated us to spectacular hospitality: a no-holds-barred braai (South African barbecue) with steak grilled directly on the coals, sumptuous cheesecake, and morning breakfast buffets. We sampled the sugarcane directly from the source.
The only routine at school is that there is no routine. Highlights from the first two months:
After the track meet, Judy hosted us at her newly constructed school. Midway through the evening, a power outage reduced us to games and conversation by candlelight. As Sydney joked, it was too much to expect an evening with running water and electricity at the same time.
Petra’s family continues to be home away from home for me: arms always open, trees dripping green, and the balcony overlooking the forest of Ingwavuma – a complete refreshment. I even had the chance to meet her niece Anu and Anu’s baby boy, on a visit from England! He was a perpetual motion machine, dashing around the house and chattering in Afrikaans, basking in the African summer. His mother lamented how sad it would be to return him to the dreary northern hemisphere weather when their holiday ended.
That same week, the Lord brought me to a local Bible study, where the Bible Project wowed us with an animated illustration of the Gospel of John. Another local teacher offered ‘lifts’ and hospitality – this place is overflowing with kindness.
Early in the year, my friend Sydney graciously brought me a pair of the same shoes I bought for my first six months in South Africa. I had forgotten what color they used to be: a good object lesson in how much time has passed!