Community

Two weeks. My heart is filled with the anticipation of being back in the United States, and heavy with sadness as I consider the goodbyes that are imminent. It’s bittersweet, and the strongest I’ve ever felt the sense of the word. Last week though, my heart was filled with the joy of community that permeates all aspects of Concordia Hanoi.

Wednesday the whole school loaded onto busses to participate in the school’s annual walk-a-thon, this year to raise money for a playground the middle school will be helping to build this week in a nearby province. The weather was perfect as we walked the lake of a nearby park, and the air was filled with the sounds of children laughing, parents chatting, and teachers cheering. I spent most of the walk-a-thon strolling with two girls from my class. It was fun to be outside of the classroom sharing in school spirit and camaraderie.

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This weekend I assisted with the middle school drama production, A Christmas Chaos. Most of my time was spent sitting backstage making sure it was quiet, doing hair and makeup, mastering the art of the eyeliner mustache, shining a flashlight to see costumes and props as needed, and listening to the actions on stage and laughter of the audience. It was chaotic fun and rewarding after seeing the production come together over the course of the semester.

I also got a taste of the larger Hanoi community this weekend while attending a craft fair on Saturday and international bazaar Sunday. The fair was full of beautiful handicrafts made in villages outside of Hanoi, and the bazaar was filled with booths from around the world serving almost every kind of food imaginable. I ran into students and Concordia staff at both events, which capitalized the ongoing sense of community I experienced this week and throughout my time here. I’m sure it will continue as we celebrate Thanksgiving as a school this week.

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Putting Words to the Ineffable

Most of this week was completely unexpected. My cooperating teacher was hospitalized leaving most of Grade 4 in my hands for the week. It was frustrating, tiring, rewarding, challenging, impacting, and so many adjectives in between. Tuesday night I wasn’t sure I’d make it through the week; I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and just not sure how I’d get through the planning and teaching for each day and lesson.

But I made it. The Lord is my strength.

When I finally returned to the apartment Friday evening, I was so pumped knowing I’d jumped the hurdles of my week and that I was coming out with a clearer picture of my future and aspirations.

With three weeks remaining here, I’ve begun to reflect on my time in Hanoi, what I want to share when I return to the States, and how my adventures have impacted how I see myself and my future. As I reflect, so much is still ineffable, but what I can articulate helps me to more deeply appreciate the facet of my experiences and fully consider all I’ve learned.

I’ve realized that as much as I try to plan, more often that not the outcomes are unimaginable. I’ve realized that while my comfort-zone is a safe, easy, and a sometimes needed place, the uncomfortable is a catalyst for growth.

I’ve grown in relationships which have added depth and heart to my experience. Whether I’m connecting with my students, collaborating with staff, or chatting about life with Martha and Elizabeth, the relationships I’ve built here make each day worthwhile and will make it that much harder to leave.

I’ve had a Foundation every step of the way that will never move even when “my feet may fail.”

As I begin to have final moments in Hanoi, I know my reflection will continue, and I’ll be able to more fully put into words this capstone experience. But in the meantime, I’m going to head to downtown Hanoi, have my first experience on “Chicken Street,”  and try my best to relish these closing memories both in and outside the classroom.

Weekly Update

There’s not too much to report or write about, but here’s an update from Vietnam nonetheless. This weekend wasn’t full of adventure like many of my weekends here, but once again what I needed. Many moments had the taste or feeling of being back home, which is always a comfort. It included:

  • A sandwich that tasted like Panera (or Bread Co. depending on what you call it)
  • A walk with a cool breeze around West Lake. Temps in the 70s are my favorite.
  • A trip to a mall with one of the few movie theaters here. For a few hours it almost felt like I wasn’t in Vietnam. Christmas wreathes were hanging; we had Pizza Hut for dinner; Starbucks was across the street, and we saw Gone Girl, which takes place in Missouri.
  • Time just to hang out and Skype people from the apartment and time with the community of people I’ve gotten to know here.

In less than a month now, I’ll be returning home, and I still can’t quite wrap my head around how I’m beginning my lasts here. This week is my last week full time teaching, and it looks like it might be one the most intense weeks yet. My cooperating teacher is in the hospital, so I have addend responsibilities at school and in the classroom. Please pray for her recovery from a serious infection in her arm. Time to get back to lesson planning….

Mai Chau Weekend Retreat

This weekend, I went on a retreat with members of the church I attend to Mai Chau, Vietnam, an ethnic village in a valley surrounded by mountains. It was a quick getaway and once again exciting to see more of Vietnam, this time southeast of the city. My favorite moments of the weekend include:

  • Our Saturday afternoon hike: A group of us went on a hike through the village and surrounding area. It was very hot, but the scenery was stunning. A local woman also showed us some behind the scenes sites including a brick factory and a woman’s garden.
  • Ethnic dancing: Following our dinner Saturday, a group of village women performed traditional dances for us. Their costumes were beautifully made and colorful while their dancing was spirited.
  • Games: After the children went bed Saturday evening, all the adults played games together. Many of them were British variations of camp and youth group games and just plain fun.
  • Worship: Sunday morning after breakfast, we gathered all of our chairs together in a circle and came together for worship. We joined in singing songs from Taize, shared stories of saints in each of our lives, and marveled at the mountains and scenery surrounding us.
  • Walking: Elizabeth and I walked through the village, rice patties, and along the main road for awhile late Sunday morning before we departed Mai Chau. With 5 weeks remaining here, we were able to reflect on the 3 months we’ve had in Vietnam and begin considering what life holds for us when we return to the States. I can’t quite comprehend that we’re nearing the end of our student teaching journey together.

We returned to Hanoi Sunday evening, and now (Monday) I’m enjoying an evening at the apartment after finishing my first day of parent-teacher conferences. It’s a joy to see the growth of my students, and as I mapped the last five weeks of my teaching today, it was hard not to think about just how difficult saying goodbye will be.

Beautiful textiles

Beautiful textiles

Rice fields and mountains

Rice fields and mountains

The brick factory

The brick factory

Walking through the village

Walking through the village