Monday, December 19, 2011

On Our Way for Christmas

Travel Buddies :)

In the US (stories to come)

Sorry lack of internet left you without stories about Graduation, plans, photos, and travels.

Currently in Washington DC waiting for the next flight to NC then off to SeaTac :)

Nice to have electricity, internet and running water. We are truly blessed here!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Time Well Spent

Lambert (one of my previous students studying special education) was 2nd place winners of an English speech contest organized for all university students in Burundi
"he gave such a touching speech about how he has always wanted to be a teacher" was said of someone who watched the ceremony.

I'm happy to hear that my students are pushing themselves to continue to do great things. Last night Lambert and I had an hour long conversation about his speech. He spent much time praising me for the courage I gave him in his studies.

I'm glad that God has a special plan for each of my students and that he isn't done working yet!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My New Student

Packing Up Today

Today I am moving my things to the Johnson's house to keep until I return to Burundi. It's sad having to pack up my things but I know that my next home will become just as this one was, a true home. (It's just across town that I'm going to but it seems much farther)

Starting in January I will be living with Ken and Melli Johnson. In the morning I will be homeschooling their son who has disabilities (photo above). In the afternoon I will work with her on beginning a special education school and tutoring center. (Very exciting to still be working on the same task, just with a different organization).

If you haven't heard I will be home for Christmas and New Years. (Christmas cookies might help my sappy sad attitude that I have today)

Monday, December 12, 2011


Here is a rundown on my Saturday. It was just so typical that I have to share.
I had two meetings planned for the day one at 10 and the other at 11.
I woke up to a text message reading "Morning rachel how was the night for us it was wonderful i'm down here i think we can meet be blessed"
Just having woken up I put the phone down, put my head back on my pillow and gave out a sigh. Welcome to Buja Rachel I told myself. I sent a reply and informed him I would be ready in 45min, which was still hours before his planned meeting time of 11.
Getting out of the shower I heard footsteps. The bathroom and shower I am using is across the hall from my room (think dorm room style living). I quickly dried off and wrapped my wrap around me as modest as possible and put my towel around my shoulders. I was completely covered neck to mid calf!
My 10am meeting was the one now hovering around my door. (mind you it's not even 9am yet) "I'm not ready yet Papa", I said, "I will meet with you at ten" holding up my hands to help demonstrate my point. "Oh!" he said.
The new first meeting time arrived and I met with the student. He is a sweet man from Rwanda. He wanted to see how I was and how I am progressing with the special education school. He also wanted to tell me about the work his uncle is doing in Congo to support woman's rights. He is looking for sponsors to help put on seminars on how to change how women are treated in Congo. (If you are interested please let me know, this is a good cause)
Ten o clock came and I was waiting for the pastor. He bugged me all year last time I was here about teaching him English. I wasn't brave enough to attempt at that time but since he was so persistent in a pleasant way I agreed. I made him tell me in English
about King David. It was so great!!!
Now the official business of the day was I thought.
I was requested to join a meeting of 4 students over lunch. These 4 students are passionate about starting a forum where people can share ideas and discuss important matters in a safe environment while improving their english public speaking skills. It was nice to be invited and participate in such a meeting.
Then I tried to take a nap. But got up after a short time and had some hot chocolate.
Oh the life...never a dull moment. Always important things to do.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Loosing her cool

It has long been a goal of mine to blend into the city here. I stand out enough with my white skin, blue eyes, and long brown hair. I take every advantage to dress and act like those around me. Often I find people complaining to the bus drivers and money collectors on the bus for this reason or that; most of the time I don’t know what the problem seems to be or don’t want to make a scene so my concern goes unmentioned.
Walking up to the bus I should have known there was something wrong. My regular bus stop the busses come almost full (full being 30+ passengers) yet this one had only 7 passengers. I was in a hurry to get to town so boarded. It wasn’t 30second before I noticed the problem. The bus almost tossed me out of my seat tipping right and left. I looked at the girl sitting next to me and she gave me an understanding smile. I felt as if I was in a cartoon car with wheels that were about to fall off. I began to pray that the wheel wouldn’t fall off but then decided because the likely hood of it falling off was so great that I prayed that the driver would keep his speed slow enough so that when the wheel did come off we wouldn’t crash too badly. We passed by other busses and passengers on our way to town. It got to a point that I almost paid to get off and board another bus but I didn’t. Once we got going the wheels seemed to straighten out and the ride was smoother the driver and money collector began to argue. I believe that the driver was trying to tell the money collector how to gather passengers and the money collector was complaining to the driver about his driving. This went on for about 15min as we slowly made our way to town.
I was so fed up with the lack of concern for the passengers within their care that as I exited I summoned my best Kirundi and finger wag and said, “motocar nziza, OYA!” (translation: the bus is good, NO!) and walked away.

That Crazy White Girl

I’m impressed at the amount of Kirundi I had stored in my brain. A month ago if you asked me to speak Kirundi I would have clamed up and not said a word. Yet now being around it all the time I’m back having conversations with people as I pass by or informing people where to meet me, or listening in to conversations about me on the bus :) that crazy white girl.

Internet !!!

Please forgive me for a lack of communication this week. This is rainy season and as some of you know when the rain falls the text messages, phone calls, power and internet seem to have much trouble working.
This week has been a whirlwind of remembering language, culture and getting things accomplished.
This morning I was woken up by a text message from a student who had an 11am meeting with me. His text read that he was now ready to meet. I, still being in bed, was not ready. I gave myself 45min to prepare for his meeting. As I was drying off in the shower I heard footsteps outside my door. On my way across the hall to my room the student who I had scheduled for a 10am meeting was standing there. I said, “Papa, I’m not ready yet, 10 is your meet time”. This was all before 9am!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tutoring Center Proposal Submitted

Last time I was in Burundi it took the whole year to submit a proposal for a special education school. I haven’t been in country for a week and I’ve already submitted a proposal for a tutoring center for children with learning disabilities!
I wonder what God is up to in all of this.

New Room Again

So the first night, Sunday, I spent at Theogene’s. Night 2 & 3 was in a room without a way to cook. Now for today’s sleep, night 4 I am in a room with a kitchen :) So nice to now be able to go to the market and get food to cook.

Hundreds of Handshakes

I’m amazed at how many people I know here. Students, faculty and staff have been so welcoming to me. My good friends that I didn’t inform I was coming are all doing a double take. On friend said, “Can I pinch you to make sure you are real? It’s like I’m Thomas and need to feel the scars on Jesus to prove it’s him.”
The students of mine who I’ve been able to greet have been so happy! Joy surged through Jackson’s body when I told him, who is in his mid 50s, that I was here to watch him graduate. That right there was worth the 36hour flight!

Day 1 and so much to do

First day in Buja and I’m already to work. Exchanged money, wondered in town, updated blog and emailed parents, then called a friend. Melli Johnson is a resident of Burundi with her husband and children. Soon I was in her living room talking about the future and enjoying lasagna for lunch! After a cup of tea we decided that tomorrow would be another lunch date and planning. God is up to something fun!!!
Dinner was enjoyed with students in the cafeteria. Nothing like rice, beans, and lingalinga (think cooked spinach) to remind me why I love Buja! (no sarcasms there, I really love the cafeteria food here and for 80 cents a plate how can you not!)

Back home with no where to rest my head

I don’t feel like I left. Driving back from the airport seemed so normal.
On arrival to campus everyone hopped out of the cars and then we realized no one knew where I was staying. We called a few school administrators but no one seemed to know I was there or in need of assistance. Luckily one of my very good friends invited me to stay at his place with his wife and 2 children. His wife and I have done cooking together and thy have invited me for dinner so many times. They are such a blessing!!!

Airport After Airport

It is amazing how 36hours, 6 airports, 4 planes and a total of 5 hours of broken sleep will affect your body!
But nothing compares to the joy that comes when you see face after face of friends waiting for you on the other side of the glass while waiting for customs.
There were 3 car loads of people and 1 bouquet of roses waiting for me at the airport.
It’s so good to be back!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Work Going Away Party

Staff meetings at work can easily double as a going away party if Jean brings an Africa shaped rice krispy treat!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Like I never left

It's amazing how I feel being in Burundi. It's like I never left.
I was greeted at the airport by 15 friends!!! And a bouquet of roses :)
My housing wasn't settled when I arrived (apparently communication about my arrival didn't happen so there was no place prepared for me with the one responsible for my housing off on a trip). So I stayed at a friend's house. It's good to have friends :)

Battery is low and forgot the adapter for the power in my suitcase so I must leave you now. But wanted to let everyone know I'm doing well and loving life in Buja :)

Stories later :)

Yes I'm all smiles :)

Friday, December 2, 2011


So I'm just about to walk out the door (after I pack this computer up) to head to the airport.
I will update the blog as soon as I get to some internet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Travel Plans

I'm flying away in less than 18 hours!!!
For all of you that would like to know where in the world I am at certain times...this is for you.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'll Be Home For Christmas!

It's official I'm coming home for Christmas, if God wishes (as they say in Burundi).
I fly to Burundi Friday at 1:30pm (like in 2 days)
I will then fly back to the states for Christmas arriving on Dec 19th.
(for those of you who have been waiting to meet Isaac, he will be joining me for Christmas, this is why I am returning after such a short time in Burundi)
The plan is then to return to Burundi Jan 7 but the ticket hasn't been purchased yet. I need to make sure finances, specific job, and housing is all lined up (this I hope to secure while in Burundi before graduation of my students)

I know that many of you wish that you knew what my plans were, what I was doing and where I will do it. But the truth is, I don't know myself. This is like moving to Texas and finding a job, it just happens to be moving to a city in Burundi and not in the US. The Lord has given me a passion for people with disabilities and the need is so great in Burundi that I can't sit here hoping someone will email me and request my assistance. I'm going there and will job hunt. I've prayerfully considered this step and I believe it is from the Lord (my parents do too). We (my parents and I) are stepping out on faith that the Lord is going to do big things, and we want to be ready for the work he has prepared for me to do.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Leaving soon!!!

It has been a whirlwind of emotions, lack of sleep because of excitement, nervous wreck, and big decision making.
I'm sure things will not settle down until I'm in that plane on Friday and can't do anything about anything for 36 hours as I fly over land and sea and wait in airport after airport. My flight leave Friday afternoon but doesn't arrive until Sunday afternoon in Burundi. But I don't care, it will get me there :)

Friday, November 18, 2011


Up to my elbows in letters, envelops, and addresses.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fundraising Begins

If you are interested in helping financially with this adventure you can send funding to:

Living Hope Church
PO Box 1726
Westport, WA 98595

check memo line: Rachel in Burundi

The goal is $20,000.
This is $5,000 less than last year. Now I know some tricks to saving money while living in East Africa.
Funding will help pay for: $90/month visa fee, travel expenses, ministry expenses, living expenses.

Strike While the Iron's Hot

Things are moving so fast over here!
So I got an email yesterday from the travel agent saying that she wasn't able to purchase the ticket on Friday because of the holiday. She looked at the price on Monday and the tickets had jumped $500!!! She asked if we could hold off in hopes that the price would go down. I agreed.
Today she emailed me with good new! Not only did she get the ticket but the price went down and it was back to the original price!!!
Then as I was preparing other things for this trip I called the Burundi Embassy in Washington DC to find out if they got my paperwork for a visa and see about any problems that there might be. The woman informed me that she was currently putting my passport, complete with visa to Burundi in the mail!
How does this happen?

In the process of the weekend I also was able to get a church who could manage my account while I am in Burundi!

I guess the phrase, "strike while the iron's hot" applies here :)

God is good!!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Ball is Rolling!!!


That's right. Things have been moving so fast the last two days I haven't had time to update you on things. sorry

Here are the highlights:

Dad gave the ok to start fundraising

Received an invitation letter for a trip to Burundi in December from the president of HAU to go for graduation (Dec 16 is graduation of the students I taught)

Received positive conversation about a new church who is willing to manage my finances and take care of sponsors while I'm gone

Purchased a plane ticket for Dec 2-Dec 19 (return date pending on circumstances)

Plan to sure up plans for a Jan return to Burundi

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I told you I would inform you either way. Well this last opportunity has closed. The explanation for the denial was timing.
Through the tears I choose to say that God is great and worthy of following. So I choose, even though it is hard to continue after so many closed door, I choose to praise him for his perfect timing.
To God be the glory!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Wind is Blowing

When the wind begins to blow you can see the leaves in the trees and tall grass start to sway.
I am starting to see the effects of the wind blowing in my life.
Nothing is official yet, but things are starting to move.
Please pray for the doors that seem cracked open to swing wide!
Possibilities are presenting themselves and things are moving quickly. Yet I am moving forward with caution since the last 8 months have been filled with possibilities that have been dashed to the rocks and I was left in a state of sorrow. Caution is how I am proceeding towards this opportunity.
I'm not content with a good opportunity, I want the Lord's will! I want to be sure he is orchestrating all of this.
For now please keep plan me and making in your prayers.

I will give more details when things seem more official in the positive or negative (I'll let you know either way)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Friends Far Away

A friend from Burundi wrote me an email today.

"what is keeping you from coming? We will invade your country and pick you! Ha..ha!"

My response to him. "Oh Herve, If I saw you running at me looking as if you were going to kidnap me I would be so happy!!!"

Sunday, September 25, 2011


It's amazing how someone can speak into another person's life only sharing their own experiences. I was given a DVD of a talk Phil Vischer did back in 2007. He spoke of how God gave him this dream of Veggie Tales and then ripped it from him. I find myself in a similar situation. I had all this time and effort put into starting something with special education in Burundi and then wham I'm not allowed to return.In talking with my dad I realized that I needed to allow myself to be content with the work I had done. I thought that all my time and efforts were wasted. My dad quickly pointed out that the ten students I taught for a year would strongly disagree and he would too. Perhaps teaching at Hope was only intended for a season that has now closed. The proposal I wrote for an education facility for those with disabilities still sits in the office of president of the university, my students did learn something (I tested them to make sure) and those around me while living there made a difference on me. My time was not wasted. I committed to serve a year and I did just that.
With this new vantage point my heart is at peace and I can move on. On to what, I don't know. I'm convinced that God is more concerned in who I am then what I do. So I am taking time to focus on just that, being who he created me to be. The bible says that God created good works for me to do before I was even born. So instead of searching for something to now I am now going to wait for those good works to come up and step into them with joy.

This doesn't take away from the ache in my heart when I receive an email from students and friends at Hope Africa University. Jean Pierre writes, "Think you my professor, I am at the end to finish my study, who are you now we wait you" Translation: Thank you my professor, I am about to finish my studies. Where are you now? We are waiting for you."

Monday, September 5, 2011


Why is it that everyone I talk to seems to have an excuse of why I can't serve?

You don't have your master's degree.
You're single.
You're young.
You don't have enough experience.
You're a girl.

and my least favorite
This is what happened to me when I was your age, you'll make it through.

When did this become about me and my abilities? I thought that serving the Lord was about Him.

And to address the last excuse just because people treated you badly and you happened to learn and grow in spite of it doesn't mean that people should treat other people the same way. What happened to learning from history and not making the same mistakes?

I don't want excuses. If you don't want me to serve just tell me no and take responsibility for your denial of me. Don't just make excuses.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What's going on?

I have no idea!
I'm currently learning to wait and chase down rabbit holes to come up empty handed.
For the last 6 months I have applied to countless schools and organizations internationally desiring to get back to East Africa. All with no return. I have attempted to apply for graduate school at various locations all with dead ends. My job at the aquarium is coming to a close with the summer season ending and I'm looking for an open door or even an open window to climb through.
Thank you so much for continuing to pray for me as God takes me through a process of waiting. I've been telling people that going back to Africa is the goal but there aren't currently any plans. Just waiting.
Thank you for caring about me and continuing to support me through this transition and waiting time.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

No Master's Degree for Now

So I received an email from the university I applied for and they said that they will no longer be accepting applications. And my application is not complete yet.
The test (GRE, like the SAT but for grad school) I took, was scored and results were sent to the university a month ago. Then I waited for the school to tell me that they had received the scores. I contacted them this Monday and they informed me that the scores did not arrive. The testing company was very kind and resent the scores to the university for no charge. They said that they should arrive by Friday. I received the denial email on Wednesday.
All this to say I tried to apply for a master's degree program and I didn't get it.
Now I'm continuing to apply for jobs and other positions in and around East Africa.
I continue to strive towards this because I, along with my parents and others in my life, believe that that is where I belong.
My heart still aches for those who have been put off by their families because of their disability, the little boy who was beat with a rope in the public market by his caregiver, and the countless others who are capable to attend school but need better trained teachers to help them learn.
I will not give up this easily. I will continue to fight to support those with disabilities in East Africa.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Want to Hear in Person?

You're Invited!!!

2 opportunities:

Sunday, July 31, 2011 At 2pm
Faith Church
25636 140th St SE
Kent, WA 98042


Thursday August 11, 2011 At 5pm
In Lacey, WA
call me or comment for directions

Your invited to come and hear stories and ask questions about my time in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, DRC (Congo) and about getting kicked out of Egypt.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

GRE Complete

I've done my part, now it's up to the university to decide.
My scores aren't as high as the school's average but I'm a whole person not just a number from a score.
Please pray that God would direct the university administration to the right decision for my life, whether that is attending there or finding something else.
God is good and there is no denying that :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dreams, Grad School?

So this story has changed so many times and I'm convinced will continue to change. It all started back when I was 6 years old. I wanted to be a ballet teacher. So mom signed me up for dance. I took ballet for 30min and tap for 30min. After four years I had to pick. Was it to be tap or ballet for a whole hour? With ballet my arms got tired of being held up in funny shapes, and my toes were tired of pointing. The choice was clear; tap it was. I said goodbye to a very real dream of being a ballet teacher.
When I was 15 years old I decided I wanted to be a special education teacher. (are we sensing a theme here, teaching) I spent all Jr High and High School deciding which grade level I would teach. I worked in all the age groups. High school was my favorite without a doubt. There is so much to learn about life as a high school-er. I had a vision of starting a general ed leadership through service class. The students from general ed would learn about what it is to be a leader and then practically use their knowledge by serving their peers in the special education department. That all changed when I was given yet another choice. This one had a greater effect on my life then ballet vs tap. Would I be willing to move for a year to Burundi, Africa.
After a month of living in Burundi I realized that my heart was there. I wanted to see life for those who had no voice, were forced to beg on the streets, hid in their homes, and who society did not have resources or knowledge to deal with. I wanted to see nationals empowered to make a difference in their own country. I wanted to be the catalyst that pushed them on to great things; knowing that I, as an outsider, could never make an impact that was culturally relevant as well as they could for their neighbors.
But just like before my dreams were halted and options were presented. Now I'm faced with a choice. Do I write off my dream or do I allow it to be changed to something greater?
Currently I'm faced with the fact that the main platform to share concepts of special education in East Africa is in a university setting. This would require a master's level degree. I could work for another special education organization, which there are very few world wide. But I've contacted lots of them and they currently are not in need of me.
The other option I have is to give up on Africa and focus again on the dream I had 3 short years ago, but I don't think that's a wise choice. Every time in my life I'm faced with a choice and I take an opportunity I learn more about who I am and what I do best; what I was made for. I get closer and closer to a dream that I didn't know I could dream about.
So I'm going to chase this one. I've applied to the Graduate School of Education at University of Pennsylvania. They have a program that looks tailor made for my dream. It's called the International Educational Development Program. It takes only a year if I go full time. And bonus, summer semester is spent abroad. Which means I could be back in Africa (no guarantee on location) as soon as next June.
The next step is Tuesday 6/21/11 taking the GRE (it's like the SAT test for Master's programs). Please pray for me as I'm starting it at 3pm and it goes until 9:30pm. I'm not a night person but that was the only time available.
Once the school knows my scores they will let me know if I'm invited to attend there.
I believe this is a step in the right direction towards my dream.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Heart Change

It's amazing how different things look when you look at them from a different angle. Perhaps the extra time I'm here is just more time to prepare for my return. Hmmm
I'm starting a to do list and beginning to use my time more wisely.

Anyone know where I can learn the basics on blind education or physical therapy? I also want to learn how to ride a motorcycle.

Just some things that could come in handy in the future :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

My population

So I've been frustrated working at the aquarium because I'm not really doing anything that is challenging or really in my interest area.
But today I had a meeting with a mom. Her son is coming to camp this summer at the aquarium and he has disabilities. I've been assigned to be his buddy during camp and make sure that camp runs smoothly for him and for the rest of the camp. So my boss thought it would be good for me to meet with the mom before so I can find out how best to get ready for camp. Well I didn't think this was necessary but went with it. It was awesome. The mom was almost in tears when I walked in. She has lived in many different places around the world and in America but had never had people so welcoming and accommodating of her son because of his special needs.
It was so great to hear her talk about her son and his strengths and challenges. He sounds like a great kid. I was so excited to hear about this kid that I get to spend a week with this summer.
As I was saying good bye to the mom my eyes caught a glimpse of a familiar person. It was my class; the students I taught before I left for Africa. The whole class was there, teachers, aids, and all. I was shocked. It was so great to see them.

Now I know why I'm frustrated with work, it's not the place or the job; it's me. I wasn't made to work with fish or children or programs. I was made to work with people with disabilities. I find no greater joy then spending time with, teaching, and getting to know people with disabilities. It's where I belong.

I want to be part of people's lives who have disabilities. It doesn't matter where I am or who I work for, as long as I've got people with disabilities in my focus I'll be a happy girl.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Maybe the story really isn’t finished yet

March 2 I received some devastating news. I would not be allowed to return to Burundi to serve for two more years as decided 3 months earlier. I was shocked. I didn’t understand what was happening and I felt betrayed. I didn’t write it on my blog or tell many people because my wish was that it would reverse itself and things would got back to the way they were. After much counsel I realize that things will not go back. I thought the story of my service in Burundi was done but after a conversation with my friend Isaac things cleared up. Isaac is deep in the middle of Burundi serving at a hospital. He has a cell phone that sometimes works and internet service is in the nearest large city about an hour drive away. Sitting at my dinning room table I was able to call him through skype on his cell phone. Now the connection wasn’t the greatest and it did cut out half way through but after I had a thought, maybe my service in Burundi really isn’t done. If technology can allow me to reach into the heart of Burundi from my dinning room in Kent maybe my service can too.

Perhaps God has changed my plan of serving Burundi while living there to serving Burundi while living here. Just because I’m far doesn’t mean I can’t help a country and people I’ve come to love.

I am once again excited to see what God is going to do for the children and adults in Burundi with disabilities through my willingness to serve, no matter how uncomfortable.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not Returning to Burundi

I'm sad to report that I will not be able to return to Burundi in September.
Everything was on schedule for my return in September but I was notified last week that the lack of a master's degree will prevent me from continuing my teaching at the university.

I would like to thank you, who are in the States for supporting me as I prepared to go, while I was there and in my return. I would like to thank the people who are in Burundi and around Africa who supported me while there and for the new friendships I have with you.
There are two reasons why I am sad that I will not return to Burundi. 1. I don't get to help my students in the Special Education department understand the importance of teaching, caring for and loving a person with a disability. 2. I made such great friends at HAU and around Burundi and will miss them very much
Thank you again all of you who kept me in your prayers during this stretching yet rewarding year.

I will keep this blog going for anyone that wants to follow, but specifically for my friends in Burundi so they can keep up with my life for free instead of expensive phone calls :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Vacation North West Coast

I'm currently on a road trip with my parents. We left Kent Washington stopping along the way down the Pacific ocean coast. I have never been to most of the places we are traveling. It's so much fun to see new places and experience them with my parents.

Stopped at the Oregon Aquarium.

Yes those are piranhas.

It was a little windy there when earthquake from Japan caused a tsunami on the coast of Oregon.

The sun came out...we must be in California now :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Exit Report

Lately I've been spending time talking to people and reflecting on my time in Africa. I was thinking that I should put some of these thoughts on for you guys to read :)
Here is a report I wrote to one of my sending organizations.

Hope Africa University

Teaching Assignment: Rachel Jacobs
Special Education Department

One thing I love about being back in the states is being able to share the story. I have had great talks with family and friends about my time at Hope Africa University. When asked, "What's your favorite part about your year?" I tell people, "grading papers". They laugh but it's true. That was a time when I got to read my students' thoughts. Once I figured out that their definition of plagiarism wasn’t mine. (I took care of that with some extra teaching on what it is to steal other’s work. Also I put a very specific policy and “how to avoid it” section in my syllabus). Reading through their papers I found out what my students were thinking and processing through. I got to see the change in my students from the first semester with me to the last. I taught the same students all year long so I got to see what a difference my presence and teaching had on them. During my first day of class I asked them to define a disability. They couldn't do it. They had no idea. It wasn't a cultural thing of them not wanting to talk in class, they just didn't know. But with class discussions, lectures and many homework assignments they learned; they really learned. At the end they were coming up with their own ideas that would work specifically for East Africa.
It wasn't easy teaching classes. I had to learn how to teach them. In the old Belgium style of teaching, the professor knows best and students will never know as much as teacher and shouldn't even try. I informed the class early on that I did not know everything but knew how and where to find the information. We also made a deal that I would teach them about the special education field if they would teach me about special education and people who have disabilities in East Africa. I had to enter with the truth that I’m only trained in my subject matter in an American setting. I needed to learn what my subject meant in an African setting so that I could make the learning relevant to them. It was a great exchange. We learned from each other. Research shows that someone who teaches actually learns more from the topic. I took the topics they needed to learn and made them not only learn how they were done but how to translate that to an East African context. I continued to ask, “What would that look like in East Africa?” or, “How can that be done successfully here?” The students were making the topics practical and relevant to their lives right away.
It was also difficult to have students in my class who didn't know English enough to follow my lectures. Again my students and I worked out a system that best fit both of our needs, mine to be understood and their need to understand the material. It worked out that I would lecture for about 10 min on a topic and then break them into groups and give discussion questions along the topic just lectured on. This is good teaching according to brain research because adults can only productively focus on a subject for about 10 min anyways. I then allowed each group to discuss in whatever language they desired. Some groups were discussing in English, others French and a few in Kirundi and Kiswahili. This way the students that were lost by my English only were lost for 10 min and then they were brought up to speed and we could go deeper in the next 10 min of class time. Once the students got used to the system of group discussion the discussion time could take 1min to 20min depending on how discussion was going and how much learning was happening, most of the time the discussion lead right into the next topic.
Another thing that was helpful about discussion time was that students felt more comfortable asking questions. Culturally I learned that a student that asked questions is seen as someone who is interrupting the teacher and the learning process. However when the students were in small discussion groups they would ask questions freely. It was funny to me because I would start to answer a question of one group and the whole class would quiet down because that was their question too. These small group discussion times allowed the students to ask a much needed question in a culturally appropriate way.
Most of these students only had teachers lecture and write on the black board to teach them. This is how they learned and so most likely this is how they will end up teaching. Every opportunity to model special education best practice in my classroom was used. Schedules are very important for students with disabilities so that they can anticipate what is happening next. Lecture time began with a schedule of the day’s topics and activities written on the board. During my lecture time I included games, drawing, writing, team building activities, critical thinking activities, and drama to name a few. Students were not only expected to sit, listen and take notes but to participate in their education. I not only taught the students about the importance of engaging the five senses when teaching but I showed them how. We made up songs to remember concepts and did some dancing too. The students got to see how effective learning can be when it’s put into a fun activity.
People also ask me why I want to go back to Hope Africa University. I love my job there. I love taking students from where they are to where they can contribute to their country through their new, found knowledge of special education. I like the challenge that teaching in a different culture offers. I want to make sure that not only my subject matter is taught in a way that is culturally relevant but also that the way in which I teach is culturally appropriate. As I live and interact with the people there I’m learning how to be a better Hope Africa University lecturer. And I love it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Stressful Week

So my week started different and continued to be different.

Had to take mom to the emergency room. She's fine now.

Got some life changing news on Wednesday. I took my feelings out on the tree. Poor tree didn't see me coming.

Glad to be visiting my brother on the other side of the state as a vacation. Saw lots of snow on the way!

Long waited Snowball

My uncle saved a snowball from November for me. I went over to his house and he brought it out. What a good time :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Snow Ball

This snowball's for you Isaac.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Snow in Seattle!!!

It's my first snow since being back!

Outing with Sarah

Sarah and I took a trip around Washington.

These sun glasses were hiding in her car...deep down.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sharing the Story

I thought that living and working in Burundi was my favorite part of life but I think that telling the story is just as fun! We talked about Burundi culture and people. We talked about Africa and animals. We talked about HAU and my work. But the best part of sharing with people about my trip is about how Jesus set the example of how we should treat each other. Even if people look different than us or have a disability or are just shy; we still need to show love like Jesus did.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I forgot what it was like to have planes fly over my house every half an hour. My parents live near a very small airport so small planes are flying over head all day long. Most of them are just people going on a joy ride. No purpose in their flight, just fun. It's just something small that reminds me that I'm in a different world.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Superbowl Party

Superbowl spent with the cousin!!! So great to spend time with people that love me so much. Go Packers!

1st visit to Church

It was so great to see church family that have been supporting and praying for me for the whole trip.
So many friends to see :) Here are a few.




Pastor Aaron and Richard.

Burundian and Congolese families at church were very happy to chat with me in Kirundi and KiSwahili. They loved my traditional dress.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

1st Day in USA

So what does a girl who lived in Africa for a year do on her first day back?
Woke up at 4AM.
Cried because of missing my Burundi friends.
Fully unpacked.
Did laundry.
Went shopping with dad for food.
Saw mom on her lunch break.

Took care of the raspberry bushes.
Visited Uncle Don.
Then to bed!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I'm Home

Family met me at the airport in SeaTac today.
Went to Don and Jen's for ice cream.
Stopped by the church to visit Pastor Aaron, so good!!!
Now drinking hot chocolate in the living room listening to Christmas music, yes mom set up the Christmas tree and we are having a good Christmasy time on this Feb 1st.
I'm glad to be back. It's weird that nothing really has changed. There are so many things that I want to do and need to do and people I want to visit. It's too much to take in and I'm going into overload. Good thing sleep is coming soon.
Thanks for all your prayers.
Please continue to pray for me as I transition back to this very different culture.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Flight to SeaTac

Good bye Rome, hello Seattle. I'm flying in Feb 1 at 11:40...
The Lord is good to me!!!
Got a ticket so fast and will be home exactly 365days after I left.

Out of Africa

Now I'm out of Africa, Egypt included. I'm currently at a hotel in Rome waiting for the travel agent to get back to me about a flight home. Currently I have none.
Please pray that I would get a flight so that I can relax and know that I will get home sometime.
I just want to go home!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Women's Retreat

Went on a church retreat last weekend. It was nice to be able to wonder around the rounds alone and spend some quality time chatting with my Father. :)


I went on a walk today and nothing looked any different than normal. I was joking that it's probably safer now wondering around because all the crazy trouble makers are in one area that is easy to avoid.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I'm Safe

In case you are hearing about Egypt in the news lately I just want to let you know that I'm safe. The neighborhood in which I'm staying is not near the political demonstrations that are occurring in the downtown area. The issue is between the locals and has nothing to do with foreigners.
Currently I'm staying inside and reading a book.
Thank you for your prayers

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Past photos I forgot to post

I was just reviewing my blog and realized I didn't post any pictures from Graduation or of my students. So here they are.

Special Education class of 2011. I taught them all year long! We had a fun time and learn lots from each other.

Entire Special Education department at HAU. Happened to all take my first course in Sign Language.

Graduation with friends and students.