A Challenging October

This month as been equal parts reflective, weird and challenging with some strung together moments of joy.

The past few sermons I have heard had similar themes of God granting all of us salvation. At some point in my missionary work I consoled myself with the knowledge that at least those who perpetrate and inflict violence, hate and injustice on their brothers and sisters will be locked out of heaven. Those who amass wealth for themselves only and do not care about their neighbors or God will not inherit the kingdom of God…only to be put firmly back in a humble reflecting attitude with the sermons of Rev Chong-Ah Kim and Eugene Choi. In particular the verse from Matthew 20:15 “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ and also from Eugene’s sermon about the lame man, his friends and the Pharisees surrounding Jesus with us being likened to the Pharisees, practicing the laws and the work but somehow missing Jesus in the midst of us.

I forget that despite my commitment to this work in the kingdom of God, I do not own God’s salvation: it is not up to me to decide who gets to receive God’s grace. If God, like the landowner chooses to offer the same salvation to those who came to God late in life, then who am I to question that?

I feel shame because in my heart is an unspoken prayer that the people who do these terrible things will never repent and be banished into an eternity separated from God.

I feel sad because of the self-revelation that it is easier for me to live in disagreement with a sister or brother while relying on God’s judgement waiting around the corner for them.

I feel unbalanced because I took verses like the Beatitudes i.e. ‘Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God’ to mean the rich will not inherit the kingdom of God.

I feel confused as to why I am actually doing this work if there is no ‘exclusive reward’ for pursuing love, faith, justice, generosity, mercy and why/when did I begin to feel deserving one? If the reward is the same, what is preventing me from going away and living life large and YOLO and for myself then coming back when things get bad, or I get sick or old, or feel devoured by guilt…much like the prodigal son who went away and had a YOLO lifestyle, fell on hard times and came back only to be welcomed and celebrated by his father? What are the benefits of not being a prodigal child?

I feel frustrated by God’s logic: A life of faithfulness and repentance yields the same reward as a life of faithlessness and boasting if both end in confession, acceptance of Jesus Christ and repentance.

I feel disheartened because after all these years, I still have neither internalized what it means for me to be loved by God nor what it means for my neighbors and my enemies to be loved by God.

The ‘Why’

This past week I have been in a pilgrimage hosted by the Ecumenical Youth Council of Korea. This journey has been a pilgrimage of justice and peace; of love and hope; of shame and mourning. The past 7 days brought together Christian young adults from around the world to uncover and confront injustices in the modern history of Korea, especially the struggle of Koreans martyrs for independence, peace, and democratization.

at Gwangju cemetery with Methodist youth
Pictured with the grave of Kim Eui-Ki, (1959-1980)  a chairman of the Korean Christian Youth Council who broke through the information blockade imposed by Korean Martial Law to break the story of the Gwanju People’s Uprising to the Korean nation, and the military dictatorship’s violent repression thereof.

As a United Methodist missionary and as a Christian young adult, it was a responsibility and a blessing to join the pilgrimage. Though I have been living in Seoul for 6 months now, I had already been exposed to a traumatic violent history of Korean people through a previous pilgrimage during Holy Week. For me, this last week has been a relief – yes, still the sadness and mourning of continuing injustices preventing peace persist, yet I have hope now that the voices of those who know the truth, the truth beyond the fantastical versions of history edited by those who commit atrocities to their fellow humans; the voices who know a more whole truth have multiplied. These voices of Christians who have committed to uncovering more truth and sharing that truth with others in their home communities, these voices of Christians in whom I can see the Holy Spirit agitating – voices who give me hope and clarity and determination in a field of work where I am often accused of “anti-American sentiments”, for shining the light Truth onto the dark underbelly of our touched-up American fantasy of 20th century history.

sodaemun prison
Jailed independence and democratization activists pictured here in their processing mugshots.  Keijo Prison was one of the largest prisons the Japanese Imperial Army operated in Korea and used for torture and interrogation.  It remained active as a prison after the Japanese surrender until 1987.

 

 

During the pilgrimage, I was asked by many how I ended up on this path of a missionary working for peace and justice. Why did I choose this path?  What continues to lead me to a vocation of mission? I gave many answers – Love of God, economic reason, desire to learn beyond university campuses, the pursuit of ‘glocal’ community’, a sense of home in living as a stranger, passion for God’s people, fear of apathy, love of neighbor, hope. Today after arriving home exhausted whereupon I passed out for a few hours;  I watched a few videos and stumbled upon one of a Detroit United Methodist pastor sharing her parish’s passionate witness. She quoted Mark Twain:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” 

Those words said aloud by a faith leader in my church invoked an upwelling of emotion spilling out my soul.  Sadness, grief, shame, hope, steadfastness, faith, love, love, and love. I know the first important day of my life 30 years ago. The second most important day is harder to pinpoint, but I know I am on the most important journey of my life. Being a missionary: committed to Christ, committed to community, to peace and justice, committed to love, and following God’s Voice leading me into this life is ‘the why.’

A Seoul Impression

Today I have been living in Korea two days shy of to months.  Like many other experiences, it is hard to believe that time has passed so quickly.  img_1764

I arrived in a mostly empty terminal,  pushing my life’s items in front of me was quickly impressed with the sleek modernity of Seoul’s mass transit. A feature that has long been lacking in the cities I’ve lived in since leaving Hamburg, Germany 16 years ago.   The first days were spent meeting the current staff for the Global Ministries’ Asia-Pacific Regional Office – where I will be spending the majority of my time.  I also moved into my Dongdaemun-gu apartment, went on a bike ride with Bong, a fellow missionary, who reintroduced me to the exhilarating feeling of cycling along dedicated paths without fear of sudden death by automobiles.

My work so far has been attending a smattering of events like the Centennial of the March 1st Movement and visiting the Demilitarized Zone.  I have been meeting and networking with leaders in the ecumenical movement for peace and reconciliation of North and South Korea.  I have also spent a good deal of my time researching, relearning and reading histories of the Korean Peninsula conflict.

“Humility helps me learn faster”

One of the most important tasks I have undertaken is learning the Korean language, as such, I have been enrolled at a private learning institute since March.  I successfully completed 1/3 of the first level and am currently enjoying a unique feeling of accomplishment, tempered by an overwhelming weight of how useless my scripted conversations are for daily interactions.  I can only get better (I hope.)

I think one of the coolest things about Hangul is a completely different alphabet.  This makes it fun (and somewhat frustrating) when deciphering some of the Konglish often found on menu signs or information posts.

Last week, while biking from the office to my language lesson, I missed the green light at a, particularly large intersection.  The red light grated on my time-centered awareness so I opted to practice my reading on the information card in the front bike pannier:

‘ABCs:  브레이크, 타이어’

I sound out each syllable, mumbling to myself.  “Buh rae ee kuh,  Ta ee eoh.”  Realization hits with “Brake, Tire.”   I feel less accomplished than if it were actually a Korean word that I stuttered through, rather than the Konglish equivalent.  Pride while learning a language is unsustainable.  Humility helps me learn faster… humility and colleagues I can test my limited Korean with.

On the weekends I have fallen into a semblance of a routine.  Saturday morning I life easy.  Wake up whenever.  Make coffee. Have breakfast. Do some household chores.  Do nothing.  Have lunch and depending on the weather/my energy level. Go for a walk, go biking, go explore more of Seoul.  Saturday is my recharge day.

Come Sunday,  I sleep in, make coffee, have brunch, take the subway to City Hall station in order to arrive at Chung Dong First Methodist Church before choir practice at 1 pm.  I have joined the church’s wonderful choir as the only ethnically non-Korean! It’s fun. (Thanks to Mrs. Gilbert for all the choir foundations you taught in high school and Prof. Wei for the advanced shaping in Chamber Singers at Denison-without you, I would have no idea what is happening in rehearsal)  Rehearsals are held in Korean, though the songs we sing are in English because I attend the English language ministry.  A notable exception, this Easter we are singing with as a full Chung Dong Chorale with the main choir.  One of the songs is in Korean.  I really need to practice it more!  After worship, we have another choir rehearsal before being dismissed for the day.  The rest of the afternoon is for studying before looking for dinner. Whether or not I actually study is dictated by the ration of Sun to Sunday…however this weekend I really need to catch up on my vocabulary.

Through it all, including the microdust, I am trying to adapt as best I can to life in Seoul and while being faithful and useful to the mission of the work here.  While it certainly is a new assignment and a different culture with many new possible irrecoverable pitfalls, I find hope in the renewed hospitality extended to me every day by my colleagues, church acquaintances, and strangers.

 

The Second Best Day to Plant a Tree.

Warm greetings from the island of Mindanao!

Today is May 23rd 2018.  I have been in mission in the Philippines now for 1 year 4 month and 26 days serving in my new assignment with community schools for the indigenous Lumad peoples on the island of Mindanao.  It has been one crazy ride.  Many geopolitical events have shaped my time here so far.  Most notably the declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23,2017, a declaration that until this day is on going.

Still, I have been able to carry out the work of the Save Our Schools Network, visiting remote rural communities, accessible by rough unpaved often muddy mountain tracks only accessible by motorcycles, horses and helicopters.  Through these visits I have listened to stories of hope from Lumad Datus (pronounced Dah-too), the community leaders, of their people’s ongoing struggle in asserting their right to self-determination and ownership of their ancestral domain.  I have walked through villages so underserved by civil services that they must build their own community schools to teach literacy, mathematics, composition, critical thought, analysis, history, economics, traditions, sustainable agriculture, music, art and composition to their children, so that they have a leg up in advocating for their future communities.

In these schools I sat in classrooms made of wood or cement walls with grass thatched or tin roofs, rooms baked by the heat of the sun often with no breeze to move the humid air around; in these rooms I sweated and learned.  I learned from young Lumad teachers, recent graduates themselves coming back to teach other Lumad scholars. I learned with these children about biology, algebra, Filipino literature, physics and soil preparation for the planting of mung beans.  All of these I learned in scarce resource classrooms where creative teachers take practical applications and make these subjects relevant to their students, grounded in their experiences as indigenous peoples.

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I celebrated in graduating “moving up” ceremonies recognizing achievement of Lumad scholars in advancing in spite of the odds to the next academic level.  I listened to songs presented by children of all ages, songs depicting their struggle for education and for their livelihood as well as songs paying homage to the Lumad way of life through dances stylizing daily chores like planting, weeding, washing clothes, cooking, separating rice from husk and school.

In short, I traveled and lived among indigenous peoples for short durations, sandwiched between working on grants, advocacy campaigns, embassy visits, fact finding and disaster relief missions all around the plight of the indigenous people of Mindanao.  For while the schools and communities may sound idyllic in my description, the truth is these communities, schools, teachers and even students are persistently threatened by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the current administration’s martial law and all out war against the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

I am in grief for students like 6th grader Obillo Bay-ao who was killed by members of the state’s paramilitary forces.  I am disheartened by the increasingly violent and disparaging rhetoric from national politicians regarding these schools, as well as the closure of 89 schools.  These tragedies of harassments, red tagging, trumped up charges, threats and killings existed long before martial law and the Duterte Administration, and yet, martial law has emboldened state and corporate security forces, giving them leeway to accuse anyone who disagrees, doesn’t comply, stands up for their rights – of terrorism.

Unfortunately, as a missionary I am not immune to martial law.  Facing mounting international scrutiny with regards to the murderous anti drug campaign of the current administration, the international expat community of missionaries, human rights workers, peace builders and social justice activists has been on the receiving end of investigations for deportations from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Immigration.  I have been embroiled in my own suspect investigation, having been accused of violating my missionary visa as the former should preclude a visa holder to doing “missionary works and nothing else.”

My future here in the Philippines is uncertain.  Should my visa extension be denied or revoked, will I be ordered to leave… or worse – deported?  Should I be granted a stay by the special prosecutor than perhaps I will be relocated to Manila, where habeas corpus is not suspended and free of martial law. Will I get to stay in Davao?  Whichever the outcome, having been here 16+ months with intent to stay longer term, I set down roots and bought larger household items than I should have (my TV nooo!) than if I had I known I might leave. I have some anxiety, regrets and sadness about leaving behind my home: transitions are hard.  In an email to from my parents I received wisdom an Iowan farmer shared to my dad once:  The second best day to plant a tree is today. The best day was 15 years ago. In other words: Do not worry myself about what I would have done or wouldn’t have done had I known this was coming.  I had a good run with the people here and a good life in the home I found here. Today is a day to praise God, make peace, plant trees, and be thankful for the times I had.

Invitation to Prayers:

o   Please pray for the Lumad communities in the Philippines, for the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP.)

o   Please hold UMC missionaries and other human rights workers in your prayers for safety, fair trials and resolutions of cases against us.

o   Please pray for awakening of the Bureau of Immigration officials to an advanced understanding of God’s Mission – that it encompasses ministry with the poor and respect of rights for God’s creation.

o   Please pray for me, for reliance on God in a time of uncertainty and for open mindedness to future whatever may come.

Invitation to support.

If you feel moved or led to support the work of UMC missionaries and want to make a donation in my name you can do so here.  100% of your donation will go to supporting missionaries serving in mission fields around the world.

If you feel moved specifically to support indigenous schools through the Save Our Schools project, you can do so here.  100% of your donation will go to supporting the indigenous community schools I have been working with the past 15 months.

If you want to visit a school, interested in learning more or just want more stories please email me at ashaw@umcmission.org or for the Save Our Schools Network at sos.mindanao@gmail.com

Thank you so much for the support you have continued to shower me in gifts and in prayers.

 Whatever comes, I know that I will be where God wants me to be.

On Christ the solid rock we stand,

Adam Shaw

Global Missionary, The United Methodist Church

Davao, Mindanao, Philippines

Sisters

Mihaima. She is a curious 9yr old. Right away she jumps on the wall next to me as I sort medicine. 10 pills in every sachet.

“What is your name?”

“Adam. Ano pangalan mo?”

“Mihaima…” She stops and smiles before jumping down and running off.

After awhile I take off my sunglasses and keep working: 7…8…9…10 pills sorted without contaminating them. Grab a new sachet.

“What is your name?”

“Adam. You are Mihaima?”

She is back this time with her brother who whispers something to her while I continue to sort, seal, sort and seal.

“Are you my man?” She repeats aloud to me.

“No” I reply, “I’m here to help”

“Are you my money? What is your money?”

“I have medicine: gamot “

“What is your name?

“Adam. Ano pangalan mo?”

“Mihaima,” she smiles pleased that we had a conversation that tested both of our language skills.

“Adam. This my sister”

“Ako si Adam, Ano pangalan mo?”

“Nurhaida”

Emboldened by each other they reach out and poke my freckles, laughing, and pointing at my blue eyes as only two curious children who’ve never seen a harmless, friendly foreigner up close can.

Mihaima and Nurhaida are two of the many children of the 400,000 people affected by the widespread airstrikes during the Marawi siege.

They’ve been living with their families at an evacuation camp since they were evacuated in May 2017. Millions of dollars in aid has been given by international organizations and foreign governments yet only meager low quality rations and destitute living conditions exist for the evacuees. Where is the money going?

Nurhaida and Mihaima’s family just want to go home, even if there is no home standing after the destruction.

“What is our money”

I smile. “No no, this is just medicine. Kung sakit mo.”

They pose for pictures with other missioners. I ask them to if I can take a picture with them…they run away.

Perhaps I’m too tall 😊.Nurses fill patients’ prescriptions after they finish being examined by the doctors. Here I helped by sorting pills.

Day 2 : International Interfaith Humanitarian Mission – Bara-as, Iligan City

Just Arrived at the site, yet already turning to leave? No -to get the intake forms of patients who patiently wait for doctors but have zero patience for injustice.

Children wandering the site, I perch Phone in hand to photograph the medical services. Mothers, daughters, sons, soon to be mothers, soon to be older sisters and brothers. What will they tell their children? How will they remember the days they fled from violence and death? Will the children remember? What do we say in the face of aerial bombings that are used by “peace keeping forces” that force us to scavenge for pieces of our lives, of dignity, of humanity destroyed in the name of a war on terror that sows what it claims to fight.

Medicine in both hands a little boy stares at me. A smile offered, a gesture costing me nothing given to someone who’s family has lost almost everything. Given, received and returned.

To decorate or not?

Well we are now officially past All Hollows, Saints and Souls days so that means there are no more holidays from here until Christmas in the Philippines.  Of course that didn’t discourage malls from setting up Winter Holiday decorations as early as September, and playing songs that I have already grown sick of…yes especially you oh pop version of Little Drummer Boy.

To Decorate or not to decorate.  The holidays just don’t feel like something I should celebrate on my own.  My idea of celebrating Christmas is very much tied to my identity as part of a family unit.  I am so used to decorating with Shaw family decorations, that in a way, home holiday decorations don’t seem ‘real’ without that familiarity of decorations that have been built put up for as long as I can remember.  Yes, ornaments get updated, wreaths appear, some older decorations make way for new ones…yet the overall feeling of it remains the same.  Probably because the main decoration architect is my mother.

I haven’t decorated for Christmas at all in the 6 years that I’ve been living away from home.  I do put up ‘Christmas lights’ but I use them as lighting in seasons other than Christmas.  This year, I will not be celebrating Christmas with family.

I do want to celebrate and decorate and I hope I can find some simple decorations that move me to remembering Advent and celebrating Christmas.  No, I will not be buying a fake Christmas tree.  I hope to get some Christmas lights and a few things to put around the house.  I still don’t know how to handle Christmas without cold weather, yet the meaning of Christmas isn’t tied to the weather…although it seems most of popular Christmas & holiday songs are tied to it somehow (Jingle Bells, White Christmas, Winter Wonderland etc…)

Tons of people have a tropical holiday season, Hawaii thrives on it 🙂  I just need some good ideas for tropical Christmas decorations, and I need an adventurous and open mind to try out my own way of decorating, knowing that it’s okay if it’s not as nice, artistic, well planned or as tasteful as how my mother decorates. I need to learn how to appreciate the decorations I come up with as well.  I already picked up a scented candle that throws a cozy light and pleasant aroma around the house.  I don’t know what I’ll do for a tree, or if I even want one but…

At least I will still have Christmas lights!

Reflections on ‘Lakbayan’

This past September 12-21, 2017 I relocated from Davao City, Mindanao, Philippines to the University of the Philippines  (UP) Diliman in Quezon City, Philippines.  I moved from the relative comfort of my apartment to the intense discomfort of living in a camp, the central ‘Kampuhan’ of this year’s Lakbayan

‘Lakbayan’ by Sandugo, an Alliance of National Minorities of the Philippines, is a three week long event taking place in Manila and hosted by UP Diliman wherein national minorities from all parts of the Philippines journey to Manila to air their grievances, lobby the government and affect change to administrative policies that impact their daily lives.

Artist works on Trump effigy to be used at the US Embassy protest
Artist works on Trump effigy to be used at the US Embassy protest.

‘Lakbayan’ is an opportunity for national minorities to create news in the political heart of the Philippines, to give birth to waves of change that in turn can breathe life into their traditional ways of life: traditions on the verge of being extinguished due to long practiced national policies of discrimination, oppression and impunity.

I flew into Manila airport the evening after the tropical depression ‘Maring’ inundated the National Capital Region and surrounding areas.  I was advised by InPeace (Initiatives for Peace – my placement organization) staff onsite to seek other lodging as the Kampuhan was completely flooded with 1.5-2 feet of water.  Therefore I arrived to the camp on the following day, Sept. 13.   

Immediately I noticed how large and well organized it seemed, despite not being able to find the proper entrance right away (I attribute that to my tagalog illiteracy, and my skills in getting lost when I don’t know where I am.)  I was struck by the welcoming atmosphere and the overall busyness of the Kampuhan.

Museo LumadWith the Museo Lumad flanked by the main tent & stage across from the registrar and media center,  the entrance was hopping place bustling with students, visitors and volunteers from many walks of life.

Who knows? There were probably some undercover policeman or NBI agents there as well.

I joined the Save Our School steering committee and took part of activities that the Save Our Schools network joined.  Lumad schools, and protecting them from President Duterte’s promises of violence upon them, was one of the focal points of this years Lakbayan.  There were Lumad scholars present at the Kampuhan for the duration, attending temporary classes at the participating colleges UP-Diliman and the University of Santo Tomas with volunteer teachers from the faculty of those as well as Lumad schools teachers who accompanied their students.  

Despite the many difficulties the Lumad scholars and teachers faced in both getting to Manila (some were refused entry to the airport by National Police despite having all necessary paperwork) or staying there (with the Office of the President leaning heavily on the Department of Social Welfare and Development to find reasons/made up paperwork? the children needed to return home or were ‘kidnapped’ by the people entrusted by their guardians) the Lumad scholars made a profound impact on visitors to the Kampuhan and on students and faculty of the schools they in turn visited.  

Once such school, De La Salle University (DLSU), I joined for the forum, presentation and culture night there.  DLSU is known as a prestigious school in Manila.  If not for their academics & intramurals, than it must be for their wealthy alumni and ‘elite’ student body.  I am grateful to the local DLSU students who made it possible for us to visit, and to the professors, mostly from the Literature department, for requiring their students to go. I only hope that it was meaningful, perhaps even unexpectedly so, to those who were able to attend.

United Methodists visit the Kampuhan:

United Methodists visit with different regions

On September 17th United Methodists from Manila area churches organized a visit to the Kampuhan.  It was touching for me to see that so many people in the United Methodist church are cognisant of and willing to learn more of the reality of the struggle of national minorities in the Philippines.  As a United Methodist missionary serving in Mindanao, I am saturated in the struggle of the Lumads, especially as I am serving at the Save Our Schools Network, a project of the Advance (#3022305) so it was a rare moment to enjoy the company of my fellow United Methodists while being immersed among the people I am in ministry with.  It was a blessing to reconnect with a former Global Mission Fellow, current Global Ministries missionaries, United Methodist Women, men, young people and clergy.  I especially appreciated the community (and eating!) after their visit as we joined together in fellowship, reactions, reflection and prayer.

 

One of the things that struck me from their visit is hearing directly from people how impressed they were that I lived and slept at the Kampuhan.  The conditions at the camp were hard.  I suppose they were impressed that a non Filipino, non minority, person of a degree of affluence (because I could afford a hostel if I really wanted too), would remain steadfast in those conditions.  

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It is not an exaggeration to call it squalor.  It wasn’t 100% squalor perhaps but the conditions were very hard at the camp.   I would have welcomed going home after the first day, or sleeping in a hostel and commuting every day.

 

Yet, as a Methodist missionary and a person faith I am called to be in solidarity and marching alongside oppressed people…and in the Philippines, national minorities are oppressed.  That solidarity is made stronger by sharing meals and sleeping next to my oppressed brothers and sisters.  So steadfastly, barely, I survived the relatively short time I was there through the unbearable head & humidity, the putrid latrines, the incomprehensible overnight construction, speeding and jackhammering, and the gag inducing smell of waste, rotting food and urine.  

 

While my Lakbayan experience was…difficult because of the conditions, it was necessary and good to be in solidarity with the people of Sandugo.  I was blessed to hear from fellow United Methodist who may have found inspiration in my commitment to be in solidarity with the people (although honestly a lot of it was just stubbornness to not give up right away.)  Whatever thoughts Kampuhan inhabitants and visitors experienced from my presence is not diminished by my own feelings of inadequacy or weakness for wanting to give up.  The bottom line is, I made it until the end. Sure, I switched to sleeping outside in my hammock to on a piece of cardboard for the last two days…but in a way that itself is part of the message of solidarity, the call for justice and peace, and working for God’s Kingdom on Earth.

 

It is not always easy, and I might want to give up often.  Yet others will be inspired by the times I choose difficulties, solidarity and steadfastness. Together we support each other and through God all is possible.  Even peace and justice for national minorities in the Philippines.

 

Stop Lumad Killings! Protect Lumad Schools!  No to Martial Law!

 

 

Visit the United Methodist Advance Project Save Our Schools, Protect Indigenous Life here:  http://www.umcmission.org/Give-to-Mission/Search-for-Projects/Projects/3022305

Visit my missionary profile here:

http://www.umcmission.org/Explore-Our-Work/Missionaries-in-Service/Missionary-Profiles/Shaw-Adam

 

Autumn Blues

Last week I finally hit the fabled “wall” of homesickness.  It is a relief honestly – the first stint I did here back in ’11 I hit that wall right away, so spending almost 9 months here without it made me feel both gratified and a little on edge for if it would ever come.

Perhaps because it was my birthday month (29!) or perhaps because my home-latitude (home-lat) is entering my favorite season of autumn, whatever the cause, it was compounded by my feeling under the weather with a swollen throat and cough.   That mundane illness procured my homesickness.

Surprisingly, going to church helped fix that.  It had been about 4 Sundays since I was able to attend a Methodist church.  I was on vacation for 2 Sundays and then I was in Manila for work during the last 2 Sundays.  It was a steadfast reassurance to be back at church, to see friendly faces and share some conversations with people that I know albeit only from 1-3hrs on Sundays.

As far as communities go, it’s not that much yet at the same time it reminds me of similar church communities in my home-lat and that, dear readers, plus the messages of support on my FB and personal emails from family was just enough to lift me over the wall.

This week I head back to teaching.  Unfortunately my trusty macbookpro has been having many serious problems after updating to Sierra 10.12.  I’ve had that thing for 6 years now and it has quite the data I need on it.  Whatever happened to my laptop also corrupted my backup, but luckily for a fee the service center is backing up my files before they try to fix my laptop.  Their initial scans shows that all was well with the hardware (except for the battery but c’mon it’s 6 years old!) so here’s to hoping I do not have to buy a new laptop.  I really love my old macbookpro!

Back to teaching- all my lesson plans are on that computer.  I will just have to teach by the sweat of my brow and quite possibly we’ll be doing review because I haven’t taught for a month and am lost to where my students are.  I think I will also be switching to only teaching grades 10 & 11 physics and earth science.  We will see.

In the meantime, I am using this cool windows laptop that I have no idea how to get the most out of, and trying to remember all the things that I have stored on my macbook whilst maintaining a level of work that doesn’t get me fired during this data less jaunt.

Autumn is starting and I miss it dearly but I would appreciate any pictures you might take of your autumn-time!  If you feel generous please share them to me by emailing me at ashaw@umcmission.org.  I will only be looking at them, not posting or anything – It’s like sending me a homemade card that gets here right away.  I hope that I get to live autumn vicariously through you, dear readers.

Until next time!

 

Sir High School Science Teacher

Hello to the readers of my sporadic blog.  I have a lot of news to share.  Well mainly many thoughts on my only news:  the start of my high school teaching career.

I began my teaching career at the Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao two weeks ago.  Previously I had formally taught zero classes and received no training in how to be a secondary or primary educator.

My first week of school consisted of:

  • Going to a faculty
  • Finding out my teaching schedule and classes (6th, 7th, 9th,10th and 11th)
  • Losing my appetite, stressing out and feeling anxious about how unprepared I am to teach
  • Asking God to take me home 🙂
  • Enjoying the company of the students
  • Sweating profusely
  • Getting rained on
  • Sweating more
  • Basically being soaked either from sweat or from rain.

I still feel rattled from my first week of teaching. I am only teaching Thursday and Friday but still getting a nice 10 hrs a week in.  I felt very unprepared, out of my element, worried my students wouldn’t learn anything, trying to learn the school system in the Philippines, trying to learn how to teach in English or Bisaya, learning how to do science labs in a zero resource classroom and adapting foreign  subject books to relevancy in my student’s lives and future.

I just finished my second week and am getting ready to go back on Wednesday, meanwhile while working the rest of the week applying for grants and aiding the InPeace Davao office.  I find I am having moments, like last night when I wondered if this is what my teachers were thinking/worried about when I was in high school?  Did they stay up at night worried I wasn’t going to learn anything.

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One of my 6th graders interviews me on Climate Change for her composition assignment.

I gave my 6th graders a straightforward  quiz on Friday, made even easier by a review we had on Thursday..which I know about 70% cheated on or failed outright…how do I proceed from here?  I have decided to give them a talk about how imperialists and corporations will be happy they have decided not to study at all and skip class, that education one of the best ways to upgrade their struggle for self determination.  Is it too much of a reality check? Perhaps.

 

I find myself constantly thinking to what depth do I go for subject matter, especially for 6th and 7th my general science classes.  For my 9th grade Chemistry, my 10th grade Physics and my 11th grade Earth science,

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My 9th grade chemistry class does an experiment using our only chemistry equipment…the vaunted graduated cylinder.

I wrack my brain and scour the internet looking for experiments & labs we can do in a zero resource classroom.

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Lying in my hammock and mosquito net under the wooden  ‘kubo’ shack outside.

I feel like I won’t ever get used to being called “Sir.”  I bivouac on the campus for 2 nights, in my hammock and mosquito net. God knows I prefer sleeping outside because in the dorms it is so HOT! No fans, breeze or A/C.  Dawn finds me waking up early to scrawl out thoughts and trying not to stress out too much about teaching, whilst still feeling responsible for giving them the best education I can while doing the best I can.

I admit…I  wish I wasn’t teaching, I still don’ feel cut out for it. However, God equips all of us.  I undeniably care about these students and the struggle of their people…so I am going to stick it out a week at a time, frantically planning lessons, splitting my time between working behind the scenes in Davao and being hands on in Maco, caring about the present and futures of my students and feeling blessed to have an opportunity to learn and teach these children of God.

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Students and teachers playing a pick up game of volleyball after the day’s classes finish.