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There are moments

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There are moments

There are moments in life when you discover what is important and what is not. I have lived in Italy for 1 year now and I miss my home. I miss my mum and the sofa chats (well cries) and my dad. I miss his strong hug, the way I feel safe in his arms. I miss my little brother, who makes fun of me and wants to play Minecraft endlessly. I miss the intelligent conversations I have with my older brother and the ridiculous silliness that is possible with my younger sister. I miss my dog, Oscar, who loves people so much you might think his tail would wag off. If I could jump on a plane and go home today I would. You see it doesn’t matter how much time goes by, or how great your life becomes. You always miss home, sometimes it is a big ache and causes great pain but sometimes it is the sound of lawn mowers that takes you back to summers at home. A smell or a sound, which transports you in a way that nothing else ever can. I have never claimed to be a great writer, but I believe that I can only explain the way this feels in words.Tears may fall endlessly but they do not have a voice. So when I feel like this I choose to write.

The problem with homesickness is that you do not always yearn for the comfortable and the familiar, but you yearn for ghosts of the past that cannot be awakened again. Holidays in caravans, on beaches and long muddy walks with the dog. These are the things I crave most, so when I return home I am disappointed to find that they are not there. Things have changed, I have changed. The way I see the world is different, better somehow. My eyes have been opened just a little more and I let more sunlight in.

Nowhere is home anymore, and yet there are many places where I feel at home. I have reached a point in my life where I must choose once more where I should go and what I should do. I thought I would only have to do this once but I believe there are many seasons in life, the most common of all is change. This word no longer scares me but excites me. I do not know what the future holds.

I love to teach, children are precious treasures. Sometimes they are annoying but treasures all the same. Being a teacher has become part of who I am and without it I am lost. I find that I do not know myself unless I have a class to teach and a classroom to teach in. This is most amusing because I vowed never to be a teacher. It turns out that I was running away from what I most needed.

God has given me a gift, so I will use it. I will never be a perfect teacher but if I work hard and love every child I teach, I will be a great teacher. It is not all of my identity but it is funny how something grows in you without you even noticing it. I love Palmi but my heart tells me it is time to move on. Come July I will be sad but excited for my new adventure. I will never forget what I learned here, because I have been shaped and molded so much that I hardly recognize myself. One day I will understand the hardships I have endured, and what they mean. For now I will appreciate the beauty of this place, for I will not return to it as soon as I want to.

To all of those brave people traversing the world I would like to tell you something. Do not be afraid of adventure but equally do not be afraid to return home. You will return slightly altered but I think you will find comfort in it all the same. An old cuddly toy from your childhood will always remain the same and it will watch you grow and thrive into an adult. But you will still love it regardless.

Returning home is not a failure, it is one moment in this great adventure we call life. Enjoy it, because it will not always be there. Live in the moment you have now, worry about everything else when you get to it. I, as an organised planner, cannot believe the words I have just written. But Italy has taught me to relax, life rarely ends up the way you want it to. It is always better than you imagine.

All my love

Sarah

xxx

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My Italian Journey: 5 month reflection

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My Italian Journey: 5 month reflection

Buongiorno miei amici (Good Morning my friends),

Its been a long time since I have written a Blog post. I wanted to wait until the end of the school year to review everything I have learned so far. I can tell you now that this will be a long post so bear with me! I think the first and most important thing I have learned (at least to me) is that a classroom is like a home and the people in it are like a family.

My classroom should be a place where my students feel comfortable enough to be themselves and relaxed enough to enjoy learning. Don’t get me wrong, there need to rules that have consequences attached to them if they are broken but I feel like the classroom atmosphere needs to be warm and relaxed. My attitude towards my students has changed from frustration to patience, love and a lot of grace.

You see families are wonderful and loving but they have problems and issues too. I see a lot of different sides to my students, their stubborn side, when they don’t want to learn and they don’t want to listen. I also see their attentive and kind sides, where they are excited to learn and are kind to one another.

I have realised that I can only do so much to help them choose between good behaviour and challenging behaviour. I have a strong classroom management plan and rules, which when broken, result in consequences (calmly delivered by me, well most of the time, I am still learning). I want them to choose good behaviour and to follow the rules because they know there is a reason why I have these rules. Not because I am better than them, or in charge of them. Actually I have these rules to keep them safe and to aid as much learning as possible.

Challenging behaviour is not always my fault,  but the way I handle it can either diffuse it or escalate it. Most of the time I succeed in diffusing it but there are times when it escalates because of how I handled it. When this happens I examine the situation, figure out what I should have done differently and try not to make the same mistake twice. There have been many tears and a lot of stress but I believe to truly be a good teacher you must take responsibility for your actions.

This family can be challenging and they can drive me crazy but the most important thing is that I love them all and want the best for them. I want them to be happy and I want them to learn. Not just English, but how to behave and how to be polite to everyone they meet. Unlike most families, I get to hand the children back to their parents. I have a deep and profound respect for parents everywhere, you are amazing!

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Our wonderful Graduation party!

The second thing I have learned is that it is possible to transition from being a pushover to a strict teacher. It is also possible to be a kind teacher while also being strict and upholding the rules of the classroom. I am still working on this but I am definitely improving, there is a fine line between being strict and being scary!

The last thing I will write about (but definitely not the last thing I have learned, the list is too long for one post!) is that your students do listen to you. Even when you don’t think they do! For example I have been trying to teach my class of 4 and 5 year olds that one colour is not better than any other. They are all beautiful. I thought it was going in one ear and out the other until we were colouring and one of the children said that blue was the best colour. Arianna (The sweetest 4-year-old ever) looked straight at me and said “No, tutti i colori sono belli” which means “No, all colours are beautiful”.I honestly almost cried, it was a priceless and beautiful moment. These are the moments that make teaching worth it.

I think they have taught me more than I could ever teach them. Teaching is humbling, it can be stressful but I find so much joy in it. It’s worth all the stress, because I have the privilege of watching (and hopefully helping) them grow up into kind individuals who will have a huge impact on the world. Teaching is a privilege and I am so proud of the progress my students have made! I still have a lot to learn but I have come so far and I am proud of myself.

I am just going to cry a bit now, writing this has made me emotional!

Lots of love

Sarah

xxx

My Italian Journey (Day 11)

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My Italian Journey (Day 11)

Ciao everyone (I apologize for popping random Italian words in this post, I am trying to learn!),

So you are probably not aware of this but I am in Italy, teaching English as a foreign language. I have been here for just over a week and I love it! I am living in a beautiful town in the south and I am by the sea. I live with a wonderful host family and I am so lucky. This place feels like home and I am looked after. However culture shock and home-sickness have hit hard, I mean really hard. It is very difficult to be so far away from everything that is “comfortable” and “normal”. A small part of me wants to back to my comfort zone but then I think of how unhappy I was in my previous job. I worked at a call center, which taught me many things , but I found an office job was killing any creativity I had.

I find myself in a strange mixture of feelings, on the one hand I love being in Italy, the food, the people and the weather are all great. Teaching is my dream job and the children are wonderful. On the other hand my brain is working at 100 mph trying to process a new language, a new job and a new culture. It is exhausting and I miss my family. But this is the main downside of taking that great leap of moving abroad. I am trying to give myself more time to get used to everything. There are a few cultural differences that I am mainly struggling with. I will list them below;

  1. Children are not disciplined in the same way as British children are (or I was). The discipline is very relaxed here, which makes the children very confident but for me a little hard to teach. I am trying to view this as a difference, not the “wrong” way to raise children.
  2. The language barrier makes everything complicated, even though I am learning Italian quicker than I thought I still long to be fluent, but I have a long way to go! I am very lucky to have some people who do speak English though, it is nice to be understood.
  3. The days are very long, people will typically have dinner at around 8pm. I am so used to having it at around 6pm so this is hard to get used to.
  4. I am feeling so lost and confused, but thats just a part of culture shock!

This list could be much longer so I am lucky that these are my only frustrations. Part of it is that I am not yet confident with teaching and children generally pick that up. In a month I will probably look back and realize I have learned so much in so little time. In the interest of balance I will list all the things I love about living in Italy;

  1. The food, it is amazing! It’s fresh and delicious, there are no words for how much I love it. Don’t even get me started on the coffee, it is the best coffee I have ever tasted.
  2. The people are so friendly, the British side of me used to approach this with suspicion but now I just accept that in the south of Italy people are naturally extremely welcoming and friendly.
  3. The language is so beautiful, I love listening to it and speaking it (well trying haha).
  4. The views here are stunning, even in the rain. I love how the houses look and the coast is just beautiful! You get it, Italy is a beautiful place.
  5. I love to wander around and get lost, this is something you can only do in a new place and I am making the most of it!
  6. The food
  7. I love to teach, even though I never thought I could and I am still learning. I get nervous and it is sometimes terrifying, being in charge of a group of children, but at the end of the day I feel so happy and fulfilled.
  8. I can feel myself changing every day, which scares me because I feel like I will no longer recognize myself soon. Maybe thats a good thing.
  9. I love that feeling when I have a successful conversation in Italian, I just feel so proud of myself.
  10. In my flat I have the most amazing bath, I know its weird but it makes me really happy!
  11. I am well-fed, I have a beautiful flat to live in and I am happy (most of the time).

I think it is also fair to acknowledge that my host family and anyone I encounter will struggle too. I am not the only one struggling with culture shock, even though it sometimes feels like it. We are never alone.

Ciao and Grazie (thank-you) for reading

Sarah Gale

 

A dream is a wish your heart makes….

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A dream is a wish your heart makes….

Hello everyone, Its been a little quiet here on my Blog lately. I have been so busy looking for jobs and doing work trials that I almost forgot my Blog existed. For that I apologize, I used to have such a passion for writing but lately I just haven’t been feeling it. From experience I know its best just to wait for the what I call “writing urge” to come back, forcing it can end in disaster (for me at least). There is something rather free about blogging, there are no restriction and I can ramble on without worrying too much.

Although there was supposed to be a point to this entry. If any of you have seen Cinderella (If not, where have you been and what have you been doing with your life?!), you will know the iconic message we get from it. A dream is a wish your heart makes. Now I used to love this phrase but recently I have not been loving it so much. What if you don’t know what your heart wants. Do I even know what my dreams are anymore? Unfortunately the answer to that is no. I had so many dreams which turned out to not be dreams at all. For example I had always dreamed of working with animals, but after a degree in Zoology I realized that it wasn’t for me at all. I did a course with ex race horses and loved it but when I attempted to be an apprentice groom I felt as if something wasn’t right. It was wrong for me. I am discovering that my so-called dreams aren’t my dreams at all, they are diluted versions of things I thought I wanted. If they were real dreams, real ambitions they would be solid foundations I would want to build on.

Finding out that my dreams and ambitions weren’t actually what I wanted left me feeling like a failure and an idiot. I always thought I knew my heart but it turns out I have a lot more soul-searching to do before I really know it. I guess I was so desperate to have dreams and have that sense of achievement that I chased every dream that came along, even when it wasn’t right. Don’t get me wrong, my life so far has taught me more than I could have dreamed it would (unintended pun) and it hasn’t been a waste of time. It just took me a long time to realize that I have changed so much that I don’t know myself anymore. This is terrifying.

Thankfully I have an amazing God who loves me and will guide me whether I am being an idiot or not. He doesn’t care, he just wants the best for me and has amazing plans. I used to think of myself as a grown up, I was wrong. I am more like a Cygnet, Grey and fluffy and a little rough around the edges. I am not a hatchling but I am not yet a full-grown swan. I see swans and want to be beautiful and elegant and just like them, but I don’t want the inconvenience of going through life to get to that point. Unfortunately the only way to be a swan is to work hard, to make mistakes and to experience things I never thought I would. It might be painful, strange, unfamiliar and overwhelming at times but in the end it will be worth it. Swan analogies, you don’t see any of those around 😉 .

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A lovely Cygnet I saw in town

I think we all feel like this at some point and it is tempting to beat yourself up about it but next time you feel that way look around you. Everyone you know has felt or may still be feeling like a scruffy, ugly Cygnet, bumbling their way through life and trying to figure it all out. You are not a scruffy, ugly Cygnet, you are a child of God. You is kind, you is smart, you is important! You are also a human being and God loves you just the way you are, flaws and all. I am going to leave you with my favorite psalm, I promise not to make a sheep analogy.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    for ever.

Love and blessings

Sarah

 P.S For a fun game count how many times I wrote “dreams”…

Life after Africa

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Life after Africa

Its been far too long since I last wrote! I would love to say its because I’ve been so busy…but that would be a lie. Unless busy means obsessively playing Dragon Age. Over the past 2 months I have been trying to find a job, although by that I mean only applying for the ones I want, which in my case was just one! It was a library job if you were curious, and I didn’t even get shortlisted, but maybe it wasn’t meant to be. So I decided it was time for some help, and I signed on to job seekers. I am not going to pretend to be proud of myself. I am now a typical graduate, I live with my parents, I rely on the government to give me money and hopefully to help me get a job. I know, aren’t you jealous of how successful I am ;).

I am learning to swallow my pride, its a process. One that I am not going through gracefully. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so useless and confused about my life. What do I want to do? I don’t know, actually I do, I want to go back to Africa where, despite the difficulties, I had a purpose. My purpose now is to find my purpose. With Gods help I will get through this season in life without going crazy. I have discovered that to “be still and know I am God” is very difficult. When being prayed for last Sunday a friend said she saw me on Rollerblades, raring to go but I had no padding on, no protection. God wants me to wait so he can get all my protective gear on, elbow pads and the like. He is preparing me for something big, but I can’t see it. So many people are going through this feeling. All I want to do is go, but maybe I need to learn to enjoy just sitting in the presence of God.

When I move out of this place I will probably long to sit still and be back at the waiting season. I will endeavor to enjoy this place, because it is truly pathetic to complain about it. When I compare my situation to others less fortunate, I find I can see I have been so blessed. I have a loving family, a warm bed, a full stomach and endless possibilities, if only I choose to see them. Its all about perception, its a shame I forget about it until its too late. So I will continue to pray and grow, because God’s got my future in his hands, I just need to believe he does.

Lots of love and God bless you!

Sarah

xxx

Approaching the end, or is it the beginning?

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Approaching the end, or is it the beginning?

We are in week six now! Where has all the time gone? It is the sort of time where I am constantly trying to enjoy every moment and desperately holding onto the little time we have left. I can’t say I always enjoy every moment. Take today for example. A migraine came out of nowhere and was my first obstacle in enjoying every moment. Its pretty hard to enjoy the feeling of repeatedly being stabbed in the head with limited vision…I suppose we must be realistic in how we enjoy our experiences. Just because you go somewhere totally different does not mean you will instantly be positive all the time, you don’t just become a different person. It is a process, and there are plenty of challenges along the way.

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David, Helena and Roger teaching basic English conversation.

But I think this experience has been better because of the challenges. It feels like I have had a year of personal growth in the last 6 weeks. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22, and I have seen and done things I never thought I would do. No matter where you are in life, challenges will always be there. I have found that the way you react to those challenges reveals a lot about your character. I tend to hesitate and doubt myself. Sometimes I am terrified to even take a step. But then I pull myself together, give myself a little pep talk and take that step anyway. I might be trembling as I do it but the most important thing is that I challenge myself. I might also complain a lot, but we all need to change.

The truth is life is too short to waste our opportunities, even though I find myself doing this frequently! Its like we can see the sand running low but we just go about our everyday business anyway. Even if its not what we want to do, I find that we tend to get a bit too comfortable if we have a bog standard job that we don’t actually like. Its easier to stay in that place because moving would mean change, pain and difficulties! Most of all it means..God forbid…taking a risk! I’m glad I took this risk. Its been no picnic but I have so many memories I will treasure forever. Perhaps we need to find the gold among the dirt. I suppose that’s what makes the gold so valuable.

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We got to meet Davids sister (one of his many siblings) which was lovely 🙂

Last week we ran a lot of holiday camps, it was truly wonderful, if a bit challenging. I do not like public speaking in any way but I felt that I needed to face my fear. We all taught different lessons, like sexual health, HIV/AIDS and sanitation and hygiene. I led a session on setting personal and future goals. It was weirdly not as bad as I thought it would be. I did have a bit of a cry/panic afterwards but it was only small. The next time I did it I found it easier. I suppose practice really does help. I am not going to say that I am amazing at public speaking now, but I have something to build on which is a miracle for me. I thank God for giving me the strength, without him I would not have been able to do it.

Today we went to Peters school to teach English. Despite the migraine I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was a fantastic moment where it started to rain heavily and we were unable to teach anymore. So the students got a drum and started to dance. It was amazing, I felt so much joy in that moment. Weirdly it was one of my biggest highlights! I suppose its good appreciate everything, even if it seems small to other people. It reminded me of this quote: “Until God opens the next door praise him in the hallway”. Its easy to get caught up in your issues, but to praise God regardless of your situation, that is conquering life. That is truly embracing life’s ups and downs, I am not there yet but I will get there.

The most wonderful moment!

The most wonderful moment!

Murakose ( thank you) for reading!

Much Love and Gods blessings

Sarah

xxx

Life in Kigali: Week four!

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Life in Kigali: Week four!

Firstly I wanted to apologize for not updating my blog for so long! It has been quite busy here so I have found it hard to update my personal blog. I have however been updating the team blog ( http://aeekigaliautumn2014.wordpress.com/) so go and check that out if you want a little more detail on the work we are doing in Kigali.

So I am going to be brutally honest. A lot of people will try to sugarcoat volunteering, telling you only the good things that have been happening and conveniently missing out the issues and struggles. I am so guilty of this! The problem is there are issues and you will get frustrated. We are in a new country, a new environment and we have to deal with lots of different problems. Such as culture shock, the heat, the food, being ill and sometimes a feeling of uselessness. For the first week I felt so useless, lazy, unable to do the work and weak. We were doing a lot of field work such as irrigation (a fancy way of saying watering), planting banana trees, visiting beneficiaries of AEE (African Evangelistic Enterprise) and being asked advice when quite frankly I just didn’t know what to say (or that I was qualified to say anything).

Planting banana trees in Gicaca, it was wonderful but hard work!

Planting banana trees in Gicaca, it was wonderful but hard work!

It was really hard to get used to, these were things I had never done and I just felt like such a failure. To top it all off getting work for us to do was very difficult, we couldn’t teach English to the children until November as they had exams, the staff never seemed to have office work for us to do (through no fault of their own) and it was all very slow. That meant I had that much more time to over think everything, I wondered what I was doing here, why did I think I could help anyone, I should just go home.

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All the wonderful people who work at Gicaca banana plantation

Luckily I had a supportive team to help me through it all. In fact we were probably feeling similar so it was almost easier, to know that I wasn’t suffering alone. That sounds awful but there really is nothing worse than feeling like no-one can understand what you are going through. These feelings would be like a fleeting wind, there one minute and gone the next. It was certainly an emotional roller coaster. However as I became busier and more used to the work we were doing I started to feel much better about the experience. I felt like we were really helping, even if it was in a small way. The understanding that we were building on the previous teams work was helpful.

I think that the impact we make cannot always be seen. We may never see that banana tree we planted fully grown, we may not even be able to taste its bananas. But that doesn’t matter, we put into motion something tangible and real. Just because you do not see the effect doesn’t mean its not there. The advice we gave to those beneficiaries could have been invaluable to them. They might put our words into actions and this could benefit their lives abundantly. The point is that we must believe our actions and words are important, they have an effect on the people around us and they shape our world, which in turn will shape the wider world. This is why we need to think carefully about what we say and do, and be thankful for every opportunity we get to change the worlds around us. Not everyone is lucky enough to do this and not everyone has a say in their own world.

So do not worry if you feel discouraged, I believe it is just a part of the process. We might not change the world immediately but we can all put into motion something that will. All you need is a drop to create a ripple.

I feel like this bible verse is appropriate: 1 Corinthians 15:58- Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Murakose (Thank-you) for reading and God bless you

Sarah

xxx

Just one of the many beautiful places in Kigali!

Just one of the many beautiful places in Kigali!