August 24, 2009

climbing sand dunes...

Sometimes when there are so many good things to look forward to I find it so hard to live in the moment. I'm enjoying myself so much at the time that my mind races ahead to the next thing and then the something after that...when there's just so many great things at once or to follow I just can't seem to help myself! I'm reading such a great booked right now called "Too small to ignore"- on the importance of children. Not just because they are our future and who they will become and how they will greatly be of influence, but for how they are of influence NOW, and how they are valuable NOW as the children they are. I wanted to write down a brief part of one chapter:

"But on one scale, they are fully equipped from birth and are on par with every proud adult. What is this scale? They have as uch time as anyone else. Twenty-four hours each day, 168 hours each week- children enjoy the full allotment given to us all.
Of course, they don't know it as such. Their gift of time is subconscious. They certainly do not know how to measure time and thus how to allocate it scientifically. They keep no datebooks of palm pilots to tell them what should happen next.
Early in children's lives big people endeavor to teach them how to tell time...but while the science of telling time is difficult, the daily enjoyment of time by children proceeds unhindered Only gradually do time constraints start to make an impact."

These kids remind me of that- there is always time to play, there is always time to make something mundane and routine play, there is always time to be together without watching the clock for the next activity, the next something...

It's just one of the many lessons that these children re teach me, and what this tour has shown me. We were not meant to live the North American life of being "too busy" that has somehow become so glorified- we need more to just breathe, enjoy, wonder, and simply relax.

There were so many good moments to enjoy in this one evening. Our hosts took Sarah, Rose, and I to climb huge sand dunes and for a picnic and campout bbq. While my hosts did all the picnic preparations I tried to keep up with the girls (too quick) pace up the dune, but I did a great job after reaching the top keeping up with them on the race back down! (I got beat out by the energetic toddler climbing up beside me but felt some reassurance in the two 10 year olds who fully collapsed halfway and just rolled in the sand)
Running down sand dunes for the night with two precious 8 year olds screaming, holding your hand, chasing you, and yelling at the top of their lungs in sheer excitement as their feet carried them uncontrollably downhill is one of the most carefree feelings.

Lydia, Scovia, and Ang joined us at the end of our picnic and ran a couple more times with us- Lydia took the jello from our picnic as her "mountain snack", conveniently needing a rest break every 10 seconds for a piece of purple jello square. Scovia turns to her and accusingly says "Lydia. Are you a snacker?" I mean really, taking on the same concerned tone as if she was asking someone "are you a smoker?" Quite funny. Sometimes I wonder if all the children I've ever met have ever made me laugh and smile so much.

One good thing after another, we went to the lake and swam- one of my ultime favourite feelings is to jump the waves- even better with 2 girls jumping with you clinging like little monkeys to your side!

After putting the girls to bed my host treated me to Moomoos icecream- a local icecream store on a dairy farm. Everything is home made and it was voted best icecream in the entire nation- I can no say I have enjoyed a waffle cone of the best white chocolate raspberry creamy iceceam in the nation! And I say goodnight to you now, already looking forward to when I wake up and get to enjoy my day off by the beach and in downtown Traverse City!

August 5, 2009

Deja vu?

Read back to Saturday October 11, 2008 when we had just driven into beautiful Appleton Wisconsin in the fall. Half the choir lived within one block of each other, and my hosts in Appleton gave the kids their first fireworks and s'mores experience. Just short of a year ago later- last week found us reuinted with our same host families from this church! Pulling into the parking lot was surreal in an experience where nothing apart from the tour family I live with is ever familiar. I could remember "that parking lot where the kids placed soccer", "that area outside of the church we met at as a staff deciding how to explain halloween", "that part of the grass where little Raceal and I ran accross the parking lot at full speed to collide into each other with hugs"....I recounted with Angela that afternoon how strage it was- looking at that church, remember in detail the concert, how we celebrated hers and Lindsey's birthday there, and looking back on how much has changed. How we have gone from originally a team of 10 to now a team of 7. I can picture the children playing soccer from mental photographs and I can't believe how much they've grown. And then I can picture myself there too- where I was at, the lessons I'm still learning, but the many ways in which I've grown and changed too.

My host family asked me as we eagerly spent the drive home catching up on each others lives my plans for next year. Last October I wouldn't have been able to answer that at all, and now I could talk with her about how tour has grown passions within me I never fully saw before, and the incredible sense of joy I've felt from working relationally with the kids, children, and using music with them. On the ride home she asked how San Fransisco with Josh Groban went- I had to rewind the memories of tour to last November- last November! It seems so far away now, but I had just found out I would be going to San Fransisco when I met this host in Appleton. It made me stop and slowly playback the highlights of tour so far in my mind. When you live day in and day out with someone you easily forget how much you've been through together, and really just how close you have become.

That night Lillian, Gladys (the same girls I'd had before at this stay), and Lydia now too, as well as Esther and Racheal who stayed right next door with Ang came over for paddleboat rides on the pond behind their home. Later that night Patrick and his boys joined us too for boating and smore making too. My hosts still had the picture frames the girls had made with their pictures inside on the fridge, and a photo of all of us on the mantle to remember us in prayer. The girls were so suprised that the hosts still "remember my name! And have my picture up!" as Lillian put it. I thought about how neat it must be for these hosts as we snapped more group pictures that night to be able too see us all again and to also be able to measure the growth they've seen in these children as well.

After the girls were in bed Ang, Patrick, and I went for a long walk together- it isn't until I'm in the country and can walk around at night by a path lit solely by stars that I miss the vast open sky of the country, otherwise covered up by skyscrapers of city skylines. I finished the night around the fire with two of my closest friends, talking late into the night as flames from marshmallow roasting died into fllickering embers.

August 2, 2009

rest stop

People stop and ask me questions when we stop for bathroom breaks as we travel all the time. Most of the time it catches me off guard - how do you know I'm traveling with 22 African children? Oh yes, I remember- I am clearly labeled with a massive ACC logo covering my chest and, the logo on my jacket (yes a jacket- it is getting cooler...but I also fear that no Canadian winters and a winter in Texas has left me a wimp!) Anyways, today as Ang and I brought up the must try Wisconsin cheese curds to the cashier the lady at the till asks:
"Where are you performing?"
us: " Well, we just did a performance in Fish Creek, and now we're headed to Washburn to do a concert Sunday evening."
"So where are you from then- Fish Creek or Wisconsin?"
to this we smiled "Neither- the children are from Uganda" (to which she stared at as blankly- so we clarify "Uganda, Africa. They travel as part of this choir to get the financial support they need to get an education back home"
At this point she gets very excited "Africa!" and turns to the cashier beside her "Did you get that? They're from Africa!" To which the lady just nods politely.
But don't they miss their families?" she asks. We explained that most of them are partially orphaned or come from very vulnerable situations. "What? That happens? Oh my goodness, that is so sad, that is just so sad isn't it?"
As we're collecting our cheese to go, Angela adds "It is but these kids have the greatest joy, love, and happiness for a hope in the future."
At that point all the lady said was "Oh wow."
She was completely taken back by it all- the fact that the children are from Africa, that they live in poverty and come from needy situations, but that they are joyous. That amidst their sufferings there is a hope for poverty that is hard to imagine and shockingly sad.

As we walked out of the store my first thoughts were that the cashier was quite naive. But immediately following was my second thought- that how great that couple minute by chance counter was with her. That lady was both so genuinely concerned and excited by what little information she'd discovered through our conversation together. It just got me thinking how much more I want to influence people here in North America to broaden their perspectives and get them involved, connected, educated, hurting, and caring for those in poverty in this world. This one cashier made me imagine just how many more people there are out there- ignorant to the realities of how most of our world lives. It made me imagine just where we could be with more people aware and ready to help bridge the gap between rich and poor- ust imagine, with people on board- excited, educated, ready to give, where we would be?
I was just thinking about it after I hit the "publish post" button on my last entry....simplest things really are the greatest source of joy after all. I just managed to write a couple paragraphs worth of stories from tonight- to anyone else a simple swim for a couple hours and drink before bed. Wonderful isn't it how it can be so much more?

August 1, 2009

wet and worth it

I had to double check my schedule to tell you where I'm writing from tonight- we've come a long ways this week, and so many travel days later in a hotel room in Hurley Wisconsin it feels nice to curl up and relax in the easy silence of a room alone tonight.

Today was a great day. I gradually watched the scenery around me turn into what reminded me of a more Canadian landscape as we drove on the U.S side of Lake Michigan. Even the small fishing village of Fish Creek Wisconsin reminded me of the Port Stanley- a fishing port and beach that our family has celebrated every Canada Day at together. I love the long bus rides. I love having the day ahead of me to leisurely spend it between reading a stack of books for the kids around me, reading myself, listening to music, and then allowing it to let me drift in and out of resting. After setting out today just after breakfast we got to the hotel around 4:00. At first I wasn't going to, but I decided to get in the pool and swim with all the kids at the hotel. I had so much fun! It was one of those moments of just genuinely enjoying the children and making the most of months left with them. As I get tired more often I have to remind myself to really take these times and cherish them. I ended up having a blast piggy back swimming the boys through the deep end, playing tag with Lino, and what initially began as helping Lydia learn how to kick properly turned into almost all the children at the side of the pool playing red lights green light with me...took me right back to my swim teaching days! Funny story:
I spent some time with Geoffry helping him learn how to float- coaching him along to keep his head up and tummy up. At this point Nelson walks over, announcing that he is my personal assistant in teaching, and upon seeing Geoffry's large stomach ballooning out of the water says to his stomach "Wow there- down boy! Sit!"

After swimming, I asked the girls if they wanted to make some chai tea together for bed- which was met by Gladys screaming and jumping around the room, and Peace running at me- flinging herself on me like a monkey saying "Auntie- you're the best!" And so we went to the lobby and made chai- or should I say had sugar with a bit of chai? Then me and the 5 girls piled onto my bed- drinking tea, listening to devotional songs, singing together, and then praying for the person that was beside us. I tucked them in a couple hours ago and couldn't be feeling happier.

Tomorrow we are headed to Washburn to perform in an outdoor theater part of a summer music series- check it out!