Preparing for Transitions

In exactly one month, we will leave Macha and say goodbye to the life we have known for the past 5 years. A few days later we will arrive in Canada and begin another phase of life for our family. In recent days I’ve had several friends check in and see how we’re doing, for which I’m grateful. And while blog posts are certainly more rare these days I thought it might be a good time to let you know how we’re doing.


Our boys and many other students have competed the multiplication challenge.

Knowing this is our last term at MICS, we are trying to make the most of it. The twins are rarely home as they are often with the boarding kids or other friends. I’m glad they are thoroughly enjoying  this outdoor life and they are old enough to realize they will miss it. Emotions come out in various forms and we are trying to talk them through and be okay with whatever we’re feeling. It’s okay to feel sad because it is sad to leave here. It is okay to be a bit scared of what’s to come as it is filled with many unknowns. And it’s okay to feel excited because there is a lot to look forward to… the top of my list currently include being closer to family, grocery stores just minutes away and feeling cold again. We are just at the tail end of our dry and very hot season and I dream of sweaters and boots and hot apple cider.


Lots of dirt and as little clothing as possible.

Although he’s visited many times Nathaniel’s view of Canada is still very narrow, in that he basically only associates it with Canada’s Wonderland. The other day he told me that it’s probably better for us to live in our own house instead of Grandma and Grandpa’s because he thinks it’s closer to Wonderland. I’m curious how he’ll handle it when, despite constant reminders, he realizes his favourite thing occurs one day out of the year and he starts to experience concepts such as winter coats and pants and socks. It should be quite a ride!

Joel and I just had a glorious week away with good friends, getting some much needed rest and time together. In my head that trip was always the turning point, in that when we returned, the real packing would begin. Our house has certainly been a point of anxiety for me, where everything I’m surrounded with requires a decision of what needs to be done with it. And this weekend the process has begun. Purging and packing while still trying to live in a space has its challenges, including making sure I’m not always dealing with stuff and actually still engaging in the life and community around me.


Some kid-free time by the Indian Ocean.

Knowing we are down to a month, a new wave of sadness has hit me with the realization that we really will be leaving here soon. On the extra hard days it’s easy for my mind to go to all the things I’m looking forward to about life in Canada and all the things I find challenging about life here. And that’s okay, but five years in I know it’s easy to romanticize the “other home” and that there are plenty of hard days wherever you find yourself. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in recent years is that sometimes we just need to sit and feel the hard stuff. Both light and dark make up a whole day and I don’t want to miss out on its fullness.

My goals for this month besides reducing our belongings to five 50 pound bags, are to do my best to be present, help my family (including myself) sit with whatever emotions we find ourselves with, reinstate the practice of gratitude in my life to help me find joy, and make as many more memories as possible. We know how important it is to stay connected as a family while also feeling the pull of other relationships. The other day I got out a puzzle just to keep my kids in the house for a few hours when they’d usually be gone. Our family is one of the very few constants we have that bridge our two homes.


Our grade seven class before their graduation gift of a flight around Macha.

The last term of the school year is always busy here. Our grade sevens write their national exams next week and this is the first time they are doing it on our campus. We have always joined a local government school because of our small size, so it’s exciting that we are finally at a place to have our own exam centre. With it has gone in a ton of work from our staff to prepare and make sure we are following all the proper guidelines. Graduation will follow and I’m leading two choirs again because despite the large to-do list, music is something I love and feels life-giving. We will be testing students to see if they can go to the next grade as well as editing final report cards. We will have our Christmas program, something that I used to be heavily involved with and is now being run by our teachers. I’ve been stepping out of a lot of areas and will do my best to pass off the remaining things I have left. That part excites me as we have an amazing team at MICS, ready to learn and take on new challenges and I have full confidence in them.


Mr. Miyanda (deputy head), Mr. Munsaka (computer teacher) and Mrs. Mweene (head teacher), learning new things.

This isn’t an easy time of life. It is stressful and hard and busy and full of emotions that zap my energy. I’m sure many of you could say the same about whatever life circumstances you find yourself in. I’m thankful to those of you who continue to track with us and are supporting us right up to the end and into the next phase as we land in Canada. Your friendship, messages and prayers are valued. Endings lead to new beginnings and we are excited for what is to come. We don’t doubt this is still the right decision for our family and the school and we knew it would be hard. For now I’ll take a few deep breaths, shed some tears when I need to and do my best to stop and notice the beauty in the remaining moments we have here in Macha.

“…new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.”

― Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark


4 thoughts on “Preparing for Transitions

  1. I will pray for you and your family. As someone who just moved to Pikangikum and had to ship and pack up an entire house, I get the emotional toll (on some level) of choosing what should be given away, packed and shipped. Praying for all of you as you transition and feel the pulls of the place you have left and the place you are going to and all the emotions in-between. Praying for the reverse culture shock too. You are loved and appreciated beyond all measure.

  2. Dear Julie,

    We’ve never met and probably won’t, but I’ve been reading and enjoying your blogs for the last 5 years. I am Dan Sanfilippo’s sister. Jamie Sanfilippo is my nephew, and I live near Pittsburgh, PA.

    If you continue writing blogs or messages to your friends, I hope you will keep my name on the list. I admire you and your family and I wish you the best as you continue your life in Canada. You are an inspiration to those who know you and those who don’t, like me. I care about you and your family and wish you the best as you transition back to a new life in Canada.

    Best wishes!

    Jean Brown

  3. Wow. What an adventure you and your family have been on. You have done so many wonderful things for everyone. Including yourselves and your children. I have enjoyed hearing about your experience and hope one day to get to Africa to experience it myself. All the best during your last month and I look forward to getting together when you come back to Canada.

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