Two Years Later…

Two years. Two years ago today, we drove away from Macha for the last time. While I fully intended to chronicle our transition back home, I think we can all agree that the last two years haven’t looked like what any of us expected. So, why am I back here now, unsure if anyone is still around to even read this? I don’t have a clear answer except that it feels like a way to cope with the emotions this anniversary brings (Side note: I did plan to do this at the one year mark, but it came and went as we were flung into another lockdown and here we are another year later). So thank you for indulging me in some ramblings.

Leaving Macha when we did, was the right decision, but I didn’t really want to leave. I loved our life there, my kids were thriving, I had a challenging and fulfilling job, we had great friends. We returned home in mid December of 2019 and were quickly engaged in Christmas festivities and then moving back to our house. The twins started school and the transition was surprisingly smooth. It turns out finding friends who also love soccer on their first day, made for an easy adjustment and we are so grateful for that.

The next few months were full of all the practical things of moving back, unpacking, making our house a home again and enjoying a few of the things we missed. There was definitely an underlying current of grief for me, but I was often distracted by all the tasks and decisions of starting a life over.  By February, I had already booked tickets for my first trip back a few months later in May. Knowing I planned to return to Macha a few times a year, helped my heart immensely with the idea of leaving. I didn’t rush to reconnect with everyone here because unlike our shorter visits back, I knew this time we had time on our side and there was just a lot to do. 

Our last Christmas program at MICS – December 2019

But as things started to settle on the outside, there wasn’t as much to distract from all the emotions beneath the surface. I remember a weekend in March when I didn’t want to get out of bed. I told Joel I was tired of pretending that this all felt normal, because it wasn’t normal. I didn’t feel normal. And little did I know that five days later the whole world would shut down and any semblance of normal would disappear for a very long time. For everyone. I would have spent those first few months very differently if I had known.

I have to admit that in the early weeks of the pandemic, I felt pretty good. Helping my kids with learning at home, provided another distraction and a sense of purpose. And as strange as it may sound, there was something comforting about the collective grief that was around me. Although it was for different reasons, it didn’t feel like I was grieving alone. Things didn’t feel normal for anyone. It felt like everyone else was joining me in the feelings that were already very real… grief, uncertainty, nothing feeling like it should be. I had already been there for months.

Our last day of school at MICS – December 2019

I am pretty sure that anyone reading this can say it’s been a challenging few years. It feels like we’ve been flung into perpetual survival mode. On top of all the difficulties the pandemic has brought, the regular challenges of life continue… illness, death, strained relationships, parenting etc. None of it goes away. Sometimes just getting through the day, feels like the accomplishment of a lifetime. There are glimpses of “normal” until we are hit with the next thing. It can be hard to have hope that things will get better. But we keep going.

So what is it like to move from one home you love to another? It’s hard but it’s been mixed up with a whole lot of other hard (and plenty of good in there too) so it’s not easy to know what is what. How do you figure out what’s behind your feelings in any given moment? We never could have anticipated what we were coming home to. It has not been an ideal situation to re-establish community and reconnect with people. There are still some people I haven’t seen yet. Everyone’s emotional reserves are low and we are all doing the best we can. It can feel lonely but there is also an abundance of grace knowing that not many people are doing all that great in this season. Thankfully seasons change. This one just feels like a very long winter.

At the Livingstone Airport for the last time – December 2019

For me, the grief of losing a life I loved is still very real and comes in waves. It turns out you can delay processing loss especially with the help of a global pandemic, but it doesn’t go away and will be waiting when your heart is ready. Knowing this anniversary was coming up, I’ve had several video calls in the last few weeks with dear friends in Zambia. Technology is an incredible gift and although time has passed, I still feel connected to many people who are dear to me. Those conversations are so good for my soul, but are also accompanied with some sadness knowing what (and who) I am missing. 

Those who have been through this transition, know that a part of your heart will always remain in the place you have left. The cost is a heart that will always feel a little broken, but the gain is the incredible privilege of calling two places homes. And it is absolutely worth it. I am forever grateful for our life in Macha and eagerly anticipate the day, hopefully sooner than later, when I can finally return.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Packing Up The Dreams

Change. We have had lots of experience with it over the last 5 years and we have more to come. Our original plan when we moved to Zambia was to stay for 3 years. We extended that twice as we weren’t ready to leave Macha or our work at MICS. Since January, Joel has stepped out of his role as director and we’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful local leader take over. Joel meets with him weekly to help mentor him as he’s been learning the role and I’ve enjoyed having a new boss who has been a pleasure to work with.

With all that said, we’ve made the difficult decision that we will return to Canada after the school year ends in December of this year. There are many reasons behind our decision which we are happy to share in personal conversations. But one of the main ones is that we have seen the transition through to becoming a Zambian-led school, we are confident in the team we have set in place and feel it’s the right time to step out of the way. We are excited to see how MICS will continue to grow and thrive, led by people who best understand the culture and context.

But our transition back to Canada also comes with a big dose of sadness. Macha is home. Our kids love it, they have good friends and are all doing well at MICS. I love my role and the incredible team I work with.  We have a dear friends and the pace of life suits us perfectly. As soon as we made the decision, I felt like my heart broke and pieces of it will forever remain on two sides of the world. We are embracing all the feelings that come with the anticipation of such a huge transition and a lot of times it feels hard. There is some fear of how we’ll all do in a life that in many ways feels foreign to us, but we don’t want to let fear dictate our choices and what we feel is best for our family and the school. We know we can do hard things, we have each other and a support system to help us along the way and a God who goes with us.

We have spent the summer in Canada, a trip we had booked before we made the decision to come home. While we normally wouldn’t have made the trip so close to finishing, it has ended up being a good time being with family and friends re-imagining our life here and making some decisions that will help with us with the transition… one of the big ones being that we will return to our home that we are thankful we’ve been able to rent out for our entire absence. While someday we envision a bigger yard a little out of suburbia, for now we need the familiar and can make more major life decisions down the road. 

A few months ago I read through my most recent journal, many pages filled with a longing for our children to experience life in a part of the world that is so dear to us. With many ups and downs (and surprises!) along the way, I am filled with gratitude that our dream was fulfilled and we’ve had the opportunity to call Macha our home. In a few days, we will get on a plane and make our final trip (for now) back to our home. We are all ready to get back to our house and routines and school and friends. We are ready for one more term at MICS, making more memories and not thinking too much about the coming goodbyes. Thanks for continuing to follow along as we once again, choose to mix it up!

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Our family at the Macha Dam

On your last day as Director of MICS…

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Dear Mr. Director,

For just over two years you have been leading the school where we work and call home. Today is your last official day as the director and I have a few things to say…

When our little crew got on a plane almost four years ago you didn’t have a very clear idea of what you’d be doing.  But you jumped in and did what you could to help with strategies and budgets and systems and all things important to keeping a school running. And then you were asked to take over. It wasn’t something you were planning or wanting but we felt like it was the right thing and again you jumped in. From corporate retail life to leading a little school in the bush, you could hardly have two different jobs, but you used your skills and leadership to keep MICS moving in the right direction.

You led meetings, you hired people, you made hard decisions, you taught in chapel and grade 7 math, you helped make budgets, you met with community leaders to learn from them. You had the hard conversations that scared me and also challenged me to do things that weren’t easy. We didn’t always agree but you always listened to my point of view and we always ended up on the same page somehow. You were calm and wise when I was stressed and reactive. I’ve learned to become a better leader because of you!

I will miss having our desks a foot apart. I will miss the little things you say throughout the day to make me laugh while I plough through the administrative work I don’t love. I will miss our musings between interview candidates and seeing if our first impressions were in alignment.  I will miss walking home together at break time for a snack. I will miss watching you teach because few things make me prouder.

But we are both ready for a new phase and I’m excited to see you use your gifts in new ways, while still getting to enjoy life in a part of the world we love. I look forward to missing you a little when we don’t spend almost every minute of the day together and missing you a lot when you travel. I look forward to sharing about our days because they are different and we haven’t been constantly updating each other on every little thing. I look forward to  watching this little school continue to grow and thrive under new leadership and the ways you’ll give guidance in that process. And I still look forward to your advice as I come to you with all the changes and challenges that a new year brings.

I am so proud of you and grateful for your willingness to lead and the ways you have impacted MICS, along with the amazing team we’ve worked with everyday. I’m just sorry for you that you no longer get to boss me around 😉

With love,

Mrs. Director (as you affectionately call me) xo

 

 

 

Grade Seven Exams This Week

Grade Sevens

It’s that time of year again! Tomorrow our grade sevens will begin writing their week-long national exams. The curriculum has been covered, countless hours have been spent studying and reviewing, mock exams have been written and questions have been answered. Hopefully they are all heeding the director’s advice to just sleep and rest this weekend.

If you’ve heard us talk about MICS, you’ve likely heard us talk about these exams. Their scores are crucial in determining their future, not only in moving on to secondary school but the quality of school they get into. We are extra thankful that these exams are even happening this year. Just a few weeks ago all exams had been cancelled due to the leaking of one of the grade nine math papers. But by the middle of last week we received word that they will continue and we all breathed a big sigh of relief.

If you are the praying type, we ask for your prayers this coming week. Please pray that our students would have clear minds, calm spirits and healthy bodies as they tackle eight different exams. This is the largest grade seven class we’ve ever had at MICS, with twenty students writing. In comparison, our first year here in 2015 we had only five students writing. We are so proud of all the hard work they’ve put in to get to this point and know they will do their very best!

Our home away from home away from home…

Tomorrow we get on a plane and make the 24 hour trek to spend the summer in Canada. It’s been a full month or so for us as we started term two,  completed teacher evaluations, a staff meeting, PTA meeting, board meeting, an inspection from the ministry of education and all the little details we have to take care of being we go. We are happy the to-do lists are finished and we can focus on what’s next.

Having lived here for over three years, this time our trip home comes with a few more mixed emotions, at least for me. And that’s because Zambia truly feels like home. It is home. I feel comfortable here and on most days, I really love our life.  Canada will also always be home because family is home. But Zambia is where we are doing life in this season. We are so excited to arrive in Canada on Thursday and spend some much-needed time with family and friends. We are looking forward to eating food we have missed, swimming in pools and lakes, experiencing overnight camp for the first time, riding roller coasters, sleeping in tents and mostly being with people we love. The last time we were all there, we had a baby who couldn’t walk and could barely talk, who now runs and tells elaborate stories. We have boys who have grown and matured and are somehow 8 even though they were only 4 when we arrived.

But despite all that I am looking forward to, I admit it feels a little different this time. A little more bittersweet as we leave one home for another. Having two homes I have learned to do my best to be fully present in each one but also acknowledge and accept when I miss the other one. And I am realizing I will miss my home. I will miss Macha and life at MICS. I will miss the slower pace of life while enjoying the benefits of city living.  I will miss the beauty of the African bush while enjoying the serenity of Muskoka. I will miss eating nshima while I eat steak and ice cream and strawberries and bagels (Okay, I won’t really miss nshima but I’ll miss the company of the boarding kids we share it with!). I will miss joking around with the students while I have fun with my nieces and nephews. I will miss dear friends here, while I catch up with others there. I will miss inviting friends over for last-minute games of Settlers, while I enjoy the plans I have made months in advance…and also hoping for many spontaneous last-minute get-togethers, if I’m honest!

I am leaving home for home. It is beautiful, and complicated and exciting and challenging. It is a privilege to have two homes and I’m grateful for both the anticipation of arriving and the sadness of leaving. We look forward to reconnecting with many of you very soon! xo

 

School Opening Delayed Due to Cholera

The new year is already off to an interesting start. A week from today we were supposed to welcome back our teachers for a few days of training and then our students were to arrive Thursday to begin the 2018 school year.  However, there’s been a change of plans. We found out a few days ago that the government is not allowing any schools to open as scheduled next week. There has been a cholera outbreak in the country, mostly in the capital region of Lusaka. In an effort to contain it we are to remain closed and they will re-evaluate the situation on January 30th. In Zambia many children travel throughout the country to attend boarding schools so they are hoping this decision will prevent cross-contamination. As far as we know, there are no cases in the Macha area or nearby.

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Depending on where things stand in the country at the end of the month, we may or may not be opening. We hope it is soon as we are ready to get back into the routine of school. But more importantly we hope the situation gets under control for the health and safety of our staff and students as well as all citizens of Zambia. Please join us in praying for those who have been affected by cholera and that the outbreak would end soon. To learn more about the situation visit this article.

Highlights of 2017

2017 was a quieter year on our blog but as we welcome the new year, we just wanted to share a few highlights from term two and three.

The Jory Family
When we were home last Christmas, Nathan and Laura Jory, a couple from our church attended one of our dessert nights to learn more about MICS. I knew of them but didn’t really know them personally. That night led to Laura and I having coffee shortly after and just a few months later they brought their 4 children for a month-long visit in May and June. It was awesome to get to know them, share many meals together and introduce them to  life at MICS. Their children all attended school while Nathan and Laura helped in many parts of the school including teaching science, social studies and home economics. We always love sharing our life here especially with people back home, and we are grateful for a new friendship.

Our Trip to Zimbabwe
Over term break we took our second trip to Zimbabwe as a family. Last time I was pregnant so our friends had never met Nathaniel. Jake and Nancy Shenk graciously opened their home to us in Bulawayo. We attended the wedding of Thinkgrace Ndlovu, the daughter of Trezia and Danisa (the former BIC Bishop of Zimbabwe) and was great to be with their whole family again.  We went to Mtshabezi and stayed with Richard and Snoe and their family which always feels like home. A visit to Mtshabezi isn’t complete without seeing dear friends Mrs. Maphose and Rebecca as well. Mrs. Maphosa was a home-based care worker when we worked at the HIV/AIDS project, and who we consider our Zimbabwean grandmother and we got to know Rebecca through her. Rebecca wasn’t home as she had gone for a funeral but we drove around the bush with Richard and found her just before sunset. It was a sweet, surprise reunion!  We finished off our trip with a night at Shumba Shaba, one of our favourite places on earth, enjoying time as a family.

Reuniting with Siza
We met Siza at camp we helped run at Mtshabezi for kids who had lost one or both parents, back in December of 2006. Of the hundreds of kids she was someone I really connected with and saw great potential in. We have kept in touch over the years and she has become like a daughter to us. I finally got to see her again after more than 10 years. Some highlights of our time together included meeting her son (he calls me ‘Gogo’ which means Grandma), her getting to bond with all three of our boys and a shopping and lunch date for just the two of us. Reconnecting with her was a dream come true and definitely one of my top moments of the year.

Cape Town
In late September Joel and I were able to sneak away for 4 nights to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. (We’ve been married 12 years but we had a baby a few days after our 10th). This was our first extended time away together in many years and we enjoyed lots of good food, some winery tours, a visit to Robben Island and a trip up Table Mountain. Thanks to Amy who took such good care of our boys and dealt with a cobra in our house. Speaking of, we adopted a kitten named “Happy” a few days after we got home, who is helping to keep us snake-free…we hope!

 

Term Three
Term three was very full for us. I was in charge of our Christmas program so after picking some new songs for each class we starting rehearsing in early October and the kids worked really hard leading up to our two performances at the end of the term. Cynthia (our head teacher) and I did our second round of teacher evaluations which involved observing lessons and meeting with each teacher to talk about their strengths and areas for improvement. I also did end-of-year testing for our struggling students to see if they could move on to the next grade. This is probably my most stressful job as it feels like such a huge responsibility to make these decisions, but Cynthia and I worked well together. I’ve been trying to encourage more teacher-parent communication so these issues aren’t surprises. I finished off with final report cards and everything that wrapping up the year involves.

In his role as Director, Joel has been focused on creating a long term financial plan for the school, renewing staff contracts (the previous contracts expired in December), and partnering with the board of directors to increase teacher salaries. He has also been working closely with the Zambian Ministry of Education to finalize the process of formally registering the school with the Government. He also enjoyed teaching math to our Grade 7s and helping them prepare for the national Grade 7 exam.

 

Joel and the boys enjoyed a few weeks of downtime here while I was in Canada. I was able to easily get all my supply teaching days in, have an early Christmas with my side of the family, dinner with Joel’s family and catch up with some good friends. I was back just in time to have a quiet Christmas with my boys and recover from jet lag. We are looking forward to our new school year starting in a few weeks.

Thank you for all of you who continue to support us in our work here, especially as we’ve extended our time for an additional year. We wouldn’t be here without your generosity. We look forward to what 2018 will bring. We wish you a wonderful new year full of hope, joy, peace and love!

P.S. Don’t forget MICS has a Facebook page! Follow along with what’s happening around the school. We recently posted a series of videos from our Christmas program. Check them out!

 

 

 

The Year is Done and a Quick Trip for One

Today marks the end of our 2017 school year.  This last term has been very full and we have had a lot going on right up until the last day. We are thankful to be at the finish line with a longer break ahead of us. We look forward to sharing more about our year soon, but for now we will rest. Well, sort of…

Tomorrow I’ll be getting on a plane for a three week trip to Canada. With a well-timed surprise baby I was able to get a maternity leave from my occasional teaching position with my school board. I was given an addition leave in our second year but now I need to come home and do my required teaching days to stay employed. We decided this would be a good idea so one of us has a job when we move back, and we’re thankful this will only have to happen once in our whole time in Zambia.

Unfortunately I’ll be leaving all of my boys behind. I am dreading the goodbyes and the time apart but am also looking forward to saying hello to friends and family who I haven’t seen in almost a year. Having two homes is an amazing privilege and it is bittersweet, always excited to go to one and sad to leave the other. So if you happen to see a girl dreamily walking the aisles of a grocery store, likely with a disproportionate amount of treats in her cart, that could very well be me. See you soon Canada!

 

Grade 7 Exams This Week

We are into our final month of our 2017 school year. We are a bit behind on updates and have yet to let you know what we were up to in term two. But in the mean time, we’d like to ask for prayers for our grade seven students this coming week. From Monday to Friday they will be writing their national exams. Passing these exams is critical if they want to continue on to secondary education. These kids have worked incredibly hard this year, writing mock exams and putting many extra hours of studying in. Their teacher, Mrs. Muzyamba, who is teaching grade seven for the first time, has also done a fantastic job.

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If you are the praying type, please ask God for wisdom, confidence and good health this week. At least one of them has been sick today. These kids are ready but I know they are pretty nervous. Joel teaches them math and has been going over some test taking skills to help ease their fears. This our biggest graduating class at MICS and no matter what the outcome is we are so proud of these kids and all of the staff who have invested in them over the years to get them to this point. This is a very significant week in their lives. Thanks for praying!