Merry Christmas from Macha

Christmas in Macha looks pretty different than it does in Canada. To be honest, I keep forgetting that Christmas is coming. If it wasn’t for everyone’s photos on Facebook as a reminder it might have just passed me by altogether.

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A few weeks ago we borrowed the MICS Christmas tree and put it up in our home which the boys had fun decorating. We also brought our stockings and have hung them in the window. Some of you might remember from the story of our Zambino, that stockings have been an emotional thing for me the past few years. This year, I am thrilled that I get to use another one. Although his name isn’t on it yet, Nathaniel has by far been the best gift of the year.

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Almost 5 months old

The hardest part of Christmas here is definitely missing family. I am thankful for technology and the chance to Skype. My family celebrated a few days ago and I was able to watch as my parents opened a gift from all of us.

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A Lego nativity scene Joel created for the boys

The best part of Christmas here? The simplicity. There has been nothing stressful about Christmas. On Christmas day the boys will open a few gifts (that were bought over a year ago), likely play in the dirt for hours and then we’re having a barbecue since we’re scheduled to be without power for the afternoon and evening. It’ll be different but one we won’t forget.

Whatever your Christmas looks like, we hope it’s a great one. Merry Christmas from Zambia! 

We’re Looking for an Intern!

Fifteen years ago, I got on a plane by myself and flew to Africa for the first time. Ironically, I was on my way to work at a school in rural Zambia. I knew from a young age I wanted to work with kids in Africa and as my first year of university was coming to an end, I had a strong sense it was time. So I took the first half of my second year off and worked for a term at Sakeji School. My jobs were many… from making ice cream, to helping kids learn to read, planning crafts and activities, teaching swimming (they had a river-fed pool…it was lovely!), helping with baths and bedtime. Virtually every student was a boarder so just loving kids who were far from their parents was my most important role.

Of course there were challenges, but I loved it. I met some incredible people and had a sense of purpose like I never had before. I credit that experience as the nudge I needed towards my teaching degree and eventually specializing in ESL. Without it, I might very likely not be here right now.

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Christy, our intern this past term.

All that to say, a similar opportunity is available here at MICS. We are looking for a young adult to join us as an intern next term from February 1 to April 1, 2016. No experience is required… just a love for kids and a willingness to serve. If you know someone who might be interested please share this with them. For more info please contact me at juliannepercy@gmail.com.

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There are even cute babies to hold!

Last term we were blessed with an amazing intern named Christy who had a huge impact on the students here. Watch her share some of her experiences here and learn more about MICS in general here. Thanks!

End of the School Year

Two weeks ago we finished our last term of the school year. It was a busy time for everyone with the Christmas program, report cards and end of year activities. MICS experienced a great deal of growth in the 2015 school year. We went from around 140 students when we arrived to 176 at the end of November. Some classes now have waiting lists as we’ve capped class sizes to help maintain a high quality of education. It’s exciting to be part of a school that is having a growing influence in the Macha community.

 

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MICS 2015

The boys finished Reception (like kindergarten) and will be moving on to grade one in January. They are excited to be moving to the classroom block where the big kids are. Mommy is a bit sad that she won’t be able to spy on them from our veranda during break time. We’ve now begun a seven week term break before the new school starts in the middle of January. While there is work to be done, it’s a slower pace and quieter. We are enjoying extra time as a family and looking forward to a trip to Livingstone in just over a week.

 

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Reception class in early 2015

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Reception class in November. Amazing growth!

Let It Rain

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Micah came running into the house, “The clouds are dark. I think it’s going to rain!” Not long after, we heard the sounds of thunder and the skies opened. Sweet, beautiful, cool rain fell from the sky. I put on my rain boots and went outside enjoying the amazing sensation of feeling cool for the first time in weeks. Everyone was out watching. The boarding kids danced and played. It feels like the temperature has gone down by about ten degrees and we’re enjoying the cool breeze through our house. Please pray that the rains continue. This country needs it, but we are thankful for the first signs of hope. Today is definitely a good day!

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Why Today Was Hard

I’m a big fan of vulnerability. I want to share the hard stuff as well as the good stuff. I think it’s important but it’s not easy to do. I’ve written several posts (which I haven’t shared….yet) where I’ve felt like I’ve had to have some kind of silver lining. But today, at the risk of sounding like a bit of a whiner but in the spirit of being real, I’ve decided I’m simply going to tell you why today has been hard.

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We’ve both done a little of this today

  • It’s hot. This is the hottest time of year. We have no air-conditioning and a few fans when the power is working. But sometimes it just feels like more hot air blowing on you…which it is.
  • I have a baby. I love him. He’s a gift. He’s adorable. But this week has been hard. He’s been way more fussy than usual, especially around nap time. His naps are short and I have no sweet clue how to change that. I feel like a first-time mom all over again. My usual soothing techniques have had little effect this week. It’s frustrating not being able to help him.
  • It’s hot and I have a baby. Have I mentioned that already? Sometimes breastfeeding or cuddling or soothing is no fun when the two of us are dripping in sweat. I might cry too if someone picked me up and held me tight in this heat.
  • Power outages. We just learned that in addition to our 8 hour daily outages, the power will also be out from 6pm to 9pm each day. Enough said.
  • Being homebound. Sometimes it’s hard having nowhere to go. I don’t mind being a stay-at-home mom for now but I miss having options…going to the gym, a playdate, visiting grandparents or a trip to the grocery store. We didn’t even make it on our daily trip to the office today. The farthest I’ve gone is the clothesline.
  • Neck and back pain. I’ve had neck pain since the early weeks of Nathaniel’s life, likely due to breastfeeding. And my back hurts from carrying him so much. I would love to be able to book an appointment with my chiropractor or massage therapist today. My pillow is too soft and I wake up in pain. But instead of a two minute walk to Homesense to buy a new one, a decent pillow is a seven hour drive away.
  • Food choices. I was actually thinking this morning how many more options we have in Zambia than we did in Zimbabwe. But I’d still love a chocolate croissant, or some ice cream or a bowl of raspberries. I miss the luxury of unlimited choice.
  • Friendships. This is hard to admit but it’s easy to feel forgotten. I know life goes on back home and I can’t base my happiness on the number of messages in my inbox, but on the days or weeks when there are none and I feel like I could really use it, it can be discouraging.
  • Cloth diapers. Not the worst but not my favourite and definitely more work. And today some cows tried to eat them off the clothesline for lunch (thanks to Arja who noticed and chased them away before they did too much damage).
  • Validation. It’s hard being a primary school teacher at a primary school and not teaching. My boy needs me right now but it’s not easy being an observer in the busyness that surrounds us and feeling like my biggest accomplishment of the day was a load of laundry.
  • Living on a school campus. Let me be clear, this is generally an awesome thing with many perks and I know I signed up for this. But when you finally get your son to sleep and over 150 kids walk past his window, it can be a little frustrating.

How is your day going? Do you have someone you can tell the truth to if it’s not “fine” like we all tend to say? I encourage you to try it. I feel better already. 🙂

Grade Seven Exams

This week the grade seven class at MICS is taking their national exams. They must get a certain score to continue on to secondary school next year. Due to the quality of education at MICS, all students who have taken the exam in the past have been able to continue on to further education. As we all know, education is key to giving them a brighter future.

Join us in praying for these students this week, that they will be focused and do well. They are bright kids and have worked so hard to get this far. We are excited for all that is ahead for them.

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Mainza, Fostinah, Divide, Lumuno, Prince and their teacher Ms. Nambeye

To learn more about MICS check out one of our videos here.

A New Normal

It’s been a few weeks since we arrived back at our home in Macha. The boys have been happily riding their bikes, playing outside and are back at school. There have been a few hesitations but it’s great to have them back in a routine… at least Mommy thinks so!

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Sleeping soundly on his first plane ride

Joel is back to work, focusing on strategic planning for the school and I’ve been home with Nathaniel. I am taking the rest of the term (which ends late November) to focus on my little guy who likes to eat and sleep often in the heat. The hope is that when the new school year starts in January he’ll be on some kind of a nap schedule and I’ll be able to work in some capacity with students again. The beauty of living at the school is that I can even have students come to my veranda and work from home. We will figure it out as we go but for now I’m thankful to simply be a mom in these early months. It’s hard to believe that Nathaniel is already 10 weeks old and as we are reminded often by our Zambian friends, he is a big boy!

Adjusting back to life here has, and will continue to inevitably have it’s ups and downs. It’s strange living at a primary school and not working with the kids. It can be a challenge being at home when there’s so much going on around us. But we enjoy daily walks to visit Daddy and Arja in the office and say hi to whoever is around. A few days ago we listened as the grade one class loudly sang in the activity room and stopped by when they whole school was learning about animals. We go to chapel when our day allows and attend our weekly team meetings. These little ventures out are good for me and I know we’ll get more involved as Nathaniel grows. I remember the struggle of having two babies at home in North America, often not seeing anyone else for a whole day. The isolation was the hardest part of motherhood for me and I know our new situation has its advantages. I can watch (or spy on!) Caleb and Micah play with their friends at break time from my house. I recognize how unique that opportunity is.

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Soccer after dinner in our very parched backyard

It’s been very dry, windy and hot. We often have to shield ourselves from clouds of dirt when we’re walking and it doesn’t take long for a layer of dust to settle in our homes, even with windows and doors closed. Weather-wise this is the most challenging time for me to be here. We are also experiencing daily rotating eight-hour power outages. A few gas burners, some solar lights and powered electronics definitely help us manage.  Rumour is that the situation will only get worse so we are anticipating what’s next. The value of the Zambian Kwacha has dropped significantly since we arrived in January. Although we are far from the hyperinflation we experienced in Zimbabwe, the economy isn’t in great shape. We are praying for things to stabilize and for good rains in the upcoming rainy season which will hopefully begin in the next month or so.

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Laundry dries quickly in the heat

While we were home, many of you commented to us about how much you enjoy reading the blog and getting updates. As we continue sharing our life here, if there are specific things you’d like to read about, please leave us a comment and we’ll do our best to write about them. We want to know what YOU are interested in. Thanks for continuing to follow along!

Going Home

We arrived in Canada three months ago and what a summer it’s been. Almost seven weeks ago we welcomed our sweet Nathaniel into our family. He is thriving and we are loving life with him. But on Monday night we begin our long journey back to Macha. It’s time to go home. As I’ve been processing the thought of leaving it is definitely bittersweet but I’ve been struck by the privilege it is to have two homes. Two places that couldn’t be more different from each other, but they both feel like home with people who are dear to us. In some ways, it is harder to leave this time than it was in January. It’s not easy to take a baby who seems to change daily, away from family. But I know this time was an unexpected bonus and I’m grateful for the months we’ve had here. Although I’d love to say I had a baby in the bush of Zambia, we remain confident this was the right decision for our family.

While I’m sure there will be tears tomorrow and goodbyes will be hard, we are ready to go home… to our house, to MICS, to our work and to our friends in Macha. After three months of being spoiled the boys are in need of some routines and to be back at school. We are incredibly grateful to my parents who have opened their home to us over the last few months, to friends who have given us baby equipment or filled our tummies with delicious meals and the countless other ways we’ve been loved and supported while we’ve been here.

We appreciate your prayers as we return to Zambia and adjust to life there with a young baby. The country is now experiencing eight hour daily power outages which will make life more of a challenge (you can read more about it here). Our next visit is planned for Christmas 2016 so this will be our longest stretch away. We recognize this adventure is not possible without the love and generosity of so many of you. Thank you for your support as we continue on.

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First swim

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First time at the farm

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First smiles

Baby Nathaniel

He is finally here! In case you have not yet heard, on Monday morning at 5:39am, we welcomed Nathaniel Elijah Percy into the world. He weighs 9 lbs 3 oz and is, in my unbiased fatherly opinion, as cute as a button. Nathaniel means “given of God”, and he is certainly a wonderful gift.

The little guy kept us waiting until the last possible moment. With Julianne’s pregnancy extending beyond 41 weeks, her doctor had scheduled an induction for 8am on Sunday. But, around 4am, Julianne woke me to tell me she thought the baby had decided to come on his own. Some of us just work better with a deadline.

After 28 hours of labour, little Nathaniel was born. Joining us in the room for the birth were Julianne’s mother, as well as our incredible doula, Angie, who provided hours of support and encouragement throughout the process.

Caleb and Micah have been thrilled to welcome their little brother into the family, showering him with love and taking very seriously their job of teaching him all about the world. When he first arrived at the hospital, Caleb walked up to Nathaniel, pointed to himself and said, “This is called a ‘kid'”. Micah is already making plans to teach him about all the essentials: baseball, outer space, and really big numbers like a million.

As we sat in the hospital room together, enjoying our first moments as a family of five, Micah turned to me and said, “Daddy, I think a baby being born is kind of like magic.” I completely agree.

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