Archive for the ‘Learning’ category

Our Dinner with Nasser

February 15, 2014

It was a Newberg kind of night here in Ramallah.  It was a zip up your jacket, turn up the collar and bend into the rain, kind of night.  The locals are pleased for the rain and I am reminded of home.  They tell me that since the big snow storm in December there has been no rain. It was a one hundred year storm, with as much as three feet of snow in some areas of Israel and Palestine. The rains have returned, however.  I have returned from dinner and am staying in an apartment next to the gymnasium where the Senior Prom is going on for Ramallah Friends School.  A very loud combination of American and Arabic Pop is streaming up and out of the gym.  Nasser asked me if I was going to Prom, I told him no and he said, “Yeah, cause you don’t have a date”.

Elizabeth and I went out with Nasser, an international (American) teacher here at the Friends School.  Nasser is from the Chicago area, so it is only fitting we went back to the restaurant run by the man who was a Chicago chef back in the States. I had chicken shawarma.  Nasser and the restaurateur had an engaging conversation in Arabic.  We learned from Nasser that there are many Palestinians in the Chicago area.  We had a very good conversation about Friends, Palestinians, Christian living and the Ramallah Friends School.  I really benefited from this conversation and feel fortunate to have eaten at the Old Chicago Grill (my made up name) for a second time during this brief visit.

Ah, the music! I must admit that its kind of a catchy refrain, but I can only take it so many times:

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost

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Won’t you please come to Chicago…?

February 13, 2014

Elizabeth took me out to eat last night at a restaurant near where I am staying at the Ramallah Friends School.   I was very weary from a long journey from Kigali and from lack of sleep.  I was hungry though and the walk down the street was quite stimulating.  It is great to be here and to hear how Elizabeth is doing and what is going on here at the school.  The restaurant was busy and I glanced admiringly at several tables, seeing some really good looking food.  The man who greeted us recognized Elizabeth and he warmly greeted me and seated us.  Elizabeth had a sandwich (a wrap) with lamb, I had a pita sandwich with falafel. The food was fresh and tasty.  It was very good.  The greeter/waiter appeared to be the owner.  I told him I was from Oregon, USA and I thanked him for the wonderful meal. He told me he has learned to cook in France and then was a chef in Chicago for a time.  I suggested to him that Americans would love the type of food he was serving in his restaurant here in Ramallah.

2014-02-08 11.38.17 This is a large city of about 300,000.  There has been a Friends school here since about 1900.  Essentially this school was established at about the same time as George Fox University. I begin my interactions with school personnel shortly and greatly look forward to it.

I am grateful to be here and to have this opportunity to see Elizabeth Todd again.  She is serving as a Friend in residence here at this school.  Last summer, she issued an invitation to me to come and visit and I am glad that I was able to coordinate this visit by adding it on to my trip to Rwanda.  What is interesting about that is that she has worked with a number of the Quaker leaders and pastors who were participants in the training that we did last week at the Rwanda Friends Theological College in Musanze.  Several of them, when they found out that I was coming to see her, asked me to send their greetings to Elizabeth.

I cannot quite make sense out of all the different impressions I have so far.  The combination of weariness, lack of sleep, wonder at being in a new place, amazement at the contrasts in the landscape, similarities to rural Kenya and the warmness of the people I have met, have made my first day and night in the West Bank a truly amazing experience.  This morning as I prepare for my day, I remembered a couple of lines from a Graham Nash song from 1971: “We can change the world, rearrange the world, its dying- to get better.” I pray, with God’s help that I can change myself, rearrange myself.  I cannot help change the world if I cannot change my own life.  I am so thankful to Christ, my Present Teacher, for his patient shaping of my life.

Won’t you please come to Chicago, no one else can take your place.

Old Friends, New Friends

June 1, 2010

Tuesday in Kigali was a treat. I got to drive around Kigali with Tom and Linda as Immanueli took them to the Genocide Memorial. We did a little off road driving as the main road was closed for construction and we had to go over some steep terrain to get to where we were going. From there, we went to Kicukiro. He dropped me off at the central market. I have been in a few markets in my time, but this was a market. I was in awe the whole time I was there. Anything and everything for home use was there. The vendors were grouped according to products. The butchers were in the back, and I stood and listened as the large blades came down with force, hacking larger pieces of beef into smaller pieces. The banana vendors were in the front, and there were many of them, along with ladies selling onions, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, squash and several root crops I did not recognize. Past the produce, there were men at little hardware booths, with washers and wire, tools and rope.

I saw clothes and kitchen supplies, pots and pans and handbags. One fellow was selling cds and he seemed to be doing a brisk business. At about 11:30, I left the market and several minutes later, as I waited in front, my friend Mariette came walking up, from across the street.  We had agreed to meet for lunch.  We took a taxi from the market back up to Remera, the neighborhood I am staying in.  There, we ate in the same place where I had joined Jacqueline, Mariette and Michael when I was here in December.  We had a nice buffet lunch while Mariette told me about her work with Umaseke, the NGO that does peace and reconciliation education work with Rwandan teachers and primary students.  She is a little more optimistic about her employment situation than she was the last time we met.  I invited her and Jacqueline to attend Linda’s lecture on Women in Leadership, to be delivered at The Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) tomorrow.  I want to introduce these two women to Shirley Randell, the director of the gender studies center at KIE.

After lunch, I walked to the bookstore, in hopes of finding a book for a colleague.  The shopkeeper did not have the book and suggested another bookstore downtown.  From there, I walked to the stadium, in hopes of seeing my friend, Vianney, who had shown so much kindness to me on my last visit.  Vianney is the President of Le Rapid, a bicycling club for children and his office is at the stadium.  He was not in.  I walked into the stadium proper and took a seat.  I watched several men prepare the field.  Shortly thereafter a young woman came up and greeted me.  Her name was Umuhoza. She wanted to practice her conversational English and spotted me from the other side of the stadium.  I had a long conversation with this woman.  We talked about the limited opportunities for young Rwandans who did not make the cut score for entry into the university.  We talked about the need for English and her drive to become fluent.  We talked about hope and faith and the kingdom of God.  I shared my belief that God’s kingdom was ever present and that she could live in it daily if she had the willingness and commitment to do so.  She shared with me her perspective that young children were close to God and I affirmed this by sharing several stories about Jesus and his teaching in regards to becoming childlike.  I invited Umuhoza to attend Linda’s lecture and offered to walk with her to KIE.

At dinner, we visited with four of the student-interns that are staying with Aryn at the guesthouse.  They shared stories of their work and of their concerns about going home soon.  Morgan shared her concern that she and her friends would have nothing to talk about, as her life has diverged substantially from where it was prior to her departure last year.  Rob spoke about how easy it was for him to get involved in the ex-patriot scene in Kigali, which was a barrier to him getting immersed in Rwandan culture.  I reflected on my own experiences in Africa as these students shared about theirs.

After dinner, Tom and Linda joined Jay and me in a conversation about our learning over the last several days.  It seems like we have had much experience in the short time we have been in Kigali.  Tomorrow is Linda’s lecture and I know that she will do well.  I also know that God will be present and that lives will be touched for good.

Showers Between the Sun

May 29, 2010

I arrived home last night from my trip to the ICCTE conference at Letourneau University in Longview, Texas. My wife Debbie tells me that it has been all rain here in Newberg since I have been gone. It was in the 90s and sunny in Longview, though we did have some nice afternoon thunderstorms on several of the days. I forgot about lightening rods after all these years of living in Newberg.  I will returning to a sunny clime as I reach Kigali in a couple of days.

I leave later this morning on our trip to Rwanda. I hope that the Rwandan trip will be as meaningful as my time in Texas.The biennial conference of ICCTE is a highlight for me.  Go here to see photos of our meetings.  This group, about 20 years old, is an association of teacher educators who are primarily at Christian Institutions of Higher Education.  We had mostly faculty from American Universities at the conference with a few Canadians joining us as well.  This meeting was special as the group approved the formation of an official association by adopting bylaws presented to the membership by a steering committee which had been working on this task since our conference at Regent University four years ago.  The current name of the group, and officially adopted at the conference is The International Christian Community for Teacher Education.

Our purpose in traveling to Rwanda is substantially different, however, my past experience tells me that the time spent will be an adventure.  My colleague and friend, Ken Badley, in a session he and Kristin Dixon presented at the ICCTE Conference reminded us that each time we go to an international location we can adopt the attitude of a tourist, a traveler or an adventurer.  I really appreciate Ken’s insight on this.  He shared the root of the word traveler, from the French, to work.  He challenged me personally to reflect on my attitude and to steer my will toward that of the adventurer’s heart.  I want to discover how many hours on planes can be an adventure, as well as several days in a culture that is remarkably different than my own.

My difficulties in obtaining a ticket from Nairobi to Kigali (resolved on Tuesday of this week, after four weeks of trying), as well as the challenges that Linda Samek, my friend and colleague has had in arranging her lecture at the Kigali Institute of Education could both be viewed from the lens of frustration and disappointment, or acceptance and adventure.  I am choosing adventure this time.  In this regard, I think Debbie was hoping I would get to ride a bus from Nairobi to Kigali.  But, at 30 hours each way, that would not leave me much time on the ground in Rwanda.

Cascading Rivers of Light

December 15, 2009

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. (Epistle of James, Chapter 1:16-18. The Message)

I did a reading this morning of James Chapter One, in both the New International and Message versions.  This letter, written by the leader of the Church in Jerusalem which emerged after the death and resurrection of Jesus, has been quite instructive to me over the years.  I returned to it this morning, in search of encouragement and instruction.  James, on the whole, encourages action in the life of  the Christ follower.  He makes it clear that the words of a person are not enough to identify and characterize his faith, but that her actions, in particular in regard to serving the needs of others, and in personal morality reveal more clearly the person’s religion.

What struck me, today, and actually has brought encouragement is the view of God as the Father of Light.  Cascading out of this source are good and beneficial gifts, which are characterized in the Message as Rivers of Light.  Oh, to have eyes to see these rivers in all their glory; flowing, jumping, sparkling, glowing, advancing through life.  These streams of light are gifts meant for my good, and made apparent in my patient waiting during times of need and uncertainty.

Earlier in this chapter, the writer states, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.”  Is it somehow true, though not always apparent, then, that the various difficulties and trials that I find myself in on a daily basis are the gifts?  I would say, upon my reflection on these words, that it is true indeed that my inner life is revealed in times of test.  And I am thankful that I am still able to learn and grow, and so, there is still hope that I will continue to mature as the deficiencies of my inner life are revealed, as well as my assets.

I can speak of no one else, or for no one else.  Yet, for myself, I can point out that tests at times and in some situations reveal the following; impatience, anger, doubt, and fear.  At other times and in other circumstances, tests reveal joy, peace, hope, trust and courage.  If I looked at these contrasting times and situations with a view toward self assessment and using James 1 as a guide, could it be that the situations that come that reveal the undesirable resp0nses are the very ones that I should receive as gifts?  If I am reading this chapter right, it seems that the gifts are intended for my benefit as they cause me to recognize additional aspects of my self that are not yet given up to God’s purposes in my life.

So, then there is something familiar about this for educators. Isn’t this about a cycle of test, reaction, observation, assessment, adjustment and continuation?  It is interesting to me how similar this cycle is to what we would use in helping learners gain mastery in our content area.  And there is a similarity with the cycle by which teachers learn about their own instruction in order to improve it.

Perhaps this whole notion of difficulty as a necessary means of growth is something to be celebrated, yes?  And if that is so, maybe we should not think of these cascading rivers of light as gentle streams which bathe us in a warm, comfortable glow.  Rather, we might see them as torrential currents, throwing off violent sparks and flashes, brilliant colors of every hue to startle us, shake us, stimulate us, expose us and carry us further away from our current point and ultimately toward our reunion with our source, the Father of Light.

A Sad Day

December 11, 2009

Thursday in Kigali was rather sad for me.  I visited the Kigali Memorial Centre, a well-developed and supported museum and educational center regarding the Rwandan Genocide.  Photography was not permitted inside the building, but I took several shots outside, on the grounds.  You can see a few more by going here.  Imaneulli dropped me off at the memorial and I took my time working my way through it.  The displays were very well done and made quite an impression on me.  Several areas featured children who had been killed, one area had survivors’ stories and another presented information about resistance.

A quote from the Talmud was placed in the section on resistance: He who saves a single life saves the world entire.

It is almost incomprehensible that only 15 years ago, between 800,000 and 1,000,000 (some estimate more) people were murdered here.  Most of those were Tutsi, the tribe which was attacked. I was finishing up graduate school in the spring of 1994.  We were living in Columbus Ohio at the time.  I can’t say that the horrific events that occurred here in Rwanda had much effect on me at the time.  I know, that is a sad statement, but regretfully, true.

The Centre had a good area dedicated to other modern genocides, including the genocide of the Jews, the Armenians, and the Hereros, among others. It was important for me to reflect on the reality that people, in each generation and in each social group, have the capacity for this kind of aweful, evil behavior.  Are we learning?  Can it happen again?  Could it happen here, or there?

The somber atmosphere and the compelling, and at times horrifying displays took a toll on me.  I was thankful to be able to walk outside and stroll around the gardens at the Centre.  I also got a chance to meet a staff person at the educational center.  There is a very active educational program for secondary students here, and each day, during the school term, many students come to observe and to be instructed about this dark period in their country’s recent past.

Imanuelli picked me up just as a torrential rain storm arrived.  We drove back to Remera in a heavy storm, past the American Embassy, and the Rwandan Ministry of education.  We passed Parliment, where the President was speaking.  Back in our neighborhood, the sun was out.  I went for a walk and ended up at the Ethiopian restaurant where Paul and Debbie and I had eaten in August.  Goat for dinner!

Amazing Women! (and Men)

December 8, 2009

What an incredibly rich day I had today.  There is too much to tell in a brief post, but I will share a few highlights.  Today, without a doubt, and more than anything else, I recognized the beauty and splendor of people working hard to fight against poverty, injustice, violence and hunger.  I am humbled and amazed at these wonderful people and their work.  Today was the second day of the conference that I wrote about in my previous post.  I met and spoke with several truly remarkable women.

Gretchen Wallace is the founder of Global Grassroots.   This organization is supporting grassroots efforts by women to tackle tough problems in their community.  “Global Grassroots’ goal is to catalyze the development of conscious communities of change agents who will work independently, collectively and systemically to advance social change for vulnerable women and girls.” Gretchen is working in Rwanda.  Please go to their web site and learn about the work.  Gretchen and I had a chance to visit for a few minutes at the beginning of the opening session today.  It turns out that she is acquainted with the work that Debby Thomas is doing with women and the moringa trees.  Gretchen concluded out visit by saying, “Oh look, there’s Swanee.”

I turned and saw Swanee Hunt enter the meeting room.  She gave the keynote address today.  Go here to read the biography of this energetic and accomplished woman!  Swanee gave a great address.  She spoke about women and political power.  Rwanda leads the world with the percentage of women as parlimentarians (56%), which far surpasses the next closest nation, Sweden.  The talk turned to a good interactive discussion with participants sharing with each other liberally during her time with us. This was a fascinating discussion, including a sub topic which was excellent, an examination between gender statistical norms and averages versus the wide ranging variability of temperment, values and strategies of individual men and women.

Hunt shared the best quote of the day, referencing the fact that usually woman who serve at the ministry level (cabinet in the US) usually serve in positions of ministering to the marginalized (women, the ill, the poor), as opposed to men who serve as ministers of labor, defense, and state.  She said, “Ministers for the marginalized people become marginalized”.  Think about this in the context of your own personal work.  Could it be that at times we step back from helping the most needy because we will become invisible, non-appreciated or even cast out?

I spoke with Winnie Muhumuza of the Rwanda Women Community Development Network. We talked about the challenging situation facing teachers in Rwanda.  She also shared with me some of the projects that her organization is involved with, most of which centers on providing safety for abused women, opportunities for health, education, training and employment.  I was counting my blessings the whole time, yet realizing that I am grateful for people like Winnie who are working very hard to help those in great need.

I had lunch with Justine Mbabazi, a Rwandan legal advisor who works for USAID and currently serving as the chief advisor to the vice president of Afghanistan. This very accomplished woman helped draft the Rwandan constitution after the genocide in the early 90s and is now assisting the Afghans develop and implement their new constitution.  In response to my quey regarding American military operations in Afghanistan, Justine delivered an eloquent and persuasive argument in favor of US intervention there.  She had the whole group sitting around the lunch table engaged is a very lively discussion about Afghanistan and its issues.

After lunch, were divided up into groups and worked on a project in identifying resources for the new Centre for Gender Studies at KIE.  My group examined possible academic partners.  There were four of us in the group, Jamie, a recently graduated intern from UNC Chapel Hill who was working with Shirley Randell at the Centre; Adeline, a staffer at KIE, and Magdelena, a professor from the University of Dar es Salaam.

I’ve featured the amazing women today, I will report on the men in a future post!