nyumbani wapi?


Yesterday, a colleague of mine and I went down to the police station in order to apply for our ‘certificate of good conduct’ which we both need in order for us to have background checks in the UK and Kenya. Today we went back to the police station after the person in charge of it, called up to the school and said that we should come now to get our fingerprints done. The timing worked out as I had Kiswahili so my class was covered. We drove to pick up her husband and then off to the police station. After waiting a bit we had to discuss the options on how much it would cost and how long it would take. We got our fingerprints taken and had to answer questions for the application form, then pay. Easy right? All except for the questions….

Elizabeth and I were making our coffee in the staff room this morning. She says “Were you born in China or in England?”. Neither, I said “America”. “Ah! Such a TCK”, she replied and we laughed.

Back to the police station….

Victor said he would ask me the questions and I should write down the answers. He will transfer them to the application later. Sounds easy enough?

So Victor asked me my name. (Semi-complicated, because my name on my passport is different than the name I go by.)

I write down my name.

Victor asks me my age. Sweet. I can answer this one.

Victor asks me my religion. A sigh of relief in my soul – this too is uncomplicated. I write down Christian.

Victor asks me to write down my tribe. Well, I don’t have a tribe because I’m mzungu, but of course he doesn’t want me to write mzungu. I’m meant to write my citizenship instead. Here comes the problem. Should I write American? British? Half of my paperwork in Tanzania has been processed using the British passport, and half the American passport. I need the paperwork for the British government to get my DBS background check. The Victor guy thinks I’m Chinese because I speak Chinese and Elizabeth starts to try to explain TCK but that gets completely lost in translation. Two citizenships are completely foreign to Tanzanians. I don’t want to get this wrong though, because it will delay the paperwork or make it impossible to get my certificate. So the so-called “clarifying” questions come…. “What citizenship are your parents?” Again, the answer is both. “But where is your permanent residence? “Um…. Tanzania?” Let me see your driving license he says… I pull out my driving license and he examines it. It says Iringa is my permanent residence, so I know that won’t help him. Finally, he decides that because it is for the British government, I should put British as my tribe.

Victor asks me to write down my phone number. Oh, thank goodness, we’re back in familiar territory.

Next is my city, which also is fine, because it is my Tanzania residence and I am spared trying to decide where to put in the UK as my city since I haven’t actually moved yet.

Then we left, went to the ATM to get the money, and came back. Waited some more, and handed over our money and our extra money to expedite the paperwork. Hopefully the complicated part is over and now all I need to do is go back to pick it up in a week.

Please tell me I’m not the only person to not know answers to questions that should be simple.



Well, I can finally announce this. I will be taking the next year off (2016-2017 school year) as a ‘sabbatical year’ of sorts. I will be working various maternity cover and other jobs to save money for my tuition and then I will begin my programme at University of Bristol in September 2017. I officially accepted my offer, and I can’t wait to start this journey. It will be in Educational Psychology, so still related to teaching but just taking a slightly different direction. After ten years of teaching, I know that this will make me miss the classroom but also strengthen the ways that I will be able to reach out to my kiddos in school settings. This will also be an adventure to be in my passport country for the first time ‘on my own’. I say that because I won’t be with my mum and dad and sister, but I will be able to see and spend time with my aunts, uncle and cousins. Special thanks to my family who have always believed in me and encouraged me. I will still be closely linked to Tanzania.

East Africa will be where I carry out my research and Tanzania remain where I feel ‘home’, whatever that word may mean for this stage of life I am in.  So if you know of any cover positions or short term work, or even freelance editing or lesson planning, I’m your girl! Let’s talk!

(So you can guess the result I left you with on my last blog – I did finally get the courage to hit ‘submit’ with my Bristol application!)

Learning the Science (Art?) of Navigation


As a primary school teacher, we were trained and lectured on how to create procedures in the classroom. Procedures are key to everything…. literally, everything. (Unless you want to spend everyday crying as chaos and six year olds reign your classroom.) As a student in uni, you’re sort of listening to this advice but then you get into your own classroom – your first teaching gig and you may or may not follow advice.

I did, thankfully. Sometimes I get irritated by my own procedures, even though they are there to make my life go smoothly and help me not to go insane each day. I involve my students in the making of some of my procedures, so there’s a little bit of buy-in. I figure it’s only fair since I am the person with the majority of the control over what procedures I want and how I want to do them.

One ‘do not go crazy’ procedure I have is coloured hands. These different coloured laminated hands come in three colours that correspond to items they can freely use in the room (green for rulers, markers, crayons, pencils, erasers, exercise books, etc and yellow for things like my Uno cards and the iPad, red for things like my metal pencil sharpener!) You may have guessed that green is free, yellow is ask, and red is don’t touch. Anything not labelled is an automatic yellow.

That’s just ONE procedure in my classroom. I can’t even count how many we have. Procedures help us to know what to do, what direction to head and how we can be effective in our work. But sometimes, there’s no procedure. Then we need to think and be critical and try to apply our prior knowledge in order to navigate the correct course of action.

I’m jumping off the deep end and trying to figure out how to navigate the procedures for the programme I want to apply for to do my doctorate. Why do I want a doctorate? Do I want a doctorate? I spend roughly 40% of my work day with students who are struggling or need someone to talk to or work out an issue with. It might be an academic, social or emotional issue. It is something that I feel like I would really like to do full-time with still maintaining my ties to education. It might seem a little silly that a primary school teacher would want to pursue psychology but it isn’t too far off the mark. I was enrolled in a Community Counseling M.Ed programme before I left for China the second time. It just never occurred to me that I could go back and complete a similar course. Time passed, much quicker than I realised, and I got an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction instead.

But now, it’s time for me to actually begin the process of applying for the DEdPsy programme I would like to apply for. Even if there’s no procedure for helping me not freak out over the fact that there are 12 open spaces each year…. 12… only 12…. !

I have to navigate past that initial knowledge before I even begin to have anxiety attacks over the paperwork to apply!


Here’s wishing me luck!

That one time… when I forgot to write for over a year.


There is a famous quote by someone (who I cannot for the life of me recall) that says “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

That’s a pretty significant amount of miles – quite a distance and it requires courage. But what about when you aren’t walking those miles? What about when you hit mile 1,000 somewhere in the sky above a continent you have come to love in just a short space of a year, while still being homesick for the one you left behind? What if approximately 8,388 miles later when you landed on solid ground in stifling heat and humidity you begin two months of figuring it all out. Where you suddenly began to go through all the fullness of joy and all the sorrow again? What if you decided to defer that sorrow and just focus on the joy?

My break was great. I visited both of my passport countries and was able to see and be with friends and family in both. My church family at NCBC let me stay in the mission house again. I went up to Townsend (tradition!) to help with CHARM and day camps and family fun nights.  I also was able to go up to Canada to see my dear friend from Korea, now living in Bangkok, get married. After that wedding weekend, I flew back to TN via WA and was able to see my parents, my sister, the Culps and lots of friends including Stephanie there. Then I went to England to see more of my family and to spend some time with my dear friend Lindsay.

And now I am back, more miles flown, over more oceans and mountains, back in my room in Tanzania. I have been back now for less than 48 hours, and the paradox of life is in full force.  I feel the sharp tug of all my ‘homes’ and the comfort of being back ‘home’ in my bed all at once. I decided to try to write about it, but it seems a bit unfair that I haven’t written in so long.

Tanzania has been so good for me. The people here are amazing and the community that I dropped into embraces all that stroll through this little town in the Southern Highlands. It welcomes and encourages those who have been here for 2 days or 2 months or 2 years or 12 years for that matter.

I will try to write more — about my summer — about my life in Tanzania — and about figure out the spaces and places in my heart and my mind — but it might be pole pole…

This Grace on Which I Stand…


I find this hard to write, but I’m not exactly sure why. (My summer hiatus? Amazing, FYI. Being with family all summer was a tremendous blessing. And new friendships were formed with people who I didn’t expect as an additional gift.) So maybe this is more difficult to write because of the jumbled thoughts and the not wanting to discount the restful and rejuvenating summer I had with all its special memories.

The States were a whirlwind that happened far too quickly, but made me cheerful on a daily basis. Levi and Judah are old enough to understand who I am and that Korea is far away and so is Tanzania and as little kids embrace the moment we just went with it and each day was a treasure. Our annual NCBC trip to Townsend for CHARM was again, another highlight of the summer. I stored these away mainly in my heart instead of in pictures, and the few pictures I had are of silly things like ice cream cones dripping down chins, Levi and I brushing our teeth together before bed, and beautiful crafts made while doing morning activities with the kids at the campground at the KOA.

Last Saturday, I spent my 31st birthday with a group of people I had met merely hours before after having arrived in a new country less than 24 hours before that. Iringa town. The pasta and birthday cake were beyond what I had even expected and the kindness won’t be forgotten.  I know that I jump right into somethings and in others I am more laid back and and I prefer to watch and observe. I generally tend to lean one way or another but this particular transition I’ve found myself flipping back and forth between both modes. Bear with me, like I said, I’ve been here only one week and most of it has been meetings for PYP training and a crash course in Kiswahili lessons that have served me well thus far but I know have lots to refine.

The marketplace is good and cheap compared to Korea. I went to this one vegetable seller who we see frequently and after I had purchased everything I asked him how much (I know how to ask how much but sometimes cant understand the answer yet…. so that’s fun!) What I thought I heard was elfu na mbilisi (2000 TSH). I said “Kweli?” (Which is like zhendeme?) and he replied Kweli! I was super impressed. Ripe avocaodos, carrots, peppers, limes, cucumber, apples,  onions, ginger, garlic, tomato and eggs are the main staples I’ve been living off of. Some fruit, some local honey and yoghurt are also what I have been what I’ve been generally consuming. I slowly have been reintroducing wheat bread into my diet which I pretty much stopped in South Korea. I did find a shop close to the house that sells Dairy Milk chocolate bars. So, indulgence and depression chocolate purchasing kicked in in that moment (we were on the way home from trying to buy a ethernet cord to make our wifi work and the hardware shop was 没有.)

The first full weekend without other pressing issues (needing to get SIM cards, etc) was today. We went out to Mama Sivalayi’s and ended up having a fun time with a group of Germans.  So I’m being social in large groups, which is generally not my style at all!

I’m looking forward to a braai I was invited to tonight to celebrate the new staff coming, Megan’s return home and Sarah’s birthday. I want to get to know new people and start forming the friedsndships I want and miss from my close knit other expat postings (可是 iMessage and FB chat have been alleviating any huge bouts of homesickness though,) I’m also planning to go to church tomorrow morning (ICF in English is held twice a month), sourcing items like coffee beans and to see about getting myself a bicycle. (Kicking myself for leaving my Felt mountain bike in Jeju now!) Also kicking myself for not bringing some items (like jeans and more khakis for causual weekend clothes) but it will all work out in the end. Finally, I embraced touch rugby and I think I am going to enjoy that group of folks who play. They were very patient with me as I learned. There’s NO resting time in that game! Its hard core! Next week, I will hopefully be better. 🙂

This morning my roommate and I woke up and make breakfast then we sort of chilled and now we’re at Neema Crafts enjoying lunch and getting some work done on our computers. Some of the nice German girls from last night just walked in and sat down next to us on the couch. 🙂  So far it’s been a pretty good day. I’m blessed for sure.


Here’s the song from the title of my post which I’ve been rocking on repeat…. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tMDEth8qxg  Kristian Standfill – This Grace on Which I Stand


The best time to start building your RAFT is 4am

The best time to start building your RAFT is 4am

I can’t sleep. Well, I was sleeping and then I woke up and now I’m here. I started looking through pictures on my sister’s Facebook of her 21st birthday and Prague which led to more old pictures and more old locations and for the first time I really let myself miss places and things. Usually what I miss the most is people and the things I miss are because they remind me of a person, not because I miss the place itself. But today I let myself miss all the past things I’ll never get back and all the old addresses that are still memorised; their usefulness long gone. I wasn’t homesick. I was giving it finality that I had reserved and refused to let go.

This is my last month in South Korea. And I’ve said goodbye many times but I have never intentionally RAFTed. One of my dearest friends, and TCK mother herself, has encouraged me to do it this time. I was going through the motions of it, quite reluctantly at times, until those pictures brought me back. I didn’t realise that saying goodbye to here meant saying goodbye to all I didn’t say goodbye to before. How’s that for helping you fall asleep?

I never realised how grateful I was to be looking at pictures of old apartments I’ve lived in or restaurants I loved going to. Bookshelves I used to have, paintings that I had created and hung in my room. Shower curtains and old clothes that have long sense been lost in a move. Pictures of friends on walls. Desk lamps and coffeemakers. Spatulas that were passed down from friend to friend. Some of these insignificant items do make it across oceans. This morning I was putting on my socks and seeing ‘Quecha’ on it made me incredibly introspective. Socks, people, socks! I have never had any emotional connection to socks before. These things I don’t ever set out to take pictures of intentionally. They’re there in the background and most days I don’t even think twice about the fact they’re gone. Nothing like sleep deprivation, socks and Sydney to convince you that my friend is right when she says all those things about how to leave well.

I’m packing up these ‘things’ in my classroom and I have so many. My students love this. They especially love my green classroom sign that says ‘Grade One’. Why do you still have this Miss L, if you are a second grade teacher?’ The first few times they asked they looked confused when I explained that it was from my first classroom as a teacher instead of a student in China. Another item they love to ask to touch is my tiny miniature glass fox that Amy got for me. We each have a different animal and seeing that Venetian glass makes my heart so happy knowing that it is a memory I share in time and space with someone else. I have many of these items, maybe too many… Scraps of paper with notes written are my biggest weakness ! But my students are slowly understanding. Now they’re connecting why these small pieces are so dear to my heart. They show off their artwork that they made me last year to students who are new this year. They plan our farewells, even to the hour I am at the airport and I will check in my bags and we will all go to Lotteria and get Shake Shake fries together . (One of them even coincidentally has the same domestic flight as me). We hold hands and run and skip and cry and smile and laugh because soon it will be the last time for many of them.

We work to keep the places and things we can close to our hearts, if we can’t have them close physically. Nothing changes, except what has to.

of which the heart speaks


I teach 2nd grade, but we have a multi-grade combined literacy block that I teach from 9:30 – 11:00 Monday through Thursday. I have first graders, some of my own second graders and third graders.

It’s winding up the end of the year so we’re doing lots of different projects. I’ve never really been the type of teacher to talk over my students while they’re talking and usually at that age level they end up “shushing” each other if I’ve called for their attention and some still aren’t quite with us.

Anyway, so I think it was Monday, but I sat down to start having a discussion with them and there were a few who were still talking. I was in a pretty good mood, and I like when I can spend some time chit chatting about things other than just class, so we were speaking freely. I asked them what languages they thought in.  Most of them answered English, with a few answering differently. I asked them what language they thought in when they were upset or were trying to get something across that they couldn’t express in English. They still were over 50% in agreement that they were thinking in English when upset and trying to express it. They said they would just keep trying in the English they did know until they could get across what they were trying to say.

Then, one of my more insightful and lower level English students said that he couldn’t speak in either Korean or in English when was sad, that it was just too hard in both languages.

Everyone, including myself, started nodding. That’s the language of which the heart speaks, too complex, too hard to translate most of the time.  But that doesn’t stop us from learning to try.




Most Sundays I bake. Primarily so that I have something to offer if someone stops by and because on Mondays all the dishes get cleaned and the house spotlessly tidied so all of the pans and bowls from the day before are not mine to worry about.

I’m actually not all that good at baking but I enjoy the process and the majority of my stuff is edible. My problem comes when I start making substitutions.

Today I was out of butter so rather than the several logical options (half the recipe, drive to store, go ask Amber for half a cup of butter) I made half butter half coconut oil. Then I naturally reduced the sugar from 3/4 cup brown and 3/4 cup white to maybe 1 cup overall. I realised that I’ve been literally doing this recipe wrong every time and using baking powder over baking soda. I changed the powder to baking soda, figuring if I changed everything else I could at least use soda over powder.

It didn’t work.

Well, it did and didn’t at the same time. It spread out and mushed into one large cookie. It cooked quickly and sort of browned as the coconut oil bubbled and made it chewy. I added more flour and tried again. Better. Still not what I was going for. So I went upstairs and asked Amber’s opinion. Came back down with a Pyrex and attempted cookie bars instead of actual cookies. Taste tested yielded all cookies edible… In fact delicious. But they weren’t how I intended them to be.

I wonder how many times we substitute fake things for the real stuff. Laziness, lack of resources, settling, or thinking we can do it on our own and it won’t change the outcome to be too far off from what the original intention was. But what of the good, perfect and acceptable will ? How many substitutions before the end result cannot be salvaged ? Souls are much more high stakes than cookie dough. Life and its path not as forgiving as the treats in the oven.

1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

Complete not Perfect


I sat at my dining room table last weekend across from a friend, computer screens up, papers strewn all about and the click click click of our keyboards typing. I didn’t have a mirror, but I can tell you our expressions furrowed with frustration and productivity. I was writing curriculum. I was (am) having a hard time getting into the computer screen the carefully thought out creativity that had turned up in my classroom. But I am working to be complete, not perfect.

If my gaggle of second graders learned something at all this week with their posters about their marble tracks, they learned that consistent results in an experiment don’t always mean the experiment worked. But we weren’t working to have our marble track creations be perfect, we were working for them to be complete.

Well then, what about incomplete and imperfect together? I can attest to the consistency of me being that. What about wanting to write and then a having writers block at the same time ? What about living without water for a week and then when the water comes back on it coincides with one of the most tragic events for the country you’re living in ?

I’ve been thinking about the Sewol ferry disaster and my response to it. I am of course deeply saddened by the fact so many students and teachers were involved. I am living in Jeju , the island where the students were travelling to visit. I am not Korean , so as sad as I am, I can’t begin it imagine the national grief that this ferry sinking has brought to South Koreans. I cannot grief completely or pretend to. I can sit with my students … Who are mostly too young to fully grasp it … And answer their questions about what happened but not why.

I’m really affected by the vice principal who was rescued but then took his own life because of (presumably) guilt. Complete, but not perfect. I don’t even know where to begin with my emotions about that situation. It seems the most tragic to me… Like the girls in the Asiana crash last year who made it off the plane and then died on the Tarmac afterwards. But our life’s, they are this way. Complete but not perfect. Nothing can seem to change that this side of life and death. Can I be content in the way this day began and the way it ended? Can I live the most complete I can, knowing that perfection was never really the goal?

I think I can if I live in between gratitude and grace. That’s the real goal anyway.

A’maze’ing Adventures so far in March


On March 2nd, I was so acutely aware of the fact the sun was shining and I was not in a hospital bed. I am so grateful that my year has included hospital VISITS and appointments but no overnight stays for my wrist or for my asthma. GOD IS GOOD! I think I need to say it more often. GOD IS GOOD! When things are busy and uncertain and plans are changed (like today on our field trip!), God is still good. He is still with us. I’ve had a song in my heart the last couple weeks and I hope it stays there. And time just fast-forwarded from March 2nd until the beginning of this week.

What is special about this week you ask? It is the annual KIS Elementary Service Leading Week. This is my third year doing this and every year it has been ‘something’ out of the ordinary. The first year I was pretty much jet-lagged since I just arrived at KIS and I hardly knew my own students, much less ALL of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders. Then last year, I was in the hospital because of my wrist surgery/asthma and everyone scrambled to try to execute the sections I had been in charge of handling. My role was just in support and planning, not in participating. Our theme has been “Peace” all three years, in various ways and forms.  This year I was determined to have nothing standing in my way to stop me from a peaceful and smooth Service Leading Week. We don’t go on international trips like the older students do, but we plan just as much busyness into our week and our schedule is disrupted. It’s hard for me to believe that today is already March 13th.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday we had rotating sessions and I did my bit about peace and sports. We are doing rotating sessions so I have the same lesson and project five times. It is really well organised and my team has done a great job. On Tuesday and Thursday we have field trips. Tuesday we went to the Botanical Gardens and Jungmun beach. The weather was fantastic and I had a great time just enjoying my students and walking through the peaceful gardens that are themed by country.  It ended up that I did have one bit of craziness for this year’s service leading — I missed Wednesday due to taking 4th and 5th graders to a Battle of the Books competition in Seoul. I think we all had a good time and learned a lot for how to prepare better next time. We did really well, but the biggest problem was our hands were just often split-seconds behind the other team. Still, our loss was not by many points and I am extremely proud of them and all of their hard work.  Today we went to the Gimyoung Maze Park and then the lava tubes. In the maze, I was reminded of how there are so many different solutions to problems we encounter (or ways that countries can work to achieve peace) and they all might look the same, or some might look promising and then not work — or others still might be long, winding, never-ending processes. However, the many paths ultimately led to the centre and the end of the maze. I had a student who got lost and was crying in the middle of it. From up above, I was able to talk to her and she and the two third graders with her problem solved and found their way out. I couldn’t go to her, but I could comfort her with my words and my presence from the top platform bridge. The friends walking beside her held her hand and didn’t leave her. It was a humble reminder of the friends God has placed in my life, to help comfort and guide and the confidence that even if I don’t feel Him there, He is guiding me with His voice. 

Well, I guess that’s all for now. I just wanted to update. I want to be better at that and get back into the habit of reflecting on how good God is to me. 


Put on the New Self  Colossians 3:16 – 17 
…Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.