Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guest Blogger.....introducing....my handsome husband, Randy

Some people have asked about my work at the music school and if it has increased since our director has had unexpected surgery in Korea. First let me mention that Gwangsu's surgery has reportedly gone well. However, he has to spend 24 hours a day facing down in order for there to be proper healing. He has to do this for three weeks. Then he will not be able to fly for about 3 or 4 months. Gwangsu is the director of AMI (Anglican Music Institute) as well as the choir teacher and conducting teacher. His wife, JungAh, does all the administrative work at AMI – bill paying, managing the staff, acquiring supplies, making sure the copier works, etc. So, their departure has left a big hole, yet most of what I do I would still be doing even if they were here.

AMI is primarily a school for adults. (Our students range from about 18 through 50-ish?) It is the closest thing here in Madagascar to going to a music conservatory. (We call it Ah-me not A. M. I.) But these adults mostly have full-time jobs. So, classes are held on Saturdays.

At 8 am on Saturdays we have chapel which includes a time of singing and some Bible teaching. Most of the teaching is a devotional given by different Malagasy pastors – in Malagasy. (This morning I understood the following words from his message - “Andraimantra” which means God, “fiainana mandrakizay” which means life eternal and “film” which means film – as in a movie.) Once a month I am supposed to give the devotional. I will have one of our students translate for me as many of our newer students do lots of head nodding but don't really understand English so well.

At 9 am we break into 4 groups by ability and have ear training and sight reading classes. I teach the lowest level class. I can relate. (I always did terribly in this subject.) Then at 10 I teach a beginning theory class. I am also in charge of an Independent Study Music History class that meets at this time. As the name implies they do all the work on their own. I just had to set up the class and will have to check the reports they turn in and give them a final exam.

After this, before lunch, we have Weekly Performance. During a semester each student must perform one piece of music from memory. Most of these are vocal solos – excerpts from operas or art songs. A few of the students will play piano pieces.

After Weekly Performance is lunch. All the students and teachers eat together. One Malagasy woman and her daughter cook for everyone. We eat typcial Malagasy food which means there is one giant pot of plain rice, a side dish that is cold which often has tomates and other such stuff in it, and a hot dish that goes with the rice. This hot dish usually has some meat in it and veggies and “juice”. Then there is sakay – which is like a condiment that is so spicy the students only put about a dime sized amount on their tray. (I stay very far away from sakay.) There are always bananas. I am known to be a picky eater, but I have really enjoyed the rice and the hot dish that go with it every week. The best part of lunch is the laughter. These students are constantly joking with one another. They mostly speak Malagasy during lunch so I have no idea what is so funny, but it is so much fun just being around them and listening.

During lunch I have begun handing out a half-sheet of paper entitled: “Speaking English as a Third Language – Improving Your English While You Eat Lunch”. The paper has some notes about Enlish mistakes that I hear throughout the week. One of the great parts of working with Koreans and Malagasy who are trying to speak English is all the fun mistakes they make. Like our director who has a habit of adding “the” in front of people's names occasionally. We had a visiting Korean pianist whose name was Bom – which means 'spring' in Korean. So, he called her “the Bomb” once which was great because she really was 'all that'.

After lunch I have a break while the following classes are being taught by other teachers: an English class, an art song class and a piano accompaniment class. This is followed by choir. It is so much fun to sing in a choir again – especially one with only about 9 women and 16 men in it. (Maybe this male to female ratio explains why there is so much laughter all day at school. It is mostly the men who are ndala - “crazy” - in a good way [very kind a gentle]. During the period when I am free and in my office working I often hear the students laughter and wish I were in the class with them.)

Gwangsu was supposed to lead the choir so now Oksun (the voice teacher who is also now the acting director) is leading. She asked me to help lead. We will see what that looks like. Right now I just do sectionals with the basses. (Oksun's husband is taking over JungAh's administrative role. He is a computer guy – not a music guy – but they are a wonderful family.)

When I came to Madagascar I brought with me choir books for Handel's Messiah. When we passed out the books for the first time the students were so excited. This was the first time they ever had a real music score. They have always only had photocopies of all the music they sang. And when we sight read “And the Glory of the Lord” it was very exciting – guess you had to be there.

The Saturday school day is supposed to end at 3 pm after choir, but this semester I have an extra class from 3:15 to 4. It is a theory class for the IPC students who wanted a second major. (Bascially they wanted to study music theory again from a native English speaker who majored in theory and composition. Prior to this theory was being taught by people who had other areas of specialization.)

So, what is an IPC student? Well, AMI is a 2 year program. So, there are first year and second year students. I have all the first year students in my beginning theory class. I don't have any of the second year students in any of my classes. Students can choose to return for a third year as an IPC student. (I think it stands for Intensive Performance Course.) All of these students wanted to take a second major subject in theory. So, I made an extra class for them.

Now every student has a major. We have about 25 students in all. Only four of them are piano majors. Two of them are theory majors. All the rest are voice majors. Every student has a 40 minute individual lesson in their major. Then the theory and voice majors also have a 20 minute individual piano lesson in addition to that. So, from Tuesday through Friday I teach 2 forty minute theory lessons, 2 forty minute piano lessons, 4 twenty minute piano lessons and need to accompany 6 voice majors for their lessons. (Unfortunately I am not as good at sight reading so I need to practice the pieces that I will accompany.) And also on these days I need to prepare for all the classes I teach.

On Tuesday morning there is also a staff devotional time and staff meeting. (On Friday afternoons at 3 pm we have our AIM (Africa Inland Mission) misisonary prayer time.)

So, that is AMI's main program. But there is a special program called APC (AMI Piano Class) that takes place on Wednesday afternoons. From 1 pm until 6 pm we teach piano lessons to about 45 children and teenagers. I am the director for this program this year. The students range in age from 6 to 19 (plus 2 adult students). They each receive a half hour individual piano lesson and a half hour of a Bible class. This is challenging because of the difference in ages and because of the variety of languages spoken. The main AMI program is only taught in English (except for chapel). But APC has students that only speak French or only Malagasy or only English. My ten piano students all speak English or French. I am quickly having to learn the French version of all the words we use in music. The teacher of the Bible class is actually one of our older Malagasy AMI students who speaks Malagasy, French and English. You go girl!

In addition to these tasks I am also the only native English speaker. So, I do a lot of translating … “Randy, how do you say...”, “Randy can you proofread this?” Fortuneately I love grammar and doing that sort of thing. So, I find it quite enjoyable. I love almost all the parts of all my varied jobs here. There are only two things I dislike about my work here. The first has to do with being in charge of APC and yet not being able to communicate with everyone well. There is no such thing as home mail delivery in Madagascar so you can't mail information out. When you send a letter home it has to be translated into at least English and French. So, much of the communication happens by our AMI secretary, Holy (pronounced Hoo-ley), calling people on the phone and speaking to them in Malagasy or French and sometimes English. The second thing I dislike is not getting home sooner and having more time with my boys before they go to bed at 7. Since many of our AMI students work, they cannot come to have their lessons or to practice until 4 or 5. After I leave school I have about a 30 to 40 minute commute. So, sometimes I feel like Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins who comes home from work just in time to kiss his kids and send them off to bed. Fortuneately I get to walk them to school in the mornings. That is a fun half hour.

But I do love teaching my students and I have several projects I would like to work on to improve things here at AMI as soon as I get a chance.

I will now turn the blog back over to my lovely wife. If my entry is too long I do apologize.
Velooma. (good-bye)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Brain Fart Central

Septermber 24, 2010 Brain Fart Central
Well, for those of you who know me well you know how often I get “brain farts”. For those of you who don't know what a “brain fart” is let me elaborate. A “Brain Fart” is when one goes to speak a sentence and one is unable pull forth from one's mind the word one wants to say. And thus.....just air escapes the mouth.

So the other day I was walking down the street and I saw my language helper. She walked up to me shook my hand and waited for me to greet her. I just stared at her. The words escaping my brain. I stood their helpless. She greeted me and I then returned the greeting. She asked me what the news was and again I just stood their unable to spew forth the appropriate response to her question! I said, in English, “I'm having a big brain fart”. She said, in Malagasy, “I don't understand 'brain fart'”. Then, in charades, I acted out a normal fart, with sound effects, (this all in the street mind you) and then acted it out like it was coming out of my brain. And, being such a great NONverbal communicator, she understood what I meant and laughed for several minutes.

Redemption was mine, however, today. Helena (my lanuage helper) came over and we were working on a specific grammer rule in Malagasy. I was unclear as to when the rule was to be used. So for a few minutes she explained and gave examples and then I repeated it back to her with my own examples, all in Malagasy mind you, AND......we totally understood each other! YAHOOO!!!!

Touche' brain fart!

Septembe 26, 2010  
This past week was difficult. Seth stayed home 3 days of the week and Cole was home one day this week from school with bad colds and fevers. I was proud of myself as I come from a family that makes you go to the doctors if you slightly cough. I'm really spoiled back home as we have family very close by, and if the kids were sick for a few days in a row someone would offer to come and let me go shopping or go to the YMCA and just get out of the house. Not the case here. It wasn't horrible but I was thinking of home often this week. We went for lots of walks during the day as their fevers wouldn't start until evening and they seemed to feel “OK” during the day. So we would go for short walks, ride the scooter to the store/market, and play outside on the porch with Footsiefootsy. But by the end of the week I was sick of being with my kids. I remember, before I had children, always getting offended when one of my older friends would say, “Anyone want to buy a kid? I've got one for sale today, low price”. Sorry for judging you friend. I totally get it now. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who took the kids to work with him Friday afternoon so I could go out to lunch with three other missionary women to celebrate a birthday. Thank you Randy!

Tomorrow is …..a school day. I'm really hoping Seth has some encouraging moments tomorrow. He's not at the point of crying in the mornings, yet. I just hate seeming him feel so nervous about school. I totally get why he's so overwhelmed with ALL the MASSIVE changes that have happened in his life this past 6 weeks. I did find out that his teacher now has an assistant so I'm hoping for a less chaotic classroom this week, and I'm sure, so is Mrs. Ando!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Don't step on the fish honey.

Good grief, I can't believe it's been almost 10 days since i've had a chance to put up an update! So this week was the 2nd week of school for Seth and Cole. Seth is in Kindergarten and Cole is in preschool.

So our mornings start off around 5:30-6:00am. Randy, the boys and I leave the house around 7:20 to walk a little over ...well....I'm horrible at trying to guess distances, but I would guess about a mile and a half. About the last ¼ mile is through a street that is closed from 4:00am-7:00am as a big market. Now we arrive at this portion of the walk about 7:45 and the people are still there trying to sell their things and the police men are obsessively tweeting their whistles trying to clear a path way for, not only people, but cars, trucks and taxe-bes to get through. So our walk sounds something like this. “Boys don't let go of my hands. Stay close here comes a big truck. Look out Seth! Don't step on the basket of chickens! Oh Cole, you almost stepped on that pile of fish! Boys watch your step, you're going to have to take a big step over these papayas. Look out here come a heard of Zebu!” “Mommy are they selling those bunnies as pets?” “No Cole they're not.” “Well, what are they selling them for?” “Can we buy one of those ducks as a pet Mommy?” All that AND in the back ground there are people shouting from every directions how much they are selling things for.... like you shouting at me is going to make me want to further your business by buying from you. Sorry, I'm just NOT a morning person, shouting in my face makes me want to punch you in yours.... Although, I must admit, there is something quite entertaining about the whole scene and, though I won't admit it during the morning walks, I do rather enjoy the challenge of the whole scenario! Somewhere in the midst of the chaos Randy gets on a taxi-be and heads for work. Now that we've been participating in the madness of the morning market for two weeks, we are getting quite used to it and the kids actually like to weave in and out of the somehow controlled, chaos.

Cole's class has 8 children, an aide, and a teacher. Most of the children just know Malagasy and are learning English as they attend school. Cole seems to be doing well though. Apparently each morning they go around the table and say, “My name is _____. I am 4 years old. I am a girl/boy. I live in _____(town).” The third day that they had to do this the teacher spoke to me after class. It went something like this.
Mrs. Mina- “I can't believe how well Cole reasons with me”.
Me- “ How do you mean?”
Mrs. Mina- “Well, it was Cole's turn to tell the class about himself and he decided to crawl under the table. When I asked him why he wouldn't say his name he said, 'I don't feel like it. I've already told them my name several days in a row now.'”
Me- “Oh, I'm sorry Mrs. Mina, I'll talk to him about that.”
Mrs. Mina- “Oh, you can talk to him about it that's fine. I was just impressed that he told me why he was under the table and not sharing about himself with his friends. Usually the kids just stay under the table and don't talk! He really has quite the vocabulary and ability to reason with adults!”
Me- “Yeah, I know that all too well. He's either talking or asleep.”

Seth's class on the other hand is quite different. There are 15 children in his class. Now I know that in the States a classroom with that many children would be like a dream come true. However, you must understand that these 15 children and one teacher are in a classroom that is about 10' x 20' (give or take). Seth is having a bit of a rough time as some of the children come from very, how shall I put it, “hard” homes and therefore can be quite aggressive and hurtful. We keep encouraging him each day that they are not trying to be mean to him but that they don't come from a family that knows how to show love in kind and gentle ways. It's hard to explain such things to a 5 year old.....it's hard to understand such things as an adult.

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, after I drop the kids off at school I usually walk back home and have language study from 9:00-10:00. Tuesdays and Thursdays I stay at MCA (Madagascar Christian Academy) and help out in classrooms where there are children with special needs. There is such a need for special education teachers here. There are literally NO sources to pull from for teachers who have special needs children in their classrooms. So, I really feel like I can be a help at MCA. I'm really thankful to be able to get back into this specialty area. Then at 12:15 pm our school day ends and we spend the afternoon doing other adventurous things.

Friday, September 10, 2010

whatever you are, declare it loudly and unabashadly!

So I'm having my language study time on Monday and I'm learning different phrases to help me out at the market.  Things like "I want a banana", " How much is that".  "That's too much". "What is that?"  Things like this.  So my helper pretends to be a seller and I went up to her feeling fairly confident.  Now, Randy and his helper had joined us to see how well I was doing.  So I went up to Helena and said, very confidently, "Anoa ve akondro".  All of a sudden Harri and Helena busted out laughing, that's never a good sign.  "What, what is it?  That's what YOU told me to say!"    "No", said Helena.  "I told you to say Anoavy Akondro".  "That's what I said!"  "NO, you said, "anoa VE akondro"  "oh, ......what did i say?"  Helena, "you said, "I AM A BANANA".  Well, atleast I said it with confidence!  So, that's what I had to share for today.  Anyone getting hungry for a banana?
Over and out
Meg the banana

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

buckle up.... it's time for a hormonal roller coaster ride.

I'm a misserable wretch today. Not sure exactly what's going on. Randy is working ...well...it seems that he is working....more hours than at home. I think it's just that his hours at AMI aren't as flexible as they were at CCBC. He was gone last week from 8:00-6:00/7:00pm every night. The week went fine but I was looking forward to spending time together as a family today and walking the boys to school tomorrow together. Now I don't want them to even breath in my general direction. HORMONES. Yes, all you positive people, I know that you can't let your hormones dictate your actions and responses. Work with me here I'm just venting. So there you have it. Missionaries are just your everyday normal people, with everyday normal emotions...OK, maybe I'm not so normal, but you know where I'm going here right? Missionaries have bad days too, bad attitudes that need adjusting, frustrating moments where they just want to be like gerbals and eat their offspring. Please tell me I'm not the only one who has days like this.

So, the boys and I have been using our Malagasy language as much and as often as we can. We've not been using the scooter as much (I can hear the sign of relief from my parents now:) ) because I'm realizing that I don't connect with people as much since we're zooming by them at a whoping 5-10kpm
(I think a horse can pee faster than that!) So we are back to walking whenever possible. I've been able to introduce my children now, their names, ages, the fact that they are not “combines” (twins), no matter how many times you look at their faces and ask me over and over..... and over again. “No, they are STILL not twins, just like I said 5 minutes ago”. Gee, can you tell I'm in a sarcastic mood or what.

And so language learning is going very well. I do have to say I felt proud of myself this weekend when I had several Malagasy ask how long and often I've been studying Malagasy. When I told them 3 times a week for 4 weeks they couldn't believe it! They said I sounded great and was making great progress! I told them it had everything to do with my helper, Helena, and my children, who attract everyones attention and thus give me many opportunities to practice! Anyway, it was encouraging. Randy is a little frustrated because he can't give as much time to Malagasy language learning. I told him that that is not his focus. His focus is teaching music in english and connecting with those english speaking Malagasy. My focus is different as I'm interacting with and around Malagasy all day everyday. He's dong a great job at AMI. Everyone is so thankful for him. Talk about God's amazing timing. The director of AMI just found out a few days ago that he's got a very serious eye problem. If it's not fixed pronto, he will lose his sight in that eye. So Friday night he found out that he needs to fly back to Korea this Monday, Septermber 6th! He is so thankful that Randy is here to help fill while he's gone. So if you could be praying for him I know he would appreciate it.

I have to say, now that I'm feeling less cranky, there are many perks to living here in Madagascar. One of them being the fact that I just bought some of the most beautifully colored flowers today in the market, I could just barely hold all the stems in one hand, bright deep blue and beautiful white with a hint of pink for a whopping 2,000 ariary ($1.00) I never bought flowers for myself and home and didn't really want Randy to buy them for me either since I thought they were a waist of money since they just die within a few days, but hey, $1.00? Yeah, I love that perk! We still haven't received our year visas yet. They are due Monday the 6th. We were told not to worry about it and so....we're not. Though I am curious as to how that's all going to work out. I'm rambling now hense the blog being called “blahblahblog”. Oh, another perk. I look up in the sky at night....oh my. The sky here is so beautiful. So crystal clear with constellations I've never seen before. Just as soon as I think I have a handle of God's amazingness I look up into that sky and realize I'm nowhere near understanding Him. I just stand there in amazement and worship Him.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Is this day over yet?

So I was still sleeping peacefully in bed when  I heard "MOMMY!  Open your eyes!"  I did. I shouldn't have.  As I opened my eyes a scream came flying out of my mouth. "Get that cockroach out of my face!"  Literally, two inches from my face......really?  An this is how my day started.  That was the good part of the day!  About an hour later as our cleaning lady was cleaning she bumped a brand new bottle of olive oil, that  I had just decided to splurge on yesterday, onto the floor and ....well... let's just say I could have sauteed off the floor for about a month with the whole mess!  "Not a big deal" I told myself, it was an accident.  A half an hour later Jeanine, our helper, comes in with two flees in her hands.  They were in the boys laundry.  Great.....I keep reminding them that they can't play in Footsie's house.  So now we have flees.  Around lunch time Seth went running to the bathroom right after Jeanine mopped the floor.  Disaster.  Big thump.  Loud wail. Big bump on Seth's head.  He seemed to be ok after a while so I didn't worry about it.  Later in the afternoon Jeanine cut herself with a knife and Seth stubbed his toe and ripped half his nail off.  Poor kid, it just wasn't his day.  We had a friend over for a play date...I guess the Lord knew I'd need the encouragement.  Around 3:00 Seth started not feeling well and started throwing up and was very sleepy.  I think he had a slight concussion!  I called Dr. Jonothan, one of the AIM missionaries we know.  I talked to his nurse and told her about his clonking his head earlier.  She said it wasn't good that he was throwing up and that he just wanted to sleep.  She would have Dr. Jonothan call when he got out of surgery but don't let him go to sleep.  I hung up with her and my phone froze.  Great.  What good is a stinkin' phone if it freezes in the middle of an issue!  Thanks a lot phone.  I prayed over Seth, put on his favorite video and we snuggled in bed with cole and watched the video.  He stayed awake and by 4:30 he looked at me and said, "let's go play baseball".  OK....so....we did!  He seemed fine.  A different child.  His face looked healthy his eyes looked normal, his skin looked normal.....thank you Lord.  That night we got several calls from Jonothan and other missionaries as the news had gotten out that Seth probably had a slight concussion.  Everyone wanted to know if he was ok and if we needed help.  So thankful that the Lord provided family for us here in Mada.  Seth was fine this morning.  His head hurt from where he fell but other than that, he's fine!  Oh, did i mention in the morning I had made chocolate chip cookies?  One of the short termers brought chocolate chips, an item that is very hard to find here, and gave me a bag.  The cookies turned out great and well.....with the day I had had.....I ate........let's just say more than a handful:)

Chickens....run for your lives!

I can't believe we've been here 3 weeks already! It doesn't seem possible! I'm trying so hard to be fully pressent every moment so that I don't end up coming back home in 1 year wishing I would have done things differently. I had a really encouraging week this week. Monday we took a taxi-be to Tana City with a friend. We stopped by Jumbo Score, which is a huge supermarket/walmart type of store, to pick up some of the things on the boys list of supplies needed for this school year.

Tuesday turned out to be an interesting day. The boys and I went for a walk into Talatamaty (about 2 kilo. away). I bumped into a missionary with YWAM. The boys were chasing chicks earlier and the same gaggle came down the road and headed towards some shacks behind a fence. I had seen that there were a bunch of children playing behind the gate (which was wide open) so I figured the boys would just go and play with them. I was quite pleased when they disappeared behind the fence. They miss playing with their cousins so I thought this would encourage them. So she and I talked for about 5 minutes. I said, “I better go check on the boys”. She said, “I'd be more worried about the chicks if I were you!” So I said goodbye and walked behind the gate. As I walked I heard the boys laughing and shrieking in delight. “Oh good, I hope they feel encouraged playing with the neighborhood children” I thought. As I rounded the corner, much to my suprise and slight horror, I saw the boys chasing that poor gaggle of chicks with all the malagasy adults and children stepping out of their shacks just staring in complete shock …..and what appeared to be frustration. I quickly grabbed their arms and looked at the adults and said, “so sorry” in malagasy and waved at them and they just continued to glare at me. So slowly I turned around pulling the boys away from the chickens with my head hung low, red creaping up on my cheeks. Needless to say we had a very important talk about how chickens are expensive property for the people here and that when chickens are scared, and running for their lives from little boys, they are less likely to lay eggs the next day. Lesson learned. Needless to say when we've walked past that place again this week I smiled largely ….. and held tightly to the boys hands!