Fall is here. Well, not necessarily here in the tropics, considering today it was 92 F (33 C) and I'm just waiting for temps to drop so that it might actually feel like "winter" is coming.
This Fall, there is a restlessness within me similar to how I was feeling exactly 4 years ago before this move overseas. As more people in my community hear that I'm wrapping up my time here, the more I am confronted with thoughts of not-too distant goodbyes and the looming next steps. The past month, I've had multiple confirmations of my decision. The many paths I could potentially take are beginning to creep in the forefront of my mind. Ones that fill me with hope and anticipation, yet also a bit of uncertainty of what is around the corner.
As I think upon the significance of this week (American Thanksgiving), I can't help but be grateful for all this life has been, continues to be and will be because of God's love and constant presence.
To recap this month:
1. Teaching is hard work and work has not let down. Busy as ever, even after reports, conferences, IEPs and the 6th grade trip. Each week, I think to myself, "this will be the week that I'll have more rest." False. I'm not sure when that will be. At this point, only 5 more weeks until our holiday break...hoping that's when I'll be able to take a break.
2. ฉันพูดอ่านเขียนภาษาไทย! Thai. Many people have asked me why I continue to take Thai (it's so difficult) especially if I'm leaving next year. For multiple reasons...#1 it's my connection to the people and culture of this place and as long as I'm here I want to be immersed as much as I possibly can. #2 It's been really neat to learn a third language #3 My teacher has become a close friend and confidant and I continue to learn so much more than Thai language and culture, we laugh and cry together. Such a blessing to me! Plus, it's crazy feat that I can read, write and speak a second grade level of Thai. There have been times I never thought that would happen!
3. 6th grade trip! Glad it's over, what a time was had! Fortunately, the kids (all 40 of them) and their teachers and chaperones stayed safe and healthy and everyone had a blast. My favorite moments were watching as kids branched out and got to know others in their grade. Also, watching as many of the kids roasted their first marshmallows and made their first s'more (kinda like a rite-of-passage...;)). I loved seeing the connections made. This year's theme was "the flip" like when following Jesus, everything is flipped, for example: Love your enemies, and God is our strength in weakness. A favorite moment was when we dressed up "inside, out" or opposite clothing. I think us teachers looked more like gangsters/rappers. Yeah, we're cool.
4. Yet another trip to Vietnam. What a week that was. It was my first time to southern Vietnam this time exploring with my half-Vietnamese housemate who had never been and was discovering some of her family's history-which was a really difficult, emotional experience to be present. There's so much I could say about my time there. Lots of highs and lots of lows. I learned a lot...mostly about the war. Not gonna lie, it was eye-opening in the most ugly and horrific way. After 2 days of spending hours in museums and at sites (some things seemed really sadistic), I came away feeling drained and depressed. Saddened about what war does to everyone involved, despite who wins and who loses it's effects are still so evident today. After being in Ho Chi Minh for a few days, my friend and I took an overnight train to the large, tourist-filled sea-side city of Nha Trang. The train arrived at 5 am and we couldn't check into our air b&b until 2 pm, so we had a taxi just drop us off on the beach with our luggage. We sat in the sand for hours. Just watching tourists and Vietnamese alike, all doing morning jazzercise routines on the beach and watched as the older Vietnamese struggled to sell whatever they could to make money. The poverty is everywhere. The country is still in recovery. We had some good conversations in broken English with a few women that approached us selling things, but again, like I had experienced on a previous trip, when made known that we weren't going to buy much from them, they didn't want anything to do with us. After a few days of seeing so much brokenness (and many, many disabled and deformed people from the effects of agent orange), my friend told me that she was feeling so hopeless for these people, that it's hard not to do anything for them. I agreed and then we decided that as we walked the streets and interacted with others we would pray for all those we encountered. My hope is that somehow these people would find true Hope somehow, in someway.
Our last day we took a cable car to an island amusement park. Wasn't super exciting compared to western standards, but we found our favorite ride were the gliders (go-cart on a track type thing) that pulls you up a mountain and gives you a great view of the city, bay and surrounding islands before sending you back down. At least I could brake if I wanted (but that definitely wouldn't be as fun).
5. Diakonia is wrapping up for the semester. We've had many events the past few weeks and a few more in the coming weeks. It's exciting and exhausting, but always worth it! The smiles and laughter (not to mention, all the random hugs and kids hanging off of every limb) is one of my favorite things. I pray that this ministry can continue for years to come, but that's out of my hands.
1. I am sad to be missing yet another American Thanksgiving. Without doubt, my favorite holiday. This year will be our first Teachbeyond Thanksgiving...so I'm looking forward to whatever that will be....although there is never any turkey...:)
2. Holidays mean lots to do: my 6th grader's first band concert, staff Christmas parties, the third annual cookie decorating party for the littles in my life and the anticipation of spending some time at the children's home hanging out with the kids there. Also, cleaning and doing all the other "around the house" things I don't usually have time for.
1. Nha Trang Typhoon and flooding-one week after we were visiting Vietnam and typhoon hit the beach-side city that we stayed at for a few days. There were fatalities and lots of flooding and destruction.
2. Health-lots of co-workers, students and others in my community have been really sick. We have no more subs at school. It's been a lot of extra work having to cover for others. It's so bad that they canceled school today. I'm hanging in there, but feeling fatigued and when I don't get enough rest, immunity is weak.
3. Continue to pray for the Rohingya, as thousands continue to flee on hand-made rafts and on foot. The situation is dire and they are still in desperate need of food, shelter, saftey, and eventually something to occupy their time with (perhaps, education...). If you wish to donate I would suggest donating to the following organizations:
1. Partners Relief and Development
As always, thank you for taking the time to read these updates and for lifting me up. I am humbled and oh so grateful.
Sara Gurule c/o