Saturday, October 17, 2009

there is hope...

Ever since I started TFA I have been swept up into a whirlwind of business. I constantly go go go go go go.

It's been say the least. I have never experienced anything so challenging in my life (’s even more challenging then traveling and living in Addis, Ethiopia for 6th months!). I'm constantly being pushed and challenged to do be a better teacher...and I constantly feel like I suck at what I do...which is actually a common mentality between many of us "TFAers."

So with that being said.. I'm gonna be completely honest and's hard. It's one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. Like I said, I constantly am being pushed to do better...and I constantly feel like I'm not doing good enough. I work more than I ever have..I feel like I even work when I'm sleeping sometimes. My days consist of waking up at 5:30 am...going to school...I don't have a break all day (except to RUN to the bathroom during lunch..cause I have to eat with my students)..I don't get home until 4:30 or 5:30 pm...and then I have to lesson plan and prepare for the next day. I lesson plan until I go to bed…and then it starts all over again. My weekends even consist of me planning for the next week. On top of all of that... It's HARD to be in a new area...make new friends...learn a COMPLETELY new culture...and strive to be a good enough teacher to make significant gains and impact in the student’s lives…all at the same time. I have never had to be more organized...put together...responsible...and on top of things as I have this year as a teacher. I don't think I know anyone who wouldn't say it is the MOST challenging thing they have done yet...

BUT despite that...despite the exhaustion...the feeling of constantly being overworked...the emotional challenges of living in a new area, adjusting to a new culture, being a new teacher...etc. this job is SO rewarding. It’s the little things...coming to school and having students huddled around your desk in the morning to say hi and ask me what I have planned for class today…or hearing a student walk down the hall humming the math song I just taught them. Or it is when a student who has been struggling in math, masters their first test. Or it’s when you tell a student, who has been working hard in your class, "good job" and their face lights up. That's what spurs me on each day...that's why I do what I do...despite all the hardships and countless hours of work. The students make it alllll worth it.’s all about the students...they are why I came here to begin with…and they are what’s keeping me here. I love my students more than I thought possible. YES- even when they don't listen to me...or when they give me headaches...or constantly talk...or fight in my classroom...or don't walk in straight lines...haha..I still love them…and I believe that they DESERVE to receive a good education- they deserve to have people in their lives that tell them that they can do it…that believe in them and love them. They deserve an education that pushes them and guides them to success.

Pray for my students…pray for the students in the Delta. There is hope for them to have a bright future...pray that they will be empowered to make the right decisions and to be guided to the right path…pray that their teachers won’t fail them…and that they will be pushed to do their best and succeed in school. Pray for their families…many have rough situations. The families here are stuck in a cruel and rough cycle of poverty…and education is one of their only hopes of breaking out of that cycle. And yet the cycle of poverty is even affecting the educational system…continuing to keep the students within it’s trap…continuing to discourage…keep them behind…take away opportunities and experiences…and destroy their hope for the future.

And as hopeless and scary as that sounds, I’m here to say...there is still hope. Despite the cycle of poverty…and educational inequality that is a definite reality within the delta…I still see hope- when every day I go to school and I see teachers who CARE about these students. I see my principle working HARD to make changes. I see parents who are reaching out, wanting their students to succeed, I see students working hard and trying their best to beat the odds that are stacked against them. I see hope…even when many say it’s hopeless.

With prayer and actions..change can and will occur. I have hope for my babies..and for the students in the Delta…keep praying…keep supporting…keep loving….change will come in individual lives..and in the bigger picture..there is hope.
(ALSO on a side note- I have been SO blessed to have found amazing friends
here. I have a great roommate who I enjoy coming home to everyday. I don’t know what I would do without her. And I have found a really legit group of friends down here. We encourage each other and hold each other up. I would NOT be able to get through this without them. )

Thank you ALL for your love, support, and prayers. I couldn’t do this without you.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

my experience thus far...

Hello friends and family!

So I'm DONE with institute. I am now moved in and ALMOST settled into a 2 bedroom, 1 bath triplex in Greenwood, MS. I'm teaching 6th grade Math at Threadgill elementary. The students come Aug. not much longer until I'm officially a teacher!

Since I've have already had SUCH an experience living here in Greenwood, MS- some friends and I put together something to describe our experience thus far....enjoy!

You know you are in Greenwood, Mississippi when…

-you get invited to 4 churches in one day
-you see a tractor drive through town
-you can order frog legs for dinner
-you hear Christian music playing…everywhere
-you try and order catfish and they say it’s “sold out”
-your landlord becomes your “mom figure”
-your banker gives you personal advice
- 90 degrees with 80 percent humidity starts to feel comfortable
-the mosquitoes LIKE insect repellent..and are bigger than your hand
-you have to finish your shopping by 5:00pm because everything closes…expect for Wal-Mart
- everyone you meet makes sure you are living in the “right” (white) part of town
-Wal-Mart becomes your best friend
-you have a constant shine of sweat on your body
-there are more churches then grocery stores
-the streets are named after Presidents…and one is Jefferson Davis
-you have to drive an hour to get to the nearest movie theater
-you have to have your house sprayed for cockroaches
-your glasses fog up when you go outside
-you pay $500 a month for a 2 bedroom house
-strangers ask you where your accent is from
-you feel rude if you say “thank you” without adding “ma’am” or “sir”
-you are excited to see JC penny
-you get seated on the “white” or “black” side of a restaurant
-strangers know you are doing Teach America before you even tell them
-it takes you 5 minutes to get across town
-the manager at the local bowling alley says, “come on hunny put your baadoonkkaa ddooonnkkk into it!” over the loud speaker
-as a first year teacher you are making double the median salary of MS
- the clerk from Big Lots offers to deliver your furniture when he gets off work
-you go outside and hear the sound of 100 dying cats…then realize it’s just the katydids
-the only radio stations are country or Christian…
-your cable guy gets upset when you watch BET
-you have to drive 2 ½ hours to Memphis, Tennessee to go to Starbucks
-squished bugs become a permanent car decoration

Thank you all for your prayers, encouragement, and support. I appreciate all of you so much!
much love,

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Adventure...

Well it has been about 6 months since I returned from my challenging and life changing adventure in Ethiopia. Despite some difficult experiences while I was there, I still have moments where I miss Ethiopia a lot. I fell in love with the culture and made some really close and dear friends. Someday I’ll go back and visit them. Ethiopia is a beautiful country with a RICH and DEEP culture and history. If anyone is looking for an adventure, I recommend traveling to Ethiopia, especially if you spend most of your time in the rural areas of the North and the South. The North has a RICH history. It is said that the Ten Commandments are located in Axum, where a monk guards them. I didn’t get time to travel to the North, so when I go back that is the SECOND thing on my list of things to do- the first thing is to go to Addis and visit all of my friends. : )

Anyways, that is a chapter in my life that is closed, but will hopefully be re-visited in the future. Now I am moving on to another chapter…MISSISSIPPI! I got accepted to Teach For America (if you are interested in learning more about TFA, here is the link- ).

Schedule: I will fly down to Mississippi June 4th. I will be in Mississippi for 4 or 5 days of induction, where I will learn about the culture and demographics and need in Mississippi. I will also get a chance to interview with 3 or 4 principles, with the hope of being offered a job. I got accepted to TFA as an elementary teacher, but I still have to get hired by a school. (TFA facilitates it, and everyone who was accepted is pretty much guaranteed to get hired…) After the 5 days in Mississippi, I will caravan over to Houston, Texas where I will live for 5 weeks and have INTENSIVE training- with the goal of receiving my emergency credentials at the end of training. Once training is over, I will caravan BACK to Mississippi…by then I will know exactly what district and grade level I will be teaching. I will meet my parents in MI (they are going to bring my car down with all of my stuff) and I will have about two weeks to find a place to move into before school STARTS!

Sounds crazy, I know. I’m really praying I’ll make some quality friends during institute that will be able to be roommates! Anyways, right now I’m in Seattle preparing for this adventure. I have a LOT of reading to do as well as some classroom visits. Honestly I don’t know what to expect AT ALL. I’m going with an open mind and heart, and a willing spirit. I’m a little nervous about getting through the intensive training in Houston and finding quality people to be able to live with. There are a lot of unknowns. Right now all I can do is move forward and trust God to guide.

I would appreciate your prayers and encouragement as I begin this new and exciting chapter in my life. I hear that the first year of teaching is pretty difficult, so I ask for your love and support in this next year. I feel so blessed that I have such a loving and supportive community that I can depend on. Thank you so much.

Much love,

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dear friends and family,

I'm HOME! I came home in time for Thanksgiving. So far my experience home has been a blur of family, friends, and a lot of sleep. I'm enjoying being home a lot. My body is doing well and continuing to adjust to the time difference…but my emotions are a different story. I feel like I haven’t even begun to process my experience. As my professor says, I’ve been in sort of a "honeymoon stage"….extremely happy to be back with family and friends and enjoying the love and comfort of home. But I’m starting to realize that those feelings will soon fade (not completely of course!) and I will have to face the reality of everything that I went through and experienced in Ethiopia. Which of course will be emotional and draining...but necessary and all apart of the process. I will write one final update on my experience and how I'm doing in a few weeks. I'm excited to talk with and see everyone. Thank you all for your prayers and support. They mean more to me then I can express.

In Christ,


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Preparing to come home!

Dear friends and family,

I am in the mental process right now of preparing for the end of my trip. I feel like a lot of my time these days is spent reflecting on my experience. My global learning term (GLT) has been NOTHING of what I expected. I expected the "picture perfect" GLT...going to another country, feeling like I belong and fit in, working for an amazing organization where I was able to have hands on experiences with the poor, loving them and caring for them. I expected to have so many pictures and amazing life changing stories to tell people. But I came here and reality hit me. I was EXTREMELY lonely and had a hard time at the beginning of my trip, then I started to adjust and get use to life but became overwhelmed by the poor and poverty I saw, I also became overwhelmed by city life. Then I started working at an organization where I thought I would be involved with the poor- talking with them, crying with them, laughing with them...but instead I spent most of my time in the office, writing reports and editing papers. I then found out that the organization I was working for was corrupt. I soon realized that I didn't agree with a lot that was going on. My world crashed when I saw the struggles and pain of the clients that the organization was working for. I can't get into too much detail here but it was hard to see. I felt powerless to do anything about it and right now I feel very discouraged and hopeless.

This GLT hasn't turned out how I thought it would. I have seen intense pain, hurt, and corruption, I have felt lonely, powerless, and discouraged. It's interesting because I have realized that what I have experienced is most people's everyday reality. So many people in this world feel lonely, powerless, and discouraged most of the time. So many people live in poverty and pain. And those people can't just pick up their stuff and go back to a comfortable life with loving family and friends. So even though I don't feel like I have experienced the "perfect" GLT-I don't have the stories of seeing lives transformed, or holding a mother in her last moments before the AIDS took her life, or seeing a street child come off the streets into a loving home. I don't have stories of hope. I have stories of pain and desperation-I do feel like I have experienced real life. After awhile of being here it soon just became my life. I don't feel like I'm living in another country most of the time. It's hard to explain, but it doesn't feel like a one month mission trip where you go, are so taken with the people and culture, help some people, have your eyes opened, and then come home. It feels like I came here to live...make just be. I feel like I'm just going through daily struggles, talking with people, experiencing/seeing the pain and suffering around me. I have realized that I came all the way across the world to experience life. I know this isn't the most encouraging message. I know that there is hope in this world. There are organizations that haven't allowed money to get in the way of doing good and helping people. I know there are people out there fighting injustice and seeking to make this world a better place. But the other side of life is full of pain and suffering...and it is important to open ones eyes to that side too. It's important to hurt, it's important to cry, it's important to realize the realities in this world. So even though I'm frustrated, broken, extremely tired, and ready to come home, I have to believe that God will still use this experience to stir in me even more passion to DO something. I expected this to be my time to DO something, but it has turned out to be my time to just live and observe.

Anyways, I don't know if this is really making sense. But I do want to say that being here has made me realize that I have taken a lot for granted. I miss my friends and family so much. I am looking forward to being home again with everyone.

Thank you so so much for your continued support and prayers. I still have a little bit more to go...right now I'm working on language AND my huge research project...along with my other little daily assignments. Pray for strength and stamina for Amber and me as we finish up. Also pray that in these last weeks God will bring pockets of joy into our lives. It can be pretty discouraging and hard at times but I'm still seeking to find God in everything and allowing Him to move through me.

Thank you again for your love and support, Dana

p.s. Amber and I were woken up at 7:00 am this morning to my host mom and little sisters running in our room screaming- "Obama is President!!" It was a great way to wake up. Amber and I just started crying for joy right then. This is a day to remember for sure. It has been interesting to experience it all the way across the world. These elections have really impacted not only the U.S. but the rest of the world as well. I know that some of you are disappointed and some are rejoicing. I want you to know that even if you aren't happy about Obama being president SO many people all over the world are impacted and touched by the fact that he is now president. Our host dad was saying that the rest of the world looks to the U.S. as a role model, and today he is very proud of America. It is a big deal and people all over the world have a lot of hope for Obama.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Two Months to Go

Dear Friends and Family,

Hair: So last week Amber and I went and got our hair done again. We decided to get different styles since MOST people think we are twins anyways. Amber got her hair braided down in little braids using a lot of fake hair...she sort of looks like a Rasta! It looks good on her. : ) I got my hair in a traditional Tigringna (one tribe in Ethiopia) style. It's super hard to explain, but I'll try....ok, the front part is a corn-rows....but then about half way back they added fake curly hair that sticks out's all fake hair that can be seen...the rest of my hair was attached in the back (by sewing) and is covered by the fake fro. Usually I wear a head band over the top braided part and let my fake fro stick out...seriously, I have a white girls's pretty sweet. I'm enjoying it! Oh and the fake hair they added is right now I have a brown fro! Haha don't worry, I've taken a lot of pictures. Overall it took them about 5 hours to do our hair!

Friends: Last week Amber threw me a "surprise" birthday party. It wasn't quite a surprise though...haha she did a good job at hiding it, BUT this is everyone showed up super the time most of them arrived, Amber had already told me what was going on. Haha it was fun to hang out with our friends once they got there!! It was so sweet of Amber to do that for me. I also got many e-mails and wishes...thank you all!)

Holidays: Ethiopians like to celebrate! Last Friday was Meskel- an Orthodox holiday to celebrate how they found the true cross- the cross that Jesus died on. Amber and I went with our friend Hirut. We went to a BIG square, where there was literally thousands of people gathered. We got a decent spot to see the ceremony. In the middle of the square all the priests put on a dancing performance....they were dressed in the colors of the flag and they formed into a big circle and did some dances with a small cross. The prime minister and president were there. It was a nice ceremony of faith but it seemed very political. Some people did some speeches, and once it started to get dark everyone lit was beautiful. Then they had a fire works show and they lit a HUGE bon-fire. It was interesting to experience it and be among such a HUGE crowd of people. Also, on Tuesday it was Eid- a holiday for Muslims for the breaking of their fast- Ramadan. Ethiopia is about 50% it's a national holiday. Everyone had school and work off. The streets seemed empty. Early in the morning they gathered in a stadium and had a service. I saw some of it on the news, it was crazy to see THOUSANDS of Ethiopians doing the prayer in-sync. Amber and I wanted to go...but we heard they wouldn't let us in since we aren't Muslim...and I would have a hard time covering my fro....)
Voting: We voted for president on Thursday!!! It's exciting to me that we got to vote before everyone else!)

Life: Things are still hard. City life is so draining. I've always, always, wanted to live in the city. I grew up in the city and LA term confirmed that I'm definitely a city girl, but after being here, all I wanna do is live in a little village or town out in the country (overseas OR in the US)...away from all the people, away from the cars/busses, the big buildings, the exhaust, away from the surface friendships, away from the beggars...when I go home I feel like I'm gonna need to go somewhere in the wilderness and stay there to re-coup from city life. Luckily Amber and I are planning a few trips to go outside of Addis Ababa. We need it! God is good, he's getting me through. Right now finding the importance of surrendering EVERYDAY to God and asking him to show me how to love...just for that day. Cause it's too overwhelming to think about doing it for two more months. So that's some things that are going on. Thank you for your continued prayers. Much love -dana

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Extended Time

Dear Friends and Family!

Selam, denah nacho? Selamno? Egzabier Imskin (Hello, how are you all? Peace to you? Praise the Lord). This is the greeting that everyone does when you see each other. There are different ways of greeting someone…usually it is with three kisses on the cheek, sometimes it’s a shoulder bump, sometimes it’s a hug and then a hand shake….you always ask them how they are…usually multiple times in different forms…and the response is always along the lines of I’m good, or fine, or praise the Lord. So in the states, if you get tired of the casual, “hello, how are you? I’m fine” greeting….believe me, it’s nothing compared to here!! Ha ha I have grown to love it though. Although sometimes I get nervous because I’m not sure how many times we should kiss on the cheek, or if they are gonna do the one shoulder bump, or go in for the hug…sometimes it’s awkward, but usually I sense what they are doing and end up pulling it off. : ) It seems that most people have their favorite way of greeting people, so with my friends I try to remember when I see them to do it their way…for instance my boss is a one shoulder bump/hug kind of guy…my best friend Hirut is a hug, kiss on the cheek, handshake kind of girl. Usually when you meet someone new it’s a three kiss greeting. : ) It’s hard to explain it in writing, but I hope you can get somewhat of a picture!

News: Ishi, (ok) I have to tell you all some very important news. I have prayed, talked with people, and thought about this a lot….and I have decided to extend my time here for one more month. My original plane ticket home was for November 5th, but I have extended my time until December 2nd. Because I struggled so much with things at the beginning I lost some time and have fallen a bit behind in my work, thus I really need the extra month. I also started my internship late, and still have a lot of work to do for language and my research project. So that is the main reason why I have extended. Some more news- Amber’s family that she was living with have been going through some really hard times…thus Amber had to leave. So my family opened their loving arms to her and we are now living together! So yes, we work together and live together. It’s not the “ideal” GLT- where you are out there roughing it on your own. Butttt, it’s what we both need right now. God has really brought us together. Life isn’t always roses here…there are many confusions, miscommunications, and difficult times. So it has been such a blessing to have someone to debrief with and experience things with. All of our friends are habisha (Ethiopian) and we are still very much involved in the life…so it’s all good. ; )

Ethiopian New Years a.k.a. sheep/goat genocide: It was Ethiopian New Year on September 1st, (actually for our calendar it was Sept. 11th…they have a different calendar and time schedule then we do). New Years is a BIG deal here in Ethiopia. Everyone buys new clothes, gets their hair done, and spends hours preparing food! Basically everyone in Ethiopia…rich or poor buys a goat or a sheep. It was hilarious, a day or two before New Year there were goats and sheep everywhere…cars would have to stop to let the herds go across the road, people would be buying them, dragging them around, strapping them to the top of their cars, and bringing them on the mini buses! There were a couple times when I almost tripped over the goat while getting off the mini bus. They were everywhere!! Then, New Years came...and the next day…the city was quiet….there were no more sheep or goats left. I was talking with some of my friends and we decided that probably THOUSANDS of sheep and goats where slaughtered in one day. There’s also an area that I travel through everyday on the mini bus to get to work…it’s a butcher house…and it’s known for it’s MOUND of bones…the mound got a LOT bigger after New Years…and the smell got A LOT worse!! That area it known for its smell…but now it’s terrible!

Health- So my body seems to be really sensitive to everything here. I ended up going to the doctor to get it all checked out. After doing some tests, the doctor told me that I have Typhoid and Typhus!! When he told me that, I causally said, ok…got the medicine…and went home. Then it hit me…. “oh dear! I have Typhoid AND Typhus!!” I started to freak out a little. When I told my friends, a lot of them were like WHAT? Amber told one of our good friends and he was like… “oh no, I think I need to visit her”…like I was on my death bed or something. After freaking out for a bit…I finally was like “koi, koi, koi (wait, wait, wait)….I feel fine.” Haha Honestly I had none of the symptoms that I should have for the two Ts. So I went back to the doctor to talk with him. Luckily it was a different doctor…so I explained to him everything and he told me that I was definitely misdiagnosed. PHEW! So I don’t have Typhoid and Typhus…they did give me some meds to take for it and I was told to continue taking them…hoping that it will cure whatever I DO have. : ) So pray for my health.

Awakening: So…as I mentioned in my previous e-mail…I’ve sort of had an awakening. When I first got to Addis, I was SO overwhelmed by everything I saw. I was almost paralyzed…I didn’t feel like I could do anything, or comprehend what I was seeing. But now that I’ve been here for three months, I realized that my coping mechanism was to just shove it all aside. I was tired of having my heart hurt every time I saw a street child, or a disabled person…etc. So that, along with the body and minds natural adjustment to things…I all of a sudden realized that I was very self consumed and numb to what’s around me. I feel like I don’t know how to truly love….in fact, I really just haven’t been myself lately. I’ve been extremely self consumed….extremely overwhelmed with work and all of the frustrations that come with that…and extremely overwhelmed by all of the demands and people here in the city. Amber felt the same way, so we decided to get away and re-asses our lives. So Friday evening, after work…we reserved a hotel room… went to the bus station…got on a bus and traveled about an hour and a half outside of Addis Ababa. We turned off our phones…and spent the weekend reading, praying, and journaling. The area we went is known for its crater lakes. So we got a cheapo hotel to sleep in (I have some funny stories about that) and in the day time we went to the more high class hotel with a GORGEOUS view over the lake…there we sat and read and journaled and ate bomb food. It was very relaxing, and a good time to reflect. I’m really praying for God to open my heart and show me how to love him by loving others. It’s hard to explain in words what I am feeling right now…even though I still don’t feel completely myself, and I still don’t know really what to do or how to take care of “the least of these” and follow after Jesus’ example….I am feeling more refreshed and I’m ready to wake up every morning and surrender my day to God…praying that He will guide me each step of the way….thank you for your prayers and e-mails. It all means so so much to me. Life isn’t always easy here in Addis….but I’m living and learning….learning how to love and be loved.
Thank you again for your prayers. I love you guys. Oh! One more thing….IF anyone wants to use Skype and give me a call (I know it cost money so honestly don’t feel pressured!!)…here is my cell phone number- 0913325765. It’d be fun to hear from you! Ishi, ciao! (ok, bye!) -

dana, dayna, donna, dionna, diana, dina, da….whatever my name is…. ?