Monday, March 30, 2015

My New Normal

The longer I live in Niger, the more difficult it seems for me to write a blog post.  When I first moved here, everything was new and exciting, very different from suburban life in Pennsylvania.  Informing friends and family back home was easy because of my many new encounters with Niamey.  Now, the once-crazy, jaw-dropping sights on the streets or in the market place are less shocking.  I don't find myself staring and I no longer have to tell myself to "get a grip, Hannah, it's just Niger."  Niger has become my new normal.

Don't get me wrong, of course there are some hilarious sights when you are out and about - a man talking on his cell phone while riding a camel, four men riding one motorcycle, bush taxis packed inside and out with chickens, goats and mattresses.  You really never know what you are going to get.  Niger is unexpected like that.  But I'm learning to expect the unexpected.

I've recently begun driving in Niger (wahoo!), which is a big accomplishment for me, since when I first came here driving was a rather stressful idea.  But I have some friends who have graciously loaned me their car and I've successfully made it to the airport, various restaurants, the grocery store, the tailor, church, and friends' houses.

With only one more quarter left of the school year, I can confidently say that teaching has become more normal, as well.  Much like Niamey, every day is an adventure, but I think I'm getting the hang of it.  By no means am I perfect, but I find joy in being with my students and am sad to think that I only have one more quarter left with them, some of them leaving Niger for good.

"Adulting," a term I stole from a good friend (thanks, Debbi!), is something I hope I am getting better at, too.  Being on the other side of things (the adult, rather than the child), has given me plenty of opportunities to learn, mess up, and relearn.  I am finding it challenging to maintain consistent discipline.  Yes, discipline is Biblical, but how do you discipline in a godly way?  I've never really been in a position in which it is necessary to rebuke.  Of course, I've held leadership roles before, but being an adult feels much different, and in a lot of cases with my students, I am the higher authority, making the calls.  I have found that it's not fun for me to send students to the principal's office or have them lose a few minutes of recess.  And yet, I'm learning the importance for me to follow through.  Actions have consequences and that's an important lesson that I hope my second graders are learning!

I had a humbling encounter last week during parent teacher conferences.  As the third quarter ended, I had the opportunity to touch base with about half of my students' parents.  As I ended one conference in particular, my offer to pray for them was reciprocated.  I immediately felt encouraged and convicted as they prayed that I would be a godly example for their child.  Those are the kind of prayers that I so desperately need.

I continue to navigate life and the journey is not always smooth.  I trip and fall and get back up again over and over.  So yes, may the students I serve and teach see my mistakes, but may they also see the redemption of God Almighty through me.  I think being a godly example does not mean that I have to be perfect, but rather that Christ's perfection covers me.  I want to live in that - in the truth that I am made new in Christ.

As we celebrate Easter, remember exactly what this celebration means for you in your everyday life.  It is more than a holiday and an excuse to eat candy.  It is a glorious remembrance of  Christ's death and resurrection, giving us holy access to God Emmanuel, Redeemer, Counselor, and Friend.

Happy Easter, everyone!

"He is not here, he has risen, just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay."  Matthew 28:6

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Days Gone By

It's been a full week and only one more before break.  Report cards are out and Parent Teacher Conferences commence Tuesday and Wednesday.  Our unit on Vikings is finished and we will continue learning about globe and map skills this week.  I am excited to start a poetry unit with my kiddos, too!

Tonight was the big night.  "I have butterflies in my stomach!" my second grader told me.  The girls looked beautiful in their Easter dresses and the boys handsome in their collared shirts.  Lined up, quiet in the hallway, ready to wow the eager moms and dads, cameras in hand.  Miss Farrer worked hard with grades K-5 this past month preparing for the Easter Musical.  The hours of practice paid off!  They were wonderful!  What a beautiful sound and a powerful message.  He is Risen!

I am looking forward to celebrating my first Easter in Africa.  There have been many firsts for me here.  And while people come and go, I have found a family with whom I can celebrate to make it special.  (I would love to dye eggs, but African chickens lay brown eggs and I'm not sure it would be the same.  New places, faces, and traditions to be made.)

And with time, I have found myself adjusting to life in Niger in other ways.  If you have been keeping up with me since August, you know that I had a bit of trouble with the food...bleaching lettuce too long, failed attempts at yogurt, and melted tupperware.  However, I am excited to inform you that I have come a long way in 8 months!  I have successfully conquered yogurt, made my own bread, granola, homemade salsa, hummus, and tortilla chips.  I have cooked chicken and fried zucchini.  I've baked cookies, cakes, and pies.  While time limits my adventures in the kitchen, I have truly enjoyed making new things!

I have also been given the opportunity to drive in Niger!  Don't be fooled by the smiles.  Aggression is the name of the game.  And patience.  Cows, goats, and sheep meander in front of cars.  The road is shared with donkeys pulling carts of hay and camels with wide loads.  Taxi drivers zip in and out of traffic.  Motorcyclists often carry tall loads of eggs, windows, chickens, or anything else impractical.  I have seen up to 5 people on one motorcycle.  The other day I saw a man climb up onto his camel as it was walking...he just swung his leg over its neck and climbed up!  You never know what you will see in Niger.  Needless to say, driving here is quite the accomplishment and you will never be bored!

This past weekend, I enjoyed some Indian food, dancing, and great friends!  We ate to our hearts' content at the buffet and then danced it all off!  A few Sahel students and their families were involved in putting together the event.  It was so neat to see them in another context and super fun to watch them dance traditional Indian dance!  I tried my best to follow along at the end, and I was surprised and humbled by a student who commented, "You danced better than we do!"  Ha!  If only I could remember the moves!

I helped a good friend from Switzerland celebrate her birthday on Saturday by going out for brunch!  We shopped and then enjoyed a delicious meal with chocolate mousse for dessert.  That evening, we joined some other friends at the dunes.  The dust and sand in the air made it difficult, more like impossible, to see the horizon.  But we sat in the red sand, feeling the dark of the night slowly pull its quiet blanket over us.  Silence echoed in our ears and the fading of light was almost tangible.  After throwing the football and chasing it down the dunes, we started the fire for dinner, hot dogs and chips.  For dessert, chocolate in bananas on the hot coals!  We chatted long into the night, returning home tired and ready for rest.

Did I tell you about the Masquerade yet?!  Last Saturday, Student Council put on a dinner and a dance for the secondary students at Sahel.  It was absolutely lovely, from the decorations to the food to the dancing!  Cameras flashed as pictures were taken.  Volunteers circulated with appetizers, meatballs, pinwheels, and veggies.  I joined the round table of teachers for dinner, candles lit and decorations sparkling.  I was asked to teach dance, and so after dinner, I gave it my best shot.  We waltzed and did a simple two-step.  It was absolutely fantastic!  I didn't know I could teach dancing, but I am so glad that I tried.  And of course, we did the Cupid Shuffle and some other "party" songs!  After crepes and ice cream, a few fireworks were set off to end the night.  What a fun evening!

Thank you for supporting me through your prayers and encouragement.  It has been such an adventure living in Niger and I hope you get a small taste of life here by reading my blog.  May you find peace and joy, but most of all Christ.  Blessings.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Weekend Fun!

Last weekend was full of fun...check it out!

Sahel Academy held its first annual 5k!  We started the run early and enjoyed the hazy morning with over 40 participants.  Some walked and others ran the red dirt road, past the bright green rice fields.  It was so beautiful to watch the sunrise as we ran.

Beth made a great running partner and I finished 2nd in the female category!

One of my good friends here is expecting!  So the ladies at Sahel celebrated by having a baby shower for her.  Praying for Amanda and Dietrich as they start this new chapter!

Bev made an adorable fruit salad in a watermelon buggy :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


This past weekend, I fell quite sick.  Thankfully, I was back in the classroom today!  Here are just a few reasons that I am incredibly blessed, despite my illness.
1.  The amazing teachers and staff at Sahel graciously covered my class for two days while I recovered.  Thank you Bev and Marsha!
2.  The Friday before I got sick, I received a package from Grandma!  It was an adorable and super cuddly puppy!  I don't think I'll ever get too old for stuffed animals.  Thanks for sending your love, Grandma :)
3.  My roommates checked in on me and helped me find medication and stay hydrated.  One even gave me a malaria test (don't worry, it came back negative)!  Thanks, Rachy :)
4.  My neighbor visited me with updates from the day and how can you not start to feel better when she decides to come in wearing a green wig in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday?!  Thanks, Kathy :)
5.  My second graders wrote me "Get! Well! Miss! Knox!" cards.  They just warm my heart.

Last week I used an idea I found for measuring perimeter.  It worked out great!  We made "Perimeter Cones" by measuring the lengths on one side and adding them together for the perimeter on the other side!  The kids are getting great at measuring!  (Thank you Mrs. Lemons!

I also just have to share some of my students' creativity.  We made "Gallon Men" to learn about capacity and equivalents.  Of course, the boys turned theirs into boys and the girls made "Gallon Girls." :) The gallon people slowly turned into surfers, action figures, and even me!  Can you see the resemblance?! ;) Check out their artistic talent below!