our journey so far…

We are starting this blog because we are pursuing moving abroad to work at a school called the Black Forest Academy.  BFA is in Kandern, Germany,which from photos looks like a quaint little puzzle you might put together with your family at Christmas.

Many of you know that we have both been interested in working and living abroad since… well before we even met each other!  In fact it was something that attracted us to one another! After we got married the question became when will we go?  We thought about it, and prayed about it, and decided it would be wise to wait to pursue opportunities abroad until we had been married for a year, this gave us some time to transition into life together! And time to enjoy our friends, family and new marriage!

Well, we celebrated our 1 yr anniversary this past May! We decided to dive into exploring our options!  All sorts of questions came up! How? When Exactly? Where? Doing What?

After doing some research We decided to pursue working with the organization Teach Beyond.  Teach Beyond partners with people who want to serve at international schools around the world and helps to place them in a school that will fit their skills and personality best.  They also help through the process of applying to schools and raising support to go.  Yup. We have to raise support… don’t worry, we’re not there yet. So there was the answer to How, TeachBeyond!

You might wonder, why international schools?  Good question! Currently we both work with kids, I work as an art instructor and Jamison is a community support specialist, Jamison meets with “at risk youths” in the community and helps them develop life skills and self confidence! We both really love working with kids. I dare say, it is even something we are good at!  At an international school I could teach art, this means my skills and strengths would be being put to good use!  Jamison is great with helping kids understand who they are, and helps them work on the things they want to be better at.  At an international school he could be a guidance counselor. Long story short, working at an international school gives us both the opportunity to serve together at the same place, in different ways, using our skills!

We were very fortunate in our initial inquiry with TeachBeyond, One of their recruiters, was going to be in the area soon and we set up a coffee date with him.  At this point we didn’t have any clue about the when? aspect of things, we were given a few schools who were in need of both art teachers and counselors for the coming 2011 school year.  One of which was BFA, We were really drawn in BFA!  When we met up for coffee with TeachBeyond’s recruiter we had a great time talking about the different schools and opportunities as well as the practicalities like raising support, and when we would go.  He knew a lot about BFA because he had spent several years working there.  After talking about the practicalities we decided to aim at leaving this coming summer of 2012.  We planned to apply to TeachBeyond and BFA, begin raising our support, live intentionally this coming year with our family and friends and hopefully be set to leave for the 2012 school year!  So there was the When and potentially the where!

Teachbeyond encouraged us to contact BFA to let them know of our interest.  Amazingly enough their recruiting liaison was going to be in our area in a few weeks. (crazy? or crazy awesome?) We got to meet with her and talk more about our potential fit at BFA.  It was really a joy and a blessing to get to meet with both of these individuals, talking with them gave us such an excitement to pursue working at BFA and also gave us both a strong feeling of affirmation that we were headed in the right direction.  BFA’s recruiting liaison gave us a lot of insight into what life at the school could be like for us.  She told us about different roles we might fit into at the school and a little about the kids there too!

We began the long process of applying to both Teachbeyond and BFA.  There were pages and pages of questions and essays and we had many references to ask for!  Thanks to everyone who sent in a reference for either of us!  It has been several months of applications and then finally a 2 hour+ phone interview each!  We were recently notified that we have been accepted by Teachbeyond to serve at BFA!

We are now in direct contact with the school, BFA, to work out the logistics of what their needs are for the coming school year and where we will fit in.  We are anxious to get everything rolling and begin the more concrete plans like plane tickets! However, we know everything will come together when it is supposed to.

We greatly appreciate your support through out this process!  Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue pursuing this dream!  Keep checking back to hear more about our journey and get the latest updates on where we are at!

<3  J and J Loop

Balancing Busy BFA

You might know this about me, but I love to use alliterations.  I use them on my class project titles when possible… examples being “cultural coils” and “tea for two.”  I’ve used them when showing art and in everyday conversation they tend to pop up.  It’s really just fun to use the same letter repeatedly.

Balancing Busy BFA is the biggest alliteration of them all.  Right now it is the most important one too.  Everyone involved in Black Forest Academy is constantly putting pieces of a BFA puzzle together, everyone has pieces, pieces that don’t go together with their own pieces, but match up with someone else’s pieces.  sometimes you can’t tell if the piece you are holding is an “important” piece or not.  Other times you know you are holding one of the all important corner pieces and you better be sure to place it well!  Let me make this illustration more accurate though.  In all honestly sometimes it feels like we are holding not one or two pieces of a BFA puzzle, but maybe 10 or 20.  Oh, and they are not normal puzzle piece sized!  They are the puzzle pieces from those 32,000 piece giant puzzles (that you can actually buy from Ravensburg and it might be Jamison’s dream to put one together) Now at the same time you are putting together the BFA puzzle, with about 50 other people who also have 10 random pieces of the puzzle, you also have a few normal sized tiny puzzle pieces that you might forget about, but dont, because they are very important!

These little pieces are you personal puzzle.  They are relationships, your personal health, your sanity, your alone time, your family and friends back home, your financial supporters, cleaning your apartment, walking the dog, etc. etc. etc. It is this small puzzle that can be forgotten because those pieces fit in your pocket so they don’t seem important.  Especially when your ministry is BFA (and the insanely huge and complicated puzzle that sits before you)

Those tiny pieces though, they are your life.  Stop.  Take time to slip out of the insanity of the never ending BFA puzzle.  Find a quiet corner, a cup of tea and sit.  pull out the pieces of your personal puzzle and put them together.

Go home for lunch, Take a run(or a walk) thru the hills in the afternoon and watch each day as more leaves turn red, orange, yellow.  Go on a date, spend time with a friend.  Journal, sketch, take a class for yourself, read a book, play your guitar,  pray while you do these things.  Whatever it is you need to do for you.  Basically. Breath.

Now, come back to the BFA puzzle.  Realizing that all of your pieces have meaning. (Even those tiny ones in your pocket.)  Start fitting your BFA pieces into the puzzle, teaching, lesson planning, class sponsoring, bus duty monday morning, grading, dorm subbing, coaching, driving the tennis van (thanks Jamison!) organizing the PSAT or proctoring the ACT,  meeting with students.

This week I took out my precious personal puzzle.   I took out the pieces of my own creativity, and my health.  I spent time piecing them together.  I ran thru the woods with my dog.  I worked out ideas of my own from my sketchbook.  I spent quality time with Jamison,  We visited our friends even though we had other “important” things we could work on.  I took a breath.  I needed it.

Now I am able to step back, look at my BFA role(s) and calmly and assuredly work out the pieces.  If I don’t take time to step back and take care of myself, If you don’t either.  We will come to a point with the BFA puzzle where we drop our pieces in frustration, maybe we will even give up, we will doubt our place and doubt our influence, we will wonder if we are useful here.

Today, reach into your pocket for a sacred personal puzzle piece.  Take care of yourself; then, we can all take care of one another and the students and school we love.

What Makes Us BUSY

I just wrote a piece about balancing life at BFA.  Those of you who are back in the states, well, I know you want to know WHAT we have been so busy with here.  So I will try to sum up the past month and of course, show you some pictures!

Well, we started school.  After the excitement of the first week we began to dig into the nitty gritty of projects and responsibilities!  I have 5 classes this year (last fall I just had 3!) I am also the head tennis coach this year.  Weeks have flown by where I felt like I was working on tennis during my only 2 prep periods and had no time for loading, unloading the kiln, cleaning or prepping for lessons.   After school is tennis practice.  I usually get home around 6 and after dinner I need to work on the things I didnt get to during the day, like lesson planning!

Jamison has been busy as well!  He spent the first few weeks of school meeting with all his seniors and talking about where they are at in their college/future plans.  He has been working with kids to help them decide where and what they might like to do after graduating.  Jamison is also in charge of testing services, he has already proctored both an ACT and an SAT (early saturday mornings!)  He is currently getting prepared to administer PSATs to over 100 students this coming Wednesday!

At the end of September, the Töpfermarkt came to town again (ceramic market) I met with some of my students and walked thru the beautiful pottery.  We talked about techniques and gained some ceramic inspiration together.  I have some really skilled seniors this year, I will miss them next year, but I’m sure the Juniors this year will rise to the occasion next year in their ceramic skills!

Every other Monday we are subbing at a dorm, we have had fun doing that, and hanging out with our students in a different setting besides school.  We are also class sponsors for the freshman class.  This past friday was field trip day for the freshmen and sophomores.  The trips are educational, the freshmen went to the WW1 trenches (1 hour drive from here)  and the sophomores went to a concentration camp from WW2.

We went to the trenches and had a great time exploring the area and learning from the history teachers.  I even found an old bullet shell! There was a group of French police looking officials there.  It turns out that they had found two undetonated bomb shells from the war and they were carefully removing them.  They were really excited about them and even showed us the bombs and let us take a photo! (yes I will post it below)  The  most surprising thing was how close the French and German front lines were. (photo below)  I had always imagined a large distance, like maybe 1/2 a mile or so.  Nope.  The closest point seemed to be about 20 yards!  The other interesting thing was the mix of people walking around the trenches, both French and German people hiked through the trenches together.  100 years ago their ancestors were murdering one another on this ground.  Today, they casually chatted and smoked cigars and pipes.  (sorry I didn’t take a photo of the French guy smoking his awesome pipe, It was going to be to obvious!)  The German side trenches are in much better shape.  The history teacher said it was because there was more rock on their side of the hill… but we all know rock or no rock the German trenches would be built well!  They even included grates for wiping your feet before entering into some of the little bunkers.  Ah, the German way.

Saturdays have been spent with the Tennis team.  Jamison has been driving one of the school vans for the team so it has been nice to get to spend Saturday together even though we are still working.  The tennis kids are fun, I would say they are my favorite, but I’m not supposed to have favorites, and I think honestly everyone is my favorite so, that sort of defeats the purpose of favorites.  ANYWAYS, As much organizing and work that tennis has meant this year, it has been an enjoyable time and I’m surprised how fast the season has gone, next week is our last match!

One of our away games was especially interesting because we stayed the night (not uncommon when we travel more than 4 hours)  But this time instead of sleeping on the gym floor, the other team organized host families for each of the students.  When we met back together the next morning at McDonalds the kids were all sharing about their different experiences with their military base host families.  Many of them were confused when their hosts kept offering them food past 10pm, oh America.  One family asked a student if BFA was “like a monastery school” she was able to dispel this myth for them, no we are not a monastery school.  It was a neat experience for the kids, and hopefully for the host families as well.

My friend and I hosted a baby shower for our friend Valerie who is due in December!  We had a lot of fun playing games and eating delicious food to celebrate the newest addition to an already stellar family!

Lastly, We found a tiny snake in our sink.  That was awful.  We captured it and let it go outside.

There are more things I could talk about, but those are the main, and more exciting happenings.  Enjoy some photos!

ceramic students at the töpfermarkt

ceramic students at the töpfermarkt

topfermarkt

topfermarkt

Sharing their tennis host family experiences

Sharing their tennis host family experiences

playing tennis

playing tennis

 

exploring trenches

exploring trenches

exploring trenches

exploring trenches

German line on the left, French on the right

German line on the left, French on the right

lookout

lookout

bombs

bombs

Freshmen "Fighting"

Freshmen “Fighting”

Val's Baby Shower

Val’s Baby Shower

snake. ew.

snake. ew.

Déjà Vu

Déjà Vu.  Do you know what it means, it’s French for “already seen”  and we use it to describe the feeling that “this has happened before” but it hasn’t… or has it?

This week has been a repeat of sorts or… “already seen” I think the best way to describe the opening ceremonies is to do a compare and contrast from what they were like last year.

Opening Ceremony/Day 1

Last year at opening ceremony I was in awe of the students, new to me, without names, just faces of the year to come.  I remember thinking about how many of them would be in my class.  (what would that be like?) All the seniors lined up outside with the flags of their country in hand, ready to start a new year too, ready to start a final year at BFA.  The image of the seniors lined up ready to parade into the auditorium in front of their friends, family and teachers was a beautiful idea, but some of this day left a mystery.  I didn’t know these students, I didn’t know their families, I didn’t know my fellow teachers very well.

This year…   I arrived to the opening ceremony anxiously awaiting the sight of the BFA seniors with their flags outside.  My students were back.  Seeing them lined up in clusters with their friends brought a surge of joy to my heart.  This year the faces were familiar and attached to them are memories of last year.  Many of these kids were my students, or my tennis kids, or Jamison’s soccer team kids.  They know me.  I know them.

Everyone is taking pictures, you feel like you are a part of a red carpet event.  I take a few shots and then make my way thru the lines to find some of my star pupils (not favorites, just stars)  I take some photos of these special students, hug them and welcome them to a new year.  This is the starting point, the springboard, the year is about to begin.

This year there is one more feeling that I didn’t have last year.  Sadness.  Each of those students with a flag, waiting outside on the cool september morning will walk into BFA today to begin their senior year.  In June they will walk out of BFA with their diploma in hand and leave an empty space at BFA.  I think about last years seniors, they were all such great kids, I see their faces and their personalities, the unique ways they learned and experienced art in my classroom.    It feels like my heart sighs.   For there is a great and wonderful thing happening called life, transition and moving on, but sometimes the goodness of it all stings a little.

And then it’s time for the procession to start, and I smile.  All these beautiful people here at BFA today.  The students yes, but the staff, and all the new staff, starry eyed with the prospect of the year ahead.  The parents,  proud parents, many leaving their students here for us to watch over.  There are beautiful people all around.

Wed, Thurs, Friday WHIRLWHIND

Jamison and I were kept pretty busy this week.  Jamison spent his time coming in early, staying late and being in his office during lunch to help students fix, or tweak their schedules.  Jamison will still be doing “testing services” which means he is in charge of the ACT, SAT, PSAT, and some other standardized tests.  He is going to be busy, not just this week, but all year!

I am teaching 5 out of the 7 periods.  1st period I have a group of four students working on creating AP Art portfolios, we don’t have an AP art class (yet!) at BFA so they are taking an independent study, we are treating it like a class so I will be teaching them formally which is not typical of an ind. study.  They have lots of good ideas and are already getting their hands back into the clay!  I teach again 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th.  Back to back classes felt crazy this week, but I think once they are all working on projects it will feel less hectic.  I LOVE having students back in the classroom, I’m excited for the work they will make this year.  I have a ceramics 2 class and a ceramics 3 class, these are all students I know from last year, It was fun to see them come into the classroom again. They are confident and comfortable in the classroom and anxious to start work and learn new things.  I love that my classroom can be a safe haven for them and a time in their day to slow down and create something with their hands.

TENNIS! 

Last year I was asst. coach of the tennis team, I came to practice a few times a week and helped coach to the matches.  This year I am the head coach!  I spent my prep periods this week running around making sure practice was going to go smoothly (or something close to it.)  We take a bus out to a nearby town to practice because we dont have access to tennis courts here in Kandern.  This week was fun getting kids out on the courts and practicing, there are some new kids on the team too, so it’s fun to get to know them!  One of my friends is asst. coaching which I am incredibly thankful for!  In fact, I have two asst. coaches this year.  Having so many hands will help the kids get the most out of practice and lots of advice as they play.

New Commitments

Last year we were really careful about how many extra things we said yes to.  We were transitioning to this new place and we wanted to be cautious.  This year we felt like we could add a couple things to our plates.

We are excited to be Freshman Class SPONSORS! Being a class sponsor means that you help the students put together the different parties and activities.  We will go on the class outings with the freshman this year, next year we will continue to be their sponsors while they are sophomores.  We don’t know how long we will be at BFA yet, but it is going to be tempting to stay to see this class thru to their senior year.

The other thing we are adding to our plate is… DORM SUBBING!  It is going to be neat to see this other aspect of the kids’ life here at BFA.  We will be subbing every other monday night at a girls dorm called STORCH It isn’t too far from us so we are hoping to ride our bikes over after school and then back later.  Monday is the day the R.A.s have off so we will be joining the dorm parents there for the evening while the RA’s enjoy their day off.

As you can see, there is a lot going on!  We feel like, with special care, we can balance these new commitments with our previous commitments.  We must be intentional with our time, both with each other and working on fostering our marriage relationship as well as with our dear friends, we have such good friends here.  Please pray that we will be diligent this year in managing our time and taking time to nurture all our relationships!

first day of school

Our First day of school, Gatsby isn’t as excited as we are since he doesn’t get to come.

IMG_0006

One of the wonderful BFA seniors
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Seniors with their country flags, they can choose to carry their passport country’s flag or the flag where their parents/family live.
IMG_0012Some of my ceramic students!

Preparation.

It’s saturday morning here and as I begin this post I am laying in bed, awake, but allowing my body some extra restful moments before beginning the day.  Jamison and Gatsby are pretty much still enjoying the beauty of sleepy saturdays.

The first week of school at BFA has come and gone, and there is much to say about the week!  Before this first busy  week began there were several other busy weeks of preparation!

I arrived back from the states Wednesday evening of the 21st missing Germany (and Jamison!) terribly but thankful for the time I got to spend with friends and family.  I can say confidently that though I had my doubts about taking this little pilgrimage of sorts back to the PNW I feel it was helpful and I have clear sights for the year and a freed up heart for my students, friends and family here.

I also feel that if I had spent a day more away I would not have been prepared for the year, maybe this is a dramatic idea, but maybe it’s true!  I hit the ground running here spending a few special days with Jamison and our friends, and then diving into the madness of prepping my classroom, curriculum and myself for school.

The following week was meetings upon meetings.

Let me share with you a secret… Teachers are the worst students.  Now, maybe some of you fellow teachers are reading this comment with horror because you feel like you are a diligent student, I apologize.  Here’s the thing, we whisper and fidget and check our facebook during meetings, we get slow and groggy and complain after the 3rd meeting of the day, and many of us don’t take notes.

What I realized through this intensive week of preparation/meetings is that teachers are energized and inspired by teaching and sharing with students, investing in their lives and seeing them learn and grow.  Everyone was anxiously awaiting the arrival of their inspiration and purpose, the students!

All this adult time was a bit much.

A little confession though… I did enjoy a few of the meetings.

We have amazing leaders at BFA.  The people in place to lead our school from the Vice Principle to the Dean are insightful, inspired and diligent people.  I enjoyed the meetings where these leaders shared the vision they have for BFA and the purpose that BFA has in missions.

Jamison was already working hard all week putting final touches on the student schedules and decorating his office.  He has four Timbers scarves and a Thornes scarf to boot!  He is excited about his job as high school guidance counselor, and he is pretty happy about having his own office too!

jamison helping me get readyJamison helped me clean around the studio!

new aprons I made for the wheel

I made these new aprons for throwing on the wheel.

my classroomThe wheel throwing area, complete with some summer time improvements!

 

Playing Summer Catch-Up

It’s nearly August, and it’s time for summer catch-up!

At the beginning of the summer we sent out an email to everyone on our email list about graduation and the end of the semester, If you didn’t receive that email and you want to be on our email list to get the inside scoop and prayer requests just send me a message.

Graduation

Graduation was… well… it was something.  I found myself comparing the day to the opening ceremony at the beginning of the school year.  That day the seniors paraded into the school with flags from their home or serving country and anxious ambitions of the new school year.  At graduation the seniors paraded out of BFA with memories, tears, laughter and timid courage.  A lot of times people talk about how  graduates are now going off into the real world.  sort of.  Most of them are going to the next four years of the education, here we pray that they continue to learn and grow, they are no more or less in the real world than they already were at BFA.  When does the real world start?  With the bill of your first university loan payment? ;) BFA grads are already living life the best way they know how, and I pray they continue to grow into the life ahead of them.

I’m proud of the BFA grads and I look forward to their future with hope and anticipation.

SUMMER TIME 

Part 1 (work weeks)

Part of our job for BFA is 2 weeks of work at the school during summer.  There is office work to be done, and a LOT of campus clean up/spruce up to do!  We decided to do these 2 work weeks back to back right after school got out.  So graduation happened on Friday and Monday we were back at work.  Only with a slightly different wardrobe!

We were both assigned to the maintenance department team.  We got to work together the first week mowing the campus, pulling out brambles, sorting the tires for the dorm vans (in Germany there are winter and summer tires and with so many school vehicles, it was about time they got sorted!)  Oh, by the way, it was HOT that week, we came home tired everyday.

The 2nd week Jamison had work to do in the guidance office but I stayed on the maintanaince team and the task for the week was to SANITIZE THE ENTIRE SCHOOL!  Scrubbing chairs that hadn’t been cleaned, ever, spraying down every surface that people touch, and scrapping gum off of chairs and desks!  The work was hard but the company was good, and there was a lot of bonding over the task.  Oh, and lots of iced coffee breaks!

Part 2 (LOOPS VISIT!)

I have to be honest, part of the reason we decided to do our work weeks right away was in an attempt to make the time between school ending and Jamison’s parents visiting seem shorter, It worked!  We finished work weeks and had a few days to get ready for them to arrive!

It was so amazing to spend time with Lar and Lor and to show them our life here.  We were reminded of Germany’s little cultural quirks as the Loops experienced everything for the first time.  Yep, life is different here!

Everyday was full, we did a LOT of walking.  We showed them our town, the school, the towns nearby in France and Switzerland and then we went on vacation with them!  For them it was a vacation inside a vacation!

We went to Rome for a few days.  It was hot and busy!  I never thought I would get to see Rome, seeing things I had seen only in a text book before.  We were glad we went but it wore us all out, all that tourist stuff.  We were ready for our last bit of vacation, to the BEACH!

I don’t know about you, what your favorite kind of vacation is, but mine is the beach.  (Or when in Oregon, the coast!)  There’s nothing like sand between your toes.  We went to Palma Majorca, Spain for a few days to finish up our vacation.  It was just what we needed.  Sunny warm beaches and water at the perfect temperature for swimming and floating in.  Jamison andhis dad “snorked” around while Lor and I enjoyed the sunshine.  In the evening we would play cards and relax together.  We came back refreshed, and a bit sunburnt…

After our trip we just had a few more days before Jamison’s parents went home, we saw a few more local things and soaked up the family time!  What a blessing it was to have family here with us for those few weeks!

Part 3: (Lisa visits)

We had a day to recover and clean house after the Loops left and then we picked up our friend Lisa from the airport!  Lisa came to our area of the world for her cousins wedding in France, she was able to come a few days early so that she could see us.  Her husband wasn’t able to come, we missed you PETER!

Lisa and I (Jen) took the train into Freiburg and to Lake Titisee while she was here and walked and walked all around.  In Europe there is a lot of walking to do!

It was fun to have her visit, bittersweet though as it was a reminder of the deep and dear friendships we left back in the states.  We are thankful for the friendships we have here, and that the friendships we had/have in the states are not lost, just waiting across the ocean.

Part 3 (Recovery)

We said goodbye to Lisa on Thursday morning.  As much as we loved the time with friends and family, we needed to recover from all that expended emotional and social energy!!!  We’ve taken it easy the last few days!

Saturday was nearly 100′ here in Kandern so we escaped to a nearby lake in the mountains (1 hr drive away.)   We spent the day in the water and trying to get our dog Gatsby in the water, he isn’t a fan.  The day left us feeling refreshed and reconnected.

Part 4 (Preparation)

This next week Jamison will be in the office working on getting organized, school prep and testing services duties.  He is really excited about his new position at the High school.  He will be full time at the High School this coming year in the guidance office, helping prepare BFA students for university, and beyond!  He will remain in charge of testing services (AP, ACT, SAT, etc)  He will be pretty busy!

This next week I will be working “in the office” aka the ceramics studio on lesson prep and organizing all the curriculum for my three levels of ceramics classes.  We’ve got a lot to do before the school year starts in the beginning of September!  We are already excited about welcoming back the students and for our second year here at BFA!

J and J Loop

(Click on the photo to see it larger!)

Romania Re-cap (About Time!)

I hope you had a chance to follow us on our trip to Romania!  We would like to share a video with you that will give you a better picture of our time in Romania and the family we worked with there.  This video is available HERE on our vimeo account.

You can also look at photos on the romania blog www.romaniahome.wordpress.com or on Jennifer’s facebook page.

When i”ve been asked how Romania was my first response is… cold.

Something that stood out to me about Romania is the difference in standard of living,  like many other developing nations (politically correct for 3rd world) there seems to be a very stark contrast between the rich and the poor and a lack of middle class.  Each day we drove 20 minutes to our work site into the small village of Baltesti, driving past houses that were either half built or crumbling apart.  About 45 minutes away from Baltesti is a mall.  We stopped there once to go to the bathroom and another time simply to walk around.  Inside the mall were all the stores you would expect, fancy clothing stores, large grocery stores, a movie theatre, restaurants.  The people inside the mall all looked much different from the family we had been working with and the other people in the small town of Baltesti.  I wondered if these Romanians in this mall realized the poverty in which their fellow Romanians were living, literally just outside the doors.

Likewise, in the large city of Bucharest we toured the Romanian Parliament building, 2nd largest office building in the world (2nd only to the pentagon)  This building was massive, elaborate, disturbingly beautiful.  We took an hour and half long tour and then were told that we had covered only 5 PERCENT of the building.  The tapestries on the floors and walls where exquisite, there was marble everywhere.  Our guide with Habitat told us that many Romanian people are not proud of this building, it was built by the late communist dictator.  It’s original purpose… to be his home.  Over 20,o00 people worked on this building for 10 years straight, day and night, around the clock they were working, to finish this home for the dictator.  Over 30,000 Homes and 28 churches were destroyed so that the foundation for the building could be placed.

One thing I loved about working with Habitat is that the family who is receiving the house is required to work a certain amount of hours on their house.  In this way (and others) Habitat promotes empowerment and not charity.  The difference, in my opinion being vast.   The family was there at the sight with us everyday.  The men of the family were working right with us layering plaster while the women and children were picking up insulation as it flew away or sweeping the floors of the house inside at the end of the day.  Even though we did not share a language we did share a goal, to create a safe home and hope for the family.  I loved seeing the determination in our students as they worked thru cold weather and hard tasks, they believed in the project and it’s importance, they could see that building this house was much more than giving this family a home.

 Much good will come to this family thru their home.  It is easier for a Roma (Gypsy) individual to secure a job when they own a home.  Roma’s are stereotypically nomads and employers do not want to risk hiring someone who will leave on a whim.  Owning a home provides the family with stability and something to stay in one place for.  The family will “pay rent” on their new home for a set number of years to cover the cost of the homes materials (again, empowerment not charity) the cost per month is very small, around 15 US dollars a month.  They currently rent the “house” they live in now for about 90 Us dollars a month, money which would be saved and could be spent on sending their children to school.  School costs about 15 dollars a month, if all, or even some of their children can go thru school they have the chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty that their family is in.

Together we worked for 5 days on the home but we were not able to finish the inside flooring, insulation in the roof or the outside final coat of paint.  These are things that the family are able to do now on their own because of the funding we raised for the home and materials.  Habitat is keeping us updated on the family and has told us that they are continuing to work on their new home, with the goal to move into their home this summer!

Many of our students are anxious to go back to Romania and help other families who are in need of homes.  Some students are already brainstorming fundraising ideas for another trip next year.  I think this is a huge testament to the impact that Habitat and the family we worked with had on our hearts.

May we all continue to have relationships and experiences in our lives that soften our hearts.

ParliamentThe Parliament building (photo not taken by any of us)

IMG_0078Our team with part of the family in front of their current home

(Their bathroom and kitchen are outside)

Big picture in the snowWorking in the cold, and SNOW!

IMG_0043Our entire team

BFA+FES

Art Critique

I am so proud of these BFA students and their art!  

 Yesterday was critique day, It was a good fit because it was the last day of classes before break. The ceramics 1 class was critiquing their Japanese tea bowls, the ceramics 2 classes critiqued lanterns and ceramics 3 tea sets. (All hand built projects)

Not only did these students create lovely pieces, I really feel that they were able to effectively express their own aesthetics and personalities in their work.

To top it all off!  Every class had wonderful critiques. These high schoolers talked more poetically and used more artistic vocabulary than many of my peers (and myself) did in our college critiques! Maybe because I forbade the words, “pretty”, and “nice”… and maybe because if anyone was too vague I asked them “why” over and over until they elaborated… Or maybe it was the tea and coffee… but I think mostly they really had a lot to say about the artwork!

Okay, enough bragging about the awesome BFA students! I wanted to post a few photos from critiques so you could see the work.

Art Critiqe 11

Art Critiqe 3

Art Critiqe 2

Winter and Spring

Winter: Earlier this week we had snow.  Not the kind that sticks and accumulates from inches to feet.  However, it was snowing and it was cold.  It was only a month ago that we hiked through a quiet forest full of snow with our visiting friend Jenny and our friends the Wolffs.

Spring: Yesterday we had sunshine.  Jamison and Gatsby and I went on a long hike in the forest and enjoyed the sounds of busy birds chirping and nesting.  We saw small green buds breaking through the ground, a few of these buds were brave enough to begin their blooming.  Today, the weather is reminding me of the Pacific Northwest.  The temperature is mild, the sky is a dusky grey, and a dreary drizzle comes and goes throughout the day.

So there is a battle going on these days between Winter and Spring.  We all know that it is only a matter of time before Spring wins.  We just need to remind ourselves, that life will come again and take its place in the seasons of the year.

While this push and pull between Winter and Spring has been going on, so have many other things!  Both in our lives, and in yours!

February:  I spent the month getting to know my new students, and it is no surprise that I adore this batch as much as the last!  Though I was sad to say goodbye to so many students at the end of the semester, I still get to see these old students as they drop by or walk thru my class on a regular basis! Two of my students from last semester are helping out as “studio technicians”  they come once a week and help me around the studio, cleaning, wedging clay, unloading the kiln, etc.  They are a real blessing to me this semester!  I have more students this semester 40 to be precise!  The ceramics studio is a busy place and there are some very amazing creations going on!  ( I will post later this week with photos of our end of quarter critique!)

In February we also had our first visitor!  Our friend Jenny came to visit for a few days!  She had been touring with an African Children’s Choir group for about a year and a half!  They did their USA tour and then went on to do a UK tour!  She came to see us before flying home.  We got to show her around and took her on a lovely snowy hike!  It was really refreshing to connect again with someone from home, to talk about familiar things.

March:  When March came, I wanted to know what happened to February, honestly, I kind of still want to know…

This month soccer season began.  Jamison is assistant coaching on the girls team so he has been staying after school for tryouts and practices.  He is happy to have the opportunity to get to know some of the high school students and use his knowledge in soccer to help coach the BFA team!  Coaching soccer here is something he has been looking forward to long before we even arrived in Germany!

Spring Break:  You might recall that we are helping lead a missiopns trip over spring break!  We will be departing at 7am this Thursday morning, that is about 11pm in the  PNW.  Please pray for safe travels as we go. We will take a train to Zurich, Switzerland and then fly to Bucharest, Romania.  From there we will take a bus ride to our final destination, Bălţeşti (pronounced baltesh) We will work on a house that Habitat for Humanity is having built there for a Roma family.  The house we will be working on has already been started by another group so we are hoping to work hard and finish the house for the family.  Pray specifically for our travel, health, and safety.  Also pray for our group to bond quickly, we have two groups becoming one on this trip.  Our BFA students and staff and the students and staff from FES in Lörrach.  You can pray for good working weather too!

We will arrive back in Kandern on Saturday the 30th (The day before Easter)  So please continue to pray for our team throughout the duration of the trip!  We will be posting updates and photos while we are there on our team blog.  (link to come!)  Feel free to follow us and see how our group progresses and keep up to date with our latest prayer needs!

Thanks again for your continued love and support, through helping us financially be able to go on this trip to Romania, and for all your words of encouragement as we serve here in Germany!  

Here are some photos from the past few months!

Blog for MArch

A Brand New Day

This Thursday was the first day of the second semester at Black Forest Academy.  I could hardly contain myself Wednesday night, I was so excited.  I guess you could say I like my job!  Thursday and Friday was a whirlwind of meeting new students and welcoming back a few students from last semester (yay!) This semester I am teaching a ceramics 3 class, two ceramics 2 classes and one ceramics 1 class!  It is going to be one crazy (and awesome) semester.

Jamison was able to help at the high school this week meeting with students and changing their schedules around.  He really enjoyed it and is looking forward to his role next year in the high school guidance office!  This semester at the middle school he will continue teaching the guidance classes, basically teaching life skills, study habits, etc. and he will also be teaching a stratedgy games elective!

Earlier in the week (Monday thru Wednesday) students had final exams, thank you for those of you who remembered to pray for the students of BFA during that time!  I think they are all glad that finals are behind them and they have a fresh start this semester.  Clean slates on the grade book, do you remember that feeling? I sure do, it’s a good one!

In other news…

We are starting to feel more adjusted to our jobs and other commitments, I think that the balancing game is starting to even out a little.  I had time to go have coffee with a friend this week, at our new little local cafe!  Or I suppose more correctly I was able to make time to go.  But that is a step in the right direction!

I like goals…

I made a goal for myself when I went to coffee with my friend.  To order my coffee in polite full sentence German.  Instead of my usual, “Ein Kaffe, Bitte” which is fine, just, not really making the effort.   I began practicing “Ich möchte einen Cappucino, bitte” So I practiced all morning and practiced on my walk over to the cafe, that ö is a crazy weird sound, and I wanted to get it right…ish.  I got there before my friend and was greeted by the lady behind the counter so I made my move.  I said it! “Ich Möchte einen Cappucino bitte”  Well, I must have said it somewhat right and maybe with some confidence because what happened next is a lot of German being said to me by the lady behind the counter, of which I understood…not much…

As I was experiencing the typical deer in headlights feeling that comes in this sort of situation, a small wave of satisfaction also came over me. You see, I must have been somewhat convincing with my little German phrase, or she wouldn’t be talking to me this much right now, at least not in such fast paced German! YES! VICTORY!  I am a polite coffee ordering German!  Unfortunately, I could only celebrate internally for a moment because, the reality of the situation was that this lady was speaking to me and I was just standing there saying nothing, it was definitely  my turn to do the talking and I’m pretty sure she was wondering why I was not saying anything.  Of course she repeated herself and I must have caught something because I guess I said “Ya, zum cafe” (yes for here in the cafe) and then sat down.  What an adventure, to order your coffee in German.

So now I’m practicing conjugating the verb möchten so that when you visit me and we go to the cafe I can order your coffee and choice of pastry for you in German, no worries.  I got this.cafe-gempp

Spring Break… Romania!?!

This spring break we will have the joy and privilege of leading a group of BFA students to Baltesti, Romania!  We were asked to help lead this trip with another BFA staff member and we are very excited about the work we will be doing alongside our students during spring break!

We are partnering with Habitat for Humanity specifically to build homes for Gypsies in Romania.  We are still waiting to see if we will be starting a house, or finishing a current project, either way, we will all be working hard!

There are 5 BFA students coming with us to Romania, Jennifer is especially excited because 3 of them were in her ceramic’s classes this semester and another is going to be in her class next semester!  An older Dutch couple is joining our group, they have lived in Kandern before and are back after spending many years, in Africa.  They are both physicians by trade and are friends of BFA.

In addition, we are partnering with a school called “FES”  FES is a German Christian school in Lörrach, Germany.  Only 20 min drive or so away.  They will be joining us and bring about 20 students and several staff with them!  All together we are quiet a big group!

Before break we had our first meeting together as a large group, both BFA and FES.  We shared a meal together and played some get to know you games.  Jamison created a presentation about the people group we will be serving in Romania that we watched together.  We broke up into small groups to talk about the presentation and our reasons for joining the missions trip.   It was exciting to hear the passion the students of BFA and FES have for helping people in a tangible way.  Many students said that it was important to them to go and physically help build the house for the people in need, because it was more personal than simply giving to fund a project.  They want to connect with those they will be helping and give them the gift of their service.  It was also fun to eat pizza with the FES students.  I taught the students at my table a tongue twister in English, Sally sold sea shells by the sea shore… and they tried to teach me one in German, but that didn’t go as smoothly!

You might remember that I mentioned that FES is a German school, Es ist eine Deutsche Schule, so… they speak Deutsch!  Most of the students from FES also speak wonderful English, though they might tell you it is not very good, what they mean when they say their English is not so good, is not the same as what I mean when I say my German is not so good!  I mean, that there are only a few sentences I can string together in only one tense…  They tend to mean that they might not know a few words.

At any rate, we will have the chance to improve our German language skills on this trip which will be a bonus!  The funny thing is that out of our 5 BFA students, well, all of them have lived in the German speaking world all, or most of their life and are fluent or pretty near so in German… This means that Jamison, myself and the third staff leader, Jay, are the only ones who don’t speak German!  We better work on that!

We are excited about the work that we will be doing alongside the students of BFA and FES.  The trip will be funded by our various fundraisers that we will soon begin.  The FES students have already had a few hotdog sales at their school during lunch!

If you want to help our team get to Romania you can send fund to us thru Teachbeyond with our names and “Baltesti, Romania Trip” on the memo line.

Here is a photo of our whole group!  Click the photo to enlarge it, so you can see all our adorable faces!  Can you find the Loops?

Image