Tag Archives: problems

My Inspiration Wears a Little League Jersey

Well, my master’s classes are in full swing and I’m not exactly off to a fabulous start. Admitting that is hard for me, because I’m a type-A personality who had a 4.0 GPA in undergrad. People warned me that taking online classes can be a lot harder than actually going to class unless you’re extremely organized and on top of things. Generally, I am. But I’m a lot better with paper and pens than I am with a double-password access online classroom with instructions in electronic format in a few different places. Find the library on campus? No problem. Find the library online? Well, now. That is a different story.

So here I am, looking at ten articles that I have to read and use to write a discussion paper and post online for the class to read by… well, by last Sunday. I guess tomorrow’s deadline for the unit meant the unit closes then for further discussion, not that the reflection is due then. That is something really I wish I figured out before today. I guess now that I know, I won’t be making that mistake again.

I’m sitting here with my pen and paper, feeling a little discouraged about my abilities to pull this off. School has always been my strength, and now I don’t feel so sure that I can be good at this online school thing. Besides, everyone else in my cohort has a lot more experience than I do. And let’s not fail to mention the fact that this is University of London, and I’m American. Will I be able to remember to spell “analyzing” as “analysing” with an “s?” Or put my quote marks on the inside of my punctuation? Am I supposed to do ‘ or ” for quotes? Will I get marked down for spelling things American-style?

In the middle of this stream of self-doubt, an image breaks in:

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These kids are so inspiring. Every afternoon, they come from Dutch, French, and English schools to Player Development Program for further help with reading and math. It’s really hard for a lot of them. Being bilingual or trilingual makes learning to read really, really tough. Some of them are in sixth grade and struggle to read very basic English kid’s books. But they don’t give up, they don’t let embarrassment stop them, and they keep pushing to get better and work up from where they are.

I’ve seen Spanish-speaking kids learn English in two months. I’ve seen kids who struggle with reading and writing spend as long as needed to compose a thank-you letter. I’ve seen kids sit, study, and sound out long words in until they could read the whole book.

To me, writing a short summary of Curious George is not hard. Reading 16 pages doesn’t drain me. Conjugating and pronouncing verbs takes no mental energy. But it does for them, and I would say that they have to work a lot harder to get it right than I’ll have to for my master’s degree. Does it discourage them? Sometimes. Does it deter them? No, it doesn’t.

If a seven-year-old can learn to distinguish vowel names and sounds in French, English, and Spanish, I can learn to use “s” and “u” the British way. If a twelve-year-old can have the courage to learn English as he goes during baseball practice, I can have the courage to post my late work where everyone can see, have a positive, non-defeatist attitude, and do better next time. If a nine-year old can have the humility to do sight-word flash cards in front of his friends, then I can have the humility to admit I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m willing to do what it takes to improve.

You know, the kids at SXM Player Development Program think that they’re learning a lot from me. I guess they are. But I think I’m actually learning more from them. God knew what he was doing when he put me into their world. There’s a lot of determination, courage, and hard work going on at those blue picnic tables. There’s a lot to be inspired and encouraged by. There’s a lot to look at and think, “that’s how I want to be.” I know that if they can work hard and never throw in the towel, so can I.

So I’m going to wipe away these tears of frustration, go back to that online library, and find that PDF e-book that’s hiding from me. I’m going to write my best paper, and I’m going to turn it in even if everyone can see that I’m late. And tomorrow, I’m going to do better. And I’m going to do it with those kids as my inspiration and my encouragement.

Thankful in All Circumstances

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s the time of the year that we remember to that God for our blessings and show appreciation for the people in our lives. At Sunday school a couple weeks ago, we had the kids list things that they are thankful for an leaves and glue them to a paper tree. They listed their parents, their friends, their things and their favorite TV shows.

I’m thankful for those things, too, especially the friends and family! I find myself thanking God for them every day.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things in my life. What is less easy is being thankful for the frustrating things! The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. “…Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you.” Many of us spend a lot of time trying to find out the will of God for our lives so that we can follow it. Yet here is a clear explanation of His will for us, and we often completely forget to do it! Being thankful in all circumstances means thanking God for the good things in our life, but also thanking Him for the stuff that bothers or hurts us.

My challenge to you this Thanksgiving is to list five to ten frustrating things you are thankful for and why.

Here’s my list:

  1. I am thankful for power outages because they remind me how blessed I am to have power 95% of the time
  2. I am thankful for the mold in my house because it is a result of the humidity that makes my island green and beautiful
  3. I am thankful for expensive food prices because it encourages me to learn to make things like mayonnaise, bread, and tortillas.
  4. I am thankful for Mosquitos because even though they are annoying, they aren’t scorpions!
  5. I am thankful for failing at things I try because it teaches me to move past my failure and my ego and to work hard at attaining goals
  6. I am thankful for slow mail service because it reminds me how awesome it is to live in an age with e-mail
  7. I am thankful for the crabby maintenance man at our apartment because he gives me a chance to practice patience and also to stand up for myself
  8. I am thankful for water outages because they help me to appreciate the hard work that many people do every day to have drinking water
  9. I am thankful for loud late-night karaoke at the bar next door because it gives Ben and I a few extra hours awake and together on Friday nights
  10. I am thankful for med school keeping Ben busy because it makes us value the time we do have together and helps us to make the most of it.

Enjoy your holiday! Let’s finish off the year with thankful hearts every day.

 

Dear American Tourists

Dear American Tourists, please stop being so rude.

It is no secret that American tourists do not have the best international reputation. I am an American. I live on a Dutch island in the Caribbean, where my husband goes to medical school. We were asked during orientation to be courteous and not perpetuate the poor reputation American tourists have. I do not think of myself as a rude person. I think most Americans do not. I have noticed, however, that in every country I have ever visited, “the locals are so friendly.” Maybe I have only traveled to friendly places. Maybe not. Maybe, everywhere else seems so friendly because America is generally not very friendly at all.

So what is our problem? Why don’t people like us, and what can we do to change that?

I would say that many things are cultural. People have different ideas of how to greet one another (one friend here said that he was sternly corrected for saying “hello” rather than “good morning,” which is proper here). People have different standards of eye contact. People have different rules for tipping, eating, asking for directions, etc etc.

There are some things that you can control when it comes to cultural courtesy. You can Google whether tips are expected or insulting in a certain area of the world. You can ask what a proper greeting entails. You can watch to see whether greeting strangers as you pass is considered kind or creepy.

There are also some things that you cannot control. You will not pick up on the majority of cultural nuances. You will trespass because you are used to signs designating private property. You will shake hands “wrong.” It happens. People probably won’t care too much; they will hear your accent and realize you are foreign. They will probably ignore it or laugh a little. They might become annoyed, but, hey, you’re learning.

Finally, there are things that are very rude no matter where you are. Dear American tourists, please do not do these things.

Please do not act as if you are better than other people. Your taxi driver and your waiter are not there for you to unload your grouchy jet-lagged crabfest upon. And just because people do things differently than you would does not mean it is “wrong.” It’s just, well, different.

Please do not act as though America is superior to all other nations. We Americans all love the stars and stripes, and that’s a good thing! However, people don’t want to hear a string of comparisons that belittle their own beloved nation. America is a culture where things are dichotomistic, time-oriented, and efficient. Most places aren’t like that. So don’t freak out when things are relaxed, confusing to you, or just plain irritating. If you wanted things to be American, you would have stayed in America. So enjoy the culture, embrace it while you’re there, and look for the good aspects.

Please do not be ethnocentric. No matter where you come from, it’s easy to place anyone different from yourself in the category of “Other.” You know what I mean, those Other people. The ones who look or dress or work or speak differently. I think that if we aren’t careful, we often look at people who are different from ourselves as less intelligent, less skilled, less important. You see a woman in a third-world county who is illiterate and does not work outside the home, and has never touched a computer. You may have more education and technical skills, but can you keep eight kids clothed, fed, and healthy in a two-room mudbrick home with no electricity, no water, and no stove? Can you sort rice so that not one tiny stone ends up in the pot? Can you carry 50 pounds of stuff on your head with no hands? Do you speak three languages? Can you keep a garden that supplies most if not all vegetable needs for your family, plus provides a little income? That, my friends, takes some serious skill. Some things are easy to miss. Learn to appreciate them. And just simply LEARN! Don’t go somewhere expecting to be a guru of all knowledge. (Shout out to short-term missions trip people here.) If you want to teach, you must first be a student. You will get more respect if you are willing to ask to be taught. Plus, it’s fun. It’s an icebreaker. It brings much laughter.

Please do not devalue other nations’ autonomy. I cringed when I heard an American tourist say, “The Bahamas should just be another state. It’s basically just part of the U.S. anyway.” How uninformed. Please, Mr. Florida Guy. You visit Touristville where half the people are white and everyone speaks English, and suddenly you think you know everything about the nation! My advice is, forget the tourist traps and take a local taxi or bus to the places that the locals hang out. Then you can get a feel for how people live. Learn about their government and read about the very intelligent people who run the state. There’s so much more to a place than just its American-catering tourist industry.

Please do not offend the locals by the way you dress. There are places where a bikini is pretty standard. There are places where you really ought to cover up, even arms and legs. Know the difference. There is no reason to exercise your liberty to dress revealingly if it gives you, your organization, and your country a bad name.

Please be mindful when you take photos. In some places, you can get your camera confiscated if you take a photo of the wrong thing (military or police in some countries). In others, people simply don’t want to be in your scrapbook. In general, don’t objectify locals as if they were some interesting foreign specimen.

Please do not be pushy. Yes, you come from a place where you can get pretty much whatever you want almost as fast as you want it. When traveling abroad, be mindful that this is rarely the case. Do not intimidate, complain, or demand. Rather, be smart and be respectful.

Please just be kind and courteous. In the end, people know you’re a visitor. They expect you to be, well, a weirdo. However, it is possible to be a courteous weirdo. Say please and thank you, smile, treat people the way you would like to be treated. Kindness counts, and it can go a long way in improving our international reputation.