First Week Back

Sometimes it feels like I never left. Other times it feels like it’s been a lifetime since I was here, walking these halls, smelling these scents, eating these foods, loving these people, missing my people in the States. It’s been a challenging, busy, filling, tiring, emotional, encouraging first week back in Niamey, Niger.

A Weekend of Raw Emotions

Here’s my theory: (And don’t worry, since I’m a shameless verbal processor, I’ve talked this theory through with multiple people) Because this is my second time coming to Niger, I skipped the “honeymoon” stage of culture stress and leaped right into emotional chaos. Let me define some of my terms. In cross-cultural experiences, sometimes we refer to that glowing, everything-is-new-and-exciting, I-love-everything-about-this-experience feeling as the honeymoon stage. (Maybe this will make more sense to me in about 14 months.) “Culture stress” is the newer terminology for culture shock; basically, the processing stages of entering a new culture. And emotional chaos is pretty self-explanatory: people are gosh-darn fickle. (And by people, I mean myself.)

What am I basing this theory on? All of last Saturday was an emotional roller coaster for me. My travel went smoothly starting Thursday in Detroit, continuing Friday morning in Paris, and arriving Friday afternoon in Niamey. My dear friends Hannah and Miriam picked me up from the airport, and I was doing great. By Saturday morning, I was bawling on my pillow, wishing that I were home. Saturday evening, I was praising God for miraculously giving me a better attitude about being here. Then on Sunday—you guessed it!—I was a mess again. I think you get the general theme.

I think because there was not the same glow of my first trip to Africa, I was more aware of my own longings for family back home. I must say, though, God is certainly reminding me that He is constant. He truly is my rock and my refuge. He is faithful. I’ve leveled out through the week, and I can honestly say that I’m enjoying my time here at Sahel. Proof that God’s at work, and that He’s merciful to the undeserving.

 Jumping Right In

I’m so grateful that I arrived during the weekend and that we had a four day week. I had Monday to prepare for my classes, or rather to prepare for Tuesday and to get an idea for the rest of the week/semester. Instead of just listing out my classes, I’ll use Sahel’s/my acronyms and abbreviations to introduce you to my teaching life:

IGCSE—International General Certificate of Secondary Education—These are exams produced by Cambridge in the UK. Freshmen at Sahel take at least 2, sophomores at Sahel take at least 3. Teachers at Sahel named Ms. Cline teach 3 classes for 4 exams.

ICT—Information and Communication Technology—this is one of the classes that I’m teaching. Do I know much about computers? No. Do I have much confidence in this area? That’s a stretch. Am I learning with my students? Now you’re talking.

1st and 2nd Lang Eng—First and Second Language English—this is my 9th grade English class. Eight students taking one of two exams.

WL—World Literature—My 11th and 12th graders. We’re reading Persepolis, and the students are jumping right in. Praise the Lord, this class does not have an IGCSE exam, and they’ll totally be doing a project at the end of the semester, not an exam.

Eng Lit—English Literature—This is the 10th grade class that I’m covering for a not-quite-defined amount of time. They’ll have an IGCSE exam, as well.

YB—Yearbook—Thankfully this class won’t be as stressful. After next Thursday. When we go to print. Gah!

Again, I fluctuate between feeling adequately confident to teach and feeling utterly and completely overwhelmed and incompetent. I think that means that I’m a normal teacher, right? 🙂 I’m trying to keep learning about work time, play time, and rest time. I think I’m a slow learner…

Being Back in the Community

  • The pastors at the Nigerien church I attend greeted me warmly, welcoming me “home.”
  • I had a Francais-English conversation with one of my pastors: he spoke in English to me, I responded in French to him.
  • Multiple students came to hug me, saying that it was good to see me.
  • Per usual, the missionary community at our evening Sunday service gave me a warm welcome of applause after I re-introduced myself.
  • I’ve already had about 4 movie nights at “The Girls’ House” here on campus, so named for the three young women, three of my dear friends, who live there.
  • Kathy mentioned that her house feels “complete” again with me back.
  • I met with Mikki on Wednesday after school to pick up our mentoring relationship, you know, right where we left off.
  • Worshiping in French, Hausa, and English on Sunday. Praying with my mentor, my friends, my students, my fellow teachers. Depending on God because let me tell you what—there’s no other way that I’d be surviving.

Praying and Praising

Pray that

  • The meningitis epidemic in Niger ends. (Don’t worry, my vaccination is up-to-date.) Pray for healing and that God will draw people to himself through this.
  • Both teachers and students will work diligently and trust God through the end of this school year.
  • I will stay fully invested here in Niger, at Sahel, while also loving my family and fiancé back home.

Praise the Lord for

  • His faithfulness and His grace through this transition.
  • Safe travel and good health. (Yes, Mommy, I’m taking my anti-malarial medication still. 😉 )
  • The internet and technology and a very flexible, reasonable, and patient fiancé.
  • All of you. I so appreciate your prayers and partnership.