Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What's Your Motivation?

I'm a fairly regular reader of Oswald Chamber's devotional, "My Utmost for His Highest", and if I'm honest, there are quite a few days where I need to read and re-read to understand what He's saying. Sometimes it still goes over my head, but other days, I feel like He is able to speak a truth directly into my life-- in a way that articulates my thoughts so clearly. Today was one of those days.

The title is "Determination to Serve" and he writes, "If our devotion is to the cause of humanity, we will be quickly defeated and broken-hearted, since we will often be confronted with a great deal of ingratitude from people. But if we are motivated by our love for God, no amount of ingratitude will be able to hinder us from serving one another."

Later he writes, "Once we realize that Jesus has served us even to the depths of our meagerness, our selfishness, and our sin, nothing we encounter from others will be able to exhaust our determination to serve others for His sake."

There were times in Ghana when I was so frustrated with the kids' ingratitude-- sometimes to the point where I wanted to give up, pack up, and head home early. So when I read this tonight, I had an "I get it!" moment. I was once again reminded that God has given us the ultimate example of love and forgiveness in Jesus dying for us when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). If we are able to remind ourselves of this and our unworthiness, perhaps we can better love others and serve God-- not expecting anything in return, but only wanting to give back to God out of love and a grateful heart.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

For the Love of Running...

3:35 am this morning I woke up naturally...5 minutes before my alarm...amazing! Us 4 crazies met at 4:30 at the train station to participate in the Standard Chartered 10K. It was a fun adventure to be up so early and make our way down to the island for the race. The trains opened early for the race, and the only people riding the train were the runners. Here I am with Jamila, Emily, and Christine at 4:45 am!
Almost our entire race was run in the dark, since it started at 5:45 am. My favorite part was at the end overlooking the harbor filled with boats, outlined in high rises and the sky just beginning to lighten up.
Here we are anxiously awaiting the start...
...and we made it! There were 37,000 other runners running the 10Ks alone...of which there were 5 different heats. With the marathoners and half-marathoners, there were 67,000 people! So, it was really neat to be a part of such a big, city-wide event!
Here's a small section of the baggage holding area...crazy organization needed to keep this all moving smoothly...

And...perhaps the best part was heading to the Flying Pan for a nice American breakfast afterwards. :) It was some well-deserved yumminess!

Google Earth

I'm amazed at how often thoughts of Ghana and the kids there fill my thoughts (and even dreams, which is pretty fun!). There's not a day that goes by (dare I say not many (waking) hours)) that I don't think of them. I find myself so often having "Africa moments" where something that was so ingrained in me from being in Africa is brought to my mind. For example, it happens almost every time I set my computer down on my bed before leaving the house. I always have this thought of, "Oh, is it far enough away from the window?" In Ghana I always had to be careful where I set it because the rain or dust would often come through our windows which didn't fully shut, and I can now remind myself that that's not really an issue here. :) I'm constantly marveling at how clean my feet are! Those are just two examples, but there are so many more examples that "bring me back" and make me realize what a different world I'm in right now. I miss the kids so much and sometimes looking at pictures of them since I've been gone just hurts to not be able to be there. I've never wanted so badly to be in 3 places at once.

All that to say, last night I discovered something incredible (yes, I know I'm WAAY behind the times on this one, but c'mon...give me a break. I was in Africa!)...Google Earth! It was amazing!!! I was able to see my parents' house in WI and my general area of apartments here in HK, but the one that shocked me is that I was able to see Haven of Hope and Akotoshie #2!!! It was incredible. I couldn't believe it, but I had a fun little moment as I tried to see if I could figure out where some of my students and friends live in the village. That is soooo cool...and a little freaky at the same time! :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Extreme Room Makeover"


With some time to spare over the Chinese New Year holiday, I took the time to re-decorate my room. I know it's hard to imagine why, but the infant-style zoo animals curtains just weren't cutting it for me! :) My friend Emily and I made some new curtains on Saturday, which was a lot of fun. Here are the results!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

That's "Happy New Year" to you! We've had the last week off of school for Chinese New Year and this was the first time I stuck around for it. I'm so glad I did! It was definitely full and flew by way too fast, but I also got some much needed relaxation in. :) Sticking around was neat to be able to see some of the traditions that are carried out during this holiday. Since many of them are connected to superstitions, I obviously don't believe these things, but it's interesting to learn about, nonetheless. :)

On the last Friday before school let out, we celebrate "Cultural Day" at school. Everyone's encouraged to wear cultural dress and then the afternoon is filled with an assembly where different students performed cultural dances, songs, skits, etc. Then, this year the theme was international games, so the students rotated and played games from places all around the world. Here I am in my Ghanaian garb with Ann, my student in her Japanese attire. The papers are red couplets that I "painted". These are blessings and are traditionally hung as decorations beside doors or entrances.
The rive that I run by at night is decorated for the holiday. :)
I'd like to say the mall is crowded b/c of the holiday, but unfortunately it's always like this!
A traditional Lion Dance...This was pretty cool...there are two men under the costume and they must have had a lot of training and or practice to perform the little dance they did as they jumped around on those stands.
The tradition that my students get must excited about is the receiving of "Lai See" packets (shown below). They are given out by adults to children, bosses to workers, married friends to single friends, etc. So, the students always get excited about raking in the cash! :) Here's one I got at the lion dance... however, instead of money, we got a chocolate la la!

Tangerines are a sign of good fortune and oranges of wealth, so you see these pretty lookin' plants all over town.

All in all, it was a great holiday and I think my body will go into shock tomorrow morning when I try to wake up at 6 am! :)