Blessings, rest and some more blessings!

Blessings, rest and some more blessings!

 

 

Wonderful experiences, outings, rest days and blessings have occurred so abundantly over the past 10 days I could not have asked for a better end to my trip.

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At the beginning of my time in India I began exploring the possibility of leaving a week early and going to Goa for some sun and rest before I went home. However, after time spent considering the implications of that, and praying about it, I decided staying for the whole time at the school and with my Team family was the best option. Well…oh boy was I right, I would have missed out on some amazing times shared with them, and God really blessed my desire for some rest before I went home.

Last weekend my two flatmates and I decided to go to the nearby larger city and hire a small boat, a similar size to a Gondola, and get pushed around a very famous river and lake for a blissful 2 hours. To begin with the beautiful sun came out for us and lit up the water and the nearby mountains making them even more magnificent than they usually are. We were able to buy saffron tea, whilst being pushed around, from a vendor who was also making his way around the river. There is a community built up both along the sides of the river bank and actually on the river, so to see the different housing structures and stop at a few clothes shops and spice stands in the middle of a lake was a very surreal experience. Our boat was nicely laid out with cushions and a small foam mattress so it was like I had never left my bed. We were able to greet a few other people being boated around, dodged some people trying to take pictures of us, got ripped off when buying some rings and just completely relaxed in the peace and tranquillity of floating on a river away from the busy city and cars. After our boat ride we managed to track down the smallest French Bakery tucked away out of sight a small walk away. There we found croissants and some other pastries (a very very rare delicacy in our area) and finished the day off perfectly by savouring every crumb.

That same weekend we visited what is apparently Asia’s largest Tulip Garden. Sadly most of the flowers were coming to the end of their season but there was still plenty to see and we enjoyed the walk around a wide open space at the base of rolling green mountains. Funnily enough on several occasions it seemed people were more interested in taking pictures with us than of the Tulips. Apparently white people dressed as Indians is photo worthy. Who knew?! This day was also perfect as we were just able to get out the house for a while, have some fresh air and get asked 50+ times where we were from (answering that question helps us all remember just in case we forget).

After 1 day of teaching on Monday we then received news that there was going to be a strike day on Tuesday across the whole province, so no school, but we weren’t allowed to leave the house. A lay in, no work, a relaxing day of being able to lounge around sounded wonderful. We also have had no internet at our home since that Monday, so we were completely cut off from the outside world and really for us at that time, we didn’t mind. Tuesday came and went, it lived up to all our expectations and was blissful. Then Wednesday morning came, my alarm went off, up I staggered bleary eyed and dreaming of going back to bed. Then came the familiar call from Sarah that breakfast was ready (Sarah is a morning person and loves making breakfast, Grace and I are not morning people and love letting Sarah make breakfast). As I walked round the corner into the kitchen Sarah and Grace’s grinning faces greeted me and their next words were music to my ears. ‘It’s another strike day Naomi!’ At that I fell to the ground like the winner of Wimbledon always does at the end of the match. Wednesday came and went, yet another miraculous break of a day. Thursday then arrived and…you guessed it, we had an unbelievable 3rd strike day and so yet another day off. It was truly the most awesome blessing from God to have those 3 days in a row to sleep, write, clean up, spend time together, cook, read and just recover from a very intense time. Friday was then a nice easy half day (as it always is for every school in this area) and then we spent time at the school in the afternoon catching up with Internet life and letting our families know we were actually still live.

Now this brings me to Saturday and its activity, which has to be up there as one of my top 3 favourite activities that I have done on my travels. About a 2 hour drive away from where we live, you can arrive in the Himalayan mountains and if you pay a mere equivalent of £7.00 you can be taken on a 5 ½ – 6 hour mountain and river trek on horseback! I can see some of you shuddering at the thought of it, however for our team it was a perfect outing. Normally, we don’t have Saturdays off, but on this occasion a ‘teacher training day’ was organised and we went to the mountains. The most breath taking views I have ever seen surrounded us on that ride. From snow capped mountains to flowing green meadows, then a roaring river leading to small waterfalls, snow cascades and the tiniest pathways overlooking rocky cliff edges with rolling mountains covered with luscious green trees stretching out below us. I felt like I was in a movie, and if it hadn’t have been for the gradual onset of pain that came from being on a horse for hours on end, I would have thought I was dreaming. The occasional almost vertical rocky and uneven slope downwards always brought my heart to my throat and the 70-100 metre wide snow cascades that our horses had to bound and jump through made for a slightly turbulent journey, but it was all dream like. My beautiful horse had curly hair covering his body making him resemble a teddy bear, he was the sandy colour of a lion but ironically his name was Sheara which means Tiger. He was amazing, sure footed, obedient and steady, the perfect companion. Whilst 2 members of our group fell off their horses, the rest of us managed to stay in the saddle and we all made it back in one piece, if fairly sore and walking a little like penguins.

Yesterday (Sunday) us teachers spent a lovely afternoon visiting our local teachers home where she lives with her Father and Mother, 3 brothers, 2 sister in laws, 1 sister and her niece and nephew. As is the incredible generosity of the Indian people we were given more food and drinks than we could ever possibly finish, but spent the whole time talking, laughing, sharing cultural differences and feeling so at home with the whole family despite the language barrier. I was especially honoured to be chosen by the 2 year old nephew to play a game called ‘Duck’. The rules are as follows…run at the person with your head lowered like a goat and head-butt their head, then the smallest person proceeds to fall into the lap of the larger one and rolls about laughing. When fully recovered, stand up and repeat. I managed two rounds and then held my hands up for mercy. It was such an honour and blessing to spend time with the whole family and be so warmly welcomed and included. They gave us all small presents when we left and we were told whenever we were with them they considered us their daughters. I am also very excited to return to the house this Wednesday and get henna done on my hands and feet by our teacher’s sister. The whole time was a wonderful opening into the community and such a special relationship to have made, I’m just sad that it has come at the end of my trip, but what a special ending.

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As I go into my final week of school and my final time spent with everyone, I am loving every opportunity and special moment I am presented with all the more. Emotions are very mixed and currently running very high, but each memory is being firmly locked away and treasured. I can’t wait for the activities and time spent with everyone over the last coming days, but most of all I am so thankful that despite the tough start and continuing difficulties of this part of my trip, so many positives and incredible times have far outweighed any negatives that have tried to ruin my time. These last few days are going to be so special, and I’m not going to waste a moment…except maybe a couple extra minutes in bed each morning.

4 sleeps and I’m home!

Naomi x

Smiling through challenges

It took me a long time to decide what and how to write this latest update. I wrote 3 different blog posts and didn’t feel like any of them were quite right. Too negative, too positive, too self-centred. So I sat down and decided to combine all 3 and this is what I got, I hope you can connect to it.

 

My time so far in my current location has been the most uncontrollable rollercoaster of emotion I have had in a very long time. It is by far the most difficult place I have ever lived, and has tested me in all aspects, mentally, physically, emotionally and most of all spiritually. Every morning I wake up and give myself a few minutes to shake off the cloud of sadness that gathers over me overnight (first thing in the morning is never my happiest) and then I pick one thing that makes me happy, or that I’m looking forward to, and focus on that until my mood lightens. “Why would you be sad, or be downhearted?” you may ask. Well, amidst the natural beauty and picturesque views of mountains, mustard fields, a river and rice paddies which surround the village I currently live and teach in, are a people ravaged and exhausted from living in a conflict zone. The fresh faces of the young are old beyond their years; the wrinkled and aged faces of the old are tired as though they have lived a hundred lifetimes. The dust clouds that fly up from the enormous wheels of the army trucks (which travel through the village day after day) create a hazy, fog like effect to your view, as though you’re walking through a cloud. But instead of the fluffy, cuddly, white clouds that we teach to children, this one is coarse and full of grit ready to cut against your skin. Rubbish lines the roads on either side, companionably resting next to countless stray dogs who lay unmoving all day, adjusted to the constant blare of car and truck horns, announcing their presence, as they erratically bounce around depending on which pothole they hit in the dirt road. The sense of oppression, hopelessness and unease hangs in the air and I feel it like a weight on my shoulders as my two flatmates and I walk to school. It’s a battle to push through it every day, to reach the bouncing rays of light (the children at the school) which make the time here so worthwhile. When I see them and see all the life and energy built up inside them, the darkness and sadness just melts away.

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My time here consists of 6 days a week teaching at the school, and then a day off Sunday for rest and to spend time with other believers in a nearby town. It’s very common here for children to go to school for 6 days a week, even pre-school (age 3-5) which is who comes to our school. We arrive at the school by 9am and children arrive at 9:50-10:10. The morning is then split between ‘Circle Time’ (which is singing nursery rhymes and songs with actions), English, Break, Maths, Science and Art or learning the local language. At 12:50 the children have an hour for lunch and then Art or the local language, P.E and home time at 3pm. My role as a short-term volunteer is teaching Science and P.E, helping with picking the children up, participating in Circle time, getting them ready for going home, filling in for any absent teachers and monitoring Break. I helped with Break time one morning, just because they needed an extra person, and quickly signed myself up for it permanently. The reason being, unlike most children in England, these little lovelies take great delight in sharing their snack with you. At one point break time finished and I had 8 cookies, 3 crisps, a piece of chocolate, half a grape and some pastry in my hand. Now before I get any rude comments, no I did not eat it all, I shared it back round with the children, except the chocolate…I confess I ate that one… and maybe a cookie. I also recently had the spontaneous adventure, when one of the other ladies was unwell, of teaching for a whole day which was wonderful and really tested my ability to spontaneously produce lessons. I’m currently absolutely in my element with being able to think up imaginative ways of teaching my Science class about their 5 senses using various items. The best reaction so far has got to be when they all had garlic, coffee and cinnamon put directly under their nose – trust me, they remember “what we do with our nose is…” “Smell!!!”

So far in school the biggest challenge is the language barrier. The children’s English is very basic, and my knowledge of their language is non-existent, and so this makes communication difficult. They are however doing the most incredible job of picking up words and phrases very quickly and so each day our relationship and ability to understand each other grows. Thankfully I have learnt that they understand tone, facial expression and volume of voice very well. And thankfully they have learnt that when you hit someone round the head with your toy, turn around, and discover that Teacher Naomi just watched you do it, it’s best to apologise straight away to the child you just mildly concussed.

One of the highlights of teaching for me is being able to make the children laugh in class, despite the language barrier. Dancing around the classroom, putting on a deep voice, or pulling funny faces is plenty good enough, who needs words! I have never been sat on or hugged as much as I am during the school day; if you’re feeling unloved just wait till 5 children decide they can all fit on your lap, and then one climbs on your head for good measure. In the environment in which I’m living and the tense atmosphere surrounding the area, the love and laughter from the children helps me to be able to keep going every day. Witnessing the progress of the children with what they are remembering and capable of doing, even after such a short period of time, gives me butterflies of excitement. By applying my limited artistic genes I have also really gotten into giving extravagant, colourful and picture filled homework to the children, which also keeps me busy in the evenings so I don’t allow any waves of sadness to creep into my mind.

If you had asked me after the first week of my stay whether I would be able to manage the 2 months, or whether I would still have chosen to come if I had known what it was going to be like, I probably would have said no. But I can say now that I absolutely can manage my final month here, I would absolutely have still come, and I am thrilled that I’ve got the privilege of teaching the most awesome children in a place where I am so clearly meant to be, and would never have come to if it hadn’t been on the path which God led me on.

Naomi x

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My two beautiful flat mates keep me going every day – and yes it really is that cold!

 

 

 

 

 

Safe Arrival

How wonderful to be safe and sound, sitting writing this is my new bedroom, in my own flat (shared with two wonderful American ladies similar ages to me), and getting ready to start the last part of this particular adventure. I’ve been in India now for 6 days and what a roller coaster of emotions it has been already.

My journey was fairly eventful, and the 15 hour layover in New Delhi was full of surprises and called for a lot of faith and trust. The full story is fairly long but thankfully I arrived with all my luggage, and only mildly sleep deprived, at my final destination, and was picked up straight away by the people I was meeting there.

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The weather is much colder here, and a lot closer to England temperatures, which has taken some getting used to as my body had acclimatised to much warmer weather over the past 5 months. We are blessed by truly beautiful scenery, mountains both snowy and green surround the area and a river runs alongside our village and another nearby one. The beautiful thing about this is on the morning school run to pick up the children, you can see all the workers climbing into the canoe like boats and pushing long sticks deep into the mud to release the boat onto the river. With a hazy, deep orange sky, the dark green of the river, the dusty roads, and wooden houses in the background you can’t help but be entranced by the view.

I got straight into helping when I arrived and have had a very full week thus far. The children are all wonderful and full of curiosity, energy, disobedience, cuddles, laughter and imagination. From age 3-5 they are all very exhausting to look after all day, but with such an excellent team all supporting each other, it’s more fun and enjoyable than anything else. School days are Mon-Sat, so weeks are full and I’m relishing evenings to myself to relax. We are so blessed to have a school holiday day coming up this Monday and so the whole team are planning a ski trip! Just to rub it in the faces of those who are avid skiers…I have never been skiing, and my first time will be in the Himalayan Mountains. Now that, I can cross off my bucket list.

As my blog is not set to a privacy setting I am not putting as many details on what I’m doing at this destination on here. However, for anyone who would like more details, would like more correspondence or anything in fact, you are more than welcome to e-mail me and I will happily write to you. Just comment and leave your email address.

Thank you again for such amazing support and continued encouragement. It is so wonderful, after all of the Visa issues and a tough journey, to finally be here and be getting into the swing of things.

Lots of love x

 

Perfect Visa timing

Hi everyone,

So an update on the Visa thankfully this time with great news. Yesterday out of the blue, around 3pm, one of the ladies who works in the office at the Centre where I’m staying, came over to where I was doing school with Rachel. She asked if I was expecting my passport and I told her that I was but not till Thursday as they took 7 working days to process Visa’s.

She then smiled (as everyone in the office by now knew of my Visa fiasco – if you want the full story email me and I can tell you, it’s long but pretty funny) and handed me a package and said “I think this one is yours”

After two trips to the embassy, 3 applications, over 8 pieces of necessary documentation, countless emails and phonecalls, a lot of money, with 5 dayss before I flew and having waited for this since before Christmas you can imagine my reaction was explosive. Amidst the concoction of flailing arms, jumping around on my feet, yelling and grabbing people I somehow tore open the package and found my passport!

There it was, taking up a whole page was my long awaited, God given Indian visa. I am so overjoyed that after all the time and effort that not only I but others too have put into getting me this visa it has finally arrived. I am so excited to be going to my third and final destination, and to be doing it without a shadow of a doubt that God wants me there.

On numerous occasions God had the opportunity to stop me from being granted a visa but instead he helped me overcome all the hurdles. It was a discoraging, frustrating, time consuming and laborious process but the fact that in the end I got it is all that matters. This has just confirmed to me that he wants me there and has new and exciting things planned for me.

I fly out around 9:30am Filipino time, so 1:30am English time, I have several flights, an airline change and a 15 hour layover in which I’m leaving the airport in New Delhi. Please please pray for safe travels, for a safe taxi trip to my hotel out of the airport in New Delhi given I am alone, my luggage to all arrive at my final destination safely and at the same time that I do.

I will write again before I leave. I cannot thank people enough for how incredible you have all been for praying for me. I have been told of so many people who have remembered me in their prayers and that makes my heart so happy. You are all amazing and God answered our prayer.

Praise him, everything is perfect in his timing.

Lots of love,

Nomad Naomi x

Please pray for my Visa

Hello all,

So I haven’t done too many prayer points since I’ve been away, because I would rather people pray for what they feel God puts on their heart after reading my blog posts. However on this occasion I would really value prayer to cover my Indian Visa application.

After an online application failing to be processed before Christmas, we are now 3 weeks away from me leaving and I am headed to the Indian Embassy this coming Wednesday to reapply in person. Due to certain complications it may be slightly trickier to get my Visa, and it turns out that it is also going to cost a much larger amount of money than I previously expected. So if everyone could please pray for a smooth process, for the paperwork to be accepted straight away, for God’s continued provision, for there to be no issues at all and for God to really go before me and set everything up to go through without any hassle, that would be wonderful. Please pray that there will be no other extra costs involved that I was not previously aware of, and that the people dealing with my application will be considerate and efficient.

There have been more hurdles with travelling to India than any of my other destinations, for example the Visa application. The trip is going to be the most gruelling, with a 15 hour overnight layover in New Delhi airport, and me having to catch 3 different planes to get from Manila to my final destination. There are lots of questions I have about the trip including whether to stay in a hotel overnight, and if so where. All of these questions and hurdles lead me to believe that God really has something special awaiting me in India, or someone he really wants me to meet, and this is all just from the other side to try and discourage me and prevent that from happening. So I would also ask you to please pray for God to continue to give me strength and encouragement, to reassure me and to provide circumstances to just reaffirm that he has it all under control.

I thank you all for your amazing support, and for all the continuous messages I receive, they are more encouraging than I could ever explain to you.

IMG_1541Blessing and love,

Naomi xx

 

It’s all about the little moments…

Whilst considering what to write about for my next blog post, I felt I would share some ‘little moments’ from the past few months which were either funny or special to me.

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Rachel and me on New Years Eve – isn’t she beautiful.

Almost every week day I have been working with one of the children from the Children’s Home doing school and fun activities for about 3 hours every afternoon. She is actually a woman of 23, however it is almost certain she has some form of disability or delay so is very behind in both social skills, learning, and especially talking. – My special moment with her, let’s call her Rachel, was when she said my name for the first time as she won’t even say her own name.

Successfully jumping off the 20+ft high jump into the pool at my accommodation (the YMC) without belly flopping.

After the community kids struggled to pronounce my name, I became ‘Mimi’ and whenever they see me they shout my name at the gate.

I body tackled the fat, YMC English Bulldog, called Tyson, to save the kitten he was about to eat.

Climbing up and jumping off a waterfall into the purest looking water I have ever seen, then drying off in the suns rays while drinking a coke.

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Well there’s 3 of the Toddlers

All 8 toddlers at the Children’s Home running at me to give hugs and cuddles, hanging off whichever part of my body they could reach.

Not having health and safety, so for the first time setting off fireworks myself.

Killing a massive cockroach that was terrorising our toilet(after gassing it didn’t work).

Lice picking the younger girls at the children’s home and them demanding to kill each bug that I found.

Being called ‘The Queen’ by the man in charge.

Children on the outreach feedings asking where I was to other volunteers if I didn’t go for a week.

Singing and playing the guitar to do private worship with the older girls from the children’s home.

Tackling my room-mate Candace to the floor just because it seemed like a good idea at the time, and crying with laughter by the end.

Getting involved in Maths tutoring at lunch time for the kids who are slightly behind.

Having a 2 hour prayer time with God, in a glass room overlooking the skyline of Manila at night.

IMG_1658Watching the sunset over Manila from the same spot.

Rachel initiating hugs with me or holding my hand because she trusts me enough.

Being asked by one of the older children’s home girls to sit and discuss her troubles with her.

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Proof for those who didn’t believe

Driving in the Philippines, in an automatic, on the side of the road I’m not used to, where rules of the road don’t apply…so far so good.

Finding a full tube of Pringles for less than £2 (that’s right be jealous).

Being asked to do story time before bed with the toddlers.

Having midnight swims in the pool with Betsie(another glorious room-mate).

Playing ninja and leap frog with the children’s home girls.

Being asked if one of the babies I was carrying was mine and if I was married to a Filipino man.

Dancing around the kitchen with girls from the children’s home and being branded crazy.

Attempting to learn how to hip hop dance with the children’s home girls.

Speaking to my family on Skype for over an hour on Boxing Day.

Being told I’m beautiful by one of the ladies who works at the children’s home, every time I see her.

Receiving the title ‘yummy scrummy in my tummy Tita* Naomi’ from one of the boys at the children’s home, no it doesn’t rhyme but he insists it does.

Putting the younger children to bed and praying with them at the children’s home.

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Here’s one of the babies sleeping soundly ( I make a good pillow apparently)

Three babies falling asleep on me in the car on the way to the hospital.

 

*’Tita’ mean’s Aunt or Big sister and is said to females older than you out of respect.

 

Welcome to the world Baby

Last week I had one of the most extraordinary experiences I have had in my life so far. I had the honour of not only helping to deliver a baby, but cutting the umbilical cord, cleaning her off and dressing her.

Here where I am volunteering in the Philippines there is a pre-natal clinic which I have helped at a few times. Normally these visits involve taking the mothers blood pressure, weighing her, measuring the babies heart rate and measuring it’s growth by feeling her stomach. This in itself to me already was amazing to be able to be a part of as I have had no experience with it previously. On one particular day last week I was invited back with Katherine (another volunteer who is here for a month) to help with a birth in the afternoon. Having never had children or witnessed a birth we were both slightly apprehensive as to what we should expect. Well if I’m being honest we were both petrified that we weren’t going to be able to even watch, let alone help. Determined though we both agreed to come back and at 3pm returned to the clinic with faces as though ready for battle.

In the end the mother’s labour continued on till about 6pm without much happening, apart from the occasional check to see how dilated she was and the fantastic husband running to get her a coke (things aren’t quite as strict in the Philippines).

I would just like to take this moment to say what an absolute trooper this mother was the entire time even during the birth. She barely made a sound. I have made more noise from stubbing my toe than she did from birthing her daughter. Never again will I take a TV or Movie birth seriously, the screaming and thrashing around…take a leaf out of super Mum’s book and just dig your nails into your husbands arm.

At around 6pm things really kicked up a gear, latex gloves went on, endless rolls of tissue and toilet paper were folded (I am now a fully certified toilet paper and tissue roller for births now) and almost mother assumed a position. 11 minutes later after some serious pushing, some pulling from our end, lots of encouragement and a grunt from Mum which could have been mistaken for the sound you make when you bite your tongue, and a brand new, beautiful, perfect baby popped into the world. I hadn’t quite realised how blue babies are when they are born, I felt as though I was looking at a baby Smurf, but over the next 20 minutes all the blue drained away and the most wonderful and fresh tanned skin tone crept in. After the birth as I said, I cut the umbilical cord and then we wiped her down and dressed her tiny body in her first outfit.

Watching a human coming into the world, hearing their first cry, seeing their eyes open for the first time and being there for the first 30 minutes of their life is an indescribable feeling. For me nothing else mattered at that time, nothing in the world was bad or wrong, all I could process was the tiny human staring back at me.

To Katherine and my wonderful surprise helping deliver the baby did not put us off from having children at all. In fact, made us more excited for when/if our time comes. To feel that much joy and not even be the one with the baby afterwards, I cannot imagine how sensational it must be to actually be the mother (minus the sleep deprivation). What a privilege to be there and do even a little something to help in God’s creation.

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