Thursday, January 30, 2014

American culture?!

The other day I had another experience where I was not entirely sure what to do now that I am back in the American culture. At the end of it, all I could do was laugh and hope that I acted in a proper fashion.
In Pittsburgh, as is the case with a lot of America, it has recently been bitterly cold. Not wanting to kill myself by running outside every day, I found a gym that is offering a free two-week trial. It seems to be the perfect fit, I can go in and use their treadmills until this arctic freeze passes over. As I was finishing my run the other day, I noticed they had a sauna. My thoughts were, "it's bitterly cold out, a sauna would feel pretty nice. Why not?" But as I approached the sauna I had the realization, "I don't know what the proper attire is for an American sauna?!" As I began to think about it, I remembered different saunas I have been to in; France, Germany, Switzerland and Russia. Each country has a slightly different set of rules. Are they gender specific? How much textile is required, if any? Are you supposed to make small talk, or sit in perfect silence? All questions I grew accustomed to trying to navigate as I enjoyed the saunas from various countries. (Just a side note, it's not as if I made a habit of going to a sauna, but there was an ancient Roman bath about 20 minutes away, and the thought of spending 90 minutes at the baths followed by pizza and drinks, all for under 20€ was quite an enticing way to spend a day off) I was used to having all these questions filter through my mind in foreign countries, I was not used to them while in America.

I decided to play it safe, and thankfully made the correct decision. But it was an entertaining moment to realize how being back in America, still forces some cultural questions upon me. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The support heard round the world

As mentioned in a post back in September (which you can read by clicking here), I have students from Germany who signed on to be virtual pen-pals with my students in Pittsburgh. We are nearing the finish of our 20th week of school and of those 20 weeks, I think there have been 17 videos sent back and forth. I truly find that remarkable and awesome.
Within the past week the 7th graders I teach found out I wrote a book. I honestly cannot remember how it came up, but they found out about the book and eventually found out about the shirts as well (which you can read more about here). I told my students that money raised from the sale of shirts would go to support Larisa, one of the students they have been corresponding with through the videos. At the sound of that, their interest skyrocketed. By the end of class, the students had created a sign up sheet indicating who wanted a book and who wanted a shirt. This week already I have sold three shirts and one book, which is incredible.
The greatest part of the story in my opinion, is when one of my students came up to me and said, "I want a shirt because I want to support Larisa. She is really cool and I think she will do a great job." The next day she came in with money for a shirt, when I gave her a shirt I also had her change because the bill she gave me was more than the cost of the shirt. When I gave her the change, she refused to take it. She wanted the extra change to go to support Larisa. I was pretty blown away and was truly encouraged.
It is phenomenal for me to see the way in which my BFA students have committed to pouring into these 7th graders that they have only met via video. Then to see the way in which the 7th graders have responded and desire to encourage and support them. Now if I could only figure out a way to get my students to study...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A necessary visit

This past weekend I had a great opportunity to travel to the eastern part of the state and visit one of my closest friends. It was a trip that was planned...maybe three days before it happened. A random text late at night that turned into a spur of the moment road trip - and I am so thankful I did it. There are three main reasons why the trip was so great
#1. I got to see Ross do what he does so well.
The whole weekend was centered around his responsibilities as a coach, teacher, mentor, friend at his school. Saturday morning we played in a dodgeball tournament (which we won), helped set up for the homecoming banquet, attended the banquet, and then went to the after party with his students. I've known it for years, but seeing Ross so deeply impact so many students is such an amazing and encouraging thing. He walks into the room and everyone flocks to him, and he knows every student's name and knows how to make them smile. His presence makes their day better. I felt like I was walking around with a celebrity as he stopped to talk to everyone, and everyone wanted to talk to him. It's not too often you get to see a friend in a position where they are absolutely thriving. This past weekend I had that opportunity and it was phenomenal.
#2. One of the things I admire so much about Ross is that he has an incredible ability of talking about his friends when they're not around. I met umteen hundred people over the weekend, and each time Ross would say something like "This is the one who..." or "He is in the story where we..." and people instantly know who I am. (Of course, I have to hear what version of the story they heard, and make sure it is accurate) Every time I met someone, I felt as though it did not feel like I was meeting a complete stranger, rather it felt as though I was simply reconnecting with an old friend. It truly makes me feel valued as his friend, when there are so many jr high students running around his school knowing how I crashed my Vespa in Germany.
#3. Quality time with a close friend.
In my five years in Germany, I saw Ross three times. Since August, I have seen Ross three times. My heart is refreshed after spending time with him. Conversations can go from pure joking, to serious in a heartbeat. When he asks a question, I don't dance around the issue but get straight to it. If I want to ask him something, I say it with no filter. I am very appreciative of the laughter, the deep talks, the sharing and companionship.

Plus... how can you complain about a weekend when you have a friend who will do this with you... (see video below...hopefully it works)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Shirts available!

A few weeks back I hinted that there was a big announcement coming. Today I am happy to tell you that there is now a shirt available that is connected with my book. Over the past few months I have been working on creating a design for a shirt, and I am very proud and excited of the way it turned out.

You can see the design for the shirt and order the shirt by clicking on the following link: 

100% of the profits that come in from the shirt will go directly toward the mission field. At the moment I am hoping to raise enough funds to help a BFA student go on a m-trip this spring, but would love to raise enough to sponsor a few other trips as well. Check out the link and order a shirt!