Today marks my 8th day of teaching in the village of Pagalungang, an hour north of the Indonesian border and 5 hours from Tenom (2 spent on dirt roads, and 1 on a riverboat). I arrived here on October 13 at noon, and at 2 I was teaching my first English class. All of those expectations that I had mentioned, well I feel like they came and flew by me. The past week has been much of me 'hitting the ground running' (thanks Peter!). I am teaching three classes a day: a morning class for women and youth, and afternoon class for kids, and an evening class for women and men. While I always start with a lesson plan, more often than not, I have learned to just go with the flow. My students are all at different levels of English and so more often than not, being able to adapt and retain attention spans has been something I've had to rely on. If teaching colors leads to playing "I spy," which leads to singing "Head and shoulders, knees, and toes," well, I just embrace it. To be honest, I have struggled with the knowledge that I am not going to be able to teach them everything I want to in the time that I am here, but I hope and pray that I can teach them some. And a big shout out to teachers here-making learning fun and creative is challenging. We start each class warming up by stretching our muscles: reaching to the right; touching our toes, standing on our right foot, etc. Afterwards, we begin our main lesson (so far we have covered the alphabet, colors, size, and body), sing a couple of songs, and then always play games to end class.
The last two weeks have been very much about embracing change. The weekend before I came here, I journeyed to Kota Kinabalu (KK) where I stayed with another YAGM while I got a filling in my front tooth. (Btw I'm totally fine, just bit into a rather hard seed on accident.) While staying there I was reminded by the people around me that this is a beautiful world we live in. Jenna welcomed me with open arms, and an open closet (I forgot a few things). We got to talk about our placements and some of the experiences we have been having that have left us struggling to find words. To be able to just be with someone experiencing the same thing was something I didn't know how badly I needed. I also got to attend a bible study and worship service while there that spoke again to embracing our faith. It was incredible 13 year-olds were leading us in worship and rockin' it. And the message that we heard about the blessing of hope in Christ seemed to be speaking to some of those restless thoughts I had been having. It seemed to me that I was getting filled before leaving on the journey.
But this care that I have received in Tenom and KK hasn't stopped. Here in Pagalungang, there definitely exists a language barrier that I didn't account for, but it doesn't seem to matter. The people are of the Indigenous Sabahan tribe, the Murut and speak Murut; Bahasa Melayu is their second language. I started out knowing one word in Murut: "Makau," it means, "Go." While it is a pretty good word to know, it sometimes left me lacking. Fortunately, there are six women who have essentially adopted me. They are all cousins: Kuja, Jus, Zaiton, Aryani, Goy, and Sofia...(I asked today how many cousins Kuja had and she said "lebih seratus"..."more than a hundred." One big family. They sleep in one of the rooms next to mine, they eat with me, they take me around the village, they teach me words in Murut, they laugh with me...they are my friends. And last night while we we were cooking dinner, in the midst of laughter and giggles, I had that same feeling of being home as I did in Tenom, feeling love.
Peter asked us to read Genesis 12:1-6 as we reflected on our week. God calls Abraham to leave his home and venture out to the land God promises him. It is a huge change, and when I think about my last month here I feel in someways very much like Abraham. I have always like to think of myself as someone who leaned in and embraced change. I love the challenge of something new, meeting new people and learning. These things are true, but something that I have realized this past month is how badly I want to be able to figure things out. I want to be able to speak Malay, I want to 'start' at my placement. I want to start having deep, meaningful conversations with people. It's not to say that none of these things happened in Tenom during the first four weeks I was there, they just didn't happen in the ways that I expected them, too. Ah expectations...so now I have been fighting the urge to "make sense" of my surroundings and just awe at the wonder of it all. Like today, the fact that I had 41 little ones, ages 7 to 13 years, in my afternoon class, and the wonder that all of them played red light-green light and LOVED it. How? I don't know; I think it was a God moment. Or maybe the 5 ten-year old boys clustered around my white board furiously copying down a stick-figure of the human body I had drawn. God is here and is present with these people and I feel blessed to share this world, even for a short time, with them. Faith to wonder is what I pray for, for you, and for me.
I also think it is a God moment that Pagalungang has internet...