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I suppose it is time.
Since October 1. Hum. Well, I briefly dated/flinged--flung?--a girl named Belle. Basically the first date went fantastic, which introduced super high expectations, that were later not met. It's entirely possible they were impossible to meet. Belle and I are still friends, though it took a couple months.
In the last couple days in Rwanda, we headed back toward the airport. On the way, we visited some orphans and widows, doing missionary work like a cop eats a doughnut. The woman my group met with was 51 years old and had an amazing, tragic story. Her husband was a fisherman and died drowning when she was in her early twenties. By then she had two kids, but her parents and parents-in-law disowned her. She couldn't afford the house she was living in, and had no where to go, so she lived, quite literally, under a mat for ten years. The neighbors took pity on her kids some nights and gave them food, some of which they smuggled in their shirts, so that's how the woman survived. There was something about her owning the house they'd lived in, but not the land it was on, and the man who owned it refused to part with it. He was planning on leveling the house, but since it was government-built, it was illegal. When we met with her, she was in the process of getting the government to step in. My favorite part was that she let us take the bench in her house, and pulled down some mats for herself. One of the mats, when unrolled, revealed a giant spider. I pointed it out, expecting her to whack it with a shoe, or ask me to. Instead, she slapped it, bare-palmed, it curled up, and she brushed it aside. My sister would have run to Uganda at the sight of that spider.
The day before we left the country, we had a one-day "retreat" for the World Relief staff. It was based around the five or six sections of the Lord's Prayer. We put out large sheets of paper with the section name at the top, then went around and wrote prayers that fit the section for World Relief and otherwhere. (Otherwhere passes spell check?) It was a fairly powerful experience. Afterward, it began to rain pretty hard. I walked out into it, getting soaked. The Rwandans thought I was crazy, which amused my team and me.
The day after we got back from Rwanda, I had tickets with my Microsoft team and Swood to see the Seahawks. We were to meet at a bar in Seattle, but I managed to leave my wallet in my bags, still packed, at home, and my 16-year-old face couldn't convince them I was 24. Our tickets were for seats literally the furthest from the field, the nosebleeds of the nosebleeds. We lost the game, though had we made the hail-mary field goal we would have won or gone into overtime. I don't remember.
When I went back to work, everything had changed. The two remaining members of the original project I was on had left to go work with my old boss. We had one new member, and two or three more on the way. Our code base had moved to an entirely different system. Seriously, I'm gone for two weeks and the team falls apart.
Within two weeks, I had to do my commitments. My boss helped me with those, and midway through, I realized, I'm not going to do these. It made setting them a bit easier, when then and there, I decided I was going to quit my job.
Obviously the next question was "What now?" The only thing that came to mind was teaching high school math, so I set my course, and looked for colleges. The only college that fit my schedule was SPU. For UW, I'd have to wait until the next October to apply, and start in spring of '13. Western, which would have been my first choice, had no Seattle satellite campus, and I don't want to leave my church. When I talked to HR about leaving Microsoft, she recommended CityU, but my sister is there.
A few weeks later, at one of my one-on-ones with my boss, he told me, as a friend and in no official capacity, that I should start looking for a new job. I started talking to people about my decision, outside of work (and with Athena). My Rwanda trip team (we're still meeting once every two to four weeks as we did pre-trip) was all very supportive, everyone saying I'd make a great teacher. My psychiatrist said she hears people frequently say they want to quit their jobs, and she always tells them to keep them, but in my case, that I should go for it. The only two people I told that weren't thrilled were my mom and Luke's wife--both teachers. My mom didn't want me to drop out of the computer field when she knows that's one of my (if not my) biggest passion, and she's been teaching for 35 years, is burnt out, and angry at what the government is doing to the system right now. Luke's wife is a second or third year teacher, and at the time, had been having a very rough year. Both of them are junior high teachers, whereas I want to teach high school.
I gave my two weeks' notice two weeks before Thanksgiving. My boss gave me the best compliment he could have: "Oh, I expected you to say you were going to Google or Amazon." My last day could have been the Wednesday before, but Microsoft has a long standing tradition of a farewell lunch, and I figured that everyone would be out of town, but be back by Monday, so that was my last day. Those two weeks were hard because it's Microsoft policy not to tell anyone except HR and your boss if you're actually leaving the company as opposed to changing groups. I spent a lot of it messing around with a MSR gadget, teasing out the peculiarities and attempting to train the guy who would take over my project. I spent a lot of it rereading QC too. The rest of my time, I spent talking to Vin on facebook. She is a wonderful person.
The person I hadn't told, come Thanksgiving, was my grandpa. I was not really looking forward to that conversation, but I've got a bit more ... I don't even know the word ... than my mom or sister. Hostility isn't quite right; indifference; rebelliousness. Combine those but only take certain portions of each: hostdiffousnessity--the attitude of I'm doing this, and I know it to be right, so you can condemn me or not and it won't bother me either way. It's being a teenage daughter, except right. Anyway, I don't even remember how it came up, but I ended up telling my grandpa I had given my two weeks' notice and was going to become a math teacher. His response was, "Good for you!" My jaw almost dropped. I know he and Grandma knew that I wasn't happy there, in fact they were the first to know, even before me, but they'd always tried to push me toward Amazon or Google. When my mom had told him she wanted to be a teacher, he was disappointed, though my understanding is that it was because of the pay they received.
Thanksgiving went well for me. Well in general, except for my cousins and sister, I think, and except for one or two parts, it went well for them too. Good food, good company, an interesting game of Apples to Apples--interesting because some people played it literally, my sister and I didn't, and my two cousins were too young to understand "Woodstock." "I like the bird." But, as the party was breaking up, my grandpa said goodbye to my sister asking, "So, are you on track to graduate?" Since my sister's taken five years to graduate, he's quit supporting her financially (or so I've heard). His concern can be interpreted as aimed at her success rather than her wellbeing. Then, he turned to me and said, "Follow your dreams!" A few moments later, when he was out of earshot, my eldest cousin turned to my sister and said in a bitter tone, "Or, you can just not go to college and have no expectations placed on you at all!" Good ol' family politics, I guess. Still, beats presidential politics.
My goodbye lunch was bittersweet, half because I was leaving and would miss the people who attended, half because half the people I wanted to attend were out of town still. I'll admit it's a little selfish to wish the guy were at my lunch rather than at Disneyland with his family. A little.
Of the process for leaving, I was most upset that they didn't let me keep my badge as a memento. I was tempted to leave it home that day, but my good nature prevented it.
The SPU program officially starts in late July, so I had/have eight months of unemployment. What allows me to do this, and to live while in college without a job, is my recently converted buy-a-house fund, a large sum of money sitting in MSFT stock. Assuming Microsoft doesn't go out of business, or drop its value by half, I should be fine for living for 36-40 months, without taxes. What I don't have is the $17k needed to go to school, so I'm hoping to take out some loans for that.
Everything just kind of fell into place for this decision. Last June, I'd planned on moving into a house I wanted to buy by February, so that's when I set as the end of my lease. As "luck" would have it, February is when Bob's roommate is moving out. (It's now one week until the end of my lease and she still hasn't so I need to do some more prodding.) Rent at Bob's place is a couple hundred cheaper per month. It's not huge, but it's some. SPU's program is 14 months, which is about the amount of living money I have, and it's somewhat targeted at people leaving the tech industry who want to teach math and science, which is me. My mom's an alumnus so I think that will help with admissions and tuition a little bit. A dozen other small things have just left me feeling at peace with this decision. It's where God wants me to be right now, and that's enough. It's quite the turn around from where I was a year ago.
Christmas was good, mostly because I got to see friends from all over. Vin came back, so we had lunch together at a place in Seattle. Denna, whom I'm renaming once again to Nicci (having reread The Wizards First Rule, and deciding Denna doesn't really fit--and I'm not choosing Nicci because she's Death's Mistress [one should hope not], but because she turns into a dear friend of Richard's, though not his wife) visited, and I spent a day barhopping with her and her sister, brother-in-law, and roommate and his friend. That day, my iPhone was stolen from my car seat through my window. I forget that Seattle is not Redmond. It was really being used as a glorified iPod, since I've been using my Windows Phone for over a year. Still, it would have been nice to keep, sell, or give away. It's missing the chip that makes it act as a phone, so they'll have a little more trouble using it. After the barhopping, I took the ferry over to Port Orchard and hung out at her parents' house, with some of her other Port Orchard friends. I'd been hoping to get a chance to talk to her one on one, but it didn't really happen. At the end, it was me, her dad, and her. Her dad and I played a game of chicken, and I lost. I was a little disappointed, until the next morning when Nicci told me that a lot of wounds between her dad and her were mended and that they were on significantly better terms, which were my prayers while driving on the way home, and had been for months before. God is good.
Frank was also in town, and the Quad had a good night of Apples to Apples, and dare I say it, Quelf. They are the only three people with which I could play that game, though perhaps on a different timeline, it'd be interesting with Goose as well. Much blackmail material was generated.
A lot of people, people older than me mostly, have suggested that I should become a technology teacher, or assume that's what I'm going for rather than math. It's really hard, and repetitive, to try to explain that there's a difference between computer science and technology, the same as there's a difference between math and accounting. I would love to teach computer science, but first I'd have to find a school that actually teaches it. That might involve working for a few years, and then coming up with my own curriculum. I don't know how good the AP CS curriculum is, but that might also be an option.
In order to become a masters student, you have to take the WEST-B and WEST-E tests. WEST stands for Washington Educators Skill Tests. The B is basic--reading, writing, and math. The E is endorsement, so in my case, math. I took the endorsement test first, and it was fun. I got something like a 78, but it's a pass-fail test with a 70% bar. The WEST-B, I got in the high 80s/low 90s for reading and writing, and a 98-ish in math. The scores they give you are on a 100-300 scale, so calculating, I'm guessing, is not a straight percentage.
In order to take the WEST-E, you can't bring anything except a calculator, and they give you lockers for your wallet, watch, cell phone, and anything else on your person. I thought I'd be smarter than that, and leave all my stuff in my car. Of course, that stuff included my keys. And my wallet, which normally has my backup car key. I do so love when I outsmart myself. One of the women who worked at the testing center was super gracious, and let me use her AAA membership to unlock my car. She even gave me a little cash for lunch while I waited for them. It's so great to meet people like that.
The SPU application was due February 1, but to beef it up a little, I was encouraged to volunteer at a couple schools. I set myself up to volunteer in a math classroom at a high school in Kirkland, but the Monday that week was Martin Luther King Jr Day, and Tuesday through Friday were snow days. The Civil Rights Movement strikes again! The next Tuesday, I went back to Port Orchard and volunteered in my favorite junior high math teacher's classroom on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday was insane. Because of the snow, the kids were rowdy. Also, because of the days missed, they had pushed back the end of the semester to that Friday, which meant the kids' grades were basically set in stone. No failing student was going to pass, and no high A student was going to get a B. No passing student cares that much about a percentage point or two, nor will they fail. The kids basically had no perceivable incentive for listening. Further, Cedar Heights's schedule is such that on Wednesday, he didn't have a plan period. Last, and probably foremost, he's a little too lenient when it comes to keeping the kids quiet, so when he gives that inch and lets them talk during homework time, they take that mile and don't shut up when he's trying to teach. In one period, he even lost his temper and sent two instigators outside for the rest of the period. At the end of the day, I was wondering if I even wanted to teach anymore. Also, that day, my car was towed because it was parked awkwardly, yet a legal 6" from the curb. Neither that, nor the $216 it cost to get it out of impound, helped. I decided to tough it out and stay Thursday. I wouldn't say it was a night and day difference, but a world of difference, nonetheless. The biggest thing, probably, was that I was ready for it. Second, he had his plan period, and during it, I went to my mom's classroom to see how she teaches. Her classroom management (crowd control) skills are significantly, well, better. It helps that she's been teaching longer, and also that her classes are all of a single grade, and thus she can reinvent her teaching style each year, whereas the math teacher's classes are mixed-grade, and students have expectations year-to-year. Also, apparently, the class I visited third period was her best, most respectful class. I finished that day thinking, "Ok, so this can be done." Still, the experience confirmed in me that I want to teach high school and not junior high.
It was good to see all the teachers I grew up with. Having lunch with them was fun, and interesting. I got the feeling that these particular days were hard for most of the teachers, probably due to the end of the semester, and a lot of the time was spent "discussing" student behavior. One interesting comment was that a girl had asked another girl out and was rejected. She ran out of the classroom, hurt, and I think went to the counseling office. The comment was that the girl who asked the girl out was committing sexual harassment. I'm thinking, "Really? How is that different than a guy asking a girl out?"
Friday was best of all, despite the Friday mayhem. During third period, I again visited my mom. She was teaching persuasive writing. The entry task was to pick a topic on the board and write a note to their parents trying to convince them of something. The topics were like "push back my bed time" or "let me dye my hair" or "give me more allowance". After a few minutes, my mom collected all the papers then redistributed them to other students. The task then was to write a reply as their parents, countering the arguments. I looked up at the board, read through the topics, and asked, "Do you realize you just put some kids on the wrong side of 'quit smoking'?" It got me a good laugh. I made a few more comments like that, and asked my mom at the end if I had been too disruptive. She said no, that having me had been good.
Some Saturday in January, I went to see Goose's play. She played Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. The part fits her almost perfectly; Goose is a nicer person. I went during a matinee because it was the last day, and I know that casts have parties after the last showing, which was that night. I wanted to see her afterward, but I didn't want to impose, having not seen her in a little over a year, and that being when she broke up with me. The play was fantastic, I thought. It was no new epiphany, but Shakespeare was brilliant. It kicked off a bit of a Shakespearen binge for me. I didn't actually do a whole lot--I read a little bit, enough to discover that so much is lost without the acting--but I thought about it a lot. Someday, I want to write a play, a comedy I'm sure. It always comes back to plot, though. It's the same reason I haven't written a book yet, either. The only thing I seem to be able to write about with any degree of skill is myself.
Most of the binge happened on facebook, and a friend of mine, a girl I almost went on a date with but then she got married, posted this clip on one of my statuses. I don't normally put youtube in my blog, but this is worth it.
Seeing the play also kicked off a bit of me wishing I was with Goose, and I tested the waters, confirming that she is, in fact, dating Benedick. I know that she's not the one for me, but sometimes things are hard to know. Later I told a friend I hadn't talked to since high school, whom I randomly chatted up on facebook, "She'd be the one that got away, if I weren't completely certain there's a girl out there whose better for me."
On the 31st, I turned in my SPU application. That's right, a full day before it was due. First time in my life. That afternoon, before turning it in, I had lunch with my old Microsoft pals, one to have lunch with them, and two, to get my letters of recommendation (which were incredibly kind) signed. It was a good thing they were signed, too, because they almost rejected one on account of it not being in an envelope. Alas, I had forgotten to print out the second half of my written thing, which was a list of teaching experiences I'd had, so I emailed that to them that night. All that's left now is an interview on March 10, and then waiting one to two weeks for an application letter. I got the feeling there were 100+ applicants per year, but ALL of the interviews, which are required in person, happen on the 10th between 8 and 4pm. I'm just trying to imagine how 100 people get interviewed in 8 hours without a LOT of interviewers. Anyway, I'm not too worried. If this is what God wants, then I'll be accepted. If not, then since I think God has me where he wants me right now, he must have a plan to get me to where I need to go next. Plus, it's not like I'm not an ideal candidate for the spot anyway. The only thing I could have done better, perhaps, was to double-major in math, but I took enough math to cover all the requirements for the MTMS (masters in teaching math and science) without taking any other courses.
As for girls, as there must always be a for girls, I'm a bit put off right now. A day or two ago, I was angsty and frustrated, and way too into it, applying my girl-situation to my identity, where it does not belong. So, once again, I'm at a place where if I find a girl, cool, if not, I have other things to worry about--even though I really don't, having money and no employment. Moving! Right. Good. I was worried I had nothing to worry about. Anyway, all that's really happened since Belle is a few girls I met for lunch, none of which went spectacularly. This latest one, I met in Bellingham, and I thought it went well enough to warrant a second date, but she did not. What was great about it, though, is that it got me to Bellingham where I met with Rufus and Solomon. It'd been entirely too long since I'd talked to either of them, and seeing them again was both wonderful and nurturing to my soul. Solomon is so sincere with his Christ-like love. While talking with Rufus at the VU, I saw a good six or seven other people I knew from back in the day, pastors and friends and Fir Creek counselors. I have no doubt that the reason I ran into this girl on eHarmony was to get me to Bellingham. Besides, who wants to date a girl that enjoyed The Phantom Menace and wanted to see it in 3D? *dog with shifty eyes*
The meeting with Solomon spawned off an email thread, largely about girls and what to look for in girls when looking to marry. I've read it a few times now because he is incredibly insightful. If I get his permission, I'd love to post it on my blog, or maybe a link to it. If not, well, sucks to be you, I guess.
I guess saying I only met a few girls for lunch isn't fair. For a little while, I was kind of seeing this girl. We met up a few times. She was the first girl I've ever really been on a date with that was (more than a year) older than me, though not much older. I'm not really sure why we dropped out of contact, but I think we both felt we should. I don't know. Looking back through nostalgia-colored lenses, I miss her a little. Or maybe (matter-of-factly) I'm just lonely.
The rest of these past months is just keeping busy. I refuse to get bored while unemployed. I've volunteered at my church and also at that Kirkland high school, though they have no place for me in the classroom right now. For my church, they have me doing repetitive menial tasks, which so far I've actually enjoyed. When they set me up to do some data entry, they showed me the software suite they're using, which only lets you search for one member at a time. I noticed that it runs on an .mdb (Microsoft Access) file, and told them I could whip together a quick program that lets you see all the people who are members in a list at once, along with all the people in the list who are new. Tomorrow I'm going to work with the volunteer coordinator to put together a rough spec, since my initial one-hour version doesn't quite do everything needed.
If I'm going to make that meeting, I should probably end this post now. I've been getting up, most days, at 8:30--quite a feat when I don't have anything to do during the day--and reading my Bible while sipping Frappuccino. I was never good at reading my Bible regularly, so I'm determined to make this habit stick.
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World Relief University Monday, September 26, 2011
Today I met wisdom incarnate. He's the former Bishop of Rwanda, having recently retired. He spoke for an hour or so at the beginning of a day dedicated to explaining the vision and execution of World Relief Rwanda. This is a man who represents and leads the entire country through the Anglican church, a man who speaks to hundreds if not thousands at a time, a man who speaks to and councils presidents and ambassadors, here to talk to the twelve of us.
He didn't speak on behalf of World Relief, but he definitely agreed with their work and methodology.
The Rwandan government relies heavily on the Church to care for the most vulnerable. That is Jesus' mandate for the Church, and the Church therefore, presumably, is the body most fit for the task. Is it the government's duty as well? Yes, I think it is, but in the US, the Church often shrugs off its responsibility, its core purpose, because we can rationalize that our government has already taken care of it.
It's entirely foreign to me that government should rely on the church to do anything. It seems to me our government tries to do what would make our lives better, avoiding at all costs any relationship to the church; the church is a hinderance, not an asset. Recently I was considering whether it might not be a good idea to completely remove marriage, a religious notion, from our laws. Let the church handle religion. Hearing Bishop John's telling of how the Rwandan government and church work together, complement each other, may have turned me around on that. Of course, it's easier when 90% of the population claims to be Christian.
The Bishop talked a bit about the US, where he has lived in the past, and some of the Church's failures there. One of those failures, he said, is not being able to talk about Christianity in the schools. I assume he means students not being able to, but he didn't specify. I asked him how the church could not fail in that regard and he said it needs to change its attitude; it needs to be more humble. He said the Anglican church has figured out everything, and it leaves no room for the Spirit. He then asked if he had answered my question, which I felt he had not, so I asked how that would change the government's position on religion in the schools. Essentially he said the government doesn't value the church because we no longer have anything of value to offer. "The church doesn't do magic. If you put salt in a pan and heat the pan with the food and serve it immediately, the salt won't have added any flavor." He suggested that if we humble ourselves and serve rather than rant, in a generation or two, we may see change in how people view Christianity. It's certainly food for thought.
Another culture shock that I mentioned previously is Rwanda's view of ***. "Professor" Maurice, my translator on Thursday for the pastoral retreat, talked a bit about the Mobilizing for Life program they have which teaches faithfulness and abstinence to combat AIDS. I asked a devil's advocate question, as I do so often, "When the US, historically, has taught abstinence only, it's failed miserably. It doesn't reduce the amount of ***, it reduces the amount of safe ***. (Thank you CJ Craig.) What do we expect to happen here?" In the last three or four years, the number of sexually active youth in areas where the benefits of abstinence has been taught has dropped from 33% to 12%. Maurice talked about a lot of testimonies. Pastor Phil said there are statistics to support this as well. He went on to talk about the many supporters of Rwanda, whether they be governments or organizations, that all have agendas for Rwanda and Africa. They all have their own ideals. Much of what comes in is helpful, from financial aid to education to entrepreneurial spirit. But with the good also comes the bad and the ugly, and just because the US can't keep its dick in its pants, doesn't mean the rest of the world can't. Since then (two hours ago) I've been thinking about what could cause this separation in values (and abstinence is a value in Rwanda). I know it's not belief in the Bible, as this education is still being taught to the country and roughly one in three pastors aren't even "born again." It's not ancestral roots (they're not being taught it by their parents) as polygamy is an issue here. I'm left thinking it's our media, our advertising, our obsession with *** in the first place. They have no *** appeal ads because they have no ads at all. I'm not blaming the media outright as the media wouldn't present what we don't want to see. There's a Jack Johnson song about this called "Cookie Jar".
These two pointed questions earned me the prestigious Hardest Questions award during graduation from World Relief University.
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