Friday, April 12, 2013

Teaching in Africa (Part 2)

Teaching at RVA has been a great experience so far – God has blessed me with two successful terms and I’m gearing up for the final stretch of our first year here.  A previous post started a list of some of the unique aspects of working and living here with these students.  Here I’ve simply continued that running list, starting with number eleven.  Enjoy!!

11. I’m routinely asked to pray before class or before a test.

DSCN5314And, as a coach, I’m always asked to pray before games, during halftime in a game, on the bus on the way to games - we are well covered in prayer!

DSCN652112.  We’ve used at least 8 different students as babysitters :)

13.  The 4-6 week breaks, called “vac”, make teaching in the trimester system a luxury I will miss dearly if I ever go back to 9 month schedule in the States.  Just when you reach the point where you’ve run out of steam and need some extra motivation for teaching (in the States this was always around Thanksgiving for me), here the break allows you to recharge your batteries before another term!

14.  Laundry days – watching your students drop off and pick up their clothes at the laundry service provided in the middle of campus…kind of different. 

15.  Rugby.

16.  Staff game challenges.  So far, I’ve played soccer (football) against the JV team twice, basketball against the varsity boys team once, and hope to play rugby against one of the teams in the third term!  It’s great practice for the teams, and the staff get the pleasure of playing in front of a crowd, just like in the good ole’ days :)

DSCN644317. They know our kids.  Almost all my students know our kids, and many of them on a first name basis.  This is a pretty unique blessing – my boys have lots of great middle and high school big brothers to look up to.  When I go play basketball on Sunday afternoons, I’ll usually take the boys with me and they will inevitably end up running around with a handful of my students.  Being a boarding school, students are always hanging around somewhere and Ethan and Nate won’t let them go by without saying hello and asking them to play.  The more Evie talks (which is increasing by the day!) the more we realize she knows all the names too – she can recognize a few of the girls in my classes from across campus.  Hannah and Haley are two of her favorites :)

18.  The students I taught in Beaver Falls Pennsylvania had their share of challenges at home – divorce, drugs, poverty, and teenage parenthood were just the tip of the iceberg.  In my frustration with students and their lack of effort in Math class, I often needed to remind myself of the life they had to go home to every night. 

Here it’s similar, but extremely different at the same time.  Tough family situations?   Yes, but for very different reasons.  7th grade is a rough age to be separated from your parents for 3 months at a time; this is the age when many of them start boarding, if not a few years later in 9th grade.  A few students this past term were not only separated from parents, but were told that their parents could no longer stay where they were ministering.  Missionaries certainly aren’t welcomed with open arms everywhere, and many of our students must hold loosely to the concept of “home” – it could easily change against their will at any time.  Some parents are serving in areas that their kids aren’t allowed to talk about; can you imagine answering the question “how was your break?” when you’re not supposed to say where you were?! 

19.  Loneliness and depression – neither are strangers at a school filled with kids away from home, uncertain of what the immediate future holds or even could hold.  When these families say “yes” to answer God’s call to serve, they say “no, thanks” to many of the comforts and pleasures of the simple family life they could be enjoying with their kids under the same roof.  Think about that for a minute - what a sacrifice.  If you think about it, pray for these families as they prepare to say goodbye for the final term of the year.

20. Bizarro sports world.  I was unable (or unwilling) to stay up and watch the Super Bowl this year; remember, there’s a seven/eight hour difference so it wasn’t airing until the wee hours of a Monday morning with school scheduled to start in a few hours!  But I’m an NFL fan and I still hoped l could watch it later, without knowing the outcome.  In the States, this would’ve been an impossibility.  The minute I opened my car door to report to work the following morning, a student would be talking about it or someone would be taunting someone else about how their team won or somebody would’ve said something to me giving away the result and spoiling my attempts at a foreknowledge-free viewing experience. 

Not at RVA!  Most of these kids couldn’t even tell you what NFL stands for, much less care about who won the Superbowl!  One thing I’ve learned about the sports world of Africa:  soccer is the REAL football and American football is a game for wimps with pads and helmets.  If you want to hit someone, play rugby.  So, unlike anything I could’ve pulled off in the States, I was actually able to go a few weeks without knowing!  I simply shielded myself from several potential leaks:, Facebook, and fellow American fans by telling them I hadn’t seen it yet.  Then a few weeks later I was able to sit down with a few friends and watch the game as it really happened (minus the commercials and halftime show – it only took about 2 hours!) and it was a great game! 


As a very bitter Bills fan who endured the last 12 years in Pittsburgh where they won two Lombardi trophies and a Stanley Cup in that time-span, a Ravens title is about as much as you can ask for.  :) 


  1. Great descriptions, Dan! It really helps us understand your life there. The 2-hole pages and A4's, football, rugby, tea time, etc. seem to come from their British heritage. We were surprised to bump into many of the same things in the UK. They even had roads ending in "Close."
    We're thankful you're sweet family is there and being a blessing to many, no doubt!


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