Sunday, April 26, 2015

First Week of Classes

I survived the first week of classes. I almost thought I would die the first day...but I made it.
As you all know I have a problem with my hip (can't sit too long) and actually standing too long gets uncomfortable too. I saw a doctor last week and decided to try the cortisone shot. I felt that he did inject it in the site of the pain so I was hopeful. However, in order for me to know if it worked or not, I decided to stop taking my medicine.  It was torturous to say the least. I did not take the medicine for 3 days, and the last day I thought I would die of pain. 

Needless to say, the shot did not work and I am back to my medicine. Because even though it does not completely remove the pain it makes it bearable.

My class schedule is strange. I have an early class then two late classes, so I am basically sitting in my office all day. Which makes the pain much worse.  After that first Monday I decided that I can't stay in my office in between the classes, so I started wandering around campus a bit so it helped. It is still a challenge as I really don't have anything soft to sit on during the day.  I wonder if they would let me buy a couch and put it in my office ;-)

Aside from that, teaching has been great. It is nothing like teaching in Palestine. The students are amazing and the university is great. The hard thing is that they all hate math and are scared to death of it. I am trying hard to help them at least not hate it so much. The first day of class I gave them some questions to answer and their answers sometimes made me cry. They hate math because of horrible past experience with it...taught by teachers who hate math, they have developed a fear of the subject and they think they will never understand it.

So, as you see it has been a long week...but mostly because I have not been able to sleep thinking 'how can I get my students to like math?' having to get up at 6 every morning without enough sleep was not good. I have to stop stressing about it.

Today was our stake conference and I came home after that and took a nap. It was so nice to catch up on some sleep. 

In helping the students to get to know me I gave them a true/false quiz about me. One of the points was that I was among the 100 coolest Mormon women alive today. They asked if they get extra credit when they mark this question as 'true' (they didn't know that it was actually true).  One of my students googled my name and came back and said: "You are famous!" Yup sadly I am...Some of them started asking questions, and I had to stop answering as things may get too political. I am really trying hard not to talk about politics. Nevertheless, I feel impressed to share some of my experiences with my students. And I will share some things here and there.

I realized that my ward (church) is really amazing. In the short time I have been here I had a visit from the Relief Society president, the Ward mission leader and my visiting teacher.  There are 700 people in our ward. It is a shock to me that our Relief Society president visits each person in their home!  And that they are on top of things getting the VT assigned so fast.

Spring seems to have arrived in one day. It is amazing that this place seemed to blossom when the students arrived on Monday. I was shocked to see so many trees bloom and see green grass everywhere (which was not there only a day or two ago).  The weather has been amazing although today was a bit cold. 

I am grateful to be here at this time but still keep thinking how I would do the walk from my office to class (15 min) in the icy cold winter. We will see how it goes I guess.

My mother has been doing well. Her liver tests seem to be better than they have been in the past. I am very grateful for that. She is happy to have birds again (8 of them) and when I go home in a year she may have a basement full, we will see.



Sunday, April 19, 2015

Nothing to report

I apologize in advance for the boring post! If you have something better to do, go do it.
I am sorry I have no new news...I was sitting here thinking what to write about and I also can't think of anything. I have been preparing for classes and just finishing setting my classes up online. I have about 140 students this semester. I am not happy about having 50 students in each class as it is hard to have that many students and engage them all, but we will see how it goes.

My goal this semester is to help at least half of my students start to like Math. I have not met any Americans who like math yet. When I introduce myself to people and say that I will be teaching Math, their reaction is always the same. "I hate math, it was the worst class I ever took." I really would like my class to not be the worst class my students take. I don't quite know how to accomplish that, but I will do my best. I am sure I will get better at it as time goes by, but we will see.

I finally got maintenance to fix the ticking noise in my heating/AC system, but now there is a hole in my ceiling! Hopefully they will get it fixed and painted so it won't look so bad, but hey at least it is not driving me crazy anymore.

Now that I have health insurance I have taken my physical just to make sure I am not dying or anything =) So far I seem to be healthy. 

I am trying really hard to stay anonymous. I really don't want to be as popular as I was in Utah (ha ha). I just want to be a normal person and blend in. I managed to go visit two sisters in the ward (VT) and not say anything about myself. Mostly because my companion did all the talking...We will see how long this lasts.

A few days ago we had snow and yesterday it was so hot almost like summer. The weather is just strange!! But, I must say I like the variety, this way we don't get bored!

I have been trying all the restaurants around here in Rexburg. I must say I was not impressed with some of them, but others were pretty good.  I have never had apple pizza before, but I must say it was pretty good (at Pizza pie Cafe--all you can eat pizza, pasta and salad).

And of course I can't live without Chinese food!

The shortest way from my office to the math building is through these beautiful Ricks gardens on campus. Lucky me!

Here is the math building with the temple in the back.

Can't wait for all those bare trees to have leaves. Some of them actually started (yay for spring).


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pray for Peace

I hope you all had a good week. I got back from Utah on Tuesday. I got to visit the Gunthers again (he was my branch president in Bethlehem). And met new people and visited old friends. I had missed Utah even though I have only been away a few weeks: the mountains, the people, the conveniences...Utah's weather was so nice, all the trees were starting to bloom and there was a smell of spring in the air.  I was shocked to find snow in Idaho when I got here. I stopped driving so fast when I saw that a car in front of me slipped and flipped over.  All the trees are still pretty brown and bare here. Hopefully soon that will change.

I had two mission reunions in Utah last week. They were great and it was so nice to see missionaries I have not seen in a while.  Sister Carpenter invited everyone to her house on Monday and it was great. Here is a group picture of everyone who came:

I have been busy preparing for classes. I found two students who will work as graders with me. Two of my classes have completely filled up and I have 50 students in each. I'm left with a few students in my early class. No one wants to take a 7:45 class it seems unless they have to!

I got my Idaho drivers' license. It was such a relief because I was worried it may not work. I had to take the written test, but it was fairly easy (didn't miss any of the questions). I am reluctant to change my license plate to an Idaho plate as it is such a good number and easy to remember. But, I may have to change it soon.

I have been struggling with eating here. Nothing tastes right. I am going to start a garden on my balcony next week. I need real tomatoes and cucumbers! I attempt to cook but then it turns out tasting bad just because the vegetables are not good.  Anyway, I will get used to it I guess. Emily gave me some Mulukhiya (I have been craving it). For those who don't know what it is, it is a green leafy vegetable.  It did not taste as good as the one we make at home. Maybe the spices I use are different. I don't know. But, it was still better than anything I eat here.

My friend gave me a gift before I left Utah. It's a money tree...supposed to bring prosperity and wealth...yay. 

I have everything I need here and feel very blessed. But, my heart is often sad about what is going on in the world.  I have been saddened because of the bad situation in the Middle East. It amazes me that things can get so bad and that people can turn against each other like that.  Over a quarter of a million people were killed in Syria. My heart aches especially those who are not involved in all this, but are suffering anyway.  Those in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk are starving and being killed as well. Children are surviving by eating grass. How will they live when grass dries up in the hot summer months? Somehow it seems like help is hardly noticeable.  

I spoke recently to a friend of mine who is a member of the church in Yemen. This person has tremendous faith. He told me that all flights have been suspended, no one goes in or out of Yemen.  They have no food, no gas, no petrol, nothing. People are getting killed everywhere and it is not safe (especially for Christians).  Yet my friend says that the Lord wants him and his family to stay in Yemen. and "if we die for our faith, what an honor that will be!", he says.

He also said: "We feel the presence of the Lord with us always and that gives us strength and protection. The glory of God is manifested during hard time!"

Wow, this amazing man has found peace amidst all that!! He truly has discovered the peace of the Master, Jesus Christ, which He offers to all His followers: "Peace I give unto you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be dismayed." (John 14: 27)

My friend asked for our prayers for his country. May we pray for the people of Yemen, Syria and even everyone in the Middle East. May they also find the peace of the Master. May they all come unto Him and find rest to their souls. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

He Lives!

I know, my Easter message is late...But you will have to excuse me.  I have been staying up late trying to translate some talks for general conference. It has been an amazing experience and I have enjoyed it. Conference was great, and if you have not watched it, I encourage you to.  We are so blessed to have such amazing church leaders and such inspired messages.

I am spending a few days with my friend Emily and her family for Easter. Today we had an amazing BBQ هش ونش so it was just like the old days at home. We had Hummus, baqdonsiya and baba Ghanoosh, and other salads and amazing BBQ meat. Emily's sisters came over and it was so nice to spend time with them (made me miss my sisters--Samar and Suhair). The kids had fun hunting for eggs.

We dyed some eggs yesterday. We have also been making Ma'amoul (Easter Cookies) for the last 3 days. for those of you that don't know what Ma'amoul is, it is a kind of cookies we make at Easter time. They look like the crown of thorns and also like the tomb round stone to remind us of the Savior's resurrection. They are stuffed, so they take quite a while to make. Sadly, the first time we did them, we got the wrong kind of flour. It said Semolina, but apparently سميد is not Semolina, but Farina. Good to know in case I ever decide to make Ma'amoul.  So they did not taste right. The second time when we finally got the right kind, the yeast we used was not good, so they all got ruined (melted!! I have never seen anything like it). Well, we got a few good ones, but not enough.  Anyway, I am done with making Ma'amoul for a while!

I had one mission reunion on Friday and have another one on Monday (with only a small group). It was nice to see the young missionaries on Friday, especially this Elder from Germany. His faith always inspired me. "God will provide", he would always say. And he used his faith to perform miracles. Elder LaMazza, it was nice to see you and meet your wife. (sorry the picture is fuzzy)

To end this short message, I would like to say something about Easter. I want to encourage you to watch this short 2-minute video. I know each of us can take two minutes to watch something about the true message of Easter. 

Watch Video Because He Lives
Sometimes Easter gets ignored, or covered with Easter bunnies, and colored eggs, but that is not what Easter is about. Actually even though we celebrate Christmas in a more elaborate way, Easter is the more important holiday. Without Easter and without Christ's atonement, all will be lost. We will have no hope of ever returning back to Heavenly Father...but we can, because of Him. Because a Savior was willing to carry our load, take our sins upon Him and die for us.  Then He broke all chains and set us free from death by rising out of the tomb on the third day.  Because He lives, we all will live once again...Because He lives, I can see my father again, and my uncle and my grandparents and everyone I love who has passed away.

But, He gave us more than the gift of life after death...He gave us the gift of life NOW...because of Him we can find happiness and joy in this life. He helps us, lifts us, strengthens us and gives us peace. Because of Him our burdens can be light. Because of Him we can overcome all things. 

One of my favorite testimonies of the Savior was given by the prophet Joseph Smith when He said:
"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father" (D&C 76: 22-23)

I add my testimony to that of Joseph Smith and of other prophets. I testify that our Savior Jesus Christ lives, for I too have seen Him. He is my Savior and my king, He is my redeemer and Lord. I love Him with all my heart and hope to be worthy to stand before Him at the last day.

I sometimes have to watch while someone dear to me goes through difficult times and is abused. That is so hard for me and pierces me deep in the heart...but it helps me better understand how a Father watched as His Son went through the most excruciating pain, suffering and death. That Father allowed it because He loved me and you. He allowed it because it was necessary so you and I don't suffer..."For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son. That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

May we all come unto Christ and let Him add color to our lives.