September 30, 2021
As I write this, it has been thirteen weeks since I started at Lighthouse. It is amazing how quickly the time flies and how much has happened since then. I continue to meet with students one or two days a week to provide mental and emotional support, some for ongoing sessions and some for single check-ins. For every student that I mark off my list, it seems that there are at least two more in need of follow-up or support. While it can feel a bit overwhelming, I remain grateful for the opportunity to be there to help and to do the work I love. I have worked particularly closely with several of the upper secondary students in grades 11 and 12 as they begin their transitions to adulthood and prepare to face significant decisions about their futures. In this, there has been some sense of urgency as the grade 11-13 students are no longer on campus after September 30th. The reason for their early departure from campus is what is known as “study leave” or the period during which students are studying and sitting for Cambridge International exams. The whole system is foreign—literally—to us as Americans, but essentially, in the Cambridge system students do not get credit for just completing secondary (or high) school. In grade 11, they must pass IGCSE exams in each subject to earn the basic credentials needed to show secondary-level competency, similar to a high school diploma, which is required for most jobs. Then in grades 12 and 13, students must pass advanced exams in specific subject areas in order to be considered for university. As you might imagine, this means that there is a lot of emphasis, and stress, related to these exams.
In order to help students manage some of their exam stress, the other school counselor, Ms. Hilary, and I prepared a classroom presentation about exam prep and test anxiety to share with the grades 11, 12, and 13 students. We began with an icebreaker activity in which students shared anonymously their worries and fears related to exams. The activity allowed students to recognize that they are not alone in their worries and helped normalize some of their feelings. It also helped demonstrate the magnitude of the pressure that many of the students feel, not only about passing exams but also about not wanting to disappoint their parents or let anyone down. Then, Ms. Hilary presented some exam taking tips specific to the Cambridge exams and provided encouragement as they “finish the race.” Lastly, I shared various calming strategies with the students that they can use to help manage their anxious thoughts and feelings during the exams. The students were engaged and receptive to the information and several commented that it was helpful to know that they are not alone in feeling stressed and anxious.
While I have been busy helping upper students prepare mentally and emotionally for exams, Aaron has been helping them prepare academically while managing hybrid learning with his lower secondary students. Aaron has been particularly encouraged lately by the level of engagement that his grade 9 students have shown in regard to the class novels they have been reading. Since the Cambridge exams are heavy on writing, literature and reading are not something that the students have had much exposure to historically. But as Aaron says, strong readers make strong writers, so it has been one of his goals to incorporate more reading into the English curriculum whenever possible. Thus, this recent engagement by students in the class novels and their willingness to read and discuss the texts have been especially fulfilling for Aaron. A highlight came when a student who had previously been uninvested in the class got into a debate with his peers about a novel and was using the text to cite his various points and counterpoints. Aaron just stood back and let them debate, marveling in a moment that seemed highly unlikely at the beginning of the year.
There have also been opportunities recently to engage with the students in more fun ways. One opportunity came a few weeks ago when Aaron participated in a staff versus students football (aka-soccer) match after school. Our kids and I watched from the sidelines along with a group secondary students who made up the cheering section. It was a great experience for all involved—although I think most of the staff were a little sore the next day! All in all we have enjoyed learning, growing, and interacting with the students and staff at Lighthouse as we do our best to serve God personally and professionally here in Mauritius.
Sharing at Mr. Ashley’s Church
Our friend and neighbor, Mr. Ashley, recently asked Aaron if he would share the message one week at Ashley’s home church. Aaron chose to share about Paul and Silas from Acts 16:19-34. Aaron reflected on how it was Paul and Silas’ choice to put someone else above themselves that ultimately led to a change in the story and saved the jailer’s life—not the miraculous earthquake by God. In other words, they could have just walked away, but it was their ability to step away from focusing on themselves that made all the difference. There was an unusually small group in attendance the night Aaron shared, but it was a poignant lesson for everyone nonetheless.
As most of you know, we have been fostering puppies since June. But the time has come to send them to their permanent homes. Bean, the male puppy, left two weeks ago, and this weekend Pumpkin, the female, will be relocated to her new home. It has been emotional to say goodbye to the puppies, but we made sure that we had a going away party before Bean left (complete with puppy party hats) and have shared lots of cuddles and love. It will be especially difficult to say goodbye to Pumpkin because she has been with us since she was a week old and is essentially our baby, but we know this is best as we won’t be able to care for her long-term. And they will be staying in the same neighborhood so we may even get to visit them every now and then.
For those of you who aren’t on Facebook, we had an uninvited guest in the house recently. It was mid-morning, and I walked to the kitchen sink to wash my hands when I saw a SNAKE right there on the kitchen counter! Needless to say, I screamed and jumped back. Ezra was having an online class meeting at the dining table nearby, so I knew I needed to get it out of the house. Despite feeling panicky and shaking I managed to direct it to the floor and force it out the door with a broom. Apparently, it was an Indian wolf snake, which is nonvenomous, but still scary enough. The Mauritians claim this is very rare, so hopefully it won’t be back!
The Tallest Peak in Mauritius
We have made several hiking trips over the past few months, including one to the iconic Le Mourne. We were only able to go about halfway up Le Mourne before the trail became too dangerous for children, but it was still a fun and educational trip as we discussed with the kids the tragic story of why the mountain is called Le Mourne and the history of slavery in Mauritius (and America). It’s a story worth googling if you are interested. At a slavery memorial (pictured below) near the public beach at Le Mourne, there is a quote by Richard Sedley Assonne inscribed on a circle that reads, “There were hundreds of them, but my people, the maroons, chose the kiss of death over the chains of slavery.”
Despite not making it to the top of Le Mourne, we did make it to the top of the highest peak in Mauritius, Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire. It was a 14km hike through deep mud that took 5 hours round trip, but it was worth it. Despite being a little afraid of the steep final ascent, the kids did great. We made it and enjoyed the views with our picnic lunch at the top.
With peace, love, and gratitude from Mauritius!