Thanks for your patience as it’s been about seven months since the last update. And thanks to those of you who actually care about what’s going on! Although our family is no longer wandering the globe (at least for now), it feels like a lot is going on.
- We wanted to let you know that things fell through with the Habitat for Humanity house we were hoping to get (I mentioned that a few blog posts ago). You can read more about that situation here in my wife Lee’s “life update” on her All-in-One Homeschool blog page. It was disappointing but a relief in some ways at the same time. Now we are hoping to save enough money to get a house, so we are looking and praying for God’s guidance. We’re looking at a lot of different locations…we’re pretty flexible, but really want our new place to be used for serving others as well as for our family. Lee is raising money this month to help with the expected purchase of a home…if you’d like to help out, you can read her post here about a new app that we expect to come out soon, and how that relates to helping us purchase a home.
- I’m still working on that master’s degree in teaching English as a second language…but it’s taking a bit longer than expected. I’m doing a master’s thesis project on … wait for it… how speakers of Azerbaijani misuse the English article “the.” Yes, I know, it’s sheer mind-blowing excitement. Actually, some of you may remember that in 2014 my son Joshua and I went to Azerbaijan for a short visit, and that this country has had a special place in my heart since 1996. We’ll see what the future holds. Anyway, I’m meeting some Azerbaijani speakers online in the course of doing this research, and working hard on this project (I already have 50 pages written…about the word “the”!). I hope to finish my degree in May 2019.
- I’ve been getting interested more in computer coding and am planning to take an intensive course in coding for six months with the University of Pennsylvania. I’m hoping to use these skills to make language-learning apps, and expand my opportunities for employment…we’ll see what happens! It’s a totally new area for me but I’ve been struck with the similarities between computer languages and human languages. One main difference is that computer languages are unforgiving…one small mistake, and stuff doesn’t work! With human language, often a smile is all you need to take care of misunderstandings, and native speakers are usually forgiving to foreigners who make mistakes.
4. I’ve enjoyed teaching a new language this fall through Lee’s All-in-One-Homeschool curriculum…Spanish! Actually I’m just running live online practice sessions, where students practice what they’ve been learning on their own from the free online Spanish 1 course. Spanish is a new language for me, and I’ve really enjoyed getting up to speed with it and working with the 75 or so middle school and high school students.
5. I don’t anticipate that I’ll be updating this blog very often; but likely will pop in twice a year or so and let you know what’s going on. I’m hoping to start a new one soon: a blog reviewing various apps and websites for learning English. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Take care everyone. God bless you all!
Hey everyone, once again it has been a long time!
A few months ago I got a surprise phone call from some of our family’s closest friends. This family of 10 lived near us as neighbors for years in Turkey, in two different cities; actually we’ve known them since 2009, when they first came from their homeland, Pakistan, as refugees to our neighborhood in downtown Istanbul. We have spent a lot of wonderful time together over the years. This phone call was surprising, however, because my phone was saying it came from Texas…something’s not computing here….
It turns out that after nine years of waiting they were finally accepted by the US as refugees and sent to Texas! Imagine my confusion when I heard a familiar Urdu-accented voice saying “Hello sir, we are in Houston…” So of course I had to make a trip to see them! I was able to spend a few days enjoying their hospitality again and exploring their very interesting Houston neighborhood. It felt like a totally different country to me. Hopefully we will be able to help them over some of the rough spots of adjustment to life here as well…
In other news, I’m still working on my master’s degree in teaching English, and enjoying courses on stuff like how to teach reading and writing, American dialects, creating good tests, bilingualism, language teaching and racism, teaching languages online, etc. I hope to finish in December.
I also wanted to tell you that the end of an era is upon us…for the past seven years or so I have been teaching language classes to homeschoolers through Currclick.com. This has been a wonderful job; I’ve enjoyed the flexibility, the great support, and most of all the students. It’s really been a lot of fun, and I like to think that more than a few students got “turned on” to languages because of my influence. Currclick has decided to discontinue their live language classes, however, so this week will be my last class. It’s a bittersweet time; I’m thinking of all the good times past, but also it feels like it’s time to move on and I’m looking forward to some interesting new teaching possibilities ahead. More on that later…for now, we’ll celebrate with a selection of a few of my students’ favorite test questions from over the years. I’m a firm believer that tests should be entertaining…
Some Favorite Test Questions:
Imagine you fall into the Amazon, get your toes nibbled by piranhas, and escape, only to get captured by a group of irate two-toed sloths. How would you say, “That’s bad!”
Mr. G is talking about old socks in class again. If it’s not that, it’s sloths, or armpits, or nose hair. What’s wrong with that guy? Anyway, how would you say it?
Imagine Mr. G has written a new sci-fi novel called, “The Fifth Sloth.” Since that title is so hard to pronounce in English, he decides to translate it into French. What would the title be? (You do remember the word for sloth, right? Paresseux.)
Warn your friend not to go to the beach due to the risk of contracting octopus-borne nasal itch.
When your mom tells you she’s just won an international award for da bomb-diggity-est French-language rapping, exclaim, “That’s terrific!” en français.
Imagine Mr. G has deep issues with Paris due to that unfortunate undead snail incident. When you say you’re going there this summer, he gasps, begins to tremble, and whispers, “Don’t go to Paris!” What would that be in French?
All the students in our class whose names begin with “X” or “Q” just won an all-expense-paid vacation to Paris. How would you grumble en français “They are lucky” ??
You are wondering what to do about your French friend’s frightening flaring nostril problem (check out the alliteration…). Finally, you decide. Say, “We’re going to go to the hospital.” Hint: Use the future tense.
There has been a bold gerbil-napping at a local pet store near the hotel our class is staying in in Paris. The police take Lisette into custody because she was seen near the store around the time of the crime. They are trying to establish whether she has an alibi or not. How would they ask, “At what time did you eat dinner?”
Imagine you want to freak out your new French friend. When she asks you what work you do, say mysteriously, “I work for them.” Then glance furtively around.
Image Mr. G is fussing again about how he wants cake but doesn’t have any. You attempt to make him feel better and THINK he has cake by mumbling subliminal messages in Russian into the mic. Say, “YOU HAVE CAKE.” Don’t forget to be polite and respectful…
Imagine your fellow students Jean and Louis are sharing a computer. All of a sudden it emits a high-pitched wail, then a belch of black smoke shoots out of the vent. What happened? It would appear that it couldn’t handle Mr. G’s stunning handsomeness. How would you say, “Their computer doesn’t work.”
Your friend is walking around France wearing a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and excessively large belt buckle. A random French person approaches and asks, “You’re American, aren’t you?” How would he or she say that?
Imagine you are one of Joseph’s brothers from the book of Genesis. Say, “I sold my brother.”
Imagine your Austrian friend has given you a beautiful new yellow shirt with golden glittery things on it. You try it on, only to find that you are unable to button it and it squeezes your armpits in a most unpleasant vice-like manner. How would you say, “It doesn’t fit.”
Imagine you lack a sense of what is and is not a proper thing to say. You see your sister’s brown and orange skirt with sparkly things all over it and you blurt out, “It’s ugly.”
Let’s say that you enter a department store and decide it would be fun to freak out the staff and cause an international incident. So you grab a pair of socks, detach them from the packaging, and say to the clerk, “I’m trying on the socks.” That’s nasty. But anyway, how would you say it auf Deutsch?
Congratulations if you’ve read this far!
Hey everyone, I just realized it’s been nearly a year since my last update. A lot has happened over the past year as we’ve been here in the US. We are all doing well. Here are some highlights:
- I had the opportunity to spend three weeks in northwest India in June. I was visiting believers that I met when Rebecca and I traveled there in 2015, and had the chance to visit many more people and places, do a lot of speaking and praying for people, and hopefully encourage some of the believers there who are often under pressure. I enjoyed traveling with Brother Ezekiel and Brother Sam, church leaders whom I’d met previously, and getting to know them better.
- Also over the summer I began work on a master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. I’m taking my courses online through St. Cloud State University (Minnesota). It’s a lot of work but I’m really enjoying it so far. In order to do this, I’ve cut way back on my language teaching with Currclick.com. I hope to finish my degree in December 2018. We’ll see what God has next for us…
- In September we found out that we were accepted by Habitat for Humanity to receive a low-cost new home in New Jersey. If you’re not familiar with this organization you can read about their work online. Part of the arrangement is that members of our family (and our friends) need to put in a certain number of hours working on construction (either our own home or someone else’s in the area). So I and my oldest son Joshua have begun working every Saturday morning, starting to learn little by little in a field I know little about. We still don’t know exactly where the home will be but they say it takes about a year and a half to build.
- My daughter Rebecca has started college. She’s going to Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the oldest art school in the US, here in Philadelphia. It’s a lot of new stuff to get used to, but she’s doing well and enjoying her classes for the most part. You can see some of her work here.
Well, I’ll stop here. Thanks for reading everyone, and I’d love to hear some updates from you too! Here’s our latest family picture:
Merry Christmas everyone! Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. We’re kind of settling into life in America, and kind of not; I don’t think we will ever feel completely at home here, and since we don’t have our own home (we’re staying with Mrs. G’s parents) it’s hard to feel completely settled. We’re not sure what the future holds. We’re just waiting on God’s direction and grateful to be here for now, since we feel that we’re in the right place.
A couple things that have happened: we had a fun picnic back in September with other local users of Mrs. G’s free homeschool curriculum, “Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool.” She is still working hard on it every day, and it’s been a blessing to many thousands of families around the world. We had a pretty good sized group from the SE Pennsylvania/New Jersey area.
We spent Thanksgiving visiting extended family in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. Here’s a shot of almost everyone:
Now we’re getting ready for Christmas; we’ll spent part of the holiday here in PA, and part visiting my parents in Maryland. Below is Mrs. G, Nathaniel, Andrew, Samuel, and Peter. For some reason every picture with my boys in it is a bit blurry…
Our littlest guy Nathaniel just turned four. He was born very early in Gaziantep, Turkey, and has cerebral palsy. Actually God has done several miracles for him to bring him to where he is today. He’s enjoying preschool three mornings a week, plus an extra day of therapy, and he’s making good progress. Here he is “doing his work”…
We still think about Turkey and Macedonia often, and I regularly talk with friends in those countries as well as Germany, India, Laos, and Kyrgyzstan. I feel grateful not to be in Turkey though at this time, with the steady stream of terrorist attacks and the increased anti-American feeling. I was disturbed to hear about the bombing this month in Istanbul, near an area where we used to live and play, targeting the riot police, among whom I had several good friends.
Well, to wrap it up, I’m excited about some of the classes coming up which I will be teaching online (through Currclick.com, primarily for homeschoolers). I’m branching out a bit into other areas having to do with religions and the Bible, after having spent the past few years focusing mainly on languages. This January, I’m teaching a six-hour course on Islam. In the spring, in addition to my French and German courses, I’ll be teaching a six-week course on world religions, and three-week courses on Bible history and the geography of the Bible. Feel free to check them out here!
Hey everyone, things are moving along here as we get a bit more settled into life in the US. My daughter Rebecca finished up her summer art course at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts with a bang. I’m really proud of her; not only her talent for art but her hard work and desire to use it for God’s glory. Anyway, as I mentioned before I have been doing a little unconventional praying on the streets for people while I was in Philadelphia waiting for her. Well, one day I had this idea…it seemed a bit crazy…but I concluded that I had to try it. Kind of a new spin on the going around asking people if they want prayer thing…I made a sign offering prayer and stood on a busy corner in the business district. It took a big act of the will to overcome my initial reluctance to stand out like a sore thumb and have hundreds or thousands of people staring at me, but then I got used to it quickly and it was a really good thing.
I ended up doing this several hours a day for four days. It was really interesting to see the reactions of people passing by. Many ignored me; many read it and then looked me up and down to see what a crazy religious nut looks like up close; others read it and carefully avoided eye contact; some read it and smiled or looked pleased; a few gave me a thumbs up or called out encouraging words; and only one person the whole time said anything negative. About 15 people (over the course of four days) wanted prayer. I imagine it took some courage for them as well, letting a stranger pray for them openly on a city street. I was somewhat surprised that three of these people were Europeans: a lady from Sweden who was worried about her son over there, a lady from Spain who wanted to pray for peace, and a young guy from Germany who had no clue about prayer or Christianity but was just curious to see how this prayer thing works 🙂 Anyway, on the last day things turned around; only one person wanted prayer but several stopped and prayed for me!
I’ve also been making some new YouTube videos in different languages. Here is one I did in Turkish (with English subtitles) telling the Turkish people that I’m praying for them.
Actually we’re feeling really grateful to not be in Turkey now. After the violent coup attempt last month, many tens of thousands of people have been arrested and/or have lost their jobs. Now we read that anti-American sentiment is high, since the government is indirectly blaming America for the coup attempt, and they are starting to arrest foreigners whom they suspect of ties with the coup plotters. We feel that God always has us in the right place (and not in the wrong place) at the right time.
Speaking of not being in the wrong place, we’re also grateful we’re not in Skopje, Macedonia now. You may recall we were staying there right before we returned to the States several months ago. They had a crazy freak storm on Saturday night in which a huge amount of water was dumped in very little time, and massive deadly flooding. Many people died, and some are still missing. The city is in shock. Here’s a video I did to the people of Macedonia (in Macedonian with English subtitles). Macedonia is very close to our hearts and we have a lot of friends there, so actually I have mixed feelings about not being there.
Sorry the video quality is not the best. Anyway, I also wanted to quickly mention a new course I’m planning for the fall through Currclick.com. It’s called Around the World with Mr. G and it’s geared towards elementary students. I’ll be talking about ten different countries (most of which I’ve lived in or visited), one each week. I’m really excited about it, since this is one of my favorite topics, but I’m hoping for more students participating. Spread the word please!
Hey everyone, we’ve now been back in the US for nearly two months, and good things are happening. We know that we are right where God wants us. Actually at this time we’re feeling very grateful that God has removed us from Turkey. Maybe you’ve been watching the news about the attempted coup there? A lot of the scenes shown on TV are familiar to us; we used to live there. I’ve been thinking a lot about my friends there, including a police officer friend with whom I’ve lost contact but still pray for him (below).
What else? Well, my daughter Rebecca, who is 16, has begun an intensive course in fine arts at PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) here in Philadelphia. It meets five days per week, all day, for five weeks, and she’ll be receiving college credit for it. She’s hoping to attend PAFA for college. I know I’m a little biased, but I think she’s pretty talented. Here are some samples of her work if you’re interested. You may notice it’s somewhat Turkey-oriented.
Anyway, on some of her class days I take her into the city and then take the opportunity to do something I’ve really come to love: walking around in the “worst” neighborhoods of the city, offering prayer to people I come across on the streets. We’ve met someone else who is interested in doing this kind of thing too, a young lady from Jamaica, and we’ve gone together twice now to spend several hours just approaching people in the street and saying “Excuse me, we’re Christians just walking around and praying for people, is there anything we could pray for you for” or something along those lines. We’ve gotten all kinds of reactions, from delighted acceptance of our offer, to polite refusal, to occasional rudeness. Quite a few people have been extremely touched that we would do this, and tell us that God definitely sent us there. There are many Muslims in those areas, and while (so far) they always turn down the offer, they seem pleasantly shocked that a Christian would go out of his/her way to show love and concern to them. We do it just out of love, not trying to build up a certain church, or preach at them, or get anything from them, and I believe God is answering and will do amazing things. Would any of you consider doing this kind of thing in your communities? Yes, it’s a bit unconventional, but isn’t that what Christ’s followers are supposed to be like? One young man said to me, “You’re just offering prayer? Man, that’s weird. Like, a good kind of weird.”
Another cool thing is that Mrs. G has finished another excellent book, this time a very short guide to prayer called “A Week With Jesus.” Please take a look; it could change the way you pray and the way you relate to Jesus. You can purchase it or read it free in PDF format here .
While we’re excited about what God has in store here in the US, it’s hard not to keep looking back to places we’ve been and missing people there. Part of our heart will always be overseas. I made a video in which I am greeting, blessing, and praying for the Roma people of Macedonia in the Romani language (with English subtitles!). I’m hoping more and more people will see it and contact me to pray for them personally and hear more about Jesus. And I’m thinking of making other similar videos in the future in other languages. Take a look (don’t forget to activate the CC/subtitles):
Hey everyone, just letting you know that we made it back to the US a little over a week ago. It was a long trip, with delayed flights, missed connections, a five-hour overnight hotel stay in Toronto to grab a little sleep, an hour-long delay at US Customs while they checked our passports, interrogated me about all my activities overseas, my online teaching, and other topics, checked the contacts on my phone, etc. Fortunately all 8 of us stayed more or less cheerful throughout all this, and we’re glad to be here with Mrs. G’s parents in the Philadelphia area.
I don’t think we’ve had as much culture shock this time around returning from overseas, maybe because we’ve done so much moving around to different places while we were there. One thing that really struck all of us is the excessively large size of almost all the vehicles. They’re all so chunky, massive, imposing, and shiny. We’re used to the much more compact vehicles common in Europe and Asia. And we’re enjoying all the greenery and huge trees common here in PA.
We are getting settled and adjusted little by little. I am busy staying in touch with overseas friends, preparing for teaching my “Just For Fun” language classes (I’ll be doing one on Arabic together with my daughter Rebecca!), practicing French, reading the Bible, and spending time with the family. We will be looking at what kind of ministry we can be involved in while we’re here.
To get a glimpse of the people and places we’ve come to love over the years, please take a look at this YouTube video shot by Mrs. G on a street in Shutka, the Roma (gypsy) community in Skopje, Macedonia, right before we left.
This last week here in Macedonia has been a whirlwind of preparing to leave for the US and saying good-bye to friends. We have mixed emotions, being excited about future possibilities, and yet disappointed about not being able to stay, and unsure about what comes next…and yet unable to take time to dwell on these things as there is so much to take care of in a short time.
We’ve been making some short videos of places we’ve come to know and love over the years, not knowing when or if we will ever be back. Here are two made by “Mrs. G” strolling through the sprawling outdoor market called the Bit Pazar (Flea Market) in the old central area of Skopje. It’s a fascinating mix of languages (Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, Romani), cultures (east/west), and religions (Muslim and Orthodox Christian), and one can find an endless variety of inexpensive goods there.
And on a lighter note, by popular demand I have included a few more of my more interesting in-class quotes from Russian and German classes, sent in this time by Elizabeth, to commemorate the ending of the semester and the ending of an era in the lives of many of my students as they move on.
“Now she can hear the wisdom that pours from my lips…
“When you think you’ve learned something in Russian, just flip to the next 80 pages of exceptions to the rule.”
“Let’s gesture with our noses…”
“He has a Hitler mustache. On his eyebrow. Must be a new style.”
“Every fish is beautiful in its own way. I appreciate the meekness.”
“You should listen to Mongolian throat music if you want something spitze (German for “great, cool”)”
“I hope there’s some time at the end so I can sing some country songs about Russian grammar.”
“It’s tree molestation day” (I have no clue why I said this)
“Ivan was all man, in a lemony kind of way” (referring to Ivan the lemon, our class mascot, who met an untimely demise under a truck)
“You’d have borscht up your nose faster than you can say Putin.”
“I’m from the Macedonian ‘hood.”
Student: “What is green?” Mr. G: “That’s a deep question. Oh wait, you mean in Russian.”
Hey everyone, I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post. This past year since we left Turkey has been an amazing and challenging time. We went from Turkey to eastern Germany, where we spent three months; then after finding we could not stay in Germany because of their inflexibility on homeschooling, we went to Macedonia and spent three months there; then back to Germany for a further three months. When I last wrote we were celebrating Christmas and a loud firework-filled New Year’s in Germany. Then in January we spent a month in Poland, in the small town of Mielno on the Baltic Sea, for a special program of physical therapy for our 3-year-old Nathaniel, who has cerebral palsy. We found Poland very friendly, especially when compared with Germany, and I could understand some of the language because of its similarity to Russian and Macedonian. Then back to Germany to say good-bye to our friends, and back to Macedonia for a further three months.
It is here in Skopje, Macedonia, that I’m writing this. We found out last week that we will not be able to stay here longer, as we had hoped; we could not get a visa because of some document problems. So, we’ve decided that it’s time to stop wandering from country to country and return to the US. We feel a mixture of disappointment at leaving our beloved Macedonia (you may recall that we lived here for five and a half years previously) and excitement at seeing people in the US and the plans God has in mind for us. To be honest, it doesn’t quite feel like we’re going “home”; we’ve lived and traveled overseas so much that the only place we really feel is our “home” is heaven.
So now we are busy packing and saying good-byes. We fly out on May 23. And of course, I am finishing up teaching the spring semester of online language classes with Currclick.com. It’s a time of farewells in that regard as well, as the more advanced French and Russian classes come to an end and students go their separate ways. I received a nice note from “Anastasie,” one of my advanced French students, saying how much she has enjoyed the past three years of classes. And of course, she has carried on the tradition of recording some of my more colorful in-class comments. The list was actually five pages; I’ll include just a few random ones here for your enjoyment.
-“Nobody gonna thunk it” (Note: if I ever offer an English grammar class…don’t sign up)
-“It done got slurped up in the internet somewhere.”
-“There ain’t nothin’ feminine in this house – except the females.”
-“That doesn’t mean it’s a dead class, it just isn’t a live class.”
-“Awww, Noemi needs to work up more guts…”
-“Like, if you’re bringing your grandma to the disco. My grandma could break it down with the best of them.”
-“It’s now strong enough to put hair on your chest.”
-“I need to floss, man.”
-“Let’s be mature and stop talking about hippo toilets.”
-“I have to blow my nose. I have one tissue. Must use wisely. *Blows nose* Ohhhh, high velocity, man…”
-“I have glee-ness in my heart now…”
-“Maybe he detests you too. He says, ‘I spit in your face…'”
-“I got hair in my mouth. *spits* Awww, man, don’t ya hate it when you spit on your own spectacles? How did I even do that? I must have a superpower.”
-(In Russian accent) “You must give me the informations I am asking you, or I vill shoot you. You know?”
-“Olivia, do you eat hair?”
Thanks for reading y’all. Be on the lookout for another post next week. I’ll be talking more about our good-byes and the Roma community here in Skopje…
Merry Christmas everyone! Those of you who are familiar (at least a little) with German will recognize that I just said that in German…those of you who are not will wonder if I’ve got something in my throat or perhaps need medical attention. We arrived back here in Germany at the beginning of the Christmas season and it’s been fun watching the season unfold here. It’s been quite different than what you see in the US; things are less commercial, the lights are more subdued (usually limited to some white lights or candles), there are Christmas markets in each town selling traditional ornaments, handmade toys, and traditional Christmastime foods and drinks (alcohol seems to play a big role). Store clerks without fail wish us Merry Christmas even though they don’t know our religious background. And yet as I mentioned before, it’s much less “religious” here than in the US. It seems the holiday is important but may lack religious meaning for most people here, at least in eastern Germany where the majority is non-religious or atheist.
I should mention that I had the chance to visit Paris for a few days last week with my daughter Rebecca, who is an artist and had been wanting to see the Louvre. We had a good time and found the people quite friendly for the most part, especially the many Africans and people of Middle Eastern background (who seemed to be the majority of the people we came into contact with), but also a few French people who graciously helped us with things like subway complications or inability to open our hotel room door :). While we were there we walked along the Champs-Élysées and enjoyed the extensive Christmas market and the beautiful lights; it seems they place a great emphasis on the holiday there even though Paris has a relatively high percentage of Muslims and other non-Christians. By contrast, when we were in Berlin we saw almost no sign of Christmas whatsoever.
Merry Christmas! Frohe Weihnachten! Joyeux Noël! С Рождеством! I hope that all of you can enjoy this time with your families and appreciate more deeply what God has done for us in sending Jesus. May God bless you all.