Snapshots from York

Inner-city teacher’s life in York, PA–how do you sum it up? I’m going to flip back through my diary and see if we can find anything worthwhile.

9/04/2018–FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL–What a different first day than last year! Probably the most stressful thing was greeting, shaking the hands, and marking the attendance of 50+ students who came through the door in a 15-minute period of time.

9/06/2018–THREE DAYS INTO SCHOOL–Shooter drills and chapel and an hour assessing a 5th-grader with ADHD, TouchMath with Larissa, administering recess games, supervising the alley at lunch, work in the office, crossing-guard duties after school…

Then I’m going door-to-door inviting kids to our Thursday Bible club. At the first house I lean on the porch railing, looking at the trash accumulating around the front door of the abandoned house on the other side of the rail. A girl comes out of the house and says, “You might not want to lean on that.” I suppose it’s because it’s about to fall over, but she points a finger, and I straighten up and look at the railing. Okay, I don’t even want to guess what that substance is. Probably not something I wanted all over my dress either.

The second house is full of yappy dogs. The stench is so overpowering, I can hardly stand in the doorway long enough to talk to the old lady permanently affixed on the couch across the room. The dogs are so loud she can’t here us talking. “Shut up!” she yells at them, over and over. Sorry lady, maybe find a new method, cause yelling ‘shut up’ at your dogs is not working.

Next we meet a sweet lady who moved here recently and won’t let her kids come out of the house because she knows this isn’t a safe neighborhood. She’s so happy to hear about a church and kid’s club where her children can make friends.

At the last house, a guy smoking on his front porch steps looks at me and says…(well, I won’t quote his bit of French, but en effet), “What the heck are you doing here living in this trashy hood?”

“It’s Jesus,” I tell him. “Because he loves us and we want to share his love with others.”

“Makes sense,” his wife said, from her standing position behind him.

But he doesn’t get it.

Sometimes I don’t either. I just know, if it wasn’t for Jesus, I wouldn’t be here.

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9/10/18–SECOND WEEK OF SCHOOL–Isaac (my 5th-grader with ADHD) reads the word ‘rip’ in a succession of flashcards and says, “What’s rip?” I make the sound and imitation of a paper ripping. “Oh,” he says, “I thought it means you’re dead.”

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9/15/18I’m coming out of the school with a giant tape measure, on my way to the upper-grade classrooms to measure the tables for the writing class I’ll be teaching this fall. I see a tough-looking, saggy-pants woman come out of a house and cross the street. Funny, the house she’s going into is her house–the house she just left is not. I take a glance at the house she came out of. That house has been condemned ever since it was lit on fire by teen arsonists several years ago. The windows are boarded with huge pieces of plywood, the door blackened with either dirt and grime, or smoke from the fire. So…my dear neighbor, what could you possibly be doing coming out of a condemned house with a shifty look in your eyes?
My imagination runs free. There’s something shady going on in that house–drugs probably. If this was a movie (or I had a daring adventurous boyfriend), I would sneak in through the back to investigate.

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As they say in France–C’est la vie! Such is life in York. I have many more snapshots to show you another time.

Thanks for reading! Whether you live in a rough hood or out in the middle of nowhere, please go out and shine the light to someone today. The world is such a dark place, and we have the Light inside us. It’s not for hiding, it’s for giving away.

 

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Whirlwind Trip to China

I was 12 years old when my dad came home and said, “How about moving to China?” Yes, he had already applied for the job (pilot for a German-Chinese airline), and yes, my mom was pretty chill with it. A few months later, we moved to China.

We moved back to the U.S. in 2014, but China still feels like home in some ways, and we jump at any excuse to go back. So when my friend Jennifer invited me to her wedding (in China), I asked for a long weekend off work and made it happen.

I met my brother CJ in Chicago and we went downtown. We got good Chicago dogs at Portillos, walked countless city blocks, and stood on the banks of Lake Michigan.

That was a bad idea because we misjudged how long it would take to walk back to the subway. Before we even got to the airport, we knew we were going to miss our flight. What to do now? After praying and checking Google Flights, we found a one-way ticket on American airlines that was leaving in a couple hours. We went up to the counter and each bought a ticket for $380, which, despite being my entire salary for September, was a huge blessing. It could have been a lot worse.

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After a 13-hour flight, we arrived in Beijing. My dad met us at the airport and we took a taxi to his little apartment. The next day was full of nostalgia. Riding in the back of my dad’s three-wheeled electric scooter (he drives almost like a Chinese person now, which is wild and unpredictable!)

Shopping for all our favorite childhood treats at Carrefore (a semi-western grocery store)

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Eating McMystery meat at McDonalds… 😉

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The next day was Jennifer’s wedding. It was a little crazy back in the kitchen, as we rushed around trying to cook and keep things clean and help out wherever we could. But when we finally sat down we enjoyed a beautiful ceremony. As the groom’s father told us, “At the end of the day, two people are married, and that’s what matters.”

Two young people who love each other but love Jesus most of all…make the most beautiful match!

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Our last day in China. CJ and I took the subway downtown and shopped at the silk market. I was glad for the little Chinese that I know. Instead of standard bargaining, I was able to use more sophisticated tactics, like explaining how I had lived in southern China for several years, telling them that my dad was a pilot for Hainan airlines, and by the way I am a teacher for small children and only make a tiny bit of money (showing them a very small amount with my thumb and forefinger). By the end of the conversation, they were smiling and telling me how I was their special friend. “We give you good deal,” they said. “Not for everyone, but for you…we good you special price.” It may be they say that to everyone who comes through, but oh well, it was fun practicing my Chinese.

We also spent a couple hours at the famous Tien’a’men Square, which had changed quite a bit since I was there with my family ten years ago, before the Olympic games in 2008. Wow, has it been that long?

On Monday we headed west again. My dad gave us a tour of his company headquarters and showed us where he flight plans, gets his schedule, and briefs the crew before a flight. Then he dropped us off at the airport and headed back to the company, hoping to see us at the gate before he boarded with the crew. We ended up being bused to the plane, however, and didn’t see him until we were getting off the bus and looked up.

20180925_130913After waving and snapping a few pictures, we climbed the stairs.

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The flight attendant at the top reached for our tickets, which pronounced our seats in row 40—at the very back of the plane. But something clicked in her eyes as she looked at me. “You…you are the captain’s daughter?”

Oh yeah! That was a cool moment. Grinning, I nodded and told her yes, I was the captain’s daughter.

“Come this way.” She motioned us to the left, into business class.

My brother and I couldn’t stop grinning at each other.

The only thing better than being treated like royalty in business class was hearing my dad’s voice over the intercom. “Welcome aboard, this is your captain speaking…”

I arrived in Baltimore just after 1:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. At 2:00 a.m. the guy who was driving me home was pulled over by the police. Just a fun ending to an adventure, right?

All in all, I’m so thankful to God for giving me a few days full of adventure and time spent with my family and international friends. I truly feel like a rich kid, because I know many others don’t have the opportunities that God has given me.

Now, back in York, it’s back to school and tutoring and teaching. I’ll try to give you a little snapshot of home life next time. In many ways it’s just as adventurous as a weekend trip to China!

Dramatic Poem–All The Nameless People

Here’s a Hannah K original! I wrote this poem about all those hundreds of people you pass in the airport and you wonder what their names are, what their lives are like, and whether they know Jesus.

I know it comes out kind of depressing, but the truth is, the majority of the people we pass on the street, in the airport, or anywhere, are living without hope and with God in this world. Remember that, although you are only one, you are one, and although you cannot do everything, you can do something. Do your best to share God’s hope with whoever you can this week.

Thanks for reading!

Hannah K

Journey to York

You may know I taught kindergarten last year at a Christian school in York, PA, and I’m going back for another year. You probably don’t know all that was involved in getting me from the Wyoming prairie to a York ghetto in one day. Well, maybe two.

Since all the busyness didn’t give me much time to write, I took some videos of my trip and I’ve invited them here to do the talking. Sort of a vlog, not professional or anything… just a little narration for my crazy life.

That was a really long day!

Since then it’s been a nonstop city life of school orientation, classroom setup, meetings, get-togethers, and responsibilities. It’s definitely a different life than my quiet home with my family on their prairie.

Here’s some of York from the roof of our new school building (which we hope to move into next fall)…

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Got my plot tracker for my novel in progress up on the wall outside my room…20180829_203815

My tutor room when I got here…

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My tutor room now 😀

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I’m here. I’m ready to go. Bring on the kids!

 

A Poem For My Hero

Is it so weird to have friends inside your head, even when your too old for the kindergarten ‘imaginative’ stage? Characters from my stories, characters who come from all different countries and situations and periods of history–I’ve created them, but I don’t feel like the master of an entourage of little puppets. It just feels like I’ve got a lot of special friends.

I don’t have much to share with you today, just a little poem I wrote the other day while waiting for inspiration. 😀

Waiting

8.02.18

As if in prayer
I wished you here
In tender melancholy.
I wished you knew
The day was through
And here I stood
Awaiting you.

But then you came
You were the same
In tender melancholy.
You wished I’d see
Your love was free
And here you stood
Awaiting me.

A Rendezvous With Death

Okay, friends, ready for a morbid springtime appointment? Alan Seeger was a young American poet who fought with the French Foreign Legion in France from the beginning of the First World War. He was somewhat obsessed with the idea of his impending death–as you’ll see in this masterful poem. He was shot on July 4, 1916, enthusiastically leading his fellow-soldiers in a successful charge on the enemy. He was only 28 years old.

“I Have A Rendezvous With Death” is another long-time favorite of mine, and I’m so happy (in a sober, morbid sort of way) to share it with you. 🙂 Since I’m not a professional video maker or anything, please imagine that wonderful Wyoming wind is part of the dramatic effect.

Check out my other poems, and let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions of more poems for me to recite. I have lots of ideas and am thoroughly enjoying sharing these with you!

Hope you have a great week, no dangerous rendezvous involved!

Still alive and loving life,

Hannah K

“The Children’s Hour” – Dramatic Poem

Back again with another dramatic poem! “The Children’s Hour” has long been one of my favorites, and the poem I pull out of my head for random talent shows or to impress people. (Poetry being one of my few actual talents!) 😀

Please excuse my fake English accent. I just can’t recite this poem in American, it feels wrong.

 

Isn’t that a wonderful feeling when those little ones you love come pile on you just begging for some extra hugs? Or maybe I’m just weird. I was babysitting 8 younger siblings last week and I had a few of these moments. But then there were the moments like if I have to wash one more sticky face I’m gonna scream! 😉 Those moments.

Please have a great week enjoying the little ones God brings into your life!

See you then,

Hannah K

4 Reasons To Write Creative Christian Teen Fiction

Google Christian Teen FictionHey, young people! Have you ever been looking for something good to read and googled ‘Christian teen fiction’? Well, don’t–it’s discouraging. You have about 5 to choose from (and a couple of those may or may not be actually written by Christian authors). Okay, I’m being pessimistic. But what really bugs me is when I search ‘Christian teen fiction’ on Christian Book Distributors. One of the top books is one I’ve read–and had to mark out countless swear words and rip out several pages of graphic sex and abuse.

That’s what Christian teens have to choose from? Seriously?

Okay, you know me, ever since I’ve been a teen I’ve been writing for teens. And this week I was thinking about it. Why do I write anyway? What are my goals, and how do I want my books to be different from what’s already out there?

Fiction for teens, creatively written from a Christian worldview.

  1. Why Fiction? Stories are messengers of truth. Jesus told short stories–parables. The idea was that the crowds were entertained and (most importantly) those who were actually wanting truth would get a glimpse of it and ask more questions. So fiction has two purposes–to reveal truth, and to entertain. Good fiction does both at the same time in a beautiful, natural way.
  2. Why Teens? I believe kids are incredibly smart, but of course they don’t know everything. Their brains are soaking up information–what they perceive to be truth about the world they live in. During the teen years especially, they’re asking questions. Forming beliefs about big issues like life, death, religion, politics, and eternity. Often, these beliefs will influence the decisions they make for the rest of their lives.
  3. Why Christian? So fiction reveals truth and teens are right now determining what truth is. What is the world doing about that? Walk through the teen section of any library or bookstore and you’ll see how the world is bombarding teens with their ‘truth’ (which more often than not, turns out to be lies). Lies like…
    -Love is all about sex and intimacy
    -Homosexuality is okay
    -You can be whatever gender you decide
    -Christians are narrow-minded and intolerant
    And the one I hate more than all the rest…
    -Follow your heart!
    (I know, it sounds so good! But Proverbs 28:26 says the person who trusts in their own heart is a fool. Whoops, guess the world got that one wrong…again.)

    All these lies and a million more are subtly sold to teens in the name of entertainment, and to me that’s just downright scary. Not to mention the high quantity of graphic violence, sex (or suggestive) scenes, foul language, and disrespect for God’s name often found in books for teens.

  4. Why Creative? Okay, this one is big for me. When I was 16 or 17, I picked up a YA book by a popular Christian author. The setting, plot, and characters were so-so, but the writing was awful. Not grammar and punctuation, okay, but just boring writing.  If you read Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me or Michale Byrne’s Lottery Boy and then you pick up a Christian book that’s like,  “Joe went into the store. He didn’t have any money. He wondered if…” Um, you’re going to do what I did and say, scrap Christian fiction, I’m going to go over the shelves with a fine-toothed comb looking for something clean not Christian.It’s really sad if you think about it. Because I soon discovered it wasn’t just me–Christian fiction is kind of known for being poor-quality. Maybe it’s preachy, or doesn’t tackle tough issues, or just downright bad writing because the publisher accepted it. Either way, I want my writing to be different. God is the Creator of creativity, and we are his children. We have the Spirit of God inside us. We have access to the wisdom of the Wisest. We are here on this earth to glorify him! Why aren’t we buckling down to the hard work of writing and writing well? Why aren’t Christians known as the most brilliant authors out there?

Okay, I’ve said my piece. 😀 I’ve given you 4 reasons why I write. A sort of mission statement. I don’t have it all figured out, but I do have a vision. It’s something I’m working toward.

What about you? Are you dissatisfied with the fiction the world has to offer? Have you read any well-written Christian fiction lately? What are your thoughts on this topic? Let me know!

Until next time,

Hannah K

A Poem Just For You

Hello Friends! Today I’m sharing one of my favorite poems with you–not written out, but spoken aloud, as poetry should be. 🙂 “Opportunity”, by Edward Roland Sill. I learned this for English in 7th grade and have remembered it ever since. I didn’t really like it when I first learned it, but it’s had more meaning for me in recent years. This poem says you can’t wait for luck to come to you. Instead, you need to get out there and use the broken pieces you have as opportunities for success.

Watch and see for yourself!

What did you think? I hope you enjoyed that, because I really enjoyed making it. I’d like to do some more poem videos in the future. Any nominations? 😀

What is your favorite poem and why is it meaningful? If you tell me in the comments, I’ll try to learn it and do a dramatic rendition!

Now get out there and spot some opportunities buried in the sand. They’re waiting for someone like you to pick them up and drive them to victory!

Cheers,

Hannah K

Book Review: Counting By 7’s

My first book review! So bear with me. I have been reading a LOT of books lately, and trying to pick one of the best to share with you. Whether you love reading or you only pick up a book when someone makes you, I think you should give this book a shot.

Quick Look

Counting By 7’s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan (2013)
Find on Goodreads or Amazon

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life…until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read. 

My Thoughts

Okay, my brother and I were in Denver at a historic downtown train station waiting for a friend’s train to arrive, and we found a really cool bookstore to explore while we waited. I can’t go into a bookstore and not come out with a book (I know, an expensive habit), but this is the beautiful book I came out with.

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The Good

From the first page the prose really captured me. It’s a very unique perspective–that of a 12-year-old who is smarter than nearly everyone around her (I first thought she was autistic), but she’s not cocky about it. Just very matter-of-fact. Her dry, scientific observations and the reactions that she gets from others will make you laugh sometimes.

But Counting by 7’s wasn’t just a well-written character exposition, it had a structured, engaging plot as well.

The Bad

Okay, so some reviewers will say this book has clichés in the plot (parents killed in an accident, someone wins thousands of dollars, etc.), and I say, sure, but life happens like that sometimes. Maybe not all to one set of people, but then a story wouldn’t be interesting if everything was perfectly realistic. Others say Willow isn’t relatable as a character, throwing facts at the reader left and right. Like, who thinks like that? Yeah, maybe not you, but there’s a lot of people in this world, and I’ll grant it to Willow that there are some kids who are like that. I mean, I’m no genius, but I do walk around thinking half-French and half-Chinese sometimes, and diagramming sentences in my head. And other people are into things like subwoofers and radiation and Greek mythology and all kinds of random stuff I have no clue about. So there…

The Best

Counting by 7’s made me laugh and cry. It dealt with universal themes–things like grief, friendship, loneliness, and a longing for home. Things I could identify with that drew me into the story. And like Maya Angelou said good writing should do, it slid right through my brain and went straight to the heart. I haven’t read a book like that (besides my own, lol!) for a long time.

Survey says…?

5 of 5 stars to a book that grabbed me and took over my world for a couple days. Check it out and tell me what you think! Keep reading, keep learning, keep exploring this wonderful world God has given us!

See you next week!

Hannah K