Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Preparing to leave and PFO notes

Some of the bags.

As we get ready to leave, on our last full day in the States we are packing feverishly, doing our best not to forget anything.  We have already shipped boxes of items to Vienna.  Mostly my books but other odds and ends, imagine reducing everything you own to 16 boxes and 12-15 suitcases.  It has been a good process actually but a growing one.  I am a natural pack rat.  I am not good at throwing things away, all of the ‘organized’ types look at me as if I’m a sub life form but I do try.  God seemed to see fit to bless me with other gifts, there apparently wasn‘t room for organization so the last 6 months of preparation were challenging.  Still, that which doesn’t kill me only serves to make me stronger. 

Dan Egeler speaking at one of the sessions.
In my last post I said I would post a blog on the content of our PFO (Pre-Field Orientation).  I would say the entirety of PFO could be broken up into three categories (had to be three)

1 - Know Thyself:  Nosce te ipsum
This is as simple as it sounds.  The first few days amidst program overview lectures we reviewed Myers Briggs results and other various self evaluation tests.  Amusingly on the Myers Briggs I ended up being an INTP.  I suspect there will be some that doubt the ‘I’ part but I feel pretty good about the result.
In another aspect of understanding yourself, there were sessions on keeping your head on straight during your time abroad.  A significant emphasis was on moral purity, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and how to avoid some of the pitfalls along the way.  In my opinion the best and most valuable material was related to keeping your Christian faith strong.  Good stuff.

2 - Understand Others:
I would say the vast majority of the time spent at PFO was spent learning to understand others.  An emphasis here focused on Third Culture Kids (TCK’s), mostly as we will be teaching TCK’s.  TCK’s by definition are children from one culture that are transplanted into another culture.  They end up with a point of view that doesn’t naturally fit in either culture.  The term applies to the third combination culture and how to relate to students that fit in this scenario.
Other than learning about TCK’s, a primary focus for the conference was how to better understand others and how to have a better understanding of what living in other cultures is like and how to adapt to function well within that culture.

3 - Application
Time was given to reviewing different applications for what we studied.  To me, the most interesting and possibly valuable was a morning long simulation.  In this simulation we were placed in a scenario where a Christian school in another country was being attacked by anti government rebels.  The participants were placed in rooms, roughly 25/room and isolated from the rest of the group.  We were each given roles by the facilitator who was not allowed to give any instructions besides what was on the instruction sheet.  From that point on we were not allowed to leave the room or receive additional instruction.  One of the roles, the head of the school, was conducted by a staff member.  Other assigned roles were assistant principal, various teaching roles, a limited number of students, a person who was assigned to be a national citizen and other non American participants.
The simulation details went as follows;  There has been rebel activity in the city where the school is located.  The school was across town from the activity and due to perceived lack of threat it continued operation as normal.  At a recorded point in the morning a ‘Code Red’ was called over the school intercom.  The school Code Red procedure mandates that anyone in the school proceed immediately to a classroom, lock down the classroom and hide.  The instructions did not indicate if the lock down classrooms were predetermined or random.
From this point the instructions from the moderator were sporadic.  Usually indicating an event was taking place.  In one instance the facilitator indicated gunfire was heard and later the principal came over the intercom and told everyone that rebels made it into a class room and there were casualties.  No more could be determined at that time.  Various other updates were given though out the morning.  The head of the school also came and gave updates in person a few times but would not stay to answer questions.
In all the simulation lasted 2-3 hours.  Efforts were made to protect the students and if the classroom was breached by rebels the teachers were to attempt to delay the rebels to provide the best opportunity for the students to escape.  At each update, even though we knew it was only a scenario, we found the tension rising in the room.  Participants began to assume the personality of the character they were assigned, at least in some capacity.  At the conclusion of the simulation the principal entered and gave an update.  The American military was sending special forces to evacuate American Citizens from the compound.  Citizens of other countries, including national citizens were told they must stay behind and wait for assistance from their passport countries.  This was found to be difficult for those who were the American citizens.  It was very difficult to leave friends, colleagues and students behind, not knowing their fate. One of the most interesting aspects of the simulation was even though we knew it was a simulation, as the morning wore on the participants began to get into their roles.  By the end of the simulation, choices that had to be made related to evacuation were difficult and in some cases emotional for participants. 

Well, back to packing.  We are getting close.  Please keep us in your prayers, much is going on over the next several day.  I would like to thank those that have chosen to support us prayerfully and also those who have chosen to do so financially.  We could not do it without you.  If you are considering supporting us financially and have not done so yet, you can find links in the upper left column on our blog page making it easy to contribute online.  We are not to our support level yet and would greatly appreciate any support great or small.

Blessing, Billy

1 comment:

  1. One should probably say (or repeat, if you have said so earlier), for the mental relief of some of your readers, that PFO is conducted for missionaries leaving for a wide variety of Christian schools, in a wide variety of countries, and that the scenario of your simulation is EXTREMELY unlikely in Vienna, Austria.

    Wolf (a native Austrian :-) )