I am NOT a fan of bats. Spiders, lizards, even snakes don’t really bother me, but bats and I are not friends. When we lived in Tanzania we regularly had bats that would hang in the eves of our roof and I would regularly call on my handsome and fearless husband to get rid of them. I distinctly remember a night he was gone when, despite needing to pee, I stayed tucked under the safety of our bed net for over an hour until he returned to take care of our latest bat intruder.
Interestingly enough though, I’ve come to realize RVA is a bit like a bat. With a school schedule that involves three 3 month trimesters with one month off in between, things can get intense. When the school year is in session, all is a flutter- staff and students fly this way and that getting things done, meeting deadlines, keeping our campus of over 600 people humming. And then, when that one month vacation comes, goodbyes are said, students return to their homes across Africa, and those of us who are left behind (120ish staff members plus their kiddos) go into hibernation.
And here’s where I really see this metaphor playing out. Bats go into what’s called a true hibernation, meaning they are in such a deep sleep that they may appear to be dead. The same could be said of campus… venture out for a walk on our 90 acre campus during vacation and it’s practically a guarantee that you won’t see another soul. Campus shifts from a place with people and voices flowing out of every nook and cranny during the school year to sort of eerie during vacation as you walk around wondering if your family is the only one still on campus. The crazy thing is most of those 120+ people are still there, they are just hibernating in their homes, storing up all that alone time for when school starts and the pace of life no longer allows for it.
Depending on the species of bat, it can either hibernate alone or in a group; the same is true of RVA staff. During vacation you’ll find the introverts barricaded in their homes with a stack of books or a pile of movies, while the extroverts send out all sorts of e-mails trying to plan game nights and BBQ’s. Everybody’s hibernating, it just looks a bit different for each of us.
And then, just like a bat who’s heartrate goes from 25 beats per minute during hibernation up to it’s normal 400 bpm when it wakes, a week or so before school starts, RVA starts to ramp up. You go for a walk on campus and actually bump into a few families; mandatory meetings start popping up on your calendar; and emails suddenly become more urgent. Everybody comes out of their homes blinking into the bright equatorial sun, shaking off the dust, and limbering up for the full three-month sprint that’s just around the corner.
So, as we come out of hibernation and prepare to receive the sixteen 8th grade girls who will join our family this coming year, would you pray for us and for them? We’re thankful for hibernation and the rest it allows, but these next three months, this is why we are here and this is what gets us excited.
(All bat related facts taken from http://www.conservationinstitute.org/10-animals-that-hibernate/ and all photos borrowed from rva.org.)