Minnesota Farmer


Flashing lights
September 11, 2016, 12:18 pm
Filed under: bus, machines, school, School bus | Tags: , , , ,

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School has started and drivers need to be aware of the flashing lights on school buses that tell you a bus is coming to a halt.  That means noticing the flashing yellow ones that come before the flashing red ones.  Flashing yellow means start slowing down so you can stop when the red starts!

I’m constantly amazed at how many people do not see that big yellow bus with its flashing lights and go flying through a student loading zone.  A bus driver can turn in someone who runs their stop arm, but unless we get the full license plate it does not even pay to do the paper work.  Our bus company has come through with help.

There are now video cameras inside and outside of our school buses to record what is happening in and around a school bus.  If someone runs our stop arm, we now have video evidence of the infraction.  The police will be calling you if you run our bus stop arms now and they will have video evidence to prove your actions.

Oh yes, there are cameras inside also.  If we have student behavior problems we have those recoded also.  Actually, I hope to never use that video, but it does do a good job of enforcing behavior.  I just ask the student what their parents will see when we show it to them.  In most cases that’s all I need to do.

So watch out for those flashing lights when you approach a school bus.  In my district you will be on camera and we will get you if you run that stop arm.



Ground Blizzard

This morning when they called off school the weather didn’t look that bad.  We had a bit of snow blowing around, but most of the snow was still staying put.  When our mail was delivered about 9 a.m. we were surprised, usually mail doesn’t come until after noon.  Now it is a different story.

Winds are holding at over 30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph.  We have ourselves a ground blizzard.

If you are out of the wind, temperatures are not too bad.  Step out into the wind and you have a different story.  I have trouble seeing across my yard with all of the snow in the air, and yet, when you look up there is the sun in a mostly clear sky.

I can hear a truck out on the highway but he doesn’t seem to be moving that fast.  I would not want to be in a car in these conditions.  This is the time I am glad for a warm house and plenty of food.  I’m hunkered down with a project or two and a book.  It’s great to live in Minnesota on a day like this and have nothing that has to be done.



Connections to a tragedy

When word first reached me of the death of 16 year old Ross I didn’t think I had any connections with him or the family. Yes, he lived near a neighboring town, but what connections could I have with him.  The connections have begun to pile up.

The first connection was to our church.  He had for a while been coming to Sunday School classes there and still had family who were members.

The second connection was to friends.  His high school choir director was our daughters friend, we know that family well.  She had brought Ross and some friends to our church to sing at the Living Nativity just days before the accident.

Next came connections to Farm Bureau.  His dad is active in their county Farm Bureau and I have seen him at state activities.  He had just won top prize in the foundation raffle.

The last one hit hardest.  Ross had been coming to sing with our barbershop chorus during the summer.  I had talked to him then, but had not seen him for months.  Our chorus has been asked to sing at his funeral today.

Memories now flood back to an earlier funeral of a promising young man we sang for years ago.  Jeff had been my son’s friend.  They sang in a high school quartet and in our chorus.  That death had been a lot closer, but in no way less tragic.  Both deaths involved cars and both deaths involved making lethal mistakes.  Now another young man is gone.

Hold your children today.  Tell them again to be careful and that you love them.



Trust the Bus Driver

It happened to me again today.  I had someone tell me that if they really wanted to know what the local road conditions were they would ask a school bus driver.FarmBuildings00016-300x200

Wow, what trust to put in those of us on the road early in the morning or late at night.  Yeah, we are out in the early hours on roads all over the country.  In fact, I’m usually the first one on many of the county and township roads of my route, all to often I’m there before the snow plow.  I have to know those roads because I’m asked to drive them in fog, rain and snow.  I’ve had many a trip where I have known where the stop signs and corners are by counting the hills.  Those are not the days I prefer to drive.

Winter here in Southwestern Minnesota can be a challenge at times.  Knowing where the road is in hazardous conditions is sometimes a challenge.  The fact is though that I will never take a child out on a road in my bus if I do not feel confident that I can get back to town.  That’s not to say that I have always stayed on the road, but usually if I get into trouble it is not because of a blizzard, it’s ice or fog.

So, thank you for your trust.  We want your kids home safe as much as you do.  Besides, do you really want to spend a cold night in a bus with your child and all of their friends?  Neither do we!



Ondini churches

If you go on a trip with a church group you are going to spend some time in local churches, and our trip to South Africa was no exception, we were in several.  These were not grand churches of the city, these were the humble churches of  poor country folks.  Simple, rustic and sacred to their congregants.

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The church closest to the KwaZamokuhle center were we stayed was part of the Empangweni congregation.  This is the site of the double funeral I wrote about earlier.  This is the largest of the Ondini church buildings I was in.  There is a school across the street and the home/school for handicapped kids just down the road.100_2772
The interior seems to have had some work done with fewer broken windows and fewer banners than I remember.
Church buildings are located for walkers, this large of a building means that there are quite a few people who live within walking distance.  This is one of the few churches I saw that actually had a planned parking area.  In most churches if someone drives to church it is unusual.  In areas where one pastor has several churches to cover, his is usually  the only car in the lot.
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The Hoffenthal church is also located next to a school but in a more remote area.  The nearby orphanage and the Gogos (grandmothers) who run it are what sets this church apart from others.
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Again it is a simple building inside an out.  The Gogos are proud of the fact that their gardening project has earned them enough money to paint the church.  The Hoffenthal congregation has seven buildings that the pastor hopes to be at at least once a month so he can preside at communion.  Usually a lay preacher presides when he cannot be there.  There are just under 400 congregants between these seven church sites.
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The church at Emangweni has an impressive pulpit in front.  This is the only church I celebrated Sunday services in on this trip to South Africa.  Although a bit remote, it is home to several important people in the partnership.  When I was there my host for the day Christopher (CK) Mazibuko was acting as the guest speaker.  There were about 35 women, 45 children and young adults and 5 men in attendance that day, each group sits separate from the other, unless a very young child needs to sit with its mother.  Again the church is located near a school, in this case both and an elementary and a high school.  The high school where CK and Bonisewe were teachers.
I had attended smaller churches on my last trip to South Africa.  You can check on my posts from February of 21011 to see pictures of them.


Back to Kliptown
August 16, 2014, 4:48 am
Filed under: Johannesburg, school, South Africa | Tags: , , , , ,

Coming back to a place for a second time you will see things differently.  Sometimes it is because of the changes in the place you visit, sometimes it is because of the changes in you.  Both of those changes were there for the visit to Kliptown.

When I went to Kliptown in 2011 we were newly arrived in South Africa.  My recollections were those of one who had little experience in the area.  Now with a past trip and a few more years I saw more and took pictures less.  I invite you to look at what I wrote about Kliptown in 2011 and compare that to what I write today.

Kliptown is a collection of shanties on the Klip river outside of Johannesburg, South Africa.  The collection of cobbled together huts does not seem to have changed much.  There are still the few water taps that seem to run all day where people come to collect bathing and cooking water or to wash their clothing.  There are still the illegal electrical taps put in by self taught electricians that provide light and power to these shacks.  The community porta-potties are a still there.  The changes are at the Kliptown Youth Program (KYP).

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In 2012 the KYP and its director Thulani Mandondo were named one of the 10 CNN Heros.  Along with that award came a monetary gift of $50,000.  The changes have been transforming.  The computer lab that was built with the money has allowed the children of the area to have a better chance of moving up and out of Kliptown.

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With reliable electricity these labs are kept busy with children of all ages learning so they can be a viable part of the modern world.

While water may still run down the street to the Klip river the same as it did in 2011, there is now more hope for the children living here.  Changes have occurred here in Kliptown as they have in me.



Mischief

I love the look of mischief in a child’s eye.  That glowing eye and smile of fun are just so enjoyable to me.  The look that says “I’m having fun, come join me.” makes me feel young.2012-08-04-bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed

That same look of mischief in the eye in the classroom or on the school bus can be trouble.  All too often fun can lead to chaos, so as much as I love a bit of mischief myself I have to keep an eye out for that look on the bus.  I have to let it go for a bit, but then come down hard when the line is crossed.  Knowing when to stop the mischief seems to be different for every child and I must relearn every year when to let it go, and who I can let go, and when to say “No!”

Children with electronic devices have changed bus driving.  A child, head down in an electronic device, is no trouble at all, but those near that child can be a bit of trouble.  Keeping those near the game sitting is a problem.  Everyone wants to see.  There are kids hanging over seats and crowding all around to see what is going on.  While this is not really trouble, by law every child on a school bus must be seated.  Thus the electronic device becomes trouble.UnknownI can see the allure of electronics.  I too have been sucked into an electronic game.  The problem is that they sometimes can cause trouble.  To join the modern era, our school has issued iPads to every middle and high school student.  This puts a large number of electronic devices on the school bus. Where it used to be that we could shut down the use of a DS on the bus, now we have a bus full of game pads issued by the school.  The younger students all want to get their hands on those devices that the older kids have.  Then you have trouble.

So here’s to mischief, as long as it doesn’t go to far.  But please, keep it off my bus.  I really hate to have to stop the fun.100_0762

Michael