Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Girly Sleepover

Before Javier and Kerem left I spent an incredible amount of time with them and the kids. We spent countless nights at their house laughing and carrying on, having dinner, telling jokes, grading papers, watching movies, painting nails, just enjoying each other. They are of course a fun couple, and the kids are a great time so we generally ended up awake far too late for teachers who had to entertain hoards of kids bright and early in the morning! The girls had been dying for Kerem to spend the night in their room like a fun little sleepover, and the perfect weekend finally came along. While Javier and Marvin headed to Yoro with some other guys from church, us girls had a great girly sleepover! We painted nails, played with each other's hair, listened to music and danced around, did face masks, ate some junk food, told fun stories, wore girly pajamas and all piled onto pillows and blankets to watch Tangled. As a side note, that's a great little movie if you have a chance to watch it. And the song "Mother Knows Best" is a fun sing-a-long! 

Maria put my hair in these ridiculous pig tails which had us all laughing way too hard. I made face masks out of alpiste and the girls were so funny about it. A few of them were really freaked out at the thought of putting it on their faces, but we all participated and enjoyed our soft, smooth skin. We were determined to make it a slumber party to remember, so when one of the girls, I think it was Carmen or Ana, was ready for bed Kerem wanted nothing of it. She insisted the whole point of a slumber party was to stay up all night and talk about boys, and that just made us all laugh. I definitely fell asleep at some point during the movie, but we rewatched the ending the next day so I didn't feel sad about missing anything. The sleeping arrangements were silly but totally fun. The girls wanted us all in the same room, and their room is decently sized, but there were eight of us girls! We moved mattresses and made it work so that somehow everyone slept well that night. I guess I shouldn't speak for all of us, but I'm pretty sure we all slept pretty well. I climbed into the bunk beds and shared a mattress with Deysi, but we both slept through the night. I woke up to her listening to her iPod and coloring in a Disney princess coloring book. It was nice to feel like a little girl again.

I am pretty sure I spent the entire weekend at their house, but we were just having too much fun with each other. It was also hard to pass on any chance to spend time with them since they were moving away so soon. While the thought of having a daughter can be terrifying, it's fun to think of getting opportunities like that to channel your inner little girl and be silly for a night. Or a weekend. Or a lifetime :)

El Aniversario

I'm not sure when the actual anniversary of the school is, but the anniversary of them being at the current property is November 4th and every year they celebrate with a big deal parade. We were forewarned that the parade can get a little stressful, but to try and take it all in stride. The kids were broken up into different groups, like my baton twirlers I mentioned a while ago. Someone thought it would be a good idea to put me with a group of boys who were marching as cadets, but gracias a Dios Mr. Cook was able to join us. He was apparently a cadete when he went to school is Mexico, and it was a lot of fun to see and hear him with the boys. They got these serious little faces, and I loved getting to yell with them Braveheart style. Too cute. If you hear me shout "YA!!!" as I throw my arm forward and take off at a strong march, don't be alarmed. It's just me channeling my inner cadete.The baton twirlers weren't as budget-friendly as I'd first thought. The reason the made batons out of sticks is because they had to buy new batons (with shiny red knobbies) to match their outfits, and they were waiting for them to arrive. It made me sad that some of the girls weren't able to be palionas because it was so expensive, but the girls who did get to participate twirled with big smiles so that was nice. Some of the boys were mimes, and some got to be robots which was pretty silly. Indira from 2A was so excited to march in the drum line, and that is definitely one thing they do really well here. Listening to the drummers could get anyone off their feet! Now I just need to learn to dance punta...
All of their faces crack me up! The pomponeras are behind us, and the soccer team is behind them. It was quite the parade!
The day before the parade all the teachers stayed late to decorate floats with obscene amounts of colored paper and tape. Some of them turned out really pretty, and it was nice to get that time to chat with a few teachers I didn't know all that well. We were worried about the evening rain, a pretty constant thing around here, but were told there was a backup plan! The backup plan was apparently to move the floats to the gas station if it started to rain, but everyone quickly learned that once the rain came (generally hard and fast) it was too late and just not feasible to get the trucks moved under cover. It was a little sad to spend so much time working so hard on something only to see it wilt and ruin under all the water. But something awesome happened as it was raining that totally trumps any ruined decoration frowns. I saw the hint of a rainbow coming over the mountains, and then realized it was a double rainbow. Too cool! I'm not sure I had ever seen a double rainbow, and if I have it definitely wasn't this deeply colored. It was crazy to see the beams of ROY-G-BIV arching across a mountain. It was a little eerie to watch the rainbows fade away until the disappeared, leaving behind this thick gray bleh in the air. But it was really neat to see the arcoirises (rainbows) and a memory I think I'll hold onto. I didn't have my camera when they popped up, and it was raining far too hard to make a dash for it. Maybe one day I'll learn to paint and capture the mental image!
Ok, so it was a long walk, and Guillermo (like me!) was ready for some water, a snack, some shade and a change of clothes, but his mama wanted a picture so Mr. Cook and I obliged!
The day of the parade was pretty hectic, but the kids and parents seemed to enjoy themselves. Ok, the rest of us ended up having a good time too :) We got to school early to repair the rain's damage, and I think the floats turned out even better than they were the day before. Love how that works! My stomach and I weren't exactly getting along that day, so I wasn't too cheery at the thought of walking through town in the heat, but it was fun to march with my boys! Lots of parents snapped pictures and I loved getting to experience their pride for their children. Kerem was the leader of her Preparatoria kids and their band which was way too stinking cute. Maryann made her a crazy shirt, but she rocked it in all its ridiculousness. After the parade we got to enjoy an earlier than normal release from school, and it's always fun to start your weekend earlier than expected!

Even. More. Boxes.

Big, huge, belated thanks to Mom, North Elementary, Grumpy and his Sunday School class and Cheryl Watts and family. You guys know how to make a struggling teacher smile! We headed to Santa Cruz to check with the mail lady one afternoon and I seriously didn't believe her when she said I'd received four boxes. FOUR! My eyes watered just seeing Mom's handwriting on the packages, and then when I realized a couple were from Grumpy I thought I'd have to take a minute to regain composure. Thanks you guys!

The boxes were filled with an unbelievable amount of school supplies, some wall decorations, lots of interesting idea books, a whole box of early reader books and I'm sure a number of other things I'm rudely forgetting to include in this list. The donations were so abundant they will be able to support a number of students from different schools and towns. It would have been cool if I'd gotten a picture before I started dispersing supplies, but the teachers were excited to receive classroom sets of markers, colored pencils, crayons, regular pencils. A couple decks of alphabet cards have helped in both first and second grade classrooms. Christmas borders and a fun wreath were used to make the hallways more festive.

I met a young boy in San Luis Planes who is nine years old and had to quit school after first grade. He's been out of school for two years now because his parents can't afford to send all of their children. The supplies are expensive, and tuition for three isn't in their budget. Being blessed with care packages like these help kids like Josue get back into school. He's very excited to start his studies, and Pastor Alfonso and I are determined to get him reading by the end of the year. Let this serve as an outpouring of my love and appreciation for all of your support, and I don't just mean sending expensive-to-ship boxes filled with donations.The boxes are of course great, but the spiritual support I'm receiving from so many of you, the kind thoughts and well wishes, those are what get me through the days. Those are what bring me closer to kids like Josue and the different schools I've visited. Thank yous, love and hugs all around!

Eager Readers

Apparently life picked up somewhere toward the end of October, and didn't start to slow down until now! Hell it still hasn't slowed down. A while ago I had such a breakthrough reading day with the kids I couldn't wait to journal all about it. And here we are, months later, journaling about it. I'm just good like that! It's the general trend that 2A can be a little more outgoing than 2B, but of course they sometimes surprise me. Reading class with 2A can be a cricket show, so the same with 2B is one of those times I plan a rack of different activities in case the response for my first few plans is a room full of blank stares...

Color me ecstatic when my little angels in 2B came to life one day during reading class! I was sure some of the hands in the air must have had dust and/or cobwebs on them. I am embarrassed to admit that I expected a few of them to be asking to go to the bathroom. Kids who might not have raised their hands all year threw them up excitedly when I asked who wanted to read us parts of the story. I'm blushing just starting to type this, but seeing their little faces so stoked to read out loud, and hearing them practice their phonics on the words they found more difficult got my heart so warm I had to remind myself it would likely startle them if I started to cry. With my hand on my heart I let them all know how very proud I was at their progress and how contagiously exciting their energy was. I honestly don't know what brought it out in them that day, but I'm certainly not complaining. I was so overjoyed by this surprise increase in participation I decided to give a little sticker to each of my readers. It's incredible how much stickers mean to the little ones. I hope they don't lose that excitement, but I think I still have most of my excitement for the little things, so I'll just have faith they'll hang on to theirs as long as they can. I will go ahead and put it out there that yes, I was that teacher who bragged about her kids all throughout lunch. One of my guys wants to stay after school for tutoring "so he can read with the miss" --there are not enough hugs and/or happy tears in the world to express how much that touched my heart!

Sunday Translation

This has been so long ago I really can't believe how quickly time is passing. Leah commented that I could update more regularly if I said a little less in each post, but I don't seem to work that way. Apparently I'm chatty no matter what my medium! Toward the very end of October a Barnabas team was here, and Melvin Martinez invited them to a service at his church. Don Melvin's church services are of course in Spanish, and he was asking about translation help for the team. I didn't have any plans for the night he needed me, so I agreed no problemo. I'd never been to his church, Ebenezer, and I love any chance to do something new while I'm here. While I know I'm not fluent, especially when it comes to scripture, I figured it would be nice to hear a new pastor and whisper translate to the person next to me. I love getting to know the teams who come down, so it's hard not to jump at an opportunity to help them! Don Melvin had told me Ebenezer was organized pretty similarly to La Roca, so I fell into the rhythm of the round of alabanzas before the sermon. As we took our seats after the prayer and worship songs Kerlin, Melvin's daughter, came up to tell me there was a microphone for me up front. I looked at her like she had eight heads and said she must be confused. Don Melvin then came into view and he made quick moves with his eyes and without opening his mouth clearly told me, "Get that look off your face and walk your happy butt to the front. Gracias."

It's funny to write about this now, and I'm making a mental note of some potentials for my "work on me in 2012" journal as promptly as possible and embrace self-confidence a little more quickly. This first translation at Ebenezer was enveloped with so many different feelings. I remember leaving feeling sort of strange. Like I'd pushed my comfort zone to its extreme, and successfully, which was motivating. But now I've translated a few more times, and it's sort of funny to remember all the initial nervousness. Pastor Martir is so animated and passionate I think he does a wonderful job motivating people with scripture and his preaching. And all his animation makes translating for him a little fun, because I can gesture toward him and say, "What he did" rather than acting things out. He had a great message that night, but I spent about the first half of the sermon in this mental war. Part of me was having trouble not imagining dropping the microphone and running out of there, part of me was considering crying and another part of me was saying hellloooo you can do this, and you kind of have to do this so please get on board! From what I heard after the service, no one noticed this internal debate, so that's comforting. I gained experience that night that I'll always cherish. While I was struggling in my head I was reminding myself that this was so much bigger than my little worries about saying the wrong thing or not knowing the words. It felt like a weight was lifted when I decided all I could do was stand up there at the big scary microphone and break a language barrier to bring some of God's people closer together. Of course I could worry about missing something, but then that's what would have my focus. Instead I decided to focus on opening my heart to receiving the message, and giving it my all to convey that message to a couple rows of smiling faces. I could go on and on about the amazing power of perspective and the intent behind your actions, but instead I'll just recommend pushing your limits a little further than you think you can handle.

After the service Nancy came up and gave me the best hug and said some of the nicest things. She really is a special new friend. We spent hours one night talking about faith and all sorts of life lessons, and it was great getting closer to her. Most of the medical teams travel with cross necklaces that they wear everyday to give to people they meet throughout the week. They're given to someone you think needs the cross, or someone who touched your heart. I am pretty sure most teams travel with an abundance of necklaces, because their goal is to give lots away. I know when I was down here in March I gave a couple crosses away to people I didn't want to stop hugging. This country is full of kind hearts and incredibly interesting people. After Nancy's hug she told me some great things about the service, and then gave me her cross! It is a beautiful cross of nails and white wire. I have it hanging on my wall, and looking at it reminds me of the power of pushing your comfort zone and embracing your potential to grow. That team was full of lovely people, and they all had great hugs after the service. I spent a little more time with them before they returned to the States, and I feel blessed to have met them. It is pretty neat to bond with the teams as they travel, especially since the majority of the people are from Virginia! I think Melvin was the best after the service though. You see, he knows me well enough to know what was going through my head, but fortunately also knows how much I needed to experience that push. He had the sweetest face when he smiled and said to forgive him, but he knew I could do it.

It is nice to know there are so many people believing in me. Very cool to gain experiences I wasn't expecting over this year away, and motivating to think how much I'll gain if I push limits at every opportunity!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wedding en video

October 29th was a special day for a special young woman. My "baby" cousin Lori married her sweetheart, Matt. She's actually just two years my junior, but I think I'll always feel like her big sister--and like she's still too young to be all grown up! I was feeling sad about the idea of missing her wedding, but smiled thinking ahead to all the anniversary celebrations I'll get to share. Dad decided to try taking his iPad to the reception with some fancy pocket wifi device. I wasn't sure what to expect, and had these funny images of me being videod in for cake cutting, bouquet catching and the oh so popular Electric Slide. When he talked to Lori about it she liked the idea so much she wanted him to call me in for the wedding! I felt a little underdressed in my tank top (I don't think you could make out the bleach stain) and messy hair, but it was such a blessing to "be" there to celebrate with my girl. Dad called right before they started the ceremony, and I watched from start to finish. A few people said hi before things got started, and I was holding up rather well until I saw Aunt Deborah. She was looking all kinds of beautiful in the dress Nana wore when she was mother of the bride, and I couldn't stop the tears as I realized I was too far away to give her the hug my arms were craving. It's like I (of course) knew and understood that Lori was getting married and I'd be unable to attend the wedding, but I didn't fully comprehend what it would feel like to miss such a big day.

I will go ahead and openly confess that I cried some during the ceremony. I cried some big, sappy tears. Tears of joy, and a few tears of pure emotion as I was aching over not being there. I didn't feel too embarrassed about crying because I figured I was just propped on my Dad's lap with my face under the screen cover, and I was confident I'd be able to pull it together by the end of the ceremony. I'm learning the more weddings I attend how intrigued I am by vows, and how powerfully moving I find the exchange of them to be. But again, confident I'd pull it together by the end, and happy to say I was able to do that. Something about "seeing" people I hadn't seen since the move, and accepting the absence of actual time with them on such an important day had me all torn up. I was pretty relieved when Dad said he'd call me in a few hours from the reception. Technology really is something, because this video call let the family feel like I was at the wedding with them, at least in some part. But for me, it was like I had never felt farther away. Our geographical gap was more palpable than ever before. I didn't anticipate much homesickness when I was thinking about moving away for a year, but it turns out I have a great bunch of friends and family who really warrant missing.
Aunt Deborah, Lori and the flower girl saying hi--creepy to think they're talking to me through that shiny rectangle.
Do I have the cutest Grumpy or what? It was noisy with the DJ, but if he leaned in just right we could hear each other. 

In the time that lapsed between the wedding and the dance party I was able to wash my face, laugh with the bunch at Javier and Kerem's and get a few exams written. For a little background, the wedding took place the weekend we were all working hard on our first period guides and exams, so I was already on edge. Let's think back to when I admitted my stoic defeat during the ceremony, but how it was all cheque (ok) because it's not like anyone could see me. Right. That's where we're wrong. Not only did Dad have the screen facing out, but he stood so close to Lori (during the entire ceremony I think I was told) that Matt saw every tear and sniffle. Lori said she was doing great until she saw me crying, poor thing, but I suppose it's a special thing when cousins can embrace in joyful, although long distance tears. Friends and family sharing now sharing in this memory: please take note that your girl has toughened up and can take on all sorts of challenges. Please take bolder note that she does not miss weddings well.

That night we had communion at church, and we stood in a big circle for a while singing alabanzas and sharing in the joy of our spiritual community. I was still relatively new to the church, but starting to get to know a few people better. I did not know the man next to me, though I've now come to know him as Hermano Redin, the Sunday school teacher, a very kind and intelligent man. While we were in the circle I saw him put his arm around his son and hold him in a hug as they began to pray together. I wonder if anyone is surprised, but this got my eyes a little misty. I was really missing home and craving the embrace of family. I closed my eyes and focused on all the blessings surrounding those feelings, and all of a sudden Redin's arm was over my shoulders and he started to pray. He talked about God taking care of my family while I'm so far away, and taking care of me while he's sure I'm missing my support system at home. He has a gift of delicate verbiage, and his prayer was so greatly appreciated. How did he know I was so craving a hug from my dad? I was in awe of his perfect timing, and how spot on point he was with his kind, soothing words. Of course it wasn't a Daddy hug, but it did just fine for what I needed. It does get hard to think about what I'm missing, but I have a special group of people supporting me back home, and I'm getting to know a special group here. What a lovely, special gift.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

El Pollo Loco

Last night Maryann and I were sitting across the table from each other having such a laughy conversation. I had just gotten back from a meeting, and we started filling each other in on our evenings. We each had some light complaints over our teaching to-do lists, but that quickly led to swapping funny stories about our kids. Things might get a little stressful here and there, but we get to enjoy some speical moments with these students. Sometimes they say the silliest things, and their personalities are really starting to shine. They're clearly getting to know us better and have started to copy some of our sayings; some of my kids are even finishing my sentences saying, "yes Miss Harris I know what you're going to say...I need to stop talking, sit down and do my work." Yes Guillermo, Eric, Eduardo, Lissie, [insert any number of my 2nd graders here] that's exactly what I'd like for you to do! Apparently I say "Seriously?!" with relative frequency. It comes with an undertone of, "surely this is a mirage and you're actually focused on your work and engaged in learning right now" and sometimes a little cock of the head paired with an eyebrow raise and a little sideways hand gesture. I didn't realize how much I said it until the kids started saying it to each other. It is too cute! The other day I guess Eric felt like I was asking too much of them and he cocked his adorable little head when he asked, "Seriously Miss Harris?" Hahah, I love it.

We started laughing so hard my cheeks were a little sore. All the laughter had me smiling about an afternoon we had--it's been a while ago now, but we went for a long walk across the bridge the other end of town and back around again. Along the walk we met the crazy chicken--El Pollo Loco--pecking around town. He lives across the bridge at the top of the main street, and I don't walk up that far very often...I guess it's unfair to say "he" because I'm thinking it must be a La Gallina Loca might make more sense. Anyway, there is absolutely no way a typed story can do this thing justice, but I couldn't help but try. This is a seriously crazy chicken! And every time Maryann and I bring it up we can't stop laughing. It pecks around almost like it's drug, or high on something with its beak all kinds of crazy. And you know how most chickens have feathers that lay flat, or here and there they'll stand up in some uniform formation? Not this one. Its black feathers jet out all sorts of loco like it stuck its beak in a socket. I tried getting pictures, but none capture the pura loca.

When we saw her I couldn't help but compare her to one of my students, and while I guess I "should" feel a little guilty about that, the shoe happens to fit so I'm going to let her wear it. This girl is a sweetie for sure, but such a crazy little thing. Her long brown hair always seems to need a brush, even though she keeps a one in her backpack! My babylion's mane of frizz and I can relate, so I'm of course not poking fun. I remember a rainy morning when she was trucking up the sidewalk and her hair was blown so crazy she looked like a wall of knotted brunette. I hadn't realized Maryann was beside me until I heard her say, "That--needs a brush." But of course that isn't the half of it with this girly. She can be quite the distraction in the classroom, and sometimes I feel like she's a tiny butterfly, and I'm running around trying to catch her (attention) with my net (riveting lessons). So it's not just her crazy hair and attention span, but her uniform is generally a little askew and the way she wheels her carry-on of a backpack has me sorry for the hallways. So I see Loca pecking around, compare her to "my student who needs a brush" and we were done. We both doubled over laughing, and had fun finding silly comparisons throughout the rest of our walk. I would like to make sure it's known that I really love this student, but the wall of crazy black feathers sent memories of that rainy morning and it took off from there. And it always feel so good to share such a good, hearty laugh.
We took this on the bridge--this is one of the  most "mas hizo" views in town. I had to cock my head to get it in the picture :) And Maryann had fun dressing me that day!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Mountains of work stand in the way of me journaling all sorts of fun stories, but I'll get there and it will be so fun to relax into detailing the memories. In the meantime, today deserves a few shout-outs.
  • After half the words from 2Bs door were scattered around the hallway Monday morning, I am happy to report the wind tunnel was no match for my glue/tape combo and the door was found intact this morning.
  • The cauliflower was looking great at the market--sadly a rare enough occasion and warrants making this list.
  • A new Barnabas team brought a care package from Mom and Dad--thanks guys!!! I'm cozy in the sweatshirt (it has been COLD!) and Maryann enjoyed some hot chocolate with fun colored marshmallows. You guys spoil us, and we love it :)
  • I translated at a church service tonight, and the sermon was all about the power of positive thinking. Look at that!
  • After the service someone told me they could feel my excitement through the translation, which...well I took that as quite the compliment, and it honestly gets me a little goosebumpy.
    • I made up a word (yes, I realize goosebumpy is not a word) during the translation because I couldn't think of the exact word in English, but luckily a few people on the team corrected me. I blushed into the mike and laughed confessing, "And I teach English!" 
  • Eric from 2B was the first to recognize the nouns in a picture in English class today, and he used a few in sentences that made sense. Big win!
  • Leti sold me a fat stack of tortillas this evening, and I can't wait to dig into them at tomorrow's meals. She also remembered me from the last time I came by, so that's fun!
  • The remolacha (beets) were looking sexy today, and I scored a bunch with its leaves still attached and looking nice and green (rarity). I'm looking forward to sauteeing them with some eggs tomorrow. Sounds strange? Don't knock it! Or go three months with scant opportunity to eat a leafy green. It's all about perspective...
  • I finally have all the grades from the Spanish teachers, so I can get these report cards wrapped up and off my mind for about 8-9 more weeks.
  • There were so many friendly faces around the market this evening, and it is such a great feeling sharing smiles, hugs and how are yous with so many new people. 
  • Nancy and Kip, the Barnabas presidents, are in town until Dec 8 and it will be so nice to spend some time with them while they're here. Nancy brought cards that had arrived at the office in Virginia, and I am one happy girl. I received three cards today, from three of my girls, and it was so nice to get hugs from each of them on such a chilly day. Thanks loves :) missing you like crazy.
Time to get back to promedios and sobresaliente lists. Missing home here and there, but content feeling so at home here these days.

Recibe toda la gloria

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Doors

What a whirlwind November has been. I started a journal entry Nov 1, got interrupted after writing the first line, "I can't believe it's already November" and didn't have a chance to pick it back up until Nov 20th. That's ridiculous! But I've been enjoying myself, so I'm in no way complaining. Obviously I have many a story to catch up on, but that will likely have to wait a few days as I enjoy my weekend with report cards and other I teach an overwhelming amount of kids too many subjects kinds of things :) I had a really great day today, and decided I would just make time to write about it. Fridays are my e a s y days, but I am basically non-stop the rest of the week so the end of the week downtime always feels like such a treat. Of course there's generally a translation interruption, sometimes a class that needs covered and the occasional crier in search of hugs, but Fridays are nice.

These are all stories that will unfold later, but we've completed our first period, had a week of exams, a week of recuperation (best not to get me started on that concept ;) and are now starting new material while toiling away at paper grading, talking to parents, calculating averages, organizing ten weeks of work from 17 different classes to stuff into student's folders, compiling grades and comments from other teachers and carefully filling out all the report cards. It's hard to believe the first period is over, and sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I didn't teach so many students, but at this point I've connected with them all so much it will be tough to separate if a new teacher joins the fun! So my to-do list is a little long, but I know it's nothing I can't handle. To be honest, Monday I started getting a little stressed, but was able to convince myself that was just silly. Not too long after this personal pep-talk I found out I had to get both classroom doors decorated for Christmas during my downtime. Rather than asking, "What downtime?!?" I figured it would be easier for everyone if I just got to it. My issue isn't with the doors being decorated, because that's fun and gives the classroom a better feel, it was from the mountain of school related tasks, topped with the decorating I didn't feel I had time to complete. I love getting creative, and I felt like I didn't have time to give the doors the attention I'd like! Now it feels silly writing so much about doors, but I guess you'd have to be in my head. Anyway, it was a long week, graciously capped with a relieving Friday.

I tried hard to come up with cute ideas for each door, and worked on them little by little. Part of me feels bad for having a slightly crappy attitude about them in the beginning, because they turned out nicely and it really wasn't so bad. Mom's school sent lots of borders (thanks again guys, a post about your boxes really is coming!) so I had some cute edges to work with; from there I just had to decide on, you know, the actual door! A lot of the kids were crazy this week (darn those kids and their energy! What do you mean you don't want to talk about English grammar or what makes a long a long?), and my evenings have also been busy so I have to go ahead and admit I was in a bit of a funk for a few days. The fact that yesterday was Thanksgiving and I missed my family's annual reunion didn't help things very much. But I was so thrilled to be able to video chat with lots of the family--that cheered me up quite a bit. Who doesn't love technology? I went to school today knowing I'd finish the door for 2A, and believing I could get 2B all decorated as well. As a Friday treat, the kids were really fun, and that always leaves me smiling. A lot of the kids are improving on their weekly spelling tests, which is incredibly exciting! And in 2A we sang and danced while we colored etc during art class--what a blast! Some of the kids helped me decorate their door, and it was neat to see them hold a word up and try it out in different spaces before they found the perfect place to stick it. I don't spend much time with 2B on Fridays, but I did get to sing a little with them after their spelling test. Most of my breaks were busied with door stuff, but it was such a relief to ride home knowing they were done (and pretty cute!) and I could give the grading/report cards all of my focus for the weekend.

Tonight I am headed to a Thanksgiving dinner put on by the school so I'm looking forward to that. In fact, I need to scoot my boot! It's always fun to think about thankful lists, and this year I'm thankful for the lesson that there is something to appreciate in every situation, no matter how frustrating it seems at the time.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pen-pal Fun!

My kids are totally coming out of their shells! And I love it :) Mom offered her school up as a sort of buddy-system for the kids, so my second graders got all kinds of excited when I told them they got to write letters to second graders in the States. I told them all about how my mom is a teacher (and Lissie stated, "Ah, now I know why you wanted to be a teacher!" which melted my heart) and has friends who teach second grade and would love to be friends with my second graders! Some of them seemed annoyed at the idea of trying to write sentences, but the majority couldn't wait to get started. A few weeks ago a Barnabas team was here, and it seemed the perfect opportunity to start the pen-pal fun. Having such a family in the Barnabas team is such a blessing--they took my cards back to the States, Dad picked them up and Mom took them to school. It's a regular pony express!

So again, this was a few weeks ago, but we started the writing process in class, and for homework they were supposed to write a draft of their letter. A few of them were so excited they wrote cards for Mom too, which I thought was too cute for words. A few brought long translations of formal-sounding friendly letters, and the typed into the internet translations cracked me up. But hey, I have to give it to them for trying, right? Daniela made three envelopes out of neatly folding construction paper, glittery gel pens and Winnie the Pooh stickers; one for the student, one for the teacher and one for the mom of the miss. She also had some fancy online translated notes, and shared them with Samantha. I wonder what the students who receive their letters will think! Some of the kids were really stumped by what to say, but I tried my best to get their creativity flowing. There were the unfortunate few who wrote no more than hello and their name, which didn't leave me smiling. Cesar surprised me with a glittery card he'd made at home and a cute draft that talked about lasagna being his favorite food. He rarely has his English homework, and got a hug and high-five when he showed them off to me. Andrea, who devastatingly had not ever completed her English homework, came prepared with a great draft eager to get started. She's one who really touched me because she really struggles with English. Dear Amilcar, who's a total cutie and good with his English, typed up a few different notes but they were all in Spanish. He was so proud of them I couldn't get upset, and we sent a translation along with his cards. He had a card for a young lady (para alguien especial it said!), one for an amigo and one for the teacher. The makings of the next Breakfast Club, my boys of 2B who I'm certain I was given to learn to lessons in patience calm yet affective discipline, came prepared with nothing and shared Amilcar's notes. Obviously their grades for reflected their lack of preparation, but it was pretty neat to watch so many of the kids huddled around desks sharing markers and asking how their cards were coming together. For one reason or another 2B has been more of a problem class throughout the first quarter, but they really bloomed with this assignment. I'm not sure who's more excited about the idea of them creating penpals, them or me!

I had a good time getting them ready to send. Aunt Jane sent me down here with a fat bag of her fabric bags (thanks again Aunt Jane!) and I brought two in to store the cards from each class-- animals for 2A and care bears for 2B because I'm that good--and a lot of the teachers were very impressed with Aunt Jane's handiwork. They all wanted to know where'd I'd purchased my beautiful bags! When I got home that night I went through the cards to mark them in my gradebook, and add notes to any that needed translation or explanation. Some of them filled me with so much pride I added little notes about that too :) I sent a thank you note to the teachers and of course one for Mom, and now we wait! Every couple of days one of the kids will ask me about the cards, and I fear it will be a long waiting process for them. Mom received the cards, and it was exciting to give them that update, now we just have to wait for the kids on her end to get card-making happy--but they have things like SOLs so I understand that could take some time.

When I was in third grade I remember having a Ukranian pen pal, and as I think about it I'm wondering why we stopped writing and wishing we'd kept in touch. I know I always loved getting notes from her, so I'm stoked to get to share that with my kids. It makes me dream things like them keeping in touch as they grow in school and eventually visiting each other one day. How neat would that be? I've been having a little of my own pen pal fun with some girls back home (thanks again for writing, your cards always bring joy and excitement :) and I'm looking forward to "visiting" them sometime around July 2012!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The box that never ends...

A couple weeks ago I received a huge, heavy box at school. I have to travel to Santa Cruz to get any cards or packages, but this one came all kinds of fancy in a delivery truck right to school. Of course directions are tough here without street names, but I was able to pass my cell to Doña Estela who helped guide the delivery man through Peña. I was outside teaching PE (which I'm sure is quite the site...sometimes we just do some calisthenics so Miss Harris can get in some jumping jacks and/or push-ups :) when the dudes arrived, so my kids were all kinds of intrigued. The guy wanted proof I really am the person whose name was on the box, and that got a little dicey. I don't carry my passport to and from school, or my driver's license, so I literally had no form of ID. I asked a few of the teachers to please confirm my name for the nice man, but they were all Honduran and know me as Suzi!!! To be honest that part cracked me up, but this guy had been trying to get a hold of me all day so I felt bad. I forget what finally convinced him, but I think it was a mixture of my honest face, his patience finally wearing thin and/or how excitedly I answered all of his questions, "Yes I know Cristina Rugo! Yes this is my phone number! No I don't know where you can find the c/o person on the box, I just use his name to receive packages..." My kids were all so confused! Looks of "Who is this guy and why is he asking her so many questions, and why is her face so smiley?" littered their faces. He wheeled the big box into school, and had to get my picture with it to confirm my receipt. So formal! And thank goodness it was the last class of the day, because I couldn't wait to get home and see what on earth was packed into that box. 

It was literally the box that never ended! Big shout out to Cristina Rugo for all of her incredibly thoughtful hard work, and huge thank you to all the folks in her neighborhood for their overwhelming response to her call for supplies. I feel like I could type all night and not do this thing justice. It was like an office supply store exploded on my table. Along with a few items from the toy aisle, and some snacks :) and an overhead projector. An overhead projector! I still can't get over the abundance of classroom support that was crammed into this box. Looking at the pictures had me awestruck all over again. I'm sitting here trying to type all the contents, and I think you really just need the pictures. Maryann was standing by with a camera, and she couldn't stop laughing at all my, "Oh my goodness!" and "No way!" and "I can't believe she!" "Wow look at this!!!" " Ohhhh they're going to love this!" Then I got a little quiet, and she wanted to know what I'd found. I was at a loss for words for a few seconds as I extracted not one, not two, not three, but four bags of raw, delicious nuts and a BAG of dark chocolate bars. All from Trader Joe's. I felt so spoiled! And so stoked! Now let's see if I can make the snacks last a while...

hello lovers, it's been too long...

cruncher love :)
It's always exciting to get mail, especially being so far from home right now, but this box was about more than that. It was so full of pens, post-its, note pads, markers, kick balls (!!!), wall decorations, stickers (!!!), craft tools, idea books et al that I should able to support a few different ministries. It means so much that people would donate so many items to be sent to a stranger, and sweet Cristy (who I feel like I've known all my life even if it's only been a few months) would contribute so much and thoughtfully ship such a hefty package down south. The saying really is true that people come into your life for a reason, and I am ever grateful for teaching swim lessons this past summer. The box even held a love-note from Guilianna (Cristy's daughter) which was much appreciated. A lot of the supplies will be put to great use at school, but I am allocating some for local orphanages and schools who need a little extra support. I have been scouting around to see where the biggest needs are, and am going to try to share the wealth as best as possible!

Ever grateful for the support of friends and family back home, and ever blown away by the support of new friends and unknowns. Your kindness stretches for miles, and I'm sending some big hugs up north!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Silly memories

A couple Wednesdays ago I enjoyed a great day. I've since enjoyed great days mind you, but parts of that Wednesday really stuck out. After school I headed to Santa Cruz where not one but FOUR boxes were waiting for me, but that was just the icing on my already good day. [Before I get too carried away--shout out to my amazingly supportive family for sending so many supplies for school. Grumpy and his Sunday School spoiled us with a couple boxes, and my kids will be ever appreciative of the various school supplies, bulletin board decorations and fat stack of books! Mom and the staff of North Elementary--you spoil us, and we are ever thankful! How did a girl get so lucky?]

But before I get too far ahead, I have to give credit to my second graders. I had such a great day at school. I had to teach the first two periods to both classes, so I was floating between two classrooms for eighty minutes. This happens from time to time, and used to get me decently stressed. I've since learned to tough it out for 80 minutes and remind myself that I have the rest of the day to be appreciative of whomever is teaching in my other room. So on days like that it's just an accepted fact that the kids' behavior has a tendency to fall. They have way less attention than they deserve and are accustom, so of course they get a little crazy! I can normally get them roped back in once I have them solo, so it's only a little frustrating during those first eighty minutes. Well last Wednesday they were incredible! Maybe I'm learning how to be more interesting :) or maybe the kids are learning how to portarse mejor, but whatever it was I was an excited teacher. And I praised them endlessly for all their positive behavior. It's a special morning when you get to spend your time energetically presenting new material, praising excited participation and appreciating good behavior--it's extra special when you get to do all that on a morning when you could have been left feeling stretched too thin.

So the kids were great, and I am loving how much their participation seems to be improving day after day. There was a funny sequence of tumbles, and I couldn't help but jot them down. Dad has always said Grace should have been my middle name :) In the class before lunch I was with 2B, and all of a sudden sweet Samantha was on the floor behind her desk, seemingly near tears. I guess she thought her chair was closer than it turned out to be, and her legs scooted it too far back as she tried to sit down and...boom! Tumbletown. Luckily I was near her desk when it happened and could jump right into damage control. I think her tears were more out of embarrassment than anything else, but at first I was worried she was really hurt. The sweetest thing happened right after she fell--chivalry came alive in the classroom! I have this little guy Eric who is generally so distracted I feel like in his head he is anywhere but the classroom. His participation is almost nonexistent and he cuts up so much I sometimes wonder if he just loves to hear me call his name. In fairness to Eric, he is merely one of a few I've decided must have been given to me to help me learn lessons of patience. Well no sooner had Samantha fallen than Eric rushed over to make sure she was ok. It was adorable! He came over, helped her stand up, assured her she was going to be ok, helped her get her skirt straightened back out, brushed her off a little and helped her nestle back into her seat and under her desk. It was such a sweet moment I felt my eyes stinging with tears and had to talk myself out of starting to cry my joyful tears. Some people are just so emotional. But I was so proud of my Eric! I was sad Samantha fell and had gotten so upset, but it was nice to see Eric in a different light.

For lunch that day Maryann and I walked to the cafeteria. The weather was lovely so we chose a table on the front porchish area. When I went to sit down, I quickly found myself on my butt, skirt basically over my head completely confused as to what had happened. Maryann laughed that my first reaction was to sit up, fling my skirt down and smooth it back out while I frantically searched the yard for a student who'd spotted my panties. Yeah, so I thought my chair was closer to me than it was and I guess my legs pushed it back as I tried to sit down. I'm not really sure how it is possible, but somehow no one saw me skirt-up on the cement wondering what had gone wrong. The few students who happened to see the tumble looked at me a little confused, but I didn't suffer the uproarious laughter I feared. No tears like little Samantha, but it seemed I might have a little chivalry of my own. Diego from 2B had apparently seen what happened, and headed over to check things out. He looked like he was walking up to give me a feel-better hug, but instead leaned in to examine his glasses. He puts his glasses around my neck before each recess, and it's totally cute because he won't walk away until he's seen me put them around my neck--his parents must have him very worried about losing and/or damaging those things. He walked up, examined his lenses with a careful eye, gave me a nod of "thank goodness you didn't scratch them" approval and walked away, all without uttering a word. That had Maryann and I laughing even harder. We'd already had way too good a laugh about the tumble itself, but Diego sent us over the edge. I find it odd that Samantha and I both had random falls on the same afternoon, but love that both led to a cute story.

After the trip to Santa Cruz the rest of the afternoon and evening was filled with schoolwork--so much that I didn't give myself time to open my packages, I just got to work and left them as something to look forward to the next day. But I love days like that--the kids were cute, the excitement was high, learning was fun and surprises are always exciting!

Inside the O-R!

A few weekends ago I was blessed with a great experience. I had the privilege of being a part of an incredible mission, and I still feel so grateful. The Friends of Barnabas OMF surgical team came down, and I already shared about translating at the pre-op clinic on their first day. That weekend I rode with Melvin and Denia into Siguatapeque and spent the day translating at the hospital. Incredible! I enjoyed it so much I returned to translate Sunday, spent the night and translated again on Monday. The timing worked out swimmingly as it conveniently coincided with the school's observance of Día del Soldado (or de las Fuerzas Armadas, I got mixed responses to that question) and I had Monday free from classes. Staying the night away was exciting in itself, but I enjoyed getting to work with such a neat team. I had never been inside an operating room, so that was crazy. There's a picture floating around of me in full scrubs, including foot booties, funny hair bonnet and face mask, so keep an eye out for that.

I stopped by the Barnabas House Friday night to visit with Nancy, and it was the perfect start to an awesome weekend. Nancy's original plan was to head to Sigua Friday morning to be with the team, and I was honestly a little bummed I couldn't join her! Darn school and responsibilities :) After school I learned Nancy was unable to leave and likely wouldn't be going until Sunday, so I headed to the house to spend some time with her. She's so friendly I felt like I'd known her for years, but we'd only just met so I am glad we had some time to chat just us. We spent a few hours talking about life and experiences, and I had a great time sharing and connecting with her. It's really nice to realize my openness has a place down here. In the States I sometimes felt like I pushed the boundaries with how open I am, but here people seem to talk freely about almost anything. Nancy and I aren't Honduran of course, but when in Rome I guess. While I was at the House I coordinated a ride to Sigua for the morning, and was up bright and early to take in a new city. Melvin Martinez drove us out to the hospital, and drove a bus of post-op kids and their parents (mostly moms but a few papas) back to the Foundation for recovery. He returned at the end of the day with a bus full of the next day's surgeries, and took Denia and I back to Peña. What a busy day of driving back and forth for him! But it was so great getting to know him better on the rides, so I'm glad he's so willing to work. We chatted some about the Bible, and he talked about a few of the books I should read. He told me snippets of stories from them, suggested I read them as tarea (homework) and I told him I'd let him know if I had any questions. [As an aside, of course I had questions, and it's a neat experience to be learning so much. Melvin is a dear, sweet man, and I look forward to getting to know he and his family better. I'm going to start some English lessons with the staff come the new year, so that's exciting too!]
Denia scopes out the sanitized equipment.
Denia and I were the first to arrive, so we checked on the previous day's patients, made sure all the parents were hanging in there and greeted the nurses. Everyone at the hospital was so friendly. The woman in charge ended up chatting with us for a long while. The hospital is mission funded and set back off a long dirt road. It shares property with a bilingual school and orphanage, both projects in the beginning stages but headed towards something spectacular. We talked school for a while, and it was neat to hear about another bilingual school. We exchanged emails to swap ideas and resources over the next year. I think she said the school goes up to third grade right now, and that their current plan is to add a grade a year--it's cute to think of the school growing with its students. Their plan for the orphanage is pretty fantastic. The goal is to have somewhere between six and twelve homes for children (it was a long weekend, so I'm having trouble remembering the numbers perfectly...) with a loving couple living in each. They also intend to have a home for widows on the property, and the children will come to know the widows as grandparents. My eyes got misty when I heard people talking about it. I've never thought of establishing a program like that, but it seems so perfect when you think about it. That way no one has to feel alone, and everyone gets to experience a sense of purpose of sorts. I find something very poetic about having a home for youth and a home for elderly sharing land and becoming family. It has me wondering if anything like that exists in the States, and if not I wonder what it would take to make it happen.

Before I knew it the team was arriving (with a yummy breakfast for us from the restaurant at their hotel!) and I was changing into scrubs. It felt so surreal being surrounded by all the surgeons and getting pulled to translate for parents/families/nurses about all sorts things that come along with surgery. It was neat talking to some of the same parents I'd met on Wednesday and getting to see the kids again. I think the coolest part by far was the look on a parent's face when they saw their baby for the first time post-op. For some of the kids this was their second, third or fourth surgery, and for others it was the first of many. Parents of the first-timers had the most staggering reactions, as most of them at first couldn't do much but hold their babies with a steady stream of tears running down. The look on their faces when they saw their babies with upper lips para la primera vez was just incredible.

The kids and their families were so brave, and I had the chance to translate some pretty powerful moments. I found the pre-op interview with the anesthesiologist interesting, but comforting the kids/parents was probably my favorite part of translating. Giving the comforting hug, or chineando (holding) the babies who were having a hard time made me so grateful for my ever-developing spanish ability. Chet, one of the anesthesiologists, gave me the neatest task. With the older kids he talked to them about blowing up a balloon while they had the mask on to inhale the initial anesthesia, and he asked me to translate. It was so neat to get face to face with these kids in the operating room, and encourage them while they huff and puff and try to inflate this green 'balloon' preparing for surgery. One of my little guys was wearing a bracelet he'd made, and the knot came untied as he was laying back on the table. We collected each little bead and tucked them securely into the pocket of my scrub top (have I talked about how comfortable the scrubs were?). I told him I'd hang on to the beads until after his surgery, and his mom received a restrung bracelet to give him once he calmed down after surgery. I was pretty proud of myself for how well I handled being inside the OR. The first day I was so nervous, and only went in for a few minutes, but I warmed up to it as the weekend went on. Monday I stared down into the inside of a kid's mouth while two oral surgeons went to work. Crazy stuff!

Confession--there were so many incredible moments throughout the weekend, and I'm having a hard time getting them all coherent or organized, and deciding which ones I might not really need to type. Let me see if I can break it down to a few highlights. This brigada was made of some pretty awesome people, and I am so happy to have met them. A lot of them are from Virginia, so we said we'd have to keep in touch over the next year. They had a neat element to the team--an art room! Artists travel with them and bring an unimaginable amount of art supplies. They had different project ideas every day, but the kids (and parents!) basically got to do whatever their hearts desired. It was such a neat space. They hung the kids' artwork around the walls and down the hallway which made for an uplifting addition to the hospital walls. It was so special to watch the families spend time together around the art tables. You could really witness the healing powers of creative outlets. How neat to turn a waiting room into a creative haven. On the last day they spoiled me with two fat bags of art supplies, which was unexpected and greatly appreciated. Two of the patients had to have hip grafts, which led to some painful recovery. They weren't allowed to go back to the Barnabas House until they could walk around, which seemed to be a hard task. Getting to hold sweet Yessi's hands while she took her first pained steps trying to get discharged was so special. Her tiny hands squeezed mine so tight as we set off to walk around the hospital. The first place she wanted to go was outside, and seemed to come alive when the fresh air brushed her face.

When Keysi went back for surgery she was a mess of tears. It was something around her fourth surgery, and hopefully her last, but she was all worked up and that got her mom all kinds of worked up. Not long after they took her back I noticed her mom in this dark, secluded part of the hospital sitting in a cry so hard she was rocking. Me being me I couldn't not go into that room, and the moment we shared will remain in my heart forever. I've never been known for poetic prayer, but I knelt and prayed with her. She cried about her fear for the surgery, and let out some pleading prayers as she explained to me how worried she was, and how much she hoped God wouldn't abandon her at that moment--at first I thought that was a harsh word to use, but she was praying from the heart. Something about her words really struck me. She was so genuine. So honest and open with a stranger, and even though she was (of course) worried, she was so trusting of this team of surgeons. A few of the surgeons are veterans on the OMF team, and talked about how great it has been getting to see some of the kids as they grow year after year. Keysi is one they know pretty well, so Mom knew she was in good hands.

Monday Dr. Wang (Nick) and Chanan (one of the artists, and she lives in DC!) came back with us to Peña while the rest of the group headed off for some shopping around Sigua. Nick wanted to follow-up with the patients, and Chanan wanted a little more time with Yessi. They really bonded while she was at the hospital, and I'm hoping Chanan will come back and visit us sometime over the next year. Jose and I gave them a tour of the Foundation which brought back SO many memories from my trip in March. There's such a special energy around that place. It was a great weekend for so many reasons: bonding with a team of kind hearts from the States, cultivating a friendship with Nancy, developing a relationship with Melvin Martinez, Denia and some of the other staff at the house. It is going to be such a special year.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

La Roca

It must be catch up day, because I'm back to a story from the end of September! I was just venting today that I wish I had more time for journaling. I'm of course the only one who gets to decide if and when I make time time for journaling, so I decided to make time tonight. This post starts to touch on something I've been trying to figure out for weeks. I came into this trip understanding it would likely be a transformational year, but I am realizing I had no idea just how transformational. Something is happening within my spirit, and sometimes it can be a little overwhelming, but mostly I'm enjoying the discovery process. If you have no interest in my spiritual awakenings, please feel free to skip posts like these... At first I was so embarrassed to open up about it, feeling ashamed as a missionary teacher at this christian school and gaining so many spiritual questions, but then I decided to get over myself because that's just silly. It's never too late to learn, right?

There was a night (Saturday 9/24 to be exact--it moved me so much I wrote it down!) that really got me all stirred up. I've gotten pretty friendly with a few of my students' families, and Eric in 2A's parents bring him to school everyday so I chat with them regularly. At first I was a little intimidated by them, especially because their son is incredibly intelligent and I couldn't shake this fear of stunting his education (silly, I know :) but we've bonded a little and they're very nice. Raul (Papa Eric) asked me what I like to do on the weekends, and gave an open invitation to their church if I ever wanted to check it out. I've been feeling this strange spiritual pull since I've been down here, and of course some indescribable spiritual something guided me back to Honduras, so I've been pretty interested in experiencing different churches while I'm here. Their church, Iglesia Cristiana Roca de Salvación, is on Javier and Kerem's street so I asked them if they knew anything about it. Come to find out they're incredibly close with the pastor, and they were singing there that Saturday!

I spent a quiet afternoon at their place with laundry and schoolwork while they spent the day at a sort of kids retreat at a nearby camp. They returned home in awe of the day they'd had, but completely exhausted. They take care of five kids, work at the school and give so much spiritual support around the area I'm honestly not sure how they do it sometimes. It's fair to say I'm in awe of them. They really live their lives to glorify God. Anyway, they rushed home with barely enough time to shower, change and quickly eat before they had to head to church to get ready to sing. I remember feeling so bad for them while we were walking to church, and wishing they didn't 'have' to sing at church that night. Once again, silly girl, because they weren't thinking that way at all. They took on a whole new energy as soon as we walked into the church. Matter of fact, I even took on a whole new energy. I've been back to la Roca a few times, and there is definitely something in the air there. It's like my spirit comes to life.

The church service was different from any I'd ever experienced. There was a big stage with a few singers, a keyboard, guitar, bass and drummer, and a big open room filled with chairs and neighborly smiles. Upon entering I was filled with this energy and a real sense of community. Community is a quality I've noticed down here, and something I really appreciate about their culture. Absolutely on my list of things I hope to bring back to the States. It seemed most of the congregation walked to church, and it was neat to see smiling families arriving together. Speaking of smiles--so many strangers greeted me with big, friendly smiles, handshakes and bendiciones before walking to their seats. As people walked in, they politely worked their way around the church shaking hands, kissing cheeks, asking after families and wishing bendiciones a todos. It spread a comforting welcome over something so unknown for me. And I don't mean unknown because it was church, not at all, I've been to many a church service, but this one was in a different language and the thought that it was filled with a congregation I'd never met had me a little anxious. It was fun watching the band/choir get all warmed up. They tuned their instruments with care, and slowed to help each other find the right key and pace--I remember smiling watching the drummer fight to get his beat just right for one of the pieces they were polishing. When I say Kerem and Javier took on a whole new energy I'm not being hyperbolic. They sprang to life on that stage, and their joy radiated throughout the congregation. We passed more than an hour sharing in alabanzas (praise songs) and prayer. It was incredible. Through their heartfelt singing, youthful spring-footed dancing and pauses for prayers full of gratitude they really enabled people to celebrate God. I have to give Mom credit for the celebration reference, because as I was trying to describe the experience she excitedly commented that it was like celebrating God. Well I happened to like that description! That's exactly what it was like. And each time they stopped to pray it helped prepare me more and more for the sermon that would follow.

I'm of course no preacher, so I won't be going into the sermon, but it really spoke to me. And I really appreciated how much of the congregation seemed to want to be there. You could tell that they weren't there to fulfill the duties of a Sunday Christian (in fact, it was a Saturday!) but rather to receive some spiritual nourishment and share that joy with their community. It started to rain towards the end, and we've already talked about how hard and fast the rain can come on, so church just went on a little longer that night! It was neat because during one of the last songs they thought we'd sing it was still raining so hard, so they said the rain wasn't stopping so we didn't have to stop either and we sang a few more songs! The songs were full of so much life and spirit, and they even through in a verse of "Open the Eyes of My Heart" in English. The song is really pretty in Spanish too, so I was glad they sang it. I'm learning some new songs, which is great, but sometimes they get stuck in my head and I feel bad for my sweet little students (I tend to quietly sing random lines around the classroom). There were these danzas that had rhythmic movements with twirly ribboned tambourines to accompany some of the songs. Their flowy, colorful outfits added something special to the service. They wear solid white or black and then have these vibrantly colored sheer sort of drapes, and the way their arms flow with the music is pretty moving. At the end of the service the younger girls stood near the danzas trying to mimic their motions, which just melted my heart.

As I mentioned before, this wasn't my only visit to the church, and I really like it there. At first I was a little spooked how eerliy scripture kept coming to me, but I now find myself intrigued and hungry for more. I'm learning a lot from Lisa, Javier and Kerem, even Melvin Martinez with Bernabé, and the biggest lesson I've gotten from each of them is that it's ok to be so sort of new to this, and feel like such a toddler. I've met so many people who have made me realize really good people do still exist in this world. I've also met so many "believers" who have shed such an interesting light on faith. I'm full of questions, but learning more everyday. It's neat to appreciate that I'm not just here to teach my students, I'm here to learn what Honduras can teach me, and feeling blessed in realizing that someone is looking out for me.

A Heartfelt Visit

In the end of September I got to visit with the youngest heart surgery patients I'd ever--well, I don't spend much time with surgical patients in general, but these were just little kiddies! Barnbabas has a few surgical teams who come down throughout the year, and the patients (always children anywhere from however many months-18yrs) stay at the Foundation pre and post surgery. I walked to the Foundation after school one Friday afternoon and spent a lovely couple of hours with the children and their parents. The staff was fun too, of course :) The 'heart team' operated out of San Pedro Sula, so they spent their nights in a hotel near the hospital, but two nurses spent a few nights here in town so they could pull night-duty watching some of the post-op kiddos. It was great to meet the girls (both from Colorado, both incredibly awesome but the introductions were completely informal and I can't remember their names--sorry!) but I was bummed I couldn't meet the whole team! Mama Joe (Jackie, wife of Papa Joe who has become quite the supporter of my mission) was traveling with the team, but I'll have to meet her another time!

Every now and then I had to remind myself that the kids were freshly operated on and in recovery. They were so full of energy playing with play dough and excitedly chatting. The parents seemed so moved by their children's new-found energy. I don't know a lot about holes in hearts, but the nurses were explaining that becuase of the lack of proper blood supply, these kids run steadily low on energy. The first change parents get to experience in their little ones is a new zest for life, and it happens pretty soon after surgery! One little girl had all sorts of energy and took me for a little walk around the property. She walked me down to the swing set, and wanted me to help her swing for a bit. Who doesn't love a swing set? Some of you might be making bug-eyed faces, but nothing of a safety risk crossed my mind before I plopped her into the swing and gave her some pushes. In my defense, I asked before taking her for a walk and the only warning I received was not to pick her up under the armpits--easy enough. So I'm pushing her (gently of course, I'm not that crazy) she's laughing and I'm enjoying my mountain view (something about the view from the Foundation is so breathtaking. I don't know if it's the way the house is set-back or what, but the mountains really pop) when I catch a glimpse of Doctora's stern face. She wiggled her finger at me, slowly, and I blushed and slid my girl off the swing. Doctora wasn't upset at all, and just explained that we couldn't risk any chances to fall forward onto her wound (duh!!!) but I have to admit I was a little embarrassed not to have come to that conclusion on my own.

I got to translate a little between the nurses, and it's always nice to be able to do that. Denia and Delilah were funny talking with the girls from the heart team (I really need to ask around to figure out their was Jennifer, and maybe the other was Nicole? Or Nathaly? Dang I really have no idea) because a lot of the translation was taken care of with body language--it's a wonder how much you can convey with hand movements and facial expressions. We spent a while talking about malnutrition, young pregnancies, high cases of birth defects and how the foundation's trying to improve that situation. It seems to be something Delilah is pretty passionate about, and I loved getting to talk to her about something she cared so much about. It is really neat to have the opportunity to connect with so many new people in such a deep way. Delilah enlighted me a lot on the culture of the "indigenous" as she called them, the people who live up into the mountains, and how the girls get married young and you have babies having babies not knowing how to properly care for themselves let alone their niños. At first the conversational was making my heart feel so heavy, but then we got to talk about how hard our Amigos de Bernabé are working to educate on these and many other health topics. They hold different classes throughout the year, and have started giving a sort of sex-ed class once patients seem age-appropriate and open to the advice. I told her I'd love to help any way I could, and am looking forward to seeing how those opportunities unfold. It is really nice to be able to be a part of a foundation with such a big heart.

Market Medicine

Oh that Doris...she never ceases to amaze me. She is like my mom, or better to use big sister, down here. The spark for this post happened well over a month ago now, but she and her husband Marvin have become very important people in my life. There was a brief stretch of days when I did not feel very well. My head ached, my stomach ached and I basically ached all over--I also felt void of any and all energy, which makes 49 second graders even more of a handful! Walks to and through market are generally so therapeutic for me, but on days like those when I really just felt like being pampered I did not look forward to walking to town to shop. I of course couldn't go without food (I'm still me!!!) so I bucked up and heading to my favorite vendors. I tell you what--it turned out to be one of the best afternoons I've had since I moved here. Doris' stand was relatively slow, and she could tell something was off about me. I think I was just adjusting (slowly :) to the climate and all the changes of my new environment...particularly my changes in diet, and how much I've come to enjoy desserts. She grabbed a stool for me, and in what felt like minutes we'd chatted over an hour. We talked about her marriage, the kids and all sorts of family stuff; then we talked about my life in the States, what I used to do for work and how great my friends and family are.

We got to talking about natural medicine and I think that's when we took our relationship to a new level. She knows SO much about her produce! She pointed around the stand and started telling me the benefits of different ingredients, and even added preparation suggestions. I love the way she describes cooking because she doesn't just use hand motions, her hand motions come along with these adorable sound effects that leave me ready to run to the kitchen. We've talked about getting together to cook, but our schedules haven't worked out for it yet. I guess we have a few more months before I leave ;) But while I was there she showed me a few powders I'd never noticed before. Linaza molida is said to be good for issues with the digestive organs, helps expel any toxic bacteria and I'm pretty sure I read that it helps regulate alkaline levels. No one wants an acidic cuerpo! Weeks later I've come to discover linaza molida is milled flaxseed. It really seemed to help. I'd mix a few spoonfuls with some water each morning and night, and while it didn't taste awesome it wasn't
too offensive. Look it up! As a vane aside, linaza entera (whole seeds, not milled) soaked in water makes a good hair product to run through the tresses before you leave for the day. I of course still have crazy mind of its own hair, but sometimes I think it's a little shinier than it used to be :with was also introduced to and purchased ground alpiste (canary seed) which has done wonders. I feel a little ashamed because I've sort of shirked off on my daily intake, but I know I need to get back at it. Alpiste helps with all sorts of things, but the thing that piqued the most interest was its anti-inflammatory abilities. I'm not sure I can put into type how exciting it was to from-the-earth health talk for a while. Not only are the powders really beneficial, they're also cheap! And alpiste mixed with a little water doubles as a wonderful face mask. My blackheads thank you!

I wish I could capture the genuine care and amistad Doris shares with me. Just about every time I stop into their stand she has something to show me--it actually has me wanting to start a new list of new discoveries of nature's wonders. That day in particular she showed me a few herbs, and suggested I boil them into teas. I didn't recognize them at first, but she gave me some romero (rosemary) and said it was good for dolores. She gave me a few baggies of anise as well and said it would help my tummy. As we were chatting she offered me some coffee, and it was such a treat to sit and sip a small cup of coffee and hold such an interesting conversation all in Spanish. I came to her stand feeling worn down and a little needy for the comforts of home, but I left with a sense of tranquility and comfort. Early the following week I had a similar experience with Marvin--well, minus most of the healing with food stuff, but lots of talk of life and family. Once again an hour passed before I blinked, and I'm so grateful for the moments of bonding time with my new friends. I've come to appreciate them as family, and love the sense of comfort I feel when I'm around them.

Moral of my story? Keep your ears open and your conversation pure and true. I could have brushed off how I was feeling to Doris and rushed back home. I also could have avoided the market altogether and eaten something like rice, cookies and/or an orange or two I picked in the yard. I walked into market with such a strange sense about me, but I walked home that day filled with gratitude for so many things.

I've since come to learn that manzanilla (chamomile) is good for digestion, and the dried flowers make a tasty nighttime tea. Doris really does spoil me, because I've walked home with a few regalitos de manzanilla. She swears oregano boiled into a tea is great for things like cramps and bloating, but I haven't taken her up on any of that yet. I find it so interesting to learn these hidden abilities of everyday herbs, and of course I'm eager to learn more!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Friday was...well it was an interesting day at school. One of those days with experiences that make you look for the lessons and move on as quickly and painlessly as possible... But I was blessed with a great afternoon, evening and night so that's all that matters at the end of the day! It was a longer youth group than normal, but it was a great meeting. Lots of questions that led to discussions and sharing, and I'm always intrigued at how patiently the speakers of each language wait for translation, and how much everyone understands before the translation is finished. I'm so fascinated by language and all its inner-workings, but I'm not ready to dive into all that. Right now I just want to toss around the idea of coincidences. I don't actually believe in coincidences, but I truly believe everything happens for a reason. But I get blown away when would-be coincidences present themselves at just the right time. I've mentioned before that lessons come when you're ready to receive them, and that it's important to be open and ready for anything, but I've had so many ah-ha moments here. Those times that make you just nod your head and think, "Mmhmm, I get it, I'm getting there..."

I don't spend much time in Alan's classroom (mostly because I'm busy spending so much time in my classrooms :) but I was in there for a bit after school Friday. I noticed a poster with a scripture quote that really caught my eye, so I grabbed a cuadernito I carry around and scribbled it down. Later Maryann, Kerem and I got to talking about scripture and they were helping me understand different parts of the Bible a little better. We were talking about differences in the way acclaimed Christians carry themselves, and how the only thing that really matters at the end is whether or not you've lived your life for Christ, and that that can be a tough concept for some people. They referenced a few books and verses from the Bible, and it sort of got me excited to do a little research later. Color me blown away when we started talking about the same exact topics that night at youth group. Unreal. Of all the books, chapters and verses of the Bible. And it led to so much discussion, I was literally thrilled to have the opportunity to dig deeper into a topic that captivated so much of my attention. We've been studying Efesios (Ephesians) and Logk referenced Gálatas (Galatians) and Apocalipsis (Revelation) during Friday's discussion. In talking with Maryann and Kerem they also made mention of something from Gálatas, so my interest was all kinds of piqued. Would you believe the quote I wrote from Alan's poster was from the same above referenced chapter in Gálatas? I find something about that so neat. I love when things like that happen.

Gálatas 5: 22-23
"Mas el Espíritu es amor, gozo, paz, paciencia, benignidad, bondad, fe, mansedumbre, templanza; contra tales cosas no hay ley."
Galatians 5: 22-23
"...the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

A lot of this talk of scripture exploration might not make sense right now, but it's on my list to put out an entry about my spiritual cultivation, and how much I'm learning here. That's just a deeper topic that requires a little more thought and concentration, something I often find myself lacking at the end of the day. I seem to be hearing scripture at just the time I need it, and feel like lessons and support from the Bible have almost been following me around, cuidandome. Waiting for when I'm ready for them or something. I have so much to learn, but I'm ever appreciative of the little reminders (crazy would be coincidences like freakily linked scripture references and discussions) that I have support to help me through the lessons I've yet to learn.

Purple (or blue) Tortillas!

Armando, my new favorite Mexican, gave me the sweetest gift last week. I should start by saying last Monday and Tuesday were the kind of days that were really great all day long for absolutely no reason. Nothing too superduper happened, and plenty of potentially irritating things happened, but my kids had me laughing and my mood stayed light-hearted all day long. I was making my usual pass through town, and stopped into the Mexican's for eggs. I'd been the day before and he was out which I told him was simply unacceptable ;) When I was in the day prior I noticed the prettiest corn hung in the back to dry. You know that crazy-colored corn used to decorate Thanksgiving tables across the States? Some richly purple ears were hanging at the market, and I noticed a few deeply red ears as well. I got so excited thinking of all the beautiful creations I could make with such vibrant corn. Armando and I got to talking about the colored corn and he spread my face with a smile when he confirmed that people do in fact make tortillas with the decorative kernels. Not having a molino has the potential to stunt my tortilla making abilities, but where there's a will... I've been asking around the neighborhood if anyone rents use of theirs, but so far the answer seems to be negative. Armando said his friend (maybe Linda's sister?) could make me a masa when they go to make their next batch, and that got me all excited. He said she'd probably make some at the end of the week, so I was looking forward to a weekend of colorful tortillas.

Oh Armando---when I walked in Tuesday he seemed more excited than normal to see me, and he walked to the fridge saying he had a surprise for me. His surprise was a fat stack of beautifully lavender/almost blue corn tortillas made by the gentle hands of his loving mother. He wouldn't let me pay for a single one, and sent me home with the bag full. They take such good care of me here--and the tortillas were ridiculously good!!! Not only were they incredibly tasty, but each time I enjoyed one I couldn't help but smile at the thoughtfulness of such a kind gift. He and Linda have taken good care of me ever since I arrived, and I'm very grateful I met them so soon into the trip. Linda and I have talked a few times about how I had been wanting to learn to make tortillas, and I wanted to make the real tortillas from masa and by hand. None of that maseca crap, and I had to first learn without a press. We discussed that I of course needed to learn before I headed back to the States, and she said I'd be a soltera until I learned. She also warned that once I had the hang of making them I'd marry a Honduran and change my travel plans at the end of the summer. I always appreciate life advice, and have to admit I'm now a little shy when it comes to bragging about my newly developed tortilla making skills :)

I wish I had gotten a good picture because they really were pretty. And delicious. But next time I want to help make them. And now I just need to figure out how to thank them for the tasty tortillas!

Doña Tina and her Baleadas

Let's start with a description of the baleada. Flour tortilla, half-moon painted with frijoles and filled with a little bit of love. It is purchaser's choice exactly what kind of love, but that's where things get fun. There's the sencilla of beans, quesillo y mantequilla. In school we learn that mantequilla is butter, but here it is a sour cream type substance. From there you can add chimol, eggs, chicken and some places have things like chorizo and carne as options. They're really cheap with the sencillas starting at 8lps (less than 50cents) and of course super quick. You can find them just about anywhere, but there are these women who emerge after the sun goes down. As store owners lower their doors, these women start wheeling out their grills and setting up some tables. The tables are decorated with jar of pickled vegetables, and their hands get busy patting tortillas. Lisa and Gordon introduced us to Doña Tina, and they visit her pretty regularly. She's also known as the "taco lady" because she makes these ridiculous tacos. She has this salsa that could make your knees melt, and she's offered to make me a jar if I bring her a container! It's a mix of avocado, culantro, chile and a little salt and vinegar--seriously tasty stuff. It's fun sitting outside chatting with friends and getting to know Tina and her entourage. She always has a few different people helping her, and they vary from outgoing and friendly, to quiet and staring at the hungry gringos. 

The first few times I visited Doña Tina I enjoyed a couple sencillas without any of that cheese or mantequilla, but with plenty of chimol, salsa and little heap of pickled veggies. Sometimes she has cabbage that's pickled in a brilliantly pink beet juice, and sometimes it's a mix of cauli, carrots, onions and chiles pickled in a yellowish mixture, but it's always good. So baleadas are incredibly tasty and convenient, but I like corn tortillas so much more than flour. Luckily for my tummy Doña Tina is a culinary miracle worker, and she makes a special plate for me now. We're calling them burritas, and I'm craving some just typing about them. She serves me up a plate of two double-stacked soft, warm corn tortillas, topped with a heap of beans, chimol and salsa. At first glance I was bewildered by the second tortilla, but found the perfect use for it as soon as I lifted my first burrita. It was so full of yum there was no real way to eat it without some of the filling falling out. Normally I'd just grab a fork to clean my plate at the end of the meal, but why waste a fork when you have a spare tortilla to use as a little burrita drop-cloth? The beauty of this discovery is that a plate of two burritas transforms itself into a filling plate of four burritas. Meal-time magic :)

I'm already working out an organic, gluten-free version of baleadas I'll recreate in the States, so I guess now I just need to find a store front and an easily-carried grill. 

Una Carta!!!

September 23rd I received my first card! And of course it has taken me a month to get this written. I've since received some mail when Barnabas teams arrive, but this card came through Honduran mail!!! The mail comes to a place in Santa Cruz which I think is about an hour from me. That Aunt Di she spoils me :) We were getting home from Friday night's youth group and Irene said some mail came, and that it was waiting in my room for me. Apparently she'd been to Santa Cruz with Chris and Maria for the evening, and they popped by the post office to see if anything had arrive. I mean to tell you I practically ran back to my bedroom to see what had arrived.

The stationery was so stinking cute. And I was so stoked to see friendly handwriting, and let myself get lost in the thoughtful words of family I'm missing so much. Receiving the cards from the Barnabas teams has been cool too. It's so odd not having an address, but I almost don't even notice at this point. I love being able to email and catch up that way, but there's something so special about getting the hand written cartitas de amor.