Monday, August 3, 2009

Final Email

Our Trip is Concluded

Back in the States. I'm pretty sure I've got some reverse culture shock. I miss the kids, I miss life in the DR. It is good to see my family though and it does feel like it's time to be back. Here's a recap of our last few days:

Friday we went to the village for what we thought we be the last time. We spent a good three hours there but left feeling like we could've stayed longer. We got to pray for one of my kid's moms who was sick, that was cool. We also got to spend a lot of time with one of the teachers who lives there. That night, all the female teachers came over to our house for hotdogs, they chose the food ; ) Later on we made brownies together. We also had mangoes which were as big as my face, not kidding. It was fun to be with the teachers and laugh and play games together, a nice way to say goodbye. One of them invited us to her house for lunch the next day in the village,

so Saturday we returned once more for a beautiful lunch. She gave us each cards that some of the teachers made the night before. Each had a beautiful drawing on the front with our name, and then a message inside. It was really thoughtful and we were all surprised and touched. We had our last dinner together as a team before the other interns came on Saturday night, and it was kind of sad. We did some of our reentry worksheets and talked about things we learned about U.S. culture and DR culture and the good and bad of each and what good parts do we want to bring with us.

Something unexpected, I woke up with a sore throat on Saturday, which grew progressively worse to a full blown sinus infection, so for me the rest of the trip is a bit blurry. Sunday night the other twenty or so Kids Alive interns were with us at our house, we had dinner together and then went around and shared by site the things that were really great/really hard about the summer and what our plans are for afterwards. It was cool to hear the stories from the other sites and how interns and the kids had changed.

Monday everybody headed out to Caraballo to look at the site (not me) and then we said goodbye to our Dominican housemates and headed to Sosua by the Sea, a resort, where we spent the last night. It was the beginning of culture shock to stay in the resort because there was a/c, electricity, down comforters on the beds!! Also, we could go get banana mamas any time we wanted (like a strawberry smoothie). Alberto and Lidia stopped by to say goodbye to us and offer some final words of wisdom. We love their family so much and they've been such a huge part of our trip; it was hard to say goodbye to them.

Tuesday about 13 of us interns drove down to Santiago and just caught our flight to Miami. We had a long wait at customs and then dispersed to our various connecting flights. Rachel K and I got to see Rachel J off to San Francisco, then, Rachel K and I realized that her flight was actually leaving five minutes after Rachel J's flight, so we speed walked almost the entire D terminal, she got on her plane to Chicago and I met up with a couple other interns who were left. We talked for a while and told stories and shared pictures of some of our kids until each of our flights.

This was an amazing summer and one I will never forget. Many thanks for reading these emails and praying for us and coming on the trip with us. This is probably the coolest experience of my life so far, and I'm very happy to share it ; )

Dios les bendiga (God bless you),
much love,
Sarah and Co.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Week Six Update

The Final Countdown

It´s so strange to think of leaving in 5 days! School ended yesterday, and we have a few days to process before the other Kids Alive interns join us here in Montellano for two days of fellowship and wrap up before we head to the airport on Tuesday. I´m glad for the time to transition.

Yesterday at school was great. We started a little bit later than usual and set up the dining hall like an auditorium. There was a mini stage and the band from the church we´ve been going to. The kids all got juice and little cupcakes in their classrooms and then headed to the auditorium for some praise and worship, each of the class presentations, review of the story of Moses and the Israelites that they all learned in class, and prayer. Some of the class presentations were hilarious. For example, when Rachel K´s class acted out the story of Jim Elliot, all the kids laughed when Jim and Elisabeth got married and it was two of their peers, and when David was going to win Michal in the story of David and Goliath, more laughter. Dominicans love stuff like this, the romance stuff. And it is really funny with first graders. My fifth graders did the poem really well, they all wore white shirts and jeans and were beautiful. They surprised us by calling each of us onto the stage and having our teaching teams present us with a little present and say how much they loved having us here-- that was the part when I teared up. It was a really good last day. Sad to say goodbye to the kids, but a good celebration of the summer.

Saturday night we went to the wedding of two of the teachers at the school. All the staff came to our house and we stuffed about 20 people dressed in their finest into the van without a/c to drive to the church, the location of which no one was quite sure of. The bride was late, the groom was nervous, both wore all white. The groom had these great white leather shoes... The church was totally packed out, standing room only, people were outside the church. When they said their vows, the minister made them say it loud so that everyone could hear, and they both said ´´Si señor!´´ Yes sir! The groom couldn´t decide if he was going to kiss her or not at the end, but the crowd was chanting ´´beso, beso, beso´´ so he didn´t really have a choice. It was a beautiful wedding. I liked the interactive audience, it made it fun.

We´ve gotten a lot of really good people time this week. Ariel (husband of one of the American missionaries who normally is here, but has had to take some time to be in the states because of health) took us to the beach this weekend. Sunday and Tuesday night, Rachel K played her violin at church and the people loved it! She played songs that she knew they would recognize, and they sang along. They were so blessed by her playing. This week we also got to take out Lydia and Alberto and their family as a way of saying thanks for everything. We´re always amazed by them-- their wisdom. We got up to the village again and I played chanchi (a card game) with my fifth grade girls. Last night, we had two of the teachers over to our house and made pizzadillas together, played mancala, and Rachel K taught them a little how to play the violin. We´ve also had a great time as a team the past week, we´re happy to be together. We´ll go to the village tomorrow and say some more goodbyes to the kids and have all the female teachers to our house tomorrow night. They want to eat hotdogs!

Not many stories this week, but it´s been really full and good. The trip is wrapping up well. I´ll send another email when we´re home about the next few days and our trip home.
Thanks for thinking of us,
with love,
Sarah and Co.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Week Five

Twelve Days and Felipe the Fish

We only have twelve days left. Our flight is on the twelth day. Only two and a half days of class. Tomorrow is the last Oansa/Awana. Into all this we will fit a wedding, a beach day, a party with the girl teachers at our house, the final program on the last day of school, saying goodbye, and the last two days with all the other summer interns. I cannot believe that I´m going to leave.

Friday night we said goodbye to the work team that we grew to love while they were here and got on the bus on the windy mountain road to Jarabacoa. For the first time in this country I wished I had a jacket or a long sleeve shirt. The mountains feel cold compared to where we live. The night we got to see the other two interns from Wheaton who we had had orientation with all last semester. They arrived about a week prior to our visit and we got to tell them about how our time had been and hear their stories too. So good to see them.

Saturday we drove to the capital, toured the first cathedral in the new world, Fortaleza Ozama, and Diego Colombus´ house. This was our tourist time, we hadn´t really had any up to this point, so everyone had out their cameras. It felt like last summer in England to me, cathedrals and castles. However, this was definitely a Dominican experience because the lecture about the cathedral was about five minutes instead of 45. It was great. We also did a little tourist shopping. It was nice to see the other interns and to sleep with a fleece blanket in Jarabacoa. In Montellano, I use a sheet, and neither of the Rachels uses any blanket at all. Sunday we caught two buses back to Montellano. The team had already left, and our Dominican housemates came back later in the afternoon.

This week is a blur. My two favorite parts:
We got to go to the village on Tuesday afternoon for an hour and a half of so. We went with three of my fifth grade girls instead of one of the teachers. I got to go to their houses and meet their moms and siblings and I could tell it meant a lot to them that I was there. They all live close together, so we went from house to house, sat down for a while in each one, went to the next. We went to the house of one of the more difficult girls first. She just sat on the couch looking bashful and happy and when we walked to the next house she and I walked together. I put my arm around her and talked with her, it was a great moment of building trust and rapport with her, letting her know that I liked her. Sometimes it´s hard to convey that in the class when I have to tell her no. Another of my students in fifth grade, a boy, had eight or ten glass jars of beta fish outside his house and I stooped down to look at them and said, ´´ oh, I have two of these!! one´s red and named fuego (fire) and the other one is blue and named Posiedon´´ and I had to explain about the origen of that name. Also, they belong to my roommate at school. So the student gave me one of the fish for a gift!
´´Does it have a name?´´ They looked at me with confused faces, maybe they don´t name their fighting beta fish here. I suggested, ´´Like Juan, Felipe?´´ They laughed and all said ´´Felipe!´´ so the fish was named. I have to say, that was the most interesting ride back to town, in the way back of an old Ford van that rattles holding a mason jar with a beta fish named Felipe and trying to keep the water in the jar through the sugar cane road. Never going to forget that. They´ve asked me the past two days, how´s Felipe? and they laugh.

Second favorite: We´re having a program and all classes will present something for the others. On Tuesday the main teacher in my class asked me if I would write a poem for the fifth graders´ part of the program and bring it the next day. I told her I would try. I felt a little discouraged about it the night before because I was also preparing an involved activity for the next day that took up a lot of time. I got up early the next morning and worked on it, and was really pleased with it, gracias a Dios, as they say here. Each of the classes is supposed to use the theme from the summer ´´Yo veo Dios´´ I spy God. So the poem includes Psalm 19:1-2 that the kids have been memorizing this week and then talks about how we can see God in each of the subjects at school. The teachers in my class liked it, and at the end of the day the main teacher gave post it notes of one or two lines to seven of the kids to memorize. When they all got the notes, they read them outloud, just to see what they said, and hearing them read it was so cool. They didn´t know that I wrote it. When we have the program on Wednesday, I´m pretty sure I´m going to bawl. I don´t want to say goodbye.

As a team, we´ve been talking about going home a little bit, what´s it going to be like? would we ever come back? We´ve all become aware of different areas in our lives that either we want to change when we go back (or keep it the way it is now), or we´ve realized something´s important to us at home that we weren´t aware of before. I´m glad to be here with these girls, each of us is so different, we have every perspective on every issue or question, everyone thinks about it in a different way.

The time is flying by! Again, as always, thank you for prayers and encouragement. I´m so glad to share our life and ministry here with you. It´s been such a rich experience.
Till next week and the final update from this side,
With love,
Sarah and Co.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Update Four

Semana Cuatro

So, I´m chilling in the Internet cafe with a Country Club (like a creme soda) and american chips, and it´s the end of the week for classes, and it feels good! Also, tonight we are going to the beach for a worship night.

Rachel´s party went really well. They loved the pizzadillas and ate them all. All the staff at the school love to play dominoes, so there was a lot of that going on (Dad, when they ask if I know how to play, I always tell them that I played with my dad when I was a kid). Saturday was a day of rest, so wonderful. We didn´t have to do a thing or go anywhere. That´s the first day like that the whole time we´ve been here. Sunday we prepped the house for the work team that´s here all this week. There are three groups within the team: construction, teaching, and sewing. This week 26 people have been living in the team house, which is a bit stressful at times as there is no where to go to be alone or have quiet. However, the team is really cool, and I am enjoying getting to know them and spending time with them. They all work so hard and have good attitudes, even when we haven´t had power (that´s been worse than usualy this week). I would not be as happy as they are.

The three of us interns have been thinking a lot this week. Rachel K and I experienced a little bit of culture shock when ´´the americans´´ showed up. I missed speaking spanish in our house because I´d gotten into the habit with the girls who were there before. It´s funny to see what we were probably like when we first got here and weren´t used to the norms. For me, it was hard to watch parts of the teaching seminars that the work team did for the dominican teachers in the school. One of the skits used the phrase ´´mixed modifier´´ which I´m pretty sure that none of the teachers knows. It´s hard to see how different the working base of knowledge is for us and for our dominican teaching peers, especially in math. It´s a really difficult position to be in/it´s hard to know how to approach it without making anyone feel embarrased because they don´t know how to do certain things. School in the states is such a different thing than school here. The average education level here is fourth grade, and the three of us are coming from 15+ years in the u.s. education system. It´s difficult to negotiate sometimes. Rachel K wished there had been more of a dialogue between the teaching team from the states and the dominican teachers instead of instruction. Rachel J thought they negotiated it really well, however. We´ve been talking a lot about it, it´s a big thing for us because we know both of the worlds. Some of the things that they taught were really good (Rachel J talked with one of them and got a ton of ideas for activities for her classes), and we hope that the teachers here do learn and implement the things. To me, the problem is much bigger than any one thing. Like all the hardest problems, it´s a combination of things forming one giant complex whatever you want to call it, and to work out any kind of solution or change will take a lot of work and time. But it´s not at all a hopeless situation.

Two things, I was talking with one of the other teachers with me in second grade about some of the kids who have potential, but they don´t have the tools that they need to do well. They can´t read or write, so anytime that we have a worksheet, it´s impossible for them to participate. Then they misbehave because they´re bored. She told me that there´s a special class for these kids, and that was great to hear! Something´s being done to catch them up. She also said that they´re different now than they used to be, also encouraging. The second, the work team has been doing a sewing class while they´ve been here, and it´s been really great. Some of the older girls have really taken to it. They have six or eight machines, and today they were working on quilts. I was in there today to translate (try to translate hah). This is part of Alberto´s vision for the project at Caraballo, that some of the older girls can learn how to do sew really well, and can teach it to the other students. They can sell the stuff they make. With the quilts, because they did them in teams of two, they´re going to be used for a quilt show for their parents and then they´ll use them to decorate the classrooms. So cool. The girls love it. It´s something that they can have pride in doing. Pray for the electricity tomorrow so that they can get the most out of the last day with the team.

We went to the old Haitian batay a few days ago. The sugar cane company built some of the houses and rented them out to the workers, but not a lot of people live there anymore. It gave me the creeps. I was really glad that we didn´t go just the three of us, because this place was like a tv commercial. Vic and the whole work team were with us. There´s a witchdoctor who lives there, and we actually saw him but didn´t know it till afterwards. Someone reliable said, ´´did you see how fat he is?´´ he didn´t seem that fat to me, but he was bigger than most people there. ´´it´s because he makes the people give him food or he says he´ll put demons on them.´´ I was ready to get out of there. We went to the first village again yesterday, and I loved it even more for its contrast. I saw a lot of my students, and I can´t wait to go back next week when I can spend more time there.

That´s pretty much it, we´re busy, we´re thinking, we´re learning, we´re praying. This weekend we´re going to the capital, Santo Domingo, with the rest of the summer interns to tour and hang out. We haven´t seen them since the beginning. I can´t believe how quickly the time is going. It´s unreal.

One more cool thing, I got to talk about the missionary Jim Elliot in geography today and about God, and I said a prayer at the end and my second graders repeated each phrase after me. So cool. It was fun to talk about someone who came from Wheaton, also, fun to use the kids in my class to act out canibalism and flying in an airplane.

Please keep praying for us, and thank you. God gives us the strength we need for every day.
Much love to you all,
Sarah (Rachel and Rachel)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Update Number Three

Cantar, Orar a Dios

Looking back over this week to try to write the highlights is overwhelming. We pack so much into them.

Friday at school is Oansa (Awana), so there´s no teaching, just kids playing games and singing and memorizing. It´s nice for us to have a day off of teaching, it also starts an hour later! It was really cool to see how excited they were to do the games and I loved the singing.

We left early to go to La Vega. It´s around a two hour drive to the fertile agricultural center of the country. Four squished in the back seat makes it longer : ) Alberto´s parents´ house was a wonderful retreat. There was a huge fan in our bedroom, so powerful! There was a sitting room with some orchids perfect for reading in the mornings. Their family is so welcoming.

Saturday we got up early to go to the Mueso Hermanas Mirabal (the reason for coming to La Vega). Lindsey and I both read a book called In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez about four sisters who were revolutionaries during the Trujillo regime in the 1940s-1960s ish. Three of them were murdered, but one is still alive. They´re all national heroes. It´s an amazing story, and the book really helped me get familiar with the geography and the culture of this country. The museum is the house that they lived in for a period of six months I think. It was incredible to see all their things, it made the story more real. I got chills. We bought some books, then Alberto took us to Ojo de Agua, the location of the other house and where the fourth sister, Dedé, lives now. We drove up, and Dedé herself was standing in front of the monument talking to a group of kids. We got to hear her talking to them, and afterwards she came over and talked to us, asked us what we were doing here, volunteered herself for a picture, signed our books. I could not believe it. We got to walk over to the house and one of her guards showed us the cacoa they grow. We got to taste some. (Allison, I wanted to call you so badly!!!) Meeting her was like the equivalent of meeing Anne Frank. Talk about ´´immeasurably more than all you could ask or imagine,´´ that´s how I felt.

Vic, one of the Kids Alive guys from Jarabacoa who´s in charge of things, came to our site on Monday and it was great to see him and speak Enligsh. He helped us with all of the questions we had about cultural things, house visits, other things. It was just very reassuring to see him. We had been craving pizza, and he told us how his family does it-- with tortillas. So we made pizzadillas: a giant tortilla, tomato paste mixed with canned tomatos, a little garlic paste(?), two kinds of cheese, ham, fresh tomatos, onion, pepper, and jalepeños for the Rachels. Amazing.

The past two days/nights we were without power in the house, which sometimes seems like an adventure and sometimes seems like the worst thing that could ever happen to you. It´s only bad without power because there are no fans at night. It bothers me because it´s hot, and it bothers the Rachels because you can hear the music from the gym across the street from us beginning at 6am and also the roosters and other animals. But it is now fixed! Gracias a Dios! Today was the third day they were working on it.

Class this week was good. One of the main problems we see in the school is violence. If the kids get mad about something, they start punching each other. There were a couple incidents this week with that. Also, it´s challenging to engage them. Once you get their attention, it´s great, but if there´s a pause or a distraction, it´s hard to get it back again. I feel like I´m getting better at knowing what are good activities for each class, what´s appropriate for their age and knowledge base. In Geography Tuesday I got to teach on the Mayans (Guatemala), and I drew a Mayan man and woman on the board with their average heights, and then for every characteristic that I read, I drew it on the person on the board. The second graders loved that. Wednesday was volcanoes (Nicaragua), today was Central America/Costa Rica and I drew a map of Central America on the board and all the names of the countries and then we went over it. I pointed with a ruler and they said the name, and then after a while I erased the names until they could name all the countries by looking at the map. I really enjoy the challenge of presenting the material.

Yesterday after school we went to one of the three barrios around the school. This one was built by an organization and the houses were given away I think to women with kids and no husbands (?). We got one of the teachers to go with us who lives there so we wouldn´t be wandering around aimlessly. I expected it to be like one of those TV commericals with depressing music and a tear stained child wandering around. I expected misery, but it wasn´t like that at all. It was peaceful. I actually felt more comfortable there than I do walking through the town here. People were sitting in front of their houses. The first group we saw was cutting some sugar cane to snack, and they offered us some, so we got to try it. We walked around to different students´ houses and stopped in or said hi and kept walking around. We made three longer stops, one in one of my teaching partner´s house, one in our tour guide´s house, and one in one of the student´s, and this was the coolest by far because there were around 7-9 kids and the mom and they swarmed Rachel Jones to get to her hair (blonde), the mom ended up braiding it in the end, a gorgeous inside out braid. One of the girls noticed I was wearing earrings and asked me if I was a Christian (we found out later that the church around this barrio doesn´t permit the women to wear earrings).
Si, y tu? ´´Yes, are you?´´
Si. ´´Yes.´´
Y que te gusta hacer en la iglesia? Can-- ´´What do you like to do at church? Si--´´
--Cantar, orar a Dios ´´Sing, pray to God´´
Me gusta cantar tambien. Canto en mi iglesia ´´I like to sing too. I sing in my church´´
What followed was a amazing exchange of singing. They wanted songs in English, we wanted songs in Spanish and Creole. They would sing a line of an English song and want us to sing the rest of it. We caught on to a few of the Spanish ones. We sang them ´´I Love You Lord´´ and the Doxology in three part harmony. That´s going in the books as one of the coolest, sweetest, most fun, most powerful moments in the trip. We´re going back up there next week, but we also want to go visit the other two barrios (everything here needs to be spread around evenly between groups, everyone needs to get the same thing, Dominican and Haitian).

I´m trying to think of some more funny things that have happened. A kid in Rachel Kusmer´s eighth grade class wrote her a note telling her he liked her and got someone else to deliver it. In adolescent/young adult Sunday school, they made everyone go around the circle and say if they were soltero/single, casado/married, o conpromitido/engaged, which I´m pretty sure they would not have done had we not been there. American women are silver bullets here, tickets to the good life. We have to be careful about how friendly we are.

We´ve had some good team bonding time this week too. Last night especially, just talking about how things are going, how we feel about issues in the school, what´s up spiritually. I think we are good supports for each other, we all have bad days on different days. We are all learning to be content.

Tomorrow it´s Rachel Kusmer´s birthday and we´re having all the teachers over to our house for pizzadillas. I hope they like them. We´re making rice and beans too, just in case. (For my birthday a while back- I forgot to say this last time, but- they surprised me with a cake and sang to me and all gave me hugs. I felt so welcomed).

That´s all from this side. Again, thank you for encouraging emails, they are so good. I love to hear what´s going on at home. And thank you for prayers for safety, for being equipped for this work, for the language, for strength, for kindness and love for each other in the team, to have wisdom for the issues we see, and for peace and contentment.

Some verses that have been made real for me while I´ve been here are Colossians 1:10-14: We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, and being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Much love , till next week,
Sarah and co.

Second Week Update

From Montellano with Love

Greeting from Montellano, DR!

We are in the land of sugar cane, giant clouds- somehow the sky seems bigger here-- and friendly, welcoming people. This is a beautiful country, but that's not all it is ; )

We started at the school this week after spending the weekend with our Dominican family, Alberto, Lydia, y Jean Pablo. Alberto runs the school in Caraballo (Montellano and Caraballo are neighboring towns, Caraballo is more of a village). There was a work team in the missionary house, so we got to stay with them. I don't think any of us were very thrilled at first because we really wanted to get to the missionary house and set up camp, but it was so good to be with them. They took wonderful care of us. We got to go to the beach a couple of times, got to rest after orientation with the other interns and get used to the country a little bit (Alberto and Lydia are taking us to La Vega this weekend to go to the Mirabal museum!) I am grateful that we weren't just thrust into life here in Montellano because I don't think any of us would have been ready. We would have gone into shock! Our trip has been like climbing a mountain, a little higher everyday. We are in an environment that is so different from anything (I think) any of us has ever experienced before.

We also had an incredible gift to help us feel more comfortable, one of the other interns who's been in the DR with Kids Alive the past three summers, Lindsey. She came with us to help us get set up at the school and make sure the curriculum was ready to go. She's fluent in Spanish, so she helped us to communicate. She went back to Jarabacoa yesterday.

We feel good being here. We're all glad to have started classes. The school is a really cool place. Last night we had wonderful team bonding time hunting mosquitos in the house (sounds weird, but is necessary haha) and talking about team dynamics and school and everything that's going on. Living with us in the missionary house is one of the teachers and her two daughters, one who's nine and one who's 13, both are in the school. We are so fortunate to be with them, we're like little chicks who need guidance. It's so good to have someone who we can ask questions and who knows how to cook and knows the culture. The younger daughter is so friendly and I play cards with her a lot. When we talk, she helps my Spanish.

Let me tell you about school. We heard on the front end that this was the most difficult placement in the program. The school is in a very poor neighborhood (barrio), there's a lot of tension between the Dominicans and the Haitians who come over to work in the sugar cane, people don't have the economic resources they need, so they resort to other ways of getting the things they need. There was an incident in the barrio last night that the staff found out about today and prayed about in morning devotions. I asked one of the teachers if the kids were going to be different today, if they would be afraid or anything, and she said no, that they were used to it. That was almost harder to hear.

I am teaching 2nd (morning) and 5th (afternoon) grade geography and writing, and I help out some with the other subjects. Rachel K is teaching geography, and Rachel J is teaching geography, math and science (her teaching partner speaks English, so she gets to teach more). Everyday with the kids is different in my classes, and there's a huge difference in the second and fifth graders. The second graders are crazy and fun and wild and adorable. With them, it's really hit or really miss. The fifth graders are much less rowdy, and I think they learn more. With the second graders, sometimes it seems like we spend more time distributing and collecting materials than learning. There have been some really cool moments so far though. Yesterday I got to work with one of the 2nd grade boys in math, finding points in a plane. It was a cool God moment because the night before I tried to teach one of the kids living in the missionary house with us how to do a sudoku puzzle, so she taught me all the words for row/line, column, square. I was equipped to talk to the boy about lines and columns and squares and all those things. It was great. When I did the sudoku with her, I felt a little anxious because I still had to prepare for class and do all these different things, but spending the time with her was the preparation I needed and I didn't know it.

All of us are in class with other teachers, all Dominicans or Haitians. I teach geography, there's a Bible lesson, science, math, reading, writing, maybe some other ones I'm forgetting. I can't really believe I'm doing it sometimes. It is exhausting to be between the languages though. Sometimes I forget what I'm doing. I like being at the school. The kids really are glad that we're there. They want to play all the time. This afternoon I played dominos with some of my 5th graders and one of the younger girls came over and just stood kind of leaning on me the whole time. They want love and they want to be hugged and valued and smiled at. They want to hold your hand. The school is like an oasis in the neighborhood, it doesn't feel safe outside, but inside, yes, it is safe and clean and nice. That's kind of simplistic, but...

Alright, it's time for us to go home (from the internet cafe).
I would love to hear from any/all of you and thank you to the ones who have emailed. All the words are encouraging. Thank you for the prayers, we need them.
With much love,
Sarah and co.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Adventures with Lightning

Today we went to the beach with our Dominican family and some people our age from the church. It started raining after we´d been there for an hour. The rain on the water was amazing. I kept trying to think of something to compare it to so that I could put it in a poem. Still at a loss. But then, it started to thunderstorm. Water and lightning don´t really go together. Some people saw a few bolts in the distance. I didn´t really see anything, but I could hear the thunder really loud and close. I wondered if I should get out of the water, thought I probably should, but everyone else stayed in like it was no big deal. Then a huge, huge bolt hit the water probably 200 yards from us, I´m not a very good judge of distance. Everyone, our group and all the other people in the water, started scrambling for the shore as fast as they could and then running for shelter. I saw it hit and I thought we were going to die. Maybe we should have. I´ve never seen anything like that before in my entire life. Never been so close to lightning. I just did a quick Google search, and there doesn´t seem to be much reliable information out there about lightning and what happens when it hits the water (the best I found was a kids page that said that the fish probably wouldn´t get hurt, only the ones that were really close). Hopefully that´s the most dangerous situation I´ll find myself in this summer...

First Update from the DR

Written Thursday June 18

Hola de la Republica Dominicana!

I am writing to you from Puerto Plata, a city on the north coast. We´re staying a couple nights at the house of the Dominicans who run our site, in transition between training in Jarabacoa, a town in the mountains, and our placement on the coast. I cannot explain how quickly the past few days have gone. Everyday is full of so many things that it seems like we´ve been here so much longer than we have. This is the end of the fourth day. I´m writing for my team, which includes Rachel Kusmer and Rachel Jones.

We´ve been introduced to the culture gradually. In Jarabacoa, the mountain air is relatively cool and there aren´t very many bugs. Most of the summer interns stayed in apartments together. The first day we had orientation with the other interns, who are great. We went on a scavener hunt in the town and learned about the mission of Kids Alive and got to know each other. The past two days we´ve been at training for all the summer volunteers. I love the worship times and singing the Spanish songs.

The three of us are all in different places with the experience so far, probably relating to how well we know the language. It´s good for us to be in highs and lows at different times so that we can help each other. Rachel K is very excited and loves to talk to people all the time. Right now she is helping to cook dinner. She´s thrilled to be here on her first trip out of the country. She has always wanted to come to Latin America. Rachel J is unphased even though she doesn´t know the language. She´s not easily discouraged, and is excited to work in Caraballo where there is a lot of discrimination and French Creole (she does speak French). For me, some parts of the past two days at training have been frustrating because it´s difficult to understand the language, other times I feel like I grasp it well. The teaching has been very good. We learned today about transformation, in our lives and in the lives of the kids. It´s really only through God that we´re going to be able to do this work with the kids. We keep hearing that Caraballo is the most difficult placement. I am learning how much I need God, even to keep a good attitude towards my teammates and in general. We looked at Galatians 5 today, the fruit of the Spirit. I hope that we are able to keep having that. As long as we ''keep in step with the Spirit,'' we´ll be alright. I am excited to get to our site and start working.

As a team, we have had really good times talking together and we´ve been very open and honest with each other about how we´re feeling and what´s going on.

I´ll tell you the first two things that I learned in the Dominican Republic.
1) I heard my first rooster crow. The first night that we got here, one was crowing outside the apartments. It doesn´t sound like it does in the cartoons.
2) they do not flush the toilet paper here. There´s a little basket that goes beside the toilet and you throw it in there. The toilet in our apartment ran continually, and we had to take the lid off and jiggle some things to stop it running. Yesterday, I walked past and saw it was running, opened the lid, pulled up on something to stop it running, and the whole top piece popped off and water started squirting out of the toilet like a fountain! I ran out to the patio yelling help! help! help! and the girls came running in to see what was wrong. They and one of the guys were able to get it under control. We all got wet. Thinking about it now, it´s hilarious, but at the time, I was mortified.

Tomorrow, we are going to our site for the first time to play with the kids in the morning and then start working on the curriculum, classes start on Monday. We´re each working with a different age group of kids. Rachel J with the youngest, me with the medium age, and Rachel K with the oldest. We´ll be helping with the summer programs, not sure exactly what that will look like yet.

Pray that our planning goes well tomorrow, this sets the tone for the whole next five weeks. Also, pray that we keep getting along with each other and communicating and remember that our strength comes from the Lord and not from ourselves. Thank you for your prayers so far, it does make a difference.

We´re about to eat dinner, so I´ll go for now, they´re frying up the plantains... yum.

Much love y Dios les bendiga (God bless you),

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dialogue on Market Values and Joy

I'm reading two books that are nicely dialoguing with each other. C.S. Lewis' Surprised by Joy and Cornel West's Race Matters. 

In the first chapter of West's book, he describes nihilism in black America, partly caused by corporate market institutions (25). Institutions want profits, and they convince people to consume. The goal of consumption is pleasure. Here's West on pleasure: 

"In the American way of life pleasure involves comfort, convenience, and sexual stimulation. Pleasure, so defined, has little to do with the past and views the future as no more than a repetition of a hedonistically driven present. This market morality stigmatizes others as objects for personal pleasure or bodily stimulation... especially evident in the culture industries-- television, radio, video, music..." (26) 

"These seductive images contribute to the predominance of the market-inspired way of life over all others and thereby edge out nonmarket values-- love, care, service to others-- handed down by preceding generations" (27) 

Why is this "market-inspired way of life" chosen by so many people? Consumerism thrives because we aren't satisfied.  

In Surprised By Joy, C.S. Lewis tells the story of his growing up and conversion to Christianity, and in one of the chapters,  he describes getting Joy and pleasure confused. 

"At the end one found pleasure; which immediately resulted in the discovery that pleasure (whether that pleasure or any other) was not what you had been looking for. No moral question was involved; I was at this time as nearly nonmoral on that subject as a human creature can be. The frustration did not consist in finding a "lower" pleasure instead of a "higher." It was the irrelevance of the conclusion that marred it. The hounds had changed scent. One had caught the wrong quarry. You might as well offer a mutton chop to a man who is dying of thirst as offer sexual pleasure to the desire I am speaking of. I did not recoil from that erotic conclusion with chaste horror, exclaiming, "Not that!" My feelings could rather have been expressed in the words, "Quite. I see. But haven't we wandered from the real point?" Joy is not a substitute for sex; sex is very often a substitute for Joy. Sometimes I wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for Joy" (170). 

I haven't finished the book yet to know how Lewis talks about finding Joy in the end, but I'm guessing it has something to do with God. When we're not with God, we become vulnerable to other things that promise to satisfy us. They all lie, of course. This lie fuels advertising and marketing and business and provides jobs, but it also keeps a lot of people miserable. The problem with a "hedonistically driven present" is that we lose sight of everything that actually matters. We forget who we are. The life that we were meant to life isn't about pleasure as it's described by West. 

Like Lewis says, we can go to any of those other pleasure givers, it doesn't make a difference which one we choose. Afterwards, we know it doesn't meet the need or the desire that we have. Sometimes we get stuck in the trap of going back over and over again because we believe that it will, if we only give it one more try. 

Are all pleasures substitutes for Joy? How would our bank statements change if we were finally satisfied? How would we spend our time? 

We can't live like the market tells us to live. We need to recover "nonmarket values," love, care, and service to others. 

The problem I see in pockets of the Christian community is the loss of Joy and the sell out to pleasure, the objectification of the opposite sex, and an obsession with consumerism at the expense of the forward call of God and discipleship. We've settled into the nest of our culture, and we've chosen its worst parts. 

To get back to contentment and life in nonmarket values, we need to address the roots of our deep dissatisfaction and identify the lies that we believe, say with King David, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation" (Psalm 51:12a). 

Friday, May 29, 2009

Restless Much

It's getting dull in the house, not for lack of doing things. Today I did three lessons in Rosetta Stone. In between that I did my laundry, wrote and recorded a song, watched a Star Trek movie with the fam. that was hilarious because of how old it was, well, it seemed like I did more than that. Today was a French toast morning with my grandparents, and I love those. Great food, great company. 
In seventeen days I leave for the DR, ready or not. We've gotten more of the details of where we'll be-- today I watched some videos online of the school and the town, it made it feel very real, and very overwhelming. All those questions came up, those doubting questions that play on fear, and I realized for the first time how hard it's going to be, how uncomfortable at first. I think I thought I would just fall right in without any difficulty (and maybe I will and it will get hard after two weeks like Biculturalism class says culture shock will do to a person). The other scary part was realizing that I have expectations- I want to like it, love it. I saw that I do want to get some things out of this trip- some direction. There's temptation to become anxious about all of the different areas like the teaching, the Spanish, the spiritual side, but I'm keeping it at bay for the most part. One day, then the next. I'm glad I'm not going alone! 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Recipe for an Uprising

It seems to me like bad economic times unveil what was there all along, the flaws show up brighter, a bad situation becomes worse.   

Global Crisis 'hits human rights'

World Bank Warns of Social Unrest

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sunny California

San Diego is lovely. It's wonderful to see my friend Danielle who I haven't seen since before Christmas. We've been on the beach and to Fashion Valley (!), met up with one of my good friends yesterday who gave me a promised cd of Dominican music and more. I finished reading In the Time of the Butterflies (Julia Alvarez) today, and I've got my pre-field manual sitting right next to it, so you could say I'm getting all educated for my trip. Hah. There is so much that I don't know. I was telling Danielle the other night, there's no way I can prepare myself for everything. A part of me cannot believe that I'll be getting on the plane and going to the place in just a few weeks. This music is beautiful though, I recommend Juan Luis Guerra. Thanks Nate. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Some Thoughts for the Day

Some things I'm thinking about. 

Rosetta Stone. 
I really like Rosetta Stone. It makes me happy. 
I'm working on it to bolster my Spanish. It's interactive software that teaches you the words for things without using English at all-- it's like immersion learning. You speak and listen and type and it does grammar somehow, I'm amazed. All the pictures are really beautiful and I want to go to the places in them. I'm amazed at the artistry of some of the photos-- one of the "la puerta" pictures is a blue door with a brown wall and it's gorgeous. All the color photos are cool textures that they took with a camera with a lot of megapixels, pictures of feathers or elephant skin. They didn't have to be so creative with everything, but they are. I wonder if that helps you to remember somehow-- if it stops you from associating with the thing itself. If I saw a grey square, maybe I would translate it into English. But if I saw some elephant hide, maybe I wouldn't? I wonder about the people whose jobs are to take the pictures for Rosetta Stone. Where do they live? Do they get to travel to all the places, or are there photo contributors everywhere who send the pictures in? How long does it take to get all the photos? How many photographers are there? It's fascinating to me. How do they choose which pictures to use? And then, this is the coolest, they have milestone exercises at the end of the lessons where you actually have conversations with people (not real other people). And these pictures are the most dynamic-- you feel like you're in a movie. My adrenaline gets going when I can't automatically think of what to say back. I get into it! I want these people to be my friends. They are all so happy. Everything is nice in Rosetta Stone world. lol. This is the way to learn a language. 

I could start this one the same way: I really like books. Books make me happy. 
I went to Barnes & Noble today, and I think I could live there. I like finding good things. that you didn't know existed. Without thinking of any books beforehand, I could go into B&N and find ten things that I wanted to read, probably most from the fiction section. Today I bought Peace like a River (Leif Engar) and No Man is an Island (Thomas Merton), both were recommended by a friend who also likes reading and spiritual things. Here's a clip from No Man is an Island's "Author's Note" that I liked: 
I consider that the spiritual life is the life of man's real self, the life of that interior self whose flame is so often allowed to be smothered under the ashes of anxiety and futile concern. The spiritual life is oriented toward God, rather than toward the immediate satisfaction of the material needs of life, but it is not, for all that, a life of unreality or a life of dreams. On the contrary, without a life of the spirit, our whole existence becomes unsubstantial and illusory. The life of the spirit, by integrating us in the real order established by God, puts us in the fullest possible contact with reality-- not as we imagine it, but as it really is. It does so by making us aware of our own real selves, and placing them in the presence of God. 
Merton was a Catholic monk/theologian(?) who wrote a lot on contemplation. The books calls him a "world-renowned religious philosopher." He wrote poetry, too. I think we would get along great. 

That's all for now 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dominican Republic

I'm going to the Dominican Republic this summer to do a six week internship with Kids Alive. I'll be at the care center in Caraballo, on the north coast. Here's a link: I'm excited! More to come later in the summer. I don't leave for a month. 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

An exercise with H words

Honey gleams in the corner
hum of your mouth-- 
honest hole I stare into 
hour on hour. 
I would make my home, 
close to holy words,
near hands that play. 
Together our harmony
builds a humble church,
headed by a two fingered steeple. 

How long we waited, 
every peal of hollow bell
sharper than a hammer's edge. 

From this house 
all homilies proclaim 
hallowed be He, 
the one who hears. 

In the place of healing, He comes, 
inhabits the fellowship of our steeple. 

Sargent's "Street in Venice" Ekphrasis Exercise

This is a set that I did for an Ekphrasis class at Wheaton fall semester 08 with Prof. David Wright. I came across them a week or so ago, and I kind of like them. Ekphrasis means that music or art is involved in the generative process. It's a very fun way to write-- it helps your imagination. I really like this painting because it seems so full of possibility. Sargent is great at painting women, and there's a lot of movement in his work-- to me, his paintings seem full of stories. In Ekphrasis, you decide what the stories are. It's art about art, playing together. 

It all Depends on the Sky
—after John Sargent’s “Street in Venice”

Without the sky
we cannot tell
if it is afternoon
dusk or morning,
if the men loitering
in the alleyway
prepare the morning meal
or make bets at cards.

We do not know
whether or not
to show concern
for the young woman
in the rustling white skirt
lost on the Calle Larga
dei Proverbi. It all depends
on the sky—will the two
huddled in the doorway
follow her or forget her
as soon as she turns the corner.

Angels in the Alley
—after John Sargent’s “Street in Venice”

Once I heard the story of a woman
and two angels in an alleyway,
and the space around this Venetian girl’s
cloaked frame is just wide enough
for her to be flanked on either side.
I think that is why she clasps her hands
together in front and sets her face straight—
she knows. The man in the doorway can see them.
His wormlike eyebrows are lifted
so they brush the bottom of his hat,
and his mouth is the shape of an apricot.

A Wrong Turn
—after John Sargent’s “Street in Venice”

It’s so easy to get lost
in this city of bridges.
A cloak is not enough
to create safety in the pulse
of the Venetian girl who is
as light on the stone street.

Where is her father,
her uncle, or cousin
that she wanders
in the skyless scene.

The streets are wet in patches
and someone is always hungry here,
a wrong turn.

Sargent’s “Street in Venice”
—after Anne Sexton’s “Her Kind”

I, too, have pulled a dark cloak
around my shoulders,
and on other nights roamed
barefoot behind the chapel,
hair rain-smeared to my face.

I, too, am familiar with the eyes of men
trailing the current of my steps
and have kept my gaze low.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Culture, culture, culture

I'm in a biculturalism class this semester, and I'm learning incredible things already. We read chapter five called "Cultural Assumptions of Western Missionaries" from Paul Hiebert's book Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, and so many things stood out to me. We had to write a summary of the article and mine ended up being five pages or so long. I will put up the highlights-- the two things that stood out to me most about myself and the way that I am are self-reliance and need to be liked. Maybe you will relate. If you would like a copy of the summary (that is not particularly well written) facebook me, or find the book yourself. It's incredibly eye-opening. I was thinking as I read it, "What would happen if everyone in the world read one of these about their culture in relation to other cultures?" Maybe there would be less war, fewer disagreements, who knows. Before reading this article, I wasn't even aware that people could think about things differently in certain areas, but I'm learning that a lot of the way I think and react to things is because of my Western/North American culture. Whoa.

“At the heart of a North American’s identity is self-reliance. Francis Hsu, a Chinese anthropologist, points out (1961:248) that the greatest fears Americans have are to be dependent on others and to be without money. When our car breaks down, we hesitate to call friends for help. And when we need money, we would rather borrow from a bank than beg a loan from a brother or cousin. On the other hand, when others ask us for help, we take the request seriously, just because we know it is not made lightly. But we resent it when people constantly ask for loans, for help in baby-sitting, and for transportation. We expect people to take care of themselves.

Need to be liked
“North Americans place a high value on being liked and see it as a sign of success in social relationships. Since we worry over how others feel about us, we read acceptance or rejection into every coment and gesture they make. The glad handshake, the ready smile, the slap on the back, and the word of praise have all become our normal behavior. Without such expressions of friendship and popularity, we are confused and unsure of ourselves because we are denied one of the requirements for personal assurance in a highly individualistic society. Social success is an important measure of achievement. Stewart (1972: 58) notes, “Americans tend to judge their personal and social success by popularity—almost literally by the number of people who like them.” To be liked means we are worthy of love. It does not necessarily mean we need to like others in return or that our relationships with them will result in friendships” (126).