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.

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