Saturday, July 28, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
So here are some pictures of me and my classes. The first one is one of my girls and I showing off our science project, which I think was something about the plants and animals that live in different biomes (we should be worried when I don´t even understand the science homework). I´m playing some form of Go Fish in the next one, and I won!! I know I´m supposed to let the kids win, but it wasn´t a game of skill so I couldn´t help it. Then the third one is me being attacked by two boys(in the background you can see all my kids´Sponge Bob toothbrushes that we use each day). Then on the bottom we have the morning class photo. The big gringo in the front is a high school kid named Rob who was on a service team that was there my first week. His family sponsors one of the kids in my class so he spent the week with us. Behind me in the blue is the amazing and talented Miriam who makes all the magic happen in the fourth grade class.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
On the way to school we drive by the Guatemala City dump, which is the largest in Central America. By the time we get there at 8ish, the dump is bustling with the activity of people trying to find enough food and recyclables to make it through another day. There are also hundreds of vultures flying over it all the time. And long before I see the dump, I can smell it. The odor is horrible and overwhelming, although I am growing quite used to it. It is a good reminder of where my kids come from; most of their parents work in the dump, and their "houses" are right across the street. I usually cry a bit when I see the dump each day, but I am also so happy to be there.
When I get to school I report to my fourth grade class. Guatemalan children only go to school for half a day. Therefore we have a morning class and an afternoon class, each with about 20 students. We spend the bulk of our time at school helping children with their homework for that day. I mostly help with math because I don´t have to understand Spanish very well to be able to do that. The language barrier makes it very difficult for me to do a whole lot more in terms of the homework, but I did get to help a student with a project where we made animals out of clay on Friday. That was a lot of fun. Much of the homework that the students have in Guatemala is very basic and repetitive; it also often requires many resources, like a dictionary or the internet or art supplies, that my students would never have access to. The project provides all sorts of resources and support for the students, including food and additional support for the families. We also do a special activity each day, like computers, sports, woodworking, English, etc. They really do amazing things with these kids.
The teacher in my class is a Guatemalan woman named Miriam, and she interacts beautifully and gracefully with the students. She loves them well and runs a really tight ship, which is great for the kids. She is also very generous with my poor Spanish and helps me understand what´s happening and how I can help the kids. She actually goes to a Math training on Wednesday afternoons, and I got to see the class without her. It was a disaster; all the magic in fourth grade happens because of her. (I think I´ll stay home next Wednesday, just kidding)
The kids seem like any other kids, with a few exceptions. In my fourth grade class I have children ranging in age from 10 to 13. Some of them smell a bit like the dump. Many of them come to school in clothes with holes or stains. And it´s not the sort of place where you make jokes about zippers being down because many of them are obviously wearing pants that were thrown out by someone else because of the faulty zipper. Some of them wear the same clothes each day. I think that this week we will check them all for lice. But really they are beautiful, happy children. They laugh and play and lie about having homework. They like to read books and work puzzles and play Uno. They pretend to have to go to the bathroom so they can get out of class. And there is a joy about them that is contagious.
At the end of the day I get back on the chicken bus to head from the stench of the garbage dump to the beautiful city of Antigua. The bus provides a lot of time to think (and study Spanish), and everyday on at least one of my bus rides I thank God for these kids and for this month and for the change that it will surely bring in me.
I´ll try to add some pictures to this post soon. I´ve got some great ones of the kids, but they are at home and I am not.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Greetings from Antigua, Guatemala! Melissa and I made it safely despite some crazy weather in Houston and my flight out of Lubbock being delayed for 3 hours. I played the "international traveler" card, and they agreed that they didn´t want to deal with me being stranded and put me on the earlier flight, which was also 3 hours late. So I ended up getting there right on time.
I also made a new friend on the flights (no surprise...Tobi is always up for a new friend), and the good news is that she is a doctor in Guatemala City. Her name is Eliet, and she works with Kendon Wheeler, the missionary to Guatemala that we worked with the last time I was here. She didn´t speak much English so I got to practice my Spanish much earlier than expected and served as a translator for her in the Houston airport. She also invited Melissa and me to come spend time with her family on Sunday and go to church with them. I´ll keep you posted on our friendship with Eliet.
The layout of the pictures above is killing me, but my technology guys Trey and Scott aren´t here to help so we´ll have to deal with it. The one on the left is Melissa and I at our homestay in Guatemala. We were going to take the picture outside, but it started pouring rain at the moment we decided to take it. (This happens in the afternoon on days that end with y. Let´s just say that I´m glad I brought the raincoat.) The house is nice. It´s more like staying in a hostel than with a family, but it´s working out well for us. We have four roommates from England, one from Iowa, one from Pennsylvania, and one from somewhere else in the states. There is never a dull moment in the house.
Melissa and I both started language school yesterday. We go from 8-12 each morning. It´s been really good...so far mostly a review of the Spanish that I already know, but it´s a welcome review. My teacher Leonardo is very engaging, and there are only four of us in my class. Today he decided that I needed a bit more of a challenge than my classmates so I have to do more homework. I think maybe I´m being punished for all the times that I made my G/T kids do something extra. Anyway, I definitely think that the class is helping, and I look forward to learning more the rest of the week.
And I finally know exactly where I´ll be using all this Spanish. I have been assigned to work at the Camino Seguro project in Guatemala City with teenagers. I will be helping with their homework (assuming I can understand it myself...I´m praying for some math), doing brain teaser type activities, something like recess, and taking them to a computer lab. I will have one set of students in the morning and a different set in the afternoon. There is a Guatemalan teacher and other volunteers who will be working with me, so hopefully I can help them and the students in the next three weeks. I start that on Monday morning. Melissa will also be working in the city so we will travel there together; she´s working with pre-school kids.
I took the other picture on the way to language school this morning. This is a typical street in Guatemala, and in the distance you can see a volcano. There are three volcanoes visible from pretty much anywhere in Antigua. They are a big help with figuring out directions. We walk about 10 blocks in the morning to catch a bus to language school. The buses here are called "Chicken Buses" (I don´t know why, but they do seem like the sort of thing that would transport people and chickens). They are school buses that are painted every color under the sun and generally hold a ridiculous number of people; it´s three to a seat and people standing in the aisles. The Latin American sense of personal space is very different than in the US. Anyway, riding the bus is another daily adventure and is an excellent source for learning about the culture.
Currently I´m sitting in an internet cafe down the street from my house which seems to be very accessible, so hopefully I´ll be able to continue to keep you guys updated. Thanks so much for the prayers and messages and comments. I´m loving being here and love feeling supported by you guys. I pray that you are all well, and hopefully I´ll type at you soon!