14 February 2012

John 15:12-15

Happy Valentine's Day. I'm thinking of all my friends and family today, whom I love so dearly. You have all shown me, in different ways, what it means to love selflessly and to be a true friend. I think Heather and C.S. Lewis can be credited with some important truths for today:
"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art...It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival."--C.S. Lewis

03 February 2012

Catching Up

I have a list of "things to blog about" on my desktop that I've been keeping since October. It's since gotten out of control. I have things written on there like "awkward car ride music" and "Livingston adventure" and "my life is like a Super Mario game" but I just haven't made the time. Here is another fledgling attempt to salvage this blog:

I had an amazing Christmas at home. It began with Angela and Drake's wedding, which was surreal for various reasons: the beauty of the celebrations, the joy of reuniting with my family of friends, and the serendipitous fit of my bridesmaid dress. Thank you, Allison:) Christmas is always so special for me, and it was especially so after being so far from home.

My somewhat angsty relationship with Guate has subsided. I love my students and I love my classroom...despite the rickety desks, Dengue-ridden mosquitoes, and the broken window. I feel useful at my school, which is something I haven't felt in a job for a while. Heather and I are trying to start new programs for the kids (college prep club began this week and was a great success) and we feel excited about what we can do for the school. My most enthusiastic class is by far my seventh graders, who are notorious for choosing longer lectures over playing games and asking questions like: "Miss, are we going to be able to read the whole textbook this year?" Yeah...I'm not sure what planet they are actually from. While this class is my blessing, my eighth grade class would appear to be my punishment. The only things they seem to get excited about are sex and violence. Fortunately for me, this unit is on Henry VIII :)

There are some things I will probably never appreciate about Guatemala. The violence, the corruption, snow cones with lemon and pepper on top, pan flute music in every public venue, and poorly organized national events. A few weekends ago, Heather and I joined some of our friends from church to climb Volcan de Agua in an event organized by the British embassy to protest domestic violence. You can read about it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-16669818. Although we were supposed to form a human chain from the top of the volcano to the base, what actually transpired was a rag-taggle mess of Chapins and gringos bumping into each other for four hours. No handholding and no human chain, but we did manage to send a Guatemalan flag from the base to the crater. I think...

The hike was fun, but I think I know how a dust buster feels. There were a limited amount of buses to take the 12,000 hikers from the tiny town of Santa Maria de Jesus back to Antigua. We were fortunate enough to get a ride up to the town in the back of a police truck, but had no such luck coming down. Thousands of us were stuck in a mob on a narrow street in Santa Maria, waiting for a bus to come. We waited for three hours, during which a car got swallowed up by the crowd and injured people were practically crowd-surfed down to the bus stop. People were pushing and shouting--a bit harrowing, but we finally made it home.

Remind me to post sometime about our trip to Livingston and how we spent our vacation with a tour guide drunk on "coco locos." Oh the places we go...

23 November 2011

Thankful and Busy

Happy Thanksgiving to you, long-suffering readers of my blog. I'm not sure this webpage has really deserved the title of "blog" as it is more like a monthly periodical, one which you have ceased to pay for and now use for decoupage or something like that.

I wish I had pages and pages to tell you about life here. I'll start with school for now: six preps are burying me deep under a mountain of grading and leave little time for anything else during the week. This month, we had parent-teacher conferences (almost entirely in Spanish. Most of my conversations went something like this: "your child is good!" or "your child is lazy" or simply "good afternoon. Bye."). Some of my fifth-graders still call me "Miss Halloween" but we have fun. Today in class we compared antibodies to the bat signal. They are also really intrigued by Bill Nye the Science Guy.

On the weekends, Heather and I try to see as much as we can and enjoy the company of our new friends. Here is a picture of us with Andrea at her flamenco dancing recital.

Flamenco is such an interesting dance. Some routines are choreographed, but the really talented dancers improvise everything. The guitarist, drummer, and vocalist follow her lead and it makes for an entirely spontaneous creation. It was really beautiful.

On 11/11/11, our students celebrated Pepero Day, a Korean holiday dedicated entirely to a cookie. Thank you, Korea. Our students brought in boxes and boxes of these cookies to school and were able to try a few. My box didn't last long...

I am heading home for Christmas and for Angela Forney's wedding in less than 3 weeks. I can't wait to be home. Missing you all and so thankful to have such loving friends and family. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

30 October 2011

Guate Curios

I'm sorry for my sporadic blogging. There is so much to tell you; life here hasn't stopped. Instead of trying to catch you up on every detail, I've decided to include some mysterious curios of Guate.

Exhibit A: Obleas

One of my fifth graders recently went on a trip to Mexico. This is the child whose pencil case spills every day and who thinks fish are clothes. Last week, he brought me a gift which puzzled me--wafers with sunflower seeds glued into them. One of my Guatemalan friends, Karen, told me they are "obleas", wafers. I still don't think I am going to eat them. Speaking of Mexico, I asked my fifth graders what they knew about Mexico and I received three responses: tacos, it's big, and it smells.

Exhibit B: Softball hat

Heather and I joined a Guatemalan softball team with our friend Emily. We play every Saturday and we're actually pretty decent...best women's team in the C League=bragging rights. Last weekend, we got our uniforms, including this very stylish hat. It's debatable whether I was more puzzled by the obleas or the "I We Make a Great Team." I was finally informed that "I" stands for "Internacional" our team name. Oooh...Unfortunately for Spanish speakers, there is still an "I" in "equipo."

Exhibit C: Pan flute classics

Sadly, I have no image for this curio. But in every major shopping center there is a common soundtrack: pan flute pop songs. Aerosmith and the Beatles have unfortunately been trivialized to the sweet, cheesy sounds of the pan flute and I can't get "I Can Be Your Hero" by Enrique Iglesias in pan flute style out of my head. Thank you, Guate.

Heather and I took a wonderful trip to Antigua this weekend. Another update to follow.

04 October 2011

Fish and Pi

Happy Fall, everyone.

I found out two things the other day: my students listen sometimes and my students don't know what clothes are.

The other day, I was teaching about early American exploration when one of my students raised his hand and said: "teacher, your baby is gone."


Puzzled, I pursued the conversation further. "My baby?"

"Yes miss, your map--it's gone."

I had forgotten a certain episode a week earlier in which three of my students were rough-housing with my U.S. map (apparently that can happen). I scolded them by saying: "be careful with my baby! This map is precious." Definitely precious, seeing as the only map-like object Han Al has is a globe that won't stand up and has a fissure through the equator.

Since then, my map has fallen off the walls like everything else at Han Al (the humidity is killer on tape). And my students have noticed. And listened:)

This was a 9th grader. Back in my elementary world, things are not so promising. Two of my students were giving a presentation on the subarctic climate zone. Their assignment was to tell the class how they would survive in their climate zone. So I asked them: "what clothes would you wear in the subarctic?"

And they said: "fish"

This comes from the same student who placed Europe in the Atlantic Ocean on a recent map test.

Miss you all and hope you are enjoying some nice pumpkin pi.

19 September 2011

I'd Rather Have a Snow Day

I've never had school canceled for anything but snow. The seemingly harmless flakes were so inviting as I watched the morning news, waiting impatiently for my school to crawl across the screen with the words: "CANCELED" or "2 HOUR DELAY" close behind. Ah, snow days.

Here in Guate, we have earthquake days.

I was on lunch duty today when I felt the first earthquake. It wasn't huge, but it was substantial enough to cause quite a stir amongst the students. Terremotos are common in Guatemala so I didn't think much of it. During my fourth period prep, I saw my desks shaking. Earthquake 2. The students were rushed out to the commons, which isn't the safest place to be during an earthquake, but it beats the 'ol duck and cover method under poorly constructed desks in a school building which sits precariously on a ravine. The students were taken back to their classrooms and resumed class. But not ten minutes later, we felt another shake. Earthquake 3. Again, the kids ran out to the commons. The order that briefly reigned was soon lost to chaos as the seniors screamed for joy and the little ones clung to teachers' arms and legs. Fortunately, class resumed before too long.
I was back in my classroom, foolishly thinking I could finally get some grades entered, when I felt another hard shake. Earthquake 4 wasn't huge, unlike the 4.8 and 5.8 we felt earlier, but it was enough for Han Al to cancel school and send the kids home early. We the teachers, however, had to stay and have a meeting (it's no fun being grown up sometimes). Evacuation plans were discussed and student leaders were delegated. Mother nature showed her approval of our safety plan with a gentle nod. Earthquake 5.

11 September 2011

Horatio Spafford

I was very encouraged by the hymn "It is Well" tonight at church. And subsequently inspired to share with you the story of its author, Horatio Spafford. Check out his story here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Spafford
It's really incredible.

It has been a difficult transition, with misunderstandings at work and feeling limited by the precarious situation in Guatemala. I often wonder (as most of us do) what God's plan is for me here. Regardless, it is well:)