Thursday, December 20, 2007

The week before Christmas break

I called my mother complaining that I was worn out and frustrated and that I wasn't even sure that I liked the kids anymore...she offered the sage advice that no teacher likes their students right before Christmas break.

It is true that the weeks leading up to spring break were horrifically stressful. Exams to finish and turn in, things to pack, Christmas shopping to do, the school Christmas program, and I decided to switch rooms with my roommate, but wanted to paint before I did so! Ack!!!

One of the big problems we have in the DR is mold and mildew. My clothes mold just hanging in my closet. It is quite annoying. I decided before I switched rooms that I would bleach and paint the room I was moving into. Here you can see a little bit of what the entire room basically looked like:
And here are a few pics of the process:

The finished result was worth the effort. There are 3 green walls and one blue -- I figure that since I am living on a tropical island I should take the opportunity to paint with colors I probably would not choose in the States -- the blue is quite vibrant but also very cheerful.

The last day of school before break I took some pictures with some of my girls. Here they are -- this is basically the 11th grade class, though we imposed on Monica (my only girl in the 9th grade) to take pics with us!

I gotta say though, it is good to be home!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A trip to the south

The Friday after thanksgiving we loaded up two cars early in the morning and set off for the south side of the island - destination Lago Enriquillo and other extraordinary sites.

The saltwater lake is the lowest point in the Caribbean, and is the sanctuary for two reptiles that are distinctive to that area. Here is what Wiki has to say.

We had planned to camp at the beach, but that ended up not being such a good option. We visited a cave that had Taino carvings, and the following day we went snorkeling and got to see some pretty amazing things.

Here are a few pictures worth at least a thousand words.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Thanksgiving Feast

For thanksgiving most of the JCS staff went to the Speciale's (my friend Karen's) house for a HUGE thanksgiving feast. These pictures don't do the fun, chaos, food, laughter, full bellies and sweet fellowship justice, so I might have to post some more later. But here is a taste.

For various and assundry reasons this is the first time that JCS has done an open invitation to staff and families for thanksgiving. It was a blast! It was so nice to get to hang out with the Dominican teachers who I don't normally get to talk to. School can be so rushed and the language barrier really inhibits conversation when you are in a hurry, so having some time to just be goofy and hug on and compliment and smile at and ask about coworkers was such a great blessing to me. There are moments even in the crazy chaos that exists in our lives here where I feel that we do get to touch a piece of heaven. Thanksgiving was my first of these moments in a weekend that was full of them.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

when 7th graders steal my camera

they take pictures...some quite funny:


and these are the culprits:

the day the propane went out at mi casa

so, i was standing over my two burners and the oven which were lit and thinking wouldn't it be funny if the propane ran out the night before thanksgiving while we were preparing our feast....

in hindsight, funny is not the word i would use. here's the puppy responsible: (ours is the grey one in the back.)

the bike

well, we were able to purchase our bike. it is used, it is a yamaha, and thankfully it was less than we expected. thank you, thank you, thank you to those of you who helped us with this purchase. i have driven it twice (just around the neighborhood) and realized a very important thing: we don't really have 'roads' here...i mean, there are roads, but they are almost all dirt. i learned to ride on concrete or asphalt and it is not nearly so slippery as the roads here. so, i dropped the bike tonight. no biggy, just embarrassing. i was going about 5 miles an hour and hit the hand brake instead of the foot break and slid out the back tire. live and learn. (for those of you concerned i have been faithfully wearing a helmet on both of my expeditions unlike this pic where i drove it down to the end of the drive and back.)

because the bike was less than anticipated, Rachel and I out of gratitude want to put some of the balance between expectation and reality toward purchasing a moto for Clarissa (ser previous posts). We are working on raising money towards this end among our friends here. please pray that God will direct us and that we will best know how to help Clarissa and her family.

again, THANK YOU!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A trip to a waterfall

Here is a photo album of our trip to the waterfall (Salto Biaguate I think). It was a beautiful perfect afternoon. On the trip was: Rachel, Jessica, Christy Elmer, Dylan and myself. It was about a half hour ride to the falls, and the ride as well as the destination was gorgeous.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

oh by-gosh by-golly!!!

karen: hello
christina: hey, sometimes they get things right, even in opposite land!
karen: why? what happened?
christina: they are leveling out the road in front of our house!
karen: no way!
christina: way! I even got pictures!
karen: well can you send them to my street?
christina: *uproarious laughter*
I had to call Rachel out from her room to come see! It is so amazing!
She was like, "what's going on?" and I squealed,
"they are evening out the potholes! Now when we get out bike we
won't have to drive around them!!!" YAY!!!!

(I am pretty sure the drivers of that huge piece of machinary thought I had lost my mind,
but it IS a big deal when they get things right around here. I didn't even know the government
possessed such an impressive piece of equipment. I guess I thought they leveled things by
dragging a shovel off the back of their passolas!)

Katie Fluth's Party Extraordinaire

Wednesday night Katie (the PE Teacher & daughter of JCS's director) and her roommates hosted a costume party. Jessica and I just thru on some 'ethnic' looking clothes (our decision was rather last minute)& enjoyed our time at the party getting to hang out with other adults, play some silly games, eat some fantastic food and enjoy being out of the house after days of rain. Here are some glimpses:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Noel is not a Christmas Carol

We arrived for staff meeting yesterday morning just like we would any Monday morning and had devotions, prayed and walked outside to start organizing the mass of children...but there wasn't a mass...there were about 40 kids. At about 8:10 they announced that schools across the country had been closed due to the tropical storm which was (and had been) dumping rain in abundance. Some would say that there was a flood falling from the sky. It poured all day yesterday and we lost power for about 4 hours (which might have happened any day, rain or no). Things certainly are wet. Extreme amounts of rain means water shortages. "What?" you say. That is right, folks, this is opposite land! Thankfully, our house is on well water, and as long as that doesn't go dry we are fine. Those who are on city water can expect to be water-less for about a week as the city water supply fills with mud whenever there is this much rain, so they just shut the whole city water system off. We checked our cistern yesterday and it seems fine, but we did order 4 huge bottles of drinking water just in case.
Most of the time we have been pretty comfortable inside. It is cooler because of the rain, though a little humid. (Alright, alot takes about 20 matches before you can get one to light because the boxes are so damp from the humidity in the air.) Clothes don't dry so well in this weather either so we will rejoice when the sun re-appears, but I have to say that other than being a little damp and a little muddy most of the folks we know here are doing just fine. There are some houses along the rivers, etc. that have been evacuated because of the rising waters, so please pray for those families, etc. As far as I know school should be back in session tomorrow. We have next monday off also, so I am truly truly thankful for the time to catch up, rest, study my spanish and get organized. I was really needing a break, and God has provided some wonderful time for me to think, relax and accomplish things that normally I am too busy to do. So, maybe while Noel is not a christmas carol...for me it has been a song of praise.

My kingdom for a moto...

My roommates and I decided when we first got here that we would try to live for a while without transportation; the exercise would be good for us. What we have found out is that time is our biggest restraint, not a lack of energy or desire. Additionally, we live a little ways up the mountain from town, and carrying groceries of any heft (laundry detergent, dog food, milk, yogurt, flour, sugar) is very tiring. We do fill our backpacks, etc. but still feel about ready to call it a day upon lugging up to the house the things we have purchased in town.

Sometimes we are invited to parties, dinners, bible studies, and other events that we cannot get to. Church is very difficult, as we have to come up with a ride. Anything that needs to be done after dark is impossible...walking after dark here is really not advisable...especially not up the Avenida as it is pitch black for a few hundred feet. All this to say, we really need some transportation.

We started really praying about it a month ago, and immediately someone donated 13,000 pesos. Since then we have received an additional 1,200. We are still about 10,000 short, however; 10,000/32 is $312.50 in U.S. I am asking if anyone would be willing to commit to $50.00 toward this end. When I leave, I will not retain the bike...I will donate it the teachers here, so you would not only be helping me out, but also future teachers. Please consider donating toward this cause. The information for tax deductible donations is to the right of the posting. (Contact info, shipping info, etc.) We are hoping to make the purchase in the next two weeks, so we are praying fervently that God will provide for this need, as He has already shown He is faithful to do.

Thank you for your prayers and gifts toward the fulfillment of this need!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

mi perrita dominicana

Because one favorite topic of my blog is the puppy, here is a pila update.
If you click on the slide show a little options menu pops up. The little white square-ish chat looking icon on the left will show you the captions. Have fun!

This is Pila & Mona playing the other night when I was trying to get some work done. I had been sitting on the couch right beside them getting bumped until I got up and got my camera.

Day of the Races (Dia de la Razas)

Two weeks ago we had the 'day of the races' which was a celebration of the different heritages and histories of Latin America. The day was alot of fun; full of color and music and entertainment. It was hard to decide which pictures to use, but here are a few for your viewing pleasure. (Pictures from October 12th, 2007)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

from noah's ark

or that is how it feels, cat, roommates, insane highschoolers and lots of rain!

I think that I am growing more eccentric living down here, which is probably not a positive thing when I consider reintegrating into US culture. Eccentricity does not usually enhance one's ability to be understood. On the other hand, a friend once told me it is more important to understand than to be understood, so perhaps in the big picture being a little 'unusual' won't hinder (and might help) me understand others better. The longer I am here, the less certain things matter to me and yet other things seem to matter more. I guess you learn to adapt your desires to what is available and have your needs met through the channels which are available to you. For example, I rarely have a huge hankering for foods I can only get in the States (though when I come home for Christmas I will be making the regular "I need SUSHI!" phonecalls, as I have not had any in over 2 months!) I miss the convenience of being able to not plan dinner, knowing that I can run to the grocery store or to a restaurant; but we are learning to do that in a fashion here. Rachel found a great place to get cheeseburgers. A little pricey but very satisfying.
Then there are the things that continue to matter like the fact that I cannot drive home from work and then cloister myself in my house. I cannot decide on a Friday that I want to go to bed at 6 and not see any more of humanity until Sunday. These little things tax the soul. Sometimes I get so tired of people by the end of the school day that I wish I could just scream at everyone to "leave me alone!!!!!!" I am aware that I would feel the same way if I were teaching school in the States. The highschool kids wear me out, but I do love them dearly. The difference is that in the States I could just go crawl in a hole and cease to exist outside of my personal 'space'. I don't have that option here.

It has rained every afternoon-evening since Tuesday. Usually in the morning we have 2-3 hours of sunshine and after that it cools off alot and it pours rain. Great huge amounts of rain that make the air feel like a river, and the house feel like a fish bowl. This is a view out our front patio Saturday afternoon when it was pouring.

and the back yard:

Basically, when it rains there is a river out front and a lake out back. Hard to hear, I know, for those of you in the southeast struggling under mandatory water restrictions. Wow!
The rain makes the kids INSANE and I am not kidding. I am tired of sending people to the office, etc. Sometimes I send them out of the classroom (but that is kind of a treat, you know, for them to get to sit in the hallway and watch everyone) so I have started making the kids stand up when they are squirmy and misbehaving. Once standing if they continue to move around and disrupt class I make them raise their arms straight above their heads (as though they were touching the ceiling) and stand their until either they STOP distracting, or at the very least start crying (nefarious smirk). Seriously, this is not just the 6th graders getting squirmy and sarcastic...its the 10th grade - they make me want to take communist tactics to get them to shut the (bleeped out) up!
Friday, we walked home from school in the rain. Most days a walk home in the rain is a know you have school work left to do, a shower to take, clothes to get dry before they mildew, etc. Friday, however, felt like the rain was just washing away all the frustrations of the week. My roommates thought I was nuts, because I got home, put my bookbag inside and went back outside and stood in the chilly rain for about 10 minutes. I took Pila with me, and she thought I was straight up nutty. I would call her to me, and she would try to stand under me to stay out of the rain, then run back into the patio and whine for me to come inside. It is sad when even your dog has more sense than you do. (refer to the above note about eccentricity.)

I felt so much better because I was allowed to be 'rebellious' and stand in the rain because I knew the next morning I would be able to do laundry and that Friday night I could goof off and not have to feel so burdened by all the requirements of school. I end up busy even in my free time. Thursday I had an awful day; the first day since I have been here that I wanted to quit...not because I minded the culture, but because I was so fed up with the crazy disorganization at the school. Here I am, one of 2 teachers who has not yet missed a day of school, and I get raked over the coals because I let my classes watch a movie (about the subject they had been studying) last week and I didn't specifically write a book about WHY in my lesson plans. Other teachers are a full two weeks behind in their lesson plans...I am only behind because the school's resources (ie: copy machine, tv, dvd player, etc.) are completely unreliable. I had to postpone 3 tests from Friday to Tuesday (because students who take tests on Monday seem to do poorly as culturally here, no one does homework on the weekend!) because the copy machine was broken. How frustrating! So I came home warning everyone to leave me alone and let me take a nap. Of course, less than 2 hours later I had two students in my kitchen making chocolate chip cookies. (I know, I know...but when I think of WHY I am here I realize, I am not here to win the praises of the school administration, or to score kiss-up points with other teachers, or to win accolades or even to have un-opposed philosophies on teaching -- I am here because I feel called to LOVE the kids. And one of the ways I get to do that is to stand in my stuffy kitchen and tease and talk to them while we make a huge mess baking cookies, cookies which I can then take the next day and share in the teacher's lounge. Again, I guess I see that it is all about perspective!)
Back to the small unusual things that feed my soul...freshly washed laundry -- specifically newly bleached and cleaned sheets and towels...just seeing them float in the breeze smelling fresh and looking nautical...this was yesterday and I stood there as I took the picture and thought, "wow, what a perfect moment." One thing I do like about saturdays is that they are laundry day and in a perfect world by saturday night my clothes and clean, my towels are clean, my sheets are changed and my week's teacher wardrobe needs are met.

The fifth grade teacher came over yesterday to help us change some lightbulbs. He is over 6' tall and can actually reach the fixtures, which Rachel and I can hardly do standing on our tip-toes on the dining room chairs. Ends up it was not the bulbs that are bad, but the fixtures - go figure - but while he was here he checked his email and left us with this lovely jewel from one of his students:
"Mr. Allen, I think you are a grat teachers, but Ms. Fluth is still my favorite since the 3rd grad. Sorry" (Or something to that effect!) O my how we laughed!!!

The junior high kids tell me that I am their best-dressed teacher. I know this should provoke a good laugh amongst my stateside peers as I am the least polished of my friends back home. *shrug* never-the-less it is nice to be appreciated by someone. *smile*

I have fantastic news! I have a TAX-DEDUCTABLE address for monies contributed to provide for expenses during my time here!
Please send donations to:
New Horizons Youth Foundation
Jarabacoa Christian School Staff Fund (Christina Rich)
701 S. Clinton Street, Suite 112
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802

For those of you who are worried, JCS is loosely affiliated with Escuela Caribe, mostly because New Horizon (and Phil Redwine) raised the money to start the school. JCS does NOT use the same practices exercised at EC because JCS is an entirely different school with an entirely difference mission. EC is an American school for American teenagers. JCS is primarily for Dominican teenagers and is run by a board of Dominican business men. (Though, one must admit sometimes poorly run.) I am happy to provide more details for anyone who would like them; just let me know!

Also, packages and letters may be sent to:
Jarabacoa Christian School
Christina Rich
Unit # 3039-ECDR
3170 Airmans Drive
Fort Pierce, Florida

I pay $1.25 per pound to have it flown down, so please, don't send me anvils or cars or anything heavy unless you include the funds to pay for the shipping. $1.25 is not much for someone working on a U.S. wage, but when it is one-tenth of your daily salary it starts becoming a financial burden.

Speaking of finances, Rachel and I received a wonderful blessing from someone here in Jarabacoa. They provided (anonymously) about half of the cost of a small motor cycle. It was a fantastic and truly heart-blessing gift. What makes it even more touching is that I know how little people who live on pesos have to give. To be brutally honest, as I know all of you are accustomed to me being, I was rather ashamed to receive a gift so substantial from anyone here in the D.R. What they gave was a full months salary. I know no one in the U.S. who would donate a full months salary to any cause. I feel that I am always harping about money, but as I consider it, I find myself truly deeply grieved at the prosperity that we experience in the States and how tight fisted we are with our monies. I know that all of my friends stateside make at least ten times the yearly salary of anyone I know here. Heque, I made only 30K a year and I made ten times any teacher at JCS. It grieves me that of all the fantastic, generous, missions-minded friends I have, I have only received money toward transportation here from people here in the DR. (This in no way negates the generosity of those of you who contributed to my expenses prior to me leaving Charlotte. I am deeply thankful for your help, and without it, I would not be here!) So, not to put too fine a point on it, but I am now specifically asking for 10 people to commit to contributing $30.00 a piece. I thought of doing one of those email forwards where you add your name to a list *laugh* but that is just plain obnoxious. I will be posting updates about how much progress has been made toward that goal. For most of you $30.00 is a bottle of wine or a meal uptown. For me, $30.00 is three days wages and 1/7th of my monthly income......I think you get the point.

Have I mentioned how much I love my rain boots? Because most roads here are not paved (and those that are really aren't) having rain boots to splash around with is a joy! I can put on nice warm socks, slip my feet into my rainboots and I carry these to school with me:

My mother brought them when she came down, and although I think that crocs are quite ugly shoes, these cheap ones from target are fantastically functional here. So, if you are looking for something cheap that you would like to ship me here (and they are light weight too) I wear a size 7-8 in womens. *grin*

Emily started school last week! She is too cute and her mother tells Rachel how excited Emily is to be in school. We stuck our heads into Emily's classroom last week, and were talking with Nancy Fluth (her teacher) and telling Nancy how we felt so excited that our little Emily was in school. Nancy, in her wonderful loving child-encompassing way said, "No, she is mine." Meaning that Emily is her student so she has greater joy in her than we do. It feels so good to know that Emily has such a wonderful, affectionate, godly woman in her life as Nancy Fluth is! UPDATE: Please pray for Emily...her mother rushed her into the doctor today because she is running a 104 degree fever!!!

We thought we had found Mona (the cat) a home. Leah had taken her for Dylan (her 7 year old) but it turns out that Dylan is extremely allergic to cats. Poor Dylan!!! I felt so bad for him. His eye was all swollen. I hope, for his sake, that he will grow out of it. How unfun! So, Mona is back with us. Pila is thrilled. She LOVES Mona and they play together very well. This is a typical scene:

Pila is such a joy. Jessica asked me if I wanted to get rid of her. I told Jess very clearly that at this point Pila is the only family I have here, and the only thing I have to call my own. She is my reason for coming home and my most affectionate companion. (She is also an often unwelcome alarm clock and definitely the loudest arguer in the house...but those are forgivable because she is so durn cute!) She has grown so much. I bathed her when I first got her and she could barely put her little chin on the side of the plastic maroon basin I bathed her in. Two weeks ago when I bathed her she was definitely able to easiily look over it, and the water only came up to her when I bathed her she could stand with a right leg in the basin and a left leg out! She is really good about being bathed. She doesn't like it, but she behaves pretty well. She has learned her name and also is getting pretty good at "no" and "down" and really responds when I call her in a certain tone -- by running in the opposite direction. She knows when she is in trouble, and all I have to do when telling her "no" is start to get out of my chair and she skitters off in another direction. So now Rachel and I are working on teaching her "sit". She seems to be getting it pretty fast. I have a feeling that "stay" is going to be a problem though. All in all she seems to be a bright dog. Little dogs seems to mature faster than big dogs. Auggie wouldn't sit for ages and ages and just didn't seem to get most commands. On the other hand, Auggie was easier to housebreak. *shrug* Guess you cannot have everything. I took a video but am having technical difficulties apparently. Too bad because in the distance you can see the horse that likes to hang out at our back fence early in the mornings. Saturday Pila "saw" him for the first time and stood on the back step and barked at him. (Horse entirely unaffected, btw.)

Since I have been working on this post since about 9 Sunday morning and have done laundry, made croutons, eaten two meals, helped a student with a project at the school, cleaned my room (ok, just a little), wrote two tests and done various and assundry other things I cannot remember; I guess it is time to go to sleep! (written Sunday night)
May God richly bless you this week, and may your days be filled with heavy rains and cold weather! Grace and Peace!!!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Give me reason to believe You'll never leave me incomplete

Even though the outside of my world has changed alot and I am learning to adapt to the different circumstances I find here; it is the inside which concerns me the most. Every flaw in my personality, every negative aspect of my built in response system is highlighted under these circumstances. I try to be objective; to recognize that the first year of teaching is always stressful, or moving to a new house with new roommates is eye opening, or adjusting to a new culture is fatiguing...but still I am inclined to beat myself up about ever small example of selfishness I find during introspection. And, believe me, there are plenty. Things that seemed so simple 6 months ago are completely confounding now - like not knowing when it is ok to express a need for time alone, or how to manage my need to rest when everywhere around me the need for service is so obvious. An example that regularly occurs: how often should I volunteer to help care for the sick?
Here in the DR it is expected that all patients in the hospital should have a family member present 24-7. Of course, most of us do not have family here, so that means that the teachers are called upon to care for the other teachers. Staying over night in the hospital usually means that the 'helper' gets very little sleep and doesn't get alot of other work done other. Hospitals here, as you can imagine, are not the huge, clean, organized places they are in the States. This past Friday I spent the night with my roommate Jessica, who was in the clinic here in Jarabacoa because she has Dengue. The 'clinic/hospital' didn't have running water to the bathrooms in the patient rooms. You had to ask them to 'turn it on' and then they would immediately turn it back off again. Nothing is electronic, so you have to go downstairs and wake the nurse when the IV bottle is empty. When I would visit the downstairs bathroom during the night (since the upstairs had no water) it was reminiscent of a U.S. gas station bathroom (you know, the kind Britney is famous for visiting barefoot.) There was toilet paper on the floor, and no toilet paper on the roll. The toilet was not flushed and it reaked of urine. Everything was dingy and it looked as though it was cleaned about never. The mirror was in a macrame frame that some grandmother probably knotted in the 70's with orange twine and it was hanging on a nail. The handle on the toilet was broken...and I suppose you could say there was running water from the sink...though I think I could have produced more moisture by spitting. Jessica's room had air conditioning (of a musty and mildewy sort!) Though it at least decreased the number of misquitos (though not the number of large lizards, though, of those I have grown quite fond.) Her bed was horrific and the sheets were 'clean' but really rather awful. I slept on a bench seat that ended at my knees when I layed down. All in all, though, it wasn't too bad for me. For poor Jess though, it has been a nightmare. The nurse on duty the night I was there was a horrid old hag with a NewYork attitude to say the least. Everything seemed to be done with a sigh and the rolling of eyes. At one point the IV bag wasn't draining properly, so she unceremoniously poked it with a syringe and stalked from the room. When I had to go downstairs to wake her at 3ish to replace the IV bag she did promptly come upstairs, changed the bag, and left the old one on the rolling bed table and shuffled from the room. Now I can attest it is no fun to be at a hospital in the wee hours of the morning, but she was being paid to be there, and I would hope had the option to sleep during the day - which, I might add in my best martyr voice, I had not! I left the hospital at 7.30 (had been awoken at 6.45) to walk back from town to school because I had 'Saturday school' (where students with late homework come and work off their debt to humanity) as well as some rowdy (though quite loveable) 10th graders who had accumulated to work on their bulletin board project for my class. So much for half of my weekend, though I was happy to help care for Jessica as it is HORRID to be sick here.
Another common question is whether it is acceptable to go on about household chores, or schoolwork, when company shows up to use the phone or the internet...or students arrive at my door to confer on projects they should have been preparing a week ago - bless their little highschool hearts! I love it when the kids drop by, but it does keep teachers from getting anything else done (like lesson plans, or dinner, or cleaning.) So basically, I have been struggling with a bad attitude for the past week. Rachel keeps reminding me that we are called to serve, and that call is not definitive in time or energy, but on-going and constant...but at what point do you say, "I really cannot serve and be prepared to teach with any sense of integrity or accomplishment." If any of you have any brilliant wisdom on this, please advise.

The title of this post is from a Jars of Clay song called, "Something Beautiful" and the verse goes:
What I get from my reflection
Isn't what I thought I'd see
Give me reason to believe
You'll never leave me incomplete
Will you untie this loss of mine
It so easily defines me
Do you see it on my face?
And all I can think about
Is how long
I've been waiting to feel you move me.

Well, I am moved physically...but what will the eternal consequence of this location reorientation bring? Like my first post, I think "In time will I be what You're thinking of?" Daily I have to remember the promise found in Philippians 1:6 "Being confident in this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." God, how much work there is still left to do on my soul! Don't You grow weary of chastising me and reshaping me, for I must be the most stubborn clump of clay ever to enter the Potter's hands? Please forgive me for my rebellion and self-righteous stupidity. My errors are endless!!! Please make this epitome of normalcy into something exquisite and beautiful, for certainly You are the only One who can!

Rachel and I have two specific prayer requests. The first is for Emily. She is Clarissa's (who cleans our house) youngest daughter. We have decided to enroll her at JCS. She is only 3 and we pray that she still has time to learn English and establish a fluency that will allow her to complete JCS. Rachel and I have only committed to this year. We will see how she does and where God takes her mother and sisters. Her yearly tuition is several hundred dollars but it includes school supplies, and we will purchase her uniforms. This will also allow her to be closer to where her mother works and hopefully to see her mother more. The older girls won't be able to keep up the fluency standards of the school since they are 8 or above and know no English. Please pray for Emily, and if God moves you to help us support her, please let me know. Here is a picture of Emily:

The second prayer request is for a vehicle. If Rachel and I split the cost of a small motorbike -- we should each only have to contribute about $300-400. This will allow us to get to and from church, shopping, the dr. etc. Additionally, if either or both of us decide to return next year, we would have the vehicle and could find a place a little further from school and ALOT less expensive to live in. The need for a vehicle is pretty intense. We are house-bound after dark and have to beg rides to get to church or any place else. We can walk but on weekends like this past with Rachel at the hospital Thurs and Saturday nights and me there Friday, we just don't have time to get to and from town for shopping, etc. So, we will have to shop some evening this week which most likely will mean taking a taxi back from town on Monday or Tuesday night as it will be too late to walk back by the time we finish running errands. I know it seems a simple thing to those of you not here, but when everything takes so much time, having to walk a few miles can really take a hunk out of your day, and your time to plan for school or hang out with the students, and really, those are the things I am here for.
Speaking of running errands, here is one of the 4 supermercados we regularly visit:

On to some happier things -- here are some praises to bring before the Lord:
I have not been sick yet. I think I fight off most things in a lesser manner. I might feel run down or need extra sleep, but I have not yet missed school. We just completed our 6th week so we are ALMOST through the first quarter, can you believe it? We counted the other day and there are only 4 American teachers who have not missed school! I made the special am I? *wink*
I really really really love teaching and am sooo fond of my students. I had one this past week who I was worried was really unhappy with me. I had assigned him to Saturday school and he was not excited about it. He had kept 'warning' me that he would fail the test he had to take Thursday and sure enough he, he had saturday school and will have homework club. There is no excuse really, other than his 16 year old belief that he can ride around in his jeep blaring music and goofing off and failing school without it really affecting the rest of his life. His father is determined that he will go to University in the States, so he really cannot afford to continue this lazy and apathetic attitude. In any case, while he still claims I am a mean teacher, I think his dislike of me is circumstantial and not personal. Saturday he managed to pass the test with an A after only two hours of studying. Friday night he sat and chatted with me and another teacher for an hour before driving me to the hospital to be with Jess. Mrs. Fluth says that he and I have a love/hate relationship...I should be irritated with him, but he is so likeable I cannot be...and he LOVES to argue and probably wishes he could be mad at me, but I am such a great teacher he cannot. *Laughing* (Or so I'd like to think!) One of the really great things about teaching here is that I get to know each of my students individually and have a chance to establish communication with them that extends beyond passing out detension and threatening to beat them around the head and shoulders! I wish each of you could spend a day with me here and see how much fun I have with these kids. They are fun and witty and I have completely lost my heart to them!
I think I am getting adjusted to the chaos which is life here. I realized today that I was not irritated because I am HERE, I am just irritated the same way I would be was good to feel like I am moving past the culture shock and back into my normal irritable self - funny praise, I know, but my 'normal' self is something I feel I can prayerfully learn to discipline...the irrational self that found life down here an insurmountable trauma was more than I could handle. I guess that is why we look to the Father for all comfort and support.
There is so much more to be thankful for! The wonderful Dominican believers I have met down here. Teachers at JCS who really love their students. A director who shares my excitement everytime a trouble child excels. The beauty of the watercolor sunsets...or the dramatic tropical rain storms.
And this:

Pila is a growing and insane puppy who manages to entertain herself by dragging various household objects into my room and either burying them under my bed or depositing them on the mat beside my bed. Things like shoes and the brush to clean the toilet. She also enjoys begging for food and harrassing visitors. I consider how relatively peaceful life in the house was prior to her taking up residence in my flowerbed, and I can honestly say that I wouldn't trade this pestering obnoxious puppy for all the previous quite and peace. So, I am thankful for my obnoxious puppy.

There is so much more I want to add, but school work and Spanish calls, so hopefully I will get another update posted in the near future.

I really miss you all! Please don't forget us in our tropical, dengue & leptospirosis-filled microcosm down here. We NEED every prayer you can spare. Keep in touch and let me know how I can pray for all of you at home! Only 3 months til Christmas!!!! Less than that til I am home to catch up for two weeks! Can hardly wait! Much love...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Weddings, long weekends & walks

It seems whenever I end up in a new culture I shortly end up at a wedding. This one was a joy to attend, though the circumstances were less than perfect. Amanda (the bride) was a teacher at JCS last year, and this year she is an assistant teacher (in theory it was to lessen her load etc.) About 4 days before the wedding she started to show all the Dengue signs that the other teachers had shown, and though she was feeling 'better' for the ceremony, she was still quite ill when she walked down the aisle. Poor Ruben. "In sickness...." shouldn't start on your wedding day. They sat through most of the ceremony (which I thought was a great idea, and I think all wedding parties should adopt the custom) but at one point Amanda was so hot she felt nauseated. Ruben sat and fanned her while the pastor was was sweet and sad at the same time. The bride still looked beautiful.

Misty, the K-2 teacher, spent the night with us the night before and she and Rachel and I laughed as we all had some version of black/white/red on for the wedding.

I would have cropped the picture more, but I love the mountains behind the church, and everytime I walk out there I am amazed by the view.

We have a long weekend this weekend which is HEAVENLY. No school tomorrow...PRAISE THE LORD. I needed a break so badly, as did everyone else. We still have a slew of sick teachers. The PE teacher (Katie) and the 4th grade teacher (Kristie) are still in the hospital. Karyn Staats was ill last night and I don't know if she is better. Diego (the groom's brother and the JCS Bible teacher) was ill last week. I hope he is better now. He looked ok at the wedding, but I know he has been struggling to keep up. My roommate, Jessica, has been running a fever for two days. She is staying with Dona Carmen who is taking care of her. Rachel is in Santo it is just Pila, Mona (the cat...more about that in a moment) and myself for the weekend. I am enjoying the relative quiet (animals and neighbors excepted).

I have been very productive today. I was woken up at 6.30 by Pila and so I got up and started a load of laundry. I have done 4 total today. I then made two batches of scones...the first were pear with dried fruit and a powdered sugar glaze. I was so excited when I found powdered sugar yesterday at the Supermercado Jarabacoa. The second batch was chocolate chip drizzled with chocolate. I cleaned, gave both Pila and Mona baths, wrote the 10th graders next history test (on India, China and Japan -- they have world cultures this year) and did various and assundry other jobs -- like bleached out our kitchen garbage, etc. These are the things that my life is made of now. All in all I am learning contentment. Dona Carmen (she is on the board of JCS and a very wonderful woman) stopped by with Jessica after mass and brought me breakfast Dominicana. Quite yummy I tell you. I am about to reheat it for dinner. We had an interesting conversation - she speaking spanish and I responding in English. But we communicated, with some patience on both of our parts. She was very patient and kind. She is a brilliant woman...a lawyer and very well respected here. I feel honored that she is so kind to me. She has told me that she will teach me to cook dominican food and I have promised her that we will have a conversation completely in Spanish before next summer. It is a good goal for me.

I have taken several walks the past few days. Its been nice. I keep forgetting how much of Jarabacoa I haven't seen -- I usually end up going to the same places and it is so nice to see new places! Friday night Rachel, Tondi (the first grade teacher) and I walked around the neighborhood past the house here. We saw this typical dominican scene:

Hard to tell from the pic...but those kids are playing baseball. They are serious about it too! We walked past them and down the hill to see the house being built that I really like:
I tried to paste pics together, but the lines still don't line up quite right...but you get the idea.
Tonight my upstairs neighbors and I and another of the teachers went for about an hour walk down toward the river...since half the party were kids we didn't move at a very steady/quick pace so we didn't make it all the way down there, but the evening was gorgeous. I tried to take pictures...but it is hard to catch the dusk beauty.

The clouds remind me of Fragonard's paintings. I tried to take a pic of the mountains...but it was getting too dark.

Ok, a few other small pieces of life here. This is my room and my roommate, Pila.

Rachel got a cat a week ago...we thought for sure it would die on Friday. It couldn't use its back to legs. It could hardly hold its head up to eat. It was rough on both of us. The cat's name is Mona which means monkey. Fitting to go with Pila (which means battery...because she keeps going and going...) Poor Mona. So we went to bed Friday sure that we would wake up to a dead cat...but NOPE. So, we have one recovering kitten who was not too happy today when I decided to hold her up to get a pic. (She wouldn't stay still long enough if I didn't hold her.) She is lonely because Rachel is gone and Mona is closed in Rachel's room because Pila doesn't understand that she is sick and she shouldn't be tackled...silly puppy!

Again, I am sure there is more I want to say, but 5 hours after starting this post I have decided it is time to sleep! Please keep praying for us here. The sickness is wearing us all out (and we were tired of it a month ago.) People keep asking if it is getting better. The answer is, "not yet." God protect us. It can be nerve fraying.
Also, Rachel and I have decided to start praying for a small motorcycle. A new one larger than we need is only $850.00. We need a $600.00 ish one. We would split the cost and then we would have it so we could get to and from church and be able to run errands etc. It is hard to be so dependent on others for everything. We couldn't take the cat to the vet, I didn't get to church this morning, etc. because we constantly have to call around til we can find someone who can take us. So, if it is God's will we will find a bike. Thanks for all your prayers and supprt. All the emails of encouragement etc. And special thanks to Christine who wrote me snail mail and made my whole Tuesday. How nice it was to get a letter from home the evening that my mother left. Seriously, it was precious! Thank you so much!

Grace and Peace all!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Maybe I will tell you all about it when I'm in the mood to lose my way with words...

Blogging is an art form all its own. I begin to see my life in experiences that would make great blogs. Like the xkcd comic:

Yesterday evening when we received our new Dominican refrigerator was just such a moment. First, I have never experienced a refrigerator that two men can toss around as though it were a beach ball. Seriously, this thing weighs about 2 pounds (ok, maybe a little more, but not much.) The old American fridge which they took away today was on wheels, but even so, you had to throw your body weight into it to move it about. Also, the Dominican fridge was wrapped and brand new! Wow! Certainly such an event deserves an honorable mention in the blog.

My mother was here this past weekend which was wonderful. I didn't get any pics of her unpacking the 330 pounds of luggage she brought, but I would like to say thank you to Michelle for the CD's, to Lisa for the goodies (such luxuries!), to Charity & my Aunt Betty for the school supplies and house stuff and to TMT for the school supplies. My parents really put alot of effort into bringing me some things which will make life easier and I REALLY appreciate it!

It was busy the whole time Mom was here. Saturday we had a lovely late lunch at a fancy restaurant here named Lena's.

We did normal saturday shopping and errand running. Endured a can see the clouds building up.

More about the visit later...I have some video I want to post, but I don't have the time to upload it right now...maybe tomorrow.

I do have a few more pics of my classes. This is the 9th grade:

Geuri (pronounced 'hay-o-dee') is on the far left, then Monica, Roberto is on my right, then David, JC and Genssy. The 9th grade gives me gobs of trouble. They are on chapter 1 of their book where the rest of my classes are on 4 or 5. The 9th grade just has a harder time. They are also lazy. Monica and Genssy are great students, but the rest of the boys are incorrigible to say the least. Geuri, JC and David currently have a bet with me that they can make it til Oct 5th without being sent down to the office. If they can I owe them chocolate. If they cannot, then they owe me chocolate...well, today Geuri & JC & Roberto were in the office. *sigh* I am frustrated for them because I want them to do well, but on the other hand they need to start taking accountability for their actions. I do really enjoy them all though. They are witty and fun to hang out with even if they are a little unruly at times.

This is the 7th grade:

Anthony & Jerry are down front. Adonis is on the far left. Then Gregory, Ana, Edward is the peace sign in the front, Richard is behind Ana, Javier is hiding behind folks in the back and Jairo is on the far right. Romaris was sick that day, so she wasn't in the pic. I will have to take another one soon. I really enjoy the 7th grade. They are bright, their english is very good and they generally seem to like history. They have days when they are high-strung and talkative. The biggest issue is that Anthony, Richard and Jerry are all class clowns (with Gregory and Edward thrown in there on occassion.) Last week Richard ended up standing up the whole class period because he couldn't sit still and read without trying to covertly do his homework, clown around or otherwise disturb the class. Today Anthony stood for about 20 minutes because even though we were watching a movie, he wouldn't be quiet and sit still. I hate sending them to the office for having the fidgets, but on the other hand, they need to learn to control their tongues and their desire to be laughed at and get attention. The problem is that they often get me laughing so hard that it is hard to maintain order at all....I hope I get better at keeping a straight face. On the other hand, I like that I am still entertained and enjoying myself with them enough to get the giggles during class. They are funny kids, and laughing is good for the soul.

Lastly, here is a small update on Pila, my puppy. She has grown on me and now I think she is adorable.

She still has her moments of being obnoxious and unmannered, but her spastic moments are growing shorter and her obedient and affectionate moments longer, so I am well pleased. She is growing alot too. This picture was taken a few days ago and I can already tell she is bigger now than then.

I want to include so much more, but time and tiredness prohibit me, so stay tuned...more is on its way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Martes Musings

In an attempt not to get so bogged down, here is a shorter post.

I am trying to remember to take pictures of all my classes. It is hard as the days are busy, but I did remember on Monday to take Pics of my 11th grade class. The only sad thing is that Rachel is missing (she was in Santiago for the day visiting friends.)

That's Lis (pronounced Liz) on the left. Her father is one of the pastor's at the church I will be attending here. She is a very bright student and alot of fun to have in class. Next to her is Karen. Karen's mom owns a clothing store in town and Karen seems to be the barbie doll of her class. She is a sweet girl but she often doesn't show alot of motivation. It is hard to expect 11th grade girls ANYWHERE to see the value of anything outside of boys, but it seems even more difficult here. Beside Karen is Mary. Mary's family is from Costa Rica and came here 4 years ago to plant the church that I attend. (So Lis and Mary's fathers are the two pastors at Templo Bautista.) On the other side of me is Elsie. Her mother owns a bakery in town (and I ate a YUMMY donut from there for breakfast on Sunday.) She is academically perhaps the strongest student in her class (Lis definitely has an advantage because she is a native English speaker, but Elsie has really exceptional writing/understanding skills and she puts effort into her studies.) Next to Elsie is Brayan - the only boy in their class. He is a good kid but not very motivated. He is also very shy about his written english and probably doesn't like me alot because I like them to write in class. They are a fun class, and we have alot of interesting discussions. It is hard to make US history relevant for students who don't necessarily intend to go to school in the States, but it is important for their understanding of world politics etc. We will be able to vary from the book more after this first semester and discuss more current events. I really enjoy discussing American government, but I also recognize that much of my appreciation is found in the subltleties and those are harder to communicate.

I really need to get pics of my 9th grade class. I want to tell you stories about them, but you need to see their faces and, in truth, hear their voices to appreciate what a handful they are. BUT they are great kids and I have LOADS of affection for them. For any of you who have kids, or who have taught before can you please tell me why sometimes the troublemakers win your affection more quickly than their quiet studious classmates?

The dog...has a name. Dariel named her "pila" which means battery because she keeps going and going. Rachel and I took her to the vet today (again) and she got her parvo shot and a leash and a food dish. I know, I know...but my roommate, Jessica, really doesn't want me to keep her...If I can find her a family I will. She is a pain, and keeps me up at night, but honestly, it is nice to have something to look forward to in the evenings -- and playing with Pila and cuddling with her is an escape for me. (Granted, sometimes I would like to strangle her. On the walk back from town today I was holding her and she was SCREAMING and drawing the attention from everyone for blocks. They were all turning to see who was killing the dog. I just smiled sheepishly and hoped that they knew that the gringo wasn't torturing the dog, though it sounded that way. Most people just smiled. I am sure they are getting a laugh out of the gringo school teacher adopting a female runt street dog. *sigh* what can I say? I am a pushover.

In other news (quite literally) the Dengue epidemic here is being reported on around the world. Here is an article from Cuba (?) and another from China.
Regan is supposed to come home from the hospital tomorrow whcih is fantastic, but Katie Fluth was really sick earlier today so we are all praying that she doesn't have Dengue. It is getting ridiculous, but there really isn't much you can do to avoid it. I will make a point to either get my misquito net by saturday. I don't know if it will really make much difference, but it cannot hurt.

That is about it for the moment. I am tired and I think that Pila has finally decided that she is sleepy again, so with any luck in about 10 minutes she will be so fast asleep that I can put her in the kennel without her waking up and noticing! *crosses fingers* Please keep praying for us here. I am definitely learning to adjust (and am VERY excited about my mother arriving here in Friday) but there are still worries and frustrations. (As of course you all know since we all have them.) I will keep praying for all of you. Know that you are in my thoughts constantly.

Best wishes to my small group as you gather tonight (well, tomorrow...but you will read this wed.) I miss you all terribly, but am encouraged to know that you are all fellowshipping together and building community.

Grace and Peace

Sunday, September 9, 2007

when you love you walk on water...

...just don't stumble on the waves
we all wanna go there something awful
but to stand there it takes some grace. - Rich Mullins

There is so much that i want to tell, and it is hard to know where to begin. so first, basic updates on sickness, school stuff, etc.

Nancy Fluth, the director's wife, who first came down with Dengue is back to teaching! It took over three weeks for her to heal sufficiently and she still gets tired, but THANK GOD she is healing well and is back to teaching the PK-3 class.
Kimberly, one of our roommates, went back to the States about two weeks ago. She was very sick, and had some other complicating health issues.
Derrick, who had Typhoid, is back at school and doing well. There was alot to catch up on after missing the first two weeks of teaching his 5th grade class, but he seems to be adjusting.
Rachel, my roommate, was out of school for a week - we are not sure what she had, but last week she was back and taught and though the week has been stressful, she survived.
Christy Elmer, a second grade teacher, has Dengue. She was in the hospital last weekend but has been recovering at home this week. She had several really uncomfortable days because her internal organs were swollen making it hard to breathe, be comfortable etc. She appears to be on the mend. I don't know what her ETA is for returning to school.
Regan Hess, the third grade teacher, was taken into Santiago on Wed (?). He had been sick all week and they finally determined he has Dengue. He is still in the hospital. They are still waiting for his platelets to start rising instead of falling. Please pray for him.
So the running total is 15 American teachers. 2 with serious stomach ailments (one returned stateside and one recovered). 3 teachers with Dengue (Nancy recovered, Christy Elmer & Regan still sick.) That is a 3rd of the Americans. Some of the Dominican staff have been sick as well. Rough way to start a year...but God knows all about it, and we are clinging to the trials/perseverance/character/hope promise.

A week ago Emmanuel, one of my tenth graders, was in a car accident (along with some relatives of his) coming back from the capital where he was playing in a baseball tournament. The car blew a tire and crossed the line or hit something (details are still unclear to me.) His uncle and his grandfather were both killed. He returned to school midweek and seems in good spirits. TOO good. He lost his father 6 months ago, and the accident and loss of family members again is more than any average 15 year old could handle. I think most of the teachers feel pretty certain that he is not handling it at all - just repressing - and hence the happy-go-lucky attitude we have all been seeing. Please pray for him. Sometimes you wonder why God allows such catastrophies to pile up in people's lives.

I keep forgetting to take pictures at school of more of my classes. Days are full and it feels we bounce from one thing to the next constantly. By the time I get home from school I am flat worn out. Many nights I am in bed before 10 - some nights by 8.30 or so. But, classes are going well. 4 of my 6 classes had tests this past week - overall it seems that they did pretty well. I am head over heels about the 10th grade class where the lowest grade was a "B". Tuesday was an interesting afternoon. I got home from school and one of the 10th graders (Heidy) came over to study, then one of my 8th graders (Dariel) who had missed school that day (due to being tardy) stopped by begging to take his test. Then another 10th grader (Katherine, my upstairs neighbor) came down and joined Heidy and Rachel and I for dinner. Friday night several of the 10th graders stopped by and we made cookies and salsa. Then Katherine and I walked Ebony home and I met Ebony's mother, Eunice, and then Katherine and I walked back to our house...and that is where the puppy really enters the pic. It was after 8 and quite dark. I had ignored the puppy all afternoon (ugg, tore my heart) but at 8 my defenses were down and I decided to at least bathe it and give it some water...and so, because I am a big push-over I have to decide what to do with this:

Yesterday after Clarissa and her daugher Marlenis (sp?) finished cleaning, we went to their 'house' outside of Jarabacoa. Clarissa cleans at the school and Rachel was talking to her one day and learned a little of her circumstances so we wanted to figure out a way we could help her. She has 5 girls ranging in age from 15 down to 3. Shortly after the three year old was born Clarissa's husband was hit by a car. She has been supporting her family by herself. They live in a small building (maybe 10' x 12' if I am estimating generously) which is sub divided into two rooms (there is some wall and alot of curtain to divide the rooms). All 6 members sleep in the larger half of the dwelling and there is a pretend kitchen/dining space in the smaller side of the dwelling. Truly, there is NOT much room. They were very excited to have us over and fixed arroz y pollo for us to have for lunch. Clarissa also invited her mother-in-law and her brother-in-law and his wife over. (and two of their kids). He was primarily there to drive us back after we ate. It was so humbling to be so graciously received by a family who has so much less than what I consider the bare minimum for survival. We are praying for the funds for Clarissa's youngest to get to go to JCS. It costs about $400.00 US a year. Here is a picture of her family (Clarissa is wearing the hair net and tank top. The older woman is her mother-in-law. Her youngest is sitting in Marlenis, the next to oldest (14) lap. The girl on the far right is Clarissa's neice (I believe). Their house is only as wide as the window, etc. they are in front of - the one you see to the far right is the neighbor's house. The doorway on the left is the left wall of her building. You can see the space is not very large.)

I think I have found a church here. It is the fundamental Baptist church and I am sure that I have some theological differences but I really like the community there and I need to get plugged in locally.

The church on Sunday mornings is mostly full of kids that come from the local barrios (most often very low-income/education communities.) The service is in Spanish, but I can pick out parts. It feels good to be in a community and worshipping. Both of the pastors' daughters are in my 11th grade history class. I get to hear/see alot about their families and church even outside of Sundays and that is nice too. This is a picture of the view at the church. You can see the side of the building to the left. I was standing about 15 feet forward and about 10 feet to the side of where I was standing to take a pic of the front of the church.

Rachel and I house-sat for one of the other teachers last night and their house compared to ours is a resort. We sat on their front porch this morning and drank coffee and commented on how amazing it is that we decide we want to live on a tropical island and "poof" we are allowed to do so. (Of course, we all know it is not that simple, but there are moments when the beauty of our location makes us forget for a moment all the other travails we endure.) I try to capture the blueness of the sky, the grandure of the mountains, the lushness of the fruit trees, but I cannot export to you the feel of the air, or the slant of the sun or the sense of where we are. These pictures are just very dim representations of the amazingness we live in.

This was a picture that Rachel took from the landing at the top of the steps at the school looking across the sports field. It is the view I see everyday in greater and lesser moments of glory, but rarely do I stop and take it in that I don't still feel some amazement. I truly desire you all to see it for yourselves!

In other news, it has been over a week since they set the field next door on fire. I am growing bored and look forward to the next time they set it ablaze. Watching all the men that usually sit at the colmado on the corner come out and watch the fire provides the residents of this house with much entertainment. Also, no recent goat spottings or chickens in the school yard. (Or maybe I am just getting used to things like that so I don't notice them anymore.) I did stop by the bakery belonging to the mother of one of the 11th grade girls (Elsie) and while standing outside waiting to order heard a chicken and looked and a woman had a huge hen hanging by its feet (they were tied together) from the handlebars of her motor bike. Elsie said, "That is something you wouldn't see in the US." Too true, Elsie, but it is part of what makes living in Jarabacoa interesting!

There is much more to tell, but I need to go ahead and get this posted, so keep checking back. I have every intention of posting pictures of my classes as soon as I can 1) remember to take pics. 2) have time on the internet to post and 3) manage to stay awake longer than it takes to do the bare minimum of necessary activities that fill my day.

Grace and Peace to you all!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A short Update and the 8th Grade

Day 26. Hard to believe that in 2 days I will have been here a month! (On the other hand, it feels like a small age since I was home.)
I don't have long to write because I have to be at school in just over an hour, but I haven't found time to post lately because of all there is to do at school, at home, etc. This is just a brief hello to say that, for the moment, things are going better.
Derrick, who had Typhoid, started teaching on Monday. He seems to be doing ok, though I have heard that re-occurences within the first month are not uncommon. Please pray for him.
Nancy Fluth (who has Dengue) is at home. She is still not feeling well. Her illness was severe. It will probably be at least a week until she is teaching (maybe longer.) They have told her it will be three months until she is fully recovered.
Christy Elmer and my roommate Rachel have some kind of flu. They have both had blood tests, so as far as we know it is nothing more serious. Christy is on the mend, but Rachel is still not feeling well. They are both 2nd grade teachers, so both second grade classrooms have had subs this week.
Kimberly, the other of my roommates, had salmonella. She flew home yesterday. She decided that (because of health reasons, etc.) this was not where she was supposed to be.
Jessica Swan moved into Kimberly's room this past weekend. She is the highschool mathematics teacher, and she seems like a really nice girl. She has friends here who are on the board of the school. (More about the school board, etc. in a post to follow.)
Also, Misty, the PK-2 teacher arrived last weekend. Because Kimberly left, we now desperately need a kindergarten teacher!

But, the great news is that I really love teaching!!! Its hard. It is difficult to find my feet sometimes. Trying to decide how much of a tyrant to be in the classroom is also difficult. Sometimes I feel I am too mean, and sometimes I feel I am too slack. Yesterday one of my 8th graders asked me why I was mad at them. I wasn't mad, but when I tell a student to do something and they don't respond, it can get very aggrevating. They are not trying to be 'disobedient', they are just acting like normal jr. high kids and pushing boundaries and trying to determine their own free will - which is often not moving quite as quickly toward acquiescence as I would like.

Here are two pictures of my 8th grade class:

That is RoseAngelica on the far left, then Gisele, Ricardo, Dariel, Emmanuel and Edward. They were not supposed to be acting goofy in the first picture, but in the second they were. They really are a fun class, and the only class where we are ahead of lesson plans. (That does not, however, mean they will do well on their tests -- they are great at short term, but I don't know if they will remember anything!)

Please pray for me, and for these kids. We all have alot to learn, and I have the most!

Alright, more later!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Urgent Prayer Requests

Nancy Fluth, who teachers K-3, is in the hospital with Dengue Fever.
Derrick, who teaches 5th grade, has Typhoid.
That is 2 outa 15 American teachers out of commission. Every third day or so it seems someone else gets sick. Please pray for us. This is becoming quite overwhelming!
Also, the new building (which was to house the administration offices, so the 8th and 10th grade rooms could be moved inside instead of in the storage rooms) is not complete. It was supposed to be done by the 20th. This has caused complications.
Please pray that there will be no more illness and that those who are sick will recover quickly, and pray that the building will be completed and we will move in pronto with no more drama.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

rock you like a hurricane

Poor Charlotte, NC has been in the upper 90's with slim to no chance of rain since I have been down here in Jarabacoa. We, on the other hand, have had rain at least every third day with temperatures in the 80's. As most of you know, we had a lovely shower here last night which has mostly passed. Power was off more last night than it was on, so I went to bed early and slept for at least 10 hours. It was grand. The other great thing about no power is that our singing neighbor also has no power. At least every other night she will sing at the top of her lungs (and believe me she should keep her day job.) Most of the time it is funny, but occassionally it is just obnoxious. So as Kimberly and I sat in our pitchblack house with our three candles clustered together so we could read, we reflected on how nice the rain (and the absence of other noises) was. Also, the crickets were not so loud last night (though, how would I know since I really was asleep within 2 hours of it being dark.)

*yawns and stretches*

Monday is a holiday. (I think it is when we are celebrating restoration day. Don't ask me why we didn't celebrate it on the 16th. I dunno. Restoration day celebrates the beginning of the fighting to regain autonomy from the Spanish in 1863. Interestingly, a few years later the DR offered itself to the USA as a colony. Grant supported the offer, but congress was against the plan. Grant had thought that freed slaves could go to the DR and escape harrassment from southern whites.) Because there is alot of work to do at the school (tearing down walls, painting, etc.) many teachers decided to take Friday as a holiday and do manual labor at the school on Monday. (after which we will rush home and shower and change because the parents will be visiting the school at 7.30 Monday night!)
So, we went to the beach on Friday. YAY!!! I realized on our almost 3 hour drive there that the small part of the DR I am becoming familiar with is probably not like what most people think of when they think of the DR. This was a happy realization as I needed to see beautiful things and other people than the things and people I am used to seeing around here. The mountains are gorgeous. We passed through a few different kinds of landscapes on the way. Places that looked like lush tropical rain forests, mountains that looked like they had more deciduous foliage, the small houses built on the side of the road with the mountain falling away beneath them. There are chickens everywhere in this country. Lots of livestock, donkeys, cows hanging around watching the cars go by. The road had many pot holes so we jostled and bumped our way to the coast, but once arriving there it was absolutely worth it. Leah parked the car, and we climbed out and walked down a street that was fairly dense with plants on both sides (and buildings) but at one place you could just peak through the leaves and see the water and it was breathtaking.

The water is so blue and clear. It was a perfect day when we got there, just a few clouds. Low 80's I would guess. It did get hotter, but never stiflingly so.

The pictures really do not do the view justice. I should have video'ed the space to give you a better idea.

It is amazing because you can be lying in the water and look around you and see the beach ahead and the mountains in the distance behind and it is just overwhelming.
While we were sitting on the beach a glass bottom boat came up looking for tourists to ride. (I do want to take that ride sometime.) Finding no takers, they began to push the boat back into the water. A little boy ran up and dialogued with the boaters (we could not hear what was said) but he was so cute as he helped them push the boat back into the water. I think they gave him some kind of treat for his help.

There was a place where you could shower off (in relative cleanliness) for 10 pesos so after swimming a few hours, I took a shower and went and sat in the shade and ordered a pineapple.

YUM! That pina colada drink (sans alcohol) was mighty yummy after a hot day. Most of the pineapple was crushed up inside. I could only finish a little over half. I was sad to leave it.
We drove back into Jarabacoa via a stop at the mall in Santiago for dinner. (KFC) and when we got home we found Rachel had made fantastic brownies for us and we climbed upon my new bed and watched a movie (I fell asleep.)
Yesterday we took a trip back into Santiago for groceries and went to a JUMBO supermarket - that is the name, "Jumbo." It was like a super walmart in the mall and it felt like heaven after shopping in the small dark supermercados here. Still, groceries are expensive here. At least comparable to the US and often more expensive. Meat and produce are relatively cheap, but if you want spices or anything pre-prepared then you will drop a pretty penny. I did find a very small bottle of prego on sale for 69 pesos (which is just over $2 US) and was excited because usually it is 90+ pesos. So, some night this week we will eat american style spaghetti.

The rain has almost stopped outside. The power is back on (for the moment) so I think I will go fix some cereal and read for a while. Buenos Dias!