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 cut...how 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 did...so, 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 anywhere...it 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.
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...