Tuesday, October 9, 2007

from noah's ark

or that is how it feels here...dog, 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 hassle...you 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 tummy...today 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!!!