Saturday, February 23, 2008

One Month Strong

Adjustment, that has been our word for the past few weeks as we settle in to the routine of school and living out in Los Cedros. It would be safe to say that we have started to feel more at home in Los Cedros as we find our groove in the flow of life out in the Nicaraguan countryside. Josh has started working on various projects, like getting the internet set up on the school property and brainstorming fund raising ideas for new computers. But mainly he has been studying Spanish, which he has done diligently. Now it’s a matter of actually putting what he’s learning in to practice, instead of relying on his walking, talking dictionary and translator (me).

Top: Mac & Cheese, our first meal in our new home. Josh in the hammock with a children's book in Spanish, a great way to learn language! Bottom: Our new favorite thing, hammock chairs on the front porch.

The past few weeks for me have been learning more about my students and how to best inspire and teach them. A verse I read at the beginning of the week said “No day will pass without its reward” and so I have chronicled what small rewards the Lord has been giving us each day. One of the biggest for me this week has been seeing how the students have started to respond more to me. My “problem” classes have been the 1st (which is mainly due to being so young), 3rd and 4th graders who have some attention and respect issues. Disciplining is where my Spanish falls short but I can tell you one thing, I will be able to give anyone and anything a command in Spanish by the time all is said and done. However, my reward each day was seeing where the students were engaged and enjoying what they were learning. It was encouraging to see that, I can indeed do this job with some sort of success!

Another reward for us this week happened on Thursday. Two of the school caretakers, Yader and Elvis (both very popular names down here) have taken to Josh. They invited him to come play in a pick-up baseball game after work; ahh baseball, Nicaragua’s favorite pastime. Anyway, so with a little trepidation regarding the Nica’s expectations of his baseball skills, Josh donned his sunglasses, hat and baseball glove and joined in on the game. While it may seem small, simply being able to connect with the people in this way was a huge blessing and encouragement to us both.

Top: Elvis getting ready to toss the ball around. Josh for his big debut up at bat in his first of what will probably be many, Nicaraguan pick-up baseball game.
Middle: Yader hitting the ball hard...the fan base for these games are the youth of Los Cedros.
Bottom: Lennin (one of my 5th graders) and me at the game and a picture of a typical Nicaraguan baseball field.

Finally, I’d say our week’s reward was the time we spent today enjoying a little “R&R” with Lee, Becky and Sadie Lockridge. Although we were tourists, we spent the day exploring the city of Leon, wandering through the streets in search of historic cathedrals and a restaurant to eat lunch at. After lunch we made the trek out to the beaches of Las Pelanitas and Poneloya where we played in the waves, soaked up the sun, and enjoyed the beauty of creation. All and all it was a wonderful way to spend Saturday and a refreshing way to gear up for another week.

Top: Two of the oldest churches in Leon, Nicaragua
Middle #1: So...we haven't had time to work on the tan yet apparent by Josh's use of sunscreen. Sadie and Becky Lockridge and Lillian (a little Nica girl they have fallen in love with).
Middle #2: Josh soaking up the body surfing, fun in the sand, Lee and Becky Lockridge taking advantage of the great view!
Bottom: A view of the wonderful beach we enjoyed today!

Monday, February 11, 2008

School Begins

We have officially been here for two weeks now, and it is astounding the things we have done so far. One of the most important things we experienced was the first day of school. Unlike school's in the States, the first day of school is a half day and consists of an all school assembly with a short time for the students to get to know their teacher and the school grounds. Ceremonies are a big part of Nicaraguan culture, and as a result the assembly took up a good portion of the morning. I don't know how they did it, but the students were so well behaved as they stood in the blazing hot sun listening to Pastora, the principle, talk about the upcoming school year. The teachers, myself included, broke up the speeches with a few fun songs for the kids complete with an impromptu solo by me (mf)! Needless to say, I wasn't expecting to be singing to all the students and their parents, but I guess that's what you get when you're the only one who sings or speaks English!

Pictures- Welcome Banner for Students, my fellow teachers and me, kids coming for their first day of school, the team and teachers with the new backpacks, school assembly, and the preschoolers who tried so hard to be good!

One extra special part of the morning was when we handed out the backpacks Pastor H and the rest of the team brought down from Seattle. The teachers had separated the backpacks by color and had filled them with notebooks, pencils, pens and crayons. The student's were so excited as they came up and received their backpacks and their parents were beaming with pride as they watched their children embrace their education.

In terms of my teaching, as of today (2/11) I have successfully made it through the introductory lesson of all my classes. It is interesting to be the "wandering teacher" as I move from grade to grade, rather than having a specific classroom to which the students come. At this point, while I am still feeling overwhelmed (and at times inadequate), I have really enjoyed seeing the excitement the students have about learning English. Aside from a few, the students are all at a very beginner level of English, so this year I will be working on establishing good foundations in their English studies. It is a job that is bigger than I am, so I will take it one day at a time and trust that the Lord will provide the strength and wisdom to help these kids succeed. However, despite these emotions, the most encouraging thing to me are the hugs, excited hellos, and eager faces of the students that greet me every day.

Beyond the school aspect of life, we enjoyed a typical "tourist" day with the team from Seattle on Saturday. We went to the artisan (aka tourist) market in Masaya, had pizza in Granada the oldest city in Central/South America, took a horse-drawn buggy to the lake side park, and indulged in a boat tour through the 356 islands in Nicaragua's largest lake, Lake Nicaragua. It was a wonderful opportunity to relax and enjoy the incredible natural beauty of this wonderful country.

Pictures-TOP: Evening outdoor church in Montefresco, Lee Lockridge with a few of the girls from Casa Havilah (a safe house for girls who have lived in the dump), Josh, Hilario, and Nancy in the horse-buggy. MIDDLE: Nancy, Julie, H, Jonathan and Scott the 1st team of the year from Seattle, Josh and me on the boat tour, our ride to the boat tour. BOTTOM: Superman Josh and Mateo Bustamante, getting ready for the boat tour, incredible exotic bird nests seen from our boat.

Now it is a new week, filled with adventures, challenges and successes. It will also be the beginning of living in Los Cedros, as we are moving in to our house on Wednesday. Josh has been working hard with David Bustamante and Lee Lockridge to put the finishing touches on our house. While we will still be lacking a kitchen sink and cabinets, our stove, fridge and washing machine are all prepped and ready for us start using. So, stay tuned as we enter in to our third week of life in Nicaragua.