Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter in Nicaragua!

Wow! Another two weeks have already flown by and it's time to update the blog again. The last couple of weeks have had a different ebb and flow to them due to "Spring break". School continues to proceed with it's successes and challenges. I tried giving my students their first vocabulary quiz which was met with mixed success. One of the challenges I'm finding with these students is that most don't have parents who make them sit down and do their homework every night; in fact, many of them may only have one parent or none at all. As a result, studying is not something that they take very seriously. However, I am truly loving getting to know the students better and continuing the process of how to best teach them English.

Josh continues to be busy with his Spanish learning. He has become much more brave about formulating his own thoughts in conversations; while he still struggles with understanding when he is spoken to, he has made huge progress. In fact, one of his fellow classmates (we go to Spanish class once a week) was just telling me how impressed she is with him. He came into their Spanish class feeling like it was way over his head, and in just five weeks he has outgrown the class.

Beyond Spanish, he has joined a "gringo" soccer team which plays against other Nicaraguan teams. It has proven to be a nice outlet for him, as he can get a little stir crazy with this wide-open schedule of his. When he is not studying or playing soccer, he continues to work at getting internet over to the school, which has been met with a few technical difficulties. But, it wouldn't be Nicaragua if things worked the first time! Hopefully that will all be resolved this next week and we will have internet! Wahoo!

We have discovered in the past two weeks, that one thing Nicaragua has on the States is an understanding of how to properly celebrate holidays. For example, this week is "Semana Santa" (or holy week) and we have had the entire week off from school. So we spent the week split between our Nicaragua family and our fellow American missionaries. I could write an entire blog post about all the things we did, so I will just let the pictures do the talking for us. However, one of the most exciting things that happened this past week was the birth of our first nephew Jude Thomas Stroh on March 24th (one day after his uncle Josh's birthday). We are so excited he his here, but it has made us wish we were home to celebrate with our family.

Well, it's time to sign off. But, this week marks the beginning of "Team Season." Meaning, we are entering the time period where teams from the States come down. So we will soon be busy with all the activities of those that are coming down to help with the school and serve in the community of Los Cedros. Stay tuned for more crazy stories from Nicaragua!

Top: MF helping the ladies chop pounds and pounds of carrots, onions, garlic, chayotes (a veggie) in preparation for Pastor Manuel's birthday celebration. The huge kettles the food will be cooked in...they actually killed a pig for his birthday! Middle: Josh playing soccer with the kids while the women prep for dinner. We served about 300 people dinner! Bottom: Pastor Manuel and Pastora sitting on the new couch set the church congregation bought him for his birthday. They also hired a mariachi band to come serenade him. Funny thing is, it was only his 43 birthday! Just wait till he turns 50!

Top: Teaching Pastora how to make chocolate chip cookies. We have success! Pastora said: "I love these cookies, they are so easy to make, taste so good, and they make so many!" Middle: Game night at Quinta Allison with our fellow American friends. We are all now obsessed with Dutch Blitz!

Our nephew: Jude Thomas Stroh born March 24th, 2008. The new Stroh Family: Micah, Casey and Jude.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Week in Pictures

Due to technical difficulties we weren't able to add pictures to the last blog post we here is a look at last week through the camera lense!

Some beautiful plants Josh surprised me with. They have spruced up the front our house so much!

When we aren't bumming internet off of our friends in Managua...we go to our "internet cafe"...aka blue plastic chair in the school's field which is adjacent to the cabinet factory.

Josh helped to make a sidewalk with Elvis to the kitchen...phew physical labor is hard!

Here are a few pictures of some of my kids and the second grade class in session. The last two pictures are of some of my first graders... They love to say "Mira me profesora" (Look at me teacher!)...they are so cute!

Josh and I reached a new milestone in our marriage this weekend...I have officially succeeded in cutting his hair! Seriously it was a little rocky there... but I'd say I did a good job :).

See you in a few weeks with more stories and pictures!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

10 Things "We've observed" about Nicaragua

Hola mis amigos, this is Josh here. Mary Frances has been keeping y'all up to date on our happenings, so I'll try to keep it as interesting and lively this week as she has faithfully done. It has been so enjoyable to hear from you all and receive your encouragement. We can't express how much we love hearing from you. It is truly amazing that we are able to communicate using this forum. Thank you Lord for technology! Can you image, before the dawn of the internet only being able to communicate through snail mail.

I thought we might take a diversion this week and use this entry to share with you some of the cultural idiosyncrasies that we have observed while being in Nicaragua. If you haven't had the chance to live or spend time in another cultural you may want to prepare yourself for a shock. No Travis, going to Cabo doesn't count. But if you've had the pleasure of living abroad, you will probably recognize a lot the things we have seen. So what is life like in Nicaragua?

10 Things "We've observed" about Nicaragua:

1. Fire is nothing to be afraid of. Seriously, you feel like mowing that grass do ya? Why not light it on fire instead. In the Nicaraguan worldview, unlike our western view, fire is a tool, not something that is reserved to singing cumbyaha around the campsite. Fire is used for cooking food, burning piles of leaves in the front yard, and yes, clearing that field that is overgrown.

2. If you can hear yourself sing or talk to your neighbor in church, that means that the music is not turned up loud enough. In Nicaraguan churches the sound system only has two levels, off, and completely pegged at maximum volume. I am not sure how the small children in front manage to escape permanent hearing damage, but I know I haven't.

3. Garbage is disposed in two places: in the garbage can or out the car window. I would say 10 percent it is placed actually in a garbage can, the remaining 90 percent somehow finds its way onto the ground. It really is sad to see all the trash.

4. Policemen will pull you over for no reason whatsoever. If you are driving and you get pulled over and you can't think of any reason why, that is probably because there isn't one. Just give the cop what he is looking for, a little respect, let him know he is in charge, and he will probably let you go scotch-free. Slipping him an Abraham Lincoln might help too. Just kidding.

5. Electrical work is always done while the current is hot and dangerously close to blasting you into the next room. I don't know why it is, but Nicaraguan electricians must be incredibly brave or incredibly under trained, but either way, they are all very young. Humm?

6. Next to the steering wheel and the brake pedal the most important part of a car is the horn. While passing pedestrians or other cars you have to assume that they are not aware of your presence. You should use your horn frequently to announce yourself to all.

7. Water should be replaced by oil in just about every recipe. Although we have come to really love the Nicaraguan recipes that we have had the pleasure to try, it is shocking how much oil is loaded into each meal. "I've never been able to see my reflection in my food before."

8. Your head is not only used for directing you body in the direction you wanna go, it is also a handy place to carry heavy objects like 100 pound bricks and 5 gallon jugs of water. I don't know where this strategy developed, but is awesome and believe it or not actually works. I don't know if it is the reason why Nicaraguans tend be shorter on average than North Americans, but my theory is that it has something to do with it.

9. Motorcycles are given out to those people who couldn't pass their drivers ed class in hopes that they will remove themselves from the gene pool. Just about every serious accident involves a motorcycle here. In that way, it's not to much different from the States, but there does seem to be an IQ difference between those on motorcycles and those in cars.

10. When something is broken, the number one way to fix it is by hitting it really hard with your hand or some blunt object. This is my favorite one, and the one that matches my own philosophy of handy-man work. Oh, what's wrong with your TV? Smack it. Oh, you can get that keyboard working? Hit it with a hammer. What's that, your washing machine isn't working? Slam it on the grounds as hard as you can.

Hopefully some of these "light hearted" but true cultural observations will help you gain a better understanding of the world of Nicaragua. Everyday is truly a new adventure. Continue to pray for Mary Frances as she is trying to figure out how to deal with disciplining some of her rowdier children. Also, please pray that my ability to pick up Spanish will come quickly and I will be able to step out fearlessly to you use what little I know.