Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Yikes! Has another month really flown bye? Looks like it has. Thanks to the youth group being here and Elias and Theresa (my...Mary Frances' older brother and sister-in-law) coming down, July has proven to be a full and wonderful month for us.

The second semester of school is in full swing now. In my teaching realm, not much has changed. The usual class routine of managed chaos and rolling with the punches due to a very fluid class schedule has become common place in my life. So, I prepare for the best and hope that I will actually get through a lesson plan! Josh on the other hand has joined me this month in the teaching realm...ha ha! He is finally confident enough, and fluent enough in Spanish, to begin his roll as the computer teacher. He will be teaching the 5th and 6th graders basic computer skills like, how to turn one on, how to open basic programs, and most importantly how to type. However, since we only have 5 working computers (and a few of those are limping along as they are) he has had to get creative with class schedules. So, every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 8-11 he teaches 45 minute segments to groups of 5 students from 5th and 6th graders. The students are excited to be receiving computer classes, Josh is excited to have something "set" in his schedule, and I'm excited for him to understand what it's like to teach these kids! Other than that, things have been pretty quite out in Los Cedros.

With that said, July is a milestone month for us as we have reached our 6 month mark meaning that we had to leave Nicaragua for 72 hours so we could renew our visas. My older brother Elias and his wife Theresa, kindly flew down to hang out with us for a week here in Nicaragua and to then accompany us for a sweet weekend in Costa Rica!

We have heard before what a stark contrast there is once you drive across the border into Costa Rica, but hearing is nothing like seeing! Here's what we noticed:
1- The police men are wearing sweet uniforms complete with bullet proof vests. There are also way less of them, you don't see them hitchhiking for rides, and the few we did run into didn't pull us over just for the fun of it.
2-The roads are nicely paved. Enough said.
3- There are beautiful healthy horses that are equipped with real saddles and are used simply for the pleasure of riding them.
4-Tourist towns actually have supporting infrastructure. Josh and I could tell we'd been in Nicaragua for 6 months cause one of the most exciting things was pulling up to the town our hotel was in and seeing these shopping centers that looked like they could've been a part of Kirkland's waterfront strip or found in Redmond Town Center. In Nicaragua, you've got the hotel...which is usually in the middle of nowhere and nothing else.
5-The cost of everything is double in Costa Rica (even though the exchange rate is $500 Colones to $1). Josh and I can both go out to eat here in Nicaragua and walk away not having spent more than $12...that's dessert and drinks included. In Costa Rica, you could barely find anywhere to eat that had plates under $10...but I'd say the food was worth it.
6-The national food is not rice and beans and fried chicken!
7- We actually saw pure bred healthy dogs. Sure there was the occasional mutt, but for two dog lovers like us, it sure was exciting to see "normal" looking dogs...and made us miss our puppies at home.
8- Costa Rican's seem to grasp a little more that trash doesn't get thrown out your window as you're driving or just thrown on the ground. There's this magical little place for it called a trash can. That was refreshing for us in and of itself as we were able to drive past these beautiful locations and not grieve the fact that they've been ruined by mounds of trash people have left behind.

I'm sure there are many more differences between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, but I'll stop there. The truth is both countries are beautiful and offer vastly different and wonderful cultural experiences if you are willing to embrace them. It's just that one fits our clean and comfortable North American viewpoint better than the other. Either way, we are grateful we had such a lovely weekend away from reality and feel refreshed to come back and finish out the rest of our time here strong...we'll see what August has to hold.

P.S. We're going to add more pictures later...the internet is being finicky.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

July Starts off with a Bang!

Phew! We’re wiped! It has been a crazy last three weeks between the end of the 1st semester happening and Northshore’s Senior high trip. However, it is nice to feel tired for we know that what backs that emotion is a lot of fun, many new memories, and impact we cannot fully fathom or know.

I have successfully made it through my 1st semester and am grateful to see that my students have all done quite well. I have far fewer kids failing than I anticipated and am encouraged to see the progression and improvements even from the beginning of the 1st semester. While, my creative juices in lesson planning are waning, I look forward to seeing how much farther these students will come. Plus, seeing how the kids have been able to use the English we have learned with the teams has been so inspiring! One fun experience during our last week of school was the celebration of Teacher’s day. Some of the parents and students prepared some dances, gifts and even a piƱata just for the teachers! But the biggest surprise of all was receiving my first ever teacher’s gift…two lovely pairs of underwear! Ha ha! Not exactly a common gift to be given the in the States, but I can definitely say I will probably always remember what my first teacher’s gift was!

With the end of the semester wrapping up, we looked forward to the arrival of Northshore’s team. Over the past few months we have been working closely with the youth group at Ebenezer church (our local Los Cedros church) to plan, prep and determine the course of activities for our youth extravaganza. During the day time, we made invitations and walked through out Los Cedros passing them to anyone who looked within the right age range (14-18). Another part for the team worked on different simple repairs within the Los Cedros community. One particular project was the surprise construction of a kitchen overhang for one of the ladies in our church. Prior to the addition to her house, she cooked inside her home over an open fire. Being able to cook outside will have many health benefits for her family and will make cooking in general easier.

Top: The Northshore Senior High youth group!
Bottom: Sanding and painting metal posts for the kitchen we constructed.

Now for a quick run down of the events we did with the youth in Los Cedros. The first night we had a scavenger hunt and about 170 youth show up. They were then broken up into teams and dispersed running and screaming through out the dirt streets of Los Cedros looking for things like 5 beans, 10 rice kernels, a pig, a rabbit, 3 coconuts, etc. Only in Nicaragua could a scavenger hunt contain live farm animals and have every single group come back with them! It was so much fun and was the talk of the town for the next couple of days afterwards.

Top: 170 youth seated under the roof of our new Rancho! The youth in the midst of trying to undo the human knot. Bottom: The results of our scavenger hunt, a rabbit and a pooping pig!

The second event consisted of a game of Sticks (essentially glow-in-the-dark capture the flag) which was interesting to try and explain, or to even know if the youth played the game or just ran around waving their glow stick necklaces. But either way, they had lots of fun and the glow sticks were a big hit. After the game we showed the movie Night at the Museum using a Nicaraguan crafted screen of Styrofoam under our newly finished Rancho building. The one interesting thing event of the night was when we were dispersing Koolaide to the youth during the movie. About two minutes into that process we were literally mobbed with kids pushing and shoving to get juice...something they have all had. So, we had to take a deep breath, remember that anything free is going to seem like the most amazing thing to these kids, and promptly rush the Koolaide behind the safety of the locked kitchen doors.

The third event was a nice change as we were able to hold it in the daytime. Due to all the sunshine and warm weather we had a water balloon extravaganza. There were water balloon tosses, a race to fill up a pail of water using a cup with holes, flyer’s up using water balloon launchers and then an all out water fight! Who knew that water balloons could be so much fun!
After the events, we packed up the bus with lunch stuff and the two youth groups (Northshore and L.C.) and headed off to the beach. We spent the next few hours basking in the warm sunshine, playing beach soccer ball, making PB & J sandwiches, and surfing the waves. It was a beautiful and relaxing afternoon.

Top: Garbage cans full of filled water balloons! The infamous water balloon launchers.
Middle: The water fight in action. Zach and Tony enjoying the beach.
Middle #2: Think Chariots of Fire! The Northshore youth group on the beach!
Bottom: Two youth groups united! We couldn't have succeeded with out these guys (Carlos, Delila and Breesa)

Finally, the last event we held started off with a Nicaragua vs the United States soccer match. Between the Nica side occasionally having 14 players on the field at a time and our mismatch in skill, the U.S. ended up getting creamed. After all that excitement, we held a hotdog dinner followed by a Young life-esque club night. We did a funny skit, a yo-yo competition and various hilarious gross games involving chocolate pudding and gummy worms.

Top: Brandon, one of my 6th graders, practicing with his yo-yo.
Middle: Our rocking band who played on the last night! The boys cooking 200 hotdogs!

Beyond the youth events we also enjoyed spending the 4th of July with the team, watching fireworks explode over the swimming pool at the Buzbee compound (the
Buzbee’s hold all the Northshore teams when they come down). We also enjoyed a day of wandering around the Masaya artisan market and a trip to wonderful Laguna de Apoyo. We truly enjoyed being able to soak up time with Ben and Pam Izzard (the youth pastor and his wife, two good friends of ours) along with my two youngest brothers Clark and Galen who were members of the team.

Top: Watching the fireworks with good friends, Ben, Pam and Natalie Izzard at the Buzbee's.
Bottom: Josh and the brothers on the bus. Mf and Clark...the last picture of us before he leaves for England in September!

Unfortunately this is only a brief overview of all the fun and memories we had with this team. But, we were energized by this team and are eager to see what the outcome on the Los Cedros youth will be in the months to come. Our hope is that this past week will inspire our local youth group to continue reaching out to other youth in the community, showing them that a relationship with Christ is life changing and fun!