Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September Fun

September: It was a good month, a full month. September was a month filled with fun events with our students, new challenges, new adventures, and LOTS of family! After all of the school celebrations we mentioned in the last blog, we had an economics team from Northshore come. This team consisted of 5 people, one of which was Tom King (Josh's Dad)! Who would have thought we would have coerced him into coming down twice in one year? Anyway, it was a good week of running around from meeting to meeting discussing potential opportunities and ways to initiate economic development in Los Cedros. In the end, the team decided to provide a micro-loan to Luisa to help her open a "pulperia", which is essentially a small house-front store that supplies basic housing and food goods. Luisa is a wonderful woman who has faithfully made delicious meals these last three years for all the teams and who runs a consignment clothing shop from her home that helps finance the feeding program we run at the school. Needless to say, we are excited to see how she takes off and develops this business dream of hers.

However, the highlight of September for us was getting to meet our 6 month old nephew Jude! Since he was born in March, we have been dying to meet him and see what an incredible gift he is. We were not dissapointed by how cute he is or what a fun personality he has. But, we were not prepared for how much of a chunk he is! We are used to our adopted nephew Isaac Bustamante who is two weeks younger than Jude but weighs 15 pounds, where as Jude weighs 25! Needless to say, we built up some muscle this past week hauling him around!

Top:Our nephew we fondly call "Jabba Jude"- Jude Thomas Stroh
Bottom:Farmer Josh and Farmer Tom prepping the garden for seeds! Uncle Josh and Jude (this was taken shortly after the explosion, see story below)

Josh also had the wonderful experience of being fully initiated into uncle-hood. One day, we stopped to have lunch on our way to the artisan market in Masaya. Josh, being the good uncle he is, offered to carry Jude in to the restaurant so that Casey and Micah could have a break. He gingerly grabbed Jude and held him while we pulled out the stroller and other baby paraphanelia from the car. A few moments later, we noticed what looked like creamy sweet potatoe peanut butter on Josh's wrist. But no, it wasn't peanut-butter, it was Jude butt-er (ha ha). Oh yes, Jude had exploded out the side of his diaper all-over his uncle's shirt! So with exclamations of "Oh that's nasty!" Josh ran down to the nearest street clothing vendor to buy a new shirt, while we changed Jude's entire outfit and diaper in the back of the car. It was pretty hilarious!

Top: Casey and Micah, Josh and MF on our one venture outside our resort walls.

Other than that, we had fun showing Casey and Micah around Los Cedros, having them help in my classes, and helping plant the garden on the school grounds. We also got to spend a glorious weekend with them at the sleepy little fishing village on the coast we love called San Juan del Sur. We stayed at the most amazing resort in Nicaragua called Pelican Eyes, and procceeded to indulge ourselves in the tourist life. In fact, we loved it so much we only did one sunset beach walk as the rest of the time we were indulging in the infinity pools, breath-taking views and amazing food.

Top:Swimming with Jude is so much fun! Jude since we all posed for the sunset picture, it was only right that Jude posed too!
Bottom: Picturesque view from Pelican Eyes. Jude and Josh getting some face time.

Needless to say, these last two weeks of September we have been entirely too spoiled by having our family here. Now we are on to October which, from what we've been told, is the rainiest month of the year. It's hard to believe that we now only have two months left down here and our goal is to dig in and enjoy the last weeks we have down here.

With that said, we have begun the process of looking towards home and with that comes a few specific prayer requests. We are confident of the faithfulness of God to get us home, as he was faithful to bring us down here, but would appreciate support in prayer as well.

*Jobs- At this point, we are still praying for further direction in this area. I (MF) have started looking to ESL teaching opportunties while Josh has started looking into/studying for a career in financial planning. We are praying for wisdom in what lies ahead for us in these areas.

*Car- We are in the process of trying to sell our vehicle we purchased down here, finding a buyer can be difficult so we are praying that the process will go smoothly.

*Perseverance- We are nearing the end of our year here and it would be easy to slip into a detached attitude, but our desire is to continue to be here mentally and emotionally, which is sometimes easier said that done.

Monday, September 15, 2008

September Celebrations

September so far has held a lot of new and now familiar cultural experiences for us. Nicaraguans are known for their tendency for over celebrating both major and minor holidays. It doesn't really matter what the occasion is, it should be celebrated in style with a minimum of two days off and lots of pomp and ceremony. September for Nicaragua, is especially important as September 14th is their national Independence day.

Therefore, the last two weeks at school have been a strange mixture of mid-semester testing and preparation for our grand celebration of Nicaragua's independence. My responsibility in this preparatory phase was to teach 8-10 students how to do puppets. Ha! That was a challenge...how to put on a puppet show with no actual puppet materials? We ended up finding some puppets a team had brought down that were essentially clay heads glued to an over-sized Popsicle stick. The beautiful thing about these puppets was that when the sun came out, they became soft and their little plastic bobble eyes fell off. I had the intention of gluing them all back on, but I turned my back for two seconds and some little kid walked off with all the eyes! So, some of our puppets had one eye, or no eyes at all. Let's just say that in the end our puppet show required A LOT of imagination.

'Congreso is so much fun!- Pre-schoolers....Two of my 1st graders getting ready for the art contest.

Anyways, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this last week we held a "congreso" for the kids, which is basically like an all day school assembly. We had an art contest, a popularity contest in which the students voted for one girl and one boy from each class, soccer games, kickball games, and lunch. It was a lot of work, and challenging to try and keep all of the kids from getting totally out of control.

Top: "Stop cheering...it's so loud!"....racing to put the objects in the circles the fastest.
Middle: Making flags for our parade...and the concentration required to win an art contest!
Bottom: Me and Yaritza...The traditional outfits for Nicaraguan folk dancing.

Finally, on Friday was the last day in which we celebrated Nicaragua's Independence Day (two days early) with a march through Los Cedros and a talent show from the kids. During the march, we were accompanied by the band of one of the public schools. The band consists of two parts. The girls who march and dance in the front and the boys who bang on their drums and dance around with what looks like a large cheese grater they wail on with a metal stick...perhaps it would be better described if you could see/hear it for yourself (i.e. check out the video below). Our kids followed behind the band waving flags and carrying banners and the national flag.

Top: View of the Indpendence Day parade. Josh and me in our "traditional" Nica shirts
Bottom: Mf and all the teachers in our matching shirts. The token male teachers (Josh and Carlos) modeling their matching shirts.

Once we got back to the school, the real ceremony began. Most of the kids were involved with various "talent" performances. We had kids quoting patriotic poetry and doing interpretive dances to their all time favorite worship song "Tomalo" (Take it all), and the highlight of the performances our awesome puppet show (j/k). One of the things I love the most though is seeing the kids participating in the traditional folk dances of Nicaragua. It is so fun to see the girls dressed up in their brightly colored dresses with flowers in their hair participating in part of their cultural heritage.

A few of the elementary girls showing of their folk dancing skills...A proud display of the Nica flag.

Beyond all the fanfare of the last few weeks, life has been pretty steady for us. One interesting change has been that Josh has taken on a new and often frustrating role of being the "Inspector of behavior." One of the frustrating parts of the school has been that there is not a very successful discipline structure at the school. Part of the problem is that, according to Nicaraguan law in the public schools, they are not allowed to give students detention, are not allowed to deny them entrance to classes, or take away recess, or really discipline the students at all. Therefore your classes end up looking like barely managed chaos and your teachers get worn out very very quickly. We, however, are outside of that jurisdiction to some extent since we are a private school. As a result, Josh, David and I have helped institute an actual disciplinary system, and Josh has been elected to enforce it. We will see how it works, but for now the students have the "fear of Josh" in them.

Our recent house guest thanks to all the rain :)

Well, I think we've run out of stories so I will let the pictures and videos do the rest of the writing.