August 17, 2011

Minority Report

A couple of weeks have passed. A lot of things have happened. Here is our report with a plethora of items...

We are officially in our second week of school. Our days are filled with lots of children and teenagers, teaching and grading, children’s books and PE games. Our nights are filled with striving to get creative with eggs, rice, beans, tortillas, peppers, and onions. They also consist of lesson planning and Spanish television.

Speaking for myself (Kendra), the first days of school have been going great. I have a very kind and eager-to-learn class, both attributes that make a teacher feel spoiled. My class has 14 students, two of them being native English speakers. The first days of school, which are sometimes a “honeymoon stage” for teacher and students, have nevertheless confirmed my love and excitement for teaching. Each day from 8am until 3pm seems to fly.

Kids really are precious. Here are a few memorable moments from school so far…

1. A student went up to a teacher and said about me… “The first grade teacher…she is very high!”
2. I asked the class if they had any prayer requests. One of my students raised his hand, so I called on him, thinking he had a something he wanted me to pray about. He instantly folded his hands, bowed his head, and prayed for the whole class, thanking God for the beautiful day and for the chance to go to school.
3. I was going to read Curious George to the class, so I explained what “curious means.” I asked the class, “What kinds of things are you curious about?” One student raised his hand and with a serious face said, “I am curious to be an architect.”
4. In Bible class we are learning about creation. We were talking about day 5, so I asked the kids what they thought God decorated the sky with on day 5? One girl raised her hand and said “airplanes.”
5. Every day before lunch I give each kid a squirt of hand soap. I say, “Open your hand and I will give you a squirt!” I found out later that my students really thought the soap I was giving them was called “a squirt.”

Just as our students adapt to speaking English from 8 until 3 every day, we are also learning to adapt to life in Xela and speaking Spanish:

1. I was utterly confused with my Spanish voccabulary, and I tried to buy two ice cream cones for 34 cents instead of 34 quetzals (dollars) Needless to say, the ice cream lady was not very impressed.
2. We were invited to a friend’s house for dinner, where we were fed delicious tortillas with meat wrapped up inside. Collin, trying to learn a little Spanish, asked our host, “Como se dice?” (What do you call this?) The host smiled and said “tacos.”
3. We went a week with lukewarm showers, only to be told by the other teachers how to turn them into nice hot showers. Apparently the trick is to turn the shower so it is almost off. The water pressure isn’t great, but our options are either a “lukewarm flow or a steaming hot pee stream.” I choose the steaming hot pee stream.
4. One afternoon I spent five minutes on the phone with a native Spanish speaker. The entire five minutes consisted of me trying to communicate our home address in Spanish.

Those are only a few of many silly things we have done and will do. It’s definitely interesting living as a minority in a foreign country. It’s humbling and challenging and uncomfortable, but it’s also eye opening and faith-growing and rewarding. We have so much to learn, but we are thankful for the other staff and teachers who have taken us in and answer our countless questions.  

The concept of church has also been an interesting issue when living in a foreign country. Do we go to a service where we struggle to understand everything going on? Will that really fill us up, or leave us feeling tired and empty? Do we stay home and listen to a podcast sermon, but miss out on fellowship with other believers? It has made us think about the purpose of church and why we go to church. But this past Sunday we ended up going to our first Spanish-speaking church. I understood many of the songs and prayers, but the sermon was a little fast to keep up with. I could hear that the underlying tone was about politics and the upcoming election. Even though we did not understand everything, the whole service was very lively and energetic and passionate, and we really enjoyed it. We are probably going back next week. 

I know we have only been gone a couple weeks, but are we allowed to mention a few things we miss about home?

1. Close and accessible and yummy meat of all kinds. It takes effort to not be a vegetarian.
2. Carpet. Warm, fuzzy carpet.
3. Golden oreos. Chips. And any other junk food that we should not be eating anyways.
4. And of course, family. Our kind and generous and hilarious and loving families. But we are so thankful for skype, and those wonderful faces on the opposite side of the screen. We are also thankful that we got to spend a couple days with Kristin and James, Collin's sister and brother-in-law. They were gracious enough to visit us on their honeymoon.

If you think to pray for us, here are a few items:

1. In September, Guatemala will be electing a new president. Please pray for a peaceful transition. We see a lot of political party rallies around where we live, but thankfully none have turned violent.
2. For us to continue to get to know our students, and learn how to love them. With the culture and language barrier, it is hard to know how to love people around us. However, our classrooms are a place where we can really have an influence. Please pray we will teach our students with wisdom and with love.

Grace and Peace,