Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas from the States!

Merry Christmas, one and all! I'm sorry for the delay in posting. I have arrived safely home, for those who haven't figured that out or seen me yet. :o)
The last few days of school were crazy, as I expected. And I had a cold, too! I went all semester without really getting sick and then had to fight it for the last 2 days! The other thing I had to fight was the visa red tape process. I'll make a very long story kinda short. I hadn't gotten anything in the mail, like I expected. So I checked my progress online, and it said if I didn't get anything within 30 days to just go downtown and do it in person. Well, it had been more than 30 days since I had mailed everything in, so Sunday night I scrambled finding someone to go with me downtown and also someone to cover all my classes. It was not easy, but I straightened everything out. The next morning, after getting just a little lost, I made my way to the visa office. I took my ticket (like the kind you have to take at the deli counter) and looked at my number--D03. Ok, what does that mean? When we took our seats, a woman walked up to the waiting room and started calling numbers in the 60s. So I figured I'd have to wait through about 40 numbers. After 25 minutes or so, she started calling numbers in the 90s and I got my things together. She called 97, 98, 99, C00, C01...We were only just starting the C's and I was in the D's!!! So close, and yet so far away! After another hour and change, my number was called. Less than 5 minutes later we were leaving the building. Not because Chilean red tape is easy to navigate. But because there was nothing I could do there that day. I had to wait 30 days after my APPROVAL date, not my application date. I was approved Dec 6th! So basically what I had was a temporary interim visa until my real one came in. So although no progress was made, I did find out that I was safe to leave the country and come back again (which was really good since my flight home was the next day!!).
So, that being done, having skipped a day of classes for nothing (classes reviewing for finals, no less), we stopped for a quick lunch at Burger King before I had to be back for my last class. We ordered a rodeo burger (burger, with onion rings and barbecue sauce), but they ran out of onion rings. So it was really just a regular burger with barbecue sauce. Well, it tasted a little odd. Kinda sweet. It wasn't bad, but it was very strange. After the two of us did some taste testing and research, my friend came up with the reason. The barbecue sauce was actually chocolate. Chocolate!! Can you imagine? It was highly amusing, at least. :o)
The next day, I flew home. The man sitting next to me on the plane was a Chilean cowboy who spoke limited English. So for the 5 or so hours that we talked, it was in Spanish about 90% of the time. And it was quite successful! If I didn't understand, he would reword or explain it to me. And if I said something wrong, he would correct me. So I learned a lot! It was very fun and very encouraging. I was able to help translate for him and the flight attendants, who didn't speak any Spanish, oddly enough. What's more, I found that I was so used to speaking Spanish in public, that I was saying excuse me and thank you in Spanish to the American flight attendants! It took awhile to switch over. This is a good sign, I think. :o) We were able to talk about many things, including our beliefs (albeit on a relatively shallow level due to the slight language barrier). He actually brought it up first, and as we continued the discussion, he was shocked and a bit befuddled at learning that I went to church EVERY Sunday. He said I must be very faithful and serious about it. I look forward to the day that I can deepen discussions like that. After the flight, I walked with my new friend, Roberto and his Chilean friend, who were both nervous about their next 6 months in Los Angeles. I was going to help them through customs. We walked through the airport at 6am, laughing and talking. I was trying to lighten their spirits and distract them from their nerves. All was going well until we came to the separate lines for American citizens and visitors. I had to say goodbye to them (which I did the Chilean way, with a kiss on the cheek, and got many odd stares from the Americans around me), and they had to fend for themselves. I never saw them again. I'm sure they did fine though!
My last week and a half home has been a whirlwind of visiting with friends and family. I thought a month would be plenty of time to fit it all in, but now I'm not so sure! It's been odd to be home, because most of the time it doesn't feel like I've been gone! I've stepped right back in to life in New Jersey. It's been so good to be home, to see my family, my friends, to drive (oh, how I've missed it and the independence that comes with it!), go to church, hear preaching in English, and so much more. I'm looking forward to Christmas and all the festivities it brings. It's always a fun day with family and friends.
I pray that each and every one of you has a blessed Christmas, and that you are able to enjoy every minute of the day, whether opening gifts, spending time with loved ones, laughing, eating, talking. Most importantly, I pray that you can praise God each moment for the gift, the reason for Christmas. Feliz Navidad!!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Another year older...

It's been awhile since I've posted, and for good reason. The end of the semester is coming up and I feel like a chicken with its head cut off. However, I'm finally beginning to see an end in sight! I still have a ways to go and a lot to do, but I'm much much closer. It seems much more doable now (although it always was doable, because God gives me the strength to get everything done...and this is no exception!).
A lot has happened since I last posted, so I will try to quickly hit the highlights of the past few weeks.
Thanksgiving was a time of a lot of people, a lot of food, and a lot of sun. Most of the ABWE missionaries currently on the field got together at the Crosses house. They have a large house with more than enough space and a pool in the back yard. With everyone there, we totaled about 40 people!! It was quite busy! We had tables set up outside. I took it upon myself to organize the food on the table, because everything was helter-skelter. I basically directed a couple of my friends in what to do! So of course, I was designated to be the one to instruct people on how the system worked for maximum efficiency. I'll admit, it felt a little odd to be telling all those veteran missionaries what to do at my first Thanksgiving! :o) After we ate, the teenagers and kids jumped in the pool for awhile. I did not, although I was threatened with being thrown in a few times (it came to nothing, though!). Then we watched a movie with the teenagers (apparently a holiday tradition...always the same movie). And I wrapped up the day with quite possibly the oddest board game I have ever played in my life (and I've played some weird ones in my day). But I won, so I liked it. Haha.
All in all, it was a great day. And the first Thanksgiving where I had to wear sunblock! :o)
Just a few days later was my birthday. Saturday night I had some of my friends over. Being in Chile, they were 45 minutes late (except for my American friend. She was just on time and got to help me prepare the food. ha!). We ate, they teased me about my Spanish, as they tend to do, and I grew more and more stressed as the night went on. Why, you ask? I'll tell you. I really wanted to go bowling, but we were waiting for someone who was VERY late (over 3 hours...and he's American! He did have a reason...something went longer than he anticipated...but it was still a little stressful for me). People started talking about not going bowling because it was getting too late. Yikes! Well, to make a long story short, we ended up going and had a lot of fun. I almost won, too. Only one person beat me (ironically, it's the guy we were waiting so long for). :o)
So, to sum up my birthday--it was very fun and a little stressful. Some of the guys were acting extra silly to make me laugh when I was stressed. I did find it a little difficult at times to have a birthday party where I didn't understand half of what people were saying. But it's to be expected at my stage.
The following week I worked and worked and worked. I didn't get to bed before midnight the entire week. And it caught up to me Friday night. We were having some family time, preparing for Andrea's birthday party the next day. For some reason, I got VERY tired and VERY giddy. I was laughing at the stupidest things, and once I started, I could not stop. But I TRIED to stop, which made my laugh sound very strange. I have never heard myself laugh like that before. Melissa was egging me on, and Dave (the King of Corny Jokes) certainly didn't help at all either. It made me think of the scene from Mary Poppins where everyone is floating near the ceiling because they can't stop laughing. I certainly felt a little airheaded!! :o) We then spent at least half an hour trying to bounce bouncy-balls into a dinner glass. I lost every time, partially because I do not have an innate talent for aiming bouncy-balls, and partially because they would make me start to laugh almost every time and then everything went down the drain from there!
I've gotten a lot of work done this weekend, and still have had time to do some fun things. Yesterday was Andrea's birthday party, which was so fun (although I was still tired and was very tempted to leave and take a nap!!). Then in the evening I went to a graduation at the seminary to support our Chilean pastor who was graduating. Then afterwards I went to the Crosses with my American friends who live there and a bunch of their Chilean friends. It was VERY fun and funny since we sat around the table until about midnight, eating, sharing "most embarrassing/funny" stories, and laughing at a guy who dramatically fell out of his chair, flinging food everywhere. Needless to say, I was up very late.
I went to a Vineyard church this morning, which was a very interesting experience. If you don't know, Vineyard churches are Pentecostal, or at least lean heavily in that direction. I've been to churches who have Pentecostal tendencies, so I wasn't completely shocked, but it adds a whole other dimension when everything's in Spanish!! It was a good experience though, and I was glad to be able to spend some time with a friend who will soon be leaving Chile, and I probably won't ever see her again.
Looking forward, the next few days will be busy, but I'm hoping that by Wednesday I will have the bulk of my work done. Then it will be little odds and ends, and then preparing for my trip home. I'll be landing in Philly on December 12th, ready for the cold weather! Brrr!!! It's been 85 degrees and sunny every day for the past 2 weeks. (A few weeks ago we had a heat wave of 95 degrees for a few days! That was a bit torturous!!)
Ok, well this has ended up being much longer than I anticipated. I can't make anything short! My bed is calling me, and I must obey. Good night!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Weekend Retreat

This past weekend was both good and tiring. Our church had a women's retreat at the Word of Life camp in Santiago. There were slightly over 50 women from our church and a sister church or daughter church...I'm still a little unsure of what the connection is!
We got to the camp early Friday evening, and we were some of the first ones there. So, we helped set up. The sound equipment needed to be hooked up, balloons blown up, tables set, and gobs and gobs of food prepared. Friday evening there was going to be a "welcome meeting" and then an once (pronounced ohn-say) which is like a light evening meal. After using all my lung capacity to blow up some of the foulest tasting balloons I've ever encountered, I headed into the kitchen to see of what service I could be there. That, and I was starving since all I'd had since lunch was a bowl of strawberries, and at this point it's about 8:00. I started with easy jobs...putting bread into baskets and ham and cheese on plates. About this time I made a sandwich with my "boss" to appease my angry stomach. Even half a sandwich was enough to make me normal again! Then it was on to more difficult jobs.
The "boss," Vicky, was directing several women what to do. And of course, this is all done in Spanish, which made for some very interesting moments for me. I understand a good deal, but I wasn't always sure that I was doing what she had told me to do! After all the sandwich fixings were ready, she shows me to a counter with two large knives, a couple of plates, and a large bag of butter. Yes, I did say bag. It was tightly packaged into something resembling a rectangle and was approximately the size of a good book. What was my task? To open the butter with one of the machetes she provided, and then proceed to cut it into little cubes. Sounds pretty basic, right? No, not at all. As I opened the package with the very large knife, I realized that it was very difficult to get the butter out without completely destroying it. And in the process I got butter all over my hands and the monster knife, making it one big slippery mess. I was having visions of slicing my butter-slathered hands and not being able to grade any more...much less ruin all that perfectly good butter! To make a long story slightly shorter, someone came to my rescue and opened it for me (actually, it took TWO other people), and we successfully sliced the butter.
We then had our welcome once before the welcome meeting. By the time all the butter slicing was done, most of the women had sat down. All the people I knew were sitting at full tables, so I plopped myself down at the first empty seat I found. This table was full of women from the other church. They were all very friendly and very interested in talking to me. They found it fascinating that I didn't speak much Spanish, and proceeded to say any English word they knew, sprinkling them into the conversation whether they fit in the context or not! They were all impressed at how "well" I spoke (these are my quotation marks, not theirs...I think I'm my own worst critic), and had little discussions amongst themselves as to whether they thought I was understanding whatever it was someone said to me at that moment. Later in the evening, we were getting split up for our room assignments, and I kept bouncing from one group to another. Finally I was put in the group with these women from San Bernardo (the other church), and they cheered and pulled me into their midst. I seriously felt like their mascot...their non Spanish speaking mascot. Haha. I haven't felt like anybody's mascot since high school when I was the only person under 45 on a weekend bus trip my grandmother took me on.
We went down to our cabin and settled in. My bunk was in a corner of the room, surrounded by only one or two other bunks. The majority of the women were crowded on the other side. After throwing my bags down, I headed downstairs to the bathroom. This was an interesting experience. The first thing I noticed is that it was not built for tall people. The sinks and mirrors were all a little low (I had to duck a little to see myself in the mirror), as were the stall doors. The stall doors to the toilets AND the showers. And when I say low, I mean low. They came to my collarbone. It was literally impossible for me NOT to see over them, short of stumbling around with my eyes closed! The doors had no lock or latch, but stayed shut anyway, despite the centimeter gap between the door and the doorframe. Many of the doors had large corners missing, and one of the stalls had a hole cut in the wall near the tank. Had I been 10 years younger this all would have scared me from using the bathrooms at all! The next thing I noticed was that the water in all the toilets was brown. This, I think, was from a lack of use, because by the end of the retreat it had lightened considerably. And, last but not least, I noticed that there was no toilet paper provided. Now, had I been thinking, I would have realized that this was quite common for Chile. However, it never crossed my mind. I guess I figured it would be provided since we were going to a church function and not to a public place. Guess I was wrong! Luckily, several women brought some, so there was plenty to go around.
Finally I got to bed, and slept the night away...for the most part. As far as camp beds go, these weren't too bad. But they were still camp beds! I had set my alarm for 7:45, hoping to get a decent amount of sleep. I started hearing alarms throughout the room at 6am, but was able to fall back asleep. Around 6:45 all the women decided it was late enough to start talking, and didn't stop until....ok, they just didn't stop. It was at that point that I realized my mind does not like to work in Spanish at 6:45 in the morning! I stayed in bed until about 7:20, then trotted downstairs for what I knew would be an interesting shower experience. Luckily there was still hot water! I found it very difficult to see which stalls were empty without inadvertently looking over into one that wasn't! But I successfully found one, and happened to have picked a time when not many other people were there. So my height wasn't too much of a problem...except of course for the fact that I needed to bend my knees a little to get under the shower head!!
After breakfast (more sandwiches, bread and toast, and cookies) we had our first meeting. I was very tired and didn't understand much of what was going on. Then we had game time. I have played this game in high school, so I was familiar with the process. Once figuring out their variation, I figured I'd be fine. Although with the language barrier, I knew it could be tricky. Basically it consists of running around in circles to music, when the music stops, the leader calls out two body parts. Every one needs to find a partner and touch those two body parts. The last ones to do this are kicked out. I know many Spanish words for body parts, and was doing pretty well (except for the fact that the people on either side of me would always find a partner on THEIR other side, so I was often left alone), until she said "knee to eyebrow." I could not remember the word for eyebrow, and so was mercilessly kicked out of the game. Haha. I did get a round of applause though.
Then we had another meeting. This was led by an American, and I was able to follow most of what she said due largely to her strong American accent. I'm more accustomed to it. She was talking about God's grace in trials and in every moment of the day. He provides strength when we need it. She had great illustrations and had several people give testimonies. It was very moving. She gave an illustration of a woman walking with a backpack (she actually had someone do this). And they kept putting bricks in the backpack. She was saying that when we don't give our burdens over to God daily, it begins to weigh us down. Until she handed the woman the last brick to hold in her hands, making the load to heavy, and she fell down. This was to say that one day something will happen, a relatively trivial thing that shouldn't be a big problem, but because of the accumulation of burdens, it overwhelms us. It's when we give up our "backpack of problems" that we are able to handle the "bricks" we sometimes have to carry in our hands. It was such a great message and it was a blessing to me that I was able to understand it.
Then we had lunch and free time. Usually during free time at these types of things I'm very social and hate missing the action. However, I was very tired, and needed a break from Spanish, so I laid outside under the shade of some trees and took a nap. This was all very relaxing until I started considering the possibility of the sprinklers coming on...I had no idea how close I was. Luckily that didn't happen!
Then we had our last meeting. It was led by an woman from Argentina, and I have a hard time understanding her because she talks so quickly. I was doing a pretty good job though until about 45 minutes into it. She said one thing and my mind practically shut off. She said, "And this is the last point of the first part." Just the first part! After that I was able to follow along with the power point, but didn't understand anything she said. She spoke for another 45 minutes! Needless to say, I was pretty fidgety at that point!
Then we had our last once, packed our bags, took innumerable group photos, and headed home. The rest of my weekend was just as tiring, but all in all, it was an awesome experience. I didn't get any work done, but I was ok with that. I had great Spanish practice, got to know some more women at the church, and was fed from the Word. What more could I ask for?
This week promises to be good. I taught today, am helping chaperone a field trip tomorrow, then have half a day on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday we're off for Thanksgiving (yay!), then I have my birthday celebration on Saturday (yay!), and then I only have 2 full weeks of school left! It's flying by! Please pray that I will have the time, energy, and concentration to get everything done. I have about 30 essays to grade, three tests to write, three finals to write, figure end of semester grades, PLUS all the regular grading throughout the week! It'll be a race to the finish! Then I'll be home for Christmas for about a month!
Wow, this was long. Congratulations if you made it to the end! I hope each of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I will see many of you in a few weeks!!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thoughts of the future

Well, the semester is winding down now...and by winding down I mean getting crazy! We're only about 5 weeks away from the end with half of one week being taken up by Thanksgiving break and half of another week consisting of finals. I can't believe how fast it's going! It's going to be so busy preparing for the end, fitting in the last chapters and tests, reviewing, writing finals, and grading grading grading! I have a large pile of essays on my desk that I'm trying very hard to ignore. :o)
All that being said, I'm almost half way done my year in Chile. I'm coming home for almost a month at Christmas, and then will be back to finish the second semester. That's it! So, indubitably, I'm starting to think ahead.
I love it here. I feel like I have a purpose. I enjoy going to my job, being with my coworkers and students, and helping kids learn and grow. I have met some incredible people and am making friendships with many of them (this will be easier with some of them when I speak their language!!). I love the culture here (mostly!) and the language as well. I am so anxious to master it! I still have a long way to go, but I'm definitely making huge steps in the right direction. I'll probably have it down by the end of my year here!
If you haven't guessed where I'm going with this, I'll tell you. I'm seriously considering and praying about teaching another year here. There is a lot to think about, but mostly I want to do what God is directing me to. My gut tells me one thing, and I want to make sure that my inclination is coming from Him. I need to make the decision relatively soon, believe it or not, because the administration needs to start putting out the word about open positions for next school year.
Please pray for me as I make this decision. Pray that I will follow God's leading and I won't miss His direction. Pray that all the necessary details will fall into place for whichever way He chooses. And pray that if I do stay, I will have the support I will need. If any of you support me or have supported me in the past, I ask that you consider and pray about the possibility of another year's support.
As soon as I know, I'll let you know what happens! I'm so excited to see what God does in my life and the experiences He brings to me. I'm sure I'll have many more to tell since these last few weeks of the semester are jam packed with events!
Thank you all so much for your prayer, support, and encouragement! It means so much to me. I will be home in one month, and I can't wait to see you all! One month!! I can't believe it!
'Til the next time...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

All Saint's Day

Today is another holiday here in Chile, which means no school! And since tomorrow is Friday, and I don't have many classes, I took tomorrow off as well. Long weekend! Don't be too jealous, though. I still have a LOT of work to do. :o)
All Saint's Day (the name of the holiday) is basically a day where you remember loved ones who have passed away. I'm sure there's more to it, and it probably comes from their Catholic background, but I don't actually know. The way most people celebrate it is to go to the cemeteries throughout the city, visit the tombs of their family members, and decorate them with flowers and other meaningful things. All along the streets outside the cemetery and on the paths inside are vendor selling everything from flowers to ice cream to hats to makeshift vases to jewelry. It seemed a little disrespectful to me to sell jewelry and shoes inside a cemetery, but it was happening!
A group of us from the church went to a large cemetery around 11am and passed out a few thousand tracts with the church's information stamped on it. Please pray with us that people will read it, think about it, and that the Lord will lead them to follow up. I'm sure many of those people are ready to hear what God has to say to them, and I hope they listen! It was a great day, and it was a way that I could be involved despite my limited Spanish. You don't need to be bilingual to pass out tracts!!
Just a note about the cemetery. It was all above ground and was a mix of large family tombs and small, individual "boxes" in a wall (much like you would see in a morgue, but in stone and closer together). The tombs were mostly large and ornate, and there were fountains and pathways and well kept grass all throughout the cemetery. It was quite a sight!

On another note, I'd like to mention what I did last weekend. It was a good time for me to make some new friends, get to know some I already had, and see some more of Chile. On Saturday I went with a group of people to Vina del Mar (which means Ocean's Vineyard), a town on the coast not quite two hours away. We took a bus, got there around 11:30, and immediately took off. The group split, and I went with two people that I'm friends with (Mike and Heather). We didn't really have a plan for the day, but decided to just do things as they came to us! So we walked, and walked, and walked. If we saw something, we stopped. Along the way, we stopped at artisan shops, paintings for sale on the streets, a clock of flowers, a castle or two, the beach (of course), a park to rest and relax, the "boardwalk," and a church or two. We walked through most of the tourist section of town, and a little that wasn't a tourist section.
It was so much fun! I seemed to be having a bit of a clumsy day. I dropped some chocolate ice cream on a white shirt, got a mysterious stain on my back, and was attacked by the ocean. That is not an exaggeration! :o) The water was cold, but we wanted to put our feet in. I stood past the point where the waves were coming in, then stepped forward when the water came up. This successfully worked several times. Then I noticed a rather large wave coming, thought it might come farther up the beach, and considered the fact that I should probably move. By the time I had thought all this, the water was upon me, drenching my pant legs, and I turned and ran up the beach, all the while splashing more water on me! It was highly entertaining for Mike and Heather! :o)
Several other funny things happened that day. At the ice cream place, Mike had his highlight of the day. Now, he's about 6'7" and looks every bit of it. There was a little old lady (and I mean LITTLE, and old!) and she started talking to him, asking for money. He doesn't understand Spanish, so she switched to very broken English and started harassing him! When he walked by her out the door, she smacked him on the butt! That was very entertaining for Heather and me! :o)
We laughed and joked all day, and it was so great to have that camaraderie that I've missed so much since coming down here. It was a beautiful day, and I'm so thankful God blessed me with it! I'm including a link to some of the pictures from that weekend. The first few are from and ice cream place that serves monster helpings (if you order it, of course) that I went to with Mike, Heather, the Crosses (another missionary couple here), and a few Chileans. You can see that we piled into the car--5 in the backseat. This is not uncommon here! The rest are from Vina. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Visa fun

Well, if ever you're traveling in a foreign country for extended periods of time, I suggest you figure out when your visa expires right when you get there. Don't wait. You may count wrong. Now, I'm not saying I know from experience, but....
Ok, so really there's a plethora of reasons why I was dealing with renewing my visa the day it expired. I counted wrong, we were busy, I didn't realize all the steps involved, I couldn't understand the application, and I procrastinate. Wonderful? I thought so.
Last week, I began filling out the application, but didn't get far without a translator. I knew my visa was up this week, but was thinking it was Wednesday or so. Well, on Sunday I sat down with Dave and he helped me figure it out. We were going to get stuff settled the next day, but he got sick. When I counted 90 days from my arrival in Chile, I realized my visa expired on Monday! Oops! Dave also told me that I needed a certificate of something, a letter from him stamped with a seal, copies from my passport, and an official photo! Yikes!
So Monday I ran around school, asking the accountant to do the certificate, as I made copies, and kept calling Duane Cross (another missionary) to take me to get my picture taken. Then I was going to meet Dave so he could stamp the letter and we'd run to the post office. As long as it was stamped for today, I'd be set. I left the school around 2:45 to meet Duane, then we headed to a store to get pictures taken. Two other people came with us for the ride. Well, by the time we get there it's 3:15, no problem except they don't do that kind of photo. We had to drive farther! So we rushed over there in the hopes of getting it done in time. At some point they were frustrated that this was happening on the last day, I almost cried, and many many jokes were made. The jokes kept me from crying, although it was still very stressful! I hate being a burden to others, and that happened to many people yesterday, unfortunately. We got to the mall at 3:40, went to the store, had my picture taken, and was back in the car by 3:50!! Amazing!! I went back to the school where I met Dave, and we walked into the post office around 4:45! Whew!
So, technically I'm still legal! It will take 30 days for me to hear about my new visa. There is one problem though. The pictures weren't entirely correct. So, if they decide they need to be redone, I'll hear in 30 days, have to retake them, and then it'll be another 30 days!! Please pray that this does not happen! The sooner I get my visa the better.
So, it was a bit stressful, but God allowed me to get everything done in time! Just in time! It was definitely an interesting experience, and I wanted to share it with you! I'm not sure if I conveyed the emotion of it fully, but I hope you enjoyed it!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It's no wonder...

A poor gringa doesn't stand a chance in learning this language. It's crazy! I think I'm improving and doing better, and then I hit a wall. And it's not just any wall. It's a brick wall reinforced with steel bars and surrounded with asbestos-laced concrete. Once I get over the wall (or around or under or through...I'm not quite sure what happens), my Spanish settles down at a higher level and I start the process all over again.
Why do I say this semi-overdramatized analogy? Well, it's because I learned something new today, and it makes absolutely no sense. In fact, it means exactly the opposite of what it sounds like. Let me explain. Melissa and I were walking down the street and these two men were carrying a large table across the sidewalk. We slowed down when we saw them coming so they could pass, since they were carrying something large and heavy. However, being the gentlemen they were, they said "Pase no mas," and we continued on as they waited for us. Now, if I were to translate literally what they said (which is what I do with my limited vocabulary and understanding of idioms), it means "pass no more." How would you interpret that?
Well, apparently it means something to the effect of, "Just go on by/through, no rush." So, pass no more = you can pass. HOW DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE??? Do you see what I'm up against? :o)
Needless to say I spend much of my time befuddled.
In fact, tonight I said something incorrectly and they had a good laugh over it. I was trying to say "hurry up" which is spelled apurate (and pronounced ah-PUH-dah-teh). Their r's are made by a quick flick of the tongue and sound like d's. Their d's are really more like very quiet hard th's (like in "then"). In fact, they're so quiet that often they skip them altogether. So, although I had seen apurate somewhere and new it was written with an r, I had forgotten. And since I hear it a lot, and it sounds like a d, I said it with the Chilean accented "d". So it came out like ah-PUH-ah-te. They asked me to repeat it, giggled, and then corrected me. Sigh. One thing's for sure: I won't make that mistake again! That's what happens when I make an idiot out of myself with some word or phrase--I always remember the right way after that!
In other news...It's been an interesting week. Monday was a holiday, Columbus Day, so we had off school. I had a jam packed weekend. I watched a soccer game with a bunch of Chileans (Chile lost, it was sad and entertaining at the same time), then went out bowling with some Americans and some Chileans. Two of the three Chileans had never bowled before and I tied with one of them!! She did really well and I was pretty rusty. Then on Sunday after church I met some new people who I got in contact with through my coworker. They're looking for more people to hang out with, and they speak English, so that's a plus! They're here through Campus Crusade, and they're really nice and seem to like to do things. They invited me on their missions trip in January to the Chilean Indians, the Mapuche, farther south in Chile. So I'm hoping to go! After that they might travel around the southern part of the continent, which I would hope to do with them. We'll see what happens! On Monday we went to a lake about an hour outside of town to go sailing. I had never been sailing before so I was very excited about it. It was a PERFECT day! It was sunny and warm, but not hot, with a nice breeze so we didn't have to paddle the boat around. :o) The lake is surrounded by mountains and was just gorgeous. There's a nice picnic area by the lake with grills, picnic tables, trees for shade, and large grassy areas for games. It was so fun!! It was very relaxing and tiring at the same time! We got home around 10 and it took me most of the week to recover! :o)
Here's a link to some of the pictures from that day (it may not work as a link, but if you copy and paste it into your browser's address bar, it should work). It was the Rogers family, me, and Mike, a newcomer to Chile who's working as the ABWE treasurer for Chile.

The week in school was a good one. I'm starting to learn how to deal with the rowdiness of the kids. I've been far too lenient, and I'm finding ways to fix that problem. I still have a ways to go, but at least it's a start. Yesterday was probably the best example of it. When giving a test to one class who can't keep their mouths shut before, during, or after a test, I gave a speech about respecting their classmates while waving a demerit pad around. They took me seriously and I didn't hear a peep!
Then later, I had a little heart-to-heart with them about something that had been bothering me. It was brought on the day before by a girl complaining about the school, and what she was saying was a serious offense (and really off the wall). When I asked her why she felt that way, she really couldn't come up with much of an answer. So basically she was complaining to people who couldn't do anything about a problem that she is interpreting that doesn't even exist!! So I read a verse in Gal 5 (I think around verse 19 or so) about not tearing each other down, encouraged them to learn to see the good in things, and gave examples from my life. I assured them I wasn't talking about ignoring problems or faults, but that there are times where we are stuck in places we don't like, or with people we don't like, or doing things we don't like, and we need to learn to find the good in it or we'll be miserable. And we'll make the people around us either miserable also or annoyed at our complaining. And I said that if they saw a genuine weakness (because nothing's perfect), to do something constructive about it instead of just complaining to people who have no power to change it. Then, to reinforce this idea in their heads I had them all write 10 positive things about SCA. It was a stretch for some of them! But they seemed to take it well, and the next day I asked Melissa how people reacted. She said everyone was fine, and if anyone complained throughout the day, someone would say, "Hey, remember what Miss Kelly said this morning?" I'm not sure how long it'll stick, but at least they were listening. I don't think they're used to seeing me so serious so they really paid attention.
A few other things I did yesterday to try and control the hoodlums was hand out homework demerits ("Yes, you DO have to do your homework. It's actually not just a suggestion!") and hand out a little extra assignment. This was my favorite. I was actually cracking up to myself because it was so great. You see, I have the 11/12th grade class for 2 periods in a row for some days, and they seem to feel that when the bell rings between classes, they get a nice long break. So they saunter in after the second bell has rung and take their time getting back to their desks. I've talked to them about this before and even threatened demerits (although I really don't have the heart to do that sometimes). Well, yesterday only 4 of my 15 students were in the classroom when the bell rung. That is a TERRIBLE percentage! The idea of writing 11 demerits seemed very cumbersome to me, so I opted for another method. I said that all 11 of them would, on Monday, turn in a 150 word "essay" on why punctuality is important. Haha. Oh, I could barely contain my glee. It's really not much of an essay, 2 paragraphs, but I had them for study hall later in the day when many of them were working on it. And to hear their comments and frustrations made me laugh so hard I couldn't hide it from them.
So I guess I have a bit of a mean streak to be laughing at their hardship. :o)
It will be interesting to see what this next week brings. I think I'm going to inconspicuously become more strict. They'll never know what hit them! :o)
Ok, it's getting late and I should get ready for bed. Sleep is goooooood! :o)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Awkward Photos, Salt Showers, and a Dance with a Dog

This past weekend I had another Chilean first--a wedding. There were many similarities with American weddings, but also some very interesting differences!
The wedding was at a beautiful old building, made of stone with a pretty courtyard outside with stone pathways leading around. It was a warm and sunny day. The setting was absolutely perfect. When I got dressed in the morning, I looked for a light, colorful outfit that would be befitting for a spring afternoon wedding. However, a large number of the guests wore all black! Had it been an evening wedding (which apparently most of them are here) there would have been even more black dresses. Very interesting.
The wedding was supposed to start at 12, and the ceremony area was still getting finishing touches at 12:30. The wedding didn't start until 12:45 because the bride wasn't there yet. No one was concerned that she wasn't coming or that she had cold feet, but rather, it was accepted as perfectly natural. We're in Chile, and punctuality is really more of a suggestion here than an expectation.
The ceremony was pretty typical. Although two large differences stick out in my mind. One was a part of the ceremony and one wasn't. There were two cords on a table up front. The bride held one end of a cord, and her parents held the other. The groom came and cut the cord in half. Then they did it again with the bride cutting the cord the groom was holding. Then the two halves that the couple had in their hands were tied together by the pastor. So, really, they did tie the knot. :o)
The other difference during the ceremony really made me laugh. There was a photographer and a friend taking video roaming around the front throughout the ceremony. As were about 4 other people trying to get pictures of their own. They walked to one side, they walked to another. They walked behind the canopy, they stood in front of the audience (although mostly off to the side). They weren't embarrassed or awkward one bit. There are less social restrictions on things like that here. But it was quite entertaining for me! :o)
At the end of the ceremony, we threw rice as they walked down the aisle (yes, actual rice), and they got in a car and drove off. They took some pictures at a pretty spot downtown and then went to a restaurant where they had one of their first dates. Awwww! While they did this, we cleared the chairs away and roamed around the courtyard, eating appetizers and talking. At this point I managed to get powdered sugar all over my black pants. Nice.
Finally they returned and we went inside for the reception. We all sat down to eat, and the food was really good, but for some reason it was all I could do to eat even half of it. During the meal, though, I think I laughed the hardest I've laughed since I got here. I almost choked on my food. One of my friends, Cristian, had dropped a little bit of dressing on his sleeve. So what did he do? He got the salt shaker and dumped salt all over it. I have seen this a few times since coming to Chile. Apparently if something is oily, they pour salt on it to absorb the oil. It seemed to work, because about 10 minutes later he showed me his sleeve, and there was a small pile of salt stuck to the stain, drawing out the oil. A few minutes later, I look over at him because he's staring intently down the front of this shirt. He had a huge splatter of dressing all over his shirt and tie. When he realized we all noticed, he got a little embarrassed; however, since he is a hilarious guy, he made the best out of it and turned it into a very funny moment. He took the salt shaker and started dousing himself in salt. Then he pretended he was taking a shower in salt. Then he took his fork and knife and acted as if he was going to eat his tie, now that it was well seasoned. And of course, the salt that had collected in his shirt pocket provided many more joke opportunities throughout the reception. I was laughing so much. I really think he had more salt on his clothes than on his food!
When the bouquet tossing time came, they made me join in. I was trying hard to avoid it, since I'm not a fan of the tradition, but it was unavoidable. After making several jokes about catching it from my seat (since the toss was happening right next to my table), I stood up. It was then that I realized that I'm tall. Ok, well, I've known that for quite some time, but it was impressed upon me again when I saw the tops of EVERY girl's head. I was about a head taller than all of them. Did this give me an advantage? Not really, because I was near the back and didn't try to fight for it. Oh, well! Later, when it came time to toss the garter, I was walking back to my seat just as he threw it. I was thinking it may be dangerous to be so close to the crowd of men, but figured I could survive. Well, just as I approached my chair, the garter hit my arm and fell at my feet. I almost was trampled by the mob of guys! (Ok, well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I did have to back up quickly!)
Another interesting moment in the reception was a little auction they held. I don't know if this is typical at a Chilean wedding, but it was an interesting idea. They auctioned off all the centerpieces and gave the money to the couple. It was fun and a nice gift for the bride and groom!
The last thing that stood out to me was the most awkward moment of the day for me. During the reception, it's customary for different groups of people to take pictures with the bride and groom. This is all directed by the MC. It started with family, then friends, and so on. I was sitting WAY back in the corner, and glad to be since I didn't know the couple very well (in fact, I had just met the groom that morning!). The MC (who is a pastor at our church, Yentzen, and a ham if I ever saw one) called the people I was sitting with to go up. Then he called me too. I tried to pretend I didn't understand, but they made me go up. Then I thought I was going to be in the picture with my friends, but no. He directed me to wait. I kept trying to sneak away, and the people around me kept pushing me to the front. It was impossible for me to hide. I don't really blend in here. :o) So finally it's my turn to get in the picture, and guess what? It was just me! No big groups like the others....just me. I tried to go over to bride's side, since at least I know her a little, but I wasn't allowed. The groom held out his arm and trapped my hand to his side in a vise-like grip. I really couldn't have escaped if I wanted to. Ok, so really, it wasn't that embarrassing, but it was a little awkward. But once I was informed that it's not unusual for the couple to take pictures with people they don't really know, I felt just fine about the whole thing. :o)
After I left the wedding, I was walking to the car and a stray dog (well, I think he was stray...there are a lot of them here) jumped up and put is front paws on my stomach. Seriously, he came out of no where! I kept trying to throw him off, and he kept jumping back. I grabbed his front legs and tried to drop them back to the ground. I did this several times. One time, he stayed on his hind legs and stumbled toward me with his paws still in the air! It was quite comical! Luckily he wasn't really dirty or rabid or anything. He didn't try to lick or bite. Guess he just wanted to dance! :o)
Well, this post has turned out longer than I expected. But hopefully it gave an entertaining description of my Chilean wedding experience...and not a boring one! :o)
It was a great day, and I was able to practice a lot of Spanish. I'm still painfully deficient, but I can see a huge improvement in the last few weeks. I even translated a few sentences for a visiting American! Please continue to pray for me in that, since it's my biggest hindrance right now.
School is going well. I just finished the first quarter, and when I wasn't at the wedding, spent the rest of the weekend doing grades. I'm glad to be done that! No one is failing my class (thank goodness!) and for the most part the kids seem to enjoy it (or at least tolerate it). :o) Please pray that I will find a relatively kind way to keep them quiet, as they've become more talkative in the last few weeks.
Oh, and one last thing. Please pray that God will give me restful nights, because I have not slept well the last week or so.
And, as usual, pray that I will be used for His glory in the lives of the kids that I have the pleasure of seeing every day! I really do love them all!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Chicken head

This is the Chilean phrase I learned today. It's so interesting to learn idioms in other languages. We're so used to the ones we say that we don't stop to think how weird they actually are. But when it's a struggle to understand a new language, than the oddity of the idioms are plainly obvious! I may understand the words, but I have no idea what they're saying! Today one of the maintenance men at school asked me my name (he had asked be about 6 weeks ago but obviously he'd forgotten. He's been calling me senorita ever since). When I reminded him, he remembered that I had told him once already. Then when I gave him a little hint on how to remember, he said he would be able to now. He then proceeded to say, "What a chicken head!" (to which I thought, hmmmm, interesting. I know this guy is infamous for his idioms, so what is he trying to say?) Luckily he followed it up by saying, "I always forget things." And through my amazing abilities to put two and two together, (thanks to my 1st grade math teacher, of course) I figured it out. Chileans use a TON of idioms, which makes life to interesting! (Just a few other examples: "What a can!" means "What a shame!" and "What a bad wave!" means "That was totally uncool!"...there are so many more. I now have a book entitled "How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle: and Learn the Catchphrases in English." It's very helpful!)

Well, that is not the real reason I'm posting tonight, but I thought it would be interesting for you! It's been awhile since I've written, and for good reason. It's been a busy couple of weeks, and a whirlwind of emotions! Everything from the fear of having to leave my cozy home here and move somewhere else, to the frustrations of having both of my Spanish tutors cancel in the same week, to the disappointment of having to back out of a weekend excursion to Argentina because it'll mess up my visa situation, to the headache of hearing a lot of complaining from the students since there's a large amount of end-of-the-quarter work to do. Whew! It makes me tired just writing about it! Lest you think that I've been in a constant state of turmoil the last 2 weeks, I have had several great moments, and innumerable average ones. :o) Some of the great moments include my first visit to a Chilean home on my own. I've had dinner with Chilean families before, but always with other Americans where I could just sit back and listen and answer a few questions. Or I've been the only English speaker among Chileans, but it's been in a big group where I can sit back and listen. But this visit, I was the guest, and for the most part the conversation centered on me. It went pretty well, and I really enjoyed myself. I was able to understand the majority of what they were saying and come up with a rough approximation of what I wanted to say. Although, my friends brother does not understand the concept of talking with a foreigner. He's so nice, but almost impossible to understand! I only caught about 50% of it. If I didn't understand, he would reword it. Of course, I still wouldn't understand because he talks a mile a minute. So I'd ask him to slow down, which he would, but he still spoke very inarticulately. Several times his sister had to translate for him (and by that I mean translate his Spanish into her Spanish, and then I understood). It was a good time overall! And great practice for me. The people are so nice and patient here. It's allowed me to be very bold in trying to speak!

There have been other great moments as well. I met an American my age that I think I can be friends with (the first person who fills all three categories of being my age, speaking English, and having enough in common to make friendship likely). Also, I went to a dinner with all the other ABWE missionaries in Santiago. Good food, fun conversation, great people. What more can you ask for? I also went out with a group of Chileans on Saturday after our Bible study. Although I didn't understand everything, it was still nice to be out in a social setting with a group of nice, fun, godly people. It felt like I was with my friends at home (except in Spanish, of course), and I laughed a lot. I look forward to the day I can truly get to know these people and vice versa. They really are incredible. I've been blessed to have found a church filled with people who are so accepting and genuine.

Wow, it's getting late. I need my beauty rest since I have a busy weekend ahead of me. I still have one more day of classes, of course, and then I'll be spending most of my weekend figuring out the quarter grades for 42 students. And on Saturday I'll be going to a Chilean wedding. Yay! I look forward to the weekend, but I have the feeling that I'm going to start my week exhausted! Please pray that I will have the focus and diligence to get everything done and still have time to rest! I thank you all for your prayers and your notes of encouragement! Just to know people care enough to pray for me and are interested in reading this is such a blessing to me! Thank you so much!

Monday, September 24, 2007

More celebration!

Well, I know I'm a little late on this post, but better late than never, right?
Last Tuesday, Dieciocho, we had a church picnic at a house a little outside of the city. They made their house for this kind of thing: hacienda style. There's a large open space for soccer, a pool, a large patio with plenty of table space, a huge grill, a sprawling house with plenty of bathrooms, and lots more space to spread out. It was a perfect day--warm and sunny. It started off with people just mingling, playing soccer, and eating empanadas. This was a great time for me to talk with different people and practice my Spanish. God really helped me out, and I felt like I understood a good deal. Eventually we sat down for our big meal, which basically consisted of all the different salads the families brought and steak on the grill. It was goooooood. Here's where I quieted down a little, since it's harder for me to understand in large groups, and there were 60 people around one table. Afterwards I drank some coffee and talked with some of the girls I'm getting to know.
Then we all gathered around the pool where a sound system was set up. Some people performed some traditional Chilean songs, and then they read funny poems, another tradition.
After this, they split many of us up into two teams, and I was among those chosen. It was game time. Now, the thing to note is, all the Americans and Chileans who speak English were on the other team. Oh, the irony. So I had several options to try to understand what was going on, and I implemented all of them. I listened hard, feverishly trying to understand, I stayed in the back and watched what the people in front of me were doing, and I ran over to the other team and asked people in English. It was interesting. :o)
The games were relatively familiar, like potato sack races, three-legged races, and balloon popping games. There is a picture of me trying to pop a balloon by hugging another girl, but she was half my height, so it made life interesting. It looks like she's killing me. Haha. You'll see what I mean when you look at the pictures.
After the games was some more milling around and socializing, accompanied with sweets and tea or coffee. Then we sat down to watch the cueca, the Chilean national dance. When I was watching, very few people would do it, maybe one or two couples at a time. Apparently a few more jumped in later, but I was off getting my own lesson, so I missed it. It's a relatively easy dance, but it just takes some practice. It's very interesting to learn something completely in Spanish. But my teacher was very patient with me! :o)
Then there was more socializing and general merriment, and eventually we went home. It was an awesome day, and I so wished that I could understand more (although I did fairly well).
The next day Melissa and I went into town to see the military parade. The park was PACKED, and it was very difficult to get around. We squeezed our way up to the parade area and realized the parade was too far away to see. It was basically only performed in front of a set of bleachers with all the important people (like the President) and the TV cameras. Oh well! So we left and walked around the fonda (fair-type thing), getting some food (which Melissa made me get to practice my Spanish) and watching the various performances. There were several people doing the cueca, one performer from Easter Island, so his performance was similar to something Hawaiian, and several Native American performers. The funny thing is, they were mostly performing North American songs and dances, and were dressed in the North American style, as opposed to this area!
Melissa and I left well before dark, because this particular fonda is known for it's drunkenness, especially towards the end of the holiday week. It was sad to see people already drunk at 4 in the afternoon.
The next day was a school day, back to the grind! No one wanted to be there, including myself, but we managed ok! ;o)
It was a good week, an incredible week, filled with the most Spanish I've had in one week so far. It did a lot to help me learn, but I still have a long way to go!
I'm including a link that will send you to some pictures from the day of the picnic, including a very short video of the cueca. I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Viva Chile!

It's celebration time in Chile! Tomorrow is their Independence Day, September 18th, or Dieciocho, as it's said in Spanish. And there are festivities left and right! They take their celebration very seriously (I was told that you can be heavily fined for not flying a Chilean flag during this holiday!!).
On Friday we had the program at school, and it involved a salute to Chile, the US, and all the other countries represented at our school (Cuba, Bolivia, Canada, Mexico, Korea, China, and Indonesia). Then all the grades performed traditional folk songs from all over the country, including some traditional folk dances, which are much like line dances. Then we had a lunch of traditional Chilean food--empanadas (cheese or meat in a pocket of dough, fried), anticuchos (shishkabobs, basically), and mote con huesillos (a dessert drink that consists of a dried peach resoaked in water to make a juice with barley in the bottom...interesting, huh?). Then there were games, like relay races and tug-of-war, along with the ever so popular kite flying. They really love kites down here. I'm going to include some pictures from Friday.

Here's the Pre-K and Kindergarten class with their teacher, all in traditional clothes.

Here are two girls in traditional clothes on the "stage" where the program was held.

Cute, aren't they? They were so nervous!

Part of the Chilean dance that the little kids did. Involves a lot of running in place and running in general, all in time with the music.

Here's some churangos, an instrument used in all of the high school songs.

I do have a video from that day, but it will take me awhile to edit it and post it. But keep an eye out for it!

Yesterday I went to a fonda, which is much like a fair. There were rides, and games, and stands with food all over the place, much like you'd find at an American fair. Only the rides had different names (most of them) and the food was all Chilean. It was delicious! There was a mini-zoo, and a rodeo. We didn't stay for the rodeo though, so I'm hoping to be able to go see that on Wednesday. I've heard it's very different than an American rodeo. I'm sure I'll have more pictures to show!!
It was a fun day yesterday, filled with Chilean culture, Chilean friends, and was almost entirely in Spanish! None of the Americans went with me, so I was on my own, and honestly, that's when I learn the most. One of my Chilean friends knows a little English so she helps me out a little, but mostly it's in Spanish. I'm making progress (I was even able to crack a few jokes yesterday!), it's just very slow. But everyone is very encouraging and understanding, so I don't mind sounding like an idiot! :o)

Today was a mellow day, consisting of sleeping in, doing some grading, and going grocery shopping. Here's the thing about grocery shopping in Chile in September...especially the day before their holiday. There are people who walk around the store in traditional Chilean clothes, with instruments, singing folk songs. And then every once in awhile they'll start the national Chilean dance (the cueca) in the aisles! And people gather around and watch, clapping along, and eventually a few even join in with the dancers! The culture is amazing! I love it here!
Tomorrow is the fair at our church, so I'm sure I'll have more to tell in the not to distant future!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Another Chilean first

Well, yesterday I got my first Chilean haircut. It was getting so long it was driving me crazy. If only I'd known! It's true what they say: "You don't know what you've got until you lose it."
Ok, so maybe I'm being a little dramatic. It's not THAT bad. But it is very short. Much shorter than I anticipated. She cut off what I asked for, and then kept going back in to make it even, to fix it, to give it more layers, to make it thinner. And kept going and going and going. I was thinking that I should say something, but I figured she was about done each time! The good news is that it'll look normal in 2 weeks. This is really just a test of patience for me....and a test at my creativity in hairstyling. I went to school today and got a lot of compliments, so I guess I did something right this morning! :o)

On a happier note.... The Chilean Independence Day is coming up...A week from today actually, Sept 18. It's a big deal here; way bigger than the 4th of July. The school is having a big program on Friday that the kids have been working on since the beginning of the school year, and there won't be any classes that day. There's no school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (yay!) so there's a lot of time to go to the festivities around the city. Let's see....Sunday after church some of my Chilean friends are taking me to see the "fairs" in the city. Fair is not really an accurate word, but there's nothing quite like it in the States. There's typical Chilean food, dance, music...and I think maybe games? Oh, and Chilean rodeo. Haha. Tuesday the church is having a big event at the new property where the new church will eventually be built (continue to pray for that. The only think holding us up is getting all the approvals from the municipality. We're hoping to break ground Oct 1.). There will be games, food, music, and general merriment. Should be fun!! Wednesday we're going to the lake as a family to go sailing. I love being on boats, and I've never been sailing before, so I'm really excited about it. I'm sure I'll have lots to post about as I go to all these activities. And I'm sure I'll have plenty of pictures to show...maybe some video if I can manage it!

Before I go...a few other firsts. Today I had my first Spanish "class." It's really just me and a Chilean girl talking (she brought a friend with her). But I'm so excited because I learn more when I'm forced to talk. And one of my friends from church is going to help me once all the festivities are done next week.
I also went grocery shopping with Ruthann this afternoon. I've been to the store several times, but she kept sending me to go get certain things for her. So I got to talk to the guy at the bakery and the guy at the deli, as well as walk around reading the signs to make sure I knew what I was looking at! It was fun, educational, and a lot of help for her since she's recently suffered some minor injuries that make every day stuff difficult (a sore left shoulder and two sprained fingers on her right hand).

Ok, I really should go now. I'm supposed to be doing school work right now. We're studying Macbeth right now. Next week they will be performing some scenes for me. The class is full of hams and I picked some really good scenes, so it should be pretty entertaining. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Honeymoon is over!

We were warned in our pre-field training that we would experience several stages in our adjustment to a new country. The first was the honeymoon. Everything is great and new and exciting. An adventure awaits around every corner. That would last, so they said, about a month. Well, I've been here for 6 weeks now, and it's wearing off. I guess they know what they're talking about!
The next stage is culture shock, which has several parts--thinking the differences are odd, thinking the differences are annoying, thinking the differences are awful. Something like that. (After this phase is when you start to embrace the differences and know you've begun assimilating into the culture.) I wouldn't say that the differences are odd, annoying or awful...just different.
I've been here long enough that the newness of everything isn't quite so bright, and I'm able to feel the difference of my lifestyle a little. I still LOVE it here, no doubt about it. But I'm starting to notice that I don't have a lot of friends to go out with here, to go catch a movie with or talk over a cup of coffee. I don't have impromptu game nights at my place anymore. I'm not lonely, but I feel a little like I'm in limbo.
Why do I say all this? I'm not sure, except to put words to my emotions helps me to understand myself a little more. I'm progressing through the steps of adjustment, and if I realize this is what's happening, I can better interpret myself. ...Now I'm getting too psychological! :o)
God knows my personality's need for friendship and social-ness. He will provide for me what I need when I need it. My job is to remain content and joyful, looking to the Friend who knows no language barrier, who doesn't need a passport, and who isn't dependent on emails and blogs to be involved in my life! Because as the song goes...
All of You is more than enough for all of me,
For every thirst and every need.
You satisfy me with Your love.
And all I have in You is more than enough!!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

More pictures from the mountains...

See the haze in between the mountains in the top picture? Santiago is under there. It's mostly smog. I'm going to come home next year with black lung. I hope I can get a good insurance policy! :o)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

"Skiing" in the Andes...

Let me tell you a little story. It's the story of a girl who's never skied before, making her first attempt in the Andes mountains. For argument's sake, let's just say that girl was me. (Note: All the details of this story are true, but the mood may be exaggerated for dramatic effect.)
Once upon an August, I was coming down with a cold. Not a bad cold, but a cold nonetheless. I fought the cold hard, because I knew that I had a ski trip coming up. But germs don't really care if you go skiing, and I caught the cold anyway (why do you say you catch a cold? As if it's something you actively try to do? But I digress...). So already I'm not quite myself.
The day before the ski trip was a long afternoon of parent/teacher conferences, so I stayed overnight with another teacher who lives in one of the apartments above the school offices. She's a very nice and hospitable girl, but she snores. A lot. And I'm not used to snoring, so I heard every labored breath. My one course of action was to cough really hard repeatedly to try to awaken her enough to roll over. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. Needless to say, I snoozed a few times.
I was getting ready in the morning, and she left to go make some copies. She left her hairdryer with me, saying she wasn't sure if it works. I had not packed mine, mostly because I didn't have the space, but also because in the 5 apartments, I figured someone had to have a hairdryer. I plugged hers in. Nothing. I tried another outlet. Nothing. Being completely ready besides my wet hair, I walk to the apartment next door. Nothing. I walk to the next one. Nothing. The next apartment houses another teacher who I knew had already gone down to the school grounds. So traipsed back and forth across the campus, wet hair flopping in the breeze, passing rowdy students who were excited for their upcoming ski adventure. I finally found who I was looking for, and she informed me she does not have a hairdryer. Apparently everyone's hair is more cooperative than mine.
So, I had one option left. The fifth, and last, apartment. I had not met the people who lived there yet, since they just moved in a week ago. So I knocked on their door, introduced myself, and asked if they had a hairdryer I could borrow. Jackpot! They did! So as they went to get it I had a charming conversation with their daughter about her first day of school. She was very excited. And she giggled at my shiverings about my wet hair. (Really though, it was a pretty warm day...but in the mountains, who knows.)
Crisis averted. Time to go down with the students. One of the guys came over, anxious to get going, and asked if my hair was dry enough, or did they have to wait some more? So cheeky!
It was just under a 2 hour ride up to the ski lodge, and it was not a fun one. Because part way up the mountain I started to be carsick. I haven't had this problem in quite awhile. And just as I started to really have to fight the gag reflex, the guy in front of me (the same guy who made the hair comment, actually) turned around and said, "Now we come to the really fun part! The countdown! The 41 switchbacks to get to the top!" Forty-one? you say. Yes, forty-one hairpin turns on a bus filled with teenagers. Fun. I came dangerously, and I mean dangerously close to really embarrassing myself. But the two boys near me noticed me in my distress and did all they could to help me....offering to get me a bag...turning to tell me we were halfway through the switchbacks....keeping a window open even when one guy obnoxiously complained about a draft. Who said chivalry is dead? It just looks a little different. :o)
I made it to the top with my breakfast in tact, and we began our loooong wait to get our gear. This was good for my stomach. The kids were all excited about the fact that I was actually going to ski. I was the only teacher doing this. I'm so cool. :o) We finally got in to get our gear, and of course I was in the last group. The guy comes and asks my shoe size, I tell him, and he comes back. He can't close the boot, so he goes and gets another one. It closes after some coaxing from him. And after about 30 seconds I realize that it's cutting off the circulation to my foot. I think it was pinching my tibia, actually. But he couldn't loosen it. I got the rest of my gear, and the guy preparing my skis said the first time is the best time. I think I laughed in response. Then a few guys watched me struggle to figure out how to put on my other boot, until one finally came to help me.
I stood up, got almost to the door, and almost fell over. My ski poles saved me. This was not starting well.
I go out, and all the kids who knew what they were doing, who offered to teach me, were long gone. So it was me, 2 10th graders who didn't know what they were doing, 3 7th graders who didn't know what they were doing, and one dad who did. He taught us all. We went down a teeny tiny hill to get to the bunny slope. I got half way down, stopped, and thought, "This isn't too bad!" I looked like an idiot, but I was doing it. Then I started to go the rest of the way down, spun out of control, and fell. It took me about an hour to get back up. Ok, not really. But it felt like it. I started down a slightly bigger hill we had to go down to get to the bunny hill. And I fell about 3 more times. And once again, it was nearly impossible to get back up.
At this point my left foot is starting to fall asleep.
I get to the top of the bunny hill and hear the dad worrying about if we'll be able to handle the t-bar to get back up the bunny hill. Uh oh.
After much debate and worry in my head (which I masked by "taking in the view" which was stunning) I decided to try the bunny hill. Which, by the way, was no bunny hill. It had to be a triple black diamond. Seriously. It was ridiculous. I start down and fall in the most uncomfortable and awkward looking way. And it was even harder to get up. Meanwhile pretty much everyone has started down the bunny hill. I did not want to ski alone. I get up, and decide that I will do it at least once. I mean, I spent the money and everything.
At this point my left foot is completely numb, my right foot is starting to tingle, and my pants are soaked. I get up, push off, and fall about 4.8 seconds later. It's about then that I decided I wasn't really having any fun.
I reclined on this bunny slope for awhile, gazing at the gorgeous mountains, and tried to muster up enough mental fortitude to get back up. As I was gazing and mustering, 2 skiers stopped and asked if I was ok. I replied in the affirmative.
I got up, loosened my boots, and hobbled off the slope as all the blood rushed back to my feet. Then a very kind man informed me that I had dropped a glove back in the middle of the slope. So I turned around and hobbled back.
Then I trudged back to the lodge (with the 3 7th graders who had been down the bunny hill and back by this point) and got lunch. I had been on the mountain for one hour. That's it.
Everyone asked me how I was doing. I told them frankly. They asked if was going back out. I just laughed. They all said I had to try again. And I just had to say no. Honestly, that was a heartbreaking moment for me. Most of them really tried to encourage me to try one more time. And maybe next time I go skiing I'll last a little longer. But that was all I could handle. I was a little under the weather, remember. (They did not accept this excuse.) :o)
I waited until about 3pm and turned in my skis (about 2 hours after I came off the mountain). And of course, the guy said "So early? Didn't you like it?" If only he'd known exactly what I'd been doing, or not doing, for the past 2 hours. Ha!
Ok, so we're nearing the end of the story. But first, another example of odd male chivalry. I had to use the restroom to change into dry clothes. You have to pay to go into the bathroom unless you've paid to go skiing. Since I no longer had on any gear, they didn't know, and asked if I had a ticket. As I was trying to pull my lift ticket out of my pocked (since I never used a lift, it hadn't gotten attached to my zipper yet), there was a guy there who I had noticed a couple time noticing me, and he held up his lift ticket and said I could use it to go into the restroom. Now isn't that romantic? I've never had a man offer to pay for my entrance into a bathroom. The Latin's don't have a reputation for nothing, you know!
Ok, enough joking around! :o)
A day later, and no muscles in my legs hurt, which isn't common after a ski trip. My shins are bruised from my ski boots, though. The only muscles that hurt are in my shoulders and upper back. I'm assuming this is from using my ski poles to start, try to stop, try to take off the skis, and also from struggling to get up so many times. Unique, I know....
Well, that's the end of my story. I actually had fun, all things considering. And the kids had fun. And maybe next time I ski I'll make it for an hour and a half! :o)
Congratulations for reading the whole thing! As a reward, enjoy some of the pictures I took while I was not skiing. :o) (I'm pretty sure there don't exist any of me actually attempting to ski...I'm not sad about this.) :o)

Here I am at the beginning of the day. I look so blissfully unaware, don't I?
I don't remember what we were talking about, but by the look on my face, I'd have to say it has something to do with my boots.
This is actually only about half of us who went. The rest of them were still on the mountain. They never got the memo, I guess.
When I was returning the skis. I was actually really happy when I took this picture because I had just taken my boots off. Couldn't tell, could you? I'm a really good actress. :o)
Me in front of some of the mountains...Looks photoshopped, but it's not! It was beautiful! Definitely the best part of the day for me. Can't beat it!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Spanish Slip Ups

In the last month that I've been here, I've said some pretty ridiculous things in Spanish. Unfortunately, I don't learn unless I try, and I can't try without making mistakes! I'm going to share with you some of the more entertaining mistakes. :o)
~When someone asked how old I'll be on my upcoming birthday (well, if you consider November as "upcoming"), I said "veintiseven." So I said the "twenty"in Spanish and the "seven" in English! We all had a good laugh over that. Luckily I'm not the only person to have done something like this!
~When someone asked me if I like sports, I said "I watch, but no juice." Does this make sense? No. And this is why I got funny stares, and then I remembered...The verb "I play" and the word "juice" are very similar. And I know that, but quite often my mouth runs ahead of my brain...Which is dangerous enough in English when my mouth kinda knows what it's doing, but in Spanish....... Well, hence the possibility of this post! :o)
~I have said "I like myself" not once, but twice. And I can hear it coming out of my mouth as I say it and it's too late to fix it. How ridiculous does that sound! The difference between "I like it" and "I like myself" is one letter. And again, I know better...
~When I was talking to another American about a Christian youth competition going on this weekend, I committed my biggest mistake so far. And this time completely unknowingly. The name of the competition is "Involved Youth" but I couldn't remember the word for "involved," but I did remember how it sounded. So I started making guesses that sounded similar, and apparently one of the guesses turned out to be something like "Drunk Youth"!!!
There have been innumerable small mistakes, but they're not all that interesting. I don't think I've forgotten any of the funny ones, but you never know. And I'm sure I'll come up with some more in the next year!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A bumpy day

You know how they say that sometimes we encounter bumps on the road of life? Well, today was one of those days. Yesterday marked my 4th week in Chile, and today was the hardest one I've had so far. And it was all exacerbated by the fact that I'm exhausted today. Actually, it was probably mostly because I'm exhausted.
I usually look forward to Thursdays, and today was no exception. We have a prayer group meeting at the house, and I really get along with the three Chileans who come. (They're also in the young adults group with me, so I see them several times a week.) So all week I was looking forward to tonight--a chance to see these wonderful people, a chance to practice Spanish, a chance to pray together.
Well, it was a rough day at school today--a bad combination of me being tired and the kids being exactly the opposite. They were rowdy, although they usually are. :o) And it took all my energy to keep going. I had a lot I had to get through today! I got home and was able to have a few hours to alternate from working and resting. Which was much needed.
Then prayer meeting started. It starts at "8", which in Chile means 8:30. And there was food and fellowship first. People walked in the door, said hi, and then I remembered that I don't understand them. I keep forgetting, honestly. I just think about talking with them and getting to know them, like I would in the States, and forget that I can't do that here yet! It's an odd mental glitch, I guess. And I also realized that I've heard very little Spanish this week. So all those things put together resulted in the incapacity of my brain to switch to Spanish tonight.
And I grew very frustrated.
And quiet.
And my contacts started drying out.
And I got even more tired.
And I think I almost cried, but I stopped it with a mental scolding.
And I couldn't talk correctly...the words wouldn't come. (Although my comprehension did warm up by the end of the night.)
So, needless to say, I was in a downward spiral. I couldn't wait to go to bed and sleep it off. At the end of the meeting we split into groups and prayed, and I was paired with an American (whew!), and it was soooo great. I felt so much better after talking with God, even though I didn't pray about my mood. It really is amazing to see how much spiritual sensitivity helps with...anything--mood, problems, whatever. I tend to forget this. I tend to get wrapped up in my own little world, my own little self. And when I'm happy, life is good and God is good and everything is good. And then a night like tonight comes along, and I'm reminded that life is good because God is good, and my response should be one of worship, thanksgiving, and growing through constant communication. It frustrates me that I'm so human about this! What is my problem? Snap out of it!
Perhaps that should be my life slogan. "Snap out of it!" Whenever I get enveloped by my tiny finite problems...Snap out of it. Whenever I act stupidly and forget to take everything to God...... You get the picture.
But I digress...
Needless to say, the answer to my problem tonight is twofold: prayer and sleep (in that order). And that is what I learned from my bumpy day. When I remember to pray without ceasing, I can truly rejoice in the Lord always. I'll say it again: REJOICE!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

What a week!

Wow, a lot has happened this week! It's been awhile since I've posted too, so I really need to catch up!
Well, the week started off on a bad foot. Monday was probably my worst day so far (and really, it wasn't that bad). I had several fights with the copy machine first thing in the morning. And it won every battle and the war too. So then I had to rush to my first class and couldn't set up for it, and the whole day was a whirlwind of just trying to keep up. I took one pile of stuff off my desk just to replace it with another! And the kids are actually MORE talkative on Mondays! They say it's because they haven't seen each other all weekend. This I don't believe. :o)
The week got better after that, school wise. So that's good! God is still continuing to be my strength and my guide as I teach these kids. There are several that I will need to help in various ways--academically, linguistically (some of them are not native English speakers), and attitude-ly (a few of them are very quick to jump on the "that's not fair" bandwagon). Please pray that I will be able to help each of them grow in the way they need most... Actually, pray that I'll be able to continue to allow God to work through me and not get in the way!
This week was also a week of firsts... My first time on the bus by myself and the first time on the metro also by myself. And it went off without a hitch! (Except for when I was supposed to meet someone at the metro to take me to the church, since I didn't know how to walk there, and she didn't stay to meet me but sent some guy and he couldn't find half an hour later, she came to get me anyway. Ha!)
I'm becoming more and more comfortable with the language (although I'm still sooooo far from my goal), and have had several decently long conversations completely in Spanish. It's pretty exciting! I'm just longing for the day when I can be normal in Spanish like I am in English (and yes, I am normal...mostly). ;o)
Wednesday was a holiday, and there was no school! Yay!! The Rogers took me up into the mountains and we played in the snow for awhile. It was a lot of fun and very relaxing! And needless to say, it was cold! :o) I would write more, but this post is already getting a little long!

That's a very quick update of the week. I will try to post more often so I can give more details (because I know you all refresh this webpage every 20 minutes looking for more posts!). ;o)
Please continue to pray for me! I cannot do this without God's help, and your prayer support means so much to me! Besides the normal requests, I have two others. Pray for my spiritual growth--since most of the church things that I do are in Spanish, it is a little more difficult to be fed. Pray that I would be extra consistent with my devotional time to help offset that. Also, colds and flus are rampant right now, and I feel a little off today, and I really don't want to get sick. So pray for health for all of us...and if I do need to take a day or two off for illness, pray that the kids won't suffer and will be able to continue their studies (it really will be a race to fit everything in this semester!).

Thank you so much for caring about me and my ministry enough to read these and pray for me. Please contact me whenever you want! I can always use the encouragement!

Friday, August 10, 2007


When I said perhaps there would be a snow day, I was joking. Well, that's what we got. I was almost completely ready when I got 3 calls in rapid succession telling me that school was canceled. There was only about an inch of snow where I live, but in parts of the city there was up to 8 inches! Santiago hasn't seen snow like this since 1999, according to the news. So I had a free day to do some work and watch some movies! It was productive AND relaxing, which is my favorite kind of day. :o)

Since I have some time, I want to show you some pics of an INCREDIBLE sunset we had a week ago. The picture above is down the street, and the other picture is a view from the other side of the house. The sunset picture below is a little doctored (it was dark and when I lightened it, it turned out a little pinker than real life, but it's closer than the picture above.) It was beautiful!!

This picture is from the snow, obviously. Notice the palm tree in the far corner of the neighbor's yard with snow on some branches!

The next picture is also from the snow day--it's the view from my window.

The last picture is a view of the mountains. I was about 2 blocks away from the house when I took it. They were so much more beautiful half an hour earlier, but I couldn't get out to take the pic. I'm sure I'll have plenty more opportunities!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Snow in August and an Earthshaking Experience

Today was a cold day--the coldest since I've been here. And to make matters worse, it rained all day. Aaaaallllll day. It started around 9 or 10 this morning, and just didn't stop...until a little while ago when it turned into snow! Snow in August! Now, I know that I'm living at the foot of the Andes mountains, but let me give you a few hints as to how rare snow is here... First of all, if I look out the upstairs window into the neighbor's yard, I see a palm tree...covered in snow. I know I'm not an expert on meteorology and ...plantology, but that seems like a paradox or oxymoron or something. Where do you see snow and palm trees in the same place? Another example, Melissa says that this is the first time she has ever seen snow actually falling from the sky. Usually she just wakes up to see it already there. And also, several of the neighbors were outside taking pictures for a good twenty minutes! :o) And lastly, as I was getting ready for bed, before I knew any of this was going on, Ruthann came running upstairs, calling my name with such vigor that I was worried as to what was wrong! She pointed me to a window, and I knew. She'd been talking about snow all day. So the three of us (me, Melissa, and Ruthann) oohed and aahed at the views from all of the windows in the upstairs, then proceeded to call several other Americans in the area and wish them a Merry Christmas! :o) It was quite a nice way to end the day. If there's still snow on the ground in the morning (which there should be) I will try to take pictures of it. That is, if I'm coherent enough at such an early hour.....

The other interesting thing to note from the day. There was an earthquake. My first one! ...Ok, well, earthquake may be a bit of a stretch. It was just a tremor. But still, that doesn't happen in New Jersey! It was relatively quick--it was practically over by the time I realized what was going on. And the "aftershocks" were so mild that you almost weren't sure if you were imagining them or not. Those are more common here than snow is. The kids started laughing when it happened, I mean, seriously. :o) For those of you who have never experienced a tremor before (which was me 12 hours ago), I will try to describe it. It felt like a wave went through the building. The windows behind me rattled ever so slightly and the whole room seemed to move. It was like....ok, you know when you're standing in the ocean, and a wave passes you, and then the water behind it kind of ebbs and flows quickly but smoothly? It was a little like that--but instead of water, it was the air and the floor and the walls and the desks and my chair and me too, a little.

Never a dull moment, that's for sure! I wonder what tomorrow will bring? A snow day, perhaps....