Saturday, December 27, 2008

Festivities and Celebrities

Well, I know it's been awhile since I posted, but I'm sure you all understand how it is at this time of year!

Let's see what I've done since I last spoke to you......
Thanksgiving was wonderful, as I expected it to be. I had a wonderful time with the field council, and of course, there was a lot of yummy food! The day before, though, we had a Thanksgiving program. A friend and I had written the words to the high school choir's Thanksgiving song...a witty (if I do say so myself) version of 12 Days of Christmas.

For those of you who have Facebook, you can see it posted on my profile by clicking HERE (I hope).
I wrote the words underneath the video so you can be sure to understand everything.

A few days later I spontaneously went to a World Cup Finals game. Although, it was women under 20s soccer, the USA team was in the finals and I was SO excited to go to the game. We were playing versus North Korea, and it seemed as though the Chileans were rooting for the Koreans. Anytime the Americans in the crowd tried to cheer for their team, the Chileans would whistle and boo so loud that we would be drowned out. However, once we WON, I was an instant celebrity, along with the other gringas I was there with. People were asking to take their pictures with us, they were chanting USA, they couldn't get enough of us! Here's a picture of the "Celebrity Gringas." :o)

After that, I was engulfed in a whirlwind of grading and exam writing, but I survived. I had the choir all ready for the Christmas program that I was unable to attend because I was 35,000 feet in the air at the time! I've heard that the choir did VERY well, but I haven't seen proof of that yet! Once I have a video of that, I'll pass it along to you.

Since then, I've been home, running around like crazy, visiting friends and family, enjoying American culture, etc. I only have a few days left at home, and I'm trying to enjoy them to their fullest. Then it's back to Chile to enjoy the summer sun once again! Once I have had a few days to settle in, I'm sure I'll have more to report.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Older AND maturing...Who knew it could happen?

Well, in just a few short days I will be celebrating aging. My birthday is just around the corner! And although I'm excited about all the plans I've arranged for myself, I can't help but remember that I'm approaching closer to 30...what an ominous number! :o)
But this is not the purpose of this post. I want to tell you about how God has been growing and maturing me in the last few weeks. It's been a painful process, but I can tell it's working.
There have been two main "fertilizers," if you will:

One has been a recent struggle with finances. Since my roommate moved out as I mentioned in an earlier post, life has been much more expensive. However, that has not been the most difficult part. What has taken a normal stress to the next level is the fact that there are now arguments about how to finalize the finances from when she did live her. There are a few outstanding bills and of course the deposit which is the main source of contention. Both girls are being stubborn and unreasonable in their own way, and I'm in the middle. I'm friends with them both and get along with them both--they do not get along that well. I'm trying to act wisely and find compromises, but it hasn't been easy. I've asked some friends I highly trust for help and advice, so I'm not completely alone, but I honestly feel that I'm in over my head at times. Normally in this situation I would remove myself and let my friends take care of their problem themselves after I realized that my help wasn't effective. However, I'm directly involved in this debacle because I pay too...It involves my money as much as anyone else. I'm praying for wisdom for me and reasonable-ness for them. We'll see where God takes this!

The other "fertilizer" has been a girl (or two) in my class who has severe attitude problems. She's very rebellious right now to pretty much all authority figures. (There are a couple of the young guy teachers she's ok with, but that's because they're more friends than authority.) So I'm forced to compensate and be strict with her. And she does not like it. She complains all the time, and I have to stop her. She has excuses for missing assignments, and I have to know when to punish her anyway. She's unhappy with me and the school in general, thinks we're unfair and unreasonable, and automatically assumes that we're out to make life more difficult for her and teenagers in general.
Basically with this behavior she's begging for me to be exactly what she thinks she hates: uber-strict! :o)
So in a way, it's been good for me. Handing out punishments and trying not to be too lenient has been one of my main weaknesses as a teacher. This girl is single-handedly helping me to fix that problem! God has given me a thorn in my side so I'll have tough skin, I suppose. :o) Pray that I can remain consistent with her and not let my anger and frustration get in the way. Pray that she sees that I love her and am actually acting in her best interest. Pray for her spiritual condition as well, as that's obviously the root of her problem. Ah, teenagers!

So, I suppose it's very fitting to call these growing processes "fertilizer." They're messy and stink everything up, but in the end they also accelerate growth!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Close Call

Have you ever locked yourself out of your home or your car and had your keys right in your hand? It takes a special kind of talent to be able to do that. Well, apparently I'm special because that's exactly what happened to me today!

Let me explain.
I came home from school and spent about 2 hours cleaning (something that was sorely needed!), and by the time I was done I was starving. I was about to go upstairs to make dinner (well, reheat dinner, really...I cooked pasta yesterday and I have enough leftovers to last until the rapture), but first I had to take out the trash from my cleaning frenzy. Our trash receptacle is a little closet halfway down our hall, so usually I don't even bother closing my door all the way. Well, my roommate was gone, so I felt it was safer to take a set of keys with me, just to be safe.....

(I suppose I should take a break here to explain my door. There are three deadbolt locks on it, each one with its own key. There is no real door knob--I have to use a key to get in, even if they're not deadbolted. Then from the inside there's a chain and one of those slidey lock things that are most commonly found in bathroom stalls...You know the ones I'm talking about.)

So, I pulled out the slidey lock thing all the way so it would keep the door from shutting all the way. Good thing, too, because as I pulled my door mostly closed a gust of wind from inside slammed the door against its frame. But upon seeing that my plan worked and the door didn't completely close, I congratulated myself on my ingenuity as I walked down the hall with an armful of trash.
Thirty seconds later I was back at my door, and as I pushed it open, to my horror, I found that it wouldn't budge. I guess the gust of wind and semi-slam had jiggled the slidey lock partially into place! I was locked out! And my keys were cheerfully jingling in my hand! So I tried pushing several times at varying levels of strength. I tried shaking the door to move the slidey lock back out. Nothing worked!
What was I going to do! I had no cell phone, money, or metro pass. My roommate wouldn't be home for another 4 hours. Well, I walked outside looking for the caretaker. I found a custodian, and she told me the guy had left and wondered what I was looking for. So I tried to explain my situation. I found this very difficult, particularly in translating "slidey lock" especially seeing as how I couldn't even remember the word for lock. :o)
I eventually gave up and walked back to my apartment, praying hard and swallowing hard to press down the tears that were threatening to make me look even more stranded than I already did. I decided to try the door one more time. So I walked up, pushed and jiggled a couple of times, and then slammed my shoulder against the door with as much strength as I figured wouldn't break the door. And it popped open!! Yay!
Upon entering I laughed, talked to myself since there was no one else to say anything to, and fervently thanked God for getting me back inside. Then I made dinner, and it was yummy.
So the moral of this story is: Don't try to cheat the system. Just take the keys with you, shut the door like a normal person, and endure the hassle of having to unlock it a mere 30 seconds later. Otherwise you may end up looking like an idiot to some stranger in a strange land.

I think I need more sleep! Perhaps...

It's getting to be that point in the semester where a weekend just isn't enough time to rest and recuperate from the week. I was talking with some of my teacher friends about it today. I said that very same sentence to them, and they both groaned in agreement. One told me she wakes up as tired as when she went to bed. I groaned in agreement. The other told me about the emotional breakdown she had in class with one of her students who had tried her patience to the enth degree. I groaned in sympathy.
I always feel this way about a month before the semester ends. Just ready for a nice long break. And unfortunately, the last month of the semester is always the busiest! Here's a quick list of all the things to do before the semester is out: prepare the choir for the Thanksgiving program, then prepare the choir for the Christmas program, write finals and review sheets for all of my classes, help the students write and then grade research papers ranging from 4 to 12 pages in length, throw myself a birthday party (first time hosting Chileans all on my own. Yikes!), prepare food for the Thanksgiving Program, prepare food for Thanksgiving, go to a ladies' retreat at church, figure out the quarter grades, grade the finals, figure out the semester grades, and finish my Christmas shopping...Not to mention all the normal weekly work that goes in to teaching. Whew, I'm tired just writing about it!

So please pray for me and the other teachers. Pray we'll have the stamina to get through, the time to do everything well, and the patience to handle the rambunctiousness of the kids. Not only is it nearing the end of the semester, and nearing Christmas, but it's also getting to be summer time! The kids are crazier than usual! I mean, how do you solve a problem like teenagers? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? ...Many a thing you know you'd like to tell them. Many a thing they ought to understand. But how do you make them stay and listen to all you say? How do you keep a wave upon the sand? Oh, how do you solve a problem like teenagers? How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?....

For those of you not familiar with musicals, I'm sorry about that. For the rest of you....I'm still sorry. :o)

I told you I need more sleep!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Who said changes were good?

I would seriously question the sanity of this person. :o)

Let me explain.
I've been happily living with my two Chilean roommates for several months. One I hardly ever see because she works many evenings, goes away for weekends, and spends time with her boyfriend on her few free nights. The other I see a lot around the apartment and we hang out together here. And we've become good friends in the process, obviously. Well, she told us Wednesday that she's going to be moving out. And through the course of conversation, as we discussed details, they decided that today would be a good day. Just 4 days later! That gave me no time to adjust emotionally!
Wednesday night she told us, and I went to bed shortly thereafter. Thursday I was busy teaching all day, then I went out with a friend for most of the afternoon/early evening. So I only had time to vaguely think about it throughout the day. But as I went home Thursday night, I had time to digest what was going on, and literally the second I walked inside my apartment I started crying! This is only the second time (that I can remember) that I have cried since I got here---not counting touching movies and sappy songs, of course!
I was able to squeeze some quality time in with her in the few days before she left, and I dropped her off at her new house today. It was sad to see her go. I felt like an overly attached mom leaving her only child at college! :o) I'm nervous that I'm going to be lonely now since my other roommate is rarely home. And as of now, we don't have anyone lined up to move in, so life will be more expensive for awhile. That's adding stress to sadness!

So, there are several obvious prayer requests that come from this post (and one hidden one)...
1. That I won't be lonely in my own home!
2. That we will be able to find someone (that we get along with) to move in soon!
3. That until then, we will be able to afford to live in our own home!

And now for the last and hidden prayer request....
I've been having a cockroach problem in my classroom (I told you it was hidden). Seriously, it's gross. They're about two inches long and look like they have a personal vendetta against me. The first one or two that I found, I thought, "Well, I'm serving God in a country where I can't just exterminate things at a whim--we don't have money growing on trees here. So I'll just grin and bear it and chalk it up to missionary work...." Well, when cockroach number four started scuttling towards me from the book I had just opened, I thought, "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
And then I thought, "Something must be done. I can't work in these conditions!!"

So, that's my prayer request. That the cockroaches go away or DIE!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Independence Day!

Ok, I know it's a little late in coming (a month late, to be exact!), but here's an little synopsis and some pics of the Independence Day celebrations from September.

First there was a shindig at church one Sunday. It involved food, traditional music, and the traditional dance, the Cueca. I had learned the basics of the dance, but when it came to actually doing, I chickened out!! Maybe next year. :o) We spent most of the day there, enjoying the shows, the food, and talking with each other.

That week was a full one at school (even though it only involved 2 1/2 days of classes!). We had room decorating on Monday to make the school look festive. Each class did it and it was a school wide competition. Then Tuesday they had a "Dress in Chile Colors" day, also involving a competition. They also rehearsed for the program they would be performing in the next day. Tuesday night we got our food ready for the next day. I'm "in charge" of the Junior class for right now, helping them raise money for the banquet next semester. We baked some Chilean food to sell. Then Wednesday was the program, a game time, and then lunch of all traditional Chilean foods....All yummy foods too!! Then school was out until Monday! After school that day, a few of us went to a Chilean fair that they have during September. There's a ton of food, craft stands, shows, music...all sorts of fun stuff!!

To see pictures of all these events (and a little more detail than what I just mentioned...even a couple of videos at the end), click HERE.

After that, I went on a trip for a couple of days with some friends of mine. We went about 5 hours north to a town called La Serena. We walked around, did some shopping at the artisan shops, walked along the beach, went to a HUGE fair, visited some Japanese gardens, and had a fun yet relaxing time. My favorite part, though, was the evening that us girls took a tour to the observatory. There are a few sections of Chile that are famous worldwide for their clear skies and star gazing potential. And there are several observatories scattered around this area. We went to one that was about an hour away from where we were staying and took a tour that was almost 2 hours long. It was SO AMAZING! I saw Saturn and the rings around it. I saw some shooting starts. I saw a star cluster. I saw several of the constellations. I saw the Milky Way and its two satellite galaxies. It was a gorgeous night and the sky was crowded with stars. It was so incredible, and I was glad for this, because this was the main reason I wanted to visit this town. And after so much waiting and effort, I was afraid of being disappointed. But I definitely wasn't!!

To see pics from the trip to La Serena (although none from the observatory, since it was nighttime), click HERE.

I hope you enjoy everything! I just took a trip back to Argentina to help a friend renew her passport. It was a pretty mellow weekend, and Amy and I were both sick with a cold (I even stayed home from school today), so I don't have too many pictures to show you. But maybe I can come up with some. I'll see what I can do. :o)
Until then....

Monday, October 6, 2008

Growing Pains

Wow, the last several weeks have been packed full of things to tell you about! The only problem with doing lots of things to share about is that there's less time to actually write about it!!
We had our Independence Day celebration, and then I went on a short trip with some friends, and I have a lot to share about those events (including plenty of pictures!), but that'll be a project for another day. For now, I want to share with you how God has been stretching me lately.
It has been a very difficult couple of weeks for me...mainly because I have made myself very unpopular with certain groups of people. Let me break this down into three main events for you (I'll just give you the brief version).

1. Many of us teachers felt that the young guy teachers needed some help learning to be teachers and not students. We saw some things that worried us. One event even provoked me to speak with them directly. They pretty much blew me off, so I talked to the administration about it, knowing they had tried to talk with them too. So stories were passed around, details changed in the process, and things got a little ugly. The younger people involved didn't seem to understand the problem that the rest of us saw. They were upset with me (since they viewed me as the principle cause of the hullabaloo), and basically said they couldn't trust me anymore. This was very hurtful to me (although not unexpected) since I felt that I had done what was best for the students and for the other teachers. I assessed what I had done, and still didn't feel I had done anything incorrectly. Knowing that the other teachers felt the same way helps, even if I am the one to take the fall for it. Luckily, things seemed to have blown over. Unpopular event number one (the second followed hard on its heels).

2. A former student has returned to the school under some difficult circumstances. She was always talkative, but now it seems to be worse because she's grown very rebellious. Now that she's back, the whole class feels that they can talk, and I feel that I'm spending every 3 minutes reigning them back in. This is how my first semester of teaching was, and I didn't remember how miserable that was for me until the day this girl returned. It's nearly impossible to teach them now, and I've found myself feeling like I'm wasting my time and breath and that I'm not enjoying teaching at times. So I'm having to learn new things. I have to learn how to deal with this new attitude, how to be strict and firm with her even if that makes me her enemy. I tried to be kind and loving, but I gave her an inch and she took a light-year. So I can't take that route. Tough love it is, and this is not my forte. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on the view point), her attitude often makes tough love easy to hand out!

3. I caught some cheating on a homework assignment (involving the new girl, unfortunately), and unpopular event number two entered my life. I had to call the moms of the copier and copiee, and then I had to talk to each girl, give each 3 demerits and a zero on the homework assignment. Neither of them were happy, and my conversation with the new girl did not go well. It was heart breaking to see her so cold and defiant. She tried to excuse it, she complained at the way I was treating her, she tried to get me to see she was already in enough trouble. And in the end she told me she just doesn't care. I've taken enough psychology classes to see the defense mechanisms as the words flowed out of her lips, so I didn't take it personally. But it was difficult to do the tough love thing. I much prefer being the fun teacher! But sadly that is not what she needs from me.

So, all of this loveliness leads me to some prayer requests.

~ Pray for this girl. Pray that her heart would be softened and she would grow up some more. Pray that her defiance would melt away and she can be restored to healthy relationships with God and her parents.
~Pray that I would best know how to teach in the light of these new events....keeping the class under control, handling the new girl's attitude, keeping my patience and acting wisely.
~Pray that I would remain strong and not take the easy route. The verse "be not weary in well-doing..." has run through my head a lot this week. Pray that I learn what God is teaching me through this time.
~Pray that I still have the trust of my students and coworkers and that relationships I have built will not be destroyed.
~Most of all pray that God will be glorified in my life and the lives of all the students, because most of them are effected in some way by this new dynamic in school.

Thank you all for your prayers and support. I know God has me here for a reason, and I hope that each day I'm fulfilling His calling in my life. I feel very deeply for these kids that I teach, and I yearn to see God's fruit in each of them. I know that God can do abundantly more than I could ever hope or imagine!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


So, here's something new to share. This semester I've joined some of my coworkers at school in a ministry teaching English as a Second Language at their church. They've been asking me to do it every semester since I've been here, and I finally gave in. ;o) I didn't want to be over committed before, and honestly, I feel a bit over committed now that I have taken it on. It's every Wednesday evening, and after spending a full day teaching, the last thing I really want to do is spend another two hours teaching. It can be very draining. So the jury's still out on how long this ministry will last for me. I probably won't do it next semester, but for now, I'm warming up to it some more. (Plus, I'd like to be involved in a ministry in my own church, but I don't feel like I can take on another thing and still maintain my sanity!) :o)
The main reason why I'm stickng with it is because there is TREMENDOUS potential for evangelism in these classes. Only about half of our students are believers. None of mine are. I teach the advanced class, and I usually range between 1-3 students per class. My most faithful student, Cristina, has been coming every week, and quite often she is my only student. This is an excellent situation, because she's incredibly curious about the Bible. Each Wednesday there are 2 one-hour classes, and the pastor gives a devotional in between. She eats it up, but she says she doesn't understand it. So she asks me questions, and I try my best to answer in a way she'll understand. There have been plenty of opportunities to share the faith with her. The book we use to teach English is a Christian book that goes through the book of Mark, so each week we're actually studying the Bible. I've given her a tract in English to study at home and then we translated it together. Then I gave her the same one in Spanish to be able to read and understand more quickly. I've witnessed to her several times. However, despite all of that, there is still a gap of understanding. I'm not sure how much of it is a language barrier (I have to simplify my English for her to understand, and if I switched to Spanish, it would be just as simple) or how much of it is her still being in the dark, spiritually speaking.
If you could pray for Cristina, that would be great. I won't see her for class this week or next week (this week is national protests, so it's unsafe to be out much, and next week is Independence Day)., so pray that God will keep her curious and receptive during this time.

Ok, well, that's it for me for now. I'm looking forward to the festivities of the month, and I'm sure I'll have a lot to tell you in the next couple of weeks!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Night and Day

It's amazing what a difference a year makes. Last year, the ski trip was one of the worst memorable experiences of my life (to be a little dramatic about it). This year it was incredible.

For a reminder of how bad things went last year, you can click this link and reread my post:

Anyway, I knew this year's ski trip was coming up, and I wasn't sure what to do about it. My first reaction was to say I'd go. But then the more I thought about it, and the more I remembered the horrors of last year, the less I wanted to go. So I started to talk myself out of it. However, my friends convinced me to go, and being as swayable by peer influence as I am (positive peer influence, mind you), I decided to go.
And I gotta say, IT WAS AWESOME!
Let me explain the differences.
First of all, I was not slightly sick and sleep deprived, like I was last year. Secondly, I bought some dramamine-like medicine to help deal with the insanely curvy mountain road. Thirdly, I sat near the front of the bus and slept for most of the ride. Although I did wake up when we got to an icy curve that the bus couldn't pass. We all kind of gritted our teeth and pretended to smile nonchalantly as the bus backed up, closer and closer to the small guard rail protecting us from the precipice, in order to stop on dry pavement and avoid slipping. This was quite the experience. (And really, not nearly as dangerous as I'm portraying it, although it did have potential). The driver got out and put chains on the tires while the rest of us were entertained by watching cars try to race around the curve and over the ice. We cheered those who made it and laughed at those who didn't, and the whole time heard the commentaries of the 3 or 4 young, 20something guys who felt they could do it better.
We finally got up to the top, got in line to get our equipment, and headed back over to the lodge. Somehow, once again, I was one of the last ones through. And it was stressful, because people were rushing me, and I HATE being rushed when I'm in an unfamiliar situation. And skiing is one of those situations. Although, I will say, this year I decided to try snowboarding. I will never in my life ski again, but I was willing to try something else. This made all the difference in the world!
The boots are soooooo much more comfortable! They have a little structure to them, but you just tie relatively firmly two different sets of laces. So much better than the vice-like contraptions that are called ski boots!!
By the time I got everything settled, all the good snowboarders (one who used to actually be an instructor) were long gone, so I decided to take the class with one of the ninth grade girls. The problem was, we had to wait a little over an hour for our class to start (so why all the rush earlier? I don't know!). When we finally got to the class, it consisted of me, my student, and 4 Chilean girls from another school. I was the oldest person there, besides the instructor. His name was Cristian, and he did a quick survey to see what language people spoke. He discovered that I understood most of his instructions in Spanish, so very little of it was in English. For the first half of the class, he didn't know my name, so he just referred to me as "Teacher." :o) After he heard my student call me by name, he picked right up on it. Anyway, I'm glad I waited for the lesson, because I never would've figured that stuff out on my own.
He'd teach us something, and we'd try it. When he'd ask me if I wanted to try again, I'd always say yes. Many of the other girls were not very bold in their practicing. This may be why I made an impression on him. This is not a usual occurrence for me...usually I'm in the bottom of the middle of these types of groups. Anyway, my first little attempt at snowboarding resulted in a fall, and I immediately heard Cristian say, "Muy bien!"...which means "Very good!" Ha! I don't know what he saw, but it certainly didn't feel "very good"! In fact, I fell pretty much every time I tried something, but I always smiled and jumped back up again, so maybe that's why he said "very good." Who knows.
Every new thing he'd teach, I'd try (although not very successfully). He seemed to help me more and more as the other girls slowly gave up in varying degrees. I was the first one to make it down the little mini-hill that was the practice slope. Then he taught me how to take the little rope-y thing back up. I'd make small squeals and groans intermittently throughout the lesson. The word I heard most from my instructor was "Tranquila, tranquila," which means "Calm, stay calm." Easier said than done!
After an hour, class was over and he had to leave for his next class. But he stopped to say bye to me, and to say he was sorry he had to go. He said I was doing very well, and that now that I've had a base lesson, next time I should come and have a TWO hour lesson, but one-on-one...not in a class. Wow! When am I ever the one to pick up something sporty? Rarely.
Anyway, I went down the mini-slope, this time with no instructor, no one yelling tips to me. And I flew down the hill, at break neck speed (or so it seemed to me) and with almost no control. However, I didn't fall til the end! So I went back up, and talked to my student as I recooped. She had given up at this point. But she did say I "looked hot" going down the hill. I don't know how that's possible, with arms flailing and body jerking in a desperate attempt to maintain balance, and then tumbling to a snow-covered stop, but apparently I did. :o)
I tried it again, this time practicing the turns he had taught me. I was doing ok, turning a teensy bit, when I saw a skiier standing in front of me, watching me. He made no signs of moving (I figured as a beginner he didn't know how), and I didn't have enough control to turn, so I fell down on purpose and skidded to a stop. He smiled at me, and then turned as someone from his ski class asked for a tip. He was an instructor!! I stood up, changed directions, and went again. Two falls later, I was at the bottom again. I collected myself for a bit, and the ski instructor asked me where I was English. I said the States, and he asked where. At this point I noticed that he had an American accent. We ended up chatting for awhile, he asked me what I'm doing here and how long I'll stay. He told me he just graduated from Penn State and took the summer to teach skiing and be able to ski for free before having to settle down to a real job. It was very interesting to meet someone who lives so close to my home on the side of a mountain in the Andes!
It was time for lunch, and then I headed out for a little more snowboarding. This time I was by myself, and the practice slope was almost completely empty. I tried a few more times, and I think I gained a little more control, but I still didn't turn or stop very well. I think I stopped without falling just once the whole time. One time, as I tumbled down the slope, the board stuck in the snow as my body kept rolling, so that by the time I stopped, my leg was almost completely backwards! That hurt a little, and I quickly spun the other way to straighten out my leg. Another quarter turn and I probably would've torn and/or broken something. It was about then that I decided to call it quits since I was virtually alone...after one more run. :o)
The day was over and we headed home. I was a little sore, but not all that bad. My knee hurt a little bit from the twist the next day, but not too much. All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience. I don't know if I'll ever get enough practice to be a competent snowboarder, but I'd definitely try it again!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Experience #487-495

You know, there's just nothing like sitting alone and eating dinner in a mall food court in a foreign country where they speak a foreign language. It really is quite amazing. I should know; I just did it tonight. But let me start from the beginning.
I decided to go to the mall after school today to pick up a few random yet necessary items. Now, in the States, I would know what to do. I would know which stores would carry what I needed at prices that I wanted, and I'd know where these stores were located, for the most part. And if not, I'd be able to search helpful websites to answer these questions. But here, well, none of that is true. I know a few stores down here, but I'm not familiar with the majority of the types of stores, let alone their names, price ranges, and stock. Throw on top of all that the fact that I didn't know the Spanish words for most of what I was looking for, and I was in for a long afternoon. I needed cheap sunglasses for my upcoming ski trip, guitar strings and bongos for the school's worship team, and that yellow mushy stuff that you use to stick things to the wall...what's it called?...I can't even think of the word in English now...Sticky tack? Man, that's going to bother me.
But I digress.
I invited a couple of friends to come with me, but by the time we got to the mall, they only had a half hour to stick around. Well, we found the bongos right away. Shocking? I thought so. I decided not to get them just yet so as to not have to lug them around as I did my other shopping. Smart move number one. Soon after my friends left, and I was on my own. Now, I have been to this mall several times, but I'm not overly familiar with the layout. I know where a few stores are, but that's it. I find it to be quite a confusing layout--like a rectangular tic-tac-toe board. For these reasons, I traversed the mall, right and left, up and down, back and forth, willy nilly, retracing my tracks and generally wasting time. I should also add that, having come straight from school, I was wearing my "nice" clothes, and my shoes were definitely not engineered for aimless marathon walking. They quickly grew uncomfortable and also had next to no traction on their soles. This made walking on the highly polished fake-marble tiled floors very treacherous! Especially when descending the slight ramp to the food court. I very nearly slipped and fell!
After wandering aimlessly and being discouraged at only finding sunglasses ranging from $70-$400, I decided to head to the one solace of the afternoon. This particular mall houses a Starbucks. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I indulged. And it was heavenly.
After this recharge, I was back on my quest for reasonably priced sunglasses and that sticky stuff. Well, I found $15 dollar sunglasses that look like bug-eyes, but at least they'll protect me from the wind as I fly (or should I say tumble) down the slopes on Thursday. I may never wear them again after that, but I had already resigned myself to that eventuality. I found the sticky stuff in a store where I had previously been to search for sunglasses. Oh the joys of not knowing your way around! This whole process took me approximately 17 times longer than it would in the States.
An hour and a half and 2 purchases later, I decided to go to the food court for dinner. I know if I didn't it would be very late until I got home and I certainly wouldn't feel like cooking anything. So I headed to Pizza Hut/Taco Bell. Interesting combo, huh? I waited in line for about a year and contemplated my choices. I noticed that they sell French fries as a side for everything: pizza, tacos, burritos, what have you. So I ordered a taco and papas fritas supreme, which is basically your typical nacho toppings (cheese, beef, sour cream, tomatoes, and chives) but instead glopped over French fries. This truly was an experience I could not pass up. It wasn't all that bad, although I had to eat it with a fork since the fries had become relatively soggy. I also had the wonderful privilege of experiencing taco sauce drip down the inside of my sleeve. That was thrilling, let me tell you.
Finally I was off for my last purchase: the bongos. I knew right where to go and I headed there like I was on a mission...the first time the whole shopping trip. I walk in to the tiny store and up to the counter. They smile and ask how they can help me. I falteringly tell them I need guitar strings (of which I suddenly can't remember the word for, so I just point at them right in front of me and say "these"...I don't even read the word printed on the packaging right in front of me), and then I point to and ask for bongos. This I remembered the word for because it's "bongos" just pronounced differently. They kind of give me this odd look, and one guy gives a quick, odd grunt/chuckle...a gruckle, if you will. I could read their thoughts in their eyes, "What the heck is this gringa who can barely say what she wants in our language going to do with guitar strings and bongos??" And then their look of thinly veiled bewilderment intensifies as I choose my items--a fairly high quality set of bongos and then the cheapest guitar strings they have. I am at times an enigma in this country. :o)
I leave the mall toting my large, bright yellow bag with the long bongo box in it. I decide that my best bet is to stop by school on my way home to drop the bongos off. It would be very difficult to travel with it in the cattle herding that it my morning commute. So I take a slightly longer path home in order to pass the school. Even still I run into some human traffic and inadvertently collide my box with some heels of people crowding in too close. This doesn't last long, thankfully, and I have room to breathe. Well, I make my stop at school, which basically involves getting off the metro that would take me almost straight home, walking about 8 minutes to school, making a much needed bathroom stop (thank you, Starbucks), trading my bongos for my backpack filled to near overflowing with school papers and clean laundry (I'm doing laundry at school since we still haven't bought a washer for our apartment...and we'll never be able to fit a dryer in here as well, anyway), and making the 8 minute walk back to the metro. It may have been the longest 20 minutes of my life.
At 8 o'clock I trudge into my apartment, having for the last hour ignored my feet's announcements of their displeasure at every step. I peel off the burdens of bookbag, purse, coat, scarf, and shoes and collapse onto my bed, wishing at that moment that I had a massage therapist at my beck and call. After a few minutes I come to grips with the reality that this is, in fact, not the case. I give myself some time to regroup, then pull out Uncle Tom's Cabin to prepare for class tomorrow...not an easy book to read when you're tired! I took a break from work to write this lovely commentary, and now I will head back to work and begin writing a test.
Is it Friday yet??

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Culture Shock

It's an interesting thing that I've been here over a year and I'm going through culture shock. But I am. And I know that culture shock goes in cycles, especially after having left the country for a bit, but it's still not a pleasant experience.
I'm not really quite sure why I'm feeling this way, and it's not a type of culture shock I've felt before. It comes in brief flashes when I'm not expecting it...usually when I'm not all that occupied with something else. I'll be riding in the car and think, "Ugh, this is not what things look like in the States." Or I'll see some missionary who's been here for decades and think, "Ugh, how can they stay here for that long? Doesn't it drive them crazy?" It's the strangest thing because I absolutely love this country and the fact that I get to live here for a while. I mean, there are some practical reasons why I'm frustrated. For instance, I still haven't found a cooking/meal schedule that doesn't involve leftover pizza. ;o) What's more, every basic little thing here is a chore: grocery shopping, renting a movie, going to a restaurant, answering the phone. I can cope with most of these things, but I never know when they're going to say something to me I don't understand. It can be very difficult. And I don't know why it bothers me so much, except for maybe because I so desperately want to be fluent in Spanish.
I guess this is hitting me now because I'm out on my own. I have to do more things for myself, and that leaves my weakness wide open and exposed. Plus, I guess the honeymoon is over. My first year is done, and this year is very different.
I don't know. I'm just talking through my thoughts on this blog. I am 100% certain this is where God wants me for now, and I'm thrilled about it. But being here isn't all sunshine and carefree days, and I guess I feel like I should share those sides of life with you too. So, if you could pray for me, I would love that. It does help knowing it's culture shock, which means it's a phase and should pass. But in the meantime, I'll be praying about it...
Ok, I should finish getting ready for school. I need to leave in 5 minutes! :o)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Simple Discoveries and Strange Experiences

Well, the first week of school is over, and it's going to be a very different year from last year. There are less than two thirds of the amount of students we had last year, and most of the loud ones are gone. So it's much more tranquil than we're used to...and kids don't hang out in the halls as much and are consequently on time for class! I'm not used to such luxuries!
It's going to be a busy year for me. I'm doing the reading class this year, which I've decided is going to be a lot of fun. Mostly because I get to read the books with them, but they have to do all the work! I just sit there and make sure they did their roles well and guide the class as needed. I love it! It's a refreshing change from the typical class. My other classes (English) will be much the same as last year. I also gave up being in charge of yearbook and took on the chapel ministry (which is basically a worship team). I'm co-sponsoring the junior class this semester to help them raise funds for the banquet next semester. I'm helping lead the high school choir (a new addition) to prepare for the Christmas program they'll be taking part in. I'm helping record the accompaniment music for the elementary's half of the Christmas program. Sound busy? I think so. But I also added a non-school related ministry. A couple of the elementary teachers run a ESL class (English as a Second Language) and have been asking me to help out. This semester I said yes. So we teach two one-hour classes every Wednesday. I've only had one week, and I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. I may not be cut out to be that kind of teacher. Ironic, I know, since I teach English at school! :o)

Life in my apartment is going well. I really like my roommates, and we seem to get along well. We speak in Spanish about 80% of the time, so I've been learning a lot. Although, since they both know English, we can switch back and forth if we have to. This is very helpful in the morning when my brain is a little too sluggish to think in Spanish! :o)
We just got our fridge and stove hooked up on Tuesday, and I haven't had time to do grocery shopping since then, so meals have been an interesting experience. Hopefully I can figure out some kind of routine soon, because I want to get back to eating normal food and not prepared-by-a-culinary-challenged-bachelor type meals!

After all that, I'll finally get to the items that inspired the title of this post.
You know, I've been here a year, and I'm still finding things out for the first time. For instance, last week I made a very simple discovery that made me soooo happy. In the whole time I've been here, I have not known that the Subway sandwich place exists in Chile. But last Saturday I found out it does. And not only that, but there's one a block and a half from my apartment! I don't know why that thrilled me so much, but I was definitely entertaining my roommates with my exuberance over sandwiches!!

I've also experienced another first, and this happened just this morning. It was a very strange experience. I was on the metro heading to church, and I started to hear some strangely familiar words coming from a guy about 5 feet away. I realized he was speaking in English (although with a pretty thick accent), but I quickly understood that he was emphatically spouting some of the worst swear words and other crude comments that the English language has to offer. It was plainly obvious to me that he was saying all this for my benefit although he was talking to his friends. Since it was incredibly offensive stuff he was saying, I put on my best poker face, never looked over in that direction, and pretended that I don't understand English. It seemed to work. After a couple of minutes I noticed that one of the guys was slowly backing up to be closer to me. He stood parallel to me, but not overly close and he never made any kind of contact. I had a sneaking suspicion what was going on, and sure enough, when I quickly yet nonchalantly looked over at them, they had a camera out. They took his picture with me!! Not that it's going to be a good picture, because I tried to look as far away as possible and still look natural. I think they took several pictures though. This was definitely a first! It was the weirdest thing, like I'm some sort of celebrity or freak show...not quite sure which!! :o)

I just never know what to expect when I'm down here. Some days are hum-drum, and others are anything but! Plenty of other things have happened already, including Children's Day at church, countless visitors at our apartment, an unwittingly illegal bonfire, a weekend retreat with the students, being tackled by some of the girls during a game, experiments resulting in small burns from a finicky shower, growing frustrations at my limitations in a Spanish speaking country, and many other things...but I've written a lot already, so I'll save some for another time.
Until then...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mustard seed faith

Do I have it? I have conflicting proof on that account. Let me explain. I came home after my first year in Chile to spend some time with family and friends and to raise more money for my second year. My mission would not let me come back to Chile until I had 100% of my support committed. When I landed in the States, I needed $4,300 and had 2 1/2 weeks to raise it! After a week I was down to needing $2,200. A day before I left I needed $800. Here's where my mustard seed faith comes in. I never doubted that the money would come in. I knew it would. I knew God wanted me here, so He would provide the money. I just wasn't sure when or how. Here's where my lack of faith comes in. I was only expecting the bare minimum of what I needed. I didn't even consider the possibility of getting more. Well, after I made a small presentation at my church, informing them about my need, I literally had people shoving checks into my pockets as I talked to other people about how to support me online!! When I counted it, I had received well over twice what I needed!!! What does this mean? It means that I was able to also pay for my plane ticket back to Chile, something that my non-mustard like faith hadn't even considered a possibility. Praise God that He does more than we can even hope or imagine!! I was truly humbled by the amazing generosity displayed that day.

After a whirlwind trip in the States (honestly, I don't think I had more than one afternoon of solitude!), I returned to Chile on what was quite possibly the oddest flight I've ever been on. And I've been on maaaaany. It all started when we were on the plane, still at our gate at the Atlanta airport. People just couldn't sit still! The flight attendants kept announcing through the speakers that we couldn't go anywhere until everyone was seated. I swear that every time they said this someone else got up! People ran to the bathroom and rummaged around in the overhead compartments. Little children crawled, toddled and sprawled in the aisles. Flight attendants wandered around orchestrating an elaborate game of musical chairs, trying to reunite mothers separated from their children by those nasty seat-assigners. At one point they even had to make an announcement reminding passengers that sleeping on the floor was not allowed! And we hadn't even left the gate yet! Once we finally did get airborne, things seemed normal. Until my light (and the lights of the people next to me) decided to sporadically turn on and off. It was the oddest thing. Just when I thought it was the strangest flight of my life, the turbulence started. It wasn't the bumpiest I've ever experienced, but there was a LOT of it. In fact, the captain made the flight attendants stop serving dinner and take their seats. Of course, after they did this there was no more turbulence for quite awhile. However, it did return intermittently. Despite the Tilt-a-Whirl type flight, I was able to sleep, thanks to a very tiring 2 weeks and a couple Tylenol PM! But I think the turbulence must've continued, because I dreamed that I was living through an earthquake--a very long earthquake. :o)

My first day in Chile was filled by spending time with my previous host family and unloading all the gifts I had brought back to them from various people. Almost a full suitcase just of gifts for different missionaries here! On my way home I found out that I did NOT have work the next day as we were originally supposed to. Yay for sleeping in! That was my plan. I spent a little while with my new roommates in my new apartment, and then went to bed. But sleeping in was not in the stars, I suppose. At around 9am I was awoken by a Sousa-like sound coming from what seemed my very bedroom. But actually there was a marching band (without the marching) at the hospital behind our apartment, and for 30 minutes they celebrated their anniversary with national anthems and other brassy songs. I was in heaven. After they were done, I fell back asleep, for awhile. My roommates had a meeting, and so I heard every labored step of our visitors up and down our squeaky stairs. I finally re-fell asleep and didn't wake again until noon! Oops! Well, I was very tired from my flight. I spent the day unpacking and relaxing. Then the next day it was back to work and life as normal.

Thus, my first few days back in Chile. Strange, but good. :o)
I'm sure I'll have many more things to post about as this seems like it will be a very busy and entertaining semester!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Financial Update

Well, my first school year is almost over (4 days left!), which means that the next school years is just around the corner! There is a 4 week break between school years, and then we start all over again! I will be spending about 2 1/2 weeks at home in the States, and I'm so looking forward to it! I'm going to be able to spend time with friends and family, something I miss a lot.

However, the main reason I'm at home is to finish raising support for my second year in Chile. I have received commitments of support for the majority of my needs. However, I'm still missing a good sized amount. It works out to be about $7000. (The absolute minimum is $6000, but this is cutting it pretty close.) And the kicker is, I have to have all of the money in or at least committed before I'm allowed to come back to Chile!! So that means, I have to raise $7000 before July 28th!

I know that God will supply the funds, because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He wants me here another year. So I have faith it will come in, I'm just not sure how and when! So I would greatly appreciate it if you would pray about supporting me. It doesn't matter if it's a one time gift or a monthly donation. I need about 70 people to support me one time for $100, or about 10 people to support me $50 a month.

Thank you all so much for your support over the past year. I can't wait to see how God works in the coming year as well!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Wow, I can't believe it's been a month since I last posted! It's been a busy month, that's for sure. I had to catch up from missing school while I was in Argentina, then I caught a cold and had to catch up from missing school from that. Then the whole school was turned upside down. Let me take a minute to talk about that.
Instead of having a science fair every year, the school varies between science, art, language arts, and history. This year was the Language Arts Fair, so as you can imagine, I was pretty involved. There were two parts: writing and speeches. I had been working with them all semester on their essays in writing class. For the most part I was very pleased how well the kids did. I was so proud of them! The two weeks previous to the actual fair, kids were pulled out of classes to practice their speeches. When actual performance time came, my schedule was so different. I felt like I was running around like a crazy person, trying to teach, prepare for the following week, and still see (and video) as many speeches as possible. Then we had the actual awards ceremony that Friday night. It was an excellent time of awarding the winners and hearing examples of outstanding essays, stories, poems, and speeches. At the end of the night, flowers were given to all those who had a special part in making it possible: Linda Cross for organizing the whole thing, an American girl who came down just to help them practice their performances, the guest judges who came from different parts of Chile especially for this. I was not on the list, and I was ok with that because I wasn't expecting anything. It was my job to help them write well! Just after, at the end of the evening, one of my students stood up and said, "And I just wanted to thank Miss Kelly for being our writing teacher!" And everyone applauded, including some other kids sitting by him who I could tell encouraged him to do it. I've gotta say, that one comment meant more to me than any bouquets of flowers from school board presidents!! It's good to know the kids appreciate my teaching, even if I can't always tell! :o)
After the fair life calmed down for awhile. But just for awhile. The end of the school year is always crazy busy, and it was fast approaching. I was trying to get ready for it, but I felt buried already. Luckily (and thank God for this!), there's a girl here who came just to help at the end of the year. And so I've given her so much work, and she's done it so willingly, and I've been relieved of so much stress because of it!
Last week was the banquet (their version of prom). So of course the school was all up in a riot again. Schedules were changed, kids were antsy, tension was high. But the night ended up being so much fun, albeit cold!! (I brought my slippers with me to keep my toes warm under the table!) :o) About part way through the evening the MC (a very goofy Junior guy), said that the Junior class (which consists of 5 guys) had a surprise. They pulled a chair up on stage and asked me to come up there! I had NO idea what they were planning on doing! And I've gotta say, I was a little nervous! But it ended up that they had "prepared" a song to sing to me! Aw, how sweet! However, I could tell they hadn't rehearsed it much, because even with the lyrics on the music stand in front of them, I still knew the words better than they did! It was quite comical. At any rate, I was very touched as they sang "My Girl" along with the Temptations. A few of the others joined in for parts. A few times I had to help them along and sing with them! Haha. It was very cute.
Since then my life has been consumed with preparing for finals. I'm about done. Now it'll be consumed with finishing the yearbook. Then it'll be consumed with figuring my grades. Then it'll be consumed with packing up my things and moving to an apartment! Then I'll come home and my life will be consumed (but in a relaxing way) with seeing friends and family again! I can't wait!! I'll be home in 15 days, and I'm ready for the summer! It's cooooold down here!
Well, I'm tired and I've been typing typing typing today. So, until next time...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stranded in Argentina

It's been a crazy week, but an incredibly fun one!! But before I get to all that, let me back up to where my last post left off....

After my weekend at the beach, the school was full swing into Spirit Week. Unfortunately I missed the first day due to being sick (which was sad, especially since I was one of the two in charge of Spirit Week), but it was good that I rested. I was there for the rest of the week and it was so much fun! The kids really got into it, more so than any other year, I'm told. We had "assemblies" in the mornings where they did things like pick team names, create team posters, create team cheers and team songs, and decorate office doors. We had a high school class teamed up with an elementary class to help bond the school even more. We had judges every day who looked at individual outfits, team participation, and creativity on the challenges. Then at the end of the week we treated the winning team to ice cream sundaes. It was a huge success... It was also very time consuming for me. I had to concentrate all my time on Spirit Week and on grading 33the first draft of stories for the Language Arts Fair that's coming up. All of my other grading just piled up! Luckily I was able to find a little bit of help. But I'm still behind, 2 weeks later!

To see pictures of Spirit Week, click on this link:

The following week was also really fun and really busy. I was able to hang out with a girl who's down here for a few weeks, so that was fun. I caught up on some of my grading, but I also still had the second draft of those 33 stories to grade for the fair. That certainly kept me busy. Then on Thursday I had to collect the final draft. Thursday was absolutely crazy. The papers had to be in a very specific format, and very few of the kids had it correct (they're not so good at following instructions). So I had to help them fix it, and the computers at school aren't Windows. It's a completely different operating system, and I'm not very well versed in it. So I was trying to learn it myself so I could help the kids. It was a very stressful day, as I had kids calling my name every minute or two to come help them. But I finally got everything in (even from the absent kids!), organized, and ready to be mailed off to the judges. The rest of my evening was dedicated to preparing for my trip to Argentina the next day.

A group of six of us were heading off to Argentina for the weekend because one boy needed to renew his visa. A common way to do this is to leave the country and head to Mendoza, Argentina, a small city on the other side of the mountains. It's about a 7-8 hour bus ride, depending on how things go at the border. The original plan was to take an overnight bus Friday night, and come back Sunday during the day. Well, we found out the pass through the mountains was now closed at night due to snow, so we had to leave Friday afternoon. I had to scramble to get someone to cover my last class of the day, but it worked out.
So we headed out: me, Randy (the high school boy who needed the new visa), Mike (one of my friends here, the interim ABWE Chile accountant), his mom who is visiting for 2 weeks, Nikki Russell (she's on the field council too, and it's a really good thing she went with us!), and Jill, the girl who's here for a few weeks that I've gotten to know.
The trip there was pretty uneventful, except we were stuck at the border for a really long time for two reasons. Argentina was giving a diplomatic family from the Philippines a hard time about coming in to their country, which isn't supposed to happen. The family didn't speak Spanish, so the border people found Nikki and asked her to translate. This was also good because Nikki has an unbelievable skill at talking her way into or out of things, depending on which way she needs it to go. This came in very handy for us...You'll see what I mean. The other thing that held us up at the border was that one girl forgot her passport. Oops! They eventually let her through with a fine, but it did slow us down a lot.
Once in Argentina, we spent our days shopping, walking around town, taking a tour, going to Walmart, snapping goofy pictures, and generally having a good time. In one store, they called over their worker who speaks English (which was interesting since Nikki and I were talking to her in Spanish). We started chatting with this English speaker girl, and she was asking where we were from. I told her, and then explained that I was living in Chile. I went on to tell why, and she started asking what religion I was, Catholic? I told her Protestant, more specifically Baptist, and she got really excited. She was a Baptist too, and she was so happy to meet other Christians just out and about because she hardly ever does. So we talked for awhile (intermittently, since she had to keep leaving to help other customers), and she told me about her brother who lives in Tennessee, who she's worried about. She compared him to the Prodigal Son. Ironically, Jill is from Tennessee (although a different part), and was able to suggest one or two good churches that her brother could try going to. It was so incredible to meet a fellow believer, and to see that just talking to her about our common faith could be such an encouragement to her!
Well, the time sped by, and Sunday afternoon we headed to the bus terminal to catch our ride home. And that's when the real fun began. We were informed that the pass was closed due to snow, and it would probably be closed at least 48 hours. It all depended on the weather. So we were stuck in Argentina! Not a bad thing, if you ask me. The city was cute with plenty to do, and the weather there was absolutely gorgeous! So we made a few phone calls to inform people at home, called our travel agent in Santiago to get him to help us out, and I called the school to give them instructions on what to do with my classes in my absence. Luckily I had left my lesson plans at school...luckily I had them pretty much finished! :o)
We headed back into town and had to go to a different hotel since the other one had jacked up the price. Our first hotel was nice, but the rooms and beds were pretty small. Our second hotel was spacious, but it wasn't quite as nice. For instance, the toilet in the girls' room would clog all the time. So we had to keep asking for the plunger...we learned the Spanish word for plunger. And one time I had to go ask the front desk guy (who was pretty cute) for the plunger at 2am since the real Spanish speaker was already asleep. So Jill and I headed down there, tired (and therefore giggly) and a little embarrassed. We get down there and the front desk guy is talking to a group of 4 other guys! That made us giggle more. So I asked, he got us the plunger, and then I started to ask what I should do with it when I was done. But he cut me off half way through, thinking I was asking how to use the plunger, and he started to explain it to me. That made me laugh even harder. Oh, it was quite the experience.
We spent our extra days in Argentina doing more shopping, going bowling, going to the laundromat (since several of us had run out of clean clothes at this point), hanging out at the hotel and taking naps (pretty much the whole town closes down between about 2:30-5ish...this worked well for us since we stayed up late most nights. Naps were very welcome!). If we stayed another day we were going to go white water rafting, too. Amidst all the fun, we continued to call our travel agent and make trips to the bus terminal to check on the status of things. We kept checking the weather, and it didn't look like it was going to clear up at all the entire week! And Mike's mom and Jill are flying back to the States this weekend. We had to come up with Plan B since Plan A didn't seem like it would happen any time soon. We checked into flights, but the airlines take advantage of stranded people, and the prices were insane. So our other option was to take a bus through a different pass through the mountains, farther south. We had heard of one or two other people who had done this earlier in the week, but it didn't sound at all appealing, so we tried to hold off. But eventually we had to take it, being our only option. The reason this wasn't on the top of our list of things to do is because the ride through that pass and back up would end up being about 30 hours. Thirty hours on a bus!!! But we had to take it. Tuesday was the last day they were sending out these buses for the rest of the week. So we prepared ourselves for a very long trip.
It actually wasn't that bad. We had the front row of a double decker, so we had plenty of leg room. We were able to sleep a lot, although not well, and the bus made several stops...some for a few minutes, and a couple long enough for us all to eat. (At the border I had enough time to wash my hair, which was definitely a necessity!)
I will say this. We saw some of the shadiest bathrooms during our bus rides to and from Argentina (including the one on the bus!). You just never knew what you were going to get. At one place, as I was washing my hands, the lights in the entire area went out! It was pitch black in that bathroom! I heard my friends talking about me being inside, so I said "Nice." in a subtly sarcastic way, then headed toward the general direction of the door as they laughed. I found the door and clawed at it (I may have hammed up the situation a bit) in an attempt to find the handle. I got out, safe and sound, and handed my cell phone to Jill to use. For some strange reason my cell phone has a small flashlight on it.
Well, after many, many, many hours we got home, a little tired, but no worse for the wear. It was sooo nice to take a shower after that long trip! We ended up getting home around 9pm on Wednesday evening after a 31 1/2 hour bus ride. We were originally planning on being home Sunday evening! Luckily Wednesday was a holiday here, so I only missed 2 days of school.

To see pictures of my time in Argentina, click here:

Apparently the two days away were enough to make many of the kids appreciate me more. I received many hugs and cheers upon my return, and was told the "horrors" that were the substitutes. It feels good to be loved! I spent the day rearranging things, catching up from being gone, and getting back into the swing of school. It had been raining all week in Santiago, and we were joking that they may have to close school due to flooding. Well, around 6:30 this morning we got the call that school was canceled! I've had a one school day week!! Unfortunately I don't have all of my school work here at home (just some of it), so I'll probably have to make a trip in at some point this weekend. Like I said at the beginning, it's been a crazy week! But I had sooo much fun, and I'm so blessed that God has allowed me to meet some really awesome people and do things like this.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Grading, grading, and more grading

It's been crazy the last couple of weeks...again! The end of the quarter rolled around, which means I'm 3/4 done my first year here in Chile. Wow! It's flown by, and I've loved it!
But with the end of the quarter comes a lot of work, and that seemed to consume my life for the better part of 2 weeks. I had a LOT of grading to do, making sure everything was turned in on time, and then doing math (Yikes!) to figure out the quarter grades for report cards. It was hectic, but it was finally done last week!
I had an interesting conundrum, because several people bombed my writing class. Now, I wasn't quite sure how to take this news when I figured the grades. I mean, I know it's a new class for me, and it's a new format for the kids, but I didn't think it would be this rough! I've been struggling with them for about a month now, because so many of them aren't following instructions. And with this writing class, if you follow the instructions and include all the requirements, you can get a good grade. So even those who are less adept at writing and communicating can do well. And, when followed correctly, it really does improve their writing. Well, several of them haven't bothered to follow the instructions. One or two because they genuinely don't get it, but most of them because they're too lazy or too indifferent to try. I wasn't quite sure what to do with this, so I called one of the administrators, who is infinitely more experienced than I am. She suggested that I curve the grades (just a teensy bit) since it's their first time with this course, but other than that, just let it go. The kids need to learn to follow instructions. They've had the luxury of being in a small school with lenient teachers who often are concerned with seeing that they understand the content rather than on how they present the content. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be in balance. So by letting some kids fail, hopefully I'll be teaching them some other life lessons that they haven't been pushed to learn yet. I don't know. I don't like failing anyone, but at the same time they earned it themselves.
Oh the joys of teaching! :o)
After the end of the quarter, we luckily had a long, holiday weekend. So several of my friends from church and I got together and headed out to the beach. (Granted, it's getting cold, so we weren't going to the beach for your typical "going to the beach" reasons.) I woke up Thursday morning to get ready to go, and realized I was coming down with a cold. Lovely. I was able to enjoy myself anyway, but it did get progressively worse throughout the the point where Sunday and today I was at home in bed. However, it was so much fun with my friends, and it gave me 3 days to work on my Spanish. I learned a lot, of course, and made many mistakes, of course. I almost wish it had lasted a few more days, because by Saturday I really was feeling comfortable in Spanish. We had so much fun, going out to eat, going to the beach, taking crazy pictures, hanging out at the house we rented, laughing, talking, and just goofing off together. I'm so happy that there's such a great group at the church, and I can't wait until the day I can understand them! :o)
There are only two more months of school left, and then I'll be home for a few weeks before the next year starts. I'm hoping to be able to fit some more fun, new experiences into the next two months....including a possible weekend trip to Argentina, a day at an amusement park, and a weekend at another missionary's house for some more Chilean culture experience (they have several kids that I teach and I get along really well with all of them). Hopefully these things will come to pass!!

It's hard to believe the next school year is only 3 months away, but it's true. What does this mean? I need to have 100% of my support in by then! I've sent out letters and spoken with several of my monthly supporters, so I've definitely gotten the ball rolling. Now it's just a matter of waiting to see how God provides! Please pray for me in this, because I'm not allowed to come back until I'm 100% supported. If you're interested in helping out, please check with me (or read the letter I sent) on how to do it. My monthly support level is now just over $1700, due to the drop of the dollar over the last year. I have a portion of that already committed, but I'm still lacking.
Thank you all for your encouragement, support, and prayers! I really do appreciate them all! It's good to know that my family back in the States is supporting me as I follow God's leading half way around the world!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It's been awhile...

And I apologize for that. It's been a busy few weeks. Let me give you the highlights.
The week after Easter I spent "babysitting" for a friend. She and her husband spent the week in Peru, and I was stand-in mom for the week (the four kids range from first grade to eighth). She made it as easy as possible for me (the housecleaner came and cooked every day, even the days she isn't usually there), so all I really had to do was make sure they did their homework, got to bed on time, and drove them around--to school, to soccer practice, to gymnastics. All that kind of stuff. Luckily my school work load was relatively light that week, because I couldn't do much work until after the kids went to bed, and I then I had to get up in the morning before them so I'd be ready first so I could help them. Needless to say, I was pretty tired. I got the smallest taste of what it's like to be a single parent, and I've gotta say, my hat's off to those people. It's not easy. In fact, I was seriously considering renting a husband for the week. :o)
There was one funny anecdote that happened (besides me running around the house like a crazy lady trying to keep their dog out of trashcans or from chewing things up) on Thursday, my last day there. Apparently Thursday is chocolate chip cookie night, so I went ahead and made chocolate chip cookies. Once the batter was all mixed, I turned to the oven. Immediately I realized I had a problem. Their beast of an oven is gas powered and old. So there's no such thing as a pilot light or a lighting button. I had to turn on the gas and then hold a match up to a menacing-looking hole. And, as I came to find out, the oven is very temperamental. After several attempts and several phone calls to more experienced gas oven turner-oners, I was at my wits end. Well, then once as I stuck the match in, the gas lit! Finally! Except it lit in a wave of fire that spewed out of the oven and past me, blowing my hair in the process. This was quite shocking. I sat there, assessing to see if I was ablaze anywhere. Upon determining that I was NOT, I shut the oven, put the cookie dough in the fridge, and gave up. Somewhere in this process I felt something odd on my arm and brushed it off, thinking it was some cookie dough stuck there. In fact, it was burnt hair. Nice, huh? I had successfully singed the hair from three separate places of my arm. I have vowed since to never live in a house with such an oven if at all possible.
The next week, back at my house with fewer responsibilities, I was buried in work and got little rest. Towards the end of the week I started to feel a cold coming on. But being so busy, my body fought it off relatively successfully. Friday was Melissa's 16th birthday, and we had planned a surprise birthday party for her with her school friends. It was a complete success, and a very interesting time for me. I was caught between being the kids' friend and wanting them to have fun, and still being a responsible adult and wanting to stop them from doing stupid things that teenagers tend to do at parties. They didn't try much, and I was able to lightheartedly prevent things so I didn't look like an ogre trying to ruin their party. All in all, I think it went well. :o) Melissa and I didn't get home until 1:30, and being girls, we had to stay up a little to talk over the events of the evening.
I got to sleep around 2, then had to get up at 7 for an ABWE meeting. It was an enjoyable meeting, but a long one. After we all went out to lunch, I finally got home around 4pm. I tried to get as much work done as my fatigued brain could handle, then had to leave again at 5:30. It was the first Saturday of the young adults meetings after the summer break. I was very excited to see how much more I would understand, and was very encouraged for the first 2o minutes. Then my comprehension of the discussion plummeted as did my self esteem, and I had to fight tears at some point. This, of course, was made worse by the fact that I was exhausted. Afterwards, my friends tried their best to comfort me, saying I had learned a lot in the 9 months I had been there, giving me tips on how to learn more, and doing silly things to make me laugh. It helped, but what I really needed was sleep. I didn't get that until around midnight because Joel and Melissa were discussing her party in our room. After falling asleep on my bed with my glasses askew, I woke up enough to kick Joel out and went to bed.
Church was the next morning, of course, and I was still pretty tired. Right after church was a party at our house for all her church friends. So I went home and helped get ready. Most of the youth group was there, as was a few of my friends that Melissa hangs out with at times. It was fun, but it was difficult to have a whole day of Spanish when I was so tired. People finally left around 7:30, we trudged around the house cleaning up, and then I crashed on my bed. I was worthless as far as school work goes (I hardly got anything done over the weekend), but it was a little to early for sleep. So I watched Mr. Bean's newest movie, which was funny enough to make me laugh and give me enough energy to get ready for bed. :o)
Melissa stayed home on Monday, and I was HIGHLY jealous. So I planned a day off for Wednesday to relax, sleep, and catch up on grading. I even booked a hotel for Tuesday night so it would be like a mini vacation. However, at school yesterday morning I got sick. Much more than a cold. I caught a stomach bug that has been going around. After torturing myself by teaching two classes that I couldn't cover (and the kids making all sorts of comments about me looking dead...nice), I crashed in one of the apartments for awhile, set things up for the rest of the day, and came home.
Pretty much all I've done since then is sit (or rather lay) on my bed, sleeping, reading, and watching movies. Interspersed among all that I've eaten a little, taken a bath, and done some laundry (only because I'm really low on clothes). It's been relaxing, although not how I anticipated. I DID leave all my work at school, so I couldn't even tempt myself with work. So I still have a lot to catch up on, and hopefully I'll be well enough to do it!
I'm feeling better, and hopefully tomorrow will be well enough to go back to school. I think I should.
SO. That's been my life for the past several weeks. Hectic? Yes, definitely. But that's ok. I love my job and where God has me, so I don't mind being a headless chicken for awhile. :o)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Chi-chi-chi! Le-le-le! Colo Colo de Chile!

The previous post actually came from an email that I wrote about a week ago, right when those events were happening. It's been interesting to see the highs and lows that can occur within the span of just a week. I was so elated and proud of my students at the end of last week. And then this week, on Tuesday, I was faced with the hardest day I've had at the school since I've been here. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, because really it was a combination of many small problems that normally would hold little significance. What made it so difficult was that they all came at once. It's as if Satan didn't want me to be too encouraged about my ministry here and wanted to bring me down a peg or two. Or maybe God wanted to be sure I remained humble and relying on Him, so He sent me an awful day to remind me. Either way, it was a very difficult day coming right on the heels of an excellent week. The next day everything was back to normal though, and I was not upset about that! :o)

Last night I was able to do something that I've wanted to do since I arrived in Chile 8 months ago. I was very close to doing it last spring (spring for Chile, fall for the States), but it never happened. Have you guessed it yet? I went to a professional soccer game!! It was incredible!! One of the two main Chilean teams was playing against one of the main Argentine teams, so it promised to be very exciting. And we were not disappointed. I went with a large group, since the fans of the Chilean teams can be a bit....enthusiastic, shall I say? At some points walking down the streets we made sure to only speak in Spanish, or at least keep the English very quiet (Mom, I didn't tell you any of this beforehand....for a reason!). :o) But really, it wasn't as bad or as dangerous as people warned us of or as it could have been. God protected us, as He always does! We were a group of ten: 2 Chilenos, 2 gringas, and 6 gringos (ranging in age from 16 to.....uh, I'll just say adult.....some who have been in Chile for only a few weeks, and some who have been here for a couple of decades). So we had quite the span of experience in our midst. With the combination of all these factors, I knew we'd be safe. And praise God, we were!

Ok, enough of that. Let me tell you about the actual game experience. We parked about 7 blocks away from the stadium, mostly because at that point traffic was already gridlocked and it was faster to just walk. We were all dressed in the team's colors (white and black) to try to blend in, and to appease the two or three actual fans in our group. :o) Even while we were waiting in line to get in, people were yelling the many chants, getting pumped up. I could already smell beer and smoke. We were at the wrong entrance, so we had to go around the block. As we did, we encountered many police on horses, prepared to keep the crowd under control. We arrived at the correct entrance, had one end of our ticket ripped off, and then were squeezed into rows between metal fences. It reminded me of the tight lanes cattle are walked through at the rodeo or on a dairy farm. I think I even mooed once or twice to make my point. At the end of these lanes were police stationed to pat down everyone, looking for contraband. Being a gringa, I was not frisked. What a nice privilege! We walked a little more, then had to go through another checkpoint, get the other end of out ticket ripped off, and be frisked one more time. Once again, I wasn't subjected to that.
We found some seats all together, and then just had to wait and watch the craziness around us until the game started at 9:45. People were still cheering, chanting, singing, and just being boisterous. It was so exciting! When the game finally started, it was amazing. The players came onto the field, and the fans went CRAZY! Everyone was on their feet, jumping, twirling shirts in the air, chanting, swearing, insulting the other team and fans, and watching the contraband flares and fireworks exploding all around. I guess it's basically expected that some will get through security. Then HUGE flags were passed over us that covered our entire section practically. Then the game started. And we scored in the first 3 minutes! We scored again the first half, and that was the end of scoring for the rest of the game. We won, 2-0!! We got out of the stadium and back to our car around 12:15. I was too wound up afterwards and didn't go to bed until 2. Good thing there's no school today!
There are several things that are very interesting about a Chilean soccer game. For instance, some fans seem more concerned with insulting the other fans than on watching the game. Throwing toilet paper or tickertape onto the field is highly normal, and there is someone on staff simply to remove it. When you buy a drink, they give you a bottle of soda, and then you have to pour it into a cup, because if people took bottles into the stadium they would throw them at the players. The sections behind the goals are for the extreme fans and don't even have seats, because apparently they would always rip them up and throw them. In the places where there are seats, people remain seated almost the whole time unless the ball gets close to the goal, or if there's a penalty kick or something. And as soon as that's over, people start shouting "Asiento!" which basically means "sit down." There are cops decked out in full protective gear all over the stadium, especially near the extreme fan sections. And there are some cops whose main job only happens when there's a corner kick. They'll turn towards the crowd holding up their plexiglass shields so the player isn't hit by the things thrown at him.
Like I said, it's a very different experience! We took lots of pictures and a few videos, so I'm going to include the links to those now.

Here's a selection of the pictures we took. It was an AWESOME experience!

Here's a video from before the game started...the flares in the crowd, the general excitement...and a quick shot of those of us who went.

Here's the video when the Chilean team, Colo Colo, entered the field at the beginning and general craziness ensued...

Here's a video from when the huge flag was passed over us.

Teachable moments

I know it's been awhile since I've posted, and that's probably because I've been readjusting to the school schedule. However, I wanted to tell you all about some interesting things that happened to me "professionally" last week. They were very encouraging to me.

Ok, to the task at hand. First is about grammar. You may remember that I've mentioned that my hardest subject to teach has been upper level grammar, because it's VERY detailed and difficult, and of course, very boring. So this semester I decided to switch it up, because they weren't learning or enjoying the class (and honestly, I wasn't enjoying it either). So, instead of having double periods of grammar, I'm having a period of grammar and a period of literature. Split it up so it's much easier to handle. Also, I pretty much chucked the book (well, I used it but they didn't). I taught them what I thought was important to know, what I thought they could handle, and ignored all the nitty-gritty stuff. And I taught it to them in 3 stages--lecture which involved me teaching and getting them to make up examples....a game that they played individually to see that they each had to think of it on their own and I could see how each of them was progressing....and lastly a group game that was either a race or funny to hammer in the information even more. They had so much fun with the games that one day they asked if they could skip the literature and keep playing the game the whole time (I had inadvertently made literature boring in comparison)!! One day several of them left the room at the end saying, "Good class, Miss Kelly." Highly novel! One guy, a smart kid, said "I finally get it after all these years!" They all seemed pretty confident during the review. Then came the test. I have to preface this by saying I almost always had one or two people fail grammar tests last semester, and had several D's and C's along with the usual A's and B's. I almost always curved a little. Well, this test, the lowest score was a C+!!! 10 of the 14 scored in the 90s!! I was so proud of them!

My other story is a little different. One day, in my writing class (which is new for me and the kids) I was showing a video. We're doing a new program and there's a set of videos where the guy teaches it much better than I could at this point. So I've been using the videos a lot. Well, for the 11/12th class, the guy moves at a perfect pace for the slower to average kids, and the smarter kids are a little bored. Well that's fine, because usually I have the problem of losing the slower kids. Well, one or two of the faster ones (good kids, in general) were making very subtle comments throughout about it being too boring or too easy or him harping on things way too much. "We get it already!" That type of thing. I knew several others felt that way as well, but these two were a bit negative about it. So as the class was dismissing, I asked them to stay for a minute (these aren't kids used to being in trouble...not that they were, technically). God worked with me here, and the slowest kid in the class took longer to pack up than usual, and while he was doing so he told me that the kids in the video (who range from grades 8-12 I think) were very intimidating because they seemed so smart...I think he used the word genius at one point. So this was about to perfectly illustrate my point. Once he left, I spoke to the other two and said something like this: "I know you guys are smart and I could teach this to you in 5 minutes and you'd be fine, but I can't go that fast because I'd completely lose part of the class. They'd be lost. So I know it's frustrating for you, but I have to move this slowly for them. So please try to understand." And they looked at me like I had two heads and said things that gave the impression that they had no idea what I was talking about. So I explained that I hear comments and sometimes the attitude comes through. They apologized saying they "didn't mean it that way," and I explained whether they do or not, with that tone, that's how I take it. They sheepishly apologized again and left the room. I was gentle in this reprimand, as I'm sure you can imagine. Well, the next morning when I walked into my room, sitting on my desk was a tiny gift bag with a beanie baby type thing sticking out of it. In it was a small note on scrap paper from my desk, I think, that said, "Miss Kelly, I'm sorry for being such a pain in the butt. You're a really good teacher. I hope we're cool." And then he signed it. (The words "good" and "cool" were actually stickers that he put in the appropriate places....haha). I was incredibly touched by that.

Anyway, I know this may not have been as dramatic or action packed as some of my posts are, but I was very excited by it and wanted to share with you. It's very encouraging to see my teaching abilities growing. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I've started with a good foundation that God has blessed me with. Just further confirmation that I'm exactly where He wants me to be!

Monday, March 3, 2008

So long summer!

Ok, so summer isn't really over quite yet. It's still roasting hot in the afternoons, although the mornings and late evenings have certainly cooled down some. But summer vacation is over, school has begun, and life has entered into a routine again. It's kinda nice!
Since my last post, I had several weeks of lazing around, trying to stay cool, and practicing my Spanish by hanging out with friends. Basically a typical summer. Then I went on vacation with Melissa Rogers, the 15 yr old daughter of the family I'm living with. It was an awesome week. We went to a town about 10 hours south of the city called Pucon. It's this cute little town right on the edge of a lake, nestled in between mountains, with a breathtaking view of a nearby volcano. Basically, it's a tourist town to the tee, but I didn't care. It was great! I'll just give you a quick rundown of our week.
After an all night bus ride (much more comfy than a plane!) we arrived and had several hours to walk around before we could check in to our hostel. We walked all morning, got some coffee, and pretty much knew our way around the touristy parts by lunch time. I told you it was a small town! In the afternoon we decided to hire a taxi to take us up the volcano. You can only go up so far by car, then you have to hike, but we just wanted to take it easy. After fishtailing all the way up a gravel road, we got out at a ski lodge (very empty since it's the middle of summer), and enjoyed the view. After awhile we got back in the taxi and headed to town. On the way, once we had reached the paved road again, our taxi driver suddenly ran right off the road! The road curved left and he didn't! We jumped over a little curb and almost ran into a tree. He stopped just in time. Somewhere during this time (we don't know when. I didn't even realize it had happened at first) the passenger mirror hit a woman who was walking down the street in the elbow! Some other pedestrians gathered around, and a van full of hikers stopped to check on us and the woman. They ended up taking her to the hospital. Eventually we got back into our taxi, without a word from the driver, and went home. I still paid him full price since I couldn't barter in Spanish yet. Oh well. I still have no idea what he was doing or how or why it happened!
Our evenings all week were pretty calm. Sometimes we ate out, sometimes we stayed in and watched a movie on TV, and most nights we walked around town, watching street artists, performers, and going to the little artisan kiosks. There was a stage in a small park, and there was something going on almost every night there--musical performances, traditional Chilean music and dance, karaoke, etc. It was all so entertaining!
The next day we went horseback riding to a beautiful waterfall. This was one of my favorite things we did. We galloped the horses for awhile, which was such a rush. Then a short hike to a waterfall where we got drenched enjoying the view. :o) Then when I hopped back on my horse to head home the knee of my jeans ripped! Oops! Then we rode back. The whole thing took about 3 hours. Our tour guide was an Israeli who had just finished her time in the army. She was touring South America for 10 months when she decided to stop in Chile for 3 months to work with the horses. Melissa and I, not being as experienced with horses, spent the next several days very sore! And of course, the room in our hostel was on the third floor! (Although we had a beautiful view of the volcano from our room, so we didn't complain!)
The next day we took an all around tour, visiting a river with raging rapids, a gorgeous blue lagoon with two small waterfalls, a Mapuche settlement, and then finished off with 2 hours at one of the many thermal hot springs in the area. Somewhere along the way Melissa's cell phone was stolen. Oops! The first thing we did at the thermal was to go to the mud bath. You stand in dirty water, scoop mud off the bottom, and smear it all over yourself. It did NOT smell nice! Then you let it dry (which is an odd sensation), then go to a man made waterfall to wash off. Or should I say a FREEZING man made waterfall. All the ladies were making quite a racket as they stood under the water, and Melissa and I were no exception. We just got a little more attention being gringas (we get a little more attention where ever we go). Once we were clean and cold and our skin was incredibly soft (I loved it), we headed over to the hot springs to warm up. We spent the rest of the time there, enjoying the relaxing water, and avoiding the yellow jackets. Melissa failed in this and ended up being stung right under her eye!
The next day we TRIED to go to another thermal, but the shuttle transfer left without us, so we had to switch our Thursday and Friday plans. So we took a nap, went to the beach, and went mini golfing. Mini golf is not very popular in Chile, and this place was a little outside the town, so we were the only ones there. I will admit right now--I won. :o) Interestingly enough, the woman running it was a Chilean who had lived in New Jersey since she was a kid! She had just moved back to Chile 2 years ago! Small world! It was n ice to be able to chat in English, and she ended up giving us a ride back to our hostel so we didn't have to pay for a cab.
The next day we went to another thermal (which was much warmer and we couldn't sit in for more than 10 minutes at a time) where we divided our time between the pool and the hot spring. I got a little sun burnt that day, but not too bad. I was being very careful all week and I ended up pretty tan! Well, tan for me, anyway. :o) We also got facials there--a mixture of sediment and honey. Very interesting!
Then we went home! It was a great week, and just what I needed to cap off the summer. We got home early Saturday morning, and teacher inservice began on Monday, so I jumped right into things again!
The first week of school went very well. It's so nice to be back. I really do love it.

Here's some things you can pray for.
1. The school is instituting a new writing program for 1-12th grade. It's really great, but I still don't know it all yet. I'm in charge of introducing it to the high school (obviously, being the English teacher) and I have a whole other class dedicated to it, two days a week for each grade level. So that's 6 more periods a week. Here's the request. I'm very frustrated and overwhelmed at how to structure the semester and how to teach it. There are no books or manuals, and the teacher's help that I have is in conjunction with some DVDs, so it's very difficult to understand and organize without watching 20 hours of video first. I just don't have time for that yet! I've watched some, but there's a lot more. Please pray that I'll be able to figure things out pretty quickly!

2. There's a girl in the 7 th grade who has come to learn English. She doesn't speak much, so it's a little overwhelming for her. I've taken it upon myself to help her at least one period a week because I don't think anyone else can. One on one work is the best thing for her. I'm looking forward to it, but it's more prep work and time taken away from preparing for other classes. Please pray that I will have to time and energy to do both things well!

3. My Spanish has improved this summer, but I'm still lacking, and I'm still very hard on myself. I'm my own worst critic! So there's two requests in one!

4. I need to start preparing for my second year here. There are several phases to this: 1- being voted on and approved on several levels of ABWE, here in Chile and at the home office. Really this is a formality, but it will still take time. 2- raising funds. 3- deciding where to live. I think I have several options (although none of them are official offers yet), and they're all very different. I'm praying about which one to follow up on to see if it's even a possibility.

Ok, that's it for now. It's been another long post, as they tend to be. Boy, I sure do like to write! We've been reading Robinson Crusoe in one of my classes, and I mentioned how he wrote down his thoughts during his time on a deserted isle to process and express his own thoughts. One student asked if that's what I would do if I was stranded on an island. I said yes, and then in my head added that I already kind of do....sometimes I feel like that and writing is my way to express myself and keep a tie to home!
I hope you get an idea of what my ministry and life is like here through reading this. That's certainly my goal. And along the way, I get to be creative and work through my own thoughts as well! Thanks for putting up with it. :o)