Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Black Sand Beaches Burn

So Mom and Dad are on their way here as I write! At least I hope, I know the snow is supposed to be pretty intense now for you New Yorkers.

So excited! Both to see them and travel around Guatemala a little more. But before I get ahead of myself here are some pictures from my weekend (kind of out of order), enjoy!

Epic stairs diving my house and the baby house- there's more (147 to be exact)uncaptured in this photo

Who Me?

Just your average night in the baby house- P.S. Can I please bring him home??


The School Store- on the floor of my room


I Don't Play Favorites (but if I did...)

Hard at Work


Beach Casa

Beach Town

School Store in Action

Your a Little Burnt (aka back to work!)

Monday, February 22, 2010


Let’s talk about it. I think I am the only person in this whole universe that can (and will) travel to strange and bizarre locations and actually pack on pounds. How does one manage to do this in Africa and Central America? As an expert in this particular field, I will share my full-proof method.

1)Buy local. I’m talking the food they sell on the streets. It’s so authentic and cheap and then you have the ability to make up in quantity the money you would have originally saved.

2)Never turn down authentic cuisine. This is how I ended up eating smiley:

and more recently pork grinds. Never would have considered this in the US, but this was fresh from a road –side stand. And with a little lime and picante (green spicy stuff) it was actually pretty good. Just try not to think about the fact that you are eating deep-fried pig skin and the layer of fat.

3)Also take advantage of the good stuff. With everything being cheap treat yourself to a nice restaurant, multiple times. And when you find something you really like, return to get more. After all, once you leave the country it’s all over.

4)Supplement new meats with wonderful carbs- here it is tortilla and tostada. And don’t forget to top your carbs with amazing things like guacamole, cheese, refried-beans and more picante.

5)Fruits. Papaya, zapote, mango verde, etc. Try anything and everything, the more exotic the better.

6)Magnum bars- God’s gift to foreign countries. Never have I seen one in the US, but in all other countries take advantage of the vanilla ice cream, encrusted in dark chocolate and frequently topped with almonds.

So there you have it. The guide to eating in interesting places, with excellent precision. Be sure not to miss any of the key points and you will likely return with tighter jeans and a respect for the glory days of pizza and beer. With all do respect- Mrs. Gilbert ain't got nothing on me!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Oh No Is This ME?!

“Some people simply cannot learn other languages once they’ve acquired their birth language. It’s not a matter of intelligence or application. It’s simply the way their minds are structured.”
-Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne.

My Spanish is getting better, but not at any alarming pace. What if I am destined for a uni-lingual life!

Wait is this even a reliable source? Regardless, this is NOT what I want to be reading while living in a country where I DON’T SPEAK THE LANGUAGE!

Friday, February 19, 2010


Well jeez, sorry for the 2 day delay in blogs (Mom).

So here’s the going-ons south of the boarder:

On Tuesday I went to my first “women’s group,” and it was amazing. Every week the women at Casa Bernabe get together sing, pray, laugh and discuss a topic. Because it’s what they know best, it’s usually grounded in the Bible, but it’s really a life discussion too. This week: When do you feel most good, most empowered, at your best? Great thing also, the food! We had this sweet corn like bread thing. Awesome. And on top of it all I feel a change in attitude. I feel like I have a better relationship with people that I barely knew before, I am much more a part of the community.

Today we had a fiesta at the baby house. The girls that come on Thursday from the surrounding neighborhoods came for lunch today and brought a piƱata, nachos and cake. The babies loved it, of course, and it was really nice they got a change of routine. Especially because all the other houses do fun things that the babies don’t usually participate in. For example, yesterday (Thursday) there was a “skit night” to thank the small group that is here. All the houses did something, and although it started at the babies bed-time, I think it would be really good if some of the older ones (who are 3 and 4) got to go. They have very limited stimulus as it is, and very little concept of the walls beyond the baby house. It would be fun, I think they would enjoy what they see, even though they won’t understand. Plus, this is their family, they should feel a part of the community as early as possible.

In other news, the nighttime routine has gone by the wayside. Don’t know what happened there, it was going so well too! But a small carpet has appeared. It's brilloly, but softer and warmer than the tile.

We didn’t go to Disney on ice…so bummed. I heard that it was cancelled. I don’t know if that means the show or just for us, but either way it’s a good thing the kids didn’t know. I think that’s why they don’t tell them anything, because last minute unplanned changes with very little explanation is the Guatemalan way. Not good for kids. It’s just one of those cultural things. Like I said, time is a framework, schedules are not definite, and everything is fluid and flexible.

School store launched today. It went really well considering Monday the copier didn’t work so there was no currency and Tuesday someone took all the money after we cut it out. So Wednesday, as punishment, no one could earn money. Then we uncovered the missing money in a precarious spot. Needless to say, the store was open today. They loved it too. They talked all day about “buying” and were squirming when they did. They literally ran to show their house parents and were so excited. I only sold the “cheaper” items, and even convinced three into buying one thing and saving some money for the stuff they really want next week. Not too shabby. Most though were really into spending everything on candy. It was quantity over quality. Three is a start though; hopefully they will become the example.

English is going well too, we practiced numbers this week by playing “What time is it, Senor Fox.” Lots of fun.

I am working tonight in the baby house. Were curling up to watch Julie and Julia. Love, but Julia Powell kind of annoys me at times. And tomorrow I am disappearing with Claudia and her family to go to the beach! Well, I'm doing some other work as well... It was my weekend to work, but this time off is what I get for covering Friday school nights on my actual weekends off. Pretty excited, so worth it!

So that should bring you blog deprived people (Mom) up to date.

PS- I want him!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Two Funny Stories:

1) Last night I, being a genius, decided to flip the bibs. That simply means I took all the bibs piled in the draw and flipped the piles over. I only did this because we use the top 1/3 every day, and never get to the bottom and I was sick of seeing the same ones over and over. So about an hour ago I put a frilly pink bib on a baby and my eyes are met with the word SLUT. Ok so I assuming this was an oversight. Someone donated it because they didn’t want their baby wearing a slut bib, and no one here really noticed or understood what it said/meant. Needless to say I explained and the bib has been discarded. My only regret is that I didn’t snag a picture. But I think the pressing question is: Who would concieve/produce/sell such a thing?!

2) The word in Spanish for handsome: guapo, the word for fat: gordo. I have been confusing the two since my arrival here and only realized my mistake today when I called a baby fat but in a high pitched squeal “tu esta gooordo (your soooo faatttt),” and the girls I work with literally couldn’t control themselves. At what age do you develop a self-esteem? I can’t recall all my uses of the word, but I can be assured I’ve called several of the boys fat, meaning handsome. And some were definitely older, in my class. Whoops. Well at least no one seemed too offended.

Tomorrow we are taking my class to Guatemala City for…. DISNEY ON ICE!!! EEEEEEEEEEE!

I may be more excited than the kids.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"One has only a life of one's own"

For most of my childhood I sought something so great, so grand, so completely unimaginably wonderful that it took me 22 years to uncover. This morning as I tore into a brand new box of Honey Nut Cheerios and poured a generous portion into my bowl, I yelped with glee as out came…THE PRIZE. The dream of every child as they scour the cereal isles, obviously choosing potential winnings over anything else. This morning resolved my years of disappointment, my years of hateful voiceovers disclaiming, “prize not guaranteed.” I ripped into my toy nearly spilling my milk, biting my tongue in greed. Now, fourteen hours later and I still can’t figure out how to put it together. It is obvious that it is some kind of plastic jet-packing man with a cardboard wing attachment and a sticker page (I have included a picture for your viewing pleasure), but nothing fits together. Therefore, from the moment I won the cereal jackpot, my day has gone down-hill.

The photocopier is out of ink, so I didn’t get to print my money for the school store, hopefully tomorrow (but it is also pictured below). I spilled un-washable paint on my only pair of jeans (Mom and Dad you’re bringing me another pair), and my feet are so riddled with bug bites that I want two new ones (preferably size 8). Basically I enjoyed the sun all day yesterday, sitting barefoot in the field, doing yoga, reading and working, that I didn’t notice I was breakfast, lunch and dinner for the bugs. It hurts. But fun fact: inlue of anything better, diaper rash cream works pretty well as an anti-itch!

All this doesn’t really amount to what made my day rough. The real story is I feel like I failed one of my students. To start at the beginning, a significant portion of the kids here are pulled from awful home situations. They have experienced our worst nightmares, and in many cases they are coping with previous sexual abuse. Unfortunately, this means that they will try to relate to people in a sexual way or when they feel uncomfortable or threatened, they resort to certain behaviors. As a result, we are protective of every child, supervise the bathrooms and other “alone” places. This is difficult however at recess, because the kids just run everywhere.
I hung back in the classroom today, which I have never done before, to finish up some lettering for our play. Each class puts on a play based on a theme word, we have forgiveness , and I was doing the lettering to cover the shields, another story, another day.

But into the classroom comes one of my darling students in hysterics and totally unlike him, sits at his desk. I ask what’s wrong, but clearly can’t grasp the situation. This is where I feel that the language barrier really gets in the way. I can teach, communicate in the baby house, but when something is really wrong, I can barely understand the problem and I certainly can’t work through a solution in Spanish. I bring him to the other teachers and watch them get all serious and deal with it, prompt, strict and intense. What warranted such a response was a claim that in the bathroom, another boy was kissing and touching him inappropriately. He felt cornered and scared. Of course, we take everything into consideration, a lot of teasing, exaggerating and lying occurs, as well, but it made me realize how strong and resilient these kids are.

I sometimes worry about how far behind they are developmentally or in school, and sometimes it’s hard to see their struggle because here they live in wonderful homes, in a family community, with people who love them and provide for them, but they really are coping with so much more than I can imagine. Numbers and letters might be a challenge, but they have learned and overcome things I can barely imagine. The mental and physical energy that that requires must be overwhelming. I can pretty much always hear children playing and while I know so few of them in any personal way, knowing that they come from such heart-wrenching situations and can still play with complete innocence, is comforting.

So there it is the stark contrast. A tragedy in my childhood was a prize-less box of cereal…

PS The title quote is from the "Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolover- a favorite of mine!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mi Fin de Semana

If I ignore the fact that it’s Valentine’s Day I had a great weekend. Why do I hate today? 1) I think you should express to the people you love, how much you love them every day, not on an arbitrary Hallmark created holiday and 2) Hallmark created Valentine’s Day because there was too much lag time between Christmas and Mothers Day. The chocolate companies agreed because Easter is rather far off too. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, I had one of those weekends where you feel refreshed but also really accomplished! I “did not sleep” in the baby house on Friday night. It wasn’t my turn again, but I covered for one of the girls because she has school all day Saturday. I know what it’s like trying to go to 5 hours of class on 2 hours of sleep; I know it is usually a waste of your efforts because you end up dazed through the day, so I really didn’t mind. Therefore Saturday morning from 7 – noon was devoted to resting myself. Then I lazyed around, finished my book- Pretty in Plad by Jen Lancaster, not a must read but you will laugh the whole way through if you do, and in evening I played outside with some of the boys who are in my classes. I like hanging out with them not in class. It’s so helpful to see a different side of them, nice that I can let them play and don’t have to discipline them for it and also bonding. I think they begin to trust me more, when they see that I am a part of their community too. I can still make this play a learning experience as well, we had some chalk so we wrote our names and I like that they are so creative in play, even if they struggle with it in the classroom. It’s almost like the environment changes how they think. They can make up any game with literally any object, yesterday they were playing some sort of battle game with palm tree branches, but if you ask them to draw a picture in class of whatever they want, they are completely stumped.

Watched Junebug. Not at all what I expected. Didn’t love, but it was sweet. It’s a good choice if you have the time, not a priority.

Sunday, today, was church, which here I love, and a relaxing day in general. I bought all the stuff I need for the School Store when DC and I went out on Wednesday. I’m calling her DC because that is where she is from and she’s my BFF here. DC got here the week after me and is staying for 6 months. We’re about the same age and totally bonded over Lost. I can literally find a Lost buddy anywhere on this earth! Anyway, Tony, the one who runs the farm as well as a multitude of other things, lent us his car (or should I say boat?) and we went to Hiper, driving amongst the crazies and chicken buses on the narrow roads of Guatemala. Afterwards, in true American fashion, we got some ice creams at… McDonalds! Wal-Mart and McDonalds, Peanut butter and Jelly, you get the idea. Needless to say, I am proud of my Spanish skills to order exactly what I wanted in a drive-thru (Oreo McFrosty- doesn’t even need a translation! Ahhhhh the universal language of MickyDees!)

But I digress. I bought too little for the whole school, but way more than I need for Special Ed class alone. I am just so excited! Great stuff, notebooks, pencils, some candy, but also play dough (to be sold separately),some matchbox cars, colored pencils, activity books and stickers. Were piloting in Special Ed these next two weeks and the teacher is really enthusiastic about it. If all goes well, we can add some other classes slowly. Probably the ones I teach English in. Like I said before, the younger kids will be more into buying because the stuff is catered to them, but I want to get the older kids involved in selling. Maybe in the future, each class will have a Friday that it is their responsibility to “work” the store. I also decided that even if this doesn’t extend beyond my presence, which will be a little disappointing, I can at least look at it as a month long school project. I did plenty of those, and the learning experiences have stuck with me. I will never forget the 2nd grade robots, 4th grade explorer game, the 5th grade pioneer march or even events like 100s day. If all it becomes is a fun-learning project/experience, that could be enough.

So today I priced all the wares. I have some things that everyone should be able to buy at the end of a week, even if they only earn 1Q. I stuck to the currency here, quetzals (Q's), to keep it easy and relevant. But the idea is that stuff they will really want is going to be more expensive so they might have to “save” for a week or two to afford it. I’m trying to move away from the instant gratification they rely on.

I also made the money today and just have to have it photocopied tomorrow. On top of all that I worked out some English lesson plans (numbers this week) and games to play with the topics and I’m done arranging my transportation to Antigua and the stay of my parents at Casa Bernabe in 2 weeks!

Last week in English we did colors and shapes, and colors only in kinder/pre-kinder. For them I dictated a picture to draw. “With the blue crayon, draw a sky. With the green crayon, draw the grass. With the orange crayon, draw a balloon.” Etc. Then with the others we played bingo. The cards had different shapes in different colors, but to make it simple we played one round only focusing on colors and one only focusing on shapes. It went really well, but everything takes longer than I anticipated! Regardless I really like teaching.

So I think it’s time for me and DC to take a walk to the StarMart (At every Texaco station, all across the nation) down the road. Big Valentine’s Day plans: getting some food at the gas station store. At least it has bar stools and a counter!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Guatemala Life

I’ve decided to become a morning blogger, as I now wake up at 5:45 and don’t have the distractions of anyone else being awake (ie. new e-mails, facebook or AIM). So I hope you will bear with me at this ungodly hour. I also think that I am better in the morning, with any lingering bitterness dreamt away and a new day ahead. That or I am just too tired to have a good filter.

After having been here nearly A MONTH I realize I haven’t shared anything about Guatemala, the country, culture, climate or my random thoughts. So here are my observations in no particular order:

1)Every man, woman and child eats with a fork in one hand and a rolled up tortilla in the other, alternating bites.
2)The stars are amazing, I look at them every night breathless (from the extreme stair climbing I must do) while listening to the sprinklers watering the crops of the entire vegetable and herb supply for the orphanage. It is grown on-site which is amazing and has provided for the orphanage funding to add foods to their diet, like fruit and ice cream treats.
3)The country is extremely mountainous. Much more than I thought. My expectation was more of a jungle climate. There are four active volcanoes: Pacaya (where you can see a lava flow if you climb it, which I have every intention of doing by the way), Santa Maria, Santiaguito, and Fuego
4)I imagined everyone to speak a sort of Spanglish…not so, it’s real, fast, full on Spanish…all the time. I am the ONLY one who consistently speaks Spanglish, and I totally make it work!
5)Crucial point! The coffee here is amazing. Drinking it with milk however is an absurdity. Just sugar is allowed.
6)It never rains. It is a perfect 75 and sunny everyday, and I have every reason to believe that will continue forever (or at least until a volcano erupts).
7)The trade off….. lots of mini earthquakes.
8)The biggest meal of the day is lunch, complete with vegetables and meat. Therefore everyone goes comatose and rests around 2pm. Dinner is just downhill from there, rice and bean…always. I do, however, like eating this way, big meal in the middle, light before bed.
9)It takes me 3 days to complete a shower, I am on a rotation: Day 1 hair washing, Day 2 shaving, Day 3 enjoying forty-five seconds blissful seconds of hot water.
10)You will be able to find ANYTHING from the United States here, anything you name it! They do not have their own brands or unusual labels, everything in stores is in English and recognizable. For example, my roommate, who has never been to the US, and I have the exact same Old Navy sweatshirt.
11)Every single person has been mugged, once if not more. It’s a shame that it is so risky to travel, because the country is so beautiful, but the poor economic situation has created a gang lifestyle. All anyone wants is money and cell phones (a huge commodity), but it is so unfortunate. They are also frequently pick-pocketed
12)I am really tall. Or everyone is short. Either way I stand out because of my height. I am even as tall or taller than most men.
13)Off the back of the orphanage you can see the rich portion of Guatemala City’s population. The houses are huge, Beverly Hills style and the cars are amazing too. The contrast is so drastic.
14)Every sentence is completed with “verdad”- meaning “true?” It is usually posed as a question, not a statement, even if it is meant to be.
15)People are more relaxed, time is a framework for the day and everyone greets you like you’ve known them for ages.

In short, I am really loving it here!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Once Upon a Time, We Were All a Baby

I love how babies don’t conceal their emotions, at all times the express exactly how they feel. If they need to throw a temper-tantrum and cry, exactly where they are is as convenient a place as ever. And a moment later they will smile and laugh. They can be over it just as quickly. When someone or something makes them mad they give it a slap or shove. They run with joy and squeal as loud as they want. If they want to play they just start the game. They talk to themselves and no one thinks it’s weird. And if a baby needs a snuggle, they can approach anyone and no one will turn them away.

Sometimes I think the world would be a much better place if we developed less inhibition and acted more like we were as babies. What if we spent one day, acting on every emotional up and down we felt to its fullest extent?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some Things Are Just Weird and Freaky

I ate my last Dove today, the quote: "Volunteer from your heart."

I kid you not, and life is not a series of coincidences. Thats not Dove, thats me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Latest Brilliant Idea

A SCHOOL STORE! And it’s going to work too.

So the thing is EESA (my South African program) has me thinking in deliverables. Which means that, although everyone is telling me my loving presence is enough, I do not think this is true. I like concrete things to be accomplished that ideally will continue after I am gone. Because of EESA I have chosen four “deliverables.” In the baby house, my goal is (1) mats/crib toys and (2) a nighttime routine. This is starting to be more successful, even with only 5 of us. We have started to do the baby's dishes while they eat, get them out and changed and then re-seated in the living room. Some nights we sing, sometimes we read, others it’s both. And then we end with a prayer and the ninos RUN to bed…they love this! After they go to bed, we eat, and by holding off we can do this routine. Since last Thursday, we have done this on Friday, Saturday and Monday. Not too shabby, and I think it really makes them happy.

In the school they asked me to give an English test at the end of my time. I am not so comfortable with this. Especially since I am not only in each classroom once a week and try to keep it casual. I want to play games with the kids and get them involved in their learning. If they learn English too it’s a bonus. But after being in the school, I decided that “English” class would be more about interactive learning. That to me is more important. And until the students start having fun with education, they're really not going to learn much anyway. So deliverable 3: An English Concert. I have decided that participation in the class song will be the equivalent of taking a final. Each class is going to have a song, based on some week’s topic, that they will stand up and perform. They also have to help make the poster displaying the lyrics (in pictures for the younger classes) and introduce their class and the song in English.

Finally, the main point, the school store or deliverable 4. The kids don’t get out much, they don’t use money, operate on a system of instant gratification, are only disciplined not rewarded and don’t really have anything entirely their own. So I am going to buy pencils, stickers, hair clips, little action figures, notebooks, candy…basically all that stuff that you would get in an 8 year old birthday party goody bag. I am also going to make some fake money, just fives and ones, which the kids can earn for being good, working hard, helping a teacher, or doing something nice. On Friday’s I will set up my store and they can buy something special for themselves. Hopefully I can get the older kids involved in selling with me, and they can help to keep it running after I am gone. Therefore the learning is three-fold and possilby more:

1)Patience, they will get money, but have to wait to Friday to see the reward.
2)Dealing with money, in general, comparing prices to how much they have, and adding up what they can afford. As well as saving for somthing they want, and waiting if they can't afford it just yet. Not to mention, being responsible, putting the money in a safe place.
3)Working hard and being good leads to having things you want.

I am starting this in the special education classroom next week, and am hoping to go school-wide by mid-March. Start small, see how it all works out, and I have the blend of older and younger in the one room. My concern is this: I am donating the “wares” but after I am gone, they are going to need more things to “sell” and since this is not real money, the products are going to have to be donated or come from some fund that doesn’t yet exist.

Please! I am open to suggestions!

And thank you Janet for the suggestion I teach math this way and Westorchard Elementary for the business concept.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


How Guatemala is similar to college:

1) I live on a campus, in a dorm, with a shared bathroom and roomie
2) The food is limited in selection and repetitive
3) I go to school
4) It is an excellently, worthwhile, justifiable way of not being a financially independent individual
5) Apparently I pull all-nighters (which I only did twice in college- and I’m not even sure if they count because I cheated and napped.)

Yes, that’s right; I did my first night shift in the baby house and literally saw the sun rise. Although I did catch a few ZZZZZZZZ’s around 5:30am. The night went really well. I definitely could have slept more, but I was a little paranoid, it being my first time and all, that a child would stop breathing or something on MY watch. Also, it is incredible how much a rooster sounds like a baby at the top note of their most perfect wail. Basically, whenever the rooster would sound (which is fairly regularly, it is a myth that they only “cock-a-doodle “in the morning) I sat to attention thinking it was a baby down the hall. Finally, I hunted the noise down to outside the walls, still it drove me crazy. After tracking it to the window closest to the farm, which is above the shower in the bathroom, not an easy place to get, I was certain that I wanted rooster for lunch.

The older ones (which are the majority) sleep through the night with no problems. Most of the babies wake around 4am an need a bottle and a change, otherwise they are usually good. Its little 2 month old Miguel that will give me my first grays. He sleeps 4-5 hours without needing a bottle which is great. But once he woke up at 12:30 for his first bottle, he could not get back to sleep. This is because he is so congested he can’t breathe through his nose, but uses a pacifier or his thumb to lull himself to sleep. Basically he could not get comfortable.

The thing about an orphanage is the mortal fear of more than two babies needing you. One is enough, two manageable, three and you just have no arms left. And when a cry goes off, you begin to plead, “pleaseeeeee, don’t wake anyone else!” The other thing about an orphanage, babies are really good at sleeping through noise and tuning out crying.

During the night I watched both Amelia, which was EHH and New York, I Love You, which I HIGHLY recommend. Some of the stories were good, some really weird and some had me in tears both laughing and crying. Pretty much sounds like NY, plus the cast is amazing.

I’m really proud that I made it through the day without napping, but now I am crashing fast. Especially, since I had the pleasure of eating dinner with Claudia and her family at their home. It was wonderful. But it has led to a long day. Damn I hate roosters!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Tri-Fecta (or the reason I haven't written in a while)

I’m pretty sure a post is way past due, but I’m not sure where to begin. Babies, English class or special education?

So much has been going on this week, including the season premier of Lost, the final season, which I have traveled to great lengths to procure. And it has proven totally worth it!

In Casa Promesa (the baby house, I think it’s a cute name: House of Promise), the only thin blue carpet, that covered half the play area has disappeared! I’m pretty sure I understand this is because it was holding the potent smell of the diarrhea incident (see Monday February 1st) as well as the remnants of other bodily functions it obtained through the years. This now means that the babies play on a tile floor all the time. Very clean. But it also means that the non-walkers, are now in swings or chairs all the time, and are no longer interacting with the other babies or have toys to play with. In place of the rug is a small mat, think gymnastics class, that is sometimes laid out but never cleaned. Still, I like the idea! After talking with the donations coordinator, I think more of these mats would me better than another rug (hard to clean) and those puzzle piece mats. Apparently they had those once and they accumulate a lot of crud in the spaces that is difficult to fully get out. Needless to say, those mats are now sitting in the corner of my special ed classroom collecting dust.

Tonight however, was really great in the baby house. Some days we have local kids from the wealthy neighborhood behind the orphanage come hang out. There were 4 today so we got the kids fed, changed and ready for bed very fast. We even had time to do some dishes and other clean up. After, we were able to sit them all down in the living room for a story, song and pray before bed. This would be my ideal every night, unfortunately, without 9 people, it is more of a challenge and effort.

I also need to print a retraction: our newest baby, is in fact 8 months old, based on her doctor’s visit. She is only 12lbs though, and so tiny you would never guess that by appearance. They think she was really premature, and has development and mal-nutrition problems.

Which brings me to my next topic: Special education. First of all I should back up and explain that there are two teachers in the classroom. One for the younger set, 5-10 year olds and one for the teenagers. The teacher for the teenagers is much better, she tries to spend forty minutes to an hour with each student personally. Unfortunately, that leaves the other five to be doing things like:

Math: Listing numbers 1-1,000 (that I discovered on Monday they don’t know). I mean they know the order of the numbers, but they can’t say any number above 100 if asked.

Science: aka geography. Learning names of lakes, rivers, ports, mountains in North, Central and South America.

Handwriting: Practicing letters over and over again or copying passages from the Bible

Reading: Ma, Me, Mi, Mo, Mu…. You get the idea. Sounds, small words, not stories. I’m pretty sure they can’t read the passages they copy from the Bible.

Basically, everything is based on memorization; there is no concept behind it. This is probably okay for some kids, but it clearly wasn’t working for these, hence their placement in special ed.

Next: I LOVE Wednesday’s. Why? Because the teacher for the younger kids doesn’t come on Wednesday, and they class is all mine. She leaves things to do, I usually edit this agenda. So kill me. For example, she left a picture to color. I drew some lines on it when the kids were done, made them cut it out and paste it back together on construction paper. They seemed to like the activity and it was a good challenge for some. Then we played color and shape bingo. After went outside and I had them running around after different colors and shapes I would call out.

I am getting much better at communicating instructions is Spanish but it is really difficult disciplining and negotiating with the kids. I feel like that the only way I can get them to behave is by engaging them with fun activities and using rewards (lollypop anyone?).

Finally, on Monday we graduated one of our special ed kids to Prepa, which goes in between kinder and premerio (1st grade). Essentially it is pre-first, and while he is the oldest in his class, at least, everyone is at the same place, and will be moved at the same pace. It’s a good move, and we are left with six, two of which are ahead of the other four. It evens the playing field to teach the special ed class as well.

English: I taught pre kinder (age 4) and kinder (age 5) on Tuesday and Prepa (6-7), Premiero (6-8) and Segundo (7-9) today, Thursday. It got much easier with the older grades, but I was surprised that the teachers left me alone in the rooms and did who knows what during my time! Again, I could communicate the material, but it was difficult keeping control at times. I’m pretty pleased with the results, especially with the older groups. For pre-kinder and kinder I think I’m going to have to modify my lessons a little. The thing that’s really nice, however, is because I live here the kids see me all the time and talk to me. Today, for example, one of the first graders caught me walking around during nap time at the baby house and says: “Hi, Miss.” Now I reply in English with them, so I asked “How are you?” and he said, “bien.” So I reminded, “good.” But I was pleased that he at least came up to the right response to my question, even if it was in Spanish, at least he understood.

Lastly, I promise. I am involved in this Secret Santa at school but for Valentine’s day. This week and next we leave little presents like candy or a card for our Valentine, and then next Friday, at the party, we reveal with a big gift. It’s nice, but it occurred to me today that if you translate English to Spanish, the rhymes no longer work! And nothing rhymes with azul the Spanish word for blue.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Ok , my day in one word: SHIT. Not my day was shit, it was just consumed with it. Apparently there is some food (I think it was the egg/refried beans combo from last night’s dinner) that coordinates worse with babies than pork bbq. I’m talking diarrhea up the wazoo! Sorry if this is grossing you out, maybe I should preface this story with: put down your food and read on an empty stomach!

So this darling baby was in a swing, not fussing, kind of playing with some plastic keys, but mostly watching the other babies. AKA: no sign of what I was about to get elbow deep in. I pick her up to put her in a feeding chair and she is covered in nastyness. Back, front, legs, feet, outer-layers of clothing, the swing and now me! I mean she even nailed her sweater, which falls above the diaper line. Literally it was immediately to the tub. But I couldn’t get her clothes off without spreading the nasty. Consider this as well, babies don’t stand, the only way to keep them upright is holding them against yourself. If this was the only incident it wouldn’t have been terrible. However, my darling chica was one of the last. This was ongoing all day. There were literally lines at the tub, we were whipping kids out of bed during nap (never done), and trying to get them to sit on the toilet (very difficult). During nap, someone even treated us to a box of nursing gloves it was THAT bad, and considering we deal with poop all day, cleaning it, discussing it and monitoring it, gloves were an extreme measure.

Maybe I should end on an up-note: I’m so “in” they let me administer nightly medicine now! I think anyone who didn’t run away kicking and screaming for a shower today has proved their worth. So that’s the glass half full, the bright side, the greener grass. I am now a medicine distributing member of the baby house team!

Tomorrow is my first English class too…wish me luck!