Monday, May 1, 2017

Un Dia en la Vida


Who would have thought it would be this hard to blog consistently?!

I have recently started my seventh month, which leaves a five month hiatus between my last blog and this one. And I have yet to tell you much about the actual work I am doing! I work in a before and after school program that supplements the 3 hour public school day. The children who attend this program are provided with meals, Computer Classes, Art and music classes, Homework Help, Civics lessons, and Christian Formation. When Lexy and I are there, they also have English Class. Lexy and I work at two different school during the week, alternating Wednesdays to split our time equally.

Here is a quick rundown of a day in the life of a Costa Rican YASCer, and a few stories about my kids (who are by and large, ridiculous).

To get to our Heredia location, we leave at 6am to take a bus, that takes us to a train, that leaves us with about a quarter mile walk to school. Upon arrival we spend time ushering kids inside, feeding them breakfast, and cleaning up after the many unsuccessful attempts they have in getting the food from their bowl, to their mouth. It truly amazes me how many names I have learned and can appropriately apply to the right little faces. We eat breakfast ourselves and pray that it will be Gallo Pinto (a traditional Costa Rican breakfast dish made with rice, beans, onions, peppers, and a healthy heap of cilantro).

Next, we bring a cup of coffee to teach the older kids, throughout one, two, or three sections. They vary in age, from 6 to 12, and their English abilities vary even more, regardless of age. They spend forty minutes taking notes, completing a worksheet, or playing a game. The best received game we've created (and recycled repeatedly) is called "Circle the Word". What the name lacks in creativity, the game makes up for in competition. We will write all of our vocabulary words for a given section on the white board and divide the class into two teams. Each round, one representative from each team is called and they race to circle whichever word we say aloud. As with the majority of our games, the winning team gets bragging rights. Once I cheated with an 11 year old who was playing against Lexy. I don't think she's recovered from that loss yet.

We have two sections of children between the ages of 4 and 6. Through trial and error we have learned just how short their attention spans are, and tend to stick to full group activities so we don't lose too many. We have many, many songs that we sing. Songs that teach salutations and food items, and classics like Ole' MacDonald and Head Shoulders Knees and Toes. When we come prepared, we can color with the little ones. When we don't, we can read one of three bilingual books we have. They are still engaged when we read the Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar for the 74th time. I hate now hate that book and will never read it to my children.

Lunch duty looks much like breakfast duty, making sure everyone has gotten a plate, or seconds. The children here are much less picky with what they eat than the children I have worked with back in the states. On beet salad day, they are even less picky that I am.

Our last task in a normal day is nap time. It has been officially declared that I am not a good naptime proctor (One kid from the siesta I watch once responded to my "Buenos Suenos" or "Sweet dreams" with a "Buenos Suerte" or "Good luck") . I love having time with the kids that isn't structured around learning and I tend to play too much. I love answering questions (My favorite was from a ten year old boy who wanted more information on the Illuminati and what Beyonce is doing with them) and seeing how many words they can translate from a book on my kindle. Occasionally I arrive to them already being completely asleep. That's a scenario I can't mess up. These kids will sleep through anything. On days like that I need only back track through the easy listening CD, which skips after track 4. After naptime we cross our fingers that it isn't going to rain on our walk to the train station and head out for a nice long commute home.

Most school days are lots of fun. Some days we are being questioned on the state of affairs between the US and North Korea, some days we are being asked if we've ever been to Hoboken New Jersey, and can we show them on a map. And on the days that aren't fun, Lexy and I can always find something to laugh about, because when you aren't having fun, that's all that matters.

Pura Vida,

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lenten Meditation

This year I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in a project with my home parish, despite being out here, in Costa Rica. 40 people were each assigned a day and received the assigned passages to meditate and reflect upon. Being able to read these thoughts from my friends back home each day has made the distance seem a little shorter. I'd like to share my submission, from April 8th, with you. My online Episcopal community.

"When Mary arrived where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”
When Jesus saw her crying and the Jews who had come with her crying also, he was deeply disturbed and troubled. He asked, “Where have you laid him?”
They replied, 'Lord, come and see.'
Jesus began to cry." John 11:32-35
In preparation for my mission year I learned about the utility of cultural sensitivity. This encompassed many different things, but all hinged around the idea of ditching the old “white savior complex” of missioners who have gone before us. We must strive not to “Do For” but to “Be With”. First and foremost is always relationship building, through Christ, because all work will be properly prepared after those friendships has been forged.
It can be hard, especially on days when you feel your time is not being well spent. Days when the kids are screaming and fighting, when the schedule has been changed without your knowledge. Days when the bus passes by you without stopping and then it starts to rain. In today's Gospel we hear about Mary going to meet Christ, at the behest of her sister. Mary is grief stricken over the death of her brother, and begins to cry as she reaches Jesus. John 11:35 states Christ’s response as plain as can be.
“Jesus wept.”
Christ has already been lauded for his miraculous abilities, but his response to seeing Mary in such a state was not to jump for a solution. Not to try and end her despair abruptly. Banish it from his day, his mood, his presence. Instead Christ simply stayed with her. He felt moved. Before being called to action he needed Mary to know, that he was here with her. And that her pain was being shared.
I still find it difficult to comfort a child in Spanish. Whether it’s a fall off the jungle gym, or a bruise from a bully, or a preteen heartache, the words may escape me. In times like that it helps to remember the power of togetherness. Maybe I can’t raise the dead, but I can remain with you until the storm passes.

Happy Easter!!