Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Feliz CumpleaƱos Rachel!


HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our daughter who is beautiful, inside and out! She is always fashionably dressed and knows how to have a good time wherever she is.

                                                       She loves nature...and a good hat.
                                                 She loves adventure...and her husband.
                                                     And she adores her little nephew.

                                                                 She is a faithful friend...
                                                                  whether old or new...

                                                   but especially to those life long friends.

                                                         She loves her family and we love her.

Happy birthday, darlin'. May you be as blessed today and always as we are to have you as our daughter.

Monday, February 27, 2012


                                                                  Choosing teams

Today's tutoring session was wild. The kids were really wound up for some reason - all talking at once, teasing one another, acting silly. They just wanted to play. We had 11 kids in 3 different grade levels in one room, and I couldn't help but wonder how teachers in one room schoolhouses kept their sanity.

The seventh graders had ten spelling words in English. I drilled them, and they took turns writing the words on the blackboards. They just can't keep from prompting one another. They're trying to be helpful but I told them that unless they were planning to take that person's spelling test for them, they needed to shush and let each person figure out the spelling on their own. They struggle with the pronuciation when the word is sounded out. In Spanish, v is often pronounced as b, so when I would sound out a word containing a b, they would write it as a v. In Spanish, e is pronounced i, i is pronounced e, and a is always ah. You can imagine how confusing our vowels sounds are to them.  Some of our sounds have no comparison in Spanish. Then there were the silent letters, like e at the end of a word. They'll just have to memorize those words. Julisa proudly showed us her spelling test from today; she got 10/10 right!

The fifth graders had math homework. I looked over Leidy's shoulder as she worked on her division problems. She was answering them all correctly! Don worked with Julisa some more on fractions.

Susan wants to modify the schedule a little bit and encouraged all of them to be on time. Their typical homework/tutoring sessions run from 1:30-2:30, and then they all run out to the church courtyard to play soccer with one of our pastor's sons. Susan wants to modify the schedule a little bit and encouraged all of them to be on time. They'll have 30 minutes for homework help and then 30 minutes of work on English. Their English teacher at school has told Susan that they all need lots of practice. Susan had a nice lesson planned for today, but they just wouldn't settle down enough to get through all of it. Today we worked on using who, what, where, when, how in questions. Some of them were very reluctant to get up before the group and ask a question using their word. Some of them were just being silly. Susan finally had enough, gave them a little lecture about why this is important, a reminder to show up on time tomorrow and then shooed them outside to play.

While this was going on, Don was helping Juan, a high schooler,  with his physics homework out on the deck. This proved to be a bit of a challenge because all the questions were in Spanish and Don doesn't read Spanish well enough to fully understand what is being asked. Juan had to translate and he didn't fully understand either.

 Don and I hung around for awhile, watching the kids play. I thought they were going to play volleyball, but no, they were playing futbol (soccer), running back and forth under the net and somehow managing to not get caught in it. Pastor Chuck finally took the net down before they tore it down.

We noticed that Karla and Leidy (above) love to pick on each other and chase one another around, right in the middle of the game. Not that it mattered; no one was keeping score. They just love to kick the ball and run.

Don noticed that Julisa was still wearing her uniform; the other kids had all changed into play clothes. Obviously, she hadn't been home. She has a long climb up the hill to her house, lugging her heavy bookbag (which Don estimates weighs about 30 lbs!). We guess she doesn't want to make the extra trip up and down. In my American way of thinking, I wondered why she didn't go home for lunch. Surely she would be hungry. And then I realized that these kids aren't used to three meal a day, sometimes they only have one. A sobering thought.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Coral Trees Are Blooming Again!

I love this time of year when all the Coral trees are blooming. Some of them have already been blooming for a couple of weeks. I didn't think our trees would produce many blooms this year due to heavy damage from the leaf-cutter ants and some other little wormy critters, but I was so wrong! We have far more blooms per tree than ever before, and they are just stunning.

    I love the dramatic contrast of the orangey-red blooms against the brilliantly blue sky.


Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Math Tutor

Don with Hilda, Greicy, Victor, Julisa and Oscar

 Last week it became obvious that the 7th grade girls needed help with math, specifically, fractions. Susan and I both worked with Julisa and Greicy on a few problems, but then we asked Don if he would come up and be the official math tutor. We have 5 kids in the 7th grade, but the boys seem to do much better in math. Here Don is explaining the basic steps in working with mixed fractions.

 Then he asked if anyone could solve this problem. Julisa said she could and came up to the board.

But she missed a step, so Don asked Hilda if she could do it. She gave it a try but also had trouble, as did Greicy. Meanwhile, the boys are sitting back at the table snickering and calling out the answers. They got the stink eye from Julisa a few times. She was trying so hard to understand. We think she finally got it. Don handed out papers with examples of how to work the problems that they can take home.

                                                             Team collaboration.

 Meanwhile, Susan and I were trying to help the 5th graders with their homework (in Spanish) which appeared to be give 3 reasons (or definitions) for liberty and then prescribe (formulate) the most important one for the whole world. When 3rd grader Carlos came in with his English reading assignment, I moved over to help him. He reads very well.

Don and Susan had both brought their laptops, so we asked Karla if she would like to send an email to Rachel and Lance who sponsor her. She readily agreed, then wondered what to say. I suggested that she tell them about herself. Here's what she had to say:
"I have 10 years (10 years of age), and my favorite color is pink, and my favorite food is fried fish, and I like to play soccer."

                              She always has a big smile and a big hug to give. Sweet girl.

Jesse and Victor had finished their homework and got on the computer, trying to connect to some motorbike game, but the connection kept dropping. Julisa got on Susan's laptop just long enough to check Facebook and was delighted when she saw a picture of herself with Karla, Leidy and me on the first day of school. I had "tagged" her in the photo so it would show up on her page. She liked that very much.

Don really enjoyed his first day of tutoring, and I continue to enjoy working with these kids and getting to know them all better.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Oscars

We have been so blessed this winter to have found a wonderful gardener who speaks great English. When we needed to replace our former gardener, I asked our pastor's wife if there was someone in our church who needed work (always!), had some gardening skills and, a big point, spoke English. She recommended two men and we chose Oscar. He attends our church, but I really didn't know him until we hired him. He has turned out to be a very hard-working man who does indeed know how to care for a large garden. He actually does what I ask but really doesn't need a lot of direction. It has really helped to not have that language barrier between us.

On his second day of work back in December, he brought along his 12 year old son who was, at that time, still on his winter break. He wanted to teach his son his trade. We thought this was a great idea, but were totally amazed at what a great little worker his son was. After observing him in action for a couple of days and noting how much more work was getting done, we volunteered to pay little Oscar half-pay. That delighted both father and son. Their electricity had been cut off when Oscar couldn't pay the bill and the family had plenty of other needs as well. He was so grateful for the work and doubly grateful for the extra pay for his son.

Little Oscar always had a smile on his face whenever I saw him. He just radiates joy. He must have made 50 trips up and down the hill, emptying this tub. I've never seen a 12 year old work so diligently let alone be cheerful about it. Don admitted that he had never worked that hard at that age and neither does any other young man that we know. His daddy has instilled a powerful work ethic in him, and the Lord fills him with joy.

Little Oscar is one of the 11 sponsored kids going to Luisa Trundle School which started this week. When Oscar, Sr. arrived for work Monday morning, he said he was going to miss his little buddy. I said Little Oscar is probably pretty happy to be back in school and get a rest from the work, but I suspect he misses being with his dad. It was sweet to hear them talking throughout the day.  I missed him, too. I've grown pretty fond of that boy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


We have been recruited to assist our friend and fellow sponsor, Susan, who is a retired Canadian teacher living here a good part of the year and who also teaches our pastor's children. Susan has been tutoring the original 5 sponsored children 2 or 3 afternoons a week whenever they have needed help with homework.  This year, the number of sponsored children has increased to 11, a bit more than she can handle for tutoring sessions, so she invited us and another sponsoring couple to lend a hand. Yesterday, the first day of school, was my first tutoring session.

Susan and I were very anxious to talk to the children after school and learn about their experiences. We wondered if any of them would show up for tutoring on the first day. Susan called me shortly after 12:30 to report that Leidy and Julisa were there. They had run right over to Susan's house, not even going home first! They did have homework.  I met them at church, in the classroom that Susan uses. A little while later, Oscar and his sister, Jessie, arrived, not needing help - just wanting to talk about their day. So cute!

Here are some photos from the afternoon:
                Susan helping Julisa. Have you ever seen anyone so happy about homework?

             A very serious Leidy, looking up definitions for her Spanish vocabulary words. She was very pleased with the blue book dotted with stickers that her teacher gave each of the students.

We discovered that both of the Spanish/English dictionaries we had did not give a Spanish definition for her vocab words. Thank goodness for Juan, a high school student sponsored by Larry and Susan, who showed up with his phone and was able to pull up a dictionary with the Spanish definitions.

Juan's dictionary failed to provide all the words that Leidy needed, so Susan ran back to her house to grab her laptop. While she was gone, I moved over to help Julisa with her reading. She had checked out a book of fairy tales from the new school library for her English reading assignment. We were working on Sleeping Beauty. She, and the other Spanish-speakers, have difficulty making the "th" sound which doesn't exist in their language. She also had trouble saying "y", which came out as "j". She's very determined though and worked hard on getting it right.

Once Susan's laptop arrived, they pulled up an online Spanish dictionary and very quickly completed Leidy's assignment. Julisa moved over to work on her definitions. Juan kept wanting to switch over to You-Tube and watch some funny videos, as he's doing in this photo, to Oscar's delight. Susan was not delighted and kept scolding Juan.

While Julisa was finishing her homework, Leidy and Jessie drew on the chalkboard, and Leidy told me how hungry she was. No wonder! She had not been home since 6:15 a.m. and had not had any lunch! I suggested that she go home. Both girls were looking very tired. Oscar and Jessie had gone home right after the bus dropped them off and had had something to eat, so they were still full of energy.

Leidy's trying to pack up her books and Jessie wants to look at everything. Jessie is one of those children who is very curious, wants to investigate and touch everything. She might make a good scientist! She's very smart, too.

I think it's going to be a lot of fun working with these kids. Who knows, I might even learn something!

Monday, February 13, 2012

First Day of School

Today was the first day of the new school year. Susan, Larry and I walked up to the Mazapan School in the colonia where the kids get free English (ESL) classes in the afternoons. This is their designated "bus stop". We have hired a man to be the dedicated driver for the 15 sponsored children who attend the Luisa Trundle Escuela (school). He has a very nice van, just the right size to hold them all. He will pick them up at 6:30 a.m. sharp and deliver them back there at 12:30 p.m. He will not wait for stragglers. If you snooze, you lose! (He's not being mean - these are our instructions to prevent the kids from being late to school.)

Julisa was the first to arrive. She was so excited; she ran to us when she saw that we had come down to send them off and gave me a huge hug. She was just grinning from ear to ear. (Thank you everyone who helped make this possible for her!!!!)

                                                            Leidy, Karla, me, Julisa

Leidy and Karla also had hugs for us. That Karla is the best hugger around! She is really strong and squeezes you tight!

It was so much fun watching the kids arrive at their bus stop. They were all (almost!) very happy and excited about the new year. For some of them, this is their first time to go to a private, bilingual school, and they are thrilled at the opportunity they've been given.
Here are all of the sponsored kids from our church. There are four more who are being sponsored by some other people and who arrived a bit later. That's their driver behind them. I lined them all up to show off their new shoes which were donated by my wonderful ladies' Bible class back in St. Louis. The kids were very proud of their new duds and looked so cute.

                                                       All loaded up and ready to roll.

When I got back home, our gardener, Oscar, arrived for work and told me that his son, little Oscar, was so excited that he had gotten up at 4 a.m.!! Can you imagine any kid in the U.S. doing that? Me neither!

After school, when Tommy dropped the kids off at their "bus stop", Julisa and Leidy didn't go home; they ran to Susan and Larry's house to tell them all about their day. Susan called to say that they had homework and would need some help, so I went to join them. Susan uses one of the classrooms at church to tutor. The kids can come there three afternoons a week. Don and I will be helping tutor at least one day a week. Leidy and Julisa had checked out library books (fairy tales!) in English and we helped them with their reading.

I'll write more about the tutoring and post some more photos next time.