Friday, April 1, 2011

Good Tidings of GREAT Joy

This morning I was greeted by a high level of adrenaline, multiple gift bags, a bamboozle of hands being thrust towards me, cards begging to be read, and seven year old mouths announcing that they wanted my attention RIGHT NOW. There were stories to tell! Gifts to be explained!!! I got you this because... Open mine... Joey's here.... Wow, another bag.... Did you read the card... Mom made you brownies.... I wrote you a song.... It's your favorite color.... Wait in line, Mackenzie... This is for the whole class to eat, and this is just for you... Be careful when you light these on fire, they sparkle... Where did you put my present.... Be careful, you'll knock her over... I can't hold all of these gift bags at once... Thank you so much; you're such a sweetheart.... DID YOU OPEN MINE YET????? DID YOU, DID YOU????? IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY!!! I'M SO EXCITED!!!

School starts at 7:30. I had only managed to open half the gifts by then. I sat everyone down for Calendar and opened all the presents one at a time so everyone could see them, get sprayed by the perfume, smell the lotions and candle, oohhh and ahhhh at the potted plants, touch the fuzzy blue socks, etc.

The kids voluntarily lined up and each of them gave me a hug. Then they kept getting in line again and again until they'd all given me three hugs. A few of the boys squeezed me as tight as they could, showing off their muscles. A few of the more sensitive ones just hung onto me for a really, really long time. Like good natured, sweethearted leeches, they weren't going to peel themselves off voluntarily. Though I loved their affection, eventually I had to end it... It was a joyful, chaotic form of love that they regailed me with that morning.

By 7:40 I decided to make a new birthday tradition. We were going to go on a birthday jog around the school becuase the kids had so much energy there was no way anyone could concentrate or sit still for more than 1.5 seconds. Thankfully the few minute trek wore a few of them out and helped their brains focus...

By the end of the day each kiddo was talking about death by sugar intake, which accidentally mentioned outloud as I served the treats they brought. The day before they decided to throw me a party, but they weren't sure if they'd have time to get treats. No worries. Costa Ricans know how to party, and I am WELL loved by my students. There are 13 kids in my class, and we ended up with four pans of brownies, one chocolate cake, and 2 kinds of candy... WOW.

Additionally, the thirde grade teacher's birthday is on the same day too, and she requested permission for the kids to wear her favorite colors to school. We usually wear uniforms, so this is a big deal. She asked for permission for us to do the same while she was at it. The kids were THRILLED to wear blue and green. Every single one of them was decked out. They were so proud to be wearing my colors!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why Today?

Grief comes in waves. Like a tsunami, it’s hard to predict when it will hit or how much it will devastate. Two waves hit today. One before I went to school to put grades in the computer (My first day to teach will be tomorrow.) and one just a few minutes ago, after I watched a movie about a man who was really misunderstood by his family.

The anniversary of Kylee’s death is tomorrow. I miss the times when she’d get home from small group and sit on her couch talking to me, running her fingers through my hair. I miss being touched like that. As her fingers ran through my hair, I knew I was important to her, valued. There is no particular memory I’m thinking of…just the reminder that she used to do that for me. Just the deep desire to be comforted and held. To be understood. Treasured. Whether I’d feel peaceful or whether tears would slide gently down my cheeks, there was something powerful about those moments. The human presence is powerful. Human touch is powerful. To have someone sit with me and touch me while I am in pain means everything in that moment. It is the most precious gift. To be heard and touched. To be remembered and noticed. To be seen.

I miss you, Kylee. I miss how you saw me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Two Pickels Make a Lime...and Other Things That Make Me Smile

on the way to lunch one day...
Kira: "Did you know that human-made people don't have belly buttons?"
Joanne: "When have you seen a human-made person?"
Kira: "Oh."

Jonah T: "Do you think Prince Caspian was a gringo? He looks like it."

Josh: "How does a cookie feel when he is sick? .... Crumby!"

On Valentines' Day we had a few minutes left at the end of the day and were talking about what we were thankful for...
Daniela: Parties
Josh: Family and friends
Esteban: Everything
Jeremy: You (pointing to Joanne)
Wil: Everything and you
Esteban: Everything and you
Josh: Family and you
Joey: Everything and you
That wasn't what I was going for...I started turning red.

This reminds me of when I asked them what words they wanted to add to the Word Wall.
Joanne: Are there any words you want to write, but aren't sure how to spell?
Daniela: animal
Mackenzie: party
Wil: sleepover
Mackenzie: Miss Cadwallader
Joanne: You want to put my name on the Word Wall?
ALL: Yeah!!!
Everyday when we chant Word Wall words (say the word, spell the word, say the word) the kids look at me and get the biggest smile on their faces when we get to my name. They are very excited that they know how to spell a word that long.
Josh: How come you laugh whenever we say your name? Sometimes you turn red.
Joanne: Well I just feel a little funny, like if people are walking by and think I put my name on the Word Wall so you would all know how to spell it.

Josh: looking at the Valentine I gave him.... "I can't read this Valentine. It's in cursive. Maybe my Dad can read it to me later. I bet it's REALLY encouraging!"

Recently we played a Math game that involved trading five pennies for a nickel and two nickels for a dime. I decided to incorporate this content into Calendar each day. To make it fun we made it into more of a chant/dance. I call it the money dance. One day I thought Mackenzie said, "Five pennies make a PICKLE" when he was chanting. "Not a PICKLE, a nickel!" I corrected him, laughing. Since then Andrew has taken it upon himself to lead the class in chanting, "Five pennies make a PICKEL, and two PICKELS (nickels) make a LIME (dime)!" They crack up each day at calendar and try to say the food related chants louder than I say the money chants... Of course they usually drown me out cause there are more of them, but I don't think they will forget how many nickels it takes to make a dime, so everybody wins!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Christmas In Costa Rica

A few weeks ago, I went Christmas caroling with the youth group from church. We traveled caravan style across the city, with guitars, candles, and tambourines in hand, to greet members of our congregation in jubilant song. One of our favorites was “Hoy es Navidad.” Quite a few songs mentioned Mary and donkeys. The most energetic of them all was “El Burrito de Belen.” When you get to the chorus you spin slowly in a circle and dance as you sing, “tuki tuki tuki, tuki tuki tuki tah.” It was really fun! Check out the songs on iTunes for a taste of Christmas in Costa Rica.

Christmas trees here have more of a designer look with bows, ribbons, big ornament balls, even butterflies sometimes---anything glittery goes! All about presentation, there are no homemade ornaments. Nativities are elaborate and commonly seen in houses, even of those who do not attend church. There are stuffed mascot-like elves and santas parading through malls, some of them on stilts. In fact, stuffed Barney and Baby Bop can even be seen mingling with the pigeons, clowns, and crowds of folks during a typical day in downtown San Jose. Sometimes it’s funny what transcends culture! Wii and silly bands are big here, too.

Fireworks are also a big start to light up the sky as early as mid-October. The biggest display is New Year’s Eve at midnight when people set them off all over the valley (San Jose is in a valley, surrounded by mountains!). From where I sat, it sounded like a series of gunshots as debri from the explosions set off all along the street fell on nearby roofs. Costa Ricans know how to party! There were even bull fights in nearby Zapote during the week between Christmas and New Year’s and a light parade and a horse parade in downtown San Jose.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I tried to open the heavy metal gate in front of the primary school building today when I got to work, and the key broke in half. Part of it is still inside the lock! OOPS! The gate is so heavy that the key has bent, torqued over time and today it finally had it. Luckily I got the gate open before the key broke off, so all the kids in K, 1, 2, and 3 grade could get to their classrooms. I told the secretary what happened right away, and Luis, our maintenance man, fixed it by the end of the day. Whew!

A student at ILE has celiacs disease and gave me some gluten free flour to try out. It's called Pamelas, and it's pretty tasty. I can't make most of the recipies on the back of it cause they contain sugar and oil, which I can't have. However, there is a pancake recipe that only requires water and an egg. This is very exciting for me, because, for some reason, I associate pancakes with being sick and special occassions. We have a gas stovetop (no oven) at my new place and one heavy cast iron skillet. I have not quite perfected the pancake making process with these items and a lack of things I can use to make the batter not stick to the pan. One of my pancake attempts yeilded significant amounts of smokey air (despite the fact that the pancakes were just a little toasty, not burnt, and very edible). OOPS!

Monday I helped Alejandra take the Costa Rican flag into the school wide assembly. Every Monday we gather as a group to stand at attention as the flag enters, sing the national anthem, stand at attention as the flag leaves, sing praise songs together, listen to a lesson about Costa Rican culture, and listen to a short devo from one of the teachers. I thought I'd secured the flag in the little wooden box that holds it up, but I didn't push the pole down far enough into the hole in the box and it half fell over. It almost hit a few kindergarteners in front, but Alejandra caught it. OOPS! It is a very serious occassion when the flag is present and quite the matter of respect, so I tried to keep a straight face but a big grin and a little giggle escaped. It was so funny! They usually have a few senior high kids carry the flag in, and this was the first time teachers did it. They kids have always done a beautiful job.

I recently went on a camping trip to the beach with my church. They graciously arranged for a ride there, to share a tent with a friend, a ride home, a mattress to sleep on (I just had a set of sheets), and cooked something different that was specifically for me and met my dietary restrictions every time we ate. They are really gracious people! Saturday night we worshipped some, and the pastor preached a bit about how Christ should be what sustains us, that we shouldn't go after momentary pleasures that just kill our hunger for a brief period. He called the momentary pleasures "matahambres" (or kill hungers). After the sermon I asked my friend Priscilla what her "matahambres" were in effort to discuss what we'd just learned and go deeper...except I forgot the term, and said "matahombres" instead (or kill mans, man killers). OOPS! It's funny what language mistakes I make: llover (to rain), llorar (to cry), oferta (sale, bargain), ofrenda (offering at church)...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This Is For You

I recently moved in with a family from church. I have been blessed in several ways through this, one of which is the fact that several members of church and the youth group that I've been getting more involved in live on the same street or the next street. They're really close and have basically invited me into their group of friends. I am amazed at how both the gringo body of Christ and latino body of Christ have been so actively loving me during the last few months.

Several of the youth were at the pastor's house playing the latino version of Guesstures (a lot like charades). The pastor and his wife even participated off and on as they walked through the living room to do other household tasks. Near the end of the evening, the pastor entered the room with a huge butcher knife and said something in Spanish as he walked towards me like "This is for you!" Whoa. What was happening? Why did he want to give me a knife? He seemed confident and friendly as usual.... He passed by me to the back door, exited, and returned with a large green plant. It turns out he had chopped off part of an aloe plant outside for me to take home. Not only is aloe good for skin, apparently it is good for intestines if you drink it. He showed me how to prepare an aloe drink in the kitchen and told me if I run out, I can always come back to his house and get more. What a kind man! I have also seen aloe sold in bottles in liquid form to drink. I almost bought one at a Chinese supermarket I found in downtown San Jose when my friend Joy from NMSI came to visit. There was all kinds of interesting things there from rice noodles, to bean paste, to turnips, to jellyfish, to ham flavored cookies, to tofu. It's been a while, so I don't remember all the more exotic things, but it was fun to look through the isles and discover them.

The Heart of a Child

This was the second day back from school after Christmas break. The kids get so excited about reading the Jesus Storybook Bible that they clap for it sometimes. They've also been into memorizing the books of the Bible in order, so we practice with a WeeSing CD my mom mailed me. They love that, too. Sometimes our discussions afterward are profound. It depends on the day, the story, etc. Today's discussion warmed my heart. Here's a glimpse:

I read the story about Jairus and his daughter and how Jesus said he'd come right away to help the sick daughter, but ended up stopping to help the woman who'd been bleeding for 12 years who touched his cloak. I asked the kids what they thought would happen next, whether the girl would die, etc. and Jonah T. piped up and said, "It's never too late for Jesus" with total confidence. It was that simple. It's never too late, with Jesus. He can heal her if she's dead, so no worries. Another boy, Federico, raised his hand and said, "That's like the verse we were learning this morning about how god helps us escape from death." Whoa! A discussion of heaven, everyone having to die at some point, what it would be like to never get sick again, and new bodies. I love it when stuff like that happens!