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Archive for the ‘becoming who I want to be’ Category

In the last few weeks of being in the States I realized how much I have grown in the last year. Good stuff. However, I also realized that I was not taking care of myself at all which, in turn, has burned me out. So this year, I am going to make an effort to take care of myself in all aspects of my life.

Physically: I’m lazy. I’m not going to sugar coat it because I will want to lick the sugar. This year I am going to make a conscious effort to exercise three days a week. I won’t commit to more because I know myself, and that just won’t work. What I will be doing, I’m not sure.

Emotionally: I know exactly who I am… an emotional mess. When I don’t deal with my emotions in the right way, I completely shut down. This is not good. So when I have an emotion, I will express it appropriately.

Spiritually: I was not good to myself spiritually last year. This year I have a group of people who I will be communicating with constantly to keep me on track. This will also be helpful to discuss the goings-on of Guate life with non-Guate life people.

Spanish: My lovely roommate, Rebecca, offered to help me with my Spanish last year… but I declined. She has agreed again to help me. So I will be setting aside time with her to do this.

Knitting: I will no longer be carting tons of yarn across the border. The other day I donated a very large garbage bag full of yarn to Goodwill. I have decided that I will only be keeping yarn for projects that I am currently working on. Right now, that would be four projects between now and June when I return home for a visit.

Stuff: I don’t need stuff. When I left Guate in November, I only had the clothes on my back and my computer. I came home with a bunch of stuff, filling two duffel bags. I didn’t realize how much clothing I had left behind in Guate. So, this week I will be cleaning out my closet and bringing a bunch of clothing to the ghetto for the folks there to pick through.

Friends: I have them… I plan to spend more time with them here, even if I have to get on a bus to do it.

Space: I will be taking time this year to have for myself. This may mean leaving the house for a day or two and going on a tiny vacation somewhere.

Blogging: Several people have told me that I am not blogging enough anymore… I promise to work on that.

Stay tuned.

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I just saw pictures of folks that I know in La Limonada celebrating Christmas. The walls are made of concrete, cardboard, and corregated tin… but the smiles are real and heart-felt.

In these photos I saw children smiling and faces I know celebrating with family and friends in the La Limonada community. I have to remember my focus in life… it’s easy to forget when I have a two month vacation filled with every luxury. The feast probably didn’t have fine wine and a huge turkey. The families didn’t sit around the TV and watch football or basketball. They didn’t sit around and stare at trees trimmed with lights and ornaments, hoping that Santa Claus would visit that night.

This Christmas, I realized how truly blessed I am… I have a loving family. My vacation has included lots of time with my amazing niece, Kassidy. However, I know that the kids that I am close to in La Limonada have not had excess this Christmas. I don’t know what to do with this knowledge. I love these children, and want the world for them.

I’m really looking forward to going home.

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I apologize to my family if this brings up sore feelings of the past. I love you.

em·pa·thy: [em-puh-thee] the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

Today was a sad day for me. First thing this morning, one of the kids who I have gotten to know this year showed up to the school crying and holding her head. When we removed her hand, we saw that she had been covering a gash in her forehead and a good-sized lump. This amazing girl had been abused by her older brother, who she defines as crazy. I have only seen the brother one time earlier in the year. As he was yelling things at her that I didn’t understand, she took me by the hand and lead me away from her home while she looked at me with sad eyes and said said, “perdon, Kerry” (forgive me Kerry). This is the extent of the interaction that I have had with this boy of about fourteen years old.

This morning I heard that once again this girl’s brother punched her in her head with his fist while wearing rings. This conversation between her and I happened just a half hour after we past her house while her grandmother was sitting outside the house yelling at everyone inside. This is real/normal life for this amazing 10-year-old girl. While we talked today, she told me of other times where her older brother has physically abused her. This opened a whole can of worms in my heart.

How do you tell a child that this is not normal? How do you tell a kid who has never known any better that, no… it’s not normal for your family to violate your body, heart, spirit, and mind?. It’s not normal for the people that you are supposed to trust the most to make you feel like the most terrible person alive. How do you tell a child that it doesn’t have to be that way? That it won’t always be that way? I wanted her to understand that just because members of her family act this way, it’s not a reflection on her in any way. She is not less than amazing because of her circumstance.

I struggled… was it my place to tell this girl these things? I didn’t know what else to do…

So this morning I sat with this intelligent, beautiful, and clever ten-year-old girl and told her the story of my childhood. I explained to her with the help of our school psychologist (and my very good friend) Sofi, that I also grew up in a home full of abuse. I told her that when I was her age I was afraid everyday. Afraid to get out of bed, to talk, to argue with my siblings, to do poorly in school. My step-father (my mother’s second husband) was very abusive toward my brother and I. With this history of my life, my sweet student looked at me and I told her that it will get better someday. Someday she will be old enough and strong enough to leave that place and can decide how to approach her abusive family. Someday she will realize how amazing and intelligent she is and will have the opportunity to further her education to become the person she wants to be, and not be stuck in the place that holds her captive now. I told her that if she ever wants to talk about what’s happening in her home that she could come to Sofi and I, and we would listen to all that she had to say.

With these words, she smiled at me and wrapped her arms around my neck. In English, I told her that I loved her… which she repeated back to me. I needed her to know that things can get better. She left my company in better spirits and smiling. She knows that the teachers at the escuelita love her.

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I have been thinking and praying for a while about reaching out to the women on the Limon side of the ghetto. Not just the mothers of the kids in the schools, but the women in the community of La Limonada, at large. After a staff meeting last week at Mandarina, my unspoken goals were redeemed. Tita announced that Mandarina was going to start a group for women… exactly the thing that I was wanting to do at our school. I spoke to Tita after the meeting and let her know that this was something that I had been wanting to start for a while at Limon. She told me to go for it. So, this Monday, I announced to the teachers at Limon that I intended to start a group for women on Wednesdays, during our lunch hour. The group would meet for thirty minutes and would be an opportunity for women to come in to the school to talk, pray, and share together. Signs were made and taped to the school’s two doors, inviting the women of La Limonada into our school.

Finally, my desire to reach out to the community with something that I truly care about. I immediately got nervous. What could I share with these people? I’m not biblically educated. I’m a novice in my relationship with God. What could I possibly have to offer? At Tita’s request, I read John 4, the story of the Samaritan Woman at the well. I chose to not take the religious aspect of the story, but the social one. Jesus broke social barriers by being a Jew who spoke to a Samaritan, something that just was not done. By being the first to break the barriers, Jesus was met with hostility by the woman. Eventually, the woman becomes a disciple of Jesus. Barriers have been broken and services to God are honored.

I chose to use this example by twisting it a little bit… using the group as the break down of barriers between the school and the community by welcoming the women into the school. For thirty minutes we kept the door to the class room that faces the street open… something that is rarely done at the school. The cool breeze came through the class room as I shared my thoughts with the women that came to our meeting (and the teachers who chose to stay). I told them that I believe that the women of La Limonada are the power and strength behind this community. I say this because they are producing future generations of children that will grow up here. They are the leading examples of strength and love. The schools are just here to help out. All in all, the meeting went very well. The women were comfortable opening up to us, and I was satisfied with the turnout of three for our first week.

On another note, just after the morning session was released today, the gang members decided to hang out on our front porch. This was our opportunity to go and speak to them. I hung back, as being a gringa, I wasn’t sure of how well received I would be. After a few minutes, I joined the group talking outside. One of the guys asked if he could have my eyes, because he says that they are beautiful. “Ojos de gato” (cat eyes) is a phrase that I hear very often, sometimes several times a day. I was pleased to finally meet the guys who have been hanging around the school. They were very welcoming and respectful. One of them went home to get his infant son to show off to us. Needless to say, he was a beautiful.

It was a very good day.

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I usually refrain from writing about any spiritual or religious experiences in my blog. I feel that my relationship with God is personal, and brow-beating my views into other people is not a thing that I’m into. In return, I usually receive the same respect. However, so much has been going on for me spiritually, that I just have to share.

I started teaching English classes at La Limon two months ago. I feel like I have been in Guatemala much longer… it has become my home and I love it here. In the time that I started working in La Limonada I have fallen in the ghetto and injured a foot that I broke several years ago by slipping on an orange peel (on the Mandarina side of the ghetto… thank you very much), sprained my other ankle just a few weeks later, gotten a nasty sinus infection, been threatened by a man with the worst case of road rage that I have ever seen, heard gunshots around the school on more than one occasion, and finally have somehow acquired an intestinal parasite. Some would say that I have bad luck. I would say that I have bad luck. One of my roommates made a joke once that maybe God is telling me that I should take a desk job.

With gang activity up on the Limon side of the ghetto, we are experiencing a lot of changes in the kids. Some of them are so unaffected by what they see everyday that they are emotionally closed off. At the end of the day, we are finding that some of the muchachos are sitting on the steps of the school huffing, gambling, and openly smoking pot and sniffing glue. This is life in La Limonada, and we are not surprised when we see these things. However, the activity has been getting closer and closer to the front door of our school. Since the guys usually hang around on the corner of the bridge or in an area close to the parque, any other spot is kind of conspicuous. I mentioned to Tita that the muchachos are getting closer and closer to our doorstep, literally. She told me that they are crying out to us. They have never had any interest in hanging around the school before. While the guys are hanging around the schools, I’ve noticed more people from the general community are coming around during the day too. To watch over us? I don’t know.

When I saw the muchachos sitting on the step to the school the other day, gambling and huffing, I was tempted to go downstairs and talk to them. Everything in my body told me that this is what I was supposed to do. I didn’t do it. What would I say to them in my broken Spanish? How would they react to a gringa approaching them? Would I feel threatened by them? So many questions went through my head. When the kids started pouring out of the doors of the school, the muchachos dispersed. I don’t know where they went, but I didn’t see them again until the next day. Once again, their activities were practically on our doorstep. I yelled a cheerful ‘Buenas Tarde’ to them, and was greeted in return with the same.

I talked to one of my roommates about the activities that are happening around the school with the muchachos. I then told him that I know that I have been rewarded this place in Guatemala, this life that I have fallen completely in love with. I want to be proactive in confronting the actions of the muchachos close to the school… but I have so many doubts about being capable of delivering what I want to say to them. I feel compelled to reach out to these guys and start an open line of communication with them. After talking with Donnie about this yesterday, I told him that I feel that God has me exactly where I’m supposed to be… but that he wants me sick. Donnie’s response was that it seems that God does have me where I am supposed to be, but that the enemy is causing these illnesses and other distractions to keep me from doing what I’m supposed to be doing. And with that, here is this blog post.

We are fighting a spiritual war here in La Limonada. There are casualties to this war every single day. I have never prayed for peace so hard in my life.  I know that we, the teachers at Limon, are capable of changing things on our side of the ghetto. We are the ones who hear the horror stories of what life is like at home for a lot of these kids. We are the ones who walk through the gang members on the bridge to get to class. Our kids are the ones who have to decide if they will turn to a life of drugs and gang activity. These decisions are being made every single day. We need your prayers. We need your happy thoughts. We need your good karma and juju. We need you. We need you, because La Limonada needs us. Please keep the teachers at Limon and Mandarina in your hearts, thoughts, and prayers. We can’t do this job without support from our families and friends.

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The Limon side of the ghetto has been experiencing an increase in violence in the past month. The team at La Limon has decided to start doing something about this. We have decided to begin making home visits more of a priority, after the Semana Santa holiday. Today, I got to go on my first official house visit on the Limon side. The mother of one of our older students had a baby this past Saturday… the name of the child has yet to be determined.

“W” is a tough cookie. He is one of the smaller boys in his class. He is approximately 12 years old. His father is apparently serving a 30 year prison sentence. His favorite name for me (and apparently for April) is “gringa”. Usually, I am acknowledged on the day of English class with a sideways stare that accompanies a snide “gringa” with a head-nod. On good days, he says “hola gringa”. Those are good days in class with “W”. This kid is smart… not only street smart, but is a decent student too. Today “W” gave me the chance, for the first time, to like him. It was a good day.

“W” welcomed us into his home that he shares with his mother, grandfather, and 5 day old baby brother. We were welcomed into the home with hugs and offers of a seat on the beds. The house has no windows. The perforated tin roof has a plastic piece that allows natural light to enter the dwelling. The house smelled of fried platanos and the dog that was hanging around our feet. “W” was mostly smiles… when he wasn’t combatting April with the name “gringa”, and she back with him with the name “little boy” (in English so that he didn’t know what it meant). We visited “W” and his family for a bit and passed around the new addition of the family, with mom looking on proudly. It was a beautiful time.

On another encounter in the ghetto this afternoon, the mother of one of the younger (and probably most adorable kid that I have ever seen) students asked us to pray for her in the alley way on the way to our home visit. She had recently found out that she is 2 months pregnant. However, she had been taking shots every month for birth control. She had the shot last month, and now the doctors are concerned that there may be a problem with the baby. She has been ordered to bedrest. She is the mother of two other small boys, both under the age of 6. This makes it virtually impossible for her to remain in bed. I’m concerned for “R” and her health. She has a beautiful spirit, and a gorgeous family.

Coming back from lunch break this afternoon, Monika (one of the teachers at La Limon) took us on a tour of another barrio… the one where she grew up. I was excited to check out this new and unexplored barrio. This barrio has a public school, a private school, several churches, and wider roads. I was confused as to how this area seemed so advanced over the Mandarina and Limon areas. I admit that I was excited at the prospect of a new escuelita being built in this area, someday. I would really like to further explore other barrios in La Limonada at some point.

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For the past couple of weeks, the team serving at La Limon has been dealing with difficulties on our side of the ghetto. There has been a surge of violence. Families falling apart. Increase in gang activity. Various family problems with different students coming to surface. All of these, and more, have been weighing heavily on our hearts and minds. I find myself waking up in the night to think about this kid or that one. Why was “A” crying in class today? What happens to little “C” when he goes home tonight?

Today we were blessed with a time of release… all of the teachers and staff members at Limon were brought together for a time of prayer. The amazing group of folks from Origins Church in Boulder, Colorado gave us the chance to let it all out. For about an hour today, the group of seven sang, prayed, talked, and comforted the staff of La Limon. The staff of Limon went through an emotional rollercoaster of thoughts and feelings. I was emotionally exhausted at the end of the session. I know that all of the teachers and staff at Limon appreciated having this time to reflect.

Thanks to everyone who visited from Origins Church… you have been wonderful guests.

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