Archive for the ‘crazy things that happen in the ghetto’ Category

~ I went on two home visits for two of my favorite kids and learned that they are getting into trouble together. I also found that their homes are very beautiful despite being in the ghetto.

~ I watched two grown men fight over a glue bottle… while each of them had glue bottles in their mouths.

~ My english classes went very well. My students are definitely learning something, and that makes me feel amazing.

~ I got sucked into playing basketball. One of my students kept calling himself Michael Jordan, which was just hilarious. The baskets were partially filled paint buckets, with sand.

~ I watched one of my former students walk past me with a glue pack in his pocket. He was trying to hide it from us.

~ I learned a bunch of new words in Spanish, all from some songs that were playing in one of the classrooms.

~ I was nearly decapitated in a game of dodgeball.

It was a very good day.


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You never realize how little things can be amazing things. I have seen a person freak out over seeing a cow for the first time. I have watched a girl cry at her first sight of snow. Last week, I witnessed a first that literally brought me to tears.

We had the pleasure of taking the 3 to 5-year-old class to the campo last Friday. The campo in La Limonada is a big empty “field” that is covered with dirt. There is literally nothing on it except a few goals for playing soccer. We decided that taking the kids to the campo in the van would be much easier, since there were only 3 teachers and 16 kids. They got so excited during this 3 minute ride… it reminded me of the first time I went on a roller coaster. The kids jumped into the van and were so excited. It was kind of nuts. I turned to Leonor, the teacher of this class, and asked if this was the first time that most of them had been in a car or van before. Her answer was ‘yes’. I immediately had tears in my eyes. Going over the speed bumps was the greatest part of the ride. We opened all of the windows in the van so that our arrival at the campo would be known by all of the other kids. The kids were so excited.

It really is the little things in life that make the big experiences…


“Enjoy the little things, for one day you make look back and realize they were the big things.” ~Robert Brault

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I am fortunate this morning to have some time to reflect on things that I’ve seen and heard in the ghetto in the last two weeks. My mind absently goes back to the unhappy things… while I know that there is joy around every corner. I figure the best way to handle this is to get them all out.

While walking through the ghetto from the Limon side to the Mandarina side last week, I saw a boy who was no older than 13 sniffing glue. He was standing over a hole in the walkway, lighting two other bottles of glue on fire while 2 more boys were inhaling the fumes. The boys were maybe 6 years old.

One of the girls that I am close to has been physically abusing her sibling. I learned that, of course, she had been physically abused herself.

During a class yesterday, I realized than an 8 year old boy can’t even write his own name. He was unsure of how to hold a pencil correctly. He can’t read, and when I asked him if he wanted to learn to read he told me that he didn’t. I told him how important it is to be able to know how to read, and he grudgingly agreed with me. I’m going to try to make a point of spending extra time with this child.

On the Mandarina side of the ghetto, there was a baby locked in her house while the mother was gone. When some of the teachers went into the house to check on her, the child was covered in feces and the house (in Tita’s words) was “how pigs live”. All of the children in this home are now attending school at Mandarina, and the baby is being cared for by the teachers during the daytime hours while the mother is working.

We have welcomed a male onto the team on the Limon side. Wade is from Australia, and has been a blessing to us. We are all excited to have him. I love it because he knows less Spanish than I do. He also has a hilarious laugh… (Beth, he might have you beat.)

We have a wonderful team of musicians staying at the Lemonade House, from Colorado. They are full of energy and hilarity. I particularly love that they are so close that they write songs about each other… sometimes not so flattering ones. My favorite was about the bad breath of one of the girls.

On the way to the ghetto yesterday, I saw a man stealing a cup of goat milk… directly from the goat. The owner of the goats was down the street retrieving some strays that got away. By far one of the best things that I have seen thus far aside from all of the dogs on rooftops. (I’m working on a photo collection of the dogs on rooftops for a future blog.)

I received an amazing gift this week from friends at home. I want them to know how much I love them and appreciate them. This was an answer to a prayer that I had been sitting on. Thank you.

My students are beginning to welcome me in English as I get to school in the morning. This is huge, considering how resistant some of them were about having an English class to begin with.

One of my toughest students spent this past weekend with Shorty, and I woke up Sunday morning to find him sitting in our dining room. He gave me the stink-eye. I made him breakfast and we played pinball on Inna’s computer. On Monday afternoon, he ran up to me and wrapped his arms around me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. However, he was very pleased to hear that English class is cancelled this week. I guess you can’t win them all.

Me and Astrid

After a lot of thought and prayer I have decided to sponsor a child in my school. A small sacrifice from my comfortable living for a very special girl. Astrid is 12, and an incredibly bright student who loves to draw. Due to her home life, she is emotionally closed off. Last week, I received a letter from Astrid thanking me for being her “madrina”. She now seeks me out and hugs me almost everyday.

I get more hugs in one day than I can count. Several of the kids tell me that they are my ‘hijos or hijas’… my sons and daughters. My classes are full of intelligent kids who love to learn something new. And of course there will always be that kid who doesn’t care (this is an international problem).

I look forward to everyday that I spend in La Limonada. The happy things, no matter how small, always out-weigh the sad things. I find reasons to smile everyday. But there are also reasons to mourn. Being here has helped me grow in my faith, my compassion, my emotional strength. I am so thankful. I love my life.

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What happens when the kids get ahold of my sunglasses…

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Since I have been working in the ghetto, I have had multiple people ask me if I have gotten lice yet. The answer is still no. However, several of the teachers who have constant contact with the same kids have had lice. Today, I got to experience lice for the first time. One of the teachers at Limon discovered that she had lice today and decided that not only would she treat her hair, but the entire class was going to be treated.

The kids got lined up after their arts-and-crafts time for their shampooing. Since most of the classes went to the Campo today for their outdoor activity, there were only two classes at the school… which meant that there were fewer hands to pitch in. So, I started to shampoo heads while the teacher combed through heads looking for live and eggs. Out of the 14 kids in the class, I believe that either 10 or 11 of them had lice. One girl had so many eggs on her scalp that we had to treat her twice.

One of the missionaries visiting from Florida pitched in too… at the end of the day, we psychosymatically scratched our scalps and were pleading for showers. But, we had no lice. If you are not familiar with lice, click HERE.

You can stop scratching your head now.

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Everyone who knows me, knows that I may potentially be one of the most clumsy people around. I walk into things. I step in holes. I walk into people. Last night on our way from the Mandarina School in La Limonada to Shorty’s weekly home group, I fell. Actually I slipped, on an orange peel that was in the street. Yes… I said an orange peel.

It was like falling in slow motion. I landed on my knee and hand, but immediately felt the pain in my ankle. I looked up and there were swarms of people around me trying to help me up. I didn’t really know what to do. It was kind of nuts. Thanks to Shorty, Marcos, and the rest of the team I got through the night fairly unscathed, but in lots of pain. Marcos was kind enough to tell me a hilarious story of how he sprained his ankle playing soccer once, and to point out all of the orange peels on our route back to the van to avoid future injuries.

So, today I am trying to make the most of my day. I’m stuck in the house, since I can’t really walk right now. I’m sending emails that I have gotten behind on and planning my lessons for the next week. Being ahead of the game will feel pretty good… and so will the nap that I intend to take later on.

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I think that yesterday was the most interesting day that I have had in La Limonada so far… more on my week to come.

When Moni, Lucia, and I arrived at the school we noticed one of the teachers mopping the floor in the class for the 4-5 year olds. I didn’t think much of it. The chairs were on top of the tables, which were pushed out of the center of the room. Mass commotion ensued (in Spanish). We made our way to the second floor, which requires us entering from a different door outside of the school. A river of water came toward us at the bottom of the stairs. It reminded me of those cartoons where the bathtub would overflow, and a boat would go down the stairs… taking on the shape of the actual steps. My imagination went crazy. What could have caused this?

We climbed the stairs to see all of the teachers with broom in their hands, some of them barefoot on this cold morning, sweeping the water toward the stairs. As the floors in the schools are made of cement, this is the easiest solution to getting the water out of our way. I immediately dropped my backpack and grabbed the closest broom. It took an hour and a half of sweeping and mopping up water to get the floors back. The culprit? The water in one of the bathrooms was not turned off the evening before, and the pressure burst the pipe causing the flooding of the entire second floor. The flooding seeped through the walls and leaked into the classroom downstairs.

This was seemingly a minor setback in a day in the live of La Limon. Everyone worked together, finding humor and enjoyment in the situation. My thoughts were that if this happened in America, everyone would be super angry and looking to throw blame. It was great to be surrounded by people who are just able to deal with a crisis with grace and humor. I’m still convinced that the river was super fast that day because of our brushing the water through the hole of Lucia’s classroom floor, which is directly over the river.

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