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Archive for the ‘La Limon’ Category

Send Me On My Way

I have been trying to find new and creative ways to teach my English classes. At the suggestion of my friend, Jonathan, I am using music and lyrics. By printing the lyrics to a song, I can play the song and have the kids read along to the lyrics. I then take random vocabulary words from the lyrics and use them for this weeks lesson.

The first time I did this experiment, I used the song “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley. It’s a pretty easy song. The tempo is pretty mellow and the lyrics are repetitive. The kids seemed to enjoy having something kind of different for their class.

This week, I decided to use “Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root. If you don’t know this song, it’s also pretty repetitive, but a faster pace. I wasn’t sure of how this was going to go over, since the song is pretty fast. The kids loved it. This morning in Ingrid’s class, the kids had me play the song four times, and by the third time they were singing along. It was so cool to hear them singing in their broken English, to words that they had just learned a half hour before. I couldn’t stop smiling. This was by far one of the best teaching moments that I have had since I got here.

If you are not familiar with this song, I’m going to attach it here… it’s the live version, but you will get the jist. Enjoy… just like the kids at Limon have.

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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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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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What happens when the kids get ahold of my sunglasses…

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Just like every other person on the planet, I go through highs and lows. I just have to remember that this is normal… although I think that Americans like to pretend that things are ‘great’ or ‘fine’ all the time.

On our way home from Antigua yesterday, the traffic was awful. Once we got closer to the accident, we realized why. There on the highway, a man on a motorcycle was killed. His body lay uncovered on the street, with a line of blood leading away from his head. The gawkers in traffic made this an especially long and drawn out process of moving past the accident, even with the police trying to move the cars ahead. The man was young, probably in his early 20’s. I realized that I hadn’t ever seen a life taken like that before. Yes, I worked in the gross lab at Palmer for a year… but that was different. I don’t think that I ever saw the cadavers as people. I don’t think that I ever thought about who their families might be or if they were leaving kids behind. I closed my eyes as we passed the accident and prayed for this man’s family.

There has been a lot of violence happening on the Limon side of the ghetto in the last two weeks. I have been hesitant to blog about it, up until now. After writing an email to Ed, my pastor at Evergreen, I realized that I have been keeping the emotions that I have been feeling about these situations bottled up… causing nightmares and some unnecessary anxiety. No more.

Two weeks ago, while on the top floor of the school we heard gunshots. Big ones. Later that same week, I was assisting a teacher to the playground with her class and there were gunshots close to the playground. We herded the kids to the other end of the playground, as there is only one way in and out of the playground. I was worried about the safety of our kids, as they are the 4 to 5 year olds. Last week, there were two shootings on the street where one of the teachers from Limon lives… one at night, and one during the lunch hour when kids would be heading home from school. This was the day that amazed me… as when we walked to the bus that day, people were sitting in the streets just talking to each other, as if at some kind of reunion. The other night, a young man (not active in gang activity) had his throat slashed on his way home. The mother of one of our teachers heard the screams from this man at her house, as they live close to the Campo where the man was killed.

For the first time in my life, death and violence are all around me. We live a very sheltered life as Americans. We never realize that people, amazingly beautiful and special people, have to live with this violence every single day. Everyday I get to get on a bus, and drive to a safe, gated neighborhood. I get to leave the backdoor open in our kitchen while I cook dinner after dark. I am not afraid.

We drove into the ghetto last night to bring home a young woman, who joined us on our day in Antigua. ‘T’ is in her mid-20’s and is paralyzed from the waist down. All of her older brothers have been killed by gang members. ‘T’ was shot in the back 7 or 8 years ago, causing her paralysis. Later, an infection developed in one of her legs causing it to be amputated. She is mostly bed-ridden. But when I saw her yesterday, she had done her hair and make-up for her day out. She was beautiful. She was proud. Her smile was courageous. The visiting team made a point of giving her a great day out. I was grateful to get to meet her. As we drove into the ghetto to bring ‘T’ home, I realized that some of the members of the team I was with were nervous about going into the ghetto so close to dark. Tita’s van was in front of ours, and I heard a little girl yell “Mama Tita, Mama Tita”. It was then that I felt calm, knowing that I’m part of something that is so respected in this area. I feel safe.

We are fortunate to have some guys on the Mandarina side of the ghetto to work with the gang members. This is so amazing to me. My housemate, Donnie, was out playing basketball (or was it soccer) with the gang members last weekend. He came home charged up and smiley (he is usually pretty smiley). We have plans in a few weeks to climb a volcano with some gang members. Who gets to do this stuff? This is so amazing.

We are hoping and praying for a man to come to the Limon side of the ghetto to do the same work with these gang members. The change in attitude on the Mandarina side, due to the outreach seems incredible to me. I would love to see it on the Limon side too. While I haven’t been here long enough to see the impact on a lot of the community, I know that I am welcomed every morning with smiles and hugs… greetings from men and women in the streets, appreciation from the homeless who come to the school for their meals. These are the things that are affecting me. These are the actions that I see. I want to see the beauty of this community, and I do. I want to see the potential of these children at the schools, and I do. I want them to know that their situation doesn’t define them, and I tell them that.

Yeah, yeah, yeah!
How can you be sitting there
Telling me that you care –
That you care?
When every time I look around,
The people suffer in the suffering
In everyway, in everywhere.

Say: na-na-na-na-na (na-na, na-na!):
We’re the survivors, yes: the Black survivors!
I tell you what: some people got everything;
Some people got nothing;
Some people got hopes and dreams;
Some people got ways and means.

Na-na-na-na-na (na-na, na-na!):
We’re the survivors, yes: the Black survivors!
Yes, we’re the survivors, like Daniel out of the lions’ den
(Black survivors) Survivors, survivors!
So I Idren, I sistren,
A-which way will we choose?
We better hurry; oh, hurry; oh, hurry; wo, now!
‘Cause we got no time to lose.
Some people got facts and claims;
Some people got pride and shame;
Some people got the plots and schemes;
Some people got no aim it seems!

Na-na-na-na-na, na-na, na!
We’re the survivors, yes: the Black survivors!
Tell you what: we’re the survivors, yeah! – the Black survivors, yeah!
We’re the survivors, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
(Black survivors),
Thrown in the fire, but-a never get burn.
So I Idren, I-sistren,
The preaching and talkin’ is done;
We’ve gotta live up, wo now, wo now! –
‘Cause the Father’s time has come.
Some people put the best outside;
Some people keep the best inside;
Some people can’t stand up strong;
Some people won’t wait for long.

(Na-na-na-na-na!) Na-na-na, na-na-na na!
We’re the survivors
In this age of technological inhumanity (Black survival),
Scientific atrocity (survivors),
Atomic misphilosophy (Black survival),
Nuclear misenergy (survivors):
It’s a world that forces lifelong insecurity (Black survival).

Together now:
(Na-na-na-na-na!) Na na-na na na! (Na na-na na na!)
We’re the survivors, yeah!
We’re the survivors!
Yes, the Black survivors!
We’re the survivors:
A good man is never honoured (survivors)
in his own country (Black survival).
Nothing change, nothing strange (survivors).
Nothing change, nothing strange (Black survivors).
We got to survive, y’all! (survivors) ~~ Bob Marley

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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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