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Exhaustion

I have to apologize for my lack of blog posts. It is so hard to write every day and then post every day! There is so much going on. I will do my best to rehash last week as well as the week before that because my last post didn’t even finish that week.

Thursday July 28th

I found out yesterday that I’ll be in the classroom starting on Monday. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m nervous about having lots of students all speaking Xhosa which I don’t understand. I’ll still be in Grade 6 which is cool because I’ll still get to see the students I have been working with so at least it will be a little familiar.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was another long exhausting day with good one to ones but the reading groups were still trouble. We changed what we were doing from writing sentences about a challenge you have faced to writing a summary of the book which we thought would be easier. It was still a struggle and I found myself losing patience again. In the first group only one student began writing and the others were still attempting to copy sentences out of the book which is not at all what we asked for. The second group was better with everyone at least getting a few sentences down which was encouraging but we still had issues with Sithandile laughing at other students and I just lost patience with that. He wants to laugh but he hasn’t even gotten very much done either.

The workshop was good. We had four groups again and each group was with one teacher reading a book and answering questions. My first group was good listening and everyone took turns reading. My second group consisted of one student who wanted to be there and then another student Patrick who didn’t really want to be there and at one point walked out and then came back. Then Patrick was the only one who wanted to read. He even wouldn’t let me read the story because he wanted to read. He’s a very bright child but pretty confusing. Going from I don’t want to be in your group to staying after everyone else is gone just to finish reading the book. It was nice though to have someone who really wanted to read. I haven’t seen that very often if at all.

Later…

Another exhausting day but it was encouraging. All the boys did great today and even though I didn’t have the proper copies that I wanted to use, the time still went by quickly. I found a multiplication matching game that the guys really like and most importantly it was picture day! So I got to take pictures with my guys and my reading focus groups. They really enjoyed that. Plus when I went out for recess I was bombarded with students who wanted to get their picture taken. I hope I got some good shots. I even got some at the nursery after school was over.

The reading focus groups went a lot better than they have been going. Everyone got something written though it is still very apparent that they struggle writing sentences. But I’m hoping their writing skills have improved in the short time that we have been working with them. Only Amanda finished all her sentences and tomorrow we don’t have the reading focus groups so we hope that the new teachers will continue our work. We’ll see if that actually happens. We had to explain that this was our last day although I’ll still probably see them since I’ll be working in the 6th grade classes.

It is cold and rainy today which is awful but I just saw a beautiful double rainbow so it’s not all bad. But today has been a pretty bad day for weather.

Me and Onke Grade 6 on Picture Day. I helped Onke with his numeracy.

 

Birthday and trouble at school

Sunday was my birthday! We went to Cape Town by train which took a little more than an hour. There we did some shopping and I got my dad a present. Then we ate at the food court and I enjoyed a falafel wrapped in pita bread. After a few more hours of shopping, we went back to Gordon’s Bay where we watched “The Notebook.” Then we celebrated my birthday with chocolate cake which was delicious and my favourite kind. It was a great day!

Monday

I just got back from school. It was exhausting as usual. During the one to ones, we went over the marvelous me sentences which we wrote last week and decorated them. Then we went over multiplication tables. I had them do as many as they could in a minute and then do 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s and 11s times tables and taught them the rules to those so that they could get faster. Two of my boys knew all those so we moved on to harder ones. I’m going to have to think of better ways of teaching them multiplication because they’re still counting and that takes quite a while.

The reading focus groups were kinda a mess today. The first group finished reading the book and then we had questions for them to answer about challenges they had faced and how they overcame them and we were met with blank stares. We provided dictionaries but still it didn’t seem to help. One girl Amanda was probably the worst. I asked her if she understood and she just said I don’t understand and when I asked her what she didn’t understand she didn’t say anything. It was incredibly frustrating. Only one of the students understood the concept and started writing sentences. Our goal was for them to all write ten sentences and like I said only one was able to write a few sentences. Today at our project meeting we discussed it and I think we’re going to try something more simple since our original plan didn’t work. The second group was also pretty bad. The one girl Charity is still struggling a lot and it was still hard to keep the other students in line. I had to tell them several times about keeping quiet but it didn’t seem to sink in.

The workshop however was really good, surprisingly good actually. We divided our 15 learners into four groups and each teacher had a different book to read that dealt with our theme of animals. My group read The Lonely Giraffe and answered questions while they were reading. It went really well and then once they were done, I got another group to read aloud and they did really well. After the reading focus groups, it was definitely the boost I needed. Now I’m at home trying to keep myself from just going to bed right now. The weekdays are exhausting.

Week 1

It is hard to express this week in words. I’ve written everyday so here’s my week. Pictures will come later

7/16

I could hardly sleep last night. I attempted to go to bed but the combination of a hot room and worried thoughts kept me up. I kept on remembering things that I had forgotten or just in general being quite restless. It sucked because I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the pervious night either. But then around 2:30 in the morning I feel into a very short sleep. I had set my alarm for 5:30 in preparation for leaving at 6. I did not want a repeat of last week’s diabolic when I missed my flight to St. Louis. It worked out fine in the end but I was nervous about the five hour drive to Chicago as well as getting through security.

So with nothing more than a peach in my stomach, my parents and I set off for Chicago. My dad driving and talking. My mom listening and trying my best to fall asleep. It took a while but I managed to sleep most of the way with the exception of a stop at McDonald’s for a bathroom break. I didn’t eat anything because I still find the thought of McDonald’s repulsive. I did try that strawberry lemonade they keep raving about and I don’t see the hype. It’s not as good as they make it sound but I guess it’s good marketing.

I awoke hours later to find us at my brother’s hotel. Winston, the middle child in our family, has been working at an internship in Cleveland and drove all the way to Chicago to see me off. It was nice to see him because he’s always good for a laugh. He’s always been a much easier going guy than me. I was/am so nervous about the trip but being with family helped ease my worries.

My last American meal was at Jimmy John’s. Not exactly the best choice but it was still good and then after soaking up the sun we were off to the airport. My dad dropped my mother, Winston and I off at the Departures section. I am flying KLM which is a Dutch airline that I took last time. They are not the cheapest airline to take but then again it was nearly impossible for me to find a flight under $2000. But then again it may be worth it as I was typing they just gave me a hot towel. Can’t complain about that. Plus each seat has a small TV attached to the back of the seat ahead of you with TV shows, movies, games, etc. And as I recall the inflight food isn’t bad at all. I will not complain.

But getting here took some doing. I had carefully weighed each of my two check-in bags to make sure they weren’t too heavy but as it turns out my big bag was too heavy. 80 pounds actually and it was only supposed to be 50. My heart raced as we got out of line and tried to figure out what to do. Lucky I wasn’t the only one  with baggage and my parents all had bags that we could trade. But as it turns out that wasn’t even necessary because I had put a collaspable bag in my huge bag for the trip back. For any future travelers, it helps to bring one because chances are if you stay in a place long enough, you’ll probably end up with more stuff than you had when you left.

This bag worked perfectly and I was able to transfer everything from my smaller bag into the collaspable bag and reduce the weight of the 80 pound bag. My advice: pack light. It’s just really hard to do that when you’re leaving for a year (or nine months).

With that crisis adverted, I got into the dreaded security line only to be told that my family couldn’t stay with me more than five minutes. And that was after I was asked how old I was. I’m 21 by the way although I have been told on numerous occasions that I look 16. Anyways, the goodbyes were short and sweet which was fine by me because I hate goodbyes.

Going through security wasn’t too horrible though I always feel like we’re just cattle being herded through the checkpoints. I had a lot of stuff and I was just happy to get through the line without being patted down or anything of those other humiliating things they make us do for our protection.

Once through I had about a half an hour before we were supposed to board. For international flights, they usually start boarding almost an hour before departure because they are so many people and it takes a while to get situated. All in all, getting on the plane wasn’t too horrible and I have plenty of entertainment to pass the time. Now if you’ll excuse me the TVs started working again and I want to get back to my movie. More updates later…

7/18

I’m sitting in the kitchen of my lovely apartment and I can hardly believe I’m finally here. After a year plus of planning, debating, and packing I’m here. My plane got here late last night and I went through the various securities before waiting for my baggage and getting my money exchanged, which took forever for some reason. It is cold here but that’s to be expected since it is winter. I cannot wait for summer. There is a swimming pool close by and I can’t wait to take advantage of it.

To my delight and surprise, I’m not the only black person here! I heard last night from the program coordinator, Mel that there was a family here and I was expecting them to be white but they’re not. They’re black and they’re from Philly. I’m happy that my assumption was wrong. Although the other girls who got picked up from the airport last night were white and let me be clear that there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just that we are serving a black community so it would be nice for there to be other blacks serving.

The rest of my journey went by slowing. I had a three hour layover in Amsterdam in which I took advantage of the free internet and was able to use Skype to call home. After that there was a twelve hour journey in which I struggled to stay awake. I mostly watched movies including Harry Potter 7 part 1 and some others. I also met an American teacher who was coming to South Africa for only week which I thought was pretty hilarious considering how long it takes to get here. My journey started at 6am Saturday morning and I didn’t get to Cape Town until 10pm their time which is 3pm central time so it’s long.  But worth it. I felt like I was coming home and I was explaining to the teacher how I had came before and making suggestions about what to do here.

Later that same day….

I’m now waiting to start training specific to my program. There are other programs in this area run by GVI. There’s an orphanage that volunteers work with, a sports program at the school I’m working at and a nursery. We took a tour of the different programs and the kids were so adorable! The school was depressing. Their playground had no equipment. It was pretty much a concert slab in the middle of school, sort of like a courtyard. I think the most depressing was the library which had no books whatsoever. They said that that was because there was no one there to watch the books and before when they had books they were not looked after and walked away. L Being a deep lover of books myself, I found this especially heartbreaking.

Later still….

The rest of the day has been a worldwind. Training, training and more training. I can barely think. I am exhausted. I just finished planning tomorrow. I have one on ones in the morning and I get to numeracy as they say here. Tomorrow I’m planning on testing their multiplication skills and I will be working with six graders. Then later I team up with another teacher and we do a lesson focused on reading. Tomorrow is supposed to be a fun day since we’re just starting and the students are starting another term this week. We are reading a story about a Chinese boy who goes on to become a famous dancer and in the beginning of the story, the boy makes a kite and attaches his hopes and dreams to it. We’re planning on making our own kites and for the kids to attach their own hopes and dreams to it.

 

7/19

Today is the moment of truth. First day of classes. I’m nervous and excited to get started today. My day will consist of four one on one sessions in which I’ll be seeing what levels my students are at in terms of multiplication. Each sessions last a half hour. Then like I said earlier I partner with another teacher and we will have six students and an hour to do our lessons. I think the students will really enjoy making kites. Then we end the day with all four of the teachers and a group of 15 students and we’re going to play games with them. Since this is the first day, we don’t really have to have a strict academic lesson which makes it a lot of fun to plan. Planning for me was difficult because I wanted to make sure I had lots of things to do and made them interesting. My mom gave me a lot of resources to use and I’m definitely taking advantage of them.

The rest of yesterday was a blur. After lesson planning, I went with one of the other volunteers to see if the internet worked. At our apartment there is none but one of the other apartments involved with GVI does so we checked it out. I had forgotten how frustrating it can be. The internet went in and out and the signal overall was very weak. We finally moved to another apartment and it ended up working pretty well. We’ll see later today if it works good enough to use Skype.

7/20

I woke up at 6am this morning, wide awake. I laid in bed for a while before finally deciding to get up at 7. Let’s talk about yesterday. I’m not sure what I expected. I guess the main thing was I didn’t expect to work with sixth graders. I thought more elementary age but here primary does not necessarily equate to elementary. At ACJ (the school I’m working at), the students are anywhere from grade 1 to 7th grade. My primary focus is numeracy aka math and yesterday my one on one sessions focused on multiplication. Most of the students did well. I just want to increase their speed. So I’m thinking about making them their own flash cards and then having them go over them again and again until they become second nature. That’s how I learned it but I also know that the language barrier makes things harder. I need to figure out how to learn Xhosa, their main language, then it will make things easier on the both of us.

The one on one sessions went well though I did notice that after the first two I pretty much did the same thing even though there were things that I never got to for example word problems which is something they all probably need to work on. Today all the volunteer teachers are focusing on “marvelous me” where we have the children fill out a worksheet so we can get to know them better. If they do that in enough time, I’ll move on to word problems. Hopefully those will go well.

After the one on one sessions there was a break and I went outside to meet some of the children. The school looks small but the classrooms are huge and there is apparently 1800 students in one small school. GVI designates one day as picture day so I’ll be sure to take pictures so you can see what I mean. The students were awesome especially the little ones. At one point two held my hand and then more kids linked on until the circle was huge. It was fun playing with them.

Then Aysia and I had a reading focus with six students. We read the peasant prince which tells the true story of a famous Chinese dancer. It was hard at first because there were two groups of six in our tiny classroom but once we left to the staff room it was much easier. I find it hard to know exactly who is understanding or who isn’t. Mostly one girl answered and the rest didn’t seem to pay attention. Once we got through the reading, we had them make their own kites since in the book, the boy ties his hopes and dreams to his kite so we thought it would be cool to have them do it. I’m not sure all of them understood though because a couple kids just copied the example that Aysia had made. Overall I think it went well especially considering it was our first day and we had to make up the sessions on our own.

Aftere the reading focus group, school was out and we had an afternoon session. Those are supposed to be the fun ones. Students literally line up at our door for a chance to be in the session. Since our classroom is so small, we can only take 15 students. Yesterday we split up the groups into two since again our classroom is so small. Half went outside with myself and Beth, a English girl who is also here to teach and then the other half stayed inside and decorated pages with their names on them. We wrote their names in bubble letters and then asked them to decorate inside the letters and outside of things they liked. It didn’t exactly go as planned. First off many of the students just started simply polka doting their letters and not really drawing things they liked. It’s hard because I also think they didn’t understand what we were trying to do. Then a strange thing happened. For some reason the students were convinced that I spoke Xhosa as flattering as that was, it turned out to be a total distraction and some of the students even got angry when I tried to explain that I am an American and that I didn’t speak Xhosa. It was very strange and frustrating because the students then starting speaking Xhosa and it really felt like we lost control which is something you never want to have happen in your classroom. So that was a poor way to end my first day and also when Beth and I had the students outside. We quickly ran out of ideas of games to play. That was pretty bad too and again the language barrier was a huge issue.

 

7/21

Yesterday was really good. For my one to one sessions, we talk all about marvelous me and I had the students answer questions about themselves by using complete sentences. The time seemed to fly by and then if there was extra time I asked them to solve some word problems. This is definitely one area where I want to work on because I had to help most of them through the problems. Also I learned how to write better questions because my questions are pairs of shoes was really confusing. We then had our reading focus which went well as well. We had the students answer some comprehension questions using the book. We split them up into two groups of three and had them compete with each other. One group worked really well with each other but the other one did not fair as well. But the team that won was very excited so competition definitely work as a motivation tool. Then we had our afterschool workshop. Our theme was animals. So we had the children name as many animals as they could think of. Then I had to explain to them why a mammal was a mammal, a fish a fish, etc. I tried to get them involved but they didn’t really know too much about animals. Then we separate them into four groups one group decorated fishes, another group made snakes out of paper, my group drew mammals by hand (quite a challenge) and the other group decorated birds. It was hard for the children in my group to draw mammals. One because they’re hard to draw in the first place and two because many of them wanted to draw things other than mammals. One kid was so frustrated with my group that he went to other, only to come back because he was dissatisified with the other one. He ended moving around to each group because he wasn’t happy. But the girls who could draw did an amazing job of just copying pictures of animals better than I ever could. Overall that went well. We went to the nursery before we left the project site and I played with the babies. They were so cute! One kid just kept blabbing in Xhosa which I don’t understand but he was adorable. Once we got back to house, we went straight to the bar. We found this awesome bar that has free wifi which is a rarity in South Africa and the wine was good so I couldn’t complain. The internet worked so well that I could use Skype and call home which was a nice treat since I hadn’t been to since I got here.

7/22

I feel  horrible right now. I am hungry but scared to eat for fear of just letting it all out again and now I kinda feel like I’m not to throw up but there’s nothing to throw up because I’ve barely eaten today. I’ll probably go to bed soon because I feel like there’s nothing else to do. I pray I’ll feel better in the morning. I think some girls are going surfing and I would love to go again.

It is crazy windy here. You can hear it even inside the house. I am eating biscuits aka cookies. They are less sweet than typical cookies. I’m not over here chowing down on some chocolate chip cookies. I hope I feel better soon. My throat does feel a thousand times better.

7/23

I just got back from our little adventure around Gordon’s Bay. We took a taxi with the intention of going one particular place but ended up driving around with the taxi guy and he took us up to a dam and we took awesome pictures. It’s still really windy here. So we didn’t stay long. We then drove some other places, stopped along the beach and took more pictures. It’s very beautiful, indescribable. You have to be here to experience it. Now I’m at Mont Blanc using their internet here. It’s nice because most of the volunteers are gone so it’s pretty empty. I’ve just been hanging out with three other girls who have already been on the Cape Town tour. Oh yeah and we stopped for lunch at this place called Barbados. I had fish and chips. Well specifically hake and chips but it was super good, not too expensive either!

 

 

 

Elderly Home and School for Autistic Children

After conversing with my Chinese teacher about my volunteer work, I have decided to help out both at the Elderly Home and the School for Autistic Children.  Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I will go to the Elderly Home and every Tuesday and Thursday I will go to the School for Autistic Children.

After doing some research about autistic schools in the United States, I realize that I could potentially help out at the that school.  Many schools in the U.S. have a personal teacher for each autistic child.  Because each autistic child is different, therapy sessions and exercises must be different.

I just need to be firm with the owner of the school and tell him that I really cannot just sit there and talk to him for most of the time.  I need to do what I am there to do – help the children!  I think that if I sit in on as many one-on-one classes as possible, I could give my advice on their therapy exercises.  This is the one class that parents cannot be in, so I think that will be better.  I observed a one-on-one class on Friday with a boy named Ming.  He is eight years old but cannot speak at all.  Every exercise they did just did not seem very helpful until the teacher sang some songs.  I do not want to take over the class, but maybe give some suggestions and see if they will take it or not.  For Ming, since he seems to really love music, maybe they could include music in a lot of his therapy exercises. This may help him with his learning of every day activities.

One exercise I did not agree with. The teacher was holding the candle so close to his face...any regular person would be uncomfortable with this.

So I will continue at the Autistic School.  I will also be staying in contact with my friend Casey (she went on the Belmont Study Abroad trip to China last summer).  She wants to eventually work with autistic children so I will definitely be asking her for some advice. 

But today is Monday and it was my first day at the Elderly Home.  Some of workers and elderly can speak Mandarin, but most of them speak the Kunming dialect (which I cannot understand at all).  It does not matter, though...because help and company is all the same. 

I learned that this elderly home only has physically and mentally disabled elderly people.  Some of them have already told me things that do not make any sense, but I will just always smile and act like I am interested.  There are a few that can feed themselves but many cannot do every day activities.  Today I helped feed the elderly and took some of them for a walk in their wheelchair.  They were so happy that I was there and are constantly smiling at me!  I am so glad that I can give them happiness.  One old man I took for a walk was SO proud to have me walking him!  He waved to everyone and pointed at me when we passed by.

The way to the Elderly home

One side of the Elderly Home

Another side of the Elderly Home

Helping the elderly eat

Wang 爷爷 - 75 years old - I took him and others on a walk around the elderly home

It is really sad because no one wants to help these elderly people or give them company.  The people running the place even asked me why I was coming there to help, told me it was a waste of my time and I should go somewhere else.  I told them that I really wanted to help and also explained that I have a scholarship.  Next they told me I could just come there, take pictures and pretend that I have been volunteering there. It is so bizarre!!!  It is understandable though because in China there are not many people who volunteer.  I suspect that I am the first volunteer this elderly home has ever seen!  They do not understanding the concept of giving without getting anything in return.  They are always just thinking that there must be some hidden reason why I would do this.  To me, I get the joy of giving these elderly people company, helping them, and seeing them happy.  So I am getting something in return.  The Chinese community just does not understand such things.  I did not even fully realize this until I began volunteering in China.  It is something that cannot be taken personally.

Pre-Departure Pains

I still feel like I have so many things to do. First off, I’m trying to come back in nine months instead of the year I had orginially planned. Note to any future Lumos awardees: check and double check your budget. Mine ended up being a lot more than I thought which is why I’m trying to come back early. The more accurate your budget the easier it will be for you in end. Trust me.

But of course I tried to do this way too close to when I leave. I depart Saturday and it’s early Friday morning as I write this post. Procrastination will always get you. Didn’t college teach me that? (apparently not)

Changing the date of my return also means changing my insurance and my flight both of which I haven’t done because I’m still talking with my organization and Lumos about coming back early. This is completely my fault and I admit that readily but this is making the pre-departure pains much worse.

I still have to

-get adapter so my electronics work in South Africa

-finish packing (almost done)

-make sure my financies are in order (I’m still broke)

-organize my rolls of film so I know what pictures I take

-do laundry (for the clothes I’ve worn but still want to bring)

-make sure I know how to pay for my insurance once I go abroad (a must)

-figure out if I’m coming back in nine months or not

 

I’m sure the list goes on but needless to say I’m anxious. Plus I’m seeing Harry Potter tomorrow 🙂 I can’t wait to see how it ends even though I’ve already read the books. This hardly seems the time for sleeping!

Packing and re-packing was a mess. I pretty much had everything packed except for summer stuff but then my mom gave me a ton of school supplies to bring with me. And I was only planning on checking one bag. That’s definitely not happening. I looked helplessly around the room that I had completely covered in the things I wanted to bring and thought there was no way I could mass them all in one bag (pictures to come later)

Actually it did work. My bag was about to bust but most of it fit. But then there were still a few things that wouldn’t fit so I finally resigned to bring another bag, bringing my total amount of bags to 5 (purse, backpack, laptop bag and 2 suitcases). Thankfully I’m almost done and morning will come whether I like it or not so I shall attempt to get some shuteye. Night y’all!

Less than a month away….

I leave the country July 16th and there still seems to be so many unanswered questions. Will I get my visa in time? This is the most pressing question because without a visa I cannot go. The other questions such as what if I decide to go for less time is less pressing because I know regardless I am going and I can go even if I decide to stay nine months instead of the original year that I had plan.

Things have changed dramatically since last December when I accepted the Lumos Award to teach overseas in South Africa. Most importantly, the guy that I was dating at the time is now my boyfriend and things have gotten pretty serious. I was even considering not going because of him but when it came down to it, I knew in my heart that I had to go. The question of going for a shorter amount of time has been played with but I never sat down to figure it out and it turns out if I would have made this decision earlier it would have been a lot easier. Right now, I don’t know what will happen to my award if I decide to go for nine months instead of a year. My guess is that it will decrease and while that will suck 🙁 I still think it’s worth it if it means I’ll still get to go for a extended amount of time but come back earlier so I can start life on my own.

One of my main concerns about going abroad is the whole money thing. I just graduated from Belmont but choosing to accept this award means that I have no money coming in for a year (or nine months) and as an extremely independent young graduate I want to avoid going back home by ANY means necessary. So accepting the award was a risk in itself. It’s hard to find a job while you’re in the States, imagine trying to do it from thousands of miles away. Needless to say, I am looking NOW. People might think that’s a little excessive but I was told the same thing when I was looking for a job (or at least what to do after graduation) my fall semester of my senior year.  It worked out then and I’m praying that this will work out too.

Me and some of the fabulous kids I worked with

As for as the project itself, I know I’m going to love it once I’m there but all the paperwork and the money and the logistics seriously take away from the awesome experience. I know it’s going to be great. I went to South Africa before my fall semester of my junior year and it was the amazing (Check out my blog from then at coming2sa.blogspot.com). I went on a safari, bungee jumped, learned how to surf and sandboard, the list goes on and on. But one of my favourite experiences was tutoring at a local school which just happened to be two houses over from where I lived. I tutored elementary-aged learners for most of my time there and it was this experience that I cannot wait to do again.

The main purpose of my specific project is to teach, a career path that I am exploring. I loved it then and I hope that by getting more experience in the classroom, it will help me decide if this is indeed what I want to do with my life. I am anxious for this journey to begin. I’ll be back soon with developments about my visa and how long I decide to stay.

I’m Home!

Well I’m back! Stateside again and acclamating very well.  I would like everyone to note in the minutes that I am a very skilled airport-er now and can handle the airport like a big kid. Customs was still very scary. Saying goodbye at the airport to the poeople that had become my adopted mom and dad for three months was sad, but not as sad as you would think. It’s not because I don’t love them, it’s because I know I will see them again. They are in my life now, a permanent part of my journey (as is Dove) and it wasn’t goodbye just see you soon!

I am forever grateful for the things I have learned and experienced in the Dominican Republic. I am so thankful for Lumos and Cynthia and Dr. Monteverde for providing me with the support  I needed to make this happen.  I am thankful to Nini, Dea, Marlenis, Terry and Demaris for taking me under their wing and allowing me to be apart of their families. It wouldn’t have been the same without them. I am thankful for Liz, James, Chulo and Bella my family who loved me through all of my moments and created a billion memories with me. I am also so thankful to every little face that let me be apart of their lives for three months, they let me teach and they taught me, I am so grateful. Lastly, I am thankful for my family and friends stateside that supported me in this adventure and welcomed me home with open arms.

I have learned so many things from this experience, but one of the biggest things I may have learned is that you can live that life you want. There is a plan for you and it is a huge adventure that you can make happen. This trip seemed crazy last December when I started thinking about going and one year later  have come and gone there.  I am now even more excited for the next amazing thing I will get to do.

I would also like to leave a challenge. If you are reading this you have more than most. You have been blessed by being lucky enough not to be born in a third world country. Use that blessing to help someone else. You don’t have to travel like  I did, but you do have a gift that you can use in some way. I would encourage you (whoever you are) to find that gift, tap into it and use t to help someone else!

I’m not sure if this will be my last blog so check back. I will def be giving a convo at Belmont in Jan. so more info to come on that 🙂

Mustard Seed

Mustard Seed is the name of the very first pre-school I ever attended. It was a great experience. I only went for half a day and some days (most days) my grandmother would stop and get me lunch at this little local place called Jinny’s. It’s one of my first memories.

Mustard Seed  also happens to be the name of a home for disabled children here in the DR. We spent the morning there today and it was fantastic. I have often found that I can be sort of ungraceful in situations where I’m not sure what to do and today I was fumbling. What was amazing was that the people that run Mustard Seed were so wonderful and helped me to just jump right in talking to the kids and just giving them hugs. Sometimes, especially here, kids are cared for but don’t get a lot of physical attention because parents are so busy doing other things. Just the human touch, rubbing there hands, holding them, made a difference. There were so wonderful and it was a brilliant experience.

The Mustard Seed was started years ago by a Jamaican couple who had already started a similar program in their home country and wanted to start one in the DR. They literally started in a hut with a dirt floor just taking in kids that they found or were dropped off at their door. They really had no means to be undergoing that kind of endeavor, but they made it and saved the lives of so many kids. It has now grown to the home it is now with special chairs built just for kids with special needs, a full staff and a safe loving home.

I am so glad I got to go today!

Salsa, Bachata, Merengue

I’ve heard people say that dance is art in motion. Well, this is not the kind of art you would find in a fine gallery in some swanky down town area. This is the kind of art you see in someone’s home and have to ask “Where did you find this?” Then you they tell you, “Oh, my daughter, she does this and her grandfather before her and it’s just  in our family.”  You leave their house feeling like you have shared something special and that they have given you a gift.

Watching people spin and dip to the sound of Dominican music was this art;this gift. We went to a Rancho Tipico, which is the common name for a dance hall. They play music very loud, so loud in fact you can’t talk to the person next to you. It’s ok though, you’re not there to talk, you’re there to dance. The worst dancers on the floor look like seasoned professionals and the best dancers perform with the ease and grace of someone who has been doing it their whole life.

These dances aren’t taught. Everyone here dances. It’s an expression of joy and a way to literally step away from the stressors of life. There was no fighting, no air of conflict. There were only people doing what these people have done forever and to me it was art.

Lola’s House

There is a grandmother here named Lola. Lola is not tall. I think in her younger days she must have been 5’4”, but time has pushed her down to 5’2”.  She has long brown hair that is mostly covered by the hairs that have turned snowy white that she wears pulled back in a bun. Lola is kind and loving and when she hugs you she makes you feel warmand safe like how a good mother does. At Lola’s house there are 16 children.  She is their protector, provider and teacher. Lola’s children are the most well behaved and respectful, yet their personalities are not stifled. They are the product of a loving home and a strong woman. Lola came to pick up her monthly food allowance last week and brought 6 of the children with her. They dance around Lola in the way Earth dances around the Sun. Orbiting in reverence and love. She is one of the most remarkable people I have met here and I haven’t even had a full conversation with her. I have grown to know her children very well and they are beautiful. There are 18 children in our orphanage in Haiti, in Lola’s house there are 16 children.