Friday, August 28, 2009

"I get by with a little help from my friends..."

I am so thankful for people who have been helping me this week to get ready to start the school year.  

Angelica will be working as my teacher assistant again and she has been washing the furniture, scrubbing the floor, washing the windows and tacking up visual aids  8:30 AM to 4 PM every day this week.   One day she brought her brothers to "help".  They helped for a little while and then they played on the playground.
Angelica's other brother, Miguel, tried to salvage my peppers (a habenero and a sweet green bell pepper). Peppers grow year round here... and just keep giving and giving.  Unless... you have a dog that likes to dig holes in cultivated soil.  Miguel and I dug them in deeper so their roots were not exposed, and got rid of the weeds.  It was nice of him to help on a hot afternoon.

Pastor Chon came to my classroom on Monday and installed some wooden boards on the wall.  Now I can hang the large bristol board character value posters and not worry about them falling down.  The humidity here is so high that tape, blue sticky, and other tacking substances don't hold for more than a month.  Some teachers use glue (Elmers!), but that sticks the pictures to the walls permanently and leaves a mess on the wall.  BUT... with the new boards and thumbtacks my posters will be there all year, and I'll be able to take them down and put up something else if I want. After spending an afternoon working on this project he said, "We are God's family so we need to help one antoher."   

This year was a bumper crop for my mango tree. This tree is the envy of the neighborhood.  From April, when little green mangos start to grow on the tree until mid-September, I get about 10 visitors a day standing at my gate shouting, "mam, mam, Miss Nancy????  Can I have some mangos?" It's fun to give them away, a little like passing out trick-or-treat candy, but everyday?   And worse, when I am not here, people just jump the fence and climb the tree or throw rocks at it to knock the mangos down.  Often they climb up on the roof of the house.  Once some neighbor boys threw stones at my dog because she was barking at them to protect the house. soon as I can get the mangos down, ripe or not, I want to do that.  

This year I was blessed by Mr. Hyde.  He is the husband of our school's assistant principal and his family lives two houses down the street.  He climbed the tree, he used a stick, he shook the branches and knocked down about 200 mangos.  Then he sold them and gave me the profits with just a modest cut.  I told him please...just knock 'em down, I dont care about the cut.  Then he came again and knocked down about 200 more. He sold those and brought me the profit! Finally, yesterday he climbed the tree one last time and knocked down the last 200 mangos. I set some of them on the wall and continue to hand them out when people come asking. Now that the mangos are out of the tree and I dont have to worry about who is jumping the fence, I can start to even feel thankful for mangos, and mango jam, mango cake, mango crisp, mangos with chile-sal, mangos on vanilla ice cream...


Friday, August 21, 2009

Vacation Bible School July 26 - 31

Praise God for a wonderful week of Vacation Bible School. The theme was Fruit of the Spirit. Each day we focused on a different, joy, peace, patience, gentleness. Five of the children lived in my house for the week so I would not have to drive and pick them up every day. Kristel who lives across the street, and Edgar who lives around the corner, came every morning at 7:30 and left every night at 8:30. I also drove to pick up Misael daily. All year the children look forward to VBS "camp". They love to be together with deaf friends and they especially like swimming together.

The picture above is the gang who slept at my house. Gabriel, my then 5 month old "puppy", was was thrilled to have so many people to play with and always was found in the middle of the mix.

This is a picture of Luis playing a Bible memory game. The children were broken into two teams. Each balloon had a word from the verse inside. The children had to pop the ballons to get the words and then put them in order. It was fun. Nicar was the balloon putter downer. I was thankful for his help during VBS week.

Here Hipolito, Sair, Luis and Kristel are putting the words in order.

Alejandro, Edgar, Misael and Sulmi work as a team.

This year Rosalyn Cruz was in charge of crafts. She is 21 and a member of Pastor Chon's church. She was a tremendous asset . Her mother, Fabiola cooked for us. This is the first year that I asked people from Pastor Chon's church to help. In the past I had people from the US who came to help, and I always wondered how hearing people from Pastor Chon's church would communicate with the children. It was great to work in partnership with the hearing congregation. After getting over some initial shyness, Rosalyn did a great job of communicating.

I think one of the favorite crafts was painting rocks. This day they decorated a rock and painted "Patience" on it.

We went swimming every afternoon. It was a good thing to do in the 94 degree heat. It also gave them a chance to get some exercise and "unstructured play". This is Kristel and friends forever.

Even though Misael was the youngest one in the group at 7 years old, he is very courageous and confident and fits right in with the older children. Although he preferred the shallow water, in five days he went from "not floating" to swimming with a good crawl stroke, kicking and even breathing mid-stroke. I was impressed how quickly he learned.

The older boys liked this water slide and experimented with different ways to slide down it.

Rosalyn and Misael enjoyed the sun and cool water.

When I uploaded these pictures I realized I'm not in any of them. I guess Nicar and I forgot to use the flashdrive to download each other's pictures. Argh! I promise I will get Angelica to take some of the pictures this fall and will get one of me on the blog and in a profile shot, soon.

Anyone interested in being part of VBS next summer? I would like to open this up to someone who can communicate with the children and is willing to be "on call" for 6 straight days and nights. Let me know and we'll pray about it.

Peace to all and thanks for following this ministry and praying for us.

Who Wants to Learn ASL?

This is a picture of Nicar Bocalan teaching part of the ASL Community Class.  He was an intern from Gallaudet who was with us for ten weeks beginning the second week of May.  He helped with school. this class, VBS and many other things.

Several times every week someone tells me they want to learn ASL.  They say they know someone Deaf or they think it is an interesting language.  Wonderful!

With some fanfare (posters put up in the bakery, food store and other major establishments) flyers passed out to high school students, and advertising both on the local radio and Community Bulletin Board on the TV, I prepared for a week of ASL classes. Last time I did this I got 52 people !!!   We were squished in the school kitchen.  This time I wondered where they all will sit. Fortunately Pastor Chon gave us permission to use the Mennonite Church.  The class this time, like the last time, was free.

I like teaching this class.  It stirs up interest in deafness.  It helps people to realize that what Deaf people are doing while moving their hands is not just a lot of gesture but is truly a language with specific vocabulary.    The class ran from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM. I'm not deluded to think that the people will walk away fluent... but it is a good taste and good exposure.  Maybe if I get enough people who want to take this introductory level class, I could hold a second level class in August.  As I prepare I also think about  what might be a part of that second class.

On the first day of class Nicar and I arrive at the church early.  One woman is 8:30 and a man shows up. Eventually we add the woman's high school son and Rosalyn who will be helping with VBS the following week.  Four people.  


I wonder what happened?  Even so, it was a great class.  It's fun to see them grow in confidence and ability to communicate with signs.  What's different about teaching here than in the US, the people here are immediately comfortable with ASL word order. English sentences use an agent-action structure: the boy runs, the ball rolls, etc.   ASL is "Topic-descriptive".  Deaf people could say "mom my smart, whew".  It makes perfect sense.  Usually hearing people I have taught in the US want to know how to sign all of the little words, articles, statives (is, are, has) so they can put the signs in English order.  It takes a lot of modeling to help them release this English order gut level sentence structure.   BUT here in Belize, where most people speak at least two and maybe four languages (Spanish, English, Kriol, Maya , Garifuna), they are more flexible.  Almost immediately the man in the group who is a native Garifuna speaker from Honduras, caught on. He kept verbalizing it in spoken English, but he caught on to the topic descriptive structure.  I was impressed.  Everyone else caught on quickly, also.

On the second day a TV reporter and camera man came to film the class and run a story on the evening news.  They did that before, too.  Even though we had a small group, they went ahead and we got some publicity and were able to promote ASL and deafness.  I signed/spoke the whole interview hoping they would show that and deaf people could for once understand something on the news, but, they used my voice as a voiceover and showed the class in the background.  Oh well.  Live and Learn.

Next year...what would I do differently?  Hmmm.  I liked the structure of the class, conversation, games, vocabulary...keeping it somewhat of a natural language learning process.   Somehow I think I need to keep track of the people who ask for the class and specifically tap them when I am about to offer it.  I think some already know the basics and want a second level class (like the parents of the children that I teach).  So next year I might offer two classes and advertise both at once.  Anybody else have ideas? 

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

The Lord is my rock and my fortress.
He is the One who saves me.
My God is my rock.
Psalm 18:2

Maine...I love it. I love being together as a family and seeing old friends.

I love the view from the porch out to sea. I love waking up and looking out my bedroom window.

I love the old kitchen with an old wood stove that I remember using when we were younger.

I love the woods and the scent of pine mixed with salt air.

I even love the fog and slight chill in the air in the evenings.

There is something about being at Gra
y Gables that fills me with peace and whispers, "this is home". So I thank God for this place to rest and the opportunity to come home and refill my tank for a week this summer. My sister Julie says, "Maine is how we make it through the other 11 months of the year."

Sometimes when I am homesick, I look through pictures of Maine and try to transport myself there mentally. Even though it worked for Julie Andrews to sit on that huge bed in the middle of a thunderstorm singing about favorite things, it doesn't REALLY help to transcend the situation. It would be cool if that worked, but it doesn't. There is a young woman who emails me from time to time. She struggles with depression. When she's depressed she locks herself in her room and listens to music and shuts the world out. I don't think that works either. In fact, I think it makes it worse.

What does work? When life is out of balance, what brings perspective and hope?
For me the trick is to take the focus off of me and put it on other people. When I open my heart up a little and give it to someone else, when I throw my energy into doing something for someone in need, or when I give without expecting anything in return, then I start to feel hope and vision and strength. Sometimes, it is at these moments, when I finally unclench my fist and reach up toward heaven saying, "God, my resources are spent, fill me up. I need you." And God opens the flood gates. God is my strength in whom I will trust.

In the meantime, a week in Maine is a nice filling station along the way.

May the Grace and Peace of the Lord, Jesus fill you up,