Happy 200th, Santa Cruz!

On September 24th Santa Cruz celebrated its 200th anniversary.  We celebrated at school on the 22nd by playing traditional games, eating traditional foods, and learning about the history of this city and department.

My favorite part of the day is that my kids were required to dress in the traditional clothes that cambas or lowlanders, wore.  They looked great!

My class minus one boy.  The girls are wearing the typical Santa Cruz
dress called a tipoi.

Aram, Hernan, and Jorge are true crucenos, even if they do represent Korean, Bolivian, and Chinese backgrounds.



After a few months without a significant break (see my exhaustion level in this entry), I was a little tired.  But God is good to me.  Friday was the 200th aniversary of liberty for the department of Santa Cruz, Bolivia!  Among many other things, this meant that we got Thursday and Friday off of school!!!  I am so grateful for this time to rest my body and mind.

Here are some things that I've been doing:
- Reading a fascinating book about the three men who were held as hostages in Colombia by the FARC from 2003-2008
- Taking a nap
- Translating for a medical team that came down
- Helping host a dia de Santa Cruz party at our house
- Preparing for my coming trip home
- Taking a trip yesterday to Los Espejillos, an amazing set of waterfalls, natural pools, and cool water. 

Today in my study of 1 Peter, the verse that I read (5:7) says, "casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you."  God knew exactly what my body and sould needed this weekend.  Check out these cool pictures!

The biggest waterfall with an amazing, deep pool underneath

Some of us went hiking to more waterfalls.  My Chacos came in handy!

I <3 adventure!


Third World Meets Private School

Today I began to grasp what a strange collision of worlds I live and work in.

Due to out-of-control slash and burn fires, the city of Santa Cruz currently ranks among the world's most-polluted cities.  To make matters worse, everyone in the city is continuing to burn their garbage despite the lack of moisture and overall nasty air.

This morning in my classroom, I taught about plant reproduction to my class while a couple boys snickered behind their science books every time I said "male part" or "female part".  I felt like I was in Mr. Gunderson's classroom in Fall Creek, WI, learning the same thing.  Later, I stepped out of my classroom and nearly started choking.  The air was strong with the scent of a swimming pool gone way, way wrong.  I can only imagine what chemicals people were burning to create this odor. I wish I could put into words the disparity between the world inside my classroom and the one outside of it.  Kids with iPhones versus farmers who grew up believing that the rainforest was created to be burned.

Photo courtesy of http://backstrapweaving.files.wordpress.com/

If my morning culture shock wasn't sufficient, there was more.  After lunch I led my students in praising God that we had air conditioning, and thirty mintues later the power (and a/c) went out.  I was the only one who blinked an eye.  School in the dark; apparently an everyday experience for Bolivians.

God has much to teach me this year about justice, privilege, and His grace both to the poor and the rich.  Today was my wakeup call.  I need to start learning.


Icing on the Cake

Finding this picture online today made me extremely happy.  I thought I'd share my joy.

The four people I was blessed to spend my summer with


Dear Saturday

If I could write a note to this day, it would be thank you note.  I have needed a day like this for quite a while.
I am exhausted.  Physically and mentally.  The rings around my eyes are dark and thick.  As I recapped my last year with my sister, I realized that I went from the strain of writing papers and spending precious last hours with classmates during my senior year of college to spending late nights hanging out with high schoolers and early mornings having devotions with camp staff as I served on discipleship staff at Arrowhead Bible Camp to teaching 5th graders in a foreign country the day after I finished working for camp.  I feel like I have the right to be a little tired.
I took my sense of entitlement to my room with me at 9:30 last night and read a fiction, not-for-any-class book until midnight.  Then, I did something I haven't done for months.  I slept in.  It was delightful.  I'm even taking today and keeping it low key-- participating in a March For Jesus with my church but then relaxing with friends tonight.  God is good to give us rest when we can't take any more.
When I started writing this post, I meant to write about my students' party on Thursday that they earned and the cute notes of encouragement I have gotten from them this week, but those will have to come later.  Now it is time for me to rest.

Venid a mí, los que están cargados y trabajados, y yo os haré descansar.  - Mateo 6:33  


Bowling in Bolivia

Every 5th grader's dream.  A bowling alley filled with shouts of happy kids, tons of balloons, and beautiful cakes.  The thing to do if you are a middle/upper class kid in Bolivia is to rent out part of Santa Cruz's one bowling alley on a Saturday morning for your birthday. 

There are bumpers, so we all did very well.  This is Benji, by the way.
I had a blast at Jose Daniel's birthday party yesterday.  13 of my 19 students were there, and I got to hang out with them, chat with some parents, and bowl!

One of the highlights of the party for me was seeing my kids all hanging out together.  I have been praying for unity for them, and was especially praying for it on Saturday morning.  I heard lots of encouraging things come out of their mouths, which made me so happy!
The four girls who REPRESENTED!  Graciela, Noelia, Natalia, Jasmine
I wish I could describe what the experience was like.  My birthday party in 5th grade was way different from this one.  For one thing, I had about 6 friends over instead of 30.  At the bowling party, all the kids were dressed in the A&F, Hollister, and AE best, talking on their cell phones.  Eau Claire didn't have any of those stores when I was in 5th grade, and cell phones were giant things that we saw on spy movies.  I felt old.  At the same time, all the parents asked me how old I was, and the looks on their faces after I told them made me feel young. 

I loved seeing how family-oriented this culture is.  Jose Daniel's aunts, uncles, and grandparents attended, and they loved talking him up a little.  It was expected that when parents came to pick up their kids they would take part in the festivities.  My heart was warmed to see this, and it makes me pray even more that these kids would experience stable family lives, not just close ones. 

Well, those are my thoughts from the party.  The pictures will have to say the rest.

Bowling shoes are SO much cooler in Bolivia!

Futbol birthday cake
The birthday boy with his teacher.


My class

Well, if this isn't the picture you've all been waiting for, it's at least the picture I've been waiting and waiting to take and post.  Behold, my class.  19 precious creations of the good Lord. 

I feel so blessed to teach these kids this year.  Each one of them has amazing gifts and potential to do things that I will never do.  I'm pretty sure we have a future youth pastor, several future business professionals, perhaps some pastors, some missionaries, some wonderful future fathers and mothers, and 19 current spelling champs.  I wonder if any of my students will ever teach at SCCLC...
You'll notice that I'm in front with my 8 girls while 11 boys stand behind us.  Yes, pray for me.  These boys are wonderful and my entire class has so much potential to be glorifying God, but all of us (including me) need prayer that we would follow Christ in our words, actions, and thoughts.  Pray that we say words that are wholesome, building-up to others, and beneficial.  Pray especially against tattletaling and bullying.  Pray especially for a sense of unity and a joy in learning.

Without further ado, here we are.

Tomorrow, we have been invited to Jose Daniel's birthday party, which will include bowlingI hope to take pictures and report back on what a Bolivian birthday party looks like.


BIG News

And you were surprised that I was staying in Bolivia!

Word has it that I cannot stay here in this country any longer without leaving to secure a special visa.  In order to secure this visa, it now turns out that I have to go to the US.  It also turns out I'm flying home!  Tierra mia!  I can hardly believe it!  Four full days in the two states I have come to call home.  I will surely miss you, Santa Cruz and 5th graders, but I will be happy to see my family and my own clothes. 

Praise God for His Divine Providence!

Three faces I can't wait to see!


Five Stars

A few pictures from the "five star" resort that we went to last weekend for our teachers retreat.  (This place has potential, but it is a work in progress)  I loved getting to spend time with my fellow teachers!