Saturday, May 05, 2007

Nicaragua: accomplishments thus far

I thought I would take this opportunity to summarize some of what your prayers, your donations, my presence here, and above all the grace of God have done in the four months I´ve been living in Nicaragua.

1. Chacocente Christian School does not have to pay their preschool teacher this 2007 (Jan-Nov) school year. 18 children aged 3-7 are learning to share, to say please and thank you, to clap and sing and play games, to make block towers, write their name, count, categorize, name colors, read, etc.

1.a I am attempting to learn how to be patient and understanding when preschoolers, being preschoolers, jab each other in the eye, spill things, and desperately want something but are too shy or inarticulate to tell me what it is. Also when they play the what-happens-if-I-blatantly-disobey game. Or the equally popular game, when it´s time to put a toy away so that we can move on with an activity, my-toy-mysteriously-disappeared. I remember how fun these were when I was their age.

2. Three dentists from Seattle had my (and others´) help translating when they spent one Wednesday at a women´s prison in Nicaragua, where the dentists cleaned teeth, did fillings, and pulled teeth, at no charge to the prison. That day I accidentally wore a shirt the same navy blue as the prisoners´ uniforms and the teasing never ended, even to the guard at the gate teasing that he wouldn´t let me out at the end of the day. Not only did I translate between dentists and prisoners, I actually wore gloves, a hospital mask over my face and nose, and used the little tool that sucks saliva out of the mouth while the dentist is cleaning or polishing.

2.a I now floss with much more regularity, haunted by images of the teeth I saw that day. And I have learned that even criminals are nervous when they go to the dentist.

3. Twenty church members aged 13-30 have been singing as a choir for the last 3 months or so. They have performed in our church twice, at an outdoor multi-church service, at a church we visited, and at the Easter Campamento. They are learning how to sing healthfully, sing in harmony, listen to each other, and evaluate their performances. They know four songs well enough to perform and right now we´re working on one for Mother´s Day. Si Dios quiere, tomorrow I will meet with a woman I met because she was also ministering at the jail that day, who is Nicaraguan and an experienced choir director. I need help!

3.a I get a much-desired outlet for all the music inside me, and I get to teach persons older than 7. This a wonderful opportunity to use my music education college courses and get experience teaching!

4. I do quite a bit of English teaching and translation work for folks around Sabana Grande: for Pablo (my host dad) when he writes to U.S. Methodists who support his church denomination here, and for the youth of the church who study English as part of their school work.

4.a Actually I minored in English and really like editting written work in general, so once again my strengths are being utilized. It helps with my Spanish too, because I have to understand the Spanish in order to accurately translate.

5. My Spanish improves and improves. I can now overhear conversations in Spanish without meaning to, which is to say that sometimes I understand without trying. I have now actually talked to myself in English and answered myself in Spanish! Sometimes when I´m translating for folks I translate for Spanish to Spanish (if I understood perfectly, why not the English speaker at my side?), and sometimes when I´m translating I don´t realize which language my bilingual friend just spoke in. The other day I was leading choir in Spanish, and a U.S. visitor came in. I welcomed her in Spanish, then remembered to switch languages and therefore asked a choir member in English to close the door. Neither person understood me! But this means I am getting much farther towards fluency!

Let us thank God for all the other benefits of this adventure of which we are unaware. Through the difficulties of being here, I never doubt that this is where God is calling me to be. Thank you for your support via love, donations, and prayers. I need them all, and profoundly appreciate them. Peace!


David Reese said...


These are really beautiful. I'm proud of all the things you've accomplished in the past four or five months. It also seems like a really useful exercise to articulate all of these. Perhaps I will try it for the last four months of my life!


Carrie said...

The transition towards fluency is a funny thing. During my year in France, I felt like my brain was operating on two parallel systems, but sometimes the wires got crossed, and I would add English words in the middle of my French sentences, but I would pronounce them with a French accent, and when I came home, I did the same thing, except in the opposite language. It seemed as if "little words," like prepositions and conjunctions, were particularly tricky, for some reason - for two months after I came home, I would regularly say things like, "Are you going to come avec me?" My family and friends ended up learning that avec meant with, because I would often not even know that I had made the mistake. I never understood why I made that mistake so often - the words don't sound anything alike! Have you dreamed in Spanish yet? That's when you know you've got it, because that is truly your subconscious. It's so exciting to read about the things you're going through, it really brings back some funny memories for me!