Sunday, April 24, 2011

To Bocas and back!

Oh Semana Santa…you were much too short! Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed my week off from school! It was an awesome to time to sleep, relax, lie in the sun and read something other than curriculum! The two other student teachers, one other teacher at crossroads and me decided to go to Bocas Del Toro for four days of our break. It was awesome!!! Bocas is on the Caribbean side of Panama, and Panama City is on the Pacific. So we had to take a ten hour overnight bus to get there, I was so excited I didn’t even care that it is impossible to sleep on those buses! We stayed in hostel for the time we were there and it was actually really nice! I have never stayed in one before but in my mind they usually seem pretty sketchy…I mean take a bunch of travelling strangers and tell them they all have to sleep in a giant room together? Sounds like a horror movie…actually I think it is. Luckily it was nothing like that and the place was clean (for the most part) and the people very friendly. It was right on the Caribbean so we would read and swim off the dock in the back. So relaxing! I can say without a doubt that Bocas is the most unique place I have ever been. It’s this little Caribbean town made up of several different islands and beaches where backpackers and vacationers are constantly stopping through. The people there are a mix of Latino/Indian/hippy. Ha Very, very eclectic and we got to meet the coolest people from all over the world. The locals were super friendly with a laid back Caribbean “let’s party” kind of attitude. You could usually buy a “Jesus loves you” bracelet AND a pot leaf necklace of at most of their shops. My search is over! ; ) While we were there we were able to spend a day sailing around the different islands on a huge catamaran. It was awesome! We saw dolphins and the owner of the boat took us to this great place where we could snorkel and see beautiful fish and bright purple, orange and green coral. It was gorgeous day and we loved basking in the sun! A little too much however since we all got burnt pretty badly. In our defense we DID put a lot of sunscreen on, but since it was so close to the equator we didn’t realize how intense the sun really was! The rest of our time consisted of walking through the local shops, reading in hammocks, swimming and going to crystal clear beaches. Definitely my idea of a great vacation! Since Bocas is where all the young travelers and backpackers go to have fun, it turned into quite the party town at night! Even our hostel became a bar downstairs by nighttime. This gave us the opportunity to have some pretty interesting and cool conversations, to say the least. I was able to have an awesome, deep, spiritual conversation with a guy who had one too many beers (sounds impossible right?) It was probably one of the most honest and open conversations about God I have ever had with a stranger. He told me exactly what he thought about God, sin, how to live a fulfilling life and why this world has so many problems. I listened and afterward I was able to tell him my thoughts on those same topics. I flat out shared the gospel with him starting with Jesus coming to earth as an infant, dying on the cross, rising again and eventually returning again for His children! It was a great conversation; my only sadness is the knowledge that he probably did not remember having it the next day. However God can do what he wants! He could make a drunk man have an intelligent conversation and remember it if He wanted to! Maybe a seed was planted, maybe not…I may never know. The various conversations I had with people in Bocas, whether meaningful or normal reminded me that people are willingly and ready to talk, and listen! I am often scared to talk to people about salvation or anything spiritual for that matter because I am afraid they won’t really care or want to talk about it. This is not true! People are searching and willing to share their ideas and even listen to others. Everyone has an opinion about God; it may be that they believe there is no God…that is still an opinion. I need to remind myself that I do not need to convince others that my beliefs are the right ones; I just need to share what I am putting my faith in. There is nothing confrontational about that. This trip also helped me to realize how important it is for me and all Christians to step out of our safe Christian bubbles. There were many times when I felt uncomfortable because I am not used to being surrounded by people with morals so totally opposite than my own. The realization I came to was…it’s good to feel uncomfortable sometimes. We are not called to surround ourselves with believers only! What good does this do? Is it not the unsaved who need to hear about the good news of Jesus? Through talking with various people on this trip, I realized the importance of being in touch daily with the lost. Not every conversation needs to be deep and spiritual, but if I do not know the struggles, feelings and opinions of those around me, how can I minister to them? Jesus himself was the first one to befriend those with less than perfect reputations.

“And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

Matthew 9:11-13

So not only was this vacation wonderful and relaxing but God also brought about some awesome opportunities and learning moments for me! And now I am about to start my last week student teaching here! I cannot believe how fast the time has flown and the end of it definitely going to be bittersweet. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You're never too old to learn fractions

Well this past week and a half has been busy to say the least! Lesson planning and more lesson planning: ) I have been teaching the entire day for awhile now and I really love it! Don’t get me wrong, it is very tiring and frustrating at times but it is also extremely rewarding. This week I also faced one of my biggest fears…fractions. If anyone knows me, they probably know about my complete hatred for anything involving math. It was a struggle as a kid and even into college. When I found out I was teaching in third grade I immediately thought “what do they do in math in third grade? Will I even be able to teach it to them?” As silly as it sounds I worried that I would somehow teach them wrong and make them live a life in constant confusion over how to add 1/4th + 1/4th. When I found out I was indeed going to be teaching on fractions I got busy brainstorming and looking up creative and new ideas on how to make it fun and easy to understand. Do you know what I discovered?? I actually LIKE fractions! (at least third grade fractions) yeah I almost fainted when I came to the realization myself! I had so much fun teaching them how to turn M&Ms, graham crackers and cookies into fractions. (I mean food makes everything fun, right?) It was exciting because they really enjoyed it and even asked if they could learn more the next day. Praise the Lord! I am learning that as a teacher, I often feel as though I learn even more than the kids everyday…even fractions. : ) I also taught them on outer space this week in science. We learned about the planets (and yes I did count Pluto as one of them…I couldn’t bear to leave him out, and it messes up the whole rhyme when you do…) and the sun. Last summer I watched a video series by Louie Giglio called How Great Is Our God , if you haven’t seen it go get right now! This seriously brought me tears at some parts and made me gasp out loud at others. It’s all about how absolutely enormous, complex and intricate our universe is. It shows our sun in comparison to other stars in the Universe such as Arcturus, Betelgeuse, and Antares which makes it look minuscule. As they kids watched each of the stars get bigger and bigger and our sun seem to get smaller and smaller their mouths gaped open and various “WOAH’s” could be heard around the classroom. I asked how they felt after learning how big the universe really is and I got the replies of “small, tiny, unimportant”. We were then able to talk about how even though we are so small, God loves us so much that he knows every hair on our head! He loves us so much that he even collects our tears in a jar! God loves us so much that He sent his only son to die for us! I loved hearing their thoughts and fears and questions and discussing them together. Children have the greatest questions and are so honest. Having meaningful conversations such as this always turns out to be a blessing. It was a wonderful reminder to me of how small I am. I need that reminder often. I am insignificant and the universe does not revolve around me. Yet God loves me with a love I will never be able to comprehend. He cares when I am discouraged or when I am happy or when I am worried about fractions. The universe is bigger than I can comprehend, and God holds the Universe in his hands. There is no where safer than in God’s hands.

Isaiah 40:12-14 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,
or what man shows him his counsel?
Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?

This next week is Semana Santa or Holy week, so that means NO SCHOOL! I am very excited for this much needed break and we are going to spend it hitting up the beach! The other student teachers and I are going to take an overnight bus to the Caribbean side of Panama and spend a few days soaking up the sun! God allowed us to find a cheap bus ticket and place to stay (even if it is a hostel) and we are super excited! So adios until next time : )

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On to week three

Time is flying! As I knew it would :) This past week of teaching was great! I really felt like I connected better with the kids in my class and got to know them and their backgrounds a little more so that I could relate and teach them in the most effective way possible. I found out that I have students in my class from Panama, the U.S., China, Poland, Netherlands, Mexico, Guatemala, and Russia. A lot of them are tri-lingual with neither English nor Spanish being their first language! From a teacher’s perspective, this seems like a nightmare, I think it’s awesome! However it is difficult to try and reach them where they are. It is interesting to see how their culture affects how they do their homework or what they put importance on. I was talking to the little girl whose family moved here from the Netherlands last year and told her that my family was also from the Netherlands. She was very excited about this and after school she ran up to me with her Mom who started chatting with me in Dutch! I was like, oh I don’t speak Dutch! My grandparents are from there, but I’m pretty much just American. Haha They seemed very confused by this. So your family is from there and you don’t speak Dutch??? Why in the world not???

This Friday was an in service day for the teachers at CCA. A few weeks ago in church they were talking about a ministry that the church/school has in the heart of Panama City in a place called Curundu. This is like the ghetto of Panama. A very poor section of town where people who don’t want their car stolen stay away from. Because of the great poverty and need there, they started a day care where single Mom’s could take their kids so they could look for work and not worry about their babies. This really took off and they actually turned it into a school. They only have pre-school and Kindergarten right now, but they want to add first grade next year. The problem is, they have no money, no supplies and the teachers don’t really get paid (They receive a small amount but not nearly enough to live on) I asked Mr. Bose if the three of us teacher’s could go down one day and check it out! So this Friday, we went to Curundu and were able to teach Kindergarten for a day! To be honest it is one of the highlights of my trip so far. The kids were adorable and just hung on us the whole time. It really reminded me of my missions’ trips to El Salvador and Honduras. Their teacher Rachel was an inspiration. She is an example of a teacher who is truly in it for God and the kids; it’s definitely not the money…or location… Her impact on their lives is huge! Maybe she can have a small part of breaking the cycle of poverty, brokenness and poor choices by giving them an education, and a godly one at that. I came away excited thinking that maybe one day I could have an impact like that.

This weekend Brittany, Brynna and I went on a boat ride down the Panama Canal! It was amazing! I learned so much and got to see some awesome sights. We were able to pass through the Continental Divide in the only place that there is a gap in it. (To be honest I had to Google continental divide when I got home but I still thought it was cool) We were also able to go through two locks! Before coming to Panama I actually thought that the canal was just a manmade river going from one ocean to another, I was very wrong. Because of the difference in sea level they needed to make locks that take ships up and down. So you pull into this water tight container and they either fill it up with water or let water out so you can pull safely out the other side! It was a great day full of learning and excitement and I am thankful for the opportunity to experience new things. Well I have to go write more lesson plans : ) Adios!