Friday 11 July 2014

Saying Goodbye

Ya estuvo mi tiempo en El Salvador. Que rapido lo fue.

The past few months have gone by fast. My last week in Perquín was dream like and now reality is setting in. I have said goodbye to my dear Perquín.

A year. It seemed like a long time. I could never have known exactly what this past year would bring me. The friends and memories I would make, lesson I would learn, difficulties I would have to overcome. The good and bad moments I experienced. The way God at times showed himself so clearly and at others felt so far away. Oh the things I learned this past year about equality, peace, and justice. Now having left El Salvador I ponder these things and wonder, where do I go from here?

The unique thing about living in another country is that it becomes your own. The problems and challenges EL Salvador faces are not just EL Salvador’s anymore they are mine too.

I love El Salvador, the people, food, clothing, way of life, overall the culture.

So the journey that awaits me will be using this unique education to better my Canada, a privileged country, and now... MY El Salvador, a beautiful but struggling country.

Please be praying for me as I make this transition and try and figure out my new role while I re-entering the western world.

This experience has been eye opening and educating and I have many people to thank for their support and kindness. God has blessed me richly with incredible friends, and a great family and church. Thank you all so much. For being incredibly flexible with strange ways and hours of communication, sending me letters, forgiving me for forgetting birthdays and special occasions, supporting me through prayer or donations, gracias por todo! This year would have looked a lot different it wasn’t for some of the amazing people God has placed in my life. In fact this year likely would not have happened at all if it wasn’t for your kindness and love!

I am really looking forward to reconnecting with you and will be free almost the entire month of August! Please let me know if we can meet up. While in El Salvador I became a coffee drinker so lets go to Tim’s! Not sure it will be able to compare to genuine coffee from El Salvador but we shall see.

I have added some photos and captions that show some of my last few days and activities in Perquín. But I’ll tell you more when I see you in person. ;)

We tried to go to Honduras since Perquin is so close to the border. Unfortunately they did not let us pass and we decided to spend our passo just in front of Honduras. I am behind the sign….so technically I have been to Honduras right? 
Elda and I on los columpios. Ask me about this picture when we have coffee…. there's a story behind it. 
The kids took a trip to see the "bomberos". Firemen can be awful interesting! The kids worked all week to make the things they would need for the paseo. A little notebook to write down what they were learning, a hat and sunglasses to protect themselves from the sun and a water bottle to keep hydrated!

Elena suited up to explain that fireman need to be strong!

Little Carlos and his adorable Nemo hat. It was so cute watching him listening intently and then writing down scribbling words and pictures.

Stopping to have a snack! This is Cesar. If you have followed my blog then you have heard of  Cesar and his big eyes that give away any secrets he might have. On my last day at El Centro Cesar did not come and I was so sad that I wouldn't be getting the chance to say goodbye. But before the end of the day Cesar, his mom, and his cousin Monica another El Centro student came to say goodbye. They gave me some beautiful hugs and a heart shaped box to hold some of my memories . I balled.

After some educational fun at the fire department we went to the park to have some  Ahum…real fun. I LOVE this photo of Enzo. This is how I like to see my little El Centro friends. Nice big happy smiles.

Around and around they go…that would make me so sick.

Eduardito and I…again, if you have read my previous blogs you have already met Eduardo. One of the most adorable boys on the entire planet. Eduardo would not go down the slide if he was not sitting on my lap. We tried…it just did not happen.

After a couple hours of playing these kids had sweat more then my dad on a hot day in the hay male.

My last day at El Centro... funny faces keep me from crying.

But once the goodbye hugs started there was no going back…

…the waterworks had started.

Lets go back to the funny faces.  These kids are a hoot including Emilia!

Before I left I thought it would be fun to do something for my little english class. Here is a photo of some of my "alumnas" and there english certificates. We had a small awards ceremony and every one got a certificate and bag of candy and refresco. The best students  received small prizes.  Susan in the green was one of them :) The prize was a small book of english words and pictures along with a pencil with an animal eraser. I gave michel one of the pencils and a yo-yo for her birthday…she liked the pencil MUCH more then the yo-yo.

A friend picked up the cake for me from Gotera since I would not have time before the party. Little sneak had "buen viaje" written on it. Meaning have a good trip which made it my going away cake. It sure was delicious!

They worked very hard and learned a lot this past 6 months. My little students and friends.

Missing a few family members…but this was the fantastic family that helped me plan and organize my english class this year. They were some of the first real friends I had in Perquín and I consider them a real blessing! My second El Salvadorian family.

There are no words to explain just how much these two have meant to me. Michel was my first friend and my guide this year. Good heavens…how different my Perquin life would be without her there. My forever friend. So many stories, laughter, and love shared.

Franklin is one of the kindess and polite little boys I have ever met. If only every boy on the planet were as gentleman like as him. His laughter is contagious and his smile always genuine. What a kid! These were taken just days before I left. I told them I wanted one nice picture to put in a frame when I get back…but I think I print this one cause it describes us so much better! 

They certainly made it difficult to leave. Some of the cutest kids on the planet!

But it certainly was a blessing to learn from and know each one of them.

I am know in Guatemala for some cool down time and re-entry information. I will be leaving Guatemala on the 21st of July and will be in Pennsylvania until the 26th for a little more prep before yet another adjustment phase.  I am looking forward to seeing you soon. Please be praying for me as I continue to tie up the loose ends of a fantastic year.

Your friend,

Rebekah, Rebe, Bekah, or  Beks 

Wednesday 14 May 2014

A story or two

To give you a little peek into my world here are a few of my favourite stories from El Centro throughout the year. I can certainly understand why Jesus values children so much. They are honest, compassionate, curious, fun, and a little crazy.
It's likely not hard for you to imagine that these kids are CRAZY! 

There’s one little boy named Eduardo. Gahh!! I cannot even explain how cute he is. He yells almost everything, can’t pronounce almost anything and is the messiest eater I have ever seen.  Doesn’t that sound cute?

Him and another little boy Olvidio are both very hard to understand. One day I was talking about how I was going to start teaching English in the daycare and a little boy named Alejandro tapped me on the shoulder and said “Olvidio and Eduardo already speak English so you don’t need to teach them”.  Unfortunately Olvidio and Eduardo do not speak English…. or Spanish apparently.

This is Olvidio…the little English speaker. 

There’s a little guy here named Gabriel and he too is darn-it-all adorable. There’s a very popular song here and the chorus is “I only want to give one kiss”. So I sing it and he starts running and when I catch him and give him a big kiss on the cheek he says “Wakala” which means gross and wipes it off disgustedly. Don’t worry he teases me lots too. Like when he is changing and threatens to rip the buttons off his shirt if I don’t help him unbutton it. What a character.

Gabriel…this is face is similar to the one he makes when I start singing dar un beso. 

One day while Lola was teaching a lesson I was on the side assigning homework. I was listening to the lesson while tracing circles and squares. The theme of the week was protecting the earth so Lola was teaching the children to respect animals and insects emphasizing that they have a right to life. The children were passing around a beetle, which escaped one of the girl’s hands. I was going to grab some more notebooks when I without any knowledge of the escaped beetle with the right to life ended up stepping on it. The class went silent until little Sayri said with a hint of shock in her voice “Rebekah killed the insect”. She then proceeded to give me dirty looks all day. '

Lola and some of the children I may have traumatized. 

Cesar is one of my very favourite kids in Pre-kinder. He has these huge eyes that let you know every emotion he’s feeling. After a week of not coming to the daycare I saw him and his mom in town and made him promise that he was going to come on the Monday. What I didn’t realize was that I was leaving that weekend for meetings and didn’t make it back to the daycare until the following Friday. All the kids were so excited to see me finally show up on Friday… but before Cesar would give me a hug he gave me a good scolding for not coming all week. Kids…won’t let you get away with anything.

 Daniel, another little boy in the pre-kinder class, has long curly beautiful hair. He could be a little child model….but all the other kids think he is a girl. On day the teacher very specifically explained that Daniel was a boy. “She is a he” she said, “he is a boy not a girl. HE’S name is Daniel”.  Cesar looks up with his big eyes full of legitimate curiosity and says “ohhhh Daniela”.  He was still a little confused. Most of the kids still are.

Daniel and his beautiful curly hair.

At the daycare we highly discourage the kids to play with pretend guns. You know…recent war… 1000’s of people died. It’s understandable.  So when Geovany was using a toy doll as a gun and shooting other kids I gave him “the look” (“the look” is often easier then speaking in Spanish), quite quickly he replied “No it’s just a water gun…I’m shooting water at them”. I guess that acceptable…right?

These kids are little bursts of laughter waiting to happen. I know I will miss them an incredible amount. But I was a little encouraged my something lately.

When I first came to El Salvador little boy named Jorge in the Kinder class gave me a VERY hard time. He never listened to me and one time even hit me. As time past he started to respect me as an authority figure and we bonded. So in the new year I was really excited to see Jorge again and all the other kids I had grown to love. But Jorge left to go to a different school and I thought I would never see him again. Jorge is back!! He missed El Centro Infantil and wanted to finish the year with us. I never expected to see Jorge again but I did.

As the days get fewer and fewer before I leave I do not want to have the same attitude as I had when Jorge switched schools. Seem’s silly to be upset about something you have no control over. I had no control over weather I would ever see Jorge again or not. Only the Lord knows my future regarding all my little friends in the daycare, in Perquín and Guatemala. It may be harder then it sounds…but I am going to try not to be sad or worried about the friendships I have formed here and leave it in God’s hands.

If you really did read all that… felicidades! Thanks for all your support and prayers this year!  

Su amiga,

An overdo update!

I am so sorry…. Where did the time go?

 I was told it might happen, but thought I would never be the kind of person to leave my friends and family in the dark for months. What could be a legitimate excuse for something like that?  But sure enough it has been what… three months? Allow me explain my absence with a metaphor because those are fun.

I have an abundance of awesome people in my life two of which just came and left Central America.  Hannah and Rachel who I met at University lived my life in Perquín for a week then we did a little traveling in Guatemala.

On the boat for Atitlan!  

Hannah is one smart cookie and decided to bring her slack line, which was a huge hit! For those of you who might not know what a slack line is I will explain. It is essentially a long belt tied around two objects and then tightened to the point that you can walk on top of it…IF you have a good sense of balance. I do not and will often trip over absolutely nothing. It’s almost as if tiny invisible people are trying to make my life miserable. I tried to slack line but found myself continually falling to one side or the other.

The slack line was as big of a hit in Guatemala as it was in Perquiín

So the metaphor is this.  Walking on that line was impossible for me and when I knew I was going to fall I needed to quickly choose which side.  At the beginning of my SALT journey, similar to trying to walk on a belt, I tried to balance home life and Perquín. It was an exhausting and impossible effort. You cannot be in two places at once and I found when I failed to balance the two I fell on the side more familiar to me.  Calling home, writing letters, looking at pictures, BLOGGING, there was nothing wrong with it at the time other then I was not truly present in Perquín and that was where I needed to be!
I actually have no proof of me trying to slack line although I am sure it's not hard for any of you to believe I can't do it. But here is me helping little Franklin. 
 But there has been a shift and I have found myself more content on the Perquín side of the slackline. When I am upset I have people here in Perquín I can describe my frustrations to, when I want to talk there’s always someone there, and when I am bored looking for something to do it does not take me long to fill up my time. I feel at home and comfortable with my host family and coworkers. I have become less dependent on familiar things that remind me of Canada and have become more present and engaged in Perquín life.

My birthday came and went. My companeros through me a surprise party! Were missing a few people in this picture but the cake is there. It was a pretty beautiful cake. 

The journey to get to this point was hard and at times lonely.  Leaving everything you know for a year is a challenging but incredibly rewarding and enriching experience. Having made it to the homestretch and looking back on my journey and how it has enhanced my life, spiritually, educationally, mentally, etc., I would most certainly encourage anyone to highly consider a long-term mission.

Seeing Hannah and Rach have many of the same frustrations as I had when I first arrived in Perquín made me realize just how much I have learned this year. And what beautiful friends I have!

SO here are some of the cool things that have been happening in Perquín

Technically I have always been helpful in one way or another. Drawings for the kids NEED to be drawn and homework NEEDS to be assigned. I have definitely seen that over the year I have gotten faster at my work, and am able to enforce rules, which takes a little pressure of the teachers. One of the teachers was unable to come to El Centro for a whole week and I took over her class. I taught the class lessons, prepared material, lead stories, ect. It was a bit of an epiphany for me on how far I have come since October. I arrived a stranger who did not know a thing. Since October I have found a place in El Centro and feel needed and loved.

Daily duties… giving the children there leche. 

I can make jokes!!
I did not take me long to accept that I would NOT be leaving Perquín fluent in Spanish.  I struggled and continue to struggle with the fact that I feel like such a different person in this language. I can’t seem to express a lot of things I want to in the moment. In result I am not a very funny person and with my look of concentration while trying to understand things I can be perceived as quite serious. “Poco a poco” or “little by little” is what I am constantly told. I can’t say every thought that comes into my head nor understand every part of a conversation but I have come to a point where I feel my personality is starting to shine through the cracks of the ceramic pot labeled language barrier.

 One night Mitchel and Ronald were showing me pictures from Semmana Santa when we came upon a picture of a cow. I said oh look what a nice picture of Ronald to which he replied “that’s not me it’s my brother” “and as quick as I would in English I said “Ronald why didn’t you tell me you have a twin brother”. It is that sort of back and forth interaction that I miss in my own language. So when it happens in Spanish it’s a great encouragement.
One of the funniest things I can say is when Michel asks me what I ate for lunch and I reply…food obviously.  We always get a kick out of that one. But this is likely what I ate…a typical meal of platanos with frijoles liquado. 
I make decisions!
There comes a point where you become less dependent on your host families plans and have actual invitations to do things. I must say for the first 4 months I never thought I would get to a point where I was not following my host family around like a lost puppy. But sure enough I no longer count on the plans of my host family to fill up my time.

 Life in Perquín is still not without its challenges… although can life exist without challenges? God has given me strength to overcome the hurdles of the adjustment period, and will not leave me now that things have gotten easier. It is incredible to look back and see him working through the highs and lows, through the experience’s I have had, and the people I have met this past year. We have a pretty awesome God don’t you agree?

After working with these little bundles of joy for nearly 8 months I must say I agree….

Wednesday 2 April 2014

A few of my favourite things

Please sing the following two lines to the classic tune of Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

When I miss my dog, when I get a bazillion bug bites, when I can’t speak Spanish

I simply remember my favourite things and then I don’t feel so sad!

Did you sing it? You better have!!

When I am feeling down it’s not very difficult to cheer myself up. I just think of some of my many blessings in Perquín

1: Aida Michel Gomez – My entire host family is great but Michel is something else entirely! In all honesty the girl can drive me up the stinking wall but I am SO grateful to have her as my little friend! We have inside jokes together, ongoing arguments, and huge laughs. I was recently asked to be her Madrina which is sort of like a Godmother but for the first communion. She has to wait until she turns 12 so looks like I am coming back in 4 years!

This is a photo from our  small paseo. We packed two bananas, bought two bags of chips, brought a towel and the english counting game I made and went to a little clearing not far away to look at the mountains eat and play. I will miss this little girl! 

2: PLATANOS and all the things you make with them! Fried, toasted, Empanadas, platanos with beans and crema, or just the platano itself… SO delicious! I am definitely going to be hunting down this banana like fruit when I get home.

3: Watching/playing futbal – people are still talking about how I was in that football tournament back in January. Playing futbal here in Perquín has been one of my highlights. Watching soccer games is always a good time too….even in the rain…under a tarp. These guys have mad skills and watching them do very near backflips to kick a ball impresses me every time!

4: Teaching English – In the park, at El Centro, or during my more formal classes in the “colonia” I love teaching English. One time after playing a game to learn the colours, one of my students came up to me and said “a me mi gusta su YELLOW pello”. My heart melted a little. I admire the motivation to learn English! The children and adults have much more motivation to learn English than I ever had to learn Spanish.

This was the first game I made to help the kids learn to count in english. It took me about 20 minutes to make but has provided hours of fun!  I have since recreated it and made it look a lot more visually appealing. Since it was so successful I made another to learn the colors! Learning should be fun!  

5: Coffee and Pan dulce – It’s officially a routine. I wake up a little extra early everyday so I can enjoy sitting in the park with my “café” and “pan dulce” and clear my head before going to work. I wasn’t a coffee drinker before a came… I am now.

6: Open doors and hospitality – I recently got to know a family who invited me into there home and wouldn’t let me leave until I had supper with them. I have gotten to know them fairly well and they have opened their door to me whenever I feel bored or just want to chat. Through their hospitality and patience with my Spanish, we have had stimulating conversations about religion, politics, and the recent war. There kids call my aunt Rebekah so I guess they are my second - second family here in El Salvador.

7: Unexpected gifts – I’m not all about the gifts… but there have been times that “regalitos” have brought a smile to my face. Even stickers and drawings warm my heart. One morning after church while enjoying a delicious breakfast, an older couple joined me. We talked about the election, a little about the war and how different Perquín was at that time. They shared there pan with me then mentioned how expensive pan is in other countries. Before leaving the older gentleman reached into his bag and pulled out a small flashlight and handed it to me saying it was a gift. I officially have El Salvadorian grandparents. I was a little confused at the time as to why he would give me a flashlight. A foreigner he barley knows, and will likely never see again. That small flashlight has become the most valuable thing I have acquired here in El Salvador. It is a symbol of the kindness, hospitality, and love I have experienced and never quite felt I deserved.

8 – Hugs and high-fives – I don’t think I need to explain this one except to say children give the best hugs! I will also mention that you cannot high-five here without giving a fist bump. They will wait for that fist pump. But who wouldn’t want a fist bump?

They are pretty darn adorable. 

9 - Dar la paz – During the church service there is a time of shaking hands or hugging to show the peace of Christ. Afterword’s everyone hold hands and we sing a song together thanking God for peace. I know this is not exactly a foreign custom. Many churches in Canada do the same. But knowing the history of the recent war and the effect it has had on the people, this small time to reflect on and thank God for peace is very powerful. It is a moving symbol of commitment to peace and justice.

We recently visited El Mozote with the children. El mozote is were there was a terrible massacre with only two survivors. The whole story is rather incredible and Mozote is now a space to recognize the importance of peace and the people who sacrificed to attain it. 

10 – Mountains – It’s not Bamf or Jasper but we have some incredible views her in Perquín! Lately I have been forgetting to look at the beauty surrounding Perquín. But the sunsets over the mountains’ terrain have inspired many “awe” or “take my breath away” moments.