Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January Update!

So for 2012, I'm going to start doing a monthly update on here. I didn't want to start your hopes too high by posting this too early in the month. It now being the 31st, I thought it was perfect timing!

A lot has happened this month and I'm freaked out that tomorrow is February! I had a great ending to my Christmas break including my first NYE with Bolivian friends and playing games with them until 6am, lunches and coffees with friends that I don't get to see very often and of course, lesson planning. I'm seriously so excited for next year when I have all these lessons, ideas, worksheets, projects and assignments ready to dish out and not have to do a lot of research. It will be a big load off my shoulders! 

What am I teaching right now, you ask? Well my 7th grade Geography class is learning the ins-and-outs of Canada while my 8th grade history students are delving into Ancient Greece. My 9th graders are in the middle of a 6-week long unit on the Middle Ages, including cooking Medieval food and learning Gregorian chants. And my 10th grade Sociology/Psychology class is doing a unit on conformity where they've done some fun video projects testing the "Bystander Effect" and we're wrapping up the unit by learning about cults. If that's not a diverse group of topics, I don't know what is! 

Something that has taken up a ton of time and energy, but I'm loving every minute of it, is our school musical. I've taken on the role of director, but I'm getting tons of help from other teachers at the school. We've been blessed with the help of a musical director who is amazing and our vice principal is helping me with the delights of blocking and non-verbal acting. In case you didn't see on Facebook, I chose Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" and the kids are ecstatic, which makes it all the more fun for me! I've got "The Secret Garden" and "Anne of Green Gables" in my back pocket for next year, :) 

Many of you have been asking how you can pray for me, so I've put together a list below of ways that it would really bless me if you prayed specifically for:

1 - Improved health! Please pray that I can start eating again and get to a doctor to find out what's wrong with me. Unfortunately, I've fallen sick again. I guess amoebas and giardia are the gift that keeps on giving down here... I'm hoping to be back at 100% sooner than later. 
2 - Stamina with all the hats I am wearing: teaching four subjects, student council adviser, drama director, mentor, friend, future wife (?). Just kidding on that last one.
3 - Working with a couple very difficult students, both 10th grade boys. Please pray for me to have patience with them and show them Christ's love in a new way. 
4 - For some reason, homesickness has reared its ugly head after months of not being here. Please pray that I will focus on my ministry here and be able to hang on until I'm home this summer!

Thank you all for your support, emails, FB comments, FB "likes", FB messages, prayers and continued love for me while I'm down here. It means more to me than I can say.

Love you all and miss you tons ~ B

Here are some pictures of me at the Cristo statue in town. 
All props go to my friend Maria for taking these great shots. Enjoy!

It was a perfect day to head up to the Cristo!

On the gondola ride with Maria and our tutor/friend, Roxana

Tallest statue of Cristo in the world and He's right in my backyard!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Decisions, Decisions...

Before I left Minnesota in August I thought to myself "Self, it'd be great if you knew soonish if you were going to stay in Bolivia for more than a year. And it'd be great if you knew that information before Christmas. And then you could blog about it when the time comes and post it on Facebook around Christmas time". Good thing that decision was soooooo far in the distance. Oh... wait... it's here!

My mom has forever told me to not give myself false deadlines. I do it all the time. But I know I'm a procrastinator so I kind of have to. This is one of those false deadlines that I followed through with. Because...


For those of you who have kept up with my blog or my FB posts since I got here, you probably noticed a trend in that I LOVE IT HERE. I have such a love for my students, I respect my admin so much, the country and its people have grown on my big time and I have a sense of purpose and peace here. That last part is such a difference from the feeling of despondence and uselessness that I felt my last year in Minnesota. 

To answer some of the questions I've received from others when I told them the news:
1 - I will still be coming home in the summer! I have about 7-8 weeks to drink in the humidity, lakes, people and Starbucks in my home state
2 - I don't know if there will be another year after these two. It's possible, but I might be done and ready to come home after two.
3 - This was not an easy decision to make, believe-you-me! I am still struggling with the same emotions I did before I left (excitement, sadness, overwhelmedness, peacefulness) along with a new one "How long is God going to keep me here??" The name of my blog (Bolivia Bound Bex) has a new meaning these days - I'm bound in this country! 

I would adore your prayers. There's a lot of things to put into account for a second year, along with raising more support and the emotions mentioned in #3. 

Thanks for sharing my news with me. Encouragement is appreciated! And any feedback is welcomed. 

FELIZ NAVIDAD, y'all! :) 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

25 Days of Christmas

Whether I believe it or not, Christmas is around the corner. The constant, sunny days down here are really messing with my head; I've never worn t-shirts and had fans on in December! But the calendar says December 3rd and it's been a mighty long time since I've posted on here, so I figured I'd write a list of what I'm thankful for this Christmas. Maybe it will help remind me of all of God's blessings and how He's kept me these past few months in Bolivia and take my mind off of not being home for a White Christmas - the song, movie and actual event.

1. Great friends that I've made here that feel like family; God's covenant family is going strong in Cochabamba!
2. Relatively decent health. After that bout with Giardia and Lord knows what else, I've been healthy.
3. Our Saturday market with its amazing veggies, fruits and flowers on the cheap. 
4. Boiled water to keep away the amoebas.
5. My students. I am challenged by them on a daily basis. I love those kids!
6. Friends back home who regularly tell me how they miss me and are praying for me. Thanks, guys :)
7. My apartment is perfect for me. And I'm so glad to have friends a few steps away when I need to cry or laugh or watch a chick flick.
8. Skype. I can't imagine being abroad without it. Nobel Peace Prize to the guy who invented that!
9. My Kindle. It has staved off  many a lonely night (thanks again, Stephanie Hansen!)
10. A washer and drying line close by. 
11. The dog and cat that live at our guest house. I heart pets.
12. Weight loss - 40 pounds and counting!
13. A van that brings me to and from school every day. I can't imagine taking public transportation or having to drive in this city!
14. Letters, cards and packages! You guys have no idea how much it means to me to get mail! And I'm the envy of all the other missionaries here. 
15. That I learned how to cook last year (although it was forced upon me) cause now I can cook for myself. Stop smirking, Michelle. 
16. The admin at my school. After having some not-so-lovely principals in my life, having godly men who are servant-hearted really blesses me.
17. Being able to travel to the jungle (Yungas) over Christmas. Adventure, here we come!
18. Pirated DVDs. No, seriously, they're amazing.
19. Facebook - I love keeping up with all of you and being able to post quick updates on my time down here.
20. That my language seems to be coming along. Praise God, no more crying in my lessons! 
21. A supportive family and a mom that Skypes me whenever she darn well pleases :)
22. The church that I attend and am going to get involved in. Another singles group to help with? Yes, please! 
23. SGF sermons online. I love having Rick, Steve or Jon's voice in my living room while I'm snuggled up with some hot chocolate, my Bible and a notebook. 
24. MY SUPPORT TEAM - both prayer and financial support are so important to me! THANK YOU!!!! 
25. Jesus Christ's birth, death and resurrection. 

Below is one of my favorite, new Christmas songs. Click the link and enjoy!

MeRrY cHrIsTmAs!!!!!!! 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Campy McCampertons

Me and my WINNING team, Los Tigrecitos (the little tigers).  We accumulated the most points over the week. I talked a lot of smack to the teachers on the other teams. So much fun!
Every year, my school has a mandatory "outdoor education week" which we just call Camps. I knew about said week before coming down here and was a little apprehensive about it (if you know me at all, you know I'm not super outdoorsy). But, I still bought $100 hiking boots and came with the intention of having fun. And fun was had by all!

I had the honor, nay, the priviledge of being in a cabin with 15 ninth and tenth grade girls. Apart from a cat fight in Spanish over who got to take a shower first that I had to break up, it was a blast. We played "truth or truth" every night and I asked many insightful questions. I know my girlfriends from college know what I'm talking about.

Me after three late nights of "truth or truth"
I was super encouraged and challenged by some of the students' hearts for Christ. Worship time was awesome (I was on projector duty, thanks to my days as a Projector Girl at SGF) and the kids got really into some amazing songs. I am going to continue to pray for revival at this school, but it's good to know that there is some spiritual maturity and leadership in the upper classmen. 

Overall, I was felt very blessed to be a part of this school and these students' lives. I'm glad they got to see me outside of the classroom and not just as the teacher who tells them to "can it" when they're being too loud.

Below is a picture montage of random things throughout the week. Now, I must nap. 

Me and a few of my 10th grade girls. Love them!
A chance to act like an idiot: this is during a skit called "Moving People" where I was a Russian dance instructor, trying to help Scott learn how to dance. The students put us in random poses and we had to improvise our lines.
The whole camp - 7th through 12th grade. I think there were close to 100 of us. And 2 dogs.

There were ample opportunities to make and idiot of myself. Here's one showing: me and the other teachers making a human pyramid and the students threw water balloons at us with a potato launcher. 

Me schooling the kids in Dutch Blitz. That's me with the bandana on my greasy hair.

Missing 3 of my cabin's girls - they were so much fun!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"Whatever You Do for the Least of These...

... You Do Unto Me". ~Matthew 25:40

This was my high school history teacher's favorite verse. To this day, when someone quotes it, I think of her. I used to roll my eyes (internally, externally or both) when she launched into her mantra about taking care of the poor. "Isn't Christianity about grace and faith and not works?" I would think to myself. I think this was and still is a cop out for me to not be moved to help those less fortunate than me. I live on $10 a day here in Bolivia (take that, Rachael Ray!) and sometimes think that I am needy somehow. But then I go to an outreach like I did yesterday and God kicks me in the pants and shows me that I have so much to give - if not money, than time and love.

Some cinnamon water, a Bolivian treat. 
The area we went to is in the southern part of Cochabamba, adjacent to the airport that I flew into 6 weeks ago. As we were driving there, the desolate looking "houses" and lack of any conveniences and stores reminded me of "Slumdog Millionaire". They don't even have indoor plumbing yet. The kids were all starving, both for food and attention, and we gave them both. A simple meal of chicken, rice and salad will give them more nutrients than they'll probably get for the rest of the week. They were dirty. They were needy. And they were who Christ died for. 

The little girl in the striped sweater and pink pants hit her head on the ground -
I swooped her up and soothed her with my broken Spanish. Poor kid. :)
Apparently, making an idiot of yourself wins the love of Bolivian children. We'll just say I was loved by the time I left that afternoon. I was dirty and dusty and thirsty and wanted to wash my hands, but I was happy when I left. I was also very encouraged by the work one of the local churches is doing with these kids, week in and week out. Some of the guys who are now in seminary, grew up in very similar conditions. They were "wheelbarrow boys". The boys who I ignore when I go to the market and want you to pay for them to wheel your purchases around. There's a ministry here that reaches out to wheelbarrow boys and the fruits of that ministry's labor were so apparent yesterday. These young men know what it's like to live at home with an alcoholic dad who beats you when you make eye-contact with him. And yet they're able to speak truth and love into this next generation's lives that God is their true Father and He loves them and cares for them and wants to do good for them. It was really beautiful. 

Getting their worship on - I forgot how fun hand motions can be!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lists Are Fun!

I'm going to be honest: I'm stealing the idea for this blog post from my friend Maria, who's also new down here in Bolivia. She was telling me the things she's thought of that she hasn't done since she's arrived here and it got me to thinking, what haven't I done since I arrived? 

Here's the list, thus far:

  • Worn a seatbelt - they just don't have them!
  • Eaten a hamburger, or any fast food for that matter
  • Driven a car
  • Used my cell phone. At all.
  • Gotten my eyebrows waxed/hair cut/highlighted
  • Gone to the mall/gone clothes shopping
  • Gotten a pedicure; most of you know how important that is to me
  • Watched TV. Seriously. Not a single minute. 
  • Used a dishwasher - I am now the dish washer
  • Gone to a movie
  • Used a dryer, which is becoming more of a problem as my clothes get bigger on me
  • Sang karaoke :(
  • Flushed toilet paper
  • Gone to Target!!!
  • Used any kind of dairy substitute/soy - it tastes nasty down here
And here's a list of things I've done here that never happen in the States:
  • Talked to my students openly and freely about Jesus Christ!
  • Found cockroaches in my bedroom
  • Had a fireworks show outside my window 3-5 times a week, much to our guard dog's chagrin
  • Had to soak veggies in disinfectant before eating them
  • Get whistled at/hit on wherever I go; I could get used to this!
  • Stay plugged into the wall to get internet - my wifi stinks!
  • Had fresh flowers at my place every week; huge bouquets cost about $1.50
  • Boil water in order to drink it
  • Walk to go EVERYWHERE!
I'm sure there will be more "I've Nevers" to add to this list. We're going camping with the 7-12th graders in a couple weeks and I'll get to add "I've never gone camping with 80 students in the ANDES MOUNTAINS before" Pictures to come, I'm sure :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Day in a Bolivian Hospital

Apparently in Bolivia, you don't make a doctor's appointment because the doctor's don't follow a schedule. That's why me and my tranlator/friend Amalia sat at the Emergency Room for an hour and a half, waiting to see a doctor. I still don't know exactly what's wrong with me (see the last bullet point under "Similarities"), but they treated me for dehydration and General Funkiness.

I noticed some definite differences and similarities. Here are my findings:

  • No one uses gloves: I saw a nurse wipe the spittle from an old man with a tissue and didn't even wash her hands afterwards!
  • Lots of hospital staff walking around in stilleto heels.
  • HIPAA would've had a field day with the amount of personal papers with people's names, ID numbers and other information just floating around.
  • General cleanliness: while I didn't feel like I was in any danger of getting an infection from the place being dirty (cause it was really, quite nice), I definitely saw a bunch of wrappers on the E.R. floor and quite possibly some blood splatter on the curtain that separarted my space from the next one over. Yummy.
  • The bill! I got out of there with a doctor's exam, an IV and fluids and lab work done for about $58. Maybe there is something to this socialized medicine thing...
  • Nurses (infermerias) work hard. No matter what country you're in, they're the ones doing the majority of the work, chatting you up with their bedside manner (which you may or may not understand) and just generally busting thier butts to help you.
  • Doctors work kinda hard. My doctor was great, but I saw him sitting at the desk a lot more than I saw him working with patients.
  • IVs hurt. I'll be honest, I was kind of proud that it took me 30 years to need my first IV. All that pride melted away as they put that bad boy in my hand. Yowza!
  • I can sleep anywhere, as proven today when I took a snooze while hooked up to my IV even though there were flourescent lights in my eyes, cell phones ringing incessantly and a very tenacious person using the paging system over and over and over.
  • If you need to give a sample, it won't come. Nuff said.
All in all, my experience with Bolivian medicine was good today. I already feel better and less dehydrated and am looking forward to starting on the medicine my doctor prescribed me.
God has proved himself, once again.

Why Did the Amoeba Cross the Road?

It was time to split.

Maybe someday I'll see the humor in that joke. For now, it's a little too close to home.
I write this as I'm waiting to go to the hospital to figure out what in the world is wrong with me. I mean, I've had stomach bugs before, heck, I've been allergic to dairy for the past few years, but this, THIS is something entirely different. Without going into details, I will just let you know that I'm taking two, perhaps three, days off of work. And while I'm not one of those "I've been to work every day for the past 10 years and have never taken a sick day" people, I still feel badly doing it down here. We don't have a big, plushy substitute teacher system. We just have our already stretched teachers who fill in for me during their prep hours. So, while I'm laying here on my couch and intermittently running to the bathroom, they're teaching my classes.

Sickness aside, things have been going great here. Really! I love having my own apartment. My friends, Beth and Maria live about 100 feet away so I can drop in on them or have a movie night whenever we want. But coming back to my laptop and Skype and making meals for one has a certain je na sais quoi to it. My classes are going well, too. My 7th graders are learning latitude and longitude and making paper mache globes, my 8th graders are starting Mesopotamia, 9th grade is digging into Ancient Greek culture and my 10th graders are dealing with the age old question of nature versus nurture. Even on days like yesterday, when I was completely whipped and my head was on my desk at 3 o'clock, I remembered how much I love to teach! I'm also helping with the girls volleyball team, which has stirred the unused muscles in my right arm and reminded me how much I love the game! There's no softball team here (boo!) but I may help out with girls basketball when the time comes. I'm also looking at being the student council advisor. When I found out that their main goal is to plan events, I perked right up!

So, all that to say that God is faithful; even in an amoeba-infested country. I can feel so many of your prayers and God is sustaining me through them. Keep 'em coming!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Whirlwind!

I cannot believe I have only been in Bolivia for a week. It feels like so long ago that I was hustling through and napping in airports in North and South America on my way down here, yet I’ve only been here 6 days! Because school started on Wednesday, we only had one day to really prep and get ready for our students. Some of the other teachers did my bulletin boards (every teacher’s most-hated task) and my room was ready to go for me, which was a blessing.

Another great thing they’ve done since we arrived is make sure that we had a dinner meal, so we’ve either been to people’s houses for dinner or have had a prepared meal every night this week and it will continue into next week. Talk about God’s covenant family!

I posted pictures of my apartment and the grounds on Facebook, but let me just tell you how happily surprised I was when I saw my new place! It’s far nicer than I thought it would be – cockroaches and all! (So far, the count is only at 2.) There’s so much storage that the piddly amount of clothes I bought look sad in my big closet. I love being able to have my windows and doors open and have the delicious, Bolivian air streaming into my place. Well, mostly delicious air. They burn trash around here a lot and I swear it smells like marijuana.
Here are some things that are causing me the most culture shock over the past couple days:
·         The constant barking of dogs. And it’s not like I can call the cops to tell them to go to the dog’s house and get it to shut up cause they’re all street dogs without owners.
·         The driving! I can’t believe I ever complained about Minnesota drivers. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to when people move from lane to lane and which lane they turn from. So glad I won’t be driving here – I’ll leave that to my school van and taxi drivers.
·         Although it’s super sunny and warm during the day (probably about 75-80 degrees this week), I forget that we’re technically in “winter” so when it gets pitch black at 6:30pm, I get cornfused.
·         People staring at us. Just blatantly staring. I’m so used to Norwegian Minnesota where no one makes eye contact.
·         I’m already so used to hearing Spanish wherever I go that I almost don’t recognize when I hear someone speaking English.