Sunday, February 14, 2010

New Year's Resolution

Swim in the ocean more. I've been to the beach three times this month. So far, so good!

letter for a new school year

Usually, I post regularly to my blog and draw from my blog to send e-mail updates to my blog-averse and other friends. Today, however, I am doing the opposite. The familiar names of the e-mail list seemed much more inviting than cold, anonymous cyberspace. But just so cyberspace doesn't feel unloved, here is what I wrote.

Hello friends,

The 2010 school year in Nicaragua is under way, and my schedule is filled up with religion classes and tutoring. In a few weeks I will also begin assisting with the "counseling" or general life skills classes. I am mostly in an auxiliary role to the religion teachers at the two schools. The teacher at Colegio del Nino Jesus, the Catholic secondary school, is so packed with teaching other classes, though, that I've agreed to take over the third-year class solo. Once a week, therefore, I am in charge of providing spiritual enlightenment for forty-one 13-15 year olds. I begin every class by crossing myself in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and leading a prayer. Not because I'm eager to pretend to be Catholic, but because it's the easiest way to get all of them to realize that class is starting.

Fortunately, the director has given me a textbook to work from. It's pretty commie; it has a whole unit devoted to religion and labor. Skimming over the citations, it seems that the "What does the Church say?" sections could be more accurately labeled "What does Vatican II say?" One of its "living testimonial" sections is about Joan Baez.

I am very much looking forward to working with the religion teacher at the special-needs school. She is excellent in communicating themes and keeping discipline, and I contribute creative activities that explore those themes. She also has an unfortunate tendency to try to push off the grading on me. I drew the line when she asked me to grade the pictures drawn by the Down syndrome and autistic students.

My Miskitu language skills are coming along. My listening skills have especially developed, as well as reading, thanks to the Miskitu Bible the Catholic priest loaned me. Speaking of commie things. The phrase for "Son of Man" translates loosely as "from the people." It's always a delight to finally realize the English derivation of some of the words. Just yesterday, I figured out that "adar" comes from "order" and "trengsar" is from "stranger." Oh, that Creole influence. Speaking is still difficult, because here in the city I can always fall back on Spanish and know I will be understood.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I try to decide whether to apply to renew my placement for an additional year. I also appreciate any wisdom you might have on the subject.

Kaiki bas/Cuídate/Take care,


Saturday, February 6, 2010

First Fruits

"South America is the ambassador of Europe's civilizations to their more powerful neighbors to the North, still too harried to listen, but to whom will arrive the time of anguish and questions. But your role is not only as intermediary and conservationist: civilizations rot when they become overly conservationist. From your land something new must arise, we don't know what. American civilization has grown too rapidly; you mature more slowly, as do the things of nature. The fruit will be more delicious that way." -Emmanuel Mounier, 1949

This is a quote from the religion textbook I was given for teaching the third-years at Colegio del Niño Jesús. It has nicely framed my re-entry into work. Everything is slower here. I work fewer hours. I have fewer resources. But I have to believe that there is maturation going on, both in me and in the classroom. Even though I can't see it happening.

In the meantime, however, I get to enjoy the fruits of young wisdom. The 10-12 year olds were analyzing the quote "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." As one boy explained, "The camel was good and shared his wealth with the poor people, so he entered the reign of heaven. The rich man didn't share his wealth, and didn't enter the reign of heaven."