Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The beginning of a new bible study group

Last night was the first night of my new bible study group!!!  I still can't believe that I'm leading a bible study in Spanish in Peru - it is almost too far-fetched for me to comprehend! 

Backing up a bit to inform those who haven't been following this saga... A month or so ago, a Peruvian college student (Susan) told me that she had a group of girls who wanted to do a bible study together.  They had done a study together before and wanted to do more, but didn't have materials or a leader or a place, etc.  Susan asked me to help her find a study and to lead it, and I offered to supply the materials and host it in my home.  So my job for the past month (among other things) has been to find a study and prepare for last night.  This proved to be a much more difficult task than I ever imagined, for several reasons:
  1. There is a GIANT lack of GOOD bible study resources available in Spanish.
  2. What IS available in Spanish is usually written for the spanish-speaking American audience, therefore it is NOT culturally relevant or appropriate for the Peruvian audience.
  3. There is a vast desert when it comes to available resources and materials within Peru, and especially within Huancayo.
  4. I am dealing with a group of girls who are teens and college-aged.  The materials that are available for this age/audience are either not culturally appropriate or non-existent. 
I polled many of my friends/missionary peers/ pastor-types, etc. for their ideas and thoughts, and received several great ideas, but for one reason or another, none would work for this group.  Finally, I locked on to a bible study that incorporated study and making a scrapbook.  This appealed to Susan in that the girls would study and have fun making something and having fellowship time in the process, plus the fact that scrapbooking is non-existent in Huancayo and this was a totally new concept.  So I ordered the book/study over the internet, Billy brought it back from the States, and all I would have to do is translate it for the study.  HA!  If life were only that easy...

The book that we THOUGHT was about Spiritual Gifts (see Paul's writings in Romans and 1 Corinthians) was not.  It was about gifts from God, but not spiritual gifts.  Susan had already told the girls about the study and the scrapbook aspect and we were a week from starting the study.  So that left me with only one option... write a bible study in Spanish over Spiritual Gifts.  It wasn't easy, and I had to learn a lot of new spanish vocabulary QUICKLY and have lots of conversations in the kitchen with Liz as to how to explain something or say another thing correctly, etc.  She even read my "lesson plans" and corrected them and helped me revise my homeworks.

Last night, we had 10 girls - 5 teens and 5 college-girls.  There are 4 more who want to join the group, but couldn't come last night (2 more teens and 2 more college-girls).  The girls decided that starting next week, they would split into two groups by age, which is better for discussion and for scrapbook workspace.  We had a great first night.  They had WAY TOO MUCH FUN starting their scrapbooks (to the tune of staying at my house until 10:30 p.m.).  They were kind-of funny because they haven't ever used pretty patterned papers or a paper cutter, etc.   They wanted to try everything out and their first scrapbook pages used A LOT of different elements, just for the sake of using them and trying them. 

I had snacks and drinks out in the kitchen, which was not the cultural presentation, evidently.  The college girls arrived first and I directed them to the kitchen to get a plate and a drink... they went to the kitchen a stood in front of the food and just stared until one of them (the one who is studying to be a chef) announced that this is what is called a "buffet" and you have to serve yourself -- then everyone said "Ooohhh!" and started to fill their plates.  Then there was a discussion as to how to get the coffee pot off of the coffee maker -- they use a tea kettle on the stove.  It was very interesting and left me feeling very privileged... even with all of the sacrifices that we have made and all of the things that we are doing without and the dramatic difference in our lives now compared to before, we still have a standard of living that is higher than normal.  In a way, it makes me feel sad and embarrassed and culturally-inappropriate.  Who would have thought that a fruit plate and a plate of cookies and a coffee maker would have been a cultural difference?

It was fun.  I was excited.  I still can't believe that I led a bible study in Spanish.  I didn't go to sleep until after midnight... too much adrenaline.  I'll keep you posted on the two group's progress and I'll take photos of the final scrapbook products.  Ciao!  

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just a normal Sunday...

Let me tell you about our "normal" Sunday...
It began last night (Saturday night), really.  Many things in our home run on propane gas.  We buy/refill tanks just like we had in the States for the gas grill.  Mainly, our oven and our hot water heater are the big things.  So while Billy was in the States, one of our tanks ran out and Liz and I changed it.  Now, normal people would go fill that tank so it wouldn't be empty - but NO, the gas company will only pick up and refill two tanks at a time (not single tanks).  So yesterday, Billy was cooking dinner and the oven tank ran out, so he took it off and hooked up the reserve tank (we have 4 tanks in total).  Keep track here... we now have two empty tanks, a working tank on the stove, and a working tank on the hot water heater.  But, you guessed it, the hot water heater gas tank went out just as I got in to take a bath.  No hot water until the gas man can come and exchange the tanks (he rides a bike with propane tanks strapped to the back).  The one saving grace was that we have a second hot water heater that only serves the office bathroom and it is electric... so I think to myself, "Self, don't fret.  You can take a shower tomorrow in the office."

So, tomorrow comes - Sunday.  We woke up to no electricity.  Great.  No hot water in the shower.  Okay.  I'll just take a bucket bath to get ready for church.  By the way... Liz's house didn't have electricity for two days this week and they lost all of their food in their fridge, etc, so I'm having a mild anxiety attack thinking about the possibility of no electricity for days.  So - back to the story... when the electricity is out, the pump doesn't work, so the only water we get is a trickle that is working off of gravity flow from the roof - Joy!  Eventually, we all get "clean" and we manage to eat breakfast and get ready for church.  Side note... you should NOT wash your hair in a bucket and expect to have it dry correctly and look presentable for church when your hairdryer is ELECTRIC!  Duh!

Okay - the family is good to go, we all have our Bibles, and we are out the door.  That's when Billy says, "I just shut the door and I don't have my keys."  Are you kidding me!!!???  You see, doors in latin america don't have doorknobs.  You literally open the door with your key - you insert the key in the lock and turn it and the door opens, no handle involved.  The downside of this is that every time the door closes, it is locked and you need your key.  Just last week, Sarah and I were out in the backyard and the wind slammed the kitchen door closed and we were locked out of the house in our own backyard!  Thankfully, a window wasn't shut well and I was able to pull the bars apart just enough to squeeze Sarah through.  But THIS TIME - no such luck.  We were in the front yard and the house was locked up tighter than Fort Knox.  Oh, did I mention that there is a separate lock on the front gate and the key is ALSO in the house?  Yeah, so we are locked in our own front yard.  We did manage to get out of the front yard and go to church, leaving the locked house behind until we returned.

When we came home, Billy did his very best Spiderman imitation and climbed up on the front fence, jumped over to the brick sidewall, climbed/swung over to the balcony, and managed to get to the balcony door without breaking any limbs... you know, at our age, breaking a hip could be a bad plan! :)  He then broke a window (we'll have to have that replaced tomorrow) and managed to get his hands on another key and open the balcony door.  Our hero!

Tonight, we have cardboard on our window, the electricity came back on, the gas man came and replaced all of the tanks, I have had a nice shower, and my hair is dry.  All in a day's work...
I think tomorrow we'll get another key or two and strategically place them - what do you think?  I wonder if I can find a battery-powered hairdryer...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

School Days (or "daze")

Yesterday was Sarah's first day of school here in Peru.  Actually, it is the mid-year point here.  The school year runs from March through December.  The schools here just had their two week mid-year break and they started back up yesterday.  Sarah was so excited to get to start school and finally meet some friends that she will see every day (not just at Kid's Club).  She just trotted right in and started class like it was an everyday occurrence.  The only thing that stumped her was that she didn't know the words to the national anthem and the pledge to the flag (of Peru).

I took Liz with me as a language helper, because I predicted that there might be vocabulary that would be new to me during the registration process, or legal-type things that I might not understand.  I received a HUGE complement when we sat down with the director of the school and she began to try to speak English to me and said, "I will speak English because you don't speak Spanish", to which Liz jumped in and replied, "Yes she does.  She speaks very good Spanish.  You can speak Spanish to her."  I didn't get a chance to stick up for myself because Liz did it for me, but it was so nice to hear!!!  

So, once again, I have an incredible burden in my heart for the ESL students back home in Texas because I TOTALLY know how their parents feel when they come to register their kids for school.  Folks, chances are that these people are NOT complete idiots... they just don't understand how you do things or WHY you do them that way.  For example, it never dawned on me that I would have to purchase everything imaginable for Sarah.  I expected to buy crayons and paper and scissors, etc. (normal school supplies in the USA).  I did NOT expect to have to buy modeling clay, paint, books, several different types of glue, etc.  And since it is mid-year and there aren't any books left to purchase, I have been given the master set of books to take and have copied... which means I have to now find a copy place and figure out how to explain what I need and that I need it TODAY because they need their master set back.  And her school has dance and karate and cooking classes as part of their curriculum, which I have to go and rent the clothes for (you don't buy the outfits, you rent them).  And, by the way, children in Latin America don't use crayons past 2 or 3 years old -- they use colored pencils.  Crayons are for training babies.  I ran into that in Costa Rica a little bit, but even more so here.

And all of those times when I just couldn't understand why Luis and Daniel and Jorge just wouldn't say "Mrs. Drum"... they called me "Miss" all of the time.  I remember how much this used to drive other teachers crazy.  Well, guess what... in Latin America, that is all you are allowed to call a teacher!  "Miss" is the proper way to address a teacher, even for a parent.  I asked for Sarah's teacher's name yesterday and was met with a strange look, but was told that her name was Rocia.  However, everyone must call her "Miss".  Liz assured me that this is completely normal.  It isn't normal to even know your teacher's real name.

And Sarah, at 4 years old, brought home two pages of homework last night.  Granted, it was easy and we had fun doing it, but I was surprised.  According to Liz, she will have homework every night.  By the way, we did the homework WRONG because I didn't understand the vocabulary in the instructions (Liz just told me).  How can I be so stupid???  My mom skills and my teacher skills are taking a beating here...

So, once again, I'm a teacher of 15 years, the Science Department Head, a curriculum writer, a team leader, etc... and I'm a complete idiot in the schools of another country/culture!  I have been brought to my knees by a school supply list.  I was completely blindsided by the registration process and the fees that are paid to schools.  It is so frustrating to be at the top of your game in your culture, and be a "special needs case" in another.

We're hanging in there... we're learning.  I just wish I could have been a better advocate for my ESL kids' parents back in Texas... I understand their feelings now.  God bless them - it's rough!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saturday, August 9, 2008

All tied up in knots...

Being in the world of knitters and crocheters here in Huancayo, I decided a while back (while I was still in Texas 2 years ago, only in the planning stages of this mission) that I needed to learn how to knit and crochet.  I thought that it would be something that I would have in common with the ladies here and we would have something that we could do together and talk about.  So I went to my church's Prayer Shawl Ministry and learned how to knit.  

My first project was, of course, a prayer shawl.  I managed to get it 90% complete before mission training and trying to leave the States became too hectic and I had to put it down.  I left it with the ladies in the ministry so they could finish it off for me and deliver it to my grandmother after they prayed over it and over her.  There was a baby blanket project that wasn't ever finished, either... it was given to a women who came to my garage sale looking for craft supplies... she was excited to take it home and finish it off.

So that was the end of the knitting until sometime early this year in Costa Rica when I was going stir crazy and needed a craft project that I could focus on and relieve my brain of Spanish overload.  I went out and bought yarn and needles and began to make Sarah a scarf for our future cold days in Peru.  I couldn't remember how many stitches to use... they just don't seem that big on the needles!  So I guessed and used 36 stitches for Sarah's scarf -- right now, any one who knits is rolling on the floor laughing at the thought of 4 year old Sarah wearing a scarf 32 stitches wide!!!  Bottom line... that's about 3 times too many for her size!  So, Sarah now is the proud owner of a blue shoulder wrap, which most of the time doubles as a baby blanket for her dolls.

While we were at home in Texas in May, I promised to "fix" the scarf problem for Sarah and I bought more yarn.  This time I got it right and she now wears her pink scarf with pride in Peru.  In fact, I liked her pink one so much that I got the same yarn for myself and I'm just about finished with my own scarf to match.

So, since we have been here, I decided that it was time to tackle crochet.  I went to the store yesterday and bought a hook and yarn so I could begin to learn.  Last night and all day today, I have been crocheting.  The basic crochet is not an issue... got that mastered.  However, how many more scarves does a person need???  I want to learn to do more than just the basic back and forth scarf or baby blanket.  

So, with the help of the internet and YouTube, I am working on mastering some other stitches.  I REALLY want to learn to make a Granny Square... I have fond memories of my greatgrandmother making us pillows and afghans with this pattern, so I would like to do it also.  But I'm having serious issues... I think I have ripped out 5 or 6 squares so far and started again.  The first few weren't squares at all - they were circles.  Guess they would have made nice doilies or something, but that wasn't the plan.  This last one was feeling much better, but then everything went south and it somehow started to draw in on itself and look something like a stocking cap.  By the time I gave up on it, it looked a lot like a hollow ball... seriously, I'm thinking of buying a styrofoam ball and putting it inside my "not-so-granny square" and using it for a Christmas ornament!

Anybody out there with any great ideas?  Guess I'm going to have to use my language skills and get out there and ask some cute little Quechua woman in the park to teach me where I'm going wrong.  I'm kind-of afraid of that idea.  You should see these women knit... these ladies are professionals!  They knit with the yarn wrapped around their shoulders and they frequently have 4 or 5 needles in their hands going at once, and they move at lightning speed.  I think I'm in too deep here...  What was I thinking???  My Martha Stewart days were over a long time ago.  Guess I'm stuck with scarves... guess what everyone is getting for Christmas!!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The past 3 days...

It's kind of funny how "normal" here is really kind-of abnormal, but I've gotten used to it and it seems completely normal to me... but then I try to tell someone in the USA about it and suddenly I realize that it isn't normal at all in my culture!  Did that make ANY sense???  Anyway, here are the past 3 or 4 days so you can get a feel for how I spend a typical day...
  •   Friday, other than the "normal" errand running, I had a meeting with Susan (a 25 year old Peruvian college girl).  Susan wants to start a bible study with a group of jovencitas (high school youth girls).  Evidently, several of the girls in this group did a study together a couple of years ago and they have been wanting to get back together, but they didn't have a place to meet or a leader or materials to study.  Enter me - the new missionary in town who happens to have spent a week with Susan trying to get my residency visa... can you say, "Divine Appointment"?  So we talked again and decided to do a study called God's Good Gifts.  The girls wanted to have a time of bible study, but also a time of fellowship and a time to learn how to make or do things, like bake or do crafts, etc.  This study is a 'scrapbook bible study'... each week, we have verses over the specific topic/gift to study and do devotions over (homework).  Then, when we come together, we will discuss our week's study and how it pertains to each other, and make 2 pages of a photo scrapbook for that week.  Cool, huh???  Susan was really excited about it when we first talked about it, and is equally excited now that it is actually going to happen!  So we are in the process of getting the materials together (cameras, scrapbook materials, study materials, etc.).  The crazy part is - THE STUDY ONLY COMES IN ENGLISH!!!  AAAAHHHH!!!!!  This means that my homework is double and one week ahead of everyone else - I have to translate this whole 12 week study AND do it in Spanish!  I think I've lost my mind...  but I'm excited!  Pray for me...
  • Each Friday night from 7-9 p.m., the ministry here has a praise and worship service downtown.  It generally consists of about 45 minutes of music, 45 minutes of sermon and prayer, and 30 minutes of more music.  Attendance varies, but this week, there was only one empty chair!  
  • Saturday, Sarah and I did our grocery shopping (which took 2+ hours) and then went to Kid's Club.  Kid's Club is generally the absolute best part of the week.  You just can't beat going to an empty field on the edge of town, turning on Christian music on the loudspeakers, and watching 80 kids flock to your side!  It's amazing!  And for two solid hours, children from 1-15 years old sing, watch puppet shows, listen to Bible stories, read, learn a Bible verse, and make a craft.  Incredible!  And it's all led by volunteer Peruvians who have decided to take this up as their way of serving God on every Saturday of the year.  It's pretty much 2 hours of VBS every single Saturday in a public field or park.  And I wonder every week... why can't this work in the USA?  Why is VBS only during one week in the summer?  Why don't we (USA folk) just set up in the park every Saturday and spread the Word to whomever shows up?  It really is an amazing time each week.  See this 1 minute video for a sample...
  • Saturday night, after a VERY QUICK bite of dinner at the house, Sarah and I went to the other side of town for a dance competition.  A local Quechua pastor sponsored a dance competition in the local park.  He invited several local churches to enter their youth groups in the competition.  Now, I don't mind telling you that I had my doubts about this. From my cultural background, I'm thinking that no one is going to show up, and if they do, it is probably going to be a little 'lame'... high school youth kids don't generally think that standing on a stage in a local public park and dancing to Christian music is a great idea.  WOW, WAS I WRONG!!!!!  I was amazed that 6 churches entered the competition!  And most of the dancers in each group were guys!  And not only did they dance, but they each got up and preached a little to the crowd first!!!  Incredible!  There were about 300+ people in the park by the time it was all said and done... maybe more than that!  Before and after the competition, our ministry's praise band played a mini-concert.  Very cool!  
  • In addition to the dance competition, Sarah and I had a great time just BEING there.  We were surrounded by about 30 kids from the minute we stepped foot in the park.  They all wanted to touch Sarah's hair and hear us talk English.  I was literally BEGGED to come and teach english in the school in that neighborhood.  It is very cool to have people be surprised that you speak English, as though Spanish is your only language.  And when I took some pictures with my digital camera - then I was surrounded by all of the mamas!  You would have thought that I just introduced fire to the community... obviously not a lot of digital cameras in the area!  These women were completely wide-eyed and amazed that they could see the picture on the back of the camera immediately.
  • Yesterday, we spent awhile in the Sunday market downtown.  We had some household things to buy, some clothes for Sarah, found a couple of gifts along the way, etc.  An old man, at least in his 70s or 80s, was going on and on about Sarah's hair - how beautiful, how soft, etc.  He was intrigued, which was kind of funny because Sarah was intrigued by HIS hair - "Mommy... he has white hair.  I've never seen a Peruvian with white hair."  By the time it was over, he had grabbed her by the hand and sufficiently kissed her all the way up her arm for being so beautiful.  Typical costs... a homemade Quechua-mama apron for Sarah - $1, a pair of pants for Sarah (handmade) - $2.50, a crocheted Barbie dress - $.60, a Peruvian woven tablecloth - $5, and 3 bunches of fresh flowers - $2.
  • This morning, I spent almost 3 hours in the kitchen listening and talking to a Peruvian friend about her weekend, her family, cultural issues, relationships, God... you name it!  The AWESOME cool thing about that is that I UNDERSTOOD AND TOTALLY PARTICIPATED IN A 3 HOUR CONVERSATION IN SPANISH!!!!  How cool is that???!!!  And there were some really deep, intimate details that I never dreamed that I could converse about in another language... incredible.  God is so good! 
So, that's a pretty typical weekend for us right now.  It's about to get pretty busy and hectic because when Billy gets home, we will begin working with a couple of schools, two disciple groups should begin meeting in the house, the high school girls should be meeting in the house, Sarah will have started school (next Monday)... LOTS going on and LOTS about to occur.  It's so great!  So glad to be here serving Christ.  Thank you for being here with us through your prayers and your support and your love!