Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Home, Sweet Home

We're "home"!
So much has happened since we left Honduras on Sunday, so I'm going to try to make this a brief catch-up post.  Here you go:

Easy Travel
I pictured something more like this....
We were warned that, due to Daniel's visa status and the need to have a meeting upon arrival in the States, we could be in customs for hours and hours.  We purposely bought a ticket with Copa Airlines because it allowed us clear customs in Orlando, and not worry about making a connecting flight.  But it did not take hours.  Not even one!  Exactly one hour after our plane touched the ground, we were done with the "meeting" and had luggage in hand.  Thanks, God!

Real Life

On Monday, our first day back, I lined up a job interview with a school that had called me a couple weeks ago (on my U.S. phone...).  Then we went to the bank to change my name (Espinoza!!) and get Daniel a bank account. After that we headed to the Social Security Office and changed my name once again. Other events included buying a shirt to wear to interview and visiting family.

First this....

Then this.....
I wore similar pieces to my interview...
But I'd have LOVED that red bag!
Tuesday started with me taking my car in to get it's oil changed and tires checked before I drove out to Orlando for my job interview.  It turned out that my radiator was leaking and they fixed it (quickly, thank the lord) (for half a month's pay in Honduras).

My interview was at a school that initially scared me, but later inspired me.  It is in a poor, transient community, in which I saw no white people before entering the school.  The top languages spoken are Spanish and Creole, and 100% of the students qualify for free breakfast and lunch.  That's a Title I school if I've ever seen one.  They also have bilingual and ESOL sheltered classes.  It's a very neat place.  I left with positive comments about my interviewing skills and a promising request not to accept any other job offers before hearing back from them.
But then I heard back from a school I deemed my "dream school."  The principal let me know that a fourth grade position would be posted soon and that I should apply!  Awesome, right??  Only downside... it's not in Orlando, where Daniel can potentially find employment.  It's in the Sebastian/Vero area (actually called Fellsmere), where we have yet to find anything that Daniel could do.  Why, oh why??  I applied anyways, and will interview anyways, and will pray pray pray that God directs us to the right place.

Images from Wikipedia and Pinterest

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Serve God, Save the Planet"
This is the month of take-action books for me.   All borrowed from my lovely friend, Twana.  The latest book is called, Serve God, Save the Planet, by J. Matthew Sleeth, MD.

Having read several environmentally-focused books, I will admit that this one is not my favorite in terms of juicy, eye-opening content. However, the Christian tilt of this  particular "save the planet" book is exciting.  What I've always believed--that if God created birds and trees and water and nature, then surely he wants us to protect it--is explicit in this book, and is backed with scientific reinforcement.

Another reason this book is different from others I've read, is that the author is a medical doctor.  His background in medicine allows him to offer not only the global and societal reasons for leading an environmental responsible lifestyle, but health reasons as well (such as the incredible recent increase in asthma and cancers).

I like how this author contradicts common Christian debates to environmentalism.  Many Christians argue that it's our duty to take care of people, not animals.  Many Christians believe that since Christ is coming back, the earth will be made perfect soon enough (so, essentially, we can do with it what we want now...).  But Sleeth says, "Being pro-stewardship is not a case of valuing forests more than people; rather, it means valuing human possessions less, and God's world more." (p. 35)

This is what I needed to hear as I pack up and prepare to return to Florida.  I constantly have to remind myself that I have a sin nature--one that is obsessed with consumerism when left unchecked.  As I donate most of my clothes here, my mind wanders to the new clothes I hope to fill my closet with.  As I hung the laundry out to dry this morning, I automatically thought about the ease of owning a dryer soon (instead of thinking about the money and energy saved without one!).  Twenty times a day I ponder how much better life will be when I have __x,y,or z _.   I hate that.  I don't want to be that person.  Instead, I want to live a radically simple life in order to better serve those God loves.  If my energy bill is half as expensive as everyone else, that means more money to potentially give away.  It also means taking care of people's health.  Take a look:  "If every household changed its five most used bulbs to compact fluorescent lightbulbs, the country could take twenty-one coal-fired power plants off-line tomorrow."  Isn't that insane??  And that's just America.
A compact fluorescent lamp for general or home use
A compact fluorescent bulb
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are so many quotes I'd like to share here, but I don't even know if that's legal.  Here's just a bit more...

You probably know I gave up all meat (except for seafood) over five years ago for environmental and health reasons (the final decision came after I read The Omnivore's Dilemma.)  Even though I knew that my one small, insignificant decision not to eat what most other people do eat wouldn't change anything in the grand scheme of things, I knew that I just couldn't, in good conscience, buy into a product I so wholly disagreed with.  However, the food chapter in Sleeth's book enlightened me to the fact that our decisions about what we eat in America can directly, negatively affect the lives of others.
Check it out:
Sleeth starts by explaining how much of America's beef comes from Central and South American cattle farms, which clear large forests in order to contain so much cattle. "The loss of rain forests in South America means that the clouds they once made no longer blow across the Atlantic to drop their water on Africa.  As a result, the Sahara grows by the thousands of acres a year. What is the bottom line for Africans?  More starvation.  And the bottom line for Americans?  Cheap burgers and growing waistlines."  (p. 133)
World map depicting Africa Esperanto: Mondmapo...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We might think that by recycling, buying "green" products, and remembering to unplug our chargers means that we are doing our part to help the planet.  But what do all of those actions have in common?  They all are about acquiring and consuming.  I'm utterly convinced that caring about the environment and wanting to see change is all about buying less, and not about what we buy or what we do with it after it's ours.  We are brainwashed as Americans to believe that we need so much.  But we just don't.

"A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated 
in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash 
and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand." 
- Dorothy Sayers

"The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof."  Psalm 24:1

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What I'm Thinking...

What I'm thinking about on my days off:

1. My itchy throat.
I don't know what is causing it, but for the past month or so my throat has been giving me issues. It itches.  Badly! The doctor at school gave me some meds that didn't help, so she put me on an antibiotic.  That didn't help either, so she said it was probably allergies.
I've never had allergy problems before... and I find it weird that something would surface after three years in Honduras.  However, I hope that I am allergic to something here, and that it goes away in two weeks when I'm back in Florida, because this itchy throat is often unbearable.  My friends find it normal now when I pepper a conversation with a very attractive hawking noise--the only thing that sort of relieves the itch.

2.  Jobs.
I just want to know where I'll be working.  If I'll be teaching, I want to know what grade so that I can prepare and gather ideas.  It's looking like Daniel will have a job before I do, which is great... but also frustrating.

3.  Katie Davis.
See the previous post.  I can't get that girl and her awesomeness off my mind.

4.  Saying goodbye to great friends.  
All the saddest farewells are coming up quickly.  I can do this!

5. My ten year high school reunion. 
I think it's this weekend, and, obviously, I'm not there.  I'm not disappointed to miss it--I never was much for school spirit--I'm more just reminiscing on the fact that I'm getting old.  On the other hand, last summer I found the dress I wore for senior project presentations in twelfth grade in my closet (which means that it somehow avoided the annual closet purge for ten years now!) and it fits me again!  I actually wore it often this year--its a good teacher dress.  Hooray for shrinking back down to high school sized me!

6. Starting a new blog.
Because I'm no longer taralpeterson, and since I am soon to begin another adventure Stateside, I'm considering ditching Plans to Prosper for something shiny and new.  The draw of blank pages are calling me...

What about you?  What has been on your mind lately?

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Life to the Fullest

If you haven't read it yet, please go buy a copy of the book Kisses From Katie.

This book is changing my life, as well as the lives of my good teacher friends here in Honduras.
My birthday is in August..... hint, hint.
You can check out or Katie's personal blog, to learn more about the amazing story of the girl who moved to Uganda after high school to help orphans for "one year" and ended up adopting 14 girls, along with changing the lives of thousands. She's only 22 and has done SO much.  As my friends and I prepare to leave our lives of service here in Honduras, and as we wonder what is in store for us in the future, this book has given us both hope in God's provision and also a bit of trepidation as we prepare to return to the life that Katie gave up.  Below is a part of the book that spoke to me, because living an American life of mediocracy is certainly not what I want.

"Fear. It's part of human nature, but it's not something we got from God. Second Timothy 1:7 says: 'For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.' When I imagine God creating each one of us and planting a purpose deep in our hearts, I never imagine that purpose being mediocrity. While the Bible doesn't tell every person on earth specifically what his or her life's calling will be, it does include a lot of general direction:
    "You are to find me in the least of these." Yes.
    " You are to leave your earthly possessions and come follow me."  Yes.
    "You are to love and serve the Lord God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself." Yes.
    "You are to go and make disciples of all nations."  Yes.
    "You are to entertain strangers and lepers and tax collectors." Yes.
    "You are to live a life of mediocrity and abundance, holding on tight to your comfortable lifestyle, lest you lose it." No.
I don't think so. "Mediocrity and abundance" aren't there. However, mediocrity and abundance, comfort and ease, do seem to be safe choices for many people, myself included. In stark contrast, leaving our possessions, following Jesus when we don't have a well-defined plan, and entertaining strangers--well, that does sound a little scary. But what if, just beyond that risk, just beyond the fear is a life better than anything we have every imagined: life to the fullest."

Kisses From Katie, p. 100

I know myself and the lure of American consumerism that hits me every time I return to the States.  Everyone has more. Everything is nice and new and shiny and safe... and I compare myself and my things to them.  My current prayer for Daniel and I, my goal for our life in the States, is that we do not get lured into a life of mediocracy and abundance.  I don't want a full house that ties us down.  I don't want so much comfort that we can't just pick up and leave if God calls us to do so.  I want to live life to the fullest, and by full I mean as materially empty and as full of God's provision as possible.  

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Breaking Bad News

My heart is still beating fast. My palms are sweaty.  I think my hands are still shaking a little.

Sounds like how we describe someone in love... but no, this is the result of telling some parents that their daughter isn't passing third grade.

I just got home.  Today was a half day at school. We had our party, signed shirts, got some gifts.  Then all the kids went home and I stayed to clean up and deliver some bad news.  This is the first time as a teacher that I've ever had to retain a student, but what makes it even worse is that they assumed their daughter passed--and told her so yesterday. They thought that no news was good news.  In fact, no news meant no hope.  They didn't get a letter requiring their daughter to take a recuperation test (Honduras' system of allowing students to take a test covering the content of the quarter or the year they failed) because her average was low enough that it wouldn't have helped her.  The school told me to only send a letter home if she needed to take the test, but that, since she didn't, no letter was needed.
Well, that was apparently a mistake because they took it to mean that she passed.  I now see that the school is mistaken in that system. I think letters should be required to go home either way.  Maybe then I would have been spared this incredibly awkward and slightly abusive meeting with parents (well, one in particular) who believe that the first grade teacher ruined and damaged their daughter and it's entirely the school's fault that she can't read.  I wish the thought of repeating a year wasn't so repulsive to them...she would do so well and finally experience some success!  I think they're just going to move her to a school that accepts grades under 70%.

All the experiences that teaching gives me often make me wonder what kind of parent I'll be.  I ask myself, "Will I be like so-and-so's mom, or so-and-so's?"  Will I think that my daughter couldn't possibly be slow in reading, but instead it must certainly be due to the psychological damage she experienced as a child? Will I be the mom that shows up at the classroom door every single morning to take up the teacher's time to clarify or ask or request something for her child?   Will I be the cool mom who invites the teacher for dinner and gives good gifts?  Who knows... but I am grateful for the perspective that teaching has given me.  I don't have any parenting experience, but I do see good and bad examples every day.  Hopefully that will give me a jump start when the time comes. (Which, by the way, won't be for a while!)

Tomorrow is the official last day of school.  We had our party today because I wanted a calmer end to my year with my sweet kids.  Tomorrow I'll give them the owls I made for them!  I hope they like them!
All 19 of them...

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Six Things I Might Not Miss Much

Leaving Honduras will be hard and painful, but here are a few things I don't mind leaving behind...

1. Nannies

When I used to think of a nanny, I imagined something from the book The Nanny Diaries--A recent college grad's temporary position before finding her big break.Now when I hear the word nanny, my mind automatically jumps to the young women who leave their homes and their own children to raise rich people's kids. The ones who do all the work preparing and setting up our classroom parties, who my students blame when their lunches aren't to their liking. They wait with the kids for the bus in the morning, and they are there, ready to take their backpacks, when the kids get home.  It's not that I dislike nannies, exactly. It's more the general child-rearing philosophy for which I've lost respect. 
The Nanny Diaries (film)
image: wikipedia

2. Bluntness regarding weight, 
but indirectness with most everything else.
El Gordo y La Flaca
[image: IMDB]
 A letter from a Honduran parent might begin with a paragraph or two wishing me the best and hoping to find my family and I in good health, before getting to the actual point; "Jorge will not be in school tomorrow. Thank you."

One cultural communication aspect that is so very contrary to North Americans in the way they discuss your figure.  It is perfectly normal for a husband to call his wife, gorda,  and she doesn't care! Or, it might actually happen that the lady at church tells you, while squishing your arm fat, that you used to look so delgada but now, not so much.  Umm... I might be a little scarred. 

3. Riding the school bus
I'm all for free transportation... but not for having to be in teacher-mode before and after work.

Ok, but when they're this cute it's not so bad!  :)

4. Teaching important people's children
Eight year olds should NOT have iPhone 4s, nor $200 headphones for them.
They also should not need two bodyguards to follow our school bus on the way to our field trip (my first year here, that happened...)
Don't get me wrong; I adore these specific children.  I just won't miss the kind of pressure associated with teaching such important kids.
 Picture found here, with a relevant article...
5. The deterioration of my English
What?  It's incorrect to say, "I made good grades?"  But it sounds right....
At least when I accidentally let slip a, "How many years do you have?" or a "Where is the book of Diego?" I know that I've made a mistake. It's when the mistakes start sounding right that I know I've got a problem!

A door I once made... and need to remember!

6. Fear
I won't miss not being able to take a walk outside.
I won't miss the jello-legs I get every time a man seems threatening.
I just won't.