Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Seasons Greetings!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our family and friends!!  
I've put off posting for a bit this month out of... well I suppose you could say out of being emotional!  This whole month I have felt like an emotional basket case.  Perhaps it was just the crazy busy schedule of school and our life outside of work.  I suppose a great deal of it was the fact that I knew we weren't going home for Christmas this year.  This was the first time I've never been home to go to Grandma's for Christmas Day.  It just didn't seem feasible financially to go home this year as I was home in the beginning of December for my friends wedding.  

So since we didn't go home we decided we would go enjoy a few days at the beach together.  We stayed in an amazing penthouse suite with a view of the beach.  The town was sooo cute!  It was like being in a little Italian town!
We spent a lot of time watching people in this little park by the beach!

Thankfully this little trip was a good way to get our minds off of being away from our family and just spend time with each other.  I can not express how thankful I am for the modern technologies we have now!  If it wasn't for our cell phones we would have never been able to talk to everyone Christmas Eve or Christmas day!  But now that the holidays are over it's time to get back to the "regular" world.  Derek has been spending the last day or so making beads out of magazine paper.  I hate to admit it but he is WAY better at it than I am.  We are hoping to have a craft/art show in the springtime at our church to help raise some money to help others.  We haven't quiet decided what the money will go towards but we are thinking Second Harvest, the local food bank that helps feed many many people in the New Orleans area.  

I am hoping to start making some Valentines Day cards and other cards on my week off of school.  I made Christmas cards this year but have been a bit slow on mailing them out.. (that's one of tomorrow's tasks!)

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and has a safe and fun New Years Eve!  We love you all!
 Merry Christmas from the Kowalczyk family!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One Long Car Ride

Last week we received the news that a dear family friend passed away due to a heart attack.  Mr. J as many of us referred to him as has been a family friend for about 12 years or so.  The J family first moved down the street and became our "neighbors" as Mr. J was the new music director for our church.  I remember biking down to their house just to say hi and babysit the boys on several occasion. Mr. and Mrs. J quickly became good friends with my parents and our families often spent time together.  I remember Mr. J telling us jokes while we were on our way to school.

After several years the J family moved away but our families still stayed close.  While I was in college they returned back to Cross where I had the chance to get to know them even better  When Derek and I got married it seemed appropriate to ask  Mr. and Mrs. J help us with our wedding.  I have always been impressed by Mr. J's music skills and Derek and I asked him to play the music for our wedding. He eagerly agreed and played some not so typical wedding songs.  He didn't even hesitant to question us when one of the songs contained some lyrics in an African language!  Mrs. J was so kind to help with decorating the wedding hall with us before our wedding.  While Derek and I were off taking pictures Mr. and Mrs. J helped keep our guests occupied.  I remember the look of joy on Mr. J's face as my parents walked me down the aisle.  I always considered them to be a second set of parents as they have prayed for me, encouraged me, listened to me cry, and praise me through the highs and lows of my life.

When we received the news I have to admit I was in total shock.  As crazy as it may seem I always feel like people I know and love just aren't supposed to die.  Sure this is an unrealistic idea but one can wish that people they love don't die right?  I struggled with trying to decide whether or not we should attend the funeral. All week I went back and forth on what we should do. Thursday morning Derek called and told me to book the car that we needed to go.  Friday afternoon we began our 14 hour drive and got to my parents house @ 5 am.  I am so thankful that we were able to make the funeral.  I have never been to a more hopeful funeral than his.  My tears ranged from those of sadness, joy, and comfort through the service.  A large number of people singing praise to God for the life of a man who has touched so many brought me to tears several times.  The service left me with a hope for the future and a smile in my heart knowing that Mr. J is up in heaven singing and playing in a great worship concert!

I am incredibly thankful to have known this family and for all the joy they have brought to me and my family!  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Day of Peace

This Friday our school celebrated Pinwheels for Peace Day.  Thanks to the 2nd grade teacher who came up with an awesome way to recycle the church bulletins into pinwheels this year!  This day gave me the opportunity to speak to my kiddos about what peace means. Being peaceful means more than just being nice to your friends.  In our area of the world we have so much crime occurring.  Many of my kids have already had a parent, cousin, family member, etc. be killed or seriously injured in a crime.  One of the first things I noticed when I started teaching down here is the lack of conflict resolution.  Even at young age of 5 many of my kids have already been taught that if something does something you don't like then it's okay to just hit them, kick them, or say mean things to them.  I have had to sit down with my kids each year and explain that yes at home this may be how you hand problems but in our classroom that is NOT how we do it.

So many of the crimes in New Orleans happen because you did something to my brother so now I am going to do something back to hurt your family and over and over the cycle repeats.  I feel like part of my job as a teacher is to help teach my students that there is ANOTHER option besides violence when you are mad.  We are learning that it is okay to be angry but we do not use our hands to solve the problem.  I loved being able to use Pinwheels for Peace Day as another way to show my kids how to vent their anger.  We used our pinwheels to talk about how drawing or paining or even dancing can help release some of those angry feelings we have inside of us.

I must admit the students this year did a great job decorating their pinwheels. Here are just a few of them!

This weeks marks the final countdown before a visit home for the weekend!  I can't wait!!! I've been pretty homesick this month so this trip is coming at a great time!  Enjoy your week!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Calm after the Storm

Hurricane Issac has offically come and gone.  I struggled with wanting to write in our blog last week but decided it was best if I waited til I wasn't so crabby about it.  The actual hurricane was not too bad where we lived. We did not experience the intense flooding that other parts of the state had.  Where we lived there was quiet a bit of wind damage but our apartment was just fine.  There were lots of trees, power poles, fences, signs, and roofes blown down in our area.

The rain was pouring down

 Kia lost their carport
 Flooding in the Kmart parking lot
 One of the many fences blown down
 Another car port blown down

The Baby-R-Us sign and Office Depot sign blew away and the electric pole was pulled out of the ground some.

The worst part came just before the storm really hit us and the power went out. The first 3 days it was still rather cool and I wasn't bothered about not having power.  Many of the major stores such as Target where open so we went there when we got bored or needed to cool off. A big praise to Target for providing each guest with one free bag of ice!  I've never been so happy to get ice before!  The power went out late Tuesday night and didn't return until Monday evening.  By the time Friday-Sunday rolled around I was flat out done.  It had started to get hot in our apartment, all the food that we had just purchased a week or so before eventually had to be thrown out of the fridge and freezer.  We were able to save 2 packs of bologna, 2 bags of shredded cheese, ketchup, miracle whip, and a container of pickles.  My poor popsicles flat out melted and I was not happy about it.  I am incredibly thankful that Derek's work got their power and internet back Thursday afternoon.  Derek and I spent quiet a bit of time hanging out his work watching movies and surfing the internet while we kept Sammy cool there.  I am so thankful his boss allowed us to spend so much time there!!

I think one of the toughest parts of the storm was all the emotions that came up. Thankfully my husband took excellent care of myself and my co-worker Sarah who stayed with us. He made us some great meals via our little piggy grill. We even had eggs one morning and barbque ribs one dinner.

But it was such an empty feeling waiting for the storm to hit and having no idea when it may hit us since we did not have any power.  Then there was the feeling of anxiety as we waited to find out about the power, every time I called I was told that 75% of people would have it by Tuesday and 90% by Thursday which is a very very vague answer!   It was also difficult because our cell phone signal was so in and out all of the time which made it difficult to talk with family and keep them updated. My poor dad was so worried for us.  The storm also made us realize we have so few friends here and we need to work on that.

I am thankful that things have finally gotten back into place and we are back into the routine at our jobs.  If you could please continue to pray for all of those who lost their home during the storm it would be much appreciated!

I'm also thankful that we could roast marshmallows while the power was out!

Monday, August 27, 2012

And now we wait!

It's safe to say we are ready for this Tropical Storm or Hurricane, well at least we have enough food!  It seems the storm in the Gulf has decided it would like to turn and is headed towards the New Orleans area.  We still aren't quiet sure when it will hit or how strong it will be.  Yesterday Derek, Sarah my new co-worker, and I went and filled up my car with gasoline and went on a Walmart run.  The gas station lines were crazy long!  Thankfully we went early enough that we beat most of the lines and where able to get gas before it ran out.  We are stocked up on all supplies that we may need.  I made sure we had some cookies and pop for myself!  Walmart was very busy and had very little water left.  Thankfully we had bought a bunch of water the week before so we were pretty stocked already.  We only picked up a few bottles to  add to our water pile in case we are without power for a few days.
The water aisle at Walmart

School has been cancelled for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I am hoping it will be cancelled on Thursday also since school was already planned to be cancelled for Friday and Monday.  We are supposed to have a teachers conference on Friday and have off for Labor Day on Monday.

I suppose I am a little worried that all of my students will return to school a bit scared.  When you are 5 and aren't quiet sure what to do during a huge storm it can create some HUGE anxiety issues.  Hopefully I will be able to help my kiddos work through some of this and provide them a safe and comforting setting in our classroom.

So far only a few parishes have been evacuated and according to the news the commute from downtown to where we live out in Metairie is now taking 2 and a half hours.  On a usual day this may take 30 minutes tops during rush hour.  Traveling out of the city is going very slowly.  Slowly but surely they will start closing down some of the roads and bridges for the next day or so.  So now we just sit and wait and see what happens.  With all of the newly improved levees the fears are a bit lower about this storm.  However, for some people the fact that this storm is occurring at the exact same time that Katrina occurred is very scary.  So as we wait I thought I'd let everyone know what's happening so far down here and I'm hoping to try to keep people updated as the storm approaches.  Please keep our family and our city in your prayers as we await the storm.  More to come....

Friday, August 24, 2012

A week of school and some new projects

I have officially made it through one full week of Kindergarten!  All week I have had 22 students. I think it may be somewhat safe to assume that is how many I may have for awhile.  I have some very fun students this year.  The boys far out number the girls this year so lots of our activities involve movement.  We spent our week learning about the letter l. I know more about ladybugs and lions than I care to know about for now.  Did you know there are more than 5,000 different ladybug types?!?!  

Derek has been busy working on 2 new projects.  We found this cart out by the dumpster of our apartment complex. 
With a few coats of new spray paint and a new top it looks great!  He has already put it to good use at his work!

Derek has also been working on making a home made windmill.  He has finished the coils for it so far.  

We had planned to go to the zoo last weekend but we had a LARGE amount of rain last weekend. We have had quiet a bit of rain the last week or so.  There is also some possibility of a hurricane coming our way. It's still a bit to early to know what direction it will go.  They have a few different projection models but it's a bit too early to know.  I hope you all have a great weekend!! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Half a Week Down.. LOTS more to go!

Well my first official week, or should I say half week, has come to an end.  Unlike last year when I had a rather small class my class size has DOUBLED this year! Talk about a bit of a shocker to go from 12 students to 19, or 20, or 21, or even 22 depending on the day this week.  Apparently I am supposed to have 22 students this year. So far my class size has changed every single day this week.  I'm looking forward to the time when I have the same number of students several days in  a row and have an official class list that is totally accurate!!  I'm not sure if I'm scared, worried, or excited about this.  There has been some talk about getting an aid but I'm not sure how that will all work out.  I think I am a bit worried about having an aid since I've never had one before and I feel like it may be more work than it would be worth. Who knows?!?! Maybe I will really like it.  I have quiet a few different levels of students this year. I've got a few who are reading or close to reading and some that have no idea what the letters in the alphabet even look like.  This should be a challenging but hopefully rewarding year for all of us!

Derek has been busy working on making his windmill. He spent a few hours last night making what I think are coils for it. (ask him not me lol)  The weather has been a bit yucky the last few evenings but I am hoping it is nice out tomorrow so we can go to the zoo with our free passes!  He and I have never been to the zoo together and my last few trips have been with 60+ students along with me. Needless to say my past few zoo trips have been a bit hectic and I couldn't even tell you what animals I saw if I had to!  While I love field trips because they give many of my students experiences that they may never have had before or will have in the future they are STRESSFUL!  It will be nice to go to the zoo and not have to worry about someones child running away from the group or being stolen by some random stranger! 

I hope all of my teacher friends who went back this week have had a great first week! 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

End of Summer

It's hard to believe in just a few more days my 4th year of teaching will begin! I am not sure if I am excited or nervous for this year.  I think perhaps one of the most frustrating things at this moment is that I have NO idea how many students I'll really have on Tuesday!!  How does one put up name tags when you don't really know if they are going to show up or not?  But none the less I'll be ready for them on Tuesday!

Derek has been doing lots of different projects this summer.  Some of the projects have included a home made telescope and paper Star Wars Guys.

Successful picture of the moon

Star Wars characters

The current project is a windmill.  I am excited to start using my Sizzix Big Shot machine this weekend to emboss some cards!  I am one week away from finishing my first Master's Degree course also!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Now What?

I have officially typed out all of our thoughts from our trip! We have been back in the US for about a month now and this month has been full of it's ups and downs.  I find myself continually struggling with what to do next?  After lots of prayer and reading from the bible we have decided we will start saving for our next trip. Derek really wants to go to Africa while I would love to go to Peru again.  For those of you who may not know a ton about me, Peru is one of my passions.  I have been there 5 times and am still as in love with the country now as I was after my first mission trip there!

One of our biggest struggles has been how to keep involved with mission work within our own local area.  I was able to get a bit of my "help" fill when I went back to Illinois last week.  It just so happened to be their VBS week and I was able to help for the last 2 days of it. Crazy how God works, the preschool bible story teller was going to be out of town on Friday and I was going to be in town on Friday to fill her place!  Derek has been doing LOTS of fix-it up projects at my school since we have returned!

In less than a week I return back to school.  I'm also excited about the upcoming faculty retreat on a CRUISE.  4 days on a boat with my fellow co-workers getting refreshed and ready for our new school.  I've started my first official masters degree class and have loved it so far!  More to come later but I'll leave you with a few photos from back in Illinois!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Grand Finale

His Thoughts

Today is our last day at the village.  We started off today on setting the final forms for the concrete.  After we were all done with the forms I headed to the church to  hand out toys.  Seeing the children's faces made this trip worth every minute.  They were so happy!  When we were almost finished the concrete truck came.  It was nice to see it seeing as everything else got mixed by hand.  All of the school children said a big thank you today for everything we did.  We got all the concrete done today  All that is left on the village school building is the bars over the windows and painting.  The building should be done in about 2 weeks they said.  I am really happy that this is done!  They will be able to help many more children in the village.  We all also gave the school the school supplies to hand out.  All together this trip was a blessing for the people of Honduras and a blessing for us in our life.

Her Thoughts

Today was our last day in the village.  I felt much better today!  For our last day of VBS we made shirts that said, "Dios me Creo!" which translates into, "God Made Me!"  The kids got to decorate them with markers and then they painted a stencil animal on.  About 200 kids made shirts and then we ran out.  We found the missing shirts about 2 hours later win we were preparing to leave =(.  Following the shirts we made 300 ham and cheese sandwhiches for all the kids and many adults got to eat also.  It was a bit sad that very few children said thank you but I think so it was that they were rushed through the line a bit quickly so that we could get everyone fed in a timely manner.  When I went over to the medical clinic to help feed some of the people waiting to see the doctor many of them said thank you, some even in English!  

After lunch we did toys.  We only gave toys to the kids who had the #5 left on their bracelet like the directions had said on the first day we arrived.  It was a great feeling to see their faces light up as they got their new toy.  Something as simple as a Dollar Store barbie made the little girls faces light up.  It's such an amazing thing to think that such a simple toy can make a children so happy in Honduras but here in the US so many kids would look at you like you were nuts if you gave them a cheap barbie doll.  There were some sad kids who didn't get toys but it taught the the importance of following directions, their teachers should love us!

All of the cement was poured.  The school should be ready in about 2 weeks.  They need electric run, bars over the windows, and some paint before its ready.  An  electric company from the church we worked with will be coming later in the week to finish the electric.  It's a great feeling to know we helped make many more children's futures brighter.  For many children school is the only way out of poverty and these new school rooms will help many more children be able to attend school.  I was able to play some games with the kids before we left.  It was great to see them laugh and smile!

Overall, I think the trip went well.  We are excited to share our stories but we are ready to be home and see Sammy dog!  We are a bit anxious to see if everything is okay at home! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bring on the sand

His Thoughts

Today we started working on the floors.  We hauled so much sand into the building!  Amy still was a little sick this morning.  I took her into the clinic and laid her down.  Our host families husband Roger got sick as well. We all passed it around! After laying Amy down the town leaders came for a dedication ceremony.  Today we gave the local leaders the deed to the school and the clinic.  This way they will be able to get teachers into the classrooms.  It all turned out nice.  All that's left on the building is the floor and the bars for the windows.  It still is very weird doing everything by hand on these buildings.  All together everything went well for the building.  One of the Dave's today got a huge cut on his leg.  I had someone run up and ask me for my bandana.  I took it off quick.  Kind of funny story though.  First I was told it was his head and then I was told his leg got cut off.  Turns out it was just a big cut from the roofing metal. He went and got about 15 stitches.  I hope this is all that happens and there are no more injuries!

Her Thoughts

Today I started the day not feeling well but decided to go anyways.  I felt okay but then started to throw  up again.  They kept telling me they would take me back to San Pedro Sula but after some talking Derek and I decided against it.   I knew that if I went back Derek would also go back and that would hurt the amount of work that could be done on the building.  I also felt like if I was to get sicker who would I talk to to take me to the hospital.  The family where I was going only had housekeepers who would be there and spoke little English.  So instead I stayed and took a nap in the clinic while they had a ceremony for the school.  After lunch I felt better thanks to Novea, a dentist from our group, who took care of me.  

After lunch I even helped get some work done!  I helped count out vitamins and medicine.  We had to count out a certain number of pills into a small bag and then tie all of the bags back up.  I even took a stab at dental work!  I helped hold their light so they could see into the patients mouth and I also hardened a tooth with the heat gun.  Apparently 1 of the doctors was annoyed that I was in their but the dentists were thankful that I was helping.

The classroom is almost finished.  It just needs the floors put in tomorrow and the roof finished off.  We had our 1st injury today that required stitches but he is okay now!  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Church with a Tummy Ache on the Side

Her Thoughts

Today we started our morning at church.  It was very similar to Cross, my home church, minus the language barrier.  What I found most strange is the fact that I found myself actively engaged even though I couldn't understand some of the church service.  It was such a refreshing feeling to be able to stand up, clap my hands, and raise my hands in praise to God!  After singing several songs we were called to the front and were thanked for all we have done for their country.  We were then asked to sing a song on the spot.  If only we had a few minutes to think of a song most of us may have known.  We ended up singing "Shout to the Lord."  It was one of the first songs I ever learned in Spanish and was able to sing along in both English and Spanish.  

After church we went with Nancy & Dave's family to the beach since our families little girl was still sick.  It was about a 2 hour drive to the beach.  We got the beach house only to find out there was already a group of people there.  Apparently the wife had rented it out to another group and the husband rented it out to our group. Oopps!  Thankfully there was another church member who had another beach home close by.  After a quick stroll to the beach we discovered it was pretty gross.  It was full of lots of washed up items since it had rained quiet a bit the last few evenings. Thankfully the house had a nice pool so people could go swimming there instead.  

I ended up getting sick while we were there, not sure if it was the flu like our host  families little girl had or a case of food poisoning.  I won't go into details about being sick for your sake!  The doctor ended up giving me a prescription drug.  After about 25 minutes I noticed I was starting to get a rash, we asked him what it was and discovered it was in the same drug family as what I am allergic to.  But like a pro I had benydryl with us and was able to combat the reaction before it got too bad.  We went home early and both of us went to bed not feeling too well.

His Thoughts

Off day we both got SICK!  Today we all went down to the ocean and Amy started to feel bad .  Before we left we went to church this morning.  We all went with our host families.  Church today was very contemporary, it was nice for a change to be at a church like that.  The people asked for us to come up and they said a big thank you to us.  It really made me cry to see a community say thank you and be grateful for what we had done. It really makes the trip worth it.  

Maybe in future years the people will be joined enough to stand up to the corrupt government here and make some serious changes for the poor.  All of the people in power down here I noticed don't care about anything else but money.  They do not care about the poor.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Market and Orphanage Visit

Her Thoughts

After several days in the village we had an off day and went to the market in the morning.  We had about 45 minutes to search the market for the best prices.  It was difficult to spend money on ourselves knowing how many people struggle just to eat one meal.  We ended up finding some great deals including some little leather bible keychains, 2 hand made wooden plaques, a purse, and a painting of calla lilies for our apartment!  Every mission trip I've been on (minus the one that we didn't go to the market) I have purchases a painting to remember the trip.  

After the market we had a 2 hour ride up the mountain to an orphanage called Casa Hogar.  It was a beautiful drive!  On the way there we had a great discussion with another teammate about being open to learning about other religions.  It was actually a great conversation and a chance to learn about other religions.  

At the orphanage they have 43 kids.  I fell in love with 2 little ones, Jocelyn- 7 months, and Christian who is 1.  While the doctor was working with the kids 1 little boy, Cesar, kept going in and getting in trouble.  I took him from the head lady and walked him around outside.  He cried for about 5 minutes as we walked around and then he fell asleep in my arms.  It was such a humbling experience to say the least.  Derek played basketball and soccer with many of the kids.  Boy are they good at soccer! It was very difficult to leave and lots of tears were shed.  If we can't have our own child, I hope we can one day give a child just like those children a family to belong to.

One thing that continues to come up this trip is adoption.  I had a great talk with our host families mom who adopted their little girl 4 years ago.  I had no idea that she was adopted because she looks just like her daddy!  What a blessing it has been to discuss my fears and frustrations about pregnancy and to find encouragement from someone who has been in our shoes.

His Thoughts

Today we went up the mountain to an orphanage.  On the way we stopped on the side of the road and picked up bananas and pineapples.  When we arrived at the orphanage all the kids came running out to great us.  It was amazing to see what the prior groups has built at the orphanage.  For a bit we walked around outside and had a tour of the orphanage.  We played basketball and soccer with the kids.  A lot of the kids were really good at soccer!  It would be nice to send some soccer cleats to the kids so they didn't have to play soccer in bare feet or sandals.  I also did origami with the kids.  Other team members gave hair cuts, painted nails and gave dental and doctor check-ups.  Amy kept holding a baby most of the day, it was very cute to see.  I also held her for a bit and had her smiling and laughing.  We all did not want to leave.  The kids were so cute it was difficult to leave!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Let It Start With Me" (Official Music Video) - No Other Name

Keep on building - Day 4

His Thoughts

Today we got started working right away when we got to the village.  We finished the front wall of cinder blocks and the three walls on the school all the way to the top frames.  Breaking cinder blocks on an angle with a hammer is very interesting.  We broke block after block.  I am pretty tired, I think that today is going to be a pretty short passage.  I will leave it at, "This was a very productive day!"

Her Thoughts

Last night there was a huge storm.  I had a tough time sleeping but Derek slept right through it!  It made for a gigantic muddiness in the village.  Derek continued to build the classroom walls today.  He worked on  the arch of the roof that the metal roof can go on.  They had to hand cut the blocks with a hammer so that their blocks could be at the slant it needed.  No electric tools for them!

I worked with VBS again.  We had a MUCH bigger group of kids than yesterday.  We even had to come up with some new crafts since we ran out of the planned ones but the kids loved what we had for them.  I found myself going into teacher mode as I held a few little ones hands to help them with coloring.  

I had a moment of frustration today with a few members from our group.  It was hard to watch some people just sit there and not do anything while many of us were sweating to death in the church working with the kids.  After awhile I ended up walking over to them and said I needed someone to sweep for me because I needed some water.  I was very pleased to come back and see that the floor had been entirely swept while I was gone.  Occassionally,  I need to remind myself to step back from a situation and evaluate my expectations for things.  Even within my own classroom I have learned that I can't expect my students do something if I have never made them aware of the expectations I have for them.  The same can apply to a trip such as this.  We all came in with our different ideas of what was going to happen and of course we all think differently so our expectations are all going to be different.

After VBS I was talking with another member of our group about things like picking up trash are not part of the every day manners in this village.  Why would you put your garbage in a trash can when there aren't any in your village?  The last few days we have noticed that the kids and adults simply throw their trash on the ground when they are done with lunch and the amount of trash was increasing around the church since we were providing meals every day for lunch.   With a little thought and some broken Spanish I was able to convince a few little girls to help me pick up the trash.  They would count the number of pieces of trash we pick up in English and I would count in Spanish.  They were impressed or maybe they just found my accent funny and giggled the entire time we went around cleaning.  It may not seem like such a big deal but for these little girls it was a time to have a one-on-one and just feel loved by someone and shown that their way of life is important to us and we want to see them have better lives.  

After cleaning up the village I taught what started as a small group but then turned into a much larger group of kids some new games.  With what Spanish I know I was able to translate several different games to them. We started with hot potato (with our own homemade clapping music) and then went on to ring around the rose, dodge ball, London bridges, and head shoulders knees and toes.  The kids loved it!  I'm hoping over the weekend I can come up with a few new games to teach them on Monday.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

One block at a time - Day 3

His Thoughts

Today's bus ride had even more people on it than yesterday.  When we arrived we began working on the wall from the previous day.  Today we set the forms for the top of the wall.  A group of us must have lifted a hundred or so buckets of concrete.  People in the US don't realize how nice it is to just call a concrete truck.  Laying the concrete we mixed by hand was so heavy.  We had two people lifting the concrete to us and then we dumped it into the forms.  The children really like playing around us.  Today some of the women from our group gave haircuts and painted the girls nails.  It was really hard to keep going at the end of the day. My shoulders are still hurting from sun burn the previous day and my hands are starting to get sores on them.  I couldn't work with the gloves today because I couldn't hold the tools correctly.  The day was very productive.  Almost the whole front wall is done and the walls on the classroom are done as well.  They keep saying they never got so much done in previous years.  It is nice to know things have progressed so much in just 2 days.  I also hear the clinic saw over 100 people today.  I've heard that some people are just dehydrated.  Others have babies who are sick.  Nothing really horrible in terms of illness.  One guy who has been treating people for many years on this trip said when they first dug the well people haven't been getting sick as they used to be.  Through all my life I have not seen or heard of so much change in a community in such short amount of years.

 Her Thoughts

On day 2 in the village (day 3 of our trip) I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go.  We headed to the village where Derek continued to work on the classroom walls.  Boy did he get dirty!  He was lifting big buckets of mortar/cement to put the cinder blocks in place.  He was an excellent worker!  I got many compliments about how great he was doing.

While Derek built I helped with VBS (vacation bible school).  We are doing a creation theme.  We had 1 group of 3-6 year olds and 1 BIG group of 7-13 year olds.  The 2nd group was VERY big!!  After they listened to the bible story they did a craft.  The little ones made a sun/moon  mobile sort of thing and the older kids did sun catchers.  The little ones project included stickers.  Many of them had never seen stickers before so it was exciting to be able to witness this first.  Once they figured out what to do with them they were in love with the stickers.  The boys took their time to put in lots of details on their craft projects.  

Odd as it may seem I'm very glad we didn't bring any electronics with us (besides our cameras).  It's given us a chance to talk with each other and get to know more people.  Derek and I may want to consider having a night/day each week where we don't use our electronics and just talk with each other.  You never really recognize how addicted you are to something until you don't have it!  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Day 2 Thoughts

His Thoughts-

Today was our first day in the village.  On the way to the village we saw many men with shotguns and rifles.  It seems to be a theme down here.  As we pulled into the village it was really shocking how they lived.  Each house was literally a shack.  Wood was cut in the front yards of most homes.  I thought growing up in poverty was bad but nothing really prepared me for this since.  Most of the village is living out of a shack that is about 8x8.  Not even big enough for most of our rooms in America.  Holes in the road made it hard to stay in our seats.  Each road was completely dirt.  Arriving at the school/church we saw many kids cheering while we pulled in.  They must of known who we were from the previous trips that they made to the area before.  First thing we did was to empty all the bags into the church and hospital areas.  Next a group of us started handing out gloves.  Last we all began to build.  We all started on the walls of the new school rooms.  At the start of everything we were so sweaty already from unloading all the bags.  Today we must have laid a couple hundred cinder blocks for the walls.  Throughout the day I drank well over 20 water bottles while working.  Every once in awhile I would go over to the bus and apply more sun screen.  It just kept on washing off with the sweat.  It was so hot!  Kind of funny though, there were men in long sleeve shirts and pants staying very cool by the looks of it.  I walked around and took pictures of the village throughout the day.  The church was filled with clothing from everyone that came down.  It was really amazing the amount of people who showed up!  It looked to be about 75-100 people. Because of that reason the head guy had militar guys show up to monitor things.  I was so freaked out when they showed up.  Little did I know they were there for our protection.  A few of the guys were really nice, they smiled a lot at us.  Others held their straight faces.  I guess it really kept the in line correctly while they were waiting to get new clothing.  For lunch some wives from the church we were working with made of stir fry.  It was really good.  The people who lined up for medical was slim at first but then grew as the day went on.  The whole day went well and we got a lot done.  I got really bad sunburn and used a lot of aloe last night!

Her Thoughts-

Our first day in the village went well.  We had a 45 minute bus ride there.  The village was off a very long narrow dirt road. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.  The road was lined with lots of sugar cane and corn fields.  Some even had men working on them.  

Derek worked very hard on building walls for a classroom.  I helped sort out clothes from what felt like a billion black bags.  After we sorted all the clothes out by size and gender we let a few of the locals in at a time.  Each person was allowed to pick 2 items, a pair of shoe and a shirt or 2 clothing items.  We had to watch very closely that they didn't take more than we said.  It was often very tough to tell them no.  Unlike us in America they can't just drive to Walmart to get new clothes or shoes whenever we want.  For many of these people they only get new clothes whenever we come to their village.  We were able to provide clothing to about 400 people in the village and still had clothes left.  After some discussion we decided we would simply open the doors and let them come in to collect what was left.  It was a strange version of Black Friday all over again but without the pushing and cursing at one another!  

I must admit Derek and I came pretty prepared. Some people forgot some things like toilet paper or hand sanitizer.  I'm thankful we are able to help them out with this!  So far everyone seems to get along very well.  At dinner at Pizza Hut 1 of the members of our team and a local got to celebrate their birthday with a fun birthday song!  We got to meet our host families little girl this morning who was incredibly shy!  Hopefully by the end of the trip she will like us much more!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 1 Thoughts

Her Thoughts -

We've finally made it to Honduras!  I was a bit anxious when we got to Miami since the rest of the group wasn't there yet.  I was hoping they would arrive first so we could easily spot a group of 30+ people!  But thankfully they finally arrived! I made Derek go ask a man I thought I recognized if he was part of the trip and thankfully he was otherwise I may have been a bit embarrased.  So far everyone seems very nice.  Our host family is very accomodating. Both Roger and Gisella speak English! We will get to meet their little one, Natalia, tomorrow morning. She is 4 years old.  I'm excited to head into the village tomorrow. I'm both excited and a bit anxious for Derek to see the mission side of me.  For years I prayed for am an who would have a missional heart and now I get to see if we share the same passion.  Mission trips have been a part of my life since I was 13.  Since I got my teaching job in New Orleans I haven't been on a mission trip so this is such a good feeling to be back in another country sharing God's love again!  Well I'm off to bed, we have an early start tomorrow!

His Thoughts- 

Today we left New Orleans for Miami.  Before we left New Orleans we watched the Marshalls take a man into custody.  The man didn't look suprised when it happened.  Guilty or not would be the question.  When arriving at our gate we had our id's checked by TSA while we were sitting down.  It really seemed like they a security threat or something today with extra security around the airport.  When we arrived in Miami we waited forever (just a figure of speech) for everyone else to arrive from another flight.  Amy made me go ask a man if he was with a mission trip to Honduras and thankfully he was.  After awhile everyone else started to arrive.  Our flight got delayed because the stewardess was sick.  With Miami behind us we arrived in Honduras.  Getting passed check point and customs wasn't very bad, just make sure your paperwork is done on the plane.  My wife Amy remembered a lot about filling the stuff out.  We got everything out to the buses and began loading the never ending black bags!!! It was REALLY hot out! We all loaded onto the next bus (first one was full from all the bags) and headed out of the airport.  By the way "no pictures at the airport!" While heading to the chicken place to eat we saw many broken down houses and even a man with an assult rifle in front of the gas station guarding it.  Having a sense of poverty growing up really does not compare to another country like this one.  Classic spanish food was next on the list.  It was very good.  We all talked and got assigned our host family's.  Our host family lives in a place protected by an armed guard.  Our host family is very nice.  They welcomed us into their home with open arms.  Now that we've finsihed sorting through our stuff it's time for bed.

Friday, June 29, 2012

That Moment

Since I started going on mission trips the summer of my 13th birthday there's one thing I've discovered upon returning. Shortly after returning from a mission trip there is always that one moment where you find yourself in tears. Sometimes it happens while making dinner, other times while you are telling people about your trip, and then there's the times when it comes for some random reason while you are in the middle of doing something. Well I had "that moment" today. But first the background to my moment.

While in Honduras we learned that one of the traditions is to leave your shoes in the village the last day of work. Derek and I decided we would go along with this tradition and as the last few minutes of the work day approached we went to change into our sandals that we left on the bus. I then had Derek hand my shoes to a young girl that was waiting outside our bus. Derek left his shoes for one of the village men who had helped with building the school. It was a great feeling to be able to bless someone with a pair of shoes knowing I could buy new ones at home but this little girl may not get another pair of shoes for quite awhile.

All was well with the shoe giving until this afternoon. I wouldn't say I'm a shoe buying freak but I do like shoes. I decided I would head to a few stores to see if I could find a pair of shoes to replace my shoes I gave away. As I walked down each aisle of different shoes I started to think of all the children in the village who had only one pair of shoes or no shoes at all. Suddenly there I was standing in the middle of the shoe store with tears running down my eyes. Thankfully no one was in the aisle with me or they may have thought I was nuts! I gathered myself back together and walked back to my car. How could I go buy new shoes knowing that I have 3 or 4  (or more) other pairs at home when there are children all over the world who don't have a pair of shoes to wear? Yes, I understand that here in the US we need shoes to get into places and I'm not telling everyone they need to never buy a pair of shoes again.

After a few hours of thought I've decided it's not about the fact that I can't buy new shoes it's the fact that I CAN buy new shoes that I need to be thankful for. I am forever thankful to God and my parents that I have never had to walk around without shoes like so many children of the world have to do.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Shortly after we married we decided we wanted to celebrate our anniversary in a non-traditional way.  I started to research some different mission trips and stumbled upon Hearts for Honduras mission trip.  Several years ago I had went on a mission trip with this group that had touched my life.  It just so happened that they were going on a mission trip just 8 days after our anniversary.  After some prayer we decided this was what God was calling us to do. The following posts are some of our thoughts while on the trip and those from the days after.  We are excited to share our mission trip journey with you as well as the journey of our life together!