Sorry it has been a while – I have two other posts in the draft section but I agreed with Mark our first focus in August needed to be our support letter. Now that the letter is sent out, I can post again;)
I know that for our friends in the US “Back to School” is just now happening! Hopefully your new outfits are ready and school supplies purchased. For us… well, we have been going to school since July 8. There have been a lot of changes to our typical school day.
Our back to school clothes shopping consisted of talking to a few friends we have here to find the place to buy uniforms… or costumes if you read the post about Kellen:) Luckily, we have friends here who are willing to help!! Our first stop consisted of the school office where we received most of the PE clothing that we needed – warm up pants, shorts, t-shirts and the badges to sew on the dress shirts. Whew, that was easy! Our next stop was Almacen Diana and the store right next door. Here we found our boy clothing and shoes for all the kids. Dress pants for the boys that needed to be hemmed, white shirts that needed pockets removed and our school pockets added, whites shoes that were leather because they need to be scrubbed everyday so they are white again and one of four pair of black shoes that were approved for our school. This was difficult for Kason, as he was hoping that picking all black shoes or all white shoes of his liking was going to satisfy his back to school shopping craze (which we have never done:). He soon realized that going with the suggested shoes was probably best, so he was content with doing that.
It only took until noon the next day for all of the sewing to be completed and we had the boys clothes in hand. Next was Taylor’s turn. Luckily we have a friend here two years older than Tay that had a leftover skirt and shirt that she had outgrown. When she donned her skirt we realized quickly that a skirt to the ankles was not in the dress code. We dropped that off to be shortened and we had it back the next day. We were thankful the hand-me-down shirt worked as it was because the girls’ shirts have to be made. The collar is soft and it has a pleat in the back and you can’t buy those anywhere. So, you just ask a seamstress to throw one together.
Tangent: It is quite incredible what services you can access within a five minutes walk from the center of town. We are able to access seamstress, any house service needed, meat shops, party shops, coffee shops, print shops plus many more all within one block from the school. We wanted screens for our house (to help keep bugs out) so we just bought the screen material and we were going to put it into the windows in a make shift way not even realizing that two blocks away was a metal worker that could frame them all for us. We still opted for the make shift since every window was a different size and we didn’t want to measure them all specifically.
The next step was corralling all of the supplies needed for school. We sat down with the principal and asked what was needed. We had an abbreviated list since we were arriving part way through school. Luckily this too consisted of walking into the corner store 1/2 block from the school and asking for what we needed off of the list. Simple! One interesting thing is that all of the notebooks have prints on them – there are no solid notebooks! So students K-11 all have notebooks with the same comic-type prints on them.
School starts on the bottom patio with a devotion. All the students stand in line formation and the day starts. Often the school, department (state), or national anthem is played and our kids just stand listening. It wasn’t until recently that Kellen broke out in song form singing the anthem while we were in a taxi. Of course he didn’t know all the correct words, but man… he had a song on his heart!!
The content that the students are studying varies from what we were learning in the states to new content. The first day of science class for Kason consisted of sperm and egg and fertilization. Wow! We are glad we already had that talk with him and he was quite embarrassed that they were learning in class about this part of the human life. Taylor thought math would be her easy subject because she knows numbers. The first tears we saw from her were from math class. They were doing long division with 2 and 3 digit numbers and she wasn’t getting it! Mark and I had to learn ourselves how they do it because they switch the numbers and do it upside down from what we had learned. It took 30 minutes of practice and she was off running with math. Taylor is now learning the names of bones in the body, that is hard in English, let alone Spanish:) Then there is Kellen… he is just willingly going to class, sitting, observing, coloring and participating when he can. He is a champ and doing well, no complaints from him!
Our school day is from 7a-12:40p. Our alarm goes off at 5:50 and often some are already awake, we get ready and head out the door by 6:40 to walk down to school. The school day has two one-hour class periods, a 50 minute recess break, and then two more class periods. Let me tell you a little about the 50 minute recess break. This is grades K-11 and there is food, music, lots of bodies and teachers walking around, but no one is on specific “recess duty.” Also… there are very few rules, i.e. you need to be out of the classrooms, younger kids stay on lower patio…. yep that is about it. Kids run amuck!! CHAOS!! It didn’t take long for Kellen to join in on the running, wrestling to the ground, pulling out shirts, spinning in circles and acting like wild animals while playing “infection.” Lots of touching! Let’s just say we know a few ladies at HES who would have a heart attack, and we are sorry ahead of time for the learning curve that will need to take place when we return. With that said… the lack of rules seem to be a good thing! Kids learn how to adjust, play together, help each other when something bad happens and there are very few tears. We definitely have to fight the temptation to regulate actions during recess. They figure out how to cope, how to leave situations that aren’t good for them and how to toughen up when that is needed. I like it.
Tangent #2: With all this wild play that happens at recess on the cement courts, can you imagine what the white shirts and shoes look like when they are done with recess. They are a mess!! We daily do laundry to clean the whites that were worn for the day and the white shoes have to be scrubbed with a big brush too. Then we set them in the sun to get dry for the next time they need to be worn. We are lucky we were given the advice to buy leather shoes and not cloth shoes. This weekend’s activity will include bleaching the shoes strings that are now a dark grey.
Mark and I are settling into our routine of helping in the younger kids classrooms for a variety of classes and occasionally we get pulled to sub for another class. One day this week we were supposed to sub for the PE profe (not prof… it’s prof-ay) and last minute we got pulled to teach Kindergarten handwriting and the next two hours we taught 4th grade English. The last two hours of the day we spent on the patio teaching VB to the 7th grade PE class. Any time a teacher is gone the subbing happens internally, it all comes from within so we have to be ready for anything:)
After school activities include a variety of things. 3-4 times a week we go home and do study sessions where we work on language, homework and eventually we will work in our English material we brought from Kansas. It is fun to be so active in the kids’ learning and have so much one-on-one time with them. We live right by the stadium where Kason and Kellen play on the soccer team. The school also has after school sports and Kason has taken advantage of playing basketball there as well as at the city court where he occasionally attends practice sessions. Taylor has taken to jump rope and has participated in volleyball at the school one time, but she tends to be pretty low-key about sports here.
There have definitely been adjustments to a new language, living in another culture, full immersion into education in another language, not having a 8-5 job, not having TV, spending ALL of our time together and living in a house with different ways of doing things. Yes, there are things that we miss from back home, but overall we have found it so refreshing to re-evaluate priorities in life, rely on God and each other in new ways, to learn to appreciate the little things, take family adventures together, do things that none of us have done and find beauty in the people, customs and God’s creation in another country.