Follow the yellow brick road... all the way Home.

"There's no place like home!  There's no place like home!"

I've always loved this classic scene from the Wizard of Oz.  I can't tell you how many times in my travels to Canada, Mexico, Ukraine, Spain, and the Dominican Republic that I've wished for a magical pair of Ruby Slippers that could whisk me home to my mama and daddy.  Even when I first moved away from my parents' house and registered as a frosh at Bethel, I just couldn't call Bethel home.  I was sick during orientation and I missed a lot of the team-building, ice-breaker activities that characterized early Block sessions.  Because of this, when I finally joined my block for classes, I didn't know people and they had no idea who I was!

This was a very lonely time for me.  Instead of reaching out to make friends, I pulled back and hid myself in my room on 2nd floor Shupe with the door closed.  Choir was the only time I felt like I had any friends besides my roommate, and even these friendships were relatively shallow because I was playing shy.  Then I got involved with Theatre and my freshman experience was transformed.

The theatre department quickly took up all of my extra time, but I didn't mind because the shoe fit.  These crazy people welcomed me into the department even though I wasn't a theatre student; they were my Ruby Slippers.  Many of the "theatre kids" and profs were sure that I would soon change my major to theatre, but I never did.  My Spanish major is perfect for me, but the Dept. of Modern Languages was not a home for me.  I found the family and comfort that I needed when I was in FA 150.

So if you ever need to find me, between Chapel Band, Choir, and Theatre, the Fine Arts building is a good place to start looking.  I wear my Ruby Slippers even more now than I did freshman year.  They are the little slice of home that I need to survive.  Just watch out for your Dept. home- it will get all of you that you can spare!  I'm no longer just an Actress/singer.  I'm a designer, house manager, and honorary member of the Theatre Department.

But you know what they say- if the shoe fits, wear it!


From Los Higos, with Love

If you haven't been able to tell from my previous posts, I love it here.  I love everything about this place.  I love the way it smells.  I love the way the dogs follow me down the street.  I love the way all the kids know my name, and the way their mothers smile at me when I go by.  I love sitting on patios with neighbors, talking about nothing and laughing about everything.  I love the way the stars shine so clearly after it rains.  The sound of cows chewing.  It's freezing at 7AM and boiling hot at noon.
In Spanish, there are two words for missing something or someone.  Extra├▒ar- to want to be with that thing or person, the emotion of missing, and Faltar- to lack something, for there to be a part of you that is gone.  This second verb adequately describes how I am going to feel about this place when I leave.

I've spent this week mentally saying my goodbyes to everything.  Checking off all of my "lasts."  Needless to say, it's been difficult.  But God sent a blessing my way yesterday.  Yesterday we went horseback riding, drank coconut milk straight from a hole in the fruit- fresh from the tree, I rode a burro, and I held a rooster.  These things may not seem like much, but I had so much fun and all these things felt like parting gifts from Los Higos, with love.

When I leave here, a little piece of me (or a huge piece, Please Jesus, not too big!) will be staying behind with these people and this place that I love so much.  And though my heart feels like it's breaking, it's full.  Full and happy and loved.  Everything that this place has done for me feels like it's being packaged and gift wrapped for me to take back home and put under my family's Christmas tree.  
Merry Christmas, Kati!  -from Los Higos and Jesus.


REALLY?!?! with KatieRose

Have you ever seen that SNL segment Really?! with Seth and Amy?  Now it's just with Seth, but still completely wonderful.  In this particular segment they take a moment to ask, well, Really?! to some celebrity, politician, or someone who recently appeared in the news.  They ask this question over and over again after pointing out various points of ridiculousness in the individual's behavior.

Do you ever just want to have a Really?! segment with God?  I know I do.  That's kind of where I'm at right now.  I'm sitting here at my computer on the SI base, already missing my community back "home" in Los Higos.  And if I could have a Really?! segment with God right now, it would go something like this:

Now it's time for a segment we like to call Really?! with KatieRose!
(applause, applause)
Katie:  Really, God?  Really?  Why did you send me here anyway?  Just so I could fall in love with the people and the culture and then just peace out?  Really?!  And why did you allow me to get plugged into a community you KNEW I would miss for the rest of my life?  Really?!  What's the point of these relationships you've allowed me to form?  Did I really come here just leave again?  Really?!  And what about the passions you've given me?  Do you really think it's fair to manifest new ones NOW?  Really?!  How am I supposed to handle that?  What do you expect me to do with the love you've placed in my heart for these people?  This country?  And specifically my community?  Really, God?!  Really?!?!

Yup.  That's about how it would go.  It's such a conundrum because I really am so happy here.  I'm in love with this place and these people and what I'm doing here.  But I look at the calendar each day at the preschool and I see the end rapidly approaching.  I almost feel tricked.  Everything about this place and this language is intoxicating.  I feel like I offered my heart to Los Higos only to rip it away in less than three weeks from today.  So this brings me to a cross-roads.  Do I decide to put down my fists and drop the Really?! card, or do I choose to go on relying on my own understanding?  I want to trust; I want to believe that God has a plan and that it is good.  In fact, if I look around me right now, I see that I am standing in the middle of his very good plan.  But it's a forest/trees deal.  What I see here is good, and my heart longs for it.  What I'm doing now I love, who I'm working and living with I adore.  But I have to go back, and I want to go back.  I'm so confused by what I thought I desired for my life and career and by what my heart is saying now.  My spiritual eyes are straining to see God's perfect will through the trees of Letting Go, Leaning On My Own Understanding, and His Good Gifts for Now.  It all comes back to holding his pinkies, doesn't it?

Papa Dios, gracias por tu paciencia eterna.  Ayudame a confiarte y esperar por tu plan perfecta.  Amen.


Holding Pinkies

This is Marianita.  Almost every morning I pick her up (literally) on my way to school and she rides on my shoulders through town to the escuelita.  I love this girl and through her God is teaching me lots and lots.  One of these things is patience, as Mariana is rather incorrigible, though lovable.  On a more recent note, God hit me with a revelation yesterday, courtesy of this beautiful little girl.  It was bright and early when I picked her up and set her on my shoulders for the walk to school.  She happily began to make little noises and talk to me about the day, when I realized that she, like always, was holding on to my pinky fingers.  She doesn't need to hold on because I've got her, but she feels better if she can hold onto me.  The funny thing is that holding onto the weakest part of me is enough to calm her fears of falling.

Then I have this vision of myself: I'm on God's shoulders, wrapping my arms tightly around his head, my legs gripping his neck and all the while I'm screaming, "YOU'RE GOING TO DROP ME! YOU'RE GOING TO DROP ME!"  Brings a whole new perspective of having faith like a child.  I wouldn't even have to hold onto God, he's got me, but I think he understands that we feel better if we can hold onto something.  How about his pinky fingers?  I want to be able to rest in trusting God so much that all I have to do is hold his pinkies and I feel safe, knowing he won't drop me.  Wow.  I've got a ways to go, but I want to get there.

Matthew 19:14 
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.


Mis Pasos Primeros

I love my job.
I work at a preschool called Mis Pasos Primeros, or my first steps.  I work with 2-5 year olds, teaching the ABeCeDario (ABC's) and los numeros 1-10.  We also learn about colors and writing our letters.  We sing songs, play Bingo, do flash cards, eat snacks, and we also help some older kids with their homework.  However, the most favoritist ( :) ) game of the kids at the school is Caballito.  From the moment I arrive at the school in the morning, to the moment I leave, there is always at least one kid chasing me around yelling "Caballito! Caballito!"  If you don't already know, caballito means "little horse."  They LOVE piggy back rides.  And as much as it tires me out, I love giving them.
After lunch and siesta, I return to the school either for English class or to help out with a literacy "clinic" for adults.    The English class is always interesting because our students consist of about 15 boys from the church, aged 15-23.  It's never boring!  The literacy clinic is really cool for me, because I'm teaching people to read in my second language.  I wouldn't have considered myself competent enough for that, but here I am!  It's so rewarding to see people start to get it.  Reading and writing are huge and very important parts of my life and it is hard for me to imagine being without them.  So helping other people attain these skills is something that brings me incredible joy.  God is so good.  He proves to me time and time again that he knows what he's doing!



The second half of my time here in the DR has begun and I can hardly believe it!  I thought the first half flew by, but now I'm a week into my time in Los Higos and I feel like my head is spinning...  I love it here.  Los Higos is a small campo community where everyone knows everyone.  I spend my mornings working at Mis Pasos Primeros Prescolar (preschool).  Tuesday and Friday afternoons I teach an English class with another Bethel Student, and on Wednesday and Thursday we help out at a kind of Spanish literacy clinic for adults.  I  haven't felt this at home in the DR since I got here!  It's amazing.  The kids are adorable, the community is so friendly, and the work fits me.
This, as most of my stories, is another tale of God's faithfulness in my life.  I had asked to be placed at an education site, but when we received our placements, I got social work instead.  This was really hard for me to understand and accept at first because I'm going into an education career- education is what I love.  Regardless, I decided that God must have placed me in social work for a reason and that he had things to teach me through the experience.  Then, the week before we moved to our new homes and began our work, I found out that it had been a misprint and I was, in fact, supposed to be at the education site!  I was overjoyed!  I gave up what I wanted, and God gave it back to me.  Now I can't imagine being anywhere else.
Not that the work doesn't have it's challenging moments- there are many!  But there are few things more rewarding than a child's hand in your own, his eyes locked on your face, begging you to sit by him during the story.  And there are few things better than knowing you're where you were meant to be.


Underwater Porcupines...

Base, Sweet Base...
We're finally back on the Students International base here in Jarabacoa.  We returned last night from our Travel Week adventures in Santo Domingo, Los Haitises, and Samana'.  I trekked through at least 5 different caves and saw all sorts of Taino cave drawings,  (Tainos are the indigenous people of the Hispanola)  went to 3 different beaches, and wandered through beautiful colonial archetecture including a castle and a couple cathedrals.
The caves were fascinating, but I have to admit I got a little caved-out by the fith cave.  Fortunately, the last cave ended up being my favorite cave, Cueva de las Maravillas.  It was beautiful and had unique pintografias.  The Carribean Sea is incredible.  I'm bragging right now.  I spent my fall break by the ocean.  So there.  :)  At the last beach we went to, there were three interesting rock structures off shore and I decided to get a closer look.  Upon reaching them, I was tired (I'm not a very proficient swimmer) and decided to rest on the rocks.  The rocks had a different idea.  They were COVERED with sharp coraly-things that cut my feet as I tried to climb and discouraged any continued attempts to rest upon them.  So I jumped back in the water but landed on a submerged coraly-covered rock and it also was very angry about my presence.  In my frantic efforts to scramble off the rocks, I'm certain I looked ridiculous.  Somehow, throughout this whole experience I either angered some kind of vengeful underwater porcupine or I just got some coral splinters.  Not sure which, though the former sounds more exotic.  Regardless I recieved six or seven sharp black things lodged in the skin on my foot and hand.  Unfortunate.
Other highlights from travel week:
  • various photo-shoots with the girls in Santo Domingo
  • learning to dance Dominican Bachata while waiting for my food at a fancy restaurant
  • realizing that we got American cable channels at our hostel
  • the ensuing Parenthood party:)
  • being asked if I was from Spain by a current Madrid resident
  • discovering that I can make a convincing Angler fish face:

So overall, a really good week.  Lots of good bonding and cultural exposure.