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.  Extrañar- 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.


Hope for a pensive, doubting, and so fearful heart.

Jesus said that he would preach good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim freedm for the captives, and release prisoners from darkness. (Lk. 4:18/ Is.61:1) It has always struck me that God places broken hearts on the same level as poor, captives, and prisoners. He takes brokenness seriously.

May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together - spirit, soul, and body - and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he'll do it! 1Thess. 5:23-24 MSG

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. Ps.126:5 NIV

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Ps. 147:3 NIV

Pensive, Doubting, Fearful Heart- John Newton

Pensive, doubting, fearful heart
Hear what Christ the Savior says
Every word should joy impart
Change thy mourning into praise
Yes, He speaks and speaks to thee
May He help thee to believe
Then thou presently will see
Thou has little cause to grieve

Fear thou not, nor be ashamed
All thy sorrows soon shall end
I, who heaven and earth have framed
Am thy Husband and thy Friend
I, the High and Holy One
Israel's God, by all adored
As thy Savior will be known
Thy Redeemer and thy Lord

For a moment I withdrew
And thy heart was filled with pain
But my mercies I'll renew
Thou shall soon rejoice again
Though I seem to hide my face
Very soon my wrath shall cease
'Tis but for a moment's space
Ending in eternal peace

Though afflicted, tempest tossed
Comfortless awhile thou art
Do not think thou can be lost
Thou art graven on my heart
All thy wastes I will repair
Thou shalt be rebuilt anew
And in thee it shall appear
What the God of love can d


HIS ways are higher than mine. Literally.

This past Saturday was an Excursion day here in the Dominican! This time it was "creeking" er... "rivering." So we all put on our very stylish water shoes, piled into the back of a truck, and headed out to the river. To our leaders, walking through the river meant: climbing/falling over slippery river rocks, wading through brown 38* water, and being suddenly whisked down-stream by an unforeseen current shift. It was actually quite fun, and once you had fallen in a couple of times, the water didn't seem quite so cold. :) One thing you've got to know about me though, is that I don't like murky water, deep water, currents, or surprises. Needless to say, this excursion was a test for me. The hardest part came toward the very end of our trip down the river. We had just made our way across to the other side, avoiding the rapids, and were entering the river again, were it would be just a short moment of creeking to our final destination where the beach was. I ended up in the middle of the pack with no one really near me in front, or behind. All of a sudden I got caught in a current and realized I couldn't touch and therefore couldn't stop myself. I panicked as I rushed past those who had already reached the beach and were standing on solid ground. Terrified, I watched them watch me pass them, and I cried out to God. And then my feet hit the sand. Just like that. I stumbled onto the beach, emotionally scrambled. I dumped my things and got as far away from other people and the river as possible, without leaving the beach. (It was a SMALL small beach!) Everybody eventually convened and people began swimming and jumping off the "cliffs" (more like giant rocks), while some people just laid out in the sun. I, however, shut down. I was done with the river, angry with the excursion, and upset that other people were having fun and not being careful. Then that Still Small Voice nudged me. Are you going to let this ruin the excursion and ruin your day?Yes! Yes, I am. But God is the God of Redemption! Even redemption of creeking excursions:) He was so very persistent, and finally I agreed that I was not going to allow that moment of losing control sour the river for me. So I ventured out into the water again and waded for a bit and watched some people jumping off the rocks. And it hit me: I need to do that. I need to trade this Fear for Trust. Crazy.

Climbing up to jump off!
So I jumped off, not one, but two different "cliffs" and it was terrifying, but there was such freedom in it. Standing on the edge, toes curled around the rock, I was looking down at the exact spot in the river where I had been carried away by the current, and like a complete fool- I decided to throw caution to the wind. I jumped, and I met Joy in the splash. Because His ways are higher than mine.


Tricky, Tricky God!

Just a few highlights from the last two weeks:

  • I'm a pro at killing drunken Dominican bees.
  • If we are what we eat, I am the first official avacado-plantain hybrid.
  • If I had a quarter for everytime my little brother ran around in his underwear... I'd have tuition covered.
  • Does carrying a knife and pepper spray count as packin' heat?
  • Drinking rotten pineapple made into juice has the same effects as eating rotten pineapple plain.

As you can see, it's been both exciting and interesting so far!  There is something truly exhilerating about being exactly where you're supposed to be.  Until you figure out why you're supposed to be there.  Ha.  

I found out about this trip during my sophmore year in highschool and, as I already knew I would be going to Bethel, I determined that this trip was definitely for me.  What an incredible way to experience immersion in the Hispanic culture I love so much, and what an amazing opportunity to learn Spanish.  So, I definitely had my own purposes for coming to the DR.  The awesome thing, in my mind, was that they were God's purposes too!  He has called me to minister to the Hispanic community, so what better way to prepare myself for His calling than this?  While I am still convinced that He desires for me to learn this language and to learn it with the help of this experience, He has made me aware that His ways are higher than mine.  His purposes take precedence over mine. 

Like most people, I have my share of junk and baggage in my life.  I've learned to live with it.  Not only that, I took it a step or seven further, and I have built up my identity in my baggage.  Jesus is pretty clear about where our identity ought to be found.  But Jesus, I don't know who I am without this!  But He does.  

In my small group we were talking about God's reasons for bringing each of us here, to the DR.  My answer was easy and right at the tip of my tongue.  "To learn Spanish!!"  And then that still small, yet utterly insistent voice whispered... THIS is why I brought you here.  It was MY idea.  I want to make you Holy and Whole, without your baggage.

Naturally, I acted as most children do when they don't get their way.  "Gaa-aaahd!!  Noooo.  That's not fair.  You tricked me.  You dangled the Spanish carrot and then swooped down with your major remodel plans and I just DON'T WANT TO DO THIS HERE!"  Ah ha!  The perfect excuse.  So, in my best politician impression I diplomatically say: "Now, God.  This seems like a great plan.  How well thought out!  But let's not be too hasty.  You'll have my full support and cooperation as soon as I get back on US soil."  Imagine how well that went over.  

So here I am in the DR.  Doing my best to meekly accept God's true purpose for bringing me  here.  So keep praying for me, because I am not meek by nature.  


Junior Birdsman

I've been in the Dominican Republic for almost an entire week!  I think it's finally starting to set in that I'm really here...  A couple more fried plantains ought to finalize it for me:)

The rest of the DR Semester '11 team is absolutely fabulous!  I know that if nothing else, just being able to share this experience with them will make the semester worthwhile.  We already have a quote book started and several inside jokes.  One of my favorites is the song "Junior Birdsman."  When I was in Spain this summer, we taught the kids at English camp this fantastic WWII relic.  I just had to share it with my DR team, so the first day of orientation I started singing it, much to everyone's great delight. (sarcasm)  With the help of Garrett, who was also in Spain this summer, I got the song firmly stuck in everyone's heads.  Now it has become our theme song!  I couldn't be more pleased:)

The food here is absolutely fantastic!  Rice, beans, plantains, and avacados are staples at every lunch and dinner.  If you don't know, plantains are potatoey vegitables that look like giant bananas.  They are starchy, but have less flavor and are softer than potatoes.  There seem to be about a million different ways to eat plantains.  I like to say that we eat plantains like it's our job.

Speaking of plantains... two nights ago our host mom was gone and so we ate supper with our "house-grandma."  She cooked us plantains in a brand new way.  I can't say for sure, but I'm fairly certain they were boiled in some kind of vinegar and then buttered.  Hannah was less than impressed, though I liked them better in this way than mashed like potatoes.  When Mami left the room, Hannah asked me if I wanted the second half of her plantain.  Though I didn't mind the dish, I didn 't really want a second helping, so I said no.  Hannah would not take no for an answer, she was sure that I really DID want more plantain.  So, when I got up to chase a stray cat, she slipped the veggie delight onto my plate.  Upon my return to the table, I saw it sitting there, grabbed and tried to throw it back onto Hannah's plate before Mami came back in.  FAIL.  I missed her plate and the plantain landed with a loud "SPLAT!" on the floor right in front of Mami...  oops.  Hannah and I nervously giggled until Mami laughed at us... then it was all over.  Hannah and I nearly exploded laughing at our joke.  Thankfully, Mami has a great sense of humor and just assumed that we were being crazy Americans, and well- we were!


Here I am, send me! (oh wait, you already did)

I'm in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic!
Wow.  I can hardly believe I'm here.  Right now I'm staying at the Students International base; I'll move into my host family's house on Saturday morning.  My roommate, Hannah Akers, and I will be living with a lady named Ingrid.  Right now, all we know about her is her name and that she lives a half mile from the base.  Since we will be living so close to base, we will walk to classes every afternoon.  We'll have Spanish classes from 3:00 to 6:00 everyday and a Bible study/small group time twice a week in the evenings.  Josh and Vicky are the team directors, and they have been pumping us full of information!  Schedules, rules, suggestions, comands:)  They've been great and it will be amazing to work with them.

Estoy en Jarabacoa, República Dominicana!
No puedo creer que estoy aquí.  En este momento, me quedo al compuesto de Estudiantes Internacional; me voy a la casa de mi familia Dominicana el Sábado en la mañana.  Mi compañera de cuarto, Hannah Akers, y yo viviremos con una mujer quien se llama Ingrid.  Ahora, la única cosa que sabemos es su nombre y que ella vive muy cerca al compuesto.  Por eso, Hannah y yo caminaremos a clases todos los días.  Tenemos clases de Español de 15:00 a 18:00 cada día y un culto dos veces de la semana.  Josh y Vicky son los directores de nuestra equipo y nos han dado mucho información!  Horarios, reglas, sugerencias, y mandatos... :)  Son superbuenos y va a ser divertido para trabajar con ellos.

Today we did a scavenger hunt in town, to get to know the area a bit.  In the process, I met a very friendly Dominican mutt, whose name I believe is Chile.  He REALLY liked me.  :)  His owner was a little boy who was trying to convince us all to let him shine our shoes.  I told him my flipflops didn't really need a shining...  He told me his dog really liked me.  Brent is slightly concerned that this means all Dominican mutts will like me.  I hope so:)

Hoy tuvimos un "partido" de buscar varias tiendas y lugares en la ciudad.  Conocí un perro muy amable, quien se llama Chile. Yo le gustaba mucho!!  Su dueño fue en niño que quería limpiar nuestros zapatos.  Le dije que mis chanclas no necesita ser limpiado, y me dijo que su perro le gusto mucho.  Brent tiene miedo que esto significa que todos los perros en la República Dominicana van a les gustare.  Espero que sí! 

I'm nervous to meet my host family, but so excited to begin the immersion process.  I got to speak a little Spanish today, and I can't wait to speak more.
Part of me thinks I'm insane to be here.  I catch myself wondering what in the heck I'm doing this far away from home.  Couldn't I find some nice Hispanic neighborhood to hang out in somewhere in Elkhart?  But I know that I'm supposed to be here, over 2,000 miles from home...  So maybe I am crazy, but I certainly wouldn't be the first person who was crazy for Jesus. :)

Estoy nerviosa para conocer mi familia nueva, pero estoy muy emocionada para comenzar la procesa de inmersión.  Hoy, hablé un poquito en Español, y quiero hablar mas!!  
Un parte de mi cree que soy loca por estar aquí.  A veces me pregunto que estoy haciendo muy lejos de casa.  No puedo encontrar un barrio Hispánico en mi ciudad en que puedo pasar tiempo??  Pero yo se que necesito estar aquí, 2.000 millas de casa... así, quizás en realidad soy loca, pero no soy la primera persona quien era loca para Cristo. :)    


Tribute to John Denver

My host mom asked me to write a blog post in Spanish so she could read it.  Thus the translation below:)

I'm leaving again.  In T- 12 days, I will jump on a plane and head to the Dominican Republic for three and a half months.  Though I still want to go, I feel like I just got back from Spain.  I knew that this would be rough back when I signed up to go to Spain.  Four weeks in Spain, two weeks in Michigan, two weeks home, fourteen weeks in the DR.  I'm afraid I might be crazy to try this.  What if I get there and I'm miserable for the entire semester?  What if my place at Bethel is swallowed up in my absence?

So it's obvious that I'm having some doubts; I'm struggling a bit.  I'm going.  On this point I'm resolute.  I'm just not certain that I'm of sound mind.  I really like what Denver said about traveling:  "The only aspect of flying I don't like is when you have to leave somebody that you care for a great deal, leave home."  My heart is breaking to think about the repeat separation and what it's going to do to my parents.  "Already I'm so lonesome I could die..."

Estoy saliendo otra vez.  En 12 días, subiré a un avión y iré a la República Dominicana por tres meses y media.  Todavia quiero ir, pero me siento que acabo de volver de Espana.  Sabia que fuera dificil cuando decidi ir a Espana.  Cuatro semanas en España, dos semanas en Michigan, dos semanas a casa, y catorce semanas en la Republica Dominicana.  Tengo miedo que estoy loca por tratar eso.  ¿Qué si estoy miserable por todo el semestre?  ¿Qué si  mi lugar en Bethel desaparece durante mi ausencia?

Es obvio que tengo duda.  Pero me voy.  En este punto estoy resuelta.  Solamente no estoy segura que estoy inteligente!  Me gusta mucho que dijo John Denver sobre viajar: "La unica aspecta de volar que no me gusta es cuando tienes que salir de alguien que le quieres mucho, salir de casa."  Mi corazon esta roto cuando pienso en otra separacion y que va a hacer a mis padres.  "Ya estoy tan solo, puedo morrir." (de la cancion "Leaving on a Jet Plane" por John Denver.)


John F. Kennedy was a great man, but I do not like his airport.

With heavy hearts we bid our Spanish friends goodbye early Tuesday morning and head to the airport.  It is a beautiful drive and I get to bid the beautiful mountains an emotional farewell as we pass through on our way to Valencia.  We get to the airport, no problems.  Print our tickets, pass through security, see the Valencia football team!! (in their jerseys and everything!) and find our terminal, no problem.  That is the end of our ease.  I get on the plane and place my laptop in the overhead compartment and my backpack under the seat in front of me.  My backpack is stuffed with shoes and souvenirs for my family, so it doesn't fit all the way under the seat.  I have short legs, and we were in Economy Comfort, so I have plenty of room regardless.  After everyone got on the plane, a stewardess walks past and sees my blue Jansport sticking out at what she considers to be an unforgivable distance.  Very displeased, she tells me to put it in the overhead.  Well, my overhead is now filled with other passengers' goodies and had no more room.  She finds a "space" in a compartment several aisles back so I lug it back and commence a brilliant attempt to shove the monster into the tiny space.  My backpack is heavy.  If you have any sort of grasp on the basic laws of Physics, you are probably already groaning in apprehension of what happens next.  Holding the bag above my head, arms outstreatched in an effort to reach the compartment (why do they put them up so high?), I loose my balance and plant my chest right on the man's face who is sitting below my bag's destination.  I'm apologizing profusely and still trying to hold my bag up, so it doesn't fall and kill someone like that stone that the woman dropped on the man's head in the old testament.  The stewardess comes back just in time to see my spectacular performance and the poor man grabs my bag and repeats "Just let me do it! Please, just let me..."  Tengo la verguenza...  So the two of them try unsuccessfully to shove my bag into the space while I stand there looking dumb.  It is obvious that it isn't going to fit.  Not even close.  Never the less, when they fail to get it into the compartment, the stewardess finds it necessary to announce that it's too big.  Ok... I'm thinking,  what do you want me to do?  Ah, and then she tells me.  Empty some stuff out.  Hurry.  So I try to take it back to my seat to do this, but noooo.  She says: "No, empty it right here.  Hurry.  This pocket."  She points to the pocket that contains all of the candy I got as gifts.  So in front of all the other passengers I am dumping the sugary contents of my bag on to the floor.  Still doesn't fit.  So she makes me take all of the shoes out of my bag.  It finally fits, but what now?  What the heck am I supposed to do with all the candy and shoes?  But, the generous stewardess grants me a grey plastic bag for all my crap.  So, I enter the plane with a carry-on and a personal item (laptop), and I leave with a carry-on, a personal item, and a grey trash bag.  Awesome.  And I still have two other planes to catch.  Not to have my new acquisition taken from me, I tie the gray bag to my laptop case and hope that the next two security stations will just consider it one big personal item.  Thankfully, they do.
Now that I am allowed to sit down again, I buckle in and hope that my embarrassment will dissipate over the 6 hour flight.  Then the pilot comes on the speaker.  "Well," he starts out (never a good sign), "We're having a problem. (of course we are)  The auxiliary power gave out.  (hmm, that sounds important)  That's what we use to start the engine.  (it is)  But the engine is already started and we don't use the aux power during flight.  (so... what's the problem?)  The problem is that according to airline regulations (oh, great) now we have to get special approval to take off and we have to fill out some paperwork.  Even though we don't need the aux power to fly."  Awesome!  So we had to sit on the runway for an hour.  
We got to JFK an hour late, ran through customs, but still missed our flight to Cincinnati.  We were supposed to fly Valencia to NY, NY to Cinci, and Cinci to Chicago.  The airline wanted to fly us from NY to Charleston, Charleston to Atlanta, and then Atlanta to Chicago.  Thankfully, that flight was also too close to ours and we couldn't get to it in time.  So they split our group into three mini groups and got us all onto nonstop flights to Chicago.  The Beldon's flight took off right away, about an hour later, Whitney and Garret left but then had to come back because of storms.  Another hour later, they left again.  And I stayed with the Oglesbee family at JFK for about 6 hours.  Ironically, we got to Chicago first.  The Beldon's flight apparently circled Chicago forever before landing because of storms, and Whitney and Garret's flight ran out of fuel and had to make a stop before Chicago.  
The only person whose baggage made it to Chicago with us was Garret.  The rest of us had to have ours brought by courier the next day.  
Ah, flying.

Blogging Above the Ocean...

Well, I'm finally home, and finally posting again!  I wrote this post on Tuesday, the 2nd of August while flying home.  I got home at some ridiculous hour on Wednesday, spent about 48 hours at home and then left for family vacation!  We returned home from vacation on this past Saturday afternoon.  I'm sure that you have all been waiting with bated breath to read more, and I apologize for the lapse in time, as I have had rather limited internet access.  :-)

As I type this post, I'm flying somewhere over the atlantic, already desperately missing Spain. I simply cannot believe that an entire month has come and gone.  People here often ask me if Spain is as I expected, and I always respond the same way; I had very few expectations coming into this trip.  I did, however, expect to be challenged, and I was.  I expected to improve my Spanish, and I did.  I expected to like Spain, and I love it.  I didn't expect to be so well loved.   I didn't expect to make the life-long friendships that I now enjoy.   I didn't expect to want to return as soon as possibe.  And I didn't expect to return home speaking Spanish with a Spanish accent!

Four years ago, this summer, I went on a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico and I fell in love.  I was head over heels for the country, its people, and its language.  It was through my experience in Juarez that God awakened in me a passion for reaching the Hispanic community in America through teaching English.  Now, four years later, I am as certain of my calling as I was at sixteen.  God has provided me with experiences and opportunities that have strengthened my passion and intensified the poingency of the call.  With every step I take that leads me closer toward Teaching English as a Second Language,  I am reaffirmed that I am exactly where God wants me to be.



God has blessed me with amazing relationships, beyond all I asked or imagined, during my time here in Spain.

Going into this month, I had met Hannah Wineland in choir, but we were more aquaintances than friends.  Spain changed all of that.
Hannah and I became inseparable during our first few days in Alcoy.  She was a lifesaver for me.  I needed a friend that I could confide in, complain to, and a sister with whom I could laugh.  She gave me all of these things and more.  She didn't have to, but she came to my adult class every night and was my assistant.  She also led one of my conversation groups every night.  We ate together, walked together, shopped, climbed mountains, and took lots and lots and lots of pictures.  In general, we were simply partners in crime.  Hannah was only in Spain for the first two weeks of the month and I miss her dearly, but I am so very thankful that she has become a part of my life.  Without Spain, I wouldn't have Hannah, and without Hannah, my time in Spain would not have been nearly as bright and fun.

God has also blessed me with wonderful professors.  Dr. Eric and Lisa Oglesbee have gone above and beyond the call of duty here in Spain.  They have not only guided and advised us, but they have cooked and cleaned for us, counseled and endured us, and they have laughed at us and with us.  Though I am their student, they treat me as an adult and a friend.  My respect for them and what they do at Bethel is enormous. Lisa teaches English as a second language in the US (she and Eric have also taught English in China) and I am inspired by her passion, talent, and the love she has for her students and for teaching.  It has been wonderful getting to know Lisa and Eric and their boys (Tobin and Ian), and it has been so amusing to find how very alike Lisa and I are. From our passion for TESOL and our philosophies of education, to our personalities and pet peeves, "we are the same person," she says.  I have always respected Lisa as a teacher and we have enjoyed a wonderful student-teacher relationship, but God has now added another dimension to our relationship; that of friendship.  I am so excited and blessed by this!

[Quick Katie and Lisa story:  The Oglesbees had a large group of us over to their apartment for tacos on tuesday night.  After supper, a small group decided to hike up the nearby mountain to visit the ruins of a castle.  The base of the mountain is about twenty minutes away walking, and the hike up is probably an hour.  The Oglesbees live in Cocentina and this group (and I) were going to need to be taken back to Alcoy after their hike.  We waited for them back at the apartment, but it was getting late and we were tired so Lisa and I took the car to the base of the mountain to wait for them in order to save time.  We waited and waited at the base of the mountain and they didn't come and they didn't come.  It was very dark and we were starting to get nervous that they had not yet arrived.  The high beams on the car weren't working so Lisa didn't feel comfortable driving up the mountain, but we felt like we needed to start up and see if we could find them.  So, we walked.  It was pitch black and we were winding up this mountain path and I, nervously giggling, said: "Don't be surprised if I suddenly grab your hand, I'm kind of freaking out here."  She too, nervously giggled and grabbed my hand saying: "Let's just start out this way, I'll feel better too."  So Professor Oglesbee and I trekked up the mountain side hand in hand.  At one point I asked what we would do if a car came (the path is very narrow) and before she could answer, headlights appeared behind us and she yanked me to the side of the path.  It's a good thing we were holding hands.  Calves were burning and breathing was ragged when we reached a small plateau and suddenly heard a man shout.  "We are going to be ax murdered," I thought.  We gripped hands tighter and Lisa began praying out loud for protection.  A light appeared up ahead and she shouted, "Whitney?!"  There were screams from them and from us as the group materialized in front of us.  We had mutually scared the stuff right out of each other.  From there we continued down the mountain together, and stilled the rampant beating of our hearts...]

God placed me in the perfect host family.  They welcomed me with open arms and have allowed me to be a part of their family.  I will hold them in my heart always.  Francisca has mothered me and loved me as her own.  Daniela and Rodrigo are my siblings and I love being an older sister!  Dani and I have become close and I will miss our talks.  I will never be able to convey, to you or to them, how much their love has touched me.

Chrystal Joy Beard!  This friendship was an unexpected explosion of blessing to me.  She came to Spain with World Partners and I did not get to know her until this past week.  This friendship came at just the right time.  I was feeling low, and she encouraged me.  Then she offered me her friendship and opened her heart to me.  I  am so humbled by her openness, trust, and her maturity and wisdom.  She speaks truth to me and is always ready to encourage.

I cannot thank God enough for the blessings he has given me in the way of relationships here in Alcoy.  I cannot wait to return and see my Alcoyano friends, and I am excited to continue to walk in these new friendships back home.


The Kiddos!

Meet my little English Campers!!!

Orange Group: 5&6 year olds plus one 4yr old.
Elena, Caridad
Trouble makers, to be sure!  But cute as buttons to the last...  Elena has a knack for English and she LOVES hugs!  Caridad would draw butterflies on the board all day, if I let her.

An active child, as I'm sure you can guess... Jordi showed up at camp one morning with a cast, but it hasn't slowed him down much.

Our little 4yr old angel.  She loves to dance and doesn't really get the whole English thing, which is ok. Ian has a little crush on this little guapa.

This is the little sister of Carlos, from the blue group.  They adore one another.  Carlos went on and on about how talented she is and about what a fabulous artist she is.  Sweet as can be... little Ana.

Inma has two older siblings at the camp, Amy and Joseph.  Inma is quiet and misses her mama very much, but loves English camp!

This is the son of my profs, Dr. Eric and Lisa Oglesbee.  He is just learning to read, so he really enjoys the English camp, even though he speaks (quite a lot...) English already.

The Blue Group: 11&12 year olds
Carlos is a performer to the core.  If anyone was born for the stage, it was this child.  He sings, he acts, he dances, and he is hilarious to boot.  

Carlos's alter ego...

Saul is a little punk!  He is Edgar's little brother (Edgar goes to Mark and Carla's church and is helping out at the camp).  He's fun to pick on, and being a little brother, he picks right back.

Josiah and Silas are the sons of Jessica Beldon, one of the other Bethel students here doing a practicum.  They are helpful in the classroom when you need an example that you know will be correct!


All. Boy.  Love Julen, he is a great kid.  At first, he was a little too cool for school, but now he loves it.  

I can  not get enough of his cute little face!!!  He reminds me so much of Jonah from Sleepless in seattle that I can hardly stand it.

Maria, Claudia, Marta
Daniela, Claudia, Mariola
These girls are all so smart!  They pick up on the English so fast, though they like to pretend that they don't get it.  Daniela is my host sister, and she and Maria both returned to camp for the second 2 weeks.

The Red Group: 9&10 year olds- my favorite age group! <3 4th graders...

Gabriel, Javier, Adria
My favorite campers (but shhh... don't tell!).  They are little stinkers but smart as whips and adorable as all get out.  Gabriel and Adri both attend the Hanson's church, Monte Sion.

Irene, Africa
Beautiful and smart... but terribly chatty!  Go figure :)

Joseph is nothing if not sweet.  A little ditzy at times, but always sweet and gentle.

This boy knew all the answers, all the time.  Very smart, and sometimes I think he got bored!

Don't let that adorable face fool you.  This is a little smarty pants!  He wants his own way and will connive, ever so subtly and sweetly, to get it.  If that doesn't work, he may revert to brute force.  Watch out.

Marta, Mareya
Quiet Marta and huggy Mareya.  Mareya loves to tickle and likes having her hair french braided.  She's a little goof ball and lots of fun.  Marta has been difficult to get to know, but she always has a smile and is a little ray of sunshine.

Martin... he's a handful.  He has a tendency toward violence; he loves to hit, kick, pull hair, and pinch.  He doesn't like to pay attention or obey, and [unfortunately for us] is a natural leader.

The Green Group: 7&8 year olds... these cute kids terrorized the camp with their crazy antics and constant energy.
Adrian, Pere, and little Amy in the back
Crazy, crazy kids!  They LOVE games and having their picture taken.  Amy loves to be in her own little world...

Sara? and Andrea
The smarty pants and the sporty girl.  Andrea is Adrian's sister and they are very nearly connected at the hip at times.  

Paula, Rodrigo, Adriana
Paula is bright and obstinate.  Rodrigo is absolutely brilliant and knows more English than probably any of the kids in the camp.  He is almost always translating what we say to the rest of the class.  Adriana is cute and sweet, but easily distracted. :)

Vega (pronounced Begga) is a little young for this group but she keeps up with the rest just fine.  Her little feet don't touch the floor when she sits at her desk!


El Campamento

I realized I have yet to write about what I really came to Spain to do: the World Partners English Camps.
There are two camps, a morning camp for kids and an evening camp for adults.

The month long camp for adults consists of an hour of class and an hour of conversation practice each night, Monday through Thursday.  This camp meets at the church, La Iglesia Bautista Monte Sion.  The students vary in age from 13 year olds to 60-somethings.  They are split up into three classes according to their level of English knowledge.  Ben Klimek teaches the Advanced class, I teach the Intermediate class, and Jessica Beldon teaches the beginners.  We were required to have a syllabus and lesson plans for our class a few weeks in advance, but upon beginning the classes, many changes had to be made to my meticulous plans (second post).  Creating a classroom environment and activities that are interesting and relevant to both 13 year old boys and 40 year old women continues to be a challenge for me.

The kids camp takes place at La Escuela Oficial de Idiomas (the official language school) of Alcoy.  The children are at the school from 9:30 to 1:15 Monday through Friday.  The camp is 10 days long.  We will have put on two complete kids camps by the end of July.  Ben, Jessica, and I each teach three times during the ten day period.  Our teacher for this TESOL practicum (teaching English to speakers of other languages), Lisa Oglesbee, will teach on the tenth and final day of both camps.  The students visit four stations during the day, each for 45 minutes.  Each day is assigned a different country that speaks English, and each station follows a theme of that country.  The other stations are sports, music, and art.  We also come together for a snack, mid-morning, that consists of a bocadilla (a sandwich), a desert, and a juice.  [Here, they don't mess around when it comes to snacks and meal times.]  There are four groups of kids that rotate through the stations.  5-6 yr olds, 7-8, 9-10, and 11-12 yr olds.    The idea was to teach the same English lesson to all groups.  As you can imagine, it is quite a feat to make a lesson palatable to both a 5 year old and a 12 year old.

FLEXIBILITY has become our watchword here at English Camp Alcoy.


Home by Any Other Name

I’m sorry my posts are so patchwork.  I try to make them flow, but life happens and doesn’t stop to consider my audience… K.

The streets here are becoming more familiar.  I can get to and from the church by myself, and to the school by myself.  Coming home from school is another story altogether because every time it seems we take a different bus and get off at a different spot!  Ay.

A little about my weekend:
I swam in the Mediterannean Sea.
I went to a museum dedicated to the art of Falla making.  (giant sculpturey things that they judge and then burn the best one in and interesting ceremony)
I saw sharks, belugas, dolphins, penguins, and got a temporary tattoo at the Oceanographic Aquarium. (best dolphin show I have ever seen.  EVER.)
I shopped in Valencia and practiced lisping my imbedded ‘s’s.
I got a very Spanish pair of shoes in an effort to look a bit less Americana…
I ate Spanishized Chinese food and heard our Asian waitress speak Spanish… weird culture crossovers.
I went to a concert in the city of Ibi and acquired a new little brother, whose name, ironically enough, is Carlos.

I have been struck by my lack of homesickness.  For those of you who know me well, you know that homesickness is to me and coughing is to a smoker.  A day away from home is a week, a week is a month, and a month or more, unfathomable.  I have always struggled with separation; some of my earliest and most poingent memories are of the searing pain of hopelessness and bereftment that I felt upon being left in the nursery at church.  I remember calling my parents during a one night sleep-over across the street, and crying silently in my bunk at prairie camp Jr. ResiTour.  Unfortunately, it only grew stronger with age and this I attribute to losing my brother.  Separation feels like loss, and loss induces panic.  For me, homesickness is not a mild longing for familiar surroundings.  Homesickness is an illness that grips  me and reminds me of mortality and the possibility of never seeing loved ones again.  It is debilitating and consuming.  Thus, my biggest fear concerning this trip and my future trip to la Repulica Dominicana was my ability to function in spite of inevitable homesickness.  Praise be to Him who is able to do more than I could ever ask or imagine.  I miss home.  But I can breathe.  I want to hug Mama and Daddy but I do not find my days darkened by depression.  No feeling of panic greets me in the mornings.  This miracle I can only attribute to Jesus and to you, my intercesors.   Alcoy is not Indiana, but they speak the language of my heart here.  I am not surrounded by my family, but God has added to me my Alcoyana family that loves and cares for me.  Spain is not Home, but it has become a home.


I am a teacher!

I survived my first day teaching English (barely).
So many things went wrong...  but I believe that it was most likely a cleverly placed Providential move.  I planned and planned and planned and when I finally felt that I had everything right where I wanted (in my control), it all fell apart.  I had to completely trust that Jesus had everything under HIS control, and that was all that mattered.  [I am having a great deal of trouble with this next sentence because I can only form it in spanish.]  I was forced to remember that he is faithful to me and that it is not by my power that his work happens.    I had to rework my entire lesson and do it without the powerpoint that I had so meticulously created.  At least I still had the pictures saved on my computer.  Oh, wait.  No.  They blew a fuse downstairs and we lost our fans (we don't have air conditioning, only fans), and the projector.  The five and six year olds were too hot and too tired and too riled up to learn vocabulary and grammar.  So, I gave up and tried to teach them only vocab.  Then I gave up and tried to teach them one solitary word.  Butterfly.  At the end of the most tiring hour, I pointed to a picture of a butterfly on the board for the hundredth (literally 100th) and said, "what is this?  Que es eso?"  The response?  "MARIPOSA!"  Ok.  Yes.  Mariposa.  Go in peace.

Though I didn't have my precious plans, the rest of the classes went really well.  I enjoyed the kids and they didn't seem to hate the lesson.  I know many things that I will change, but it went really well for falling apart ten minutes before the children came...

Tonight was also the first night of adult classes.  I'm teaching the Intermediate class and my class dynamic is very interesting.  I have six 14-16 year olds, and eight ladies in their 40s and 50s.  :-)  I was very nervous and so were they.  We only got through half the lesson and class had hardly begun when I realized that my lessons are too advanced for them.  I had been told I would be teaching a class of Intermediate-high and Advanced-low students.  Instead, I have a class of mostly Intermediate-low students and a few Intermediate mid level.  Despite this change in my plans (again), we had a good class and then a fabulous conversation hour.  I love my students!  I am humbled by the fact that I am still a student and they wish to learn from me.

I could go on for hours...  but I won't.  Some interesting things:  I see signs admonishing us to "vote communist!"  and grafiti that says: "a good nazi is a dead nazi".  I saw a dalmation today.  I miss my dog.  You can buy cheese in the market shaped like a giant hershey's kiss... it is called "titty cheese" in spanish.  Yes.  Because it is apparently shaped like a boob.  In my personal opinion, the person who named it has never seen a normal boob.

I must go.  Vaya con Dios.


Teaching, Toes, and General Splendor

There are so many things about which I could write… but which are worthy of the minimal time I have?

Last time I wrote I was very nervous because I was to begin teaching the next morning.  Except, I was wrong.  Surprise, surprise.  I didn’t have the schedule correct in my head and MY first day of teaching is not until tomorrow.  I also found out that the lessons I planned are far too advanced for the level of English that the children know.  This, though throwing a bit of a wrench in my plans, does make my life a bit easier.  The missionaries told us today (as opposed to months and months ago, when we started planning…. Ah, flexability) that they really only wanted us to teach some vocabulary and to entertain the kids.  Not exactly as I planned, but we’ll go with it!  [If anyone has any brilliant ideas for group games to do with kids that don’t speak English, I’d be much obliged.]

I love the city of Alcoy.  Spain is so beautiful.  I can see mountains past the appartment buildings!  I think of my sister every time I see the mountains because she loves them so.  (I just posted pictures on facebook!) There are parks everywhere and lots of people walking down street with no signs.  My madre is certain that I can find my way about, walking and riding the bus, but all of the buildings and stores look the same to me!  I’ve only been here for three days, and I am sure that I would be hopelessly lost without a guide and without street signs!

As I said, there are tons of people walking everywhere.  My family and I are no exception.  I like to walk, but I am NOT used to walking this much!  I expect that I will soon adapt.  The sidewalks here are shiny… and very slick, especially when wet.  I had surgery on my toe on my left foot the week before I left for Spain.  Walking about in in the rain, wearing flipflops with a very tender toe on the slipperiest sidewalks every made is not the brightest or safest of ideas.  As it so happens, I managed to slip off the curb and injure a toe on my right foot, instead.  A splintered nail stuck in my toe and a great deal of blood later, and I was hobbling up and down the steep sidewalks of Alcoy like a regular anciana! (old woman)  My freshly injured toe is quite healed now, but later I slipped again and stubbed the toe that had the operation, and it is fairing poorly.  As I do a great deal of walking, your prayers in this regard are appreciated.

I have written far more than is acceptable, and I hope you will forgive me!  I also hope you will forgive my grammar, as this is hastily written and not (cringe) proof-read.



I am so blessed!

My host family is wonderful.  They are so patient with me, and so delighted that I speak Castellano... (it´s castellano here, not spanish.  The people are Spanish, the language is Castellano o Valenziano.)  I´ve already learned so much, and I can hear myself beginning to adopt the accent.  The interesting thing is that my host mom is from Salvador, so my latino accent doesn´t bother her at all.  Not everyone is so accepting, however.  One vendor at the market spent a good deal of effort trying to fix the way I speak...  She was unsuccesful. 

Tonight is Spanish Church, and I can hardly wait.  I have met several of Francisca´s friends so I will know some people.  Tomorrow I begin teaching and I am so very nervous.  As God has calmed so many of my fears thus far, and proved them to be unfounded, I am certain that He will remain faithful to me in this situation as well.  Your prayers are appreciated.


Oh the places you'll go...

I'm going to Spain.  After a month there, I'll return home for a month and then leave for the Dominican Republic.    Though I am going to try to diligently keep up with personal relationships and correspondence, it's going to be difficult.  So, I decided this would be my way of keeping you all updated and feeling loved. :-)  That is the primary reason I decided to start a blog; to tell anyone who wanted to listen, what exactly is going on in my life.

I was feeling very pleased with my solution to this problem when something happened.  As He often does, God showed me that this was His idea and His way of solving another one of my seemingly endless problems.  I am insanely worried about the next 5 months.  I'm worried about the distance and the time spent away from home.    I'm worried about leaving friendships and my comfort zone.  I'm worried about flights and about being safe overseas (I saw Taken!).  I'm worried about being inadequate for the task before me.  And yet He remains Faithful.  Thus, the secondary purpose (or the primary?) of my blog was born.  It is to be the written proof, to me and to you, of God's persistent, everyday faithfulness.  Because even when I can't see it, feel it, or want to believe it, Jesus is there and He is always Faithful.