Sunday, April 22, 2012

Today vs. Two Day and Other Stories from Friday

Ok, so I fell behind with my updates again... But here are a few quick stories of stuff that happened to me at school yesterday that were cute/funny.

Gissel was asking me about when they could use their money that they get for good behavior to buy things from the little store in the office, so I told her, "Today." She then asked me, "La dia despues de manana?" (the day after tomorrow). I told her no, and she continued to guess more days farther into the week. Finally I stopped her and asked, "What is 'today'?" Her answer: "Dos dias." (2 days)

I laughed when I realized how easily someone could confuse the two, so I showed her the difference by writing "two days." Beneath that, I wrote "2 dias." Then, I wrote "today," and "hoy" beneath that. She studied the word in Spanish for a moment, and then read "Hoy?" "Yes," I told her, and she hugged me with joy that she could go buy trinkets with her well-earned money. I was just glad for the little English lesson we had had. :)

Last week during chapel, Zudy had lost her first tooth. And then she lost it. It was one of her lower incisors, so it was small, and she probably dropped it during one of their "let's jump around like crazy" songs. She was obviously upset about this and looked hard for it around where she was sitting, but did not find it.

This week after chapel, there was a sort of buzz among several of my girls revolving around something that Emy had pinched in between her fingers. Not knowing what it was but knowing that it was causing some excitement, I held out my hand for Emy to give me whatever it was. As she placed it in my hand, I caught the words "...diente de Zudy." Sure enough, there was Zudy's tooth, now in my hand.

I'm not really grossed out by germs and such, but something about holding a lost tooth was a little bit gross to me. But, it was really funny to me that she lost her tooth (twice) last week, and that it had now been found. I showed several of the other teachers who laughed with me, then put the tooth safely in a Ziploc bag with Zudy's name on it. I gave her clear instructions to put it in her backpack so she didn't lose it again.

In chapel, Miss Carla was talking about how we reap what we sow, and the importance of being nice to others. As an example, she was saying how it wouldn't be very nice to tell Mr. Tito how bad his hair looked. She said this a couple of different ways to emphasize the point, when Connie couldn't sit quietly anymore. She suddenly shouted out, "No es cierto, Mr. Tito! Tu pelo es bonito!"

Although Miss Carla laughed at the passion and slight anger in Connie's declaration, she was able to use her as an example of being nice to others. Connie really is a sweet and quiet girl, so it didn't surprise me that she came to the defense of one of her favorite teachers, though it was a little surprising that she so boldly spoke out during chapel. If only all the kids were that quick to be nice to each other.

So, those are my three little anecdotes from the other day. Basically, my kids are awesome. Most of the time. I did also have a kid bite and pinch another student when I stepped out of the class for less than a minute, and later kick another student. He spent an hour and a half after school writing sentences for all that.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Storytime With Mel (Part 4)

Yay! It's not yet hot enough that I can't do anything, so hopefully I can get in at least one more post.

The Youth Conference

Last week Friday I got invited to go to some sort of youth conference. So, I went with Tito and Cesia and another guy from the church, Rene. He's also the dad of one of the kids in my class. We headed out in matching t-shirts that displayed the name of the church and got there as they were starting worship. The tickets were 20 lempiras to get in (about $1), and I only had a 500 lempira bill (about $25). Slightly embarrassing, but the girl was able to find change for me.

We went and joined in worship, and as I looked around, I saw a girl walking over to me. It was dark, and hard to see her face, but I thought it looked like Jully, who was here in the fall but left in February. When she got closer, I saw that it WAS Jully, and she had come back that morning. It was good to see her, and I hope that I'll be seeing a lot more of her now!

I really wish I had brought my Bible and notebook that night, because the message was really good, and in English. Dennis translated, but I had the advantage of understanding before most people. I hadn't been sure as to where exactly we were going, so I had opted to leave my Bible and notebook at home in case we were going to be at some big outdoor place where I'd have to keep a hold of them the whole time.

The message was good, and powerful. He talked about the problems that are ever-present in Honduras, and how God is going to be moving against them. He talked about how the root of the problems is not political or economical, but is spiritual, which is why prayer is so incredibly important to battle against the darkness.

He talked about how God answers prayers in different ways, using the story of Paul's conversion as an example. As Paul was praying to God, God was telling Ananias to go to him. So, Paul's prayer was not answered by God talking to Paul, but by God talking to Ananias. It's important, therefore, that we keep an open mind about prayer and the way God chooses to answer it. Sometimes, it is directly. But other times, it's through other people.

He also talked about the Great Commission, and the impact that the life of Paul had on the entire world. And really, the impact that Ananias's act of obedience that opened up Paul's eyes was the start of that. He reminded us all that we can make a huge impact on the world and that it starts with being obedient and praying.

The next morning, we went back for the second day. The first message was once again in English, and touched me even more deeply than the night before. This message was again about the Great Commission, and focused on the words that Jesus used, and what they mean for us today.

The biggest thing that hit me was that right before Jesus commissions them, it says that the disciples were doubting and had hard hearts. The disciples! These were the guys that had seen all the miraculous healings and people raised from the dead and food multiplies. These were the guys that watched Jesus being crucified and then saw Him when He was raised from the dead, and spent time with Him after His resurrection. Yet they still doubted and had hardened hearts.

Despite that, Jesus commissioned them and sent them out. They, with their doubt and hard hearts, were qualified to share the Gospel to all the nations. That means that I am qualified. I can go out and share the Gospel to the nations. I am a work in progress, and that's ok. God can still use me.

This is something I've been struggling with, a feeling of inadequacy. I often feel like there's nothing I can really do because I'm not spiritually where I should be, or I don't speak Spanish that well, or whatever. But none of that really matters when you get down to it. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and He's not finished with me yet, but He's sending me out to the nations.

It was just what I needed to hear. I know that it doesn't mean not to move forward. Obviously, I still need to be moving forward and getting closer to God and becoming more like Him, and learning more Spanish. But I don't have to wait for that moment when I'll be "ready" to do the work that God has for me here. I am ready, or else He wouldn't have sent me. I know I wasn't ready 4 years ago when I first wanted to come. And I know I don't feel ready now, but God wouldn't have sent me if He didn't know that I could handle everything there was for me here.

There was another message that day, in Spanish, so I didn't get every part, but I got what I needed. It was the story of David and Goliath. An old and familiar story, but the preacher dissected it well and drew up some excellent points. He talked about how that time was David's time. He was made for that moment to face down the giant, and so he did. The challenge was issued to all the young people there: Will you go and stand in front of the giant? Will you embrace that calling which is on your life?

This is a generation that is living in captivity to sin, as the nation of Israel was living in captivity to their own fear at that time. It is up to the Christian people in this generation to set them free. We know the way. We know how to be free, so we must do what we can to set them free. We can be that light that leads people to Christ, but we must be willing to stand.

All we have to do is say "yes" to God. We have to say "send me. I will go." And He will respond; He will send us out. He has a special plan and purpose for each and every life, and there's nobody else that can live your life, so you have to live your life for the purpose that God has for you.

Everything had a theme, which was all exactly what I needed: You are qualified, so go and do what God has called you to do.

But I don't think it's just me that needs that. I think everyone needs to realize that God has placed them exactly where they are for a specific reason, and that reason is to reach people for the Gospel and to therefore bring glory to God. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can live your life as an example to the nations, and you can share the Gospel. You don't have to be perfect, and you don't have to be "qualified." God has qualified you by your belief in Him and is sending you. So, go.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Story Time With Mel (Part 3)

Here's the next part of my stories. As I write this, there is a giant cicada on the porch flying around into the walls making a lot of noise. It's kind of freaking me out. The bug is a good 3 inches long and probably half that wide and if it comes inside, I might freak out. I'm not really one to get freaked out by bugs and such, but when it's a giant bug coming towards me, I get scared. I took some video of it earlier that probably sucks because I jumped when it started flying around. Just thought you would be interested that I'm actually a little tense about the possibility of the giant cicada coming in here while I'm writing this, though it may have just made it over the wall and back out into the world. I'm too scared to check.

Leading Worship

A couple of weeks ago, Tito asked me to sing a song or something like that for the following Thursday. For some reason, I agreed. Then, I started getting sort of nervous, and I wasn't sure exactly what I had agreed to. Was I supposed to lead all of our worship time, or just share one song? I prepared and practiced 3 songs just to be safe. But, I did it all in English, knowing that they knew 2 of the songs in Spanish already, and that the third was also available in Spanish.

I foolishly waited until the day of to find the words in Spanish, and only had time to run through them once or twice. If you've never had to sing a song in another language before, it's tricky even if you know it well in English because with the different lengths and positions of the words, the whole pattern of the song ends up being slightly different. Even just in English, the pattern of the songs can differ from church to church. So, I was not all that prepared by the time Bible study rolled in.

I brought my guitar and song book down with me, growing more and more nervous and wondering why on earth I agreed to sing for everyone. After Tito shared a Psalm, he asked for the guitar, and relief washed over me. He must have forgotten that he had asked me to lead, so I was off the hook. When we finished one song, he then said that I would be sharing a special song with us, and then it was too late to panic.

As the song sheets I had printed out were passed around, I laid out my own sheet with the chords on it and placed the capo in the right place. I struggled through the first song, How He Loves (or "Cuanto Nos Ama"), which has a lot of words in the verses, though the chorus is easy enough. It was a song they'd never really heard before, but they did join in on the chorus the 3rd time through which put me a little more at ease.

When I was done, I was prepared to just be done, feeling as though I had embarrassed myself enough, but they asked for another one, so I opted for None But Jesus (or "Solo Cristo"), which I know they know. The second song went much better on account of it being slower which made it easier for me to sing, there being less words which also helped me, and them joining in, which meant my mistakes were not as obvious. I still didn't do super well with it, but was uber glad for Cesia who was next to me and could follow the music well enough to help me out.

If there is a next time, I will be better prepared. But, as much as I felt like I didn't do very well, they all thanked me for singing and told me my voice was beautiful, so that was really encouraging. Tito even mentioned it to me the next morning as we were leaving for school. I know I don't have the best voice in the world, so I'm always glad to hear when people do like my voice.

After Bible study, we all sat and talked for a while. Well, they talked, I mostly just listened. They were talking about families, and who lived where, and the interesting connections between them (Tito has several family members that he's related to on both sides because of intermarrying between his dad's and mom's relatives). Sometimes I think about breaking in, but there's never a pause in the conversation and they've usually moved on to another subject by the time I form sentences in my head of what I could say.

When I did get drawn into the conversation, it was to ask me if I want to get married here. What is it about married people that are always trying to get single people married? At any rate, I did say I did, and related the story of my mishap at the grocery store (which you can read here if you missed it). Surprisingly, they did understand my whole story as far as I could tell, even though I know I made several many errors as I stumbled through it. My past tense verbs need some help.

Well, I think that's all I'm going to write for tonight. It's past 10pm, which is about when I usually head for bed, and I'm trying to stick to that so I'm not totally out of whack when school starts up next week. Hopefully I can get myself up early enough to finish all my stories and get everyone caught up before it gets so hot that I start to shut down. If not, well... I'll get to it eventually. Maybe. Hopefully...

Thanks for reading! Tell your friends!

P.S. I didn't hear the cicada flying around anymore, so I think it really did escape the porch, so that's good. I did get distracted by a gecko at one point that was by the door, and then came closer after I made kissy noises at it. When I started taking video of it, though, it ran under the chairs and then under the couch. Ah, well.

Story Time With Mel (Part 2)

The stories continue. If you missed part one, you can find it here. This is everything that happened last week Tuesday. Well, not EVERY thing, but everything important and memorable.

The Copy Machine

Last week were exams for the kids, which meant making copies was more important than usual. I, along with several other teachers, had several exams that were done by hand. Most of mine were on my computer and easily printed from the printer even though it took longer, but my math test was all drawn and written out by hand, and other teachers don't have a computer, which means everything is by hand.

We just got the copier back from the repair shop because it was leaving black smudges along the edges of the pages and the copies were become partially unreadable. It worked well enough for about 3 days. Then, it started leaving blurry streaks along a good 3 inches along one side that almost made it look like the paper was underwater. You could sort of read what it said, but it was blurry and covered in gray.

It was frustrating. The tests I had printed out then copied were hard to read/see, but I wasn't going to waste 10 sheets of paper printing them all out on the computer, so I ended up having to draw the missing pieces on the board. and putting numbers by them, and by the blurred drawings on their papers and hope they understood my directions. In math, I had to do all 4 pages of their test on the board, including 10 addition problems that were all lost to the failing copier. That was Monday.

On Tuesday, I wasn't giving any exams, but I went anyway because I was being picked up there later to go to Casita. I intended to just relax and work on my article writing job that I was still working on about the capital of Malaysia, but ended up spending the majority of the morning trying to fix the copier.

As much as I am not a computer repair specialist, I am even less of a copier repair specialist. At one point, I did have the solution explained to me by Ethan, our 3 year old Autistic boy, but he just used hand motions and sounds, so I didn't understand what he was saying. He may have just been explaining the wonders of the inner workings of copy machines according to a 3 year old, but I like to think he was trying to tell me how to fix it. I wished I had had my camera with me to capture his explanation, but alas, I had not thought it necessary when fixing the copier.

After somewhat identifying what the problem might be, blackening my hands twice, cleaning several surfaces of the copy machine, and considering paying $28 for an online expert to tell me what the problem was, I gave up and decided I could not fix the copy machine without risking breaking it. I did desperately want a screwdriver so I could tear it apart and see if I could figure it out, but I thought the higher powers might not appreciate me dismantling the machine and not being able to put it back together.

The Grocery Store

Usually, trips to the grocery store are generally uneventful, though they sometimes involve me making a fool of myself trying to go in the out door or not knowing where my ride is. Sometimes they involve free samples of toast, too. But last week Tuesday, my shopping trip involved me spending 10 minutes faking knowing Spanish to the bag boy.

At this particular grocery story, the bag boys not only bag your groceries, but they also take them out to your car and load them for you. And on that day, I had been dropped off by Dennis and was supposed to call Hermano Hector when I was finished to come pick me up. After buying my groceries and minutes for my phone, we headed outside. I made the call, mumbling something resembling "I'm finished" in Spanish, and ended the call.

The bag boy took this as a sure sign that I was fluent in Spanish and began talking to me. Between the automatic door opening and closing behind me and the traffic out on the street, I could barely hear what he was saying. And I definitely couldn't hear it enough to understand, but I put on a good show. At some point he told me he has a cousin in the US, confirmed that "I love jyou" is "Te amo," talked about sports, asked me about music and if I had friends in Guatemala and other nearby countries, and at some point asked me "Estas cansada?"

Or so I thought. Cansada means tired. So, I said yes. I was tired. He seems a little surprised when I said yes, and I just sort of shrugged it off at the time. Later that night when I was trying to think of the word for married, I realized he hadn't asked me if I was "cansada." He asked me if I was "casada." Married. That one letter makes a big difference, no? So, I told the bag boy at the grocery store that I was married. This explains his surprise at my answer. With my hair in pigtails that day, I probably looked no more than 17.

When I posted my blunder on Facebook later, one of my friends told me I'd missed out on a boyfriend, and when I told the story at Bible study the following Thursday, they exclaimed that I had missed my opportunity and laughed with me at my mistake.

That being the third stupid thing I've done there, I don't ever want to go back there again. Unfortunately, I'm mostly at the mercy of whoever is kind enough to drive me to the grocery store. I guess I at least don't have to try to appear normal, since they all know I'm weird there. :)


I touched on this when it actually happened, but now I'm going to expand a little on what happened at Casita last week. For those of you not aware, Casita ("little house") is a girl's orphanage run by the government. Most of the girls there are between the ages of 10 and 15, with a few that are older. Many of them are runaways, or their parents have stopped caring about them. A lot of them have been sexually abused at some point or were prostitutes, and a surprising number have babies.

Despite being safe from the world of gangs, sex, drugs, and violence within the 20 foot concrete walls of Casita where they are cared for by a team of Tias ("Aunts"), many of them still run from the orphanage and back onto the streets. Sometimes, they are caught again and brought back, but not before they have wound up pregnant.

Last week, there were 3 babies there, and 5 girls that were pregnant. The girls who were pregnant all ranged around 15 years old. Already, with new arrivals and escapes, those numbers could easily change.

As I looked around at the girls during our time of worship, there were a few that stayed seated, too mentally disabled to understand what was happening or to want to join in. And there was one girl who sat and looked around who had a clear mind. She looked at the girls who were singing with eyes closed and hands raised with some contempt, and my heart broke for her.

Another girl that was close to her was among those standing. She had her eyes closed and her hands were reaching out to God as she sang and didn't care who was looking or not looking. It gave me hope that some of these girls do want to change, and they can see how much they need Jesus in their lives to make that change. I didn't get to talk to either of them after, but I continue to lift them up in prayer, and pray that they would find what they are looking for.

After worship, they all get a verse that Shari prints out for them. This week was I Timothy 4:12, one of my favorites, and such a perfect one for these girls who have been told they are worthless either by action or by word and think they can't do any good. I hope they take this verse to heart like I have, and realize that they don't have to be anything special to be an example to others. They can be that example that they ought to be, because all they need is Jesus in them.

Once we had passed out all the cupcakes and cups of juice, the girls started drifting off to their normal activities, which mostly just involved sitting around. A few of the girls stuck around, and I was able to play around and sort of talk with a couple of them. Once girl came up and playfully pinched me, so her and I pinched/hit at each other for a couple minutes before I pulled her into an embrace. Another time a couple of girls were goofing off and one hit the other, and I demanded, "Que estas haciendo?!" ("What are you doing?!") They seemed surprised that I had called them out and in Spanish, and assured me they were just playing as I shook my head and smiled.

As Terry shook hands with multiple girls to prove he wasn't going to shake one of them hard, I had girls on either side of me who put their arms around my waist. We watched and laughed as Terry slowly gained the girl's trust that he wouldn't shake her hand hard, then did when she finally consented to shake his hand again. They all laughed about it, and I was reminded again of how much he's a grandfather to all of them, constantly teasing and tormenting them with a smile on his face. No matter what he's doing to them, they see the love that's behind it, and it's great to watch and be a part of.

So, it looks like I'll be able to go back every other week and be a part of their ministry there. I'm REALLY excited about that, and look forward to getting to know the girls better and just being able to love them. They recently had a room converted into a beauty parlor, so I'll let them do whatever to my hair if I get the chance. That's for sure.

Story Time With Mel (Part 1)

Ok, so a lot has been going on in the last couple of weeks. So much so that I haven't really had the time to sit down and write about it. And when I did have the time, the blistering heat kept me from wanting to do anything other than... die? It's been really hot, hitting 100 degrees every day for the last week or so, and it's miserable. Today, I laid on the couch beneath the ceiling fan and just kept switching positions to dry the sweat off of me, and that was the best I could do for the better part of 2 hours. At least it gets cool at night. So, the plan is to just start telling some stories of what's been going on. I'll probably put it in a few blog posts, so it won't be one huge one. :)

Computer Repairs and Failures - 2 Saturdays ago

So, a couple of Saturdays ago, I was doing my usual laze about the house routine that I do on most Saturdays. That day, I decided to be more committed to learning the Dvorak style of typing, which is much easier and extremely fast once learned. After several days of watching at least a dozen videos on how to remove keys from a keyboard, I got brave and got started. After I had removed all of the letters from my keyboard, I realized how dirty it was under there, so I got a paper towel and started carefully cleaning around the rubber buttons and clips that hold the plastic tops in place.

I was partway through this when Tito and Cesia came in and Tito asked me to help with one of their laptops to get on the internet. Now, the last time they asked me to do this on their old MacBook, I literally just opened the wireless signal tab and it started working like I was some sort of computer goddess. This time, it was almost just as easy. I first checked that the password was right, and that was the problem. Having fixed the problem in less than 2 minutes, and having been in the middle of cleaning my empty keyboard, I looked like some sort of computer genius.

Although I admittedly am better with computers than a lot of people, I am decidedly NOT a computer genius. I have, on more than one occasion, been frustrated to the point of tears with simple troubleshooting problems that I simply could not figure out. But, at that moment, I was feeling good, and then Tito brought me their other laptop, and said something about drivers and internet. I decided I'd give it a shot.

So, with my own keyboard still in shambles, I began trying to figure out what the problem was with Tito's computer. I quickly discovered that it had no wireless internet drivers. For those who are computer illiterate or unfamiliar with these terms, I'll attempt to explain. In order for the computer to connect to the internet wirelessly (as well as many other things), it needs something called "drivers." Most of the time, the computer knows exactly what drivers it needs and will automatically connect to the internet to download them. But the problem here is that it couldn't get online wirelessly, so the problem was not so easily solved.

For the next two hours I worked on finding the right drivers for the make and model of the laptop as well as the computer's operating system. Using a thumb drive, I would download drivers from the internet on my computer, save them on the thumb drive, put the thumb drive into Tito's computer, and install them there. Sometimes, they would just install and then do nothing, and other times I couldn't even figure out how to install them. I finally did enough research to find the exact drivers that I needed, and got them installed.

Then, a window came up, saying the computer was almost ready to connect to the internet wirelessly, but it first needed to download the correct drivers. But it didn't have the drivers to connect to the internet, so it couldn't connect to the internet to install the drivers it needed to connect to the internet. Confused? Me too. I quickly got caught in what I call the "troubleshooting loop of doom" where I go into the help menu for information, and they send me to the control panel, which wants me to troubleshoot, which finds nothing wrong, which then sends me to the help menu, which is still not helpful.

I finally had to tell Tito I couldn't get it to work, and he thanked me for trying. I was just glad they were there, because I most certainly would have been crying in anger and absolutely frustrated if I had been left alone with the computers. Afterwards, Cesia gave me some amazing Honduran lasagna, so it did end well. So, I was exalted at first, then extremely humbled. Lesson learned: I am not a computer genius. Also, it's extremely hard to learn a new style of typing when you've been using QWERTY for 18 years.

Fashion and Beauty Magazine

As many of you know, I do online writing jobs for extra income, and it's been extremely helpful to me. I was actually able to buy my ticket to/from Michigan for the summer mostly with money made writing articles. Usually the articles I do are informational and for things like tanning rabbit hides, keeping parrots as pets, and Nepal vacations. For those, I write 12 new articles with the keywords I'm given, then rewrite each of those into new articles for a total of 24 articles. And I have to find a copyright free image for each article. I get paid $50 for those.

Recently, I got contacted for a different type of article writing, and was asked to name my price. For the 400-500 word articles based off of keywords, I told her $3/each, which is on the high end of average for a keyword article of that length. She agreed, and I'll be writing a total of 30 articles for her throughout April, totaling $90 and there are no pictures, tedious rewrites, or extensive rules about the exact choice and placement of keywords.

I'm loving it. I've done the first 10 already, most in one day, and am so excited about getting to the rest of them. The only problem is I can't seem to work when it's so dang hot during the day. The other "problem" is the subject matter: fashion and beauty. People who know me know that although I have in recent years developed a decent fashion sense, I am in no way interested in keeping up with latest trends. And although I am beautiful (God made me, so how could I NOT be??), I don't really care all that much about make-up and beauty products and such.

Yet, here I am, writing articles for a fashion and beauty online magazine! Obviously, I do my research before I get started and skim through a few different webpages before talking about this summer's fashion trends (which turn out to be lots of color and horizontal stripes among other things), but it still strikes me as ironic that I'm writing these articles. I am grateful that it is also a health magazine, and I do know a lot about that, so I can get in a few good health articles as well, which will be a lot easier for me.

Unless she offers me another job, I will be taking a break from my online work for a while to focus on getting college finished, which has fallen to the side. I already let my other employer know that I won't be doing any more jobs for a while, but these fashion and beauty ones are so much easier and pay so much more that I don't want to give them up if I don't have to. So, that's what I'm doing with my online jobs.

Sidenote: I've made about $3 from you reading my blog, so thanks! Keep reading and sharing it with others, and this will be a great way for me to be able to support my ministry just by talking about it! I've also made $2 off of YouTube videos, though I'm not sure how because I read somewhere you only get $1/1000 views/video, and the video that apparently made that money only has like 30 views, so..... I don't know.

So, here's a link to one of my recent videos I posted. If you like it, you can support me by clicking the like button, commenting, favoring it, subscribing, and sharing the video with your friends!