Friday, February 26, 2010

"mira esto!"

We heard those words, meaning "look at this", about 4000 times this past weekend from the cutest little 2.5 year old boy, Juan Jose. We visited Cali, Colombia and stayed with Juan Jose and his parents, Daniel (a man who we met at the church during our last visit) and his wife, Erica. 'Juanjo' never stopped talking, had the cutest smile, and we immediately fell in love with him. I even got to help him fly a plane at a mall we visited!

The main reason we went was to be there for the ordination of Daniel, a man who we met the last time we were there. The bishop was there and we had a fun reception afterwards. There was champagne and a mariachi band to celebrate the occasion. We spent the rest of our time in Cali with the family. Although we were only there for the weekend, we really got to know them well and got a taste of the Cali culture. It is much warmer there and we loved not having to carry around a jacket!

Right now I am in the Bogota airport (enjoying free wifi AND dinner at crepes & waffles) waiting for Sam and his parents to arrive. They are going to spend a typical week with me here, visiting the mission and exploring Bogota. Mrs. Major, Sam's mom, came up with an idea to do a mock olympics with the kids. We told them about it yesterday and they are very are we! I'll write all about it in my next update!

Love, Kate

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

feliz dia de san valentin!

Last week's nutrition classes at the mission went really well. The kids were engaged the entire time and understood the concept of the new food chart. After learning about the different food groups, I split up the boys and girls for a competition. It ended up being a close game, so close that the girls needed to set up a barrier to keep the boys from looking over (see picture below). Their answers showed that they learned some english words and about how to eat a balanced diet.

This week, as we have done with every big holiday, we taught the kids about Valentine's Day! They started off with their homework and then the party started. We had lots of supplies for them to make valentines for their penpals in Maryland. I'm pretty sure they used every sticker and piece of glitter that we gave them. I loved Edinson's gluing skills (see picture below of a huge amount of glue for a piece of confetti..after that, we kept an eye on him).

After they all made cards, we taught them the cupid shuffle . They loved the dance and learned some new words; "kick", "to the right", and "to the left". I'll work on getting the video of the dance on here soon.

We spent Ash Wednesday in Soacha. It was great to see the congregation and Padre Carlos again. There was a good turnout and the kids loved getting/watching everyone get a cross of ashes painted on their foreheads. The start time was pushed back from 4pm to 6pm so we had some time to discuss plans with Padre Carlos. We talked about HIV/AIDS education classes and an after school program on Fridays (both starting late March).

Brittany and I are going to Cali tomorrow for an ordination on Saturday. We're excited to go back to Cali and are thinking about stopping in Armenia (coffee country) on our way back!

Love, Kate

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

fresh start with the niños

Our updated schedule in Usme has been great so far. The new star chart works wonders with the kids. We keep it up on the wall to remind them that they have to behave if they want another star by their name. We even have a huge stack of stickers that they love to chose their own 'star' from (thanks mom!). We decided to be more careful with giving out the stars, but last Thursday they ALL behaved well. Brittany and I just had to give every kid a star...

They are bringing their homework to the mission and we spend a while working with them to complete it. We even had to learn the "Colombian" format of long division so that we can help them. If they don't have homework, they write in their new journals. We give them questions and they write the answers in their books. One of the questions from last week, "What would you do with a million colombian pesos?", gave us some interesting answers. We were expecting race cars and ponies, but they wrote that they would give it to their parents, to buy food for the family, to pay off debt, or to buy a house.

We are getting organized and creative with our space and had all of the kids make 'name plates'. Sam's Aunt Cathy sent some art supplies for the kids and they were perfect for this project (thanks so much!). They had to find their names from all of the foam letters and decorate their foam circle. We are now using them to mark their 'puestos' where they keep their notebooks and backpacks.

We were able to watch the superbowl this past weekend! We went downtown and found a hostel with the game on. Even though there were only a few other people there, it was a great game and fun to share one of our traditions with our Colombian friend, Lucho.
On Monday, we went to a surprise party for Ferney, a good friend from the church. The party started about an hour and a half later than planned because it took a while to get everyone together outside of his place (yes, outside...Ferney was already inside). We went into the house and yelled "sorpresa" and had a great time. Andrew, Brittany's boyfriend, is visiting and he was able to share in the Colombian fun with us.

Brittany and Andrew are in Manizales (coffee country) right now, so I'm staying with Myriam for a few days! Tomorrow, I'm heading to Usme to teach a little bit about nutrition and healthy eating (because I'm such an expert...). I realized yesterday how much having Brittany with me makes a difference. They are a little bit more difficult to control when there's only one pair of eyes looking. A fellow YASCer, Curt, is teaching alone in Ecuador and I give him a lot of credit!
Happy Valentines Day (and Feliz Cumpleaños Toots and Sara)!!
Love, Kate

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

plans for 'dos mil diez'

While the kids were on vacation Brittany and I met with Padre Romero and were told that we needed to be “extra strict” when they returned. So, they’re back and we’re committing the first hour after lunch to having them write in the journals we gave them and helping them with homework. If they behave well during 'homework time' (and so far so good), then we spend time playing a game (bingo is their favorite). We spend the rest of our time (until 4 pm) teaching them English/health class. Like last year, if they behave well, they get a star at the end of the day on the 'star chart'…I’m happy to report we have a LOT of star students!

A big part of our after school program this year is going to be dedicated to health related issues. Brittany and I have decided to focus on nutrition, conflict management and hygiene. We’re also planning to teach them about the risks & consequences of getting involved with drugs, violence, and gangs. Unfortunately all of these kids live in a high risk neighborhood, so anything we can offer to provide them with an alternative is really important. I have spent the last five months getting to know and love every one of them and their potential is limitless.

Brittany and I are planning 3 weeks of VBS this spring/summer at Soacha, Usme, and the cathedral. We are really excited about this and so are the missions. If anyone knows of a place to get materials, songs, or videos in Spanish, please let me know! We're thinking that we're going to have a 'camp/adventure' theme and I know the kids are going to love it!

We’ve been talking with Padre Carlos about opportunities for AIDS/HIV education in Soacha, and how we can help to get it started. Carlos has been collaborating with some psychologists who could help the people of Soacha, so we’re anxious to meet with them too and get this program off and running. I have been so fortunate in getting to know some of the displaced families in the congregation and can't wait to work with them more closely.

The cathedral is our home and we are planning to support this congregation by continuing with the weekend workshops for families from the poor neighborhood above us. Hopefully, now that the Christmas season is over, they will continue to come to church. While I was shopping in Exito a few days ago, I saw a woman from that neighborhood and her daughter ran up to give hugs to Brittany and me. She asked me when the next "taller" (workshop) is, so that's a good sign! The first one is February 6th and it will be great to see everyone again.

Brittany and I have been up early every morning taking spanish classes with Alejandro, a man from our church. He's a great teacher and we are doing a lot of reading and speaking in Spanish.

Finally, we are hoping to visit missions all over Colombia this year. We are looking into opportunities in Cali, Medellin, Barranquilla, Quibdo, Bucaramanga, etc... I have also been in contact with the Diocese of Connecticut. They are planning a mission trip to Cartagena in June that Brittany and I are excited to help with.

I hope that everyone is having a great start to 2010. Thanks again for all of your support and love as I start my 6th month here!

Love, Kate