OOOPS! Has it really been almost three months since I’ve written? The length of this one will make up for lost time 🙂
Much has happened since I last wrote in January.
February is a busy month here as Carnival is celebrated every weekend during the month, leading up to the Dominican Independence Day on February 27th. Carnival celebrations include parades with interesting costumes and characters – and if you aren’t careful they whack you on the butt with small punching-bag-like paddles they carry. The Indepence Day performance at school featured both first grade classes doing a traditional dance, and Jamarius’ class recited a poem about the founding fathers of the DR. We spent the last weekend of the month of February in the capital city of Santo Domingo.
We celebrated Felicia’s 7th birthday here – complete with a Frozen themed birthday party at school. She had been begging to go to the salon for a few months to get her hair straightened. I decided to let her do it for her birthday, and after many tears and regrets she said she doesn’t want to go back to the salon anymore. With the humidity here, her straight hair lasted almost an hour!
School has been marching right along this semester. I upped the spelling lists to 10 words per week (it was only five per week first semester). The kids have risen to the occasion and many even master the #11 bonus word each week, which is always much more difficult than their regular spelling words. Some of the bonus words we’ve had: baseball, silence, Easter, and beautiful. Yes, five kiddos spelled “beautiful” right on their test – pretty impressive, right? We’ve also started memorizing more difficult memory verses from the Bible. They love reading Bible stories from an illustrated children’s Bible that I have, and each of them takes a turn being the “Bible Helper” each week and looking up our verse in the bilingual Bible that I have so we can read it in Spanish and English straight out of the Bible.
Their English has come so far since the beginning of the year. One of their favorite activities now is to create their own books – they are the author and illustrator. When they finish, if they choose, they get to read their book to the class during circle time. We’ve had some awesome books, such as Pajama Party by Yosephine, which included the names of many of her friends and also included the bonus word “beautiful” several times throughout – there were beautiful pajamas, beautiful hair, and a beautiful room. We also had My Dinosaur by Ivan Yoel, and the whole class agreed that their favorite part was the page that says, “My dinosaur goes to the bathroom.” Everyone got a big laugh when my studious, very serious kiddo Angel read his book Mario to the class and sounding just like the video game, he exclaimed “Mama mia!” Ahhh, the fun times in first grade!
We took our second field trip of the year. This time we went to the capital and visited a children’s museum called Descubria. This place is designed like a small child-sized town. When the kids enter they first go to the bank, where they are issued a “debit card” complete with their photo and signature. This card is used at the various stations throughout the museum. They loved the firefighter exhibit where they all wore firefighter coats and hats, climbed upstairs and slid down a pole, rode in a firetruck and even put out a (pretend) fire! In the pizzeria they were all able to make personal pizzas, and at the driver’s school they received a license and were able to drive little go-karts around the track. The kids had tons of fun and it was great watching them. We finished our time with a pizza lunch at the mall – they were all so amazed with the sights of the mall that it was like herding wild geese to get upstairs to the pizza place! To see pictures of this and other exciting news about what’s happening with my class, please join our Facebook page “Jarabacoa Christian School First Grade 2014-2015.”
The first week of March brought an incredible blessing to the kids and me. A missionary couple who works at JCS with me blessed us with our very own motor scooter, or pasola as they’re called here.
After seven months of walking everywhere with a few motoconcho and taxi rides when necessary, we were so excited to have these new wheels. They took us to a flat-ish area for me to learn to drive, first alone, then with one kid, and finally with both. It was misting and sprinkling rain, and did pour down rain on me at one point, but I got the hang of it (after falling one time – just a little road rash – ouch!) Our 8-10 minute walk to and from school now takes 2-3 minutes. We can cruise into town to get a few groceries and beat the rain. Since I was 16 I’ve always had a vehicle so the 7 months of not having one really made me appreciate the convenience and independence that comes with having your own transportation. We really had to plan and make the most of our trips into town before – to coordinate groceries getting home without spoiling and any other errands along the way. Now it’s so easy to just jump on the pasola and go grab something that we need – and the kids LOVE to ride it as often as possible! I am more comfortable driving than I was at first, but it is still a bit nerve-wracking because of the way people drive here. We all wear our helmets and for the most part I hang over on the far right side of the road letting everyone cruise past us. Felicia is still waiting for the day we go up to 100 km/hour – she will be waiting on that forever!!
The kids are playing soccer and have joined TaeKwonDo, which are both offered at school this semester. They’ve had one soccer game, which was very fun to watch (even though they lost by a couple goals). TaeKwonDo is interesting, they have never done any martial arts before so this is a brand new experience.
TaeKwonDo classes outside
Both soccer teams after their game
My mom was able to come visit us this past week, which was so great. This was her first time seeing our house and even though school was out for Semana Santa (Holy Week/Easter Break) we took her there to see our classrooms and the school. While she was here we visited Santo Domingo for a couple days and also went to the north coast to the beach for one day. Unfortunately our beach day was COLD (like maybe 70 degrees max), overcast, and rainy. Grandma got in the ocean with Jamarius and Felicia, which was fortunate for them because I was huddled in a towel under the umbrella, which was blocking the rain rather than the sun! It’ll be a memory we won’t soon forget!
It was cold and cloudy, but it didn’t stop these brave (AKA crazy) gringos from enjoying the beach!
Grandma got a motoconcho ride – wearing a skirt and all!
That brings us up to the present, Easter weekend. The kids and I colored eggs this afternoon and decorated our driveway with sidewalk chalk. We are going up in the mountains to an English-speaking church service tomorrow morning for Easter Sunday.
When we return to school next week, we will have nine weeks left of school. This year has literally flown by! So, what’s next for us, you ask? Good question! After much time spent praying, considering, emailing, and weighing options, it is looking like we will be headed back to the States this summer when school ends. This may be surprising for many of you, as it is for me actually. I kind of thought in the back of my head that when we moved here it may be the last time we’d live in the States, at least for a long time. There have been MANY factors to consider. I love working at JCS and I love my class. I’ve had at least two families request in the office that I be a second grade teacher next year so that their child will be with me again. This is very flattering, and I am so happy to have made these relationships with my students and their families this year. However, this is just not where I am supposed to stay. The experience has been incredible, both for me and for Jamarius and Felicia. The Spanish immersion has been great – Felicia has picked up so quickly on the language and she pronounces the words that she knows perfectly – I only wish I had the opportunity to come when they were even younger. Despite learning difficulties, Jamarius has grown by leaps and bounds – he is adding two-digit numbers and is reading more words, and even reading many Spanish words now. They both sing the Dominican National Anthem, and know it better than the American one (it’s sung with pride at the start of every school day).
Being close to family and friends is something that we’ve definitely missed this year. FaceTime with my baby niece is great – but I miss being able to go spend a long weekend with them whenever we can. She’s grown so much this year and she won’t be little forever!
So, there are lots more factors that I’ve considered but I’m not going to make this any longer! I’m so thankful and appreciative of those of you who have prayed for us, helped us in any way, and financially supported our time here. As always, I would love to hear from you! And, we still have at least two months down here so you’re welcome to come pay us a visit!
I have started looking at job and housing options for when we return. I’ve applied to a couple places, although it’s still a bit too early to apply for most things (since many jobs that post an opening aren’t looking to wait 2-3 months to fill that opening). If you would keep me in mind as you hear about jobs, and shoot me a message, I would appreciate it. My degree is in Human Services, so anything that I would be qualified to do I would consider. Please continue to keep our family in your prayers as we finish this school year and make another transition. There is nothing set in stone yet, and if God would choose to open up other doors for us – our plans could always change! Blessings to you all and Happy Easter!
Megan, Jamarius, and Felicia