"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "
Jeremiah 29:11

Sunday, March 24, 2013

God's little reminders

My devotional this morning was spot on:  exactly what I needed to read, and when I needed to read it.  Coincidence?  I think not.  So many times, this happens to me. It's not that I feel lost or anything, but a gentle biblical reminder finds me at just the right time.  I remember one day last December in particular.  I was having a hard time with the decision about signing a contract to stay in Costa Rica for another year.  I was sitting at the bus stop, and I opened up to that day's devotional.  "You are reaching a crossroad in your journey."   Woah!  I then read a reminder to be willing to go out on a limb for God--follow where He is leading me...I found encouragement to relinquish my desire to play it safe to more wholeheartedly follow God.  We all know where that story ended up.  I was at a crossroads last December, but I had to let go of the little worries and what ifs.  More pressing than the risks I faced by staying in Costa Rica another year, I heard my heart calling me to finish what I had started here.  

So today I was reminded to let go.  No, not let go, learn to let go...

Being in Costa Rica has been a series of lessons for me, and releasing control of my life to God has been one of the biggest lessons that I am still learning.  Take the earthquake last year, and the many aftershocks, for example.  After September 5th, I was living in fear, hyper-vigilant of what might happen next.  Every little sound or shake was another earthquake.  Sleep was another story all together.  I let my mind get the best of me, allowing me to live in fear.  That's because I was trying to be in control.  Me, little human me.  God and His power to move the earth are so immense that I cannot even fathom; a God that can move the earth can most certainly calm my fears.  And He has.

I'm certainly learning to cope with the distance between me and my loved ones.  That's not to say that I don't miss them, but by being here in Costa Rica alone, God has been allowing me to learn and discover who I am.

As far as possessions go, well, I still have a lot, I'm not going to lie about that.  But living in a third world country has really opened my eyes to what's important in life.  The difference between needs and wants.  I don't make a lot of money, but I don't feel "poor."  I don't have hot water at my house, nor do I have a washing machine.  All my dishes must be hand-washed as well.  I ride a public bus to and from work and the grocery store.  It has been a blessing to be reminded of all the things I was taking for granted before.  I appreciate what I have so much more.

Back to the fact that I still do not have my work permit.  I may or may not have to leave Costa Rica before April 22.  I can even work on "letting go" of that a bit.  Fact of the matter is, it is out of my control.  I have turned in my documents, so there is absolutely nothing I can do.  It is unsettling to me not knowing what's going to happen with my status in the next [less-than] month, but I need to release this worry--there really is nothing I can do.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

When Pigs Fly

I’ll become a legal resident of Costa Rica when pigs fly…
How long have I been gathering paperwork for this thing?  Since before I graduated college.  When did I finally have all my paperwork notified, certified, apostilled, and sent back to Costa Rica?  Last August.  Then I wait.
I wrote in January about my experience to get the fingerprints done, as that was on my to-do-list for my work permit application. 
Well I’m not going through this alone, because the other foreign teachers are also seeking residency, but at this point, I am the furthest along in the process.  It’s certainly not a competition though.  I have been the only one fortunate enough to get fingerprints taken.  I went without an appointment, and without any paperwork, whereas the other teachers now cannot even get an appointment because they are told they need some sort of paperwork from the school, yet the school, nor the lawyers can come up with this paperwork.
The lawyer says he has no idea how I got my fingerprints taken.  I was persistent, that’s how.  When they ask me for paperwork that day and I didn’t have it, I was not about to make another trip to San José and postpone the process further.  I said what I needed to and got myself through.
So you’d think I would have my work permit and residency by now, right?  All my paperwork and fingerprints are ready to go and since the school was inscribed by immigration last month, I should be good to go.  Not. We have switched lawyers in the process, and while they try to figure out what’s going on and what really needs to be done, my 90 days are ticking away.  I have exactly one month from today until my visa runs out…
We found out this week that I actually had not done everything on the to-do-list.  I now have to go to the consulate.  The lawyer told me, no big deal, just go during your week off next week.  Well trying to book an appointment with less than a week’s notice was wishful thinking.  Of course there weren’t any appointments available until my first day back to work.  Since this is work related, my request for absence on that day was easily approved, but that doesn’t mean making another trip to San José is easy, quick, or cheap.
I’ll be spending Easter 2013 by myself in a hotel…

On a more positive note:
Yesterday, the school secretary asked me to come into the office for a second.  I was so shocked when I got in there.  She had a brand new globe for me and a meter stick!  Two things I have been asking for for a long time.  I’ve put them on every single wish list that I have ever turned in to anyone, but I kind of felt like I was just wasting ink every time I wrote “globe” on a wish list.  Apparently the school had ordered this for me before the start of this year when I made my 2013 supply list, and they decided not to tell me they had ordered it.  It just took two months to get here.  I was seriously so shocked when I saw the globe and meter stick, and so happy I wanted to cry!  I know that sounds so dumb.  It’s not the fact that I got a globe, but it just means a lot to know that someone is actually listening to me, and that someone took the time, money, and effort to order this for me.

It’s funny there was just a man at school the other day who was visiting from the united states.  He is a president of some educational supply company.  I was introduced to him, and he asked me if there was anything I wanted for my classroom.  Smartboard?  No, I want a globe.  But if we are talking electronics, I would love to have an Elmo.  But a globe and a meter stick.  I told him it’s not that I know I can’t have these things, because everything is possible, but in such a rural area and with such a limited budget, everything just takes longer.  Little did I know at that point that my globe had been ordered two months earlier and was on its way to Cóbano. 

And even crazier than me getting a globe... today the school got something I NEVER thought it would get.  When this was announced at our staff meeting yesterday, I almost fell off of the bench where I was sitting.  Somebody donated a photocopy machine to the school!!!!! Thank you thank you thank you!  Just last week I had to hand-make several worksheets because the copy store gave me 2 fewer than I needed.  The normal solution would be to run to the office and make a quick copy, but without a copy machine that wasn't possible.  Next I would have jumped into my car and drove to the copy store real quick, but without a car that wasn't an option either.  By the time the next bus would come, class would have already started, so what else is a teacher to do?  Hand make her own worksheets.  The students who got my hand-made worksheets actually thought it was pretty cool.  I didn't think it was cool while I was doing it.  Either way, no more hand-written worksheets for this teacher!

I took a picture so I could look back and laugh one day.

I've had a little behavior situation going on with one of my students recently.  A situation occurred last week, and the parents all of a sudden began making accusations against me to things unrelated to the situation that I reprimanded the student for last week.  Details don't need to be shared here, other than that it was upsetting to me that a parent would make these accusations against me- things that go against my character. Well in the midst of that, I received a very encouraging note from another parent.  She had recently spent the day organizing the library, which is accessed through my room, so she got to hear a lot of me that day.  Although I knew she could hear me from the library, I just did my normal thing. Didn't try to impress.  This is what she wrote me:  (I crossed out her e-mail address since this is posted online for all to see.)

This reminded me that the positives far outweigh the negatives.  I know I can't please every student and every parent, but this praise from a happy parent came just at the right time to encourage me through a frustrating situation with a not-so-happy parent.

Side note:
I’m watching The Simpsons in Spanish and eating Chips Ahoy while I write this.  In fine print on the wrapper of my Chips Ahoy cookies, it says “hacer ejercicio es divertido. Practícalo diaro.”  What kind of cookie wrapper says that exercise is fun, do it daily?! Jeez, let me enjoy my cookies without reminding me they are bad for me! Maybe I’ll go for a walk tomorrow…to the grocery store… to buy more cookies. Hahaha

Sunday, March 10, 2013

This week in Miss Hill's class...

Holy guacamole, I have been soo busy with work work work stuff.  Teaching is so NOT a 9-5  (or 7 to 3 in my case) job.  This week has been one of those non-stop weeks where I get off this bus from school, walk to my house, then start working again until it's time to go to sleep and do it all again the next day.  Lesson plans, exams to write, papers to grade, worksheets to make....
It's been a good week though!

with a few of my 6th graders
In fifth grade we have been studying Author's Purpose, so we made PIE on Monday.  I wish it was real, but it was made out of paper plates.  This is a craft I did last year with my fifth graders as well.  I may have posted a pic last year, but I don't remember. I used clothes pins to clip them to the window to show off, but the pies will go home this week so they can use them to study for the upcoming test.

 Here is an up-close of one of the pies:

Open up each piece of pie and we've got definitions for Author's Purpose, persuade (P), inform (I), and entertain (E).

Thursday of this week we recognized the kitchen staff, as it was Day of the Cook or something to that effect.  I cut out flowers and my sixth graders collected sticks.  Then each student wrote a thank you on the flowers to Nora and Rosie, our cooks.  I then cut a two holes in each paper flower to weave a stick through.  This is how they turned out:

Then we put them all together and I tied them up with a piece of yarn to make a bouquet.  I picked a student's name out of my popcorn container and this person got to present the bouquet to Nora and Rosie.
my sixth graders (minus 2) after making the bouquet!
Notice anything new above my whiteboard?  Something I didn't have last year... a clock!  Last week every teacher got a clock!  I used my screwdriver with interchangeable screws and hung it by myself.  Go me!

presenting our thank you bouquet 
Friday was Día Internacional de la Mujer and we had our first acto cívico (school assembly)!  It's funny how I have celebrated a handful of so-called "international"  days for the first time since moving to Costa Rica.  I think it's pretty cool, and important that students recognize these international holidays since there are students from 19 different countries represented at our school.  Did any of you know that March 8 was International Women's Day?

In the morning the director came around to each classroom and told all the females happy women's day. Before snack time we had a short assembly.  Each class had prepared a collection of small construction paper flowers/ leaves/ other items on which each student wrote something for women's day.  My students made hearts, because that seemed feminine, the majority of students in other grades would probably make flowers, and we had just made paper flowers the day before.  My sixth graders each wrote the name of a female who is important to them on their heart and then they wrote why.  While I expected all of my students to write about their moms, I was surprised to see when several students wrote a thank you to me on their hearts!  So sweet!

We all got together at the assembly and the high school students presented a powerpoint to the group that they had made on influential women in history.  Anne Frank, Sally Ride, Marie Curie, Helen Keller...
Then students who wanted to share stood up and said something about why they thought women were important.  
The best part was the end where each class lined up and placed the leaves/ flowers/ apples/ hearts onto the outline of a tree.  After all of the tributes to important women were placed on the tree, you couldn't even tell it was a tree!

Ta da!