Posts Tagged With: language learning

Catching Up

On our way to church

On our way to church

As of today, we have been in Guatemala for two whole months!  And on Friday, we will celebrate our one-year anniversary of leaving the U.S., I thought it was about time to update this blog. If you would like to be updated more frequently, you might want to sign up for our newsletters (see sidebar) as we try to get one of those out every 4-6 weeks. Or you could check out our Facebook page which gets mini-updates from time to time (you can view this page even without a Facebook account).

graduation

Graduation from The Spanish Institute in San Jose, Costa Rica

Ted and I graduated from language school after two semesters in late April. Ted continued some classes/tutoring for 6 weeks until the kids’ school year finished in early June. Both of us received diplomas, which are only given to those students who are able to meet a certain level of achievement demonstrated through a half-hour oral interview and a 3-hour written grammar test. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate directly to entering another culture and understanding everything that is said or done!
We arrived in Guatemala the evening of June 18 after another round of rushed good-byes with many special friends we had made in the previous 10 months. God truly used our time in Costa Rica to bless us and prepare us. The relationships we made there with so many others in such similar circumstances will be treasured forever.
All our belongings...in the back of one van.

All our belongings…in the back of one van.

A rest stop on the way to Carcha

A rest stop on the way to Carcha

We're home! After 30 hours of being homeless.

We’re home! After 30 hours of being homeless.

After doing a bit of shopping Friday morning in Guatemala City for some things to set up our new house, we drove the 5-hour trip to our new home–San Pedro Carcha, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. We are truly blessed by our house here which came available in perfect timing. It has room for Ted to study with a Kekchi tutor downstairs while I continue to do school with the kids upstairs and even has a walk out roof from which we often enjoy the surrounding country. We spent our first weekend here visiting the Kekchi Mennonite Church and other surrounding places with Galen and Phyllis Groff, our regional representatives with EMM, who had lived here for 20+ years. Monday morning, Ted, Galen, and I headed back into the city to return the rental van, pick up some more things for the house and buy a vehicle for our family. What was to be a one-day trip turned into an overnighter when we ran into a protest blocking the road partway to the city. It delayed us several hours. Phyllis stayed with the kids and was a true blessing to us and them. After accomplishing the needed tasks we headed home. I have never outfitted a house entirely from nothing before, so our first several days were quite overwhelming as I determined our needs and where to find things here or in the city.

San Pedro Carcha, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

San Pedro Carcha, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Galen with Rosebud and Chimp

Galen with Rosebud and Chimp

What was left from the protest by the time we passed.

What was left from the protest by the time we passed.

IMG_20150817_132656793

Julie & Silvia

After a few more days of showing us around various local spots, Galen and Phyllis left to return to their home in Belize, and we were on our own! God has been faithful and we are slowly building confidence and relationships in our community. Phyllis introduced me to a Kekchi sister from church who has been helping us learn to navigate the market and local foods as well as helping me learn a bit of the Kekchi language. I was too overwhelmed at first to take in much of yet another language, but am starting to pick up more words now.

Ted visited a coffee nursery as part of the conference.

Ted visited a coffee nursery as part of the conference.

Ted dove right into studying Kekchi and has had two different brothers offer to come to our house weekly to work with him. He also has had a couple opportunities to drive local church leaders out to villages they needed to visit and thus gain relationships and understanding of the area. Last week he attended a teleconference in nearby Coban (15 minutes from here) put on by Anacafe, the main coffee growers association in Guatemala.

Fellowship time outside the church after a Sunday service.

Fellowship time outside the church after a Sunday service.

The local church has services in Spanish with a Kekchi translator for most of it. It took the kids a couple weeks, but they now look forward to going to their Sunday School classes each week. The services are something new for us to get used to. The churches in Costa Rica mostly had services very similar to those we were used to in the U.S., down to using the same hymns/choruses just in Spanish. The Kekchi have developed their own personal style of worship and music. It is good to see them worshipping in their own way and not just copying the North Americans, though it does make it more challenging for us to pick up on things.

The kids are adjusting. It has been rough in some ways as they haven’t had a built-in source for friends at school. Cub and Chimp have enjoyed playing soccer with some kids down the street, and Rosebed has made herself a favorite of both our next-door neighbors and the ladies in the tortilla shop down the street. Daisy really enjoys the nature here and all the new bird and flower species that she has seen.
A visit to the market

A visit to the market

A little bit of street soccer

A little bit of street soccer

A package from home can brighten up even the worst day!!

A package from home can brighten up even the worst day!!

Visa paperwork

Visa paperwork all signed & sealed

This week we are taking our first trip back to Guatemala City. The documents for our permanent visas have arrived and we need to get that process started. The MCC office in Guatemala has agreed to help us with this process and have been a blessing in helping us figure out what all we needed and where to get it. Now we need to get everything to the City so it can be translated and go through some more levels of authentication before we can actually apply. We would appreciate prayers for this process. We can renew our tourist visa one time, giving us until December. If we are not far enough in the visa process by then, we will need to travel to either Mexico or Belize to gain another 90 days.

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Back To School

First Day of School

First Day of School

Rosebud working on her Spanish homework in our backyard

Rosebud working on her Spanish homework in our backyard

The phrase “back to school” has loaded meaning for our whole family this year. Not only are the kids starting a new school year, but Ted and I are heading back as well—for the first time in over a decade! On top of that, the younger two kids have their very own classes during mommy and daddy’s school time. This is the first time ever for any of the kids to be in a classroom since we have homeschooled up to now. That is a big change not only for them, but also for me as I am adjusting to not knowing all about their curriculum and what they are learning on a daily basis.

That said, the first week went pretty well. By the end of the week, Rosebud was going to class without crying—though she was sometime still upset at pickup time if all the other parents got there before we did. Chimp really enjoyed his PreK class which is all in Spanish. He hasn’t used much at home yet, but they said give him a month or so and he may be our translator!  Cub is doing well and loving school despite my concerns about his ability to focus for long periods, and Daisy is relishing in the structure and lack of sibling distractions. Ted and I were both placed in an Intermediate level class to start and are doing well. We have four hours of class each day, split into three different classes: Grammar, Phonetics, and Language (mostly oral practice).

Walking to School

Walking to School

Walking by the park across the street from our house

Walking by the park across the street from our house

Our adjustment to Costa Rica is still very much a work in progress. One of the biggest changes is transportation. With no vehicle of our own, we are doing a lot of walking. We have used the bus a couple times and we usually take a taxi home from stores when we buy a lot of groceries, etc., but other than that, we walk. To the park, to school, to friends’ houses, to the market, to the corner store, to church, to the bank, to the panaderia (bakery, yum!)… It is probably similar to city living in the U.S., but coming from a very rural area, it is an adjustment for us. I think the stroller we brought has more miles on it in the two weeks we’ve been here than any of our other strollers in their entire lifetimes. 🙂

The other big adjustment has been security. Partly city-living and partly as North Americans (whom they perceive as being rich), we do have to be watchful. Not only do we have to keep an eye on our children at all times, but we also need to be conscious of making ourselves as inconspicuous as possible. Since the current targets seem to be smartphones and passports, we purchased a “dumb phone” for me to use (instead of the smartphone I already own) and we have had wallet size copies of our passports made so we don’t need to carry them with us (needed as ID whenever we make a purchase with a credit/debit card). Unfortunately, there has been at least one student held up each trimester at the school. I don’t think anyone has ever been seriously injured, but we still want to minimize our risk. We would appreciate ongoing prayers for our safety in this area.

Daisy and her friend, Anatina

Daisy and her friend, Anatina

Playing futbol (soccer) at the park

Playing futbol (soccer) at the park

On a positive note, the kids have really enjoyed the increased opportunities to spend time with friends. Not only during school time, but we often meet other families at the park or go to their houses for a bit on the way home from school. There is another family here, also from EMM, that has children similar ages as all three of our older kids!  Ted has also made some great relationships as well. He enjoys working on his Spanish with locals whenever he can and already has several people he chats with on a regular basis. We have also connected with several other missionaries at the school who are also planning to work with coffee production/sales in some way or another. Even though we are eager to get to Guatemala and begin working with the K’ekchi’, it is obvious that God is using our time here in a great way too. Thank you to everyone who is making this possible.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

On the Road Again…

This seems to be the motto for our family lately. Fortunately, for the most part, it has not been accompanied by the oft-associated “Are we there yet?”
January we began fundraising in earnest, spending three of the four Sundays traveling to other churches to share what God is calling us to do. We were truly blessed at each of these churches by amazing connections and encouragement. At almost every place, we encountered people with connections of some type to Guatemala. Some had been there themselves and many had relatives or friends who had been there. Talking with people after each service about our call and hearing about their lives and how God has used/is using them has been inspiring as well. We had a bit of a break during February, only visiting one church, but we will hit the road again in March with all five Sundays away.
Another thing that has kept us on the roads is our medical preparations. We are all required to get physicals and one or two vaccines before leaving. As such, I think we have been to the doctor’s or dentist’s (30 min one way) six times in the last four weeks. However, we now have 2/3 of the physicals complete and a couple rounds of shots done. (Unfortunately, the vaccines needed come in a series, so that will still require several more painful visits…which are always concluded by a chocolate shake, of course!)
We have been working on some educational preparations as well, although these have not involved much travel. All of us have been working to some degree on our Spanish. Ted has passed me up in placement at duolingo.com, though I still have a higher total score than him. 🙂 Daisy is working on that as well and has got several of her friends learning along with her, keeping her challenged. The younger kids enjoy watching Pocoyo videos on youtube and learning as we use different words in everyday conversations. Ted has also been taking some college level classes online for free. He found one on sustainable economic development and is looking into another on Latin American culture. He’s been quite active in the class forum where the discussions have been spirited and energizing.
We have been blessed to see God working as he brings people into our lives we haven’t connected with in a long time and our partner base grows. Although we are in the process of leaving our home here for a while, we have felt not a loss but a gain of support and friendship and connections–some of it in person, but much of it electronically. Our prayer is that this will continue as we leave the country and share God’s love with a people who have suffered greatly at the hands of others.
One additional way each of you can help us that I did not include in my last post is to like our Facebook page (see right column to do this) and invite your friends to like it as well. The more likes and shares we get, the more we can spread our message of providing hope for the K’ekchi’ people. You can also find more pictures and information about our plans on our Facebook page.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Aprendemos Español

Ever since we first started talking about going on a missions trip, we have been working on the language learning aspect. In the last several months, we have learned words in Spanish, Kyrgyz, Albanian, Swahili (Kenya), and Uzbek (Central Asia–used to teach how to learn a language at training) — usually hello, how are you, I’m fine, and thank you.

Since we determined we are going to Guatemala, we have been able to focus on Spanish, which is a good thing, as my brain seemed to go there anyway. I had several years of Spanish in high school and college, and when we were learning Uzbek at training, I found myself responding to questions in Spanish, rather than the Uzbek we had been taught. Apparently, my brain has an English mode and a foreign language mode. Hopefully, I’ll be able to expand that with more time as I’ll need to add a Kekchi mode in a year or so!

Anyway, I have been trying to teach the kids Spanish as part of school for the last several years, but have not been overly successful as it generally gets pushed out by other “more important” subjects. Finally, though, all those materials I’ve accumulated are coming in handy! Along with the story books and picture books we have, we have also been trying some free online courses and CD sets from the library. (We have tried an older copy of Rosetta Stone (the “gold standard” in language learning) but it is not a favorite here.) The current favorite method being used by the oldest three in the household is Duolingo; it can be used both online and as an Android app (which is installed on our phones and Kindle). Last night, the three of us were sitting around the living room all working on improving our Spanish. Daisy and Ted actually have a competition going; they continually go back and forth in the standings. Because of my previous Spanish learning, I have advanced a bit quicker than them and am competing with myself; though what I learned before is coming back pretty quickly, new words aren’t sticking so quickly.  Although Duolingo doesn’t work on speaking very much, it at least gets the words and grammar in our brains. We have been trying to speak it with each other, usually resulting in a rather humorous version of Spanglish.

To help with the speaking and hearing the accent as well as to help Cub learn some words, we have also been listening to Spanish music. I have some CDs I’ve acquired over the years and youtube is also a wonderful resource. There are lots of Spanish worship songs there and today I discovered quite a few “Rey de Reyes for Kids” (King of Kings for Kids) videos which are fun and energetic; even Chimp is starting to sing along to a few that we have worked on. Daisy has even suggested this week that maybe Rosebud’s first words will be in Spanish! I think that’s rather a stretch, though I have been singing to her in Spanish when she’s been fussy the last couple days.

Bonus: A joke I came across today in the book How to Learn Any Language by Barry Farber

Two mice were hopelessly trapped. A hungry cat was poised to pounce. There was no escape.

At the last instant, one of the mice put his little paws up to his lips and yelled, “Bow-wow!”

The cat turned around and ran away.

Whereupon that mouse turned to the other mouse and said, “You see, that’s the advantage of knowing a second language!”

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: