Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I am in the United States to spend Christmas with my family. I'll be here until Jan.5th and then will fly back to Puebla. The second semester of school begins Jan.7th. We're half-way through!

I've done some shopping the last few days. None of the shopping was for Christmas presents since I already had those, but I have gone out and about to buy things that are hard or impossible to get in Puebla. Although the last-minute shoppers are out in abundance, people have been polite and patient.
My dad, sisters, and I went out two nights to see the Christmas lights. One neighborhood near here has the tradition of lavishly decorating the houses with lights, automated figures, and musical trees. It's quite the show! Fashion Island, a ritzy mall about 1/2 hour from here, boasts the biggest Christmas tree in the world. It's quite a sight, and we go every year to see it.
Have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful new year. Enjoy the time with friends and family, and remember the Reason for the Season. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And the government shall be on his shoulders, and he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

all over the place

This has been an insane last few weeks. I neglected to write here last week, but then I've also neglected writing emails to friends and family. For the last few weeks, I have hardly been home.

Speaking of home, the location changed last weekend. Another American missionary named Florina had been looking for a place to move when her lease expired in December. She and Bethany explored the surrounding neighborhood and found a house for rent two doors down from our apartment. The house has three bedrooms (more or less...) and lots of space (but almost none of it is storage space). It was unfurnished, but friends of Florina loaned her some furniture, and other missionary families contributed some more. We still lack a stove and oven but hopefully will be able to buy one in January.

The house has its quirks, the most 'interesting' being the stairs. The are triangular shaped. If you go up or down, you must lead with your right foot or you will end up trying to balance on the point. You also have to be careful to duck when you reach the bottom, or you will smack your head on the doorway.

After spending all last Saturday moving, I went to church Sunday morning at Dios es Amor and then went out with the usual group to Huejotzingo. We are teaching the kids three different Christmas carols - I'm learning them in Spanish right along with them. After the song practice, we showed the kids how to make paper beads, and they set to work starting the necklaces for their mothers. This afternoon they will string the beads to finish the gifts.

On Friday three other PCS teachers divided up time in my classroom so that I could go with Abraham and his mother Six to the Sierras to deliver the offering that the children at Huejotzingo had collected for Luciano, a missionary that Dios es Amor supports. It was a long day. I left home at 6:30 to take the city bus to another bus station where I met Abraham and Six. We took the 7:30 bus to the Sierras. Arriving three hours later, we then waited another hour (in the sun, trying to thaw - it's cold there) at the station for Luciano to arrive, and then we piled into a combi for the 1 1/2 hour drive on the widing roads to his house.

Almost as soon as we arrived, Luciano's wife served us chicken stew and fresh tortillas - the best I've ever tasted. We took some time to explore the area near Luciano's house, climbing first uphill to see their view of the valley and then clambering downhill to see the spring where the villagers gather water and do their laundry. On returning to the house, Abraham gave Luciano the offering which Luciano had not known we were bringing. After the brief stay, it was time for us to catch the return combi and then again the bus to Puebla and the city bus home.

Saturday afternoon, Abraham graduated from a one-year course he had been taking in counseling, so I attended the ceremony, and then we left from there to go to the quinceaños of a young lady Abraham knows in Huejotzingo. The family is Christian, so the ceremony began in their church and then everyone gathered at their house for feasting. And what feasting it was! The plates were so heaped with meat, rice, and tortillas that I couldn't imagine finishing everything. Not to worry - we weren't expected to eat it all. In fact, after everyone had eaten their fill, the servers brought heaped plates for people to take home.

No taxis or combis passed by after we left the party, although it was still evening. Happily, a family stopped and took us and another group of party-goers into the open back of their truck. We crouched in the back, trying to avoid the cold wind, and soon arrived in the Huejotzingo zocalo where we could take the bus home.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


I have so many things to be thankful for. First of all, I'm thankful for my wonderful boyfriend. We started out as friends last year, and over time spent together talking, serving at church, and just hanging out, we grew closer. At the beginning of this year, Abraham asked me to be his girlfriend, and for awhile now we've been talking about our wedding, honeymoon, and marriage (all this though we're not exactly engaged).

God has blessed me with a first and second grade class at Puebla Christian School. This year is challenging, and I am thankful for the one-week vacation we have for Thanksgiving, but I am still grateful for the chance I have to teach these kids. It's a privilege to be here.

I am thankful for the supportive staff family at PCS. Not only do we work together to teach the missionary kids, pastors' kids, children of business people, and children of Mexican nationals, we also spend time together relaxing and having plain old fun! My roommate Bethany and I celebrated Thanksgiving Day (our third Thanksgiving meal) at our apartment with one of the staff families, plus her boyfriend and mine. We fit eleven people in our place, and everyone had a wonderful time together. Now I'm enjoying the many left-overs.

My thankful list could go on and on: returning health after two weeks of a fierce cold, the opportunity to move with Bethany and another PCS teacher to a bigger house where the rent is cheaper, my friends here and in the US, my two churches - Dios es Amor and Newport Mesa Christian Center, my "family" here and my family in the US, the chance to go back to the States over Christmas, the unraveled tangles involved with renewing my credential, and much, much more. I'm thankful for the prayer and financial support that many of you provide. Without you, I could not be here. May God bless you!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jesus is dead

The last two weeks were very busy. My friend Jessica visited from the States for a few days, and we went to many of the must-see spots. I enjoyed seeing two places I had never been to before, but a few of the places we went brought home to me just how necessary missions work is here. I had been to the cathedral before and had shuddered at the very dead Jesus in the entry way. This time around, after visiting an extremely dark ex-convent, I really noticed the cathedral's mutilated Jesus. What hopelessness is represented here. The Jesus of these cathedrals, convents, and chapels is dead, horribly dead. Why pray to him? Mary and the saints, on the other hand, are alive and well. No wonder people chose to light candles to them - to pray to them.

The cathedral in Huejotzingo is one of the oldest monuments in Mexico. On the outside it looks like a castle. The stone and wood on the doors and archways is beautifully carved. Entering the cathedral is another story entirely. It was almost completely dark, and even beyond the physical dimness was a suffocating spiritual darkness. The requisite dead Jesus hung suffering on a cross surrounded by bouquets of flowers left by the congregates. In a more prominent place, the archangel Michael brandished a sword and appeared far more capable of answering prayers than Jesus. As we walked in the semi-darkness, a man began to pull a long rope that dangled near the back of the room, over the stones marking the interred remains of dead priests. The sound of the bell peeled out, calling worshipers to enter for mass.

Another day, Jessica and I visited both the ex-convent Santa Ana and the ex-convent Santa Monica. Santa Ana is the place where mole was supposed to have been invented. The kitchen is covered in beautiful talavera tiles, making the place look lovely. Living there as a nun however was anything but lovely. The nuns slept on beds of wood and wore crowns of thorns to bed to prevent dreaming. They ate one meal a day of vegetables or fruit. They were never allowed outside, nor were they allowed to see anyone outside of the convent. Many of them did not enter the convent voluntarily, but were left there by family members.

In Santa Monica, we saw many religious articles and paintings. No explanation was offered for the articles and paintings, but the significance of several, such as this one, was obvious.

There are many missionaries working here to bring the true Gospel to this nation, teaching that Jesus not only died for our sins, but he also rose on the third day and intercedes on our behalf in heaven. I am part of the missionary team as I teach the children of Puebla Christian School. Thank you for your support and prayers that make this ministry possible.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

a quieter week

This week was quite calm. One of my students was out sick until Friday, so I just had five students. In science, we continued learning about bats and then also began studying spiders. On Tuesday the kids made cracker, peanut butter, raisin and spaghetti spiders.

The two part-time teachers at PCS who were going to begin working at a hotel decided to stay with PCS. When they went for training the first day, the terms of their work were completely changed, so they said 'no thank you' and came back to us. Hooray! Jenna came through her surgery well and should be back in the 5th and 6th grade classroom on Monday. Thank you for your prayers! Please keep them coming; Mike's hip is hurting him a great deal. Abraham took over teaching PE, which is a new adventure for him. My finances are still in a bad state, and now there is an added complication with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and renewing my credential.

This weekend most of the junior high and high school students, along with several teachers, are camping. After freezing (literally) at last year's camping trip, I didn't hesitate to stay home rather than go this year. I'm sure they'll have fun, but I'm happy to sleep in a warm, comfortable bed and do virtually nothing this weekend.

I was glad to be able to spend time with Abraham every day this week. The fact that he is now a part-time teacher at PCS brings him around here even more often than before. I don't mind at all!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Spa night, Thanksgiving, and Huejotzingo

The school week passed normally with the day-to-day adventures that one first and second grade classroom can expect and the two ESL 'classes' (or English practice) that I have taken on. The weekend came and went rapidly, chock full of activities.

On Friday, after my flute lesson, I walked over to the Blakey's house where soon almost all the female PCS staff gathered for our annual spa night. What fun it was! One of the PCS moms had gathered spa-related gifts for us, Jenna had made or bought chocolate-y desserts, and she had also prepared various natural ingredients for us to make face, hand, feet, and hair masks out of. We passed the evening laughing, talking, and coating our skin with different ingredients.

On Saturday I spent the morning grocery shopping, lesson planning, and making waldorf salad. A Canadian friend of Bethany's came from where she's living in Cuerna Vaca to spend the weekend with us. Although Canada already celebrated Thanksgiving in September, she hadn't been able to because she is in Mexico for the year. Bethany decided to prepare a Thanksgiving meal and invite some friends. We each brought some Thanksgiving food, and Saturday night we feasted.

I spent Saturday afternoon over at Abraham's house watching part of The Fellowship of the Ring. Abraham hadn't seen the whole movie before and still hasn't because we ran out of time, but we'll finish watching it tonight.

Finally, after many weeks of wanting to go, but not being able to because of other commitments, I was able to join the church group that goes out to a mission in Huejotzingo every Sunday afternoon. Abraham is in charge of the mission work. The group gathers children, teens, and adults in the neighborhood in Huejotzingo and teaches Bible stories and songs each week. Because it was the day after Dia de los Muertos, many of the normal attenders were not in town this week. I hope to be able to go regularly from now on.

PCS needs your prayers. Two of our part-time staff members are looking into starting work at a hotel. If they decide to work at the hotel, they will be leaving PCS which will mean that art and beginning Spanish and office work have no one to do them. Another PCS teacher, Mike Contreras, has been suffering from terrible hip pain because of a surgery he had last year. The roads and sidewalks here are rough, so his hip has not healed the way it should. Our 5th and 6th grade class has substitute teachers (parents) all week, because Jenna Blakey has to have surgery today to remove her gall bladder, because she has been passing gall stones. Right now we're teaching with a 'skeleton staff.' It's possible that Abraham will take over the Spanish classes, but for PE, art, and office work, we're very short handed.

I also need your prayers. My finances are tight, and I'm going to be sending out letters and emails asking for more support. I've begun paying off my student loan again, and some supporters have stopped giving. The result of this combination is that I'm low on funds.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fall is here

We've had some lovely hot days here lately, but at night it gets chilly. With Halloween and Dia de los Muertos right around the corner, the grocery stores have brought out piles of pumpkins. I bought 1 1/2 pumpkins from a nearby store, and found out that the particular variety that I purchased has a rock-hard shell. A parent bought a 'normal' pumpkin for our classroom, so that's what we used in class for the various pumpkin activities that we did. The kids also painted mini pumpkins.

Last Saturday I spent considerable time cutting the flesh from the 1/2 pumpkin and boiling it down. To cut out the flesh, I had to fling the pumpkin on the floor several times and use a butcher knife to get through the shell. It was quite a workout!

On Sunday a week ago, Dios es Amor celebrated its seven-year anniversary as a church. It was quite a festive day. Two members of the youth group were baptized, and two couples who had been married for several years but wanted a church wedding exchanged vows again. After the service, we ate mole, rice, and beans and had cake for dessert. Many people stayed to help with the clean-up afterwards, but I still didn't get back home until 4:45.

My Thursday ESL class at my home was much calmer this time around. The two mothers from PCS couldn't come for their class at 5 and therefore their children also didn't come. The other students showed up around 6, we read a chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and then we began talking. All of us were tired, so soon we descended into a loopy mood where everything was funny, and we laughed and had silly conversation.

On Friday I didn't return to my apartment from school until after 9pm. It was the evening of Fun Fall Fest, PCS' alternative for Halloween. We prepared the school for games and food, and the kids returned with their families at 6 for the festival. It was very well attended. There were some times in the evening when I wanted to go from one room to another and simply couldn't get through the crowd. Everyone seemed to be having a great time too.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Biblioteca Palafoxiana and more

What a week this has been! I'm so glad that I have absolutely no plans for tomorrow - other than the accumulated errands of a week. I think I'll be a hermit this evening and tomorrow. Truly I enjoyed the week, but I'm quite thoroughly tired too.

On Monday I was feeling well enough to teach, although some food poisoning was still holding on. After we'd had our staff meeting, I had my first English class with a 10 or 11 year old boy who goes to my church. He practiced reading out of one of the first graders' story books, recited colors, the alphabet, the days of the week and months of the year, and then began to name animals that I have in the classroom. He stayed with me from 1 o'clock (before my students get out of class) until 5:15, except for the time when I was in staff meeting.

Abraham finished his Spanish class with another PCS teacher at the same time, so we dropped Isai off at his bus, and then went over to my apartment to read from one of Abraham's homework books and eat dinner.

Immediately after school on Tuesday, Abraham came over, and we went downtown to see the incredible Biblioteca Palafoxiana which has free entry on Tuesdays. Photography is absolutely forbidden, even without flash, although I was allowed to take some flash-free pictures from outside the library. It's an amazing place! It dates from the 16 hundreds and contains thousands of dusty old tomes neatly ranked on ornate shelves. If you visit Puebla, stop in to the library in the Casa de la Cultura.

Like usual, the two of us headed out to Dios es Amor for Oansa on Wednesday night. In the youth group we're studying Hebrews, a book I find challenging to understand even in English.

Thursday afternoon was the third ESL class for friends from PCS and Dios es Amor. Two of the PCS teachers can't come at 6 (too late) and three of the other students can't come at 5(too early), so I started class with the three who could be there at five, reading the first chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The two teachers each have two children who came along; three are elementary students, and one is a high schooler.

Before the class began, I had hastily made a batch of cookies, but somehow they turned out as flat mush. It was tasty flat mush, so the kids were willing to eat it all, but the high school boy said severely,"Miss Greenlee, you need to learn how to make cookies better!" Half kidding I said, "Well, why don't you show me how it's done?" And just like that, he and the other boy decided they would make some cookies for the class. Little did I know they'd never baked before...

As the English learners read page by page and asked vocabulary questions, the sounds of the cookie mixer and periodic questions from the new bakers interspersed the reading. The boys took me seriously when I said to grease the cookie sheets well: they must have emptied half a can of Pam spray on one sheet!

At six o'clock, the other three students arrived. We hadn't gotten very far in the reading, so I gave them the chapter photocopies, and they caught up reading silently. From then on it was a regular zoo of adults, one teen, and children. The two bakers produced pancake-flat chocolate oatmeal cookies that everyone promptly devoured. At 7:30, we'd finished all the cookies and two chapters of the book. Everyone but Abraham left, and quiet descended for the first time in 2 1/2 hours.

In first and second grade, we've been talking about bones, and yesterday in class the kids made pasta skeletons. It's a craft that takes quite a bit of time to make, but it turns out well and does help reinforce the vocabulary that I'm teaching the kids. It also is fun, which doesn't hurt anything.

This week went more smoothly with the little 'penguin.' He seems to have gotten the idea that finishing his work on time in class is a good idea. Wednesday he tied his shoe laces together, and when I asked him why, he said, "I'm helping you, teacher. I stay in my seat better when the laces are tied!" What good logic.

Monday, October 13, 2008

food poisoning

It has struck again. I don't know what I ate this time, but whatever it was, it didn't agree with me. On Saturday night I woke up feeling queezy, so I took some alarmingly pink pepto bismol and returned to bed. Sunday morning I still felt a bit nauseated, but not too bad, so I decided to go to church. Halfway through the first hymn however, I felt light-headed and sat down. As soon as I could stand, I left the sanctuary and went into the kitchen where Six made some chamomile tea for me and then made sure I could safely climb the winding stairs to Janelle's apartment where I slept away the rest of the service time. Janelle was driving into town after church, so she took me home, and I went straight to bed.

Bless his kind heart, after returning from an afternoon at Huejotzingo, Abraham came by the apartment to see how I was feeling. He stayed for awhile, and we passed the time chatting.

The rest of the week before was fine. Things are up and down and uneven with my little 'penguin' - sometimes he works hard on his schoolwork, and sometimes he sits and sings loudly and eats pencils. I hope there's a general improving trend, but really it's hard to tell.

I've been enjoying lots of time with Abraham lately. We spent time together after his Spanish class with another PCS teacher on Monday, went out to Oansa at church on Wednesday and then returned together, had ESL class at my house and then he stayed for awhile after that, walked over to my flute class at the seminary on Friday and then watched Wall-e together afterwards. On Saturday we went downtown all afternoon and had dinner at El Balcon and then watched the free Puebla Nights dancing at the Casa de la Cultura. Lots of fun!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Sorry, no pictures this week. I can't think how that happened - I did take some pictures of the kids doing a fudge experiment that is supposed to show the difference between igneous rocks that cool quickly and those that cool slowly, but I didn't take any pictures I could post, and besides, someone is borrowing my camera right now, so even those pictures are unavailable.

This was one looooong week. It wasn't even that it was a bad week, just unending. Yesterday was difficult at school because my little "penguin" didn't want to do his work in class. Near the end of the morning, he began to cry - and this child can cry! He can literally make the front of his shirt wet from his tears, and this trick he can produce at the drop of a hat. So anyway, I was at the back table working with the second reading group while the first group did their printing. The other two boys finished their printing and began to play.

The tears began. "It's too hard! I can't do this!" said the boy. Never mind he had done the exact same words the two previous days... He spent the next half-hour soaking his shirt. Wow.

I started the ESL class for friends from Dios es Amor and from PCS this last Thursday. Two of the people who want to come couldn't make it this Thursday but will come next week. Two others never confirmed with Abraham, so they might show up next week, and one other seemed interested but didn't actually show up. As a result, my friend Yeimy and mi novio Abraham were the only ones who came. We chatted in English, drank tea, and ate too many chocolate chip cookies.

Today was the rappelling trip for the junior and senior high students and whichever teachers wanted to go. I went last year and had fun, so I signed up again this time, but when I woke up this morning, I had no interest in spending the day with students. Instead I passed the day largely at home, house cleaning, cooking, gardening, painting, and then doing some grocery shopping. That leaves lesson planning for tomorrow after church.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

parents gone and parent-teacher conferences

My parents left on Wednesday morning. Their last few days here, they finished up some sight seeing, and also Mom picked up a reminder of her visit - a virulent case of food poisoning. Not a pleasant souvenir. On Saturday night, before she got sick, we went downtown to see Puebla Nights, a free dance show that includes folklorico and less traditional dances. We were given free tickets to the Sunday afternoon show as well, but since I'm always at church until after 2, and the show starts at 1:30, I'll see who I can give them away to.

Tuesday evening my dad and I went out to Abraham and family's house. We enjoyed rice, soup, and lots of laughter. Abraham and I acted as translators for my dad and his mom and brother since my dad doesn't speak Spanish, and they don't speak English.

Last night Abraham and I watched Happy Feet together. He had observed in my classroom one time and had also heard my many stories about the young Elvis music lover in my room, and he commented that this child acted and sounded a lot like Mumble the Penguin in Happy Feet. I hadn't seen the movie, so we arranged a time when we could, and guess what? My student is uncannily like Mumble. Who knows? He may end up saving mankind through organized tap dancing.

On Friday morning, this child asked for prayer for his dad. "He's hyper," said the boy, "And it makes him sick." From earlier conversations of other teachers, I had some idea what the child actually meant: his dad has been diagnosed with hypoglycemia. A bit different from being hyper, but the word exchange is an easy mistake to make when you're only 6.

Before watching Happy Feet, I (and all the other PCS teachers) had parent-teacher conferences in the afternoon. I didn't have particularly difficult conferences, although one parent wasn't exactly thrilled with what I had to say about their child's prospects for moving on the second grade next year. It is early days yet, so it's not certainly that this child won't move up, but if he continues as he is, he won't move on.

This morning three other PCS teachers, Abraham, and I played soccer at the PE field. We had forgotten to contact the high school students to see if they were interested, so we had an adults-only game. Actually, it was quite fun. We played World Cup and then girls vs. guys short field.

At present, I'm tied to the apartment because there are two men here removing the rotting bathroom window frame and repairing two years' worth of water damage in the surrounding walls. They'll be back Monday afternoon to put in a new window. My landlady left the money to pay them and told me to give it to them "only if you see everything looks good." How am I supposed to know? Too much responsibility! But she's not living here now, so I have to try to judge their repair work. In the meantime, I can't go anywhere which means I can't be lesson planning. Oh fooey.

Friday, September 12, 2008

one week anniversary and parents in town

This has been quite the week! Just after I wrote the previous blog posting, one of my really good friends came to my classroom. This was a friend that started out as my Spanish teacher, but over time the "lessons" became time to get to know each other better - still speaking Spanish though. Around Easter last year, he asked if we could become more than friends, but at the time I didn't know if I'd be returning to Puebla, so I said we'd better just stay friends and pray for further direction. Summer came, I returned to the United States, and we both prayed, along with other friends and family who knew the not-so-secret secret of our more-than-friendship.

When I returned to Puebla, we again began spending lots of time together, walking around the neighborhood and talking. On Friday, Abraham asked again whether we could be more than friends, and this time I said yes. Now we're officially dating, but no general announcement has been made to anyone (however I suspect most people at PCS and Dios es Amor are fully aware of the relationship...)

Over the summer I told my parents that Abraham and I had become more than friends and that I wanted them to visit Puebla close to the beginning of the school year. They arrived in the morning on Wednesday and will be here for two weeks. Their timing is quite good: they'll be here for Independence Day and the various celebrations included in that.

Meanwhile, with parents in town and a new dating relationship, school and the accompanying demands continue. I have stories every day from my classroom that make the other teachers laugh. For example, today one of the children was saying his memory verse, Proverbs 13:13 which says, "He who scorns instruction will be punished, but he who obeys commands will be rewarded." His interpretation, "He who scorns construction will be punished..."

The one young fellow who struggles with behaving well in class adores Elvis, so today I tried a little bribery. If he gets a smiley face for an hour of good listening, he can listen to one Elvis song on my computer. I've been singing "Blue Suede Shoes" all day, because he chose to listen to that song twice as his reward for two good hours. I hope this works for more than just today - not much else has worked so far, but he did quite well in class today.

The kids finished decorating their piñatas today. Oi, what a mess!