Sunday, October 01, 2006

I’m laying here on my bed in my pajamas, listening to familiar music and writing without the gentle hum and breeze of the fan. This is good news folks. It means that I haven’t started sweating yet today. It makes me think (with great joy) that maybe we are heading into “winter” which people already claim we are in, or at least into a season that doesn’t include triple digit temperatures ;) I was actually slightly chilly this morning with our fan on medium, but not chilly enough to crawl out from under my sheet to turn it down or off. It did end up turning off on its own (power outage, not creepy fan) which caused me to wake up since it no longer covered the noise of the roosters, dogs, and children in the street. I lay here on my bed surrounded by pictures of people that I love and am assured also love me, and by notecards with messages reminding me of why I am here. My roommate comes in an out, getting dressed, washing her face, all the while talking to herself asking questions in a grumble incoherent to me. I used to try to answer, but she only apologizes and so I sit here and type.

I’ve been reading a lot lately. Yesterday I finished In the Time of the Butterflies, and I am stretching the Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne out as long as I can. Not only do I feel like I am learning or thinking thoughtfully about something every time I pull it out, it also starts interesting, honest conversations with my housemates about faith, grace, Christianity, and social justice.

You already know I am in love with my students. Every single one of them. The tiny beads of sweat that form and sit on the tips of their little noses by 10am, their giant new adult teeth coming in among the little baby teeth, the giant gaps where the dietes flacos have just come out, their tiny white undershirts under their dressy white uniform shirts, the small belts on the boys’ pants, the brown and white uniforms that look like we are raising up and training an unusually large Brownie girl (and boy) scout troop. I love it all.

But I would say that there is a special place in my heart for Juan Carlos. I thought it strange that last year’s teacher would leave me a note saying that minor behavioral problems could be taken care of by sitting the perpetrator next to Juan Carlos. This intrigued me and I was excited to meet this little boy. It is hard to explain. When our eyes meet I feel like there is communication that goes beyond his English or my Spanish ability. I told him that I wanted to come to his house to meet his family and he said that he would ask his parents. That day when I was walking home with Anna and Emily I was caught off guard when I heard him call my name. I turned to look at where the shout came from and saw Juan Carlos, grinning with joy to see his teacher outside of school, behind a chain link fence surrounding one of the smallest houses I have ever seen. Immediately my insides jumbled up with emotions twisting and turning from every corner. Shock and surprise that this is where my beautiful, smart Juan Carlos spends his time outside of the classroom, overwhelming love for this little boy waving to me with a grin on his face, the desire to sell everything I own to be able to ensure the basic necessities for this boy and his family. This day I met Juan Carlos’ family, his two little sisters Caren and Suelmi, ages 3 and 6, his father, Juan Carlos (who I can Mister Juan Carlos :)) and his mother Wendi who looks about my own age (though I haven’t found an appropriate time to ask) and is 7 months pregnant with little Josué (who I usually say a quick goodbye to with a reminder that he is to stay put for a few more months, but that I am excited to meet him). Later I spend time there drinking hot chocolate (still good, even when you are hot), sitting outside on one of their two plastic chairs helping Juan Carlos with his homework, translating English storybooks into Spanish for Caren and Suelmi (which is indeed as hard as it sounds—my Spanish is so rough right now), and playing duck, duck, goose (where I am frequently the sopa de frijoles—bean soup) which takes me for the first time into their house chasing little Suelmi. Not at all run down, but a simple concrete square, their house is one room with a curtain hiding a toilet in the corner. A twin bed, a crib, and a small table line the three walls respectively. I try to imagine their growing five person family sleeping here or being in here together during one of the violent thunderstorms that often blow through during the night. I get worried by the thought that Juan Carlos, my star student, might one day need to drop out of school to help his father provide for their growing family. My whole being pleads that he stay in school, attend college, and change the world.

In the Irresistible Revolution, the author Shane Claiborne reflects on a time when he attended a rally against sweatshops overseas. The organizers had not invited the typical rally speakers, but instead the kids themselves from the sweatshops to speak. Suddenly statistics had a face and poverty had become personal. I see poverty every day. The children that run around naked in the street, the ones that come to our gate to ask for food, with the hard look in their eyes that tells that life has already been difficult for them in their young age. The rusty sheet metal houses that line the road to San Pedro. The rotting teeth. But for me, it was Juan Carlos that gave poverty a face, and it has become personal.

Later Shane was speaking at a college and some students asked him how to choose which issue of social justice is the most important. He says, “The question made me cringe. Issues? These issues have faces. We’re talking not only about ideas but also about human emergencies. Don’t choose issues: choose people.” He responded, “Come play in the fire hydrants in North Philly. Fall in love with a group of people who are marginalized and suffering, and then you won’t need to worry about which cause you need to protest. Then the issues will choose you.” I can just as easily say, “Come play duck, duck, goose in Cofradia.” I chose the people, but the issues have chosen me.

But now that it has become personal and the issue has chosen me, where do I go from here? What should my response be as a person, but also as a Christian? The thought of combating world poverty is overwhelming. Think smaller Sarah, what can you do to play your part in working against poverty and creating opportunities for those that are oppressed by their socioeconomic status? I can start by pouring my energy and love into my lessons, my students, and my community. I will keep you updated as I continue to reflect on this question and the question of how what I learn from my work here in Honduras will have an effect on me and my decision for what I do next with my life. So much to think about, but for now I need to return my thoughts to fractions, predicates, and plants! This is just a little look into what has been going on in my life and in my head lately. Please keep me posted on you!


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