Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Moravian Primary School Pictures

The students like to pop their heads into my room to watch me haha.

English class. Acting out the word "up".

Front of the classroom. Teaching a math lesson to second grade on division.

Psalm 51:10

Exercise with Annie in the center of the school.

Hearts of Servants

God spoke to me tonight. He used Carmen, one of the women I am living with, to remind me and teach me so many things. It’s crazy what can come of one simple question. Today I came into the house after class at URACCAN University (yes I got my own taxi and made it there and back just fine!) and Carmen, Damaris, Gabi, and Merelyn were all there hanging out. They asked me if I was hungry and I sat down by myself to eat the usual quick dinner. Carmen came into the kitchen and I remember last night how my dad was curious about where the taxis that they have here are manufactured. I asked Carmen and she gave me a confused look and said she doesn’t pay that close attention to things like that. She then proceeded to tell me about drug trafficking that they have here in Nicaragua. She said that I should never take a black taxi or one with an African American man because, even though this is a stereotype, those are the ones who you generally have to look out for. She told me a scary story about when she was in a taxi and a man was asking her for money for drugs. Basically it was not a good situation. But anyway this opened up a can of worms and Carmen started sharing some of her life experiences with me.

Carmen is such a transparent and kind woman. She told me about how just a few years ago she found out that she had something wrong with her brain (keep in mind that it is kind of hard for me to understand her so I didn’t get every detail of her story). I’m not sure if it was a brain tumor or what it was but she had to have surgery for it. She has had two surgeries and everyone, doctors included, did not expect her to make it, but here she is today alive and well. And she gives all of the credit to God. I have not met very many women with faith like Carmen's. We spent the next two hours talking about the Lord, His goodness, His grace, and how He has worked here and in her life. Carmen has such faith in the Lord; she does not doubt His awesome power and truly believes that He can do anything. She believes and knows that she is here and alive because God chose to heal her. She shared with me some awesome things, true miracles that she has been a part of. One of those was a time when after her surgery her hand was not responding because of the nerves in her hand. She said that again, it was only something God could heal. So she and Merelyn (who I found out today is an amazing woman of faith and was a pastor in their church) prayed on the spot for her hand. Immediately Carmen felt a current through her arm and was healed. She told me this with tears running down her face. Throughout most of our conversation she was emotional and on the verge of tears if not crying. Her transparency was truly inspiring. We talked about how God is working in Nicaragua and how so many people don’t like Merelyn and Carmen's family because they stand for the Lord. Like any part of the world, when people make a stand for Christ it sets them apart and that makes others uncomfortable. This is exactly what is happening here in the lives of these women that I am living with. They are planting their feet in the word of God, holding on to Jesus and sharing the truth. Carmen is not afraid of death. She is so appreciative that God healed her and let her live, and she is making the most of every day with her family and friends. She seeks to make a difference in the lives of others around her. She does this through teaching, prayer, and little acts of kindness. She told me that every Saturday they pray in this house for their community and the world around them. I so wish that I could be a part of that prayer this weekend, but I will be in Wawashong with my class.

I learned so much from Carmen tonight. First, I was reminded that faith is believing, not seeing, and doubt does not come from God. She opened my eyes to the lives of people here. God is definitely doing big things all around the world. He blessed me and allowed me to live in this house with these amazing people for two weeks. And just a few days ago I was confused at why I was here and in distress about my living situation. Never doubt God’s plan. He has a plan and it is good, it is perfect. Follow His will for your life and don’t question that He is in control and carrying you. There is so much poverty here in Bluefields but because of the hardships that people experience they get to the real life issues without the distractions that we often face in the United States. People don’t worry about weight, they aren’t materialistic, they don’t have the time or energy to stress about the little things that we so often are consumed in. Life here is about surviving. Safety, shelter, and food are generally their main concerns. Obviously there are exceptions but overall the purpose of life is so much clearer here. I pray that God will help us all to have that Kingdom mindset. Stop worrying about the little things that aren’t eternal. How are your relationships with your family? Are you making the most out of every day that you have with them? What are the fruits in your life? Who needs to hear Jesus that you are ignoring? I need to be asking myself these questions daily. I serve an amazing God.

Love always, Shelby

Lesson Plans

For all of the teachers out there and anyone else who is curious. Here are a few lesson plans for first grade in Bluefields, Nicaragua:

7:30 - 8:30 AM
Lengua y Literatura (Language and Literature)

Consonate: J j

Silibas: Ja-Jo-Ji-Ju-Je

Palabras: jefe, jinete, jirafa, Juliana, jugo, joya, jocate, Julio, juego

La joya es de mi mama.
Los pajaritos estan en la jaula.
Lo jirafa es un animal enorme.

Juliana- Ju-lia-na
juego- jue-go
jocote- jo-co-te

The students went to the board and practiced writing and speaking these words.
They said them as a class.
Clapped out the syllables.
Spelled the words.
Practiced pronunciation.
Then at 8:30 they got out their notebooks and did the following exercise.

I. Separe las palabras en silabas.
jugo pajaritos
jirafa Julio

II. Une las silabas y escribe la palabra.
jo te____________
jue ya____________
jine go____________

8:50 - 9:30 AM


English Spanish
go vaya
come ven o venga
jump salta
Spot Mancha (this is capitalized because it is the name of a dog haha)
and y
up arriba
down abajo o debajo

Go, Go, Go.
Come, Spot.
Come and go.
Jump, Jump.
Jump up spot.
Jump up.

The students repeat the words in spanish and english.
They spell the words and count the syllables.
They also do the action that the word says (they loved this part).
They took turns practicing on the board.

Obviously school is very different here but one of the things that really stood out to me was the absence of Children's literature. In all of my education classes we have a very dominant focus on reading to children and including books in lessons and throughout the day. There are no books at Morivian Primary School. I'm sure this is due to a lack of resources but it makes me sad that children are not getting read to at school. The only materials that the teachers and students use are their dry erase and chalk board, and a pencil and paper. The education system is truly blessed in the United States.

I am really getting a dose of the culture here. They take taxis everywhere because no one has cars. I get my own taxi wherever I go and pay 10 cortabas (50 cents). I feel independent but also weary that I am by myself in a cab with some guy I don't know! But I have been fine so far. Thanks again for all of the prayers and love.


(the pictures take forever to upload, sorry there aren't more. I will be putting many on facebook soon!)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trusting God

Everything rides on hope now, and everything rides on faith somehow. When the world has broken me down, Your love sets me free. I am not my own I’ve been carried by You all my life. – Addison Road

God provides. I say this all the time, I believe it, I know it’s true, but still I continue to doubt. If there is one thing I have learned about myself by being here, it is that I am predictable. I am ok with being pushed out of my comfort zone but take certain things away from me and I break down. One main thing that I have learned is that to be content in a place I need trust and open relationships. I need people in my life, friends, family, to support on and to know that they care about me and will look out for me. I was reminded of this once again today when I had my first day in Bluefields. I was completely stripped of everything that I have gotten used to so far. I had no internet, no communication with my professors, no friends to rely on, no schedule, no organization, I don’t speak the language, I didn’t know how to get to the school I was supposed to be teaching at and so on. Today was one of those roller coaster days. I would go from being completely broken down to at peace and then I would break down again. But through it all the Lord has provided. He has walked with me, helped me work things out and supported me in ways that I’m sure I don’t even recognize.

I finally calmed my inner anxieties tonight when I had dinner with Merelyn. We had the chance to talk and she told me about her life and Bluefields. I asked her a lot of questions about the school system and what life is like here. Gabi was also around and kept me entertained by singing, dancing, and playing board games with me. I love the innocence and acceptance that children bring. I think I am finally at the point today where I know that everything is going to be all right and that there really is a purpose that I am here. I’m glad to be at that point because all I wanted to do this morning was to go home. And to top it off, I found out that I think Damaris has the internet here and I just need to get a password to access it! God is so good, he meet my needs and exceeds my expectations daily. There is nothing that I should ever fear because He makes everything good for those who love Him. And we are called to rejoice in all situations, so that is what I am going to do these next few weeks, rejoice. Rejoice that I am not comfortable, rejoice that things are not easy, rejoice in the fact that I know I am going to come away from this with a whole new appreciation for my life. I even have my own room, running water, and an air-conditioning vent. Many of my friends are not living in houses as nice as mine and most of the people in Bluefields definitely are not living like Merelyn. I am really learning though, that it is not the kind of house that you live in that makes life complete. The comforts are nice but what really matters is having meaningful relationships in your life and having faith in Jesus to stand on. The Lord is the reason that I wake up every morning and He is what gets me through every second of every day. I feel so blessed that I am here and feeling uncomfortable because it forces me to seek God. Too often at home I get comfortable in my life and put Him on the backburner, but not here. I can’t survive one minute without his guidance. He is teaching me that even though I may have it easier at home, I always need God, there is never a time when I can do things by myself or receive something that He has not allowed me to receive. I don’t know if any of that makes sense, my thoughts are just flowing through my head but I hope that you can take something away from reading about my experience. We are so blessed in the United States and we really do not realize it. It is so humbling to see the different lives of people in the same world.

I want to share a little as well about my experience at Moravian Primary School. The school consists of 1st through 6th grade but all of the students are not there at the same time due to the size of the school. In the morning from 7:30-11:45 students in 1st, 2nd, and 6th grade attend school. This is the time that I will be there every day. In the afternoon 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades come and have class. The school system is nothing like it is in the United States. There is virtually no discipline. Students run around in the classroom and run in and out like animals. They pay attention when they want to and listen when they feel like it is necessary. It was hard for me to understand what was being taught because it was in Spanish but the students were learning Math, Literature, and Bible today. Tomorrow I was told is when they will be spending some time teaching English so I am interested in seeing what that is like and if I will be able to help. The students don’t seem to be learning much in school. It is basically like high school for children. There is no differentiation or teaching strategies to meet the needs of students or younger children. Every grade is treated the same and they are expected to sit in desks and stare at the front while the teacher explains what is going on. Generally after a lecture from the teacher, they open up their notebooks and copy what is on the board which may include practice problems. However, the teachers do seem to mean well. The ones that I have talked to have been very nice and truly want the best for their students. They want to see them learn and they want them to become positive influences in their community. The problem is they do not have the education that we receive in the United States to teach them how to be teachers. They don’t have curriculum provided for them or excellent teachers to model what good teaching looks like. I’m sure once I spend more time at the school I will have a deeper insight but these are my first impressions. My favorite part of the day was just being with the children. They were friendly, welcoming and wanted to understand me. Many of them drew me pictures and even shared some of their snack. They were just like my second grade students last semester except they do not have the same opportunities or life circumstances.

I’m going to approach tomorrow in a new light, listening for God’s voice and trying to step into the shoes of the people in this community. I am interested to see what I will be feeling and thinking at the end of these two weeks.

Thanks everyone for the encouragement and prayers. I love you all.


(written Monday, September 27)
pictures coming soon

First Impressions of Bluefields, Nicaragua

These are pictures of my room and bathroom in Merelyn's house. I will be fine here!

This morning I woke up in Corn Island, and tonight I’m going to bed in Bluefields. This study abroad adventure really is crazy. We are always moving, once you get comfortable or at least situated somewhere you move to the next place. It is really teaching me to lean on God to meet all of my needs. Without Him there is no way I could get through this roller coaster with a smile on my face, and there is never a time when He will not provide. Here in Bluefields I am staying with a woman named Merelyn Forbes. She teaches English in the Moravian Primary School. She seems like a nice woman who enjoys what she does. Also in the house living with me is her friend Carmen, Carmen’s daughter Damaris, and Damaris’ granddaughter Gabrielle who is six. I got to talk to Carmen tonight during dinner and she talked to me a lot about how frustrating it is for her, as a preschool teacher to have students who are not properly cared for by their parents. She talked to me about how it is so important to teach kids at a young age that they are loved and show them the value in learning. Carmen thinks it is important to teach two languages so that the students can expand their mind. She got emotional when she told me that when she was young her teacher said she was dumb and was not smart enough to learn English. She told me that she still thinks about what that teacher said today as tears tan down her cheeks and as a teacher she is very careful to watch what she says around her students. I was touched that she was willing to open up to me so quickly and shared something so personal.

Precious Gabriella.

The house I am staying in is definitely not the kind of house that I am used to but it is livable. I have my own room and bathroom as well as running water and electricity. Honestly, I still don’t feel informed about what I am doing. Things aren’t that organized here and we often go with the flow, which can be frustrating for me. Tomorrow I am going to the primary school to start my internship. I don’t know what this is going to involve except I am supposed to be teaching English. We have a “home base” area that Butler rented out for us where my group will meet most afternoons. This is supposed to have internet, although it wasn’t working today, but if you are reading this then the internet started to work ☺! Right now I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and anxious about how these two weeks are going to go. But I know that God has a plan and whatever happens is going to be fine. Even if I don’t love this time in Bluefields I will learn and take away something from it. At the very least I am going to understand what it is like to live in an area of poverty. I will also get a feel for a different school system, which will be a very good experience for me. I am sure it will help me appreciate the education system at home.
That’s all for now! Today was the first day of week six. We are getting close to half way done, how crazy.

Love always, Shelby

(written Sunday, September 26)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Reality of Free Trade

In class we have been learning about fair trade vs. free trade zone. Today we visited a free trade zone and visited one of the factories. The factory that we went to was a very large, hot and humid, and air tight. The product they were making were north face jakets! They also made columbia and eddie bauer. I had no idea that north face's were hand made so that took me back a little bit. What really bothered me was the conditions that these people worked in and the salary they made. One north face jacket is easily $100 or more. The factory workers make $150 a month! They work 8 hour days, 48 hour weeks and receive very few benefits. Unemployment is 60% in Nicaragua so the factories provide jobs for the people, but they do not pay enough money for the Nicaraguans to live and support their families. I looked at myself and what I was wearing and I figured out how much my outfit cost. Everything that was on me, including my bag and everything in it was easily an entire year's pay for a factory worker in Nicaragua. Something about that isn't right. I am seeing poverty first hand here like I have never experienced before. It's not like as American's we should just stop consuming but I am definitely going to stop and think before I buy things once I get home.

I could talk much more about this but that is the short version. Tomorrow we are waking up at 4 am....ew, to catch a plane to Corn Island!! We will spend 3 days there and then head to Bluefields to start our internships. I will be teaching english to children at a primary school there and I am so excited to be with kids again, I've missed them!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Love, Shelby

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Finding Contentment

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." - 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Contentment. When I really think about it this is something that I struggle with daily. This verse talks about being content with ONLY food and clothing. How many times during the day do I complain because I am uncomfortable or unhappy? Being here can be frustrating at times. There are a lot of things that take me out of my comfort zone. The classes we are taking, people I am with, food we are eating, and smells all around me just to name a few. To be honest there are many times where I find myself dwelling in discontentment. But why is this? We are reminded that we have food and clothing we should be content with that. Nicaragua has shown me once again how blessed my life in the United States is. As a woman in America I am so fortunate to have so many rights and to be respected. Women here do not have all of the same privileges. Every single time I walk out into the streets with my friends we are stared at, hollered at, viewed as objects of the affection of men. This is acceptable in their culture, but does it make it right? Absolutely not.

The poverty here is also something that has really been tugging on my heart strings and specifically how innocent children are forced into the equation. It is shocking that 1 out of every 23 children die before the age of 5 in Nicaragua. I also learned that 35% of the population suffer from malnutrition (mostly children), and 50% of residents have no access to basic medicine. There is an unemployment rate here of about 60% so children are being forced to work and sell things on the streets to help their family pay for their next meal. This became a reality for me today when I met a precious boy named Paul (pictured above) selling peanuts on the street. My friend Jazzmin spoke to him in spanish and we began to ask him about his life. Paul is only in first grade. He was out by himself while his mother and alcoholic father were at home doing who knows what. It is so hard for me to comprehend sending your 7 year old boy out by himself into a city to sell things. You could see the innocence in Paul's eyes that all children possess. He knows nothing different than his life in Nicaragua. He doesn't know that there are people in the United States who struggle with obesity and throw away their resources freely. It's so easy for us in the states to forget that there are people literally starving all over the world. Who knows what Paul's life will be like in the future but right now he is just a beautiful little boy, who loves soccer and is in the first grade trying to find money for his family by selling some peanuts. Something isn't right about that picture. I pray that we try to help the people in these countries and show them the joy, hope, and love of Christ. I don't know if it was his child-like innocence but Paul seemed very content with his life. He reminded me of one of the reasons why I love being around children so much. Though he may not have an easy life, he is content with what he has.

On a lighter note, our group decided to have a toga party tonight. Yes, we get that bored. So here are two pictures of our easily entertained selves in home-made togas.

Love always, Shelby

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Quick Update

This week's highlights (since Granada)

Matagalpa, Nicaragua:
- We stayed in a beautiful hotel in the mountains of Nicaragua. It was much cooler there and a fun contrast from being in the city for the majority of our time in Nicaragua.
- Visited a coffee cooperative and learned about the history and fair trade industry.

Selva Negra (Black Forest):
- In Selva Negra we had a group discussion that took up most of our time but allowed us to reflect on what we have been learning, refocus our thoughts and voice our opinions. We also had beautiful lunch there in the lush green forest.

Pochimil Beach:
- Spent the day relaxing in the sun, getting tan, reading a good book, walk on the beach :)

- Catholic Mass, not so sure I agreed with the Priest but it was good to see the perspective of the Catholic church in Nicaragua. They are very focused on the justice of the bible and the poor being set apart and special.

Being in Nicaragua is very different from Panama. The group dynamics are changing as people get to know each other better and share their opinions more. We are constantly moving and do not have a real home base like we did in Panama. I've been learning to make the daily choice to be here, not wanting to be somewhere else, and asking God to reveal His purpose for my semester abroad. I'm being tested and learning patience but though its frustrating at times I'm all right with that because I know God uses us most during times of trouble and persecution. There's so much on my mind as I try to figure things out right now and learn how to do this whole being abroad for 3 months thing. More to come later when I sort through my thoughts and feelings.

I miss everyone a lot! I'd love to skype with you :)
Love, Shelby

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Authentic Beauty

To all of my beautiful friends and sisters in Christ:

The video is taking forever to upload so I'm just going to put the link to youtube on here. Watch it if you have time :)

Today must be a video watching day! I really enjoyed watching this "thot" from Leslie Ludy and hope that all women will view themselves in this way. As I relaxed today and spent time with the Lord I was reading the book Authentic Beauty that I just bought. This book is by Leslie Ludy and is about finding your true identity as a woman. The basis of the book is learning how to remove all of the sin (garbage and mess) from your life and understanding how to have true intimacy with Jesus, our Prince. I am not that far into it yet but I would already encourage every young woman to read it. Leslie talks in the book about the first step to having true intimacy with Jesus. She discusses sitting down for a few hours without distraction and going through her guide of questions and challenges. It entails a lot of uncomfortable questions helping you to dig into your past and remove sin that you have been hiding and trying to conceal. She helps you to understand the other "loves" of your life that you are putting before Jesus. While doing this today I realized how much sin I really have in my life. It's easy for me to get caught up in the fact that I don't commit many obvious sins. I don't underage drink, I don't have sex, I don't do drugs, and yes that is important but I am just as much of a sinner as every single person in this world. There are SO many areas in my life that I need to ask forgiveness for and take to Jesus, my Savior. Repenting of that sin in my life was a very refreshing and freeing feeling. How can I ever deny forgiveness to anyone when God forgives me daily, every minute? He is such an Amazing God!

Tomorrow we head to Matagalpa, Nicaragua and start class again. I'm sure I will have some more trip related blogs after that. These past to days have been a breath of fresh air and I am so thankful to have been able to relax and refresh in this beautiful place. I even got to watch the first episode of Survivor tonight!! And guess where it is based...Nicaragua, so cool!

Until Next Time,

Looking Beyond Ourselves

"I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me." - Matthew 25:40

Watch this.
Dwell on it.
I'm experiencing it now.
People are hurting.
People are dying.
People are poor.
What are we doing to help?

(if you can't get the video to work go to youtube and search we're all in this together-teaser, its by hillsong united)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Next Leg of My Journey

I'm sitting here right now in the lobby of Hotel Corazon in Granada, Nicaragua. It is beautiful here. I am sitting in an open air lobby while a warm breeze is blowing by. In front of me is the lush garden and to the left is a pool under the sun. I am constantly reminded of the beauty of God's creation. We are in the midst of our two free days here in Granada. It's a fun city and tomorrow is Independence day so we will be able to see a parade and experience their National Holiday! I have spent the day laying out at the pool and reading, shopping around in the plaza, eating chicken for lunch, and relaxing. This is a much needed break to refresh and remind myself how lucky I am to be here. It is easy to get caught up in daily frustrations and it has been good for me to remind myself that I am so blessed to be here and I need to make the most of the experience and appreciate every day for what it is!

I like Nicaragua a lot better than Panama. Panama was very Americanized, and I didn't really feel like I was in a foreign place except for the rainforest around me. However, here in Nicaragua it is definitely more of a third world country. This is where we are living with no air conditioning, carrying toilet paper, only drinking bottled water, watching what we eat, and seeing more poverty than in Panama. I like being able to see the culture and what it is like living as a person in Nicaragua. Though it may be uncomfortable, it allows me to appreciate my life in the United States and humble myself. Our home base, The Center for Global Education (CGE), is actually right across from the President of Nicaragua's house, Daniel Ortega!! This part of the trip is also going to be much more fast paced and we will be moving around a lot. Hopefully it will make time pass quicker and allow me to move on and not get stuck in one place. The food in Nicaragua is also much better, in my opinion, the flavors are more enjoyable and there is a bit more variety. They eat less meat here, when they do it is usually chicken. There is still beans and rice at almost every meal. We often have cooked vegetables, onions, and bananas available as well. They also drink a lot of hand squeezed juices from fruits in the area. Some of the drinks have been very sour!

Yesterday we heard two talks. The first was on the History of Nicaragua. It was wayyy over my head!! I haven't taken History of anything since my sophomore year of high school, and I have never learned about Nicaragua. The guy who spoke to us went into such detail it made my head spin. Hopefully as time goes on it will all make better sense and I can begin to put the pieces together. We also heard a talk on feminism. The woman that spoke to us was one of the heads of the women's movement for rights for women in Nicaragua. It was again humbling to hear about everything that women have gone through here. Though I think some of her views for entire equality are a bit extreme it was really interesting to hear about all that she has gone through. I am glad that as a women living in American, I have not had to experience discrimination and very few rights.

That's all for now! I am jealous of everyone experiencing the season changing to fall! I love that time of year! Enjoy it.

Love, Shelby

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Value of Personal Relationships

I love this picture, it was taken a few years ago when my family traveled to Tanzania and had the opportunity to visit a school there. It reminds me of the quote, "When we try to teach kids about life, kids teach us what life is about."

Last semester at Butler, in Block A, on of our themes of the semester was forming personal relationships with our students. As a model of how to do this our professors worked on seeking and finding personal relationships with us. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other, discovering how we learn, what makes us tic, why we want to be teachers and so on. We then took what we learned to our individual classrooms (for me, my precious second graders) and practiced investing in our students as we spent the semester with them.

Why am I mentioning about this you might wonder? Well, today is our last day in Panama and we just had a group reflection as a class. It reminded me so much of my education classes and allowed me reflect and remember everything that I have learned about teaching in this past year. Even as a kamp kounselor this summer at Kanakuk, forming personal relationships, and loving our kids was the key to our success. Without overcoming those walls that people put up you are never going to get to the person behind the mask and have deep and meaningful conversations that lead to real realationships. This theme applies to life and the classroom.

The past three weeks I have been learning about Biology and it really reminded me how much science is not my thing, but most importantly, how passionate I am about children and teaching. After taking education classes for almost a year and a half I became accustomed to being around professors who want to know the real you. Not that professors in other majors don't want this, but they don't go at it in the same way. Because of this, I don't think I responded as well to the class as I could have. I didn't pin point why until today when we were reflecting and I realized that today was the first moment that I really felt like my professor cared about who I am as a person. I'm sure that she does care about her students, but it revealed to me the importance of investing in the lives of your students as teachers. I mean we have been living together for three weeks and I don't think my professor could tell you more than three facts about me. Again, not to bash my professor, she is a really engaging teacher. But when I become a teacher I want my students to feel loved and appreciated. I want them to know that the most important thing to me is not that they learn the material, although that is important. What I am most interested in is making them feel valued and as much of a part of our classroom environment, home away from home, as I am as their teacher. Being away from Butler for more than 4 months now has helped me to realize how great of an education program we have. My professors are amazing models of how good teachers should be and I am more than exited to get back into my content when I return to Butler in the spring! However, in the meantime I am going to continue to get the most of this experience as I can. I am super pumped to be working in the elementary school in Nicaragua and I know a lot of adventure lies ahead for me.

That is my little dose of self introspection for the day! We are off to Nicaragua tomorrow, adios Panama! Have a great weekend everyone!

Love always, Shelby

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cheeseburgers Make Me Smile :)

Well I will start by saying that I had a cheeseburger for lunch today..YES! And it was SO good. But wait, it gets better....I got to have a coke AND oreo cheesecake too!! It's funny that I get excited about those little things here, but it really made my day to FINALLY be satisfied and enjoy what I eat. :)

The past few days haven't been too exciting. A lot of lectures and research talks. We took our final test today HALLELUJAH!! So I am officially done with 5 credit hours of biology! I'm really crossing my fingers for an A but am realistically thinking it may be an A-, we will see! I never had the chance to write in my blog that last sunday two of my friends and I went to a bilingual church right by where we are staying. It was a really cool experience. The service was about two hours long and involved about 40 min of worship, mostly modern songs, the sermon, communion, a testimony, and more music. Everything they said in english was immediately translated to spanish which made things a little choppy but still really neat. There were about 20 people in the small church. The pastor came over and told us there were many different tribes represented in their church. We even saw a few of the Wounaan people that we visited last week! It was really uplifting to see the holy spirit move in a place so far from home. God is SO big and is doing things all over the world!! How great and mighty is He!

Today after the test we went out for a celebration lunch (where I got to have my cheeseburger) and then headed to the Miraflores Locks along the Panama Canal. Our professor had lectured to us the day before about the canal and I thought it would be on the test so I studied it...and it wasn't of course. However, now I know a lot about the Panama Canal!
Here are a few interesting facts:
- The Panama Canal began being built in 1878 by the french and they worked on it for 20 years before abandoning the project. They lost 20,000 men in the process due to tropical diseases and landslides mostly.
- The U.S. took over in 1903 after they helped Panama gain their independence because Columbia, who had control of Panama at the time, would not allow the U.S. to have control of the canal even if they built it.
- We began building and 1904 and eventually finished the project thanks to John Frank Stevens who suggested the locks system instead of moving the canal to sea level.
- In the 1960's the Panamanians began to feel unrest about not having control over the canal and in 1974 Jimmy Carter and the President of Panama made an agreement to share the canal from 1979-1999 until they handed it to Panama completely.
- That is where the canal is now. About 14,000 ships pass through every year. The canal is 50 miles long and takes a ship 8-10 hours to get through. The large ships with containers have to pay $72 per container which can end up to being around $300,000 to get through the locks!
- Panama is widening the locks because ships are getting to large to fit them and are currently working on that project.
We spent a few hours there watching an introductory video, touring the museum, and waiting to watch a boat go through the locks. It was actually a pretty fast process once the boat got there. In the pictures notice how the water level changes.

Tomorrow we are taking a four hour bus tour of the city. I'm not sure if it will be fun or repetitive of what we have already done. Then saturday is our final day in Panama before we head to Nicaragua!! I am really excited to move on to a new country, start a new class, and experience new things. We will be moving around a lot in Nicaragua and I will have spotty internet but will update whenever I can. The first place we are flying into is Managua where we will begin our GHS (global and historical studies) class on frontiers in latin america. This class will be spread out through the rest of the semester. In Nicaragua we will move around to Granada, Matagalpa, Jinotega, Leon, Corn Island, and Bluefields where we will have our home stay and internship. I am so excited for that because I found out that I will be teaching elementary students english for two weeks! I will also be staying with a teacher at the school so that will be an awesome opportunity for me to see what schools are like and expand my knowledge and teaching skills. I can't wait to love on those kiddos. My friends tell me here that I act like a kid sometimes, which is probably due to spending 6 weeks with 8-10 year olds this summer! I miss those precious girls!

As you may have noticed I added some links to other blogs that I enjoy reading. I have become really obsessed while I have been here with reading blogs and finding encouragement through them. There are so many wonderful things to learn and stretch your mind when you can get into other people's heads. If you have some time, check them out! And let me know if you find any that you think I would be interested in! I have also been reading Francine Rivers books while I have been here. She is such an amazing Christian author. If you are looking for a good and convicting read, buy one of her books!

That's all for now. Wishing the best for everyone, you are in my thoughts and prayers. If you have any prayer requests be sure to send them my way! I feel kind of out of the loop in that area.

Love, Shelby

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Top Ten

So my best friend Shelbe is studying abroad in Spain and on her blog she has been making top ten lists. I really like the idea so I am going to borrow it for today's post.

Top Ten things I have learned from being in Panama:

1. I really like plain food and since I have a sensitive nose I'm pretty sure smells affect what I do and do not like to eat. I am getting slightly sick of smelly spicy meat that they make quite often.

2. I am a big mammal lover (bears, deer, sea-lions etc...). Not birds, not plants, and especially not ants!

3. Science is not my thing. Though I am learning to appreciate all the intricacies of God's creation, debating scientific issues does not interest me.

4. Don't look when panamanian men whistle and holler at gets really awkward when you look and they just stare right back at you.

5. If you are planning on going outside don't try to look cute or put on any make-up, you will just sweat it off.

6. I understand now more than ever the value of my family's style of vacations. We move around constantly and experience everything we can. Staying in basically one place in Panama is starting to make me a little stir crazy.

7. I am more introverted than I thought in the fact that I need to recharge by being alone. Since we have basically no alone time here, putting in my headphones or reading a book has been my outlet.

8. I love summer and being warm but I like living in a place that has seasons. I am really going to miss fall this year!

9. People are people and no matter where they are from or who they are everyone wants to be loved and accepted.

10. I have an amazing support network at home. My family is awesome, my friends are so encouraging and I am so blessed that all of you are in my life!

Top Ten things God has been teaching me:

1. I need to tame my tongue. Filtering my words and thoughts is extremely important for so many reasons.
"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." -James 1:26

2. God is always working on my behalf. I don't need to worry about Him deserting me or ignoring my prayers.
"I will cry to the God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me" -Psalm 57:2

3. Every day is a good day and I need to find joy in EVERY situation.
"Today is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it" -Psalm 118:24

4. There are no answers in science to God's creation and the reason that we are here. The answer is faith and the answer is Jesus.
"The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship." -Psalm 19:1

5. God is my strength. I am worthless and can do nothing without Him. He speaks to and blesses those who trust in Him.
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." -Psalm 73:26

6. I need to live to serve. I need to be more humble. I need to live for others and not myself.
"The greatest among you will be your servant, for whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." -Matthew 23:11

7. The more wisdom that I gain the more hurt comes along with it.
"For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge the more grief." -Ecclesiastes 1:18

8. I can't take days off from serving God and doing good. Good works don't get you into heaven but faith without deeds is dead.
"The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those tho belong to the family of believers." -Galatians 6:8-10

9. Memorizing scripture and spending daily time with the Lord is the best way to keep me accountable and start my day off in the right mindset.
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interest but to the interest of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."
-Philippians 2:3-4

10. Complaining doesn't help anything. I need to take my frustrations and negative attitude to the Lord.
"Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars is the universe." -Philippians 2:14-15

Love, Shelby

Friday, September 3, 2010

A View From Above

My theme for today is looking at things from God's perspective, from above. Our group rode up in a canopy crane this morning to see the forest from above so it seems fitting! I have been blessed to have had some Godly conversations with my friends here lately and one specifically, Jenny, was talking about how she has been focusing on pleasing God and making sure that her actions, words and thoughts are in line with His first and foremost. One of my recent prayers has been that God would humble me, reveal to me my areas of weakness, and show my the direction that He is wanting me to go in my life. I think being humble is something that many of us struggle with and can often be one of my worst qualities. Jenny's reminder to focus on pleasing God and aligning my thoughts with His was an answered prayer in the sense that it challenged me to check my motives. Have I been searching to please God this week in the choices that I have made? Am I most concerned with His approval or the approval of myself or others? When God looks down on me from above what does He see?

During my quiet time reading Daniel and Matthew, God has continued to convict me about humility. Being a person of humility does not come easily. I have learned that it takes a lot of discipline and constant thought to remove the sin of pride from your life. I am far from being able to call myself humble, but am taking steps towards removing prideful areas in my life.
God's word speaks to humility quite often:

Matthew 23:11 "The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

1 Peter 5:5 "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."

Zephaniah 2:3 "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility"

Proverbs 11:2 "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom."

Daniel 10:12 "Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them."

This last verse in Daniel gives me comfort in the fact that when you set your mind to understanding humility, God will hear you and respond to your willingness to seek after Him.

The trip to the top of the canopy was really a fun thing to do today. For the past two weeks we have been hiking almost every day in the rainforest and getting to see it from a birds eye view gave me a different perspective of the forest. It was clear that plants really do fight for sunlight and that there are not many holes where a tree has not grown to get any glimpse of light that it could. It rained this morning so we didn't get to see too many animals above the canopy but it was still a beautiful view of the city. It was also quite a contrast between the lush green forest and the city scape right beyond it.

Our group also had a fun and unexpected detour during our day. On the way back to Gamboa one of our professors thought it would be fun to stop at an anthropology museum. Once at the museum we realized that it wasn't all that we were hoping for but there was something way better! The Panamanian version of America's Got Talent was filming and holding auditions for their show. We got the chance to sit in on the filming as the contestants came in and preformed their talent. They had three judges, much like American Idol, and after the performance the crowd would either yell Afuera, which means OUT!, or pass them along to the next round. We saw everything from singers and old men doing the cha cha to bike stunts and instrumental pieces. It was a lot of fun and a good break from our everyday hiking routine! I was even on t.v.! The show was called Mi Gran Talent if anyone wants to check it out haha.

Well that's all for now, tomorrow we are heading into Casco Viejo to sight see and visit a fish market. I hope everyone has a great labor day weekend!

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Appreciating My Life

Today I had yet another experience that put life into perspective. I got the opportunity to go to the Wounaan Village to visit the indigenous people that live in the rain forests of Gamboa, Panama. For some reason I hadn't really mentally prepared for the day and was expecting to be picked up in a large boat like the one that transported us to another Island over the weekend. Boy was I wrong! When it was time for us to leave 3 men dressed in basically nothing pulled up to the dock in motor powered canoes. After witnessing many shocked faces our group not so gracefully got into the boats and we set off for the Wounaan Village back in the deeper Rainforest. The boat ride reminded me of the very long 5 hour similar boat ride that I took with my family in the Amazon. Luckily this one was only about ten minutes.

When we arrived we received a friendly greeting, plopped on our attractive and comfortable rain boots (not!) and headed up into the center of the village to meet the people. One of the things that I have noticed about Panama that is very different from the places I have been before (Ecuador, Peru, Tanzania) is that the people actually respect your personal boundaries. I was expecting a lot of prodding and pressure to buy things and an invasion of my personal space but that was not the case at all. It was the same way in the market in Panama City, so that was a nice surprise.

Then two men from the village began by leading us around the forest behind where they lived. They basically went over what we have been learning for the past week here in Panama and explained how they build their homes from certain trees and what kind of plants they use for medicine.

After the tour of the village we had the opportunity to buy their crafts and jewelry and listen to another explanation about how things work in the Wounaan Village. I was surprised to hear that most of their children now get primary and secondary education. Ecotourism is what supports them these days because they are not as close to the mainland as they used to be so it is not as easy for them to sell their crafts. One of the goals that they have is to send two of their people to the University as soon as they make enough money. They explained that not all of their people live in the village in order to support their lifestyle. Some of them work in the resort in Gamboa while others work in the city or find other jobs. I got the impression that the money is all pooled together and split to pay for food and schooling. They told us that their main diet includes plantains, which are similar to bananas, and fish. They do not eat meat because they can't afford it and they are not allowed to hunt in the rainforest because it is a protected area. Occasionally they get rice or seasonings from the city as well.

I spent a lot of my time while other students were buying things, trying to interact with the children of the village. A 12 year old girl brought us her pet monkey george and it crawled all over everyone who wanted to hold him. She told us that he was abandoned by his mom which is why they took him in. He was so sweet and made me want a pet monkey! Most of the Wounaan people speak spanish but they also speak their own dialect to each other. None of them spoke english but the guy who spoke to us the most said that it was one of his dreams to learn english and be able to speak to tourists directly, without a translator.

Being at the Wounaan village was another one of those times that made me really appreciate all that God has blessed me with. It is so easy for me to get comfortable with my life and forget how many things that I have. There are so many people all over the world who don't even have enough food to survive, let alone their own room, a closet full of clothes, a college education, the opportunity to study abroad, and so on. It was a good for me to remember that God has blessed me in so many countless ways and I never should doubt that He will provide for me. He is so gracious to answer my prayers and continue growing me and leading me towards his future plans for me, but if He were to never again answer my prayers I would already have so much more than I could ever ask for. I'm really hoping that this spring break or over the summer I can go on a missions trip and give back a little to people who don't have the same opportunities that I do and show them the love of Christ that I have experienced.

Today was a great day and it's not over yet! In a few hours our group will be going frogging. I'm not exactly sure what frogging entails but it will be yet another adventure!

Love always,