Saturday, February 22, 2014

Settling in to our New Life Here

Hello Everyone!
Whew! What a month this has been.  We've had two full weeks of school already and finally have a day to catch our breath & catch up with all of you back home.  It's amazing how just the day to day things here take so much more time than what we are used to, on top of working full time.  We'd like to give you a full report on how school is going for all of us, as well as what life is like here for us here in Matagalpa.  After this post we hope to add shorter updates, pictures, praises, prayer requests, etc.  If any of you have specific questions for us or for the kids, please feel free to leave a comment or send us an email!  We'd like to have the kids respond to questions as part of their writing assignments.

We are so thankful that the beginning of the school year has been, though extremely busy & exhausting, surprisingly positive.  All of the kids went to their first day of school with smiles on their faces and nervous but excited (no tears shed or bribes even required:). 

Mike is having fun exploring how to be a PE teacher to grades K-8 as well as teaching English to  3rd-7th graders.  The Nicaraguan kids are loving having a PE teacher for the first time!  And Mike has been enjoying getting to know all of the students at NCA Matagalpa., while at the same time introducing them to how to follow rules etc.   I can tell he's doing a great job because I can hear his classes from my classroom windows.  His 'gym' is called the 'cancha', & is basically a big concrete basketball type court with a metal roof over it.  Kids call him Mr. Mike or Profe & he's already getting kids saying hi to him while we're on the bus or walking around town.

I've had my hands full with my 19 Kindergarten students!  Students here are not required to turn 5 until the June following the start of the school year in February!  So I was a bit shocked at how young my students are, it is really more like preschool level for us.  Most of my students have not had any preschool before and have a lot to learn about how to come and behave in school.  But!  They've made wonderful progress so far.  Each day has been better than the day before, so that is a good thing.  The first week meant rethinking all of my previously made plans for the class, so we stayed late at school each day and then I was up very late every night preparing for the next day.
My students call me Profe or Profe Annette and they are very cute and sweet.  I have several students with special needs and another student with autism joining my class in March, so I would appreciate prayers for patience & insight with how to best help these students grow. 

Mackenzie, just like we thought, has jumped into school here with two feet.  I see her around school & she is all smiles.  Her teacher's are all very impressed with her ability to understand and speak Spanish.  She is in the smallest class of the school with only 8 students, 3 girls and 5 boys so can't complain about that student teacher ratio!  She has a home room teacher and then lots of other different classes as well.  I'll let her tell you more about her classes in a future post.  My mom recently asked if she's met some nice girls in her class & she said "Well, there's only 2 other girls in my class!"  So they are naturally her friends now.  Mackenzie also is a great helper to me when I go out to the market to get our produce (can't carry everything myself! especially with a big carton of eggs).

Evan is doing great adjusting as well, which has been a huge relief to me personally.  He seems to have a nice group of kids in his class & has met a few nice boys he can play soccer with at recess (yes on the concrete cancha).  His teacher too is impressed that he seems to understand a lot & though quiet is participating in class.  I don't get much info out of him yet about what he actually does in school (which is normal for him:), but he's not complaining and also seems happy when I see him around school.   He comes in to get his Kindle from my room each day during his English class period.  So far the older kids go to the library to read during their English class each day and then we do some home school work after school at home.  That makes for a very long day for all of us, so we are hoping to work on that system a bit. We're also still working on finding a team for Evan to play soccer with regularly here.  He did have one game with a local group of kids but without a car it took us about 5 hours just to get to the court and back and it was only a 30 min. game. (Remember above when I said everything takes longer here:)  So we'll keep exploring soccer options.

Kai has been a little trooper.  He's the only one who did break out into tears the night before school started, the poor little guy, saying "I'm not going to know what to say!" over and over.  So we reminded him he did know how to say "Si" and we taught him how to say "No entiendo" (I don't understand), and that seemed to work.  He has a very nice teacher and is in the classroom right next to mine.  Thankfully other than that tearful evening, he's been fine.  Goes off to school each day with a kiss and a smile.  I even heard him from my classroom windows using some Spanish with some of his classmates this past Friday.  The other kids were lingering in the hall and Kai was jokingly saying "Vamanos, vamanos!"  He too seems to be making friends, even if he can't remember their names yet. 

After 6 weeks here we finally feel like we're getting into our groove here, but of course things continue to surprise us.  We leave the house to catch the bus for school at 6:15 am, that in itself is quite a feat!  The bus is usually quite crowded but not too terrible in the morning, sometimes we luck out and get a seat.  We usually are on a bus with lots of workers with white hard hats heading out to an electrical site.  We have staff devotions at 7, the kids read or hang out in my classroom, then school starts at 7:30 and goes until 2:30.  We hope to start leaving at 3:00 but we're working on that:).
After our very crowded bus ride home, we have a quick snack and then get started on home school work.  Mostly just math for the older kids and then a little of everything for Kai.  Then its time to make dinner, & get ready for bed.  Dinner has been very late, which we're also hoping to start improving on.  (But again, everything just seems to take more time without all of our fancy gadgets to cook with:).

We have a fairly big outdoor market just a few blocks away from us & I've started going there several times a week for produce.  You can find the basics for veggies here but I am still exploring & learning about some of their produce which I'm not familiar with yet.  We also buy our eggs from 'an egg guy," and our rice and beans from a different guy.  There are also small fruit stands just about on every street here, so we go there daily for bananas, oranges, & sometimes pineapple (which is unbelievably good by the way).  I've started experimenting with making some local food already.  I make Gallo Pinto (basically rice & beans) and have started trying to make Fresco which is basically fresh fruit juice.  Once we get a blender that will be much easier:).  They do have grocery stores here as well, much smaller than what we're used to and you never quite know what they'll have or not have.  We buy chicken there and other staples & occasional treats like popscicles and some really good local chocolate (a personal life saver on a few evenings:).

Learning how to wash clothes with only a wash machine, cold water, and two clothes lines has taken some getting used to.  Mike installed some more clothes lines so now I can at least hang more than one load of clothes at a time which allows me to do most of our clothes washing on the weekends.  But today (Saturday) is has been raining all day so.....tomorrow hopefully will be laundry day.  Everything is extremely dusty here, the windows are just glass slats that turn up to close so dirt gets in through the doors and windows.  Even just after sweeping and mopping the whole house the floors are already dirty.  So, most of us just wear flip flops in the house (& the boys are getting better at washing their feet more frequently:)

We've thankfully adjusted to noises at night here.  A gift of good ear plugs has made a huge difference,  so I no longer hear the booming base drum of Nica music nor the wailing whistle of some night guard all night long.  We still have the occasional fire works that wake us up at 4:30 am, and lots of street noise during the day, but it seems more normal now.  We're still enjoying exploring different little street vendors and figuring out what they sell and what they're called.  Our favorites so far are Güirilas (like a corn pancake) which they fry on a grill right on street corners, Papusas (little breaded pockets with meat and cheese inside, & Buñuelos (fried Yuka dipped in syrup). 

We did get to go to the beach for the day last weekend which was a huge blessing!  We needed a day to just rest and appreciate some beauty and fun!  The beach is about 3 hours away so good to know we can easily go for a day or the weekend, it was close to 100 there!  Funny to think it is Winter back home, it has been getting warmer here usually mid-70s to 80s.  March and April are supposed to be the hotter months and then the rainy season will start in June.

Please know we think of friends and family often back home and hope you all are doing well.   We hope whatever you are doing & wherever you are, you feel God's love and peace in your lives, we'd love to know more about what you are up to.  Feel free to send us an email or any questions you have for us.

Peace & Blessings Be With You All,
The Muellers

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