goodbyes.

Where do I start? When we first decided to go volunteer and got in touch with Emily, it seemed like the time would never come to actually go. We arrived in Roatan towards the end of June with the hot tarmac greeting us on one side and the blue sea on the other. I was scared; WHAT IF the kids didn’t like me or WHAT IF if it was hard to live in a compound with 8 other people or WHAT ABOUT the money we’d be spending living in Roatan but still paying rent and all the bills back home too? I was excited; I get to love 60 children who have so little and it’s an island and also I’m with my favorite Morgan on another adventure. I felt like we were doing what we were supposed to do.

So with all these thoughts, we started school and it was amazing. Little (and not so little) grubby hands reached for us every morning and sweaty heads of black hair rested on our necks every lunch hour. Our arms were pulled to go play memory and swing and play Bingo, Spanish of course. We were gifted with beautiful white smiles and pouts and kisses and “will you please stay here” every day. On the tough days, we hugged more and loved more and tried to make the “Miss Chey, mom beat me this morning” seem far away from the safety of us and the school. We learned how to play the steel drums and how to sing the Honduras national anthem and how to eat weird fruits the kids brought.

Home became our Mango Tree House with our compound family. The nights we didn’t have power we would lament the loss of our little fan but those nights were the best to hear cicadas outside our window and see the bats swooping by our supper table and listen to the geckos talking to each other on the wall. We had the joy of washing clothes in a bucket outside and sponge showering with a gallon pitcher and never tiring of the stories Miss Valerie would tell us as we sat around the table after supper. She’s amazing, by the way. She had so much good advice for us on lots of different topics and without knowing it, she helped me see sides of situations from her own experiences.

And suddenly it was over and we had to say goodbyes to the dearest children and leave them in the hands of God. We think life is uncertain here in our little worlds and it is. But it seems so much more uncertain there in Honduras where drugs are everywhere and morals and values have disappeared and food and a bed are rare things. The week before we left, the municipal had taken a bulldozer and literally pushed illegal “squatters” houses into a pile leaving the families homeless and with nothing. There are very few laws enforced but those people had lived on the municipal’s land for years and now they decided to enforce it. One of my darling children’s house had been there and the look in their eyes when they returned to school after missing several days was just so sad. Even their houses can disappear.

So now I am back in my air-conditioned house in a first-world country where I can buy anything I desire. My house will not be bulldozed while I’m at Target. My pantry is full of food (Note: don’t leave potatoes in your pantry while you’re gone for several months) and when our car gives out we can get another one. Don’t lose perspective, friends.

After being home 15 hours, Morgan left last night with Dad Kevin for the week to go work with Uncle Galen hauling the 747 plane away from the Burning Man festival in Nevada again. So I am having coffee and eating fresh peaches and looking at the mess that is my house and being sad that I am not starting another week at school on the edge of the Swamp in Honduras. I am, however, an officially certified scuba diver so if you need me, I will be in a pool pretending I’m still in that beautiful ocean. Have a good Labor Day everyoneā™”

diving.

Last Saturday morning Morgan was at a 5K run that some of the school kids were running in. I went with Mathew and Jane to Coconut Divers where Mathew is starting to do odd jobs in exchange for free dives. He is 13 and starting his open water certification so I thought I’d go along and maybe dive in the morning since I haven’t yet. I talked to the owner, Gaye, and she stuck me with Mathew so the next 3 Saturdays I’m going to be diving in the Caribbean baby! I’ll be Open Water Certified then which means I can dive anywhere in the world without an instructor. I’m really excited to be doing it. Morgan says he’d rather fish! So Saturday I spent the day underwater and it was glorious. Its absolutely astounding how many little tiny pieces of the ocean that God put there. The tiniest piece of seaweed was actually a pipefish. On the ocean floor clinging to a small stone was a flamingo tongue snail. We saw a big rainbow parrot fish. I remember the book The Rainbow Fish that I loved reading when I was little and the parrot fish reminded me of that book for some reason. We finished the dives around 4 and I went home and slept!

Sunday morning we slept in and listened to Alex&Bethanys wedding. We had an early lunch before we all headed off to Bananarama for the afternoon. It was a beautiful day and the water was clear. Some days its murky because of currents so I always hope when we’re there it will be clear and calm! Morgan and I went snorkeling just off the beach close to where we swim and actually saw a spotted eagle ray that we followed for awhile. They are beautiful. We also saw a four foot long “baby” reef shark! They are very rare to see on the west side of the island. We hadn’t seen either of those things yet so it was really neat to see them so close to where we swim! We met more people at crab races in the evening, lots of Canadians this time.

Tuesday the 13th we had a rough day at school with sad kiddos to hug and lots of science fair preparation. We got home and decided to go on a date and eat sushi. We got to Bambu and found out it was 2 for the price of 1 which we made use of! Wednesday after school we went to Eldons for groceries and made quesadillas for supper because it was too hot to make anything else. Except I made no bake cookies for the little neighbor boys quick because I feel bad for them. Thursday evening we were just home. It’s been more humid than usual I think and between that and science fair prep everyone is tired after school. I saw a cockroach run from under the fridge and we just watched it because maybe it will die in the heat while we watch haha.

Friday was finally science fair!! So much prep and the kids had to memorize the different parts and do their experiments for the judges that walked around. It went really well so Monday the winners will be announced. Grades 1 and 4 hopefully!

Saturday mathew and I went to the dive shop at 8 again to start our second day of diving. Sam had us watch 2 hours of videos and do quizzes before we went to the water to practice skills. Morgan came and had lunch with us and then went to rent a car after lunch. Mathew and I went on our dive in the afternoon. It was terribly windy so visibility was bad in the water and we had a bunch of skills to do on the surface in open water so that was crazy trying to fight the wind and currents and 3 foot waves the whole time. I thought I was going to get seasick but luckily didnt. It was a short dive so we didnt get to swin around and see much. We got back to the shop at 4 and morgan picked us up in the rental car.

This morning morgan and I went to Bean Crazy, this really cool little coffee place, for breakfast. Then we headed out in the car for the East end of the island! We called in Daniel and Sara’s wedding while we drove except when the service was spotty. It’s only a 35 mile long island but the road is dirt and curvy and sometimes wide enough for 5 cars and sometimes your mirrors hit weeds on both sides of the path. It took us about 2 hours to get to the end of the road and it was a neat drive! The farther east you go the less people and the more wild it gets. We stopped at a little tiny place over the water to eat lunch and drove through a couple little villages to look around. After we got home we went swimming in west end and then had supper here. The lady on our yard is raising money to take her baby to the specialist in san pedro sula so she made a bbq lunch and we had valerie buy them for us and put them in the fridge so we had that for supper! Listened into Pincher tonight which I miss dearly all the time. We come home in 13 days!! We are so excited and ready to be back in our houseā™” also we are planning to go to Kansas the last week of September with Dillons and hopefully Mom so looking forward to that too! Have a good week!

prayer.

Last Saturday morning we did laundry and around noon we took Jaz and Mathew and went to Bojangles for lunch. Then we walked to West End and spent the afternoon snorkeling in Half Moon Bay. There is an old submarine sunk there that we swam out to and there used to be a big boat you could swing off of into the water but they took it out now for some reason. We went for gelato later and took the water taxi to Bananarama to drop off the kids with their mom Jane. We ended up swimming there for awhile. Mathew came home with us and we all relaxed the rest of the afternoon. Morgans phone got stolen so that’s unfortunate but he got a temporary replacement here so anyone that needs him can text me for now. We made supper at the house and played games all evening with Mathew. It was so much fun spending the day with the kids!

Sunday morning we went to Megapaca to look for bargains. Valerie dropped us off at eldons on the way home to get groceries and we got back to the compound just in time to get ready and go to the beach with everyone. Spent the day in the water and snorkeled again. Best thing ever. Selling crabs for the crab race is also fun. We like talking to all the people and seeing where they are from. Some evenings it’s slow and sometimes someone will buy $100 worth of crabs. It seems like people realize they have spent $5,000 on a big family vacation so they want to give to feel like they are helping the world somehow so they buy crabs or even give cash. It’s awesome. And since morgan and I are there we can talk to them and let them know the money IS going directly to the kids.

Last Friday, the 2nd, we had a normal day at school. Mostly. So Valerie’s office is the safe place at school where people leave their phones and stuff because her and Miss Jessica are usually right there and they’ve never had a problem with anything getting stolen. (Miss Jessica is the mom of 3 schoolboys and a daughter and also the paid cook/cleaner at school.) Lots of people walk through the office though like other moms, the water guy, Mr. Gary to fix the pipes, etc. So I left my phone in the office Friday annnnnd it got taken. I went to get it after lunch and my case and cards were there but the phone was gone. We had a giant search to see if it was around school and of course it wasn’t. I felt awful because I hadn’t meant for it to be a temptation for anyone and of course Morgans phone had been stolen already so I was pretty bummed. We went home and prayed about it and figured it was already at its new home. For TGIF supper we bought fresh shrimp from the street and made that and garlic bread and Valerie cooked lobster tails. It was so amazing. After jane got off work she stopped in and talked for a while. She is a darling. Anyways she got a call from Miss Jessica so Valerie called her back and Miss Jessica said she had found my phone! So I was excited but didnt want to get my hopes too high.

Saturday morning Valerie and we picked up Miss Jessica and her daughter and got the whole story before driving to the fiscal. Miss Jessica’s daughter had stopped at school and brought a friend and the friend had taken my phone and sold the SD card to one person and the phone to a pawn shop in the Swamp. So Miss Jessica had gone all over talking to people who’d tried to buy the phone but the shop had been asking too much so finally she figured out which shop it was so she went and explained and got my phone back and the SD card. It really was an answered prayer. Since the girl had sold it so fast in the Swamp, it was easy for Miss J to find it. So we went to the fiscal so Valerie could file a police report and we definitely found out how the police here operate. They wanted to confiscate my phone while Valerie filed the report but to get phone back I’d have to bring proof that I had bought the phone! Obviously I didnt do that but Valerie says anything that needs police attention has to be done with bribes or when a non-corrupt officer is working which is rare. This wasn’t a big deal but I cant imagine how frustrating it is for Valerie to deal with the police here when she files against parents beating their kids or rape cases. So we rewarded Miss J by taking her shopping. She is a single mom and her boys all have problems with their legs growing properly. They are amazing kids and have a really long walk to school on their little crippled legs and Miss J is quite poor so we figured groceries would be best! Christian is the youngest and in 4th grade and enough money has been raised by Valerie’s friends that he can now get surgery before he is totally crippled! Very exciting for them! Anyways Miss J told us we can come over and she’ll make us chicken feet and beans in her little shack so that will be so fun.

After the whole fiscal and grocery morning, Valerie dropped Morgan and I off at a resort where we had booked a room to spend Saturday and Sunday nights to celebrate our anniversary abit early. Our room had a nice bed (the one we have now is terrible at best) lovely sea views, a kitchenette, and air conditioning. We turned the AC on and breathed in that cold beautiful air the entire two days. We relaxed in the pool mostly and went snorkeling one afternoon. Theres a VW bus you can snorkel out to that’s 25 feet underwater so we went and checked that out of course haha super cool! We saw a puffer fish and a bunch of squid that look like little rockets and are amazing to watch. We went and got massages one morning and I spent some time getting stuff set back up on my phone. I still am in awe we got it back. God truly answers prayers for the small things.

Monday morning our relaxation came to an end and we caught a collectivo back to school to start another week. We are hitting science fair hard this week. Emily hasn’t been feeling well for a couple days so I have been teaching these 24 adorable children mostly alone. It is so awesome to watch them come to trust Morgan and I and I am so attached to some of them. Teaching them has been a delight but goodness is it different from our schools. It makes me thankful for our private schools! Last night after supper we took a walk out on the beach behind our house and watched locals play football and looked at hermit crabs and watched the sunset. This is the tiniest one so far!

Today after school we went and snorkeled for a couple hours in West Bay and then got baleadas supper from a little street food place. $8 for two meals and two drinks! We saw a lobster today and another puffer fish. I watch for moray eels because they’re disgusting but so far haven’t seen one even though they are rumored to be all over out here. I love how much more comfortable I am in the ocean since we’ve been here. My first time scuba diving 5 years ago or so I was scared and watched for sharks the whole time. Now I dont even think about it and I actually swim down to get closer to the lobster so I can see it better. I’m going to miss the snorkeling the most. My skin has gone through various stages of peeling from being in salt water all the time. It’s disgusting but also weirdly great because I dont get this chance very often to just swim in the Caribbean every day.

So that’s our week! Oh another thing. A HUGE SHOUTOUT to Farwell, Texas, for sending some of their Bible School money here to Charmont School where we are! They sent enough to buy meals for the school for two weeks and the kids were very excited! If anyone else is interested in helping, let me know. These children have so little. Our twins from the street haven’t been to school for 3 days and we dont know why or where they are or how to help so remember us and this little place in your prayers tonite. Thanksā™”

abroad.

Our time here is flying by which is ironic because nothing moves fast on the island. Every day I wake up and cant believe we have already been here almost a month. Saturday the 6th Jane, Jemel, Morgan and I met one of Jane’s friends who has a boat and spent the day out on the water. It was such a good day. We went to a couple snorkel spots where there were so many fish we literally swam in clouds of them. We saw a turtle that came floating up by us and a bunch of bigger fish instead of the smaller type. I was nervous because when I’d just stay still and float, those bigger fish would come attack my fingers. The captain took us through the mangrove trees which are pretty much the coolest thing ever. Please go read this! https://www.conservation.org/ They are amazing trees and Roatan is full of them. They house many fish and sharks that use the underwater roots as a nursery. We docked for lunch and went to Omar’s which is island food like rice and beans, plantains, and chicken. It was a great day!

Last week I had very little to report on since I came down with some disgusting virus and spent three days at the house sick. Its commonly called the “Roatan Runs” if that tells you anything. Apparently it’s a parasite that eventually makes its rounds. It was very discouraging to watch everyone leave every morning and just feel like I was wasting precious time. Ah well. By Friday afternoon I was feeling a little better.

Saturday morning at 5 Morgan went out in the rain and went fishing with Nigel. It was just the two of them and Nigel had Morgan drive the boat while he organized fishing stuff. They caught ten tuna and Morgan had a blast because it was so laid back. We have been having tuna now and it is amazzzing. Later we went swimming at Caribe Tesoro and had lunch on the deck overlooking the water. It was nice to be out of the house finally and see people and just take it easy and recuperate in the sun. Sunday morning we went with Ms Valerie, Jazmin, and Hayley to Megapaca where I scored a black dress for school. Yay! We were at the store for 2 hours because Ms Valerie buys for anyone who needs anything so it takes a long time. We were rewarded with lunch at Bojangles which has AC and cold coke. On the way home we drove by the dump where the fire has been burning for 6 months. I think in my first post I said a month but it’s actually been 6! Anyways along the road we drive on to school they have been making a massive hole in the side of a hill just scraping out truckloads of dirt and when we drove by the dump we figured out why. All that dirt has now covered the enormous dump with a thin layer that has put the fire out and got rid of the smell so that’s great. Now they’ll start dumping trash somewhere else on the island.šŸ™„ one of my best things to do is just drive around on the island. You never know what you will see or come across and it’s beautiful and just so interesting.

This week with exams over at school, we are now focusing on science fair. School days are getting into a rhythm for us. I have reading class with any of grades 1-4 and do spelling with them. Sometimes I read for story hour and occasionally Emily has me teach a class on division or whatever. For science fair I’m in charge of 1st and 4th grades and Emily is taking 2nd and 3rd. For 1st we are doing the water cycle and with 4th an exploding lemon. I’m slowly learning more island creole because the kids think it’s great fun to teach the gringo how to speak it. Every day I get many grimy hugs from any amount of children and it makes everything else worth it. This place and these kids have a way of just coming into your heart and making themselves at home. Today for the first time I sent a student to the office and it was so hard to because I KNEW she was fighting other demons and just acting out. So later I went and just had some time where she sat on my lap and we talked and she cried because life has hurt her so much. I cried too because it’s not fair for an innocent child to have experienced life this way. Obviously as a teacher I dont have favorites but this little girl ,who is loved only by the people at our school, has me wrapped around her finger. She tries to be tough but then she is just a little girl again and you understand why she acts how she does. So I just love her as much as I can because so few people do. Morgan has started a club at the request of Ms Valerie so every Friday for home ec the older boys and Morgan meet and discuss things like how to respect women because theres a big issue with that here. They talk about relationships, respect, and basically how to be a decent person. Alot of the boys really look up to Morgan. One of the evening’s I called in the teachers prep in Macon. Mom was giving a couple talks there and I wanted to listen but was never home when she was giving them but I managed to hit some other inspiration.

Last night we went out for supper to the place Emily works in West End. We met ms Ashley there, the teacher Morgan is helping with middle grades. She is originally from Virginia but has lived here for two years. Had a good time getting to know her better and eating shrimp pasta. Tonight was TGIF supper so we made fish and potatoes and Ms Valerie made savory chicken broccoli crepes and Jaz made Tres Leche cake for dessert. There was a breeze so no mosquitoes which is important to note. It was a good way to end the week!

week two.

Sunday the 30th of June was our first Sunday here. We called in church in the morning. Around one, Megan, another volunteer here from Red Deer, and Jane’s daughter Jazmine took us to West End and showed us around there. There are lots of dive shops and West End and West Bay are where the tourists go since it’s the nicest part of the island. There are little cute restaurants and shops and a couple of the long term volunteers here work in West End on weekends. You dont need a visa to work here necessarily if you find someone looking for help. If you speak English some of the places will hire you on the spot. We ate these huge banana pancakes for lunch and watched people. Then Megan and Jaz headed home and Morgan and I took a darling little water taxi over to West Bay because it’s the fastest way to get there. When were on the boat we skim along over turquoise water and we can see the whole coast of the island rimmed with palm trees and fronds and white beaches.

The water taxi takes you and just randomly docks on the sand wherever you need to go so he dropped us off at Bananarama. Bananarama is a resort that all of us go to every Sunday at 1 or 2 ish. We spend the day there swimming and this last Sunday we went snorkeling which was crazy! We saw lots of angelfish and any number of all kinds of beautiful bright fish. Then at 5:00, Miss Valerie and two of us go around and start selling hermit crabs for the crab race. The crabs have numbers on their shells and people pay and pick out the crab they want in the race. At 6 or so the crab race starts and it usually has quite a big crowd. Matthew (Jane’s son) makes a big circle with the rake, someone dumps the crabs, and they race to the outer circle. The money raised goes to buy baby formula for the clinic. Its an interesting evening!

School here is 5 days a week, 9-2:30. I work in Grades 1-4 and Morgan works in Grades 5-9. We teach students one on one alot and help do art or whatever needs to be done. Lunch is always vegetarian so on Mondays its bean soup, tuesday is meatless spaghetti, Wednesday is rice and beans, Thursday is mac and cheese and Friday is baleadas which are my favorite. Friday afternoons they have gym so we walk a mile to a little enclosed football field where we play games and have relays and play football. Wednesday’s is music so another ex pat, Miss Deborah, comes and leads them in singing. They are so cute! This is exam week so there hasn’t been as much for us to work on as there will be in the next month. August 16 is science fair so we will have a busy month! The kids have all warmed up to us already and call us Mr. Morgan and Miss Chey. They hug us when we get to school and when they leave and lots in between.

So we had school Monday, July 1, and it was Canada Day so each class did a small presentation about Canada and we had poor mans poutine for lunch and Canada cupcakes! Wednesday evening, July 3, we went out for sushi with faith, alicia, miss valerie, megan, and a couple guys from South Africa to celebrate Faith’s birthday. Thursday the 4th, Morgan and I got ready when we got home from school and drove out to the Infinity Bay Resort for the evening. They had a big burger bar for the 4th so we actually ate meat for a change and swam in their awesome pool all evening. They had fireworks there later.

Friday the 5th, Morgan and I went in the morning with Miss Deborah who owns Steel Pan Alley where she teaches students to play the steel drums. I didnt know what steel drums were but we got educated for 2 hours. She gave the lessons to us for free since we are volunteering and it’s too bad each steel drum costs 1500 or more so we wont be getting those. Haha. I turned out to be a natural at them and Morgan did too. A steel drum is the bottom of an oil drum heated until soft and shaped into a deep bowl. Then a tuner guy uses a hammer to pound all the different notes. It takes hours to get each note on the correct tone. Anyways the 5 senior kids learning to play taught us 3 different songs so it was worth it! I like learning the history and what makes an island so the steel drums were awesome! After school Morgan and I had a date at Eldons. Our favorite thing to do is to go to Eldons Grocery and shop in the only air conditioning we get and drink slurpees. Eldons is a very clean store and Eldon actually owns half the island I’m told. He was in there this time so we went and met him. Most people here know Miss Valerie so when we say were volunteering with her they all know who she is. We went home and made food for T.G.I.F. they call it which is us all here at the compound having supper together on the deck since we do our own thing the rest of the week nights. It’s a very fun evening just relaxing and talking and swapping stories.

We had a good weekend mostly just relaxing. We are getting into the groove of island and go to bed early and are up with the sun. The dogs start a neighborhood howl several times in the night and the rooster wakes us every morning and the wind comes through our windows and we can hear the palm fronds rustling by the window. Several nights there has been lightning and thunder so we fall asleep to the rain. Our windows and doors dont close so we always have various animals wandering through or laying on the porch and ants and cockroaches try to live with us. I punched a cockroach with my bare hand the other day so I’m pretty proud of myself. We ride in the collectivos with the locals and refuse to pay “tourist price” when the taxi drivers try to rip us off. Morgan walks to the pulperia every few days to get jugs of water because we cant drink from the faucet. Also we cant flush any toilet paper because the island has basically no sewer system so all used t.p. goes in the trash cans. Because of the humidity and salt air, lots of little things break or wear down that we don’t think of at home so Morgan has had to fix different things this week.

Please keep praying for us that we can be a light in the short time we are here. There is so much sadness and hurt on this little island. Nowhere have I been is it more evident than here what humanity is capable of. It breaks my heart. One of the students came through the gate the other morning with the beaten look we are getting to know all too well and when she walked through the gate she just sighed a big sigh and her face changed and she was suddenly just a little girl at school. I love how we are the safe place for them to come be kids and just be loved. It’s the best.

roatan, honduras.

First of all, if you fly to honduras you have 90 days to visit without a visa. If you come without the visa like that, you MUST have an onward flight out of honduras booked so they know you wont overstay the 90 days. That’s what we dealt with in san fran before we could leave. So we bought refundable tickets before we could even check in to leave. We had a red eye flight and arrived in roatan friday at noon. We unloaded on the tarmac with teal ocean on both sides of us and it was glorious. The humidity is high obviously but with a breeze it’s totally workable. Emily, the girl we are living with, picked us up in the school vehicle. The vehicles here are all pretty bad with rust and really full of rattles. The driving isn’t as bad as it was in Rome, but only because there aren’t as many people. There are mostly little motos that people drive crazily around and Emily says there are wrecks every day because people are bad drivers here.We stopped at the grocery store, Eldon’s, and picked up stuff for breakfast and supper for a couple days. The store mostly has everything we’ll need to live but some is super expensive. Cereal is easy so we wanted that but a box of Capn Crunch was 300 lempira or about 12 USD so we passed. Then we stopped at a gas station for lunch. The gas stations here have medicine and cosmetics and are like a tiny walmart basically. They also have made to order “island food” and that consists of meat empanadas and baleadas. Baleadas are floppy flour tortillas with beans and crema and salty cheese in them and they are honestly insane. Three of them and a coke cost $3 USD so that’s definitely going to be a regular! We met a native islander man named Alex who has lived in Quebec and San Diego. He thinks the Quebec French are snobs and is interested with the name Cheyenne, as are other islanders we’ve met. They’ve never heard that name and several have commented on it. Driving back to the compound was rough curvy road and honking motos and green tropical trees and brush beside the road with glimpses of water. There was also smoke which Emily says comes from their island dump that’s been on fire for a couple weeks. They burn it because what else can they do so the smoke stinks terribly and honestly the environmental hazard it causes is crazy. Luckily we dont live near it.We are living with Emily who is from Leduc, Alberta, and has been here 3 years. She’s my age I think. There are 3 houses that make up the compound and are all painted bright colors and joined by wooden deck. Our house has 2 little rooms, a bathroom, a tiny kitchen with a stove and tiny fridge and no cupboards, a cat named Shadow who’s adopted my suitcase as home, and three geckos that sit on the livingroom wall and chatter. There is no AC anywhere here except Eldons Grocery so I may get a job there. Our room has a little fan at least. Valerie, the director who’s probable early 60s, lives in another house with 1 of 14 of her adopted children, and Jane, Valerie’s daughter is in the third house with her 2 children. Valerie is the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. I will write about her more later. Morgan and I slept for abit outside with our chairs facing the water and the breeze. We met two other girls from Nebraska who are here for 3 weeks volunteering as well. Every Friday night here at the compound is potluck so Valerie made vegetarian lasagna and I made cucumber tomato salad and the girls brought fried squash so we had a good supper and made new friends. A thunderstorm came through that sent us inside and valerie told us a bunch about the school kids and different situations. Oh my. As I listened I wondered what we’d got ourselves into. It’s honestly overwhelming. The 60 children in this school are picked by valerie as the children who are the most in need whether it be because of AIDS, a no income family, or sexual and physical abuse. There are 180 on the waiting list for the school. Most of the children have lost at least one parent or sibling to AIDS and many live with another family member, mostly a grandma, etc. because of the effects of cocaine on their moms or dads. Many of them have had terrible abuse sexually or physically so Valerie is super excited that Morgan is here to be a positive male figure in the school and these childrens lives. Some of the children have watched a family member get killed while they hid behind a couch. It is just so hard to hear. We just feel so inadequate to be here to help these children so please pray that we can shine for Jesus and they can see Him in us.

This school runs only on the goodwill donations of random people. It costs $200 a week to feed the 60 students breakfast, oatmeal or cereal, and lunch, baleadas, spaghetti, etc. They rely on donations for books, supplies, etc. so we brought a suitcase full of notebooks, a wall clock, etc. that they needed. Some of the kids dont eat over the weekend and their meals come strictly from the school. Each of the children is also sponsored and if they cant be paid for by someone they just cant come to school so they are constantly looking for donations and ways for the kids to make money. If any of you are still in Vacation Bible School, valerie has a paypal account that money can be sent too for food for the kids! She herself gives all her money to the cause and lives on so little its astounding. It’s a very good place to give where you would actually see the money at work which is one of the reasons we came here is so we would be directly involved and not just for show, if that makes sense. Headed to bed. Slept amazingly in spite of the chattering geckos. Fell asleep to the sound of rain on the tin roof.I thought I’d do a first day post just to get some of the main stuff written down.

Saturday:

At 10 this morning Valerie took faith, alicia, and us on a tour of the east end of the island. The island from Coxen Hole (named for pirate John Coxen. Most of the towns on the island are named for the pirates that lived here in the 1700s. There were around 5,000 pirates here in the 1700s) east is mostly green jungle on hills with tiny villages here and there. While we drove valerie told us where different of the kids or women she helps live. She is a doula as well as taking care of everything else! Over half of the school children were born at Valerie’s house and lots of them have lived with her for varying amounts of time while stuff was sorted at their homes. We may get a baby at the compound at 2 am or a woman delivering or children. You never know. We had iced coffees at the “mall” and went to Megapaca which is a giant place where they get shipments from Value Village and Goodwill and sell it here super cheap. I scored a pair of basically new Birkenstocks for 10 bucks. Then we went to an iguana farm where they come and go as they please but there are over 4,000 iguanas on 12 acres. They grow to five feet long and I’m very proud to say we all held a smaller one. It sat on morgans head.

We ate at a little chicken place for lunch and stopped at one of Valerie’s clients and looked at jewelry she makes to make money. We got home and napped because humidity is tiring, and had spaghetti for supper outside on the deck. Our house is usually warmer than outside so I think we’ll eat out there lots. The cicadas are in the trees and stray dogs wander in and Jane’s beautiful children come say hi. I like it.