Kickin' it in Casa

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wow... it's been a while

Well... I started out faithful... and ambitious. I wanted to keep up to date. As you can tell by the date, I failed. But, I am willing to try again. If you are someone who actually still checks, just in case Stacy gets her act together and starts writing again, thank you, and today you will be rewarded!

What a year. It has truly flown by. (As an English teacher, I know you are not supposed to end sentences with prepositions, but there really is no other way to say the aforementioned fact.) From coaching to classwork, from advising the freshman class and students government to my parents coming for a visit, I have had a lot to keep me busy. Maybe I will eventually write more in depth about these experiences, but for now I will simply say that breaks are nice. Seeing my friends and family in the States is always a pleasure. Though I am eager to return to the country and friends I have come to love, vacation and rest are tres good! I have enjoyed swimming and "tanning" at the beach, watching Harry Potter at the midnight showing, and hanging out with friends and family. I look forward to more of the same until I return home.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lasagna and Laughter

I never knew freshmen girls could be so funny.

Last night, I had the pleasure of hosting dinner for the freshmen class officers. Since our president, the only male on staff, could not make come, we enjoyed a night of estrogen. And oh, the conversation. From cockroaches that make us scream, to one student telling about childhood larks pretending to be Tarzan (she tied rope around her waist and jumped from the second floor in her house only to have the rope come untied), I laughed at their stories for two straight hours. Between the laughter and the lasagna and cake, our stomachs were in crisis by the end of the night. But, the pain was worth it. These girls really opened up and showed me who they are.

Laughter is good. Laugher shared is even better.

Thursday, October 26, 2006



... Such a small word...

... Such a huge ordeal...

This past weekend, the freshman class and I, with the help of parent volunteers, put together a f'tour for the entire freshman class, plus any family members who wanted to come. To give you an idea, just in case you do not know, "f'tour" is the Arabic word for "breakfast." And that is exactly what it is. Breakfast. Since this is the month of Ramadan, food is not eaten from the time the sun first rises to the second it sets. So f'tour is quite literally the breaking of the fast.

Most of the students do not wake up in time to eat the first meal of the day. That would mean waking up before 5 o'clock in the morning, and what teenager do you know that does that? Starving beats fatigue. Except for the fact that the students are fatigued anyway. For starters, they are not eating all day. They also stay up late at night to have dinner. Yes, that's right. Breakfast at the setting of the sun. A few hours later... dinner. Anyway, the point is, that by sunset, our teenage kiddos are near starving. Ravenous young men and women.

So, there must be plenty of food at f'tour. To run out is h'shuma, or "shameful." And, oh, how these kiddos can eat. I have been to a few f'tours. Food is gone in fifteen minutes. Pancakes. Cookies. Soup. Pastries. Dates. Milk. Juice. Water. Figs. Little, bite-sized meat pies. Small, individual pizzas. Hard-boiled eggs. Salt. Sugar. Bread. Meat. Overflowing the tables.

How does one feed an entire freshman class of 32 students, plus potentially their families? One asks for help. Beaucoup de help. Each student was asked, by their class officers, to volunteer to bring an item of food. An item of food in the large quantities needed to feed everyone. It is always a risky thing to ask students to remember and be responsible for something this important. You can remind them. You can threaten them. You can offer extra credit. But, you still have to trust them. And, when the day of the f'tour comes and you have one jug of water, three liters of milk, one kilo of cookies and one kilo of dates, you get a little stressed. Okay, I'll be honest. You get A LOT stressed.

The day wears on... still no more food.

Then school ends. F'tour is at 5:56. School ends at 3:10. I go to the gym. There sits two of my four class officers and one other freshman student. I learn that one of my officers went home sick. We begin to work. Luckily for us, one of my class officers has a grandmother who runs the school cafeteria. She let us borrow plates, silverware, tablecloths, and other beautiful decorations. Candles were put on every table. A carpet lined the entryway. Ten tables with paper placemats. A center table with flowers and candles and food. Or, at least there was supposed to be food. Though we had acquired a bit more food, most of it had gone onto separate tables because they are a must for all people to have within their reach at all times. Our middle table still needed the necessary soup, bread, pastries, pancakes, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

And then, at about 5:35, my kiddos began coming, with food in hand. First, we got the eggs. Then, the coffee. Then some pastries. Then more pastries. Then pizzas. Then more pizzas. Then cookies. Then more cookies. And just when we had about five minutes left, the soup arrived. I don't know why I worry. God always provides. And, my kiddos impressed me. They remembered and provided the items we so desparately needed to make it work. The room looked gorgeous and the students and families were able to sit down with one another and feast.

I mean, really feast. We ate and ate, and talked, and then ate some more.

We also had a couple little games to play which the youngins enjoyed, especially since the prizes were always candy. (I know, the parents loved us.)

All in all it was a success. My kiddos even admitted to having a good time. They were smiling and were pleasantly full.

...And my heart, too, was smiling and was pleasantly full.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bunny Tails

When I was in fourth grade, I vowed never to cut my hair too short to be in a ponytail ever again. Get a trim, yes, but cut, no. This is the reason my mother no longer cuts my hair. A little from this side, a little from that. Oh, but it's not even. A little more from this side, a little more from that side. I hated it. It was so short and I had an unruly, curly mess on my head, that I could not even get out of my face.

So, three months ago when I decided it would be a good idea to donate my hair to Locks of Love, I must have had a legally insane moment. To obtain the required amount of hair, at least ten inches, my hair was cut to just below my ears. Aaaagh! Too short to put in a ponytail.

I have tried everything. Half ponytails, bobby pins. My hair is to short to put back. The only thing that seems to work is to put my hair in pigtails, which just begs the nickname "Pippy Longstockings."

About a week ago, I was overjoyed. It went into a ponytail. Now, let me explain this ponytail. I can only fit about half of my hair into the ponytail. The rest gets bobbypinned. And, the hair that goes into the ponytail is only about an inch long. One may think I am exaggerating. I am not. Anyway, I was so happy, I bragged to all my friends (who just laughed) and all my classes. I bragged to the youth group and to the volleyball team. It is a memorable event to finally have hair the length of a kind-of-ponytail.

Well, after "bragging" about my hair to everyone, life just went on. Until about three days later, when at a volleyball game. I had my hair in a "ponytail" and was sitting on the bench next to one of my players, talking about the game, when all the sudden she started laughing. I looked at her, confused, and she pulled on the "ponytail," and said, "You have a bunny tail!"

I have graduated... from Pippy... to Bunny Tails.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Our first volleyball tournament.

So... We had our first volleyball tournament this weekend. What a trip!

To get to the school where the volleyball tournament was located, we had to somehow manage to chorale eighteen high school students and four chaperones onto a train. After traveling for an hour on the train, we then had to find those same eighteen students and check them into a hotel. Now one would think that a hotel could find a way to get us all in the same area of the hotel. Or maybe at least the boys in one area and the girls in another. One would think. Instead, the boys were spread out across two floors, and though the girls were mostly located in one hallway on the first floor, a couple of girls were also on the third floor. And we, we being the female chaperones, were also located on the first floor, right near the entrance of the hotel.

So much for sleep.

After checking into the hotel, we were bussed to the school to play our first set of games. The boys played first. Though they played well, and can really hit the ball!!!, they ended up losing their first match. The girls played right after and was able to win. We then took a break for f'tour. Since it is Ramadan, and none of the kiddos are eating until sundown, we needed to take this break. Oh my, how fast the food disappears. No lie, within ten minutes, the food was gone, and the cafeteria was cleared out. That ten minutes, however, gave us a chance to talk (between huge bites of pancakes and soup), and laugh... a lot. So much that one of my kiddos nearly spit her water all over all of us. And, I was called a trouble-maker. Can you imagine? All I did was throw a water bottle cap at a student at another table. (Don't worry, it was a student from our school.)

Full of food and energy, the kids all had one more game left. Boys again lost, but the girls again won.

The other thing about being Ramadan is that the kids then need to eat dinner. Ordering pizza, walking to nearby shops and bakeries... kiddos everywhere. By this time it was after ten o'clock. I was exhausted, but like I said, so much for sleep.

Finally, at about one o'clock in the morning, we had the kids all in their separate rooms and somewhat quiet. But, we had to make sure they stayed in their rooms and stayed quiet. Luckily for us, the guy at the front desk told us that if he saw any action, he would let us know. And he did. As soon as he saw our kids leaving their rooms, he told us. Fortunately there was only one student who tried and the problem was quickly rectified.

On to the next day. One more round of play and then the finals. Our boys lost both games they played on Saturday. They again played well and were fun to watch, but in the end, could not pull it together to win. The girls also lost the first game. It is a very frustrating thing to know that we have the potential to beat teams, and yet we lose. We have beat this team before, and yet still lost. Even though we lost the first game, however, we were still able to make it into the championship game.

What a great game. We were playing the best three out of five. We won the first set. The other team won the second. We came back and played really hard and had no problem beating them in the third set. And then we lost the fourth by just a couple of points. It all came down to the fifth set. Now, in all the other sets, we play until a team reaches 25, a point being made on each play. In the fifth set, we play to 15. Talk about tension. We played until a team reached 8 and then switched sides. Then both teams were tied at 12. Then both teams were tied at 13. The ball just kept switching sides. They won the fourteenth point. 14-13. Very critical. If they make it, they win. And my girls were very stressed. I could see it in their faces and eyes. So stressed, that the tension got the better of them and we ended up losing by one two points in the fifth set. My girls were devastated. No water and no food. And we lost. We were a mess. Yet, we still came away with second place, which is still really great.

After being recognized for second place, we headed home. Very few seats on the train on the way back, so many of us were stuck between compartments where we sat on our bags and talked (or played PSP).

All in all, I would say it was a successful trip. The times shared helped me bond with the kiddos even more. To celebrate a win. To comfort a loss. To laugh around "breakfast" food. To laugh together in the rooms at night. To talk... and listen... between games. To talk... and listen... on the train. To build these relationships. This is what it is all about.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Of Bruises, Beaches, and Burns

So I think I decided to make it a goal just to see how many small, stupid pains I could inflict upon myself.

First of all, I played volleyball with my girls. Let's just say it's been a while. After an hour and a half of practice, bumping, setting, and attempting to spike, my arms had turned a pretty shade of purple. I am trying not to think about the fact that none of the actual players had bruises.

Then, the whole high school went to the beach. What a great day of interaction! Students intermingled and cliques were almost nonexistant for the entire day. We played volleyball, soccer, American football, and went swimming. It was wonderful to just be able to relax with the kids and have the opportunity to see how they are outside of the "schoolwork" setting.

Yet, with me, playing volleyball, soccer, and American football means really playing. Diving for a volleyball that is headed for the dirt (especially after one of my kiddos told me I was lazy... I sure showed him! ... with a shirt and a mouth full of sand...). Trying to tackle someone about to make a touchdown. Stepped on toes, bruised arms and knees. I decided I needed a short break. How about laying out in the sun!!! Great idea Stace. Except that you have very white, sensitive skin. The burn wasn't that bad, I guess. Just a few days of my skin being as red as a skittles bag.

Oh well. C'est la vie!

And then I thought it was over. Surely one week was all the small pains I needed for the year. No. My girls have made sure that at every volleyball practice, I come out with another minor injurie. First, I ran into a girl trying to smash the ball over the net. My thumb was so jammed that half of my hand was a pretty dark purple. I thought for a while it may be broken. Then, at the next practice, my knees turned the same pretty purple after I decided to dive for a ball. And, as if that was not enough, later, one of my girls served the volleyball right into my back. Obviously, we still have a lot to learn (like where the net is!).

Anyway... a lot of rambling. Little point.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A New Year

A new year. New students. New classes. New classroom. New information to give these students. New responsibilities.

High school. Freshman class advisor. Assistant volleyball coach.

New is scary. New is exciting. New gives the chance to start over and also to learn. And learning I am. From where to seat certain students to history facts. For example, did you know that on Nov. 8, 1910 a man alarmed friends, neighbors and the medical world as a business deal tickled his fancy so much that he nearly died of laughter? That's right, "S.H. Schrapp conned a local farmer into believing that a shaved-tail horse was actually a mule. The farmer bought the tale and the horse, much to the amusement of the tongue-in-cheek Schrapp, who began to smirk. The smirking turned to chuckles, the chuckles to giggles, until finally he was convulsed by laughter." He laughed for twelve hours straight until finally, a doctor "applied a heavy electrical shock to Schrapp and suddenly the laughter stopped." Found in a book full of newspaper articles from the twentieth century, I must admit, after reading it, I thought I might need a little electrical shock therapy!

The first week of school has been a whirlwind, and I am sure the year will be likewise. I am looking forward to the year, however, with excitement. I look forward to building relationships with my students, to growing as a professional, and to experiencing God in new ways.

I am glad life is full of new. New breeds growth.