Friday, January 17, 2014

Love. Joy. Faith.

      Love. Joy. Faith.   These three words sum up my life in Bolivia.  Everywhere you looked you could see God’s love. I saw it in the children’s smiles and laughs. I saw it when they were playing and when they were learning. I saw it in the eyes of an elderly woman I visited and in the many people who welcomed us into their families.  I felt love everywhere and saw joy everywhere. The children were so happy. A simple soccer ball would bring hours of entertainment.  It brought joy to my heart just by being with these children. My faith in God grew down there and helped me get through rough times.  It deepened my faith.

       Part of my heart will always be in Bolivia.  Each one of people down there has stolen a little piece of it. I realized just how much of my heart is down there when I came home in December. Thankfully I have been giving the opportunity to go back. On Monday, I will be heading back to Bolivia for another school year there.  The 15.5 months that I spent down in Bolivia had taught me so much and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to go down to Bolivia and meet them as well as having wonderful family and friends up here supporting me.

       When you have love, joy, and faith, what more do you need?

“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

                                                                                                                -Mother Teresa  

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Town Prayers Together

               As many of you know this month is the month of Mary.  In Okinawa, they celebrated this month by saying the rosary in the different neighborhoods and decorating the schools by making little shrines for Mary. Another thing that they did was a walking rosary at 5:15 every morning.  I was shocked to see how many people came to the rosary when it was so early in the morning, and I was even more shocked to see how many kids came to the rosary.
                They had different groups lead the rosary each morning. We, the volunteers, had a turn as well. On our day, we put on the speakers on the truck and went around announcing that it is time for the rosary.  We then met everyone at the entrance of Okinawa and went down the one paved road we have in Okinawa.  We led the decades that day, and during the rosary, people would take turns carrying the Mary statue.  The rosary would end at the church with some final songs and prayers. As we would leave the church  the sun would be rising.
                Now I had not made it every morning, but I tried to go when I could.  One day Lorena and I were running a little bit late, so we were just going to try to sneak into the group.  Well one thing you really can’t do is sneak anywhere where there are children around.  Right in the front of the procession were a huge group of kids, and as we approached, they all started to yell “teacher, teacher” because they were excited to see us.  (So much for trying to sneak in. haha.) 
This month showed me another example of just how much prayer brings a community together. It showed me how beautiful prayer is and how beautiful it is when people come together to pray. Prayer helps us find out what God’s will for us is and to help us draw closer to him.  It was definitely a beautiful way to start off the day.   

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Prayer for Rain

                Little over a week ago, I was able to go on a mission trip with the high school seniors. For at least the past couple of years the high school seniors take a mission trip to a community basically in the middle of nowhere, where there are sometimes no running water or electricity.  The students go to these communities to help out in whatever way they can.  One main thing they do while they are there is go to the school and help teach and play with the children at that school.  The goal of this week is teach them to give back and to be role models for the young.  Some of the high school students that go on this trip might be in the same situation as many people in the community that they go to or maybe they are better off, so maybe it will teach them that week to be more thankful for what they have.  This week can make them grow in many ways. 
                I was one of the chaperons for group two.  There were three groups that went to different locations.  Before the students left for this week, they spent many weeks before collecting donations of clothing and food to take out to the different communities.  They also spent time selling snacks at recess to raise some money for this trip.  They collected a lot of donations.  I was surprised at how much they collected. 
When the time finally came for the trip, my group went to a location where we ended up having electricity (well some of us, the boys in their room did not have any) and running water.  We were in a location to be honest was in the middle of nowhere. There was one bumpy and long road that took us to this location.  The community we were at had a school of eighty-six children, and the kids were so excited to have the high school students there. 
Throughout that week, the high school students had to take charge and teach in the classroom.  They had to think of games to play with the kids in the afternoon. They also did cooking and cleaning.  They went around the community handing out clothes.  They slept on the floor and cooked outside.  There was one shower and a couple of bathroom stalls that had not the best toilets. The mosquitoes sometimes where unbearable, but I think this week taught them a lot. It taught me a lot.
The night before we were supposed to leave we were all praying that it would not rain because when we came it had rained that day, and it was so hard to drive on the dirt roads. There were times where people had to get out and push the bus.  We were afraid if we got too much rain we wouldn't be able to leave.  That night we were awoken to a huge thunderstorm with a lot of rain, lightning, and thunder.   It did not look good for us. We decided we needed to stay a little longer and pray that it would stop raining and that the roads would dry up. 
That morning as I was with some of the students at the school, I found out that while we were praying not to have rain, they were praying for the rain.  The kids there did not want to see us leave and they knew if it rained we would have to stay longer, so they prayed to God that it would rain.  This is something that brought tears to my eyes. This just shows how just being there for someone, being present to them can make a difference.  I hope the high school students realized how much of a difference they made on that community.
We did end up leaving that day but not until later. Our four hour drive turned into a seven hour drive on the way home due to us slipping and sliding around and getting stuck, but we did finally make it home.

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world...
as in being able to remake ourselves.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

For one of my blog entries in the near future, I want to answer questions that you might have. So please comment on this, or send me an e-mail ( with your questions, and I will try to answer them. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Bolivian Birthday

           In Bolivia, Birthdays are very special. I was able to celebrate my 23rd Birthday on the 12th here, and it was one of the best Birthdays.  Everyone here made it super special for me, and I will never forget this Birthday.  It was a day full of many surprises and wonderful things.  At the school I teach at, they always start the day with a Good Afternoon Talk. (Elementary School starts at 1:30 in the afternoon with secondary school in the morning.) On my Birthday, the teacher who was giving the talk that day had me come up to the front and the whole school sang Happy Birthday to me in Spanish then English. Over 400 children sang to me along with the teachers.  After the assembly I had kids running up to me giving me hugs and wishing me a Happy Birthday.  During recess, kids went out of their way searching for me to wish me a Happy Birthday. 
               That night we also had mass here. The priest here is a missionary priest from Korea.  When he found out it was my Birthday he sang Happy Birthday to me in Korean, and he also made my Birthday the mass intention that night.  It was very sweet. After mass, we had a Birthday Celebration with the sisters.   There was a cake made by my site partners for me and other goodies.  My site partners really tried to make my day special as well. 

(My Birthday Cake)

My Site Partners and I
(Birthday with the Sisters)
                My night was not over yet.  When I got home, Dona Mery, a woman here in Bolivia who likes to call herself my Bolivian mom came over with a cake that she had made for me.   We all sat and talked for a little while.   My Birthday was truly special, and as I said before it will be one that I will never forget. People here really make your Birthdays special. 
(The Birthday Cake that Dona Mery made for me.)
(Marcos made sure that I did not miss out on the tradition of someone pushing your head into your cake like they do here.)
(Dona Mery and I)

“Peace begins with a smile.”
-Mother Teresa

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Celebra la Vida

            ─░Celebra la vida! Celebrate life in Spanish! There is a song with this title here that I have been playing on repeat.  You might say that I like this song, but what is there not to like about celebrating life? I know for me I can forget sometimes to really celebrate life. I just go on with my daily life and forget to think about how blessed I am, or just how blessed I am to have lived another day.  People here have taught me to really celebrate life.  You do not need a lot of things to be happy.  There are so many things to be happy about.  Life should be a celebration! In our work, we should find happiness, and we should always look at the positives.  There are so many times where we can get caught up on the negatives, that we forget about the positives.    We need to always to remember to celebrate life!
One thing that I am celebrating right now is that school is back in session.  It has been in session now for a month.  I am teaching Pre-K, 1st, 3rd, and 6th grade English, and I have recess duty for both primary and secondary school.  I love being back in the classroom.   The children here are always so excited to see you in and out of the classroom. I do not know how many hugs I get in a day from kids running up to me.  We can learn so much from these kids. Their happiness is a sign of celebration.  There are so many people here who could complain about the way they live, but I have never heard a complaint from anyone here.  Their lives are not easy, yet they always find time to celebrate! 
(First Day of School Picture)
                Another thing that I am celebrating right now is that we have new tires on our truck here.  Our prayers were answered because we can now start to go back out to the rural schools on the outskirts of Okinawa, because we have finally gotten money for new tires on the truck.  We could not go out to the different communities because they were too bad to drive and the sisters did not have money to pay for new tires, but thanks to a donation we were able to get new tires on the truck. This donation came with a priest that Lorena knows from the States who came and visited us for a week.  It was great to have him around.  He is very energetic and just a wonderful person.
                I now have my own group of 28 students for first communion and 20 students for Confirmation.  I hope that I can help them really celebrate their faith and to learn more about what it means to receive the Eucharist and Holy Spirit.   
Remember to always celebrate life!  Celebrate it with all those you are surrounded by!  ─░Celebra la vida!

Below are the lyrics to the song in English:
I do not know if I dreamed,
I do not know if I slept,
and the voice of an angel
Said to tell you:
celebrate life.

Think freely,
help people,
and whatever you want
Fight and be patient.

Carry a light load
cling to anything
Because in this world,
nothing is forever.

Look for a star
To be your guide,
Hurt no one
Spread joy.

Celebrate life, celebrate life,
Because nothing is saved
Everything is shared.
Celebrate life, celebrate life,
second to second and every day.

And if someone cheats
to say "I Love You"
add fuel to the fire
and start again.

Do not let fall
your dreams to the ground
The more you love
The closer you get to heaven

Shout against hate
against lying,
that war is death;
Peace is life.

Celebrate life, celebrate life,
Because nothing is saved
Everything is shared.
Celebrate life, celebrate life,
second by second.

I do not know if I dreamed,
I do not know if I slept,
and the voice of an angel
Said to tell you:
Celebrate life, celebrate life
And leave on earth your best seed
Celebrate life, celebrate life
which is much more beautiful when you look at me.
Celebrate life, celebrate life.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

School is Right Around the Corner

                The school year is almost here! It starts this Monday.  I will be teaching Pre-K, 1st, 3rd, and 6th grade English classes. I will also be helping out at the Japanese School.  I am very excited to meet all my students.  My goal for this school year is not to just teach them English but to help my students grow and to learn who they are. I want to show all my students that they matter. 
                This past weekend we were able to get together with all the other Salesian Lay Missioners in Bolivia for a retreat in Cochabamba.  It was a great time to catch up with everyone and to hear their stories about their site as well as some time for reflection and to refocus again on what our mission here is.  The retreat helped to me to process what I have seen and done so far here. 
                One thing that I learned from all the traveling we did this month was how much of an impact the community of Okinawa has made on me.  Towards the end of traveling, I really started to miss Okinawa. I missed seeing all the kids as well as the adults who have become our friends.  I wanted to come back to the mosquitoes and 90 degree weather just so I could be back with my Okinawa family. I am so glad to be back here in Okinawa!

“No one is born fully-formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are.”
— Paulo Freire

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Traveling in Bolivia

      So we were given the opportunity to do a little bit of traveling this past month due to the fact that things calmed down a little bit, and we got some free time.  Also Sister Nora invited us to come with her to visit her family in the Yungas.  We stayed at her mom’s house.  The Yungas are gorgeous! They are by La Paz in the Mountains. On the way, you are driving in the mountains, and there are waterfalls all along the way.  It was very beautiful.  In the Yungas, Sister Nora’s sister took us hiking, and we got to see many different things in the Yungas.
(A River at the bottom of a mountain that we hiked down to.)
(A View from the Yungas)
(Sister Nora, Alicia, Sister Nora's Mom, Lorena, I, Vivian, & Marcos)
(The Yungas)
                After the Yungas, we went to La Paz, the world’s highest capital, for a day and saw the outside of the Presidential palace and a few other things there.  We then went to Copacabana to see Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest lake and Isla del Sol, which is an island.  After that we went to the Uyuni, where we went to see the Salt Flats.  The Salt Flats were pretty sweet. It is the biggest salt flat in the world.  This was the last stop of our travels.

(Lake Titicaca)

(Isla Del Sol)
(Salt Flats)

(Having some fun at the Salt Flats. I swear I did not actually eat my site partner. haha.)

    I enjoyed traveling in Bolivia, but I did miss everyone back here in Okinawa. I am excited for the school year to start back up again. Now that we are back we are helping the school get ready for the upcoming school year! I also found out what I am teaching at one of the schools. I am teaching preschool, 1st grade, 3rd grade, and 6th grade English! I am so excited to be back in the classroom!
             This last Sunday, I went to Santa Cruz to visit the Santa Cruz Parish (the church built and ran by my diocese) and a couple of priests from my diocese, that were there.  Father Keith Kitzhaber came down for the priest from my diocese who became Bishop of Cochabamba. Also Father Hirsch from my diocese is now the new priest here at the Santa Cruz Parish. It was great seeing some familiar faces. We went to lunch and were able to talk about mission life.
                                             (Father Kitzhaber, Father Hirsch, Lorena, & I)
“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
-Mother Teresa