Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 RECAP!

Yes, I have been so bad about updating my pictures that I am forced to inundate you all with a plethora of pictures all under the label of "recap"!
So, get ready to jump from one life event to the next and to join the whirlind, otherwise known as my life.

This year has given me a new....
1. classroom full of wonderful students and memories!

Here we are pre-August 10th (notice the sticky note guides?)...
And here we are post-August 10th..

Middle School's wacky Thanksgiving feast...

And our Christmas party!

2. landscape to ooh and awe over...I LOVE the rugged beauty of Bolivia!
Some scenes from the Takesi hike about a month ago...

3. group of high schoolers to mentor and enjoy!
Some of the 8th grade girls on our hike...
Fun with our life group girls (in the picture below, I am what we call the "AFTER-hours" lawyer!).....

Our life group Christmas party...
4. set of traveling adventures...
Assisting the sweet Chilean man while he "fills" up our rent-a-car on the way to Iquique, Chile..

Thoroughly enjoying the beach that ONCE belonged to Bolivia...and don't you forget it (because Bolivians sure haven't :)!!)...
5. reason to get together with old friends!

2009 has proven to be a year of rich blessing and distinct change. I thank the Lord for what He has done and I look forward to what He will do!
Let's do it again in 2010!! :)

Monday, December 21, 2009


After countless hours in numerous airports, 3 days in snowy Chicago with special friends and way too many minutes crammed into 5-inch heels for "the" wedding, I have made it back to Twin Falls, ID!
I am excited to curl up with my picture folders, a warm cup of something and "go to town" updating you all on the past few weeks of my whirlwind life! But, until that happens, you can picture me happy, safe and sound.
It's the most wonderful time of the year.....truly!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Past Week and a Half....

As you can probably deduce by this title, life has been a little crazy these past 11 days!

Therefore, instead of writing separate posts for each event, you get a little taste of my busy yet rewarding life!!

Thursday, November 19th :

Probably experienced one of 2009 hilghlights....seeing my kiddos share their talents, time and homemade maracas with precious blind children in my neighboorhood! Not only did they show Christ's love to these children, but they pulled off a last minute yet original play of Noah's Ark (omplete with a variety of sound effects) and performed "the cup game" to Prince of Peace....priceless!

Another highlight was seeing them all pounce on my bed immediately after entering my casita for some post-field-trip-cookie-fun!

Friday, November 20th:

After a ripped contact and a drive that led us to the middle of NOWHERE, we began our Takesi hike with the 8th graders (6 girls and 3 boys), chaperones (4 girls and 4 boys) and backpacks filled with WAY too much weight of who-knows-what!

Saturday, November 21st:

Exhausted from the day before that was supposed to be "easy", we packed up in the rain and started on the longest, yet most rewarding, day of the hike! Although we had to trek through literal rivers of rain water that were rushing down the rocky paths and one of our boys ended up breaking his leg in 2 places, it was a good day that taught the students (and teachers) some good life lessons....and showed us how beautiful Bolivia is!

Sunday, November 22nd:

Sore and SMELLY we all made our way into the beautiful city of Yanacachi (after 20 false alarms of "the end," might I add) and piled into the buses that promised to take us back to warm showers, soft beds and Thanksgiving food. A Thanksgiving FEAST, to be exact, complete with homemade rolls, delicious pumpkin cake and "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" projected on a white sheet for all ages to enjoy:)!

Monday, November 23rd:

Still recuperating from the Takesi, I discovered muscles that I never knew existed and incessantly thanked the GENIUS that made Monday "pajama day" for our spirit week!

Tuesday, November 24th:

"Twin day" meant that Steph and I came as....inspired by a blonde wig that has made its way around HIS....Miley Cyrus (me) and Hannah Montana (Steph). Pretty creative if you ask us!

Wednesday, November 25th:

Winter Olympics Team Day = hundreds of paper snowlfakes taped around the school + crazy outfits of yellow, red, green and blue + "ice dancing" high schoolers on pavement assisting elementary students with their arabesque form + a screaming Miss Speicher because her AWESOME blue team won!!!!!!!!!!

Wish you were there?....I know!

Thursday, November 26th:

La Paz looks different when you're leaving it at 4am in a rented car watching movies and "thanksgiving" tv episodes on the car's OWN dvd player! And, now I have had yet another Thanksgiving meal at the American "symbol" of gratitude...McDonalds...gotta love it!

Friday, November 27th:

Chile is AWSOME....Bolivia got shafted when they got our beach!

Saturday, November 28th:

Finally some beach time and, yes, New Moon :)......gotta keep up with friends back home!

Sunday, November 29th:

4am is becoming an enemy....but my bed, again, feels soo good and I'm glad to be home!!!

The End

For those who made it to this point, thanks for sticking with my 11-day itinerary of craziness!

If you can continue that patience, you might be lucky enough to veiw some pictures to back-up these stories! And if you can't, just check out Stephanie Ainsworth's pictures on facebook:)!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tell Me How I'm Supposed to Breathe With No Air....

Yes, I am pulling out a "classic" Jordin Sparks phrase in honor of this upcoming weekend when (I have this feeling) I'll be thinking it a lot!

"Don't you often feel out of breath living at 12,000 ft. above sea level??" you may be thinking.

Yes, I do...because of the altitude, it's common to get winded doing normal things, such as rolling over in bed or walking less than a block to your house. But I'm not carrying my tent, sleeping bag, firewood and food for 17 people!

This weekend my roommate and I, along with 6 other adults, are accompanying the 8th graders on their backpacking final. We are leaving early Friday morning and hiking the Takesi trail, an Incan trail that is about 2 hours away from La Paz. We will return to La Paz on Sunday afternoon dirty and tired....but hopefully inspired!

Even though it is supposed to be a beautiful trek through the wilderness of Bolivia, it is also supposed to be full of bugs, rain and drama-queens! The 8th grade girls have this reputation of crying every time they have to hike the "hills" behind our school....so it should be an adventure!

So if you think of it, you can pray for all of us going...that we would make it out of there alive and the 8th graders would actually enoy the trip:)!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Highlands Highlights

Last Wednesday was the 1 and 1/2 quarter mark! I cannot believe how quickly the school year has gone by so far. It has been a busy but very enjoyable past 3 1/2 months and I would like to share some of the highlights with you....

One foggy morning, we all donned our new HIS sweathsirts to showcase our ever-expanding staff and enthusiasm for the new year....or something like that!

Often we find ourselves outside of our classroom doing some kind of lesson amidst the mountains and blue skies! This particular lesson showcases some of my 6th graders' acting skills as they act out the story of Siddhartha's journey to Buddah while others dilligently take notes....oh how I love my students:)!

October was the month of our Spring Carnival which entailed a wacky-dress day to gear up for the big event...

...many different games for the kids to enjoy, including a huge blow-up octopus (HILARIOUS!)...

...and teacher-revenge in the form of a pie toss and a "wet jail" where the hose was my worst enemy!

October was also the month of the FIRST annual dodgeball tournament! After months of EVERY recess minute being spent working on their bullet-like throws and out-of-nowhere catches, the students were ready to compete against the teachers for the the coveted title of "dodgeball champion!" Sadly, the intense competition proved to all that, even though I may rule the middle schoolers in my classroom, I am forced to bow in submission on the dodgeball court!

In math class we worked with recipes to create cookies while sharpening our fraction skills. However, reason # 43 why living in Bolivia is different than living in the US, was brought to my attention when the kitchen staff was gone and we were no longer able to use the oven because the gas for the oven was taken with them! Therefore, Steph and I had to use a more creative way to cook the cookies...the MICROWAVE! There were only a few casualties and some of the cookies actually turned out somewhat normal!

Most recently, the 4th graders picked different teachers to write a biography about his/her life and then presented their findings at our very own, HIS Wax Museum! Here's my little twin, Hannah, who is also the middle child of 2 sisters and seems to share my same taste in accessories:)!

Now, if any of these pictures cause you to doubt the fact that we, at HIS, take our job seriously, just look at these "teacher" faces...would we lie to you?!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sweet Memories....

Usually I use this blog to share of my life in La Paz; attempting to capture the beauty that surrounds me....the spirit of people here....or the hilarity that I hope others will appreciate:)! However, maybe because it's Friday (finally) and I have a long weekend ahead of me (YAY for All Saint's Day!) or maybe because it's that time when the new becomes old and the exciting becomes ordinary....whatever the case, I find myself sitting on Steph's bed (while she naps beside me), in the dark, perusing old folders of pictures labeled "October" or "November." And, as you probably guessed, I'm missing the familiar smells, sounds and sights of what these above months bring! Therefore, below are some of the sweet memories I found while I laughed my way down memory lane. I am posting these post-facto pictures partly because I think those involved will appreciate them and partly because I'm hoping it will make me a little less homesick right now!

This picture brings me back to TU Homecoming when I was able to visit my sweet sister who chose hilarious decorations (compliments of Croplan Genetics....and our father) for the wing and also thought it was a good idea to take multiple pictures posing with them! Oh, I do miss that girl!
This picture brings me back to my FAVORITE getaway in Charlotte. Yes, this trip to the 'mountain house' did not disappoint between the piles of leaves just waiting to be jumped in and the great company to share in the fun:)!
This picture is a funny reminder of how different my life is from almost a year ago and even though just today my answer to a question regarding the best job I've ever had was my job right now at HIS, I still miss my sweet Charlotte babies and their crazy/beautiful hair!

And, last but not least, this picture just reminds me of what I am missing right now.....vivid colors that paint the sky. For those of you who are experiencing this yearly gift, enjoy it for me :)!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bane No More!

Since coming to Bolivia, my roommate and I have noticed that there are many little inconveniences that we have come to live with, and at times, forget that they haven't always been in our lives! But, then there are some things that have never ceased to be the bane of our existences. What are those, you may ask?

Stephanie- a kiln for her ceramics class

Me- internet on my computer at school

I could go into great detail how each has made it's way to this elite title, this dominant status, this obsessive thought!
I could tell you that Stephanie has piles of uncooked clay peices in her art room just waiting to be fired so that they can be used, enjoyed, appreciated by many! I could tell you that she's asked ALL 4 of the people in La Paz that even own a kiln if she could use it multiple times, and everytime the answer is the universal "no!"
I could tell you that everyday I wish I had access to Websters.com when my sweet, ESL babies don't know a word and no dictionary exists (at least one that is easy to access). I could tell you that we are changing to a new internet based program to do our attendance, planning and grades...AWESOME when you have no internet at school!
But there is no need to whine and complain anymore!!! Our existences as we know it have been improved....THE INERNET AND KILN HAVE ARRIVED!
Today both of our problems were solved and we are just so thankful! Stephanie found out that fifth time's the charm and I discovered that window updates are beneficial:)!
So...thank you for all of your prayers, even the general ones. God is faithful and does answer our prayers, even those that seem little and insignificant :)!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Little pieces of home...

Since moving to Bolivia, I have found communication to be a lot more difficult than I thought it would be! Not only are the 11 million people on skype a hindrance to smooth conversations with Idaho, but the mail regulations seem impossible to overcome.

HOWEVER, many wonderful people have persevered through the postal process to send me little pieces of home that I never thought would make me so happy!

The first package was from my dear friend who recently got married. Between the cinnamon-graham-cracker-fishies and wedding favors sent, I felt apart of life back in the Carolinas and was thankful for the thoughtfulness!

Then came a BIG ol' package from another dear friend! But this time, it contained many wonderful gifts for my students, who were almost as excited as I!

My pencil-happy 6th graders and..

..sharpie-loving 7th graders!

The next surprise package came from yet another sweet friend who sent me some good reads, including pages from my favorite magazine.... complete with comments to bring me back to 10517 Parkhouse Lane! :)

Last, but not least, my sweet mother also joined the package fun! Among the treasures from home came some personal favorites that can't be found here!

I feel very blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life...those that send me packages and those that are just plain wonderful! :)

P.S. If you're reading this, that last line is talking about you!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Copacabana Pt. 2

So, it has taken me a bit longer than I thought!
But, as promised, here are some pictures of our weekendS at the famous, LAKE TITICACA!

The first time, we were a group of 7, freezing....

The second time, we were a group of 3, sweating....

The first time, we could only see the islands from afar...

The second time, we spent quality time on those islands...

The first time, we gazed up at a cross...

The second time, we looked at a sea of crosses in the beautiful Church of Copacabana...

But both times, we thoroughly enjoyed the lake!

I hope you enjoy our timed jumping picture! 3rd time's the charm....or is it??

It's always fun to get out of the city and see a new side of Bolivia!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Copacabana Pt. 1

As some of you know, a few weekends ago I had the pleasure of spending a 3-day weekend at the beautiful Lake Titicaca, which borders both Bolivia and Peru. I celebrated the Bolivian holiday "Amistad (Friendship) Day" with 6 other teachers from Highlands at a lake house! A friend of a friend offered his place of us to enjoy, but we had hoped to venture from the house to explore the tourist-trap, Copacabana, and the island where, according to Incan mythology, life itself was born, Isla del Sol. However, partly due to the fact that we are STILL in the process of getting our 2-yr visas and didn't have our passports with us, and partly due to the fact that we were one HUGE vehicle filled with American gringos, we didn't reach either destination.

Therefore, this weekend we decided to try it again.. this time ready for what the Bolivian police would throw at us (passport copies in hand and a group of 3 instead of 7)! What we were NOT prepared for, was what Bolivia itself would throw at us!

Getting there Saturday morning on a massive tourist bus was actually pretty uneventful, except for the tire that exploded en route! But, after a quick 30 minute stop at Bolivia's version of a rest-stop...nature's bathrooms, picnic areas, petting zoos and a dog pound all on a 20 yd by 20 yd grassy patch of land along the side of the road...we were on our way! Upon arrival at the legndary Copacabana, we dropped our backpacks off at a delightful hostal complete with hammocks stratigically placed to enjoy the breathtaking views of the water, and hit the town! After living in Bolivia for more than 3 months but not having a lot of time to be a "tourist" persay, it was quite enjoyable to peruse the wares of the many vendors that lined the streets and just enjoy being a foreigner. Then that evening we were able to enjoy an unexpected dinner with a friend from La Paz and some of her friends who were also in town for the night!

So, Saturday...awesome! Sunday....awesome in a totally different way! Let me expound and then I will post pictures of our weekends at the lake in a "coming soon" post!

What "should have happened" and what "actually happened" Sunday, October 4th. Enjoy! I know I did:)...

10:30 am
Should have happened:
the boat drops us off at the side of the island with various shops, restaurants and ruins to explore
Actually happened: the boat drops us off at the side of the island with basically nothing

12:00 pm
Should have happened:
we are close to the ruins after hiking for what feels like an hour
Actually happened: we have to turn around after seeing no ruins because we don't want to miss the "early boat" that leaves the north side of the island at 1:30

2:30 pm Should have happened: the boat quickly stops at the south side of the island and then continues on to Copacabana
Actually happened: the boat docks for an hour while we sit on the boat and watch some crazy donkeys

3:30 pm
Should have happened:
arrive back in Copacabana, grab our backpacks at the hostal and catch a bus heading back to La Paz
Actually happened: leave the south side of the island with a whole boat, full of people

4:30 pm
Should have happened:
driving on a bus that's about 1/2 way there to La Paz
Actually happened: dock at a floating reed island, surprising all of the tired passengers

5:30 pm
Should have happened:
arrive in La Paz
Actually happened: arrive in Copacabana

6:00 pm
Should have happened:
relax back at the house with a light dinner and start cleaning up the house after a long week/weekend
Actually happened: leave Copacabana in another large, tourist bus

7:00 pm
Should have happened:
at Wallyball (volleyball played in raquet-ball courts) with other friends in La Paz
Actually happened: in a ferry full of drunk cholitas and their husbands wondering if the bus will leave us

8:45 pm
Should have happened:
back from Wallyball and ready to grade a few papers before going to bed
Actually happened: on the bus that is showing, on 1 miniscule TV about 20 rows up, the Spanish version of Ice Age II...hilarious

9:30 pm
Should have happened:
ending our evening by watching an episode of House with my roommate
Actually happened: the bus runs out of gas at the very outskirts of town (El Alto)

10:15 pm
Should have happened:
go to bed
Actually happened: arriving home AT LAST after a taxi ride where "Hotel California" was the music of choice

Sunday, September 27, 2009

An SCCCYG Update

Hello readers, especially those under the age of 18 (my SCCC youth group)!
I am excited to share a summary of what God has been doing here on the other side of the equator!

I have lately described La Paz to friends and family as a mix of the foreign and familiar, which I have come to really appreciate.

Familiar because....
..I always have a lot of papers to grade...AND I have a group of students that I really do love!

HIS 6th and 7th graders.....my students:)!

...I get to enjoy the sun (that is more intense here) while participating in random outdoor activities. like running, walking with friends, or competing in a dodgeball tournament (that's right...I've played more dodegeball here in 2 months than I have my entire life!).

...I get to hang out with some awesome high school girls weekly for a small group/life group I'm leading with my roommate.

...I seem to be busy every day! Between weekly bible studies, Spanish lessons, after-school tutoring, gospel choir practice, birthday celebrations (I think I've celebrated at least 10 birthdays since arriving in La Paz!) and the basic chores of being a grown-up, I find myself ready for my bed at the end of every day!

...I have great friends who make me laugh and love the Lord!
**praise the Lord for a great group of friends here

Foreign because...
...I no longer drive...instead I rely on a series of taxis, trufis (like a taxi but with a set list of destinations), mini-busses (like a trufi only bigger and more crowded) and a few friend's cars here where the occupancy limit is always at least doubled. Here in Bolivia seats are just suggestions for how many people can fit in a car!

Here's an example of a crowded car on dodgeball "theme" day:)...in case you were wondering if we always dress like this!

...everyone speaks a different language and even though I'm getting tutored every thursday, I still have a lot to learn until I can fully participate in this part of the culture.
**pray that I would have patience and discipline in this area

...I am surrounded by Cholitas! Bolivia is known for the "chola", a Bolivian woman that has kept the traditional customs of this nation, predomintaly by the way she dresses. They are all over the place and always make me smile:)!

...I get to pray with my students everday and reference the Bible freely!
**pray for those at the school that do not know Jesus Christ personally (some are Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, etc.)

Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers!

Friday, September 11, 2009

I love the weekends...

Hello my faithful readers :)!
As my last post explained, I now have access to internet on my own computer, so posting pictures and such is a whole lot easier. Therefore, as promised, here is an update of my life...

As a teacher in Charlotte, I enjoyed my students... but loved my weekends. As a teacher in La Paz, it is no different!

2 weekends ago, Stephanie and I were THRILLED to have the opportunity to actually leave the city. Early Sunday morning we piled in the backseat of Christian's, our neighbor/landlord, car along with his cousin, Andre. After a slight delay due to the fact that we had to turn around to get the spare tire that was forgotten, we drove out of the mountains and into the jungle!

It was soooo pretty seeing the huge mountains change from the bare and grey to the lush and wild of the jungle! Even though I got a little sick on the ride back, the view was DEFINITELY worth the windy, crazy roads!

Our first destination was this wonderful animal reserve where visitors from all over the world can come enjoy a relaxing get-away in the jungles of Bolivia and experience nature first-hand! Some of our "nature experiences" included...

playing with monkeys (with some fellow visitors)...

..holding snakes..

...and talking to a bear, among others!

Before leaving for our next destination, we had to push the car a couple of times and then wait for a fellow traveler to lend us his jumper cables....yes, we had left the lights on! Guess we should have worried more about jumper cables and less about the tire! Oh well...I had no problem cooling off by the river while we waited!

Our next and final destination before heading home was a small town on the edge of the mountain called Coroico. It was such a cute little town with a breathtaking veiw!

Me with our travel buddies..(L-R) Christian and Andres

We came back that night sweaty (which felt sooo good after a month in the DRY, mountain air), exhausted and totally blown away by the beauty of this new country we have started to call home!