Sunday, February 23, 2014

Whichever I Choose, There Will Be Regrets

Life is hard.

Having to be responsible for your own actions and decisions is hard.

At this moment in time, I want someone to make decisions for me. If I had someone to make decisions for me, I could blame them when things all fall apart. Or for when I doubt my decision.

But that isn't the way that life works. I have to make my own decisions. When things fall apart, I'm the one to blame. And when I doubt my decision-- that's all on me.

We're quickly approaching the time of year where I have to decide where I want to go and what I want to do with my life for the next school year. And honestly? I'm so torn. Do I stay? Do I go to the States? Do I go to an entirely different country? 

I don't have any idea. And no one is here to make the decision for me.

While browsing Twitter a few weeks ago, I saw that someone had tweeted Jason Aldean's lyrics that say "Whichever I choose, there will be regrets." Which is exactly how I feel. No matter which decision I make, I will have regrets. No matter where I end up, my heart will be longing to be somewhere else.

Upon further investigation, I found that the lyrics came from the song "Keep The Girl" which is very clearly about a boyfriend and a girlfriend. But being the self-centered individual that I am, I applied it to my own life. Let's take a gander now, shall we?

This life is full of choices. Hard to make one, all the voices in my head. I feel like this is pretty clear.
Those blue eyes I'm in love with? Substitute "brown eyes" for "blue eyes" and I picture my 48 Honduran babies who look at me every day with hunger to learn and be loved. Who would be so hard to leave behind.
Or that highway? The one that would take me somewhere else.
Which ever I pick, there'll be regrets. Are you beginning to see where I'm going with this?

I go one way, I lose everything. If I leave, I leave behind everyone I've come to know and love.
I go the other way, same thing. If I stay here, I'm taking more and more steps away from my life in the States.

I'm torn and it's tearing me apart. 
I want to go, but I don't want to break her heart. I'm the "her" in this situation. Going will actually break my heart.
Like a sword with a double edge blade, it's gonna cut deep either way.
This little town, that big old world. My little Sigua? Or new adventure in that big, old world?
Chase the dream or keep the girl? Do I chase my dream of teaching internationally? Or do I protect myself mentally and emotionally and go back to the States?

While (I feel) the song very clearly mirrors my own feelings and this stage of life that I am currently in, listening to it 500 times on repeat doesn't change my predicament. I still need to make my own decision.

I'm torn. And it's tearing me apart. Whichever I choose, I know that there will be regrets. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Meesss, It's The Day Of Loooooooove!"

That was their words, not mine. Just to clear things up. 

I like to see my boys squirm and nothing makes them squirm more than hugs, hearts, and the color pink. So I made sure that February was chock full of all things Valentine's Day. Including, but not limited to, our bulletin board...

...our Spelling activities...

...and our Reading Buddies crafts. 

The big day finally arrived and since I'm a heartless teacher, I made my kids take a Spelling test before diving into the Valentine's Day activities. I regret nothing.

In Grade Two, the kids traced their hands on some construction paper, accordion folded a strip in between, and wrote "I love you this much!" on a pretty pink heart. Nailed it. Way to go, love bugs.

I also busted them sharing the love at snack time. They pooled their snacks together to create an entirely new snack-- chocolate pudding and cheese whiz on a tortilla chip. I taste tested, it wasn't great.

Grade One voted on Thursday what they wanted to do during their party. They were able to choose from making a tree out of their hands and then using hearts for the leaves, making a monkey with accordion arms and legs, or making animals out of hearts. The animals out of hearts won and I spent all of Thursday evening designing heart animals, printing hearts, sorting hearts, and making examples. Phew.

They did great! It's hard for me to give up control because I want their things to look perfect, but I also have to remember that they're 6 and not always able to cut on a perfect line. It's okay, the world will not end. We do have a good system of cutting, gluing, and throwing away that we've been working on all year. They're old pros at it now and it definitely make things run so much smoother. Which is one less worry for their poor, control freak of a teacher.

And then I spent some time after school with my brown eyed girls. 

I had 48 Valentines this year, and then some. How did I ever get this lucky?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hip, Hip, Hooray!

We made it to the 100th Day!

But really, the fact that we made it to the 100th Day of School is actually a miracle. We took our Spelling tests and then spent the rest of the time celebrating our 100 days together.

Grade Two and I only had one class together, so they completed a writing activity and then made 100th day of school crowns. In their writing activity, the kids had to draw themselves as the face on the $100 then write about what they would buy if they had $100 to spend on someone else. I made out like a bandit that day-- I think I received three cats and some baseball tickets.

Their crowns were super easy and cheap. Which are two of my favorite adjectives when it comes to teaching. I printed off a boy option and a girl option that the kids colored, then just stapled the crowns to a sentence strip that had been cut in half to make the headband part. Like I said, easy and cheap.

The kids were so stinkin' cute walking around in their crowns alllllllll day long. 

Grade One and I had more time together, so I set up five stations and gave the kids about seven minutes at each station. It worked out perfectly! I definitely couldn't have done these stations with Grade Two, so it's a nice change of pace to be able to break from routine with Grade One.

Station #1: 100th Day of School Glasses
I found these on Pinterest last year and the kids loved them! They also look adorably nerdy, so I love them as well. Color, cut, paste on the part that goes over your ear. Done. Next station. Except I have some very particular color-ers and some kind of helpless cutters, so these glasses caused a few meltdowns.

Station #2: Counting By 10's
I made a web-like thing with ten different spaces. The kids had to put ten dots of each color of paint in each space. Which, for the mathematically un-inclined, adds up to 100. I started out with them drawing ten little pictures in each box, but painting is just so much more fun.

Station #3: 100th Day of School Certificate
Again, Pinterest from the rescue. I found a certificate that said that so and so made it to their 100th day of school. 25 copies, write your name and the date, color away. Definitely the least intensive of the stations.

Station #4: 100 Creations
This station was a little too difficult for my kids to grasp, despite the fact that we talked about what they could do and I provided examples. Maybe next year when they are a little older? Anyways, they got the number 100 on a piece of paper and had to cut it out. Then they were supposed to use the numbers to make something. A car, a flower, a clown, anything. They were great at providing examples, not so great at their execution.

Station #5: Object Sorting
Another easy one. We have just finished up a Spelling unit on color words, so this was perfect. Color, count, add.

100 days. Wow. At times it's gone so slowly and other times I blink and it's Friday. My kids have taught me so much over the past 100 days-- how to love, how to stay calm, how to be a better teacher and a better person. I can only hope that I have taught them as much.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

When Two Worlds Collide.

Living abroad isn't easy. It isn't easy to immerse yourself in a culture where language barriers keep you from talking to everyone you meet. It isn't easy to leave behind everything you know and love about home to go somewhere and fall in love with a whole new place. It isn't easy to create new friendships while still holding on to all the relationships that you've spent your entire life cultivating.

For me, that's the hardest part. The people who I have left behind. I miss Taco Bell something fierce and my heart longs to be at Mentor Headlands. I crave grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup every Friday at lunchtime, without fail. And I've considered paying large sums of money for the opportunity to just sit in a seat at Jacobs Field. But I miss the people more. I miss my best friends, I miss my mom and dad, and oddly enough, I even miss my brother and sister.

Last week I didn't have to miss everyone. Last week Pilgrim came to Siguatepeque for their annual missions trip and I was able to spend countless hours with my dad as well as many others from my church.

All the girls with our dads.
We played with Grade One and Two. We sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame". We went to the market. We traveled to the lake and chopped down a banana tree. I shared my everyday life with my father. And it was fantastic.

Grade One.

I wouldn't trade having my dad here for anything. It was my best week here so far. But it's hard when people from home leave. It's so nice having someone here who knows who I was before I was Miss Caitlin. I can get so caught up in being Miss Caitlin. I have to teach, I have to plan, I have to tend to the needs for 48 students and make sure that they know they are loved and cared for while also learning and excelling at English, I have to meet with parents, I have to meet with other teachers. And I love doing at these things, I love being a teacher, but I wasn't always Miss Caitlin. 

For much of my life, I was just Caitlin. Usually just Cait and sometimes Caitlin Rebecca. I'd go to the beach, I'd hang out with my friends, I'd go to church with my family. I spent countless hours watching movies with my dad and shopping with my mom. My brother and I fought at every available opportunity. My sister and I still choose to sleep in the same room because we have so much to say after spending all day together.

That's how my family knows me-- as the one who cries too much and burps too loudly, the one who goes to church 8 times a week and would rather stay home and read a book than have to go out and be social. I'm not Miss Caitlin, I'm just Caitlin. And that's okay with them.

I love being Miss Caitlin, but it's nice to be reminded that Caitlin is okay, too. Thank you, Daddy, for coming to Honduras and helping with my kiddos, for always being up for a shady Honduran adventure. But mostly, thanks for helping me remember who I am.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Cleveland is Indians Country.

There are four places you can find me in the summer-- at home, at the zoo, at the lake, or at the Jake. At one time, I was averaging about two baseball games a week. My bank account was taking quite a hit, but I was probably the happiest I had ever been. Sometime during the summer of 2012 my sister and I made the decision to be baseball fans. We were already spending enough time at the field, might as well make it official and actually call ourselves baseball fans. This decision is about four years after we sat at the Captains game and proceeded to ask "Wait, what's a batting average out of?"

Throughout the 2012 season we were learning everything we could about baseball and attending every game financially possible. Much to our dismay, there's more to baseball than just getting a tan, drinking a beer, and heckling other fans. And it's more than just Dollar Dog Night and fireworks. I know, I know, it blew my mind, too.

But then when the 2013 season started, I realized something. We weren't just eating hot dogs anymore and calling ourselves baseball fans. Somewhere along the way, we actually became baseball fans. Sure, beer and hot dogs were still consumed and other fans were still heckled, but we actually cared about player's stats and could make heads or tails of all the numbers up on the JumboTron. I can't pinpoint when it happened, but we became real baseball fans.

The Indians made it to a playoff game this year and I took that opportunity to share my love of baseball with my students. If I have to suffer through all their soccer talk, they can learn a little about baseball. We used "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" to learn our sight words, the kids could color pictures of baseballs and Chief Wahoo at the Art Center. We even played baseball with Mr. Carl and the kids could call a decent strike. They're also quick to point out that although they like soccer, Miss Caitlin likes baseball, but its okay to be different.

When I'm feeling most homesick, I find the most comfort in perusing ebay and Amazon for Cleveland Indians gear. And when I watched the 2014 Cleveland Indians Trailer (video below) this morning, I found myself tearing up a little. I don't think this is normal behavior. So why do I react this way to a baseball team? To people I have never met? To the four walls of a stadium?

Part of the reason is that I just like baseball. It makes me happy. But I think a bigger part of it is that it reminds me of home. And that makes me happier.

I grew up going to baseball games with my dad's entire side of the family. We were the family that wore Cleveland Indians clothes in our Christmas pictures. I sent Slider a get well letter when he fell and broke his leg. I feel like I spent every night of my childhood trying to fall asleep, only to be woken up by my dad yelling at the Indians on TV. I remember going downtown to see the Indians as they came back from the World Series and the happiness that surrounded me. I ate a lemon ice and twisty rainbow unicorn horn sucker at every. single. game. Without fail.

And now when I think of baseball, I think of my dad and brother teaching my sister and I everything we know. I think of heckling other fans with my siblings. I think of going to the game with ADPi for our Dad's Day event. I think of going with my roommates, with other ADPis, with my best friends, with my family.

Baseball has always been synonymous with happiness. Baseball always reminds me of happy times with some of my favorite people in the world. And now that I'm spending more time outside of the States and less time in Cleveland, baseball is always something that can bring everyone together for an evening. In the end it's simple-- baseball makes me think of home.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

And I'm Proud To Be An American.

As I think that all Americans should be.

We come from and/ or live in wonderful country with SO. MANY. opportunities. Literally anything we want to be or do can be achieved. We have cities and small towns and more naturally beautiful places than I could ever imagine. There is so much opportunity and so much potential when living in the States.

But I have never, ever been more ashamed to be an American than I have this past week following the Superbowl. I am going to go out a limb and assume that everyone has seen the Coca-Cola America the Beautiful commercial and its subsequent backlash.

It's disgusting and repulsive to see how hateful people can be regarding this commercial. And the sheer number of hateful people. It's becoming more clear to me that I have a tendency to assume that all people are good and wouldn't do bad things, but it absolutely blows me away to think that people can be so nasty.

First of all, because I think this needs cleared up, America the Beautiful is NOT our national anthem. I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure that anyone coming to the States and obtaining citizenship has to be able to identify the national anthem. Therefore these terrorists and Mexicans and a whole slew of other derogatory remarks are already better informed about American culture than those Americans who are hating on them.

Secondly, I'm willing to bet large sums of money that the majority of Americans ancestors are not originally from America. If an individual traces his ancestry back, I am almost certain that they will find that they have ancestors who immigrated to the States. And guess what. Those ancestors probably didn't speak English. But they still came to the States. They carved out new lives for themselves, created different opportunities. They blended their old culture with the new culture of the States.

Because that's part of what makes the States so wonderful. We are all different, but we've all taken things and learned things from each other. People are given the freedom to hold onto their old roots while creating an entirely new culture in the States.

I'm a fan of Cinco de Mayo. Am I Hispanic? No. Do I still celebrate the holiday? With a taco in each hand. And don't even try to tell me that only the Irish celebrate on St. Patricks Day. This blending of cultures is what makes the American culture unique. Americans have the opportunity to participate in some of the best aspects of so many different cultures because so many people around the world immigrated to the United States.

I love my country, I am proud to be from the States. But I wish that Americans could be more accepting of other cultures, of other countries, of people who are different than themselves. Maybe it's because I've spent the past two and a half years of my life living in abroad, but it's so embarrassing to see Americans behaving so childishly and hurtfully. And to realize that for so many people, that's the image they have of Americans.

If there is one thing that I have learned while being abroad, it's that people are fundamentally the same. Children, teenagers, adults. Across the board, regardless of language. People want to be loved, people want to be accepted. My students experience joy when finally mastering a difficult skill. The Spanish staff has experienced broken hearts in the same way that I have. The parents of my students have experienced the same elation as my parents when seeing their child walk across the stage at graduation. People experience the same emotions regardless of age, nationality, or skin color.

If there's one thing I want to my students to learn this year, it's that different is not bad. Different is different and differences are necessary in the world. We wouldn't survive if everyone was a teacher, the world wouldn't function if we were all doctors. My students love soccer, but Miss Caitlin adores baseball. Neither one is right or wrong, it's just different.

Seeing the reactions from the Coca-Cola commercial further proves to me how important it is to make sure my students understand this. Verbs can wait. Spelling can come later. But the acceptance and tolerance of individuals who are different from you? That needs addressed now. That's a lesson that learned now.