Photoshop Peru

We have always gotten a good giggle out of our official photos taken here for new ID’s or passports. They majorly airbrush our faces and put color on our cheeks and lips. Today, Maggie’s teacher gave me her USB to copy off the graduation pics from her class. I got a really great giggle out of seeing these! I thought I would share. I love that they photoshopped entire scenes back behind them. It doesn’t look fake at all. 😉

Maggie Graduation Pic BEFORE…

 

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and AFTER…

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This next one is my favorite.

Maggie’s class picture where it was actually taken…

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And the new and improved photoshopped Arequipa edition…

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Isn’t that great!? Ha!

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Photoshop Peru

Esta es mi tierra; Es mi Perú.

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Another last for this year: the last Independence Day celebration in their school this morning. The preschoolers presented the three regions of Peru: La Costa, La Sierra, and La Selva. The primary grades told the history of Peru with little skits. I will let the pictures speak for themselves…

Cohen was a shark. The three-year-old class (or the first part of them) dressed as sea animals. Cohen almost couldn’t see out of his costume.

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sitting with our intern, Mat, after his performance
sitting with our intern, Mat, after his performance

Maggie’s class represented the Selva (the jungle). They did a jungle dance, and then they sang “Es Mi Peru” as a class.

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Ana was a soldier. What is hilarious is that I got her the wrong costume. She was the only “soldado” (soldier) with a gun. Ha!

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Cohen and his condor craft. The condor is the national bird of Peru. Many tourists travel to Arequipa so that they can visit the Colca Canyon and see the condors flying.

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The primary grades singing “Es Mi Peru.”

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The ending was the school making a loop around the neighborhood. It was so sweet seeing Ana holding hands with her school BFF, Haslee. Here they are saying “Viva Peru!”

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Looking up the hill at the volcano. Our house is two houses from the school.

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Esta es mi tierra; Es mi Perú.

MK––5 years old

Maggie Kate, you are our beautiful Peruana. Your life pretty much marks our timeline here in Peru. It is hard to believe that this is your last birthday to spend in Peru for this chapter of our lives. You are a lovely, sassy, big blue-eyed, princess-lovin’ Kindergartener. We wouldn’t change anything about you.

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the best we could do for an "Elsa" hairdo
the best we could do for an “Elsa” hairdo

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This year we didn’t celebrate your birthday with a party.  We celebrated with a birthday extravaganza! You have been talking for 6 months about the Frozen party that you wanted. Well, you got your wish… plus more.

Step 1: Go with Momma to look for Frozen party decor in the center. The party stores were ready for us.

 

one store had the huge version of all the main characters
one store had the huge version of all the main characters
but Elsa is definitely your favorite
but Elsa is definitely your favorite

Step 2: Have a school party (something that your daddy and I despise, but I thought that it would be a nice gesture since it is your last year in Peru).

ice blue jello cups
ice blue jello cups

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an Elsa princess cupcake dress
an Elsa princess cupcake dress

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edible pearls and edible glitter (Momma had a lot of fun decorating these cupcakes)
edible pearls and edible glitter (Momma had a lot of fun decorating these cupcakes)
Holly Richardson (TA mentor) is kind of like an adopted missionary grandmother to these kids. She was here for the party!
Holly Richardson (TA mentor) is kind of like an adopted missionary grandmother to these kids. She was here for the party!
the sugar high buffet
the sugar high buffet

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They ate Cheesitos, popcorn, cookies, jello, candy and limonada all while watching Frozen in Spanish
They ate Cheesitos, popcorn, cookies, jello, candy and limonada all while watching Frozen in Spanish

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making the first wish of many
making the first wish of many

3. Step 3: Family party on the actual day. Maggie requested her favorite for lunch, Tortellini Soup. She wanted cinnamon rolls for her birthday dessert. She’s got good taste if you ask her parents.

birthday cinnamon rolls
birthday cinnamon rolls
Mat even played "Let It Go" for you
Mat even played “Let It Go” for you

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everybody but the photographer in the pic
everybody but the photographer in the pic
if the first wish didn't work out...
if the first wish didn’t work out…

Step 4: Mustaches in the park. One of our interns from last summer brought the girls fake mustaches (Thanks again, Lisette!). I had put them away, and Mags found them a few months ago. She got it in her head that on her birthday she wanted to go to the park and take pics with the mustaches on. Her dreams came true. Ha!

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Ana got in on the action, of course
Ana got in on the action, of course

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Step 5: Slumber party with Cora. Pictures to come…

Whew. We are done celebrating. chica. And I am sorry to say it, but I am all Frozened out. You got an Elsa dress (previous post), and we invited the Smith girls over for a good time. Cora and Shaye spent the night, but Aria was in on all the fun. She even wanted to stay the night with you (the last pics). You asked for cheeseburger sliders for dinner, and we made another birthday dessert. Your Gram had sent a princess party pack with Daddy back when he went to the states. We were able to use it along with our Frozen items.

You loved the princess birthday banner. You and your siblings added the extra Frozen pictures by coloring free pages off the internet.

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We made blue jello again, served the left-ver galletas from your school party, and put out the cake. That is your Elsa dress hanging in the background.2014-07-28 08.34.31

Tia Areli gave you a gift of these Frozen characters. I couldn’t believe that she could find something from Frozen! I looked. What is funny is that they are generic, and they still don’t have Elsa in the grouping. Luckily, we found a funny-looking Elsa candle in the party store downtown, and she ended up being the same size as the rest of the characters. Your sister hand drew a little Olaf and attached him to a long toothpick. Isn’t he cute?!

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Edible pearls and sprinkles are my new favorite cake decorating tools. 🙂2014-07-28 08.35.10

waiting for the guests. It was like waiting for Christmas.2014-07-28 09.10.25

the crew. Ana and Shaye (7), Maggie (5), Cora (4), Cohen (3), and Aria (2)2014-07-28 09.17.352014-07-28 09.18.20

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Aria is not picking her nose here, but it looks like it. See the cute cheeseburger sliders?2014-07-28 09.34.33

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I mentioned the Elsa candle coming from the party store. The wick fell down and it looked like Elsa had a torch sticking out of her back. Ha!2014-07-28 11.32.14

 

Cora insisted that I take a picture of her blue mouth. It was much bluer before I got this shot.2014-07-28 11.40.38

This little stinker wasn’t hungry for her cheeseburger, but she ate every bite of her piece of cake. 🙂 She also drank lots of “leemohdada” (limonada). 2014-07-28 11.40.53

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Aria is all ready to stay over.2014-07-28 12.26.47

Sweet girls. Sweet memories.2014-07-28 12.26.59

MK––5 years old

Elsa Costume for Mags

It is absolutely ridonkulous how much people are making off this Frozen craze. I tried to get my mom to buy an Elsa dollhouse figure, and she was told by the stores that they sell out within 15 minutes of getting a new shipment. Maggie’s birthday is coming up, and she requested a Frozen slumber party with her best friend, Cora.

Back in April, I went downtown to the area that rents costumes. Peru is a rental culture. I am talking everything… school plays, Halloween, what to wear to a wedding (they are super formal here), wedding dresses, graduations, promotions, etc. I personally love it.  Why did I pay over 100 dollars for a prom dress that I knew I would only wear once? See my point? Well, in April, I decided to ask who made the costumes, and I got a lady to make Cohen a fireman  and Zorro costume for under 30 bucks.

Since Maggie wants a Frozen party, is in love with the character Elsa, and adores playing dress-up, she is going to get a Frozen dress for her birthday. This morning, I went down to Siglo XX, I found the lady that makes princess dresses, and for $25 she is going to duplicate this picture that I found on Pinterest…

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and just like that… a $120 handmade dress just turned into $25. 🙂 I can’t wait to see the finished product.

Elsa Costume for Mags

Writer, Poet, and Illustrator

If you had asked me in elementary school what I wanted to be when I grew up, my response would have been the title to this post. I loved to write my own children’s books, I loved to illustrate them.  Sometimes I made elaborate pop-ups or lift-the-flaps. I won a poetry contest in 5th grade, and I always loved writing the short poems to leave for our camp counselors at summer camp (which usually resulted in us winning cleanest cabin).

It is so much fun to watch our kids grow up.  It is crazy how they remind us of us, isn’t it? I see a lot of Greg in Ana. But I also see a lot of me in her.

This week Ana had to write a story and turn it into a book. I think I had the greatest time helping her with this project. I thoroughly enjoyed helping her revise her story, figure out the lay-out of the book, and then she had no problem illustrating.  That girl loves art. It was so much fun.

So… here’s to my favorite school project up to this point in the Peruvian school system (and the only one on my list thus far). 🙂

working on her illustrations. The book is titled in English, The Two Ballerinas.

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since Mags was in the room, she wanted a pic too.  Her homework was coloring the Inca. July is Peru’s Independence Day month.

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the finished product. She was so excited to take it to school today.

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Writer, Poet, and Illustrator

What God has taught me through Living Libraries

I am going to take a moment to sit down and thank God for an opportunity here in Arequipa.  I want to share that opportunity here on our blog, because it is a huge part of the way we have seen God at work here.

I have known since middle school that I wanted to be a teacher.  I love to be creative.  I used to say that I wanted to be a writer, poet, and illustrator.  I would write children’s books and spend hours drawing and coloring the pictures or even creating pop-ups, or life-the-flaps.  I remember writing a letter to Beverly Cleary and getting a response.  I was elated.  I was captivated by Roald Dahl, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Nancy Drew.  I loved so many of my teachers (that influenced how I would teach), and I took mental notes in my head of how not to teach (from other various teachers).

When I started at Harding in 2000, I majored in education.  There was a lot of talk of domestic missions, and I remember deciding that I wanted to be a missionary in the public school system.  I wouldn’t pay attention to guest speakers from small private Christian schools.  I wanted to teach in schools where poverty was evident, where kids needed to be loved.  I had a wonderful childhood with brothers and a sister that I call friends to this day.  I had a close relationship to my mom and dad.  I was never in want, and they taught me such wonderful lessons to use in life (many of those are easy to pick up on when living on a farm).

I really enjoyed my education classes at Harding, and I decided to teach middle school.  I loved that age.

My freshmen year at Harding, I was signed up to attend the HUF (Harding University in Florence, Italy) semester my junior year.  But one day in chapel, a new program was announced.  Harding wanted people interested to sign up for the very first HULA semester abroad (Harding University in Latin America).  I have always been intrigued by the Latin culture.  I LOVED my Spanish classes in high school.  I had even planned to minor in Spanish at Harding, but a freshmen year soccer injury forced me to cut those hours out of my schedule.  I had always thought it would be beneficial to be able to speak in Spanish in the classroom.  Well, a picture of Machu Picchu flashed across the big screen during that presentation, and I was sold.

I am a planner.  I like to know what is ahead.  It was completely out of my comfort zone, but I remember calling my Dad coming out of chapel that day, and saying, “I think I want to change my semester abroad program from HUF to Chile.”  I was on the HULA list within the week.

My HULA semester and how I met Greg is a whole other blog post, but to make that story short… we met, we fell in love, we started dating our Spring semester of our junior year.

I knew exactly what Greg wanted to do with his life after graduating.  It is one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with him.  And he clearly explained to me that his devotion to God came before anything or anyone else.  That was a little bit hard for me to swallow in thinking about an “ultimatum” for dating him.  I mean, God had given me a purpose for how I could serve him after graduating too.  If we were to get married, why did it have to be me that gave up my dream for what God seemed to be working up in my life?

Well, I just fell more and more in love with this man, and I decided that along with planning to teach, I also strongly desired to be a mother.  And a mother is a teacher, right?  So I could certainly fulfill that role in the mission field with Greg… Peru more specifically.  We knew at that point that Arequipa, Peru was the place we would land after preparing for several more years.

After graduation, we moved to Memphis for Greg to complete his MDiv in a 3-year whirlwind.  I taught 7th grade science, and I was also able to complete my masters in curriculum and instruction.  I worked as a grad assist for a very wise woman who also lived in the mission field (her name is Ileene Huffard).  She strongly encouraged me to get my masters, because a masters in developing countries are seen as doctoral degrees.  I thought, “Why not?”  I finished my masters, and we moved on from Memphis to spend 6 months with each of our supporting churches.

One year later, we arrived in the beautiful Arequipa, Peru.  I was a momma to a beautiful 17-month old girl, and I was ready to dive into culture and language learning.  I had no clue what difficulties were ahead.

I stunk at learning Spanish.  My teammates all exceeded with ease (or so it seemed to me).  I was lonely.  I was an extrovert that sounded like a 2-year-old.  And I was pregnant with our second daughter.  I will never forget the kindness shown to me by one of our supporting churches.  I love hot tea.  One day, in the mail, I received a large envelope.  In the envelope was a Ziplock bag with all kinds of different teas.  Each tea bag had an encouraging scripture attached to it by paperclip.  On the other side of the card, a different person had handwritten a note to cheer me on in my Spanish learning.  The tears flowed that day from experiencing such a love from friends and family back home.  But at the same time, I doubted God.  Why had he brought me so far into this missionary life just for me to fail at not communicating well.  It is kind of hard to live in a place where you can’t talk well.  I was the dumb parent at school.  I never understood the conversations we had in our church meetings or when inviting Peruvians over.  I felt like such a burden to Greg, because I would have to ask him to translate most everything for me.  I really didn’t get this whole Peru plan that I thought I would be prepared for.

I could also write an entire other blog post on our relationship to Alfredo Oporto.  But to make that long story short, we decided to start a community library program for one of our first projects in the NGO we began here called CUDA (Christian Urban Development Association).  Alfredo led us to this idea, and he helped us jump through so many hoops in a short amount of time that would have taken ignorant foreigners years to figure out.

With my limited Spanish, I began to plan fun activities for library kids ranging from 4 years old to sixth grade.  I loved using my skill set to figure these activities out for the lessons, but it was so frustrating to still not speak really well, and to be dealing with kids from so many different learning levels.  Also, one week we would have 12 kids, another week we would have 2.  We couldn’t plan a curriculum, because attendance was so spotty.

Fast forward about 2.5 years later… after wrestling with how our library project could be sustainable, I knew that the community libraries could not work in this way.  The people of the community had good intentions to help when we originally set up the libraries, but it wasn’t realistic for them to run the libraries without help.  They didn’t have the time or the resources.

It dawned on me one day.  Who has the time and the resources to teach children reading here?  The teachers already being paid by the government, of course.  We closed down our community libraries (actually we were kicked out of our last space, which in my opinion was like God closing the door), and we signed an agreement to work with three third grade classes in an all-girls school and an all-boys school.  I knew that the schools needed a library space, and I wanted my goal to be to train teachers in the reading comprehension strategies that I had learned in my education at Harding.

So in 2012, I had a group of 3 teachers in the national schools, the two principals, and two workers in a community library that another NGO was running.  I would meet with them once a month to discuss a reading strategy, and then I would visit their classrooms once a week to model lessons using those strategies in a 45 minute lesson.  My Spanish had improved, but I still had to work so hard to practice reading stories I would use ahead of time, or to translate how to ask the questions I needed to have prepared.  With a huge school strike that year, I only got through 3 of the strategies, but I built good relationships with the teachers involved, and my Spanish had improved tremendously.

Our NGO was growing.  There were other successful projects, and our team had found its groove in this city with new relationships and connections to Peruvians in charge of things that could help us.  In 2013, we installed our very first Living Library.  The school had to provide a space, and we would be serving the entire school.  All of the teachers would attend a once-a-month staff development to learn the strategies.  In the Living Library curriculum, I planned two lessons for modeling every strategy, one library day to enjoy reading and invite volunteers to come in and read with the kids, and one library day at the end of the month for the teachers to show a lesson using the strategy (where we observed and gave constructive-criticism).  One of the biggest blessings to me in 2013, was the addition of a Peruvian director for our Living Libraries program.  Lucia was hired to help me.  Throughout that year, she observed my lessons, and by the final months, she was teaching and doing an excellent job.  It was so helpful to have a Peruvian on the team that understood the politics of the Peruvian education system.

Lucia and I dream big of what can be.  We discussed the possibility of an international education campaign offered to education professionals throughout Arequipa.  We also dreamed of expanding our team in order to equip another Peruvian teacher, and to be able to serve more schools.

Now, in 2014, we are in our second school (which is big enough to count as two).  CUDA hired an additional Peruvian teacher, Nancy, who is doing an exceptional job.  We have two full-time volunteers, Bethany and Briana, that are here to live and do mission work in Arequipa.  And next week, we will host our very first education campaign in one of the major universities in Arequipa.  We will have speakers from Lima, Arequipa, and the United States… including me. 🙂

 

About 8 years ago, I supposedly “gave up” my dream to be a missionary in the public school system in order to follow God’s call to Peru with my husband and family.  I struggled so much with why he had brought me here, and how in the world I would ever do anything without speaking the language.

Well, I sit here on my couch this morning, and I am overwhelmed by his faithfulness.  You see, he was preparing me to be a missionary in the public school system.  I just didn’t specify the country in my prayers apparently.  😉  Not only am I working with schools, teaching children from poverty, and designing lessons for an entire reading curriculum.  Next week, I will participate in one of the biggest education campaigns that Arequipa has ever hosted.  I will speak IN SPANISH to those that come for the seminar.  And I will sit and visit with the other speakers, who are some of the biggest names in education in Peru.  One of the speakers is the man that caused Peruvian education law to change and include a plan for reading in the past several years!

Sometimes we find ourselves in a valley, and we cry out “WHY?” or “HOW?”  I know many of those moments in my journey here in Arequipa.

But what a blessing when we find ourselves looking back over many years.  And we see how God’s story is so intricately designed.  We find ourselves in his story, fulfilling his mission.  And it is so obvious that God prepared us all along the way to do something more than we could ask or imagine.

As Chrysanthemum’s teacher says in one of our library books, “Wow.  That is all I can say.  Wow.”

CUDA’s Living Library project can be found HERE.

I hope to write a blog post on how our campaign goes next week.  Ileene Huffard, my graduate professor that encouraged me to get my master before coming here, arrives tomorrow with one of my other reading professors from Harding, Clara Carroll.  I cannot wait to show them what is going on here in Arequipa first-hand.  God is at work.  Isn’t he amazing!?

What God has taught me through Living Libraries