Wednesday, August 14, 2013


It was about 10:00 last night when I realized I had to drive to Denver. Yeah, I wasn't too excited.... Monday evening I was in Denver for a family dinner for my cousin who left yesterday to go to Bible college in California (bye Melly!!). I drove back up to Greeley Tuesday (yesterday) morning, got the the Global Refugee Center by 9:00, worked until about 2:45, went to a physical assessment (for my job with ABC doing before and after school care) at 3:30 (although I didn't get seen until after 4:00), went to a Universal Precautions, CPR, and First Aid class at 6:00, got done a little after 9:00, rushed to Starbucks to write a paper, and finished by 10:00 when they close. I don't have internet in my apartment in Greeley yet, so it was then that I realized there was no way I could log in to Soliya for my first facilitation training meeting the next morning (Did I even mention that I'm doing facilitator training for Soliya??). To Denver! I got to my grandparents' house a little after 11:00, got to bed by midnight, and work up at 3:30am to get ready for my 4:00am session. So I am tired!!

My trainers' names are Jo and Katharina. In the group training for facilitator positions with me are Marielle, Maaike, Robb, and Joe. While I have to admit, I am excited about continuing my involvement with Soliya, it is another thing to do. I'm working hard to balance my schedule, but we'll see how this next semester goes. I'm definitely nervous about it. Still, our session today went very well. We talked about why facilitators are necessary, what they bring to the table, and what their purpose is.

When I think about facilitation in this context, I think of someone who forms a bridge between people, who brings them together, who creates a safe place where they can try to understand each other. Excuse my terrible drawing to the right, but I wanted to find a way to show you all what I have in mind. This is not to say that facilitators have all the answers or are at perfect peace, but there's just something about being able to respect and accept others' thoughts and beliefs even if you don't necessarily agree with them.

I'm really looking forward to this opportunity training with Soliya. I can't wait to see how it helps me grow personally and what I can offer to others through it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


As I write this post, I am sitting in the conservatory (a bridge/lounge between two parts of a hotel...also the only place I have found free wifi!!) of the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. These last few weeks have been busy to say the least. Last week I was in Pueblo, Colorado for a Ladies' Conference (with church), and the week before that I was in Branson, Missouri for Junior Bible Quizzing nationals (I coach a team). To add to that mix, I am also currently taking two classes online, both Global Issues and Global Systems. I should say I was taking - the classes both ended yesterday.

Though my crazy schedule really did prevent me from putting my all into the last bit of my classes, I feel that I've learned a lot through them. So here, for a post, I'd like to say some first about globalization and then about global citizenship.

Globalization poses so many interesting questions. While it is undeniable that it brings about many positive developments, I think many would agree as well that it has a lot of negative consequences. Now, I just studied to death about all these forms of globalization, economic, cultural, political, etc. so I won't go into trying to explain each. However, I would like to speak a little more generally and really, more personally on the issue. See, I think we're all part of globalization. Look at where your clothes were made. Probably not in your own country. Look at where your laptop/tablet/iphone/whatever was manufactured. Again, probably not in your own country. The car you drive is likely from another country. Even the food you eat might be from another country. All that being said, clearly globalization affects us all. Globalization might create more jobs, it might make products cheaper, it might provide more opportunities. This doesn't sound too bad, right? The other side of all this, I think, is the cultural element. Some critics of globalization would say that cultures die because of it. When a western country like the United States saturates the market of another country, its influence may indeed be detrimental to that culture. However, to me, "globalization" and "westernization" don't have to mean the same thing. I don't think a country should have to become westernized to take part in the global community. When you look at this world, I mean, really look at it, think about the 7 billion people here, think about all the countries, ethic groups, and personalities, why would we want to lose that unique beauty? I wouldn't. So in becoming globalized, I think it's extremely important that people also hold on to their own unique culture and values. Ultimately, in globalization, as in many things, it's just crucial to find the happy medium.

Now, global citizenship, it seems to me, can be a key to finding that happy medium. Global citizenship is ultimately about seeing oneself as a citizen of the world. This idea is transcendent to the fact that I'm from Denver, Colorado, USA. See, I'm just from the world, just like everyone else reading this page. That idea tends to bring a certain unity and peace. I have readers from China, India, Russia, the United States, Lithuania, Indonesia, and more, and we are probably all experiencing globalization to some extent, like I said before. But while we should hang on to our own unique cultures, embracing global citizenship allows us to embrace each other, celebrating our differences. This all presents us with a unique opportunity: a global commonality that can lead to a global friendship.

A couple weeks ago, in my work at the Global Refugee Center, the children had a "world culture" themed week. On Friday, I let the little ones paint a mural together to celebrate the beauty in our differences. If children can appreciate this idea so much, I think we all can.
I don't usually get many comments on my post, but I encourage you to comment on this one. I have it set up so you can even do so anonymously. I just want to know your thoughts on this... How has globalization impacted you? What does it mean to you? What do you think about it? Do you see yourself as a global citizen? Thoughts?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Expedition Yucatan (part 4)

6/24 DAY 9
The time with the kids went so quickly. I knew from the beginning that these kiddos would find their way into my heart. I worked with kids last school year, and when the end of the year came, I couldn’t imagine having to leave them. After only a short five days with the kids in the village of Yunku, I couldn’t imagine leaving them either. Someone once said that everyone should be seen as a teacher, and there’s really a lot of truth to that. I have to say, I hope I got to teach these children even half as much as they taught me. They are truly little miracles that have touched my heart and blessed my life.
During the day, we all got together to write thank you letters to the families in Yunku which we would deliver when we dropped the kids off at the end of the day. Our time with the kids involved a piƱata and cake, both of which they obviously loved. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many children so excited in my life. It was absolutely adorable.

6/25 DAY 10
Although we did spend the night in the hacienda the night before, we had to be up and ready the next morning for Uxmal. Uxmal is another archeological site with Mayan ruins, and I have to say, it's my favorite site we went to. Miguel, our fantastic guide, told us the story of the first pyramid you see when you enter the site. It's called the House of the Magician or the Temple of the Dwarf. Legend is that there was once an evil and tyrannical king in Uxmal, and there was a prophesy that he would be overthrown. Nearby, on the south end of the site, there was a witch who hatched an egg in an ash pit, and out came a dwarf. The king felt threatened by the dwarf, but gave him a series of tests to try to prove that he was human and not a magical being after all. The first test the king gave to the dwarf was to tell him how many leaves were on a great tree in Uxmal. The dwarf by night sought the counsel of the gods, and the bat god told him how many leaves were on the tree. When the dwarf reported this to the king the next day (and I'm not really sure how the king knew if he was right), the king gave him another test. The dwarf was to build a great temple in one day. So the dwarf went into the corn fields and sought the help of alux'ob. Once the temple was built, the king gave the dwarf yet another test. He was to crack the seed of a cocoyul (not sure if that's spelled right) on his head. Knowing that the cocoyul was very hard, the dwarf sought the help of his mother, the witch. She somehow magically infused the shell of a tortoise under his scalp but over his skull, and the dwarf was able to crack the cocoyul. When the king tried it, he killed himself, and the dwarf then took over Uxmal.
Although we didn't get to climb the Temple of the Dwarf, we did climb the Great Pyramid, and that was amazing. We left Uxmal in the afternoon, got a late lunch, and then returned for the sound and light show that evening. Seeing as how the entire thing was in Spanish, there was lots of music, lights, and echoing, it was very hard to understand. It was still great though, and coconut ice cream made the experience even better. We returned to the hacienda rather late.

6/26 DAY 11

We had to get up really early to head to Coba. I have to say, Coba was not too exciting for me. The site was in a very ruinous state, more so than anywhere else we had been. Also, there was a ton of walking because the site is so spread out. We didn't even see half of it, but everyone was exhausted by the end. My favorite part was right before we left. We climbed a huge pyramid, bigger than the one at Uxmal. I admit, I scooted down while sitting instead of chancing falling down those steep stairs. Mayans must have had great legs!
 After Coba, we had to change from our lighter clothing into pants and long sleeve shirts. It was absolutely miserable in that humidity, but we were going to Punta Laguna where Dr. Vick works. She set up a spider monkey reserve and has been working there since 1996. As we would be going through the jungle in the lagoon areas, we were promised several mosquito bites. Here, we also saw the cenote of the skulls where over 200 human skulls were found.
6/27 DAY 12
We made it to Puerto Morelos the previous night after Punta Laguna. We would be spending two night in a little hotel on the beach. When we got there, we went and got late dinner and then worked on homework until 2am. The trip was coming to a close, and we were all making every effort to complete our anthropology journals.
On day 12 we went snorkeling. I am definitely not the best swimmer, but I did it anyway, and I was very glad I did. After that, we had the day free to walk around Puerto Morelos. We had a nice dinner together at the end of the day, and we finished it off sitting on the balconies overlooking the beach and doing... more homework.

6/28 DAY 13
I woke up early to go see the sunrise on the beach. It was a spectacular sight, but I'll have to add pictures later. A little before noon, they took us all to the airport. The trip really did fly by. It was a non-stop, crazy, exciting adventure, and although pieces were tough, I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Expedition Yucatan (part 3)

6/20 DAY 5
We headed to the village of Yunku, a small place where we would engage in our service learning, on day 4 after our adventures in Mani and Loltun Cave. It was definitely a shorter drive than the one we experienced on the way to Merida, but after the events of the day, we got there in the evening. We would be staying in a hacienda, formerly a henequen and cattle hacienda, one of the smaller ones owned by the Peon family, restored by Dr. Vick's friend Ruth. Day 5 was the first day with the children though, the entire reason why I came. That's right, children is the ENTIRE REASON why I came. It's how Mike (my professor) pulled me into this trip, quite honestly. Knowing I want to teach in an international setting one day, he used the kids to convince me that this was what I wanted to do with my summer. Yes, he was right!
Having prior experience with working with children, the lack of planning and structure around the curriculum definitely bothered me, but all went... not well, but alright for the first day. We walked around the village rounding up children. One thing that struck me as interesting was how willing almost all of the families were to let their children go with perfect strangers. We would say (in Spanish of course) something like, "Hi, we're students from the United States, and we're staying at the hacienda and having a program for the kids here. Is it okay if your children come with us for a few hours?" and they would just get their kids and tell them to go with us.

The first day we made name tags, introduced ourselves with name, age, and hobby, and made "getting to know you" bracelets (which ended up just being regular bracelets without the "getting to know you" part because of lack of planning). We concluded our day with dinner, and of course, more homework.

6/21 DAY 6
Thankfully, a little more planning went in to the second day. Older and younger kids were divided up. We decided to use "animals" as a theme to direct activities around. The older kids learned words for a bunch of different animals in English and Maya and played charades with them. Maya is the traditional language in this area, but it's also a dying language. A lot of grandparents know it, but even most parents in this village didn't. The parents stress the importance of English to their kids, hoping that the knowledge of English will open more doors to more opportunities for them, but they neglect to emphasize the importance of Maya as well. With the death of this language, a death of an important cultural element would occur as well. So part of our task here was to teach some English, but also to try (in the short 5 days we would spend with the children) to instill an appreciation and value for Maya and the Mayan culture.

6/22 DAY 7

Saturday was probably the most fun for the kids. We had a photo scavenger hunt, or busqueda. We planned it out very thoughtfully the night before, dividing ourselves into five groups with the five strongest Spanish speakers and one or two others to lead each group. I have to say, the kids absolutely loved the cameras (and our phones, if we left them out), so we thought it would be perfect to let them use cameras for our activity.

My little group was very excited about the busqueda, and the children ended up wanting to find several of every item on the list. We had about ten pictures for each thing we needed. I've included a couple of the bunch here.

To the left is "una foto con un lugar donde te gusta jugar" (a photo with a place where you like to play, and below is "caras chistosas" (funny faces).

 6/23 DAY 8
We had an easier day with the kids on our fourth day. By this point, I knew pretty much every one of their names, and our whole group seemed comfortable together. We did some word searches and made our own stories about alux'ob (alux is the singular; in Maya 'ob is to pluralize a word... also, that's pronounced more like "ah-loosh"). There is a myth about people called alux who, from what I understand, are miniature people who have six toes and can take the form of rocks (so be careful which rocks you touch, if you go to Yucatan!) and some other things. They apparently are very mischievous if you upset them, and they can make your life miserable. Now, this may seem like a cute little fantasy to you, but people genuinely believe in the alux, they say things like "oh, an aluz must have taken it" when things go missing, and they even give alux'ob offerings to appease them when they're messing things up. Some of the stories the kids came up with were quite entertaining. 
We had the kids earlier this day, from about 9:00 to 11:30am, instead of 2:00 to 5:00pm like we were doing because it was a Sunday, so they didn't have school. We also all had a communion to attend at 12:30. Some of the kids we were working with were having their first communion, and we were invited. I have to say, I have been to a few Catholic services here in the US, and they were very tedious and not very lively, but the only word I can think of to describe the communion we attended is "beautiful." From start to finish, there was just a simple beauty to it. The church where I grew up has invested several thousand dollars on high-tech sound systems, colored and moving theatrical lights, computer systems for projection, and nice instruments, and none of that is bad necessarily. There was just something about the simplicity of a five-person choir with hymnals, without microphones and fancy lights. There's a beautiful simplicity to having one little drum and two acoustic guitars instead of a full drum set, computerized sound tracks, a bass, an electric guitar, an acoustic-electric, a keyboard, an organ, a grand piano, a trumpet, and a saxophone. I am in no way trying to devalue or criticize what that church I grew up in has or how they run a service, but like I said, there was just something beautiful about the simplicity of the communion. I felt very privileged to have been in attendance.