Friday, May 2, 2014

Dear friends and family,

I wish to begin this letter with ¨Hi, I´m Bob the tomato...¨ but I don´t know who I should cast as Larry the cucumber, so I guess this is not the time for VeggieTales.  I have never been so sunburned.  New experiences galore!  Later, later.

I hope that you are all doing well!  This sounds impossible, I know, but I have been thinking a lot of everyone here.  I mean everyone.  People that I haven´t seen in years, or met once for a day, or that I took a class with, those who I have never met but who still influence me.  So you are all getting prayers.  :)  The Schoenstatt Sisters must be influencing me.

What to start with?  I want to tell you more about the Nutrition Center, but it´s hard to know where to begin.  Each day is another adventure, but at the same time, I am certain that you don´t want to hear the chronicles of Claire´s Nutrition Center Experiences.  However, because it is on my mind, I want to tell you something about  it.

I think that I mentioned earlier, that I switched classes.  The Nutrition Center has 97 or so children, from babies to five-year-olds.  When I was here in September, I was placed with the oldest class of four year olds because they talk a lot, and I needed to learn Spanish as quickly as possible.  That particular class has 26 active youngsters.  Besides that class, there is a baby room, a two-year-old room, and a three-year old class, which I am helping with now.

The first day with my new class did not feel right at all.  The Nutrition Center is a large rectangle with an open courtyard surrounded by a walkway.  From the walkway branch off classrooms, bathrooms, and the kitchen, as well as the nurses´office and administrative offices. Actually, think of a picture frame with a mat board surrounding the painting.  The painting itself would be the courtyard, filled with white rocks and covered by a domed grate at the very top.  The colorful matboard that surrounds the picture is the wide walkway surrounding the courtyard on all four sides, and the frame itself is composed of classrooms, etc.  Not a perfect analogy, but hopefully it gives you an idea.

The point of that whole explanation was to lead into the fact that my old class of four and five year olds, as well as my new class of three year olds have to eat in the walkway.  There is plenty of room, with lots of sunlight to illuminate our sweaty smiling faces.  There are long tables painted in bright colors, like everything here.  Pink, blue, and yellow tables complete with benches for the older ones and little colorful chairs for the younger children.

Usually, I had to pass up the younger class to walk to my own, and many times they would all leave their chairs to give me a group hug good morning.  So, I already knew a few names and many faces.  But that particular morning was difficult  because I had to stay with them and see the confused faces of my other class.  I felt like such a traitor, abandoning my old friends to make new ones, but that is not the case.

In reality, there is another volunteer here, a very sweet girl from Germany, who is with my old class, so I thought that it was better that I didn´t intrude.

The first day with my new class and many since, have been incredible.  Now, I realize that I didn´t abandon my other class, I just gained a second one.  Now, I know all the children in both, and I am equally liable to be attacked by either bunch upon entering the classroom.  Of course, that means that I will also be ignored by both groups if they don´t like what I am saying.

Some things are the same.  For example, when I sit down in one of the red, blue, green, yellow, or orange chairs, somehow it has a magnetic affect.  Sooner than later, I have two children on top of me, and usually two more sitting next to me holding my hands and playing with my ring, watch, or hairties.  Really, anything to get some attention.

This time before breakfast when we are waiting for everyone to arrive is a free time, when it is okay if they are playing a bit, as long as we are reasonably under control.  They like to play with my hair, and look at my arms and hands.  I can´t tell if the whiteness of my skin is interesting to them, or purely strange, because every day it is the same.  I joke that my primary job is a chair, because more often than not I have at least one child on my lap or in my arms.

The boys, being boys, like to play rough.  But because they aren´t so big, it doesn´t really matter to me.  There is one little tyke who likes to take my forearm in his two little brown hands, and try to twist it.  Then he asks ¨does it hurt?  Now?  What about now?¨ I just laugh, because the chances of him actually being able to inflict significant pain are very small.  Just like my brothers, these boys like to show off by seeing just how hard they can slap my hand.  I have to say, they do have surprising force for their size.  They jerk their small bodies back to try to muster as much force as possible before slamming their hands onto mine.

Although this class is smaller, only 20 children instead of 26, I have more work in some ways.  The teachers are actually a mother and daughter, but the daughter is pregnant, so she can´t overdue things.  Therefore, I draw the homework, carry all the chairs, and carry the trays of food and such.  Plus, I have my unofficial position as chair, horse, and whatever else is needed.

I feel like I am not doing the whole situation justice.  It´s hard to properly paint the picture.  The children are very energetic, very vivid.  Their passions are intense.  Sometimes they change from smiling to crying to angry in the space of a minute.  It´s not that they are always happy, because they tease and fight each other, but they seem to need less to be happy, if that makes sense.

For example, a few days ago, I brought Easter candies for the teachers.  Not many, but a few for each.  I had brought a bag of Sweetarts because I thought they would like the little animals and the colors.  It was naptime, and most of the group was quietly sitting at the tables, their heads resting on the table, nodding off.  I had just sat down, and two children moved from the table to sleep on me instead.  As I looked over their heads, I saw the teacher had one of the little candies to a child.

That´s not unusual, right?  But when I observed the little girl bite off pieces of the Sweetart and distribute them among her tablemates, it was very touching.  Those candies are teeny, but this way they all had a taste.  No one asked her to do it, it was completely voluntary.

I had a day off today to go the the beach with all my housemates!  We left at 5:45 this morning, so they are already asleep.  The day went beautifully, with tons of sun and smiles.  But towards the end, when we were standing around trying to dry off before getting back home, I was thinking about the beach.

At this point, I was starting to feel the sunburn, and the beauty of the water, sand, and shells was growing dimmer as my legs were throbbing more.  So, I was thinking about how maybe life is like a beach.

 Sometimes, I am the person who is sunburned.  It´s superficial, but it hurts, and I begin to lose the sense of what surrounds me, and can only feel what is my immediate reality.  Other times, I am the person laying on a towel, sunbathing.  I can catch the rays of sun, but at the same time, I lose sense of time and my backpack gets stolen.  Or, I am the teenager searching for the perfect shell, always bending over, staring at the bottom, never seeing the sky or paying heed to the greetings of the other people, yet never quite encountering what I am searching for. Other times, I am the little crab in a shell, just trying not to get squished by someone´s flip-flops. Some days I am the frustrated person writing in the sand, trying to make something beautiful, but it gets destoyed over and over by forces beyond my control.

But once in awhile, I am the child.  The child that sees the beautiful blue ocean girded with white sand, and dives right in, enjoying it all, taking the tumbles in the waves and still coming to the surface with a smile.  I wish that I could remember to be the child more often.

So, now that my beach musings have come to a conclusion, I want to wish you all a goodnight.  I am only here for another week, but I hope to post one more time while I am here, and another after I arrive at home.  There are so many experiences, that I wonder if I should continue until I run out, or if I should let things rest.  I can´t believe that I have been here almost a month.  The first time was (I thought) a once in a lifetime experience, but somehow I have been blessed with another opportunity.  I wonder what God with bring about with it.  Who knows?

Have a wonderful week! I am praying for you all!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dear family and friends,

I send you the most special of Easter greetings!  I hope that the joy and freedom of Christ fills your lives in a special way this Easter Season.

My Easter weekend in La Victoria was a beautiful and exhausting experience. But for your benefit, I will content myself with the Easter Vigil experience, although Holy Thursday and Good Friday were both wonderful as well.

After some discussion with my housemates Annelie and Kristina (Eliud being with her family this week) we decided to go to the Easter Vigil Mass Saturday night, and then have a special breakfast Sunday morning.  I attended an Easter Vigil Mass two years ago, but this was a different experience entirely, as you might guess.

Good Friday afternoon when the service was finished, the priest reminded us all that the Vigil Mass would begin precisely at 10pm Saturday night on the property of the Schoenstatt Sisters.  The German girls and I exchanged incredulous glances, as the service itself that day had begun 45 minutes late, as customary for events.  After a time, we know that any event or meeting will start from 15 to 40 minutes late, but we can´t help ourselves from arriving on time, just in case.

That night, accordingly, the three of us stood outside our house, armed with candles and cameras.  For some reason, this time people took the priest seriously.  For about an hour ahead of time until 10pm, the congregation came to the area to wait. Luckily for us, the gathering was in the driveway right after Casa Maria, our house and we found a spot in which we thought we could see.

Two minutes after 10, we began the Mass with the blessing of fire.  All of a sudden, the space between the small bonfire and the people was nonexistent.  I could barely see anything, but thanks to the priest´s handy-dandy little truck, I could hear it very clearly!  Due to the walks and different church activities, his beat up pick-up is equipped with a microphone and speakers.  Anyway, very shortly, the Easter candle was lit and the people from the front shared their light with others, and in a few minutes the whole crowd had lit candles.  Some were big, some were small, others decorated, kind of like the people who held them.

Slowly, we processed from the Schoenstatt Grounds to the parish church, a walk of about two blocks.  For the entire time, we were singing the refrain of a song about Christ the light of the world, as the cantor belted out verses on the microphone.  I have to admit, I was afraid for my hair.  There were so many people, children, teens, adults, and elderly, each with their own candle, and we were all walking pretty close to one and other.  But, I made it through without incident and arrived at the church unsinged.

The Sisters had warned us that we should bring chairs from the house, as they also did, because the chance of getting a seat in one of the pews was small.  So, Annelie, Kristina and I all brought chairs.  Long story short, I ended up standing in the back of the church, along with many who had not brought chairs.  The aisles, empty spaces and yard also had extra people who did not fit in the pews. After the priest processed into the sanctuary with the Easter candle, the people quickly followed in, filling the space with bodies, the air with smoke from their candles, and the room with their light.

Note: It is rare to have complete silence here at any event at all.  Really.  I went to a funeral, wedding, baptism, prayer events, Mass, and for each one there are always people talking.  Ideally, according to the man speaking on the microphone that night, we would have had silence coming into the church, but that was an impossibility, as we all knew well.

The Mass commenced with an upbeat song led by the Schoenstatt Sisters and was then followed by the readings.  I did not remember this from my other Vigil experience, but I will never, ever forget this one.  We had eight readings from the Old and New Testament, interspersed with prefaces, prayers, and psalms.  My feet ached!  I had made the dreadful mistake of wearing new blue sandals for Easter, whereas I should have known better by now.  Hah. Silly me. After each time the priest and people stood up, I expected the Gospel reading, but it was only for a prayer and then the rest of the people sat down again.

When it was finally time for the Gospel, I had abandoned caution and removed my sandals, putting them under a chair along with my candle, which had finally blown out in the wind from the open door behind me. There were so many people that I could not take a step backwards or to the side for fear of trampling a neighbor, and two ladies were seated in chairs in front of me.  Sadly, although I understood the Gospel and homily at the time, now I can´t remember what they were.  I think that it was somewhere around midnight at that point, and I had been awake for the last 18 hours, so my standing position actually providential in that I was not in danger of dropping off to sleep.  Although, that would have been near impossible.

Then, after the Gospel, we dove right into the sequence of prayers for the Church, fellow Christians, Jews, all people, those in need, governments, and everyone else.  Then, we renewed our Baptismal promises, which was fun in Spanish, and in memorial of our Baptism, we were sprinkled with holy water.  I say sprinkled, but perhaps should say drenched.  The priest is of a charismatic personality and does nothing by halves.  He had a bunch of branches that he used to throw water over the congregation.  As the choir sang out Agua Viva, he traversed the church thoroughly, water at hand.  When he came to the  very back, where many of us were packed standing, he passed right in front of me.  As the space was small, he was maybe a foot away from me.  He looked directly at me and SPLASH.  Shower time!  And so it continued.

Randomly, throughout the Mass, either the choir or the priest would call for an applause for Christ, and the church would ring with the clapping hands as the people sprang to their feet to celebrate their King´s resurrection.  And at the sign of peace, when we wish each other Christ´s peace as he himself did, complete strangers embrace each other as friends as goodwill overflowed.

The offertory, where the gifts of bread and wine are generally offered to be changed to the Body and Blood of Christ, was special.  There were more items presented, each one with a significance that was announced as it was presented.  We had flowers to symbolize the beauty of creation and the blossoming of life within us, food for the sustenance God provides, a Bible, water, and many more things.  I love symbolism, and this way of thanking God while giving back His gifts was an interesting way to think of ordinary things in a different light.

After communion and the final blessing, we sang the final song with much gusto.  

The music for this Mass was amazing Dominican hymns complete with guitars, keyboard, tambourines and drums.  The choir´s enthusiastic harmonies added to the general beauty.  I don´t know if I had mentioned this earlier, but we don´t have missalettes or songbooks.  For the songs, the choir leads and for the most part the people know the songs.  If not, by the third refrain, we have the gist of it and can at least join in.

If I had to describe the music in a word, I am not sure what I would say.  Enthusiastic?  Inspired?  Catchy?  Strong?  Loud?  In reality, it was all that and much more. Especially for the Mass responses the crowd sang with such enthusiasm that you would have thought they had waited all of Lent for those moments.  Clapping, swaying, waving, are all normal expressions of participation in the music.  Even if the words escape you, you can still keep time by clapping.

And the last song was no exception! The choir outdid itself for the last song; there was clapping, swaying, waving, the full participation of everyone.  It was so filled with Easter joy and triumph that people were literally dancing down the aisle on the way out.  No kidding!  And loud! 1AM and whole families, elderly and all of us were going strong.  If the Apostles had enthusiasm like them, I can see how they conquered the world for Christ. A friend next to me screamed a Happy Easter but I could barely tell.

So by the time we finished at the church, it was 1:15 AM Easter morning!  Whew!  What a vigil!  Kristina, Annelie and I walked back, carrying our chairs, the songs still ringing in our ears.  The guard at the Nutrition Center, which is on the Schoenstatt Sisters´grounds, told us that he could clearly hear the Mass from two blocks away.  Not a surprise.

Sr. Lucia invited us to the Shrine, where the Sisters would sing the Regina Coeli.  It was beautiful!  The priest had followed to hear it as well, and then wished the Sisters and us a blessed Easter and goodnight!

A few more minutes passed as we exchanged Easter greetings with the Sisters.  By this time, our 6pm dinner was only a memory, and Kristina told me that I had to understand that although we would still eat together later that morning, it was time to eat then.  so, we had bread in the kitchen before we attempted to go to bed at 2:30 or so.  I still had cards to write, so I was up until 4 Easter morning. Did I eat a jellybean or two?  You can bet that I did!

So yes, in conclusion it was a long, but probably one of the most beautiful Masses that I have ever attended.  The music, people, and liturgy made for a heavenly experience :)

Later, Annelie woke me to an Easter feast.  There were only three of us, but we had each prepared something for each other, and then the Sisters had given us more things, so we had sweet bread, lamb cakes, German cookies and muffins, my banana muffins, bread, maizena (a breakfast pudding) and fruit.  It would have been enough for days!  As we ate, we discussed our different family traditions, both as individuals and by country.  It is so interesting to hear about how we celebrate. Dominican, German, American; but all children of God and therefore a family.

In the long Vigil Mass, I offered it specially for my family and for all those who have touched my life  in any way or will in the future.  Chances are, if you are reading this, it was offered for you. Thank you!  Blessed Easter to all!  I keep all of your intentions in prayer here.  I hope that each of you had a restful day with family and friends.  God bless you all!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dear friends and family,

Part Two: The Return. Guess what?  I am back in the Dominican Republic!  After four months of Wisconsin winter, I decided to come back to volunteer in the Nutrition Center for a month before I start school in August.  Long story short, I have begun another chapter here in La Victoria.

To add to the fun, I wanted to surprise my old housemates, Eliud and Annelie, so I requested that the Schoenstatt Sisters refrain from telling them that I was coming.  Instead, they were told that an American girl was going to stay for a month and that her name was Marie.

The flight was fairly uneventful from Chicago to New York, but after arriving in Santo Domingo, I encountered a slight problem.  My entry papers were inspected and approved, I bought my visitors´card, and found the baggage claim.

 But of course, then I encountered a problem.  After watching numerous bags of all descriptions wind around and be picked up by their relieved owners, I was still standing there.  My duffle bag came through, which was wonderful because it contained clothes and small things for the children of the Nutrition Center.  Lucky for me, I was only missing the suitcase with my clothes and malaria pills. Although I was not the only person  waiting an uncommonly long time, as the minutes ticked by and stretched on, I began to wonder what could have happened.  Maybe someone grabbed it by mistake, or I missed seeing it, or it was lost.  The possibilities seemed endless.  I stood there, praying that I would eventually find it and that I would have still someone to pick me up, as I was an hour late due to flight time and the unforeseen baggage problem.  And so it was until off in the distance, rudely abandoned on the side of the terminal from San Juan was a black suitcase with a bunch of colorful ribbons.  Watching it closely lest it disappear, I limped my way over, backpack and duffle bag in tow.  Sure enough, my bag had been taken with the flight that went from Chicago through San Juan to Santo Domingo, instead of passing through NY with me.  Gladly, the customs officer just waved me through, and I could begin to look for my friends.

They, of course, did not know who to look for, so I was searching for the Schoenstatt Sister accompanying the girls.  In general, a person in a habit or uniform is easy to find, even in a crowd.  In fact, I did not find them first; as I meandered down the aisle, I heard an unmistakable exclamation, ¨CLAIRE?!?!?!¨ from Eliud.  Of course, there was much more that was said.  They couldn´t believe that it was, in fact, me.  Eliud poked me in the arm as we drove to La Victoria to ascertain that it was reality. She joked that I might only be a ghost or a dream.

Nor do I blame her, as I can hardly believe it myself.  When I came the first time (for those who read this blog, you know a bit of what I mean) my experience was incredible; half of my impressions would take weeks to adequately describe.  Now, it seems unbelievable that I could be blessed with another opportunity to work and learn here.  As of now, I have plans to teach English, care for children, help with a May celebration, and learn how to prepare Dominican desserts, as well as studying Spanish and working at the Center.

Speaking of the Nutrition Center, no one there knew either that I was coming back.  So, the screams started as I walked up to the building and through the gate.  ¨CLARA?!?!¨ Yes, sometimes I enjoy surprises, when they aren´t given to me.  Because my classroom was the farthest one from the entrance, I came to it last.  through the metal slates of the windows, I saw the teachers stand up and peer through, and the children began chanting my name.  As I opened the door, the whole class converged on me, still shouting.  The teachers had to help me up!  They all remembered me!  Considering how many volunteers have come in and out of their lives, this really touched me.  In the three days of class that we have had since I returned, they have stuck to me, especially the troublesome boys that were my favorites.  (I couldn´t help it, they were only naughty because they needed some attention)

There is so much to tell!  Since I have the time and Internet at this moment, I would like to describe my experience last Friday at an activity called Via Crucis.

One reason that I wanted to come here now, was that I want to see Holy Week traditions here, especially since I could not stay for Christmas.

Via Crucis are prayed every Friday during the Season of Lent.  Basically, it is the Stations of the Cross, where we remember and meditate on the different steps and encounters of the last journey of Christ to the cross.  There are fourteen stations, and at each and between each one different prayers and meditations are given for reflection.  I have prayed the Stations of the Cross before, but not in this particular way.  All the other Fridays this prayer is held in the village of La Victoria, with the stations at different points throughout the town.

I only heard about this Thursday, the day before.  We were eating dinner together that night so I asked Eliud to describe Via Crucis to me, and asked if she would go.  After the description of how beautiful and special they are, I said that I would like to go.  ¨Claire, it´s far.  But far.¨ ¨that´s okay; I like to walk,¨I replied.  ¨FAR,¨she repeated, at least two more times.  Undaunted, the next morning I found out that one of the Sisters was going and would let me come too.

So after working at the Nutritional Center, we set out at 2pm.  It was a hot, humid day, akin to August in Wisconsin.  I had packed two water bottles, and Sr. Lourdes made sure that I brought an umbrella.  We started out in the village, right outside the parish church.  After the opening prayer and reflection, the column of people moved forward together; umbrellas open to shield them from the sun.

And so it began.  We walked, prayed, and sang together.  The distance between each station seemed longer as time went on, but that could have also been the heat.  As we progressed, the group became larger and larger.  A friend of mine, Yanela, was also walking Via Crucis for the first time, so we shared an umbrella, and endeavored to not lose each other in the crowd.

I don´t remember if I have ever described the country roads here, but I will do so anyway.  They are dirt, almost completely clay sprinkled with stones.  Clay has a tendency to be difficult when wet, and very painful when it is dry.  All of us had white dusty feet in a short amount of time.  I can´t imagine what some of the more sacrificial people went through.  They had removed their shoes in order to mimic more closely the original Way of the Cross.

The walking itself was at first not difficult.  Actually, I distinctly remember wanting to walk faster, but the crowd consisted of people of all ages: elderly, middle aged, pregnant women, and small children.  But after a time, the heat made things much more challenging.  For me, breathing was more difficult.  We were walking with only a small space in front of us, because there were so many people, which made it hard to see to avoid potholes and other hazards, such as neighbors´umbrellas.  From where I was I couldn´t tell where the procession began or ended, and as I already mentioned, it was hot and humid.

Normally, if I have participated in outdoor Stations of the Cross, it is in spring.  usually, the weather is cold and rainy, or occasionally very nice.  Realistically, Jesus did not walk in cool spring weather; I imagine that reality had much more in common with this Way of the Cross, where we were sweating, dirty, panting and exhausted.

Note: I liked it very much; I´m not complaining, only trying to adequately describe this walk

So normally, it is in the town, but because this was the last Friday of Lent, this Via Crucis was scheduled to walk to Mata Ma´mon, a country town.  Although I did not realize it at first, but when I had gone with the bus to drop off the children after school one day last December, I went to Mata Ma´mon.  The bus drives all the children to the Center who live too far to walk, and this was the last stop.

Towards the end of this walk, I admit that my prayer was not so focused, and I didn´t care if we went more slowly than normal.  But the whole experience of so many people offering their afternoon to remember and reflect on the Way of the Cross, and the manner in which they did it made an impression on me. We passed up village after village, always adding to the number of participants.  I lost count, but I think we went through four or five small villages, all pieced together in worse condition than La Victoria, finally arriving at our destination after three hours of walking/limping.  During this walk, I couldn´t believe that some of those people had chosen to do it.  Especially two cases, for one friend of mine, a teacher, is pregnant, and yet she walked with her husband.  In the other, a family whose small daughter is in my class decided to walk all together.

At the end of the way, we had a Mass outside, in which most of us had to stand.  I was trying to guess how many people were there at the end, but definitely upwards of 600.  It was packed. There were buses at the end of the journey to bring back those who lived far away, and so the three hours that we had walked was covered in 20 minutes of driving.  I stumbled in my house at 7:10 ready to sleep.  I later learned that they had not expected so many people, and some walked the whole way back.

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, had it´s own experiences, but I have exhausted my time, so I will save stories for later.  Right now, I am especially looking forward to Easter and this whole weekend.

Thank you for all the prayers and well wishes; you are certainly in my as well.  I´m sure that you will hear of many more stories in the weeks, and months, and years to come!  Please keep the Schoenstatt Sisters and their work in your prayers!

God bless,


Monday, December 9, 2013


I hope that you are all well!  I apologize for not sending out something.  Even now, this is only a half-finished story.  We were without power, internet, and telephone for a long time, and I have not had computer access.  This was what I had started, but not finished.  I think I will post another time after this to better complete my journey.  There is a lot more.  For now, however, this will have to do.

Love and prayers,


I think that the motto for my trip might be Every day is a new adventure- make the most of it!  I have been trying to use up every minute of my limited time here to learn something or to teach something.  In the process of exchanging knowledge and customs comes a friendship, a mutual joy. 
That being said, one of my adventures of the past two weeks was to learn more about the food here.  The same types of food that I am used to eating in the United States are cooked differently here, and if possible I wanted to be able to cook Dominican.  
Just about every other day, I went to the Nutrition Center early so that I could watch the ladies prepare breakfast for the children.   The children have a more varied breakfast than the teachers; oatmeal, harina, harina de maíz, or maízena.  Occasionally they eat bread and cheese, and even more rarely cereal.  But since  I know how to cook oatmeal and slice bread, I mainly wanted to learn about the last two foods.
Well, I did learn- to cook harina de maíz for ninety children!  The amounts are just a bit different than what I am used to.  It will take me a couple tries, I think, to scale it down to a manageable size.  The harina de maíz is a sweet corn pudding that is either flavored vanilla or chocolate.  My job was mainly to stir the concoction as it cooked on the stove. 
But first, I had to stir the powdered milk into good water and mix in the corn flour.  That took more time than I had anticipated, due to both the volume of the substances and the tendency of corn flour to clump into little balls.  While I was whisking the milk and flour together, on the stove was a giant metal pot filled with a boiling tea made of cinnamon, sugar, and water.
 When I finally had the approval of the cook, I dumped the milk mixture into the pot.  These ladies are really used to cooking for this amount of people.  I was nervous because after the milk was added, the level of the maíz was only two inches from the brim of the pot.  As I am  struggling with trying to describe the amount of food being prepared,  just know that my milk mixture was three gallons. 
And the stirring began!  Because of the water and milk, at first the harina is a relatively thin liquid, but with the heat, it gradually thickens.  I had to stir it constantly to prewent lumps of corn flour from reforming.  Twenty minutes later, I wondered how the cook did not have disproportionately large arms.  As the mixture thickened, it was more and more difficult to stir. With a huge smile, she took the spoon from me and stirred the harina easily, using her hand but not her whole arm.  Always something to learn.
Well, the harina was very good.  At least, I enjoyed it, and most of the kids ate well that day.  Although, now I understand why towards the end of their bowls, the kids don´t want to eat more.  It  tastes good, but is super filling. 
 I have to say, I am jealous of some of the cooking implements here.  The metal spoon that I used to stir the pudding was huge and heavy duty.  Without a doubt, it could double for a baseball bat.  (Why am I thinking of baseball?  That´s another story) The size of the pot requires two people to carry it.  In my dreams, right?

Back to baseball.  We had a group come and deliver Christmas toys on Friday.  It was chaotic, but very happy.  The kids were in Heaven.  Each  one received one toy, and what strikes me is that they were perfectly happy with the toy that they were given.  Surprisingly, I don´t remember anyone fighting over a toy or being upset that someone had something different.  Instead, they hurried to show the teachers or me.  Look, look, look!  It was easy to get them to shout a hearty thank you to our guests, who enjoyed giving the toys just as much as the children enjoyed receiving them.

Among the mixture of barbies, dolls, helicopters and cars were some plastic bat and ball sets.  Remember my bizarre baseball game with Berlin?  Unfortuantely for him, he wasn´t at class on Friday.   I don´t know which was the case, but when children don´t come to class, it is either because their parents can not bring them, or they are sick.  Either way, he was absent.

After deliberating a bit, I finally asked the group if I could have a toy for Berlin.  They were more than happy to oblige.  I am looking forward to giving it to him.  The teachers told me that for many of these children, the gifts they received with be the same ones that are under the tree later.  Many families don´t have sufficient food, let alone money for toys. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dear friends and family,

This time, I am trying to be more timely with this blog, but we will see if that will ultimately pan out, because I only have a bit of writing time now.

Well, these past few days have been hectic, and the next few will be too, hence my problems with time.  This weekend there are two groups that are on retreat here, and together they have over forty people.  They are always needing something, and they have the unfortunate habit of eating meals late. Besides that, there are many people who volunteer and work here on the weekends, and they all eat here too.  The eating thing is only pertinent because that means Eliud, Annelie and I have many dishes, sometimes until very late at night.  Oh, and this Sunday is Covenant Sunday, so the Mass is large, and at 4pm.  Did I mention that there is also a wedding today (Saturday)?  

Yesterday was a special day.  Eliud graduated with her English class. She was so excited, because it was not only her class of fifteen students, but many English classes from different technical schools that graduated together.  The ceremony was in Santo Domingo, and the president attended. It was an all day affair.

Annelie and I had been secretly plotting to do something to celebrate Eliud´s graduation.  Eliud is the kind of person that is always helpìng someone.  It is not uncommon for me to find a note or flowers at my bedroom door.  And she has an unending patience for teaching Annelie and I Spanish.  Eliud has been attending this English class daily since February, and I am amazed with all that she has learned in that time.  Besides that, she insists that I correct her English, and is always trying to speak well.  All in all, if anyone is deserving of a graduation celebration, it is Eliud.

My experience this week was not solely my own.  I have a new friend/housemate!  Annelie arrived from Germany almost two weeks ago.  She is still getting accustomed here, but we are all getting along very well.  One day rainy day we were stuck inside so we had a musical afternoon of sorts.  Sr. Mayrelis left her guitar in our house, and Annelie brought her flute with her.  With the guitar was a collection of Spanish songs, but they were written differently than I knew how to play.  However, a few were English that I knew, so we tried those, and a couple German songs from Annelie as well.  The best song was a Christmas one.  I think that if we keep at it, we might have something, provided that Eliud is willing to be the singer.  

While Eliud was out of the house, we realized that our gift options were extremely limited.  However, I have been scouting out the retreat house kitchen little by little, and I thought that we could try to make a dessert for her.  This idea was well received by Annelie, who had planned for cake baking here.  She brought chocolate and ingredients from Germany, as well as some recipes.  Eliud left Wednesday, so we began to translate and choose recipes that night.  

There were two cakes that she had in mind.  The first one was chocolate, but it needed wine, and some ingredients that I hadn´t seen here.  The second was a marble cake.  I picked the tried and true chocolate chip cookies.  Who doesn´t like those?  

On Thursday, as soon as we finished work at the Nutrition Center, we hurried to the Retreat House.  Because of the groups, the ladies would start cooking dinner early, so we had to have our things done or as close to finished as possible before the space was needed.

This turned out to be a very interesting and long afternoon.  It all began with our ingredient search.  Of course, there was no wine to be found.  The cake didn´t need much, only about a cup or so, but it was a necessity in the recipe.  So we thought about making muffins.  However, we were without anything to put in them.  No kind of baking fruit or ground cinnamon.  The marble cake was the last resort.  It called for vanilla sugar, rum, and baking powder, none of which we had.

After some discussion, we used vanilla extract and baking soda mixed with corn starch and hoped for the best.  It looked pretty good in batter form, but Annelie said that it didn´t taste the same.  The next step was to bake it, of course, but the oven here is…..well….strong?  I had never used it before, but Sr. Reiza Maria had explained how to use it.  Because of our time concerns, we had chosen to bake the cake first, and the cookies afterwards.

We turned on the oven, and I started to mix the cookie dough. Butter was lacking.  I couldn´t find any!  So I walked back to Casa Maria and took the last of what was in our refrigerator.  It was for a good cause, after all.  Meanwhile, Annelie washed up her cake dishes.  When I returned in ten minutes with the butter, something was definitely wrong.  The whole kitchen smelled of gas!  I turned off the knob, opened the oven, and started the fan.  It was pretty bad.   Annelie was in another part washing dishes, so she hadn´t noticed the odor.  

The oven is supposed to always be lit, but for some reason, it wasn´t, so the gas was on, but was not combusting.  I had to find one of the sisters to help us light it, but she said we had to wait until all the gas dissipated before we could use the stove.  Instead, she took the cake to the Sisters´ kitchen, and baked it there.  We finished cleaning, and I prepared my cookie dough.  About twenty minutes had passed.  Sr. Reiza Maria came back, cake in hand.  It was charred all over the outside!  Annelie had told her to bake it for fifty minutes, but in twenty it was overcooked.  

Understandably, Annelie was pretty disappointed, but resolved to cut off the burned part and coat the rest with her chocolate.  The next day, when Eliud returned, we tried to melt the chocolate, but burned that too!  That was my fault, though.  It was in a hot water bath, and I was trying to get the bowl out, but instead I spilled the water in it, and it burned.  This poor cake had many mishaps!  Finally, we experimented with making caramel, and found some sprinkles to put on top.  It did look good in the end, but after all that, I don´t know how long it will be until we attempt another cake!

Eliud was very surprised, so all´s well that ends well.  No cake for me, but if I could have tried it, I would have.  I don´t think that Annelie was too pleased with it, but since we don´t know what it should look or tast like, we were satisfied.  At any rate, much time and love went into that pastry.  

Upon further reflection, it is just another one of those experiences that shows how little control you have over things sometimes, but eventually, it works out.  Maybe the cake lacks rum and is burned, but it still has caramel and sprinkles.  

I think that it is a very interesting paradox that I came here partly because I wanted to learn more Spanish, but many people have asked me to help them with their English.  A few weeks ago, some young girls had asked me to teach them some words, so we agreed to meet the following Monday.  

When I looked for the girls, however, there were more than I had originally agreed to teach.  Instead of two, there were seven!  Earlier, I had decided to teach them words for parts of the body.  We began with just learning facial features: eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, lips, and ears.  I first would say it in Spanish, then in English, and then they would repeat it after me.  Some boys were playing nearby, and it wasn´t long before they wanted to join in.  At first, the girls were not in favor of a mixed class, but I allowed them to join anyway.  They were told that if they were disruptive they had to leave.  

When they had the general idea of the head area, we moved on.  I had them learn the body parts for Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.  They sing it in Spanish too, so they caught on very quickly.  We must have been quite a sight, ten Dominican children, one American teacher, and one German assistant playing games in English. A car full of people slowed down to watch us! They found it amusing, I think.

Afterwards, they begged to play more games, so we did Simon says using actions like running, walking, and jumping.  It was a good time, and we were all thoroughly exhausted afterwards.  Tomorrow they return for another round, so I have to think of some more games that can incorporate a few English words.  It is so cute to see them learn.  The words they do know, they are quite proud of.  I believe that they could all count up to ten, and few until twelve.  

I was thinking of my family as this little class was playing with me.  Could it really be a coincidence that there were ten kids?  Although the genders were flipped: there were seven girls and three boys.  Age-wise, I believe the youngest was six and the oldest maybe was twelve years old.  But at the same time, what group of kids befriends a stranger and wants to learn another language?  Most kids would rather do something else, especially immediately after school on a Monday.  I hope that they continue to want to learn, but even if it is just a passing phase, it will be a good experience for all of us, provided that I can help them learn something.

This next week is filled with more teaching, studying, cooking (hopefully), and working with the children.  It will be a good one.  

Many prayers and good wishes to you all!  As it gets closer to the holiday season, I think of you very much.  God bless you! Love,


Monday, November 11, 2013


Greetings to all!  Still having a wonderful time here.  Christmas started at the end of October with trees and decorations, which was strange, especially because there isn{t a fall season.  I wonder just how far into the Christmas season things are in WI.  Has it snowed yet.

I always wonder what to write about, so this time I picked a couple stories about my time at the Nutrition Center, and the food.  It became lengthy as I have not written for a long time.  Sorry.  

After lunch, we play with the kids and wait for their parents to arrive in the sala, which is a large room without any furniture.   Many of the kids, about thirty, ride home in a bus because they live too far away to walk.  While we are all waiting in the sala, the different classes of kids sit more or less with their teachers.  It is pretty relaxed.  The teachers talk to each other while the children either sit quietly, run around, or talk to me.  I like this time because it is not structured, and many of the children promptly on the bus, so I can talk to a few at a time and know them better.  

One day last week, we only had two children left from the class, Berlin and Yomairi. Their parents work, and so they have to wait to be picked up.  Berlin is usually a quiet boy, not causing much trouble, so of course I hadn´t talked to him much.  Somehow it is always the naughty ones that you know more about.  Anyway, I wanted to make friends with him, so I asked him what he was doing.  Remember when I said that children here play with anything?  He had a little piece of plastic and was balancing it on his face.  It was one of those pieces that helps secure toys in boxes. They are usually discarded, but somehow Berlin found this one.  I remember trying to undo the twist ties that hold those pieces of plastic in place when I wanted to open a toy.  They are usually a grey or black color with really small with holes.  We tried it on his nose, chin, and on the top of his head.  He thought that it was really funny, and I enjoyed seeing him laugh.  

Then we started to pass it across the floor, which is made of slippery white tile, so it slides smoothly.  Yes, I do like alliteration.  The rain made it a bit more difficult, because although we have screens, there is no glass, so the water does come in when the metal slats are open, which they were.   But that wasn´t very interesting, and so, I thought of something else.  I had two flipflops.  We had a thingy.  I batted it to him with my shoe, and handed him the other one.  

Soon we were going back and forth. However, because the piece of plastic was so small, when either of us made contact with a shoe, it went flying.  I spent half the time finding the piece!
I gave up trying to hit it back to him, and we shifted into a very improv, very makeshift type of baseball.   He would take up a batter´s stance, and I tossed the piece to him while he swung.  It took a bit, but he caught on.  Every time he made contact, his face just lit up. We had some interesting moments when it flew at one of the teachers.  Oops.  But she laughed too, so we continued to play.  At this point, the girl, Yomairi, who had been playing with the other younger children, came forward to see what we were up to.  She is another one who was more quiet, at least until that day. My other flip flop had been sitting all alone on the floor, so I gave that one to her.  

We had some confusion as to whom I should pitch to first, but it was cleared up to everyone´s satisfaction.  Even when they both missed, neither of them were discouraged.  They spun around and fell onto the floor with good grace.  We played for about an hour.  Our game finally ended when the piece ended up in a puddle.  Guess what?  It wasn´t water!

No matter, since that day Berlin and I have been friends, the upside of which is that I discovered that he is good at drawing.  The downside-he is not always shy with me, now he has his sassy days too.  Oh well.  Afterwards, I realized that I probably would not have encouraged this activity with my own siblings, but for this place and this time, it worked well.

On Friday, we only had half of our usual class size.  The bus couldn´t go to pick up the children from the countryside, and some of the town children were sick or were unable to come either.  The other classes were missing children as well.  For some reason, though, we were rushing through our day.  Breakfast, lesson time, songs, and we were heading to the bathroom almost an hour earlier than normal.  Turns out that we were going to take the classes to the Shrine, so we needed enough time before lunch.

The Shrine is a small chapel, and is the heart of the Schoenstatt Movement.  From the Shrine, the grace of God  is given and received through the intercession of the Blessed Mother.  We have Mass in the Shrine everyday, as well as night prayer.  There are over 180 Schoenstatt Shrines throughout the world.  My favorite is the International Shrine in Waukesha, Wisconsin, but this one is a close second.  For me, it is a great place to go and pray, or just sit.  It´s very peaceful. I highly recommend a field trip.

The shrine here is down the long driveway from the Center, and it takes about five minutes or so to walk from one to the other.  The classes lined up with their respective teachers and we began to walk.  Well, we started off lined up neatly, but of course, some lost shoes, others broke away from the group and started to run around the other, and so it became more like a crowd, and less like an organized field trip.  Although we were no longer in lines, the kids for some reason were mostly holding hands.  I had three girls in a line trailing on one side, and a fourth on the other side.  Luckily there is plenty of room to walk!  Ahead of us, one of the boys was walking with a little girl.  It was one of those Kodak perfect moments.

As we walked we sang, but the kids were not that interested because they were distracted by all the things that we were walking past.  When we approached the Shrine, one of the teachers, Eliza, stopped all of us.  She explained to the children that we had to be quiet and respectful in the church.  We walked into the building in almost complete silence.  I would not have believed that it was possible with forty children.

Eliza led us in prayer and a few songs.  Many of the songs have a leader, and everyone responds, which is perfect for the kids.  By then, many had found their voices, so it was beautiful to have the little church full of children singing and clapping together.

But our fun was not over!  The grounds around the Shrine have many large trees, flowers, and some paths, but with ample open grass. Two large blankets were spread out over the grass in the shade as the children clamored for balls and toys.  A game was made of five hoola hoops placed on the grass.  Teachers and children alike hopped, bounced, or flounced from one to the next.  I preferred to pass a flat soccer ball with a little boy from a younger class.  He didn´t understand the concept of throwing to a person.  I had maybe a ten percent chance of catching the ball, because most of the time it went in the exact opposite direction!  

Then, I saw Berlin with a yellow plastic bat in hand.  Guess who was up for pitching?  This was easier than with the little piece of plastic.  Although, he refused to let me pitch at a close distance.  With a wave of his regal hand, I was delegated farther back.  But without outfielders, I got to run for the ball too, minus sandals.  It was too hard to keep them on anyway.  All went well until someone was hit with a ball.  This almost ended our game, however, the boy was not hurt, and since it wasn´t Berlin´s fault, we played until snack time.

I recognize some children but don´t know all their names because they belong to different classes.  One of the younger girls who always hugs me saw that I was playing with Berlin. She has a really bright smile, and twisted braids.  Altogether she is every bit as cute as her name, Flor Maria.     I don´t remember exactly how it happened, but she ended up piggyback while I pitched. Judging from the giggles, she doesn´t get bounced around like that very often.  

What was everyone else doing as I played baseball?  Some were playing with the hoola hoops, others rested on the blankets, but the majority of the children seemed to be running in a circular shape around the group.  Either they had a ball, or they wanted one.  It was a good time.  I wish that we could do it more often, but I see that I would be really difficult when we had a normal sized class.

One interesting conversational topic is the food here. People are always asking if I like the food, and if we eat differently in the United States.  I was told before I came that it would be a lot of beans and rice.  That has proven very true.  For breakfast here, they eat sandwiches with cheese or a fried salami.  once in a while they have sandwiches with hard boiled eggs instead.  Hot milk for breakfast or a type of fruit juice is common.  I enjoy the juices here, because the fruit is different, and they are a different texture.  Usually, the juice is thicker than I am used to.  Sometimes it even contains oatmeal.

Lunch in the Center is usually beans in a soupy form, cooked with many spices, and eaten with rice.  Normally, we have white rice, but some days it is spiced with different things.  One type is red with pieces of meat, while another is yellow with corn and carrot bits.  But either way, rice and beans.  Also, we have some type of raw vegetable salad.  They don{t eat very much vegetables or fruits here, and only certain kinds are consumed raw.  In fact, I have only seen people eat raw cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers and occasionally lettuce.  I can{t eat any raw vegetables, so I just avoid salad altogether.  Sometimes we have some kind of meat, often quite salty.

Dinner is usually consists of plantains and yucca in some form or other.  Mashed, fried, boiled, baked, or in a casserole, plantains are a staple in the diet here.  Yucca is generally eaten boiled, but sometimes it is grated and made into little balls that are fried.  Another new food for me was the green bananas, which are also eaten boiled.  It{s a lot of starch here.  Besides there are also root vegetables that are made into a soup.  

The amount of food as well as the types are new to me.  People here eat a large midday meal.  Rice is the main food and gets heaped onto plates, with sides of beans, a little bit of salad, and a small piece of meat or two.  Dinner is a smaller meal, with some form of plantains, cheese, and a type of fruit.  If I put in order the types of food according to the amounts consumed, I think it would be something akin to this; starch, starch, dairy,  meat, fruit, vegetables.  The last two are not eaten very much at all, but cheese, mayo, and milk are all used regularly.  

Apparently many people have a difficult time acclimating to the food, but I haven{t had any problems.  In fact, I like trying the different foods.  One of my favorite new foods is pana de fruta, breadfruit.  I didn{t know that it grew here.  After the kernels are boiled and shelled, the taste and the texture are similar to a chestnut.  My only limitations are no eggs, no raw vegetables, and no fruit that can{t be peeled.  I hope that I find time to hang around the kitchen so that I can learn to cook some of the foods here.  

I{m going to a wedding this weekend, so that should be interesting.  I have been told traditions aren’t the same, so I am looking forward to it.  Also, a new girl arrived from Germany!  So now we have meal prayers in a language rotation of Spanish, English, and German.

Happy November to everyone!  I hope you are all doing well in your jobs, families, schoolwork, and activities.  I keep you in my prayers always.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dear family and friends,

I hope that you are all doing well.  I think of you all often; wondering what things are keeping you busy. Someone told me that it is getting chilly in Wisconsin. Here, when it is seventy degrees I start to hear that it is cold. Of course, I just laugh. 

Today was a terrific day for me in the Nutrition Center.  Unfortunately, because of the colds going around and the rain, only slightly more than half of my class was present.  But nonetheless, the day went very well.

Breakfast was fairly easy, as most of the kids who need to be persuaded to eat were absent.  Today they ate sandwiches, which are popular with the kids.  After the the sandwiches, the kids had hot chocolate.  I rarely have problems with the  children not drinking that.

Afterwards we learned the alphabet using the names of the children.  It was fun, and they remember more easily when they can connect a letter to a person.  We did the homework for the day: coloring numbers, and started to practice the Christmas play.

I love watching them try to practice this play.  It is the Nativity Story, but it begins with the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, includes Elizabeth, Herod, shepherds and the three Magi.  It is a very ambitious production for a rambunctious class of four year olds.

It is precious to see our Mary make a comical face somewhere between horror and wonder when she ¨sees¨ the Angel at first.  And he flaps his arms as his wings when he declares that she shouldn´t be afraid.  It is pretty much word for word from the Bible.  Kids forget their lines, or have thumbs in their mouths, which pretty much has the same overall effect.

When the teachers read the script aloud, the kids all get to know the story, so even when it isn´t their turn to speak, quite frequently the majority of the class with say the lines of St. Joseph, even when he has forgotten them!  We are only about a week into learning it, but at this point they all know who the main characters are and can prompt each other.  I can´t wait to see what it looks like in early December.

We had our daily decade of the Rosary.  I started out sitting on the floor next to one teacher, between two rows of children.  Pretty soon I had two of the boys on top of me, but they were chosen to help lead, so they left.  However, then the class in front of me, the three year olds, slowly inched their way towards me so as not to attract too much attention.  They turned around and looked at me with big dark eyes and shy grins. By the third prayer or so,  I had two children on each leg, and one hugging me from the side.  It was to the point of not being able to move, but I enjoyed it.  Lest you doubt, while these things occur  I do actually pray the Rosary, it is just that I am a human sofa at the same time.

After the Rosary, the kids played with gear toys, kind of like k´nex, while I read to some. I´m not sure how well I read aloud in Spanish, but they were picture books, so I think the girls got the general idea at least.  Oh yes, and of course there were the usual shenanigans in the boys bathroom.  Thirteen little boys, two sinks, one shower, and one toilet.  Half of the time is spent trying to get the boys to sit still and wait their turn to shower or brush their teeth.

Usually I feed the girls during meals at one table while at another table all the boys eat.  But because we had so many children absent, we all squeezed around one table, more or less.  It was tight, but it worked.  So for the first time in a long time I fed the boys instead of the girls. In my opinion, it was ten times easier.  Either they are hungrier, or something, because it isn´t that they listen to me more.  I had to keep pulling the shirt of one boy back onto his body.  Somehow it kept getting wrapped around his head and mouth, but only when a spoon was in the vicinity of his mouth.  But still, the task was much easier than it is with the girls.

After the kids have mostly left, we have about half an hour when the teachers prep for the next day, or do other things.  For the past week, they have been trying to learn some English.  There were some children´s english picture dictionaries donated, and so we go through them very slowly.  I say the word in English while the ladies write the pronunciation as it sounds in Spanish in the book, and then the Spanish word beside it so that I can learn too.  It´s enjoyable for all of us, although sometimes difficult when they can´t pronounce the word, or I can´t pronounce the Spanish one. At any rate, we get our daily allowance of laughter!

But my favorite, favorite part of today was unexpected.  I was cleaning up the bowls from lunch when I heard crying.  That is not an unusual sound because of the number of babies that are in the Center.  What caught my attention was that it sounded like a very young baby.  Newborns have a distinctive wail, and I hadn´t seen any in the Center before.  So as soon as I could, I looked around a bit, and sure enough, there was a little boy clad in only a diaper.  The teacher had just changed it, and so he was upset.

I asked to hold him, and she gave him to me right away.   His hair was dark, baby wispy and slightly curly, matched with his dark chocolate brown skin.  He was not a newborn, but he looked very small. His wrist couldn´t have been bigger than a quarter in diameter.  As always, I asked how old he was.  I couldn´t believe my ears.  He was one year old.  This child looked about two months old!  Besides being small, he had some strange growth by one eye, and was cold to the touch.  We put socks on him, and they reached past his knees.  He didn´t have any teeth yet, and there is absolutely no way that this child could take steps, sit up, or even crawl. Even his little hands were weak.

But he was such a cute sweet little baby!  After I started automatically shifting back and forth, and humming, he stopped crying.  In a few minutes, he was asleep in my arms.  I held him until he had to leave, walking around and singing lullabies in English.  I don´t know the Spanish ones. He didn´t seem to care, as he stayed peacefully slumbering.  The ladies told me that tomorrow I could have him again.  By the grins on their faces, they knew that I was in a baby induced trance.  Irresistable.   I remembered holding my brothers when they were that small.  

He was brand new to the Center, no one that I asked knew his name, only a very common nickname.  I am sure that in a year he will be much better, but it is scary that he is so behind in growth and development.  At least he is now on the road to getting better.

The question has been asked: If I want to make a monetary donation to the Schoenstatt Sisters´ Nutritional Center how do I do so?  You can write a check to the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary and then on the memo part note that it is for the Nutrition Center or Penny Power, which is a group that collects donations for the Nutrition Center.
Then please mail the check to:
Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary
W284 N404 Cherry Lane
Waukesha, WI 53188

If you feel called to do so, I can tell you that the money will be put to good use.  

Tomorrow should be another interesting day.  I plan to watch a Spanish movie with the children, (hopefully not Pinocchio again), write homework, hold the baby, and work on my Spanish.  And I have to do laundry because it was raining for the entirety of my laundry day this week.  Again.  I am beginning to wonder if I should permanently switch my laundry day.

 Please continue to keep me, the children, the teachers, and the Schoenstatt Sisters in your prayers.  God bless you!