Tag Archives: Hannah

In conclusion . . .

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I feel like this should be either a spectacular or life-changing post, but truthfully,  I’m not sure it’s going to be either.  I just want to share my heart during these last days in Ecuador and the jumble of emotions I feel inside.  Here you go.

Excitement

  • Family and Friends: Of course I am looking forward to seeing family and friends that are 3-D, instead of 2-D on my computer.  It wil also be wonderful to get together with family and friends on a regular basis and be able to live life together.
  • Hannah: I have missed my dog terribly during my time here and am thoroughly looking forward to having her back in my life when I return to the U.S.  She is 12 years old now, but I am hoping we can enjoy our time together like we did before by walking, hanging out in parks, and driving in the car together.  I am so excited to see little Hannah.

    Yes, this is part of my family: dad, mom and niece.

    Yes, this is part of my family: dad, mom and niece.

  • School and Students: I am happy to return to Robinson where I taught 6 years prior to my time in Ecuador.  I feel like this is a blessing and I am excited to return to the comfort of being back at this wonderful school.  I will be teaching fifth grade and I cannot wait to have some of the students I taught when I was their teacher in first grade.  Fun!
  • Apartment: I am excited about the apartment I am moving into when I return to St. Louis.  The main reason is because it is located less than a mile from my school.  Therefore, I will be able to walk to and from work.  Yay!  After realizing how much I enjoyed walking in Ecuador, I wanted to continue this when I return.
  • Baseball: I don’t know if I ever thought this would make my list of things to be excited about, but I look forward to seeing and hearing about baseball.  Of course I am a Cardinals fan, but I think more than anything I am looking forward to the cultural aspect of the sport of baseball because it truly is one representation of our American culture.
  • Seasons: I have missed having four seasons.  At least, right now I miss it. While it has been nice to have predictable weather everyday, I miss changing seasons and the correlation seasons and holidays have throughout the year.  So, when I am complaining this winter about how cold it is, remind me that something I was looking forward to were seasons.

Sadness

  • Friendships: Thankfully, I have made three wonderful friends here; Cesar, Paty, and Soraida.  In addition, I have met incredible volunteers and directors from WorldTeach, as well as people at my school whom I absolutely adore.  Fortunately (and unfortunately), I have really gotten to know the teachers and secretaries at my school better in the past month or so, which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to think about leaving so soon.

    Here is a picture of me with my students after they presented the country of Mexico during a fair at our school.

    Here is a picture of me with my students after teaching others about Mexico during a fair at our school.

  • Spanish: It is no secret that Spanish has been a challenge for me during my time here.  However, I am sad that I won’t likely be able to struggle through Spanish conversations on a daily basis once I return to the U.S.  Even though it has been hard, I will miss hearing Spanish on a daily basis.
  • School: The school I have been teaching at in Riobamba is amazing.  The culture of the school is fun and relaxed, which has made it a pleasure for me the past 8 months.  Not only are the classes dynamic, but we provide extra activities for the students to enjoy as well.  As a result of the amazing things that take place at my school, I am going to miss it a lot.
  • Students: A direct extension of the school are the outstanding students I have worked with during my time in Ecuador.  Of course there have been difficult times in my classes, but overall, I have loved learning with and getting to know my students.  They are fun and sweet and have welcomed their foreign teacher with open arms – even if I am too serious at times and don’t let us play games during the entire class period. (This is a common complaint from my students.  What is wrong with me?!?)
  • Walking: As you know, I have enjoyed walking to and from places in Ecuador.  When I commute by foot in Riobamba, there is always something interesting happening.  This might be someone selling food or drinks, a pharmacy having a sale with music blaring, an appliance store having a sale with a man on stilts outside to attract customers, a fruit truck selling fruit with a loud speaker or a laundry truck playing lullaby.  It is always an adventure – and I’m really going to miss it.

Nervousness

  • School: Ok . . . remember that I am excited to return to Robinson, right?  I am also nervous.  I have never taught fifth grade and don’t know what to fully expect from the curriculum or my students – yet.  I know that over time this will get better, but I am slightly nervous about the change at the moment.

    Here is little Hannah.  She is 12 years old now.

    Here is little Hannah. She is 12 years old now.

  • Friendships: Some of my friendships from the U.S. have changed since I have been in Ecuador and will not be the same when I return.  Therefore, I am nervous about what my friendships will look like and if I will have people to spend time with – or who will want to spend time with me!  But, I am also trying to look at this transition as an opportunity to meet new people and share the new parts of me that have developed in Ecuador.
  • Aging Dog: Of course I am excited to see Hannah, but I am nervous about her age.  Like I said, she is 12 years old and I do have some worry about how her health will be in the future.  I think that this worry has recently come about because the dog that I was living with here in Ecuador just passed away on Saturday.  Therefore, I have some nervousness about what Hannah’s future will be like when I return.
  • Church: My church in St. Louis is wonderful and has been during the several years I have been attending.  However, because I am moving to a new apartment, there is a church (still the same church, just a different location) that is closer to where I will live.  Therefore, I am nervous as to what it will look like to transition to a different location and don’t know what to expect with this change.

Familiarity

  • Family: How nice it will be to have family nearby when I return.  I look forward to this immensely.  Also, it will be nice to celebrate family events together, take my niece and nephew out, and meet family for dinner on a regular basis.
  • School: Again, what a blessing it is for my heart to return to the same elementary school I left last year.  One of the reasons I want to return is because the school community is amazing – we have incredible students and families.  Another reason is because the principal of my school is wonderful and encourages me to learn and become a better teacher.  I desire nothing more than to be back at this school for the upcoming school year.english
  • Dog: I know . . . Hannah is rather popular in this post.  However, I look forward to resuming our daily walks and enjoying the company of my sweet dog.  By the way, I have to give a HUGE thank you to my friend, Christina, and her family for taking amazing care of Hannah while I have been away.  They have truly been a lifesaver  and have kept me at peace during times of worry about my dog.
  • English: Whew . . . I will actually understand all of the conversations, television, music, and other forms of communication around me.  Although I am confident I will miss hearing Spanish, there is comfort in understanding 100% of the communication I am exposed to.

Dread

  • Driving: As many of you have heard, I do not miss driving at all.  First off, I have not driven for 6 months, so watch out!  Secondly, I love being able to hop in a taxi if I need a ride somewhere and not having any stress related to driving.  Therefore, I am not looking forward to driving when I return, but am sure it will be fine once I get back into the routine of tackling the roads in St. Louis.

    I hope this isn't my first reaction to driving!

    I hope this isn’t my first reaction to driving!

  • Price Shock: Ecuador is pretty inexpensive, as a whole.  And Riobamba is even cheaper.  I am used to paying $1 for a taxi, 64 cents for a soda, 35 cents for Oreos, $3 for lunch, 40 cents for bottled water, 20 cents for my favorite new snack, Palomitas, and so on.  Now do you see why I am going to experience price shock when I return?  Eek.
  • Food and Grocery Shopping: I’ve been a little spoiled because someone cooks lunch for me everyday and I don’t ever have to grocery shop or make meals for myself (other than bread or oatmeal, on occasion).  Granted, I do pay for this luxury, but I am not particularly looking forward to having to start cooking and shopping for myself.  No wonder I have had some extra time on my hands while I have been here!
  • Taking out the Trash: Ok, another luxury.  I never have to take out the trash here . . . it is always done for me, which is another pleasure.  I guess I need to come back to reality and take care of my own trash when I return.  Bummer.

Uncertainty

  • School: Even though I am returning to a familiar school and environment, I don’t know what it will be like returning with my questionEcuadorian teaching experience.  How will this impact my teaching and students?  I have no idea, but I hope it will do so in a positive way.
  • Relationships: What will my relationships be like with friends and family who can’t fully understand my experience in Ecuador?  I know that some people will want to hear about my time in Ecuador, but no one is really going to “get it” except those who have lived abroad for an extended period of time.  Will this be hard having few people to relate to my experience or will this be a good thing?
  • Spanish: What will it be like to hear virtually no Spanish after being exposed to it on a daily basis for the past 10 months?  Will I forget everything I have learned or will I find opportunities to continue learning Spanish through classes or connecting with other Spanish speakers?
  • Blending In: If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know that I battle with looking different than a majority of the people I live with and come into contact with in Riobamba.  However, I wonder what it will be like to return to an environment where I am just like everyone else.  Will it be weird to fit in again?  Will I miss being different?  After all, when I visited Chimborazo last weekend, two groups of Ecuadorians wanted to take pictures with me just because I was a foreigner.  How silly, but sometimes it’s kind of funny too.
  • Traveling: As I have mentioned previously, it is incredibly easy and inexpensive to travel in Ecuador.  I love picking-up and leaving for the weekend to travel by bus to random cities across the country.  I wonder what it will be like not having that same ease of travel and knowing that it will not be as feasible to travel as it has been here.  Will I miss it or will I make it a priority to take more trips knowing that I enjoyed it in Ecuador and have learned that I want to explore more of the U.S.?

So . . . that’s it!  I know it was a lot.  Remember I said I had a jumble of feelings about my transition in a few, short days?  I hope that now you have a glimpse of why this is difficult for me.  While this will probably be my last post while I am in Ecuador, I will write about my transition back to the U.S. at some point in the near future.   Thanks for sticking with me on this journey.

 

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A Letter to my Dog

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Dear Hannah,hannah

Hello my little friend.  How are you?  I hope you are having a great time at Christina, Tom, and Ian’s house.  I know they are treating you well and I hear that you love to go on walks with them – even in the freezing cold weather!  In this letter, I wanted to tell you a little bit about my time in Ecuador and let you know that I haven’t forgotten about you. 🙂

Since I have been here, I have seen something that I think you will find very interesting.  Oftentimes, dogs get leftover food from lunch for their meals . . . you would LOVE this!  That would mean you would get meat, bread, rice, vegetables, and everything else!  Crazy, huh?  With that being said, however, I still believe that your dog food is the healthiest thing for you – even though your stomach may not want to agree.

Many people have asked me why I didn’t bring you to Ecuador with me.  Even though I walk a lot . . . Ecuador would not be a good place for you.  Cars honk a lot, cars drive very fast, the weather changes multiple times throughout the day, and there is very little grass for you to sniff.  Believe it or not, most dogs go to the bathroom on the sidewalk – which is not your favorite thing to do,  I know.  Also, I am gone from the house a lot each day.  In the mornings, I am usually gone for 3 hours to learn Spanish.  And in the afternoon/evening, I am gone for 7 to 8 hours.  That would leave me very little time to spend with you.  Plus, there are a lot of fireworks in Riobamba and I know the noise would scare you.  Even though I would love to see you, walk with you, and pet you, I still believe that coming to Ecuador without you was the wisest decision.  My heart doesn’t like that, but I will get to see you soon, okay?

playaListen to this!  I went for a run last week and a dog bit my pants leg!  Can you believe that?!?  I was just running by and he ran up and bit my pants!  I couldn’t believe it!  I know you would never do something that, right?  Plus, then I had a strange dog’s slobber on my pants . . . gross!

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the beach!  Here is a picture of some of the friends who were at the beach with me.  Their names are Matt and Sarah.  I bet you would like them because they’re really nice people to hang out with.  Sarah and I went swimming in the ocean and played in the waves.  The waves were HUGE that day and it was fun to learn how to swim under the waves to avoid getting knocked down in the ocean.  Next, I tried boogie-boarding.  It was a great afternoon!

As I mentioned earlier in this letter, I am trying to learn Spanish.  Maybe you could ask Christina, Tom, and Ian to teach you a few Spanish words too.  That way, when I return to the U.S., I can give you commands in Spanish and you’ll understand.  You’re up for some new learning, right?  It will keep you young.  Plus, I strongly believe that you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Remember, I will be back in the U.S. at the beginning July.  I should be back for the Fourth of July, so we can celebrate Independence Day together.  In the meantime, know that I think of you often.   There are a lot of stray dogs here and whenever I see them, I always think of you and what a good friend you are to me.  Continue to have a great time in your new home and I will see you soon, ok?  Chao! (Hey – that can be your first Spanish word!  It means bye!)

Love,

Rachael

(P.S. If you could write a letter to your pet – imaginary or real – what would you say?  Please write a comment to me!)

Holy Cow!

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Tomorrow?  Really?  How in the world did that happen?  Holy cow!  I am not exactly sure, but what I do know is that packing bags for a year is rough.  Particularly with the weight requirement of each bag having to be under 50 pounds (unless you want to pay $100 more) . . . my goodness.  I put some of my things in a suitcase today, weighed it, and was shocked to see that it was 57.5 pounds!  Geez louise . . . it wasn’t even full!   No worries though, I’ll get there . . . somehow.  Argh.

During the recent weeks, I have been blessed with several opportunities to spend time with many people who are important to me . . . and feel very loved.  In many ways, I don’t know exactly what to do with it all because it’s not what I’m used to on a daily basis.  However, I continue to realize how important connections are in my life and that there is a big difference between surface encounters and authentic connection.  Authentic connection fulfills my soul and leaves me feeling loved and comforted.  Surface encounters are just that – conversation about things we can talk about with anyone or feel like we should be talking about . . . not someone who truly connects with your soul.  I absolutely love noticing who I have true connections with and spending quality time together.  It just feels so good in my heart.

Speaking of connection, it was only a matter of time before I recommended The Gifts of Imperfection on my blog.  It has been a favorite book over the past year and has changed my perspective in many aspects of my life – including the importance of connection in my life.  Click on here to find out more about this amazing book and how great it is to celebrate not being perfect. 🙂  The author, Brene Brown, has done a some short talks that have been recorded.  If you want to check out a talk about vulnerability or shame you can click on either of those words to hear her.  I know those don’t sound like uplifting topics, but I promise you it will teach you ways to be a better you.

The following are stories of connection I have experienced over the past few weeks.

Last Sunday, my sweet neighbors from my apartment building took me to lunch to say goodbye.  I loved it.  It was the first time since I have lived in the building (eight years) that we all got together.  I was so excited to have that time and for everyone to get to know one another a little bit better.  My hope is that they will continue to get together every month or so in order to build relationship and connect with one another.  What a great time!  Plus, look at how cute we are! 🙂

Recently, I went to Chicago to visit friends from college.  It’s amazing that we have remained friends and grown our friendships over the past 13 years.  I know, I know – we look so young . . . how could it have been that long?  Hee, hee.  Generally, when we get together, we do not need to plan anything.  All we need is time and a place to talk and catch-up . . . for hours.  In the midst of our mature conversations, we managed to find time to conduct two taste tests.  One with soda and one with Skittles.  In the picture to the left, please note the unlabeled cups and paper to record our predictions during the soda taste test.  After the soda, we stepped it up a notch to the Skittles taste test.  That is much harder than you might think.  Try to eat Skittles without looking and guess the color.  It is not easy!  All silliness aside, these friends mean the world to me.  They are the type of friends that you can go months without talking and pick-up right where you left off next time you see one another.  Amazing.

This past week, some very special friends organized a going away party for me.  It was quite interesting for me to see friends and family from different parts of my life all come together at one gathering.  Those of you who have experienced this will understand what I mean.  It’s a weird feeling to realize that the common thread that held all of the people together that evening was me.  It was wonderful to see people meeting one another and to hear about friends from one part of my life who want to get together with friends from another part of my life.  Here’s a picture of some of my dear friends that I got to visit with that evening.

One last thing I got to do this week was go bowling!  I have no idea when I last bowled.  As you can see from the scores, I am not a perfect bowler and have no intentions of becoming perfect.  I went with four girlfriends who I have gotten to know quite well recently and have made a positive impact on my life because of the truth we share with one another.  Again, yet another example of connection.

Finally, many of you have wondered about my dog Hannah and how it went taking her to her new home last Friday.  Overall, it was good – just hard for me. 😦  She is doing well (thanks to Christina’s updates!) and even got a new bed to sleep in!  Check her out in the picture.  She has never had a dog bed before!  Tom noticed that she didn’t seem settled at their house so he went and got her a new bed.  Remember how I said he was amazing with animals?  This simply reinforces that he has his heart in the right place with animals.  Lucky Hannah.

Ok, I think that’s all from me for now.  I had a lot to write this time.  Next time you hear from me via blog will be when I am in Ecuador.  It’s hard to believe that the time is here.  Until then, please pray for safe travel for all of the volunteers this weekend and for authentic connections to begin to take place as we all meet one another.  As always, thank you for reading.  I appreciate you. 🙂

Baby Steps!

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Hello again!  Thank you for those who have chosen to receive email notifications of my posts.  I am excited that people are truly interested in my upcoming journey to Ecuador – and the preparations.  Thank you very much!

Last time I wrote, I mentioned that I had a lot of items on my “to do” list.  While I find it interesting that things continue to get added to the list, I am happy to say that most of the BIG things have been taken care of at this point.  Yay!  I’ve found a storage unit, chosen NOT to purchase international insurance, had a will written, located a place to sell my car, and booked my flight.

The last major item to complete, which has my heart all over it, is finding a foster home for my dog, Hannah.  If you are not a dog lover, you might not truly empathize with this struggle, but trust me . . . it is H-A-R-D.  Let me tell you what I am learning.

Patience.  Trust.  Patience.  Trust.  And . . . patience.

A few years ago, I was reading from Oswald Chambers’ book, My Utmost for His Highest.  Something has stuck with me ever since then . . . gracious uncertainty – click on the colored words to be linked to the website with more about this amazing and encouraging perspective.  I need to remember that uncertainty is not a bad thing.  I can trust that God will provide, and I don’t always have to be completely certain about everything . . . even with my dog. 🙂

This week, I should find out the city where I will be placed to teach while I am in Ecuador.  I am excited to discover which city I will be in so I can begin learning about the area.  And then I can tell you where to come and visit me!

Thanks for the suggestions of “St. Louis Things” do to during my last days here.  I did bike on the Katy Trail, which was pretty great . . . until my bike tire popped.  Yeesh.  I must say though, that day was one of my favorite memories this summer.  It was completely relaxing being out in nature, wonderful being able to talk and laugh with a good friend, beautiful eating lunch outside, and hilarious when the tire-popping incident occurred. 🙂  With the summer officially winding down:

  • What has been your favorite memory from the summer?
  • What made it memorable?  Who were you with?

I’m excited to hear from you.  Thanks again for reading!  Hasta luego.