It has been a while

13 11 2011

Hello, oh you myriads of Jill Nelson blog followers.  I hope you are all doing well.  I sure am.  It’s been far too long since I’ve blogged and my only excuse is that I’m lazy.  Super lazy.

This week is the last week of official class.  For the two weeks after that the teachers will do their wrap-up stuff and work specifically with any students that may need it.  I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, whether or not I’ll need to be there for any of that.  I guess I’ll just go with whatever happens.

I’m really going to miss my students.  I adore them.  Even the ones that don’t want to pay attention and interrupt me every three seconds by saying “I don’t understand.”  They are, by far, the best Spanish teachers.  They make me laugh all the time. Here are some of my favorites:

In transitions (like pre-first), there is a boy named Samuel who cannot sing a song without serenading me.  It’s funniest when he sings the ABCs on his knees with one hand on his heart, the other outstretched before him, and his eyes tightly closed to express his passion.  I laugh every time.  He’s the one in my facebook video that slaps his butt during Silent Night.

In pre-k, there is a girl Lina who cracks up every time we get to the part in Rudolph about Santa.  They put their hands in front of them like they have a big belly and sing like men, “Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say.” She thinks it is so funny.  And I think she is so funny.

In 6th grade, seldom a day goes by without one of the boys doing a ridiculous freestyle dance in the middle of the lesson.

In 8th grade, there is an ongoing debate on the number of continents. Apparently Colombia teaches that there are 6, not 7.  They think I’m wrong.  I think they’re wrong.  Fortunately, even scientists can’t really agree.

In 9th grade, they are the most committed to teaching me Spanish, but I think it’s because they are the most committed to NOT learning English.  They are always up to some crazy antic.  I don’t even know where to begin.  Just know that these kids will be missed extra.

In 10th grade, I can’t walk into the room without them all yelling “Jill!”  I’m like Norm from Cheers.  Everybody knows my name, they just can’t pronounce it 🙂

In 11th grade, they have senioritis.  Bad.  The other day they asked me if I ever had to take Spanish classes.  I told them I took two years in high school but I didn’t pay much attention.  They laughed and said, “like us.” I said, “Yup.  But now I’m living in South America. I’m wishing I would have paid attention now.”

I know I didn’t hit all the grades, but that gives you an idea of what my school day is like.

some of 11th grade

a few of my pre-k babies. yes, there is one blonde kid - Carlos Andrés


After school lets out, it’s two and a half weeks full of social events: birthdays, celebrations, and graduations.  I’ll be dressed up a lot.  I’m really wishing I would have brought my black heels with me now.  I just didn’t think I’d be getting all gussied up for anything.

THEN, after all that social mingling, I’m going home.  Home.  Somewhere around the 14th of December I’ll be heading back to Stilwell.  After Christmas, I start life over in Oklahoma City.  It’s crazy to think that I’ve only got a month to go.  I’m certain it’s going to fly by.  I’m really going to miss Barranquilla.


How things are different…and how they are the same

24 10 2011

Life in Barranquilla is, in many ways, very different from life in Oklahoma.  Here’s a sampling:

1.  You do not flush toilet paper.  you throw it in the trashcan.  It takes some getting used to.  Old habits die hard.

2. American personal space is not really, um, excepted here.  This is a very touchy-feely culture.  I left my personal space issues (or at least 98% of them) at the border.

3. It’s hot here all the time.  And humid.  Last week felt like fall, but that was an exception.

4. Everything is in Spanish.  Like, everything.

5. People are nice in Oklahoma, but people are waaaaaay nicer here.

6. You can drink water from a plastic bag.  I’m not talented enough to pull that off without getting it all over myself.

7. You hang your clothes out to dry….even your (gasp) underwear!

8. Rain can literally shut the city down.

9. There is no postal service.  Not really, anyway.

10. They assign seats to you in movie theaters.  Even if it’s just you and 5 other people.


A lot of things are the same though.  People live their lives.  They enjoy one another’s company.  They host parties and give gifts and love each other.  They work and play and cook and read.  They laugh.


In a lot of ways, being in Colombia has been extremely challenging.  In fact, I would say that it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  But I know that when I go home in two months-ish that the things that will matter will be the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made.  And the things they taught me about being a Christian, a teacher,  a friend, and a decent person in general.  Hopefully, the rest will just be funny stories.

What a week

18 09 2011

So, this has been one strange week.

Sunday I stayed home from church because my cough had just worn me out. Did the same on Monday and Tuesday. So, I didn’t go outside for like 3 whole days.

Then, Tuesday night I went to stay with some friends until today because Monica and Alvaro were out of the country on a pastor’s trip. Fortunately, I really like the family I stayed with so it wasn’t unpleasant at all.

Wednesday I finally went back to school but was ridiculously ill-prepared. I even forgot my class schedule so I just tried to wing it. I will never do that again! Ever!!

Thursday I went to visit another school and I loved it there too. One of the students there was so impressed by me that she sent a gift for me with her teacher today. Toblerone chocolate 🙂

Also, on Thursday, when I got back to where I was staying, I learned the my Grandpa had died that morning. It is very difficult not getting to be there with my family during this time. It makes you re-evaluate things. And my family has been so understanding of why I can’t be there for the funeral. Their support has made it easier to be so far away. I need to see them more, and before the next funeral.

Friday was the school’s celebration of Love and Friendship Day (Colombian Valentine’s, basically), so the kids were distracted by their excitement and the classes were having parties so it was another weird day.

Today (Saturday), Monica and Alvaro got back. I really missed them. I was glad to have my Colombian mom and dad back.

But then Monica asked for my passport. We were planning on going to the immigration people this week to extend my stay. Well we discovered that I was only given 30 days….I’m on day 66. We may have some issues with that extension. I’m praying everything works out because I’m just not ready to come home, despite the homesickness. If it doesn’t, it looks like I may be deported, or worse: fined.


12 09 2011

This year is the first anniversary since the attacks that I haven’t been home (aka America). And I’m feeling it like never before.  Like everyone else, I remember exactly where I was.

I was in 1st hour Psychology with Mr. Dill at Stilwell High School. I had dropped my pencil. I leaned over to pick it up. As I sat back up, the television came on with footage of the first plane hitting the tower. I remember thinking it was some kind of rerun of a past event. I thought the news anchors were talking about something that happened in the past that I just didn’t know about. Until the second plane hit. Then the reality hit: this was happening now.

I’m not going to say that I was scared. I wasn’t. I’m not going to say that I was sad. I wasn’t. I felt like I was watching a TV show. It felt like entertainment. Now, before you go judging me, please remember that I was 17 years old and I’m the product of a culture that gets its information in 30 second snippets and that I was living in Oklahoma. It took a long time – actually a trip to New York City in 2009 – before the reality of the event started taking hold of me.

I visited the site of the towers.  It was after museum hours so all we could see was Ground Zero through the chain link fence.  It was sobering.

What happened that day was evil, no doubt.  There are plenty of news reports that are 90% about remembering the horror of that day and only 10% about hope (and that’s if you’re lucky).  If you’re looking to hear about how bad that day was, I suggest turning on the news.  But I choose to look forward.

9/11 reminds me that God isn’t finished yet.  9/11 reminds me that I have a great Hope.  9/11 reminds me that the prayer “Even so, come quickly” is the most selfless prayer I can pray.  9/11 reminds me that someday we will see all sad things come untrue.

Killing Osama Bin Laden didn’t undo 9/11.  Our soldiers at home and abroad cannot undo 9/11.  Only God can.  And that is my great Hope.


It Hurts Like a Billy-Oh

30 08 2011

This post is very personal.  It’s a bit more personal than I’m comfortable with, but I think that I should share it anyway because people want to know what this whole experience is like, not just the good parts.  Right?

This week was rough.  We’re talkin’ curl-up-in-the-fetal-position-cry-myself-to-sleep rough.

I was lonely.  Not the kind of lonely that made me want to go home.  Not the kind of lonely borne out of self-pity.  It was an entirely new kind of lonely.  It was isolation.  Yes, I have friends here.  Yes, I live with people who speak English.  Yes, I can call home whenever I want.

But I was still lonely.

Have you ever had an experience of loss (a break-up, death, end of a friendship, etc.) ?  Do you remember how it felt like something was literally ripping open your chest?  That’s what this felt like, except without the loss.

I emailed by pastor back home asking him to pray with me and for me.  I told him that I needed an English-speaking friend that was fully, 100% fluent that I could have an easy conversation with (perhaps even a thoughtful, deep conversation) or I was going to have a meltdown.  In typical Chris Green fashion, he encouraged me to embrace the isolation, to lean into God, and to not resent the process.

I’m trying. It’s not easy.  And I’m fairly certain I have some more time in this lonliness before I get the friend I so desperately want…if I get the friend.

Upon reflecting on this time, I was reminded of the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (part of The Chronicles of Narnia).  In the story, there is a character named Eustace.  Lewis writes, “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

He is not very likeable and he doesn’t try to be.  He resents the fact that he is in Narnia and that he is stuck on the ship, “The Dawn Treader,” against his will.  The crew lands on an island where a dragon lives. Eustace, in attempt to avoid work,  stumbles upon the dragon only to discover that it is dying.  He decides to tell everyone that he killed the dragon.

Now, as we all know, dragons are hoarders of treasure.

With the dragon dead, Eustace finds that he is surrounded by all sorts of gold and diamonds and jewels.  He finds a golden bracelet and puts it as high on his arm as he can so that it won’t come off.  Then he falls asleep.  When he wakes, he discovers that he has turned into a dragon overnight.  This discovery of his dragoned self humbles Eustace and he seeks to make amends with the crew for his behaviour, but that’s difficult since he’s a dragon that can’t talk. It seems that he is set to be a dragon forever now.

But then comes this beautiful scene. Aslan comes to Eustace and tells him to unrobe.  Eustace tries to remove the dragon skin several times, but each time he finds that he is just as much a dragon as he was before.  Finally, Aslan helps him.  The way to remove the dragon skin is deep, painful clawing into the flesh.

This is how Eustace describes it:

“Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep and I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”

All that to say: If I need to be undragoned, so be it.  It hurts like a billy-oh, but it is necessary.  I cannot undragon myself.  If this is part of the process, I welcome it.  I don’t want to be a dragon anymore.

On Spanish, God´s Timing, and Crazy Celebrities

26 08 2011


If you follow very closely on Facebook, you will notice that I’m not catching on to this whole language thing as quickly as I thought I would. Call me crazy, but I really figured I’d be able to hold a conversation by this point.


I do try. Mostly with the kids at the school. Many of the adults know enough for a basic “hi. how are you?” conversation in English. The kids, however, have a million questions for me. And I don’t understand them most of the time. So, I try. I have them repeat themselves and talk slower and I try. Lord, do I try!!! But so far, it’s still uphill. Pray with me on this.

But the 4th graders today told Ana (the other English teacher) that I know Spanish.  That’s encouraging.

God’s Timing:

Sometimes God speaks to us through unexpected people.  And sometimes God speaks directly to things that you didn’t even know were there.  Yesterday, I worked with a wonderful woman named Janet on her English. I’m going to be tutoring her and her daughter a few hours each week.  There were several times that Janet said something that I knew was God speaking to me.  I don’t think they are things that I should share, but I wanted to share that basic experience with you.  It makes me happy when I recognize the voice of God.  I miss it all too often.

Crazy Celebrities:

Are there any crazy celebrities right now?  I don’t know who I am without a Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen, or Don-Don “The Comb Over” Trump to make fun of.


Some of my favorite memories of SCU

20 08 2011

I saw on Facebook where a friend of mine had posted a great memory from SCU.  Upon reminiscing, here are a few of my favorites:

1. Any time Cinnamon was caught creeping around on campus. Particularly when wearing OU cheerleading uniforms and cleaning the caf.  I still don’t understand how Gavin didn’t find that strange.

2. Lighting pumpkins on fire and throwing them off the Overholser Dam with Nicole and Alec.  Turns out, it’s illegal.  I’m glad we didn’t get caught.

3. Scaring the sickness right out of Heather.  She was sick in her bed, and I decided to do that creepy stare from my bed to see if she could feel it.  She couldn’t. So I crept over to her bed holding my cell phone above my head.  When she opened her eyes, she screamed and threw her covers over her head while I fell to the floor laughing.  I’m so glad our friendship recovered from that.

4. OKLAHOMA JAVA!!!!!!!  From coming into a gallon of milk all over the floor because Nicole and Nate thought they should play catch with it to donut fights with Tara ten minutes before closing. From having a toddler as a manager (Josh the Black) to playing mixer rodeo with Joe, times were never dull.  Those were the days.

5. That time I had myself convinced I could skateboard.

6. Driving around Overholser with Blake, Justin, and Alec listening to TATU.

7. The first float trip.  Where to start?  My twin nephews waking us up in their underwear.  Five guys sleepin on one mattress in the yard.  James almost dying a hundred times.  Eating all of our food 2 hours into the 7 hour float.  Good times.

8.  Photo shoots with Whitney Light in which I stuffed my pants to look like I had a butt or created a shrine for Aaron Girod.  And that one time we changed the fortunes in our fortune cookies to say what we wanted to hear.

9.  Going to see Santa with DeAsha.

10. The “Not to be Confused With” game.  Why did we stop that?


So, fellow SCUer, tell me your memories!