Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

Insects, Insects Everywhere!

Monday, May 24th, 2010

insects-in-Guatemala Insects in Guatemala were not in short supply. I remember one night at my house, going downstairs to the refrigerator to get water, and a cockroach flew down at me from the top of the fridge, landing on my shoulder. Needless to say, my shrill scream woke up everybody in the house. And I’d rather not mention the time that I was eating malt balls, and one of them was a cockroach! I spit out everything in my mouth in a wild panic, not even waiting to reach the bathroom sink.

When I was at boarding school, our science teacher assigned us a project involving a collection of insects. We made butterfly nets out of wire coat hangers and netting. I caught several butterflies because there were so many flying around. I felt a little bit sad to have the butterflies in my insect collection because they were so beautiful, but we were told that they had a very short life span anyway. Moths could easily be found at night around the lights on the porch outside our dorm.

I never caught a lightning bug, even though they came out every night after dark. They were magical as they lit up, almost like twinkling stars that were close enough to touch. The boys caught them and showed us how psychedelic their bodies were. I just wanted the boys to leave them alone. There weren’t that many lighting bugs (as opposed to other insects, which were profuse), and I didn’t want the magic to go away.

During the month of June, June bugs were everywhere. You could not walk on the ground without stepping on some. I’m not kidding. The entire ground was a mass of black, round balls, crawling around, making the ground look like it was moving. It was like one of the plagues of Ancient Egypt. Even walking on tiptoes caused a few June bugs to be crunched.

Mosquito season was even worse. I would go to bed at night, only to hear, “Zzzzzzz,” in my ear. Knowing how itchy I would be in the morning if I didn’t kill it, I would turn on the light (risking a spanking from the dorm mother), hunt it down and kill it. Then I would hop back into bed, only to hear another, “Zzzzzz…” Again, I got up and hunted it down. One night I killed seven mosquitoes in my room.

I had a huge insect collection by the end of the year. Each one was labeled neatly, and I had learned a lot about insect identification.

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My First Garden (at Boarding School)

Friday, May 21st, 2010


My science teacher at boarding school was super cool. Besides having a live snake in his classroom, he gave each of us a plot of garden for our own, sectioned off by rope. During the first semester, we planted wheat. After it was ripe for harvest, we removed all the grains by hand, and we ground it and made flour. We baked bread out of it, and it was delicious, hot from the oven.

The second semester, we could plant whatever vegetables we wanted. That was when I grew to love the smell of the soil. (That is, before we were required to put old cow manure into it. It never smelled the same after that.) I made furrows the correct spacing apart, and I planted the seeds and covered them with soil. I ended up growing carrots, radishes, lettuce, cucumbers, beans, and peas.

Every day, I would run out to my garden, look at the progress of each tiny plant, and pull any weeds that were growing. When it was time to harvest the fastest-growing plants, we had a huge, absolutely enormous basket of radishes and carrots. The carrots were so sweet and huge, with beautiful green tops still attached. I felt like Bugs Bunny as I chomped away. I eventually got sick of burping radishes, and the rest of the radishes spoiled, even though we let everyone in our dorm eat as much as they wanted.

The harvest from the other vegetables was eaten by us little by little as it grew, so we never had any leftovers of those. I enjoyed opening the small gate and swinging it shut behind me. I would walk down the rows of plants, because I had left enough space to walk around each row. As I saw the vegetables growing, I would pluck them off like Peter Rabbit. What a clever way to get children to eat more vegetables!

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Boarding School

Thursday, May 20th, 2010


While growing up in Guatemala, I went to boarding school for two years. I absolutely loved the adventure of it. There were large oak trees to climb. The branches were so perfect for climbing, being thick, sturdy, and close enough together to move from one branch to another with plenty of options as to which path to take up. We named each of the trees with different letters of the alphabet, and my best friend would pass a note to me, saying, “Meet me at the V tree at 3:00.” We loved climbing those trees! Sometimes I would climb so high that by the time I got to the top, I would hang on for dear life, dizzy with sweaty palms and a racing heart. I calmed myself by looking at branches at eye level. Then I would lower myself down little by little. What an adrenaline rush!

A fun playground was always accessible during our free time. The swings, teeter-totters, and monkey bars were made out of red chunky wood. The chains on the swings were thick and were so high up that I felt like I was flying like a bird, rushing through the air, rushing upward into the blue sky. The feeling of freedom.

There was even a tree house in the woods. The property was fenced, so we were safe. We would play for hours in that tree house, bringing snacks or different toys depending on what we wanted to play. We could make up any adventure. Sometimes the boys would bully us, and we would yell at them, “We got here first!”

We had hikes on Saturdays, sometimes on foot, and sometimes on bicycles. I loved looking at the tadpoles in the water. I would collect tree frogs and put them in my suitcase. They were so slippery, green, and smooth. After getting about twenty or so, I looked at them jumping around like popcorn in that small suitcase. I realized they had no water or food, so I took the whole suitcase outside and dumped them out. Sometimes the science teacher wanted one or two to feed the snake in the classroom. I would watch the garter snake swallow the sweet little frog in one gulp, the lump moving slowly down the length of the snake.

That reminds me of the fact that the teachers made us eat everything on our plate, no matter what. I still remember to this day, sitting in the dark abandoned dining hall, holding my nose, and forcing myself to swallow cold, mushy, stringy, disgusting squash. I missed part of study hall that night because it took me so long.

On Sundays we had a barbecued lunch, consisting either of barbecued chicken or hamburgers. We might have had steak a few times, and also hot dogs. We got to eat some chips with our meal outside. Our lunch was followed by “bomberos,” which were like popsicles without a stick, that you push up from a long, thin bag. We ate them under the beautiful oak trees.

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The Bomb that Went Off at my Friend’s House

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010


One day growing up as a missionary kid, I saw smoke rising from my neighborhood when a bomb that went off at my friend’s house caused the street to be blocked by the police.

Let me give you some background information so you can understand what happened.

As an MK, I had an interesting mix of education. Between bilingual school and boarding school, I had one semester doing paces at ACE. I absolutely hated it. I was in a cubicle all day (a wall on 3 sides of me, boxing me in), doing thin workbooks in silence, and putting up a little flag if I needed something. I graded my own work at the end of each booklet, and then I would do another boring, mundane, black and white page. The day droned on and on in endless tedium.

One of my friends from that school lived in my neighborhood, and we had been friends for years. Her hair was blond like a barbie, and she even smelled like a barbie. A loud parrot lived at her house. I remember that after school sometimes, I would go over to her house to play, and one our favorite things to do was to roller skate on the roof. The roof itself was flat cement with a cement wall around it that was high enough not to feel danger. The roof was also smooth enough to roller skate freely.

We would also do plays together, along with my best friend and two younger sisters. I would write the scripts and then hand them out. We would make costumes, sometimes out of paper. One time my best friend insisted that I wear a paper skirt, even though she had a beautiful hoola hoop skirt that made her look like little Bo-Peep. Needless to say, the paper skirt tore when I sat down. Not happy.

That barbie-headed friend came to my birthday parties for years. We would always have a pinata filled with candy, and when we hit it, candy would fly in all directions. My dad would swing it around so crazy that you didn’t know where it was going to be, especially when blindfolded. We also played games like “Red Light, Green Light” and “Mother, May I?” My friend is in all the pictures.

Well, one day my neighborhood friend came to my house and said that her parents had gotten a note in the mail that was threatening. It said that if her family didn’t leave the country right away, they would be killed. So she said good-bye to me, and I never saw her again. I thought that was sad, because it seemed like I played with her almost every day. At least I still had my best friend, but she still went to the bilingual school, and she lived further away.

A couple of weeks after my neighborhood friend left, a bomb went off at the house where she had lived, exploding upwards into the sky. My whole neighborhood was blocked off, and a shoot-out was happening at my friend’s house. Some guerrillas were using that house as a hide-out. The police shot so many holes in the house and the gate that there was hardly a square inch without a bullet hole. It looked worse than a slice of Swiss cheese. So much smoke rose from our neighborhood that it was foggy. And I was glad that my barbie-headed friend was safe and sound.

But what I remember about that evening the most was that we were allowed to go out to dinner, which we almost never got to do. So I cheered with my sisters in the back seat, and we ate at Pollo Campero, fried chicken, for dinner.

If you liked reading “The Bomb that Went Off at my Friend’s House,” you will probably enjoy my other MK writings, which I post on my MK page on Facebook.
Buy the book: Growing Up as a Missionary Kid (profit goes to missions)