first day of classes

Last Saturday we went out to Bezaleel for the first day of vocational arts classes. The Saturday program is the main reason we are here. We are supposed to be giving support to the instructors and helping out where needed. There is a lot of other work we can be (and will be, no doubt) doing, but for now, this is our focus.

part of the campus, as viewed from the carpentry shop/porch

When we arrived, a general assembly was in full swing. We walked in and took seats. Before long, we were called to the stage to introduce ourselves. I did most of the talking into the echo-y microphone. Afterwards, the students were excused to go to their classes.

the kitchen (up top) and one dining room (below), as viewed from the carpentry shop/porch

I sat in on the cooking class. For the first hour, the teacher, Iris, dictated notes to the students. Someone loaned me a pen and paper and I took notes, too. The lesson was on good hygiene. After the break, the class headed up to the kitchen and set about making a “salad,”—a hot vegetable stir-fry that they topped with a squirt of mayonnaise and sold to the other students at lunch time.

peeling carrots

Between the 16 students, there were three knives and three cutting boards. While they took turns painstakingly chopping the vegetables, I wandered around the campus observing the other classes, checking in on the kids (who were hanging out with Wilmer), and meeting people.

some of the younger boys in the class: checking their notes

In one of the kitchens, a group of teenage girls were patting out the tortillas. I asked them to teach me, so they did. We stood there, patting tortillas (most of mine fell apart, but a few turned out okay!), and visiting.

The carpentry instructor didn’t show, so my husband ended up teaching his first class.

The shop is located on the downstairs porch across from the kitchens and consists of a couple of wooden work benches and several dull handsaws. When I stopped by, my husband had them cutting up wood to make a toolbox (for the tools they don’t have…yet). The boys seemed to be having a grand time.

At lunch time, the students appear in the serving room, a bowl and cup in their hand. Lunch that Saturday was a scoop of greens in broth (I didn’t get to try it), a stack of tortillas, and coffee. There’s always a bowl of saucy hot peppers sitting out for them to scoop onto their food. Lots of kids opted to pay the 35 cents to get a serving of the salad. (The cooking class students were instructed to hawk it and about died from embarrassment—the money they earn will go back towards buying more supplies for the class). Afterwards, the students wash their own bowls and take them back to their rooms where they store them with their personal possessions.

the head cook and her daughter: they have four big stoves like that

A couple days before when we first visited the school, lunch was rice, a piece of chicken, and tortillas (always tortillas). My younger son adored the rice. He kept begging for more. We told him that there was no more. I explained that if he eats more than his share than other children can’t eat. It’s a simple concept, yet a hard one to grasp. In the States, when I say there is no more food and we’re done eating now, there is always more food somewhere, in some form.

We stopped by the school yesterday to talk with Virginia, the program director, and Manuel, the accountant. We discussed tools for the classes and the schedule. We plan to arrive again tomorrow to, once again, observe and learn to know more. But, we explained, our focus right now is in setting up the house and learning out to go about the daily task of living. As soon as we’re settled, we’ll be much more available.


  • Becky

    Thank you so much for taking us on this adventure with you! I get so excited every time you post an update. I'm fascinated with the differences in cultures. I hope things settle into a nice rhythm soon for you all. How perfect that your husband was able to step in as a teacher in the carpentry class! What a lovely picture of the woman and her daughter cooking on that large burner.

  • dr perfection

    After reading about your sons running at top speed toward and into each other(on a previous post) I have a physics question you can homeschool them with.

    "Two boys are running toward each other as fast as they can, each going about 10 miles an hour. They smack into each other. That is the same as one boy running into a concrete wall at what speed?"

  • Mama Pea

    It's plain to see that we, your readers, are going to be learning a lot through your posts! These people have so few material possessions. We here live in so much abundance that it's guilt-producing by comparison.

    You're moving to a new house? In the country? Praise be!

  • Ellies Wonder

    What a wonderful school! It sounds like a great opportunity for you guys. I knew you would be doing MCC in Guatemala, but I didn't know exactly what you were doing. It sounds great! Keep the pictures and posts coming. You definitely have a support group here in the States, near and wide! xoxo -Ellie

  • teekaroo

    Are your children taking part in the classes too? Once you get living conditions sorted out, it sounds like something I would enjoy doing… maybe.
    I just have to say, your husband has the cutest dimple. And I mean that in a totally innocent, non-stalking way.

  • Kathy ~ Artful Accents

    Loving these updates. Looks like a great opportunity for both you and the students! I'm always struck with the inaccessibility of TOOLS in impoverished cultures. Tools often seem to be the distinguishing factor between the poor and the rich. If you master the tortilla making process, please hold a class for us back here in the states when you return! 🙂

  • Michelle @ Give a Girl a Fig

    I am loving your updates…and I am impressed with the kitchen stoves. I am embarrassed to say that I am always complaining about the condition of my home (need new carpet, paint, some repairs, etc) and the size of it (960 sq ft…tiny). But as I look at how the people of Bezaleel are living it is plain to see that I am living a very comfortable, easy and warm life. Thanks for the reality check. Have a great day…wish I could come and help you get your house in order. I'll continue to pray instead…:)

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