What Is This All About?

Suzanne and Hannah are spending their last week on the tiny and beautiful island of Culebra, Puerto Rico! We are sharing with anyone who's interested our everyday adventures.

Please enjoy our time with us, click on the "follow" link, pray for us, write to us, and let us know you're reading!

Suzanne and Hannah

Monday, October 31, 2011

Days are Done!

Waiting for our plane in Culebra
Our plane!

We were the only passengers!

Flying over Brava and Resaca Beaches

The Fort at Old San Juan

Inside the Fort

A View from one of the Lookout Points

Hannah is captivated!

Pretty cool, huh? It's actually a soldiers' entry!

A Street in Old San Juan
We're home! Our day in Old San Juan was packed with exploring the awe-inspiring fort and the beautiful old city. Although I was a tad wary of Hannah's response to this "history lesson" she was absolutely enthralled by the whole place. She got it. I loved it that she got it.

Today we got Hannah signed up for school back here in Michigan and I spent the day trying not to think about the fact that I have no job. By choice, I have no job. I'm having a very hard time getting my head wrapped around that. I guess it's good that my house is need of "mucho" attention. And we had to get new clothes for Hannah because she's grown an inch and a half in three months. Yeah, you read that right! New jeans because shorts aren't going to cut it up here...

The kids at Abbie's school are planning to perform the songs I taught them at their rainforest festival next weekend, so I recorded the accompaniment today with the help of Bethany, my savior of the day!!! We drove to the post office to send it second-day air (hopefully it will get there by a week from Friday!!!).

After a dinner that actually included fresh vegetables instead of rice and beans, I was settling down to check my email. While my MacBook was waking up I got a phone call from Al, whose house we "watched" for the last two-and-a-half weeks. Our conversation was great; he's doing well and so is his wife. He then told me that for all the times he and Mary have gone off and had someone take care of the house, he has never come back to have it so well-cared for!!! Wow!!! That sure made us feel great! Hannah loved their dogs and cat, and I love pretty much everything about their place!

I'm (we're) so very glad to be home but also so incredibly thankful for the experiences we were privileged to have during our three months in Culebra. The lessons learned, the people we met, and even the hurricane we weathered will forever shape us.

Thank you, God, for the incredible journey of Culebra. Thank you for bringing us home safely.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 79: Last Day in Culebra

Wow! Can't believe we're wrapping things up here! Hannah slept in while Mom (that would be me, in case you wondered...) began doing things in her head to get ready to go. We had errands to run, chores around the house to complete, and of course we wanted to go to at least one beach and snorkel and/or swim!

We dropped by the post office to mail a couple of boxes I'd forgotten to get out of Nadeen's car (sure am glad she checked her back end!), got come coffee to bring home, since I've come to enjoy Puerto Rican coffee. As we were driving back toward our house to get our suits on, we noticed that the little temporary road-side food cart was open!! It's NEVER open on Thursdays, so we were geeked! We picked up our favorite indulgence here: papa. They're mashed potato that's been rolled into a large meatball-sized ball and has a meat filling. Before they're served, they're deep flash-fried, so the outside is like a pastry crust. They're so carb-filled, but oh, so.....bueno!!!

When it was beach time, we decided (actually, Hannah decided this time) to go to Tamarindo. We have lots of history at this beach, as it's the one Abbie's school kids go to each Friday. It's also the first place we tried snorkeling and got stuck on a reef. Today was a completely different experience, though! We easily snorkeled out to find plenty of beautiful sea life. The sea urchins were far enough away from us that we got some great shots of them instead of them getting shots at our feet!!! We went out quite a way and got to some sea grass. I began praying that Hannah (and I) would get to see a sea turtle. All of the sudden, I heard Hannah let out a yelp! I turned around to witness a beautiful silver fish that was at least as long as she is!!! It came within six feet of her, too, so it was a kind of surreal experience! That guy was so fast we didn't have a chance to get a picture of him, but it was fun to watch! Heading in the direction of the shoreline, I was keeping my eyes peeled for a sea turtle and suddenly one it was my turn to yelp! Hannah turned around, caught a great view of him and we even had the treat of him gliding to the surface for a quick breath of air!

Then he slid away effortlessly, leaving us both giving each other underwater high-fives! After a while of watching various schools of fish, fish chasing other fish, and noting all the different colors; some vivid and some well-camoflauged, I was praying again, asking God for a chance to see another turtle. What happened? You guessed it!!! Another turtle! This one wasn't a green turtle, though; it was a Hawksbill!! Yay! Plus that, it was bigger than the first! Hannah didn't get any good shots of that guy, though, but not even ten minutes later we saw a THIRD turtle!!! And he was the biggest one!

So it is with the greatest pleasure we share this not-the-best-but-the-best-we-could-do pictures of the best snorkel day EVER!!

Thank you, God, for an absolutely experience in your beautiful creation under the ocean's surface. We were truly blessed beyond belief today!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 78: Last Day of School!

This is really weird. We've been in school for two and a half months. Today was our last day. A week from today Hannah will have started back at Western Middle School in the seventh grade. I'm still not sure I've really let that sink in.

We had a full day: the first-graders wrote their own books about pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns, the other kids made a fun books of jack-o'-lanterns, and we did the typical math, science, Spanish, and social studies. At the end of the day, the student's dad who's an amazing soccer guy came in and worked with the kids for about 45 minutes. Then we finished off with a drawing to see who was taking our jack-o'-lantern home! So, yeah, it was definitely a full day!

Immediately after school, I got my classroom things packed up to ship home. While I did that, Hannah and two of the other girls washed Al's car so it will be fairly clean when he returns on Saturday. We were all done by 4:00 and took our 70-pound box of classroom "stuff" to the post office to be sent home.

We then went home and grabbed a quick shower to get all that sweat off so we'd be presentable - and not stinky - so we could go pick up Nadeen from the airport and take her home. (You may remember that we stayed in her house for the first two and a half months here. That's where we were living when Irene hit and Maria decided not to.) It was great getting to meet her and put a face with the house! She typically does the books for Abbie's school, so most of the kids at school know her pretty well.

Tonight we indulged in television - a rarity these days - and watched Survivor. Then I turned OFF my morning alarm, since tomorrow we can sleep as late as we like! We're hoping to catch one last snorkel and swim, probably hitting Tamarindo and Zoni Beaches, so maybe we'll have some more cool underwater shots for tomorrow's posting!!!

Thank you, God, for a great last day of school!!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 78: Happy Jack!

Today we made a jack-o-lantern! It was so much fun! My brother, Mark, typically gets our girls their Halloween pumpkins and this year he mailed Hannah's to her here in Culebra! What a guy!!

Happy Jack, sitting with the students who helped create him!
Only one of the students has ever seen a pumpkin before and she was so little she doesn't remember it. The rest of them were amazed at the sight, the feel, and the inside. They pulled out the seeds and wondered if they could grow a pumpkin here on the island. They weren't sure how they grew; on a tree, perhaps?? So they had a lesson in what grows in Michigan in the late summer and early fall. It was evident that they were having a very hard time wrapping their heads around a change in seasons. They were enthralled by the idea of leaves falling off the trees, making the trees look dead. They are giggly when they think of how wonderful snow must be, and can't imagine what it would be like to have apples and pumpkins to go pick rather than mangoes and papayas.

They decided they wanted a happy Jack-o-Lantern, and our little Sophia, whose birthday happens to be today also asked for two teeth in a happy smile! Of course that was much better to me than one of those creepy-looking ones, so we drew it with marker and then they watched with eyes glued while I carved out each piece. They were beside themselves when I cut out the top! They got excited every single time an eye, nose, or mouth popped out, too, so it was pretty fun!

You may or may not remember, but on Sunday we went to Zoni Beach. On the way we happened to see some guys by the road with the biggest crabs I've ever seen!!! The thing on the left is a frozen chicken, so it gives you an idea of the size of these things! WHOA!

Robot Man on the beach
Another picture I forgot to post on Sunday is this one. Hannah made a robot from beach sand (in honor of her cousin, Bres,) and I forgot to post it, so here he is!

Today was another really good day at school. The little ones are learning so much and the bigger ones are being very responsible and staying focused, although I am giving more one-on-one attention to the littler ones. We had time at the end of the day to still have music class, and today I taught them a couple of silly songs. What a fun way to end the day!

God, thank you so much for the joy of teaching today. Thank you for the gift of excited students who marvel at carving a pumpkin!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 77: Can You Say "TIRED"???

I think the beach visits this weekend caught up with me today!!! I am BEAT!

We had a great day at school. We worked very hard, had fun and the kids were great. I even taught Spanish to the first graders!! The older ones were snickering at me once in a while and corrected my pronunciation a couple of times, but overall I surprised myself!! I did much better than I thought I would!

Throughout the day I caught myself trying to imagine what it will be like the next time I step into a classroom back home. The kids will probably all speak English as their first language, there will be lots more of them than what I have right now, and I'll be teaching one grade level instead of three, four, or six at a time! I wonder if it will feel weird or if it will just come back as natural.

Hannah said again tonight while we were playing "Sequence" (a game we've come to really enjoy!) how very excited she is to be going home. She is in her room practicing her flute right now so she can be on top of things next week when she's back in band!

Can't believe we only have two days of school left. Wow.

Thank you, God, for a productive yet peaceful day at school.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Day 76: Sunday at Zoni

We've had this crab hanging around the house. He (or she, I don't know...) wanders across the cement patio from one part of the yard to another, looking for something to eat, I suppose. I've only seen it hidden away, though, until this morning. I heard a scraping noise outside, snuck out and got to see how big and weird and amazing this creature is.

We had a nice, leisurely morning, watched Westwinds live, and then went to Zoni Beach for a couple of hours. There we swam, walked, built a sand castle only to count how many waves it took to completely level it, and thoroughly enjoyed each others' company.

God, thank You for our crazy crab and for Zoni Beach.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Day 75: Fruit of the Island

What a wonderful day today was!

First, I've been meaning to do this, and just haven't taken the time. I know my hubby appreciates trees and gardening, so if he were here, he would be all over this. Al has cultivated in their yard some amazing fruit trees. This week, this is how the fruit looked! We have been the grateful recipients of his labors, too, which has been an especially nice treat!

A lemon ready to be picked!

What's especially fun is that my nephew and his wife are expecting, and she just told me this week that their baby is now the size of a mango!!! So every time I see the mangos ripening on the tree, I think of that sweet new baby!

Mango - Bigger than any I've seen at Meijer!!!


Not sure what these are, but they're all over the place!
We had decided that we were going snorkeling today. We've snorkeled at several beaches around the island and didn't want to miss out on the best one, so we figured the dive shop would steer us in the right direction. I had told Hannah that I really wanted to go back to Carlos Rosario beach, which is quite a hike to get to, but I really like the beach and heard there's great snorkeling there, too. As it turned out, that's where the lady in the dive shop recommended we go!!! We headed over to it, took the mile-plus hike over the top of the mountain/hill and enjoyed a deserted beautiful beach. 
The trip to Carlos Rosario beach...
That's Flamenco Beach in the distance.

Hiking the trail to Carlos Rosario reminded
Hannah of our own lane back home!

A view on our hike

Louis Pena Island in the distance

Hannah brought her underwater camera along, too, that Uncle Mark sent, so we got some fun shots! We saw a lot more than we got pictures of, but it was pretty cool to capture the jellyfish on camera! They're amazing to watch in the water. We completely lose track of time when we're snorkeling, so I have no idea how long we were in the water. Although we're pooped out from it we are in total agreement that it was well-worth the effort!

Under the ocean's surface...

Hannah, looking for sand dollars

Hi there!!!

A fish that captured Hannah's attention

Jellyfish!! Can you see the center??
After our visit to the underwater world, we went home to shower and get cleaned up and then had a treat for lunch by going to Dinghy Dock. It's a restaurant that's right on the water's edge and has ample spots for boaters to secure their rig and grab a bite to eat. There were actually more people there from boats than from land! We sat at a table right at oceanside and Hannah got a kick out of watching the huge fish swimming not ten feet from us.
Late Lunch at Dinghy Dock! Yum!!

Tonight was Hannah's last volleyball match. She hadn't practiced at all this week. That, in combination with our snorkeling adventure, showed her looking a bit weary on the court. They pulled out a victory, though, in 3 games. Then after the game she was introduced to a pro player from the big island! Her coach said he is a close friend, he was asking about her during the game, and noticing some really good things about her abilities. He told Hannah that she definitely has the body of a volleyball player and she should keep playing, so that was a big encouragement for her! 

Tonight we decided to watch a movie together and then head for bed. What a great day!

Thank you, God, for such beauty that we were able to enjoy together!