by Jacob Martens

As I write this, I already have catchy kids’ tunes stuck in my head image(Cristo es mi superheroe, mi amigo, el mejor), and Karen is playing Sunset’s daycamp music, so my soundtracks are mixing (I am remarkably made). After the day camp is over, we drive or walk to the Glessner’s house for lunch–around 2pm, and we work on projects here at the Gota de Esperanza community center after lunch. By the way, Gota means “drop” (of hope) and it is also an acronym: GOTA: Gracia Otorgada Transformando Ayudando-grace offered–transforming, helping. So far, the projects have included painting the basement of the community center, planting grass seeds, and the Davenports building a temporary roof over the second floor to help keep the rain from leaking into the newly painted basement. Though our projects may be helping, doing works is not the point or the way to grace. GOTA means God’s grace is helping US and transforming US in ways everlasting.

Today, it took about 2 hours for pizza delivery today because the pizza motorcycle got a flat tire, and they had to send someone else. Pizza, you think? Some of us have already had a lot of tacos ( around 100, was it, between those counting– Andrew, John, and Ray in just two days?) and may welcome the variety. Lunch usually is served around 2pm, but today (Wednesday) we are finishing up around 3:30. Directly after the camp, several of us have taken to walking through the neighborhood. In less than a third of a mile, I noticed three tortillarias de maiz. At one of the places, I asked how many they made per hour. They said 400 per hour, which we figured has to be around 6 tortillas per second. They come out of the machine toasted and looking like deflating corn-colored whoopee cushions. During our walk, we stop for pan dulce or fruits and vegetables: a bag full of either costs about the equivalent of one US dollar. It is fun to talk to the locals and practice Spanish while making a purchase.

Learning Spanish has been fun for all and has provided for abilities to laugh at ourselves. We’ve been bold to try it out, and many look forward to keep learning Spanish when we return. A few nights ago, Tyler was the first into a restaurant, and the hostess asked him something to which he replied, ” Yo no como Espanol,” which means “I don’t eat Spanish.” Last night, Felina and I had gelato at the mall. When I asked her what she thought about the gelato, she said in Spanish, “I am a gelateria” when she meant to comment on the authenticity of the gelato–“that is truly a gelateria.” I had my own punny moment when we were playing a game in which kids were hanging words of Juan 20:21 on a clothes line as a way to work with the memory verse. The word “me” needed a hook to hang it on the line, and I said to Liz, one of the Pueblo de Esperanza team, “me falta me,” which Liz thought was really funny because it was an unintentional play on words that means something along the lines of “I am lacking of myself, or I am really in need of myself.”

Needless to say, we have several new Spanish words to learn everyday. Tim introduced us to another phrase that one says before and after a meal: “buen provecho.” Tim tells me there is not really an American equivalent (maybe–pass the gravy), but my dictionary tells me it means “enjoy your meal.” Literally, I think it means “good benefits,” so it might serve as a kind of blessing, especially since it is also supposed to be expressed at the end of the meal. Or it might raise a question to ponder, do you enjoy your meal after it is finished?

I guess that depends on the meal. We had fun at the end of daycamp Wednesday by passing the time by playing “Bean Boozled” with the kids and many of the teens and adults. If you have never heard of Bean Boozled, it goes something like this: there are several unique flavors of jelly beans. About half are sweet and the other half are disgusting flavors like grass clippings, dog food, spoiled milk, rotten cheese, etc. The only saving grace in this game is that each disgusting jelly bean has a delicious look-alike, and you can’t really tell without chewing it up. We passed beans out to those who wanted to play the jelly bean game and then Tim brought pairs into the hot spot. They put their jelly beans in their mouth at the count of three. The others waited patiently with their beans in their hands until Tim called them up to eat their beans in front of the crowd. We could tell by the look dawning over their face whether it was awful or sweet. And the bad ones were quickly spit en la basura with much noise and yuck faces and overall groaning of the audience. It was also fun for the kids to figure out what flavor they had tasted because the flavors needed translated to Spanish, and I gather they may have learned a new word or two themselves. And they had something to tell their parents.

One word that sums up so much is the word “cool.” Seven year old Fernanda was borrowing Ray’s sunglasses. Every time she put them on, Karen said, “cool,” and gave her a thumbs up. Then Fernanda got the hang of it, stuck up her thumbs and said, “cool.” Whatever she thinks the word means right now, I am sure she will remember and savor this long after the moment has passed. I know I will.