On “The Unknown Citizen”

The tomb of the unknown soldier. (Image from Wikipedia commons)

The poem, “The Unknown Citizen (To JS/07/M/378) This Marble Monument is Erected by the State”, (By Wysten Hugh Auden) is more than merely the thoughts of a reflective visitor at the grave of the Unknown Soldier.  It is a poetic comment on the state of namelessness the United States society creates for its citizens.  Wysten Hugh Auden uses sarcastic irony to comment on the binding attitude society has taken–the attitude of a society that refuses to see anything wrong with itself. Continue reading

Review: Keep Talking by Freiderike Klippel

Definitely a book worthy to be in the hand of every language teacher — Keep Talking by Freiderike Klippel.  Klippel brings together a wonderful culmination of exercises and teaching techniques and ideas which should be practiced in many a classroom.

This book contains 123 activities all organized and categorized to be of maximum use for the teacher.  For convenience, the activities are listed so a teacher can look up an activity which will fit her classroom needs specifically.  There are three major headings for the activities: Questions and answers, Discussions and decisions, and Stories and scenes. Each activity is categorized by topic, language level, type of student organization needed whether from groups to individuals, amount of preparation involved, and time in minutes for the exercise to be completed.

Obviously, Klippel did not merely throw a bunch of activities together but he systematically organized them so teachers could use them most effectively. Although this book was not intended nor should it be used as a complete lesson plan for learning it is an excellent source for a teacher to supplement into a lesson plan to add excitement, encouragement, and action for the students.

One thing I really admire about this book is the author’s emphasis on communication.  Language is communication and learning a language means learning to communicate.  Klippel emphasizes this concept by promoting the need for achieving meaningful sharing of concepts and thoughts in a natural way in the classroom. This includes interaction between the teacher and students and students to other students in meaningful questions, conversations, interviews, games, etc.

In this book Klippel wrote,

“Traditional textbook exercises –however necessary and useful they may be for pre-communicative grammar practice — do not as a rule forge a link between the learners and the foreign language in such a way thatthe learners identify with it.” (p.5)

Just as Klippel points out, I too feel that it is extremely necessary for a speaker to find an identity within there new language.  A teacher can help instill this identity and a better understanding of a language by getting beyond the basic ideas of many texts and teaching the students to express their feelings and personal ideas in the language.  Granted, the basics must be taught but by using activities like many of the ones Klippel describes the students will be able to use the basics for something productive and something they identify with.

I would suggest, however, that these works best in a second language situation where the learner is submerged within the language most of the time. But these concepts can also be used in foreign language classrooms if the teacher uses them to the advantage of the students along with other meaningful classroom practices.

In my own experiences in learning a second language, I have found that most of the exercises are not very practical in communication.  Yes, I have learned some skills in communicating in the L2 but I see the value in Klippel’s ideas because they teach how to express feelings, ideas, and more abstract thoughts than the basic information I have learned.  I want my students to get beyond the learning of a language into the learning of communication via a different medium — the medium of a second language. Continue reading

Analysis of Mr. Holland’s Opus

The movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, is a good example of how a teacher grows by learning from his own successes and failures.  Not only did he grow from the mistakes that he made at school, but also those he made at home. His experiences taught him to develop a good balance between family and career — something every teacher must  learn because teaching requires such dedication.

Mr. Holland needed a vision or idea where he wanted to lead his students.  His first day began with the usual nervousness and somewhat bewilderment that assaults anyone on a new job. However, he lacked a  long-term vision which would have given him an immediate focus and desire to dedicate himself to leading his students. Continue reading

Review: The Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letters

by C.S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis address the walk of humans into Christianity from the viewpoint of a demon named Screwtape via his correspondence with his “dear” nephew Wormwood who has been assigned to befuddle a young man who, despite his antagonist, becomes a Christian. This book brings to light many of the ideas and perceptions humans experience in most any point in life. The unique approach of viewing from the demon’s point of view creates a reverse thought pattern for the reader. Since the book is written from the viewpoint of a demon, that which is good in the eyes of a Christian is called detestable by Screwtape. C. S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters to give an outside view of Christians and Satan’s attacks on their relationship with Christ. Continue reading

La impresora instantánea Polaroid Pogo

Cuando me enteré de la cantidad de gente de otros países que disfrutamos de conseguir una impresión real de sí mismos, decidí que yo quería de una manera rápida y sencilla de imprimir imágenes cuando estoy de viaje o en un mercado. La impresora instantánea Polaroid Pogo es una gran y divertida manera para hacer copias de tus fotos favoritas cuando estás en el camino.

Con algunos ajustes, ajusto mi iPhone 3GS para imprimir imágenes directamente desde la cámara a mi Pogo. Aquí hay un enlace sobre cómo hacer que su iPhone imprima en el POGO utilizando una cuenta gratuita de Dropbox. Personalmente yo uso iBlueNova o el programa de Celeste Bluetooth File Sharing para obtener una conexión Bluetooth directamente desde mi iPhone a mi impresora Pogo. No puedo imprimir desde cualquier programa de foto, pero cuando lo guardo en el rollo de la cámara parece que funciona bastante bien.

Pogo printer

Por  18 a 23 centavos cada uno, las impresiones de  2″x 3″ (se doblan como calcomanías tambien) no son baratos, pero la movilidad de estas copias sin-tinta son bastante buenas. El papel ZINK dice que caduca, pero he leído comentarios suficientes de que no parece hacer mucha diferencia si es nuevo o viejo.

Tengo muchas ganas de utilizar mi impresora Pogo para obtener algunas impresiones agradables para repartir en Guatemala. En primer lugar, tengo que encontrar algunas buenas ofertas del Papel  Polaroid Zink para que pueda mantener esta fantástica herramienta en mi bolsa para la cámara!

Nota: Esta es una entrada en la forma que he estado usando mi impresora en Guatemala en una escuela para niños especiales!

Speciality baby supplies in Guatemala

I found a place to get speciality baby supplies (including breast pumps) in Guatemala! They continually have a variety of products and can ship items across the country very quickly!

Check it out at Babby Place (sic) on Facebook and get the baby items you need! You can email them at babyplacegt@hotmail.com to request something if you don’t see it on their Facebook site.

After my baby was born at a natural childbirth clinic in Guatemala City, I found that I needed a breast pump and they’re not easy to find in Guatemala. Thanks to La Leche League leaders in Xela, I found out about Babby Place and was able to have a shipped to me in just a few days! I paid through a money transfer at a local BanRural Bank. Just be aware that the shipping is sent as a pay-on-delivery so it cost about Q40 to receive the package.

If you’re looking for a good connection to specialty baby products and you’re in Guatemala, give Babby Place a try.

Here’s another source of baby/kid supplies and accessories that I found in Guatemala City.

GPS maps for Guatemala

Driving in Guatemala with my GPS in action.

Getting around in Guatemala can be tough. Finding a good road map of the capital or this nation that is roughly the size of Tennessee is difficult as well. That’s where Global Positioning Systems (GPS) come in handy.
We have a Garmin Nuvi 1350 that has great maps of the U.S. but a very rough and, frankly, inaccurate base map that shows some highways in Guatemala but when I drive the highways the basemap proves to be , the highway . So, I went in search of GPS maps that I can download and I found a few options:


Guatemala Screen shot from GPSWORLDNET

I found a number of negative comments on GPS Travel Maps so I had to go with another option…GPS World Net and I’m very glad I did. They have maps for all of Central America, (though I have only tested the Guatemalan one). I have found GPS World Net’s GPS maps to be accurate and very useful in the field. Not only that, I once had a Garmin Nuvi that I had loaded the GPS World Net maps on but it disappeared.  I had downloaded my points to  Garmin’s Road Trip so I was able to save those!


I had already paid the $80 for the map specifically for my first Nuvi. I thought I’d have to re-purchase the map, but when I contacted GPS World Net they graciously provided me with the download of the map for my new Nuvi and it’s working great! Two thumbs up to GPSWorldNet.


Here are key reasons I like my Guatemalan GPS map:

  • Accurate maps of Guatemala City, Villages, and local roads.
  • Lots of local points already loaded (though more pool halls than I could ever want!)
  • Easy functionality with Garmin devices. (Just follow the simple instructions to load the map on the device!)
  • Maps function for Windows Symbian and Android as well as Garmin devices.


If you’re looking for a good map I recommend GPSWorldNet for all of Central America.


Polaroid’s Pogo Instant Printer

When I found out how much people in other countries enjoyed getting an actual print of themselves, I decided that I wanted a quick and easy way of printing images when I’m traveling or in a market. The Polaroid Instant Pogo Printer is a great and fun way to get prints of your favorite pictures when you’re on the go. (You can buy your own Pogo Printer here.)

With some tweaking, I got my iPhone 3GS to print images straight from the Camera Roll to my Pogo printer. Here’s a link on how to get your iPhone to print on the POGO using a free Dropbox account. Personally I use iBlueNova or Celeste’s Bluetooth File Sharing program to get a straight Bluetooth connection from my iPhone to my Pogo printer. I can’t print from every photo program, but when I save it to the Camera Roll it seems to work quite well.

At 18 to 23 cents apiece, the 2″x3″ prints (they double as stickers too) aren’t cheap, but the mobility of these ink-free prints are pretty great. The ZINK photo paper says that it expires, but I’ve read enough reviews that it doesn’t seem to make much difference whether it’s new or old.

I’m looking forward to using my rinter to get some nice prints to hand out in Guatemala. First, I need to find some good deals on Polaroid Zink Paper so I can keep this cool tool in my camera bag!

Note: Here’s an entry on how I’ve been using my printer in Guatemala at a special needs school!


International Health Insurance for Expatriates

We live abroad and we want international health insurance for our family. While companies that provide international health insurance are many, we wanted something that provided some key options:

  • Reasonably good coverage (of course!)
  • Maternity coverage
  • A track record of good service to customers (see reviews)
  • A high deductible option,
  • Coverage inside and outside the U.S.,
  • Inexpensive, money-saving rates

We searched around, talked to fellow expatriates and discovered some options. Below is a break down on what we found.

(UPDATE!) After reviewing a number of options, we chose to go with IMG  but after a good year and a half of using them they increased their costs for the maternity rider by some 60%. So we dropped them and switched to a Guatemalan insurance that includes coverage in the States for when we visit. Now we use Seguros GyT.

International insurance options we checked out:



Global Medical Insurance from IMG (International Medical Group) Continue reading

Tri-lingual children’s book teaches selfworth


Tri-lingual childrens book helps bring selfworth to children in three languages.

Ishi, Un Simple Monito (Ishi, the average monkey), published in 2008 (ISBN 1-930992-23-8) is a beautifully illustrated book by Todd Aaron Smith that helps children realize that they are unique, valuable and special.

Written in English, Spanish, and the Mayan language of Quiche, the story is set in the Guatemalan highlands and features native animal characters like the quetzal, Guatemala’s national bird and namesake for Guatemalan currency, jaguars, and of course, Ishi, the monkey.

The artwork depicts many features of Guatemala including volcanoes, cornfields, futbol and more.

From what I understand, Smith originally wrote this book for and featured his adopted Guatemalan daughter as a secondary character.

We’ve been able to help distribute some copies of this book in the Guatemalan highlands among the Quiche Mayans.

Part of the Mayan Children Missions Project, this book has the unique feature of being in three languages.